Emma Willis health: Star was ‘puffy and bloated’ due to high cholesterol and low hormones

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As a keen fitness fanatic, The Voice host has shared video footage of her intense workout routines and revealed her purchase of a £1,195 interactive mirror for her home gym, which provides over 300 live and on-demand workouts including pilates, barre, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and more. Yet back in 2019, Willis opened up about when she started to experience some bizarre and uncomfortable symptoms that led to her seeking the help of a nutritionist.

In an interview, the 46-year-old said: “I was feeling really s*** and low at the beginning of the year. I wasn’t me, and I didn’t know why.

“Normally, I’m a very positive, happy person and suddenly I wasn’t, and that really affected me.

“I went to see a nutritionist, who did some tests, and it turned out to be lots of different things that were all over the place.

“I had a bunch of blood tests done and they came back not great. I had quite a few inflammation markers that came back.

“I had really low hormones, really high cholesterol and things weren’t good.”

Some of the symptoms that Willis was suffering from included stress, inflammation, puffiness, bloating and fatigue.

In order to manage her sudden symptoms, Willis went on a six-week cleanse, to get her health back on track. She added: “Stress, inflammation in my body, as well as being puffy and bloated, and I was just knackered.

“You don’t realise that those things affect your body in the way that they do, until you’re not in a good place. I had to reassess everything.

“It took a while but I felt so much better by the end of it. It’s an annoying thing. It’s constantly looking after yourself.”

As the NHS points out, eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best.

The health body goes on to state that the most common reason for symptoms such as bloating is having a lot of gas in your gut. This can be caused “by some food and drinks, such as some vegetables and fizzy drinks, or by swallowing air when you eat”.

Bloating can also be a sign of more complex health problem such as:

  • Constipation
  • A food intolerance
  • Coeliac disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Catherine Crow, a holistic Nutritional Therapy Practitioner added: “Bloating is a feeling of fullness, tightness or distention in your belly area that often makes one feel overly full or uncomfortable.

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“Dieting and food restriction are common causes of bloating because it tells your body to slow the metabolism, dialling down your digestive juices over time.”

In order to avoid bloating, Crow provided the following advice on both lifestyle choices and foods to eat:

  • Consume enough nutrients and calories to support your body’s cellular metabolism and energy production.
  • Avoid over-exercising – too much exercise, especially when the diet is poor or restricted, is a sure way to send your body running for safety by slowing the metabolism, and that means weaker digestion.
  • Reduce stress around meal time – stress decreases your digestion significantly, as your body directs energy elsewhere.
  • Avoid foods that can be hard to digest, such as dairy (especially if you are lactose intolerant) and gluten.
  • Eat things that are easy to digest, especially when it comes to carbohydrates – think fruits, root vegetables, and squashes.

In addition to dietary requirements, individuals with low oestrogen levels can be at risk of multiple symptoms, including an increase in cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol levels increase when individuals have too much of a fatty substance in the blood. One study followed 1,054 women in their 40s and early 50s who were still menstruating when they entered the study, but had stopped by the time follow-up ended about nine years later. The menopause-related cholesterol increase was seen for all women in the study, regardless of their prior cardiovascular risk factors, suggesting that menopause has a similar influence on blood lipid, or fat, levels for all women.

Dr Deborah Lee, from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, spoke about this increase in cholesterol during the menopause, and the best way to decrease levels. She said: “Menopausal women experience a dramatic fall in their oestrogen levels, which is thought to cause unfavourable changes to the lipid profile. This is one of the reasons why women’s risk of heart disease increases steeply at and after menopause.

“It may be comforting for women to know if they are taking HRT [hormone replacement therapy], that this is likely to be having a beneficial effect on their cholesterol levels.. HRT also slightly lowers blood pressure and reduces calcification in the arteries, and all of these changes are all beneficial to lower the risk of heart disease.”

HEART UK, the UK’s leading cholesterol charity, explains that what you eat can also have an affect on your cholesterol levels. A “healthy heart diet” consists of fruit, vegetables, healthy sources of protein such as beans and pulses, low-fat dairy products, cutting down on sugary foods and drinks, high-fibre foods and eating three small meals a day with one or two healthy snacks in between.

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