Nutrition Brought to Life is the first book from holistic nutritional therapist Kirsten Chick – and it’s fantastic!
Written in Kirsten’s trademark accessible style, the book provides a firm grounding in natural nutrition, and how we can truly nourish ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Part 1 begins with the digestive system – the foundation of all health and wellbeing. Kirsten then skillfully guides us through energy production, the highs and lows of sugar, managing our stress response, adrenal support, the gut microbiome, inflammation, immunity, “liver whispering” (brilliant!), hormone balancing, and creating our own personal action plan for health. Part 2 provides 50 different recipes; from soups and main meals, to nourishing smoothies, salads, and warming drinks, all designed to support optimum health and vitality.
Each chapter includes a few reflective questions to help readers think about what they’ve just learnt, and how they can start making manageable changes for better health.
This isn’t just a book to flick through and put down; it’s a book that can help you transform how you nourish yourself, on every level, and get back in touch with what your body is telling you.
Kirsten has been working as a nutritional therapist since 2003, and combines private nutrition practice with teaching, writing, public speaking, and whizzing up recipes in her kitchen. Her areas of expertise include fertility, pregnancy, cancer care, and general nutrition. She’s kindly agreed to let me include an excerpt of the book here so you can get a taster of what to expect…
Sugar – the highs and lowdown
When life is sweet I don’t seem to crave so much sugar. I may enjoy sweet foods from time to time, but I don’t actively seek it out. When my mood or zest for life drop, when I feel let down, or when I feel like the ground has fallen away beneath me, my thoughts turn to sugar. It’s a pattern I learnt when I was very small, and reinforced with abandon as I grew up. It’s one I now smile at like an old friend I have drifted away from. We sometimes hang out for a brief while, but I spend more time with my other friends these days. They don’t challenge my insulin pathways so much.
Insulin and glucagon – balancing blood sugar
When you eat, your pancreas releases hormones that directly affect your energy pathways and fat levels. Remember that your pancreas sits near your stomach, and most of it is busy producing digestive enzymes to squirt into your small intestine. A small section of it, however, has a specialist role in balancing blood sugar.
About 2-3% of your pancreas, an exotic resort called the Islets of Langerhans, releases blood sugar regulating hormones called insulin and glucagon, plus a moderating hormone called somatostatin. These hormones then course through your bloodstream, with instructions for what to do with glucose, the sugar released from your latest meal or snack.
When you have high levels of glucose in your blood:
– insulin can trigger some of it to be sent into your cells to make ATP ‘energy batteries’
– any excess with be converted to a substance called glycogen in your liver, where you can keep a store cupboard of about a day’s supply
– if there’s still more glucose left over, insulin will turn it into fats, which are sent to your fat cells (aka adipose cells) for more long-term storage – this is how sugar can make you fat.
To carry on reading Nutrition Brought to Life order your copy today from one of the stockists listed on Kirsten’s website, or Amazon. And listen along to the Nutrition Brought to Life podcast too!
Resilience is our ability to bounce back and keep going even during the most challenging times. Building resilience doesn’t mean never stopping to rest or take time out; quite the opposite. It means being aware of your capacity to cope, and taking steps to support this.
We can build our resilience by establishing and nuturing some simple nutrition and lifestyle habits.
Positive habits include:
– Making good food choices; limiting refined sugary foods, including good quality protein and healthy fats, getting those 5 colourful veggies + 2 fruits per day, reducing caffeine and drinking plenty of water…you know the drill!
Use this plate diagram to create balanced meals.
Not every meal will fit the template, but as a general rule aim to cover half your plate with colourful veggies and leafy greens, and divide the other half equally between wholegrains/root veg, and good quality sources of protein.
– Being protective about rest & relaxation time and scheduling in downtime every day. It’s so easy to end up staring at the TV or scrolling Facebook at the end of a busy day. But this isn’t relaxation time; your brain is busy processing all the information coming at it through the TV or internet. To give your mind a break try: – relaxing in a warm Epsom salt bath – listening to your favourite tunes – following a guided meditation – or immersing yourself in a good book instead.
– Getting outdoors in the fresh air and natural daylight every day. This may be for a gentle walk / jog / run / outdoor Yoga / Qi Gong – whatever type of movement you enjoy. When possible, get outdoors for at least 30mins before midday. Enjoying natural daylight in the morning helps the brain to register the change in light at dusk and start winding down for sleep.
Nutrition-wise, two key nutrients that support our resilience are vitamin B5 and vitamin C. These two vitamins are used in energy production and manufacture of stress hormones in the adrenal glands. When we’re under a lot of ongoing stress we need to ensure plentiful supplies of these nutrients to support the adrenals.
If you’re feeling the strain of ongoing stress think about which of these tips you can start to implement in your daily routine. Pick one that resonates with you the most, then after a few days of practising it add in another. And do let me know how you get on.
What springs to mind when you think about self care?
Eating a delicious meal? A relaxing yoga session? Enjoying a massage or spa treatment?
Do you even think about self-care at all?
Finding time to look after ourselves can be hard, especially when other people depend upon our time and attention. Yet we all have at least three opportunities for self-kindness and care every day: breakfast, lunch, and evening meal.
Maybe you’ve fallen into the habit of skipping meals or eating hurriedly between meetings and appointments. Perhaps you don’t even care what you eat, so long as you refuel and can make it through the day.
Such unkind eating habits do more than deplete your body of nutrients and are worth exploring to detect any underlying causes.
Being too tired to cook for example, is often a reason for missing meals, but this will of course perpetuate the situation and worsen fatigue. Feeling overwhelmed and out of time is another possible reason. Depending on who organises your schedule, dealing with this may mean having an honest conversation with your boss, or creating space in your own diary to eat meals each day.
Skipping meals forces your body to produce more stress hormones to support the levels of glucose in your blood that keep your muscles and brain working. A short burst of stress hormones is easily dealt with, but ongoing stimulation can contribute to some nasty health issues including high blood pressure and gaining fat around your middle.
Eating on the run and eating too quickly can trigger all kinds of digestive problems: from indigestion and bloating, to pain, cramps, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms.
Allowing yourself a few moments to pause, sit, and eat can make a huge difference! Learning (or re-learning) to chew food thoroughly can alleviate a lot of digestive discomfort, and even help with maintaining health weight balance.
To start a new simple habit of self-nourishment, kindness and care, try one or more of these 5 steps this week;
Create time to sit and enjoy breakfast. This can be a small meal: a smoothie perhaps, or poached egg on sourdough toast. Whatever it is, be sure to sit down and take ten minutes to chew thoroughly and enjoy your food.
Prepare a large pan of soup and freeze in individual portions so you have ready-made lunches for the week ahead.
Make a mug of your favourite herbal tea, sit somewhere peaceful for twenty minutes and savour the flavour.
Buy a vegetable you’ve never cooked before and find a new recipe for it.
Let the rainbow in by including 6 different colour fruits & vegetables each day. Choose 1 from each of these groups: red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, and white.
Feeling inspired? Do share your thoughts in the comments below, or over in the Facebook group – we’d love to hear from you!
Thyroid problems are one of the most common health issues affecting women. If you’re feeling exhausted all day, struggle to concentrate and remember things, have low mood, constipation, or weak hair, your thyroid may be underfunctioning. The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism are often mistaken for other conditions such as stress or menopause, so hormone testing is important.
What does the thyroid gland do?
Think of it as being like the accelerator in a car. When it’s underactive, all your body processes slow down, as if you had taken your foot off the gas. Equally, it can go overactive. An overactive thyroid can cause palpitations, restlessness, difficulty maintaining weight, diarrhoea, and anxiety. All the body processes are speeding up – the accelerator is being pressed too hard!
The symptoms of a sick thyroid can be mixed. Some people experience constipation, tiredness and anxiety, while others have no problem losing weight but feel exhausted and struggle to concentrate. Sometimes the gland can go overactive for a short while before crashing and underfunctioning.
Hashimoto’s & Graves Disease
There are different reasons why the thyroid gland becomes sick; one of these is auto-immunity. During auto-immune conditions the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks parts of the body, causing inflammation and damage. If this happens in the thyroid gland it can lead to:
– Hasimoto’s Disease: hypothyroidism (under functioning) caused by auto-immunity
– Graves Disease: hyperthyroidism (over activity) caused by auto-immunity
It’s important to know if your thyroid imbalance is an autoimmune one or not. If it is, you may need to be tested for other auto-immune conditions like Coeliac disease or rheumatoid arthritis. An autoimmune condition is primarily an imbalance with the immune system that happens to be affecting the thyroid – it’s not just a straightforward thyroid issue. A Registered Nutritional Therapist can support you with managing an autoimmune issue. Nutrition and lifestyle medicine can be hugely helpful for these conditions.
What medication is there for hypothyroidism?
The standard medical treatment is Levothyroxine. This is a synthetic version of T4, one of your thyroid hormones. However this is only prescribed if you fall below certain parameters on blood tests. Many people suffer with sub-clinical hypothyroidism where the gland is underfunctioning but not badly enough to be prescribed meds.
Simply taking Levothyroxine is only part of the picture of managing hypothyroidism. Your body converts T4 to T3, the more biologically active thyroid hormone. If this conversion doesn’t work very well, you can still have all the symptoms even though you’re taking medication.
This conversion of T4 to T3 is disrupted by stress, poor diet, and digestive problems.
Simply replacing T4 by taking Levothyroxine is just the first step in managing hypothyroidism. A personalised whole-body approach focusing on:
– Healthy digestion: making sure foods are broken down and digested properly, and bowel movements are regular and comfortable
– Foods to support thyroid function and hormone conversion: Brazil nuts, sea vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, oats, sweet potatoes, avocados, eggs, slow-cooked red meats, naturally gluten-free grains – these are some of the best thyroid supporting foods
– Relaxation & movement: vital for managing stress and supporting T4/T3 conversion
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.
Try these 5 basic steps to eating mindfully;
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!
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.
Savour the flavours. Really appreciate how each food tastes and feels in your mouth.
Once you’ve finished eating, sit still for 3-5mins to allow food to pass comfortably down to your stomach.
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 range of mindfulness training options designed to build your inner calm and resilience to ongoing stress.
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