Aging Gracefully

Balancing Blood Sugar

There’s an absolute ton of money in sugar. It’s a big business with a murky history emerging from what we’d call human trafficking today. It enabled some of its founders to become ‘philanthropists’ based on the vast sums that they created from this highly addictive substance. It’s almost as if they don’t want you to know about the importance of balancing blood sugar. 

Today in the UK we consume on average 700g/week which is about 140 teaspoons. The NHS suggests <210g/week*.

Insulin Resistance

I see the direct impact of this normalisation of excess sugar consumption every day when I’m talking with midlife women. It creates insulin resistance and is a primary product for increasing inflammation within the body. The knock-on effects of this gruesome combo is linked to heart disease, impairment of brain function (Alzheimer’s aka Type 3 diabetes) and cancer.

Sugar increases inflammation

After age 40 most women tend to be in the perimenopause zone. The hormone oestrogen is protective for women against inflammation and as oestrogen declines so does our level of protection. At the same time both excess and low levels of oestrogen have been linked to higher rates of insulin resistance.

Similarly for hair loss clients these studies showed that individuals with both androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata are at a higher risk of both developing and increasing insulin resistance. 

Perimenopausal and resistant to insulin

For the demographic which crosses both of these groups we can see the potential of a double-whammy which means that balancing your blood sugar is critically important.

My clients are beating themselves up because they’re struggling to manage their relationship with this product which is laced throughout both ultra processed and processed food. It turns up where you’d least expect it, for example in supposedly savoury foods like refined carbohydrates. My favourite example of this is in Ireland where local labelling laws don’t allow Subway to describe the stuff that its sandwich fillings sit on as bread. Why? Sugar. It’s to do with sugar content and VAT read about it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-54370056

Sugar Addiction

So why is it so hard to stop eating sugar? For starters it activates the brain’s reward circuits creating dopamine and stimulates the body’s innate pain relieving opioids. This natural ‘reward’ from eating sugar was designed as an adaptation for high calorie food. We only had seasonal access in the Autumn and it was helpful to lay down that layer of fat to make it through the cold Winter. Today we’re able to lay down that adipose tissue year round!

Sugar hides under different names

Sugar shows up as sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, fruit juice, molasses, hydrolysed starch, invert syrup, corn syrup and honey. One way to start avoiding it is avoiding packaged processed foods.

Two weeks

The good news is that it can be surprisingly quick to start altering your taste buds. Literally in as little as two weeks you can create those changes. It can take longer to change the habits that we have around sugar and refined carbs, together we create new habits that are unique to you. We can prepare for those times when you’re more likely to be sabotaged.  Perhaps most importantly we can change your relationship with what a ‘treat’ looks, feels and tastes like.

If you’re looking to improve your health, ditching sugar and refined carbs returns a lot on your investment in yourself. If you’d like to discuss further let’s have a chat: https://calendly.com/practicalhealthcoach/managingmidlfe





Sugar Addiction: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29266583/


Opioid Production: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29052153/ and https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28747384/

Sugar and immunity:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448089/

Sugar and cancer: https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003460

Insulin Resistance and Alopecia



Thanks to my autoimmune disease

Let me preface this by saying that hindsight can be a wonderful thing. Five years after first being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease I can recognise how this outwardly negative experience has actually changed me for the better. When things come along in your life that at first glance appear to be wholly negative it’s possible that a perspective shift and a little time can change that initial impression. The question is how can we create that shift? Then how can we create that reframe without the added benefit of time?

Toxic Positivity?

How about we consider that the unplanned event that looks, feels and tastes awful could actually be the making of you. It feels strange to embrace it. People might think that you’re a bit odd. They might be muttering about ‘toxic positivity’… Let them. If they consider that making the most of what life hands you is somehow poisonous, that’s up to them. You aren’t going to change their world view… only they have the power to do that.

Here’s an example:

In 2017 I closed my gluten free bakery business. I felt like a failure. I felt terrible for letting down both my customers and employees. Working 60+ hours each week triggered an autoimmune disease for me (cue Functional Medicine mantra: Genes load the gun, environment pulls the trigger). It wasn’t just the long hours it was also managing a house and family with a husband who worked away every week. My children weren’t the kind that just come home after school and do their own thing, I’d be on the road every night getting to them cubs, scouts, rugby, hockey, athletics, singing… I’d regularly wake up at 3 am pondering how to create the perfect vegan salted caramel, or dairy free ganache. When your sleep starts being disrupted regularly then your health is going to be on a downward spiral.

White flag

While my body had started to gently wave a white flag to get my attention, I did what any working mother would do and ignored it. I was really enjoying the creativity of my work. I loved supplying fancy hotels with gluten free and vegan bakes, it was amazing to bake for weddings. I liked the kudos of winning national awards. The all-female team from grannys to work-experience girls was brilliant to be part of. It was only when I took my foot off the gas during a five day family vacation that I realised that it was unsustainable.

At that moment when I recognized the need for an exit strategy I was also agreeing to give a baking demo on stage in front of hundreds of people at a food festival! Talk about being in denial…

However as a pragmatist I did start to create my exit plan which enabled me to close the doors six months later. I acknowledge that I was on the path to burnout, and perhaps worse given the autoimmune disease that decided to make its presence known.

Okay, I understand what you’re thinking, none of this sounds good… how can any of this be good?

Best Shape

If we fast forward to today I’m in really good shape both physically and mentally. I’m heading into peri-menopause with a spring in my step. I work out regularly, I walk with friends and/or my dogs. Through being unwell with autoimmune flares I’ve figured out what my limits are. I know how important improving your gut health is and what stress management techniques work for me. I use nutrition and other lifestyle habits to keep Hashimoto’s in remission.

While this is great for me it’s also good for you. Because I’ve been in that position where it felt like my life was spiraling out of my control. I’ve been teetering on the edge of burnout. I’ve had to learn the hard way that I can’t do everything, well not all at once at least. I didn’t realise how unwell I was until I started to become healthy again. Right now I’m in the best shape of my adult life and (weirdly) I have an autoimmune disease to thank for that.

Thanks to an autoimmune disease

It’s a bit like losing weight. Now I consider myself to be in ‘maintenance’ mode which is a lot more straightforward than creating all of those habit changes in the first place. If you need support in finding the gift or opportunity within your personal situation please get in touch. https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/how-to-get-in-touch/

Magical Muffins for Menopause Symptoms

Okay, so they’re not exactly magical. I’m just a fan of alliteration. They are safe for people without any menopause symptoms so I advise hiding them.

While you might have had a bad experience with gluten free muffins in the past these ones have such a great texture that you wouldn’t even know they were gluten free! I know… that’s a bold claim. If you’re wondering what does a Functional Health Coach know about baking? I used to own an award winning gluten free bakery.

The magic comes from the following ingredients which all support the (peri)menopausal woman:

High fibre – almond flour, flaxseed, psyllium husk

Good fats – coconut yoghurt, coconut oil, flaxseed, eggs

Antioxidants, Anti-inflammatory, Positive impact on blood sugar – cinnamon

Low sugar – you could switch to the same weight of a liquid sweetener like maple syrup or even make them keto by switching out the sugar for erythritol, I don’t because these sugar alcohol substitutes aren’t good for your gut health.



80g coconut oil, melted and cooled

100g coconut yoghurt

4 medium eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract


45g freshly ground flaxseed (I use a little spice blender)

150g almond flour (ground almonds will do in a pinch)

60g brown or coconut sugar

2.5 T cinnamon (yes, that’s Tablespoon)

1 tsp psyllium husk

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt


150g Blueberries, washed and dried


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C or 350°F. Line a muffin tray with 10 silicon or paper cases.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together.
  3. Whisk wet ingredients together.
  4. Add the wet to the dry gently mix together with a spatula.
  5. Fill muffin cases a little over three-quarters full.
  6. Place your blueberries gently into the top of each muffin.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes.
  8. Cool for 10 minutes or so.
  9. Eat.

Seriously that’s it! They’re great to keep on hand for snacking emergencies. Sadly that never happens in my house as I haven’t told my husband and boys that these are magical menopause muffins and they just keep eating them.

Here’s a link to my midlife program https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/making-midlife-better/ or, if you’d like to have a chat about whether coaching could help you here’s another link https://calendly.com/practicalhealthcoach/coachingmagic

The Japanese have no word for menopause…

Why is nobody asking why the Japanese have no word for menopause or perimenopause or hot flash?

Perhaps because it’s complicated without a one pill fits all answer, and is further compounded by the medical data gap which results in excluding women from research as we’re not as simple as men.

For me the glaringly obvious answer lies in diet, lifestyle and environment changes. How can we create shifts away from our current Western approach to use what works better in other countries? I’ve lived and worked in lots of different countries. Singapore was hands down the easiest place to be a working parent. The UK has been the worst.

Crash and Burn

To be honest it’s not surprising that we crash and burn during this midlife hormonal shift. Most women have been running on empty for years and entering perimenopause is the proverbial last straw.

When I say running on empty I’m talking about women in their 30s with children who have already done the equivalent of a full day’s work before 9am, and then they begin their paid work. By the time that they’re in their 40s they’ve already had over a decade of this and childcare doesn’t stop just because kids become teenagers.

Let’s add in some additional stressors like maybe a separation or divorce, a house move, financial worries, a renovation, a child with additional needs, caring for aging parents… and let’s manage these extras with, perhaps, alcohol. You’ve had a tough week and you absolutely deserve that glass of shiraz on Friday. That one glass becomes a couple, and you repeat on Saturday too, why not?

You don’t have time for exercise, you’re far too exhausted. Dinner is whatever’s quick and easy, it might be a takeaway. Your sleep isn’t great. In fact when was the last time that you woke up feeling ready to go get ‘em?

Perimenopause – a health disaster waiting to happen

Against this background it’s not hard to see why perimenopause completely derails you. In fact it would be astonishing if it didn’t.

While there’s a place for HRT (although it’s generally prescribed without any testing…) there’s so much that you can do with lifestyle changes. If you want to find out how I can help, here’s a link to my program: https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/making-midlife-better/

Understanding Hormones and Gut Health

Maybe you’re in that mid-life zone and not feeling like yourself… for example clothes aren’t fitting
like they used to, and diet strategies that used to work no longer help you to shift those couple of
extra pounds. You’ve noticed that your brain feels a bit ‘foggy’ and you don’t wake up feeling
refreshed and ready to go and get the day. In fact now that you think about it you’re feeling worn
out and don’t recognise the woman in the mirror.

Hormones and Gut Health

We know. We’ve been there and (thankfully!) come out the other side. We created the hormones
and gut health workshop to support and inform you with regards to optimal nutrition and lifestyle
changes for this time in your life.

This day was dreamt up through shared experience, research and many conversations surrounding
nutrition, lifestyle, and wellbeing. We’re incredibly passionate about sharing this message as many
women are needlessly suffering from the effects of hormonal imbalances.


We’re inviting you to spend the day with us in the lovely setting of Rudyard Lake to explore and
understand our hormones and gut health to gather a tool kit which will work for you and your body. When we
support our hormones, they in turn can support us.

A full day which is all about YOU

In addition to discussion and insights on nutrition, stress management, resetting your body clock and
other Functional Health protocols. You will have the chance to create a ferment to take home, spend
some time in nature, and experience a guided breathing session. During the day you’ll enjoy a healthy lunch, light snacks and herbal teas.

It is worthwhile booking early as places are limited. (Not just saying this! We’re purposefully keeping the group small).
You’ll leave us at the end of the day with a goody bag, the ferment you have created, and more
information to focus on areas where you need additional support.

Who are we? Well there’s me, I’m a board certified Functional Health Coach who specialises in working with mid-life women to improve their mental and physical health. Emma Cronin from Wild Pickle http://www.wildpickle.co.uk is a creator and educator in fermented foods for 10 years, forager and maker of delicious and nutritious foods.
The day is aimed at women approaching perimenopause and onwards. It’s a great opportunity to draw a line in the sand, and create change.

We are excited about hosting you day and look forward to seeing you there!

Here’s the link for tickets: https://buy.stripe.com/4gwaIzeXLeO3aJibII

Women’s Hair Loss

Breaking a taboo. That’s what my new course on How to Manage Women’s Hair Loss does. Nobody talks about this. Women (who generally discuss everything with friends) don’t talk about this. It might possibly be something that your hairdresser brings up if you have a solid long-term relationship.

Hair shedding

When it first happened to me I was already hyper-aware of the subject of hair loss as my son had been diagnosed with alopecia the year before. That said, I thought I was just noticing the shedding BECAUSE I knew about alopecia. In truth I was completely in denial.

While I didn’t have lots of hair on my pillow, I did notice a lot of shedding after washing my hair. Again, I could dismiss this as ‘normal’… it’s wonderful how we can rationalize what we don’t want to deal with! The moment when I realised that this wasn’t actually normal was when (and this is gross, if you’re eating please stop reading) my hair kept turning up in food that I’d prepared. When that happens repeatedly it’s really not something that you can ignore.

This was just one of the side effects of my hormones being completely out of whack – that’s a technical term, and it wasn’t even the worst symptom. Looking back stress was a big trigger. I’d had a major health scare in 2014. Then I started a gluten free bakery business which looked good on paper. It was making money, we’d won many national awards for our bread, cakes and biscuits, and my team was brilliant the flip-side of that was working 60+ hours a week, while looking after my three children by myself (my husband worked away). Oh and doing all of the other stuff that women do when they run a household.

Did I ask for help? Nope. I thought that the answer was just to work harder…

I managed to create an exit strategy after getting off the hamster wheel for a short break in France. This brief pause made me realise how unsustainable both my business and family life were. The holiday was in August and by the following January I’d turned the door sign to ‘Closed’ for the final time. While my customers were sad, I was euphoric and turned my attention to my health.

Your body’s signal for help!

So yes I know all about how we fool ourselves into thinking that hair loss isn’t really an issue. Think of it like the canary in a coalmine. Your body is sending you (not so subtle) messages that all isn’t well. If you don’t listen these signs become even more obvious until you really can’t avoid them. Like getting a mouthful of hair. Yum.

It’s a monthly subscription which is priced at around a third less than my coach advised… I don’t want price to be a barrier. (Yes, I know that price can be used as an excuse for not spending cash, i.e investing in yourself). If it makes you feel better about buying it now the price will be increasing in January! And if you’re wondering why, you should meet my coach.

I’m happy to run the first three months as a pilot and then re-evaluate. This means that rather than waiting until the New Year to start making a big change, you can start now and actually start experiencing regrowth by January (it takes 2/3 months for growth to start).

How to Manage Women’s Hair Loss is an online self-study course, plus a monthly group coaching session (third Thursday of the month 19:30 UK time). Yes, this means that the first one is next week.

I’m delighted to include this group coaching session as this is where you’ll have the chance to learn from others and start to put the pieces together yourself.

Interested? Here’s the link: https://practicalhealthcoach.thinkific.com/courses/how-to-manage-womens-hair-loss

How to improve your gut health

A key focus of mine as a Functional Medicine Health Coach is to support my clients to improve their gut health. We know that 70-80% of our immune system resides in the gut, and I work primarily with clients who are living with autoimmune diseases. It’s an area that fascinates me, so  I was delighted to catch up (in a socially distanced way) with Emma Cronin aka Wild Pickle to talk about all things related to gut health. Emma’s been running her fermenting business since 2015. She’s literally a walking-talking advert for fermenting because she herself looks so healthy!

The first time that you speak to Emma you are immediately struck by both her deep passion for fermenting, and her incredibly wide knowledge. Unlike some people who have spent years immersing themselves in a subject and live deep in the weeds of the technical details, Emma makes it easy for a first-time fermenter to understand the process. I attended two Wild Pickle workshops in 2019 and came away armed with huge amounts of knowledge, and perhaps more importantly the confidence that I wasn’t going to food poison myself!

What led you to first become interested in fermented foods?

My daughter was suffering from gluten and dairy intolerances from her early years. While I was fatigued and suffering from low mood and digestive problems. I started to look at our diet and lifestyle overall to improve our health and I was introduced to sauerkraut, milk kefir and kombucha. I started to work on cooking everything from scratch and eating the kind of food our great grandma ate  (no processed foods). Then I attended a sauerkraut making workshop. When you make everything from scratch, being able to make a fermented tomato ketchup that tasted amazing and lasted 2-3 months for a little one was like hitting the jackpot for me!

Foraged food ready to be fermented
Foraged from the hedgerow, ready to be fermented. Photo: Wild Pickle

What differences have you noticed in your own health since becoming a committed fermenter?

There’s been so many positive changes: social anxiety lessened; mental health improved; skin condition and colour improved; my hair stopped falling out as much as it was; stronger nails; digestive health recovered; hardly any colds in the winter; enhanced immunity and overall better gut health and I really appreciated feeling an increased vitality in everyday life.

What’s your favourite food/drink to make and why?

Kimchi has to be one of my favourite ferments to make. I enjoy the making process of chopping the vegetables, brining them and making the paste. It is therapeutic and I take my time. I love the Korean phrase “Son Mat” meaning the taste of one’s hands, in my case this translates as made by hand with love and awareness. It slows me down. Kimchi ferments in such a short time of 1-3 days. I then leave it for a couple of months in the cold and when it is brought out the depths of the flavours… are totally different from the beginning. They are complex and superb and I love that all the alchemy of the bacteria is working in kimchi to create the pungency and umami flavours that we love. Giving time and patience is worth it.

Fermented foods. Photo: Wild Pickle

If someone is completely new to fermented foods, where do you suggest they start?

I would recommend that with fermented foods you start with something you enjoy, whether it is gherkins, kimchi, sauerkraut or kombucha. In all cases I would recommend trying small amounts and paying attention to how your body reacts. I would then recommend trying a wide variety of live, unpasteurised fermented foods.

I think that the easiest introduction to making fermented foods is sauerkraut. It is simple and does not need much in the form of ingredients or utensils to get going. It’s great as you can control how tangy it gets and what ingredients go into it. It is a powerhouse of goodness for not very much outlay and effort.

That said, sauerkraut is not always everyone’s cup of tea. So sometimes Kombucha, a sweetened fermented tea is a good gateway into fermented foods and maybe try that first. I think that Kombucha was the first fermented food that we tried. Again, we had to get used to drinking it and had it in small quantities to begin with but we loved it!

What plans do you have for the future of Wild Pickle?

Wild Pickle is moving to online workshops. It’s exciting to be able to reach out and share the fermenting fun with many more people than I could reach locally. The workshops are teaching sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, milk kefir, condiments, salsas and looking at incorporating more wild foraged foods.

I’m starting with smaller workshops (less than 10 people) in order to give all attendees focused attention. In addition to the workshops I also teach groups of friends who are keen to host a kombucha/sauerkraut making virtual party. Plus, I’m also offering bespoke and tailored one to one sessions which will really explore the flavours that you particularly enjoy.

We have a small commercial test kitchen based on a farm in the heart of Staffordshire countryside. We’re also busy creating a workshop there which will provide additional teaching space, but given the current environment that will be ready in 2021.

Fermentation is an increasingly important part of supporting our gut health and immunity. But let’s not forget the other roles that it fills. It’s a tool to help in minimising waste, it focuses our attention to use what we have available, it helps us to get away from the use of plastic, it preserves seasonal food at its best, and makes it easier to store food without the relying on refrigeration.

Fermentation of food creates such complex and amazing flavours that cannot be achieved by other means. What’s incredible is that you can easily make this at home with no fancy equipment. It’s too exciting and too delicious not to share!

How can people get in touch with you?

I’m on both Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WildPickle/ and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/wild.pickle/ or you can email me at info@wildpickle.co.uk

Gut friendly Paleo Pancakes

These gut friendly paleo pancakes are a great way to start your day! They pack almost 20g of protein per serving, along with good fat, zero added sweeteners and a hefty portion of Vitamin A, D and Selenium (>20% of your RDA).

One serving which is approximately 4 pancakes will give you a little over 5g of fibre. The combination of protein, fat and fibre will keep you full until lunch-time. They’re naturally gluten-free, and don’t feel like you’re eating ‘diet’ food.

If you have 10 minutes in the morning, then you have time to make these.

Serves 2


100g ground almonds

25g dried, unsweetened coconut

1 tsp gluten free baking powder

0.5 tsp salt

0.5 tsp psyillium husk (optional, makes them a little easier to flip)

2 large eggs

125ml milk or mylk (I like Good Hemp, Creamy Seed Milk)

1T ghee or butter for frying pan

Optional add-ins to mixed batter:

1 tsp cinnamon or 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 T dried blueberry powder


Mix dry ingredients together. Then mix wet ingredients together. Or, throw caution to the wind and mix all in one bowl. Put frying pan on the stove with ghee on medium heat.

Spoon/pour the mixture into the pan. Leave undisturbed for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 2/3 minutes.

Keep first batch warm, while you repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with kefir, almond butter, berries and a sprinkle of flaxseed*.

*I’m currently using Waitrose’s Milled golden flaxseed with maca, cacao and chicory inulin. This is a gut friendly product as it contains prebiotics and insoluble fibre.

When is the right time to go grey?

When I told my friends that I’d decided that it was time to go grey they were surprised and immediately started peppering me with suggestions about how best to cover those pesky grey roots. They’d missed the point. I know about all of the ways to cover that new growth, I was just choosing not to anymore. I wasn’t just deciding not to dye, it was more about the positive step towards embracing my grey hair.

So how did I make up my mind that it was the right time to go grey?

Let’s start with time, my hairdresser is an hour’s drive from where I live, I’d be in the salon for a couple of hours with an hours drive home. That’s half a day gone! Half a day every 6 weeks! Over the course of a year that’s literally a couple of days spent in the hairdresser’s chair. Yes, I could save some of that time by finding a salon closer to me, but I like my current one a lot. Obviously I’m not one of those people who find sitting still for hours with bits of tin foil stuck on my head and a rapidly cooling cappuccino in hand a ‘luxury’.

Next we have the cash element. Colouring isn’t cheap. Last year I decided to save some money by doing a box colour that I bought on special offer. That was a relative bargain at around £5, but was messy, and sadly didn’t cover all of the grey – the box said that it would, so it was probably user error.

Then there’s the health factor. When I was pregnant with my children I was advised not to dye my hair due to the chemicals crossing the placenta. They were all born in the US which doesn’t have the same strict rules as Europe with regards to cosmetics ingredients. As someone who purposefully eats as healthy as possible (organic veg box delivery, local butcher and greengrocer rather than the supermarket), and is fully aware of what’s in my skincare and make-up products. It seemed slightly incongruous to be avoiding parabens and sodium lauryl sulphate in shampoo only to apply who knows what chemicals in the salon.

A slightly trickier issue is the sexist one. No-one even raises a (charcoal) eyebrow when a man lets his salt and pepper start to show, but when a woman does she’s ‘letting herself go’. Somehow choosing not to dye your hair is a subject worthy of public debate. Even my hyper-aware 17 year old daughter (who is very comfortable using phrases like ‘toxic masculinity’ with irony or without) didn’t spot this societal hypocrisy.

Since starting this process in May 2019 I’ve had a couple of surprises… First, I’m not as grey as I thought I was! This is quite helpful as it means that I don’t have a grey/white demarcation line against my dyed dark hair. Also, I didn’t expect to find so much support for my venture. There are huge online communities of women who are growing out their grey with pride like Silver Sisters on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/welcometosilversisters/

By far the biggest change though has been in my attitude to the new grey growth. Before choosing to embrace my grey hair, I’d be annoyed by the new silver growth appearing at my temples a week after visiting the hairdresser. Now I eagerly search to see what new hair is appearing and what colour it is. This shift both in attitude and confidence has occurred gradually over the months that I’ve been very busy not dying my hair.

Only you can decide when is the right time to go grey.