Top Tips to Support the Immune System
Vitamin B12 is an essential water soluble vitamin which is required for a range of functions in the human body. It is one of the B-Complex group energy giving vitamins which are important for promoting a healthy nervous system and detoxifying the body. These vitamins act as coenzymes, helping the body to obtain energy from food. They also regulate important functions of the cardiovascular, endocrine and digestive systems. The body can not produce B Vitamins and so they must be obtained from our diet.
Vitamin B12 is one of the most common deficiencies in the western world and can occur for a number of reasons. Pernicious anaemia (an autoimmune condition) is one common cause of Vitamin B12 deficiency. Due to a lack of intrinsic factor in this condition, the body is unable to absorb Vitamin B12 and so becomes deficient. This condition can result in a range of symptoms including nerve damage, muscle weakness, extreme fatigue, numbness in hands and feet, osteoporosis, depression, dementia, digestive issues, and a smooth, thick red tongue among others. If you have any or all of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your GP to rule this out. Pernicious anaemia is normally diagnosed by a GP and treatment includes routine B12 injections.
However, it is also possible to develop B12 deficiency as a result of not getting enough Vitamin B12 from the diet or absorption problems as a result of digestive issues such as leaky gut, coeliac disease, Crohn's or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products, such as meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs meaning that deficiencies of this nutrient are common among vegetarians and vegans. One of the difficulties being that although there are some fortified foods such as nutritional yeast and fortified milks which can provide some B12, not all of those following these diets are conscientious about ensuring that their needs are covered via nutrition. Therefore, supplementation becomes a requirement.
Certain medications such as proton pump inhibitors and anticonvulsants can also affect the absorption of Vitamin B12. In addition, anti-depressants and the oral contraceptive pill can deplete B12 among other nutrients. Whether you have been on the pill or are currently taking it, a good B-Complex can help replenish the nutrients depleted by the pill while also supporting hormone balance.
B12 is a particularly important nutrient for promoting a healthy nervous system and many Psychiatrists such as Dr Drew Ramsay are now encouraging their patients to eat foods such as oysters which are rich in both Vitamin B12 and Omega 3 (two nutrient deficiencies which have been linked to higher risk of suicide and depression). A 2010 study led by researchers at Rush University looked at more than 3,500 adults and showed that a higher intake of B6, B9 and B12 whether through food or supplementation was associated with a decreased likelihood of depression for up to 12 years follow up.
The most common form of B12 supplementation is cyanocobalamin which is less expensive but it is not found in nature. It may release small amounts of cyanide into the system which may have relevance to an individual with impaired detoxification as a result of genetics, nutrient deficiencies or chronic illness. The recommended form is therefore methylcobalamin which interestingly is the form produced by our gut bacteria. Likewise if you are wanting to increase folate (B9) we would recommend methylfolate rather than folic acid for better absorption. Read more in our blog on folic acid vs folate.
We have a range of B Vitamin supplements available, some of which are practitioner only products and therefore unavailable online.
If you are interested in any of the B Vitamins for supplementation, come in for a chat or give us a call so that we can make the best suggestion for you. We can also provide relevant testing if appropriate.
BetterYouTM Boost B12 Oral Spray is an effective aid to normal psychological functions, expertly blended to help boost energy levels.
Specially formulated to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system. The tiny droplets absorb quickly in your mouth providing faster nutrient absorption than tablets.
"Don't you just love New York in the fall, it makes me wanna buy school supplies"
Starting the new school year can be an exciting time. Buying new stationary, new uniforms and going into a new class with a new teacher can make it an unsettling but exciting time of change for children. But, as every mum and teacher knows, those first few weeks back always bring an explosion of bugs, and children who are immune compromised can become easy prey for some of these viral attacks. Making some diet and lifestyle changes can help boost your child's immunity and make a real difference to their overall health and wellbeing. Here are our top tips for a healthy school year.
Optimise Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin which is essential for maintaining healthy levels of calcium in the blood. Vitamin D also plays an essential role in immune system health and cell growth. The main source of Vitamin D is from exposure to natural sunlight from the sun. However, from October to March the rays of the sun in the UK are not strong enough to enable our bodies to make Vitamin D. As a result, it is now a government recommendation that everyone should supplement with Vitamin D from October to March each year. Recommended dosages for children vary according to body weight.
Look after Gut Health
It is estimated that between 70%-80% of our immune system is located in our gut which means that what we feed our gut bacteria can impact our immune health. Prebiotics such as garlic, leeks and asparagus feed the friendly bacteria in our guts so consuming these on a regular basis can benefit gut health. Probiotics have also been shown in clinical trials to have a beneficial impact on gut and immune health. Optibac and Proven both have good ranges for children. ProVen Fit for School was used in the ProChild study, which took place over six months and those children taking Fit for School saw a 30% reduction in absenteeism from school due to coughs, colds and other upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). The study also found that the duration of coughs and colds was halved in the children taking Fit for School and visits to the doctor and consequently prescription for antibiotics was reduced by 43%. This probiotic is suitable for children aged 4-16.
Consume Omega 3
Omega 3 is great for our brains and helping us focus. Omega 3's also reduce inflammation and prevent attacks by toxins or pathogens. Food sources include oily fish, eggs, walnuts, flax, chia seeds and grass fed meat. If you're concerned that your child won't eat many of the foods which contain Omega 3, you could supplement with a good source of omega 3 such as Eskimo 3 Bright Kids Jelly Splats.
Eat a Rainbow
Eating a wide variety of colourful fruits and vegetables ensures we get a combination of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support the immune system. If you're concerned about any nutritional gaps, BetterYou have designed a handy multi-vitamin spray for children with a blend of 14 essential nutrients. The robust multi-nutrient formulation contains the full spectrum of B vitamins, including folate, combined with vitamins A, C, D, K, selenium and iodine.
Sleep is when our bodies rest and restore. Aiming for at least 10 hours sleep for little ones is a great way to ensure they get the rest they need to grow and thrive.
We hope you all have a happy and healthy school year!
If you would like to know more about nutritional therapy for children, you can find more information on our children's nutritional therapy page or pop into the shop at 44 St Andrew Street, Aberdeen to have a chat with us.
Optibac for Babies and Children
£6.99 - £45.99
What's it for?
A natural supplement from OptiBac, for infants and children.
Who's it for?
For infants & children from birth to 12 years, and for pregnant & breastfeeding women.
Each sachet:Provides 3 billion live cultures + 0.75g of FOS fibres, guaranteed until end of expiry.
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS); Filler: potato starch; Live cultures (Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52, Bifidobacterium infantis Rosell-33, Bifidobacterium bifidum Rosell-71).
Each sachet guarantees 3 billion micro-organisms + 0.75g FOS fibres.
MultiVit Junior Vitamin Oral Spray
BetterYou™ MultiVit Junior Oral Spray is an expert blend of 14 essential vitamins and minerals expertly blended to support your child's health and wellbeing.
Specially formulated to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system. The tiny droplets absorb quickly in the mouth providing fast nutrient absorption.
The robust multi-nutrient formulation contains the full spectrum of B vitamins, including folate, combined with vitamins A, C, D, K, selenium and iodine.
Acidophilus & Bifidus with A-Z multivitamins for Children
Specially formulated for children aged 4-16.
Adequate vitamin intake is especially critical for children to ensure they develop and grow healthily. As some children can be fussy eaters, it may be useful to supplement their diet to ensure they have an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals.
ProVen Probiotics Acidophilus & Bifidus with A-Z Multivitamins for Children is unique in providing a combination of 100% of the recommended daily allowance of all 13 essential vitamins, together with 2.5 billion Lab4 friendly bacteria - all in one tasty chewable tablet developed specifically for children.
The unique addition of the extensively studied Lab4 friendly bacteria helps to support immune and intestinal function making ProVen Probiotics Acidophilus & Bifidus with A-Z Multivitamins for Children a comprehensive nutritional support to help maintain your child's everyday health and wellbeing.
BetterYou™ DLuxInfant Vitamin D Oral Spray is specially formulated for children under 3 years. The gentle combination of coconut oil and vitamin D deliver this vital vitamin directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system.
The tiny droplets absorb quickly in your child’s mouth providing fast and convenient nutrient absorption.
There is no need to take with food or water and DLuxInfant’s 100% natural, tooth kind formula is perfect for kids to boost their vitamin D levels quickly and easily.
Coconut oil, cholecalciferol (vitamin D3).
No artificial colours or flavours.
The source of vitamin D3 is Lanolin. This has been sourced from the wool of sheep living in Australia. The D3 is completely extracted from the Lanolin and while it is suitable for vegetarians (approved by the vegetarian society) it may not be suitable for those wishing to follow a strict vegan diet.
BetterYou takes pride in its unique approach to absorption, delivery and stability testing and proudly use natural, food-state, food-sourced ingredients wherever possible.
Proudly British made. Never tested on animals.
Adaptogen herbs are quite an amazing type of healing plant which can help our stress response by modulating cortisol and normalising our physiological function. Possibly one of the best known is ginseng of which there are several types. My first experience with Siberian ginseng was about 23 years ago when going through a period of fatigue post virally and was fortunate enough to live beside Scotland’s first qualified Medical Herbalist Brian Lamb. Brian started me on Siberian ginseng among other things which had me firing on all four pretty quickly. Since then, I have been a firm advocate and have been fascinated by the quite remarkable benefits of these herbs which I wouldn’t be without in my own life.
1. Siberian Ginseng or Eleutherococcus senticosus. My personal favourite and one I’ve used many times with success over the years. Research has shown that eluthero can significantly improve energy, mood, stamina and cognitive function. It has also been shown to modulate blood pressure. One example is a study of those with chronic fatigue which showed benefit especially for those with mild to moderate symptoms.
2. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve memory and learning and is also the most researched adaptogen for those with underactive thyroid. In Ayurvedic medicine it is seen as an all round tonic and used to promote fertility. Some studies have shown cognitive benefit for those with bipolar disorder and also an improvement in cholesterol and blood glucose in diabetes.
3. Rhodiola has been researched in relation to its impact on stress and depression. In a study of people with stress related burn out, it improved many associated measures including stress and depression. One study has suggested that Rhodiola showed favourable results versus Zoloft (sertraline) with less associated risks for mild to moderate depression. Because of the lack of side effects, some have suggested it be used in place of antidepressants which do come with side effects and also deplete certain nutrients.
4. Shatavari is an interesting adaptogen and has many uses. The word literally means ‘woman who has a thousand husbands’ and is traditionally given for fertility and improved libido, vaginal dryness and is useful in the prevention of osteoporosis. It is also widely used as a woman’s herb and has been shown to be an excellent galactagogue for low milk supply. For menopausal women, it has also been shown to improve libido.
5. Holy basil is lesser known but becoming more mainstream perhaps due to the availability of Pukka Tulsi tea which is becoming popular. Also known to boost energy and cognition, there are studies showing improvement in generalised anxiety. Tulsi has been shown to have broad spectrum antimicrobial activity in studies.
6. Astragalus is a fascinating herb with many effects and research has suggested it may have anti-tumour activity, blood sugar lowering effects and supports the immune system. It has been shown to prevent colds and flus and is particularly beneficial for upper respiratory infections. Some studies have looked at the cancer protective effects.
7. Cordyceps is an adaptogen which is lesser known among the public but is gaining recognition across many pathologies. It is actually a type of fungi or medicinal mushroom which, similar to the above also has immune modulating effects and supports the stress response. You may come across it in supplements to support stress or adrenal function. It also has anti-tumour effects and is indicated for respiratory infections and chronic fatigue. More and more research is coming out on the effects of mushrooms in cancer prevention and indeed mushrooms are widely used in mainstream medicine in Russia, China and Japan.
If you would like to find out more about adaptogens or find out which might be the most relevant for yourself, come and see us at 44 St Andrew Street, Aberdeen.
Astragalus, Elderberry & Garlic Complex
£11.30 - £19.20
Astragalus is an adaptogenic herb which has been traditionally used to support the immune system.
TWO VEGETARIAN CAPSULES TYPICALLY PROVIDE:
Astragalus Root 350mg
Elderberry (fresh freeze dried) 150mg
Garlic (fresh freeze dried – ORGANIC) 125mg
Olive Leaf (fresh freeze dried – ORGANIC) 75mg
Oregon Grape Root 50mg
Elderflower (fresh freeze dried) 25mg
Maitake Mycelia (fresh freeze dried) 25mg
Stabilized Rice Bran 15mg
Cayenne Pepper (fresh freeze dried – ORGANIC) 10mg
Larch Tree Arabinogalactan 225mg
NO FILLERS, BINDERS OR OTHER EXCIPIENTS
SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS & VEGANS
NO WHEAT – NO GLUTEN – NO CORN – NO SOY – NO YEAST – NO DAIRY – NO GELATINE – NO ANIMAL INGREDIENTS – NO ADDITIVES – NO ADDED SUGAR – NO COLOURS – NO FLAVOURS – NO PRESERVATIVES
£16.95 - £29.95
Wholistic™ Shatavari is a concentration of the finest parts of whole shatavari root gathered from fertile organic soils. Expertly created to help maintain feminine rhythm this broad-spectrum formula contains the highest organic grade, sustainably cultivated herbs, carefully selected to bring you the full potential of nature’s goodness.
£16.95 - £29.95
Wholistic™ Ashwagandha is a natural formula to nourish the mind and relax the nervous system.
As busy modern living puts increasing pressure on the mind, it can leave us feeling tense, overwhelmed and in need of some recuperation. Ashwagandha, the herb of modern life, is one of Ayurveda’s most prized adaptogenic herbs; it is known as ‘rasayana’ meaning rejuvenate. It has been used for centuries to moderate the body’s response to stress, bringing both energy and inner calm. By nourishing a worried mind and relaxing the nervous system, the body is rebalanced and ready to tackle life’s challenges.
Pukka’s organic Wholistic™ Ashwagandha uses a unique extraction process to retain all 45+ active compounds. This ensures a powerful, concentrated extract that maximises the synergistic benefits. Pukka’s Ashwagandha has been proven to provide a:
Each daily serving (2 capsules) gives you 20% NRV of iodine:
Mushroom Gold is based on three edible mushrooms – organic Maitake, Reishi and Shiitake. Rich in Vitamin D*, these mushrooms have been used for centuries to help support a healthy ecosystem. We ensure that the fruiting body and mycellium as well as the extra-cellular metabolites are blended to deliver the concentrated polysaccharides and beta-glucans.
This broad-spectrum formula contains the highest organic grade, sustainably cultivated herbs, carefully selected to bring you the full potential of nature’s goodness.
*Each daily serving gives you: 248% NRV of Vitamin D naturally occurring in mushrooms.
Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system and process of cell division.
Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition often causing red itchy inflamed skin which can range in severity from mild to severe.
According to statistics around 15 million people in the UK live with this condition and in 2015 GP’s in England wrote around 27 million prescriptions for various topical agents costing around £169 million. If you are thinking to yourself that more and more people are suffering from this you’d be right in your assumption. An NHS funded study has shown that the numbers of cases have risen by 40 % in 4 years.
What we do know about the condition is that it is an allergic condition with 80% of sufferers having raised IgE antibodies. Eczema patients have positive allergy tests and around two thirds have a family history. Many also suffer from other atopic conditions such as asthma and hay fever.
The standard treatment protocols involve simply managing symptoms via emollients and sometimes steroids and if infection is triggered due to scratching, antibiotics. Allergens are also tested for although these tend to focus on only IgE mediated reactions.
We are back to finding our root cause. So first lets look at what’s going on in the immune system. The allergy antibody IgE is elevated in 80% of cases and this is activated by a type of white blood cell, a helper cell called TH2. Mast cells can release higher amounts of histamine leading to the itch that we associate with eczema. Then there’s the issue that around 90% of sufferers also have a predominance of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus on the skin which their immune system is unable to kill. Often scratching can activate this infection and cause some potentially severe staph infections. So how do we prevent this vicious circle? Well we have to do everything we can from day one to promote our gut/immune function. In our immune system we have regularly T cells sometimes known as Treg, which are involved in immune suppression and immune tolerance. It’s known that an unhealthy gut can lead to a decrease in these important cells and therefore an imbalance in our TH1/TH2 cells with the TH2 cells being unregulated. Studies have indicated that the use of probiotics from birth can confer a reduction in TH2 dominance and symptoms of AD at 13 months old versus placebo.
Studies have shown that breast feeding is associated with a reduced risk of eczema and other allergies. However there is a caveat here in that although breast milk may confer antibody protection, in at risk children it may also be necessary for the feeding mum herself to remove common allergens which may unwittingly be triggering the problem as these proteins pass through the milk. Common allergens being dairy, peanuts and eggs. That said, the advice is to introduce these common allergens while breast feeding at the 6 to 12 month stage and to then continue to breast feed for a further 6 months following this introduction.
Older and formula fed children
In older and formula fed children a study looking at triggers for eczema indicated that Peanuts eggs and milk have been shown to account for 80% of adverse reactions to foods in people living wth contact dermatitis. Other common triggers and are wheat, fish and soy.
The hygiene hypothesis. Are we just too clean?
Epidemiological studies, especially those looking at migration from one country to another indicate that we acquire the same immune disorders as soon as we move to another area so environmental factors are playing a huge role. Lifestyle changes have led to a decrease in infection in the industrialised world and this has been shown to be inversely correlated with increases in allergies and autoimmunity. Studies have also shown that exposure to animals or growing up on a farm confers protection from a young age as we are exposed to a greater variety of bacteria which leads to activation and modulation of innate and adaptive immune response. In one large Swiss study, nearly 14,000 children were surveyed between 2006 and 2007, with over 3,000 farming children and around 11,000 non-farming children. In this study, 38% of the non-farming children had allergies compared to 19% of the farming children.
Those living with allergies have commonly got some level of digestive compromise and dysfunction. Stomach acid which normally assists in the removal of infection and therefore has a protective role, can commonly become low and therefore play a role in weakening our immune system and make us more prone to infection. It also sets us up potentially for the leaky gut phenomenon which puts us at risk of further food sensitivities of the IgG variety (delayed reaction) and chronic inflammation. If you have intestinal permeability you may also be experiencing other health challenges e.g. fatigue, brain fog, headaches, depression, sinus, IBS, reflux, joint pain, and autoimmunity. This is also why I see many clients in clinic who may be coming along for help getting to the root of their eczema but who also have any number of the aforementioned symptoms. A lack of a very important nutrient zinc can ensue as a consequence of low stomach acid. This nutrient is essential for immune, gut, hormone and skin health. It affects appetite, smell and taste of food, so in children who have a narrowing of food choices and are no longer enjoying certain foods, zinc deficiency may be at the heart of this. It is also a particular problem in cases of acne in teenagers so look out for changes in eating and appetite in older children and test their zinc levels. This can be done with a very simple taste test which all the family can do. Adequate zinc is also required for healing the gut.
Gut Flora and probiotics
Because our immune system resides primarily in the gut we need to look at gut bacteria. We also need to weed out any trouble makers Interestingly yeast overgrowth is a common cause of eczema. It’s also a very common problem as the western diet of high sugar, refined carbs and low fibre sets up the perfect conditions for this to grow. In addition, yeast overgrowth can result from long term medication use e.g. antibiotics, steroids and the oral contraceptive pill. We therefore need to ‘weed and seed’ the gut, get the infections out and the good bacteria in to assist with immune balancing and symptom resolution.
Risk factors for allergies in children
This relates to those factors which influence the health of the micro biome from day one. In an ideal world we need to be focusing on the gut health of mum prior to a planned pregnancy as this is what baby inherits. Areas of concern are
The Swansea Study
This was a large study by the University of Swansea Medical School with 454 mother/baby pairs who were given Lab4b probiotics containing Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria both during the final month of pregnancy and the first 6 months of infancy to evaluate whether this would prevent allergy in children. The results showed that versus placebo, the probiotic groups did indeed confer a protective effect on prevention of eczema and also prevention of allergic reaction to common allergens including pollen, cows milk, eggs and dust mites.
Prof. Steve Allen, concluded the following key message from the trial:‘Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria administered to pregnant women and infants aged 0-6 months prevented atopic sensitization and atopic eczema.
The babies given the Lab4b probiotics were 57% less likely to develop atopic eczema than those receiving the placebo.
The babies given Lab4b were 44% less likely to develop allergic reaction to common allergens, including pollen, cow’s milk, egg and house dust mite.
Stress is very much linked with gut/immune function and when we are stressed we are more likely to have a flare of these conditions so managing stress for young and old is a life long strategy for eczema management. Adaptogen herbs can be helpful as can mindfulness, meditation and essential oils such as lavender for relaxation. As those living with eczema have a tendency towards poor absorption due to gut compromise a common nutrient which we can find ourselves low in is magnesium and this is also because we actually use more of it when we are stressed. More tips here on how to maintain levels.
Nutritional therapy/ Functional medicine approach for eczema
The nutritional therapy approach involved recognition of all of the above factors and follows through with the following stages.
This can be done if required and in addition to either allergy or food intolerance testing we can offer stool testing to identify infection and imbalance and even cortisol testing if stress is a particular trigger.
This really does depend on the individual. It depends on what else they may be presenting with, their individual root cause/s, what medications they are on etc. However core supplements to include are going to be probiotics to reinoculate the gut, omega 3 and vitamin D. We may also recommend supplements and diet change to support gut integrity and immune balancing as per above recommendations.
More info on booking an appointment with us for adults and children here.
Burks AW, Williams LW, Mallory SB, et al. Peanut protein as a major cause of adverse food reaction in patients with atopic dermatitis. Allergy Proceedings 1989;10:265-269.
Von Mutius E, Vercelli D. Farm living: effects on childhood asthma and allergy. Nat Rev Immunol. 2010;10:861–868.
Allen SJ et al 2014.
Probiotics in the prevention of eczema: a randomised controlled trial.
Archives of Disease in Childhood 99(11): 1014–1019
A subject that we're getting more and more questions about these days is how food intolerance can impact sports performance. Testing is growing in popularity as more and more of our top professionals have found that removing foods that they are intolerant to can have a big impact not only on their health but also their performance. In the Tennis world, it was Djokovic who famously removed food intolerances in his diet and he credits this for his ability to remain at the top of his profession.
Food intolerance is estimated to effect 45 percent of the population and can show itself in a variety of symptoms, for example, headaches, migraines, IBS, eczema, joint pain, unexplained fatigue among others. More on food intolerance and health can be found here. One of the difficulties for sports people and a common trap that they can fall into unwittingly is that they can follow diets that can become quite repetitive and find themselves eating a lot of the same foods which can itself lead to food intolerance. An example of this would be eating a high number of eggs as it is a protein rich food. But if we become intolerant to this food, we can find ourselves with various symptoms, fluid retention and sub-optimal sports performance. Another common intolerance is to dairy products, so imagine the number of sports people out there who are regularly consuming whey based proteins in shakes and protein bars who may be impairing their performance without realising it. Intolerance to specific foods can also lead to challenges around weight management, so if you are finding that you are struggling to lose weight even although you believe that your diet and exercise program is optimal, it may be that you have underlying food intolerance which could be driving inflammation and leading to some challenges around losing weight. Typically people find that they lose a few of those extra pounds fairly quickly after removing problematic foods as they lose fluid retention and going forward find that they are better able to maintain an optimal weight for them.
A number of studies have indicated that a risk factor for food intolerance in sport can result from very intense training which can impact our immune system negatively and lead to impaired intestinal barrier function which allows food proteins to find their way into our blood system. One study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that "sports performances and health in elite athletes depend on food intolerance in many ways. The elimination diet for 3 months significantly improved health, body composition and faster lowering HR after cardiopulmonary testing."
The particular test that we offer is from the Lorisian laboratories and they have a number of case studies after working with a number of high profile sports professionals and sports teams, notably Newcastle United and Wigan Warriors Rugby League Team. Some examples of individuals are marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, Professional rugby players Peter Stringer and Rob Vickerman, triathlete Matt Perry, International Hockey Player Mike Shaw and runner Dani Rowlinson.
Paula Radcliffe found out she was intolerant to egg, chicken, wheat, tomatoes and dairy and said, “After I cut these foods out of my diet, I was able to run without doubling up in pain. I have a lot more energy and I am back to my normal self. It truly made such a difference to my life and I would recommend it to anyone else suffering from symptoms like these.”
England Rugby 7's player Rob Vickerman had always followed a protein rich diet designed to help fuel his training and assumed the foods he was eating were the best possible choices to compliment his exercise. He said, "At no point throughout my professional career did I even think about awareness of my nutritional make up. I, like many of my peers ticked the usual boxes of high protein quantities, low carb and fats without really knowing what was good for me or why."
Rob Vickerman is a classic example of someone eating the very foods he was intolerant to and in very high amounts which led to some health challenges. He says, “To overlook what fuelled me meant I was perhaps missing the most important information contributing to my performance. I used to react somewhat 'typically' after taking protein shakes, seemingly no different to the majority of my teammates. I never questioned this, nor the fact when I had eggs I would have a similar reaction, bearing in mind I was having 20-30 eggs a week.”
Triathlete Matt Perry also benefitted his sports performance after taking the test. He said, ”I have lost over an inch from my waist and lost 17lbs in weight. My energy levels throughout the day are higher; I am more focussed and clear headed. Also in my first triathlon of the season I knocked 17 minutes off my time from last year... A simple test and re-education on your eating habits can turn your life around.”
Are there any other tests relevant to optimising sports performance?
One that I recommend is the Optimal Nutritional Evaluation which is a simple and convenient urine test which analyses key nutritional biomarkers including antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals, digestive support and amino acids. The report also gives advice not only on any nutritional deficits you may have but also suggested nutrients and optimal dosing for you to rectify any deficiencies or imbalance.
Our nutritional status is impacted not only by what we eat but what we absorb of what we eat. We may therefore require further support in the form of digestive enzymes and probiotics. As excessive sport is known to impact free radical damage, we also need to be mindful of optimising antioxidants in the diet. Another factor which we can't underestimate in sport is stress, not only because it impacts performance but also because it can have a negative impact on our digestion and absorption of nutrients. Another test which may therefore be appropriate in some cases is cortisol. It is well known in sport that mind set and keeping stress under control can be pivotal in taking us to the next level.
For further information for individuals or for teams contact us at email@example.com or phone 01224 969637. We are open Tuesday to Saturday.
"In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight..."
Even the lion, the king of the jungle needs rest time. Interestingly the lion sleeps between 10-20 hours a day. Isn’t it quite astonishing that animals know instinctively how to project manage, how to conserve energy and how to make the best use of their own personal resources. We, on the other hand are inclined to forget to bring the concept of rest into our lives and in our modern day 24/7 culture, real rest has become elusive. We may think we are resting when we are sitting on our bottoms. However, with the television in the corner of the room, a laptop on our knee, a phone in our hand and a mug full of our chosen caffeine or other stimulant, are we really resting in the true sense? Is it any wonder therefore that we can’t even sleep properly these days? Most of us will have experienced difficulties with sleep onset and also getting good quality continual sleep. Sleep problems are becoming a bit of an epidemic across the western world. You can read some of our top tips for a good night's sleep here.
Working under the functional medicine umbrella, we recognise sleep as one of the fundamental functional pillars when it comes to health. Sleep is when our bodies heal, repair and are restored. During the day, our cortisol levels should change with sunrise and sunset. Ideally, they should be higher in the morning and gradually come down across the day with lower levels in the evening to prepare our bodies for sleep. However, imagine a body which is out of balance and which is producing too much cortisol in the middle of the day and/or in the evening. This is becoming all too common a problem these days as we are overstimulated, not just from our exposure to electronics and the internet but being part of a culture that puts pressure on us to work in the evenings , checking emails etc. So we feel we have to keep going when our natural rhythms need to prepare the body for sleep.
Imagine what would happen if lions lived their lives the way many of us do, without adequate time of rest. There would probably be a lot of hungry and angry lions wandering about and let's face it we don't want to come face to face with a 'hangry'l ion!! Lions spend the majority of the day resting which in terms of their survival makes perfect sense. They expend a lot of energy when they hunt so if they were to move around during the day when they don’t need to they would waste a lot of their energy and end up creating more work for themselves by having to hunt more regularly. Lions rest because they know they need to. So what can we learn from lions?
Lions teach us that periods of rest can help us to be productive when we need to be. A lack of rest and adequate sleep impacts our work lives, relationships, mood, hormone balancing, blood sugar, libido, adrenal and thyroid function, immune system and so the list goes on..... in other words every aspect of our health. It is as necessary for our own survival as it is for lions. So how do we find rest in the modern world?
Our top tips
Finally, do whatever you need to, to incorporate patterns of rest into your day. What you find restful might be completely different to another person. Whether you find rest in a hobby like knitting or singing, do something that helps you relax. Your body will thank you for it.
1. Pukka Bamboo Reusable Travel Cups £8.99 -
These have been a firm favourite since they launched last year. They would make an ideal Secret Santa gift as they come in a range of colours and who doesn't drink tea or coffee?
2. Booja Booja The Gourmet Selection £17.79 -
If you haven't tried Booja Booja you are seriously missing out! This selection contains 20 perfect dairy free truffles in 6 different flavours. A beautiful gift or perfect alongside coffee at the end of a dinner party. We also have fine de champage £9.95 and hazelnut £7.35.
3. Spacemasks - £15 -
Sometimes you can be so busy that taking time out just doesn’t seem possible. This is where your Spacemask comes in. You are about to encounter Interstellar Relaxation. Within minutes of putting on your Spacemask you will feel it warm up and start to mellow your tired eyes and face. The soft jasmine smell will help to transport you away. Somewhere between Jupiter and Andromeda. The perfect antidote to festive overindulgence!
4. Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage £28 -
Who couldn't use a massage to recover from the stress of Christmas? Make getting through January that little bit easier for someone you love with a voucher for a relaxing massage.
5. The Lumo Diffuser £79.99 -
A firm favourite the Lumo looks beautiful and fills your home with the scent of gorgeous essential oils. It can be set for 2, 5 or 10 hours and has a number of light colours to choose from. We also have the Petal diffuser - £49.99 and the Elephant diffuser - £55 which is ideal for little ones.
6. Pukka Tea Caddies £9.99 -
Tea caddies in every colour of the rainbow. These beautiful ceramic and bamboo tea caddies would be a welcome addition to any kitchen. Each comes in it's own wee box making it very easy to wrap. Why not pair with a box of tea for the perfect gift?
7. DoTerra's Favourites Trio - £30
Presented in a gorgeous reusable tin these three oils are must haves through the winter months. Balance to keep you grounded through the chaos, OnGuard to support your immune system and Breathe to help you take it all in!
8. Kaerlig Beauty Soaps in Red and Blue - £8.99
Locally produced in Aberdeenshire these luxurious hand soaps are a pleasure to use. Chose from Red scented with grapefruit and bergamot essential oils. Or Blue scented with spearmint and Lime essential oils.
9. Natural Facelift Facial £40 -
Feel 100 years older by the time Christmas dinner is over? Turn back time with our Natural Facelift Facial. Using Japanese massage and facial reflexology points to smooth fine lines and plump the skin.
10. Christmas Morning Hamper £30 -
Everything you need to start the day on Christmas Morning: Primrose's Kitchen Raw Carrot, Apple & Cinnamon Muesli; Pukka Gorgeous Earl Grey; Clipper Roast & Ground Arabica Decaf Coffee; Struan Scottish Heather Honey; The Fruit Tree Organic Fruit Jam; Amphora Festive Candle.
Calcium is an essential mineral for bone and teeth health. Although almost 99% of calcium is found in the bones and teeth, it is also found in the blood, muscles and other tissues. Calcium plays an important role in heart and nerve health, blood clotting, hormone secretion and muscle contraction. Additional functions include helping to control levels of magnesium, potassium and phosphorus in the blood. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, and so it is vital that we are meeting our requirements for optimal health.
Calcium is clearly a vital mineral for health, but in order to maximise the benefit of consuming calcium rich foods, there are other factors we have to consider. For example, did you know that to properly absorb calcium, we also need magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K2. If we don’t have adequate amounts of these vitamins on board, our ability to absorb any calcium we do eat is impaired. This is one of the reasons why it is better to get the calcium our bodies require from food sources or complex food supplements rather than isolated calcium supplements which aren’t always well absorbed.
So what are the best food sources of calcium?
Some of the best sources of calcium include sardines, organic milk, organic yoghurt and kefir, kale, collard greens, chickpeas, almonds and figs. Other good sources include sweet potatoes, bone broth, green leafy vegetables, beans, and broccoli.
Currently, the NHS recommended daily allowance of calcium is 700mg, although you will see other experts recommending that we consume up to 1000mg per day for adults and 1200mg for over 50 year olds. However, the key thing we have to consider is absorption. As I always explain to people, we are not just what we eat, nor are we just what we absorb of what we eat, but we are also what our food ate!
Impact of changing farming practices
Intensive chemical farming practices have impacted minerals in the soil leading to our foods being depleted of vital minerals such as magnesium and calcium. Some conventional farmers have stopped properly rotating crops and replenishing the soil with natural fertilisers such as manure, which means our foods are much lower in calcium than they were in our grandparents time. Our advice therefore, is where possible to choose organic foods which have been shown to have higher nutrient value and higher antioxidant value in numerous studies, the largest to date being from Newcastle University.
Other absorption challenges
Gastrointestinal problems and conditions such as IBS, leaky gut syndrome, reflux, IBD and coeliac disease cause further problems with the absorption of nutrients. Any inflammation in the digestive tract impairs the absorption of nutrients. Counterintuitively therefore consuming dairy when you have a dairy intolerance does not mean that you will be able to absorb all the calcium from the food. Malabsorption of nutrients is of particular concern for those with IBD and coeliac disease who are at higher risk of other conditions such as osteopenia and osteoporosis as a result of their condition. For this reason, they are also often deplete in a wide range of nutrients, regardless of how good their diets are.
Other issues such as low stomach acid which can be caused by stress, H-pylori, bacterial infections, antacid use, proton pump inhibitors and certain other medications can also lead to the malabsorption of calcium and other minerals. Add to this the fact that many drug medications actually deplete much needed minerals and vitamins and you can see where we can fall into difficulties. Sometimes therefore supplementation may be needed to normalise areas of concern such as stomach acid levels and digestive enzyme function.
Low Vitamin D
Many people have low vitamin D levels which impacts calcium absorption in the body. This is of particular concern for people who live in the northern hemisphere as during the winter (from October to March in the UK) sunlight doesn't contain enough UVB radiation for our skin to be able to make vitamin D. As sunlight is our bodies primary source of vitamin D, this is of major concern and is one of the reasons why the NHS now recommends everyone supplement with vitamin D over the winter months. During the summer, suncreams also block vitamin D absorption which means that if you are not having at least 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure every day, you may be deficient in this vital nutrient. Good levels of vitamin D3 are essential for calcium intestinal absorption as vitamin D can increase calcium absorption in the intestinal tract by up to four times the normal rate. We normally recommend a vitamin D dose based on body weight. If you would like to test your vitamin D to optimise levels, we have testing services available at the Aberdeen clinic.
Low Vitamin K2
As we know, D3 helps the body to absorb calcium, but vitamin K2 helps the body carry the calcium to your bones. This is important as calcium which is absorbed but not properly utilised in the body may be deposited into soft tissue causing cysts. Excess calcium in the blood stream can also be deposited in the kidneys where it may cause kidney stone formation. Vitamin K2 also ensures that the calcium is properly utilized and doesn't bind to oxidized LDL cholestrol, creating plaques which can cause blockages in the arteries.
It can be so easy to fall into the trap of finding our favourite foods and forget about the variety of nutrients and minerals we get from a range of foods. Look at the list above and think about whether you are incorporating a good range of foods with calcium. If you are concerned that you may not be or think you would find it hard to incorporate enough into your diet on a regular basis, or have any of the gastrointestinal problems listed, it may be a good idea to find a good supplement form. Supplements we normally recommend are in combination form, alongside other essential nutrients for bone health. For people with gastrointestinal problems, we often recommend transdermal products which bypass the gut and are absorbed directly into the blood stream. BetterYou have designed a range of supplements for people with these kinds of issues. We particularly like their magnesium and calcium mineral lotion for bone health and their vitamin D and K2 spray.
If you have any concerns, or queries about optimal dosages you can always come and see us and ask for advice at 44 St Andrew Street, Aberdeen.
Magnesium Bone Lotion
BetterYou™ Magnesium Bone Lotion supports bone health with the combination of magnesium and calcium, expertly formulated at an optimal 1:1 ratio and blended with a hydrating lotion to create a unique way to supplement these two essential nutrients.
An effective alternative to tablets and capsules, providing exceptional support for bone and skin health.
5ml (4 pumps) of Magnesium Bone Lotion delivers a minimum of 75mg of magnesium and 75mg of calcium.
Guaranteed free from
DLUX Better You Vitamin D and K2
BetterYou™ DLux+ Vitamin D+K2 Oral Spray is an optimum strength spray delivering 3000iu of vitamin D alongside 75μg of vitamin K2 per dose (3 sprays).
The pioneering delivery method allows the vitamin D and K to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, via the inner cheek, bypassing the digestive system where many nutrients may be lost.
Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 work synergistically with each other to ensure that calcium is directed out of the arteries and into the bones where it helps improve bone density.
Without enough vitamin K2 calcification within the arteries can occur, increasing the risk of heart disease.
BetterYou have sourced a bioavailable and stable form of K2 MK-7 which can be easily utilised by the body. The form of K2 has been derived from flowers and we can guarantee purity of the active form of K2.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a complex condition and is an umbrella term given to this functional disorder of digestion. One of the problems in getting a diagnosis is that there are other conditions that can mimic IBS. Often people assume they have IBS but there could be other issues lurking. This is why a trip to your family doctor can be helpful in ruling out other possible conditions. In fact conditions that mimic IBS can range from cancer to diverticular disease to coeliac disease. Metabolic disorders such a hypo and hyperthyroidism also impact bowel health. If you are experiencing abdominal distension, pain with bowel movements and relief afterwards or more frequent loose stools or find that you go between constipation and looser stools, a visit to the doctor can be useful to rule out other culprits. In IBS, the colon may either be squeezing too hard in the case of diarrhoea or not hard enough as is the case with constipation, neither of which are issues we should ignore long term.
IBS is thought to affect between 10 and 15 percent of the population and accounts for around 30 to 50% of referrals to gastroenterologists. However the true figure may be much higher as many just live with the symptoms and never seek help. It is also thought to be a leading cause of missed work days behind the common cold.
One thing’s for sure, the prevalence of IBS has increased in recent decades which begs the question, what has changed? What factors could be behind the increased issues with bowel and digestive function? Well when you are steeped in the research as I am, you can’t help but notice the increased evidence for changes to our gut flora which have impacted our digestive health. The reasons for this are many and complex but all sets us up for the perfect conditions for conditions like IBS. Here are just a few examples….
So, you have your diagnosis, what next? Well fortunately there is much that can be done, but often that involves further investigations. Because of biochemical individuality there isn’t a one size fits all approach here. We need to identify our individual triggers and go from there. The most common approaches involve the following.
Increase dietary fibre.
Although this can be an obvious starting point particularly if someone has constipation, we have to be careful about which fibres we choose. Keeping a food diary becomes useful here to note any individual difference in response to foods. In the past people have used wheat bran as a high fibre food. However due to the link between wheat and food allergy and intolerances this is perhaps better replaced with dietary sources of fibre from fruits and vegetables. Psyllium seed husks are a useful and popular way to supplement the diet and can relieve constipation. We also need to be mindful that certain high fibre foods can be a trigger for some people and we need to find our own balance here while we are healing our digestive system. For example, you may see it recommended that you should eat more soluble fibre with prebiotic benefits such as artichokes, leaks, onions and garlic which are ideal for many but if you are one of those who is affected by foods high in fodmaps, this is not going to be the best strategy! It’s also why an appointment with a Nutritional Therapist is invaluable to help you identify some of those challenges and also find out the WHY! We can find ourselves going in ever decreasing circles if we don’t find out the WHY and it can be very frustrating.
Simple tip to do at home to support constipation
Soaked linseeds or chia seeds to relieve constipation. Soak 1-2 tsp of cracked linseeds in half a pint of warm water and soak overnight. Drink on rising and follow with another glass of warm water. Delay breakfast for about half an hour.
It may surprise you to find out that the relevance of food allergies in IBS has been known about since the early 1900’s! Recent studies have shown that around two thirds of patients with IBS have at least one and often several food intolerances. As a result many people find marked improvement following elimination diets. In practice I find elimination diets to be the most helpful in eradicating or reducing symptoms and go from there to identify other triggers. It is quite clear that for some, certain foods provoke an inflammatory response which is thought to be behind IBS symptoms in practice an elimination of common culprits such as gluten and dairy can bring significant relief. Studies have indicated that the most common triggers are dairy and grains. But what if stress is also a component which needs to be addressed or what if there are other inflammatory aspects of foods which are contributing to symptoms? The nightshade foods are an example of this and are also common triggers for many. These include potatoes, tomatoes, aubergine and peppers. When I see people in clinic, the most helpful starting place from experience is the elimination diet. At this point some people also choose to take up the opportunity of food intolerance testing. However, we build a programme over time addressing all possible triggers. This means we are not just looking at foods but also our digestion, whether we eat quickly or slowly, how we prepare foods, our stomach acid levels, digestive enzymes and also whether other medications might be contributing to our symptoms. Sometimes a stool test is done to identify any signs of infection, inflammation and to get a full picture of digestive function. Although food diaries can be helpful at identifying trigger foods, if food intolerance as opposed to food allergy is the issue, testing can be more effective as IgG food intolerance reactions can be from 2 up to 72 hours following consumption. More info on the differences here.
Dietary FODMAPs (Fermentable oligo-di and monosaccharides and Polyols.)
For some people reducing foods that are high in FODMAPs can be the way forward. These are foods with short chain carbohydrates which are poorly absorbed and therefore find themselves being fermented by intestinal bacteria. This fermentation can produce gas and and lead to abdominal bloating. One example of FODMAPs are oligosaccharides called fructans and include wheat based foods, onions and artichokes. Similar to fructans are galactans which are composed of chains of fructose with a galactose molecule on the end. These include legumes e.g. chickpeas, lentils, dried beans, cabbage and sprouts. A well known disaccharide that is implicated in IBS is lactose in dairy products but which also finds its way into other foods such as soups and sweets. Open studies have suggested that one in four patients will see a reduction in symptoms following a low FODMAP diet. This kind of approach can be particularly helpful in cases of SIBO. It doesn't mean eating low FODMAP's forever, as after a period of healing, gradual inclusion of previous trigger foods can be achieved with a very individualised approach.
When IBS appears out of the blue…
If you’ve never had bowel issues before and have suddenly experienced a shift, many questions need to be asked. Obviously a change a living circumstances, different water, perhaps moving abroad or students living away from home for the first time whose diets have changed, all of these issues are going to cause some inevitable changes. However, often changes can follow on from a high stress period or trauma, sudden death, divorce, accident. In practice I’ve also come across clients who suddenly developed a shift in bowel function following a period on non steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Perhaps they were involved in an accident or recently developed arthritis which was followed by a time on NSAID’s. Equally, repeated infections such as UTI’s, sinusitis, tonsillitis and chest infection etc can compromise our gut as a result of repeated rounds of antibiotics and we can find ourselves with IBS type symptoms. Therefore when I’m going through a very lengthy patient history I’m looking for these sorts of patterns which can trigger changes in both digestive and bowel function. Interestingly, autoimmune disease including Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis) and also increasingly common, underactive thyroid, can follow these kinds of long term use of particular medications due to gut/immune system compromise. If you are experiencing blood in the stool, we would recommend you attend your family doctor to rule out a potential IBD or anything sinister. When we do stool testing we can also see if there are any raised inflammatory markers such as calprotectin which would warrant further investigation via your GP and a secondary care referral.
Multiple rounds of antibiotics can also result in SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which basically means that there is an overgrowth of the number and types of bacteria in the small bowel which would normally reside in the colon. SIBO can also be a part of the IBS story with IBS and low stomach acid as part of the risk factors for this.
Natural approach and supplements
Primarily the Nutritional or Functional medicine approach involves identifying root cause and also triggers, be they food related, drug induced, infection or stress or a combination of factors. We then address the need for some gut healing including reinoculation with good bacteria or probiotics to redress current imbalance. Studies have shown that for some patients a 6 month supplementation with probiotic can reduce symptoms significantly. We use different probiotics which are each researched and appropriate in different situations according to patient history. It is essential to incorporate a gut healing approach so that at least some of the current food triggers or intolerances can be reintroduced back into the diet after a few months of healing and in a controlled manner. This is very much an individual approach and supports each case as we find it. We also offer symptomatic relief while we get to the bottom of individual triggers which can include peppermint oil for its antispasmodic benefits. However, the functional protocol which offers the most comprehensive approach to triggers and drivers in gastrointestinal challenges is as follows and what we call the 5R approach.
Remove: This can apply to eliminating pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites. Also foods that have become triggers. We also remove foods/drinks that are unhelpful to changing the ecosystem in our guts and make choices that support a healthier environment for the good bacteria.
Replace: This involves identifying anything that is missing which could be contributing to a picture of compromise. Digestive enzymes are very relevant here and stomach acid. A lack of the necessary enzymes to break down and digest foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies and a range of symptoms and conditions can result.
Reinoculate: This refers to the reintroduction of good bacteria or probiotics into the intestine to reestablish the microflora balance. This can incorporate food form and supplements as appropriate.
Repair: The Gastrointestinal mucosa represents the largest mass of rapidly proliferating cells and repair is needed whenever there has been a loss of integrity of structure or function or both. Damage can result from chronic nutritional insufficiency, food allergen, dysbiosis, xenobiotic exposure (toiletries etc), pathological intestinal infection and chronic inflammation. Nutrients required include glutamine , essential fats, and zinc.
Relax: You may have heard of the gut brain connection and personal experience will indicate the impact of stress on gut health! However, when it comes to finding a comprehensive approach to creating a healing environment in the gut it is essential to address this aspect. That means recognising and finding approaches to rebalance the mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of our lives so as to support a move away from sympathetic dominance to parasympathetic in digestive function.
Whatever your story and range of symptoms, it's important that you get to the bottom (if you'll pardon the pun!) of this one. Living with compromised bowel and digestive function can compromise our immune health, mental health and long term leave us vulnerable to a range of conditions. If we are not absorbing nutrients properly, this can lead to low energy levels and often we find ourselves with a range of unexplained symptoms further down the line if we continue to ignore the condition. To give an example of where IBS can cause nuisance, there are many out there who have experienced repeated iron deficiency over the years. Often with the right support for gut healing this kind of problem can be prevented.
Further information on what's involved in a Nutritional Therapy consultation here
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WHAT OUR CLIENTS ARE SAYING
“I did Nutritional Therapy with Beverley and it was life changing. I highly recommend it!” Allison Blakely (Glasgow)
44 St Andrew Street, Aberdeen, AB25 1JA
Tel: 01224 969637
Opening Hours: Sun- Mon: Closed Tue to Sat: 10am-4pm
Late night appointments available on Thursday evening on request.