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When Things Start Sagging... Grasp the Nettle!

Chatting to a new client with a long standing issue of prolapse got me thinking. Our diets are so depleted in even basic nutrients, we are not even recognising what the absence of these nutrients means to our bodies and minds. Both practitioners and the public alike seem to fixate on the nutrient du jour, be it the new exciting antioxidant or the new proprietary probiotic strain - and the basics go by the wayside.

Nature, though, in its own unassuming and quiet way goes about offering us everything we need - if we only care to actually stop and see what we're being offered every season.

It was a funny moment when, at one of my workshops, I stated, "Just look at what Nature does and you will know what to do." One of the participants piped up, "It's alright for you to say that, you know what you're looking for!"

After the guffaws had died down, I went about explaining what I meant. It was an opportunity to make things simple and easy and talk about weeds and hedgerows!

So, let me grasp the nettle for you... or, better still, tell you a bit about the humble nettle which is coming up now everywhere, fresh, vibrantly green and very, very stingy!

But in reality, the nettle is just my excuse to talk about a whole load of other foods rich in silica.

Why Silica?

Because silica is an amazing nutrient. According to WebMD, "Compelling data suggests that silica is essential for health..." [i]. Eating foods rich in calcium, magnesium, and vitamins D and K2 is not enough to support and maintain bone health, because we need silica for skin, hair, nail, teeth and bone health. Silica has a key role in collagen synthesis, a vital component of connective tissue, ligaments and tendons. So, when things start going south (think, for example, saggy boobs, saggy skin, uterine prolapse), it's time to check your diet contains enough silica-rich foods.

Silica-rich foods

There is no dietary recommended dose of silica, but an intake of 40 mg daily is recommended for people with osteoporosis (brittle bone disease). In addition, pioneering research by Prof. C Exley [1], world authority on aluminium research, strongly indicates that a form of silica can support the removal of aluminium from the brain (aluminium toxicity is implicated in conditions such as Alzheimer’s and autism).

Some foods are higher in silica than others and worth including in our diet to help maintain healthy elasticity and growth of connective tissue, skin, hair and nails and especially if there are concerns over hair quality and thickness, prolapse or loss of tissue elasticity, weak nails and sagging skin. Organic and biodynamic wholefoods foods are always preferable and higher in beneficial nutrients. Below is a small selection of foods rich in silica (in alphabetical order):

Bananas: bananas are one of the best fruit sources of silica. A banana (around 100g) has roughly 5mg of silica. So, a banana a day not only meets our daily dose of potassium and fibre but also increases our intake of silica. And eaten half an hour before bedtime, it may help reduce or stop waking up in the middle of the night, too!

Beer: Grains are a rich source of silica and since beer is usually made from grains like barley, it is rich in silica. 100ml of beer provides around 4mg of silica, which accounts to almost 25% of our daily intake of silica. Craft beers from organic micro-breweries are likely to be richer in nutrients than commercially produced ones.

Green Beans: Green beans are among the most silica-rich vegetables. One cup of green beans has roughly 7mg of silica, which is about 25% -35% of our average silica intake.

Lentils: Protein-rich pulses, especially lentils, are good sources of silica. Red lentils have the highest levels, with 1 tbsp = 2mg.

Nettles: Nettles are an immensely nutritious herb containing fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, calcium and silica with 5mg of silica per 1g of nettle decoction. It's very easy to make a nettle decoction [ii].

Nettles a a food are beyond amazing! You can eat them raw (you need to roll them well to neutralise the sting), steam them and eat them like spinach, make nettle soup, nettle omelette - add them to curries and pies. Dried nettles make a tasty infusion. And, of course, you can ferment nettles - into a second water kefir or kombucha fermentation!

Oats and other grains – pre-soaked and/or fermented: 100 g of oats contain 20 mg of silica. Best to pre-soak oats overnight (as with all grains, beans, nuts & seeds). Soaking helps reduce phytates and oxalates, substances that may reduce our ability to absorb nutrients from foods.

Rice: Eating 100 g of rice provides around 4 mg of silica. Brown rice is preferable. Again, pre-soaked and/or fermented rice is preferable.

Seafood: Not just rich in omega-3 fats, seafood is high in proteins and silica, as well. Seafood such as mussels, provides around 2-3 mg of silica per 100 g. Green lipped mussel powder can be made into an instant “cup-a-soup”, very rich in B vitamins (especially B12), fatty acids and minerals.

Spinach and other leafy greens: Spinach contains high amounts of iron and fibre, and 100g (3tbsp steamed spinach) also offer around 6-7mg of silica. Many different types of leafy green vegetables are sources of silica. Variety is key.

Tofu & other organic soya: Organic soya is not only a rich source of proteins but also silica. 100g of edamame beans, tempeh or tofu provide around 4-5 mg of silica. Avoid any other form of soya except fresh edamame in small quantities, or fermented organic soya.

Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive. There are other foods rich in silica. But it's a good pace to start, anyway. And foraging for nettles in areas away from pollution and contamination offers a great excuse (if you need one) to go for a walk in nature, breathe some fresh air, maybe even walk barefoot on sun-warmed soil. Be mindful that nettles are essential habitat to many insects, and especially butterflies, so be frugal with picking and avoid taking everything! This is a lovely foraging code to observe.[iii]

And remember to thank the nettle plant for her gifts - she has a sting but this sting contains great benefits and is easy to get round.

[i] Why You Need Silica (from WebMD: [ii] How to Make a Herbal Decoction Preparing a simple decoction is quite easy: · 1 tsp to 1 tbsp herbs per cup of cold water (more if fresh herbs) · Add the herbs and cold water to a cast iron enamel saucepan · Place saucepan on the stove, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer · Place the lid on the saucepan and simmer for 20-40 minutes (the longer timing is for woody stems or bark) · Remove from the stove and let the liquid cool down to your favourite drinking temperature · Strain the herbs and save - you can use them to make another decoction if you feel there's still life in them or you can put the spent herbs in your composter · Add a little honey for sweetness if you wish or maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime and enjoy · If you made more than you'd drink in one sitting, put the rest in the fridge and use within 48hrs max

[iii] Ten Rules Everyone Should Follow: Foraging Code


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