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Friendship, Connecting and Food

Bruce Ellice-Flint BCHC Cert. Pos.Psych.

Here are four amazing YouTube videos on the subjects of friendship, connecting and food.

Eat Together (2 ½ mins)
This wonderful ad was created by a Canadian retail chain in response to a study showing that two-thirds of Canadians are eating alone.

You can watch it by clicking on this link:

The study that prompted the campaign, found that when families eat together children grow up happier and healthier (93%) and teens build stronger relationships with their parents (94%). When people eat together, they see each other as equals (78%) and connect with one another (94%).

In response to the add Canada now has an #eattogether day.

Roseto Effect (2 ½ mins)
The phenomenon known as the Roseto Effect has come up repeatedly in my counselling and Positive Psychology studies. Roseto is a town in Pennsylvania which was different (or an outlier), in terms of the health of the community compared to the rest of America. The only thing that scientists could identify as a reason for reduced heart disease was the close-knit community.

Emma (with her nutritionist cap on) wonders if the olive oil and Mediterranean menu might have had something to do with the positive health outcomes.

You can watch the video by clicking on this link:
Roseto Effect

The Blue Zones (19 ½ mins)
‘The Blue Zones – Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived Longest’ is a best selling book written and researched by Dan Beutner and his National Geographic team.

In his Ted talk, Dan Beutner concludes, “When it comes to longevity, there is no short term fix in a pill or anything else , but when you think about it, your friends are long term adventures, and therefore perhaps the most significant thing that you can do to add more years to your life and life to your years”.

The complete TED talk can be watched via this link:
Dan Beutner TED Talk

Epicurus on Happiness (24 mins)
People who love luxurious eating and drinking can sometimes be described as Epicurean. In fact, this is a complete misunderstanding. Epicurus chose to live a far from luxurious life. His meals consisted mainly of bread vegetables and a few olives. Cheese, to him, represented a feast.

Epicurus proposed that we only need three things to be happy. 1) friends 2 ) freedom 3) an analysed life. He said that luxurious food and drinks in no way protect you from harm.

In 306BC, Epicurus bought a large house outside Athens and asked a group of friends to move in with him. It was large enough for each to have their own quarters, – but everyone would come together for meals and conversations in the evenings. His ideas were distinctive in that to really benefit from friends he had to see them not just occasionally but he had to live with these friends at all times – they would be permanent companions. He said that before you eat or drink anything, one should consider who you will be eating or drinking with. Epicurus recommended that we try never even to eat a snack alone.

The Epicurean philosophy was around for over 400 years after his death.

The following video is from the popular British philosopher and author, Alain de Botton. It is episode 2 of 6 about (mainly ancient) thinkers who have influenced history. All the episodes are available on YouTube.

This episode can be accessed here:
Alain de Botton – Epicurus

These videos link the idea that by eating communally with family and friends we can enjoy a life that is healthier, happier and more fulfilled.

One common objection is “but I’m an introvert…”. Extrovert and introvert alike need relationships. Intimacy is a universal need among all humans. An introvert may need to work out how they can get their own space as well as connection.

In reflecting on our own culture, over say the last 40 years, it is interesting to note the growth in the number of restaurants and cafes. More and more, rather than eating at home, we are choosing to dine (in often crowded and noisy environments) surrounded by people who we don’t know. We share the food and the environment but usually don’t interact with the other diners.

On one hand this increase in dining out, might be in response to busy lives and increased disposable income. On the other, perhaps people are seeking the community (with its related benefits) talked about in each of the above videos? Are we feeling connection by sharing the experience of eating together? Or is this a sign of increasing levels of isolation in our communities and peoples subconscious efforts to counter this? If so, do restaurants and cafe’s fill the gap? What do you think?

Bruce Ellice-Flint is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist. He holds a Bachelor of Counselling and Human Change; with a post graduate certificate in Positive Psychology. For more information:

Gut Health – Emma Ellice-Flint shares an insight into the beneficial effects of great gut health.

The gastrointestinal system comprises one long tube with other organs attached and interconnected. This tube’s shape and size changes with different functions, but remains the means by which all the nutrients and water from what we eat and drink enter our bodies. I believe the foundation of all health, balance and wellbeing is a healthy gut, with prebiotic foods and probiotic bacteria essential for the care of this vital part of our body.

Here are 5 reasons why we should love our insides more!

1. Mood:
The food choices we make each day can affect our gut microbiome either positively or negatively. The beneficial microbiota – the community of microbes living in our gastrointestinal tract – thrive when we eat foods that encourage its health, while the incorrect foods may not only foster a hostile environment for that microbiota but also encourage unwanted bacteria to thrive instead. The gut microbiota communicates with the brain, and vice versa, via several neural pathways. Amazingly, some gut microbiota can produce its own neurotransmitters – hormones that can communicate directly with the brain in its own language! Through this connection, our moods can influence, and be influenced by, our gut’s condition – happiness, positivity, excitement and optimism are affected by a healthy microbiota, while tendencies to grumpiness, anger, anxiety and weepiness may reflect an out of balance gut microbiome.

2. Stress:

The wall of the small intestine is covered with villi – small, finger-like projections that increase its surface area and its capacity to absorb nutrients from food. Studies have shown that chronic stress can reduce the length of the villi, so at these times it’s important to boost our “good” gut microbiota. This microbiota produces small fatty acids such as butyrate, which feed the villi and encourage them to grow larger and more robust, increasing their absorption of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, and also less likely to take in unwanted substances. That’s a win for the body, as it has access to more of the beneficial stuff from our food and less of the detrimental. By boosting your gut health, these villi can remain strong and nourished to do their job even when you’re stressed.

3. Immune system:

Our gut is the number one defence system in our body. Both its friendly microbiota and the gut lining are instrumental in helping to prevent us getting sick, or to reduce the severity of an illness and such complications as secondary infections. But here’s the tricky part: for those of us following the norms of Western or European culture, our gut tends to have a lower bacterial diversity. In part, this is due to a more relaxed use of antibiotics, which kill both the good and the bad bacteria in the gut. Also at fault is a typically low-fibre diet containing very little prebiotic food, which deprives any remaining beneficial bacteria of the nutrition it needs to thrive and multiply again after periods of antibiotic treatment. To help break a potentially vicious cycle of ill health, it’s important to increase the level of prebiotic and probiotic fermented foods in our daily diet. The resulting vigour of our gut will help make our immune system more resilient.

4. Weight gain:

People who are overweight or obese tend to have a different gut microbiota profile to those in a healthier weight range, which has led scientists to theorise that improving the microbiota could benefit weight loss. Trials were conducted on mice, transferring gut bacteria from thin mice into overweight mice to see whether it made a difference. And it did – the overweight mice lost weight! Extrapolating that example to the human body, it’s possible to conclude that the health of the microbiota of an overweight person affects the gut’s ability to process food efficiently, so the body is no longer the fat-burning machine nature designed. Foods rich in prebiotic fibre promote good gut microbiota to colonise – and these same foods also happen to help us feel fuller and satisfied.

5. Energy:

Unhealthy eating patterns and an out-of-balance gut microbiome can lead to subclinical infection, causing mild inflammation without you even knowing it. Rather, sufferers of such inflammation may experience seemingly unrelated symptoms, like fatigue, hormonal imbalance, weight gain, lack of energy and being “fuzzy headed”. Research indicates that chronic fatigue sufferers often present with a differing or reduced microbiome profile when compared to those without this condition. Related studies have shown a measurable improvement in fatigue symptoms when specific probiotics are administered. Even without a diagnosed explanation for fatigue, patients in my clinic who have added prebiotic and probiotic foods to their diet report they have increased energy.

This week sees plenty of prebiotic, fibre-rich foods to support your gastrointestinal tract and its microbiota.

Home Made Bone Broth

Well made bone broth contains amino acids found in the collagen.

This is what gives the broth its thick liquid texture, so when it’s cold it has a jelly-like consistency.

Those amino acids help feed the microbiota lining the gut and lead to a healthier gut wall. One that can better absorb nutrients from food and can facilitate the production of neurotransmitters, the happy hormones.

The beneficial bacteria and prebiotic foods, along with your liver’s function, are important for the metabolism and preventing reabsorption of harmful oestrogens.

Plus if the lining of the gut and it’s host microbiota are healthy then your immunity will be boosted.

An unhealthy, unstable gut can lead to infection, causing mild inflammation without you even knowing it. This can lead to hormonal imbalance in your endocrine glands, weight gain and mood disturbances. So look after your gut

Here’s how to make a simple Chicken Bone Broth (stock)


3 organic chicken carcasses
4 large sticks of celery, washed and roughly chopped
2 large carrots, washed and roughly chopped
1 large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ bunch parsley stalks (save the parsley tops to use in other dishes)
2 large sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried) (optional)

Note: Chicken carcasses are the bones that are left after the butcher has removed the flesh, legs and wings. There should be almost no flesh left on the bones. The chicken feet are also good to use. Ask your butcher to break the bones into smaller pieces, if you wish


Place the carcass, celery, onion, carrot, vinegar and parsley stalks in a very large saucepan. Fill with cold water, close to the top, and well above the ingredients.

Place on the stove and bring to the boil without the lid on. It is very important to leave the lid off, otherwise your broth will go cloudy.

Turn down to a very low simmer so the water is just breaking with bubbles. Skim any scum that has formed on the top. Don’t worry if some of the cooking water comes off with this.

Allow to simmer for a minimum 4 hours and up to 24 hours. The longer you cook it, the more will be released from the bones.

Once the cooking is finished, drain through a colander and allow to cool in a glass/stainless steel/ceramic container that will fit in the fridge. Leave the lid off. Once cooled, put in the fridge, with the lid on, and leave to go really cold overnight. This allows any residual chicken fat to solidify on the surface, making it easy to remove.
This is your base broth. If the flavour is a little light for your tastes, reduce it by boiling to intensify the flavour. Add some chopped herbs, if you wish.

Note: if you want to increase the flavour of your finished broth then roast the bones in a hot over (about 180ºC) for 20-30 minutes, until the ‘bits’ attached to the bones are just turning golden. Then add to your pot along any juices that have accumulated. And continue as per the recipe.

Beef Broth (stock)

Buy organic beef bones from your butcher. Ask the butcher to cut the bones into smaller manageable pieces. Plus ask them what bones they think are best for making broth, I like joint part of the bones the best.

Before beginning the broth making, roast the beef bones for about 45 minutes in a hot oven (about 180ºC), draining off any fat that has accumulated at the base of the pan.
To make your broth, follow the directions for making chicken broth.