• The True Cost of Sleep Deprivation

        Sleep deprivation is thought to cost the UK economy over £40bn a year in lost productivity in the workplace (source: smallbusiness.co.uk). Friday 15th March is World Sleep Day and a good time to be reminded why a good night’s rest is so important.

        Everyone needs a different amount, but they key is to ensure sleep patterns are regular, uninterrupted and leave you feeling refreshed and raring to go on waking.

        Whilst asleep we commit new information and experiences to memory, and this is also the time when our body kicks our immune system into healing and repair mode. Our brain temporarily cools and our stress hormone production is reduced, giving our adrenal glands a much-needed rest.

        Waking rested and recharged can temper mood and emotions; helping us cope more effectively with anything stressful thrown at us during the day. It can also improve with concentration, learning new skills, and with creativity and decision making.

        The true cost of sleep deprivation can, however, be far-reaching; and not just at work. We all know the effects of jetlag after a long-haul flight, or ongoing fatigue whilst working long hours or shift patterns, with the resulting struggle to function well after a disturbed night. More often than not, this can leave us run down and can lead to at the very least, low level illness such as coughs, colds and infections.

        All hormones will take a hit to some extent when the sleep debt racks up (think adrenal stress, thyroid dysfunction and reproductive problems), but our digestive hormones in particular can suffer. A lack of sleep can severely disrupt appetite regulation and lead to overeating and associated medical conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. More worryingly, it is thought to leave us more susceptible to a number of chronic conditions associated with a compromised immune system including chronic inflammation, Alzheimer’s Disease and even cancer.

        So what can you do to improve your sleep patterns?

        • Switch off any stimulating media or electronic devices well before bed time. This gives the brain a chance to relax away from artificial stimulation. Use an old-style alarm clock to wake you, and not your phone!
        • Look carefully at diet and nutrition. Some foods help produce hormones such as melatonin which encourage a state of sleep; whilst others (such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol) have the reverse effect. Eating and drinking the right things at the right time of day can make a significant difference.
        • Check your bedroom is the correct temperature; not too hot and not too cold, and make sure it is fully dark at bedtime. Natural light tricks the brain into thinking we should be awake by releasing cortisol (our waking hormone), and suppressing melatonin (our sleep hormone).
        • A warm bath with Epsom salts before bed can be really beneficial. The magnesium sulphate in these is absorbed through the skin and aids relaxation. You don’t need to necessarily buy expensive bath salts; basic Epsom salt crystals will do the trick and you can add some lavender drops for even more relaxation.
        • Chamomile tea or a milk based drink is also great at bedtime.

      • Is Brexit ruining your appetite?

        Flippant as it may sound, Brexit is making us anxious; breeding uncertainty around job security, savings and investments, the economy – and so much more.

        Stress is one of the biggest killers in modern society, and also one of the most common contributors to symptoms I see all too often in clinic. Whether its waking in the early hours with a buzzing mind, digestive issues,  palpitations and sweats, or mood swings and anxiety; these are all symptomatic of hormones in overdrive, designed to help us with ‘fight and flight’ survival, but in reality making us sick. Ironic, considering one of the promises of Brexit!

        We can’t necessarily make all the stress go away, but we can support our health and sanity with some simple dietary and lifestyle changes to help balance our stress hormones and build some resilience against day to day uncertainty.

        Key things to focus on are:

        • Sleep! A good night’s rest gives our body time to heal, repair and reset, and helps deal with the challenges of the days ahead.
        • Exercise: Even a gentle walk is fine. Physical exercise, particularly outside in the fresh air, can really help support the adrenal glands (a vital part of the fight and flight stress response), as well as boosting happy hormones to improve mood and make the world feel like a less daunting place.
        • R&R:  Turn off the news and take time out away from day to day stressors. A laugh with friends, a relaxing bath, a good book, a massage, a wander along the beach – in fact anything which takes your mind off your worries is the best remedy.
        • And of course; your food choices. When stressed, the primal urge is to reach for carbs, sweets or alcohol, but this will only make things worse. Increasing the amount of simple un-processed and fresh ingredients you eat will support and nourish your adrenal glands and help keep those digestive juices flowing. 

        A bit of anxiety may seem like a frivolous reason to ask for support, but it could be a health-saver.

        Contact me  or come along to one of my free Taster Sessions on 1st and 2nd March if you need any support.

      • 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.