Friday, 9 February 2018

Top 5 immune-boosting foods from your kitchen - Maxine Sheils from Igennus

This week's blog post is one from Maxine Sheils, a Nutritional Therapy graduate of the College of Naturopathic Medicine who has recently joined Igennus. Here are Maxine's top 5 immune-boosting foods from your kitchen...

We were fortunate enough to have a beautifully long summer but that’s a far cry from the current cold weather, so we thought this would be the perfect time to share our favourite immune-boosting foods before those office sniffles start. It happens every time the weather changes, one person in the office has a cough and before you know it, you’re feeling run down for the next week or so. Fortunately for the Igennus office (and it may be somewhat of an occupational ‘hazard’), we rarely see a sick day, so we’re definitely doing something right. Here are the 5 foods that you can find in our cupboards that may have something to do with it…


You may have already noticed, but we love turmeric at Igennus, so much so, we took the most beneficial component (curcumin), used the most up-to-date technology (Longvida) and bottled it. Whilst the raw ingredient isn’t as potent, it’s definitely a staple in our herb and spice cabinet. Turmeric’s beneficial element is curcumin, which makes up around 4% – 8% of turmeric. It’s great for reducing inflammation associated with the common cold; it’s antimicrobial, meaning that it will help the body fend off any nasty bacteria from unwell co-workers; it has antioxidant activity to protect cells from the damaging effects of bacteria and virus, and has even been shown to help modulate the immune system. Finally, if you’re prone to respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, laryngitis or sinusitis, you’ll be happy to hear that turmeric also has positive effects on the respiratory tract. Need I say more? 8 grams of turmeric are found to increase blood levels to a therapeutic amount so it’s time to get cooking up a dhal, or try your hand at a turmeric latte.


Not only does garlic keep the vampires away, it’ll also keep those other nasty bugs at bay too. Another herb with antioxidant and antibacterial activity that will have positive effects on your immune system, garlic is also an antiviral, meaning that if you get cold sores when you’re run down, garlic is going to be your saviour. It’s also proven its worth as a protector against human rhinovirus, the main culprit to blame for the common cold. So put the tissue box down, and get cooking some garlic-roasted vegetables. Yes, the house will smell of garlic, but they’ll taste utterly delicious and you’ll be reaping the benefits.


This common kitchen spice features heavily in our meals during the cooler months. Why? Because it’s not only warming, but it also has so many health benefits that we want to benefit from. Like turmeric, it also has antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and respiratory benefits, but on top of that, it also has anti-emetic properties, meaning that if you’re suffering with any nausea or vomiting as a side effect of illness, you’re going to be wanting a lot of ginger. We love this in curries, homemade ginger tea with added lemon, and in homemade treats such as ginger and walnut loaf.

Manuka Honey

What’s the difference between honey and Manuka honey, that we spend an awful lot more on what sounds like the same thing – honey? All honey is produced from bees and extracted from hives; however, with Manuka honey, the bees produce it from the flower of the Manuka tree. Native to New Zealand, Manuka honey contains methylglyoxal (MGO), the active ingredient believed to contain antibacterial properties. We love this for wounds or sore throats, but it’s even an FDA-approved medical device for supporting wound healing, and has been shown to reduce wound healing time of diabetic foot ulcers when the dressing contained Manuka honey.

Tip: When Ocado sell Manuka honey with a MGO of 550+ at £99, and Tesco sell Manuka honey with NPA 15+ for £19.90, it all gets a little confusing as to what’s really worth investing money in. Fortunately, we’ve found this helpful chart on different ratings for Manuka (i.e. UMF, NPA, MGO); basically, the higher the score the better. Still, there’s a lot of choice out there so go with what suits your budget and only use it when needed.

Apple cider vinegar

Not the most obvious one perhaps, however apple cider vinegar (ACV) is great for stimulating the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes in those with low levels, to help aid digestion of food. Stomach acid is also required to kill off any bacteria in food so if levels are low, it’s easy for a bacterial infection to hit from the ingestion of contaminated food. Whilst it’s worth investigating levels of stomach acid with a nutritionist and reasons for low levels, a quick solution in the meantime does involve the use of apple cider vinegar. Alone, it’s not particularly that palatable but it’s time to get experimenting with recipes as you can make some delicious salad dressing using ACV. It can be whisked together to make a salad dressing with added olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and wholegrain mustard.

And there we have it, our top 5 immune-boosting foods straight from the kitchen cupboards. If you’re feeling really brave, you could try my own personal cold remedy. As soon as I feel a sniffle that feels like it has the potential to grow into a full blown cold, I pour some warm water into a cup, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves, grate a nub of ginger, add a good serving of turmeric, a splash of ACV and a bit of Manuka honey and throw it back quickly before I can taste it. It works for me but, as I said, you need to be feeling brave.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Rock Bottom - by Tamás Vincze

Today is world cancer day. In light of this we have another from Tamás Vincze, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was on the cusp of adulthood. Here he kindly shares with us a chapter from his recently published book...

My name is Tamás and I’m a former cancer patient. In the earlier post I spoke briefly about my experience with cancer and Eighteen and Cancer, my recently published book. In this post I’d like to share a chapter from the book about a moment, which I think we’ve all experienced during the journey with cancer: Rock Bottom. This is my experience of that period and the beginnings of moving out of that place.

Rock Bottom
Image result for Tamás Vincze 
The treatments over the next few weeks were some of the worst I experienced. Medication arrived late to the hospital, and I sometimes waited half a day for sessions to begin. Nurses couldn’t insert the IV, or there simply wasn’t a bed available due to emergencies. I would sit in a dark corner of the hospital before treatment, far away from people, not practicing mindfulness but thinking of how and why I got there. Everything that had been going right was going horribly, horribly wrong. After some treatments I could barely stand up and had to spend the night at the hospital. The sights and sounds of the cancer ward are depressing at best during the day, but they can be terrifying at night.

I had always made sure never to stay overnight. It’s an impossible place to rest. There is something about darkness that can be very disturbing, and night-time silenced the ward and turned it into an alien place. I couldn’t see my fellow cancer patients but I could sense and hear them loudly. Raw unfiltered human emotions, begging, pleading or praying. Bargaining for a bit more time, hoping that there’ll be another and perhaps better tomorrow. Begging for more time with families and loved ones, praying that this is not yet the end. Occasionally this quiet would be interrupted by an emergency and a patient would be taken out and gone for hours.

At nights like these I could hardly find the peace to sleep and struggled to process what I saw. I was only 18, but here I was seeing people more than twice my age encounter enormous suffering. I had no idea what to say that might help them. All I could do was observe, seeing and feeling their fear of death: “Please don’t let me die just yet.” I had known from the beginning that my cancer was not terminal, but I couldn’t help wondering how different things might have been. What would or could have I done in their circumstances? What emotions would I have had to face?  The details of our lives were all different – age, name, hometown, occupation – but ultimately we all wanted the same thing: life without cancer.

The sessions became worse. One day in late March I arrived at the hospital and somehow knew that it was going to be bad. I had been becoming increasingly fearful of chemotherapy and the horrible physical side effects. At some point it got so bad that I was thinking of ways to escape, but common sense prevailed at the end. On this day, after the customary tests, I was escorted to a room with about eight other cancer patients (private rooms were hard to come by). When I looked around I saw the familiar landscape of white beds, IV poles and colourful medicine bottles, but more than that I saw misery, mine and theirs.

After about an hour of treatment I saw and felt darkness closing in on me and felt a burning pain moving through my body, gathering force with every breath I took. I started sweating, tossing and turning in the bed. The pain kept intensifying, and I felt my arms and legs go completely stiff as the throbbing pain spread from the IV needle in my right arm. As it moved further up into my body the burning turned into a strong, pulsing sickness. My mind shut down and I lay there, eyes closed, clutching onto my life. This shock was so sudden that there was no time for self-pity. Instead I begged and pleaded: “Please let me get through this.” “Please let me survive.” “Let me live and I’ll never take anything for granted, especially my health.”

After a while I felt a cold soft hand touch my forehead and then my cheeks. I looked up and saw a doctor sitting by the bed, looking down with kindness. I was in agony and searching for hope to help me through. She touched my arm where the needle was inserted and said quietly “Just breathe, it’s going to be okay”. What I went through had been so violent that having this loving, human experience of sitting with her for a few minutes was like the ray of sunshine after a storm. While the burning sensation didn’t stop yet, her presence was soothing. After a while she gave me a glass of water and a pill. It calmed me further and lulled me into quiet sleep for a few hours.

The last thing I remember before passing out was asking her for the name of the pill: Xanax. That was my rock bottom. I had never needed anything external to keep my sanity, but on this day I was in such pain that I was completely helpless. There is a danger that, once you get used to receiving outside help, your self-reliance will weaken. I had tried to avoid that as much as possible: I always thought that only people with much more serious ailments took pills such as these.

I’m not sure why I attributed so much weight to this incident, but it marked a turning point for me and another moment of grace. After I woke up and regained my senses I was grateful for this to be over but I had had enough. The last few treatments had been awful, and looking back at how well the first six had gone I was amazed to realise, through a very painful lesson, how much my emotional state influenced the outcome of the chemotherapies. After the ‘victory’ of reaching the halfway point, I had thought of little else but my own significance. I paid the price for not being present to my own health, which was a sure way of losing. The other sure path to defeat was to fall back into despair. As long as I could avoid both these extremes I was going to be okay.


If you are a kindred spirit, have an inspiring story, have any questions or just want to chat please feel free to reach out on My book is available on Amazon.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Eighteen and Cancer - by Tamás Vincze

This week's post is written by Tamás Vincze, a former cancer patient and the author of Eighteen and Cancer; a recently published book about his experience with the illness.

Cancer ran in my family, just as I think it might have in yours or others you know. I have unfortunately lost grandparents to it but never thought that it was something waiting for me in life.

I’ll take you back a few years to 2003 when I was eighteen. Life couldn’t have been any better. School was out and the summer was in full swing. It was amazing. More importantly I also planned what I wanted to achieve in the next few years of my life (overachieving too runs in the family). The main goal was moving abroad to live and study (I’m originally from Hungary). I felt everything was aligning nicely in my life.

But something happened after the summer. I’d feel more tired by the day, had difficulties concentrating in school, experienced severe night sweats and so on. It was like a bad case of the flu so I mostly ignored it. But one day I woke up to a pain in my neck and chest, like two hands gradually suffocating me. I felt my neck with my own hands and immediately rushed to the mirror. Standing in front of it was one of those “what do I do now?” moments. Two big lumps about the size of a golf ball. What the…? Could it…?

It was. Stage II Hodgkin lymphoma. I started chemotherapy in late 2003. Cancer turned my life upside down but I was very fortunate to have had the patience and presence to pay attention to what was happening inside and around me. Treatment lasted until the summer of 2004 and by that autumn I was in full remission fortunately. I’m skipping the middle part as I don’t want to bore you. It’s all in the book.

Why write a book about my cancer story? Especially well after 10 years? Good question. Not to play it down but I always thought that it was just as much of a part of my life as where I grew up or went to school. Perhaps I felt this way because it happened so early in my life. I also asked myself why would anyone care about someone else’s cancer story. If you’ve been through it already why would you want to read about it and if you are not touched by it then why bother?

During the early part of 2016, I read a very moving book called Not Fade Away. It tells the story of a businessman who after retiring in 1997 at the age of 46, to spend more time with his family, unfortunately passed away in 2002 after a battle with stomach cancer. It is a gem of a book about the shortness of life and inspired me to start thinking about my own story and how would I share that.

After reading that book it was time to take action. I let go of all this fear in my head and started writing. Turning my old notes and journals into this book and reflecting more on this episode in my life, with more than a decade of hindsight, was a very long process but I’m glad no one told me that before. Writing out and sharing all those memories, emotions and experiences from this journey was therapy.

Most cancer books inadvertently turn into a misery memoir and not too many talk about what happens in your mind when facing such adversity. How do you process the news? How do you get out of that feeling of hopelessness that’s initially there? These, amongst others, were some of the questions I was trying to answer in this short book.

If you are a kindred spirit, have an inspiring story, have any questions or just want to chat please feel free to reach out on

My book is also available on Amazon.

Perhaps the best part about publishing this book is the foundation I was fortunate enough to partner with. 10% of the net proceeds from the book sales will go to support the amazing mission of Bátor Tábor (“Camp Courage” in English), a philanthropic organisation in Hungary, that runs therapeutic recreation camps for cancer-afflicted and chronically ill children and their families.