What do you believe are the cornerstones of a healthy, balanced diet?
Sourcing a variety of fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, and eating according to your constitution and needs. If you eat meat and fish, eat the best quality you can afford (but not too much meat).
Does this change when you are specifically talking about fertility?
Yes and no. The principle remains, but when couples are trying to conceive and there are issues I often use diet in a more medicinal way. For example, if a woman suffers from irregular and/or painful periods I would look for ways to address this through their diet. If a man has issues with his sperm I would look at his diet and make some adjustments there.
To give you an example I had a patient who had failed four cycles of IVF due to male factor. She and her husband were at the end of the road and sperm donation was the next step but she told her husband was like a radiator in bed. I removed all heating foods from his diet: coffee, spices, chocolate, red meat and alcohol and treated him with herbs and acupuncture.
“I had a patient who had failed four cycles of IVF… I removed all heating foods from [her husband’s] diet: coffee, spices, chocolate, red meat and alcohol and treated him with herbs and acupuncture. Four months later they had IVF again and were successful – after nine years of trying.”
Four months later they had IVF again and were successful – after nine years of trying. Improvements like this are normal in clinic yet patients are amazed. Give the body the right conditions and many health issues improve.
Do you follow any specific way of eating?
I have followed many different ways of eating in the past, especially 25 years ago when I started out. But I always go back to the principles of Chinese medicine (as described above). I find this works well and encourages a healthy attitude to food, rather than a guilt-ridden one. It is really important not to be neurotic around food.
I have also studied the Mayr, which is very similar and works for me. Eating according to your constitution, not eating late at night, chew your food well, be relaxed when you eat and occasionally have periods of limited food in order to rest your digestion. For me nutrition is as much about digestion as it is diet. You can eat a really great diet but be stressed and obsessed and the nutritional content will be irrelevant.
“I believe that the addition of hidden sugars in our foods was one of the greatest nutritional catastrophes of our time. And now we are paying for it.”
What foods do you avoid and why?
I only eat unprocessed food, but I don’t really avoid anything else completely. That said, I have a tendency to be ‘damp constitution’ in Chinese medicine so I can produce mucus. When I do, I completely avoid all sugars, dairy, bananas and wheat. I believe that the addition of hidden sugars in our foods was one of the greatest nutritional catastrophes of our time. And now we are paying for it.
But I also think that a life without sweetness is no life at all and I do not believe in absolute abstinence – that is a joyless life and I think happiness is very important. Sweet flavour is very important for our digestion but excess is damaging. Of course processed sugar is a no-no, but too much of any sweet flavor can also be a problem. Too much fruit can cause fermentation in the gut and eating raw fruit after food can be a problem in some people.
What are your favourite snacks?
I’m more of a ‘eat at mealtimes’ kinda girl. That said I would never say no to a lovely piece of fruit or a bit of good-quality chocolate. But generally I don’t snack. I like seeds and sprouts but I have them with meals normally.
Do you believe in detox and diet programmes?
The liver does an amazing job of detoxing so I find the term ‘detox’ misleading and confusing. Quick-fix solutions don’t encourage balance which is what I am interested in. When you see patients, you see how wrong people get it; putting a teaspoon of turmeric in your smoothie and carrying on smoking 20 cigarettes a day isn’t how it works.
People think they can live how they want and then ‘go on a detox’ and it’ll all be okay. I do the Mayr Cure once a year – but for me that is not a detox as I am not toxic! I believe in giving your system a rest every so often, it helps the healing process.
“The liver does an amazing job of detoxing so I find the term ‘detox’ misleading and confusing.”
How does your interest in a healthy lifestyle cross into other parts of your life?
It is my life. But I am not a purist or an obsessive. I am in search of balance and that is through my diet but also the choices I make for my family. At home we use natural cleaning products and beauty products because I think what you put on your skin is as important as what you put inside you.
Exercise is important so I do yoga regularly and work out (moderately). I think excessive exercise is aging and I recently gave up a particular style of exercise because I felt it was literally draining my life force. Getting out in nature, gardening, walking the dog, playing tennis and skiing are all things we do together as a family. I love all that earthy stuff.
Do you cook every day?
Yes, I cook every day except Monday and Thursday nights when I have a late clinic and my husband cooks.
What is your go-to meal on a busy day?
One-pot cooking. Soups and risotto made with chicken stock. I am also a fan of fermented foods, such pickles and kefir.
What are your pantry essentials?
Kefir and home-made pickles; home-made chicken stock; dukkah (seed mix); oven-dried tomatoes stored in olive oil in a jar; cold pressed oils such as hemp, linseed, pumpkin and olive to drizzle on food after cooking.