What the *$!@ is #selfcaresunday?

Type the above hashtag into Instagram and you are bombarded with images of young wellness bloggers posting photos of them going ‘off the grid’ and ‘taking time out for themselves’. While this is completely unattainable for most of us (hello, student budget/full-time job/[insert life commitment here]), there is some benefit to the idea of ‘self care’. Sometimes our day-to-day can be so hectic, and when we actually have a half an hour to ourselves with nothing to do most of us grab our phones. Now, I’m as fond of scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest as the next person, but I regularly fall down the black hole of social media and realise that an hour has passed and, yet again, I didn’t have my relaxing bath or whatever I had wanted to do that evening.

Therefore, I have written myself a list of activities that I know I enjoy doing for those evenings when I have half an hour (I know that for some people even this seems like a luxury) or so to see if it will encourage me to give myself some lovin’ that doesn’t involve the instant gratification of social media.

This is my list below – I’d love to hear about any of your favourite self-care activities!

  • Make a cup of herbal tea (*current favourite = lemon and ginger)
  • Read some of my book in bed
  • Do an adult dot-to-dot (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it – dot-to-dots with 1,000 dots are tricky!)
  • Challenge myself to a sudoku
  • Run a bubble bath
  • Paint your nails
  • Do some of your colouring book
  • Listen to a podcast in bed
  • Go for a short walk
  • Listen to a favourite album from start to finish (no shuffling)
  • Do a face mask
  • Catch up on some favourite blog posts
  • Take a long shower
  • Call my mum/nana/granny/neighbour
  • Watch a DVD

 

I hope you get a chance to practice some self-care this week.

X

 

Image: pexels.com

Placement update – Cow’s milk allergy in paediatrics

I made it through 12 weeks of dietetics placement – and well done to everyone else who has been on a work placement or internship this summer! That first taste of adult life and not having a huge uni summer stretching ahead of you is tough! But I have thoroughly enjoyed this summer, and it has been a big learning curve.

Working in such a wide range of dietetic specialities has given me the opportunity to see a variety of patients, from infants to teenagers, working-age and elderly adults. I think the area which I have progressed in the most is paediatrics – I wasn’t very confident about working with children initially. It’s such a varied area – I could be seeing new-borns all the way through to 18-year-olds. One of the main reasons for referral that I came across in paediatrics was cow’s milk allergy, which I have written a little bit about below.

 

Cow’s milk allergy

According to Allergy UK 2-3% of 1-3 year olds are diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy in the UK. It occurs when the immune system reacts to the protein in cow’s milk causing either an immediate reaction, or a delayed-onset reaction. The infants that we saw in clinic usually experienced a delayed-onset reaction, where symptoms tend to emerge after a few hours, days or weeks. Many of the babies show symptoms of vomiting, reflux, diarrhoea or constipation, tummy pains, eczema or rashes, among others.

The only way to check for sure that the above symptoms are caused by a cow’s milk allergy is to exclude all cow’s milk and dairy from the baby’s diet and see if the symptoms improve.

Babies with a confirmed cow’s milk allergy must follow a completely dairy free diet. This means using a specialised infant formula or, if the babies are breastfed, the mothers must also exclude dairy as proteins from the cow’s milk can pass through the breast milk and continue to cause symptoms. However, we then work with mothers to ensure that their diets are nutritionally adequate, particularly providing enough calcium.

We also explain to parents that children often grow out of a cow’s milk allergy, so in the future we would work with them to slowly reintroduce dairy back into their child’s diet to see if they are still allergic.

** (Lactose intolerance is different to cow’s milk allergy. Lactose is the sugar present in cow’s milk and our bodies use an enzyme called lactase to break this complicated sugar down so that it can absorbed. Some people have lower levels of lactase, but the levels of lactase fall gradually and naturally as we get older and drink less milk than when we were babies. If people have particularly low levels of lactase they find it difficult to digest the lactose in milk so can start developing symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, stomach pain and wind. However, lactose intolerance more commonly occurs in older children or adults – very rarely in infants.) **

 

For more info on any of the above, I have included a couple of resources below. Always remember to visit your GP or a dietitian for any dietary advice.

Allergy UK – https://www.allergyuk.org/information-and-advice/conditions-and-symptoms/469-cows-milk-allergy

BDA Food Facts sheet on ‘Suitable milks for children with cow’s milk allergy’ – https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/CowsMilkAllergyChildren.pdf

 

Image: pexels.com

Top tips for tummy troubles

This one covers digestion from mouth to, well, bottom. So, if you’re munching on your muesli, maybe give this a read later!

Having problems with our gut such as bloating, wind and constipation can be fairly common, but there are some tips and tricks that can help reduce the chance of getting these symptoms.

 

Take time to eat and drink

How many times have you gulped down a glass of water when you’ve realised that you haven’t had a drink all morning? Who else sometimes gobbles down their lunch whilst sitting at their desk?

Taking time to chew our food properly is the start of digestion, breaking it down into much smaller pieces and coating it in saliva. Saliva contains an enzyme called amylase which starts to break down the starch, long chains of sugars, into shorter chains of sugars.

Chewing food well also gives our brain time to register that we are eating and to prepare the rest of the digestive system. This can also have the effect of making us feel more satisfied, something that Laura Thomas has also mentioned in her Mindful Eating podcast episode.

By chewing food and drinking fluids slowly we can also reduce the risk of taking in a lot of air at the same time which can sometimes make us feel a bit windy.

 

Find a routine

Something else that can really help with ‘getting things moving’ is to have a regular meal pattern. If you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast and then have a huge dinner this can affect our stomachs.

For some people, their routine might be 3 meals a day, whereas others may include some snacks in there too. If you’re absolutely starving by the time you get to your next meal it might be worth trying to have a snack in between next time.

 

Up your fibre intake

The current recommendation is to have 30g of fibre a day, but most adults are currently only eating about 18g. Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested an absorbed in our small intestine. Instead bacteria in our large intestine partially or completely breaks it down. It is essential for preventing constipation, softening stools and making them easier to pass, as well as lowering our risk of heart disease, diabetes and colorectal cancer.

These foods are particularly high in fibre;

  • Starchy foods like oats, potato with the skin on, sweet potato, high fibre breakfast cereals, wholemeal or wholegrain bread and pasta, and brown rice.
  • Vegetables such as peas, sweetcorn, parsnips, green beans, carrots
  • Beans and pulses such as chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils
  • Fruits like apples, pears, plums and prunes, apricots, raspberries and blackberries
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanut butter, linseeds and chia seeds

This table has been adapted from the BDA Food Facts sheet on fibre which shows how you can fit extra fibre into your diet.

Portion size Fibre per portion (g)
Breakfast Porridge 50g 5g
With raspberries 80g 2.5g
Snack 1 banana or apple 1 medium sized 2g
Lunch Baked potato 180g – medium cooked 5g
Baked beans 80g 3g
Sweetcorn (tinned) 80g 2g
Snack Wholemeal bread 2 slices 6g
  Peanut butter 1 tablespoon 1g
Dinner Wholemeal spaghetti 150g 5g
Suggestion: add a tomato based sauce and vegetables
TOTAL 31.5g

 

Remember that if you are having serious and recurrent problems with your stomach or digestion please see your GP or registered dietitian to rule out any other health problems.

Does it benefit our health to eat seasonably?

We now live in a time where we can walk into a supermarket at any time of year and expect to see a huge variety of food available. Whilst this means that we can make any recipe that we want all year, it can sometimes feel as though we’ve become removed from the growth and production of our food. Eating more seasonably could reconnect us with the origins of our food and reminds us that most foods are not meant to be available all year round.

Although many definitions of ‘seasonality’ exist, most people think of it when food is grown outdoors in its natural season, without using extra energy (for heat, light etc.), therefore not producing extra greenhouse gas emissions. (Did you know that 15-20% of all greenhouse gases in the UK are produced from the food system?! [1]) Strawberries grown in the UK in June are seasonal, as are apples grown during the autumn in New Zealand but then eaten in the spring/summer in the UK.

Apart from the obvious environmental benefit (a strawberry grown in England in the usual spring/summertime growing season uses far less energy than those grown in heated greenhouses all year round, for example), eating more seasonably can introduce more variety into our diets. By eating lots of different foods, we increase our chances of consuming all of our essential nutrients.

Some nutrients become more available once the food has been processed. Lycopene and beta-carotene (the inactive form of vitamin A) are higher in tinned tomatoes than fresh ones [2]. Therefore, you can eat tinned tomatoes all year round knowing that they were probably produced in season and can contain lots of nutrients.

Frozen fruit and veg are also a good idea as they are often picked and frozen in season so can have a higher nutrient content than some ‘fresh’ fruit and veg that’s been sitting on the supermarket shelf for a few days. They are also a really cost-effective way of increasing your fruit and veg intake! It can also be cheaper to buy fresh foods when they are in season as it has often cost less money to produce them in the first place.

IMG_5149

Eating seasonal foods has some environmental, and potentially nutritional, benefits, but it is a small piece in the puzzle of having a sustainable diet. Eating only seasonal foods in the winter in the UK can also look a bit dull, so why not take inspiration from the Eat Seasonably Calendar and use it to remind you of which seasons your foods would traditionally have been grown and encourage you to try out different food each month?

 

Find some tips and seasonal recipes on these websites:

http://eatseasonably.co.uk/

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/seasonal-calendar/all

 

Beautiful photographs courtesy of @lauraheck 

 

Sources

  1. Garnett T (2008). Cooking Up a Storm: Food, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Our Changing Climate. Surrey: University of Surrey, Food Climate Research Network, Centre for Environmental Strategy.
  2. Hwang E-S, Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M, Bowen PE (2012). Effects of heat treatment on the carotenoid and tocopherol composition of tomato. J Food Sci. 77; 1109-1114.
  3. Macdiarmid JI (2014). Seasonality and dietary requirements: will eating seasonal food contribute to health and environmental sustainability? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 73; 368-375.

The Nutrient Series – VITAMIN D

The “sunshine vitamin” has had a lot of press recently, and for good reason! Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorous from the food that we eat, which are both essential nutrients for healthy bones, muscles and teeth. Even if you consume enough calcium, if you are deficient (don’t have enough in your body) in vitamin D, your body won’t be able to use the calcium where it’s needed. Children who are deficient in vitamin D can develop rickets (permanent bone deformities), whilst low vitamin D intake in adults can increase the risk of developing osteomalacia (bone pain and muscle weakness).

Where does vitamin D come from?

Most of the vitamin D that our body needs is made under the skin in response to daylight – that’s where its nickname comes from. You make more vitamin D in bright sunshine in the middle of the day than on a cloudy day. In the UK, the sun is strong enough for us to make vitamin D between April and September. The rest of the year your body uses vitamin D that has been stored in our bodies, or has comes from food or from supplements.

However, you don’t need to sunbathe for your body to be able to make vitamin D. It isn’t known yet how long is the optimum length of sun exposure due to many different factors affecting vitamin D production (such as skin colour or how much skin is exposed). The NHS suggest that a short period of sun exposure every day should be enough, but to make sure you take precautions not to get burnt.

Foods high in vitamin D

Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring are relatively high in vitamin D, as is cod liver oil (don’t take this if you’re pregnant, though,  as it also contains very high levels of vitamin A which could harm your baby). Some foods are fortified with vitamin D such as margarine, some dairy-free alternatives, infant formula and yoghurt.

How much should we have?

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published a report in 2016 stating the importance of vitamin D in maintaining good muscle and bone health. They recommend taking a 10-microgram supplement daily, especially in the winter months, which can be found in most pharmacies. This is because in the UK we don’t have strong enough sunlight all year round to produce vitamin D, and because there are not a huge number of foods high in vitamin D.

Groups at risk of low vitamin D

There are some groups of the population who are at risk of low vitamin D, and who SACN suggest should consider taking a vitamin D supplement all year round.

  • Elderly – skin is not as efficient at making vitamin D in over 65’s
  • Those who are housebound, work in an office or shift workers – these people tend to spend less time outside during daylight
  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers
  • People with dark skin tones living in the UK and northern countries where there is less sunlight
  • People who cover most of their skin when outside

 

Remember to contact your GP, a health visitor or a dietitian if you are worried about your vitamin D status.

 

Sources

BDA Food Facts – https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/VitaminD.pdf

Essentials of Human Nutrition, Jim Mann & A. Stewart Truswell, 2012.

NHS Choices – http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Summerhealth/Pages/vitamin-D-sunlight.aspx

SACN vitamin D and health report – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-vitamin-d-and-health-report

 

Photo: @lauraheck

Mental Health Awareness Week

“Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see differences of the colours, but where exactly does one first blindingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity.”

This quote from Billy Bud, Sailor by Herman Melville beautifully illustrates the idea that mental illness may exist as a continuum of varying severity among many of us.

Good mental health allows us to feel, think and behave in a way that enables us to thrive – enjoying our lives, but many of us will be affected by poor mental health in some way at some point in our lives. It can be debilitating to a point of not being able to leave the house, and can steal all enjoyment from our activities.

It is a topic that is being more widely spoken about, and the Royals only made the conversation louder by leading the Heads Together campaign. Mental health is a tricky topic to discuss for lots of us, with a huge stigma still attached to it, but it is something that gets better when spoken about.

With only a small minority of people reporting good mental health (Mental Health Foundation), it is important that we speak about it more and also engage in positive steps to improve our mental wellbeing. After reading various mental health charity websites and documents I thought I’d make a list of a few things that we can do regularly (if not every day) to improve our general mental wellbeing. I have also included a list of the resources I used for information on mental health.

  • Spend time with friends and family – this increases our sense of belonging and can improve mental wellbeing
  • Going for a walk (or being physically active in any way)
  • Spending time on your interests (maybe this is gardening, painting, cooking etc.) – as well as giving us relaxation time this can also become an opportunity to join groups and meet people with shared interests
  • Getting enough sleep – poor mental health can cause poor sleep, and poor sleep can influence mental health
  • Eating healthily – this can improve mood and energy levels, increase positive feelings and enable clearer thinking (my post ‘Improving mood through diet’ can be found here)
  • Learning new things – this can help us appreciate the ‘small wins’ such as trying out a new recipe, or reading about a new subject, making us feel proud of ourselves and increasing our self-esteem

 

If you are struggling with mental health problems please seek help from friends and family, your GP (or other health professional) and or by visiting some of the following websites for more information. You don’t need to suffer in silence.

 

BDA Food Facts – https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/foodmood.pdf

CALM – https://www.thecalmzone.net/

Heads Together – https://www.headstogether.org.uk/

Mental Health Foundation – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/

Young Minds – https://youngminds.org.uk/

 

Laura Thomas also recently focused on mental health on her podcast, Don’t Salt My Game. You can find the episode here.

Keeping my head during revision

This one’s coming from my dining table as I look out at the beautiful weather wishing I could be outside instead of revising. In the past, I’ve tended to be a bit all or nothing with my revision – either go crazy and work myself into the ground, or do nothing at all and pretend I don’t have any to do. I’m trying to keep more of a routine with my work this time, but sometimes we need a little help to get through it!

Here is a list of my favourite things that are helping me stay on more of an even keel.

 

Breakfast

I make sure I have breakfast every morning as it fuels me up for the day. Some breakfast inspiration from an earlier blog post can be found here.

Herbal tea

I love coffee and breakfast tea but the thing I seem to drink excessively during revision and exam time is green tea and herbal teas. I have a plethora of different flavours in my cupboard – mainly to alleviate the boredom and monotony of revision, rather than anything else. I also take a few into uni with me if I’m studying in the library as hot water is free.

The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

Having a novel to read before bed that is completely unrelated to uni work helps me switch off in the evening. I don’t get through books very quickly, probably only reading a few pages each evening, but I find it helps. This book is such a favourite – this is the second time I’ve read it. It’s like holidaying in the south of France so provides some lovely bedtime escapism.

Running (aka jogging)

I can’t say that I’m a very fast runner or that I run very far – I think I actually go at more of a jogging pace, but it’s the getting out there and doing it that counts. Listening to music is a must for me and at the moment I love Say It Again by KINGDM. I’ve got it on repeat so I’ll probably be sick of it by the end of next week!

Snacks

Another good idea to keep you fuelled up whilst revising, another post from the archives!

Enough sleep

I now know that I function best when I have 7-8 hours’ sleep each night. How much you need will be personal to you but getting enough makes it much easier to function during exam time.

Colouring book

I guess this trend is a little bit old but I haven’t given up on my colouring book just yet!

Treating myself to flowers

My local Lidl have tulips for £1.50 a bunch at the moment so I’m treating myself. They brighten up my flat and cost less than a coffee at uni!

 

Good luck to everyone revising, taking exams and getting coursework done. It’ll be over soon!