January 2019 is set to be the most popular Veganuary yet, with over 14,000 people pledging to stick to a vegan diet and lifestyle for the next month.
Whatever your reasons are for cutting out meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey, and all other animal derived products, the sudden swap to a vegan diet can have a significant impact on your body, especially if you’re used to eating animal produce every day. Digestion and energy levels are frequently affected: let’s explore why…
Digestion:a sudden increase in fibre and indigestible starch from vegan staples like pulses, beans, nuts and seeds can cause bloating and wind. Our gut bacteria are influenced by what we eat, and it can take time for them to adapt to a different way of eating. They thrive on fibre, fermenting it in our gut, which is why one of the side effects of a vegan diet can be uncomfortable wind and bloating!
Bowel movements may also change: some people experience constipation whilst others find stools become loose and more frequent. Again, this is down to the change in fibre intake.
If you’re suffering with wind and bloating try using a plant-based digestive enzyme formula to support the breakdown of tough plant fibres and starches. Look for one containing alpha-galactosidase, an enzyme proven to reduce gas and bloating.
Soaking pulses before cooking and using fermented soya products like miso and tempeh can aid digestion.
Sprouting beans in a seed sprouter can make them easier to digest.
Soak nuts overnight then allow to dry before eating; this can aid digestability.
Be mindful of your fluid intake, especially if constipated. Fibre soaks up fluid in the gut, so remember to drink more water throughout the day, and opt for hydrating foods like soups and stews that combine fibre-rich beans and pulses with fluids.
Energy levels: switching from being carnivore to vegan means your body has to adapt to different nutrient sources. This can affect energy levels, particularly if you’re a pre-menopausal woman with regular periods as you are now reliant on plant-based or non-haem iron sources.
The main nutrients to consider are;
Iron: non-haem iron absorption is helped along by vitamin C so aim to combine these nutrients where possible:
Zinc: red meat, poultry, and seafood are packed with easily absorbed zinc, so your body has to adapt to deriving it from plant foods on a vegan diet. Nuts and seeds – especially pumpkin seeds – are good sources, but they also contain phytic acid which can impair zinc absorption. Soaking the nuts and seeds before eating helps to breakdown phytic acid and improve zinc bioavailability.
Vitamin B12:plant forms of B12 are not readily used by us humans. You may have enough B12 stores in your system to manage Veganuary, but if veganism is a long-term plan, consider using a B12 supplement or B-Complex containing B12.
Protein: protein is present in varying amounts in foods, which is where the term protein quality comes from. Eggs are an example of high quality or perfect protein as they contain the right ratio of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to match our human needs. On a vegan diet it is important to combine different protein sources at each meal so that over the course of the day you get all the amino acids you need.
Vegan protein sources include:
– Nuts (whole or as nut butters)
– Pseudo-grains like quinoa and amaranth
– Legumes and pulses
Omega-3 fats: the omega-3 oils found in oily fish are DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). We can use these straight away with no need for conversion: they help regulate inflammation and support heart health and mental wellbeing.
Plant foods contain ALA (alpha linolenic acid) which is the ‘parent’ of DHA and EPA. It goes through several conversion pathways in the body to become EPA and DHA and we lose some of it along the way. Because of these conversion losses, it’s important for vegans to include ALA sources everyday.
The richest concentrated source of ALA is flaxseed oil; this can be drizzled over cooked vegetables, salads, granola, coconut or soya yoghurt, included in smoothies – the ideas are endless! I know a lady who adds it to her gravy! It can be added to hot foods but don’t cook with it as high temperatures affect the oil structure.
Other sources of ALA include walnuts, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, hemp oil, and chia seeds.
Plant-based diets can be as varied and nutritious as meaty-fishy ones, but they do require thoughtful planning, especially at the outset. Browse these recipe blogs for meal inspiration and remember to join the Facebook group and follow me on Twitter where I share a #MeatfreeMonday recipe each week.
It’s so easy to get to the end of the day and realise you haven’t drunk enough water. Low energy, headaches, muscle aches and cramps – these are all telling 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 comes in plastic bottles which are an environmental nightmare, far outweighing the beneficial mineral content of the drink.
Filtered water has lower levels of chemical residues, but again, filter jugs are mostly plastic so your water bathes in hormone-disrupting chemicals.
There’s no easy solution 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.
It’s a simple and easy first step to take on the road to wellbeing: see if you can increase your water intake and cut down on caffeinated and sugary/sweetened drinks.
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 cloudy Yorkshire!
Are 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!
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;
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…
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.
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!
Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism is a common condition with a wide range of symptoms including;
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
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;
Simply 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
For more information and to book your place contact me via email at email@example.com or on 07910 705272