“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” —Virginia Woolf
Food is such an integral part of Christmas and it also makes up our memories, recipes handed down through generations are treasured by all and of course putting that carrot out for the reindeer along with mince pies and milk for Santa (or Santa's favourite tipple!) is part of those traditions too.
But... what if we suddenly have a different diet and we are having to navigate food and even worse food at someone else's house when we have food allergies and sensitivities? If sensitivities are mild and they don't really cause many symptoms then a day of throwing caution to the wind is really not going to matter but if you know that eating certain foods is going to be disastrous and you're going to invite an IBS attack or severe migraine or indeed a flare of any chronic condition then you will be eager to maintain some control over what you eat. We are all different and we have to decide what's right for us in these situations or what we are willing to tolerate. For myself and other members of my family it isn't a choice. My husband is coeliac and my response to gluten is worse than his so we don't go anywhere near it. In some ways this makes it easier as the decision is made and you just get used to living life this way and become quite skilled at knowing how and where to eat. So, I'm going to share some tips focussed around the Christmas dinner and seasonal favourites, where to shop as well as well as tips on managing social situations. I will also make the focus on gluten and dairy free to make it easier.
Have a wonderful Christmas wherever you are reading this and all the best for the new year!
Bon appetit!! xx
Did you know that anaemia is the most common nutritional deficiency around the world
particularly with menstruating females?
So what are the reasons for low iron and how we can help to improve iron levels within the body?
Let's first look at why iron is important for our health and wellbeing.
Iron plays a crucial role in women's health due to its involvement in various bodily functions.
Iron is an essential component of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries
oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues. Adequate iron levels are necessary to maintain healthy haemoglobin levels
Women of childbearing age often require more iron due to menstrual blood loss. On
average, women lose about 30-40 millilitres of blood per menstrual cycle, which contains
iron. Replenishing iron stores is important to compensate for this loss and prevent iron
Iron needs actually increase during pregnancy to support the growth and development of the foetus, as well as to accommodate the expansion of the maternal blood volume. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can lead to maternal and foetal complications, including
anaemia, preterm birth, low birth weight, and developmental issues.
Iron is involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main molecule
responsible for storing and releasing energy within cells. Sufficient iron levels are necessary to maintain optimal energy metabolism and to prevent fatigue and weakness.
Iron is essential for a properly functioning immune system. It helps support immune cell
function and the production of antibodies, which play a vital role in defending the body
against infections and diseases.
Adequate iron levels are important for optimal cognitive function, memory, and
concentration. Iron deficiency has been associated with impaired cognitive performance,
especially in children and women.
Did you know that Iron and the thyroid are interconnected in several ways.
Iron is necessary for the synthesis of thyroid hormones, specifically thyroxine (T4) and
triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones regulate the body's metabolism, growth,
development, and energy production. Iron deficiency can impair the production and release of thyroid hormones, leading to hypothyroidism. Its also necessary for the proper transport and utilisation of thyroid hormones in the body. Iron is required for the production of proteins that bind to thyroid hormones and carry them to target tissues. Inadequate iron levels can affect the availability and effectiveness of thyroid hormones in various tissues.
Iron is also involved in the activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO), which is
crucial for the production of thyroid hormones. TPO helps convert iodide to iodine, which is necessary for the synthesis of T3 and T4. Iron deficiency can affect TPO function, impairing the production of thyroid hormones.
Iron deficiency has also been associated with an increased risk of autoimmune thyroid
diseases, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease. Autoimmune thyroid diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. As Iron plays a role in regulating immune function, its deficiency may contribute to the development or progression of these conditions.
There are many factors that can affect the absorption of iron and the gut plays a big role. The absorption of iron primarily occurs in the small intestine, specifically the duodenum and proximal jejunum, but we need adequate stomach acid for the absorption of certain forms of dietary iron, known as non-heme iron. Stomach acid helps convert non-heme iron into a more absorbable form. Individuals with low stomach acid production, such as those with certain digestive disorders or those taking acid-suppressing medications, may have reduced iron absorption.
Iron absorption involves the action of specific transporters in the small intestine. These
transporters help move iron from the gut lumen into the bloodstream. Disruptions in the
expression or function of these transporters can affect iron absorption. Gut health conditions that lead to intestinal inflammation or damage, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, may impair iron absorption.
The gut microbiota, the community of bacteria residing in the intestines, can influence iron absorption. Some gut bacteria produce substances that can chelate or bind to iron, making it less available for absorption. On the other hand, certain bacteria can enhance iron absorption by producing compounds that increase iron solubility or reduce gut inflammation.
Imbalances in the gut microbiota, such as dysbiosis, can impact iron absorption.
Certain gut conditions, such as celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis, can
cause malabsorption of nutrients, including iron. Inflammation, damage to the intestinal
lining, or surgical removal of parts of the intestine can all affect iron absorption. These
conditions may require specific management strategies, including iron supplementation, to address iron deficiency.
Another condition we see commonly in clinical practice is SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) and this can also lead to deficiency in iron and B12. This is something we test for regularly and symptoms can include bloating, gas, pain, nausea, diarrhoea and or constipation.
So what else can affect iron levels within the body?
Certain compounds found in plants, such as phytates (in whole grains, legumes, and some
vegetables) and oxalates (in spinach, rhubarb, and beet greens), can bind to iron and inhibit its absorption. However, cooking or processing these foods can help reduce their impact on iron absorption.
Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in tea, coffee, and some fruits, such as
grapes and pomegranates. They can interfere with iron absorption when consumed
alongside iron-rich foods or iron supplements.
Tea consumption can indeed impact iron absorption in the body. Tea contains compounds
called tannins, which are known to inhibit iron absorption. Tannins bind to iron, forming
complexes that are less easily absorbed by the body.
Both black and green teas contain tannins, but black tea tends to have higher levels. Herbal teas, such as chamomile or peppermint, usually have lower tannin content and may have a milder effect on iron absorption.
While the effect of tea on iron absorption can vary depending on various factors, studies
have shown that consuming tea with meals can reduce iron absorption by around 50-90%. We always recommend drinking tea beverages between meals rather than with meals which can help minimise their effect on iron levels. Additionally, adding vitamin C-rich foods (such as citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli or bell peppers) to your meals can enhance iron absorption, as vitamin C helps to counteract the inhibitory effects of tannins.
Calcium has been shown to inhibit the absorption of both heme and non-heme iron.
Consuming calcium-rich foods or taking calcium supplements at the same time as iron-rich foods may reduce iron absorption. Similarly, high consumption of dairy products has been associated with lower iron absorption. It's best to separate calcium-rich foods or supplements from iron sources by a few hours.
There are certain medications, such as antacids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and some antibiotics, which can interfere with iron absorption. Additionally, some dietary supplements, like calcium or zinc supplements, may also affect iron absorption. If you're taking any medications or supplements, it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional for personalised advice and guidance. Nutritional Therapists are trained to assess these interactions and make adjustments as appropriate.
Remember, while these factors can affect iron absorption, a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of iron-rich foods, along with vitamin C-rich foods, can enhance iron absorption.
If you have been struggling with low iron and not sure what to do, please get in touch as we can help look at underlying issues, interactions that could be impacting on your health and help give you the tools you need to address any nutritional deficiencies and improve your health and wellbeing.
It's amazing how many people struggle on with round after round of iron tablets over the years without ever finding out the root cause of their chronic deficiency. It's always better to find out the why which for some people may be as a result of multiple causes.
To book a discovery call to discuss your case and find out more about how we can help you click the link here
Imagine if your home went on fire, the fire brigade would come and dutifully put the fire out but much more than that they would investigate the cause or causes of the fire so that you could be armed with that knowledge in order to prevent it happening again. Then imagine if you didn't take heed of that advice and you did the exact same thing again and caused another fire over and over again? The fire brigade would wonder what on earth was going on.
Sadly the above is a great analogy for modern medicine which only seeks to put fires out (and sometimes that's needed) but rarely makes any attempt to identify the cause. In fact it doesn't even always put the fires out completely as the embers are often left smouldering undetected as we innocently go about our lives consumed in the very fine and often invisible smoke of chronic inflammatory conditions. Instead of practicing downstream medicine we need to be swimming upstream to find what we call triggers and drivers.
Imagine also working in industry and continuing to do the things which cause a given problem, you wouldn't last long as you would potentially cost your company millions in making corrections. I could go on with the analogies but you get the picture. We need to be aware of root cause in all things so that we can prevent unnecessary accidents and struggles in life and get back control. Prevention is key in health but that doesn't mean that once the horse has bolted it's too late because each and every day we influence our health by the choices we make.
In functional medicine we have a phrase which I share often with clients and it's this. 'The genes load the gun but the environment pulls the trigger.' This is the best news ever and so empowering as we influence that gene expression moment by moment. Interestingly our individual genes also become relevant here as our genes influence many aspects of our physiology, our ability to detoxify, our ability to metabolise sugar and fats and so much more. Our requirements for specific nutrients are also very individual not just based on deficiencies but also based on individual need genetically. Some people have a higher need for B12 or folate due to specific genetics SNP's (single nucleotide polymorphisms) or vitamin D and so on, so testing our genetics can be the ultimate way to individualise health care.
We also talk in functional medicine about triggers and drivers. Triggers are those things which trigger a health challenge. For example you eat a trigger food and you develop an immediate symptom such as a migraine or an IBS attack. Triggers might also be a virus or a reaction to a medication, in fact as the word suggests it's anything that triggers a change in health. Meanwhile drivers are those thing which we do all the time which drive certain health challenges. This might be something we do or don't do, something we are lacking or it may be an environmental exposure. Example of a driver might be dehydration as everyday we forget to drink enough water so our dehydration is promoting multiple symptoms from headaches to constipation and hormonal imbalance. Another example could be that we live or work in a toxic environment. Perhaps there has been a water leak at home and we are exposed to mould spores which have led to some health challenges. In fact mycotoxins from mould is something we are testing for more and more in clinic as these can be both initial triggers and drivers for meany health challenges from chronic sinus and respiratory health issues to chronic UTI, autoimmunity and severe mental health.
Another driver could be that we are chronically deficient in key nutrients. This could be due to a lack in the diet or also due to our absorption. It could also be that we are taking a medication that depletes key nutrients and because we don't know this we don't take the necessary steps to remediate. It could also be that we do try to take a missing nutrient but we simply don't take enough or the right kind. So imagine if you are suffering from chronic or recurrent migraines and all the time you are deficient in magnesium, vitamin B2 or omega 3 but you don't know this, you're just going to live with it and take various pharmaceuticals which might at best reduce pain but are ultimately shooting at the wrong target.
So the question is what are we doing unwittingly that is promoting illness? What triggers and drivers have for each of us become part of our story? How did they come about? What led to the changes? I'm going to give some examples below of the more common triggers and drivers we see in clinical practice. To really do this topic justice would involve writing not just one book but hundreds of books as the topic is so vast but I hope these few examples provide some light bulb moments which will give you hope and empower you on your journey.
Migraine: above I gave the example of migraine and mentioned key nutrients which can be a risk factor when deficient. In addition, it could be your driver is a food sensitivity which you continue to consume. It cool be due to hormonal imbalance, for example oestrogen dominance. It could be related to suboptimal sleep. But then we need to ask more questions don't we? Why do you have these deficiencies? What is causing the hormonal imbalances? What's happening with sleep? What has led to your food sensitivities and what are they? More on migraine here
Eczema: you might be aware of genetic tendency and environmental triggers such as perfumes, washing powders, cleaning fluids and self care products. But what about the role of your immune system? What about gut health? What about food allergens and also food sensitivities? How can we modulate the immune system in all of this? To reduce inflammation we need to remove inflammatory triggers of all kinds but we also need to support the immune system via supporting gut health, ensuring key nutrients such as essential fatty acids and vitamin D. More on eczema here
IBS: Irritable bowel syndrome is increasingly common and often a trigger and a driver for many other inflammatory conditions, including hormonal imbalance, autoimmunity and mental health problems. So if you do have IBS, don't make the mistake of thinking 'oh it's only IBS' as if something is going on in the gut what is happening elsewhere which could be causing multiple health challenges and symptoms? Hippocrates said 'all diseases begin in the gut' and only in recent years is science catching up with his extraordinary wisdom. There is a well know saying that what goes on in Las Vegas stays in Vegas but not so in the gut! If you have issues with gut health this has implications for all aspects of health, how you absorb nutrients, how you react to foods, your immune health, your ability to make neurotransmitters, your energy, your ability to detoxify oestrogen, in fact your risk for many symptoms and chronic inflammatory conditions goes up. Also what has led to your IBS and what can you do to mitigate this? More on IBS here
Fibromyalgia: my journey into functional medicine and a root cause approach came thorough my daughter's experience of glandular fever followed by CFS and fibro which commonly come together. While modern 'treatment' focusses on pain management I was keen to find a root cause approach which would enable my daughter to get her life back. The areas we look at in functional medicine including dietary and nutritional factors, sleep patterns, life event triggers, lifestyle, lack of movement, chronic stress and HPA axis dysfunction, gastrointestinal triggers such as SIBO, immune imbalance and toxic exposures. Everyone is different and we need to work out your own story which may involve further testing to identify which of the above factors we need to work on.
Period pain: Dysmenorrhoea can be utterly miserable and is not normal or something we have to put up with. Nor is it down to bad luck. It is as a result of a number of overlapping
imbalances and deficiencies which set the scene for this to happen. You would be right in thinking hormonal imbalance plays a role but what causes the hormonal imbalance? This is where it gets interesting and where we should be looking with our functional medicine lens so that we can bring them back into balance. One big player here is gut health and our estrobolome which is the collection of bacteria involved in oestrogen metabolism is pretty important. What if we are chronically constipated and don't detoxify oestrogen properly? This is very common underlying driver of hormonal imbalance. Production of excess prostaglandins is also a driver in period pain. What if our diet is low in prostaglandin regulators such as omega 3 and vitamin E? Another key mineral for prevention and management is magnesium which is a smooth muscle relaxant. At the extreme end there is endometriosis and some of the suggestions in this blog will be relevant to all types of dysmenorrhea.
Anxiety: This is something we address very commonly in clinical practice and often goes hand in hand with many of the above. While it's assumed that anxiety is primarily the result of emotional factors, there are many other underlying drivers from blood sugar imbalance to low progesterone, deficiencies in magnesium, B vitamins, omega 3, thyroid problems (diagnosed and undiagnosed) and gut dysbiosis but we need to find out what is driving it. More on this blog.
By now it should be coming very clear that there is always a reason for everything, the trick is in finding it and knowing what to look for. We also offer a range of functional testing to fully explore root cause and find the individual triggers and drivers which are behind chronic health challenges. If you would like to get to the root of something and get your health back functional medicine is the way forward for you. More here
You can also book a discovery call here to find out more and to discuss your case
Sometimes getting to root cause can be lengthy and complex when it comes to health. I know this because that's basically my job to do the finding out. Other times it can be more simple but for all of us as biological entities there are some core things we need to do consistently to begin to promote optimal health.
If someone asked you to write down a few simple strategies you could build into your life that would improve your health, if you did them consistently, you would probably manage to write a few good suggestions down. In fact, try it just now. Take a pen and paper and write down a few ways you could improve your health by incorporating some simple strategies.
We all know that we need to drink more water, get better sleep, stress less, meditate more, move our bodies and eat more veggies. So where does it all fall down? Well, first of all lack of motivation. To make changes we need to be really motivated. To be motivated we need knowledge and belief about something before we’ll make the effort to actually do it, especially when the alternatives are sooooo attractive.
Why drink water when you can have another coffee or a can of something which gives you an immediate buzz? Why go to bed earlier when you are so enjoying that series and another episode surely won’t harm? It might even do you good as it’s relaxing after all. Plus you won’t sleep when you do get to bed so why bother? You tell yourself you’ll stress less when this episode of your life has passed and all will be well again. You can’t stop scrolling your phone because it brings you comfort and community and the thought of putting it in a drawer for a while fills you with such distress. You're managing your five a day so surely that’s enough and you’re too tired to cook. You’d like to eat more healthily but your family, friends and work colleagues mock you whenever you do try and the stress is just too much. Plus they are eating all the things you want and their messages of ‘one won't harm’ send you sliding down the snake again when you were just trying to climb the ladder.
So, yes it takes a lot of motivation and support to make changes. Ultimately the biggest motivator is knowledge. It really is true that knowledge is power and when I think back to things I used to do as part of my normal routine, I cringe as I know that my life is on a much better trajectory now thanks to the privilege of knowledge. But I know that it’s not just knowledge it’s understanding as understanding brings absolute belief. I had a client recently tell me excitedly of how her son had done so amazingly well in only 3 weeks of some key changes with supplements. The diet is much slower due to complex needs but he has made a small start bless him and his sleep and behaviour are already much better. She was so relieved and explained this with delight to her hubby who said it was a load of nonsense and just a coincidence. Hmmm. That’s a tough one. My heart went out to her because she and her son have done so well but we all need encouragement and support. The problem is she understands and so she completely believes but her hubby has no knowledge or understanding and that’s where the conflict comes. I see this all the time in clinical practice and it can really derail good intentions. We have to be really convicted to make life choices which we know are going to help us but we have to quieten those voices around us which are going in the opposite direction.
We also need energy to make changes and although people might say you just need to eat better to get energy there's way more to it than that as there may be some significant health challenges or even medications which are depleting your energy and which need addressing before we can make any changes. Sometimes in the clinic we have to start by supporting multiple key nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalance and mental health issues before we can even begin to look at the diet in the wider sense. Then as energy comes back we can begin to do more. But where we do always start are with the key areas mentioned in this blog. So if you're someone who is genuinely struggling with some complex issues, just start with some of these small changes and see how you feel. My advice would be to work on hydration and sleep as these are the two that everything depends on. It’s amazing the benefits from these two alone and if you do need further support with sleep drop us an email and we can make some suggestions or why not book one of our ‘Feel good Thursdays’ (we are changing the day from Friday!) which will restart very soon.
So, let’s take a few examples of the core things we all need to be doing and think about the why. First of all, hydration! We know we should be aiming for around 2L for women and 3L for men but do any of us actually measure this? Caffeine is dehydrating so the goal is to have more non caffeinated drinks such as herb teas or hot water with lemon. But measuring is the key so that you know you have had x amount of water a day be it a cold drink or hot. My favourite way to ensure I personally get my allowance is to fill a lovely jug each morning and slice up some gorgeous lemons in it. I then fill it again in the afternoon. I find this easy to do on a work day as speaking to people makes me thirsty. On a non working day I find it easier to forget! But I only drink caffeine in my green tea in the morning and after that I’m caffeine free so I know my overall hydration is better than it used to be. Before I hit menopause fourteen years ago I used to drink builders brew all day but when I realised the impact this had on my hormones and my sleep I literally changed overnight and haven’t looked back! The impact of hydration is huge. The body is made up of 60% water and it relies on it for so many functions, including circulation, bowel function, lymphatics and immune health, detoxification through liver and kidneys, hormone balancing, mental health, skin and so it goes on. We also lose water every day through sweating, breathing and removal of waste so we really do need to add it back in. When we get that penny drop, it motivates us to do something about it. But I promise you when you do, the difference is dramatic.
The next most impactful change you can make is around the topic of sleep and interestingly if you get hydration right and the caffeine reduced, sleep is already on the right track. Of course there are many other reasons for poor sleep and we address these in clinic, including nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium and omega 3, cortisol dysregulation, melatonin deficiency, blood sugar imbalance, chronic pain, nocturia and low progesterone to name but a few. These are things we can test for and optimise as appropriate but meanwhile the core things for all of us are the same. First of all, apart from reducing caffeine we need to have a night time routine. We are very good at doing this for our children and we would not tell our children to binge watch netflix while consuming crisps and wine and go to bed as late as they could. We get them into a warming bath, give them a soothing milky drink or herb tea, read a book, avoid screen time and other stimulation etc. So us grown ups also need a wind down routine, an agreed cut off with ourselves for screens not just because of blue light which suppresses melatonin but also due to the stimulation. We need to do calming activities and then get into bed with a book or listen to music. Journaling which means writing down all your thoughts, worries, emotions, goals and dreams can be really impactful and this is something I personally find very helpful. Epsom salt baths are another favourite of mine as they contain magnesium which we absorb transdermally and this helps sleep. I also always do guided meditation in the bath as it’s such a convenient time to do it and adds to the relaxation. But I always say (and I have found this to be so true in clinical practice) that if we get sleep right we can conquer the world!! That's because when we sleep right we immediately feel better because also without knowing it we are supporting our detoxification which happens when we sleep. We also increase insulin sensitivity which we need for our blood glucose metabolism. Imagine the impact this has on our hormones, our nervous system and our immune system! If you know sleep is a problem for you have a think about why and begin with these simple tips. If it’s still an issue come and see us and we can properly investigate for you where those underlying reasons are coming from. But I promise you, this is not something to ignore. Sleep is pivotal to all aspects of health and until we fix this one the others are much more difficult. By the way, did you know that ensuring you get adequate daylight in the morning though our eyes elevates our serotonin which then converts to melatonin at night? So perhaps an early walk or time in the garden might be just the thing or sit beside a window. Exposure to light during the day is so important for a healthy circadian rhythm.
My next tip is to make time to do absolutely nothing. My favourite way to do this is on a sunny day in the garden where I don’t even want to read. I just want to listen to the birds and feel the sun and a gentle breeze on my skin. On a rainy day I enjoy listening to the rain or the sound of the wind. Meditation or quiet time, however we do it, is also core to health. Do you have a diary? Have a look at it right now and check where you have written the words ‘quiet time.’ Hmmm that's something to just pause and reflect on isn’t it? We go from one thing to the next to the next and we don’t give ourselves time to pause. Depending on how and where we work our stress hormones might be elevated for much of the day. So we consciously need to build into our diaries those opportunities for rest and to just bring down that cortisol. It might even be only when you go to the bathroom but find a way to do this and it will be another game changer. There are lots of good apps like Headspace or Calm which you can add to your phone, free guided meditation on youtube and of course prayer time so find something which works for you.
Movement is the next core thing to get right for all of us. Sitting is regarded as the new smoking in terms of health risks and in my job I sit a lot in front of a computer. Many of us in fact are screen bound and with working from home becoming the norm, it’s so easy to get no exercise as part of our day. My younger daughter was doing a hybrid role with 3 days a week in the office which meant that she had a half an hour walk in and back giving her at least 6000 steps so if she walked at night she could add to that. Now she has changed jobs and this time apart from the odd monthly trip the head office she is home based. We were talking last night about how she could build movement into her day and this is something we are encouraging each other with. Myself and her dad are doing our big walk at night after dinner as I know this will boost insulin sensitivity but also help calm those stress hormones ready for sleep. Through the day I know I am up and down stairs a lot as my office is upstairs and I try to get an extra short walk if I can. The other night I really didn't feel like going at all and my hubby wasn’t well so I made myself go and ended up listening to a relaxing podcast while I walked and after just five minutes I felt much better and walked for an hour. If health challenges mean that movement is a tricky one for you, come and speak to us as we can help you get to the bottom of why that is and help you on your way. What I will tell you is that if we get the core things right around sleep and hydration and identify the underlying reasons for suboptimal energy and address some of those, the movement part becomes more of a realistic possibility.
Finally, my last tip here is listening to your body after you have eaten. Do you feel great, full of energy or do you feel sluggish and lethargic? Do you feel hungry again? Do you feel hangry? Has your mood dropped? Have you become bloated or gassy? Have your symptoms just worsened after eating? Maybe your skin became itchy or you had to run to the loo. Maybe your joints started to ache or your reflux kicked off again. The impact of food on our health moment by moment day by day is mindblowing. This can also be a very good reason why people say ‘oh I can’t eat veggies as I feel worse or that food causes this symptom to get worse so it’s just not worth it for me.’ You can see where people get frustrated and confused when it comes to food. Also there are so many mixed messages out there from ill informed people and even so-called experts getting it so wrong, that it’s easier to give up in this haze of confusion. But simple changes begins with eating more of the anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables and fruits, herbs and spices, etc so maybe just as a simple step you could try adding an extra veg (that does feel comfortable) to each of your meals or try a spice such as ginger or turmeric which can be helpful for pain management. You can drink these as teas which are also actually very good. I'm being very cautious here about which veg I recommend as I know that while cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are ideal for hormone detoxification, in fact they are essential! I also know that for some there might be an issue with bloating. This is where listening to your body around food is so important as there may be some areas that need support before we can build certain vegetables into the diet. For example some people with IBS also have an underlying issue with something called SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) which means that high fodmap foods such as cruciferous veg do not sit well until we have addressed the root cause. But once we have we can add them back in again. So the bottom line is don’t get into a rut with food and always reach out if you need help navigating the confusion. When we no longer tolerate certain foods and they begin to trigger symptoms we need to look at why and address that so we can ultimately incorporate more foods back into our repertoire. If we don’t we can end up trapped in a vicious circle of choosing from a narrower menu and end up losing enjoyment but also key nutrients which we need to compensate for, then a domino effect of further symptoms ensues.
If you do try some of these tips, let us know as we’d love to follow your progress and to know that we have inspired you. I’m always saying it but what we do in the wonderful world of functional medicine is simply the best job in the world as we help our clients find their way to optimal health and there simply isn’t anything more rewarding than that.
If you’d like to know more about what we do have a look at this page and remember you can always book a free discovery call to find out more.
Have you experienced any of these symptoms while on the Oral Contraceptive Pill?
● Mood changes
● Breast tenderness
● Vaginal discharge
● Weight gain
● Digestive issues
● UTI symptoms
The pill can often be the first port of call for many doctors when dealing with symptoms
associated with a woman's menstrual cycle, but many of these symptoms can be related to hormonal imbalances which are more often that not masked by the pill or in some cases can be exacerbated by it.
Did you know that the pill is associated with some risk factors that can affect how you feel?
1. The Oral Contraceptive Pill can affect your body's ability to absorb many nutrients. It
has been associated with lower levels of vitamins B6, B12, and folate, magnesium,
zinc, vitamin C and selenium. All these nutrients are required for optimal hormonal
balance, they are also essential for optimal liver function, which can impact on how
hormones are metabolised in the body.
2. The OCP can impact and even alter your metabolism. When this happens, you may
gain weight even if your diet and exercise routines haven't changed. (1)
3. Certain birth control including the OCP can increase insulin levels. High levels of
insulin cause any calories obtained from carbohydrates to be stored in fat cells. It has
been shown in studies that women who already have abnormal glucose metabolism
are at high risk of experiencing this side effect. (2)
4. The OCP can alter the expression on neurotransmitters. GABA is known for
producing a calming effect, It gets synthesised when progesterone is broken down in
the body and has the effect of kick starting action by your GABA receptors.
Unfortunately the artificial progestins in the contraceptive pill don’t seem to offer this
same benefit. In fact, research suggests that women on the pill may have lower
levels of GABA.
5. Studies have also shown that changes in dopamine and serotonin signalling may
also play a role in mood-related changes seen while on the pill. Dopamine and
serotonin, like GABA, are neurotransmitters.
6. One study showed that women were 23% more likely to start taking antidepressants
for the first time than non-OCP users, this is increased in teenage girls (3)
7. The use of oral contraceptives has been shown in studies to modify intestinal
permeability and enhance the development of Th1- and Th2- mediated inflammatory
8. Several studies have shown that Contraceptive use is a significant risk factor for
acquiring urinary tract infections (5)
9. The OCP has been shown to lower serum magnesium levels. Magnesium is a
cofactor in over 600 enzymatic reactions in the body and has many important roles. It
is essential for regulating mood, maintaining a healthy heartbeat to support sleep,
muscle and nerve function along with energy production. (6)
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, would like to discuss alternatives or are
worried about any issues regarding your menstrual cycle, then please do get in touch for a free 15 minute discovery call with either Beverley or Neleta at Nourishing Insights.
Both Beverley and Neleta have many years of experience working with women and girls to
support hormonal balance, help reduce symptoms of PMS, PMDD and also
manage symptoms associated with endometriosis, fibroids and PCOS.
1.Cortés, M.E. and Alfaro, A.A. (2014) ‘The effects of hormonal contraceptives on glycemic
regulation’, The Linacre Quarterly, 81(3), pp. 209–218.
2.Wang, Q. et al. (2016) ‘Effects of hormonal contraception on systemic metabolism: Cross-
sectional and longitudinal evidence’, International Journal of Epidemiology, 45(5), pp.
3.Skovlund, C.W. et al. (2016) ‘Association of hormonal contraception with depression’,
JAMA Psychiatry, 73(11), p. 1154. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2387.
4. Khalili, H. (2015) ‘Risk of inflammatory bowel disease with oral contraceptives and
menopausal hormone therapy: Current evidence and future directions’, Drug Safety, 39(3),
pp. 193–197. doi:10.1007/s40264-015-0372-y.
5. Dienye, P.O. and Gbeneol, P.K. (2011) ‘Contraception as a risk factor for urinary tract
infection in Port Harcourt, Nigeria: A case control study’, African Journal of Primary Health
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6. Palmery (2023) ‘Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements’, Eur Rev
Med Pharmacol Sci ., 17(13), pp. 1804–1813.
‘If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have the safest way to health’ Hippocrates.
These are some of the wisest words ever spoken as a guiding philosophy for health. This week I have been reflecting on movement in particular as I have been travelling and I always find that when I’m travelling the step count goes up without thinking about it. This is especially so in London when just jumping from tube to tube and walking those long distances between the various underground lines, often up and down stairs, you find yourself getting quite a workout.
On Saturday after travelling to Oxford circus then walking to the conference centre, then on to Covent Garden to meet my daughter, then back to the hotel in Canary Wharf, back to Covent Garden for the theatre and back to the hotel, my step count was 17000 in the blink of an eye! I had spent a significant amount of time that day on my bottom attending lectures and also at the theatre in the evening but I had also spent a significant amount of time moving my body, much more than I normally do. All of this got me thinking about movement and how we really need to consciously plan to move every day and build a lifestyle that involves movement.
Our ancestors didn’t have to think about moving as moving was a default position in a lifestyle that involved hunting for food and foraging. Nowadays we can see the stark contrast with that as we don’t even need to leave our homes for food with online shopping becoming the norm, a situation that has only worsened since lockdown and has led to the closure of many businesses. Something else we noticed during lockdown was an increase in weight, mental health challenges and an exacerbation of chronic health across the board.
The interesting thing about inactivity is that everything gets worse when we don’t move our bodies. This is because inactivity leads to insulin resistance, loss of muscle mass, our stress hormones become dysregulated, our immune system becomes depressed. In fact our risk factors for everything from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, fatty liver, dementia and osteoporosis all soar. This mismatch between our genes and our biology and the current lifestyle and environmental factors which are washing over those genes is a cocktail for disaster.
So what do we do? Well, the answer to that realistically involves making choices around movement which we can build into our day with ease. For me, my favourite forms of exercise are walking and dancing. They’re also free and very freeing as walking is a great way to calm the mind and be at one with nature while dancing brings us into contact with our own souls and we can select the music to fit the mood and lose ourselves while at the same time boosting our neurotransmitters. Did you know that exercise boosts our dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine levels ultimately making us feel mentally uplifted? If you think about people in your family or friendship circles who have lived long and well, even sometimes despite some health challenges, they are always people who are active. I had a relative who was walking daily, attending keep fit classes several times a week and loved a family party so she could get on the dance floor well into her eighties! I have another friend who still works full time at 86 years old and can walk 5 miles daily at a pace which would challenge me!
The next question which is the key one is when do we exercise? A dear old friend of mine always says, ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’. For me, I like to walk at night after my meal as I know that walking after a meal will boost my insulin sensitivity, helping to keep my blood glucose stable. It will also calm those stress hormones and will help me sleep better. It’s a routine which I can easily keep (weather permitting!) It also allows me to catch up with a podcast but sometimes I just like to listen to the sounds of nature. Did you know that listening to birdsong can activate our parasympathetic nervous system? This extraordinary fact is also why when we go for a walk in nature even when we don’t necessarily feel like it we always feel better. Equally if you are feeling low in energy, just sitting on a seat outside or taking a drive somewhere and simply opening the windows can be so restorative. I often recommend this simple but powerful life hack to clients who are feeling very low in energy and don’t know where to start when it comes to movement. But just getting outside can literally be the first step as taking deep breaths and feeling the sun on your skin or the wind in your hair can bring instant healing.
Dancing can be done literally any time, any place, anywhere. Music is so accessible and you could play a couple of songs in your lunch break or follow an exercise routine or yoga session on youtube. It’s good to have some rainy day options but the real key to success is back to the planning. When are you going to exercise? My own plan means altering my work schedule a little so I can exercise more and also so that I can consciously bring in more movement between clients since my job is sedentary. I have already started doing this as I’m so aware that I am sitting in my chair literally inflammaging! That’s a great word isn’t it? But ageing in our world is very much related to inflammation and that arises from the food choices we make to how we manage stress and how we move our bodies . I’m pretty good at the food side as I know that food is either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory and as my hubby does a lot of the cooking, I’m very blessed as I know I’m going to eat a home cooked meal with whole fresh ingredients. I’m also better at the stress side although that one is always a work in progress as we never know what life has in store for us. But what I do know is that my morning routine includes a meditation practice and I never budge from that. I also include meditation at lunchtime and have a 20 minute practice which has been a game changer for me over the last 6 months. I have occasionally fallen asleep for a few minutes doing it which has done me the power of good and then gone back to work. But exercise is the one I feel I need to work on the most on with some simple but strategic moves. I have to say I find it so much easier in the summer when the weather is warmer!
It’s well known that exercise, especially weight bearing exercise is key to prevention of osteoporosis. But managing those stress hormones is also key to prevention and the beauty of exercise is that it’s great at doing both! Something else exercise does is boost something called BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor. In Nutritional psychiatry BDNF is being talked about more and more as low levels of BDNF is associated with a range of psychiatric and neurological conditions from depression and schizophrenia to parkinsons, MND and dementia. Exercise boosts BDNF significantly so once again we really need to find as many ways as possible to increase movement. So next time you plan to meet a friend for coffee, how about meeting for a walk instead!? Better yet make that a regular part of your exercise programme even if it means by phone.
''A walk in nature walks the soul back home.' Mary Davis
So for my second blog reflecting on the ageing process, I’m jumping straight in with both feet to the world of functional medicine. When I turned 50, my mantra was ‘50 is the new 21’ and just as well since I graduated at 51 as a clinically trained Nutritional Therapist! But the interesting thing about functional medicine is that it doesn’t matter when you start as straight away you embark on an eye opening journey into the real subject of health. From then on there is no turning back and I can’t tell you what a privilege that is, as it really puts us in the driving seat of our own health.
The first penny drop for me was that illness or pathology doesn’t just happen out of the blue, nor is it down to just bad luck or genetics. It is in fact often years in the making. So for this topic I want to introduce the wonderful world of epigenetics. In functional medicine we have a fabulous saying which is ‘the genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger’. Just read that again for a moment and have a think about it. It really is quite extraordinary and one of the most empowering statements in the world of health or it should be! Imagine if we lived in a world where this was the mantra of all public health policy but sadly it isn’t and of course there’s no money to be made in being well, at least if we continue to follow the current paradigm of the ‘pill for an ill’.
Fortunately, when we’re in the know we can influence our own epigenetic expression by the choices we make. Each and every second of every day we influence our gene expression positively or negatively by how we live, where we live, who we live with, the food we eat, where we shop, how we cook, how we move our bodies, how we manage stress, how we sleep, the environmental toxins we are exposed to at home and in the workplace and drugs of all sorts; tobacco, medications and so the list goes on.
So a question to ponder on is how are you influencing your gene expression today? Have a look at the list above and think about the areas that you would like to address if you were to give yourselves a quick audit. In a world where chronic health problems dominate, especially as we age we need to understand that pathological ‘processes’ happen long before pathology ensues and we get a diagnosis or an entire shopping list of diagnoses! I love that scene in ‘City Slickers’ where the brilliant Billy Crystal in character as Mitch talked about what he has to look forward to after 40. He says...
“Your forties, you get a little pot belly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure but it’s a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still too loud but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway. Seventies you move to Fort Lauderdale, start eating dinner at two…breakfast the night before and spend your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yoghurt and muttering “how come the kinds don’t call?” Your eighties you’ve had a major stroke and end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can’t stand, but who you call mama.”
That scene always makes me laugh but the reason we laugh is because we identify with it so much and even if we don’t see ourselves in it, we recognise so many of our friends and family in that timeline. In the western world the last 20 years of our lives are typically spent in poor health on a frightening amount of medications. Currently 80% of people over 65 have one or more chronic illnesses and it’s getting worse not better. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia and autoimmune disease dominate more than ever and until we address root cause they will continue to do so.
So back to epigenetics! Isn’t it interesting that there are places and peoples in our world who don’t experience the seemingly age related decline that we do in the west? In the much researched blue zones people live long and vital lives into their 90’s and even 100’s! Shouldn't we be looking at why?
Firstly in the blue zones the diet is based around real, fresh whole foods, grown organically. Very little sugar and zero processed foods. So if we want to replicate this fundamental strategy we have to make wiser choices with our shopping trolley and avoid most of the aisles in the supermarket. Since I did my training, I've always said that we should basically grab our fruit and veg, meat and fish, nuts and seeds, pulses, wholegrains, olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, dark chocolate and some other (eco friendly non toxic) household necessities and then leave! If we just did this we would begin to influence our epigenetics positively.
As a practitioner in clinical practice I know that what I have said above is highly challenging. Processed food is designed to be majorly delicious, addictive and advertising reminds us how cool, sexy and popular we will be if we eat certain foods or drinks. It’s also against our cultural norms and it’s so difficult to swim against the tide. Phrases like ‘go on have another one’ ‘one more won’t hurt you’ ‘I think you’re becoming a bit too healthy these days’ abound in offices and families and add to the real discomfort in making any positive change. The phrase which always makes me cringe the most is ‘everything is moderation’. First of all how do we define ‘everything’ and second of all what is ‘moderation’? The bottom line is food is meant to be enjoyed but we can still make food delicious and pleasurable by doing one of the most important things we can do for our health and that is to learn to cook. When we learn to combine herbs and spices and to blend flavours we are on a roll. I eat foods now which I never would’ve eaten years ago or even heard of and I am so grateful to have this knowledge and confidence with cooking and foods as I know it takes me a little closer to the blue zone way of living.
Other reasons why changing our lifestyle is so challenging is due to our own health status. Many of the clients I see are struggling with fatigue, chronic pain, mental health challenges, poor concentration, food cravings, binge eating, blood sugar imbalance, multiple nutrient deficiencies and so much more. But the trouble is when you feel rubbish and someone offers you a carrot stick you want to punch them! You want an iced bun or a bar of chocolate (or is that just me?!) and you want it now! We all have those feelings as when we are running from the proverbial tiger we need quick energy and then we’re off.
We also have problems with sleep nowadays and between binge watching netflix and scrolling our phones we are suppressing our melatonin and our poor sleep affects our hunger hormones causing insulin resistance and adds to the physiological mess. So where do we start? Interestingly in blue zones they sleep well and this is key. Always when I am working with a client I start with sleep and get that under control because I know that the domino effect from poor sleep makes any hope of positive change nigh on impossible. From personal experience, I know how stress can impact sleep quality and I can tell you how hangry I feel when I have had a terrible night’s sleep. My personal tips are avoiding caffeine and always top up on magnesium via epsom salt baths and supplementing. I’ll let you into a little secret, magnesium is my desert island supplement and the one I wouldn’t be without as it helps me sleep and calms those stress hormones.
Another thought to end this introduction to epigenetics is that community powerfully influences gene expression and guess what? Those blue zones are very good at it! Loneliness is such a dangerous thing and in terms of health risks, loneliness is the equivalent of smoking 2 packets of cigarettes a day. What a sobering thought. I alluded to the power of community in part 1 and the importance of sharing with others. Instead of sending an empty text, pick up the phone, share your voice and your heart with others with love and sincerity.
And finally, cuddling improves epigenetic expression! Who knew?! That is mind blowing and brings us beautifully back to the power of community.
In City Slickers the wise philosopher and cowboy extraordinaire known as Curly remind the confused Mitch who is in search of the meaning of life that all he needs to do in life is to find this and he holds up one finger in the air and says you need to find that ‘one thing, just one thing.’ It takes Mitch to the end of the movie by which time he has come face to face with life and death as he sadly loses the wise Curly and brings the gorgeous calf Normal into the world as well as experiencing the joy of bringing the cattle in. But finally he realised his one thing was his family and love.
"Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears." - John Lennon
I love this quote from John Lennon not just because It’s a beautiful sentiment but also because the Beatles were of course being played constantly when I was born and my first song was apparently ‘She loves you’ with me joining in for the yeah yeah bits! I grew up with the Beatles and as a teenager would play their songs on the guitar and perform them along with other songs in a singing group with my sister and two friends.
Music has always been a big part of my life. I love to sing and have been in many choirs. In fact I love a road trip as it means I can have a good sing along and usually pick out the harmonies. I was also a dancer as a child and one thing most of you don’t know is that I used to teach drama and dance when my girls were growing up in Caithness. I wrote lots of panto’s and plays for children and did all the choreography. Twice yearly I entered children for exams in ballet, tap and modern dance and I absolutely loved it.
When I was thinking of writing a wee series on ‘Turning 60..’ I started thinking of all the usual things people worry about with age, their health, their wrinkles, their bones and their brains and I will come back to those in the series and share some of my personal tips. But I wanted to start with what I believe to be the most important medicine for health and the best antidote for ageing and it’s finding joy!
The quotation above fits perfectly with this because what matters most in life is love and community, laughter and sharing. During lockdown we saw the damaging effects of loneliness and watched our nearest and dearest age overnight in some cases. We don’t need many friends and in fact we only need a small handful of really close friends to share our good days and bad, our joys and our worries. But as we go through life we meet many people who touch our lives in so many ways, they encourage us, they guide us and they remind us what it is to be human as we share our vulnerability. More importantly they make us laugh. Isn’t it interesting when we think of old friends we tend to think of funny occasions. And as soon as we meet them even decades later it's those funny memories which resurface, celebrated in fits of hilarity as fresh as the day they first happened.
For me finding joy also comes in playing with my granddaughter Heidi and her partner in crime Molly the cutest jack russell ever! And did you know that spending time with your grandchildren keeps you young and is good for your health? No surprises there! I also find joy in country walks and having grown up by the seaside of Whitley Bay, I am very drawn to the sea which always makes me feel alive, even more so when it is the Cote’d’azur in the South of France! My job is also a source of great joy as there is nothing better than being able to help someone find their way to optimal health. I’m very blessed to have married my bestie and he always makes me smile. While we have shared 37 years together and many tears, health challenges, redundancies and financial worries we have also shared many more smiles and he is still my bestie. As I reflect on my life, I always say life is less about the challenges and more about who we face them with and how we face them.
It’s interesting when you are in business as the gurus out there will suggest that we should be aiming high, earning loads of money and climbing to the top of an invisible mountain. We live in a culture which still defines success in life in monetary terms and the trappings of materialism that come with that. While we all need to pay our bills and to be warm and well fed and comfortable, that concept of ‘success’ doesn’t bring joy. Joy comes from living in the present and enjoying the simple things in life, a beautiful sunset, birds singing, a nice cup of tea and in my favourite season which is summer, life doesn’t get better than feeling the sand between your toes!
Last year when we faced uncertainty and embarked on so many big changes in our lives and ultimately had to sell our house, the thoughts I share above are the things which always gave me comfort. You see, our friends out there don’t change and nor do the things we love, they remain the same and they will always be there as long as we search for them. The birds don’t sing a different song in Richard Branson’s world, nor do the sunsets share a different colour. Indeed, the natural world is one of the constants in life which always reassures and affirms and it is there for all of us to enjoy even if just from a window.
Finding joy is also about sharing it with others. So if you do have a funny memory or a happy time you’d love to share, phone that friend or relative who would just love to share it with you. Laugh together, cry together, but just share. We all have those days when we don't feel so great or even pretty awful and out of the blue we get a call from someone special, bang on cue. It's almost as if they knew we needed a friend. But somewhere out there right now is someone who’d love to hear from you and that moment when they recognise your voice is just priceless. There isn’t a pill for that or a supplement, just do it….
So to keep ourselves young, we need to find our joy and to keep doing it and sharing it as long as we are privileged to be here.
How do we order supplements at Nourishing Insights?
We order supplements for our clients via 2 main wholesale companies. Most of ours come from The Natural Dispensary and a small number from Amrita. Occasionally we direct clients to independent herbalists for specialist herbal supplies or more tailored options.
Is there a discount scheme for the supplements bought via Nourishing Insights?
Yes there is a discount scheme on The Natural Dispensary. All of our clients receive 10% on supplements ordered.
Can we order ourselves via the dispensary?
Yes, once you are registered as a client you can order your own repeat supplements. Not all supplements will need repeating so always check with us how long you need to be taking something. Some clients prefer if we add the supplements for them to save searching for the right ones. Also if you go to your past order you can click repeat order at the bottom and simply add or remove any as appropriate to save time starting from scratch.
Can I make a phone order via the dispensary?
If you prefer to confirm your order by phone we can simply add your recommended supplements to your cart, give you an order number and then you can phone the dispensary to confirm the purchase by phone. If you have any issues with online ordering this is an easy way around it.
Can I add items to the cart which are not supplements?
Yes you can order a whole variety of natural health products via the dispensary using your discount. There are a range of products which you would expect to see in a health store such as …..
Can I use my discount for family supplements?
Yes you can. We only ask that regarding supplements if your family member is taking medications you let us know first so we can check for any drug interactions. Otherwise you can go ahead. Equally if you want to pop over an email to ask for advice for a family member we can make any recommendations as appropriate. This is probably the wisest option as often people think they need something but there is a better alternative which is more relevant or we may refer you for further support.
How do I order tests after my appointment?
Tests will be recommended and agreed at your appointments. These will be ordered by your clinician Beverley or Neleta. Each lab has a different process but this will be explained to you at the appointment.
Can I do testing without an appointment?
No. Testing must be done in conjunction with a full consultation. We need to understand the full medical history prior to making an appropriate recommendation. Equally we can not make a clinical judgement regarding the relevance of a particular test for any individual without a full history.
Where do test results go when the results are available?
All results come to Nourishing Insights directly to assess properly before calling you back for a follow up. In order to properly interpret the results we have to read back through your medical history to fully understand the clinical relevance of your results and next steps before we see you. Follow ups after a test will be half an hour for Thriva blood tests and any small tests. Larger tests such as stool testing or full hormone screens eg the DUTCH test etc will be an hour.
Can I receive the results before the appointment?
This is not something we recommend as in practice we find people can get confused and misinterpret information so it’s always better to wait for your appointment and go through them with your clinician when you can ask any questions. This is our preferred policy. All results are monitored as they come through so that we can organise your follow up as quickly as possible. You will then have access to them via the living matrix when your clinician has added a summary of key areas to address and released them via this secure password protected tool.
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There are many things that can contribute to feelings of anxiety other than the stresses of our lives. In fact we can present with symptoms of anxiety even when external stress appears to be low. So why might that be?
Did you know that symptoms of magnesium deficiency can result in feelings of anxiety,
fatigue and irritability? Magnesium reduces epinephrine and nor- epinephrine synthesis and release, in fact even mild Magnesium deficiency can increase your susceptibility to various types of neurological and psychological stressors. In clinical practice this is the one we take very seriously as deficiency is so common and stress is a cause of depletion. Symptoms of deficiency are twitchy eyes, restless legs, headaches, insomnia. palpitations, arrhythmias and anxiety. We use different types of magnesium and varying doses so it is always best to check with us to identify the best option for you. We can also test red blood cell magnesium although symptoms are a significant clue.
Omega 3, particularly DHA is essential for brain health. Our brain is made up of 60% fats
and studies have shown that low levels of omega 3 fatty acids can manifest as symptoms of anxiety. Omega 3 fatty acids are neuroprotective and are effective in stabilising mood. Again deficiencies are extremely common since oily fish is the main source os this essential fatty acid. We also get some in flax seeds, chia and walnuts.
Hormonal imbalances particularly low levels of progesterone, our natural antidepressant can cause symptoms of anxiety. Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain and stimulates the brain’s GABA receptors, the feel-good, calming neurotransmitters. If you have oestrogen dominance (symptoms being PMS, heavy periods, cramping, cystic breasts, fibroids) progesterone may be low and contributing to anxiety. Progesterone is commonly low in PCOS and at the start of menopause. Dietary factors such as magnesium, B6, omega 3 and other healthy fats can help boost progesterone as can managing stress.
Our thyroid is also important, the thyroid hormone T3 affects the ways that serotonin and
noradrenaline work. These are two very important neurotransmitters involved in how we feel. Often under diagnosed and poorly managed thyroid health can be behind anxiety symptoms. Testing involves a comprehensive test to include antibodies to properly assess thyroid status. This is something we offer routinely in our clinical practice.
Symptoms of poor blood sugar regulation have been shown to create symptoms such as
irritability, anxiety, and worry. When your blood sugar levels drop, your body produces
epinephrine (adrenaline),and cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormones that tells your liver to
make more glucose (blood sugar). This raises stress hormones that can cause symptoms of anxiety and mood swings. Blood sugar level drops don't just occur from missing meals but also from higher sugar foods from refined carbohydrates, cakes, so called healthy protein bars, fizzy drinks and processed foods.
Histamine is not just needed to modulate the immune response and inflammation, but it also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Excess production of histamine or the inability to break down histamine can interfere with the neuromodulatory system contributing to anxiety symptoms. High histamine can contribute to sweating, insomnia, period pain, migraine, hives and more.
Did you know that our gut microbiome has an impact on the production of mood-promoting and calming compounds including serotonin, dopamine and GABA. The microbiome also communicates with the brain using the vagus nerve. The microbiome affects the activity of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to regulate many critical systems within the body including mood. We also know that Inflammation within the body can interfere with this communication and contribute to anxiety.
Gut microbiome imbalances can lead to increased inflammation leaving the gut wall
vulnerable to structural damage which can often lead to an immune response resulting in
food intolerances creating more inflammation with studies showing that low grade
inflammation/chronic inflammation and food intolerances causing symptoms of anxiety. This is something we see very commonly in practice.
Nutrient deficiencies such as low B Vitamins can cause symptoms of anxiety. Vitamin B12 is important for red blood cell production, nerve functioning, and DNA production, all of which are related to our moods. Vitamin B6 helps the body produce a specific chemical messenger that inhibits impulses in the brain, which can have a calming effect. Low B vitamins can disrupt the nervous system as well as the circulatory system.
Anxiety sufferers may be dealing with a range of the above and this can lead to treatment resistance from standard approaches as we are shooting at the wrong target. Understanding and uncovering any physiological imbalance is critical to full recovery and management.
To learn more about the functional medicine approach read on here. www.nourishinginsights.com/nutritional-therapy.html
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