A conversation with Emmanuelle Waters, Nutritional Therapist DipCNM

Can you tell us a bit about the personal journey which led you to qualify as a Nutritional Therapist? 

It has been a long journey and so well worth it! I suffered from chronic pain for years and saw many doctors and “experts”, but none were able to offer me long-term solutions. I started exploring other avenues and this opened my mind to alternative approaches to health. I discovered a world of opportunities, and this empowered me to take charge of my own health. I now know what is working or not working for my own body and I have individual solutions I can implement on my own. 

I decided to leave the corporate world and to retrain as a nutritional therapist. This has been a life-transforming journey for me and I have found my true calling: helping others find their own tools to achieve or maintain their health naturally and holistically is absolutely wonderful. 

We now know that diet can keep your gut happy, increase your health span, and improve your mood, all at the same time. Can you explain how our diet choices can have this impact and what we should be eating to improve our mood? 

What we eat has an enormous impact on our health, both physical and mental. It makes sense. Food is made of different compounds, vitamins and minerals and all of these influence our bodily functions. Each reaction in our body is governed by complex mechanisms that require these different nutrients to operate optimally. What we ingest will travel through our body and determine our health. Eating food rich in nutrients support our physical as well as mental health. The impact food has on cognitive functions is one of the most exciting area of research at the moment and I feel very passionate about it. 

Many of my clients come to me with mood issues such as anxiety, irritability, anger, tension or sadness. This, in turn, impacts their energy, their sleep and their general wellbeing. In some cases, they are suffering from underlying mental issues and for these, I refer them to a mental health expert. However, in many cases, their mood is often linked to the type of food they eat and the lifestyles they have and, through my coaching skills, I help them choose nutritious food and implement healthy habits. Eating a diet rich in fibre, fresh fruits and vegetables, good quality proteins and fats and water will provide the body with all the necessary nutrients to function at its best. In contrast, food high in sugar, saturated fat and salt and/or highly processed will disrupt our body and our health.

What exactly is fibre and why is it so important to include in our diet?

Fibre is one of the most important nutrients for our health and is often lacking in our diet. Numerous studies have confirmed that fibre feeds our “good” gut bacteria, the so-called microbiome and this, in turns, feeds our brain cells through the gut-brain axis. This is a bi-directional communication system between our gut and our brain.

The importance of the health of our gut has led many experts to label it as our “second brain” as it has a direct impact on our mood and cognitive functions. By feeding our microbiome, fibre participates in many positive bodily reactions (regulation of blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, bowel movements) and as such reduces the risks of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or obesity. I have seen incredible results with some of my clients just by increasing intake of this essential ingredient in their daily meals. 

Why is it important to eat seasonally? What foods should we be eating now that we’re in the middle of winter?

Aside from environmental and sustainability reasons, eating seasonally allows us to get maximum benefits from the ingredients we consume: being at their best, they are more nutritious. Eating seasonally is also cheaper! Plus, it is fun because each season brings its own diversity of food so we can be more creative in the kitchen. It also allows us to eat a more varied and diverse diet and this is essential to health. The more variety our diet is, the better it is for us. 

Winter brings us lots of wonderful ingredients: 

  • Vegetables: carrot, root vegs (parsnip, swede), celeriac, cabbage, kale, mushrooms, leeks, cauliflower, potatoes…
  • Fruits: pears, apples, quince, clementine, oranges, lemons, kiwi…
  • Fish: mussels, scallops, grey mullet, salmon, haddock…

Many of these ingredients can be used in soups or stews, packed full of nutrients and so comforting during the dark winter months. 

Can you break down in simple terms how the gut brain connection works?

The gut-brain axis is a bi-directional communication system between our gut and our brain. It takes place along the vagus nerve which conducts electrical impulses (communications) between these two organs. Previously, we thought our brain was the master controller but more research is now indicating that our gut is equally important. It houses 100 trillion of bacteria (our microbiome). Our gut bacteria are influenced by what we eat, our environment and our lifestyles. Healthy gut bacteria allow the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which are all essential for brain function.

If our microbiome is not fed properly, it gets disrupted: this leads to inflammation which is at the root of many diseases. The simple equation is: inflamed gut equals inflamed brain, setting in motion all sorts of issues such as headaches, fatigue, low energy, poor mood, anxiety, depression, bloating, weight gain, pain, skin issues, infections, allergies, poor memory and concentration, stress and sleep disruption.

So, feeding our gut is essential not only to our physical wellbeing but also for our mental health.

What are some achievable tools that you recommend to help manage anxiety?

As we have discussed, feeding our gut will help reduce inflammation. And inflammation is directly linked to anxiety. Here are a few tools you can easily implement to help manage your anxiety:

       – Increase your intake of:

  • Whole food, rich in fibre such as fruits & vegetables, wholegrains, legumes…
  • Food rich in omega-3 such as oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel…), nuts & seeds
  • Good quality complex carbohydrates (not refined): think brown rice, brown pasta, wholemeal bread

– Reduce intake of all inflammatory foods such as    sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed or junk foods, sodas, cakes…

– Implement lifestyle change strategies to calm down your nervous system (which is in high alert when inflamed): deep breathing, yoga, meditation, walking, self-care (massages, time with friends, soothing bath, music…)  

More information on Emmanuelle’s services as well as nutritional tips and ideas can be found on her website www.biovitalnutrition.com