Are you still confused about fats?

How important are essential fatty acids when it comes to our health?
Fats get a bad press when we talk about diet, but they are, of course, vital for health. As one of the key building blocks for our bodies, they form part of our cells, form the basis of many biochemical reactions that support our physiology, and can be used to create energy. Of course, some fats are more helpful that others, and indeed some are essential to have in our diet, since our bodies cannot synthesise them – the ‘omega-3’ and ‘omega-6’ families of fats.

In the history of our human evolution we’ve seen rapid changes to our diets in the past 100-150 years
This is especially true when it comes to our intake of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants from vegetarian sources [1]. Ready made meals and processed food means we are eating more vegetable oils, meat, sugar and starch, and less complex carbohydrates, fibre and fresh vegetables [2, 3]. These unhealthy trends have been exacerbated by a 50 % decrease in physical activity.

Pro-inflammatory diet
In brief, our diet during the last 100-150 years has turned from balanced and anti-inflammatory to unbalanced and pro-inflammatory.
When our bodies are in a state of ill health they are often in what we call a pro-inflammatory state.
This is where it helps to know more about the Omega 6 to Omega 3 fat ratio that your body needs to maintain good health. The ideal ratio is 3:1 when in fact it is close to 14:1 in the average European diet and 20:1 in American diets! A high ratio (e.g. 14:1) can lead to inflammation and inflammation is a component of many diseases.

Impact on our health
Having the wrong balance of essential fatty acids (EFA’s) in our diet can have a profound impact on our health.
Conditions such a cardiovascular disease (CVD) [4], dementia [5], depression [6], and autoimmunity [7], have been heavily associated with an intake of too much omega-6 relative to omega-3. Focusing on increasing essential acids through your diet and often supplementation too, can be very beneficial for general health and as part of an effective protocol for the management of chronic disease.

Key signs and symptoms of EFA deficiency include:
• Dry, scaly, itchy skin which is prone to dermatitis and dandruff [8]
• Poor memory, learning [9], mood [10] behaviour, and associated conditions [11]
• Vision problems (12)
• Chronic inflammation (13)
• Cardiovascular complications (14)
• Low immunity, increase susceptibility to infections, and poor wound healing (15)

Vegetarians & Vegans – possible deficiencies in Omega 3
Vegetarian or vegan diets tend to contain only marginal levels of EPA and DHA. The main vegan dietary sources include microalgae such as spirulina [16] and seaweed. Seaweed (e.g. wakame or dulse) contains a range of omega 3,6 and 9 fatty acids, including DHA and EPA. However, the lipid concentration of dried seaweed, for instance is only about 1-5%. Generally speaking, these vegan sources provide such low levels of Omega-3 [17] that they cannot really be relied upon to provide the levels that are needed in the absence of animal intake. This means that the plasma level of EPA and DHA tends to be a lot lower in vegetarians and vegans than in meat eaters.

Another factor to consider is the conversion process that takes place in the fatty acid pathways. When you eat the likes of linseed/flaxeeds, hemp, chia seeds or walnuts, all rich in Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) these foods are converted in the body using a number of enzymes to obtain EPA and DHA (directly obtained from eating fish, algae, krill). However, many studies show that the approx. conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA may be as little as 8% and 4% respectively. [18]
This is where supplementation from a good quality source such as “Zinzino BalanceOil Vegan” may be beneficial. What I really like about this oil is its excellent quality. It contains marine algae oil combined with polyphenols from extra virgin pre-harvest olive oil along with vegan Vitamin D. This combination ensures maximum absorption. You might be taking a vegan oil but is it really absorbing well into your body cells?










What foods supply our essential fats? And remember it is all about getting the right balance!

Target is 3:1 (Omega 6 to 3)

Omega 6
Safflower, sunflower, sesame, grains (LA – Linoleic Acid)
Evening primrose oil, borage oil, spirulina (GLA – Gamma Linolenic Acid)
Animal fat e.g. meat, dairy (AA – Arachidonic acid)
Omega 3
Linseed/Flaxseed, hemp, chia, walnuts (ALA – Alpha Linolenic Acid)
Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), algae, krill (EPA, DHA)

Test to find out your ratio
Like I said earlier you might be taking a vegan or fish oil but how well is it absorbing into your body cells. Do you know if you are deficient in your essential fatty acids? The only way to really find out is to test.

Omega-3 (EPA+DHA) Level should be above 8 % – what is yours?
Omega-6 (AA)/Omega-3 (EPA) Balance should be 3:1 – what is yours? Is it as high as the European average of 14:1? Aim for 3:1 to help improve your health (as mentioned earlier)
Cell Membrane Fluidity = Saturated fat/Omega-3 (EPA+DHA) should be below 4:1
Think of your cells like a glass, if they are ridged and not fluid then nutrients will struggle to get in and toxins will struggle to get out resulting in more damage to cells. Improving the fluidity of cell membranes improves overall health in the examples given earlier.
Mental Strength = Omega-6 (AA)/Omega-3 (EPA+DHA) – aim for ratio of 1:1. The right balance of Omega’s is important for mood, memory and concentration.

How to test?
You can find out the above information by doing a very simple pin prick blood test at home, and cost is from €149 which includes the balance oils.  The test is done by Vitas Laboratory in Oslo established in 1994. Very reputable lab with WHO, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge as their key clients.

For more information or a sample report please contact or call +353871266525


  1. Simopoulos, 2004. Food Rev Int; 20 (1): 77–90
  2. Clayton P, Rowbotham J. J R Soc Med 2008; 101(9): 454-462.
  3. Drewnowski and Popkin, 1997. Nutr Rev; 55 (2): 31-43.
  4. Harris SW. The Omega-3 index as a risk factor for coronary heart disease. The Americal Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;87(6):1997S-2002S
  5. Shinto L et al. A Randomised Placebo-Controlled pilot trial of Omega-3 fatty acids and alpha lipoic acid in Alzheimer’s Disease J Alzheimers Dis. 2014;38(1):10.3233/JAD-130722
  6. Kraguljac NV et al. Efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders – a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychoparmacol Bull.2009;42(3):39-54
  7. Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. J Am CollNutr 2002:21 495:505
  8. Kaczmarski M et al. Supplementation with long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in treatment of atopic dermatitis in children. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013;30(2):103-107
  9. Robinson JG et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive function in women. Women’s health (London, England). 2010;6(1):119-134
  10. Kraguljac et al. Efficacy of Omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders – a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychopharmacol Bull. 2009;42(3):39-54
  11. Montgomery P et al. Low blood long chain omega-3 fatty acids in UK children are associated with poor cognitive performance and behaviour: a cross-sectional analysis from the DOLAB study. PLoS One 2013;8(6): e66697
  12. Ziegler AB et al. Lack of Dietary Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids causes synapse dysfunction in the drosophila visual system. Mollereau B, ed. PLoS ONE. 2015; 10 (8):e0135353
  13. Patterson E et al. Health implications of high dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012;2012:539426
  14. Bowen KJ et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: are there benefits? Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc med. 2016;18(11):69
  15. Kiecolt-Glaser JK et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and stress-induced immune dysregulation: implications for wound healing. Military medicine. 2014;179(11):129-133
  16. Diraman H. Fatty Acid Profile of Spirulina platensis used a food supplement. The Israeli Journal of Aquaculture – Bamidgeh. 2009;61(2):134-142
  17. Van Ginneken VJT et al. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in various macroalgai species from north Atlantic and tropical seas. Lipids health Dis. 2011;10:104
  18. Burdge G C, Calder P C. Conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to longer-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in human adults. Reprod Nutr Dev 2005;45: 581-597.

Keeping it simple

As I pack for my Camino trip tomorrow, I felt inspired to share my thoughts on what’s really started to resonate with me lately, keeping it simple!camino trip 2

I love walking, spending time in nature, meeting new people and when a good friend asked last year if I would like to join her and a few of her friends for a week’s walk on the Camino in Spain I jumped at the opportunity.  It was at the back of my mind for a while and I had a feeling it would happen when the time was right.  I certainly feel its good timing.

It’s a simple holiday, no fancy hotels and restaurants, simply walking. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the journey I’ve taken so far in life.  It’s time for some head space and to get some inspiration for my business in the world of health and wellbeing.

I changed career in 2012 after 15 years working in various marketing roles and took the plunge to set up business as a Nutritional Therapist.  The job title was a bit alien when I started my studies in 2007 but thankfully awareness of the health profession is growing, especially with the growth of Functional Medicine.  Functional Medicine is based on the principles of Nutritional Therapy (looking for the root cause of an illness).  It has arisen out of the fact that the standard medical model is simply not working to support the growth in chronic illness. Medical professionals (the likes of Dr Mark Hyman) in the States are training in it, getting results and hence it’s growing.  Functional Medicine awareness is starting to grow here in Ireland too.  I have a client who travelled to the UK a couple of years ago with her son to avail of a practitioner, and as she sang its praises, she is now following the same route with her current health problems.

When I started my studies, we were taught about the importance of our digestive system (the master system when it comes to good health) and we learnt all about the roles of our gut bacteria.  This was back in 2007 and in the last year it’s become mainstream thanks to growing scientific peer reviewed research and the publication of books like the Psychobiotic Revolution.

Through my 3 years of study in Nutritional science and therapeutics I covered nutrition, and the anatomy, physiology and pathology of all of the key body systems e.g. digestion, liver, endocrine, cardiovascular, muscular etc.  I learnt how each system is interconnected and how when one becomes imbalanced it can have a knock-on effect on the health of our other body systems.  This leads to an array of symptoms that interfere with the body’s ability to feel well.  I learnt about the nutrients (that we know about so far) that may get depleted when we feel unwell.

Keeping it simple

But when it comes to applying all of this learning into practice the advice is often very simple.  It needs to be simple so as not to overwhelm a client with facts, stats and actions.  I have clients walking into my clinical practice, with chronic ill health of which some have taken use of Dr Google! Their heads are spinning with information, one source contradicting the other and not knowing which direction to turn.

So, my advice is take a break from Google and break things down into small achievable steps.  Look at the diet… are you consuming far too much processed food for the sake of convenience.  Let’s go back to a simple diet with real wholesome food that our grand parents ate. Take a look at your lifestyle are you packing in too much with little time for relaxation. Why are you doing this? Is it to because of Google…social media…comparing our lives to others and wanting more?  It’s the challenge of the society we now live in, it’s 24-7, chaotic and it’s affecting our health.  We’re living longer but more are living with chronic ill health.

So why not take some time this weekend to reflect on your lifestyle and see what is the No. 1 change that you need to make for a healthier happier you.  Don’t list lot of changes, just keep it simple and select 1 and then you can build on it.  Also see if you can simplify your life. A simple life is less complicated! What can you throw out, can you buy less?

When I worked in the world of marketing producing campaigns for the likes of Vodafone, I learnt that simple marketing messages were the most effective.  Another reason to support my thoughts on simplicity.

So, as I pack for the Camino to start in Sarria and finish in Santiago, I’m trying to simplify my packing! I’m a far cry from a Pilgrim but I’m trying.  The essentials are packed, and it’s count down, flight takes off tomorrow!  I’m sure I will share some pictures and maybe some words of wisdom on my return.

camino trip

In the meantime, check out my video on facebook (Discover Nutrition Ireland) with the essentials that I’m bringing to help reduce any muscle pain. I tend to suffer from chronic muscle pain in my legs when I overexert myself, more noticeable on long hill walks.   I’m covering 76km in 4 days, all flat terrain, which I’ve never done before, so fingers crossed my legs will take me to Santiago.

Here goes!!

Time, are you spending it wisely?

It’s the start of another year, 2019, and with that comes reflection on the year gone by and setting intentions for the New Year.

Does anyone have “Time” top of mind?

When it comes to “Time” we are all on the same page with 24 hours in the day.   Hopefully you are sleeping well for at least 8 hours of the day which leaves 16 hours to fill your day wisely.   What are you doing with those 16 hours?  8 working,  8 spare?  Or maybe 12 working and 6 spare. What are you doing with your spare time.  Are you spending it wisely? What are your priorities and are you focusing on them efficiently in those few hours.

I don’t know if it’s just myself but as the years go by each one seems to fly by even faster.   Before I started to write this blog I noticed that the last one I wrote was over 20 months ago. Where did that time go!  Why did I not write more, obviously my time was focused elsewhere.

time flies image

What I come across regularly and it seems to be a challenge for everyone is lack of time.  This has an impact on all areas of our lives.  When it comes to nutrition, we are eating our food faster which means we’re not digesting it well and getting the maximum nutrients from our foods. With less time to prepare foods we are opting for convenience foods, readymade, which are often higher in added sugar, salt and artificial ingredients which increase weight, weaken immunity, imbalance hormones and increase digestive problems.  Lack of time equals more stress.  Stress as I’ve written about previously plays havoc with our health and we all could benefit from slowing down more. However instead of talking about stress and nutrition lets take a step back and think about “time”.

Prioritise your time well

We all have different goals and priorities which change depending on the stage we’re at in life. That’s why it is important to review them regularly.  Maybe you’ve debt to clear and finance is top of mind, or you have ill health and recovery is priority, or you lack social connection and want to spend more time with friends and family or make new connnections. Maybe you say “Yes” to too many requests and need to learn to say “No” more so that you can focus on your own priorities. Do you have time for what matters in your life?  Whatever your priority is you need to look at where you spend your time so that you can fit in your goals and achieve them.

When you’ve worked this out and set aside the time to focus on your goal, the next step is motivation. What will keep you motivated to action your intention in your spare time? If you’re struggling with motivation then click here to read a blog that I wrote on setting goals with tips to help motivate you to achieve then.

Managing distractions

We are living in an information society which brings many distractions.  Constant emails, texts, social media, bleeps and beebs from our mobiles, our mobiles that we cannot live without.  So when it comes to managing your time, review this area and identify your time wasters.

I’ve kept this blog short in the hope that you’ll have the time to read it and then take a few minutes to re-evaluate where you spend it.  After all time well spent adds to life well lived!

“When you understand the value of time, the resource and the wealth of time, you will be running away from the crowd, you will be running away from distractions.” Sunday Adelaja

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Exhausted? Some lifestyle tips to get your energy back [Part 3]

In my previous blog I went through some dietary tips to help the exhausted adrenal glands recover and in another blog I spoke about the effects that ongoing stress has on the body and how it can affect the adrenals.

Are you constantly tired? Do you not wake up feeling fully refreshed? Do you feel like you are dragging a heavy ball of lead behind you all day long? Or are you ticking lots of the questions on this questionnaire? If yes, then you might benefit from the tips below.

When clients come to me with symptoms of adrenal fatigue, they often want a quick solution to feeling better. Unfortunately there is no one magic pill to take that will restore energy levels in a few days. Recovery is possible through making small lifestyle stages one step at a time. Think about the habits developed over time that may have brought you to exhaustion. Are you constantly worrying for days and months on end about a situation in your life? Are you pushing yourself to your limits at work? Are you in the midst of a stressful life event with no support to help you through it? Are you not sleeping properly and allowing the body to regenerate over night? Are you drinking lots of caffeine and eating lots of convenience and processed foods e.g. foods high in added sugar, salt and bad fats to help give you some artificial energy to get through each day? These habits take time to undo. And it takes time for the body to heal.

You can have the best nutrition plan in the world but if you are not implementing some of the lifestyle changes below you won’t be giving your body a chance to fully heal. I’ve seen it with some of my clients who have the best diets e.g. they’ve cut out all processed foods and reduced or eliminated alcohol and caffeine. However if they are constant worriers, perfectionists and don’t have some downtime or fun times then their adrenals can’t fully heal.

Lifestyle tips to restore the exhausted adrenals

  • Lie down during work breaks – (obviously not possible for everyone but aim to do this at least at weekends)
    Brief (15-30 minute rest) at 10am and
    Brief (15-30 minute rest) between 3-5.30pm
  • Exercise three times per week for 20-30 minutes or less depending on level of fatigue. This should not be high intensity (running, aerobics) as this can put further stress on the adrenals. Exercise can include brisk walking, swimming or yoga/pilates as this sort of exercise promotes and encourages balanced adrenal glands.
  • N.B. Sleep. Regular sleep patterns are a must. It is important to go to sleep by 10.30pm every night. This is because the adrenal glands kick in for a “second wind” to keep us going from 11pm to 1am. This puts tremendous stress on the adrenals. Between 10pm and 1am the adrenals work the hardest to repair the body. Sleep in until 8.30am or 9am whenever possible.
  • have_funLaughter – very important to healing (movies, books, humorous people, etc). If you are constantly working, looking after the family, pushing yourself to achieve targets with no time for some fun, then it’s time to build in what I call “Golden days”. So take a Saturday and plan for the best Saturday you’ve had in decades and do the things that you genuinely love doing.
  • Minimise worry. Worrying makes the adrenal glands work. Relaxing and thinking peaceful thoughts enables them to rest and heal. That’s why yoga and meditation are so good for you. Try not to worry about things over which you have no control. It’s the amount of worry and not necessarily the size of the problem that stresses your adrenal glands. If you worry a lot about little problems, you do as much damage to your adrenal glands as someone who really has a lot of stress. If you can control your worrying when under stress, you minimise the damage stress does to your health. A wise man once said that worry is interest paid in advance on money you haven’t even borrowed yet.
  • Do not get out of bed in the morning until you think of something pleasant – affirmations great to say first thing.
  • Daily break for enjoyment
  • Build in relaxation as part of your day for a minimum of 15 minutes – e.g. reading, bathing with lavender oil & Epsom salts, listening to music, massage.
  • take a deep breathBreathing exercises – do before eating and in times of stress. Check out Dr Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing exercise
  • Locate the “energy robbers” in your life. It can be anything from a food to a perfume, an activity, a nagging memory, a co-worker or a spouse, a building, a room, a situation.
  • Seek some counselling to help deal with or relieve stressors
  • Try Yoga, meditation, prayer, Tai Chi
  • Use reframing techniques to shift your framework
  • Do relaxation response exercises regularly
  • Keep a gratitude journal

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Time to spring clean your body

detox, healthy eating, spring clean

Spring clean your body

Horray! it’s now officially spring time and we can start saying goodbye to those dark evenings. Here in Wicklow we’re having a wet start to the season with lots of rain and grey skies but don’t let that dampen your spirits. It’s now time to come out of winter hibernation mode and welcome the spring. Our bodies tend to get sluggish during the winter months, we spend less time moving and tend to opt for those comfort foods. So now is the time to spring into action! You might be thinking of spring cleaning the house but why not also stop and think about some ways to help spring clean your body.

Why the need?
We need to give our liver a good boost. Our liver is the largest organ in the body and it works hard performing over 500 metabolic functions. Some of these include the following: produces and excretes bile to help emulsify and absorb fats, filters the blood, helps regulate blood glucose levels, breaksdown protein, it makes cholesterol and helps breakdown fatty acids to produce energy, breaksdown toxins, activates Vitamin D, produces heat (the main heat producing organ of the body), stores glucose in the form of glycogen, and it stores vitamins A, B12, D, E, and K, iron and copper.
Signs that you might need some liver support
Change in texture of your hair, skin conditions (rashes, eczema or psoriasis), headaches, nausea, sensitivity to chemicals, perfumes or tobacco smoke, hangovers easily from alcohol, strong reaction to caffeine.

Top tips for your spring clean
1. Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of filtered water (herbal teas count) a day and aim for more if doing strenuous exercise. It’s amazing the difference this simple change can make. I’ve had clients report that their energy levels improve and aches and pain start to ease when this simple change is made.

2. Reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet. The maximum amount of added sugar a day recommended by the World Health Organisation that we should be consuming is a max of 6 teaspoons i.e. 24g. 4g = 1 tsp. It’s worth getting into the habit of reading food labels and buying wholefoods. Sugar is a toxin and artificial sweeteners are even worse. They both trigger the release of insulin which in turn stores fat. Sugar also feeds our bad gut bacteria which can lead to lots of digestive problems e.g. bloating, irregular bowel movements, acid reflux. Why not swap your usual chocolate treat for 2 squares of 85% dark chocolate or a healthy chocolate mousse – my go to favourite (blend ½ avocado with ½ banana and 2 tsps of raw cacao powder, squeeze of lemon juice) or 1 or 2 stewed apples with cinnamon.

3. Cut down on the caffeine especially if you have symptoms like acid reflux, feel jittery, have problems sleeping or have gastritis. Caffeine is filtered and detoxified through the glutathione pathway in the liver. This pathway depends on food sources like onions, garlic, root vegetables to boost glutathione levels.

4. Increase your fibre as it’s great for bowel health. It’s important that you are having at least one bowel movement every day, otherwise toxins will re-circulate in your body and you’ll start to have symptoms of ill health (e.g. tired, headaches, irritable, itchy skin). Increasing fibre also helps with pumping fats and cholesterol out through the bowels.

5. Specific therapeutic nutrients that help boost and support liver function include: milk thistle (has silymarin which boosts detoxification by preventing glutathione from depleting), N-acetyl cysteine (glutathione is made in the body from NAC), artichoke extract, dandelion root (take as a tea), B vitamins (increase cellular energy enough to kick start change), aloe vera (natural laxative and calms inflammation). I usually recommend taking one of these nutrients for 4 weeks only and stop. Then rotate to a different nutrient next time you feel you need a boost and review what works best for you.

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