Articles and useful information

Accountability Creates Results

What is accountability? The condition of being accountable, responsible. In other words, to follow through with your action or commitment. In our opinion the difference between success and failure. We are used to being accountable. As infants, our parents made sure we got out of bed, cleaned our teeth and went to school. But now we are grown up we aren’t so keen on being accountable but this is a state of mind that will have to change. WE CANNOT SAY THIS ENOUGH  *IT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT TO ENSURE SUCCESS* We are your accountability coaches and we will guide you on your journey to health and vitality.

Eat That Frog!

Frogs are a great source of protein…….I am joking of course! “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day.” Mark Twain This is the quote that inspired Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog. Basically, Tracy says that if you complete the task that you have been procrastinating over, then all tasks after that won’t seem so bad. It is a strong idea to help you stop procrastinating. However, I am not exactly sure if that is how Mark Twain had intended the quote to be understood, but Tracy does make a compelling case My favourite quote from Tracy is, “If you have two frogs, eat the uglier one first. That way the second one won’t seem quite as bad”. Basically, this means do your hardest task first, the one you have been putting off the longest, and then the other task or tasks will not seem as bad. Remember the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your habits – master them. Be proactive, be consistent, keep going.

A Cautionary Note on Protein Consumption

Dieters and fitness fanatics are often tempted to add protein powders to up their protein consumption. This can result in a diet unnaturally high in concentrated protein. Protein requires vitamin A and other fat-soluble vitamins for its metabolism. A diet too high in protein without adequate fat rapidly depletes vitamin A stores, which can lead to serious consequences; heart arrhythmias, kidney problems, autoimmune disease and thyroid disorders. Diets too high in protein also cause a negative calcium balance, where more calcium is lost compared to the amount taken in. A condition that can lead to bone loss and nervous system disorders. Whey protein powders and isolates are not created equally. Cheap products with synthetic additives, preservatives, colourings and flavourings should be avoided completely. High quality products manufactured from raw organic milk sources, although expensive, are highly effective. They should be used intelligently and should never be used as meal replacements. Great care must be taken not to confuse the research on medical grade, high quality whey protein isolates with cheap substitutes. Many companies quote research on products far superior than their own to market what is often just a belly bloating load of chemicals.

The Thyroid

The thyroid, a butterfly shaped gland in your neck may be tiny, but it plays a big role in how well your body functions. That’s because the thyroid produces hormones which regulate your metabolism, the process that converts what you eat and drink to energy. When you have hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid, your metabolism slows, causing you to gain weight more easily and feel sluggish and fatigued. Too little thyroid hormone can lead to too much LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. The thyroid hormone helps the liver break down the cholesterol circulating in your blood and stimulates other enzymes needed to rid your body of triglycerides, a type of blood fat. When you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, your LDL and triglycerides can rise. Hypothyroidism can also negatively affect your mood. The thyroid gland helps regulate the neurotransmitters that your brain uses to communicate with your nerves. When your thyroid doesn’t function properly, these messengers can go haywire, leading you to feel anxious, depressed, bloated, display signs of gut dysbiosis, feel cold, suffer hair loss, constipation, insulin resistance, unexplained aches and pains, eczema, low immunity – will catch colds easily, thinning eyebrow (tail ends), low iron and vitamin D levels. This list is by no means exhaustive; hypothyroidism can be debilitating. The good news is that symptoms can be managed by consuming a healthy, organic diet comprising healthy fats, good sources of grass fed animal protein and carbohydrates via ancient grains and vegetables. Alongside diet, put exercise on your to-do list. Regular exercise is an important part of your overall strategy to manage many hypothyroidism symptoms. Exercise burns calories to prevent weight gain and can counter the effects of a slow metabolism. A good workout can also be a mood-booster. Your body releases endorphins and other mood-enhancing chemicals during exercise. I recommend that you move for at least half an hour every day in order to get all the benefits mentioned above and to increase blood flow to stimulate the thyroid hormone. Reduce your levels of stress by limiting your exposure to environmental toxins, sleep according to your circadian cycle and practise gratitude and pleasure.

What are Simple & Complex Carbohydrates?

As a nutrition coach, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is, “What is the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates?” While most people understand that complex carbohydrates are better for you than simple carbohydrates.  What is often confusing is how the two differ and how they affect your health. There are three types of carbohydrates: starch, sugar and fibre. Starches and sugars provide your body with its main source of energy.  All carbohydrates comprise carbon, oxygen and hydrogen organised into single units. Sugars contain just one or two of these units and are “simple”, while starches and fibres have many units of sugar making them “complex”. Simple Carbohydrates Also called simple sugars, these can occur naturally in foods such as fruit, grains, vegetables and milk or can be artificially added into foods.  However, your body can’t distinguish between the sources. Complex Carbohydrates As with simple sugars, some complex carbohydrate foods are better choices than others. Plant foods, including grains, potatoes and legumes, contain starch and fibre.  Refined grains such as white flour and white rice have been processed, which removes nutrients and fibre.  All carbohydrates, except fibre, are broken down during digestion into simple sugars, so they can be absorbed in your bloodstream and transported to cells to be converted to energy. Fibre isn’t completely broken down in the digestive tract, some of it remains whole in your body because you lack the enzymes to break it down. This process has numerous health benefits. What’s the Difference Between the Sugars? The real difference is where the sugar comes from. While your body can’t distinguish the difference between the source of sugar once it’s broken down and absorbed, the food from which the sugar originated has a huge impact on your overall health. This is due to the nature of other nutrients found in the food you consumed. Since complex carbohydrates come from plant-based foods, we know that those foods also contain a plethora of beneficial nutrients in addition to their carbohydrates – vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Starchy carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars. However, some simple sugars that are added to food don’t give you any beneficial nutrients. For example, fructose can be found in sweets, fizzy drinks and other processed foods which lack any health-promoting nutrients.  However, fructose is also present in fruit. Even though both foods contain fructose, fruit is obviously a healthier choice because it’s not solely made up of simple carbohydrates – it also contains fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. The fibre in fruit helps slow the digestion of carbohydrates, which is why your blood sugar doesn’t spike as much after eating fibre-filled fruit like it does when you gulp down a chocolate bar. Vegetables and grains also contain some simple sugars in addition to their starches, mostly in the form of sucrose, but they give you a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants too, none of which you’ll find in sucrose-packed sweets and fizzy drinks. How Does the Body Use Carbs? When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into simple sugars, which are absorbed into the bloodstream.  As the blood glucose level rises in the body, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin.  Insulin is required to move the sugar from the blood into the cells, where it can be used as energy. Simple sugars cause a quick spike in energy, insulin does its job and you’re left feeling hungry. Complex carbohydrates however, release energy a lot more slowly, giving you a more sustained supply of energy. Scientists have been studying whether eating foods that cause big jumps in blood sugar may be related to diabetes and heart disease. The Bottom Line You should always choose complex carbohydrates such as those found in vegetables, whole grains and legumes, reduce simple carbohydrates and eliminate refined carbohydrates.  Not only will complex carbohydrates provide a steady supply of energy and cause a less dramatic increase in your blood glucose levels, the foods in which complex carbohydrates are found also provide a host of beneficial nutrients. Below are some examples of fibrous complex, starchy complex and simple carbohydrates:

Fibrous Complex Carbohydrates Starchy Complex Carbohydrates Simple Carbohydrates
Asparagus Oatmeal Fruit
Aubergine Legumes Dairy products
Bamboo Shoots Potatoes, Yams, Sweet Potato  
Green Beans Brown rice  
Broccoli Whole wheat pasta  
Brussels Sprouts Whole wheat/ Multi-grain bread  
Cabbage Whole grain cereals (muesli, shredded wheat)  
Carrots Whole Barley  
Cauliflower Buckwheat  
Celery Rye  
Cucumber Millet  
Lettuce Whole grains  
Mushrooms Beans – lima, red, kidney  
Okra Black eyed peas, lentils, chick peas  
Red/ green Peppers Sweet Corn  
Spinach Flour (Whole Wheat)  
Courgette    
Is Your Why Big Enough?

Did you set out with the best intentions to make 2018 the best year yet? Did you make resolutions that are already starting to feel like they’re impossible to achieve? Are you feeling a little apathetic in the pursuit of achieving your goal? If you answered YES to any of these questions, you are not alone. The majority of people who set a New Year’s resolution or any goal for that matter, do not achieve it. Why is this when we all set out with the best of intentions? Ask yourself this question, “Is my why big enough to propel me through challenging times when family, friends, social engagements, work, illness, stress and lack of sleep all conspire to derail me from reaching maximum potential?” If you think back to a successful period in your life, I bet you will find that your reasons WHY were big enough for you to do whatever it took for you to achieve that success. Remember how amazing you looked and felt on your wedding day? Don’t make your goal to look like or be like your favourite celebrity, sports person or friend. When you inhabit a world of social comparison you will be forever exposing yourself to feelings of emptiness and disappointment. In order to find your WHY, you must be honest, authentic and vulnerable. Most people don’t even realise they have a WHY, it can sometimes be a scary process. Ask yourself the WHY question, write down all the reasons WHY you want to achieve your goal. This task alone will increase your chances of success. When your motivation waivers, ask yourself WHY am I doing this? WHY is this important to me? Take a pen and paper, write it down, review it, and put it where you will see it daily. Here are some examples of WHY questions and answers to get you on the right track. WHY do I want to embrace a healthy lifestyle? Answer – because I want to look and feel youthful and vibrant. WHY do I want to look youthful and vibrant? Answer – because I currently feel overweight, old, lethargic and unfit. WHY do I want to feel fit? Answer: because I want to feel good about myself. WHY is it important to feel good about yourself? Answer – because I want to feel healthy and vital. WHY do I want to feel healthy and vital? Answer – because I want to be able to see my grandchildren grow up. I want to be able to play with them and enjoy my time with them. I want my husband to be proud to be seen with me. There are so many things I want to do and need energy and joie de vivre to do them. As each new layer is peeled back, new reasons, stories, fears, motivations and intentions show up. This can be a tough journey but it’s a process which works. You can see how powerful this simple exercise becomes as each layer is exposed. Don’t waste any time; ask yourself WHY? Keep the desire to achieve your goals as your no 1 priority. Selfcare is not selfish. Take back your life, health and happiness. No one else is going to do this for you, make the time, make the effort, you are worth it.

Foods to Embrace & Foods to Avoid

What to eat,
gut friendly food guide

Starchy carbohydrates
Root vegetables

Carrots
Turnips
Sweet potato
Beetroot
Parsnip
Butternut squash
Winter squash
Pumpkin

Non-starchy carbohydrates
Land vegetables

All non-starchy vegetables
Best sources artichoke
Asparagus
Broccoli
Broccoli sprouts
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Cucumber
Asian mushrooms
Radish
Courgette
Dandelion greens
Endive
Salad greens
Kale
Spinach
Swiss chard
Watercress

*7-10 servings of a mix of starchy and non-starchy vegetables every day. The more non-starchy veg the better.

Sea vegetables

Best sources

Arame
Kombu
Wakame
Dulse
Agar
Kelp

Make sure they are from a trusted, ethical supplier.

Protein
Meat & fish sources

Pasture raised eggs – cautionary note; the albumen protein in eggs can be problematic for some people
All pastured animal protein
Best sources pastured beef, organic marrow bones, pastured chicken, wild venison

1-2 palm-sized portions of meat per week

All wild caught fish
Best sources wild caught Alaskan salmon, anchovies, mackerel, black cod

2-6 palm-sized portions of fish per week

Nuts and seeds (properly prepared see ch 5 in your guide to living better – the truth about grains, legumes and seeds)

All nuts
Best sources almonds
Chia, flaxseeds, macadamia, pecans, walnuts

Cautionary note; watch your consumption of nut flour as this can negatively affect some people.

Eat sparingly

Healing fats

Avocado
Olives
Avocado oil
Flaxseed oil cold pressed
Udo’s oil cold pressed
Coconut oil cold pressed best choice for cooking at high temperatures
Extra virgin olive oil cold pressed
Grass fed ghee good for cooking at high temperatures
Grass fed butter
Macadamia oil
Walnut oil
Tallow
MCT oil

Approx a thumb-sized portion per meal.

Fermented foods

Raw organic apple cider vinegar with mother
Raw cultured veggies such as kimchi or sauerkraut
Kefir – a fermented drink made with goat milk, coconut or filtered water
Kombucha
Fermented natto
Pickled gherkins (fermented with raw and unpasteurised vinegars only)
Fermented tempeh/miso

Eat freely

Herbs and spices

Best sources mineral-rich sea salt
Dandelion tea
DGL licorice root tea
Ginger
Marshmallow root tea
Peppermint
Turmeric
Raw cacao
Dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa)

Eat freely, apart from dark chocolate a maximum of 2 squares per day.

Fruit

Consume whole fruit only and sparingly during the 30-day Remove phase. Fruit is sugar and sugar feeds inflammation, bacterial and fungal infections in your gut. If you are going to eat fruit, it’s a good idea to eat it at least 30-60 minutes before a protein meal. This is important advice, unheeded, you will be inviting digestive fermentation.

Low carbohydrate fruit

Berries are your best option:
Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
Pink grapefruit
Red grapes
Plums
Apples
Nectarine
Lemon
Lime
Guava
Kiwi

Natural sweeteners

Stevia
Raw honey
Stewed apples (homemade/sweetened with cinnamon)
Coconut nectar
Pure 100% maple syrup

Use sparingly – excess sugar will feed inflammation, bacterial and fungal infections in your gut.

Alternatives to dairy

Use nutritional yeast instead of cheese.
Almond, coconut, oat milk,
Oat cream. Coconut or raw cacao butter.

*Please note 1 cup is equal to 2 servings.

WHAT TO AVOID

*All grains

Canned vegetables

GMO corn

*All legumes incl peanuts and cashew products (these are actually legumes).

Ocean vegetables – hijiki – high mercury content

High GI fruits such as

Apricots
Mangoes
Melons
Papaya
Prunes
Pineapple
Fruit juices
Sulfured dried fruits

All factory farmed meats

Caged chicken eggs
Cold cuts
Canned meats
Hot dogs
Sausages
Factory farmed fish
High mercury fish such as tuna (limit to 6oz albacore tuna per week), shark, swordfish

Fats/oils

Canola
Peanut oil
Soy oil
Sunflower oil
Rapeseed oil
All refined vegetable oils – high in inflammatory omega-6
Margarine

Condiments

Ketchup
Relish
Chutney
Mayonnaise
Table salt
Commercial salad dressings

Dairy and dairy alternatives

Pasteurised dairy
Soy
Non-dairy creamers
Powdered milk
Cottage cheese
Cheese
Cream cheese

Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners
Refined sugar
Cane and beet sugar
White and brown sugars
High fructose corn syrup
Fruit juice concentrate

Others

Energy drinks and bars
Protein bars
Protein powders (except raw, grass fed, collagen or vegan, unsweetened varieties)
Milk chocolate, sweets etc.
Alcohol, soft drinks, fizzy sodas
Baked or processed foods
MSG, carrageen, sulphites
Soy, miso, tempeh (unless fermented, natto maybe tolerated)
Diet sodas
Anything low-fat/diet/light

*Note exceptions to the rule below

Exceptions to the rule
Nutrition is so confusing!

The following foods are exceptions to the rule, and are allowed during the Remove phase

Ghee, clarified butter, fermented kefir.
These are the only source of dairy allowed. Butter is NOT allowed during this period, as the milk proteins found in non-clarified butter could impact your results.

Legumes
Green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas are allowed. While they’re technically a legume, these are considered pods.

Vinegar
White, red wine, balsamic, apple cider, and rice are allowed. The only exception is malt vinegar, which may contain gluten.

Coconut aminos, a brewed and naturally fermented soy sauce substitute is acceptable. Same goes for natto.

Salt
Quality rock, sea or Himalayan salt.

POST 30 DAY REMOVE PHASE

After the 30-day period you can begin to add some of the AVOID foods back into your diet. Although I would advise that you avoid most of them over the long term, it is a matter of personal choice. Note your reactions, listen to your body.

Alcohol
1 small glass of wine is 1 unit of alcohol – it won’t hurt you to indulge in a glass of quality, preferably sulphur free, organic red wine every now and again.

Whole and cracked grains (properly prepared)
Non-gluten grains such as amaranth, buckwheat groats, brown, basmati or wild rice, millet, quinoa, sorghum. Be wary of oats unless they are organic and gluten-free.

Legumes
Small amounts occasionally. Always soak and prepare in a pressure cooker. Legumes contain phytic acid and lectins. They are also high in galaco-ligosaccharides which can cause unpleasant digestive problems in some people.

 

 

Self-Care - My Top 10

Us girls are the worse when it comes to looking after ourselves, we are conditioned to think that we can’t be a good wife/mother/daughter/friend if we aren’t putting our husband, our kids, our friends, our parents first. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s smart. How can you take care of your family if you’re under the weather? How can you tackle that assignment if you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed? How can you eliminate the negativity in your life if you haven’t taken the time to step back and unwind?

My top ten allowed me to loosen my bone, take off the victim t-shirt and live my life right now.

1. Eat real food. I know I bang on about this but the crap, and it really is crap that the marketeers tell us to consume, promote overeating. Did you know the food industry employs scientists to formularise chemical sweet points? You know, that point that you pop and can’t stop! These food-like substances are high in calories, low in nutrients, fibre and water. The over consumption of ‘empty calories’ is to blame for the epidemic of obesity and metabolic diseases we are experiencing today. (See Articles for Foods to Embrace & Foods to Avoid).

2. Sleep according to your circadian cycle. Sleep metabolises stress hormones better than any other entity. Seed your sleep period with gratitude and positivity, don’t mull over the day’s happenings. Each new day brings a chance to start over.

3. Meditation, time out, alone time – whatever you want to call it and whatever modality suits you. We all need time to stand in our own truth. Find your own cradle, a place where you feel most held and supported.

4. Take the pole out of your arse! How does holding on to ‘stuff’ benefit you? How would you feel if you just let it go? Allowing yourself the freedom to pre-pave your day with a positive, grateful thought and let the rest of it go.

5. Move. Your lymphatic system is your body’s sewer. As our muscles pump, lymph is moved basically decongesting the entire body.

6. Drink water – half your body weight in pounds, in fluid ounces of water every day. If you are dehydrated your lymph can’t flow through your ducts and nodes properly, causing toxins to be stuck in your system leading to inflammation and ultimately disease. Hydrate before you medicate!

7. Breath. Nasal breathing, deep into your abdominals not your chest, activates your parasympathetic nervous system which is your rest and restore system.

8. Get your Vit D, it is critical for health and most of us are deficient. Sunlight is not the enemy. 30 mins of direct sunlight will produce between 10-20,000iu. However, being old, overweight or inflamed will affect your ability to convert sunlight to Vit D. In this case, you may consider supplementation but do this wisely. Not all supplements are created equally, neither do they work in isolation. You will need to be savvy about how nutrients influence each other. Consider taking Vit D’s fat-soluble co-factors A and K2. My advice would be to request a 25D blood test from your GP before you consider supplementing.

9. Magnesium. There are few compounds in the body more important to overall health than magnesium. Over 300 enzymes require it. Magnesium is hard to obtain from food, nuts and seeds are the highest source but they contain phytic acid, which inhibits magnesium absorption. Magnesium deficiency is no small thing, it has serious – even critical consequences. It’s hard to find a modern disease that magnesium is in some way not associated with. I love a long soak in a magnesium bath; 2 cups of magnesium sulphate, 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda and a few drops of lavender oil. Water is a good medium through which your body can absorb minerals. We absorb approx. 60% of what is applied transdermally.

10. Make pleasure a priority. Make a list of things you find pleasurable and do them.

Recipe - Buddha Bowl

Buddha Bowl

Ingredients
2 cups quinoa – soak in a tbs of apple cider vinegar overnight
1 head of broccoli, finely sliced (you might want to pop this in a bowl of boiling water for 20 mins)
1 box of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
Good quality sea salt & pepper
1 cup of olives
½ cup flax seeds
3 cups of spinach
1 red & 1 yellow pepper, chopped
2 courgettes, sliced
2 garlic cloves
Nutritional yeast
Cayenne pepper to taste

Method
Roast chickpeas in ghee or coconut oil & a couple of garlic cloves in the oven 180c for approx. 20 mins. Once cooked season with cayenne, salt & pepper. The spices can sometimes taste bitter if you roast them but the choice is yours.

At the same time roast the peppers & courgette in ghee or coconut oil in a separate pan in the oven at 180c for approx. 30 mins. I sprinkle a couple of tbs of nutritional yeast over the veg.

Stir fry the quinoa for 3 mins.

Add the quinoa, chickpeas, peppers, courgette & quinoa to a large bowl, fold in the partially cooked broccoli & the spinach which will wilt from the heat of the cooked ingredients. Add the olives, the flax seeds & season.

Recipe - Coconut, chickpea, aubergine & courgette curry

Creamy Coconut, Chickpea, Aubergine & Courgette Curry
serves 6

Ingredients
1 tbs coconut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2” of ginger root, finely chopped
1/2 tbs ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp garam masala
2 cups of veg broth or stock
1 cup freshly diced tomatoes
1 tin of cherry toms
1 tin of coconut milk
2 tins of chickpeas
2 aubergines, cut into small chunks
2 courgettes, sliced
Fresh coriander
A couple of handfuls of spinach

Quality salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
Cook the aubergine in a little coconut oil in the oven 180c for approx. 20 mins. Set aside.

Add two tablespoons coconut oil to a large pan. Add onion, garlic and ginger. Cook on low heat until onion caramelises. Add all the spices and stir well. Add cooked aubergine, courgette, chickpeas and tomatoes. Add enough stock to cover the ingredients. Cook on a very low heat, pan uncovered, until all the vegetables are cooked. Taste to ensure the level of heat and spice is to your liking. My husband likes his hot but I don’t so I always err on the side of caution when determining precise spice levels. Add enough coconut milk to desired consistency and stir in the spinach, the heat from the pan should wilt the spinach.

Season with salt and pepper and fresh coriander. Serve with spiralised carrot and a large green salad. Serve.

Recipe - Coconut, Chia Pudding

Coconut Chia Pud

Ingredients
¾ cup of organic coconut milk
3 tbs of chia seeds
1 tbs cacao nibs
1 tsp cinnamon
Few drops of caramel stevia
1 tsp raw cacao

Method
In a bowl mix coconut milk and chia seeds, put in the fridge and let it sit for 10 mins. Remove, mix thoroughly and put back in the fridge for at least 1.5 hours. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Add some cacao nibs and a small sprinkle of cinnamon to the top and enjoy.

Menopause - To everything I have ever lost, thank you for setting me free

“To everything I have ever lost, thank you for setting me free”

The BIG 40, the dawning of a new era and the time a woman’s body shuffles into perimenopause – the supposed long and arduous journey toward the dreaded menopause.

Fat, fatigued and stressed? It doesn’t have to be like this.

The hallmark of perimenopause – a change in the levels of oestrogen, progesterone and the androgens. While this is a physical event, it is also the biggest opportunity for personal growth since puberty.

The 3 types of menopause

Surgical Menopause
About 25% of women experience an artificial menopause due to surgical removal of the ovaries, surgical disruption of the blood supply to the ovaries, radiation, chemotherapy or from taking certain drugs. For these women, menopausal symptoms can be severe and debilitating because there is no opportunity for gradual adjustment to the decline in hormone levels.

Premature Menopause
The second type of menopause is premature menopause, when a woman goes through the menopause in her 30s or early 40s. This can be the result of autoimmune disease, nutritional deficiency or some form of chronic stress including excessive exercise that has adversely affected hormone-related reproductive functions. Premature menopause occurs not only earlier but also faster than normal menopause.

Natural Menopause
Most women go through natural menopause. This usually occurs gradually between the ages of 45 and 55. Many women begin noticing changes in their menstrual cycle and mood years before their their final period. This transitional perimenopause period usually lasts 5 to 10 years, although the entire process can sometimes take up to 13 years. There is normally a steady increase in the beginning which peaks as mid-transition approaches, followed by a gradual decline towards the end, as the body adapts to its new hormonal and emotional environment. During perimenopause periods may stop and start sometimes for as long as several months.  Sometimes they increase or even decrease in duration and flow.  You may feel the need to embark on hormone replacement, supplements of another type of support to relieve symptoms during this time.  Ultimately, this will depend on how your other systems; digestive and detoxification are coping with the stress.

Am I Perimenopausal or Menopausal?
How can you tell?  Menopause itself can only be diagnosed a full 12 months after your last period.

Hormone levels in the brain and the body undergo progressive changes during perimenopause: salivary hormone levels, urine levels and/or blood levels can be measured to give you an idea of where you stand. Hormone levels can also help you monitor your need for hormone support. I would personally recommend you pay a visit to a reputable endocrinologist who specialises in bioidentical hormone therapy. A GP’s cookie cutter approach to hormones is definitely not what I’d recommend. Remember we are all biolochemically unique.

In order to have a comfortable transition, it is imperative that you are in a state of overall good health both before and during this time. It is your responsibility to educate yourself in order that your body can be best placed to continue to produce adequate amounts of hormones for the rest of your life.

Typical Symptoms of Perimenopause:
Some women sail through “the change” without any symptoms of perimenopause at all. Others experience a wide range of symptoms, all of which have a physical, emotional, and/or psychological impact.

During the years before menopause, levels of progesterone decline, while oestrogen levels remain stable or even increase. This is the biggest issue for the majority of women; many of the early symptoms that women feel, are due to progesterone levels being too low in relation to their oestrogen levels.

Low Progesterone
A low progesterone-to-oestrogen ratio can also be called oestrogen dominance. Common symptoms that women suffer when progesterone declines include:

Breast swelling and tenderness
Mood swings
Brain fog
Irritability
Disordered sleeping
Water retention
PMS
Weight gain
Fibroids

Low Testosterone
Testosterone levels may start to decline before the last menstrual cycle. While the symptoms of low testosterone are often subtler that those of low progesterone, for some women they can be significant.

Symptoms of low testosterone include:

Loss of sex drive
Decreased sexual arousal
Decreased physical sensitivity
Decreased sense of well-being, energy, and ambition
Depression
Loss of or thinning pubic hair

Low Oestrogen
Oestrogen is often the last hormone to decline but it is the hormone that is associated with the traditional menopausal symptoms. As you approach menopause your ovaries slow their production of oestrogen. Your ovaries will continue to make some oestrogen, the body is still producing it from other sources. However, the overall effect is a dramatic drop – approx. 30-60% in the level of oestrogen circulating in the body.

Symptoms of oestrogen decline include:

Hot flushes
Night sweats
Vaginal dryness
Lethargy
Apathy
Depression or mood swings
Dizziness
Headaches
Confusion
Urinary incontinence
Recurrent UTIs
Susceptibility to vaginal infections

The Wisdom of Your Menopause Transition
We have been taught (by the so-called experts and our doctors who are supported by drug companies) to treat menopause as an illness, rather than what it is, a natural life process. I, myself was scare-mongered into an early hysterectomy by talk of “critical mass” when diagnosing 2 fibroids caused by oestrogen dominance. If I knew then what I know now, it would have been a very different and less unpleasant journey for me and my family. My body did not spontaneously breakdown on its own, it was a knock on affect due to the breakdown of one or all of the 3 systems: hormonal, digestive and/or detoxification. A dysfunction in any of these systems will have reduced my ability to deal with any type of stress.

This period in a woman’s life is should be embraced as the dawning of a new era, the second half of life which is accompanied by an increase in creativity, vitality and ambition.

During perimenopause and beyond, our goals and behaviour become motivated by our souls rather than societal norms. We quite naturally seek answers from deep within instead of looking outside of ourselves for fulfilment. For me, this stage in my life has healed and resolved issues from the past.

Menopause is a natural phase in a complex physiological system which should not cause health problems. However, statistics show that this time can be marked by an increased risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, arthritis, depression, and memory loss – all of which can be prevented if a woman heeds her innate wisdom and capacities and embraces a more holistic approach to her body and health.  Treat the physical symptoms as signals rather than malfunctions.

Stress & the Thyroid

If the adrenal function is challenged, the thyroid will pick up the slack ~ eventually depleting the thyroid

Chronic adrenal stress causes hormonal imbalances, it depresses hypothalamic and pituitary function (HPA). Anything that disrupts the HPA axis will also suppress thyroid function as well as causing other hormonal variances.

Adrenal stress suppresses the conversion of thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3) – at least 90% of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland is the inactive form – T4, it must be converted into T3 before it can be used by the cells.

To have a physiological effect, the thyroid hormone has to activate receptors on the cells. Inflammation caused by chronic stress suppresses thyroid receptor sensitivity – thyroid hormone is knocking on the cell’s door but it can’t get in!

The gastrointestinal tract, the lungs and the blood-brain barrier are the primary immune barriers in the body. They prevent foreign substances from entering the bloodstream and the brain. Adrenal stress weakens these barriers thus compromising immune function.

So, what causes adrenal stress?

Adrenal stress is almost always caused by anaemia, fluctuations in blood sugar, leaky gut, gut inflammation, food intolerances, essential fatty acid deficiencies, environmental toxins, chronic emotional and/or psychological stress.

If these conditions are not addressed any attempt to reduce adrenal stress will fail.

What can I do?

Reduce stress in all its forms – chemical stress caused by toxins in water, food, environment, thermal stress, electromagnetic stress caused by x-rays, high voltage power lines, mobile phone towers, WiFi, Bluetooth, smart devices, psychic or mental stress, physical stress caused by too much or too little exercise, nutritional stress.

Sleep according to your natural circadian cycle
Stabilise blood sugar – reduce carbohydrate intake, eat according to your unique biochemical requirements
Practice pleasure
Identify and avoid inflammatory foods
Ensure adequate intake of healthy fats
Keep hydrated
Heal your gut

Stress & The Adrenal Glands

Stress

The Adrenal Glands
The adrenal glands are two small walnut-shaped glands that sit just above the kidneys.  They secrete hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. In the case of chronic stress healthy adrenals can function in over drive allowing the adrenals to produce over and above the normal amount of cortisol. In this instance, you may feel well and be relatively symptom free. However, with chronic stress (stress over a prolonged period), the adrenals will eventually fatigue. The adrenal glands will now begin to steal hormones which act as precursors to steroidal hormones (pregnenolone steal). Eventually this leads to imbalances further down the hormonal cascade. At this point symptoms will likely develop even though cortisol production may still show up in the “normal” range.

The adrenal glands are linked to many bodily functions, all of which will be affected by chronic stress:

Oestrogen & progesterone production
The thyroid
The pancreas
Complex functions such as sleep, memory & learning
Bone remodelling
Blood sugar levels
The immune system
Protein and fat metabolism

Visiting your GP
At this stage you may visit your GP, if he/she looks at your cortisol output (most don’t) they will likely reveal a “normal” level. Medication may be offered.

Restoration of optimal health via the 4 doctors
Diet. Eliminate any food intolerances.  Use your Food and Mood Record to help record any reactions good or bad following each meal.  Refer to your Gut Friendly Food Guide for advice and information regarding which foods to embrace in abundance and those which should be avoided. 

Address any physiological problems that are taxing your adrenals. These include anaemia, blood sugar imbalances, gut inflammation, food intolerances (as above and in particular gluten, lectins, pasteurised dairy, sugar, alcohol), essential fatty acid deficiencies and environmental toxins.

Quiet. We heal while resting. Escape the tyranny or your to-do lists, give up pointless arguments, avoid energy vampires (people who constantly take and never reciprocate).

Happiness. Be grateful. Practice pleasure.

Movement. Too much exercise as well as too little causes stress to the body. Move for at least 30 minutes every single day. Ramp up your vitamin D levels by getting outside; walk, run whatever kind of movement you enjoy is the right kind for you.

Take home
Stress in all its forms disrupts homeostatis (normal bodily function). Rather than taking prescription drugs on a long-term basis learn to connect with your body in order to understand the underlying causes. Once the stressors, both internal and external are addressed, the healing process will begin.

Recipes - Raw Cashew Cream

Raw Cashew Cream

Ingredients
1 cup organic raw cashews – soak for at least 2 hours
½ garlic clove
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp quality sea salt
½ cup filtered water – add slowly

Instructions
Throw all the ingredients in a blender, high setting, keep scraping the sides of the jug.

Optional sweet flavourings: 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1-2tbs 100% maple syrup, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp minced fresh ginger

Enjoy

Recipes - Kale Chips

Kale Chips

Ingredients
A head of organic kale
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp quality sea salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Method
Remove stems from kale, rinse and dry thoroughly.
Massage oil thoroughly into the leaves, season as above
Spread kale in a thin layer on parchment paper
If you have a dehydrator use it, if not cook the kale in a pre-heated oven on a very low heat approx. 100 degrees for approx. 45 mins to an hour, turn the kale every 15 minutes or so. I keep the oven door slightly ajar.

Enjoy.

Recipes - Carrot & Coriander Soup

Carrot & Coriander Soup

Ingredients
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 onions finely sliced
450g carrots
2 red skinned potatoes, cubed (optional but gives a bit of depth to the soup)
1 large garlic clove crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1.2 pints vegetable or chicken stock (the key is to use a really good homemade stock. I save some after slow cooking marrow bone, chicken thighs or veggies)
1/2 cup coriander roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions carrots and the potato if using
Cook for 3-4 minutes until they start to soften.
Stir in the ground coriander and season well. Cook for 1 minute.
Add the stock and garlic and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
When the vegetables are cooked and slightly cooled add the soup to a blender and blend until smooth.
Add the chopped cilantro leaves after you have blended the soup.
Swirl a spoon of cashew cream and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast on top.

Enjoy

Stress & Energy Vampires

ENERGY VAMPIRES

Is there one in your midst?

An emotional energy vampire or e-vampire as we will refer to them moving forward, is someone who cannot sustain their own energy or life force so they feed off others who operate at a higher energetic level. Deep down these people are unhappy, they struggle to find the joy within so they seek it outside of themselves.

The e-vampire in your life could be someone close to you; a family member, a colleague or a friend. You may not even realise you are dealing with an e-vampire because they can be quite charming and, on the surface, seem totally together.

You may not realise or even mind that an e-vampire is sucking the life out of you. However, a word of warning, your energy has a very delicate balance, which is essential for your health and wellbeing – do not squander it.

Know your e-vampire

The victim – this is an obvious one. This e-vampire feels as though the world is against them, they tick and moan about their lot. They attempt to garner attention through their claims of illness, poor me etc. They’ll do anything to get you to join them at their pity party.

The sense of duty monitor – they hijack your moral compass to get what they want from you. They try to make you feel guilty for not giving them enough attention. They will never take responsibility for their actions.

The finger pointer – always blaming others and the world in general for their situation, they love to vomit their issues onto you.

The dramaturgic – this one is always looking for attention by whatever means, will often enhance a situation to get attention.

The green-eyed monster – jealous, always wanting what you have, will emulate your behaviours but at the same time be resentful of your success. This one will slag you off to others, cutting off your head to make themselves look taller.

The cling-on – needy, disadvantaged and insecure, they’ll always be looking for your time and attention.

The non-reciprocater – the one-sided relationship, they take and take but give nothing in return.

Look for these signs

You’re exhausted, bored and irritated after spending time with them. A phone conversation may leave you feeling drained. You find yourself avoiding contact.

You feel unfocussed, low mood, have a headache.

You are uncomfortable in their presence, your chest tightens, you feel unable to hold their gaze.

Consistently high levels of cortisol running through your body caused by the constant stress created by an e-vampire will lead to chronic inflammation at a cellular level. This situation is extremely detrimental to your health and wellbeing.

Protect yourself

No garlic or crucifixes required. Firstly, do an audit of the people in your life, the people you spend the most time with; friends, colleagues, family etc. Make an honest assessment of those who raise you up and those who bring you down.

The following steps will help you effectively manage an e-vampire.

Admit they exist. Most people who are in relationships with an e-vampires are empaths. Empaths believe that everyone is good. They will stay in a toxic relationship too long and make excuses for an e-vampire. Empaths don’t want to admit the e-vampire is only in the relationship for their own benefit. That would mean admitting that the e-vampire doesn’t care about them. Ouchie!

Intuition. Pay attention. Your gut will warn you about a person. Listen. How does the potential e-vampire treat the people they encounter, say a waitress, a shop assistant? How do they treat other people in their life? Often whomever is their current infatuation will be the best thing since sliced bread but the trail of discarded ex-friends will be telling. We have all come across this one.

Check your mate’s e-vadar (emotional energy vampire radar – yes really!) Engage the services of a level-headed, honest and trustworthy friend.

Prioritise. E-vampires will fight for control. They may be angry and manipulative or passive aggressive. They are great at polarising – pitting one person against the next; it makes them feel powerful and in control. Make yourself your priority.

Manage them. Are you able to manage the relationship more effectively? Have an honest and transparent conversation where both your needs are discussed. Create a roadmap encompassing all that is required to enhance your relationship.

How are you showing up? Go in on yourself. How are you relating to the outside world? Are you turning up as the best version of you? What are the qualities you want from a friend? Be that friend. Remember, human behaviours are contagious.

As Nancy Reagan once said, “Just say no!” She was talking about the war on drugs but same applies. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to minimise your interactions with an e- vampire. You can do this by learning how to turn people down. Saying no takes practice. Remember, self-care is not selfish it is essential.

And if all else fails. Snip, snip. Cut the lies. That’s it, one swift chop – detached, see ya!

Jane Austen said, “Friendship is the finest balm”. Choose your tribe wisely. Surround yourself with happy, positive people and be happy and positive yourself. Be mindful of your own behaviours – be an energy angel.