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Alex Allan Nutrition
By Alex Allan on 15/03/24 | Women's Health

Your hormone balancing action plan

If you’re looking to balance your hormones, here are my five top tips:

Prioritise sleep

There are some actions you can take to make a good sleep much more likely. These include things like avoiding drinks containing caffeine after lunch, going to bed at the same time every day, keeping the temperature in your bedroom comfortable, keeping the bedroom completely dark so you’re not disturbed by light and making an effort to relax for at least 5 minutes before going to bed - a warm bath, massage, meditation and so on.

The biggest tip I can give you is to really ensure that you prioritise your sleep. Make a real effort to focus on all the things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene rather than ‘kind of’ doing it.

Move your body

Exercise can have a noticeable effect on hormones and mood. You might have heard how exercise releases endorphins and the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin.

Instead of moving in such a way that you place excessive stress on the body, consider how your body likes to move. Focus on things like brisk walks, yoga or pilates, and weight training ahead of more punishing regimes involving spin classes and long runs.

Improve your digestive health

There might seem quite a geographical distance between your digestive system and your brain but the two are actually very closely connected. In fact, the digestive system is often referred to as the ‘second brain’. 

If you have any problems with your digestive system, it will be worth working on these with a nutrition professional. Your nutritionist will be able to advise if any functional testing might be appropriate to look for food reactions (allergies or intolerances) or a broader test to see whether you might have bacterial imbalance or infection.

For the purposes of this blog, it might be helpful to ensure you regularly eat probiotic foods like natural yoghurt, kefir and kombucha (all are now widely available even in supermarkets) or even take a probiotic supplement.

Reduce stress

Taking action to reduce stress in your life is essential but many people are concerned the specific things they might do are too much of a luxury in their already-busy lives. 

Bottom line: you can’t simply keep going the way things are. 

Taking some time to empty the ‘stress bucket’ is critical for your wellbeing. Yoga and mindfulness/meditation are proven ways to reduce stress but consider taking time out just to do the things you love to do quietly, mindfully and on your own: sitting in the garden with a cuppa, reading, colouring, knitting, or trying out a new hobby.

Balance your blood sugar

Blood sugar levels have a profound effect on our hormones largely due to the effect they have on insulin, which has a knock-on effect to our sex hormones. Balancing blood sugar could be an entire blog in itself, so do check back on previous blogs I have written.

But, in essence, try to stick to three good meals per day, and avoid snacks unless absolutely necessary. Make sure to have good quality protein with every meal and/or snack, and make sure that half your plate is covered with veggies (the green and brightly-coloured kind – not potatoes!)

And don’t forget, I’m always here if you’d like to discuss hormone testing or look further into why your hormones might be acting up right now. Just book in a call here.

By Alex Allan on 08/03/24 | Women's Health

Healthy, happy hormones

When you think about mental health, you’re probably thinking about your brain and how that works. The picture is often much more complex. Hormones play a big part because these chemical messengers are the background to everything that happens in your body. How you feel, therefore, is not just psychological, it’s biological.

Did you know, there are a huge number of symptoms that are common to both depression and hormonal imbalance? These include low energy, dizziness, low mood, apathy, anxiety, irritability, anger, lack of enthusiasm, despair, headaches, poor concentration, feelings of hopelessness, lack of confidence, low libido, fuzzy brain, memory loss, and insomnia (although there are others).

Rebalancing your hormones naturally is not something that happens overnight, but it can be greatly improved with the help of nutritional and lifestyle change. This blog will allow you to pinpoint where you might need help or support.

Mood and your cycle

Two of the main hormones that affect your feelings of mental wellbeing and clarity are oestrogen and progesterone, and these change throughout your menstrual cycle. It’s an over-simplification – but perhaps a helpful one – to think about oestrogen largely bringing positive effects to your mood and progesterone contributing more negative effects. With such a pronounced hormonal connection on mental health, it’s small wonder that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 64% of women who suffer from depression say their symptoms get worse during the pre-menstrual period. Hormones are also likely to contribute to antenatal or postnatal depression, which affect around 10-15% of new mothers. And anxiety and depression are also starting to be recognised as symptoms of the peri- menopause on top of hot flushes and night sweats.

How it works

At certain times in your cycle (in the run-up to ovulation), there will be lots of oestrogen in your system and women tend to feel brighter and better in their mood. You might even notice at this time you feel better at talking and articulating yourself. In the second half of your cycle, oestrogen dips and progesterone comes into play. For some women, this can lead to lowered mood or depression.


You might already experience this as Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS), a very common condition linked to the changing levels of these hormones, that might include feelings of bloating, breast tenderness or headaches, or manageable emotional symptoms like irritability.

For a small number of women (about 2-8%), the effect of these hormones on their mental wellbeing is pronounced. This is called Pre-menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD); an extreme form of PMS and one that, if you think might apply to you, you will want to ask your doctor about.

Why does this happen?

One of the first things to know is that the production of dopamine and serotonin (the two main brain chemicals associated with the development of depression and psychosis) is heavily linked to levels of oestrogen.

Research seems to suggest that there isn’t a noticeable difference in levels of oestrogen between those who are affected by mental health symptoms around their period or during the menopause – it seems some women are just especially sensitive to hormonal change, or perhaps also that lifestyle problems like stress may also play a big part.

Other hormones


You might think of testosterone as the male hormone and, while men do produce much higher levels, every woman needs testosterone, too. Testosterone can increase sexual desire and libido, make bones and muscles strong, and have you feeling assertive and confident. The downside can be anger and aggression. If you suffer with PCOS, then you may be suffering from an excess of testosterone and other androgens, which comes with its own set of issues. Click here to find out more about this condition.


Altered levels of thyroid hormones impact on mental wellbeing. If you just don’t feel like yourself, feel lethargic and low, it could be that your levels of active thyroid hormone are low. This can often run hand in hand with other types of hormonal imbalance, such as perimenopause or PCOS. 


Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones and, when stress levels are high, literally any of the mood-related symptoms I have mentioned in any of the above might be present.


Oxytocin directly opposes cortisol. It’s the love hormone and, if you have children, you might recognise it as the hormone that floods women after childbirth to encourage bonding. It has a direct effect on appetite, insulin resistance, weight loss – and your mood.

Impact of hormones on your blood sugar levels

Declining oestrogen levels have a role to play in insulin sensitivity (that means how sensitive – or not – the cells in your body are to the fat storage hormone insulin). In fact, a lack of sensitivity to insulin (or even being resistant to the effects of insulin) is lurking behind many of the common hormonal symptoms, particularly in menopause or PCOS, like fatigue and weight gain as well as symptoms of low mood like brain fog, anxiety and depression.

“Hormones and mental health” is a complex picture in which your physiological health and mental wellbeing are inextricably intertwined. It’s best to work with a nutrition practitioner to unravel this for you. They will be able to piece together a hormone balancing food and lifestyle plan to suit your circumstances. Check out my Hormone Balancing Action Plan or why not book in a call here?

By Alex Allan on 22/02/24 | Family Health

Diabetes and Me

Has your weight been creeping up on you over the years and is proving difficult to shift – despite your best efforts? Or maybe your energy levels are on the floor? It’s easy to push to the back of your mind. Surely things can’t have got that bad… You’re not one of ‘those’ people whose food and lifestyle choices result in blood sugar levels so wonky, they find themselves in the prediabetes or diabetes trap… It’s easily done, and I see a lot of people in clinic who have been surprised to find they’re occupying that space. 

It really is worth getting your blood sugar levels checked out. Once you know your numbers, you can do something about it and make a huge shift in all aspects of your health, including your weight. Whatever the tests say, I want you to know that, by making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, it is possible to prevent, control and, in some cases, put it into remission. 


One in six people over the age of 40 is likely to have diabetes, with many more lurking in the grey area leading up to a diabetes diagnosis – prediabetes. 

There’s no upside to having diabetes. This is what may lie in store for anyone receiving the diagnosis: risk of stroke, heart disease, visual disturbances and other eye problems like cataracts and glaucoma, higher risk of bacterial, fungal and yeast infections, high blood pressure, damaged nerves and blood vessels, and fatigue and lack of energy. The list doesn’t stop there, but I think you get my drift. Diabetes is not a good thing.


Diabetes is a condition in which levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood are higher than normal. 

There are two main kinds of diabetes (type 1 and 2). Both types involve insulin, a hormone responsible for controlling the level of glucose in the blood. Type 1 diabetic patients do not produce sufficient insulin and therefore need to inject it (this type of diabetes is the rarer kind, and often develops at a young age). 

Type 2 diabetic patients, produce insulin, but the cells become insensitive to it and so it fails to do its job properly. Type 2 diabetes accounts for over 90% of all people with diabetes, and the condition usually develops later in life. This type of diabetes is far more strongly associated with diet and lifestyle factors.


Diabetes is diagnosed by testing your blood sugar level. If your fasting plasma glucose level (FBG) is too high (above 7 mmol/l) or your oral glucose tolerance (OGTT) is above 11.1mmol/l, your HbA1c (a measure of long-term blood sugar levels) is above 6.4%, this represents a diagnosis of diabetes. 

For prediabetes, a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal and that often leads to type 2 diabetes, your FBG might read between 5.5 and 7 mmol/l, your OGTT might be between 7.8 and 11.1 mmol/l, and your HbA1c might be between 6% to 6.4%. 

It’s easy to dismiss the risk, but the shift into prediabetes can happen almost without your noticing it. You may experience niggling symptoms, like low energy or your weight creeping up on you, and your usual tricks to get it down no longer work as well as they once did. 

Common risk factors for prediabetes are these:

  • You are overweight.
  • You have a close relative – parent or sibling – who has a diabetes diagnosis.
  • You have high blood pressure or low HDL (‘good’) cholesterol.
  • You’re over 40.
  • You’ve given birth to a baby over 9 pounds.


Your GP will be able to organise blood tests for you. You can also get tested privately. I offer a range of biochemical tests and can work with you to make manageable changes to your diet and lifestyle to get your health back on track. 

From a nutrition professional, what I’m about to say may sound a little biased, but I have seen so many diabetic clients receive unhelpful and incorrect advice about what to eat from doctors. Unfortunately, doctors receive no training in nutrition and have no other option than to follow the Eatwell Guide (published by Public Health England) – which, sadly, is outdated and not evidence-based. You may have been told that you could fix this just by losing a little weight, but I’m afraid that the way you might have gone about this in the past simply is not going to work anymore. And just starving yourself into losing a handful of pounds is not going to fix the underlying problem. It won’t miraculously change the numbers that came up in your test results.

What does work is a whole diet and lifestyle approach. I work with my clients to guide them to make better food choices that help lower their blood sugar levels. The strategy we create is tailored to you and no one else. What you like to eat, avoiding what you don’t like to eat, making changes at a speed that feels right for you to achieve your goals. We also look at these results in a bigger context of other annoying symptoms you might be experiencing and try to mop those up as we go along, too. You would be surprised the impact you can make on your health and how you experience life.

To find out more, why not book yourself in for a complimentary nutrition MOT and take your first steps back to good health today? Just click here.

By Alex Allan on 14/02/24 | Lifestyle Tips

Is self-compassion the key to unlocking your health goals?

In the pursuit of better health, we often focus on the physical aspects – diet, exercise, and sleep – while neglecting a vital component: our emotional wellbeing. You might already appreciate this conceptually but here’s an important question to ponder: how do you treat yourself when you make a mistake, or you don’t reach your goals?

Do you treat yourself with kindness and understanding like you would a friend or do you beat yourself up for your so-called failings? If, like most people, your tendency is to berate yourself, it’s time to bring a little more self-compassion into your life.

It’s good to be kind to yourselves and it can be your greatest ally in reaching your health goals.

“With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.” Kristin Neff, one of the eminent researchers on self-compassion

What is self-compassion?

At its core, self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you offer to others.

It comprises three key components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

It’s different from self-esteem (although this is also important for wellbeing). Instead of relying on self-judgment and comparisons, self-compassion is about self-acceptance and self-care.

The connection between self-compassion and your health

Research shows a profound connection between emotional wellbeing and physical health. High levels of stress, self-criticism, and negative self-talk can hinder your progress towards health goals. 

This is where self-compassion steps in. By reducing stress and improving mental health, it lays a strong foundation for positive health behaviours.

Silence your harshest critic - yourself

Imagine the inner critic as a relentless coach who constantly points out your flaws and mistakes. It's time to silence that voice. Recognising self-criticism is the first step. 

Pay attention to those moments when you berate yourself for a slip-up. 

Then, challenge these thoughts with self-compassion. 

Ask yourself: "Would I speak to a friend this way?" Almost always, I suspect the answer will be no. 

Start to learn self-kindness

Self-kindness is the heart of self-compassion. Start your day by acknowledging your achievements, no matter how small they might seem. 

If you already practise gratitude, it’s not that far away. Instead of reminding yourself of the good things in your life, you are reminding yourself of the good things in you. 

Treat yourself with the same warmth you'd offer a loved one. Practice self-care as an act of kindness to your body and mind – eat nourishing foods, get enough rest, and engage in activities that bring you joy.

You’re not in it alone – welcome to ‘common humanity’

You're not alone in your health journey, whatever that is. Common humanity is the understanding that all humans face challenges and imperfections. Connect with others who share similar goals. Share your experiences, both the successes and the setbacks. It's comforting to realise that your struggles are part of the human experience. 

It's worth remembering that people love to help, and we often don’t give them that opportunity to provide support. Think of reaching out as something they can feel good about, too.

Stay in the moment

I am a big fan of mindfulness for all sorts of reasons, and it also happens to be a powerful tool when it comes to self-compassion. Mindfulness brings you into the present moment, allowing you to make conscious choices about your health rather than dwell on what should or could have been, which inevitably ends with self-recriminations. 

Practice mindfulness through meditation, deep breathing, or simply by being fully engaged in your daily activities. It will enhance your decision-making related to your wellbeing. If you’re new to mindfulness, it can be helpful to start with some guided meditation using smartphone apps like Calm or Headspace. 

The point of these guided meditations is not to get really good at doing it, but to make the time to do it daily if you can. It is a ten-minute oasis of calm, and it works best to find a point in  your day that you can regularly commit to (even before bed) when you won’t be disturbed. Your mind is bound to wander off part-way through. This is normal so don’t throw in the towel if this happens!

Get started with self-compassion

Set realistic goals. Start small and build from there. Unrealistic expectations can lead to self-criticism.

Track your progress. Keep a journal to monitor your achievements and setbacks. Celebrate every step forward.

Keep a self-compassion diary. Create a journal where you record your self-compassionate thoughts and moments. Reflect on them regularly.

A little word on setbacks…

Setbacks are part of any journey, including your health journey. Instead of viewing them as failures, see them as opportunities for growth. When you slip up, acknowledge it without self-judgment. Remember that self-compassion allows you to learn from setbacks and move forward with resilience.

Self-compassion is not a luxury; it's a fundamental pillar of good health. By treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding you offer to others, you create a positive environment for your physical and mental well-being. Begin your self-compassion journey today, and watch as it transforms your path towards your health goals.

If you struggle to support yourself, why not get in touch and see how I can help you. Just book a call here.

By Alex Allan on 07/02/24 | Recipes

15 Minute Chicken Curry

As a nutritionist, I’m often told by my clients that they don’t have time to cook. And this is a recipe that I love to share with them!  Quick, easy and healthy – what’s not to love?

Serves 4


2 tbsp olive oil

4 x 200g chicken breasts, cut into chunks

2 onion, diced

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

spices: 2 tbsp ground cumin, 3 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp red chilli flakes, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 2 tsp ground coriander

4 tbsp tomato puree

2 x (400g) can chopped tomatoes

8 tbsp plain yoghurt

2 handfuls of fresh coriander, finely chopped


  • Put the olive oil in a large pan, and then add the onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 3 minutes until softened.
  • Add the chicken and cook for a further 3 minutes until browned.
  • Once the chicken is browned, add the red chilli flakes, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and ground coriander, and mix well and cook for a further minute. 
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree to the pan, and gently simmer for 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add a splash of water if it dries out. 
  • Stir in the yoghurt and coriander before serving with your choice of cauliflower rice or broccoli rice.
  • Enjoy!

By Alex Allan on 01/02/24 | Family Health

Eat to improve your heart health

Many people fear a heart attack. Think of it as the last straw. Heart disease is, in many cases, a lifestyle disease that is avoidable and, with the right focus, you can avoid it, too.

There are some pretty big risk factors (outside of smoking and drinking in excess), and these include being diabetic, having high cholesterol and being overweight. 

What I want to talk to you about today is which dietary changes you might start to make from today, to protect your health and that of your loved ones. There’s fantastic news in this regard because a number of huge studies point to diet and lifestyle change being IT when it comes to prevention.

The INTERHEART study, published in the Lancet in 2004, followed 30,000 people in 52 countries. Researchers found that lifestyle changes could prevent at least 90 percent of all heart disease. 

This was another big one: the EPIC study in 2009 looked at how 23,000 people adhered to 4 simple behaviours: not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours a week, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Sticking to these four behaviours alone seemed to prevent 93% of cases of diabetes, 81% of cases of heart attacks, 50% of cases of strokes, and 36% of cases of all cancers. 


Of course, everyone is individual, and there is no official ‘single diet’ that all humans should eat. But if there were, this would be it because it handles what the essence of the problem is – overweight and a highly inflammatory internal environment.

Before I dive in with some of the answers, I want to say a little something about fat because chances are, if you’ve heard one thing about staving off a heart attack, it’s ‘cut back on fat’ (and especially the saturated kind). 

The success of some low-fat dietary models in weight loss is thought to be more likely due to the simultaneous reduction of sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. 

Dietary fat actually turns off fat production in your liver. Unlike carbohydrates and protein, dietary fat does not trigger your pancreas to secrete insulin. 

There is one type of fat everyone should avoid, and it’s trans fats, a kind of Frankenstein fat added to food to improve shelf life and mouthfeel of products. One study actually found that the risk of coronary heart disease doubled with each 2 percent increase in calories from trans fats (Iqbal, 2014). Another researcher even concluded: “On a per-calorie basis, trans fats appear to increase the risk of CHD more than any other micronutrient.” (Mozaffarian et al., 2006).


The real villains in the piece are refined grains and sugar. During processing, refined grains are stripped of the bran and germ, two parts of the grain kernel that contain a wealth of nutrients. The final product is starch with next to no nutritional value, providing little more than carbohydrates and calories. Refined carbohydrates can be found in a wide variety of foods, including white bread, pasta and rice, muffins, cakes, cookies, crackers, and bagels. Unfortunately, these foods make up a pretty good chunk of the modern Western diet and may be linked to a higher risk of heart disease. 

One study from China found that a higher carbohydrate intake, mainly from refined grains, was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease among 117,366 adults (Yu et al., 2013).

Sugar is one of the main culprits of heart disease. Added sugars from foods like sweets, desserts, juice and soft drinks can spike blood sugar levels, damaging the blood vessels, overloading the liver and increasing the risk of heart disease.

Interestingly, a study from Harvard School of Public Health actually found that participants who drank the highest amount of sugar-sweetened beverages had a 20 percent higher relative risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who drank the lowest amount (de Koning et al., 2012).


A lower carbohydrate diet is recommended to balance blood sugar and therefore reduce insulin and blood glucose levels. Elevated insulin is a major risk factor for heart disease and promotes inflammation. You’re also likely will lose weight on a blood sugar balancing diet, and that in itself will reduce the risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease and high blood pressure.

  1. PROTEIN Eat a source of protein at every meal and snack. This can be any fish/ seafood, poultry, meat, nuts, seeds, tofu, eggs. Given you probably eat enough meat already and many people don’t eat nearly enough vegetable protein, see if you can bring in more fish and more vegetable sources of protein over the week. Ideally, eat two to three vegetable-based protein meals weekly. Replace animal-based protein meals with lentils, legumes, tofu, quinoa or nuts and seeds, for example. If you’re a fish eater, get in wild-caught fish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, twice a week.
  2. FRUIT & VEG Get plenty of fruit and veg but focus specifically on eating veg that grow above the ground and fruit that can be grown in this country. These foods naturally contain either less natural sugar or lower amounts of carbohydrates, which have an impact on hormones. At each meal, have this cover at least half of your plate. The aim is 7 a day and ideally 5 from veg. Over the course of a week, aim to eat all different colours - span the rainbow to enjoy a diverse intake of nutrients. Enjoy berries, citrus fruit, peppers and leafy greens.
  3. FIBRE is a great addition, the soluble kind you’ll find in oats, lentils, split peas, flaxseed, citrus fruits and apples. All of those are heart-healthy choices. From the insoluble category, eat nuts and whole grains.
  4. FAT Some fats are healthy, and let’s not forget that fat is actually essential for life. Get your fat from avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds. 
  5. CARBS Think carefully about the quality (what kind) and the quantity (how much) of starchy carbs like bread, pasta, cereals, potato, rice. Focus on wholemeal over white, sweet potato over regular white potato, basmati or brown rice over long grain. You can also try throwing in a few ‘faux carbs’ like cauliflower or broccoli rice, courgetti (courgette spiralised into noodle shapes), butternut squash waffles, and so on. 
  6. PROCESSED MEAT In recent years, there have been numerous studies connecting processed meats, like hot dogs, salami and tinned meat, to a range of adverse effects on health. Not surprisingly, processed meats can also negatively affect heart health, so best to give them a wide berth.
  7. VEGETABLE OILS can be very damaging for heart health. Recent studies show that oils like rapeseed are not helpful (even though the supermarkets are brimming with these options). In fact, the linoleic acid they contain has been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  8. SUGAR Remove as much sugar as you can from your diet as this is the real villain in the tale. That means saving sugary treats for high days and holidays and, most of the time, ditching breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, pastries, and so on, and checking the label of jarred sauces, where sugar often lurks.
  9. FIZZY POP Avoid fizzy soft drinks. Eliminating soft drinks is one of the best things that everyone can do for their heart. Besides being laden with controversial chemicals and unhealthy ingredients, soft drinks are also brimming with added sugars.

Do you notice a trend in my diet tips? What’s to focus on is real food. What you would benefit from decreasing is the processed stuff most people kid themselves is OK for them to eat. Truly, your body doesn't know what’s going on when you shovel in heavily processed or chemically altered foods. 

Eating this way - sometimes referred to as a low GL (glycaemic load) diet - will also help, providing your body with a steady supply of energy through the day, rather than a high-octane rollercoaster of energy spikes and troughs.

Putting the food work into your life alongside the commitment to regularly de-stress, move your body and prioritise sleep is not always easy to do on your own. It is always helpful to have someone – like me – in the wings helping you fit what you already know about eating well into your life and keeping you motivated to follow your plan for long enough that you really see a shift in your health. And if you would like some support - why not book in a call with me here

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