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Miranda's Bowl of Porridge

by June Butlin(more info)

listed in weight loss, originally published in issue 62 - March 2001

Miranda is a 50-year-old therapist who is less than optimally healthy, and has a 15-year-old weight problem. She came to see me because she was obsessed with eating, fed up with dieting, and wanted to learn to eat the correct foods so that she could permanently lose her weight. She also wanted to feel healthy and have a higher energy level.

Her case history revealed frequent headaches, irritable bowel syndrome manifesting in abdominal cramps, and regular bouts of alternating diarrhoea and constipation with persistent pain on the right side of her abdomen. She had dark circles under the eyes, and was sensitive to perfume and cigarette smoke. She was frequently tired and there were indications of low blood glucose levels.

Miranda was 5ft 3ins tall and weighed 12st. 7lbs and had hopes of achieving 10st. 4lbs, which was a realistic goal. A bioelectrical impedance analysis calculated her body fat to be 45%, which was particularly high. Permanent weight loss is slow, and to lower the body fat percentage, increase the lean tissue and effectively reduce the body's fat set point (memory for fat), I explained that it could possibly take eight months to fulfil her dream.

There were many 'positives' in her diet. She drank lots of water, ate fresh organic foods and avoided preservatives and additives. She loved vegetarian protein, fish and white meat, and only ate red meat on social occasions. She exercised three times a week for an hour, consisting of 40 minutes fast walking and 20 minutes resistance training. The 'negatives' were that at her frequent social occasions she ate and drank as much as she wanted. She also binged regularly on sugar, bread, ice cream and chocolate.

After a thorough examination using kinesiology and the whole system health scan there were indications that she was not adequately absorbing her food. Her liver was congested, which accounted for the dark circles under her eyes and her sensitivity to perfume and smoke. She had delayed allergic/sensitive reactions to soya, oranges, refined sugar and wheat, which were the foods that she craved and consumed regularly. These results indicated that her many symptoms were connected and could be explained through the physiological changes that take place in allergic/sensitive reactions.

During these reactions, protective, secretory, IGA antibodies are released from the gall bladder into the small intestine. These antibodies coat the offending food particles and stimulate mucus production to protect the lining of the small intestine. However, this often results in malabsorption as the mucus can prevent nutrients accessing the bloodstream. If these allergic/sensitive foods are continually eaten, the body's ability to produce these protective IGA antibodies breaks down and the suspect food particles bind with mast cells to produce chemical mediators causing allergic reactions. These chemicals are also responsible for a reduced secretion of hydrochloric acid, setting up metabolic acidosis. This results in poor protein digestion, reducing the pancreas' ability to produce bicarbonates, digestive enzymes and hormones to regulate blood glucose levels, as well as weakening the permeability of the intestinal wall. Undigested food particles can then be absorbed through the intestinal wall, setting up further immune complexes in the systemic system, which deposit in tissues, causing inflammation, pain, swelling and cell destruction. And, as long as the allergic/sensitive foods remain in the body, the damage is progressive.

This physiological scenario accounted for Miranda's headaches, tiredness, irritable bowel syndrome, liver congestion, malabsorption and low blood glucose levels.

Miranda avoided the suspect foods, increased her intake of vegetables, stuck rigidly to three meals plus two snacks each day and avoided alcohol and bingeing. She took a quality multivitamin and mineral, an antioxidant and aloe vera juice to aid the immune and digestive systems. Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids were added to aid the repair of the cell membrane walls. At the beginning of the third week she started to lose a little weight, and after four weeks her symptoms cleared apart from the pain in her right side.

A gentle, palpating investigation of the painful area revealed bulging tissue over the ileocaecal valve, congestion, toxicity and fluid gurgling in the colon. These were all signs that the valve itself, which controls the passage of waste matter between the small and large intestine, was malfunctioning. To counteract this Miranda massaged her abdomen with chamomile and lavender essential oils each evening and twice daily used a manual technique to encourage the valve to open.

We discussed her reasons for being out of control with foods and discovered that she ate when she was emotionally upset and when she felt deprived of her favourite foods and drinks. We then chose alternative stress techniques and delved into interesting, healthy, recipes and non-alcoholic drinks such as citrus spritzer containing lemon, lime and kiwi with sparkling spring water.

Six weeks later she felt much more in control of her eating and had established a routine of porridge made with oat flakes, rice milk and grated apple for breakfast, protein and vegetables for lunch, and carbohydrate and vegetables at the evening meal with two pieces of fruit in between meals. She lost 7lbs to bring her weight down to 12 stones. She then reached a plateau where she was unable to lose any more weight in spite of sticking to her diet.

I couldn't understand why Miranda wasn't losing weight until I investigated her eating habits further. I went through everything that she ate, starting with the bowl of porridge for breakfast. I showed her various bowls, ranging from a small cereal bowl to a pudding basin and asked her which size bowl she used. The mystery revealed itself when Miranda said that she ate the pudding basin full of porridge, which in energy terms should have kept her fuelled for the day!!!

We explored portion control and after seven months Miranda is six pounds away from her target weight, 28% body fat, healthy and energetic, and most of the time is comfortably in control of her eating.


Braly James. Dr Braly's Food Allergy and Nutrition Revolution. Keats Publishing. ISBN 0-87983-590-7. 1992.


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About June Butlin

June M Butlin PhD is a trained teacher, nutritionist, kinesiologist, aromatherapist, fitness trainer and sports therapist. She is a writer, health researcher and lecturer and is committed to helping people achieve their optimum level of health and runs a private practice in Wiltshire. June can be contacted on 01225 869 284;

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