June 26, 2020
Our Performance Coach, Louise Otton, delivered a workshop with Katherine Caris-Harris from KCH Nutrition for the team at Law 365 who were keen to explore how they could adapt their eating habits to support their wellbeing, resilience and immune systems.
They introduced everyone to some of the fundamental elements around how the brain and body are interconnected. In fact, the gut is sometimes referred to as your “second brain” because what you eat has such an impact on how you feel and act.
Katherine says: “While most of us know that food impacts our health and overall wellbeing at some level, we are rarely told how or why and, as many of the changes are occurring at a cellular level inside our body, it is easy to overlook what we may read or hear and not put it into practise. In addition, we are all individual so generic messages do not always work and can be confusing. I am a firm believer in education – by understanding a few simple connections and pathways some confusion can be removed and it is much easier to see how and why what we eat is so important – allowing you to take the power of your health back into your own hands”
Here are 4 fundamentals to get started
1. Understand how stress impacts your immune function
We know that stress is not good for us, but why? Stress comes in three forms; physical, physiological and psychological and each can effect everyone differently. When we are stressed our adrenal glands release cortisol (a stress hormone, otherwise known as our ‘fight or flight’ hormone) into our body which releases sugar into our blood, getting us ready to flee from the actual or perceived threat or stress. If this occurs for prolonged periods, it can result in elevated inflammation in our bodies, which can contribute to more serious complications such as heart disease, diabetes, depression along with weakening our immune system’s ability to fight off viral infections.
2. Balance your blood sugar
Imbalanced blood sugar (which occurs during the chronic cortisol release mentioned above) can be inflammatory so it is important to ensure that you eat a healthy balanced diet, including plenty of fresh vegetables, high quality protein, healthy fats, and avoid processed food or foods high in sugar. The impact of balancing blood sugar extends beyond our immune system. It helps balance mood swings and steroidal hormones (such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) which can promote better sleep and reduce the symptoms of many chronic health conditions.
3. Avoid quick fixes
During times of high stress and poor-quality sleep, we can be drawn to making less healthy choices, choices that may give us an instant fix but which in turn compound the impact of stress on our bodies, our ability to sleep, our energy levels and our immune function, circling back round to making more unhealthy choices.
Instead we suggest you make a plan and think about what snacks you want to have in the day and what do you actually buy into your household. If you have children, do they really need to have those sugary snacks? Think about how you can integrate their eating to be in alignment with your healthy choices, so it becomes a family commitment. Make a meal plan for the week, and plan your snacks, pack something like a handful of nuts and an apple, or oatcakes and cottage cheese, to avoid that afternoon blood sugar crash which leaves you wanting a less healthy snack option. Also, remember to stay hydrated, often we can mistake hunger for thirst.
Ensure you are getting enough exercise and movement in during the day so you are setting yourself up for a good nights sleep. Find ways to wind down and relax in the evenings through meditation, yoga, reading, having a warm bath, limiting screen time. All of these small actions will help you to keep your blood sugar in check, inflammation down and ultimately strengthening your immune system.
4. Start small
However, we know it can be tricky to implement this! Some simple but very effective changes to your nutritional choices can have big results and impact your overall mental health and ability to function at best at work. Behaviour change takes time, motivation and determination and we look to create a learning loop of to help us build a new habit:
- Act – decide what it is you want to change and keep it really micro.
- Assign – assign a new behaviour – how will you do it – visualise it and make it really manageable and plan it
- Assess – compassionately assess what went well or what needs to change and then act again.
Working with a nutritional therapist or a coach can be really transformational in making and sustaining these changes, which we know we ‘should’ do but often find it hard to put into practice. By the end of the workshop we had helped to equip the team with these key take-aways:
- Learning about the importance of how your gut is so closely linked to your brain and subsequently effects how you feel.
- Understanding the stress response and how it impacts your immune system.
- The link between inflammation, cortisol and blood sugar balance.
- How to balance blood sugar and other key nutritional considerations.
- Avoiding weight gain in lockdown – exercise, snacking and changing habits.
- Understanding how behaviour change and creating new habits is hard and how to overcome any obstacles to wellbeing.
“Louise and Katherine are a dynamic team,” says Kim. “They bring both their different expertise and deliver a punching presentation on how important it is to monitor our health and what to be aware of. I thought I was a fairly well-informed individual having a keen interest in diet, nutrition and sport but there were so many things I had missed and it was good to understand in what ways the mental health aspects really impacts on the physical aspect. Who knew that your gut was effectively a ‘second brain’ and the importance of looking after it! Really useful and something everyone needs to know.”
About Katherine Caris-Harris
BSc (Hons, First Class), BA (Hons), NLP Practitioner.
Katherine is a degree qualified Nutritional Therapist and NLP practitioner, with a special interest in functional medicine, chronic illness, competitive athletes and eating disorders. She’s also an amazing athlete herself having competed in GB age-group level triathlons and is a mum to two teenagers.