eggs-dairy get your period back on a vegan diet

Nutrition to heal tooth decay naturally

This is a follow up to my two previous posts where I shared my experience of healing tooth decay after a vegan diet and the dietary causes of tooth decay. Read those posts first as they give context and some of the scientific background to why tooth decay occurs. In this post I will focus on nutrition to heal tooth decay naturally. This is what I have learnt over the past year about how to heal tooth decay naturally with good nutrition.

My dental issues were caused by eating a vegan diet but this information applies to anyone experiencing tooth decay. Of course, whether you can heal tooth decay naturally depends on the cause and the severity. It is important to always work with a dentist when it comes to your oral health. In some cases, dental procedures are required and natural healing is not possible. However, these nutrition strategies for tooth healing can work alongside traditional dentistry.

If you don’t have tooth decay, this post will give you helpful strategies to prevent it and to keep your teeth healthy and strong. Solid nutrition also benefits your overall health and wellbeing so it is a win-win situation!

Nutrition to heal tooth decay naturally

Nutrients for healthy teeth and mineralisation

As I explained in my previous post, tooth decay and demineralisation can be caused by a lack or imbalance of minerals such as calcium and phosphorous in your diet. In addition, tooth decay can occur if you don’t consume adequate amounts of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These nutrients help to form strong enamel layer to protect your teeth as well as good production of healthy, neutral pH saliva. This means that getting enough minerals and fat soluble vitamins is a key element of nutrition to heal tooth decay naturally.

The UK national dietary guidelines suggest for adults aged 19-64 we should be consuming a minimum of 700mg of calcium and 550mg of phosphorous per day. This includes calcium from either plant or animal sources. The recommended daily amount of vitamin A is 700mg (2300IU) for men and 600mg (2000IU) for women, for vitamin D it is 10mg (400IU). This can easily be achieved by following the Eat Well Plate and including a variety of foods in your daily diet. However, if you already are experiencing tooth demineralization or decay, these minimum intakes may not be adequate.

In his book Cure Tooth Decay, which is based on the work of Weston A. Price, Ramiel Nigel proposes the nutrient intakes below to support tooth repair and remineralization which are significantly higher than our dietary guidelines recommend!

Top foods for healing tooth decay

When it comes to nutrition to heal tooth decay naturally, you want to consume foods from several categories on a regular basis. These foods will support your overall health as well as producing healthy and strong teeth:

  • Full or half fat dairy such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter
  • Fish and sea food (especially small fish with bones such as sardines)
  • Organ meats (including liver 1x per week)
  • Bone marrow and broths or stews
  • Variety of green vegetables (cooked or raw depending on tolerance)
  • Moderate amount of cooked fruit and 1 glass orange juice per day

For additional support, you can also supplement with 1/2 tsp butter oil and 1/2 tsp cod liver oil daily which are both dense sources of fat soluble vitamins.

You can use a food tracking app such as Chronometer to get a rough idea of your daily nutrient intakes and where you could be falling short. As an example, to consume approximately 1.5g of calcium you could include:

1c fortified cereal, 1c milk, 1c yoghurt, 1/2c ricotta cheese, 1c broccoli, 1c cooked greens, 1tbsp tahini, 1tbsp blackstrap molasses and 1 portion steamed salmon

You can see it’s quite a lot! You could try this as a vegan but you would need to ensure you are eating several portions of fortified dairy alternatives per day. Also you would exchange the salmon with 1/2c tofu or a whole cup of beans.

Nutrition to heal tooth decay naturally: Blood sugar balancing

Another important element of healing tooth decay natural is balancing your blood sugar. This is because spikes in blood sugar disrupt the tooth remineralisation process. High levels of glucose in your saliva also creates acidic environment for bacteria to grow and plaque to form on your teeth. Oral issues such as gum disease, dry mouth and cavities are common in diabetes, a disease associated with unstable blood sugar.

To balance your blood sugar, eat meals and snacks containing all three macro-nutrients. Try to include a decent amount of fibre in your main meals. Fats, protein and fibre help to slow down the digestive process and rate of absorption of carbohydrates (glucose) into the blood stream. This prevents blood sugar spikes and crashes and maintains even energy levels as well as preventing mineral leaching from the teeth and bones. You can play around with the macro-nutrient ratios and see what supports a stable mood and energy levels for you.

A note on fruit!

Fruit contains fibre and has a lesser effect on blood sugar levels compared to processed carbohydrates and sweets. However, it is still a high glucose food and can lead to blood sugar spikes if consumed alone or in too high quantities. This is especially the case for dried fruits or juices. As there are so many health benefits from including fruit in your diet, I don’t recommend cutting it out completely unless your teeth are in a very serious condition.

Instead, I usually recommend to my clients to consume fruit as part of a meal. Or if eaten as a snack to combine with raw vegetables or protein/fat source such as cheese or nuts for better blood sugar balancing. It is also helpful to neutralise your mouth after eating sweet or acidic foods such as fruit by rinsing with water or salt water.

Nutrition to heal tooth decay naturally: Meal ideas

Breakfast

  • Full fat yoghurt with stewed fruits and seeds
  • Sardines on whole grain toast
  • Porridge made with 2% milk and blackstrap molasses
  • Smoothie with kefir, berries and 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Lunch/Dinner

  • Meat and vegetable stew
  • Green vegetable omelette cooked in butter
  • Liver and onions with rice or potatoes
  • Salad with olive oil dressing chickpeas
  • Vegetable and tofu curry
  • Roasted sweet potato with broccoli and tahini sauce

Snack

  • 1 apple or 1c grapes with cheese
  • 1c orange juice with 2 boiled eggs
  • Fruit with 1c cucumber or celery
  • 1c milk with 1tbsp blackstrap molasses

Can you heal your teeth on a vegan diet?

For anyone like me in the past who is currently following a vegan or plant-based diet, reading this can come as a shock. I know, I was there. I was convinced that a vegan diet was the healthiest and most sustainable way to eat and that animal products were toxic and should be avoided. Honestly, it took me several years, including studying for a degree in Public Health Nutrition and doing my own research and experimentation to realize that yes we can survive on a vegan diet but not everyone can thrive.

If you are suffering from tooth decay or demineralization on a vegan diet, take it as a sign that you are not getting everything that you need from your food. It’s very common to experience black and white thinking and feel like it is either fully vegan or nothing when in reality there is a spectrum. It is possible to follow a mostly plant-based diet and add in some of the above foods and meals to give your body a healthy dose of concentrated nutrition.

I really wasn’t thriving on a vegan diet so in the end it was not difficult to reintroduce animal products, once I had made the mental shift. I was expecting to struggle with digestive issues after not eating meat and dairy for so long but honestly, it felt like my body absorbed them right away. The first few meals with fish and cheese tasted amazing and the craving that had been suppressed for so long (making me feel like I didn’t miss or need animal products) finally resurfaced. I started to have more energy and mental clarity and just feel more like myself which was not something I thought could be impacted by the diet.

I did introduce things gradually over a period of two years and for a long time my diet was mostly plant-based. Even now I eat a lot of plant-based foods but I would consider myself a true omnivore and I make sure to eat at least dairy every single day!

Vegan nutrition for healing tooth decay naturally

I really didn’t start to see improvements in my teeth until I went all in and consumed dairy every day and ate meat and fish more regularly. But anyone who is committed to remaining vegan, here are some vegan nutrition tips for healing your teeth.

Something which helped prevent further deterioration of my teeth was cutting back on some of the foods which I thought were contributing to my dental problems. This included foods that I ate on a regular basis such as oats, dried fruit and acidic fruits. Dried fruits are high in sugar and can leave a sticky residue on your teeth which bacteria love. Oats contain phytic acid which can disrupt mineral absorption. Now I have added them back in without seeing any reversal of the progress with my teeth but in the beginning it was necessary to keep them to a minimum.

It’s also important to include plenty of plant-based calcium sources such as tofu, tahini, blackstrap molasses and green vegetables. Pair them with plenty of plant fats to help with absorption of nutrients. Avoid restrictive diets or cleanses and really focus on eating balanced meals which support blood sugar stability. Consider taking a vegan calcium supplement but always consult with your doctor first as with any medication.

The most important thing overall is to listen to your body rather than your mind when it comes to making food choices. Our bodies are extremely intelligent and know what they need to remain healthy and balanced. We just need to remember how to listen!

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Non-diet approach to health coaching

Non-diet approach to health coaching vs. dieting

Today’s topic is Dieting vs. Non-diet approach to health coaching!

How many here have ever been on a diet to lose weight? Weight-watchers, Slimming World, low-calorie, low-carb or low-fat… how many have you tried?? In 2016, Huffington post shared an article claiming that 57% of British women had been on a diet to lose weight in the last 12 months. Of those, two-thirds reporting being on a weight-loss diet most or all of the time. That’s pretty shocking!

Dieting in the traditional sense is not easy. It takes effort to go against your bodies’ natural signals and purposely eat less food than it is asking for in order to lose weight. Yes you might lose weight but sustaining this tension between “want it” and “can’t have it” over a long period of time depletes your mental and emotional energy reserves. Fighting your appetite only intensifies cravings, leaving you feeling drained and vulnerable to over-eating which undoes all of your hard work.

Introducing the Non-Diet Approach

It’s no secret these days that diets don’t work. Still, many people continue to try for lack of a better option. I’m here to tell you that there is a better option! It’s called the Non-Dieting Approach to health coaching and it’s the method that I was taught to use with clients. The Non-Dieting Approach is based on researched methods of health promotion including Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size® which encourage working with your body rather than against it in your pursuit of health.

So what exactly is the non-diet approach to health coaching and how does it compare to traditional dieting methods?

Traditional dieting methodsNon-diet approach
Main goal is weight loss, body shape change or size reduction. Encourages you to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, regardless of weight, shape or size
Advises control of food quantities by weighing, measuring and counting portionsTeaches you to regulate eating based on internal signals of hunger and fullness (intuitive eating)
Often recommends using a food diary to count calories or macros with targets set based on goalsRecommends you use a food diary to understand eating behaviours or the effects of different foods or meals
Categorises foods as good or bad based on the rules of the specific dietRemoves all moral labels from food and teaches you to accept nourishment in all forms
Uses exercise (especially cardio) as a way to burn calories or fat and offset the food eatenSupports you to find ways to move your body that bring you joy and build self-appreciation
Self-monitoring of progress is typically weighing, measuring or taking photos of your physiqueSelf-monitoring is based on behaviours and may include a journal of thoughts and feelings.
Often any weight lost is regained within a 5 year period after the dietDoes not always result in weight loss but lifestyle changes and health benefits can be sustained long term
Risks of increased body dissatisfaction, reactive binge eating, chronic or yo-yo dieting, further weight gainEncourages positive self-image and body acceptance, boosts confidence, improves happiness and vitality

My experience with the Non-Diet Approach

The Non-Diet Approach is exactly the method I used to recover from chronic dieting and find true health. Through this method I was able to get back my period after 8 years of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. I lost my period due to restrictive dieting and over-exercising, both of which I believed were healthy at the time.

Through the Non-Diet Approach, I was able to reintroduce foods I loved that I had been restricting for many years. I let go of the idea that they were bad and eating them even in moderation would make me unhealthy. And these were the same foods that I used to then go and binge eat in secret when I couldn’t hold myself any longer. I was also able to let go of my rigid exercise regime which was getting in the way of my social life and impacting my family relationships.

These days I have a very balanced approach to food. Despite my expectation that lifting dietary restrictions would lead to a life long junk food and sweets binge. Actually I found that I settled into a natural pretty healthy dietary pattern with plenty of treats sprinkled in without the guilt. After letting go of my gym obsession, I found more enjoyable ways to move my body. Now exercise is a hobby rather than a chore or a punishment and I genuinely look forward to these activities!

And what about my weight? I quickly settled into a natural set point weight for my body type. I have remained there within a 5lb range for the last 5 years. This is without any real effort other than maintaining the healthy lifestyle habits I built.

Can the Non-Diet Approach work for you?

I want this type of health and wellness for you too! If you are sick and tired of restricting and punishing your body to lose weight then the Non-Diet Approach is for you. Your body is not broken, traditional dieting methods are simply designed to keep you stuck. Even if you have tried every diet under the sun, the Non-Diet Approach is something new. It never too late to heal your relationship with food and find true health.

Are you ready? If you want to let go of dieting for good, I can help. We will work together to gain clarity on your vision of true health, develop goals and strategies to get there. I will offer you support and accountability in taking action. Breaking free of chronic dieting takes a 180 mindset shift. It also requires the unravelling of some deep held beliefs about what it means to be healthy. But together we can get there!

If you are interested in learning more about health coaching with the Non-Diet Approach. Or if you want to apply for one of my coaching spots opening up this week, head over to the Contact page of my site or drop me an email at lovemoonlife.mail@gmail.com.

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foods to increase your metabolism fruit

Key principles of a healthy diet

I am not the type of nutritionist who believes there is such a thing as a one-size-fits-all diet. As I spoke about in my recent post, there are many factors which impact what and how much each person should eat to be healthy. That said, there are a few key principles to keep in mind to make sure your diet is healthy as possible. These tips are based on my learnings from Intuitive Eating principles, Health at Every Size and the Well Woman Coaching course from Well College Global. Enjoy!

Balance

All foods contain macronutrients that provide us with energy (carbohydrates and fats) and building blocks for repair (proteins). The diagram below shows examples of foods that typically contain these macronutrients. A balanced diet is one that includes all macronutrients in a proportion that suits the individual.

An imbalanced diet is one that overly restricts one or more food groups, for example very low-fat diets like the Pritikin or MacDougall diets or very low-carb diets such as the Atkins, keto or carnivore diets. The problem with imbalanced diets is that they put the body into an abnormal functioning or survival mode. Some doctors claim that this can have benefits for people suffering with specific, life-altering diseases. I am not here to dispute this claim, rather I believe that for the majority of people, a balanced diet which provides the body with all macro-nutrients and does not force the body into an extreme state is optimal for health.

The risk of low-fat diets include poor nutrient absorption and associated deficiencies, dry skin and hair and a weakened immune system. On the other hand, low-carb diets can cause weakness, fatigue, hair loss and chronic stress in the body. It is best to let go of dietary dogma and opt for a diet that includes a healthy amount of all three macro-nutrients. The exact ratios of each will depend on your personal physiology and lifestyle but my recommendation would be not to go below 20% fat, 20% protein or 40% carbohydrates. The NHS Eatwell Guide shows a balanced plate with examples of foods to eat from each group.

Variety

As well as macronutrients, foods also contain micronutrients that help to keep our bodies functioning optimally and prevent disease. The most well known are vitamins and minerals although other micronutrients such as polyphenols are now being discovered which have remarkable health-giving properties. Vitamins include B-vitamins which support healthy energy and metabolism, vitamin D which is needed for strong bones and teeth and vitamin A for healthy eyes and skin. Essential minerals include calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.

Each food contains unique combinations of these different micronutrients and therefore eating a variety of foods helps us to improve our chances of getting everything we need. If we exclude whole food groups from the diet or limit our diet to just a few different foods, we may be putting ourselves at risk of nutrient deficiencies. Instead, consume a variety of food from different food groups e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, meat, fish, nuts and pulses on a daily and weekly basis, finding a balance that suits your taste and lifestyle.

Additionally, food can have harmful properties as well as beneficial ones. for example, tuna fish contains a healthy amount of protein and vitamin D but it also contains mecury, a toxic heavy metal which can build up in the blood stream if we consume tuna too frequently. That isn’t to say we should avoid eating tuna altogether, our bodies have built in detoxification pathways to deal with these things but it is better to consume a variety of foods to avoid over-consumption of toxins found in certain foods.

Whole foods

Whole foods is a word that has been circulating a lot in the nutrition world, especially in the last decade, but what exactly does it mean? Whole foods is a term that refers to foods in their whole and mostly unprocessed form. It doesn’t mean that everything should be eaten raw, exactly as it comes from nature, just that the food is kept in tact as much as possible to make it edible and palatable.

This could mean consuming fresh fruit or juice rather than artificial juice or fruit juice from concentrate, choosing whole wheat bread or pasta instead of refined white flour products or eating home cooked mashed or roasted potatoes over potato crisps or oven fries. When we eat a diet based on whole foods, we are ensuring that our diet is as nutrient dense as possible, i.e. our food gives us the most “bang for our buck”. A whole foods diet also minimises our consumption of artificial additives such as preservatives, flavours and colours which may not be optimal for our health.

Now, anyone who knows me or who has followed my blog for a while will know that I am not one for extremes or restrictive diets. I believe there is a place for all foods, including processed or artificial foods in a balanced diet, if they bring us joy and pleasure. But research shows that eating a diet based mostly on whole and unprocessed foods is more likely to lead to better short and long-term health outcomes. So go ahead and enjoy your treats now and again but be sure to have a solid foundation of nourishing whole foods to build upon.

Individuality

Finally, a healthy diet is one that works for you. Not your friend or some random person you follow on the internet but you. We are all born into individual bodies with unique tastes and needs and whilst we know that eating a balanced diet with a variety of whole foods is optimal for health, within this there is still much scope for individualisation both in the amounts and types of foods that we eat. what works perfectly for one person may make another feel terrible.

Experiment with different foods and meals to find those which taste good, digest well and give you the most energy. Explore your local food culture and try out recipes with local and seasonal produce. Notice how you feel when you eat big meals vs. smaller meals with snacks between or if you practice intermittent fasting vs. eating whenever you are hungry. Don’t listen to strict rules and regulations when it comes to diet because there is better teacher than your own body.

Remember that your body is constantly changing as you move through life and that your diet can also change. Just like your friends diet may not work for you, the diet you followed in your 20s may no longer feel good once you reach your 40s. Allow eating to be a two-way communication between you and your body. This takes mindful awareness and repeated practice but it’s a skill that once you master it will serve you for a lifetime.

Over to you…

Let me know your thoughts on this interesting topic! Do you agree or disagree? Did I miss something? Please like and share this post to support my business and follow my blog for more useful posts on nutrition, yoga and holistic 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. My specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after chronic or restrictive dieting but I also help anyone who is looking to improve their overall health and find the perfect balance for their body. 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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What is the perfect diet for humans?

The world of nutrition and diets can be a confusing place. There are so many different diets that claim to be the perfect diet for humans and the optimal way to eat. I remember once reading a quote, “If you are not confused about nutrition then you haven’t studied it enough” and I find this to be so true. If you have been in the world of health and wellness for a while, you will have seen many nutrition trends come and go and often competing with each other for attention. In the last ten years alone we have seen the rise of vegan and plant-based diets (high carb low fat), paleo, keto and carnivore diets (low carb high fat) as well as gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free diets..

I could go on but I’m sure you see my point. Each time a new nutrition paradigm is discovered there is a huge hype and a torrent of evidence to demonstrate that this is the perfect diet which will solve all of our health problems. Vegan nutritionists and doctors believe that animal products are the cause of all diseases of the modern world, including high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease and that eating a diet based on mostly plant-based foods will help us to live a long and healthy life. On the other hand, proponents of animal-based keto and paleo diets proclaim that sugar and carbohydrates are the devil and should be avoided at all costs. They believe that there are toxic compounds in plant-foods that wreak havoc on the body and that training your body to become a fat burning machine will help you to stay fit and lean and keep disease at bay.

Both sides have theoretical research, data and anecdotal evidence to support their ideas but how can this nutrition paradox exist? And what does this say about what is the perfect diet for humans? As I have said before, I believe that humans we are very adaptable creatures and we are able to survive in many different environments on a variety of diets. This is why we have been able to spread across the globe and build societies from the tropics to the snowy mountains of Siberia. When it comes to the perfect diet to thrive, I think this really comes down to the individual and the environment they live in. There are so many factors that affect what and how much you should eat to be healthy that it is truly impossible to state that one diet or specific way of eating is optimal for everyone, everywhere. Honestly, I think this idea is crazy!

According to Marc Davis in his book, Nourishing Wisdom, there are five key factors which can influence your dietary needs at any given time:

  1. Lifestyle
  2. Age
  3. Environment
  4. Season
  5. Health conditions

These things taken together account for changes in the quantities and types of foods that you need to eat at any time. For example, a male athlete living in California has very different dietary needs to a sedentary elder in Alaska or a pregnant working woman in London. There is no way that we can apply a one-size-fits-all diet to these cases. Perhaps these are extreme comparisons but even within the span of your own life there will be differences. Your activity and stress levels fluctuate as you move through your life and every year most locations in the world experience the natural shifts in weather and pace of life with the changing seasons. For women we also move through inner “seasons” each month following the hormonal rhythms of our menstrual cycle which changes our appetite and cravings as well as macro and micro-nutrient needs.

For many of us, trying to control our diets or our bodies is a natural response to the stresses of life. Change is always inevitable and often uncomfortable and we can turn to strict dietary rules or control of our bodies shape or size as a way to feel a sense of stability. Part of the holistic health journey is learning to accept and flow with these changes in our bodies and our diet rather that resist against them and create further stress and tension. When we learn to relax and listen to our bodies messages about what it needs at any given time, we take the pressure off ourselves and find that there is a natural intelligence that comes through. If we start a new exercise program, we may naturally feel hungrier and crave foods higher in protein. If we move house or change jobs, the stress may increase our appetite and cravings for sugar to calm the nervous system or on the contrary, shut down appetite all together. The body is always looking out for your and trying to do what it thinks is best for survival.

In my holistic health coaching practice, I have clients that come to me with a range of issues. Some want to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way, others have been through years of restrictive dieting and want to regain a monthly menstrual cycle or overcome symptoms of a low metabolism such as fatigue, low mood and other symptoms of hormonal balance. Some clients live very active lifestyles with work, family and regular exercise and others have lower energy requirements due to a slower paced lifestyle. Each case is different and the dietary suggestions I make depend on the individuals’ lifestyle, health data and history, current health status and their goals. This can involve changes in the recommendations for how much to eat, when to eat, which types of foods to consume and in what ratios. Working with clients over several sessions, we can tune into what works and what doesn’t and find what is the perfect diet for them.

As an example, a metabolically healthy person with a few extra lbs to lose can afford to increase the fruit and vegetable consumption and lower fat consumption to reduce the overall calorie density of their diet and help them to lose weight without feeling deprived. A low calorie density diet can be the perfect diet to lose weight for many people. However, someone who is metabolically compromised and suffering from digestive and hormonal issues due to not eating enough food or enough variety of food is likely to feel worse on a a low-calorie density diet and is more likely to need to eat less fibre and more calorically dense foods to support their body in healing and recovery. When it comes to plant-based foods, it is not as simple as more is better. If you are already consuming 8-10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, drinking 2L of water and wondering why you are still feeling rubbish then it is time to take a look and see what else needs to change.

I always recommend clients to keep a food diary, not to track calories or macro-nutrients but to see how their body responds to different foods and meals. A food diary is an amazing tool for anyone looking to improve their health and find the perfect diet as observing your bodies’ reactions can tell you a lot about your state of health and what you need to stay balanced. It is quite trendy nowadays to restrict foods such as gluten and dairy and to include “superfoods” like kale and spirulina but what if these foods don’t agree with you? Keeping a food diary can help you to understand the foods that digest well for you, keep you feeling full and energised for longer as well as any problem foods or combinations of foods that leave you feeling hungry an hour later or tired and sluggish for days. You might even find that certain foods work well in one situation and not in another, perhaps you can digest a particular meal but that same meal causes bloating and reflux if you eat in a stressful environment such as at your work desk.

I also encourage everyone to explore the local food culture in the area they live as traditional meals prepared with locally produced ingredients are more likely to support you in the environment you live in compared to copy paste recipes prepared by someone on the other side of the globe made with imported and mass-produced ingredients. Traditionally, people were more aware of the connection between us and our environment and more conscious of how different foods can be used to support us through environmental changes. Last year I moved from the UK to Greece and my diet completely changed. It was very disorientating but eating Greek cuisine daily and shopping for seasonal produce in the local market was very grounding and was a big wake up call for me to understand the importance of allowing changes in the diet and adapting to the climate that you live in.

I think this is one of the huge problems with the raw vegan movement. Yes it may work in certain locations where fresh, water-rich food is needed to keep your body cool and hydrated or perhaps for short periods of cleansing and detoxification for those with specific health conditions. But is a raw vegan diet is perfect for humans who live in colder climates or who are underweight and need to consume a higher amount of calories? I would argue not. Perhaps it is the perfect diet for a specific human in a specific life situation but no more than that. The same goes for the keto or carnivore diet. For someone who has deprived their body of nutrients present in animal products, maybe consuming large quantities of these foods can be therapeutic for a time to rebuild nutrient stores and rebalance their body but the problems arise when we hold on to these restrictive diets longer than necessary. Once our bodies start to react with cravings for foods outside of the diet, it is important to listen and not remain stuck in the idea that this is the perfect diet.

So where do you start with finding what is the perfect diet for you? I have lots of resources here on my website to help you assess your current state of health and find a nutrition path that works for you. If you need more tailored advice and a personalised holistic health and nutrition plan tailored to your current situation and your goals, you can reach out to me for support via my holistic health coaching program.

Over to you…

I hope you found this article interesting and it gives you “food for thought”. Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. Like this post to support my business and follow along with my blog for more articles 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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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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Nutrition to heal tooth decay naturally

Causes of tooth decay on a vegan diet

In my last post I shared my experience with tooth decay on a vegan diet and how I healed my teeth after veganism. Today I want to explain more about the causes of tooth decay, especially on a vegan diet. This is not something that gets talked about enough in the nutrition world. Dietary advice for healthy teeth is usually simplified to “eat less sugar and acidic foods” which is absolutely not enough. Stay tuned to find out why!

Causes of tooth decay and de-mineralization

Modern dentistry usually puts the blame for tooth decay on bacteria in the mouth which feed on sugars in the diet and cause cavities. However, this is only part of the picture and a major component has been forgotten! That is that in order for bacteria to attack the teeth, a weakness needs to already be present. To understand this, we need to look at the structure of the teeth:

  1. The enamel layer on the outside of your tooth is what gives them a white colour and shiny, hard appearance. It is made up of minerals, primarily calcium-phosphate
  2. The dentin layer is less hard than enamel but also made up of calcified minerals. It usually has a yellow or grey colour. If the dentin is more exposed, you can experience tooth sensitivity and less white colour
  3. The pulp contains all the nerves and blood and is the most sensitive part of the tooth.

Strong enamel protects the dentin below from acid erosion and bacteria attacks. But enamel itself can also be worn down by acid, grinding the teeth or if minerals are leached from the teeth in a process called demineralization. Generally, minerals are constantly being lost and replaced via the blood supply to the tooth pulp and also the saliva. If the rates of mineralization and demineralization are equal, we have a stable tooth condition.

In tooth decay, demineralization is generally occurring at a faster rate. Once enamel is worn down, it cannot be reformed but minerals can be deposited to strengthen the dentin and enamel layer. To heal tooth decay naturally, we need to increase the rate of remineralization (more on that later).

Dietary causes of tooth decay and demineralisation

In the 1930s, a dentist called Weston A Price discovered another theory for tooth decay. He studied indigenous people and found that many tribes living on traditional diets did not experience tooth decay. This was despite not having access to modern dental care and in some cases not even brushing their teeth! Once they switched to a more modern diet including refined carbohydrates and processed foods, they started to develop cavities and other dental issues.

According to Price, there are three main dietary causes of tooth decay and demineralisation:

  1. Inadequate amounts or imbalanced ratio of minerals (mainly calcium and phosphorous)
  2. A lack of fat-soluble vitamins (primarily vitamins A and D)
  3. Imbalanced blood sugar levels

As teeth and bones are made of similar material and go through the same process of building up and breaking down, these factors also play a major role in bone mineral density. Two key minerals for maintaining healthy bones and teeth are calcium and phosphorous. Calcium is a key component of enamel which gives the teeth strength and protects from decay. Phosphorous helps the body absorb calcium and also helps to release energy from food. The ratio of these nutrients in the blood is also important.

Another of the dietary causes of tooth decay is lack of fat soluble vitamins. These are vitamins A, D, E and K which need fat to be present in order to absorb and store them in the body. They are also generally found in fat-containing foods such as dairy, meat or nuts and seeds. For healthy and strong teeth, vitamin A and D are particularly important. Vitamin A supports healthy saliva production which is important to maintain a neutral pH in the mouth and to kill harmful bacteria. It is also forms keratin in the tooth enamel layer and the gums. Vitamin D also helps with calcium absorption and plays a key role in remineralizing of teeth and bones.

Blood sugar stability is also important causes of tooth decay. This is because high blood sugar levels trigger leaching of minerals such as calcium from the bones to neutralize the blood. Constant snacking or bingeing on sweet foods or processed carbohydrates as well a diet inadequate in protein and fat can lead to chronically high blood sugar or instability with peaks of high and low blood sugar several times throughout the day. This could be experienced as erratic energy levels, energy crashes throughout the day, constant or sudden hunger and cravings for sweet foods.

Causes of tooth decay on a vegan diet

Lack of calcium

Based on the above three factors, we can easily see how a vegan diet can lead to tooth demineralization and tooth decay. Let’s consider a typical, healthy vegan diet made up of primarily whole foods: fruits, vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, legumes and nuts/seeds. Plant-based sources of calcium could include fortified dairy-alternatives such as soy or almond milk, green leafy vegetables, beans, tofu and sesame seeds (tahini). With some attention, it is fairly easy to get enough calcium from consuming these foods as long as you are consistent day to day. The problem I see is in three areas: incomplete digestion, detoxification and the high carb low fat trend.

Reduced digestion and absorption

Firstly when it comes to digestion, you are not what you eat but what you digest and assimilate. By this I mean just because the foods you eat contain enough calcium, it doesn’t mean that your body is able to extract and use all of that calcium. Plants contain certain compounds which bind to minerals in particular making them more difficult to absorb. The bio-availability of nutrients in certain plants is therefore lower than in animal products meaning that you need to eat more to meet your nutritional needs. Many plant-based dieters are not aware of this and can unknowingly consume below their nutritional needs for a long period of time. Because we have a certain amount of nutrient stores in our body, it can take months or even years for deficiencies and symptoms to arise, at which point it becomes difficult to question the diet which has “worked” for so long.

Detox and cleansing

Another common mistake with vegan and plant-based diets is the idea that we need to be detoxing or cleansing on a long-term basis. I am all for short-term cleanses to support the body e.g. on an annual or seasonal basis but I see many vegans attempting to live in a state of detox and this is a recipe for mineral deficiencies in particular. For anyone in the detox world, you may be familiar with the problems of tooth sensitivity, decay and even tooth loss than can occur with heavy detox. Rather than being just a part of the detox process, I see this as a major flag that the detox has been too prolonged and a period of rebuilding with mineral rich foods is essential to support the body.

Inadequate fat soluble vitamins

Finally, there is also the risk of deficiencies in fat soluble vitamins that can occur with high carb low fat vegan diets. By nature, vegan diets are higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat compared to omnivorous diets and some plant-based doctors recommend as low as 5% fat in the diet for optimal health. Vegan diets particularly are low in saturated fats as all sources of meat and dairy are avoided and the only real source of saturated fat on a vegan diet would be from coconut. Without adequate fat in our diet, we cannot absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It is also not possible to obtain vitamin D from plants (other than a small amount in mushrooms) and therefore supplementation is necessary. Vitamins A and K are present in plant-based diets but they are again found in a different and less usable form compared to retinol and vitamin K2 found in animal products.

Blood sugar issues

Due to the high proportion of carbohydrates in most plant-based diets, blood sugar regulation can be an issue. This is not the case for everyone but it certainly affects some. There is the argument that plant-based foods are high in water and fibre which slows down digestion and absorption of glucose into the blood stream. However, I definitely noticed my blood sugar was less stable on a plant-based diet. How can you tell if your blood sugar is unstable? Sugar cravings and blood sugar crashes where you feel tired, weak or have brain fog are a tell tale signs. Also, rapidly feeling intense hunger after meals or that hangry feeling where you need to eat right away otherwise you feel extremely irritable.

Summary of causes of tooth decay on a vegan diet

I hope you found this article on the causes of tooth decay on a vegan diet useful. If you are struggling with tooth decay on a vegan diet, do not worry. I healed my teeth after veganism and you can do the same if you are willing to make changes to your diet. I shared my story in a previous post as well as the nutritional strategy for healing tooth decay. Both posts are linked down below so make sure you check them out.

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tooth decay on a vegan diet after braces

Tooth decay on a vegan diet? My experience

I rarely write about my experiences with the vegan diet because I know it is such a controversial topic. I have previously shared my history with health and nutrition and my experience recovering my period on a vegan diet. Earlier this year I also posted an article Veganuary: Is a vegan diet best for the planet?. In that post, I mentioned that I no longer follow a vegan diet and my current thoughts about what an environmentally sustainable diet is. In this article, I want to speak about the risk of tooth decay on a vegan diet and share my experience.

I haven’t spoken in detail about the health issues I experienced in the 3 years I followed a vegan diet. This is mainly because I know it can create strong emotions in some people. I understand that those still in the paradigm that a vegan diet is optimal for humans can take it quite personally when others decide it isn’t right for them. I am not here to tell people what they should and shouldn’t eat. But I do want to share information and my experience to help people make informed decisions when it comes to nutrition and their health.

At some point, I will speak in depth about how a vegan diet impacted my health and the problems I experienced. If this is something that interests you, leave a comment below this post or drop me an email via the contact page. In this post however, I do want to speak about one specific problem I had and that is tooth decay on a vegan diet. I visited the dentist yesterday which is what has inspired this post. Really it has been a long time coming!

Tooth decay on a vegan diet: Sensitivity, receding gums and brown spots

Prior to adopting a plant-based diet, I never had any issues with my teeth. I had some slight crowding of my front teeth since childhood. Other wise I had zero cavities or teeth removed in my whole adult life. I looked after my teeth well, visited the dentist regularly and never had any reason to worry about my teeth. But after 3 years as a vegan and 2 years mostly plant-based, I started to have problems with my teeth. First with increased tooth sensitivity and feeling of weakness in my teeth and then the appearance of my teeth also started to change.

The left photo from 2019 shows the start of my tooth decay on a vegan diet after 3 years. You can already see the yellow colour of my teeth and the areas of de-mineralization at the bottom of my front teeth. On the right is my teeth in 2020 after getting braces to straighten them because I was self-conscious about my smile. I was still following a plant-based diet at that point although not fully vegan. I had added a small amount of animal products back into my diet a year prior but this photo was taken after a 2 month period of eating a high-carb vegan diet.

It was my boyfriend that first noticed a difference visually. He came back after being away for a couple of months and he straight away asked what was wrong with my teeth. I looked in the mirror and noticed that they had a slight transparent, almost greyish tinge to them. There was a small brown spot on one of my front teeth and a dark shadow between them. I also checked my back teeth with a mirror and saw lots of small pinholes in my molars. Overall, my teeth felt weak and sensitive to cold, heat and acidic foods.

As well as this, I had been told by my dentist a year previously that some of my gums had started to recede. He thought was a result of brushing too hard, which may be true. However now I’m not sure whether it was due to that or a result of nutritional deficiencies. I will come onto the nutritional deficiencies which can cause tooth decay on a vegan diet in a moment!

Tooth decay on a vegan diet: My approach to healing

I was pretty freaked out and worried that I had causes permanent damage to my teeth. However, we were in the middle of the COVID pandemic and also preparing to leave the UK and a stressful move from the UK to Greece so I let it slide. I did some research online about tooth decay on a vegan diet and found lots of people sharing their experience and advice. As a result, I made some small changes like changing my toothpaste and rinsing with salt water after every meal. I reduced the amount of acidic fruit I was eating but I wasn’t strict about it.

Once we were settled in our new place, I noticed that things were not getting better and I immediately vowed to change my diet. One of the arguments against veganism is that it can cause tooth decay and demineralisation. This is because it cuts out all dairy which contains minerals that support strong teeth and bones. Up until this point, I was so far into the vegan agenda that I believed dairy was acidic for the body and actually caused leaching of minerals from the teeth.

I believed that plant-based sources of calcium such as broccoli, kale and sesame seeds (tahini) were adequate and even optimal for humans. However, this experience finally shocked me into the decision to completely let go of the idea that a fully plant-based diet is best for health. So I started to experiment with adding in animal products to my diet on a more regular basis. I was already eating meat and fish a few times a week but I still avoided dairy thinking it was bad for my hormones and for the environment.

I was very closed minded and in the “vegan bubble”. By this I mean I was listening mainly to sources promoting a vegan or plant-based diet as the healthiest and most sustainable diet. As a yoga teacher, I also have many friends and colleagues who are vegetarian or vegan and so it felt very difficult to step outside of this world and I wondered whether I could still consider myself a true yogi if I was harming animals by eating them.

At this point though I was extremely concerned. I didn’t want my ethical ideals to lead to me becoming malnourished or losing my teeth! So I started drinking organic goats milk daily, added cheese back into my diet. I also started to take an Osteocare supplement which includes calcium and vitamin D, both good for building strong bones and teeth.

Healing tooth decay after a vegan diet: The results

I think anything that affects our physical appearance can be extremely scary. It is something that our ego struggles to deal with as our identity is so tied to how we look. I am all for separating our value and self-worth from appearance. But in this case I knew that my physical appearance was also sending a message about potential problems on the inside too. Tooth decay is a major sign of dietary imbalances or more serious health conditions.

Although it was very difficult emotionally and I had to do a lot of brain rewiring to let go of my previous beliefs. Although it was a challenge, I managed it and I began to see positive changes. Fortunately, I found plenty of research available about tooth decay on a vegan diet. As well as how to heal cavities naturally through a healthy diet which contains plenty of bio-available nutrients.

Surprisingly, after about 6 months on this new way of eating, the spot on my front tooth had completely disappeared. My teeth were noticeably whiter and the dark shadow and pinhole cavities were less noticable. Not only that, but the sensitivity was hugely reduced and my teeth felt stronger overall. I finally felt comfortable biting into an apple rather than chopping it into small pieces.

Yesterday I went to the dentist for a check up and clean and she told me that my teeth are in great health. He also said that the amount of plaque build up on my teeth was also much less than my previous visit. The pinhole cavities that had developed have now hardened and they no longer pose a problem. Unfortunately the gums that have receded will never grow back and I will have to manage them to make sure they don’t get any worse.

Did I just do the vegan diet wrong?

I know this is a very heavy topic but I think it’s necessary for me to share with anyone who is vegan and experiencing dental problems. Or for anyone who is considering adopting a vegan or plant-based diet. It is very important to be fully informed when making decisions for your health. Choosing to adopt a vegan diet is not something that should be taken lightly. According to the UK National Health Service:

“With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs. If you do not plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12.”

Personally, I believe I was very careful with my diet as a vegan. I ate a good variety of foods and consumed fruit, vegetables, starches, beans, nuts and seeds as the base of my diet. I definitely ate more fruit and starchy carbs than the average person but I never went to extremes with my diet like some you see in the online world. For example, cutting out all fats or eating only one type of fruit for weeks at a time.

For a while I did fall into the trap of believing I need to detox to overcome my health issues and I had periods where I would attempt a raw vegan cleanse for a few days. But overall my diet was pretty balanced and I always tried to cover my nutritional bases. I did my research and ate specific foods to obtain nutrients that are harder to find in plant foods. This included foods such as fortified plant-milks for calcium and vitamin D, nutritional yeast for iron and vitamin B12 and hemp and flax seeds for omega-3 fatty acids.

I also took supplements to make sure I was getting what I needed. The problem is that just because a food in theory contains a certain amount of a nutrient, it doesn’t mean this is the amount that your body can absorb and utilise it. Depending on your personal health status and genetics, you may be less able to extract particular nutrients from foods. For example, nutrients found in plants are often in a less bio-available form than those in animal foods. Nutrients are also found up with fibre which can make it more difficult for your digestive system to process.

Tooth decay on a vegan diet: Summary

I am writing this post not to say that no one should ever follow a plant-based diet. Neither am I saying that veganism always causes tooth decay. Rather I want to shine a light and share a side of the story that is less often talked about. By no means am I saying that vegans are the only ones who suffer with dental problems. Of course there are plenty of omnivorous diets lacking in nutrients which lead to tooth decay and sensitivity.

I am just sharing my personal experience as I want to help people make informed decisions about their health. It’s important to understand the risks involved with restrictive diets of any kind. It’s easy to write off nutrition research as biased or funded my the animal agriculture industry. But I know I am not alone with experiencing health issues after eating a plant-based diet. If you have experienced similar problems with your teeth after following a vegan diet, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • Comment: Have you experienced teeth issues following a vegan diet? Did you manage to heal your teeth?
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How I finally let go of dietary rules and let myself eat more food

One of the hardest things for me in my recovery from disordered eating and Hypothalamic Amenorrhea was finally being able to let go of control around food. I went from restricting the amount of calories I ate and recording every bite in a calorie tracking app to various phases of restrictive diets including dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo and finally all varieties of veganism. Whole foods, high-carb, low-fat, raw foods you name it, I tried it. I was addicted to manipulating my diet in some way or another but now, 3 years later I can honestly say that I eat whatever I like and however much I like. And the ability to not overthink food and trust in my bodies’ signals is one of the most beautiful things about being recovered.

Now as a nutritionist and health coach, I support women through this process of escaping dietary prison to find food freedom, true health and a regular menstrual cycle. With so much information available online and in books, I find that most women know exactly what they need to do but the problem is actually doing it. What seems so simple (eating more food and resting) becomes extremely difficult when we factor in all of the emotional ties and conditioned beliefs around food and body image. We have been brainwashed to believe that we aren’t good enough if we don’t look a certain way and that certain foods are bad for us or even toxic. I found this to be especially prevalent in the raw vegan community where everything is considered toxic, even cooked food.

When I first realised how important it was for me to recover my menstrual cycle and the damage I could have caused to my body through 8 years of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, the first hurdle I had to jump was allowing myself to eat more food. I was so used to dieting and living life with this restrictive mindset that to suddenly jump to eating 2500 calories a day (the minimum recommended for recovery) seemed nearly impossible. One thing that terrified me was this idea of losing control. During this time of restrictive eating, I experienced a lot of binge eating episodes where I would accidently eat more than I intended to or something “unhealthy” and this would trigger a huge overeating spree where I would eat everything in sight. I felt like I had to control every bite or my appetite would over take me.

However, at some point I realised that the more I tried to restrict my food, the stronger the urge to binge became. When I purposely ate less food after a big binge episode, it would only make it more likely to happen again a few days later. Over a period of a few months, I started to entertain the idea that maybe if I just ate more food on a regular basis, the binge eating would stop. I think I even did a calculation of the average number of calories I ate in a week , taking into account days of restriction and binges (see the graph below for a visual!) and I realised that actually I would probably be much happier and my body would be more stable if I just ate that amount consistently each day. I also finally accepted this idea that food is fuel and that our bodies need a certain amount of energy each day just to function and keep all our systems going, even if we are completely sedentary.

And it worked, this was the first step towards letting go of control. That said, I still had a long way to go! Even though I was eating more food and feeling healthier, I was still consciously controlling the amount I ate and the idea of stopping tracking my food or increasing my calorie intake made me extremely anxious. I still avoided certain foods that I believed were unhealthy like bread, dairy and processed foods. Then a funny thing happened. I discovered the idea of a vegan diet, first through watching documentaries about the environmental impact of animal agriculture and then through the world of Vegan YouTube which was booming at that time. Back in 2015, everyone in this community was promoting the idea that you can “eat as much as you want, as long as it is plant-based” and stay slim and healthy. I was so desperate to be free of this restrictive mindset, but I still was so attached to maintaining a low body weight that I fell straight for it.

This led to a weird couple of years where on one hand I felt extremely free and I allowed myself to eat more food than I ever had, without tracking. However this control that I had around food hadn’t disappeared, it had only shifted to another form. I no longer checked the calories for every food I ate, but I would rarely eat anything that wasn’t vegan or a whole-food e.g. fruit, vegetables, starches, nuts and seeds. I did get my period back during this time because I was finally providing my body with enough fuel, but I still suffered with signs of hormonal imbalance and other chronic health issues like insomnia and fatigue. Because I had allowed myself to be brainwashed by the idea that a vegan diet cures everything I thought that I needed to be more strict with my diet if I wanted to heal. Actually it was an illusion of freedom and abundance that took me a while to identify and break free from.

Don’t get me wrong, the foods I ate when I was vegan were very healthy but as PART of a balanced diet, not the whole diet!

So fast forward 3 years, I started to realise that some health problems I was trying to heal from via my vegan diet could actually be a result of this very diet which was really quite restrictive. I also started to experience new health issues out of nowhere which I couldn’t explain like dry skin, hair loss and constipation. I never considered that it could be the vegan diet but once I started to research online, I discovered a whole community of people talking about how their vegan diet had impacted their health in a negative way. I read stories of people who had done a complete U-turn and adopted a high-fat, animal-based keto or even carnivore diet and were claiming to have healed their chronic health issues. I could have fallen down this rabbit too but luckily, this really opened my eyes to the real situation, that humans can survive on many different diets and that we thrive on a variety of foods.

I had believed for years that animal products caused all sorts of health issues and here were people healing using these exact foods. Same with calorie restriction, for years I had thought this was the healthy thing to do until I found out about the impact of dieting on our hormones and our overall health. Finally, I started to open my mind and see that when it comes to nutrition and I discovered that there is so much conflicting information out there and you can find research to back up any claim that you want. The online health and wellness sphere is a minefield and it is almost random which hole you fall down. The problem with social media is that once you fall down a hole and adopt a certain mindset, you only see information which supports these views. If you want to question your beliefs you really have to make the effort to seek out new information because everything that is fed to you is more of the same.

(Side note – I recommend the documentary The Social Dilemma if you are interested in learning more about how social media sells our attention as it’s main product!)

Luckily, this was also the time that I decided to go back to university and study for a Masters’ degree in nutrition because I knew I wanted to help women heal their hormones using food. This gave me a much better understanding of human nutrition and metabolism and an understanding of the damage that extreme or restrictive diets in any form can do to the body. During my years of study, I adopted a much more balanced diet. I reintroduced animal-based foods and processed foods in moderation. I completely let go of all my conditioned beliefs around food and stared to understand both the health and environmental benefits of eating more seasonal and traditional foods. It’s funny because my diet is definitely much less like the typical “healthy diet” now and yet I am healthier than ever. I feel like we are given the false idea that we are either following the typical SAD junk-food diet or that we are on some super restrictive clean diet when in reality there is a huge grey areas between those extremes where, I believe, true health can be found.

Now I eat ice-cream and crisps but also salads, fruits and organic meat. I realised that foods are not inherently good or bad, they just has more or less energy and nutrients. Even processed foods with additives are fine in moderation our body can handle them and, despite what healers in the detox world say, they do not build up in our tissues and need to be purged by colonics and fruit fasting. Sure, if you only eat processed foods and don’t provide your body with enough nutrients, it will be overloaded. Plus, such cleansing practices have been used by ancient cultures on an annual basis for example but you only need to look at long-term detox practitioners to see that this restriction and stress actually ages the body causing premature skin damage and thin, poor quality hair, never mind the likely damage to internal organs. Perhaps it is vain, but seeing this reality really helped me to let go of some of my lingering fears around certain foods.

Some examples of foods that I had written off as unhealthy which are actually very nourishing for the body and soul!

I think to finally let go of dietary rules and surrender to the unexplored territory that is your natural appetite, a key thing is to really explore this idea of control. Why do you need it and what does it really mean to be in control? My idea of control has shifted dramatically over the last few years. I used to feel in control when I ate clean and resisted my hunger. I now see control as taking my health into my own hands and making decisions based on what works for my unique body, rather than listening to the advice of others who claim to have found the holy grail in terms of food and lifestyle. It also helps to consider your idea of health and what it means to be healthy. For me health is a feeling, having energy, a strong and fertile body and feeling free to live my life and have fun. No restrictive diet ever gave me health in these terms but I never considered that at the time.

This post is perhaps a bit long and jumbled but I think it is really important to talk about this subject and I wanted to write without editing. I speak to clients and female friends and so many have been indoctrinated into some dietary cult or another. Whether it is an attachment to the low-fat, low-calorie diet and the idea of being skinny or whether it is an obsession with clean eating and having a cupboard full of supplements at home, it’s so unnatural and is so far away from true health. Breaking free of whatever dietary rules and restrictions you have become attached to is a personal journey and a decision that only you can take but I hope that my story at least helps you to see that there is another way to find health and it is one that can include chocolate!

Over to you…

Please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear your opinions and have a discussion. If you found this article interesting, please like this post and follow my blog to be notified when I post something new.

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 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

foods to increase your metabolism orange juice

Top foods to increase your metabolism

After my last post about when low calorie density diets don’t work, I got a few email questions asking about foods to increase your metabolism. I have to admit, this is something I am still in the process of figuring out. I went way off in the wrong direction during the first years of my recovery. Fortunately, I came a long way by following a high calorie and high carbohydrate plant-based diet. But it wasn’t until I reintroduced animal products and discovered a pro-metabolic diet that I really healed my body.

This field of pro-metabolic nutrition was NOT something I was taught in my nutrition degree. In fact, some of the advice goes against public health advice. I am not saying this is the way that everyone should eat. However, myself and many other people have had success with eradicating some of the signs of a low metabolism by following this somewhat controversial nutrition advice. If you have been struggling with these symptoms and want to learn about foods to increase your metabolism then read on.

How I discovered foods to increase your metabolism

I first discovered the research of Ray Peat and Broda Barnes whilst trying to recover my period 5 years ago. After many years of restrictive dieting, I definitely was showing signs of a reduced metabolic rate. My main goal was to balance my hormones and get my period back after 8 years of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. However, at the time I had decided to become vegan for environmental and “health” reasons. For this reason, much of the pro-metabolic dietary advice was so outside of my nutrition paradigm that I discarded it.

I did take on some of the pro-metabolic diet principles though which included:

  • Eating more food overall and listening to my true hunger cues
  • Cutting down on intense exercise and only walking and practicing yoga
  • Drinking less water and adding more salt to my diet
  • Including more root vegetables in my diet e.g. potatoes, carrots, parsnips
  • Adding in saturated fat in the form of coconut oil and dark chocolate
  • Consuming natural sugars e.g. ripe fruits and honey

These things definitely helped me to improve my energy levels and some of the symptoms I was experiencing. I also was able to recover my period and have a regular menstrual cycle. But in truth, it wasn’t till I added animal products back into my diet that the real healing began. I will write another post at some point on my experience shifting from a vegan diet back to a omnivorous diet, Especially how I dealt with the transition both mentally and physically.

For today I will share my current top foods to increase your metabolism and restore hormonal balance!

Top 10 foods to increase your metabolism

1. Fruit

Ripe, sweet fruit is rich in natural sugars which will support a healthy metabolism and energy output. If you have been stuck in the mindset that carbs are bad and will make you fat, think again. Every cell in your body runs on carbs and prefers glucose as an energy source, especially your brain. Yes, we are adaptable beings and we have mechanisms to enable us to convert fat to energy (via ketosis) when carbs are not available. However this is a stressful process for the body and is not sustainable in the long term. The best fruits are the more dense, sweet fruits such as banana, mango, pineapple, dried fruits, figs, papaya etc.

2. Orange juice

I know oranges are a fruit but OJ is so amazing that it deserves it’s own category. I made a post on Instagram the other day about how OJ is life and it is so true! Drinking a glass of freshly squeezed OJ is like pouring life directly into your body. It makes you happy and floods your body with energy. Orange juice is one of the best foods to increase your metabolism! As you are trying to improve your metabolism, replacing your water intake with juice or other metabolism supporting fluids is a great technique. If you are really struggling, adding a pinch of salt to your juice is even better and though it might sound counter-intuitive it will help with hydration as it helps you to better absorb the liquids rather than having them pass straight through you.

3. Cheese

OK so here we go with the non-vegan foods. I used to be so afraid of cheese. I thought it would mess up my hormones, give me acne and digestive upsets, not to mention it’s high environmental impact. Now I take a more pragmatic view. Cheese is a nutritionally dense food which provides high quality minerals and proteins and is extremely supportive for metabolic health. I’m not saying to go and eat a block of cheese every day but including a small amount of cheese as part of a balanced diet is a very healthy thing. Try to source organic cheese if possible with little additives. Cheese with fruit or OJ is a perfect, pro-metabolic snack and melted cheese on toast is the perfect warming meal.

4. Coconut oil

The keto community got one thing right and that is that the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT oils) in coconut oil are great for supporting the metabolism and providing your body with easily accessible fuel. Even the bulletproof coffee as a concept is not bad. Although I would argue that in order to prevent a stress response from your body, a big spoon of honey or a splash of milk is needed and it’s always better to consume coffee with food rather than on an empty stomach. Coconut oil is a great option for cooking. It has a strong taste but goes well in asian style dishes like curries and stir fries or my personal favourite coconut oil roasted sweet potatoes – yum! Coconut oil is one of the best vegan foods to increase your metabolism.

5. Root vegetables

Potatoes and starchy vegetables such as parsnips, beetroot and carrots are a great option to provide carbohydrate fuel for your body. The pro-metabolic community advise against grains and I am still on the fence with this one. Personally, I had a lot of success with keeping oats and bread in my diet so I have never excluded them. Nonetheless, potatoes and sweet potatoes are perfect metabolism boosting foods and very versatile. For the best results try baking to bring out the natural sweetness and adding salt to taste. If you struggle with feeling cold, try eating a bowl of salty mashed or potatoes or home-fries and notice the warmth spreading to your fingers and toes. Potatoes are definitely one of my favourite foods to increase your metabolism!

6. Liver

Yes I said liver.. this is definitely not a food for every day. But it really is a “super food” and eating liver either with onions or as pate once every 10-14 days will do wonders for your overall and metabolic health. I know it’s extreme to go from eating a vegan diet to including organ meats but it is something that our ancestors have eaten for many years. They knew about the health benefits and I personally think it is better than eating chicken breast on the daily or only eating prime muscle meats. Liver contains the highest and most absorbable amount of iron, vitamin A and B12 as well as many other vitamins and minerals. Since eating liver regularly my eyesight has improved to the point that I no longer wear glasses to watch TV or use the computer.

7. Chocolate

Eating chocolate or cacao is great for improving the metabolism and something I craved daily when healing from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. Chocolate is a dense source of calories which is exactly what your body needs to dig it’s way out of a metabolic hole. I personally prefer dark chocolate but actually chocolate with milk and sugar (or smoothies made with cacao, ripe bananas, milk and honey) is one of the optimal foods to increase your metabolism. Chocolate contains some caffeine and theobromine which give you a natural energy and mood boost.

Eating chocolate mindfully and truly savouring every bite is a way to send your body that signal that it is safe and the “famine” is over. This is necessary to move out of the stress response and into a relaxed, high metabolic state.

8. Eggs

These were one of the first animal proteins I added back into my diet as I think many ex-vegans do. Of all of the animal products, it was actually boiled eggs with a runny yolk that I started to crave. Eggs are another great source of vitamin A and a complete protein so they are great to include as part of a vegetarian meal or snack. If you are trying to heal your hormones after restrictive dieting, you need cholesterol. It is a building block for your reproductive hormones and including eggs in your diet is actually a very healthy thing. For for restoring hormone health or recovering your menstrual cycle, eggs are a great food to include.

9. Ice cream

My current favourite! I am in a phase of eating ice cream a few times a week. Here in Greece there are so many amazing quality ice cream shops. And with the hot weather it is the perfect snack. Unfortunately many of the ice creams in the supermarkets these days are heavily processed with additives and fillers. These chemicals are not designed to be consumed by humans and are not healthy for us. However, ice cream in its natural form with simple ingredients (mainly milk, sugar, cream, eggs) is actually a great pro-metabolic food.

Ice cream is a delicious way to boost your calories without feeling bloated or over-stuffed. This is often one of the main hurdles for women trying to recover and raise their metabolic rate. A small bowl of ice cream is a great after dinner dessert or bedtime snack to keep your blood sugar up during the night and avoid those 2-4am wake ups that can occur with a low metabolism.

10. Honey/molasses

Both excellent sources of carbohydrates with the added benefits of nutrients and anti-oxidants. The pro-metabolic community often recommend eating white sugar as a way to boost the metabolism and although I am not against including sugar in the diet (I don’t think that any food should be completely restricted), I don’t consider it a health food and prefer natural sweeteners such as honey to use on a daily basis e.g. adding to tea, coffee or smoothies. Molasses has the added benefits of a great mineral profile, providing iron and calcium in particular. Drinking 1-2tbsp of molasses in hot water with lemon was a strategy that helped me to boost my iron levels and recover from iron deficiency.

Reduce these foods to increase your metabolism!

As well as these top foods for boosting your metabolism, some foods to reduce during the initial phases of metabolic recovery include:

  • Raw vegetables and large salads
  • Low sugar fruits (unless consumed along with other higher calorie fruits or foods)
  • Cruciferous vegetables e.g. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
  • Vegetable oils e.g. sunflower, rapeseed, sesame oil
  • Nuts and seeds (including tahini and nut butters)

I am not saying these foods are unhealthy, far from it. But if your goal is to boost your metabolism, repair your hormones or get your period back, then these foods won’t be the most supportive to your goals and consuming them in large quantities will only prolong your recovery process. Once things are more balanced you can of course add them back into your diet in balance with some of the more pro-metabolic foods. As you become more acquainted with your body and the signs of a strong healthy metabolism (e.g. warm hands and feet, good energy, regular menstrual cycle), you will be able to adjust your diet as you go to keep you feeling your best.

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When low calorie density diets don’t work

Back in January I shared a post about how eating more lower calorie density foods can help you to lose weight. In many cases this can be a very useful strategy as consuming more low calorie high volume plant-based foods can be an easy way to reduce your calorie intake and lose weight without feeling deprived. However, as always, health advice is very individual and what works for one person’s goals will not necessarily work for another. Today I want to share my perspective on when a low calorie density diet is not appropriate and may actually be the cause of unexplained health problems. If you have been following a low calorie density diet and are not feeling your best then keep reading!

Something I have learned over the last 5 years is just how important metabolic rate is for our overall health and sense of wellbeing. Think of your metabolism as being the furnace that keeps you going and fuels all of your bodies functions. If that furnace is burning low you are going to feel that through low energy and fatigue and may experience other signs of a low metabolic rate such as low body temperature, constipation, insomnia, dry skin and hair and hormonal issues. On the other hand, when the furnace is running hot you are more likely to have good energy levels and digestion, sleep soundly and have well functioning hormones and healthy skin, hair and nails.

Metabolic rate is also important in maintaining a healthy body weight as a low metabolic rate means we are using energy more efficiently and are more likely to store calories as body fat than “waste” them on other bodily functions and generating excess heat. We are often told that if we are overweight we need to eat less and exercise more and in some cases this is true, as the society we live in pushes us towards more sedentary lives and over eating on processed foods. Although sometimes the problem is not a lack of exercise or eating too many calories but an issue of low metabolic rate. If you are exercising a few times a week and eating 1200, 1400 or even 1600 calories a day and still not losing weight then potentially it’s not forcing yourself to eat less and move more you need to focus on but rather healing and supporting your metabolism.

The problem with a low calorie density diet is that you can be unintentionally (or intentionally) providing your body with less calories than it needs over a long period of time and triggering your body to reduce your metabolic rate. This is the same thing as entering “starvation mode” which is not an urban myth but actually a very real phenomenon. Eating a diet made up of predominently water and fibre rich fruits, vegetables, legumes and starches may seem like a healthy way to eat but if you are not consuming enough energy to support a healthy metabolic rate you are unlikely to feel well. Because of the high volume of these foods, it is very easy to under eat whilst truly honouring your hunger and fullness signals and feeling like you are eating a lot of food. Trust me I have been there! And the worst thing is, I didn’t realise that it was my healthy diet making me feel that way.

Left… stuck in a low metabolic state, confused and exhausted
Right… on the road to recovery, feeling more energised and happy

There is nothing wrong with eating these kinds of foods, but also adding in high calorie density, metabolism supporting foods to your diet and eating enough calories can go a long way in resolving systemic health issues. I have been following the work of researchers such as Broda Barnes and Ray Peat who really focused in on the symptoms of a slow metabolism and how rehabilitative nutrition can help to restore metabolic health and create robust, healthy individuals. For a long time I thought that eating the healthiest diet possible and avoiding certain unhealthy foods was the way to restore balance and create a healing environment in the body, but over the years I have come to realise that if there is not enough energy available, the body simply cannot heal.

A couple of quick ways you can check your metabolic rate at home:

  • Check your armpit temperature first thing in the morning. Do this every day for a week (preferably the week after your period for women) and if it is consistently below 36.6°C (97.8°F) you may be experiencing a lower metabolic state
  • Check your resting pulse rate. If it is consistently below 70BPM, it’s a sign your metabolism may not be functioning optimally. Even though we are told that a low pulse rate is healthy and a sign of fitness, this is not always the case.

If both of the above tests show a lowered metabolic rate and especially if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a low metabolic rate described above, then a low calorie density diet is unlikely to be appropriate and maybe it’s time to reconsider and try something new. If you are following this approach, loving it and feeling energetic and healthy then keep doing what your doing. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for you and remember, be healthy to live, don’t live to be healthy!

Over to you…

If you found this post interesting, like and follow along with my blog for more real health and nutrition adive. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

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