symptoms of low metabolism

Symptoms of low metabolism to watch out for!

Do you think you have a slow metabolism? Maybe you struggle to lose or maintain a healthy weight without extreme diet and exercise? Or you feel constantly tired and sluggish like you are not producing enough energy? If this is the case you might benefit from supporting your metabolism with some simple lifestyle changes. Here are some symptoms of low metabolism to watch out for!

Common symptoms of a low metabolism

Here are some of the symptoms of a low metabolism that I see most often in my clients:

  • Feeling cold, especially in your hands and feet
  • Basal body temperature below normal
  • Low energy, fatigue or lethargy
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Dry, cracked skin and lips
  • Digestive issues e.g. bloating, gastroparesis
  • Thin hair or hair falling out more than usual
  • Sleep problems or insomnia
  • Hormonal imbalance, irregular period, no period
  • Low sex drive
  • Brain fog, difficulty concentrating or lack of clarity
  • Getting sick often
  • Feeling weak and/or stiff
symptoms of low metabolism

Yes all of these things can be related to a low metabolism! Of course there are other causes for these symptoms so you should always get checked out by your doctor. However, if you have ruled out anything else then maybe a low metabolism is to blame.

In Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, it is said that these symptoms of a low metabolism relate to increased Vata dosha in the system. This represents the elements of air and ether leading to qualities of cold, dryness in the body. It makes sense then that a diet to speed up metabolism is one that pacifies Vata and increases the other doshas to create balance

Symptoms of a low metabolism and hypothyroid

You might notice some similarities between the signs of a low metabolism and symptoms of hypothyroidism. This is because the two are in fact closely related. Researcher Broda Barnes dedicated his life to studying symptoms of low metabolism and subclinical hypothyroidism. His work is very interesting even decades later!

He mainly focused on one of the signs of low metabolism that can be measured, basal body temperature. A low basal body temperature indicates a reduced metabolism as the body is creating less heat. The normal body temperature range for women is 36.1-36.4°C (97-97.5°F) before ovulation, rising to 36.4-37.2°C (97.6-99°F) after ovulation. the temperatures represent readings taken from the armpit or mouth which can be up to 0.5°C lower than the core body temperature.

Think about animals with a low metabolism such as reptiles and sloths. Or animals who hibernate in the winter. Their body temperatures are much colder with animals that have a higher metabolic rate such as mice or birds. The animal with the highest basal metabolic rate, i.e. energy burned per unit weight is actually a hummingbird. Which do you relate to more?!

Symptoms of a low metabolism: My experience

When I experienced a low metabolism, I felt like my body was shutting down and it was terrifying.

  • Chronic insomnia and fatigue
  • Bloating and poor digestion
  • Thinning and brittle hair
  • Irregular menstrual cycle and low libido

Not much fun! I didn’t realise at the time just how many of my problems were related to the fact that my metabolism had tanked. But once I followed a protocol to speed it up my symptoms gradually went away.

I hate this photo so much I didn’t even look like me at all! I looked and felt like I aged 10 years. Seeing this makes me feel sorry for myself back then for not understanding this sooner. Now I am glad to have gone through this as now I can help others on their healing path. Maybe you can relate to my story and these symptoms of low metabolism? If that’s the case and you want individual support in healing your body and recovering your energy and life, please reach out!

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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low cortisol causes

Low cortisol causes and how to feel better

High cortisol gets all the limelight because of its reputation as a stress hormone. But when our cortisol levels fall too low or when they are low at the wrong times of day (i.e. in the morning when we need it to wake up) then it can be just as debilitating. Low cortisol causes us to feel tired, weak and unmotivated.

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blood sugar irregularity
  • Low mood and irritability
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Often sick

Basically we can feel in a zombie state because our body needs a certain amount of cortisol to get up and go.

Low cortisol causes

How can we end up with low cortisol? It can happen due to organic problems with organs such as the adrenal glands which produce cortisol or the pituitary gland which sends the signal to stimulate cortisol production. In this case there are dectectable inflammation or damage to the tissues which can be measured with medical tests. Low cortisol causes can also be functional conditions where there is no visible problem with the tissue but it is not functioning as it should be.

There are several causes of low cortisol including:

  • Addison’s disease (adrenal)
  • Congenital hyperplasia (adrenal)
  • Pituitary gland failure e.g. brain injury or tumour
  • Chronic stress

The first three low cortisol causes are conditions you need to work with a medical professional. Today I will focus on the final one – stress. Low cortisol can occur after a long period of stress (high cortisol) when we reach what is commonly known as the burnout state.

low cortisol causes

In this case, cortisol levels will be unlikely to fall to levels that your doctor would consider a “medical emergency” but still low enough to affect the way you feel and function in your life.

The mechanism of low cortisol in the burnout state is not fully understood even within functional medicine. One theory is that either the adrenal glands which produce cortisol and other hormones can’t keep up and eventually fail to produce enough. This is known as adrenal fatigue in the alternative health world.

The other theory is that you continue to produce cortisol but after a while our cells become resistant to its effects. You might be left with that “tired but wired” feeling or feel like every minor stressor sends you into a meltdown. Without adequate cortisol to give us that warrior mentality we become much less resilient and more sensitive to stress.

What to do if you have low cortisol

Whatever the cause of low cortisol, it’s not a fun state to be in! If you think you might have low cortisol, you can consider a saliva based test. Forth offer these as postal tests for any of you living in the UK, I like the phrase “test don’t guess” and it can be helpful to have a baseline measurement before implementing any changes. That way you can more easily see what is working and what isn’t.

However there are some helpful lifestyle changes you can make to help raise cortisol naturally. These are generally low risk so you can try them even if you aren’t sure if you have low cortisol. The most important thing to do if you are experiencing low cortisol (besides speaking to your doctor) is to reduce your stress levels as much as possible. You can also support your body with good nutrition and nourishing practices such as restorative yoga and yoga nidra.

For nutrition I recommend the same protocol as for high cortisol to restore the nutrients lost through stress – check out this post for more info. Eating regularly to support blood sugar balance is also especially important when dealing with low cortisol. By this I mean balanced meals and snacks every 3 hours, making sure to combine carbs with fat or protein (or both) every time you eat. Making sure to incorporate adequate electrolytes too and by that I mean don’t be afraid to salt your food!

Some other lifestyle tips for boosting low cortisol:

  • Dance or zumba to raise energy levels and cortisol
  • Get enough sunlight especially in the morning hours
  • Relaxation and gentle yoga before bed to improve sleep
  • Breathwork practices focusing on the inhale to boost energy

Supplements for low cortisol causes

My favourite 2 supplements for adrenal health are Ashwaganda and Shilajit. Ashwaganda or Indian ginseng is an adapagenic herb which is used in Ayurveda to support the body during times of stress. It may help to reduce anxiety, improve sleep and balance cortisol levels. Shilajit is an amazing natural supplement for remineralising after periods of stress. It contains the full spectrum of natural elements plus fulvic acid which supports delivery of nutrients to the cell.

I really don’t recommend taking a lot of supplements as it can overburden the liver. It’s much better to take one or 2 high quality supplements targeted to your needs. I found a great supplement from a UK company called Nature Provides which includes both Ashwanganda and Shilajit and it’s now my go to. The recommended serving is 2 capsules but 1 gives 500mg of Shilajit which is already enough and means this bottle lasts 3 months.

Another great supplement for low blood pressure related to low cortisol is licorice. This can be taken as licorice tea or in tablet form if you don’t like the taste. These could be very useful for any of you dealing with stress, adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue but make sure to do your research and check with your doctor before adding any new supplements into your routine. Especially licorice it’s important to make sure you don’t have high blood pressure already before taking this supplement.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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How to lower levels of cortisol to elevate your health

Today’s post is a summary of my recent social media posts on how to lower levels of cortisol through nutrition and yoga. In my nutrition and wellness coaching practice, I help women who are struggling with hormonal imbalances expressing as missing periods, unexplained infertility, PCOS, PMS or hypothyroid symptoms. These are all caused by levels of hormones which are either higher or lower than they should normally be.

As all hormones interact within the body, when one is off this can cause a cascade effect throughout the whole system. One of the main root causes of all of the hormonal conditions above is an imbalance in cortisol. In particular, high cortisol can impact levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and thyroid hormones through the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. This hormonal system has impacts on our metabolic, reproductive and immune systems just to name a few!

What is the problem with cortisol?

Cortisol is well known as the stress hormone but it actually does an important job keeping us alive. It helps us to manage the stresses of daily life by raising blood sugar and blood pressure to get energy and oxygen to our cells and by modulating inflammation. We are designed to experience a peak of cortisol to wake us up in the morning as well as surges whenever we need to respond to an emergency. Towards the end of the day or once the stressor has passed, cortisol levels should drop allowing us to relax and sleep well.

The problem is when we experience high levels of physical or mental stress over a long period of time, our cortisol levels can remain chronically high. Our body remains in an alarm state and is hyper-vigilant, ready to respond to any attack or urgent situation. We feel agitated and anxious, we can’t sleep and our mood, energy, digestion, libido and fertility can all suffer as a result. We can also experience blood sugar instability, high blood pressure and accelerated aging – eek!

Signs of high cortisol

So how do we know when we might want to focus on ways to lower cortisol levels? Some of the most common signs of high cortisol levels are a rapid pulse, racing thoughts or a sense of restlessness and urgency. However, high cortisol can manifest a huge variety of physical, energetic and psychological symptoms including disturbances to your digestion, mood and sleep.

lower levels of cortisol signs

You can test your cortisol levels through a saliva test. But if you experience 5 or more of the signs above then it wouldn’t do any harm to focus on ways to reduce stress and lower levels of cortisol, regardless of whether you test or not.

Causes of high cortisol

As I mentioned earlier, cortisol is a stress hormone. It is released by our adrenal glands when they receive the signal that there is an emergency and we need to be on high alert. We usually relate stress to psychological factors such as work pressure, family issues, moving house or other worries. But stress can also be caused by other lifestyle factors, especially how we move, eat, think and breathe. Some of the top “sneaky stressors” that I see in my clients are:

  1. Eating inadequate energy (calories) to support their activities
  2. Restrictive dieting e.g. cutting out food groups, low fat, low carb, vegan
  3. Not eating regularly e.g. intermittent fasting or having long gaps between meals
  4. Excessive exercise especially cardio e.g. running, cycling
  5. Shallow or mouth breathing
  6. An overly active inner critic

Sometimes simple changes can really make a difference to our bodies’ experience of stress and help to reduce cortisol levels. Especially making sure we are eating enough nutritious food and OFTEN as well as moving, thinking and breathing in a way that keeps us out of fight or flight stress mode as much as possible.

Diet to lower levels of cortisol

When it comes to eating to support lower levels of cortisol, it is important to focus on lowering physical stress by nourishing your body as best as you can. This means letting go of strict diet rules, eating enough calories and making sure to support your body with the macro and micro-nutrients it needs to thrive. When we are under a lot of stress, our bodies burn though energy and specific nutrients faster than usual so it is important to make sure we are fueling and replenishing regularly.

Some of the key nutritional strategies I recommend to my clients for reducing stress are:

  • Consuming plenty of carbohydrates from natural sources e.g. fruits and roots
  • Making sure to eat magnesium rich foods or supplement with epsom salt baths or transdermal magnesium
  • Eating foods rich in B vitamins, particularly B5 and B6
  • Consuming oily fish such as sardines or salmon or adding in a high quality fish oil supplement

If you are following a low carb diet – forget it! Including plenty of natural carbohydrates and especially sugars from fruits, roots and honey will support your higher energy requirements during a stressful period and help to reduce physiological stress on your body from lack of energy. Giving your body the calories and carbohydrates it needs will help to lower cortisol levels and will also help to reduce cravings and over eating due to stress. Your body is smart and it sends those signals for a reason!

Adding in foods containing magnesium and B vitamins is also helpful as we burn through these important nutrients much faster when under stress. Foods containing magnesium include dark chocolate, sesame seeds and dark leafy greens. B vitamins can be found in dairy, legumes, meat and wholegrains. Cod liver oil is a good all round supplement that can reduce stress related inflammation and support mental health.

Yoga to lower levels of cortisol

Yoga and meditation are amazing ways to lower cortisol levels naturally. Moving and breathing in a way that reduces activity in the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and activates the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system will lower stress in your body and mind. Below is a simple 20 minute sequence you can use daily in the evening after a stressful day or before bed to wind down and get a healing night’s sleep.

From left to right:

  1. Extended child’s pose – hold for 3 mins with forehead resting on the mat or a block or pillow

2/3 Cow pose/Cat pose – flow between these 2 poses for 1 min syncing with the breath

4. Legs up the wall – 5 mins with legs resting against the wall if possible

5. Reclining twist – 3 mins per side option to place a pillow under the knee for support

6. Savasana – 5 mins focusing on deep belly breathing

Practice this simple sequence regularly, focusing on slowing down and being present, to reduce cortisol levels naturally.

Lifestyle to lower cortisol

Implementing the simple strategies in this post is an amazing first step if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of high cortisol above. Other supportive activities for lowering cortisol include gentle walks in nature, listening to music, journaling, creative work or any other way you like to slow down, let go of busyness and be present.

It’s so easy in today’s world to get swept up in work, tasks, social media and to be constantly doing, learning and taking in more and more information. But our bodies were designed for a much slower pace of life and we have to honour that from time to time. This doesn’t mean that we have to abandon everything and go and live in the mountains far away from civilisation. It just means that we need to become aware of our bodies’ signals of stress and find small ways to ground ourselves and connect within daily.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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What I did to stop feeling tired and dizzy

I dealt with chronic insomnia and fatigue for several years in my mid-twenties. Just when I should have been at my peak health I felt like everything started to fall apart. I would struggle to sleep through the night (sometimes not at all – eek!). Then I would spend the day in a haze of brain fog and physical exhaustion feeling tired and dizzy. Thankfully I discovered a healing lifestyle and I am now fully recovered!

Healing is never linear and I still feel like my body is still sensitive at times. But overall, I am very happy with my health right now and how dramatically I have been able to increase my energy over the last three years. I no longer am feeling tired and dizzy on a daily basis. I rarely experience sleep issues and I have the energy to follow my passions, work, move my body and have an active social life too.

How a low metabolism can leave you feeling tired and dizzy

Now you’re probably wondering what I did to get here and I have to say it was quite a journey. There wasn’t one simple change that fixed everything but rather a complete lifestyle overhaul. But the element at the centre of all of the changes I made was focusing on energy and metabolic health. Most importantly, I learned that feeling tired and dizzy can be a result of a low metabolic rate.

Like many women who grew up in the 90s, I spent my teenage years dieting and working out trying to stay skinny. On top of that, I was a high achiever. I threw myself wholeheartedly at getting top marks at school and university. The combination of coffee fueled library and gym sessions followed by late nights of with friends drinking eventually led to my body to crash and burn big time.

Even after I left university and settled into a calmer work life, my health didn’t improve. I was still feeling tired and dizzy on a regular basis, although I continued to act like everything was normal. During this time I switched to a high carb vegan diet. I thought that it would help me to heal my body but actually the opposite occurred. Without realising, I continued to spiral down into a metabolic hole.

Eventually I discovered the basic fact: our bodies need A LOT of energy and nutrients to function and thrive. The attitude of deprivation that is so prevalent amongst women (i.e. the idea that we should constantly be fighting our natural appetites and cravings) coupled with the “do it all” mentality is exactly what is causing us to feel fatigued, irritable and miserable. We are asking too much of our bodies and not giving enough in return!

How I stopped feeling tired and dizzy: phase 1

Once I discovered that my body was seriously in need of support, I took the first steps towards restoring my energy balance by:

  1. Eating more and good quality food (I was still mostly vegan at this time)
  2. Quitting intense exercise
  3. Daily walks outside and gentle yoga
  4. Implementing a supportive morning routine
  5. Practicing yoga nidra or guided mediation daily
  6. Taking a break from caffeine
  7. Releasing emotional stress through journaling and TRE
  8. Tracking and syncing with my menstrual cycle

These steps worked synergistically to increase my energy input (through food and constructive rest) and decrease my energy output (from physical, emotional and mental stresses). This really helped take some of the load off my body. It got me to a point where I was more stable with my energy levels and moods. I stopped feeling tired and dizzy so often and having a total meltdown every month before my period. Best of all, I was able to get enough sleep to make it through the day.

However, I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be long term. Firstly I had a vision for my health which included being active on a regular basis and spending quality time with friends. I love hiking, dancing and of course yoga. But at this time I was quite limited as to what I could do and without feeling wiped out afterwards. I never stopped these things throughout my healing journey but I wanted to fully enjoy them without feeling limited by my energy levels.

I also felt like my health issues were showing in my physical appearance too and I really hoped that healing would improve this. My skin was dry and I often got minor acne breakouts. My hair had become noticeably thinner and broke more easily. I would get upset when I looked in the mirror because I saw the the fatigue was aging me rapidly, especially around my eyes. Call me vain but I didn’t like it – the eyes are the window to the soul and I felt like mine looked dead!

How I stopped feeling tired and dizzy: phase 2

So once we moved to Greece in October 2020, I decided to take my healing journey to the next step. By this time I had discovered Morley Robbins and the Root Cause Protocol as well as the work of Ray Peat and Broda Barnes on the importance of optimal thyroid function and good metabolic health. They were all speaking about minimising the stress load on the body as well as increasing mineral availability through diet which really made sense to me.

I started to implement some of the supportive practices that were recommended, particularly:

  1. Reintroducing high quality organic dairy
  2. Drinking daily adrenal cocktails (orange juice with salt and potassium)
  3. Adding back coffee but in a supportive way
  4. Eating liver and seafood on a weekly/monthly basis
  5. Reducing refined vegetable oils and processed food
  6. Eliminating all unnecessary supplements
  7. Adding in magnesium supplements (transdermal then oral form)
  8. Focusing on specific breathwork practice to increase CO2

It’s important for me to say here that I wasn’t obsessive about these things. I knew that being too strict would only lead to further stresses so I did my best each day and focused my attention on enjoying life. During the never ending lockdowns I threw myself into hobbies including gardening, learning to play guitar and sewing projects as well as my work supporting women through teaching yoga and nutrition and wellness coaching.

It has been a gradual, continual improvement over the last year and a half. I would say that it was after about 6 months of implementing these things that I really started to feel like my body had healed. Eventually I stopped waking up in the night completely and now get 7-9 hours of sleep per night (unless life gets in the way). Rarely am I feeling tired and dizzy as I was before.

I feel passionate about my work and hobbies plus have energy left over for my friends and family. Finally life looks bright again and I am excited for the future!

Over to you…

If you have any questions or if you would like to work with me to overcome fatigue and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach and we work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs. You can read more about my training and qualifications here.

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breathing for stress

Breathing for stress and anxiety relief

One of the pillars of health is learning how to breathe properly. The fourth of the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga is pranayama which translates as extension or control of the breath. Yogis view the breath or prana as your life force energy. Therefore, when your breath is restricted, your life force energy is also restricted. In this post I will share some common breathing mistakes and my tips for breathing for stress relief.

When we are stressed, we tend to alter our breath in such a way that sends further stress signals to the brain. this creates a vicious cycle where stress causes stressful breathing which in turn causes further stress. Living in a chronically stressed state causes all sorts of problems including high blood pressure, insomnia and fatigue, poor digestion and mismanaged blood sugar.

Breathing for stress and anxiety relief involves slowing and lengthening the breath. This calms the nervous system, stills the mind and helps the body function as it should.

breathing for stress

In this article, I will dive into some of the common breathing mistakes and introduce you to breathing for stress and anxiety relief. Starting on Tuesday 9th November at 5.30pm UK/7.30pm Greece I am also offering monthly Introduction to Breathwork online workshops where we will dive into this topic and I will guide you through these powerful techniques. Click HERE to reserve your place!

Before I explain the basics of breathing for stress relief, I will describe four common breathing mistakes that most of the population make. These are mistakes that are often triggered by a stressful lifestyle or situations. They also cause a stress response in your body which prevents that stress response from completing. This means that your nervous system remains in that stressed state chronically, which is how your wellbeing can be affected over time.

Mistake #1 Breathing too shallow

One of the most common breathing mistakes is breathing too shallow. By this I mean breathing high up in the chest around the collar bones. A natural, relaxed breath should be controlled by your diaphragm. This is a dome shaped muscle that sits at the top of your abdomen that moves up and down to draw in and release air from your lungs.

However, many people instead use the muscles of their chest and shoulders to breathe, especially when chronically stressed. Breathing in this way can cause tension in these muscles as well as fatigue and further stress throughout your body. This is breathing for stress not stress relief!

You can easily check if you are making this mistake. Place a hand on your chest and one hand on your belly and breathe naturally, observing the movement of your hands. If the hand on your chest is rising and falling with your breath rather than the hand on your belly, then you are breathing too shallow.

This means you are only using a small fraction of the capacity of your lungs as you breathe. It is important for you to learn how to breathe to relax and reduce stress. You need to learn how to breathe using your diaphragm instead so that the hand on your belly moves while the hand on your chest is fairly steady.

Mistake #2 Breathing too quickly

If you are making the first mistake of breathing too shallow, you are probably making the second mistake too. That is breathing too quickly aka hyperventilating. You might associate this with asthma or panic attacks which is an extreme version of hyperventilation. However, most of us are constantly breathing too quickly in a mild hyperventilation.

Breathing in this way sends a major red flag to your nervous system that you are in danger. Fast breathing is reserved for extreme states when it is important to activate your fight or flight response. A normal breathing rate is around 10-15 breaths per minute, any more than this and you are over-breathing. In yoga we encourage an even slower breath, sometimes as little as 6 breaths per minute.

This rate of breathing activates the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system state. Slow breathing also slows heart rate and can reduce blood pressure. You might think that breathing more quickly will get more oxygen into your body but this is not the case. For optimal oxygenation and energy, you want to breathe better not harder.

Mistake #3 Breathing through your mouth

Another extremely common breathing mistake is mouth breathing. Remember in Stranger Things, Mike explaining to Eleven that a mouthbreather was a “dumb person, a knucklehead”?

Ok so maybe this is kind of mean but there is an element of truth in it. Breathing through your mouth leads to lower quality air reaching your lungs and reduced oxygenation of your cells. This means higher stress and lower energy and vitality. B.K.S. Iyengar, a world-famous yogi once said “the nose is for breathing, the mouth is for eating”. He was absolutely right!

Your nose is designed to heat and filter the air you breathe. It is there as your primary breathing apparatus. Breathing through your mouth is there as a back up and should not be your primary way of breathing. Mouth breathing is the opposite of how to breathe to relax and reduce stress. If you observe that you breathe through your mouth on a regular basis, it is important to learn how to breathe through your nose.

It might be difficult at first as you build a new habit. Even more so because “if you don’t use it you lose it” meaning that chronic mouth breathing can lead to clogged up nasal passages making it harder to breathe through your nose. But with time and practice, nose breathing will become easy and natural for you. Once you are consistently breathing through your nose, you will see your stress levels decrease and your energy levels soar!

Mistake #4 Holding your breath

The final common breathing mistake is actually to not breathe at all. Holding the breath is something that we instinctively do during a stressful situation or when we are anxiously waiting for something (“don’t hold your breath!”). Unconsciously holding the breath is also something that many people do whilst concentrating. It can also be caused by tension in the abdomen as a result of chronic stress.

There is a phenomenon known as email apnea which affects many screen users i.e. most people today! Email apnea is when you unconsciously hold your breath whilst reading something on a screen or focusing on your work. I previously wrote about another phenomenon called continuous partial attention which can cause stress. These two habits go along with each other – holding your breath whilst flitting between different tasks.

Another scenario in which breath holding occurs is in sleep apnea. This is when your airway becomes blocked during the night causing you to temporarily stop breathing. Sleep apnea cause cause daytime fatigue, mood swings, difficulty concentrating and headaches. Therefore, it is important to also learn how to breathe to relax during the night to improve your sleep. I will also cover this is the upcoming workshop.

The basics of breathing for stress relief

Simply put, breathing for stress relief is to avoid the four mistakes above. In fact, it is to do the opposite! This means your breath should be:

  1. Deep and diaphragmatic
  2. Slow and steady
  3. Through the nose
  4. Consistent and smooth

To learn exact techniques for breathing for stress relief, join me for a Introduction to Breathwork online workshop.

Perhaps you are wondering whether you can simply research these techniques and practice them yourself? Yes, you can do that. But how many times have you tried to incorporate something like this into your lifestyle and lost interest or motivation before you even saw the benefits? Whether you join me for a single session or every month, you will receive guidance but also accountability to show up for your practice and for yourself.

What will happen in the Introduction to Breathwork online workshop?

First, we will take time to settle into the practice and you will observe your natural breath. I will teach you the yogic mindset it is important to maintain throughout this practice. Then, I will guide you through yoga poses and stretches to open up your chest and shoulders and release your diaphragm. Next, we will practice a series of breathwork techniques together.

These will be perfectly accessible techniques, suitable for all levels. If you have any specific conditions, I advise you to email me beforehand at so that I can offer you any personalised advice you need. during and after the workshop, you can expect to feel extremely calm and relaxed, both in mind and body. Once you learn the techniques, you will be able to practice them yourself daily to continue reaping the benefits.

Regular practice of these breathwork techniques can help you to decrease your blood pressure, improve your digestion and blood sugar regulation and give you an overall sense of calm and wellbeing. Lowering your stress and finding a sense of inner peace has a knock on effect on the other areas of your life. You can expect to improve your sleep, boost your productivity and creativity and maybe even improve your relationships.

I hope you enjoyed this article, to find out more, join me for the first workshop next week! If you are attending the workshop, click attending on the Facebook event to be updated about any changes or requirements for the class. If you don’t use Facebook, let e know so that I can email you any information directly.


Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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is your metabolism low

Symptoms of hypothyroidism but levels of TSH normal?

In this post I want to explore some of the research around a topic that particularly interests me. That is, what if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism but levels of TSH are normal? This is something I struggled with myself for many years so I want to share my personal experience and what I have found out through my research.

What is hypothyroidism? Causes and symptoms

Hypothyroidism is the second most common female endocrine (hormone) disorders. There are several causes of an underactive thyroid. The most common cause worldwide is iodine deficiency. However in developed countries, iodine deficiency is rare and the most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is an auto immune condition where a persons own immune system develops antibodies which attack the thyroid gland. Other cases are caused by medical interventions such as thyroid surgery, radiation or certain medications.

Some of the main symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Brittle nails
  • Low libido
  • Weight gain
  • Irregular or heavy periods
  • Constipation
  • Trouble concentrating or poor memory

References are listed at the end of the article, see ref (1)(2)(3)(4)

Testing for hypothyroidism TSH levels

Currently, the main test for diagnosing hypothyroidism or an under-active thyroid is a thyroid function test. This is a blood test to measure levels of two thyroid hormones: thyrotropin aka thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (FT4). If your blood tests show a high level of TSH and low level of FT4 then you may be diagnosed with hypothyroidism(1). High TSH level with normal FT4 is considered sub-clinical hypothyroidism.

I recently did a full check up using Thriva which included a thyroid function check. This is how the results look along with the ranges for TSH and FT4 hormones. You can also read here for more information on interpreting test results. If you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism and want to check your levels at home, it is a great option. Otherwise you can visit your GP and request a thyroid function test.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism but levels of TSH normal? My experience

But what if your thyroid function test comes back normal? What does it mean if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism but normal levels of TSH? Well, you wouldn’t be alone in that regard! It is something that I experienced and I am sure many other women too.

For several years I experienced symptoms of hypothyroidism. In particular disruption to my menstrual cycles, feeling cold and tired all of the time, frequent constipation and dry and thinning hair. I was a classic case of hypothyroidism, exhibiting nearly all of the listed symptoms. However, I had several thyroid function tests during this time which all came back perfectly normal. I couldn’t understand what was going on and was left feeling frustrated and confused.

Each time I left the doctors office I would feel so down and hopeless. It wasn’t that I wanted something to be wrong with me. I just wanted answers so I could get my health back on track! There is nothing worse than feeling like your body is malfunctioning and not knowing what you can do to fix it.

Me whilst dealing with hypothyroid symptoms (L) and well into the healing process (R)

Symptoms of hypothyroidism but levels of TSH normal? The science

During this time I did a lot of research into all things hormone related. I found some interesting articles about patients with symptoms of hypothyroidism but normal levels of TSH. In some cases this related to sub-clinical hypothyroidism where levels of TSH were slightly elevated and FT4 levels were normal. This didn’t really interest me as in my case, both my TSH and FT4 levels were normal. But if your levels of TSH are between 2.5 and 4mIU/L, as you have the symptoms above, it is definitely possible that you are experiencing sub-clinical hypothyroidism.

Another study that interested me concluded that measuring blood levels of TSH may not be a reliable diagnostic test for hypothyroid (5). They describe case studies of two patients with symptoms of hypothyroidism but normal levels of TSH. When tested using alternative methods, both patients were confirmed as hypothyroid, despite normal TSH levels. Even more interesting, their symptoms went away when treated for hypothyroidism! The theory is that despite normal levels of thyroid hormones in the blood, if the cells are resistant to their effects, we can still experience symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Another area of research that caught my eye is something I have been reading and writing a lot about lately: low metabolism. In particular, I have shared posts about the signs and causes of a low metabolism and how to speed up a low metabolism. This turned out to be the answer to my problems. But how does this link to hypothyroidism? As I mentioned in those previous posts, the symptoms of hypothyroidism overlap greatly with those of a low metabolism. So perhaps if your doctor has given you the all clear with regards to your thyroid health, you might want to consider taking action to support your metabolism.

Reduce hypothyroidism symptoms by supporting your metabolism

To reduce hypothyroidism symptoms by supporting your metabolism, you want to focus on the following four areas:

Now, as a Nutritionist and Women’s Wellness Coach, this is an area that interests me greatly. A low metabolic rate can affect all aspects of your wellbeing from your energy levels to your mood and mindset. If your metabolism is slow, you can also find it difficult to lose weight despite eating healthily and exercising. So focusing on improving metabolic rate can have a wide range of benefits as well as helping to reduce hypothyroidism symptoms.

I will be continuing to share more details on how to do this over the next weeks and months. So make sure to follow my blog by adding your email to the “Subscribe by email” panel on the right to be updated by email when I post.



Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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is your metabolism low

Cheap and easy home test for metabolism!

Maybe you are one of the many people that say that they have a slow metabolism. But how can you know for sure? One way is to see if you exhibit some of the signs of a low metabolism. This includes having chronic low energy and feeling cold, particularly in your hands and feet. Another way is to take some simple measurements to make an assessment of your metabolism at home. In this article I will describe two basic tests for metabolism that you can do at home.

The information I share in this article is inspired by the work of researchers such as Broda Barnes and Ray Peat. They were amongst the first scientists to promote this test for metabolism in the health sphere. These guys were way ahead of their time and really were the forerunners of the “pro-metabolic” movement. Since then, many others have shared or built on their theories. I have learned from the ideas of Danny Roddy, Matt Stone, Keith Littlewood and Emma Sgourakis to name a few.

I will link other peer-reviewed sources of information at the bottom of this post. Definitely check those out if you are interested in reading more into the science of this test for metabolism!

The underpinning theory is that your metabolic rate is driven by your thyroid function. A sluggish thyroid results in a “slow metabolism” otherwise known as hypothyroidism. Conversely, an over-active thyroid means a fast metabolism, aka hyperthyroidism. For optimal health and wellbeing, you want your thyroid to be functioning in the healthy range. This means producing normal amounts of thyroid hormones which are also being used appropriately by your cells.

Dr Denis Wilson, claimed that of every 100 patients with a low body temperature and hypothyroid symptoms, only 5 will show up as having abnormal TSH levels and therefore a diagnosis of hypothyroid. He labelled this condition of low metabolism symptoms with normal thyroid test results as Wilsons Temperature Syndrome. He believed that basal body temperature was a good test for metabolism function, regardless of blood levels of thyroid hormones.


I have to make clear that this is not an accepted diagnosis according to most medical professionals. However, I view it alongside Adrenal Fatigue as a description of a common adaptive state of the body functions which leads to particular symptoms. Perhaps the diagnosis is not accepted but if the treatment works then I don’t see it as a problem.

Interestingly, both slow metabolism and adrenal fatigue are conditions primarily linked to stress! But we won’t go there for today. We will quickly review the common signs and symptoms of a slow metabolism. Then I will introduce you to the two tests for metabolism you can take an home.

Signs and symptoms of low metabolism

To clarify, symptoms are health effects identified by the individual whereas signs can be observed and measured by others. Often experiencing symptoms like fatigue and low energy can be frustrating. This is because you are made to believe by doctors and others that it is all in your head. There are many symptoms related to a low metabolism. Often they go unnoticed because they are subtle or seen as normal.

Broda Barnes in his book Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness, argued that many common symptoms are a result of sub-clinical hypothyroidism. Some of the symptoms associated with a low thyroid function are:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low libido
  • Constipation
  • Low mood
  • PMS
  • Insomnia
  • Easy weight gain


If you are experiencing several of these symptoms on a regular basis, potentially you are dealing with a low metabolism.

Two major signs of a low thyroid function and slow metabolism are low body temperature and low pulse rate. These two signs are consistently associated with the symptoms above. Measuring these two indicators can therefore be a helpful test for metabolism function. Other signs include dry skin, dry hair and slow growing or brittle nails. All of the signs and symptoms are a result of reduced cellular respiration and energy generation.

Now let’s see, is your metabolism low?

Test for metabolism 1: Basal body temperature

Broda Barnes pioneered low basal body temperature as a sign of hypothyroidism, aka a slow metabolism. Therefore, the first of the two test for metabolism is to measure your core body temperature and compare it to the healthy range. Do this upon waking every day for a week and record your results. You can use any thermometer just make sure to warm it up first to avoid skewing your measurements.

A healthy functioning metabolism should result in an oral temperature of 36.6°C or above (armpit temperature is usually approx. 0.3-0.6°C lower). If your temperature is consistently below this, it may be a sign of a low metabolism. Especially if you also have some of the signs of a low metabolism. Remember, this is your temperature upon waking. After eating, drinking and moving your body, your temperature should increase above this minimum.


For females, remember that your basal body temperature can increase by up to 0.5°C following ovulation. It then then decreases again once menstruation begins. This is due to an increase in metabolic rate during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. The numbers above refer to your temperature in the first half of your cycle. Make sure you do the test for metabolism before ovulation for an accurate assessment.


As a side note, observing this temperature rise is a good sign that you are ovulating. This is a good sign of a healthy menstrual cycle and fertility!

Test for metabolism 2: Resting pulse rate

The second test you can use to determine whether your metabolism is low is to measure your resting pulse rate. Measuring heart rate is a well established method for determining metabolic rate. A pulse rate of 70-85 beats per minute (bpm) is generally an indicator of a healthy metabolism. The exact number range differs but there is agreement in the pro-metabolic world that a pulse rate of <60bpm is a sign of low metabolism. Especially when combined with low temperature and other signs of low thyroid function.


Although many health professionals state that a pulse rate <60bpm is a sign of fitness, this is not the whole truth. Yes, it is true that athletes have a low pulse rate as a result of their fitness. However, fitness and health do not always go together! A low pulse rate, or bradichardia is a sign of metabolic adaptation. Therefore pulse rate can be useful test for metabolism. That is a modification of the metabolic processes in order to do more with less energy input. This is a useful adaptation in athletes as it allows them to perform at a higher level in sport. But it says nothing about their general health.

For example, many female athletes suffer from the Female Athlete Triad. This is a combination of low energy availability, disrupted menstrual cycles and decreased bone mineral density. Usually this is a stress state caused by too much exercise and not enough energy intake. This can affect any woman who is very active and not fueling correctly, not only professional athletes.


But isn’t a high pulse rate unhealthy?

It does get a little complicated as increasing resting heart rate is also associated with increased incidence of metabolic syndrome. According to the NHS, metabolic syndrome is “the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity“. This test for metabolism is not perfect and the results need to be taken in context of an individuals’ lifestyle. That is why it is important to work with a health professional.

Having a high temperature and pulse rate whilst eating well and being active is different than achieving the same outcome by being sedentary and eating unhealthy food. The best thing to do is keep an eye on your other health markers such as blood pressure, glucose and weight alongside your temperature and pulse to find the lifestyle that works best for you.

What if the test for metabolism shows it is slow?

If you try out these two test for metabolism and think that you do have a slow metabolism, what can you do about it? I shared some simple tips for how to speed up a a slow metabolism in a previous post. In that post I also describe some of the potential causes of a low metabolism so make sure you check it out. You can also try incorporating my top foods to increase your metabolism into your daily diet. For individual support in discovering the best lifestyle to support your body, please reach out.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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Top ways to speed up metabolism!

If you read my previous post and relate to the signs of a slow metabolism, you might be wondering about the ways to speed up metabolism. Or maybe you are here because you can’t seem to lose weight no matter how hard you try. You are convinced you just have a slow metabolism and there is nothing you can do about it. Well, I’m here to tell you that there is something you can do. It is entirely possible to increase a low metabolism and maintain a healthy weight without restriction and deprivation.

I want to start by saying that we are all born with a different genetic metabolic rate. Our metabolism also depends on factors such as our age, gender the amount of muscle we have. Therefore, some people naturally have a “faster metabolism” and others tend to hold onto weight more easily. However there are ways to speed up metabolism, especially if your natural metabolic rate is slowed down. When you experience any or all of the symptoms of a low metabolism such as feeling cold and tired all of the time, hair falling out or disruptions to your hormones.

I am talking to those of you who have been through periods of chronic stress, or who have been dieting and over-exercising for many years. If your metabolism has decreased you might just not feel like yourself. You might feel like your energy has been zapped and you’ve lost your natural vibrancy. If this sounds like you, read on to find out my simple strategy and top ways to speed up metabolism!

Top ways to speed up metabolism

There are many different causes of a slow metabolism but at the root of them all is STRESS. This can be physical stress due to calorie restriction or over exercising, psychological stress or emotional stress. Any of these can put your body into a state of survival mode and cause your metabolism to slow down. Therefore one of the main ways to speed up metabolism is to help your body feel safe and relaxed again. How can you do this? Try out the protocol below for a month and see how your body responds!

Diet for a faster metabolism

To speed up a slow metabolism, getting adequate calories and nutrients is paramount. Even if your goal is to lose weight, focus first on getting your metabolism healthy again before trying to cut calories. Fixing your metabolism first will make it much easier to lose weight down the line and keep it off. So if you have been following a restrictive diet, take a break. Stop counting calories or macros and weighing your food. Don’t restrict any food groups, eat plenty of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Focus on mainly whole foods but don’t stress out about eating some processed foods too.

Basically you want to flood your body with energy and nutrients so that it feels a state of abundance. This is easiest with a diet including meat and fish but it is definitely also possible on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Go for energy dense foods such as potatoes, dairy, chocolate and coconut products. Focus less on high water, high fibre foods such as fruits and vegetables. Allow yourself to eat till you feel fully satisfied at each meal or snack. Listen to your body and it will tell you what it needs. One of the easiest ways to speed up metabolism is to eat more food and metabolically supportive foods.

Exercise to boost metabolism

If you are currently following an intense exercise regime, please give yourself permission to take some time off. It might seem counter-intuitive to stop exercising but it is another one of the ways to speed up metabolism.

Of course you do burn calories through exercising. But exercise, especially chronic cardio can actually decrease your basal metabolic rate, the amount of energy you burn at rest. This means that your body is more efficient at using calories. A sign of this is a lowered pulse rate (below 60bpm) which we often associate with fitness but is also a sign of the body adapting to stress. Listen to your body and if you are feeling tired, don’t be afraid to rest.

This is even more important if you are feeling chronically stiff and sore. These are signs your body is feeling stressed and overloaded. It is important let your body heal any underlying injuries and relax any built up tension. Yoga is a great way to move your body whilst supporting your metabolism. Gentle walking, tai chi, stretching and dancing are also great ways to stay active whilst healing your metabolism.

Have fun and let go of any pressure to perform, burn calories or change your body in any way. As your metabolism starts to improve and you feel more energetic, you can add in some resistance training to build muscle which will help to boost your metabolic rate even further.

Relaxation to increase metabolism

This is a big one! If you are feeling stressed, anxious and on edge your metabolism is highly likely to suffer. Stress alone can be enough to prevent you from losing weight and can cause the symptoms of a low metabolism. So if you feel like you have tried everything and nothing works, definitely take a look at your stress levels and you might understand. Reducing stress is one of the most efficient ways to speed up metabolism.

Start by identifying the major stressors in your life. Then, maybe with a coach or therapist, work out how you can reduce your stress and develop helpful coping strategies. Reducing stress is one of the keys to how to speed up a slow metabolism. Additionally, try to bring more relaxing activities into your day whether that is meditation, deep breathing, creative projects, reading or playing with your pets. Basically anything that helps you to get into a calm and relaxed state.

Making relaxation a priority part of your every day self-care routine is a key step to getting your metabolism functioning optimally. If you are stressed about losing weight or comparing yourself to others, ask yourself why? Purge your social media of any accounts that make you feel down on yourself and replace them with interesting or uplifting things instead.

Sleep more to speed up metabolism

This goes hand in hand with relaxation. There have been so many studies showing the impact of lack of sleep on the metabolism. Poor quality sleep is a stress on your body and can cause your cortisol levels (a stress hormone) to spike. Not only does it make you feel terrible but lack of sleep puts your body into energy conserving mode and makes you more likely to gain weight. Not getting enough sleep has also been linked to changes in blood sugar control and release of the hormones that regulate appetite. Ever noticed that you crave more sweets and caffeine after a bad night’s sleep? Now you know why!

To speed up your metabolism, make sure you are getting as much sleep as you need to feel refreshed and energised. If you are struggling with sleep, try out my tips on dealing with sleep disturbances. Especially taking care of your sleeping environment and having a solid evening routine to help you to relax and wind down. If you have chronic insomnia and signs of a low metabolism, focus on the tips here and you might just find your sleep improves naturally along with your metabolism. It goes both ways, sleep supports your metabolism and a healthy metabolism enables deep, sound sleep!

Are the ways to speed up metabolism working?

As you experiment with these ways to speed up metabolism, keep track of how you are feeling throughout this process. Look out for changes in your energy levels, sleep and motivation for life. Notice if you are feeling warmer and more relaxed. Or maybe your hormones and hunger levels become more balanced. Celebrate any small wins you observe and don’t worry if you gain a bit of weight along the way. You are in this for the long haul and setting your body up for future health and success!

Enjoy the process as much as you can and take the chance to focus on other areas of your life outside of health and fitness. Remember that this isn’t forever. This is a protocol for helping your body to heal itself and your metabolism to recover. As you start to feel better and have more energy you can start to switch things up. Maybe by changing the foods you eat or by adding in more exercise. Always let this process be guided by your body rather than your mind!

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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Bedtime snack ideas for better sleep

In my recent post top tips for better sleep, I mentioned that low blood sugar during the night can cause sleep disturbances, in particular waking up in the early hours of the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. This is because when blood glucose drops and liver glucose stores have been used up, it is the stress hormone cortisol which is produced to allow stored glucose to be released into the blood stream. When we are in a stressed state and more sensitive to cortisol, this extra dose can raise our levels to the point where we are awoken from sleep. Not only is this annoying and frustrating but a poor night of sleep can also can cause further blood sugar instability the following day leading to a vicious cycle and chronic insomnia.

Signs that blood sugar instability is affecting your sleep include waking up feeling “tired but wired”, waking up with a headache, experiencing heart palpitations or sweating during the night or consistently waking up between 2 and 4am or 8 hours after your last meal which is when your liver glucose stores typically run out. Of course, some of these symptoms can also be signs of other health conditions so it is always important to consult with your doctor and rule out other possibilities but if you are suffering with unexplained insomnia and some of these symptoms, blood sugar could be to blame. There are many reasons why this can happen including a restrictive or unbalanced diet, not eating enough to support your activity or stress levels or an irregular eating schedule, particularly skipping meals or intermittent fasting.

If you struggle with insomnia and sleep distrubances, eating a small, balanced snack before bed can be just the trick needed to improve your sleep quality and help you to sleep through the night. Just think about how we take care of children, often we will give them a small snack before bed to help them to relax and calm down so that they can sleep. For some reason we think this only applies to children and for ourselves we prefer to adopt strict rules such as no carbs after 4pm or no food or drink after 7pm in the hope that this will bring us better health and weight loss. Sometimes it is the things that go against conventional ideas that can really support our health. Especially if you are currently under stress or following a strict diet and exercise program and finding that you are having trouble sleeping, why not try simply adding a small bedtime snack to your routine and observe how you feel in your body.

So what are the best foods for a bedtime snack? There are two things to reconsider here:

  1. Digestibility
  2. Balanced macro nutrients

Firstly you want to make sure that your snack is not too heavy and contains foods that are easy on the digestive system. The last thing you want is to be going to bed with a full stomach after a heavy meat meal or difficult to digest foods such as raw vegetables. Only you know what works best for your digestive system but generally easy to digest carbohydrates such as cereals, milk, honey and fruit work well along with a small amount of fat and protein to support blood sugar balance. Fats and proteins slow down digestion whereas carbohydrates tend to be absorbed much more quickly. Therefore eating a snack containing a balance of carbohydrates, fat and protein should prevent a high blood sugar spike followed by a low blood sugar crash and provide a more stable and even energy source for your body as you sleep.

Some examples of bedtime snacks for better sleep include greek yoghurt with honey, 2 boiled eggs with a piece of fruit, a slice of wholegrain toast with cheese or hummus, a small handful of trail mix or hot porridge oats with a spoon of peanut butter. If you prefer not to eat solid food before bed, you can go for a sustaining drink instead such as milk with honey, homemade hot chocolate or chocolate milk, a protein shake made with berries, milk and a half scoop of protein powder or orange juice with added gelatin. These are just some suggestions but feel free to play around with different types and ratios of foods in your bedtime snack to see what supports you in getting your best sleep and feeling energised and refreshed the next day!

Over to you…

I hope you found this article interesting and feel inspired to give these tips a go. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences, I’d love to hear from you. Like this post to support my business and follow along with my blog for more post on nutrition, yoga and holistic health practices to support balanced hormones and overall better health.

If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I am a qualified Public Health Nutritionist and hatha yoga teacher and my specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after chronic or restrictive dieting. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!

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Top tips to improve your sleep

Sleep is one of the major players when it comes to transforming your health. Not only can a better nights’ sleep help you to feel more energised and happier but it also has a knock on effect on your other decisions throughout the day. Ever experienced that feeling of being constantly hungry after a night tossing and turning? Research shows that poor sleep affects blood sugar regulation which can cause increased cravings for sweet foods and a tendency to over eat. Feeling tired is also not exactly conducive to a good workout either, we are less likely to want to move our bodies when we haven’t slept well and even the best intentions can go out of the window.

That said, here are my top tips to improve your sleep and wake up feeling rested and refreshed!

1. Create an evening routine

Allowing yourself time to wind down before bed is one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep! It might seem obvious but how many times have you found yourself lying awake in bed after checking emails one last time or watching an intense TV show? Our body and mind need time to shift into relaxation mode before bed and an evening routine can help to send the signal that the day is over and it is time to sleep. It doesn’t matter what you do for your evening routine but spending at least half an hour, or an hour if you can spare it, on a relaxing evening routine can reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep and greatly improve your quality of sleep. Some examples of calming activities you can do before bed include gentle yoga, meditation or breathing exercises, journaling, reading or listening to music. You can also build in another self-care habit by using this time for a relaxing skin-care routine or epsom salt bath. Having a set sleep window has been shown to help you fall asleep faster and spend more time in supporting deep and REM sleep so try to start your sleep routine within the same hour each night for optimal results.

2. Say no to technology

One of the most challenging but most supportive things you can do to improve your sleep is to have a cut off point for technology at least one hour before bed. Phones, laptops, TV can all be stimulating for the mind and the blue light that they emit can also confuse our brains into thinking it is still day. Ideally, switching off all devices and wi-fi before bed will help you to get a better nights’ sleep and improve your sleep pattern. However, if you cannot avoid using technology before bed, a good option is to install a red light filter such as Flux onto your phone or computer which will block the disruptive blue light which is so harmful to your sleep cycles. You can set them to gradually shift to red light from sunset to mimic the natural changes in sunlight throughout the evening which I find really useful. Avoiding sleeping with your phone by your bed will also help you to feel more relaxed and avoid the temptation to check social media or browse the internet if you find you can’t sleep. If you use your phone as an alarm you can still keep it in the room but move it far away from the bed. This will also help you to get out of bed in the morning so it is a win-win!

3. Manage your blood sugar

Instable blood sugar has many consequences and is a hidden but common factor in insomnia, particularly early morning waking or sleep maintenance insomnia. This is a condition where you are able to fall asleep but unable to stay asleep and find yourself awake in the early hours of the morning. When there is no acute or chronic psychological stress present, insomnia can be caused by the physical stress of poor nutrition and imbalanced blood sugar. When our blood sugar levels drop low during the night, either because we haven’t eaten enough during the day, limiting carbohydrates (e.g. keto diet) or due to raising our blood sugar too high during the evening resulting in a blood sugar crash, the stress hormone cortisol is released to bring our blood sugar levels back up. This is a normal process that also happens during the day but in some cases the cortisol levels can raise to the point where it wakes you up and gives you a “wired but tired” feeling where you are unable to fall back to sleep. Having a small, balanced snack containing carbohydrates, fat and protein before bed or if you wake up during the night is often enough to resolve this issue and improve sleep duration and quality.

4. Avoid stimulants in the evening

Any food or drink containing caffeine act as stimulants in your body which can prevent you from falling asleep or getting good quality sleep. Most people know that coffee, energy drinks and black tea both contain caffeine but green tea, some herbal teas, cola and chocolate also contain this sleep disrupting chemical! We are very individual when it comes to caffeine metabolism and some people have a higher tolerance and faster clearance of caffeine than others so it’s best to experiment yourself and find out where your limits are when it comes to consuming these foods. Generally it’s a good idea to avoid high caffeine food and drink after 2pm and limit even low caffeine food such as chocolate in the evening hours. You might find though that you sleep better avoiding caffeine all together so if insomnia and low energy are a problem for you, maybe give going caffeine-free a shot for a week or two. Aside from caffeine, other stimulants include heavy TV shows and movies, loud music and stressful conversations so where ever possible try to avoid these in the hours before you sleep and opt for your relaxing evening routine instead.

5. Supplements for better sleep

Natural substances which help your body to relax can be a helpful ally in getting better quality sleep. One of my personal favourites is herbal teas containing chamomile, passion flower and valerian root. These are traditional remedies known to support a calm nervous system state and help to improve sleep. Another useful remedy is aromatherapy, especially lavender oil which can been used for centuries to aid relaxation and help to overcome sleep problems. You can use this as part of your evening routine in the form of essential oils, scented candles or a pillow spray to create a calming environment in your bedroom. When it comes to supplementation, I prefer to keep it simple. One of the key nutrients which aids in relaxation of the physical body is magnesium and it is becoming more popular to use magnesium supplements to support a better nights’ sleep. Again there are several ways to use magnesium including liquid or pill-form oral supplements, body sprays or oils and also as bath salts.

As you can see, these are 5 tips but they can also fit together very nicely. You can create an evening routine which includes avoiding technology, drinking herbal tea or eating a healing snack and using sleep supporting supplements to create the perfect environment for a deep and restful sleep. Reflect on which of the tips you think work best with your lifestyle and your current situation and test them out to see if you can improve your sleep and wake up feeling happier and ready for the day ahead!

Over to you…

I hope you found this article interesting and feel inspired to give these tips a go. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences, I’d love to hear from you. Please like this post and follow along with my blog for more post on nutrition, yoga and holistic health practices to support balanced hormones and overall better health.

If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I am a qualified Public Health Nutritionist and hatha yoga teacher and my specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after chronic or restrictive dieting. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!

Other posts you might like