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Women's Health Articles

Still have symptoms, but your blood tests are coming back “normal” – what can you do?

Women who begin to work with me have often seen multiple doctors, who have had blood tests but advised that their results are normal. This can be frustrating as often they are still experiencing symptoms but they can not navigate on their own to identify the root cause.

Unfortunately the structure of our current medical system doesn’t always allow for a deep dive into people’s health history. GP’s specifically have a limited time for a consult, and they have to justify every test they order under Medicare’s guidelines.

When I work with patients, our consultations can go from 60 – 90 minutes and that involves an extensive investigation into their diet, lifestyle, test results completed, along with other factors which can influence their health such as what they do for work, their environment, family history, medications and supplements they take. With all this information I begin to build a picture and understand what is going on for them.

The majority of pathology labourites compare an individuals result to a reference range (eg. 9 – 35), which can be calculated by taking an average of results for the people they tested, which can include people who are not healthy. This range will result in 95% of the population having clinically “normal” results within the reference range. If you speak to your friends and family it is highly unlikely that 95% of them would feel well and healthy. It’s much more common for people to talk about their health issues than it is to hear someone say they are feeling amazing.

While you might receive a ‘normal’ result, your results may lie either end of the reference range, which means your health is not optimal and potentially you could be heading towards disease. For example your result may be 10 and if the reference range is 9-35, so often it’s within the reference range, however it is skewed to one end. Thyroid testing is a classic example where results can often be skewed to one end of the range, but you will be advised you have ‘normal’ results, and also the thyroid is often tested incorrectly as it’s not a test covered by Medicare.

When I assess your pathology, I use a stricter reference range, which ensures you do not have any symptoms of any conditions before you would receive a diagnosis. I also summarise all the tests you have had done, as I’m trying to identify if there are any patterns between tests. Our bodies priority is to maintain homoeostasis which basically means balance, so sometimes one our body systems will need to work harder to compensate for another system that needs support. If we are looking at tests in isolation we can miss that. For example, if your cholesterol has started to elevate over time, that can be a sign that your thyroid is not functioning at an optimal level. If we only look at cholesterol in isolation we can miss that important information.

Also by looking at your history of testing over the years, we can identify if there has been significant changes in results. Sometimes people zig zag between results but they are still falling within the ‘normal’ range. It’s important information to keep checking in with, as you wouldn’t want to wait until you fall outside the ‘normal’ range to start to look into why that is progressively changing. While I’m supporting my patients to get back to their best health, my other focus is preventive health care, which can decrease your risk of future disease.

In some cases you may need to go beyond general testing as they do not provide a detailed insight into how your body is functioning. If your blood work is coming back ‘normal’, because you don’t have any disease, functional pathology tests can be used to investigate your metabolic, digestive and hormonal status. The results require training to interpret but can further assist in providing a tool for early intervention, management and monitoring of ongoing treatment (particularly when your blood work is showing ‘normal’ but you still have symptoms).

When you come to see me for a nutrition consultation, I request copies of any testing you have had done. I then review these in the context of all the other information you have provided me around your symptoms, lifestyle, work, diet etc. 

The goal is to identify the root cause for your symptoms and put a treatment plan in place to support you back to health and feeling your best!

Want to feel supported with your health? Book a consult today and let’s have a chat on how to get back to feeling your best.

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Women's Health Articles

Supporting postnatal depletion and optimising your health after baby.

Those first few months with a newborn can be so incredibly beautiful, challenging, and exhausting all at once. Our health postpartum is a second thought – or if you have multiple kids – a very last thought. And it’s not intentional! It’s easy to get caught up in that baby love bubble, and if you are juggling looking after a tribe, we often pop our needs to the side while we get on with things. While that might work for a time, pregnancy and child birth, takes a significant toll on our bodies, and it takes time to restore and recover.

Symptoms such as fatigue, forgetfulness aka “baby brain”, mood swings such as crying for no reason, struggling to concentrate, and feeling like you’ve got nothing left for you – among others, can creep up on you, leaving you feeling extremely depleted. The term postnatal depletion was created by Dr Oscar Serrallach, a family practitioner in Australia. He suggests that if you’ve had a child within the last ten years, these symptoms can hang around if left untreated.

What causes postnatal depletion?

There are many reasons, and the root cause will always be individual, but some examples are:
– before we have a baby we are often so busy getting everything ready for the birth, some Mum’s have a demanding job, and we forget to take time to switch off and rest. And when the baby arrives, we can feel like we literally have not time at all for ourselves. We can feel like we have to be everything to everyone, which is exhausting. Living in this high cortisol state constantly has a huge impact on our hormones;
– before baby women may be building their career, enjoying a busy social life, but end up burning the candle at both ends, so they are already in a depleted state pre-pregnancy;
– falling pregnant again before the body has fully recovered from the pregnancy prior;
– sleep deprivation of having a newborn;
– eating a higher amount of processed food, as opposed to focusing on nutrient dense whole foods;.  

This new life, as wonderful as they are, comes with many demands, and while it’s a time women most need support, some can feel that asking for help means they are not a good enough Mum.

What can women do to feel like themselves again?

It’s critical for a mum to work with a health professional who can support them in postpartum recovery, and ensure their nutrition is meeting their daily needs to prevent the symptoms of postnatal depletion as described above.

In clinic I focus on supporting women through nutrition, movement and mindfulness. While I love to share information, I’m cautious not to overload my Mum’s who are feeling fatigued and foggy. So I carefully provide education and support them through several phases of treatment.

The first phase of treatment involves completing a health assessment and tests to determine their current health status and replenishing any nutrients. If they have been experiencing frequent low moods and fatigue, typically iron, zinc and vitamin D will be too low for the body to make the substances required to feel happy and positive. Other nutrients they may need to focus on include vitamin C, vitamin B12 and magnesium. The omega-3 fats DHA and EPA are essential for a depleted mum as they play a vital role for nervous system function and hormonal balance. Oily fish, algae, flaxseeds and chia seeds are good sources of omega-3’s. Other nutritional support is guidance on preparing easy meals made from nutrient dense whole foods.

The next step is to focus on optimising sleep, daily movement, and mindfulness. Restorative practices such as yoga, walking, meditation, and acupuncture can be beneficial for supporting mood and calm. Learning how to relax can be really important to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), rather than the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) constantly dominating. Babies are unpredictable with sleep / feeding patterns in the first few months especially, so establishing these habits early can be beneficial for Mum’s as babies grow into toddlers and older kids.

Mum’s often feel too tired, stressed and busy to sleep restfully. There are many ways we can optimise their sleep, even if it is broken from the baby waking. Dimming lights at night; avoiding any computers, phones, or tv in the hour before bed; keeping the bedroom cool, quiet and dark; soaking in a magnesium salt foot bath; a shoulder massage from your partner. Supplements may also be used to support restful sleep.

Seeking emotional support from a psychologist or life coach, can be helpful in evaluating life as a Mum, as some can feel they have lost themselves in the process of becoming a Mum, so understanding how to create a balance between family life and personal growth can be really important.

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Women's Health Articles

Natural Treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine conditions affecting women of reproductive age⁽¹⁾. This hormonal condition is characterised by irregular menstrual periods, excess male hormones, and/or ovarian cysts. PCOS is present in 8-13% of women of reproductive age, this number could be much greater as many women are going undiagnosed!

PCOS is a syndrome with a cluster of symptoms and presents differently from woman to woman. Some women may be overweight, and have irregular menstrual cycles, and excess hair growth; while other women are able to maintain their weight. These are some of the more common symptoms women with PCOS experience:

  • Changes in menstrual cycle, such as irregular or infrequent menstruation 
  • Weight gain, or stomach fat that doesn’t shift no matter how well they eat and exercise
  • Male patterned excess hair growth – can be whiskers, hair on nipples, excessive hair on the back of the neck
  • Changes in skin such as acne which might appear on the chin, back, or on the chest; also oily skin, and darkening in some areas
  • May have multiple ‘cysts’ (or partially formed follicles/eggs) on the ovaries, however not present for all women
  • Difficulty becoming pregnant
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Changes in mood such as anxiety, depression, irritability or a short fuse
  • Finding it hard to relax

These symptoms (as well as others), can cause anovulation (which is the lack or absence of ovulation and egg release).

How is PCOS diagnosed?

In order for a PCOS diagnosis to be made, the AE-PCOS Society diagnosis criteria⁽10⁾ is:

  • Clinical and/or biochemical hyperandrogenism, which can be found on blood tests such as elevated testosterone and DHEA-S; or signs of high androgens such as facial hair, plus either of the following:
  • Oligomenorrhea (less than 6-9 menstrual cycles per year) or Oligo-Ovulation

The AE Pcos criteria places little importance on the presence of cysts on the ovaries itself, as one in four women tested will have polycystic ovaries without having the syndrome. Therefore keep in mind this is not a defining factor.

When Diagnosing PCOS it is also important to determine your type of PCOS, as treatment needs to address the root cause of the individual.

Types of PCOS

  • Insulin PCOS
    This is the most common form of PCOS, where insulin resistance leads to elevated testosterone.
  • Post pill PCOS
    There can be a few factors driving this. The first is androgen rebound, where you can over produce testosterone after coming off the pill. This is because your brain & ovaries are trying to adjust to communicating with each other again. The second is insulin resistance from the pill. It can take up to 12 months or more for the hormones to self regulate, and if you are trying to conceive can feel frustrating and a long time. However by taking action using the suggestions in this article, as well as working with a health practitioner, you can regulate the menstrual cycle naturally and often sooner.
  • Inflammatory PCOS
    The underlying cause is driven by inflammation in the body.
  • Adrenal PCOS
    Adrenal dysfunction is the driver.

While some women may choose to treat PCOS through conventional medicine approaches which often recommends oral contraceptives or anti-diabetic medications such as metformin. For the women wanting to conceive there is also surgery where a gynaecologist may use a technique for stimulating your ovaries to release an egg, or if no success with this method, IVF.

We are fortunate to have these medical intervention methods, however unfortunately these conventional approaches do not determine what is driving this hormonal imbalance, and if using medications, may mask the underlying cause/s.

A holistic approach to PCOS not only applies evidence based medicine to reduce symptoms and correct hormonal imbalances, it also aims to identify the root cause or what is triggering hormonal imbalance and associated symptoms.

With individualised dietary and lifestyle recommendations, as well as a tailored nutritional prescription, women can work towards balancing their hormones naturally. No prescription should ever be the same, and as I said PCOS can be so different from woman to woman, however as a guide these are some of the natural treatments that can be used to improve PCOS symptoms naturally:

Dietary modification

Modifying the diet can be one of the most important steps to managing PCOS. Specific recommendations include:

  • Ensuring each meal contains a serve of protein (animal or plant protein/s), some nourishing fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fatty fish) and filling your plate predominantly with vegetables.
  • Reducing (or even better avoiding) added/refined sugars. Sugar increases insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and in turn drives testosterone production. Excess insulin also leads to fat storage, making it more challenging to decrease excess weight.
  • Carbs are not the enemy, however when they are not paired with a source of protein, this can create a hormonal response and further affect testosterone. So swap refined carbohydrates with wholefood alternatives. Refined carbohydrates essentially act like sugar in the blood and spike blood sugar and insulin levels. Wholegrains are buffered with fibre and essential nutrients and are a healthier alternative to their white (and not as nutritious) counterparts, but should still be consumed in moderation for women with PCOS.
  • Avoid processed/packet foods⁽2⁾. These foods are usually higher in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats that do not support healthy metabolic and reproductive outcomes.
  • Removing dairy, gluten and alcohol should be considered. Dairy increases IGF-1 and is particularly problematic for PCOS symptoms such as acne and hirsutism. Gluten can be inflammatory, and from a clinical observation, people comment that they feel more energetic, less bloated, and mentally clearer when they remove it.

Daily exercise

Exercise supports muscles to become more sensitive to insulin resulting in greater insulin uptake and lower fasting insulin levels⁽3⁾. Aiming for at least 30 minutes per day of exercise you enjoy which could be walking, resistance training, pilates, yoga, swimming, or bike riding.

Stress management

Women with PCOS, and particularly adrenal driven PCOS are often very sensitive to the effects of stress. High cortisol can drive insulin production and making symptoms worse. It is important to implement daily stress management techniques such as breath work, mediation, yoga, and adequate sleep. I often hear women say they can’t stop their mind from chattering, and these are the women who need to implement stress management techniques the most. The key to making these techniques part of your daily routine, is to commit to doing just 5 minutes a day. Some days you may be able to (and want to) do more!

Nutritional supplementation

The following nutrients are some of the many highly beneficial in PCOS management:

  • Zinc: particularly useful for symptoms such as acne, hirsutism or thinning hair⁽4⁾. Zinc helps to reduce testosterone levels, regulate insulin levels⁽5⁾, and is also an important nutrient for healthy ovulation and hormone production (among so many other functions in the body).
  • Inositol: helps to improve the sensitivity of cells to insulin and thus reduce fasting insulin levels⁽6⁾.
  • Magnesium: is important for stress support, insulin sensitivity, sleep quality and more.
  • Chromium: can be an important nutrient to consider for blood glucose management⁽7⁾.

Weight management

Research suggests that as little as a 2-5% body weight reduction can improve metabolic and reproductive outcomes in PCOS⁽8⁾. When it comes to weight loss for any person, it should be achieved in a realistic and sensible way. Extreme methods are not the answer. When addressing insulin resistance, typically women will experience a reduction in weight (if they are overweight to begin with). When insulin levels begin to drop, healthy weight loss can also help to achieve healthier ovarian function, regular ovulation and regular menstrual cycles.

Is your PCOS driver – Adrenal?

Women produce testosterone in multiple places in the body, including the ovaries, the adrenal gland, and various tissues. Research has shown that women with PCOS can have an overactivity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis (HPA axis) which then impacts metabolic function and overall health⁽9⁾ which suggests how important it is to implement daily emotional wellness practices.

Doing things the natural way is not going to change things overnight. You can start making small changes, which will combine and make a bigger impact on your overall health.

The less demanding of yourself and the more nurturing you become, the more balanced you become within.

References

  1. March, W. A., Moore, V. M., Willson, K. J., Phillips, D. I. W., Norman, R. J., & Davies, M. J. (2010). The prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome in a community sample assessed under contrasting diagnostic criteria. Human Reproduction, 25(2), 544–551. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dep399
  2. Marsh, K., & Brand-Miller, J. (2005). The optimal diet for women with polycystic ovary syndrome? British Journal of Nutrition, 94(2), 154–165. https://doi.org/10.1079/bjn20051475
  3. Banting, L. K., Gibson-Helm, M., Polman, R., Teede, H. J., & Stepto, N. K. (2014). Physical activity and mental health in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. BMC Women’s Health, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6874-14-51
  4. Cervantes, J., Eber, A. E., Perper, M., Nascimento, V. M., Nouri, K., & Keri, J. E. (2018, January 1). The role of zinc in the treatment of acne: A review of the literature. Dermatologic Therapy. Blackwell Publishing Inc. https://doi.org/10.1111/dth.12576
  5. Marreiro, D. D. N., Geloneze, B., Tambascia, M. A., Lerário, A. C., Halpern, A., & Cozzolino, S. M. F. (2006). Effect of zinc supplementation on serum leptin levels and insulin resistance of obese women. Biological Trace Element Research, 112(2), 109–118. https://doi.org/10.1385/BTER:112:2:109
  6. Antoaneta Gateva, Vittorio Unfer & Zdravko Kamenov (2018) The use of inositol(s) isomers in the management of polycystic ovary syndrome: a comprehensive review, Gynecological Endocrinology, 34:7, 545-550, DOI: 10.1080/09513590.2017.1421632
  7. Amooee S, Parsanezhad ME, Ravanbod Shirazi M, Alborzi S, Samsami A. Metformin versus chromium picolinate in clomiphene citrate-resistant patients with PCOs: A double-blind randomized clinical trial. Iran J Reprod Med. 2013 Aug;11(8):611-8. PMID: 24639797; PMCID: PMC3941367.
  8. Moran, L. J., Brinkworth, G., Noakes, M., & Norman, R. J. (2006). Effects of lifestyle modification in polycystic ovarian syndrome. Reproductive BioMedicine Online, 12(5), 569–578. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1472-6483(10)61182-0
  9. Marco Mezzullo, Flaminia Fanelli, Guido Di Dalmazi, Alessia Fazzini, Daniela Ibarra-Gasparini, Marianna Mastroroberto, Jenny Guidi, Antonio Maria Morselli-Labate, Renato Pasquali, Uberto Pagotto, Alessandra Gambineri. Salivary cortisol and cortisone responses to short-term psychological stress challenge in late adolescent and young women with different hyperandrogenic states. Psychoneuroendocrinology. Volume 91, 2018. Pages 31-40. ISSN 0306-4530. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.02.022.
  10. Azziz R, Carmina E, Dewailly D, Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Escobar-Morreale HF, Futterweit W, Janssen OE, Legro RS, Norman RJ, Taylor AE, Witchel SF; Task Force on the Phenotype of the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome of The Androgen Excess and PCOS Society. The Androgen Excess and PCOS Society criteria for the polycystic ovary syndrome: the complete task force report. Fertil Steril. 2009 Feb;91(2):456-88. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.06.035.

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Women's Health Articles

Strategies for managing hypothyroidism (low thyroid function)

“My thyroid is normal”

I’ve heard this before from so many women, who have all the symptoms of low thyroid function but their thyroid is ‘normal’. 

Women are often juggling multiple responsibilities such as work, looking after family, running a household and managing relationships; while also feeling incredibly frustrated with not feeling like themselves. They put feeling tired all the time, down to a long list of items on their daily to do lists. However, thyroid issues have become exceedingly common amongst women and one of the common signs of thyroid dysfunction is feeling flat, like you have nothing left. 

Some other signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction include:

  • Tired, sluggish, and life feeling hard
  • Trouble with memory, concentration and focus
  • Weight gain, and difficulty when trying to lose weight 
  • Feeling cold in your bones, or experiencing chills difficult to warm up from
  • Dry skin, brittle hair and nails 
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities and PMS symptoms worsening 
  • Fluid retention
  • Voice changes, such as a hoarse voice
  • Changes in bowel movements, with a tendency towards constipation 
  • Decrease in sex drive

What does our thyroid do?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits around the windpipe at the base of the neck and produces hormones which are important in numerous metabolic processes, not just your weight, but also body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.

The thyroid uses iodine to produce two main hormones T3 & T4, this process is triggered by another hormone released from your brain called thyroid stimulating hormone (or commonly referred to as TSH).

What causes thyroid dysfunction?

Hypothyroidism is when not enough thyroid hormone is being produced, this can be due to the body attacking the thyroid cells which occurs in autoimmune conditions such as coeliac disease, type 1 diabetes or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

To restore balance, it is important to determine the root cause/s of your thyroid imbalance. There are several factors that can contribute to thyroid dysfunction: 

  • chronic stress 
  • exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides and heavy metals, as they can act as hormone disrupters and interfere with hormone metabolism and function 
  • food intolerances which can lead to inflammation, such as a gluten intolerance 
  • nutritional deficiencies, particularly iodine, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, omega 3’s, B vitamins, and vitamin A. 

Thyroid dysfunction and infertility

Low thyroid hormones can prevent egg release and therefore no ovulation, issues with implantation due to the short second half of the menstrual cycle, high prolactin levels due to the upstream thyroid releasing hormones accumulating creating irregular or anovulation. Research has shown that women who struggle with infertility have a higher prevalence of hypothyroidism compared to the general population.


How to best support thyroid function?  

If you resonate to the symptoms listed in this article, treatment may include dietary changes such as moving away from processed foods and choosing whole real foods, to give your body the nutrients it needs for optimal thyroid health. Implementing stress reducing techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing can also be beneficial due to the intimate relationship between thyroid and adrenal hormones.  

It can be awfully frustrating when our health is impacted. It can lessen our energy, happiness and our ability to manage our daily responsibilities. Instead of choosing to be frustrated with your challenges, choose to be curious and recognise what your body might be trying to communicate to you. 

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Nutrition Articles

Why Is Magnesium So Beneficial For Women

Did you know that magnesium is required for more than 300 of the biochemical reactions that take place within our bodies?

We can source it from many foods and it’s rare to be truly deficient, however there are certain conditions that I see women experiencing that can disrupt the body’s magnesium balance. When there is ongoing stress (from emotional reasons, but also physically), as magnesium is required by the body to produce our stress hormone adrenalin, our requirements for Magnesium can become much greater when we are producing excessive amounts of stress hormones, as your body’s priority is to keep you safe and away from any danger it perceives you to be in, so rather than saving magnesium for it’s crucial role in keeping our bones strong (among others) it will be used to produce adrenalin.

Some symptoms you may experience without adequate magnesium:
• mood changes like anxiety
• trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep
• changes in bowel movements to constipation
• signs your detoxification systems need support such as breast tenderness, fibroids, heavy periods, endometriosis, menstrual cramping and migraines

Magnesium is found in nourishing foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, and dark chocolate.

While it can be beneficial to supplement at times, making self care a priority is important for reducing your bodies perceived stress and maintaining your balance of magnesium.

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Nutrition Articles

10 Foods That Affect Your Mood

This was a guest post I wrote for The James Wellness Journal. You can view here or read on below.

Mood foods: What to fill up on and what to avoid

Feeling a little moody lately? It’s probably not because you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but it could be what you had for breakfast! What you eat can affect your mood, both positively and negatively. So if you’re feeling a little down lately, the answer may lie in the foods you’re feeding your body.

We reached out to nutrition and fitness expert Ebony Jade of Ebony Jade Health. Ebony has completed a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine) and has been working in the health and wellness industry for the last 10 years, including as a certified Personal Trainer. She is deeply passionate about helping women to balance their hormones so they can fulfil their health desires such as weight loss, regulating menstrual cycles, increasing energy, glowing skin and restful sleep.

In the article below, Ebony outlines exactly how different foods can alter our moods and advises on foods that we should be loading onto our plate, as well as those we should be steering clear of. Heads up: you’re probably consuming some of these on a daily basis.

How foods affect our moods

Most of us are aware of how we feel when we choose to eat foods that nourish our bodies, compared to if the majority of our foods and beverages choices include processed refined sugar laden foods with minimal nutrients. Observe the aftermath of a 5 year olds’ birthday party to see how quickly food and beverages can transform mood!

What we choose to eat becomes a part of us, and for many people they have lost that connection. For example, the amino acids we intake help to form the proteins that support building strong immune systems and growing our muscles. When life throws us challenges, it is rare to hear of someone eating a bowl of vegetables after an intensely stressful day. It is much more likely when they are feeling stressed to hear they polished off some chocolate and a few too many glasses of wine. Quite often when people are feeling stressed and making these types of food and beverage choices, it continues into the next day with too much caffeine and sugary foods. And this becomes a cycle that many people find hard to break.

However, if we choose to nourish ourselves with foods that positively affect our moods – particularly during those more challenging days – our ability to meet these challenges is greater. We have more energy, a higher resilience to stress, and our sleep is often more restful and refreshing. Life can feel so much harder when we are not choosing to nourish our bodies!

Foods that can positively affect our mood

Some foods that can have a positive effect on our mood and lift our energy are from whole food sources containing magnesium, B vitamins, tryptophan and nourishing fats.

Bananas
Bananas can support in regulating dopamine, which is our feel-good hormone as they contain tyrosine, an amino acid that helps the production of dopamine in the brain. Bananas also contain B group vitamins and magnesium, which are essential to calm the nervous system and relax.

Almonds
Like bananas, almonds contain tyrosine. Raw almonds are an easy, nutritious snack as they contain high protein, fat and fibre. These help make you feel more satiated as they slow the release of glucose into your blood. If you usually grab coffee or a sugary snack in the afternoon for a pick-me-up, try having a glass of water and a handful of almonds instead.

Greens
Greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli and beans are a good source of magnesium, folate and antioxidants to support the production of energy, relaxing muscles, and improving brain health and function.

Cacao
Cacao contains mood-boosting tryptophan and magnesium. Go for 80 percent dark or raw chocolate as high cacao content will give your body tryptophan to support the production of serotonin and melatonin, which are essential mood and sleep hormones in the body.

Nourishing fats
Fatty fish (salmon, trout, tuna, or mackerel), avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds will support your brain to create positive thinking, and thus have been researched for their potential role in preventing ADHD and Alzheimer’s.

Foods that can negatively affect our mood

Some of these can be found in the foods and drinks that many people consume on a daily basis.

Caffeine
Caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline which can amplify our already stressful state. It can bring on aggression, frustration and overreacting to minor occurrences. Switching to herbal tea is a better choice, and there are teas such as chamomile which support feelings of calm. If you do drink caffeine, have it before 11am as it can remain within your body for hours and may cause you to have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep.

Alcohol
Alcohol has become an aid many people reach for in the hope they can escape from how they are feeling. Alcohol also contributes to poor sleep quality and feeling less refreshed the next day. When we don’t sleep well our energy is low and we can feel irritable. Alternatively, hydrate with sparkling water with fresh lime or a low sugar Kombucha.

Trans Fats
Trans fats are found in fried foods, off the shelf salad dressings, cakes and muffins, and can affect our memory and increase inflammation in the brain.

Refined sugar
When we feel like we need sugar or caffeine to get through our day, this can be a sign our adrenals need some care. Additionally, our liver has to detoxify refined sugar substances, along with caffeine, alcohol, and trans fats we intake, and transform them so that they can safely be excreted from our body. If the liver is overloaded with too many of these substances or there are not enough nutrients for this detoxification process to occur, this can lead us to feel sluggish and irritable.

Artificial sweeteners
These are commonly found in processed foods and research has revealed they are able to alter our gut microbiota. Fewer healthy gut bacteria than normal can lead to gut-related problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and bloating, which can contribute to low moods.

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Nutrition Articles

Nutrient Timing

DOES THE TIMING OF YOUR NUTRITIONAL INTAKE MATTER IN SUPPORTING YOUR FITNESS GOALS?

When it comes to when we eat, often for many people it comes from a place of hunger, or boredom, or a need for emotional comfort. However, when you are in alignment with your values, and optimising your health is of great importance to you, planning your meals in advance assists in not only maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, but also coping with physical and mental stress, as skipping meals can increase cortisol, and if done consistently for a period of time this can lead to anxiety, insomnia and ultimately hinder your workout performance.

While nutrient timing is not going to be as much of a priority for the everyday enthusiast looking to simply maintain a healthy lifestyle, as it will be to an elite athlete, it can still be beneficial, particularly if you are regularly doing resistance training and want to support your recovery and your next training sessions performance.

The macronutrient manipulated most commonly in nutrient timing is carbohydrates. If you usually train for an hour or less per session, it’s likely you won’t require a nutrient timing strategy for pre workout (unless you’re an athlete) as your muscle glycogen stores are likely full, so long as you have a consistent eating pattern.

Carbohydrates consumed post training can be supportive in recovery and replenishing depleted glycogen instead of being stored as fat. While 20-25 grams of protein consumed post training stimulates protein synthesis which is an important process for repair and recovery.

For fitness enthusiasts who are looking to support their training and improve performance, establishing sustainable nutrition and lifestyle habits while choosing to consume mostly nutrient dense wholefoods such as organic meat, fish, eggs, plain yoghurt, nuts, beans, antioxidant rich vegetables and fruit is a good practice to establish.

As mentioned earlier, post workout is the prime time to eat carbohydrates as the muscles are most sensitive to insulin, so the consumed carbs will be stored as energy and not fat.

For people who have trouble sleeping including dense carbohydrate foods such as sweet potato within the evening meal, can lower the stress hormone cortisol, and raise the relaxing neurotransmitter serotonin so you can achieve restful sleep, and if you are looking for peak performance, optimising your sleep is key.