Depression & Anxiety – What to Eat to Feel Good

Depression & Anxiety – What to Eat to Feel Good

Depression and anxiety can hit any of us at any time.  When it does, taking time to prepare food and eat well can be incredibly difficult.
You can feel overwhelmed by life, paralysed by anxiety, and have little interest in cooking and eating.

The irony is that certain foods and nutrients can support mental wellbeing.  Feeding your brain with mood-balancing nutrients is an important step on the path to recovery.  The key to making these changes is to keep them practical and manageable.

Take small sustainable steps, one at a time.

Let’s look at some of the important nutrients that support mental wellbeing, and easy ways to incorporate them into your daily routine.

Go with your gut

As always, we need to start with digestion.  If you’re not breaking down your food properly and absorbing the nutrients it doesn’t matter how many fancy foods and supplements you take – none of them will work.

The trillions of bacteria living in our digestive system – also known Lady's hands on her tummy, digestionas our microbiome – are the subject of ongoing research.  Our gut and brain are communicating constantly via nerve pathways and chemical messengers, many of which are produced or influenced by friendly gut flora (probiotics).

Many of the research studies looking at probiotics and mood balance are small scale but the results are promising and it is now known that certain species, including Bifidobacteria which thrive in the colon, can positively affect mood.

Small Steps to Big Changes

– Nourish your microbiome by including fermented foods 3-4 times a week.  Try sauerkraut, kefir (dairy or coconut water), natural plain yoghurt, or kimchi.  Do not use if you have histamine problems as fermented foods are rich in histamine.

– Swap raw foods for warm, cooked foods that are easy to digest; for example swap your lunchtime salad box for a vegetable soup or reheated leftovers.

– If you have ongoing digestive problems seek help!  Food sensitivities, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Coeliac Disease can all contribute to depression and anxiety, so find a BANT Registered nutrition practitioner in your area for personalised support.

Fats are your brain’s best friend

Your brain contains 25% of your body’s cholesterol, and an awful lot of polyunsaturated omega-3 fats.  If you’re still buying ‘fat-free’ and ‘low-fat’ foods you are doing your brain a great disservice – please stop!

This is because fats provide structure to our brain cells and help them communicate with each other.  Without enough of the right sorts of fats the messages between brain cells are like a bad mobile phone signal, all crackly and broken up, and there’s a knock-on effect on mood balance.

The long-chain omega-3 fats (most commonly found in oily fish) also have anti-inflammatory actions.  Increased inflammation is associated with several mental health disorders, including depression.  Inflammation is known to alter the balance of mood chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, and affect areas of the brain linked to motivation and perception of threat.  Not every person with depression has increased inflammation but it is a key factor for many, making anti-inflammatory foods part of a brain-health food plan.

Small Steps to Big Changes

– Include oily fish 2-3 times a week.  Think SMASHT – salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herrings and trout! A fish and omega 3 supplement capsules

– If you’re not keen on the taste of oily fish, sneak it into a fish pie or mix tinned sardines / mackerel in tomato sauce into a tomato based veggie sauce.

– Vegetarians & vegans: make sure to include pumpkin seeds and oil, flax oil, walnuts, or a blend like Udo’s Oil every day to top up your levels of Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA).  This converts to EPA and DHA (the omega-3 fats found in the brain) but a lot of it is lost in the conversion process hence the daily intake.

Proteins – brain building blocks!

Mood chemicals like serotonin and dopamine are made from amino acids, the little building blocks that make up proteins.  If you’re not eating enough protein you might not have enough amino acids to support the production of mood chemicals in the brain.

Small Steps to Big Changes

– Keep a Food & Mood diary for a week and see how often you eat good quality protein rich foods.

– Aim to include a palm-sized serving of protein with every meal: choose from eggs, good quality meat or fish, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is a big player for mental health.  There are vitamin D receptors throughout our brains, and low levels are thought to play a role in the development of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Vitamin D levels are commonly low here in the UK thanks to the cloudy cool weather.  Do get your levels tested before jumping in with a supplement though, so you can get an idea of how much to take.  Ask for a test from your GP  or use the simple home test kit available from www.vitamindtest.org.uk 

Once you know your levels, you can decide whether to supplement or not.  Optimum levels (based on cancer research studies) are between 75-100nmol/l.

Magnesium, folate & B6 – mental health teammates

During times of stress we need to eat plenty of foods packed with these nutrients to give our nervous system extra back-up.  Magnesium and B-vitamins (particularly B6 and folate) are essential for mood chemical production and function, as well as supporting our energy levels.

Small Steps to Big Changes

– Go green.  Dark green vegetables are rich in both folate AND magnesium.  See if you can include 2 generous handfuls of green leafy veg everyday.  Try adding a big handful of baby spinach to a smoothie or omelette.  Serve broccoli or peas with your evening meal.  If you haven’t got the motivation to prepare fresh veg, buy the ready chopped frozen stuff – at this moment in time it is more important for you to eat the veg than worry about it being fresh.

– Include at least two B6-rich foods everyday: choose from avocado, chicken, Avocadoturkey, lentils, banana, carrots, brown rice, nuts, and seeds.

– Relax in an Epsom Salt bath.  Epsom salts are rich in magnesium sulphate which can be absorbed through your skin.  Make sure the water is comfortably warm, add a few drops of essential oil if you fancy, and soak for a good 20 mins.  Remember to ban everyone else from the bathroom so you can bathe in peace!

 

I hope you find these tips inspiring, and feel able to try them out one at a time.  Feeding yourself well is one of the kindest things you can do, and you are worth the extra ten minutes it takes to prep something tasty.

Hop over to the Facebook group too – it’s a friendly place to share conversations and challenges all about digestive health and mental wellbeing; find us at Nutrition in York

Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash

 

 

 

Lunches On The Go – #1 Small Step

Lunches On The Go – #1 Small Step

Prepared vegetables for lunch

Midweek lunch has to be the most neglected meal.

Squashed in between meetings, deadlines, errands, phonecalls, school runs, it’s too often relegated to Boring Sandwich, ‘Meal Deal’ or Nothing.  Unless you’re in France, in which case take two hours off and dine like you mean it.

Let’s change this.  Let’s spark things up.  Let’s make lunch something you can’t wait to eat, and gets others drooling with envy…

First things first: preparation.  As with all good meals, the magic is in the prep.  Create a list of foods to purchase every week so you always have the necessary bits to hand to make lunches.  If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it!  Think about vegetables, salad leaves, fruit, tinned fish, fresh meat (see below), and grains like rice, quinoa and buckwheat for salads.

Once you’ve stocked up, take a few minutes to think about the week ahead: how many lunches do you need to prepare?  Where will you be eating?  Does it need to be cold food, or are reheatable items an option?

Use the free  7-Day Meal Planner to capture ideas!

Lady eating lunch

These lunch ingredients can be made in advance and will keep in the fridge for days, giving you plenty of mix-and-match options;

 – Slow cooked meat: at the weekend I like to slow cook a chicken.  I use a slow-cooker so it’s merrily cooking away while I get out and about.  We eat some for Sunday dinner, and the rest is left for pack-ups.  Slow-cooked ham works well too, just shred it with forks and you have pulled-pork filling for pittas or salad.

 – Houmous: there’s a classic houmous recipe from my friend Gina, or try these varieties from Deliciously Ella.

 – Roasted vegetables: chop peppers, aubergine, courgettes, and fennel into chunks and roast in coconut oil for 30-40mins.

 – Hard boiled eggs

 – Pesto: this works well with cashews instead of pine nuts.

 –Homemade soups

 – Brown rice or quinoa: remember to cool rice quickly and store in the fridge until eating.

All prepped?  Now to spend 10mins each morning creating that knockout lunch*….

(*or dinner as it’s known here in Yorkshire.  Breakfast, dinner, and tea.)

Salad Box: rice or quinoa topped with a protein (shredded ham / hardboiled egg / houmous / fish) and a mixture of roasted vegetables and handful of salad leaves.  Dress with a drizzle of olive or flax oil, squeeze of lemon, and black pepper.

Sandwiches: not the boring ones.  Swap dull bread for good quality sourdough or for gluten-free options think creatively and use nori wraps, corn tortillas, or large butterhead lettuce leaves to hold the fillings.

Soups: my all time favourite lunch.  Enjoy with oatcakes and houmous or small chunk of good quality cheese.

Pasta Box: leftover pasta (regular or gluten-free) with pesto, roasted vegetables and cherry tomatoes.

Eating Out

This can be tricky when you have specific dietary needs like gluten or dairy free, but it is getting easier.  I was deliriously happy to discover a ‘Leon’ outlet at the motorway services recently and enjoyed a delicious wheat and dairy-free chicken and brown rice meal!

People eating lunch in a cafe

If you know your options are limited when eating out, carry some basics with you like trail mix and a piece of fruit so you can top up if there’s not much available.

Most city centres have a Pret and an M&S: Pret have a good selection of soups, salad boxes, chopped fruit, and snacky things like nuts and hardboiled eggs with spinach.  Marks & Spencer offer mixed grain salads, picnic sized cheeses, chopped fruit, nuts, and houmous pots.

Stuck at a tiny cafe in the middle of nowhere?  How about a baked potato, omelette, or soup.

Whatever your day holds, a nourishing lunch is essential to sustain your energy and wellbeing.  Symptoms of fatigue, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration and depression are all influenced by the foods we eat, so give your body it’s best shot at working well by feeding it with love and care.

Try these ideas and see what a difference they make to your life – do let me know via email or over in the Facebook group!

You might also like;

Does Food Affect Your Mood? Find out with this FREE Food, Mood and Movement Tracker #1SmallStep

Get Organised with this FREE 7-Day Meal Planner! #1SmallStep

7 Energy Boosting Breakfasts – #1SmallStep

 

PHOTO CREDITS: UNSPLASH

Can nutrition help psoriasis? Tune into the Psoriasis Podcast!

Can nutrition help psoriasis? Tune into the Psoriasis Podcast!

Last month I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Gemma Boak (scientist, psoriasis patient expert, and anti-inflammatory lifestyle blogger) for her series the Psoriasis Podcast.  Gemma_snp

Gemma and I had fantastic discussion about the influence of nutrition on psoriasis, immune health, and inflammatory skin conditions; covering everything from fasting and juice diets to bodycare products and food diaries!

You can listen to the interview over at Podbean…

EPISODE 3 – THE PSORIASIS PODCAST

And catch up with all of Gemma’s other interviews too.

If you’re dealing with psoriasis or any other inflammatory auto-immune condition you might also like;

   Eat a Rainbow – #1 Small step

A lovely list of tips to help you pack more nutrients and anti-inflammatory antioxidants into your diet

   Your FREE food, mood & movement tracker – #1 Small Step

Gemma and I discuss using a tracker to help pinpoint any food triggers for symptoms

   Food intolerance or sensitivity?

Are you one of the 45% of UK adults with a food sensitivity?

Enjoy the Psoriasis Podcast, and if you have any questions or queries feel free to email me at sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk or join in the Facebook group.

Stay up to date on psoriasis news with Gemma via Twitter – @gemma_boak

Meet the Producer: Kim from Nutty Health Almond Milk

Meet the Producer: Kim from Nutty Health Almond Milk

Kim Broderick has her milk-making process down to a fine art.  While listening to Ken Bruce on Radio 2 she produces 200 bottles in just 4 hours – that’s a whole lot of almond-milking!

The story began when Kim received an unusual gift for Mothering Sunday last year: a bottle of homemade almond milk.

Her daughter-in-law was missing the rich nutty taste of New York almond milk, so decided to make her own – and Kim was more than impressed with the result.

Fast forward a few months to September 2017 and ‘Nutty Health’ launched themselves at the York Food & Drink Festival.  “I was full of doubts when we arrived at the Festival” says Kim, “but we sold out within hours.”

NuttyHealthI met Kim at Nutty Health HQ: her immaculate kitchen workshop in the beautiful South Yorkshire countryside.  As we chat, Kim dons her rubber gloves and gives me a demo of how the milks are made.

Unlike any of the standard supermarket milks which only contain 2% almonds, Nutty Health is made with 14% high quality Californian almonds – a difference which is immediately noticeable in the rich creamy taste.

The nuts are soaked in spring water for 11-20 hours, before being rinsed, blended, strained twice through a cheesecloth bag, then pressed through a custom made fruit press.  The only additive is a tiny amount of sunflower oil (1ml per 250ml bottle of milk) which acts as a natural preservative, giving the product an 8 day shelf life.

No artificial sweeteners, sugars or thickeners are added.  The milk is beautifully simple and pure, brimming with vitamin E antioxidant goodness.

And the almond pulp doesn’t go to waste – Kim uses this to make energy balls to sell at Festivals and shows alongside the milks.

The plain almond milk is accompanied by 3 flavoured varieties: cacao made with organic raw cacao; vanilla, and organic green matcha – a flavour which is surprisingly popular with male customers and cyclists!  Flavoured milks

Since launching last year, Nutty Health has blossomed and expanded into health stores and farm shops across our region (you can find a list of stockists here).  Kim offers a delivery service in Leeds and York, allowing customers to buy direct if the products aren’t available locally.

 

To find out more about the Nutty Health range, contact Kim at https://www.nuttyhealth.co.uk/

Do you have top tips for making dairy-free milks? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below or come and join the conversation in the Facebook group 

 

 

Wake Up Water! Inspiring ideas to help you drink more water everyday – #1 Small Step

Wake Up Water! Inspiring ideas to help you drink more water everyday – #1 Small Step

It’s easy to get to the end of the day and realise you haven’t drunk enough water. 

The familiar sensations of a mid-afternoon energy slump, headache, muscle aches and cramps are all signs that your body needs a drink (of water!).

The debate continues about whether tap, filtered, or mineral is best for our health, and there are pros and cons on both sides.

Unless you’re lucky enough to live near a natural spring, good quality mineral water usually (with a few exceptions) comes in single-use plastic bottles.  As a result, the environmental consequences and exposure to plastic chemicals far outweighs the beneficial mineral content of the drink.

Filtered water has lower levels of chemical residues, but again, filter jugs are usually plastic.  Glass ones are becoming more widely available though, and it’s worth investing in one if you can.

There’s no easy solution to the conundrum of plastic bottles and I don’t have clear answers!  But, I do know we all need to hydrate regularly over the day, especially when managing low energy or digestive problems like constipation.

Aim to sip regularly rather than gulping down a large glass in one go, and limit drinks at mealtimes to avoid diluting your digestive juices.

Drinking more water is a simple and easy first step to take on the road to wellbeing.

If you find plain water a bit dull try these natural alternatives to wake it up!

Use a large glass Mason jar, or glass bottle and leave to infuse for 3-4 hours or overnight for full flavour.  Pop them in the fridge, or if like me you don’t like cold water, leave the bottle at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.

  • Fresh lemon & lemon balm zingy and calming at the same time. Lemon balm is traditionally used to soothe nerves and calm anxiety.
  • Fresh lemon and mint perfect pick-me-up for when you’re tired and flagging, or as an after dinner digestive aid.
  • Fresh squeezed pomegranate juice and mint squeeze the fruit and scoop out the seeds to add to a salad. Mix the juice with water and mint leaves.  Pomegranate is packed with antioxidants to help us process toxins.
  • Cucumber, mint, and lime another cooling, uplifting drink.
  • Raspberries and strawberries chop larger fruits in half, add to water and mix vigorously for a naturally sweet, antioxidant-rich drink.
  • Pineapple & orange sweet and tropical – even in Yorkshire!

Keep taking
1 Small Step at a time and you’ll get to where you want to be!

You might also enjoy;

Does Food Affect Your Mood? Find out with this FREE Food, Mood and Movement Tracker #1SmallStep

Get Organised with this FREE 7-Day Meal Planner! #1SmallStep

7 Energy Boosting Breakfasts – #1SmallStep

 

Share your progress in the friendly Nutrition in York Facebook group, we’d love to know how you get on!

 

Does Food Affect Your Mood? Find out with this FREE Food, Mood & Movement Tracker – #1 Small Step

FoodMoodMovement_HeaderAre you curious about the connections between what you eat and how you feel?

Do some foods cause energy slumps, bloating, crazy bowel habits or skin breakouts, but you can’t pinpoint the culprits?

Keeping track of how your body responds to foods and drinks for a week or even a month can reveal these connections, and help you discover hidden patterns between eating habits, moods, and uncomfortable symptoms.

It’s easy to blame low energy and erratic digestion on work stresses, or the kids driving you crazy (and these may be perfectly good reasons!) but how much is linked to poor hydration, grazing on snacks, or only eating two servings of vegetables each day?

Writing down what you eat, when you move, how you relax, and how you feel provides a powerful insight into the way you are choosing to nourish yourself. 

To help you discover these connections I’ve created a Food, Mood & Movement Tracker.  Simply download the document, read through the example provided, and print out as many copies of the tracker chart as you need.  Complete it each day, then look back and see if any patterns are emerging between foods and symptoms.

Once you’ve highlighted the areas that need working on (more movement, more relaxation, more green vegetables…) you can decide how to do this, and what support you need – whether that’s nutrition guidance, food intolerance investigations, an exercise plan, or help with relaxation and mindfulness.

It’s a simple tool, and is #1 Small Step on your journey to better health!

Download your free Food, Mood & Movement Tracker – no sign up required – and start discovering what your body is telling you today!

DOWNLOAD HERE:  Food_Mood_Movement_Tracker 

Food intolerance or sensitivity?

Food intolerance or sensitivity?

According to Allergy UK an estimated 45% of the UK adult population have food intolerances and a further 2% suffer an allergy.ibscare

Symptoms of food intolerance can vary from mild bloating and wind to severe migraines, low mood, fatigue, diarrhoea, constipation, and skin rashes, with the effects often not being visible until 2 or 3 days after a problem food has been eaten.

Diagnosis of food intolerance can be tricky especially if a reaction to the food doesn’t occur immediately.  Keeping a ‘Food, Mood & Movement Tracker’ for a month can help as it may be possible to notice links between what has been eaten and any symptoms that later occur.  Observing lifestyle factors such as stress and sleep patterns is also important.  For women, symptoms may be influenced by the menstrual cycle.

Food intolerances can be caused by different factors, including;

 – Inadequate digestion: for example low levels of lactase, the enzyme that digests the milk sugar lactose, can cause lactose intolerance.

 – Excess histamine: we all have histamine in our bodies as it’s a vital chemical messenger and neurotransmitter BUT chronic stress and poor digestion can impair histamine breakdown causing levels to build up.  Eating foods high in histamine can then cause problems.

 – Reactions to pesticides in foods: your liver has a hard time dealing with pesticide residues and their pervasive effects can contribute to all kinds of health issues.  Organic foods may not be widely available (or affordable) but do choose them if you can.

The Environmental Working Group produce a fantastic ‘Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen’ list detailing which foods are best bought organic due to high pesticide load, and which are okay to eat as non-organic.  You can access the guide here.

 – Reactions to naturally occuring compounds like alkaloids in the Deadly Nightshade family.

 – An imbalanced response by your immune system.  Our immune system is a complex team of cells and chemical messengers that can overreact to certain proteins in foods, causing either a strong immediate life-threatening reaction (an allergic response) or a more low-grade chronic response: a food sensitivity or intolerance.

It is thought that Ig-G antibodies are involved in some kinds of sensitivity reactions.   Measuring levels of Ig-G can give clues as to which foods may be over-stimulating the immune system.

In Clinic I use a simple pin-prick ELISA blood test to help identify whether your immune system is producing too many Ig-G antibodies to certain foods, which may then be Food Detective testaggravating your symptoms.  There are a range of tests available from the basic Food Detective Test that looks at reactions to the top 59 reactive foods and gives results within an hour, to the more in-depth FoodPrint tests which are laboratory analysed.

To find out more information on food intolerances or ELISA testing, call or email me today on;

T: 07910 705272

E: sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk

 

Get organised with this FREE 7 Day Meal Planner – #1 Small Step

Get organised with this FREE 7 Day Meal Planner – #1 Small Step

BlogHead_Nutrition Planning

When clients come for Follow On sessions, they tell me how planning and organisation have been the keys to making successful changes in their diet and lifestyle.

Planning and organising are the foundations to your new way of eating.  You will repeatedly thank yourself during a hectic week when you get home late and take a batch-cooked homemade soup out the freezer rather than a sad, beige, ready meal.

There are two main areas to focus on when it comes to planning ahead;

  1. How you organise your kitchen

  2. Meal planning and shopping

Before we look at the finer details of kitchen organisation, grab a pen and download the free meal planner;

7 Day Meal Planner_pdf

To inspire your shopping the Planner includes;

Planning chart

‘Eat a Rainbow’ food suggestions

Which foods have the highest pesticide residues and which are okay to buy non-organic

Now, lets look at your kitchen…

In the world of the Internet, everyone has a kitchen like this

neatkitchen_snip

In reality, it’s probably more like this;

messykitchen_snip

You may live alone, in which case great – all the cupboard space is yours!  However if you’re in a family of 6, there’s going to be several different food tastes and requirements that need catering for so space may be at a premium.

Firstly, go through your fridge, freezer and cupboards and get rid of anything past its ‘Use By’ date (‘Best Before’ is a lot more flexible and can be safely eaten for a good while after the date has past – use your own judgment on this), and anything that no longer fits with your new eating plan.

If your cupboards are full of junk snacks it’s going to be harder to hold your nerve and resist them.

Give anything still usable to friends and family or donate to your local food bank or shelter.

Next, place on your worktops the utensils you need to make your new healthful meals and snacks.

  • Cutting out caffeine? Put the teabags and coffeemaker at the back of a cupboard and bring out the water filter, herbal teas and juicer.

  • Snacking on homemade protein smoothies? Place your blender jug next to the plug socket, ready to use.

  • Batch cooking meals? Sharpen knives, make space for the chopping board and have pans and cooking trays within easy reach of the oven.

  • Taking new supplements? Place the packets of supplements next to the kettle or sink (unless they need to be stored in the fridge) so you see them when you get a drink.

  • Organise your storage containers.                                             Many of us (me included) know only too well the sinking feeling that comes when you open the Tupperware cupboard and find mismatched lids and cracked boxes.  Invest in glassware containers for fridge and freezer storage; IKEA do a reasonably priced range and I use old glass jars for freezing soups and sauces.   Over the years I’ve gathered several 1970’s style brown ceramic bowls with lids from charity shops: perfect for storing leftovers in the fridge.

  • The Zero Waste Chef has a great blog post all about freezing goods in non-plastic containers, see HERE for the details.  Admittedly, plastic tubs are lighter and easier for packed lunches, and you can easily find BPA-free ranges.

Now that your kitchen is clear and organised, it’s time to plan those meals!

Before you do the shopping, whether its online or a proper trip to the store, take 30 mins to sketch out your meals and snacks for the week ahead.

 7 Day Meal Planner_pdf

If one of your aims is to include more variety in your meals, browse a few recipe sites or cookbooks, pick 1 new meal to try, and add the ingredients to your list.

With online shopping you can save time by storing your ‘favourites’ or previous shopping lists in the software so you don’t have to type it all in again the following week.

Veg box schemes provide organic, or locally grown (or both) vegetables and fruits, and often inspire new meal ideas – after all, once a new veggie has arrived on your doorstep you’ll need to find a way to use it!

Consider stocking up on some ‘emergency’ ingredients – things that can be quickly thrown together to make a meal – for those occasions when (and it is when, not if!) your best laid plans go awry.

Ideas include;

  • Baking potatoes: they keep for weeks in a cold dark place and can easily accompany a leftover chilli, ratatouille, frozen fish and vegetables…

  • Frozen vegetables: peas, sweetcorn and cauliflower florets have a pretty much permanent home in my freezer.

    For tips on which vegetables freeze well and which are best left fresh, see here

  • Frozen white fish (sustainably caught): this cooks from frozen in 25mins and is delicious smothered in a tomato & vegetable sauce served with that baking potato you bought earlier or sweet potato wedges and broccoli…

  • Tinned tomatoes, red lentils and vegetable stock: here you have the base of a vegetable and lentil broth. Add chicken or a selection of leftover vegetables and you have a nourishing, warming meal.

  • Vegetarians and vegans: buy extra tofu to drain and freeze, so you have a versatile protein source to hand when needed. Not frozen tofu before?  Follow the steps here.

What are your top tips for getting organised in the kitchen?  

Email me at sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk or share them in the Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/nutritioninyork

If you’d like to know more about how we can work together to tailor your nutrition needs check out the consultation options or email or call today – 07910 705272 – and let’s get started!

 

Menopause mayhem? Get back in balance with natural nutrition

Menopause_Mayhem

As if we ladies haven’t got enough to do in our 40s and 50s, juggling jobs, homes, family and fitness whilst finally (finally!) not caring what other people think of us, along comes the hormonal havoc of menopause.

Hot flushes.  Mood swings.  Crazy irregular periods.  Hair thinning.  Forgetfulness.  Anxiety.  Just a few of the delights we can experience as we transition through this phase of life.

Taking HRT is an option, but not everyone wants it, and I have to say I’ve seen many clients who’ve taken it for years, come off it, and gotten all the symptoms of menopause back again because the artificial hormones have merely delayed the process.

HRT was originally created purely as a product to preserve youth and beauty – which says a lot about how women are viewed and valued once menstruation ends, and is not an attitude I subscribe to.  At this stage of life we have strength, experience, and wisdom on our side: a fact to be celebrated!  We just need to strip off the duvet and open windows more often.

So, let’s explore the stages of menopause, and how nutrition can help you through it…

Perimenopause

This stage can start quite early for some women, in their early 40s.  As there are fewer menstrual cycles where ovulation takes place, the hormones oestrogen and progesterone become  increasingly imbalanced.  Early signs that things are changing include periods becoming longer, heavier, more frequent, or more painful – and PMS symptoms can change too.

Perimenopause continues until egg production and ovulation stop altogether, and you enter menopause.  After 12 months with no periods, you are considered to have gone through menopause.

Because perimenopause to menopause is a transitional phase, the symptoms can fluctuate and change as you move through.  The more common menopausal symptoms include;

– Hot flushes (power surges!) caused by changing hormone levels affecting the temperature regulation system in the brain

– Fatigue

– Mood swings, anxiety, depression, apathy

– Weight gain

– Insomnia (often caused by hot flushes)

– Low libido

– Vaginal dryness and shrinkage

– Changes to hair & skin; lower levels of oestrogen affect skin elasticity and moisture levels, causing skin to be thinner and slower to heal.  Hair growth slows, and it can change in texture too

 Add to this list the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, and you can see the extent to which menopause affects health.

Thyroid function

An underfunctioning thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can produce symptoms similar to menopause: weight gain, tiredness, poor memory, constipation, for example.  Equally, menopause can accelerate any changes that may have been happening to your thyroid gland, and hypothyroidism often goes undetected as the symptoms get attributed to menopause.  If you suspect poor thyroid function, do look at getting it tested either with your GP or privately (please contact me for more details about private lab tests).

Stress

When does stress ever make things better?  Never!  And certainly not with menopause.  Hot flushes can be triggered by high levels of adrenaline, and chronic stress can lead to extra weight gain.

Creating time each day for 30-60mins of downtime is crucial when dealing with ongoing stress.  Reading, walking in nature, journalling, yoga, meditation – all are brilliant at helping your body downregulate the stress response and focus on healing and balance.

What to eat?

Phytoestrogens to support hormone balance

Certain foods contain high levels of ‘phytoestrogens’ – compounds with a similar structure to oestrogen, but a much weaker effect in the body.

There are 3 main classes of phytoestrogen;

 – isoflavones: found in chickpeas, lentils, red clover, kidney and aduki beans, and naturally fermented soya products like tofu and tempeh.

 – coumestans: alfalfa and mung bean sprouts are good sources Sprouts_snip

 – lignans: milled golden flaxseeds are packed with lignans plus essential fats and protein, making them an ideal seed to include regularly.

Phytoestrogens are not stimulative or overwhelming like synthetic oestrogens, and despite what the internet says, will not make any men who eat them grow enormous breasts!  Phytoestrogens are considered to act as ‘selective oestrogen receptor modulators’, exerting a balancing action on fluctuating hormone levels.  Isoflavones are the most widely studied type of phytoestrogen, with studies linking their actions to reduced cardiovascular disease risk in diabetic women, and beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.

Soya is a controversial food, but we’re talking here about traditional soya products being used in sensible moderation within a balanced nutrition plan, not the highly processed textured soya protein products.

As ever with nutrition, the research into phytoestrogens is limited and varies in quality.  However, the inclusion of phytoestrogen foods is seen overall as being beneficial for women transitioning through menopause.

Greens for energy and hormone detox

Green veggies in the cruciferous family – think broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts – support hormone detoxification and clearance through the liver.  This is particlarly important in Food choicesearly menopause, when low levels of progesterone can lead to a relative oestrogen excess.

More broadly speaking, all types of green vegetables are a good source of magnesium – the ‘anti-stress’ mineral that helps with energy production and keeping calm.

Helpful Herbs

Sage: organically grown whole herb sage supplements can be helpful for reducing hot flushes and sweats, thanks to the influence of sage on the temperature regulator in the brain.

Shatavari: this beautiful herb is from the Ayurvedic tradition in India.  The name shatavari loosley translates as ‘she who has 100 husbands’!  (Blimey!)  It is thought to support hormonal balance and act as a nourishing adaptogen for women.  See Pukka Herbs for more details.

Rose water: again, another idea from Ayurveda; spraying rose water on the back of your neck and face when a hot flush begins can stop it taking hold and cool you down.  Rose is traditionally seen as been a flower to support female health.

Siberian Ginseng: this gentle adaptogenic herb helps the body cope with different mental, physical, and emotional stresses, and can support energy levels.

Passiflora: a calming, soothing herb, suited to low or fluctuating mood and frayed nerves.

As with all herbal remedies, please seek advice from a herbal advisor or your GP before using alongside prescription medications.  The advice given here is not intended to replace that of a medical practitioner.

And a few tips for more specific female health conditions..

Thrush

Thanks to the close proximity of the vaginal tract to the bowel and the subsequent easy movement of unfriendly bowel bacteria, we ladies are particularly prone to thrush.  Antibiotics, stress, hormonal fluctuations and a diet high in sugary foods also contribute to yeast overgrowth and thrush symptoms.

  • Support bacterial balance from the inside by eating fermented foods

  • Avoid refined sugar, excess fruit sugar (1-2 pieces of whole fruit per day may be ok), fruit juices, yeast extract and alcohol

  • Use a non-perfumed simple cleanser instead of soap or regular shower gel: ‘Green People’ ‘Akin’ and ‘Dr. Bronner’ make wonderful organic, chemical free bodycare products

  • Drink plenty of water and address any bowel issues such as constipation or diarrhoea

  • If periods are still happening, opt for organic cotton tampons or sanitary pads – or escape tampons and pads altogether with an amazing reusable environmentally friendly Mooncup

Cystitis

Like thrush, cystitis can be triggered by antibiotics, stress, constipation, diarrhoea and hormonal fluctuations.  The menopausal drop in oestrogen levels affects the lining of the bladder, making it more prone to sensitivity and inflammation.

  • Avoid tea, coffee (regular and decaffeinated), alcohol, soft drinks and fruit juice.

  • Plain water and chamomile tea are soothing for the bladder whilst horsetail herb tea has bladder strengthening properties

  • Take a multi strain high potency beneficial bacteria supplement

  • If an overgrowth of E.Coli bacteria is responsible, cranberry extract (dried extract, not juice) can stop the bacteria clinging to the bladder wall

  • Check for food intolerances; gluten has been implicated in cases of overactive and sensitive bladder

  • If symptoms persist and are affected by your menstrual cycle ask your GP for a scan to investigate endometriosis: endometrial tissue can grow on the bladder, affecting its function.

Painful Sex

During the menopause the vagina shrinks and becomes drier as the moisturising effects of oestrogen are lost.  This can lead to small tears in the vaginal wall and painful sex.  Certain auto-immune conditions such as Sjogrens Syndrome also affect vaginal lubrication, so if you are experiencing dry mouth and dry sore eyes, see your GP for further investigations into Sjogrens.

  • Sea buckthorn extract is rich in omega-7, a type of fatty acid that maintains moisture levels in skin membranes: supplement with this for at least 3 months to support vaginal lubrication

  • Drink plenty of water and include omega-3 rich foods too (oily fish, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds)

  • Opt for a chemical free water based lubricant: ‘Yes’ offer a range of lubricants, some of which may be available on prescription in the UK.

If you’d like friendly support with your transition through menopause drop me a line today… Call on 07910 705272 or email sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk

Join in the nutrition conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/nutritioninyork

 

Fermented Foods with fermenting expert Rachel Dickson from Loaded Table

Fermented Foods with fermenting expert Rachel Dickson from Loaded Table

Fermented Foods

A few years ago, my husband had an unpleasant encounter with kimchi in Korea.  I’ll spare you the details, suffice to say it involved a rotting buried cabbage being dug up and served for dinner.  It certainly made for a memorable meal but he didn’t order seconds.

Fortunately for him, this method of fermenting food is at the far end of a varied spectrum, and delicious, easy-to-use ferments are now readily available!

Fermented foods are part of many culinary traditions – including our own here in the UK – because fermentation is a simple way to preserve foods, extending their life and ensuring food availability during times of scarcity.

Nowadays, fridges and freezers have largely replaced the need for fermentation, but these conveniences mean we eat far fewer fermented foods and this has negative consequences for the billions of bacteria living in our guts.

The fermentation process allows lactic-acid-producing bacteria to develop.  These bacteria form a vital part of the microbiota – the billions of bacteria living inside us.

Our microbiota work incredibly hard at;

  • Absorbing nutrients

  • Producing vitamin K, and some B-vitamins

  • Ensuring smooth, comfortable bowel movements

  • Regulating our immune and inflammatory responses

Supporting levels and diversity of our good bugs with the right kinds of foods is a vital part of preventative healthcare.

 To investigate further, I spoke to Rachel Dickson, fermented foods specialist at Loaded Table about her range of ferments, and why they are so important for health…

Rachel from The Loaded Table

Sally: Hi Rachel, can you tell me a little about why you started your business, and what attracted you to fermented foods?

Rachel: Sure.  Well, I’ve always been health conscious, but it wasn’t until I had health problems of my own that I really started to focus on good nutrition and lifestyle changes.  Several years ago, I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids, and spent a year eating organic food, doing yoga, and having acupuncture.  At the end of this year, the fibroids had reduced by 25%.  I realised that stress was having a major impact too, and this led me to think about what measures I could have taken to prevent my health problems in the first place.  After a lot of exploration, my journey led me to fermented foods as a way of supporting the good bugs in our digestion that play such a major role in health.

S: And what did you think of them?

R: Initially I thought they tasted disgusting!  But, with practice, I’ve created some beautiful ferments that taste delicious.

S: When did you launch ‘Loaded Table’?

R: I spent a few years perfecting my recipes, trying them out on friends and family, and when I moved to the UK earlier this year, I launched Loaded Table.  I now supply a number of health stores in the North, including Alligator Wholefoods (on Fishergate in York), and have a stall at Acomb Market, on the 4th Saturday of every month.

S: Tell me about your products.

R: I produce kombucha, kimchi (vegetable ferments), sauerkraut, and some prebiotic ferments – asparagus, onion, and garlic.  All the ferments are tested to ensure they have the right types and levels of bacteria, and they come with a shelf life to prevent spoilage and the growth of bad bacteria.

S: How do you recommend people use your products?

R: The kombucha is really popular, and is great for kids too – they love the ginger and turmeric flavours!  Adults can take 100ml a day, and kids 50ml.  With the vegetable ferments, just add a tablespoonful to a salad, or have it alongside a cooked meal.  The prebiotic ferments are a little different: I suggest 5-10g per day, and mix these in with dips, relishes, or sauces – but don’t cook them as this destroys the fibres that will feed the probiotics.  My kimchi is delicious – I’ve added my own Yorkshire twist to it!

S: I love the sound of that!  What’s the Yorkshire twist?

R: There’s less chilli, and a whole range of different warming spices, including fenugreek which gives it a distinctive flavour.

S: Any plans to offer online shopping?

R: Yes, that’s coming very soon, along with some new flavours for the kombucha and vegetable ferments, and I’m planning to offer workshops to help people make their own ferments.

S: Thank you Rachel!

For more details about Rachel’s products, and to download recipes go to www.loadedtable.co.uk

If you’re dealing with digestive problems, low energy, or stress, remember to download your FREE copy of ‘Your 3 Easy Steps to All Day Energy’ and schedule a FREE 20min no-obligation telephone call with me to discuss how nutritional therapy may be able to help!