Pizza, pies, sodas, fast foods, fish n chips and baked beans these were foods I used to eat a lot of growing up in the 90s when they were considered harmless treats for the children…unfortunately by the time I was 9 years old I was obese (see photos) and I was constantly bullied by my peers at school…who called me chunky, bulgy and fatso. This really affected my self-esteem, I felt ugly and worthless and so I became a depressed kid. Until one day I decided I had enough and was no longer going to be that fat girl!
When I was just 12 years old I decided to take my health into my own hands. I started reading nutrition books during play time and made huge changes to my diet, I stopped eating all the fatty foods and started exercising every day. The result; I lost 20kg in one year and I looked like a completely different person. In fact, many of my friends didn’t even recognize me!
I finally looked like a normal sized girl and I was no longer bullied but suddenly admired. More importantly, I became confident in who I am and what I can achieve if I put my mind to it. I realized the power of nutrition and lifestyle on not only our weight but also how we feel about ourselves.
This was the start of my strong passion for health and nutrition, which led me to continue studying Nutrition. Since then I have completed my Double Major in Nutrition and Biochemistry at Otago University, started up my own nutrition consulting business to do what I love, which is helping people feel great about themselves.
Since then I have kept off the weight through continuing to eat the right foods, getting my DNA tested to fine tune my diet and maintaining regular exercise. I can honestly say that I love my body and who I have become because of my struggles. This is why I am passionate about helping other people who are struggling with their self-esteem due to health, skin or weight issues.
It is my mission to empower people to take ownership of their health, so they can feel great, look at their best and prevent future disease through making the right diet and lifestyle choices.
Nutritionist & Biochemist
Director of DNA Nutrition
Are there some foods you love that you vaguely suspect don’t love you back?
Do you feel bloated after your breakfast cereal in the morning? Feel like you experience wind after eating bread? Do you develop an itchy rash whenever you eat something that doesn’t agree with you? Or does drinking coffee might give you more than the usual buzz?
Many of us have food sensitivities that we aren’t even aware of. Causing unknown havoc in our bodies.
Food intolerances are complex, and it is often difficult to pinpoint the exact food which is causing the problem. But if we can work out exactly which foods we might be intolerant to, we’ll be able to improve how we feel each day.
Reducing our intake of these foods, or omitting them from our diet entirely, is a quick and extremely effective way to instantly boost our health and wellbeing.
Before DNA testing was available, working out which foods we might be sensitive to was a slow and painful process. We’d go on a total elimination diet and strip back to eating just plain white rice, and then gradually introduce other foods, whilst keeping a detailed food diary of how our body reacted to those new foods brought in. Many people would start the process of food elimination with the best intentions, but after a month or two – abandon it as all too hard.
These days however, our genes offer us an easy shortcut to working out exactly how our digestion works.
Our individual genes have a critical role in how well we tolerate dairy products.
Some people adore dairy products and never have any ill effects from eating them. Others, however, may suffer from stomach pains, loose stools, diarrhoea or rashes after consuming milk, yoghurt or cheese. These kinds of symptoms may be the clearest sign of a lactose intolerance – an inability to digest the sugars found in milk and dairy products. Due to not producing enough of the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking down lactose.
A genetic variation in the LCT (lactase) gene, called MCM6, enables the detection of lactose intolerance. It is rare for the lactase enzyme to be totally absent – most people produce some lactase so this means they can tolerate a certain amount of milk products in their diet, but when their threshold is reached that is when symptoms will likely appear.
When the lactase enzyme production is low, the body is unable to break down lactose, and this unused lactose is then digested by resident bacteria in the colon. Resulting in symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea or cramps in the abdominal area. A genetic test for lactose intolerance is a good idea if you are experiencing any of these symptoms and don’t know why.
Are we all gluten intolerant?
True gluten intolerance manifests as coeliac disease, a medical condition where the body reacts badly to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) which damages the small intestine and can hamper the absorption of nutrients in the body. Leading to chronic vitamin deficiencies, which if untreated it can lead to very serious health problems.
Symptoms of the illness include pain and discomfort in the digestive tract, constipation, diarrhoea and fatigue. Organs may also be damaged. For children, the condition may cause failure to thrive and stunted growth.
Coeliac disease is often inherited and your genes are a known risk factor. Around 99% of people with coeliac disease have either of the risk genes HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 or a combination of both. HLA genes are part of your immune system that distinguishes foreign proteins from your own proteins, and if you have coeliac disease then your body reacts to gluten found in wheat, barley and rye.
Genetic testing will identify if you have inherited these HLA risk genes. If you have neither of these HLA genes than you are very unlikely to have or develop coeliac disease. If you do have one or both risk genes, then there is a much higher chance of developing the illness. The gold standard to confirm if you do have coeliac would then be to follow this up with a small bowel biopsy.
Are you a fast or slow caffeine metaboliser?
Caffeine is one of the most popular stimulant drugs in the world. Mostly consumed in coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks like Red Bull as well as in chocolate. Research has shown that doses of caffeine over 300mg (or three cups of coffee per day) can be unhealthy and damaging to the brain. As a stimulant that directly affects the central nervous system, it can also put significant strain on the heart, liver and kidneys. Too much caffeine can make you feel restless, anxious and irritable; it can interrupt sleep and cause headaches.
Many people become caffeine dependant over time and if they stop using it, they can experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. The gene CYP1A2 is the one needed in the liver to break down up to 95% of caffeine in the body. Some people might not have this gene, it might be defective or other genes may be working to undermine it. Thus, these individuals are likely to be much more sensitive to caffeine than the average person. Signs there may be a problem are feelings of anxiety, rapid heart rate after consuming caffeine or problems falling asleep.
A genetic test can tell if you are a fast or slow metaboliser of caffeine. If you are a slow metaboliser than the stimulant effects last longer in your body and you’ll need to either cut out coffee or at least restrict your caffeine intake to one or two cups per day. Double that and you’ll also double your risk of a heart attack.
Getting your DNA tested is a good idea if there’s a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease, or if you are overweight or have high cholesterol. Knowing whether you are sensitive to caffeine is particularly important for women planning a pregnancy as caffeine metabolism is further impaired during pregnancy. Being forewarned with this personal health information will protect against a host of illnesses for both mother and baby.
In summary, getting your DNA tested will reveal exactly how well or how poorly your body deals with foods such as lactose, wheat, gluten, caffeine and salt.
Understanding your genetic ability to process these foods and then either decreasing the amount you eat or cutting them out entirely and substituting alternatives for them, will not only help you feel better every day but may also help to substantially reduce your risk of developing other diseases.
By Elaine Bracefield, BSc. Nutritional Biochemist & Genomic Wellness consultant.
Making an individualized sustainable plan:
Every person is unique; you have personal likes, dislikes, and lifestyles. And whether you’re just trying to make healthier food choices, or you have food sensitivities or allergies that you are trying to manage, a food plan that’s tailored to YOU makes all the difference. Plans will guide you step by step, meal by meal, day by day. If you will like the foods and flavours, and the plan fits into your schedule, you are much more likely to stick with it long term.
…and helping you stick to it:
How often do you have every intention of making healthier choices, and after a few weeks, the plan derails. Most clients that work with a nutritionist check-in once a month. This ongoing accountability and support will allow you to stick to your plan.
Modifications are made for anything that’s not working for you, as well as to continue to address and improve any symptoms or challenges you may be experiencing. And by having that check-in (easily also done by phone/skype) you are much more likely to be successful long-term.
A plan for the whole family:
If you live with other people, you know that getting everyone on a healthy eating plan can be incredibly challenging, especially with kids. When you work with a nutritionist, they can work with your whole family’s food needs/intolerances/allergies and provide guidance, meal plans and recipes that you can incorporate effectively.
A compliment to other practitioners:
Making full use of your benefit plans: When you work with a practitioner such as a naturopath, there is only so much time and benefits coverage. Nutrition is often covered under a different part of benefit plans, and you can use time with a nutritionist to get into the details of food plans, recipes, portions, and all your other food guidance needs.
It will save you a lot of time and confusion:
General nutritional guidance such as gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo, etc. is only an overview. Going online, shopping in a health food store, or reading books to get all the information you need to build a plan and find recipes for yourself can be very overwhelming, confusing and time-consuming. Working with a nutritionist will ensure healthy sustainable food choices that are designed to work best for your individual needs, with a full complement of plans and recipes.
Help you save money:
A nutritionist will help you with how and what to shop for. We’ll work to optimize your pantry; provide recipes and plans tailored to eating for one, or eating for a family. Effective use of leftovers, shopping in season, and knowing where it’s good to spend and where you can save. A lot of us have money go down the drain as we are not food shopping effectively.
Make your workouts much more effective:
Did you know if you don’t properly fuel your body, your workouts will be less effective or even ineffective? Without the right nutrition, your muscles cannot develop, and fat will not be burned efficiently. Working with a nutritionist will give you a plan tailored to your specific workout regimen, to get the best out of every workout.
A step by step approach to sustainable weight loss:
Fad diets, intense fitness regimes, fasting… the list goes on. There’s so much (mis)information out there about how to lose weight but the key ingredient that’s missing is you. Sustainable, healthy weight loss needs to address your individual health makeup and challenges, and also work within your lifestyle needs. Ongoing accountability and support is key for keeping to a nutrition plan for weight loss. There will be bumps in the road, new challenges, and adjustments to be made as you go along. A nutritionist is your coach, there to ensure you meet your goals and keep weight off in the long run.
A holistic nutritionist looks at the entire person and evaluates symptoms to address root causes of health challenges. We work with you to address your food, lifestyle and environment, and make adjustments to help you have more energy, address blood sugar imbalances, improve quality of sleep, hormonal challenges and much more. Nutritionists understand the science behind how the foods you eat can either help or hinder the function of your mind and body
After doing my research on the immune system, glutathione and the influenza vaccine. I have come to the conclusion that we need to get our priorities right before we jump in line for the flu jab. Here are three things for you to consider before getting the flu vaccine:
1. How is your overall health and immune function right now?
2. How are you supporting your immune system to function at its best naturally?
3. How effective is the flu vaccine?
Firstly, if you are often sick or tired for no apparent reason or you frequently catch the cold, you may have a weakened immune system. Your white blood cells act like policemen on a cellular level that catch the invading viruses or bacteria and take them out by literally destroying them. Your immune cells are also responsible for detecting misbehaving mutant cells and killing them before they have a chance to grow into a tumor. Therefore having a weak immune system not only makes you more susceptible to getting the flu but to all diseases and cancers.
Secondly, it is crucial that we support our immune function by optimizing our glutathione production, because without glutathione our immune system would quickly surrender to disease. This is because Glutathione is the chief protector of our immune cells. Basically it is the SWAT team that backs up the Police force in your body. Healthy growth and activity of immune cells depends on the availability of Glutathione. The protective function of Glutathione is two-fold; it enhances the activity of immune cells and functions as a powerful antioxidant within them.
There are now over 100,000 scientific studies and clinical trials on glutathione recorded in PubMed the official US government library of medical research. Of the articles I have researched to date, raising glutathione levels has been clinically proven to be beneficial for people afflicted with: Cancer (all forms), Aids, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, flu virus, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, diseases of the liver, heart, lungs, kidneys and many more....in fact there are now 74 major diseases associated with low glutathione levels. Aside from being the body's most powerful antioxidant, a huge reason why glutathione has been proven to be protective against most diseases, is because it optimizes and boosts our immune function.
Thirdly after doing my own research on the effectiveness and efficacy of the influenza vaccine, I found some surprising results. In healthy adults a meta-analysis of cohort studies and clinical trials on the effectiveness of influenza vaccination, found the pooled efficacy of flu shots was 59%. So for healthy adults, influenza vaccines could provide moderate protection against influenza, but such protection was greatly reduced or absent in some seasons. Moreover, in the overall adult population the overall effectiveness of the vaccine is limited, corresponding to a number needed to vaccinate of 40. So 40 people have to get a flu shot for one person to avoid the flu.
The population group most susceptible to the flu are the elderly (age 65 and up) and unfortunately the trials show that the vaccine is least effective in the elderly. The studies also suggest a 'healthy user group' effect whereby the flu vaccine is most effective amongst healthy adults (who generally have stronger immune function). Unfortunately it is the elderly and less healthy adults who generally have weaker immune function and thus need the most protection against the flu. Therefore, it appears that in order for the flu vaccine to be most effective by stimulating a strong immune response, an individual must first have healthy immune function to begin with. Therefore, our first priority should be to address the root cause of frequent colds and flu infections, which is a weak immune system!
We can focus on strengthening our immune systems from the inside out by boosting our glutathione levels and by having a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle. Ultimately if we keep relying on artificial methods of overcoming infection, such as antibiotics, our innate immune defenses will become weaker and weaker, leading to a potential public health disaster! The best natural but also clinically proven solution, is to increase your glutathione levels to boost your immune function naturally.
Do you want to be pro-active about your health outcomes? I encourage you to optimize your glutathione levels with Max's Glutathione acceleratng health supplements, which have been clinically proven to provide unparalleled glutathione enhancement and cellular support.