Acne is a prevalent inflammatory skin condition which involves sebaceous sties. The main cause of acne is unknown but what we do know is that it is multi factorial and multiple factors interplay to cause the symptoms.
Acne is when tiny holes in the skin, known as hair follicles, become blocked. The Sebaceous glands on our skin are tiny glands found near the surface of your skin. In symptoms of acne, the glands produce too much sebum and this excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells and form a plug in the follicles and subsequent inflammation.
So, what do we know about Acne and what can we do to reduce the symptoms?
One thing is for sure that the role of nutrition is vital in the treatment of acne and its role in its manifestation and treatment cannot be ignored.
Acne is often linked to changes in hormone levels during puberty but can start at any age. It's also thought to be hereditary.
From puberty, hormones such as androgens, oestrogen, progesterone, insulin and growth hormones stimulate sebum production and can result in acne formation in some male and females.
Androgens are the hormones testosterone, DHT and the weaker androgens that regulate sebum production. Progesterone works by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to the potent androgen DHT. Testosterone and DHT have been shown to be drivers for acne and its severity.
Oestrogen plays a part in reducing sebaceous gland size as well as inhibiting testosterone secretion, and the production of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) which binds to testosterone and therefore cannot convert to DHT as readily and we know that testosterone which is the primary androgens of acne. Insulin also stimulates the growth of sebaceous glands.
So, our hormones are vital component for our skin health, but imbalances with these hormones can potentially trigger and exasperate symptoms of acne.
Hyperandrogenism can present itself with symptoms of acne, irregular periods, weight gain, facial hair, which are also common symptoms of as PCOS which is often associated with acne in women and young girls.
Unfortunately, Hormonal imbalances are often overlooked and alternative treatments such as antibiotics or steroids are used to treat the acne which often doesn’t treat the cause but just the symptom.
There are several studies that have shown a strong link between our bodies skin microbes and our bodies own immunity which can lead to acne. In fact, studies have shown that interactions within the gut microbiome and skin microbiome can cause inflammatory acne, relating to the reduction in diversity of Cutibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermis.
Imbalances within the gut microbiome directly impacts the skin microbiome therefore restoring the diversity and balance of gut bacterial species can help reduce inflammation within the skin and body.
Antibiotic use can have a negative impact on our gut microbiome diversity resulting in imbalances.
Dairy has been shown in many studies to negatively impact acne. The hormones found in milk, have a negative effect by stimulating the production of insulin-like growth factor 1 particularly during puberty. The highest concentrations of IGF-1 are found in women with acne and the number of acne lesions positively correlates with the higher plasma levels of IGF-1.
Milk also contains progesterone as well as DHT which we know can be a big driver from acne.
High sugar diet
The consumption of high sugar, refined carbohydrates has been shown to correlate with the increase in acne symptoms. Elevated insulin levels stimulate the secretion of androgens and cause an increased production of sebum. Studies on the effects of diet on acne vulgaris have shown that occurrence of acne is lower in rural and non-industrialized areas than in Western populations where diets are higher in sugar and refined foods. What foods do we mean when we take about refined sugars/foods, they are the white breads, pastas, cakes, biscuits, sugar, sweets and processed foods.
Omega 3 is a fatty acid known for its anti-inflammatory properties and studies have shown that it can inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines related to acne.
Other skin healthy nutrients include:
Zinc - Is essential for skin health and hormonal balance. It has been shown to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Vitamin A- Studies have shown that high doses of vitamin a can be effective in reducing acne symptoms.
Antioxidants- In a study of 47 women and 42 men with acne vulgaris it has been shown that after 12-week supplementation of vitamin E and selenium, the skin condition improved. Antioxidants reduce the reactive oxygen species that causes oxidative stress within the body that results in increased inflammation.
Eat the rainbow- This provides us with all those amazing minerals and nutrients to not only support skin health but also the wonderful dietary fibre to support our gut health to positively affect our immune health and overall health.
It’s about Limiting the processed, high sugar foods and replacing with whole natural vegetables and fruit, wholegrains, protein and healthy fats which can all help to support hormonal health, skin and our gut health.
If you're interested in exploring the role diet & lifestyle play in managing Acne why not book a consultation with one of the team?
I don’t know about you, but I love Chocolate and I have some good news…. Chocolate is an amazing superfood and mood boosting food!!
Cacao the main ingredient of chocolate has a rich history dating back over 4000 years ago where it was revered as a sacred energising drink! It was used for ceremonies, rituals and offerings and translates as ‘Food of the Gods’
”This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else”. Cortes
During the 16th Century, Cacao quickly spread through Europe and with different technological advances, it slowly began to change with the addition of sugar and milk to become the chocolate we know today.
But cacao in its raw and purest form still holds amazing health benefits with incredible effects on the body.
Raw Cacao contains 4 amazing mood boosting chemicals- serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine, which can help support feelings of happiness and wellbeing as well as alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Have you ever found yourself reaching for some chocolate if you're feeling a little down, well there is some proven science in this, in that Cacao can even help to convert the mood precursor tryptophan into the natural mood stabilizer serotonin within the body!
Cacao contains the highest plant-based source of magnesium which is needed for over 300 chemical reactions within the body including supporting heart health, energy production, muscle relaxation, helps turn glucose into energy enabling your brain to work with clarity and focus, and support blood sugar balance and Cacao contains a whopping 130% per 100g of our RDA of magnesium. Pretty impressive!
Magnesium plays a big role in hormonal balance. It is essential for the production of hormones such as Oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA, but it also supports the enzyme COMT (catechol-o-methyltransferase) in the liver which promotes the healthy excretion of excess oestrogen reducing the risk of oestrogen excess conditions
such as fibroids. Magnesium is vital to help to maintain a healthy balance of oestrogen within
This is especially important during the menstrual part of the cycle when magnesium levels tend to be lower, resulting in symptoms such as cramps and migraines, so by including magnesium rich foods such as cacao can help to increase levels and reduce PMS symptoms.
I’m sure we have all been there, that during those days of our period that the only thing that helps is a delicious bar of chocolate and yes that would be the magnesium that helps to alleviate those symptoms and give us those wonderful bliss feelings.
In addition to flavanols and magnesium, there is a neuroactive substance present in small amounts in cacao, phenylethylamine (PEA), which is thought to boost levels of the feel-good hormone’s dopamine and serotonin. Cacao also has the amazing ability to increase blood flow to the brain and enhance connections between neurons.
Did you know that serotonin also makes melatonin, which is needed for good quality sleep.
A major factor on how we feel is our sleep quality and restless and sleepless nights can be a form of chronic stress on the body.
Unfortunately, poor sleep quality has been linked to problems such as a weakened immune system, weight gain, hormonal imbalances and anxiety and depression, but by including magnesium rich foods during the day such as cacao can have a big impact on how you feel, energy levels and how you sleep.
Not only is cacao wonderful at supporting our moods but it also has many other health benefits!
Cacao is loaded with antioxidants and has 40x the concentration of antioxidants than blueberries, which helps to reduce the free radical damage from oxidative stress that causes inflammation and aging within the body, and I think we all like a food that can help to keep us feeling and looking younger.
So Cacao can not only take care of our skin, but make us look younger….hand me the chocolate!!
Due to its good bioavailability, cacao intake increases serum antioxidant capacity which protects the endothelium from oxidative stress and endogenous reactive oxygen species (those horrible free radicals that wreak havoc on our body). The flavonoids in Cacao also contributes to its protective and healing effects, including its anti-inflammatory immunomodulatory, antioxidant properties and DNA repair activities properties that can help support skin disorders including skin issues associated with excessive exposure to UV light.
You see cacao is rich in polyphenols, which are a type of naturally occurring antioxidant found in many vegetables and fruit. These wonderful polyphenols have been shown to reduce inflammation within the body by mopping up all those nasty free radicals that can harm our cellular structure and can lead to cell damage, dermal structure deterioration and premature skin aging and disease.
Cacao can even help to support blood sugar levels to avoid those mid-day energy slumps by reducing the sugar burden on the liver and avoiding the sugar peaks that we get from high sugar and processed foods.
Dark chocolate is also an important source of copper, and this mineral is required for iron transport through the body, glucose metabolism, infant growth and brain development.
Thinking of improving your heart health, well cacao has you covered…
Cacao has been shown to help improve blood pressure by increasing levels of a compound called nitric oxide in the blood which can ultimately lower your risk of heart attacks and strokes by relaxing and dilating the arteries and blood vessels and improve blood flow through the body. Similarly, this effect can also improve cholesterol levels by reducing LDL cholesterol in the body.
Not only does Cacao support your heart but these amazing polyphenols can also reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases by improving the blood flow to the brain and improving brain function. By crossing the blood brain barrier, they have a positive effect on the health of your brain.
And we are not even finished, Cacao is also high in iron with as much as 20% of your RDA from just 1oz of dark chocolate but remember that plant-based sources of iron from foods such as cacao, are not as easily absorbed but by adding vitamin C rich foods increases absorption by up to 67% so get dipping those strawberries into some delicious melted dark chocolate.
And I’m sure you will agree that chocolate is a firm favourite for many and although cacao is a wonderful nutrient packed superfood, we should be looking at the good nutrient dense sources of cacao/chocolate such as raw cacao which is great used in smoothies, mixed into porridge, made into a rich hot chocolate and opting for chocolate with a cacao content of 85% or more will give you those amazing health benefits. Try to avoid the low cacao content chocolate such as milk or white chocolate as these unfortunately do not have the same amazing health benefits and are normally laden with high sugar content.
1. Andújar I, Recio M, Giner R, Ríos J. Cocoa Polyphenols and Their Potential Benefits for Human Health. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2012;2012:1-23.
2. Ellam S, Williamson G. Cocoa and Human Health. Annual Review of Nutrition. 2013;33(1):105-128.
3. Kerimi A, Williamson G. The cardiovascular benefits of dark chocolate. Vascular Pharmacology. 2015;71:11-15.
4. Galleano M, Oteiza P, Fraga C. Cocoa, Chocolate, and Cardiovascular Disease. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology. 2009;54(6):483-490.
5. Nehlig A. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2013;75(3):716-727.
6. Scapagnini G, Davinelli S, Di Renzo L, De Lorenzo A, Olarte H, Micali G et al. Cocoa Bioactive Compounds: Significance and Potential for the Maintenance of Skin Health. Nutrients. 2014;6(8):3202-3213.
7. Shah S, Alweis R, Najim N, Dharani A, Jangda M, Shahid M et al. Use of dark chocolate for diabetic patients: a review of the literature and current evidence. Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives. 2017;7(4):218-221.
8. Farhat G. Dark chocolate rich in polyphenols improves insulin sensitivity in the adult non-diabetic population. Endocrine Abstracts. 2014;.
"As with every good story, we need to go back in time… right at the beginning. I came to life in the very early hours of Thursday morning. A date to remember indeed since it was New Near’s day.
A couple of years later, my parents left the French Riviera for one of the most remote places in the country. Take a pin and place it right in the middle of the map of France and you’ll probably just be a few miles away from our little house in the country. The largest town was over 1-hour drive away, and our neighbours were sheep, geese, and cows. On our land, we had a couple of apple trees, one of the biggest pear trees I have ever seen (producing pears the size of my face, juicy and delicious). My father has also planted plum trees (my mum’s favourite fruit), and a few dozen of raspberry bushes, separating the garden from the lawn, also my mum’s favourite berry.
In the garden, my dad grew all sorts of vegetables. At the end of harvest, we would have over 50 kilos of fine green beans, and as many peas and cabbages. So much so that we would exchange our vegetables (and my mum’s amazing homemade bread and jams) for eggs and milk, chickens, and flour from the mill.
I discovered at a very young age that food was an important part of my life, that I was lucky enough to eat pure, organic, unadulterated food that tasted exquisite. And so, I spent many days in the kitchen with my mother, who loved cooking from scratch and trying new recipes from cooking books and magazines (in the days before the internet) that, it seems, she never had enough of.
At eight years old, I asked my dad to have my own little patch to grow seeds that I would be given by friends and farmers near our home. To my very own surprise, my dad agreed and soon after, I had a beautiful display of colour with sunflowers, corn, courgettes, beans, peas, and many more, crowded together. It was not the perfect vegetable garden, but I was so proud. To this day, I continue to grow my own organic vegetables and berries. I could not have it any other way.
My passion for food was so apparent from a young age that my dad had enrolled me in the nearest catering college. The very summer before starting school, I was told a friend needed a kitchen help. My parents thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to see if cooking was indeed the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And so, at 15, I had my first true experience with cooking professionally. And, I loved it. I made enough money to pay for my enrolment, my chef uniforms, and my very first set of knives.
At the practice restaurant at school, where people queued to eat, I learned the basics of cooking, twice a week, which was consolidated by compulsory training placements in restaurants over the summer, in addition to the national curriculum. Wanting to learn more, I moved back to the French Riviera, alone. My earliest memories of my life were filled with happy moments and I wanted to go back to my little ‘paradise’.
By the time I had completed another two years at one of the most prestigious catering colleges of my time — a week at school would usually be 64 hours long and will finish on the Friday at 22:30 pm —, I understood what the life of a chef would be.
It was not enough. I wanted to understand food inside out and reach for perfection. And so, I completed another two years of learning at the highest level.
I was so passionate about cooking and food that during my final practical examination (cooking a 3-course meal from scratch and supervising 2 commis chefs making another dish), one of the judges offered me a job for the summer right there as he was so impressed.
Within a few weeks after graduating, I was contacted by Alain Ducasse at the Louis XV in Monaco and from there my love for food grew to new heights, and so, when asked if I wanted to go to London to help out with one of his restaurants, I said yes.
I was ready for adventure.
At 21, I arrived in London with wide-opened eyes. A couple of years later, having decided to stay in the UK a little longer, I was given the biggest opportunity in my career. I was offered a short position as a private chef, to cater to a family and their friends and guests for a wedding in Ireland. Flying private jet, I was on top of the world. The principals were so impressed that I was asked to become their private chef permanently. And so, I became Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s private chef, cooking for the biggest stars and celebrities of the time, on a daily basis. It was magical. I had the best time of my life.
Two decades later, and I have worked on yachts, on planes, and traveled most of the world. It is always exciting to discover new places, but most importantly new foods, tastes, and flavours, understanding the techniques that are so different from Michelin training and making them part of my own repertoire.
But… There is a darker side to being a chef, especially a private chef.
I can work for four to six months without a day off and up to 20 hours in a day. I have been known to work for 36 hours non-stop, particularly when being the sole chef on a yacht. With people going to bed at different times, some requiring nibbles in the wee hours of the morning, and the early risers wanting to catch the first glimpse of the sun while enjoying a healthy breakfast, there was never a downtime for me to rest, and never more than three hours to sleep.
This is a life you would not want for anyone. And yet, it seemed to suit me very well.
A bad sleeper for as long as I can remember, I have developed coping mechanisms: I run on adrenaline all day, and while I am cooking the most exquisite and nutritious food, I have no time to eat — and to sleep.
It is with no surprise that most of my life I was plagued with many gut problems. It started when I was 12 years old.
Apparently, the anxious kind, I was not able to assimilate the amazing homegrown food served at the table. I received monthly injections and was given a soup of minerals and vitamins to put on weight. At age 15, I was still under 30 kilos.
Once a chef, it only got worse. Although, during my first summer training job, and due to the fact that I had left my parent’s home, I grew 20 centimeters in height and about 5 sizes of shoe in just over two months. My weight was normal for the very first time. Yet, my digestive system was not happy. Fed leftovers or food that was going off and no longer suitable to cook for customers, and eating in under 5 minutes, it was always a rush. I was dealing with constant bloating and severe constipation. My normal was going to the toilet once a week, sometimes ten days or more.
I was hospitalised at 23 because I was in excruciating pain due to not be able to go for three weeks. It was so critical that the x-ray was donated to medical school. The consultant had never seen such a severe case of constipation.
And so, I went on a journey to better understand my body, and with more and more of my clients wanting healthy meals, my style of cuisine changed overnight.
I started to understand the power of food. I tested for lactose and gluten intolerances and came back positive for both. This now explains why I was chronically malnourished, underweight and brain fogged most of my life.
This became the basis on which I wanted to learn more about the impact of food on the body and I enrolled without any hesitation in a nutrition diploma and in naturopathic medicine.
Saying I loved it is an understatement. I graduated at the top of my class and achieved the top mark for my essay on low thyroid. I had to wait for two months for my work to come back to me, as it was shared with all the branches of the school, as this had never happened before.
Coupling nutrition and cooking have allowed me to position myself very uniquely, providing exquisite services to the rich and famous, with optimum health at the core. And so, I naturally provide nutrition consultations as part of my clinic, and now also with Nourishing Insights, and cooking the plans from scratch for people that prefer to have someone taking over their kitchen and to adapt in real-time to their needs.
I also trained in NLP and mental health disorders to better understand the coping mechanisms people tend to find — as well as my own —, to help them reach a higher state of health, optimum physical and mental well-being, and emotional balance.
Mindfulness is now a complete part of my practice.
I dive deep into each system to find the root causes of symptoms clients come to see me in my clinic for and, 9 times out of 10, stress is the major trigger or the perpetrator.
Poor memory and concentration, brain fog and sleep, and digestive problems are the usual complaints. By addressing the main culprits in their lives — and in mine —, I am able to guide my clients along their journey, taking them from where they are today to where they want to be, and give them all the tools they need to succeed, to be healthier, happy and full of vitality, to live the life they ought to live.
I have never been happier than today. My gut has never been happier. I have finally found my ideal weight, my ideal diet, and most importantly I am in total control of my energy and blood sugar. No longer am I running solely on adrenaline. This new life I have been given and the experience has made me a reference for clients with burnout, sleep and mental health problems, and inflammatory disorders.
Above all, I am so thankful for the journey."
Following on from my degree in biology, I entered a career in buying but after the birth of my son, I discovered a real passion for Nutrition. My son was suffering from eczema and asthma and although I was feeding him a good diet, I was unaware of the triggers and how to overcome these health issues and symptoms on a nutritional level.
That’s when I followed my passion and studied nutrition for a further three years at ION. This is where my knowledge grew and my desire to not only understand how nutrition and lifestyle can play such major factors in people’s overall health but also the desire to support people on their wellness journey! After helping support my sons own health conditions, I knew that I wanted to help other people gain the tools they need to support their own health, from getting to the route cause of their symptoms to helping to gain a better understanding of how to implement these small changes to gain big results!
I believe that when it comes to our health It’s not a one size fits all, we are all different and it’s there that I can help with personalised guidance and support, I believe that it’s never about restriction or following the so called fad diets. In fact it’s about nourishing your body from the inside out and enjoying the food we eat, without restrictions and helping you to find that balance with food, health and life! By looking at your health history, dietary habits and lifestyle, this can help to identify triggers and mediators that may be a contributing factor to particular symptoms and using simple tools and working together can help to meet your health goals!
Health is also about the food we eat, how we eat and enjoying the food we eat! As not only a nutritional therapist I’m also a nutritional chef and my passion for cooking with nourishing ingredients allows me to help my clients discover new ways to enjoy food again, making eating well simple that can fit seamlessly into their busy lives!
It sounds easier said than done, but with simple tools, support and one to one guidance, I help you every step of the way, making the balance you need easier to gain!
Not only do I love my job as a nutritionist but I love food and being able to share my passion by showing people that eating well is not time consuming and that it can be fun, delicious and nutritious and definitely not boring, and there's always chocolate involved. I believe that it's not about taking things away but instead adding wonderful foods that help to nourish the body and of course, taste amazing.
I work with all types of clients but I specialise mainly in women’s health, including hormonal imbalances, pre and post natal health, weight management, PCOS, endometriosis and children’s health.
During my time as a Nutritional Therapist I have worked with many different clients including TV work, corporate clients, yoga studios, health clubs and clinics as well as one to one client work, I also use my passion for cooking as a professional recipe developer, food photographer and food & nutrition chef.
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