With the advent of October, Rosemary really comes into season, this recipe is ideal as an accompaniment to a chunky, vegetable soup and is suitable for those following a lower-carbohydrate regime.
175g ground almonds
150g parmesan cheese, finely grated
40g hemp seeds
2 tbsp chopped rosemary or 2 tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp onion powder
2 large eggs
½ tsp sea salt
‘Hormones’. Oestrogen and testosterone are the two that most likely spring to mind, and their role in puberty, libido, the reproductive system. In fact, our bodies produce a whole host of other hormones which play a role in our health and how we function day in day out. Ghrelin, given its name as a ‘growth hormone releasing peptide’, controls hunger, food intake and combined with growth hormone, fat storage.
Stimulated by the cells in our stomach, ghrelin sends signals to the hypothalamus in the brain telling our bodies it’s time to eat. Small amounts are also released by the pancreas and the small intestine. The more ghrelin in the bloodstream, the bigger the appetite and likely, the more food you eat. After food, ghrelin levels are decreased as we’re satiated, and they don’t rise again until your body starts looking for more energy.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you might be wondering how you can keep your levels low. To be clear, ghrelin is not bad. Our hormones are made for a reason - they have a specific job to do in the body. If we weren’t ever hungry, would we take as much joy from the food we eat? How would we know when we’re low on nourishment? How would we function at our optimum?
It’s when they stop working as they should that we can run into trouble. And, our diet and lifestyle choices have a significant impact on this. That doesn’t mean jumping to calorie restriction. Naturally, this will increase your ghrelin levels, potentially lead to overeating and storage of fat. Interestingly, research has shown lower fasting levels of ghrelin in individuals who are overweight, obese or morbidly obese, this suggesting that over time, overeating can decrease sensitivity to the hormone, meaning we lose this essential control mechanism.
However, it’s important to note that ghrelin may be equally as important for weight gain. It’s all about balance. So, we’ve highlighted a few tips here, which will help keep this specific hormone in check and doing its job correctly at both ends of the spectrum.
Eat a diet rich in fibre from fruit and vegetables, legumes and wholegrains. Fibre slows down our digestion while also keeping our gut bacteria diverse and healthy. Foods high in fibre also tend to be lower in calories and higher in nutrient density meaning you get better bang for your buck when it comes to calorie intake.
Limit intake of high GI carbohydrates and processed foods high in sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Refined and processed foods are high in calories and saturated fat and low in nutrients. As well as spiking your blood sugar for a short period, sending your hunger and energy levels on a rollercoaster, they trigger release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with reward. We start to associate that short lived high with reward as opposed to the feeling of being nourished and satiated.
Eat protein with every meal
Incorporating a portion of lean or vegetable protein into each meal (eggs, oily fish, organic chicken or turkey, tofu, beans and pulses) will slow gastric emptying, keeping you fuller for longer. It will also blunt the insulin spike you get from eating a carbohydrate based meal, preventing the sugar cravings which inevitably follow that initial sugar high.
Studies in animals have shown that exposure to chronic stress increases circulating ghrelin and growth hormone levels (Massachusettes Institute of Technology, 2013). It also interacts with the brain’s reward pathways to increase food intake, creating a vicious cycle where we begin to see food as a comfort during times of stress and anxiety. Incorporate yoga, meditation or breathing into your daily routine, get out for a walk or run in nature, find something that works for you to allow you to live (and eat) more mindfully.
Sleep deprivation has been associated with an increase in ghrelin levels, appetite and hunger comparative to sleeping for longer periods. Aim for 7-9 hours per night, practice good sleep hygiene by limiting screen time, avoiding heavy meals and alcohol before bed, and try to stick to regular sleep and waking up times to regulate the circadian rhythm.
Research in recent years has indicated a link between High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), reduced ghrelin and increased leptin levels. Incorporate some high intensity exercise to your lifestyle each week – circuits, sprints, cycling. Get out and get a sweat on!
If you’re looking for support with weight loss or indeed weight gain, incorporating these diet and lifestyle changes would be a great place to start. It’s important to remember however, that ghrelin is only one of many interrelated factors, which could be impacting on your health and wellbeing. Working with a Nutritional Therapist would allow you to create a plan specific to your body’s needs and your personal health and fitness goals. For more information on what this involves, book in for a free call, to find out whether nutritional therapy may be right for you in helping you achieve your health goals. https://my.practicebetter.io/#/5cb4767c627db30a0ca23183/bookings?s=5cb47acf627db30a0ca2339f
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Ghrelin, a stress-induced hormone, primes the brain for PTSD." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131015191405.htm>.
You may feel that the list of foods you react to is never-ending and you maybe taking foods out one by one until you have a very small rotation of foods that you think you can eat. This may not be the case. It may be that you are histamine intolerant.
What is histamine intolerance?
Histamine is naturally present in all foods to differing levels, but our bodies also produce it when stressed. Raised histamine levels cause inflammation within the body as a normal immune response, but some people, including some individuals with eczema can have inflammation triggered by eating foods with high histamine levels.
Which foods contain high histamine?
Foods which contain high histamine levels include: aubergine, tomatoes, bananas, strawberries, matured cheeses, preserved meats, chocolate, citrus fruits, egg whites, canned fish, nuts, pork, preservatives, food additives and food colourings, vinegar and spinach.
There's a catch...
Whilst the food above highlight foods that contain naturally high histamine levels, the histamine levels of ALL foods rise the longer they are left. Very basically, the longer a food is around and begins to naturally mature, ripen and degrade (eg. your roast beef left to cool for your lunchbox the next day) the more histamine is produced.
So, what can I eat?
The rule of thumb is, for someone who suspects a histamine intolerance, to eat foods as fresh as possible and to avoid fermented or matured foods. For example, a lightly yellow, almost green banana may be tolerated by someone with a histamine intolerance, but a ripened banana with black spots may not.
Don't forget, if you suspect that you have a food allergy, sensitivity or intolerance it is always best to consult your healthcare practitioner and to be accompanied by a registered nutrition practitioner.
There is nothing more disheartening than having atopic eczema/dermatitis and knowing that flares are triggered by a number of foods/household/beauty products, but after having a patch test done you are told by the Allergist that you are not allergic to anything.
The point is that whilst you may not have an allergy or a food sensitivity, both would show IgE antibodies in tests, but you may have an intolerance which do not trigger IgE antibodies.
The only way to truly identify intolerances - in particular those related to foods - is by following the elimination diet - previously discussed on this page. It is a tough programme to follow, but the beauty of it is that it may help identify true triggers and allow some foods to be reintroduced with no problem. A case of the true trigger causing hyper-sensitivity that then makes you react to a disproportionate number of things.
When you click on 'Dr Google' to research possible triggers for atopic eczema/dermatitis, the main ones that come up are dairy, eggs and sugar, but did you know that the Nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and aubergines) are a common trigger? A 2017 study (Nosrati et al.,) found that 51.4% of participants found symptom relief following exclusion of members of the Nightshade family.
All eczema sufferers, just like all humans are different - did you know that you can react to one member of the Nightshade family but not all? One of my client's is unable to tolerate tomatoes and aubergines but is fine with potatoes and peppers. So the key is to closely monitor your own reactions and not assume that whole families of foods need to be excluded.
The Elimination Diet is a core part of eczema management in relation food triggers. It isn't just useful for skin conditions, but is also an important tool for any health problems believed to be triggered by food intolerances.
Whilst allergy/intolerance testing is an important tool, for many people with intolerances tests come up negative, even when a clear reaction can be observed. For example, a recent client has negative tests for tomato but if they even touch a tomato, let alone eat one, their eczema starts to flare.
What is an elimination diet? It is exactly what it says on the tin - a diet during which you strip back the foods you eat to those which are observed as being the least allergenic, for a certain about of time - I usually recommend 6 weeks - followed by a period of reintroduction of foods one by one in a planned rotation.
For some this diet not only highlights the main trigger, but the rest it gives the gut also results in some foods that were believed to be triggers to be exonerated!
Elimination diets can be difficult and it is important, particularly for growing children, that the person embarking on an elimination diet is followed by a registered nutrition or healthcare practitioner.
During the month of September I will be running a closed-group Elimination Diet programme - if you are interested in signing up, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Plant-based diets are having their. moment in the sun and are being touted as the all round solution to a number of health conditions, including eczema. Whilst eating more vegetables and fruit is important, the simplistic suggestion that a 'one-size-fits-all' diet is the solution for everyone - whether they have eczema or another health condition - is wrong.
Many people with eczema do react to common animal food triggers including: dairy and eggs, but many others also have plant food triggers - tomatoes, ginger, strawberries, kiwi and aubergines are some of the food intolerances I see the most often in clients with eczema.
We are all different. We have different triggers, different guts, different metabolisms and different lives. Before you think about cutting out whole food groups of any kind, because you saw that it 'cured' someone else on Facebook, consult with a registered nutrition practitioner. You may be depriving yourself of food pleasures and your body of key nutrients, without it being entirely necessary and with it potentially being dangerous.