Kay Ali is a Registered Nutritional Therapist & Co Founder of You Need A Nutritional Therapist. She has worked with some of London’s most successful doctors supporting her client’s health and wellbeing. From fertility issues to mental health problems Kay is quite the expert in natural health. Her expertise in nutrition and Functional Medicine is next to none. From appearing on London Live News to being featured in magazines and features, Kay’s work is highly sought after. She was recently recognized by the Sunday Telegraph for “cutting through the swamp of conflicting dietary advice out there.” Adding to that, she is a Senior Associate Member of The Royal Society of Medicine and registered with the British Association of Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy.
I met Kay originally through my friend Vicky who owns ‘You Need A Vicky’ – a professional organiser company. She has been talking to me about the wonderful Kay for years and giving me snippets of health tips and supplement advice. This year ‘You Need A Nutritional Therapist’ was born. I have been desperate to ask Kay some questions of my own. Here’s what she had to say…
What supplement or supplements could everyone benefit from taking every day?
There are at least 4 supplements I know I’ll need to recommend to every UK client I see before even starting a consultation; vitamin D, magnesium, probiotics and Omega 3 EPA and DHA. For various reasons, all of these are pretty deficient in our diets or the demands for them due to lifestyle factors are high. In particular vitamin D. At this time of year, I highly recommend that you book an appointment with your GP for a vitamin D test. Or you can have it done privately with a Registered Nutritional Therapist such as myself for about £70. Vitamin D is used in almost every biochemical reaction in the body. It’s important for bone health, fertility, mental health, digestion and so much more. Sadly, there aren’t many foods high in vitamin D. Our best source is from exposure to sunlight. Living in the Northern hemisphere our exposure is pretty limited, which is why it’s important to supplement with it. However, you should get tested first to see just how much you need to take. I wouldn’t recommend you all go out and buy theses supplements without seeking advice first. It’s worth seeing a specialist to help guide you towards the right strength and the best quality products available – not all supplements are the same!
What are your thoughts on fasting plans, for example the 16:8 (eating for 8 hours followed by 16 hours of fasting)?
There are stacks of studies that show fasting can be beneficial for certain health issues. Primarily, intermittent fasting for obesity, diabetes and even cancer. Intermittent fasting is where you restrict your food intake for a period of at least 8-12 hours in the day. Needless to say, it’s not for the feint hearted. While the benefits for weight loss and diabetes can be astonishing, I don’t think it’s for everyone. Not to mention it’s certainly not a long term solution, nor something you should do without the guidance of a registered practitioner. Particularly with serious conditions like cancer or if you’re on medication. I always recommend against fasting for women and people who live life on the fast lane or with high levels of stress. The lack of food to support your daily activities can overwork your adrenal glands, which are responsible for producing your fight or flight hormones. The key one being cortisol. Cortisol helps us to get up and go. In small amounts it’s great; it’s what helps us to survive and get stuff done. But secreted in excessive amounts over a long period of time (which is often the case when fasting everyday alongside dealing with stress), can really mess up your hormones. That’s why it’s not uncommon for women’s periods to go “missing” when their calorie intake has been significantly restricted. I think improving your diet towards a healthier one, in small and manageable increments is much more beneficial and long lasting. It’s also a lot safer too.
What are 3 vital foods that could provide us with excellent nutrition?
My cardinal rule to eating well is to eat as closest to your great great great grandmother! Whatever your culture, I’ve found that there are eating habits our ancestors were following across the globe. They’re vastly beneficial for our health, but sadly we don’t eat enough of these foods anymore. My top 3 are:
- Bitter greens: rockets, watercress, chard, kale. Starting your meal with bitter greens is a great way to stimulate your digestive system before eating heavier foods. The bitter taste really gets your pancreas going. Your pancreas is primarily responsible for secreting enzymes that help break down our food so we can effectively extract nutrients. As a result our bellies feel lighter and our bodies are better powered.
- Fermented food: sauerkraut, vinegars, pickled vegetables, yogurts and even fermented fish. All of these foods are easy on our digestion for two main reasons. Firstly, the process of fermentation helps to breakdown the food so our gut doesn’t have to do much work to extract their nutrients. And secondly, they’re rich in beneficial bacteria, which is super for our gut health. There is so much research coming out in this field that shows good bacteria supports anything from a healthier heart, bowel health and fertility, to good moods, clear skin and weight loss.
- Small oily fish: sardines, mackerel, anchovies and herring. They’re rich in essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. It’s very difficult to get these anywhere else in our diets. They’re considered essential because unlike other fats like Omega 7 and 9, Omega 3s can’t be produced in the body. We have to eat it. What’s more is EPA and DHA play a structural role in our bodies. They form part of our cell membranes and are particularly concentrated in brain, eye and skin tissue. Deficiencies in these two types of Omega 3s can lead to problems like eczema, dry eyes and low moods. However, due to environmental toxins, you don’t want to eat anything more than 4 portions a week of fish. And if your pregnant you’ll need to scale that back to 2 to lower your risk of heavy metal intoxication. That’s why I usually insist on my client’s taking an accredited fish oil supplement to ensure they’re getting enough. Stick to small oily fish as they’re low in the food chain and tend to carry less toxins than bigger fish like tuna and salmon.
Adult acne – help…
Adult acne is very unpleasant and can feel like a never ending battle. It’s something we think we should only deal with in our teens, but the truth is a lot of us suffer with it in older age too. While external treatments and topical creams can be useful in dealing with what’s already on the surface, you should delve deeper to address exactly what could be causing the breakouts in the first place. There are many different reason that drive acne, which can make working out what it is rather complicated. From poor liver function and beneficial gut bacteria to being born by C-section, the reasons can be vast. It’s why I always recommend working with a nutritional therapist who can examine your whole body to identify the root cause. Nevetheless, one common reason is hormonal imbalance. And usually, it’s sugar and stress that are the culprit.
Typically, high testosterone can lead to facial acne. It’s why acne is a common side effect of hormonal conditions like Polysistic Ovulate Syndrome (PCOS). If you suspect this could be you ask yourself the following questions: is your diet high in sugar? Are your periods infrequent? Is your hair moving south? That’s to say are you thinning on top, but growing hair in other areas lower down your body like your face? If you answered yes, your acne could be down to your hormones. All these symptoms tend to be cardinal signs of too much testosterone.
To help bring this back into balance you should scale back on your sugar consumption. I’m not just talking about sweets and chocolate. Alcohol and refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and rice too. Switch them out for their high fibre alternatives like brown bread, beans, lentils and brown rice. It’s not about going sugar free, it’s about having better glycemic load control i.e. slow and gradual releases of sugar into your blood instead of fast and high. Carbohydrates high in fibre and a diet high in protein helps slow your glycemic load for better control. It’s important because when your blood sugar spikes, a hormone called insulin spikes too. This can lead to lower levels of an important protein known as sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds excessive amounts of oestrogen and testosterone in the blood, preventing the deleterious effects of hormonal imbalance like acne. So when it’s low, these hormone levels increase causing all sorts of problems like acne.
Supplement wise, I like to recommend a product called DIM. It contains a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, that has been shown to help eliminate excessive hormones and bring our bodies back into balance. Needless to say, you should aim to eat at least 1 cup of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cabbage everyday to help support this too. Sometimes, the effects can be pretty quick and impressive. I like to also recommend high strength probiotics and MSM too. It’s why skincare brands like Oskia and Aurelia work so well. They have fortified their products with these ingredients which our skin love. So just imagine how powerful it can be when we ingest them too.
Urinary tract infections – help…
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are infections anywhere along the urinary tract including the bladder and kidneys. These infections can be caused by poor hygiene, low immune function, excessive use of antibiotics, use of spermicides, and of course, sexual intercourse. The most common cause, accounting for about 90 percent of all cases, is the transfer of E. coli bacteria from the intestinal tract to the urinary tract. For those of you who have experienced a UTI, there isn’t much you wouldn’t do to avoid another one. Pain, burning, nausea, and even bloody urine. And if you’re susceptible to recurrent UTIs the fear of it coming back can be crippling. If your UTI is an E.Coli infection I can’t recommend a D-Mannose supplement enough. It’s a naturally occurring sugar that is found in a number of fruits, including apples, blueberries, and cranberries. D-Mannose is the reason that cranberry juice has been commonly recommended for UTIs, though it is far easier to get the recommended dosage from a supplement. D-mannose is effective because it attaches to E. coli bacteria, causing them to stick to each other and preventing them from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. This way you can urinate the infection out. Taking D-mannose during a time where you feel you are most prone to UTIs, such as prior to intercourse or during prolonged antibiotic treatment, may help prevent a UTI from developing. This is especially helpful for those who are prone to chronic UTIs and want to be able to engage in normal life activities without fear of infection. The typical dose of D-mannose for UTI treatment is 500 mg. It is a good practice to continue taking the supplement even after symptoms have diminished to ensure complete elimination of the bacteria in the urinary tract. This dose can also be taken as a preventative, or prophylactic, method.
So what of the 10% of UTIs that aren’t related to E. Coli infection? It’s all about biofilms. Biofilms are an accumulation of microorganisms and their extracellular products forming structured communities attached to a surface such as the lining of the urogenital tract. The development of a biofilm can make infections extremely hard to disappear, since they commonly return shortly after conventional treatment is stopped. Pathogenic biofilms are antibacterial resistant; it’s one of the major reasons why those who get a UTI are highly susceptible to getting more in the future – if the biofilm is not completely eliminated, the infection will eventually return at some point.
This is why I recommend the use of biofilm disruptors to help prevent the recurrence of chronic UTIs. My favourite is Virese by NutriAdvanced. It contains monolaurin, which is antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. It works by disturbing the integrity of the bacterial cell membrane, blocking replication and making it easier for the immune system to destroy the pathogen. Lauricidin is only helpful, however, for UTIs not caused by E. coli, which is gram negative and has a different kind of outer cell membrane than gram positive bacteria.
Sleeping problems and restlessness – is there anything nutritionally that can help other than cutting back on caffeine?
There’s loads you can do with your diet to support a good night sleep. Of course scaling back on caffeine past 2pm is a must. However, there are particular nutrients that may also help. Magnesium and vitamin B6 are at the top of my list. You can find these in nuts and seeds like almonds and sunflower seeds, beans and dark green leafy vegetables. If you find that you are wired at night, it could be down to your stress response. Low energy throughout the day and yet a second wind of energy at night is cardinal sign of adrenal insufficiency. It’s likely you are running on cortisol too much. Foods high in B vitamins like mushrooms and organic calves’ liver are super for nourishing your adrenal glands, lowering risk of that second wind of energy at night. If organ meat isn’t really your thing, you can try drinking a glass of pure cherry juice at night. For reasons that are not yet fully understood, cherries have been shown to improve our melatonin levels, which may help us get a good night sleep.
What are your honest thoughts on alcohol, is it ok to drink in moderation?
I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule. That’s to say 80% of the time your diet should be wholesome, organic and as close to your ancestors as possible; the other 20% is for your indulgence. So if the odd glass of champagne is your thing, then why not? It’s often forgotten that we’re on a detox 24/7, even while sipping on those precious bubbles. Every 4 minutes our blood is filtered through our liver for purification. We have a natural mechanism to process and remove harmful toxins. That being said, more often than not, we overburden this system and this is where things can go wrong. The truth is, whether alcohol is OK or not to drink, entirely depends on your current state of health. If you are unwell, you probably shouldn’t be drinking much more than 3 glasses of red wine a week. If your hormones are out of whack or you’re struggling to conceive then you’ll want to scale that back to 2; anything more has been shown to possibly induce a negative effect on your hormones. Sadly, it’s very rare for me to see a client who wouldn’t benefit from scaling back or cutting out alcohol for a period of time. It’s largely because of the impact the sugars have on your gastrointestinal tract. Excessive alcohol has been shown to increase intestinal permeability, resulting in food sensitivities and bloating, amongst other gut problems. My verdict? It’s good practice to go dry for 4 weeks, 2-3 times a year. If you are drinking try to stick to 3 glasses of red wine a week. It’s rich in a potent antioxidant called trans resveratrol, which has some health benefits.
What’s a typical days diet for you?
It’s important to remember everyone is different; what works for me might not work for others. As a Registered Nutritional Therapist I’ve had a lot of functional tests done so my diet and supplement plan is the sum total of all that extra knowledge.
Typically, I start my day with a shot of vitamin C and 500ml of filtered water. After about 15 minutes, I make myself a mug of matcha latte. It’s my alternative to coffee. It’s powdered green tea with the benefits of caffeine as well as a host of antioxidants and calming amino acids. I usually sip on this while responding to emails or reading the paper.
About an hour later I have breakfast. Breakfast for me consists of a hard boiled egg and about 3-4 portions of vegetables – asparagus, spinach, peas, tomatoes etc. Anything I fancy really. It’s far from usual for most, but I absolutely love starting my day with vegetables. I find it curbs my hunger and keeps me going right through to lunch time. Sometimes, if I’m not behaving and having regular meals I can keep going beyond!
Between breakfast and lunch I’ll drink about 500ml of water and I’ll make myself a cup of herbal tea. At the moment I’m loving Yogi teas womankind. Not only is it full of herbs supper for supporting female health for a woman my age, I love that they include an uplifting quote with each tea bag. It’s a little affirmation mid morning that keeps me in a positive mood.
Lunch and dinner for me are more or less a variation of the same thing. A small side of protein rich food like sardines or mackerel with a large bowl of salad and a small side of something carby like lentils or beans. I will always have sauerkraut with one of my meals too. However, as we’re descending into the thick of winter, I’ve started switching out my salads for a bowl of vegetable soup or roasted vegetables as I’m finding that I’m craving hot food to keep my body warm. I think it’s important to pay attention to your cravings as, sometimes it is your body’s way of telling you what’s needed or going on.
Is it safe to self prescribe vitamins and minerals?
No. I really don’t believe it’s safe to self prescribe vitamins and minerals. Although they are natural, their effects can be similar to drugs (usually without the side effects). There are plenty of supplements that are contraindicated with medications too. If you’re on medication, you can cause yourself some harm self prescribing vitamins and minerals. A classic example is fish oil and warfarin or Anadin. Taking them together is a bit like inducing an overdose as your body uses them in the same way.
I recall a client came to see me with a high platelet count. She was worried after a recent blood test showed higher levels than normal. Her GP was about to recommend further tests to rule out a serious condition called thrombocytosis. After running a consultation with her, I realised that she had self prescribed very high doses of biotin as she heard that it was great for thickening her hair. I immediately wrote to her GP explaining that her high platelet count could be the result of this supplement. We worked collaboratively together and were able to bring her platelet count down in just 6 weeks by removing this supplement. It was a reminder to myself that supplements are powerful and should be regulated.
What would a session with you involve and how does somebody arrange an appointment with you?
I offer a 3 month healthcare package, which is pretty comprehensive. It involves my clients completing a 3 day food diary and nutrition form at least a week before their initial consultation. This way I can scope the latest scientific research that relates to their health before running a consultation. Consultations are held once every 4 weeks. During the consultation my clients really get a chance to talk about all their concerns. This can feel pretty liberating for them as they’re used to being brief and quick with their GPs.
The discussion isn’t limited to their health and eating habits. We delve into their familial history, environment and day to day stresses too. Often, I may ask them several questions to help me understand their experiences further. Once I feel I have a deep understanding of what is going on, I will share with them what I think is driving their main symptoms. This is how we work in functional medicine. We ask why are these symptoms here? So that we can hopefully get to the route cause.
Together, the client and I negotiate the changes that I’d like them to make over the next 4 weeks targeting the underlying imbalance with scientifically proven wholefoods and supplements. Sometimes I may also recommend functional tests to help us understand their health further. I always write to my client’s GP to inform them of the protocol and request their support with testing if possible. I think it’s important to work collaboratively with doctors for enhanced patient care.
With each consultation we review how the client is doing and adjust and advance the protocol until the client feels that they’ve reached their goal. It’s very rewarding.
Find Kay at http://www.youneedanutritionaltherapist.com to arrange a complementary call to discuss how she might be able to help and advise you!