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Changes To Start Making Today To Prevent Winter Relapse And How To Rescue Yourself If You Do Have A Setback

“Never discourage anyone who to make progress, no matter how slow”

Plato

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Welcome to my blog, I’m really pleased that you’ve taken the time to have a look.

Before you start reading, lets establish if this is the right blog for you?

Well if you’re someone who suffers from anxiety, depression, mental health problems, chronic pain, extreme fatigue, digestive disorders, autoimmune conditions or just simply you go downhill during the Autumn and Winter months then you have come to the right place and I would encourage you to read on.

This is my first blog and I hope my first of many.

I had not planned on this being my first topic but it dawned on me the other day that as I’m preparing myself for winter to prevent my own flare ups and setbacks then maybe you too would like to know how to do the same.

About Me

My nutritional journey began over a decade ago.  I had been suffering with quite significant mental health issues since I was at school, but by my late 20’s my body was really starting to feel the effects too as my mental ill health precipitated out effecting my physical wellbeing as well.  It’s true what they say about the cells in your body having memory to past trauma and events in your life that can rear its head as you age, in the form of physical illness if you don’t allow the trauma and emotions the space to process, which many of us do not. This is also doctors will say that certain conditions are to do with your mental wellbeing and you’re thinking ‘NO I have back ache or stomach problems’.  This is the power of the mind body connection.

By the time I was 22 I had been diagnosed with a whole malady of mental health problems including generalised anxiety disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, body dysmorphia and PTSD.

Aged 27 I was struck with Fibromyalgia and then aged 30 I hit rock bottom when diagnosed with M.E, a spondylolithesis and degenerative disc disease in my lower spine.

I was either in constant pain, fatigued to the point that I didn’t even have the strength in my arms to spread butter on bread and my mind was a complete mess.  My only real treatment options left were lithium, morphine and antidepressants.

So, I changed my tactics.  I had already graduated with an honours degree in Biochemistry and believed strongly that I could change the health of each and every cell in my body.  I knew it would take time but I believed it was possible.

I studied further to gain a diploma in Nutritional Therapy and started creating meals and implementing lifestyle changes which encouraged recovery.

One of my worst times for relapse both mentally and physically is Winter.  This is the reason why I created the following plan to begin working on now to prepare your body for winter.

It would be great if you could join me on this journey so you can achieve the same benefits that I do.

By undertaking these changes and sticking to them a majority of the time I have found that symptoms of pain, anxiety and depression reduces significantly, you have increased energy, your hormones feel more balanced with less PMT, your sleep patterns are better and you feel healthier in general.

It changes your life in a way that you may not think is possible, enabling you to enjoy life again with your family and friends, something that you may have thought you had lost forever.

I’m not saying that you won’t have potential setbacks, no one can promise that, but you will most definitely be stronger, healthier and more able to manage them if they happen and have the knowledge to bring yourself back into balance if things go wrong.

So here goes, I hope you find this useful.

Kate xx

 

Winter relapse and flare up prevention guide

 

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Do you find that during the summer your mood is better, your aches and pains go down and your stress levels are often more manageable?  Your body and mind just tend to flow a little more smoothly and your body and mind are more in harmony.

THEN, along comes Autumn, the temperature drops, the clocks change, the days become darker and shorter and everything goes to pot. Your mood drops, you start picking up viruses, pains appear here, there and everywhere and where you were in the summer seems nothing but a distant memory.  You’re doing nothing differently but everything seems to have changed.

This was me for many years, due to suffering chronic illness I picked up every virus going, my condition seemed permanently flared.  Then when other members of my family started suffering too with increased ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER, MUSCLE AND JOINT PAIN AND SLEEP PROBLEMS, I felt that I needed to create a prevention and rescue plan to support our household, which is what I’m sharing with you here as it’s proven to be very effective with not just my family but other people too.

The following changes are not intended to be undertaken all in one go. You may find that you are doing some of them already which is great.  The key to my plan working is to start small and build up gradually. Rather than it being a quick fix, treat it as a long term lifestyle change so that you gain the benefits  all year round.  You will find however that the effects are more noticeable in the winter, the time when you often feel at your worst.

It really is important that you do not take on too much in one go if you want to achieve the best results you can.  Little and often is the key and being able to maintain each small change before you bring the next one in is the best way to reach your goal of feeling better.

What is the reason behind the flare ups and setbacks?

The main reason behind the flare ups is inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body makes these conditions worse. During the summer month’s our immune systems are stronger, which in turn leads to less inflammation in the body.

Inflammation is the cause and trigger for many health conditions from mental health problems to arthritis, autoimmune diseases and digestive disorders to name a few, the list is endless.

Chronic inflammation can sit in our bodies for quite a long time before it manifests into something obvious.  Where ever your inflammation is in your body,  gut, joints or organs it is caused by an immune system in defence mode.

What can you do to avoid and reduce inflammation?

  • CHANGE YOUR DIET

Your diet has a massive influence over the level of inflammation you experience in your body.  The western diet that many of us eat comprising mainly of lots of bread, pasta, saturated fats, processed foods, refined sugar, additives and alcohol and very little fruit and vegetables only serves to make inflammation worse.

This type of food disrupts hormones in the body such as insulin which can trigger inflammation due to the rapid release of sugar within the body.

When our bodies are disrupted in this way our immune system goes down and we are more susceptible to illness and relapse.

Following a more Mediterranean diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, salads, olive oil, fish and lean white meat can really improve the symptoms of inflammation.

Eat more Omega 3 from foods such as oily fish, anchovies, sardines, tuna, salmon, mackerel, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts as this helps to reduce inflammation in the body as the omega 3 fatty acids they contain are naturally anti-inflammatory.

Aim to eat oily fish 3 times a week and slot seeds and nuts into salads and porridge.

The omega 3 aids the formation of more healthier and more fluid membranes. Healthy cell membranes have been shown to be important in the prevention of conditions such as depression and other mental health conditions.

Healthy cell membranes mean that nutrients can flow more easily to their required destination which creates a healthier you 😉.

Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and some fruit.  Aim to have 7- 9 portions of fresh vegetables and fruit a day, 5-7 portions of vegetables and 2-3 portions of fruit.

If you are an anxiety or pain sufferer then really stock up on the green stuff, such as kale, watercress, spinach, lettuce and broccoli.  Greens are full of magnesium which helps to calm you and relax your muscles and helps with energy production. I’ve found that on a bad day my best friends are watercress, cucumber and celery. I often make celery and cucumber into a juice to drink throughout the day.  They don’t take much preparing and for reducing pain and anxiety they are for me the best.  Cherries, pineapple and sweet potatoes also have a very effective natural anti-inflammatory effect.

Adding Turmeric and Ginger to foods and drinks can also help due to their natural anti-inflammatory properties.  Add turmeric and ginger to teas, curries, humous and dressings to give yourself a boost.

I actually take a turmeric supplement because I found it so effective for the pain relief of fibromyalgia, I have found the Pukka range to be the most effective but you can shop around and find one for yourself.  Avoid ones that don’t contain pepper as this is required to activate the active components in the turmeric.

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  • UP YOUR VITAMIN B LEVELS

B vitamins are vital for a healthy nervous, muscular and cardiovascular system.  B vitamins also help reduce inflammation.  They can be found in wholemeal bread, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, spelt and rye products as well as beans and pulses.

Personally, I chose to stay away from gluten altogether as it causes me more inflammation, more pain and fatigue, so I avoid any bread and pasta. This is something that you can test and experiment with for yourself as we are not all the same.  I would advise eating more quinoa, spelt, rye, beans and pulses and using brown rice pasta instead of whole wheat.

There is also another problem with some packaged whole wheat products, you don’t always know what’s gone into them.  Sometimes the ingredients list is massive and this is where inflammatory ingredients can often be lurking.  I always try to go for the natural product and the one with the least ingredients.

  • EAT MORE HEALTHY FATS

We’ve already mentioned eating more omega 3.  Another area to focus on is eating less saturated fats found in high fat cheeses, intensely farmed and processed meat as these all contribute to increasing inflammation. If possible eat free range products, organic meat and foods such as oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds.

  • REDUCE YOUR SUGAR INTAKE DRAMATICALLY

The biggest tip I can give is eat LESS sugar.  Dramatically reduce your intake or better still give it up altogether.

It is deemed acceptable in our society to fill the foods we buy with extra sugar that we don’t even need, this I believe is more to do with keeping you addicted to the product more than anything else as sugar is highly addictive.

READ the labels on the foods that you buy, see how high up the ingredients list sugar is located.  Ideally you don’t want any sugar in the ingredients list at all, but if it’s higher up the list it’s a definite no no!!!!

Refined sugar is in cakes, biscuits, sweets, fizzy drinks, yogurts, ready meals and processed foods. They provide the perfect recipe for inflammation, so if you can avoid these foods completely you will feel much better.

Also try to avoid buying jars of sauces as they contain a lot of hidden sugar, especially tomato based ones.  If possible make curry, pasta sauces and salad dressings yourself.  If you haven’t already noticed it, you will be very shocked to see how much sugar is in the manufactured ones.

You may find that when you cut down these food types that you crave them a lot.  This is the manufactures intentions. If its proving difficult and triggering emotions which can happen if food has been used to support you emotionally, which is often the case, with draw them from your diet slowly over time.

  • FEED THE GOOD BACTERIA IN YOUR GUT

Having a healthy gut microbiome can significantly improve your general health and wellbeing.  A lot of work is being done in this area and it thought that imbalances gut bacteria are responsible for many health problems in the modern world.  A healthy gut microbiome decreases levels of inflammation in the body and boosts immunity.

This is an area I focused on greatly with my own wellbeing. So many things occur in the gut, B vitamins are made, a large percentage of our ‘feel good’ hormone serotonin is situated there. Nutrients are transported from there to other areas of the body so it is crucial that we look after it well.

To achieve a healthy gut avoid foods that disrupt it such as sugar, wheat and processed foods. Include probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, Miso and Kefir.  Also Include prebiotic foods that support the probiotic bacteria in doing their job such as green leafy vegetables, potato skins, garlic, asparagus, chicory, onions and leaks.

Plus, and this is something I do every day without fail, take a probiotic supplement to top up your microbiome.

  • REDUCE YOUR CONSUMPTION OF DAIRY PRODUCTS

Firstly, over the next two weeks find the time to work out if dairy is a problem for you as you wouldn’t want to remove it unnecessarily. For me dairy creates a massive problem, it triggers joint and muscle pain, chest problems and causes negative changes to my mental wellbeing. Also, if you or a family member suffer with any behavioural conditions then intolerance to dairy is an area worth investigating.

As I’ve already said remove dairy products completely for two weeks, then gradually introduce them in small amounts to see how your body reacts.  If you do feel that you are better off without them make sure you boost your calcium intake by eating green leafy vegetables, broccoli and almonds and a calcium supplement if needs be.

This same process can be used to see how your body reacts to wheat and gluten, just don’t eliminate both wheat and dairy at the same time.

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  • DRINK A LOT MORE WATER

Most of us don’t drink enough water anyway but central heating in the winter can really play havoc with our internal hydration and this can have a real impact on our health and energy levels.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to avoid caffeinated tea, coffee and cola, and replace them with herbal teas, water, and decaffeinated drinks.  Make sure you avoid fizzy drinks that contain sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Another reason to reduce your intake of caffeinated drink is you remove one of the triggers that can begin and maintain an anxiety cycle. Breaking the anxiety cycle can also break any pain cycle that you may be stuck in as anxiety and pain often come as a package.

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  • RAISE YOUR VITAMIN D

This is an important point.  Various conditions such as psychiatric disorders, autoimmune disorders, hormonal problems, arthritic and cardiovascular conditions show seasonal variation.  This is because we have seasonal genes which are switched on during different times of the year.  What we also know is that the metabolism of Vitamin D also varies throughout the year and is lower in the winter.

Vitamin D is important because it triggers the immune system and this reduces inflammation, therefore we feel better. However, during the autumn and winter months the levels of vitamin D are lower in our bodies.

It is therefore a good idea from April-October that we go outside for at least 15-20 minutes a day without sunscreen to top up our vitamin D levels. Although this summer I don’t think we will get much benefit as it’s been more like winter so a vitamin D supplement would be a good idea.  Having a good level of Vitamin D can reduce the risk of us picking up viruses, experiencing instability in our mental well being and also reduce the chance of other pre-existing conditions flaring up because our immune system will be more robust.

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  • EXERCISE

Exercise regularly to increase the blood flow to the periphery of the body.  When its cold blood tends to travel to the centre of the body to protect the organs but this can cause pain and discomfort elsewhere, you become stiff and inflexible as lactic acid builds up in your muscles causing pain that can sometimes be unbearable.

Also, when we exercise we produce proteins that turn off the inflammatory response.

So, whatever you do this winter KEEP MOVING, even if you’re going through a period of being laid up in bed move your arms and legs, rotate your neck. JUST KEEP MOVING.

Yoga, Pilates, walking and bike rides are all good gentle forms of exercise, but if you prefer something more vigorous GO FOR IT!

Note: working out too hard for too long increases inflammation, so remember it’s all about balance.

I have to exercise 6 out of 7 days a week to support my health but this did not happen overnight. Frustratingly I had to start at very low level (1 minute on the exercise bike!) and increased what I was doing by about 20% a week.  At times it drove me completely and utterly, nuts but I suffered very few setbacks doing it this way.

The most important thing to do here is listen to your body. If your body is saying no, don’t do it.  Sometimes there is a big element of fear when it comes to exercise because you don’t want to get worse. If you have access to a physiotherapist, work with them to create a plan on how to tackle it safely.

Also, just because you maybe can’t run or do aerobics it doesn’t mean you can’t do something. Keep Moving!!!!!

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  • MEDITIATE OR DO SOME RELAXATION DAILY

It’s very important to take some time out for you, even if it’s just ten minutes here and there.  This allows the muscles to relax, the mind to unwind and your nervous system to calm down all of which lowers stress hormones, raises immune defences and promotes healing within the body and moves the body away from the inflammatory state.

An extremely simple technique that you can do any time is to sit, stand or lie down, it doesn’t really matter and focus on your breath. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, don’t pause in between breaths. Then in your mind on the in breath just say to yourself “in” and on the out breath say “out”. Continue breathing like this for a few minutes.

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  • SLEEP

Try to maintain a regular sleep pattern.  Going to sleep and waking up at roughly the same time each day.

The temptation in winter is to stay in bed longer but this messes up your sleep wake cycles.

There are certain foods that you can eat to improve your sleep quality such as turkey, avocado, kiwi’s, bananas, oats, walnuts and cherries.

Also, the use of a light box first thing in the morning can be highly beneficial. If you suffer from more extreme winter depression then a light box could prove invaluable.

Personally, I have found light boxes are great for relieving pain and low mood that is triggered during the winter. They enable you to feel more relaxed, experience less pain and really improve your mood.  If you do purchase one aim for one of at least 10,000 lux.

 

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  • MY FINAL POINT (points) and probably in a way some of the more important points to help avoid step backs in the winter is:

Don’t feel guilty for things that you feel you haven’t achieved or haven’t done.  Guilt will drive you down.

Praise yourself for each positive step you make and let go of any criticism you are carrying.   

Every change you make is benefiting your well being even if at times you can’t feel It, so keep going.

Do not compare yourself to others. This is your journey no one else’s.

Do what your body and mind need in this moment. No need to project to the future or look back at the past. Just focus on the present moment and what you need to do right here right now. Now is all we really have.

Stop wasting valuable energy on things you have no control over.

You are not a failure for having to take it slowly, you are creating positive sustainable, lifelong change that will benefit you and your family.

Accept where you are at the moment.  Accepting is not giving in, it gives you a platform to work from.  It’s natural to feel upset if you are unable to do the things you want to do, allow those feelings to be there and flow.  You can’t move forward without excepting where you are right now.

Finally try your best to connect.  Connecting with other people will help to prevent isolation and set backs.  Try and connect with friends or family or join a group where people have the same interests as you.  I joined a choir, the combination of the music mixed with being part of a supportive community really helped me feel good and improved my health.

 

 

 

The information given in this blog does not take into account any individual’s health conditions and you should speak to your medically trained professional before making any changes to your nutrition routine.

I also recommend that you seek advice from a medically trained professional immediately should you have any health concerns.

 Should you wish to undertake any of the changes outlined and use this document as a tool, you do so at your own risk, and that you hold Kate Birch-Scanlan free of any liability relating to changes in your physiological or mental health, whether it be positive or negative.

 

 

 

How Nutrition Can Help You To Cope With The Stress And Anxiety Of Exams.

Being a Biochemist, Nutritional therapist, mother of two teenagers as well as someone who has had to battle anxiety, the subject of how food can help during times of stress which can have a negative impact on our health is always a subject matter that is close to my heart.
I’ve yet to meet anyone who enjoys sitting exams, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, I’m sure they do somewhere but in 41 years of never met one!
The pressure we experience in the build up to exams and the stress during them can be very overwhelming. A prolonged period of additional stress can affect our mood, sleep patterns, immune systems and leave us feeling totally drained. Often, we can reach the other side of the exams unsure of how we actually got through them after having been on autopilot for several weeks or months.
One way we can help ourselves particularly during the exam period is to eat well. By avoiding unhealthy foods and increasing our intake of other healthy foods, we can greatly improve our concentration, energy levels and sleep, and decrease levels of stress and anxiety within our bodies. This is also an area our parents can help with too, as often they feel quite helpless during these times.

 

What should I be eating less of?

As the pressure increases with the exam dates getting nearer we can have a tendency to reach out to sugary foods and energy drinks to keep us going. They boost energy levels in the very short term but they cause us to enter into a cycle of mood swings, increased anxiety and fatigue as they damage the levels of good bacteria within our gut.
Levels of good bacteria in our gut are decreased when we eat sugary foods, this can allow the ‘bad’ bacteria also living there to increase in number and send signals to our brain via a nerve called the vagus nerve causing us to feel more anxious, agitated and stressed. This also causes us to crave more sugary foods.

 

“Say goodbye to eating too much refined sugar”

 

What to avoid (or at least significantly reduce)?
• Fizzy drinks including diet drinks, energy drinks and squash
• Biscuits
• Cakes
• Sweets
• Sugary cereal bars and breakfast cereals

What could I include instead?
• Fizzy water with a squeeze of lemon or lime
• Watered-down fruit juice or fruit juice and some fizzy water
• Plain water
• Herbal teas
• Bananas, apples, grapes, nuts, veg sticks.

If you are really struggling and desperate for fizzy pop you could occasionally try something like Appletiser which is made purely from apple juice and without any of the extra added chemicals that you get in many other fizzy drinks. I say occasionally because it still contains fruit sugars which can damage your teeth.
As I’ve already mentioned when we don’t eat well we disrupt the bacteria in our gut and they can send signals to our brain which can lead us to become more stressed and anxious. Sugar is one food that does this, other foods that also have a negative effect are:

Processed foods such as sausage rolls, pastries, pasties, ready meals, processed meat such as salami and bacon, biscuits and cakes, processed foods usually contain a long list of ingredients that you are often unable to pronounce.
• Too much caffeine, can leave you dehydrated and irritable
Artificial sweeteners
• And dare I mention alcohol, which is a depressant, can cause you to feel angry and often anxious the next day.

“Quick fix foods are not the answer”

 

Now you’ve heard the bad news, what can you do to make yourself feel stronger, calmer and more focus during this period?

Introduce more fruits and vegetables
Eating plenty of fruit and veg is very important they contain lots of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and magnesium, which are essential for maintaining energy levels, mental focus and balanced mood.
When you would normally reach out for a chocolate bar or biscuit have an apple or banana instead. Include extra salad with your meals and berries with your breakfast.
Eat more vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables at these as these are very good at keeping you calm due to their magnesium content, try and include more foods such as kale, cucumber, celery, avocados, watercress, lettuce, spinach and broccoli.

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You can easily and cheaply cut up some cucumber and celery sticks and put them in your lunchbox and add some extra lettuce to your sandwiches.

Drink plenty of water
Even being slightly dehydrated can affect your concentration and stress levels.

Try not to fill up on fast release carbohydrates
Eating too much white bread, white rice and pasta however comforting these foods may feel can cause you to get blood sugar peaks and troughs which can trigger an anxiety and stress response in the body. Try changing to wholemeal bread, brown rice pasta, and brown rice instead.

Eat more foods containing omega-3
Omega-3 has been shown to improve mental well-being. Try including more foods such as oily fish, salmon, mackerel, tuna and seeds such as flax seed and chia seeds. You could also try eating more walnuts as they too contain omega-3 plus they also have the added benefit of helping to improve sleep.

Include more foods containing tryptophan
Including foods such as turkey, salmon, soya beans, chicken and cashew nuts will help to boost your mood as they all contain tryptophan, the amino acid that is required to make Serotonin your happy hormone and melatonin your sleep hormone. Boosting your serotonin levels will help you to feel happier and calmer, you could try having a turkey and lettuce or salmon and cucumber sandwich in wholemeal bread or celery sticks with cashew butter.

Include oats in your diet
Oats have a calming effect on the nervous system, you can include these in your diet by eating porridge for breakfast or supper or maybe take some oatcakes with some cashew butter to school as a snack.

“The key is not to eat lots of one particular food but to eat a variety of different foods”

Preparation can help
Making a meal plan during this time can be helpful if you worry you’re going to struggle when it comes to eating well. Also, having a few quick and easy ingredients in the cupboard ready for busy times can really help you to stay on track.

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My top foods to help improve mental well-being and reduce stress include:

Berries, these can be fresh or frozen as long as they don’t contain added sugar. I often keep frozen berries in my freezer to defrost and add them to my porridge and yoghurt in the morning.
Bananas, these are great because they can be sliced up and put on wholemeal toast or added to smoothies and even on their own or mixed with other fruits in a fruit salad. Bananas are not only great for giving you energy but they can also help you sleep at night.
Celery, when it comes to reducing anxiety celery is my absolute favourite it contains phthalides which can effectively calm the nervous system by lowering the levels of cortisol the stress hormone. You can add celery to all sorts of dishes, eat it raw with humous or nut butter or you can juice it.
Mushrooms, these to help feed the good bacteria in your gut and they contain vitamins D which can boost your mood. Add them to omelettes with spinach, put them in curries or casseroles or just eat them on their own. If you place them on the window sill for a few days you can boost the amount of vitamin D they contain.
Live plain yoghurt or live soya or coconut yoghurt. Make sure that it is unsweetened plain live yoghurt and not sweetened yoghurt. This will help feed your good bacteria in your gut. You can sweeten it by adding berries or honey. I like to add oats, nuts and honey.
Cashew nuts and cashew butter, or any nuts and nut butter that you choose. These are easily available in individual packets if you want to take them around with you for a quick nutritional boost.
Brown rice and brown rice pasta. It contains a good amount of fibre for a healthier gut, plus it is rich in manganese which helps with the production of energy in the body and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.
Humous. As the main ingredient is chickpeas and our ‘good’ gut bacteria love to feed off chickpeas, humous is a really good food to aid good mental wellbeing.
• Salmon and tuna. For its omega 3 content. You can add tuna to jacket potatoes or have salmon with roasted vegetables, watercress and new potatoes.
Avocados. I love them because they contain so many nutrients within just one food which can make busy days a lot easier. They are very versatile, you can add them to smoothies, mash them on to wholemeal toast, add them to salads or eat them on their own to get a really good nutritional boost. Avocados are very good at calming nerves and anxiety due to the fact that they contain such a good balance of nutrients in particular magnesium which helps to relax muscles.
Lettuce. Is particularly useful for relaxing muscles, calming nerves and inducing sleep, therefore it’s a very beneficial food to eat during times of stress and anxiety. The darker the leaves are the better as they contain a sedative called lactucarium which can help calm nerves and reduce palpitations.
Kale. This is a great vegetable to include into your meals. You may be surprised to hear that it contains omega 3 so it’s good for your brain health but also vitamin C and iron to help you maintain a healthy immune system.
Cucumber. They contain phytoestrogens and digestive enzymes which benefit the gut. Think of the phrase cool as a cucumber this comes from the fact that cucumbers help to maintain the body’s water balance and help you to feel more calm and relaxed.

“Don’t overthink it!

Eating a variety of these types of foods in moderation will help to improve your concentration levels and hopefully decrease your levels of stress and anxiety. Don’t get caught up in it, if you eat something that you feel is ‘unhealthy’ it’s not the end of the world. This is about increasing the amount of healthy foods in your diet and decreasing the amount of unhealthy foods. There is no right or wrong way of doing it, it’s about what works for you”.

A reminder to be kind to yourself
This isn’t a time for calorie-controlled diets or punishing yourself if you feel you’ve eaten something wrong, there is no right or wrong here as it’s your choice of food, and it’s just that YOUR CHOICE! However, every nutritious piece of food you eat is helping you to feel fitter stronger, and more focused, so when you do make a positive food choice praise yourself for looking after yourself no matter how small what you have done feels.

It feels too difficult for me to change!
If you find it difficult to change what you eat, maybe your parents buy lots of junk foods or you are a parent of a child who will not stop or cut down on eating crisps, sweets and chocolate and drinking energy drinks, even changing from energy drinks and fizzy pop to as I’ve mentioned before drinks like Appletiser (caution if you are diabetic as it’s high in fruit sugar) which have no artificial chemicals or caffeine in them , from flavoured crisps to plain ones or ready meals to scrambled egg on toast or tuna and jacket potatoes will all help to support better mental functioning and overall wellbeing.

But it’s too expensive!
Eating well doesn’t have to be expensive, my favourite shop is Aldi as they do a really good range of reasonably priced fruits and vegetables.
Look out for shop offers on fruit and vegetables, for example Tesco’s do three different vegetables for a pound. It’s also much more cost effective sometimes to buy frozen berries and vegetables and make extra when you cook meals such as Bolognaise’s, chilli’s, soups and casseroles so that they can be frozen and used on another day.

“Preparation is key when it comes to eating well”

 

Meal ideas

Breakfasts
1. Plain live yogurt or plain live dairy free yogurt with oats and berries/banana, or oats honey and nuts and seeds.
2. Avocado or banana on Wholemeal bread or sourdough bread/toast, sprinkle on some sesame seeds for an extra mood boosting boost.
3. Porridge (made with nut milk or soya milk if you want to avoid dairy) with berries, honey and nuts or grated apple and cinnamon.
4. Omelette with mushrooms or spinach.
5. Egg on toast.

Kefir drinks available in supermarkets can help you to have a healthier level of good gut bacteria which helps to support mental well being.

 

Lunches
1. Turkey and lettuce sandwiches.
2. Cucumber. celery and carrot sticks with humous.
3. Salad and brown rice pots with tuna or salmon.
4. Oatcakes with cashew butter or another nut butter.
5. Homemade vegetable soup.
6. Scrambled egg on wholemeal toast.

Sauerkraut is a fermented food which you can add to your salads, put on your avocado on toast or add to which ever meals you choose can helps to boost your good gut bacteria levels. You can find recipes online or buy it in the supermarket.

Easy salad dressing:
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ garlic clove crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
Stir ingredients together in a small bowl and drizzle over salad.

 

Dinner
1. Salmon with Mediterranean vegetables and new potatoes.
2. Turkey mince Spaghetti Bolognaise.
3. Chilli and brown rice.
4. Brown rice pasta with tomato sauce and green salad.
5. Homemade Turkey burgers, salad and sweet potato wedges.
6. Roast dinner
7. Jacket Potato/sweet potato with left over chilli, tuna or humous etc….

Easy tomato pasta sauce:
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves of garlic
2 celery sticks sliced
2 carrots diced
2 tins of chopped tomato 
1 tbsp mixed herbs
250g mushrooms sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Fry onions and garlic until soften, add the remaining ingredients, simmer for 30 mins. Serve with Brown Rice, brown rice pasta or wholemeal pasta.

To turn it into a bolognaise add the sauce to pack of fried turkey and to create a chilli then add kidney beans and a teaspoon of chilli powder. For a vegetarian version just add more vegetables such as courgettes and some lentils to create a bolognaise and then add kidney beans and chilli powder to make a nice chilli.

 

 

What else can I do to help myself?

There are also other steps you can take to help manage your stress levels. Some simple things you can do are:

1. Go for a walk, the bilateral movement of your arms and legs can help you to process emotions and feel better.
2. The following technique has a similar effect to walking. Sit down, place your hands on your thighs, then alternating from one hand to the other gently tap your thighs as if your hands are walking on the spot on your thighs. Doing this for 5 minutes morning and evening or whenever you feel the need to can be beneficial.
3. Do any exercise you enjoy.
4. Write a journal or a diary of how you feel to off load the pressure.
5. Sit in the quiet, focus on feeling your feet on the floor, your bottom on the chair then notice five things you can see, hear and touch. Then anything you can smell. If ever you feel out of your depth this is a great exercise to practice anywhere even if it’s busy to help ground yourself and bring your mind back to the present moment.
6. If you are someone who struggles to sleep lie in bed, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Don’t change it, just watch it. Then as you breathe in follow the air as it enters your nose and goes down to your lungs, then follow it as it flows back out through your mouth. Now on the in breath start counting, one the inhale then two on the exhale and so on right up to ten. Once you get to ten begin back again at one. If you lose count just start again. If your mind wonders off which “everyone’s” does just gently bring it back to following your breath.
7. Talk with friends or family or just go out for a coffee to break the revision cycle.

 

“Good Luck to everyone sitting their exams. Remember that you can only do your best and by putting your health at the top of your priority list you will perform much better”.

 

Note:
You may have noticed that there are not really many dairy products included and minimal gluten, the reason is that they can affect some people’s mental well being. It is up to you to decide if these foods affect your mental well-being as some people who suffer from ADHD, depression and anxiety find they do. If you do choose to reduce your dairy intake make sure that you make your calcium levels from other sources such as almonds, leafy green vegetables, kale, spinach, watercress, tofu and fortified soy and milks.
If you make changes to your diet and begin to feel unwell seek medical advice.

 

A Christmas Gift to you

 

A Christmas gift to anyone out there who may need it.

Anxiety, depression, mental illness, pain & chronic illness are difficult to live with at the best of times but this month is a particularly difficult time.

Often we want to be able to join in like ‘everyone’ else but it can come at a price, resulting in us experiencing a flare up in our conditions.

I have been hearing from so many people who are struggling at the moment so I have put together a list of nutritional tips that may help you to avoid going downhill over the Christmas period, or may help you to support a loved one who is struggling.

They are tips I use myself and often recommend to others who are going through recovery.
Hopefully they will enable you to feel more included this Christmas, which let’s be honest is all any of us really want.

Christmas tends to bring with it a lot of overindulgence and for us this is a bad thing!
Now, I know that overindulgence is something that many of us look forward to, the excuse to eat and drink whatever we want. But, there is a problem with this as it overloads our already delicate systems with extra toxins that along with the extra stress we’re under and the increase in physical activity can cause us to feel very ill very quickly and ruin things for us.

So how can we get around this without creating a Christmas where we feel left out and a party pooper?!

•In the build up to Christmas Day try to drink lots of water to clear your system. It’s really beneficial to stay very well hydrated. It helps greatly with pain, mood and fatigue. Avoid too many hot drinks especially caffeinated ones. Have water or water with a slice of lemon.
Avoid processed, fatty and sugary foods and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Especially greens.

•On Christmas Day dinner doesn’t have to overload your system. The best way to avoid this is to opt for more vegetables on your plate. As the meal naturally has lots of vegetables in it nobody else will think anything of it. Aiming to fill half your plate with vegetables (excluding potatoes) will firstly make it look like you have a big dinner the same as everyone else, but will also give you lots of antioxidants and fibre to help your body run more smoothly and feed your friendly gut bacteria. The rich food at this time of year can disrupt our gut bacteria which can trigger inflammation in our bodies.

•Replace your roast potatoes with roasted sweet potatoes and other roasted root vegetables. Sweet potatoes are naturally anti-inflammatory, whereas potatoes can sometimes cause you to feel more achy and give you a blood sugar peak which can disrupt mood and flare pain by increasing inflammation in the body.

•Steer clear from milk chocolate. You may feel lifted immediately after eating it but the sugar and milk will do no favours for your mood and pain levels. If you can’t live without it choose good quality dark chocolate instead, just don’t overdo it especially if you’re of an anxious nature.

•Have some prepared salad in the fridge to put with your cooked meats at your post Christmas meals.

•Get some good fats into your system by snacking on nuts (unsalted), avocados 🥑 and smoked salmon. Omega 3 has been shown to help with depression and also healthy fats help you to utilise other nutrients as well.

•Avoid crisps if you can. If you can’t choose ready salted and alternate between eating a few crisps followed by eating a few veg sticks. Cucumber and celery sticks are especially useful for relaxing muscles, easing pain and anxiety and reducing fatigue.

•Make a fruit platter or fruit salad for Christmas Day or parties including pineapple and berries to help reduce inflammation. Avoid heavy dairy desserts. You can get soya custard and creams and oat cream which are better than dairy ones but remember moderation is key as they still contain sugar.

•Try not to use alcohol to numb pain or low mood as it will only exasperate the problem. If you like a drink and feel you can tolerate it have a glass of red wine, but don’t over do it.

•Keep some plain soya or coconut yogurt containing live cultures in the fridge to mix with some berries (it’s helpful to have some frozen ones) at breakfast to restore the good bacteria in your gut. An imbalance in gut bacteria has been linked to mental illness, pain, and many other health conditions.

•Accept that you have a condition that means that you need to pay extra attention to your body and maybe you can’t binge the way you may like to but with some simple changes you can have a great time and ultimately be healthier in the long run.

•Finally if everything becomes truly overwhelming putting pen to paper 📝 is hugely effective especially if you find that you’re struggling to see the wood for the trees. Write down what’s bothering you followed by what you are grateful for to gain a clearer perspective.

Relax, listen to your body and be present this Christmas 🎄.

Sending you healing energy and thank you so much for reading.

Much Love,
Kate ❤️🍃

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