Read the article that appeared in the London Cosmetic Dentistry newsletter below.
1. What are your top tips for the January New Year New You?
Once festivities are over, do realistically look at things you can change nutritionally. There is no point jumping in hot water by removing all usual suspects like coffee, sugar, alcohol, meat at once, only to collapse two days later with a massive headache and inescapable withdrawal symptoms. Usually it culminates with scoffing half of the ‘treats’ with a couple of glasses of wine. In addition, physiologically it is near impossible to go on a strict liquid detox in the middle of winter in the Northern hemisphere, as we generally need more ‘energy’ during cold winter months, otherwise our immune systems will be compromised. So, my professional advice is to set realistic targets.
In my experience, the most realistic targets are the small changes that you can maintain most of the time. A small change here and there can really add up: substitute your typical cup of English breakfast tea for a herbal one at least once or twice per day, swap your mid-afternoon biscuits or a packet of crisps for two pieces of fruit and / or a large smoothie. Instead of having a Diet Coke have a freshly squeezed juice or high pH mineral water. Generally, becoming more mindful of your choices and making a little bit more effort really pays nutritionally. Psychologically people are more prepared for small changes this time of the year, simply because most people’s bodies will be screaming for some sort of de-tour from the holidays’ binge but in a very gentle way.
2. What foods combat January blues?
Winter blues or SAD is a serious disorder that is incredibly common at the moment. Lack of sun and lack of daylight in general do affect many peoples’ health systems, and the most common manifestations of it are persistent lethargy, lack of mental focus and energy and mild depression. Unfortunately, it is very frequently brushed off by people as post holidays ‘back to reality’ syndrome. However, if the symptoms persist do pay attention to what your body is saying. An important thing to remember during winter, is that we all need much higher levels of Vitamin D, in particular D3 form. The best way to nutritionally top it up, is to include regular dishes with cod, trout, salmon and sardines, as well as small amounts of high quality butter eaten daily. If you are a vegetarian or vegan then your best bet is to regularly consume sprouted seeds, or top up with a high quality Vitamin D3 supplement – be sure to consult a clinical nutritionist on what is your appropriate dose of the vitamin.
The second most important factor to consider with SAD is your unique levels of microbiome – your unique good bacteria present in the digestive system. A lot of people with IBS, IBD, Crohn’s or Coeliac disease have impaired digestive systems and as a result are more prone to have lower levels of good bacteria.
Another factor that affects a person’s good bacteria synthesis is the consumption of alcohol and use of antibiotics. Both of these deplete good bacteria by either ‘killing’ it alongside bacterial infections or, in case of alcohol consumption, simply by washing microbiome out from the gut: ‘the morning after’ diarrhoea is a first sign that the bacterial population is extremely low. Therefore the best thing to do, is to include foods naturally rich in good bacteria aka probiotics: plain Greek yoghurt is a fantastic and simple way to maintain your digestive system. You do not have to consume massive amounts of it – a small pot of yoghurt with breakfast or at your mid-afternoon snack will do the trick beautifully. If you are a vegan or follow a dairy-free nutrition plan, then go for miso soup or small amounts of pickled vegetables like sauerkraut regularly as they have a very similar action. The idea, however, is to consume these foods regularly in order to maximise their therapeutic effect.
3. What three healthy changes would you recommend?
1. Eat less – try to slowly reduce your portion sizes. A snack is never more than one handful in size. A small meal should fit into both hands stretched out. Overeating means you are overfeeding your system unnecessary calories, which means that some of the food will never be properly digested. Hence, you might end up with that undigested food either on your thighs, stomach or place where you store your excess fat.
2. Drink water – it is boring but the fact of the matter is, it is the healthiest and cheapest way to maintain your health and your weight. In winter we especially need to increase the amount of water we drink to at least 1.5L per day, due to the fact that we are exposed to central heating which dehydrates the system very easily. Moreover, it is the healthiest appetite suppressant to use when you are trying to maintain your weight. If you drink a substantial amount of pure water when you feel like a couple of chocolate biscuits, it will fill the stomach, thus releasing a number of hormones that will stop you from feeling hunger pangs within 10 minutes, fooling the body into thinking you have just eaten something.
3. Eat salad every day, and I am not talking about a side plate with tomato, cucumber and some lettuce leaves. A good nutritious salad is a meal in itself: include all vegetables you have or love to eat. Be sure to include different salad leaves: some of them are sweet (butter lettuce), some are wonderfully peppery (watercress, rocket), some are very neutral but are very high in nutrients like Vitamin K and Magnesium (Romaine, pea shoots and lambs lettuce). Then add a small portion of lean protein like roast chicken or poached salmon and you are good to go! If you have a good big salad every day, then you are comfortably topping up your reserves with vital vitamins, minerals, fibre and amino acids.
4. Key foods for healthy skin
Everyone I see at my clinic wants healthy, youthful skin with a beautiful tone and glow. We often forget that our skin is an organ that needs special nutrients and care, just like any other system of our body. Healthy skin is dependent on the following three vital nutrients: water, protein and fat. Of course, you can feed it other wonderful nutrients like Zinc, Silica and Vitamin A that are also important for its structure, but the foundation of skin synthesis and skin rejuvenation relies on an optimal balance of hydration, amino acids and fats present in the system. So, if you love your espressos or glass of wine, then your skin will show the signs of chronic dehydration. Usually, it manifests as dark half-moons under the eyes and a small net of micro wrinkles around the outer corner of the eyes.
If there is not enough high quality protein in the diet then the firmness of the skin especially on the lower parts of the face (mouth area and jaw line) with be compromised yielding that aged sagging muscles look, known in clinical nutrition as ‘loss of anatomy’.
Lastly, if you are not eating enough fat or eating the wrong type of dietary fats, then it usually manifests in two vertical lines between the eyebrows indicating that the liver is either overburdened by overconsumption of saturated or hydrogenated fats or there is a lack of Omega-3 in the system.
The best thing to do is to ‘feed’ your skin the nutrients it absolutely needs: regular water with lemon or cucumber slices with mint leaves can help maintain its hydration factor. Eating high quality protein like seafood, lean poultry and red meat will give your skin a powerful amino acid boost it requires, especially during winter months. And of course, we all need a good moisturiser, and it is best to start with moisturising from the inside! So be sure to include skin-friendly fats like olives, salmon, chia seeds, eggs, walnuts, butter in your diet regularly to maintain a beautiful glow and youthful suppleness.
5. Any good liver detox suggestions?
I can assure you that everyone’s liver will be needing to go on a nutritional holiday this January. A good start is to understand what the liver really does: it doesn’t just help process fats. It is a vital organ for synthesis of needed cholesterol, blood production and regulation of hormonal functions, as well as a centre where a lot of our emotions are generated, believe it or not.
Having said that, it is clear we need to give our livers a much needed rest. This always means feeding it foods that help it recover and cleanse itself effectively. Liver needs a lot of sulphur to maintain its normal function. Foods high in sulphur are all brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, pak choi, rocket, savoy cabbage, spring greens, as well as garlic, onions and eggs. So load up on your greens as often as you can, top them up with good amount of garlic, and include poached or boiled eggs at breakfast as often as you can during January and you will be more or less half way there.
The next important thing is to reduce amounts of certain dietary fats so that the liver has a chance to remove all LDL (bad) cholesterol from the system. So actively reduce fats found in foods like bacon, salamis and cold cuts, mayonnaise, all commercial salad dressings, commercial biscuits and chocolate. Last but not least, allow festive ethanol residues (excess alcohol) to leave the system completely. This means you need to have no less than 21 consecutive ‘dry’ days so that the liver can rid itself of the accumulated toxin. Once you try to slowly implement these changes, it does become a second nature. You will notice elevated levels of energy, sparkly eyes and perhaps a couple of lost pounds!