Monday, November 17, 2014

My complete letter to the weekend Argus regarding the Banting diet (Tim Noakes)

Prof Tim Noakes was thinking in a unidirectional way when he wrote his book. Unfortunately the body has more than one system and to only look at the endocrine system is in my view, a mistake. Diabetes is on the increase throughout the Western world because of the shocking western diet - high in processed foods, salt, sugar and fat, and low in fibre, fruits and vegetables. Prof Noakes claims it is genetic. 

In South Africa we have many people blindly and slavishly following the Banting diet without any knowledge of their own physiology. I have patients whose cholesterol levels have soared on the diet, with an increase in LDL and a lowering of HDL, including raised triglycerides. Not a good scenario, any cardiologist would agree. 

Many people on the Banting diet will love the permission to eat more meat (usually from feedlot farms) and fat and not worry too much about vegetables. By doing so they will increase the amounts of veterinary drug residues, like deworming drugs, antibiotics, hormones etc and  other toxins that are stored in animal fat, Omega 6 which occurs in feedlot raised animals and causes increased inflammation, and nitrates from processed meat which predispose one to cancer. At the same time there is a reduction in valuable fibre from grains and root vegetables, a consequent reduction in short chain fatty acids made by gut flora(which act as anti-inflammatories);  a change in gut flora to bacteroides which can predispose one to colon cancer. High fat diets leading to increased amounts of bile acid predispose one to colon cancer, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel disease to mention a few problems. Healthy gut flora play an important role in protecting us against disease; a diet high in fat and low in fibre could do the opposite. 

The Banting diet actually recommends that people cut out refined carbohydrates. This is a good idea. Whole grains and fibrous vegetables like beetroot (which Prof Noakes doesn’t allow) are important dietary elements.  We need plenty of fibre and the micronutrients and phytochemicals from a vast array of colourful (preferably organically grown) grains, fruits and vegetables to have a healthy microbiome which will keep us healthy.





Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Birds and Bees

It's been a busy time in the garden. Birds flit about non stop building nests and feeding their young with never a quiet moment as they sing their individual songs. We can learn from them - to be joyful every day no matter the weather or hardships. So often when they have gone to all the trouble of rearing a chick or two, the chick is killed by another bird or animal, and they just carry on with life.
A pied barbet hammering away at the fig tree.

Where I live we are very blessed with an abundant bird life. If there are aphids on a plant, you can bet a white eye or two will be busy having a feast. The thrushes poke about in dead leaves looking for grubs and worms, and are as effective as chickens in getting rid of unwanted creepies. A weaver bird has made hundreds of nests in a wild peach that overhangs my garden wall, and each one has been rejected. I love the sound the weavers make. I have been on holiday to some places in the UK where there is not a single bird call and where I am struck by the dead silence in the early mornings. It's a sad fact that millions of birds have died as a result of insecticide use.

Birds bring joy to the garden and are important to keep the balance of nature. If birds die out insects will take over. Some evenings I can hear owls hooting. Because of people using rat poison, owls are often poisoned. We need owls too!

From birds to bees. It's been quite an adventure! I now have a second hive and was given a swarm to put in, and the bees are very happy. They settled in immediately and I can't wait to have a peep to see how they are progressing with their comb making. I have been harvesting honey from hive no 1 and I got severely stung when the bees crawled up under my bee suit, without me realising it. However with the use of herbs, it was soon quite bearable and I healed very quickly. Lessons are to be learned every day!
It is amazing how serene one feels when just watching the bees go about their daily work. On the whole they don't bother one at all, they just go about their daily business with dedication. On occasion they might be a bit defensive but one learns not to aggravate them by digging too close to them, or cutting grass too near them. These are danger signals for bees and they can get irritated. Usually one or two will dart about threatening to sting. People are very scared of swarms, but when bees are swarming, they are not dangerous at all. They are too busy protecting the queen and looking for a new home.

If a swarm is disturbed in an aggressive way in the hive or nesting spot, that is a different story. Then they will be an aggressive swarm and can kill a dog or a person. This happens rarely, but always makes the headlines!! Recently a dog disturbed a swarm that was nesting in someone's compost heap and they attacked and killed him. This is nobody's fault, as the swarm wasn't in a hive.
I have three dogs and they very rarely get stung. They understand not to go sniffing around the hive, and even know they shouldn't go into the bee garden. It's all a matter of respect.

A frame of capped honey


Nature deserves our respect because nature is perfect. We are the ones to mess up the balance of nature. Let's give it some thought and take the time to enjoy the parks and gardens with respect!