Functional and holistic approach to depression


Depression is a tricky subject. On the one hand conventional medicine has become strongly specialised in its treatment, on the other hand more and more people fall victim of poor mental health. Diagnosing depression is also questionable. Since there are no standard diagnostic criteria, it’s at the doctor’s discretion to determine if one needs help, usually in the form of medication. Anti-depressants are hugely profitable and, although often needed, they don’t address the root cause, unless one suffers from Prosac deficiency. Moreover, finding the right medication with long term desired effect is rare and the majority of affected people are left without a lasting solution.


My way of telling the difference is that being depressed is a state of the mind while having a depression is a state of the brain which then affects the mind. I’ve seen so much depression in my own family that I can honestly tell that depression is often misunderstood by those who have never suffered from it. While therapies that focus on the mind are great for depressed people, those with true depression need brain support first. People with depression often don’t have any reason to feel the way they do but can’t find a reason to be happy either. In fact, they can feel guilty for not being more grateful so they shut down for fear of being judged. If only biological root causes were spoken about more, people would not feel so alienated or think that they have gone crazy.


Because depression is not a standalone condition but a symptom of underlying physiological imperfections which eventually affect the brain, and often goes hand in hand with other ‘conditions’ like anxiety. All of my clients with depression have a whole series of other symptoms including poor digestion, deficiencies, blood glucose dysregulation, anaemia or hormonal imbalances. Interestingly, most of them report dramatic mood and energy improvement once these symptoms have been addressed. Rarely anyone talks about food as a trigger because people don’t find it relevant. To me, it is central. But not in a way that one should just eat a balanced diet. Depression requires therapeutic nutritional support.


  • sadness, withdrawal, feeling of doom and gloom

  • self-harm or suicidal thoughts

  • anxiety, panic attacks, fear

  • addictive behaviour (drugs, sugar, alcohol, food)

  • insomnia or oversleeping

  • decreased or increased appetite

  • extreme fatigue or / and restlessness

  • brain fog, confusion

  • no motivation

  • detachment from reality


Depression is a limiting word. I think that ‘debilitating lack of vitality’ comes a lot closer to what it really is. In the field of neuroscience and functional neurology, this lack of vitality is caused by the brain’s frontal lobe not firing properly. For some reason, it is rarely talked about and addressed. The most common causes of the frontal lobe dysfunction include:

  • impaired digestion leading to deficiencies in nutrients that support the brain, e.g. cholesterol, vit A, D, K2, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, antioxidants, certain amino-acids. If you don’t break down proteins well, you will not be able to produce neurotransmitters

  • impaired detoxification pathways, e.g. MTHFR gene mutation or too many toxins produced internally which can slow down detoxification

  • brain inflammation caused by the leaky gut which eventually leads to the leaky brain. The leaky brain is a gateway for all sorts of inflammatory triggers. This is where I put in a lot of work with my clients

  • unstable blood glucose levels leading to impaired neurotransmitter production

  • pyroluria: genetic condition related to zinc and B6 deficiency

  • underactive thyroid and / or thyroid autoimmunity

  • hormonal imbalance

  • diet rich in pro-inflammatory foods and social toxins

  • anaemia and poor circulation leading to poor brain oxygenation

  • traumatic brain injury

  • chronic stress - physiological, structural or emotional



As seen above, brain biochemistry is determined by multiple factors. The question then arises: what if depression was misunderstood? What if it wasn’t a mood disorder but a protective mechanism and a state of hibernation to store energy that has been chronically depleted by other health issues? Should mood improvement really be the key point before the necessary steps are taken to address the root cause?


My priority is to find the root cause. I almost always start with addressing gut dysbiosis, the leaky gut, the leaky brain, brain inflammation and balancing blood glucose levels. Further stages depend on individual factors. General aspects to look into include:

Delegating self-care to those who can look after you: it’s almost impossible to do it on your own, especially at the initial stages where motivation can be very poor and it’s important to stick to a food plan. Perhaps someone can shop and cook for you for a little while?

Whole foods: they have no list of ingredients; they are ingredients. Things to watch out for include: glucose and fructose syrup, anything that ends with -ose, flavour enhancers, E’s, and generally anything you don’t understand the meaning of. The more additives, the more processed the food which means it is devoid of nutrients that support the brain.

Digestion in check: observe your body and see what foods make you bloated or change your bowel habits. If you can’t digest something, it means you’re not absorbing the nutrients properly. Quit these foods until digestion gets better. A little water with raw apple cider vinegar, HCL + pepsin, digestive enzymes, ox bile and certain probiotics can help tremendously.

Basic anti-inflammatory elimination: removing added sugar, wheat, commercial cow’s dairy and plant oils like sunflower or rapeseed is a great start. These are known inflammatory triggers and most people notice a relief when avoiding these. Removing gluten and proteins that cross-react with gluten can make a big difference due to their negative effect on gut and brain barriers, and stimulation of the immune system (common allergens)

Anti-inflammatory support: additional compunds include but are not limited to omega 3 (EPA and DHA), curcumin and resveratrol.

Neurotransmitter support: depending on the symptoms, there are various ways to help the body produce, retain or degrade appropriate neurotransmitters.

Sleep: realistically, try and go to bed by 23:00 and get up by 07:00, at least mid-week. Organs regenerate at specific times so it’s not just the length of sleep that matters. Put your phone or alarm clock away so that you have to get up to turn it off.

Screen exposure: try and not look at screens after 8pm. It can do wonders to the quality of sleep.

Improving brain oxygenation: enjoyable movement, resolving anaeamia, addressing underactive thyroid and easing chronic tension all help to bring oxygen to the brain.

Natural light exposure: it’s important that the sun rays hit your retina during the day as much as possible, even when it’s cloudy. The more you look at natural light in the morning, the better you will sleep at night.

Friends and community: on days when you feel a little more social, surround yourself with people who lift you.

Therapist: they are there for YOU when you’re ready. The more channels you try, the better the results because depression is complex.

End heartburn forever


Heartburn is a digestive symptom characterised by painful burning sensations in the chest or upper abdomen. It is so common these days that Nexium and Rennie have almost become the new Tic Tacs. Antacids are profitable so the industry is not interested in treating the actual cause. One thing is certain: if you wish to end your heartburn forever, you’ll need to tackle the underlying triggers and not just the symptoms.

True cause and mechanism of heartburn

It is commonly believed that heartburn is caused by too much stomach acid. But heartburn is more related to the incorrect functioning of the lower oesophageal sphincter (the flap that closes the stomach from the food pipe) than acid itself.

Normally, the flap remains open only when food is coming. But when too much pressure is created in the abdomen, the flap is pushed up and remains open towards the oesophagus. Since the oesophagus is not coated by a protective film like the stomach, it can take as little as acidic fumes to cause a severe burning sensation. In other words, there would be no heartburn if the flap remained closed. The four most common causes of increased abdominal pressure are:

  • pregnancy

  • abdominal obesity

  • small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

  • excessive fermentation of carbohydrates; often goes hand in hand with SIBO

Paradoxically, the main cause of bacterial overgrowth and excessive carbohydrate fermentation is low stomach acid. Not only is strong stomach acid necessary to signal the pancreas to release its carbohydrate digesting enzymes, but is also the first line of defence against unwanted organisms. Contrary to the popular belief, it is low stomach acid that is a major culprit of heartburn, and I’ve had great success with clients by restoring their stomach acidity.

Some of the reasons for decreased stomach acidity include:

  • eating a diet rich in processed carbohydrates (bread and other baked goods, pasta)

  • eating too much starch together with animal foods (e.g. burger in a bun, with potato fries)

  • chronic stress

  • prolonged or frequent use of medication

  • helicobacter pylori (h-pylori overgrowth happens when stomach acid is too low, and then the bacteria themselves have the ability to further reduce stomach acidity)

  • autoimmunity against the parietal cells of the stomach

Factors which can further exacerbate the symptoms include:

  • lack of protective microbes in the stomach and oesophagus

  • eating foods that relax the sphincter such as alcohol, chocolate, coffee, garlic, leeks, onions, peppermint, spicy foods, shallots, strong black tea

  • smoking, as it also relaxes the flap

  • foods that delay gastric emptying; mostly high fibre foods

While antacids take the initial edge off, they often make the problem worse in the long run by contributing to the root cause: low stomach acid. This perpetuates the vicious cycle of relying on antacids, unless dietary and lifestyle changes are implemented.

What to do

Heartburn requires dietary and lifestyle modifications. Unfortunately, a diet that is colloquially called 'healthy' often fails to improve the symptoms because e.g. wholemeal bread, bran and whole grains can significantly worsen heartburn. It’s important to note that the reaction to foods is an individual matter, so the diet should be tailored to the person’s needs. Beyond looking into the usual suspects like coffee, sweet drinks and spicy foods , the following can make a real difference:

  1. Consult your doctor about the possible removal of antacids while working on the underlying causes.

  2. Cooking vegetables and stewing fruit might be a better idea than eating them raw.

  3. Optimally, all grains should be removed until symptoms subside but if you cannot live without bread and pasta, spelt is the grain to go for. Rye can be problematic.

  4. Practice simple food combining of eating animal foods with vegetables, and starches also with vegetables. Try not to combine starch and animal foods in one meal until digestion improves.

  5. Be mindful about your milk intake. Soothing as it may initially seem, it can contribute to chronic heartburn.

  6. Fermented foods like sauerkraut or home made yoghurt (can be coconut) are associated with the reduction of symptoms.

  7. Home made stock and broth calm down the digestive tract. They can be used in soups, stews and curries, or enjoyed as a warm drink.

  8. Raw honey should be the sweetener of choice because it has soothing and antimicrobial properties.

  9. Address your stress levels and stress tolerance, practice relaxation and good sleep hygiene.

  10. See a professional to help you restore stomach acidity and address any pathogenic outgrowths. The therapy includes a dietary and lifestyle plan, along with individually tailored supplementation consisting of digestive support, targeted probiotics, antimicrobials and botanicals that soothe the digestive tract.

At GLOW, I deal with various health concerns which can successfully be supported with functional nutritional therapy and lifestyle medicine. The cornerstone of my work is uncovering and addressing the underlying causes. Online consultations from any location, visits on yachts, in villas and workplaces are available.

Article published in The Islander, July ‘19 edition.

Article published in The Islander, July ‘19 edition.

Burnout survival kit


We all go through moments of stress which is a normal part of life that helps us grow. But chronic stress has a destructive effect on the whole body, often without people even realising that it is the main culprit of their health issues. Eventually, it leads to a burnout called adrenal fatigue, adrenal insufficiency or hypoadrenia. Stress isn’t just ‘in the head’. It is an actual physiological mechanism which involves approximately 1400 various biochemical reactions. In other words, poor stress tolerance requires a holistic approach and not just stress management techniques.


Stress is body’s response to a stressor. For some, it might be of emotional origin (e.g. trauma), mental (e.g. workload), while others are faced with physiological stress (e.g. chronic inflammation). Regardless of the source, the response is always the same and involves the adrenal glands.

The adrenals and cortisol

During stress, the adrenals release a stress hormone cortisol which helps us fight or flight by providing instant energy. Technically speaking, it raises blood glucose levels so that we have fluel to deal with the stressor. But when stress is ongoing and the adrenals fire cortisol all the time, it eventually ‘exhausts’ the glands, leading to the so called adrenal fatigue - inability to produce sufficient cortisol. It causes a burnout because without cortisol blood sugar cannot be raised any longer... Unless you eat something sweet, have caffeine or alcohol. These, however, cause a blood sugar roller coaster which is a big stressor itself. So unless your diet and lifestyle are balanced, you can get into a vicious cycle of further depleting the adrenals.


When standard blood test shows low cortisol, it already means a pathological state, namely Addison’s disease. In other words, It’s not a great test to indicate burnout as such because cortisol may test normal in the blood but will be functionally low. Instead, 24-hour cortisol cycle salivary or urine test with four samples taken is a better diagnostic tool. Tests are available in most labs but they are not cheap and symptoms are often sufficient to assume an imbalance.

Can you identify yourself with any of these symptoms?

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Decreased ability to handle stress

  • Loss of tolerance (to situations, things, people)

  • Underactive thyroid

  • Inability to lose weight , especially around the middle

  • Low or no libido, poor sexual performance

  • Low blood pressure, fainting

  • Dizzy upon standing up

  • Cravings for salt, sugar, caffeine or alcohol

  • Anxiety and/or depression

  • Reduced immunity

How to restore the adrenals for optimal stress tolerance

1. Reassess your diet:

The adrenals need a regular influx of certain nutrients to function optimally. Therefore, have three solid meals a day, with breakfast being the most important one. All meals should be based on vegetables, quality animal protein and cholesterol. Yes, you read that right. Cortisol is made of cholesterol so the more building block is provided with diet, the more supported the adrenals are. Butter, pastured eggs, quality bacon, seafood, fattier pieces of ethically sourced meat and grass fed dairy are all good sources. Carbohydrates should come from fruits and root vegetables. Fizzy drinks, fruit juice, baked goods, chocolate bars and the like should be avoided because they wreck havoc on your blood sugar. Remember, fluctuating blood glucose is the most undesirable state for the adrenals, regardless of the source of stress. Reduce caffeine and switch to coconut water, highly mineralised water or alternatively water with a pinch of quality salt - these are all great adrenal tonics.

2. Reassess your lifestyle:

  • Prioritise sleep: often those with adrenal fatigue burn the candle at both ends and are unable to fall asleep because they missed their optimal falling asleep window. Slowly adopt a new habit by going to bed 15-30 minutes earlier each week. Reading books can help tremendously.

  • Get organised: predictability means safety and safety is relaxing. Organise your to-do lists in the order of priority, try a day planner or get a virtual personal assistant, if you can afford it. Deal with priorities and delegate the rest. Not everything can be controlled but get advantage of what you can.

  • Stop intense cardio for a while and swap to walking, yoga, pilates, hiking or similar. High intensity exercise raises cortisol which can be even more destructive.

3. Take care of your overall health: cortisol receptors can be found on most cells in the body. Many chronic illnesses are associated with a prolonged stress response. And the other way round – ongoing health issues are stressors themselves and can burn us out without any apparent emotional stress involved. This is when one feels stressed but doesn’t know why.

4. Supplementation: there is a wide array of various adrenal supporting supplements. The most common ones include adaptogens, glandulars, pregnenolone, vitamin C and B vitamins. Supplementation should always be tailored individually because without the expertise, one may further deplete the adrenals (’s common to take the ashwagandha which tends to lower cortisol levels).

4. Most importantly, see a specialist: At GLOW, I deal with various health concerns which can successfully be supported with functional nutritional therapy and lifestyle medicine. The cornerstone of my work is uncovering and addressing the underlying causes which can be both, emotional and physiological. Online consultations from any location, visits on yachts and workplaces are available.

Article published in The Islander, June ‘19 edition

Article published in The Islander, June ‘19 edition

A journey from conception to birth and beyond


I’ve recently had a baby and because I had a great pregnancy and birth, I want to share some practical insights. Obviously, this is my personal journey which may not be the same for other women. Nevertheless, I hope it will shed some light on the most important matters. Couples come to me for support when they struggle to get pregnant. But family planning is so much more than just conceiving. It also means preparing to sustain a comfortable pregnancy, having a smooth delivery and giving birth to a healthy baby who will become a healthy, happy adult. In other words, conscious preparation for the whole process is a lifetime investment for all all future parents.

Special thanks to my friend Nathalie who had a baby 3 months ahead of me and was a wealth of knowledge, which made my own journey a lot easier.


I didn’t plan my pregnancy. Saying that, I was ready to have a baby because I prepared for many years in advance. Not specifically for pregnancy as such but I went through a process of getting my general health in order. I followed various dietary protocols, tested many supplements and tried different therapies because I don’t believe it’s ever about just one thing.

What was key for my reproductive health:

Resolving existing health concerns: I worked on digestion, energy, mood, oestrogen dominance and getting my pelvis aligned. Although none of my complaints had ever been ‘labelled’ as specific health conditions, they took a good bit of work. In the world of natural medicine diagnostic names are not important. Any ongoing dysfunction (symptom) is a stressor for the body, and during stress nature does not allow for creating a new human until conditions are more favourable. I wish more couples on fertility treatment programmes knew about this. I went down the holistic route, taking into account the body, mind and spirit. I found osteopathy, nutritional therapy, herbs and homeopathy invaluable.

Thorough diagnostics: I did regular blood tests every 6 months for the first two years which enabled me to track progress and implement changes according to the results. Numerous clients of mine who struggle to get pregnant find it challenging to get blood referrals from their doctors. It’s frustrating because guessing what’s going on in the body is not good enough after many years of ‘trying’. At the same time, there are plenty of private labs that can save the hassle and I would like to see more people using them. Tests can be costly but worth every penny because they allow for a targeted treatment, save time and money in the long run. As a practitioner, I find it challenging to address the root cause with limited data to work with.

Nutritional therapy: dietary changes had the most profound effect on my health. I’ve always cooked from scratch but it wasn’t until I worked on my gut that I realised that my nutrition was far from being right for ME. Moreover, non-industrialised societies around the world continue to prepare for conception emphasising animal foods, specifically organ meats, cholesterol (hormones are made of cholesterol) and fat soluble vitamins. Coincidentally, I followed a Paleo style diet for a long time which must have positively influenced my reproductive health, specifically the following:

  • having a variety of foods based on seasonality

  • significantly increasing animal fats and vegetables

  • regular consumption of meat stock, bone broth, eggs and liver

  • supplementation with cod liver oil and emu oil


It was the happiest time of my life, even though I was convinced it wasn’t going to be plain sailing. Remembering my mum being severely sick when pregnant with my brother, I was anticipating nausea day after day but to my surprise, it never came. Except for three headaches and a week of being tired, I didn’t experience any other pregnancy discomforts. Overall, It was a very comfortable pregnancy which I attribute to the following:

Diet: nutrient density is key during pregnancy. The more nutrients the less cravings, fewer unpleasant pregnancy symptoms and more reserves built for the postpartum period. I emphasised quality protein, animal fats and mineral rich foods. These not only support baby’s development but also mother’s health, both physical and mental. Some of my dietary choices may seem controversial but I went against some common misconceptions because I think that the typical guidelines don’t stress what’s truly important and are full of illogical myths. This actually deserves a separate post. Here is a brief outline of what I ate:

  • a variety of meat, liver once a week, black pudding

  • fish and seafood, including tinned fish in brine and olive oil, tinned cod livers, fish eggs

  • meat and fish stock (great as a base for a variety of dishes)

  • eggs in all forms, including raw egg yolks in smoothies

  • lots of butter and ghee

  • dairy: mostly artisan aged goat and sheep’s cheeses (made from raw milk when available)

  • all vegetables and fruit

  • no commercial dairy and rare cow’s dairy consumption

  • very rare consumption of wheat

Extra nutrients:

  • Multivitamin: I tried various products but the only one that made a difference was Garden of Live mykind Prenatal Once Daily. It’s important that the multivitamin is food based. If it’s not specified on the packaging, the nutrients are synthetic. It’s important that the product contains folate and not folic acid which is synthetic and should be avoided.

  • Cod liver oil: for active vitamin A (retinol, not beta carotene), DHA and vitamin D3. Retinol is the key nutrient for fetal development, and cod liver oil is one of the richest sources. It is also required for iron absorption which is a common deficiency during pregnancy. Insufficient intake of retinol during pregnancy is also associated with spontaneous abortion. Moreover, baby’s brain needs plenty of DHA fatty acids, depletion of which is associated with postnatal depression. Therefore, supplementation helps the mother to build up reserves to have a good start into motherhood. No plant oil can supply DHA, and the conversion of plant oils into DHA is poor. Omega 3 fatty acids in general prevent from ‘the pregnancy mask’ (melasma) so that the sun can be enjoyed more safely.

    Many products have added synthetic vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) so beware of those. I took 3 teaspoons a day of orange Nordic Naturals which is a quality, natural product.

  • Emu oil: the richest source of vitamin K2 which is a very special vitamin that activates all other nutrients in the body. I took Walkabout Australian Emu Oil, 1/2 tea spoon twice a day.

  • Probiotics: key to maintain an overall health balance and help to colonise the birth canal with beneficial microbes. During labour the baby swallows maternal microflora which then populates baby’s gut and determines its health. As a practitioner, I always recommend targeted probiotics but there are some products that can be taken by a wider audience. One of them is BioKult which I took for a portion of my pregnancy.

  • Collagen powder: collagen is key for the integrity of connective tissue and skin, which plays an important role in keeping the skin toned, the prevention of stretch marks, diastasis recti and post-labour healing. It is also a great source of protein which can be added to a variety of cold and hot foods (e.g. soups and smoothies). I like Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate because of good quality that comes at a reasonable price.

  • If I didn’t eat liver, I would have also taken desiccated liver capsules.

Keeping active:

I walked everywhere, often carried my groceries in a backpack, and always took the stairs. I also did 10-15 minutes of easy yoga practices on most days, using various YouTube channels. What I didn’t do was Kegel exercises because many women who train the pelvic floor during pregnancy can have a more difficult time giving birth. Kegel exercises are best after the labour.

Perineal massage:

The area between the vagina and anus needs both strength and flexibility, which can be enhanced with a massage. I recommend Weleda perineal oil, YouTube tutorials and partner’s help.



I followed the 80 / 20 rule which means doing what’s optimal 80% of the time. I drank 1-2 coffees a day, had an occasional glass of wine, surrendered to a few serious sugar cravings and had a good few late nights out. But I didn’t let myself go. Pregnancy is not an excuse to eat rubbish and put on unnecessary weight. Especially that it can affect maternal and baby’s health, not to mention the postnatal struggle to get back into shape, both physical and mental.


Stage 1 (0-7cm dilation)

It started one day before my daughter was born and felt like period cramps that came at random intervals. At night they got stronger and more regular (every 30 minutes or so) but I didn’t think I was in labour yet because I was told that contractions were going to be very obvious. After all, false signs are common and I was expecting different pain. We even had a pregnancy photo shoot in the morning because we didn’t manage to get one done over the 9 months :) But when I saw blood on the tissue shortly after, my doula came over to check on me and we soon decided to go to the hospital. And rightly so because I was already 5 centimetres dilated and went straight to the delivery room. I was offered Epidural and gas but didn’t feel I needed anaesthesia, even though I was open to do whatever felt right at the time. Instead, I took a hot shower, bounced on the gym ball, walked around but most importantly - focused on breathing.

Stage 2 - transition (7-10cm dilation)

Apparently there is a time during labour when all women want to give up, not being able for more. This is transition - the most challenging stage because the contractions get a lot more intense, you want to push but can’t just yet. The closest I can compare it to is an extreme urge to go to the bathroom but having to hold it while attempting to relax the pelvic muscles, which feels contradictory. Saying that, this is the key to a faster delivery. I fell asleep between contractions for a minute or two which made me a little drowsy and yet gave me more energy. It’s amazing what the body can do to make the experience as smooth as possible. Eventually, the contractions got so strong that I knew I had to push.

Stage 3: active labour (10 cm dilation)

Pushing made the pain productive which was a big relief. Due to baby’s rapid descent which caused extreme downward pressure, I had episiotomy. I didn’t feel a thing though because the skin is so tight that there is no need for an anaesthetic. Pushing didn’t hurt, it was just a bit of hard work. It was certainly the best part of labour, even though it may seem impossible that something as big as a baby gets out through such a small exit. Nature really does amazing things when we cooperate with it . The baby was born with the 4th pushing contraction. She was put on my chest straight away and the whole new chapter of my life began :)

Does the labour hurt? It’s intense but it’s not regular pain and certainly not something I wouldn’t like to go through again. Quite the opposite - it was amazing to experience the beautiful symphony of hormones and extreme euphoria that came with the baby.

Things that positively influenced my experience:

Trusting the process: although it’s good to understand what happens during labour, planning the process of delivery (which is unpredictable) can cause disappointment. Only during labour does it become clear what birthing position feels right or if anaesthesia is needed.

Choosing the right clinic: I chose Policlinica Miramar in Palma de Mallorca which promotes natural birth. The staff are fantastic, there is access to all sort of props, aromatherapy, music. They certainly know how to create homey atmosphere away from home. Stress hormones can stall the labour so it’s important to feel comfortable.

Doula: support of a professional that can be with you the whole time is invaluable, especially that she can help you make wise decisions when you’re not thinking clearly. I’m relatively new to Mallorca and except for my partner, she was the only one who was there for me. Very precious. Here you can read what a doula can do for you.

Ina May’s book on childbirth: the only book on the subject that I read, and I believe it’s the only one needed. I thought some aspects were a bit far-fetched but overall, it gave me a good understanding of the process.

Osteopathy: I saw an osteopath three times before birth and I’m certain she prepared my pelvis for labour more than enough. I highly recommend Kate Howe at OsteoPalma.

Lower back massage: during contractions my doula pushed my pelvis forward which gave me a great relief. I tried the TENS machine too but didn’t like the tingling sensation and found manual massage a lot better. She really knew what she was doing.

Focus: a friend told me ‘don’t waste your energy on screaming and unproductive breathing’. So true! Focused breathing gives the labour a calming rhythm. Challenging as it can be, it’s worth the effort.

Relaxing, breathing down, opening up: it’s a natural reflex to tighten the muscles when we experience pain because it’s a protective mechanism that numbs the sensation. Even though there is an urge to tense up during contractions, it’s important to relax the pelvic floor as it will help to speed up birth. Imagining that I was ‘opening up’ while relaxing the muscles and breathing down certainly helped to have such a fast birth.hormones


Low sounds: they promote breathing down. I found long, mooing sounds very helpful.

Surrendering to gravity: naturally makes things go down.

My partner: he was my ‘leverage’ during pushing contractions and reported the labour progress. He is a task-oriented person, and I used that to my advantage. Everyone has different needs though and not all people are suitable to assist a birthing woman, even the close ones. There is no right or wrong here. If you feel you would prefer to leave the partner behind, it’s perfectly fine to do so. Intuitive wisdom makes the labour smoother.

Homeopathic remedies: my homeopath who specialises in female health sent me remedies for a smooth delivery which I took prior to, during and after the labour. Contact Lilian Van Eyken for more details, she works remotely and sends remedies by post.


It’s a vulnerable time and it’s important to prepare in advance so that you can focus on YOURSELF and not just the baby. I had a great start into motherhood but it can go either way, with hormones bringing about unexpected behaviours and feelings. On top of that, healing ‘down there’ is itchy and annoying. Nipples can be sore. Stepping into the new role as a mum may not feel natural. But the important message is that it all gets better day by day and it’s imperative to celebrate the little achievements and improvements. I recommend speaking to your partner about the potential obstacles you may face and changes in the daily routine. After all, it’s all about supporting each other in a way that works for you as a couple.

What I found helpful:

Frozen food: I cooked batches of freezable healing one pot dishes. As a base I used collagenous meat stock and bone broth. From beef Bourgignon to curries and chunky soups, it saved us a lot of time. Postpartum nutrition is medicine for the body and mind.

Nipple butter: made with edible ingredients, I found this fantastic. Now I use it as a lip balm.


Perineal balm: cooling and soothing with a beautiful smell. Designed to heal wounds and haemorrhoids.


Salt sitz bath: due to baby’s rapid descent, I developed a haematoma. Sitting in hot salt water completely brought it down in just a few days.

Preparation for breastfeeding: the more you understand, the better you can prepare.

  • milk doesn’t come in right away and the baby is well prepared for this so there is no need to worry. Babies usually lose weight before they leave the hospital but gain it back quickly. The colostrum which comes in first may seem insufficient but it’s extremely nourishing, and perfectly enough for the little digestive tract. Diet, birthing experience, thoughts and emotions all affect lactation. Sometimes it’s easier said than done but in case of issues with the supply, there are various lactation teas on the market, Pukka being one of the favourites.

  • If breastfeeding hurts, it means that the baby didn’t latch on properly. The baby should take not just the nipple (this is when it’s sore) but also the bottom part of the areola. It’s important not let the baby suck with a bad latch and not pull baby’s head away from the nipple because it will cause more pain. Instead, place the little finger between baby’s lips and the nipple to break the vavuum and start again.

    If you feel lost and hopeless, talk to a nurse, midwife, doula or a breastfeeding consultant as soon as possible. It can save a lot of tears.

  • Nipple shields: during pregnancy my nipples got harder and flatter, and it was difficult for the baby to embrace them with the little mouth. Many say that shields are a bad idea but if anything can make breastfeeding more effective, why not use it? Now that she’s bigger, she takes the breast with no shield. I think Medela’s shields are great.

    It’s important that mums keep trying to feed the baby without the shields. If this is not made clear from the beginning, some mothers are stuck and unhappy that the baby won’t take the breast without it.


To sum up, it takes preparation to have a truly positive experience and it’s worth the investment. My role at GLOW is to support couples to have a positive experience with family planning, pregnancy and birth. Private consultations and workshops available.

How to avoid a hangover

Today is New Year’s Eve and many will be wondering how to drink and not suffer the next day. I’m not saying alcohol is healthy and certainly I don’t entertain irresponsible drinking. However, it’s undoubtedly a significant aspect of social life and there are ways how to minimise its negative effects.

Fun fact

Alcohol is a controversial subject in the world of nutritional therapy and some consider it a deadly poison. But is it really so toxic?

All of us host numerous strains of yeasts in the gut. Some of these produce alcohol in small amounts every single day, given the right nutrition: glucose, fructose and sucrose. It means that when we eat foods containing any of these sugars, the yeasts produce ethanol. This means that we are physiologically designed to metabolise certain amounts of alcohol. Therefore, I do not agree that even the smallest amount is bad (at least not for an average person with no major health concerns). Especially that alcohol has been used medicinally for centuries.

Why do people get hangovers

If you feel that even a small amount of alcohol affects you, it’s most probably down to your internal environment and not necessarily alcohol itself. A nutrient dense diet, efficient liver detoxification pathways, gut microflora composition and genetic predispositions all affect alcohol metabolism.

  1. Slow conversion: alcohol is metabolised to acetaldehyde which is the villain behind nasty hangovers. Normally, it is further converted to acetate, and ultimately to carbon and water. That conversion is catalysed by an enzyme called aldehyde oxidase (AO). When the enzyme doesn’t work efficiently, acetaldehyde poisons the body. Enzymatic reactions hugely depend on gastrointestinal health, nutrient status and genetics.

  2. Histamine intolerance: wine and beer are high in histamine which is normally degraded by an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO). When there are not enough DAO producing microbes or there are too many histamine producing microbes in the gut, one can react to dietary histamine. The most common symptoms are migraines and fast heartbeat.

  3. Blood sugar drop: sweetened mixers raise blood sugar fast which then drops below a desired level. Symptoms of reactive hypoglycaemia include lightheadedness, headaches, cold sweats. Wine and beer are quite high in sugar and can induce a blood glucose drop on their own.

  4. Hydration: alcohol draws water out of cells, dehydrating us from inside out. Without sufficient hydration, the brain shrinks. As it shrinks, it pulls away from the skull, causing a tension headache.

  5. Yeast overgrowth: this will result in excessive endogenous alcoholic fermentation.

  6. Amount and type of alcohol: while some alcohol can be perfectly fine, large amounts and poor choices of alcoholic drinks increase the chances of a hangover tenfold.

How to avoid a hangover

  1. Eat while you drink, or at least right after drinking. Most people crave greasy foods after a night out because the body requires three important compounds for alcohol to be detoxified, and fast foods provide all of them:

  • fat (stimulates bile flow, and bile is body’s master detoxifier)

  • protein (certain amino acids are needed for efficient detox pathways)

  • soluble fibre (‘soakage’, also responsible for removing used bile with impurities)

Detox is often associated with juicing and other plant based remedies but without protein and fat the process is not complete. This is also why a green juice is the last thing on a hungover person’s mind.

2. Choose your drinks wisely. Best alcohols in the order of purity are:

  • potato vodka

  • gin

  • tequila

  • rum

  • whiskey

  • dry champagne and cider

  • organic dry wine

My favourite going out drink that is not only tasty but keeps me hydrated:

  • vodka

  • sparkling water

  • 2 wedges of lime, squeezed

  • fresh mint

3. It is best not to mix different alcoholic beverages.

4. If you decide to mix, start with the lower percentage drink and move up the scale as opposed to the other way round.

5. Hydrate: get a glass of water with each alcoholic drink. Also, eat fat. Fat is metabolised to water which hydrates cells. I actually think fat is a better hydrator than water because water is produced directly within cells. No wonder people who eat substantial amounts of fat have supple, firm and smooth skin.

6. Do not get sweetened mixers, stick to dry options.

6. Supplements that are worth having at home if you drink on a regular basis:

  • 1000mg of vitamin C right after drinking

  • N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) right after drinking

  • Probiotics on a regular basis

  • Food based multivitamin which includes all B vitamins in natural forms (e.g. Garden of Life mykind) on a regular basis

Hangover remedies

  1. Water with a good pinch of sea salt or rock salt - to increase electrolyte content

  2. Coconut water - rich in electrolytes

  3. San Pellegrino water - very high in sulphur which is key for detoxification

  4. Meat stock and bone broth - rich in minerals, protein and fat

  5. Home made curry - rich in protein, fat, detoxifying spices

  6. Bananas - rich in potassium

  7. Eggs - rich in cysteine and choline which support detoxification

  8. Walk in the fresh air, leave exercise for another day

Happy partying and all the best in 2019 x

How all disease begins in the gut


Hippocrates’ famous words are still eagerly cited over 2000 years later. Even though he knew that the digestive tract was a special place, at the time he may not have known why exactly. So what does it really mean that ‘all disease begins in the gut’? Many chronically ill people have never experienced any digestive symptoms so how can they relate?

The gateway to good health

The answer is in the INDIVIDUAL MICROBIAL ECOSYSTEM, also called the microbiota, microflora or microbiome. Although every part of the body has a unique microbial environment, most organisms colonise the gut and include bacteria, fungi, archaea, parasites and viruses. Even parasites play a key role for our health by helping us detoxify or modulate the immune system. Whether you like it or not, we all have them.

We now know that the human body has a lot more microbes than cells, and it has been estimated that our gut carries around 2 kilograms of various organisms. While we all have a similar DNA, only around 5% of microbial genetic code is shared among people. Some say we are only 1% human. Depending on the type and strain, the microbes produce all sorts of messengers, nutrients and toxins, making us who we are (yes, personality too!), energising us, keeping our metabolism in check or causing disease. While microbial imbalances can disrupt digestion, they often don’t, which depends on the specific organisms and their action within the human body. In other words, the fact your digestion is smooth doesn’t mean you don’t have a microbial imbalance.

Factors that positively influence gut microbiota:

  • Maternal health and diet before and during pregnancy

  • Being born through the vaginal canal

  • Being breastfed

  • Diet and lifestyle throughout life

  • Contact with animals and nature

  • Getting your hands dirty (e.g. gardening)

Major disruptors of microbial balance:

  • Antibiotic treatments and other medication (e.g. antacids, anti-fungals or the pill)

  • Inappropriate diet

  • Stress

  • Living in a sterile environment

One man’s meat is another man’s poison

The main factor that influences health and diversity of our microflora is food. After all, we may not be what we eat but rather what our unique microbes can eat and process into beneficial or toxic substances. Before food is available to us, it is first processed by microbes. This brings nutrition onto a truly personalised level and is the main reason why I become a nutritional therapist. I think that out of all therapies, food has the most direct effect on the microflora, therefore influencing our biology and addressing the root cause of illness. While the reasoning and research behind Hippocrates’ words are relatively new, I hope that it will be the future of medicine.

While eating a whole food diet is great for anyone, there are no universally healthy foods. The various microbes feed on different substances, and what makes one person healthy can be inflammatory for another. For example, while some people do great on raw fruit and vegetables, others may get bloated after eating raw apples or carrots. Many are unable to tolerate fermented foods which are routinely recommended as a blanket remedy for gut health. Spinach, blueberries and broccoli may cause adverse reactions too, from joint pain to hives. My rule of thumb is:

If something gives you a digestive discomfort, it’s most certainly a source of toxicity and therefore illness.

The same goes to fad diets. While one person may be doing great on a high fat diet, another will need a lot more carbohydrates. Research is now emerging about how the same food can affect two people differently, even in terms of weight management. Did you know that the microbiota are responsible for extracting calories from food?

Functions of microbiota

  • Coating the gut, preventing it from toxins and allergens (i.e. preventing from the ‘leaky gut’)

  • Digestion and absorption of nutrients

  • Production of antimicrobial substances

  • Production of various enzymes

  • Production of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances

  • Production of nutrients

  • Appetite modulation

  • Detoxification of hormones

  • Modulation of cholesterol levels

  • Immunity

  • Metabolism (including extraction of calories from food)

  • Energy production

  • Ageing

  • Binding and excretion of heavy metals

Health problems that originate in the gut

We are just starting to understand the microbiome but below are some health conditions that have been well researched in terms of their relationship to unhealthy microflora:

  • Allergies, intolerances

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Respiratory infections like asthma or chronic sinusitis

  • Mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, schizofrenia, behavioural issues)

  • Neurodegeneration (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s)

  • Skin conditions

  • Weight gain / obesity / metabolic syndrome

  • Digestive issues

  • Cancer

  • Physical degeneration, e.g. arthritis

How does unhealthy microfora cause disease? By producing inflammatory toxins (called endotoxins or lipopolysaccharides) that escape through the ‘leaky gut’ and attach themselves to various tissues and receptors.

How to support the microbiome

‘Test, don’t guess’ is the first step to evaluate individual gut environment. After that, it’s about feeding specific beneficial microbes with the foods they thrive on, and eliminating any pathogenic overgrowths. Optimising digestion and stress response are key elements of the process because pathogens feed on undigested foods and tend to outgrow when chronic stress is present.

What about probiotics for gut health?

While there are many wonderful products on the market, probiotics should be left to professional advice. Each strain corresponds to specific health properties and without the expertise, it’s easy to waste a lot of time and money. Probiotics on their own won’t shift health if concurrent dietary and lifestyle changes are introduced anyways. Home made fermented foods is a safe start for anyone who can tolerate them.

How I can support you

In order to address any health complaint, I first analyse the function of the gut which covers digestive capacity, microbial balance, infections, gut integrity, inflammation and oral tolerance to foods. I can also offer advanced functional testing for all health concerns, with testing kits delivered to your preferred location. Based on the information I have gathered, I formulate a recommendations plan which includes a personalised list of foods that are optimal for you, meal ideas, lifestyle tips and supplementation, if needed.

Article published in The Islander, December’18 edition

Article published in The Islander, December’18 edition

The smelly side of yachting


Behind the glamurous scenes of yachting, probably all stewardesses and engineers know that toilets can be no fun. The substantial amount of toilet paper that lands in the drains poses a question: why so much? Ideally, there should be no or little need for tissue but bowel habits can be far from perfect.

Digestion is the primary area of dysfunction in the body that impacts all areas of health, even when no apparent digestive symptoms are present. In my experience, other ongoing issues often resolve themselves once the gastro-intestinal tract has been appropriately addressed. After all, we’re not so much what we eat but rather what we can break down and absorb. This is why people who ‘eat well’ can still look and feel unhealthy.

Why does it matter in the yachting industry? Because the level to which food is digested and absorbed dictates energy levels, overall health status and mental wellbeing.

What is digestion?

It is the process of mechanical, chemical and microbial breakdown of food, extraction, production and absorption of nutrients, and removal of waste. We do not absorb food as such but the extracted vitamins, minerals, amino acids, glucose and fatty acids. We then utilise them to regenerate, produce new cells, hormones,neurotransmitters, etc.

Digestion works in a cascade order, meaning one disrupted process will result in the impairment of all consecutive steps. The brain plays the important role of a command centre, and it can take as little as looking at the phone while eating to maldigest.


Most common reasons for impaired digestion:

  • processed diet

  • stress of any sort

  • burning the candle at both ends

  • mindless eating

  • stimulants

  • not chewing food properly, eating fast

  • microbial imbalance

  • lack of animal protein

  • low fat diet

  • coeliac disease, gluten intolerance

  • nutrient deficiencies

  • too much grains (baked goods, cereal, pasta, rice, etc)

  • drinking while eating, especially cold beverages

Immediate signs:

  • feeling of fullness after a small amount of food

  • bloating, passing smelly wind or too much wind in general

  • belching

  • indigestion

  • heartburn / acid reflux

  • light coloured / floating stools

  • pain / cramping in the abdomen

  • constipation / diarrhoea

  • sticky stool, the need to wipe with multiple pieces of paper

Long-term signs:

  • nutrient deficiencies (zinc, calcium, iron, B12, folate, vit A, D, K2)

  • inability to build muscle

  • high cholesterol

  • poor energy

  • slow metabolism

  • allergies and intolerances

  • anaemia

  • osteoporosis

  • loss of smell / taste

  • no desire for meat

  • recurring infections

  • dry / itchy skin / rosacea / acne

  • mental issues, hormonal imbalances, cancer, autoimmunity and all other chronic health conditions

Due to the nature of work, stress levels and insufficient expertise in nutrition, diet and digestion on yachts leave a lot to be desired. Indeed, it can be tricky for chefs to cater for individual needs but it’s no coincidence that bathrooms can be smelly. Pasta, pizza, cereal, bread and sweets may be convenient fillers but ongoing indulgence can result in a post-season burnout. A number of chefs and stewardesses saw me after the season to help them bounce back. All of them had digestive symptoms.

What to do

  • Look at your poop and have a think about the smell - much as it may seem gross, it’s an important ‘test’ that will tell you a lot about your health, for free. My next post will help you interpret your waste

  • Squatty-Potty or just an Ikea foot stool is a great aid that can be kept in the toilet and used by everyone. It forces gentle squatting, imitating the way humans used to evacuate and making bowel movements easier

  • Have a shot of water with lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar (e.g. this brand) before each meal

  • If salad is available, have it before rather than with the main meal, and dress it with olive oil and vinegar

  • Eat slowly and mindfully - the stomach doesn’t have teeth. Chew well and put cutlery down each time you take a bite. Leave all phones in a designated place before sitting at the table. Tune into YOUR body and how YOU react to the various foods

  • Add quality salt to your food (e.g. sea, Himalayan or Celtic) as it enhances digestion of protein

  • Try not to combine animal protein with starches, e.g. steak and fries or spaghetti Bolognaise. Have the meat or ragu with vegetables instead and increase the portion if possible. Do not add fresh fruit to cereal, granola or porridge except for ripe banana

  • Drink plain hot water during breaks. If available, add a bit of fresh ginger

  • Manage stress, e.g. Headspace app, brief workout (especially stretching combined with diaphragmatic breathing), few deep breaths, book, even just a page a day. It is important to have a think about your possible stressors as these go beyond the emotional aspects, e.g. food intolerances or spinal misalignment

  • Sleep whenever you can

How I can support you further

During consultations, I analyse the function of the entire digestive tract which includes the state of the gut in terms of dysbiosis, infections, leakiness, inflammation and oral tolerance to foods. All aspects of restoring digestive balance depend on individual factors and medical examination is often invaluable. I can also offer advanced functional testing, with testing kits delivered to your preferred location.

Outside the clinic, I support chefs in developing health oriented menus not only for crews but also guests who may have specific health ailments, with the main focus on digestion. I also help my clients organise their kitchen, pantry, and we go food shopping together.

Article published in The Islander, November’18 edition

Article published in The Islander, November’18 edition

The whys behind eating disorders


The 10th of October is World’s Mental Health Day, a perfect opportunity to bring up the complex subject of eating disorders. Many affected try various therapies or take psychotropics for long years, yet the disorder never truly leaves. It can be managed to some degree, often just to satisfy the close ones, but the person may continue to live in the shadow of its controlling demon forever. One of the possible reasons why eating disorders continue lies in an incomplete treatment, which can prevent one not only from improving but most importantly, WANTING to get better. What’s more, conventional dietary approach can even induce relapses. Below I will discuss some of the physiological (and often dismissed) aspects of eating disorders.

What are eating disorders?

They are defined as “mental disorders marked by an obsession with food or body shape” and include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, orthorexia, avoidant / restricting eating disorder, and other.

The important question is, what are the causes of eating disorders as mental? Not everyone who has suffered trauma or has low self esteem develops an eating disorder. Something else must come to the equation, and I believe it’s multiple physiological imbalances. Psychological aspects are often just a trigger and not the root cause.

Impaired digestion, gut toxicity, deficiencies and dysglycaemia

All of my clients with eating disorders have some sort of digestive issues that started before developing the disorder - it can be IBS (diarrhoea / constipation), indigestion, bloating, acid reflux, heartburn, no desire for meat. This is an indication that gut microbes are out of balance and food is not broken down properly, which can lead to uncontrollable sugar cravings, an increased production of toxins, ‘leaky gut’, and poor absorption of nutrients. As the eating disorder starts and continues, digestion is compromised further. Eating processed carbohydrates causes a blood sugar roller coaster which perpetuates binging, and damages gut microflora even more. It’s a vicious cycle.

The most common deficiencies include amino acids from protein breakdown, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc, all key for mental health. Strong zinc deficiency can lead to picky eating, where the smell, taste and texture of certain foods may become very unappealing. Plenty become vegetarians or vegans but because plant foods are mostly carbohydrates, they are prone to more deficiencies and constantly swinging blood glucose levels.

Neurotransmitter imbalance, ‘leaky brain’

‘Leaky gut’ can eventually lead to a ‘leaky brain’. Undigested proteins and microbial toxins can escape through the ‘leaks’ and affect mood, behaviour and perception.

Moreover, as a result of improper digestion of proteins and gut degeneration, one can become low in serotonin and dopamine. Low serotonin can contribute to depressive episodes, and low dopamine can trigger feelings of worthlessness and inability to handle stress or process trauma. Addictive and obsessive behaviour acts on dopamine which can numb anxiety – a common pattern in eating disorders.

Hormonal disruption

Proteins and fats are also required to build hormones which affect metabolism, sleep, emotions and stress response. Without the building blocks and with a concurrent frequent intake of processed carbohydrates, one can be anxious or put on weight quickly when not restricting food – a frequent cause why eating disorders keep relapsing.

Gluteomorphins and casomorphins (exorphins)

Inability to fully break down dairy protein ‘casein’ and grain protein ‘gluten’ can turn them into opiates which act like morphine. They are able to attach to serotonin and dopamine receptors, and induce obsessive behaviour. This is a possible reason why people with eating disorders often crave addictive foods like baked goods, starch, bananas and dairy. They are also called ‘exorphins’ (external endorphins, coming from the outside of the body) - substances which give a feeling of positive ‘hit’, inducing addictive behaviour.


What to do and what to be prepared for

Conventional dietary approach often focuses on sufficient calorific intake, portion control or generalised ‘healthy eating’ guidelines (what are these anyways?), and not necessarily on nutrient density or individual food triggers. Such a diet, often abundant in processed carbohydrates, can perpetuate feeding pathogenic microbes. This can result in further blood sugar swings, hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances - all of which are the driving force behind eating disorders.

I believe that the treatment should be multidisciplinary, with psychotherapy and other complementary disciplines applied at the same time. Dietary changes should be implemented in stages, taking into consideration individual physiological symptoms, and not just the eating disorder itself. Saying that, in spite of perfect protocols, sticking to them is another thing because compliance is the main reason for therapy to fail. Plenty of my clients give up after stage one, often because of lack of support, depression and as a result - lack of motivation. Like with any chronic health condition, there are no magic supplements or shortcuts. Eating disorders take a long time to resolve and one should be aware that it will cost time and money.

Nutritional therapy should be truly restorative and therapeutic. The main aspects include:

  • Enhancing digestion, microbial diversity and absorption should play a central role in nutritional therapy. Protein and fat digestion (not just their intake!) is key to a successful outcome

  • Addressing the brain and gut connection, but also the brain and gut individually

  • Individual deficiencies should be addressed

  • Focusing on foods that are nutrient dense but relatively low in calories - the fear of putting on weight is a major roadblock to success

  • Understanding that patience is key. Dietary changes can initially cause digestive upsets and bring about other unwanted changes but these calm down over time. Persistence is the only way to break the vicious cycle

  • Sugar addiction, like any addiction, may require a specialist support on top of neurotransmitter balancing. L-tyrosine can be administered for addictive behaviour – consult with a professional

  • Gymnema Sylvestre can help to combat sugar cravings – consult with a professional

Consultations from any location. To book, email

Shorter version of the article was published in The Islander, October’18 edition

Shorter version of the article was published in The Islander, October’18 edition

Functional approach to cognitive decline (brain neurodegeneration)


The 21st of September was word’s Alzheimer’s day, a form of incurable neurodegeneration. But what happens before one develops a condition that cannot be reversed? The gray area between subtle mental decline and receiving a diagnosis is where prevention takes place.

We live in a toxic world, leading fast paced lives. As a result, all of us deal with neurodegeneration to some degree. Symptoms can be confused with natural ageing or blamed for having ‘too much on’ so it’s easy to ignore them, especially that the brain can send non-specific signals. We also live in a world of lifestyle diseases, and all chronic health conditions eventually result in neurodegeneration because disease is a matter of the whole body.


Neurodegeneration is the progressive loss of structure or function of neurons (nerve cells), leading to their death. For most people, advanced stages of neurodegeneration like Alzheimer’s are irrelevant. Yet, the symptoms of diminished brain function are experienced by many on a daily basis and are often neglected. They include:

  • Failing memory (where have I put my keys / phone? what was I looking for?)

  • Inability to focus / concentrate

  • Brain fog

  • Difficulty retaining new information

  • Poor spacial orientation or sense of direction

  • Lack of motivation

  • Brain fatigue – falling asleep while watching TV, reading, engaging in conversations or any mental work

  • Depression, lack of enjoyment

  • Anxiety

  • Inability to relax, disorganised attention

  • Inability to fall asleep in the evening and get up in the morning

  • Constant need for stimulation: music, caffeine, company of other people


Neurodegeneration can be considered brain inflammation. Once initiated, the inflammatory cascade in the brain is difficult to control. Glial cells, the immune cells of the brain, should normally only gobble up debris but under certain conditions, they ‘digest’ healthy brain cells as part of the inflammatory process. Inflammation is body’s defense and repair mechanism, therefore it’s not the inflammation itself but its cause that requires addressing. Some of these include:

  • Brain injury: concussion, falls, bangs – even the ones you may have forgotten

  • Gut-brain axis dysfunction: poor digestion, detoxification, gut dysbiosis and the ‘leaky gut’ can lead to the ‘leaky brain’ where the toxic flow from the gut (e.g. undigested proteins or pathogenic toxins) affects brain function

  • Cross-reactivity of own tissues with harmful agents (i.e. autoimmunity): antigens tagged by the immune system as harmful, e.g. gluten, virus or gut pathogens, can trigger brain autoimmunity because they share a similar protein sequence with the brain. In other words, when the immune system attacks the invader, it can mistakenly attack the brain at the same time. People usually develop multiple autoimmune conditions at once and it’s very common to see advanced neurodegeneration in people with Hashimoto’s thyroditis

  • Poor oxygen flow to the brain: anaemia, injury, lack of physical activity (cold hands and feet or snoring are a signs of impaired brain oxygenation)

  • Heavy metal toxicity, e.g. mercury, aluminium, high copper and low zinc: chronic exposure to metals, impaired detoxification and the lack of beneficial microbes that support heavy metal detoxification may cause their accumulation in the brain

  • Stress and high cortisol levels: these damage temporal lobes of the brain, which decreases the ability to dampen stress and causes further damage to the area.

  • Lack of sleep: the body regenerates while we sleep, and the brain especially loves a break. Inability to sleep can be caused by blood sugar imbalances, high cortisol in the evening and lack of natural light exposure during the day – all of which affect melatonin production. Melatonin has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Also, lack of sleep due to social factors or lifestyle demands (e.g. long working hours) will eventually disrupt the circadian rhythm which will further negatively affect cortisol cycle

  • Diet rich in carbohydrates: the brain can become insulin resistant like any other tissue. Too much circulating glucose and insulin are damaging to neurons. Unstable blood glucose levels also negatively affect neurotransmitter production

  • Nutrient deficiencies: amino acids due to improper protein digestion and absorption, essential fats, fat soluble vitamins A and D, B vitamins, zinc, betaine, choline

  • Defective DNA methylation: the genetic code doesn’t define our destiny. Rather, it’s the environment that influences genetic expression which is called ‘epigenetics’. Methylation is one of such epigenetic factors. When impaired (which depends on nutrient status and absence of candida), it can impact the expression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

  • Hormonal imbalance: oestradiol, which is an oestrogen steroid hormone, has brain protective properties. Women who are low in oestradiol are at a greater risk of neurodegeneration. Menopause is can certainly be a factor but hormonal imbalances are common with young women


Neurodegeneration requires a holistic approach. Thorough health history gathering, symptom analysis, observation of physical reflexes and functional diagnostics are invaluable tools for personalising the therapy. Nevertheless, it’s often the basic dietary and lifestyle changes that can bring profound effects, before moving on to removing entire food groups and diving into the sea of isolated nutritional compounds, not to mention medication.

It’s always tricky to give recommendations for a wide audience because everyone is different. While someone may benefit from antioxidants, others may need to improve fat absorption or go on a proper elimination diet. Blood sugar imbalances and gut dysfunction are always central to brain supporting nutritional therapy and require an individual approach.

Nevertheless, the below are generally associated with improved brain function:

  • Fat, cholesterol: the brain is the hungriest organ, and its most efficient fuel source is fat which burns slowly, providing sustainable energy. Cholesterol is a powerful antioxidant and is an important component of the myelin sheath that protects nerves

  • Essential fatty acids:

    1. Omega 3 (specifically DHA): oily fish like sardines, salmon, herring, anchovies, mackerel, sprats, meats from grass fed animals, egg yolks from free range birds

    2. Arachidonic acid, especially in conjunction with vit A and D: animal fats in general, organ meats, butter, eggs

  • Choline: eggs from free range chickens, liver, full fat quality cheeses

  • Antioxidants: a rainbow of seasonal vegetables, fruit, organic dry red wine, cold pressed olive oil, vitamin D, turmeric

  • Fermented foods: olives, cured hams, fermented dairy (yoghurt, kefir, cheese), vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, gherkins, natto, tempeh)

  • Prebiotics (food for gut microbes): best sources incude resistant starch (e.g. cooked and chilled potatoes or white rice, like in a potato salad or sushi), vegetable fibre

  • Sleep: while it can be challenging to sleep when you have other commitments, at least do your best when you’re able to. Sleep is such a given that it’s often underestimated, and yet one of the most powerful healing aids. Whenever you can, do your brain a favour and go to bed by 23:00. Inability to sleep is a separate matter altogether that needs addressing

  • Outdoor physical activity: hiking, walking, swimming in natural waters, cycling, walking barefoot, yoga outside

  • Mental stimulation: key for brain plasticity. One of the most effective strategies is practicing what you’re not good at, for example languages or reading maps

On the contrary, pro-inflammatory foods and lifestyle are a significant driver behind mental decline and are best to be avoided. They include:

  • Anything your body reacts to: it can even be anything from the above food list, and may not give you any digestive symptoms. Food reactions can be just as much ‘mental’ as physical. This is why the ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work

  • Sugar and glucose syrup: present in most processed foods, even those where they’re least expected (e.g. pesto or pate). A diet rich in sugar or carbohydrates in general can cause reactive hypoglycaemia and / or insulin resistance – either state is undesirable for the brain

  • Industrial vegetable oils, e.g. sunflower or rapeseed oil that is not cold pressed and kept in the fridge

  • Commercial cow’s milk, cream, ice cream: ultra pasteurisation renders milk pro-inflammatory and allergenic. It is best to stick to fermented and aged cow’s dairy or get raw, unhomogenised milk

  • Wheat: gluten and glyphosate are common neurotoxins. For baked goods, it is best to shop in traditional and artisan bakeries, preferably for leavened bread

  • Working hard, playing hard: constant brain stimulation is a major stressor, especially with concomitant diet that is poor in the essential nutrients and fuel

There is also a wide range of brain supporting botanicals and supplements:

  • gingko biloba

  • huperzine

  • galantamine

  • vinpocetine

  • SAMe

  • TMG

  • B vitamins (esp. Folate, B12, B6 and B2)

  • phosphatidyl serine

  • fish oils (DHA)

  • cod liver oil (vit A and D plus DHA)

  • Udo’s oil (GLA)

  • zinc

  • antoixidants, e.g. curcumin, resveratrol, vit D

Always consult a professional for possible interactions, and get your individual needs assessed.

Why am I tired all the time?


The need for coffee to start the day, tea addiction, afternoon slumps, regular sugar injections in the form of baked goods, fizzy drinks or snack bars followed by more caffeine all indicate unstable energy. Such behaviours are common in various society groups like workplaces (including yachts) and families which falsely makes them ‘normal’. However, lack of energy that is not relieved without a 'booster' can be a sign of hidden dysfunctions. Due to the complexity of energy production and maintenance, chronic fatigue requires a truly personalised approach. Some of the causes include the following:

1. Inability to extract energy from food

Energetic properties of foods are an individual matter and depend on food quality, preparation method, digestive capacity and cellular function. In order to convert food into energy, various nutrients are required, and in order to extract and utilise these nutrients, food has to be digested well. These nutrients include B vitamins, magnesium ,manganese, l-carnitine and amino acids from protein breakdown. Interestingly, digestive issues are common in chronically fatigued people who always express symptoms of various deficiencies. The more digestive work a food requires, the less energy remains for other functions. Problems usually start with low stomach acid, leading to decreased secretions of pancreatic enzymes and bile. Consequently, protein, fats and carbs are maldigested and therefore not absorbed properly. Moreover, processed foods are devoid of nutrients which they still require to be metabolised so they are being ‘robbed’, leaving a person depleted and wrecked.

2. ‘Leaky gut’ and toxins

Compromised digestion, processed foods, drugs, environmental toxins, toxins released by pathogens (e.g. gut bacteria) and chronic stress contribute to an increased intestinal permeability commonly called ‘the leaky gut’. This allows for undigested proteins and these toxins to enter the blood stream, which signals the immune system to attack. In other words, the leaky gut is a gateway to chronic inflammation. Toxins can attach themselves to various places in the body, one of them being mitochondria, power stations of cells. Therefore, gut toxicity can directly affect cellular energy production.

3. Blood sugar imbalance and adrenal over-engagement

Stimulants and processed carbohydrates cause a blood sugar roller coaster which is a stressor that stimulates the release the stress hormone cortisol each time blood glucose drops. For example, a breakfast consisting of a bun and coffee or cereal with milk will give an instant energy boost followed by a rapid drop, and this is when cortisol is secreted to raise blood glucose so that energy is maintained. When nutrient-poor dietary choices or skipped meals become a habit, the adrenals may not secrete enough cortisol any longer, and the person can hit the wall. Therefore, relying on caffeine and processed cabrs to keep going is like whipping a dead horse.

Moreover, chronic emotional stress, infections (e.g. lyme, parasites, candida, EBV), pain and the consequences of the leaky gut are all stressors which over-engage the adrenals in the same way, leading to fatigue.

4. Hungry brain

As a result of poor digestion and absorption or a nutrient-poor diet, the brain is missing sustainable fuel to deal with everyday tasks, not to mention stress, emotions and lack of alignment with oneself (i.e. doing anything that’s mentally draining), which can deprive the entire body of energy. The brain doesn't like blood sugar roller-coaster, and thrives on fat. But again, in order to extract the essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins from the ingested fat, digestion has to be optimal. The main organs responsible for proper fat breakdown are the liver, gallbladder and pancreas.

5. Underactive thyroid

The thyroid controls the speed and intensity of all bodily processes. Depending on the signals coming from the external and internal environment, the brain and adrenals signal the thyroid if it should speed things up or slow them down. Although full thyroid assessment is key when establishing the cause of fatigue, it’s usually not just the thyroid that requires support but body’s whole biochemistry, ecosystem and lifestyle influences that affected the thyroid in the first place.

6. Anaemia – it’s not just about iron

Iron, vit B12 and folate are responsible for red blood cell oxygenation and maturation. Although deficiency can result in fatigue, people often don’t realise that they are deficient because serum levels of B12 and folate are not reflective of their cellular level, for which different tests are required. Anaemia is never the root cause. It is a symptom related to absorption issues resulting from impaired digestion, diet, gut dysbiosis, or poor methylation.

7. Root canals

Those who have failed to improve their energy despite trying everything may want to look into removing their root canals and replacing them with zirconia bridges. I recommend working with a holistic dentist who will carry out proper preparation for the procedures and apply a detoxification programme afterwards. Root canals are a major source of toxicity which can directly impact energy production by the mitochondria - the same mechanism as in the leaky gut.

Why am I tired all the time_.jpg

What to do?

The priority is identifying the individual cause of fatigue, addressing digestion and gut ecology. In each case however, it’s as a sign to listen to your body as it’s trying to tell you that it needs to be looked after.

1. Chronically fatigued people should focus on warm whole foods that are easy to digest: soups, stews, curries and stir fries. Cultured dairy and fermented vegetables will also be easier to digest than their unfermented counterparts. Salads, fresh fruit and smoothies should be introduced when energy improves.

2. Vegetable juice doesn’t require much digestion and provides easily absorbable nutrients, which makes it an energising food-based supplement.

3. Hot water with fresh ginger, stock, broth, miso soup and digestive enzymes taken prior to meals can help to extract more energy from food.

4. Targetted probiotic therapy will help to rebalance the gut but it's counterproductive without dietary adjustments that suit a particular individual.

5. Best to start the day with a protein and fat based breakfast like eggs and quality bacon, which will prevent from blood sugar roller coaster.

6. Sipping on mineral water with a pinch of sea or rock salt and a sqeeze of lemon juice is a fabuous drink that supports the adrenals.

7. Work with a professional to help you address your digestion and all other underlying causes.

8. Last but not least is lifestyle: good sleep hygiene, relationships, satisfying work, contact with nature, movement, spiritual connection.

Sleep is especially important as it helps to lower inflammation and improve stress response. However, it's not just the length of sleep but also the hours of going to bed and getting up that really matter. The later one goes to bed and gets up, the bigger the chances of lower blood pressure and poor energy throughout the day.

Starting with small steps of lifestyle changes should certainly be the first call of action before looking deeper for physiological causes.

Shorter version of the article was published in The Islander, September’18 edition

Shorter version of the article was published in The Islander, September’18 edition

Why can't I lose weight?


'I'm eating well and exercising but nothing seems to be working' – a common complaint I hear in my clinic. Losing weight is often associated with food restrictions and exercising but the popular belief of 'eating less than you burn' doesn’t always work. Sometimes even dietary plans put together by dieticians do not bring the desired results. If you dream about long lasting weight loss, this article will uncover some of the potential road blocks to achieving that success.

1. Nutrient deficit: metabolism is fuelled by nutrients. Diets can be restrictive in fat, which limits not only the fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids necessary for weight loss, but also disturbs hunger and satiety signalling. It's a syndrome of an overfed body and a starving brain. Nutrient-poor diets result in the storage of ingested energy as fat for future use because the body senses a potential famine - it's a protective mechanism. Nutrient deficit may also result in specific cravings, depending on deficiencies, e.g. neurotransmitter imbalance can cause emotional eating. Digestive problems also warrant a mention here because if digestion is malfunctioning, nutrients cannot be extracted from food and utilised.

2. Chronic stress: the body does not recognise the source of stress. Nutrient deficiency, skipping meals, inadequate sleep and poor regeneration, over exercising, chronic illness, unstable blood sugar, food intolerances, emotions, work and unhappy relationships can all stimulate the overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol not only increases appetite, but also breaks down muscle tissue. As a result, there may be a few pounds less on the scales (muscle is heavier than fat) but the body is lacking tone, often accompanied by a 'cortisol belly'. The foundation of true weight loss is burning fat - not losing water or muscle.

2. Inflammation and insulin resistance: insulin's main function is to transport glucose from blood to cell. Too much glucose is inflammatory to cells, so the body responds by employing a protective mechanism called insulin resistance, resulting in cells shutting down for fear of more glucose being brought in, and not responding to insulin any more. Insulin counteracts glucagon, a hormone that burns fat. As a result, the 'unused' insulin that's now present in the bloodstream blocks fat burning. Insulin also increases testosterone in women which is one of the culprits of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, often associated with weight gain. In men, insulin increases oestrogen, which results in male breasts and decreased body tone.

3. Underactive thyroid: although it is commonly known that an underactive thyroid can slow down metabolism, thyroid underactivity can be left undiagnosed. Often upon sole inspection of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), one may arrive at a wrong diagnosis. Not only does this not present a full picture, but also diagnostic ranges vary between countries, labs, conventional and functional medicine. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition, and autoimmunity often goes hand in hand with insulin resistance. Yet, thyroid antibodies are dismissed in routine health check-ups. I have clients with optimal TSH, and yet high anti-thyroid antibodies.

5. Gut microbes: certain strains of bacteria are associated with weight gain. One experiment showed how implanting gut bacteria from obese into sterile mice made them put on weight. Moreover, beneficial gut bacteria guard the small intestine from becoming 'leaky'. Leaky gut is associated with inflammatory processes, and inflammation results in insulin resistance. Also, some organisms (e.g. candida) drive cravings towards starch and sugar, which can also result in a blood sugar roller coaster and ultimately, insulin resistance.

6. Lifestyle and beliefs - diet is only a portion of the holistic approach to long term weight loss. Both, under and over exercising are associated with metabolic disorders, and so is the wrong type of physical activity or lack of variety. Spending too much time indoors, little contact with nature, exposure to blue light after 8pm, being a 'night owl', sleeping less than 7 hours, lack of hobbies, life goals or not being part of a community, misconceptions about what really is healthy may all slow down weight loss.

What do do?

A weight loss plan should be personalised, with thorough diagnostics and health evaluation. ‘Template’ plans taken from the internet or advice from a friend who’s had amazing results on a certain diet is not a successful strategy because they don't take any individual aspects into account. Food can be both medicine and poison, depending on who eats it. Lack of sufficient knowledge on bodily processes, physiology and metabolism can do more harm than good – and this is where a professional can step in. A food and symptom diary is a great place to start. By observing how your body reacts to foods in terms of energy, cravings, bowel movements, skin eruptions, etc. can be an invaluable tool to guide you down the right path.

Article published in The Islander, August 2018 edition

Article published in The Islander, August 2018 edition

Conscious tanning, part III: tanning in pregnancy and skin discolouration


This post wasn't planned but after my last two articles a couple of people asked me about tanning during pregnancy which is an important matter that deserves attention.

Some doctors recommend that women avoid sun exposure during pregnancy due to the potential skin discolouration called melasma, chloasma or 'pregnancy mask'. The most commonly affected areas are the forehead, cheeks and upper lip. Thus, for fear of  a blotchy face some pregnant women don't sunbathe.

Causes of melasma

While the sun gets all the blame, the cause of melasma lies in hormonal imbalances and nutrient deficiencies that start way before pregnancy. Oestrogen stimulates melanocyte stimulating hormones (MSH) which increase skin pigmentation. If a woman is oestrogen dominant (high oestrogen or low progesterone), the chances of developing melasma in pregnancy is higher not only due to the influx of hormones but also because women with oestrogen dominance tend to detoxify hormones at a slower rate, which causes a build-up. The more oestrogen, the greater the chance of skin discolouration.

Pre-pregnancy signs of oestrogen dominance include:

  • PMS
  • endometriosis
  • fibroids
  • anger
  • tender / painful breasts
  • migraines
  • irregular menstruation
  • heavy / long periods
  • moodiness
  • larger thighs and hips
  • low libido
  • fertility issues

Insufficient intake of animal fats may also increase the risk of developing melasma. It is interesting to see that omega 3 fatty acids (especially EPA) and fat soluble vitamins A and D derived from animal sources not only help to restore hormonal balance, but can also prevent and even reverse melasma.

Vitamin D in pregnancy

I have already described the importance of the sun in synthesising sulfated vitamin D. The growing baby uses maternal vitamin D to incorporate minerals into the skeleton and  build the immune system. One theory is that strong and healthy babies are born relatively small but are heavy due to dense bones. Vitamin D reserves are also needed to support mother's mental wellbeing during and after pregnancy, and to ward off infections. Women can obtain vitamin D and its precursors from food which I have also explained in the first article. However, given the modern aversion to animal fats and conflicting information on diet in pregnancy, I see many women deficient. Moreover, the minimum threshold for vitamin D is at around 30 ng/ml and is the same for pregnant women who obviously need more. Functional optimum ranges between 50-80 ng/ml which is rare to see.

What to do?

The  sun is key for expecting mums to build up sufficient reserves of vitamin D and enjoy the pregnancy. For all expecting mothers I suggest sensible sun exposure, a traditional, nutrient dense diet rich in animal fats, and doubling up on quality cod liver oil - quite the opposite to what is commonly advised. A nourishing diet will keep hormones in check and protect the skin from inside out. Using opaque mineral sunscreen on the face is a great option if still worried about discolouration. I certainly discourage avoiding the sun because sunbathing brings benefits to the mum and baby that no supplementation can replace.

Conscious tanning, part II: sensible sunbath


In my last article I discussed the importance of certain nutrients in the prevention of sunburn, sun allergy and reactions to sunscreen. In the second part I will cover the importance of sun exposure without sunscreen and sunglasses, along with building natural immunity to the sun, choosing the right skin protection and sunburn remedies.

The importance of sun exposure without sunscreen

UVB rays catalyse the production of sulfated vitamin D, a type that cannot be obtained through supplementation. Sulfate makes vitamin D water soluble so that it can travel through blood and perform its vital functions. According to dr Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is a sulfate specialist, it is the sulfated vitamin D that brings about the countless health benefits which include:

  • immune and inflammatory modulation

  • detoxification

  • insulin sensitivity

  • cancer prevention

  • skeletal health

  • mental health

  • heart health

Conventional sunscreen works by blocking UVB rays, which inhibits the production of vitamin D to a smaller or larger extent, which depends on sunscreen factor, frequency of application and sunscreen ingredients. The ones most commonly known for inhibiting vitamin D synthesis include:

  • dioxybenzone

  • oxybenzone

  • p-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)

Vast majority of people don't even understand these names which is a valid enough reason not to put them on the skin. They mimic our own hormones, contributing to hormonal imbalances. And this leads me on to another anti-sunscreen argument, namely substance penetration and absorption.

Skin is a semi-permeable membrane

The skin selectively allows for a two-way movement of substances, and this is why we can sweat or benefit from Epsom salts baths. This also means that some of the ingredients in conventional sunscreen may get into bloodstream. Eating cosmetics sounds crazy but ultimately, it may have a similar effect as putting it on the skin. Moreover, when substances are ingested, they get to the liver quickly where they are neutralised to some degree. When they are put on the skin, they reach the circulation before getting to the liver. This is why  skin patch medicines or ointments are so effective. Does it mean that putting sunscreen on the skin may affect the internal organs? Very possibly. Not all substances will reach the bloodstream though. Some of the particles are too big and can only penetrate the skin without being absorbed. These terms are often used interchangeably, which is incorrect.

Building immunity to the sun

Everyone loves a nice sunny day which is the most primitive instinct that the sun is life giving. One of the most effective ways to get its health benefits without side effects is sunbathing in small doses without any sunscreen until you rich a point when you don't burn any more. It may mean you start with 5 minutes but eventually will be able to work it up. Saying that, we are not supposed to spend a long time exposed to direct sun anyway, with or without sunscreen. 20-30 minutes is more than enough, after which it is best to sit in the shade, wear light clothing and a hat or  use natural sunscreen. This is especially important for those who know they're going to be exposed to the sun for long hours; e.g. on boats or construction sites. Those can benefit from natural surfing sunblocks.

Choosing the right sunscreen

Health stores offer a wide range of more natural alternatives. The most commonly used base ingredients are minerals:

  • titanium dioxide

  • zinc oxide

Both leave a white layer on the skin to reflect the sun. Some brands offer products with nano particles which makes them transparent but the smaller particles are associated with free radical damage. If you decide to go for natural sunscreen, use the opaque ones.

Other ingredients with approximate SPF values:

  • carrot seed oil (SPF 35-40)

  • raspberry seed oil (SPF 25-50)

  • wheat germ oil (SPF 20)

  • almond oil (SPF 5)

  • coconut oil (SPF 4-6)

  • shea butter (SPF 4-6)

You can use these individually or make your own sunscreen mix although you may have to build a good base to rely solely on the oils. Some of the most commonly available brands of ready made preparations around Europe include:

  • Badger

  • Dr Haushka

  • Green People

  • Lavera

  • Weleda

However, new products appear on the market all the time so it is best to read ranks on the internet each year. For the most reliable information on sunscreen, visit this website.

After sun care

Even if you do not burn, it's still recommended to eat well and moisturise the skin  to prevent ageing. Some of the best natural moisturisers include:

  • Cocoa butter (also deepens the tan)

  • Coconut oil

  • Olive oil

  • Shea butter

For mild to moderate sunburn, the following can be very effective:

  • 100% aloe vera

  • Bach Flowers Remedies: Rescue Cream (cabinet essential for healing any external problems)

  • Cold natural yoghurt compressions

  • Coconut oil (even though most oils retain heat, coconut oil is cooling)

However, cosmetics are only a crutch that supports body's internal anti-aging and repair mechanisms, for which eating a nutrient dense diet is of utmost  importance:

  • Colourful vegetables and fruit for antioxidants

  • Nuts, seeds, their oils and butters for vitamin E

  • Collagenous pieces of meat, fish eaten with the skin and bone broth for collagen and elastin synthesis

  • Animal fats for retinol and arachidonic acid that helps to keep cells tightly packed

No sunglasses

The sun has one other medicinal property: it catalyses the production of melatonin sulfate, the type supplementation also won't replace, and it can happen only when looking at natural sunlight without protection. I know a number of people who are addicted to their sunglasses - they  always wear them when outside, all year round. Indeed, some can be sensitive to light but this is a sign of other internal imbalances, e.g. retinol deficiency. Often underestimated, melatonin performs vital functions for our wellbeing, and is often dismissed in hormone support therapies:

  • master antioxidant, possibly stronger than glutathione, vitamin C or E

  • immune modulation

  • regulation of sleep/wake cycle

  • regulation of all hormones

  • protection of the heart

  • protection of the nervous system from degeneration

  • regulation of metabolism

The best thing to do is slowly build immunity to sunlight and support nutrient deficiencies that are a common cause of photophobia. Eventually, you should be able not to squint as much, and a nutrient dense diet will help you prevent facial lines. If you spend a lot of time in a place where the sun is reflected, e.g. near the water or snow, you will have to protect your eyes with polarised sunglasses but try and not wear them when conditions are more favourable.


Sensible tanning means not overdoing it and understanding your limits. By fooling nature we often go against ourselves, and search for remedies elsewhere. Sometimes all it takes is a little lifestyle change, and the results can be profound. Trusting that nature has equipped us in everything we need to happily live on planet Earth can dissipate the confusion created by conflicting information on skin cancer. Happy sensible tanning!








Conscious tanning, part I: Eat your sunscreen


The sun has such a bad reputation these days that reliance on sunscreen has become an accepted norm. This is especially common with those who are not able to go out to the sun during the week and want to ‘make up’ at weekends or during holidays. They may plaster themselves in lotions and potions, and lie out there for hours. Parents also don't want their little ones to get burnt so cover them in sunscreen from head to toe, and often follow with a onesie. Needless to say, some people still burn, react to the sun and even sunscreen.

At the same time, deficiency of sunshine vitamin D is more and more prevalent in the developed world, and vitamin D is one of the most commonly purchased supplements these days. Both, science and my clinical experience indicate that all chronic health issues call for optimal vitamin D status – including all skin conditions, sun allergy and even skin cancer, all of  which are on the rise.

Given the opposites, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Most importantly, I think that

If the sun was bad for humans, we would not continue to evolve on a planet that’s exposed to sunshine.

At the same time, prolonged sun exposure for fairer-skinned types may not agree with their physiology, at least not until they have built up resistance to burning.

In this post, I will discuss the importance of three key nutrients that are necessary for building natural defences against burning, sun allergy and reactions to sunscreen.

What is vitamin D - simplified

Vitamin D (really a hormone but this goes beyond the scope of this article) belongs to the group of fat soluble vitamins, and all fat soluble vitamins are stored in the liver for future use. Sunshine helps to synthesise vitamin D, therefore sufficient reserves can be built up during the summer and used throughout winter months. As some of the chemicals present in conventional sunscreen can block the synthesis of vitamin D, it makes sense that the need for supplementation is on the rise.

Vitamin D not only affects mineral metabolism (e.g. calcium needed for strong bones) for which it is mostly known. In fact, all cells in the body have a vitamin D receptor. For that reason, it is critical to all bodily functions, including modulating allergy response (sun allergy and reactions to sunscreen), repair mechanisms (sunburn) antioxidant action (anti-ageing) and skin growth, which explains why tanning can even improve skin texture in some people.

How vitamin D is produced - simplified

When cholesterol in the skin is exposed to UVB rays (the highest concentration is when the sun is at its highest, which is around noon - just when tanning is supposed to be most dangerous), the liver and kidneys convert it into vitamin D3, its active and most bioavailable form.

The liver synthesises cholesterol regardless of dietary sources but it’s a complex process that may put a burden on the liver. As there is no cholesterol in plant foods, providing dietary cholesterol in the form of animal fats can supply the necessary building blocks for vitamin D synthesis.

Dietary sources of vitamin D

We can also provide ready-made vitamin D3 in the form of animal foods, and it’s interesting to see that foods with high concentration of cholesterol are also high in vitamin D3. As always, nature knows best. These include:

  • eggs (especially egg yolks)

  • cod liver oil

  • liver

  • lard (pastured is best)

  • oily fish, seafood, fish eggs, oysters

Vegans should be emphasising sun exposure even more because they cannot obtain vitamin D3 from vegan food sources.

Test – don’t guess

If you suffer from sun allergy or your skin gets easily red and damaged after sun exposure, checking your vitamin D status can be beneficial. It will not only indicate one of the possible causes, but you may also discover why other chronic health issues have been lingering. I have also had clients who get quite dark in the summer, and yet are deficient. Sunscreen, diet, lifestyle and other underlying physiological factors are to blame.

Symbiotic relationship of vitamin D and A

Vitamin A works in tandem with vitamin D, and one can be toxic without the other. True vitamin A is called retinol, which is a well known ingredient in anti-ageing skincare. Just like vitamin D, it is also a fat soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver. Some of retinol’s functions include immune modulation (sun allergy and reactions to sunscreen), repair (sunburn) and assimilation of protein (skin elasticity and repair).

Retinol can only be found in animal foods. Beta carotene is often called ‘vitamin A’ but in fact, only a small percentage of beta carotene can be converted to retinol, given your liver works well and you’re not deficient in zinc. Children under the age of 5 cannot convert beta carotene to retinol at all, and this is why their skin turns orange from carrot juice. Saying that, beta carotene has strong anti-oxidant properties, which is anti-ageing, and regular consumption can help to achieve deep, golden tan.

Food sources of retinol

...are very similar to cholesterol and vitamin D rich foods:

  • cod liver oil

  • liver

  • eggs (especially egg yolk)

  • butter and ghee

Food sources of beta carotene:

  • carrots

  • sweet potato

  • pumpkin

  • butternut squash

  • apricots

  • cantaloupe

  • spinach

  • kale

Omega 3 – the true weapon against burning

Not only does it help to repair skin and has strong anti-inflammatory properties, but most importantly it protects the skin from not getting burnt in the first place. There are a number of different types and sources of omega 3 fatty acids but the one associated with prolonged resistance to burns is called EPA which, again, occurs only in animal fats. Some people claim they fully reversed skin discolouration with ongoing intake of EPA which often happens due to nutrient deficiencies while tanning.

Foods rich in omega 3 (EPA)

  • Cod liver oil

  • Grass-fed meat (grain fed meat is richer in omega 6 fatty acids)

  • Oily fish

  • Pastured eggs / chickens (not fed with corn or any other grains as these will be richer in omega 6 fatty acids)


Tanning is extremely beneficial to health in many ways, most of which have not even been discussed in this article. If vitamin D is produced by the sun, and might be protective against cancer or over-reactive immune system, then the paradox is that the sun can actually help conditions that we blame it for, from skin cancer to allergy. Moreover, it is not the sun or sunscreen themselves that cause skin reactions - it's the immune system that's overreacting because of various internal imbalances. I think that conscious sun exposure is the key to its medicinal properties. Along with a nutrient dense diet that is rich in vilified animal fats, quality cod liver oil is my recommended panacea for healthy sun exposure.

In part II I will address external sun protection, along with building tolerance to tanning.


Happy mum, healthy baby


Making the right decisions for your baby is a priceless investment with life-long returns. However, the modern world doesn’t make it easy with conflicting information coming from all angles and cheaply mass-produced goods, including food. Since the beginning of capitalism we’ve seen an increase in c-sections, no or short period of breastfeeding, increased use of medications and supplements, environmental toxins, electromagnetic field, epidemic use of plastic and parental diet devoid of truly nutritious foods. Although they have become an accepted norm, all can affect baby’s immunity, often leading to allergies, intolerances, skin conditions, autoimmunity, diabetes and later on in life – decreased focus or behavioural issues. Every parent would like to avoid these but what to do when there is so much information out there to filter through?

And what about stepping into the role of a mum as such? Do you feel prepared? It can be both exciting and challenging. Mums want the best for their baby, therefore it’s easy to get fully absorbed in the new duties. At the same time, it’s just as easy to forget about yourself. As a result, mums can end up exhausted, depressed or feeling unattractive, However, looking after your own needs can help to build the strength and energy necessary for mums to bring up a healthy, happy child, and to keep a happy relationship going. Would you like to know how?

There are also other challenges for new mums, namely the many difficult decisions they have to make as soon as the baby arrives. Delayed or immediate cord cutting, vit K shot, hepatitis B vaccine, what to do with vernix caseosa, antibacterial eye drops, sugar water, further vaccinations... And future countless decisions: which formula is the best when breastfeeding doesn’t go well, how about donated breast milk, how to wean the baby and what foods are truly best to start with – these are some of the stressful dilemmas.

On thing is certain, no one can tell the parents what is best for their baby because no circumstances are identical. Overall outcome depends on the factors affecting genetic expression, mother’s diet before and during pregnancy, way of delivery and emotional wellbeing. It’s the duty of parents to analyse these various factors from their individual perspective, in order to make educated decisions. What’s important though is not neglecting any signs and symptoms, even if they are considered ‘normal’. Bloated belly, constipation, dry skin, sleeping problems or lack of appetite are all signs of underlying imbalances which require attention.

In collaboration with OsteoPalma I invite you to an interactive and practical event that will help you with future decisions as a parent. Details below:


Pregnancy - from the perspective of nutritional therapy, functional medicine and naturopathy


When talking about pregnancy, general awareness comes down to a ‘balanced diet’, increasing calorific intake, folic acid and iron. For a woman of the 21 century (and especially after the age of 35), this is simply not enough. I often hear arguments that some women don’t look after themselves and yet give birth to healthy babies. The question is – will they grow into healthy adults? Will they have childhood eczema, chronic colic or asthma? Unfortunately, these have been accepted as a norm in the western world, and prevention in this area is basically nonexistent in conventional medicine. A doctor may say that ‘the baby will grow out of it’ and symptoms often do subside. However, they may turn into seemingly unrelated issues in future life – perhaps inability to concentrate in school or depression in adulthood.

Indeed, cetain genetic predispositions cannot be avoided. But the vast majority of genetic expression depends on the environment, both internal and external. Mother’s diet, lifestyle, social interactions, rest, forgiveness and most importantly – microbiota – can optimise future baby’s DNA. This is great news for aspiring parents. Similarly, the likes of morning sickness, high blood pressure, putting on a lot of weight or gestational diabetes – although common – don’t have to happen in pregnancy. It’s interesting to see that they are not common in undeveloped civilisations.

It’s easy to drown in the sea of conflicting nutrition and lifestyle recommendations. Therefore, in collaboration with OsteoPalma I’ve organised an interactive and practical seminar on the journey through pregnancy care, to help future mothers to navigate through the maze of truths and myths about what really matters during the 9 months. Nutritional therapy, functional medicine and naturopathy are all powerful tools that help to understand physiological changes that take place and your individual requirements in pregnancy – to maximise your baby's health and happiness.

The seminar is aimed at expecting mothers, fathers, those who plan on a family in the future, doulas, midwives, doctors, nurses, therapists, and will cover the following aspects:


Two remaining events at OsteoPalma:

‘The bump – a journey through pregnancy care’, 16th of June 10:30-12:30

‘Happy mum, healthy baby – postnatal care of baby and self’, 30th of June 10:30-12:30

€40 for one or €70 if you sing up for both. Tickets available at OsteoPalma. Confirm attendance here.

Holistic approach to fertility and preconception care


Despite greater wealth and easier access to healthy pursuits - fertility problems, uncomfortable pregnancy, recurrent miscarriages, modern childhood diseases and disorders are on the rise.

The need for convenience, fast-paced lives and changes in life priorities have paradoxically resulted in greater stress, inadequate nutrition and as a result, imbalanced physiology. More and more cases of infertility and recurrent miscarriages are unexplained, leaving couples in desperation. One thing is certain: more than ever is the period of preparation for pregnancy key to produce healthy children who will grow into healthy adults, generation after generation. In other words, the state of both parents’ health at the time of conception will affect the health of the offspring, from birth to adulthood. And the state of mother’s health will also affect the course of pregnancy, birth and post-natal wellbeing.

Nature always knows best and simply will or won’t allow the body to carry a baby if the environment is or isn’t favourable. And this is where nutritional therapy, naturopathy and functional medicine can be help: they naturally change the environment according to individual circumstances, to create the right conditions to conceive. Therefore, when conventional medicine isn’t able to find the cause, it is worth availing of complementary healthcare in order to uncover hidden imbalances.

From the naturopathic and functional medicine perspective, there are numerous factors that influence reproductive capacity that go beyond the reproductive system itself. Throughout my clinical practice I have learned that when addressing other body systems or processes that are evidently weak, conception happens without extra effort. In the clinic, I look at the following aspects:

- presence of other chronic health conditions which have to be managed

- digestion

- microbiota diversity

- diet and nutrient deficiencies

- stress and adrenal function

- glucose metabolism

- lifestyle

- immune function

- hormonal imbalances

- exposure to environmental toxins

- inflammatory factors

- balance between detoxing and ‘building’, especially now that veganism is a growing trend

- past trauma, ideas about sex, sex quality, quality of relationships

But the most important aspect of therapy is giving the right tools and control back to the person so that with appropriate guidance, they can help themselves at home.

If you would like learn lots of practical tips, OsteoPalma and GLOW invite you to a 3-part nutrition and functional medicine series that will bring you from preconception through pregnancy, birth, to childcare and beyond.

Fertility booster' – holistic approach to family planning, 2nd of June 10:30-12:30

The bump' – a journey through pregnancy care, 16th of June 10:30-12:30

Happy mum, healthy baby' – postnatal care of baby and self, 30th of June 10:30-12:30

Address: OsteoPalma, Gilbert de Centelles 19, 3°, Palma de Mallorca

€40 for one or €100 if you sing up for all three. Tickets available from OsteoPalma. Confirm attendence here.