Seven Days and Seven Ways to Feel Your Best
July 28, 2023
We asked a Clinical Nutritionist to share a day by day guide, offering healthy but simple ways to put yourself first.
Monday Mood Boosting
What advice would you give to boost your mood and fight the Monday blues and are there any supplements you would recommend?
Most people think the Monday morning blues are inevitable but there are actually a few things we can do to start the week in a positive way….
Balance your Blood Sugar Levels
When we have a low mood, we often reach for comfort foods, typically the foods high in refined sugar and carbohydrates. Especially so at this time of the year when it is cold and dark outside. These foods can cause our blood sugar levels to spike and then fall, which can cause our mood to drop. When our blood sugar level drops, we then reach for the sugary foods again to make us feel good. We therefore need to break this vicious cycle to avoid this energy and mood rollercoaster which can mean that we start our week on the wrong foot.
- Aim for three meals a day which contain a balance of protein, fat (e.g. organic meat, fish, eggs, avocado, nuts, seeds) and unrefined carbohydrate (e.g. brown rice, sweet potato) to ensure a slow release of glucose into the blood stream.
- Minimise snacking in between meals but if you do fancy a snack, choose one that is low carbohydrate but nutrient dense, such as a soft boiled egg, crudités and hummus, or a homemade ‘power ball’ (made with dates, nuts, and seeds, for example).
- Consider supplementing with nutrients such as chromium, vitamin B3, magnesium, and manganese which can help to balance our blood glucose levels by making our cells more sensitive to the hormone insulin. This can be especially useful if you are prone to feeling tired after meals, have fluctuating energy levels throughout the day, or feel dizzy and faint between meals.
Get Outside and Be Active
A sedentary, indoor lifestyle is commonplace nowadays and likely a major driver of today’s epidemic of depression and other mental health conditions. One mechanism may be the fact that an indoor lifestyle can drive suboptimal vitamin D levels, which can then affect our mood.
- Get outside, even for just 10 minutes a day on your lunch break. Just being in a green space such as a park or woodland, so-called ‘Green Therapy’, can have a significant impact on our mood and motivation.
- Get a vitamin D test, either through the GP or privately (they aren’t expensive!). We are all prone to sub-optimal vitamin D levels at this time of the year as we become more indoor-bound and less exposed to sunlight, and some of us can beparticularly vulnerable to this, such as the elderly and pregnant and lactating women. The last thing we need is something as basic as this increasing our susceptibility to low mood, especially during the dark winter months! So, get your vitamin D levels tested and contact a Registered Nutritional Therapist in your area to enable them to recommend a supplemental dosage of vitamin D tailored to your unique needs. Alternatively, you can start by taking a safe, moderate dose of 1000 IU vitamin D3 from a supplement.
Sleep Well and Relax More
· Prioritise good quality sleep and relaxation since there is a significant correlation between poor quality or insufficient sleep, and poor mental health. Aim for 7-8 hours uninterrupted sleep per night with the help of an eye mask, ear plugs, an aromatherapy bath before bed, and increasing your intake of calming nutrients in the evening such as magnesium. Equally, chronic stress is a major driver of depression, so it is also important to incorporate a form of relaxation into your daily life, whether it be a walk outside on your lunchbreak or an evening meditation or yoga session.
Feed the Brain & Calm the Immune System
Ongoing research is highlighting the connection between the health of the body and the health of our brain, specifically the link between an inflammatory response (e.g. when fighting infection) and depression. Many dietary factors can drive low grade inflammation in the body, which may in turn contribute to our risk of depression, such as a diet high in sugar, additives, salt, and trans fats, and low in omega-3 fatty acids and a diversity of plants of different colours.
It is therefore important to pack our diet with nutrients which can directly support the production of the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) involved in mood, mainly serotonin and dopamine, as well as reduce the inflammatory load of our diet to help support mood regulation at a deeper level.
- Increase your intake of key nutrients to support serotonin and dopamine synthesis, primarily folate, B12, B6, omega-3, zinc, L-tryptophan, tyrosine, vitamin D, and iron. Key foods include oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale, broccoli), nuts, organic poultry, seeds, pulses and legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas), and eggs.
- Increase your intake of calming nutrients and botanicals, especially magnesium, lavender, taurine, chamomile, and theanine, to help calm the mind by increasing the activity of a neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). This can be especially helpful if you are prone to anxiety.
- Increase your intake of foods which help to manage inflammation, such as ginger, turmeric, oily fish, garlic, pineapple, and fresh herbs (e.g. sage, oregano).
- Reduce your intake of foods which can drive inflammation, especially refined sugar, alcohol, and processed food. Aim for a colourful wholefood diet.
Tuesday, Treat Your Brain
What advice would you give to enhance your brain power and stay focused when trying to tackle lots of tasks at work, are there any supplements you would recommend?
If you’ve found that your concentration and recall has declined recently, it’s important to consider your stress levels as stress is one of the main factors in modern life which can affect cognitive, as well as mental health. Therefore, prioritising sleep and relaxation is essential. It can also be worthwhile to visit your GP. You can request a vitamin D and B12 test, for example, since slightly low levels of these nutrients can have a role to play too. This may be a particular issue for vegans and vegetarians whose diet tends to be low in these essential nutrients.
- Vitamin B12 and folate support a biological process called ‘methylation’ which underpins the health of every body system, not least the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain which are involved in memory and motivation, such as dopamine and acetylcholine. Increase your intake of meat, fish, eggs, pulses, legumes, and dark green leafy vegetables, and consider supplementation with the most bioavailable forms of these nutrients, such as methylcobalamin form of vitamin B12 and the methylfolate form of folate.
- Zinc is also a key co-factor for methylation, and also supports the growth of neurons (nerve cells) in the brain. Key foods include pumpkin seeds, shellfish, and chickpeas.
- Vitamin B5 is essential for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory as well as muscle contraction. Adequate dietary intake of choline is also important for this process. Key food sources of both of these nutrients include organic meat, wild salmon, egg yolk, and lentils.
- Omega 3 fatty acids are recognised to support brain function, both in terms of mood and cognitive function,[ix] unsurprising given the fact that brain tissue naturally contains high concentrations of omega-3. The best sources are wild anchovies, sardines, salmon, and mackerel and it can be helpful to increase these through supplementation as well to help you reach therapeutic dosages. You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources such as linseed (flaxseed), walnut, and hemp, as well as through supplementation. Supplements containing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – the active forms of omega-3 – derived from algae can be especially beneficial for vegans and vegetarians who otherwise do not get these active forms from their diet as it is mainly found in fish and seafood.
- Herbs, such as sage, saffron, and rosemary, have been shown to have unique cognitive enhancing properties. For example, sage may help to inhibit the breakdown of acetylcholine, thereby helping to prolong its ability to support memory. Try growing these at home, adding them into your diet, and consider supplementation too to help you achieve therapeutic dosages.
- Phospholipids, such as phosphatidylserine, are a type of fat found in high concentrations within cell membranes. They are particularly concentrated within the brain, where they help to support communication between nerve cells via neurotransmitters, thereby supporting memory. Key food sources include sunflower seeds and organic offal (organ meat).
- L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea which has been shown to simultaneously improve attention span as well as anxiety – ideal for helping us to adapt to the pressures of busy working life.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid which can help to facilitate the burning of fat for energy in our mitochondria. It can improve mental and physical fatigue, memory, and attention.
- Having a healthy sleep wake cycle is essential to supporting the consolidation of memories as well as maintaining good mental health. Keep to a routine with a regular sleeping pattern (e.g. 10pm-7am per night) and avoid late night snacking which can otherwise inhibit deep sleep!
- Establish work-life balance by making time to socialise. It is also important to choose the relaxation technique which is meaningful to and sustainable for you. Music has been shown to reduce the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, in certain situations,[xiv] as well as dancing[xv] and laughing.[xvi]
Wednesday Power Up
It’s mid-week and energy levels are lowest. What advice would you give to give someone an extra boost and supply them with energy to complete the week?
Try making yourself a smoothie packed full of a top quality, organic wholefood protein powder, a handful of kale or spinach, avocado, frozen banana, and plant milk (e.g. almond, coconut) to give you a boost of all of the macro- and micronutrients required to support energy production. Also try taking a high potency B complex providing the full range of B vitamins in their most bioavailable forms, together with good doses of vitamin B2 and B3, which altogether support energy production in the powerhouses of our cells, the mitochondria.
Thursday, For You Only.
Whilst the rest of the week has been about feeling our best for work, what advice would you give to help people relax and give them to the mental space to feel calm no matter the pressures? Any supplements?
Sometimes all we need is a moment to ourselves, but some of us need a helping hand with relaxation. Certain nutrients and botanicals help to promote relaxation, especially magnesium (found in spinach, kale, nuts and seeds), vitamin B6 (found in lean meats, eggs and legumes), amino acids such as taurine (found in beef, lamb and seafood) and L-theanine, and herbs such as lavender, chamomile, and lemon balm. Altogether these can promote the calming action of the neurotransmitter GABA and have been shown to improve anxiety. Lifestyle is also key, especially implementing a good sleep routine which should include avoiding technology in at least the hour before bed, enjoying a magnesium salt bath a couple of times a week, and wearing an eye mask.
Friday Feeling Sexy
What foods and supplements can we take to feel sexy and ready to party?
There’s nothing unsexier than feeling bloated or constipated, so a good starting point is to support your digestion throughout the week. Try to reduce your intake of gluten-containing grains (e.g. found in most bread and pasta) and sugar since these are common drivers of bloating. Meanwhile, increase your intake of prebiotic (e.g. garlic, onion, leeks) and probiotic rich foods (e.g. sauerkraut, kefir), as well as sprouted seeds, to provide prebiotic fibre, probiotic bacteria, and digestive enzymes to support the efficient breakdown of food. You could also consider supplementing with probiotics and digestive enzymes to reach more therapeutic doses with the greatest chance of yielding improvement in these digestive symptoms.
Our reproductive hormones, oestrogen and testosterone, have a major role to play in our libido, and nutrition is important to ensuring that we have a good balance of these. For example, zinc is involved in testosterone production and zinc rich foods such as oysters, red meat and poultry, could be beneficial to increase your sex drive. Beetroot is a natural source of nitrates, which is another nutrient to consider supplementing when addressing low libido. Nitrates are used to produce nitric oxide in the body, which is involved in circulation and blood flow, and can therefore be beneficial for individuals experiencing erectile dysfunction and, by enhancing blood flow to ‘certain areas’, for supporting libido in both men and women!
Saturday, Hanging on
It’s the morning after the night before, are there any healthy ways to help cure the hangover?
- Re-hydrate! – drinking a large glass of water before bed after a night out, and another glass when you wake up is essential, as many of the signs and symptoms of a hangover (e.g. brain fog, headache) are due to dehydration. Also consider coconut water, since it is full of electrolytes which can support hydration further. Try adding coconut water to a smoothie, or drink it straight with a slice of lemon or lime.
- Enjoy a nutrient dense breakfast such as guacamole, poached egg, and spinach on toast with a glass of coconut water, instead of a fried breakfast! A breakfast like this can help to satisfy our cravings for high carbohydrate and fatty foods when we are hungover, while providing all of the essential nutrients required for the detoxification of ethanol, namely vitamin B2 and B3, zinc, magnesium, molybdenum, and the amino acid, cysteine.
- Take a supplement providing all of these nutrients to help you reach therapeutic dosages to increase the chance of a swift recovery from a hangover. A top quality multinutrient can provide an essential baseline of these nutrients and it can often be a good idea to ‘top this up’ with a more targeted nutrient complex providing additional nutraceuticals which can support ethanol detoxification, such as broccoli and broccoli sprouts.
- Go for a jog, or a cycle to help you sweat out many of the toxic metabolites of ethanol detoxification which can add to the signs and symptoms of a hangover. Remember, sweating is a major detoxification route!
Sunday Start Sleeping
We need to catch up on sleep after such a busy week and make sure we’re ready to go again (Sunday night is notorious for the worst night to sleep – are there any supplements that can help?)
Sleep is our body’s golden opportunity to rest and repair, and poor sleep is a common driver of low immunity and depression. We’ve already covered lots of tips for supporting deep sleep through diet and lifestyle, but there’s always lots more we can do to help ourselves sleep better!
- Get outside during the daytime – higher exposure to daylight can help to boost the production of our sleep hormone, melatonin, thereby helping us to sleep more deeply.
- Consider taking a high strength nutrient complex containing therapeutic dosages of all of the nutrients and botanicals which can help to calm our mind and support deep sleep by boosting the production and activity of GABA and melatonin. As a reminder, the key nutraceuticals to look out for are L-tryptophan, L-theanine, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, magnesium, and taurine. Even just taking a supplement like this, 30-60 mins before bed as part of a winding down routine, for just a few weeks can help us get into a better sleeping pattern which we can then maintain through diet and lifestyle.
[ix] Karr J E et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cognition throughout the lifespan: a review. NutrNeurosci. 2011 Sep;14(5):216-25.
[xv] Quiroga MC et al. Emotional and Neurohumoral Responses to Dancing Tango Argentino: The Effects of Music and Partner. Music and Medicine. 2009; 1 (1): 14–21.
[xvi]Berk LS et al. . The FASEB Journal. 2008; 22 (1): 946.11.