When did you first become interested in the link between nutrition and medicine?
I can trace the beginning of my interest in health, food and nutrition back to my teens, to when my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s from Ghana, so she had always used fresh, natural products in her cooking but she took things to a next level when she was in treatment. I remember terms like ‘macrobiotic’ and ‘organic’ suddenly being used a lot and there were always lots of alfalfa sprouts and supplements flying around!
I was drawn to nutrition as a field of study when I was pregnant with my son Angel, as I developed pica — a pregnancy-related condition wherein you crave weird non-foods. In my case, I craved concrete and chalk. I started looking into why this was happening and learned that there is a link between pica and several potential mineral deficiencies. I also learned that the particular sorts of cravings I was experiencing are common to women of African origin. I decided to do a degree in Health Sciences/Nutritional Therapy to better understand nutrition in disease prevention and optimising health.
I decided to study nutrition in order to better understand this facet of preventative medicine, with a focus on healing on a biochemical level.
Moody Month’s nuanced approach to the female hormonal experience feels like a vital and cathartic step forward. How did your co-founders and you come together and start having these conversations?
Moody Month was conceived by Amy (co-founder), who had experienced frustrating experiences seeking information and support around her own hormonal imbalances at that time. Building from my clinical expertise around hormonal health and her firsthand experiences, we set out the framework for the initial platform and progressed to building out our technical team.
Amy’s book, Moody: A Woman’s 21st Century Hormone Guide, is being published next month, which along with a few brilliant books in this space, which speaks to how far the conversation around hormones has come since those early planning meetings we had four years ago.
Why do you think traditional medicine practitioners so often dismiss women’s experiences?
I think that it is in part the approach of conventional medicine having a focus on treating disease rather than prevention of disease. Also we know that there is bias in medicine, so this is a societal thing that needs to change.
But, happily, with social media’s ability to galvanise and amplify and many brilliant women’s health advocates pushing for change, conversations around women’s health are rapidly evolving, which is very exciting.
Since launching in October 2018, Moody Month had risen to become Apple UK’s #1 downloaded app by December of that year. How have you been balancing the pressures of life and work since then?
I have been lucky to be part of such a great, productive team at Moody, and to have made valued friendships along the way. I aim to nurture positive collaborative relationships with my patients and I have a very supportive husband and family to help make it all work.
Crucially, I have learned to structure my life with my health as a central focus, as I know that I am sensitive to long term negative stress.
From your work over the last years in women’s health and hormones, do you think we are on the cusp of a sea change in the way we talk about hormones?
100 percent. The language around women’s health and hormones now is totally different from when I graduated in 2011, and even from when we created Moody just 3 years ago.
There is a new comfortability around talking about the female cycle, menopause, reproductive health issues, period-sex and menstrual products, in a way that didn’t exist in previous years. As a result, many women are now beginning to understand the power of their hormones and learning to tap into the intelligence of their body’s signals.
Have you experienced pushback from people that think women’s hormonal health is a niche issue?
Totally. Raising investment for our company has not been a straightforward process and there have been plenty of conversations where we have had to convince the men in the room that hormones, although you can’t see them, play a central role in female physiology and well-being and therefore deserve attention.
What do you say to women that feel they don’t have the time or energy to follow a detailed lifestyle plan?
Committing to a functional nutrition health plan is not for everyone and often needs the right moment to give it full focus. But even small changes to diet and behaviour can add up over time to improved holistic health; better cycles, happier moods, better sleep, a healthier libido. Some nutritionists now work with patients in a super flexible, incremental way, such as my 30-minute virtual sessions, so that you can dip your toes in and see how it goes.
The wellness industry is often criticised for promoting products and lifestyles that are unattainable for most people. How do you approach this question in your clinical practice and in the building of Moody Month?
I have always tried to consider the cost and accessibility of food and supplement recommendations for my patients. Nevertheless, functional nutritional therapy is currently only accessible privately, so even before adding in things like vitamins, the consultation represents a cost.
In terms of Moody Month, we built the app as a free download, which gives users complimentary access to educational resources on their hormones and cycle-tracking technology. We especially wanted to provide harder to reach groups with access to progressive and inclusive information about their amazing hormones and how to optimise their health throughout their cycle. And for users who are keen and able to dive a little deeper, we now also have a selection of paid-for products within the app. Wellness as a space is still largely exclusive but, again, things are shifting and I am optimistic that the term will gradually shed its elitist tone.
What are your thoughts on hormonal birth control methods and HRT?
The awesomeness of science and pharmacology over the last hundred years has enabled humans to live longer, safer and more optimised lives. For many women, hormonal contraception has made an integral contribution to this.
That being said, I do encourage female patients to limit the use of hormonal contraceptives or to take breaks where possible, in order to allow their bodies’ natural rhythms to do their thing and allow any imbalances or underlying conditions related to hormonal activity, to be identified.
My view of HRT is similar. For some women, the risks outweigh the suppression of menopausal symptoms. For others, HRT can work well. But I will always stress to patients that focused diet and lifestyle strategies, and a bit of patience, can be game-changers in managing hormonal symptoms.
Have you been eating or drinking anything special to address the lockdown blues?
Ah yes, the lockdown blues… I start my day with sencha green tea, followed by a black coffee to perk me up and get focused for the day ahead. I don’t consume any stimulants after that as I have found my sleep patterns to be more temperamental during the lockdown.
More than any food changes, I have found that exercise has been the best tonic of all. During the warmer months I went for daily walks on the heath, immersing myself in the beauty of it all and getting that vital daily sunlight.
Technology can be great too. Moody Month tracking helps me to plan and prepare and I have been in love with my Peloton bike and my newly built sauna room. Sticking to my daily supplement routine has also been essential for better mood and wellbeing.
A final question for you. This year we are asking all of our Journal interviewees to complete the following phrase to help us celebrate 25 years of You Must Create (YMC):
You Must Create… a more just and healthier world, through stepping out of your comfort zone.
It can be a phrase or just a word. For us, you must create is both a mission statement and a call to action.