Exploring the Pros and Cons of Working Out High

Elizabeth Frasier is a marathon runner, personal trainer, keto nutritionist, cannaathlete and creator of The Health Cannabist, a blog dedicated to cannabis health and fitness. She’s been using cannabis for more than 30 years, and in this interview, she discusses the healing properties of cannabis, the Entourage Effect, how use CBD to quit smoking, why she vapes, and the pros and cons of working out high.

HHH: Hey Elizabeth, thanks for taking the time to chat today, especially in light of your recent accident.

THC: Oh, it was nothing serious, I just cut through my finger with a saw blade and had to get it stitched back together. But I’m much better now, mostly thanks to the cannabis medicine I’ve been using. I’m currently taking an MCT oil tincture with THCA in it (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the de-active acid form of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive agent in cannabis). Even though I’ve been working with cannabis and using it for years, seeing is really believing. My whole finger was purple with bruising and tripled in size, and as soon as I put the oil on, that went away. I don’t have any pain because I cut the nerves, so the oil has also been good in helping me to get some feeling and mobility back.

HHH: Have you been taking any other forms of cannabis to help the healing?

THC: I’ve been taking CBD (cannabidiol) for some time now, but since the accident I’ve been taking it more consistently because it really helps with inflammation. I just take five to seven drops and find that amount is effective. The CBD oil I take is mixed with THC at a 20:1 ratio, so a tiny amount of THC, but enough to make the CBD more effective.

HHH: You’re talking about the Entourage Effect?

THC: Right. The CBD I take is made from whole flower rather than isolate, and the strain, AC/DC, is bred for that ratio. I find it has a calming effect, and really relieves anxiety. Actually, the first time I experienced the healing powers of CBD was around a year ago when I had surgery to fix problematic sinuses and a deviated septum. I don’t like to take medications so after surgery I decided to use the opportunity to test out CBD, and it was amazing. Any time I felt pressure building up in my face, I’d take a few drops and it would instantly ease it. So then I started checking out more high CBD strains at the dispensary and that’s when I really started to fall in love with them.

Like I said, I find they really help ease my anxiety, and that’s a consistent result with the various types of CBD strains I’m trying. Bear in mind, I’m coming from a THC background, insofar as, for years, I thought the higher the THC the better. Now, I realise it has nothing to do with the amount of THC on its own but rather all the compounds working together. I’ve tried lots of different CBD isolates from a variety of lab-tested brands but none of them worked for me. That said I have clients who use them and swear by them – that’s down to the individual efficacy of cannabis. But here’s the thing, when we say the Entourage Effect, we’re referring to something that is a lot of different things and we don’t understand them all, yet. That Entourage Effect is different every single time and it’s different for every single person because so many factors determine it: the health, age, weight, lifestyle and cannabis experience of the person taking it.

“Different strains are going to affect you differently, and this is important when you’re talking about using cannabis for training because these things combined have a dramatic effect on your body.”

HHH: But, as a rule, you take whole flower?

THC: For me, whole flower is the best option because that way you’re guaranteed a rich terpene profile, and studies show different terpene profiles modulate the effect of a given flower. Whether you’re looking for an uplifting or relaxing effect, it’s the terpene profile that’s going to determine the result, and you’re only going to get that consuming whole flower cannabis. In very generalised terms, THC is great for pain and CBD is great for inflammation but when you start combining compounds those in gradients, you can create all sorts of effects based on the terpenes that are present. So, a person could take a THC for pain relief but if it’s whole flower and has other cannabinoids in it, it’s also going to have an energising, relaxing, or anti-anxiety effect depending on the flower.

HHH: What’s your preferred way to consume cannabis?

THC: 99 per cent of the time, I vape. I grew up with asthma so the feeling of smoke in my lungs is not the most pleasant. Though like most people, I did smoke when I was younger. But as I got older, I shied away from anything that has a negative effect on the body, and now, I prefer to vape because it’s a cleaner smoke. I’m a big fan of the PAX vapes, and Da Vinci does a great micro vape, too. For me, vaping is the most convenient way to smoke, and also great for microdosing during the day. It’s also the most reliable and easiest to control. I don’t have a bong because I broke every one I had, and every glass pipe, too. And I can’t roll a joint to save my life. I bet you can though, right?

HHH: Well, I’m in Europe, and smoking joints rolled with tobacco is the way we smoke here, so yes, out of necessity I nailed that skill fairly on. But here’s a thing, I want to quit tobacco and hear that vaping with CBD really helps. Have you heard about that?

THC: Yes, and I’ll tell you exactly how it works. We know that when you have an addiction of any sort, it activates the same receptors in the brain. Over time, what happens is that those receptors down regulate, meaning you need more and more of the substance you’re taking to satisfy them. In very basic terms, CBD has the ability to up regulate those receptors, and return them to homeostasis, their optimal point for normal function, meaning that once you start taking CBD your brain is no longer addicted. Once the craving is removed, it’s just a matter of breaking a habit. But it’s far easier to break a habit when there’s no physical craving involved.

HHH: I’ve been looking for a good vape oil online, and I’m finding it hard to source one with the right mg content and for the right price. How do you source yours?

THC: I get my oil at my local dispensary so that makes things considerably easier for me but this is a question I hear from my clients all the time because let’s face it, it’s a wild wild west out there. My first tip, in this regard, is to always email the company and ask for a third party independent lab test. If they’re not willing to provide it, I’m not interested. That’s my first step. I’m not interested in lab results that are posted online either because I know from experience that a lot of them are copies stolen from bigger companies. There’s a lot of that going on.

Where the flower comes from is important, and whether or not it’s made from hemp also matters because of hemp’s ability to suck toxins from the ground as a bio-accumulator. Cannabis and hemp are basically the same plant except that hemp doesn’t have a THC content higher than 0.3 per cent (in Europe the limit is 0.2 per cent) and you need a lot more hemp to get enough CBD for extraction. You also have to consider how it was grown, what pesticides might be present in the plant, how the oil was extracted, and if there are traces of solvents.

When I go to my dispensary, I know exactly where and how the flower is grown, and how the tincture is produced. Sometimes, the ratio is off but that’s because it’s a plant, not a machine. You can’t program it. This is the challenge with cannabis. It’s not possible to have a mass production of every single strain so when you go to the dispensary, they’re not always going to have the exact thing you’re looking for – but it will be close, and in a few months from now, your favourite strain comes back in when the new batch is ready.

That’s the nature of the business. What’s also great about my dispensary is that they hire scientists and botanists, which means they have the know-how to be super accurate, and replicate these medicines again, and again. They concentrate on creating formulas to treat specific requests.

HHH: Isn’t that the future of cannabis? A person can go into a dispensary looking to treat a certain ache, or because they’re feeling a bit down, and be able to get a bud that treats their specific condition?

THC: That’s the way things are going because not everyone wants to consume the same form of cannabis in the same way. Some people want to smoke, some want to vape, others want oils, or creams, or patches. Some want to take it but can’t because of issues at work, or maybe they have to hide the smell. In those cases, maybe CBD or edibles are a better option. My dispensary has just come out with a line of suppositories and in the small round of testing they’ve done, they’re seeing amazing results in terms of pain relief. Again, it’s all down to individual efficacy and personal preferences.

“Cannabis has the ability to heal and improve people’s lives in ways I’ve never seen.”

HHH: Talk to me about how you integrate cannabis into your work with your fitness clients?

THC: To be honest, it’s slow because there’s still quite a bit of stigma around cannabis and that’s why I’m getting a lot more questions about CBD. Typically, I only mention cannabis to a client when they’ve been through everything else and they’re still having problems. That’s when I might make a gentle suggestion, because usually by that point, they’re open to trying anything that will help.

However, in the last few months, there’s been a shift and people are starting to ask me about it, which is a big change. But overall, there’s still a lot of stigma out there – all because of this one molecule that’s got a bad name and yet, it’s not half as dangerous as the litany of pharmaceutical drugs out there. It doesn’t matter what you take, it has an affect your body, but at least cannabis is working to bring your body back to homeostasis, and this is what I try to teach my clients.

HHH: What would say are the pros and cons of working out high?

THC: Well, I started combining cannabis and training when I was about 17 or 18, back when I was running track for school. At the time, it never occurred to me that the two shouldn’t be combined, but also I wasn’t a big smoker. Even back then, I was microdosing, although I didn’t know it at the time. I’d never smoke so much that I’d be sitting paranoid in the corner. I have anxiety and would often get anxious before an event, so I’d take a hit to help me perform, and I did that for years. When I was in college, I told someone I’d been doing this, and couldn’t believe their reaction, a big argument erupted. That’s when I realised maybe I should be more careful, so I’d stop for a while but my performance would suffer. You can’t win them all, but for me, cannabis works.

It comes down to dosing, too. If you hit bowl after bowl, of course it’s going to affect you differently. When I run marathons, I’m in my own head for a long time, and cannabis helps me manage that, and sharpens my mental clarity. But that’s not all it’s doing. There’s inflammation going on, as well as aches and pains flaring up, and it’s helping me to manage those things, too. Your body makes anandamide (runner’s high) when you exercise, so why not take that to the next level and consume cannabis, which boosts the chemicals your own body makes.

I know plenty of athletes who have been using cannabis for years recreationally, not realising it also has all these healing benefits on the body for inflammation and recovery. If you’re in pain, and you can’t sleep, why wouldn’t you want to smoke a joint, or vape, instead of taking a handful of pills every night.

HHH: The thing is, it works great for some people, and not at all for others, so ultimately, it comes down to personal choice, doesn’t it?

THC: It does, and it also depends on the baseline of the person you’re dealing with. For example, if I have a client who’s never worked out before, I’m not going to make them do an hour of high intensity cross-fit training. Likewise, if you’re dealing with a person who has never tried cannabis before, I’m going to go slow, and find out exactly why it is they’re thinking of using it, and what result they’re looking for. That’s going to help orientate us, and make the right choice for them.

But when it comes to working out high, you have to have experience of both in order to get it right. Just because you’ve smoked joints for years, that doesn’t mean you know how you’re going to perform if you eat an edible and go to the gym. Plus, different strains are going to affect you differently, and this is important when you’re talking about using cannabis for training because these things combined have a dramatic effect on your body. It might sound a bit nit picky but if you can control these things, why not?

HHH: Is that why you started The Health Cannabist?

I felt like it was finally time for me to “come out green” and bring awareness to the medicinal benefits of consuming cannabis. I guess it felt like a calling to share the years of observation, research, and experience, of cannabis’s positive effects. You have Big Pharma doing a great job at spreading the word that cannabis is evil coupled with decades of “reefer madness” propaganda. I came to realise most people don’t seem aware of the advantages cannabis has to offer over a catalog of toxic pills, supplements, and even surgical interventions. Cannabis has the ability to heal and improve people’s lives in ways I’ve never seen. Further, beyond its medicinal value, therein lies cannabis’s power as a biohacker (performance enhancer). From the gym to the office, cannabis improves focus, productivity, and performance. I’m excited to share how to integrate cannabis as part of a health and wellness regime.

 

 

 

Five Ways Fasting Improves My IBS Symptoms

In episode 3 of The Human Longevity Project, creator Jason Prall examines the negative impacts of overeating. Dr. Jason Fung, the fat loss specialist, points out that weight management not only comes down to what you eat but also when you eat. Yet, it’s a question that’s been totally overlooked – until now. Intermittent Fasting is one of the fastest growing trends in health, wellness and nutrition, and its benefits are based on some solid science.

The Science of Fasting

The human body was not designed to eat three meals a day or have easy access to food on a daily basis. Up until recent history, people were selective about what they ate because available food was limited to what was in their garden, and there was no such thing as snacks. Food preparation was complex, and time-consuming. As one of the contributors featured on The Human Longevity Project explains, women used to get up at three in the morning to prepare bread for the household.

In countries like Morocco, this is still the practice today. However, in most western countries, we simply go to the store, buy bread, and eat it till it’s gone, then we go buy more. While bread has been demonised in recent years due its gluten content, it’s often not the bread that’s the problem but its commercial ingredients (homemade bread has 4 ingredients whereas supermarket-bought bread has around 35) and the amount of it we eat due to its easy availability.

Continuous feeding has a negative effect on the body because it “reduces our metabolic rate and our ability to switch between burning sugar as our primary fuel and burning fat or ketones,” according to the functional nutritionist Dr. David Jockers. The result is a loss in metabolic flexibility and a slowing of the metabolism. What fasting does is give your body a break from the digestive process, a chance to clean itself up, or, “take the garbage out,” as Ben Greenfield, the performance coach, says.

Look back over human history, and it’s clear that periods of feast and famine are a common feature of life so much so it’s fair to say that humans evolved hungry. As a result, we have in-built mechanisms for survival in times of famine, and as Michael McEvoy, founder of Metabolic Healing, explains, fasting induces a state of stress on the body, forcing “the body to figure out alternate ways of making fuel,” which studies have shown to spark neuro-protective and cell protective mechanisms.

What is Autophagy?

It’s little wonder that so many people suffer with digestive issues because one of the most toxic things we do on a daily basis is eat. As microbiologist Kiran Krishnan explains, when you eat, the stomach produces acid to kill off bacteria, causing problems for people with food sensitivities or leaky gut. “The mitochondria in your body that cannot live for 18 hours without food are going to die [when you fast for 24 hours],” says the biohacker Dave Asprey, which leads to the creation of new cells, a process called autophagy.

In 2016, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries in autophagy. But what is it? The word is derived from the Greek auto meaning self and phagein meaning to eat, making a literal translation “to eat one’s self.” It’s basically the body’s mechanism for getting rid of all the old material, protein and cell waste, it no longer needs. It’s a regulatory process for recycling cells.

This process of cell death is also known by the term apoptosis, and it’s essential for good health. All cells are programmed to die when their use has run out, and when this happens, it makes way for new healthier cells. When we fast, we clear out old cells but not only that, fasting has been shown to stimulate growth hormone secretion, which means new cells can grow, and upgrade faulty body parts. When old cells are not cleaned up, it can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.

How Fasting Improves my IBS Symptoms

It’s amazing how few studies have been done on the effects of fasting on IBS considering its benefits are in line with the condition’s symptoms. The studies that have been done demonstrate positive results, and are compelling reasons for further study. It’s my belief that fasting will become a standard treatment for IBS in the near future. Here are five ways fasting improves my IBS symptoms:

1. Manage IBS

Hi, my name is Tasha, and I’m an overeater. I’ve been an overeater all my life. My mum used to call me the “dustbin” because I’d finish my own dinner and everyone else’s, and at night, I’d sneak into the kitchen and snack on cereal. As a teenager, I’d eat all day long and wonder why I was fat. Thankfully, I was an active kid, which meant a fast metabolism protected me for a while, till I reached the age of 25, and the battle with my IBS really began.

At the age of 31, I was hospitalised for two weeks with intense abdominal pain but doctors found nothing wrong. That launched a 15-year investigation into food, what I could and couldn’t eat. Over the years, I’ve eliminated all sorts of food to control my symptoms, but nothing treats inflammation as effectively as fasting. I manage my IBS with a combination of tools including fitness, keto, CBD oil, and cannabis but now that I’ve discovered fasting, I know I’ll do it for the rest of my life. The benefits are that good.

2. Manage anxiety

IBS is a gastro issue that has a major effect on a person’s relationship with food – how can it not? I used to sneak into the kitchen at night to eat that cereal because I didn’t want anyone to know I was eating it, classic addictive behaviour, shirking responsibility for my actions, hiding it from both myself and the people around me. I was using food as entertainment to distract myself from my problems, as well as my anxieties about life and my shortcomings.

To this day, the times I’m most like to unconsciously open the fridge is when I’m faced with a challenging task. My automatic response is to reach for a cookie, to procrastinate, and delay the inevitability of solving the problem. What fasting has shown me is that I provide the solution, not the food. This has had the effect of giving me more confidence in my ability to solve problems, and therefore less likely to reach for food when I’m presented with a challenge. It hasn’t cured me of my anxiety, but it’s certainly helped me see its sources more clearly.

3. Weight Management

Fasting changes your relationship with food because it increases your appreciation of it, while at the same time, dramatically decreasing the amount of food you need in your day-to-day life. Since starting the keto diet, my weight continued to fluctuate, and when I started to measure my macros, I found that on certain days my fat intake was through the roof. I had allowed myself to consume insane amounts of fat on the premise that it was part of the diet, and therefore sanctioned. I was wrong.

What I was really doing was pummelling my body with unneeded food, zapping my energy and sabotaging my weight management. The whole point of doing a keto diet is to enable your body to become fat adapted, or to switch to fat instead of glucose as its fuel source. Achieving this means cutting out sugar and cutting carbs down to around 30 grams per day.

At first, the switch can be difficult but if you’re someone with IBS who reacts to carbs like bread and pasta, it’s easy to cut those things out. However, if you eat too much fat, you’ll feel bloated, the same heavy feeling that IBS causes, and be lethargic. Eating healthy fats is good for the body and brain – but in moderation. The best way to learn moderation is through fasting.

In the first month that I introduced fasting into my life, I lost 3 kilos and reduced my calorific intake from 1650 a day to less than 1200 with zero effort. When I break my fast, I’m very careful about what I eat, as my stomach is sensitive, and it’s really important not to overeat. Learning how to break fast the right way is another invaluable lesson in food restraint. I typically break my fast with fat, and eat a meal two hours later.

4. Boost mental clarity

The first day I did a 24-hour fast, I occupied myself by doing a whole bunch of admin I’d been ignoring for weeks. At the end of that day, I couldn’t believe how much work I’d done, and how charged I felt. With each fast, my mind sharpens, enabling me to plan and multi-task in ways I haven’t done in years. Now, I like to fast because I know that’s when I’ll get things done.

5. New Relationship with Food

If you’re someone who has been dieting and/or working out for years, hoping to reform your body and never getting the results you want, fasting is the answer. Through fasting, you can reduce your appetite significantly, and when you find a fasting routine that works for you, you can easily keep that weight off. I fast once a week from 6 p.m. on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday because that works for me. Sometimes I’ll also fast during the week, or do a fasted workout, for additional benefits.

The discipline of sticking to my fast time, and the results of fasting on my body has also boosted my confidence. Not only do I see the results in the mirror, I feel like I have control over what I do and don’t eat for the first time in my life. I’m no longer a slave to snacks as I now know how little food I can survive on, and if it’s not meal time, it’s highly unlikely I need whatever it is I’m craving. However, if I do have cravings, I keep special foods for the purpose, foods like almond butter and macadamia nuts though I do measure how much I eat; a snack might be a tablespoon of almond butter or 10 grams of macadamia nuts.

Final Thoughts on Fasting

The goal of any weight management programme is to find a diet that’s healthy and easy enough to sustain. However, until you fully comprehend how much energy your body needs in order to get through the day, it’s impossible to know in a tangible way what constitutes too much food. Think back to the most active time in your life, and the shape or efficiency of your body at that time – that’s the optimum weight for you and where your body is striving to be. Fasting is the way to get there. It will also change your relationship with food and treat your IBS symptoms.

 

 

Why Your Gut Health Depends on Your Microbiome

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, director of Cleveland Clinic for Functional Medicine, we are in the era of the microbiome though the science is still in its infancy. He is one of the many doctors featured on The Human Longevity Project who believe that if we want to preserve our long-term health, the most important thing we need to learn to do is protect our microbiome.

What is the Microbiome?

The microbiome is the total populations of microbiota that exist in a human body, a population so large microbes outnumber human cells ten to one. They live all over the body, gathering in every organ from the eyes, brain and liver to the kidneys, mouth and skin but the largest population, about 80 per cent, about 30 trillion microbes live in the gut, particularly in the large intestine. The microbiome was not generally recognized until the 1990s, which is why doctors are only beginning to understand its implications for health now.

As microbiologist Kiran Krishnan explains, there is 150 times more bacterial DNA in our bodies than human DNA, which means 99 per cent of things we do on a daily basis are controlled by the microbiome. What doctors are beginning to understand is that it’s impossible to have good health without a healthy microbiome because microbes are so integral to our ecology that they influence how we think, feel, and function on every level.

They are also beneficial colonisers that protect against autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and a host of gastro conditions. The microbiome is introduced to the human body during birth as the baby passes through the mother’s vaginal canal, and the diversity of flora is established in the first few years of life, setting up the health of the individual for the rest of life.

Dr. Hyman explains that the populations of microbiota in the body are dynamic meaning the slightest change in environment sparks a chain reaction that can have positive or negative outcomes for health. Everything in your environment affects the balance in your microbiome, what you eat, how you sleep, the stress you’re under, what cleaning products and cosmetics you use, whether or not you like your partner, home and/or job; if it affects you, it affects your microbiome, and the microbioata respond accordingly.

The Microbiome and Gut Health

Gut bacteria, or the microbiota that live in the large intestine, is the body’s largest immune system because it teaches the body what’s okay, what’s not, and what kind of response is needed. As Dr. Grace Liu, founder of the Gut Institute, explains, the gut microbiota “hover above the sterile zone of mucus to help the absorption of food,” and it’s during this absorption process that the microbiota decide what’s friend or foe. For this reason she calls them, “our superheroes.”

Krishnan, the microbiologist, points out that for a long time researchers couldn’t figure out how this process worked, or what mechanism microbes used to identify good from bad pathogens, and when to release an immune response. That was until toll-like receptors were discovered, and shown to maintain homeostasis in the gut, as well as determining the quality of intestinal immunity.

When the microbiota in the gut are not happy, they will damage the lining of the intestinal membrane allowing unwanted elements to leak into the blood stream, a condition known as leaky gut. Once that happens, it activates the immune system and its inflammatory response, which if left untended can create a chronic inflammatory state that affects everything.

As well as the digestive process, and immune system, the gut microbiota also affect the brain. Peptides, neurotransmitters and other molecules produced in the stomach directly impact brain function and it works both ways, as the brain can also send messages to the gut and impact its functions.

According to functional medicine practitioner Dr. Tom O’Bryan, “For every message going from the brain to the gut, there are nine going back to the brain from the gut,” and those messages are coming from the microbiota.

On top, the gut is the only organ that can function independent of the brain because it has its own ecology and metabolic system. Researchers now understand that the bacteria in the gut have more influence on the brain that any other organ because of the neurotransmitters, peptides and hormones they have the capacity to create. For example, the brain can signal to the stomach that more dopamine or testosterone is required, and the microbes in the gut can produce it.

O’Bryan explains that’s why there are such strong links between gut problems and mood disorders like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar and even Parkinson’s; all these conditions begin in the gut because the gut microbiota have much more influence on the body’s messaging system than the body’s own genome.

Gut bacteria

The Microbiome Protects You From Disease

Lorenzo Drago PhD is professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Milan where his team discovered the deep communication system between microbiota and human cells by studying the skin where they found microbes in all layers of the skin including the dermis, glands and immune cells. They identified them as part of the “core microbiota” that control the body’s defense mechanisms.

What that means is that microbes form a barrier between the environment and the body and if the microbes aren’t happy, the body is at risk to infection at cellular level. In effect, the communication between the microbiota and human cells is the basis for human health. It’s now believed that imbalances in these mechanisms first present as skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Over the last century, modern medicine has introduced a bunch of antibiotics that not only kill bad pathogens but good ones, too. In fact, the more industrialised, modified, sanitised, sterilised, and commodified the world becomes the more epidemics of chronic disease grow. On top, microbes are extremely adaptable.

The more antibiotics and chemicals are introduced, the more microbes can mutate to evolve past them, and create superbugs. In every household, there are a diverse array of cosmetics, toiletries and cleaning agents full of chemicals that affect the ecology of the microbiome. Even showering can cause imbalances in microbiota because some people might be allergic to the chlorine in the water.

We need a healthy balance of bacteria on the skin because without them it opens the door to infection, which can turn into acne, psoriasis, eczema or dry skin. More important, the health of the microbes in the skin play a key role in the communication pathways between the immune cells in other organs, which means that upsets in the skin travel to other organs and can cause infections there, too.

Balancing The Microbiome and Gut Health

Dr. Patrick Gentempo, a health technology innovator, explains that there is less than 2 per cent of microbes we know about that are harmful to humans, which means 98 per cent of them are beneficial. Instead of trying to kill of the bad ones, which results in even stronger bugs, it would seem the best way to control the 2 per cent is to leave the job up to the 98 per cent who have being doing it for a millennia way more effectively that modern medicine.

Brand new research proves the existence of ancient codes in microbe DNA. Dr. Michael Ash, researcher and clinical educator, explains how the mitochondria’s ability to extract nutrients from food is in fact a complex communication system that was set up millions of years ago as part of our human evolutionary process.

When we eat food, the bacteria present in the soil where that food was grown is communicating with the bacteria in our gut. That process ensures the body’s mitochondria are replicable, repairable and functional, and can survive. This dynamic relationship is a very new area of research but what researchers know is that the quality of dialogue is determined by the source of nutrients i.e. the quality of the food.

Our bodies need locally produced, whole foods to receive the right messages to pass onto our cells so that microbial genes can respond in healthy and balanced ways. These different microbial ecologies are in constant communication with each other and the environment in ways we don’t yet understand. As Dr. Mark Hyman says, food isn’t just nutrition, “it’s information.”

Basically, what the doctors in The Human Longevity Project are saying is that human beings are a walking talking ecology that’s designed to be in a continuous dialogue with its environmental ecologies and that our job as the host body is create the right conditions for a happy conversation. According to them, the answer lies in finding the same harmony between our external and internal ecologies that our ancestors had. What they’re saying is that in order for us to heal, we need to go back to our roots.

Check out The Human Longevity Project series here.

 

How To Survive Your First Stoned Yoga Class

Full disclosure: I can’t stand yoga. All that bending and stretching and exhaling, who’s got the time? I like to get in the gym, sweat hard and get out. Yoga is all about patience, a trait dangerously lacking in my personality. This afternoon I’m going to my first yoga class in ten years, and my main concern is to make sure I’m stoned af.

To ensure this, I smoke my first joint around midday and eat a brownie at lunch. By 5pm my mind is on a direct path to Jupiter, and my eyes, oh well, time to whip out the eye drops and white those balls. Some mascara wouldn’t go astray either. In the past I did countless yoga classes and fidgeted my way through every one of them, especially the ones with chanting. Please don’t let this be a slow class, I pray, before leaving the house, then roll a jay, and horse a few drags on the way out the door just to be safe.

A Roomful of Pleasant Surprise

On my way to class, a ten-minute walk away, all I can think about is the strong scent of mould my yoga matt exudes while hoping the room isn’t so small that other people notice its ripe stench. Actually, the room is the first of many pleasant surprises, large and airy, with lots of natural light, white walls, wood floor, and an old school tune playing on the stereo that I like and haven’t heard in ages. Thanks to my heightened senses and the room’s good acoustics, I instantly feel welcomed, and bop along to the familiar beat, as I place my matt on the floor and sit down.

The second surprise is the teacher; I’ve known him for years, not well, but did a class with him many moons ago. He’s famous for his smile, a broad beam, all teeth and lips. Wearing a sleeveless tee and shorts that show off his muscled legs, he sits at the top of the room on a matt, cross-legged, smiling like a man who knows something no one else does.

As I look around at my fellow classmates, an unassuming group of six, four women (including me), two men, between the ages of 35 and 50, all different body shapes and levels of fitness, I can’t help wonder if the class will be too easy. Because I skipped the gym today, my ego’s on the prowl, pushing me to feel the burn though the whole point of yoga is to give my body a rest. I sway to the music to still my restless thoughts while my classmates sit perfectly still in yoga positions. The song ends. Smiley takes charge.

Why Do Yoga?

“Why do yoga?” he asks, as if reading my mind, then scans the group, blinding each one of us with a flash of teeth, inviting us to speak. We are quiet. “To stretch my muscles,” I think but before I can speak up, a lady to my left says the same thing. Smiley smiles, and takes the reins, talking about “focus,” and how hard it is to achieve, how it’s actually the hardest thing about yoga, or life. He’s definitely reading my mind. He goes on to talk about the breath, how we can use it to warm up the body, or calm the body down, if we’re willing to connect with it in an intentional way.

He says he doesn’t plan classes because he has no way of knowing what the needs of the room will be in advance, but that we’d do some breathing exercises, chanting, salutations and relaxation. Oh no, not chanting! He turns on the music, more old school tunes that make feel young, and the class starts in earnest, working with breath, warming up the neck and shoulders, and vocal chords with some oms. As soon as I hear my voice join the chant, my vibration shifts, and I’m fully in the room. Smiley has my attention. I’m focused.

Why Do Stoned Yoga?

What follows is nothing short of a miracle because I stay in flow for the remainder of class, focused on Smiley’s voice, and following the movements as he instructs. The class isn’t physically challenging, just some basic moves and stretching, but it’s exactly what my taut muscles need. I’m surprised by my agility, and as we work through the movements, I’m feeling my muscles stretch and tension release from the all the right places. I can’t tell if Smiley instinctively knew what I needed, or if I simply needed any yoga class, but by the end of class, my body feels aligned and my mind is at peace.

This state of calm or bliss is the sensation that both yoga and cannabis are famous for, and there’s a good reason the two are connected. The connection is anandamide a neurotransmitter produced by the brain that binds to THC receptors. Discovered in 1992, some call it the “bliss molecule” and it’s named after the Sanskrit word for joy, “ananda.” It’s basically the body’s own anti-depressant, and studies link levels of anandamide to feelings of happiness or depression.

There are few things you can do to boost levels of anandamide including running, dancing, smoking weed or yoga. The link between cannabis or bhang as it’s known in India goes all the way back to Shiva, who loved it so much, he was known as “Lord Bhang.” According to some yogis, use of cannabis or herb is written into yoga lore, known as the Yoga Sutras, which were complied around 400CE. Stoned yoga is currently enjoying a revival with classes and retreats popping up all over legal markets. One woman, Dee Dussault, has become a western guru of stoned yoga, or ganja yoga.

Yoga is Better Stoned

There are a few ways being stoned improved my yoga practice. In no particular order, they include:

  • I felt connected to the practice in a new way.
  • The music carried me through the movements.
  • I connected with my voice and body in a way I could never have done if not high.
  • I was able to relax into the class, release tension and find my flow.
  • Miraculously, I was able to focus.

At the end of the class, Smiley hands out blankets and we take a moment to reflect and give thanks. This is where he loses me again as my thoughts drift to my weekly timetable. However, he pulls me back again when we do a final set of oms and afterwards, he flashes us one of those smiles, this time full of gratitude. Turns out, it’s his first class at this gym too. He’s standing in for the regular teacher, will be giving the class for the next few weeks, and hopes to see us again.

“How many of you lost focus during class?” Smiley asks, raising his hand first, and all of us quickly follow suit. He smiles knowingly. I had a plan to take a photo before leaving the class but I’m so blissed out, I completely forget. A few hours later, my shoulders ache telling me it was a good workout after all. Don’t think I can handle more than one class a week, but yes, Smiley, I’ll be back.

UPDATE: 18 months later … I never went back.

7 Ways Cannabis Cures my IBS Symptoms

More than 700 million people worldwide are living with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, known as IBS. Are you one of them? I am. According to a 2016 Global Impact Report, the most frustrating thing for IBS sufferers is finding a health professional who can correctly diagnose the condition.

I discovered this firsthand years ago when I spent two weeks in a hospital bed with chronic abdominal pain. The doctors sedated me till the pain was gone and sent me home none the wiser. I subsequently visited a specialist who told me I was fine, nothing wrong. Many IBS sufferers report similar experiences.

In a survey of more than 500 patients with IBS-D 32% of respondents agreed with the statement: “healthcare professionals do not take IBS seriously,” and in a separate survey, 22% agreed that: “healthcare professionals say you have IBS when they have run out of ideas.”

The medical community does not understand IBS, what causes it or how best to treat it. As a result, there is no reliable diagnostic test for IBS, and no known cure, leaving millions of people struggling daily to find ways to eat without enduring symptoms that include fatigue, pain, bloating, and gas as well as either chronic diarrhoea or constipation. It’s believed that the majority of IBS cases are undiagnosed.

Little surprise then the typical IBS sufferer is locked in a perpetual search for alternative treatments. This was the case for me. Since that stint in hospital fifteen years ago, I’ve been experimenting with diet to find a solution. It never occurred to me to return to a doctor for help – no matter how bad the symptoms – because they’d already made it clear they couldn’t help me.

As far as the doctors were concerned, there was nothing wrong with me, leaving me in a sort of health and wellbeing wilderness. Till I stop seeing my cannabis use as recreational and started to learn about its therapeutic properties.

People who are tired of the lack of support from the medical community, and interested in taking matters into their own hands have two options: make adjustments to their diet or try a natural remedy. When eaten, cannabis can be both. In this post, I’ll explain the 7 reasons I’m cooking with cannabis to cure my IBS symptoms while also exploring the factors that make IBS so debilitating and the importance of gut health.

IBS IMPACT ON QUALITY OF LIFE
  • Limits professional options, productivity and performance at work
  • Affects relationships negatively
  • Limits participation in social activities
  • Social isolation
  • Forces sufferers to make considerable life changes
  • Financial burden
  • 32% of IBS-C report feelings depressed; 76% said they didn’t feel normal

“I never eat out, and have learned the hard way to decline dinner invitations.”

Type of IBS

The symptom-based criteria for IBS were first developed in 1989 by an international working committee based in Rome, and are known as the Rome Criteria. The criteria were most recently updated in 2016 – the latest set of criteria are known as Rome IV – but are regarded as too complex to be applicable to daily medical practice.

According to Rome IV, IBS is characterised by recurrent abdominal pain at least once a week and may also include defecation problems as well as changes in stool frequency and/or consistency.

Sub-types of IBS are recognized by Rome IV, and include:

  • IBS-C: with predominant constipation
  • IBS-D: with predominant diarrhoea
  • IBS-M: with both constipation and diarrhoea

In one study of more than 500 IBS-D patients, the majority reported having symptoms for 8 to 17 days of the month, and in another survey of IBS-C patients, they reported symptoms for 10 – 11 days of the month.

IBS is most prevalent amongst women.

What Makes IBS So Debilitating?

On top of the difficulty of finding a medical professional that can diagnose and treat the symptoms of IBS, the condition comes with a bunch of direct and indirect side effects. Last year, I was in Madrid for a work event where the organisers went to great trouble to put on a spread of cold meats, cheeses and breads. I couldn’t eat a thing on that table, and the organisers were visibly put out.

I didn’t know those people well enough to delve into a conversation on the broken mechanics of my digestive system, and was embarrassed by my inability to offer an explanation. The discomfort of the situation, both mine and theirs reminded me why I avoid straying too far from home, and rarely eat in company.

That’s just one in a truckload of examples of the many ways IBS has dinted my social and working life. It’s one of the reasons I work from home, and have done so for twelve years. I never eat out, and have learned the hard way to decline dinner invitations. If I’m traveling, I prepare food in advance to take with me.

A European survey showed that people with IBS are twice as a likely to take time off work, and that the symptoms could cause, on average, a 30% loss in productivity. In an American study of almost 2,000 IBS patients, it was found that performance was affected on average 9 days of the month, and that 13% of respondents were unemployed due to their poor health. Another study of almost 3,000 Canadian IBS sufferers found that 46% had missed work or school due to IBS symptoms.

In a 2017 study of more than 1,000 people on the effects of IBS on quality of life, 52% of respondents reported cancelling or changing plans at the last minute; 52% avoided eating before or during events; 42% skipped events with poor bathroom facilities; 38% missed work; 34% avoided dinner or social events with friends, and 33% avoided long journeys.

IBS affects intimate relationships, too. In a 2016 American study, two-thirds of respondents avoided having sex because of their symptoms. Much research needs to be done to uncover the ways the partners and families of IBS sufferers are impacted but this kind of research could reveal unique insights into how sufferers cope with the condition.

IBS can be a financial burden. A Canadian study found that 47% of IBS sufferers spent more than $150 per month on medication though 26% could only afford some of the treatments and 16% couldn’t afford any. Respondents in a U.S. report tried, on average, 3.6 over-the-counter (OTC) products before consulting a doctor. IBS costs the U.S. health system more than $30 million a year.

How IBS Affects Mental Health

When you’ve been told there’s nothing wrong with you but you’re living with symptoms that are so debilitating they stop you from working and socialising, it fucks with your head. Is the pain real? Am I imagining it? Am I making a fuss over nothing? These are questions I asked often till I found myself doubled up in agony or forced to sleep in the middle of the day while my body digested whatever bad thing I’d eaten.

IBS makes you feel like everything you’re eating is bad, which means food becomes an enemy. For years, especially in my thirties, I avoided meals as a way to avoid pain. Sometimes, I even thanked my condition for keeping me slim, as I’m a big grazer and would probably eat all day long if you let me. This tells you something about my relationship with food – complicated.

I tell people I have food allergies and that’s why I can’t go out or eat out or accept a dinner invitation. “Allergies” seem like a neater explanation, something tangible with known symptoms, a reason they can comprehend. When I say, “IBS,” their expression tilts towards confusion tinged with a pity that suggests they too think it’s all in my head. “What is it?” they’ll ask, feigning interest. These exchanges are painful.

Worse, they make me anxious, and numerous studies have shown that anxiety and depression both increase the chances of developing symptoms of IBS, and result from IBS, a vicious cycle that plagues sufferers. Where does it all begin? A 2013 study found a direct correlation between the “vicious cycle” of gastrointestinal symptoms and early childhood trauma.

On top, because societal taboos make it difficult to have open conversations about poop, many IBS sufferers learn early on to suffer in silence, a practice they’ve been honing since the original childhood trauma that taught them to swallow their emotions. Problem is when you swallow your emotions, there’s no room for anything else, not even food to keep you alive. Many IBS sufferers report significant weight loss.

Suffering in silence leads to stigma and reinforces the problem, spiking anxiety and depression. Unable to connect with others through honest conversations, it’s normal for the IBS sufferer to feel socially isolated. A 2015 study by the American Gastrointestinal Association (AGA) shows that more than one-third of IBS suffers feel self-conscious, embarrassed, fed up and depressed.

“Mental health conditions are now seen to be full body inflammatory responses to a compromised microbiome.”

The Gut Microbiome and IBS

 The microbiome is a colony of bacteria that lives in the small intestine and colon, with each person harbouring up to 100 trillion microbiota or microbial cells. The microbiome has evolved with us to create an intricate and mutually beneficial relationship, and advances in the study of cell activity has allowed scientists to study communities of microbiota across different environments.

Researchers have been able to identify links between changes in environment – such as dietary changes, ill health and/or antibiotics – and gut health. On top, mounting evidence shows a definite link between the health of the microbiome, digestion and metabolism. Because research is pointing to the microbiome as a solution for IBS, clinical trials currently focus on interventions that target the gut microbiota such as prebiotics, probiotics, fecal transplant and diet.

It’s now known that the range of beneficial services provided by the microbiome includes the strengthening of gut integrity, harvesting energy, promoting homeostasis, and boosting immunity. In fact, the bacteria in the small intestine and colon are essential for good health by not only keeping the GI tract moving but also providing essential amino acids, vitamins and short chain fatty acids.

In the average lifetime, up to 60 tonnes of food passes through the GI tract, along with an abundance of microorganisms, and both have the capacity to adversely affect gut integrity. Recent studies have shown that imbalances in the gut bacterial communities, known as dysbiosis, can contribute to IBS, and determine the range of symptoms – but it’s not clearly understood how or why. It’s suspected that once imbalances occur, a collection of diseases flare up.

New research into the flora found in the gut-brain axis, the bidirectional communication system that regulates the central and enteric nervous systems, and promotes homeostasis, is currently revolutionising both the fields of mental health and microbiome study. The two are so interlinked it has created a new field of study known as “pyschobiotics.” Mental health conditions are now seen to be full body inflammatory responses to a compromised microbiome.

Diet and IBS

Though the biggest obstacle for any IBS sufferer is diet – which a 2014 study confirmed when 90% of respondents listed certain foods as triggers – unbelievably, knowledge about the relationship between food and IBS remains undefined. Research is ongoing, meaning that in the interim sufferers are left in the dark about one of the most influential factors on their microbiome and health: diet.

The diet that’s recommended for clinically treating IBS is known as FODMAP, and is a type of elimination diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols, scientific terms used to classify foods that are known to trigger the symptoms of IBS. They represent a variety of legumes, fruits, vegetables as well as milk, yoghurt and soft cheese. The idea is to cut these out of the diet and slowly reintroduce them to figure out which ones are problematic.

Most IBS sufferers have tried some sort of elimination diet usually out of necessity. This was the case for me. A year after that stint in hospital, I was in so much pain, I stopped eating for a few days, and then ate only green salad for about six months. Besides losing weight, for the first time in years I had energy and wasn’t in constant pain. I slowly began re-introducing foods, and discovered the problem foods, which included milk, pasta, bread, potatoes, or anything with white flour. With time, it became clear that any foods high in acid or starch were triggers for my IBS symptoms. One of my rules: no white food.

One of the worst things about the reaction of doctors to my IBS, or rather their lack of reaction, was that it knocked me out of connection with my health, and made me distrust my body. They didn’t know what was going on, so I assumed that I didn’t either. However, it’s my opinion that the solution to IBS is 90% diet and over 15 years of experimentation, I’ve finally found the combination of foods that work for me.

My healing journey has forced me to evolve a new relationship with food and fitness, and as a result I have a much healthier connection with my body today. I understand the integrative nature of the digestive system, and know that it’s not just food that can aggravate my symptoms. A stressful situation can also be problematic, meaning my life choices are just as important as my food choices.

Most importantly, I now see my IBS as an in-built alarm system telling me what’s good and bad in my environment. I’m very careful about planning my weeks to minimise any stress, and spend a lot of time researching nutrition, and preparing food. Hormonal changes have made me even more sensitive to stress, increasing the importance of continuously adjusting my routine of self-care.

You have no idea how much of 180 this is for me. I’ve gone from assuming I’m “fine,” “nothing wrong” to recognising something is very wrong, and in the absence of support, I have a right to take whatever means necessary to improve my quality of life. Up until four years ago, I was locked in a cycle of sleeping 18 hours a day, or enduring days of pain to today becoming the healthiest and strongest I’ve been in a long time. I have a number of factors to thank, chief amongst them cannabis.

Cannabis and IBS

Further research is needed to understand the relationship between cannabinoids and IBS, and any potential benefits. What is known is that cannabinoids play a crucial role in regulation of the immune system and have the potential to be an effective treatment for a variety of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. As with all things cannabis-related, further research is needed to fully understand the application of cannabis for IBS sufferers.

While a 2009 study showed that gut inflammation is regulated by two important processes that are in constant flux and responding to environmental changes in the GI tract, a 2018 study demonstrated the role of cannabis in those processes. The first process sparks an aggressive immune response in the gut to kill off any unwanted or dangerous pathogens.

However, if not kept in check, these immune cells can get out of control and attack the lining of the stomach, as is the case with Crohn’s Disease, IBD, IBS or stomach ulcers. That’s where cannabinoids come in. They regulate the second part of this process, keeping the immune system balanced, and ensuring the environment returns to homeostasis. Cannabinoids also affect how food is broken down and stored for energy.

The body has its own way of producing cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. The compounds found in cannabis are almost identical to those produced by the body, which means that when cannabis is consumed, the body recognises it and knows how to use it to calm inflammation.

But IBS isn’t just a physical problem, it affects emotional and mental wellbeing, too, and that’s another way cannabis can offer relief. The research is still in its infancy but there’s evidence to suggest that cannabis is a reliable anxiolytic, and can also alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder (SAD.) Further research showed that cannabis eased depression in patients with co-morbid conditions.

“Before long, the constant gnawing in my stomach ceased and the bloating disappeared.”

7 Reasons I’m Cooking with Cannabis To Cure My IBS

I started cooking with cannabis about six months ago though I’ve been smoking it for years. I’ve been curious about edibles for a long time but whenever I got the chance to sample any, they were sugary sweets or floury cakes or something else I couldn’t eat. As I follow a keto diet I’m used to amending recipes to fit my dietary needs, so researching ways I could integrate cannabis into my diet was a natural leap for me.

At first, like most people, I made cookies, and lots of dark chocolate fat bombs, high in fat to fit the keto diet. Pretty quickly I realised that cannabutter added a rich nutty flavour to all sorts of dishes, and I started spreading it on homemade bread, or melting it on roasted Brussels sprouts. Eating cannabis affects the body differently from smoking, but I wasn’t eating large amounts to get high, just enough to add flavour. Soon, I started to experience a bunch of other benefits.

Full disclosure: what follows is anecdotal but considering the lack of research into the links between IBS and diet, and IBS and cannabis, anecdotes are the best we can do for now. My guess is that as the field of psychobiotics opens up, we’ll hear a lot more about the essential role of cannabinoids in the health of the brain, gut-brain axis and digestive system.

1. Effective Treatment for Bloating

When I’m bloated I have no energy, feel gross, and don’t want to go outside. I don’t even want to get dressed. I hide at home and fantasise about swapping my body with a healthy one that wants to do things, and can eat anything. Then I make crazy promises to myself about the changes I’m going to make to eradicate the problem – though it’s frustrating when the solution is always to cut out more food, a cycle that demands discipline and can be unrewarding.

I’ve endured this cycle for years. But in the last year things have changed, as I get more serious about the keto diet. In that time I’ve only been in ketosis twice, as I have to tailor the diet to my IBS, and am still figuring out what I can eat. There are lots of keto foods like cream and mayonnaise – White food! No! – that I can’t eat so I have to make adjustments. I tried muesli with coconut flakes thinking it could be an ideal substitute as I bake with coconut flour. Nope! Too much white. Bloated for a week.

I didn’t see real improvements till four or five months ago, and the key change to my diet was adding cannabutter. I noticed immediately that I could eat cookies without triggering my symptoms, and began to experiment, adding cannabutter to veg and meat dishes. After a few weeks, my appetite was more regulated, and the bloating eased. Before long, the constant gnawing in my stomach ceased and the bloating disappeared. When it returns, I add a teaspoon of cannabutter to my dinner, and it disappears again. Every time.

2. No More Stomach Pain

IBS sufferers know that most days your stomach feels like a pressure cooker that could explode at any minute. For me, cannabutter is the release valve. When I first started to eat it, it was like an internal massage for my digestive system. Instantly, I felt relief, as it eased any pain. Generally, the pain comes when I’ve eaten something I shouldn’t, but on stressful days, anything I eat can cause problems.

What’s impossible not to notice is the calming effect cannabutter has on my stomach, and how quickly it works. For example, I was traveling last weekend, an event that’s guaranteed to spark my IBS symptoms including constipation and bloating. Last night, after five days of bloating, I added a teaspoon of cannabutter to my broccoli, which enabled me to have a healthy bowel movement this morning, and today the bloating and discomfort is gone.

3. Bowel Movements

This is a difficult topic to talk about, and so many bad puns about constipation are pooping, I mean popping into my head right now – but no conversation on IBS is complete without it. There’s no question the keto diet has changed my metabolism, as has more than four years of working out, but there’s been a noticeable shift in the last four or five months. Instead of alternating between days of constipation and diarrhoea, lately I’m regular as RyanAir, meaning I still have bad days but nothing like before.

In fact, I’m so regular, pooping has almost become something I don’t have to think about; I say “almost” because as any IBSer knows, when you can’t go, or can’t stop going, it’s impossible not to think about it. It’s easy to get obsessed, which ups anxiety, and sparks symptoms: the vicious cycle. Because cannabutter has regulated me, I’ve gotten more relaxed about it, meaning everything has relaxed. My bowel movements have become more compact, and look the way normal poo should look. After years of suffering, this is a miracle.

4. Mental Clarity

When asked what was their most important advice to anyone who wanted to replicate their success, both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett said: Focus. Any IBSer knows focus is challenging if not impossible when the gnawing in your stomach overwhelms you. What did I eat to cause this feeling? What can I eat to get rid of this feeling? How long is it going to last? Will I ever feel normal again? Familiar questions to any IBS sufferer.

I don’t ask myself these questions any more – there’s no need because the pain is gone, and everything is moving along nicely. As a result, I have time to concentrate on the things that are important to me. More than that, I have time to stand back, review what’s important, and tailor my activities to those goals. For the first time in years, I’m planning ahead, and I’m sticking to my plan. It’s also enabling me to take on more stressful tasks, such as this blog. This kind of mental clarity would have been impossible a year ago.

5. Aids Sleep & Regulates Hormones

As a woman in my forties, I’m in perimenopause, which is the hormonal shift that occurs before full-on menopause. The side effects of perimenopause include insomnia and hot flashes. Before I began eating cannabutter, I was smoking a ton of joints before bed in the hope of getting some sleep. Sick of being tired, drained and grumpy all the time, some days, I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.

Then I started eating my canna cookies at night, and noticed that on those nights, I slept like a baby. The insomnia is now gone, but any night I have trouble sleeping, I eat a cookie, and it guarantees me good sleep. That’s not all. Up until last November I viewed my hash habit as recreational only. In November I stopped smoking for four days, and was immediately hit with an avalanche of hormonal symptoms: night-sweats, hot flashes, and insomnia.

On day 2, I went to the supermarket and had a hot flash so bad my clothes were soaked through by the time I got home. By day 4, I was awake for 22 hours, and wired. Unable to take any more, I relented and smoked a joint. After a few days, my symptoms eased. I still have hot flashes, but cannabis mutes them to the point that I can ignore them.

6. Increased Trust in my Body and Sense of Wellbeing

The effects of consuming cannabis are cumulative, meaning I don’t have to eat it every day to cure my symptoms. Eating it a few times a month is enough to keep the pain at bay, and my metabolism moving. I know this is down to cannabis because I’ve been working out intensely for four years and experimenting with diet for fifteen years, but neither of those factors improved my metabolism to the extent cannabis has – they didn’t give me miracle poos. Because my body finally feels like it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, my sense of wellbeing has skyrocketed.

This is likely due to a combination of factors including better sleep, improved mental clarity, better digestion and a working metabolism. I now feel like food is giving me what it’s supposed to give me: energy. I now have energy all day long and don’t experience slumps during the day. Considering I used to sleep 18 hours a day, this too feels like a miracle. More recently, I noticed that my sense of humour might be returning, and it’s been on hiatus for years. Lately, I smile more.

For me, eating cannabis is not about getting high, and rarely do I feel high after eating it. That’s because I’m micro-dosing, eating small amounts to manage my health, not wolfing down grams to get wasted. Because my intention is different so too is the result. The relationship is symbiotic. I eat cannabis whenever I feel the need, and am confident that it will deal with whatever symptoms I’m experiencing. While there’s evidence to suggest long-term cannabis use can aggravate IBS, that’s not my experience, and it’s certainly not the case with edibles.

7. Cannabis is a Nutritional Powerhouse

Because cannabis gets so much bad press, its unique nutritional profile is overlooked, which is unfortunate because it’s one of the most nutrient-packed plants on the planet.

The seeds, for example, contain protein, carbohydrates, insoluble fibre, beta-carotene, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins E, C, B1, B3 and B6, and essential fatty acids. Plus, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is 3:1, which is considered optimal for human nutrition.

Likewise, the leaves and flowers contain a bunch of nutrients. The leaves can be eaten fresh off the plant, mixed into soups, juices, salads or smoothies. They are a rich source of fibre, free radical scavenging polyphenols, flavonoids, 9 essential amino acids, essential oils, the minerals magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, and THCA.

Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables, and various studies have shown that a diet rich in them can prevent against diabetes, osteoporosis, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. THCA is the non-psychoactive form of THC, and both forms have medical benefits that include anti-inflammatory, nueroprotective, anti-emetic, and anti-proliferative. Studies show THC is effective treatment for pain relief, treating PTSD, and increasing appetite.

The buds contain the same bunch of nutrients, but are also packed with resin, THC, and terpenes. Terpenes are found in all plants, and are what give lemon, lavender and cannabis their unique scents. There are more than 100 terpenes in cannabis but common ones include limonene, mycrene, linalool, and phytol, and each one has medicinal benefits that include reducing stress and anxiety, kill bacteria, improve cognitive function, relieve gastric reflux and ulcers, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

 

So there you have it, the reasons I’m cooking with cannabis to cure my IBS symptoms and the various benefits I’m seeing. As I’m not a scientist or nutritionist, I can’t explain to you in more detail what’s happening in my body but I can promise you that the change is real, and absolutely not in my head. Honestly, I feel like a new person. Dare I say, I even feel normal or at least, normal-ish.

Personally, I believe that my microbiome has been so badly out of wack for so many years, destroyed by bad food and anxiety that it was always going to take something stronger than diet and exercise to return it to homeostasis. Eating cannabis, with its powerful nutritional profile designed to regulate digestion, protect the brain and relax the nervous system, has restored balance to my microbiome.

Over the coming months, I’m going to monitor my progress, and seek out experts who can help verify my results. Finding the right people to work with will be challenging, as I’m wary of the medical community due to my disappointing experiences in the past. However, I’m also aware that the idea of adding cannabis to the diet is a radical one for most people, and I’m keen to be proof it works. Thanks to cannabis, I have the energy and strength to take on the challenge.

If you’re someone with a similar story to mine – there are millions of us! – please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you, and will be happy to share further tips.

#followtheplant #cookingwithcannabis #cannabishealsIBS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Cannabis End the Stigma of Addiction?

Terrence McKenna said the right way to use cannabis is to get blitzed off your box on rare occasions, and shoot the breeze with the shamans of your unconscious. No one I know smokes like this. McKenna himself did not smoke like this. To only smoke on rare occasions would demand the ability to abide by the Japanese principle of delayed gratification, but we live in a Culture of Now that compels us to consume at light speed, while giving us the illusion of satisfaction.

Evidence of this is everywhere. Trade on the high street has been transformed by fast fashion, cheap clothes from shops like H&M, The Gap, and Zara, creating an industry worth more than $3 trillion a year though 70 per cent of Americans have less that $1,000 in savings. In Luxembourg, 13 per cent of people have zero savings though it’s the country with the highest savings rate in Europe. In Ireland, the economy is supposedly booming but there’s a homelessness crisis in Dublin, and the nurses are striking for better pay.

During the 2018 Black Friday season, Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, U.S. consumers spent more than $750 billion in retail stores though more than 40 million Americans can’t afford healthcare. While Kylie Jenner, the 20-year-old social media starlet-du-jour and youngest sibling of the Kardashian powerhouse, has 120 million followers on Instagram and has been featured in Forbes as the world’s youngest billionaire, suicide rates are climbing amongst U.S. workers.

 Meet the Hungry Ghosts

Today, many people call their cannabis use therapeutic, but what if it’s okay to call it what it is: addiction. In his book, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Gabor Maté breaks down the neurology of addiction explaining that it can be a substance abuse or behaviour disorder but the underlying psychology that drives it is always the same. He illustrates the features all addicted brains share such as lowered dopamine and opioid receptors, as well as impaired development of the prefrontal cortex.

He demonstrates how the same mechanisms are working in all addicted brains, and that addiction behaviour of any kind, be it drug abuse, gambling, shopping, porn, work, social media, food, plastic surgery, hoarding or exercise, fire the brain’s circuitry in the same way. Based on a 2017 study involving 17,500 Americans by Dr. Vincent Felitti, one of the world’s leading experts on childhood trauma, brain development during infancy determines whether or not a person will be predisposed to addiction in adulthood.

The under-developed brain results in an adult that can’t connect with himself or the world around him without his “drug” of choice. This is what makes addiction so potent: it activates our instincts to connect in order to survive. This is what makes addiction so complex: it is a survival strategy that results in self-destruction. An addiction infiltrates the limbic system or emotional brain, the part of the mind that drives joy, pleasure, pain, anger and fear, thus processing and controlling our primal emotions.

 Addiction AKA Avoiding the Void

 When addicts say: “I don’t know who I’d be without [drug of choice],” this is addiction as identity, an attempt to fill the void. Incapable of focus or feeling joy – due to that faulty brain circuitry – and therefore incapable of feeling satisfied by any activity, the addict is hypersensitive to boredom, and constantly trying to out-run it.

“Boredom, rooted in a fundamental discomfort with the self, is one of the least tolerable mental states,” Maté explains. What’s clear is that the discomfort comes first, and stems from a loss of connection with self at an early age. In this video, Maté quotes Eckhart Tolle: “Addiction begins with pain and end with pain.”

“At the core of every addiction is an emptiness based in abject fear. The addict dreads and abhors the present moment; she bends feverishly only towards the next time, the moment when brain, infused with her drug of choice, will briefly experience itself as liberated from the burden of the past and the fear of the future – the two elements that make the present intolerable,” writes Maté.

“’The precursor to addiction is dislocation,’” according to Bruce Alexander, professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University explaining that by “dislocation he means the loss of psychological, social and economic integration into family and culture; a sense of isolation and powerlessness. ’Only chronically and severely dislocated people are vulnerable to addiction,’ he writes.”

We Are All Hungry Ghosts

Maté notes alcoholism emerged with the free market society after 1800. Today, the average person is exposed to up to 10,000 ad images per day, and we’re continuously told that the health of the economy depends on consumer spending. Maté quotes Lewis Lapham, publisher of Harper’s magazine, who criticised “consumer markets selling promises of instant relief from the pain of thought, loneliness, doubt, experience, envy and old age.”

Addiction is a relatively new phenomenon that’s risen with the real and existential pain of contemporary life and here’s the cruncher: the methods we’ve been using to deal with the pains are not working. In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from opioid overdoses in America, and 6 million people die every year from tobacco-related diseases. A U.S. report revealed that Americans spent $16 billion on plastic surgery in 2016 while up to 40 million people die each year from preventable lifestyle diseases.

The obesity rate is now 38.2 per cent in America and Britain is the sixth fattest nation in the world after the U.S., Mexico, New Zealand, Hungary and Australia. A 2018 study found that teens spending 5 hours per day on a smartphone were twice as likely to exhibit signs of depression, and in South Korea there’s an epidemic with more than 1 million (maybe up to 5 million) kids addicted to the Internet. In the U.S. parents are setting up support groups to help their kids overcome porn addiction.

Our materialistic culture tells us what we have defines who we are, spawning generations of people who have no idea how to value themselves unless they own certain things or look a certain way. Anorexia is now the third most common disease amongst young people after asthma and type 1 diabetes. Meanwhile, the wellness industry has a global value of $4.2 trillion; the healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss sector alone is worth $702.1 billion and personal care is more than $1 trillion.

Addiction AKA Entering the Void

“What we call personality is often a jumble of genuine traits and adopted coping styles that do not reflect our true self at all but the loss of it.”

Of all the lines in Maté’s book, this one hit me hardest. How many of us have been forced to shed our true shelves to accommodate a secret habit that an arbitrary law prevents us from embracing? How many of us have felt the cold shoulder of isolation because we can’t connect with other “users” to share our experiences? How many of us are using cannabis to cope with the loss of our true selves?

It’s not the cannabis that forces us to hide, it’s the law, and the stigma that comes with it, and a superficial society with fucked up values that has no idea how to treat itself or those that are perceived as less than, with compassion. Maté is clear on one thing: a society that punishes addicts is punishing its most vulnerable people, and a society that judges addicts is actually judging itself.

“We despise, ostracise and punish the addict because we don’t wish to see how much we resemble him. In his dark mirror our own features are unmistakable. We shudder at the recognition. This mirror is not for us, we say to the addict. You are different, and you don’t belong with us.”

If addiction reflects the ails of society, and we shun addicts the same way we brush family secrets under the carpet – out of sight, out of mind – it becomes easy to see why the question of cannabis legalisation is so controversial. It’s got nothing to do with politics but everything to do with a form of societal neurosis.

Cannabis the Friendly Ghost

The good news is that embracing cannabis use – getting honest and open about it – is a healing experience; at least, that’s certainly been my experience. Not so long ago, I couldn’t imagine creating a blog in homage to my addiction, but now I celebrate it. Rather than needing therapy for my addiction, my addiction is my therapy, and I’m okay with that, more than okay, because I feel fortunate my drug of choice also happens to be one of the most insanely beneficial plants on the planet.

Without cannabis I would be incapable of the focus it takes to sit at my desk for five, six, or ten hour stretches, writing, and therefore incapable of feeling any joy. I am hypersensitive to boredom but while writing stoned I’m so completely absorbed by the task at hand, I forget to eat. Whenever the void becomes a chasm that threatens to swallow me, I roll a joint, and I write until cannabis carries me to safety.

Cannabis is my way to experience life not escape it, and it makes all the things I love even more enjoyable; it even makes going to the supermarket a joy, ffs. Addiction doesn’t have to be a survival strategy that results in self-destruction, at least not when cannabis is the drug of choice. I don’t know who I’d be without cannabis so much so I have no interest in finding out. Fuck responsible use of cannabis, I’m interested in positive use of cannabis, what does that look like?

Too many people use cannabis to inspire and lead amazing lives to continue believing it’s a destructive force, people like Cheryl Shuman California’s first cannabis marketer, Jim McAlpine creator of the 420 Games, or Emma Chasen, an industry educator – not to mention Snoop, Whoopi, Woody, Willie, and of course, Bob. What’s destructive is the stigma. The more of us who come out of the closet and disclose our status as High Functioning Cannabis Consumers (#HFCC), the sooner we can start having real conversations about addiction, and heal the stories behind it.

#followtheplant #healthyhighs #positivecannabisuse #hfcc

Reference:

“In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts,” Gabor Maté, Vermillion, U.K., 2018.

How to Create a Keto Meal Plan for Weight Loss

A working meal plan is one that reflects your taste, physiology and health goals. No meal plan is fixed but rather it evolves as you learn more about your body and digestion, gain an understanding what foods aggravate underlying conditions, and figure out which boost your wellbeing. Let’s consider three factors to start:

Goals versus Intentions

A person who’s looking to lose weight will be on a very different meal plan from someone who wants to manage an autoimmune condition or simply begin a healthy eating regime. How to create a keto meal plan is a different question from how to lower blood pressure. The resultant diet may be similar but the intention is very different. In this instance, I’m going to make some assumptions, and imagine that the goal is to start eating healthy to improve overall wellbeing.

Many people associate the keto diet, or any diet, with weight loss but that’s not always the right goal, at least not to begin with. Also, goals tie us to a specific result and that can be frustrating at the beginning when results are slow. Much better to start with an intention, and understand that you don’t know what the results are till you see them. That way, if you slip, it’s okay. You can say, tomorrow, I intend to do better, and that way you’re always achieving. That way you’re not in competition with some arbitrary goal but rather in a conversation with yourself on how to improve your eating habits.

How we eat is very much tied to our relationship to food, and some people have constant cravings that hunt them all day long, triggering them to make unhealthy choices. A meal plan intention might be to simply eliminate the bad choices. It’s much better to start at the point that feels right for you, and as you see results, make adjustments to the plan. If the goal is weight loss, the rule of thumb is to go slow. You want to loose a few pounds a month over a long period of time, and mixing it with exercise to give your body the chance to adjust to its new set point. Losing weight slowly, through a gradual change in eating habits is the only way to achieve sustained weight loss.

Time Restricted Eating

If you have problems with bloating, gas, constipation, or fatigue in the morning, chances are you’re not only eating the wrong things, but you’re also eating them at all hours of the day, which doesn’t give your body the chance to metabolize food, meaning it’s constantly at work leaving you with little energy for your life. If I eat late at night, I wake the next morning with a hangover. Yes, a full-on hangover. I’ll be bloated, cranky, have a headache, dulled skin, lifeless hair and no energy. Just to be clear, I can go to bed stoned but will wake up fresh as a daisy as long as I don’t eat late in the evening. Being stoned doesn’t affect my morning energy levels; eating late affects it hugely.

I’ve found the only way to eliminate the problem is timed eating, meaning I don’t eat after a certain point in the evening. Eating within a set schedule every day is called Intermittent Fasting or Time Restricted Eating, and it’s a potent healing tool, as many studies demonstrate. At its simplest form, intermittent fasting means eating within an eight hour window every day, so you find the window that works for you, be it: 9am to 5pm; 10am to 6pm; 11am to 7pm, and so on. In between that time slot, you can eat what you like. This alone will improve your metabolism and result in weight loss. If an eight-hour window is too tight to begin with, try 10; experiment.

Food Preparation

So here it is, the big reveal: The Secret to Sustained Weight Loss. Most people falsely believe it involves complex fitness programs, expensive trainers and fridge full of lettuce, and anything less is a waste of time. The truth is way simpler. The secret to sustained weight loss comes down to this one simple activity: food preparation. Talk to any athlete, trainer or health conscious person and you can be damn sure there are containers of pre-prepared food in their fridge or freezer. The reason for this is not as ambitious as you might think. They do this so that when they go to the fridge to eat, the healthy option is there.

When you’re busy or tired or hungry, the last thing you want to do is cook a meal, especially a healthy one! But if the food is already made, and all you have to do is heat it up, you’ll eat it without thinking, and this is when we start to see changes. First, we have to make it as easy as possible to make the healthy choice, and with time it becomes a habit. Anyone embarking on a new diet or meal plan should first think about their favourite meals, and then think about making the healthiest version of that meal. Understand that this process is an exploration of food, and will take a bit of time.

Think about how you like to eat your food: hot or cold, covered in ketchup, greasy or dry. This is going to help you choose the right substitutes. Trust me, to start you’re going to falter as you crave the toasted batch loaf you can no longer eat, or my favourite, almond croissant. But in time, you find alternatives, and discover they taste better, and make you feel way better because they match your intention of healthy eating.

Everyone’s got their preferences. Make sure that whatever substitute food you choose to create has the same consistency and texture of the foods you’re used to eating and the transition will be much easier. To start, don’t think about eliminating foods; think about expanding your dietary repertoire. Food preparation is about experimenting with food, and recipes, and switching up your relationship to your kitchen and supermarket. It’s a journey that will lead you through a treasure trove of exciting tastes and delicious dishes that eventually become a daily habit of eating healthy.

Intention
  • Explore healthy eating based on a keto diet
Goal
  • Reduce carb intake
  • Get into the habit of food preparation

 

WHAT IS THE KETO DIET?

At its simplest, the keto diet is a high fat, low carb diet. In this video, Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Dom D’Agonstino, both nutrition experts, explain the science behind keto, and how it leads to improved health. But I’m going to explain it briefly here: The body has two energy sources: glucose and fat. Our bodies are set up to run on glucose, which is why it turns carbs into glucose, in turn providing you with the energy you need to get through your day. But the clever body has a reserve system in place for when times get lean. In those instances, the body can switch to its fat energy source to keep you alive when there’s no food. When the body is in this state, it’s called ketosis.

On the keto diet, we hike up the fat intake to trick the body into switching to its fat fuel source, and in the process, the body goes into ketosis. The effect of ketosis is weight loss, as the appetite is suppressed and the body begins to use its fat stores. I’m explaining the process in layman’s terms but you get the idea. What’s most attractive to many people is the simplicity of the keto diet; I mean, what could be difficult about eating too much cheese. The thing is, it’s not easy to cut carbs from your diet, and in the beginning it will mess with your energy levels and mood. It took me a year to adjust to keto, and over that year I’ve been in ketosis twice. Getting to ketosis is not easy; neither is maintaining it, and it’s absolutely impossible to do without food preparation.

Shopping on a Keto Diet

Just as your relationship to your kitchen changes when you switch up your diet, so too do your shopping habits, in particular where you buy food, and what you buy. It’s imperative to understand that this takes time. I had to change EVERYTHING I’d been buying for years, and I had to start reading labels. In the beginning I was cooking from a cookbook, buying spices I’d never heard of, and eating some suspect combinations. These days, I know exactly what flavours I like, and no longer need to read labels, as I know the macros of most items by now. These days, I still buy food from the supermarket but also from health stores and organic butchers.

What Can You Eat?

More importantly, these days, I know which items are high-carb and which are high fat. How did I learn this? By spending time in the supermarket reading labels and online, researching keto food plans. There’s no fancy science here; it’s a simple matter of research but I’m going to provide you with a hack to save you time. Here’s a list, not exhaustive, of keto foods, and things to look out for in the supermarket.

Nuts

One of my favourite things about the keto diet is nuts. As well as being high in fat, nuts have a host of health benefits, and are an antioxidant powerhouse. Up until a few years ago, I probably ate two walnuts my whole life. Now, I keep a container of mixed nuts on my desk, my go-to when I want a snack. I change up the mix and might have hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, macadamias, almonds, or pecans in there. Sometimes I throw in some raisins and dark chocolate pips in too, but both of these are high-carb. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless your goal is to be in ketosis, in which case it is.

Cheese

Another blessing of the keto diet: cheese! I add it to everything as it’s the substitute that helps me achieve the creamy texture I like my food to have. I used to be a big fan of cheese toasties; all that hot bread, melted butter and crispy cheese – heaven! I haven’t had a cheese toasty in years but I have found great new ways to use cheese and create even better dishes in the process. I eat a bigger variety of cheeses now but cheddar is still hands down my favourite.

Meat

This is a controversial one. Veganism is the biggest trend in the UK for 2019. Everyone is convinced meat-free is the way to improve health and save tortured animals. I don’t like the industrial torture of animals any more than the next person but I don’t believe that cutting out meat is the long-term solution to the problem whereas the eradication of industrial farming is. If everyone demanded grass fat meat from the butcher, farmers and butchers would be thrilled and the supermarkets would have no choice but to get on board.

On this Joe Rogan podcast, nutrition expert Chris Kresser refers to studies that show not everyone has the right physiology to thrive on a meat-free diet. Yes, some people can, but they’re in the minority. I’m not one of them. I tried. I went vegetarian for three months two years ago, and that’s as long as I could last. The keto diet is a meat diet. As much as possible, I buy meat from a local organic butcher, and that is, for now, my solution to the issue. Eventually, I’d like to learn how to hunt. If you’re not comfortable eating meat, fish and eggs, the keto diet is not going to work for you. That said it’s not necessary to include meat in every keto dish.

Greens

On the keto diet it’s recommended to stick with low-carb veg, which tend to be green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, cucumber, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts and green beans. Also good are avocados, tomatoes, red, green and yellow peppers, onions, eggplant and cauliflower. That’s a whole lot of food variety right there, and the basis for lots of tasty keto meals. I particularly like asparagus and onion because they’re easy to fry up in butter and go great with meat. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are also easy to prepare, just boil them, and go well with meat, nuts, and/or cheese. Cauliflower and broccoli with four cheeses is my mac and cheese substitute and it’s better than the original.

Flour substitutes

Just ‘cause you’re on keto doesn’t mean you don’t get to eat bread but you do have to change how you prepare it, and this means getting comfortable with flour substitutes like almond and coconut flour. There are tons of recipes for almond bread online, and I’ll post my own ASAP, but for now, what’s important to know is that making bread with almond flour is way easier than you think, and much easier than traditional bread. There’s no kneading or need to understand the science of yeast. Mix it in a bowl, bake it, leave it to cool over night, and it’s a delicious breakfast.

Water

I only drink water. That’s it. Nothing else. Very occasionally, I might have a cup of coffee, and I like mint or cinnamon tea. But mostly, I drink water. That’s all you need: water. Get a water filter, or find a source for inexpensive bottled water. You’re going to need anything from 1 to 3 litres a day depending on your level of activity.

Sugar

It’s not realistic to think about cutting out sugar completely and much more productive to think about changing the types of sweet foods you eat, certainly in the early days of transitioning. About four years ago, I made the choice to stop eating milk chocolate, and began experimenting with dark chocolate. I was obsessed, compelled to buy a bar of dark chocolate every time I left the house. Before long, I knew which shops had the best chocolate AKA where exactly I needed to go when I craved a sugar rush. It’s important to note that most bars of chocolate, dark or not, are packed with carbs, but in my opinion, a working diet includes treats or it’s impossible to sustain.

To tackle this problem – I have a major sweet tooth – I buy dark chocolate with a high fat content and I make my own sweets at home. Eating a homemade dessert every day is far healthier than eating a Mars or Snickers a few times a week, and it’s something to look forward to, too. What’s important to keep in mind here is what’s your intention? If you’re intention is to achieve ketosis, cut out all sugar, but if it’s to explore healthy eating, I recommend homemade sweets made with coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup.

Hemp Hearts

No matter what diet you’re on, add hemp hearts to it to drive up its nutritional value. Hemp seeds are packed full of nutrients, are high in fat, and have a host of health benefits. They’re also filling, so by sprinkling them on top of any meal – they go great with everything – it’ll help you feel fuller longer. Buy hemp hearts here.

Butter

If you’re not eating butter on a daily basis, start, as it’s one of the best health hacks around. If you’ve got vegetable oils in your house, throw them all out! You can use olive oil but sparingly, on salads, never to cook. For cooking, stick to butter and lard. Replace all your condiments with full fat butter. If you want to understand the science behind this, check out the Twitter account of science journalist Nina Teicholz, and read her book: The Big Fat Surprise.

Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is a keto food, but I never eat it, as it aggravates my gout. Again, remember this is about food exploration: you have to find what’s right for you, and what works for me is not necessarily going to work for you. Go forth, explore.

HOW TO CREATE A KETO MEAL PLAN

It’s all about convenience. The first question is what easy-to-prepare meals can I add to the diet that are filling and tasty. In some cases, repetition is the key, and it’s true that I rely on a few go-to dishes that make life easier for me. For example, I tend to eat scrambled eggs with cheese every morning for breakfast. The butcher next door to me has Free Range eggs the size of my fist and I love them. Though I do add variety at the weekends.

It can also be difficult to cut out all high carb food when starting out on the keto diet, so some of these recipes contain carbs to help ease you into the transition. Remember, our intention is to eat healthy, so there’s no need to be so strict until you’re ready or your intention changes.

In future posts, I’ll be providing recipes for dishes that can be made in bulk and stored. For now, my best tip is find a few cuts of meat that you like, be it beef, pork, duck, turkey or chicken and think about teaming those meats with vegetables and cheese, and your preferred cooking method. One of the easiest options is to roast meat and veg, or fry them in butter. I’m a big fan of fried pork and asparagus or roasted duck and veg, both of which are easy to prepare. I add hemp hearts, Parmesan and basil to these dishes for extra fat and flavour.

Here are a few easy recipes:

Morning Shake

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup of frozen berries
  • 1 tbsp of hemp protein
Instructions:

Blend in a blender, and drink. This is a really versatile recipe that’s super filling. You can adjust it to your taste, add cinnamon, or replace the banana with avocado to up the fat content. You can also add peanut butter and/or cocoa. Here are some more keto shake ideas. As a rule, fruit like banana is out on keto because they’re high carb. But I eat some fruits, again because it’s convenient for me. You’ll find what works for you.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 100 grams of chopped bacon (optional)
  • 200 grams of grated cheddar cheese
  • 100 grams of goat’s cheese
  • 100 grams of cream cheese
  • 50 grams of Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. of turmeric
  • 1 tsp. of ginger
  • 1 tsp. of Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions:

Fry the bacon, and put aside. Boil the cauliflower. Once boiled, drained out all the water with a strainer, return to the pot. Stir in the cheeses on a low heat, adding the spices and bacon, too. Mix the whole lot together till the cheese is melted and serve with fresh basil. The great thing about a dish like this is that you can make a large amount in one go, eat one portion, and put the rest in containers in the fridge, then heat one up for when you need a quick meal.

Stuffed Turkey Pudding with Asparagus

Ingredients:
  • 3 slices of turkey breast
  • 100 grams of black pudding cut into 3 pieces
  • 3 tsp. of pesto sauce
  • 1 tbsp. of Parmesan
  • Dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • A bunch of asparagus
Instructions:

Grease an oven bake dish with butter. Season the slices of turkey with salt and pepper, spread a layer of pesto sauce on one side, and roll it up with the black pudding inside (make sure to take the outer wrap from the pudding.) Place the pieces of rolled turkey in the baking dish and sprinkle with Parmesan and dried basil. Place the sticks of asparagus in the dish with a few knobs of butter and bake for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Again, it’s possible to make extra turkey rolls and keep for lunch the next day. Black and white pudding is not keto as it’s high in carbs, but again, we’re making slow changes here, and this is a tasty dish, so let’s give it a try.

Chia Pudding

Ingredients:
  • 3 tbsp of chia seeds
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 1 tbsp of cocoa powder
  • a few drop of vanilla
Instructions:

Mix all the ingredients in a mixing jug, and then pour into empty jam jars, seal and put in the fridge. Leave overnight. Eat for breakfast or as a snack. There are many different versions of this recipe.

YOUR STARTING POINT

Your starting point will be a trip to the supermarket because chances are you don’t have the necessary food ingredients in your cupboard right now. That’s okay. You are an explorer and you’re about to go hunting. Make a list. Go to the supermarket. Start hunting. While there, get some lunchboxes if you don’t have some, and think about which meals you can cook in advance or cook larger amounts of to then store for easy-to-reach options when you need them.

I’m going to start this plan on a Sunday, giving you Saturday to do some shopping, and get ready for the week ahead. In this plan, I’m not getting into portion size, macros, body fat, daily expenditure or any of things that can affect caloric intake, but will discuss those things in future posts. For now, you just want to figure out which meals are easiest for you to prepare in advance, and store in the fridge or freezer to make healthy eating options easy.

To help get you started, here is a simple plan for one week.

SUNDAY
  • Breakfast: Scrambled egg with cheese
  • Lunch: Lemon and ginger roasted chicken and veg. (chicken used for future meals)
  • Dinner: Meatballs with tomato sauce, Parmesan and veg (save some meatballs)
  • Dessert: Chopped dates, cream cheese and honey
  • Snacks: Dark chocolate, hazelnut and raisins
MONDAY
  • Breakfast: Scrambled egg with cheese
  • Lunch: Chicken salad with feta cheese (using chicken from day before)
  • Dinner: Meatballs – they’re even better the next day!
  • Dessert: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon
  • Snacks: Hazelnuts, almond nuts
TUESDAY
  • Breakfast: Morning shake
  • Lunch: Chicken, Parmesan and avocado salad (use the last of that chicken)
  • Dinner: Salmon with asparagus
  • Dessert: Applesauce with almond flakes and cream
  • Snacks: Hazelnuts, almond nuts
WEDNESDAY
  • Breakfast: Scrambled egg with cheese
  • Lunch: Salmon, goat’s cheese and walnut salad
  • Dinner: Homemade burgers with fried cabbage and onion
  • Dessert: Dark chocolate
  • Snacks: Pecans, walnuts, raisins
THURSDAY
  • Breakfast: Morning shake
  • Lunch: Homemade burger wrapped in iceberg lettuce (prepared the night before)
  • Dinner: Beef stir fry with green beans and asparagus.
  • Dessert: Dark chocolate with ginger
  • Snacks: Almonds and walnuts
FRIDAY
  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with cheese
  • Lunch: Stir-fry (leftover from night before)
  • Dinner: Lamb cutlets with Brussels sprouts, hemp seeds and Parmesan
  • Dessert: Cream cheese, pecans and maple syrup
  • Snacks: Walnuts and an apple
SATURDAY
  • Breakfast: Morning shake
  • Lunch: Cheese platter with dates, walnuts, and cucumber
  • Dinner: Pork chop with spinach and goat’s cheese
  • Dessert: Applesauce with cream
  • Snacks: Hazelnuts and dark chocolate

 

Final Tip

Typically, I eat two meals a day with one snack and some nuts to keep within my eight-hour window. Some days, I’ll eat three meals because I’m hungrier; some days I only eat one due to a busy schedule or some other reason. Whatever your meal plan, allow for flexibility but aim for high fat foods like nuts and cheeses for snacks to replace your usual carb option. Expect to feel differences in your energy levels to start; this is your body adjusting. Also, allow yourself one or two carb treats. If you’re too strict to begin with, you won’t stay the course. But trust me, with time you’ll find yourself opting for the healthy choice because it tastes better and is more satisfying. Guess what? That’s how to create a keto meal plan and the secret to sustained weight loss.

In future posts, I’ll discuss Why Keto and Cannabis Go Hand in Hand, as well as provide recipes for delicious Keto Cannabis Dishes.

I’d love to hear your feedback, so let me know what you think of this plan and these tips in the comments below. And remember, a working meal plan evolves, so give yourself time, let me know how you’re getting on, and feel free to reach out for support. Best of luck, my freaky friend, I’m with you.

 

Ease Into 2019 with Keto Cannabis Pancakes

Start your New Year on a sweet high with keto cannabis pancakes. Yes, you read that right: keto cannabis pancakes, and they slay; also, good fortitude after a heavy night of celebrations. I went to bed at 4am to the sound of bad disco music being pumped out of cheap speakers from a nearby plaza, woke up late, and made this for lunch. Now, there’s a chorus of birdsong outside my house, the perfect soundtrack to sunset on New Year’s Day.

Making batter-type foods like pancakes into workable keto recipes is challenging because flour substitutes like almond and coconut don’t create the same creamy texture when blended as plain flour. I’ve made a bunch of keto pancake recipes in the past that had the consistency of lumpy paint and fell apart in the pan. This recipe gets around that problem by creating a good batter base first using cream cheese and cream, and adding the almond flour last.

I amended the original recipe to include cannabutter, but it works really well with these flavours. As you bite in, first you taste the cream and cheese, vanilla next, followed by nutmeg and the nutty tang of cannabutter. Then the whole lot has a party in your mouth that lasts hours. FYI Do expect your kitchen to smell like a donut factory. These pancakes are American-style but a keto cannabis crepe recipe is coming soon.

Without further ado …

Keto Cannabis Pancakes

Ingredients:
  • 50g cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp of cannabutter
  • 50ml whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 75g almond flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp of maple syrup
Instructions:

Put the cream cheese and cannabutter in a double boiler, and melt. Mix it very well, until creamy, and remove from heat. Add cream, and blend. Add eggs, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, and blend. Add the dry ingredients, almond flour, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Better to add half the flour first and check the consistency of your batter, then add more as needed. If the batter is too watery, add more flour. If it’s too thick, add more cream.

Heat a non-stick pan, grease it with butter, and pour batter in batter, just enough for one pancake. As it cooks on the bottom, cover it with a lid. Let it cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, and flip it with a spatula. Cook for about a minute on the other side, and repeat. This recipe makes 6 pancakes. Serve hot, with melted butter and the remaining maple syrup. It would be possible to add cannabutter to the finished pancakes if you want to get blitzed, but this recipe is a more than enough to ease you gently into 2019.

Macros:

Per 1 Pancake

  • Kcals 200
  • Fat 16.6g
  • Carbs 7.8g
  • Protein 6g

Wishing you a Happy and High 2019, my freaky friends.

#healthyhighs #ketopancakes #ketocannabis

Canna Cheesecake & the Benefits of Eating Cannabis

Keto and cannabis go together like cheese and wine, sweet and sour or Cheech and Chong because canna-oils and butter work so well with keto cuisine. Plus, keto staples like almonds, pecans and hazelnuts complement the tang of cannabis while cannabutter adds a richness to any recipe like this little number I concocted: Keto Cannabis Pecan Cheesecake.

I’ve been microdosing with edibles for the last six months, but more consistently over the last three, and have noticed specific benefits that have gradually increased in recent weeks. I keep thinking it can’t be the edibles till I find myself feeling drained or unable to sleep, eat some canna-food, and feel good again, energised, in balance. The biggest benefit is the relief from my IBS symptoms.

To get the full nutritional profile of cannabis the best way to eat it is raw, but cannabutter and oil are also effective. When cannabis is ingested it’s metabolised by the liver before entering the bloodstream, which changes its chemical structure, producing THC metabolites called 11–OH–THC. This is a more potent form of THC and the reason why it’s important to be careful with edibles, to start off slow with low doses.

There are no clear guidelines on dosing, as scientific studies have identified 2.5 mg as sufficient for some people while others have to consume 50 mg to feel an effect. It all depends on the physiology and tolerance of the person consuming the cannabis. Obviously, if you’re a daily weed smoker, you’re going to be able to eat a stronger edible than someone who hasn’t had a joint in years. In Colorado, where the edibles market is more advanced, the recommended dose per edible is 10 mg.

The problem with most edibles is that they’re high in sugar, gluten or corn syrup making it impossible for people with digestive issues to eat them. You couldn’t pay me to eat a gummy bear! The reason I eat keto is because it’s the only diet that doesn’t aggravate my IBS – adding cannabis was a natural progression for me. The benefits I list here are subjective but the effects are distinct and consistent enough for me to notice. Here are some of the benefits of eating cannabis according to me:

Feel Full Longer

When I mix cannabis into a meal, like adding some cannabutter to portion of Brussels sprouts at dinner, I enjoy the meal more and feel satiated for the evening. I’m a real grazer so not picking at food after dinner is a big shift for me. It’s recommended to eat cannabis on a full stomach to increase the bioavailability of the nutrients, so eating it with a meal makes sense, and may explain why it’s so satiating.

Helps lose weight

My weight loss had plateaued on keto. You know that 5lbs that refuses to shift, and the more stubborn it is the more compelled you are to eat a second helping of dessert thus continuing the frustrating cycle. Upping my cannabis intake helped me over this hump. Again, it comes down to feeling fuller longer, meaning I have no urge to graze – which is also an effect of being in ketosis. But I’ve been slipping on my keto diet over the last two months and eating sugar. Yet I recently saw more weight loss, and the only difference is to my diet is that I’m getting more creative with how I eat cannabis.

Easier to Control Consumption

The most surprising outcome of eating cannabis is how easy it is to control my consumption. I make really good cookies with organic ingredients, and typically have a handful in my freezer as well as a jar of cannabutter in my fridge. Am I fiendishly wolfing them down every night? The opposite. I’m aware of their potency and rather than over-indulging I keep them for when I need them. In the early days, four or five months ago, I was more likely to eat a canna-cookie as a snack but quickly learned not to be so casual. Now, I eat one as a treat or to treat a specific symptom such as inflammation or insomnia.

Improves Sleep

As a woman in my forties, my hormones are all over the place and one of the biggest downsides of that is insomnia. Earlier in the month I stopped smoking cannabis for three days and by day three I was awake for 22 hours! It was insane. I finally threw in the towel and smoked a joint. Some nights, not even a joint is strong enough to battle the force that is perimenopause-induced insomnia but an edible is! I eat a cookie and sleep like a baby.

Treats IBS Symptoms

Constant bloating or feeling uncomfortably full are just some of the symptoms of IBS, along with fatigue, gas, sugar dips and cramps. Upping my cannabis intake has resulted in reduced bloating and rather than feeling uncomfortable or swollen after eating, I feel nourished, and my food digests easily. All fatigue issues are gone, and I have more energy than ever. I’m sleeping better, and waking up refreshed.

Boosts Energy & Mental Clarity

This probably has a lot to do with being able to sleep better since I started eating cannabis but I also have an added level of focus and motivation. It’s not just that I’m clearer on what’s important I have the mental diligence to follow through. Perhaps that’s down to the fact that I’m fascinated by cannabis and committed to learning as much as possible but I suspect it’s the plant motivating me rather than the other way round.

On to the fun part!

Keto Cannabis Pecan Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Base

  • 1 cup of almond flour
  • ½ cup of grated almonds
  • ½ cup of crushed pecans
  • 2 tbsp of Panela
  • 1/3 cup of cannabutter

Topping

  • 600 grs of cream cheese (Philadelphia)
  • 100 grs of cream
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
  • 3 tbsp of maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp of panela
  • 1 tbsp of cannabutter
Instructions:

Base

IMG_5444

Toast the almond flour, grated almonds and crushed pecans in a skillet; this is really important to bring out the flavour of the nuts – don’t skip this bit. When the nuts are browned, transfer to a bowl, add the sugar and the butter and mix it till you get a crumbly biscuit texture. Pour the mix into a 9” baking tin and spread it into a flat base. You can bake it for ten minutes, or leave in the fridge for 2 hours to set.

Topping

IMG_5446

Mix the cream cheese and cream in a bowl till you get a creamy texture, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend into the mix. Pour the mix on top of the base, and return it to the fridge. For best results, leave it overnight to set. Decorate with pecans or blanched almonds.

Macros per slice (large slice)

  • Kcals: 785
  • Fat: 76g
  • Carbs: 48g
  • Protein 21g
Effect:

The pecans and maple syrup infuse this creamy cheesecake with wonderful woody notes that mask the taste of cannabis. Because the taste is so smooth, this is really easy to eat, so be careful with serving size. I had two big slices because I’m a glutton and couldn’t resist and was awake till three in the morning. Fear not, my freaky friends, I had a lovely time.

#healthyhighs #letsbake #ketocannabis

 

 

 

Tobacco is a Clumsy Cannabis Delivery System

I no longer know if I smoke to support my nicotine or cannabis habit but I do know I wouldn’t consume so much hash if I didn’t also smoke tobacco. The two habits are so closely inter-related that my biggest resistance to quitting nicotine is the question of how then to consume cannabis? It’s a question that plagues many smokers, as well as the reason we try and fail to give up the smokes.

The link between cannabis and tobacco is so prevalent 33 per cent of teenagers who smoke use cannabis daily, as opposed to only 1 per cent who don’t smoke cigarettes. Another study shows that smokers are five times more likely to be daily cannabis users. Find something you love and let it kill you is a cool meme unless you’re talking about tobacco, which kills more than 7 million people a year.

The more I learn about cannabis, the more I want a connection to it that isn’t tainted by tobacco. I started smoking for the most pedestrian of reasons: peer pressure. I still remember how horrible that first cigarette tasted and how my friends laughed at me when I scrunched my face in disgust and coughed. Like any easily influenced teenager, I tried again till I got the hang of it. Then I discovered hash, and fell in love.

I’m not sure which came first, the addiction to nicotine or cannabis as both sort of evolved around the age of 17. Sure, I was a smoker of cigarettes first, but smoked very little until I found cannabis. My boyfriend back then was a regular user, and with him, I learned the simple pleasure of a weekend in front of the TV with a nodge of hash and too much junk food. With him, I also learned how to roll the perfect joint, a skill I grew to cherish.

When the relationship ended, I kept cannabis. Over the next two decades, as well as cigarettes or tobacco and lighters, my purse also contained a hash-box, rolling papers AKA skins, and roach material. I collected purses for storing my stash neatly inside my handbag, making sure it was easy to locate at all times. I collected hash-boxes, too, for the dual purpose of hiding and beautifying my secret habit.

I learned that my favourite time for a joint is while I write. It can take me an hour or two to smoke a joint, as I tend to leave it in the ashtray until I pause to think and have a puff. I’m so used to smoking like this I rarely smoke a joint in one go no matter what I’m doing. Even when I smoke roll-ups (I haven’t smoked cigarettes in years), I take a few drags and put it out. I smoke a lot less when I’m smoking joints and never smoke tobacco on its own when I’m stoned, as the taste still disgusts me all these years later. Yet, I’m still smoking.

Did you know that tobacco companies call cigarettes nicotine delivery systems? All plants develop poisons to protect themselves, and nicotine is basically a plant pesticide that sets off a chemical reaction in the brain, spiking levels of dopamine, and as a result, feelings of contentment. Nicotine has been to shown to have health benefits like increased reaction times and heightened memory skills but mixed with about 600 other chemicals in tobacco, it’s not so wholesome. 7 million deaths every year!

When I stopped drinking alcohol in 2014, I used cannabis as a crutch to help cope with the lifestyle changes that came with sobriety. In 2016, I briefly joined AA, and they condemned my cannabis use, calling it a “gateway drug,” and labelling me an addict. I arrived at AA a healthy cannabis user, and left weeks later, after obliging them with 18 days of cannabis abstinence, once more a tobacco smoker.

In AA, nicotine and caffeine are acceptable drugs but cannabis is frowned upon. This seems an anomaly to me as the one thing those anxious AA people need is a joint! That said smoking tobacco with weed has been shown to raise your heart rate, putting users at increased risk for heart attack. The bottom line is tobacco is a clumsy cannabis delivery system, and vaping seems like the way forward to me; it’s one of the consumption methods I plan to use when I quit smoking in January.

That’s right, I’m quitting tobacco again except this time I’m looking forward to the new consumption options about to open up to me, all of them healthier ways to consume cannabis. It’s said that nicotine is harder to quit than heroin so I’ll be using all the weapons at my disposal to beat it including vaping with CBD and cannabis, and edibles. I’m also going to work with a cannabis health coach to keep my nutrition and fitness on track, as well as share the challenges and successes with you. Wish me luck, my freaky friends, I’m gonna need it.

#quitnicotinewithcannabis #cannabisismedicine #healthyhighs