The Nutrition Coach Blog London Nutritionist The Nutrition Coach offers advice on healthy living, nutrition and diet issues such as IBS, bloating, gluten intolerance and more.

The link between low serotonin and eating disorders

May 1, 2010

A number of studies suggest that those prone to anorexia or bulimia nervosa have a special dietary need for tryptophan, which is an amino acid precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin.  Serotonin is essential for good sleep and mood as well as appetite control. 

One can develop a sub-optimal level of serotonin for a number of reasons.  For example, there may be a lack of the raw materials in the diet for serotonin to be made (including protein, zinc and vitamin B6); inherited deficiencies; seasonal variation; lack of exercise; or altered tryptophan metabolism. 

In order for tryptophan to cross the blood brain barrier to make serotonin, secretion of insulin is needed.  The quickest way to raise insulin is to eat simple carbohydrates, such as dried fruit or unfavourable refined carbohydrates such as chocolate.  This may go towards explaining why those suffering with an eating disorder, particularly during a binge, frequently eat simple carbohydrates.  The simple carbohydrates provide sugar which triggers insulin secretion and this in turn increase tryptophan and serotonin levels in the brain, which elevates mood, reduces cravings and satisfied appetite. 

A key step with nutritional therapy is therefore to look at correcting a serotonin imbalance and to elevate mood using nutrient rich foods and sometimes supplements.  For example, supplementing with 5-HTP, plus zinc and B6, may be useful, together with changes to the diet.  Ideally the diet should include easily assimilated foods containing good quality protein such as quinoa, fish, eggs, ground seeds and sprouted legumes. 

If you suffer from an eating disorder, or disordered eating patterns, feel free to contact us to discuss your personal situation, or book a nutrition appointment to see us in one of our London clinics.


Constantly low energy levels

April 23, 2010

Do you have less energy now than you used to? Are you finding it hard to fall asleep, and wake up feeling tired in the morning? Or are you falling asleep in front of the TV in the evenings and don’t have much energy left for life outside work? Are you frequently feeling bloated, or suffering from IBS-like symptoms?

Any of the above could be a result of changes in your body caused by long-term stress. Many vital nutrients, such as magnesium, get reduced by stress hormones. As magnesium is a vital part of energy production in the body, restoring your nutrient balance can make a really big difference to how you feel.

Stress maybe a fact of life, but feeling drained and not having enough energy to spend quality time with your friends and family shouldn’t be. If you think you could benefit from a nutritional assessment to help your body better deal with the effects of stress, contact us for a free no obligation chat to find out how nutritional therapy can help manage the effects of stress.

Jersey royals, spring onion and radish

April 20, 2010

These foods are all in season, why not boil these beautiful potatoes, chop in some spring onion and radish, then make a light dressing of olive oil and wholegrain mustard and have yourself an easy, tasty little side salad.

Serve with fresh grilled mackerel and not only do you have a balanced meal, but you are including those essential fats only obtainable from oily fish.

Establishing a regular eating pattern is key to helping to overcome binge eating

April 19, 2010

Overcoming an eating disorder is a lengthy and often complex process, involving treatment of the whole person, nutritionally, emotionally and spiritually.  On a nutritional level there is a huge amount of support that can be provided to help break negative eating patterns and to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food. 

A common trait with binge eating, both in those with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, is that sufferers have very sporadic eating patterns.  Breakfast and lunch are often skipped or reduced to a minimum, for example, and stimulants such as coffee are relied upon for energy.  This leads to a situation of poor blood sugar regulation and binge eating later in the day or during the night which over compensates for the low food intake during the day.  This creates a cycle of feast and famine for the body and reactive hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) which then contributes to further binges.  Erratic eating also disrupts the normal mechanisms that control hunger and fullness, so these feelings are no longer a reliable guide for when to eat.

A key step to overcoming binge eating is therefore to introduce a pattern of regular eating.   This starts with introducing breakfast on a daily basis.  Once breakfast has been successfully introduced then lunch is introduced, so gradually building up to three regular meals per day at regular intervals.  Two snacks per day are also introduced, as eating little and often and eating the right foods helps to keep blood sugar levels even and therefore reduce cravings for sugary foods and binges.  Planning meals also means that individuals are prepared with food choices and less likely to opt for a foods that may subsequently trigger a binge.

In our London clinic I work with clients with eating disorders to slowly introduce changes so that they can establish a happy relationship with food and to nourish themselves back to health.  Please do get in touch to find out more about how we can help you, or contact us to book an appointment.


Metabolic Balance client story

April 14, 2010

Instead of me going on about the wonderful benefits of the Metabolic Balance programme available at our London clinic, I thought I’d post a note that I got from a client when I asked her to write about her experiences of the diet.

“I decided to try MB, as I had a stubborn stone that I could not shift, even though I ate a healthy balanced diet and exercised regularly. This weight was particularly around my stomach.

I started the MB programme with trepidation, I had never been on a ‘diet’ in my life, and was actually opposed to them, as I have seen in my work that they never seem to work. I found the first week and a half incredibly hard. Weighing food was completely alien to me, and trying to think of interesting meals that didn’t involve starchy carbs was really hard work. Even though I was actually eating more at breakfast and lunch time, I found that I was feeling absolutely starving all of the time, more hungry that I had ever been before! I also really struggled with my blood sugar, and had quite bad mood swings.

I was on the verge of giving up. I was fed up with reading about people on the programme who claimed that they never felt hungry when I was, to be honest, feeling pretty lousy. Then suddenly, towards the end of the second week every thing changed. I felt great, had loads of energy, and had lost 4 inches from my waist! I wasn’t hungry until just before meal times, and I was not missing starchy carbs at all.

Saying that, it was still a relief to get through the first 2 weeks, and have a takeaway and a glass of wine once a week! When you have this to look forward to, it certainly doesn’t feel like depravation, as a lot of ‘diets’ can. The interesting thing is that my cravings completely stopped. No longer was I craving wine after the kids had gone to bed, or something to snack on an hour after dinner. Also I was able to go to children’s parties, and not feel at all tempted by all the crisps and biscuits, which was a really strange experience. I found myself staring at a pile of biscuits absolutely shocked that I had no desire to eat them at all!

The other bonus of MB is that my PMT has completely gone! I would normally have quite bad PMT for a week before my period, so I knew that it was imminent, but now I am completely taken by surprise! I’m sure my family are happy about this.

I didn’t have a lot of weight to lose, and there was no dramatic weight loss for me. In 7 weeks on the programme I have lost 7kg, but I have lost 5 inches from my waist, 4” from my hips, and 3” from my chest. I have loads more energy, my moods are more stable, and my libido has improved, which was a surprising bonus!! Also, people are saying that my skin looks much better.

I have reached my target weight, and although I am no longer weighing what I eat, I don’t think I will ever go back to eating loads of potatoes, pasta, bread and rice, as I have realised that I simply don’t need them, or indeed miss them. I am eating what I want at the weekends, and following the rules of the programme during the week, and am still managing to lose weight.

Sanna has been a great help though all of this, she is extremely knowledgeable and friendly, and it really helps that she has been through the programme herself. She was great during the initial wobbles, and was really supportive throughout.

Food Assembly – not recipes

April 11, 2010

We often get intimidated by thinking about a “new recipe” – instead of getting frightened off trying new things – just think of it as putting stuff together – eg grilled salmon, and broccoli – makes a fantastically simple meal – of course you can make it more complicated by adding ginger, garlic, herbs and spices – but at its simplest, salmon and broccoli are delicious.  Try this piece of food assembly below!

Chickpea, cauliflower and Feta salad

This is one of the easiest and quickest meal salads and it’s very tasty too.  The cauliflower will give the salad some crunch and the creaminess of the feta some richness.  Chickpeas are a source of phytoestrogens, and most vegetables also contain these hormone balancing nutrients.  If you want to increase the phytoestrogen content of the salad, you could add some chopped celery or fennel.

Serves 2-3
Preparation time: 10 minutes

1 small to medium sized cauliflower, cubed
1 tin of chickpeas (400g)
4-5 spring onions, sliced
1 carrot, grated
200g pack of feta cheese, cubed
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tbs olive oil
Handful of chopped coriander

1.    Wash and cube the cauliflower and place the cubes in a salad bowl.
2.    Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add to the cauliflower.
3.    Slice the spring onions and add to the mixture.
4.    Peel and grate the carrot and mix into the salad.
5.    Add the cubed Feta cheese.
6.    Mix the lemon juice and olive oil and add to the salad.  Mix well.
7.    Add the chopped coriander and serve.

Come and see us – to have your diet assessed with our DIET MOT - we would love to see you!

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