Winter Health

Written by Glynis Barber on . Posted in Ageless - Articles, Health

Not only is my DNA out of Africa (same as us all) but I was actually born there too. This means I am not designed on any level to cope with an English winter. Funnily enough I would cope better I think, in one of those very cold countries that have lots of snow (pretty) and crisp blue skies (also pretty). It’s the sodden, heavy, grey canopy of cloud (ugly) that shrouds the UK for the whole of the very long winter that gets to me. And then of course, there’s no guarantee that we will have anything much different in our ridiculously short summer. But enough of my weather moaning, what about the other perils of winter? The fact that nearly everyone gets multiple colds and viruses and ends up feeling pretty miserable most of the time? 

Nutritionist Fleur Borrelli, comes up with some surprising things that affect our health and some things that will help. 

Winter officially begins when British Summer Time or Daylight Saving Time ends. At the end of autumn the clocks are adjusted so that nights become longer and as a consequence, days shorter.   A study of DNA has shown that we have all originated out of Africa (1). This would suggest that we in the Northern Hemisphere are not entirely suited for the harsh temperatures and darker days that accompany winter.

Winter does seem to be aligned with greater levels of infections so why is this the case and what can we do about it?

Vitamin D deficiency

 Contrary to what you might think, the prevalence of colds and flu in this season are not necessarily down to a change in temperature. According to virologist Professor John Cannel (2), we succumb to infections more easily due to a lack of Vitamin D.  

Vitamin D is really a hormone that is produced from cholesterol when the sunlight hits our skin and stimulates our immune system to protect us against winter bugs. The lighter our skin, the more easily we can produce it which means we need to spend less time in the sun. Getting sunburnt is not recommended at all but by spending fifteen minutes whole-body basking in warm (not hot!) summer sun, you can potentially make enough vitamin D for five days. This will not happen if you immediately slather tanning lotion on or avoid the sun altogether. Unfortunately, even the best food sources of Vitamin D (fish, eggs and mushrooms), may not cover the deficit caused by living in our part of the world. This is made worse by the fact that recommended daily amounts are generally accepted as being too low (3). Ideally you should get your levels checked at the beginning of autumn, and thereafter every six months, and make sure you are at the top of end of the recommended range.

Disruption of biorhythm

Disruption of biorhythm has such an impact on our health that it is officially considered as risk factor for disease. It can also be at the root of our susceptibility to a range of infections during the winter months (4). Our biorhythm is our natural sleep-wake cycle over a period of twenty-four hours. Typically we will spend twelve hours in activity and twelve hour in rest whether asleep or otherwise. Most of us will be larks which means that we will naturally wake up without an alarm in the morning and prefer to go to sleep by a good time at night.

Of course, work demands and social activities will mean this will not always be the case. A few of us will naturally be night owls which means because of our genes, we function better towards mid-morning and prefer to go to bed in the early hours. The darker evenings mean that we tend to spend more time in front of our screens with our halogen light bulbs on. Both screens and halogen bulbs emit blue light which is what we should be exposed to in the morning light. At night it prevents the production of melatonin which is the repair hormone for the immune system and dysregulates our sleep-wake cycle. Ideally to help combat this you should come off the screens an hour before going to bed and dim the lights down.

Central Heating

 The minute the temperature drops below a certain point, on goes the central heating. We live in a culture of convenience and we don’t like to get cold. Thermostats ensure that rooms are kept at a constant ambient temperature. But is this really to our advantage? The ability to adapt to external temperatures is essential to our survival and it is this adaptability that is essential to our good health. Thermogenesis, or heat production, is regulated by the sympathetic nervous system and can account for large part of our energy output over the winter months. It is our brown fat tissue (BAT) that is responsible for keeping us warm but if we don’t use it we lose it! Essential brown fat can then be replaced by inflammatory white fat which can affect our immune system and our ability to ward off colds (5). It may therefore not be to our advantage to overprotect ourselves and our children by dressing too warmly when we go outside as we can lose our ability to thermoregulate. Heat production can be encouraged through the use of foods such as chilli, turmeric, oily fish and green tea. Try to make sure that you have some opportunity to exercise outside too.

Central heating may also cause congestion in our nasal passages by drying out the mucous membranes. Our nasal passages are our first line of defence against the onslaught of bacteria and viruses and drying them out can reduce our ability to fight infections.

Your winter tool kit to support your immune system

Rather than reaching for the many over-the-counter decongestants, analgesics, cough medicines and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, there are a number of natural remedies that can help support your immune system during this time. Alongside vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc will also improve anti-microbial function reducing the risk, severity and duration of the infection. Pelargonium can be used at the first sign of an upper respiratory tract infection to help combat some of the symptoms associated with it such as a blocked or runny nose or sore throat (6). Unlike antibiotics, bacteria do not become resistant to it and it can fight viruses too. Lactoferrin is a nutritional supplement that can be used as an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic (7). Beta glucans are great as a preventative measure to help boost natural immunity and kick start the body’s own defence system A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine shows how the physical and emotional effects of stress caused by intense physical exercise and the resulting upper respiratory tract infections can be countered by beta glucans (8).

If you want to check out these supplements just click on the links below:

Vitamin D3 (always take D3)

Vitamin K2 (vitamin D best taken along with K2)

Vitamin C



Beta glucans


For more info on Fleur click here:

Fleur Borrelli

Winter Health References

  1. McBride B., Haviland W.E. et al. The essence of anthropology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing p. 90.
  2. Cannel J et al. On the epidemiology of influenza. Virology Journal 2008, 5:9.
  3. Sharma S et al. Vitamin D deficiency and disease risk among Aboriginal Artic populations. Nutr Rev, 2011 August, (69)8, 468-78.
  4. Berger J. A two clock model of circadian timing in the immune system of mammals. Pathologie Biologie, Vol 56 Issue 5. July 2005, 286-291.
  5. Kai-Jye L. Going immune on beige fat. Nature July 10 2014.
  6. Brown D. Pelargonium Sidoides Extract: Alternative Treatment of Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infection. Natural Medicine Journal 2009.
  7. Actor JK et al. Lactoferrin as Immune modulator. Curr. Pharm. Des. 2009; 15(17): 1956 -1973
  8. Ramberg J E, Nelson E D. Immunomodulatory dietary polysaccharides; a systemic review of the literature. Nutr J. 2010 Nov 18;9:54.

How Hormone Therapy Can Slow Down Ageing-Part 3

Written by Glynis Barber on . Posted in Ageless - Articles, Health

Before embarking on hormone therapy of any description, it’s really important to understand all the risks. I know it’s a bit like a biology session, but I do recommend reading all the info so comprehensively laid out here by Dr Gordon. You will see that risks associated with BHRT are minimal compared to conventional hormone therapy, and in some instances is actually protective. It certainly hugely benefits the whole body at a stage of life when age starts to compromise general functioning. 

I mentioned before that some BHRT can be got on the NHS. I’ve since discovered that it’s widely available, but due to the fact that it’s more expensive, it’s not generally known. You need to specifically ask your doctor for it. I think it’s really important to have a blood test for hormone levels both before and after embarking on the hormones to make sure the levels are correct. Problems can arise if the balance of the different hormones isn’t quite right. NHS doctors will not routinely offers these blood tests however, so it’s well worth mentioning any symptoms you have, as it might sway them to agree to the tests. 

They will either offer a gel (good if your skin is efficient at absorbing it) or a pharmaceutical pill. Personally I prefer the compounded lozenges that I take, but they are only available privately from a compounding pharmacy. The reason being that the pills are processed through the liver which can have certain implications and the lozenges and creams bypass the liver and go straight into the blood which is safer. However, this is a more alternative view shared by myself and Dr Gordon. A more conventional doctor would probably not agree and would prescribe the pills.

beautiful woman taking a breath in verdant forest

 Risks and benefits

This section is aimed at those who have a scientific or medical interest in bioidentical hormones and their risk-benefit profiles. It covers:

Oestrogen dominance

Breast cancer

Ovarian cancer

Blood clots

Heart attacks and strokes

Muscle, bone and connective tissue

Osteoporosis and bones

Please note that the spellings of the hormones change due to whether an American or English review has been summarised e.g. Oestrogen vs. Estrogen.

Oestrogen Dominance

Beginning in perimenopause and continuing throughout menopause, the production of progesterone tends to decline more rapidly than that of oestrogen. Progesterone imbalance can even be present in women in the teens and twenties.

Oestrogen dominance is often associated with the one or more symptoms:

  • food cravings
  • weight gain
  • bloating
  • breast discomfort and cystic changes
  • fatigue
  • mood swings, depression, irritability
  • cyclical migraine and headaches
  • skin changes
  • hair loss or texture
  • decreased sexual desire
  • pms
  • menstrual cramps, short or irregular cycles
  • heavy menstrual bleeding
  • growth of fibroids, and endometriosis

Factors contributing to oestrogen dominance include:

  • Exposure to oestrogen-mimicking chemicals found in herbicides, pesticides, petrochemicals (e.g., BPA, bisphenol A) and PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyl’s) used in some cosmetics, glue, plastic, and other modern materials (Tapiero 2002)
  • Obesity due to increased intake of excess calories from simple sugars, fibre-deficient refined grains, trans-fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • HRT without bioidentical progesterone (Female Hormone Restoration 2013)

Replacing and balancing the oestrogen/progesterone levels in the body can be life changing. Nutrition, exercise and emotional balance help to balance oestrogen dominance.

Breast cancer

The next section reviews the research evidence on hormone treatment and breast cancer. It covers, the roles of oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and combinations of the three. The science and names can be confusing not only because of different spellings in the UK vs. US but also in the similarity of the names of the molecular structures. Persevere if interested.

The role of oestrogen

Breast cancer is more common after the menopause when oestrogen levels reduce.

There are 3 main oestrogens:

E1 Oestrone – E1 levels go up after the menopause. It is made from DHEA that originates in the adrenal. E1 has negative effects on the breast tissue; one theory is that E1 stimulates GPR30 receptors in breast tissue and encourages the cells to multiply. Nutritional focus on brassicas (plants in the mustard family ie. cabbage, broccoli etc) increases the amount of 2hydroxyoestrone, which protects the breast. (Female Hormone Restoration 2013)

E2 Oestradiol – E2 is the most active oestrogen and it is an essential aspect of BHRT. Oestradiol stimulates ER-α, an oestrogen receptor in breast tissue. Taken by mouth it is converted in the liver to other oestrogens that are less friendly to the breast, this does not apply to non-oral BHRT creams or lozenges.

Studies of women using non-oral BHRT oestradiol did not show any increase in breast cancer risk:

  • A case-control study conducted in France amongst 1555 menopausal women demonstrated a significant increase in breast cancer risk in groups receiving oestrogen orally plus a synthetic progestin but no increased risk in those receiving oestrogen plus micronized bioidentical progesterone (odds ratio: 0.69-0.80, depending on duration of use).(Cook, 2014) 
  • Similar results were reported in the large French E3N cohort study of 80,377 women in postmenopausal women with a mean follow-up of 8.1 years. Compared to no HRT, oestrogen alone and estrogen plus a synthetic progestin (dydrogesterone or progestogen) yielded significantly increased risk for breast cancer, whereas the relative risk for oestrogen plus bioidentical progesterone did not increase and was 1.00 (95% CI: 0.82-1.22). (Cook, 2014)

E3 Oestriol -E3 is at its peak in pregnancy and is said to protect the breast tissue by inhibiting GPR30 receptors and stimulating ER-b receptors in breast tissue. Cancer of the breast is rare in pregnancy and women who have many children have a lower incidence of breast cancer.

BHRT uses an oestrogen combination called Biest containing Oestradiol E2 (20%) and Oestriol E3 (80%) and in theory this will protect and reduce breast cancer risk. There have been few case small controlled studies of Biest to date to confirm this.

Further research evidence on E1, E2 and E3 is shown in the box below. It is taken from an American publication hence the different spelling of the hormone.

The role of progesterone

Conventional HRT containing progestins increases the risk of developing breast cancer by 26%. (Chlebowski RT et al 2012)

The most compelling research comparing the breast cancer risk of BHRT to that of conventional HRT, suggests that the addition of bioidentical progesterone to oestrogen therapy does not increase the breast cancer risk.

The additional beneficial effect of bioidentical progesterone compared to non-bioidentical progestin includes fewer sleep problems, less anxiety and depression, less menstrual bleeding, fewer cognitive difficulties, and improved sexual function.

The role of testosterone

Testosterone does not increase breast cancer incidence in post- menopausal women. It also reduces breast cancer growth in animal models (Arumugam A 2014)

BHRT – A combination of hormones:

Treatment frequently uses combinations of Biest (oestradiol and oestriol), progesterone and testosterone.
In animal models of mice with breast cancer a BHRT combination, in optimal doses, inhibited the rate of growth of mouse breast tumours. The mouse tumours grew more slowly on the BHRT than when oestrogen blood levels were reduced in the mice using an aromatase enzyme inhibitor. This is a surprising finding and begs the question of how to treat women with breast cancer. (Arumugam A 2014)

Survival and quality of life:

Hormones have myriad effects throughout the body, effects that influence survival and quality of life as much as breast cancer recurrence does or more. A radical hypothesis: could an optimal choice of hormones lead to improved survival factors and quality of life enough to outweigh any negative effect on tumour recurrence? This suggests (though not yet proven) that other factors may be more important in preventing the recurrence of breast cancer than blocking oestrogen. (Arumugam A 2014)

Ovarian cancer

A recent review looked at 52 previous studies and found a statistically higher risk of ovarian in current HRT users of ovarian cancer. The risk in context; for every 1,000 women using conventional HRT for five years, there will be one additional ovarian cancer diagnosis and one additional ovarian cancer death for every 1,700 users. (Menopausal hormone use and ovarian cancer risk: individual participant meta-analysis of 52 epidemiological studies.2015)

This review did not distinguish between BHRT and conventional HRT. It is likely that the risk will be lower on BHRT.

Blood clots (thromboembolic risk)

Oestrogen pills (absorbed in the stomach) stimulate the liver to synthesise inflammatory compounds, including C-reactive protein, insulin-like growth factor, and clotting factors—factors associated with increased thromboembolic risk. Bioidentical oestrogens taken as creams or lozenges do not have the same effect and are safer than pills taken by mouth.

  • The Million Women Study, in which more than 1 million women were followed for a mean of 3.1 years, demonstrated that current use of oral but not transdermal estrogen therapy increased the risk of venous thromboembolism (relative risk: 1.42 [95% CI: 1.22-1.66] vs. 0.82 [95% CI: 0.64-1.06]). (Cook,2014)
  • Data from a recent 3-year study in 75 women given transdermal compounded BHRT (Biest, progesterone, testosterone, and/or DHEA) produced no thrombotic potential and favourable changes in inflammatory and immune markers (Cook,2014)
  • The Estrogen and Thromboembolism Risk (ESTHER) Study, a multicentre case-control study demonstrated an increased risk of venous thromboembolism with oral but not transdermal use of estrogen and a 4-fold increased risk of myocardial infarction (MI) associated with oral estrogen compared to transdermal estradiol therapy. (Cook,2014)
  • The ESTHER study also demonstrated that micronized bioidentical progesterone had no thrombogenic effect, whereas progestins (norpregnane) resulted in an almost 4-fold increase in thrombogenic events.

Heart attacks and strokes (CVD)

According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading killer of American women. The risk for postmenopausal women is equal to that seen in men.

Menopause can be associated with elevations in blood pressure, lipids (low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides), as well as homocysteine levels, C-reactive protein, and interleukin-6 (an inflammatory cytokine). At the same time, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels drop significantly. All of these changes are associated with oestrogen deficiency and an increased risk of CVD. Oestrogen is important for maintaining the integrity of the blood vessel endothelium, where atherosclerotic changes begin. (Cook,2014)

The role of oestrogen

  • Large observational studies suggest oestrogens have a cardio-protective effect. Abnormal serum lipid levels have been associated with an increased risk for CVDs. Several clinical and experimental studies indicate that oestradiol treatment is beneficial to the heart by reducing LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels (Cook, 2014)
  • Oestrogen dilates the arteries and this protects the cardiovascular system.
  • Serum concentrations of oestrogen are inversely associated with CVD risk (Arumugam 2014)
  • Oestrogen replacement therapy initiated within 5 years after menopause has a beneficial effect on cardiovascular risk factors. Natural bioidentical hormone 17-b estradiol was more effective in reducing CVD risk factors than Premarin (conjugated equine estrogens). An oral or transdermal route of delivery (using creams of lozenges) leads to a more favourable outcome. (Cook,2014)

The role of progesterone and progestin

  • Progesterone in BHRT is cardio-protective. The LDL Cholesterol is not increased and it does not alter the beneficial effect of oestrogen on HDL. (Arumugam A 2014)
  • Progestins however raise LDL and lower HDL so the heart attack and stroke risk is increased.

The role of testosterone

  • Testosterone reduces triglycerides, dilates blood vessels and does not raise LDL. It is cardio protective.

Muscle, bone and connective tissue

Muscle, bone and connective tissue are all derived from the same cells in the foetus, the mesoderm.

Factors that influence one of these affect them all.

Osteoporosis and bones

Osteoporosis is a major concern in postmenopausal women. The incidence increases progressively with age. BHRT can prevent or reduce bone loss and preserve the strength of skeleton. (Cook, 2014)

The role of oestrogen

  • Oestradiol increases bone formation. Women taking BHRT usually have oestradiol blood levels checked to ensure it is absorbed and can therefore be effective on the bone.
  • Biest, an oestrogen combination used for BHRT consists of oestradiol and oestriol. Oestriol also has a bone sparing effect. (Cook, 2014)

The role of progesterone

  • Progesterone has a bone sparing effect.
  • Several animal and human studies have demonstrated progesterone’s positive effect on bone formation by stimulating the osteoblasts that lay down bone and it reduces bone resorption. (Cook, 2014)
  • Studies evaluating estrogen and progesterone supplementation suggest estrogen and progesterone have distinct but complementary roles in bone maintenance (Arumugam A, 2014)

The role of testosterone

  • Testosterone has a bone sparing effect. The addition of testosterone positively influences bone mass by stimulating the osteoblast function. (Cook, 2014)
  • Clinical trials on the effect of testosterone on BMD in women are limited but in theory testosterone has the potential to improve the effect of oestrogen in women using BHRT. Hormone balance in women includes testosterone.

BHRT combinations

  • With BHRT oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone are frequently used in combination and the overall effect on the bone is likely to be greater though minimal data is available.
  • All 3 hormones stimulate osteoblasts the cells that lay down the bone matrix and calcium.

The role of DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)

  • DHEA is a precursor hormone that converts into testosterone and oestrogen. DHEA is often used to improve energy. It probably inhibits osteoclasts, the cells that resorb bone and low levels of DHEA correlate with bone loss. DHEA supplementation may benefit the skeleton although the research information is minimal. (Cook, 2014)

The role of Vitamin D and other vitamins, minerals and Omega essential fatty acids

  • Vitamin D aids the transport of calcium and is essential to bone health. (Cook,2014) Other vitamins and minerals contribute together with Omega 3 and other Essential Fatty acids.

The role of exercise

  • Loading the bone stimulates the osteoblasts to lay down new matrix, incorporating calcium and strengthens the bone. (Cook, 2014)

Muscle, sarcopenia and physical activity

Muscle mass and size tends to diminish after the age of 55, the medical term is sarcopenia and by the age of 80 over 30% of women have this. It is now termed the Frailty Syndrome.

Sarcopenia results in fewer muscle fibres and the fibres are thinner. There are a number of reasons this could occur: underuse and under exercise (use it or lose it); reduced vitamin, mineral and protein intake, low levels of hormones (testosterone, oestrogen, possibly progesterone and growth hormone). It occurs more frequently in some families, there may be a genetic component. (Narrici M 2015)

BHRT combining oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone has been shown to improve muscle function. (Arumugam A 2014)

The best treatment for bone and muscle is prevention; it’s never too late to begin

Begin BHRT soon after menopause

The important hormones are

  • Thyroid
  • Testosterone
  • DHEA
  • Oestrogen and progesterone

Hormones are best applied as creams or lozenges

Help the hormones and muscles with the way you exercise and the way you eat

Skin, hair and connective tissue

Loose connective tissue is present in every organ of the body and forms a mesh that joins all the organs. Within the mesh are cells called fibroblasts and they form connective tissue fibres and between the fibres is a gelatinous fluid. This fluid is in balance with the fluid in the blood stream. The fibroblasts and the connective tissue fluid are sensitive to oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormones. Connective tissue is also sensitive to thyroid hormones and adrenal hormones (cortisol and aldosterone).

Hormonal balance

Hormonal balance results in skin and connective tissue health. Low levels of oestrogen results in a thin wrinkled skin. Oestrogen dominance with low progesterone causes swelling and oedema. Underactive thyroid or excess cortisol results in fluid retention and bloated connective tissue.

The fluid in connective tissue contains the same hormones as are in the blood stream. The connective tissue cells (fibroblasts) are also stimulated by oestrogen or progesterone or testosterone hormones.

One reason that facial skin “shrivels” as we age is that our natural hormone production markedly declines. To make matters worse, blood microcirculation to our skin is reduced as we grow older, thereby depriving our skin of the small amount of natural hormones. Oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone exert potent anti-aging effects on the skin of increasing thickness and moisture.

Muscle and bone and connective tissue all function best when the following are optimal and/or within the normal ranges when measured:

  • Vitamins including vitamin D levels
  • Minerals including iron, magnesium, chromium and calcium
  • Essential fatty acids particularly Omega 3 (fish oil)
  • Protein intake is regular  
  • Aerobic exercise is part of everyday life as it ensures blood and fluid flow and removal of waste substances thus promoting metabolism
  • Stretching muscles and connective tissue is important to achieve and maintain flexibility
  • Adequate rest to recuperate and rebuild cells
  • Hormonal environment is measured and corrected
  • Thyroid balance
  • Cortisol adrenal balance
  • Oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels are balanced (no oestrogen dominance)
  • DHEA levels are optimal

Healthy looking skin and strong muscles and bones are the potential results of attention to these interventions.

How Hormone Therapy Can Slow Down Ageing-Part 2

Written by Glynis Barber on . Posted in Ageless - Articles, Health

Why oh why do women lose their waists and become “apples” instead or “pears” with the approach of the menopause? Dr Yehudi Gordon explains and looks at the connection between nutrition and hormones. Nutrition, of course, being something of great interest to me. The truth is that emotions play a large part in how and why we eat. Women have a lot to deal with in terms of relationships, children and work at this stage of their lives. Hormones make it all so much worse. 

The best thing you can do for yourself is to eat in a way that optimises not only your weight but your health. This is exactly what my book The In-Sync Diet (written with nutritionist Fleur Borrelli) is designed to do and would advise checking it out. Whilst I agree with much of Dr Gordons’ nutritional advice, there are some subtle differences in my book which is based on the most up to date information and thinking. And do remember when you are reading the article that vegetables are carbohydrates and are preferable to grains. 

How Hormone Therapy Can Slow Down Ageing-Part 1

Written by Glynis Barber on . Posted in Ageless - Articles, Health

People often ask me “what is your secret”? I always say there is no secret, just a combination of things that make a huge difference to how one ages. I call it the Toolbox, filled with the tools that build a happy, healthy, youthful body.

But the truth is that the decline of hormones is probably the most ageing thing of all. As oestrogen levels plummet, skin thins, dries out and wrinkles. The dewy, plump appearance of skin seems to disappear overnight. Energy levels are low and often anxiety and depression set in.  A few decades ago women started taking HRT and for awhile it offered  great release from menopausal symptoms. But then it was reported that there were dangerous risks associated with it. There’s now a generation of women who have used no HRT at all. 

But there’s a natural alternative and it’s a game changer. 

Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) has the potential to safely and effectively help unpleasant symptoms and actually slow down the ageing process. So I guess this is as close to a “secret” as we’re going to get!

However, what exactly is it, is it really safe and how does it affect ageing?

Here, Dr Yehudi Gordon, one of the top gynaecologists in the UK,  summarises the most recent evidence (both scientific and experiential) about BHRT. He explains how it’s different from conventional HRT.

This is everything you need to know. And trust me, you need to know this. 

(NB Unfortunately it’s easiest to get this privately but it is possible to get blood tests of hormone levels on the NHS and to get some form BHRT)

Why take Digestive Enzymes?

Written by Glynis Barber on . Posted in Ageless - Articles, Health

Since bringing out The In-Sync Diet with nutrionist Fleur Borrelli, we’ve heard from many people who have problems with their gut. This ranges from IBS, to bloating, to all kinds of digestive problems. The In-Sync Diet should help tremendously with gut problems but we often recommend that people take digestive enzymes as well. So what are these and why are they needed?

I myself have been taking them for a number of years. Hydrochloric acid in the gut decreases with age so even though I don’t have gut problems, I take them. Many people who get indigestion will take an ant-acid which will take acid away when in fact their problem could well be that they don’t have enough. 

Fleur explains how this all works and why digestive enzymes could be the answer (along with more vegetables and a bit of fruit).

Why we may need a little help from digestive enzymes

Mid age woman with stomach ache

Mid age woman with stomach ache

 Most of us at some point in our lives will have suffered from digestive complaints. The most common symptoms experienced are usually bloating, acid reflux, stomach pain and constipation or diarrhoea. The problem is, if this is the regular state of play, our bodies have a hard time absorbing all we need from our food. When we eat food it needs to be broken down into smaller pieces so we can absorb it across the gut lining and into our systems to be used for cellular energy. The nutrients we absorb are used for building and repairing the body and supporting all the organs and tissues.

And so in order to get the energy it needs, the body then starts to break down lean muscle instead to fuel us with glucose. Your brain, the ruler of your metabolism, is programmed to see poor digestion as a stress situation—and we have very selfish brains.

So as you can see, unpleasant digestive symptoms are the body’s built-in alarm system. They present themselves to tell us that we aren’t getting enough nutrients through our diet, most likely because we aren’t digesting our food properly in the first place. These could be one or more vitamins, minerals, good fats, protein, and/ or the right carbohydrates. Your body runs the same way as your car. It needs fuel to function. Any deficiencies with any of these nutrients, and your body’s service will cost you a lot more.

So what can we do to improve our digestion? Digestion of our food starts before we even open our mouth. When we look at the meal in front of us, our brain prepares us by making sure that we have sufficient saliva in our mouth and that the stomach is a certain acidity. Food is mixed with the saliva that contains enzymes to start to break it down. This is why it is so important to chew carefully until your food becomes a pulp.

Many of us over 40 tend to have low stomach acid and this can cause the same symptoms as if we were producing high stomach acid.  Often if we have a high intake of grains and pulses, they will irritate the stomach leading to the production of lactic acid. It is all too often treated with antacids (the opposite of what we need if we have too little stomach acid), which have the negative effect of rendering us unable to breakdown our food and also unable to kill the viruses and bacteria that may enter the body via this route. If you have a low stomach acid or a lack of stomach acid, big chunks of undigested food will go into the gut and then begin to create problems as they basically putrefy and are broken down by the action of bacteria – it just all sits in the gut and creates toxins, headaches and so on.

And what is more, after many years of squirting out lots of digestive enzymes every day the pancreas can become “tired” and not digest as well as it used to and food can ferment and cause bloating and gas and feed the bacteria and yeast that love sugar like Streptococci species and Candida albicans (thrush type yeast).

Raw foods like vegetables and fruit contain naturally occurring enzymes. There is an enzyme called Bromelain that helps to break down the very large “macromolecules” that sometimes get into the gut from foods or other allergy sources. The bromelain breaks down these big potential allergy producing proteins while in the gut and thus prevent them going through the gut or creating damage and allergy. Fresh pineapple is rich in bromelain. Ripe, organic fruit in season is rich in enzymes. Papaya has papain – another excellent enzyme. Raw, organic vegetables are also rich in enzymes. Lightly cooked vegetables still have some enzymes. Overcooked food loses these natural food enzymes and the pancreas then has to spend years pouring out lots of enzymes internally to digest our cooked food which is an energy consuming business.

 The good news

 Help is at hand with digestive enzyme supplements which have plant enzymes in them to help to digest all foods including those which are very difficult to break down such as beans, dairy and gluten. I would thoroughly recommend taking them before a meal for anyone wishing to help reduce digestive complaints or simply want to ensure you are getting the most, in terms of nutrients, from your foods – to this end, they might even be better than taking an all purpose multivitamin.

Fleur recommends these Digestive Enzymes


The Gut – Future Solutions

Written by Glynis Barber on . Posted in Ageless - Articles, Health

It’s going to take a brave person to use the latest “fecal” method to fight infection but I suppose if you’re sick enough, you’re going to go for it. This 4 part gut series by nutritionist Fleur Borrelli, shows how incredibly important gut microbes are and how they affect every facet of our health and well being. The more removed from the earth and the land we are, the more processed our foods are, the more we will suffer and see diseases increasing despite all the medical breakthroughs of the last century. That there are now superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics is a very frightening development and gives us the possible prospect of people once again dying from a simple infection. However there are things you can do to protect yourself. Eating healthily and exercising regularly, will help protect and strengthen your immune system. In fact, a good lifestyle, could save your life.

Unhealthy Gut Ecology

Written by Glynis Barber on . Posted in Ageless - Articles, Health

Here we continue our series on the gut by nutritionist Fleur Borrelli. In this third part we look at why it’s so important to keep a healthy balance of the good and bad gut bacteria. An imbalance can cause all kinds of problems. Diet, supplements (in particular digestive enzymes and probiotics) and stress management can all help.

Why is the Gut Referred to as “the Second Brain”?

Written by Glynis Barber on . Posted in Ageless - Articles, Health

The big discovery on the gut is how much it affects our mental health and behaviour and is often referred to as “the second brain”. It’s quite hard to get ones’ “brain” round that concept isn’t it? And having too many of the “bad guys” in your gut, can make you overweight! Ok, I bet that’s got your attention? There’s no doubt that the gut is hugely important and knowing as much about it as possible, can only be a good thing.

To that end, here is part 2 of nutritionist Fleur Borrelli’s important article on the gut. Parts 3 & 4 to follow in a few weeks.

 Our microbial world – Part Two

Why our Gut Microbes are so Important

Written by Glynis Barber on . Posted in Ageless - Articles, Health

Recent research has shown that the gut is crucial to good health. And it’s importance to every aspect of health, from  the immune system to our mental health, has been hugely underestimated.  The gut is teeming with bacteria and all sorts of microbes, some good, some bad. It is vital to get the balance right. Not enough of the good ones and you could suffer from food allergies and have a compromised immune system. 

This is such an important subject that I asked nutritionist Fleur Borrelli, to do an article explaining exactly how the gut works and why these bacteria that inhabit it are so important. It’s such a big subject, she came back with a 4 part article!

Here’s the first part.

Our microbial world – Part One

Top Five Natural Remedies for Immune Support

Written by Glynis Barber on . Posted in Ageless - Articles, Health

Taking control of one’s own health is a very empowering thing. As viruses spread at an alarming rate around the globe and people everywhere are having to take time off work and are brought down by colds and flu multiple times a year, it’s really important to keep your immune system strong and healthy. If you do succumb to a virus, the doctor can do very little to help. However, there is much you can do for yourself, both to prevent and cure. Besides keeping yourself as fit and healthy as possible through exercise and good nutrition, the remedies below, as prescribed by nutritionist Fleur Borrelli, can do much to help.

(For more info on any of the supplements or to order just click on the name.)

Woman sneezingIf you are suffering from any of the symptoms below, it may be a sign that your immune system needs a little help:

  • Frequent colds and sore throats
  • Slow recovery
  • Inability to shift a virus
  • Fatigue or chronic fatigue
  • Lack of get up and go
  • Sugar cravings
  • Irritability
  • Slow wound healing

Your immune system can be challenged during the winter months due to the darker days and fewer opportunities to be outside. Fortunately help is at hand with the many natural remedies that contain endless health giving properties. Use them alongside a healthy diet to combat the coughs and colds of the season.

1.    Beta Glucans

Beta glucans are complex fibres from the cell walls of plants, fungi, yeasts and bacteria. Take them throughout winter as a preventative measure to help boost your own natural immunity and to kick start the body’s own defence systems. Alternatively use them when you feel the first stirrings of an upper –respiratory tract infection.

2.    Pelargonium Sidoides

Pelargonium Sidoides, an evergreen perennial plant indigenous to South Africa, is a traditional herbal medicinal product. There are a number of active polyphenol compounds in the extract including coumarins, flavonoids and tannins, with anti-bacterial and immune-modulatory effects. Use it to help combat some of the symptoms associated with an upper-respiratory tract infection such as a blocked or runny nose or sore throat. Unlike antibiotics, bacteria do not become resistant to it and it can fight viruses too. 

3.    Lactoferrin

 Lactoferrin is an immune complex that is produced naturally in mother’s milk. It helps to maintain a proper level of “good” bacteria in the intestinal tract, while controlling the number of “bad” bacteria.  Because of its versatility, lactoferrin can also be used as an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic. It may also play an important role in the support of allergic disorders such as asthma, rhinitis and atopic dermatitis due to its ability to reduce oxidative-stress induced hypersensitivity.

4.    Resveratrol

 Resveratrol is polyphenolic compound found in purple grapes, red wine and some berries. It improves energy levels by increasing energy production in cells and decreasing the number of free-radicals produced in the process. It also helps to support a healthy body composition by encouraging the breakdown of fat for energy. It might even increase longevity by improving the body’s metabolism, defence and repair processes. Take it through the winter to significantly boost your immune system and may be even to help burn some of those extra calories.

Glynis- Resveratrol has the added benefit of being one of the best anti-ageing supplements there are. I use this in my daily regime.

5.    Reduced Glutathione

Glutathione, an antioxidant, can be found in all living organisms and cells of the body. In fact the glutathione antioxidant system is one of the best defence mechanisms we have against free radical effect. Take it in the reduced form if you wish to stimulate your immune system to protect against viral infections and help shift some of the toxicity that has built up over the Christmas period. With age, illness, stress, fatigue and physical exertion, your body’s own production of glutathione can be inadequate.

By using natural agents to support your immune health, eating a diet rich in fresh whole foods and drinking plenty of water you will sail through winter.

Just click on any of the supplements to place an order.