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Optimum Nutrition Spring 2018 PREVIEW

FEATURE Do you fall out

FEATURE Do you fall out of bed, crash around 3pm, and sofa snooze before supper? Registered nutritionist Jackie Lynch and author of Va Va Voom* explains how you can put the spring back into your step There seems to be something of a low-energy epidemic going on in the UK; so much so, that TATT (tired all the time) has become a popular shorthand amongst doctors, often used to describe patients who consistently complain of tiredness when tests reveal no apparent medical cause. In my nutrition clinic, I constantly see people who simply put up with their fatigue as if it’s completely normal to be dragging themselves out of bed in the morning; kick-starting themselves with coffee; wilting at their work-station; struggling with the dreaded mid-afternoon slump and snoozing in front of the TV in the evening. If they think about it at all, they usually put it down to their age and a busy life, but whether they’re 29 or 69, in most cases diet and lifestyle are the main culprits. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way, because it really is possible to make a big difference to energy levels in a very short space of time with the right nutrition and lifestyle. We already hold the key to our energy ignition — we just need to know how to switch it on and keep the engine running effectively. In my clinic I have seen different types of tiredness, so it was important for me to explore how tiredness can vary. In Va Va Voom, readers can take quizzes to help discover their energy weak point: lack of strength and stamina; energy highs and lows; loss of focus and concentration; or a constant feeling of exhaustion are all different ways that people experience fatigue. Understanding the nature of your tiredness is the first step to finding the best diet and lifestyle solution. In my clinical experience, there are four key areas that most commonly contribute to lack of energy, once medical conditions ...there are four key areas that most commonly contribute to lack of energy... such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, coeliac disease or iron deficiency anaemia have all been ruled out. The principles behind my 10-day energy diet relate to these four areas: • Chronic inflammation. Studies have shown that a constant state of lowgrade inflammation can contribute to a general state of tiredness, as well as specific fatigue-related conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome. Blood levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein and proinflammatory cytokines have been seen to be raised in individuals with fatigue. 1 • Blood sugar balance. • Ensuring optimum levels of the macro and micronutrients required for energy supply and production. • Limiting the factors that deplete energy, including alcohol, sugar, excess caffeine or dehydration. Of course, there are numerous potential 8 OPTIMUM NUTRITION | SPRING 2018

FEATURE It really is possible to make a big difference to energy levels in a very short space of time... imbalances, deficiencies or biochemical factors that can impact energy levels but there are always a few obvious suspects to target as a first step in a clinical context. Blood sugar balance Any nutritional therapist will tell you that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to a therapeutic approach, but there is one area that will make a difference to almost anyone struggling with tiredness and so it’s usually my first port of call while I’m waiting for any test results. Balancing blood sugar is the equivalent of Energy 101 — in other words, the basics in maintaining energy levels. Not only will it make a big difference to anyone who experiences energy highs and lows throughout the day and help to regulate sleep patterns, but as the approach includes increasing energy-boosting foods such as wholegrains and vegetables and avoiding some key robbers such as sugar and alcohol, the overall benefits can be considerable. How does blood sugar impact energy? Glucose is a primary source of quick energy for the body, which means that low blood sugar will leave you feeling tired, irritable, and unable to focus or concentrate. The infamous mid-afternoon energy slump is all about low blood glucose and is usually a result of relying on sugary foods or refined carbohydrate to keep you going. High blood sugar releases the hormone insulin as an emergency response, with its highly efficient hoovering of the blood which will send the sugar off to be stored in the liver or in fat cells. As the blood sugar drops, stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, generating powerful cravings for a quick sugary fix and starting the whole rollercoaster process all over again. This battle of the hormones throughout the day can be exhausting and if the blood sugar drops overnight due to unwise food or drink choices in the evening, sleep will be restless and disrupted, leaving you tired and unrefreshed in the morning. How to regulate blood sugar The solution is simple: a combination of complex carbohydrate, (e.g. wholegrains and vegetables) and protein, (e.g. meat, fish, eggs or pulses) with every meal and snack. This provides slow-release, sustainable energy for the body which will help avoid the cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrate that lead to trouble. It also has the secondary benefit of featuring foods that are also rich in iron, B vitamins and magnesium, which are all essential for optimal energy production. That may sound relatively simple, but in my clinical experience, women tend to be very poor at eating enough protein and will often plough on through a busy day without any protein at all until the evening meal. They’re also far more likely to skip meals than men, which will lead to further blood sugar issues, as the body starts to run out of fuel. It can take quite a bit of coaching and encouragement to address these ingrained habits. The role of magnesium When I observe a client experiencing tension headaches, a sense of clinging on by the fingertips or feeling tired but wired so that it’s difficult to switch off and relax, I think about magnesium. It’s the multi-tasker of the minerals and is discreetly responsible for over 300 essential chemical reactions across the body, which is why a deficiency can cause a range of different potential symptoms. 2 Magnesium helps to regulate muscle function, supports our response to stress, influences blood pressure and nerve impulses, promotes a healthy digestion, is important for bone health, and even plays a role in DNA production. 3 In energy terms, magnesium starts your engine. If you have a deficiency, A BOOZY CYCLE OF EXHAUSTION ALCOHOL might help us to relax but it can affect the quality of our sleep. According to Drinkaware, a UK-based alcohol education charity, although alcohol can help us get off to sleep quickly it can cause sleep disruption, leaving us more tired. Not only might we need to make more trips in the night to the toilet, because alcohol is a diuretic, but we may also spend less time in deep sleep and more time in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, which means we can feel less rested in the morning. Drinkaware recommends avoiding drinking alcohol before bedtime, to give the body time to process any alcohol — with an hour needed on average to process one unit. Source: www.drinkaware.co.uk FOOD SOURCES OF MAGNESIUM • Leafy, green vegetables such as spinach • Nuts • Brown rice • Bread (especially wholegrain) • Fish • Meat • Dairy foods Taking high doses of magnesium (more than 400 mg) for a short time can cause diarrhoea. Source: www.nhs.uk you’re likely to feel as if you’re running on empty all the time because it’s absolutely essential in the energy production process, activating the enzymes that spark the entire chain reaction. I find magnesium very helpful when I’m working with clients whose tiredness stems from the stress of a very busy life, because it helps to calm the nervous system. It can be very supportive for anyone suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome because of its core role in energy production and the part it plays in supporting muscle function, and it can also make a big difference to anyone who suffers from insomnia. 4 How to boost magnesium levels Good food sources of magnesium include wholegrain foods, leafy green vegetables, and sunflower seeds. Including these in your diet every day can help to keep magnesium levels topped up. Supplements should not exceed 400 mg per day without the advice of a health professional and, to avoid the risk of potential harmful interactions, you should speak to your doctor if you’re taking any medication. One very relaxing way of increasing magnesium levels is to try an Epsom (magnesium) salts bath — add two to three handfuls of salts in the bath and relax for at least 20 minutes. The magnesium will absorb through the skin, relaxing the muscles, relieving tension, and setting you up for a good night’s sleep. B vitamins A group of individual nutrients, B vitamins work as a team to support a range of different functions in the body. A deficiency of one B vitamin is likely to indicate a deficiency of another and because they are so vital for our energy levels, this can have a domino effect leading to tiredness and fatigue, which is why it’s always an area I’ll explore in my clinic. SPRING 2018 | OPTIMUM NUTRITION 9