Posted by kathryn on June 16, 2011
Liver function, bowel health, weight gain-all in a day’s work! Here’s my interview with Shirley Ward. It was a great pleasure interviewing Shirley; she’s helped a huge number of people understand their health especially as they approach menopause. Click on the link to hear the interview, get top tips plus the transcript is set out below.
KC: Hello, good morning everyone, it’s Kathryn Colas here from
http://www.simplyhormones.com. And I’m here today with some very good information for you on nutrition. That’s a subject we all need more information on to avoid further confusion. I’m talking to Shirley Ward from Down to Earth Nutrition who’s an established nutritionist and runs her own practice http://www.downtoearthnutrition.co.uk
in Brighton, which is where she delivers a range of health improvement solutions. She gives private consultations and runs corporate workshops for improving employee health and wellbeing. Shirley has noticed a steady increase in clients with hormonal imbalance issues such as pecos which is polycystic ovary syndrome, which is becoming more prevalent and PMS of course, premenstrual syndrome, as well as menopausal symptoms. Shirley recognises that each client is an individual and has a unique lifestyle which can impact on their health quite differently and she helps clients take back control of their health by recommending small changes for significant benefits to their health so she’s really singing from my songbook there. Let’s start having a chat. Hello Shirley.
SW: Hello Kathryn, good morning everybody good to be here.
KC: I know you’ve helped a number of women going through menopause which is really why I really wanted to interview you, and I know our listeners are keen to hear more about the true values of nutrition. So let’s get started.
“Why do I keep putting on this weight, when I’m watching what I eat”?
I was so surprised to find out during my own journey through menopause how women’s metabolism is turned on its head and we store fat than energy, which of course then answers that question, “why do I keep putting on this weight, when I’m watching what I eat”? Can you describe for us Shirley your view on this?
SW: Yes of course, it is actually quite a common issue with many clients that come to see me. But if we look at, as well as dealing with the menopause, around that age obviously we are ageing as we age our bodies become less efficient, converting food to energy rather than fat, you’ve got to combine that fact with the hormonal changes that are going on during the menopause, which combined can actually lead to additional eight gain for some women. If you think during the fertile years reduction of progesterone and she helps increase her metabolism so we therefore burn fat more efficiently, we’re going to turn less food into fat and more food into energy. During the menopause when we stop production of this fertility hormone, so this can be one fact linked with weight gain, combined with declining levels of oestrogen, can also be a factor, as this hormone can help stimulate production of controlling weight and mood balancing hormone called serotonin, it’s important, declining levels of oestrogen and this can therefore lead to increased cravings for carbohydrates.
KC: We all know that one.
SW: Especially, you can find yourself choosing the wrong type of carbohydrates which are linked with weight gain, so that can be quite an important factor.
KC: Yes definitely and it seems to me a lot of women put that weight on around their middle and they become the apple shape. What tips can you give us to address this?
SW: OK, well, perhaps if we can firstly look at why that may actually be the case, so when we store weight around the middle it can be a classic sign really of stress process and when you look at the way some women perceive the menopause, unfortunately it can actually be quite a big source of stress for a lot of women. They don’t like these changes that are going on, they find it really impacts on their quality of life, it does actually really stress them.
KC: If I just interject there, they don’t understand what’s going on as well which just impacts on all these things that you’re talking about.
SW: Absolutely, yes, that’s a key factor. So when you’ve got additional sources of stress, these can combine to actually increase that weight around the middle because the stress process, any source of stress, is actually producing a lot of energy to create that fight or flight feeling, but in reality we don’t actually run, we don’t fight, so this excess energy is not used up. This energy is then stored for future energy reserves; the body is clever at storing it for future energy, it’s trying to be efficient, and the reason it stores it around the middle is because it’s located very close to the liver. The liver has a number of key health functions, one being that it actually converts stored energy as fat, back into energy for future reserves, so therefore it’s very close to the liver it’s very efficient at converting it back when it needs to.
Liver: your detox friend
KC: Yes, that’s very interesting about the liver. That’s just an area of our body that we don’t even consider. I suppose I learnt that everything we eat passes through the liver including pharmaceutical drugs, which is why women need a stronger drug than men might do for instance, but to think of it in that way with the storage of energy for the future and that the liver is a key element in that function. So what do we need to do to make sure our liver is functioning efficiently?
SW: OK, well as you just touched on, the liver is responsible for detoxing, and a lot of toxins from the food digestive process, from additional drugs, from partially digested food if you’re having digestive food issues as well, but it’s also responsible for converting that stored energy and it’s also responsible for deactivating hormones in the body before they’re actually excreted so coming back to that hormone balance issue, three key areas that we need to be aware of that the liver’s responsible for and why we need to keep it working properly. So some liver-friendly food sources to regularly consume are your cruciferous vegetables, your sprouts, your broccoli, broccoli has been termed as a super food by the media, it’s certainly a good option to include regularly in your diet, cabbage, brussle sprouts, green leafy vegetables, so these are all helping the liver with it’s detoxification functions. Also fresh beetroot is liver support food, so fresh not pickled; plus onions and garlic again are helping the liver with it’s detoxification pathway, so helping to support the liver with one of it’s functions means it’s going to be able to function overall much better.
Don’t overlook your Adrenals
KC: So if we just go back a bit to the stress we were talking about and how, I didn’t realise that when we are in a stressful situation that that’s creating energy, and I suppose that when you do think about it logically it is stimulating the adrenals isn’t it?
KC: As you said the fight or flight. I didn’t take it through to it’s ultimate conclusion. So let’s talk a bit more about that, we’ve now detoxed our livers, but we need to still balance our hormones and it’s that stress factor that I know only too well that causes hormonal imbalance and we forgot to look that in tandem with what the adrenals are doing. So can you tell us more about how the adrenals come into the whole picture?
SW: Sure, adrenal health during the menopause is very important, as even though our oestrogen levels are reducing, the ovaries actually stop producing oestrogen, the adrenals are actually another source of producing a form of oestrogen, so can help to keep those levels adequate and help avoid some of those symptoms that are linked with low oestrogen levels, and also regular sources of stress are going to overwork the adrenals, they are not going to be as efficient, in carrying out their other functions of producing this form of oestrogen. So looking at reducing sources of stress, I appreciate it’s not always easy to reduce external sources of stress but a lot of listeners may be unaware that there are actually some stresses that can be incorporated into your diet that you may not be aware of so we can talk a bit more about those.
Obviously reducing your consumption of those can certainly give back control of your health, you can actually reduce those and reducing your sources of stress that help those adrenals. So dietary stresses such as caffeine containing drinks, tea and coffee, those artificially stimulating the body producing that stress process. Reducing consumption of those is certainly a good idea and good alternatives, a whole range of fruit and herbal teas out there to try, there are so many different, nice combinations.
Right and wrong carbs
Also other dietary stresses, we touched on earlier, we spoke a bit about the right and wrong carbohydrates, so now might be a good time to actually explain that a bit further. As choosing the wrong type of carbohydrate can actually create stress in the body as well. So carbohydrates, at the end of the day we need carbohydrates to provide us with energy, we can’t create our own energy we need to obtain this from dietary sources, but it’s choosing the right type of carbohydrate that produces those sustainable energy levels. And sustainable energy levels are going to avoid that stress process happening.
So, if we look at what are termed the right kind of carbohydrates, which are mixed with good health and with sustainable energy levels, these are foods such as brown rice, oats, wholemeal pasta, beans, lentils, fruit and vegetables, so these all contain good levels of energy but they contain that crucial element of fibre and it’s fibre that actually moderates that release of energy to produce the sustainable energy levels. So producing some good levels of energy that the body can use. It’s not too much energy, it’s not too less energy.
The key is to balance blood sugar levels
SW: Absolutely, it keeps those blood sugar levels balanced and we should always be aiming for blood sugar balance for weight control and if we are a bit clearer when we talk about the wrong kind of carbohydrates, these are foods like white bread, white flour products, white rice. Biscuits and cakes that you find yourself reaching for when you get those carbohydrate cravings and a lot of those sugar-laden fizzy drinks are included here as well, so these foods have all been through that food refining process that has removed most of their good fibre and vitamins and minerals, so all these foods are left with are high levels of energy.
KC: Yes, well it seems to me that if women start focussing on good foods, they’re going a long way to helping reduce a certain level of stress in their bodies and perhaps when as a result of doing that they start looking at external stressors, and I know women wear a badge of multi-tasking, I used to do it myself, and we’ve just got to learn to say no more often, and not take on these tasks, and try and accommodate ways of doing things differently, like saying, if somebody says “can you just do this for me” and you say “I might be able to next Tuesday, but not right now”, that it’s sending out the signals that people can’t just jump on you with all these extra jobs that they don’t want to do and that’s got to help your stress levels as well hasn’t it.
Important to make time for ‘me’
SW: Absolutely yes, and I think it’s important from a lifestyle perspective that actually incorporating a relaxing time for yourself and time when you can just actually just switch off. All the time you’re multi-tasking, you’re constantly on the run, again you are over-stimulating your body, you’re actually being ruled by what we call the sympathetic nervous system, and this is when you’re over-stimulated, and your body can’t function efficiently when it’s in that mode all the time. You will want to get back to that relaxed state, you’re moving into your para-sympathetic nervous system mode, and that’s when you’re relaxing more, your body can function efficiently, so that’s what you want to be aiming for, is getting that balance.
KC: And I think it’s also learning to recognise when your body is screaming out for that quiet time as well and I think it’s when you’re feeling at your most stressed state and want to strangle somebody, that’s when you’ve got to walk away from situations and either be able to take 5 minutes to yourself at that time or make a mental note to take time out later when you are able to be on your own.
SW: Absolutely, especially when external sources of stress, if you can just remove yourself from that situation so that even if it’s 5 minutes, take yourself off for a walk, if it’s a work situation, if you can get outside even better, because we need to have, from a hormone balance point of view, we need to have regular exposure to daylight. It can actually help boost hormones to such as seratonin as we mentioned earlier, it is the key hormone for balancing not only the appetite, but sleep patterns and mood. It’s very inter-related.
KC: It is, yes and I noticed that myself, because about 6 months ago, I live near the Ashdown Forest and I started to go out for a walk and a bit of a jog on the forest and I found that I loved it so much it almost became a drug, I couldn’t wait to get out there every day. Not this spring unfortunately, the weather’s been so miserable I’d be frightened of falling over in the mud, but yet it was just, I’d get back and I’d feel wow, I’d feel so good and you can go on the treadmill in an indoor situation but you do not get the same feeling as when you’re outside. It’s just a whole new drug isn’t it?
SW: Absolutely, and it’s what our bodies are built for, we need regular movement, we need to be outside. We haven’t evolved to stay inside, for 12 hours a day or whatever that people can find they’re stuck in offices, for that length of time, it’s not what our bodies need.
KC: No that’s right, get on train in the morning, go to work, straight to the office, come back again, same routine and you haven’t been outside for 10 seconds have you.
SW: That’s right, yes.
KC: It’s not good, we’ve got to take more time to understand our bodies a bit better.
SW: Exactly, just listen to our bodies a bit more.
KC: Yes, because our bodies do talk to us and we’ve got out of the habit of listening haven’t we?
KC: Once you do start taking notice of little pains and niggling things going, on it’s your body saying “excuse me, I’ve got a problem down here, please see to it.” It doesn’t mean going down to a doctor and popping a pill, it’s probably just a lifestyle change that will help.
SW: Absolutely, as we touched on in the introduction, it’s small changes to incorporate into your diet and lifestyle, that your body can adapt to that can make significant, beneficial…
Don’t forget Bowel Health
KC: Can be more beneficial! We’ve covered a lot of things here Shirley and perhaps we could talk all day. I always feel I could talk all day to people I interview. But the one other area that I’d like to bring into this, and I know it has a lot to do with nutrition as well and that’s bowel health, and again from my own personal experience I think I experienced more constipation going through menopause than at any other time in my life and just couldn’t understand why, but once I started looking at nutrition and exercise the whole thing changed, but perhaps you could tell it from your perspective, from the professional point of view?
SW: Yes of course and you’re absolutely right Kathryn, you need to have good bowel health to achieve good health, especially if you’re dealing with hormonal imbalance issues as an additional factor. We need to be removing the waste products from the food digestive process, regularly. We don’t want those waste products to stay in the bowel, putrefying, and start giving off toxins which can then start circulating round the body and causing a range of detrimental health issues, so you need those eliminatory channels to be open and working properly.
The bowel actually houses a range of good beneficial bacteria and these bacteria are very important for keeping the immune system strong. They produce white blood cells, they also produce B vitamins, which we need to convert energy from our food, so going back to that metabolic rate. So bowel are very very important, so going back to what we were talking about the right and wrong carbohydrates, that fibre element I mentioned in those right carbohydrates is really key for bowel health, because that fibre is actually adding bulk to the food as it moves through the digestive tract. And food can only move through the digestive tract by muscle action, so going back to what we were just talking about, with regular exercise, not moving around regularly, not getting regular exercise, well that muscle action can’t happen, so you can then find you’re experiencing issues like constipation.
KC: Even just stretching exercises, when you get up first thing in the morning, do some good stretches, even that helps.
SW: Yes, absolutely right. And, finally, with constipation, just for overall good health, make sure you’re adequately hydrated. Again for bowel health, you need to have adequate levels of water otherwise that’s going to lead to very drying elements, if there’s not enough water to actually move that through properly. So keep yourself hydrated. On average we’re losing about a litre and a half of water a day just through functioning, normal body function. So we need to be replacing that, as well as increasing water intake, reducing elements that can contribute to fluid loss such as tea and coffee which have mild diuretic properties is also a good choice, but keeping those water levels up is such an easy way of improving bowel health, improving overall health.
KC: And a combination of doing all these things correctly will stop that bloating feeling that so many women feel. You get to see these adverts on tv for these wonder yoghurts, which I doubt have the benefits they say they have, but just purely by eating the right foods, wherever you can and drinking plenty of water and getting a little bit of exercise, a lot if you can but a little bit is fine, will help to relieve that bloating feeling, because surely that bloating must be just a build up of what’s in the digestive tract waiting to be excreted?
SW: Absolutely, it’s going to get back into the circulation and cause issues like bloating, you’re absolutely right Kathryn. I think with bloating suggests that there’s potentially digestive issues going on there that actually need to be addressed, so it’s digging a little bit further, a bit deeper, looking at the family history, the diet, the lifestyle, what’s actually creating those digestive issues for that person as an individual, then addressing those factors through modifications to diet and lifestyle. Advice that we’ve spoken about so far is certainly going to have a beneficial impact on the bowel health definitely.
KC: And I think it’s reaching that point of ownership of your own body and your own health and just sitting yourself down and saying, “well I must be doing something wrong, let’s go through this” and write loads of lists, but just do something to help understand you and your body, a little more.
SW: Absolutely, and it’s looking at factors that aren’t working for you, identifying those factors and then looking at addressing those through modifications, but being aware that you’re not actually cutting out key food groups, keeping that balanced diet and that’s where going to see a qualified nutritional therapist can be very useful.
KC: And eating properly of course not skipping meals, because that doesn’t help. In fact skipping meals can cause you to gain weight not loose weight.
Skipping meals will not help you lose weight
SW: That’s a very good point Kathryn, yes, so let’s go back to looking why that might be. Skipping meals can create a form of stress in the body so let me explain. Actually if you’re going for long periods of time without eating or you’re not a major breakfast fan, if you don’t tend to have anything in the morning at all, especially when you wake up from sleeping you’ve actually been using up a lot of energy, because that’s the only time your body’s got to repair and replace those damaged or worn out cells, so you need to top up those energy reserves and if you’re not eating anything in the morning, where are you going to get that energy from?
You’ve got to set yourself up for the day and that’s exactly the same, if you’re going for long periods of time, especially office based work, you come in you sit down at your computer, get completely engrossed in your work then hours pass and before you know it you think, “gosh can’t concentrate properly, I’m irritable, I’m shaky, what’s going on here?” Well you energy levels have gone way down, so you’ve got to keep them topped up, with regular sources of good sustainable energy, choosing those right carbohydrates that we spoke about earlier, very important, and also you don’t want those energy levels to get low, because that’s when the body can try to counter that energy dip by actually producing stress hormones, stress hormones as we said earlier produce energy, but it’s not the sort of energy you want.
The wrong carbohydrates
You want to be obtaining your source of energy from those right carbohydrates and also a point to finish off on, is wrong carbohydrates that we spoke about earlier, your white bread, white flour products, white rice, biscuits, cakes, they produce an initial energy high. but because there’s no fibre to actually slow down that release that’s quickly used up, so you quickly experience an energy dip and again that energy dip occurs, that’s when you’re body is trying to counter that by producing stress hormones to produce energy, but as we just said, that’s not the way you want to be producing energy, so it’s another way to think about, “mm, let’s chose the right carbohydrates, not the wrong carbohydrates, and those wrong carbohydrates, a large amount of energy that they actually contain is way in excess of what we need, so that excess energy is actually going to be stored as fat. That’s where that comes from.
KC; Before we finish, so what can we eat as a snack between meals? Is it OK to eat dried fruits, or are they too sugary?
Are dried fruits good to snack on?
SW: Dried fruits tend to be; fresh fruit in itself is part of a balance diet, but bear in mind that dried fruit is actually going to concentrate that fruit sugar those fruits contain, so I would say probably not the best choice. I would say actually go for a fresh piece of fruit, combined with a small handful of unsalted nuts or seeds for example. Because then you’re getting the carbohydrate element from the fruit for energy, but that’s actually going to be moderated by the protein and good fat that are contained in those nuts and seeds, so the energy release is being moderated to produce sustainable energy levels to keep you feeling fuller for longer. So that’s a good balance and avoiding those blood sugar highs and blood sugar lows that we touched on.
KC; And you can always tuck some fruit in your handbag can’t you?
SW: Absolutely, but always try and combine it with that protein and good fat element which is actually going to help moderate that energy release even better.
KC: Yes, the combination of everything. That’s brilliant. Well I think we’ve covered all sorts of good things there Shirley.
SW: It’s been quite comprehensive hasn’t it.
Have a better informed conversation with your Nutritionist
KC: It has, been right through the whole body function system so I think there’s a lot of information there that women will find beneficial to understanding their own health, and then perhaps saying “right, now I know what it’s all about, I know what to ask when I go to see a nutritionist”. Because when you go to see somebody like yourself you sit there with a blank expression on your face not really knowing what to say, so if you’ve got some idea of your bodily functions you know you’ve put on weight or not, or whatever the reason for going to see a nutritionist, then you can have a much better conversation together can’t you?
SW: Absolutely yes, but bear in mind you will always complete quite an in depth questionnaire beforehand which will go through your family history, lifestyle and that is my role then to identify those factors that are linking to the health issues that you want myself or that nutritional therapist to address.
KC: Of course yes that’s a great source of information isn’t it? That’s brilliant. OK then Shirley, thank you very much for your time this morning to discuss all that with us and I feel a lot healthier for having done it and I hope everybody else benefits too.
SW: I hope so too, that was the aim of our chat Kathryn,
KC: And for everybody that’s listening I’m going to put Shirley’s contact details on the transcript so they can get in touch with her if you wish to. Thanks for that Shirley.
Here are Shirley Ward’s details – http://www.downtoearthnutrition.co.uk T: +44 (0)7590 527665. Shirley also runs a clinics at The Sundial Clinic, Queens Road, Brighton, East Sussex and the phone number there, is: +44 (0)1273 774114 and the Aloka Clinic, East Street, Brighton and their number is 01273 823178
Don’t forget there are over 200 pages of information on symptoms of menopause and how to cope at http://www.simplyhormones.com. I’m also available for consultations, full details on the website.
Until the next time…