Building a robust immunity is all part of a holistic approach to coaching and training. So how do you minimise your risk of getting sick?
There are many nutrients that contribute to a healthy immune system.
Today’s focus is on ZINC. Athletes may be more susceptible to being deficient in zinc because exercise, particularly strenuous and endurance exercise, increases zinc requirements, encourages zinc loss through sweating, and changes zinc transportation and metabolism.
In nutrition, zinc plays the most critical role in supporting athletes and immunity.
ZINC SUPPORTS IMMUNITY AND SO MUCH MORE
Zinc regulates several crucial processes in both your innate and adaptive immune system. Being deficient in zinc can lead to athletes becoming more susceptible to respiratory illness, particularly in the colder months.
Apart from zinc’s well-established role in immunity, this mineral, contributes to protein structure, regulates gene expression, metabolism and is the second most abundant trace element in the body after iron. Zinc deficiency can impact an athlete through hormone dysregulation (testosterone, thyroid, and growth hormones to name a few) and may affect erectile function and fertility.
Zinc is essential to maintaining optimum performance due to its function in metabolism and healthy cell division – essential in repairing damaged tissues after you exercise.
Studies show being deficient in zinc can lead to a reduction in the number of fast-twitch muscle fibres and muscle mass and performance decline. For Masters Athletes this is of particular relevance as aging is also associated with sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass, muscle strength, and physical performance.
Zinc also helps maintain blood sugar control and assists with muscle contraction during exercise, glucose metabolism, and glycogen storage.
Zinc also plays an essential role in antioxidant production by increasing antioxidant activity and inhibiting free radical production that may damage tissues, impact liver function, and prevent muscle exhaustion.
WHERE TO FIND ZINC
The most concentrated sources of zinc are contained in animal products, particularly meat, seafood and dairy. Vegan and plant-based athletes may be more susceptible to zinc deficiency due to reduced dietary intake, lowered gastric acid (which is zinc dependant) and higher phytate consumption. Phytates found in plant-based zinc rich foods such as legumes can inhibit zinc absorption.
Soaking nuts and seeds and legumes prior to cooking is a great way to minimise this issue and allow for greater micronutrient absorption.
SUPER CHARGE ABSORPTION
The gastrointestinal tract plays an important role in maintaining total body zinc homeostasis by regulating zinc absorption and excretion. In order to boost your absorption, the addition of a probiotic may be beneficial. Choosing the best probiotic can be confusing.
In certain situations, zinc supplementation may be recommended. The amount ingested, supplement form, and the timing of zinc matters. This is where a qulaified Nutritionist with an interest in sport is beneficial rather than self-prescribing. You’ll definitely want to avoid zinc toxicity. High zinc levels can have a detrimental impact on your performance through anaemia, copper and iron deficiency and unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.
TESTING FOR ZINC
60% of zinc is stored in muscle and 30% in bone therefore serum may not be the best measure of zinc homeostasis. A mineral test can be another alternative method of assessing zinc levels and is available through my clinic.
Gastrointestinal dysbiosis is now being linked to a myriad of pathological conditions including Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, Anxiety, Autism, Atopic Eczema, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression, Metabolic Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Cardiovascular Disease, Coeliac Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease.
Your body is full of colonies of harmless bacteria known as microbiota. Most of these bacteria have a positive effect on your health and contribute to your body’s natural processes.
But when one of these bacterial colonies is out of balance, it can lead to dysbiosis. Dysbiosis typically occurs when the bacteria in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract — which includes your stomach and intestines — become unbalanced.
Some effects of dysbiosis, such as stomach upset, are temporary and mild. In many cases, your body can correct the imbalance without treatment.
A number of factors have been found to negatively impact on the health and balance of the GIT ecosystem. These include pharmaceuticals: antibiotics, chemotherapy, NSAIDs, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and radiotherapy.
High sugar/high processed food diets, high protein/low carbs diets and the keto diet all contribute to dysbiosis.
Common symptoms include:
vaginal or rectal itching
rash or redness
having trouble thinking or concentrating
A Comprehensive Stool Analysis is a useful test I use in clinic to determine what bacteria, yeast or funghi are present.
A number of tools can be utilised to improve the balance of the GIT microbiota and to enhance the growth of specific members of the ecosystem. We always start slow with repopulating the beneficial bacteria.
Dehydration may contribute to cramping in athletes along with imbalances in electrolytes. Over the cooler months, we naturally reach for comfort warming foods and reduce our consumption of salads packed with magnesium rich leafy vegetables. Also, our natural thirst cues to drink fluids may also be reduced and our thirst mechanism sluggish over winter.
Coffee, alcohol and some drugs (such as oral contraceptives) may also accelerate the excretion or reduce the absorption of water and electrolytes such as magnesium and calcium.
Another factor is stress. It is pretty rare to find a person who can honestly say they are stress free, especially in the current environment. The body uses up Vitamin C, sodium and magnesium during periods of stress.
Get good at the basics
Increasing magnesium rich foods such as spinach, broccoli, squash, legumes, nuts, wholegrains and cocoa (quality chocolate can in fact be beneficial!) may help reduce cramping in athletes.
Most athletes underestimate their daily fluid needs when taking into account fluid losses from training. Endurance athletes are notorious for skipping hydration opportunities during a session (especially long-distance runners) despite large sweat losses. Many athletes are shocked how many litres of fluid they lose in a single session and ignore the increased risk of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and other gastro-intestinal problems due to dehydration. However, excessive fluid intake also causes issues such as hyponatraemia (low sodium concentration in the blood). Therefore, knowing your individual sweat rate is the best way to determine how much you should be drinking during and post exercise.
Total Fluid intake
During recovery, you will continue to lose fluids through sweating and urination. Plan to replace 125-150% of this fluid deficit over the next 2-6 hours. Sip small amount of fluids constantly over a few hours rather than sculling large amounts at once.
Make sure your daily total fluid intake includes both your exercise associated requirements and physiological needs. Although we are led to believe 8 glasses is sufficient as a basic requirement, it is now being suggested that 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 litres) of fluids a day for women is more appropriate for adults living in temperate climates. Typically 20-30% of your hydration needs are obtained through water containing foods and the remainder through liquids.
Athletes with a limited intake of dietary sodium (strictly wholefoods diet) may benefit from adding a small pinch of sea salt to evening meals or drink bottles (except athletes with elevated blood pressure).
If you are unsure about supplementation, it is best to speak with a health professional.
Why would you bake a seed loaf when there are so many great options at the store you ask? Once you have baked this loaf, you will NEVER feel the same about your store bought gluten free loaf…. some of them come close but there is NOTHING like a home baked loaf.
Versatile to toast and lather with butter and honey, or to top with your favourite savoury filling.
Magic ingredient – Psyllium Seed Husks The psyllium binds all these lovely ingredients together without resorting to flour. Psyllium is available at health food stores and most supermarkets.
Bottom line, you need the psyllium in this loaf – there is no substitute.
Seed Loaf Makes 1 loaf
Ingredients: 1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds ½ cup / 90g flax seeds ½ cup / 65g almonds 1 ½ cups / 145g rolled oats 2 Tbsp. chia seeds 3 Tbsp. psyllium husk powder 1 tsp. salt 1 Tbsp. maple syrup 3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil 1 ½ cups / 350ml water
Directions: 1. In a bowl combine all dry ingredients. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick. Pour into a prepared loaf tin. Let sit for at least 1 hour. 2. Preheat oven to 160°C. 3. Place loaf tin in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing. 4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “you are what you eat”. It’s a great way to motivate us to eat healthier. However, a more concise way of looking at this proves that you are not what you eat, you are what you digest, absorb and are able to utilize.
So no matter how perfect your diet is, if your digestion isn’t working properly, not only won’t you be able to absorb all the nutrients you think you’re feeding yourself but you’ll be setting yourself up for a host of digestive problems such as heartburn, dysbiosis (the proliferation of abnormal gut flora), IBS, etc. Gas, burping and bloating are not normal!
When Hippocrates said “all disease begins in the gut” he was really on the spot. Today, digestive disorders affect millions of Australians. That’s why digestion is foundational to Nutritional Therapy and is the first thing I address with pretty much every client I work with.
I’d like to leave you with a few facts about digestion and several simple tips to help you improve yours.
Did you know that digestion actually starts with your brain? It starts when you start to think about what you’re about to eat. Digestion is also parasympathetic process. This means you must be in a state of calm and relaxation for digestion to work. If you’re on the run, stressed out, in an argument, you are in sympathetic mode. If you eat in this state, you’re behind the eight ball. All the complex parts of digestion just won’t work. It puts you in a state of fight or flight. When you’re in this state, your body thinks it’s in danger (from our hunter gatherer days) and digestion takes a back seat to other bodily processes designed to get us out of dodge.
So do yourself a favour and chew well (when your food is physically broken down properly, it takes some of the pressure off of other parts of your digestive system so it doesn’t have to work so hard) and let your salivary juices start to flow. These juices in your mouth contain enzymes that start to digest carbohydrates. They also set into motion a chain of events in the rest of your digestive system to prepare for the food that is coming down the pike (they signal for the release of enzymes and hormones necessary to break down and absorb your food) . Here are few more simple tips for you try to help improve your digestion.
• Eat your meals sitting down. Take a few deep breaths to relax and calm your body and mind before you take your first bite. This helps you get into a parasympathetic state prior to eating.
• Try starting your meal with ½ tsp raw apple cider vinegar in ¼ to ½ cup warm water as another digestive tonic.
• Chew your food! It should actually liquify in your mouth before you swallow. A good rule of thumb is to chew your food 20-30 times as a goal.
• Include fermented foods with your meals. This could be a small glass kombucha or water kefir, 1-2 tablespoons of fermented vegetables or sauerkraut to boost your ability to digest your meal. Fermenting foods makes their nutrients more bioavailable (your body doesn’t have to work so hard to make the nutrients available as the fermentation process has done some of the digestion for you). Start slow and build up your tolerance. You can also start with a teaspoon of the brine or “juice” from the kraut if you can’t yet tolerate the vegetables at first.
• Digestive bitters can also help boost HCL (hydrochloric acid in your stomach that helps you digest proteins) levels. They also stimulate the digestive system to produce digestive enzymes and secrete bile which helps you digest your fats.
Need some help with digestion and nutrition? Get in touch for a consultation.
For me, the weekends are for recharging and recovering from the demands of the week.
Many of us lead busy lives with fitting in exercise either before or after a day’s full of work, as well as running a busy household.
I am dedicating this slice to my fellow gym-going, inspirational superhumans who are consistently performing at their peak and living their best lives. Because sometimes, you just need a good cuppa and a slice of this gorgeous sweet potato, apple and blueberry cake to recover and recharge for the week ahead.
300 grams raw sweet potato
3 free range eggs
2 Tbs honey (3tbs if you prefer sweet)
2 Tbs peanut butter
1 Tbs Vanilla extract
2 Tbs ground cinnamon
1 Tsp baking powder
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded cococnut
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup blueberries (I used frozen)
1 large diced apple (I used Pink Lady)
Handful of chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 170Degrees. Line your baking tray with baking paper. I used a 16cm x 26cm slice tin
In a food processor, process the sweet potato into fine pieces.
Add the remaining ingredients (without the apple and blueberry) and combine well in the food processor. The mixture will be a bit runny and grainy. That’s fine.
Dice the apple skin on and fold apple and blueberries and walnuts through the sweet potato mix.
Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until golden brown (depending on how hot your oven gets, check at 35mins). Test with a wooden skewer.
High levels of stress can affect and impair quality of life and health. We are all busy and disconnected, and it making time for rest and relaxation can be difficult. But it’s one of the best things that you can do because high levels of perceived stress that go unaddressed are one of the primary causes of adrenal dysfunction or HPA Axis Dysfunction.
Many people that I work with are high functioning individuals who have high expectations of themselves and long daily to-do lists. They are disciplined and strict with their daily regimes.
How does this affect the Adrenals? Let’s take a look.
What Are your Adrenal Glands & The HPA Axis
The adrenal glands are two small organs that are located above the kidneys. The adrenals are involved in hormonal balance, gastrointestinal function, brain health, blood sugar balance, the immune system, bone metabolism and more. They help regulate your response to stress and are able to protect you by activating the fight-or-flight response. It does this by increasing your blood sugar levels, elevating your heartbeat, and increasing your blood pressure by holding onto salt.
One of the primary ways that the adrenals do this is through their production of two hormones: DHEA and cortisol. DHEA is a hormone and a precursor to testosterone and estrogen. It’s also very important for development, thyroid health and the immune system. Cortisol is involved in regulating blood sugar and is the body’s stress hormone, as increased stress typically leads to more cortisol production. The adrenals also produce adrenaline (epinephrine) and other hormones. This process is ideal when you experience short periods of stress or adrenal stimulation, as it helps to keep you alive.
Stress & HPA Axis Dysfunction
Most people are exposed to acute stress topped with lots of chronic stress. The body doesn’t know the difference so it responds in the same way, leading to a higher secretion of cortisol. The HPA axis is a complex interaction that occurs between the adrenal glands and the hypothalamus and pituitary and controls the innate way that you react to stressors. This is the entire system that communicates and secretes cortisol and other hormones. In the context of chronic stress, the hypothalamus secretes corticotropin releasing hormone which signals the production of Adrencorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH travels through the body and acts on the adrenal glands to stimulate the release of cortisol. Other hormones and organs contribute to the stress response as well, activating the sympathetic nervous system and the body’s fight-or-flight response.
When you are constantly stressed, running from task to task all day long, and never saving time for a break, your cortisol levels can become a rollercoaster. Different people will develop different cortisol patterns. Cortisol levels could be higher at certain parts of the day that it’s not supposed to be or constantly elevated or even in some cases completely exhausted. Some people refer to this as a stage of ‘adrenal fatigue’. The problem with the term adrenal fatigue is that it’s not a medically accepted term, condition or diagnosis. A more accurate way of describing the situation would be HPA axis dysfunction.
Common symptoms include difficulty falling or staying asleep, fatigue, brain fog/memory issues, anxiousness, irritability, weakened immune system, difficulty handling stress, headaches, muscle weakness, dizziness, weight gain and digestive issues. And while there are plenty of supplements and adaptogens that are useful for helping with your stress response, they are worthless if you don’t identify the root cause of your stress.
Stress can also alter the composition, function and metabolic activity of the gut microbiome which may lead to the progression of disease.
Stress is the body’s way of reacting to a threat or challenge. Stress is also tricky to pinpoint for various reasons: 1) there are many different forms such as environmental, mental, emotional, & physiological 2) people normalize being stressed to the point that they don’t realize they are in fact stressed and 3) it’s not easy to measure.
Stay tuned for my Top 10 Tips for Adrenal Dysfunction.
Buckwheat is a nutrient-rich, gluten-free plant source, which may boost heart health, reduce blood pressure, and help manage diabetes. It can also help improve digestion and strengthen the immune system. Its impressive range of proteins, minerals, and antioxidants help in skin and hair health, elimination of gallstones, protection from asthma attacks, and relief from constipation and other intestinal conditions.
Buckwheat, despite what its name suggests, is not a cereal or a wheat product. It is a fruit seed that comes from the buckwheat plant, also commonly called the beech wheat plant, and is related to rhubarb.
Buckwheat contains high-quality protein that delivers all of the eight essential amino acids, including lysine, which is usually lacking in grains. The gluten-free grain also contains two powerful flavonoids which act as antioxidants, rutin and quercetin. It is very rich in vitamins and minerals such as riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) copper, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc and manganese.
What’s with Gluten?
Did you know that oats and wheat have different glutens? Gluten is actually a family of proteins found in grains including wheat, oats, rye, spelt and barley.
The main gluten proteins are different according to the grain.
Interestingly, most people who react to “Gluten” actually react to gliadins in wheat and are ok to eat other types of grains such as oats or rye.
If you have trouble digesting gluten, it is important to test for Coeliac disease; an autoimmune condition where antibodies are produced in the presence of gluten and attack your digestive system. This is a true Gluten Allergy.
Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity is also a condition that affects a large percentage of people. Symptoms can include those of IBS, bloating, acid reflux, abdominal pain, chronic aneamia, joint pain, brain fog, fatigue and more.
ORANGE AND ALMOND BUCKWHEAT MUFFINS
Preheat oven to 160 Degrees
Ingredients (makes 18 small muffins)
2 cups buckwheat flour
1 cup almond meal
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp bicarb
1 tbs vanilla extract
3 tbs flaxseed meal (instead of egg)
Rind of one orange
Juice of that one orange
1 cup of frozen organic blueberries (optional, but highly recommended!)
Place all buckwheat flour, almond meal, sugar and bicarb, orange rind, in a large mixing bowl.
To make the flaxseed egg combine the flaxseed meal and water in a small bowl and stir and set aside. This should become thick as the flaxseeds expand and the water is absorbed.
Pour the juice, vanilla extract, flaxseed egg into the bowl and stir until combined well.
Line the cup cake try with muffin papers and fill.
Bake for about 12-15mins or until the tops spring back and the muffins are golden. Can check with a wooden skewer.
This gluten-free gut loving tray of wholesome goodness is the perfect winter treat to enjoy on a cool evening with a cup of tea and a blanket. The essential winter comfort treat.
You can use your favourite mix of berries. I’ve used a combination of fresh strawberries and frozen organic berries.
The crumble has the perfect crunch, a mixture of almonds, walnuts, seeds and coconut.
While most crumble recipes include the usual refined white sugar, this recipe uses rice malt syrup. Never let crumble leave you feeling guilty and bloated again. This healthy version is full of gut loving good fats and berries full of antioxidants and phytonutrients which have antiinflammatory properties and can help support a healthy body.
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds or a mix of both
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons rice malt syrup
1 tsp of the best vanilla essence
3 tablespoons rice malt syrup
1 tablespoon arrowroot (tapioca flour)
700 g mixed berries
Preheat the oven to 160C.
Place all the topping ingredients in a bowl and combine well, ensuring all the ingredients are well coated.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove and set aside to cool – it will get crunchy once it cools down.
Place the berries in a saucepan with the rice malt syrup and tapioca flour. Mix gently to combine. Simmer over low heat for 10mins.
Transfer to a 20 cm dish and break the cooled crumble into pieces and sprinkle over the top of the berry mixture. Serve warm or cold.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this recipe. I hope you enjoy making and eating this beautiful crumble like we all did!
This mildly spiced, easy, eggplant spinach & chickpea curry is on the menu on repeat in autumn.
It’s a one pot dinner so no fussing about with more pans. It is mildly spiced for the sake of my daughter but you can add more heat if you wish. A finely chopped green chilli added when you add the garlic and ginger will do the job nicely. My daughter loved this but I guarantee you she wouldn’t love it so much if there was more heat involved.
This eggplant spinach and chickpea curry can be made a day ahead if you like.