Fed up with snoring?

Nighttime snoring can range from being a mild embarrassment and nuisance to a more serious chronic problem. It can sometimes be a potential indicator of more serious health issues such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). There are essentially two reasons snoring can happen, either breathing is too forceful or the upper airway is too narrow.

During sleep the tissues of the throat relax which can partially block the airway. This tissue vibrates as air flows past it and it is this vibration and turbulence in the airway which leads to snoring. The more this airway narrows the more forceful the airflow becomes increasing vibration and therefore the snoring volume. There are two types of snoring mouth snoring and nasal snoring.

 

 

Mouth snoring

If you wake with a dry mouth then you are probably mouth breathing during the night and this won’t refresh you properly. If you mouth breath during the day you will build neural pathways regarding this behaviour pattern which will continue during sleep. This can often be a habitual pattern rather than an anatomical requirement especially where children are concerned. To re-establish full-time nasal breathing Patrick McKeown founder of The Oxygen Advantage breathing programme and author of the book by the same name recommends using lip tape. You can use any tape suitable for skin contact such as Mircropore but if the idea of covering your mouth with tape is stressful you can use MYOTAPE. This tape uses elastic tension to bring the lips together without covering the lips completely. You can purchase this tape here https://myotape.com. It may seem rather alien but a new 2020 study revealed that even full-time mouth breathers could often lip-tape providing there wasn’t any nasal obstruction. They also concluded that in children full-time nasal breathing is critical for craniofacial and airway development.

Nasal snoring

If you are nasal breathing during sleep but still snoring then this can be due to a number of different reasons summarised below.

 

Conventional treatments such as nasal dilators are usually designed to increase space in the upper airway. What these don’t do is address any fast or hard breathing patterns which may also be contributing to the problem.   Imagine sucking air through a straw. If you do this slowly and gently the air will pass through but if you breathe in fast the sides of the straw will stick together cutting off the air supply. Depending on which factors are relevant the Oxygen Advantage Breathing © programme may be able to improve or help to alleviate symptoms.

The way we breathe during the day affects the way we breathe at night which affects how we sleep and whether or not we snore. The lower and upper airways are mechanically connected. Diaphragmatic breathing tones and opens the throat area minimising the risk of collapse to cause snoring. The exercises I teach look to reset the day to day breathing pattern. When we breathe light and well during the day we can also breathe light during the night.

The exercises

The breathing exercises correct dysfunctional breathing patterns and help to:

Insomnia

There is a lot of crossover between snoring and insomnia. Insomnia affects between 25 and 30% of the general population and for about 10% this is a chronic complaint requiring medical help. Insomnia is linked to many health complaints such as hyper arousal of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), stress, irritability, daytime fatigue, anxiety, emotional dysregulation, difficulty concentrating, depression and even high blood pressure.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

If OSA is present or if chronic snoring progresses to OSA this can lead to more serious health consequences. If you suspect OSA you should consult your GP who will probably recommend a sleep study to identify if OSA is present and if so which type.

For help with any of these issues or if you have any questions regarding the Oxygen Advantage breathing programme please get in touch today. I may be teaching or consulting but will return your call as soon as possible. I always do my best to fit clients in if they are ready to invest in their health.

For help with any of these issues or if you have any questions regarding the Oxygen Advantage breathing programme please get in touch today. I may be teaching or consulting but will return your call as soon as possible. I always do my best to fit clients in if they are ready to invest in their health.

References

McKeown, P. (2015) The Oxygen Advantage; Harper Collins, New York.

McKeown, P. (2021) The Breathing Cure; Amazon, GB.

Zaghi, et al. (2020) Assessment of nasal breathing using lip taping, a simple and effective screening tool; International Journal of Otorhinolaryngology; 6(1), 10.

All about the menopause

Bullet point summary

Peri menopause – the window of opportunity

Lots of women dread the menopause.  It’s often viewed as a process of ageing and associated with uncomfortable symptoms ranging from heavy periods to weight gain, anxiety and night sweats. Lara Biden, author of the ‘hormone repair manual’, reframes this as a “window of opportunity” to resolve issues which left unaddressed might become problematic later in life. 

This blog aims to explain what’s going on physiologically and why.  The key things to know are:

What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause begins 2-12 years before periods stop so the late 30’s to early 40’s.  Hormonally the picture resembles a second puberty as the transition is made to a high oestrogen/low progesterone scenario. The only difference is the decline and loss of progesterone whereas in puberty progesterone is gained. Finally oestrogen will return to childhood levels which is just right for this new phase of life.

Symptoms are largely caused by oestrogen as it fluctuates erratically before settling to a new but lower normal.  Progesterone also drops which means that the formally stable oestrogen to progesterone ratio is now much higher than in ovulatory years. . Eventually we lose almost all progesterone but we continue to make some oestrogen. This scenario of high but wildly fluctuating oestrogen and low or no progesterone can trigger or exacerbate a number of health symptoms.  It also places extra demands on important physiological systems such as our immune system and how we make energy and detoxify the body. During this transition period the body has to learn, or remember, a new way of operation.

Strong symptoms

Strong symptoms are usually due to a combination of genetics, general health status and the condition of your menstrual cycle prior to peri-menopause.  If you have a history of menstrual mood symptoms you may be hypersensitive to hormonal variation.

Opportunity for health

Even if you don’t experience symptoms it’s still a time to take extra care of your health as it’s a period of physiological flux.  The brain and the nervous system have to work differently.  They have to work without oestrogen and progesterone.  The brain recalibrates and the immune system remodels. This increases the risk for anxiety, depression and memory loss.  Together with sleep disturbance this can lead to chronic pain if no action is taken. All of this is associated with increased vulnerability to heart disease and insulin resistance. There is often a slight temporary cognitive decline and there is a slightly increased risk of mental health issues. 

Physiology of perimenopause

Once menopause occurs women have to revert to intracrinology having previously relied on ovarian oestrogen production. This is a process of localised oestrogen production which takes place in tissues such as the heart and brain.  This will produce oestrogen at about 10% of previous levels via the enzyme aromatase.  Aromatase converts androgen hormones to oestrogen. So oestrogen production continues via increasing androgen production for conversion to oestrogen and up regulating aromatase activity. Androgen hormones include androstenedione from the ovaries and DHEA from the adrenal glands. Hence healthy adrenal glands are essential for a healthy menopause and ovaries should be retained if possible.

Once menopause occurs women revert to a process of localised oestrogen production in tissues such as the heart and brain.  An enzyme called aromatase converts androgen hormones to produce about 10% of previous levels of oestrogen.  Androgen hormones are produced by the ovaries and from the adrenal glands. Hence healthy adrenal glands are essential for a smooth menopause transition and ovaries should be retained if possible.  This process of change may take from months to years hence the variation in symptom length.

Abdominal weight gain

This is a common complaint and has a number of contributing factors. Metabolism slows down without oestrogen and progesterone to stimulate it. Oestrogen helps the body to build muscle so lower levels are associated with less muscle mass and this also slows metabolism.

When oestrogen levels decline this can trigger insulin resistance.  This refers to chronically elevated levels of insulin in the blood.  Insulin is the hormone that causes cells to accept glucose. If glucose cannot get into cells it will be stored as fat. Insulin resistance is therefore a key factor in abdominal weight gain.

There is a natural shift to androgen excess during this period which perpetuates a cycle of insulin resistance and weight gain. There can be up to a 15% drop in metabolic rate from the combined effects of muscle loss, androgen excess and insulin resistance.

If insulin resistance is present or develops this can lead to over production of an oestrogen called oestrone.  This is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, fibroids, pelvic pain, abnormal uterine bleeding and breast cancer. So eliminating insulin resistance is critical for a healthy menopause.

Neurological symptoms: anxiety, depression, memory loss, mood, insomnia and migraines

Your brain is the source of most menopause symptoms because it has to learn to work in a different way.  It's a neurological transition as well as a reproductive one. Following menopause there can be a drop in the brain’s activity and energy levels of up to 25%. Up to now the brain has utilised glucose as its primary source of energy and oestrogen has helped brain cells with this. Now the brain has to shift to using ketones so it utilises fat rather than glucose as its primary fuel source.

Progesterone and oestrogen both play numerous roles in brain function.

Little wonder then that the brain needs some time to adjust to its new status and that difficulties sometimes arise during this adjustment period.  The loss of progesterone can reduce the ability to cope with stress as well as increase the risk of anxiety, depression, memory loss, mood symptoms and sleep disturbance.

Metabolic flexibility is key to help with this adjustment. The body has the enzyme pathway to burn ketones but it’s often switched off from lack of use.  This stems from the provision of regular food (glucose) and frequent snacking. The cornerstones to reinstate this pathway are exercise, intermittent fasting, stable blood sugar and a healthy gut with a diverse microbiome.

During menopause the thermoregulatory mechanism in the brain narrows and there is far less tolerance to temperature changes. Researchers believe hot flashes are caused by the temperature sensor in the brain called the hypothalamus. Falling oestrogen levels and lower amounts of serotonin and adrenaline all affect the hypothalamus.  This means that in the task of managing menopause symptoms the importance of stress management cannot be overstated.

The final symptom the brain may trigger is migraines.  This is attributed to oestrogen fluctuations and the loss of progesterone’s calming influence.  Iron deficiency from heavy periods can also be a factor here.

The immune system

The immune system also has to recalibrate during perimenopause. Progesterone calms the immune system and during the reproductive years your body is used to regular doses of oestrogen and progesterone. Losing the anti-inflammatory properties of both hormones can cause problems with the immune system including chronic inflammation or triggering autoimmune issues such as autoimmune thyroid disease. Any inflammation has to be addressed as it will make menopause symptoms worse and increase insulin resistance.

It is also essential to sort out any issues with digestion and liver detoxification as both of these can contribute to sources of inflammation.  Most of your immune system is located around your gut and it constantly communicates with your gut bacteria.  If anything goes wrong this activates your immune system causing inflammation.  Your liver is responsible for deactivating oestrogen which is then removed from the body via the bowel.  If your gut bacteria aren’t healthy you can get something called ‘gut-liver-recirculation’ where oestrogen gets reactivated and reabsorbed in a more toxic form.

Autoimmune thyroid disease

The loss of progesterone can be a trigger for autoimmune thyroid problems as it reduces the availability of thyroid hormone.  There is a lot of overlap between symptoms of perimenopause and thyroid issues so this can easily be missed.  In addition both of these conditions overlap with symptoms of insulin resistance because of the interplay between the hormones involved. Thyroid disease is more common in women and increases over the age of 40 with a one in ten chance of incidence. This is a complicated area and practitioner help is recommended.

Heavy or painful periods and breast pain

During perimenopause oestrogen can spike up to three times its normal level and fluctuates erratically.  Oestrogen thickens the uterine lining and without progesterone to counteract this the menstrual flow can increase along with pain.  For both heavy periods and severe pain it is essential to see your doctor for an assessment. The most common cause is anovulatory cycles where oestrogen is made but not progesterone.  However there are other possibilities that need to be ruled out the main ones being  endometriosis; adenomyosis; fifibroids; anovulatory bleeds; thyroid disease; bleed disorders. Heavy periods can also result in iron deficiency which manifests in fatigue, breathlessness, hair loss and easy bruising.

Period pain such as cramping which is inconvenient but less severe is usually caused by prostaglandins. These hormone type compounds constrict blood vessels which contributes to period pain. They can be triggered by high levels of oestrogen as it fluctuates during perimenopause. The latter can stimulate high histamine and mast cell activation both of which can cause prostaglandin release. Before perimenopause this activity was often regulated by progesterone. It might be worth trying a dairy free diet as this may reduce prostaglandins, histamine levels and mast cell activation. Fortunately diet and lifestyle and key micronutrient supplementation can often resolve this.

Breast soreness or tenderness can be caused by high oestrogen levels but can also be a sign of iodine deficiency.  Addressing the core strategies already highlighted will generally resolve this.

How to navigate the menopause

I can help you

References

Briden, L. (2021) The hormone repair manual. Greenpeak Publishing

Dong, T. A. (2020) Intermittent Fasting: A heart healthy dietary pattern; The American Journal of Medicine:133(8):pp.901-907 DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2020.03.030

Labrie, F. ( 2017) Science of intracrinology in postmenopausal women; Menopause: 24(6); pp.702-712; doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000808.

Mosconi, L. (2021) Menopause impacts human brain structure, connectivity, energy metabolism, and amyloid-beta deposition; Nature:11:10867; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-90084-y

Wilcox, G. (2005) Insulin and insulin resistance; The Clinical Biochemist reviews; 26(2):pp.19-39

Acid reflux and the problem with PPI’s

Acid reflux is a common and distressing complaint that my clients often need help with. As many as 20 percent of Europe’s population is estimated to suffer from acid reflux – that is 112 million people in Europe alone. In 2019 over 60 million doses of the two most common drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) were prescribed. 

What is acid reflux ?

Acid reflux occurs when the muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus is weakened and acid from the stomach leaks into the oesophagus.  This often causes a burning sensation known as acid reflux or heart burn. Overtime this can lead to erosion of the mucus membranes lining the oesophagus. This is often indicated by a ‘lump in the throat’ sensation and accompanied by a frequent need to cough.  Left to progress this can develop into the more serious conditions such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) or Barrett’s oesophagus where the lining of the oesophagus is damaged.   Asymptomatic reflux can also occur during the night. Where damage is caused during sleep this is known as ‘silent reflux’ and if this travels as far as the throat or voice box it can develops into laryngopharyngeal reflux.


Acid reflux symptoms

Medication

PPI medication also known as antacids such as omeprazole and iansoprazole reduce the acidity of the stomach by up to 90%.  This helps to reduce the damage caused by the stomach acid leaking into inappropriate areas and can ease uncomfortable symptoms.

The problem with this option is the medications have long-term health implications and are only intended for temporary use. Unfortunately patients rarely understand this and most are unlikely to discontinue or reduce their dosage.

Why we need stomach acid

Stomach acid performs a vital role in the digestive process.  It activates pepsin for protein digestion and intrinsic factor for B12 absorption. It is responsible for closing the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) and preventing the backflow of stomach acid into the oesophagus. The stomach is supposed to have a pH of 1.5 and this acidity sterilises our food destroying various bacteria and pathogens. It also triggers the pyloric sphincter at the bottom of the stomach to open for the next stage of our digestion. 

Without this acidity we can get an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. The alteration in pH reduces stimulation of bile and digestive enzymes which can lead to nutrient depletion especially B12 and magnesium. In addition the presence of bacteria in the wrong location can cause gas to build up. This can exert pressure on the LES which can open at unwanted times causing acid leakage into unprotected areas which then develop tissue damage.  

Problems with medication and low levels of stomach acid

Acid suppression can help with immediate symptom relief but the effects on slowing digestion can cause many undesirable side effects such as: nausea; vomiting; diarrhoea or constipation; abdominal pain; bloating; headaches and fatigue. Low acidity can induce dysbiosis and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) largely due to diminished digestion and delayed emptying of the stomach. This bacteria can also colonise and translocate to the lungs via aspiration hence the risk of pneumonia rises with PPI use.  There is also an increased risk of gastric infection and fracture risk.  The mechanism for the latter isn’t confirmed but is thought to involve malabsorption of nutrients.

The solution

Sometimes simple diet and lifestyle changes are all that is required. These might include losing weight, avoiding eating just before sleep or avoiding key food triggers such as alcohol, caffeine, spices and chocolate. However the picture can become quite complicated as it often involves weak diaphragm muscles and hiatus hernia complications.

My approach

In functional medicine and nutrition we are always looking for the root cause of health problems and acid reflux is no exception.  There are many steps which can be taken to improve digestion and alleviate symptoms of acid reflux. 

Often clients require extra nutritional support and specific supplements as well as guidance to re-establish good digestion before they reduce their medication under medical supervision.   Breathwork and certain exercises can help to retrain and strengthen the diaphragm. It is difficult to exercise the diaphragm without specialist guidance as this muscle only kicks in during anaerobic exercise which can’t be sustained for long. Breathwork has the added advantage of improving vagal tone which strengthens the rest and digest or parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (PNS).  Our busy modern lives have taken a significant toll on our PNS with ‘grab and go’ lunches and chronic high stress levels.

So if you would like some nutrition and lifestyle support to help get to the bottom of your acid reflux, or to discuss working with me on any other issue please get in touch for a free discovery call 07740 876233.  I would love to help you.

References

Holzer, P. (2007) Acid sensing in the gastrointestinal tract; American Journal of Physiology Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 292(3): G699-G705 doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00517.2006

Eom, C-S. et al. (2011) Use of acid-suppressive drugs and risk of pneumonia: a systematic review and meta-anlaysis. Canadian Medical Association Journal; 183(3) pp.310-319. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.092129

Cai, D., Feng, W. and Jiang, Q. (2015) Acid-suppressive medications and risk of fracture: an updated meta-analysis. International Journal of Clinical Experimental Medicine; 8(6); pp. 8893-8904. PMID: 26309543

Histamine and histamine intolerance.

Histamine

Histamine is an important immune molecule which certain foods trigger the immune system to release. As part of our immune response to bacteria, viruses or other pathogenic microorganisms it increases vascular permeability. This allows white blood cells and proteins access to pathogens through mechanisms such as runny eyes or nose, sneezing, coughing and itching, diarrhoea and cramps, acid reflux and also headaches.

Histamines are also found in certain foods especially those which are aged, cured or fermented such as cheese, sauerkraut and cured meats.

Histamine intolerance

Some people have difficulty degrading histamine in order to eliminate it from the body often due to a deficiency in the main enzyme responsible known as diamine oxidase (DAO).  If the balance between histamine accumulation and degradation is upset then histamine intolerance can result. People seem to have different levels of tolerance for the amount of histamine accumulating in the body which can be due to a number of issues including: genetic predisposition; gut dysbiosis; damage to the gut lining; medications; chronic inflammation; gender; ageing; autoimmune diseases; pulmonary diseases and heavy metal toxicity. It is possible to test for genetic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to the DAO encoding gene and more than 50 SNPs have been identified.

Symptoms of histamine intolerance

Symptoms are multifaceted and diverse due to the distribution of histamine receptors throughout the body. Research shows that the  most frequent are gastrointestinal including: abdominal distension; postprandial fullness; diarrhoea; abdominal pain and constipation. Nervous and cardiovascular impairments include dizziness, headaches and palpitations.  Respiratory and dermatological symptoms were also common. Researchers estimate incidence at 1-3% of the population  but it is frequently unrecognised as symptoms can mimic other common issues such as respiratory problems, food allergy or intolerance as well as general gut issues, vertigo and even arrhythmias. Random reactions to food can be a key indicator.  One day a glass of wine and some cheese is fine but the next day it causes a strong gut reaction.  This can be due to the level of histamine that has accumulated in your body.

Other signs that you may be histamine intolerant are:

Degradation of histamine by individuals in different situations.

Comas-Baste, O. (2020), Histamine intolerance: The current state of the art; Biomolecules 10(8); 1181.

Low histamine diet

If required this will ideally be a temporary measure whilst root causes are addressed. Commonly these include gut health especially issues with the small and large intestine such as SIBO and mycotoxin /mould issues. It can also be related to the microbiome as some gut bacteria are histamine producers.

Even if there is an underlying genetic issue reducing our histamine intake can give the body time to recover and heal. Genetic expression is not static genes are like Christmas tree lights they turn on and off all the time according to your environment. When we restore our gut lining to a healthy state this supports the body to produce the enzymes necessary to degrade and eliminate excess histamine.

Certain nutrients are required for histamine metabolism such as vitamin B6, vitamin C and copper.  Supplementation can be helpful although particular care must be taken with pre and probiotics to avoid promoting histamine producing strains.

Support

This is a complicated area.  A low histamine diet can be difficult to implement on your own and is quite restrictive. If you would like help with this or to discuss working with me on any other issue please take advantage of my free discovery call 07740 876233.  We may need to work on gut dysbiosis, gut permeability, microbiome diversity or reducing toxic load and improving liver function amongst other areas.

Acid or Alkaline?

There are so many controversies in nutrition and one of these is the theory around the acid-alkaline balance of the diet.  This blog explores the science and debate around this topic.

If you want to calculate the acid/alkaline of your meal ‘The PRAL’ (Potential Renal Acid Load) scale calculates how acid or alkaline a food is per 100g consumed. This scale is determined by measuring the pH of the ash remaining once the food has been burnt. It is however the subject of debate as the high temperatures used far exceed those of digestion and also burn off the sugar which is thought to cause acidity in the body itself.

The simple way to understand this topic is that alkaline forming foods include all vegetables especially spinach, all herbs and most fruit.  Acid forming foods include all grains, cheese, meat, fish and peanuts as well as processed foods.  Pure fats, sugars, and starches are neutral, because they don’t contain protein, sulphur, or minerals. A source of confusion is that some foods such as lemons and citrus taste acidic but have an alkalising effect on the body.  Examples of highly alkaline vegetables are spinach, broccoli, kale, cucumber and parsley.

When we digest protein acids are produced however these are buffered by bicarbonate ions in the blood.  This reaction produces carbon dioxide which is exhaled and also salts which are excreted by the kidneys. The kidneys produce ‘new’ bicarbonate ions which are returned to the blood.  So as with most things in the body a cycle is created which enables the body to maintain blood pH within a range of 7.35 to 7.45. So whilst food is linked to acidosis through the potential to place a more acid or alkaline ‘load’ on your body, this is quickly resolved to maintain a stable blood pH.

It is important to keep in mind that sufficient protein intake is important for health generation as well as facilitating acid excretion.  So a very low protein diet can in fact increase acidosis and have adverse health effects. 

However if our body’s are in a constant acid-base disequilibrium this is a type of systemic stress. If compensatory mechanism’s diminish a persistent acidogenic diet may increase the likelihood of an H + surplus and lower levels of serum bicarbonate.  The scientific term ‘acidosis’ refers to a process, a dynamic compensatory response not just a change in blood pH.  Many health conditions such as osteoporosis, kidney disease and muscle wasting are associated with a chronic low-grade level of metabolic acidosis.  Although the mechanisms are not fully understood it is thought that there is a trade-off for constantly countering the effect of acid foods. Over time this may deplete buffering reserves of alkaline minerals especially in bones and tax muscle, kidneys and endocrine systems.

Some researchers suggest our contemporary Western diet has a higher acid load relative to that of our ancestors. Minich and Bland (2007) suggest that the root of this may lie in the agricultural revolution, processed food and grain products and more recently popular diets such as Atkins and Paleo.  The latter are high protein diets which increase our net dietary acid load. They are often accompanied by a decrease in the micronutrient and phytochemical intake from fresh fruits and vegetables.

However other researchers dispute these claims. For example the famous researcher and dentist Weston Price found the diet of primitive Eskimos to contain an acid/alkaline balance of 707:382. He was specifically interested in dental caries which in the modern Eskimo diet have increased from 0.9 to 130 per 1000 teeth, whilst the acid/alkaline diet balance reduced to 382:227.

What is clear is that our bodies strive to maintain homeostasis including normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar and normal blood pH. 

If pH falls to below 7.35 then the body regulates acid-alkaline balance via the following:

Patrick McKeown author of ‘The Oxygen Advantage’, points out that acid forming foods stimulate breathing to off load carbon dioxide via the breath.  Metabolic bicarbonate buffering processes occur over several days whereas adjustment via the breath can occur within minutes to hours.  However this stimulus can cause people to resort to mouth breathing rather than nasal in order to restore homeostasis within the body. This aspect of pH adjustment is often ignored in nutrition articles but it’s one of the key reasons I trained in the Oxygen Advantage technique.  Unfortunately mouth breathing or over breathing via hyperventilation can quickly become habitual which can then result in pH moving in the opposite direction causing respiratory alkalosis (Brinkman and Sharma, 2021). Symptoms are wide and varied and can include: shortness of breath (dyspnea); fever; chills; peripheral edema; weakness; confusion; light headedness; dizziness; anxiety; chest pain; asthma; abdominal pain; nausea; vomiting or weight loss.

Similar to most things in life it seems to be about balance. Indeed Sagen Ishizuka (1851-1910, founder of the macrobiotic diet, linked the equilibrium of acid and alkaline foods with the Chinese ideas of Yin and Yang.  Natural balance not radical consumption of either or.

For help with nutrition or breathing advice and training please call me on 07740 876233.

References

Brinkman, J.E. and Sharma, S. (2021) Respiratory Alkalosis; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482117/

Cam Magazine (October, 2014); https://www.scientificwellness.com/blog-view/the-alkaline-diet-science--health-benefits-425

Minich, D.M. and Bland, J.S. (2007) Acid-alkaline balance: role in chronic disease and detoxification; Alternative therapies; 13(4).

McKeown, P. (2015) The Oxygen Advantage. Harper Collins, New York.

Robey, I.F. (2012) Examining the relationship between diet-induced acidosis and cancer; Nutrition and metabolism; 9(72).

Weston Price (1934) Acid alkaline balance by Dr, Weston A. Price; https://www.healingnaturallybybee.com/acidalkaline-balance-by-dr-weston-a-price

Helen Maxwell

07740 876233

Helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Supporting immunity

I am receiving lots of enquiries about how to support their immune system and health through the winter season. I’ve put together some information on key nutrients to consider for support and why, together with some practical suggestions of what and how much to take. There is no substitute for eating a healthy nutritious diet but if you regularly suffer from colds, flu or infections over the winter season this extra support may be useful. As always please consult your GP or health practitioner if you are already taking medication or supplements to ensure there are no contraindications.

Vitamin D3

Recent studies show vitamin D3 supports the immune response to infection and protects against respiratory tract infection especially in vitamin D deficient people1,3. UK NHS guidelines recommend 400 IU per day 2 but many researchers recommend more especially if you aren’t getting at least 10 minutes sunshine per day. I usually recommend 1000 IU but it’s always a good idea to test first. Finger prick tests are available. I use a company called FORTH but you can also ask your GP to test. Use this link to benefit from my discount code:

https://www.biomarkertracking.com/p/store/DNRMAXWELL/2/

Zinc

Has been shown to stimulate antiviral immunity 4.  Best taken with copper, 15mg per day should be sufficient for prevention 4.  Lower serum concentration of both vitamin D3 and zinc have been detected in patients suffering with moderate Covid 19 symptoms as compared to mild or asymptomatic patients5.

Propolis

Propolis honey bee resin is formed from the resins which the bees collect from trees which form part of the plants natural immune system. It contains more than 300 naturally derived bio-active compounds. These flavonoids and phenolics are what make Propolis a powerful natural defence which may soothe sore throats and support upper respiratory tract infections.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are fascinating powerhouses of nutrients and compounds that provide many positive health promoting actions including antiviral and antibacterial.  We share 40% of their DNA making them more similar to us than plants. Many mushrooms have anti-viral properties and can inhibit viral replication. They can improve T-lymphocyte proliferation and increase Natural Killer cell activity to increase our natural defences against cancer and provide immunomodulatory benefits 6.

Quercetin

Quercetin is a flavonoid found in plants such as onions, brassicas, apples, grapes and berries. It is known to stimulate the immune system to generate aniviral activity and decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines and inflammatory mediators. It has also been shown to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) due to exercise and can be utilised in URTI’s such as asthma and allergic reactions. 7

Ginger

Ginger has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory benefits and positive effects on acute respiratory distress syndrome.8

Ginger tea - take a large palm sized piece of ginger and cope into a few pieces.  Bash each piece to release the flavour better or grate it and boil in 1 litre of water for 30 minutes.  Optional - add 1/2 tsp of ground turmeric and a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper. Once it has cooled a little you can add the juice of 1/2 a lemon about 3 tbsp. Strain if desired and pour the liquid into a flask to drink when desired.

Get in touch for more information on nutrition to support your health and immunity. Call 07740 876233 or email me at helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk. https://helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk/contact-2/

Please use this link to access product information and immune boosting juice and smoothie receipes

https://www.dropbox.com/s/qxd4bx7lynr4ucu/IMMUNITY%20.pdf?dl=0

References1 Calder, P.C. et al. (2020) Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System Is an Important Factor to Protect against Viral Infections Nutrients 12(4) p1181. 2 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/ 3 James, P.T. et al. (2021) The Role of Nutrition in COVID-19 Susceptibility and Severity of Disease: A Systematic Review. The Journal of Nutrition;151 pp.1554-1878. 4 National Academies Press (US) (2001) Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Micronutrients. Washington (DC) 5 Golabi, S. et al. (2021) The Association between Vitamin D and Zinc Status and the Progression of Clinical Symptoms among Outpatients Infected with SARS-CoV-2 and Potentially Non-Infected Participants: A Cross-Sectional Study Nutrients 13(10) pp. 3368.6 Chan, G.C-F. et al. (2009) The effects of beta-glucan on human immune and cancer cells; Journal of Hematology and Oncology 2(25)   DOI: 10.1186/1756-8722-2-25 7 Micek, J. et al. (2016) 7 Nyguen, H.A. et al. (2020) Quercetin and its anti-allergic immune response; Molecules 623; doi:10.3390 8 Ginger on Human Health: A Comprehensive Systematic Review of 109 Randomized Controlled Trials 12(1) 157 https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010157

Breathing for runners

Maximise your performance through

BREATHING

Learn how to

Functional breath training and simulation of high altitude training with

 Helen Maxwell certified Oxygen Advantage® Instructor

Contact Helen on 07740 876233

Breathing-pattern - could it be the missing link?

The way we breathe is intricately linked to the way our body functions on both a physical and psychological level. When we breathe correctly we oxygenate our organs to maximise their function.

Between 50-80% of the general population have some level of breathing-pattern disorder

The researcher and professor of physical therapy, Kiesel (2017), has found that between 50-80% of the general population have some level of breathing-pattern disorder.  The Oxygen Advantage® programme is designed to reset and optimise your breathing-pattern to improve your overall health and well-being.  It also works specifically on performance for sports and exercise.

Signs and symptoms that your breathing is disordered

Signs that your breathing may be disordered or that you need to improve your breathing include.

Why consider learning to breathe correctly?

Correcting how you breathe may be the missing link in your health journey.  For example if you wake up tired or struggle to focus in the morning this may because of how you breathe during the night. 

When we learn how to breathe properly we can impact all kinds of health issues such as:

DigestionImmune function
Weight lossEnergy levels
AnxietyChronic fatigue
AsthmaExercise induced breathlessness
ConcentrationFocus
Sleep problemsSnoring
Sports performanceCOPD

How is breathing connected to weight loss, energy levels, chronic fatigue and anxiety?

There is a close link between breathing and metabolism which is connected to energy and weight. There seems to be a relationship between the amount we eat and over breathing. Exercises designed to stimulate the para sympathetic nervous (PNS) system seem to bring the body back into balance. This PNS stimulation helps to lower anxiety levels, reduce emotional eating and appetite as well as improve the basal metabolic rate. This is through complex interactions between respiratory rate, heart rate, and the increased capacity of the blood to carry oxygen.

What about asthma and breathing difficulties?

This is one of the key reasons people undertake the programme.  The mechanics and depth of how we breathe affects the amount of air and blood in our lungs. If we breathe well our lungs will protect us against pulmonary infections and we will generate an important molecule called nitric oxide. This molecule is generated in the nasal passages and is our first line of defence against foreign particles. Nitric oxide is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral and it dilates our airways and blood vessels to enhance delivery of oxygen and micronutrients to the tissues. Generating nitric oxide has been found to have significant health benefits especially with regard to chronic and age related disease.

By learning to breathe correctly, improving oxygen uptake and controlling the amount of air you breathe asthma symptoms may reduce or resolve and the need for medication can diminish.

Why does our breathing affect our digestion and our immune function?

Our gut membrane is the barrier between our internal and external world. It is the vital link between what we eat and the nutrients our body digests and absorbs. It’s surface area is as big as two tennis courts but it is delicate, only one cell thick and half the width of a human hair. Most of our immune system is situated just behind this membrane which starts in the sinuses and runs all the way down our throat to the stomach and intestines. It works to protect us from any unwanted substances we may ingest.

Many of us eat on the run, in a rush or whilst feeling stressed.  When we learn to breathe correctly we oxygenate our gut so it can relax, digest and function optimally which in turn supports our immunity.

How can changing how we breathe improve our exercise performance?

Many of us gas-out too soon when we exercise.  This breathlessness can actually put us off exercising.  We instinctively think this is because we can’t get enough oxygen. It has much more to do with being unable to tolerate the build up of carbon dioxide and lactic acid in the body combined with weak respiratory muscles. This chemical oversensitivity can be retrained and reset so the body can do more with less.  We can also retrain the mechanics of breathing to improve the strength of our diaphragm, and the inspiratory and expiratory muscles.

What is the Oxygen Advantage® programme ?

The Oxygen Advantage® programme teaches you the science and the practice of breathing right.  You learn the science of breathing and the ‘how to’ practical part which has two stages. The first stage is to assess your breathing and then learn how to retrain and repattern this for optimal function.  The second stage of the programme uses exercises which simulate high altitude training.  This teaches the body to do more with less, improving athletic performance for both recreational and professional sports people. 

Once you have learnt the exercises and reset your breathing receptors you simply incorporate it into your daily activities.

Benefits

The physiological benefits will depend on how your body responds to the core benefits of:

We pay little attention to the way we breathe because it’s such an automatic process. The Eastern philosophies such as yoga and Tai Chi have always taught that it is a key component of health.  We have never been taught to address it but with the Oxygen Advantage® programme you will learn the science and the practice from a fully qualified instructor.

You can read more about the Oxygen Advantage® programme here.

Helen Maxwell

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

07740 876233

References

Kiesel, P.T. et al (2017) Development of a screening protocol to identify individuals with dysfunctional breathing. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 12(51), DOI: 10.16603/ijspt20170774

Djupesland, P.G. et al. (1999) Nitric oxide in the nose and paranasal sinuses – respiratory tract physiology in a new perspective; Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 119(27); pp.4070-4072.

Bryan NS, et al. (2017) Oral microbiome and nitric oxide: the missing link in the management of blood Pressure. Current Hypertension Reports:19(4):33.

Stephan BCM, et al. (2017) Cardiovascular disease, the nitric oxide pathway and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia; Current Cardiology Reports: 11;19(9):87.

Weight loss: What’s breath got to do with it?

Excess weight is often thought to be the result of an imbalance between energy from food consumed less energy spent throughout the day. However, well known researchers such as Zoe Harcombe, have pointed out that weight is not simply the end product of calories in less calories utilised for metabolism and exercise. Weight loss is more complicated than adjusting food intake, nutrients and exercise levels although this is usually part of the picture. Apart from the emotional and mental aspects of eating there is also a close link between breathing and metabolism. 

Metabolism is the biochemical process by which your body combines food and drink with oxygen to convert it into energy. Your basal or resting metabolic rate (BMR) rate is how much energy you burn at rest to perform autonomic functions breathing; heart rate; digestion etc. determined by your: age; sex; body size and composition (muscle uses more energy). This rate is generally fairly consistent although physical activity and exercise can have an impact. However our respiration rate (speed, volume), our breathing mechanics (upper/lower chest, lung capacity) and the cadence (rhythm) of our breath affect this metabolic equation and ultimately tissue and organ function.

I first came across Butekyo breathing when I studied at Westminster University, whilst learning about the pathophysiology of asthma and nutritional support strategies.  Dr. Konstantin Butekyo was a Russian Doctor, who taught breathing techniques to his asthma patients.  This method is now taught by Patrick McKeown. He has combined Butekyo with other exercises to improve breathing for both sport and health into the Oxygen Advantage® technique in which I am trained.

Through over a decade of working with thousands of people to improve their breathing Patrick has observed that there seems to be a relationship between breathing volume and food consumption. Many of his clients would be using the techniques to resolve asthma, anxiety, stress or snoring but report a secondary benefits such as reduced appetite, weight loss, increased water intake and less craving for processed or unhealthy food choices.

When we eat less our energy expenditure often reduces in tandem. Carrying extra weight can also make exercise more challenging.  This is partly because of the extra pounds but often being overweight leads to the development of poor breathing habits such as hyperventilation, sighing, upper chest breathing and mouth breathing.  This means breathing increases during rest and quickly becomes erratic during exercise.

Poor breathing habits are common. One study estimates as many as 50-80% of the general population have some element of dysfunctional breathing.  The drivers are believed to be: pollution; poor quality food; central heating; lack of physical exercise and so much time spent sitting down. In addition many holistic practitioners and some forms of exercise such as yoga and pilates promote the idea of big, deep breaths. If the breath is taken into the upper chest it will activate our sympathetic nervous system or stress response. This way of breathing can become a habit. If we regularly take even occasional large upper chest breaths throughout the day this can upset pH balance, blood oxygen saturation and even food digestion and absorption can suffer. It is not a time to digest food if the body is primed to run away from a predator.

Using the Oxygen Advantage® breathing techniques to reduce and normalise breathing helps to bring the body back into balance. Reducing and softening the breath helps to normalise blood pH which is often too acidic. The resulting stimulation of the para-sympathetic nervous system can help to reduce emotional eating.  Some of the exercises simulate high altitude training and we have known for many years that animals and people lose weight at high altitudes. At altitude blood oxygen saturation reduces which seems to diminish appetite. Reduced breathing and breath holding temporarily lowers oxygen saturation in the blood inducing an anaerobic state which forces the body to burn fat stores.  The body adapts by releasing hormones to raise the concentration of red blood cells in the blood to increase oxygenation levels and aerobic capacity.

In 2018, researchers Yong, et al., found a significant increase in VO2 max and the BMR of healthy subjects when they tested them pre and post diaphragmatic breathing exercises.  This is important because 70% of our energy supports our BMR and as lean tissue requires more energy than adipose tissue (fat) to maintain itself, lean tissue may be preferentially lost when we try to lose weight. So raising BMR may be another way the technique supports healthy weight loss.  

Our blood vessels, airways and organs including our digestion system are lined with a hundred thousand miles of smooth muscle.  If we over breathe and don’t move much our tissues receive less oxygen and constrict, impairing function and sensitising our sympathetic nervous system.  When we correct how we breathe tissues dilate and function improves, stimulating our metabolism to self-regulate and correcting issues such as breathlessness, constipation and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Breathing is first on the list when it comes to survival, before food and water but often it’s last on the list of our health priorities. We pay little attention to getting it right. It is a very overlooked aspect of health and can be a key component to achieve weight loss and better health with less effort and less focus on food intake.

Get in touch to see how the Oxygen Advantage® training can help you to lose weight, address dysfunctional breathing, breathe better during exercise or just to improve your overall health.

Signs that you may have sub-optimal or dysfunctional breathing: feeling tense; cold hands and feet; a low body oxygen level test score; frequent sighing or yawning; mouth breathing at night; exercise induced asthma; snoring.

Helen Maxwell

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

07740 876233

REFS

Harcombe, Z. (2010) The obesity epidemic, Columbus Publishing.

Kiesel, et al. (2017) Development of a screening protocol to identify individuals with dysfunctional breathing’, International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy’, 12 (5), pp.774-786.

Mayo clinic staff (1998-2020); ‘Metabolism and weight loss: how you burn calories’; [available at]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508.

McKeown, P. (2015) The Oxygen Advantage, Harper Collins Publishers: New York.

Parkes, M.J. (2017) Reappraisal of systemic venous chemoreceptors: might they explain the matching of breathing to metabolic rate in humans? Experimental Physiology https://doi.org/10.1113/EP086561

Rothenberg, R.L., (2020) Restoring Prana, Singing Dragon, London and Philadelphia.

Yong, M-S. et al., (2018) Effects of breathing exercises on resting metabolic rate and maximal oxygen uptake, Journal of Physical Therapy Science; 30(9), pp.1173-1175.

Enter 'The zone'

An air of mystery surrounds ‘The Zone’, a near mythical state of mind-body alignment which athletes seek but few master. Rupert Sheldrake (author and biologist) suggests that sport may be one of the few remaining ways for people to experience an altered state of consciousness.  Sport requires: total concentration on the ‘present’; dedication; discipline and a will to explore and stretch beyond normal physical and mental capabilities. These qualities are all elements of committed spiritual practice potentially leading to similar experiences.

HeartMath® research suggests that this flow state is about heart-brain synchronisation achieved by connection with your intuitive heart.  When we do this over and over, with intention, it gradually becomes easier. We begin to understand it’s not a one-shot experience but a place we can train ourselves to enter at will.  There is a formula to get there to become physically, mentally and emotionally coherent. When we are coherent we are present, we think clearly, react intuitively and can play great sports.

The biofeedback from HeartMath® technology helps to build awareness of how our different emotional states affect the rhythmic pattern of heart activity.  It gives real time information on your heart rate variability (HRV) which is a measurement of the time intervals between consecutive heartbeats. 

Physically active individuals tend to have a higher HRV and this is associated with better health status. Athletes (recreational and professional) with a high HRV can respond, flex and adapt to the demands of their training and sport more easily.  But like most things in life it’s about balance and sport has a positive and negative relationship with HRV.  Your heart-beat is affected by your respiratory/cardiac cycle known as respiratory sinus arrhythmia or RSA. The sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is activated to cope with the demands of sport or exercise. If this exceeds available resources then vagus nerve function will diminish, negatively affecting our RSA and HRV. 

Teaching people to sustain positive emotions facilitates emotional and psychological coherence, enhancing mind-body co-ordination and shortening reaction time.  Tiger Woods was once asked during a championship game if there was a specific area players should look out for.  His response “No, not really.  I think the guys who are really controlling their emotions are going to win”.  I remember some years ago watching my son play football and thinking how much time and energy the players were wasting on emotions like frustration and anger at referee’s decisions or missed goals.  At the height of competition the ability to manage emotional reactions, make clear decisions and trust your intuition is often the difference between winning and losing.

Studies have shown that coherence can spread through entrainment, so team chemistry may result from a kind of collective team coherence or resonance. Perhaps a shared sense of energy, rhythm and intuitive knowing occurs to generate interaction and a successful team outcome. High school teacher and basketball coach Beth McHamee included HeartMath®  techniques in their training.  Before each game the team did a Heart Lock -in® and they used Quick coherence® on court and at half time. They ended the season with a record 15 wins compared to the previous six.

In Sweden hockey players trained in HeartMath® have used the techniques to switch from a chaotic to coherent emotional state when they are in the box watching the game.  This has improved their game observation ability but in addition they improved their physical stamina. Master Kelly (World Martial Arts Champion) also found benefits outside of his sport.  He used

HeartMath® techniques to maintain his edge to fight whilst competing in a younger competition category. He also used them to relax and handle stress from competition and travelling as well as to overcome injury setbacks and spark creativity and focus when writing his book.

HRV training and biofeedback have also been shown to play a useful role in the psychological response to injury and the rehabilitation process. The techniques can help them to deal with their roller coaster of emotions and the inevitable pain catastrophising which can become predictive. Compared to controls the HRV trained subjects lowered their respiration rates and improved on all psychological outcomes.  Their perceived level of control increased with the opportunity to become an active participant in their treatment.

Get in touch to learn how to use the Heartmath® biofeedback technology and techniques to tackle those situations where you react emotionally rather than respond intelligently. 

Experience science-based technology and coaching for taking charge of your life.

Proven to help you reduce stress and anxiety by increasing your inner balance and self-security.

Learn to access your heart’s intuition to become the best version of yourself more often.

“The brain thinks, but the heart knows” Joe Dispenza (neuroscientist) 

Helen Maxwell

HeartMath® certified coach

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

REFS

Perry, J., et al. (2018) Effectiveness of athletes’ mental strategies in maintaining high heart rate variability: Utility of a brief athlete-specific stress assessment protocol, ‘Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology’, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1123/jcsp.2017-0016

Ravi, S., et al. (2018) Heart rate variability: biofeedback and controlled breathing, competitive and recreation sport athletes, 2nd International conference on lifelong education and leadership for all, Latvian Academy of Sport Education, pp.413-418.

Rollo, S., et al. (2017) Effects of a heart rate variability biofeedback intervention on athletes psychological responses following injury: A pilot study; International Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine, 3(6) DOI: 10.23937/2469-5718/1510081.

Sheldrake, R., (2019), Ways to go beyond and why they work: 7 spiritual practices for a scientific age, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd.