Berries and Hepatitis A

berries

I'm hearing a lot of panic and miss-information around the frozen berries/Hep A drama, so I thought I'd take a moment to clarify a few issues to help you feel better.

By now most people are aware of the Hepatitis A cases being linked to frozen mixed berries. Patties have recalled the suspect product-Nanna’s 1kg frozen Mixed Berries, and just in case, have also recalled Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries 300g and 500g, and Nanna's 1kg frozen Raspberries- as the raspberries in all of these products were picked and packed from the same two factories in China’s Shandong province.

This Hepatitis A outbreak reflects similar outbreaks in Italy, Ireland, France and Norway last year, but apparently those berries were grown in Europe. Now it’s in Australia and everyone is freaking out- despite Patties Foods repeatedly stating that there is no confirmed evidence linking the Hep A outbreaks to the berries.

How did this happen?

Hep A is transferred through the faecal-oral route. Yep, so that means to catch it, you have to get a virus from someone’s poo in your actual mouth.

Hep A has a rather long incubation period- from 15- 50 days, so it can be hard to map where it came from. At the moment, the suspected links in the frozen berry case, are from either an ill factory or farm worker handling the fruit without washing their hands, or that a water supply contaminated with sewerage was involved in the processing. Many viruses, including Hep A, are not killed by being frozen, rather they become inert and when thawed, the somnolent viruses become active again.

Kill it with fire!

Cooking can kill the Hep A virus, as long as the virus reaches temperatures of at least 85°C. Yes, that means you’re more at risk of infection if you’ve been tossing frozen berries in your healthy green smoothie, than if you’ve been baking them in muffins- where’s the justice in that?

Are we all going to die now?

Nope. Hep A is a communicable virus that affects the liver- it’s quite contagious, but it’s generally pretty benign. Anyone who was around before the sewage changed over in the ‘50s will have already had it, and will now be immune.

Some, particulalry children- and especially those under 5, may have no symptoms at all. Generally a Hep A infection will be a short, unremarkable flu-like illness- symptoms like malaise (feeling tired), muscle soreness, upset stomach or fever. There may be more “liverish” signs such as right upper quadrant abdominal pain, pale stools or vomiting after fats or alcohol. Toward the end of the illness you may experience dark-coloured urine, itchy skin or jaundice.

The virus can shed from the incubation period to about a week after the jaundiced stage. So you’re contagious from before you know you have it until after you feel better, yet despite this, Australian outbreaks are relatively low- we have fewer than 200 cases reported each year. There are likely more cases in which the symptoms are mild enough not to warrant assessment and treatment.

The infection usually clears within two months, but can take longer in some people. Hep A causes much less damage to the liver than Hepatitis B & C, and most of the time there is complete resolution of symptoms. In rare cases, Hep A can lead to permanent liver damage and fatalities are extremely rare- approximately 0.2% of known cases. Adverse risks are more likely if you are 75 years or older- but remember that those who were around pre-1950s are likely to have immunity anyway.

There is no specific medical treatment for Hep A. It is generally recommended that patients get plenty of rest, eat a nutritious diet and avoid both alcohol and fatty foods.

How can you decrease your chances of getting Hep A?

In Australia, your risks are very low. Obviously return the recalled products but if you have other brands of frozen berries lurking in the back of the freezer that you’re unsure of, use them for cooking- making sure the food reaches boiling point.

This is a great time to source locally grown foods. Issues of food miles and supporting local farmers aside, Australia has tightly regulated food safety rules so contamination problems of this nature are much less likely to occur. Get beautiful fresh berries from the market or the berry farm and freeze them yourself. They’ll be far more delicious and every time you eat them you’ll remember the summer- so you’ll feel more connected to your food.

Support the immune system by eating lots of brightly coloured vegies and good quality protein. Minimise sugar, it irritates the immune system and makes viral symptoms worse. Including bitter foods in you diet will help support the liver. Drink lemon juice in water on rising and consider starting meals with a small salad of sharp-tasting lettuces. Drink chamomile or chicory and dandelion tea. Minimise alcohol and takeaway foods.

Whatever you do, don’t stop eating berries! Berries have unique healing qualities, are wonderfully high in nutrients and low in sugars. They are certainly something that shouldn’t be avoided!

Liver lovin’ juice

This is a great morning juice. It will help stimulate your appetite, support the function of your liver and improve digestion

1 Beetroot, including greens
2 Carrots
2 sticks of Celery
Small bunch Endive (if no beet greens)
½ Lime
handful of fresh Parsley
1 knob of Ginger

Put all ingredients through a juicer, blend and enjoy

Festive Excess

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I know, we swear we wont, but sometimes we do anyway. Here are some tips for getting through the festive season hangovers

Maintenance-

  • Use the mornings- eat a good breakfast- quality protein, low carb, lots of vegies (a couple of eggs and a green smoothie), get some exercise
  • Eat lots of green salads. Those raw leafy greens have loads of nutrients to help you process and eliminate the less nutritious choices you might make later.
  • Take your probiotics. They'll help your digestive system cope with excess sugar and alcohol
  • Support your liver with dandelion or chamomile tea

Before you go

  • Have a high protein snack before going out- this will help you make healthier decisions because you wont be ravenous!
  • Take a teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in a little water to stimulate the digestive processes

While out

  • Eat before you start drinking! Food slows the absorption of alcohol and decreases irritation of the stomach
  • Stay away from the pace setter. Be aware that sitting near someone who eats quickly will encourage you to eat (and drink) more.
  • Pay attention. Be aware that interesting conversation can stop you from chewing properly and from noticing you've had enough. Take your time and listen to your body
  • After the meal, move food away from where you are sitting. Having to get up to go for seconds makes it less likely you'll overeat- this obviously works for drinking as well!
  • Drinking a glass of water at least every couple of alcoholic drinks. This helps prevent hangovers.
  • Darker coloured drinks have more byproducts of fermentation and distillation which worsen hangovers. Soft drinks are full of sugar- or worse, artificial sweeteners so consider choosing vodka or gin with soda or mineral water.
  • Take a breath! Don't rush in from running all over town and start eating. Take a moment to relax and prepare mentally for eating.
  • Be aware of "eating your emotions". Notice if you're uncomfortable or upset. Treat yourself with love and consideration. Don't eat if you're not hungry
  • Don't beat yourself up for eating "badly". Try your best to make healthy choices with the options available but then let it go and enjoy your time with your friends and family.

If you went too far-

  • Overeating can be relieved by having some ginger or chamomile tea or by taking some apple cider vinegar in water

If you drink too much-

  • Before bed drink lots of water and take another glass for when you wake in the night. Take some Vitamin C and a B vitamin complex if you have them on hand.
  • In the morning, think fluids- water with a squeeze of lemon, ginger, peppermint or chamomile teas will help nausea and support liver. Bone broth is good here as it has great minerals and will help soothe the irritated stomach lining
  • Take some more Vit C and another B vitamin if you can handle the smell.

Get some exercise. Moving and sweating will help clear out that alcohol.

There are two mindsets that spell trouble- "I'm having an unhealthy day so I'll just eat whatever" and "I'm starting a new diet on Jan 1 so I better eat all of the things now". Don't fall for that old trick! Enjoy yourself but you'll feel far better if you commit to healthy choices. I am back on the 6th of January so book in and see me if you need a hand!

End of year stress

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“Crossing” Robert S. Donovan

This time of the year is famously crazy as we get busy trying to combine increased work and social obligations. To help prevent the traditional end of year collapse, take the time as the year ramps up to look after your stress load.

Simplify your diet. Christmas day and work breakups mean you’ll likely be eating very differently to how you normally would. Do your best around these special meals to eat as cleanly as possible. Eat high quality protein, remembering if dietary sources are inadequate, the body will break down muscles to provide the proteins necessary for the stress response. Plan each meal around meat, fish, eggs or nuts and seeds and then add in as many vegies as you can.

Take a few minutes while you eat to take some slow breaths, drop your shoulders and relax the muscles in your tummy. Try not to look at your phone or your to do list for the whole time you eat! Be aware that stress increases carbohydrate cravings so store some baked sweet potatoes in the fridge and have them with butter when cravings strike.

Try to have at least one 5-minute “life break” every day. Get a big glass of water or a cup of herbal tea, if you can, take it outside, sit down and rest. Pay attention to your drink. Let your brain stop. Don’t look at your phone! Coffee and tea will dehydrate you and leave you feeling wired and frazzled, so sub in something else whenever you can. 

Although it’s late night party season, do your best to get to bed by 10.30pm as often as you possibly can. Being well rested will make dealing with niggly stressors so much easier! Write a journal, do some gentle stretches or meditate before bed to clear your head.

Try to fit a relaxation practice in every week- have a Friday night bath with Epsom Salts or set aside Sunday afternoons for reading or your favourite hobby. Burst exercises like running sprints, throwing the ball for the dog and working out at the gym are all healthy, productive ways to increase energy and to release pent up stress. Walking the lake- especially if chatting with a good friend, journaling or practicing a craft or art are all great ways to help you find your equilibrium. 

Even though you’re busy, take the time to get a massage. Having that down-time will help you release, reset and rejuvenate. Depending on your body and stress-levels, look at booking in every two to three weeks.