Can I eat sweet treats? Should I be off gluten? Some of the most common nutrition questions answered
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
What is Nutritional Therapy?
In short, Nutritional Therapy looks at food as medicine. The overall essence of Nutritional Therapy is about getting to the root cause of a disease, or symptoms, so appropriate steps can be taken to support the body's innate healing abilities through the use of whole and organic foods as medicine. The body is very clever, providing it with the right environment will go a long way to healing many aliments.
Through the use of food as medicine you can literally make changes in your metabolism, biochemical pathways and influence things such as your neurotransmitters, hormones, mood, energy and overall it can reshape your life for the better.
The wealth of health and nutritional information available can be overwhelming and confusing. In Nutritional Therapy each individual is unique and viewed through a holistic lens, physical and non physical working as one. Diet obviously is centre stage but I ask questions about things like sleep, stress levels, joy (or lack of), movement and mindfulness too.
Looking through a holistic lens is one way in which a Nutritional Therapist differs from a dietian. For example, a dietian may have one algorithm for a type 2 diabetic, whereas a Nutritional Therapist recognises there are sometimes less obvious underlying causes that need to be addressed. I would never have any client count calories, the focus is on quality whole foods.
Many people think ‘weight loss’ when they hear the title Nutritional Therapist but there are so many conditions that can benefit from nutritional support. Some examples are, migraines, endometriosis, menopause, PMS, eczema, fatigue, joint issues, autoimmune conditions, underactive thyroid, sleep issues, and of course gut related problems. I often recommend supplements too and sometimes request testing. I focus on health rather than weight, if weight loss is needed it will be a ‘side effect’ of the nutrition plan I recommend.
Nutritional advice doesn't have to be daunting or restrictive, it's not about telling you what you can and cannot eat, often it's small changes that can have a big impact on your health. Let’s just say, I’m not running around drinking green smoothies and nibbling on raw kale every day!
What type of diet should I be on?
There are some general guidelines I think are going to benefit the majority of people but there isn’t one diet that suits every single human being. A diet to help heal IBS, heal an autoimmune disease, to increase athletic performance, or for an elderly person, are all going to vary. So what diet is best is not a one size fits all answer, but following the guidelines below will help many feel more vitality and comfortable in their clothes.
Putting a focus on whole, preferably organic where possible, foods has been shown to lower inflammation, help the body naturally detoxify, optimise vitamin and mineral deficiencies and balance blood sugars. If you optimise those areas you aren’t likely going to need to be seeing someone like me!
By whole foods I mean a diverse choice of fruits and vegetables, legumes and pulses, nuts and seeds, wild caught fish, organic meats, eggs, small amounts of dairy – sheep’s yogurt and kefir are examples of good choices, healthy fats like cold pressed olive oil, hummus and avocado.
I find I still have to say this to most people, don’t be scared of fats! Specifically speaking, healthy fats. They are vital for things like hormone production. Eating fats from sources like hummus, avocado, oily fish, nuts, nut butters, olives, olive oil, and eggs will not negatively impact your weight or cholesterol either. Carbohydrates are also demonised a lot. Just like fats, not all carbohydrates are ‘bad’. Reaching for complex carbohydrates like oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes and lentils will help balance blood sugar, help feed the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut and are a source of nutrients and fibre.
Are sweet treats off limits?
I personally love a sweet treat and use the book ‘Livia’s Kitchen’ for healthier baking alternatives. Try banoffee squares or the chocolate mocha tart and you won’t turn back!
A few squares of Green and Blacks 85% organic dark chocolate is a good treat too, packed with antioxidants! Other websites I use for good sweet alternatives and recipe ideas are Amelia Freer, Hemsley & Hemsley and Deliciously Ella.
Should I be on supplements?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions I get. Unfortunately my answer is not a straight yes or no (if only it were that easy!). Like diet, supplementing is unique to the individual depending on things like age, genetics, stress levels, type of diet, metabolism and so on.
Some supplements are safer than others. For instance, taking too much vitamin C may give you loose stools but taking too much iron could be toxic. Either way it is important to treat supplements like medications, it is always best to seek advice from a nutritional therapist or other healthcare professional before starting a supplement.
Shouldn’t we be able to get all the nutrients we need from food? Technically yes, but it is difficult to do so in our modern lifestyles.
One of the ways we get vitamins and minerals is from the soil that our food grows in. Because of intensive farming methods soil is now depleted of many essential nutrients. The highest amount of phytonutrients and vitamins from produce comes from those freshly picked from the ground, but it may be weeks or months after produce is picked before it reaches our plate. The longer food is stored the more depleted of certain nutrients it becomes.
The surest way to maximise your chance of nutrient dense food is to steam it, eat it raw, eat organic (soil association label), make vegetable juice and/or grow your own produce and herbs if possible.
For me personally I take a high quality multivitamin when I am feeling run down or low in energy. I try to get most of my nutrients through my diet, but again, this is not always possible and sometimes I need to ‘top up’. If you do choose to take a multivitamin I recommend getting advice first and choosing high quality brands.
Should I eat gluten?
For many people gluten is a problem. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to put the bread aside but many do benefit from removing it from their diets. Gluten sensitivity is different from coeliac. Coeliac is a true allergy to gluten and a autoimmune disease.
In those with coeliac the immune system produces antibodies that destroy the gut lining, whereas this is not the case in gluten sensitivity, the symptoms are similar. Many people who do not tolerate gluten present with brain fog, fatigue, aching joints, anxiety, depression, skin issues, and/or gut issues.
There is a test called ‘cyrex’ to identify if you are gluten intolerant but it is very expensive and so I recommend coming off of gluten for a few weeks to see if you feel any benefit. Be mindful of hidden sources of gluten such as in soya sauce, couscous, barely and teriyaki sauce.
No one really knows why the rates of gluten intolerance are so high, it is estimated that 4-7 million people in the UK may have an intolerance to gluten.
Some theories point the finger at modern day farming methods, the over consumption of gluten over the last few decades or perhaps due to damaged gut linings.
Remember it is not all doom and gloom for bread lovers! Lots of people seem okay with gluten. Many people with autoimmune conditions or the symptoms listed above might find it worthwhile to give a gluten free diet a trial.
We hear lots about how diet can affect our skin, is there any truth in this?
Absolutely there is truth in this!
The condition of one’s skin can tell me a fair amount about what is going on in the gut. An example is, acne being linked to low stomach acid, or eczema responding well to probiotics in some individuals.
So what is the link?
The liver, the gut, kidneys, lungs and skin are all used for detoxification. The liver and gut are the main players. If they get congested and over worked it increases the load on the skin which can appear as inflammation or redness. Some woman get skin breakouts before their periods, one possibility could be the liver unable to detoxify all the excess hormones.
The health of skin depends on some key nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin C, zinc and vitamin A. If absorption is poor in the gut then these vital nutrients will not reach the skin cells.
Constipation can lead to re-absorption of toxins and hormones that should otherwise be eliminated adding to skin inflammation. Higher levels of an endotoxin called LPS have been found in the blood of those with acne. LPS is normally found in the gut but not in the blood which indicates something called ‘leaky gut’. Leaky gut, therefore, can contribute to skin issues.
Without stating the obvious it is important to take care of you gut and glow from the inside out! For tips on natural gut health and skin health check out my previous posts (re posted below) and I hope you enjoy the recipe below as well.
You can find me on Facebook and Instagram under White Feather Nutrition or feel free to visit my website www.whitefeathernutrition.com.
BLACK BEAN STEW
Since the chilly weather has decided to stick around us for a bit longer I thought a cosy warming dish was in order! Enjoy this 30 minute meal that will be a real treat for the taste buds and warm you from the inside out. The high fibre, protein content and slow releasing carbohydrates will help keep you full for longer, back beans have many benefits including keeping your digestive tract healthy and providing you with a source of B vitamins, magnesium and iron. Iron can be particularly difficult to get if you are a vegan so this is a great option for vegans. Sweet potato chunks and sliced avocado are a nice addition to this dish.
Tip: If you find that after eating black beans you get very ‘windy,’ shall we say, you can soak dried black beans in water overnight before cooking.
· olive oil
· 1 teaspoon dried oregano
· 1 teaspoon chipotle sauce
· 1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika
· ½ finely chopped red pepper (optional)
· 1-2 tablespoons of soya sauce (tamari if gluten free)
· 1 red onion chopped
· 3 cloves of crushed garlic
· 2 fresh bay leaves
· 1 400 g tin of black beans
· 1 stick of celery finely chopped
· 1 large carrot finely chopped
1. Peel and finely chop the onion and add to a stir fry dish, then crush in the garlic, add the bay leaves, chili pepper, sprinkle of sea salt as well as the spices with a good splash of olive oil and a bit of water to avoid burning any of the ingredients. Simmer for a few minutes.
2. Next add the chopped carrot and celery and continue to simmer with a lid on for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until carrots and celery are tender.
3. Tip in the beans, soya (or tamari) and chipotle sauce and mix well on low heat for a further few minutes. Add water as needed to add moister.
4. Serve with brown rice and a handful of freshly chopped coriander.