Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS/ME

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2010 after I had been virtually housebound for nearly a year. At the time of diagnosis, and to this day, I felt like it was an unnecessary  and useless label. The diagnosis didn’t come with any kind of treatment plan, medication or even advice. It simply came with a “we don’t know much about it, but you’ll probably have this for life”. I was sent on my way believing that that was my lot. Thanks Doctor.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome does more then it says on the tin – and that’s why many CFS suffers are fed up with this vague and dismissible name. CFS/ME is a complex chronic illness that manifests differently among it’s victims and involves not only debilitating fatigue, but also chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), brain fog, weight loss, fibromyalgia, headaches, nausea, insomnia, muscle weakness and more.  woman-506120_1920

The causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are still debated, despite it being reported for more than 200 years. It’s likely that there are several triggers, and that a unique mix of factors trigger each individual’s illness.

In addition to viruses as the cause e.g. Epstein Barr, a recent review proposes a disruption of gut microbiota as a possible cause (Navaneetharaja et al. 2016). Our gut microbiome is so important for our long-term health this proposal doesn’t surprise me at all, and it fits with my experience. Because our gut microbes are so important, whether they are disrupted by a pathogenic virus, poor diet, stress or something else, the knock-on effects can be far reaching.  CFS has also been proposed as an autoimmune disease triggered by gut dysbiosis and disruption of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract (Navaneetharaja et al. 2016).

It’s easy to think that the virus that I caught in Costa Rica in 2009 was the culprit, as many studies show connections between CFS and various viruses, but in reality the virus I caught was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My CFS had been simmering away for a long time – I believe since my mid teens.

For me, I believe my immune system has been operating sub-optimally for a long time. I believe that my CFS is a result of gut dysbiosis and autoimmunity.  I know that when I look after my gut and acknowledge my diagnosed autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) my symptoms improve. It’s common to collect autoimmune diseases if you don’t catch them early and work at reducing inflammation.

For years I’d had periods of inexplicable exhaustion. As a child I’d happily curl up anywhere and go to sleep. In the summer holidays I remember systematically sleeping in until 11:30am and being shocked by how tired I was, but I simply couldn’t wake up earlier. I’ve never been sporty or energetic and I know I should be in bed at 9pm. I have been constantly cajoled, pestered and teased into doing things – going for walks, staying up late, going to the pub – when my body is crying out for sleep. At university, during my undergraduate, I had one day of SCUBA diving each week in the winter. I’d suffer severe headaches afterwards and I’d be exhausted the next day, barely able to walk to my lectures. In my early 20s I’d wonder if I’d be able to walk to and from town – just a 20 minute walk – but I was unsure of my strength. I remember catching a cold and being in bed for days, and then unable to walk faster than an 80yr old with a Zimmer frame. It was ridiculous and I remember marvelling at my lack of strength.  Each of these episodes passed and, once they had, I continued on with normal life – after all, all the doctors I saw told me I was normal.

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The final straw

I got seriously ill in 2009, at the end of my PhD. I’d had several quite stressful years during my PhD, but I’d loved my work and was passionate about producing high quality science. I’d worked hard in a very toxic system with no support. I had my ideas and data stolen, suffered abuse of power, manipulation and sexual harassment – things that are rife in academia. No-one had my back. I didn’t have an academic champion or mentor until it was far too late. This stress during my PhD was definitely a huge contributor to my poor health – and a big factor in distancing myself from academia. But it wasn’t the sole cause of my CFS. Many people unhelpfully told me I’d made myself ill by working too hard. While several studies link perfectionism and CFS (as reviewed by Kempke et al. 2015) this isn’t the full story.

What it CFS feels like

The fatigue is like no other. A total exhaustion that stops you from being able to lift your head off of the pillow, from moving your legs to get out of bed, from standing while the kettle boils or from being able to speak. It prevents you from functioning and makes you pause and question the necessity of every action. The brain fog that goes along with it is nothing short of terrifying. I could no longer rely on my brain. I couldn’t recall dates, times, facts or even names of close friends. I couldn’t problem solve. I couldn’t hold a conversation because I couldn’t follow it or remember what had been said or what I had already asked. It was humiliating and scary. I had terrible IBS and, despite eating three or more main meals in a day, I kept loosing weight. I ate and napped. That was it.

I went from being a competent, independent and reasonably intelligent woman to someone who couldn’t communicate with her friends, didn’t have the energy to read and couldn’t walk to the end of the road. I was by myself all day while my husband was at work. I was lonely and down. I needed to be cared for. I needed someone to shop, cook and clean for me, and my husband became my carer.

broccoli-952532__180Slowly I made myself better by focussing on me and allowing myself to put my health first. I took advice, I listened to my body and I learned to let go of anger. I changed my diet, even though my diet was healthy, and my approach to life. I radically reduced carbohydrates and I cut out gluten. I prioritised my sleep and I stopped using chemicals in my home and on my body.

It took time, but I returned to “normal” – at least I was no longer chronically fatigued and ill. I was different though, but in a good way.

I have to keep on top of it, especially since I also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which shares many of the same symptoms as CFS. When I let my diet slip or if I pack too much in (which is a constant tendency),  I know I’ll pay the price.  It’s all about balance.

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Do you suffer from CFS or another debilitating illness? I’d love to hear your story.

I’ll be posting soon about the changes I made that helped me get my energy back, so FOLLOW my blog to make sure you don’t miss out.

Want to start feeling better right now? Check out my Reboot  I’ve packed all my best tips on how to get your health back on track in just 4 short weeks. This online package allows you to find your foundation of good health. It guides you through changes that will have long-lasting effects on your symptoms and overall health in a safe and manageable way.  It’s a great start towards taking control of your health and reaching goals!

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All the best,

Caroline

 

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Love your microbes

I heard Tim Spector’s talk at the College of Medicine’s “Food. Food the forgotten medicine pictureThe forgotten medicine” conference earlier this month. He is mad about gut microbes and health, and has written a book about it The Diet Myth.

We are covered in microbes – single-celled organisms that are invisible to the human eye and the oldest form of life on Earth. These micro-organisms live on us and in us – with a wealth residing in our digestive tracts. Each of us has a unique gut microbial blueprint – passed, in part, onto us by our mother during a natural birth, but dependent upon our genetic make-up (Goodrich et al. 2014). When we are healthy our microbes are diverse and abundant, and responsible for immune system development and long-term health (Romero et al. 2014).

99% of our microbes are beneficial. 

These “friendly gut microbes”, if you will, enable us to breathe, to digest our food, manage our weight, regulate our immune system and resist disease (Stearns at el. 2011).

Altered gut microbial diversity, or dysbiosis, plays a role in chronic and systemic disease, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, IBS, Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (Kinross et al. 2014), autoimmune disease e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, MS, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s diseases (Amy et al. 2013) and cancer (Schwabe and Jobin 2013).

It’s therefore worrying that we have grown-up being afraid of “germs” and systematically kill-off these life-giving, protective microbes with hand sanitiser, bleach, antibiotics. We can also cause dysbiosis through infection, lifestyle and diet.

Killing-off or not looking after our microbiome has long-term health consequences. In children, for example, taking antibiotics between 0 and 2years old is linked to increased chance of childhood obesity, growth impairment and allergies (Cox and Blaser 2014). We’ve likely all had antibiotics, and kids are given them routinely because of the plethora of infections they tend to get. If you must have antibiotics, you can buffer the effects by using a good probiotic and ensuring a diet and lifestyle that promotes the re-establishment of a healthy microbiome.

coral 3Our gut microbiome can be thought of as an ecosystem – a biological community of organisms that interact with one another and respond to the physical environment.. A high biodiversity of organisms, relative to climate, is characteristic of a healthy ecosystem – be it a coral reef, tropical rainforest, lake, field, desert or our guts. A high diversity of organisms ensures that each niche, or need, is fulfilled and gives back to the system. As such, an ecosystem is more resilient to short term environmental change and stresses, and therefore less susceptible to disease. Optimal climate is necessary for maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

 

The same is true for our guts.  To ensure optimal health, we need to nurture our gut microbiome by providing a favourable environment for the long-term (Xu and Knight 2015). In general, this means a whole foods diet including a diverse range of vegetables – including the pre-biotic containing ones such as Jerusalem Artichoke which help to provide the food for our microbes. The phytonutrients found in plants are irreplaceable and essential for good health – make sure you eat a high diversity of vegetables. Include some nuts and seeds, fish (for your omega 3 essential fatty acids) and whole grains and dairy. Limit red meat.

burger-1140824_1920A diet high in processed food is high in sugar, trans fats, saturated fat, additives and refined carbohydrates and is undeniably bad for your health, and your microbiome.  A bad diet can can drop your gut microbial diversity by 40%, which of course compromises your health and sets you up for disease.

Want to know what your gut is doing? It can be really useful if you have a chronic illness. I had mine done by a naturopathic doctor when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  It certainly helped me understand my health and take control of my health.  Though it seems like you need a referral by a doctor, which can be very difficult to get, visit www.mapmygut.com to find out what’s going on with you’re microbiome.

In the mean time, look after your microbiome!

Email caroline@flourishwellness.co.uk to book a FREE discovery session to talk about your health how diet and lifestyle changes can help.

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Top tips for healthy eating

Last week I attended the College of Medicine’s conference “Food. The Forgotten Medicine.” It was really interesting and uplifting to hear that some doctors are now acknowledging that food is a cornerstone of good health.  They also recognised that the 0 – 6 hours of nutrition training doctors get in Medical school is insufficient (and could explain why your doctor is reluctant to discuss any dietary interventions).

I’m hoping that the role of the health coach will soon be accepted and respected by the medical profession. As a health coach (PhD) , I have the time and expertise to talk through your diet and lifestyle. To hear your concerns and to understand your unique experience.  I can then work with you, as an individual, to find the right dietary and lifestyle changes so you feel better for the long-term.

It was a shame that only one patient had a voice at the conference and that she was the very last speaker. Carrie Grant gave an brilliant synopsis of her story with inflammatory bowel disease, and how hard it is to take control of your health in the current health system. It’s difficult to be a knowledgeable patient – as I know only too well.  As Carrie put it, the consultant hold the power, “and they kind of like it”.

It was highlighted again and again at the conference that the typical “healthy’ diet that many people have been following for decades (due to government guidelines) is wrong and even dangerous.  The NHS recommends you “Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates” – do NOT do this…

Top tips:

  1. Carbohydrates cause problems. Carbohydrates (e.g. flour, pasta, bread, rice etc) cause chronic low levels of inflammation that ultimately lead to disease e.g. Cancer, heart disease, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases (IBS, Crohn’s, thyroid disease, arthritis, ulcerative colitis etc). Carbohydrates therefore should NOT form the main component of a healthy diet (contrary to the NHS eat well guidelines).
  2. Fats are good. We need them – 60% of our brain is fat, what do you think happens to that on a low fat diet? But, we need the right kind of fats, ones that reduce inflammation rather than cause it. We need the omega 3 fatty acids found in nuts, seeds, olive oil and fish, and smaller amounts of  omega 6 fatty acids found in animal products. Processed food should be avoided at all costs as these are unhealthily high in omega 6 and trans fats, which are toxic.
  3. Fruit Juice is NOT healthy.  Fruit juice, fresh or otherwise, contains a lot of sugar. Without the fibre you get by eating fruit, this sugar goes straight into your blood and causes a stress response in the form of insulin production.
  4. Wholegrain is only wholegrain when it is the whole grain. You might want to read that again. Basically it means that a wholegrain ceases to be whole once you mill it. Milled grains are easy to digest so the sugar that it digests down into rapidly goes into your blood.  Wholegrain is more difficult to digest and so releases sugars slowly.
  5. Refined sugar alternatives are often no better. Sugar, in any form, will cause a stress response in your body. Many alternatives, like agave syrup, contain up to 75% fructose, which can alter the insulin pathway. It’s unclear exactly what sugar substitutes, artificial or otherwise, do to the body. You should avoid eating anything artificial. Natural sweetness that trick the brain are likely to cause problems with signalling.

If you’re suffering from a chronic inflammatory or autoimmune condition, making these few adjustments to your diet could have a big impact on your symptoms. There are lots of positive dietary and lifestyle changes you could make so that you can live symptom free, or even reverse your condition (as with type 2 diabetes).

Seek the information, make healthy choices, live well and feel better!

Caroline x

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Sleep has always been an important part of my life, and I’ve been able to sleep in some pretty spectacular situations – from a sun-warmed stone on a mountain top to the bouncing bow of a boat in the cold, driving rain. In hindsight, my ability  – or need- to nod off was probably a symptom of my thyroid disease.

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Recently I have met a lot of people with hypothyroidism, or suspect they have it despite their blood work being normal. Many of these people have a long list of symptoms that they have never associated with their thyroid condition and have lived with them for years. They are are used to feeling less than optimal and easily put these, often non-specific, symptoms down to age or lack of sleep.

But what if you could feel better? What if you could get rid of those aches and pains?  Today I want to give you a more comprehensive list (but by no means exhaustive) of the symptoms you may experience with hypothyroidism – there may be more than you may realise.

Chronic symptoms of hypothyroidism can be reduced or eliminated through changes in eating habits and lifestyle.

I’m walking proof of this. I have gone from being bedridden, aching all over and barely able to move to, on the whole, being fully functional!  I still get the odd flare-up, but there is usually a clear cause, such as over working, catching a horrible bug or letting my sugar consumption creep up. When this happens I know I have to go back to basics and “Reboot“, to get back on track. And it works.

If you have hypothyroidism, particularly Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and suffer from chronic symptoms it’s important you know that they are an indication that your body is not functioning at it’s best. You have those symptoms for a reason.

Masking symptoms with pain killers and supplements without addressing the cause can compromise your long-term health.

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If you have these symptoms please know that you can feel better. It may take time. It may take effort, but it is possible! With no help or guidance from medical doctors as to how to manage my diagnoses (first CFS and then Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), just a prescription for Thyroxine, for a long time I thought I was going to be virtually house-bound for the rest of my life. Thank goodness I took control of my health and made the necessary changes to feel better.

I read and researched. I used my background in Immunology to understand the science behind my disease, then I listened to my body and used my knowledge of nutrition to heal and get as healthy as possible.

Here is a list of some of the symptoms you may have, even if you’re taking thyroxine. How many of these do you have?

  • Palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Slow speech
  • Slow movements
  • Brain fog/confusion/forgetfulness
  • Liver tenderness
  • Insomnia (yes, even with hypothyroidism)
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Muscle and joint stiffness
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Pins and needles
  • Puffy, itchy, scratchy eyes
  • Puffy hands and feet
  • Cold extremities/ low basal body temperature
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Tinnitus/hearing problems
  • Restless legs
  • Hair loss
  • Eczema/ dry skin
  • Migraines
  • Blurred vision
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to cope with stress

I had more than 75% of these symptoms and I was misdiagnosed for 5 years. Now I live largely symptom free!

Get in touch to hear how we can work together to improve your health and get rid of your symptoms.

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If you have some of these symptoms and haven’t got a hypothyroidism diagnosis, then it’s advisable to talk to your doctor. These symptoms don’t mean you DO have hypothyroidism and are not meant for diagnostic purposes. If you are at all concerned about your health, then make an appointment to see your doctor.

I am happy to help you make positive dietary and lifestyle changes alongside your medical doctor.

Take control of your health and feel better!

With warmth,

Caroline x

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Fat is not the problem

For years heart surgeons, doctors, the government – anyone you can think of – have advised us against eating fat. It has been drummed into us that saturated fat is particularly bad, and that if we eat a lot of it we will get fat and also develop heart disease. Eating too much fat was considered the primary cause of heart disease, the theory being that high fat results in high blood cholesterol, which clogs arteries.  The advice was to switch to a low-fat diet, and take statins.

Now doctors, even heart surgeons, are admitting they were wrong.

There is NO link between saturated fat intake and heart disease, even in patients who already have coronary artery disease (Puaschitz et al. 2015)!

Heart disease is not about fat, its about inflammation.

With the advice to cut dietary fats came a boom in obesity, diabetes and other metabolic syndromes. Low-fat products flooded the market and we all felt virtuous when we consumed them. But what were, and are, we consuming? In an attempt to make these products appealing in the absence of flavoursome fat, low-fat foods are usually laden with sugar and additives. And this is a big part of the problem – these substances cause inflammation and don’t fill us up like fats do (so we often go back for more).

Inflammation is the underlying cause of chronic disease. It is a normal, natural and vital part of our immune system – we need inflammation to protect us from harmful bacteria, viruses, toxins and to seal our wounds. It needs to be activated quickly, contained locally and suppressed effectively – otherwise it becomes harmful. It is designed to be short-lived so that it doesn’t go on to harm our own body. When it is not short lived, and becomes chronic, we become diseased.

Our Western diets are largely based on refined carbohydrates e.g. white flour and sugar, and too much of the wrong fatty acids, plus we are surrounded by new and synthetic chemicals, that can also trigger the inflammation response.

Reduce Chronic Inflammation and feel better

Cutting fats from our diet robs us of vital nutrition and usually leads to an increase of foods and substances that are detrimental to our health, like processed low-fat foods.  We need fat for vital body processes. Here are some examples:

  • Blood cell formation
  • Hormone production
  • Vitamin transport (some are only soluble in fat)
  • Protection of nerves and conduction of nerve impulses
  • Cholesterol (yep, we need cholesterol – it carries vital fats and vitamins around our body and helps produce hormones)

Some fats, such as Omega-3 (an essential fatty acid) are vital to our health and need to be taken in through our diet. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are extremely beneficial for optimal brain function and in preventing disease like cancer, heart disease and arthritis. You’ll therefore be compromising your health if you avoid this form of fat!

Omega-6 is another essential fatty acid, but unlike omega-3, we tend to over consume it because it is present in high quantities in many processed foods. Over consuming this fatty acid causes inflammation – which is what we want to avoid!

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What fats should you eat? 

Of course, what your body needs is entirely unique, and so, therefore, are the types and amounts of fats you need (read more about my health philosophy HERE), but in general it is all about balance – or regain balance if you are currently unwell. Yes, have some saturated fat in your diet, but ensure it is from a good healthy source – butter and coconut oil are good options – and don’t go mad with it. Ensure you only cook to a high heat with oils that are stable at high temperatures (i.e. saturated fats; coconut oil, butter, lard). My preference is coconut oil as I can’t tolerate dairy due to my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Use olive and nut oils on salads and generally where you are not using a high heat.

Ensure you are getting your Omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish (well sourced)  as well as from nuts and seeds (Chia is particularly good – I always include this in my Omega-3 Super seed mix and sprinkle on breakfasts, soups, casseroles etc). You will not get fat from eating nuts and seeds as part of a whole foods, balanced diet (i.e. not based on processed foods). The additional minerals and fibre you will gain from adding nuts and seeds will help you feel even better.

Avoid packaged, processed foods, which are often high in trans-fats (usually artificially created to promote shelf life), refined flour and sugar.

Consult a doctor before making major changes to your diet, particularly if you have a chronic conditions. Remember you are the expert of your body.  You can read some scientific articles about fats and heart disease HERE and HERE.

Want to decrease your chronic inflammation in a safe and sustainable way?  Make a great start by completing The Reboot!  The Reboot is an online health coaching package designed to help you get your energy back, take control of your health and embrace your life in just 4 weeks. Click HERE  and HERE for more information.

Think you might want something more personal? Get in touch HERE for a FREE no obligation Discovery Session to learn how I could help you.

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Be well,

Caroline x

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The Reboot

It’s officially Springtime! Hooray!

I love Spring – it is so full of colour and hope, especially after a long, grey winter (which they usually are here!). I find this change of season inspiring and optimistic.  After being in hibernation mode for winter,  I’m ready for the gorgeous sunshine we have had in recent days here in Devon – long may it last! It makes me want to grab life with both hands and go out and live it!

If only I had the energy and time (right?)

As you may know, I’ve had my health problems in recent years, and I know what it is like for your brain to want you to do something, but your body to outright refuse. I have been there, held captive by exhaustion and fatigue – willing my eyes to stay open long enough to read a book, or to stay focussed enough to make a serious phone call. Getting myself out of that state required a major Reboot. A focus on myself and my health. Read more about it HERE.

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Even now I know when I have been overdoing it. When I haven’t been getting my 7-9hours of sleep (I have two young kids, so this is pretty much a given), when I have been rushing from A to B and sorting everyone else out.  I notice that I am less focused, tired all the time and readily feel overwhelmed – I’m not functioning my best. I know that I am putting my health second, which is not sustainable and is not a good thing!

To battle tiredness I get tempted by sugary foods and caffeinated drinks to get me through the day. We all know that this is a temporary fix, and it usually leaves me feeling worse, not to mention the longer term consequences. But how many of us get stuck in this cycle?  I know I’m not alone in this!

It is time to break the cycle! Reboot NOW

There is no better time for change than Spring – shake off that winter lethargy and refocus on your health. Feel Better!

Give yourself the best chance at making positive changes and making them stick.

Check out my new health coaching package: The Reboot

Are you ready to have:

  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Less chronic inflammation
  • More control of your health

And more!

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Are you vegan?

I get asked this question a lot, and I can understand why – I, and my family, eat a mostly plant-based diet and we avoid dairy.

Am I a vegan?  No.

It took me a good while to work out my family’s optimal “diet”.  I was troubled by the fact that many lifestyle factors, including diet, can significantly affect our chances of developing disease. So, I wanted to put some thought into how to keep my family healthy, through food. I had a Cancer patient, my thyroid and adrenal issues, two kids under 3 and several intolerances to consider, so it was not an easy task!

A quick scan of the light “science” available online told me in no uncertain terms that becoming vegan was the way forward. After all, vegans are reported to live longer and healthier, with lower risk of nasty things like cancer and heart disease.

I toyed with this idea for a while, and it was tempting. But, a few things didn’t sit right. First and foremost, getting your recommended daily allowance of nutrients from a vegan diet requires a lot of vegetables (clearly!), and a fair bit of digestive effort. I had the whims of a toddler and the tastes of a baby to think about, as well as some questionable digestion my part thanks to my thyroid. Secondly, I couldn’t, and still can’t, get past the fact that being a vegan deprives you of Vitamin B12.

B Group Vitamins are water-soluble (you need a regular intake) and enable the release of energy from your food. Energy is not something I take for granted – as a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and hypothyroidism I need all the energy release I can get!

Vitamin B12 has a role in the formation of red blood cells, nervous system and the metabolism of fats and proteins, and not enough of it can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and numbness.

Of course, these days, as a vegan you can overcome these risks by taking a daily vitamin B12 supplement. 

Brain Food: We have evolved to eat meat

A recent article in the journal Nature discusses the need for quality meat in our diet, in a world that is rich in nutrient-poor food. Read the article HERE.

Gupta highlights that the consumption of meat by our primate ancestors enabled them to evolve bigger brains. Meat provides readily available iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and fatty acids – all of which are required for brain development and optimal function (so not something I’m willing to deprive my kids of). 

The article does note, however, that nutrient-poor, factory-farmed meats are nowhere near as beneficial for us as free range meat.

So where does this leave us on the “healthiest diet” dilemma?

My view is that your diet needs to suit your needs. For me, and my family, getting our daily requirements for optimal health purely from plants would be challenging. I alone have a thyroid condition which predisposes me to have an array of nutrient deficiencies – including B12!

This doesn’t mean we eat loads of meat everyday – far from it. We eat a diverse mix of gluten-free, plant-based foods including vegetables, nuts, pulses and the odd bit of seaweed!  We eat free-range chicken and well-sourced oily fish, like mackerel and salmon. We rarely eat red meat or processed meat because of the links to increased risk of cancer (Cancer Research UK).

We also don’t eat dairy, primarily because of intolerances (did you know that Thyroxine can make you lactose intolerant?), but also because of the potential links to some Cancers and the fact that our ability to drink milk into adulthood is due only to a chance mutation – only 30% of people can digest the milk sugar lactose (mostly Europeans).

Most importantly, I am open to changes in our eating regime – the aim is to get the most from our food and to feel our best!

This is what works for us. What works of you? 

Are you vegan? 

I make homemade gluten, dairy, egg and soy-free food, many of which are suitable, or can be made suitable, for vegans (or all of which if you are a vegan who eats honey!). Have a look at what you can order HERE.

Is it time you took a look at your diet, but aren’t quite sure where to start? Get in touch HERE and we can have a chat about how I may be able to help.

For more information on my Coaching sessions and Packages click HERE

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Caroline x

7 things you should know if you take thyroxine (T4)

Today I booked myself another blood test to check whether the thyroxine (levothyroxine, T4) dose I am on is keeping my other thyroid-related hormones within normal range. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – a chronic autoimmune condition that, if left untreated, can be a serious problem.

Each time I collect my thyroxine from the chemist he tells me not to have it with milk. I then tell him that I’m dairy intolerant so it’s not an issue. Recently I started wondering what it was about the milk that was a problem. And, are there other things we should be aware of that we aren’t routinely told?

Whether you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or another form of hypothyroidism, you need your thyroxine to be working so you feel your best and stay healthy long-term. This is important stuff!

This week I went back to the original scientific literature to check a few things out. Here are some of the things you need to know if you take thyroxine:

  1. Most people on thyroxine have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Davis et al, 2015) – an autoimmune disease that will not go away. It seems that many people on thyroxine don’t really know why they are on it. If that’s you, don’t panic, just book an appointment with your doctor to check it out. Your doctor will explain the medical reasons behind you taking thyroxine and whether or not it is an autoimmune condition, and together you can take control of your health from there.
  2. Thyroxine (T4) is the hormone our thyroid is struggling to produce when we are hypothyroid. It comes in several different forms, but the most common (especially in the UK) is tablet form of synthetic T4, commonly known as Levothyroxine.
  3. Many things affect how well Levothyroxine works in replacing your natural T4 supply.  For example, whether the dose is right, if we take it regularly and whether it interacts with other things that may stop it being absorbed properly into our body.
  4. Levothyroxine guidelines recommend taking on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. This is supported by Bach-Huynh et al. (2009), who also recommend fasting for 1 hour afterwards, and highlight that it can take up to 4 hours for levothyroxine to be absorbed. The idea behind fasting is to maximise the chance of it being absorbed without something we eat interfering.  Do you wait an hour to eat after taking thyroxine? 
  5. Common “morning” foods and habits that can reduce your thyroxine absorption include coffee, soy, grapefruit juice, high fibre foods (e.g. bran, granola and wholemeal bread) and multivitamins that contain calcium and iron (Andrade 2013).
  6. Levothyroxine needs high stomach acidity to be properly absorbed (Centanni et al. 2006) – something people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis usually lack!
  7. Levothyroxine can lead to dairy intolerance as it inhibits lactase production (the enzyme needed to breakdown milk sugar). Unsurprisingly therefore, 79% of people with Hashimoto’s in one study were found to be lactose intolerant (Asik et al. 2014). Lactose is often used to “fill” thyroxine tablets, so if you’re concerned about this talk to your doctor about possible alternatives. I’m not sure if this was what my chemist was referring to – I haven’t come across any other milk-related problems with taking levothyroxine, apart from maybe that calcium reduces absorption, have you?

How do you know if your thyroxine is working?

If you keep going back to the doctor and get a higher dose of thyroxine, you may be doing something that is stopping it from working properly, and perhaps you should discuss this with your doctor on your next visit.  Otherwise, try a few things. 1)  do a Symptom check (I am a BIG advocate of this and use it regularly with my clients – it reminds us that we are experts of our own body and only we know how we feel). If you’re having the tell-tale hypothyroid symptoms of fatigue, aches and pains, brain fog etc, then it’s likely you need to review your thyroxine dose or the way you take it. 2) get a blood test and discuss with your doctor whether your hormone levels are within normal range.

Other factors can affect the dose of thyroxine you need, like life-stage and weight, so  make sure you get checked periodically. Also, be aware that you can be within “normal” range and still feel rubbish – that is where point 1 comes in and you will probably need to consider dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce your symptoms. Give me a shout HERE if that’s you!

Do you have a “must-know” fact about thyroxine (preferably backed up by science)?  Let us all know by commenting below.

Remember, if you have ANY concerns about your health or questions about why you are on thyroxine, please discuss this with your doctor (not google).

Don’t forget to share and like this post especially if you know someone who could benefit!

Be well!

Caroline x

World Cancer Day!

It’s World Cancer Day today! We’ve got our Unity Bands – have you got yours?

Most of us know someone who has been, or is, affected by Cancer.

1 in 2 people born after 1960 will get Cancer (Cancer Research UK).

Cancer is a horrible, indiscriminate disease that can affect anyone at any point depending on a combination of genetics, lifestyle factors and triggers – we desperately need to know more about it.

My experience of my Husband’s Cancer was terrifying, life-altering and both humbling and empowering. You can read more about what I learned from that experience HERE. Having seen Cancer up close and personal, I am determined to do everything in my power to reduce the chances of my family being affected by it again.

40 % of all Cancers are due to lifestyle (Cancer Research UK).  

It’s no guarantee, but as a family we have changed our lifestyle and diet in order to minimise our risk of Cancer, or secondary Cancer.

Being a younger person, or family, with a Cancer diagnosis can be particularly isolating, but Shine Cancer Support provides an amazing network for both Cancer patients and carers. If you’re in your 20’s, 30’s or 40’s and are affected by Cancer, then give them a shout.

Have you experienced Cancer as either a patient or carer?  How would you describe your experience?