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Alex Allan Nutrition
By Alex Allan on 22/04/24 | Gut health

Happy Tummy Foods

Some foods are excellent for supporting our digestion and here are some of my favourites that I suggest to clients on a regular basis:

Cruciferous vegetables

These smelly veg bring amazing health benefits on a number of different levels. Since we’re talking about foods that are helpful for your digestion, you should know that they contain compounds called glucosinolates, which are fermented by bacteria and used as fuel. They are prebiotic.


Bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, caulifiower, kale , rocket, spring greens, watercress.

Fermented foods

Fermented foods have a long tradition in some parts of the world, especially Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. Bacteria (and sometimes beneficial yeasts) might be involved in the process and the result is an increase of good bacteria in the foods. You’ve probably heard of live or ‘bio’ yoghurt.

Some of these other probiotic foods might sound peculiar and a little ‘advanced’ for most regular people. However, they are now commonly found on supermarket shelves (you'll find them in the world foods aisle where the Oriental products are) and, while they might not be the kind of product you would usually go for, it is always worth experimenting. Kimchi, in particular, is often combined with chilli and other flavours and is far tastier than its name might suggest.

Examples include yoghurt, pickles (gherkins), sauerkraut, kimchi (fermented cabbage), tempeh (fermented soya beans), natto (fermented soya beans), miso soup (fermented soya beans), tamari soy sauce, buttermilk, some cheeses like cottage cheese, gouda, mozzarella and cheddar.

Fermented drinks

Like other fermented products, these were once only found in health food shops and were perhaps the prevail of people who ate a very clean and unprocessed diet. 

These were a secret waiting for the masses to discover. Often flavoured with fruits, they really are delicious and do not taste 'worthy'. You'll find them in the chilled drinks section in most supermarkets.

Kombucha (fermented tea - sweet and fizzy but without sugar) and kefir (fermented dairy drink very much like a yoghurt drink) are examples.

The only way you’ll know if it’s for you is to try!


Fibre is one of the best things to eat to support healthy digestion. Fibre is described as being either insoluble or soluble.

This is part of the plant wall in fruit and veg. It’s indigestible so it passes right through your system, sweeping up toxins and other waste products as it goes, and keeping you regular. The undigested fibre is also fermented by gut bacteria, producing the beneficial short chain fatty acids mentioned earlier.


Fruit and veg, beans and lentils, oats and wholegrain foods like brown rice and wheat.

This can be partially digested and is well-celebrated for its ability to reduce cholesterol in the blood and normalise blood sugar levels.


Oats, veg, fruit (especially apples, pears, berries, and citrus fruits), beans and lentils.

Anti-Microbial Foods

Some foods exert a natural antibiotic or anti-fungal effect and can be useful for keeping nasties like pathogenic bacteria or unwelcome yeasts at bay.

These include caprylic acid found in coconut. Coconut oil is also a very good oil to use in cooking, especially at high temperatures.

Garlic contains the active ingredient allicin, which has historically proven itself to be an effective killer of both bacteria and viruses, making it a great immune-boosting ingredient. Use it raw wherever possible.

Olive oil – the oleic acid has anti-bacterial properties. Use it generously to dress salads and veg.

And we can’t have a list of the foods to add in, without looking at what we need to avoid for a happy tummy:

Sugar and refined carbohydrates

In same way there are things your digestive system loves, there are things it will not love you for. Sugar. That’s the number one thing to avoid, plus anything that contains added sugar.

Other things your tummy is not fond of include highly refined products like white rice, pasta, pastry and snacks like crisps and biscuits.

If you would like to take a look at your gut health – whether you have symptoms or would just like to be optimally well – why not book in a free call? You can book via the link here.

By Alex Allan on 15/04/24 | Recipes


This is a traditional Korean fermented dish. During the fermentation process, the naturally-occur- ring bacteria produce lactic acid, which is a natural preservative. Thanks to its probiotic qualities, it’s a favourite among nutrition professionals and excellent for gut health!


Medium Chinese cabbage, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tsp sea salt

1 fresh chilli, seeded and finely sliced

4 spring onions, finely sliced

4 cm fresh ginger, grated

2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp sugar


  • Put the cabbage in a glass bowl, sprinkle with salt, and cover with a plate smaller than the bowl. 
  • Add weights - a couple of full tin cans will do - to squash the cabbage down. Leave overnight. 
  • Next day, remove the plate and weights/ cans and drain the liquid off. 
  • Stir in the rest of the ingredients and put into a clean preserving jar, leaving a small gap at the top. Press down until the juices rise and the liquid covers the kimchi.
  • Leave on the kitchen counter for 3-5 days to ferment. Check it every morning, pressing down the kimchi into the liquid and releasing any gas bubbles. 
  • Refrigerate for 3-4 days before eating. Serve a tablespoonful with hot or cold meals. 
  • Keeps for up to 3 months in the fridge. 
  • Dried chilli can be used instead of fresh.
  • Enjoy!

By Alex Allan on 08/04/24 | Gut health

Fix Your Digestion Naturally

There are few things worse than tummy troubles. If your digestive system doesn’t work as it should, the result might be pain or discomfort right through to downright embarrassment at the gurgly noises and bad smells your body produces. It doesn’t have to be that way and, as a nutrition practitioner, I am always amazed by how long some of my clients have been trying to muddle through before they seek my help.

What scientists now call the ‘microbiome’ is a parallel universe of all kinds of different microorganisms running all through your digestive tract, that runs from your mouth to… well, the other end.

Most of these organisms are bacteria, and there are lots more of these than there are cells in your body - about ten times as many. The balance of the bacteria in your digestive system has implications for your health in general and not just your innards. In short, it’s important to have the right kinds of bacteria in the right places. It matters that the ratio of good to bad bacteria works – when you’re out of balance (there are more unfavourable bacteria and other microorganisms) nutritionists call this ‘dysbiosis’.

Dysbiosis can result in your digestive system becoming a more favourable environment for yeasts like candida or parasites. There are some places you don’t really want many bacteria, whether good or bad, like in the small intestine. Your body really should do a daily swoosh of all bacteria from the small intestine down to the colon (it's called the Migrating Motor Complex).

There are many reasons why this might happen – like having had food poisoning in the past – and the result is that the bacteria left behind feast on the food you’re eating, causing bloating, wind, feelings of nausea, diarrhoea and constipation (or a combination of the two). Essentially, all those things you might be linking to your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

I’m going to be straight with you and say that the ideal situation is that you bring your digestive problems to me, and that we talk about getting to the bottom (excuse the pun) of exactly why your system isn’t working the way it should, and this usually involves some testing. When you’re ready to prioritise your health, you know where I am.

In the meantime, here are my top 5 tips to help to fix your digestion

  1. Use your senses

The first step in the digestive process is often overlooked but it's a really important one. Known as the cephalic phase, it’s triggered when you see or smell food. You are literally whetting your appetite. When you start thinking about the lovely meal you are going to prepare, you are getting your digestive juices flowing. The enzymes in your saliva help you break down your food more easily so, when the time comes, your body is actually ready to start digesting food before you have even cut the first slice – never mind actually putting anything in your mouth.

It may sound an incredibly simple step – and it is – but these days we are often so busy that we don’t make the time to think about our food in this way. If you find you're always eating on the go, throwing a sandwich down your neck at your desk or having a TV dinner, this is a vital step you are missing out on. One trick is to be mindful and try and spend a few minutes thinking about your tasty lunch before you eat it to get the digestive juices going.

  1. Chew Your Food

Your stomach does not have teeth! Chewing your food is the second phase of digestion, and it’s key when it comes to good gut health. With proper chewing, you are mechanically breaking down the food into smaller pieces, so that there’s a greater surface area and the digestive enzymes can get to work more easily, doing their job. And the bad news?

If you’re not chewing properly, it’s highly likely that you’re not digesting your food properly. And that means you won’t be absorbing vital nutrients either. Not chewing also means the food you eat takes much longer to break down and, as it hangs around in your digestive system, it can start to ferment, causing uncomfortable wind, gas and bloating. Don’t worry about chewing a certain number of times – that all depends on what you are eating and various other factors.

Instead try this test: chew your food enough so that if someone asked you to spit it out, they wouldn’t know what you had been eating. Another sign you need to chew more is if you start to see undigested food in your stools.

  1. Balance Your Stomach Acid

Sales for heartburn tablets are skyrocketing because so many people wrongly assume that their digestive troubles are because of too much stomach acid. What nutritionists like me find more frequently in the clinic is the total opposite! Getting older, stress and some over-the-counter medications can make your stomach acid levels drop to the extent that you don’t produce enough to digest food sufficiently.

Why is this important? The stomach acid you produce not only kills any bacteria in the food you are eating, but it also breaks down the protein in your meal. If you’re not properly digesting the protein element in food, it can start to ferment, creating gases that force up the oesophagal sphincter muscle (a type of muscle flap) and what little stomach acid there is can escape. So that burning feeling, especially if accompanied by smelly gas, can be a sign your digestion isn’t working as well as it should be.

One solution is to have a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before each main meal. It’s important you choose apple cider vinegar with the ‘mother’ rather than one you can buy in the supermarket (that’s for your chips).

There are people who genuinely produce too much stomach acid and, if you try the apple cider vinegar trick and it seems to make things worse, you can neutralise the acid by taking a little bicarbonate of soda.

  1. Take a digestive enzyme supplement

Digestive enzymes break down your food into nutrients so your body can absorb them. But as you age, you naturally produce fewer of these helpful enzymes. You can counteract this by increasing your intake of foods that are higher in them – eating pineapple or papaya before a meal can help.

If you aren’t a fan of these fruits, instead try a digestive enzyme capsule (available from health food shops), which will give your system a gentle boost to help it do its job properly.

  1. Take time out

Not eating is almost as important for your health as eating. It’s important to space out your meals so the digestive system actually gets a chance to rest. This might require some self-discipline if you’re a frequent grazer.

Eating every 4-6 hours is a good benchmark to aim for and gives the body enough time to completely digest the previous meal and have a break before you put it to work again.

Of course, there will be days when your eating routine falls out of whack, but don’t beat yourself up. Just try and get back on track the following day.

And if you would like some help working out *why* you have these symptoms, why not get in touch? You can book a free call here.

By Alex Allan on 01/04/24 | Gut health

What exactly is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a problem I see daily in clinic and it is problematic on many different levels. 

If you have been diagnosed with this condition, you may well have been suffering with it for years and, while a diagnosis can – at first– offer comfort in finally having a recognised problem, the satisfaction is short lived because often that’s where all support ends, and you’re left no further forward in actually fixing what the problem is. 

The difficulty begins because IBS is essentially meaningless; it’s a catch-all term used to encompass a huge variety of digestive issues. If you’re serious about getting to the bottom of the problem (no pun intended), I’m happy to discuss your symptoms and help find a way forward. You can book a free IBS health check with me by clicking here.


In my experience, it’s likely to be one of the following five conditions:

1 SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)

Around 60% of people with IBS will have SIBO. Though you might have heard about good (and bad) bacteria in the gut, really what experts are talking about is the balance of bacteria in the large intestine: the colon. 

The small intestine shouldn’t have very much bacteria at all, and the each day the body should perform a flush to sweep bacteria from the small intestine and into the large intestine. This flush is called the ‘migrating motor complex’. 

For a huge variety of reasons (historic food poisoning being the most common, but also low levels of stomach acid, or adhesions may play a role, among others) the bacteria are not swept away. The trouble is that these bacteria can ferment the food in your small intestine, causing gas, belching, bloating, pain and a variety of other symptoms, including constipation and/or loose stools, and even anxiety. 

A simple breath test can establish which gases are present, and we can devise an action plan based on your results. 

2 Lactose intolerance

This is when your body is not able to tolerate lactose, a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other dairy products. Essentially, bacteria in your intestine feed on these milk sugars, leading to a host of IBS symptoms, like bloating and gas, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea. 

It can go hand in hand with other digestive complaints, such as coeliac disease or increased intestinal permeability (‘leaky gut’). Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed via a simple at-home breath test. 

3 Fructose malabsorption

The symptoms are very similar to lactose intolerance. Fructose (which is found in fruit, honey and many processed foods) is a sugar, which, like lactose, is digested in the small intestine. 

Some people cannot absorb fructose, and what is not absorbed is fermented by intestinal bacteria, causing bloating, cramping, gas and distension of the stomach. 

You might also experience brain fog and headaches. A breath test will diagnose the condition. 

4 Dysbiosis

This is an imbalance in the levels of beneficial (good) and pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the large intestine or colon. This is now common due to overuse of antibiotics and alcohol, an increase in high sugar diets, and stress.

Symptoms can vary from a sluggish bowel or diarrhoea, pain, bloating and flatulence, to chronic bad breath, joint pain, fatigue, and food sensitivities.

Dysbiosis is also implicated in a variety of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. A stool test can help establish whether your gut bacteria are out of balance, along with a host of other markers that might be useful in getting to the root of your digestive problems. 


5 Yeast overgrowth

Where the gut environment becomes out of balance (due to dysbiosis), yeast can thrive. 

Diets high in sugar feed the yeast – although if you think you might have a yeast overgrowth, it’s worth noting that long-term yeast problems can mean that the yeast cells are pathogenic or disease causing, and that the yeast has switched its metabolism to also be able to digest protein and fat. Symptoms of yeast overgrowth include recurring thrush, gas or bloating, fatigue, bad breath, cravings for sweet foods, joint pain and brain fog. 

A stool test can establish the presence of candida or other yeast overgrowth. 

Some people struggle with digestive problems for years. If you are ready to make fixing your gut health a priority, I would love to work with you. Please click the link here to book your free IBS health check now. 


By Alex Allan on 29/03/24 | Lifestyle Tips

10 Reasons Why You Need More Sleep

I’m sure you’re already aware that getting more sleep is a great idea, but here’s something I see a lot in my nutrition clinic: knowing something doesn’t mean doing it. 

Sometimes I feel it’s because people aren’t completely sure why sleep is so important for their health and, without that vital piece of information in place, it’s hard to persuade yourself it’s something you should be doing when there are so many other things calling for your attention and your valuable time.

So today I thought I would offer up some compelling reasons why making sleep a priority really is a good idea. You will likely already know many of the things you could do to make sleep more likely to happen but there is no urgency because the concept of sleep feels too far removed from the symptoms you’re experiencing. So, here’s my list, which is not exhaustive. Let me know which is the biggest reason you have for sleeping more!

Are you ready to discover the game-changer that could transform your health? Let's talk about sleep – the unsung hero of well-being – and what the lack of it is doing inside your body. 

1. Promotes weight gain

Are those stubborn extra pounds refusing to budge? Enter sleep – a star player in your weight loss journey. 

Many studies point to sleep restriction leading to increased levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and decreased levels of leptin, the hormone responsible for fullness. 

Not only that, chemical changes inside the brain also alter the kinds of foods you fancy eating. So, by ensuring sufficient sleep, you're not just avoiding late-night snacking; you're setting the stage for a metabolism that works in your favour.

2. Creates more inflammation

Practically every cause of dis-ease in the body (and also disease) is related one way or another to inflammation. Inflammation can wreak havoc on your body, and poor sleep might be fanning the flames. 

Researchers found a clear link between sleep deprivation and increased inflammatory markers. So, when you prioritise sleep, you're not just easing into dreamland; you're actively reducing the risk of inflammatory conditions of all kinds.

3. Destabilises your hormones

Your body is a finely-tuned orchestra of hormones, and sleep plays the role of the conductor. Skimping on sleep can throw this delicate symphony off balance, impacting everything from stress hormones to those governing metabolism (like hunger and fullness) as well as female hormones. For women, sleeping well is not a luxury.

When you don’t sleep, what might be on the cards includes menstrual irregularities due to interruptions your body’s natural wake-sleep rhythm, exacerbated PMS as well as problems with fertility, too. A harmonious hormonal dance begins with a restful night's sleep.

4. More stress on top of your existing stress

Feel like stress and anxiety are running the show? Let sleep be your backstage pass to tranquillity. Author of the book Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker, highlights the crucial role of sleep in emotional regulation. Get less sleep, expect heightened emotional reactivity, increased stress and anxiety, and symptoms of mental health disorders like depression.

So, when you're tucked in for the night, you're not just escaping reality temporarily; you're arming yourself against the stressors of tomorrow.

5. Poor memory

Ever wondered why a good night's sleep leaves you feeling mentally refreshed? It’s because sleep contributes to memory consolidation and cognitive function. 

When you prioritise sleep, you're not just catching up on dreams; you're enhancing your brain's ability to tackle challenges, adapt to new circumstances, make better decisions, and retain information. That sounds like a win on every level imaginable.

6. Compromised immunity

Picture sleep as your body's superhero cape, especially when it comes to the immune system. 

Insufficient sleep weakens your defences, making you more susceptible to infections and worse – studies point to lack of sleep also being a risk factor in a variety of cancers. Want to stay healthy? Make sleep your immune-boosting sidekick.

7. Greater risk of heart disease

Heart disease is a leading cause of illness and death across the western world and there are a huge number of risk factors involved, from smoking to being overweight. Interestingly, there is an increasing amount of attention being given to poor sleep and cardiovascular risk. It’s thought to be linked to the non-REM sleep stages, during which your whole body slows down (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing) and this is restorative for the heart. 

Now imagine getting less sleep or interrupted sleep… Small wonder that chronic sleep deprivation is linked to a wide range of cardio conditions, like high cholesterol, stroke and heart attack. Guard your heart – prioritise those peaceful nights.

8. More likely to get diabetes

Watch out for the blood sugar rollercoaster! If you’ve been in my world for a while, you might have seen me talk about blood glucose levels being key for hormone balance. It’s a subject I never tire of talking about it and it’s easier to get under control than you might think. This is a key part of all my nutrition programmes so do let me know how I can help. 

Lack of sleep has been linked to insulin resistance, paving the way for type 2 diabetes. Plus, as I covered in my happy healthy hormones blog, balancing sugar helps balance insulin, which keeps our sex hormones balanced.

9. You’ll die earlier 

If you want to live longer (and spend more of those years in good health), sleep must be high on your to-do list. Consistent sleep patterns are key. According to the American College of Cardiology, who analysed data from a whopping 172,321 people, if you sleep well, for long enough and feel rested when you wake, you are 30% less likely to die prematurely, 21% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 19% less likely to die from cancer, and 40% from other causes.

Ready to feel great?

10. Get more sleep, you’ll be happier 

We all know everything looks better after a decent night’s sleep. There’s not a single pasture that is not greener. It’s official. A good night’s sleep means you’ll be happier and more satisfied with life. That’s enough for me! 

Are you struggling with sleep right now? Why not book in a call and find out how I can help.

By Alex Allan on 22/03/24 | Recipes

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

This is a delicious, easy recipe that is perfect for batch-cooking. Plus, it’s full of fantastic hormone-balancing ingredients. Cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower, contain a plant compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) which acts as a plant oestrogen and may help balance hormones by regulating oestrogen levels.

Rich in calcium, magnesium, and fibre, chickpeas are also high in phytoestrogens. These are naturally occurring plant-based chemicals, which are structurally similar to oestrogen and exert a weak oestrogenic effect. The great news is that you can use them to gently help rebalance your hormones.

Serves 4


2 tbsp coconut oil

3 tbsp medium curry paste (sugar and sweetener free)

2 large onions, sliced

1 red pepper, chopped

1/2 cauliflower, broken into small florets

240g dried chickpeas, soaked and rinsed then drained

400ml hot vegetable stock

Handful fresh coriander, chopped or torn, to serve

Salt & pepper, to taste


1. Heat the oil and curry paste in a large frying pan.

2. Add the onions and red pepper and fry over a medium heat to soften.

3. Add the cauliflower and chickpeas and stir to coat them in the curry paste mix.

4. Pour over the hot stock, stir then bring to the boil.

5. Cover the pan and simmer over a gentle heat for 35 mins until the cauliflower is fairly soft.

6. Season to taste.

7. Sprinkle over fresh coriander to serve

8. Enjoy!


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