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Food Allergies and Intolerances

Many people are clear that a nut allergy can be a very dangerous thing resulting, on occasion, in death. But, outside of this, food allergy isn’t always taken as seriously as it should be. As it is Food Allergy Awareness Week on the 13th of this month, I want to give you the lowdown on food allergy and intolerance, and what to do if you suspect there are foods that don’t agree with you.

FOOD ALLERGY

To start, let’s get clear what a FOOD ALLERGY is …

A true food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body’s immune system to a particular food. This can range from a mild reaction to one that is severe and life-threatening (anaphylaxis). The body produces IgE antibodies in response to a food, drink or other substance the body mistakenly thinks is attacking it. The issue can be restricted to one area (your digestive system, skin and so on) or the whole body, where the immune system triggers widespread inflammation and swelling – anaphylaxis – which can be deadly. The reaction is often immediate.

If you have a food allergy, you will need to avoid the food forever. That’s because part of the immune system works on the basis of memory. In exactly the same way your body remembers its response to, say, the polio vaccination you were given as a child (and can prepare its attack should it come into contact with polio again), it remembers its response to nuts, dairy, or whatever.

If you think you have a food allergy, you can often get tested free of charge via your GP. Private tests are also available.

One clinical pearl I’m going to share with you is that, if you’re struggling with the symptoms of a true allergy (itchy eyes, swelling and the like), yet testing reveals no problem foods, the answer might be in the gut. Parasites also cause the body to produce high levels of IgE antibodies; however, these are not often considered by conventional medicine as a potential cause of allergy-like symptoms.

FOOD INTOLERANCE

An intolerance is something very different, producing low grade inflammation through the body and symptoms that are far ranging, but altogether less dramatic.

These can include the following:

  • Weight that won’t shift
  • Bloating
  • Migraines
  • Headaches
  • Coughs (frequent)
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy or overly waxy ears
  • Stomach ache
  • Irritable bowel
  • Hives
  • Fatigue

Although the symptoms might seem less dramatic, it really is worth dealing with food intolerances , especially if you’ve had niggly issues for years. This is because low grade inflammation is created through the body if your system doesn’t like something you are repeatedly feeding it. Consequently, this will almost certainly lead to worse stuff in the future because that’s the way these things work. ALL chronic disease is caused by inflammation of one sort or another.

You can do your own elimination diet.  Cut out foods you suspect you might have a problem with for a period of time, then reintroduce them and see what happens.  This can be time consuming if you are not entirely sure which foods might be problematic. A couple of drops of blood from finger prick blood test is all you need to get a reliable reading of what your body is objecting to. Ask me for details if you experience any of the symptoms I listed above.

 

WHAT NEXT?

In case you’re wondering, if you have a food intolerance, you don’t have to remove the food forever.   It’s important to know that it’s not enough to just take the food out and not do anything about it.

If you find you have a food intolerance, this is your body telling you your gut needs some TLC to restore, rebalance and heal. Without this vital step, you’re likely to end up (over time) with more intolerances and more symptoms.

Please do get in touch if you are wondering whether you have an allergy or intolerance. I can help by offering a variety of testing options to help get to the bottom of the problem, and my gut health programmes can help bring your body back into balance: http://bit.ly/tnt-bookcall

 

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What’s all the fuss about?

Many children are fussy eaters. Although it is entirely normal, it can be frustrating and hard to handle – particularly when there’s always at least one mother whose angelic offspring eats everything and still asks for second helpings of broccoli.

What you need to know is that, most of the time, fussy eating isn’t about food, and it’s (usually) not about you either. It’s about children wanting to be independent.

If you’re graced with a fussy eater in the family, I’d like to share some tips on how to handle it.

First, a word about fussy eating…

Children frequently object to the shape, colour or texture (and sometimes all of them) of particular foods.

You might also find they will like something perfectly well one day, but dislike it the next, refuse new foods, and eat more or less from day to day. It might drive you insane, but this is all part of a child’s development. It’s a way of exploring their environment and asserting their independence. And – as a side issue – it’s also because their appetites go up and down, depending on how much they’re growing and how active they are.

It WILL get better, I promise. Fussy eating is generally something that children grow out of. Their palates change as they get older and they don’t need to exert quite the same level of control over their environment and, very gradually, something resembling normal family eating can resume …

 

 How to make mealtimes better

Your child’s willingness to try food will depend partly on the eating environment. There will be times when you want to tear your hair out. This will have the opposite effect of what you are hoping to achieve. Try these steps for a low-stress mealtime.

  • Make mealtimes happy, regular and social occasions. Don’t worry about mess made on tables or drinks spilled on the floor.
  • Never force your child to try a food.
  • Have realistic expectations. Ask your child to lick a piece of food, and work up to trying a mouthful over time. Don’t forget to praise your child for every small effort, like trying a new food.
  • If your child is fussing, ignore it as much as you can. Giving attention to fussy eating can encourage your child to keep behaving this way.
  • Make healthy foods fun – whenever you have the time. Cut sandwiches into interesting shapes, or let your child help prepare some of the meal.
  • Turn the TV off, so family members can talk to each other instead.
  • Set a time limit of about 20 minutes for meals. Anything that goes on too long isn’t fun. If your child hasn’t eaten the food in this time, take it away – but don’t offer your child more food until the next planned meal or snack time.
  • Put a small amount of any new food on the plate with familiar food your child already likes – a piece of broccoli alongside some mashed potato. Encourage your child to touch, smell or take a lick of the new food.
  • Make the food attractive. Offer your child a variety of different colours, shapes and sizes and let your child choose what they eat from the plate.
  • Don’t give up at the first hurdle. Keep offering foods that have been refused before. It can take 10 to 15 times before they even try a taste of a food they previously refused. Frustrating? Yes! Consider that you are training them for the future.

Sometimes your child will refuse food just because this gets an interesting reaction from you. If children refuse to eat a food, it doesn’t necessarily mean they dislike it – after all, they might not have even tasted it yet. They might just be putting on a show of independence to see what you’ll do. Be prepared and consider what your response will be  – this scenario will occur!

Consider this: children learn by testing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. It’s all part of their social, intellectual and emotional development.

How to introduce new foods to fussy eaters

  • When possible, look for opportunities for your child to share meals and snacks with other children – they might be more willing to try a food if other children are eating it.
  • Serve your child the same meal the family is eating, but in a portion size your child will eat. Sometimes children need to take their cue from parents ­ – play the game of vocalizing how yummy the food is.
  • Don’t let your child fill up on drinks, snacks or treat foods before introducing new foods. They are more likely to try the food if they’re hungry and there isn’t a better option around the corner.

Punishments & rewards

Punishing your child for refusing to try new foods can turn new foods into a negative thing. If your child refuses to eat it, you can offer it to them again another time.

It’s tempting to offer your child food treats just so he ‘eats something’ – for example ‘If you eat your vegetables, you can have a biscuit’. But this can make your child more interested in treats than healthy food. Of course, you have to decide on your house rules, but this sends the message that eating healthy food is a chore.

It’s easy to worry, if your child refuses food, whether they are actually eating what they need to grow and thrive. If your child has enough energy to play and learn, they are probably eating enough. If your child eats an incredibly limited range or foods or refuses entire food groups for a prolonged period of time, it might be worth booking to see your GP or health visitor.

 

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What is Nutritional Therapy?

Why Nutritional Therapy?

Scientific research continually demonstrates that our body’s ability to function is significantly affected by what we eat. So much so, that it is becoming common practice for people to turn to nutritional therapy to help manage a wide array of health problems. Often, they simply use it to enhance the way they look and feel.

 

How can Nutritional Therapy Help?

When people think about the food they eat, they often see it as simply supplying their body with energy. However, food really is so much more than this. When we break it down into its constituents, it interacts with our body on a chemical level.

Nutrients speed reactions up, inhibit others and allow organs to communicate and work synergistically. They give our body the tools it needs to flourish in the way that it is designed to.  As such, it is obvious that what we put in our bodies can alter our concentration, our ability to fight disease, to reproduce, and to sleep soundly. Given that the modern world places many obstacles in between us and the path to health, supporting the body nutritionally is all the more pertinent.

How Does Nutritional Therapy Work?

Nutritional Therapy is not as simple as being told what to eat and when. Or what foods are good for you and what to do if you want to lose weight. The objective is to work to identify what imbalance or dysfunction is at the heart of a specific health condition and manage it in a sustainable way. Even niggling little symptoms we consider to be part of day-to-day life, such as bloating, headaches, blemishes, PMS and energy imbalances, are a sign that our body is not working optimally. Biochemical testing is undertaken where necessary to ensure approaches are targeted to each individual.

What To Expect From A Nutritional Consultation

Nutritional therapy, nutritionist, nutritional coaching, nutritional counselling… It’s all essentially the same thing. You can expect evidence based, targeted nutrition advice tailored just for YOU and no one else. This is combined with some gentle, encouraging support to help you reach your health goals.

I’ll listen to your complete health story right from when you were little because it’s all part of who you are today. I’ll explain things simply, allowing you to ask all the questions you need to in order to understand your programme. I promise never to judge you and will give you a programme that’s easy to follow because I realise that everyone likes to make changes at their own pace. And we will work together and interactively and in confidence. Why not schedule your appointment today, and let’s get started!

 

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Kick cravings into touch

Kick cravings into touch

Everyone gets cravings from time to time. Sometimes you kid yourself that it is your body telling you that you need to have something (and there is some truth in this – more on that later). Most of the time, however, it is habit. There are some simple steps you can take to manage cravings and avoid binges. Using a combination of these steps will be most effective and some techniques will work better than others for you, so it’s best to experiment.

“But I need it…’

Your body needs a steady flow of energy throughout the day. When you eat too many things that turn quickly into sugar (whether it’s sugar or starchy carbohydrates), this creates a blood sugar spike and the body produces insulin to take the excess sugar out of your blood, and it stores it as fat. Sometimes too much of this sugar is packed away, which leads to blood sugar levels becoming too low, resulting in tiredness, low mood, a drop in concentration – and cravings. The cravings are nearly always for sugary foods or starchy carbs; anything the body can quickly convert to sugar to get blood sugar levels up again. Eating continually in this way causes a blood sugar rollercoaster. Switching to a low GL (glycaemic load) diet based on whole foods like meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans and so on with vegetables and fruit, with smaller amounts of wholegrain starches like brown rice and wholemeal bread will help enormously. However, you also need to deal with your triggers and the emotional aspect of eating …

How to manage your cravings

1 Forget ‘willpower’

Willpower in itself is not enough. Instead, learn to be in control of your actions. The first, most simple step is to make sure you don’t get hungry, so eat regular meals.

2 Identify and write down your triggers

Are they emotional triggers? Food triggers? Habits? Triggers in certain places or situations? Identifying what your triggers are helps you take control of them and change the outcome. What is it that you need? What strategies can you put in place now to support yourself?

3 Get rid of your trigger foods

If you don’t have control of a food then it is controlling you. If it triggered a binge in the past, it will do so again. Get rid of it and don’t buy it – for you or your family. It’s OK to throw away food that is bad for you. A smoker wouldn’t keep packets of cigarettes around the house if they were trying to break the habit – why do that with trigger foods?

4 Plan what you are going to eat in advance

This is so important. Eventually, your healthy eating will become second nature, but you need to support yourself until your new habits are firmly in place.

5 Identify crave / binge thoughts

To take control, you need to be ready to respond to these with a more positive alternative. Here are some examples:

  • “I’m so stressed” – being miserable because I’m fatter won’t help.
  • “I had far too many biscuits, I may as well just keep going” – that’s in the past now, rescue the rest of the day.
  • “I’ve been really good. I deserve a reward” – being slim and in control is my best reward.
  • “I’ve got PMS. I need chocolate” – eating sugar will make me feel worse.
  • “One slice is not too bad” – but I know it’ll end up being 4 slices!

6 Choose to eat or not

“A biscuit would be nice but I choose not to have one right now”.

Don’t take orders from a packet of biscuits! Choosing puts you back in control. Remember, the responsibility is yours. You are the one who puts food in your mouth, even if it sometimes feels as though it is out of your control, it never is.

7 Develop short, key phrases to help you make new choices

The more you use a phrase, the more it becomes a part of what you now do, so develop phrases such as “Don’t start, don’t get the taste” or “I actually don’t want this” or “I am not hungry, so I will not eat for the moment”. Creating a mental picture can also help, e.g. visualising yourself slamming a cupboard door on the unhealthy foods you are now choosing to avoid. Practise this until it becomes second nature.

8 Use displacement activities

If you get a crave/ binge thought, do something else (paint your nails, go for a walk, clean out the fridge, put on some music, write a letter, for example). Simply giving yourself a few moments may relieve the pressure and stop the chain reaction. Find something that works for you, write these down to reinforce them and commit to doing them.

9 Accept your slips

Unless you are superhuman, there will be the odd time that you slip and have more than you should. Slim people over indulge too – but they don’t beat themselves up about it. They just go back to eating normally. Remember, the occasional slice of cake or a portion that is too big is not going to make you put on a few pounds, but a huge binge will. Plus, binges on sugary or salty food will make you retain water – making you look and feel heavier than you really are. It’s just not worth it. If you have a slip you can still rescue the situation and stop it turning into a binge, sabotaging all your good work. Say: “It’s done, it’s in the past and I choose to move on”. Reaffirm your resolve to make a different choice next time.

10 Practise, practise, practise

…until your new found control feels completely normal, which it will! It takes at least 21 times of doing something to create a new habit. It feels weird at first and takes a lot of conscious effort. But eventually, your brain ‘gets it’ and you will do it without thinking!

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We learn nothing about nutrition…

…claim medical students

Nutrition education is woefully lacking at medical schools

This article highlights how little training doctors get about nutrition in medical school.  I was even told this when I was studying my Dietetics degree *ahem* many years ago!

This is especially alarming since so many chronic illnesses that doctors are having to treat these days are directly related to diet and lifestyle factors. And yet when something goes wrong with their health, many people still fall back on the idea that “the doctor should fix me”.

Well, maybe it’s time for a new way of thinking… and a new approach to health care. Doctors certainly need more training in this area – and to collaborate with nutrition professionals and dietitians. And people need to take a bit more personal responsibility for their own health.

My two pence for today.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43504125

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Good health begins as a thought

The mind-body connection

Achieving long-term health and energy is a balancing act.   You have to look after your mind-body connection as much as you look after what you eat.

Quite simply, what you put into your mind may have as much of an impact as the food and supplements you feed your body.

Many studies have been conducted on the mind-body connection. What we know for sure is that a positive attitude works – when we remember to nurture it.

Wholesome food, avoiding sugar and toxins are obvious tools for great health but how should you deal with the consequences of negative thinking and stress?

Experts rate exercise, sufficient sleep, controlling negative thoughts and building a strong social support as some of the best ways to decrease stress and boost immunity – so paying attention to your feelings and needs is as vital as drinking enough water and avoiding junk food.

Winning ways to promote good mind-body health

EXERCISE

The release of endorphins during exercise promotes a sense of wellbeing, which has the added benefit of boosting your immune system.

During exercise, the lymphatic system – a network of tissues and organs that helps your body to eliminate toxins and waste – is mobilised. Its main role is to transport lymph fluid, which contains infection-fighting white blood cells. Unlike the blood, which is transported by the heart, lymph fluid only moves if you do.

A recent study from a North Carolina university showed that people who exercised for five or more days weekly experienced 43% fewer days of upper respiratory infections.

Walking, running or any other muscle-moving activity also dramatically reduces stress by ‘working off steam’ when you are upset or angry. With the release of endorphins, your body receives a natural mood boost, resulting in reduced stress levels. This in turn puts less pressure on your immune system.

GET ENOUGH SLEEP

According to an American Psychological Association study, stress is what keeps more than 40% of adults awake at night.

  • To aim for the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night
  • avoid caffeine,
  • avoid digital screens, and
  • try to turn in at the same time each evening.

FOCUS ON SELF-CARE

Make an effort to do something nice for yourself every day. Neglecting your own needs adds unnecessary stress to the system, resulting in increased vulnerability to illness.

Women, in particular, tend to put their own needs last, especially if they’re caring for children and/or elderly parents.  If you battle with guilt when you take an hour off to read, go for a manicure or have a coffee with a friend, remind yourself that if your bucket is empty, you’ll have nothing left to give anyone else. Simple, but effective.

MINDFULNESS

You cut in half the chances of catching a cold by meditating. A University of Wisconsin study showed that people who practised mindfulness – a type of meditation or mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while accepting feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations – noted 13 fewer illnesses and took 51 fewer sick days. Researchers concluded that this reduced the physical effects of stress. Stress weakens the immune system.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE…

Building strong social connections has proven psychological and physiological benefits. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, having a ‘support group’ – no matter how big or small – boosts immunity by creating ‘stress buffers’.

Being able to share stress or concerns with close family or friends provides an opportunity for outside support and advice. This alleviates a sense of being alone in your situation.

Ongoing stress is also a contributing factor to many chronic diseases.  And it is seriously not helpful if you are trying to lose weight.

 

“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.”

– Jack Kornfield, American author and Buddhist mindfulness pioneer.

 

PS If there is anything that has come up for you as a result of this post, please get in touch. I warmly invite you to book in for a free 30-minute call.  We can discuss to see if a personalised nutrition and lifestyle plan might help. You can book yourself directly into my diary by clicking right here http://bit.ly/tnt-bookcall.

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To be or not to be…

Should I go vegetarian?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, it can’t have escaped your notice that being vegan, vegetarian or at least mostly meat free has been big news. Giving up meat in favour of veggie alternatives has also been huge in the recipe book business, and glamorous protagonists include (Deliciously) Ella Woodward and Madeline Shaw.

But could you take the plunge, and should you, even if you could?

Food for thought (pun intended):

People become vegan or vegetarians for many reasons, including health, religion, concerns about animal welfare, or a desire to eat in a way that avoids excessive use of environmental resources. Others follow a largely vegetarian diet because they can’t afford to eat much meat.

Becoming a vegetarian has become more appealing and accessible, thanks to the year-round availability of fresh produce, more vegetarian dining options, and the growing culinary influence of cultures with largely plant-based diets. Plus a whole lotta media coverage.

A number of scientific studies have shown that going meat free has definite benefits (which I will cover in the next couple of days). However, a vegetarian diet isn’t necessarily healthy. A diet of sugary, fizzy drinks, pizza and cake can be technically vegetarian. For health, just like any other diet, it is important to focus on eating a rainbow of vegetables, balanced sources of protein (see tomorrow’s post!), smaller amounts of starchy carbohydrates like rice, pasta, bread and potatoes, and healthy fats like those found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados.

Plant-based sources of protein
  • Tofu, miso and tempeh
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa (say ‘keen-wa’)
  • Peas and beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Seeds and seed butters, including flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and tahini
  • Leafy green veg
  • Novel proteins (those that have been manufactured from vegetable sources to resemble animal proteins in texture) like TVP (textured vegetable protein, derived from soy), seitan (wheat gluten) and Quorn mycoprotein (derived from a fungus). All are manufactured and processed and have same issues as all processed foods.

 

Enjoy the benefits without going veggie

You can get many of the health benefits of being vegetarian without going all the way. A Mediterranean diet, for example, features a greater emphasis on plant foods with more limited use of meat and associated with longer life and reduced risk of chronic illness.

If you don’t want to become a complete vegetarian, you can steer your diet in that direction with a few simple substitutions, such as plant-based sources of protein instead of meat a couple of times a week.

Although, strictly speaking, vegetarians do not eat any meat, poultry, fish or seafood at all, some people go part the way towards being vegetarian and call themselves vegetarian, so let’s get really clear on the distinctions…

  • Vegans eat no meat, poultry, fish, seafood or any products derived from animals, including honey, eggs and dairy products.
  • Vegetarians don’t eat meat, poultry, fish, seafood or any products derived from dead animals. Sub-groups of vegetarianism are:
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians don’t eat meat, poultry, fish or seafood but they do eat eggs and consume dairy products.
  • Lacto-vegetarians eat no meat, poultry, fish or seafood but they do eat dairy products.
  • Ovo-vegetarians eat no meat, poultry, fish or seafood and avoid dairy, but they do eat eggs.
  • Pesco-vegetarians (or pescatarians) are not vegetarians, because they eat fish and seafood (dead animals), they also usually eat eggs and dairy, but no meat or poultry .
Is going vegetarian healthier?    

Compared with meat eaters, vegetarians tend to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol, and more vitamins C and E, dietary fibre, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals), such as carotenoids and flavonoids. As a result, they tend to have lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower body mass index (BMI), all of which are associated with longevity and a reduced risk for many chronic diseases.

However, we now know that eating saturated fat and cholesterol neither leads to heart disease nor an increase in cholesterol levels. The good results vegetarians and vegans have with heart health may simply be due to the fact that they have a much healthier diet than the average person on the Western diet, they are better informed about nutrition and particularly for vegans much junk is off the menu (as much of it contains dairy or egg). Vegetarians and vegans are also less likely to smoke or drink excessively, and are likely to take more exercise. These factors, too, are life preserving.

A huge number of studies point to eating more fruit and veg to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers.  And, if you stop eating red meat (whether or not you become a vegetarian), you’ll eliminate a risk factor for colon cancer. It’s not clear whether avoiding all animal products reduces the risk further.

Vegetarianism & Nutrient Deficiencies

Some women worry they won’t get enough calcium to support bone health if they don’t eat dairy. Women would have to get their calcium from vegetables like bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, spring greens, and kale. Tofu and sesame seed (incl. tahini) are great sources of calcium.

People who follow a vegetarian diet (and especially a vegan diet) may be at risk of getting insufficient vitamin D and vitamin K, both needed for bone health. Although green leafy vegetables contain some vitamin K, vegans may also need to rely on fortified foods, including some types of soy milk, rice milk, organic orange juice, and breakfast cereals. They may also want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement.

The biggest problem for vegans is a lack of vitamin B12 as there are zero plant sources for it. It has to be supplemented or come from fortified foods.

Diets that include no fish or eggs are low in EPA and DHA. Your body can convert ALA in plant foods to EPA and DHA, but not very efficiently. Vegans can get DHA from algae supplements, which increase blood levels of DHA as well as EPA. Good ALA sources include flaxseed, walnuts, rapeseed oil, and soy.

Becoming a vegetarian or vegan is very much a personal choice, but one thing is clear, we would all benefit from increasing the amount of vegetables (and fruit) in our diets. They contain an array of life-enhancing plant chemicals, vitamins and minerals that help in the fight against disease; fill you up by activating the satiety hormone leptin;   make it easier to eliminate waste via the colon; and help mop up excess hormones in the body, making them essential in the detoxification process. How can you squeeze an extra portion into your diet today?

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I-B-S

IBS

As April is IBS Awareness month, let’s talk about it.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a problem I see so often in clinic. And it is problematic on many different levels. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, you may well have been suffering with it for years.  While a diagnosis can – at first– offer comfort in finally having a recognised problem, the satisfaction is short-lived because often that’s where all support ends. You’re left no further forward in actually fixing what the problem is. Or worse, they are told “it’s due to stress so learn to manage the stress” and then left to get on with it.

Stress

And yes, stress is an exacerbating factor for many people.  I see it as a “perfect storm” for many – one or more things has gone wrong with their digestive system and they may limp along for a while without many major symptoms – or at least nothing too disruptive to their lives.  And WHAM! A stressful event occurs and suddenly their IBS becomes a very debilitating condition causing some people to miss work; to start restricting foods to the point they are eating a very limited diet; and to avoid going out so they don’t need to be far from a toilet.

(would you believe that April is also Stress Awareness Month?)

What is IBS?

The difficulty begins because IBS is essentially meaningless; it’s a catch-all term used to encompass a huge variety of digestive issues. If you’re serious about getting to the bottom of the problem (no pun intended), get in touch. I’m happy to discuss your symptoms and help find a way forward. You can book a free IBS health check with me by clicking here http://bit.ly/tnt-bookcall.

In my experience, it’s likely to be one of the following five conditions.

 1 SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)

Around 60% of people with IBS will have SIBO. Though you might have heard about good (and bad) bacteria in the gut, really what experts are talking about is the balance of bacteria in the large intestine: the colon. The small intestine shouldn’t have any bacteria.

Each day the body should perform a flush to sweep bacteria from the small intestine and into the large intestine. This flush is called the ‘migrating motor complex’. For a huge variety of reasons (historic food poisoning being the most common, but also low levels of stomach acid or adhesions play a role, among others) the bacteria are not swept away. The trouble is that these bacteria can ferment the food in your small intestine, causing gas, belching, bloating, pain and a variety of other symptoms, including constipation and/or loose stools, and even anxiety.

A breath test can establish which gases are present, and we can devise an action plan based on your results.

2 Lactose intolerance

This is when your body is not able to tolerate lactose, a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other dairy products. Essentially, bacteria in your intestine feed on these milk sugars, leading to a host of IBS symptoms, like bloating and gas, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea. It can go hand in hand with other digestive complaints, such as coeliac disease or increased intestinal permeability at a microscopic level (‘leaky gut’).  A simple at-home breath test can determine lactose intolerance.

3 Fructose malabsorption

The symptoms are very similar to lactose intolerance. Fructose (which is found in fruit, honey and many processed foods) is a sugar, which, like lactose, is digested in the small intestine. Some people cannot absorb fructose, and what is not absorbed is fermented by intestinal bacteria, causing bloating, cramping, gas and distension of the stomach. You might also experience brain fog and headaches. A breath test will detect this condition.

4 Dysbiosis

This is an imbalance in the levels of beneficial (good) and pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the large intestine or colon. This is now common due to overuse of antibiotics and alcohol, an increase in high sugar diets, and stress. Symptoms can vary from a sluggish bowel or diarrhoea, pain, bloating and flatulence, to chronic bad breath, joint pain, and fatigue and food sensitivities. Dysbiosis is also implicated in a variety of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. A stool test can help establish whether your gut bacteria are out of balance.  It can also show a host of other markers that might be useful in getting to the root of your digestive problems.

5 Yeast overgrowth

Where the gut environment becomes out of balance (due to dysbiosis), yeast can thrive. Diets high in sugar feed the yeast. Although if you think you might have a yeast overgrowth, it’s worth noting that long-term yeast problems can mean that the yeast cells are pathogenic or disease causing.  The yeast has switched its metabolism to also be able to digest protein and fat. Symptoms of yeast overgrowth include recurring thrush, gas or bloating, fatigue, bad breath, cravings for sweet foods, joint pain and brain fog. A stool test can establish the presence of candida or other yeast overgrowth.

 

Some people struggle with digestive problems for years. If you are ready to make fixing your gut health a priority, I would love to work with you. Please click the link here http://bit.ly/tnt-bookcall to book your free IBS health check now.

 

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Hellllooooooo Sugar!

Hellllooooooo Sugar!

Sugar Substitutes – Natural or Artificial

People often ask me about sugar substitutes.  The classic question is “Surely honey is healthy?” So here’s the low down on some of those sugar replacements you might think are healthy (and some that definitely aren’t).

Honey
  • Honey has a lot going for it in some regards. It contains amino acids, electrolytes and antioxidants, and antimicrobial compounds that can support your health. To get these extra benefits, you’ll want to choose a raw (unprocessed) local honey. It may also help relieve allergy symptoms, specifically hay fever, because the bees feast on the local pollen, and taking raw local honey can help you develop natural immunity over time. But, whichever way you cut it, honey is sugar. It may be natural, but sugar it is, and it behaves that way in your body, spiking blood sugar exactly as actual sugar would.
Dates
  • Dates are a popular feature of many paleo or natural sugar-free bars, because they are naturally very sweet. They have the highest nutritional benefit of all natural sweeteners, because they also contain minerals like selenium, copper, potassium and magnesium. Dates also provide fibre to slow the speed at which the sugars hit your bloodstream. Medjool dates have featured heavily in many a trendy recipe book. These are sweeter and tend to be softer than regular dates. However dates, too, raise blood sugar levels and trigger insulin release.
Maple syrup
  • This is one of the best sugar substitutes (if indeed you need to use any) because it contains antioxidants (24 in fact), which are helpful in the fight against cell-damaging free radicals. There is absolutely no nutritional value to actual sugar. So maple syrup is one of the better natural sugar substitutes. While studies show it does not spike your blood sugar levels as much, it is still wise to use sparingly. You’ll want grade A (lighter in flavour) or B (nutritionally better and with a more intense flavour). Avoid maple flavoured syrups as these are not the same.
Coconut sugar
  • Coconut sugar has become very trendy of late and brings a lovely caramel flavour to your food. It is perfect for baking with and has a lesser impact on your blood sugar levels than regular sugar, but it is still sugar, so use sparingly.
Palmyra Jaggery
  • This is the crystalized nectar collected from the flower of the Palmyra palm and you may not even have heard of it. You use it exactly as you would sugar, and often you can reduce the amount needed by up to a half. Palmyra jaggery is full of B vitamins and has a much lower GL than table sugar.
Brown rice syrup
  • This has found its way into ‘healthy’ recipes. It’s made from fermented, cooked rice. Brown rice syrup is not a particularly good option as a sweetener as it’s highly processed, contains very little in the way of nutrition benefits and the effect on blood sugar is almost identical to standard sugar.
Agave syrup
  • Agave syrup comes from a cactus, and the syrup is made from the pulp of the leaf. It’s very highly processed and is mainly fructose, which needs to be processed by the liver, causing more stress for an already over-worked organ. Fructose is actually worse for you than glucose. Agave syrup (or nectar) is very similar to the (deservedly) much-demonised high fructose corn syrup that has contributed greatly to the obesity epidemic in the US.  This is arguably the worst of the natural sugar substitutes.  My advice? Do not use it!                                [Table sugar (sucrose) is 50% glucose, 50% fructose.]
Stevia
  • This is another natural sweetener. There a number of different types of stevia. Ideally you want full, green leaf stevia that is unadulterated with other sweeteners. Pure stevia will not unbalance your blood sugar levels, thus avoiding an energy rollercoaster.
Xylitol
  • Often found in the UK under the brand names Total Sweet or Xyla, xylitol is a sugar alcohol. It’s a little sweeter than sugar, has fewer calories and (the important part) 75% less carbohydrate. Therefore, its impact on blood sugar levels is lower than it would be if you were to eat the same amount compared to real sugar. It’s the same stuff used in sugar free chewing gum, thanks to its antibacterial properties. The downside is it is very highly processed. Also some people can be sensitive to large amounts and may find they get bloated or experience diarrhea, if they eat too much. Note as well that it is toxic for dogs.
Artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and saccharin)
  • People usually resort to artificial sweeteners in a bid to cut calories. This is bad news for a number of reasons, but I’ll mention the two biggies here. Research into some of them shows a correlation with cancer (weak, perhaps, and refuted by the food industry, but still a posibility). And secondly, nutrition science conclusively proves that weight gain/ loss has little to do with calories in and out but what happens hormonally inside the body – how much insulin your body makes (insulin being the fat storage hormone that also sabotages fat burning). Recent research shows that these artificial sweeteners can increase blood sugar (and consequently insulin) levels more than normal sugar. So really, what is the point? My advice is to stop now …

BUT…

The very best scenario of all is that you wean yourself off sweeteners of any kind.  This will help you appreciate and embrace natural sweetness from real food. If you continue to eat sweet things, your taste buds will always want sweet things. It’s as simple as that. If you need a sugar fix, find it in real, natural foods.

In addition to phasing out not only sugary foods, but check the labels on convenience foods to see where sugar has been added. If your diet has traditionally been quite high in the white stuff, the first few weeks can be a little tricky as your body (and brain and taste buds) starts to adjust – but bear with it.

* Deliciously Ella’s Cinnamon Pecan Granola https://deliciouslyella.com/nutty-cinnamon-granola

sugar substitutes - a healthier option

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What’s your DNA report telling you?

What’s your DNA report telling you?

Companies like 23andMe, which produce DNA report based on your genes, give you a lot of data and point out some important genetic markers, but they are not allowed to give any health advice as regulated by the FDA. They do give some reports on potentially inherited conditions. But, genetic potential is only part of the picture.

Your genes are not your destiny

DNA is a molecular code containing the “recipes” that tell your body how to make proteins – the molecular workhorses that do the heavy lifting inside your cells. Your unique DNA code shapes who you are and how you grow.A section of DNA that contains a complete recipe for a particular protein is known as a gene.

But… Not all of your genes are read all of the time. Different genes may be “expressed” (turned on) or “silent” (turned off).

DNA report

Sure, genes which code for things like your eye colour or hair colour, are not going to change, but what about the genes which tell your body how to run its various biochemical pathways and how to replicate your cells? These genes must be “expressing” – that is turned “on”. Diet and lifestyle factors can impact the expression of these genes greatly. This is known as “epigenetics” (please see the link and the infographic below).

Do you know what changes you need to make to try to stave off health problems in the future?

 

You can expect

We will have a one-to-one 90-minute consultation, either in person or over Skype, to discuss your DNA report in a nutritional framework. What SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) do you have that may be a concern for your future health? I will analyse your DNA report and give you diet and lifestyle coaching. The idea is to optimise your current health and hopefully prevent or minimise other potential health issues in the future.

I will also ask you to fill in a questionnaire about medical history, family history, etc, just as I do with a regular nutritional therapy session. This will help me in our consultation to tailor your programme.

Before the consultation

Before the consultation, we need a DNA report (at least) so I will need to organise some tests for you. The price for these tests is already included in my price plans. However, if you already have these test results a deduction can be made from my fees.

More info on epigenetics, shown with great easy to understand infographic: click here

Genetics vs. Epigenetics infographic
from “Hidden Switches in the Mind” by Eric J. Nestler. Scientific American 305, 76 – 83 (2011) doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1211-76 Protect My Future