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Interview with Audrey Dickinson

This July, Sweet Rumour is focusing on good nutrition and healthy eating habits. So, what better way to get some professional insight and tips than to speak with the nutritional therapist Audrey Dickinson.Dear Audrey, we can imagine that nutrition plays a big role in the life of a nutritional therapist. Was your love for healthy eating always present?Pretty much. Through my whole life, my food choices were quite healthy, thanks to the guidance of my mother and father. They taught me how to be mindful of my sugar intake as a child, and although we had treats the same as other children, we learned to understand when it was enough.  The next-door neighbour would often invite us into his garden to eat away at the green beans and strawberries, and we would eat them just like candy. I loved being out in nature, learning about the plants. Daily life confronts us with so much information on how to live and eat healthily. What do you as a professional understand by the term good nutrition?Good nutrition is not only about the food choices we make but also about how we eat our food and why we need to eat certain types of food to fuel our cells. Often, we are so busy with life and our priorities lie elsewhere, whether that is caring for others within the family or running around at breakneck speed to meet deadlines at work. We eat food within the small gaps of the day, often behind a computer or in front of the TV and in many households, the practice of food sharing and social interaction is disappearing.You could be doing your best to make the healthiest food choices, but if you do not consider and respect the mechanics of the body, i.e. the digestive enzymes found throughout the whole digestive tract that help breakdown your food, there is a good chance that this could lead to malabsorption of key nutrients. Good nutrition is also about listening to your body and understanding what feels good for your body type and eliminating the foods, which cause you discomfort and reactions.Many people worry that changing to a more balanced diet takes a lot of time and effort, at least in the beginning, when we are still learning to change our eating habits. Is it really such a complicated process?The key thing to understand is that throughout our lives, we may have developed a certain way of eating that sometimes doesn’t serve our bodies and allow it to function to its full potential. Changing these long-ingrained habits of course takes time, and with small, manageable, realistic steps, you can quickly begin to feel the reduction of symptoms that may have made you feel miserable for a long time. There is no quick pill to gain a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. Change can only happen within your own mind and body.What would you say are the early signs that we need to change our diet? Early signs that the body needs attention and fuel to maintain homeostasis (balance within all body systems) would be symptoms like dizziness, headaches, moodiness, irritability, shaking, fatigue, stress, brain fog. These are all symptoms of blood sugar imbalance and if not addressed properly, can lead to further complaints of hormone imbalance, mental health, Type 2 Diabetes and metabolic issues.Knowing what and when to eat, helping reduce the yo-yo effect of the blood sugars – which also influences our circadian rhythm and sleep patterns – is key to overall health.Learning to look within your own body and consciously listen to what the body is often trying to tell us will give you an indication as to what your body needs at that moment. Reducing ultra-processed foods that release their sugars (glucose) quickly into our bloodstream and choosing healthier whole foods like fruit, vegetables, quality proteins and whole wheat products (other alternatives, of course, if you are gluten intolerant/ Coeliac) will provide the body with the raw materials that it needs to function optimally.
Our hectic daily urban lifestyle takes a toll on our bodies. What do you think we busy urbanites lack the most from the nutritional point of view?I think that urbanites find themselves in a bit of a vicious cycle. They have so much pressure from work, social commitments and family life, that nutrition often takes a back seat. There are so many opportunities to grab highly processed foods to go, of which the nutritional value is almost non-existent. The notion of convenience often over-rides the desire to stand in your own kitchen and take the time to prepare a healthy meal.Fibre is a key food source needed to feed and maintain the health of our gut flora as well as helping to clean the body of old toxins and pollutants from our outside environment. I find that many people lack the right amount of fruits and vegetables within their everyday meals. Why is taking the time to prepare food ourselves, as you mentioned before, so important for our digestion?During the cooking process, we give our bodies the time to experience the smell, thought and the sight of food, which triggers a process known as Cephalic Digestion. The anticipation of food arriving in the stomach stimulates the neurogenic signals in the appetite centres of the amygdala and hypothalamus of the brain. This action then sets up the salivary enzymes and gastric juices, which are needed to extract the nutrients from our food.I also think that using our senses and engaging with our food – chopping, touching and tasting – helps us to appreciate and respect what we put into our bodies.People are realizing more and more that there is a link between what we eat and what shows on our body, even our skin. How do you see this “you gotta nourish to flourish” connection?I think that it is a combination of lifestyle factors that help us flourish in life. Nutrition plays a part in that whole holistic approach but cannot solely be the key factor that helps us find harmony. Curious to find out more about what a nutritional therapist does?Follow Audrey on Instagram at @nourishandflourishnutrition to find out more about her work and the wonderful workshops she organizes.www.nourishenflourish.comPhotograph top by Tara Shupe, middle Brook Lark