Conventional wisdom suggests that we should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, or about 1.5 – 2L. How much water do you drink a day? For a lot of people, even drinking a litre of water a day is tricky. When I […]
This isn’t a trick question! The NHS recommend at least 5 portions of fruit and veg per day and a recent study by Imperial College London went all the way up to 10 portions per day. Does that sound like a lot? Let’s put in […]
Do you dread the week before your period? How much do you dread it?
I used to count down the days, waiting for the familiar aches in my back, bloated belly and throughly grumpymood.
I used to think all women suffered this way and that PMS was just a part of life that I had to accept.
I’m now here to assure you that it doesn’t need to be this way. You don’t need to suffer through your periods or the week before your period.
Here what I did:
1. Cycle monitoring: I started to monitor my cycle by using a menstrual cycle tracking app to better understand my cycle and what symptoms I was experiencing at certain points in my cycle.
2. More anti-inflammatory foods: I increased the anti-inflammatory foods in my diet: fresh turmeric, fresh ginger, citrus fruit, wild salmon and at least 1L of water per day.
3. More vegetables, a bit more fruit: I gave myself the goal of eating at least 10 servings of vegetables and fruit a day – 7 portions of vegetables and 3 portions of fruit.
4. Sleep, sleep, sleep: I tried to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The more sleep you get, the better your body responds to insulin and the better your energy levels.
5. Less sugar, less alcohol: Excess sugar and alcohol create inflammation in the body (NB: inflammation is when your immune system over responds and remains switched on, usually due to an external stimulus) and inflammation drives many PMS symptoms.
6. Get moving: Light exercise, such as yoga, stretching, pilates and walking will reduce cortisol, the stress hormone and produce endorphins, one of the feel good hormones. Keeping cortisol at bay is really important because it can be a driver of inflammation. I tried to take at 8,000 – 10,000 steps a day in active walking and latent movement (you’d be surprised how much running you do when you’re chasing a three year old around the house!).
7. Support the liver: The liver is your body’s tool for detoxifying – it’s very important for women because your body uses the liver to break down oestrogen to a less potent form so it can be excreted in your daily bowel movement. I added lots of green, leafy vegetables, broccoli and cauliflower to my diet as these have compounds that support the liver’s detoxification process.
8. Poop everyday: Adding in fruit, veg and lots of water made sure I was able to have a bowel movement every morning, which is really important because this is the way the body gets rid of excess estrogen after it gets metabolised by the liver. Too much oestrogen can be a driver of PMS symptoms.
Have you tried any of these tips to manage your PMS? What’s worked for you?
It goes without saying, but of course I’ll say it anyway: Everyone’s anxiety manifests in different ways and you might be that unicorn that reads this and says, eh, this isn’t relevant to me. Great! I applaud you!
For everyone else: let’s have a good chat about alcohol and anxiety.
Are you like me and had to learn the hard way about the effects of alcohol on your anxiety? Or are you still in the mindset of “oh, it’s just a few drinks. I’ll be fine”. Then you wake up the next day with the fear, which you call a ‘hangover’. And the ‘fear’ lasts a few more days than you thought it would. Or you drink a couple days in a row because you feel fine after the first night, but then feel dreadful after the second. Whatever your relationship is with alcohol, there’s a strong connection between what alcohol does to your body and anxiety.
The way we tend to (binge) drink in the UK exacerbates anxiety as a growing public health issue. Did you know that in the UK, 1 in 6 adults have experienced some sort of neurotic health problem in the past week? And many people turn to drink to help them deal with their anxiety, which creates a vicious cycle of worsening anxiety, which for some people, requires more alcohol to cope with.
Let’s get technical for a second: alcohol depletes the body of vitamin B6, a micronutrient that is very important for the production of serotonin, the happy hormone that helps regulate our moods and keeps us on an even keel.
Weekend binge drinking, the glass or two of wine every night, the 3 or 4 beers after the footy, all deplete vitamin B6. This depletion has an impact on serotonin production. And here’s the thing: when you produce less serotonin, your body downregulates its production, because it thinks you don’t need as much. Which creates a vicious cycle, which gets worse the more you drink.
So what can you do?
Let me go ahead and state the obvious: if your anxiety is crippling, just don’t drink. I’ve been trying this recently, it has helped a lot. If that’s not an option, drink less and don’t binge drink.
Eat vitamin B6 foods. B6 is a water soluble vitamin, which means it gets flushed quickly from the body, so you need to continually top up your reserves. Having these foods on a regular basis is a great way to top up your vitamin B6 levels: organic, grass fed red meat, spinach, sweet potato, free-range organic chicken, bananas, avocados, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.
Eat tryptophan foods. Almonds, free-range, organic poultry, wild salmon, organic, free-range dairy, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds all contain high levels of tryptophan. Notice the crossover between these foods and vitamin B6 foods?
Find alcohol alternatives so you can still be apart of the round. Seedlip is a great brand that recently launched in the UK.
Explain to your friends why you’re not drinking and ask for their support on nights out. And real talk: If they don’t get it, are they really a friend?
How has alcohol affected your anxiety?
In my usual pre-flight mad dash through the airport, I did a sweep of WH Smith for my standard holiday pile of magazines (I find reading fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar so relaxing on holiday! I don’t really know why, though? 🤔) and […]
I’ve written a bit about anxiety on the blog before, but never really told my own story. Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, here in the UK, it’s time for me to share.
I recently ‘outed’ myself in a consultation with a friend at nutrition school.
She asked to describe how I felt when I felt anxious.
I described a fist clenching, gut wrenching experience, at its worst. A feeling that makes it necessary to prep myself for everyday situations, such as meeting new people, meeting new friends of friends. A feeling that makes it necessary to give myself pep talks to get through situations I would ordinarily be able to manage. A feeling that makes everyday situations seem insurmountable.
I don’t have anxiety, everyday, all day. It’s at its worst when I’m not taking care of myself, when I’m drinking too much, not getting enough sleep, indulging in all of my food cravings. It’s during these times, my anxiety gets better of me and I go into crisis mode.
Over the years, I’ve learnt how to manage it. Eating well and getting enough sleep are key. Eating well to me, means eating at least 7 servings a day of vegetables (especially green leafy and cruciferous veg!) and fruit, adding in some nuts and seeds in different forms, getting good quality protein, mainly meat and some fish. It also means not having much sugar and drinking lots of water, some kombucha and lovely, warming herbal teas.
I’ve discovered recently that alcohol exacerbates my anxiety. Which makes sense, knowing that alcohol depletes vitamin B6, a key vitamin for the production of serotonin, the feel good hormone. I was sad to say goodbye to my evening glass of red wine, but even happier to spend the day on an even keen mentally.
How you manage your anxiety? The more I research, the more I discover. There are so many different tools that folks tend to use, from deep breathing techniques, to CBT, to adding and subtracting food to and from their diet, to taking various supplements.
I supplement with a good women’s multivitamin, an omega-3 fish oil with a good DHA to EPA ratio and magnesium, which helps me relax and ‘unclench’ a little. On the advice of a collegue at school, I’ve recently started supplementing with inositol, a substance produced by plants and animals, that belongs in the B family of vitamins. It helps mood regulation and can reduce anxiety.
Fingers crossed, my cobbled together approach seems to be working well so far. What do you do to manage your anxiety on a day to day basis?
I haven’t felt like writing much about food and nutrition recently. There’s been a lot going on, personally and professionally. New job, a heavier course load at school and loads of political distraction (every morning, I wake up and think, ‘what now?’. Don’t you?). It’s […]
Have you ever done a dry January?
After a heavy November and December, I decided that I needed to give my body a break and get on the wagon for a month. And what better month than January, when everyone’s skint, partied out and needing a bit more time at home.
I also needed to regulate my relationship with alcohol. It’s easy, especially with the UK drinking culture and in a hectic city like London, to use alcohol to relax and let a quick drink after work turn into 3 or 4. Knowing everything I know about the effects alcohol has on the body, it was time to put all of my knowledge into practice for myself. Alcohol is a tricky one for the body – it depletes your B vitamins, which can lead to anxiety and depression, it puts stress on your liver and diverts it from other, more important functions and it can lead to weight gain, poor sleep, spotty skin and dehydration. I decided it was time to take the advice I give to clients in clinic and get a grip on my alcohol intake.
On New Year’s Eve, I drained my last glass of champagne and rang in the new year, ready to kick booze to the curb for a while.
The first few days were hard. No glass of wine at lunch, no cold and crisp G&T while watching TV on the sofa in the evenings. But this was where the foundations for all the hard work of the next month started – breaking the little habits that I had developed and putting better ones in place.
I replaced my red wine and G&Ts with lots of warming cinnamon tea in the evening and sparkling water at lunchtimes. I asked M not to offer me any drinks (except tea or water) in the evenings. I talked about my dry January with my mates, so they knew what I was doing and changed plans to lunch and coffee dates, rather than evening meals, so I wouldn’t be tempted.
By weeks 2 and 3, I started to get in the groove and was enjoying waking up without a hangover and fuzzy brain. My skin was clearer and my jeans a little looser. And the biggest plus? My anxiety levels rapidly decreased.
Last Tuesday 31st January felt great. 31 days without alcohol, a clearer head, deeper sleep at night, more money in my bank account and less anxiety. I decided to carry on through to the end of February, as I have a big nutrition exam at the beginning of March and need all the focus I can get.
What comes after that? I’m not sure. I’d love to be able to get to a place that where I can have one drink and have that be enough. Any advice?
Seriously though. I know people get touchy about this subject, but let’s all be grown ups and have some real talk about the importance of regular bowel movements.
A lecturer recently mentioned that the optimum number is three – once after every meal! Ideally, you should poop at least once a day. Yep. Once a day. I know a lot of people say once every few days is fine, but really, for your body to do what it needs to do, you need to poop once a day at the very minimum.
Why once a day, you ask? Well, healthy bowel movements, far from being an irritation, are a sign that your body is getting rid of what it needs to. Bowel movements are connected to proper detoxification function in the body and mean that your body is excreting excess hormones (i.e. oestrogen, testosterone, thyroid hormone, etc), toxins (i.e. nicotine, xenoestrogens, carcinogens, insecticides, etc), pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, excess fats and sugars.
For women, this is very important as regular bowel movements are linked to proper estrogen clearance. Improper estrogen clearance can lead to estrogen dominance, mood swings, heavier periods, PMS, weight gain around the middle and fatigue, amongst other symptoms.
So what do healthy bowel movements look like? In clinic, we refer to something called the Bristol Stool Chart, with type 3, 4 and 5 stools as the ideal bowel movements.
Type 1 and 2 can indicate constipation and dehydration and type 6 and 7 can indicate diarrhoea and fat malabsorption. NB: please see a doctor if you ever spot blood or mucus in your stool.
What if you don’t have healthy, regular bowel movements? If you are not suffering from diarrhoea, there are two immediate fixes I would always suggest:
1. Increase your water intake to around 1.5 – 2L per day.
2. Increase your vegetable intake, ideally green leafy veg, consumed in their whole form, not juiced. Try to have at least 5-7 servings of a wide range of vegetables a day. If that’s not possible, try to have a big salad with lots of leafy greens for either lunch or dinner.
I would also recommend increasing the amount of fermented foods in your diets – foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, natto, miso and kombucha. These foods feed the good bacteria in your gut, support digestion of large carbohydrates and boost your immune system. A happy gut = happy bowels!