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Confused about gluten and dairy? Should you or shouldn’t you?

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There’s a LOT of conflicting information out there about gluten and dairy, a lot of comes from people without the proper knowledge or qualifications to be talking about, whilst a lot of it comes from credible sources, but can you to know the difference? Hopefully that’s where I come in!

When  one of my clients is suffering from digestive issues and they really want to address them once and for all, then the two main foods I suggest they eliminate (usually along with many other suggestions that all work in unison with eachother) are gluten and diary.

I’ll ask them to cut these foods for about 6 weeks, to allow their gut to reset and have some ‘time off’ from having to work hard to digest 2 of the most difficult food to break down.

So you might already know that gluten and dairy aren’t all that helpful for gut health but maybe you don’t really understand why? I hope this helps to clarify it for you.

When it comes to dairy the main and most common issue is the lactose. This is the natural milk sugar found in dairy. Some people lack the enzyme needed to break this type of sugar down (lactase), and that can cause some horrible digestive trouble such as bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, and gas/flatulence. This is basically a result of the undigested lactose in the colon. Note that this is an ‘intolerance’ to NOT an allergy to dairy. A person might lack the enzyme needed to break down lactose due to their genes, or it can be a result of ageing, damage and inflammation of the small intestine or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), which can all cause issues in producing the enzyme.

So, you might be genetically lactose intolerant or your issues with dairy might be due to poor diet (typical Western style of refined carbs and low fibre and diversity of vegetables, low healthy fats etc.), chronic stress, alcohol, infections, oral contraceptive pill medications including the oral contraceptive pill and antibiotics.

So, if your intolerance to lactose isn’t genetic then you can reverse the issue by working on your diet and lifestyle in favour of the balance of bacteria in your gut e.g. increasing the good guys and forcing out the bad guys, as well as increasing levels of digestive enzymes.

When it comes to other issues with dairy e.g. immune type reactions like eczema or hives for example, this is more likely to be due to casein which is a protein found in dairy. Immune reactions are not happening within the gut, they’re happening in the blood stream – so this means the protein casein would need to have seeped into the blood stream from the gut in order to cause the immune reaction. So the gut/intestinal wall/lining would need to be ‘leaky’ for this to happen (known as leaky gut or intestinal permeability).

If your gut lining is ‘leaky’ then things can now pass through into the blood stream that shouldn’t be allowed into your body, such as proteins like gluten and casein, bad bacteria, toxic waste and undigested foods particles. These things will cause immune reactions.

So, if you or someone you know are having immune reactions to dairy or gluten (knowingly or unknowingly) then chances are you have an imbalanced gut, because a ‘leaky gut’ is the cause, and the cause of the leaky gut is with dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bacteria) and inflammation.

This is why I don’t really do food intolerance testing, because if the gut is leaky then the test will likely show positive for a lot of different foods, and simply cutting those foods out wont actually address the cause of the problem in the first place. We need to address the leaky gut and then the reactions to certain foods will stop, unless of course its genetic lactose intolerance for example.

Immune mediated reactions to dairy might only be temporary. So, if we can rebalance and re-populate the gut environment with more beneficial bacteria and less bad guys, plus increase digestive enzymes, reduce the inflammation within the gut, and heal the gut lining then we can fix the problem.
There are some great new testing options available for gluten intolerance but as per the food intolerance testing, I would favour simply a trial removal of gluten for 4-6 weeks, whilst also working on rebalancing the gut, and then a re-introduction of gluten to see if any symptoms come back –much cheaper!!

So what are some symptoms of a dairy intolerance (whether genuine or due to an imbalanced gut)?

Well, the obvious signs would be the one’s I’ve mentioned above like bloating, diarrhoea, pain, nausea, and gas/flatulence, immune-mediated reactions to multiple foods (so not just dairy although we are talking about dairy in particular today), but also symptoms of inflammation within the entire body such as:

  • Achy joints
  • Fatigue (this was me in my 20’s and little did I know it was because of gluten!)
  • Foggy head
  • PMS
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Skin issues
  • Weight gain and or trouble losing weight
  • Water retention
  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune conditions e.g. Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s
  • Depressions and other mood changes or disorders

The most effective way in my book to find out whether or not you’d do better without gluten and or dairy would be to take them out of your diet COMPLETELY for 4 weeks.

During this work on your digestion and gut health by:

  • Increasing foods that help to build up the beneficial bacteria in our gut like plenty of, and variety of, fibrous vegetables as well as fermented foods – my favourites are fermented vegetables like raw sauerkraut and kimchi, and coconut or water kefir.
  • Possibly supplementing with a good quality digestive enzyme and or hydrochloric acid incase your stomach acid is low (very common!) but its important to get advice from a properly qualified Nutritional Therapist on this.
  • Help the gut lining to repair and reduce inflammation of it by adding L-glutamine, homemade bone broth, and increasing foods rich in vitamin A (organic chicken or beef liver is super rich in vitamin A, then your brightly and darkly coloured fruit and veg too), zinc (good quality red meat and poultry, oysters! plus chick peas and pumpkin seeds), and turmeric, ginger, bromelain (pineapple) essential fatty acids from oily fish to help reduce inflammation.
  • Rebalance your life! Address the sources of stress and how you can reduce their impact. Start getting outdoors in nature more, listen to your favourite music, have relaxing baths, read books, listen to audio books and podcasts that inspire and lift you. Don’t be a slave to your calendar, see how you can strip things back and carve out more time for yourself. Are you over-exercising? Too much of the wrong kinds of exercise can be unhelpful for digestive health and gut lining integrity so address this if you need to. Remember, a body with an unhealthy gut is a body that will struggle to burn body fat.

Then after the 4 weeks (continue with the above for life please!) start to slowly re-introduce gluten and dairy back, but do it one by one. Wait up to 72 hours to check for any symptoms before you re-introduce the other one. Keep watching for symptoms as you SLOWLY build foods back in that you feel you want to bring back in, but if you’re happy without gluten and or dairy then don’t bother bringing them back!

Butter and ghee are usually better tolerated (yay) because they have much smaller amounts of dairy proteins and sugars, same goes for fermented yoghurts and milk kefir, I would just say always go for organic to minimize hormone exposure. Hard cheese usually has less in the way of lactose whereas softer cheeses, yoghurts and milk will be higher in lactose. So, if you re-introduce dairy slowly and type by type, you’re more likely to identify certain culprits and work out whether you can still include some but maybe not all dairy, or none at all and so on.

It’s so important to work on resetting your digestive health with the above steps AND sticking to it for life even once you might re-introduce dairy and or gluten foods back in from time to time. Your gut health should be looked after ongoing not just for a short period, much the same as a detox, we should be doing things DAILY to assist our liver, not just once a year for 7 days!

My stance on gluten and dairy?

I grew up eating pasta, bread, cereal, wraps and biscuits everyday, it wasn’t until I was about 23 when I trialed a month without any gluten and it changed my health and weight that was for sure! I decided that gluten could not come back into my diet on the scale I was used to but that I didn’t want to live without it completely, I’m not celiac so why be so strict I felt. So, I personally avoid gluten for the most part, about 80% of the time, BUT I enjoy a lovely sourdough toast with a weekend cooked breakfast probably about once or twice a month, I don’t say no to a bit of cake when its offered, and I love a good quality pizza or burger out from time to time too. Compared to the amount I used to eat this is nothing, and it doesn’t cause symptoms for me because I’m just not having it often enough for it to. In terms or dairy I have cheese occasionally (when I fancy it) and my cheese of choice is mozzarella, feta and haloumi, and I use organic grass fed butter a few times a week. I use coconut or nut milks and yogurts rather than dairy, and I opt for plant-based protein powders over whey for daily use with the occasional use of (organic) whey protein powder (I use Pulsin), I’m by no means neurotic about anything when it comes to food and nor should you be.

Dairy, your hormonal health and your weight:

So we’ve talked about dairy and your gut health but dairy can also cause or exacerbate hormonal imbalances, which isn’t good news for our waistlines or health. 

Dairy can increase a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and sometimes also other growth hormones and antibiotics (usually found in non-organic dairy hence why I always say to go for organic if having. If you have hormonal issues or conditions such as acne or PCOS then I would suggest reducing or eliminating dairy as much as possible for this reason, you just don’t need to be adding any more fuel to the fire. Dairy is quite what’s known as ‘insulinogenic’ which means it has the ability to spike our insulin levels rather high and this is thought to be due to the amount of lactose (milk sugar) as well as the dairy proteins. Any foods that spike insulin can cause the storage of fat around the middle, so just something to be aware of if you’re relying on dairy every single day and struggling with your weight.

A lot of people ask me about calcium when we talk about reducing or cutting out dairy. I get a lot of concerned faces asking how will they get enough! Do not fret, there are PLENTY of foods that contain calcium and some even more so than milk. Its just long been drummed into us that milk is the only good source of it.

Here’s a list of calcium foods and the amount per (very achievable) portion size (the recommended daily calcium intake is 700mg):

  • 1 cup of cooked kale – 245 mg
  • 56g of sardines (with bones) – 217 mg
  • 170ml or grams of natural organic yogurt or milk kefir – 300 mg
  • 1 ½ cup cooked broccoli – 93 mg
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds (throw into a smoothie) – 87.8 mg
  • 1 cup of watercress 41 mg
  • 1 spinach leaf – 9.9 mg
  • 30g of cheese 224 mg
  • 1 cup of bok Choy 74 mg
  • 1 cup of okra 82 mg
  • 30g of almonds (about 23 almonds) 76 mg

So there you have it I really hope this has been helpful! I know this was a LONG one so I hope you didn’t drift off and you managed to stick with me.

Jump on a call with me and we can discuss you biggest challenges when it comes to your health and weight, and or gluten and dairy questions! I offer complimentary 40 minute phone sessions so why not take advantage? Click here to book your slot. 

Get Off The Scales! Why that number means zilch

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I have a passionate dislike for the number on the scales.

Your weight is nothing but a number.

Simply put, your weight on a set of scales cannot and does not give you the full picture of your health and weight loss successes. I feel very passionate about this one and when I hear people obsess over that number I feel sad :-(

Let me explain why I’m so passionate about this!

1) The number on the scales says nothing about muscle

Short term and quick weight loss is possible, but this means losing precious muscle tone rather than much body fat. The number on the scales will always look good minus muscle tone. But, the more muscle you have, the more energy-producing mitochondria (energy cells) you have in your cells and this is what helps us to have a higher metabolic rate (healthier metabolism) which means we burn fat more!!

If you want to lose fat in a healthy way and in a way that lasts forever then you want to be improving your metabolic rate because the higher your metabolism, the more fat burning potential you have, so you’ll even be burning fat whilst sitting at your desk, and when you’re sleeping! Basically, the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn, all the time, and LONGTERM! This way you can leave

This way you can leave yo-yo dieting behind forever, and feel strong, lean, and tall at the same time.

If your metabolism is healthy and working at a good speed, you will find that you have more room for maneuver in your diet. For example, a weekend away where you indulge a little more won’t affect your body fat as much as it would if you were still using the old faithful calorie restriction favourites with little muscle in the picture, your body can basically get away with more calories so you wont be needing to count them. Plus if you focus on exercise that builds more muscle you can get away with doing a lot less. There’s no need to spend hours in the gym each week on the cross trainer or that crazy spin class where you sweat your body weight in water, if you want to seriously burn some fat you need to look no further than interval training e.g. sprints on a treadmill or outside, and some weights sessions, and these can be just 20-30 mins.

If we’re eating the right kinds of foods we shouldn’t need to be looking at calories. I can’t tell you the last time I looked at how many calories are in a food or meal I’m eating, quite some years ago! When we eat real whole foods containing protein, natural fats, and plenty of fibre and quality carbohydrates from plenty of veggies, whole grains, nuts and seeds, our bodies will stop when we’ve had enough fuel. Our bodies are very clever and it knows what it needs, unfortunately so many people mistake cravings and hunger for needing sugar, when in actual fact we need calories from fats and protein but we’re just not getting enough! Anyway, I digress….

2) The number on the scales doesn’t reflect what’s happening on the inside

So, lets imagine you take the advice in point 1 and start to change up your training and increase your muscle mass (even yoga can do this), and start to increase your protein intake (so your muscles can repair, strengthen and grow). You should start to gain more muscle tissue and in turn burn some fat away. Now, muscle weighs more than fat, so the number on the scales may not move or it might even increase slightly. This one number just tells you what you weigh, nothing else. Now that you know that more lean mass is essential for your body to burn fat, hopefully you can see why that overall number means nothing.

The percentage of your body that’s body fat and the amount of fat you have around your middle (visceral fat) is what truly measure health and weight loss success, NOT the overall weight on a set of scales.

Have you ever embarked on a diet and started going to the gym at the same time, and been disheartened because the number on the scales isn’t shifting or is only going down slightly? And so you get frustrated and confused (and likely pack it all in). But in actual fact you might be doing really really well and making some transformational changes on the inside e.g. less percentage of body fat, more muscle tone, less fat sitting dangerously around the organs on your mid section – why would you want to be disheartened by that?!

Also, our weight on the scales fluctuates due to things like the menstrual cycle (girls only!), the time of day, how many meals you have eaten that day and how much water you’ve had. So if the above explanation wasn’t enough there’s also the fact that we cannot track our success on a number that changes all the time! I speak to so many people whose mood is dictated by the number on the scales, and I just want to reach out and tell them they are so much more than a number. Your health, your energy and vitality, enjoying the right kinds of foods, feeling good about your body (whether it’s carrying a little but more fat than you’d like) are what matters. Life is too short to obsess over that silly number and I hope now you can see there is so much more to it.

3) Obsessing over the number promotes an unhealthy mindset

Obsessing over the number on the scales goes hand in hand with dieting. You measure your success of that weeks diet by jumping on the scales at the end of the week, and your whole entire mood is governed by whether you’ve lost a pound or gained a pound. I tell my clients to grab a dress, skirt or pair of trousers (for men!) they want to fit back into, and try it on every week whilst you’re eating a nutritious whole food diet that balances blood sugar and provides all the nutrients the body needs for a healthy metabolism, and getting some weight bearing exercise in 2-3 times a week. Each week you’ll get further and further into that item of clothing until one day you zip it up perfectly and walk out the door in it. It doesn’t matter how long this takes because once you’ve got there you should now be able to stay there!

Put health first and weight (fat) loss follows as a natural side effect. Turn your focus towards your energy levels, your skin health, getting rid of those horrible headaches, or that daily tummy bloating, sleeping well, being able to run around with the kids for a bit longer or at all, a positive mindset, gratitude for the things and people you have around you and the privileged life you lead compared to so many others – all these things are what measures success and health, not the number on the scales.

So now I hope you will free yourself from the chains that are the scales and get on with living your life!

Book a FREE Weight Loss Strategy call with me and let’s chat! I would love to hear what your struggles are and where you’re trying to get to, use this time to help me help you start mapping out your road to reaching your goals. Click here to get booked in.

The Weight Loss Race, how much do you have to lose?

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We live in a society where we want everything instantly, now and at our fingertips, even when it comes to losing weight fast. We want fast weight loss once we’ve got to a point where we say ‘enough is enough I’m fed up of this excess weight’ and then we’re usually on a mission to shed the pounds as quickly as possible. Whilst I totally understand the frustration and urgency (I’ve been there myself), the fact is if you have more than a stone in weight to lose, and you want to lose it for life, then the process should be slow. Think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint. Taking it slow and easy, making small, sustainable changes that bring about LONG TERM weight loss.

If a person is overweight or obese they will have an unhealthy body fat percentage (over 25% for men and over 30% for women), the key thing here is to get that body fat percentage down to a healthy level (do you know what yours is?), and the trouble with trying to lose this excess weight fast you are likely to give up long before you’ve got yourself to a healthy body fat percentage because the changes you’ll be making are likely to be unsustainable and will be making you feel quite miserable. If you’re overweight or obese take it slow, change the way you eat little by little over a long period of time (a year and upwards), making sustainable changes that become new habits. Then once you’ve learned and understood good lifestyle habits with how to eat well for life, you will be gradually and gradually taking yourself towards a healthy body fat percentage.

So, don’t rush. Think long term!

There are lots of online lines plans out there that promise to “burn all your fat off in just three months” and whilst these can and do work for lots of people (those with less than a stone to lose) do the changes last for life? Is the plan or exercise regime sustainable? Or does the weight pile back on again once you’ve got where you want to be? And have you reverted back to your ‘normal’ way of eating having NOT learned and understood good sustainable lifestyle habits?

The Marathon

Healthy new habits need to be taught and formed so that they become second nature, for life, including exercise. This is the marathon. Think of it like this: you’ve just signed up for the London marathon but you’ve never run for more than about 10 minutes before, on a treadmill, but you’ve set yourself the challenge nonetheless. The training takes months and months before you’d even be able to run half a marathon, and then further months to get to the 26 mille mark. But you get there and you form good running habits (as well as strengthening your mind) that will stay with you for life. A marathon is a very long distance and no one wants to run too fast too soon or they’ll just burn out! A marathon runner will never sprint from the start line instead they steadily pace themselves to get to the 26 miles finish line, otherwise they would just burn out and never reach it.

If you have more than 3-5 stone to lose you do not want to take on a quick plan to blast your body fat fast because you’ll burn out too soon before you’ve got close to your goal. Instead you want to find a steady nutrition pace that you can live with and maintain for years, and your reward? Reaching your goal and probably even more, happily, healthily and FOR LIFE.

If you have that last 1 stone to lose (usually the hardest stone to lose) you can tighten your nutrition and exercise up over a matter of weeks until you’ve get to your goal, having already learned and formed good nutrition and lifestyle habits that you can sustain. You can go all out (sprint rather than marathon) for a short amount of time (about 4 weeks).

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So if someone is training for a marathon from scratch they shouldn’t sprint like mad from the start, just like a 5 stone overweight person shouldn’t jump on a 90 plan to burn their body fat fast. Vice versa if you’re a sprinter you DO need to sprint like mad from the start just like if you have a stone or less to shift you CAN embark on a more intense and tight fat burning plan for some weeks.

The problem is there are so many obese people, who are desperate to lose weight, and they want to do it fast, so they try to sprint their way to their goal weight and restrict their nutrition by dramatically cutting calories and cutting out certain food groups, whilst going mad in the gym! But then they (inevitably) hit a wall and cannot sustain it, and who can blame them, I couldn’t and nor would I want to sustain that.Obese people need to see their weight loss journey as a MARATHON and trust that they WILL reach their goal successfully and smartly for life as long as they don’t try to sprint. No rushing, just pacing, comfortably.

Why I’m Not Sold on Intermittent Fasting for Most Women

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Intermittent Fasting is when you maintain your overall caloric intake but just eating them over fewer meals, or in specific time windows throughout the day. The goal is to create conditions of fasting in the body, but not for extreme lengths of time.

Some examples of Intermittent Fasting would be to eat all your meals for that day within a 10, 8, or 5 hour window, or perhaps just eating 2 meals a day: 1 in the morning, and 1 at night.

The idea behind undertaking Intermittent Fasting is, that humans evolved to optimise their health under less than optimal conditions, and so fasting is said to be a natural and maybe even necessary part of being human.

But, Intermittent Fasting isn’t good for everybody, especially women. Yes it can work for some women, but what we need to be mindful of is that everyone is different and just because it can have amazing effects for some people (mainly men), it doesn’t necessarily mean it will have the same effects for you. For some women, they may see good results but they might be short-lived.

Some people are sure Intermittent Fasting is the answer to many health issues like obesity, insulin resistance, leptin resistance, gut health etc., and of course, weight/fat loss. Whilst there are studies to support this, and I am in no way saying it’s not true, it’s just not always going to be the case.

Basically what I’m saying is that Intermittent Fasting is simply not for us all and really depends on our lifestyle and what we have going on for us etc. For example, if we are stressed out, or we tend to over-exercise, or tend to be obsessive over food, have an underactive thyroid, insomnia, over-worked, or suffer from anxiety, are underweight, then Intermittent Fasting probably isn’t a good choice.

The female body is designed to be fed, for example, our reproductive system needs to know we are giving it what it needs otherwise it perceives danger and famine, and tends to shut down so that our baby doesn’t come into the world and starve.

Intermittent fasting can affect your sleep, by keeping you awake because it wants you to eat to bring your blood sugar level back into balance, otherwise stress hormones are released to compensate, which can then give you a rush of energy that further keeps you awake!

If you are a woman with any of the issues I’ve mentioned above, then I’d suggest you don’t undertake intermittent fasting as part of a weight loss plan. Eat regular meals consisting of real, whole foods that are protein, healthy fats, and nutrient-dense carbs (plenty of vegetables incl. sweet potato, and some whole grains). Avoid sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol. This is general advice, so if you are unsure what would be the right approach for you then seek advice from a qualified, and BANT Registered Nutritional Therapist, to avoid getting the wrong advice for you.

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