Body Signs, Nutrition

The Body Signs Series #5 – Dark Circles 

We often think that dark circles are due to lack of sleep, but that is not the only cause. 

They could be due to genetically inherited thin, pale skin under the eyes which makes dark circles a lot more prominent.

Dark circles could also point towards hormone fluctuations (our skin becomes paler during menstruation and pregnancy), dehydration or immune conditions such as eczema and allergies (both food and seasonal).

In fact, dark circles are also known as allergic shiners because allergies can cause blood vessels to become congested and blood to pool under the eyes. Dairy intolerance, in particular, has been associated with dark circles under the eyes, along with other common allergens such as nuts, shellfish, soy, yeast, pollen, mold and dust mites.

And of course, dark circles could also be signs of the following #nutrient needs:

👉Iron deficiency can lead to pale skin and makes the area around the eyes look darker. It can also affect sleep quality, which in turn can exacerbate dark circles

✅Other signs of insufficient iron levels include fatigue, rapid heart rate, palpitations, cold intolerance, impaired immune function, spoon-shaped nails, cracks on the corners of the mouth, sore tongue and feeling out of breath with minimal physical exertion.

👉Vitamin B12, just like iron above, can lead to paleness and is also needed for red blood cell formation and, along with other B vitamins, energy production.

✅Other signs of B12 deficiency include tingling in hands & feet, memory challenges, mood changes, sore tongue, constipation, fatigue, muscle weakness, appetite loss and more.

👉Vitamin K is needed for healthy blood circulation and can strengthen veins & capillaries (and weak capillaries can result in blood pooling in the delicate area under the eyes).

✅Other signs of vitamin K deficiency include easy bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, heavy menstrual bleeding and more.

✳️ The above are only some of the functions & deficiency signs of these nutrients. Our physiology is quite complex and many nutrients interact in multiple ways, so we should not view them in isolation.

✳️✳️ As always, it is recommended to check your #nutrient levels and speak with your healthcare provider before coming to conclusions and starting any supplementation.

Your body is talking, are you listening?


  1. Liebmann-Smith, J., Nardi Egan, J. Body Signs. New York, NY: Bantam Dell; 2008.
  2. Higdon J. Iron. Linus Pauling Institute. Published 2001, updated 2016. Accessed May 8, 2022.
  3. Higdon J. Vitamin K. Linus Pauling Institute. Published 2000, updated 2014. Accessed May 8, 2022.
  4. Matozzo M. Vitamin Deficiencies That Could Make Dark Circles So Much Worse. SheFinds. Published 2022. Accessed May 8, 2022.
  5. Higdon J. Vitamin B12. Linus Pauling Institute. Published 2000, updated 2014. Accessed May 8, 2022.
Body Signs, Nutrition

The Body Signs Series #3 – Dry Skin

Dry skin. Seems like a common problem which we often try to solve with lotions and potions… but sometimes hydrating your skin is not enough. For healthy, glowing skin you also need sufficient amounts of these nutrients:

👉Vitamin A, which plays a key role in skin cell proliferation & differentiation, photo protection (from UV light), and overall skin health.

  • It is also an important epigenetic regulator that influences the expression of hundreds of genes. 
  • Other signs of deficiency include acne, eyesight problems, gingivitis, bone & joint pain, skin hyperpigmentation, poor wound healing, psoriasis and more.
  • Zinc deficiency can impair vitamin A metabolism & function

👉Biotin, which plays a key role in the production of fatty acids that nourish the skin, as well as energy metabolism and cell membrane integrity.

  • It is also another potent regulator of genetic expression.
  • Other signs of deficiency include sore & reddened tongue, hair thinning and brittleness, slow cognition, seborrheic-like dermatitis and more.

👉Zinc, which can reduce skin inflammation and is needed for collagen production and wound healing.

  • And (no surprise here) this mineral also plays a role in regulating gene expression.
  • Other signs of deficiency include acne, poor vision, cracks in corners of mouth, geographic tongue, impaired wound healing, hair thinning and brittleness, loss of taste, weak nails, diarrhea and more.
  • Note: zinc, copper, iron & calcium all interact in each other’s absorption and metabolism.

👉Essential fatty acids, which are needed for healthy cell membranes, skin barrier integrity, protection from UV light, wound healing and reduction in skin sensitivity.

  • Remember, we have trillions of cells with fatty membranes and our brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, which makes healthy dietary fats an important component of our body’s physical structure.
  • Other signs of deficiency include acne, reduced visual acuity, dry hair, dandruff, weak nails, parasthesia and neuropathy, impaired memory, increased thirst, eczema, dermatitis, poor mental health and more.

✳️ The above are only some of the functions & deficiency signs of these nutrients, our physiology is quite complex and many nutrients interact in multiple ways, so we should not view them in isolation.

✳️✳️ As always, it is recommended to check your nutrient levels and speak with your healthcare provider before coming to conclusions and starting any supplementation.

Your body is talking, are you listening? 👀


  1. Lord R, Bralley J. Laboratory Evaluations For Integrative And Functional Medicine. Duluth, Ga: Genova Diagnostics; 2012.
  2. Angelo G. Vitamin A and Skin Health. Linus Pauling Institute. Published 2012. Accessed February 15, 2022.
  3. Higdon J. Biotin. Linus Pauling Institute. Published 2000, updated 2015. Accessed February 15, 2022.
  4. Higdon J. Zinc. Linus Pauling Institute. Published 2001, updated 2019. Accessed February 15, 2022.
  5. Angelo G. Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health. Linus Pauling Institute. Published 2012. Accessed February 15, 2022.
Body Signs

The Body Signs Series – #1 Cracked Tongue

Have you ever thought how impressive and intelligent our bodies are? Constantly ticking away, sensing and adapting to a whole host of internal and external inputs, and in the processes sending us a myriad of signs & clues about our state of health. Fascinating isn’t it?

In this new series of posts called ‘Body Signs’ we’ll learn how to decode our bodies’ messages from a nutrition perspective (and you’ll be surprised with some of the things we’ll uncover!) But why is learning to read our bodies important? Well, being aware of what is happening in our bodies can help steer our health in the right direction, ease our anxiety, motivate us to take better care of ourselves and build a better relationship with our bodies.

So let’s start with the tongue. It is often one of the first areas of the body to show signs of nutrient deficiencies. Although this sign may not tell us exactly what’s out of balance, it can help guide further assessments.

Both iron and B vits are necessary for energy production, hormone and neurotransmitter function, immune health and DNA repair. All of which are critical processes for our overall health.

Blood tests are usually used to determine iron deficiency, whereas B vitamin levels can be assessed either through blood (standard) or urine (functional) testing. The advantage of a urine test is that it tells us whether your body has enough nutrients to function optimally (vs. a set reference range on a blood test).

Of course, such assessments should never be viewed in isolation – there are a lot of tools we can use in combination to build a clear picture of our nutrition status (including these physical signs and biochemical assessments).

Your body is talking, are you listening?


2018 Wellness Trends

2018 Wellness trends

Here we are at the end of January and there have been plenty of new trends in the health and wellbeing field. Industry experts predict that 2018 will see moringa (a “super” anti-inflammatory green) replace turmeric, collagen overtake protein powders and “nootropic” (brain boosters/cognitive enhancers) supplements climb the top of the popularity list.

Other trends include the focus on gut health, supporting your mitochondria (cell power houses) produce more energy and sleep optimisation. But I’m not going to discuss these here because these trends may work for some people but they may not for others. This happens because of our biochemical individuality – we are all unique in terms of genetics, current health status and environmental & lifestyle factors.

With that in mind, I have picked a couple of trends I found interesting and could perhaps be applied to most of us. Let’s take a look:

2018 Trends - Tech

I’m really happy to see that disconnecting from social media and technology is deemed to be one of the top wellness trends for 2018. According to top wellness websites Mindbodygreen and Well+Good this year more and more of us will turn away from social media platforms and tech gadgets in a bid to reduce stress and break away from harmful addictions. As technology and apps improve their designs and features to keep us hooked, we aim to retaliate by returning to the real world and stimulating our brains with real interactions and fostering new communities.

As more and more evidence suggests smart tech is to blame for stress, anxiety, depression (and even rising teenage suicide rates), we have become determined to break free from tech chains and companies & entrepreneurs are taking notice. Catering to this trend are a growing number of co-working spaces, phone-free social clubs, wi-fi free cafes & hotels and “analogue” travel destinations (Check out Villa Stephanie in Baden-Baden, Germany —which blocks all WiFi signals from your room by embedding copper plates in the walls — the Mandarin Hotel Las Vegas’ ‘digital wellness escape” where phones are left at the front desk and glamping startup Hipcamp for totally off-the-grid places).

But we are not completely turning our backs to technology – rather we’re choosing when and how we use it (#we’vegotthepower – literally). Sleep-tech innovation now enables us to rest our weary bodies on smart mattresses which can track your sleep cycles, adjust room temperature and wake you up only when you are in a stage of light sleep. And if you don’t want to part with your existing mattress you have a choice of sleep trackers, apps and gadgets like Apple watch. Another helpful tech category that has recently emerged is femtech – female health apps (from cycle mapping to fertility and conception apps, there’s something for every woman).

2018 Trends - Self-care

Part of the motivation for these changes in technology use and demand are due to our increasing awareness for mental and spiritual wellbeing. The rise of “self-care” marks a new direction for the yoga/meditation/mindfulness trend. More and more people are looking to engage in a slower pace of life. We are just beginning to accept that it is ok to not have a thousand goals on your list / not exercise everyday / not sacrifice sleep / not put yourself last. Scheduling daily or weekly me-time is gaining popularity because it gives us time to recover, get some peace of mind and be fully charged and ready to help and support those who need us.

Mindfulness industry

Meditation and mindfulness are welcoming a lot of new kids on the block – knitting, journaling, colouring,  home bath ritual products, taking the time to sit and enjoy our food or even just having lazy mornings in bed! Oh and there’s this new thing called breathwork which is not new really, but instead derives from the way yogis use breath to further their practice. It is becoming popular because, unlike meditation, it does not require you to be in a calm mental state. In fact, you can use specific patterns of breathing to calm down or boost your energy and thus improve your mental wellbeing.


Related to the rise in self-care is the increasing demand for affordable, natural, “green” beauty products. Big corporations like Target, Procter & Gamble and Unilever are finally giving a lot more prominence to chemical-free products (perhaps in the hopes to cash in on consumer’s demand?) and improving transparency on label info.

2018 Trends - Green Beauty

It’s not just about cleaner, organic products though – we want our products to be high performing. Not only are we looking for products which match the efficacy of non-natural products but we want them to nourish and protect our skin from the sun and pollution. Enter “skin-barrier-supporting” and “microbiome-enhancing” serums which promise to build our skin’s defence against environmental toxins and improve its function. These products use ingredients such as lipids, ceramides, adaptogens, and even live bacteria to help our skin adapt to our environment.

Ultimately what these trends show us is two things – 1. we, as consumers, have the power to change entire industries and 2. investing time in our wellbeing is an important (and growing) aspect of health.

The most important thing you should keep in mind when making any health related decisions is that you are unique and only you can tell what works for you.

Life Coaching, Motivation

Why do People Fail?

In the last post we talked about the philosophy of NLP and the basic principle of focusing on what you do want, rather than on what you don’t want.

So if success was so easy to achieve why do so many people fail? Let’s see…

How many times have we taken advice from the wrong people? And by wrong, I don’t mean bad – just that they themselves haven’t achieved their goals or success. Basically, they advise you on how to achieve something they haven’t achieved themselves! If you want to achieve success, always look for a successful person to use as a role model.

Others want to achieve success from within their comfort zone. They are not willing to change the way they act and think. And yet, how many success stories have we heard where the person in question decided to do something different which led them to their success? Success doesn’t come overnight. It takes long-term, consistent efforts to not only learn but adopt new knowledge and behaviour which produces the new results we want.

And then there are others who won’t even attempt to achieve success until they have a ‘solid’ plan (whatever that means). They keep on planning their route to success, but they never really start the journey because they don’t have all the means or a part of the plan hasn’t been figured out yet. Now, planning is good and can help (trust me, I love planning!), but you will never know if your plan will work until you try.

Don’t be like those people! Set your goals, get advice from the right people and step out of your comfort zone. What’s the worst that could happen?


Dodging the Stress Bullets

Recently I listened to part of Pedram Shojai’s New York Times best selling book – The Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hacks to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness, and Peace.

It was quite interesting and a good reminder to live in the moment and make the best of it.

We often think that with success comes happiness & peace and that to achieve success you need to work hard. Sounds logical, but one important thing we miss out is that stress can sabotage all three – success, happiness and peace.

And that is why he begins his book by painting a very real picture of life in the modern western world and what we can do reduce our stress levels. You can hear his insights and tips below:



And if you don’t have the time to listen to the whole podcast, here are my key takeouts from this podcast:

  • In modern times our stress response is linked to financial and employment factors, i.e. we respond to work and money problems the same way we would respond to a life threatening situation such as a lion attack.
  • However, unlike animals, we humans are often unable to let go of the stresses, move on with our lives and live in the present.
  • Instead we hold on to stress and keep on reliving those stressful situations.
  • Our environment also has a huge impact on our stress levels
  • Clean diet, good sleep, full spectrum movement, quiet time and having a healthy mindset are the main components of a stress-free life.
  • We can reduce stress by taking a few important decisions:
    • Eliminate the ‘mental virus’ of need. Modern society pressures and expectations make us believe that we need to spend money on a lot of things (most of which we don’t really need).
    • Take the say ‘you are what you eat’ to the next level. Just as we need to choose carefully what we put in our mouths, we need to choose carefully what we let in our environment (e.g. sometimes even watching the news can get you stressed!)
    • Learn to listen. We are constantly bombarded with data – even the wind hitting your face reflects as noise in your brain. Peace is an inside game and we need to learn to calm the chatter in our brain. If you learn to be less reactive to all this noise, you learn to be less reactive to your impulses. This leads to the point below.
    • Use meditation as a preventative tool. Don’t wait until you are stressed to do something about it. Daily meditation can help strengthen the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain which helps us stay cool under pressure and makes it easier to navigate stressful situations.
    • Remember that we are all mortal. When your life is at stake are you going to care about all the little things that are stressing you? Stress has made us forget what it feels like to be vibrantly alive, not just existing… surviving. Do something that scares you every day. There’s nothing like feeling alive to reset your stress levels.

“If the small stuff is getting you down, do greater things.”


Calories and Optimal Food Intake – Part 2

In the Paul‘s last post we looked at the basics about calories and metabolism. Now let’s see how calories affect weight management:

Whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain weight, or gain more, calories matter.

Calorie restriction is counterproductive and does not work because when you consume less energy than your body requires, the body adapts.

When you do not eat enough calories, the body has the ability to slow down thyroid hormone output in an effort to maintain energy balance. Your thyroid is responsible for fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism.

Your body will begin to hold onto fat stores because it is in starvation mode and instead uses muscle to provide energy. Muscle is highly calorie intensive to maintain and in a prolonged calorie deficit it is one of the first things that the body looks to get rid of, and in turn will further slow down your metabolism.


The body will also slow the digestive tract in an effort to conserve energy. The digestive tract is responsible for breaking down food to its simplest form so that the body can use the nutrients to function. When a person is not consuming enough calories the stomach empties slower and the lining of the intestinal tract can shrink.  The digestive tract can become so severely damaged that it cannot properly digest food, and this can lead to malnutrition and electrolyte imbalances.

Not only is a restricted calorie diet not the ideal way to lose body fat, it can actually cause negative side effects in other ways, and even increase your fat storage!

When you are under stress both physically and psychologically (a reduced calorie diet creates stress on the body), the body secretes a hormone called cortisol. The primary function of cortisol is to convert amino acids found in the muscles into glucose (blood sugar) to give the body extra energy to overcome the stress.

In a way, this means more ‘sugar’ is produced by the body as a reaction to stress. When cortisol is chronically elevated it makes the body think it needs to store fat around the waist, so that it will have a source of easily accessible energy. High cortisol also makes you unable to make rational food choices, by activating the part of the brain that makes you crave pleasurable foods.

In short, restricting calories can ultimately make the body react in the same way it reacts to stress – by conserving energy stores as fat (the opposite of what you want to achieve) and causing you to crave more (probably sugary) comfort foods.

Time to Eat - Clock

Another hormone that is affected by a restricted calorie diet is insulin. In a healthy body, insulin behaves like a key that opens the door of the cell so that glucose can move from the blood, and be pushed into the cells where it is either burned or stored as fat. Insulin plays a primary role in managing body composition by mediating fat burning and energy levels and is thereby involved in the development of lean tissue.

When you don’t eat you experience ‘low blood glucose’. In reaction to this, adrenaline is released to elevate the blood sugar and keep you going. This leads to spikes in blood glucose and insulin, causing insulin resistance.

Constant spikes of insulin (also caused by the consumption of simple carbohydrates or sugars) can eventually result in insulin resistance. This occurs when your cells are less affected by insulin and the receptors don’t properly bind with insulin. In other words, the body is desensitized to insulin. Insulin then does not properly function as a key to the door of the cell, and the energy gets stored as body fat.

In conclusion, the bottom line is that restricting calories really doesn’t help your mental or physical health. Focus on the quality of your food and not the quantity, rather than reducing calorie intake to reduce body fat. Begin by consuming more calories to build up lean tissue and speed up the metabolism, and then restrict calories to better reduce body fat.

Here are a few more tips for optimizing your daily calorie intake:

  • Eat frequent meals 5-6 times a day.
  • Have ready to eat meals available.
  • Don’t wait until you are hungry to eat.
  • Add good clean fat.
  • Invest in a good protein powder.
  • Eat calorie dense foods.

By Paul Magnus



Chocolate Chip Brownie with a Twist

Who does not love brownies?! Unfortunately traditional recipes are full of empty calories which could sabotage your efforts for a healthy lifestyle.

But don’t despair yet! PT & mom of two Adrianna has put together a healthier and less caloric version for you with her secret ingredient: black beans.

These brownies are yummilicious and they come out moist, dense, and with lots of chocolate flavor.


  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup of cacao nibs or chocolate chip
  • 2 scoops of chocolate protein powder (optional)




  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8×8 pan.
  • Place beans in food processor and process until mashed.
  • Add eggs, vanilla, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, sugar and oil. Process until smooth.
  • Pour into pan and add cacao nibs or chocolate chips (leave some on top) Bake for 30 minutes.

Bon appetit!

lifestyle, Motivation

5 Ways To Battle Fatigue

thumb_IMG_5255_1024Today we live in a fast-paced world full of stress and anxiety and sadly it has become all too common to feel tired all the time. In fact, the situation is so dire that chronic fatigue syndrome is now an officially recognised illness.

If ever there was a better time to take a step back and reclaim our health, it is now. Here are some tips from personal experience which have helped me feel more energised:


This is a no brainer. We have heard it time and time again –  you need to sleep more. But don’t feel bad if you can’t reach your daily target of 8 hours, you’re not the only one. Thanks to technology the outside world has a constant window to our homes and bedrooms sucking away precious sleep minutes. The solution? Try to stick to a certain bedtime window (e.g. 10pm-11pm) and avoid to stay up beyond that. Switch off electronics and read a book. Take afternoon naps. And remember we are all different – some people are okay with 6 hours of sleep whereas as others need as much as 9 hours!


Don’t be afraid of the dangers of overdosing on coffee – as long as you stick to 2 cups of coffee a day (and are not indulging in other caffeine sources such as sodas & chocolates) you should be safe. In fact, a cup of coffee a day is said to have plenty of benefits including reducing your risk of diabetes and liver disease, increasing fat burning, and even reducing the chances of developing depression! It is important to note that it takes 15-30 minutes for the caffeine in coffee to kick in and it can stay in your bloodstream for up to 6 hours. So no coffee after 3-4pm! But you can have a cup of coffee in the early afternoon (2pm), and go straight for a short nap (20 mins) – when you wake up not only will have the coffee kicked in but you would feel refreshed from that extra bit of sleep.


Even mild dehydration can make you feel exhausted, so don’t forget to drink up! When you are not getting enough water, your tissues and cells aren’t getting enough water making them less able to produce energy.

“Water is the most valuable life support product for our health, right up there with oxygen. Water and oxygen are the only two things in life that without for just a short period of time we would die.” –

Now if that wasn’t reason enough to get you sipping! Make sure to drink an extra glass of water for each cup of coffee and don’t count sugary drinks as they can dehydrate you too.

Drink water


Well if none of the above can wake you up, a good dose of exercise definitely will! Not only does it boost serotonin levels but it also improve blood circulation, enabling the blood cells to carry more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles which in turn improves their ability to produce more energy. Regular exercise also helps your heart and cardiovascular system function more efficiently. Yup, nothing like that post-workout rush of energy!

Rhodiola (herbal supplement)

I also take rhodiola rosea (also called Arctic or Golden Root) on extremely busy days. It is a herb which grows in Siberia and is known as an excellent stress adaptogen. Basically the chemical compounds in this plant help it resist environmental stressors and consuming those compounds helps us better withstand stress too. Therefore, rhodiola reduces the amount of stress your body experiences when under pressure. It also boosts your energy, helps burn fat (through the stimulation of a hormone called lipase) and can improve your memory, mood and other brain functions.

But these are just a few of my tips. Share yours in the comments below!


Finding motivation: the first step is always the hardest!

This week the question “Where do I start?” has been thrown at me a few times.

“You are so fit, how do you do it?” Well, you know the saying – where there is a will, there is a way!

So if you have been asking yourself (or others) this question, well done – you have find yourself some lingering will power. Now it’s time to put it in action.

When starting a new healthy lifestyle, it is very important to:

  1. Know why you are doing this, and:
  2. Understand that everybody is different.

Firstly, why do you want to change your lifestyle? To look good? To feel fitter & healthier? To overcome existing health conditions? Or to live a long, healthful life?

No matter what your reason is, make sure it is a long-term goal. It is a new lifestyle, not just a temporary fix!

Once you have found your personal long-term motive, create a vision board or write it down. Make sure that these items are in plain sight (and preferably close to your bed) – they will serve you as a reminder of what you are trying to achieve.


Why take this approach? Visualization is a powerful mental tool which can help you stay on track. It is a commonly used technique in the health & fitness industry, from professional athletes to mental health practitioners.

Once your vision is set in stone (or paper:) ), it is time to seek information and educate yourself. The internet is full of advice, from highly technical research to instagram wisdom – whatever you seek you shall find.

But this is also the cause of much confusion. And that is why you need to remember that everyone is unique. What has worked for one person, may not work for the other.

We are different in so many ways – our genes, our upbringing, our current lifestyles & resources, our likes & dislikes…

Illustration by Sarah & Catherine Satrun

Therefore it is important not to compare yourself to others so much. This will most likely lead to either over-ambition & injury/health problem or abandonment of goals & demotivation/depression.

Here’s why it is important to talk to someone with qualifications & experience. There are many friendly folk in the gym who can guide you to the right source of advice. Even then, be cautious – ask around to find out different opinions & don’t be afraid of trial & error.

The most important thing is to find something that you enjoy and you can easily fit within your current lifestyle. And remember: making small, gradual changes is much more likely to lead to consistent progress towards your goal.