Manage acid reflux and GERD

A burning issue…

Do you remember when you were young and could eat anything you wanted without any digestive issues? Aaaahhhh, those were the days….

Digestive symptoms are one of the main health concerns I come across and the most common issue related to that is acid reflux. That’s probably not surprising because in the UK it affects around 40% of the adult population.

What is the difference between acid reflux and GERD?

Let’s start from the basics: acid reflux happens because when the food you eat arrives in your stomach, a little valve that separates your oesophagus from your stomach (called lower oesophageal sphincter) does not close properly. This allows your stomach acid to head back up in your oesophagus, making you experience symptoms such as burning in your chest (heartburn) or a sour taste in your mouth.

Experiencing acid reflux every now and then is ok (we have all overeaten at times like Christmas right?), but if you start suffering from it more than twice a week over several weeks without any improvements, you may have developed another condition called GERD (Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease). This should be looked at by your doctor in order to avoid more serious issues in the future.

What are the common symptoms for GERD?

Symptoms can vary from one person to another but include:

  • Heartburn
  • Acid Regurgitation
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Feeling a tightness in the throat
  • Dry Cough, worse at night
  • Bad Breath
What risk factors increase the chance of GERD?

You are more likely to experience GERD if any of these scenarios relate to you:

  • Pregnancy
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having Hiatal Hernia
  • Smoking
  • Long-term use of NSAID’s (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs)

Antacids are probably the most common over the counter (OTC) medications you may reach for, to provide relief from GERD, however I would always suggest talking to your GP first.

It is always a good idea to keep a food diary, tracking how certain foods make you feel, as this will help you to pinpoint potential culprits. A Registered Nutritional Therapist can be helpful in guiding and supporting you on this journey, including looking at your lifestyle to see if you could incorporate simple changes to improve the situation.

Should you choose to, your nutritional therapist can also liaise with your GP for a more comprehensive type of support as it is always useful to have your healthcare practitioners communicate with each other.

If you’re regularly experiencing acid reflux you may have ‘GERD’

Diet changes to manage GERD

Let’s look at some examples of dietary and lifestyle suggestions you may want to think about to manage GERD.

Foods to decrease/avoid:

High-fat foods

Things like fried foods, processed meats and salad dressings can relax the sphincter in your stomach which won’t help your cause

Coffee and Tea 

Due to their caffeine content, these everyday drinks can aggravate reflux symptoms. Instead try herbal teas such as liquorice, camomile, tulsi, slippery elm or marshmallow which all have a soothing effect instead

Chocolate

I’m sorry, but don’t shoot the messenger! Chocolate can cause an increase in acidity in the first hour after ingestion, therefore potentially making symptoms worse

Tomatoes (including sauces, ketchup and soup)

They are a naturally acidic food and so should be avoided while you have symptoms

Alcohol

Unfortunately, alcohol can relax the sphincter valve whilst also stimulating acid production in your stomach

Food to have more of:

High fibre foods

These types of foods can make you feel fuller for longer which can help you avoid overeating – a major cause of acid reflux. Examples of high fibre foods are:

  • Wholegrains – couscous, brown rice, oatmeal
  • Root vegetables – sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots
  • Green vegetables – think asparagus, broccoli, green beans
Alkaline foods

These types of food have a higher PH than acidic foods and can help offset strong stomach acid. Some examples of alkaline foods are:

  • Fennel
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Artichokes
  • Spinach
Restoring a healthy microbiome 

The environment in your gut contains a mix of harmful and beneficial bacteria. Having more beneficial bacteria than harmful creates a better environment for efficient digestion, thus avoiding any issues.

Probiotic and prebiotic foods in your diet will help create a healthier gut microbiome by leading to more beneficial bacteria so this is a great place to start:

Probiotic foods

These food contain natural probiotic properties:

  • Kefir
  • Yoghurt
  • Kombucha
  • Raw Sauerkraut
  • Raw Kimchi
  • Raw fermented pickles and vegetables
Prebiotic foods

These foods feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut:

  • Apples
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Greener Bananas
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Asparagus

For a full list of high fibre foods, probiotics and prebiotics personalised to your body type and wellbeing status, log into your Superfied Space.

Lifestyle changes to manage GERD

How you eat your food, how much you eat, when you eat it and what your lifestyle habits are like will all have a bearing on how easily you can manage acid reflux and GERD. Here are some practical self-care tips: 

  • Sit upright whilst eating and keep the upright position, instead of slouching on a couch for example, for 45-60 minutes
  • Leave 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime
  • Try raising the head in bed by between 6 to 8 inches
  • Avoid smoking
  • Optimise your weight (ie find your natural body weight)
  • If you are used to large meal portions, think about portion control (as much as you can fit into two cupped hands for each meal)
  • Address any sources of stress (managing stress always sets you up for better wellbeing)

In summary, acid reflux symptoms can be managed but should you notice these symptoms are happening regularly for several weeks even after applying diet and lifestyle changes, please have a chat with your GP to get professional support and find out what your options are.

References:

  • Management of GERD, The Primary Care Strategy. Yale Journal Biol & Med.
  • 1999; 72: 203-9
  • A Argyrou, E Legaki, C Koutserimpas, M Gazouli, I Papaconstantinou, G Gkiokas, and G Karamanolis. Risk Factors for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Analysis of Genetic Contributors. World J Clin Cases. 2018 Aug 16; 6 (8): 176-182
  • EM Song, H-K Jung, and JM Jung. The Association Between Reflux Esophagitis and Psychological Stress. Dig Dis Sci. 2013 Feb; 58 (2): 471-477.
  • American College of Gastroenterology. Acid Reflux. Accessed 11/20/2019
  • Boeckxstaens GE. Review article: the pathophysiology of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2007;26:149-160

This self-care health hack is from Superfied nutritional therapy expert, Valentina Cartago

Find out more about the Superfied Way

Achieve sustainable weight loss

Ditch the diet and lose weight (not just for summer!)

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in search of a swimsuit, is usually simultaneously in search of a diet!

We all know on a subconscious level that short-term extreme diets don’t work in the long term, and, that obesity causes serious health issues to many, so what to do?

Here is a five-point diet strategy that will work long-term, long after summer has gone. It’s a simple, sensible and sustainable approach to weight loss which will also improve your overall wellbeing.

1. Balance your blood sugar levels

If your blood sugar levels are consistently elevated (through regularly consuming excess caffeine, alcohol or processed foods), then your insulin hormone will be high and a chronic stress response takes place, accelerating the inflammatory processes.

Try adding protein to each meal to blunt the blood sugar response and choose lower GI/GL foods such as sweet potatoes, lentils and beans.

Adding fibre to meals not only contributes towards positive gut health, it can also help to make your bowel movements more regular, ensuring your gut isn’t holding an excess baggage. Prebiotics are especially good.

You can boost your fibre through foods like wholemeal grains or pectin from apples, Search for fibre on Superfied to see a list of high-fibre and prebiotic food options.

If, after trying these tips, you still feel that your weight is not shifting, it may be time to enlist professional health support to consider other contributing factors such as hormones, allergies and other underlying conditions. Remember, picking and choosing elements from a variety of diet plans may just undermine your hard work!

2. Control your stress levels

Exercise is not just important for a strong body, but for a strong mind also!

When we are stressed, we activate our sympathetic nervous system. If we stay chronically stressed, we divert blood supply from our digestive and sexual organs, potentially causing digestive problems and reduced libido – and stubborn weight around your belly!

Relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation, exercise and deep beathing, encourage our body back into a parasympathetic nervous system response and to better function physiologically.

Your body will then start to release some of the excess abdominal fat.  Some people, when stressed, tend to eat more. If you find you tend to over-eat when stressed, then remember Superfied’s ‘2 hands’ rule for portion control – a practical way of maintaining portion control.

Eat as much as you can fit into your cupped hands for each meal
3. Hydrate!

Water fuels your cells – and remember we have about 100 trillion of them and we’re all 70% water!

The more power they have to do the work, the better they perform, and the less waste you accumulate. So, hydrate, and not just with the ‘fun’ liquids like fizzy drinks, alcohol and caffeine (they can be counter-productive for water intake!). Aim for 6-8 glasses of filtered.

4. Address any food allergies or sensitivities

If you have a sensitivity to gluten, eating cheese or deadly nightshade vegetables (like potatoes, aubergines and tomatoes) every day can create an inflammatory response that builds up, get out of control and disrupt your metabolism.

Find your food sensitives and if in doubt, ask a registered dietician or nutritionist who will get to the bottom of any food allergies and then you can restore gut function by limiting their intake temporarily.

This is a simple, sensible and sustainable approach to weight loss 

5. Try out Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) is not for everyone (Blue body types may struggle – and it’s especially not diabetics), but IF can be very effective for shifting stubborn weight gain.

Aim to restrict your eating window to 12 hours for example, eating between 7am-7pm or even tighter. Your digestive system then has time to relax, recharge and process any food effectively.

For some people, IF give the body time and energy to repair, making it, not only good for weight loss, but for anti-aging and mental sharpness too!

Now, you may have heard of juice-fasts to lose weight. These can be great if done under professional supervision but are unsustainable if done for too long, leading to potential nutritional deficiencies. Best to check with an expert if you’re thinking of that.

As you already know, there are no magic bullets for weight loss – when you are healthy and balanced, you won’t be overweight. The key is to get into some good habits on a daily basis – Superfied will help with that but if it’s not shifting, there may be a good reason why and that’s the time to seek professional 1:1 advice. It’s an investment in you!

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Karen Preece Smith

Managing your hormones and health

Why are hormones important?

Hormones are chemical substances produced by glands across our body. These glands make up what’s known as our endocrine system.

Our endocrine system, nervous system and immune systems all work together and rely on each other to keep us healthy (i.e., in our natural balance). In this context, hormones play the role as messengers to regulate the biological process that keep us functioning optimally.

From a naturopathic perspective, our body always does what’s needed for us to perform at our best; it is a self-balancing machine! Our network of glands – and thereby hormones – play a critical role in that and, if one hormone is out of balance, then all are out of balance which means we are out of balance.

Where are our hormones?

You may be familiar with some hormones more than others but they all play a critical role in our body’s operations and are be found across our body. If you’re familiar with chakras, each of the major chakra centres map to each of the major endocrine glands.

The primary seat of each of the major glands that make up our endocrine system is as follows, from bottom to top:

  • Ovaries / Testes

    Produce oestrogen / progesterone and testosterone respectively and are known as the ‘sex hormones’

  • Pancreas

    Produces insulin which helps maintain our blood sugar levels

  • Adrenal glands

    Produce adrenalin and cortisol, critical in fight or flight situations and known as the ‘stress hormones’

  • Thymus

    Located near our heart and supports our immune system by producing white blood cells (T cells)

  • Thyroid

    Produces thyroxine which is essential for our metabolism (of energy)

  • Pituitary

    Located near the base of our brain; it’s the master gland, sending messages to all the other glands

  • Pineal

    Located in our brain and produces melatonin, important for sleeping in line with circadian cycles (also called ‘the third eye’)

Staying in your natural balanced state is good for your hormone health
How do hormones work?

The pituitary gland governs all of the other hormone glands in the endocrine system. It gets its instruction from something called the ‘hypothalamus’ which is a key part of our brain that maintains our homeostasis’ (i.e. natural biological balance). It continually checks what’s going on internally and externally and sends messages to the pituitary gland (via hormones) to take the appropriate action.

For example, our hypothalamus checks if are we too hot, too cold; feeling stressed or threatened etc. The pituitary gland then sends messages (hormones) to all the other glands.

Let’s take a common, practical example of how our hormones work; something we’re all familiar with…stress!

The hormone process of dealing with stress:
  1. The hypothalamus registers increased mental stress via our nervous system
  2. It sends a message to the pituitary gland
  3. The pituitary gland tells the adrenal glands (by releasing hormones) to produce adrenalin or cortisol for a ‘flight’ for ‘fight’ scenario respectively. Adrenalin is responsible for ‘fight or flight’ but If the stress continues then the body swaps to cortisol production to help us deal with continual stress
  4. The production of adrenalin or cortisol by the adrenal glands causes an insulin spike by telling the liver to release sugar that it has stored
  5. The insulin gives the body the energy to either fight or take flight by taking the sugar into the cells.

So as one hormone increases (i.e., moves beyond its regular level) it causes the others to do so too because when one part of our body takes the strain, the other parts have to compensate. 

What causes our hormones to go out of balance?

As you can see, hormones are critical to our wellbeing. The challenge is that hormone imbalances are relatively easy occurrences because they are very sensitive.

The stress example shows how easy it is for our whole endocrine system – and therefore our body – to get pushed out of its natural balance (optimal wellbeing). And believe it or not, the biggest trigger for a hormone imbalance is…stress!

A hormone imbalance is ultimately the result of a stress on/in the body, whether the stress is current or historic – and it doesn’t matter what that form of stress is (e.g. mental, physical, food allergy, inactive hereditary gene, nutrient deficiency etc).

Some body types (such as Blue body types) are naturally more susceptible to stress. Even with more resilient body types (like Green body types) continually overdoing things will eventually breach the body’s natural threshold, pushing the hormones out of balance. How that manifests is down to our inherent weaknesses, lifestyle, diet and environment; these factors determine what part of our system goes out of balance, by how much and for how long.

A HORMONE IMBALANCE IS ULTIMATELY THE RESULT OF A STRESS

Food choices plays a key role here; for example, dehydration will stress the body. While we may think of preventing that by drinking plenty of water, foods like tea and coffee are diuretics and so cause us to urinate more which can bring on dehydration.

Dehydration is a type of stress on our body and so, if you tend to drink more tea or coffee when you’re mentally stressed in order to power through it, you’re actually making things worse!

Another consideration of tea and coffee is that they are also stimulants (in the form of caffeine). This means they will also trigger the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, causing a release of glucose which, in turns, triggers the production of insulin which then opens the cells to allow the glucose to enter. Something to think about!

What are the signs of a hormone imbalance?

Whatever is causing the stress, it leads to increased cholesterol production, resulting in increased cortisol production. Cortisol is the most powerful anti-inflammatory we know but if not kept in check, this hormone builds up and triggers further biological responses (see below).

The disturbance to our natural hormone levels caused by stress can travel ‘up the endocrine system’ eventually affecting our thyroid function and metabolic health. Here are some of the escalating signs to look out for suggesting that our hormones are out of balance.

1. Ovaries/Testes: Fertility problems

A hormone imbalance usually first show itself in issues with reproductive health due to incorrect levels of oestrogen/progesterone/testosterone. Problems with conceiving are a major tell-tell sign and are becoming increasingly common.

2. Pancreas: Elevated blood sugar levels

As we have seen, stress causes our adrenals to produce more cortisol causing insulin spikes which, if a common occurrence over a number of years, will alter our natural blood sugar levels (eventually resulting in type 2 diabetes)

3. Adrenals: Burnout, digestive issues, high cholesterol

Ongoing stress cause the adrenals to keep firing until they eventually become fatigued (‘adrenal fatigue’ leading to ‘burnout’). Our natural instinct is to eat sugary food which won’t help!

This can be accompanied by poor digestion as the body de-prioritises the digestive function in order to deal with a perceived fight / flight situation (digestion is secondary to survival!)

High cholesterol may also be a tell-tale sign that your hormones are out of balance. Modern lifestyles tend to lead to elevated levels of stress which requires cortisol production to manage it; cholesterol is essential for producing cortisol. So, the more stressed we become the more cholesterol we produce in order to create more cortisol.

While we’re all now aware of having high cholesterol, it’s important to note that if our cholesterol it too low, our body will prioritise its production over other hormones. This will disrupt our overall hormonal health and general wellbeing as well as compromising our brain health (which requires an adequate level of cholesterol).

Green body types are strong enough to cope with multiple adrenal ‘asks’ but Blue body types will suffer adrenal fatigue and burn out much quicker.

4. Thymus: Compromised immune system

Overloading our adrenal glands and spiking insulin puts pressure on our thymus gland which causes our immune system to weaken; this is why we’re more likely to catch a cold (or covid!) when we’re stressed. This can also lead to increased allergies

5. Thyroid: Feeling overly hot/cold, hot flushes, weight gain/loss, insomnia, autoimmune disease, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto disease, aches and pains, feeling stiff in the morning, hair loss

Anyone with a naturally weak thyroid function (which can be hereditary) can react to ongoing stress with a thyroid imbalance. Because our thyroid governs metabolism and temperature regulation, this can result in us feeling either too hot (including hot flushes) or too cold. 

Thyroid issues tend to be more common in women and especially after giving birth or around menopause because those are both times of big hormonal changes. If previous underlying hormonal issues are present, even if having gone unnoticed, the effects can be especially pronounced.

A hormone imbalance in the thyroid leads to either an overactive or underactive thyroid, described as hypo-thyroid and hyper-thyroid respectively. Each carries its own issues and if the imbalance deepens, hyperthyroidism can lead to hypothyroidism although this can take years. Any thyroid symptom is best checked out professionally as soon as possible to prevent further health complications.

Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid because the body creates too much of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine. This results in the metabolism speeding up; increased heart rate, feeling hot. lack of sleep, weight loss, eye irritations

Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid because the body doesn’t create enough thyroxine. This results in the metabolism slowing down which can lead to slower heart rate, weight gain, feeling cold, sleeping more than you need, hair loss (including losing the outer ends of your eyebrows).

Graves’ disease is a form of hyperthyroidism where the immune system attacks the thyroid, causing inflammation there. Conversely, Hashimoto’s disease results in hypothyroidism due to the same issue of the immune system attacking the thyroid.

It is worth noting that gluten can inhibit thyroid hormone production and is common in people with an autoimmune disease which can be a result of an underlying thyroid issue.

So, to recap, a hormonal imbalance which isn’t addressed in the context of ongoing stress can escalate up the endocrine chain thereby pushing the body ever further out of it natural balance.

A HORMONAL IMBALANCE NOT ADDRESSED CAN ESCALATE UP THE ENDOCRINE CHAIN

Pills, patches and hormone function

Generally, women are more naturally in tune with their bodies and so are more sensitive to hormone imbalances. In addition, the menstrual cycle, childbirth and menopause are times of hormonal shifts.

As a result, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is most often a female consideration, although not exclusively, and is increasingly a choice for men with low testosterone. But what are the implications of HRT?

HRT replaces hormones that the body is low in and in most cases, this is oestrogen. When given HRT, the body responds by reducing and then stopping its own oestrogen production.

Heavy periods are often one of the issues that can lead to a course of action of either HRT or taking a contraceptive pill (which is sometimes used as an alternative to HRT).

However, it’s important to note that heavy periods are a sign that the body is actually moving out of balance and needs attention. They can result from a build-up of fibroids which in turn are a result of high oestrogen levels.

Periods perform a critical function in the body’s wellbeing because they allow the elimination of toxins. In cases where a hysterectomy results, taking periods out of the equation results in toxins building up in the body and places more pressure on the liver to detoxify. HRT and oestrogen based contraceptive pills actually increase oestrogen levels. This can lead to a downward spiral of health.

Know the full impact of painkillers on your mind and body

Painkiller Alert!

Probably the most common form of hormone disruption is through the use of painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen. These have been shown to interrupt the build-up of hormones.

The regular use of painkillers may seem like a no-brainer but they actually create a deeper issue in both the short and long term. A growing body of research underlines the health issues of strong pain killers (opioids), including infertility, anxiety, depression, muscle loss and long-term osteoporosis.

Self-care tips for balancing hormones

Hormones can largely be managed without medication with some simple steps based on the basic understanding outlined earlier.

Five steps for natural hormone management

1. Manage stress

As we have seen, stress in any form starts a hormonal shift which has a chain reaction to push the body out of balance. Tackling the cause has to be the first step and can be done naturally. Often, it’s just a case of taking time out when mental stress builds up.

2. Improve hydration

Stress has a diuretic effect on the body (causes water to leave the body), leading to dehydration. The first step is to reduce foods that encourage dehydration – like tea and coffee! They are both stimulants that we tend to reach for when stressed and in large quantities will actually increase stress.

The second step is to hydrate the body – that includes not just drinking more water but also more fruit and vegetables since they actually help the body absorb the water more efficiently.

3. Balance your blood sugar

As the body produces more insulin as a response to stress, it’s important to stabilise our blood sugar since we are not facing a real fight or flight scenario (and to avoid the sugar turning to fat). To do this, increasing our vegetable intake is key, especially leafy green vegetables. And we should support this with physical activity in line with your body type, helping cut stress and using up any excess sugar.

4. Try ‘Tapping’

Tapping is a kinesiology technique that has been shown to help restore our body’s natural balance. It’s especially beneficial for balancing the thymus which becomes suppressed with stress and supports our immune system.

Using your fingers, tap or gently thump (with a clenched hand) the centre of your upper chest, where your thymus gland is. Take a few deep breaths as you do that and this will correct the energy flow, giving your immune system a boost.

5. Increase Essential Fatty Acids

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) enable our endocrine system to work. EFAs are where Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 come from (although 7 & 9 are not essential). EFAs help reduce cortisol which helps prevent the chain reaction of hormone imbalance.

We primarily need Omega 3 and 6 for good hormone health; ideally, we should have four times more Omega 6 than Omega 3 in our diet. We can get this from nuts, seeds and vegetables for example. A lack of EFAs can lead to diabetes type 2 (EFAs and insulin have a symbiotic relationship and insulin prevents the breakdown of EFAs in our body)

A word on sleep, circadian rhythms and chakras:

Our endocrine glands work with light; sun exposure regulates our hormones; the most obvious example of the sunlight-hormone connection is the production of serotonin by the pineal gland to wake us up in the morning.

This is why going to sleep and waking up at the right time and working in harmony with nature’s circadian rhythms is key to our hormone health; when these rhythms are disrupted, so are our hormones. Nature gives us what we need, where we need it and how we need it!

Chakras are (light) energy centres and each of them directly corresponds to an endocrine gland. If you are familiar with them, balancing your chakras will also help balance your glands and therefore hormones levels.

Recommended foods for good hormone health

As mentioned, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) play a critical role in keeping the endocrine system healthy and Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 is a major contributor to that. Including these foods in your diet will help achieve that:

Good sources of Omega 3:

Oily fish*; oysters, seeds (esp, flaxseeds*), nuts (esp. walnuts), algae, soybeans

Good sources of Omega 6:

Nuts* and seeds*, vegetables/veg oils (esp. sunflower oil), evening primrose oil, borage oil, fish, eggs, meat, poultry

Good sources of Omega 7:

Sea buckthorn* berries, avocado, olives

Good sources of Omega 9:

Fish*, seeds, nuts, soybeans, Olives, olive oil, vegetable oils, nut oils,

* highest natural sources

If you are suffering from any of the health conditions mentioned here and these diet and self-care tips don’t address your health concerns, you should seek the advice of a qualified professional.

More information:
Lowering cortisol 
Fish oils and stress
EFAs and stress
EFAs and mental health
Light and the endocrine system,

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Mary Sharma

Find out more about the Superfied Way

Spot and manage long COVID

What is long COVID and could you have it?

You may have or have had long COVID and not even been aware of it so it’s good to know the signs to manage recovery from it. Equally if a friend or family member has long COVID, there are some simple steps they can take to speed their recovery.

The technical name for long COVID is ‘Post Viral Fatigue’ and as the name suggests, mental and/or physical fatigue is one of the biggest tell-tale signs of it.

Is there a known reason why post-viral fatigue occurs?

Post Viral Fatigue can occur for several reasons. These include previous viral load, previous environmental exposure, genetic predisposition (such as having the APOE4 gene variant) as well as behavioural tendencies. Past exposure to viral infections may make individuals vulnerable to a heightened probability of long COVID, prior to COVID-19 exposure.

Former exposure to environmental stressors, such as mould or heavy metals, may also diminish the body’s post-infection resilience. Clinically, Post Viral Fatigue often occurs in high-achieving, multi-tasking, ‘adrenal-type’ individuals, who may have carried a burden of low-level chronic stress for an extended period, thus putting extra demands on their immune system.

This could be any body type but these characteristics are particularly strong amoung Red-Blue and Blue-Red body types and Blue body types generally.

What are the symptoms of Post Viral Fatigue?

The symptoms of Post Viral Fatigue are varied and include persistent fatigue, diffuse myalgia, depressive symptoms, and non-restorative sleep.

In the case of long COVID specifically, persistent breathlessness, issues with memory-recall and a lingering loss of taste and smell can occur. Some people have also reported altered bowel habits, stomach pains and cramps and recurring brain fog.

The technical name for long COVID is ‘Post Viral Fatigue’ 

What are the best foods for chronic fatigue?  

Well, there are a number of natural foods that will help to build your energy and stamina back up.

Whilst a nutritional therapist can provide very tailored nutritional interventions, you can and should start with a nutrient-dense diet, built around anti-inflammatory and antioxidant principles.

Following an antioxidant-rich diet such as the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in oily fish, olive oil, a variety of vegetables and pulses, can be a great initial step to reduce neurological and systemic inflammation post infection.

Processed convenience foods can be pro-inflammatory so it is often best to keep to simple, unprocessed meals which will not exacerbate any post-viral inflammation. Including a diverse range of colourful antioxidant-rich vegetables is optimal for recovery.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, can help to produce the master antioxidant glutathione, so are a useful vegetable subset to include a serving of daily. Blue body types should steam these vegetables well and add spices to help their weaker digestive systems.

A blood sugar imbalance is often a contributing issue in regulating energy in chronic fatigue and research indicates that furin, (the enzyme which allows COVID-19 to enter into the cells) is associated with hypertension (and obesity) (1). Therefore, regulating any blood sugar instability also serves to reduce furin levels and may minimise post-viral fatigue in long COVID.

I recommend that complete protein sources (pulses and grains, lean meats, oily fish, nuts and seeds) are included in every meal and lower sugar fruits such as berries are prioritised over higher sugar alternatives.  

B vitamin and magnesium-rich foods, (such as dark green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, eggs, lean red meats, nuts and seeds) can help with energy production. Mushrooms, (containing beta-glucans), and bone broths can support the innate and adaptive immune response.

To support gut permeability issues, I often recommend a (temporary) gluten-free diet and offer support to the gut microbiota (which is typically imbalanced in chronic fatigue scenarios), through prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, live yoghurt, miso and kimchi where suitable.

B vitamin and magnesium-rich foods can help with energy production

Which supplements may be beneficial for long COVID? 

The following supplements may be beneficial for long COVID symptoms, but they be should be taken under expert supervision and not used as self-medication:

Vitamin D:

An essential vitamin to support our immunity and a natural inflammatory which many of us are deficient in during the Winter months with reduced sun exposure.

Quercetin:

Contains a rich supply of polyphenols, which have anti-viral properties and are helpful in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation of the respiratory tract.

Omega 3 (fish oil):

A natural anti-inflammatory and essential fatty acid which supports in reducing lung tissue inflammation.

Curcumin:

Found within the anti-inflammatory spice, turmeric, which helps to reduce inflammatory cytokines post infection.

Vitamin C:

With anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, this vitamin is well-researched for its protective role against pneumonia in clinical trials (at 2000mg daily dosage) (2).

Green Tea Extract:

Green tea extract contains a catechin, Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate, ECCG, which has known anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and immunomodulating effects in autoimmune conditions. It is proposed to improve blood-clotting impairment associated with sepsis and lung fibrosis. (3)

Zinc:

Contains anti-viral and antioxidant properties. Adequate zinc levels are important for returning to pre-infectious levels of taste and smell post COVID-19 (as deficiency is often associated with loss of taste and smell). Supplementing with zinc can also be helpful in clearing up diarrhoea.

Berberine:

Popular in Chinese medicine for its antimicrobial, anti-motility and anti-secretory properties, Berberine has been shown in clinical studies to clear up diarrhoea post COVID-19 and support the intestinal mucosal barrier. (4)

What complementary therapies might help with Long Covid?

A sense of continued anxiety can often exist post Covid-19 and in response to the ongoing pandemic. If you’re suffering from this, then vagal nerve stimulation (e.g., Sensate) can be very useful at restoring calm or using a heart rate tracker for improving heart rate variability (e.g., HeartMath).

I often recommend yogic breathing exercises to stimulate calming parasympathetic nervous system activity. Deep, slow breathing practices are also excellent for restoring respiratory ventilation capacity, which may be diminished post COVID-19 infection.

As you start to feel physically stronger, you can start incremental, restorative movement daily (walking or simple yoga stretches), are good for lymphatic drainage. Prioritising good sleep hygiene habits may help general rest and recovery, by encouraging a minimum of 8 hours of optimal sleep each night.

How long before you start feeling better from Long Covid?

Typically, I have seen it can take up to 12 weeks post COVID-19 to regain your sense of taste and smell fully. Recovery length is very much connected to the individual’s health and physiological biomarkers at the time of infection and so can vary greatly.

A full recovery is possible so if you are struggling to recover a nutritional therapist may be of help.

References:

  1. Chee Y, Tan S, Yeoh E, Chee Y, Tan S and Yeoh E (2020) Dissecting the interaction between COVID19 and diabetes mellitus, Journal of Diabetes Investigation. 11(5) pp. 1104-1114.
  2. Holford P, Carr A, Jovic T , Ali S , Whitaker I , Marik P and Smith D (7th December, 2020) Review: Vitamin C – an Adjunctive Therapy for Respiratory Infection, Sepsis and COVID-19 Nutrients12(12): 3760
  3. Menegazzi, M, Campagnari, R, Bertoldi, M, Crupi, R, Di Paola, R and Cuzzocrea, S, (July, 2020). Protective Effect of Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate (EGCG) in Diseases with Uncontrolled Immune Activation: Could Such a Scenario Be Helpful to Counteract COVID-19? International Journal of Molecular Science. 21(14): 5171
  4. Zhang, B. et al. (2020) Berberine reduces circulating inflammatory mediators in patients with severe COVID-19, British Journal of Surgery. 108(1), pp. e9-e11.

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Karen Preece Smith

Find our more about the Superfied Way

Dealing with allergies

What is an allergy?

Allergies are commonplace in our modern lifestyles and the severity can range from a mild reaction all the way to a fatal outcome. At least 1 in 4 of us will have an allergy at some point in our life but that statistic is on the rise.

Allergies are historically more common in childhood and can disappear as children get older, but adults can also react to something with which they weren’t previously allergic to. A good example of that is a food allergy or hay fever.

So, what exactly is an allergy? Well, it’s an adverse (incorrect) reaction to something we have come into contact with which is ordinarily harmless. The offending item that caused an allergic reaction is called an allergen.

What are the most common allergies?

The most common form of an allergy tends to be:

  • Food – triggered by either a specific food or groups of food (as in the case of Coeliac disease)
  • Hay Fever (allergic rhinitis) – triggered by grass or pollen
  • Dust – triggered by dust mites
  • Pet hair – triggered by tiny flakes of skin in pet hair or fur
  • Insect bites
Why do people get an allergy?

Now we’ve all experienced an allergy either directly or through a friend or family member and it’s not pleasant.

The reaction is just the tip of the iceberg – it’s the visible manifestation of a more-involved process. By understanding what this process is, we can be better equipped to manage an allergy. It all starts with our immune system…

A quick overview of the immune system

We can consider our immune system as made up of two parts:

Innate immune system: This is what we’re born with (it’s based on our parents’ immunity and environmental factors at the time)

Acquired immune system: This is what we develop as we age through the creation of antibodies which are a response to threats to our normal biological operation

The two parts of our immune system work together to keep our defences strong. The two parts keep themselves in balance through proteins called ‘cytokines’ that are released by our immune cells, such as T-cells.

Our body decides which part of our immune system is best placed to deal with a threat to our health. If one side takes the lead, the other drops back in dealing with that threat.  As we can see then, the healthy functioning of our cells is critical to a healthy immune system.

Our constitution (body type) plays a major role in how strong our immune system is – some of us naturally have a stronger immune system than others.

The key to having the best possible immunity for our body type is keeping our body in its natural balance. When this isn’t the case and we move out of balance, then our immunity can drop.

Our constitution and lifestyle mean some of us have a lower defence level than others – so it takes less for us to tip out of balance which increases the chances of getting allergies.

1 in 4 of us will suffer from an allergy at some point in our life

What causes an allergy?

The biggest disruptor to normal functioning of our cells is…stress!

Whether the source of stress is mental or physical, the result is a breakdown in normal operations at a cellular level involving cytokines. This lowers immunity.

Our body will react to stress in distinct ways depending on the scale of it and our natural constitution.

If we know what to look for in terms of its response, it can help us stay well, including avoiding or minimising the impact of allergies. So, let’s look at how stress affects allergies specifically.

How does stress lead to allergies?

Stress impacts our digestive system which in turn impacts our immune system (70% of our immune cells are created in our gut). This impacts our ability to deal with allergens.

Stress causes our adrenals to work harder. They produce adrenaline to deal with the stress and the longer that goes on for, the more fatigued they become, slowing down our response to managing threats.

The process of stress pushes our body out of balance and our body is always working to rebalance itself – it will always give us the absolute best it can, even if that looks like it’s not doing you any favours at the time!

The three stages of stress on our body

There are three phases of how the body responds to stress:

  • Phase 1 – Reaction
    body produces adrenaline to power through the situation
  • Phase 2 – Adaption
    body continues to produce adrenaline to manage the ongoing situation
  • Phase 3 – Exhaustion
    adrenal fatigue sets in causing the body to be more susceptible to allergies due to the weakened adrenal response

Generally, the adrenal glands will stop allergic reactions. This is why adrenaline is given for an acute allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, and why those at risk of anaphylactic shock (from eating peanuts for example) carry an EpiPen around with them.

To a much lesser degree, the lack of adrenal support also contributes to milder allergies such as Hayfever and allergies to pet fur.

A food allergy is an example of the body adapting to stress. An intolerance to a specific food can result in an initial (mild) reaction which you may not notice or connect to a food item. Although this has stressed your body, your body will learn to adapt to that food – but this will slowly push it out of balance, increasingly depleting your energy.

Since stress is a trigger for allergies and our adrenals are responsible for managing stress, the health of our adrenals is important for managing allergies. If you’re continually stressed, you may be suffering from burnout and your adrenals could be overworked as a result.

The relationship between stress and allergies

Stress triggers adrenaline which results in more cortisol being produced (the stress hormone). This affects our cellular electrolyte balance, which in turn increases our blood sugar level (for more energy) and dehydrates us. Dehydration causes a number of health issues including allergic responses.

Mental or physical stress increases the chances of an allergy

From stress to allergy in 10 steps
  1. Stress results in our body producing more cortisol and in doing so changes our cellular status quo
  2. Potassium and magnesium levels (inside the cell) become depleted resulting in our cells holding on to more sodium and calcium (which are generally kept predominantly outside the cell)
  3. This cell mineral imbalance results in a drop in our blood sugar level
  4. Stress is a diuretic, and so water is lost from the body, together with potassium and magnesium. This leads to dehydration and increased acidity in the body
  5. Our body realises its dehydrated and, to correct the cellular imbalance, it takes water from wherever it can afford. This might be the bowel (leading to constipation), muscles (aches and pains) or digestive tract (heartburn) depending on our natural weak spots (determined by our body type). The neurotransmitter which regulates water balance in the body is histamine. Therefore, a loss of water from stress will lead to increased levels of histamine as the body tries to compensate.
  6. The falling blood sugar level resulting from the electrolyte imbalances trigger a craving for sweet foods, caffeine etc and makes the body more acidic
  7. This creates an environment for bad bacteria to breed in our gut, leading to a toxin build up which creates more work for the organs that are designed to eliminate toxins – like our liver, kidneys, lungs, colon and skin
  8. If our body is not as healthy as it should be, stress can cause ‘leaky gut’. This results in toxins getting into our bloodstream faster, requiring more effort from our body to get rid of them. This extra burden further lowers our immunity
  9. The more dehydrated we become, the more histamine our body produces
  10.  The more histamine we produce, the bigger our allergic response
What are the symptoms of an allergy?

You may have experienced some or all of the symptoms of an allergy, but you may not have connected the dots to other health conditions which can actually be a consequence of an ongoing allergy (immunity) problem.

The immediate signs of an allergy tend to fall into these camps:

  • Respiratory issues – sneezing, wheezing, breathing difficulties
  • Skin and eye complaints – itching, weeping skin, water eyes
  • Swelling – eyes, lips, tongue, face
  • Digestion problems – upset stomach, constipation
  • Shock – a severe allergic reaction can result in anaphylactic shock which can be life-threatening

The knock-on effects of an allergy to look out for are:

  • Weakness – fatigue, exhaustion
  • Aches and pains (due to dehydration)
  • Heartburn (due to dehydration)
  • Candida (due to increased acidity in the gut)
Can multiple allergies be connected?

The short answer is yes!

The greater the burden on our body (i.e., stress), and/or the poorer our digestive system, the lower our immunity and so the lower our tolerance threshold for allergens. The longer that goes on, the more things we become vulnerable to.

So, if you’ve suffered from an allergy and you haven’t manged your stress levels, or diet and lifestyle, the chances are you will develop more than one allergy.

Given that our elimination organs (liver, kidneys, lungs, colon and skin) play such a big part in allergies, if they’re not functioning properly, our ability to deal with allergens will be compromised.

A healthy liver is especially important here and is a common factor in having multiple allergies. That becomes a challenge because our modern lifestyle habits aren’t the best support for our liver!

What role does medication play in treating allergies?

Prescription or over-the-counter medication is plentiful and can help reduce allergy symptoms, but they are a temporary solution.

For example, antihistamine medication for hay fever may reduce your symptoms but they’re masking an underlying problem which can increase if left unchecked.

Allergy symptoms are actually your body telling you it’s out of balance and needs help. Relying on medications as a temporary fix ignores the underlying condition and can actually make the situation worse.

Steroids for example (whether topical or oral) push the toxins that your body is trying to eliminate back in! It’s like having rotting food in your kitchen and applying fly spray to keep the flies at bay!

Self-care tips for managing allergies

  1. Make lifestyle changes
    Stress is a major contributing factor to allergies so it’s vital to get a better work/life balance. Your immunity depends on it! And don’t forget that physical stress is still a form of stress – so if you are over-exercising and have a weak constitution, that can also be a factor

  2. Improve your digestion
    Our brain and gut is connected so our digestion can easily be a victim of stress. Keep your digestion strong with a diet suited to your body type and needs. As a rule of thumb, less processed foods and more veg (especially bitter leafy greens) is key. Remember bitter tasting foods are a great support for your liver

  3. Stay hydrated
    Dehydration sets off a chain reaction that results in impaired biological functions that pushes us out of our natural balance. The solution is simple – increase your water intake, especially when you’re stressed BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean drinking more water. Studies show that water can be better absorbed through water-rich foods like many fruits and vegetables than drinking it alone

  4. Drink less tea and coffee
    When we get stressed, we tend to reach for a cuppa, especially if we’re feeling exhausted! Both coffee and tea are stimulants, causing our adrenals to produce cortisol. Because they are diuretics (i.e. make us wee), they can actually dehydrate us and encourage more histamine production – meaning bigger allergic reactions!

  5. Identifying and removing any food triggers
    Common food triggers include wheat, potatoes, eggs, nuts, soya, shellfish and anything that contains gluten. You may have an intolerance to one or more of these items so it’s good to test each one. You can download and use the food sensitivity chart here
Important foods to minimise allergies

Being smart with a healthy diet is critical when you suffer from an allergy, even if it’s not a food related allergy. Eating to maintain your body’s natural balance is your best bet and to do this, the first step is to eat for your specific body type

If you don’t know what your body type is, you can either take the Superfied body type assessment or eat a diverse range of natural foods (of all colours and groups) as a general insurance policy.

Foods that contain all of the B vitamins but in particular, vitamins B5, B9 and B12 are especially useful for helping manage allergies. These include food like meats and fish and grains.  

Vitamin B12 and folic acid (vitamin B9) are especially useful in a biochemical process that supports a number of functions in our body including liver function, histamine metabolism and energy production, all of which help manage allergies. Vitamin B5 is particularly helpful for good adrenal function.

Eating foods which contain naturally occurring antihistamine are also beneficial. These include foods with high levels of vitamin C (such as citrus fruits, berries and peppers), quercetin (such as onions), or bromelain (such as pineapples).

As you can see, there’s more to allergies than meets the eye. If your allergy issues persist despite taking these steps or if you have long-standing allergy issues that are getting worse as you get older, you may benefit from speaking with a qualified expert to help you eleminate the root cause of the issue, professional food sensitivity testing may also be helpful as part of that.

More information:
NHS allergy information 
Allergy UK
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Mary Sharma

Find out more about the Superfied Way

What are prebiotics?

I know about Probiotics, but what are prebiotics?”

Taking a course of probiotics after an illness treated by antibiotics has been a health hack for those in-the-know for some time.

Our modern urban lifestyles, processed foods, antibiotics, antacids, excess alcohol and stress can all impact the delicate balance of our gut bacteria and so taking a probiotic supplement on occasion can be a useful way of righting wrongs!

What are Prebiotics? 

Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut. Probiotics go some way to ensuring positive commensal gut bacteria in the first place and prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria to keep them there!

Are they essential to health?

Prebiotics help gut bacteria produce nutrients for your colon cells and lead to a healthier digestive system. One of the nutrients produced as a by-product of prebiotics is n-butryrate, a short-chain fatty acid that is responsible for carbohydrate metabolism; along with acetate and propionate, which contribute towards the health of the intestines. These fatty acids can also be absorbed into the bloodstream and improve metabolic health.

Prebiotics help gut bacteria produce nutrients to keep your gut healthy

As a nutritional therapist, I frequently run a functional CDSA (Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis) stool test with clients to see the exact bacteria in their gut, any imbalances of the gut bacteria (known as dysbiosis) which may lead to bloating and/or digestive complaints, or if parasites or infectious agents are present.

Based on these stool tests, I then make bespoke nutrition suggestions to clients to optimise their digestion and gut bacteria balance.

Did you know our gut bacteria and microbiome have the capacity to change in just 3-5 days!

Four commonly used prebiotics

Here are some prebiotic foods I sometimes recommend in my clinic:

  1. Chicory Root

Chicory root is popular for its coffee-like flavour and antioxidant properties. I

t’s also a great source of prebiotics. Around 47% of chicory root fibre comes from the prebiotic fibre, inulin, which nourishes the gut bacteria, improves digestion and helps relieve constipation. It can also help increase bile production, which improves fat digestion

  1. Jerusalem Artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke, also known as the “earth apple,” has great health benefits. It provides about 2 grams of dietary fibre per 100 grams, 76% of which comes from inulin.

They are high in thiamine and potassium which help the nervous system and muscular strength as well as facilitating transporting the energy from food into each cell.

Jerusalem artichokes may help strengthen the immune system and prevent certain metabolic disorders.

  1. Garlic
    Garlic is a tasty herb, full of antioxidants and praised for its anti-microbial properties. About 11% of garlic’s fibre content comes from inulin and 6% from a sweet, naturally occurring prebiotic called fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

Garlic acts as a prebiotic by promoting the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut. It also prevents disease-promoting bacteria from growing.00:01

  1. Asparagus

Asparagus is a popular vegetable, thought by many to have aphrodisiac qualities and it is another great source of prebiotics.

The inulin content maybe around 2-3 grams per 100-gram serving. This serving also contains around 2g of protein.

Asparagus has been shown to promote friendly bacteria in the gut and to have anti-inflammatory properties.

To find a prebiotic you like from one of thirty prebiotic foods, search ‘Prebiotics’ in the Superfied search bar on the Resources page

To find the prebiotics right for your needs right now search in your Superfied Spac

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Karen Preece Smith

To find a prebiotic you like from one of thirty prebiotic foods, search ‘prebiotics’ in the Superfied search bar 

 

Tackle stress by eating better

The stress connection

I think we can safely say 2020 has raised our stress levels! But did you know that chronic stress can adversely affect many of our body’s normal functions, including:

Now more than ever it is key to take care of ourselves, our bodies and our minds.

And sure, everyone will have their own way to cope and relax, from running in nature to watching Netflix, to taking a bath, calling family and friends or cooking and much more.  You should do whatever works for you. We are all different, aren’t we? There is no right or wrong.

Though, there is one thing that we all have to do at some point during these days – eat!

So how about starting to put on our table some foods that can help us support our stress response?

Eating for stress management

If you are wondering how making healthier choices when preparing your meals could help you deal with stress, just remember that 70% of your immune system is in your gut and that your gut is connected to your brain via the vagus nerve (sort of a bi-directional highway).

The gut barrier also ensures (amongst other functions) that toxins, undigested food particles and harmful bacteria may trespass into the bloodstream.

So you can see why starting from what you put in your gut may be a pretty sensible place to start. So what should we eat?

Well, I could start talking about expensive superfoods with weird exotic names but actually there is no need for that at all. Simple, affordable foods that you can find in your supermarket are what we will focus on.

The key concept when eating to support your gut function is that we want as many diverse foods and colours as possible, as these will provide us with different vitamins, minerals and fibre; nutrients that can help us increase the type and amount of bacteria within our gut microbiome.

Different bacteria will have different functions from vitamin production to binding and excreting toxins and more…The main thing is to have a higher number of beneficial bacteria in our gut than harmful ones.

Simple, affordable foods will help you manage stress

Six tips for eating to beat stress

  1. Dial-up your fruit and veg intake
    Aim for 10 fruit and vegetables per day (8 vegetables and 2 fruits), but should you find that too overwhelming start with 5-7 fruit and vegetables per day (2 fruits and 5 veggies).

    If you find that’s also too much for you don’t worry, just start where you can. And make sure to start low and go slow, especially as we want your body to adjust to the increasing amount of fibre which otherwise may cause bloating in some individuals.

  2. The more colourful your plate the better!
    Do not always eat the same veggies and fruits, experiment!

  3. Make half of your plate non-starchy veggies
    Eat foods such as peppers, cucumbers, salad leaves, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes…

  4. Try some prebiotic foods
    These are foods that when broken down in your body, will feed beneficial bacteria. Think bananas, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, chicory. Please, once again, if you have never eaten much of these START LOW AND GO SLOW, let your body adjust slowly.

  5. Increase your fibre intake
    Fibre is not absorbed but can help motility and also provides short-chain fatty acids, compounds which provide energy fuel for your gut wall. Good sources of fibre include brown rice, lentils, chickpea, beans, oats, barley, rye, nuts, seeds, potatoes with the skin on, vegetables, fruits.

  6. Hydrate!
    Ensuring you drink a good amount of water daily can support bowel movements, softening your stools. Good motility is key, as it helps our body excrete toxins and unwanted waste. Everyone needs a different amount of water daily based on age, activity levels etc.

    Your best bet is to keep checking the colour of your urine and making sure it is always pale yellow. If you see it starts getting darker, make sure to drink up! Keep a bottle on your desk or set reminders on your phone to drink every hour. And remember that herbal teas count too!
Certain nutrients get used up quickly by your body when you’re stressed
Replenish lost nutrients

In addition to your gut, please remember that your hormone cortisol (your stress hormone) is produced by the adrenal glands and when you are under chronic stress, nutrients that support adrenal function can become depleted, so it can be a good idea to ensure the food you eat is rich in them. Which nutrients am I talking about?

Stress-supporting minerals:
  • Magnesium: swiss chard, spinach, kelp, beetroot, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, halibut, nuts and seeds.
  • Zinc: Venison, pork, beef, lamb, poultry, crab, seeds, sea vegetables, whole grains
  • Selenium: brazil nuts, meat, poultry, fish and whole grains
Adrenal supporting vitamins:
  • Vitamin C: bell peppers, broccoli, salad greens, fresh fruits especially strawberries and citrus fruits.
  • B Vitamins: beef, poultry, lamb, fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains      
Essential fatty acids:

Increase your intake of these because they are not produced by your body and need to be taken in from the diet. They are a critical part of cells membranes in your body and in these membranes sit the receptors for adrenal hormones amongst others.

Foods rich in these nutrients: SMASH

Oily fish, think of the acronym SMASH (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring) just as a rough guide. Nuts, seeds and their oils can also be used.

Keep an eye on your blood sugar level

Lastly, think about endogenous stress (stress created within your body).

Upset blood sugar levels can promote cortisol production from the adrenals so you want to make sure that your meals and snack support blood sugar balance instead of making it peak and the crash and burn.

The easiest tip is to make sure that all meals and snacks include a source of protein such as meat, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes. You see, protein is broken down slower in the body, which will help blood sugar levels last longer supporting energy, mood, cognition and stress response.

And adding cinnamon to your meals is also a great idea, as this spice can also support your blood sugar balance.

Examples of blood sugar supporting meals:
  • Morning: omelette with spinach spring onions and parsley, or porridge with cinnamon and nut butter
  • Snack: veggies sticks with hummus or babaganush
  • Lunch: salmon with steamed spring greens and roasted asparagus
  • Snack: a handful of nuts
  • Dinner: lentils, aubergine and butternut squash stew
Food for thought

Hopefully, this blog will inspire a few ideas for your next shopping trip.

And please do remember that nutrition is a key part of optimising your health and supporting your stress response but exercise, sleep and spending time talking with your loved ones are just as important. Everything works in synergy, there is no magic pill.

You just need to find the right combination that works for you.

For a deep, deep dive, an expert’s reference for cooking to beat stress (and other ailments) is The Functional Nutrition Cookbook, by Lorraine Nicolle and Christine Bailey, 2013

If you are suffering from chronic stress and want help with dealing with it through diet, contact a qualified nutritional therapist.

This self-care health hack is from Superfied nutritional therapy expert, Valentina Cartago

Search the Superfied food database for a full list of different nutrients in everyday food here

Find out more about the Superfied Way

Ways to deal with bloating and IBS

Ever get that feeling that your clothes are getting tighter from one day to the next? That bloated feeling that comes and goes and makes your life difficult. Well it’s a pretty common problem in today’s lifestyle. For those that have done the Body Type test, Blue body types are especially susceptible to this problem.

Sometimes, it may be just your belly not playing nicely but other times it can be joined by other unwanted friends like belching, excessive wind and even nausea. All these are symptoms of trouble arising from your food processing factory that we know as ‘digestion’.

Bloating is commonplace in modern lifesytles

The food you’re eating isn’t getting digested properly – the process is taking longer than it should so instead of that food being digested, nutrients assimilated and waste eliminated efficiently, food items are hanging around too long in your gut (some more than others). These then start to putrefy and ferment and so those unwanted symptoms start to appear.

if you improve your digestion, you will manage your bloat

So, if you can improve your digestion, you’ll be able to manage your bloat and everything that comes with it. And what you eat and how you eat it can make a big difference to that.

A check list for managing bloating


Symptoms

These are your body’s warning lights to tell you to take some action:
• Bloating
• Belching
• Excessive wind
• Nausea
• Tiredness
• Poor concentration
• Low appetite

Causes:
Here are 10 common causes, both physiological and psychological:
1. Poor eating habits (such hurried eating and not chewing food enough)
2. Food sensitivity
3. Low levels of stomach acid (resulting in weak digestion)
4. Incompatible food combinations
5. Imbalance in gut flora
6. Interface between gastric and other hormonal systems
7. Sedentary lifestyle (whether it’s a habit or enforced)
8. Being stressed
9. Being in a bad mood
10. Compromised function of organs (maybe resulting from trauma, injury or surgery)

Irritants:
When you’re in a state of distress, there critters will not help your cause!
• Sugary foods
• Stimulants like alcohol or coffee
• Excessively sweet fruits (such as many tropical fruits)
• Fatty, processed foods (particularly fatty fried foods like donuts or fried chicken)
• (Dairy – for some people)
• (wheat / gluten – for some people)
• Ice-cold drinks or foods

Helpers:
Your food first aid kit should consist of these guys:
• Fermented foods (like live yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and pickles)
• Garlic (if there’s not a sensitivity to sulphur)
• Ginger (for some people who generally feel cold)
• Papaya and pineapples (they contain enzymes that support digestion and are )
• Flaxseed/Linseed infusion (boil a tablespoon of seeds in two mugs of water for 3-4 mins until it becomes gluey and drink it before meals)
• High fiber foods (if you also have constipation)
• Warm water!

Gut aid

Generally speaking, while fermented foods improve our gut flora by helping redress the microbe balance in our gut (the ‘gut microbiome’) by populating it with more of the good guys, processed foods do the complete opposite. Also, remember that getting into the habit of mindful eating – being calm, collected and distraction-free – is a big helper when you’re struggling with digestion.

Sometimes life’s not as simple as that and certain foods can trigger reactions that we’re familiar with and that’s our body telling us it doesn’t need or want a specific food. In that situation, it’s good to know the culprit(s) through a process of elimination. This is something you can do yourself using a set of simple guidelines or you can ask a nutritional therapist.

Just remember that if you’re getting the bloat, it’s what you’ve eaten and/or how you’ve eaten it that got you into this mess and what/how you eat will get you out of it. If it doesn’t it could indicate a more chronic underlying condition for which it’s worth reaching out to an expert like a registered nutritional therapist

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritional therapist Beata Rachowiecka

To find out more, read our ‘Rethink your wellbeing’ guide

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