Gardening for Health


Here at Functional Nexus, we are big believers in gardening to improve health and well-being. The benefits include –

  • Keeping active – a day in the garden can offer a satisfying full-body workout.
  • Improved mental health – reduce stress with connection to nature.
  • Improved immune system – with sunshine exposure, we can build vitamin D levels – which are essential for a healthy immune system and bones.
  • Improved microbiome – through exposure to the healthy soil-based bacteria found on your home-grown crops (especially if you ferment your own vegetables).

We are incredibly proud of our Clinical Administrator, Sarah Watson (whom many of you may have met while arranging your clinic tests). Sarah has spent many years studying therapeutic horticulture and using her skills as a volunteer to improve health and well-being. She currently volunteers with Project ‘BLOOM’, an ecotherapy well-being project for adults with a learning disability and/or mental health needs. The project provides the opportunity to explore and pursue interests and discover skills and abilities such as planning and design, growing, garden maintenance, woodwork, craft and cooking.

When we found out that Sarah’s community garden design had been accepted to go on show at the RHS Tatton Flower Show this July, we were really excited to be able to support and sponsor the project – which we hope will help to raise funding and awareness for this fantastic community project. If you can visit the show (19-23rd July), go over and visit Sarah and the Bloom Garden. We will send updates and photos in a later newsletter.

At the Clinic HQ, we are trying our hand at organic gardening and are eagerly awaiting the appearance of summer berries, beans and our new crop of mixed salad leaves. If you have space – even for a few pots outside the back door- growing your own herbs, fruit, and vegetables can help reduce shopping bills and give you fabulous organic food through the summer.

We follow the work of the UK Pesticide Action Network closely and try to eat organic where possible. Signing up to see their recommendations for the most likely more or less contaminated produce can be really helpful. The link is HERE

In addition, they have a great guide to Gardening without Pesticides HERE

Histamine and Summer sneezing:

Unfortunately, sometimes gardening isn’t for everyone. This can be uncomfortable for Hayfever sufferers and those with seasonal allergies. Many of our patients with histamine sensitivity can also find that heat triggers increased skin rashes and uncomfortable generalised symptoms such as palpitations or headaches. Over the last few years, we have also noticed that many people can develop worsening histamine intolerance after a bout of Covid.

Fortunately, there are many ways to tackle this problem, and our doctors , and the Nutritional Therapy team will be happy to help you. However, for those needing a quick refresher or who are new to the Functional Medicine approach to this, we have put together our top tips for tackling Histamine reactions:

Eat Smarter –

Caffeine and alcohol (or anything fermented) are some of the biggest triggers of histamine reactions. Going decaf and reducing alcohol intake can make a difference (including cola and chocolate).

It sounds strange, but switching avocado for apples, strawberries for blueberries, spinach for kale and tomatoes for beetroot can also help. Lots of foods are high in histamine, but these are not obvious just by looking at them. 

Consider the options below:

High Histamine Salad –

Spinach with Tomato, avocado and feta cheese, olives, walnuts and an oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. 

Here, every ingredient (apart from the olive oil) can increase histamine levels in the body. 

Contrast this with our recommendation –

Low Histamine Salad –

Watercress and rocket salad with red onion, beetroot, bell peppers, pomegranate seeds and a chicken breast dressed with oil and apple cider vinegar.

Not only are the foods in this salad low in histamine, but many of the ingredients actually contain active anti-histamine compounds. 

Try a Natural Antihistamine Approach:

Lots of foods have natural antihistamine properties. Some of our favourite therapeutic foods include:

Watercress, Onions and Garlic, pomegranates, Apples, Peaches, blueberries, Ginger and Turmeric and peppermint or Nettle tea.

Quercetin is one of the major antihistamine substances we like to use therapeutically. As well as occurring in small quantities naturally in broccoli, apples and red onions, it can also be taken as a great supplement to target the summer sneezing and a wide range of histamine-induced symptoms:

You can purchase Biocare Quercetin complex HERE

Increase your B-Vitamins:

If you are over 60, pregnant or breastfeeding or follow a plant-based or vegan diet, you may not get enough Vitamin B12. Worsening histamine sensitivity symptoms can be a sign of low B12, and this is often missed in place of antihistamine advice in most medical settings.

Foods high in B12 include organ meats, red meat and fish products, eggs and dairy. If these are not foods you eat regularly, you should supplement regularly to avoid deficiency. Unfortunately, many people develop problems with B12 absorption – so they may become deficient even with good dietary intake of animal products or oral supplements. For these patients, we recommend B12 injections.

Contact us HERE to arrange a B12 test or learn more about the best ways to replace this important Vitamin.

My Functional Apothecary has a wide range of B12-containing supplements, but those with the best absorption are in liquid form and can be taken under the tongue:

Our Biocare Nutrisorb B12 liquid is HERE

If you’re ready to make changes but don’t know where to start or have fallen off the wagon and need some help to move forward with your treatment programme, call the clinic, and our Patient Pathway Coordinator, Sam, will be happy to make you an appointment.

If you are new to the clinic, we have increased our capacity with a fantastic team of experienced Functional Medicine doctors and have appointments available without any long waits – do contact Sam HERE  to find out more. 

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy summer

Dr Sarah

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