The Cooking Oils War

“You would have to be blind not to notice the number of coconut palms on Koh Samui. In fact the same has to be said for the remainder of Thailand. Samui has been dubbed “the coconut capital’ of the country because it sends more than 2,000,000 nuts to Bangkok each month.

The ubiquitous coconut has played a healthy role in the staple diet of tropical dwellers for as long as time itself. In 1939 an American dentist called Dr. Weston A. Price published a book called “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration,” His thesis was that the standard American diet high in sugars and flour caused nutritional deficiencies that were the root cause of poor dental health. In order to write his book he travelled the world examining the teeth of people in what were considered to be more primitive cultures who had not been exposed to poor American eating habits. He went to the South Pacific and found island inhabitants eating a staple diet built around coconuts. These people enjoyed overall good health and had reasonable body fat in spite of a diet high in saturated fat. A further study releasing similar findings from the same area was published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 1981.

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 so beginning the US participation in World War 11. They invaded the Pacific islands and occupied coconut growing areas like Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Prior to hostilities these countries had exported their products to the West where coconuts had played an important role in food production. Suddenly this supply ceased and the producers had to look for substitutes. This was how the polyunsaturated oil story began!

Soya beans had been introduced to the USA from China as long ago as 1770. The product was used at first as animal feed, but in 1904 the noted scientist George Washington Carver noticed the beans had high protein content making them suitable fodder for humans. In spite of Henry Ford’s effort to make a car from soya beans, production did not really take off until the war years. Soya oil became a major substitute for the tropical saturated varieties. The Soya Bean Growers of America invested a lot of money in this crop and when the war ended they were not happy to see their industry dwindle because of the re-importation of coconuts and palm oil. The Association hired a powerful public relations company whose job it was to extol the virtues of soya and denigrate the benefits of coconuts. Soya became a health product and coconut was portrayed as a danger to heart health. The largest producer of Soya beans was the United States!

In the 1950s the medical profession was spurred on by this propaganda to claim that saturated fats like coconut oil were the main cause of heart disease because they stimulated the production of cholesterol, whilst polyunsaturated oils like sunflower, soya, corn, sunflower and Canola worked to protect the body from the ravages of LDL, otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol. This was blatantly untrue, but the world came to believe the spin put forward by the Soya Producers and their allies. Saturated fats were demonized and cast aside!

Coconut Oil contains medium –chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Most other vegetable and seed oils are composed of long-chain fatty acids. These LCFAs are difficult to digest; they stress the digestive system and put additional pressure on the liver and pancreas. As they don’t break down easily excess is stored as body fat, thus perpetrating another myth that all fats make you fat! Conversely the MCFAs contained in coconut oil are considerably healthier because they are smaller and can be digested easily. They go directly to the liver where they are released as energy; there is no need for them to be stored as body fat. Experts have found that coconut oil stimulates the body’s metabolism and supports blood sugar levels. This results in weight loss and not gain!

Frying is not the healthiest way of preparing food. It is dangerous because it destroys the anti-oxidants present in the oils. This oxidizes it making it rancid. Olive oil is monounsaturated. It is a healthful oil which is great for preparing salads but has a low burning point that causes it to smoke at relatively low temperatures. This means it is unsuitable for frying. The one oil that resists heat induced damage is coconut. Use this instead; throw out all the other oils and start cooking with extra virgin coconut oil which is plentifully available on Koh Samui. The brownish heat treated versions are usually rancid, avoid them for cooking but go instead for the clear, clean smelling variety sold by many shops. Please note that frying oil should not be re-used. Once it has been heated toss it out and use a fresh batch for the next cooking foray.”

This article by Alister Bredee first appeared in the “Samui Gazette” of December 14th 2011

Ho’opono pono


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The Great Garbage Dump in the Sea

“The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” was discovered accidentally by yachtsman Charles Moore and his crew, who decided to take a shortcut back home to California, after competing in a sailing race to Hawaii. Their 1997 shortcut took them into an area of the North Pacific known as the “doldrums”. This region of high atmospheric pressure has been historically avoided by mariners because it is renowned for a lack of wind that becalmed sailing ships. It is a zone where many maritime currents converge, creating a slow vortex. This whirlpool effect sucks floating filth from the landmasses forming the Pacific Rim.

Moore discovered an enormous floating accumulation, that some have calculated to be the size of France, of non-biodegradable material, most of which is plastic. It comprises shopping bags, water bottles, polystyrene containers and much more. Just walk down any beach in Koh Samui after a patch of rough weather to view a similar assortment.

Plastic is a by product of the oil industry,where heavier cuts of crude are used to make “nodules’ that are melted down to make plastic products. It does not break down easily, but will decompose to make smaller flakes due to heat and light. These tiny chips are quickly unidentifiable. Scientists tell us that it will take up to 450 years for these particles to bio-degrade. The plastic in the Pacific has accumulated to a depth of 10 meters and has a cumulative weight in excess of 300 million tons. It sits in the ocean polluting the water and killing marine life at a truly alarming rate. Experts claim that a similar pile sits in the South Pacific off Easter Island and an alike mound wallows in the Atlantic.

Ireland was one of the first countries to register awareness of this growing catastrophe. Plastic bags were first introduced by the Supermarkets in the 1960s. Today 260 million tons of plastic products appear annually and bags make up a significant proportion of this total. As a result Ireland introduced legislation requiring the supermarkets to charge 13 Euro cents per bag. This swiftly deterred customers from acquiring the bags: the canny Irish swiftly brought their own reusable cloth carriers to the stores. This made a significant difference to the number of bags blowing in the wind! Other European countries have followed this example and this has seen a drop in the amount of plastic produced worldwide.

The production of bottled drinking water was a trend that began in the late 1980s and now sees more than 200 billion litres of bottled water sold annually. Most of this appears in plastic. This leaches into the water creating pcbs which reduce the pH of the water from a healthy 7 to much more acidic levels, sometimes lower than pH 6. This must have an affect on the health of the population! All of this, however, begs the question what can we do as concerned individuals to help reduce this horrendous problem?

Recent pictures of receding floods in Thailand show mounds of rubbish, most of it plastic, beginning to appear where water once stood. Klongs have been clogged by this material, which has blocked important drainage channels, thus worsening the extent of the floods.

The first thing to do is to stop taking the plastic bags offered by supermarkets and convenience stores. Andy Batts is an expert in recycling. He collects everything he can. He says there is “a recycling depot on the Ring Road, opposite the Bophut Fresh Market. You will find it on the left hand side of the road behind white gates.”
“There is a similar establishment in Nathon. These facilities accept what is considered to be re-cyclable waste and pay for it. Two kilos of plastic bottles sell for 9 THB. There are many Thais who earn their living by collecting these materials which they sell to the dumps.”

The biggest manufacturer of plastic product in the world is China. The Chinese are very happy to buy this waste back from other countries. This helps them reduce the consumption of raw materials and thus keeps their costs down.

We can all help this valuable cycle either by taking stuff to the dumps, or more importantly by aiding those who use this system to make a living. Place your re-cyclable materials like aluminum cans, plastic bottles and even newspapers in bags separate from organic waste. Leave these beside the rubbish bins so the collectors can find them easily. If you meet the collectors who often come round using motorcycle and sidecars, invite them to come and pick up from your home. If done properly this can help everybody and make a few small steps to protect the environment. Oh, be sure to buy bio-degradable black bags from the Supermarket!
This article first appeared in the Samui Gazette


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Keep Your Blood Sugar in Range

Testing Blood Sugar

Testing Blood Sugar

Blood sugar testing is performed to check the amount of glucose that is in the blood at a given time. This is an easy test to administer and it can be performed by doctors, other health care professionals and many pharmacies also have the facility. The reading is shown in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L). This is a useful test to have done if you find you have been gaining weight and it doesn’t seem to shift easily! The place to start is to ascertain a fasting blood sugar level. A healthy reading will lie somewhere between 80 and 99 mg/dl. If you want to convert this to mmol/ simply multiply by 18 or divide by 18 if you want to do it the other way around. Conventional medicine is likely to tell you that this range is too low. It isn’t! If the reading is above 100 mg/dl, a red flag is flying.

A reading between 100 and 125 indicates that you have a pre-diabetic condition and need to take some steps to prevent a further rise. The islets of Langarhans in the pancreas produce a hormone called insulin. Insulin is a storage chemical. Its purpose is to take glucose out of the blood and move it to the liver for storage. This supply of sugar feeds the brain and is responsible for overall energy needs. More glucose is taken to the muscles where it is stored for physical needs. Overall the body does not require much; approx 100 Gms is about enough as far as the liver is concerned. The glucose that is not stored converts to fat and weight increases. Metabolic Syndrome is sometimes referred to a syndrome X, it indicates that insulin is beginning to loosen its grip and is inhibited in reaching the cells. This is when blood sugar levels begin to rise and with them blood pressure readings. Now is the time to take some drastic steps to reverse the situation. Nobody wants to take supplemental insulin if at all possible!

If a test gives an elevated reading, repeat it TEST TWICE MORE TO BE QUITE SURE. Fasting means going without food and drink, except water and repeating the procedure first thing in the morning. If you are a smoker, refrain before because that might increase the result. If the reading is still above 100, go for another test an hour after eating. If this reading is even higher it seems safe to assume a problem exists. What do you do about it?

The first step is to regulate the diet. Glucose is something you eat so cut out the obvious culprits like sugar and sweets. Lettuce is a carbohydrate and will not be a problem. It is the starchy carbohydrates that pose the major difficulty. Starchy carbs include bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, biscuits, cakes and so on. You need to substantially reduce these in the diet. Thinking behind nutrition has changed radically and the old carb food pyramid is now obsolete. Instead include a restricted amount of complex carbohydrates in your eating regimen. This variety has not been refined so the husk and associated particulates make the digestion process slower. These foods include brown rice, jacket potatoes, wholemeal bread as well as pasta. Ideally though lots of vegetables and salads along with lean protein should be the preferred option.

Reduce the intake of coffee, instead plump for herbal or green tea, all preferably without sugar. Alcohol is sugar. Anything ending in “ol” is a sugar and should be severely curtailed if not avoided all together. Many high blood sugar issues are the result of excessive alcohol consumption.

Coupled with this dietary change it is important that your start to exercise. Long brisk walks that get you out of breath, but swimming, cycling, yoga, muay Thai, work outs in the gym or even hula hooping can have the desired effect, too. Such exercise will help burn off glucagon stored in the muscles and help displace blood sugar.

Higher blood sugar levels indicate the body is in a heightened state of physical readiness (flight or fight) because at an emotional level there is a stress related situation. You are squaring up to some situation that you want to resist. It would be a really good idea to examine what the situation is and do something to bring down the resistance levels. Health Ambit Consultancy can advise you how to do that. You can make contact via the website.

Low blood sugar is another problem but that is as they say another day’s work.”

This article by Alister Bredee first appeared in “The Samui Gazette” of 11/11/11

High Blood Pressure the Silent Killer.

Measuring Blood Pressure

Measuring Blood Pressure

“Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Veins, on the other hand, carry the de-oxygenated blood from the rest of the body to the heart. The arteries themselves when healthy are smooth and flexible; this insures blood flow is unobstructed. This flow puts pressure on the elastic arterial wall. The measurement of this force is what is known as blood pressure.
The pressure is not recoded as a single number, but as two, double figure digits. The higher number is known as the systolic pressure. This records the pressure in inches of Mercury when the heart beats and sends blood forcibly to the arterial wall. The lower number is known as the diastolic pressure. This is the pressure exerted in the space between the heartbeats. This is the resting phase and thus registers the relaxing pressure. A normal blood pressure would be 120/80. Higher readings such as 135/86 indicate a warning that something might not be quite right and deserves further attention. A one off reading is seldom to be trusted as blood pressure can fluctuate. For a more accurate picture, readings need to be taken over a few days to show a more precise trend. If the blood pressure is drifting off to the high side, then remedial steps need to be taken.
High blood pressure can damage the arterial and venous system and this puts the individual at increased risk of stroke, kidney failure, and heart disease and can sometimes predict a heart attack. The alarming fact is that high blood pressure is rarely discernible, and that’s why it is referred to as “the silent killer.” As a safety precaution it is necessary to have the numbers verified on a regular basis You can do this by going for check-ups with your Doctor or health care professional and to make matters even easier many pharmacies now offer blood pressure testing as an over the counter service. If you find that your blood pressure is on the high side, say 150/90 then you need to make some positive changes and you need to make them quickly!
If you are a smoker, stop a.s.a.p. Chemicals in tobacco, and there are over 600 of them can raise blood pressure. When you inhale cigarette smoke you adrenal glands get a huge kick. This shifts you into “flight or fight mode”. In sympathetic dominance your blood pressure automatically rises. Another factor is being overweight, as this has a tendency to increase blood pressure. If you are carrying a few extra kilos introduce a healthy eating program and start an exercise regime. Begin easily, and if you are very heavy seek advice so you don’t overdo things! In any case a regular brisk walk is probably good for everybody.
Another sign is “ormentum fat”, namely a spreading waistline which often becomes an unsightly beer belly. If weight piles on easily and becomes difficult to shift there is an indication you might well have a blood sugar issue. This condition is known as metabolic syndrome and warns you that insulin is beginning to lose the ability to enter cells and scoop up glucose. Alcohol is a sugar and can often lie at the root of this condition. If you find yourself experiencing some of these symptoms coupled with irritability and mood swings, go and have you blood sugar levels checked. A fall off in the production of insulin will see blood sugar levels rising and with them an increase in blood pressure. Don’t despair all of this can be addressed by altering the diet and introducing a regular exercise e regime. Oh, and it might be a good idea to reduce alcohol consumption!
Another blood pressure increaser is stress. Again the story goes back to the “flight and fight syndrome”, If we are either angry or afraid there is an adrenal response that puts our bodies in a perceived better state to deal with the increased stress, just like smoking this will result in increased blood pressure. If you find yourself getting increasingly wound up by the vagaries of life, then that is a good indication you are negatively stressed. It also warns you that the time has come to do something about the problem. There are many people qualified to help you discover techniques to bring the stress levels down. Yoga, meditation, bio-feedback, are some answers, but so are a host of therapies designed to root out the cause and bring you back on an even keel. Health Ambit Consultancy is very happy to offer advice to achieve this end, use the website to get in touch.” This article appeared in the Samui Gazette of 28th October 2011
Alister Bredee
Koh Samui, October 2011

Exciting Tibetan Buddhist Retreat Comes to Koh Samui.

Yes, a powerful awakening event is scheduled to come to Koh Samui, starting at Yoga Thailand on the 15th of October. Here is an opportunity to join Miles Neale and Emily Wolf who are both psychotherapists from the Nalanda Institute of Contemplative Sciences in New York, where Miles is the assistant director. The Nalanda Institute was opened in 2005 by Swiss born psychiatrist Dr. Joe Loizzio, who is presently the adjunct assistant professor of Religion at the Columbia Centre for Buddhist studies. The idea behind Nalanda was to bring what had been academic programs and make them more readily available to the general public. Now we are privileged to see one of these events on homeground in Koh Samui.
The emphasis on this retreat is to explore what is referred to as “the gradual path” in Tibetan Buddhism. This awesome journey is a comprehensive approach to self-healing designed to lead people away from a place of distress where so many lodge today to a platform of self-awakening which is a much more comfortable place to be.
The workshop is presented in three distinctive phases and participants can if they so wish enroll to take the whole journey or can if they choose select a single segment. Depending on how far you have travelled towards awakening the first segment would seem the most appropriate starting place.
This first phase is devoted to self-healing. It is designed to offer insights to help bring calm into the life of the individual. To reach this place of stillness we must disengage from limited self-views, afflictive emotions and compulsive habits. These behaviours lead to dissatisfaction. The key skill taught here is the famous “Mindfulness” meditation which is rapidly beginning to occupy a pivotal role in Western Psychotherapy and is much used in hospitals and other treatment Centers, particularly in North America.
The second module is devoted to what is described as social healing. This skill is designed to remain composed amongst the ravages of environmental stress and interpersonal conflict. We simply need to glance around us to see how damaging these stresses are. The key is to avoid the familiar triggers that set off reactions to outside events. In actuality the primary knack here is love and compassion in practice. This is an exciting aspiration for every one of us and as we awaken and become more compassionate we begin to change the world for the better. As we look at the chaos threatening the planet at the moment, this must indeed be an invaluable ability.
The third and final module is described as “Creative Healing”. This is not the starting place but the finale to the process brought here to Koh Samui by Miles and Emily. Here the strands from the two preceding phases are drawn together by showing how it is possible to create a positive and functional relationship with an idealized teacher, or guru. We turn towards people who genuinely have life value skills to teach us. We learn by role modeling, visualization and by the use of natural imagery. There is a lot of material in these modules in which yoga asanas, pranayama, chanting, mediation and several other techniques are used to get the message across to all those who are lucky enough to join this remarkable awakening experience.
Everything that Miles and Emily teach in this workshop is based on the 1,000 year old “Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition.” Sometimes in its original form such material can be dry and uninteresting which can be off-putting to all but the most devoted of yogis. However, the teachers from the Nalanda Institute have updated their material, as both are psychotherapists .they have focused their teachings through the lens of modern psychotherapy which is presented in upbeat everyday contemporary psychotherapeutic language, mind-body medicine and cognitive neuroscience.
Clearly a workshop such as this is not for everybody but it affords a tremendous opportunity for those who are ready to attend a mind expanding experience right here without having to travel thousands of expensive miles to far and distant locations. If you would like to know more you need to contact Yoga Thailand as quickly as possible, remembering that the first module commences on Saturday October 15th. There are more details of the “Retreat” including prices on their website which is
As an added bonus Samahita Wellness Center, attached to Yoga Thailand invites participants to stay on for a few extra days to embark on Detox and wellness programs supervised by the wellness director and retreat participants can avail themselves of a 10% discount.
This article appeared in the Samuii Gazette of 15th October 2011
Alister Bredee


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Traditional Thai Treatments on Koh Samui:

“Santi Lunli is a far cry from your usual massage therapist on Koh Samui. He is a male practitioner of traditional Thai medicine with thousands of satisfied clients from all over the world. His clients like him so much that they take him back to their countries of origin to work on an occasional basis. He has just returned from a three month stint in Greece and somebody is presently trying to entice him to Norway.

He was born and raised in Bang Na, situated on the south eastern outskirts of Bangkok, quite close to what is now Suvarnabhumi International Airport. When he was 17 a horrific accident befell him when he was electrocuted by a high power cable. Five days later he collapsed and found himself unable to walk. His distraught parents rushed him off to the Dr. who said there was nothing he could do, suggesting the boy remain an invalid for life. But his wise grandmother was steeped in the ways of traditional Thai medicine. She took him to see an old lady called Kanchon. She massaged his body, used hot rocks to smooth damaged muscle and tendon and made up powerful medicines made from local herbs. Many Thais had turned their backs on this old form of healing in favor of western allopathic medicine, but Santi’s case was to prove them mistaken. In a long series of treatments spanning more than a year the old healer was able to get the young man to walk again! What was more; she taught him her massage skills and schooled him in herbal lore. It was something for him to do during treatment but once he was well, his interest swiftly waned. Santi was young and business interested him. He wanted to make money and acquire the good things in life like houses, cars and electronic goodies. He found business easy and quickly established a successful tailoring outlet which made it easy to amass material wealth. His business thrived for ten years, but he was beginning to get bored. It was all too easy. He decided the time had come to use the knowledge he had gained in his own healing. He went to work in the Khao San area in a series of massage establishments. He extended his skills with the experience and further study at Wat Poh, the temple of the reclining Buddha situated besides the Grand Palace in Ratnakosin. This is the foremost centre offering education in massage and Thai traditional medicine.

Fourteen years ago he decided to re-locate to a much quieter Koh Samui. At that time there were four teachers offering training in Thai healing arts and he came to learn from them.

His specialty is pressure or trigger point massage. This focuses on releasing hyperirritable muscle knots that can refer pain all over the body. He used to have a shop on the ring road on the outskirts of Maenam. Over time he felt this location to be unsuitable and has subsequently moved to the Temple Khao Hua Jook Road which loops down from the ring road south of Tesco Lotus to link with access to Chaweng Lake and beyond. The place is reasonably easy to find, just look out for the big sign. You do, however, need to make an appointment as he is too busy to see people wandering in off the street. His rooms are clean and air conditioned comfortable.

If you have specific problems he will diagnose the problem and if you are not too sure he will soon set you right on what is going on. It is unlikely he will be able to heal you in a single session but will give some indication of the number of sessions required to achieve success. His techniques help overcome pain, weight problems, toxicity and a myriad of other issues. Over the years the island has gained a reputation as a centre for fasting and body detoxing. Many spas and resorts have sprung up to answer this need. Santi offers an altogether superior treatment at a considerably lower cost. Many detoxers have found him and flock back to see him regularly. Concerning Detox, his knowledge of herbs makes him a specialist. He makes up the medicines for visitors whilst residents are required to boil up the packs in their own kitchens and drink the mixture two or three times per day. Such treatment does not blend well with fasting!

If you are experiencing long standing health issues, you can ring him on +66 89-4711 to make an appointment. He will be able to check out what is going on and advise you on an appropriate form of treatment.”

By Alister Bredee who is a partner in Health Ambit Consultancy in Koh Samui, Thailand. He is an author and writer who is the originator of Ambit Healing, that has contributed to change in many people’s lives.

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