Lego-lego fun for Saturday!

I love Lego! (though I have to admit there are too many specialist-kits now – much better when things did not look quite so accurately like the the real thing – but the pieces could be used in so many other ways. Ships used to be built with blocks, so the hulls were ‘staggered’ and would only look smooth enough to move through water with squinted-up eyes. I blame the roof-tiles – they were the first bits to look ‘proper’!)

Anyway – I still love the creativity possible with lego (or legos as the Americans seem to call them !?) … and as a cultural part of life lego has acquired it own jokes – two of which drifted across my consciousness the past week.

This! made me laugh out loud!

lego pshychiaristThen there was this …

We have a living-room carpet that is multi-couloured and highly patterned – great for hiding lego on – no matter how well they were picked up at the end of the day! So This – for PARENTS everywhere 🙂

lego bare feet

And finally – an article I saw back in January in The Telegraph online – so cool 🙂 FUN video too 🙂

“British-based company is offering customers the chance to get themselves recreated in miniature form – as Lego superhero figures. Funky 3D Faces, a subsidiary of Lincoln-based 3D printing firm ELAT3D, uses facial recognition software to convert photos into miniature 3D models of people’s heads. For £30, the company uses two photos of your face (one taken from the front, one from the side), and uses them to create a small 3D print-out of your face, which it will then send to you fitted to a Lego figure of your choice. It can take up to two weeks to make your head.The firm is based at Sparkhouse, a business innovation centre with links to the University of Lincoln.”

LEGO – love it or hate it?

Any funny lego experiences out there?

Do share – we all need a smile 🙂


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Gut reaction – inflammation

The book I am going to be interpreting is Brain Maker by Dr David Permutter. This is not a substitute for reading his book – but, I hope an insight that will lead to reading more around this subject.

For too long the western diet has been moving towards an industrialised food content. The average diet (and most studies are done in the USA) contains mostly foods grown under industrial farming methods – not just non-organic – but also reliant on the heavy use of pesticides and herbicides, including the large-scale 365 housing of livestock, requiring more use of antibiotics and ‘growth hormones *in USA’, and industrially grown crops to feed them.  A high percentage of the resulting crops and meat are then made into processed foods of various types. This can be of the ready-made product / meal – or the ready to use ingredient variety. In the processing the industrial makers of food products have also used ‘unusual’ methods (like hydrogenation) to change the chemical structure of food-stuffs to make them ‘work’ in industrial setting. They have also sought to make ‘created foods’ popular by exploiting our in-built love of sweet and of salty things.

The problem with this is that, over the last fifty or so years, food has changed so much that our gut bacteria have changed too. This does not seem a disaster at first – after all, how important can the variety of gut bacteria be? I am sure you have all heard of the ‘good gut bacteria’ that we are encouraged to consume (from tiny bottles laced with sugar) to keep a ‘happy tum’. It is true – we need the ‘good bacteria’ (but preferably not from an industrialised sweetened source) and I will attempt to explain why in simple terms.

A lot of this research Dr Perlmutter is basing his book on has dates between 2010 and 2015 – so much is quite new.

It has been found that it is not just a matter of having the good bacteria in your digestive system – it is about having the right balance of the right bacteria in there to support a healthy gut – even some of the ‘bad’ bacteria are needed in small quantities.

What the bacteria do: The number one thing that the correct bacteria do, when looking at health, is to ensure that our body has a strong defence against the things that should never get into our blood stream. After all, once in our blood stream then, whatever it is, it can travel anywhere in our body.

To understand this you need to know the structure of the thinnest interface between our gut and our blood-stream.  Our ileum (small intestine) is lined with villi – small finger-like projections – making the surface area for the transfer of nutrients into the blood-stream as large as possible, and it is only one cell thick!  The diagram below shows a villus in relation to the blood and lymphatic system.


Now I have seen people argue with this – but they were confusing the ileum (small intestine) with the colon. The villi of the small intestine is the interface. Nutrients from our food get from the ileum into our blood-stream either by diffusing into the absorbtive cell and then out again into the blood stream, or they squeeze through between the cells of the villi.  Normally the junction between these cells is VERY TIGHT. It will only allow some very small molecules to slide between them, molecules our body is made to accept in this way, molecules we need to get into our blood stream and that do no harm while in there. Large molecules like proteins should never get through.

When your gut bacteria are ‘healthy’ (of the right mix and in balance) then this lining of the ileum is protected to a certain degree –  when it is not, then the gut is open to attack on this vital Tight Junction.

So what would attack the tight junctions? With the bacteria defences down our cells are more open to the ‘crowbar effect’. Gluten can do this, and is the most commonly eaten protein that has this effect – components of gluten act as a chemical crowbar forcing open the gap between these cells – allowing large molecules, that have no business being in our blood stream, to slip through – this condition is known as leaky gut.

What would get through and why does it matter? Pathogenic viruses and bacteria that are designed to harm us could now get into our blood-stream – this is an obvious danger – however, now some other large molecules, including proteins, are able to get through – and they can harm us too.

Pathonegenic viruses and bacteria aside – what is the problem here?

The problem is that when larger protein molecules get into the blood stream they begin to cause INFLAMMATION where ever they go as our body’s immune system reacts to their ‘foreign’ presence.

Inflammation is Dr Perlmutter’s BIG concern. In my last but one blog on this subject I said he was a neurologist that ‘jumped ship’. He, as all neurologists, had been taught that the blood/brain barrier prevented any harm coming to the brain by substances carried in the blood. Moreover – that the constituents of the gut had nothing to do with how the brain functioned (after all, the gut – essentially a tube from mouth to anus – was seen as almost ‘outside’ the body anyway)

He / we-the-world, now know different – and he is sure that many of our seemingly brain-centric disorders are, in fact, caused by inflammation of parts of the brain, and that our westernised gut population is causing this to be able to occur.  As he points out, our gut biome is the equivalent to a second brain – containing as many different type of nerve cells as the brain, creating hormones and chemicals that affect not only how our bodies function but also our brain; through our moods, functionality and concentration.

His first take-away message has to be – repopulate your gut with the right bacteria and keep them happy and flourishing by eating the right food for them.

The second take-away message is – avoid gluten. He is not doing this on a ‘fad’ idea – but on the science that shows it is one of the main ways that this ‘tight junction’ is opened up – which  then allows some of the other things that our western diet has brought on to cause more damage.

Does this make sense to you?

Do you have a gut feeling that this is correct?

Do share – you know I love to talk about it…



Find me on Facebook and Twitter @Ann Foweraker


Saturday smile – dogs!

My grandsons love telling ‘knock-knock’ jokes … except they do not quite understand how they work … so the punch-line doesn’t happen as it should. This is a laugh in itself – so when I saw this I thought of them too 🙂

dog cartoonAnd then Snoopy had me chuckling along too …

and This REAL dog too …


and my own dog ALWAYS makes me smile …


Anything made YOU smile this week?

Do share – we can all do with a smile to lighten our day  🙂


Of Molehills and Microbes

I’m taking a detour away from telling you about the parts of Dr Perlmutter’s book that I want to share with you, to explain a little more why this book and the premise of this book chimed so much with me.

As I said – I am not so much a scientist – as a bit of a science junkie. I love to read scientific articles and learning is my drug of choice. LearningIMG_0384, however, doesn’t only come from books – it can come from observation.

The basic premise of this book is to say that our gut biome – those billions of bacteria that inhabit our gut (to say nothing of those that are so intimately a part of us, of our very cells, that if they malfunction we are unable to generate energy – the mitochondria) are essential to our well-being. That they have to be the right bacteria in the right proportion to each other to produce the health, both mental and physical, that we should have.

All animals require the correct gut bacteria. When we kept goats, shortly after the new kids were born we would find a nice fresh molehill, preferably in a ‘clean’ paddock where the animals didn’t usually graze, and take a nice trowel-ful. This would be placed in a plant-pot saucer and put in the corner of the goat-house or pen. Why? Because this ensured that the kid got the right bacteria – because they knew what to do with this molehill earth – they ate it.

The recently published longitudinal study known as The Life Project, which began studying a cohort of people in the UK in 1946 – with new cohorts added every ten years (until recently) – has flagged up the difference in the microbiome (biota) of people born by c-section* as opposed to those born vaginally. Where the former have a much restricted complement of bacteria in their microbiome – compared to the latter.  (*our rates of c-section run at 26%)

This method of birth, and the expanding use of antibiotics around birth which cause similar skewed bacteria in the gut, have been shown to produce a higher susceptibility to asthma, allergies and other related conditions in their later lives.

The only one of my four boys to have any allergy like symptoms is the one who was on antibiotics for five years to prevent kidney damage. He, literally, grew out of needing them but can be affected by asthma-like reactions to mould and dust and has sporadic eczema. At this late date he is trying to balance his gut bacteria since I read this book. . . we’ll see (he’s being my guineapig)

That antibiotics are good – that they have brought health where there was death – is undisputed. However, how many of you find that there is the time after you have been treated (and cured) by a course of antibiotics where your body seems sluggish – the normal daily routine is often out of step – and only returns after a while. In my experience plenty of live yoghurt always helped to reinstate normal patterns quicker than if not ingested.

Add to these the fact that being brought up on a farm or in the countryside with animals gives a significantly lower risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases (such as asthma, type 1 diabetes (T1D), multiple sclerosis (MS), and also inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and we have the basis of believing that the contents of our gut really do affect our lives, both mental and physical.

So, just a few reasons that this theory chimes with that which I already had as a basis of my own understanding – and the fact that so many of these physical conditions are demonstrated by inflammation is leading towards a possibility that this could also be what happens inside the brain.

“You must eat a peck* of dirt before you die”  runs the old adage – maybe we ought to emulate the goats and get our ‘old friend’ bacteria from the start – anyone for nice fresh molehill?

Have you any observations that back -up (or refute) the premise that our gut bacteria can affect our whole health?

* In case you were wondering – as was I –  a peck is a dry measure of two gallons)


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One for the ladies only – Saturday Smile

I’d love to acknowledge where this originally came from – so if you know – let me … a friend sent it to me after my blog about men not being (actually and physically) able to find things – hope it makes you smile as it did me 🙂

wicoe day onewicoe day two

 I know we love our menfolk really – but do any of these ring a bell for you??

Do share – you know I love to hear from you 🙂

Find me on Facebook & Twitter @AnnFoweraker


I’ve got the bug …

I always have had … the ‘need to know’ bug.

But this time – following my ‘need to know’ I came up with more than I expected. brain

Lets start with dementia. As you may know from other blogs, my lovely, extremely intelligent mother is suffering from Dementia.

Now this is like saying a forest is made of trees; there are different types of dementia – and the most well known (to the general public – as the ‘face’ of dementia) is Alzheimers. Too often the term Dementia is substituted for the term Alzheimers … causing confusion. For example the headline ‘Breakthrough in treatment of Dementia’ turned out to be a drug which, if caught very early, slows down Alzheimers. It wouldn’t do anything for vascular dementia which is caused by a narrowing and blocking of the small blood vessels in the brain – causing the brain cells they served to die from lack of oxygen – like lots of mini-strokes.

Well, this isn’t a blog about dementia – but it is an explanation of why and how I got interested in reading about how we can support our brain – to help keep it as healthy as possible because, and I do not need to tell anyone who has had a family member suffer from any form of dementia, losing your brain function looks like a living hell – and if I can do anything to stop myself from following that path I want to know about it.

Now, when I support anything like this I need to temper it with ‘that which makes sense to me’ – that is, the me that has always been a bit of scientist, the me that likes to question, the me that has, at base, my own sense of ‘common-sense’ – call it a GUT FEELING about things – if you like.

bacteriaSo when I read an article which cited a book by a neurologist who had ‘jumped  ship’ and was saying that what happens in your gut was very important for your brain health – I was interested. I read a bit more – learnt a bit more  – then bought his book ‘Brain Maker – the power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life’

I read the book slowly, checking out the references to the scientific papers cited throughout. It made sense. It chimed with many of my own observations over the years. It linked into other ‘new’ science I have been reading about lately – epigenetics. Moreover, though Dr Perlmutter is an American, much of what he recommended as treatment, I had heard of already in the UK* which, oddly enough, was where he’d had to send some of his patients for a treatment (more of this in a later blog) AND he wasn’t trying to sell me anything (apart from the book lol) – in fact his book finished up with old-fashioned recipes for foods to make at home that would help your gut to help your brain! (*some even on TV’s Trust me I’m a Doctor)

So why am I blogging about this? I could merely say – go out and buy this book – I think it is good. Yes, I could – yes, you could. However it is packaged in a strange blend of ‘common-touch’ language and ‘detailed scientific’ language. He wants to tell us everything in each section, so if I was concerned about one aspect or another it was easy to get bogged down in the other aspects touched upon.

I’ve been going through the book and doing something I NEVER do – marking a BOOK! (horror) with different coloured highlighters for the different disorders that he deals with that are affected by the operation of the gut biome. So I’m going to try to blog half-a-dozen or so times about this – each focussing on a different aspect. Then, if you are interested – go and get his book to fully understand and get his recipes – if you want. However, remember – I am not a scientist (as such) or a doctor – in this case, I hope, just to be a faithful interpreter.

These are the sections I intend to separate my blogs out into, though not necessarily in that order.

What the ‘good’ gut bacteria do for us and Inflammation
Auto-Immune conditions
Diabetes / Obesity
Depression / Anxiety disorders / ADHD

 Do any of these interest you more than others?

Any experiences you would like to share – I’d love to hear


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Tune up your body ;)

… so this doctor said, to the woman on the Radio 4 programme, ‘I recommend that as you get older you change the radio station you listen to – choose a music station with music you like to dance to … that way you can exercise whenever you are working around the house – just dance!’

me … in my youth 🙂


I grew up with Radio 4 on in the background (Home Service in my youth – if I am truthful) and though as a teenager I listened to Radio Luxembourg / Pirate radio and eventually Radio One (when they gave up fighting it and made pop-music mainstream) on my radio in my room while doing homework or reading in bed – Radio 4 was the sound-track to my home life.

After my parents moved in with us down here in Cornwall, Radio 4 was once again the default on the radio – and always on. When, because of her developing dementia, Mum couldn’t follow what they were saying and she began to get annoyed with Radio 4, I found that music stations were better for her … and for me. Radio 2 now became the default and, though I missed the thinking pieces, the reports and studies, and some of the humour from Radio 4 – I found I really liked the music played on Radio 2 as so much was ‘my era’.

Music of your own era is hard-wired into your brain. It is a fact that memories associated with music are extremely evocative and form some of the strongest memories. There have been various pieces of research that indicate that the emotional response that music can create may have something to do with this. Dementia patients, who respond to very little else, will suddenly join in with songs and music from their youth – singing along with Old Music Hall songs (as my Mum would) or be-bop-a-lula – if that bit younger.

As for me – hard-wired is the operative term – and it is both brain and body. There are some pieces of music that I just cannot sit still and listen to – I have to get up and dance around (or at the very least tap my foot enthusiastically) 

So – I listened to the doctor – and dance as I go about my everyday life. And it works – okay – so it may look strange to see me pirouette and shimmy across the kitchen, utilising all my favourite belly dance moves – or mosh to heavy-metal in the dining room – but it keeps this old gal limber (love that word!) and if another lovely memory 😉 happens along with the song – it puts an extra smile on my face.

Now for your Saturday Smile – enjoy this video – and go on, GO ON! Why not?  Have a dance around 🙂

What is your favourite music to dance to?

Do your have music-linked memories that return every-time you hear a tune?

do share – I’d love to hear from you



Find me on Facebook and Twitter @Ann Foweraker




Back to school – with a difference

WP_20160201_12_56_44_ProHere we are – back at school … in this photo, taken on Monday, in the library of community school in Cornwall.

WHY were we there? Not just to sell our books (even though that’s what this picture looks like) no, we were recruited to help the sixth form A level English group tackle the new creative writing element of the English A-level.

Sally Newton, also published by Pendown Publishing, writes Historical Novels. With a PhD in Archaeology she is dead-keen to make sure all the history is correct – though her life-long love of writing fuels the adventures she puts her (real life historical) characters through.

I write contemporary novels, so, as such, I do not have that sort of research to do – though I do plenty of a different type of research – depending upon what my totally fictional characters are interested in, work at or end up being faced with.

While talking to the students, it was interesting to note that one of my contemporarily written novels, ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’, was created in the early 1990s and as such, for the sixth-formers in front of us, was now ‘history’ as it all happened before they were born. In a different era – almost – when the common person did not even own a mobile phone (let alone a child!) and if they did it was a BRICK! Yes, there were computers, and this story dealt with computers, but not as they would know them, and the ‘floppy-discs’ that information was stored on (again – unheard of now) … and, of course, there was NO internet.

Life before the internet really does seem to be a different time. My children were born into the computer-era. We had a computer (BBC B) from when they were really quite small (with 32 KB of RAM! haha! The computer – not the children) By the age of seven our eldest was creating computer programmes to make simple games in ‘BBC Basic’ (the computer language) Then came Granny and her Archimedes (Acorn) computer, running the RISC operating system, much more powerful and the most advanced system at the time! This also found its way into my novel. But even that computer only had 4MB of RAM. It is hard to remember … how slow … how basic.

However, without access to that computer I may never have got into writing properly – for while my writing remained by hand in scruffy old exercise books it was never going anywhere. So when I wrote my first, full-length (never to be published/apprentice-piece) novel in just that way (while keeping half an eye on a toddler potty-training) it was only after I was encouraged to type it up on the computer – and saw the total words displayed (using the amazing ‘words’ function) at 84,000 … and realised that I could do it – I really could write a WHOLE book – that I let myself spend time actually doing that – gave my imagination permission to write – my aspiration permission to think ‘Author’.author

We finished up the day at the school by helping individual students as they tackled the task of writing the first page of a novel; three-hundred and fifty words to convey so much … just what we aim for ourselves.  They were a bright and interesting group of students to interact with and displayed a breadth of ideas that was pleasing to see!

 Have you ‘gone back to school’ for any reason recently?

What were your experiences?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you. 


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