There is no getting away from Donald Trump, Covid19 and the shenanigans in the Dáil with everything looking a little hairy to say the least! No better way to introduce this week’s article and take your mind off things for a moment, than to “comb” through some noteworthy tips to keeping your locks in good shape!
Much like the skin, the condition of your hair can be an outward sign of your inside health. In times of illness, trauma or major life events it is not uncommon to see dramatic changes in hair condition in the subsequent weeks or months. With time, the hair usually recovers following such upheavals depending on our ability to adjust and cope. For most people the loss of hair condition is a gradual process that has more to do with the everyday stuff rather than any single traumatic experience. Genes, ageing, certain medications and hormones have a significant influence on hair quality, but dietary involvement should not be “brushed” aside when you want to give your hair some TLC.
From an evolutionary aspect, we were much hairier when we were bent over half-naked on all fours as hair helped protect us from the sun, kept us warm and trapped dirt. Being hairy back then was a plus for our survival. As we evolved upright, onto two legs and knitted ourselves a few jumpers we no longer needed so much body hair. We developed other strategies to protect ourselves and keep us warm and soon enough our head hair became more aesthetic than functional. For modern day humans hair has been relegated to a non-vital status and is one of the last ports of call when all the good nutrients, vitamins and minerals are being dished out. Nutrients from our diet are allocated to the most vital of organs first and to fuel the most demanding body systems. When it comes to glossy, lustrous locks our nutrition must be more than adequate for the essential functioning of the body to have something left over for the less important things like hair.
There is no “one” super vitamin or mineral that will ensure continued growth and condition of the hair. Our hair, hair follicles and scalp utilizes a variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats as long as they are plentiful and consistent in the diet. Today’s diet has become deficient in many of the key nutrients our hair needs and this coupled with the added stress of modern living has wreaked havoc on our hair.
Hair is mainly made of protein and the quality of the protein we eat can influence the hair life cycle and its ability to grow and renew itself. Lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds in their most natural form are good sources of proteins. Sulphur is the third most abundant mineral in the body, after calcium and phosphorous. It is needed to produce keratin and to strengthen hair follicles, as well as having plenty other roles in the human anatomy. Found in low quantities in foods such as garlic, onions, broccoli, leafy vegetables, swiss chard and watercress it is also available in powder or capsules. Some studies demonstrated hair quality improvement when subjects supplemented with Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) – although these studies are small they are promising. MSM is commonly included in joint, bone and skin supplements and has some good science backing it up.
Low iron stores (ferritin) is a major cause of hair loss as it disrupts the nutrient supply to the hair follicle affecting the growth cycle and resulting in excess shedding. Iron rich foods include red meat, liver, eggs, lentils and blackstrap molasses which need the assistance of vitamin C for optimum absorption of iron. The collagen that surrounds the hair also relies on vitamin C so ensure you are getting plenty of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables all year round. Zinc and Silica are two more minerals important to hair health. While they can be supplemented, food sources of silica include cucumber, mango, green leafs, beans, celery and asparagus. Silica is also found in horsetail (herb) and nettles which are often used as a hair rinse for weak, brittle hair. Among some of the foods high in zinc are pumpkin seeds, organic meat, fresh oysters, brazil nuts, eggs and pecans.
Vitamin E is required to protect hair from UV light and prevent breakage. Vitamin E foods include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, pinenuts, spinach, avocado and olives. B-complex vitamins particularly biotin and vitamin B6 can boost rejuvenation, prevent thinning and increase scalp circulation. B-vitamins are almost always lost through refining of grains so choose wholegrain foods such as unrefined buckwheat, pot barley and whole wheat products. Rosemary essential oil is also noted for scalp circulation and can be added to organic hair products or mixed with a little coconut oil for a homemade hair mask. Omega 3, an essential fat found in oily fish, flaxseed, walnuts and avocado helps strengthens and hydrate the hair shaft.
It is remarkable that as we have become less hairy through the ages, we have become more precious about the little bit of hair on our head. We often try to mask our lack-lustre hair with increasing amounts of chemicals and harsh hair treatments - which eventually can become more of a cause than a solution to a bad hair day. A truly nourished head of hair is the by-product of great inner health and well-being which is ultimately our finest feature!
Researched and written by Irene :)
Don't panic you can still get some yummy recipes and do this challenge in your own time!
I ran this challenge back in October in real time but you can do this anytime you like! All you have to do is download the 5 Day Happy Snack Recipe book and commit to making two healthy snacks every day! That's it! Hardly a challenge when you will be eating all the good stuff to combat sugar cravings and emotional eating. Menopause can throw up a few challenges for sure, but eating well should not be one of them! Get started today by taking the first step to eating well every day!
Your FREE download includes a shopping list, daily snack plan and all the recipes to make snacks work for you!
Join my private Facebook group and upload your photos, comments and any questions and I'll be there to support you all the way!
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Started MONDAY, 19th October 2020
This challenge is now CLOSED for participants! If you would like to hear about the next one, sign up to our mailing list to be in the know! We would love to include you in our next Free Challenge!
What's the Challenge?Join me for 5 days of snacking to crush cravings, balance those pesky hormones, lift your mood and reverse that slow, sneaky weight gain associated with Menopause!
Whether you are just beginning the menopause journey, or are in the thick of it or out the other end, these low-sugar snacks will keep replenish your energy while giving your body a timely hit of hormone-friendly nutrients, vital for a happy menopause!
Sign up below to be part of this amazing challenge!
Here's what you get:
With all the crap news and the Winter looming - this is going to brighten up your day EVERYDAY!
Menopause is a natural process, a normal part of life - it is not an illness!
Let's have a bit of fun with this challenge and snack our way to Menopause greatness!
The ancient Greeks were stone mad for them, the Romans wore them on their heads, Emperor Tiberius wore a hat made from them (to protect him from lightening), poets stuck them under their pillows for inspiration and witches and wizards lauded them for their narcotic effect which spelled a special kind of magic! Looking through the historical data, this ordinary herb extraordinarily sorted the ills and woes of populations all over the World! Bay Leaf has had many claims attributed to it down through the ages – some of which are valid, others not so much – but all make for some welcome distraction from Covid, Brexit and the “new abnormal”!
The woody shrub, Laurus Nobilis, bay laurel tree or bay leaf tree, originated in the Mediterranean region but soon was cultivated in South Asia, South America, Australia and Europe. It thrives in hot, sunny climates with moisture from the sea but is often seen in Irish gardens too. It is most famed for its flavour, medicinal and ceremonial use as well as hair lotions and manly potions. The leaves, bark and essential oils extracted from the leaves give us the familiar bay leaf aroma and it is these parts of the bay tree that have undergone the most scrutiny in scientific terms although the tree also bears flowers and fruits -these don’t feature quite as much.
We are familiar seeing a wreath of bay leaves (laurels) donned by the victorious in many modern sports harping back to a time when wearing a laurel wreath was prestigious and well-respected. The term “laureate” is attributed to those who have achieved high esteem or award for their work – Nobel prize winners and poet laureates are good examples of how the simple bay leaf has in itself earned high regard throughout the ages right up to today. In traditional (folk) medicine it has been widely used to treat migraines, earache, rheumatism, sprains, earaches, and to enhance perspiration (not quite sure what this really means!). It also was used for digestive issues, stomach ache, colic, vomiting, diarrhoea and indigestion. There are also reports that bay leaf tea relieved coughs, colds, influenza, bronchitis and upper respiratory infections. Poultices of bay applied to the skin were used to treat pain and neuralgia. Resting on one’s “laurels” probably was a well spent past-time by all accounts.
Today, many of the old remedies, have been examined for efficacy, safety and toxicology among other parameters that deem them a “medicine” by modern standards. Remarkably, bay leaf has a chemistry profile that would knock the socks off some of our most advanced drugs. Bay leaf has many biologic activities such as wound healing activity, antioxidant activity, antibacterial activity, antiviral activity, immunostimulant activity, anticholinergic activity (cholesterol-lowering), antifungal activity, insect repellent activity, anticonvulsant activity, antimutagenic activity, and analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity. Now, before you go out and buy a tonne of bay leaves, much more work has to be done by our scientists but so far, there is plenty good reason to include bay leaves in your kitchen herb and spice collection.
Have you ever noticed that once we are told that something is good for us, we automatically assume that more is better? Not this time! The best way to enjoy bay leaves is a few, regularly rather than a whole bunch of them just once. Bay leaves are indigestible and have a tough fibrous stem and sharp, pointy leaves – they should never be consumed whole. Injury to the mouth, oesophagus and intestinal linings have been known to happen. However, do not let that put you off adding whole bay leaves to slow-cooking dishes and remove before serving. The flavour imparted by the leaves in cooking consists of the beneficial oils and nutrients. Similarly, you can make tea from whole leaves by simmering 4 or 5 leaves per cup of water for 10 minutes, leave to rest, covered with a lid for a little while – strain the liquid before drinking. You could also add whole cloves and cinnamon stick to the simmering tea for even more potency especially now as we enter the season of coughs, colds and flu. Sweeten with honey and serve with plenty slices of lemon or oranges for some Vitamin C!
Some of the more “out there” uses for bay leaves came from Witchipedia, a fabulous online resource for all things magic! As the darker evenings draw near and social distancing keeps us afar, conjuring up some magic at home might become the new going out! One way of manifesting some good fortune is to write your wish on a bay leaf and burn it under the full moon. Bay leaf is handy too if you want to hold on to your lover – simply go to a bay tree and pick a leaf together, tear it in half and each keep one half. Guaranteed that you will see your lover again, and neither of you will be tempted by infidelity.
Ironically, as I write this piece, I just heard the pubs will re-open again on the 21st September – enough time to stock up on the bay leaves, for whatever reason suits you best!
All the best,
This easy peasy hot chocolate is perfect for these stormy nights! Try it out and you will have the sweetest dreams!
All you need:
Hot Cacao Good Night Drink Serves 1
1 cup Oat Milk
1 tbsp Cacao Powder (raw)
1 tbsp Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Cinnamon (and a pinch for sprinkling on top)
Heat the milk gently until hot but not boiling. Add in the other ingredients and whisk until frothy.
Pour gently into a warmed mug, sprinkle over with a pinch of cinnamon! Goodnight!
Loved that recipe! Check out my 4 week Boost your Immune Health Programme for 28 days of immune-boosting recipes, meal plan and health tips to stay well!
It was revealed last week that low Vitamin K status is linked to poor Covid-19 outcomes according to leading researchers. Let's find out more about this mysterious vitamin and just how valid could that claim be?
Written by Irene Ní Fhlannúra for West & Mid Kerry Live, June 21st 2020
There was a time when scientists believed that only four nutrients (macro nutrients) were vital for humans to survive – namely carbohydrates, fats, proteins and water. They were on the right track for quite some time but soon were back to the drawing board after newly discovered diseases came to the fore. They noticed that even when humans had access to adequate amounts of macro nutrients, illness and even death occurred in the absence of any obvious infection, toxin or injury. It is hard to imagine a time when we did not understand the role of vitamins in human health, but for long periods of our history, humans died of diseases of deficiencies before they copped that there was more to health than first thought.
From around the late 19th century, the scientific community began to discover another branch of nutrients, now called, micronutrients, that were needed in smaller quantities yet essential, not only for our survival, but for our survival in good health. The term vitamin was coined by a Polish biochemist, Casimir Funk in 1912, when he formulated the concept of vitamins or “vital amines” and paved the way for others to isolate, identify and name the vitamins now recognized to be essential to all human life.
Vitamins were named alphabetically in the order in which they were discovered, beginning with vitamin A. They were identified in quick succession soon after first one with B, C, D and E getting their recognition. Vitamin F (linoleic acid) was put on the transfer list when it was re-classified as an essential fatty acid. Vitamin G is now B2 and vitamin H is now Biotin, also part of the vitamin B complex. Similarly, vitamins H and I were like the Bs, so they were put on that team too. This explains the big gap in letters before we get to vitamin K, now you know!
What we now know about vitamins is more than what was understood a few decades ago, and less than what is yet to be discovered. Science is constantly evolving, and the human body is an intriguing yet complex subject. Saying all that, our knowledge of vitamin K is just as fascinating as all the other vitamins, yet public awareness seems lacking. COVID-19 has catapulted it into the limelight as scientists grapple for answers as to why some people get extremely sick and die while others go unscathed with little or no symptoms.
Vitamin K is best known for its role in the blood clotting process. This was discovered 1929 when Danish scientist, Henrik Dam was investigating the role of dietary cholesterol by feeding chickens a fat-free diet. After several weeks, the chickens began to suffer from frequent bleedings which did not stop when fat was re-introduced. Dam figured there had to be something else in the diet that prevented the bleedings. Years (and many chickens) later, he isolated a component in hemp seed that stopped the haemorrhaging and called it the coagulation factor, soon to be known as Vitamin K. Decades later vitamin K was further classified into K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is solely found in plants – green leafy vegetables, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts while K2 (menaquinone) is found in liver, eggs and fermented foods such as cheese and natto (fermented soybean). Vitamin K2 is also produced by our own gut bacteria. These bacteria are particularly fond of the fibre found in the K1 foods (leafy greens and cruciferous plants) - eat more K1 to get more K2 seems to be the lesson here!
Babies are born without the necessary bacteria to make K2 and breast milk is a poor source of it, therefore a vitamin K injection has been recommended for newborns to prevent the risk of internal or external bleeding during their first few weeks of life, until their own bacteria kicks in. Recently K2 has been further classified into MKs - MK4 and MK7 now known to be co-factors in preventing osteoporosis and calcification of arteries. There is a risk now that they will run out of letters!
Vitamin K in all its forms is absorbed in the small intestine, metabolized rapidly with only a small amount of it stored in our fat cells. Deficiencies can occur when there is a fat malabsorption issue (as in gall bladder disease, Crohn’s disease, Cystic fibrosis). Defective coagulation leading to excessive bleeding and bruising is the most common symptom. However, optimum vitamin K intake (which is always more than the RDA) is associated with improved bone density and reduced arterial stiffness. There is no upper limit for dietary intake of vitamin K1 or K2 because it is metabolized so quickly and much of it ends up in our pee and poo. However, those taking Warfarin or other anti-coagulants should not supplement with Vitamin K.
Preliminary research into COVID-19 suggests that patients with extreme symptoms have low Vitamin K levels. As the researchers explain, COVID-19 causes blood clotting and leads to the degradation of elastic fibres in the lungs, which is where vitamin K may play a regulatory role. Just as in the past, we await further advancements but, for now, we can be confident that to eat more greens, more fermented foods and take care of our gut bacteria is always a good move!
Boost your Immunity and Creativity with a Summer Salad Everyday!
What's the challenge?
Have a different salad with lunch or dinner, everyday for 5 days!
All the nutritional science and evidence in the world will not boost your health unless you can get it on your plate and into your belly!
Join me for a FREE 5-Day Summer Salad Challenge to see how easy it is to create an amazing salad every day for 5 days!
Starting on Monday MAY 25th you will learn the core ingredients you need to make a great salad.
Bring taste, texture and colour to your salads and create the perfect dressing to bring it all together!
Challenge NOW CLOSED, it was great!
We now know that possibly up to 70% of the population will ultimately be hit with the Covid-19 virus. Most people, thankfully will have no symptoms or mild symptoms. More may experience notable symptoms such as high fever, cough and breathing issues, but may remain at home and tough it out with rest, fluids and good nutrition. Unfortunately, those who have underlying health conditions, who may be elderly and/or obese have a much higher risk of developing serious symptoms, requiring hospitalization and specialized medical interventions.
A recent article in the New York Times highlights the link between poor diet and many of the common medical conditions of our time. Conditions such as being overweight, high blood pressure and diabetes are all associated with a low-grade inflammation that saturates the whole body.
In the article Dr. Mozaffarian explains how diet is driving this epidemic of low-grade inflammation. “Covid 19 kills by causing an overwhelming inflammatory response that disables the body’s ability to fight off pathogens.” Those who have weakened immune systems or have existing chronic low-grade inflammation are at the greatest risk of the serious complications of Covid-19.
For many years we have been highlighting the link between diet and chronic, low-grade inflammation. We have seen how a change of diet can reduce this inflammation. This in turn helps us to fight off viruses and other illnesses.
Food Intolerance Testing NOW available as an online service!
All our tests are CE approved Laboratory tests,. For a limited time we are offering to carry out a LOW GRADE INFLAMMATION TEST with your FOOD INTOLERANCE test Free of Charge. This hs-CRP test detects inflammatory marker C-Reactive Protein which at higher than normal levels is associated with many chronic and metabolic diseases. Food Intolerance is a contributor to keeping inflammation switched on. When you know what foods to eliminate, the ones that are identified as true culprits, you can make significant changes to your health and resilience by eliminating these foods.
As we move through this pandemic, we have to look forward to getting back to work, meeting family and friends, and enjoying life without restrictions. We cannot stay in lockdown forever! Diet and nutrition will play the greatest role in building resilience, re-calibrating the immune system to work for us and not fight against us.
Our 93 Food Test and 200 Food Test will include the hs-CRP Low Grade Inflammation Test for a limited time only. See link below for ordering details and if you would like to speak to Irene about this test get in touch by 353861662562
Food Intolerance Tests
€60.00 - €340.00
Don't let food intolerances (sensitivities) make your life a misery! In many cases, conditions such as irritable bowel, asthma, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, sinusitis and migraine are different manifestations of inflammation caused by food intolerance. Conditions relating to food sensitivity begin when the digestive system is no longer able to process particular foods as they pass down through the digestive tract. The end result is a build up of toxic matter which leads to poor health and low grade inflammation.
Our CE approved Food Intolerance laboratory test takes the guesswork out of trying to pinpoint the culprits in your diet. Once foods are identified and removed from the diet significant improvements can be made.
You will have expert recommendations for dietary changes based on your test results which will keep your diet balanced during an elimination phase and help you replace culprit foods with healthy alternatives.
Food Intolerance Tests are now available online with testing kits sent directly to your home.
Our 93 food sensitivity test checks 93 of the most common foods known to cause intolerance. Each food is tested individually and given an exact IgG antibody score. The IgG antibody score will then guide your elimination diet. The food sensitivity test will provide you will a list of replacement foods.
200 Food Test also available. See full list of Foods tested below.
What size is the Food Intolerance Test Kit?
What is included in the Food Intolerance Test Kit?
Results are available within 2 weeks of receiving your sample. Every client will receive a hard copy of the results and food elimination guidebook with an after-care phone consultation for support.
See lists of foods tested in each of our Food Intolerance Tests https://www.renuanaturalhealth.com/foodintolerancetest.html
As we move on to the next phase in managing the Covid-19 crisis, I couldn't help noticing that almost all guidelines are reactionary and focused on getting the economy going again. There is very little solid information looking at building resilience, but rather building barriers to keep Covid-19 away from us. Understandably, when managing large populations this might be the best approach for governments but at the end of the day, if we do not build our immunity and resilience, we will be in this state for a very long time. I could not help hearing the Talking Heads song, "We're on the Road to Nowhere" in my own head when all the talk of lifting restrictions was on the radio last weekend, so I hit my Spotify, played the song a few times and went with my gut feeling with this article! I hope it serves to give everyone a roadmap to stay grounded while building resilience, just as Nature intends us to do!
Much love to all of you, Irene x
The excitement about the new set of guidelines in the ongoing Coronavirus crisis would have been comical if it were not so serious. We now have a “roadmap” for returning to some sense of normality over the course of the next few months. The overwhelming feeling is of frustration and disillusionment rather than that of optimism, as the Government advises on a terribly slow and gradual ease of restrictions. The proposed “roadmap” spans the whole Summer season, from early Summer, beginning in May to the end of August, which rolls into a period known as Late Summer. Curiously, the timeline for the Covid-19 exit is built on a road that has existed all along, the natural cycle of the Seasons. While it might not have been intentional by our leaders, the true spirit of Summer offers a parallel roadmap we can adapt to, one of health, ease, joy and creativity. The stability and reassurance we need are just a side-step away from us right now in the form of Summer – a time to strengthen our resolve, ignite the fire in our bellies and benefit from a timely emotional lift and nutritional boost to our hearts and minds.
Our urge to gather and congregate outside the boundaries of the homestead is greater during the Summer as the weather and longer daylight hours allow for these activities. It is unfortunate that Covid-19 and the government’s roadmap has put a stop to most of our galivanting and carousing this Summer. This is a great challenge for the whole of society and the consequences may be felt for a long time. However, the greatest Summer gains are felt by just being outside. Fortunately, observing Nature and stocking up on Vitamin D only needs you! Here are a few ideas of going with the flow while keeping your distance – rise early and catch the dawn chorus, gardening, walk barefoot on grass/sand, swim in the sea, practice yoga or tai chi in the back garden, try out mindful walking, simply sit outside and breathe! Think of activities that are more enjoyable and more suitable in the Summertime, now you are following the Parallel Roadmap!
Summer energy, or Fire energy feeds the heart, vascular system and the small intestine. Simply put, seasonal food is most nourishing to these organs and likewise, the organs are more receptive to a seasonal tuning during the Summer season. With the heart and mind so intricately connected through the expansive network of blood vessels and nerve cells, when you feed the heart you nourish the mind. Summer foods are a colourful, juicy, fresh array of fruits and vegetables. Eaten raw or with minimal cooking, Summer foods provide a rich supply of antioxidants and vitamin C supporting our blood and nerve networks, with extra resources to boost our immunity. Most interestingly, these foods often resemble the heart in shape and colour - tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, beetroot, hawthorn berries - rich red colours and plump round forms. Go boldly along the Parallel Roadmap adding a little fire to your dishes with hot spices such as cayenne, chilli, paprika and pepper which are vasodilators, increasing blood flow around the body and reducing blood pressure. Interestinly, chilli and cayenne are used in anti-viral remedies, as they increase the temperature in the oral and respiratory tracts, hampering the virus’ ability to invade and replicate in our cells. Another good reason to heat things up in the kitchen!
Mother Nature has a sense of humour – while she wants us to create some heat, she also asks that we cool down! Get the right balance by including as many cool green foods as the red and fiery ones. Cucumbers, melon, young leafy greens (baby kale, spinach, rocket, salad leaves) are hydrating to all cells, helping to flush toxins while cooling down inflammation and excess heat. Magnesium, found in the same young greens also help calm down agitated blood vessels and neurons, reducing both physical and emotional stress – another good reason to stay the course.
Our Summer feast is not complete without our oils. Drizzle a cold-pressed olive oil or avocado oil on salads and vegetables for heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. Omega 3 from wild, oily fish or cold-pressed flax seed oil is the lubrication needed to keep the show in the flow, preventing stickiness in the blood and maintaining the fluidity of cell membranes. Omega-3 plays an anti-inflammatory role in all areas of the body and most recently has shown promising results in dampening the cytokine storm responsible for the most serious of complications of Covid-19.
The emotion connected to the Summer, and therefore, the heart is JOY! We often refer to the word “heart” when describing love and joy – “heartfelt”, “bighearted”, “sweetheart”, “heart-warming” and the like. The opposite of Joy is sadness - “heartache”, “disheartened” and “heartbroken”. Even though modern medicine is reluctant to connect emotions with the physical biology of organs, the remnants of a once-held belief is carried through in our language. The Parallel Roadmap cultivates joy through self-care and community spirit. The only obstacle on this road is you, be kind.
Covid-19 has not stopped the arrival of Summer, nor will Autumn or Winter be thwarted. Our resilience depends on our ability to adapt and flow with the least amount of struggle or stress. The Parallel Roadmap is not an alternative route, but more like the ditches that dictate the road’s direction. The opportunity to follow the unwavering and dependable Mother Nature is to be grabbed by both hands, washed for at least 20 seconds in soapy water first, of course!
Written by Irene Ní Fhlannúra. This article appears in the West & Mid Kerry Live, issue 282, May 7th 2020
We are just over six weeks in to our new normal and for many people the change to the day to day living is so great that it may take a while to be accepted as normal. This state of uncertainty is a major trigger for heightened levels of stress and anxiety in the general population and for those who were already experiencing symptoms of stress and anxiety, the new reality may be overwhelming. On top of it all are the endless tales of hidden agendas, conspiracy theories, fake news and doomsday predictions for the future – it makes for a very unsettling time for even the most resilient amongst us. It is in moments like these that the established pillars of good health – exercise, nutrition, relaxation and sleep – provide solid focal points to help us navigate our way through this current crisis and emerge from it stronger and healthier than ever. Nutrition has long been considered as a co-factor to our mental health and well-being and the approach to managing this crisis is no different to others when it comes to choosing good mood food. Now, with everyone spending more time in the kitchen, we have an unexpected opportunity to control the controllable when it comes to our food choices and to optimize our nutrition to support our mental health.
It has long been suggested that the dysregulation of neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout the brain and body, may be a cause for anxiety. These neurotransmitters include GABA, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Nutritional psychiatry has made great headway in establishing meaningful dietary interventions that have a positive effect on the regulation of these feel good neurotransmitters, providing us with a safe and easy first step to manage our anxiety levels. The growing interest in the gut microbiome has also suggested that the gut-brain link is of greater importance than originally thought. Not surprising, when we already know that 95% of our serotonin receptors are in the gut linings. A diet rich in fruit, vegetables and legumes are crucial to maintaining both the intestinal linings and the good bacteria that inhabit them. Not only do we need to consume good bacteria in fermented foods – yogurt, kefir, kombucha and fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut, miso and kimchi), we also need to consume nutrients such as non-starchy fibre, cruciferous vegetables and beta-carotene foods to keep their environment intact so they flourish and colonize the gut.
Magnesium-rich foods from leafy greens (spinach, chard, kale, green cabbage), seeds and legumes can inhibit excitatory neurotransmitters, diffusing anxiety pathways and are also beneficial to gut bacteria, a win-win side dish for veg when you are on edge! Magnesium affects a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which helps regulate the pituitary and adrenal glands. These glands are responsible for your response to stress. Other food sources for magnesium include avocado, nuts and dark chocolate. Anyone for dessert?
The status of zinc has been elevated to that of a nutritional hero for Covid-19 in its role as an anti-viral agent, but zinc has many other jobs around the body including to produce all neurotransmitters. Although zinc supplements are like gold-dust at the moment, there is zinc in oysters, scallops, liver, beef, egg yolks, tofu, cashews, walnuts, chia, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseeds.
B is for brain and B is for B vitamins, without which we would be a whinging, bag of bones. Be creative with your meals filling up with B5, B6 and B12 foods to regulate energy, mood and the stress response. B5 foods include liver, yogurt, tofu, legumes and mushrooms. B6 is found in wholegrains, eggs, soya and fish and B12 from red meat, black beans, dark green vegetables and lentils. Be wary of neuro-disruptors such as alcohol and caffeine, which also affect our sleep, relaxation and motivation to exercise.
Getting back to nutritional psychiatry, researchers have established the biological pathways related to anxiety and other mental health disorders which include inflammation, oxidative stress, gut microbiome, epigenetics (to do with our genes) and neuro-plasticity (the ability of the brain to change continuously throughout an individual's life). Every one of these pathways are affected by the food we eat. Omega 3 and healthy fats from oily fish, seeds, nuts, olive oil and avocado are anti-inflammatory and sustain neuro-plasticity. Antioxidants, rich in colourful fruit and vegetables combat oxidative stress, inflammation and influence gene expression. We have discussed the gut microbiome already. Conversely, junk food, sugar and processed foods have an adverse effect on all the above over time and an immediate impact on your mood status. Sugar, MSG and many food additives directly impact on your neurotransmitters, knocking them out of whack and sending you into a state of increased stress and anxiety. The amount of stress you feel at any given time is dependent on your circumstances but also on your perception of those circumstances, which can be profoundly influenced by your nutritional status and the other pillars of good health mentioned above.
Covid-19 has shocked and rocked our world. It is normal to feel uneasy and anxious about it. Fortunately, we are adaptable and resilient once we accept our new normal and build a strategy for it. With that in mind, grab a pen, plan your meals, stay calm and carry on cooking!
Researched and Written by Irene :)
Ré Nua Natural Health Blog
We keep you up to date with news, events and happenings at the clinic.