• What's Holding You Back?

        Is there something bothering you about your health that really needs investigating? That pain in your gut that just won’t go away? It’s making your life a misery and you can’t work out what’s causing it! The stress and anxiety; or hideous night sweats waking you up in the early hours? Those stubborn extra pounds lingering from Christmas which just won’t shift?

        It’s in the back of your mind  but hasn’t quite hit the top of your ‘To Do’ list; maybe because you can’t quite bring yourself to bother your GP, and you hope it will sort itself out; but chances are that whatever it is will just get worse. 

        I help my clients investigate not just what is going on, but more importantly, WHY. Clients rarely have one thing they are dealing with; but by establishing the links between lifestyle, behaviour and diet, we can do a bit of detective work together to unravel the causes and then make a plan to address them.

        Why not take the bull by the horns, make a call and see if it’s something I can help with? Investing in your health is the most valuable long-term investment you can make.

        Check my News and Events page for upcoming free mini taster sessions.

         

      • Struggling with the New Year Resolution Blues?

        Its six weeks since you made those cast iron New Year resolutions about eating better and getting healthier, and I would lay bets that most have been well and truly broken. To top it all, it’s cold and miserable out there; winter bugs are everywhere, and there’s little incentive to restrict food or get outside and exercise. So why is it such a battle?

        Winter is a time when food would have been scarce for our ancestors, and they would have therefore eaten more calorie-dense foods to fatten up and store energy to survive. Something we still tend to do! At the same time, sunlight is in less abundance meaning we produce less serotonin – our ‘feel good’ hormone,  it is therefore understandable that in winter we crave carbohydrates to give us both a quick fix mood boost and nutrient-dense nourishment. Post-Christmas we have also generally snacked and overindulged, and this is likely to have changed our eating habits – and those new bad habits need kicking into touch!

        Comfort carbohydrates tend to be high is sugar, and sugar messes with the digestive and adrenal hormones; in particular insulin and cortisol. Together these can have a hugely negative impact on our digestive function, blood sugar, mood control, and healing mechanisms. Comfort eating (and drinking) may feel like a great short-term solution, but a diet lacking in essential nutrients puts the body under even more stress, leaving us struggling to digest, heal and repair, and a vicious cycle of poor sleep, low energy, digestive discomfort and then weight gain kick in – which can make us feel, well frankly, overwhelmed. Melancholy follows, the cravings start again and so the cycle is repeated.

        Working to balance these hormones is the first step to breaking out of this seemingly relentless cycle and creating some new healthy eating habits for the year ahead. Tweaking what we eat (and when) can really help balance with digestion, sleep and energy.

        To get you started, my two favourite go-to winter comfort eating suggestions would be:

        • One pot dishes. Experiment with meat-based or vegetable stews, fish pie, Chilli con Carne, Shepherd’s Pie, and roasted vegetable bakes. Fill them with greens, coloured vegetables and herbs to add tasty and filling nutrients in the form of healthy carbohydrates for an energy and good mood boost. Olive Magazine online has some good ideas to get you started.
        • Soups: quick, cheap, delicious and so easy to make. There are endless recipes online, but all you need to do is combine leftover vegetables with stock and herbs. Add lentils, or other pulses for additional protein and to make them more satisfying, blend and indulge! If you go for shop-bought options, just keep an eye on sugar content; and add your own vegetable leftovers or grains and pulses to mix them up a bit. Try BBC Good Food for inspiration.

         

        For both you can make more than you need and freeze leftovers for another rainy day.

         

        If your failed resolutions have left you feeling down in the dumps, and you need help getting back on track, contact me for a no-obligation chat.

         

      • How are you...really?

        Next time someone asks you ‘How are you?’, when you respond ‘I’m fine’, do you really mean it? Much of the time we muddle along feeling ok, but honestly not so great. Perhaps just a bit tired and lacking in energy; maybe with a dodgy tummy, or an annoying cold which won’t go away, perhaps a little heavier than feels comfortable, or even struggling to gain weight; or sometimes something more serious which we push to the back of our mind because we are just too busy (or scared) to deal with it.

        We are what we eat – literally; so everything we put in our mouth contributes to our wellbeing. If we feed ourselves rubbish foods devoid of any nutrient value, the chances are that our body and mind will respond by malfunctioning and eventually grinding to a halt – a bit like a car after giving it the wrong fuel. The human body is an incredibly clever and complex machine, which works hard to keep itself in good shape, and has amazing built in systems to function well, heal and repair. But  we can be its worst enemy, and it needs our help.

        The proteins, carbohydrates, fats and fluids we eat and drink all play a vital role in creating energy, helping us sleep, supporting the immune system, nourishing our hormones and helping us digest and absorb our food properly. When we are lacking in these vital nutrients, we are denying our body the tools to do its job. When we overload with poor quality foods, we put undue stress on the body and it battles to keep everything in order.

        As a nutritional therapist, I work with my clients to look at the whole picture, to explore not just what is going wrong, but more importantly, why. We don’t just look at diet, but everything going on around them in their day to day work and family life to identify potential stresses and challenges. In this way we can work together to address the underlying causes, come up with a simple and realistic plan which is tailored to fit around work, family, and all the things which keep us busy.

        During a nutrition consultation, we work through a health and lifestyle questionnaire and food diary which I ask clients to complete in advance. We then discuss food likes and dislikes (after all, no one is going to stick to a plan filled with foods they hate!) We agree simple food swaps, meal ideas and recipes, and I can help with suggestions about where to shop, and how to navigate special occasions and eating out. If food intolerances or special diets are a challenge, we can also explore ways of making life easier around these. You would be astonished how simple changes can make a huge difference; a few swaps and tweaks can quickly remove whatever is doing harm or replace what is lacking. 

        Just imagine next time you are asked ‘How are you?’ if you can honestly reply ‘You know what? I’m feeling amazing!

        If you have a niggling health worry and would like to find out how I can help support you towards feeling amazing, contact me for a no-obligation chat.

      • The Cost of Diabetes

        At a time when the NHS is in crisis, it is staggering to think that the cost of treating Type 2 Diabetes (and its complications) is estimated to be more than £12bn per year. At present it is thought that around 1 in 16 of the UK population has Diabetes (diagnosed, or undiagnosed) and this number has doubled in the last 20 years.

        So what is Diabetes?

        Diabetes is a medical condition characterised by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood stream. It is caused by either the immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (Type 1), or the body’s cells not being able to react to, and deal with, high levels of sugar in the blood (Type 2). Type 1 is an auto-immune condition which is non-reversible, typically managed through careful monitoring and regular medication, and tends to be identified at a young age.  Type 2 is more often diet and lifestyle related, and the good news is that small changes in these areas can have a significant positive impact.

        Why is blood sugar balance so important?

        Carbohydrates in our diet are broken down into simple sugar molecules when we digest our food. These sugar molecules enter the blood stream and give us a source of energy for our body and brain. The body is a clever beast, and it understands that sugar levels need to be stable. Too much in the bloodstream is harmful and can cause tissue damage; too little and we are deprived of the energy source we need to function and survive. We therefore have our own in-built mechanism to regulate this, which is where the pancreas and its hormones come into the story.

        When we eat, and sugar enters our blood stream, our pancreas releases the hormone insulin, which then travels to the bloodstream and carries the sugar molecules away to safety, storing them in cells as fat (glycogen). When blood sugar levels dip too low, the brain signals the pancreas to release a hormone called glucagon, which breaks the glycogen stores, converts them back to glucose, and carries it back to the bloodstream to give us energy we are craving. We therefore create our own in-built larder to store and release energy.

        This worked perfectly back when we evolved and had irregular access to food, but modern living has now thrown a huge spanner in the works, and is creating a health crisis. Our 24 hour access to meals and snacks means we are overdosing on the sugar, storing it as fat, and then overdosing again before our body has the chance to break down and use what we have stored. This has a number of implications for our health; we are gaining weight at an alarming rate, and we are damaging our blood sugar regulation by over stressing it.

        The insulin demand to deal with more and more sugar becomes ever urgent, the body tissues receiving the insulin tire and eventually fail; a situation known as insulin resistance. Blood sugar levels then rise and the body is in severe danger, resulting in diabetes and associated health complications such as damage to the nerve endings in the eyes, kidneys and extremities. When uncontrolled this can result in blindness, kidney failure, amputations, and eventually death.

        That’s the doom and gloom bit over. How can you find out if you are at risk; and more importantly, what can you do about it?

         Look out for symptoms associated with Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes, such as:  

        Fluctuating energy and slumps; particularly after eating

        Mood swings, irritability and depression

        Cravings; particularly for sugary and junk food

        Frequent trips to the toilet; excessive thirst

        Headaches, shakiness or dizziness

        Difficulty sleeping or poor concentration

        Weight gain – in particular around the waist

        Make small but important changes to your diet

        Foods to include:

        • ‘Break the Fast’. Start the day with a good breakfast to kick start your metabolism. Low sugar muesli or porridge with nuts, seeds and live yoghurt are ideal. Add cinnamon, which can help regulate insulin and reduce sugar cravings.
        • Combine complex carbohydrates (brown rice, lentils, pulses, oats) with lean proteins, such as fish, chicken, eggs or beans. Protein takes longer for the body to break down, so will slow the release of the sugar into the bloodstream.
        • Eat small, frequent snacks every 2-3 hours throughout the day; e.g. in between meals, eat an apple with a handful of nuts or seeds; hummous on Ryvita or with raw vegetables such as carrot sticks. Fibre in fruit and vegetables also helps to slow the release of the sugar.
        • Eat healthy fats such as oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna), flax or hemp seeds, walnuts (all omega 3 essential fats) or olive oil drizzled on your vegetables. Seeds can be ground onto muesli or eaten as snacks.  
        • Eat your greens; in fact all vegetables. They are rich not only in slow releasing carbohydrates, but also plenty of other nutrients to keep you healthy.

         Foods to avoid:

        • Avoid alcohol – it is full of sugar, with little nutritional value, and not only quickly converts to fat, but also depletes B vitamins which are essential for energy metabolism.
        • Avoid processed foods ie cakes, sweets, chocolate, cakes, crisps and biscuits.
        • Switch from white bread, rice and pasta to brown alternatives. These will release sugar more slowly into the blood stream and keep you feeling full for longer.
        • Never skip meals! This creates a rollercoaster of blood sugar levels.

        Stress has a similar impact on insulin release as sugar, so  find ways to relax with some nurturing activities such as meditation, yoga or pilates. Moderate exercise can also help enormously with glucose and insulin regulation, and also weight management, so keep moving and factor in at least a daily walk.

        For more information visit Diabetes UK’s website and look out for Diabetes Awareness Week from 11-17 June.

        If you are struggling with any of the symptoms above, or are worried about the amount of sugar in your diet, feel free to contact me  for a chat.

         

      • Looking after your eyes

        Eye Health is something we often neglect, but can become problematic as we age, with increased risk of developing failing vision, cataracts and Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) into old age. A poor diet can put your sight at risk, yet awareness of the link between diet and good eye health is low and a recent survey found sixty per cent of people living in the UK had no idea that what they eat can affect the health of their eyes.

        Vitamins, minerals and carotenoids, found in many fruits, vegetables and other wholesome foods, can help protect your sight and keep your eyes healthy.

        Here are just some of the foods that are rich in eye-friendly nutrients:

        Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and tuna are excellent sources of DHA, and Omega-3 fatty acids. These provide structural support to cell membranes, help reduce inflammation in cells and arteries, and may be beneficial for dry eyes, and the maintenance of general eye health. Research has shown that eating just one portion of fish a week may reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD); the UK’s leading cause of blindness, up to 40%. Two to three portions would be ideal.

        Whole grains and avocados are rich in zinc and Vitamin B. Deficiency in B Vitamins can increase your risk of cataracts and retinopathy.

        Blueberries and grapes contain anthocyanins, which may help improve night vision.

        Green leafy vegetables; spinach or kale, for example, are rich in carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein, meso-zeaxanthin and zeaxanthin form a yellow pigment that helps protect the macula, a tiny yellow spot in your retina, from excessive sun damage by acting as a natural sunblock. Click here for my tasty kale wrap recipe.

        Garlic, onions, shallots and capers are rich in sulphur, which is necessary for the production of glutathione; an important antioxidant required to help maintain healthy sight.

        Eggs are rich in cysteine, sulphur, lecithin, amino acids and lutein. Sulphur may also help protect the lens of the eye from cataracts.

        Papaya is a good source of beta carotene which can help to prevent free radical damage inside the eye.

        Vitamin E rich foods (sunflower & pumpkin seeds; almonds, sweet potato, eggs, avocado, beans, peanuts, wheat germ) include natural anti- inflammatory agents. Vitamin E is important for the maintenance of good eye health. Unfortunately today’s busy lifestyles mean many people miss out on essential nutrients provided by a healthy diet so taking supplements may beneficial.

        If you are worried about your eye health, or have a history of eye disease in the family, please contact me for more support around your diet, and advice on nutritional supplements you can explore.