Welcome to Ask Emma!
We are very lucky to have leading Aussie naturopath and nutritionist, Emma Sutherland here on the blog today, answering your questions!
1. Is hair sampling a good way to get an understanding of what you’re lacking and what you need? If not, what is a good straightforward test you recommend for overall issues like nutrients, hormones, leaky gut, thyroid or gluten sensitivities?
Hair analysis is fantastic to determine your mineral template and if you have any heavy metals in your body. Unfortunately there is not one single test that will assess nutrients, hormones, leaky gut, thyroid and gluten sensitivities. As a clinical naturopath I conduct a lot of functional testing and these tests are extremely valuable to work out what is going on in your body. Your GP can assess for nutrients and basic hormones which is a great place to start. A naturopath will be able to read these tests and make sure you are in the optimal range. As for gluten, avoid it completely for 4 weeks and then have three serves in 24 hours and see how your body reacts. I find that almost 95% of my clients are gluten sensitive.
2. How much can you trust your ‘cravings’? I often crave cold juicy things when I am getting a migraine, like fruit salad or melon, or cold meat (leftover cooked chicken or steak for example). Should I listen to my cravings, or better yet, is there a way to differentiate between a ‘want’ craving and a ‘need’ craving, if there is a difference at all?
I always feel it’s important to listen to your body and try to determine what it’s telling you. You may be low in a particular vitamin or mineral and your body is driving you to eat a food rich in that nutrient. That being said, it is important to differentiate between emotional hunger and true hunger as they often get mixed up. Emotional hunger is felt in your head, wants to be satisfied instantly and leaves guilt in its wake. True hunger is felt in the gut, doesn’t need instant gratification and is guilt free. When you feel a craving, stop, have a glass of water and ask whether it is emotional hunger or true hunger.
3. What are some diet-based/supplement-based tools to rebalance hormones postpartum?
In the first few months after your new baby has arrived, the need for many nutrients is high as sleep levels are low and all your energy is going into your little one. Rebalancing hormones will also depend on whether you are breast feeding or not. In the few weeks after birth, there is a cascade of very strong hormones that initiates breastfeeding. Your levels of estrogen and progesterone change from pregnancy and this can all leave you feeling highly emotional.
The single most important thing you can do to support your hormones in those early weeks is to sleep as much as possible. When we sleep, our body heals, repairs and works hard to restore equilibrium.
Once you are past the first three weeks, turn your focus onto your diet and ensure you are eating well. Prioritise time when your baby is napping to organise food in advance. Cut up enough fruit for 2 days, chop veggies for 3 days, make soups and casseroles that can freeze and if anyone asks what they can do to help I say “make me some healthy food!”
I strongly recommend taking high quality fish oils as the omega 3 fatty acids help support stable hormones and good mental health. Magnesium is our number one relaxing mineral so perfect to help a tired nervous system. B vitamins are critical for hormone balance and are best taken in the morning.
4. My very picker eater son who is 2 and a half – I’ve heard this could be a zinc deficiency? Is that true? Or just being a frustrating toddler
At this age most toddlers go through a stage of fussy eating, in fact around 65% become picker eaters so you are not alone! Being consistent and repetitious with routine is important as research shows that picky eaters need to be exposed to a food at least 21 times before they even consider eating it. Zinc is certainly in high demand as it is a structural component of growing cells and plays a key role in immunity. Make sure you increase all zinc containing foods to ensure he is getting enough – grass fed beef & lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, egg yolks and Brazil nuts.
5. Are allergies related to gut health?? If so, is there anything you can do nutritionally to help restore good gut health?? I have a 2yr old and 10 month old diagnosed with severe allergies, we have no history of any allergies in either side of our families. I have done some research and there are studies out there that link gut health with allergic reactions. Unfortunately both my boys were given antibiotics at birth due to meconium, I was never advised to give them probiotics at all and I have watched them both suffer with severe constipation and stomach pain and then the allergies. I am wondering if there is anything I can do to help them??
There is so much you can do to help them! You are right there is a lot of very good research on how important gut health is and Catalyst had a brilliant documentary about it recently (). I would see a naturopath for support as there are many different strains of probiotics and you want to ensure you give the right ones. I would recommend doing a stool test with a functional lab such as Bioscreen or Nutripath to assess the current gut flora, which can be organized through your practitioner. A type of fibre called resistant starch is important as it provides fuel for healthy bacteria to thrive on. Fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha and kim chi are fantastic and bone broth can help to heal an inflamed gut lining.
6. What are your recommendations for courses for those wanting to study nutrition? Any online courses?
It depends on why you want to study nutrition. If you want to have more knowledge so that you can ensure your family is eating the right foods and they are healthy, then online courses can be suitable. If you want to go into business and work with clients to help them improve their health, then its best to do a face to face course and get yourself a Bachelor of Science.
Emma Sutherland is a successful mum, author, naturopath and TV presenter and her mission in life is to inspire women to get their mojo back.
Her first book “50 Foods That Will Change Your Life” is co written with leading home economist Michelle Thrift and is the ultimate guide to healthy eating for women.
She was the expert nutritionist on the popular TV show “Eat Yourself Sexy” on Lifestyle You. Inspiring and uplifting, Eat Yourself Sexy encourages women to take control of their lives and get back on the road to loving themselves.
Emma’s baby daughter, Sophia was born in November 2011 and has been the delight of her life since. Along with Sophia’s arrival, Emma picked up an addiction to every Superfood she can get her hands on! Motherhood has been the most amazing feat she has accomplished and it has only reaffirmed her desire to work more strongly with mums-to-be, mums and their bubbas. In fact, Sophia has inspired Emma’s second book “Sophia Eats – a Parents Guide to Toddler Health and Wellbeing”.
Emma is a fully qualified Naturopath, having completed four years of training in Herbal Medicine, Nutrition and Homoeopathy as well as a Bachelor of Health Science. She has years of experience in treating women and children throughout the preconception to post natal period. She has completed post graduate training in women’s health and is a certified Infant Sleep Consultant. Emma is a registered Naturopath with membership to the Australian Traditional Medicine Society.
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