Kate is a Nutrition Consultant, health writer and motivational speaker. She has been practicing Lifestyle Medicine for over twenty years. Kate has seen nearly 9,000 clients and has vast experience and knowledge on nutrition and it’s impact on health. Over the years she has worked not only with one to one clients but celebrities, charities, schools, colleges, local government and nursing homes. Kate covers a vast array of heath problems but specialises in gastrointestinal health and fatigue disorders. She has a special interest in the gut microbiome and it’s impact in all areas of health.
Kate is a vocal opponent against pseudoscience and uses no food intolerance or allergy machines in her clinic. Kate has been the spokesperson for an award winning yearly campaign for Dulcolax to help raise awareness of bowel issues around the UK. She is also the Resident Nutrition Consultant for Wellbeing Magazine, and an accredited SIBO practitioner. Kate is part of the Girls Network, mentoring young girls, helping to inspire and empower them to reach life goals. Kate is also part of the My Mind Pal team, an app dedicated to mental health.
Kate is an avid kickboxer and mindfulness enthusiast. She has also stood in local elections in her home town. She is currently writing her first book. Kate is a member of the British Association of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine.
1. What kinds of health issues come through your door?
Wow, well that would be a long list – pretty much everything you can think of. The only two health issues I steer well away from are kidney disease and anorexia as these are outside my remit. I’ve seen people with allergies, migraines, Tired all the Time, menopausal symptoms, IBS, IBD, fatigue syndromes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, bio-polar disorder, schizophrenia, coeliac disease, infertility, skin issues, the list goes on and on.
2. What would it surprise people to know about you?
I guess for those that have never met me, I’m 6ft so I always get a height acknowledgement in the first few seconds! I’m also very shy which can throw people off as I come across very confident, and I have a slight stutter. It’s a constant battle!
3. Do you practice what you preach?
Well firstly I hope I don’t preach, I strongly suggest, but yes, I eat an amazing diet which I don’t deviate from and haven’t done so for over twenty years.
4. So what do you eat?
I am mainly pescatarian for no other reason than it suits me. I haven’t eaten red meat since I was 14 years old when I was offered a steak tartare that made me ill. I’m not pro or anti any way of eating as long as people are healthy eating that way.
5. Do you eat a lot of organic food?
It depends. I think the organic argument is lost if you are trying to convince people who have £10 a week for food to buy organic. That’s ludicrous. It’s expensive. However, I am a member of The Soil Association and believe passionately about better ways to cultivate soil, raise animals and stay as far away from pesticides and chemicals as possible. My main organic purchases are apples, tomatoes, lettuce, butter, soya milk, dark chocolate. I don’t feel the need to buy an organic avocado.
6. Do you specialise in one particular field?
I would say my passion is the gut and the gut microbiome. That’s where you can connect the dots and see how people’s symptoms overlap. For example, many people with mental health issues have a poor gut microbiome. I’m essentially a person that connects dots and works out cause which we have tended to steer well away from in the last 50 years. Coming back to finding the cause of disease is key to recovery.
7. You’ve been around for a while, how do you think the nutrition world has changed?
Ha ha! Yes, I guess I’ve been around for a bit, about twenty years. The nutrition world has changed hugely. When I first started, there was no social media or any real internet to speak about. Social media has changed the landscape and I think in some ways that’s great but in other ways there is too much information, and we have lost the simplicity of what it means to have a healthy lifestyle. The other thing that has changed beyond recognition is that everyone has an opinion, and everyone thinks they are right. The less qualified you seem to be the more you are convinced that your way is the right way. It’s called the Dunning Kruger effect. The more I learn the more complex the nutrition world becomes and that’s the way it should be in my mind.
8. You practice Lifestyle Medicine – what exactly is that?
Essentially, it’s promoting ways to avoid 21st century lifestyle related diseases. So, we are looking at nutrition, physical inactivity, stress and sleep and building healthy relationships. Most of what we are suffering now, obesity, type two diabetes and metabolic syndrome is totally preventable.
9. That sounds pretty basic and simple?
Well that’s the point, it can be that simple, but we have lost those aspects of our lives with the breakdown in our communities, isolation, disconnect, lack of job security etc. However, there is more to Lifestyle Medicine. It’s like putting people through an MOT like you would a car. Looking at all aspects of their life and seeing which pieces of the pie are smaller than others. It does involve looking at the diet, blood tests, sometimes looking at the microbiome, the immune system, sleep patterns etc. Essentially, it’s looking at a person’s entire life. We know isolation and loneliness effects the immune system, so it’s pointless handing out Vitamin C tablets if all that person needs is connection with another human. We need to feel valued in society and a part of something greater than ourselves.
10. Are we being bombarded with too much information?
Oh yes totally. It doesn’t help the lay person make informed decisions. People I see tend to fall into two categories, they know almost too much and have totally given up due to conflicting arguments or they know nothing at all about diet and nutrition. Orthorexia is on the rise and this has people obsessing over food too much which can lead to weight loss and severe anxiety. Somewhere in all this you need to find a balance.
11. You’ve been fairly outspoken about food allergy and food intolerance testing machines – can you tell me more about that!
Yes, I have, as they drive me mad. They are nonsense, pseudoscientific claptrap and I believe very dangerous. I’ve heard some horrendous stories over the years where people were told there were riddled with Candida or one lady told me she had the breast cancer gene. Having to de-brain wash these clients from what they believe to be true can be very hard. I had to get the lady tested for the breast cancer gene properly with the help from her very understanding GP and it was of course negative. The other lady tested negative to all Candida. What is astonishing is some really intelligent people get hoodwinked into spending money on these machines. I’m not suggesting the practitioners are not well meaning but you cannot be testing your B12 levels whilst holding a rod, there is something called a blood test that does that – it’s total madness.
12. You’re also fairly outspoken about fad diets as well?
Yes I am, I’ve written many articles on the dangers of the alkaline diet and testing your urine on strips. It’s marketed by people who have no scientific background and are peddling the old snake oil remedies they did in days gone by. There are so many fad diets that have come and gone, and dieting is not something I get behind, long term goals are much healthier than short term goals. However, people still want short fixes and will choose a ” detox” over a sustained longer-term healthy diet.
13. So what about intermittent fasting and the 5:2?
There is good evidence for both of these ways of eating as to how it effects the immune system. They can also help blood sugar levels, increase your gut microbiome for the better, repair cells and reduce insulin resistance. Many people are also eating mindlessly rather than mindfully. These types of diets can help that as well.
14. What do you mean by that?
Well we are programmed to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and often snacks in between. Many of us don’t even know what if feels like to be hungry anymore. (Although many sadly do for other reasons). Actually, engaging in the feeling hungry moment is important. We tend to mindlessly grab for food when we don’t need to. Certainly, intermittent fasting can help us re-engage as to how hungry we actually are. It’s a good reset tool and I do recommend this to some of my clients.
15. Do you ever eat junk food?
Er it depends on what you mean by junk food. I’ve never been into a burger chain yet and never plan to either! People say to me oh what’s the harm as a treat, but it’s not only the food I object to, but the principles around Big Business, how they treat their staff, and what they do to the planet. I eat fish and chips but don’t consider that junk food. I’ve avoided sugar for over twenty years and have stuck to that probably 95% of the time.
16. Would you advocate veganism for everyone?
Absolutely not but there is a great argument for eating less meat for sure. As I said before, people should eat what they want as long as it suits them, and they are healthy. You find your rhythm and your flow and what suits you. Some people go back to being carnivore after being vegan and vice versa. I try not to judge. However, I abhor the deforestation of the planet and how Big Business operates. We are no doubt hurtling towards some hideous situation which will impact us globally but I’m not sure if it’s as simple as going vegan. It’s a complex issue.
17. Have you always been in the nutrition business?
No, actually my prior career was around the world of financial marketing where I worked in London and Hong Kong. It was very fast paced and very bad for my health. However, some of the tenacity and stamina I learnt then I carry with me today. I don’t regret that time, it taught me a lot and I had great fun, but I enjoy my career now far better.
18. How do you deal with stress and do you suffer from compassion fatigue?
With difficulty is the honest answer. It’s one of my failures in life, my inability to deal with stress well. I am getting better as I get older and I do yoga and kickbox which has helped enormously. I don’t suffer from compassion fatigue per se but I know there is one month a year when I’m getting weary, so I head off to Greece for a month which restores me totally. Outside work I tend to attract very different hobbies like the theatre, live music, comedy, cinema, and I love wandering around old book shops. I don’t spend my spare time at nutrition conferences put it that way!
19. Have you ever been ill, and do you think it helps to understand people if you have been sick?
Yes and yes. It’s like anything in life, unless you have experienced it, you have no idea what people are going through. I’ve been very ill a long time ago and I know the frustration of being sick and wanting answers. I also have family members who are unwell as well so do understand how frustrating things can get. Has it made me a better therapist? Possibly yes.
20. If you could give one piece of advice about health what would it be?
That is such a hard question. I think Stress has a lot to answer for. For all the good food, and sleep and well-intentioned yoga you could do, if you are stressed for long periods of time it undermines all that good work. So, get a handle on your stress would be my number one piece of advice.
21. What do you think is the next big thing in nutrition/medicine?
That’s a tough question, I think we have further to go on the microbiome. Certainly, targeted probiotic therapy for different disease states is going to happen. I think we can take the mind/body connection further and certainly the link between early trauma and the immune system. Also there has been a resurgence in psychedelic research recently and their potential role in mental health. I don’t think we will be saying sugar is healthy in twenty years, but I see us locked in to the fat and carbohydrate debate for the foreseeable future. For real change we need more, and that’s like moving concrete. I’m hoping in 50 years’ time the thought of a fast food chain sponsoring the Olympics will seem such an absurd thought that they will look back at us saying “What on earth were they thinking”.