This week is International Stress Awareness Week. The World Health Organization is calling ‘stress’ the health epidemic of the 21st Century. And yet, the medical profession is slow to recognize or treat ‘adrenal fatigue’ or ‘burn out’ as a real condition.
Persistent fatigue and tiredness are some of the most common symptoms that drive people to seek the help of a doctor. Often the doctor finds it hard to come up with a diagnosis. She may take your medical history, carry out a physical exam and do some blood tests. Often this yields no explanation. To complicate things further for the doctor, fatigue may be linked to thyroid dysfunction, anaemia, fibromyalgia, M.E. and various other conditions. If he is testing solely for adrenal dysfunction, he’ll be looking for the extremely low ‘hypo’ or extremely high ‘hyper’ production of cortisol, for a diagnosis of Addison’s disease or Cushing’s Syndome, but anywhere outside of these ranges will not deliver a diagnosis. Neither do the Endocrinology Society and other medical specialties recognize this condition. Your doctor is in a bit of a dilemma. At best, he may not think you are neurotic and may accept that your symptoms are real. At worse, the doctor thinks you are depressed or neurotic and if so you may walk away with a prescription for anti-depressants. This now becomes your dilemma because with no diagnosis there is no treatment. But what if you do have adrenal fatigue, you are not depressed and there is another way? We place so much of our trust and hope in our doctors, often they are in a position to help us and just as often they are not. But here’s the good news, that doctor may not yet be aware that in other streams of medical practice namely ‘functional and complimentary medicine’, adrenal dysfunction is recognized and it can be tested and treated as a real condition.
So when I was growing up it wasn’t “trick or treat” it was “any apples or nuts”? And, this is literally what we got when we knocked at neighbourhood doors. Apples, grapes, oranges, bananas, peanuts in their shells and if you were unlucky some nuts in rock hard shells that my Da had to take the hammer to. We suspected sinister motives from the contributors of the hard shelled nuts, but it was better than getting a bucket of cold water over you, which we feared, but never actually experienced. Now that’s giving my vintage away. At Halloween my mother made ‘Colcannon’ for dinner. A traditional Irish dish made of curly kale and mashed potato. I think she added sauteed onion and butter. I loved it! Back then Kale only appeared in the shops around Halloween. Then there was the traditional ‘barmbrack’ with the prized ring in it. You’d wish and pray, against considerable odds (large family) that you would be the lucky one. Cue the violins, I don’t recall ever getting the ring. Boo Hoo!! Dress up was what you could find or borrow or make. In hindsight this was a time of year where nutritious food was part of a celebration that children eagerly participated in.
I’m not sure when “any apples or nuts” turned into “trick or treat”, or when the collection of fruit and nuts turned into the collection of sweet, sweets and more sweets. Probably right about when the word ‘obesity’ started making an unexpected entrance into our everyday conversations.
I passed some children on their way to school this morning, all dressed up in some fantastic looking Halloween costumes. Last day at school before mid-term. The enjoyment of Halloween for the 21st century kid is no less than it was for us. The fun and excitement was palpable. It is just such a shame that we feel compelled to offer these beauties sugary sweets instead of healthy treats. When I give out healthy treats at the door I suspect the offering is not appreciated by today’s kids who are wondering about my sinister motives!!
I was inspired to write this little blog after seeing this fun instagram post by NTOI. Check out @healthyhalloween and @prep_over_fail on instagram if you are a follower, for some really fun Halloween ideas that kids will love. Have a Happy & Healthy Halloween!!
Diindolylmethane, or DIM, is a compound that is formed in your body during the digestion of foods that contain the nutrient indole-3-carbinol. Indole-3-carbinol is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Eating these foods, therefore, provides your body with DIM. DIM supports the liver in detoxifying and removing harmful molecules including carcinogens, from the body.
The vegetables in this photo from the instagram account of my good friend and fellow NT, Aisling Hill, looks anything but DIM, and she has made some really good suggestions about how to get them into your diet. If you are anything like me though, you need convincing and to be a little more creative. I’m definitely not a fan of overcooked broccoli, cabbage or Brussels sprouts. YUCK!! What’s that smell? But, I am convinced, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Since finding out how beneficial these vegetables are for hormone balance and cancer prevention, I’m finding new and tasty ways to get them in. How does cauliflower curry soup sound?
The first time I heard the words ‘Functional Medicine’ was when I rolled up for a course introduction for nutritional therapy with the Institute of Health Sciences. Using an example of a health condition, the then module leader Moira Browne explained an approach to resolving health issues that was very different to anything I had heard before. Understanding the person as a whole being with a genetic, personal, health and medical history, looking at current diet and lifestyle, medications, relationships and stress levels etc. Understanding how the body works, what it needs to function well, physically, mentally, emotionally. Without knowing it at the time I was hearing about functional medicine. I was hooked, I was excited to learn more! This approach just made perfect sense to me.
In the last four years I have come to learn so much more about nutrition and functional medicine. And, even though at the time I was told that my nutritional therapy training was based on the ‘functional medicine model’, I didn’t fully get what this meant! With every new client for nutritional therapy, the first thing I do is explain that my training is based on this medical model. I ask “have you heard of it”? The answer is usually – no! I proceed to explain a little of how I apply this method in working with them. Naturally, like me at the outset, they are thinking that nutritional therapy is just a healthier alternative to going to the GP, but instead of getting a prescription for drugs, the prescription will be for foods or supplements that will fix their ailment. And that’s okay too, it is part of it, but it’s actually a whole lot more besides. Using the tools of the functional medicine model a nutritional therapist looks at your presenting symptoms from each body system, your diet and lifestyle – social, emotional, sleep, exercise, your medical history, medications, environmental factors and genetics. And then applies an understanding of the body’s nutrition and lifestyle requirements to design a personalized set of recommendations for you. [That stewed apple recommended for dessert might be significant beyond your understanding]. The outcome may not be the quick fix you were looking for but it is more likely to deliver a better understanding of you as an individual and provide lasting results, if you are up for the challenge. This is functional medicine in a one to one context but what I wasn’t aware of back then was that it is a relatively new and growing movement that is gaining momentum world wide. If you ever looked at the healthcare system and wished for a better alternative, then read on. Functional medicine is here in Ireland now!
A Growing Movement
Time! We don’t claim to have a lot of it these days! And, I’m going to save myself a lot here by just providing a link to an article which perfectly explains what functional medicine is. Functional Medicine the Future of Healthcare
What I love about the functional medicine movement is that it opens it’s door to everyone. It is not necessary to be a functional medicine doctor to incorporate the model principles into your own practice. In three weeks time Functional Medicine Ireland will host a conference in Galway. The audience attending come from a range of backgrounds: health journalists, policy maker(s), authors, health advocates, patients with autoimmune conditions, medical and nursing professionals, nutritional therapists, physical therapists, pharmacists, personal trainers, acupuncturists, health coaches, and those that wish to remain healthy! People from 11 different countries will be attending (Ireland, UK, South Africa, USA, Poland, Egypt, France, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Denmark).
The movement in Ireland is spearheaded by Maev Creaven, Nutritional Therapist and Director of Functional Medicine Ireland. Maev had this to say in a recent email to current ticket holders:-
It is hard to believe how far the FMC event has come since our first meeting in 2016 in Dublin. It’s even harder to fathom the support received especially over the last year! From you the delegates, the speakers (current and past), friends, family and other organisations (big shout out to The Institute for Functional Medicine, their incredible team andDr Kristi Hughes!) whom have rallied behind this movement.
You can learn more about this upcoming conference if you click the link on the image below.
Last week some of our Irish nutritional therapy graduates together with a range of other healthcare professionals attended a five day training course in London – Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice. Watch out world, they’re all fired up and certified now to go !!
There will be an impressive line up of speakers from around the globe at the Galway conference on 3rd/4th November, but what impresses me most about this movement is that it brings a new energy to health care that excludes no one. Members of the general public, health coach, GP, consultant, nurse, pharmacist, nutritional therapist etc. can gather together side by side and learn more about what matters to us all – our ‘health’. I think this movement is a healthy sign that a growing number of people are willing to shift their focus from wanting a ‘pill for every ill’ to being open and ready to pursue health in a more integrative and holistic way on a personal and global level.
You would probably expect someone like me who has studied nutrition, to completely agree with the statement ‘you are what you eat’. After all, my job is to convince you that you need to eat nutritious foods. Eat healthy become healthy, it’s simple, right? Sorry folks, I wish it was that simple.
But you already know this! Every time you switch on the TV, read a magazine article or link in to social media, conflicting ‘truths’ abound as to what is good and bad food. First fat is bad! You should eat low-fat to avoid heart disease! Now that’s wrong! Now fat is good and you need full fat! Eggs are the best source of protein? What about the cholesterol … bad for you? Meat, is it bad or does it have a high bio-availability of protein and other nutrients that are good for you? And on it goes until most of us don’t know what to believe or who to trust. I wish I could tell you I’m about to make things crystal clear but that would just be another lie. I can tell you from my own experience though, that a good understanding of nutrition allows me to see through a lot of this apparent confusion for what it really is. But even this knowledge doesn’t make the journey of implementing healthier eating any less challenging.
I have come to the conclusion that unless you are someone like Hugh Fernley Whittingstall, running a small holding, growing and making your own food and producing your own meat and dairy, there is no way to know with any certainty that what you are eating is healthy. The Hugh’s of this world can ignore the media hype but the rest of us have very little control over food quality and its possible effect on our health. We are in the vulnerable position of having to trust others. People are unaware of the changing nature of food! The egg of fifty years ago looks the same today but nutritionally it is very different. In its purest form, eggs and most other natural foods can only truly claim their rightful status if they have been grown or fed naturally in a natural environment.
The Illness, pharma, healthcare including [gyms /health stores /alternatives] and food industries are big businesses that are busy selling ‘health’ in one form or another. They battle it out in the public arena like the gladiators of old. They need to win your trust to keep you invested! But this constant stream of media sensationalism creates a great deal of fear and solves nothing. Ongoing stress is a waste of your valuable energy and is NOT good for your health. Think about this for a moment if your health is their concern, what if by some miracle we all became well enough tomorrow not to need them – what would that mean for business? There is a place in our lives for all of these services but see it also for what it is – business. The only person that really cares about your health is you! And, you are not powerless in this! The good news is, looking after your health is a choice you can make at any time. It will be challenging! Our society is not currently set up to make this easy for you. More good news – if you are reading this blog you are still alive. What you are eating hasn’t killed you – YET 🙂 Read on if you want to find out how to keep calm and carry on in the face of forces outside of your control. There is a lot you can do for yourself in the pursuit of better health.
Here are a couple of ‘magnesium rich’ snack ideas to help you include more magnesium in your diet in a delicious and nutritious way 🙂
Cacao Coco Nut Balls
140g ground almonds
70g shredded/desiccated coconut [extra for rolling]
70g melted coconut oil
33g cacao powder
2 tblsp milled chia seeds
90g chopped hazelnuts
Process dates, ground almonds, coconut, coconut oil, cacao powder and chia seeds until mixture comes together. Place in a bowl and take a small amount and form a ball. Roll the ball in the coconut. Chill in the fridge on a baking sheet or tray.
These can be frozen and kept for 1 month.
This mixture makes 12 balls. Each ball (44g) is about 267 calories, so don’t go mad, it’s a sweet treat! High in magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese and copper. High in Vitamin E and Biotin (B7).
Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
4 tblsp coconut oil (40g) melted
2 cups (260g) of raw pumpkin seeds
4 tsps of tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat.
Add pumpkin seeds and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until they start to pop and turn golden brown. Add cayenne and tabasco, toss and continue to cook for another minute. Transfer to a tray lined with parchment paper, carefully spread out in a single layer and set aside to let cool before serving.
A perfect accompaniment to a green leafy salad. Divided into 8 portions, 1 portion would contain about 237 calories. High in magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and iron. Pumpkin seeds are also high in Vitamin B3 and the amino acid Tryptophan so all in all really good for keeping you calm! The cayenne can stimulate your body’s circulation and reduce acidity. It’s a powerful, spicy little pepper and touts many health benefits like helping decrease appetite and retarding or slowing the growth of fat cells.