The surprise remedy for your ailments...

The Good Life Letter

9th May 2010

  • The truly alternative way to treat a minor illness
  • Why hot cocoa could be better than broccoli
  • The rare case where it's not what you eat, but how you feel about eating it
  • The man who laughed his way back to health

You know how it starts...

First the person starts sulking.

Then, he refuses to 'go to school'.

Then, he moans as if he's dying.

Then, he manfully sips a tiny bit of soup before
collapsing back on the bed exhausted.

Well, that's how I react to having a cold

Truth be told, I'm by far the worst patient in the
household. I know, I know... you don't have to
tell me how surprised you are.

But this weekend, my eldest has come down
with a cold and he looks dreadful.

So, what's the first thing I do to get him feeling
a bit better?

Well, I'll tell you - but you may find it a bit

The truly alternative way to treat a minor

This is a tip I picked up from a close family
friend - Caroline.  And I have to say, it works
for me.

Not only that, it makes a lot of sense, but maybe
not at first glance.

Now, I know I'm supposed to be making sure
'the victim' eats fruit and veg to boost his
immune system.

I know I ought to be stuffing him with vitamin
C-rich kiwis and whatnot.

But in this case, I'm going against all of that...

Why hot cocoa could be better than broccoli

You see, I want him to feel comforted and cared
for, not force fed broccoli. So if all he wants is
cheese on toast, that's exactly what I'll rustle up.

A couple of Digestives? No problem.

Hot cocoa? Coming right up.

Maybe this is wrong. But...

I know it's right.

The nutritionists can protest until they're blue in
the face - and in principle I'll agree with
everything they say.

But when something as non life-threatening as a
cold hits your kids, something else takes over in
the short term...

It's not what you eat, but how you feel about
eating it

I mean, isn't feeling loved and looked after the
best medicine there is?

The power of the emotions in our physical
health isn't news. So much research has shown
how feeling happy affects the way we heal.
Think about the hundreds of studies that have
reported a 'placebo effect' - where a sugar pill
has exactly the same effect as a pharmaceutical

It's not what you take, it's how you feel about
taking it. If you believe a pill will help you that
can be medicine enough.

Or take Norman Cousins...

The man who laughed his way back to health

Diagnosed with a life-threatening connective
tissue disease, he decided he had to find an
alternative to the bland hospital food and
powerful anti-inflammatory medications.

So he dosed himself up on a diet of Vitamin C,
Candid Camera and Marx Brothers videos. He
thought that if he felt happy, he'd heal quicker.

He was right. In his book Anatomy of an Illness,
he said "Ten minutes of genuine belly laughter
had an anaesthetic effect and would give me at
least two hours of painfree sleep."

Amazingly, he managed to laugh himself back
to wellness.

So for now at least, I'm serving up hot chocolate
because it makes my boy smile and I know  he
feels good drinking it. 

And today, while he's having an afternoon nap
(again, that's something I can show him how to
do PROPERLY), I thought I'd serve up a few
tips on how we can ALL feel better about our

This has nothing to do with what you eat. It's
about how you eat it. And that can make even a
chocolate pud better for you...

- Make your food look good. Set your eyes
on a plate of scrumptious looking food and
straight away your mouth starts to water
and your belly starts to shout at your brain
"gimme gimme!"

In Chinese medicine, the stomach meridian
- or energy pathway - starts at the eyes and
leads down through the stomach. That's
why Chinese cooking places such a big
emphasis on presentation. The better it
looks, the more prepared your body will be
to digest it. You get more nutrients out of
the food you eat and you feel good about it

A sprig of parsley here, a colourful side
salad there... even the littlest touches can be
enough to turn your meal into a feast for the

- Set the scene. Whenever you can, tidy up
the table area and set out some fresh
flowers. It's not just about making the place
look nice. A tidy, pleasant setting stops
your mind from it's usual "I must clear
those papers away, look at the wine splat
over there, when was that from? Oh God,
it's been there for three days, etc etc."

Little stresses like that actually shut down
your digestion as the adrenaline kicks in.
Speaking of which, DEFINITELY switch
off your mobile phone.

- Take your time. It's so easy to just gulp
food down without giving it a second
thought. But take the time to enjoy every
mouthful and you'll be doing wonders for
your digestion and your general health.

There's a digestive enzyme in your saliva
called ptyalin which breaks down
carbohydrates like vegetables and grains.
So, the more you chew, the more those
carbs break down. And the more they break
down, the easier they are for your body to
absorb all those fabulous vitamins, minerals
and other health-boosting nutrients in your

Chewing your food properly also helps the
enzymes in the stomach break the food
down properly. This prevents unabsorbed,
partially digested food particles moving to
the bowel which can cause gas and bloating.

If after all that your stomach is still upset
after a meal - try massaging up and down
the inside length of your thighs, pushing in
hard with your fingers.

This area holds neurolymphatic points for
your small intestine - another gem of
traditional Chinese medicine. Kneading
these points helps clear blocked energy and
gets your digestion moving again.

I know if sounds crazy but don't knock it until
you've tried it...

That's it for today. I'll be back next week with
more tips and research to help you enjoy the
good life.

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