Eat for your skin!

Most of us have been plagued with acne at some point in our lives. In most cases, this was during puberty and it resolved itself once our hormones calmed down and normalised. For many, however, acne can continue into adulthood or even appear for the first time later in life. In adults, acne is not so likely to resolve itself and it is necessary to take a look at one's diet. Read on to find out how hormones and diet affect your skin. 

Case Study: Exhausted, stressed and fed-up

A busy mum of two, with job, house, exercise, friends, and not least the mother taxi service ... Laura was exhausted, tired and fed-up. As if life wasn't stressful enough, the sporty and formerly athletic woman was even growing a spare tyre around the middle. Where was that coming from? Laura decided to do something about it and picked up the phone. Read on to find out what happened next. 

Get your hormones back into line

Hormones rule our lives. They are the chemical messengers that make us feel happy or sad, hungry or full, tired or ready to get up and go. They make us sleep or keep us awake, put on weight or lose it, make us love, bond, enjoy sex and procreate ... or prevent all of those. But are we slaves to our hormones? To we have to put up with what we're given? Are some people just lucky to get all the good ones? 

How stress can make us fat

We have all heard that stress has a myriad of detrimental effects on the body: It makes us tired and irritable, disrupts sleep, messes with our digestion, drives blood pressure up and upsets our hormone balance to name but a few. Unfortunately, this time of year is associated with stress for many people, not just during the run up to Christmas, but also at Christmas proper when families come together.

Christmas stress diabetes anxiety depression weight gain fat

A lesser known side effect of stress is that it can contribute to weight gain and make it harder to lose weight. Our physical reaction to stress – the ‘stress response’ – is mean to help us out of situations in which we are physically threatened. The ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction is supposed to get us out of real danger, and the stress response is perfectly suited for that (click here for more on the stress response).

As we need to run or fight, we are going to require energy. The stress hormone cortisol ensures the release fat and glucose into the blood stream to provide that energy. Only, we are stressed because of year-end deadlines at work, the long line at the till, our December bank statement or our mother-in-laws special dietary requirements, not a polar bear about to pounce. We are not going to run or fight and are not going to use up that extra energy, so it ends up stored away around the middle, either as visible abdominal fat or visceral fat, the fat around the organs.

Meanwhile, we are also experiencing cravings to keep energy levels up, particularly for sugary foods. There is never any shortage, but before Christmas it is even harder to avoid temptation as well-meaning colleagues bring mince pies into work, we’ve got Christmas lunches and dinners, shops offer family-sized tins of biscuits and chocolates, and home-baking makes the house smell sweet. Resisting temptation is hard enough, put baked goods in front of a stressed person, and they don’t really stand a chance. These sugary foods now add to the already high blood sugar and ultimately even more belly fat. 

In the long run, high cortisol levels can interfere with thyroid function, too. The thyroid regulates your metabolic rate: the amount of calories you burn at rest. A slow metabolic rate means weight gain.

Yes, we all know that stress can ruin your festive mood, but prolonged stress does much more than that: It can lead to anxiety and depression and contributes to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia. It is also the most common underlying reason for tiredness. Testing your cortisol levels will tell you whether stress has begun to affect your health and can help identify your individual requirements. A nutritional therapist can assist you in getting tested.

It’s not easy to reduce stress, especially in December, but it is worth doing whatever you can to do just that. Is there anyone who could help you? Could your kids contribute some more to running the house, perhaps by putting their own stuff away? Is there anything you can cross off the list, because it’s not actually that important? Can you carve at least 5 minutes out of your day to get away from everything and practise deep breathing techniques or meditate? Anything you can do to lighten your load is going to be helpful.

But knowing when and what to eat can help us cope better with the stressors we cannot remove. Tomorrow’s Nutrilicious News will tell you which foods help build resilience to stress. It is not too late to subscribe. 

If you struggle with stress or illness as a result of stress, why not come and see me in clinic at The Body Matters in Leigh-on-Sea?

Plastic Fantastic?

Plastic is everywhere, and it is hard to imagine life without it. Yet it contains chemicals that are known to affect our health and worryingly plastic is used to package nearly all of our foods. Persistent organic pollutants, such as bisphenol A and phthalates, leach from the plastic into our foods and can wreak havoc in the body.