Menopause – Head Off those Hot Flushes

For so many of us, the word menopause conjures up images of hot flushes that are debilitating and mortifying, night sweats that disrupt sleep and anxiety that affects women’s confidence.  And, for many women, this is the case.

One of the things that surprised me when I was studying nutrition was to learn this doesn’t need to be so.  Menopause should just be the cessation of periods and none of the other symptoms that accompany it.  In the East, it’s seen as a watershed in life, where a woman wisdom is revered.  And the symptoms that we see are very rare in Asian countries.

There are a number of factors that link into this.  The first is diet.  Women who follow a diet that is high in fresh vegetables, fish and good quality soy are far less likely to suffer from menopausal symptoms than someone who eats a diet high in processed foods, sugar and meat.

The other factor is stress.  Imbalances in blood sugar and adrenals are key predisposing factors to a miserable menopause..

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Fantastic Flaxseed

Image  I’m always looking for easy changes that people can make to their diets that will give big health benefits.  One of the foods I encourage people to eat regularly is flaxseed (linseed).  I do a lot of fertility work and hormone balancing work with clients and the humble linseed  really packs a punch when it comes to balancing oestrogen in the body.  Linseed is very high in a substance called lignin which binds to oestrogen receptors and interferes with the cancer -promoting effects of oestrogen on breast tissue.  They also help to balance oestrogen levels in oestrogen-dominant conditions like PMS, PCOS and endometrosis.

As well as all of this, linseed is very high in omega 3 so it’s very beneficial for  reducing cholesterol and is also fantastic for prostate health.

Linseed has a hard shell and it’s pretty hard to chew because it’s so small, so it’s a good idea to grind it up before adding it to food so that you can easily absorb all of it’s nutrients.  I use a small coffee grinder or a mortar & pestle to do this.  Ideally, grind it fresh but doing three day’s worth at a time is fine too as long as you store the ground seeds in the fridge in an airtight container.

This superfood is so easy to include in your diet.  Have a tablespoon daily. Add it to cereals, soups, salads, smoothies or cooked rice.  I particularly like it mixed through yoghurt or sprinkled on top of a fruit salad that is topped with natural yoghurt.

One small change, lots of big benefits.  Enjoy!

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Out with the Old and In with the New – Detoxing your Way to Better Health

ImageMy friend recently told me about a tradition that her Dad has to welcome in the New Year.  On New Year’s Eve he gets a broom and sweeps all the way from the front to the back of the house and out the door.  It’s a way of sweeping out all of the old ‘stuff’ from that year and making way for all the good things of the year ahead.  I think it’s such a lovely way to welcome in the New Year.

The New Year is a time of resolutions, new starts and very often a healthier lifestyle.   Studies show that 38% of New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight.  Most people will approach this by cutting calories or eliminating fat from their diets.  While this  does get results, all too often it’s short term and 95% of the time people will regain the weight that they’ve lost.  My feeling on this is that, when we ‘diet’ we usually feel that we are depriving ourselves of foods that we like and being human, this can only last in the shortterm.

When I see clients for weight loss, I like to get them to look at their overall health status with weight being just one marker.  Things like energy levels, good skin, bright eyes, hormone balance, immunity and good digestion are just as important indicators of health.  We design an eating plan that helps to promote good health in all it’s forms in the body.  When the body is healthy, using health-promoting foods,  a healthy weight will follow naturally.  It’s a much more positive outlook than stepping on the scales every morning.

One of the best things that we can do for our health is to ensure that we have a diet that promotes good detoxification.  Our bodies are superbly designed to naturally deal with all of the toxins that it ingests on a daily basis. However, we need to make sure that we are feeding it the nutrients that it needs  to do this efficiently.  ‘Crash’ detox diets that promise significant weight loss in a few days are not the ideal way to do this.  Ongoing support of the detox organs like the gut, the liver and the kidneys is a much better approach. 

Keeping detoxification systems clear helps weight loss, improves energy levels, better mood and helps to make your mind sharper and clearer among many other benefits.

The key tips for this are :

1) Drink 6-8 glasses of still water daily.  This helps to flush toxins from the body and reduce water retention.

2) Eat a diet that is high in plant fibres like wholegrains (brown rice, wholewheat, oats etc), fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.  These fibres bind to toxins assisting their removal from the body.  They also encourage daily bowel movements which means that toxins exit the body quickly and not hang around damaging organs or giving you headaches or joint pain.  Having a daily bowel movement is probably the most important step to a healthy detox.

3) Eat a “rainbow” of fruit and vegetables.  The different coloured fruit and vegetables all provide different nutrients that help to neutralise toxins and support the liver and the immune system.  Smoothies (made from whole fruits, not juices), fruit salads, freshly pressed vegetable juices, stir fries, vegetable soups and salads are all really good ways to increase fruit and veg intake.

4) Have a mixture of raw and cooked vegetables every day.  They both provide different benefits.  Fruit salads, fresh juices, vegetable sticks with hummous, salads with a good mix of vegetables and homemade salad dressings are good ways to do this.

5) The liver proccesses most of the toxins that pass through our bodies.  Foods that help to support the liver are garlic, onions, green leafy vegetables, eggs, avocado, walnuts and all fruit and vegetables.  Eat plenty of these foods in your diet every day.

6) Add fresh herbs to your diet where possible.  Coriander or cilantro is excellent to remove heavy metals from the body.  These can be added to salads, soups, stir fries, juices, curries etc.

7) Have plenty of good quality protein in your diet.  Vary protein from animal sources with legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils etc), nuts, seeds, tofu and wholegrains.  Vegetable sources of protein are also high in fibre and vitamins and minerals that are missing in meat products.

8) Reduce caffeine (tea, coffee, cola, chocolate) to once a day or even better eliminate it completely.  Replace with herbal teas or hot water with a dash of fresh lemon juice.  Nettle and dandelion teas are great for detoxing.  But I think that it’s more important to enjoy the taste of the tea.  Ginger is great for circulation and warming you up if you feel the cold, fennel and peppermint are really good to soothe digestion and berry teas are great if you like a fruitier flavour.

9) Reduce or eliminate sugary and processed foods.  Sugar reduces levels of vitamin C inthe body and vitamin C is vital to detox.

10) Cut out high fat foods.  You’ll find as your body clears, so will you palate and you’ll enjoy fresher, lighter foods that are easier to digest.

Finally, enjoying the food that you eat is a really important part of eating healthily longterm.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll add some recipes that taste great and are also super healthy.

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A Really Tasty Quinoa Dish

Hi everyone,

I made this fantastic quinoa salad last night and it was delicious.  It comes from a website called which has tons of great quinoa recipes.

Tortilla Quinoa Salad


Quinoa is a really healthy, gluten-free, high protein grain that really should feature more in our diets.  It contains more calcium than milk and is also really high in magnesium and B vitamins.  The Incas called it the “mother grain” because it was such a vital part of their diet.

I think that enjoying the flavour of your food is really important.  The more you enjoy it, the better you will digest it and the more nutrients you will absorb.  Digestion literally starts when we begin to prepare our meals.  The sight and smell of the foods as we are chopping and cooking stimulates the brain and this sends a message to the stomach to start secreting the digestive juices that will digest our food properly.  This is called the Cephalic Response and is one of the first things that I work on with people who come to me with digestive issues.

So to stimulate this response, we need to anticipate that our food is going to taste good and this recipe is the perfect way to do that.  As you can see from the pic, it looks really good and the taste lives up to that.  The dressing is made from lime and coriander, two of my favourite flavours.  For me grain dishes can be a little bland so a good dressing is everything.

Try it out, it so healthy.  The fibre in the beans, the garlic and the coriander are really good to keep cholesterol levels healthy.  This recipe also has a really high amount of raw ingredients which is really good for health.  The avocado has lots of healthy oils and is a great PMS food.  Coriander is also excellent for blood sugar balance, it’s often called the anti-diabetic plant.

Let me know how you get on with it.


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ImageWhile depression is on the increase in Ireland for many reasons, the Christmas holiday period can be particularly difficult for many people.  Depression is an insidious illness that can come on over time without the recipient even being aware of its’ progression.  Symptoms include feeling down or hopeless, fatigue, tearfulness, increased anxiety, poor sleep and a loss of appetite or conversely, carvings carbohydrates like bread, pasta and cakes.

While there are many factors that cause depression, good nutrition is fundamental to improving it.

1) Keep blood glucose balanced is one of the key things to help stabilise mood.  The brain feeds off of glucose and if your blood glucose levels drop, its’ main energy source is cut off.  The best way to keep blood sugar balanced is to eat regularly, 5-6 times a day.  Having some protein each time you eat, combined with some complex carbohydrate is the best formula for improving mood.

2) Eat your breakfast – many people that I see with depression say that they don’t feel hungry eating first thing in the morning.  However, skipping breakfast gets your blood sugar off to a bad start for the day and triggers cravings for carbs, sweet foods and caffeine.

3) B vitamins are really important to help keep the brain active.  B6, B12 and folic are particularly important.  Good sources of B vitamins are whole-grains, nuts, seeds, brown rice and legumes.

4) Omega 3 is a healthy fat that helps to keep the membranes of brain and nerves cells supple and more sensitive to hormones and nutrients.  Good sources of omega 3 are oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seed and flaxseed.

5) Cut out stimulants like caffeine and sugar.  Although these are the foods that we naturally reach for when energy is low, they actually deplete us of energy in the long term.  They are also a big factor in increasing anxiety.

6) Serotonin is the main chemical in the brain for enhancing mood.  Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression, insomnia, OCD and anxiety.  The key nutrients for making serotonin are the B vitamins, omega 3 and an amino acid called tryptophan.  Foods that are rich in tryptophan are cottage cheese, turkey, almonds, bananas and yoghurts.

7) There is a lot of research at the moment into the link between a healthy digestive system and mood.  Factors like food intolerances, candida and poor digestion can really affect the health of the brain.

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Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin

A new study from UCC shows that 40% of Irish adults have levels of vitamin D that are too low to support good bone health. In addition to strong bones, low vitamin D affects things like depression, fertility and autoimmune conditions like MS and rheumatoid arthritis. Supplementing vitamin D is a good idea but as vitamin D can build up in the body, it’s important to to keep levels within a healthy range.
It’s very difficult to get your vitamin D levels tested in Cork, so I’ve sourced a test for this that I can do in clinic.  Cost is €120.

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Winter Warmer Tea

Brr, this morning was a cold one. Tea made from fresh root ginger is a great way to heat yourself up from the inside out. Ginger root is available in the veg section of all supermarkets. Just peel and slice 1/4 inch of ginger and place in a cup. Pour slightly cooled boiled water over it and let it sit for 10 mins before drinking. It’s so warming, it reminds me of the ‘glowing’ child in the old Readybrek ad. Ginger is also a very powerful anti-inflammatory food, great for arthritis, digestion and circulation.

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