Your Route to Thyroid Health

Your Route to Thyroid Health

Are you exhausted all day?

Struggling to concentrate and remember things?

Sluggish digestion?

Thin, weak hair and fragile nails?

Feel like your brain is made from fuzzy wool?

Your thyroid may be underfunctioning.

Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism is a common condition with a wide range of symptoms including;

  • Constipation

  • Low energy no matter how much you rest or sleep

  • Weight gain and difficulty losing weight

  • ‘Brain fog’ – poor memory and lack of concentration

  • Dry skin, brittle nails and falling hair

  • High cholesterol

Your thyroid gland regulates your metabolic rate – similar to how the accelerator regulates the speed of a car.  When it’s underactive, all your body processes slow down, as if you had taken your foot off the gas.

The standard treatment is Levothyroxine a synthetic version of T4, one of your thyroid hormones.  However this is only prescribed if you fall below certain parameters on blood tests and many people suffer with sub-clinical hypothyroidism where their thyroid is underfunctioning but not badly enough to receive medication.

Simply taking Levothyroxine is only part of the picture of managing low thyroid function.  Your body converts T4 to T3, the more biologically active hormone, and this conversion step is problematic for many people.

Issues such as stress, poor digestion, and a lack of the necessary vitamins and minerals all impair the conversion of T4 to T3;

Blog_Thyroid_snipSimply replacing T4 by taking Levothyroxine is just the first step in managing hypothyroidism.  A whole-body approach focusing on healthy digestion, the right foods to support thyroid function and hormone conversion, relaxation, and movement is the most positive way forward for true thyroid balance.

If you’re struggling with thyroid problems, join me for the interactive workshop ‘Your Route to Thyroid Health’ taking place on Friday 29th September here in central York.

We will be covering;

 – The signs, symptoms and causes of thyroid imbalance – both underactive and overactive

 – What medications are available

 – The links between thyroid function and other health conditions such as chronic stress, chronic fatigue syndrome and cardiovascular health

 – Natural nutritional support for thyroid hormone production, conversion and function

 – Supportive lifestyle techniques to help with relaxation and stress management

Dates & times;

 – Friday 29th September 2017

 – 10am – 12pm

 – The Garden Room, Friends Meeting House, Friargate, York, YO1 9RG

 – Detailed handouts are provided, and there will be plenty of opportunities for questions


Tickets: £20


For more information and to book your place contact me via email at sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk or on 07910 705272

Photo by Sander Weeteling on Unsplash

Eat A Rainbow – #1 Small Step

Eat A Rainbow – #1 Small Step

Eat a Rainbow

Ever wondered why doctors and nutrition-people (like me!) keep talking about how important it is to ‘eat a rainbow’?  (A phrase which is dangerously close to the slogan for Skittles – ‘taste a rainbow’- which will have quite the opposite effect on your health!).

It’s because brightly coloured fruits and vegetables contain an array of natural compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that are all bound up with what colour they are.

Food choicesSo for example, orange and yellow veggies like peppers, carrots, and butternut squash are rich in beta-carotene, an immune-bosting antioxidant compound that’s a member of the carotenoid family, whilst dark bluberries and red grapes contain cyanidin – another protective antioxidant compound.

Including at least 1 food from each colour group everyday means you will be nourishing yourself with a vast range of naturally powerful ingredients, giving your body the support it needs to cope with modern life!

Pick any one of these top 10 practical tips to start increasing the colour, variety and nutrient load of your diet;

  1. Green powders are helpful if you struggle to get enough greens into your day: mix spirulina, chlorella, barley grass or wheatgrass powder into pesto to boost the antioxidant and protein levels.

  2. To support blood sugar stability and reduce reliance on refined carbohydrates, swap to higher protein alternatives. Mung bean pasta, lentil pasta, quinoa, or wild rice are good alternatives.

  3. If you’re dealing with intestinal yeast overgrowth (and this is best confirmed with a stool test rather than trying to guess), think foods before supplements: natural anti-microbials such as garlic, ginger, oregano and marjoram can be added easily to salads, soups, casseroles – even herbal infusions.

  4. The anti-inflammatory actions of turmeric and cinnamon are well documented; these spices blend well with warmed almond milk to make a simple chai-style beverage.

  5. Seaweed flakes can be sprinkled into salads, soups or casseroles, and Nori sheets make a good alternative to wheat wraps, instantly increasing the iodine, zinc and magnesium content of your meal – perfect for thyroid support.

  6. Mixing a tablespoon of olive oil into 25g of butter creates a spreadable butter rich in oleic acid – with none of the negative effects associated with margarine or poorly processed vegetable oils.

  7. Encourage children to explore different coloured vegetables by using a picture colour chart and negotiating which coloured veggies to try next.

  8. Nourish your friendly gut bacteria with pre- and probiotic food. Add a tablespoon of sauerkraut to grilled salmon and roasted vegetables; use unfiltered apple cider vinegar in salad dressings with lemon juice and fresh herbs; or mix kefir into a morning smoothie.

  9. Green vegetables can be problematic for many people, especially supertasters. A basic smoothie made from baby spinach, banana and almond milk is a gentle option to begin with, and is packed with folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, and the antioxidant compound lutein.  If you’re managing IBS, add fennel or caraway seeds when steaming brassica greens as this helps to soften the taste and aid digestion, reducing bloating and wind.

  10. To eat different foods you have to buy different foods. A vegetable or fruit box delivery scheme is a hassle-free way to have new ingredients delivered direct to your door. Many schemes offer inspiring recipe ideas too.

Remember, the idea behind #1 Small Step is to encourage steady change and growth whilst side-stepping overwhelm.  So pick 1 new idea to try, and build up those changes gradually!

If you’ve enjoyed this post you might also like;

#1 Small Step – Plan Your Way to Nutrition Success

#1 Small Step – How You Can & Why It’s Good To Eat Mindfully

#1 Small Step – 7 Energy Boosting Breakfasts

What Small Step can you take today?

Tweet me at @nutritioninyork or drop me a line via sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk

A shorter version of this post was originally produced for Nutrition I-Mag (July/August 2017 edition) downloadable HERE

7 Energy-Boosting Breakfasts – #1 Small Step

7 Energy-Boosting Breakfasts – #1 Small Step

Energy Boosting Breakfasts

Another small step you can take towards improving energy levels and overall health, is to start the day with a nourishing breakfast.  Eating within 2 hours of waking means your body doesn’t have to produce extra stress hormones to support your blood sugar levels.  When this happens, your energy stores are playing ‘catch up’ for the rest of the day and you are likely to find yourself reaching for sugar and caffeine fixes to keep going.

This recipe-roundup is packed with creative ideas for your first feed of the day.

Some of the recipes are super quick whilst other may take a few more minutes to prepare, and they will all keep you energised till lunch (or ‘dinner’ as we call it here in Yorkshire!)…

Categories are;

P good protein source

Ve vegan (or vegan option)

GF gluten free

DF dairy free

Sweet Potato Hash Egg Skillet from Naturally Ella: P GF DF       Naturally Ella

Save time by using leftover cooked sweet potatoes from the day before in this protein and antioxidant packed breakfast.  You can swap sprouted seeds for watercress or rocket – and in case you’re wondering, pepitas are pumpkin seeds!

 

Fluffy Breakfast Quinoa from Food Heaven Made Easy: P GF DF Ve                                                                                                                                                       Again, this one involves a bit of pre-prep to save time in the morning.  Cook a large serving of quinoa at the start of the week and dip into it for breakfasts and lunchtime salads.

 

Grab & Go Chia Yoghurt Parfait from 101 Cookbooks: P GF swap to a plant based yoghurt for DF Ve   This one really is for the super-quick breakfast people!

Chia Yoghurt Parfait

Buckwheat Pancakes: GF with options for Ve and DF.  Add ground seeds or a protein powder to boost the P content.  Perfect for when you have a bit more time to enjoy breakfast; discover this and other warm breakfasts (that aren’t porridge!) over in the Recipe Section

 

Wild Mushrooms on sourdough toast: from My New Roots: use olive oil to make it Ve & DF, and non-gluten bread for GF                                                                  Wild mushrooms on toast                  Regular mushrooms can be used in place of wild ones, and as Sarah says in the post, keeping a packet of dried mushrooms in the store cupboard means you can add them to any mushroom dish for deeper flavours and higher nutrient value.  Mushrooms are a fantastic source of fibre, immune-supporting nutrients, and vitamin D.

 

Greek Chickpeas on Toast: from Lazy Cat Kitchen P DF Ve and GF option          Greek Chickpeas

A warm breakfast packed with protein, fibre and antioxidant plant nutrients from the herbs & spices!

 

 

Butternut, Spinach & Sausage Egg Cups: from Real Food Whole Life P GF DF       Make these in advance and you have a ready-to-go breakfast option for days and days.  They freeze well too.  If you prefer a meaty version there’s an option for including good Rainbow Egg Cupquality sausage or bacon.

 

 

What’s your go-to breakfast option?  I’d love to know!  Share on Twitter (I’m @nutritioninyork) or email at sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk

If you’d like to know more about how we can work together take a look HERE

You may also enjoy;

   #1 Small Step – Plan Your Way to Nutrition Success

   #1 Small Step – How You Can & Why It’s Good To Eat Mindfully

How To Eat Mindfully – #1 Small Step

BlogHead_Mindful Eating

What do indigestion, bloating, excess wind, heartburn, and weight gain all have in common?

They can all be caused by not chewing food properly!

It’s a simple thing to do, but chewing so often gets neglected in favour of eating quickly due to short lunch breaks, or multitasking with food and a laptop.

Retraining yourself to chew food thoroughly is a vital first step to digestive wellbeing and healthy weight balance. 

Let’s look at why…

 

  • The action of chewing tells your brain to send messages to your stomach alerting it to the fact that food is on its way. These nerve signals tell the stomach to start producing the gastric juices that break food down.

  • Chewing mixes food with saliva and salivary amylase, an important digestive enzyme that begins the breakdown of carbohydrates. This is why food taste sweeter the longer you chew it: amylase is busy breaking down carbohydrates into simpler sugars.

  • Your stomach does not have teeth! If food isn’t chewed in your mouth, it won’t get broken down properly anywhere else.  So, you can be eating the perfect diet and still be nutrient deficient, simply because your body can’t access the vitamins and minerals bound up in the food.

  • Chewing properly means you eat slower. Remember at school there was always one child who took ages to eat dinner?  That was me!  Sitting there chewing away whilst my friends were itching to get outside and play!  But eating slowly is no bad thing.  It allows you to tune into satiety signals, and realise exactly when you have eaten enough rather than ploughing on and finishing your plateful regardless of how you feel or how big the portions were.

Taking the time to chew food is part of the overall practice of eating mindfully. By eating in a calm relaxed manner, savouring each mouthful, you begin to appreciate each food and flavour and receive those all-important hunger and satiety signals.

Food choices

Try these 5 basic steps to eating mindfully;

  1. As you sit down to eat, take 5 slow deep breaths. This relaxes your nervous system, preparing you to ‘rest and digest’ (parasympathetic dominance), rather than trying to eat whilst in the stressed out ‘fight or flight’ response (sympathetic dominance).  When stressed, the body down regulates digestive functions producing less stomach acid and digestive enzymes – pretty much guaranteeing that you’ll end up with indigestion and bloating!

  2. Chew. Exactly how many times you chew each mouthful will depend on what you’re eating: yoghurt needs less chewing than steak for example.  And yes, you do need to chew yoghurt and other soft foods like smoothies and mashed potato – otherwise, how will your stomach know that it’s on its way?  If it helps, put your knife and fork down whilst you chew, and don’t prepare the next mouthful until you’ve swallowed what you’re chewing.

  3. Savour the flavours. Really appreciate how each food tastes and feels in your mouth.

  4. Once you’ve finished eating, sit still for 3-5mins to allow food to pass comfortably down to your stomach.

  5. Wait for at least 10mins before deciding whether you want dessert or not. It takes roughly 15-20mins from the start of eating for your brain to register the actions of satiety hormones like leptin.  These hormones work in a complex way, registering how stretched your stomach is, and how much fat you have stored in your body overall.  They tell your brain when you are full, but if this message is ignored you eventually become resistant to their signals.

Eating mindfully does involve changing habits, and this can take time.  It’s not always easy to do, especially if you’re juggling your own meal with feeding a couple of cranky toddlers!  It really is worth persisting though, as no amount of supplements or nutrition guidelines can replace the benefits of good chewing.

If you’d like the benefits of mindfulness to spread beyond the kitchen table, and support other areas of your life, say hello to Joanne Bull at CalmWorks.  Joe offers a Mindfulness_sniprange of mindfulness training options designed to build your inner calm and resilience to ongoing stress.

 

You may also enjoy;

   #1 Small Step – 7 Energy Boosting Breakfasts

   #1 Small Step – Plan Your Way to Nutrition Success

Need nutritional support for dealing with ongoing stress?  See HERE for options of how we can work together.

 

 

 

 

IBS Relief with Nutrition & Acupuncture – Case Study

IBS Relief with Nutrition & Acupuncture – Case Study

 Irritable Bowel Syndrome is one of the most common conditions clients come to see me for, seeking relief from symptoms such as constipation, pain, diarrhoea, wind, bloating and headaches.

Stress is one of the main triggers for IBS, and this was certainly a factor with the client in this case study.ibscare

Let’s call her Jenny (not her real name).  Jenny originally began working with my colleague Tiziana Bertinotti at York Traditional Acupuncture, and Tiziana recommended she also see me for nutritional support.

Tiziana and I frequently work together with the same client as the combined power of nutrition + Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture (the real deal, not just dry needling techniques) brings huge transformative effects to people’s lives.

Jenny was 23 years old and had been suffering with IBS symptoms of constipation, tiredness, pain, wind and abdominal discomfort for 8 years.  Her symptoms began just after her parents divorced when she was 15 – she also had a bad viral infection at this time too, so there was a combination of physical and emotional triggers.

Jenny had taken an ELISA food intolerance test in her teens and cut some foods out of her diet already which had brought temporary, but not lasting, relief.

She admitted ‘holding on’ to stress in her stomach and was not finding enough time for relaxation.  Due to low energy levels she had stopped exercising as much too: this is a real catch-22 situation as exercise can improve both energy levels and IBS symptoms.

 

The Acupuncture Approach

Acu_Ggle_blogTiziana’s approach was multi-faceted and focused primarily on calming Jenny’s mind and sympathetic nervous system (the ‘fight or flight’ response) whilst improving the flow of energy through her digestive system and liver.  She used combination of body and ear acupuncture, with moxa for extra warmth and stimulation.

The Nutrition Approach

My approach was based on the ‘4 R’ technique;

 – Remove aggravating foods

 – Replace with suitable nourishing alternatives

 – Reinoculate: support the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, and the entire digestive process from mouth to anus

 – Repair: deal with inflammation and increased permeability in the digestive tract

Jenny was keen to undertake another food intolerance test, and this revealed multiple reactions.  Rather than removing all these foods, we focused on a handful of strongly reactive foods whilst working on supporting healing and repair in her digestive system.  Multiple food reactions are indicative of increased gut permeability which allows partially digested food particles to stimulate the immune system.  The foods are not really the problem: the poor gut integrity is, hence focusing on healing and repair.

Her diet included plenty of warming, cooked foods that are easy to digest and supply  the necessary nutrients for digestive comfort and energy production;

 – Magnesium from green veggies, nuts  and buckwheatthomas-rehehauser-49045

 – B-vitamins from suitable grains, nuts, slow-cooked meats and vegetables

 – Essential fats from nuts, seeds, flaxseed oils and oily fish

 – Zinc from pumpkin seeds, meats and fish

 – Vitamin A from beta carotene rich vegetables and egg yolks

Supplements

Jenny had been taking several supplements and we identified some of the reactive foods as ingredients in these.  I replaced them with just 2 products to begin with: a multi-strain broad spectrum probiotic formula and a blend of digestive herbs including ginger, fennel, cardamom, papaya, peppermint and clove for their anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory and carminative properties.

And the result?

At her final 3 month Follow On session Jenny happily reported having consistent improvements to all of her symptoms.  She was sleeping better, exercising regularly, free from constipation, wind, and pain, and was enjoying relaxation time.

fitness-332278_640In her own words…

“After many years of discomfort I can now enjoy life to the full!”

which is what you want when you’re 23 years old!

Tiziana and I wrote up Jenny’s case for the Complementary & Alternative health Magazine (now called Integrative Healthcare and Applied Nutrition) and you can see the article here;

Sally IBS case CAM Jan 2016

If you would like to be free from IBS like Jenny, take a look at the Nutrition Plan page to see how we can work together or call or email me to arrange your no-obligation 15min chat and discover how nutritional therapy may be just what you’re looking for!

Call: 07910 705272

Email: sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk

How can I reduce my sugar intake?

New sugar limits for sweet foods and snacks have been published today, in a bid to get food manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of products by 20% over the next 3 years.

Public Health England (PHE) announced new targets for the food industry in face of rising levels of childhood obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.  NHS figures reported last week show a 24% increase in toddler tooth extractions over the past decade, largely due to children eating more and more sugar.

The new sugar reduction proposals suggest 3 ways for manufacturers to meet the targets;

  • Cut sugar levels by 20% across all productsbrooke-lark-203839

  • Promote ‘no added’ or ‘low sugar’ alternatives

  • Cut overall calories or reduce the portion size

These proposals are entirely voluntary and whilst some manufacturers are embracing the changes, well aware of the fact that this cannot be avoided and voluntary measures are likely to be more lenient than legislation will be, others are stalling for time and protesting the moves.

Will the proposals work?

Cutting sugar levels across all products is undoubtedly a strong step in the right direction for improving public health.  But, when you take something away you have to offer a viable alternative: cue the ‘low sugar’ alternative foods.  A potential problem here may be the inclusion of more salt or more processed fats to maintain the texture and satiety of the product.

Sugar, salt and fat are the magic triage of ingredients used in processed foods to achieve maximum levels of taste and ‘feel’ – the ‘bliss effect’ – when eating.  Remove one of the triple and you have to add more of the others to maintain the status quo.

What about artificial sweeteners?

Cutting sugar levels almost certainly means an increased reliance on artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and aesculfame.  These compounds are 200 times sweeter than regular sugar and are currently widely used in many sugar free products like chewing gums and sugar-free soft drinks.

The safety of these chemicals remains highly controversial.  Much of the evidence promoting their safe use is industry funded and frequently conducted on animals – the human digestive process and nervous system differ in many ways to that of animals!

Newer research has shown the negative effect artificial sweeteners have on our beneficial gut bacteria.  Our microbiome comes into direct contact with the breakdown products of sweeteners in the digestive tract, and in the case of aspartame, the main breakdown product is formaldehyde – a recognised carcinogen to humans, and most commonly known as embalming fluid!

A healthy, nourished microbiome plays a major role in regulating immunity and inflammation, as well as influencing nutrient absorption and the production of certain vitamins, namely vitamin K and certain B-vitamins.  Imbalances in gut bacteria are, ironically, linked to disturbed metabolism and obesity – the very health issues we are trying to combat.

Artificial sweeteners also account for a significant amount of food sensitivity reactions in both adults and children.  Pushing more of these chemicals into our food chain puts us at risk of myriad side effects and is certainly not the answer to the obesity problem.

So how do we reduce sugar?

Rather than relying on food manufacturers who have only profits in mind, take your own steps to sugar reduction.  Start slowly, and gradually phase out sugar and artificial sweeteners to allow your taste buds to adjust.

Simple swaps include;

 – Replace standard breakfast cereals with Overnight Oats or homemade granola sweetened with maple syrup.  No time to make your own granola?  Marks & Spencer offer a granola base sweetened with a small amount of apple juice and honey.

 – Replace fruit juice and fizzy drinks with fruit water: add fruit slices (lemon, pomegranate, lime, orange) to filtered water.

 – Replace white bread with wholegrain, or look for bread alternatives such as oatcakes, buckwheat crackers, or nori sheets to make wraps with.

 – Dried fruits are a concentrated source of sugar but their high fibre content helps slow down its absorption into your bloodstream.  Snack on a palmful of dried fruits and mixed nuts, or keep Nak’d bars in your bag / glove box / desk drawer.

 – For an after dinner sweet hit try Pukka Herbs Liquorice & Cinnamon tea: liquorice is up to 50 times sweeter in taste than sugar and the cinnamon supports healthy blood sugar balance.

 – Make sure to combine good quality protein with healthy fats and slow releasing carbohydrates at each meal to support steady, sustained energy levels and reduce sweet cravings.

Struggling to break the sugar habit?  Take a look at the 4 Week Flourish and 8 Week Positive Change Plans to see how we can work together to turn your health around! 

Call 07910 705272 or email at sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk to book in!

Keeping your brain sharp – the Naturopathic Nutritional Way

Image from www.alzheimers.org.uk

Image from www.alzheimers.org.uk

Here in the UK there are currently 850,000 people living with dementia.  Because we are an ageing population, this figure is set to grow massively over the next few years, placing a huge strain on our already beleaguered healthcare system.

Last week I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Dr Dale Bredesen, a Professor of Neurology at the Buck Institute in America.  He is pioneering research into dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (which accounts for 62% of all dementia) and achieving incredible results. 

His protocol combines nutrition, lifestyle, supplement and medications – a truly holistic approach for what is a complex condition.  You can read more about his work here at the Dementia Alliance International website.

The problem with all the new dementia drugs that keep hitting the headlines is they are only focusing on 1 aspect of the problem: the accumulation of protein tangles in the brain.  Stopping these protein tangles will not halt or reverse the progression of dementia in the long term because this is only part of a much broader picture. 

Dr Bredesen likens dementia to a leaky roof that has 36 holes in it.  The drugs plug 1 or 2 of these holes but the roof will still leak!  Taking nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and key nutrients into consideration is crucial in order for the roof to become watertight again.

The causes of dementia vary from person to person, but 3 main areas have been identified:

1.   Inflammation in the brain

2.   Exposure to brain-damaging toxins such as aluminium, mercury – and for some individuals, gluten – and infections

3.   Chronic lack of nutrients needed to maintain brain function

So, if you’re concerned about cognitive decline or simply want to keep your faculties as sharp as possible for as long as possible, what can you do?

Investigate your genes

The presence of the homozygous APOE-4 gene variation causes a 90% increased risk of developing dementia.  This is an increased risk – it’s not a definite destiny!  How your genes are expressed is determined by your diet and lifestyle: you have the power to positively influence your genes. 

For more information on genetic investigations and nutritional support please contact me.

Balance your blood sugars

Alzheimer’s has been termed ‘diabetes in the brain’ because the brain cells lose their ability to respond to insulin and use sugars effectively for fuel.  If your diet is high in refined sugars and processed foods, cut these out.  Switch to wholegrain versions and include a wider variety of naturally gluten-free carbohydrates like buckwheat, quinoa and brown rice.  Include good quality protein with each meal.  Aim to have a mini-fast each night by not eating for 12 hours e.g. 8pm to 8am.

Go for full fat!

When brain cells struggle to utilise sugars properly, they can still use a type of fat called MCT (medium chain triglycerides).  Coconut oil is an excellent source of these fats, and anecdotal evidence demonstrates improvements in dementia symptoms from including 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil each day. fishoil

Your brain also relies on ample levels of cholesterol: 25% of your body’s cholesterol lives in your brain.  This works alongside omega-3 oils from oily fish, nuts and seeds to keep your brain cells communicating properly.

Check your Vitamin D

Vitamin D receptors are found throughout the brain and low levels of this nutrient are linked with increased inflammation – a key trigger for dementia.

Detox toxins

Reduce your exposure to toxins by switching to natural cleaning products and bodycare products.  Stop smoking (that’s obvious!), avoid aluminium pans and utensils and include plenty of antioxidant foods: coriander, spirulina, chlorella and dark green leafy vegetables, eggs and onions are some of the best sources of powerful antioxidant nutrients.rainbowveggies

Movement and mental stimulation!

Movement of all kinds improves circulation and blood sugar balance.  Including movement each day, whether its walking, swimming, yoga, Tai Chi or a full on gym workout is vital. 

Keeping your brain stimulated by learning new things is just as important.  Your brain cells grow and restructure themselves each time you learn new information or have to solve problems.  Learning a new language, doing a daily crossword or Sudoku puzzle can all help stimulate ‘neuro-plasticity’ – the reshaping and growth of brain cells.

 

Concerned about your mental wellbeing?

Looking for naturopathic nutritional support for depression, anxiety or poor memory?

Drop me a line at sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk to find out more…

 

 

Omega 3 Oils and Depression

A recent large scale study from Japan has highlighted how the national diet which is rich in oily fish, means there are lower levels of depression amongst the population.fishoil

Many previous studies examining the effects of omega-3 oils on depression and mood balance have looked at the average Western diet which is typically low in oily fish.  The Japanese traditionally eat much more oily fish, thereby having a higher baseline level of omega-3.

The study looked at 1050 men and 1073 women all aged over 40. Results showed that higher intake levels of the omega-3 fats EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) were inversely associated with symptoms of depression.

Both EPA and DHA play key roles in the structure and function of the brain, supporting communication between brain cells.

The importance of omega-3 fats to brain health can be likened to a mobile phone signal: when levels are low, cell communication is crackly and interrupted, similar to poor mobile phone reception!

Oily fish and krill oil are major sources of both EPA and DHA.  Certain types of algae can supply DHA whilst flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts provide ALA (alpha-linoleic acid), the ‘parent’ acid of EPA and DHA.

The difficulty with relying on ALA as a source of omega-3 oils is that a lot of the oils are lost in the different conversion processes ALA must go through to become EPA and DHA.

Many other nutrients are needed to support this conversion: magnesium, B-vitamins, vitamin C, zinc – and if dietary sources of these nutrients is low, or digestion is impaired, there are knock on effects on EPA and DHA levels.

Try these simple steps to support your EPA and DHA levels:

  1. Include oily fish such as sardines, wild salmon, mackerel, pilchards and trout in your diet 3 times a week

  2. If you dislike fish, consider a Krill oil supplement.  Krill oil provides EPA and DHA in a highly bioavailable form which is easily used by cells throughout your body

  3. For vegetarians & vegans, include hemp, flax and walnut oils daily.  ‘Udo’s Oil Blend’ is a fantastic vegan oil blend of various nuts and seeds, supplying a balanced range of Omegas 3, 6 and 9.

  4. If you have difficulty digesting fats, include bitter foods like rocket, watercress, mustard greens, dandelion leaves and apple cider vinegar before meals to stimulate bile production.

  5. Digestive enzymes may also be useful: lipase is the specific enzyme for fat digestion.

If you’re seeking a natural nutritional way to deal with depression, anxiety or hormonal mood imbalance, drop me a line at sallyduffin@nutritioninyork.co.uk or call 07910 705272 TODAY!

 

Study reference:

Horikawa C et al (2016) Cross-sectional association between serum concentrations of n-3 long-chain PUFA and depressive symptoms: results in Japanese community dwellers British Journal of Nutrition vol 115:672-80

 

Inside a Nutritional Therapist’s fridge…

IMAG0040One of the main reasons I don’t ‘do’ Instagram is that ten minutes browsing through reams of aspirational images related to nutrition and health leave me in despair: my kitchen isn’t stylishly minimalist, I don’t hashtag all my thoughts with #eatclean and if I see one more picture of smashed avocado and poached egg I may well break the internet.

There’s a fine line between being inspirational and unrealistic and for me, so much of what is online is contrived and unachieveable.  When you’re struggling to balance the stress of poor health, family needs and work demands, the last thing you need is to feel that the small changes you are making to your diet – however positive they are – are Just.  Not.  Enough.  And this is the negative power social media can have.

So, in the interests of honesty and sharing I’m going to give you a glimpse of what my fridge looks like after the weekly shop.  (You wouldn’t want to see it beforehand…the sight of a lonely lemon and scrag-end of celery inspires no one…)

Lets start at the bottom…

Salad drawers: these contain courgettes, celery, avocadoes, lemons, an aubergine and some mixed peppers.  Mixture of organic and non-organic, depending on what’s available and what I can pay that week.

First shelf: packets of free range chicken thighs, bag of potatoes and a cauliflower.  I do prefer to buy a whole organic chicken, roast it in coconut oil on a Sunday then use the rest of it during the week, culminating in a chicken & veg soup (I recently created a chicken, ginger and butternut squash soup..divine…)  However we had friends over for dinner that day and chicken thighs were needed.

The cauliflower will be turned into cauliflower and lentil dhal which does me for several days as either breakfast or lunch, accompanied by yoghurt, mint & cucumber dip.

Second shelf: 2 cartons of coconut water; I’m currently taking Spirulina each day IMAG0040for it’s amazing anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine and antioxidant powers.  If you’ve tried spirulina, you’ll know how strong it tastes and how it needs to be mixed with something to lift the flavour – coconut water and blueberries work perfectly!

Asparagus, spring onions, carrots, cucumber and tub of blueberries.

Third shelf: bag of spinach because my own crop has been an abysmal failure this summer; selection of cheeses (cheddar, goats cheese and lacto-free cheese to satisy everyone in the house); limes, local strawberries, free range organic eggs and a tub of butter.  It’s a regular intention to make my own spreadable butter by mixing a tablesoon of olive oil into a chuck of organic butter.  Sometimes I do it, more often than not I forget, so we have a tub of spreadable butter to hand.

The bottle of sweet chilli sauce is a rarity as this stuff is heaving with sugar, but the meal we cooked for friends included it as a dip.  This shelf frequently holds a dessert too as Mr Nutrition In York cannot resist sticky toffee pudding.

Top shelf: broccoli, plain live soya yoghurt, ground flaxseeds – essential for mixing with my morning porridge or adding to smoothies – full fat mayonnaise and tomato ketchup.

So, no secret ingredients here, and no glamorous chic kitchen.  I’m certainly not the world’s best cook (ask Mr NIY, he’ll tell all!) but I am living proof you can change how you feel with everyday foods and learn how to understand what your body needs to thrive.

Confused about what to eat?

Feeling stressed, exhausted and strung out?

Struggling with crazy hormones or erratic digestion?

Drop me a line and lets get you back on the path to vitality & wellbeing…

Clean Eating? I quite like being a bit dirty…

‘Clean Eating’ is the new buzz-phrase in nutrition.  Endorsed by countless celebrity dieters and fitness professionals filling Instagram with image of mashed avocado and raw brownies, this so-called new way of eating revolves around ‘clean’ foods and the avoidance of anything highly processed and sugar-laden.

On the surface, this seems like a good idea and is certainly the sort of approach I vegstallwould normally endorse: avoiding refined processed foods and eating a wide range of natural, nutrient-rich goods instead.  But dig a little deeper, and you find the world of clean eating is far murkier than it likes to appear.

A quick Google search reveals several ridiculous rules for clean eating;

  1. “Processed foods are anything in a box, bag, can or package.” So you’re going to have to carry that free-range chicken home in your bare hands.  And yes, you are indeed being ‘dirty’ by choosing lentils and chickpeas from tins despite the fact you haven’t got time to be soaking and simmering dried ones for hours.

  2. “Clean foods are naturally low in sugar, salt and fat.” ButterStatements like this perpetuate the widespread confusion we have over low-fat foods.  Trans fats and refined vegetable oils disrupt the actions of healthy fats in our bodies, but regular consumption of butter, ghee, good quality olive oil and coconut oil brings many health benefits.  And in terms of the so called ‘clean foods’; avocadoes, coconut oil, nuts and seeds are brimming with fats!

  3. “Use clean sugars.” I don’t think I understand this one at all.  Sugar comes in many guises and in various states of processing.  Avoiding the refined white table sugar is certainly helpful, but replacing this with huge spoonfuls of agave syrup (often favoured by clean eaters) is not a good alternative given its high fructose content.  Fructose is metabolised in a different way to regular glucose, with high levels contributing to the formation of triglycerides in the liver – long term issues with this include Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

  4. A ‘Clean Eating Pyramid’: the science behind this pyramid evades me.  It encourages the majority of the diet to be Clean-Eating-Pyramid_Gglebased on fruit and water – great if you want erratic blood sugar levels, bloating and diarrhoea. Not so great for supporting your body in dealing with stress, hormone fluctuations, ongoing fatigue or digestive issues such as IBS.

The biggest disagreement I have with ‘clean eating’ is the phrase itself.  It implies foods are either clean or dirty, and therefore, by extension, YOU are either clean or dirty, according to your food choices.

It is yet another way in which food becomes demonized.  It is yet another way for eating disorders to develop, as people (mostly young women) begin to restrict and control the foods they eat, obeying rules set out by other followers on social media, each trying to outshine the other with the latest images of their ‘clean’ meals.

For me, dirty foods are the carrots I haven’t washed yet.  I enjoy mashed avocado as much as the next person, and just as much as I enjoy a bag of ‘dirty’ chocolate buttons at the cinema.

 

A shorter version of this article appeared in The Press on 07/06/2016