Want help to be Stress Free?

It’s always useful to have something lined up to help pull you out of a state of anxiety or low mood – perhaps a mindfulness technique or two.  It can be difficult to focus though when low mood hits.  However, most of us carry around tiny computers in our bags or pockets, giving access to apps which can aid with relaxation and mindfulness, and if someone else is guiding you, then not much effort is required!  I’ve had a play with one of them, and here’s my thoughts…

Stress Free is an app which talks you through various techniques to help induce mindfulness and relaxation, very useful when things are tough. It can be used on a smart phone or tablet, although the size of the font in the instructions does make it more suitable for a tablet when you first start using it. However, don’t let this put you off, because once you’ve been through the techniques a few times, you don’t need to read anything, just listen and watch the simple, yet enchanting graphics while breathing, relaxing and meditating.

The main menu has a delightful backdrop of a dessert island, waves gently lapping at the shore, a palm tree with coconuts, and seagulls flying around. Sound effects include relaxing music, and the sound of those waves waxing and waning. At first you will be guided through each technique in turn: deep breathing, meditation, deep muscle relaxation and self-hypnosis. All the techniques have a short explanation of the benefits involved. You can partake with your eyes shut, or watch the little avatar gently pulse while its outline changes colour, which I found slightly mesmerising, and an aide to my relaxation.

Once you have been through each technique the rest of the menu opens up, and you can choose which technique you wish to practice. There is a mood metre, where you are asked to signal how you are feeling on a scale of thunder clouds to sunshine, and then associate a word or two with those feelings. The app then makes recommendations of which techniques will benefit you at that particular time. There is also a virtual Zen garden, where you can arrange shells, stones, and even a sandcastle, rake sand, and make little pools of water. Like the little avatar, I found this particular feature a good distraction when my mood was low. The app helpfully charts your progress, so you can see how your mood changes over the days and weeks, and keep track of its recommendations. If you wish, you can customise a message of encouragement to pop in a bottle and launch into the sea.

The app is easy to use and gently relaxing. Definitely worth having on your phone or tablet and dipping in and out of during the day, to help stabilise your mood and lift you out of low moments.

Check it out in the app store.

New Beginnings

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Well, it’s been a while.  When I qualified as a nutritional therapist I had such hope for the future.  Life certainly throws many curveballs around, and it’s taken me a good long time to come to terms with some of them, because I find I am way off the track I had in mind.  In that time, I have continued to build my knowledge, and help people find their way.  But during that process I have lost my own.  Does this make me a better or worse therapist I wonder?  I have little difficulty following my own advice when it comes to choosing healthy foods.  What I’ve struggled with is avoiding the pitfalls that are so prevalent in the world we live in.  Alcohol is a big one.  I simply love wine and the effect it has on me.  Sugar.  I’ve always been a sugar monster.  I’ve struggled with my weight since I was a teenager, and although I will still maintain that I ‘don’t do diets’, I am probably your typical ‘yoyo dieter’ in that my weight has gone up and down my entire adult life.  Currently I am the heaviest I have ever been.  It’s becoming harder and harder to hold my head up when I see clients.  I know if they follow my advice they will get results.  But I wouldn’t blame them for eyeing me up and wondering if I know what I’m talking about sometimes.

Not only have I let my bad habits get the better of me, but I have allowed the negative feelings I harbour towards myself to stifle my creativity and confidence.  I love to write.  To share my knowledge and help people take steps towards a healthier life.  In the last year I have written perhaps 3 articles and 2 blog posts.  This is compared to the year before where I was writing at least weekly, and often daily.  It is something I need to change.  This has as much to do with healthy living as cutting out alcohol and sugar from my diet if I want to find myself again.  Ignoring creativity is a recipe for internal stress, and continual stress is about as damaging as it gets.

I found I became overwhelmed with the uphill struggle of getting my own practice up and running.  I have clients trickling in, but I wanted success immediately and was impatient with building it up slowly.  I trained as a nutritional therapist, but found I had to be a marketing expert, a website builder and an accountant all at the same time, roles I was unfamiliar with.  Now I find I need to take a step back from it all and decide how I want to move forward.  Not just in my practice, but in my life.  Do I want to be fat and fifty, or do I want to glow with health and have bundles of energy?  If it’s the second one then I need to tackle the bad eating and drinking habits I have let slip into my daily life.  Do I want to be true to myself or let my demons continue to stifle creative outlet?  To be true to myself I need to write, and often.  Do I want to continue to limp along in my practice, expending most of my energy on the non-nutrition job that pays the mortgage, or do I want to build it up and gain reputation for being good at what I do?  To build it up I need to come out of my comfort zone and take some risks, whether they be financial or personal.  Playing it safe hasn’t helped my self esteem, so putting myself out there can’t make it worse can it?  I have a lot of work ahead of me, but the benefit of hitting rock bottom is that the only way is up.

Cleansing those toxins

As a nutritional therapist I spend quite a bit of my time talking to people about supporting the liver.  Your liver is an amazing organ, designed to break down poisons so your body can excrete them.  We are saturated with toxins unfortunately – they are in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.  And that’s in the healthy stuff!  Then add in alcohol, prescription drugs, tobacco smoke, chemicals in cleaning products, shampoo, shower gel, make up…oh the list is endless.  And so we move towards eating ‘clean’, switching to products less contaminated with nasty chemicals, and avoiding the obvious ones like smoke and alcohol.  This is all in the typical day of a nutritional therapist!

But what about toxic people?  We’ve all got some in our lives.  Again there are the obvious ones, the ones who are never happy for your achievements, who outwardly criticise and don’t support you.  Like tobacco smoke they are much easier to avoid than the hidden chemicals in food and drink.  Or the ones you think are your friends, but are actually toxic beyond words behind the scenes.  Let’s pick a food example.  ‘I hardly eat any sugar.  I don’t eat biscuits, or sweets’.  Then when you examine the diet it turns out that actually it’s pretty high in sugar, because it’s full of bread, and pasta, and jars of cooking sauces!  You could have a friend whose company you enjoy, who you believe has your best interests at heart, as friends should, only to find that actually they only have their own best interests in mind, and then say and do things behind your back, causing rifts and chaos beyond measure.

It takes an effort to clear these toxic people and toxic substances out of your life, but toxins in any form are harmful.  What nonsense I hear you say!  A toxic person doesn’t affect your liver.  Hmm, don’t be so sure.  Your liver doesn’t only break down external toxins.  It recycles hormones, and let’s not forget that a stress reaction floods your body with hormones that need breaking down and recycling.  So if a toxic person upsets you, likelihood is your liver will be working overtime for a while.

Do some life laundry as well as cleaning your diet up.  Look after yourself.  And if someone spends time slating others to you, think carefully about what you tell them because they are likely displaying the same destructive tendencies towards you without your knowledge.  It’s a bitter pill indeed to swallow when the light finally dawns.

New year, new you?

It’s another new year’s eve.  Another year older, another year to look back on.  I’m wondering what your new year’s resolution will be?  I guess weight loss will be featuring quite highly for several of you?  ‘Right that’s it.  I’m going to work hard and lose all this excess poundage in the new year‘.  Does that sound familiar?  Let’s see if I can guess some more of your resolutions… To cut down on alcohol perhaps?  Reduce how much sugar you eat?  Increase how many vegetables you have each day?  Drink more water?  Eat less meat?  Feel more healthy?  Cut down on coffee?  Recapture the youthful glow you once had?

I’m betting most of those resolutions revolve around your health.  We are surrounded by convenience ‘foods’ (unfortunately, the more convenient a ‘food’ is, the less nutritional value, or even resemblance to ‘food’ there is).  Life is busy, and who wants to cook a meal from scratch when you get in after an 8 hour day at work?  But therein lies the problem really.  If you’re not nourishing your body adequately (and chances are you’re not if you rely too heavily on anything ‘convenient’), there’s no youthful glow to be had, and your body undoubtedly will be struggling to work as well as it could.  With this comes nasty old weight gain, dark circles under eyes, dull or spotty skin, lank and thin hair, bad breath, indigestion and acid reflux, constipation, headaches, joint pain… oh the list goes on.  And hands up who doesn’t suffer with at least one of the aforementioned consequences of eating too many convenience foods and not enough real food?

Eating a healthy diet isn’t as difficult as you might think.  Yes you have to put in slightly more effort, and yes cutting down on sugar, which is insidiously in everything that has a label, isn’t easy, but think about what your new year’s resolution is going to be and then do the maths.  If you want to lose weight, feel better, glow etc etc, then you need to eat more vegetables, cut down on alcohol, drink more water yada yada yada.

You know where I am if you want some help!

So all I have left to say is, enjoy your new year’s eve celebrations (complete with alcohol and sugar no doubt – mine will be too!).  Happy new year folks!

Your friendly NT,

Annabel xx

 

 

 

Genetic testing – yikes!

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It’s been an ‘interesting’ couple of months. I’ve had some wonderful support from friends and family, and I love them dearly for it (you know who you are!). 

I recently took a genetic test. I didn’t even consider the consequences, because this few weeks aside, I strive to eat well and look after myself. So whatever my genes are, I firmly believe that I can up- and down- regulate them using diet and lifestyle. I was just curious!

The good news is I haven’t got the Alzheimer’s gene, nor am I prone to high cholesterol and inflammation (I am truly surprised!). The bad news is that the gene associated with leptin (appetitie/satiety hormone) is flaky, but I’m not at all surprised about that. I’ve always struggled with control of what I eat, particularly when I’m feeling down.

What kind of floored me was that my liver is severely compromised. In retrospect it’s not really that surprising, but the red band in the heading of the report made me feel a bit insecure!  I feel highly stressed much of the time, and get migraines, acne and hormonal issues – all signs of a compromised liver.  Apparently my gene Glutathione S-transferase M GSTM1 doesn’t work at all.  It’s switched off.  It’s one of the 2 main enzymes that helps detoxify rubbish (carcinogens, drugs, environmental toxins, free radicals).  This is not a good thing!  It is responsible for detoxifying steroid hormones (including the stress hormone cortisol and the sex hormone estrogen), and neurotransmitters (like serotonin and adrenalin) from the brain.  Well no wonder I’m hormonally and adrenally challenged then eh?  It’s certainly explains a lot!

And just as an aside, I will be looking in to ways to switch this gene back on!  Funnily enough, the reason I felt compelled to write this post, is that I totally craved cruciferous vegetables with my dinner tonight.  My mum used to make me eat Brussels sprouts and I HATED them.  Now I crave them.  Seems to me, subconsciously I am trying to right the defective gene, as cruciferous veg are manna for the liver.

I’m also concerned that this whole glutathione switched off business points to inadequate methylation.  Methylation is complicated and needs a whole other post to explain, but suffice to say that poor methylation is linked to heart disease, Alzheimer’s and a whole other host of nasties, even if the report shows I don’t have the genes that make me prone to these things.

The bottom line?  Poor methylation needs B vitamins, and I will be taking a supplement for that one.  I need to keep sugar and caffeine (and alcohol) to a minimum (but this goes for everyone and anyone!)  I love the supplement N-acetyl-cysteine for the liver, but as a dear friend and personal guru pointed out to me today, I’m very probably not metabolising this supplement properly, so I’m looking at a more herbal and gentle solution – will let you know.

Do I recommend the gene testing?  It rather depends.  If you are going to use it to your advantage, of course.  If it’s going to freak you out and paralyse  you – don’t bother, just eat well,and strive to do your best.

As ever, here to advise you, whatever your needs.

Nutrition and wellness advisor/practitioner/real person xxx

 

 

 

 

How can sitting down possibly be as bad as smoking?

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…he says, with that teenage look in his eyes which says ‘mum, you know nothing’.  My son thinks I make things up (or he wishes, especially when I’m telling him my views on things like Dr Pepper and Lucozade).  So when a discussion sparked up round the dinner table about the perils of sitting down for hours each day he just wasn’t convinced.

It does sound ludicrous though doesn’t it?  How can something as seemingly harmless and passive as sitting down be as damaging as smoking?  Smoking smells bad, it gives off something visual, you can feel the bad effects as you breathe it in.  It’s just so…obvious it’s bad for you and everyone around you.  For once I can understand my son’s incredulity.

It also sounds worrying though.  I gave up smoking years ago.  I eat tons of vegetables each day, and most of them are organic.  I drink lots of water.  I get outside.  I walk.  I do yoga.  I’m healthy, right?  Well yes, but I also spend much of my day sitting, either at a computer, in a consultation or meeting, or sometimes even watching TV.  I’m sitting right now with my laptop on my knees.  And I’ve been doing it for years.

The research is linking sitting with an increased risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.  It can’t prove that sitting causes these things, but in the research subjects the ones who sit the longest have higher incidence of these frightening lifestyle diseases.  But that’s not the primary reason the detrimental effects of sitting are being likened to the detrimental effects of smoking.  The problem is that once the effects start to accumulate they can’t be reversed.  Smoke 20 a day for 20 years and you will start to knacker your lungs.  It’s true that if you then stop smoking you are no longer adding to that state of knackered-ness, but even if you then take up exercise and healthy eating you can’t undo the damage that’s been done.  And it’s the same with sitting they say.  No amount of exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits will negate the damage done by a lifetime of sitting.

Bugger!  So why am I eating tons of vegetables (mostly organic), topping up my vitamin D, doing yoga, drinking water etc etc?  Sounds like I’m already on the path to cancer, diabetes and heart disease!

That’s the trouble with taking these research findings in isolation.  Yes I sit too much, but I’m making an effort to get up and move around much more than I used to.  And I firmly believe that there is a whole picture here, and doing the ‘right things’ to be healthy most of time has to be a good thing.  I take this knowledge and I use it to my advantage as much as I can.  For example, I’ve started laying on the sofa to watch TV 😉

And I will never stop telling my teenage son that sitting in front of his computer all day is bad for him.  He already has many chimp-like traits, and this picture says it all!

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Mix Your Own Gluten Free Flour -Learn How With Our Easy (and awesome) Guide!

I’m still learning about all these different flours, and this is such a useful article. I will be experimenting with finding a good substitute for all the things I can’t have – that would be rice, potato, soy and nut flours.

The Gluten Free Lifesaver

The Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Flour Mixing! #celiac #coeliac #glutenfree #grainfreeEver wished you had a little Gluten Free baking genie to turn to in the flour department?

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Waking up at a particular time in the early hours? Read this to find out why.

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I knew as soon as I came to that it was stupid o’clock.  It wasn’t quite dark still, but it certainly wasn’t light, and I couldn’t hear the hot water chugging away.  Ugh!  Thankfully I don’t do this very often, but I’ve got a lot on my mind at the moment, so I suppose I shouldn’t be totally surprised.  Then again I’ve always got a lot on my mind, but I don’t always wake up at 5am (I do usually wake up around 6, but then I go to bed at 10, so no surprises there).  So why this morning (and other mornings when I wake this early)?

When I think about my friends and some of the clients I have seen, dropping off to sleep is usually not the issue, it’s waking up in the night and then being unable to get back to sleep.  Sound familiar?  You’re totally shattered, having been up since 3.30am, you crawl into bed and fall straight to sleep…only to be awake at 3.30am again, and are then unable to drop back off.  In the end you get up and go on Facebook.  Go on, admit it.  I’ve seen your updates!  And so the cycle continues.

According to TCM (that’s Traditional Chinese Medicine don’t you know!), each organ has a period throughout the 24 hours of the day when it’s most active, so you can begin to identify what might be a contributing factor if you continually wake up around the same time every night.  1am to 3am is the liver, 3am to 5am is the lungs, and 5am to 7am is the large intestine (and yes, I did need ‘to go’ when I woke up at 5.10am this morning!).  Keep waking up just before 3am?  Try including more protein and fat with each meal and snack throughout the day, and reducing how many carbs you eat.  You might be surprised at what a difference this makes!  4.15am more your bag?  Try reducing mucus forming foods (dairy, simple carbs) and see if that helps.  Just gone 5 and you’re awake?  Try eating more fibre regularly.

You know I can help you, right?  If you’re at the end of your tether about poor sleep come and see me for a consultation, and we’ll work together to find a way to have you sleeping like a baby again (an older baby who sleeps through the night, obviously!)

And if you’re interested in the rest of that TCM map here it is – 7am – 9am stomach, 9 – 11 spleen, 11 – 1pm heart, 1 – 3 small intestine, 3 – 5 bladder, 5 – 7 kidneys, 7 – 9 pericardium (circulation, sex organs, brain), 9 – 11 endocrine system (your glands – thyroid, adrenals, pancreas etc), 11 – 1am gallbladder.  So if you have a particular time of day that is difficult for you on a repeated basis (you feel extra tired or sluggish for example), then this map gives you a place to start when trying to figure out what might be going on.

And as for me, it’s nearly time to get the kids up, so I’ll just have to put up with being a bit more tired today.  But on the plus side, I do get inspirational moments when I wake early, and today I have got a new blog post out there 😉  Happy Friday folks xx

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Lips are on fire!

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O.M.G.  I have just eaten the most spicy curry EVER (Vindaloo from the takeaway has nothing on this one!)  Made by my fair hand (of course!), but I think I might have overdone the crushed chillies and fresh ginger.  You know as you’re eating it, and you’re reluctant to stop because you’ve just spent an hour cooking it, but actually it’s pretty torturous?  No?  Really?  Hmmmm!!  For me it wasn’t helped by rice being the highest scorer on my food intolerance rating, so it really was just the curry with nothing to take my mind off the molten lava experience in my mouth.  Having said that, chillies are supposed to have pain killing attributes, and the mild headache I had before dinner has gone now.  Maybe it was worth the torture!

OK, so you think you’re hard?  Then I challenge you to have a go at this (it’s actually delicious – if you don’t like them too hot adjust the spices though.  If you do like them blow your head off hot, then follow the recipe to the letter!)

Here is the original recipe https://iquitsugar.com/recipe/coconut-thai-curry-with-chickpeas/.  Obviously I’m always missing certain things in my cupboard from the list, so I improvise.  I also can’t seem to leave garlic out!

1 clove garlic, sliced
2 inches ginger, grated
1 can coconut milk
1 carton chopped tomatoes
2 tsp crushed chillies
4 large mushrooms, quartered
Half butternut squash, cubed
Handful cauliflower florets
Handful of fresh coriander
Can chickpeas
2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Chuck the garlic, ginger, coconut milk, tomatoes and chilli in a large casserole dish (seriously, if you’re not keen on spice, only put 1/2 to 1 tsp chilli and 1 inch ginger in there – you’ll thank me later).  Heat up until bubbling then add the vegetables and stick in the oven for about 20 minutes at about 180 c.  Stir in the chickpeas, coriander and yeast and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Confession – I had to put a large dollop of CoYo on it to actually be able to eat it 😀

And nutritionally speaking (which you’d expect from a nutritional therapist!), it’s packed full of fibre, protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals.  You can always rely on me for that!

Enjoy xxx

Don’t let hayfever ruin your summer – 5 tips to help you manage it

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I really loathe hayfever.  OK, that’s stating the obvious, who doesn’t?  But I never suffered with it until my mid 20s, so it totally took me by surprise that year when suddenly I was in abject misery from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep for a 4 week period.  Constant CONSTANT sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, tingling gums – ugh, I shudder at the memory.  And don’t get me started on what happened the summer I was heavily pregnant and couldn’t stop sneezing.  Never mind stress incontinence – let’s just call it incontinence and be done with it.

Thankfully those summers where I’m trapped inside for the whole of June seem to be a thing of the past.  What’s my secret I hear you ask?  Well I wish I could bottle it!  Can you imagine?! Alas there is no magic pill for hayfever (even antihistamines!).  There are however a number of steps you can take to nourish your body and prepare it to better manage the onslaught of harmless pollen without choosing to see it as a deathly invasion.  And the sooner you start the better!

1. Eat to help balance your immune system.  In simple terms, there are two sides to your immune system, and when things get out of balance allergies and autoimmune diseases can start to become a problem.  This is when those harmless particles of pollen are identified as a danger, and the immune system goes into overdrive to neutralise them (cue sneezing, itching and swelling!).  Increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids by eating flaxseed daily, or oily fish 3 times a week (no more than twice if pregnant), or taking a supplement of EPA/DHA (or echium oil if vegetarian).  Top up your vitamin D levels, ideally by exposing your skin to sunlight for 20 minutes a day, but if that’s not possible (for example if going outside makes you sneeze uncontrollably and wet yourself!) then small amounts of vitamin D can be found in oily fish, butter and egg yolks (or a supplement!).  And never underestimate vitamin C and zinc, which are your immune system’s best friends.   Lots of different fruit and vegetables for vitamin C, and seeds and shellfish for zinc, will help with those.

2. Optimize gut health and digestion.  In order for all these immune-supporting nutrients to get where they are needed you have to be able to break food down for proper absorption.  Practice mindful eating – chew slowly, concentrate on what you’re doing, drink a small glass of water with your meal (but no more).  If you suffer with digestive problems then consider a digestive enzyme (contact me for more info if you want to go down this route).  Friendly bacteria are important for both the immune system and digestive health, so eat fermented foods (things like plain bio yoghurt, kefir, sour pickles, miso) or consider taking a supplement (particularly if you’ve had antibiotics recently).

3. Cut down on immune-suppressing foods and drink.  Yep, this is the bit you were probably dreading.  Sugar suppresses the immune system.  Sorry, but you need to know that.  And while that may seem like a good thing, when yours is in overdrive and causing you to wish you could scratch your own eyes out, it’s not.  It’s contributing to the whole unbalanced state referred to in point 1, and an unbalanced immune system is an over-reactive immune system.  Unfortunately caffeine, alcohol and processed meats also fall into this category.  No-one’s saying you can’t have these things ever again, but if you’re miserably suffering and want to reduce that feeling, then you need to know these things might be making matters worse!

4. Reduce exposure to environmental toxins.  Your liver is a fantastic organ. Among its many purposes is breaking down toxins so they can safely be eliminated by the body.  And it’s very good at doing that.  Unfortunately modern living exposes us to a great many toxins though, and sometimes the liver can become overburdened.  If there’s a backlog hanging around, that gives your immune system something else to get its knickers in a twist about, so it makes sense to reduce exposure where you can.  Cleaning products, cosmetics, skincare and personal hygiene items – many of them contain chemicals which we can quite frankly do without.  Try the ‘green’ cleaning products, or natural skincare etc (paraben and SLS-free are a start, although there are many more to be aware of – contact me if you want to know more).

5. Try herbal/natural remedies.  The chemicals which cause the hateful symptoms of hayfever are composed of more than histamine.  Why not try quercetin, pycnogenol, or spices like ginger and turmeric?  Local honey, taken for months in advance is thought to be helpful.  Homeopathy may have some answers for you too, although I’d advise you to see a qualified homeopath if you decide you want to try it out.

I wish you luck, and hope to see you outside this summer, without vaseline round your little red nose and sunglasses permanently attached to your face to hide your puffy eyes 🙂