Energise Your Diet

by London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

One of the most common causes of visiting a healthcare practitioner is the complaint of fatigue. There are different kinds of fatigue. It may be constant, beginning in the morning after a full night’s sleep or it may build up throughout the day. Your nutritional status can and does play a major role in the prevention and treatment of fatigue.  Here are some factors to consider when trying maximising your energy levels throughout the day.

Nutritional causes of low energy

  • Eating refined carbohydrates and sugars: these are found in white bread, rice and pasta, cakes, honey, jam, soda drinks, sweets. These foods are digested quickly and therefore rapidly release sugar (glucose), the main source of fuel for our cells, into the bloodstream. This provokes the release of excess insulin, a hormone which controls blood sugar levels by stimulating cells to take up glucose, as excess glucose is toxic to tissues. Excessive amounts of insulin remove excessive amounts of sugar from the blood, which results in low blood sugar; this can reduce the glucose supply to cells which depend on glucose for energy and therefore reduce our energy levels.
  • Food sensitivities: allergenic foods can act as a stressor on the body and lead to low blood sugar so that cells lack enough sugar (glucose) for optimal functioning, making you feel tired.
  • Nutrient deficiencies such as B and C vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper which are needed for energy production can lead to low energy
  • Stimulants such as coffee, chocolate and nicotine increase levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline (1) which sharply spike up blood sugar levels. This causes the release of large amounts of insulin to remove the excess sugar which is not used by the body and subsequently leads to an energy slump.
  • Dehydration every cell in your body needs water for a myriad of chemical reactions, including the burning of glucose and the breakdown of fat for energy production.

Other causes of low energy

  • Stress leads to a sugar imbalance because it triggers the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which increase blood sugar levels. This stimulates the release large amounts of the hormone insulin, which removes the excess glucose from the blood, leading to low blood sugar and insufficient energy supply to our cells
  • Anaemiathis refers to a condition in which the blood is deficient in red blood cells or the haemoglobin (iron-containing) portion of red blood cells. The function of red blood cells is to transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body and help turn fats, carbohydrates and proteins into energy. Thus a lack of red blood cells reduces the amount of oxygen being delivered to tissues and thus energy levels. Iron, vitamins B12 and folic acid are needed to make properly functioning red blood cells, and anaemia may be caused by a shortage of these nutrients.  These nutrient deficiencies may be due to a poor diet, heavy menstrual bleeding, pregnancy or poor nutrient absorption as found in coeliac disease and Crohn’s disease.
  • Poor adrenal functioning-the adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and The adrenal glands are situated on top of the kidneys and one of their main jobs is to release hormones which help the body maintain a state of alertness as well as help raise  blood sugar levels when they are low. If the adrenal glands are overworked due to constant uninterrupted stress and poor nutrition, their ability to produce hormones which help maintain steady blood sugar levels can become compromised.
  • Poor thyroid functioningThe thyroid controls energy production, so an underactive thyroid can result in reduced energy production, making us feel tired..

Optimising your energy levels through nutrition and lifestyle Continue reading “Energise Your Diet”

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Managing stress through nutrition

by London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

Good nutrition and nutritional supplementation cannot remove the stressors from people’s lives, but it can help to increase tolerance to stress, reduce the adverse effects of stress and thereby boost your health and performance at work and at home.

Here are some drinks and foods to avoid when trying to manage your stress levels:

Caffeine: Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others due to slower caffeine elimination from the body. Those prone to feeling stress and anxiety tend to be especially sensitive to caffeine.

Caffeine also stimulates the release of the stress hormone adrenaline into your system, giving you a temporary boost, but can make you feel tired and “low” later. It can also increase the body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn can lead to other health consequences ranging from weight gain and moodiness to heart disease and diabetes.

Finally, caffeine can affect your sleep by keeping you awake longer, thereby giving you less time in the restorative stages of sleep; insufficient sleep can take its toll on your level of alertness the next day and can also make you feel more agitated, leading to stress.

Alcohol: alcohol stimulates the hormonal stress response and interferes with normal sleep cycles.

Refined carbohydrates: sugar and white flour can affect your ability to maintain steady blood sugar levels. The resulting rapid blood sugar fluctuations stress the body because they stimulate release of stress hormones (which puts your body into “stress mode”) in an effort to regain blood sugar stability.

Dehydration: The link between water and stress reduction is well documented. All of our organs, including our brains, need water to function properly. If you’re dehydrated, your body can’t function properly and that can lead to stress. Studies have shown Continue reading “Managing stress through nutrition”

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Stress and Work Performance

A Corporate Nutrition article by London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

Stress: Friend or Foe?

Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger – whether it’s real or imagined – the body’s defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response.

The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.

The concept of job stress is often confused with challenge, but these concepts are not the same1. Challenge energises us psychologically and physically, and it motivates us to learn new skills and master our jobs. When a challenge is met, we feel relaxed and satisfied. Thus, challenge is an important ingredient for healthy and productive work.

However, beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life. Continue reading “Stress and Work Performance”

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The Thyroid, Adrenals And Weight Gain

by London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

There is a connection between our adrenal glands, thyroid glands and weight gain. When these two glands are not kept in a healthy state, the result can often be weight gain. The good news is that on the other hand, if these two glands are supported through proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, it can lead to a natural weight loss.

What our adrenal glands do

The adrenal and thyroid glands are very closely connected in how they enable the body to function properly. The adrenals are small triangular shaped glands that sit on top of both kidneys. They are responsible for releasing the hormones adrenaline and cortisol which among other functions, help control body fluid balance, blood pressure, blood sugar and are designed to help the body deal with physical and psychological stress. In addition, the adrenal glands produce small amounts of oestrogen when women enter into menopause and the ovaries reduce their oestrogen output. This is why it’s so important to maintain adrenal function in the menopause years.

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal Fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a “syndrome” that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level.  This happens most often when you are exposed to constant , uninterrupted stress so that your body (and adrenal glands) cannot fully recover, or during or after acute or chronic infections. Consequently, the adrenal glands become fatigued and are unable to continue responding adequately to further stress.

You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not even have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of feeling unwell, tiredness or “grey” feelings. People suffering from Adrenal Fatigue often have to use coffee, tea and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.

Some Manifestations Of Adrenal Fatigue: Continue reading “The Thyroid, Adrenals And Weight Gain”

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Food Allergies & Sensitivities

By London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

Different Types Of Food Reactions

Type 1 Immune Reactions

The best known and well-studied form of food allergies is called a Type 1 immune reaction, also known as a classical food allergy. Type 1 food allergies occur in approximately only 2-5% of the population, mostly in children and are less frequent in adults.  The reaction is immediate, usually appearing 15 – 30 minutes from the time of exposure to the offending food substance. Usually occurring in people who are genetically predisposed, the immune system begins creating a specific type of antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) to certain foods. One side of the IgE antibody will recognise and bind to the allergic food.  The other side of the antibody is attached to a specialised immune cell called a mast cell which is packed with histamine. Histamine is one of the chemicals that is released in the body as part of an allergic reaction, and which causes the itching, sneezing, wheezing, and swelling typical of allergic symptoms.  Primed for action, the IgE antibody now patiently waits for re-exposure to food allergens.

So, when you eat the allergic food the next time, IgE antibodies hungrily latch onto the food.  Instantaneously, histamine and other allergy-related chemicals are released from the mast cell, quickly bringing on the unwelcome symptoms of stomach cramping, diarrhoea, skin rashes, hives, swelling, wheezing or the most dreaded of all Type 1 reactions, anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction which causes your blood pressure to drop suddenly and your airways to narrow, blocking normal breathing. It requires immediate emergency medical attention.

Clinical approach: In Type 1 food reactions, offending foods are completely avoided and nutritional immune and digestive support provided.

Type 3 immune reactions

Type 3 immune reactions are much more commonly involved in food sensitivities than Type 1 reactions.  In fact, 45-60% of the population has been reported as having delayed food allergies.  A delayed food sensitivity also involves the immune system and occurs when your immune system creates an overabundance of antibody Immunoglobulin G (IgG) to a specific food.  The IgG antibodies, instead of attaching to Mast cells, like IgE antibodies in Type 1 allergies, bind directly to the food as it enters the bloodstream, forming food allergens bound to antibodies circulating in the bloodstream.  The allergic symptoms in Type 3 immune reactions are delayed in onset – appearing anywhere from a couple of hours to several days after consuming allergic foods.  This delayed onset makes pinpointing the culprit food difficult. In this instance, laboratory testing may be useful.

Delayed food reactions may occur in any organ or tissue in the body and have been linked to over 100 allergic symptoms and well over 150 different medical diseases.

Clinical approach: In Type 3 immune reactions, it is important to identify food triggers, either through food exclusion tests or laboratory testing (more on this below).Depending on the symptoms,  these foods are then excluded for a period of time, and then reintroduced on a rotational diet to avoid retriggering symptoms. In addition, nutritional immune and digestive support is provided.

Why Has the Incidence of Food Sensitivities Risen? Continue reading “Food Allergies & Sensitivities”

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Re-Energise Your Fatigued Body and Mind

By London nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

What happens to our bodies during stress?

As a London nutritionist, I see many clients with stress-related health issues. We’re all familiar with stress but what we aren’t so familiar with is the body’s response to stress and the ways in which the stress we face today ends up depleting our energy and health.

When faced with a stressful situation, whether psychological or physical, our bodies rely on the 2 adrenal glands which sit on top of  the kidneys  to initiate our “fight or flight” response, which is an evolutionary mechanism  designed to help us escape or fight off danger (stress). For the most part, our stress response evolved from short-term events. For our ancestors, this meant being able to run away quickly, fight or pursue an enemy or game, endure long periods of physical challenge and deprivation, and store up physical reserves when food was available. In modern life this means being able to cope with stressful circumstances such as difficult bosses, family quarrels, financial problems, too little sleep or illness.

Healthy adrenal glands which are supported by sound nutrition and a healthy lifestyle respond by releasing the hormone adrenaline, making us more alert and focused, and the hormone cortisol, which converts protein to energy and releases stored sugar in the form of glycogen, to fuel our bodies for a quick response. The adrenal response rapidly increases our heart rate and blood pressure while releasing energy, tensing our muscles, sharpening our senses, and slowing our digestion so we are primed to escape or fight back, whichever is needed. When the threat is gone, the body returns to normal — quickly with respect to adrenaline levels, less quickly with respect to cortisol.

The effects of long term stress on health and energy levels Continue reading “Re-Energise Your Fatigued Body and Mind”

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By London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher


Stress is a constant factor in today’s fast-paced society. Psychological or physical stress can trigger the body’s response to a perceived threat or danger which is called the Fight-or-Flight response. During this reaction, certain hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released which increase our heart rate, slow digestion and shunt blood flow to major muscle groups in order to give the body a burst of energy and strength for a perceived emergency. It is an evolutionary mechanism designed to enable us to fight or run away when faced with physical danger. When the perceived threat is gone, our bodily systems are designed to return to normal function via the relaxation response.

However, in modern life, this stress response is now activated in situations where it is inappropriate, like in traffic or during a stressful day at work.  We also don’t activate the relaxation response often enough to allow our bodies to return to normal function. As a consequence, we experience prolonged, uninterrupted states of physiological arousal which can cause damage to the body. If left unchecked, it can wreak havoc upon our health by reducing our resistance to illness and disease and negatively impacting on our mood.

7 Ways To Reduce And Control Your Stress

1.       Learn Tension-Reducing Techniques-these can activate your body’s relaxation response, putting your body in a calm state. These techniques include meditation, yoga, stretching, deep breathing exercises, and positive imagery which can be practised when you’re under stress, helping you feel better relatively quickly.

2.       Laughter and Humour- Laughing reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and also benefits your immune system by increasing the number and activity of Natural Killer T-cells, which act as the first line of defence against viral attacks and damaged cells

3.       Sleep-getting enough sound sleep has a profound impact on your stress levels, immune function and disease resistance. A chronic lack of sleep can leave you feeling sluggish, irritable, forgetful, accident-prone, and have difficulty concentrating or coping with life’s daily aggravations. Long-term sleep loss can is also associated with heart disease, stroke, depression, and anxiety. Strive to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep time is when your body and immune system do most of its repairs and rejuvenation. Continue reading “TOP 7 STRESS BUSTERS”

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