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The Vitamin D Epidemic

July 5, 2011

By London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

How Vitamin D Deficient Is The UK?

A recent survey in the UK showed that more than half of the adult population in the UK has insufficient levels of vitamin D. In the winter and spring about 1 in 6 people has a severe deficiency. It is estimated that about 9 in 10 adults of South Asian origin may be vitamin D-deficient. Most affected people either don’t have any symptoms, or have vague aches and pains, and are unaware of the problem.

Why Do Your Vitamin D Levels Matter?

In addition to the well-known osteoporosis connection, deficiency of this fat-soluble vitamin can be linked to a wide range of health problems, from cancer and cardiovascular disease to cognitive impairment and problems with auto-immunity such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. Huge increased research interest in this field is constantly bringing to light new evidence which underscores the enormous importance of vitamin D to human health.

Sources of Vitamin D

What many people don’t realise is that very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Fortified milk, egg yolks and oily fish are the best sources, but we can’t rely on food to provide with optimal amounts of vitamin D on a daily basis. In fact, the major source (80 – 100%) of vitamin D is actually sunshine. Ultraviolet B (UVB) sunlight rays convert cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D.

That’s right, although cholesterol is often a much maligned substance, our bodies literally could not survive without it! The sunlight has to fall directly on to bare skin (through a window is not enough). To add to the complexity of this issue, age, skin colour, geographic latitude, seasonal variations in sunlight availability and sunscreen use can impact on your body’s ability to produce all the vitamin D it needs. For example, darker skins need more sun to get the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person and because of geographic location, people in the United Kingdom cannot synthesise vitamin D from November to the end of March.

Why the Vitamin D Epidemic?

So why are we experiencing such epidemic proportions of vitamin D Deficiency? It’s because we are increasingly much less exposed to sunlight due to our indoor and sedentary lifestyles, and because of official advice to protect ourselves from skin cancer by covering up totally in the sun and slathering ourselves with sunscreen, which blocks UVB rays, and thus vitamin D synthesis.

What You Can Do

At least 2-3 exposures of sunlight per week between 10 AM and 3 PM are considered enough to achieve healthy vitamin D levels. Each episode should be 20-30 minutes to bare arms and face, legs, or back without sunscreen. This is not the same as sun tanning; the skin simply needs to be exposed to sunlight, but should not burn. Thus, the time of day, geographic latitude and seasonal variations in sunlight availability will determine the optimal length for direct, yet safe sun exposure.

Most experts now agree that supplementation is currently the safest and most effective method of achieving optimal vitamin D status. A blood test for vitamin D can be very useful; it can help establish your current vitamin D levels which can help you figure out how much vitamin D you need, or whether the sun exposure you get and/or the supplements you take are providing optimal levels.

If you’d like to know more about whether you might be vitamin D deficient or how you can optimise your vitamin D levels, please call us on 0845 0502 442 for an informal chat.

Wishing you the best of health

London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

Happy 4th of July!

July 4, 2011

After living in the US for 8 years one of my favourite holidays was the 4th of July – so happy 4th! It meant throwing on a swimsuit, shorts and a baseball cap and spending time with friends at the beach, watching a parade, going to carnivals, baseball games and watching spectacular fireworks etc. Okay. so you might be wondering why I’m going on about an American holiday. The best part of the day was firing up a barbecue in the evening and gorging yourself silly on corn on the cob, hamburgers, hot dogs, crisps, ice cream and lots more. Now although we don’t celebrate the 4th of July, we sure do BBQs. A few ideas to make your BBQs nice and healthy this summer:
1. If you’re eating corn on the cob don’t add butter. There is no need to flavor it with fat when corn is already very sweet and flavorful. Opt for lemon instead and a little bit of crunchy sea salt.

2. Instead of beef burgers try turkey or chicken burgers. If your butcher or local supermarket doesn’t have them ready made just ask for some minced turkey breast (actually it’s even better if you get minced turkey because then you can season it). My favorite turkey burger is a Mar-a-lago recipe found on Oprah’s website – check it out!
You will never find a more delicious burger. Opt for the gobbler instead of the moo, it’s lower in fat and cholesterol.

3. Try grilling fish on the barbeque as a nice alternative to meat.

4. Opt for skinless chicken breast fillets if cooking chicken.

5. With meat choose lean cuts or trim off portions of fat.

6. Try a dry spiced rub instead of oily marinades.

7. Don’t forget the veggies! Most vegetables grill well on the BBQ directly and in skewers.

8. On the side try a mixed green salad or a grain dish such as barely, quinoa or couscous.

9. Avoid the desert. Opt for summer seasonal fruits. Try fruit salads with low fat yogurt or chocolate covered strawberries.

10. Avoid overdoing your portions sizes (even though it tastes, and smells, so good)

Contact The Nutrition Coach for more info 0845 050 2442

Ten Top Detox Tips

May 27, 2011

By Julia Alderman

Our bodies have natural cleansing cycles when they want a lighter diet and more liquid intake. This occurs on a daily basis, and also in tune with the yearly cycle and seasonal change. This makes spring a particularly good time for a detox, as it is a time associated with renewal and freshness before the summer months. A spring detox is therefore an ideal way to rejuvenate the body and mind, and improves energy and mood, aids weight loss, clears the skin and improves digestion.
So, why do we need to detox? Put simply, toxins that we’re exposed to damage the normal functioning of our cells, and therefore prevent us from reaching optimal health. We are exposed to an array of toxins on a day to day basis, and with approximately 4000 chemicals used in food production our food can be a major source.
Toxins we consume include preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings, pesticides, fertilisers, antibiotics, growth enhancers, caffeine and alcohol. As the majority of these are relatively new man-made substances it’s not surprising that our body isn’t designed to process them, and overtime can leave us with fatigue, headaches, skin problems, cellulite, digestive problems and weakened immunity.
If this sounds familiar, give your body a well deserved spring cleanse. Experience the benefits of increased health, energy and vitality by following our top ten tips:

1. Start the day with a cleansing mug of hot water with ¼ squeezed lemon, slice of root ginger and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
2. Eat a fruit-based breakfast, such as stewed or fresh fruit salad with natural yoghurt and ground seeds, or a freshly made protein smoothie.
3. Avoid black tea, coffee and alcohol and replace with herbal tea, such as nettle to support the kidneys, or dandelion root coffee to aid liver function. It’s important to stay well hydrated, so drink at least 1.5 litre of water daily. Fresh juices, such as carrot, beetroot, apple and cucumber are also fantastically nourishing and cleansing so aim to drink one fresh juice daily – ideally on an empty stomach for maximum benefit.
4. Avoid all processed and prepared foods – this really means anything that has been manufactured and comes in a packet e.g. ready meals, savoury snacks, biscuits. Instead eat food in its natural unprocessed state and cook by steaming, lightly boiling or poaching rather than frying.
5. Chose organic food over non-organic food to minimise your intake of toxic pesticides.
6. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, aiming for more (ideally nine!). For lunch and dinner, cover at least 60% of your plate with vegetables and eat as much variety of colours as possible, aiming to cover the whole spectrum of the rainbow.
7. Avoid wheat (e.g. in bread, pasta, pastries and biscuits) and replace with wheat-free alternatives such as brown rice, buckwheat noodles, quinoa, rye bread and oat cakes.
8. Eat snacks, but replace sugary treats such as chocolate and cake with supportive foods such as fresh fruit, vegetable sticks with houmous , half an avocado or mixed seeds.
9. Reduce consumption of animal products. Avoid dairy products, except natural live yoghurt, and replace milk with soya or nut milks. Avoid processed and fatty meats and replace with fish, eggs, lentils, beans, tempeh (fermented tofu), quinoa, seeds and nuts as good protein alternatives.
10. Incorporate lifestyle factors into your regime to support the process: get a good nights sleep, take a yoga class, treat yourself to a massage or sauna, try dry skin brushing before showering and use natural organic skin products.

Contact The Nutrition Coach for more info 0845 050 2442

The Connection Between The Thyroid, Adrenals And Weight Gain

May 25, 2011

The Connection Between The Thyroid, Adrenals And Weight Gain

by London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

There is a connection between our adrenal glands, thyroid glands and weight gain. When these two glands are not kept in a healthy state, the result can often be weight gain. The good news is that on the other hand, if these two glands are supported through proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, it can lead to a natural weight loss.

What our adrenal glands do

The adrenal and thyroid glands are very closely connected in how they enable the body to function properly. The adrenals are small triangular shaped glands that sit on top of both kidneys. They are responsible for releasing the hormones adrenaline and cortisol which among other functions, help control body fluid balance, blood pressure, blood sugar and are designed to help the body deal with physical and psychological stress. In addition, the adrenal glands produce small amounts of oestrogen when women enter into menopause and the ovaries reduce their oestrogen output. This is why it’s so important to maintain adrenal function in the menopause years.

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal Fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a “syndrome” that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level.  This happens most often when you are exposed to constant , uninterrupted stress so that your body (and adrenal glands) cannot fully recover, or during or after acute or chronic infections. Consequently, the adrenal glands become fatigued and are unable to continue responding adequately to further stress.

You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not even have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of feeling unwell, tiredness or “grey” feelings. People suffering from Adrenal Fatigue often have to use coffee, tea and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.

Some Manifestations Of Adrenal Fatigue:

  • Confusion, poor concentration, and memory recall
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Cravings for salt or sweet foods
  • Decreased immune response – recurrent coughs, colds, flu
  • Difficulty during menopause (the adrenals take over the role of the ovaries after menopause)
  • Fatigue in spite of sufficient sleep
  • Increased fears, anxiety, and depression
  • Insomnia
  • Thyroid problems
  • Weight gain

How cortisol levels affect the thyroid gland- and your weight:

1. Cortisol is required to facilitate the release of Thyroid-stimulating hormone (also known as TSH ) from the pituitary gland, which in turn stimulates the production and release of T4 (the inactive thyroid hormone) and T3 (the active thyroid hormone)by the thyroid gland.

2. Cortisol is required to convert the inactive T4 hormone to the active T3 form.

3. Cortisol allows each T3 cell receptor to more readily accept T3.

Thus, low adrenal functioning can lead to decreased cortisol output. This in turn can actually lead to decreased thyroid functioning, or cause someone’s existing thyroid problem to be much worse than it would be otherwise. As discussed in the other issues of this series on the thyroid, because thyroid functioning is intimately entwined with weight management, stress can really impact on the adrenals and therefore on your thyroid functioning.

So, if you have been exposed to chronic, unrelenting stress, think you might have thyroid problems and are struggling to shift those pounds, please call us on 0845 0502 442 for a  FREE 15 minute chat to see how nutrition can help you recover your vitality and health.

Wishing you the best of health

London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

Is it food intolerance or something else?

May 20, 2011

When Food Intolerance is actually something else – getting back to the root causes

James came to see me in January with symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) – he had seen his doctor who had rule out the possibility of anything serious and the doctor had given him som peppermint oil to help with cramping symptoms.  James was convinced he had food intolerance as the symptoms seemed to get worse when he ate certain foods – the trouble was that on some occasions even when he avoided certain trigger foods he still had the symptoms.  He was keen to learn just what foods were to blame as try as he might he couldn’t see a pattern.  

When he came to me I took a detailed case history ( asked him loads of questions) and it turned out the symptoms had started at Christmas time with a bout of gastric flu –  before that he said he had a very sturdy gut.  He said he was able to eat anything!   This gave me the clue that perhaps rather than food intolerance -this might be a case of infection.  Instead of a food intolerance test I got him to do a gut test instead ( stool test)..  The results took about four weeks to come back and in the meantime we worked on improving his diet – although improving the diet did help improve the symptoms somewhat, the symptoms were still there.

Once we got the results back he had a very common parasite (very common in the UK) B.hominis –  This parasite makes the gut more sensitive to foods and in his case was the root of the problem.  We worked on getting rid of this parasite and improving gut ecology and immunity.   Now five months later he is in a much better position – his symptoms are heaps better.  We still have work to do but with persistence we can definitely see light at the end of the tunnel!

Nutritional Support for a Healthy Weight & Thyroid

April 30, 2011

Supporting Your Thyroid  and a Healthy Weight Through Nutrition

by London nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

Hi again! In part 1 of this series on the thyroid we talked about what the thyroid is, how it might be affecting your weight, symptoms of an underactive thyroid and a simple test you can do at home to give you an indication, but no firm diagnosis, as to how well your thyroid is functioning.

In this 2nd part of the series, we’ll look at how you can support optimal thyroid functioning, and therefore optimal weight management, through nutrition.

Foods to help support optimal thyroid functioning

1. Iodine is required to manufacture the thyroid hormones. Without sufficient iodine, your thyroid cannot produce adequate thyroid hormones to help your body function on an optimal level. Seafoods, iodised salt and sea vegetables such as kelp, as well as foods grown in iodine rich soil, are rich sources of iodine. It should be noted, however, that too much iodine can actually trigger thyroid problems and worsen symptoms, so it’s important to have a healthy balance.

2.       Zinc is another essential mineral for optimising thyroid health.

3.      Selenium: This mineral is critical for the proper functioning of your thyroid gland, and is used to produce and regulate the active T3 hormone. Selenium can be found in foods such as shrimp, snapper, tuna, cod, halibut, calf’s liver, button and shitake mushrooms and Brazil nuts.

4.      Zinc, Iron and Copper are needed in trace amounts for your healthy thyroid function. Low levels of zinc have been linked to low levels of TSH, whereas iron deficiency has been linked to decreased thyroid efficiency. Copper is also necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. Seafood, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds can help provide these trace metals in your diet.

5.      B vitamins help to manufacture thyroid hormones and play an important role in healthy thyroid function. They are found in whole grains, pulses and green leafy vegetables.

Foods which can compromise optimal thyroid functioning

Goitrogens get their name from the term “goiter,” which means an enlargement of the thyroid gland. If the thyroid gland is having difficulty making thyroid hormone, it may enlarge as a way of trying to compensate for this inadequate hormone production. “Goitrogens,” like circumstances that cause goiter, cause difficulty for the thyroid in making its hormone.

Although research studies are limited in this area, cooking does appear to help inactivate the goitrogenic compounds found in food. Both isoflavones (found in soy foods) and isothiocyanates (found in cruciferous vegetables) appear to be heat-sensitive, and cooking appears to lower the availability of these substances.

Please remember that you do not need to avoid the foods below unless you have a confirmed underactive thyroid, as many have numerous important health benefits.

1. Soy: The principal goitrogens in soybeans are the estrogenic plant hormones known as isoflavones. The antinutrients known as saponins in soy may also be goitrogens. Cooking and processing methods, using heat, pressure, and alkaline solutions, will neither deactivate nor remove isoflavones or saponins.

2. Cruciferous vegetables: compounds called isothiocyanates found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts are goitrogens as well. While it’s true that large amounts could interfere with thyroid function, especially if eaten raw, they offer a myriad of other health benefits that make the benefits outweigh the risks for most people. If you know you have thyroid disease and want to be especially careful, steaming these vegetables reduces the goitrogenic effect.

3. Other foods: millet, peaches, peanuts, radishes, soybean and soy products, including tofu, spinach and strawberries

Do you think you might have an underactive thyroid that is stopping you from shedding those pounds, despite eating healthily and exercising regularly? Then please call us on 0845 050 2442 for speedy and expert advice.

Wishing you the best of health

London nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

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