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Is An Underactive Thyroid Sabotaging Your Weight Loss?

April 11, 2011

Part 1

by London nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

Have you tried every diet known to man, really watch what and how much you eat, exercise regularly and find that you STILL CAN’T LOSE THE WEIGHT???!! Well, here’s some good news. Research is pointing to the fact that an underactive thyroid might be the number one cause of weight problems, especially among women.

So what is the thyroid and how might it be affecting your weight? Well, the thyroid gland is a small butterfly shaped gland with two lobes found just in front of your neck below the Adams Apple. One of its main functions is to control metabolism- that is, the rate at which we burn calories to maintain vital functions. Our bodies need fuel just as a car needs fuel to power itself, so whether we are sleeping, shopping or exercising, we are constantly burning calories.

Now, your thyroid gland produces two main hormones. One is called thyroxine (T4) and the other is called triiodothyronine (T3). The thyroid produces approximately 80% T4 and 20% T3. T4 is generally considered to be inactive and only becomes active when converted to T3, although some researchers believe that T4 does, in fact, have a function. T3 is an active hormone needed by all of the cells and tissues of the body and is the one which does all the work of regulating the body’s metabolism.

Thyroid problems often run in families and can happen at any age. Things can go wrong with the thyroid in two ways:

Hyperthyroidism, also called an overactive thyroid where the thyroid produces more thyroid hormone than it should which causes the metabolism to run too fast.

Hypothyroidism, also called an underactive thyroid where the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone which causes our metabolism to work too slowly.

What are the symptoms Of An Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism)

  • Fatigue is the most common. You feel tired and exhausted like you can’t enough sleep, or want to take daytime naps
  • You’ve gained weight inappropriately or you are finding it difficult to lose weight despite proper diet and exercise
  • You feel depressed or sad
  • Impaired memory & concentration
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Cold hands & Feet
  • Constipation
  • Difficult for a person to sweat and their perspiration may be decreased or even absent even during heavy exercise and hot weather
  • Your skin can become dry, cold, rough and scaly
  • You are losing hair, particularly from the outer part of your eyebrows
  • Nails are breaking or splitting and are brittle

Does this sound like you? Then read on…

A Simple Test To Provisionally Evaluate Thyroid Function

If you’ve read this article and some of the symptoms ring true for you, but you are not sure if you have low thyroid, there is a simple test called the Broda Barnes Temperature Test which can give you an indication, but NOT A FIRM  DIAGNOSIS, as to whether or not your thyroid is functioning optimally.

Here’s what to do.  Starting on the 2nd day of your period, take your body temperature for 14 mornings in a row. Shake down a glass thermometer and place it by your bed before you go to sleep. Upon waking, place the thermometer in your armpit for a full 10 minutes. It is important to move as little as possible during this time. Don’t get up for any reason. After ten minutes, record the temperature and date. This should be done for 14 consecutive mornings. Individuals with normal functioning thyroids have a basal body temperature between 36.6 ° C and 36.8°C. Basal body temperatures below this range may reflect hypothyroidism.

How Can Nutrition Help You Lose Weight?

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

But what about those of you who may have been to the doctor’s to check out your thyroid functioning and been told that it’s working fine, but you still feel there’s something not quite right? Well, in part 2 we’ll be looking at what and how to eat to support your thyroid, but also at the latest cutting edge technology which can help us determine whether you might be what is described as borderline hypothyroid. This means that your thyroid might not be under functioning so poorly that you are diagnosed as having an underactive thyroid, but it might be sluggish enough to be causing you weight management problems. And this is what I’ll be discussing next time.

Wishing you the best of health

London nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

Can’t wait till next time? Want to know NOW what you can do to shed the pounds and find out how well your thyroid is functioning?

Then get in touch with our London clinic either online or by phone on 0845 0502 442 for speedy and expert advice.

Spring Awakening – let’s get that metabolism out of hibernation with the metabolic program!

April 11, 2011


Spring is finally here!  People have peeled off their winter coats, the birds are chirping, the daffodils are out, trees have blossomed, bikes are everywhere and runners too – but, do you still feel blue?

Does it feel like everyone around you has energy and looks healthy as if its’ been spring all year long, and not a horribly cold winter? Have you gained weight over the winter because you’ve over indulged during the festive season and been less physically active because of the cold? Have you lost energy and feel fatigued?  Well then maybe the metabolic balance program is for you to speed your metabolism up and wake from hibernation.

The metabolic program is a diet individually tailored to your body chemistry through the aid of a blood test.  Foods will be specifically selected for you to adjust your metabolism, gain vitality and boost weight loss.  All foods included on the diet are natural and wholesome and will provide you with the right levels of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to re-balance your metabolism.

The program includes:

  • A blood test and diagnostic session
  • A four -stage diet program
  • A food plan individually tailored to you
  • Seven appointments to give you the support you need throughout the diet to achieve your goals

Many people have succeeded from this nutritionally sound program and so can you.

If you’d like to find out more about Metabolic Balance and weight loss, get in touch with our London clinic either online or by phone on 0845 0502 442.

Is it Food Intolerance?

April 8, 2011

There is so much in the media about food intolerance. Is it myth or reality?

What is food intolerance? Food intolerance is when it seems that the very food we are eating is not agreeing with our system. It could be that syptoms of bloating, gas, wind and pain appear when eating certain food groups. It can be that the food is almost giving the symptoms of a hangover where you feel rough for a few day. Many people get aching joints or syptoms of a foggy head.

Certainly our diets have changed to an unrecognisable degree from around the 1960′s onwards – our ancient selves would not be familiar with a lot of what we eat now-a-days, from bagels, to crisps to ice-cream to smoothies! The most stunning difference in the diet from even when I was a child is the amount of wheat products we eat. Our first meal of the day is often a sugar loaded breakfast cereal (wheat) then a snack of a biscuit (wheat) and then lunch of a sandwich (wheat) and then a dinner of pasta (wheat). If we eat the same thing over and over without variation it is possible that we set up food intolerances. The trick is to keep the diet really varied – rye, kamut (!), brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat are just a few of the hundreds of different grains that are available.

Generally I find that rather than the food intolerance being something that has caused symptoms the food intolerance is the symptom of something else that is going on in the bowel. Bacterial, yeast or parasitic activity in the bowel can make it more likely that you will react to certain foods. These types of organisms can make the gut “leaky” where larger than nomal semi-digested food molecules escape through the gut wall and directly into the system. Thus it is not just about the foods you are eating (although if you are reacting it does seem sensible not to eat it!) but about what might be exacerbating the symptoms.

I find it fascinating how the bowel can be so linked up to how you are dealing with stress for example. Being more stressed can make you seem like you are reacting to foods as the relationship between the gut and cortisol (stress hormones) can lower your inherent gut immunity.

In summary for sure, identifying what might be causing is the key – but that might be a combination of the foods you are eating and making sure your digestive tract is working optimally to digest and absorp that food.

Contact us for a free 15 minute chat on the phone about how we might help your digestive issues.

IBS – is there a cause?

March 25, 2011

In my clinic which I run in Harley Street, I see a huge number of people with IBS (irritable bowel sydrome).  These are often at the end of thier tether having been told that they will have to live with their symptoms.  I dont belive this.  If there are symptoms, in my mind there must be a cause.

Sometimes, the diet can be contrubing to the symptoms.  One of my bete noirs is our horrible British bread.  I am on a mission to change our bread eating habits.  Our bread is generally packaged bread and full of other ingredients than you would expect to find in a loaf of bread.  This squishy, yeasty, substance often does not help people with already a lot of fermentation going on in their guts.

Often the cause can be down to parasitic/bacterial/or yeast infection (for which we conduct lab tests).  The medical profession do not recognise this more functional idea of health.  Doctors are only diagnosing pathology (ie when there is something seriously wrong with the bowel)

Stress can contribute to the lowering of gut function and inflammation in the bowel (due to the nature of stress hormones on “gut immunity”) – so often solving IBS is more down to a holistic approach, where a bunch of contributing factors are considered.

IBS should be looked at in context of  each and every person – not just assuming that everyone’s symptoms are the same or come from the same cause.  Look at the person, do the necessary tests, and then make recommendations on the basis of that person’s unique case-history.

Contact us IBS clinic

Calories on the menu!

March 25, 2011

Most people agree that by putting calories on the menu, it will encourage people to eat healthier when they are trying to choose what to eat from their favourite restaurant. (See article page 2, The Times, 17 February, 2011) Although this seems like a stunningly good idea  some of those restaurants who were involved in a voluntary pilot group the government put together were surprised to note that people did not seem to make their choices according to calories.  It seems that the people who are already aware are aware enough to make the choices naturally, and those that don’t make choices according to calories, dont care anyway!   I really do find this very hard to believe, espcially for those  involved as  professionals looking to “educate” the public but many people are simply going out to eat to have a good time and not to be preached at.

Just putting the calories on menus can miss the point too -  for example some fats (and therefore calories) can be beneficial (eg  Omega 3 fat in Salmon) An avocado sandwhich can have a huge amount of calories but is full of good fats whereas some fat is not the kind that is benefical to humans, like huge amounts of saturated fat.

Whilst it is a good idea to watch how many calories consumed in a day of course,  the calorie story on its own does nto put the food into context.  It is important to know what the mirco nutrient content is too (vitamins and minerals).  It is possible to have a low calorie meal which has not contributed to over all health, and left the person starving and digging into a cream bun later on in the day.

The Nutrition Coach Food consultancy helps restaurants, supermarkets and the food industry

Contact us if you would like more information

Combat Weight Gain And Ageing: Metabolism

March 8, 2011

1. Nutrition-reduce obvious & hidden sugars

If you want to lose weight it’s very important to eliminate obvious sugar from your diet. We’re not just talking about obvious forms found in desserts and processed foods, but also to reduce our consumption of hidden ones in foods most of us consider to be healthy. Hidden sugars are also found in carbohydrates such as grains which break down to simple sugars and can contribute to insulin resistance. What is insulin resistance you may ask? Well, the cells in our body need a continuous supply of glucose (or sugar) for their energy requirements. Glucose, however, cannot penetrate the outer membrane of a cell without the assistance of insulin, a hormone which acts as a gatekeeper, allowing glucose to enter cells. Insulin stimulates the body to convert excess glucose (or sugar) which our cells don’t need (i.e. think too much chocolate etc) into fat and then helps to block the breakdown of this stored fat for energy production, making weight loss difficult.

For various biochemical reasons, the body may become less sensitive to its own insulin and compensates by producing more. Higher insulin levels not only make your body store even more fat, it also makes it more difficult to lose weight by blocking the release of fat from the fat cells so it can be burned for fuel. This explains why so many people have problems losing weight.

2. Exercise- high-intensity interval training & weight lifting

High-intensity interval training done 2-3 times weekly can boost your metabolism and increase fat loss, but is also a potent “anti-aging” strategy, as it will naturally increase your body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH).HGH promotes muscle, effectively burns fat and plays an important role in promoting overall health/longevity.

Weight lifting is another essential part of a programme for kick-starting your metabolism. Having more muscle is one of the best ways of burning fat you will ever come across because it helps you burn more calories, without you having to actually “do” more.

This is because muscle is metabolically very active and requires energy just to sit on your frame – even when you sleep. For every pound of muscle that you gain, your body will burn approximately 50-70 calories more per day, and burning more calories leads to a reduction of excess fat.

3.  Are you getting enough sleep?

If you aren’t getting between 7-8 hours of sleep daily, you are disrupting your biological processes, including those regulating your metabolism. Your biological rhythm of sleeping and waking, also known as your circadian rhythm, is intricately tied to your metabolism and cannot be overlooked. In order to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, it’s important to have consistent regular exposure to day light during the day and sleep in absolute darkness at night. This means turning off all the lights in your room, including night lights and perhaps investing in blackout blinds.

In addition, sleep deprivation has been shown to affect levels of hormones called leptin and ghrelin, which are linked with appetite and eating behavior. When you are sleep deprived, your body decreases production of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain there is no need for more food. At the same time it increases levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger. This leads to decreased satiety and increased hunger pangs.

If you would like to know more about combatting Weight Gain & Ageing contact us for further information or check out the brilliant Courses designed to get you fighting on the right track .

Wishing you the best of health

Sylvia

Nutrition coach
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