I have a confession to make. I was obsessed with my iPhone. A few months ago, I noticed my brain wasn’t working so well. My thinking was scattered, I couldn’t focus for long periods – having to re-read passages of text – and my memory was failing. The change was significant enough to make me feel worried and agitated. Then I went to London to see the ABBA Voyage concert and found the answer! During the weekend we stayed in an Air B&B owned by a fellow nutritional therapist and on her coffee table was a book How to Break Up With Your Phone. I opened a chapter called ‘Your phone is changing your brain’, and it outlined the symptoms I was experiencing and how my brain was being rewired “if you wanted to create a society of people who were perpetually distracted, isolated, and overtired, if you wanted to weaken our memories and damage our capacity for focus and deep thought, if you wanted to reduce empathy, encourage self-absorption, and redraw the lines of social etiquette, you’d likely end up with a smartphone”. The confession: I was on my phone A LOT! First thing in the morning for an hour, lunch times, evenings and anytime when I had a minute – even when watching TV and last thing at night!!! The impulse to constantly pick it up was draining and anxiety-inducing but I didn’t realise it because I liked picking it up. And this is the most odious aspect …
Quick fixes for brain fog can work pretty quickly unless there is an underlying condition. In which case, it’s worth investigating further with your GP or healthcare provider. Although brain fog can happen to us all, it’s the persistent and constant brain fog which can cause a lack of confidence and unhappiness that I am addressing here. This can be related to post-Covid infection, menopause, fatigue, too much screen time, diet, blood sugar balance and insomnia. Here are some quick fix solutions that can help. Blood sugar – yes, I know I keep bringing this up! If you eat foods that spike your blood sugar (and whatever goes up has to come down), you will then get a dip and reach for more food to compensate. This leads to a day of roller-coasting insulin and peaking and slumping energy levels. Sugar spikes and dips hinders mental capacity, memory and focus. It also makes it harder for you to concentrate on anything for a long period of time. High spikes raise serotonin and GABA to the point of sleepiness, and hormones such as cortisol, glucagon, and adrenalin are produced to try and mitigate the rapid drop in blood sugar – and cortisol and adrenalin can leave you feeling wired (even though you are tired) i.e. in fight or flight. Solution: include protein, fat and fibre in every meal i.e. not just cereal for breakfast or pasta for lunch. Snack on nuts and seeds. See more on flattening blood sugar spikes or …
Before Covid and lockdowns, I put my name down to participate in the Zoe Programme. A study carried out by King’s College and headed by Prof Tim Spector (the man who wrote The Diet Myth etc) and who is an expert in the gut microbiome. I’m fascinated by how the microbiome affects our physical and mental health. This programme gives you the opportunity to test three important markers: the diversity of your gut microbiome, your blood sugar metabolism and blood fats clearance. Using these personalised insights, you are then advised what foods improve all those markers. From my Zoe results I learnt that I have: a very diverse and healthy microbiome that I am one of the 31% of the population which has a ‘healthy’ pathogen called Blastocystis which is correlated with less visceral fat and better metabolism. I have two not-so-healthy bugs which hinder my sugar and fat clearance. I then received personalised advice about how to address this via diet Whilst wearing a blood glucose monitor and doing various challenges, I discovered how I can control my blood sugar responses. See challenges below: Morning 1 – eat a bowl of porridge made with water. Result: my blood sugar monitor showed that blood sugar spiked considerably Morning 2 – eat same amount of porridge and go for a 30 minute walk. Result: no blood sugar spike Morning 3 – eat same amount of porridge and have 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a little water beforehand. Result: no blood sugar spike …
Fats have a bad name and have, in the past, been associated with a myriad of health issues. Unfortunately, all the old advice about fats threw out ‘the baby with the bath water’. Fats are an important part of the diet, but not all fats have the same effects on health. While good fats can actually lower cholesterol levels, boost brain function and help you feel satisfied, unhealthy fats can lead to chronic disease and weight gain.
Are there foods that support the immune system? Yes, here are some foods credited with boosting your body’s natural defences. Eating well can boost your wellbeing in many ways, and supporting your immune system is just one of these. The best thing to do for your immune system is to eat a balanced diet. That means making sure you get a good mix of all the food groups, avoid overly salty, sweet or processed foods, and eat at least ten portions of fruit and vegetables a day Firstly, some interesting factsFact 1: People with more body fat tend to have a higher respiratory quotient (RQ) and tend to rely on their glucose burning (aerobic) metabolism and are, therefore, more susceptible to being out of breath (note: hypoxia is a key symptom and cause of death COVID-19). Due to oxidative priority, your body has to burn off any excess glucose in your system before fat and we consume around 30% more oxygen when be burn carbohydrates compared to fat.
This is a make-it-up-as-you-go recipe that worked out very well. Served with a big salad and a dash of lime, it’s perfect for a sunny day. Serves 3-4 450g turkey breast1 red chilli, chopped finely1 cm knob of ginger, peeled and gratedZest of one limeHandful of coriander, finely choppedPinch of salt and pepper You can either place everything except the turkey breast in a food processor and whizz until all the ingredients are finely chopped (this would save time) and then add the turkey breast and whizz again until everything is incorporated and chopped. Or, you could just place the turkey breast in the food processor and add all the other prepared ingredients and whizz!
We all feel tired from time to time; a busy family and social life, a few late nights, deadlines at work – whatever the reason, tiredness can catch up with all of us at times. But you may have realised that you’re feeling tired all the time, perhaps for no apparent reason, and even tired when you wake up. It’s a common problem. I see lots of clients who are, to some extent, ‘tired for no reason’. ONE of the reasons may be an underactive thyroid. Production of too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) is a common cause of unexplained fatigue; production can be affected by all sorts of things – an autoimmune response, for example, or other factors such as prolonged stress or intake of certain drugs which can damage your thyroid. Thyroid function is assessed via blood tests but often few markers are included, and whether you are found to be inside or outside the normal range can depend on where the test is carried out.
Firstly, craving carbohydrates and comforting food in uncertain times is not a sign of weakness or being greedy. It’s actually a fairly common hormonally-driven reaction to stress. The stressed brain craves a carb fix and the fastest, and unhealthiest, way to get it is with sugary, starchy processed foods which are chemically engineered to make you crave them. And the more carbs you eat, the more carbs you crave – creating a vicious cycle. So, be kind to yourself because we are going through unsettling times and instead, start the new year letting go of carb cravings and finding other ways to soothe yourself. One very good reason to put your carb house in order is that as we’ve seen in countries hardest-hit by the virus, the majority of those who died from the disease also had sugar dysregulation and metabolic problems (obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure). Fortunately, metabolic problems are reversible. Here are some steps you can take to wean yourself off carbs and lose weight. Snack smarter, by drinking first. The pandemic has turned our daily routines upside down. Long periods at home with a stocked fridge, home-schooling and hours on Zoom make us fatigued and looking for treats to lift our mood and energy levels. But before raiding the biscuit tin, it’s worth checking this isn’t just thirst. Perhaps make yourself a nice cup of tea (without sugar) to help fill the gap.
Taken from Sirocco: fabulous flavours from the East by Sabrina GhayourI’ve adapted it by adding quinoa flatbread and coconut yoghurt rather than dairy yoghurt. Avocado Mash with Quinoa Flatbread 1 large ripe avocado2 tbsp garlic oil (as long as oil is just infused, this is ok for FODMAPS)or plain olive oilChives, half a pack, chopped finelyCoriander, half a pack, chopped finely1 tsp ground corianderSlice of quinoa breadSea salt and black pepper For the dressing
Chocolate is one of the most delicious and desirable foods on the planet. You only have to look at the vast array of chocolate bars on supermarket shelves, not to mention the increasing variety of artisan and raw bars available, to see the hold it has over us. Top quality dark chocolate is also good for us, when made with minimal and unprocessed ingredients. The antioxidants in chocolate help to protect our cells from damage, and dark chocolate helps increase levels of feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain. One of the many theories as to why we crave it, apart from the delicious taste and feel-good factor, is the fact that it is a rich source of magnesium. Women, especially before their period, may be drawn to chocolate for this reason.