• 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.

      • Keeping it Cool

        With temperatures soaring over recent days, staying hydrated has been more important than ever; not only for comfort but to support a range of vital bodily functions.

        Around 70% of our body is made up of water (including our brain), and it has a multitude of roles for our health and wellbeing. Water hydrates our cells, helps removes toxins and waste materials, helps lubricate joints, keeps our kidneys working efficiently, supports digestion by transporting nutrients, and supports critical chemical processes in our metabolism. It is also important for concentration and mood – in fact just a 2% drop in water can reduce our mental and physical performance by up to 20%, and when it’s hot we lose that water through our urine, stools, lungs and over 2 million sweat glands in our skin.

        So how much should we be drinking? On a normal day around 2 litres or 6 large glasses – sipped gradually throughout the day. Herbal teas can count towards this but not caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee or fizzy drinks. When hot or exercising this should be increased, but you can easily check how hydrated you are by checking the colour of your urine, which should be pale and straw coloured. Remember; once you are thirsty you are already dehydrated!

        Top tips for staying cool in the heat

        • Drink water away from mealtimes since water can dilute digestive juices.
        • To make water more interesting, slice lemons, limes or oranges and put in a jug to make a naturally infused flavoured water. These add Vitamin C to your diet as well and help stimulate your liver to help you detox naturally.
        • Make your own ice lollies with simple lolly molds filled with flavoured water.
        • Eat fruits and vegetables high in water content such as watermelon, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, celery, radishes and berries.
        • Chilled soups can also be refreshing when the weather is hot. Look online for ideas using mint, cucumber or even peas and lettuce with crushed ice. 
        • Buy a simple carbon water filter to help purify your tap water. 

      • Grumpy, irritable and comfort eating?

         

        OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis week there has been much written in the press about mental health, but something which is less touched on is a SAD; temporary condition which affects millions of people worldwide throughout the winter months.

        SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a condition which can have a profound effect on mood, and mental health from late autumn until the spring. Symptoms can include tearfulness, stress and anxiety, lack of concentration, irritability, feelings of low-esteem and worthlessness and general despair, and in severe cases sufferers can feel suicidal. A lack of sleep can often be a major issue, and it can also influence appetite, immunity and production of feel good hormones such as serotonin, which help us feel positive and motivated.

        The main cause is the lack of sunlight, which causes the brain to produce more melatonin; a hormone which helps us sleep at night. Melatonin production is triggered by the brain as darkness sets in, and then cortisol is produced as daylight emerges to help us feel awake and active, so longer darker days can cause hormone imbalance which can impact on many facets of our well being. This hormone shift can encourage comfort eating and binging, blood sugar imbalance leading to mood swings, and weight gain. Another side effect can be an impaired immune system, which can explain why we are so susceptible to colds and flu at this time of year.

        So what can you do to beat the winter blues?

        • Help support your gut health by cutting back on sugary foods such as refined carbohydrates (cakes, biscuits, pasta, bread and potatoes), and foods we tend to be more intolerant to such as wheat and dairy. Switch white rice and bread for brown rice, grains and wheat germ. Sweet potatoes are a filling and good alternative to white varieties.
        • Reduce stimulants; caffeine, alcohol and chocolate might offer a quick fix when you need a pick me up, but they can trigger cravings and play havoc with your blood sugar levels and brain function in the longer run.
        • Increase your fruit and vegetable portions to boost your vitamin and mineral intake to support your immune system.
        • Boiled eggs brighton hove nutrition wellbeingEggs are the perfect winter fast food. Plenty of ways to cook them; they are cheap, nutritious and rich in Vitamin D and choline and which supports the brain.
        • Essential fats are vital for your brain function so include oily fish, nuts and seeds and olive oil.
        • Look for foods that will help you produce serotonin. Turkey, chicken, fish, avocados, bananas and beans will help. These are also rich in Vitamin D to help make up for lack of sunlight.
        • Get outside in the daylight as much as you can. Take time at lunchtime to leave your desk and go for a walk. If that’s isn’t feasible, look for daylight bulbs to use in your office or home.

        bean soup01

        Finally, comfort eating is fine if you choose the right options. One pot dishes such as bean and vegetable stews, shepherds pies, fish pies, or curries will give you nutritious filling meals to keep you going until the days start getting much longer!

        So, if your friends, family or colleagues are grumpy and irritable this winter, a good place to start is with their diet. After all, as Paul Theroux once wrote “Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.”

         

         

         

         

      • Roll back the years - it's not all about the scales!

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        Do you know your Metabolic Age?

         Whilst bathroom scales can be a useful indicator of your health and wellbeing, they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Most people know roughly what they weigh, but how many know their Metabolic Age, and the importance of that for their health?

        In clinic, and particularly with my weight management clients, body composition scales are a far more useful tool for tracking progress and achievement. They can quickly give an overview of different health markers including fat mass and fat percentage, muscle mass, hydration levels and Base Metabolic Rate (or BMR; ie the amount of calories your body needs to function at rest). They also show levels of visceral fat; the dangerous sort stored around vital organs which isnt always apparent from the outside.

        Lean muscle mass is an important part of the equation since it demands more energy of the body than fat to function; so doing some physical exercise and building lean muscle helps keep the body engine working and can help burn off the fat more quickly.

        If a client is following a programme including exercise, and sees slow progress in the pounds coming off, it is helpful for motivation to be able to demonstrate muscle mass increases (and then a corresponding drop in fat percentage), which might not immediately translate into net weight loss. Toning and reducing the inches can just as easily get you back into those jeans. It is also a great incentive to be told your body thinks it’s years younger than your chronological age!

        If your Metabolic Age is older than you are, it might be time to make some simple lifestyle changes! If you want to find out, I will have my Tanita body composition scales at my free nutrition workshop next Thursday (22nd January) in Hove. Come along and find out how you shape up. Click here on Events for more information.