Category Archive Blog

How to Reduce Stress Hormone Levels Naturally

STRESS!!!

Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?

Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?

Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to show you how to reduce stress hormone levels naturally!

Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.

Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fibre.

To learn more about foods and nutrients to reduce stress hormone levels, contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation.

Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.

Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.

Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.

Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.

Conclusion

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways of how to lower stress hormone levels naturally.

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.

In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

Recipe (High fibre prebiotic): De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding

Serves 6

3 ripe avocados

¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)

¼ cup maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 dash salt

Instructions

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavour.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/ways-to-lower-cortisol/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cortisol

https://authoritynutrition.com/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

How To Keep Your Blood Sugar Level Stable

Oh, the words “blood sugar level.” 

Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections? 

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles. 

The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot. 

This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches (“carbs”), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy.

Many people with ME/CFS have a blood sugar imbalance that is leading to symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, dizziness and sugar cravings. When I was ill with my CFS and went to see a Naturopathic Nutritionist, her test revealed that I was on the edge of being diabetic! I was able to balance my blood sugar level with nutrition.

Why keep my blood sugar stable? 

Your body wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you’re not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable. It should be low enough that your body isn’t scrambling to remove excess from the blood. 

When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as “hypoglycaemia.” 

When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycaemia.  Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycaemia) can lead to “insulin resistance.”  

Insulin resistance is when your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high. 

Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycaemia can eventually lead to diabetes type 2. 

So let’s look at how you can optimise your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable. 

Foods for stable blood sugar 

The simplest thing to do to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars and starches you eat.  To do this, you can start by dumping sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert. 

Eating more fibre is helpful too. Fibre helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the “spike” in your blood sugar level.  Fibre is found in wholegrain, plant-based foods (as long as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removed fibre).  Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fibre intake.  

Also eating protein and healthy fat foods which break down slowly and don’t cause blood sugar spikes. Foods like meat, fish, eggs, tofu, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

FUN FACT: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below) 

To learn more about how to use foods and supplements to balance your blood sugar level, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.

Lifestyle tips for stable blood sugar 

Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don’t ignore insulin’s call to get excess sugar out of the blood.  Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood. But you already knew that exercise is healthy, didn’t you? 

Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the “fight or flight” stress response, what fuel do your brain and muscles need to “fight” or “flee”? Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels.  So, try to reduce the stress you’re under and manage it more effectively. Simple lifestyle tips are regular meditation, deep breathing, or gentle movement. 

Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Make sleep more of a priority – it will do your blood sugar (and the rest of your physical and mental health) good. 

Conclusion 

Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant).  Long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble. 

There are many nutrition and lifestyle approaches you can take to help keep your blood sugar stable. Minimising excessive refined sugars, and eating more fibre, exercising, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health). 

Recipe (blood sugar balancing): Cinnamon Apples 

Serves 4 

Ingredients

2 apples, chopped 

1 tbsp coconut oil

½ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon

⅛ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp vanilla extract 

Instructions

Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed. 

Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.  

Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so. 

Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well. 

Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness! 

Serve and enjoy! 

Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fibre, which is even better for stabilising your blood sugar. 

References: 

https://authoritynutrition.com/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-blood-sugar

Foods to Avoid if you Get Migraines

Migraine headaches can be terrible. The pain, vision problems (including aura), nausea, etc. can be debilitating; especially if they stick around for hours or even days.

Migraines affect about 15% of adults, so they’re fairly common. Many people with CFS/ME get regular migraine headaches. And, while the exact cause is not known, there are lots of known triggers. Many foods and drinks are common triggers of migraines. You may have noticed certain foods, and drinks trigger your migraines. Sometimes the migraine comes on within an hour of the food/drink. Other times it may happen several hours, or up to a day later. Avoiding these triggers can help.

One of the main ways these foods and drinks trigger migraines is by their action on the blood vessels in the brain. When the brain’s blood vessels constrict and then dilate (widen), this seems to cause migraines. Many of the foods I’m listing below affect the constriction and dilation of blood vessels during a migraine

If you or someone you care about suffers from migraines, this post lists common triggers. Avoiding these can be a great tool to reduce these uber-painful headaches. You may be sensitive to one, or many of these foods and drinks. They act as migraine triggers in some people, but not all. You can find out by eliminating them and seeing if avoidance helps you.

Foods to avoid if you get migraines

The first food that commonly triggers migraines is hard cheese like cheddar and Swiss cheese; this is because they contain “tyramine” which is from an amino acid in the protein found in cheese. Other foods high in tyramine include those that are aged, cured, dried, smoked or pickled. These include sauerkraut and tofu.

The second most common migraine-triggering foods are cured or processed meats. Things like hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon are in this category; this is because of their nitrates and nitrites that can dilate those blood vessels in the brain. Even if these are not a trigger for you, it’s best to eliminate them from your diet because of the other health issues they’re associated with like colon cancer.

I wish I had better news, but the third common migraine triggering food is chocolate. The evidence is conflicting, as some studies show a link and others don’t. You may or may not be sensitive to chocolate’s effects on the brain; you have to eliminate it to find out.

Artificial flavours like monosodium glutamate (MSG) can also trigger migraines. MSG is often found in Chinese food and is a common migraine trigger. There is not a lot of research on this, but it’s something to consider eliminating from your diet to see if it makes a difference.

If you would like more information of foods to avoid if you get migraines, contact Kate for a free 15 minute call to see if we’re a good fit to work together.

Drinks to avoid if you get migraines

Alcohol is a common trigger for headaches and migraines. Red wine and beer seem to be the most common culprits. We’re not sure why, but it may be red wine’s compounds such as histamine, sulfites, or flavonoids. Also alcohol is dehydrating which could contribute to headaches.

Ice and ice-cold water have also been shown to trigger headaches and migraines. So try not to eat or drink things that are too cold.

Artificial sweeteners like Aspartame are another common trigger. Aspartame is in diet coke and other processed foods to make them taste sweet without adding sugar. As with MSG, there is not a lot of research on its effects with migraines. But again, it is something to consider eliminating from your diet and see if that makes a difference.

Conclusion

There are many common food and drink triggers for migraines. Maybe one, or more of these trigger migraines for you. The best way to know is by eliminating them from your diet for a few weeks and see how that works.

The list includes hard cheeses, processed meats, chocolate, alcohol, ice water, and artificial flavours and sweeteners.

Do any of these trigger migraines for you (or someone you care about)? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (migraine-calming tea): Migraine-Calming Fresh Herbal Tea

Serves 1

Ingredients

5 washed mint leaves (or a tea bag)

2 cups of boiled water

Instructions

Steep mint leaves (or tea bag) for 5-10 minutes.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Let the tea cool down a bit before drinking it.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/9-common-migraine-triggers/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27714637
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet-infographic
https://examine.com/nutrition/scientists-just-found-that-red-meat-causes-cancer–or-did-they/
https://examine.com/nutrition/does-aspartame-cause-headaches/

Healthy Fats and Dangerous Fats

All fat is NOT created equal! There are healthy fats and dangerous fats.

Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods. Health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods). So, this is why the information I’m sharing today is so important.

Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients; along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super-health-boosting; and, others are super-health-busting.

Also you need healthy fats to absorb fat soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E and K.

As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right?

So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to ditch.

Health-boosting fats

Health-boosting fats are found in:

  • Nuts and seeds (hemp, flaxs, and chia)
  • Oily fish e.g. salmon, sardines and mackerel
  • Pasture-raised/grass-fed animals
  • Eggs
  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Coconuts.

I love “virgin” oils, and here’s why. Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing, or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).

According to the World Health Organisation’s Codex Alimentarius:

Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”

For example, Extra virgin olive oil must:

  • Be cold pressed
  • Not contain any refined olive oil
  • Possess superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics.

Don’t you think these standards ensure higher quality? I sure do!

Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-win!

Health-busting fats

Health-busting fats are found in:

  • Seed and vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, soybean and corn oils
  • Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
  • Margarine.

Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation and belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!

Finally don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed foods that contain them.

How to get more health-building fats

Firstly, you have my permission to ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or any hydrogenated oil.

Secondly, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flaxseed oil or extra virgin olive oil in your salad dressing, coconut oil in your cooking, and rapeseed oil in your baking.

Finally, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods. I’ll help you out now with my super-simple mayonnaise recipe below. It’s way better for you than the unrefrigerated stuff you find at your grocery store.

Recipe (healthy fat): Mayonnaise

Makes about 1 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 large or extra large egg

2 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp salt

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic

1 cup olive or avocado oil

Instructions

Add all ingredients except oil to your food processor. Process until creamy (about 10 seconds).

With the food processor running, add a few drops of oil into the egg mixture. Every few seconds add a few more drops. Continue until the mixture starts to thicken.

Now you can do a slow drizzle. Stop pouring, every once in a while checking that the oil gets fully incorporated.

Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use this in place of mayonnaise for egg, salmon, chicken salads, etc.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-healthy-fats

https://authoritynutrition.com/extra-virgin-olive-oil/

https://authoritynutrition.com/saturated-fat-good-or-bad/

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/fats-and-oils/eng/1392751693435/1392751782638?chap=5

https://eatingrules.com/cooking-oil-comparison-chart/

3 Must Eat Breakfast Foods

Do you love your breakfast? Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes? Would you like a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again? Check out my 3 must eat breakfast foods.

Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, sustaining energy levels through the day and weight loss. This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and releases energy slowly through the day. So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats that will be your soon-to-be favourite new “go-to” breakfast foods.

Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food. And for good reason!

No, I’m not talking about processed egg whites in a carton. I mean actual whole “eggs”.

Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses. Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilise blood sugar and insulin.

Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

And…nope the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases.

One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidised. It’s the oxidised cholesterol that’s unhealthy for the heart.

The healthiest way to cook eggs is to poach them in boiling water for 5 minutes so the egg yolk is still runny. Frying, scrambling and boiling are also ok too.

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast.

You won’t be fooled by “sugared” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butters, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

Nuts and seeds are also the ultimate fast food if you’re running late in the mornings. Grab a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds as you’re running out the door; you can nosh on them while you’re commuting.

Not to mention how easy it is to add a spoonful of nut/seed butter into your morning breakfast smoothie.

They’re also great in granola or muesli, or chopped up on your porridge.

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter. Just add your regular hot tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy.

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

Yes, you already know you really should get protein at every meal including breakfast; but this also applies to veggies. You know I would be remiss to not recommend veggies at every meal, right?

Veggies are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre, and water. You can’t go wrong adding them into every single meal of the day so if you don’t already you should definitely try them for breakfast!

And no, you don’t need to have a salad or roasted veggies for breakfast if you don’t want to but you totally can! You wouldn’t be breaking any “official” breakfast rules or anything like that.

Adding some protein to leftover veggies is a great combination for any meal. Including breakfast.

If you like me to look over your diet and give you more healthy breakfast ideas, book an appointment on the contact page here.

I’ve included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customise) for your next breakfast.

Recipe: Veggie Omelette

Serves 1

1 teaspoon coconut oil

2-3 eggs

¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)

Pinch salt, pepper and/or turmeric

Add coconut oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred).

In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices.

Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil. Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.

When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favourite vegetable. Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/eggs-worse-than-fast-food

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/eggs/

https://authoritynutrition.com/eating-healthy-eggs/

https://authoritynutrition.com/12-best-foods-to-eat-in-morning/

Does Mindfulness Really Work to Reduce Anxiety and Stress?

Well…yes, they do really work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.

Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”

“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.

Practising “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.

The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction

Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors’ visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!

So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.

Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, reduces anxiety and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.

Next I’ll briefly go over the research in two main areas: mood, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.

Mindfulness for Mood

The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.

In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.

Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.

Mindfulness for Gut Health

Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion). In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut’s microbes such as Candida overgrowth.

Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.

The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.

To learn more about how nutrition as well as mindfulness can improve gut health, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.

Conclusion

Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For your mood, gut health, and more.

Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?

Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe: Relaxing Herbal Teas

There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.

Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:

  • Green tea (has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated green tea)
  • White tea (also has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated white tea)
  • Rooibos tea
  • Peppermint tea (or steep fresh peppermint leaves)
  • Ginger tea (or steep slices of real ginger)

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a touch of honey if desired.

BONUS Guided Meditation “Recipes” (videos, apps & podcasts)

How to Meditate video

How to Meditate in One Minute or Less Every Day video

Calm App

https://www.calm.com/

Headspace App (free 10-day trial)

https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app

Hay House Meditations Podcast

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hay-house-meditations/id955266444?mt=2

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm

https://authoritynutrition.com/mindful-eating-guide/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4454654/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26186434

Pros and Cons of Elimination Diets

Our digestive system is a huge portal into our bodies. Lots of things can get in there that aren’t always good for us. And because the system is so complex (knowing which tiny molecules to absorb, and which keep out), lots can go wrong. And that’s one reason why 70% of our immune system lives in and around our digestive system.

This makes food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances a huge contribution to an array of symptoms all over our bodies. Things like autoimmune issues, inflammation, and even our moods can be affected by what we eat. If you have digestive issues, chronic fatigue (ME/CFS) or any other unexplained symptoms, you may consider trying an elimination diet.

An elimination diet is one where you strategically eliminate certain foods to see if you react to them. It can help immensely when trying to figure out if a particular food is causing symptoms because you’re sensitive to it.

You generally start out by eliminating the most common food allergens for a few weeks. Then you slowly add them back one at a time and note any symptoms (better or worse).

Let’s go over the pros and cons of this diet.

Pros of elimination diets

The main benefit is that, by tuning into your body’s reactions to certain foods, you can pinpoint sensitivities and intolerances that you may not otherwise know of. Experiencing results first-hand can be very motivating when it comes to sticking to eliminating a certain food.

Elimination diets can be less expensive, and in some cases more reliable, than standard food intolerance testing.

It can also be very empowering to be in control of what you eat, learn about food and the compounds they contain, and try new recipes that exclude eliminated foods. Having a good plan makes things much easier (even exciting). If you love grocery shopping, cooking from scratch, and trying new recipes, you’re going to draw on all these skills.

These diets can be customisable, which is a great pro (see first con below).

Cons of elimination diets

You may not figure out everything you’re sensitive to. That’s why testing for food intolerances can be a good idea. Your plan should be strategically created to ensure that the most common food allergens are eliminated. This will give you the highest likelihood of success. It can become complicated if you let it.

It’s a commitment for around 4-6 weeks, if not longer (which can be difficult for some people).

If you’re not used to tracking all foods and all symptoms every day, you’re going to have to start doing it.

You may find that you’re intolerant to one of your favourite foods, or even an entire group of your favourite foods.

When you’re eliminating certain foods (or parts of foods, like gluten), it can be HARD! You almost need to prepare all of your foods, snacks and drinks yourself from scratch. If you don’t take full control like this, it can be so easy to accidentally ingest something that you’re cutting out. And at that point, you might need to start all over again.

Conclusion

Elimination diets can be a very useful tool to identify food sensitivities. They can be empowering and customised.

However, they can be difficult to adhere to and, sadly, you may find out that you’re sensitive to your favourite foods.

Have you done an elimination diet? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Elimination diet friendly): Steamed Salmon & Vegetables

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 medium courgettes, sliced thinly

½ pint mushrooms, sliced

2 tsp olive oil

4 tsp water
2 boneless, skinless salmon fillets, no more than 1 ¼ “ thick

½ clove garlic, diced

2 dashes salt & pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200C (450F).

Toss vegetables with olive oil. Tear two sheets of parchment paper and fold in half. Open the sheets and place half of the vegetables onto each sheet on one side of the fold.

Add 2 teaspoons of water and place a fillet on top. Top with garlic, salt, and pepper.

Fold the other half of each sheet over the fish, and tightly crimp the edges.

Put packets flat on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and check to ensure fish flakes easily with a fork (be careful the steam is hot).

Open each pack and place onto plates.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can mix up the vegetables or herbs, following your elimination diet protocol.

References:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet

http://www.dietvsdisease.org/11-warning-signs-you-have-a-food-intolerance/

Is My Poo Normal?

Yes, I’m serious! (And don’t you sometimes wonder anyway?)

You already know that your poo can reflect your physical, and sometimes even emotional, health.

You may get constipation or have diarrhoea when you eat something that “doesn’t agree with you,” or when you’re super-nervous about something. This is common in conditions such as CFS/ME.

And what about fibre and water? If you’re not getting enough, it’ll probably show in your bowel movements.

What about the all-important gut microbes? If they’re not happy, it’ll probably show in your bowel movements.

Here’s a trivia question for you:

Did you know there is an “official” standard for poo? I mean a university-created chart! One that is used to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Meet the Bristol Stool Scale

The Bristol Stool Scale was created at the prestigious University of Bristol in the UK back in 1997.

You can see the chart here.

LINK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_stool_scale

The scale breaks down type of poo into seven different categories ranging from type 1 which is very constipated, to type 7 which is diarrhoea:

1 – Separate hard lumps (very constipated).

2 – Lumpy and sausage-like (slightly constipated).

3 – Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface (normal)

4 – Smooth, soft sausage (normal).

5 – Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (lacking fibre).

6 – Mushy consistency with ragged edges (inflammation).

7 – Liquid consistency with no solid pieces (inflammation).

Other “poo” factors to consider

You probably guessed that the shapes described in the Bristol Stool Scale are not the only thing to consider for poo health.

Think about how often you go. At least once per day, up to 3 times per day is pretty good. Less than one, or more than three can mean there is something going on.

What about how hard you have to try to go? You want it to be as effortless as possible.

And the colour? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest.

And if it’s green after a day of massive veggies, or red after that large glass of beet juice, you’re just fine.

But if you see an abnormal colour, like red or even black, that you can’t explain based on what you ate or drank in the last day or two, you probably want to get that checked out.

What do you do when you have “imperfect” poo?

Well, the first thing to consider is how imperfect it is, and how often it is like that? Once in a while, things aren’t going to be perfect, and that’s A-OK.

If you know you need to get more fibre or water, then try increasing that.

If you haven’t had enough probiotic foods, then try getting more of them.

If you’re super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or having a warm bath.

Oh, and don’t forget the two most basic pieces of nutrition advice:

  • First, eat a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, including a lot of fruits & veggies (and their “fibrous” skins, wherever possible). The fibre in these is not only helpful for pushing food through your gut, but they also feed those millions of amazing helpful critters that live there (your friendly gut microbes.)
  • The second piece of advice is to eat slowly, and mindfully, chewing thoroughly.

These are good habits for anyone and everyone, even when you have perfect poo!

Of course, long-term issues might require a more thorough review with a qualified health care practitioner. Don’t suffer from poo issues for too long before seeking help.

Contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation.

Recipe (dairy-free probiotic): Super-Simple Coconut Milk Yoghurt

Serves 6

2 cans full-fat coconut milk

2 probiotic capsules,

  1. Open the probiotic capsules and empty contents into the blender. Blend with coconut milk.
  2. Transfer to a sanitized glass jar (make sure it’s not still hot – you don’t want those probiotics to die).
  3. Store it in a warm place for 24-48 hours. If it’s not thick enough for you, you can let it ferment for another 24 hours.
  4. Add your favourite yogurt toppings, and store the rest for up to a week in the fridge.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Fermenting food is not an exact science. If this doesn’t work out as you’d like it to, try different brands of coconut milk and/or probiotics.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_stool_scale
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/poop-health

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?

All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. And, since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a popular theme lately.

Your adrenal glands look like walnuts that live on top of both of your kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.

What happens when they become “overworked?”

You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?

Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you’re totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body’s “fight or flight” response.

Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling.

The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body’s normal reaction to stress. Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.

After a short time, the flight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.

But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress?

It wouldn’t feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) “rush,” any more would it?

And what do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?

They’d get fatigued, right?

Do I have adrenal fatigue?

When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.

Symptoms like chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.

First off, I have to tell you that there aren’t medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it’s not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of “Adrenal Insufficiency” or “Addison’s Disease” may apply.

However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).

If you think you have adrenal fatigue, contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation to discuss your options.

What do I do if I have these symptoms?

There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.

Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress. My favourites are meditation, walking in nature, more sleep, or taking an Epsom salt bath.

Of course, I also recommend reducing your sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body. So go ahead and do it.

Conclusion

Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired.

Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.

The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, walks in nature, more sleep, or even a lovely Epsom salt bath.

Recipe (Stress-reducing bath salt): Lavender Bath Salts

Recipe (Stress-reducing bath salt): Lavender Bath Salts

Per bath

1 cup (around 300g) Epsom salts

3 drops lavender essential oil

As you’re running your warm bath water, add ingredients to the tub. Mix until dissolved

Enjoy your stress-reducing bath!

Tip: You can add a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.

References:

https://www.thepaleomom.com/adrenal-fatigue-pt-1/

How Stress Messes With Your Health

We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.

Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It’s the chronic stress that’s a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let’s dive into the “stress mess.”

Stress Mess #1 – Immunity

Did you notice that you get sick more often when you’re stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that’s because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.

Stress Mess #2 – Leaky Gut

Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as “intestinal permeability.” These “leaks” can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Picture this: Have you ever played “red rover?” It’s where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though. Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!

Stress Mess #3 – Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health. Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren’t doing you any favours.

To learn more about nutrition and lifestyle for reducing stress, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.

Stress-Busting Tips

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.

Can you:

  • Put less pressure on yourself?
  • Ask for help?
  • Say “no”?
  • Delegate to someone else?
  • Finally, make that decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Walk in nature
  • Unplug (read a book, take a bath)
  • Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)
  • Connect with loved ones

Conclusion

Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realise.

Stress has been shown to affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.

There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.

You can ditch that stress mess!

Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled

1 peach, diced

Instructions

Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.

References:

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress

https://www.thepaleomom.com/stress-undermines-health/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/good-stress-bad-stress

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/