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Satisfying stomach hunger

November 1, 2010

This week we’re moving down from the mouth to the stomach, for the fourth type of hunger …. Stomach hunger.

I’m sure everyone can relate to hunger pangs coming from their stomach, but what signal does your stomach really give you when it is hungry?  It may be an emptiness that wants to be filled, or a constriction as if the space is being ground up. 

From an evolutionary point of view, hunger pangs from the stomach are essential as they are a reminder that we need to eat.  However, as well as the stomach telling us when to eat, we also tell the stomach when to be hungry.  For example, if we travel to a different time zone, the stomach learns when to expect food according to the new time zone and therefore when to be hungry.  Similarly, if we’re used to eating three course meals then that is what the stomach expects and will growl at only being given one course until it re-adjusts.

Emotions can often be confused as stomach hunger.  Anxiety, for example, can make the stomach growl and grind.  However, trying to satisfy anxiety with food will only make the stomach growl and ‘act up’ even more.

In order to help satisfy stomach hunger it is therefore important to:

  • Tune in to your stomach and identify whether it is actually signalling hunger pangs, rather than anxiety or stress.
  • Eat slowly so that the stomach is not overfilled, as it can do its job best when it is two-thirds full rather than over loaded.
  • Eat at the times and the quantities that you aspire to eat.  The stomach will grumble for the first day or two, but will then quickly adjust and learn the new eating patterns.
  • Rate you level of stomach hunger from zero (not hungry) to ten (‘starving’) at the beginning and end of a meal.  Once you have this awareness of how your stomach feels it will be easier to tune into it and eat accordingly.

Stomach hunger affects everyone, but can be a particular problem in cases of binge eating and other disordered eating patterns.  If you have a question about disordered eating then please do give us a call to see if we can help you, or to book a consultation at one of our London nutrition clinics.


Adrenal Fatigue – Or in plain English, Dog Tired!

October 29, 2010

If you go to your doctor and complain of being tired, he or she might tell you just to go away and take things easy – as simple as that sounds, sometimes we can suffer the kind of tiredness that is not solved straight away just by resting.  Indeed, sometimes we can have the kind of tiredness and lack of energy that is even worse if you take a holiday.  Strange.

Not so strange to us as Nutritional therapists – in our more involved work (obviously at the top level we are involved in changing people’s diets) but on a deeper level we are trying to get to the bottom of why someone might be feeling a lack of energy.    A more accurate term to describe what a nutritional therapist does is, that we are involved in the area of functional medicine.  We certainly do not pretend to do the very important job a doctor does, but the doctor can only diagnose a condition when someone has already dipped in to “disease state” ie pathology.  The Nutritional therapist is trying to stop someone going in to disease so it is all about prevention rather than fire-fighting once that condition has got hold.

A point in case is when someone one does feel tired.  We do a test called an adrenal stress index (we are measuring cortisol (fight and flight hormone) and we are measuring DHEA (another hormone involved in recovery).  The doctor will does not recognise a lack of cortisol, or non optimal cortisol  – he recognises a serious and rare condition until called Addison’s disease.  But low cortisol should not be confused with this condition at all.  The Adrenal stress index is only measuring the function of the adrenal glands (where stress hormones come from).  If these hormones are low – you can feel any number of symptoms from lack of energy, depression, anxiety, foggy headed-ness  – it can manifest in the type of tiredness that even an apparently good night’s sleep does not refresh.

A Nutrition Therapist seek to redress this less than optimal cortisol by paying attention to the diet (or course), lifestyle (or stress hormones were designed to deal with sabre tooth tigers not email traffic and mobile phones!  90% of the adrenal gland is designed to handling chronic stress and only 10% acute stress and we don’t have adrenal glands the size of footballs to cope with the kinds of stresses we have on an on going basis.  In the old days, people would have had some really horrible things happen to them – think about living in Norman days (they were really tough those Normans and would chop of heads willy-nilly!) but if you were an ordinary person, the daily fear would not be there on a constant basis.  I am not saying it would be a walk in the park – life was nasty, brutal and short but the adrenals were designed for this kind of life.   A sudden sharp life threatening shock is the kind of stress the adrenals were evolved to deal with.

Taking care of your adrenals, I believe is the single most important thing you can do for your health!  Come and see us and consider getting your adrenal glands tested (we use a saliva test) and see where you are at our London Clinic or in Scotland!

Can chocolate be healthy?

October 26, 2010

I love London. Where else do you have a full week dedicated to chocolate, one of the most popular sweet treats in the world?

In case you missed Chocolate Week the other week and didn’t get to see or taste the largest truffle in the world, I’m dedicating this blog post to the health benefits of chocolate. Can eating chocolate really be good for you?

I know what you are thinking now: this is your lucky day! A nutritional therapist is about to tell you that you are allowed to eat chocolate without feeling guilty because of its health benefits. But before you storm off to raid the vending machine for your chunky chocolate bar, hold fire and read on.

It’s all down to the right kind of chocolate and, of course, the amount you eat. Know your enemies and choose them wisely, is my recommendation.

Chocolate comes from the cacao plant, and cacao is extraordinarily rich in flavanols, a type of flavonoid phytochemical. Research has shown the benefits of eating dark chocolate high in flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants commonly found in plant pigment that aid in strengthening the connective tissues of the blood vessels. Antioxidants are great and very important, they help neutralize free radicals, supporting the immune system by lowering the risk of infection, and help in fighting heart diseases and premature aging.

Now I’m not telling you to swap your anti-aging skin care products for dark chocolate, but think about swapping your daily afternoon milk chocolate bar with a few squares of high quality dark chocolate, and you may benefit from the following:

* A healthier heart and lower blood pressure – the high content of flavanols as well as minerals magnesium and copper in dark chocolate aids in regulating normal blood pressure
* Reduced stress levels – by stimulating the production of endorphins, dark chocolate may give rise to a happy feeling (in case you are upset about having missed another gym session due to your workload)
* Immune system boost – the two kinds of flavonoids present in chocolates are mainly catechins and epicatechins. Dark chocolate has more of catechins, which boosts the human body immune system and possibly prevent major chronic ailments.
* Lower cholesterol levels – dark chocolate has been medically proven to reduce the bad cholesterol level in the human body significantly, up to 10 to 12 percentage.

And if you’re feeling slightly depressed this month because it’s dark and cold out there, you will be pleased to hear dark chocolate contains serotonin, a neurotransmitter which has the qualities of anti-depressants.

There are definite health benefits to indulging in the occasional dark chocolate, but don’t forget chocolate is a calorie-rich food with high fat and sugar content. It also contains a variety of substances, some of which have addictive properties (e.g. sugar, theobromine and caffeine) which are stimulating and mood elevating. In the case of dark chocolate, the key word is quantity, and I’m talking 1-2 small squares. Too much of it may cause unwanted increases in your blood sugar levels and your weight, both cancelling out any health benefits you’re getting from the chocolate.

As for me I might pop to Hotel Chocolat now to buy some dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content.



Satisfying mouth hunger

October 25, 2010

This week it’s time to reveal the third of the seven types of hunger… mouth hunger.

Mouth hunger is the mouth’s desire for sensations.  It likes variety, particularly variety of flavours and textures.  The mouth is also easily bored and if it becomes accustomed to always being stimulated then it won’t be happy being empty.  You will then begin to snack continually, putting food and drink into your mouth in a continuous stream throughout the day.  In addition, the food industry has increased the level of sensation in food, particularly snack foods, to include more salt, more sugar, more spice and more fat.

Our food preferences with mouth hunger varies between person to person and depends on factors such as genetics, food habits in your family, cultural traditions and conditioning – where you may develop associations of particular foods with pleasant or unpleasant experiences.  For example, strawberries will have an entirely different appeal if you enjoyed them on your wedding anniversary, compared with if you ate them on a long journey where you were travel sick. 

To satisfy the mouth’s hunger for sensation, it isn’t enough to put food into your mouth, chew and swallow it.  In order to feel satisfied, the mind has to be aware of eating and the sensation of chewing.  For example, if you are at a restaurant, the first bit of your meal might taste delicious, as does the second bite.  However, as the conversation begins you can quickly finish your meal and look down and without realising it your plate is empty. After the first few bites you didn’t taste it, as you were busy talking and your mouth has therefore not been satisfied with the food and wants a second helping. 

To satisfy mouth hunger, you therefore need to move from mindless to mindful eating.  Try to have a variety of flavours and textures with your meals and engage in chewing and tasting the food.  During the day, observe mouth hunger and what it is asking for and whether it might be thirsty instead of hungry. Is the rest of your body hungry, or just your mouth?

Mouth hunger affects everyone, but can be a particular problem in cases of binge eating and other disordered eating patterns.  If you have a question about disordered eating then please do give us a call to see if we can help you, or to book a consultation at one of our London nutrition clinics.


Could meditation help IBS?

October 22, 2010

If you suffer from IBS, it may be that your doctor has mentioned that you could be suffering just from stress.  It is a funny word “stress” because the implication is that somehow you are just not coping.  Maybe a better word is pressure – because in busy lives that pressure can just build and build, making it really impossible to stay even tempered and calm.

But certainly the influence of stress has a real and measurable effect on the body and particularly in the gut.  The gut’s friendly bacteria are disturbed by excess stress and the far reaches of the stress hormone cortisol can lower the Secretory IgA  (SIgA) which can lower the immunity in the gut – once this is lowered then, you become much more prone to infection generally – and once an infection in the bowel is there, it is tricky to get rid of without a healthy gut immunity – a bit of a chicken and egg situation.  Also, it makes you much more likely to suffer from food intolerances.  In effect, it is not really the foods themselves that is the problem but rather the gut not being in good shape that is the problem

One way to increase the SIgA is to take probiotics and/or find out if you do have gut infections (you can do this by coming to see us and we will undertake the appropriate testing) but you could also start by removing the stress response from your life!  Easier said that done, I know.  One really good way, is rather than try and remove the stress itself is to try and manage how you perceive that stress.   Meditation is a great way to do this because it encourages you to detach from the outcome and focus on the here and now and the breath.

The method I use (and trust me I have a whole library on the subject!) is through  They have CDs/downloads that sort of meditate you, rather than you having to “learn” how to mediate.  Like all things though, of course you have to actually do it for it to be of any use at all.  Stating the obvious I know.  Meditation has a real and measurable effect on health and although it has rather a new age image, slowly is being accepted into mainstream medicine.  The work of Jon Kabot Zinn at The University of Massachussetts Medical school testifies to this fact with all the research they have done over many years and thousands of patients. (See his book “Full Catastrophe Living” for his work on mindfulness).

It is hard to give yourself permission to take time out – one monk once said words to the effect  “every day I undertake to do 2 hours mediation a day, except when I am busy when I do 4”

Of course, many of us have not chosen a monk’s lifestyle – but if we can even take five minutes to sit down and observe the in and out of the breath and quieten the mind – this can actually take care of our guts as well!

Contact us about either Stressimages and how we can help your stress hormones or IBS

Trick or Treat?

October 19, 2010

Everybody likes a treat, whether it’s the ‘Sunday-cake-treat’, the ‘after-work-wine-treat’ or the ‘Friday-I’v- been-good-all-week-treat’. Usually these treats are far from being nutritious – chock full of sugar, salt, nasty fats, and lots of E-numbers. I think it’s time to stop tricking yourself and treat yourself to the taste of Halloween by adding some pumpkin to your diet. Believe me, it’s so good for you it’s scary.

Derived from ‘pepon’, the Greek word for ‘large melon’, pumpkins originated in Central America and have been around for many centuries. The Native Americans used them as both food and medicine, and no wonder, I think. Already looking at their bright colour is a dead giveaway that pumpkins are loaded with antioxidants and contain a range of nutritional benefits.

First on the healthy list is the antioxidant beta-carotene, found in high content in pumpkin meat and responsible for the bright orange colour. Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids and an important precursor to the production of vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A, a fat soluble vitamin, is needed to promote a healthy body tissue, to ward off infections especially in the mucous membrane, and to aid in building of teeth and bones. If you lack vitamin A you could develop night blindness (not very beneficial if you’re actually planning to trick-or-treat). Together with the two other important antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, beta carotene neutralizes free radicals that can attack our cell membranes and leave the cells vulnerable to damage especially in the lens of the eye. Research also indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, and offers protection against heart disease.

Pumpkins are also rich in vitamins C, K and E, fibre, and lots of minerals including magnesium, iron and zinc. Iron, of course, is needed by red blood cells. Zinc, as you remember from last week’s column, plays an important role in hundreds of enzymatic reactions which support a healthy immune system and help maintain the sense of smell and taste (very important to enjoy all those treats). And fibre is important for your digestion promoting bowel health.

What about the seeds, you ask?

Pumpkin seeds are especially nutritious and worth latching on to. Loaded with healthful minerals such as magnesium, manganese, iron and zinc, as well as a great source of protein and high in monounsaturated healthy fats, pumpkin seeds are one of the most nutritious and flavourful seeds around. They have an anti-inflammatory effect, and may even help lower cholesterol and protect against prostate cancer and osteoporosis.

Now all you need is the fancy dress costume for cooking up your Halloween treats – of a smashin’ pumpkin! And make sure you share your favourite recipes with us.

Happy Halloween,


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