For some reason one day last week I woke up in a bad mood. I had a good sleep. So was not sure why. I went to the gym and it escalated because my earphones didn’t work, something to do with Bluetooth, technology quite often triggers me! Silly but it didn’t help. Part of the gym experience is my music, if I don’t have it, I struggle to keep motivated. My mood became worse. I wanted to go home.
What I did?
My training as a Wellbeing Coach has helped me change my mind set. It has helped me become more aware of how I feel and how that affects my behaviour. Here are the steps I took to reverse my grumpiness:
The first thing I did was adapted my workout, I did half cardio and half weights, somehow I don’t feel the need for music so much doing weights. During one of my coaching session I realised sometimes I can be inflexible with myself. Recognising this has made me more aware. Adapting to situations when they don’t go to plan improves the way you can feel about something.
Exercise to Improve Mood
I ran, cycled, rowed a little faster, using up the pent up grumpiness and letting it all flow out in the exercise.
Mindfully, I paid attention to people in the gym, people-watched, listened to the noises, became aware of my environment and started not to miss my music.
Distraction with Imagination
I imagined throwing my earphones across the room and standing on them. Using my imagination distracted me from becoming low about it, I saw the funny side. I heard about this on the Dr Chaterjee Podcast channel, episode 60.
Got it off my Chest
When I returned home I vented a bit to my son and daughter about my earphones, sharing my woes helped me get it all out my system. They looked at me as if I was making a bit of a deal, and I was. Reality check!
Green Tea and Chocolate
Next I sat down cup of green tea and dark chocolate. Green tea contains L-theanine, this is an amino acid found in protein and helps make a brain chemical that has a calming effect. Dark chocolate is a treat. More food ideas for mood click here.
Nature and a Dog
Finally and what really put it away was I took the dog out for a walk. I enjoyed watching her smelling the grass and trotting along. I took in the greenery and breathed and at that point I felt a whole lot better.
These are some tips that might help but if you feel you can’t shift it then that’s ok and it is also ok to ask for some help from a professional.
What do you do to help yourself to get out of a bad mood?
Do you consider what you eat impacts how you perform when studying and sitting exams?
Focusing on keeping the mind and body fit, healthy, alert, focused, calm and happy is fundamental. Good nutrition and lifestyle habits can support you and make the whole process easier. Below I will discuss important eating habits and foods that can support brain health in the lead up and during the exam period.
Start the day with a good breakfast
Starting the day with a good breakfast. Porridge is an excellent way to feed the brain to prepare for the day ahead. Add berries to porridge – evidence shows blueberries may help with memory and protect the brain from cognitive decline. Another good breakfast is a slice of wholegrain toast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Smoothies are another option. Add an avocado for good sources of fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Snacks – mid morning and mid afternoon
Adding in a couple of snacks can keep you sustained throughout the day and support memory and mood.
Snack ideas: oatcakes with nut or seed butters, raw carrots, celery, peppers with houmous or an apple with some nuts or seeds, cheese and oatcakes, avocado or a boiled egg.
Always include protein, complex carbohydrates, colour and quality fats.
Protein is needed for brain function. It is involved in helping brain cells communicate with each other. Once protein is broken up in the body the amino acids help make up brain chemicals. These are involved in what makes you think, move, sleep, get up, remember and focus.
Good quality proteins are: eggs, grass fed and organic meat, chicken, fish, lentils, pulses, peas, chickpeas, beans, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Fats are important for brain health and 60% of the brain is made of fat. It aids cell communication and also keeps the cell membrane healthy. Omega 3 and 6 fats are essential fats for the brain.
Eat oily fish at least two to three times a week. Good sources are salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. Studies on teenagers and young offenders have shown improvements in attention spans, reading and writing and aggressive behaviours when they were supplemented with fish oil.
If you are vegetarian then flaxseeds, walnuts and seaweed include omega-3 fats that are essential for brain health. However it is not quite as easy to access the omega 3 fats from these foods.
Good quality red meat, organic or wild can also be a good source of omega 3 fats. I encourage students to eat meat because of the nutrition found in meat can be really helpful for brain health. I stress though to buy the best quality you can afford. Sometimes buying from a local farm shop can be quite affordable, shop around.
Olive oil, butter, coconut oil and nuts and seeds are other good fat sources.
Salmon with new potatoes and steamed broccoli, chicken and or vegetable curry served with brown basmati rice, wholegrain pasta with pesto made with walnuts, basil, rocket and olive oil served with a salad.
Eat a rainbow
Colourful fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and have a protective effect on the brain. Include apples, pears, berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, beetroot, sweet potatoes, carrots, herbs and spices daily. The more colour you can get into your diet the better. Don’t get worked up about 5 a day, increase the colour and variety of plant foods. Your brain and gut will thank you!
Vitamins for brains
B vitamins are essential in helping make brain chemicals (neurotransmitters). They pair up with broken down proteins called amino acids and contribute to making neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. B vitamin deficiencies can lead to poor concentration, depression, poor memory, stress, depression and anxiety. B vitamins are best when you have a good supply of all of them, therefore eating them through food is a good idea.
Good sources are whole grains, such as brown rice, wholegrain bread, oats, quinoa, buckwheat and vegetables, meat, fish, nuts and seeds and dairy products. If you eat a wide, varied diet you will get a good supply of B vitamins.
Choline is needed for memory and movement, this is found in eggs and fish.
Vitamin D may be important for memory and brain function. A recent study in 2014 found deficiencies in older people increased the risk of developing dementia. Good sources of vitamin D include salmon, dairy and eggs but the best is sunlight.
Minerals for the mind
Good sources of zinc include meat, game meat, fish, seafood, seaweed and nuts and seeds. Teenagers may be depleted in zinc because it is essential for growing bodies, it also may be depleted when the body is challenged.
If you are are low in iron you may experience foggy thinking and low mood. The best source are lean red meat, fish and eggs. Vegetarian sources are found in beans, pulses, dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, avocado, seeds and dried apricots. Eat these foods with foods rich in vitamin C to increase the absorption – salads, broccoli, parsley and fruit.
Known as the calming mineral. The clue for magnesium rich foods mainly is the colour green. Eat: Swiss chard, spinach, pumpkin seeds, butternut squash, green leafy vegetables, steamed broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Cavolo Nero.
Dark chocolate surprisingly is a good source of magnesium, 2-4 squares with a cup of green, black tea or good quality coffee can be a morning treat during an exam break.
This mineral is also needed for brain function. Calcium works together with magnesium to support the relaxation of nerves and muscles. Signs of deficiency along with magnesium deficiency can be anxiety, nervous, irritability and aggressive behaviour. Dairy, sesame seeds, houmous and green leafy vegetables are good sources. Bone broths are another good calcium source – boiling bones in water and veg make a good basis for a stock and can be used in soups and sauces and are also a good source of protein.
On the day
Morning exam: Follow the same rules eat a good breakfast. If you have a couple of exams in one day, make sure you fuel in between and after an exam as you would in sport. Have a fast releasing carbohydrate coupled with protein snack like a banana and some nuts or seeds, or a granola bar.
Afternoon exam: Have a brunch around 11am. Try not to eat something that will make you feel tired. Scrambled eggs on toast, soup or salad with lentils or quinoa. If you are really not hungry, keep it light like banana on some toast. Also don’t try any new foods close to the lead up to exams, keep your digestion calm like your brain!
Is it just about food?
No! It is really important to look after yourself during this time in other ways. Make sure you keep up your hobbies. If you like going to the gym, schedule time to do this. Being outside can be beneficial, get out into nature and also top up your vitamin D levels. Find ways to relax. Do what suits you. This can be reading, exercising, yoga, swimming, knitting, singing – the list is endless, whatever distracts you from studying. Connect with people face to face. It is so easy to not do this more than ever. You can socialise while at your desk and not physically see another soul, don’t do this! It is beneficial to meet people in person, meet for a coffee, find a study partner or arrange to meet up at the gym. If you have an off day then stop working, take time out and start again the next day. You need to recognise this and be kind to yourself.
I speak as a nutritional therapist, a student, regular presenter to students on exams and mum of two teenagers. One of my children is at Uni and one just about to embark on Highers. I have breadth of experience supporting yourself or others during this time. I have put all my hats on and hope that you can gain something from this article.
What is Digital Minimalism? It is what it says, living less with digital technology and taking part in activities that do not involve a huge amount of technology if at all.
I listened to a Podcast on the Dr Chatterjee, Feel better Live More channel with Cal Newport. Cal has written a book on digital minimalism and the podcast explores this. I was blown away. Already aware I was addicted to social media and my phone; this Podcast was the kick up the backside I needed to say no more! Immediately after the Podcast I deleted Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and also my email from my phone. I had tried before to minimise use, put the apps to the furthest away screen but it didn’t work. Deleting them was the only way.
Digital Minimalism – Impact
I am now on day 29 of digital minimalism. What has this been like? The words that come to my new free mind are: free, light, relaxed, more time, in control, energised, better sleep and comfortable, clear eyes. For about the last 9 months every day I experienced watery, stingy eyes. The optician gave me drops and they helped but I still suffered at least once a day. Since reducing screen time my eyes are the best they have been in months. For anyone suffering from itchy, nippy, watery eyes this is worth trying and no medication or cost is involved!
Further Advantages of Digital Minimalism
I sleep better, I am in deeper sleeps and I wake up refreshed. I am rising earlier than before and feel ready for the day. My brain feels more creative as it has more time and space. I like the idea that social media is not controlling me – I have choices and I decide, before it didn’t feel like that, I was a slave to scrolling mindless information. I also like that I am not inclined to “like” things all the time. Though if there was a like button for digital minimalism I would click it right this moment.
I can concentrate on things that really matter. That is more time interacting with my family and pet. I am focused on conversation as I am not distracted by a ping or a light notification appearing on my phone. I am taking a break from work when I should because email is now not as accessible. Meditation has creeped back in and with more ease.
Are there any disadvantages? I was asked this recently, I pondered. I did think about it: I am not being as social with lots of people, but I didn’t see it as disadvantage. Cal says in the podcast, social media interaction does not replace human face to face interaction, as far as making us feel good it cannot compete. The time I spend with family and friends face to face has more meaning. There are no disadvantages. I was worried about my business pages on social media. However, I have created time and space into developing my business in other ways.
Would I recommend?
Absolutely. I have been taking part in more analogue activities and this has enhanced my life and wellbeing. We have been playing board games at home and I have been reading more books. I am exercising more and listening to music. Podcasts are becoming my new way of learning new information.
I am still deciding, I would quite happily not go back. If I do then it has to be controlled. The way social media is designed I am not sure it will be that easy. A few people have suggested spending one day a week on social media for my business, this is doable. I won’t put Facebook back on my phone, there is no need. I can do most marketing from my laptop and Instagram might be the only one that is allowed back in on my phone.
For at least 2 days I will not be sharing this on the usual platforms, Linkedin only. Please do share as much as you can and convince me there is no need to go back! If you have done this or have any ideas on how to manage social media better, not having it or having it but controlling use, please let me know.
February is Raynaud’s Awareness month and chosen, because it is typically a cold month and it is a disease associated with cold weather. Do you have cold hands and feet? This does not mean you have Raynaud’s, but if you are feeling the cold this winter and longing for some warmth in your body, the tips below are good ways to incorporate heat and energy into your life.
So what is Raynaud’s?
It is a vascular disorder that results in hands and feet being very sensitive to cold. When these extremities are exposed to cold the small arteries that supplies the toes and fingers suddenly contract and go into a spasm. The fingers and toes are then deprived from oxygenated blood causing them to turn a white or bluish colour. They can also feel numb and painful. It can also affect other extremities such as nose and ears. There may be an autoimmune link with Raynaud’s as there is a common occurrence in developing it if you already have an autoimmune condition.
Raynaud’s has 2 categories: Primary Raynaud’s which is not seen as serious but that’s not to say the symptoms are not bothersome and Secondary which has an autoimmune connection and in chronic conditions the surface area may shrink, ulcers may form, damaging tissues and may result in infection under the nails and toenails.
It affects about 10 million people in the UK. Young girls and women more than men are affected. Onset is usually from about 20-40 years of age however children can develop it.
Eat a wholesome, varied healthy diet.
Aim for half your plate to be vegetables at all meals.
Include spices and herbs into cooking especially warming ones such as ginger, cinnamon, paprika, cumin and turmeric.
Warm up your digestion. Starting the day with fresh ginger tea supports digestion and will help warm your whole body up. Make warm soups, stews and casseroles. Cooking food at a low temperature for a long period of time breaks down the proteins in the food and makes them easier on digestion. Use slow cookers, they are easy and your meal is ready for when you come in from work. In the winter months if having cold foods add ginger, Ayurvedic medicine encourages this to warm up your digestion.
Add nuts and seeds to your diet for their vitamin and mineral and essential fat content.
Use cold pressed olive oil – add to cooking, use a dressing on vegetables and salads
Eat 2-3 pieces of fruit a day; try eating seasonal fruit, Chinese medicine suggests this supports your digestion and health. February fruit: blood oranges, clementines, kiwi, lemons, pears, pomegranates and rhubarb.
Eat a diet rich in wholegrain, vary grains and don’t just stick to wheat – quinoa, buckwheat, millet, brown rice, oats and amaranth.
Eat good quality proteins with each meal: fish, organic chicken, organic eggs, grass fed meat, beans, pulses, lentils, peas, plain natural yoghurt, nuts and seeds
Include oily fish at least 2-3 times a weak – salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines
Avoid caffeine as it may impact constriction of blood vessels.
Keep your hands and feet warm – wear gloves and warm socks when you feel you need to. Running tops and jackets with sleeves where you can put your thumbs into can be handy (excuse the pun).
Avoid smoking as this constricts blood vessels.
Find ways to relax – at least once a day find something you enjoy doing that you find relaxing, that might be doing nothing or it might be reading a book. Switch off electrical equipment so not to be distracted. Meditation may help increase temperature; studies have found an increase in core temperature after a meditation practice.
Exercise is helpful as it increases temperature and supports circulation, but stay warm if exercising outdoors. If new to exercise, seek professional advice and start of slow, walking is a brilliant way to start.
Over the next few weeks I am going into delve deeply into the digestive system. Many people suffer from digestive disorders. I will discuss what organs and processes are involved in eating, absorbing, digesting and finally excreting foods. Why is this important? If we understand how it works we may pay more attention to it and that in itself may help improve digestion. This is important for anyone with digestive issues but equally for us all as the saying goes you are what you eat but actually it goes further you are what you absorb!
The first organ involved in the digestive process is the brain. Soon as you start thinking about food the body starts to prepare itself for food. Digestive juices, saliva, enzymes and digestive hormones activate ready for the incoming food. A saying I hear on Australian Masterchef a lot is you eat with your eyes. Seeing food can also stimulate these juices as well as smell, taste and texture.
* Top tip*
One simple way to optimise digestion is to think about food before eating also cooking, setting the table are all good ways to send signals to your brain it is time to eat soon.
The mouth chews and breaks down your food to a mush so your stomach doesn’t have to! Saliva helps soften the food and also contains an enzyme called amylase. This enzyme is involved in breaking down carbohydrates. It also contains lipase which helps break down fats. Amylase is released and activated in the mouth, lipase on the other hand is not activated until food reaches the stomach. Saliva aids chewing and swallowing, it cleans the mouth, buffers PH of food, it is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal and it helps deliver important nutrients to the teeth. For the best digestion, healthy gums and teeth are essential.
Chew your food!
Drinking a lot of fluid when eating may hinder the action of saliva so try to drink fluids around eating and drink minimal amount when eating.
Focus on good oral hygiene.
This is a part of the body that I can NEVER pronounce! It is a tube that starts from the mouth and leads to the stomach. Peristalsis is involved in this part of digestion, this is when food is pushed down towards the stomach. The oesophagus has a sphincter at the bottom, if working as it should it stop any food or stomach acid coming back up. It is closed most of the time but is open to allow food to travel down to the stomach. When people are bothered by heartburn type symptoms it may be because the sphincter is not working efficiently enough.
Slow down when you eat.
Don’t overeat at one sitting.
Eat at a table.
Try not to lie down immediately after eating.
Don’t wear tight clothing around the middle.
Avoid foods that may affect the tone on the sphincter: citric juices, spicy foods, tea, alcohol, mint may be a culprit or very high fat meals.
Next week I will discuss the stomach, the inner lining of the digestive tract and the small intestine.
Protein powders are a supplement. Consequently they are not a replacement for whole food. They do receive a negative and positive press. In researching this I have come across headlines from stay away from to powerhouse foods. So are they needed, are they good for you and does everyone need to take them.
Protein is extracted from the following foods to make a powder: rice, dairy, pea, hemp, soy and egg. Inevitably this means they are processed and it can be this part that makes people want to stay away from them. However so are other everyday foods we eat are also processed like olive oil, bread, pasta, flours, dairy products, tinned beans and even the seeds I grind (process) every morning!
I see them as a good way of increasing protein into the diet in times of need. Many people do not eat sufficient protein especially at breakfast. Adding a scoop of a protein powder into your porridge or smoothie is an easy, fast way without much thought. As breakfast has to be easy for most of us this is an excellent way of increasing nutrition into the body.
Best sources of protein are chicken, fish, red meat, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. When you exercise intensely you do need extra protein to build and maintain muscle. In times of challenge you may need extra protein. If you don’t eat enough your body will obtain it from your own tissue. This is known as catabolic and for optimal health you want to ensure you consume enough nutrition from your food.
There are various techniques used to extract protein from very high heat, adding chemicals to filtration and breaking down the proteins with water. Here is a brief summary.
Concentrates – This is a high heat and acid extraction process. This method eliminates the other components of the food such as fats and carbohydrates and leaves you with protein. Some amino acids may be denatured in this process so you may not get a complete protein profile with this method.
Isolates – again this process separates the protein from the rest of the food, this is done by either washing in alcohol, water or ionisation. These methods leave a higher level of protein than concentrates.
Hydrolyzed Protein– Water is added to the protein to break it down into amino acids.Known as an expensive way of processing protein. It is also known as pre-digested protein. However it can be bitter-tasting so not very palatable.
Ion Exchange– protein ions are separated based on their electrical charge. They do this by adding in chemicals. This method reaps higher protein levels but strips some vital nutrients.
Microfiltration– This is filtering or sieving out the unwanted nutrients from the whey to leave a whey protein with the health promoting nutrients. This process may have less protein content but will have more nutrition to it than other processing methods.
Whey – is thought to be the premium protein powder as it contains the highest concentration of complete amino acids and is easily digestible. It has been shown to enhance healthy bone metabolism. However processing techniques may compromise this. Look out for isolates and microfiltration whey based proteins. Whey contains high levels of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCCA) (leucine, isoleucine and valine), useful for muscle recovery during sport and it also contains glutamine, important fuel for muscle synthesis.
Brands: SOLGAR Whey to go, BIOCARE Body balance, LAMBERTS All in One, Performance, PULSIN
Pea – easily digested contains high levels of lysine and BCAA for muscle recovery, glutamine for muscle repair and arginine for muscle metabolism and energy. Can be more of a savoury taste to it.
Brands: NUZEST, PULSIN
Hemp – Easy to digest, good source of fibre and omega 3,6 and 9 fatty acids. This is not as high in amino acids and you need more of it to reach protein requirements. However it is less processed and has other nutrients in it to support the body. Some people don’t like the green colour on their porridge.
Brands: PULSIN, CREATIVE NATURE
Rice Protein – Useful for people with allergies to whey. It is a complete protein which means it contains all the essential amino acids. It easily digested and flavour may suit more people. Arsenic levels may be an issue so source your product well.
Brands: SUN WARRIOR CLASSIC
Mixed plant based protein
Brands: VEGA, SUN WARRIOR BLEND
Some green powder blends such as Udo’s Choice Beyond Greens can be taken as a protein powder, it is rich in seeds and green powders that actually have a good protein content.
They should be considered as a supplement and not a replacement for a healthy diet.
It is important to check ingredients and make sure it does not contain artificial sweeteners, sugar and unhealthy fats.
Check how it is processed. Ask manufacturer if you’re not sure.
Taste is important, not all protein powders are the same and you will have a preference. I prefer ones without anything added. I am not a fan of Stevia. I add my own flavour. That way you are in control of the nutrition and flavour. I like to add raw cacao, baobab powder, lucuma and bee pollen.
I recommend alternating protein powders so to avoid a possible intolerance to them.
Can you live without them? Absolutely. Making sure you always have protein with every meal is important and whole foods are the best source. If this is difficult or your body is challenged in one way or another they may be a useful addition to your diet. Come in and ask advice if you are not sure.
I was lucky enough to see George Ezra at the weekend live in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh. His new album Staying at Tamara’s (I highly recommend) is about ‘daydreaming and escapism’. The final part of the adrenal dysfunction focuses on that. Escape doesn’t have to be a holiday, you can escape to your bath, bed or for a walk in nature. Daydreaming is something we all should do a little more of. Ezra says his creativity happens when he is away from home. Holidays can do this for us. I always come back from holiday with fresh ideas. Perhaps because I have relaxed and refreshed my adrenals, so apart from a holiday what else can you do?
Take time out for yourself every day. Read, have a bath, exercise, bake something, knit, dance, sing – whatever it is just do it!
Treat yourself – indulge in your favourite movie or box set. Buy yourself a nice candle or favourite bar of dark chocolate. Go out with a friend for a walk, even cooking yourself your favourite meal.
Try breathing exercises. Doesn’t have to be candles burning sitting cross legged. Simply breathe in for 4 and out for 4, then in for 4 out for 6, in for 4 and out for 8 – build up to this if it is difficult, for 3-5 minutes every day. You’re in breath activates the flight or fight part of the nervous system and the out breath activates the relaxed response, so if you can focus longer on the outbreath then this will activate a relaxed feeling.
Green tea may be supportive as it contains an amino acid called l-theanine, that helps make a brain chemical that makes you feel relaxed. It is also rich in antioxidants. Try adding a slice of lemon helps you absorb these wonderful properties even more.
Exercise is an interesting one when addressing adrenals. Over exercising may make symptoms worse. However activity in some form may help. Walking, gentle swimming, stretching, yoga and Pilates are all examples of exercise that may be helpful. Start slowly. If you are already doing HIIT 3 times a week or running, cycling excessively, try reducing or even stopping for 2-3 weeks. It could make a huge difference to your performance and the way you feel.
Sleep is important and optimising it may really support the stress response. Find ways to help with sleep. Read more here.
Try meditation – Calm or Insight Timer Apps are useful if it is new to you.
Change one thing at a time and make the change doable.
Adaptogens may be helpful and I have a useful blog on this here.
Magnesium is involved in the relaxation of muscles and nerves it is also needed to make stress hormones. Epsom Salts are high in magnesium and research shows it can be absorbed well through the skin.
Vitamin C – is highly concentrated in the adrenal glands. It is needed with magnesium and Vitamin B5 for the production of cortisol. You do not need huge levels of it and best to take throughout the day so you have a continual dose.
B vitamins are needed for adrenal function. B5 is particular stands out as needed to make glucose into energy. B vitamins are best taken together as they work in synergy. However B vitamins also give you energy and may for some be too stimulating, some people may need a lower dose.
The Adrenal Stress Index is a salivary test that will measure stress hormones and their pattern throughout the day. It will show if they are out of kilter, this may help with discipline to make changes. More information here.
The last blog looked at adrenals and how the stress response system works and what happens when it goes wrong. Today I will discuss how diet can support your body and help with the way we adapt to our busy lives.
It is easy for me to say the first bullet point and I probably say it in every blog! However the foods listed below may make a difference.
Variety and diversity is important. The more types of food you eat the more chance you will eat all the essential nutrients your body needs.
Protein helps make chemicals in your brain and may help your ability to cope with a challenging life. Carbohydrates contain nutrients that support your bacteria in your digestive system. Many of the roles these bacteria play are involved in brain function and your ability to cope with life-load. Good quality fats build your brain and are involved in the communication of nerve cells.
Focus on eating nutritional dense foods in the forms of:
Complex carbs – vegetables, wholegrains such as oats, rye, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice and lower sugar fruits
Protein – fish, grass fed red meat, organic chicken, eggs and mix up proteins with plant ones as well: pulses, beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Good quality fats – olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, butter (in moderation), and coconut oil as well as grass fed meat and oily fish – salmon, trout, herrings, sardine and anchovies.
When thinking of your plate in any situation whether you are cooking, eating out – think half plate veg, so order an extra serving of vegetables and perhaps not have a desert! Some vegetables are also good sources of protein such as seed vegetables – broccoli and peas.
Eating too much sugar can have a negative effect on adrenals. When you spike your blood sugar levels, your sugar levels will dip after the steep rise. The body sees the dip as starvation, a stressor and stress hormones are released. Keeping blood sugar regulated throughout the day helps avoid this.
Eating protein at every meal, reducing refined sugars and processed foods and not skipping meals can all support blood sugar regulation.
Caffeine may have a negative effect on the adrenals. If you are using it to stay awake and having problems sleeping at night it might be worth looking at reducing or stopping.
Eat a wide variety of foods, add a new vegetable or fruit to your diet each week. This can help support your digestive system. The gut and brain are linked, supporting gut health supports stress response to situations. Additionally seasonal eating can be useful for getting diversity into your diet. In April eat lamb, crab, asparagus, wild garlic and Jersey Royals.
Green tea contains nutrients that support the cool and calm collected response, However there is caffeine in green tea so you don’t need a lot, couple of drinks a day, using the same teabag. Add in some dark chocolate, rich in magnesium, the mineral that supports nerves and muscles. This wonderful combo gives you some energy with a feel-good factor as well.
In this world you cannot avoid stressors. However, by supporting your response to it you can support your overall health.
Tune in next week for the final part and we will focus on lifestyle, supplements and testing.
Nutritional practitioners like myself talk quite a lot about adrenals and adrenal dysregulation. To clients sitting in front of me many must think – what is that?
The two adrenals glands sit on top of your kidneys. As glands do they secrete hormones, as many as 50, they are busy organs in the body. They are heavily involved in the stress response and some of the main hormones they secrete are adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.
How they work:
The brain releases hormones when we are in a challenging situation, one with a rather long name called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone travels to your adrenal glands and this stimulates them to make and secrete various hormones.
Many of these hormones are involved in your fight or flight stress response.
Adrenaline (a hormone) encourages blood flow to your arms and legs so you can run fast away from the threat. It also is directed at you heart, lungs and muscles to increase oxygen, again enabling you to escape fast. In cave man days this would have been a bear or tiger. Systems like digestion and reproduction is switched off because this is not important at this time.
The fight or flight response was only ever designed to be short-lived. Run away from the threat. Utilise the release of hormones to enable this. Once threat removed, the body returns to normal, the stress hormones are no longer needed. Unfortunately, in our modern living world this does not happen. The release of these hormones continues and this can drive disease and dysregulation of adrenals. The constant ping of notifications, being late for work, being unhappy at work or in a relationship are everyday occurrences for us all.
Adrenal dysregulation can also be triggered by early life stressors, in the womb or childhood experiences
The worst kind of stress is the one where you feel powerless and frustrated and you cannot change your situation.
Headaches, fatigue, irritability, changes in appetite, memory loss, low self-esteem, withdrawal, teeth grinding, cold hands, high blood pressure, disturbed sleeping patterns, allergies, muscle weakness, depression, anxiety and many more symptoms.
Cortisol has its own circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is your internal clock that can identify times of the day. So, you are meant to be awake in daylight and asleep when it gets dark. Cortisol is meant to be high in the morning and steadily decreases throughout the day being lowest in the evening. In adrenal dysregulation you may find cortisol does not follow this pattern hence symptoms of morning grogginess, daytime slumps and insomnia at night.
The way we live our lives is not going to change however you can make small changes to help you adapt better to fight or flight. Finding ways to switch it off when you need to through diet and lifestyle may support your symptoms and health. To find out how tune into Part 2 next week.
The news reported today that the misuse of pain relief drugs and how there is an increase in people being addicted to drugs with codeine in them. An in-depth report interviewed people with addictions to opioid drugs. They reported mindfulness techniques are being used for some to try to help them deal with pain. This was refreshing and hopeful.
Charlie and Steff on BBC Breakfast interviewed a GP live on the sofa. The GP welcomed a review into these drugs. She said that if someone is prescribed morphine for pain relief it only takes 72 hours to become addicted! She also admitted GPs sometimes have no choice to prescribe these drugs because they have no alternatives. Many of the previous pain relief meds have been taken off the market due to side effects. I think GPs can recommend other routes such as the mindfulness the news report had just spoken about. Diet may support pain relief, exercise, massage, physio and talking therapies may also be very helpful. Dr Chatterjee is a GP who promotes these routes of health as opposed to the drug route. He is also rolling out his approach to GPs to help them improve their patient’s health.
Resources are scarce for these therapies in the NHS however, the waiting lists are long if they are available. However, if they invested more in diet and lifestyle changes than in drugs perhaps there might be better outcomes for individuals and health of the UK as a whole.
Supplements and lifestyle are options try for pain management. This blog is focusing on some nutrients I have tried myself for frozen shoulder.
There is so much talked about with curcumin, it almost feels it could be a fad. However looking at research and clinical evidence it suggests turmeric may be supportive for pain. I take for the pain and if I don’t take it I notice, so it’s doing something.
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials found turmeric and its pain relieving properties had value however they did state there is not enough of these trials to make a firm conclusion of its effect.
Similarly, to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and aspirin. Curcumin blocks the pathway that drives inflammation. Inflammation that is in overdrive causes constant pain. The problem with turmeric it is hard to absorb, it is a huge molecule that cannot pass the lining of the stomach due to its size and it molecular make-up. However fat and black pepper can aid the absorption. Supplement companies also produce products that enable it to pass through the stomach and then reach the bloodstream.
Cooking with turmeric is useful, it is difficult to say how much pain relief it will have at culinary level. Always pair it up with fat and black pepper as stated. Curries are a great way to incorporate it. I also make scrambled eggs with turmeric and add it to smoothies and even my porridge.
Ginger also had pain relief qualities similar to turmeric. A lovely food study showed one patient lightly cooked 50g ginger per day. 6 more took 5 g per day of fresh ginger or 0.1 to 1g of dried powdered ginger. Even though there was a difference in dosage all reported a reduction in pain, swelling and stiffness in the morning. So, get the ginger in. Grate over fish, chicken in curries and make fresh ginger tea.
This is found in pineapple and is known as an enzyme. It acts by breaking down inflammatory compound such as fibrin ( build up of scar tissue), fibrin may lead to inflammation that causes pain and swelling. Bromelain is usually found in a supplement and often is combined with turmeric.
Overall evidence demonstrates that fish oils may be effective with people in Rheumatoid Arthritis not so much on Osteoarthritis. Studies have shown a reduction in NSAIDs whilst taking fish oils and an improvement in symptoms. It is important if taking a fish oil supplement to source the best quality. Fish oils again work in a similar manner, they have been shown to block an inflammatory pathway and also increase anti-inflammatory substances within the body.
Rosehips contain a type of galactolipid that has anti-inflammatory action. Galactolipids are found in the cell membrane of plants. Extracts of rosehips and been used to make a powder and have captured the anti- inflammatory properties of galactolipids. Rosehip is also rich in Vitamin C. According to artritis.co.uk “A 2008 meta-analysis of three clinical trials showed rose hips powder reduced hip, knee and wrist pain by about one-third in nearly 300 osteoarthritis patients and a 2013 trial found that conventional rose hips powder relieved joint pain almost as effectively as an enhanced version. In a 2010 trial of 89 patients, rose hips improved rheumatoid arthritis symptoms better than a placebo”
Other diet and Lifestyle options
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet with quality proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates with plenty colour goes a long way to supporting health. Incorporating exercise, gentle if needed, ensuring good quality sleep and finding me time are also ways that may improve overall quality of mind and body. Seek advice from GP and a nutritional therapist about alternatives to pain relief.