Placebo sleep!

After several summer camping trips with my 3 preschoolers this article really sparked my interest.

Placebo sleep

Just another example of the power of the mind/body relationship,

Allergy warningI often get asked if I can use muscle testing on someone to see what foods they might be allergic to, or what supplements are suitable for them. I’m aware that there are a number of practitioners who routinely do this as a way of diagnosing food allergies or intolerances or prescribing the ‘right’ supplements for a patient.

I don’t do this.

Muscle testing for allergies has been studied scientifically and it doesn’t work particularly well. See here and here. That’s not reliable enough for me to feel comfortable using it on patients in the clinic.

On a related note, I talked to a patient today who had taken her son off dozens of different foods as a result of a hair analysis allergy test. This is also not a very reliable test. This study used 9 subjects with a diagnosed fish allergy and another 9 without a fish allergy- they sent hair samples to 5 different commercial laboratories who did hair analysis on them. None of the laboratories picked up the fish allergy. To further test these laboratories some of them were sent duplicate samples (i.e. the same persons hair sample was sent to them under two different names). There was no consistency in the analysis of the duplicate samples.

In a nutshell- I don’t think there’s enough evidence for hair testing or muscle testing to be used to diagnose food allergies or intolerances.  It’s a shame because these are real problems which seem to be on the rise and which definitely affect the health of lots of people- it would be fantastic to have a cheap, simple and reliable test which can give us accurate diagnostic information for these patients.

But the simple truth of the matter is that we don’t.

And if anyone tells you differently they might just be trying to sell you something.




Coffee: The Science

Flat White no sugar

Flat White no sugar

If you’ve ever been a patient of mine with an apointment at about 10:00 AM you will probably be familiar with the special knock at the door which signifies that my coffee is being delivered. I freely admit that this mid-morning flat-white is keenly anticipated every day.

In recent weeks with the arrival of Wardling no# 3 (and the associated sleep deprivation) my coffee has become simply a medical necessity to enable me to practice in a safe, competent and non-homicidal manner.

Coffee is one of the most widely consumed drinks on the planet however to some people it is still viewed as a bit of a vice. A slightly bad habit that should be indulged as little as possible.

Let me conclusively dispel this myth. The truth is coffee is profoundly good for you health.

Lets have a look at the science: Read More

Vitamin C Pill

Vitamin C (Photo credit: Ferenc Szutor)

Click here to read a thought provoking article from “The Atlantic” website.

Vitamins and supplements have become such a widely accepted and unquestioned part of natural healthcare it’s easy to forget that the whole idea of them is relatively modern and that the science behind them is hotly debated.

This is a topic that is worthy of deeper exploration but here are a couple of quick thoughts.

1. Just because a little bit of something is good it doesn’t mean that lots of it is better. Small amounts of vitamins such as found in fresh, whole foods are unquestionably good for you- but that doesn’t mean that taking huge amounts of these vitamins in a pill is also going to be good for you. Too much of a good thing can be bad.

2. Just because lots of something is bad for you it doesn’t mean that a little bit of it isn’t okay. A lot of vitamins and supplements target ‘free radicals’ which can cause cellular oxidative damage and are associated with inflammation. There’s little doubt that excessive chronic amounts of oxidative damage and chronic inflammation is bad for your health but it’s important to remember that in most cases these are natural events caused by natural physiological processes. The chemistry of all this goes way over my head but it seems likely that free radicals and inflammation generally serve as a natural trigger for your body to initiate repair and healing responses. So perhaps by artificially suppressing these chemicals with supplements the body doesn’t get a chance to exercise its’ own healing mechanisms.

It’s interesting reading the comments below the article- it turns pretty nasty quite quickly! I guess it’s obvious that the science of vitamins isn’t at all settled. I think that vitamins and supplements do have a role to play in keeping us healthy but the research is definitely clear that the old idea of popping a multi-vitamin pill every day is not the way forward.




This TED talk is utterly fascinating and well worth a watch. It’s looking at the research which explores the links between our body language our emotional states and our physiology.

I think there are two really important points that come out of this talk:

  1. We often talk about the connection between mind and body and how emotional states such as stress create physical changes such as increased muscle tension or fluctuations in hormone levels. It’s interesting how this research demonstrates that this is very much a two way street and that physical changes such as changing our body language have a powerful effect on our emotional state and hormonal levels.
  2. It’s also worth reflecting on how powerful the changes are. This research showed a 25% drop in cortisol levels after just 2 minutes of adopting a more ‘powerful’ posture versus a 15% increase in cortisol in those who adopted a ‘low power’ pose for just 2 minutes.  Cortisol is the body’s major stress hormone and lowering cortisol levels is one of the major aims of most stress management techniques.  To put these changes in context here is some more research that investigated a widely recognised 8 week long stress reduction programme that includes relaxation, meditation, gentle yoga and daily home practice. After 8 weeks of meditating and doing yoga every day there was no change at all in participant’s cortisol levels. Whereas this research shows that a simple change in body language dropped cortisol by 25% in 2 minutes! That’s a sensational result!

So in summary- of course our mind affects our body but let’s not forget that our body affects our mind as well and that these affects can be incredibly powerful.