Is Eating Dairy Healthy or Not?

Whether or not you should eat dairy products is one of the things that people most ask me about as a nutrition professional.

There’s the argument from the dairy industry and conventional medicine that if you don’t eat dairy you’re putting your bone health at risk.

Other health professionals have long argued that consuming dairy products causes low-grade inflammation in the body, may increase the risk of cancer, drain your energy and give you spots.

Vegans also argue that eating dairy isn’t natural for humans, and that dairy farming involves cruelty to animals many of us are unaware of, plus it significantly contributes to global warming.

In this newsletter, I want to give you all the details on what’s good and not so good about dairy, and the positive benefits of giving up milk-based products. If you’re even considering ditching dairy, there is one really important thing you need to do. I’ll tell you about that too.

WHY SHOULD I EAT DAIRY?

Dairy products contain a range of beneficial nutrients. Of course, there’s calcium, but it’s also a good source of protein, vitamins D and B12 and phosphorus.

Let’s talk about the calcium in dairy, because this is the thing you are told you will miss most if you stop consuming milk-based products.

Bone is not static but is constantly changing. Old bone breaks down and new bone is formed on a continuous basis. In fact, the tissue of the skeleton is replaced many times during life. When you get past 30, your process of bone breakdown is a bit speedier than new bone being made, so you need to make sure you’re getting good levels of calcium to fortify your skeletal frame.

Although you can get calcium from other foods, the reason why dairy is touted as being the best source, is that the calcium from milk-based foods are more readily absorbed by the body.  Skip down to the bottom of the story to find out how you can safely choose not to have dairy in your life. There are some specific foods you will need to eat.

Cow’s milk also contains the omega 6 fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Studies suggest CLA can help with weight loss, and can reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer. CLA is also contained in grass-fed beef.

IS DAIRY BAD FOR YOU?

The bottom line is that human beings weren’t designed to drink milk of any kind after the weaning period (around two years old). Not human milk, and certainly not milk from cows, sheep or goats. Some cultures have embraced drinking dairy products, and people in those cultures have genetically adapted to tolerate it. Others haven’t and for those people in particular, eating dairy can cause problems. Two of the biggest problems associated with dairy are digestive and skin issues.

Let’s have a look at the undesirable stuff in dairy products…

Contrary to popular misconception, growth hormones are banned in the UK and antibiotic use is limited. However, a dairy cow can be given reproductive hormones and prescribed antibiotics by a vet to ensure she is kept in a condition to produce an unnatural amount of milk.

Contains oestrogen. Small amounts, true, but still oestrogen. Some cancers and medical conditions like endometriosis, PMS, fibroids and even menopause are linked to a dominance of oestrogen compared to progesterone.

As well as having more naturally occurring sugar than you’d think. A cup of milk has about 3 teaspoons. Sugar, I hear you say. Where? The type of sugar in milk is called lactose. You might be tempted to say, ‘I’ll have lactose-free milk then’. Lactose-free milk has had the milk sugars broken into galactose and glucose. Same amount of sugars, different currency. However, the milk sugar is often the ingredient people do not tolerate, so a lactose-free milk can provide the benefits of regular milk without the dodgy tummy.

Non-organic dairy products contain antibiotic residues, so if you are eating dairy, try to choose organic.

Many studies have examined the relationship between dairy consumption and cancer. Some studies indicate that dairy may protect against cancer, while others suggest that dairy may increase cancer risk. Most of them are so-called observational studies. These types of studies use statistics to estimate the relationship between dietary intake and the risk of getting a disease. Observational studies can not prove that a food caused a disease, only that those who consumed the food were more or less likely to get the disease.

And you’re more likely to get spots or have acne. There’s significant data supporting the role of dairy consumption in the development of acne, with the strongest association being skim milk. Scientists aren’t 100% sure of the reason why though it’s likely to be something to do with the hormones present in milk. Another theory is that dairy products stimulate insulin secretion and scientists have found that more insulin means more acne.

HOW WILL I FEEL IF I GIVE UP DAIRY?

Everyone will be a little different but these are some of the reported benefits of ditching dairy:

  • Less nasal congestion and stuffiness.
  • Better sleep.
  • Clearer skin.
  • More energy.
  • Weight loss.
  • Reduction in bloating/ other digestive symptoms.
  • Fewer headaches.

I’m not going to go into the impact on the environment of consuming less dairy, and the animal welfare argument. Too many variables. I’ll leave you to just ponder that.

WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES IF I DON’T WANT TO EAT DAIRY?

My favourite non-dairy milks are almond, coconut, hemp, oat, and rice. You’ll want to choose the unsweetened varieties if there is an option.

Use these in porridge, overnight oats smoothies and the like.

THE FOODS YOU NEED TO EAT WHEN YOU’RE GIVING UP DAIRY

You’ll be missing out on calcium for bones, so you’ll need to find it some place else. That means letting more of these foods into your diet on a daily basis: cabbage, spring greens, bok choy, kale, broccoli, okra, almonds, tofu, and fish where you eat the bones (like tinned sardines or tinned salmon with bones).

The RDA (recommended daily allowance or how much a healthy person needs to eat to not get sick) for calcium is 700mg a day.

A fist-sized serving of tofu can be between 200mg and 800mg. One serving in a stir fry at night could get you your calcium fix for the day.

Small can of sardines has 351mg.

2tbsp sesame seeds have 280mg.

2tbsp chia seeds has 179mg.

A cupful of cooked kale has 177mg. Raw (because less fits in the cup), it’s 53mg.

A small handful (about 35g) almonds has nearly 100mg.

A cup of broccoli has 43mg.

Should I eat more spinach to increase calcium?

Some – like spinach or chard – contain oxalic acid, which binds to calcium and can mess with your body’s ability to absorb it properly. Turns out Popeye was eating the wrong sort of greens because, even though spinach technically has a lot of calcium, it’s only a tenth as bioavailable as that from milk due to the oxalic acid.

But, wait, I couldn’t give up…

You don’t have to. If you love pizza, try giving up dairy but having an exception for pizza. Although going completely dairy-free would be the goal, even taking most of the dairy out of your diet can still bring benefits. For most dairy products, there is an excellent dairy alternative. Some are most surprising. I wonder whether you have experienced the delicious creaminess that a handful of cashews can bring to a soup, for example?

However, there are some groups of people who really should give it a miss; those who have an intolerance to dairy would do well to remove it entirely for at least three months to heal the gut. And, if you have a true allergy to dairy (IgE reaction), you will want to steer clear forever.

Are YOU Suffering from Festive Food FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)?

Hey, would you like to come to the party, spend the evening at that place, have a mince pie, egg nog, mulled wine, taste my world-beating Yule log…?

And you’ll go because you can’t resist. You’ll feast like you’ll never see another meal, and you’ll consume frightening amounts of festive tipples because otherwise you’ll be missing out on all the fun, right? You’ll worry that this is your only chance to eat turkey stuffing until this time next year so you’ll have to eat it, even though you’re not really hungry! Small wonder. Apparently, the British cram 44% more social occasions into December than any other month.

What is Food FOMO?

FOMO – shorthand for fear of missing out –is  the pervasive and often unjustified apprehension that others might be having way more fun than you, and that you’re somehow being left out of all the said fun. It usually goes along with the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.  We hate feeling that we aren’t there for something important, something epic, something fun, where memories are made and friendships created.  And it reaches its annual high any day now.

But did you know that we also experience food FOMO?

Digging A Bit Deeper

Food FOMO isn’t our fault as it’s often driven by cultural and biological programming we’re unaware of. Our survival as an individual within a tribe, and thus our survival as a species, once hinged on being “in the know”. To not be aware of a new food source, for example, meant you literally missed out on something that could mean the difference between life and death.

When humans began to create more stable farming communities, being in the know involved paying attention, being in the right places at the right times to get resources and information and engaging in the gossip of the day as it filtered through the community.

We actually have a part of our brain that specializes in sensing if we’re being left out and it activates the stress response. In an attempt to prevent the stress response, which doesn’t feel good at all, some people will (unfortunately) redouble their efforts to not miss out on anything.

Because we are also a species that values and seeks out variety, we feel compelled to partake in it all, lest we miss out on anything. We are also culturally programmed to over-value losses and under-value gains.

Scarcity thoughts lead many of us to have anxiety around food, rather than food being enjoyable. The “lack” mentality also means that we allow food to control us. It’s also very difficult to feel satisfaction when filled with food FOMO because there will be the constant niggling feeling that there’s just not enough to satisfy us. In this way food FOMO leads to eating past the point of what our bodies need or want, causing anxiety, physical ailments and overall malaise, and getting out of tune with what our body really needs.

All of this means we put more importance on the food we may be missing out on, and less on our goals and well-being.

So, FOMO really is not your friend this month (or indeed any month) – especially if you want to maintain your weight, energy, mood and support your digestion over the holidays.

Let’s take a look at how that festive FOMO usually pans out…

You’re committed to healthy eating during the Festive Season, and you go to just a few buffet parties or events. The food looks delicious, but you are watching your weight, so your deprived mouth can only water. There’s a very subtle fear that you are never going to be able to have any of these delicious treats ever again. The fear of missing out activates your survival instinct to consume everything and anything. And so you go on a binge, and your healthy eating plans are obliterated. The self-recriminations start.

The big question, of course, is what are you are you really missing out on? Nothing. OK, maybe some sweet or high-carb treats, some booze filled evenings and such. But eating and drinking these have a flip side: blood sugar imbalance, energy crashes, irritability, poor sleep, bloating and other digestive issues, and almost certain weight gain (if you consume in excess) – and that’s without mentioning the negative self-talk for having over-indulged.

There’s another thing about this festive FOMO and it’s that it has you giving up taking responsibility for your actions around food and alcohol (you would have been able to resist, right, but it was the party season?)

FIX YOUR FOMO AROUND FOOD

There are several things going on when it comes to food. Your fear of ‘missing out’ on that delicious dessert is the first. But also refusing food (though it should be a basic human right) is mired in emotional meaning both for you and for the host.

The answer is not to find more and more creative ways to say no. If you have to own up to eating healthily around this time or being gluten or dairy free, this seems to compound the original offence of not wanting to eat.

Can you get that it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t want to stuff yourself to the max with the cheese smorgasbord and mince pies? It doesn’t mean anything about your relationship with food, or how you feel about the host. You just don’t want the cheese smorgasbord or mince pies, or not to the extent that you’re so stuffed you feel sick!

Your action plan is this:

  1. HAVE AN ACTUAL PLAN Before you go to bed each night, plan out your food for the next day. This is never more true than during the Festive Season, when parties, chocolates, cookies and “treats” are just about everywhere.
  2. DON’T TRY TO DIET JUST NOW Set a maintenance goal instead. This is much more realistic and it is achievable, even at this time of year. It will also give you the freedom to enjoy yourself without feeling deprived, or that you’ve failed, which in turn means you’re more likely to rebel (and this is code for heading straight for the box of chocolates without a second glance).
  3. TAKE A BALANCED APPROACH Manage portions. Eat slowly. Savour each mouthful.
  4. YOU EAT WELL AT OTHER MEALS. Lots of vegetables. Making sure you’re feeling full with smart carbohydrate choices and plenty of protein-rich foods. Then you head to your party, have one or two drinks, a few nibbles and – most of all – enjoy time with the people you love!
  5. OH, AND DON’T GO TO A PARTY HUNGRY If you do, you’ll be fighting a losing battle. Have a low GI snack before you go – just a little something that includes protein and slow release carbs (cottage cheese or unsweetened nut butter on an oatcake, for example).
  6. KEEP FAMILY CHOCOLATES OUT OF SIGHT so you’re not tempted to tuck in just because they’re there. Ever heard of the ‘out of sight, out of mind diet’?
  7. Go from FOMO to JOMO. It’s all right to happily avoid certain activities and have the “Joy Of Missing Out (JOMO).” Learn to get comfortable with the idea of doing what you actually want instead of what you feel like you should do. In the end, you will be much happier if you are following your own urges rather than those of someone else.
  8. KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES Remember that each person has different priorities in life. Know what’s important to you so you can really analyse every opportunity that comes your way. When you treat everything as a priority, nothing is truly important. Remember that you can do a lot of things in your lifetime, but you certainly cannot do everything. You won’t be having a blast during every single moment of your life, and that is all right.

Try asking yourselves these questions next time you’re faced with food FOMO:

  1. Is this a real or perceived food scarcity?
  2. Is my body physically hungry right now?
  3. What is driving my decision to eat right now?
  4. Is this food readily available to me or is this a special or seasonal food that only comes around once in a while?
  5. Am I stuck in dieting mentality right now, which is telling me to restrict calories or limit what foods I eat?

FIX YOUR FOMO AROUND ALCOHOL

Frequently, party goers who are cautious about their alcohol consumption are viewed with suspicion. You can roll out the usual excuses for abstention: I’ve got a hangover from the party the night before, I’m on antibiotics, I’ve got a really important work thing tomorrow, and the like.

If you want to have a few glasses of wine, have a few glasses of wine. But make that decision inside of what you know to be your social schedule over the entire Christmas period.

How does the amount of socialising stack up against your health goals?

To be clear, you absolutely can honour all your social commitments but, in order not to find yourself tempted by the usual crash diet in January, hear this: it IS possible to go out, have fun, eat well and not have everyone notice you are being ‘healthy’.

If you cut back on the amount you are drinking at social events – even choosing not to drink at some events at all – you can feel the improvements almost immediately. On those nights that you don’t drink at all, you’ll sleep better, wake feeling more refreshed, you’ll have much more energy, and your mood will be better. The impact on your waistline will be positive too – alcohol is a big contributor to belly fat and is brimming with unnecessary calories.

Here are a few suggestions for cutting down – if that’s what you choose to do.

  1. Decide how much you are going to drink (maximum) before you go out.
  2. Consider telling someone else who will be there (friend or partner, perhaps), to help keep you accountable.
  3. Don’t feel pressurised by others. It’s your life and you are the one who makes the decisions.
  4. Have an excuse ready when you want to give it a miss (remember ‘no, thanks, I’d rather have …..’ is perfectly OK.

So, you see, the fear around missing out is just an illusion. And, actually (in social media terms, certainly) FOMO is a bit old hat. What’s trending right now is JOMO, the joy of missing out. Think what you will be gaining from taking on board some of my tips, enjoying yourself without over eating or drinking too much…

Juicing and Smoothies- How Healthy Are They?

Smoothie vs juicing Fruit and veg is good for you. No one would argue with that.

There has been a great deal of research in recent years to support the claim that eating more fruit and veg may be able to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer, while also helping to manage your weight. It can be a challenge to eat five portions of fruit and veg each day, even when you like vegetables. And now a new report suggests that eating 10 portions is what we need to stay healthy for longer. Most people don’t come nearly close to having enough, and I bet you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to manage that!

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of juicing and smoothies. Both are trending right now and there’s a huge debate. But what is better for your health – and losing weight- and are there any downsides? I’m going to give you the lowdown on both so you can get the hard facts from a nutrition professional and make an informed choice.

SMOOTHIES

The Benefits of Smoothies

When you make a smoothie, the whole lot is whizzed up in a blender. The juice and the pulp go in. This means that smoothies contain fibre. Fibre is good for you for so many reasons. It’s great for the digestive tract, helping to bulk out stools which helps you ‘go’ more regularly. Fibre supports weight loss because it helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the body, meaning that fruit and sugar-rich vegetables like beetroot and carrots are less likely to give you a blood sugar spike – ­ albeit a natural one. Fibre absorbs cholesterol in your digestive tract and flushes it out of your body, which is helpful for reducing risk factors for heart disease.

Dietary fibre also activates a few hormones really helpful in weight loss (called PYY and CKK and GLP-1, since you ask). These are appetite suppressors, meaning you’ll want to naturally eat less the more veg you consume. Fibre also decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, and increases another hormone called leptin, which tells your body you’re full. So, all in all fruit and veg are the good guys.

Fibre isn’t the only good thing in a smoothie. In a 2012 study in which scientists blended and juiced grapefruit, researchers found that the blended fruit had a higher concentration of the beneficial phytochemicals than juices because that compound is primarily found in the fibrous membranes of the fruit.

Given a smoothie can be packed with fibre, it can even serve as a meal replacement if you’re smart about what you add in it- more on this next (breakfast would be the perfect example).

The Downsides to Smoothies

When you eat fruit and veg you have to chew them which helps breaks down the fibre This in turn slows down the release of the sugars, helping to prevent a blood sugar spike which can lead to fatigue, low mood, increased hunger, weight problems, sleep problems etc.

On the other hand, when you blend fruits and vegetables in a machine, although the smoothie still contains fibre, it’s been broken down (literally pulverized) super-fast during the blending process- basically, the blender is doing the work your digestive system should be doing, which takes both energy and time to digest.

Even if you’re making your smoothie at home, using only fruits and vegetables with no other added ingredients, you can drink it in just a few minutes, compared with the time it would take to eat the same fruits or vegetables whole. It’s very likely that you are also getting more calories and sugar when you drink a smoothie than when eating whole fruits or vegetables. Research shows that we don’t register liquid calories as accurately as food we’ve chewed. So, smoothies enjoy a “health halo” that can be misleading.

The Best Way to Have Smoothies

If your idea of the perfect smoothie is only fruit and some liquid … Well, that’s a sugar bomb waiting to happen and is likely to upset your blood sugar balance. Plus, if consumed too frequently, this will have you start piling on the pounds.

But, if you combine a little bit of fruit and mostly veg, with a healthy source of protein such as yoghurt, a handful of nuts and seeds, nut butter  or a protein powder that would be best. Why? Firstly, with the addition of protein you’ll have a healthy, nutritious and filling meal to take with you on-the-go. And secondly, you’ll help avoid the blood sugar spike.

Also, quantity is important. To give you an idea, according to the national Eatwell Guide, we should only be having one serving of smoothie or juice, which is 150ml. That’s the same as a “mini” can of cola and less than half the size of a standard can of soft drink. If you’re using mostly veg in your juices and smoothies, and adding protein to your smoothies then the amount can be increased.

JUICING

The Benefits of Juicing

When you juice, your juicers extract the water and nutrients from what you feed it, leaving behind the pulp. Many juicers will also have a filter attachment, so you can remove even more ‘bits’ from your juice.

Given the lack of fibre, juices provide an almost immediate energy boost. The bulk of the vitamins and minerals found within a fruit are typically in the juice rather than the fibrous pulp. And without the fibre, the nutrients are absorbed into the body more efficiently. Additionally, the digestive system doesn’t have to work hard at all to process what you’re consuming. The cherry on top is that juicing allows you to eat a far higher range of nutrients from leafy greens and vegetables you wouldn’t normally eat in such quantity or blend – like cabbage and wheatgrass! Typically, juices (rather than smoothies) are a great way to detox.

 Downsides to Juicing

When you juice, the fibre is usually removed. And without the fibre slowing digestion of the sugar in fruit, the juice drives up your blood sugar rapidly which can lead to symptoms discussed above. This can also contribute to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

If you juice mostly vegetables, you’ll get a potent dose of phytochemicals and disease-fighting compounds without all the sugar. But do it incorrectly, and you can get more sugar than a soda. Thing is, many “green juices” actually do have more sugar than a can of soda. Why? Because people don’t like bitter green juices and so most contain lots of fruit juice, carrots, and beets. A study in 2014 found that, on average, fruit juices contain 45.5 grams of fructose per litre, not far off from the average of 50 grams per litre in fizzy drinks.  If it has more than 5 grams of sugar, stay away.

Verdict

Which is better depends very much on what your health goal is. Juicing offers the possibility of getting in a greater concentration of nutrients, increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption, and possibly making it easier on your tummy if have a hard time digesting the fibre in vegetables.

On the other hand, fibre IS super important in your diet, and in juices you are missing out – plus you could also be losing other important elements like antioxidants.

For weight loss, energy, mood, PCOS, high cholesterol the added fibre is a huge bonus for balancing your blood sugar levels. Smoothies provide this. They also bring the possibility of adding other beneficial ingredients, like collagen (for arthritis suffers), protein powders, prebiotics, nuts or seeds.

Ultimately, you need to consume more fruit and veg than you are currently eating. Both smoothies and juices give you options to consider.

 HEALTHY JUICES

Green juice

2 apples

4 stalks celery

1 orange

½ lemon

5 handfuls spinach

½ thumb ginger root

Start with the spinach. A good tip is to try to roll it into a ball in your hands before feeding through the juicer. Peel the orange and lemon, then juice. Cut the apples into halves, then juice the rest.

Green goddess

3 cups spinach

6 stalks celery

2 pears

½ cup parsley

½ lemon

Start with the spinach and parsley, rolling them into a ball in your hands before feeding through the juicer. Follow with the lemon (peeled), then juice the remaining ingredients.

Liver cleanse

1 apple

1 beetroot

3 beet leaves (or a small handful of spinach)

4 carrots

1 stalk celery

½ thumb ginger root

Cut the beetroot and apples in half to juice. Add the ginger and celery. Roll the leaves into a ball (makes it easier to juice). Cut the skin from the pineapple (but leave in the core – it has extra enzymes), peel the orange and then juice.

HEALTHY SMOOTHIES

Put all the ingredients in the blender with a cup of liquid (water or almond milk, etc.) to start with and increase liquid to desired consistency.

Berry nice

½ avocado

75g fresh or frozen blueberries

1 tbsp chia seeds

½ tbsp coconut oil

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ banana (ideally frozen)

Small handful of ice

Water, as desired

Hidden greens

25g vanilla protein powder

1 kiwi, peeled

Handful of strawberries

Handful of kale

Handful of watercress

1 tbsp cashew butter/cashews

2tbsp broccoli sprouts

Small handful of ice

Water as desired

Blueberry + kale

Handful blueberries

Handful kale

1 small banana

1 tsp cashew or almond nut butter

1 tbsp sunflower seeds

Small handful of ice

250ml coconut or almond milk

Sugar Substitutes

One of the things I am asked about most as a Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach is sugar substitutes. “What can I use instead of sugar ?” I am asked, so here’s the here’s the good, the bad and the ugly low down on some of  those sugar replacements you might think are healthy (and some that definitely aren’t).

Honey

Honey has a lot going for it in some regards. It contains amino acids, electrolytes and antioxidants, and antimicrobial compounds that can support your health. To get these extra benefits, you’ll want to choose a raw (unprocessed) local honey. It may also help relieve allergy symptoms, specifically hay fever, because the bees feast on the local pollen, and taking raw local honey can help you develop natural immunity over time. But, whichever way you cut it, honey is sugar. It may be natural, but sugar it is, and it behaves that way in your body, spiking blood sugar exactly as actual sugar would.

Medjool Dates

Dates are a popular feature of many paleo or natural sugar-free bars, because they are naturally very sweet. They have the highest nutritional benefit of all-natural sweeteners because they also contain minerals like selenium, copper, potassium and magnesium, as well as providing fibre to slow the speed at which the sugars hit your bloodstream. Studies show that they don’t spike your blood sugar levels that much and they’ve been proven to decrease cholesterol and boost bone health, and can help relieve constipation. Stick to 1 or 2 a day so there is no guilt associated with these caramel-like gems.

Maple syrup

It contains antioxidants (24 in fact), which are helpful in the fight against cell-damaging free radicals and inflammation. While studies show maple syrup does not spike your blood sugar levels as much, it is still wise to use sparingly. You’ll want grade A (lighter in flavour) or B (nutritionally better as it’s richer in antioxidants than grade A and with a more intense flavour). Avoid maple flavoured syrups as these are not the same.

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar has become very trendy of late and brings a lovely caramel flavour to your food. It contains small amounts of iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, and antioxidants, and a fibre known as inulin which  may help reduce the absorption of glucose. It is perfect for baking with and has a lesser impact on your blood sugar levels than regular sugar, but it is still sugar, so use sparingly.

Palmyra Jaggery

You may not even have heard of this, but it’s the crystalized nectar collected from the flower of the Palmyra palm and has a deep, warm caramel flavour. You use it exactly as you would sugar, and often you can reduce the amount needed by up to a half. It’s packed with B vitamins and has a much lower GL than table sugar.

Brown Rice Syrup

This has found its way into ‘healthy’ recipes. It’s made from fermented, cooked rice. It’s not a particularly good option as a sweetener as it’s highly processed, contains very little in the way of nutrition benefits and the effect on blood sugar is almost identical to standard sugar.

Agave Syrup

Agave syrup comes from a cactus, and the syrup is made from the pulp of the leaf. It’s very highly processed and is mainly fructose, which needs to be processed by the liver, causing more stress for an already over-worked organ. Fructose is actually worse for you than glucose. Agave syrup (or nectar) is very similar to the (deservedly) much-demonised high fructose corn syrup, that has contributed greatly to the obesity epidemic in the US. My advice? Do not use it!

Stevia

This is another natural sweetener. There a number of different types of stevia, and ideally you want full, green leaf stevia that is unadulterated with other sweeteners. There are many brands out there that you should avoid because they’re so highly processed, and they also add in other chemicals. Pure stevia will not unbalance your blood sugar levels, thus avoiding an energy rollercoaster. But, a little bit goes a long way, so use sparingly.

Xylitol

Often found in the UK under the brand names Total Sweet or Xyla, xylitol is a sugar alcohol. It’s a little sweeter than sugar, has fewer calories and (the important part) 75% less carbohydrate, so the impact of blood sugar levels is lower than it would be if you were to eat the same amount compared to real sugar. It’s the same stuff used in sugar free chewing gum, thanks to its antibacterial properties. The downside is it is very highly processed, and some people can be sensitive to large amounts and may find their stools a little loose, or they get bloated, if they eat too much. Note as well that it is toxic for dogs.

Artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and saccharin)

People usually resort to artificial sweeteners in a bid to cut calories. This is bad news for a number of reasons, but I’ll mention the two biggies here: Research into some of them shows a correlation with cancer (weak, perhaps, and refuted by the food industry, but personally I’m not taking any chances). Secondly, nutrition science conclusively proves that weight gain/loss has little to do with calories in and out but what happens hormonally inside the body – how much insulin your body makes (insulin being the fat storage hormone that also sabotages fat burning). Recent research shows that these artificial sweeteners can increase blood sugar (and consequently insulin) levels more than normal sugar. So really, what is the point? Thirdly, research shows that ironically, they actually increase hunger. My advice is to stop now.

BUT…

The very best scenario of all is that you wean yourself off sweeteners of any kind as this helps you appreciate and embrace natural sweetness from real food. If you continue to eat sweet things, your taste buds will always want sweet things. That’s because sugar has been shown to have an effect on the brain similar to that of addictive drugs like nicotine, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. In fact, quickly removing it from your diet can cause withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, depression, headaches and muscle aches. No wonder it isn’t easy to quit.

If your diet has traditionally been quite high in the white stuff, the first few weeks can be a little tricky as your body (and brain and taste buds) starts to adjust – but bear with it.

 

 

 

Food Reactions Demystified

Is the food you’re eating sabotaging your health? You might not even be aware of it because sometimes it’s hard to directly connect a reaction to a food. What are food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities, and what are the differences between them?

FOOD ALLERGIES

Many people are clear that a nut allergy is a serious and potentially life-threatening medical condition. But apart from this, food allergy isn’t always taken as seriously as it should be. As it’s Food Allergy Awareness Week this week, I want to give you the lowdown on food allergy and intolerance, and what to do if you suspect there are foods that don’t agree with you.

What Is a Food Allergy?

To start, let’s get clear what a FOOD ALLERGY is …

The job of the body’s immune system is to identify and destroy germs (such as bacteria or viruses) that make you sick. A true food allergy happens when your immune system overreacts to a harmless food protein—an allergen. The body mounts an immune response by releasing IgE antibodies which stimulate the release of certain chemicals such as histamines which cause physical symptoms.

The symptoms can be restricted to one area (your digestive system, skin and so on) or the whole body, where the immune system triggers widespread inflammation and swelling – which can result in anaphylaxis and can be deadly. Symptoms usually show up immediately or within the first two hours after eating the problematic food.

The most common food allergens are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

Mild food allergy reactions may involve only a few hives or minor abdominal pain. The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:

  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Hives, itching or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness, light-headedness or fainting

Severe food allergy reactions can lead to anaphylaxis which can cause life-threatening signs and symptoms, including:

  • Constriction and tightening of the airways
  • A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
  • Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness, light-headedness or loss of consciousness

If you think you have a food allergy, you can often get tested free of charge via your GP, but private tests are also available.

Clinical Pearl

One clinical pearl I’m going to share with you is that, if you’re struggling with the symptoms of a true allergy (itchy eyes, swelling and the like), yet testing reveals no problem foods, or the test shows you have low grade reactions to a number of foods, the answer might be in the gut. For example, parasites also cause the body to produce high levels of IgE antibodies, yet these are not often considered by conventional medicine as a potential cause of allergy-like symptoms.

FOOD INTOLERANCES

With food intolerances your immune system isn’t involved and symptoms may not appear until hours or days later.

When a food intolerance exists, the problem is at the level of the digestive system –it can’t digest the food which causes uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. In contrast to a food allergy, a person with a food intolerance can typically eat small amounts of the identified food without experiencing symptoms.

Food intolerances are most commonly due to lactose, gluten, preservatives, additives, histamines in foods, salicylates, fructose, impaired complex carbohydrate digestion (the body’s enzymes simply can’t handle the volume of carbohydrates in the digestive system) and tyramine (common in cured meats, aged cheeses and smoked fish).

They can produce low grade inflammation throughout the body and symptoms that are far ranging, but altogether less dramatic. These can include the following:

  • Weight that won’t shift
  • Bloating
  • Migraines
  • Headaches
  • Coughs (frequent)
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy or overly waxy ears
  • Stomach ache
  • Irritable bowel
  • Hives
  • Fatigue
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Blocked nose
  • Ear Infections
  • Eczema
  • Sinusitis
  • Urticaria
  • Colitis

Why it’s important to deal with Food Intolerances

Although the symptoms might seem less dramatic, it really is worth dealing with food intolerances, especially if you’ve had niggly issues for years. This is because the low-grade inflammation created throughout the body when you’re repeatedly eating foods the body doesn’t like, frequently progress to more problematic issues. ALL chronic disease is caused by low- or high-grade inflammation of one sort or another.

Although you can do your own elimination diet, cutting out foods you suspect you might have a problem with for a period of time, then reintroducing them and seeing what happens, this can be time consuming if you are not entirely sure which foods might be problematic. Testing can help you pinpoint which foods might be problematic for you- this can save a lot of time, remove the stressful guesswork and help prevent the unnecessary exclusion of too many foods.

Intestinal inflammation caused by a food intolerance may also impair your body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals. This can lead to serious nutrient deficiencies down the road.

FOOD SENSITIVITIES

Researchers are finally validating what many of us have known for years: Certain foods just don’t agree with some people. Although food allergies are well-recognized because firm diagnoses can be made through the use of blood tests for the presence of IgE antibodies, food sensitivities fall into a grey area. Experiencing unwanted symptoms after eating certain foods are not as easy to diagnose, but it doesn’t mean that they’re any less real.

Some people can eat tiny amounts of these foods and not always have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they are a lot less severe than allergies but can be just as debilitating and include migraines, brain fog, inflammation, digestive problems, and bloating.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP WITH FOOD ALLERGIES, INTOLERANCES, AND SENSITIVITIES?

The Gut Connection

Studies have increasingly found that food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies are associated with arthritis, autoimmune disease and a leaky gut (or increased intestinal permeability). So it’s important to not just avoid the food in question but to address potential underlying root contributing factors such as leaky gut and inflammation.

It’s not enough to just take the food out and not do anything about it. Because symptoms are another way of your body telling you that your gut needs some TLC to heal, restore and rebalance itself. Without this vital step, no matter how many elimination diets you do, if you don’t work on healing your gut you’ll likely end up fighting symptoms all over again. And also likely to eventually end up with more intolerances and symptoms.

Once you have really healed your gut, you may find that foods that once gave you problems are tolerable again. But it’s important to remember that many of the foods that we become reactive to are inflammatory in nature, so while you may be able to tolerate them, it’s good to eat them in moderation.

Food Allergies

Currently, there is no cure for food allergies themselves. The only way to prevent food allergies reactions is to completely avoid the food you are allergic to. So if you have a food allergy, you will need to avoid the food forever. That’s because part of the immune system works on the basis of memory. In exactly the same way your body remembers its response to, say, the polio vaccination you were given as a child (and can prepare its attack should it come into contact with polio again), it remembers its response to nuts, dairy, or whatever food you’re allergic to. However, making sure the integrity of the gut lining is intact is important to help reduce inflammation associated with food allergies and help prevent further potential complications developing in the long-term.

Food Intolerances

If you have a food intolerance, you don’t necessarily have to remove the food forever, it depends on the underlying cause of the reaction. Digestive support can often help alleviate many symptoms.

Food Sensitivities

Since 80 percent of your immune system is found in your gut, it makes sense that by healing your gut you could reverse sensitivities. Now, that doesn’t mean that every person and every single food sensitivity will be able to be completely eliminated forever—but you don’t have to think of it as a life sentence!

MOVING FORWARD

If you are wondering whether you have a food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity, please do get in touch. I can help by offering a variety of testing options where necessary to help get to the bottom of the problem, and my gut restoring programmes can help bring your body back into balance. Book your free call here: https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=14670092

 

 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

Polycystic (literally, many cysts) ovary syndrome (PCOS or PCO) is a complex condition, characterise by hormonal imbalances that affects the ovaries (the organs in a woman’s body that produce eggs). In PCOS, the ovaries are generally bigger than average. The outer surface of the ovary has an abnormally large number of small follicles (the sac of fluid that grows around the egg under the influence of stimulating hormones from the brain).The ovaries are polycystic, with many small follicles scattered under the surface of the ovary (usually more than 10 or 15 in each ovary) and almost none in the middle of the ovary. In PCOS, these follicles remain immature, never growing to full development or ovulating to produce an egg capable of being fertilised.

This means that ovulation (releasing an egg) may rarely occur and can therefore lead to reduced fertility. In addition, periods may be irregular or absent. Other features include excess weight and body hair.

What are the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

Symptoms that occur if you do not ovulate

  • Absent, irregular or light periods– periods can be as frequent as every five to six weeks, but might only occur once or twice a year, if at all
  • Fertility problems – you need to ovulate to become pregnant. You may not ovulate each month, and some women with PCOS do not ovulate at all. PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility.

Symptoms that can occur if you make too much testosterone (male hormone)

  • increased facial and body hair (hirsutism): usually found under the chin, on the upper lip, forearms, lower legs and on the abdomen (usually a vertical line of hair up to the umbilicus) .This is the only symptom in some cases.
  • Acne: which may persist beyond the normal teenage years.
  • Thinning of scalp hair (similar to male pattern baldness) occurs in some cases .

Other symptoms

  • Being overweight or obese: a common finding in women with PCOS because their body cells are resistant to the sugar-control hormone insulin. This insulin resistance prevents cells using sugar in the blood normally and the sugar is stored as fat instead
  • Miscarriage (sometimes recurrent): one of the hormonal abnormalities in PCOS, a raised level of luteinising hormone (LH – a hormone produced by the brain that affects ovary function), seems to be linked with miscarriage. Women with raised LH have a higher miscarriage rate (65 per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage) compared with those who have normal LH values (around 12 per cent miscarriage rate).
  • Depression or poor self-esteem may develop as a result of the other symptoms.

Diagnosis

At least two of the following occur in PCOS, and often all three:

  • At least 12 follicles (tiny cysts) develop in your ovaries.
  • The balance of hormones that you make in the ovaries is altered. In particular, your ovaries make more testosterone (male hormone) than normal. The main hormones that are made in the ovaries are oestrogen and progesterone – the main female hormones, but the ovaries also normally make small amounts of male hormones (androgens) such as testosterone.
  • You do not ovulate each month. Some women do not ovulate at all. In PCOS, although the ovaries usually have many follicles, they do not develop fully and so ovulation often does not occur. If you do not ovulate then you do not have a period.

Therefore, it is possible to have polycystic ovaries without the typical symptoms that are in the syndrome. It is also possible to have PCOS without multiple cysts in the ovary.

Incidence

PCOS is relatively common among infertile women. If affects up to 10 per cent of all women between the ages of 15 and 50. In the general population, around 25 per cent of women will have polycystic ovaries seen on an ultrasound examination. But most have no other symptoms or signs of PCOS and have no health problems. The ultrasound appearance is also found in up to 14 per cent of women on the oral contraceptive pill.

What causes polycystic ovary syndrome?

The exact cause is not totally clear. Several factors probably play a part. These include the following:

1. A small increase in the amount of insulin and cellular resistance to its actions– insulin is a hormone that you make in your pancreas and its main role is to control your blood sugar level. Insulin acts mainly on fat and muscle cells to stimulate them to take in sugar (glucose) when your blood sugar level rises (as excess levels are toxic to cells). Insulin also stimulates the ovaries to produce testosterone (male hormone).

Women with PCOS have what is called insulin resistance, meaning that cells in the body are resistant to the effect of a normal level of insulin. Thus, more insulin is produced to keep the blood sugar normal.  Raised levels of insulin in the bloodstream are thought to be the main underlying reason why PCOS develops because this causes the ovaries to make too much testosterone. A high level of insulin and testosterone interfere with the normal development of follicles in the ovaries. As a result, many follicles tend to develop but often do not develop fully. This causes problems with ovulation: hence period problems and reduced fertility. Increased testosterone levels in the blood cause excess hair growth on the body and thinning of the scalp hair.
2. Raised luteinising hormone (LH) in the early part of the menstrual cycle- This hormone is made in the pituitary gland and stimulates the ovaries to ovulate and works alongside insulin to promote testosterone production. A high level of LH is found in about 4 in 10 women with PCOS. A high LH level combined with a high insulin level means that the ovaries are likely to produce too much testosterone.

3. Lower amounts of the blood protein that binds to and carries all sex hormones (called sex-hormone-binding globulin)– this  means that testosterone levels are higher and therefore more active. Sex-hormone-binding globulin levels are reduced in insulin resistance (meaning there are high insulin levels).

4. Hereditary factors- one or more genes may make you more prone to developing PCOS. PCOS is not strictly inherited from parents to children, but it may run in some families.

5. Weight– Being overweight or obese is not the underlying cause of PCOS. However, if you are overweight or obese, excess fat can make insulin resistance worse, a contributing factor to PCOS. This may then cause the level of insulin to not only rise even further, but high levels of insulin can contribute to further weight gain, producing a ‘vicious cycle’.

Risk factors for PCOS

  • a tendency in the family towards Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes)
  • a close relative who already has PCOS
  • a tendency towards early baldness in the men in the family (before 30 years of age).

Nutritional and lifestyle approaches to PCOS

Research has shown that weight control improves many aspects of PCOS. Menstrual cycles become more regular, testosterone levels are reduced, fat and sugar metabolism improves, and spontaneous pregnancy may follow. Obese patients do not have to reach the normal body mass index; a weight reduction of even a few percent has clinical benefits. This is because visceral fat (intra-abdominal fat located inside the abdominal cavity, packed between the organs) is metabolically more hormonally active, and weight loss of a few percent is associated with significant loss of visceral fat.

Weight management through nutrition and exercise is now recommended to all overweight/obese women with PCOS (Kovacs 2006).

So, here are some tips to help reduce the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS:

1. Research has shown that fat intake should be restricted to not more than 30% of total calories with a low proportion of saturated fat, which is found mostly in animal products such as meat and dairy. Healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocados, and fish oil, and avocado are important parts of a PCOS–friendly diet however (Farshchi et al 2007).

2. Choose whole grain carbohydrates. The insulin level in your blood goes up after you eat. It increase the most after you eat or drink something that contains carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are found in grains (such as bread, pasta, rice, cereal, and potatoes), vegetables, fruits and drinks such as soda and juice. Even if you eat two foods that have the same amount of carbohydrate, they may have a different effect on your insulin level. This effect has a lot to do with the type of carbohydrate the food has.

Whole grain carbohydrates which contain fibre such as brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, oats, barley, etc. have a low Glycaemic Index (GI). GI is a term used to describe how a food affects blood sugar; the higher a food raises blood sugar, the higher the glycaemic index. The benefit of consuming low GI foods is that it helps keep your insulin level down, and also keeps hunger at bay for longer, thus aiding weight management. Sugary foods or refined grains (such as white bread, white rice and white pasta) on the other hand have a high GI and can cause insulin levels to go up and are also not very filling (which means you may feel hungry again shortly after eating them.

3. Always have some protein with each meal or snack– combining a carbohydrate food with protein lowers the GI because protein slows the release of sugar from foods into the bloodstream. This helps reduce blood sugar spikes and therefore helps prevent high insulin levels. Protein can be found in lean meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, tofu, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds. Try to consume plenty of plant proteins which are often high in fibre and low in fat, rather than just sticking to animal proteins.

4. Have balanced meals containing carbohydrates, protein, and fat – combining foods that contain protein or fat with a carbohydrate will help to slow down the absorption of the carbohydrate and keep insulin levels low. For example, have almond butter or hummus on bread rather than just a piece of bread by itself. A typical plate of food should consist of ¼ carbohydrates, ¼ protein and the remaining ½ plate of vegetables!

5. Have smaller, more frequent meals (every 3-4 hours) to help control blood glucose levels. Your insulin will go up much more if you have 3 cups of pasta than if you have 1 cup of pasta. This means it’s usually better to have small meals and snacks during the day than it is to have fewer really big meals to keep your insulin level lower.

6. Exercise– Research has shown that at least 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity per week for diabetes prevention. This is because exercise helps  your cells become more receptive to the effects of insulin which in turn helps lower insulin levels (Knowler et al 2002).

7. Supplements– there are a number of supplements which can be very helpful to rebalance hormones. Recommendations are based on your individual health profile and are discussed at your visit.

References

Cahill D (2010) Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) last accessed 21.3.2013 online at http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/womenshealth/facts/pcos.htm

Farshchi H Rane A Love A Kennedy RL (2007) Diet and nutrition in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): pointers for nutritional management.  J Obstet Gynaecol 27 8 762-73

Kenny T (2010) Polycystic Ovary Syndrome last accessed 21.3.2013 online at http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Polycystic-Ovary-Syndrome.htm

Knowler WC Barrett-Connor E Fowler SE et al (2002) Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. N Engl J Med 346 393-403

Kovacs P (2006) Viewpoint: Lifestyle Modification is First-Line Treatment for PCOS last accessed 21.3.2013 online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/522390

Mindless Weight Loss

By London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

Introduction

Brian Wansink from Cornell University has spent much of his scientific career trying to understand what influences our food choices. His conclusion is that most of us are unaware of what influences how much we eat. We all think we’re too smart to be tricked by packages, lighting or the size of plates. We might acknowledge that others can be tricked, but not us. Yet every single one of us is influenced by what’s around us when it comes to deciding what and when we will eat.

In other words, we over-eat not because of hunger, but because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colours, shapes and smells, cupboards and containers.

Read on to hear about his fascinating findings from decades of research into behaviour and eating patterns.

Brian Wansink on how to lose weight without thinking about it

The average person makes well over 200 decisions about food every day. Breakfast or no breakfast? Bread, bun or bagel? Part or all of it?

Every time we pass a dish of sweets or open up our desk drawer and see a piece of chewing gum, we make a food decision. Yet we can’t really explain most of these 200-plus decisions. Most of us are blissfully unaware of what influences how much we eat. Because although you can eat too much without knowing it, you can also eat less. Because, let’s face it, the best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on…

Strategy 1- Remove The Mindless Margin

Just ten extra calories a day – one stick of gum or three jelly beans – will make you a pound heavier in a year. And 140 calories a day – or one can of soft drink – will make you put on a stone. And you won’t even notice.

Fortunately, the same thing happens in the opposite direction. This is known as the mindless margin: those few extra calories that you can consume – or not consume – every day that you really don’t notice. By cutting out 100 to 200 calories a day, you can lose weight. That can mean not having one of your daily Starbucks. Or not tucking into a packet of crisps when you get in from work.

Cutting out your favourite foods entirely, however, is a bad idea: you’ll just feel deprived. Cutting down on how much you eat of them, on the other hand, is mindlessly do-able.

Simply dish out 20 per cent less than you think you will want before you start to eat. You probably won’t miss it. For fruit and vegetables, though, think 20 per cent more. If you cut down the pasta you eat by 20 per cent, increase the veggies by 20 per cent.

Strategy 2- See All You Eat

When people put their food on a plate, they eat about 14 per cent less. So instead of eating directly out of a package or box, put everything you want to eat on a plate before you start eating – whether it’s a snack, dinner, ice cream or even crisps. Leave the packaging in the kitchen and eat elsewhere. You’ll also eat less if you are able to see what you’ve already eaten.

Strategy 3– Be Your Own Tablescaper

Continue reading “Mindless Weight Loss”

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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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Nutritional Support for a Healthy Weight & Thyroid

PART 2

by London nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

Hi again! In part 1 of this series on the thyroid we talked about what the thyroid is, how it might be affecting your weight, symptoms of an underactive thyroid and a simple test you can do at home to give you an indication, but no firm diagnosis, as to how well your thyroid is functioning.

In this 2nd part of the series, we’ll look at how you can support optimal thyroid functioning, and therefore optimal weight management, through nutrition.

Foods to help support optimal thyroid functioning

1. Iodine is required to manufacture the thyroid hormones. Without sufficient iodine, your thyroid cannot produce adequate thyroid hormones to help your body function on an optimal level. Seafoods, iodised salt and sea vegetables such as kelp, as well as foods grown in iodine rich soil, are rich sources of iodine. It should be noted, however, that too much iodine can actually trigger thyroid problems and worsen symptoms, so it’s important to have a healthy balance.

2.       Zinc is another essential mineral for optimising thyroid health.

3.      Selenium: This mineral is critical for the proper functioning of your thyroid gland, and is used to produce and regulate the active T3 hormone. Selenium can be found in foods such as shrimp, snapper, tuna, cod, halibut, calf’s liver, button and shitake mushrooms and Brazil nuts.

4.      Zinc, Iron and Copper are needed in trace amounts for your healthy thyroid function. Low levels of zinc have been linked to low levels of TSH, whereas iron deficiency has been linked to decreased thyroid efficiency. Copper is also necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. Seafood, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds can help provide these trace metals in your diet.

5.      B vitamins help to manufacture thyroid hormones and play an important role in healthy thyroid function. They are found in whole grains, pulses and green leafy vegetables. Continue reading “Nutritional Support for a Healthy Weight & Thyroid”

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