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Category: Nutrition

Going back to basics with nutrition.

big green salad

In my conversations with women from all walks of life, I often get asked about food and what to eat.  Not surprising, considering my profession 🙂

 

The question I get asked the most is usually phrased something like this: “what should I eat / what shouldn’t I eat / just tell me what I should be eating!”

 

There are so many different approaches to eating out there that all seem to be ‘the right thing to do’, from veganism to paleo to keto to 5:2 to low-fat to even just the idea of  ‘eating everything in moderation’.

 

No wonder there’s so much confusion about what to eat and what not to eat.

 

Here’s my take on it:

 

There’s no one sized fits all when it comes to nutrition. What works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa.  You know your body best, so it’s important for you to work out what works for you.
 

 

So before you jump into the latest approach to eating that everyone is talking about, there are some principles I’d love for you to consider:
 

1. Eat lots of vegetables every day, especially green leafy and cruciferous vegetables.

 

2. Eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables.

 

3. Drink lots of water.

 

4. Eat and drink fermented foods.

 

5. If you eat fish, eat wild caught fish a few times a week.

 

6. Eat good fats such as avocado, olive oil, oily fish and nuts and seeds.

 

7. Be mindful about the way you eat sugar and drink caffeine and alcohol.

 

8. Eat the highest quality food that’s within your budget, leaning towards free-range, pastured and organic meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables whenever possible.

 

That’s it!

 

Of course it must be said that these principles need to be adjusted to your personal health circumstances and goals.  Broadly speaking, they can act as a good rule of thumb to cut through the confusion.

 

Are you confused about what to eat?  Get in touch for a free 30 minute nutrition, hormone & menstrual health review to help clear the confusion.

 


Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

 

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. 
 

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause.  
 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle! 

How To Manage PMS

 

train in west london

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 grumpy mood.

 

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 2L 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?

 

Do you have PMS? Get in touch for to book a free, no commitment 20 minute health coaching call to find out more about how you can improve your menstrual health & wellbeing.

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How often do you poop?

dino-at-natural-history-museum

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.

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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!

Just eat more vegetables.

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People like shortcuts. Maybe it’s a symptom of our modern world, where we can get pretty much anything we want at the touch of a button.

 

Speaking of shortcuts, I’m often asked by friends, family and colleagues about the fastest ways to get healthy / fit / more energy (delete as appropriate).

 

There are two answers I always give, no matter what their underlying symptoms. Then I ask more questions and give a more detailed, tailored response.

 

The first answer is always – get more sleep or go to bed earlier.

 

I’ve talked about the benefits of sleep before – it regulates your metabolism, allows your various organs to repair and heal and allows your brain to process the events of the day. Don’t give into the current masochism around sleep – most people really need at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night to be fully functional.

 

And then my second answer is always – eat more fresh vegetables, especially green leafy ones.

 

I cannot overstate that vegetables are little nutrition powerhouses! Each vegetable has many individual benefits, with its own mix of macronutrients (protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates) and phytonutrients.

 

The greater the variety in your vegetable intake, the more benefit to you. When in doubt, just eat the rainbow!

 

Ideally, everyone would eat at least 7-10 servings of vegetables a day. I know that’s hard, so  you’ll often hear nutritionists, (including me!) say to prioritise cruciferous / brassica vegetables. You know them as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, kale, brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, radish, bok choy and watercress.

 

Not only are they high in antioxidants like vitamins A and C, they are also high in folic acid and vitamin K and have a huge amount of minerals such as magnesium and potassium.

 

Cruciferous vegetables are also high in phytonutrients like glucosinolates which support your liver in clearing excess hormones, alcohol, xenoestrogens and environmental chemicals.

 

So, adding a big handful of kale to your morning smoothie after a big night out will help your liver clear the alcohol from your system and make your feel better a bit faster!

 

In a nutshell, adding more cruciferous vegetables into your diet can help you boost your energy levels, support your liver, balance your hormones, support your immune system and feed the good bacteria in your gut!

 

There are lots of ways to add cruciferous vegetables to your diet:

Add a big handful of kale to your morning smoothie

Make a big pot of soup with broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower

Make a big a*s salad with loads of different veggies in it

Grate up some cabbage for a coleslaw

Make a big tray of roasted veg

Steam some asparagus and eat them with hummus as a snack

 

How do you eat your veggies?

 

Get in touch for to book a free, no commitment 20 minute health coaching call to find out more about how you can improve your health & wellbeing and reduce your stress.

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Food is food – nutritious, cheap and tasty.

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This week, a prominent doctor in the UK talked about the need to reduce the 5-a-day fruit and vegetable intake recommendation because it was ‘unrealistic’ for low-income families to achieve this. She says that lots of families may struggle to afford the recommended amounts and that “many children are being brought up with a culture of not having any fresh fruits and vegetables at all.”

I was shocked when I read this headline (which was repeated across multiple websites) and decided to dig deeper into the story. What she is actually says, is that “in the consultation with patients, it’s vital that GPs sometimes need to tailor the advice to the family in front of them. That may be starting with one or two portions a day and building up to the five portions a day.”

My frustration with this misleading story (tailored advice is a good thing) reminded me of a quote I recently read in a profile of Jamie Oliver.

“It’s quite British, this association with having any degree of thought or love of food being upper class or middle class or whatever you want to class it up as. That’s not the rest of the world. On my travels, the best food has come from the most economically challenged areas.”

It’s easy to understand why there are such strong class associations with food in the United Kingdom – classism persists across all areas of life. It’s really quite remarkable. Even still, there has been a lot of great work by the likes of Jamie Oliver, Jack Munro and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to make food and food preparation more equalitarian and accessible.

It’s remains true that the more fresh fruit and veg you eat, the better for you.

So here are the million pound questions:

How can we continue to spread the message that eating well needn’t cost a lot?

That it is possible to get your 5 to 7-a-day without breaking the bank?

What role do supermarkets play in this? Schools?

I don’t have all the answers, clearly.

What I know, is that it’s our role as nutritionists and health professionals to present simple, easy to understand messages of food and health to our patients and clients. To teach them tasty and nutritious food can be inexpensive.

This lovely warm chickpea and bacon salad (47p per serving!) is a great example of cheap, tasty and nutritious.

Don’t forget about your gut.

Remember what Hipprocrates said so long ago: All disease begins in the gut.

In our modern world, we’ve forgotten a lot of this and rely on band-aid solutions to get us through whatever ails us.

Our gut and the bacteria within in are so important.  Our gastrointestinal tract has to both absorb nutrients and act as a barrier against foreign organisms and molecules like microbes and allergens, from the day we are born. We need to take care of it!

Did you know?

  • 70% of our immune system is in our digestive tract, so when the gut is unhappy, the rest of the body is unhappy
  • The digestive tract / gut is one long tube that runs from the mouth and runs all the way to the anus
  • Stretched out, the gut would cover a surface of 400 square metres
  • We have over 100 hundred billion bacteria in our gut – more cells than in our body!
  • There are approximately 400 – 500 species of bacteria in the large intestine and 200 species in the oral cavity
  • Bacteria form the basis of our immune system
  • Infants have a special need for stimulation of their gut microbiota because they are born with a sterile intestine – babies that are vaginally born are inoculated with bacteria from their mother’s vagina, whereas c-section babies are inoculated with bacteria from their mother’s skin and the operating room

There are two categories of gut bacteria:

  1. Innate gut bacteria: This is the gut bacteria that we are born with. They help protect us from the time we come out of our mother’s womb. Certain practices such as Caesarean sections, formula feeding and early antibiotic deplete this innate gut bacteria and can lead to some problems in the future, such as frequent illness, skin conditions like eczema and obesity.
  2. Acquired gut bacteria: This is the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) that we start to acquire when we are six months old. GALT is made up of several types of lymphoid tissue that contain immune cells that protect us and are fundamental to our immune system.

Building your child’s gut bacteria with breastfeeding

Breastfeeding and skin to skin contact is the most immediate way of providing your baby with the immune components that help establish and build their gut bacteria, as well as providing protection for their respiratory system and other mucus tissues.

Breastfeeding promotes the growth of beneficial lactic acid bacteria in the baby’s gut flora, which are beneficial to the development of the child’s immune system. The antibodies that are transmitted from the mother through the colostrum have been educated by maternal gut microbes and provide a broad range of immediate protection to the baby.

The friendly bacteria in the gut play multiple roles, including secreting natural antibiotics and competitively inhibiting pathogenic microbes. The more varied the species of bacteria in your gut flora, the more protection you and your baby will receive from them. This protection stays with the baby throughout their life.

If you’re formula feeding, you can give your child’s digestive system an extra boost with probiotic powders or drops, that can be added to their formula. This gives your baby’s gut bacteria the support it needs to develop effectively.

Building your child’s gut bacteria with food 

Once you introduce solid food to your child, it’s important to feed them a nutritious diet, not only to ensure they are receiving the necessary vitamins and minerals to help them grow, but to ensure they continue to be exposed prebiotic and probiotic food that build their gut flora.

Prebiotics are a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.  Probiotics are the good bacteria that come from food and supplements that can support your immune system.

Building your gut bacteria as an adult

Even if you’ve been on loads of course of antibiotics, were born via caesarean section and have been eating a poor quality diet, you can still rebuild your gut bacteria and get your immune and digestive system back in order.

It will take a lot of effort with high strain probiotics and a good quality diet with lots of prebiotic and probiotic foods, but it can be done. And the benefits will be seen very quickly!

What are good prebiotic and probiotic foods? 

Prebiotics: Onions, garlic, bananas, leeks and asparagus are prebiotic foods that you can add to your diet or give to your child, once you’ve established that they are not allergic to any of them.

Probiotics: Fermented foods & drinks like kimchi, sauerkraut & kombucha, coconut kefir and pickles are good options to add into your family’s diet a few times a week. If you’re using store-bought versions of these food and drinks, make sure to read the labels to check for unnecessary extra ingredients like added sugars and preservatives.

Have you taken probiotics or eaten probiotic foods? Have you seen an effect on your gut?

Clean eating? Healthy eating? What about nutritious eating?

hampstead heath

There’s been a lot of chatter in the media this week about the end of ‘clean eating’, with many disavowing this term, saying that it has led to a rise in disordered eating and anorexia.

The denouement of the majority of these pieces tend to call for moderation and for more healthy eating.

I will always applaud anything that helps people get to grips with what and how they eat.

BUT.

It seems to me as health professionals, that we’re suffering from terrible reductionism when it comes to advocating for better quality eating. On one side, there are those that are demonising whole food groups  (i.e. ‘all wheat/sugar/dairy/etc/etc is bad’) and the other side, proclaiming the answer is to simply eat a healthy, balanced diet. Both extremes are very reductionist and don’t offer the nuance that people need. But nuance doesn’t sell newspapers / magazines / books, doesn’t it?

What if you don’t know what eating healthy actually is and what it means for you? What if you’ve picked up the first Deliciously Ella book because everyone was talking about it and you thought it might teach you a few healthy eating tips and tricks? Are you now a part of the clean eating brigade (how I hate that term)?

I’ve discussed this topic before on the blog. The rise of the concept of clean eating isn’t a bad thing. Becoming more aware of what you put into and onto your body is good – we could all benefit from mindfulness when it comes to the way we eat. And with everything, there will always be individuals who have no brakes and take advice and concepts to their limit.

Equally, there will always be charlatans who peddle bad advice. Rather than blame the clean eating bloggers and instagrammers, surely asking people to take some agency around what they put into their bodies isn’t a big ask? Just as we ask people to educate themselves in other areas of their lives (finance is an area that comes to mind), it is not outrageous to expect people to give themselves a broad education into the benefits and drawbacks of the food they feed themselves and their families and to look at what they see on TV and in newspapers and magazines with a critical eye.

I firmly believe that we need to start thinking about food in terms of how nutritious it is. ‘Healthy’ is such a empty, almost meaningless term. Nutritious – the vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats in food – is more meaningful and has tangibles that can be referenced.

And what about flavour? Nutritious and flavourful aren’t mutually exclusive. Just as there’s pleasure in eating rich, indulgent foods, there’s also a lot of pleasure in eating nutritious, flavourful foods. The pleasure of eating these foods should ideally last from the moment of anticipation when you first put it in your mouth through to the lovely feeling of satiety when you’ve finished the meal.

Oh, one last thing. Get rid of the guilt. Enjoy the food you do eat and find pleasure in the making and eating of nutritious, flavourful meals.

Have you tried seed cycling?

sunflower

I first heard about seed cycling a couple years ago on a natural health podcast and found it very intriguing.

 

The basic principle of seed cycling is that it is possible to use the primary micronutrients in a few seeds to help balance female sex hormones.

 

Infertility, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, PMS, acne, fatigue and other problems that have links with the menstrual cycle and female sex hormones are becoming more common.  Some of this is due to lifestyle and diet choices, which for some women can cause sub-clinical deficiencies in zinc, selenium and B vitamins –  some of the key micronutrients that help build female sex hormones.  Adding these micronutrients back in systematically can help restore balance.

 

What are the female sex hormones and why are they important?

If you think back to your biology classes in high school, there are four phases to a woman’s monthly reproductive cycle. At each phase in her cycle, a woman’s body produces different hormones to support the different activities that are happening in her uterus and ovaries.

 

  1. Menstrual phase: Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  2. Pre-ovulatory phase: Estrogen and Luteinising Hormone
  3. Ovulation: Luteining Hormone
  4. Post-ovulatory phase: Progesterone

 

Good, balanced hormone production is important not only for regular menstrual cycles, but only for stress management. Too much estrogen (known as estrogen dominance) and too little estrogen can both be problematic in their own way.

 

Some doctors will prescribe the oral contraceptive hormone as a means of hormone balancing. Before going down that route, there are some natural methods, like seed cycling, to consider.

 

The nitty gritty of seed cycling

You’ll be using flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, all of which have different micronutrients that support hormone production at different phases of the menstrual cycle.

 

Flaxseeds and sesame seeds: Both seeds contain lignans, a polyphenol phytonutrient which can block excess estrogen production in the body.

 

Pumpkin seeds: The zinc in this seed supports progesterone release, which is important for having normal, low pain periods. Zinc also ensures that excess estrogen doesn’t convert to testosterone, which can be very problematic, particularly in PCOS sufferers.

 

Sunflower seeds: The selenium in this seed supports phase 1 liver detoxification (where your liver begins to clear excess estrogen from the body).  Selenium also helps produce glutathione peroxidase, a very powerful antioxidant.

 

How to do it

This can take between 1 and 4 cycles to see an effect, so bear with it. If your cycle is longer or shorter than 28 days, just start the second phase the day you ovulate. Day 1 starts the first day of your period. If you aren’t tracking your cycles already with an app or notebook, I strongly urge you to do so. It’s interesting to look back and see how different events can affect the length and strength of your cycle.

 

Day 1 – 14 (follicular phase): 1 tbsp flax seeds, 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds – these seeds help your liver clear the extra estrogen that can occur during this time of your cycle and the zinc in pumpkin seeds prevent excess testosterone production.

 

Day 15 – 28 (luteal phase): 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp sesame seeds – these seeds are rich in zinc and selenium which help progesterone production during this phase of your cycle. They are also high in essential fatty acids, which help balance progesterone and estrogen and support the cell membrane (outer layer) of your eggs.

 

Take the seeds in the morning if possible, try to get organic seeds and with the flax, try to grind them fresh because the oils in the seeds can go rancid if they’re ground and kept out for too long.

 

There are so many different ways to have the seeds in the morning.

  • Add them to a morning smoothie
  • Mix them up with some organic full fat Greek yoghurt
  • Make an omelette and then sprinkle them over the top
  • Mix them into a morning salad
  • Date balls! Try this recipe and add in the relevant seeds for the respective time in your cycle
  • Or simply take them with some water

Have you tried seed cycling? Did it work for you?

Photo by Unsplash

Stories I loved this week.

I’ve had a little hiatus from the blog. Things were getting on top of me and I needed to stop, have a breather and take stock. It’s important to do that once in a while, don’t you think?

We’ve also been on holiday to Mallorca (one of my favourite places on earth!) and although I came back with a cold, I feel mentally rested and ready to start my final year of my Nutrition degree (this weekend!).

Could you be a fruitarian? I personally couldn’t, but it’s interesting to get a peek into how they rationalise their choice. (Broadly)

How much do celebrities spend on fitness? (Well + Good)

How the sugar industry shifted the blame to fat. (NY Times)

Ketchup chips – any good Canuck will love these. (AV Club)

Great exercise rule – try not to skip two days in a row. (Summer Tomato)

I’ve just bought this cookbook and I’m really enjoying working my way through it. The chickpea pancakes on page 92 are great.

Feeding babies peanuts and eggs can reduce their risk of allergies later in life. This is an update to the previous advice that said that parents should wait to introduce allergenic food. Makes sense, especially based on what we know about the immune system and the role gut bacteria play in digesting food. (JAMA)

How can we create a better food culture in the UK?

camber beach

On our trip to Rye, we ventured over to Camber Beach a few times, excited about the prospect of warm late summer days of sand and surf. It definitely felt weird to be on the beach in England (I grew up with summer holidays visiting grandparents in Bahamas, so summers are permanently associated with lots of sun, sea and fish in my mind), but we loved every second of it. We might even head over to the beach in Cornwall next summer – how daring of us! 😊

The beach was packed both days we were there with lots of families taking advantage of the hot days before kids head back to school. I’ve been pondering how to write the next part of this blog post without judgement, so here goes. It was rather alarming to see how many very overweight toddlers, children and teenagers there were and what their parents were giving them to eat – lots of pop, sweets, cakes and crisps.

It got me thinking about food traditions, cooking and how we can teach our children to cook and eat in nourishing, tasty ways.

It’s no secret that food and nutrition education in England is patchy at best. Jamie Oliver’s programme Jamie’s School Dinners ten years ago put a spotlight on this and a follow up interview last year, he said that one of the reasons this initiative failed is that “in Britain, eating well and feeding your kid right and being aware about food is all considered very posh and middle class, but the reality is that in most of Europe some of the best food comes from the poorest communities.

This makes me really sad. Food and nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated or defined by class. There are amazing food traditions in European countries that are enjoyed by the rich and the poor. The Greek obsession with fresh ingredients and traditional Greek dishes immediately springs to mind.

In the same article, Jamie Oliver then goes on to say, “we need to make fresh food more affordable than processed food because the most at-risk people right now won’t be my kid or yours [speaking of lower income families]”.

And this is the heart of the issue. We have a class-based food culture that is creating an obesity time-bomb.

In England, cooking habits are seemingly not passed on through families like they are in Italy and France and cooking is generally seen as a chore rather than a pleasure. Without this essential skill, families start to over rely on cheap, processed food, ready meals and takeaways to feed themselves. This lack of food knowledge goes on and on through families – children don’t know where their food comes from, can’t identify fruit and vegetables and are overfed and undernourished.

I wish I was exaggerating.

Cooking and eating delicious, nourishing food is such a pleasure, and this pleasure needn’t have any class based connotations.

How can we get people to start taking a long term view on what they eat, realising that the benefits of spending money on fresh food that will make a few meals vs. buying takeaways each night. Enjoying the savings both financially and health wise in growing your own fruit and veg?

I don’t have the answers, but it seems like that part of the solution could be simple food and nutrition education for parents and children –  using so-called pester power in a positive way.

What do you think?

You and your gut.

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What is gut bacteria, the gut microbiome and why are people talking about it so much lately? There has been a huge surge of interest recently, off the back of a lot more research into this area.

Here are some of the key terms that are worth knowing:

1. Gut:  Your gut is your oesophagus, stomach, colon, appendix, large and small intestine. Basically, it’s one long tube that runs from your mouth to your anus.

Did you know that this is where 70% of your immune system is – yes, 70%! You have immune cells in your gut that communicate with other immune cells in your body to make sure things are running properly. If they aren’t, these immune cells will activate cytokines (inflammation markers) to tell the brain and other immune cells that there are suspicious microbes, toxins and food proteins that need to be removed so they don’t go into the blood or the lymph. So if you’re sensitive to gluten and you’ve had some food with gluten in it, the immune cells in your gut will let your brain’s immune cells know that everything isn’t copacetic and something has to be done immediately.

Your gut is also connected to your brain. You know that feeling of butterflies you get in your stomach? That’s your gut  communicating with your brain via the enteric nervous system and the vagus nerve.

2. Enteric Nervous System: Did you know that there is a communication pathway between your gut and your brain? And it’s completely separate to the central nervous system – it acts like a second brain. A second brain! It has a number of functions, including  controlling the signals of fullness that go from your stomach to your brain, how quickly you digest food and even certain emotional responses. Interestingly, the enteric nervous system is also connected to the autonomic nervous system – you know, fight or flight (sympathetic) and rest and relaxation (parasympathetic) – so the way you eat – rushed and on the go vs. relaxed and evenly – can have a real effect on how well you digest your food.

3. Gut Microbiome / Bacteria: This is important. In a nutshell, your gut microbiome is the balance between good and bad bacteria in your stomach, colon, large and small intestine. And not to worry, the good and bad bacteria in your gut are a good thing – there are billions of them and they are part of you! The key is to have a balance of the two, and that the bad don’t dominate the good.  For example, we all have the Streptococcus and H.Pylori bacterium in our guts. They become problematic when there are too many of them.

4. Gut Dysbiosis: This is very common, unfortunately. It’s an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut, in favour of the latter. This isn’t good and can lead to a number of problems, including food intolerances, frequent colds, flu and fatigue, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis and a number of different autoimmune conditions. Gut dysbiosis is commonly caused by antibiotics (which can wipe out all of the good bacteria in the gut), c-sections, formula, artificial sweeteners, stress, too much processed food and a lack of insoluble fibre in the diet.

5. Prebiotics: These are foods that help support the growth of good bacteria in the gut, so   can boost your immune system. Food for your gut bacteria? This is a good thing. Onions, leeks, garlic, asparagus and bananas are all prebiotic foods. Eat them regularly, if you can.

6. Probiotics: Probiotics are another name for the good bacteria that line your gut and something that you want to have a lot of. Most probiotic food is fermented, which makes sense, right? Bacteria aids the fermentation process and you want good bacteria to make this happen. Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, greek yoghurt, kefir, natto (fermented soy beans), unpasteurised cheeses, kombucha and bone broth are all great probiotic foods.

There are also some fantastic probiotic supplements on the market. These can give your gut bacteria a little push if you been on a round of antibiotics or are feeling like your immune system needs some extra support. I really like BioCare and VSL (these are powerful!).

Take care of your gut and it will take care of you!

Photo by Chris Montgomery

Refreshing Strawberry and Mint Ice Lollies

strawberry, raspberry and mint ice lolly

It’s FINALLY summer here in London and I’ve been experimenting with some fun warm weather recipes. You know, the type of food that you want to eat when the temperature rises and you desperately need to cool down.

I made this ice lollies at the weekend in less than 10 minutes (not including freezing time!) and they went down a treat.

What you need:

1 cup strawberries, washed and hulled

1/2 cup raspberries, washed

150ml coconut water (I like Rebel Kitchen)

3 medium-sized fresh mint leaves, chopped (You can use 1/2 teaspoon of dried mint if you don’t have any fresh mint)

Ice lolly moulds

A freezer (!)

strawberry ice lollies about to go into freezer

How to make it:

  1. Wash and hull your strawberries, then drop them into your blender cup. I use my Nutribullet for this, but a hand blender or Magimix would work just as well.
  2. Add the washed raspberries.
  3. Pour in the coconut water.
  4. Add the fresh mint.
  5. Blend until strawberries and raspberries are smooth.
  6. Pour into your ice lolly moulds and freeze. Depending on how cold and full your freeze is, the lollies will be ready in about 2-4 hours.
  7. Save the leftover mixture for more lollies or use it in your morning smoothie!
  8. Enjoy!

End of (school) year reflections.

reflections

I’ve reached the end of my second year of my nutrition studies and I’ve had a few weeks to pause and take stock of the past year.

It’s been a really full on time, between working, studying, being a mother and wife and having a semblance of a social life. I’ve been juggling quite a few balls (and have dropped a few), but I’ve found an (im)balance that’s worked for me.

After two years of nutrition study, I’m even more sure that I’ve found ‘my calling’. That sounds corny, doesn’t it? But it’s so true.

I’ve found the lectures fascinating, learning about everything from phytonutrients to energy metabolism to supplements. And the practical element has been even better, seeing in clinic how proper nutrition and supplementation can have such a powerful effect on clients. It’s hard work, but I love it and am so excited to dive into a field that’s changing so much. To think that just ten years ago, we didn’t know much about the gut microbiome – what will we discover in the next ten years?

So what’s next?

Next year, we go deeper into specific topics such as nutrigenomics, women’s health, detoxification organs and support methods, amongst others. And we get closer to clients in clinic, with the expectation that by the end of the year, we’ll be able to run a clinic ourselves and give clients relevant, tailored and practical recommendations.

And I work out what I want to specialise in. Right now, I’m leaning towards women’s health, with a focus on pre and post natal mothers, as well as working with women who’ve suffered from miscarriages. This is such a rich area, where certainly in London, women don’t get the support they need and deserve.

Here’s to a great summer and a new school year with lots of growth and learning!

Photo by Paul Gilmore

Simple Baked Wild Salmon and Vegetables

bakedwildsalmon

I threw this together early this week after a long day of clinics when I knew we needed to eat well and I couldn’t justify the expense (both caloric and monetary) of ordering in.

From start to finish, the meal took me 30 minutes, including cooking time. Simple, but so rewarding AND filling.

Definitely one to keep in mind for those days where you really can’t be bothered to cooked anything elaborate or simply haven’t got your meal prep right for the week.

What you need:

Salmon fillets, preferably wild – 1 per person

1 lemon, cut in half

Any vegetables with a short cooking time – courgette, asparagus, tomatoes, aubergine, broccoli or broad beans would work well here

Greens – spinach, watercress or wild leaves would work well

2 – 3 tbsp olive oil

Greaseproof paper

Salt & pepper

bakedwildsalmonandveg

How to make it:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 190C.
  2. Line a baking tray with enough greaseproof paper to cover, but not hang over the sides.
  3. Oil the paper with 1 tbsp olive oil.
  4. Place the wild salmon fillets on the tray and squeeze the juice of half the lemon over them. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add your choice of vegetables on to the rest of the tray. I chose asparagus with the woody ends chopped off and halved plum tomatoes.
  6. Pour the rest of the olive oil over your vegetables.
  7. Slice the other half of the lemon and pop the slices onto the salmon to garnish.
  8. Put the tray into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked inside.
  9. Serve with chopped greens – I opted for spinach.
  10. Enjoy!

bakedwildsalmondinner

Lemon, Ginger and Oil of Oregano Cold Remedy

lemons and grapefruit

As you can probably imagine, I’m not a huge fan of off the shelf cold remedies you might find in your local Boots or Superdrug. I always prefer a natural remedy whenever possible.

 

A few weeks ago when I was fighting a little cold, I bought a few turmeric tonic shots from my local Planet Organic. As effective as they are, they can be rather pricey at £3.50+ for a 50ml bottle.

 

 

Here’s my recipe for a quick little homemade tonic that will help boost your immune system and help those natural killer cells do their job of getting rid of bad bacteria and pathogens.

 

I’ve included a good dose of ginger for the lovely zing and the zinc, a mineral that is better at boosting the immune system than vitamin C. The turmeric in the recipe is packed with curcumin, an phytonutrient that has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

 

Oil of oregano is an incredibly powerful antioxidant, with important antiviral, anti fungal and antimicrobial properties through carvacrol and thymol, its active ingredients. I get my oil of oregano from Zane Hellas, a reputable Greek company. If you use oil of oregano, do not give this to children, as they cannot ingest essential oils.

 

What you need: (makes 2-3 servings)

1-2 lemons, cut in half and juiced

1/2 thumb fresh ginger, roughly chopped

1/2 thumb fresh turmeric, roughly chopped

a dash of cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon coconut oil

3-4 drops of oil of oregano

20 – 30mL water to dilute the mixture, depending on preferred strength and taste (for me, the stronger the better!)

 

How to make it: 

  1. Juice the lemons into a cup, using a strainer to catch the seeds. I go old school and do it by hand.  Remove the seeds and add the pulp back into the mixture.
  2. Add the ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, coconut oil, oil of oregano and water
  3. Blend for 30 seconds, or until the turmeric and ginger are not longer visible
  4. Pour half of the mixture into a cup and down the hatch!
  5. Store the rest in a glass container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

What are your  cold remedies? I’d love to hear what your tried and true recipes and tricks are!

 

Are you the kind of person that gets sick more often than others? Your immune system could likely use some support. Maybe there is an underlying issue, especially if you also have asthma, eczema or allergies. Is this you? I invite you to book in for a free introductory session with me to talk through your health and wellbeing.

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