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.
Over 5 million people in the UK are receiving treatment for asthma with over a million children. The NHS spends around a billion pounds a year treating this. On average there are around 3 children in every classroom with asthma and the UK has some of the highest prevalence worldwide. Many sufferers also experience eczema and hayfever.
Ask any parent or primary school teacher and they will tell you that we are facing an allergy epidemic. From staff room cupboards filled will inhalers and epi-pens to nuts being banned in school lunch boxes, there is no doubt that we have reached a bit of a crisis in our children’s health. Surely what we need to be asking is why.
With increasing numbers of true food allergies and also 1 in 3 children with one or multiple food sensitivities, lasting long into teens for many children we need to shine a spot light on what could be happening to the immune system.
As Functional medicine practitioners we are trained to look for root cause in all things and we often talk about three key areas that are affecting out immune systems.
1. Damage to the gut microbiome, especially in infancy and early years. (Exposure to antibiotics being a significant one).
2. The western diet is highly processed and lacks the fibre to feed the microbiome and also the much needed micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that we need to optimise immune function. It's also packed with sugars and sweeteners which are not gut/immune friendly.
3. High exposure to environmental pollutants, chemicals in the home, cleaning fluids, toiletries etc. Match that with poor detox pathways in individuals due to genetics and poor bowel function and we begin to set up the perfect storm.
Babies would normally be exposed to mums microbiome as they pass through the birth canal and this sets up the immune system from birth. However, babies born by c-section don't have this early exposure which protects them and are as a consequence five times more likely to develop allergies than those born vaginally. Also many section babies have also received antibiotic exposure through mum due to c-section and also Group B strep treatment.
C-sections can’t always be prevented but fortunately there’s lots we can do to offset this lack of microbial diversity the first being to give baby a probiotic from birth.
The Swansea Study
This was a large study by the University of Swansea Medical School with 454 mother/baby pairs who were given Lab4b probiotics containing Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria both during the final month of pregnancy and the first 6 months of infancy to evaluate whether this would prevent allergy in children. The results showed that versus placebo, the probiotic groups did indeed confer a protective effect on prevention of eczema and also prevention of allergic reaction to common allergens including pollen, cows milk, eggs and dust mites.
Prof. Steve Allen, concluded the following key message from the trial: ‘Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria administered to pregnant women and infants aged 0-6 months prevented atopic sensitization and atopic eczema.
The babies given the Lab4b probiotics were 57% less likely to develop atopic eczema than those receiving the placebo.
The babies given Lab4b were 44% less likely to develop allergic reaction to common allergens, including pollen, cow’s milk, egg and house dust mite.
These are fairly impressive numbers and such a simple strategy that all mums to be would be well advised to take probiotics during the pregnancy and then continue giving to baby after birth.
Introducing food allergens
It is advised to introduce between 6 and 12 months while continuing to breasted during and beyond for an additional 6 months. It is also wise where possible to avoid antibiotics, PPI’s (eg omeprazole) and NSAID’s (ibuprofen) as these set the scene for allergies through damage to the gut lining and microbiome. For babies struggling with symptoms of colic or reflux always seek advice from a baby reflux specialist to establish root cause to avoid these pitfalls.
Eat the rainbow
Eating the rainbow is important as it ensures that we provide a full range of nutrients and also fibre for our microbiome. Snacking on carrot sticks or other veg or pieces of fruit is better than highly processed foods. Be choosy about sugars and avoid unnatural sweeteners. Instead look for raw honey or maple syrup and use sparingly. Drink lots of water in place of sweetened drinks and introduce children to natural sweetness in lemons and limes etc to flavour water or add a herbal tea bag to their water.
Key nutrients for asthma
Vitamin A: Brightly coloured carotenoids like root veggies and sweet potato provide the basis for vitamin A. A study of 68000 women showed that those who consumed the most of these foods had lower rates of asthma and vice versa. Fruit and vegetable intakes and asthma in the E3N study | Thorax (bmj.com)
Vitamin C: Studies suggest vitamin C consumption reduces wheezing.
Magnesium: Magnesium is helpful in bronchial smooth muscle relaxation supporting easier flow of air.
Omega 3: mostly found in oily fish, flax and chia seeds and walnuts this is a nutrient which is commonly deficient in children and adults. Omega 3 can help lower incidence by reducing airway inflammation and dampening down immune system reactivity.
Vitamin D: A Cochrane study which looked at 435 children and 658 adults with mild to moderate asthma showed that those taking vitamin D had fewer asthma attacks, required less use of oral steroids and reduced need for hospital admissions. High quality evidence suggests Vitamin D can reduce asthma attacks | Cochrane
Food Intolerance and Allergy
Food and environmental allergens also play their part. We work with clients through both elimination diets and testing can be done for both IgG food intolerances and IgE food allergies and also environmental allergens.
Essential oils can be really comforting with immediate benefit especially eucalyptus and peppermint. These can be diffused in bedrooms to aid breathing. Come and speak to use about options and how best to use.
I thought I would put together a summary of the best suggestions to support our immune health based on some of the information and concerns that have come to light during the pandemic. I consider some of the research that has been done over the last year and highlight some of the studies on both general immunity and also reference some more COVID specific support supplements.
Over the past year, government advice has primarily been around simply avoiding the virus by preventing contact and behavioural recommendations around hand washing, sanitisers, keeping surfaces clean etc. However none of these address the issue of building our innate immune defence should we fall prey to the virus. In addition although the mainstream media has talked about high risk groups as the elderly, those with other co-morbidities and the immunosuppressed, it hasn't given much more detail than that or looked at this from a much bigger lens so that is what I am going to do today. Another cause of confusion and fear is that there have sadly been deaths among younger people and those who on the surface don't have any health challenges. However, we don’t know what is going on underneath. If we see health as merely the absence of ‘disease’ we will be confused by this. What we need to know is how robust that person's health was which means understanding their nutrition, nutrient deficiencies, stress levels, sleep, weight, metabolic challenges. All of these can compromise immunity and all of these can be present as significant risk factors in the absence of diagnosed conditions. In addition one of the problems with ignoring these risk factors is that as soon as life goes back to normal if we don't examine our health now and correct any risk factors or deficits nutritionally we are going to remain in the high risk group not just for this virus but for anything else that comes along. Now is the time to build resilience, so that if we do become infected our immune systems will kick into action and we will make a good recovery. We live as part of a virome. Viruses have always been present and always will be and therefore the only intelligent strategy to build resilience is to support the host environment, in other words you and me! We can not always control for the existence of viruses but we can learn to live with them and for that we need to support our immune health.
First up, stress! We know that stress suppresses our immunity and right now we have a very strange and unpredictable world and 24/7 coverage of all things COVID along with changes in family and working life, loss of jobs and income. While some are enjoying the lifestyle changes and time with children and are talking about time for reflection, others are feeling trapped, hopeless and completely overwhelmed. Wherever we are, there are always stresses in life and we can only do our best to manage these. The trick is to acknowledge this and to set aside time as part of our daily routine to actively do stress relieving activities such as walking, breathing techniques, meditation, drawing, relaxation music ( I use this a lot!) We can’t always change the stress but we can change how we respond to it. Interestingly, adaptogen herbs can not only help modulate the stress response and build resilience but also have immune modulating effects. Panax ginseng ‘as a dietary supplement modulates the immune system and comprises a complex network of different cells and proteins that protects the body from infections.’
Interestingly, an Ayurvedic herb called Ashwagandha may have promise as a prophylactic for covid. The Narendra Modi government is leading a study to consider whether ashwagandha could be offered as an alternative to hydroxychloroquine as a potential covid preventive.
This has a massive effect on immune function. Whatever you do, do not compromise on sleep. Simple strategies include removing caffeine, turning off screens as the blue light effect can stay with us for 2 hours! Using special blue light blocking glasses can help and putting flux.com to your computer to dim the light. Ensure a cool bedroom, use blackout blinds, eye masks, and avoid all light emitted in the room including plugs etc to support melatonin. We can boost our melatonin by walking in daylight which raises serotonin and this converts to melatonin when it is dark to prepare us for sleep. Melatonin levels also influence our immune function so we really need to get this one right. There are supplements you can take to help this along if required.
‘During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.’
For more tips on how to support sleep head over to our youtube video …. and also have a listen to this great podcast….. But whatever you do don't take short cuts with sleep!
Moderate exercise has been shown to raise white blood cells and antibodies to fight infection. Exercise also helps increase circulation and decreases stress hormones so it is an all round win win. Seated and adapted movement can also be helpful so don't feel left out. Studies have shown that just 20 mins of moderate exercise per day can improve immune function.
Getting just enough exercise is also important, finding that sweet spot between not too much and not too little as too much exercise can compromise immunity as much as too little.
We know that good nutrition is essential for supporting immunity, but how many of us are eating optimally? Recent evidence has shown that certain nutrient deficiencies have led to increased risk of covid, with zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D being widely reported. It has also been reported that those with increased risk of dying from Covid are those with metabolic health challenges eg diabetics and those overweight. Even more interesting is that high blood sugar is also a risk factor for poor prognosis even in non diabetics! A study of 11,000 C-19 patients in Spain found that even among those who were not critically ill when they got to hospital. having elevated blood sugar because a risk for death.
Obesity and metabolic risk
We have major health challenges in the UK now as processed foods represents over 50% of the diet. More and more research is pointing to metabolic disease as representing many of the high risk groups.
This highlights where we should be focussing our efforts in supporting people with obesity and metabolic challenges.
“According to a recent study led by University of North Carolina nutrition professor Barry Popkin, obese COVID-19 patients were more than twice as likely to require hospitalization than non-obese patients, about 1.75 times more likely to require a stay in an intensive-care unit, and 1.5 times more likely to die. But why? “Fat cells are active,” Popkin explains—they generate low-grade chronic inflammation that compromises the immune system. Obesity often brings with it breathing troubles like reduced lung capacity and sleep apnea, as well as a propensity for blood clotting.
“We’ve known that processed food is dangerous, but we’ve always assumed it was for chronic diseases,” says Dr. Robert Lustig, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “What we didn’t know, until this pandemic, is that chronic disease also sets you up for morbidity and mortality from acute diseases” like COVID-19.”
Practical tips for respiratory care
Good old fashioned salt water gargles help loosen mucous and are antibacterial. Raw honey in hot water is soothing and healing. chamomile and peppermint teas are soothing for sore throats and mint tea in particular can be helpful for mucous reduction. Ensure plenty of hot drinks for mucous breakdown.
For respiratory congestion and sinus problems, try neti pots as these can be helpful for nasal irrigation. Vaporisers and diffusers can be very helpful with essential oils such as eucalyptus, peppermint, menthol or frankincense. Repeated sinus infections can be exacerbated when there are food intolerances or allergies. In addition, yeast overgrowth can also contribute so if you do have repeated infections this is something to look into to prevent the need for endless round of antibiotics which add to the vicious circle.
NAC or N-Acetyl cysteine
For problems with mucous production, again allergies and food intolerances need to be identified. However an excellent supplement for breaking up stubborn mucous can be NAC or N-acetyl cysteine. One of our go to supplements for clinging and stubborn mucous in a range of conditions is NAC or N-Acetylcysteine.
NAC actually has a fascinating history and has been well researched for health challenges other than mucous.
“NAC, which appears to work by reducing the thickness of mucus, has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for chronic bronchitis.
A review of 39 clinical trials of NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) found that 400 to 600 mg per day was a safe and effective treatment for chronic bronchitis. NAC supplementation was found to reduce the number of aggravations of the illness in almost 50% of people taking the supplement, compared with only 31% of those taking placebo. Smokers have also been found to benefit from taking NAC. In addition to helping break up mucus, NAC may reduce the elevated bacterial counts that are often seen in the lungs of smokers with chronic bronchitis. In another double-blind study, people with chronic bronchitis who took NAC showed an improved ability to expectorate and a reduction in cough severity. These benefits may result from NAC's capacity to reduce the viscosity (thickness) of sputum. “
Other studies have shown benefits in COPD and also bronchiectasis
“Treatment with N-acetylcysteine, a mucus-dissolving and anti-inflammatory agent, reduces the frequency of acute worsening episodes and improves the quality of life of patients with bronchiectasis, results from a randomized trial in China show.”
There are a number of botanicals and supplements which have been shown to boost immunity, give symptomatic relief and shorten illness. Some of these have been researched with reference to Covid-19
It has been highlighted that Covid can be deadly due to its ability to attack part of the immune system called the inflammasome leading to a release of cytokines and a cytokine storm. This can cause severe and sometimes irreversible damage. The SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to activate something called the NLRP3 inflammasome. A 2016 review article which looked at natural compounds which can regulate this showed that supplements such as quercetin, curcumin, resveratrol and green tea can modulate this.
This has been regarded as an important tool in prevention and management of covid and this study gives a helpful overview to understand why that might be. “Interestingly, most of the risk groups described for COVID-19 are at the same time groups that were associated with zinc deficiency. As zinc is essential to preserve natural tissue barriers such as the respiratory epithelium, preventing pathogen entry, for a balanced function of the immune system and the redox system, zinc deficiency can probably be added to the factors predisposing individuals to infection and detrimental progression of COVID-19. Finally, due to its direct antiviral properties, it can be assumed that zinc administration is beneficial for most of the population, especially those with suboptimal zinc status.”
You can test your zinc with this simple taste test and all the family can do this for a bit of fun at home.
Vitamin C of course is well known for supporting immune health. This paper examines the link between deficiency and risk of reparatory infection and Covid and also its efficacy as a part of the toolbox for treatments. “This literature review focuses on vitamin C deficiency in respiratory infections including COVID-19; the mechanism of action in infectious disease and adrenal function supporting the anti-inflammatory actions of glucocorticosteroids: its role in preventing and treating colds and pneumonia and its role in treating sepsis and COVID-19. The evidence to date indicates that oral vitamin C (2-8g/d) may reduce incidence and duration of respiratory infections and intravenous vitamin C (2-24g/d) has been shown to reduce mortality, Intensive Care Unit and hospital stays, time on mechanical ventilation in severe respiratory infections.”
Vitamin A is an important micronutrient for regulating cellular immune response, modulation of T helper cells, secretory IgA and cytokine production. Studies have shown a reduction of symptom duration in viral infection. Early supplementation with vitamin A was associated with reduced mortality in patients with Ebola.
In children vitamin A has been shown to be particularly helpful when combined with zinc and this study of 826 preschool children concluded that when combined together significantly reduced the duration of Upper respiratory tract infection.
To order a good child’s immune supplement which includes both vitamin A plus vitamin D, vitamin C and probiotic have a look at this one for toddlers and this one for older children.
As most of you know, 70-80% of our immune system is in our gut, therefore it is unsurprising that that the gut plays a central role in optimising immunity. We can enhance our good bacteria by avoiding sugars and sweeteners and by increasing the diversity of colour and fibre in our diet. This large meta analysis of 23 trials and 6269 children indicated that children supplemented with probiotics has fewer days off school and reduced duration of illness.
Combined with vitamin C, D, Zinc and A as per previous studies and recommendations would therefore seem a sensible option across the winter to decrease incidence of Upper respiratory tract infections in children. Some great options here for different ages.
As we are talking about the importance of gut health you may have seen recent reports on research from South Korea and Hong Kong on the influence of gut bacteria on Covid severity. “Each person has a unique assortment of bacteria in their gut which play a variety of roles, including in modulating the immune response.
Research from the Chinese University of Hong Kong found people suffering with Covid-19 had a 'significantly altered' microbiome composition.
Separate research from South Korea found people with a poorly functioning gut are more likely to develop severe Covid-19 because the lack of healthy microbes makes it easier for the virus to infect cells in the digestive tract”
This was actually reported months ago when I interviewed Dr Christine Bishara MD about her research into this very subject and her research team highlighted the protective role of probiotics in the gut in prevention and management of Covid. You can listed to our podcast here.
If you’ve been following us a while you’ll know of the research being done by the NHS in conjunction with Southamptom University into this impressive ayurvedic herb as a treatment which could be used for URTI. Even more exciting it was recently reported that Thailand’s health ministry has approved the use of Andrographis to treat early stages of Covid as a pilot programme. It's something we always have in our medicine cabinet!
Well known as an antiviral it has been good to see this herb being studied in UK hospitals! From vitamin D to vitamin C, zinc, andrographis and now elderberry the list of nutraceuticals and botanicals being used and researched in conventional medicine settings is growing to support the current virus. So encouraging to see more and more UK hospitals using a bigger lens and realising the much bigger medicine cabinet they have available to them.
‘Ms Jessica Evans, director of research and innovation at the East Kent Hospitals Trust, said: “We are all very excited to have been given approval to start this trial, which could have huge implications for the treatment of coronavirus.”
“A previous study with flu patients showed people who took the extract had significant improvements in their symptoms within two days, compared to six days for those who did not.” Order here
Last but not least, everyone's favourite when it comes to the immune system and that is our good old sunshine vitamin! As a clinic we test vitamin D every day and it is deficient in over 50% of our clients. As we only get around 10% from food, more on this in our blog, we really need some unprotected sunshine to convert into vitamin D which is an essential in our immune function. Vitamin D has always been well documented for immune protection and in particular for upper respiratory conditions. If the government had recommended essential supplementation a year ago the evidence from many studies over the last 12 months suggests we would have prevented significant illness and mortality from the Covid virus. To not supplement is simply a no brainier in my view and that of countless scientists across the world. Below are just some of the studies into vitamin D that have come to light over the past 12 months.
When the endocrinology and respiratory units at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS foundation trust made an informal recommendation to its clinicians to prescribe vitamin D, the decision was considered unusual. “Our view was that this treatment is so safe and the crisis is so enormous that we don’t have time to debate,” said Dr Richard Quinton, a consultant endocrinologist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.”
“In the Newcastle hospitals, patients found to be vitamin D-deficient were given extremely high oral doses of the nutrient. Of the first 134 coronavirus patients given vitamin D, 94 had been discharged, 24 were still receiving inpatient care, and 16 had died. The clinicians hadn’t clearly associated vitamin D levels with overall death rates, but only three patients with high levels of the nutrient died, and all of them were frail and in their 90s.”
A 2020 study from the Division of clinical epidemiology and ageing research in Heidelberg Germany has suggested that vitamin D insufficiency may account for almost 9 our of 10 covid-19 deaths. “Evidence from observational studies is accumulating, suggesting that the majority of deaths due to SARS-CoV-2 infections are statistically attributable to vitamin D insufficiency and could potentially be prevented by vitamin D supplementation. Given the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic, rational vitamin D supplementation whose safety has been proven in an extensive body of research should be promoted and initiated to limit the toll of the pandemic even before the final proof of efficacy in preventing COVID-19 deaths by randomized trials.”
Boston University found that vitamin D sufficiency reduces infection and impact of covid-19. “Patients with sufficient levels of vitamin D are less likely to experience complications and die from COVID-19, according to a new study in the US, while another has found it also reduces infection rates.
Vitamin D sufficiency was linked with a significantly decreased level of inflammatory markets, and higher blood levels of immune cells, in new research from Boston University's school of medicine.”
I would also like to share a very encouraging study which is the first randomised controlled trial of vitamin D in C-19. Expressed as relative risk vit D reduced the risk of ICU admission 25 fold. So it eliminated 96% of the risk of ICU admission. More analysis on this study on this interesting article
Hope you have enjoyed this summary of some of the available evidence which is considerable and growing. We are especially delighted to see more of these nutraceuticals and botanicals being used and researched in a range of settings. Perhaps what we really need is for those of us with an interest in natural medicine to get together and raise funds for further independent study in this vital work.
Disclaimer: This blog is provided for educational purposes only. If you are taking any medication or have a medical condition please check with a registered Nutritional Therapist or your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
Having spent over 5 years working with babies (and being a Mum myself!) I've seen a lot of colicky wee ones. Trapped wind can contribute to colic and reflux so making sure they get their burps up can make a huge difference in making them more comfortable. Sometime babies can be really difficult to burp so I thought I would share my favourite techniques. Often rotating through them can be really helpful when baby just won't burp!
1. Over the knee burp - Lay baby carefully tummy down, over your knees and pat or rub with an upwards motion up babies back.
2. The squatting burp - lift baby up and then carefully squat them down on your lap allowing their knees to tuck up against their chest. Then holding/leaning them against you rub their backs with an upward motion.
3. Sitting on your knee burp - Perhaps one of the most commonly used burping techniques is to sit baby on your knee and rub their back with upward strokes. In younger babies make sure to support their head and neck. In older babies with good neck control you can often get lots of good burps up by applying gentle pressure to the tummy while rubbing their back.
4. Massage Burp - Lay baby down on their tummy with their head to one side. Massage from the base of the spine upwards with a gentle but firm pressure.
5. Over the arm burp - Lay baby over your arm, supporting their head with your forarm/elbow. Hold them at a slight angle so their tummy is lower than their head. Pat or rub their backs.
6. Over the shoulder burp - Another classic burping position but there's a reason for it! Place baby over your shoulder and gently pat or rub in an upwards motion on their back.
7. The German Mama Burp - This one is very similar to the over the shoulder burp but this time you position baby so that your breast is gently pressing into their tummy. Then start tapping/rubbing from the lower back and moving upwards to the upper back and repeat.
8. The cross body burp - Hold baby with their head on one shoulder and their feet towards the opposite side. Pat/rub in an upwards motion. Then swap and do the same again on the other side.
Another position that can be really helpful to soothe unsettled babies is Tiger in a Tree a.k.a Cat in a Cradle (and one or two others!). Make a cradle with your arms and lie baby on it's front so that it's head is being supported by your elbow/arm and their tummy is lying on your hands. Let their arms and legs dangle a little. You can then apply a slight pressure to their tummy, and/or pat/massage around in a clockwise motion.
I hope these techniques will help you and your baby to produce lots of burps.
This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat any specific conditions. Nor is it designed to replace the advice of your healthcare provider.
Have you been told that your baby has reflux? Are you trying to get your head around what that means and what to do next? I'm here to help.
What is infant reflux?
Firstly let me say that for the purposes of this blog when I talk about infant reflux I'm also including GORD (GERD), GOR, Silent Reflux, the symptoms of allergies/intolerances and what may have been dismissed as "colic".
In simple terms a reflux action is when something moves from the stomach to the oesophagus. It is a natural process that our bodies are designed to do for a number of reasons, e.g. to remove excess air from our stomach - burping or vomiting to remove food/bacteria. The body's ability to reflux is completely normal and is one of the body's ways of protecting itself from pathogens etc.
What's not normal is when this action is happening over and over again especially when it is causing obvious pain and discomfort. It is not normal for stomach acid to be oesophagus all the time and it's certainly not normal for babies to be in distress.
The good news is that there is always a reason for your babies symptoms and we can work together to figure it out.
The most common causes of reflux
1. Build up of gas.
Those of us who can remember back to physics lessons at school will remember that things will move from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. If you blow up a balloon and then let go of it, it will deflate as the air moves from high pressure (inside the balloon) to an area of lower pressure (outside the balloon).
The same thing happens inside a baby's stomach. When the pressure inside the stomach is too great the body will try to regain balance by sending the gas into a lower pressure environment. In this case the oesophagus. The pressure level will determine the force of the regurgitation with higher pressure leading to projectile vomit and lower pressure as silent reflux.
The question we need to answer is where does the air come from?
More often than not it's because baby is swallowing too much air. Babies can swallow air when they cry, laugh, eat, drink (especially if there are issues with latch to breast or bottle), when they swallow saliva and if there are air bubbles in their milk.
2. Food Allergy or Intolerance.
Our digestive system plays a key role in immunity as you may have seen if you've read any of our posts on probiotics. One of the roles of gastric acid found in the stomach is to kill pathogens and prevent them reaching the small and large intestine. However, the infant digestive system is very immature and sometimes it's ability to perceive pathogens is a little off. For example, it may, rightly or wrongly, identify that a protein in cows milk, gluten, soy or any other food is a virus and trigger a reflux reaction to protect itself by vomiting out what it has perceived as a threat.
In these cases, reflux is a symptom of the allergy or intolerance.
There are of course other causes of reflux including pyloric stenosis, galactosaemia, intestinal blockages, etc which is why it's important that we assess each case individually.
If you're ready to start figuring out what's causing your little ones reflux then start with this free download to track all of their symptoms.
If you'd like more tailored 1:1 support you can find full details of my packages here.
Want to know more about why I started supporting babies with reflux? You can read my story here.
I truly hope I can help you on your journey to a reflux free life.
If you or someone you know suffers from migraines you’ll know it is a pretty nasty and often debilitating condition, sometimes lasting days or even longer. Believed to be the third most common disease in the world, it affects 3 times more women than men and many women cite hormones as a trigger. In the UK estimates suggest that we lose 25 million days from work or school due to migraine. Absenteeism from work costs £2.25 billion and NHS prescription costs around £250 million per year. It is thought that less than 50% will consult their family doctor and that most self medicate for migraine.
In addition to pain, migraine can include
Tension headaches are considered to be non vascular while migraine is a vascular headache involving excessive dilation of blood vessels in the head. Migraine attacks can often be preceded by visual disturbance, blurring of vision, bright lights , anxiety, disturbed thinking, mood swings, numbness and tingling.
So what causes them?
There is a genetic component here which many of you will identity with and I do see this in my clients. In my own family, it is common down the female line and has been a very debilitating condition for many over the years.
Blood vessel instability
Research supports a link between blood vessel instability and migraine headaches With excessive constriction being followed by rebound dilation. There does seem to be an inherited tendency here as some have an abnormality in their constriction and dilation of blood vessels.
The platelets of some migraine sufferers have been found to be different from normal platelets during and between attacks. Platelets are the cells involved in clotting and migraine sufferers can have an increase in platelet aggregation which means a clumping together. Interestingly it is thought that the amount of serotonin released by patients in response to a serotonin stimulation (eg food allergy/intolerance) can rise leading to a migraine. Another interesting phenomenon related to platelets is that migraine sufferers have been shown to have a twofold increase in mitral valve prolapse, with this leaky valve causing damage to blood platelets. Research has shown 16% migraine patients to have a mitral valve prolapse
Even more interesting to me is that mitral valve prolapse is also three time more prevalent in those who are deficient in magnesium, since I find that many of the sufferers I see in clinic are also magnesium deficient. Indeed, in practice I find that a combination of dealing with food allergies/intolerances and supplementing magnesium to correct deficiency can be the most helpful means to prevention and the above challenges in some part explain some important links here.
Serotonin deficiency Syndrome
Another hypothesis is that migraines are linked to serotonin deficiency state. Research going back to the 1960’s found a serotonin breakdown product in the urine (5-HIAA) during a migraine. New research suggests this is due to increased breakdown of serotonin from increased activity of monoamine oxidase. The link with low serotonin levels has been the basis of many prescription drugs for migraine e.g. sumatriptan a serotonin agonist. Numerous studies have also shown a link between supplementing with 5HTP and prevention. It should be noted that this works best of taken for at least 6 months.
Keeping a migraine diary
It can be very helpful to notice what is happening around the time of migraine attacks to look for repeated patterns. There may be an accumulation of stressors over time which come to a head and that domino effect begins to happen which results in a headache. Susceptibility may be due to reduced tissue serotonin and changes in platelets and a build up of histamine and other inflammatory mediators.
Factors that trigger migraine
What can we do about it?
Firstly find your root cause and eliminate where possible or avoid the build up of triggers. We can Test for food intolerances/allergies, nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances. Modern drug treatment is inadequate because it fails to address root cause. In the 1980’s it became apparent that using analgesics on a regular basis could backfire and actually lead to increased frequency of attacks and many doctors were talking about analgesic rebound headaches. Another interesting point to note here is that regular use of NSAID’s like ibuprofen can suppress ovulation and also cause damage to the gut contributing to intestinal permeability which puts us at risk of food intolerance and poor absorption of nutrients therefore feeding into the problem.
Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory. It is therefore commonly used for period pain, joint pain as well as headaches and migraines. Dosing from 400-600mg but take advice from a Nutritional therapist on any dosing. Magnesium is a common deficiency which is well researched in migraine. Also, 50% of Migraine sufferers have been found to have reduced concentrations of iodised magneisum. Levels are depleted by stress, poor diet, excess alcohol, high oestrogen, certain drug meds among others.
Vitamin B2 can help many reduce the number of migraines they have. As a preventative it needs to be taken for more than one month to see an effect and ideally for 3 months. It can also be depleted by the oral contraceptive pill. This study showed a 68% reduction in attacks after 3 months at a 400mg dose
5HTP has been shown in several studies to be effective in prevention of migraine attacks and has been shown to be as effective as pharmaceuticals but without the side effects in prevention of migraine. 5HTP works by regulating serotonin levels. Do not take this if you are taking antidepressants.
Turmeric is well known as an anti-inflammatory and can be incorporated into the diet regularly in both food and as a warm drink. It is useful when having an acute attack and some supplements are combined with ginger which is another anti-inflammatory.
Ginger can rival NSAID’s as an analgesic and can be used regularly in the diet, as a tea or supplement. I normally recommend this combined with turmeric for the best results. For example turmeric active. Studies have shown ginger to be as effective as commonly prescribed sumatriptan for migraine relief
Omega 3 are essential fatty acids found commonly in oily fish. They lower inflammation and can help with hormone balancing. Aim for 3 servings of oily fish per week or supplement. Flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts also provide omega 3 as do organic grass fed meats and chicken. We can test omega 3 levels for you to help us identify any deficiencies.
CoQ10 used as the active form ubiquinol has been shown in studies to be effective in migraine prophylaxis and has a similar mode of action to riboflavin as it improves energy metabolism and mitochondrial function.
Feverfew is perhaps the most well known herbal preventative for migraine and a number of studies have shown a reduction in frequency and severity including this one published in the lancet
Hydration you probably know about but it’s so easy to forget this one. Remember herb teas also count towards good hydration. How about choosing some turmeric and ginger teas throughout the day and you will tick more than one box!
Essential oils be very helpful especially if you are feeling too nauseas to take annoying else. Peppermint and lavender are good starting points and can be rubbed into the temple with one or two drops or can be diffused.
Acupuncture can be helpful for migraine pain relief and and may have a mechanism involved in normalising serotonin levels.
Massage and Indian head massage are also recommended for regular use to modulate cortisol and reduce muscular tension.
Reflexology is also helpful in modulating cortisol and in hormone balancing
Whatever you decide to try to support your migraines, the key to all things health is prevention and that means finding out your root cause. Otherwise you might just try endless rounds of supplements only to discover that you were shooting at the wrong target. The supplements above will all offer support via different mechanisms of action but if you are still eating your trigger food or you are not answering your body’s need for a regular sleep pattern or reducing screen time etc., then you are just going to go round in circles and get frustrated. In addition, it may be that the dose you are taking is not right for you or maybe you are taking medication that interacts with that particular supplement. It’s never a one size fits all approach and each case is different. There may be multiple factors setting you up for migraine and each one needs to be addressed. Migraine often goes hand in hand with other co-morbidities eg IBS, especially constipation which is often linked to hormonal imbalance. For more information on Nutritional therapy have a look here or arrange a call to discuss your needs. More information on our testing services here.
How did you get in to working with babies?
I have always loved babies. For as long as I can remember if someone had a baby then I would have been there offering to give them a cuddle or play with them. Even now if someone comes in store with a pram, I am straight over to say hello. When I qualified as a Massage Therapist 5 years ago, I knew I wanted to work with babies and so immediately trained as a Baby Massage Instructor.
What made you specialise in reflux support?
When I did my training we covered infant reflux and some of the massage techniques that can be supportive. However, it wasn’t until I actually started teaching and could see the distress being caused to both Mum and baby that I started to dig a little deeper. I had these women in my classes who were exhausted, who felt alone, whose concerns were not being listened to and were being brushed off. They were being told “you’re just an anxious first time mum”, “ reflux is normal”, “it’s not possible for them to cry as much as that”, “they are gaining weight there is nothing to worry about”. For these women, the cup of tea at the end of a class became a safe place for them to share what was happening. I was one of the first people who had listened to them, who believed them when they told me they had 3 hours sleep the night before, who believed that the only place they would settle was in their mothers arms, and who agreed that this was not “normal”.
Having worked alongside our clinically trained Nutritional Therapist Beverley for so long and being steeped in the idea of functional medicine and finding root cause I was watching these babies struggle and wondering why is no one asking WHY do these babies have reflux and WHAT is the root cause? I taught the Mum’s massage techniques to ease abdominal pain, to help them pass wind, to ease constipation which was a common side effect of the medications they had been prescribed for reflux. Those techniques did make a difference, they helped take the edge off but I knew that wasn’t enough. I knew that if I was to better serve these families then I had to learn more about what causes reflux and how to address that root cause.
So, what happened next?
I started to research infant reflux and learn about the infant microbiome. Slowly I built my knowledge and then one day I came across a book that had just launched called The Baby Reflux Lady and I thought YES!!! It was exactly what I had been looking for. Aine Homer had written this book because her children had reflux and she didn’t want anyone else to have to go through what they had. She had painstakingly pulled together her experience and all the research she could get her hands on and written this amazing book. Aine then took that research to the next level and launched a course for professionals called The REFLUX method which I jumped on and was one of the first to train with her.
I devoured that course. Suddenly all the pieces fell into place and I could begin to see what was causing the reflux for so many of the babies in my classes. I would sit with the mums at tea time and ask questions, observing feeding, looking for clues and making suggestions which, in some cases would include making them aware of other professionals who could support them with their specific group of symptoms: osteopaths, the infant feeding team, local breastfeeding groups etc.
Since then I stopped doing general classes and focussed exclusively on supporting babies with colic or reflux and their families in a 1:1 course setting. This allowed me to ask more specific questions and provide more tailored advice and solutions. I have since continued my professional training with Aine and am now a certified Infant Reflux Specialist. I firmly believe that reflux is a symptom of something else. It is my job to help you figure out what that root cause is, and provide you with the solutions so you can begin to work towards a reflux free baby.
You can find full details of my services here.
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