A new year often brings new resolutions, goals and invariably healthy living fits into these. Every January, I personally do try to make some healthier goals and changes but have always struggled knowing how best to tackle this when living with a long-term disability and reduced mobility. With everything from long term medication, slower digestion as well as huge peaks and troughs day to day from an energy point of view, we thought it would be helpful to hear from someone who knows exactly, how best to approach healthy nutrition and lifestyle, if you use a mobility aid.
Introducing the fabulous Hannah Alderson, founder of The Positive Method! Hannah is a BANT Registered Nutritionist and Functional Medicine Practitioner and her work focuses primarily on nutrition to help balance hormones, positive weight loss (for good), as well as happiness.
We sat down with Hannah to find out exactly what foods we should be prioritising, where on earth to start (or bother) with supplements and most of all, how to maximise energy, minimise the dips and tackle a healthy lifestyle long term.
Can you tell us a little about what you do and how you got into nutrition?
I work with women to balance hormones, positively lose weight for good and find happiness. My clinical specialism is working with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) having navigated this personally, alongside endometriosis, I know how serious the impact can be. I also support a lot of clients going through peri menopause and menopause.
What I’ve learnt is that weight management can be extremely tricky when there is hormonal dysfunction, in particular with PCOS. For years, I personally tried to manage my weight by jumping between one fad diet to the next juice cleanse. Despite the best intentions, this type of inflammatory yo yo diet lifestyle alongside terrible sleep patterns and high stress, unbeknown to me, drove my PCOS and also endometriosis to a point where I didn’t want to leave the house.
Everyone has a story that brings them to discover the importance of nutrition, and this was it for me. Changing what I ate as well as when and how had a dramatically positive impact on my day to day life. As my symptoms improved, my passion grew momentum and I went back to education and qualified as a nutritionist so I could gain the tools to really reclaim my health, become a mum and help other women who have ever felt as lost as I did.
Armed with a wealth of knowledge and expertise I’m now living symptom free with two beautiful children (Otis and Dusty). I founded The Positive Method to create a platform for women who ever find themselves overwhelmed or lost when it comes to food and their hormonal health. I have the honour of raising awareness of these conditions and changing the lives of women just like me, who are ready to take a positive step towards a happier and healthier life.
How has learning about nutrition affected your diet personally? Are there any key things you do now you are in the know that you didn’t do before?
Understanding the science sheds a light pretty fast on why fad diets don’t work. Instead of counting calories you must count your colours and how you feel and avoid ultra processed food where you can. I have learnt through my years of clinic work and personally that no diet is perfect and it is what you do for the majority of the time that counts. No one size fits all either. That being said, the environment that you create for your body via the food you eat and life you life does have a direct impact on your health, hormones and happiness – the driving force behind how you feel and it is extremely important to do the best you can.
Due to my PCOS I keep my dairy intake low and focus on colourful anti-inflammatory food, I keep protein levels high and blood sugar balanced (as insulin resistance is at the heart of most hormonal dysfunction and disease). And if I do go off piste I don’t sweat the small stuff – as I said it is what you do for the majority of the time that counts. I still love a cold glass of champagne.
Reduced mobility is something our community live with every day, what is the potential impact of this on our physical and mental health from a nutrition point of view? Are there any foods we should prioritise to help maintain healthy, regular digestion?
Fibre, fibre, fibre. This is like pet food for your good gut bacteria and they feed off of plant based fibre. This type of roughage will also keep you regular, and on that note water is extremely important for that too. I’d aim for 2 litres of filtered water daily.
To give your gut a little boost you can think about prebiotic (leeks, onions) and probiotic foods too (kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut), to help with your gut bacteria diversity. And think about minimising sugar and alcohol.
If you have a stint of antibiotics always remember to think about repopulating the gut with some good bacteria. Something like a 2 week course of probiotics is brilliant. There are lots of brands out there, so I would decide your budget and pick a suitable one. If you have the budget Symprove is wonderful but something like Optibac is also good. You can use the code HALD010 on The Natural Dispensary to get 10% off.
Finding a balance between rest / living life and having fun is a constant juggle when you’re living with a long term condition or disability. Are there any nutritional steps or tips you can give which will help reduce the peak / crash cycle?
Keeping on top of your blood sugar balance would be a key factor when trying to juggle the peak and crash of living with long term disability. If your blood sugar balance spikes a lot due to high glycaemic foods and high sugar snacks you will feel like you are on a roller-coaster ride, suffering from energy crashes, sweet cravings and dips. Throwing this into the mix will amplify those peak / cycle crashes.
To do this avoid simple sugar as much as possible, opting for whole foods, savoury breakfast and protein at every meal.
Often when I over do it physically either through exercise or going out and about I wake up the next day feeling almost hungover, is there anything you can eat to help relieve the fog / physical exhaustion the next day? Think of it a bit like a hangover without the alcohol if you will!
I would focus on a nutrient dense breakfast in this case which is going to stabilise your blood sugar. Something like a simple smoothie alongside a mini two egg omelette would be ideal. Avoid having any type of caffeine on an empty tummy as this can be very stressful for the nervous system and fuel on the fire when you are feeling exhausted. I’d suggest: handful of frozen berries + one tablespoon of flaxseeds + handful of spinach + squeeze of half a lemon + marine collagen powder (Like Bare Biology) + small banana + one tablespoon of organic jumbo oats + water. This will be filling and full of antioxidants too. Served alongside the protein rich eggs and you’re on to a winner.
What are the signs and symptoms of inflammation & how can we tackle it?
Inflammation comes in many shapes and sizes. It can showcase itself with pain and heat but it can also be silent too – often chronic inflammation is hard to spot. To keep on top of inflammation from a nutritional perspective you would want to maximise omega 3 rich foods (oily fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, grass fed meats) and minimise alcohol, ultra processed and sugary foods. You may also want to think about supplementation – high quality omega 3 and curcumin are great.
When it comes to supplements, are there any we should definitely be taking on a regular basis?
An all rounder good quality multi vitamin for sure. Most people are vitamin D deficient in the UK so keeping on top of that is key, especially in the winter months.
Best 5 tips for immunity? Winter is long and bugs seem to attract themselves to people with long term physical health conditions!
- Eat a high antioxidant diet with tonnes of colourful plant based veg
- Take vitamin D supplement
- Work on improving gut bacteria diversity (the majority of your immune system is in your gut)
- Top up your zinc via supplementation
- Get off your mobile devices by 8pm to help support a more restful and deep sleep
Hormone health is something you know so much about, are there any red flags as we age that we should be aware of?
Hormones are messengers. So if you are experiencing hormonal symptoms such as irregular periods, mood swings, sweet cravings, brain fog, difficulty losing weight, fatigue, low energy (as a small example of some symptoms) – do not blame your hormones. It’s not their fault. Symptoms are clues that something bigger is going on so you need to get to the root cause of the problem. That’s why working with a health care professional can be so beneficial.
If you only could teach your children one thing about nutrition, what would it be?
What you eat and how the environment you create for you body counts. It’s not about being perfect but it does matter what you do for the majority of the time.
Ways to work with Hannah.
1. Private one to one consultations, book your free discovery call.
2. Join The Postive Method Club. An exclusive community for women's health and happiness.
3. Sign up for Hannah's next FREE MASTERCLASS.
4. Download your free copy of Hannah's guide - 5 top secrets to ditch the diet.
5. Take a look at her Instagram.
Please note, we would always recommend consulting your doctor before changing your diet if you are taking regular medication.
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