Acne vulgaris is an inflammatory condition of the sebaceous glands of the skin. It consists of red, elevated areas on the skin that may develop into pustules and even further into cysts that can cause scarring. Acne occurs mostly on the face, neck, and back of most commonly teenagers and to a lesser extent of young adults. The condition results from a combination of factors – hormones that cause increased oily sebum production, the skin bacteria that then thrive on the sebum, and your immune system which wades in to control the bacteria. A conventional treatment – antibiotics, the contraceptive pill or Roaccutane – may provide temporary relief, but only addresses one factor, so patients often find their acne comes straight back.
Using diet, supplements and sometimes botanicals, nutrition can be very useful for rebalancing hormone levels in both males and females, for nourishing skin and supporting a healthy skin ecosystem, and addressing excess inflammation.
In recent years, research has found major correlations between asthma incidence and the use of antibiotics (whether by the child or the pregnant mother). Prenatal and early nutrition is strongly implicated too, with certain foods like oily fish being protective, and others like processed vegetable oils being seen as increasing the risk of asthma.
A normal immune system has mechanisms to prevent the sort of over-reactions and inflammation seen in asthma. It’s only to be expected that from time to time the odd bit of dust or animal fluff will get breathed in or swallowed, and regulator cells are there to prevent the immune system reacting as if this foreign matter was an infection. The trillions of microorganisms living in your body have a major role in regulating and training a child’s developing immune system, so when antibiotics have upset the balance of friendly bacteria, there may well be an impact on immune function.
Diet and supplements can dramatically alter the gut flora, as well as providing anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamin D and Omega 3s to re-balance the immune system and help reduce the severity of asthma.
The importance of diet and lifestyle for preventing heart disease and strokes is now so well-publicised that it seems incredible that it was ever in question. Public health information campaigns encourage us all to eat less saturated fat, less salt, lower our cholesterol, get more exercise, stop smoking and eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. The reality is more complicated however, and consumers and patients alike find that much of the advice they are given is conflicting. Does a potato count towards the Five-A-Day? Are eggs bad for you? Is red wine good? Butter or margarine?
Furthermore, new findings can take many years to gain recognition, let alone become widely known. For example, it was in 1969 that Dr McCully linked damage to veins that can cause heart disease and strokes to homocysteine, a certain type of protein made in body. It took decades for high homocysteine to be acknowledged as an independent risk factor in cardiovascular disease, and it remains a little-known one, despite strong links with another epidemic disease, Dementia. Perhaps this has something to with the fact that it is treated with inexpensive nutritional supplements.
By contrast, there is a huge market for highly profitable drugs which block your body’s efforts to make cholesterol, and foods that are low in cholesterol, or which reduce your body’s absorption of cholesterol. All of which is rather unfortunate, as cholesterol is certainly not the cause of heart disease, and your body makes it and recycles it for very good reasons. Hence the paucity of evidence that cholesterol-lowering itself is of any benefit at all, (the small statistical effect of statins may be due to their anti-coagulant side-effect) and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Proof that these drugs and foods lower your cholesterol is enough however, because of the false assumption that it is cholesterol which causes heart disease.
So the challenge now is not getting recognition for the effects of diet on cardiovascular disease, but on getting recognition for the right ones! It will be years before public health advice catches up – why wait?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) / ME
CFS / ME is characterised by profound and persistent exhaustion, with many sufferers experiencing depression and problems with sleeping, concentrating and performing day-to-day activities. Fibromyalgia has the additional symptom of muscular pain. No specific cause has been agreed on, which is not really surprising as there are so many different causes of fatigue. For some there will be a lingering viral load, for others it will be a hormonal imbalance, and others will have malfunctioning mitochondria (the tiny energy factories inside your cells).
CFS is exactly the sort of complex, chronic condition that conventional medicine struggles to deal with. Biochemical testing is especially useful here, as it gives tremendous insight into what is going on inside your body, how it is working, the areas where it is doing fine, and the areas where it needs support.
Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease
Cognitive decline is one of the most feared problems associated with ageing, not least because there are no viable medications to halt its progression. There are plenty of theories, ranging from genetics to infection, and the race is on to find a form of mass medication that could help prevent dementia, in the way that statins have been marketed as a preventative treatment for heart disease.
The recent theory of Alzheimer’s as being a response to infection is very compelling. Throughout the body, the immune system uses beta-amyloid plaques to trap infections – viruses, bacteria and fungi. Indeed, in animal models, researchers have found, at the centre of every plaque, a single bacterium, like the tiny pathogen at the centre of an oyster pearl. When production of the plaques was blocked, the animals quickly succumbed to the infection. So rather than being an example of the body malfunctioning, the plaques are an essential, life-saving response.
So what goes wrong with this life-saving system? Well, it may be that with age, the blood-brain barrier, which normally stops such infections from getting inside the brain in the first place, becomes leaky. Once they have formed and done their work, poor clearance of the plaques may be another factor. The theory isn’t particularly attractive to pharmaceutical companies however, as it isn’t just one kind of infectious agent – it’s almost anything, and in animal models, preventing the encasement of the infection in plaques had disastrous outcomes.
In addition to the problem of infections getting through, other possible factors include nutrient deficiencies, toxic metals like mercury or aluminium, or excess metals like copper and iron. Elevated blood sugar levels is another likely factor. All of these can cause damage at a cellular level, the sort of processes that could make the blood-brain barrier leaky, and hinder the removal of the plaques.
A nutrition based approach to addressing dementia seeks to maintain stable blood sugar levels and may include tests for possible nutrient deficiencies and toxic / excess metals. It is vital to combat the damage and inflammation these factors cause, and certain supplements and plant extracts may be used alongside dietary changes.
Watch a few ad breaks and it seems as though it’s perfectly normal to have heart burn, constipation, diarrhoea and leave the bathroom smelly! As well as being unpleasant, these ‘normal’ problems are warning signs of digestive systems struggling to cope, and indigestion tablets and air-fresheners do nothing to address the causes.
Nutritional Therapy seeks to identify and address the factors that may be affecting your digestive health. Over 4-6 weeks, the treatment programme aims to support your digestive system and improve its functioning. Good digestion is so crucial to health that you may quickly notice other health improvements too!
Eczema is a common inflammatory condition of the skin. Many skin diseases cause symptoms similar to those of eczema, so you may have been given conflicting diagnoses. It is characterised by scaling, thickened patches of skin that can become red and fissured. It may also appear as tiny blisters (called vesicles) that rupture, weep, and crust over. The most troublesome and prevalent symptom of eczema is itching, which may be constant.
Both Type A (immediate) and Type B (delayed) allergies are strongly linked with eczema. Most children with eczema have food allergies, according to data from double-blind research. Once the trigger for the allergy has been identified, avoidance of the allergen can lead to significant improvement.
‘Classical’ food allergens (e.g., cows’ milk, egg, wheat, soya, and nuts) are often not the cause of eczema in adults. Triggers included food additives, histamine, salicylates, benzoates, and other compounds (such as aromatic compounds) found in fruits, vegetables and spices. These reactions do not represent true food allergies but are instead a type of food sensitivity reaction.
As well as assessment of food sensitivities, attention to levels of vitamins, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and minerals has been found to be very beneficial for improving skin health and regulating immune activity. Like other skin conditions, there can be role for the skin bacteria, our skin’s ecosystem, and the right sort of probiotics can be helpful for some individuals.
Nowadays endometriosis is a very common gynaecological condition, and the incidence of endometriosis-linked infertility is increasing. Endometriosis is diagnosed when endometrial tissue (cells of the womb lining) is found in sites outside the womb, for example the ovaries, fallopian tubes, ligaments, bowel and bladder. Once in place, this tissue naturally responds to the hormone cycle and sheds blood during periods. Sometimes the blood can escape – e.g. in urine, but when trapped can cause inflammation, pain and even infertility.
Current medical theory points to a relative excess of oestrogen as the primary cause, and synthetic hormones, oestrogen-blocking drugs or surgery as the answer. However, this is a vast over-simplification and effective treatment must address a range of issues, including the reasons why there is an excess of oestrogen in the first place. Digestion and liver function are crucial to help hormone balance. Immune function is important too, as it’s the job of the immune system to clear away the rogue endometrial tissue. Usually it is triggered by a combination of factors including hormone imbalances, stress and nutritional deficiencies, so the most effective approaches are multi-factorial.
When was the last time you bounced out of bed brimming with energy and zest for the day ahead? Can’t remember? These days more people than ever complain about feeling constantly exhausted. Busy lives and lack of sleep do take their toll on our energy reserves, but with the right nutrition and lifestyle techniques, modern life doesn’t mean you have to be ‘tired-all-the-time’.
Nutritional Therapy seeks to identify the underlying factors that can cause excessive fatigue, for example a lack of essential nutrients for optimal thyroid function, or for energy production at a cellular level. Over the course of 4-6 weeks, the treatment program aims to support your body’s energy production and put the spring back in your step.
Hives / Urticaria
This is an inflammatory, allergic reaction in the skin characterised by white or pink welts or large bumps surrounded by redness. These welts are caused primarily by the release of histamine (an allergy mediator) in the skin. About 50% of people with chronic hives develop angioedema – a deeper, more serious form of hives involving the tissue below the surface of the skin.
The conventional treatment is to prescribe medicines that temporarily block the body’s production of histamine. Some cases may be given corticosteroids, which have adverse side-effects. While helpful to manage symptoms, this approach does nothing to address the root causes, so as soon as the medicine is stopped, the hives flare up again. Furthermore, over time, conventional medicines tend to become less effective at suppressing the inflammation, and the condition worsens.
Nutritional therapy for hives involves finding the underlying reasons why the body is generating excessive histamine. These include infectious organisms (such as hepatitis B virus, Candida albicans and streptococcal bacteria) and allergies or sensitivities to foods, additives or drugs (for example aspirin and antibiotics). Poor digestion is often the reason for developing food allergies in the first place, and addressing this alone may be sufficient to resolve the condition. During this process, various natural anti-histamines (such as vitamin C or quercetin) may be recommended.
Painful, heavy or irregular periods? Mood swings? Spots? Menopausal symptoms? Most women experience symptoms of hormonal imbalances from time to time, and assume it is inevitable, and something they just have to put up with. Yet hormone balance is influenced by your diet, nutrient status, liver function, and even your digestive system! So the right nutritional approach can make a huge difference, and quickly.
Supplements can speed things up too – Evening Primrose Oil is a popular supplement, but there are many others which can be brought in to help you to sail serenely through hormone changes.
The most sophisticated defence system on the planet, but so often taken for granted…until things go wrong! Hay Fever? Frequent or stubborn infections? Abnormal smear tests?
Nutritional Therapy seeks to establish which factors may be affecting your immunity and by addressing those factors, aims to normalise immune function.
Indigestion refers to the range of unpleasant symptoms that can occur after eating, including bloating, cramps, wind and nausea. For many it is acid-reflux or heartburn that causes the most distress. Unlike the oesophagus, the stomach has a layer of alkaline mucous to protect itself from the hydrochloric acid it produces to dissolve your food. Stomach acid has a pH of just 2, which means it literally dissolves flesh – no wonder heartburn can be excruciatingly painful!
Conventional indigestion remedies are of limited use and often lead to other health problems, especially if used for longer periods of time. ‘Indigestion’ is exactly that – food not being digested properly, and some of the symptoms of low stomach acid mimic those of excess acid. Blocking or neutralising acid actually makes this situation worse, whereas nutritional therapy can relieve symptoms and strengthen digestion. Stomach acid is essential to destroy food-borne diseases, break down food material and absorb nutrients, so frequent use of antacids is associated with some serious problems including gastrointestinal infections, allergies, nutrient deficiencies and even dementia.
Nutrition Therapy can help by:
- Identifying the underlying causes
- Relieving symptoms
- Improving digestive function
- Addressing nutritional deficiencies
- Lab Tests: H.Pylori Test
Many individuals struggling to start a family or considering IVF are diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is diagnosed when there is disordered gastrointestinal motility for which no organic or structural cause has been found. In other words, it is a collection of characteristic symptoms that doctors don’t know the reason for! They don’t know what to do about it either – conventional treatment of IBS is all about suppressing the symptoms, with varying degrees of success. This is because IBS is a complex problem with a whole range of possible causes, and it is only by addressing those causes that successful treatment is achieved.
Characteristic symptoms include recurrent abdominal pain that may be relieved by a bowel movement, rapid transit of food, constipation, diarrhoea, or an alternation between the two, and abdominal distension and bloating. Normally bowel contents are moved along by peristalsis, a succession of rhythmical tightening and relaxation of segments of the intestine. In IBS, peristalsis is stronger and more frequent. Sometimes the colon is seen to be in a state of unusual activity, contracting and relaxing in an abnormally rapid manner.
There are many theories about what causes IBS, ranging from food allergies to ‘health-seeking behaviour’ (that’s another tern for hypochondria – what a cheek!). The best overall explanation is that one or more factors that have upset your digestive system, and it and over-reacts to stimuli it previously handled without any problems. Eating a meal for example, is normally a gentle prompt for a bowel movement, but an irritable bowel can react with violent diarrhoea.
This is not the sort of thing that medication can resolve, and in fact some medicines may actually precipitate IBS. An irritable bowel is in distress, and trying to silence it with opioids and anti-depressants is not the answer! Identifying causative factors and supporting the digestive system gets superb results time after time.
Nutrition Therapy can address contributory factors such as:
- Gut flora imbalances / infections
- SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)
- Food sensitivity
- Nutrient lows
- Liver function
Laboratory testing can be very useful in some cases, see Gastrointestinal Tests
The hallmark symptom of psoriasis is well-defined, red patches of skin covered by a silvery, flaky surface that has pinpoint spots of bleeding underneath if scraped. The patches typically appear during periodic flare-ups and tend to be in the same area on both sides of the body. In some people with psoriasis, the fingernails and toenails may have white-coloured pits, lengthwise ridges down the nail, or yellowish spots, or may be thickened or may separate at the cut end.
Conventional treatment is based on suppressing symptoms with anti-inflammatory medication, and some sufferers may benefit from UV therapy.
To really see longer term improvements, you may well need to change your diet. For example, this might be a trial elimination diet to identify food sensitivities, or food swaps to correct imbalances in essential fatty acids. Your digestive health, including your gut flora, and your detoxification systems may need to be supported and supplements containing nutrients or botanical extracts can be very helpful.
Rosacea (or Acne Rosacea) is a chronic skin condition of the forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin. It consists of flushing, which turns into red coloration from the dilation of the capillaries and can lead to pustules that resemble acne. Untreated rosacea can be disfiguring to the face. It occurs mostly in middle-aged adults with fair skin, so while the precise cause is unknown, there is likely to be a genetic predisposition.
There are various prescription medications used to treat rosacea, and you may have tried or been offered antibiotics (tablets or creams). Some doctors prescribe the vitamin A-related medication Roaccutane, which has a range of significant possible side-effects.
Nutritional therapy can be very helpful because there is a strong association between rosacea and poor digestion. This is partly because poor digestion leads to changes in the gut flora, and can cause low levels of nutrients necessary for skin and immune health.
How is it that some people seem to cope effortlessly with stress while others develop symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, exhaustion, high blood pressure, insomnia and depression? It isn’t just personality – good nutrition greatly increases your ability to withstand stress. For example, stress increases the rate at which your body uses up B-Vitamins. If the demand isn’t met, you become much less able to produce energy, fight infections and detoxify.
Nutritional Therapy explores the effects stress has on your health, and over 4-6 weeks aims to boost your stress tolerance, equip you with stress-busting techniques and significantly increase your ability to cope with whatever life throws at you!
Ulcerative Colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by inflammation and sores in the lining of the large intestine. Anti-inflammatory and immuno-suppressant drugs are used to manage symptoms, but are not curative, and come with a range of serious side-effects. Surgery is the last resort.
Being a disease that affects the digestive system, you might think that all that food that passes through it – 35 tonnes in a lifetime – might have a role, at the very least in managing symptoms. Not according to medical orthodoxy, which stubbornly maintains that diet not only has nothing to with developing IBD, but that sufferers have no special dietary needs. One maker of Mesalamine, the main drug used for UC, claims ‘No link between diet and ulcerative colitis has been established. There is no known diet for ulcerative colitis.’
This is particularly tragic because in fact, there are diets for UC, and furthermore sufferers are extremely vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies through absorption problems and the side effects of their medication. Nutritional therapy can be amazingly helpful not only for supporting the health of those with IBD, managing symptoms and reducing medication, but for actually altering the course of the disease itself.
There is only one cause of excess weight:
Energy intake >energy use = stored energy
This doesn’t mean that overweight people don’t feel genuinely hungry, or eat more than other people. It just means that the equation is out of balance. There are lots of different reasons for that imbalance, such as hormone imbalances, low thyroid function, and nutritional deficiencies. Emotional issues often play a role too, even though they may not be consciously connected with eating patterns. Short-term diets fail because whatever the underlying cause of the energy imbalance may be, it must be addressed if long-term change is to be achieved.
Nutrition Therapy helps address:
- Diet myths, unhelpful food choices and dietary habits
- Blood sugar imbalance (fat storage, hunger and fatigue)
- Food intolerances (fatigue, abdominal weight)
- Nutrient deficiencies (slow metabolism, cravings, low energy)
- Thyroid problems (slow metabolism, too tired to exercise)
- Inactivity (exercise can reduce appetite)
- Dehydration (fluid retention, ‘false hunger’)
- Yeast overgrowth / parasites (stimulate appetite, upset blood sugar)
- Hormone imbalance (excess oestrogen and cortisol promote fat storage)
- Liver (compromised digestion, release and storage of energy)
- Essential fats (metabolism; appetite, hormone balance, depression)
- Tests – Insulin Resistance, FACT, Thyroid, ASI, Hormone profiles, PCOS