The Inflamed Mind | 07813 018 908

The Inflamed Mind

The Inflamed Mindmind inflamed

Did anyone hear this radio programme on August 24th at 9pm on radio 4?


There were some interesting points raised about the connection with mental health and the presence of inflammatory markers in the body.   Research is showing that people suffering with depression or other mental healthy disorders frequently have significantly raised levels of inflammation.  Indeed, this is not new and research has been done on this over the last 20 years or so.  Nevertheless, it is good to see it in the mainstream media and what is new is that a protocol for depression or psychosis may now include a drug to dampen the immune system and dampen inflammation.

I am not against drugs when needed, but as I was listening to the radio programme last night, I couldn’t help but feel sad that the majority of those affected will get no real lifestyle advice, no advice on which foods or herbs and spices could be added to our daily diet to help decrease inflammation.  Just take this pill and carry on doing everything else the same, when such a lot could benefit these individuals, potentially in addition to medication or in some cases, as an alternative option.

Here are my top ten inflammation busting tips.

  1. Decrease sugar, refined carbs and alcohol. These cause insulin surges, which results in more inflammatory markers.  We know that too many fat cells also cause inflammation and insulin encourages weight gain.
  2. Find out if you are intolerant to anything. Gluten can be inflammatory, so can dairy and anything you react to will produce inflammatory cytokines.  I organise effective testing for intolerances.
  3. Manage your stress levels. Cortisol is a hormone we produce when stressed, and too much encourages inflammation.  Minimising sugar, and having more magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin C can help combat symptoms of stress.   Finding down time is vital.  I also organise cortisol tests, as mentioned on the radio programme.
  4. Sleep enough. Yes, I’m a nutritionist, but you could be having the best foods in the world, and if you are constantly in sleep deficit, your inflammatory markers will be higher.  Enough is 7 to 8 hours for most people, not 5 or 6.
  5. Have good quality omega 3 oils from oily fish, such as mackerel or wild or organic salmon. Have 2 or 3 times a week.
  6. Include turmeric in your diet, either fresh or powdered. Fresh is amazing grated onto salads or added to smoothies in chunks.  Have as often as possible.
  7. Garlic and ginger are potent anti-inflammatories. Add fresh ginger to porridge, smoothies and teas.  Make a pesto with raw garlic, basil, nuts and olive oil.
  8. Get 8 portions of veg in. The antioxidants found in these wonderful foods, help quench free radicals which can contribute to inflammation.
  9. Use a herb such as rosehip, which I love for bringing down inflammation. I use an amazing supplement for this, or source the herb from a reputable supplier.
  10. Know what your vitamin D scores are. Vitamin D is an immune modulator meaning it can help dampen down an inflammation causing overworking immune system.  Test with your GP or ask me.

There are plenty more little hints and research I could mention, including considering your gut health, which I will do a whole post on soon, but 10 is enough for one reading.  If it is being proven that mental health is linked to inflammatory markers sometimes, then we need to do what we can to reduce the inflammation within our lifestyles.

Mental Health and Men

jogging man

Many of us know men who suffer greatly with their mental health and we’d all like to be able to help them more. Here are some nutritional points men experiencing low mood or anxiety related symptoms should consider.  This is by no means an exclusive list,  but I hope you find something that resonates with you or with a man you know who is affected by depression or anxiety.

Levels of B vitamins

B vitamins are involved in a process called methylation.  Around 30% of the population have problems with methylation, that rises to 40% among people suffering with depression.  If this process is not working well, neurotransmitter production and the brain’s sending and receiving of these mood-affecting chemical messages will be affected. B12 and folate are especially important.  Also, B6 is needed for serotonin production. 

Action: Eat plenty of green leafy veg, some liver, eggs and good quality red meat to get these nutrients.  However, if you are an over or under methylator you may benefit from supplementation. I regularly organise tests to check my patient’s methylation status.

Gut health Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 15.56.58

More and more studies are coming out all the time linking our microflora (gut bacteria) to anxiety and depression.  The gut bacteria play a huge role in many aspects of health.  One of these is that they help control inflammation, and depression is now recognised by many as an inflammatory state.  Suffice to say,  if our bacteria are out of balance then our mental health can suffer.  Also, if there is inflammation in the gut, then the lining of the intestine can become damaged, endotoxins from bacterial waste or poorly broken down food particles can leak into the blood stream and an inflammatory response is mounted.  Certain medications, stress, poor diet, lack of sleep can all contribute to such a situation.


Don’t forget that up to 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut.  Making sure the gut is in optimal health, means you may have more of this neurotransmitter for your brain.

Bloating, acid reflux, excessive wind, constipation, diarrhea and nausea are all indications of poor gut health, resulting in a potential impact on your mental health.

Action:  This is difficult to generalise as different foods may cause problems in different people. Generally, provide substrate for the bacteria. This means lots of veg, some fermented foods and unprocessed foods, not too much booze or sugar. Consider probiotics and potentially other therapeutic supplements to get you back on track.  If you have digestive symptoms with low mood or anxiety, then consider comprehensive digestive testing to determine levels of beneficial and pathogenic or opportunistic bacteria and other important markers.


This is a huge area in mental health and men have a tendency to battle on through (forgive the sweeping statement)  and possibly then to hammer it out in the gym or self-medicate with alcohol.  So how can stress affect your mood, other than it just not being something to smile about?  When we are stressed our cortisol levels go up.  Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and has many roles.  One of these is a buffer against inflammation. If cortisol is consistently high, cells become resistant to it, and inflammation levels rise.  Raised levels of inflammatory cytokines are very often present in depression. Cortisol is also partly responsible for managing blood sugars, and if it’s too high (or eventually too low) then blood sugar can fluctuate.  A dip in blood sugar can trigger anxiety, looatsw mood and irritability.
Action: Eat foods to support blood sugar balance.  This means plenty of protein, essential fats, and foods rich in zinc and chromium, such as eggs, nuts and seeds.  Keep caffeine to a minimum and limit refined sugars.  You can do a simple saliva test over 24 hours to see what your cortisol levels are doing throughout the day.  Saliva is an excellent carrier of this hormone.


This is usually an inherited disorder and affects around 15% of people with depression. If you have excessive pyrolles, vitamin B6 and zinc will be stripped out of the body. B6 is a co-factor not only for serotonin, but also for GABA and dopamine, all involved in feeling happy and calm.   If you have low zinc, you are likely to have high copper. This results in excess adrenaline, which can cause anxiety and poor sleep.

Action: Test for levels of pyrolles and if high you will need to supplement with high levels of zinc and B6.  This can make a vast difference very quickly in affected individuals.  

Your general diet

Is it rich in natural foods, with oily fish, good quality meats and eggs, plenty of veg, some starchy carbs and maybe some nuts and seeds?  All these contain nutrients such as essential fats, zinc, magnesium, iodine, which are vital to mental health, helping you to produce, send and receive important chemical messages.Salmon canape with tomato and lettuce by Nutritional Therapist



If you are concerned about your health and would like to have an individual nutrition programme to support your mental wellbeing , or for more information on the testing mentioned above please contact Kate.  She is happy to offer a free no-ties 15 minute chat to see if you’d like to work with her.

World Digestive Day – May 29th

Digestion is probably THE thing I talk about the most with my clients.  Well, maybe that and energy (or lack of!!!).  The following are all are signs that something is not functioning right in that amazing digestive system of yours.  However, it is very true that the signs of a troubled digestive system could be neurological, skin or immune-related too. Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 15.56.58

  • Bloating
  • Sore tummy
  • Acid reflux
  • Pain on one side
  • Foul smelling wind
  • Loose stools
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue after eating
  • Undigested food in stool


Here are 5 tips for improving your digestion.   Please note that this article is not intended as treatment for SIBO, IBD or any particular digestive condition and they are by no means exclusive.  They are in addition to a healthy diet with lots of veg, good fats, not much sugar and very little processed food (but of course!!)


  1. Chew well! Yes, really chew.  You wouldn’t believe what an impact this has and most people seem to be bolting their food down.   It’s really quite simple as to why we need to do this:  the process of chewing breaks the foods down into small pieces which then go into your stomach for further digestion by stomach acid and certain enzymes.  When the food is in smaller particles then your body has less work to do and by the time the bits of food reach the small intestine they are in a size that the body can cope with.   A lack of chewing results in big chunks going into the stomach.  Quite often we don’t have quite enough stomach acid (maybe you are stressed, on PPIs – omeprazole), which makes it harder to break foods down of course, so then you end up with large particles in the small intestine, fermenting, causing gas (bloating) and creating an inflammatory environment with a host of negative consequences.
  2. Don’t drink too much liquid with a meal. This will dilute the all important hydrochloric acid in your stomach and prevent the release of adequate digestive enzymes.
  3. Add some bone broth to your diet. This is so easy to do, especially if you have a slow cooker.  Use the bones of chickens or beef (your butcher may oblige) and make a nice broth with vegetables.  This is so rich in healing nutrients such as glycine, which can help to protect and restore gut lining, which can be damaged through inflammation.  Our grandmothers would have done this, passed down through generations from when we instinctively did what was good for us.
  4. Talking of knowing instinctively what is good for us, another dietary custom of many people all over the world is to eat fermented food. Tempeh and natto in Japan, kimichi in Korea, sauerkraut in Germany and kefir, kombucha and yoghurt in many places.  Why are femented foods so good for us?  In a nutshell, when a food is fermented and we ingest it, we are introducing different strains of beneficial bacteria into our digestive tracts.  This is so important, our diets and lifestyles have changed so much over the last 100 years that many of us lack beneficial bacteria.  Not to mention the impact of antibiotics and some other medication, which wipes these ‘friendly bugs” out. Good bacteria are needed for our immune system, to absorb or make certain nutrients, reduce inflammation and generally support healthy digestion.  Incorporating a little into your diet on a daily basis would be wonderful, but any is better than none.
  5. Cut down on gluten based foods. More and more research is showing gluten to be an inflammation causing food.  Did you know that when grains were originally introduced to the human diet, we sprouted and fermented them rendering them far easier to digest?  Gluten contains a protein that is very sticky when it is in the digestive tract, so if you feel your system is compromised in any way, then give yourself a break for a while.  Gluten can encourage intestinal permeability (leaky gut) which increases your likelihood of reacting to other foods and can overstimulate the immune system, which can also be a contributory factor in the development and management of auto-immunity.  I will write more on this in the coming weeks, it’s a huge topic.   Also to note is that gluten is not the only food to consider regarding digestive issues, it’s just quite a common trouble-maker and can be a good place to start.



There are so many more things I could say on the subject of digestion, but even if there is one point you find interesting or is new to you, then take that point away and maybe you can use it to make some changes for a healthier digestion and ultimately a healthier you.

Easter Chocolate Truffles!!

ID-100384963It’s Easter!  That usually means chocolate galore, but it doesn’t need to be sugar galore!  If you have 10 spare minutes over the next couple of days, then throw together (literally) these healthy truffles and make them into little eggs!

Dairy free, sweetened only with dates, rich in magnesium and healthy fats, and no yukky additives,  they have been a hit taste-wise with everyone I’ve given them to.   I made a big batch last weekend, but guess what: there are none left!!   The picture is of something similar.

Ingredients:  Please note these are approximations and can be played around with.  I also find that the gooeyness of the dates varies, which means the amount of oats or ground nuts also varies a little (the more gooey, the more dry I need)

  • 15 to 20 dates, depending on size
  • 2 tbsps gluten free oats
  • 2 tbsps ground almonds or ground cashews (whizz up in a Nutribullet)
  • 2 tbsps desiccated coconut (and more for rolling)
  • 2 tbsps coconut oil
  • 2 tbsps raw cacao powder (could use coco powder, cacao is more nutritious)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or ground vanilla pod)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 shot cold decaff coffee (instant or fresh)

Mix everything up in the blender. Grind the nuts before adding to the main mix.

If the dates are a bit dry I blend them first with cold coffee in Nutribullet or it’s a bit lumpy. If dates are really soft, then no need.

Leave covered in fridge for 30 mins, then roll into little ball or egg sizes.  I roll mine in cacao powder or desiccated coconut for prettiness!

Do like my if you’d like more recipes!!



Antioxidant testing: simple, painless, accurate

images790HW926Many of us know we need antioxidants to be healthy. But why and where to do we get them from?  How do we know we are getting what we need or not from our diet?

Come and find out!   I am teaming up with Emma Smillie again and will be using the Biophotonic Antioxidant Scanner to give you an instant result of the levels of carotenoid antioxidants in your tissue.  This gives a good indication of your overall antioxidant status.

Where:  Balanced, 1 St Bernard’s Row, Stockbridge, EH41HW

When: 2 -4pm Sunday April 17th

Cost: £10

The technology in this device has won a Nobel Prize.  It uses a non-invasive laser on your hand and takes less then 1 minute.  In my opinion, a very clever object!

We get antioxidants from foods such as fruits, veg, nuts, coffee (!!), chocolate (dark, good quality!) and yes, you’ve heard it before: red wine!  Without them, we risk a state of oxidative stress in the body, which means possible long-term damage to cells, leading to degenerative diseases.

In the time that I’ve been using this device, it’s been really lovely to tell people when they have a high antioxidant status.  It’s also been found useful by people who didn’t score so highly,  a little indication that now is the perfect time to make a few dietary or lifestyle changes, which I will talk you through at no extra cost.

Please text me on 07813 018908 to book or send me an email at

You can also book through Balanced on 0131 315 3105. Option 1 for Stockbridge.

PS:  We are open for 2 hours, but it’s not necessary to attend for all that time.  We will do a small talk at the beginning if you are interested and then scan people in a private room.



Nutrition for Menopause

dancing meadows

Hot flushes, sweats, brain fog, forgetfulness, mood swings, fatigue…do we really need to suffer these symptoms (and more!) when our bodies go through peri-menopause and menopause? Is there anything we can do with our diets to help?


The answer is very often “yes.”  Here are my top ten tips for a smooth ride through these hormonal changes.


  1. Include phyto-oestrogens in your diet. Phyto-oestrogens are fabulous for women of all ages but are very important when oestrogen levels are declining. They are adaptagens, which means that if we don’t have enough circulating oestrogen they provide some, and if there is too much they prevent us from uptaking it. Phyto-oestrogens are found in many fruit and vegetables (eg: fennel, celery broccoli) but are rich in pulses such as chick peas, and are abundant in soya and flaxseeds. Choose fermented soya such as miso, nato and tempeh – not soya milks. When soy is fermented, certain anti-nutrients, that can block absorption of other nutrients are inhibited. Do NOT take soya if you are hypothyroid.


  1. Have 2 dessertspoons per day of ground flaxseeds, in porridge, salads or in yoghurts. These are very high in lignans, which convert to phyto-oestrogens in the gut.


  1. Address any gut issues. You need healthy gut flora to activate phyto-oestrogens. If you’ve had a high sugar/alcohol diet or taken courses of antibiotics or steroids, or been through a lot of stress, your gut flora is likely to be compromised. More and more research shows just what an important role our gut bacteria play in hormonal health.
  2. Ensure you have good quality oily fish. The omega 3s contain beneficial prostaglandins that can help with hormone balance. Flax also contains omega 3 oils, but they may not be as well utilised as oils from fish.
  3. It sounds obvious, but do limit refined carbohydrates (sugars, white pastas etc) and alcohol. These can lead to peaks and troughs in blood sugar. Managing blood sugar is key in minimising symptoms such as hot flushes, sweats and brain fog. High vitamin C foods may also help manage hot flushes.
  4. Manage/reduce stress. Firstly, hot flushes and sweats can be triggered by adrenaline. Secondly, your adrenal glands (which secrete stress hormones) produce some oestrogen even after the ovaries cease to do so. It’s the lack of oestrogen that gives us all our menopausal symptoms. Nutritionally, managing blood sugars, increasing B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C all support the adrenals.
  5. Consider caffeine. Caffeine can overwork already depleted adrenal glands (see above) in sensitive individuals. It is also known to encourage hot flushes.
  1. Don’t forget your bones! Oestrogen protects our bones, hence the risk of osteoporosis post menopause. Nutrients needed for bone health are calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin D and vitamin K.   Vitamin K is made by bacteria in your gut, so another reason to make sure your gut is happy and healthy!
  2. There are many herbs that can potentially help. Sage, red clover, black cohosh and wild yam are ones commonly used in practice. Get professional advice before you start adding these and other supplements into your regime. Quality varies enormously. Drinking sage tea is fine.


  1. You need some body fat. This is not an excuse to dive into the doughnuts, but women with a low body fat percentage often suffer more during menopause as our fat cells have the ability to produce and secrete some oestrogen. Balance is always the key.


Kate is a fully qualified nutritionist, specialising in gut and hormone related issues. She offers individual consultations, which include dietary plans and recipes as well as supplement and functional testing recommendations.

Nourishing Immune Juice

detox juiceOk, so my immune system appears to need some help as I sit here coughing and spluttering. If yours could also do with a helping hand, then whizz up this juice and hopefully we’ll be back to normal sharpish!

2 small handfuls of kale

1/2 an avocado (just eat the other half!)

1/2 an apple

juice of 1 lime

5x 1 inch chunks frozen pineapple

1 stick celery

1x 3 cm piece fresh turmeric (roughly – or use 1/2 tsp powder)

chunk of ginger (I use loads, but do to taste, if organic no need to peel)

1 heaped tsp barley grass powder


Throw everything in high speed blender et voila!

That’s a lot in one smoothie – absolutely full of vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, folate, good fats, anti-inflammatory  and anti-viral properties to name a few!!  I’m enjoying it right now and visualising having a clear head and voice once again!

You and Me – A 5 Rhythms Workshop 13th/14th Feb

dancing meadows
Yay! Andrew Holmes is coming back for another weekend of the Rhythms!
Join us on this one, exploring the different dances of relationship.
How do we move through our shyness, and discomfort, and boredom with other people, and find fascination and enrichment instead?
You and Me

  A Five Rhythms Workshop

       with Andrew Holmes


                          ~ Edinburgh ~

    Sat 13th & Sun 14th Feb        


   plus an open Waves evening on Fri 12th

Relationship ~ it connects us, to others and to life.

At an early age we realise that there’s more than just us here.

And then throughout our lives, with family and with friends, with lovers and with colleagues, we meet, relate, and part, again and again.

Sometimes it’s delightful, sometimes it’s difficult.

Sometimes it’s perfunctory, sometimes it’s profound.

Always there’s an opportunity for creativity and for us both to be enriched. If we can find it..

This is a weekend to explore, through the 5 Rhythms, the dances of relationship ~

Our familiar patterns, and other possibilities..

All the different ways of connecting with another

With body and heart

Me and you.

Practical Details and How to Book

Sat 13t Feb 11am – 6pm

Sun 14th Feb 11am – 5pm

St. Columba’s Church Hall, Upper Gray Street, Edinburgh  EH9 1SN


Cost:         £95      (£80  if booked by Jan 24th)

Fri evening – Feb 12th  7 – 10pm.    £15   (£10  if booked with weekend)


To book for the weekend:  please send a non-refundable deposit of £50  (cheques payable to ‘A. Holmes’)  to Kate Swaine, 45c Promenade, Musselburgh,  EH21 6JU

Any questions, please call me (Kate) on 07813 018908 or email me on

Bank transfer is also possible.  Kate has the details.


Chocolate Chia Seed Breakfast!

January and February can be the most difficult months for many, so what better breakfast to perk us up than a chocolate delight?!  Truly virtuous and delicious, chia puddings are a great way to start the day.  Super quick, super healthy and super tasty…what more could you want?

And of course, you could have them for snacks or puds too!

Here’s something I throw together (and sometimes in a jam jar if I’m rushing out the door) on many a morning.

chia pudding



Serves 1

3 to 4 tbsp chia seeds

200 to 250 ml almond or coconut milk

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 dessertspoon raw cacao (or coco powder, but cacao has more nutrients)

1tsp maple syrup

some walnuts on top for texture


Mix all the ingredients except the walnuts and leave for at least 15 minutes.  The chia seeds will expand and soak up the liquid.

This breakfast is rich in omega 3 fats, protein and plenty of minerals and B vitamins.  This should help to keep cravings at bay and provide you with great energy for your day.

No Need to Count Calories!

smaller-waist medWith the New Year now upon us and resolutions firmly set, a common thread is the desire to lose weight and along comes the calorie counting obsession.  Cutting calories is simply not the best way to achieve and maintain healthy weight loss for a variety of reasons.

  1. Weight loss is more likely to be caused by a diet too high in carbohydrates such as bread, cakes, pizza, soft and alcoholic drinks.  Yes, these can be high in calories, but perhaps more significantly, it is their impact on your blood sugar that leads to weight gain.  High carb foods lead to rises in blood sugar, which leads to insulin secretion.  Insulin encourages your body to make and store fat.  It also tends to create a low in blood sugar a while later, which leads to cravings for more of the same carb based foods. Fat and the high calories from an avocado or nuts, for example, will not encourage fat storage but should satisfy your body’s natural demand for fats and leave you feeling full and energised for several hours.  Of course, if you ate the whole bag of nuts, then that may be a little too much fat for your body not to store where you would prefer it not to!
  2. If we start looking at calories, we often go for low-fat options.  The problem with low-fat is that it usually equals low-taste, which means sugar or sweeteners are added by manufacturers and we have the issue of blood sugar outlined above.   We need  fat for all sorts of things (e.g.:brain, skin, hormones, energy) so if we don’t have it, we crave it.  Unfortunately, we are far more likely to crave doughnuts than coconuts so we steer clear of “fats” until we fall off the wagon and binge.  A little bit of good fat every day is far more conducive to sustained weight loss.
  3. Calorie counting is a stress.  Stress increases the production of cortisol, a hormone known to increase appetite, spike cravings for sugary carbs and increase belly fat.
  4. The formula may be wrong.  There is some discussion from scientists on how our 100+ year formula for working out calories may not be correct.  Some may contain less if some components don’t get digested, i.e, types of fibre, and some may contain more.  Also, it depends on how a food is cooked as to what effect it can have on your blood sugar.  Mashed potato has a higher impact that new potatoes and so will effect weight more, regardless of calories.  Certain foods increase metabolic rate, such as ginger and chili and so may also have an impact on weight.
  5. Studies have found that groups who eat a high level of antioxidants have a lower BMI and smaller waistline than those who consumed fewer antioxidants but the same number of calories.  It is probably the combination of nutrients derived from the healthier diet, that led to an increase in metabolism.