In The Spotlight: Sustainable Nutrition
We hope that our recent 'In the Spotlight' editions have sparked your sustainability journey and that you have had a chance to visit and follow Prospero World's #LoveMeForLife campaign @prosperoarts. Stay tuned for exciting new developments that support the sustainable fashion movement!
In this 'In the Spotlight' issue, we brought in an expert to address another aspect of sustainable living. Our very own Olivia Smart -- Cambridge graduate in economics, racing car driver, charity volunteer in Malawi and Uganda, solo adventure traveller, Cavalier King Charles spaniel owner....and now....fully qualified naturopath -- is starring in our "Spotlight' this week. We'd like to celebrate her success and draw your attention to the need for sustainable eating and living.
How we eat affects so much of our growth, our performance, and our health, and many of us can benefit hugely from changes in our diet. However, eating sustainably goes beyond what we eat to how our food is grown. Did you know that 90% of the soil growing crops in the UK is currently nutrient deficient? Farmers world-wide struggle with both climate-related challenges and the results of non-diversified growing, use of pesticides, genetically modified crops and more.
There are many wonderful charities on our radar addressing the complexities of a sustainable food system. One of our charity picks is Magic Breakfast that provides healthy breakfasts to vulnerable schoolchildren in the UK. Prospero World continues to seek out the gems in the charitable sector who are doing outstanding work.
Most of you will remember Olivia from the days of theCornucopia Club salons: she effortlessly juggled the myriad moving parts that made our evenings together so memorable.
Theodore Zeldin, our Patron and resident philosopher, Isabelle Legeron, our natural wine sommelier, our range of amazing speakers, locally sourced food from one or other of our favourite suppliers including Ole the Wild Salmon man who played Grieg to his fish while they were being smoked.
Olivia has recently opened her naturopathic nutritional therapist business, NatrOlive, and we would like to share her recommendations on stress management along with her tips on more sustainable eating.
Interview with Olivia Smart,
Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist, NatrOlive
PW: What drew you to studying nutrition?
As a teenager, I was diagnosed with ME (Myalgic Encephalomeylitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome/CFS). There is no cure or established treatment – I just learned to live with it. Later I became aware of the potential benefit from nutrition, and then in 2015 a specific complication forced me to radically change my diet. I began to research the wider impact of nutrition on health. After decades of being passively frustrated, it was exciting and empowering to discover a way in which I could proactively help myself. My research led me to take a short course at the College of Naturopathic Medicine. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became. When I reached the last day, I made an appointment with the Admissions Tutor to enquire about other courses – before I knew it, I had signed up for the Diploma! [Editor’s note: a gruelling three-year endeavour, we might add.]
I was astonished by the transformation in my own health from applying what I learned. During my studies, I separately researched the latest scientific developments for ME/CFS. I also took the opportunity to research and write my final dissertation on fibromyalgia, which is very similar, to enable me to specialise in both conditions.
PW: What progress has been made in the treatment of chronic diseases?
Many modern chronic diseases persist because, unlike the typically acute infectious diseases of the past, medicine has not been able to find an answer. Complementary medicine has often been dismissed by concerns over efficacy and professional training. However the evidence and, hence, awareness are increasing of the role that diet, lifestyle and environment play in the development of these chronic diseases; and thus the potential benefit of receiving professional advice to address these factors.
I am excited by the progression within medicine towards integration with the complementary sector and I personally am delighted to be working together with GPs and a Consultant Rheumatologist.
PW: What nutrition guidelines do you follow?
Probably something similar to what my grandmother would have replied if asked that question! I eat a balanced, wholefood diet, which is as organic and seasonal as possible. It contains a variety of protein from both animal and plant sources, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and a ‘rainbow’ of fruit and vegetables (I aim for 10 portions of these each day and try and include all the colours). I drink about 2 litres of filtered water daily, some of which is incorporated into herbal tea. I believe in moderation and do allow myself treats, including the odd glass of wine (preferably red and natural). My worst habit is my morning coffee, which I have not been able to give up…yet!
One significant change since our grandparents’ times is toxicity. Toxins are everywhere: in the air, water and our food; our soils are nutrient-depleted and their crops sprayed with pesticides; the animals that provide our meat and dairy are rarely grass-fed and are given antibiotics and hormones; the fish are polluted with heavy metals like mercury (and plastic), … our detoxification systems are overwhelmed. Eat organic where you can.
PW: Can you share with us some stress management tips?
Stress isn’t always bad; it can even be life-saving. The old adage refers to running away from a sabre-toothed tiger; a more modern equivalent might be public speaking or taking an exam! These are situations of acute stress, and trigger a number of physiological changes as part of our innate stress response (also known as ‘fight or flight’). It sharpens our senses, heightens our cognitive function, raises our heart and respiratory rates, releases glucose and basically elevates both our physical and mental performance.
Stress turns negative when it becomes chronic (as opposed to acute). Chronic stress can either be repeatedly facing a stressor(s), such as financial worries or a difficult relationship; or it can also be the accumulation of all those mini-stresses of modern day life: hitting the alarm snooze button too many times making you late before you’re even out of bed, missing your train, someone knocking you and spilling coffee all down your white shirt…as those little things build up through the day, at some point (which is different for each of us), you reach your threshold and this triggers your stress response.
It’s important to become aware of your stress and not to ignore or dismiss it as just an inevitable part of modern life. Chronic stress harms health and can be either a cause and/or perpetuating factor of most disease. GPs say that over 80% of their clinic presentations are due to stress (and in the US many doctors put the figure at over 95%!).
Ideally you eliminate the stressor(s), but that is often not possible or beyond your control. You may have noticed that some people just seem to cope with stress better than others and this is called ‘stress resilience’. It’s not just genetic luck, but something that can be improved through nutritional, lifestyle and environmental adjustments.
Each person and their circumstances are unique, but some general tips would include eating more healthily and balancing your blood glucose; reducing alcohol, refined sugar and caffeine (and any other stimulants); taking exercise, spending time outdoors – being in nature is very grounding (even better, exercise outside!). Meditate each morning, or if that’s too hard, try mindfulness. Take up yoga and practice deep abdominal breathing as often as possible. Lastly, take breaks from technology – put down your phone and connect more with positive people around you. And remember that other people’s lives aren’t usually as amazing as their social feeds suggest!
PW: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I wake up to the big brown eyes of my gorgeous little spaniel gazing at me, whereupon she gives me a huge hug and then expects a tummy tickle in return. Getting out of bed is then triggered by the need to take her outside!
Aside from this necessity, the excitement of what the day will bring is another motivator. I love my new life. I enjoy meeting my patients and being able to help them is incredibly rewarding. Unfortunately, nutritional therapy is only available privately, hence I offer a limited number of pro bono consultations. I wish it was available on the NHS – I’m sure it would save a lot of money!
Olivia Smart, MA Cantab, dipCNM, mBANT, mANP, rCNHC, rGNC
+44 (0)7766 573 369
It's M.E. Awareness Week! Check out Olivia's blog to learn more...