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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staying active in autumn

How have a healthy autumn season

In today’s post I want to share my top tips for staying healthy during autumn season. I am back in the UK after a year living in Greece and it is clear that autumn has arrived! Fresh mornings, mild, dry days and dark, cold nights are fast approaching. Actually, although I love the summer energy, the autumn season is probably my favourite. I love the beautiful colours and the feeling of cosiness that it brings.

Autumn is a season of transition, from the heat and activity of the summer into the cold and stillness of winter. It is also a season of celebration and harvest, when traditionally we give thanks for the earth’s abundance and gather our supplies. However, it’s also a season when it is easy to feel unwell if we don’t watch out. Our bodies need to adapt to rapid changes in temperature and humidity and this unpredictability can exaggerate imbalances already present.

In Aryuveda, it is said that autumn is the season of the vata dosha. Vata represents the element of air with it’s dry, cold and erratic qualities. Therefore, to stay healthy during autumn, you want to balance this out with warming and grounding routines. In this article I want to share top nutrition, exercise and self-care habits for a healthy autumn season.

What to eat to stay healthy in autumn

As the temperatures start to dip, keep your body warm from the inside by eating nourishing, hearty meals. It is natural to experience an increase in appetite and cravings for heavier, grounding meals in autumn. So don’t be afraid to listen to your body! Make sure to eat plenty of healthy oils and fats to keep your skin, hair and joints nourished and protected against the cold. Warming spices such as turmeric, chili, ginger and cumin are also great as they support your digestion and metabolism. Add them to soups and curries or make a herbal tea with a spoonful of local honey for a delicious, warming drink.

Autumn is also an amazing season for fresh produce. Make the most of autumn seasonal vegetables including beets, parsnips, squash, aubergine, broccoli and brussels sprouts to supply your body with a variety of vitamins and minerals from the soil. Vitamins C and B are especially important during autumn to boost your immune system and energy levels so eat up! In the northern hemisphere, you will start to see an abundance of seasonal fruits. Look out for apples, pears, grapes, plums and berries. Enjoy this bounty by eating fresh fruits daily as a dessert or snack. Or get creative and turn them into pies, puddings and jams.

Healthy autumn recipes

BBC Good Food has some amazing autumn recipes, including this autumn fruit pudding and this apple and blackberry crumble. I also love this collection of healthy autumn recipes on the Sainsbury’s website. I am not much of a recipe creator myself but I love good food and trying out new meals each week!

Root vegetables, such as beets, parsnips and carrots, are especially nourishing foods for the autumn season. They are a great source of complex carbohydrates to keep you warm and energised. The name root vegetable comes from the fact that they are are grown underground. This gives them a grounding, satisfying quality which we need in the autumn months. Root vegetables are typically high in vitamins A, B and C and beets are also a plant-based source of iron. They are packed with fibre and have a natural sweetness that can help to curb cravings for processed sweets.

Try roasting a tray of chunky chopped vegetables to bring out this natural sweetness. Then blend the roasted vegetables with warming spices to create a delicious autumn vegetable soup. This butternut squash and red pepper soup is one of my autumn favourite healthy autumn recipes.

Exercise tips to stay healthy in autumn season

It’s natural to feel an energy dip after the summer, especially if you have been making the most of the long, sunny days. As autumn approaches, you might start to feel more lazy and crave a slower pace of life and home comforts. Again, don’t be afraid to listen to your body! Take rest when you need to and give yourself chance to recharge your batteries and restore your energy levels. This doesn’t mean to give up altogether on moving your body. It just means going a little bit easier on your self and allowing your body rather than your mind to dictate the pace.

Outdoor sports

One of my favourite ways to stay active in autumn is to go for hikes or walks out in nature. It feels amazing to wrap up warm and head out in the fresh air to see all of the beautiful colours. Especially as the green of summer transitions into the warm yellow, orange and red hues of the autumn season. Walking in the forest, mountains or in a park is a great way to ground yourself and connect with the earth. It’s so easy these days to live disconnected from nature when we are surrounded by artificial environments and technology. But getting outdoors and being mindful of the changes that each season brings is a great way to stay healthy during autumn. That is for your mind, body and spirit!

Getting natural sunlight on your skin is also important to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. Low levels of vitamin D can lead to low mood, fatigue and aches and pains. Supporting your body to continue producing vitamin D during autumn will mean you head into winter with higher stores. If you feel like you don’t get enough natural light where you live, consider taking a vitamin D supplement. The recommended daily amount for overall health is 400IU so look for a supplement with up to this amount to keep your levels topped up.

Yoga

Yoga is another perfect activity for the autumn season. Practicing yoga asana and pranayama keeps you fit, strong and flexible and also supports a healthy immune system and circulation. The cold and dry qualities of the vata dosha in autumn can bring with it respiratory problems, cold extremities and stiff muscles and joints. So incorporate movement into your healthy lifestyle to encourage heat and energy flow throughout your body. Practicing yoga sun salutations is a great way to start your day in the autumn season. It gets your blood flowing and creates heat in your body to keep you toasty on cold days!

Try out this 10 minute guided sun salutation practice first thing in the morning for 7 days and notice the change in your overall wellbeing.

Self-care ideas for a healthy autumn

As I mentioned earlier, autumn brings with it a sense of change and transition. If we are not cautious, this can catch us out and trigger anxiety, worry and restlessness. Especially if we are not eating a nourishing, grounding diet and incorporating self-care routines to help us feel more grounded and stable. This could look like keeping to a regular sleep schedule and creating space in the morning to breathe and be mindful at the start of your day. Take a look at my previous post morning routine checklist to boost your mood and energy for some ideas.

Journaling

Keeping a journal is a great way to stay organised during the autumn season. A journal practice helps you to manage any feelings that come up and to keep track of the healthy habits you want to incorporate to keep you feeling your best. You can use your journal as a space for reflection, to gather your thoughts and feelings and to explore any changes you might want to make in your life. In autumn, the leaves start to fall from the trees. With that we let go of the summer as well as anything else that doesn’t serve us. Autumn can be a time to re-evaluate and take stock of what is working in your life and what you would like to change.

Epsom salt baths

Finally, one of my favourite self-care routines for chilly autumn nights is to take an Epsom salt bath. Then afterwards to apply oil or moisturiser to my skin to keep it protected and hydrated. Epsom salts contain magnesium which is absorbed through the skin and helps to relax your muscles and release tension. If you don’t have a bath at home, try a mini Epsom salt foot spa instead. Warming your feet helps to warm and relax your whole body and you will still absorb the benefits. Make this a true autumn spa experience by lighting a candle scented with ginger, cinnamon, cedarwood or sage.

In summary

The autumn season is a time when you want to nourish yourself, stay warm and hydrated and to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing. A few simple changes to the food that you eat, how you move your body and nourish yourself with self-care will make a huge difference to how you feel during autumn. Don’t forget, everything is connected! Taking care of yourself during the autumn months will strengthen your immune system and set you up to stay healthy during the winter too!

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natural fertility fertilisation

Causes for infertility and natural fertility treatments

What is infertility? What are the causes for infertility in both males and females? And what are the options for natural treatment of infertility? These are all questions I answer in this article so stay tuned!

I often support women who are looking to improve their health and lifestyle in preparation to start a family. In some cases this is women who just want to get healthier and learn how to take care of themselves. Women who want to learn how to nourish their mind, body and soul as they grow another human. For other ladies, the situation is more complicated and they are looking for support due to infertility.

What is infertility?

The majority of couples, that is around 84%, are able to fall pregnant within one year of having regular having unprotected sex. But unfortunately this is not the case for everyone. Infertility is when a couple cannot conceive, despite trying. Infertility is thought to affect around 1 in 7 couples in the UK. There can be many causes for infertility which can be due to the woman, man or both. Infertility can occur due to problems at any of the 4 main stages of conception:

  1. Ovulation i.e. the release of a mature egg from the ovaries
  2. Fertilisation of the egg by a viable sperm
  3. Transport of the fertilised egg to the womb
  4. Implantation of the fertilised egg into the womb lining

Problems with any of these processes can result in infertility and problems conceiving. Around a third of cases of infertility are attributed to female infertility and a third is due to male infertility. The remaining third is either due to both the male and the female or unknown causes of infertility.

natural fertility fertilisation

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What is primary vs. secondary infertility?

Primary infertility is the inability to conceive in a woman who has not given birth previously. Secondary infertility is when a woman has already given birth to at least one child. Often people wonder if fertility can be genetic. The answer is yes, approximately 50% of infertility cases are thought to be genetic. The remaining cases are caused by a combination of environmental and lifestyle factors.

What are the causes for infertility in females?

The menstrual cycle, which is responsible for female fertility, is regulated by a complicated symphony of chemical messengers aka hormones. An imbalance in these hormones can impact ovulation either by making ovulation irregular or stopping ovulation altogether. Other physical factors can affect the transport and implantation of a fertilised egg.

Female infertility can be due to a number of causes:

  • Physical – Hereditary problems, damage or trauma can lead to infertility by affecting the functioning of a woman’s reproductive organs
  • Reproductive disorders – Conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, hypothalamic amenorrhea and hypothyroid are all associated with reduced fertility in females
  • Hormonal imbalance – High stress, excessive exercise, poor nutrition and other lifestyle factors can lead to imbalances in the female reproductive hormones
  • Contraception – Use of certain contraceptives such as the pill or implant can lead to temporary infertility after stopping the contraception
OvulationHormonal imbalance, contraception, PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhea
FertilisationLow sperm quantity or viability, timing of sex, ineffective mucus
TransportationBlocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis
ImplantationEndometriosis

What are the causes for infertility in males?

The quantity and quality of sperm is absolutely necessary for the second stage of conception, fertilisation to take place. Male fertility is usually assessed by checking the sperm count, mobility and viability as well as the volume of sperm produced.

Male infertility can occur for a number of reasons:

  • Physical – Damage to the testicles or structural problems can lead to reduced sperm count or affect transport of sperm
  • Impotence – Stress and other lifestyle factors can affect a man’s ability to achieve or maintain an erection
  • Contraception – Males who have been sterilised previously may experience reduced fertility even after reversal of the vasectomy

Risk factors for infertility in women and men

There are several factors which affect both female and male fertility:

  • Age – A woman’s fertility starts to decline after the age of 35 as the number and quality of her eggs decreases
  • Lifestyle – Factors such as poor nutrition, smoking, alcohol, stress can reduce fertility by affecting a woman’s ability to conceive and a man’s sperm quantity and quality
  • Body weight – Both obesity (BMI >30) and underweight (BMI (<18) are both associated with lower rates of fertility
  • Environmental – Excessive exposure to pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers, PCBs and other toxic chemicals can affect fertility in both genders
causes of infertility

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Can infertility be treated?

The answer to this one is, it depends! As we have seen, infertility can be caused by a wide range of factors. Some of which can be treated and others which cannot. If you are struggling with infertility and you are unsure about the reason, it is a good idea to visit your GP for testing. This is the best way to find out the potential causes and your options for treatment.

In some cases, medically assisted reproductive procedures such as IVF may be the best path to take. In other cases, it may be possible to improve your fertility using natural methods. This includes improving nutritional status and other approaches described below. Natural methods of fertility treatment are particularly beneficial if no structural or hereditary conditions are present.

There is significant research to demonstrate the benefits of nutrition and lifestyle changes on fertility, however nothing is guaranteed. The good news is that natural approaches to improving fertility have no negative side effects and offer many other holistic health benefits. Even for couples who decide that medical intervention is the path for them, natural fertility methods are complementary. Healthy lifestyle changes support the couples health and wellbeing throughout this process and increase the chances of success.

Natural approaches to infertility

Natural approaches to fertility are holistic and varied. Here I will focus on the areas of my training which is nutrition, holistic lifestyle practices and menstrual cycle awareness. Other natural approaches you might want to research includes Traditional Chinese Medicine, Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture. I will be sharing more on this topic in the coming weeks and months. For now, here is a summary of the three main areas I focus on with my clients:

Menstrual cycle awareness

Despite what we were told in school, it is not possible to fall pregnant at any time but rather only at specific times in a woman’s menstrual cycle. Improving timing of sex to align with ovulation can improve chances of conception from 2-4% to 20%! This means getting to know your cycle and observing your natural hormonal rhythms and signs of fertility. These are signs such as your body temperature and cervical mucus consistency. Not only will this improve your chance of conception, it also helps you to become more connected and in tune with your female body. This will support you throughout your pregnancy, birth and life in general.

Nutritional therapy

Research shows that a healthy, balanced and varied diet improves fertility in both females and males. This includes ensuring you are taking in the right amount of energy and macro-nutrients. You need energy to support optimal functioning of your metabolism and reproductive system. A nutrient dense diet with plenty of fresh produce, adequate protein, complex carbohydrates and high quality fats promotes natural fertility. Similarly, reducing consumption of alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants improves chance of conception.

There are also specific nutrients which promote healthy egg maturation and boost your fertility naturally. You want to ensure you have these nutritional bases covered via your diet or through targeted supplementation. It is helpful to check nutrient status to determine potential causes for infertility and the appropriate nutritional strategy. Pregnancy requires a large amount of nutrients and without adequate stores can leave a woman depleted. Eating a healthy nutrient-dense diet during conception can also help to reduce the chances of deficiency post-partum.

Stress and mental health

Ensuring your overall lifestyle is supportive of your fertility is another key part of natural fertility treatment. This includes managing your stress levels and incorporating rest and relaxation into your daily routines. Stress alone is one of the causes for infertility in females and males so it is important for both partners to managed their stress!

Holistic health also incorporates maintaining a positive mindset towards your body and your fertility. Infertility can be a distressing experience therefore maintaining good mental health care throughout the process is important. Learning holistic health strategies prior to conception is also a great way to prepare for pregnancy and motherhood. Then you will need to take care of yourself and baby!

Physical activity

Natural fertility treatment also involves ensuring that the amount and type of exercise you do is appropriate to ensure optimal health and hormonal balance. A healthy amount of moderate exercise improves fertility but excessive exercise can lead to problems with ovulation. Over-exercise is one of the causes for infertility amongst athletes who otherwise seem very healthy. It is that you want to find that sweet spot of the right types and amount of exercise for hormone balance.

Finally, reviewing the products that you are using is important. You want to avoid exposure to potentially toxic or hormone disrupting chemicals that could impact your fertility.

natural fertility positive pregnancy test

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References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3885174/#:~:text=Infertility%20is%20a%20relatively%20common,are%20due%20to%20genetic%20defects.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infertility#:~:text=Primary%20infertility%20is%20when%20a,diagnosis%20and%20treatment%20of%20infertility.

https://www.britishfertilitysociety.org.uk/fei/at-what-age-does-fertility-begin-to-decrease/

holistic health coaching 6 elements

Holistic health coaching: 6 elements to feel fantastic!

As a Women’s Wellness Coach, I love to support women to improve their overall health and wellbeing. I have come a long way in my own view of health and it has taken me many years to get to where I am now. I used to think health meant restricting your diet and exercising like crazy to maintain a low body weight. After my own health breakdown I learned that there was much more to health than that! Now I run a holistic health coaching practice where I help women to truly take care of their bodies.

What is holistic health coaching?

Holistic health coaching incorporates more than just the usual diet and exercise program that we associate with health coaching. It is about building all-round health which will leave you feeling confident, energised and enthusiastic about life again. A holistic health coach helps you to set goals and design a personalised program to help you reach them. The exact format depends on the education and training of the coach. In my holistic health coaching practice, I include nutrition and yoga as well as menstrual cycle awareness. I help women to let go of restrictive dieting and find true health, balanced hormones and natural fertility.

Holistic health coaching focuses on 6 main elements which I will explain in more detail in this post. At the end of the article I will provide a Wellbeing Assessment questionnaire. Download the file and carry out your own holistic health assessment at home! This is the same health assessment that I use with my holistic health coaching clients in our initial session to help us set direction for our work together.

holistic health coaching 6 elements

6 elements of holistic health coaching

Physical health

I fully believe that we are more than our bodies. Despite this, our physical bodies are the way we experience life therefore physical health is a foundation of holistic health coaching. This is not necessarily about being in a perfect state of physical health. Rather, it is important to maintain an adequate state of physical health to live the life you choose. Physical health includes:

  • Good functioning of your bodily systems
  • Healthy immune function and rapid healing
  • Normal metabolic markers such as blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Relatively free from disease and pain
  • Ability to participate in life including social and work activities

Holistic health coaching to improve physical health starts with creating a vision of what health means to you. This could simply be having an adequate level of health to work, play and enjoy life. It could mean healing from chronic disease or having health markers in the normal range. You might see physical health as making healthy lifestyle choices. For example, quitting smoking, not drinking alcohol in excess or drinking enough water. Or you might view physical health as a feeling.

Either way, in holistic health coaching, we work with approach based goals rather than outcome based goals. This means focusing on behaviours rather than a specific end result such as a weight goal. I help my clients to identify behaviours that are harming their health and replace them with supportive habits. Measurements and markers can be a helpful motivator but they are not at the centre of holistic health coaching. My women’s wellness practice is influenced by researchers such as Linda Bacon, Dr Ray Peat and Dr Sara Gottfried.

Sleep and energy

Anyone who has experienced poor sleep (calling all Mums and insomniacs out there!) will appreciate the importance of good sleep. It is a fact that you need to sleep well in order to function at your best and enjoy life. When we don’t sleep well we can feel like we are constantly dragging ourselves through the day. And even for those who sleep well, the stressful and busy lives we lead can lead to fatigue and low energy levels.

A holistic health coaching assessment of sleep first looks at the amount of sleep that you get. For adults, sleep experts recommend anywhere from 7-9 hours sleep per night for optimum health and wellbeing. It also look at the quality of that sleep and the energy that you experience. For example, do you wake feeling refreshed and rested? Or do you start the day already feeling exhausted and wondering how you will make it through to the evening? I typically use a sleep journal with my clients to help them to identify patterns and factors which influence their sleep.

Holistic health coaching includes working to create space for sleep and developing helpful sleep routines. We all know it is important to relax and wind down to ensure you get a good quality sleep. Often, we know what we need to do to improve our sleep. However, prioritising and staying accountable to these actions is the hard part. That is where holistic health coaching comes in! We also explore how you are using your energy throughout the day. We identify “energy drains” that might be zapping your life force and leaving you fatigued and unmotivated.

Dietary habits

Nourishing your body with a wholesome and varied diet is one of the cornerstones of holistic health coaching. We literally are what we eat as all of the substances we consume eventually become the building blocks for new cells. Our diet also provides the energy that we use to create our personal reality. In my practice, I don’t focus on counting calories or macro-nutrients. Rather I help clients to develop a positive relationship with food and understand the basics of a nutritious diet. From this foundation they are able to intuitively eat a balanced diet which is nourishing on both a physical and emotional level. I described in a recent post the key principles of a healthy diet which include: balance, variety, wholesomeness and individuality.

I work with holistic health coaching clients using a Non-Diet Approach to Coaching. This takes the focus away from dieting to lose weight or change your body towards an enjoyable and relaxed attitude towards nourishment. We work on tuning into hunger and fullness cues, accepting all foods and the diversity of body shapes and sizes. My clients learn how to eat nourishing food that supports their body without restricition, rules or deprivation. This includes diving into their history with dieting, unpacking beliefs around food and nutrition, using a food diary to identify unhelpful eating patterns and creating a pathway to overcome them.

For all my clients, I hope for them to feel liberated and empowered around food. I want them to feel able to make food choices that work for their unique body and life situation. No more obsessing over every bite, weighing and tracking every mouthful or living in fear of food. Instead, pure pleasure and nourishment from food on a daily basis!

Movement and physical activity

Moving your body is of course an important part of a healthy lifestyle. We know from many years of research that physical activity helps to maintain our physical health. It also protects us from disease and helps to maintain a sense of wellbeing. Unfortunately, for many people exercise has become either a chore to avoid or a way to punish our body. Either for over eating or for not being the perfect shape or size that we have learned is appropriate for society.

In holistic health coaching, we work together to dive into your beliefs and values around exercise and their physical body. We work together to discover activities that bring pleasure and joy back to movement. I encourage you to cultivate a sense of appreciation for your body and everything it allows you to do. Not only that, I help you to stay accountable to your goals and action plans around physical activity. Together we identify potential barriers and road blocks to physical activity. From there, we develop solutions to make movement a more natural and habitual part of your life.

I also work with clients on the opposite end of the spectrum. Those of you who exercise too much and suffer consequences such as fatigue or hormonal imbalances. In this case, we again dive deep into your beliefs around exercise and body image. We create a safe container for you to shift your attitudes towards your appearance and develop a positive self-image. This enables you to shift your perspective of movement to a more postive one. I help you to find the joy in moving your body once more and let go of all of the negative emotional baggage. After years of over-exercise and punishing your body, it is possible to find lightness and fun around movement again.

Stress management

Stress.. unfortunately in today’s world it is something that we all experience more than we would like. The simple fact is that the pace of modern life with all of it’s pressures and demands can leave us feeling overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted. Stress can be responsible for many of the health issues we experience from insomnia to high blood pressure. Cortisol, a major stress hormone, can affect all of our bodily symptoms wreaking havock on our digestion, metabolism and fertility. It can leave us feeling on edge, moody, tired and lacking spark.

Holistic health coaching does not claim to get rid of stress. Rather we look at your attitudes towards stress and coping mechanisms you have in place to deal with life’s stresses. You learn how to stay mindful of your stress level and strategies to prevent overwhelm and burnout. Working with clients on stress management is extremely rewarding. This is because with just a few simple tweaks to your lifestyle, you can often experience huge reductions in the amount of stress you feel. This greatly improves your life experience day to day and reduces symptoms caused by stress.

I help clients to identify the different types of stressors in their life and the effects they are experiencing. We then work to find ways to either eliminate the stressor, change the situation or adapt to cope with the stress for things that cannot be changed. You create positive daily routines to help you feel more organised and in control. I teach you yoga and meditation techniques which promote deep relaxation and restoration.

Life balance

The final element of holistic health coaching is your life balance. In other words, how you feel about your life and your place in the world. This element of holistic health focuses on you and how you feel about yourself. As well as how you experience life and how you interact with others and the world around you. Life balance includes the often forgotten elements of wellbeing such as connection, compassion, wisdom and fulfilment. Sometimes we get so wrapped up with “fixing” ourselves or our problems that we forget life is to be lived and enjoyed. This can leave us feeling lost and at sea in life.

In holistic health coaching, we look at strengthening your connection to your self. This includes understanding who you are at your core and developing appreciation for your unique personality and skills. You will build your confidence so that you can show up as your best self and go for your goals. We also shine a light on your relationships with others. I encourage you to ensure that you have positive relationships in your life which support your wellbeing and personal development. You learn healthy communication strategies to help you voice your needs and boundaries in a positive way.

Holistic health coaching summary

Remember that all of the elements of holistic health overlap with each other. This means that implementing positive habits in one area will have a domino effect on the other areas of your wellbeing. For example, eating healthy, moving your body and managing stress will help to improve your sleep and energy levels. Getting better sleep makes it easier to make healthier food and exercise choices. We are moving away from this reductionist view of health as a set of behaviours or a particular appearance. Instead, we are heading towards a new paradigm of holistic health as wellbeing and thriving!

Holistic health coaching Wellbeing Assessment

Download the free Wellbeing Assessment questionnaire below to gain insight into your health and wellbeing. This is the exact one I use with my 1-2-1 holistic health coaching clients!

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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 health coaching? How a health coach can help you reach your goals

Health coaching is becoming more and more popular but what exactly is a health coach and how can a health coach help you to reach your goals? This year I have been training to be a women’s wellness coach and I have learned a lot about the health coaching practice and how to best support my clients. I am already a qualified nutritionist and yoga teacher but there is so much more to coaching and often it is misunderstood. In this post I want to share what I have learned through my training and through reflecting on my early health coaching experiences. I hope this will help anyone who has been considering hiring a health coach but is uncertain about the real purpose of a health coach and whether they can actually help to improve your health.

Knowledge and education

I am mentioning education first as it is usually what health coaches see as their main role. I know for myself, my first few health coaching clients I believed the same! I was so excited to share all of my knowledge and give my clients value for money by packing as much information into our sessions as possible but reflecting back now I would have done things differently. Whilst imparting knowledge and educating clients is an important part of health coaching, it is not the main purpose. Especially nowadays when there is so much freely available information online and we have access to scientific literature and endless informative books on health and wellness, a health coach needs to do more than just inform and educate clients. Yes we can share our expert knowledge and perhaps save time and effort for clients’ by streamlining this large amount of available and often conflicting information, especially in the nutrition world. However, the communication should be a two-way and collaborative exchange, rather than the typical one-directional authoritative approach from the coach to the client. As I always say, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our health and so really understanding the client and their needs means that a health coach can offer tailored information and personalised advice.

Clarity and goal setting

One of the important roles of a health coach is to help their clients’ gain clarity on their desired health outcomes and setting meaningful goals. I wrote a post as part of my Real Health January series about setting SMART goals for your health and this is something that a coach can support clients in doing successfully. People seek out health coaching for many reasons and for the best results it is important to be clear on both the what and the why i.e. what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Yes you can do this alone but a health coach can offer a helpful mirror to reflect back your thoughts and gain clarity on exactly what it is that you want to improve about your health and your overall vision for a healthier and happier life. On any transformational journey it can be difficult to remain focused on the initial aim and become distracted by the smaller, action-related goals. A health coach can help clients to set realistic and achievable goals which are in line with your overall aim. For example, perhaps you want to lose weight to be able to play more with your children but if you decide to go about this by setting a goal to spend 10 hours a week in the gym and it takes up all of your free time. A health coach may reflect back to you that perhaps you have gone a little off track and help you to set a more appropriate goal.

Decision-making and action

As I mentioned earlier, these days most of us have access to information which, in theory, would help us to reach our health goals. A quick google search can offer you diet plans, workout routines, guided yoga and meditation classes for all sorts of health conditions and levels of fitness. Then why do so many people still struggle with their health? There is so much information available that many people get frozen at the stage of deciding on a plan of action. Often complexity gets in the way of action and a simple, straight-forward action plan is what is needed. A health coach can guide a client through this decision making process, not taking decisions for them but offering options and helping them to gain the self-awareness needed to decide on an appropriate action to work towards their goals. Another common problem is that people know the what but not the how. For example, in the UK we have a freely available Eatwell Guide which shows the recommended diet composition for optimal health but without knowing how to prepare meals using these ingredients or how to navigate the supermarket, this information often does not lead to action. Through discussing potential barriers to implementing change, a health coach help their clients to put in place strategies to overcome these barriers and continue to take action without feeling stuck and unable to move forward.

Encouragement and accountability

In my opinion, encouragement and accountability are two of the key reasons why hiring a health coach has a much better success rate than going solo. We often speak harshly towards ourselves and our inner-critic has a field day when we embark on a challenging journey such as trying to improve our health. A health coach offers an outsiders view of their clients’ actions and will understand their strengths and highlight their successes, even when the client cannot see it for themselves. A good health coach will improve a clients’ confidence and self-efficacy so that they believe they do have the skills and power to make change. On the other hand, a health coach is also there to help their clients stay on track with working towards their goals and to offer strategies to get back on track when they fall off the wagon. It is so easy for one small slip up to lead to giving up altogether but a coach can help to see the big picture that one mistake does not meal total failure and can offer a helpful reminder of the clients’ overall aim and their why to keep them moving forward. Health coaches also use strategies for accountability to help clients’ build positive habits which support better health to replace negative habits which result in poor health outcomes. Usually it is this initial phase of habit replacement which takes the most time and effort and having a coach to be accountable to on a daily basis really can improve your chances of success.

Role model and leadership

Finally, the role of a health coach in general, not only for their clients, is to demonstrate that a healthy lifestyle is possible and be a positive role model for anyone looking to improve their health. By this I do not mean that a health coach should have the perfect body, the perfect diet or the perfect exercise routine or that they should never drink alcohol, stay up late or get stressed and overwhelmed. Rather a health coach can show a realistic view of a healthy lifestyle which is achievable for everyone and show that you do not need to be perfect to be in good health but that a strong foundation of healthy habits can take you far. They can share their personal health challenges and how they overcame them to give motivation and empowerment to others to do the same. We are all humans often living in societies that do not support optimal health but health coaches can act as leaders to show that there is a way to support your health, even in a less than supportive environment. Visualisation is an excellent tool to support you in achieving your goals and having an effective role model can help clients’ to create a vision for their health and expand their beliefs of what is possible and achievable. Again, this is not to say that clients’ should compare themselves to their coach or idolise them as the perfect vision of health, but more that seeing others success can help you to create your own vision of health and start out on the path of working towards your goals.

Over to you…

These are my thoughts on the role of a health coach and how a health coach can help you to reach your goals. Let me know in the comments below what YOU think a health coach is and whether you think coaching is helpful in improving your health. As usual, 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. I am a qualified nutritionist and hatha yoga teacher and I am currently training as a women’s wellness coach with Well College Global. 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.

Over to you…

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