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Tag Archives: FATIGUE

Categories GENERAL HEALTH, Uncategorized

Let’s redefine ‘normal’

This could possibly be the most important blog we’ve written here at The Balanced Nutritionist. 

 

It’s a conversation that the entire world needs to hear.

 

It’s about how we define ‘normal’ these days. And you know we love to keep things positive so we are sorry if this comes across quite ‘firm’ but its critically important. 

 

What do we mean by ‘normal?’ 

 

Well, what do we define as ‘normal’ when it comes to:

  • The way we feel each day in terms of our overall vitality and wellbeing
  • What we think is ‘normal’ food to feed to our physical bodies
  • What we think is ‘normal’ in terms of how we move our bodies, what movement we are capable of, and how much movement we should be doing
  • What we think is ‘normal’ in terms of how we speak to and treat ourselves. 
  •  What we think is ‘normal’ in terms of the pace at which we live and the degree of ‘presence’ that we actually experience. 

 

What is ‘Normal…’ these days? 

 

You see…. We think it’s a little bit alarming what ‘normal’ is becoming these days because it is in direct conflict with a lifetime of health and happiness. Let’s consider all of the above aspects and what the majority of society seems to consider is ‘normal’ in relation to each one:

  • Many, many people don’t feel vital, energetic, or well most days. Instead, they feel tired, sluggish, bloated, heavy, and disconnected from their own bodies.
  • Many people now just ‘accept’ that ‘food’ comes from packets purchased deep inside the aisles of a supermarket. Or often from a drive-thru. The future of kitchens could possibly be… a microwave. Only! And whilst we believe in balance and the mindful enjoyment of occasional treats…. Chips, chocolate bars, and junk food generally do not have a place in anyone’s diet on a daily basis… in particular, these foods do not belong in the lunchboxes of our little ones – they have always been and should remain ‘occasional treats’ amongst a mostly wholefood intake.  
  • Many people take out gym memberships for a few months here and there… maybe train for an event with some friends for a little while… but then go months in between doing very little. In actual fact, moving is normal. Humans are just like other animals. We should be moving regularly. We should be able to move with ease. We should be moving daily – even if it’s not strenuous. Take the stairs, go out and get some fresh air at lunchtime, stretch your body, and engage in deliberate exercise you enjoy. Moving is normal. Aches, pains, creaks, huffing, and puffing… is not
  • It’s not normal to talk to ourselves in a nasty way… call ourselves fat, or lazy or other mean, horrible names. It should be normal to treat yourself well and learn to love your own company. If you want others to love hanging out with you, then you should love hanging out with you!
  • Finally, it’s not normal to go through life at a million miles per hour. Constantly stressed, constantly haggled… wearing busy like a badge and never being fully present. This leads to burnout. And who wants to live a life… that they can’t even participate in? If this point in particular resonates with you, we recommend you check out the book ‘meditation and mindfulness’ by Andy Puddicome. 

 

We encourage you to Consider Normal as:

Sluggish, tired, flat Energetic, vital, well
Food from packages   Food from nature; wholefoods
Exercising because you have to Move because you were born too and it’s a gift
Self hate, self doubt Loving yourself and being kind to you.
Living on autopilot at 1000 miles/hr Living in the present.

 

But What does this have to do with Food? 

 

So you might be wondering why we brought up this topic when some of it is not entirely about food? Because if you know us even a little, you’ll know that we believe health is the whole package. We don’t just focus on food… we also want you to consider your lifestyle, your mindset, your stress levels, your relationship with self, your relationship with food… these are all tied in together. To influence your health and happiness. Intermingled… you wouldn’t have one without the other. When you nourish your body with good food… you will want to nourish your body with positive thoughts, speak nicely to yourself, enjoy physical challenges. And you will want to live in the present, saying no to people and occasions that don’t serve you, rest when you need to, be present in your wonderful life and be productive without being ridiculously busy. 

 

Think about how you define normal.. Or what you accept as normal. Could you raise the bar? Start a ripple effect and create a new normal. 

Categories GENERAL HEALTH

Tips for staying healthy whilst working from home

On the weekend, we provided comments for an article in the Courier-Mail, on this very topic ‘staying healthy whilst working from home’. Since your working environment may have changed dramatically recently, here are some tips for staying healthy despite the change to routine:

  1. If you’re used to packing a healthy lunch each day continue to do this every morning before you actually start work. If you don’t prepare something healthy in advance, you’ll go to the fridge mindlessly at lunchtime and be more inclined to choose something less healthy… or even Uber eats instead!
  2. Keep a large glass of water at your desk and continually sip throughout the day. Topping up gives you a chance to stretch your legs, gets the blood pumping and gives you a moment to refocus. If you don’t stay hydrated you may mistake hunger for thirst. Plus you’ll feel lethargic and might even get a headache.
  3. If you’re in an exercise pattern already, keep it the same! Don’t promise yourself you will ‘just do it later’ because chances are you won’t. Slot it in as normal. And if it’s not part of your routine, then with all the extra time you have minus commuting… Why not make it a habit from now?
  4. Stock on up fresh veggies to use as a base for salads or lunchtime wraps and fruit for snacking. There are amply supplies of fresh products at your local fruit and veg markets. It’s the supermarkets that have been cleaned out. Support the little guys. And stocking up on pasta and confectionery has no benefits right now or ever for that matter. 
  5. As the weather cools, consider popping something rich in nutrients into a slow cooker first thing in the morning. It will be ready in time for lunch. vegetable-rich dishes with either pulses or some form of meat protein are a great, healthy and filling option. Keep an eye on our Facebook page as we will be sharing heaps of recipe ideas over the coming weeks. 
  6. Actually, eat proper meals. If you get into the habit of skipping lunch altogether, you will be hungry and you’ll go for quick snack foods high in sugar continuously for fast pick me ups and you’ll only come crashing down again. 

From personal experience (keeping it real as always) the hardest part about working from home is avoiding mindless eating as a result of procrastination. To avoid this, it’s best to make sure you don’t have temptations lying around – like chocolates, chips, and biscuits. Apps that boost productivity are really handy as well. For example, the Pomodoro app is a free download on your computer that encourages you to focus for 25 minutes at a time and then allows you a 5-minute break. Psychologically it works! It’s like having a robot boss on your computer keeping you accountable to your work and stopping you from mindlessly walking to the kitchen!

We hope that helps. If it’s business as usual for you (but from home instead) and you’d like to seize this opportunity to work on your general health, reach out and book an appointment here – we are still operating by Skype / in clinic 6 days a week.

Categories MENTAL HEALTH

WALKING THE LINE

It’s a new year, which means that most people have new goals. Personal, financial, business or health, goal setting is a wonderful way to create intentions and move to the next level. BUT, there’s a catch and it’s something that shows up in clinic time and time again.

It’s the dark side of pushing over the line to get to that next level. Suddenly you’ve lost your balance and you no longer have all your ducks in a row. And I’ve seen some pretty horrendous cases of it in the last 6 months and a couple in this new year alone. Maybe you don’t agree, but I am convinced that our body’s weren’t designed to be ‘on’ all of the time. However, we now live in a world where its almost an expectation. If you truly want to maintain your health then you need to push back on this expectation and learn to find the balance among the chaos.

True burnout is like a big, black hole. Usually, it takes years, maybe even decades to get to that point… and it will therefore take many months, possibly years to truly come out of it.

So, what does this look like? What kind of signs and symptoms might show up if someone’s crossed the line and is starting to get lost in the big, black hole….

Each of us is individual, so it can show up in different ways. This can make it challenging to recognize, particularly for the person going through it. In my experience, anyone who is truly close to burning out really needs permission to feel that way…. I don’t mean this in a nasty way, but someone close to burn out has likely pushed themselves incredibly hard for a long, long time. Typically they are high achievers and have a ‘never give up’ attitude. In some ways it can be a massive relief to hear from a professional that hey, its truly time to put the brakes on and take some time out.

Here are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate its time to re-evaluate:

  1. Recurring sickness: constantly getting every cold, sore throat or virus that’s going around is a signal that the immune system is completely exhausted and depleted. Sure, you can pump yourself full of medications or vitamins, but ultimately you need to address the underlying cause – not enough down time. This doesn’t mean taking a few days off… it means having a good hard look at your life and putting the pieces back together with genuinely more down time. Long term. NOT just until you recover from your current bout of illness.
  2. Sleep: sleep onset (time to fall asleep) may be greatly compromised as well as the duration of each sleep cycle. Think about this…. if you’ve been demanding your brain and body to be ‘on’ all the time eventually, it’s going to hit back and forget the mechanisms to ‘switch off.’ The biochemical explanation of this is too much cortisol (stress hormone) and a subsequent inability to produce melatonin (sleep hormone).
  3. Constant niggles and injuries: this one applies to athletes…. how often does an athlete (recreational or professional) truly have an off season? Pretty much never. Ongoing issues are indicators of generalized inflammation in the body and a sign to stop. Perhaps consider some more restorative exercise like resistance work, yoga or Pilates to build a base and then return to the sport rested and rejuvenated.
  4. Overwhelming anxiety, panic attacks or simply having a lot less patience with others: you’re at the end. You’re done. Everything is completely overwhelming. It’s ok. Maybe its time to put yourself first? Putting yourself first is actually not selfish – if you’re not in peak condition, how can you take care of those around you that rely on you? The biochemical reason for this can come back to a serious depletion of gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) in the body and brain, as this is our main inhibitory (relaxing) neurotransmitter.
  5. Irregular bowel motions: quite simply, stress plays with your poop. The lining of the gastrointestinal system is covered in nerve endings so the brain can literally talk to the gut. Changes in serotonin (the ‘happiness’ hormone) alters bowel function as it assists with peristalsis of the bowel wall (i.e. helps you poop!). Therefore, long term stress, the kind that eventually leads to burnout may present as IBS like symptoms.
  6. Never ending bloats: got the bloats? Like all the time? Long term stress and burn out may mean the body redirects its resources to ‘necessary’ processes. Digestion isn’t at the very top of the list unlike ‘breathing’ because theoretically you can live for a while even if your digestion isn’t crash hot. So if you are completely out of your mind stressed and run down, food might just be hanging around in that gut of yours and not being properly absorbed so you may feel 6 month’s pregnant by lunchtime each day.
  7. Weight changes: looking after what you eat, but just can’t manage your weight? Long term exposure to high cortisol (stress levels) and not enough sleep will drive triglycerides up (fat) and increase tissue storage around the middle. Although this can depend on your genetics because some people close to burn out may go the other way, losing too much weight to maintain normal hormonal function as a result of an overactive metabolism or complete loss of appetite.
  8. Absolute exhaustion no matter how much you sleep: this is a common presentation in the clinic and a sure sign that you are pretty far down the big, black hole. Not only is it time for a  holiday, its time for a major lifestyle change as well as a patient, ‘take every day as it comes’ kind of attitude because its a long journey back to health.

These are just some of the red flags that may mean burn is around the corner. Never before have we asked so much of our bodies and minds and yet given it so little time to recover… don’t you think? Thankfully, the evolution that is mindfulness serves as a constant reminder to us that we must counteract the stress we place on ourselves by making time to look inwards. Make sure you adopt some of these habits before its too late. If you don’t make time for them now, you will have to make 10 times as much space for the recovery journey you’ll be faced with beyond burn out.

Wanting help to regain energy or something in this article struck a cord with you? Drop me a message or give me a call 07 3343 1602. Always happy to chat and arrange a consultation if I feel I can assist.

Categories THYROID

THYROID, IRON AND CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH

Thyroid Conditions

This may sound like a very ‘specific’ blog post and that’s because it is. It’s inspired by a few recent client cases who share similar pathology results, namely sub-optimal thyroid performance, compromised iron levels and undesirable cholesterol profiles. The relationship between these 3 markers is actually intertwined. Fixing one can not be done completely without fixing the others, so let’s take a ‘whole-istic’ look at how they interrelate. 

The Thyroid and Cardiovascular Health

Studies demonstrating the correlation between sub optimal thyroid function and poor cardiovascular health markers go back decades. A recent paper published in 2014 (1), compared 31 people with hypothyroidism and 58 controls (i.e. 58 people with healthy thyroids). 82% of those with hypothyroidism had metabolic syndrome* compared with 27% of those in the control group. Waist circumference, BMI and fasting triglycerides* were also higher in those with poor thyroid function. From studies like this, we can conclude that poor thyroid function can and does alter cardiovascular functions including:

  • blood pressure regulation
  • blood sugar regulation
  • serum triglycerides
  • HDL cholesterol (those with hypothyroidism tend to have significantly lower levels of HDL cholesterol – often referred to as ‘the good’ cholesterol.)

 

We don’t understand all of the intricacies between the thyroid and the cardiovascular system as yet. However, remember that the thyroid influences every cell in the body and essentially dictates the metabolism. With this in mind, it’s not difficult to imagine how thyroid health and cardiovascular health depend on each other to maintain normality.

[*Metabolic syndrome: a cluster of conditions that often go together indicating the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Includes high blood pressure, high blood triglycerides, insulin resistance, low HDL and higher than healthy waist circumference. A ‘wake up’ call to change the diet and lifestyle before more serious conditions arise. Triglycerides: level of ‘free fats’ floating around the blood essentially. Higher than normal levels indicate a higher risk of atherosclerosis i.e. plaque building up in the arteries raising the risk of stroke and heart attack]

Thyroid Function and Iron Levels

This relationship is a like the ‘chicken or the egg’ situation. Is it a sluggish thyroid that leads to poor iron levels or is it the other way round? I don’t see how we will ever know for sure and it most likely differs from person to person, however the two commonly present together. Here’s the deal.

  • Poor thyroid function can reduce the secretion of gastric acid and compromise digestion overall. This means mineral absorption including iron will be compromised which will lead to low iron levels and eventually anemia.
  • Iron is required as a co-factor for the production of thyroid hormones including T4 and T3. What this means essentially is that without optimal iron levels, T3 and T4 levels will not be adequate and TSH levels will rise above normal. This IS hypothyroidism.

So you can see how suboptimal thyroid performance can lead to iron deficiency and you can also see how iron deficiency may lead to hypothyroidism.

[My research for this article led me to an interesting study (2) examining Nepalese children. The paper showed a much higher (5 fold) risk of hypothyroidism in children with iron deficiency than those with normal iron levels. This highlights the importance of maternal nutrition during and after pregnancy as well as pediatric nutrition – a topic to be ‘parked’ for now as it would lead to far too many tangents.]

Iron and Cardiovascular Health

Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, which are the cells that carry oxygen around to other tissues in the body. Generally, when iron levels are sub optimal hemoglobin levels are also low. Can you imagine that your heart will need to work quite a bit harder in order to oxygenate your body without adequate hemoglobin levels? Consider the corresponding impact of this on your blood pressure too. This is the tip of the iceberg, simply to give you some indication of the relationship between iron and your ticker. The effects of low iron on cardiovascular health are much more extensive than this and well documented (3).

This Clinical Picture

Hopefully now, you can begin to understand why this picture presents itself so often in the one person. They are not separate problems to be dealt with singularly or one at a time. The ‘whole-istic’ approach acknowledges that they are intertwined and so must be the treatment.

You can imagine how this picture would feel in a person. Both low iron and sub-optimal thyroid leads to fatigue and even depression… add to this a stressed heart and poor blood oxygen levels and you can understand why getting out of bed everyday is equal to running a marathon. The weight can stack on (thanks to the thyroid) and this will further compromise cardiovascular health, raising triglyceride levels, increasing blood pressure and further compromising blood sugar control. The stress was bad before; its now insurmountable. Not to mention the colds and infections that hit every other week (low iron = compromised immune health).

So it’s probably not a picture one wants to ignore for long. It will get worst if it’s left untreated.

Who do you know that may fit this presentation? Pass this along to a loved one if you think it might help them in some way. Read more about nutrients and thyroid conditions here.

Nutrition hey? Who knew we were more than just the sum of a whole heap of parts? And who knew nutrients had anything to do with health?

[Note: a general pathology test is unlikely to cover full thyroid, iron and cardiovascular studies. One of these markers may be detected as abnormal, but it does not necessarily mean that more thorough testing will be run automatically. Most often this case presentation is ‘uncovered’ because the person is certain there is ‘something more’ as a result of the symptoms they are experiencing. ]

  1. R Haque, S Ferdousi, SS Ferdousi, W Rahman, MN Uddin, MM Hoque, (2014). ‘Metabolic Syndrome in Hypothyroid Patients’ Bangladesh Journal of Medical Biochemistry.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3329/bjmb.v7i2.22414
  2. Saroj Khatiwada, Basanta GelalNirmal Baraland Madhab Lamsal. (2016). ‘Association between iron status and thyroid function in Nepalese children.’ Thyroid Research. DOI: 10.1186/s13044-016-0031-0
  3. Nikita Hegde, MD, Michael W. Rich, MD, and Charina Gayomali, MD. (2006).  ‘The Cardiomyopathy of Iron Deficiency.’ Texas Heart Institute Journal. Availablehere: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1592266/