World Chocolate Day


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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


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Whether it’s from your daily cup of coffee, your sneaky little chocolate treat or that energy drink for a much needed pick me up, we all consume a substance called caffeine. But what is caffeine? Is it good or bad for us? My blog today explores the topic of caffeine.

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant which can be found in teas, coffees and cacao plants. It’s function is to make us feel more awake and alert by stimulating the brain and central nervous system.

Once consumed, caffeine is absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream where it is broken down into compounds in the liver. These compounds block the effects of a neurotransmitter called adenosine (this neurotransmitter relaxes the brain and makes you feel tired). Caffeine also increases blood adrenaline levels and the activity of other neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine. This causes you to feel more awake, alert and focussed.

Where can you find caffeine?

Caffeine is found naturally in sources such as black tea, green tea, coffee and chocolate. It is also added to energy drinks and certain medications such as cold and flu medications.

What are the benefits of caffeine?

Here are some of the reported benefits of caffeine:

  • According to an Australian study, consuming caffeine can give you a mental boost for 45 minutes and can enhance your memories for up to 24 hours
  • Harvard researches have said that drinking 4-5 cups of coffee a day could cut the risk of Parkinson’s disease in half
  • Caffeine is often used by athletes as a pre-workout supplement. Several studies have shown that taking caffeine before a workout can increase short-term endurance and performance, improve muscular endurance and also improve long-term endurance
  • A study in 2014 showed that drinking up to 3 cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of liver cancer by up to 50%

Are there any negatives?

The Mayo Clinic has stated that consuming more than 500-600mg of caffeine may lead to:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • An upset stomach
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

It has also been reported that consuming more than 300mg of caffeine during pregnancy may increase the risk of low birth weight babies.

Caffeine can also be addictive. Many people report suffering withdrawal symptoms (such as headaches and fatigue) trying to cut it out.

How much should I drink?

General guidelines state that adults should consume no more than 400mg of caffeine daily while pregnant women should consume no more than 300mg.

These are the general amounts of caffeine found in many common foods and drinks:

  • Black coffee (250ml)=80-175mg
  • Black tea (250ml)=43-50mg
  • Green tea (250ml)=25-45mg
  • Herbal tea (250ml)=0mg
  • Energy drinks (250ml)=80-97mg
  • Fizzy drinks (355ml)=25-50mg
  • Dark chocolate (60-85 percent cocoa solids) per ounce=23mg
  • Cocoa powder per tablespoon=12mg
  • Milk chocolate per ounce=4mg
  • White chocolate per ounce=0mg

If you are looking to reduce your caffeine intake and the effects:

  • Switch to green and herbal teas
  • Don’t drink caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime. Make sure you have no black teas or coffees for a few hours before going to sleep to avoid sleepless nights
  • While dark chocolate has a higher caffeine content than milk or white chocolate, dark chocolate has a lower sugar content and contain beneficial phytonutrients so is the better choice to opt for
  • The longer you leave a teabag in the water to brew, the more caffeine you’ll get in your cuppa. If you want less caffeine, don’t leave it to brew for so long


Long story short, if you want to have caffeine, that’s fine. Just ensure you go for teas and coffees rather than energy drinks, don’t exceed the recommended amount and enjoy it earlier in the day

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 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

Do you need a Sports Drink?

With every big sports event, we will usually see our favourite athletes grab a bottle of their favourite brand of sports drink to quench their first during those brief moments in between races or games. Inspired by our greatest sports men and women, many of us also reach for a sports drink during a session at the gym or a running session. But what are sports drinks and do the general public need to incorporate one into their gym routine? My blog today explores the different types of sports drinks and their ideal uses:

What are sports drinks?

The definition of a sports drink according to the British Soft Drink Association is “Sports drinks are functional drinks specifically designed to help athletes and other active people hydrate before, during and after exercise.” ( These drinks have added minerals to ensure optimum replacement of lost nutrients through sweat.

There are three types of sports drinks:

  • Hypotonic
  • Isotonic
  • Hypertonic


Hypotonic sports drinks are designed to replace fluids quickly during exercise. They contain very low amounts of carbohydrate and a high concentration of sugar and salt.


Isotonic sports drinks are designed to quickly replace fluids lost during exercise. In comparison to hypotonic drinks, they contain higher amounts of carbohydrate and lower amounts of salt and sugar.


Hypertonic sports drinks are designed to supplement daily carbohydrate intake. They contain the highest amount of carbohydrate and lowest amount of salt and sugar out of all the drinks. This type of drink is best drunk after exercise so it can help replace glycogen levels quickly after exercise.

When should I use a sports drink?

The general guidelines for sports drinks are to be used if you are training for 90mins+ (as you are more likely to burn more energy that needs to be restored) and if it is a hot day or particularly sweaty workout (as you will lose more salt through sweat). Otherwise, you should be fine with water.

What about diet sports drinks?

Diet versions of sports drinks are sweetened with sweetener rather than sugar so they have a lower carbohydrate content. That means they will not be suitable for restoring carbohydrate levels lost during an intense workout. You can use them for quenching your thirst during shorter, less intense workouts. However, make sure to check the ingredients list of these drinks. Some contain sweeteners such as aspartame which have been linked to ailments such as weight gain and cancer.

My homemade sports drink

I have started to include a sports drink into my 2x 2 hour long dance and gymnastics training sessions to give me a bit of a boost and to re-hydrate (Michelle from DNAFit recommended I should get around 30g carbohydrates from a sports drink during these longer sessions). I decided to make my own so I have control over the ingredients in it. Here’s how I make it:

  • 250ml fruit juice (not from concentrate) – can be orange, pineapple, apple, etc.
  • 250ml water

I do have to say that I find including my sports drink comes in handy when I have 2 hour training sessions and I do get a boost (in a natural way). The point I am trying to make is that if you have a long or sweaty training session, you may benefit from a sports drink. The important thing is to listen to your own body and see if it works for you as they may not benefit everyone. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with good old water.

I tried DNA testing … How did I get on?

With every new year comes new diet and fitness trends. Shows such as “Trust Me: I’m A Doctor” and ITV’s Tonight programme have talked about the concept of DNA testing for your nutritional and fitness needs. It works on the idea that our DNA can determine what type of exercise best suits us and whether we are more sensitive to certain foods. Using this information, we can alter our exercise and eating habits to live healthier and happier lives.


I am clearly happy to receive my DNAFit kit

Intrigued by the concept, I thought I’d give it a go. I got in touch with a company called “DNAFit”. They were very helpful explaining how it all works. Once you send off your DNA sample, they will test the sample against 38 different gene variants which relate to different aspects of diet and fitness such macronutrient sensitivities, exercise type that suits you best, etc. These results are presented to you in the form of booklets which explain the genes tested and how you can change your habits according to the results. You will also receive a telephone consultation from one of their sports scientists or dieticians to help you interpret the results and incorporate them into your life.

Sounds good to me … So I thought I’d give it a go.

I decided to go for the DNAFit Diet Pro as part of their New Year New You promotion. This package includes:

  • The full diet package which tests:
    • The most suitable diet type for you
    • Carbohydrate sensitivity
    • Fat sensitivity
    • Lactose tolerance
    • Coeliac predisposition
    • Detoxification ability
    • Antioxidant needs
    • B vitamin needs
    • Vitamin D needs
    • Omega 3 needs
    • Salt, caffeine and alcohol sensitivity
  • The full fitness package which tests:
    • Training intensity response
    • Aerobic response
    • Post-exercise recovery
    • Injury predisposition

As part of their New Year New You promotion, they also included their brand new Stress Report.

Once I put in the order, a few days later I received a kit which included a swab that you use to take a sample from your cheek, a container for the swab, a capsule which you put in the container to keep the sample fresh, a form to fill out, a label to stick on the sample for identification purposes and an envelope to send the sample and form back to the lab. Once I took my swab, I registered the number on the sample label on the DNAFit website and sent it off. It was quick and easy to do.


The DNA testing kit

After about 10 days, I received an email saying my results were in and I was able to download and view them. So excited!

I received a colourful infographic which gave a brief overview of the results and three reports detailing all the genes tested and what my results show with recommendations. There are also added extras such as a shopping list and a guide to my specific dietary recommendation with the option of purchasing a meal planner and a fitness plan.

A couple of weeks later, I had my complementary consultation with Michelle, one of the sports scientists at DNAFit. She was extremely helpful and explained the reports fully offering specific advice once she got to know me and my lifestyle needs.

Here is a rundown of my results:

Diet Report

  • My ideal diet type is the low carbohydrate plan (this does not mean I cannot have any form of carbohydrate. The consultant recommended percentages of my macros so I can work out how many grams of carbohydrates, protein and fat I should have depending on height, weight and activity level)
  • I have a high sensitivity to carbohydrates – this means that I am more likely to gain weight from high carbohydrate intake, specifically refined carbohydrates
  • I have a low sensitivity to fat – this means that I am able to eat more fat than some people without gaining weight (although it’s still best to limit saturated fat)
  • I am at a higher risk of DNA damage from smoked and chargrilled meat (good thing I’m mostly vegetarian)
  • My detoxification ability is normal
  • I have an increased need for antioxidants (which include Vitamins A, C and E and Selenium)
  • I have a raised need for Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • I have normal Vitamin B requirements
  • I have a raised need for Vitamin D
  • I have a normal salt sensitivity – this means that salt has less of an effect on my blood pressure than for some people (although it is still recommended I stick to the standard guideline of maximum 6g per day)
  • Alcohol has a positive effect on my cholesterol if I were to have 1-2 units of alcohol a day (or up to 3 times a week)
  • I am a fast metabolizer of caffeine – this means that it will only stay in my system for around 1-2 hours but may stay in longer for slower metabolisers. It’s still recommended I have no more than 300mg per day
  • I am lactose tolerant – this means that I don’t have a primary intolerance to lactose (found in dairy products) and that if I do experience symptoms, it is a secondary intolerance following an illness
  • I have a negative result for Coeliac Disease – this means I have a less than 1 in 2000 chance to develop coeliac so there may still be a chance of me developing coeliac. I know that I definitely have an intolerance to gluten if it isn’t coeliac. I will keep an eye on any signs that it could be coeliac and get tested accordingly

Fitness Report

  • I am suited to more power based activities (60% power and 40% endurance). This includes activities such as weight training, sprinting and track cycling. This makes complete sense to me with my gymnastics. Michelle also told me that this means that I am more likely to put on muscle and maintain it (but don’t panic – you won’t see a picture of me looking like the Hulk). She recommended I do a 2:1 split on my power and endurance. For example, if I was training 5 days a week, I should do power training 3 days and endurance 2 days
  • I have a medium VO2 Max aerobic potential. VO2 Max is a test used by scientists to measure maximum or optimum rate an individual can effectively use oxygen during exercise. Mine is in the middle. Including a mixture of power and endurance can help me to improve my VO2 Max
  • I recover from exercise quickly. This is good to hear but DNAFit still gave me recommendations to include in my diet to help with recovery such as Omega 3 and Beta Carotene
  • I have a high injury risk (that explains a lot – I do tend to hurt myself quite easily). Michelle recommended I do some eccentric training in my resistance training sessions (during the last set) as this will help with strengthening my joints and muscles and preventing injuries. This involves you slowing down the returning to start position phase of an exercise. For example, when doing a bicep curl, lift the weights up for one count then lower for 3 counts

Stress Report

Overall, I have a low/medium stress response, presenting a mixture of strategist and warrior responses. I guess this makes sense to me as I do manage to come up with strategies during stressful times. Some stress reducing strategies are suggested in the report such as meditation and exercise.

Overall thoughts

Overall, I found DNA testing a very interesting experience. It was fascinating to see what my genetics say about my body’s response to diet and fitness and seeing how it actually fits in my lifestyle. The support I got from Michelle during the consultation was great and she offers to continue that support afterwards through email which is great so I don’t feel like I am struggling on my own. I look forward to trying all of the recommended advice and see if it makes any difference to my overall shape and tone and sports performance.

Would I recommend it to anyone else? It does come with a price tag with plans starting from £99 so I would certainly recommend looking at your finances to see if you really can afford it before buying. While I am only at the starting point of the DNAFit journey so am yet to see if the recommendations have the desired effects, just from the amount of information, recommendations and support I was given, I believe it was money well spent.


For more information, see

Raynaud’s Syndrome

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February is Raynaud’s Awareness Month. 1 in 6 people suffer with Raynaud’s but many people are unaware they have it. I recently discovered that I have this condition after experiencing symptoms for at least a couple of years. But what is it? This blog will give you an introduction to the condition and how you can spot the signs and help yourself if you suffer from it.

Please take into consideration that I was only diagnosed last month so I am still working out the little magic tricks to help lessen my symptoms. Symptoms also differ between each individual person and some may experience more severe symptoms than others. The key is experimenting with different treatments to see what works for you.

What is Raynaud’s Syndrome?

Raynaud’s Syndrome (also known as Raynaud’s Disease, Raynaud’s Phenomenon or simply Raynaud’s) is a condition where the small blood vessels in the extremities are over-sensitive to temperature changes, the cold and sometimes stress. These blood vessels constrict and this triggers the symptoms of Raynaud’s. These symptoms usually effect the fingers and toes but can often affect hands, feet, nose, tongue, nipples and ears.

The symptoms include:

  • Colour changes – Often white, blue and red
  • Cold extremities
  • Tingling, pain and/or numbness
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The common colour changes in Raynaud’s

You may not experience all of these symptoms and you may only be affected in a small area (such as only a couple of fingers).

There are two types of Raynaud’s; primary and secondary. Primary Raynaud’s is usually mild and manageable. It is a stand alone condition which means it is not related to another condition. Secondary Raynaud’s is related to another condition, often an autoimmune condition and may have other complications such as ulcerations or sores.

How is it diagnosed?

Raynaud’s is usually diagnosed by a GP after an examination of your history and symptoms. Blood tests may be arranged if your GP suspects that your symptoms may be related to another condition.

How is it treated?

Depending on how severe your symptoms are, your GP may prescribe you medication to help manage them. These include:

  • Calcium Channel Blockers – Help to relax and open small blood vessels
  • Vasodilators – Relaxes blood vessels
  • Beta Blockers
  • Alpha Blockers

Natural Treatments

There are many different natural treatments that can help with the symptoms of Raynaud’s. These include:

  • Nutritional support – Some vitamins have an antioxidant effect (vitamins C and E) which help to minimise damage to blood vessels and promote oxygen flow. Warming foods such as ginger are also said to help with symptoms. Always seek the advise of a nutritionist or kinesiologist to find out the safest method and amount of obtaining these nutrients
  • Wrap up warm – The cold can trigger the symptoms but we can’t completely avoid it. Wear several thin layers of clothing rather than one thick layer. Wear a couple of pairs of gloves. You could also invest in some thermal gloves and socks. Silver fibre gloves (which are sold on the Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK website) are also self-insulating.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Avoid smoking – Can reduce body temperature
  • Avoid stress – Some people find that stress can trigger their symptoms. While we can’t completely avoid stress, we can use various methods to help us relax and minimise the effects. These include: meditation, colouring books, massage, exercise, etc.
  • Exercise – Exercise can help stimulate the circulation. This can be walking with the arms swinging by the sides, yoga, etc.
  • Acupuncture – There have been studies to suggest that acupuncture can help to increase circulation and reduce inflammation in Raynaud’s

My experience

For as long as I can remember, I have always felt the cold more than anyone else around me. Then over the last couple of years, I noticed that my fingers and toes would go a bluey-purple tinge and would go tingly when cold or when I was stressed. I didn’t think anything of it until people around me told me it wasn’t normal. I decided to go to the doctors last month where she told me about Raynaud’s. It made complete sense. Mine is very mild with it mostly affecting my toes (they tend to be cold all the time, go a whitey/yellow colour then purple and go tingly). I am currently trying out different methods to help manage it:

  • I practise a short meditation routine every night to help me relax.
  • I’ve started getting acupuncture inbetween my fingers and toes to help stimulate my circulation (I know, sounds weird). I’ve only had one session so far so I’ll see how it works
  • I wear lots of layers. I wear two pairs of gloves and socks when I go out (including a pair of silver fibre gloves and socks)
  • I keep my feet covered as much as possible. When I’m at my gymnastics class, if my feet haven’t warmed up, I will keep my socks on floor and wear specialised gymnastics shoes on beam
  • I have a hot water bottle in my bed each night
  • I am trying to work on my nutritional support by including foods that contain antioxidants and are warming

I am still researching and working out different methods to help my individual case.

To find out more information, head over to


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.

32558857 - goiter

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 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

Dry January


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


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.