Why your digestion holds the key to your health Dubai Eye Interview

What’s your gut telling you: why your digestion holds the key to your health. IBS? Bloating? Far from being isolated digestive disorders, these are now being linked with everything from osteoporosis to depression. Keith Littlewood from Balanced Body Mind joins us to answer your questions about performance, digestion and much more.

Dubai Today’s “Eye on Health” Mobility & Rehabilitation

On Dubai Today’s “Eye on Health” Suzanne is joined by Keith Littlewood from Balanced Body Mind. Paul Frangie joins us in studio to talk about how we can pair wellness with cooking healthy food.

Feeling the reflux burn?

Are you feeling the burn? 4 reasons why you have acid reflux (or just reflux).

I don’t know how many clients I saw last year who came to me with reflux. You know that burning sensation in the windpipe. It’s not that nice to have it and I have experienced it myself and got rid of it too. Not with the oh so many proton pump inhibitors ( PPI’s are acid lowering drugs, that don’t address why there is a specific reflux type symptom) that Dr’s seem to prescribe in a vague attempt to get rid of the unwanted symptom. This is a brief synopsis of why you may get reflux type symptoms and not discussed at  great length.

In my experience there are four specific reasons why individuals get GERD or Gastro-Esophegeal Reflux Disease and in pretty much most cases do not warrant the use of PPI’s such as Nexium or Omeprazole which have many side effects including digestive dysfunction. Here they are:

  1. Identified Helicobacter Pylori infection.
  2. Dysfunctional diaphragm
  3. Food irritant of digestive tract
  4. Stress

Helicobacter Pylori infection-

H pylori infection is one of the most common digestive tract infections that I have seen (probably second to a parasite called Blastocystis). It is prevalent in both developed and developing countries and responsible for gastric ulcers. This pesky helix shaped bacteria burrows deep into the gastric mucosa and has the ability to shut down the production of hydrochloric acid. Hey but hang on, I though that I had been prescribed medication to stop me producing more stomach acid? Yep! Go figure, in some cases reflux type symptoms may even be alkaline refluxing through the pyloric sphincter.

Below the pyloric sphincter it should be a case of the acidic stomach contents triggering the digestive enzymes but that doesn’t happen in cases such as H-pylori and others and therefore digestion is compromised. Ok, I am getting side tracked so back with the H-pylori. The medical approach is to treat with triple therapy, which is two rounds of antibiotics and PPI’s and there are even quadruple rounds of treatment now. Guess what? H-pylori is becoming resistant to antibiotic use! Don’t get me wrong I think antibiotics have their place and  should be used accordingly but to keep increasing doses is a recipe for disaster.

In 99% of H-pylori infections I have seen this resistant critter eradicated with a few different types of natural supplements and I have seen this in scores of clients with this infection. Much more effective than antibiotics and PPI’s which have unwanted side effects to the digestive system. I had this just last year and it was gone pretty quickly with the right approach. Given that it can be passed by hand to hand contact, kissing, zoonosis or contact with pets, drinking water and food are just some of the ways that you can contract it.

Diaphragm dysfunction.                                                 Diaphragm

I have written many times on the need for optimal respiratory mechanics for management of pain and movement dysfunction but the diaphragm has another key role in the management of the pressure of the esophageal sphincter which can control reflux..

There have been several studies on the use of diaphragm modulation and its effect on GERD. http://www.rehabps.com/REHABILITATION/Poster_GR.html

In a nutshell get someone who can help to improve diaphragm function and improve its effect on management of the digestion system. If it doesn’t work, try any of these four points and I am almost certain that you will eradicate reflux without the need for courses of medication. That said, you should always discuss medication cessation with your Doctor first. If you mentioned any of these approaches you will either be greeted with raised eyebrows or a satisfactory nod depending on how your Dr views this type of treatment.

Foods as an irritant to the digestive tract.

This is an anecdotal tale initially and then feeds into other factors. For me personally if I eat bread daily then I get back bending reflux symptoms. I can’t tell you whether it is a reaction to gluten or yeast but I know that when I cut it out it goes within two days. Some clients have found that when they do the same with coffee, wine or any other number of different foods they too have a cessation of symptoms, if the food as an irritant is the potential source.

Some people can argue that certain foods are quite acid and you should attempt an ‘alkalanising’ diet. In my opinion this is hog wash as alkaline and acid environments within the body are managed by complex systems involving respiration, kidneys and the digestive system. Being too alkaline poses similar problems to being too acidic. Its true that eating lots and lots of meat can produce ammonia and you may notice that in the urine but anybody who spouts alkalinity is the way to health should be viewed with scepticism.  Cutting down on high protein diets may just be your best bet.

The simple approach to this is, if you eat a food on a regular basis and you notice that you get reflux….cut it out! Does it go? No then it’s not the issue.


Stress is a killer, we all know that one don’t we? Well then it wouldn’t be that far fetched to say that stress decimates the digestive system. If you are one of those people who races your food down, rushing to work, eating at your desk, eyeing the figures and not truly eating your food then your digestive system is going to become ill fast and so are you.

Digestion starts….in the brain! It was shown nearly a century ago that failure to think about eating fails to produce gastric juices responsible for breaking down nutrients. The work of Walter Cannon demonstrated the failure of the digestive system when constantly exposed to stress both acute and chronic.

An easy place to start is to think about what you are eating and enjoy it. That’s pretty easy right?  Remember that both too much and too little acid in the stomach can pave the way for reflux type symptoms. Slow down. Give the body and mind a chance to digest your food, not only will you enjoy it, it is key in dealing with digestive dysfunction and reflux type symptoms.

If you know anybody suffering with reflux that mention these four points to them. They might just help to get rid of the problem for good.


Cannon, W.B. Bodily Changes in Pain: Hunger, Fear, and Rage: An Account of Recent Researches Into the Function of Emotional Excitement. D Appleton and Company. 1920

Online references:



Proton Pump Inhibitor–Associated Hypomagnesemia: What Do FDA Data Tell Us?

When acceptance is just not acceptable: how to make homemade formula

Here’s why I decided to use homemade formula

The world in which we live often creates an acceptance of certain conditions. However some conditions should not just be accepted as acceptable.

As a father for the second time we had to accept that we would have to use formula for our new born due to some complications. No sooner had we started and our son developed spots, rashes and was generally a cranky little man despite being fed Organic formula. But it was organic, why should this happen? Oh but it is normal for children to get milk rashes and spots many people say. Is it? Why is it? If I were to see such conditions on an adult, I would be suggesting that something is just not right and you should get that looked at.

So why is it that we accept that rashes, irritability and skin conditions are acceptable on new born children?

A possible thought might be that the wide spread acceptance of poor quality formula that has a whole list of undesirable additives could be the very cause of these unwanted symptoms. I must add that of course breast feeding is the best. No doubt but in some cases, sadly it is just not possible to do so, so support has to be administered by whatever means exist.

We initially chose an organic milk formula due to the non-organic versions contained genetically modified soy products, a host of vegetable oils (many GM too) and many chemically derived nutrients. I am driven in my occupation to get the best information available out to my clients and the knowledge seeking public and I have to state that genetically modified products SHOULD NEVER be allowed in any persons food especially new born children.
The use of vegetable oils in formula to provide polyunsaturated fatty acids is not only contentious its inclusion is based upon poor rationale for nutrition guidelines. Saturated fat that is found in a mothers breast milk is highly nutritious and replacing with polyunsaturated fats can pose many problems particularly when these oils have the capacity to go rancid which causes stress to cellular function and energetics.

This is well documented and for further information the work of Ray Peat will provide the reader with much information. The inclusion of these PUFA’s is often recommended as they are so called Essential Fatty Acids. The argument on the use of these EFA’s still rages on but it has been proven that deficiencies of B6, and biotin may give the perception of fatty acid deficiency.

Here’s another clincher. Much of the recommendations regarding PUFA’s in breast milk is based upon data where we have steadily increased vegetable oil consumption. So observations of these fats in breast milk correlates with consumption not production. So should we have such elevated levels of these fats in baby produce?

With that in mind I decided to make my own Homemade formula. My only place of reference to begin this task was by looking and traditional nutrition guidelines and I looked at a recipe recommended on the Weston A price website. (Weston A. Price was a dentist who documented traditional health and diets compared to modernised diets, well worth a read of some his stuff).

The ingredients still contained amounts of PUFA’s so I decided to replace most of these fatty acids with saturated fats from coconut oil and ghee with the exception of olive oil. Here’s how to make it.


One thing that I am not telling you to do, is to go and stop what you are doing. This is a decision that we as parents made, we thought was best for our son. Its clear that Omega 3’s do play some part in balance but the proliferation in both Omega 3 and 6 in many foods are not necessarily healthy and carry there own issues. Blanket nutrition is not working for many and taking time to find out what works can be a rewarding experience. As for our son….he is not cranky anymore, his rashes have gone and he is sleeping through the night at 7 weeks of age. We are pretty happy.Dubai-20131109-00265

Always seek the advice of a professional regarding nutritional issues particularly when dealing with infants nutrition.

Additional references can be posted. If you want to read the scientific studies that I am basing my opinion on please ask.

The difference between mobility and stability issues

Do you have an injury that keeps reoccurring? Finding the difference between mobility and stability issues can be the key to eradicating pain for good If you have ever suffered from an injury and there was no difference made between a mobility or a stability issue. Chances are you may still have the injury.

You often see many trainers and therapists focusing on mobility, mobility and more mobility. Release this muscle with that foam roller release the fascia with this ball but unless the distinction is made between whether a mobility drill or stability training or re-programming of the nervous system needs to occur, All you will end up with is one mobile injured body. It’s a simple thing to do. Just determine whether the movement can be conducted through the desired range. If it can’t, the question should be asked can this be done passively, with someone else guiding you through the movement. If the answer is yes. You have a stability or motor control dysfunction.

If you are the one of many going through the insurance/treatment mill or simply not getting any resolve from massage, exercise or whatever therapy that you are undertaking. Don’t be scared to ask the person treating you…Do I have a mobility or stability issue? It will help to cut through all the fluff.

Getting to the core and why you have back pain despite rock hard abs!

The concept of ‘core’ conditioning has evolved significantly since the millennium and there have often been some common misunderstandings of the mechanisms, which can increase the prevalence of back pain. I know because I taught them in an inappropriate way, that’s the way that I was taught. But times change and increased knowledge and application go a long way for someone to determine what works and what doesn’t. Many people still have back pain despite participation in core conditioning regimes, pilates and other types of ‘core’ workouts.

Many lay peoples understanding of the core is that a strong set of abdominal and back muscles prevents back pain. This statement is false and I have seen hundreds of people with strong trunk muscles all still prevent with back pain. Overtraining of the core is responsible for increasing back pain in many individuals. Many focus on strength, skipping key elements such as flexibility and stability paving the way for muscular dysfunction. Neuromuscular retraining should often be the focus for optimal core function but for many throwing big weights around, worrying about weight loss or how many spin classes they can get to takes precedence over dysfunctional movement and pain .

Then there is the concept of the inner unit which was touted by Richardson, Jull and Hodges, a good book and one that was part of the curriculum at the CHEK Institute (where I learnt a lot about rehabilitation) and no doubt many other institutions and how, by isolation of the Transversus Abdominus or TrA created an increase in Intra-Abdominal Pressure (IAP) co contracted with the multifidus and worked intrinsically with the pelvic floor.

Training the TrA in isolation fails to offer the complete picture and treatment for segmental stability. The diaphragm working in co-contraction with the TrA, pelvic floor and lumbar multifidus present a more appropriate method for stabilising not only the lumbar spine but provide a foundation for a more efficient methodology of rehabilitation which covers stability.

The Rehabilitation School of Prague’s model of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilisation offers a compelling model of stabilisation via developmental kinesiology. How the developing child moves and integrates stability is an effective method for re-integration of the intrinsic stabilisation system which comprises of the diaphragm, pelvic floor, TrA and spine flexors and extensors. The image below of the open scissors position of the rib cage and pelvis details the oblique angle that can occur when poor stability is mediated by poor diaphragmatic action.

why you get back pain, DNS

With DNS technique the flare of the rib cage and optimal contraction of the diaphragm can be corrected in the space of minutes to provide an optimal pathway for diaphragmatic breathing.

This concept is an effective method for rehabilitation but in my opinion there remain questions when utilising the concept of stability from the trunk. The diaphragm has the capacity to work segmentally too much or too little based upon a client’s injury history. Here are just some of many scenarios where the intrinsic stabilising system could become dysfunctional.

• TMJ or jaw dysfunction
• C section or other significant scars on the body
• Pelvic floor dysfunction
• Any other muscles has the capacity to affect any other muscle in the body.
• Local inhibition of synergistic, functional opposites or stabilising muscles
• Emotional distress
• Broken bones
• Functional slings such as the posterior oblique sling, lateral sling and others
Why you get neck pain

Use of a joint by joint approach to testing such as Neuro Kinetic Therapy ™ helps to establish a baseline for dysfunctional patterns of facilitation (overworked muscles) and inhibition (underworking muscles). Decisions should be made as whether a mobility or a motor control issue exist. Motor control or the ability of the muscles to be efficiently recruited by the nervous system can be rectified by understanding patterns of inhibition and rewiring the nervous system for optimal control. Integration between both NKT and DNS techniques allows for a progression from pain and dysfunction to integrated movement patterns that can be hard wired with practice of developmental kinesiology exercises.

Many traditional and rehabilitation conditioning exercises often serve to increase dysfunction. Extension and even neutral load training based exercises such as deadlifts, bird dogs and horse stances can increase activation of the thoracolumbar fascia which serves as a conduit for force transfer especially for the posterior oblique sling.

A release of the thorocolumbar fascia and integration of the posterior oblique sling through proprioception via taping or exercises remains an efficient method of neuro muscular activation rather than just increasing motor activity via strength and conditioning exercises. tape Posterior oblique sling and reducing back pain

Integration of techniques allows for a much more efficient treatment for clients who suffer from pain and movement dysfunction and can truly get to the core of both acute and chronic conditions. Isolated approaches yield isolated results.

To find out more about how to get out of pain and improve movement and energy please get in touch.


Frank, C Kobesova, A and Kolar, P.Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilisation and Sports Therapy.Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2013 February; 8(1): 62–73.
Myers, T. Anatomy Trains. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier. 2001.
Richardson C, Hodges P and Hides, J. Therapeutic Lumbo Pelvic Stabilisation. Churchill Livingstone. 1999
Weinstock, D. Nuero Kinetic Therapy. An Innovative Approach to Muscle Testing. North Atlantic Books.

Dubai Eye Interview: World Heart Day

The 29th of September is World Heart Day. Heart disease and stroke are the world’s leading cause of death, claiming 17.3 million lives each year and the numbers are rising. On Dubai Today Keith Littlewood, rehabilitation and performance coach, joins Suzanne in studio to take all your questions on pain, mobility, diet and digestion as well as talk about World Heart Day.

Why cycling for rehabilitation is not a good idea

Image-1 (2)

Many rehabilitation practitioners from surgeons to physios advocate stationary cycling as an integral part of the rehabilitation process for many injuries and in particular for knee injuries such as ACL (cruciate ligament injuries). There has been many discussions as to whether open (able to move through) or closed chain exercise (has to move against) is the best form of exercise to improve function. But is cycling and spinning counter-productive for improving (real) functional outcomes in post injury and operative situations?

What are the advantages of cycling for rehabilitation?

  1. Low load on the injured area.
  2. Localised conditioning
  3. Maintains localised fitness or allegedly maintains cardiovascular health

In a nutshell, cycling supposedly provides a low impact form of exercise that maintains some element of CV fitness and may give limited localised strength to quadriceps. In some cases of cruciate ligament injuries, people fail to increase adequate quadriceps strength. In which case, cycling and particularly spinning will be of little benefit to the rehabilitation process. In fact, an over reliance on the calf muscles with activities such as cycling can inhibit not only the quadriceps but the hip flexors, glutes and many other muscles, increasing subsequent dysfunction and future pain. Many clients that I have seen who either teach spinning or take part on it have often suffered from plantar fascia issues and over developed calf muscles that have often inhibited the thigh muscles.

Take a look at the picture above and this will give you an idea of why cycling can be detrimental to those seeking to improve functional strength. Here are some potential reasons.

  •  Inability to train functional slings such as the lateral, posterior oblique, deep longitudinal and anterior oblique sling.
  • Train the muscles into poor posture, note that with the picture above there is an approximate angle of 60 plus degrees of the thoracic spine.
  • Due to the angle of the pelvis, there is poor muscular recruitment between the knee and hip, flexors and extensors. In many cases the gastrocnemius of the calf has the potential to disrupt optimal mechanics of many of the muscles need to provide stability for the kne
  • Many people mistake the fitness associated with cycling as strength but in fact, training this way, serves to decrease optimal muscular recruitment and increase dysfunction.

Muscular slings in all their forms, whether it is from Vleeming or Myers, suggest optimal muscular recruitment via the use of slings, optimal use of fascia and a framework for tensegrity models. Take the posterior oblique sling, as pictured below. Its function during gait is documented and just one method for optimising support for all structures involving gait and performance. Any rehab methodologies should integrate these systems for optimal alignment, support and movement for injured or compromised structures. Sitting on a cycle provides insufficient training stimulus for structures that provide the most effective forms of joint stability and motor control.

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Individuals deserve the most time efficient and effective forms of therapy and exercise. Outcomes such as improved mobility, stability and enhanced motor control should be the goal and sitting on a bike may give a false positive as to enhanced function but it does not carry over to real world gains.  Spinning in particular continues to create dysfunction and disrupt optimal biomechanics. The fitness industry continues to use modalities that whilst make people, hot, sweaty and  increased  whoop factor and appear that they have done some good, actually creates injury after injury. Instead of telling people to get on your bike, we should be telling people to get off and use your legs properly.

Coconut oil, its protective effects both cellular and shellular.

Image-1 (2)I have written many times on why saturated fats have many proven benefits over unsaturated fats and the risk they pose. This blog is a brief summary of how and why coconut oil can be used for both cellular and shellular (ok I made that word up and yes my drawing sucks!). http://balancedbodymind.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/why-are-polyunsaturated-oils-so-dangerous/

One of the many problems associated with vegetable, nut and seed oils is their double carbon bond, which is pictured below and explains why these oils become problematic when aged or of most importance, when they become heated during cooking. Their propensity to cause inflammation and significant health issues is well documented and for further reading, please read the work of Ray Peat PhD.

molecular structure

Coconut oil has many advantages over so called essential fatty acids.
1. It doesn’t have the issues associated with cooking at high temperatures and instability.
2. It is readily used by the mitochondria or energy producing cells without the need for carnitine, which is used to transport fatty acids into the cell.
3. It provides structural cellular protection.

Many bloggers and health advocates have touted the use of coconut oil as a form of sun block. That’s fine, if you are of darker skin, where you are already protected from the suns harmful ultraviolet rays but if lighter skinned, here’s the huge fail that you may have experienced. Coconut oil despite it’s protective nature will burn fair skinned people, to which some of my friends have found out the hard way. However coconut oil can still be protective even for fair skinned people when used correctly and here’s how.

You may have found that when using regularly sun block, you now often burn quicker with less sun exposure. There are two reasons why this may happen.

1. The sunblock that you use often contains vegetable oils as recepient of the zinc oxide and allows it to soak into your skin.
2. Your diet is high in vegetable and seed oils, nuts, green vegetables and foods high in PUFA’s. Ever notice brown pigmentation spots on the skin too?
The use of coconut oil should be applied post sun and also at night as a natural moisturiser of the skin. Applying coconut oil in conjunction with lowering the amount of PUFA’s consumed in your diet and to avoid using sunblock. You should gradually introduce your time of exposure in the sun. Staying in the sun for long periods of time will ultimately age the skin but using these guidlines will help you to tolerate the suns ray’s and gain the essential, hormone like Vitamin D and healing red rays.

When spending longer periods of time in the sun and for children. My friend Eric Lepine has devised this useful home made sunblock that doesn’t have the PUFA’s often found in commercial products. To make it he recommends the following.

½ ounce of organic beeswax 2 ounces of coconut oil 2 ounces of shea butter one capsule of Unique E (for extra antioxidizing properties; for women, I’ve even had them use Progest-E, for similar effect, plus the added bonus of the progesterone).

2 TBS of micronized zinc oxide (at that concentration, it will be about 20% of total volume, and should confer an SPF of about 30). The micronized version will have you avoid the zombie/pasty white look. You can opt for the non-micronized version if you prefer though.

Just melt the first three ingredient one at a time, progressively, waiting until the preceding one has completely melted before adding the next one. Once the first 3 ingredients are melted, squeeze the vitamin E capsule into the melted mixture, followed by the zinc oxide powder (if using micronized zinc oxide, use caution while mixing it in. While its safety is well-proven when it comes to topical use, the safety issues with micronized powders arise from the risks associated with breathing in the fine particles. The risk is likely mostly a matter of how often one is exposed to these fine particles but, extra precaution is always warranted). Mix well using a whisk. Transfer to a small pot with a large opening before the mixture solidifies (small mason jar or something similar). The mixture might need one last good mixing once it solidifies so, preferably, the container should have enough space to allow for this without making too much of a mess.

It’s time for sunlight to get the credit it deserves for promoting health and stops being demonised. It’s free, it’s much better than poorly produced vitamin D supplements and an essential part of life. So if you need to use a block for longer periods. Try the one above or at least spend time getting used to sun light without the vegetable oils.

Why is my neck so painful?

Why is my neck so painful? 10 reasons why you could be experiencing neck pain

Neck pain is one of the most common conditions experienced in my practice. Here are 10 reasons why you may be experiencing neck pain.

1. The way that you breathe can cause changes to how the neck muscles are used. If you sit at a desk or do lots of repetitive exercise, chances are you are not using the correct muscles for breathing.
2. If you have ever had a car crash, whiplash or any injury that has involved a knock to the head or rapid movement of the neck, no matter how long ago, this can cause long standing neck pain if not rehabilitated properly.
3. Caesarean sections can inhibit the muscles in the neck by scar tissue. See my old post for details http://balancedbodymind.com/cesarean-section-or-chaos-section-why-you-may-have-back-pain-after-your-baby/
4. Sit ups, especially too many, overwork the back of the neck and underwork the front of the neck muscles. Placing a tongue in the roof of the mouth can go some way to helping with this issue but optimal alignment needs to be restored.
5. Computer position and the seated posture. As many people spend many hours at a computer station this can cause key changes to the position of the neck and the rest of the spine. Having someone assess optimal positions at work can help to alleviate neck tension.
6. Negative emotions and psychological stress can reinforce the use of muscles at the side and back of the neck. Understanding what causes you to become stressed and removing yourself or developing better coping mechanisms can help to alleviate the physical stress experienced by the body. One of the reasons that we feel stress in our neck is due to two muscles (Sternocleidomastoid and upper trapezius) being fed directly by a nerve (XI cranial verve) that comes straight from the brain rather than the spinal cord. Internal stress can show up externally in these muscles.
7. Problems with internal organs such as the liver can show up in the shoulder and neck via a connection from large nerves. Are you eating well, or are you exposed to environmental toxins that could be causing the liver to become dysfunctional?
8. Other key functions such as eyesight, jaw and hearing issues can cause the neck to become over, or underworked in key areas, causing muscles to develop dysfunction.
9. A herniated disc or irritated cervical (area of the neck) nerve can often cause neck pain. Usually you may find the pain radiating into the neck, back, shoulder and arms.
10. Any muscle that is not working appropriately in the body has the capacity to cause pain in the neck. For example if the muscles that stabilise the lower back are not working correctly, muscles in the neck may compensate to help achieve balance and overwork. Causing pain.

Ultimately any of the issues above are perfectly capable of being either avoided or treated quickly with the right type of analysis, treatment and appropriate exercise. Get in touch if you would like to find out how to get rid of your neck pain.