- The institute of functional medicine and what functional medicine is
- The importance of sleep in good health
- What is Neutrigenomic testing and how it can help you
- The autoimmune system and COVID-19
- The Blue Zones
Happy Vs Flourishing links:
Tony Winyard 0:00
Happy versus flourishing Episode 10. Welcome to the podcast where we give you ideas and small ways you can improve your quality of life and your, your meaning of life. Today, my guest is Caroline Sherlock. She's a functional medicine practitioner. And if you're not familiar with the phrase functional medicine, it's looking at things in a more holistic point of view. If you go and see your GP, for those of us in the UK, often they're really restricted to time, they can only maybe give you 15 minutes, they usually don't have much training in nutrition and when they're looking at whatever the problem you have is, they don't take into account what you may have been eating, and so on, which is a major problem. Functional Medicine, looks at your sleep, your stress, your food... all sorts of different issues. So we're going to find out a lot more about that when we speak with Caroline later in this episode. Why not subscribe to the show, so you always get to know when a new episode has been released. And it will be great if you can leave a review for us that lets a lot more people know about the podcast. So that word gets out to more people. Hope you enjoy this week's episode.
Tony Winyard 1:31
Happiness versus flourishing. My guest today is Caroline Sherlock. How are you Caroline?
Caroline Sherlock 1:36
I'm good. Thank you. How are you, Tony?
Tony Winyard 1:39
I'm doing pretty well. And we were just just having a chat before we started recording. And it's amazing actually how you transitioned to working online a couple of years ago, that was quite fortunate in many ways, I guess.
Caroline Sherlock 1:59
Yeah, that's right. I mean, it just sort of happened like that. Because I think because of the work that I do, as a functional medicine practitioner and nutritionist, I was finding that a lot of my clients weren't able to come in locally to see me just because they weren't local. So I've been a nutritionist, for 15, 18 years now. But then trained in functional medicine in the States and certified as a practitioner there with the Institute for Functional Medicine, back in 2017. And I think because there were really only a handful of us, at the time certified in the UK, we got so many inquiries from people who were starting to become a little bit familiar with functional medicine. And these people obviously weren't local. So really by default at that time it started switching to online. And I now feel very lucky that we've actually got all the software and tech in place and saw that the transition through quarantine has been really easy for me because we were running most of it online anyway.
Tony Winyard 3:11
And for people who maybe aren't familiar with what functional medicine is, can you describe it is what it is for people who've never heard of it.
Caroline Sherlock 3:20
Functional medicine is really asking the question why. It's looking for your root cause, and why you've got particular health symptoms and actually tracking it all the way back to understand what went wrong and at what point the balance tipped over so that you can then put in a targeted programme, which would involve for me, obviously, nutrition and diet, but also lifestyle changes to try to unravel what went wrong, and then to balance back. So it's just a different way of looking at health, in a really exciting way because it gives the the power back to the person that you can regain control just by looking at all of these things.
Tony Winyard 3:59
The way I've described it often to people in the last few years is it's a much more proactive approach, as opposed to most people have a reactive approach. With some, they wait for something to go wrong and then go into see their GP. Whereas the functional medicine approach seems to be very different. Well it can be if that's the way you use it.
Caroline Sherlock 4:18
If I give you an example, I suppose if you take someone who has low energy, and maybe eczema, maybe some gut issues, so they'll go to their GP, they'll have some blood tests done and then they may be referred off for someone to look at the eczema someone to look at the gut. And there's no one really linking all of that together. So what we do is look at the body as a whole and actually try to understand what's going on because someone with low energy is not the same as the next person with low energy. You want to ask why. Why is the energy low? Why is it? is it because you've got a thyroid problem? Is it because that person is not sleeping well? Is it because potentially they're deficient in iron, there are so many different reasons for that same health symptom. And by categorising it all as the in the same box, it just doesn't work. We look at a personalised approach so that we're really unravelling what is going on for that person, because you've got to do that in order to help that person transition and become better. So that's really how it's different.
Tony Winyard 5:31
My guess also, because one of the things that you do and functional medicine, another way it differs, is we've broken things down to such a degree, there's so many specialists for all these different areas. And it's just this whole reductionist mentality. And as you said, so someone has these problems, and to go and see this expert, and that expert, and then another expert and for one thing that can become very expensive, but also, for some people, they don't want to go and see all those different people,
Caroline Sherlock 6:02
I think it's also really demoralising, as well, because they don't always have the answers. And a lot of those answers can be, the prescribed, medication for that condition. Whereas, we, in functional medicine, we really look at the root cause, but we also link a lot of the things by the gut, because the gut is where, everything happens. It can affect your mood, you know, we know so much more about the microbiome now than we ever did. And the research is just ongoing, I think what we know now is just a fraction of what we'll know in the future. But we already know there are so many bacteria there that affect directly inflammation in the body, they can affect brain fog, they can affect your energy, we know that the gut and the brain talk together via the vagal nerve. So there's so many areas of health that can be addressed just by stepping back and looking at the gut. And I think when you do that you can really get some powerful changes going on. And then beneath that, as well, you've obviously got the fact that maybe people aren't eating that well, either. So they're not actually getting the nutrients in that they need to, to support their health. Or they may be are just not digesting very well. You can have the best diet in the world but if you're not actually digesting those nutrients from the food, it's not going to translate into something that's really going to support your health and help you to get back into control of it. So the gut is crucially important and links absolutely everything in the body. And it's really, I suppose, where we start with most of the people that we see in our clinic, and certainly with the programme that we run the gut is a huge component of the programme, because we find that most people really can fine tune what's going on in the gut and make some positive changes to their health, just by focusing on that alone.
Tony Winyard 7:58
How generally do people find ou about you and about functional medicine? You mentioned before that a few years ago, there weren't so many practitioners in the UK has that situation changed?
Caroline Sherlock 8:13
so it's changing slowly, I'm not quite sure the the number in the UK at the moment, I think there may be 40 certified practitioners. And I think at the time when I certified, I was one of 16. So it's climbing slowly, you have to do a foundational course, and then advanced practice modules in immunity and energy and detoxification and cardiovascular. So it goes into a lot of depth on, very many different areas. And I studied with the Institute for functional medicine in the States. And really, you know, I would just refer anyone to their website, actually to take a look at, the practitioners there. And the great thing is, it's it's doctors that are certifying, as well. So I'm a nutritionist by background. But actually, it's really changing the viewpoint of many of the doctors and allowing them to work on a broader scale, I think with the dietary and lifestyle changes that everyone knows that we should be doing. But, it's one thing knowing them. And another thing doing them and I think the doctors are under so much pressure when they have such a limited time for an appointment, there's no way that, they can really sit down and discuss in depth, what someone's sleep is like, or why they're not sleeping, which is crucial. There's just not the time to do that. So I think it requires another sort of practitioner to be able to take those people and, it's really just listening to people tell their stories, because very often when someone starts to talk, they know what's wrong with their health and they kind of know the steps, deep down that maybe they need to take to address it, but it's just having someone guide them through that and to be able to collate the different knowledge and so guide them towards appropriate testing that may not be available in the mainstream as well. Just people to bring all of that together. But yes, certainly the institute of functional medicine website is a good place to start. And it lists all the certified practitioners on it.
Tony Winyard 10:23
And I guess, things like this, like podcasts,... being a podcaster and I have also listened to lots of different podcasts over the last 10 years. And it seems to me that there's more podcasts focused on health and health related issues. And it seems that there's more podcasters who are either interviewing functional medicine practitioners, or are talking about it, there seems to be much more awareness now around the whole area.
Caroline Sherlock 11:01
I think so, we've had some, obviously, in the States, there's fairly high profile people promoting functional medicine. And we're increasingly getting people familiar with it over here. Dr. Rangan Chatterjee is one of them, and he's done a lot of the IFM trainings as well. So I think it's just raising that profile. And it's also a lot of word of mouth. So we have the people that come to see us are very often the people with chronic conditions that no one has been able to resolve or to push them forward with or to help them with. And so they're often very despondent, and to actually find that there are some people who are able to guide them, but also to look at alternatives. You know, we look at environmental toxicity for instance, potentially contributory factors to very many health conditions, including things like chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia. And it's really looking at things differently. So it's looking at autoimmunity, for instance, and saying, well, let's actually try to figure out what's contributing to your flare ups, rather than just take the medication forever, let's just look underneath it and try and unravel. Is it food? Is that your lifestyle? Is it sleep? Is it the fact that, you may have a patch of black mould growing in the corner of your bedroom that you don't really think is an issue? You know, is it the, the parabens, the, you know, environmental chemicals, are you not getting enough of certain nutrients, it's just really looking at everything. And I think that's when it becomes so powerful, because sometimes these people just are given hope back and they begin to see their health change. And then it's word of mouth, that becomes referral. And that's really, I think one of the very powerful things about functional medicine it's from the people who have been through programmes and seen results for themselves, but also given them a way to control it, which very often, from my perspective involves putting more foods back into the diet that perhaps they weren't eating. To begin with, because I think in this environment, as well, there's so much information available, as we say, through podcasts and on the internet isn't there, and so people are really well researched, but where it becomes overwhelming is, they're just so well researched, they then don't know where to start with it or how to pull it together. And so they end up doing nothing.
Tony Winyard 13:35
The first time that we actually spoke one of the things that I was most surprised at when you were looking at, I think a questionnaire or something I filled in, and then when we actually met and we were talking about some of the answers that I'd put on this form that you'd asked me to fill in. And one of the questions was about sleep, and I answered something along the lines of "Yeah, my sleep is fine". And I was really surprised, by how surprised your reaction was to that!
Caroline Sherlock 14:15
Yeah. Well, I think people normalise things as well. So very often, you know, people will say, yeah, mostly it's fine. And also, it's well of what relevance is that, okay, so I'm not sleeping great. But actually, I really don't need to tell you that because,, I'm here to sort out my eczema or my gut problems. My sleep is totally non relevant and it is SO relevant because we know that disrupted sleep, can be for a number of reasons. It could be from, something such as sleep apnea where you stopped breathing, and that affects the brain. It can be due to kids, waking you up at night, but it also It can be due to blood sugar issues, or that you're detoxifying. Or that, you've just got anxiety going on that is waking you in the night. And so, really on the surface, when I ask most people about their sleep, they'll say, yes, yes, it's fine. But it's only a couple of consultations in, or when we've started working with them. And then we start to point out the impact that poor sleep can have on the body in terms of cortisol and inflammation and weight gain even and actually changes the makeup of the microbiome in the gut; When you start to explain that and link that all in to how they're feeling. Yeah, it's not just that, poor sleep, makes you tired the next day, it also affects your food choices. You know, what you want to eat, because if someone's waking up, and they're chronically tired, because they're not sleeping properly, then they're going to be going for the, five, eight coffees a day, just to get through sometimes and, and reaching for the carbs, because they want to push their blood sugar levels up. So, yeah, it's pretty rare, actually, maybe one in 10 people
Tony Winyard 16:08
And you said something along those lines, you said something like most people that you saw, didn't have good sleep. And I was really surprised at that.
Caroline Sherlock 16:18
Yeah, well, and and I think, it's so common, because there's so many different things going on. And the screens are also a big part of it, and people don't realise that, a screen particularly for kids, within two hours of bedtime is going to activate more for some people than others and more for children. But it's going to activate pathways that you don't want activated when you're going to sleep. You know, think Tony about the amount of time we spend indoors. And we know that melatonin, which is our sleep hormone, and antioxidant as well. So it's just really important, particularly at the moment to support our immune system. But that's actually generated by actually having some outside light at, around midday, and people are just not not going out through nature of their work. And obviously, this is a little bit different anyway. But, the amount of people normally who just don't see daylight, so just something as simple as that can be impacting their sleep too.
Tony Winyard 17:22
A couple of years ago, I read Dr. Matt Walker's book, Why We Sleep.
Caroline Sherlock 17:28
Yeah. So good. Isn't it?
Tony Winyard 17:30
And then a lot of what you said in that encounter that I was just describing, then it all started making sense. But yeah, that's an amazing book. I think that's probably the most transformational book I've ever read in my life. It has changed a lot of different habits in my life.
Caroline Sherlock 17:45
Oh, that's interesting. And your sleep was good anyway
Tony Winyard 17:49
But, although my sleep was good. It made me realise just how vitally important sleep is. So I started to create much more of a sleep hygiene routine, so as you say, about turning screens off at least an hour before going to bed, and not having bright lights around the house. And realising that it's not just simply about having eight hours in bed, that's not enough, because that doesn't mean you necessarily have eight hours of sleep, just by being in bed for eight hours. And so there were lots of things in that book, that I made some tweaks, although I did have good sleep, now my sleep is even better than it was before. And that obviously affects so many other things.
Caroline Sherlock 18:38
Yeah, it's, it's interesting, as you say, it's not just about those eight hours, because you have to go through the different sleep phases as well. And each of those sleep phases, rejuvenate us in different ways. And when we're looking at cognitive function as well. And things like Alzheimer's and dementia, where we have the proteins forming, one of the things about sleep is that you want the restful sleep, because that's when it clears your brain out as well, that flushes everything out. So if you're not getting those hours of restful sleep, and all the stages of sleep crucially, but it's a problem. The other thing is that where it does, again, become overwhelming for people is, there's so much emphasis now on sleep, and we're told you must sleep, you must be in bed, you must go and get your seven, eight hours. But actually, it can be different for different people. So it's just managing it and I do some I do nutrigenomic testing as well as part of our work. But there are some genes that govern sleep and whether you're sort of a night owl or an early bird and, and it's important just to recognise those and that again, it's not a one size fits all approach where, everyone must be in bed at 10 o'clock and, be up at five or six to be, productive and energetic, it does doesn't work like that for people. So it's being respectful of actually what's going to work for you. But just making sure that when you are asleep, you're able to go through those four stages of sleep, and those sleep cycles, and that you're getting enough to sustain you, individually.
Tony Winyard 20:18
You just mentioned about neutrigenomic testing. Could you expand that I've mentioned it to a huge number of people in the last few years. And, I was trying to explain what polymorphisms were, and many other things that I remember you telling me about, but I probably made a right pig's ear of it. So it will be great to hear from you what what Nutrigenomic testing is, and how it helps people and so on.
Caroline Sherlock 20:46
Nutrigenomic testing in our clinic has really changed the way we practice in a big way, actually, because it enables us to be much more personalised with someone's programme. And what it is we all have these sets of genes. And they used to say, when it first came out that you can turn the genes on and off. And we know now that it's not quite that simple. But there's the term gene expression. So you can have a predisposition, you can have a particular gene, which may predispose you towards, for instance, requiring more vitamin D, it doesn't necessarily mean that that gene is turned on, and that you're going to have chronically low vitamin D levels for your entire life. But what it does mean is that you might want to pay more attention to getting vitamin D and that the vitamin D levels for you are going to be have higher requirements than for someone else just based on those genes. So it's like a sliding scale. And, the really, really good thing is that we can influence all of these genes that we test through nutrigenomics testing through diet and lifestyle, so we don't test for anything that we can't influence. And that's really the nice thing. So, you know, there's the sorts of things that I look at, when I look at a lot of different genes. And you can have the fun ones, as I like to say, with lactose intolerance, because, very many of us lose our ability to digest lactose, which is the milk sugar after the age of four. So you can have a gene that actually governs that and, predisposes you towards having lactose intolerance. But it doesn't mean that again, you can't take little bits of lactose, that just means that you probably don't want to be drinking, lattes and things. So the interesting genes like that, that, unless you've got a big problem with lactose, then it's kind of fun to know, but then we go down into genes that, I've mentioned vitamin D already, but vitamin B 12, folate, how well we detoxify, some people can have a gene for glutathione that is either absent or deleted. And what that means is that because glutathione is your master, antioxidant, and detoxifier, if you don't actually have that gene there, you need to pay a little bit more attention to your overall toxic burden in the body. But also eating foods that can promote glutathione and making sure that you've got the nutrients in, that we call cofactors, to actually encourage the body to produce that. So it can be really powerful, really transformational. We look at genes towards to do with histamine as well. So for people with stomach problems, and over producing histamine, or their typical allergic conditions such as asthma or eczema, any of the allergies, they can maybe really rapidly produce histamine. So you can have these genes that predispose you towards that, but then we can make dietary and lifestyle adjustments that actually lower the expression of those genes so that they're not so active, if you like, so taking the example of histamine, which is one that I work with quite a lot. You can have this predisposition towards histamine intolerance. And there are so many if you Google it, there's so many low histamine diets out there. But it's overwhelming to actually do that. So you want to know why you're producing so much histamine. And it can come down as to as simple as the bacteria in your gut might be predisposed towards the type that really like to produce histamine. So it might need a bit of rebalancing of that bacteria in your gut. It might be that you're over consuming histamine smoothies in the morning now because of the Nutri bullets and what people are doing, they're putting spinach in they're putting berries in, they're putting bananas in, and there may be some protein in there, putting some cashews in because then they blend nice and easily... those foods are massively high in liberating histamine. So you've got all these people who are trying so hard to be healthy and doing the right thing. But if they've got this predisposition towards histamine intolerance, actually what they're doing is loading it up. And, that's when the balance starts to tip, particularly if they're stressed or something as well, which, enables histamine release. So it can become really, really powerful understanding your own genetics.
Caroline Sherlock 25:36
The other gene that I particularly like to look at is one that governs our ability to produce vitamin A. So vitamin A; talking about the whole immunity thing at the moment, we know that there's the spread of, of immune supportive nutrients that we really want to have in, and vitamin A is one that is really prevalent in our mucosal barriers around the body. So whether that's in the gut, or the nasal cavity, or the lungs, we need the pre formed vitamin A, as part of that to form that immune defence. Now, some people, when we eat carrots, for instance, or plant based vitamin A, which is beta carotene, some people don't convert that beta carotene to the vitamin A, the retinol form that we actually need, and they don't convert that very well. So just by knowing through your genetics, if you're one of those people, means you can actually really support your vitamin A levels. So when we're looking at immunity at the moment, people who don't convert well, I would absolutely want them to be having a, for instance, a multivitamin that has that pre formed vitamin A in, or they're eating it through their diet, and the ways to eat it through the diet, there's some in eggs, there's some in butter, but the very best form of the preformed vitamin A is in liver, organic liver, and then you think, well, how many people actually now do eat liver? it's not that many, I would say, out of the whole population. And then we have, you know, vegans, for instance, who are not eating the animal products. So if you're one of these people that has that inability to properly produce vitamin A, then actually knowing that can be really, really helpful, particularly if you're following a vegan or vegetarian diet. So it transforms, how we practice and really enables you to be so much more personalised with someone's programme, just by understanding that, and at the moment, I think as well we know all the information around vitamin D and how important it is for immunity. so, if you've got a genetic predisposition, that means that you're not transporting or absorbing vitamin D, particularly well, you absolutely want to be, grabbing a vitamin D test or going to the doctors, and finding out what your levels are, so that you can then either get yourself outside, well, if we were in a hot, sunny climate, you could top up your vitamin D, but over winter, it is then we'll go and look at the supplements that you need to bring your level of vitamin D back within that normal range. So that's where it becomes so powerful, I think.
Tony Winyard 28:22
And what you were just saying that once people are aware of some of these things, and by doing something like a nutrigenomics test, they can have that awareness, but before doing something like that, they are just groping around in the dark as to what issues they may have. I'm sure you've got some stories of people who have had real transformations in their life because of things that they found out from having consultations with you?
Caroline Sherlock 28:53
Well, I think it is, and I think it's particularly on the immune side. If you also look at, some of the people that we have worked with, who have not felt great, mood wise, actually, once you understand what their predispositions are, that's one thing. So yes, you can go and do that. It's not an awful lot of use just doing that and leaving it there, because all you'll see on paper is okay, it might be this, this, this, this this. But actually, you then need to test so you need to do the functional test. So you need to actually understand, okay, so if I am predisposed towards low vitamin B 12, for instance, and I've got memory problems at the moment, and I'm just not feeling great. I'm tired all the time, then actually, let's go and look at what your actual levels of vitamin B 12 are. So you're using the two things in conjunction. So that's one point. And then the other point, I suppose I'd like to make where I spend a lot of my time now working with classes. is on the environmental toxicity side because I see a lot of clients who come into our practice with a whole spread of health symptoms, including autoimmunity in particular. But also low grade symptoms or, brain fog and just don't feel great, can't really find anything wrong. And then when we look at some of their detoxification genes, we find that they don't particularly detoxify very well, they may not be able to produce glutathione well, they may not be able to methylate Well, and methylation is really the process by which everything works in the body, it's how we repair it. It's just everything in the body, including detoxification. So if you have what we call snips or single nucleotide polymorphisms, on some of those genes, governing methylation and detoxification, it can mean that they're just overburdening their body with toxicity. And so it becomes really important, that's where we really work with them, to understand well, particularly on the mould or mycotoxin, side, or chemical sensitivities, any of these areas where they're overburdening themselves with toxins, which should be absolutely fine for most people. And, that's after all, what the liver is designed to do, it's just for these people, they struggle more and more to get rid of them. So understanding that nutrigenomic pathway and explaining that they may have problems doing that enables us to put in foods that, for instance, particularly support glutathione production, such as the brassica vegetables, or broccolis, and, and kales and then garlic and onions, and leeks to support all of those pathways. And then on the methylation side as well to support getting these toxins out of the body properly. We work with the B vitamins, we work with Coleen and zinc. And we know exactly really where to intervene in the pathways to improve those cycles. And we can test for methylation as well, so it's not just plucking this all out of the air, we look at blood tests, we use some urine tests sometimes, but you know, really to understand what is going on, and then we objectively monitor symptoms. So, I think the environmental toxicity side of things and understanding the nutrigenomics there and requirement for nutrients is a really exciting area going forwards that, we still don't know, I think we know a fraction of what we'll know, in five years, and certainly what I knew, even three years ago about it, is absolutely nothing to to what I know now, but it's just going to evolve and evolve, I think in that area. And so the more that you can understand about someone, I mean, I've had, people who have had mould exposure years and years ago, and it sounds, ridiculous to think that this may be influencing their health now, but once we can test for the spores and mycotoxins that mould release. And once you start to address it, you remove the exposure, if there's any current exposure, and we start to just tidy up everything in the body and make sure they've got optimal levels of nutrients coming in, and that they can digest and absorb these nutrients and working with the genetic pathways, it just becomes so powerful in terms of, really guiding these people through so that they can, feel better, and get rid of some of these, low grade chronic conditions that they haven't been able to get on top of before.
Tony Winyard 33:48
For people who are listening, maybe thinking this sounds quite interesting. this neutrigenomic lark! But they might be wondering, what's involved? Is it like an operation? So how would people go about doing something like that?
Caroline Sherlock 34:05
They would contact us. So I think we're gonna give out details at the end of the show, but contact us and nutrigenomic testing is super easy. It's just a saliva swab through the mouth, we get on the test kit, and then they post it back. And then the lab will then look at that and come up with a report. It's not a big scary test. It doesn't test for your risk of diseases as, 23andme and some of the other, big ones out there will look at absolutely everything, including genes that you can do,, maybe not so much about. This is absolutely not what this is about. It's about looking at, genetic predispositions that you can influence and so yeah, it's just a saliva swab. It's probably the easiest home test of all actually, that we offer.
Tony Winyard 35:01
You mentioned before that there's now a lot more home tests available than there used to be?
Caroline Sherlock 35:09
Yeah, well, we use, where we can, we will absolutely send people,, to get tested via the GP or consultant. And, you know, we obviously, really, really encourage and request, that anyone that comes to see us has been through their medical professional, because that's, that's crucial before we start working with them. But some of the tests that we use are not available through the standard GP practice, potentially. And, the number one test that really stands out there for us that we do use probably with 95% of people that come into the clinic, whatever the the health symptom that they have, is the stool testing that looks at the gut microbiome. So we really look at the presence of yeasts and what type of bacteria really are in there, if there's any parasites that are low grade and creating an inflammatory storm in the gut. And it may not be that you have digestive symptoms, but that's not really what this test is about, because there are some bacteria that can just be opportunistic, and it's like, if you had a, I can do an analogy, if you had a patch of Earth, with that you just cleared of weeds and everything, you can plant a couple of seeds there. But actually, weeds will come in very, very quickly and colonise that bare patch of Earth. So what you really want is a balance, you want the things that are beneficial to grow there, and not for it to be one big weed colony. So with the gas, it's similar, if you've got a finite space on the gut wall, then the bacteria that we really want their fence in things like lactobacillus, for instance, which is the one that everyone typically tends to hear about as a probiotic bacteria. We want good bacteria there that balance and live happily with the rest of things. So it's all about balance. And it's sometimes when you get these opportunistic bacteria, like the weeds that come in and rapidly colonise, and take up a space that should be balanced with the guys that you know do you good. And sometimes these opportunistic bacteria are a different shape they're known as LPs lippo polysaccharides, and they can translocate through the gut wall and just create inflammation, pretty much elsewhere in the body to be honest, they can cross the gut barrier, they can also cross the blood brain barrier. And so actually looking at what's there and looking at that makeup and maybe doing a little bit of readjustment, which we can very often do, just by a diet actually with a lot of people, sometimes some, a few supplements as well, depending on what that makeup is. But that microbiome testing is not generally available at the moment on the NHS. And, really still testing I think conventionally is seen as let's look at digestive issues, let's understand if there's anything really pathogenic in there. Whereas we're taking it to another level, and we're looking at the makeup of the bacteria and yeasts and, the bugs that should live happily together. And then we also look at markers for digestion and absorption, and something called secretory IGA, actually, which is an immunoglobulin that is in all our mucous membranes, and it's a really good marker for immunity. And we know that there are ways to bring that up as well. So we look at the microbiome, we look at all these other markers, and it can really just be so powerful in beginning someone's journey back towards health just by addressing those and as I say, That's not available with standard medical testing at the moment. So there are a number of labs, they've pretty much all been actually in the States until recently, we've now got one in the UK that we use, where you just get a home test sent to you. Again, you take the sample and it goes back to the lab and we get that analysis through so it's it's just so easy to do, a lot of this testing just directly from the home as well.
Tony Winyard 39:40
From the patients that you tend to be seeing, what is the most common complaint that you find people have?
Caroline Sherlock 39:47
We get a lot of autoimmunity and that's across the spectrum. I don't specialise in one particular type of personal health condition actually, but a lot of autoimmunity from alopecia to celiac to hashimotos, particularly with the thyroid. So I work a lot with autoimmunity, we also get a lot of people coming in just with, with digestive issues, which, you know, just looking at the gut, which is then kind of obvious where we start without and where we go. And that tends to be once all the big stuff has been ruled out by the medics as well. So, when nothing really can be found wrong, and they don't really know where to go with it, or what to do. So gut autoimmunity, cardiovascular, hormone balance, and then the nonspecific aches, pains, brain fog, low energy, but don't really know why and no actual diagnosis. So that's what we call the complex chronic conditions. There's people who have maybe got, a couple of different diagnoses, but, nothing seems to be working for them. So it tends to fall into those categories.
Tony Winyard 41:08
And since the COVID issue, since March. Have you found that people you've been seeing have been more stressed, anxious, worried about all of this?
Caroline Sherlock 41:24
I think anxiety is huge at the moment and mental health as well. Yeah, the stress and anxiety levels have just been rising up and up through this. And it's funny, because when this first hit, we thought that there would be more people approaching us wanting to understand the immune system and really support their immunity. And there's a little bit of an element of that going on. But actually, what we're finding is that people are just crashing a little bit, and are just feeling utterly, utterly overwhelmed. particularly women, who, may have had, the kids at home and be juggling jobs, and trying to do everything and just worrying about everything. And I think those stress levels are, hugely high at the moment. So it's more that than I honestly genuinely thought people were going to be coming in and flooding us with, immune support, and it's not really worked out that way, to be honest, it's, it's more of a mental health and fatigue and overwhelm, and, lack of energy, actually, we're seeing,
Tony Winyard 42:40
What was it that made you decide to go down this route of learning about functional medicine in the first place?
Caroline Sherlock 42:50
Well, I've been a nutritionist for so long, and really loved working with that, and, you know, my background was actually in international banking. And I got ill, through, I guess, my lifestyle at that point, and various other things, and made a change in my own life. And I went into personal training at the beginning. So, really understood the beneficial role of exercise, and I did the personal training while I was studying nutrition. So I'd always been, really aware that it's not just about food, it's other things as well, that influence your health. And I think it got to the point where I was a little bit frustrated with nutrition, because they also, really recognise that there were other things out there and other areas that for some people may be as important if not more important, actually, at certain times than what they were putting in them in terms of food. So I actually did my first functional medicine module in Tucson, in Arizona, and went out there for five days studied, and I just met the most amazing people and was so inspired by the work that the doctors that were trained in functional medicine, were doing and the results they were seeing with their patients. And it would just really blew me away. And for me, I cannot imagine practising in any other way. Now, if you don't really go deep, deep, deep and ask someone, well, why is this happening? I just don't see how you can ever really make long term changes and regain health. So it's just so logical and so fundamental, in terms of, you've got to be addressing all aspects of your lifestyle, and obviously, it's never going to be perfect, but it doesn't need to be perfect. That's the nice thing., it really doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to be kept in balance. No, as soon as things just go a little bit overboard, and that might be for any reason, it might be because you're not sleeping for weeks on end, or it might because you're suddenly majorly stressed. Or it might be because your diets not great, or that you're not absorbing your food. There's so many different reasons. But so long as you can recognise that and keep it back in balance, and just bring it all back to the basics, then I really think that it's just so powerful, because to give people hope that they can actually be in control of their health, and there are things that they can do. You don't have to just sit back and take a diagnosis and think, well, that's it forever, there's so many things that you can do. And it can be easy as well. You don't have to do all these ridiculous, you know, two hour long lunches and be juicing the whole time, there are easy ways to do it. So I think it's that, why I'm so passionate about it is that I just think you can transform people's health with this. And it doesn't need to be perfect. It doesn't need to be complicated, but I think people need support with it, and a plan to go forward. So yeah, that's why I honestly think it's the medicine of the future because things do not just happen in isolation.
Tony Winyard 46:15
You say that the medicine of the future? How do you see things going for you and your business in the near future and maybe the next 5, 10 years?
Caroline Sherlock 46:25
I'm so excited by it, because as you say, there's so many more podcasts, and publicity, I think about functional medicine, and that people are starting to view it differently, people are starting to recognise a little bit more about self care, and whether that's in terms of mindfulness, or what we put inside us in terms of food. So I'm really, really excited. And we've, as I was saying to you, we've been running the clinic for years, myself and my business partner. But we've just put together an online programme as well. But we're hoping by doing this, we can actually reach more people. And we've aimed the programme of women. And it's really taking everyone through, it doesn't involve any testing at all, but it's taking everyone through the whole basics of what we would do in clinic, actually. And just tidying up the diet, working, spending a lot of time actually working with the gut, really nourishing yourself, and helping to acknowledge the levels of stress and anxiety and how that lack of sleep and how that can all self sabotage really in terms of your health. And it's just really a methodical programme, over 12 weeks that we take people through, but we give them weekly coaching with it. So they have an hour with us every week just to ask all the questions and what our experience so far has been that people are asking questions really about how to, it comes back to the nutrition, it's like, okay, so if I need to be eating, fish, but I don't really like fish, how am I going to get that into the diet. So there's a lot of exploration of this, and taking the whole pressure away from all these different diets that are out there, that they're gonna suit one person, but not the next, it's just being really sensible about it. And putting people together, women, kind of motivated high achieving women in a community where they can support each other and exchange ideas and have the accountability to do it as well, and the support from other women that are in the same situation. And so I think, to answer your question, in a maybe, long winded approach is, I think that's what we're gonna see more of as well, going forward. In terms of our business, yes, we're still going to see people who just want to come into clinic and, have a personalised approach and just get on with it one by one. But I also think we're going to have this community approach, that is going to become so much more important where people rely on each other and share ideas, and also have that social connection, which I think is just so so important. We know that having social connection extends years on your life. And so I think, if people are in a group that's really working on their health, really whatever their health condition, but, it takes away that overwhelm. It enables you to feel supported within a community. And, the research is such that if you are supported within a community, you're much more likely to make progress and make lasting changes. So I'm really excited to see actually where we'll be in another 5, 10 years, but, I think that's the way things look like they're going for us at the moment, which is exciting.
Tony Winyard 49:43
That course you were just talking about. If people want to find out more about that course. How would they do that?
Caroline Sherlock 49:49
So the best way at the moment is probably just to contact us, drop an email to say hello at www.EatDrinkLiveWell.com And we can send some details through, I can also give you details, because what we do for people who may be interested in potentially coming on the programme and working with us, we just book them into a 30 minute call just to talk about whether it's right for them. Because, we obviously want people who are a good fit to go through the programme and to work with us. And for some people, they may not be ready, or they may not be a good fit, and that's absolutely fine. But that's how we're running it at the moment. So they get 30 Minutes with Us, during which we'll talk through with them really where they are with their health at the moment, and what they think they need to do anything that may be kind of keeping them stuck where they are, and where they would like to be with it in the future. And so we have all of that discussion. And then at the end of that discussion, we just outline what we think may be the best steps for them, which may be coming on to the programme, and, having that support and accountability may be coming into clinic, or it may be that they're just not ready right at the moment, and it's something that they might want to revisit. And, as I say, that's absolutely fine. We just want to be able to help more people than we are able to physically see in our clinic. And so this seems like, a good way of doing it, actually.
Tony Winyard 51:17
And what other ways can people find out about you, like social media?
Caroline Sherlock 51:21
We're on Facebook. So Eat, Drink, Live, We've got a couple of Facebook groups, we are on Instagram, we are on Twitter, I am on LinkedIn, very happy for anyone to connect with me on LinkedIn as well. And we have a website, which is www.EatDrinkLiveWell.com. just get in touch. Because as I say our mission really is to help as many people as we possibly can, through this, I suppose, huge amount of knowledge that we've accumulated now, and we want to just get that out there to people, but actually not just send it to people in terms of what we used to do, which is writing blogs and everything and just sending out newsletters, because I think it's just information overload right now, and I think that is only going to get worse, but it's just really trying to connect with people now. And as I say, build that community in whatever way, whether it's through the programme, or whether it's just people interacting with us on social media. Yeah, so we're present over pretty much every platform.
Tony Winyard 52:38
And you were also involved in a book that was published recently?
Caroline Sherlock 52:43
yeah, I had the pleasure of being invited to write a chapter for a book called Unlocked, which was put together over lockdown, not surprisingly, and there are 10 authors on it. And we all took a chapter each. I took the nutrition and health side of things. And we really wrote about, what it would look like to come out the other side of this. So you've got chapters on, on mental health, quite a lot of chapters on mental health actually, and stress reduction and again, sleep, that everything that we can do in a really gentle way to support ourselves and just to come through the situation that we're in without, having I think massive trauma at the end of it, it was a lovely thing to do, the whole book from start to finish was actually put together in three weeks. We had a week's deadline from getting out sort of chapter titles to actually write that to to get it back to edit it and it went from, idea conception to being published in just three weeks, then it went to Amazon bestsellers as soon as it came out. So something we're all really proud of, and actually, for me as a knock on effect of that, for all the authors we have catch ups as well and they are the most amazing group of people and talented experts each in their individual fields. So it was a real pleasure to be involved with actually and to get that out there and we, at the time we wrote it we obviously thought, unlocked, there wouldn't be much shelf life in beyond the summer but the way things are gearing... So, it's a good read, and it's not a read it cover to cover. It's, I think dip into it, see the chapters you like. One amazing lady author wrote a section on gardening which I'm quite gutted I didn't get as well, cos I love gardening, but she's done a great job with it. So there's something in it. I think for everyone. And you can keep opening and dipping into as well as it's a nice read.
Tony Winyard 55:06
I received the book shortly before I moved house and I didn't get a chance to read it then and in the process of moving houses, boxes everywhere, so it's now somewhere in my bookcase which has got hundreds of books, I need to go and dig it out and actually read it.
Caroline Sherlock 55:25
Let me know what you think. It's unlocked, surviving to thriving.
Tony Winyard 55:29
No worries. Now you just reminded me... Well, I reminded myself by asking you a question... that I've got it, because I had completely forgotten about it. I'll go and dig it out and have a read.
Caroline Sherlock 55:44
It's quite nice to look over this period of this year, because I think the tendency is to just write it off and think, what a waste of a year, but actually, there are positives for everyone that I think come out of every situation. And for me, being involved in the book writing and having that published,, right in the middle, one of my my big positives here,
Tony Winyard 56:08
Talking of books, is there a book that you would recommend to people?
Caroline Sherlock 56:13
I have, if you could see behind me now where I'm sitting I have so so many books, I absolutely love books. But actually the book that I really like, as a nice read for anyone is The Blue Zones, which I don't know if you're familiar with? I just I really like and Dan Buettner is just the most amazing man. And this whole concept of the Blue Zones was looking at where people live longest, but live longest in a healthy and happy way, and all of the different factors that make up, that longevity, and I think it really ties for me, it resonates so well with functional medicine, because what he found was just simple things like moving every day. They don't go to the gym, but they move every day, they eat together. And they have community, so all of these things they eat well, they look after one another. And so it's just really looking at these, I think that particular book was the first book and it looked at seven different areas, I think, Okinawa to the Seventh Day Adventists are in there, there's Greece, all these different communities that have all of these people that live to over 100, but they're healthy with it, so they don't have the chronic disease that we're seeing elsewhere. And I just think it's such an inspirational read, and just comes back to the basics of what life's about. And what's important. Yeah, so I would recommend if people haven't read that, have a look at that.
Tony Winyard 57:57
I'll put a link to that in the show notes. Definitely. And finally, to finish Carolina, do you have a quotation you like?
Caroline Sherlock 58:05
I do. So the quotation that I would always come back to, and I've used, I don't know, for years and years and years, is by Lao Tzu: "A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a simple single step". I think that just says absolutely everything. Don't look at the whole journey. Don't look at the mountain, you think you need to climb up, just look in front of you and just make one, one step forward, it doesn't need to be perfect. It doesn't need to be big, but you know, taking that action, taking any action, no matter how small, also gives this feeling of positivity, and hope that you can achieve something. And that's really what we say to a lot of people when they come into the clinic or start working with us in the programme. It's like, don't look towards, where your ultimate perfect goal is just look at, what you're doing today and tomorrow. And then what we want you to be able to do is in a year, or six months or whenever it is, you turn around and you just look back at how far you've come. And it's at that point, you can really notice, the progress that you've made, so that is yeah, pretty much my favourite quote of all time.
Tony Winyard 59:15
Caroline I really appreciate your time. And I think some of the what you shared over the last hour is gonna be really helpful for many people. So thank you.
Caroline Sherlock 59:24
I hope so. And thank you so much for having me on. It's been a real pleasure to talk to you. Thank you.
Tony Winyard 59:34
Next week is Episode 11. With Federika Roberts, she's travelled the world speaking at international positive psychology, and positive education conferences. She's a speaker, trainer, lecturer and a published author and supports individuals and organisations to practice promote and embed well being practices into everyday life. So that's next week, Federika Roberts We're going to get a lot more into positive psychology and all areas related to that. Hope you enjoyed this this week's show. Please do share with anyone who you feel will get a real benefit from some of the information that Caroline shared with us about functional medicine. Why not leave a review about this particular episode or about the show in general. Subscribe. We've still got the Facebook group, is still under the name of Exceeding Expectations. It may change at some point. But at the moment, it's still under the former name of for those who may be not aware, Series one of this podcast was called Exceeding Expectations and now series two is Happy versus Flourishing. Again, hope you've enjoyed this week's show and I hope you have a great week.
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