Q&A WITH JARROD TUCKER FITNESS

I am beyond exited to share this interview I had with Jarrod Tucker. Jarrod is a fitness instructor, Zumba presenter, Strong by Zumba master trainer and the owner of Energize Studios running multiple exercise classes throughout the week. I personally have been attending his Strong by Zumba classes weekly for about 1 year now and it is by far my favourite way to move, its fast paced and varied and, with Jarrod leading the workout, you’ll push yourself harder and achieve far more than you thought was possible. His energy is contagious, his passion is obvious and his own personal health and fitness journey is one to inspire and transform. I know you’re going to get so much out of this interview, and I highly encourage any and all of you to check out one of his classes here in Newcastle – you are more than welcome to join me for Strong by Zumba each Monday and Wednesday evening.

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Q: Tell us what you do?

A: What I do is two-fold, I am very fortunate to be the Australia/New Zealand Master Trainer for the Strong By Zumba program which is a High-Intensity Interval Training and Muscle Conditioning program synced to music and also a Zumba Education Specialist and trainer for the original Zumba Dance-Fitness programs. 

Q: What does this involve?

A: Basically my job is to travel Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world and train instructors in how to teach these programs so they can run classes their own classes in gyms, community halls etc

 The second part of what I do is teaching regular group fitness classes every single week at my fitness studio, Energize Studios. I along with other members of our team deliver many group fitness classes each week in a variety of programs, styles and fitness levels to help inspire people to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Q: How did it all begin?

A: Strangely enough, my real journey through fitness and teaching began when a job I was at closed down and I was forced to fall back on skills I had which happened to be singing. So, with a few week’s notice I raced around to find out what venues I could hire and spoke to friends I had in the industry and I opened a dance and talent school. 

During that first year back in 2010, Zumba Fitness came to Australia and everyone was running classes. So I thought “we have to have this as well to stay relevant”. A dance teacher and I went to the training to become instructors (I was intending to be the backup) and when it came to crunch time, I ended up being the one who had to teach the classes. It turned out to be something I loved, and it helped me with my own fitness cause I enjoyed it (I was 110KG when I started. It also led me down the path of wanting to teach, help and inspire people with their health and fitness. 

Q: What does health and wellness mean to you?

A: Health and wellness is more than just about weight loss and looking good etc, although it often starts that way with many of us.

“I realized very quickly how important leading a healthy lifestyle was to my mobility, joint pain, energy, motivation, drive and also confidence. It really does help to remove limitations people place on themselves. Health and wellness is about being able to live your life feeling good and loving it on your own terms for as long as you are able to”.

Q: How do you have so much energy?

A: from the very beginning of my fitness journey I gave 100% to everything I did and even when I got tired I told myself “suck it up, you can do this”. So, my body has learned to adapt and operate at a high level.

Of course, you can’t do this without the right fuel and what you put in your mouth makes a huge difference to your energy levels. This doesn’t mean dieting always, or depriving yourself, but making smart choices about what you want from your health and your life.

Q: What is your number 1 tip for balancing everything?

A: Make time to enjoy your life. It’s so easy to get caught up in this cycle of training/crazy eating and chasing unrealistic goals. Make time to train, time to work, time to chase your dreams BUT don’t forget to make time for what you love to do and what helps you relax unwind and be yourself. 

Q: You’ve had an amazing fitness journey what do you credit to your success?

A: Two things mainly: find physical activities that you love and make you feel good so they become a want instead of a need, and always remember to continually push the boundaries of what you think you can do. The human body is capable of so much and there is little stopping you, except for you. 

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A photo of Jarrod himself from 10 years ago (2009)

 

Q Who inspires you the most?

A: In all honesty I am most inspired by the people I teach and train. I don’t follow a lot of celebrities or social media rubbish, but I am inspired when I have people in my classes or trainings that want it, and I see them continually strive for more. When I see those people achieve what they set out to do and continually improve it really drives me.

Q: What tips do you have for people starting a fitness journey?

A: A few simple points to remember: 

  • Start by finding an activity that appeals to you

  • At the beginning just try and make the chosen activities part of your regular routine so you don’t have to think about doing them instead of stressing about going hard and getting a huge workout

  • When you feel you can give more, give it

  • Make some positive changes to your eating habits 

Where can people find you if they want to connect?

You can follow me and/or connect with me on Instagram or Facebook.

If you would love to come and try a class you can see our full timetable here or stay up to date on Facebook.

If you would like to become a Zumba Instructor you can find training online here.

If you would like to become a Strong By Zumba Instructor and teach an awesome new high intensity program you can find a training online here.

 I hope you found some inspiration and encouragement from my latest interview. Check out a class near you and get in touch if you have any questions for myself or Jarrod about health, wellness, weightloss and fitness.

Yours in Health,

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THE KETOGENIC DIET

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med)

Please note this is not to be taken as health advice or used to treat and health condition. If you want to know more about how this information can be applied to you, please seek advice from your health care provider.

Both Personally and professionally I believe that being in a state of ketosis is beneficial for human health. However, I don’t agree that it is something to be sustained long term and I certainly don’t agree that being in ketosis is our default nutritional state. When we look back through history at traditional cultures and diets, how we ate was influenced largely by our environment, the seasons and the produce we had available. There would be periods of feasting and famine, times of increased and decreased carbohydrate sources from the varying local plant foods they had access too, something that we have lost in our modern times. Now we are in a constant ‘fed state’, rarely experiencing deprivation of caloric energy, but for many consuming a SAD diet (Standard Australian Diet) or heavily processed diet would be lacking essential nutrients.

Photo Cred:  Jordann Wood

Photo Cred: Jordann Wood

What is Ketosis

Ketosis is a physiological state, it’s something that naturally occurs in a state of fasting or starvation, or when there is limited carbohydrates (that are broken down to glucose) and glycogen (stored glucose) is depleted through movement. The end goal is to enter a state of ketosis, this occurs when our metabolism switches from burning glucose to burning ketones for fuel. In order to produce ketones, the diet must be carefully managed so that more fat is being consumed and carbohydrates are limited with moderate protein.

The ketogenic diet is a term used to describe a low carbohydrate and high-fat diet, this is to support and maintain this state of ketosis that can be difficult to maintain. There’s no one size fits all approach to this, due to our biochemical diversity some may maintain this ketogenic state far easier and be able to consume higher amounts of carbohydrates than the next.

Where most fall short in this is, they consume too many carbohydrates without realising. This can be through different milk products, like almond milk and soy milk, yogurts, cacao powder or chocolate and even nuts and seeds. Others may not track appropriately and simply not eat enough fat in their diet. Choosing the right fats is also important, more on this later.

So, What Are My Thoughts on Ketosis?

I think it’s great when done appropriately. A standard ‘keto diet’ is heavily focused on meats and dairy products like cream and cheese, which I don’t agree with. We need minerals, we need polyphenols as these are great for our health and there are many great high-fat plant foods that can be included in the mix.

I personally cycle in and out of ketosis quite easily. I practice of time restricted feeding, ensuring that I eat within a 10-hour window or less but not reducing my food quantity, I combine this with fasting intermittently for 16-20 hours only a few days out of the week, combined with a low carbohydrate, high fat diet allows me to remain in a state of ketosis. I’ll do this for 2-3 weeks at a time, no more. This feels good for me, its balanced and it gets me the benefits of being in ketosis short term. But this would not apply to everyone as we are all so wonderfully unique.

What Can Go Wrong

A true ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fat, however its paramount that protein is moderate and at the right amounts for you. There are certain amino acids broken down from the protein we eat that are able to be used as glucose via a process known as gluconeogenesis. For women, in the long term low carb diets or restrictive dieting can influence female sex hormones and have negative outcomes on female fertility, our menstrual cycles, mental health, sleep and more. As women we have a beautifully complex and perfectly designed system which relies on our intricate hormonal dance, something we don’t want to disrupt with extreme dietary approaches.

Another occurrence with many low carb dieters is the demonisation of all carbohydrates that can take place, so its important to remind you all of the vast difference between carbohydrates found in refined flours and sugar or those that are from whole-food sources like potatoes and other starchy vegetables and whole fruit. Eating too many refined carbohydrates can have damaging effects on metabolic markers and blood sugar levels however I have not come across any research to show that eating carbohydrates from whole-foods leads to metabolic dysfunctions or conditions like diabetes.

I am mindful of the change to our microbiome that occurs with the restriction of carbohydrates. The bacteria within our gut feeds off of fibre from the diet, fibre is found in carbohydrate containing foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and beans. A ketogenic diet restricts many of these food groups and as a result the bacteria starve. It’s important to ensure you’re consuming non-digestable fermentable fibres like resistant starch that don’t contribute to our carbohydrate load. I always advise you work with a health professional on this to ensure your diet is appropriate.

What Can Go Right

The application of a ketogenic diet has been shown to have therapeutic effects for many health conditions, however this does not mean that it is to be applied to everyone. We know from research that conditions like epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, PCOS, Parkinsons and Alzheirmers Disease may benefit from the application of a ketogenic diet as well as to support weight loss in some people groups, like menopause (working with a health professional, of course). There is no one-size-fits-all approach to diet.

Another known benefit of ketosis is that fasting mimicking effects it has within the body. This triggers autophagy a process of cell cleaning, removing old cells and repairing damaged ones. This can have benefits on our immune system, brain function, skin health, energy, inflammation levels and more.

I see many people benefit greatly from this style of eating, but many also don’t. We are so beautifully and wonderfully unique and this should be celebrated. I have seen differences between different body types that can help indicate whether a low carb approach is right for you, but please always consult with your health practitioner before radically changing your diet.

Some Food for Thought

When thinking about trying a low carb or ketogenic diet ensure that you’re still getting a wide variety of plant foods, this is still possible to do so while maintaining your ketogenic state.

  • Make it primarily plant-based. Eat plenty of low carb vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and spinach.

  • If choosing to eat meat, opt for quality meat products like grass-fed organic beef, pasture raised hens, wild caught fish, and organic pastured eggs.

  • Drink lots of water, add a little sea salt for electrolytes

  • Eat a variety of fat-rich plant foods like avocado, macadamias, hemp seeds and olives

  • Always opt for whole foods, not binge on ‘fat bombs’ and coconut oil

  • Listen to your body and work with a professional, please!

Interesting in trying this out for yourself? Get in touch, I’d be happy to put together a tailored to you ketogenic plan to suit your needs and be aligned with your health goals.

Yours in health,

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Q&A WITH LUKA McCABE

If you don’t already, I’d strongly encourage you all to check out the incredible work Luka is doing over on her instagram. It was an absolute pleasure to chat with Luka this week on a topic that is very near and dear to me. Luka is a mumma, mid wife, nurse and health & wellness advocate empowering others and providing incredible resources to guide, nourish and inspire. She educates around all matters of child nutrition, baby led weaning, parenting, health and more. In this interview we cover the why behind why she does what she does, how she got to where she is and what her home-birthing experiences were like!

This is a powerful and truly moving interview, Luka is one bold, compassionate and empowered woman who is doing incredible things for the health and wellness space - providing evidence based recommendations so that other mums who are overwhelmed with the information can find peace, clarity and confidence in how to feed and raise a healthy family.

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Q: Tell us about what you do – what is at the heart of it? 

A: I run a small instagram account called @boobtofood which focuses on ideas to help guide, nourish and inspire mum’s (and dad’s) and their babies journey from ‘boob to food’. How to navigate the world of first foods focusing on foods that are nutrient dense, gut loving, easy to digest and provide the ‘why’ behind the foods - why should we eat it, or avoid it and what is it doing to our bodies. My aim is that mums will be INFORMED, educated and can then make evidence based decisions regarding their babies health. That they will see food as medicine, as fuel, and that their babies will grow up healthy and hopefully see preventable diseases decrease (eg obesity, hypertension, diabetes etc).

Q: How did it all begin? 

A: Ive been interested in health for years, and definitely really ‘cleaned up’ my diet when I was pregnant with my first born Flynn. Pregnancy seems like a very common time for women to focus on looking after themselves - as they are now caring for two! When it came time to introduce him to solids I did ALOT of research. At the time the recommendation was to start solids at 4 months (from the healthcare system) however after attending nutrition seminars for babies and doing my own research especially into gut health it was clear to me that babies should start food at 6 months (which the recommendation has been recently changed back to). It was also recommended to me that I start him on rice cereal (which went against everything I believed in), so instead I searched for alternatives. He was started with egg yolk, liver, bone broth, marrow, sardines, sauerkraut, and lots of fruit and vegetables. He has grown into a healthy toddler who eats anything and everything! I was surprised with my second born Florence that again I was recommended to start her on rice cereal (I have a blog post on why I hate rice cereal!), so I decided to start @boobtofood and HOPE and PRAY that people would see the message, and see feeding their baby as an opportunity to nourish them and help them thrive, not just fill them with empty ‘cardboard-hydrates’.

Q: What does health & wellness mean to you?

A: Everything! Im not strict, I don’t diet, and I live life. If I go out with my friends I will eat the gluten etc. However for my daily life, my home life and my kids life we place health and wellness in the highest regard. I INVEST our money into good ingredients; an investment into our health, we cook everything from scratch, we also look after our physical bodies; we see regularly chiropractors, remedial massage, I go to the gym most days, my husband practices Jiu-Jitsu and surfing most days. I know what it feels like to live life with optimum health, and I don’t want to ever feel any different!

Q: What is your number one health tip for general well-being?

A: My biggest rule of thumb is if that food didn’t exist (or couldn’t have existed without machines/heat etc) 200 years ago, then we shouldn’t eat it! Theres alot to say for ancient traditions, and thats how I treat our health. 

For wellbeing, especially for mums would be to take time for yourself  as often as you need. For me this is the gym in the morning, or a walk, or a coffee with friends without children. I also need to see people daily to help me feel alive and sane!

Q: What is your favorite food/meal

A: My favourite meal is a very simple one - good quality sourdough with avocado and all the toppings! My favourite food would have to be haloumi ;) 

Q: What is your number one tip for balancing all that you do – work, marriage, family, health, relationships?

A: Not sure if I can say I have balanced it all, most days feel like a juggling act and I feel like i’m failing at one aspect every day. If i’m focusing on family I feel like I can’t focus on ‘work’, if I focus on ‘work’ I feel like i’m not doing enough for my kids.. but I feel like thats life, its that ‘mum guilt’ we all get! 

The best thing I can do, is to love the kids dad, to stick together as a family unit and hope that together we can raise nice children and keep a roof over our heads! 

Q: Since becoming a mum, what is one of the most important lessons you have learned?

A: I always thought I would hate to be a stay home mum, that I would be so bored and want to go back to work straight away - how I was wrong. Becoming a mother released my purpose for life that I didn’t know existed. I learnt to wholeheartedly put others first, to become selfless, giving and a source of strength. Ive been taught patience, empathy, love, understanding and also to look at things again through a child's eyes. To slow down, to realise whats important, what true joy looks like, and also what sleep deprivation and the brink of insanity feels like haha!

Q: Tell us about your experience with pregnancy, homebirth and raising healthy children? 

A: Ive had two children - Flynn (nearly 4) and Florence (11 months). My pregnancies were straight forward and relatively easy (although both were nearly 2 weeks overdue). 

With Flynn I planned a birth at Belmont birthing centre, as we lived in a granny flat at the time and wasn’t enough room to birth in. My birth was ok, it was long (about 36 hours total) and I had a water birth but unfortunately had a nasty tear that required surgery at the John Hunter (which was embarrassing as thats where I work as a midwife haha). For Florence I planned a home birth and it was again very long as she was posterior, but NO TEAR (thanks to perineal massage! Too much info? Haha). My recovery was great with her!

Q: What would you tell someone who is considering doing a home birth – what do they need to consider and what can they expect? 

A: Homebirthing is amazing, to not have to leave your sanctuary, to not have to get in the car, to not have to adjust to a new sterile environment, to control who is in your space, to go to bed straight after birth - it was beautiful.

However, in saying that, home birthing was something I really wanted. For me I felt ‘safer’ at home, and had a peace to stay at home, and was more scared to go to hospital than to stay home. I had complete trust in my birth team; in my midwives. I never had doubts because I trusted their opinion explicitly. 

But for some people, the thought of home birth could inflict fear, anxiety, worry and doubt. You need to birth somewhere where YOU feel comfortable, as if you have that fear and anxiety in labour, you will produce adrenaline, which counteracts the oxytocin that is helping you to labour well - and in turn you might not labour well because of your fear. 

Remember that your birth choices are yours, educate yourself, be informed and remember that you are always a part of decision making when it comes to your pregnancy and labour xxx


You can connect with Luka via instagram and be in the know of any upcoming workshops and E books she has. She has recently released the Nourished Kids Lunchbox which is a must have for any parents out there. Please let us know in the comments below what you loved about this interview and if anything really resonated with you from this.

Yours in health,

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INTERMITTENT FASTING

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip Nut Med)

The term ‘Intermittent Fasting’ is broad, vague and very generalised. There are multiple methods of intermittent fasting that have more recently become popularised in the media for its health benefits. A quick Google search of intermittent fasting brings up a list of health claims ranging from improved mental clarity and concentration, weight loss and fat loss, lowered insulin and blood sugar levels, reversal of type 2 diabetes, increased energy, increased growth hormone, lowered cholesterol.

The thing is, although intermittent fasting can provide a number of benefits to your health, bio-individuality needs to be considered and this practice, like many others, must be tailored to suit you as the individual.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting involves a period of time during the day or the week where you abstain from foods or calorie-containing drinks. Intermittent fasting has been around for centuries, historically we were hunters and gatherers, food wasn’t as readily available as it is to us now. We wouldn’t wake up in the morning to be met with a fridge full of food, supermarkets down the road or fast food delivered straight to you. Periods of feasting and famine were of the norm, and with this, we were able to progress and evolve. The types of intermittent fasting differ in their time spent feeding and fasting. Some of the most common methods are outlined below:

The 5:2 Diet

Intermittent fasting was first really popularised by Michael Mosely when he wrote the book on the 5:2 diet. What this entailed was eating your normal diet 5 days of the week but only consuming 500 calories on 2 days of the week. These 2 days could be consecutive or randomly throughout the week.

The 16:8, 18:6, 20:4 Diet

This style of fasting restricts food intake to a specific timeframe. It can be anywhere from a 14 hour fast with a 10-hour feeding window, 16-hour fast to an 8-hour window, 20-hour fast to a 4-hour window and so on (you get the drift, right?).

Alternate Day Fasting

This style of fasting is simply eating one day and fasting the next. An intense approach especially when first starting out and one that I wouldn’t recommend without the monitoring of an appropriate health professional.

Fat-Fasting

Fat fasting has been popularised in mainstream media with the beginning of the bulletproof coffee, an idea coined by Dave Asprey which involves consuming calories in the form of fats only and restricting protein and carbohydrates. This style means you still get some of the benefits of fasting but also with the inclusion of calories and energy to the body. When implemented appropriately it can induce a state of ketosis short term which also provides additional benefits.  

Time-Restricted Feeding

Time-restricted feeding is similar to intermittent fasting but involves complete avoidance of foods and drink apart from water for a select period of time. Sachin Panda’s approach is focusing on a practice known as ‘Time-Restricted Feeding’ (TRF). This concept is a daily eating pattern where nutrient intake is limited within a window of a few hours, usually less than 12, however, the quality and quantity of nutrient and calorie intake is not changed. He looks into the effects of food and drink intake on the circadian clocks of our organs. We have our master clock that regulates all sleep-wake cycles, but each organ will have their own circadian clock and rhythm that is dictated by food and drink consumption. Anything that your liver will metabolise, even herbal teas that contain no caloric value, will trigger a response by the liver and will, therefore, reset its clock. This means that outside of your allocated feeding window, you are to take in water only. No teas, coffee, juices, none. As these will reset the clock via the effects it will have on the liver.

Fasting Mimicking Diet

Formed by Valter Longo, this style of eating is considered as ‘fasting with food’ so patients are still able to have some form of calorie content but with altering where these calories come from it will trick the body to remain in a fasted state, and therefore increase client compliance in doing so. The diet is primarily a high-fat diet, with low amounts of protein and carbohydrate, giving about 10-50% of their normal caloric intake and participated for about 4 days. The diet is still able to produce effects on some markers of aging and disease states, very much the same as would a water fast for 2-3 days. In studies, fat loss has been observed, most of which was surrounding the organs, known as visceral fat (the type of body fat you don’t want to have) while there was no loss in muscle mass. 

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work

  • Autophagy

    Fasting induces a reparative state. A process known as autophagy (‘self-eating’) is the body’s system of spring cleaning, so to speak. Any dead, damaged, diseased or worn-out cells are eaten up, stripped for parts and the end result is molecules that are used for energy and the synthesis of brand new shiny cells, thus improving the overall efficiency of each cell.

 

“It’s our body’s innate recycling program, autophagy makes us more efficient machines to get rid of faulty parts, stop cancerous growths and stop metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes” – Colin Champ, M.D.

 

  • Immunity

    More so with longer term fasts (fasts that are longer than 48hours), stem cells are produced. Stem cells are quite remarkable, they have the ability to become many different cell types, replicating at a rapid rate and may then aid the body’s own healing process by regenerating new cells and ultimately new tissues. Stem cell injections are becoming more of a well-known practice for injuries, although transferring someone else’s stem cells may not be so compatible, the best option is to create them yourself, which you can do through fasting. In mice, periodic fasting promoted a stem cell-dependent regeneration of immune cells.

    There are also effects on autoimmunity to take note of, more information on this can be found here  

  • Ketosis

    Ketosis is a physiological state that occurs in a fasted state or when following a diet that is limited in carbohydrates, with moderate protein and higher amounts of fat. You see the body has alternate fuel sources, in most cases, the body will utilise glucose from dietary carbohydrates or from glycogen (stored glucose) for fuel, but when this is depleted through fasting, carbohydrate restriction and exercise the body will then switch to ketones that are produced by the breakdown of fats for fuel. Ketones are an excellent source of energy for the brain specifically and add to the cognitive effects that intermittent fasting may have on the brain.

  • The Benefits on Blood Sugars

    The work in this area has prompted the thought that intermittent fasting could be of benefit when addressing blood glucose dysregulation. From the 1950s until today it has been advocated by many to consume 3 large meals and 2 snacks, encouraging foods to be eaten at 3-hour intervals with promises to ‘balance blood sugars’ and ‘speed up your metabolism’. However, now with more recent studies conducted, we can see that food restriction and periods of fasting can be of great benefit in regulating blood sugar fluctuations as well as other metabolic markers. Limiting the amount of food eaten and how regularly you are eating means that there is less glucose present and therefore less insulin needed.

    Studies conducted in humans diagnosed with type 2 diabetes assessed the efficacy of intermittent fasting on blood sugar levels. The results concluded that intermittent fasting may reduce blood sugar levels to a healthy, normal range, favoring the implementation of fasting as a safe and effective tool. It makes sense, type 2 diabetes is caused by large amounts of carbohydrates which leads to a flood of insulin in the body that the pancreas just cannot keep up with, so why are they then given insulin to treat it.? Think about it. Why would we give someone insulin to treat a condition that’s caused by too much insulin, to begin with?

  • Benefits on Gut Health

    There are also benefits on the gut. When we have a break from food between meals, and not spending the day picking, snacking and grazing it induces our migrating motor complex. This complex acts as a broom, sweeping away debris and build up from within the intestines. This can only occur during a fasted state and is particularly beneficial with sufferers of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Please see a medical professional for support in this area, like a Nutritionist (like me, hello) or Naturopath

  •  Endurance

    Fasting has been shown to benefit physical endurance, this I’ve noticed within myself. With periodic fasting overnight, going for a run the following day I’ve found that I am able to run longer, faster and more efficiently. Funnily enough, I was more energetic in a fasted state than if I had eaten food.

  •  Brain Function

    Mentally, it’s been noted that when in a fasted state many experience a sense of euphoria. Consider this, without food we should experience better brain function, cognition, and energy. Not the other way around. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors needed to be vigilant and agile when hungry, to be able to hunt and kill to feed again. Now with the health issues, we are facing largely due to the poor diets we are eating coupled with sleep deprivation and stress an onset of symptoms including lightheadedness, irritability, and fatigue commonly occur… Basically the feeling of being ‘hangry’. Not exactly a healthy response.

    Intermittent fasting has been shown to enhance cognitive performance, due to its effects on neuroplasticity and synapses in animal studies. Regeneration of myelin sheath, the protective outer layer of our neurons has also been attributed to fasting’s effects, as was observed in the condition of Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune condition characterised by the degradation of healthy myelin sheath. It’s also been shown to reduce cancer size by 45%, highlighting the effects that fasting has on disabling the growth of a number of tumours as well as increasing the effects of chemotherapy drugs to target the malignant cells and spare normal healthy cells.

  • Chemotherapy Tolerance

    Research has shown that fasting can enhance the effects of chemotherapy. This occurs as the cancer cells become more sensitive to the chemotherapy itself whereas normal healthy cells don’t seem to have the same effect.

    More on this here

  •  Longevity

    In animal models, it’s been shown that intermittent fasting does lead to a longer life. Fruit flies are commonly studied as they have a rather short lifespan, making it easier to note the effects. Results from one study, in particular, found that intermittent fasting (using the 5:2 method for just one month) was sufficient to extend lifespan. It was shown to improve resistance to oxidative stress as well as improved gut barrier function and a reduction in age-related pathologies. Dr. Valtor Longo is really leading the way in this field of longevity and healthy aging and is worth looking into for more information on this topic of fasting and longevity. For the sake of the length of this article, I won’t go into it too much more.

    You can read more on his work and the work of Satchin Panda here 

  • Fat and Muscle Mass

    During a fast fat is oxidised to provide fuel, this can result in weight loss for most or improved body composition. What’s more is that protein is generally spared, meaning that short term fasts will not lead to muscle breakdown but can actually stimulate the production of human growth hormone that is involved in the synthesis of new tissue, muscle, and even bone. 

The Difference Between Men and Women

There is so much information on the benefits of intermittent fasting, however, in the research, there is so much to consider. For example, in women fasting can induce anxiety, insomnia, irregular periods and weight gain. Which is quite the opposite effect than what is claimed by health and wellness advocates everywhere.

Women have a much more sensitive hormonal system, from a biological perspective we want to be fertile and reproduce. So in a state of deprivation, this is shut down. This is how fasting may trigger negative effects for some. Studies have shown that a 2 day fast in women shifted their nervous system state to a more sympathetic dominant one (fight or flight), whereas in men it was the opposite as they were in a parasympathetic state (rest and digest).

More recently the function of hypocretin neurons has gained interest. These have the ability to inhibit sleep and lead to feelings of wakefulness. Their excitation occurs in reaction to the body detecting a starved state. They can act on the female hormonal system and lead to insomnia or trouble sleeping. Male neurons seem to respond to starvation with autophagy far more readily than women, although this is conflicting in the research and more is needed to confirm this effect. Fear not as there are other ways to induce autophagy if this is what you’re after. Exercise and infrared sauna use can also stimulate this effect.

When Not to Fast

  • If You’re Stressed

    Fasting is a stress on the body. When blood sugars dip, cortisol is released to bring blood sugar up to a regular range. Fasting can increase cortisol levels within the blood which can lead to detrimental effects leaving you feeling worse off than before. What can you do? You can practice time-restricted feeding, eating within a 12-hour window and maintaining a 12 hour fast, you will still reap some benefits in terms of cancer risk reduced and longevity benefits without putting too much of a stress on the body.

  •  If You’re Pregnant or Breastfeeding

    As we have already noted, fasting elicits a different response in women than it does in men. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not participate in any form of fasting, restriction of dieting. A nutrient-dense whole foods approach during pregnancy and breastfeeding is crucial, this is a time of rapid growth and development and places huge nutritional demands on the body.

  • If You Have or Had an Eating Disorder

    In no way would I encourage any form of restriction if you’re still working through an eating disorder. Eating regular is important to ensure that your body is nourished and well. I understand how easily information like this can be used to fuel unhealthy habits and encourage more restriction and deprivation.

  • Thyroid Conditions

    Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid is overactive. It involves a dysregulated HPA axis or HPT axis to be more specific.  Managing hyperthyroidism requires adrenal support, reducing inflammation and improving sleep quality. Because of the effects on the metabolism regular food intake and antioxidant consumption is needed to maintain body composition and reduce oxidative stress that can occur.

  • If You Have Irregular or Missed Periods

    Hypothalamic amenorrhea occurs when the brain stops communicating with your female reproductive organs because there is too much-perceived stress. This condition is commonly driven by undereating or over-exercising. In this instance, the body will produce stress hormones at the expense of sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.

How To Start

Now, the point to reiterate here is that fasting is practiced intermittently. Not on a regular day-to-day basis. That just takes away the intermittency of it. We don’ know exactly how often, how long or how much people should fast, and of course, know that we are all so uniquely different. Fasting is a stress on the body, and this needs to be considered. When facing high stress in your day to day life, fasting would not be advised for you. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – always consult your health care professional before making any radical changes to your diet and lifestyle and respect their opinions on it.

It you are adamant about starting here is how:

  1. Start slow

  2. Switch first to a wholefoods diet first – limiting refined sugars, carbohydrates, and packaged foods

  3. Trial cyclical low carb days, eating more fat from whole foods and restricting high carb foods like grains, legumes, potatoes, and fruits.

  4. Trial an intermittent fast for 1 day of the week and note how you feel - listen to your body with this. If you feel worse, then stop.

You may feel some hunger when you first start, but if you start having issues with sleep, feeling sick, light headed and shaking then most certainly honour this and what your body is trying to tell you and stop.

For women do it less frequently on non-consecutive days and on days that you are not doing a high-intensity activity, you can also incorporate more of a fat fast to provide some calories but still getting some of the effects – this can include bulletproof coffees or teas. This will induce ketosis and give you still some cell renewing properties and can provide fuel to the brain.

Please let me know if you do intermittent fasting and how you include it in your life – how has it made you feel? I’d love to know in the comments below!

Yours in health,

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ANTIOXIDANTS - WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc – Nutrition, Adv.Dip Nut Med)

We always hear about antioxidants, we know they are good, but you might wonder why? What is their purpose, what’s the point?

Well, let me explain…

Within the body, through normal metabolic reactions that occur like digestion, detoxification respiration, movement and so on, oxidation occurs through a process known as oxidative phosphorylation, and reactive oxygen species are produced.

The activation of the immune system and production of immune cells like macrophages, will also create oxidative species known as reactive nitrogen species.

The production of these reactive species can cause cellular damage. The action of antioxidants, can protect the cells from this damage – this means that they prevent damage to not only the cell structure, but the DNA within the cell, the proteins within the cell and the cell membrane.

DNA damage by reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen species can lead to chromosome damage and mutations resulting in abnormal cells. This has been linked to the development of malignant cells and progression of cancer. There is a process that occurs within the body by the action of tumour suppressor genes which do just that – supress the formation of tumours in the body, however with a constant onslaught day after day of oxidative DNA damage, without adequate dietary antioxidants, it can lead to the inactivation of the tumour suppressor gene – this has in fact been seen in over 50% of adult carcinomas!

Smoking leads to cancer in a way that it triggers massive DNA damage throughout the body and depletes the body of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C.

A good way to prevent DNA damage and cancer growth is to ensure you’re getting more than enough dietary antioxidants day to day. Certain vitamins and minerals provide antioxidant action, these include Vitamin A, E, C, D and minerals zinc, magnesium and selenium.

However, it is important to note that getting your antioxidants should primarily come from wholefood sources, rather than supplementation. Especially if you already have cancer.

For example, supplemental vitamin E prevents DNA damage and oxidation, and promotes cellular repair, which is normally a good thing – BUT, if you have cancer cells present, this means that they too will repair and continue to grow, being detrimental to your health.

Which is why huge generalisations cannot be made when it comes to human health and nutrition and that nutrition and supplementation should always be person-specific. This is where seeing a health practitioner can benefit you greatly to know that you are getting the right nutrients to support you.

Our DNA is the blueprint, which is then translated into RNA which then creates the proteins needed for the functions within the body. The structure of the protein is important – when compromised or damaged by reactive oxygen species it can affect the function of the protein and inactive it.

Oxidative damage also inhibits the body’s ability to remove the damaged proteins, leading to a build-up of damaged protein structures lingering around the body and can form protein aggregates. Protein aggregates have been linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  

Lastly, reactive oxygen species can also damage the cell membranes. All of our cells contain a cell membrane, these membranes must maintain their fluidity – these reactive species can damage fluidity making them more rigid. There are certain transporters, proteins and receptors embedded within the membrane, making the fluid nature of the membrane important for them to continue to function. With a rigid membrane there are diminished functions of the receptors – which can effect neurotransmitters function and impair cognitive functioning.

Reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen species are being produced within the body every day as by-products of NORMAL metabolic and immune functions. This means that eating a diet rich in varied antioxidant nutrients is essential. How can we do this? Eat a variety of coloured vegetables, fill your plate with them! Eat seasonally all year round, use different culinary herbs in your cooking or in salads, snack on some fruit, or raw cacao, even squeeze fresh lemon in your water – some simple ways you can massively benefit your health and prevent cancer development, toxin build-up, enhance cognitive function and contribute to healthy aging and longevity!

Yours in health,

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WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH VITAMIN D?

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip. NutMed)

With some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and predominantly most of Australia’s population residing along the coastal fringe yet there is a notable number of people having sub-optimal and even deficient levels of vitamin D. The Australian Bureau for Statistics (ABS) concluded that during the years of 2011 and 2012 approximately 4 million Australian adults were considered vitamin D deficient. It was found that 23%, or 1 in 4 Australians adults suffered some form of vitamin D deficiency (ABS, 2013).

We know for one, that we increase our levels through sun exposure, [through a complex procedure within the body which I won’t go into detail] but we also need to obtain this fat-soluble vitamin from dietary sources such as butter, egg yolks, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) and dairy (Paxton, 2015).

So, what is the deal with vitamin D? and why do we need to have more than adequate levels? 50nmol/L is recommended to prevent osteoporosis, however optimal levels should exceed 100nmol/L and most of us are not hitting this mark.

Vitamin D is known for its benefits to our bones, maintaining skeletal homeostasis, however it is also a vital component of our immune system, acting as an immuno-modulator, targeting specific immune cells, which contain vitamin D receptors, including our T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes, dendritic cells and macrophages (Baeke et al, 2010).

“Several epidemiological studies have linked inadequate vitamin D levels to a higher susceptibility of immune-mediated disorders, including chronic infections and autoimmune diseases”

(Baeke et al, 2010).

Vitamin D adequacy can be attributed to telomere length… Studies found that those with lower vitamin D levels had shortened telomeres which correlated to additional years of age and subsequent cellular damage (Richards et al, 2007).

Side note: Telomeres are caps at the end of our DNA strands which protect our chromosomes and are a biochemical marker for aging and cell damage. As these telomeres shorten with every new cell division (which is occurring all the time throughout our lives) they ensure that the DNA remains intact. Eventually telomeres get to the point where they are too short to continue to function, this results in our cells to age and cease functioning properly themselves. Telomeres can therefore be considered as an aging clock in every cell within our body.

Deficiency of vitamin D is also associated with autoimmune disease (AID), occurrence of AID in Australia has also been increasingly apparent (AIDA Report, 2013). Low vitamin D levels has also been attributed to obesity through its mechanisms of influence on insulin secretion, as well as showing positive effects on blood sugar levels (Earthman et al, 2012; Alvarez & Ashral, 2010).

The purpose of this article is to educate on the many functions of vitamin D in humans, backed by research. As we can see there are a multitude of benefits of having optimal levels, however too much can be toxic to the body. If you’re wanting to increase or assess your own levels of vitamin D please consult with your health practitioner to get appropriate supplementation and dietary interventions for your own individual needs.

I am happy to have a consultation with you, if you haven’t found yourself a practitioner to work with. You can book online here

Yours in health,

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References

Alvarez, J. A., & Ashraf, A. (2009). Role of vitamin D in insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity for glucose homeostasis. International journal of endocrinology2010.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Nutrients, 2011-12.

Baeke, F., Takiishi, T., Korf, H., Gysemans, C., & Mathieu, C. (2010). Vitamin D: modulator of the immune system. Current opinion in pharmacology10(4), 482-496.

Earthman, C. P., Beckman, L. M., Masodkar, K., & Sibley, S. D. (2012). The link between obesity and low circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations: considerations and implications. International journal of obesity36(3), 387.

Paxton, F. (2015). Foundations of Naturopathic Nutrition.

Richards, J. B., Valdes, A. M., Gardner, J. P., Paximadas, D., Kimura, M., Nessa, A., ... & Aviv, A. (2007). Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition86(5), 1420-1425.

CHOLESTEROL.. IT'S NOT A DIRTY WORD

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip. NutMed)

There’s a lot of fear associated with cholesterol, with it "being linked to an increased risk of heart disease & all" (which is another blog post all in and of itself). But, what you may not know is that cholesterol is required for a number of different reasons; hormone synthesis, as an antioxidant, aids the bodies healing process, is required to form vitamin D, neurotransmitters and is also needed for our cells membrane’s (the outer layer) structure (Marieb, Hoehn & Hutchinson, 2013).

Cholesterol is found in the foods we eat, but misinformation may have you believe that dietary cholesterol will increase your blood levels… When in fact our liver produces about 85% of it! You may be familiar already with the different types of cholesterol; HDL (known as the 'good' cholesterol) & LDL (known as the 'bad'). These terms in fact are referring to the lipoproteins which act as transporters carrying the cholesterol throughout the blood stream.

Dietary cholesterol will not effect your bodies cholesterol levels, saturated fat however, will & you know what else will?...

Stress.

When you’re stressed the body creates more cholesterol as it helps to mop up endotoxins. Endotoxins are released during this time of stress and are damaging to the body, creating inflammation. So, to counteract this effect, cholesterol is produced (Marieb, Hoehn & Hutchinson, 2013).

Diets low in saturated fats (commonly in vegan/vegetarian diets) can reduce the total level of cholesterol within the body, and this can result in depression and anxiety (Colin, Reggers, Castronovo & Ansseau, 2002; Papakostas et al, 2004).

As I’ve mentioned earlier, cholesterol is needed for hormone synthesis. Sex hormones testosterone, progesterone and estrogen are all dependent on cholesterol. Cholesterol is also a pre-cursor to vitamin D, an essential fat-soluble vitamin required for multiple functions in the body (too many to list here).

Morale of the story; cholesterol is GOOD, its needed by the body and it’s also created by the body. So you can stress less & as always, be kind to yourself x

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References

Colin, A., Reggers, J., Castronovo, V., & Ansseau, M. (2002). Lipids, depression and suicide. L'Encephale29(1), 49-58.

Marieb, E., Hoehn, K., & Hutchinson, M. (2013). Human anatomy & physiology. [San Francisco, Calif.]: Pearson Education/Benjamin Cummings

Papakostas, G. I., Öngür, D., Iosifescu, D. V., Mischoulon, D., & Fava, M. (2004). Cholesterol in mood and anxiety disorders: review of the literature and new hypotheses. European Neuropsychopharmacology14(2), 135-142.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND MEDITATION

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip. NutMed)

I’ve only just recently jumped on the band wagon, as of this year, and more recently made it a non-negotiable as part of my daily routine. When I started I didn’t really think there would be much change overall, but after even just 20minutes of meditating, my very first time I felt different and so I wanted to explore more the mechanisms of this action and figure out the science behind it, which brings us to this post. But first, a little background…

A LITTLE ABOUT ME;

I’ve had a history of anxiety and depression throughout childhood & adolescence, which subsided with age and a few lifestyle/dietary changes. But then just this last year they both began to rear their heads again. I had a few recent anxiety attacks, heart palpitations & months to a year of this flat, low, depressive mood that I couldn’t shake –

My kind of personality type is susceptible to anxiety and depression, I can be a bit of a perfectionist, I tend to succumb to a kind of stress referred to as ‘rumination’ – that constant worrying, about past or future, also considered a chronic stress. Rumination is also associated with high levels of cortisol which in turn effects the brain, the gut, immune system and hormones.

Anyway, the point of all this is that through meditating I felt a shift, things changed, my mood began to lift, my energy was improving, my sleep was more refreshing, anxious moments were deteriorating & I wanted to know more - I wanted to know the exact mechanisms of what meditation, mindfulness and breath work had on the brain, the nervous system, the body as a whole…

THE SCIENCE

Studies have shown that mindfulness practices may protect against the negative effects of rumination and helps to reduce the burden of chronic stress. In the brain, meditation increases the production of gamma waves, these gamma waves are an indication of neural plasticity – which is also linked to being able to learn new things, and a marker of youth and increased resilience.  

A study was conducted on individuals who had never meditated, they were instructed to meditate for 40mins per day, for a total of 8 weeks. The results were incredible! FOUR different brain regions were effected: The hippocampus (effecting our learning and memory), the pons (part of the brain stem where many neurotransmitters are synthesised), the parietal junction (which is associated with feelings of empathy and compassion) and the posterior cingulate (which is responsible for our ability to let our minds wander). In addition, there was also an observed decrease in size of the amygdala which has a role in the stress response, this was associated with a reduction in stress hormones (Hölzel et al, 2011).

What’s more is that science has demonstrated that through the simple act of deepening and slowing our breaths we can take our bodies out of this ‘fight or flight’ response and get back into our parasympathetic state of ‘rest and digest’, reducing the effects of unnecessary stress on the body (Jerath et al, 2006).

There have also been many studies conducted by Elizabeth Blackburn (Nobel prize winner) demonstrating how mindfulness & meditation can buffer the effects of stress on telomere length, which can reverse the ageing of some tissues – telomeres are like these little caps on the ends of our chromosomes which protect our DNA from damage, they shorten naturally each year and as cell replication occurs. This goes on & on until there’s no telomere left, resulting eventually in cell death. Stress can in fact accelerate this shortening, so by simply practicing meditation and mindfulness we can reduce this effect.

THE PRACTICALITY

So, how can we start to incorporate meditation into a busy life – well, there are a number of great apps you can download – 'headspace' for one, or my favourite ‘10% happier’ which contains a number of different guided meditations to choose from, ranging in times from 1 minute to 20 minutes, even with some guides that you can do on your daily commute, making it super easy to incorporate into day to day life.

I put the challenge out to you - try it, even if its only for a minute or two a day, or if its just to focus on taking long, slow deep breaths whilst driving to work, or waiting for the kettle to boil, these simple practices can have profound effects on wellbeing overall. 

As always, be kind to yourself & happy breathing! 

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REFERENCES;

Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging191(1), 36-43.

Jerath, R., Edry, J. W., Barnes, V. A., & Jerath, V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical hypotheses67(3), 566-571.

 

'COLD WATER THERAPY' - THE KIND OF STRESS YOU WANT IN YOUR LIFE!

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip Nut Med) and Matthew Kolasinski (MClinExP, BExSc)

How therapeutic does a cold shower sound right about now? For many, (especially those who are in the southern hemisphere with me and getting well into winter months) this may not be so tempting to give it a go, but let me first present some of the science coming out in this and see if this can motivate you to give it a go!

What started out as a conversation with friends and sharing ideas, turned into listening to many-a-podcasts and deepening our understanding & knowledge of this we have both dived right in and made cold water showers part of our daily routine.

From a purely anecdotal experience we found that after only a few minutes of cold showering we felt this physiological high - our moods were lifted, energy increased and tolerance to the cooler temperatures outdoors was heightened. From this we decided to look into the available research to understand what mechanisms are at play in contributing to the response, this rush from a cold shower.

A study conducted in 2008 by N.A Shevchuk tested the hypothesis that cold water exposure (2-3mins long at 20degrees celsius) could be used as a treatment for depression. What was found was that the cold exposure activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing the blood levels of noradrenalin. Noradrenalin functions as a hormone and neurotransmitter that’s important for attentiveness, emotions, learning and dreaming. What’s more is that the anti-depressant effects can also be attributed to the high amounts of electrical impulses sent from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain, as the skin contains a high concentration of cold receptors, responding to the cold-water exposure (Shevchuk, 2008).

Dr Rhonda Patrick, (Ph.D. in biomedical science) has found that not only does cold water exposure create a 2-3-fold increase in noradrenalin but that when the body is cooled many genes shut down, the exception, however, are genes involved in lipid metabolism (fat burning) and the group of proteins known as ‘cold shock proteins’. Noradrenalin also contributes to having an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, these effects can be achieved with short periods of cold stress and has been recommended for the treatment of chronic pain. (link to the full report can be found at here.

As it has been identified in animal studies, it is currently hypothesised that the effects of cold water exposure lead to an increase in cold-inducible RNA-binding protein 3 (RBM3). RBM3 is found in the brain, heart, liver, and skeletal muscle. This cold shock protein RBM3 has the ability to decrease cell death, thus preserving muscle mass as well as showing positive neural effects (Ferry, Vanderklish & Dupont-Versteegden, 2011).

What may be criticised socially, or considered a little crazy just seems to make sense biologically and the effects we’ve felt from it personally is enough for us to keep up with this daily practice! Important to note that you must always consult your health professional before attempting anything discussed in this article – this post was written out of interest from our own personal experiences, to share some of the information we’ve come across, but not to be used as medical advice.

Happy showering!

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References

Ferry, A. L., Vanderklish, P. W., & Dupont-Versteegden, E. E. (2011). Enhanced survival of skeletal muscle myoblasts in response to overexpression of cold shock protein RBM3. American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology, 301(2), C392-C402.

Shevchuk, N. A. (2008). Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical hypotheses, 70(5), 995-1001.

EFFECTS OF STRESS & HOW TO COPE

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip NutMed)

We’re all busy, our lives are full of hustle & bustle, families, kids, work, friends, cooking, cleaning, shopping, travel, events, oh, life!

With these busy lives can come a whole lot of stress. For our bodies when stressed, can enter into a ‘fight or flight’ response – it can even occur due to intense exercise/physical exertion. This ‘fight or flight’ response involves many physiological and biochemical changes, making the nervous system hypersensitive. The body responds to any sort of stress, be it physical, mental or emotional by activating our sympathetic nervous system and our adrenal glands to start releasing hormones: cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Through this the body will conserve energy from other organ systems, thereby slowing down their function and divert this energy to our arms, legs and brains. This was for our survival, originally a ‘stress’ would occur to man from an attack or some sort of threat, a tiger for example. So by the body slowing down other processes and directing the extra energy to our limbs we could then turn to ‘fight’ or to get away from the threat, fast! After this attack or danger would occur, cortisol would turn off the release of adrenaline and the body would return to function as normal.

But now, in this day & age the stressful event could be long term & ongoing from time constraints, job pressures, study, relationships, weddings & other events to more serious conditions of long term illness, chronic pain or emotional distress. Our bodies will remain in this stressed out state, still experiencing the same physiological and biochemical changes –leading to slow digestion, decreased immune system, changes to menstruation, effecting fertility, increased blood glucose levels, depleting our adrenal stores & keeping our cortisol levels high. During this, the bodies nutritional demands are increased, but with our digestive system being effected it leads to poor function & nutrient absorption. The elevated cortisol, the depleted adrenal stores & the effects on blood sugar can then in turn effect our moods, leaving us feeling irritable and even anxious. Sleep is also effected, that feeling of being ‘tired but wired’ leaving us as insomniacs or waking unrefreshed after a long nights sleep.

This long-term stress and adrenal depletion can leave us with a label of ‘adrenal fatigue’ – you may or may not have heard this term already. Basically, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, following a diurnal cycle. Levels should be high in the morning when we wake, then steadily decline throughout the day. People who are chronically stressed will have elevated basal cortisol and a flattened diurnal curve, resulting in flat cortisol – this response is referred to as ‘adrenal exhaustion’.

Chronic stress is inflammatory, it raises our biochemical inflammatory markers which affect our serotonin levels, leading to anxiety or depression. It’s associated with poor memory, that ‘foggy headed’ feeling, with mood changes and irritability. With stress also decreasing our immune function leaves us susceptible to allergic diseases and the development of conditions such as chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases, premature aging, atherosclerosis, abdominal weight gain and even cancer! In women their menstruation & fertility are also effected.

As we can see, being stressed out can have some serious side effects, so what can we do about it? We can’t always escape the stress in our lives but there are ways we can deal with it.

The first thing is to assess the stress – look at what you can change, what is in your control & what you are willing to let go of, you might be able to lighten your load with work or other commitments & have more time for yourself (SO important!).

The second is to slow down. You’re busy, I get it & this doesn’t mean that you should have hours of meditation and stillness, but you can incorporate small pockets of ‘still’ into your day. What’s one thing you do every day? When you shower, or brush your teeth, even when you make a tea/coffee or are driving from one place to the next – make these moments a time of mindfulness. Breathing long, slow, deep breaths. Create awareness in that moment, noticing how you feel, your thoughts. Science has shown that by changing our breath from short, shallow breaths to long, slow & controlled we can get our bodies out of that ‘fight or flight’ response and back into a rested state. This can even be including 5-10 long breaths upon waking, taking your time to get up and out of bed – doesn’t have to be a radical change to your routine or take up too much time but you can find these pockets of still & embrace them.

Thirdly, single task! Do one thing at a time, for at least a few of the tasks you have to do in your day, not all of them – or you probably wouldn’t get anything done, ha! It is impossible for us to be focused on more than one thing (sorry self-proclaimed multi-taskers out there). When stress is rising focus on one thing you are thankful for – it can be as simple as ‘clean water’ or ‘your pillow’, changing your thoughts in the moment does not make the stressful event go away, but at least your body will be focused on something positive & help to diminish the negative effects associated with stress - worrying will not solve the problem either!

And lastly, what can we do nutritionally –

For one; (I’m sorry) but caffeine will have to go! This raises your stress hormones and puts more pressure on your adrenal glands.

Two; sugar also – get rid of it, stress raises your blood sugar levels, as well as sugar being highly inflammatory. This means no soft drinks, confectionary, cakes, chocolates, biscuits, even white, refined carbohydrates from breads, pasta etc

Three; get some vitamin C! Your adrenal glands need it, and they need to be supported – you can talk with your qualified practitioner about supplementation specific for you and include more coloured vegetables and fruits in the diet

Four; B vitamins – these are depleted in times of stress, again speak with your practitioner about supplementing and doses needed. This way you know you’re getting the best quality practitioner only supplements at a dose that is tailored to you and your current needs

Five; Magnesium - this mineral is also depleted during times of stress and is required for hundreds of enzymatic functions within the body, relaxes muscle & assists with energy production - deficiency can contribute to anxiety and depression, again consult your nutritionist/naturopath for the appropriate form of magnesium & the correct dosing. 

Six; Eat fat! Yep, lap it up! Good fats I’m referring to here (I’ve written a blog post on fats which you can find on this site, so you can know which ones to eat). This can include oily fish, avocado, olives and olive oil, nuts and seeds – these fats are anti-inflammatory, great for brain health and development and help to balance blood sugars. Fats also give flavour to your foods & increase satiety with meals, they are not to be feared!

Seven; Practice mindful meal times; digestion begins before you take your first bite. The site of food, smell of food & the thought of it begins to prepare your body to eat and digest. This in turn triggers saliva to begin to secrete digestive enzymes ready to break down this food. When we are eating on the run, working through our lunch breaks, or mindlessly eating whilst watching TV this process is inhibited. We can end up eating way more than we need to, leave us feeling bloated and sluggish, or with indigestion and we wonder why? Maybe you have food allergies, or maybe you’re just approaching food and mealtimes with the wrong mind set. Sit down at meal times, give thanks for your food - practicing gratitude, enjoy each bite, CHEW your food (its crazy how many of us don’t chew enough) and really be present, noticing how you feel, how it tastes – it can be almost a meditative experience.

With impaired digestion, some might find benefit in utilising a slow cooker, having more soft, water rich foods in the form of soups & stews – the slow cooking starts to break down the foods, with the water increased can help to aid digestion and reduce any digestive disturbances you may be experiencing.

Also to note – exercise can help with stress relief & the body’s ability to cope with increased amounts of stress, however if you’re already in that burnt out ‘adrenally exhausted’ phase, I recommend to exercise in a way that will not be overly stimulating, as that can create more stress on the body, but through a walk in nature, pilates & stretching – does not have to mean HIIT classes at the gym & can even just be 10mins of movement included in your day – even if you just park further away from work or wake a bit earlier each day to include this.

And lastly, seek help – if you’re not coping, or have in fact experienced a trauma, don’t try to tackle it alone. There is a big difference between being stressed out, and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – please, speak to your health professional about getting the appropriate support & treatment. Vulnerability is strength and asking for help is in no way showing weakness.

Be kind to yourself, listen to your body.

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BLUE ZONES - KEYS TO HEALTHY AGEING & LONGEVITY

Blue zones; 

Parts of the world where people are living into their 100’s, and by living, they are living life well - sharp to the very end! These blue zones are scattered amongst parts of Japan, Greece, Italy & even in the United States! Their diet & lifestyle practices have been studied, diet being a key ingredient to their longevity, however there are some differences between their diets; some abstaining from all caffeine, spices and meat, others drinking up to a litre (or more!) of wine with lunch and some with diets rich in soy & sake.

(please note I’m not here to encourage you all to drink litres of wine on your lunch break, ha!)

The food they eat is nourishing, unprocessed, quality produce & nutrient dense. They consume a largely vegetable based diet, including fruits, vegetables, beans, fish, tofu and meat. 

In Greece its the mediterranean diet, with a focus on potatoes & beans as well as a green vegetable known as ‘horta’. This green weed-like vegetable is believed to be highly associated with their healthy ageing. 

The Greeks also recommend napping, getting intimate regularly & drinking wine - however the quality of their wine is on point! They incorporate a lot of unintentional exercises into their day from gardening, walking, cooking and cleaning.

In Japan, they are eating a vegetarian diet, but whats a key factor here is that they have purpose. The elders of their communities are highly valued and respected, they have valued social connections and are intentional about maintaining relationships & friendships. 

A recent study by Harvard also concluded that Social connections not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking. Loneliness can take up to 8 years off your life expectancy, compared to that of socially connected people. 

In Sardinia, the men generally live longer than the women. It it believed that this comes down to stress. The women, tending to the house and caring for the children have slightly higher stress levels than the men who spend the day in the fields and the sunshine, watching their flock. They have a long lunch together with family that can last for hours, in this time they engage in social connection, have a relaxed and rested approach to eating (not eating rushed or on the run) and drink up to a litre of quality red wine. This is usually followed by a siesta - oh how good does this lifestyle sound! 

In the States, there is a small population of people within Loma Linda, California. A community of Seventh-day Adventists who thrive on a vegetarian diet, with no ‘stimulating’ foods; sugar, caffeine or even some spices like chilli. They exercise daily, and again have many valued and intentional relationships. 

We have much to learn from these cultures with how they approach life, how they value each other and how they take the time to rest. 

Yours in health,

 

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