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Coaching can transform lives

After passing my Practical Skills Assessment with the Kresser Institute I needed to accrue a prescribed number of hours in order to become certified as a Functional Health Coach. I was looking for people who were ready to transform their lives! I’m part of a Facebook group dedicated to women’s fitness and considered that these ladies would be an excellent group to ask for volunteers as they’d all already demonstrated a commitment to change just by being part of a fitness group.

There was a great response to my request but some people fell by the wayside when we were trying to firm up a time to talk. In part this was due to the difficulty in reaching across international time zones and in part due to fear of the unknown. There I was, a stranger on the internet, offering free health coaching to other women on the internet. I mean, what even is health coaching and why might you want or need it?

I was incredibly grateful to the courageous women who showed up and were willing to be open to the concept that coaching could possibly help them. Kelly was one of those women who volunteered.

Living in Lockdown

At the time we were just starting to come out of lockdown, but we were all living with the fear of what our daily lives would look like in the short-term. Here’s what happened when I met Kelly…

My first impression was of a woman who was open and curious about coaching. She’s travelled all over the world and clearly loves being able to experience different environments and cultures. Lockdown had prevented her from taking an epic three month journey across the world with her family.

She was ‘stuck’ in a beautiful part of Australia. We talked about the things that she loved to do on her property, and how lockdown didn’t prevent her from going for walks or building fires and roasting marshmallows with her young son. We focused on what she could do for herself over the next week that would make her feel better. As we talked, and a plan formed she became more animated.

She talked about the death of her baby four years ago and how incredibly difficult this was. She talked about her time in the NICU. Coaching is not counselling. A simplistic definition is that coaching focuses on the future, while counselling supports the past. As a coach I’m not trained to support mental health issues.

Take Action

As we completed our call Kelly had a short list of actions to carry out over the next week, and we agreed to speak at the same time in seven days.

Let’s be clear a week is not a huge amount of time. And yet… when we reconnected it was almost like a different person was looking at me in the Zoom room. She was so happy, she was practically glowing. The woman from our prior meeting was nowhere in sight. Kelly had smashed all of her action items out of the park. Exercise? Check! Following a keto diet? Check! Spending time with her husband and son? Check! Writing books? Check!

The process of coaching is sometimes described as holding up a mirror. Through gentle but challenging questions I held up that mirror to Kelly. She didn’t recognize the woman in the reflection. In my experience as a new coach most people really struggle if that image reflects someone they don’t recognize, or worse don’t like.

Excuses… or courage?

This is when people start to make excuses for how their life’s going, or they try to blame somebody else. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a normal human reaction. The most difficult thing that you will ever do is to be responsible for your own life. It takes courage to own up and accept how things are. There’s the danger that you could start down a rabbit-hole questioning every decision that you’ve ever made.

Action

Kelly didn’t do any of those things. She took action. She methodically addressed every little thing that we’d talked about. While she’d already started to write a series of children’s books, her actions that week took her to a completely different level. It was really happening now! She’d found a publisher, she was figuring out her marketing, she had a publication date.

Transform

Transformation happens when you take action. The ‘magic’ of coaching happens when you stop moving away from pain and actively move towards joy. By making these tangible steps towards joy Kelly was literally transforming her life as we spoke.

Book Published

Since our sessions together Kelly’s continued to take great strides. In addition to the children’s stories, she’s working on a book for parents of children in the NICU which gives practical tips for making it through that incredibly stressful time. She’s also speaking out and talking about this subject to help others. Her work will continue to create a beacon of light and hope for both new and bereaved parents.

I’m writing this with Kelly’s full permission as today she’s a woman on a mission who’s found her purpose in life. You can read about what it felt like to be a practice client below. If you’d like to see if I can help you, book time to talk here https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/work-with-me/

It’s incredible to think that all of this happened because of a one line response to a Facebook post. Find out more about Kelly here https://kellymareeauthor.com/

Kelly’s side of our coaching story

I have been working with Laura Krippner for the past 5 months, little did I know that just a few sessions with Laura would change my life completely!

We both felt it would be beneficial for people to understand the process and the benefits, from both points of view, and how the power of coaching can drastically change your life in such a short period of time.  So I want to share my story and have asked Laura to share her side of my story too, what we both learned, how Laura uses her skills to help people, and how impacting lives through coaching is such an incredible thing. 

A change of plans

I work incredibly hard, as a multiple business owner this is just the norm for me.  The harder I work the more money I can make, which means more holidays, and every holiday is the reward for sacrificing my soul to the daily grind. 

Earlier this year we had planned a 3 month trip around the world, to reward ourselves for all that hard work and to visit family that we hadn’t seen for so long.  My heart was so set on this trip, hours of planning went into it, thousands of dollars was invested in the tickets, there were also life goals on my list that would be ticked off, something that was so very import to me and my mental health. 

In walks COVID, the killer of dreams, the canceller of plans, throwing the whole world upside down and throwing our trip into the bin.  I was devastated!  I had suffered so many years of PTSD and depression after losing my son Oli, and spending 133 days in hospital with Oskar getting him strong enough to come home, at the same time building the furniture removals business that we had just started 2 weeks before the twins were born.  I deserved that trip!

Battling Depression

I slipped back into my black hole of despair, I mourned my travel like it was a child, I cried, felt sorry for myself, spent days in utter sadness, with all the memories of the trauma and loss in the front of my mind again, that was a very dark time and I couldn’t see the light.

When a saw a post from Laura on a Facebook group, I was willing to try anything and put my hand up immediately.  I didn’t know what her course was, what it would require from me, or what to expect from the sessions with her, but it felt right, and I always trust my gut instinct.

The first thing I noticed about Laura was her soft voice and calming mannerisms.  She put me at ease immediately.  Then she started to ask me questions that no one had asked me before.  Questions about MY mental health, about MY physical health, about MY dreams and aspirations, about MY future.  I knew I could tell her anything and everything, and that’s exactly what I did:  poured my heart and soul out to this stranger that was willing to listen, that cared about ME.  The proverbial light bulb went ding!  And I never looked back.

Putting a plan into action

By the end of the first session I had a plan of attack, and it was put in motion the moment the session ended.  I wanted to be an author, I had always wanted to be an author.  To write full time, to inspire others and to make a difference in this world.  This was my purpose, and at that moment my dream was born. 

I wrote three children’s books for Oskar in a week, found an illustrator the next week, and found Ocean Reeve Publishing the month after that.  It all fell into place so fast!  This was the journey I was supposed to be on, the one that I had put on the back burner for so many years, this was my fate.  To create a legacy for my son Oskar and honour the memory of his angel twin Oli, to help raise awareness about infant loss and support bereaved families, and to raise money for the Precious Wings and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital foundations, who helped us through the hardest time of our lives. 

Why Coaching?

If you had of asked me a year ago if I needed coaching, I would have said no way! Why?  I have successful businesses, a beautiful family, a wonderful home, money to travel whenever I wanted, everything anyone could ever ask for.  But something was missing from my life, I didn’t have a purpose, everything I did was not for me, it was for someone else.  Money and success means nothing if you aren’t happy.

After just a few sessions with Laura my whole life has changed, I am now on a completely different path, one I would not be on without that coaching.  The opportunities and experiences that have presented themselves have only been because my entire mindset changed.  The more I give, the more I get back, the more I help people, the more I heal.  It’s a positive cycle that is so welcomed after years of negative cycles, and it’s possible for everyone. 

The power of coaching is life changing, empowering, it shows you how to take your life back and focuses on YOU, about what YOU want, no one else.  You can’t know true love until you love yourself, you can’t help others until you learn to help yourself and you definitely can’t live the life you want if you aren’t living it for YOU.

I am so grateful every single day for the incredible journey I am now on thanks to coaching and in just a few sessions it’s possible to think differently, feel differently and change negative thoughts into positive ones. 

A very special thank you to Laura for her patience, kindness and faith in me.  It has changed my life and I know how many other lives that will be impacted by the coaching she offers.

Sunshine on flowers

While talking with some of my Functional Health Coach chums, I asked what their favourite vitamin was. After the initial shock, this question is a bit like asking who your favourite child is… more than 70% of those asked for my highly unscientific poll agreed on vitamin D. We then delved into minerals, but that’s a whole other story.

Unless you live under a very large rock with no access to the outside world you’ll have seen that vitamin D has been in the news recently. This is due to the first randomised controlled trial which showed that administering vitamin D almost completely removed the risk of needing admission to the ICU for patients who’d tested positive for Coronavirus. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960076020302764?via%3Dihub This is obviously fantastic, although more research is needed as the study was small.

However, that’s not why this vitamin would always be top of my vitamin charts. Firstly, most people know of its role in supporting calcium absorption. It also helps to prevent rickets, osteoporosis and stress fractures. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and death from all causes. While these are all great reasons to optimize your vitamin D levels, my interest lies in the immunomodulatory effects of the vitamin.

Immunomodulatory impact

Part of the conclusion from The Implication of Vitamin D and autoimmunity: A Comprehensive Review states:

“Due to its unique capability to bind to VDR* and serve as a transcriptional factor, vitamin D can regulate gene expression and further exert its immunomodulatory effects on immune cells.”

*Vitamin D receptor

It goes on to state that additional studies are required to fully understand the potential capacity of vitamin D to prevent and ameliorate autoimmunity. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23359064/

So what does this mean for those of us who are living with an autoimmune disease? Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that clients report hair regrowth after the Summer when they’ve tended to be outside more, or been on holiday to a sunny place. That said given that vitamin D is toxic at high levels the answer isn’t just to  take a supplement. First you need to understand what your levels actually are, and retest after 3 to 4 months. You can ask your GP to run the test or use one of the private companies to get this information. I like Medichecks or Tiny Tests.

Sunshine is simplest

The easiest (and cheapest) way to obtain vitamin D is from sunlight, but in the UK that’s only possible between the end of March and September. I like the Dminder app which helps you to track depending on your location, your skin colour and amount of exposed skin. The image below is from September 22nd 2020 in North West England. We only have a few more weeks remaining after which time you’ll need to look for other sources until late March/early April 2021 when it becomes available from the sun again.

Snapshot from Dminder app

Food

Good sources are cod livers and cod liver oil. Other fatty fish include herring, fatty tuna, rainbow trout, salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Other good food sources are egg yolks with free range eggs containing more (approx 4-6 times more) than eggs produced by chickens without access to pasture.

Supplement

While you could argue that cod liver oil is a supplement. Here I’m talking about the ones which are not food-based. Ideally you’re looking for an over the counter supplement which also contains vitamin K2 as they work together synergistically.

Toxic

As stated earlier too much can be toxic so don’t start to supplement without first knowing what your personal level is. There’s a fair amount of debate regarding what optimal levels are. Generally in the Functional Medicine Community 50ng/ml is regarded as optimal, but that doesn’t mean that would be the perfect level for you.

To wrap up I make sure that I obtain vitamin D from sunlight in the first instance, and then food. Given the risk of toxicity I don’t think this is a supplement that you should take without medical advice. If you’re interested to find out more take a look at this article by Chris Kresser. https://chriskresser.com/vitamin-d-more-is-not-better/

Swab

Dr Ingrid Wilson is an experienced GP who specialises in hair and skin conditions and is also a trichologist. Her practice, Crewe Hair and Skin Clinic, provides an oasis of high tech solutions for skin and hair problems. I was fascinated to hear about a new test for alopecia that she’s offering called TrichoTest. Using your DNA profile (obtained from a simple swab) it can provide the most likely roadmap to support your hair regrowth. This means that you don’t waste time, money and effort pursuing solutions that are unlikely to help you. I had some questions for Dr Wilson about this new technology.

Does TrichoTest work for everyone regardless of age and sex?

That’s a very good question.

The information from the company indicates that it can be used by everyone regardless of age, gender or race.  I would only offer it to over 18s in the clinic  though for reasons of informed consent.

There is a very helpful frequently asked questions section on the  Fagron TrichoTest website which also provides a lot of helpful background information about the test https://fagrontrichotest.co.uk/faqs/

The test has been widely used across the world, including parts of Europe, the USA and Africa.  It came to the UK in the  autumn of 2019. 

My son was first diagnosed in 2016 although he wasn’t offered any test for alopecia at that time. I think that he could potentially have avoided losing all of his hair if this test for alopecia had been available then. For example, he experienced no regrowth at all using Minoxidil, and when we were chatting you mentioned that Minoxidil will only work for 40% of people with hair loss. How can this test help both these groups of people?

The main way that Minoxidil works is by prolonging the growth phase of the hair. Topical minoxidil, which is available over the counter as Regaine is the mainstay treatment for androgenetic alopecia (balding in men and women) and is also used as an off-label treatment for other hair loss conditions such as traction alopecia. Despite its widespread application, the exact mechanism of action of minoxidil is still not fully understood.

In the past, without the test I would advise appropriate  people to try Minoxidil for at least 6 months, and to give up if there is no improvement after one year.    They can buy it over the counter – and there is a lovely version produced by the compounding Pharmacy I work with that supplies Minoxidil in a really pleasant foam called Foamil which supports hair growth.

I find that sometimes people give up on Minoxidil too early because they experience excess hair shedding at around the 4th month – which ironically is actually a good sign because it is transient and  actually leads to better results overall!

With the Trichotest some time can be saved because it will identify whether there are alternatives to Minoxidil which are likely to be more effective based on the genetic profile.

The positive effect of Minoxidil on hair growth is mainly due to its metabolite, minoxidil sulfate, and the enzyme responsible for this conversion is sulfotransferase, which is located in hair follicles and varies in production among individuals.  There are two phenol sulfotransferases responsible for minoxidil sulfation in the human scalp, and patients with higher enzyme activity respond better to topical minoxidil than those with lower enzyme activity do.  

Sulfotransferase activity is one of the areas looked at in the test.  However what is even more exciting is that the enzyme can actually be upregulated by a short course of topical tretinoin. Tretinoin is a prescription only medicine and cannot be used in pregnant or breastfeeding women.

I am pleased to say that I shared this research finding with the company when I first started doing the test at the clinic earlier on in the year, and they now incorporate this into their treatment algorithms.  I had heard about this exciting finding at different professional conferences to do with hair over the past year: one aimed at dermatologists and one aimed at hair restoration surgeons.  (St Johns Dermacademy Alopecia Masterclass and the British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery event).

When is the best time for a client to take this test for alopecia? For example, at the first hint of hair loss or after a few months when the hair loss is really visible?

It is best to do this as early as possible.  This is because overall the treatments work better if started at an early stage.  Your genetics are not going to change, but the appearance of your hair will if nothing is done about it.

What do you see as the main advantage of this type of DNA test for alopecia over other methods of obtaining a diagnosis (for example, a biopsy).

DNA testing should be seen as a part of the assessment of certain hair disorders.  I strongly believe that it needs to take place alongside a full assessment.  When I assess a hair loss patient as well as the online questionnaire that needs to be completed for the test, I ask more questions as these may have a bearing on the advice I give after the consultation.

This test is best for those with the  potentially reversible and treatable disorders: androgenetic alopecia (balding), alopecia areata and telogen effluvium.  As Minoxidil can be used in other conditions such as traction alopecia – patients may want to weigh up whether they want to know whether Minoxidil is likely to work for them based on their genetic profile.

I have learned that the test cannot be done in isolation.  A comprehensive history needs to be taken to provide context to interpreting the result.

I am aware that some trichology clinics offer it, but the majority of trichology clinics do not have a prescriber.  As the prescriber I take responsibility for the prescription and have found that it has been really important that I have undertaken a detailed assessment with the patient before recommending a prescription.    Sometimes issues have  been identified during the consultation which may not necessarily have been identified by the online questionnaire.

The DNA testing is pretty straightforward to do,  and non invasive.  The hardest thing is the wait of 2-4 weeks for the result, and then reading the detailed report that comes back!  I write to the patient with a summary of the main findings.

A scalp biopsy is not something I offer at the clinic, although I was actually taught how to do it by a dermatologist at a supervised approved hair clinic session at a hospital.  It is invasive as it involves cutting a small sample out of the scalp and then stitching up the small area. A biopsy needs to be done in the right setting with facilities for the correctly trained person to look at the slides under the microscope (a dermatohistopathologist)

A biopsy needs to be done for the right reasons, particularly in cases of potentially permanent (known in the profession as scarring) alopecia such as lupus or lichen planopilaris. 

As for medical conditions, the type of test done will depend on the range of signs and symptoms the patient presents with.

Once you receive the test results back what would be the minimum length of time that a patient would undertake a treatment protocol?

This is a personal choice.  The treatment would need to be continued for as long as one wishes to medically treat the hair loss.

Some people  may decide to continue long term with the medical treatment. Others may decide to have a hair transplant for balding which using this as an adjunct. I am aware that some hair transplant surgeons are starting to use this test to help produce better long term outcomes after surgery.

For more information please do get in touch with Dr Ingrid Wilson at https://linktr.ee/CreweAnd

01270 747 393 or info@crewehairandskinclinic.uk

Hand Sanitiser: Coronavirus and BPA

As a Functional Health Coach one of the areas that I work on with clients is cleaning up their home environments. This is a key step towards recovery for those suffering from autoimmune disorders like alopecia or Hashimoto’s. For starters we look at water and indoor air. Together we examine other areas that have the potential to create problems: for example, fire retardants on new furniture, metals leaching from cooking equipment, toxins in skincare, etc. Everyone’s home environment is unique, it’s key to have a systematic approach to this.

I don’t just talk about these issues! I do actually apply everything that I’ve learned in my training to minimise these daily risks that we encounter. Last week I went shopping with my daughter in the Trafford Centre and noted that every single shop had hand sanitiser near to their entrances. This is a sensible approach to minimise the risk of catching coronavirus after you cautiously leave your home following weeks of lockdown. That said, hand sanitiser can produce some unwanted side effects when combined with other chemicals.

BPA

We’ve known about BPA and it’s negative health impacts for years. I remember first hearing about it with regards to, specifically, the lining of tomato cans. BPA or bisphenol A is found in plastics, aluminium cans used for foods, and critically thermal paper e.g. cash register receipts. It’s an endocrine disruptor which means that this chemical can interfere with your endocrine (hormonal) system. What does this mean? Studies have shown links with this chemical and insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer, liver damage and ADHD. (1)

The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences states that even low doses of hormonal disrupting chemicals may be unsafe. This is because your body’s normal endocrine functioning involves very small changes in hormone levels, yet these small changes can create significant developmental and biological effects. An endocrine disruptor like BPA can increase or decrease normal hormone levels, mimic the body’s natural hormones or alter the natural production of hormones. (2)

Unfortunately chemicals which were supposed to remove BPA from our environment, like TPP (triphenyl phosphate) which enable manufacturers to use the ‘BPA free’ label on plastics still produce estrogenic activity (EA). (3)

Coronavirus and BPA

Perhaps the area that we should be most focused on today given the fact that we’re living through this time of coronavirus is that of thermal paper (commonly used for till receipts, transport tickets, restaurant orders from front of house to the kitchen). In 2014 a study showed that people who were handling lots of receipts had increased levels of BPA in their urine and blood. (4) While another 2014 study found that “data show after holding a receipt for 60 sec, there was 185-times more BPA transferred to a wet hand due to holding thermal receipt paper immediately after using hand sanitizer with penetration enhancing chemicals as opposed to when the hands were dry”. (5)

Given that we are all using hand sanitisers significantly more in an attempt to remain safe during this pandemic, we should be aware of this increased risk. Let’s face it we’ve already ran out of sanitiser once in the UK, I even have a quick recipe on my site giving instructions on how to make your own. https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/how-to-make-hand-sanitiser-at-home-using-ingredients-that-you-probably-already-have-lying-around/Other cosmetics like lotions and moisturisers also enable lipid-soluble chemicals like BPA to be absorbed by the skin.

More recently last year, a study examined BPA and BPS (bisphenol S) in receipts from Brazil, France and Spain and found that hormone-like activity was found in >80% of the paper, and that the BPA levels were 30 to 100 times higher than the EU recommended level of 0.2mg/g. The United States currently has no minimum recommended levels for these endocrine disrupting chemicals. (6)

What can you do?

So what can you do to minimise your contact with thermal paper while still following safety protocols for CV-19:

·        Have a receipt emailed to you if that’s an option.

·        Leave the receipt!

·        Use gloves.

·        Don’t keep receipts in pockets, or lying around the bottom of your bag.

·        Don’t touch thermal paper if you’ve just used hand sanitiser.

·        If you must take a receipt, fold it inwards on itself and put in a rubbish bin as soon as practicable.

·        Exercise caution if you’re in a vulnerable group: for example, pregnant women, pre-conception couples, working in an environment which has significant contact with thermal paper, children and adolescents.

Notes:

  1. https://chriskresser.com/re-examining-the-evidence-on-bpa-and-plastics/
  2. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4063249/
  4. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1832525
  5. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110509
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0013935118306820#!

Low carb gluten free bread

Is it possible that a low carb bread, an almost mythical baked good, can even exist? It’s almost like looking for a low carb gluten free unicorn. According to Doctor Sarah Myhill the single biggest reason that people lapse from a Paleo Ketogenic diet is because they can’t eat bread. I used to run a GF bakery ( I even won lots of awards over the years) so I know how much people miss their daily loaf. It’s just so easy and convenient to make a quick sandwich. Moving away from bread literally requires a shift in the national British pysche. Thanks a lot Earl of Sandwich…

Gluten Free flours

I’m used to using at least four different flours for a loaf, plus raising agents and binders (xanthan and guar gums, psyllium husk, eggs, linseed). Then there’s the critical ratio of whole grains and starches. I used to love baking with buckwheat and teff, and tapioca is a magical starch. I was understandably sceptical when I saw that Dr Myhill’s recipe uses only one flour, no raising agents and you could argue that it’s made entirely with a binder. The entire recipe is just three ingredients (and one of those is water!)

What’s the catch?

There is a catch. But it’s not a big one. The primary ingredient is linseed and this needs to be ground just before baking. Ground linseed can become rancid, plus it’s likely to absorb water which will mess up the hydration ratio given in Dr Myhill’s recipe. I used a Vitamix to grind the linseeds but any high powered blender will do the job.

How does it taste?

I was concerned here because Dr Myhill does go into some detail about how taste preferences are acquired. However, drum roll please… the taste was good, it was quite complex with almost a toasted nut flavour. The crust was good, the crumb was open and soft, although maybe a little too crumbly. There wasn’t that throat-catching dryness that I associate with bought gluten free loaves. I’d be interested to see what the addition of psyllium husk would do to the texture because as it stands it wouldn’t survive in a lunchbox. That would make it even higher fibre too. I’d also be keen to try a larger loaf, and maybe place the mixture into the fridge the night before to soak for longer.

Would I make it again?

Absolutely! I loved the simplicity of only using one flour. Gluten free flours are typically more expensive than their gluten-y equivalents, here a 500g bag of golden linseed would set you back £2.25 (Waitrose) and produce two small loaves. That’s a bargain for gluten free food which tends to be at least one third more expensive than their ‘normal’ counterparts. Given that this bread is also very low carb and would help to keep you in ketosis it’s a brilliant choice. Find the recipe for Dr Myhill’s low carb bread aka PK bread here: https://www.drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/The_Paleo_Ketogenic_Diet_-_PK_Bread

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