The Trouble with Burning Out...

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One of the commonest things we see at the clinic is burn out. Also known as adrenal fatigue (not recognised in conventional medicine). When presented to your regular doctor, most people are given a sick note to take time off work; antidepressants is a common crutch plus the advice to take it easy.

“Take a holiday!”

Easier said than done. After all, in today’s world, one big cause of burnout is overworking and money constraints. So taking time out is quite a tough option. Especially if you are the responsible type and understand that by you taking time out, others get the brunt of your workload. Not an ideal situation. This is worse when the buck stops with you.

So, does traditional management work? Yes, certainly to an extent. Rest is highly important and time away gives one the right perspective and a better ability to prioritise. It also clears the mind and hence performance is enhanced. So you end up working smarter, not harder. Most people notice that their performance and work enjoyment increases after a break.

What about antidepressants? This does make a difference. I’m not a huge fan of it but nevertheless, there is a place for it. Especially when burnout causes other symptoms like raised anxiety, difficulty falling and maintaining sleep; anger, depression and a feeling of helplessness or lack of control over one’s life. To boil things down to the very basics- antidepressants numbs a person. This means that nothing feels as bad as it potentially would. This is a very useful crutch and should not be underestimated. It buys time until your body has healed enough to take over. The danger is a reliance on antidepressants for too long.

So what is it that we do, as functional and hormonal practitioners, that make our approach different from conventional medicine? The clue is in the underlined sentence above. We go to the root of the problem and help the body heal itself; therefore speeding up recovery. I also use this approach to prevent getting to a burnt out state; or in some extreme high stress situations, to delay getting there (not ideal but life is life).

We deal with the ‘burning out’ of the adrenals, which are small glands above the kidneys that release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol amongst others. A normal reaction of stress hormone (cortisol) release is excessive production when you are stressed, to cope with the increased demands on the body. When this happens consistently over a prolonged period of time, something happens. The body now goes into a state where it cannot produce enough cortisol to meet demand. At this point, you now start producing too little cortisol, contrary to popular believe. During a burn out, you produce too little to be useful. This is when you feel the need to crawl under the duvet, turn the lights off, sleep or to try to sleep and shut the world off. This is the body’s way of trying to heal the glands, so that it is able to once again produce cortisol in the right quantity to deal with your body’s needs.

This phenomenon happens to other glands too- the most commonly known of which is the pancreas which produces insulin. Early stages of diabetes signifies a problem with too much insulin release. These people need tablets to manage their sugar intake and keep their insulin low. Late stage diabetics need insulin injections. Because they now have the opposite problem where the excessive demand on the gland has caused it to burn out and the body can no longer produce enough insulin to meet demand.

We manage adrenal fatigue or impending fatigue with the right adrenal support and hormones where necessary. This will be covered in another blog. We also educate our patients so that they can see the signs and know when to self manage because that it the end goal- for you to understand your body to such an extent that you can read what your body is trying to tell you.

One problem with this, and the reason for writing this blog, is that when we most need help is when we are at our highest point in stress and time constraints and when we are most liable to forget these principles. We forget to utilise the support. I see this again and again. This blog is a reminder that when things get tough and you need a little guidance and for someone else to steer the boat- reach out for practitioners such as ourselves. We are in a position to help your body help itself. Don’t get to burn out. Its really not worth it. It takes a really long time to heal once you’re burnt out. Don’t do that long run or that very tiring HIIT session. Just rest, be lazy, day dream, order take out if need be (short term only) and allow yourself to just be. Which reminds me, I need to take my adrenal support now….

Tired All The Time- What Could Be Wrong? (Part 1)

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I would say that of all the complaints I hear at my clinic, this is by far the commonest. The scary thing is that it seems to transcend age and sex. This means that ‘tired all the time’ (tatt in dr’s world) can attack anyone at any age. So how can you avoid it?


Before we can answer that question, we need to understand what is normal and why tatt happens.


Do you remember looking at kids and their boundless energy levels? When they eat sugar, they get hyperactive and start running around. A totally normal response to excessive sugar in the blood that the body needs to get rid of as sugar is inflammatory and the body knows it. So parents, please let your kids run around- its a good thing. What about in adults? What happens when we consume too much alcohol or sugary drinks (liquid carbs)? How about snacks; including ‘healthy’ snacks? We hardly ever need to run around to burn it after. This is not the ideal response to that sugar excess. So what happens here?


Your body releases insulin. Insulin’s job is to make sure that the excess sugar is picked up and either used or stored. A lot of this happens in the liver. So the liver is now under stress to deal with all this. Cortisol the stress hormone is released. Cortisol and insulin work hand in hand (not quite so simple but good enough for the layperson). You’ll find that if you consume too much rubbish or are overly stressed, you put on weight in the middle- a classic tell tale sign of the start of insulin or cortisol issues. Unfortunately with age, this worsens as the body’s ability to adapt decreases. Now, a lot of nutrients are used up in this process. When we talk about nutrients, we talk about vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants etc. So someone with a poor diet or highly stressed life actually need more nutrient support as they probably do not get enough from their diet to make up for how quickly things get used up. These hormones also communicate with other hormones- thyroid being an important one. Thyroid controls your metabolism. Or how effectively your body consumes fuel (or sugar/fat). With age, this function goes down as well. Or perhaps you’ve accumulated ‘problems’ over the years that affect your body’s functionality.


What kind of problems are those? A whole host of potential issues. Let’s list some down:

  • Environmental issues such as toxic mold (in a old, damp house), or fumes from a brand new carpet or paintwork

  • Living and working in the city - exposure to exhaust fumes containing lead, arsenic and other heavy metals

  • Accumulation of toxins from food - e.g. mercury from seafood, sprayed chemicals (pesticides) in fruits and veg, chemical fertilisers

  • Accumulation of toxins or change in ionic charge in your body when you have e.g. metal fillings or 2 or more different types of metals in your body. This is really interesting. If you develop tatt after an orthopedic procedure or after getting dental work; including a simple brace- think about this. Its not well known enough so do your due diligence

  • Day to day stresses like SAD (seasonal affective disorder), lowered immunity due to antibiotic overuse or excessive exposure to bugs; overwork

  • Age related hormonal decline

  • Too much screen time

  • Excessive exposure to EMR (electromagnetic radiation)

  • Start or autoimmunity where the body starts attacking itself


This is merely a snapshot. The list goes on. On its own, there probably isn’t enough to knock the average person down but when a few factors are present, the cumulative effect can have a large effect.


This is mostly the reason why the average person will try various things to improve their tatt status and find that they may improve things for awhile but that they cannot shift it. It is also why in long standing cases, most people need help to get over it. It simply is not as easy as it seems to get to the bottom of.


So what can we do? We will investigate this in the second part of this blog series, so stay tuned….


10 Little Known Vitamin D Facts

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To commemorate this day, I thought I’d share some interesting Vitamin D facts that are not so commonly known…

 

  1. Vitamin D is not technically a vitamin. Vitamins have to be consumed as they cannot be created in the body. It is better classified as a hormone. Or more accurately, a pre-hormone which has to be converted to its active, hormonal component

  2. It regulates the activity of over 200 different genes

  3. You don’t get much Vitamin D from dairy. The main reason is because animals, just like people, need sunlight to make Vitamin D. So if you eat mainly intensely farmed animals and their milk products, it won’t be high in Vitamin D. Look out for free range, grass fed animals. One good example is Kerrygold butter which claims to be from grass fed animals

  4. Lower fat foods fortified with vitamin D won’t be as good as full fat products. Its a fat soluble vitamin and as such, being delivered in a fattier format aids absorption

  5. Obesity is associated with lower Vitamin D levels. The hypothesis here is that the Vitamin hides out in the fat cells. Would be interesting to see more research here

  6. Most Vitamin D rich foods are from an animal source. Hence, vegetarians and vegans need to pay extra attention to supplementing with Vitamin D

  7. Tanning beds can help raise Vitamin D levels- but we are not advocating it!

  8. Darker skin tones or skin that tans easily make less vitamin D compared to paler skin. This is probably a necessary adaptation due to migration of our ancestors into colder regions with less sunshine. In fact, darker skin tones may require 3-6 times more time in the sun to make the same amount of Vitamin D compared to paler skin tones

  9. Older people make less Vitamin D. There may be a few reasons for this. Its believed that absorption may be poorer in older skins. The body also is less efficient in converting it to its active form. Another reason could also be that older people don’t go outdoors as much

  10. Sunscreen with SPF of 30 effectively blocks out UVB rays, hence indirectly reducing Vitamin D production by up to 95%. This piece of info was gleaned from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2011.

 

Hope this has given you some food for thought. I personally recommend a Vitamin D shot into the muscle 4-6 times/year for paler skins and 6-8/year for darker skin tones; spaced out more during summer months. Some people prefer taking higher dose Vitamin D orally. I personally prefer injections as they are easy to administer and receive. Plus I don’t have the hassle of having to remember to consume them. For me, I always know when I’m running low on Vitamin D when my temperature regulation goes out the door. Cold feels too cold and hot feels too hot.

 

This reminds me, I think I’m due for my winter shot now….

Vitamin B3

In light of the recent publishing of Australian research, “Vitamin B3 may prevent miscarriages and birth defects” nicotinamide/niacin or simply vitamin b3 does a whole lot more for us.

Within our clinic, we provide the vitamin B12 and B complex and occasionally B1, B6 and B7. B12 is the highly requested due to, simply, deficiencies in vast populations, mainly vegans, vegetarians, malabsorption syndrome, pernicious anaemia and mostly gut related illnesses. In a healthy state, we can all absorb these nutrients, considering we are sourcing them from the right foods and maintaining a balanced diet.

Where do we get B3 from?

Vitamin B3 is mainly sourced from foods that are high in protein such as meat, fish, wheat flour, eggs, carrots, peas, peanuts, legumes, tomatoes etc. The UK’s daily recommended is 0.3 mg/kg/day.

B3 Deficiency

Severe deficiency in vitamin B3 results in pellagra, which is very rare in the United Kingdom, however, certain populations listed below are susceptible to deficiency. Four “D’s” mainly characterize the disease: diarrhoea, dermatisis, dementia and potentially, death if left untreated. Additionally, the diagnosis can be strongly suggested by examining the levels of niacin, tryptophan and compounds found for enzyme function. A combined urine excretion of a metabolite of niacin and end product of niacin less than 1.5 milligrams in 24 h indicates severe niacin deficiency.

Populations susceptible to deficiency:

  • Staple diets consisting of consuming corn and sorghum

  • Individuals with eating disorders for example, anorexia nervosa

  • Congenital malabsorption of tryptophan (amino acid) from the intestines and kidney

  • Chronic alcoholics

  • Food fadists

Why B3 now?

This happens whenever “breakthroughs” or positive significant findings come out. B3 has always been important and beneficial like all nutrients and little is promoted on why nutrients are vital for our wellbeing. Good research comes out quite often and it is only fair to say this one was a lucky pick.

Besides the recent vitamin B3 findings, here is a list of the other known benefits:

  • Essential in all cells for energy production

  • Helps with metabolism

  • Repairs our DNA

  • Maintenance of the healthy skin or aging facial skin appearance

  • Free radical scavenger

  • Influences immune cell function and survival

  • Reduces the damage ultraviolet (UV) has on our immunity

  • An adjuvant in alcoholism treatments

Future of B3

B3 has been found to be a promising agent for the chemoprevention of melanoma in high-risk population. This is currently in the early stages of study and we can only cross our fingers for now that a solid foundation can be built upon from this. The headlined findings are definitely good news worth echoing and boosting your vitamins and diet to, certainly, doing more good than harm for those trying to start a family. On the other hand, we hope future studies clarify if lower levels of B3 are a partial cause of birth defects.

As exciting as it sounds, this should not open doors for a new fad diet. This is a breakthrough study, which was done under controlled environments, in mice, mice that probably don’t smoke, possibly exercise, and have their life entirely controlled in a lab. At the end of the day, these biological effects mirror human beings, and hopefully, this research will be translated onto us soon.

Why Some Vegetarians or Vegans Thrive and Others Fail

I’ve started seeing more and more people coming in for injectables and intravenous drips like Vitamin B12, B Complex, high dose Vitamin C, glutathione, Magnesium, amino acids and D amongst others. However, new Vitamin B12 patients far outnumber the rest and many of them are vegetarians or vegans. Many of these patients have also chosen to eat this way later in life ie teens or later. There is a great deal of awareness within this community and they choose to eat this way, accepting that they need to do more to counter the potential nutritional shortfalls.

Surprisingly, I don’t see many who are born into vegetarian families (due to religion or culture) where they have eaten this way for generations. This suggests that they either are relatively unaware (I somehow don’t think that this is the issue), or that they are more ‘adapted’ to this way of eating. My believe is that epigenetics is at play here.

 

Coming from a culture where I’m familiar with vegetarianism for religion purposes, and knowing what I do now about some problems that vegetarianism brings about; this article that I’m about to share has always been a question in my mind and something that I’ve been meaning to explore. It’s so well written and researched that I don’t need to add much to it besides introducing you to the writer of that blog post and giving you my 2 cents about it.

 

The article discusses 4 points and is written by Denise Minger. Denise’s blog site https://rawfoodsos.com/  went viral after she published her findings regarding the China Study, which is possibly the most famous pro-vegan study out there. Her quest started when her usually perfect teeth was found to be full of cavities despite doing everything by the book to stay ‘healthy’. Being a naturally curious sort, she delved into the China Study and actually took the trouble to analyse the data. There she found many discrepancies which sadly enough does happen in the scientific world where data is ‘tweaked’ to fit in with the original hypothesis. Her work is relevant and needs to be read.

 

My personal opinion:

  • Veganism does not suit everyone

  • If this is how you choose to eat, do take extra care to ensure that you are getting all the relevant nutrition (possible from plant sources eg seaweed, natto, marmite etc) and constantly be on the lookout for symptoms of deficiencies

  • If you have indigestion, increased acid reflux, gas and bloating or prone towards soft or hard stools, you probably have some gut issues. This means that absorption of nutrients won’t be as good

  • If you constantly take antibiotics or have done so in the past, your gut bacteria may be deficient; again potentially leading to problems with gut nutrient absorption

  • Every so often, consider injectables as it won’t get lost in the gut.

  • If you already have symptoms, consider a course of injectables initially more frequently (eg weekly or fortnightly depending on which nutrient) before you taper it off. This is to allow your body to heal to a point where you won’t go back to ‘baseline’ so quickly. There’s also the problem of getting used to a certain level of energy. Most people with very low energy levels can never figure out how others go on. They also tend to be very happy with every little uplift in energy; forgetting what its like to have full functional energy. I just don’t think it makes good sense when cumulative additional changes make such a huge change in a person’s health. The time to stop would be when you start seeing negligible results. That usually means that you’re either optimised or if you’re still tired, that there is another reason for it.

 

I hope that you will enjoy this article…..

https://authoritynutrition.com/4-reasons-some-do-well-as-vegans/

 

Vit D- My Unbelievable Labs

This is a slightly more personal blog post as I’m still a little flustered about it.

 

I’ve been taking patient’s bloods and interpreting their labs for a long time now. My personal health, alongside my patients, has increased leaps and bounds (I do take a bit of my own advice!!). I have good hair and glowing, clear skin, good gut and good energy levels. On the whole, I’m in a pretty good place. Recently, I had the opportunity to get my blood drawn and decided to see what my labs look like.

 

Results came back and most things were as expected, except for my Vit D which was below normal. This annoyed me that the labs would make a mistake. So we called them up and asked them to retest it. I had had a Vit D injection, the whole 300,000 IU of it, just a couple weeks before. The results were clearly a lab error.

 

They retested it and it came back still in the red- very, very low, but a different number to before. This got me thinking. I’ve been raving about the benefits of Vitamin D to all my patients. I’ve asked them all to get an injection as I’d personally seen the benefits in myself and my patients. What was going on?

 

In 2015/2016, I’ve probably had 4-5 injections of Ergocalciferol, or Vit D2. Each time 300,000 IU. I haven’t taken any extra supplements at home. I went on a 2 week outdoorsy holiday in July/August and still have the tan from it now (November). The first injection was a life changer. I was extremely hot the night of the injection. Next day, I was bouncing. Similar but not as dramatic improvements with the next few injections. I needed very few clothes compared to others, could handle cold more than others (no coat in summer and only lightweight coats in autumn versus others who needed much more). In fact, I still go out with bare legs now.

 

My symptoms which made me think that I may be low in D again:

 

  • Energy levels were good but I started to find it slipping

  • I wasn’t recovering from night outs as well as usual

  • I also started noticing quite significant hair loss

  • My skin was simply not as smooth and blemish free as before. It was also duller

  • More importantly, I felt colder than I thought I should be feeling

  • I was feeling too hot or too cold suddenly- temperature regulation wasn’t right. This was a classic red flag for my own body and I recognised it

 

After my last injection, once again I didn’t feel the cold that much and temperature regulation improved. Energy levels came back but I was still more tired than usual. Yesterday- after the shock of my horrendous results- I had another D shot. I slept very well at night. Hands and feet are still cool but not cold. I feel good and fresh. I’ve had a birthday since with wonderful friends and parties for most nights of the week last week. And I’m still up and raring to go.

 

What hits me is that despite doing this for a living, I was oblivious to how low my own levels were. It must have been dangerously low when I first did a D shot. I come across as being bouncier and more energetic than most people. Even I realise that I’ve higher energy levels than others. So where does that put others? I think personally, because I make sure I’m balanced in other ways, it has not been obvious that I was so deficient. But its a cautionary tale nevertheless and I know that I will be making much more efforts to get myself tested more regularly and to make sure that I’m optimised nutritionally. Since my body cannot seem to make enough from all the sun I get (more than many others and usually without SPF on my body). I will also look into simpler and more cost effective ways to test for it so that patients can get themselves tested without too much effort. Watch this space…..

FYI, we have now introduced many more injectable services like our B cocktail (B12+B Complex), C, Magnesium, Glutathione etc as an injection or an intravenous push (for larger volumes). Do check our website more for info. My patients seem to love it as they keep coming back, despite the slight ouch!

Fasting for Fitness- Yesterday's News or is there Firm Science?

I'm probably a bit late (by a few years) in writing this post. It is however Ramadan and I'm aware that some of my Muslim patients are fasting. This post follows on from the 'trendy' fasts with equally trendy names like the 5:2, intermittent fasting, juice fasts, fasting cure etc (no, I haven't read them all). Also I was at an event recently where we were all discussing the different 'fasts' we were on.

Personally, I do mini- fasts and I try to do them a few times a week. For me, it literally means prolonging the time between 2 meals. The longest period of not eating is naturally night time sleep. So what I tend to do is to prolong the time before I eat my breakfast; or as it so happens these days, its straight to lunch, after my morning tea. So strictly speaking, its not even a traditional fast as I have milk in my tea- but the benefits are still there and makes the whole 'fasting' easier to incorporate as a lifestyle choice. I skip this on days where I anticipate a particularly stressful day (not great if adrenally fatigued) or if I simply would like some breakfast. To me, the key is in the fact that its my choice and I don't feel deprived. I do not subscribe to the 'breakfast is the most important meal' hypotheses. I mean, our ancestors certainly did not have that kind of luxury.... 

What I find is that I end up requiring less food throughout the day. I'm also fuller with smaller quantities of food. I'm careful about not breaking my fast with anything processed or high carb. It also makes life somewhat simpler and certainly cheaper. There is no mid-afternoon slump- a very interesting finding. There is more energy throughout the day. I also tend not to think of food quite so much as normal. That's just me.

I'd like to share an interesting article about fasting, again with the hope that you'll ask some questions and research this yourself. If nothing else, its actually a rather painless way of keeping weight gain in check!

Cholesterol and Statins- Are You Asking The Right Questions?

This blog is dedicated to my mum and sister, who, not being medics, have to decide whether to believe my views on so many medical issues, or to listen to their doctors who practice conventional medicine.

The idea is not to give unsolicited advice to the average person reading this blog as every circumstance is unique; but to encourage you to start asking questions.

We have all heard how bad cholesterol is. Children probably also know this. The average person above 50 is very likely to be on statins or is surrounded by their friends and family who are on the drug. Yet, heart attacks and strokes and other conditions attributable to cardiovascular diseases are not only still present, their numbers are increasing all the time. There is a disconnect somewhere.

More and more information is being released, as recent as a few days ago in http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150220110850.htm regarding how the efficacy of statins have been exaggerated.

One may argue a few points about why statins are prescribed so much, namely

  • more people are on statins because of better ‘pick up’ rates of high cholesterol by their doctors due to better healthcare

  • people are living longer, hence we are seeing more heart diseases- its a numbers game!

Using this same argument we could then ask the same question about infections as well. Infections were the biggest killer in the at one time. With the advent of antibiotics, infection rates and more importantly mortality and morbidity has decreased greatly. This is with the human race living longer and having better healthcare. Why hasn't this happened with the widespread use of statins, the disconnect still exists.

Lets strip this down to the very basics….

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is fatty molecule that is made by all animal cells. It makes up our cell membranes and is essential for cell survival. Cholesterol is also a building block for all steroid hormones, bile acids and Vitamin D. It makes all the important hormones like oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, pregnenolone, cortisol and aldosterone. So in very simple terms- almost all the cholesterol in your bloodstream is produced by the body, rather than being from diet as is widely believed. If we do not have enough cholesterol, we can die- it is essential to survival. Low cholesterol has been linked to cancers, depression and cerebral hemorrhage.

What are statins?

These are drugs that block a very important step in the synthesis of cholesterol. Without this step, cholesterol cannot be formed.

So, how do you read your cholesterol results?

Generally, a regular blood test at your doctor’s will reveal your total cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol. There’s another important marker to look out for and that is your triglycerides. Conventionally, HDL is the “good” cholesterol and you want lots of it. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol and you want very little of it. That brings us to total cholesterol- I’ll discuss this in a while.

HDL is indeed a desirable cholesterol. Its role is to transport the cholesterol back to the liver for excretion or to send the cholesterol to other tissue to make the hormones we need. LDL is the funny one. Its not as clear cut as one would like to think. A high number may not necessarily be a bad thing. If you look at LDL closely, you’ll find that there are a couple distinct subtypes like the large, fluffy cloud type of LDL which is not dangerous, and the small, dense ones which are associated with atheromatous plaques. So if you think that you are doing everything right and you have a high HDL but you can’t understand why your LDL is still high, you may simply have more of the clouds than the dense LDLs. Further testing can be done to determine this. Read up about NMR testing. Unfortunately only one lab does it in the UK and its not available on the NHS.

What about total cholesterol? For a lot of people on “paleo” or caveman type diets (myself included-but I’m not paleo), their total cholesterol is usually in the “red”. This is quite distressing for a lot of people who take a lot of effort with their food. The average doctor may wish to put them on statins. It should be noted that if your HDL is high and your “fluffy” LDLs are high, your total is bound to be high. This is where your own due diligence comes in and you need to make a decision as to how to proceed.

The other necessary parameter to look at is triglycerides. There is a strong correlation between high triglyceride numbers and atherosclerosis. It is usually raised in those eating a high refined carb diet. The idea here is to get a favourable ratio of HDL/triglyceride. So a high HDL and a low triglyceride. In fact, this number, more than anything else (in a simple blood test) can determine your susceptibility to heart disease.

In a nutshell, I believe that our bodies won’t make something that can kill us. Human milk have very high concentrations of cholesterol as babies need it. It is raised if there’s cell healing to do, or more hormones to produce. If its too low, we risk running into trouble. More and more information is coming out regarding the whole cholesterol/statin scenario. I encourage you to read some books on the subject. Some recommendations are:

The Great Cholesterol Con
By Dr Malcolm Kendrick

World’s Commonest New Year’s Resolution: Weight Loss- Let’s Explore….

Ok, so I made part of that up- I’m not sure that its the commonest resolution in the world, but surely it must be at least in the top 3!

 

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll know that I’ve been on the ‘not good’ end of the scale and have struggled to get back to my normal. I’m not perfect in the traditional sense of the word at the moment but at least I know exactly why (I’ll tell if you ask personally!) and I’ll discuss my plans with you below.

 

The worse part was the not knowing. I remember a period of 8 months where I’d run a very challenging and hectic project. My calorie intake could not have been more than 1200/day on average, I always walked up the escalators, never stood and was extremely active as part of the project. I hardly snacked during that time as well. Part of me hoped that it would be the final nail in the coffin for post-baby fat.

 

I was quite wrong. Incredibly, I got bigger. I simply could not understand it. People told me that it was simply age. That’s what happens if you’re genetically predisposed to it apparently. Of course now I know exactly what went wrong and in fact, its very similar for most people. No doubt age related changes makes things worse but there’s still a lot that can be done.

 

Let’s look at our common New Year’s resolutions:

  • Weight management- this includes loss or gain for some people. Commonest desire is to lose fat and gain lean muscle mass. Commonest method is probably new gym membership (normally lasting 1-2 months- congrats if you manage more!) and protein shakes/bar etc.
  • Eat healthier- for far too many, this involves lots of salads, no alcohol and no snacking or the latest diet out there. What’s the current trend for 2015, does anyone know? Just try googling ‘trendy diets 2015’- its quite interesting/scary/great….depending on your take on things.
  • Make more money- this is usually then spent on said gym, new gym kit, protein bits and bobs. Oh, and of course bags of pre-prepared salads and trendy diet cookbooks/apps….
  • Spend less money- not as easy as one would think as no food/alcohol translates as no going out, you also hungry and miserable. So shopping is handy to make you feel less bad.
  • Self-esteem stuff- be a better person, join some self improvement classes, network more, kinder, spend more time with xyz, buy a house, world peace and the list goes on.
  • Live a healthier lifestyle- covered mostly already but you’ve decided that being more mindful and thankful, being able to ‘smell the roses’ etc probably has a place.

 

My resolutions are:

  • To learn pilates. Maybe not in Jan, but I certainly hope that it will happen before Feb is up. I’d like this to maintain flexibility, agility and core strength, hopefully it will also improve my posture and general sense of wellbeing. (I always hope for a six pack but lets just pretend its only this)
  • To lose the 2kg I put on during the hols. I have a great excuse- I just returned from a food-fuelled Indian wedding in the US. That’s me eating badly for almost 2 weeks. American high GM foods cooked in industrialised oil too. Oh yes, everything was fat reduced or free, meaning that they needed to add carbs to make the food palatable. I’ll explain exactly what this did to me further along
  • To then lose a little bit more over the course of the year (I’m already within my normal range but would prefer to be leaner)
  • Be a blog queen
  • Stop buying more clothes/shoes
  • Rule the world and be a billionaire

Fairly simple demands really.

 

What if I told you a scary little secret? That weight loss is 70-80% food, and the rest is exercise? Look at the French. Its scary because the rules change all the time.I know this from first hand experience of finding out that calorie in does not mean calorie out. That all the salads and cutting out meats from my diet makes me miserable and hungry. That I’m really not meant to be a fruitarian. That at frequent points in my life, exercise made me more tired than refreshed.

 

My 2 weeks in the US was a very interesting experiment. I decided that I was going to be my previous ‘normal’ self (I eat very differently now-high fat/protein with moderate to low carbs). That also happens to be most people’s normal. I also stopped taking my supplementations which has helped tremendously over last year ensuring that I stay afloat and not fall sick. I fully expected to put on weight and was pleasantly surprised that the weight gain was not awful (only 2kg but enough on a small frame).

 

What I wasn’t prepared for was this:

  • My carb cravings came back in a bad way. Interestingly, it took around 10 days to kick in.
  • I’ve developed leptin resistance again. This happened so quickly that it really took me by surprise. This is the hormone that tells your brain that you’re full. I’m currently much hungrier than before but 4 days of eating my own food and its settling down.
  • Weight gain is very ‘insulin resistant’ in nature. This means that I’m putting on weight in my face and abdomen as insulin- the fat storage hormone’ converts all extra carbs (of which there are plenty!) to fat.
  • I had soreness in my mouth (classic Vit C and B shortage) and very stiff muscles (Magnesium deficiency). This is speaking very broadly. Twice during the trip, I had to resort to taking large doses of my kids multivits as I could feel myself feeling off- it sorted the problem in case you’re wondering.

Weight is quite a complex issue and there is so much mis-information out there that its hard to know what to believe. When in doubt, follow our ancestors and just eat food that looks like its been planted or grown. Again, I’ll refer you to http://www.westonaprice.org/

Its a good place to start. There’s nothing fancy there but it is a little more work. I promise you one thing though…..you’ll never go hungry, its so, so immensely satisfying. I will be blogging more this year on this topic too. In the meantime…...


Happy New Year y’all!

IV Cocktail Drip or Myers- What's the Big Deal?

Myers Cocktail is named after the Baltimore doctor that invented it, Dr John Myers. It comprises of a cocktail of vitamins and mineral given intravenously. Historically, it was given to help treat various ailments. Today, it has an interesting reputation as the latest celebrity ‘trend’ with everyone from Simon Cowell, Rita Ora and Rihanna to Madonna, Cindy Crawford and even Cara Delevingne. The focus on it being a celebrity trend has done a few things:

 

  • highlight the existence of this very interesting treatment

  • downplayed its real advantages by…

  • highlighting the ‘other benefits’ like post-binge drinking treatment, tiredness, and even dehydration as sadly, its more newsworthy

  • taken away from its relevance in managing a whole host of problems that are increasing with our modern day lifestyle and stresses, including exposure to pesticides and environmental toxins

 

The classic Myers is just the right mix of vitamins and minerals for overall wellness and maintenance. It comprises of a cocktail consisting of a variety of B and C vitamins, minerals like magnesium and occasionally trace minerals too.

So the million dollar question is- do we really need it?

 

My take is this. Assuming that the plate of food we eat today has the same nutrient content of a same plate of food, say 50-80 years ago, I’d say we probably don’t need it. In today’s term, someone who lives in the countryside (less pollutants, hence less oxidative damage to the body) and grows their own food or mostly eats organically (no chemicals or pesticides we hope), probably is fine and is able to extract nutrients from food efficiently. The nutrient that they are able to get is probably plentiful as well as balanced.

 

Fast forward to the rest of us living in the city, commuting for a living (stress+pollutants), eating quickly and cost-effectively (stress+low nutrient foods), having little downtime but a lot of work time (stress+++), little play and family time (stress++), travelling a lot (stress+pollutants), living the high life (nutrient depletion+stress) amongst any other variables you can think of.

 

There is a reason celebrities do it. They need to not fall sick and to be able to keep up with the demands of their gruelling schedule. They also happen to have access to people who are able to find short-cuts for them and they have the money to access these short cuts. We don’t think twice or judge them for using fashion stylists as a short cut to getting great style. IV drips are a short cut of sorts for someone who is generally well. So does that make it wrong? For some yes, for others (myself included), not at all- life’s too short to be ill!

 

For the well person, what does it do?

You might have noticed that I talk about stress a lot. We all suffer so much from it that its become part of our lives. But have you wondered biochemically what stress actually does in our bodies?

 

We are fight or flight kind of creatures. We thrive on it. But in this day and age, stress is constant and unrelenting. We have a continuous flow of stress hormones being released in our bodies. These hormones have to be made. The main building block for making hormones is cholesterol. With the whole low fat fad, the body is attacked yet again. We now have not as much building material. Cholesterol is then used to start the building work. Different types of workmen are required to do different things eg roofer, plumber, electrician. They can’t do each other’s jobs. They are the enablers- enabling different things to happen. Vitamins and minerals are the enablers in your body. Without them, a lot of chemical reactions cannot take place. We become depleted. Tired. Needing more and more sleep. Putting on more weight in the classical ‘stress’ fashion of fat face and belly with skinny limbs- then going to the gym for a high intensity workout that’s a stressor to the body- to try to lose that weight. And the cycle continues.

This is a very simplistic picture of what happens in our bodies but perhaps you get the idea. In a future blog on this subject, I will go into some research papers and medical uses of Myers.

In the meantime, have a think about the stressors in your life and how its affecting you. There's so much that can be done and knowledge is king.

The Big Diet Myth

 The last few decades have seen all varieties of diets come into play with a predominant pattern to them. Popular patterns are:

  • Fast- anything from 1 day (not kidding) to any time-line you can think of.

  • Calorie counting- the commonest diet programme. A billion pound industry which even has franchises like weight watchers etc using similar formulas.

  • Trendy- catchy titles to sell a book eg. South Beach Diet, 5:2 fasts, paleo/caveman, Atkins, Virgin

  • Celebrity endorsed- hairy dieters, whichever fat-to-thin celebs that’s in vogue

  • Type- vegetarian, vegan, high protein, low carb, high fat (yes they exist), the very famous low fat.

Basically there’s no end to it and no end will ever be in sight. If these ‘diets’ really worked, why are there so many books out there? On the flip side, if none of these worked, are we all doomed? Is it simply a case that we haven’t yet found the magic answer, and hence have to keep searching for it? Or is it that some diets work for some people but don’t work for others? What is the answer?

My take on this is…. firstly I prefer not to use the word ‘diet’. Nothing wrong with it per se but these days the connotations and associations are that of deprivation, hunger and of a short duration. Something hard to do for a little while until we ‘get there’. 

I much prefer to think of it as a lifestyle. I also prefer not to go for trends, although there is something to be said for some trends. It might mean that someone is on to something and perhaps we could incorporate some of the advice into our new ‘lifestyle’ (eg fasting). I also believe that the perfect ‘lifestyle’ should be something we could happily feed our kids and not feel like we’re doing them a disservice.

Science and research evolve all the time and today, some incredible new material have come out from many different researchers. The problem is that by the time that information becomes a book, you’re usually looking at a few years down the line or the books get hidden as these guys are no good at marketing themselves. Sometimes its a case of them trying to ‘say the popular thing’ whilst also getting the real message across and so diluting the true message of their books.

An offshoot to this is the wonderful world wide web. Internet has revolutionised how information gets around. Some of the most relevant thinkers (who don’t try to be popular) use blogs as their media of choice. Usually charting their progress online and slowly building up a following. Some of my favourites are Chris Kresser, Denise Minger, Peter Attia, Sarah Myhill and a few doctors. These people are a little hardcore, very scientific and possibly a little difficult to understand for a lot of people. Their message is very relevant though as they are very outspoken and speak their minds. Do research their work.

So what do I personally do and feed my family? Based on my research, modern day diseases only started around a hundred years ago and the number of new diseases creeping up has increased tremendously. Autoimmune diseases are so commonplace these days that its not uncommon for us to know at least a few people who has them. From being relatively unknown, it is now one of the major killers in the world. Diabetes, heart disease and degenerative diseases esp of the brain is now so common that most of us will probably die of one of them.

The question to ask here is what has happened to make these diseases so common? What has changed? What did people die of before?

People mostly died of infections and the elements before (ie if you were poor and had nowhere to sleep, you might die of cold). Considering that infection control is excellent now and in the UK, we have social services, these factors don’t count for much. Some might argue that diagnoses has improved and that’s why more diseases are being discovered. This might be true but looking at autopsy reports and bone studies from multiple different sources, it does not tally up.

Fact is, most of these diseases started after the Industrial Revolution. When man had a cheap and ready source of food, mostly comprising of carbohydrates. The farmer was able to produce more than he required and more than his town required. It needed transportation to be sold for a profit. The problem was the bl****y insects. They were all over the place. Someone then came up with a brilliant idea to get rid of them. Actually there were 2 ideas:

  • while the crops grew, pesticides killed insects. So one problem solved. Mostly anyways.

  • During transportation, all you had to do was to strip the outer portion (that contained all the nutrients as that’s what the stupid insects were after, not realising the really tasty bits were inside). Hence white flour, rice etc was borne. Haven’t you noticed how nicely insect free it is?

And that became the staple of most people’s foods. White, nutrient poor foods which was cheap (compared to meats and veg). Carbs have a very important role in history and has saved a lot of lives. Think of any famine states which sadly enough is still a common occurrence.

Today, the average person’s meal comprises of:

  • carbs like wheat products (bread/pasta), potato, rice, maize/corn etc

  • meats that are intensively farmed (another blog on this alone coming soon)

  • veg that have been sprayed to death, look all the same (isn’t that unusual? Imagine if you used that same formula for human beauty-zombieland); could not invite the average insect to nibble on it

  • Industrialised seed oils ie your average vegetable oils on the shelf. Have you noticed that it can be kept for possibly a few years and still be good?

  • Transfats like ‘keep your cholesterol down’ butter substitutes

  • Lots and lots of sugar, hidden all over the place including sugar substitutes

  • Easy meals, pre-prepared.

Basically a very poor nutrient situation which causes inflammation in the body to the extent where a whole host of modern illnesses take root.

This is a very complex topic and is only an introduction which aims to make you question what you eat. Going back to the question of what do I feed my family….. 80% of the time, we eat high protein and high (good) fat, carbs are low compared to the average person today but a little higher in children as they are able to burn them off much quicker. We still eat our snacks and have some wine and are full and satiated. Its a bit more complex than this for the adults as there are more issues to look at but its the gist of it. It follows how people ate before things got complicated. I want the best of what happened before the Industrial Revolution combined with a lack of disease/infections and comfort of modern day life. We are healthier and stronger and best of all, have lost weight (adults) without really trying ( or going hungry). We have eaten this way for around 2 years now. This is simply me doing what I believe is right for my family based on science and history.

 A good place to start reading about this way of living is http://www.westonaprice.org/

Happy researching and keep asking questions.

Compounded Bioidentical Hormones versus Generic and is there a Difference between Labs?

I already mentioned briefly about the difference between bioidentical and regular (non bioidentical) hormones. Here I will explain it in more detail.

Bioidentical means that its basic molecular structure is the same as what is naturally present in your body. It does not, however, mean that it is from a completely natural sources eg yam, animals etc. It could have been made up in a lab but the important thing is that its structure is the same and so the body recognises it as being the same and thus will not reject it. Something natural and readily existing in nature may be from a plant or animal (pregnant mare being the most famous as that is where generic oestrogen is sourced from). Why should we expect a hormone from a plant or an animal to be compatible with what we have in our bodies? They will certainly deliver some of the same results but there is bound to be side effects that we prefer did not exist like the breast cancer scare in the famous WHI study (the study that put a stop to widespread HRT prescriptions). 

The term compounding pharmacy is big in the US but unfortunately not here except for veterinary purposes. However it still exists albeit not in a big, publicised way. They are incredibly hard to find and when you do find one, there are many different aspects to look at, a lot of which may not be fulfilled. I source my hormones from an EU country and love their quality.

Whilst researching the finer points of getting the best products- including visits to labs-

What I have learnt is this:

  • The advantage of a bespoke product is that you can get the right dose in the right carrier which could mean having to take a smaller number of tablets/capsules.

  • The right carrier (or excipient) can make a huge difference to a product. Something taken orally is broken down in the liver. If for some reason, you don't want this to happen, you can choose a delivery system which may work better for that person. Some hormones don't work well in certain delivery systems- hugely important to understand especially when balancing hormones.

  • Another importance of the right excipient is its ability to carry the active ingredients to where it needs to be delivered more efficiently and effectively.

  • You could get it in a non bovine or non animal form for the religiously inclined or for those who prefer it.

  • Most importantly is a process called micronisation which means breaking down the raw ingredients to very small particles which is easily absorbed by the body. This means that a 10mg of generic product may or may not deliver 10mg but a micronised product is more likely to. Hence controlling dosage is much easier as its a purer product.

These pharmacies work on a narrow percentage of error which means the end product is close to perfect (within these parameters). The downside is naturally the cost. If affordability is an issue, do use generic bioidentical products-its worth it! Keep in mind that it certainly is worth the money for the right product formulated just right and bespoke for you. Savile Row versus off the peg (without looking at labels, one can usually tell that it looks better). As one wonderful personal trainer tells her clients (a different context but the message is the same)- you should certainly save your money on these things, you need the money to pay for your bypass!