gut health

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Leaky Gut + How To Fix It

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What exactly is leaky gut?

Intestinal Permeability, AKA leaky gut is a specific condition whereby the lining of the smaller intestine is damaged. The resulting factor of this damage is that specific bacteria, food particles, and toxic waste products to seep out via the intestines and overflow into the bloodstream.

When this happens, it can cause a number of different reactions in a person’s body in the form of an autoimmune response. This can present in a number of ways, such as eczema, food allergies, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome and more.

When a person develops a leaky gut, it also means that the damaged intestinal cells will no longer produce the proper enzymes needed to digest food correctly. As a result of this, the vitamin, minerals, and nutrients that are needed do not get absorbed into the body, which can lead to a weaker immune system, and potentially unbalance levels of hormones as well.


What Can Cause a Person to Develop a Leaky Gut?

In nearly all instances, a leaky gut is developed as a result of a person’s diet. While it differs greatly from one person to the next, there are certain foods such as those which include dairy, soy, and gluten, which can trigger a person’s body to take the fight and respond. In many cases, when a person is sensitive to a particular substance or food, this can result in the production of antibodies, which in turn, trigger an immunological response that can cause headaches, tiredness, inflammation, and diarrhoea.

Aside from the diet, there are also some forms of medication that cause irritation to the lining of the intestine and the protective mucus layers as well. Some of these include aspirin, steroids, or even regular antibiotics.

How can you tell if you have a leaky gut?

As with all conditions of this nature, each person will have slightly different signs and symptoms, and what may present in one individual, might not be present in another. Here are some of the top signs that you could have a leaky gut.

1.   Nutritional Deficiencies

2.  Constipation

3.  Gas

4.  Bloating

5.  Weakened Immune System

6.  Chronic Diarrhoea

7.   Excess Tiredness or Fatigue

8.  Brain Fog

9.  Memory Loss

10. Headaches

11.  Rashes on the Skin

12. Carbohydrates or Sugar Cravings

13.  Joint Pain

14.  Inflammation

15.  Arthritis

16.  Anxiety or Depression

17.  Autoimmune Conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease or Lupus

What type of foods should you be avoiding or eating more of with leaky gut syndrome?

There are lots of different types of foods that can really help if you have a leaky gut; similarly, there are certain types of food you should try to avoid. Here is a quick summary of both what to eat and what not to eat with this condition.

Avoid These Foods if you Have Leaky Gut Syndrome

Sugar – Refined sugar is the worst of all the types of sugar you could have. This is what is usually added into your typical deserts and drinks. Even natural sugars such as maple syrup and syrups can be problematic as the sugars can imbalances within the gut by further feeding bacteria and yeasts.

Milk – There are lots of people who can have problems with milk and dairy in their diet, and it is one of the most common food sensitivities. However, there are so many alternatives for traditional dairy products, such as coconut milk, almond milk, and rice milk.

Grains – There are lots of grains which contain a high level of gluten, such as rye, barley, spelt, and wheat. Although there are plenty of whole grains that form part of a healthy diet, it is important to try to only eat whole grains which are sprouted or soaked as this can deactivate any anti-nutrients.

TIP: Usually, if a person has a leaky gut, then it is best to avoid all types of gluten altogether until such a point that the lining is fully functional again.

 

Try to Eat These Foods if you Have Leaky Gut Syndrome 

Healthy Fats – There are good fats, and there are not-so-good fats. Omega-3 fats are notoriously anti-inflammatory in nature and very easy to digest. Healthy fats are renowned for improving digestion and helping to feed the good bacteria in the gut.

Phytochemicals – There are some very powerful plant-based foods that are enriched with phytochemicals, and which are renowned for their anti-inflammatory and healing capabilities. Although raw fruits and vegetables are often difficult to digest, when they are blended or cooked, you can still benefit from the nutritional properties. The best way to choose fruits and vegetables that are high in phytochemicals is via the colour, the brighter, the better!

Bone Broth – This particular type of broth is known as a super-food and one which is exceptionally beneficial for a leaky or inflamed gut. The best variety is home-made organic bone broth that is made from grass-fed animal bones.  

Turmeric – This is swiftly becoming one of the most popular spices in the nutritional and healing realms. It has well-documented anti-inflammatory properties, and it can also help to support the detoxification of the liver.

Fermented Foods – These types of foods introduce a specific type of good bacteria into the guy. There is a range of cultured vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi that are ideal, and also some specific types of fermented drinks such as Kefir and home-made kombucha that are good examples that help to support a healthy intestinal flora.

How can you get rid of a leaky gut?

There are a number of ways that a person can heal a leaky gut. For most, changes to the diet are a key first step:

1.     Stop consuming drinks and foods that are known to damage the lining of your gut (soda, coffee, alcohol)

2.     Start consuming drinks and foods that reduce inflammation and restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut (bone broth, kombucha, kefir)

3.     Reduce stress in your life where possible

4.     Get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis

5.     Review gut healing supplementation options

 

The key to getting rid of a leaky gut is to stop putting foods into your body which are known to cause stress or damage to our gut lining. Caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gluten, soy, and sugars are all typical problem foods for many people, and, in most cases, the elimination of some or all of these foods alone can significantly improve a person’s symptoms.

Aside from this, adding in certain foods such as fish, flax, avocados, and coconut oils can restore the proper levels of good bacteria within the gut. L-Glutamine is a specific type of amino acid that is typically found in these founds and can be supplemented in order to rejuvenate the lining of the intestinal wall.

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GUT MICROBIOME vs your Hormones, Stress and Mood

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Suddenly being mentioned everywhere, your ‘gut’ is something you may have heard referred to. It’s the nickname given to your gut microbiome, a community of microorganisms which live in your Gastrointestinal (GI) tract (and also in the tract of every animal). For the most part, the microbiota and your gut live in relative harmony. The gut has a bi-directional relationship (two way communication) with our central nervous system (CNS), this is referred to as the ‘gut-brain axis’. This gut brain axis allows the gut, specifically the microbiota, to send and receive signals to and from the brain.

 

Some signs and symptoms of an unhealthy gut include:

·      Regular cravings for sugar and carbs

·      Stomach disturbances such as gas, bloating, irregular toilet habits

·      Unintentional weight changes (either up or down)

·      Sleep disturbances and fatigue

·      Skin issues such as acne or eczema

·      Food intolerances

·      Autoimmune conditions

·      Headaches, brain fog, memory issues

·      Poor immune system

 

It is important to note, due to a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, diet, environment, season, and health status it is virtually impossible to pin down one response to what is a ‘normal’ microbiome for the average human. Gut microbiome can also vary due to genetic diversity, however the dominant species generally results from the composition of a person’s diet (Clapp et al. 2017).

 

HORMONES

Healthy gut function has been linked to normal CNS function. This in turn means that you’ll have more stability with your sex hormones, thyroid function, and even adrenaline function. Recent studies suggest that the gut-brain axis extends also to the neural, endocrine, and immune pathways (Carabotti et al. 2015).

 

Both internal hormones and exogenous hormones (those from external sources) affect the body, and the gut. Oestrogen also has a gut biome access, resulting in our gut health altering our hormonal health. β-glucuronidase (an enzyme that breaks apart oestrogen into it’s active forms) is produced by the gut to influence oestrogen regulation throughout the body. This process can be disrupted when the gut is not performing at it’s best, resulting in reduced diversity in the gut microbiota, and then a decline in the amount of active oestrogen that can be used in the body.

 
“Estrogens are primarily produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and adipose tissue and circulate in the bloodstream in free or protein-bound form and first undergo metabolism in the liver, where estrogens and their metabolites are conjugated. Conjugated estrogens are eliminated from the body by metabolic conversion to water-soluble molecules, which are excreted in urine or in bile into the feces. The conjugated estrogens excreted in the bile can be deconjugated by bacterial species in the gut with beta-glucuronidase activity (constituents of the ‘estrobolome’), subsequently leading to estrogen reabsorption into the circulation. Circulating estrogens exert effects on target tissues including breast, which stimulate cellular growth and proliferation. By modulating the enterohepatic circulation of estrogens, the estrobolome affects both the excretion and circulation of estrogens. In turn, the composition of the estrobolome can be shaped by factors such as antibiotics, other drugs, and diet that modulate its functional activity.” Cell Host Microbe.  2011;10(4):324-335.

“Estrogens are primarily produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and adipose tissue and circulate in the bloodstream in free or protein-bound form and first undergo metabolism in the liver, where estrogens and their metabolites are conjugated. Conjugated estrogens are eliminated from the body by metabolic conversion to water-soluble molecules, which are excreted in urine or in bile into the feces. The conjugated estrogens excreted in the bile can be deconjugated by bacterial species in the gut with beta-glucuronidase activity (constituents of the ‘estrobolome’), subsequently leading to estrogen reabsorption into the circulation. Circulating estrogens exert effects on target tissues including breast, which stimulate cellular growth and proliferation. By modulating the enterohepatic circulation of estrogens, the estrobolome affects both the excretion and circulation of estrogens. In turn, the composition of the estrobolome can be shaped by factors such as antibiotics, other drugs, and diet that modulate its functional activity.”Cell Host Microbe. 2011;10(4):324-335.

 

Oestrogen

The gut microbiome manipulates oestrogen metabolism, and therefore can alter how much oestrogen gets excreted once used, or how much gets re-circulated through the body. Some gut bacteria produce an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase (BG for short), and the more BG which is produced, the less oestrogen is excreted from the body and the more is recirculated (Maryann et al., 2016). Oestrogen is great for female hormonal health, healthy skin and a functioning reproductive system, but too much oestrogen can lead to decreased sex drive, irregular menstrual cycles, frequent headaches, weight gain, and increased PMS symptoms. Greater reabsorption of free oestrogens can also increase the risk of oestrogen-driven cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.

 

Strong links have also been made between the gut microbiome and thyroid function, these can include:

·      Disruption in iodine uptake;

·      Alterations to thyroid-hormone receptors; and

·      The liver’s reduced ability to convert T3 and T4 (resulting in a ‘sluggish’ thyroid).

There are currently studies underway looking into the relationship between gut microbiota diversity and autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD), which includes Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT) and Grave's disease (GD).

Mental Health

GI homeostasis (overall gut health) is imperative to our general health and wellbeing (Lyte, 2010). Recently, studies have shown that variations in the gut microbiome and the effect these have on various central nervous system (CNS) disorders, including (but by no means limited to) depressive disorders, anxiety, schizophrenia, and autism (Mayer et al., 2014). Your gut microbiota are capable of delivering neuroactive substances such as GABA and serotonin, which interact with the gut-brain axis. Current research suggests that certain strands of probiotics can have anti-depressant and anxiety-relieving properties (Evrensel and Ceylan, 2015).

 
The gut-brain axis pathway. Image created by Megan Clapp and Emily Wilen.

The gut-brain axis pathway. Image created by Megan Clapp and Emily Wilen.

 

In a double-blind placebo-controlled and randomised parallel group study by Messaoudi et al in 2011 researchers used healthy volunteers who took either Lactobacillus helveticusR0052 and Bifidobacterium longum or placebo for 30 consecutive days. A variety of parameters were tested using the Hopkins symptom checklist, hospital anxiety and depression scale, the perceived stress scale and coping checklist. The results from these tests showed that self-perceived psychological stress levels, as well as tested urinary free cortisol levels were both reduced in the subjects who took probiotics regularly. This means those who were on the frequent probiotics ended up with test results that showed less stress, and less depressed moods.

In summary

There is so much more down the rabbit hole of microbiota which I am currently researching, but I felt the connection to oestrogen metabolism, thyroid health and mental health were the most prevalent. Clearly the relationship between our physical and mental health and gut microbiome is a complex one, where much research still needs to be done. However in saying this, even the current amount of research which has been brought to light reinstates the fact that we need to look after our gut, so you may be wondering, how exactly do we do this?

Some events which can cause changes in our gut microbiome:

·      Poor, unvaried diet

·      Low fibre diet

·      High amounts of artificial sweeteners and/or refined sugars in diet

·      Recent course of antibiotics

·      Have been on heavy medications (such as during cancer treatment) or other immune suppressant medications (such as those used to treat Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or even psoriasis).

·      Chronic stress

·      Lack of prebiotics in the diet (think: asparagus, rolled oats, bananas, nuts, leeks, beans)

·      Drinking too much alcohol

·      Lack of physical activity

·      Smoking

·      Insufficient sleep

As you can see, there’s many lifestyle factors (not just diet-based factors) which can alter the balance of your gut microbiome. Let’s take a look at some adjustments you can make to repair or maintain the integrity of your gut.

1.     Eat more prebiotic foods

Foods rich in prebiotic fibres (which help ‘feed’ the good guys in your gut) include leeks, onions, asparagus, rolled oats, bananas, nuts. I personally like to include the addition of a supplement called Gut Performance. Disclaimer: this is not sponsored (nothing on this blog is ever sponsored and no free product is ever received as part of my commitment to only offer unbiased information and genuine product feedback), I do not have an affiliation with the company, it’s just a genuinely great product I have found, and have yet to see something work as effectively for my gut.

2.     Consume more probiotics.

Probiotics increase the abundance of good gut bacteria. Keep an eye out for fermented foods, including traditional Greek yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

3.     Stress reduction.

Learn to manage your stress levels through mindfulness techniques such as exercise, meditation, mindful breathing techniques, and others.

4.     Sleep properly

Never underestimate the power of consistently good sleep. Train your body to sleep and wake up at similar times each day, remove digital distractions before bed, and make getting AT LEAST 7 hours a priority, 8 is better.

5.     Basic healthy eating patterns

Your diet needs to focus on wholesome foods, variety and quality. Alter what fresh produce you consume based on what’s in and out of season to get a diverse range of micronutrients, and consider exactly what it is that’s making up your macros, not all foods are created equal.

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Fermented Foods 101

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If you haven’t already heard about the health benefits of eating fermented foods, where have you been? In this post, I am going to explore what defines the term ‘Fermented Food,’ and explain in more detail what they do, along with giving you some examples of fermented foods.
 

What Is Fermented Food?

Fermented foods have been popular for many centuries now. In more recent years it has become more prominent and more widely regarded for providing us with ‘good’ bacteria, that helps to keep our digestive system healthy.

In the past, the technique used for fermentation was essentially a way to preserve drinks and foods before refrigeration was invented. Throughout the process, bacteria, fungi, yeast or any other type of microorganism will convert starch, sugars, and other organic compounds into acids or alcohol. The process generally creates pungent and somewhat sour flavors.

 

What Are the Benefits of Eating Fermented Food?

When you consume drinks or food that have been fermented, your digestive health will benefit significantly. The ‘good’ type of bacteria that is produced is also known as probiotics, and they have earned a reputation for helping with digestive health and other health issues and ailments.

When you eat fermented foods, you are increasing the ‘good’ bacteria in your body, specifically to your intestinal flora. This helps to enhance the health of your digestive system and your gut microbiome.

 

Availability of Nutrients

The process of fermentation can actually enhance the volume of readily available nutrients and vitamins for our body’s. By giving your body a boost of ‘good’ bacteria, you are also enabling them to produce more Vitamin B&K.

 

Absorption and Digestion

When the fermentation process occurs, many of the starches and sugars in the food will have already been broken down. This makes fermented foods far easier for the body to digest. A good example of this is with milk. Fermentation breaks down the lactose into simpler sugars such as galactose and glucose. If you are lactose intolerant, this can make cheese and yogurt much easier for your body to digest. Fermented vegetables actually help to treat a known condition called Candida Gut.

 

Immune System

There are still so many people who don’t release that the majority of the immune system is controlled by your gut. When you eat food or drinks that are rich in probiotics, you are helping to strengthen your immune system. If you have taken a course of antibiotics, then having probiotic foods can prove to be rather helpful.

 

Your Mood

Just as the gut is linked to the immune system, it is also linked with the brain through something called the enteric nervous system. There is a lining on the gut that is made up of different neurons, all of which can affect our feelings and of course, our emotions. Research has concluded that because serotonin is made in the gut, and this directly affects ones’ mood; the more pro-biotic bacteria you have, and the healthier your gut, the happier and healthier your mind will be.

With the stressful lifestyles people are increasingly living and the modern-day diet, this can provide the perfect environment for bad bacteria to thrive. By getting rid of sugary foods and adding fermented foods into the mix, you can support your immune system and restore the needed levels of balance back to your digestive system.

The average person carries around 4 lbs of bacteria in their gut.

 

Examples of Fermented Foods

There are many different types of fermented foods that people from across the world enjoy eating. Here are the top ten!

1.     Kombucha – This is a fermented drink of sugar and black tea. It helps to improve digestion, enhances energy levels, boost the immune system, prevents cancer, reduces joint pain, detoxes the body, and it can also help you to lose weight.

 2.     Kefir – This is a fermented milk product that tastes just like yogurt. The advantages of this are the high content of vitamin B12, Magnesium, vitamin K2, folate, probiotics, and enzymes.  It can help to heal IBS, kill Candida, improve overall digestion, combat allergies, and also helps to improve bone density.

3.     Pickles – These are packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. For those who have a deficiency in Vitamin K, this is an ideal food to help address this. Known for its benefits to heart and bone health, it also gives you a boost of gut-friendly bacteria.

4.     Sauerkraut – This is probably one of the oldest foods of tradition, and it made mostly with fermented cabbage. It contains Vitamin K, B, C, and A; while also being a great source of magnesium, calcium, iron, sodium, copper, and manganese. It has a range of health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, combating inflammation, improving digestive health, strengthening bones, and also helping with circulation.

 5.     Tempeh – This is a type of soybean product that is created through the addition of a tempeh starter, which is essentially a live-mould mixture. It is similar in appearance and texture to cake. It can help to increase bone density, lower cholesterol, helps with muscle recovery, and can even help to reduce the symptoms of the menopause. Tempeh has elevated levels of Vitamin B2, B3, B5, and B6.

 6.     Miso – This particular food has powerful anti-ageing properties and is created uniquely by fermenting barley, soybean or brown with a fungus called Koji. It can help your nervous system, boost your skin's vitality and appearance, reduce the risk of cancer, and improve the performance of your immune system.

 7.     Kimchi – This is a Korean dish that is created using various spices, seasoning, vegetables, and cabbage. Its origins can be traced back to the 7th century. It carries a wealth of benefits and can improve both digestive and cardiovascular health. It also contains a high level of antioxidants and as such, can reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, gastric ulcers, and obesity.

 

Fermented foods can help you to strengthen your immune system and more importantly, they help you to regulate your appetite and can help to reduce the cravings you get for sugary foods. Research proves that probiotics play an essential role as part of a healthy diet while adding an extra layer of protection against microbial infections.

Food

Recipe: Gut Repair Soup

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Instead of just having bone broth plain, sometimes I love to turn it into a soup. Throw in a few extra ingredients for added micronutrients, and you've got yourself a great little soup to help with stomach issues. This is perfect as a little add in on a ketogenic diet too, because keto will be making your body burn through more electrolytes, help replenish them with this soup!


Makes 2 servings
(per 1) Carbs 7g / Fat 35g / Protein 78.5g / Calories 596

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Ingredients

  • 1L bone broth
  • Himalayan salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 500g (1lb) shredded chicken
  • Bok choy
  • Spring onion
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic

Method

  1. Place a pot on low heat, add oil, chopped onion and garlic until fragrant.
  2. Add in water, apple cider vinegar and bone broth
  3. Add shredded chicken, and finely chopped bok choy, spring onion, and other fibrous veg that you like
  4. Season with Himalayan salt and pepper
  5. Allow to simmer on a lower temperature for 1 hour before serving
 

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Chlorophyll: Why Use It?

A Brief Outline
Let’s start off by actually outlining what chlorophyll is, for any of you who didn’t already know. Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plants that helps them absorb sunlight and utilise it for energy. Molecularly it’s very similar to haemoglobin found in human blood (the main difference being the central atom in haemoglobin is iron, and in chlorophyll is magnesium). Chlorophyll is also a great source of beta-carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, E and K.

How Do You Get Chlorophyll?
Chlorophyll is easily found in dark leafy green vegetables such as chard, kale, broccoli, spinach, green beans, wheatgrass and leaks. An easy way to get chlorophyll naturally is through wheatgrass juice or shots, or to add spinach and kale into your smoothies.

You can buy it in tablet, liquid and powder form, and nutritionists or herbal practitioners usually recommend a dosage of 100mg 2-3 times a day (check with your specialist). Also be aware that chlorophyll supplements can have high levels of copper, which may not suit all diets, so try the natural method first before turning to supplements! As for side effects, it may make your skin slightly more sensitive to the sun, so be careful about sun exposure, and make sure to wear sunscreen!

Alright, so let’s cover what it can actually do…

1. It’s an antioxidant

Aside from containing a large number of vitamins, chlorophyll is also considered to be a superfood. It is able to eliminate free radicals, and in turn protect cells from damage.

2. Effective against Candida

Ever heard of candida? Candida is a fungus/yeast infection which can lead to fatigue, bad breath, brain fog, hormone imbalances, and digestive problems (just to name a few symptoms). Studies have shown that increasing chlorophyll in the diet can slow or stop candida growth.

3. Maintains iron levels

Chlorophyllin (not the regular chlorophyll supplement) can be effective against anaemia or low iron. Regular liquid chlorophyll is used by health practitioners for anaemia or blood loss, due to it’s ability to increase the amount of oxygen blood cells can carry, and speeds up the process of building the red blood cells.

4. Anti-ageing properties

 Because of the aforementioned free-radical fighting properties of chlorophyll, it can also support maintaining healthy tissues in the body. The amount of Vitamin K present in chlorophyll aids the adrenal glands and can improve adrenal function.

5. Hormone balancing

Chlorophyll, and it’s vitamin E content, help stimulate and regulate the production of sex hormones in males and females. The ability of chlorophyll to rebuild hormones is also partially due to the magnesium content.

6. Eases bad breath

Poor gut health and oral bacteria can cause bad breath. Chlorophyll can not only deodorize bad breath, but can also target the source by helping establish better gut health.

7. Blood detoxification

Chlorophyll can aid your liver in the process of eliminating heavy metals and harmful chemicals from the blood.


Most people do not consume enough leafy green vegetables in their diet, so either start adding in more raw/steamed green vegetables, or look out for a chlorophyll supplement!

References

Balder HF, et al. 2006, 'Heme and chlorophyl intake and risk of colorectal cancer in the Netherlands cohort study', Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, vol 15, no 4, pp. 717-725.

Dingley KH, et al. 2003, 'Effect of dietary constituents with chemopreventative potential on adduct formation of a low dose of the heterocyclic amines PhIP and IQ and phase II hepatic enzymes', Nutr Cancer, vol 26, no 2, pp. 212-221.

Maekawa LE et al. 2007, 'Antimicrobial activity of chlorophyll-based solution on Candida albicans and Enterococcus faecalis', Revista Sul-brasiliera de Odontologia.

Miret S, Tascioglu S, van der Burg M, Frenken L, & Klaffke W 2010, 'In vitro bioavailability of iron from the heme analogue sodium iron chlorophyllin', J Agric Food Chem, vol 58, no 2, pp. 1327-1332.

Klatz R & Goldman R 2003, Stopping The Clock, Basic Health Publications Ic.