World Chocolate Day

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Today is World Chocolate Day. Chocolate has become a staple “naughty” treat but are there any benefits? While milk chocolate varieties are high in sugar and fat, dark chocolate could have a beneficial effect on our health. Here are my facts on this sweet treat:

Chocolate is very nutritious

Despite it’s bad rep, dark chocolate contains a lot of nutrients. In particular:

  • Soluble fibre
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Phospherus
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

It contains antioxidants

When certain types of oxygen molecules are able to move freely around our bodies, they can cause oxidative damage and form free radicals. This can wreak havoc on our bodies. This effect can often be caused by poor nutrition, toxin exposure, etc.

Antioxidants inhibit oxidation. Dark chocolate contains high amounts of two groups of antioxidants called flavonoids and polyphenyols giving you a fighting chance against the damage of oxidation.

It may help to prevent some diseases

Bold claims, I know. Some studies claim that the nutrients found in dark chocolate may help to promote better blood flow throughout the body therefore, increasing heart health. It’s also been said that the antioxidants in dark chocolate may help to boost the immune system.

It can boost your mood

Studies have revealed that dark chocolate contains phenethylamine which is a compound that releases endorphins. Endorphins can enhance our moods and make us feel happier.

 

The bottom line is that while dark chocolate has been shown to have some benefits for our health, it does not mean we can eat large amounts everyday. Stick to a couple of squares of chocolate and opt for dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content over milk or white chocolate.

How to read food labels

The world of food shopping can feel overwhelming sometimes. With the amount of different choices out there to suit different diets and different ideas about what is healthy (i.e. low fat), it can be hard for us to decide what we should be buying – and that’s without delving into the long ingredients list and the confusing nutrition information table.

I have put together my little guide to reading food labels to help you make the best choices in your food shop:

Ingredients list:

Legally, each food item must include a list of all the ingredients used to make the product. This will usually be located at the back of the box or packaging.

Ideally, you would want to to pick products that have the least ingredients. This means that they will have less additives and preservatives added to them and are more likely to be in a more natural state (depending on the type of product). For example, you want a tin of chickpeas to just contain chickpeas in the ingredients (and water if they are chickpeas in water) rather than containing lots of additives and preservatives.

Following on from that last point, I follow a basic rule that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the list, most of the time it is an additive or preservative so best to avoid (or at least minimize how often you have it).

Usually, ingredients will be listed in order of quantity with the ingredient that makes up the largest amount of the product being the first one listed. I often look at the ingredients of a product to see if it contains any sugar and see how far up it is on the list. If you see the word “sugar” – plain and simple – in the list, it is added sugar which can cause problems for our blood sugars and our waist lines. If sugar is listed high up on the list, that product will contain a lot of sugar so should be avoided on a regular basis.

Another note on sugar; educate yourself on the different names for this sweet substance. These include:

  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Syrup
  • Nectar
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Anything ending in ‘ose’ e.g. fructose, glucose, dextrose and maltose

Bear in mind that sugars that come from natural sources are less of a problem than added sugars.

Nutrition Information

Also on a package, you will find the nutritional breakdown of the food item which details the amounts of calories, carbohydrate, protein, fat and often vitamins and minerals in grams.

In some cases, this table will use the traffic light system. This is a system using the colours green, orange and red to inform consumers whether a product contains too much of something. For example, if a packet of biscuits shows a red colour on the sugar section of the nutritional information table, that means there is more sugar than the daily recommended amount for us. Food with red colours on nutrients such as sugar, saturated fat and salt should be kept to a minimum. Orange colours are moderate so should be used sparingly while green is low so these are the best choices. This colour code makes reading food labels and making the right choices much easier for consumers.

For those nutrition labels that don’t use the traffic light system, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Sugar:

  • Good= 5g or less per 100g
  • Moderate= More than 5g but less than 22.5g per 100g
  • Too much= More than 22.5g per 100g

Fat and Saturated Fat:

  • Low fat= 3g or less per 100g
  • High fat= 17.5g or more per 100g
  • Low saturated fat= 1.5g or less per 100g
  • High saturated fat= 5g or more per 100g

Remember that not all fat is bad. Saturated fat (which comes from processed foods and fatty meat) is the one that you do not want to overdo whereas unsaturated fat (which comes from nuts, seeds and avocado) is better for us so my advise is to concentrate on lowering saturated fat rather than cutting out fat completely.

It’s also worth noting that just because something is labelled as low fat, it does not mean it’s healthy. Many low fat products such as yoghurts (particularly flavoured ones) will have added sugar to help improve the taste lost from lowering the fat content. If you do opt for a lower fat product, be sure to check the sugar content to ensure meets the guidelines stated above.

Salt:

  • Low salt: 0.3g or less per 100g (or 0.1g/100mg sodium)
  • High salt: 1.5g or more per 100g (or 0.6g/600mg sodium)

Please be aware that some products will list sodium rather than salt. To work out the salt content from sodium, you need to multiply the sodium amount by 2.5.

You want to aim to consume no more than 6g of salt per day.

Added vitamins and minerals:

Many products such as fortified cereals, dairy free milks and dairy free yoghurts will have added vitamins and minerals such as calcium and B vitamins. These are good products to opt for particularly if you avoid dairy products because you’re vegan or have a dairy or lactose allergy or intolerance. Keep an eye on the front and back of the product to see if a product adds these little extras.

 

I hope this little guide helps you to make more informed choices on your food shop.

Beat the Bloat

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It’s something that many of us deal with and struggle with … Yes, the dreaded bloating. But what is bloating and how can we deal with it? My blog today will discuss this.

What is bloating?

Abdominal bloating is caused by excess gas stored around the abdomen causing feelings of fullness and possibly a distended stomach. It can cause sufferers to feel discomfort because of the built up gas but also feelings of self-consciousness because of the look of the stomach.

What causes a bloated stomach?

There are lots of things that can cause bloating. These can include:

  • Gassy foods such as beans and certain vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage
  • Food intolerances such as lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance
  • Changes to your diet
  • Swallowing air
  • Medication
  • Food supplements such as iron and magnesium
  • Stress

Sometimes, bloating can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. These include:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diverticular Disease
  • Coeliac Disease
  • Gastritis
  • Cancers such as ovarian and colon
  • Premenstrual Syndrome

But don’t panic. Often bloating is related to lifestyle factors so can be managed.

My Top Tips to Manage Bloating

Identify any triggers

This can be food triggers or lifestyle triggers. Keep a diary of when you bloat and what you ate, what you were doing and how you were feeling around the time of the bloating. This will help you to narrow down factors and pinpoint the cause(s).

Try an elimination diet

If you find that your bloating seems to centre around meal times, it may benefit you to try an elimination diet. This is when you cut out a certain food for a period of time (usually 2-4 weeks) to see if there is a reduction in symptoms. You will then re-introduce this food to see if your symptoms return. This is the main way of determining whether you have a sensitivity or intolerance to certain foods. This is a process I went through myself. My bloating was constant and horrendous until I eliminated gluten in the elimination diet. It can take a while as you should eliminate and re-introduce foods one at a time. It is best to do this under the guidance of a dietician or nutritionist.

You could also consider the FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. They are a group of simple and complex carbohydrates that some people find difficult to digest. It is often recommended to people suffering from IBS to try and figure out their triggers. You can discuss the use of this diet with a dietician or nutritionist.

Monitor your supplements

If you take supplements to boost your nutritional needs, keep an eye to see if your bloating occurs around the time of taking them. Some nutrients taken in supplement form can be a struggle for us to digest. I personally find magnesium in supplement form gives me cramping and bloating. Some nutrients are available in oral spray or transdermal spray form which is meant to avoid the stomach and be absorbed straight into the blood stream. It may also be worth visiting a dietician or nutritionist to see if you need all these extra supplements and whether you are getting enough from your food.

Try stress relief techniques

Stress is a big cause of digestive issues and bloating. The theory is that when we experience stress and anxiety, our body goes into “Fight or Flight” mode which stops our body from digesting food properly until it reaches a state of “Rest and Digest”. So, it is important we implement some stress relieving techniques into our daily lives. These can include:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise (e.g. yoga)
  • Colouring books
  • A warm bath
  • A therapeutic or aromatherapy massage
  • Reading a book
  • Listening to music

Sit down to eat your food and eat slowly

Eating on the go can make it difficult for our bodies to fully digest the food we eat causing us to bloat. Aim to sit down while eating your food then go for a walk afterwards to aid digestion. Take your time eating. Rushing a meal can cause you to swallow excess air while taking bites causing bloating. A simple trick is to not put another piece of food onto your fork until you have swallowed the bite you are currently chewing.

Exercise

Exercise can greatly improve our digestion and associated issues. Yoga is particularly helpful when suffering from bloating as you bend into shapes that can help relieve trapped wind. Make sure you allow an hour in between eating to prevent indigestion.

Try a soothing tea

There are lots of teas out there that can help sooth a bloated stomach. I like to start my day with a mixture of hot water and juice from a squeezed lemon as it is said to help stimulate the digestive system, especially if you have it first thing in the morning before eating breakfast. Peppermint and camomile teas are also supposed to be helpful in soothing a bloated tum.

Go see a doctor if you’re concerned

As I said, most of the time, bloating isn’t something to be concerned about and can be managed with lifestyle changes. However, if you notice other symptoms such as diarrhoea, blood in your stools or diarrhoea, weight loss, etc. you should go see your GP to get blood tests and possibly a referral for further testing.

I hope my little tips can help you and your tum live a happier life

Iodine

When you think of important minerals, what is the first to spring to mind? Calcium? Iron? One mineral that is often neglected is Iodine.

What is Iodine?

Iodine is needed to support your thyroid. It is specifically important for the production of thyroid hormone which helps to support our metabolism, growth and development and development of a baby’s brain during pregnancy and early life.

Here in the UK, research has shown there is a mild deficiency amongst girls and women. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), adults require 150mcg per day while pregnant and breastfeeding women require 200mcg.

What are the risks of Iodine Deficiency?

A deficiency over a long period of time can mean that the thyroid has to work harder to be able to produce the adequate amounts of thyroid hormone in the blood. Have you ever seen someone with a large lump in their throat? This is a goitre. It is caused by the thyroid increasing in size to trap Iodine.

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Other risks include:

  • Thyroid disease, particularly Hypothyroidism (symptoms include weight gain, fatigue and muscle aches)
  • Lowered brain development in babies
  • Pregnancy complications (e.g. miscarriage and infertility)

How do I get more Iodine in my diet?

Iodine is found in a number of different foods. In this week’s episode of Trust Me: I’m a Doctor, Dr Michael Mosley teamed up with Dr Emilie Combert from the University of Glasgow to conduct an experiment to see what is the best source of Iodine. Three groups of volunteers ate either milk, white fish or seaweed. These are the most known sources of Iodine. They then collected their urine over the next 36 hours to be tested to see how much Iodine is extracted. The results showed that while all three foods are good sources of Iodine, our bodies seem more capable of extracting more Iodine from white fish and milk compared to seaweed.

Other sources include:

  • “Iodised” salt (table salt with added Iodine)
  • Other dairy products (yoghurt and cheese)
  • Other types of fish and shellfish (haddock and scampi)
  • Eggs
  • Meat/poultry
  • Bread
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Navy beans

Of course, the levels of Iodine in each food differs so some foods are higher than others.

Is there a risk of too much Iodine?

Getting too much Iodine in the diet can be just as bad as not getting enough. Too much Iodine can cause damage to the thyroid which may result in some of the same problems caused by Iodine deficiency.

If you are unsure about your Iodine levels, get them tested by a GP or Nutritionist and seek their advice on how much you should be having and how best to get it.

What’s Happening In January?

With a new year comes resolutions. For many of us, we decide January is the time to make changes to our lifestyles whether that be food, drink or other lifestyle factors. This January, there are two charity pledges looking to make us healthier and happier:

Veganuary

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Veganuary is a campaign that was launched in 2014 and encourages people to try going vegan for 31 days. By signing up to the pledge, you will be given tips on how to eat as a vegan without suffering from nutritional deficiencies. These are the reasons they give to try the vegan diet:

  • To prevent animal suffering
  • To help combat health problems
  • To help protect our planet

If you choose to take on the Veganuary pledge, here are my top tips:

  • Fill your plate with lots of colourful fruits and vegetables
  • Make sure you are getting protein. These can come from nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, legumes and lentils. Many vegetables also contain small amounts of protein
  • Ensure you’re getting your essential nutrients that you may be at risk of missing out on:
    • Vitamin B12 – Can be found in fortified products such as cereals, milk alternatives and nutritional yeast (marmite)
    • Vitamin D – Our main source is sunlight
    • Vitamin A – Found in carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, cantaloupe and kale
    • Iodine – Found in seaweed
    • Iron – Found in leafy green veg, dark chocolate, sweet potatoes, peas, tofu, dried fruit, beans and pumpkin seeds
    • Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids – Found in flaxseeds, nuts, chia seeds and sunflower oil
    • Selenium – Found in Brazil nuts
    • Zinc – Found in legumes, nuts, seeds, oats and leafy green veg
  • You may need to supplement some nutrients but always get the advice of a dietician or nutritionist
  • Search for recipes to get some ideas

For more information and advice, go to veganuary.com

Dry January

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The Dry January campaign originated in 2012 and involves giving up alcohol for 31 days. The benefits according to Alcohol Concern include:

  • It enables you to take control of your relationship with alcohol
  • Makes you think about why you drink alcohol and how you can reduce it in the future
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Helps you lose weight
  • Help to improve your skin
  • Saves you money
  • Helps you feel a sense of achievement

If you sign up for the campaign, you will receive support and advice and you will have access to an app which will allow you to track the month.

For more information and advice, go to alcoholcondern.org.uk/dry-january

 

So, will you be taking on any of these campaigns or do you have a resolution of your own this January?

What’s the Best Milk Alternative?

Many of us are deciding to give up cow’s milk. This could be because of allergies, intolerances or moving towards a vegan diet. Luckily, these days there’s a large variety of plant-based alternative milk products available in our supermarkets, but what type is best?

Cow’s Milk

Let’s first take a look at cow’s milk. It is widely available in supermarket shops and comes in three varieties – full fat, semi-skimmed and skimmed. Cow’s milk is a well-known source of calcium and protein as well as vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, iodine and vitamin B12. Cow’s milk is not suitable for anyone with a dairy or lactose allergy or intolerance and reduction may be recommended for people suffering from skin conditions such as eczema (always seek advice of a dietician or nutritionist).

Soya Milk

Soya milk is made from hulled soya beans. It is close nutritionally to cow’s milk in terms of macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat – however, it tends to be lower in calcium, iodine and B vitamins. Many varieties are fortified with these micronutrients so these are the best types to go for. This type of milk tends to be sweeter because it comes from a plant source so you don’t normally need to add extra sugar or sweetener. Soya milk is not suitable for anyone with a soya allergy or intolerance but is perfect for anyone who struggles with dairy. Soya milk is very versatile and can be added to tea, smoothies and cereal.

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds which are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and other nutrients. However, experts warn that the process of making hemp seeds into milk can strip many of the essential nutrients so it is best to find a fortified version. It does, however, contain high levels of protein and more essential fatty acids than soya milk. The good fats in hemp milk can help boost our cardiovascular health. Hemp is suitable for anyone with dairy or soya allergies or intolerances. Hemp milk can add a sweet nutty taste to tea or baking.

Oat Milk

Oat milk is made from oats which contains beta-glucan – this contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. Oat milk naturally contains more B vitamins than soya milk and coconut milk but has lower levels of protein and other vitamins and minerals. While it is suitable for people with milk or soya issues, it may not be suitable for people with gluten allergies or intolerances or celiac disease. It’s good added to your baked goods.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is made from almonds which contains high levels of protein, fats and flavonoids. However, most almond milks are made with only 2% almonds so contains little almond and will not boast the large amounts of nutrients. There are many varieties out there which are fortified with vitamins and minerals. It is suitable for milk and soya allergy/intolerance sufferers but not for nut allergy sufferers. It adds a great nutty taste to cereals and smoothies.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made from coconut cream. It probably has one of the lowest nutritional values out of all the milk alternatives. It contains almost no protein, higher amounts of fat (including saturated fat) and you would need to ensure that you get a fortified version to make up for the lack of nutrition. It also tends to be one of the most expensive. It is suitable for milk and soya allergy/intolerances but possibly not for nut allergies. It can be used for baking and making homemade curries.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is made from rice. It is the least likely to cause allergies as it contains no milk, soya and nuts. It doesn’t naturally contain good amounts of nutrients but is often fortified. It has a higher carbohydrate content so would not be suitable for diabetics. It’s texture resembles cow’s milk so is good in tea and smoothies.

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is made from cashews and is one of the newer kids on the block. It is not naturally high in nutrients but is usually fortified. It has a creamy texture that is similar to cow’s milk and has a subtler taste than almond milk. It is suitable for milk and soya allergy/intolerance sufferers but not nut allergy sufferers. It is very versatile and can be included in tea, baking, cereals, smoothies, etc.

 

If you do decide to move away from dairy, seek the advise of a dietician or nutritionist and ensure that you find a brand that is fortified with vitamins and minerals to enure you’re not missing out on essential nutrients such as calcium and B vitamins.

Let’s Celebrate National Egg Day

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Today is National Egg Day. Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse. Here are some of the reasons to include eggs in your diet:

Protein

They contain a great amount of protein which is important for muscle and tissue maintenance and repair. It can also be a useful tool for weight loss because protein can keep you fuller for longer and combining protein with carbohydrates will slow down the rate of blood glucose (sugar) being released into the blood stream so will release steady energy rather than make your blood sugar spike. This makes you less likely to crash and feeling like you need that quick sugar fix.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Eggs are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which are needed for heart health and brain health.

Healthy Immune System

Eggs also contain many beneficial vitamins and minerals which help to maintain a healthy immune system. These include Vitamins B12 and A and minerals such as Biotin and Selenium. This is especially important as we enter the winter months and we become more susceptible to those nasty viruses.

Healthy Bones

Eggs contain Vitamin D which is important for bone health. D aids the absorption of calcium so a deficiency may cause you to be at risk of fractures.

Great for veggies

This is a great meat alternative for vegetarians because of it’s protein content and it contains many of the nutrients that meat contains such as B12.

Other Nutrients

Other nutrients that eggs include are:

  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
  • Vitamin E
  • Choline
  • Folic Acid
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Phosphorous

They’re so versatile

There are many ways to include eggs in your diet. Here are some of the ways to enjoy your eggs:

  • Boiled
  • Scrambled
  • Omelette
  • Eggy bread (French toast)
  • In your baking (pancakes, healthy cakes, etc.)

Kinesiology

Do you suffer from low energy, sleep problems, stress, digestive issues, etc.? Well, let me introduce you to a therapy that could help you … Kinesiology.

Kinesiology

What is Kinesiology?

Kinesiology is a non-invasive alternative therapy which uses muscle testing to find imbalances in the client’s body. Muscle testing simply involves holding an arm or leg in a position that the kinesiologist requests i.e. straight up towards the ceiling (generally, these positions aren’t uncomfortable but you can tell the therapist if any are). The therapist will then push against the arm or leg while you try to resist it. If you’re able to resist it, it shows that the organ that this muscle’s energy system is connected to is balanced. However, if the therapist can move your arm or leg, it shows an imbalance. The kinesiologist will then investigate to find what the body needs in order to balance itself out. This could be nutrition (a deficiency in a vitamin or mineral), you need to release stress, you need a bach remedy or a food intolerance.

Kinesiology can help with the following issues:

  • Stress
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive issues (i.e. food intolerances)
  • Pain
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Mental health (i.e. depression and anxiety)
  • General wellbeing

The kinesiologist will have vitamins, minerals and bach remedies to test. If you want to test for food intolerances, you will need to bring in a sample. This just needs to be a thimble-sized amount and I would suggest bringing it in a glass jar (not plastic as this could affect results). Vitamins, minerals, bach remedies and food will usually be placed on the stomach while the muscles are tested. The therapist will give you homework to help keep your body in balance. This may include a prescription of vitamins and minerals to take daily, relaxation techniques or food to avoid.

My Experience with Kinesiology

I decided to try out kinesiology after I’d heard about the possibility of getting some food tested for intolerances. I had already been tested for some intolerances with wheat being the main one that showed up but I thought I’d get it tested using kinesiology to see if it came up with the same results. I thought I’d also get milk tested. As far as I can tell, I’ve never had a problem with milk but I thought I’d get it checked to see if anything showed up. Another big reason I decided to get a kinesiology test was because in the week leading up to the test, I suddenly broke out in this skin rash on my arms and a little bit on my face. This was after starting a Marine Collagen supplement (which is meant to help improve skin quality). I thought I’d see if I could get this tested to see if this was the cause.

I went to Ashlins Natural Health Clinic in Walthamstow, East London for my kinesiology session. My therapist first had a little chat to discuss what problems I was having and what I would like to gain from the session. I had brought in a small sample of the intolerances for testing. I brought in a small jar of bread to test for wheat, a small jar of milk and the Marine Collagen supplements I had been taking. After a shot discussion, I slipped off my shoes and hopped onto the massage table.

Firstly, he tested me to see if I had any nutritional deficiencies. He did this by testing a muscle (asking me to clear my mind and study the pattern on the ceiling) to see if it goes weak then placing a small jar of a vitamin or mineral supplement on my stomach and testing the muscle again. If the muscle was weak before the supplement was put on my stomach then became strong when the supplement was in contact with me, it means that I need it. He then tested the muscle to see how many I need to take per day and wrote me a little prescription. Luckily, Ashlins sell all the vitamins and minerals at their reception so anyone who needs them can buy them there. He explained that I may only need to take these for a few weeks to balance me out with levels being adjusted or removed at a follow up session. He gave me a multi-vitamin to take immediately and checked my muscles again. I was now in balanced which prepared me for the next part.

He then went on to test the samples I brought in. He started off with wheat. He placed the jar of wheat on my stomach and tested my muscles. Everything apart from the muscle connecting to my brain went limp. As soon as he removed the wheat, I was back in balance. He had a small jar of ancient wheat which he decided to test on me to make sure I wasn’t just reacting to modern wheat. Same thing happened. He advised that I avoid all wheat – which I obviously have been doing already but it’s good to know that he’s in agreement. Next, he tested milk. Unlike the wheat, all my muscles remained strong which means I don’t have a problem with milk. He suggested that in a future, I could bring some cheese to get tested as some people can tolerate milk but not cheese. Finally, he tested the collagen supplements. It was exactly the same result as the wheat. It made me wonder whether my chronic dry skin – which never gets relief no matter what products I use – could be related to fish (I eat a lot of fish). I queried this with him and he suggested that I come back in a couple of days with some fish to get it tested.

I came back a couple of days later with a small jar of cooked salmon. After checking to see if I was in balance, he started to test the fish. He found that the muscles connected to my liver and my GI system went weak. He theorized that if salmon is causing my liver to be out of balance, that could explain my chronic dry skin. He also decided to test fish oil capsules on me. When I was a child, I took fish oil capsules on my mum’s request in order to get my Omega 3s. Unfortunately, the smell seemed to come through my skin so I constantly smelled of fish. Testing the fish oil capsules would show whether I am reacting to the fish itself or whether it could be a reaction to any toxins or pesticides that can sometimes get into fish depending on how it’s caught and farmed. When he tested the fish oils, the muscle connecting to my liver went weak. This shows that I clearly have a sensitivity to fish.

Overall, I have certainly found kinesiology very interesting. While it should always been warned that intolerance tests aren’t always accurate, the results seemed to make sense with what I already knew (with the wheat) and what I was suspicious of (fish). Since cutting out fish, my skin has greatly improved. I will certainly go back to get more food tested.

If you would like to find out more information about Kinesiology or any of the other therapies offered at Ashlins Natural Health clinic, check out their website: http://www.ashlins.co.uk

Food Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

Nutrition for sleep

Do you find yourself struggling to catch enough zzzs to help you function day to day? The average adult should aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep but at least one in five Brits say they don’t get enough. One way to help improve the quality and duration of our sleep is taking a look at our diets. Here are my top nutritional tips to help you get those 40 winks.

Protein

Making sure you get enough protein during the day can help you sleep well. Protein foods such as turkey contain an amino acid called tryptophan. This converts to the hormones melatonin and serotonin which are important in regulating our sleep and wake cycles. Turkey also contains zinc and Vitamin B6 which help the body to produce melatonin from tryptophan. However, try to avoid eating too much high protein food – such as red meat and nuts – within the last few hours before bed as they can be hard to digest so may stop you falling asleep.

Magnesium

Magnesium is known as “nature’s tranquiliser” and is needed to help relax our muscles. It is also needed for the function of the chemical GABA. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter that your brain needs in order to switch off. You can get magnesium from food sources such as buckwheat, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish, leafy green vegetables and dark chocolate. If you have a history of ulcerative colitis, gastritis or other digestive issues, caution may need to be taken if you are considering supplementation (as I always say, consult a doctor, nutritionist or dietitian) as these issues can be triggered by these supplements. For people with these issues, it may be better to use transdermal magnesium as these are absorbed through the skin so won’t affect the digestive system.

Zinc

As previously mentioned, zinc is needed to help the body produce melatonin from tryptophan. Foods rich in zinc include pumpkin seeds, oysters, wholegrains and nuts.

Think About What You Eat and Drink Before Bed

Avoid eating large meals or anything that is too hard to digest for 3-4 hours before you go to bed as this can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. It is also best to stay away from fried foods and cheese as these can cause indigestion which can make sleep more difficult and uncomfortable. Stimulants such as tea or coffee should also be avoided as caffeine can stay in the body for up to 12 hours. If you have problems sleeping, avoid tea or coffee after midday and try having calming herbal teas such as camomile.

Carbohydrates

While it has become common trend to avoid carbohydrates after 6pm to help with weight loss, your body needs sustained energy while you sleep to keep the brain and body working. Slow release carbs will keep your blood sugar levels (glucose) stable. If this falls too low, the body may release adrenaline and cortisol which will wake you up. To avoid this, include some complex carbohydrates with your dinner such as a serving of wholegrain or basmati rice or some oatcakes with houmous for a pre-bedtime snack.

What Do Your Food Cravings Really Mean?

Have you ever felt that you simply must have that chocolate bar or that bag of crisps? Many of us have our own individual cravings but did you know it could be a sign that you are lacking in certain nutrients? Here are some of the most common foods we crave and which nutrients you could be lacking in if you crave them:

Chocolate

Chocolate

Cravings for chocolate can be a sign that you need more magnesium. Magnesium can have a calming effect on us which is why we are most likely to crave chocolate when we are stressed. You may also notice that you crave some of the sweet stuff during the second half of your menstrual cycle. This is because your magnesium levels drop during this time which hints at a link with many PMS symptoms. If you feel like you need that chocolate hit, opt for dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa but you can aim for higher) as it is lower in sugar than milk chocolate and higher in magnesium. Other ways of getting some more magnesium are wholegrains, nuts, raw cocoa nibs, leafy green veg, bananas and legumes.

Salty Foods

Salty foods

Feeling the need to reach for a bag of crisps (or two) could be a sign that your adrenal glands are weak. The adrenal glands produce stress hormones during times of stress which can cause an imbalance of sodium in the body. This causes us to crave more salt. Instead of reaching for your salty staples, opt for olives, unsalted nuts such as cashews and walnuts, oily fish such as salmon, seeds and goat’s milk.

Ice Cream

Ice cream

If you struggle to resist a scoop or two of the frozen stuff, it could be a sign that you require more calcium. Calcium is required for keeping a regular heartbeat and keeping our bones, teeth and nails strong and healthy. Instead, try leafy greens such as broccoli, chard, kale, salmon, fortified orange juice, legumes, tofu and low fat dairy products such as skimmed or semi-skimmed milk (make sure products such as yoghurts don’t have added sugar) which contain high levels of calcium.

Ice

Ice

You might not be aware, but some people have a craving for ice. This could be a sign that you are deficient in iron and have anaemia. While doctors are unsure why, Professor Lowe has stated that “it may be that ice helps relieve the painful inflammation in the mouth that can be a symptom.”. If you do crave ice and suffer from low energy, go visit your GP. Food wise, to up your iron levels, eat foods such as red meat, wholemeal bread, spinach, broccoli and lentils.

Carbs

Carbs

Craving carbs can be a sign that you are low in tryptophan which is an amino acid. Tryptophan is needed to synthesis serotonin which is the mood-regulating chemical in the brain. Lacking tryptophan can lead to low mood, anxiety and trouble sleeping. Carbohydrates don’t contain tryptophan but research has suggested that more tryptophan is transported to the brain because of increased blood sugar. You can decrease your carb cravings by upping your protein intake with sources such as turkey, milk, cashews, walnuts, eggs and cottage cheese. Bananas also contain tryptophan.

Sweets

Sweets

Craving sweets could mean that you are low in chromium. Chromium is a mineral that works alongside insulin. It’s needed for the release of energy from glucose. There have been studies that show that chromium helps to level out blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. However, you could be making the situation worse if you reach for sweets when you feel a bit of a sugar dip because it causes the body to produce insulin which can lead to a blood sugar crash. Instead, go for foods such as meat, wholegrains and eggs which will help you avoid those sugar crashes.

 

If you suspect you are deficient in any vitamins and minerals and want to supplement them, it is always wise to consult a doctor, nutritionist or dietician.