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Wednesday 16 September 2015

Nutrition Magician: Alice Mackintosh

Paleo, Atkins, the 5:2, Dukan... Every week there seems to be a new eating fad promising to melt away those pesky extra pounds. But sorting the gimmicky rubbish from the sound nutritional advice can be pretty tricky. Plus, even just looking at what works for one of us Mice but has limited effect on the others, proves that there's no one size fits all approach. 

In recent months I've become even more focused on my eating given that Bridezilla would definitely like to drop a dress size or two prior to her wedding this autumn... So, since the beginning of the year, I've been limiting my carbs, eating plenty of organic vegetables and have all but dropped processed, fatty foods from my diet. I've definitely seen results, but as I've started to become more focussed on food and begun reading around the Internet, I've been totally overwhelmed by the mass of conflicting advice out there. 

On another wedding-related note, I've been having issues with my skin for a couple of years now - breakouts to a level that I haven't seen since I was teenager. Not much fun and definitely something I want to try to get in check in time for the big day. Some of my recent nutrition web-trawling began to suggest that that tired old adage - you are what you eat - has definite relevance when it comes to your skin. So I decided that it was time to call the professionals in. 

I've known Alice Mackintosh for several years having first met her out in Hong Kong. Since then she's scored a first class honours degree in Nutritional Therapy, moved back to London and now practices as a nutritionist at the Food Doctor Clinic on Harley Street. Alice specialises in the impact of diet on health and wellness and when I emailed her to ask about setting up a consultation discovered that a particular area of her expertise is skin (her own glowy gorgeous complexion should really have given me a hint there...). 

I happened to be in London briefly over the summer and luckily Alice managed to squeeze me in for a consultation while I was back. The Food Doctor clinic is located a hop skip and a jump from Oxford Street so after a hard morning's shopping, I trotted round to Harley Street to try to see if we could get to the root of my skin woes.

Pre-appointment I'd filled out a set of questionnaires (including a three day food diary and detail on my general lifestyle and health) which meant that by the time I arrived at my appointment, Alice already had the low down on the basics and we could dive straight into the detail. Given that I've been fairly strict on the eating front recently, Alice was pleased with my general diet which consists of plenty of lean protein, leafy green vegetables and a little good fat courtesy of avocado, oily fish and nuts. She suggested that I continue eating as clean as possible, talked me through a set of supplements which would make sure I was getting all my vital nutrients and then moved on to walk me through some of the things that could be causing my skin issues.

The key suspects appear to be stress, hormones, gut health or a combination of the lot. Getting down to the nitty gritty on these topics can involve complicated sciency stuff, but one of the great things about seeing Alice is that she makes even complex explanations easy to understand for the less scientific among us and the whole consultation feels much more like a catch-up with a ridiculously well-informed friend than a lecture from a stern old doctor. After spending an hour talking in simple terms about the ways in which I could improve not only my nutrition but also my general lifestyle to try to tackle each of these underlying problems, Alice sent me off with a supplement shopping list and a whole heap of practical, easy, to implement advice. A couple of days later she followed this up with a very detailed email which recapped everything that we'd discussed and happily jogged my memory on a couple of points I'd forgotten.

Several weeks on, and I've tried to follow Alice's advice as much as possible. I now religiously take an impressive line-up of tablets every morning (including probiotics, fish oil and magnesium) and I'm learning to tolerate spirulina and the even more foul tasting Wholly Immune (a dazzlingly nutrient-packed powder that you add to water). On the stress-front, I try my best to get to bed earlier and have even given acupuncture a try. So far, I've noticed an increase in energy levels and haven't (touch wood) been floored by any nasty bugs (fairly rare for me). I've also seen a definite improvement in my skin. I'm unfortunately not completely break-out free just yet, but I feel as though we're finally moving in the right direction. 

Rather excitingly, I've also heard whispers that Alice has co-founded a supplement company with her business partner, Rosie Speight, and that the two will be creating a range of products specifically designed to support our bodies against the stresses and strains of crazy modern lives. I'll bring further news as soon as I hear more, but in the meantime hop over to to make sure that you hear about the launch first. 

I can't recommend Alice enough for practical, non-nonsense help with nutrition. Whether you're having skin troubles, digestion concerns or some other niggling health problem that no amount of trips to the doctors appears to be fixing, a tweak to your diet could prove to be the magic answer. For those of you based somewhere other than London, Alice also offers Skype consultations so you can get your diet in check without even leaving your sofa...

Check out her website for more details and have a browse through her blog while you're there for plenty of sage eating advice and this amazing choc-ice recipe! If you really are what you eat, we're definitely going to become a coconut sprinkled choc-ice inside the next week or so...

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