fish oil supplement omega 3

Omega 3 Fatty Acids from fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, marine algae are commonly recommended as nutrients that help with brain function, mood disorders, behavioural issues, and most commonly, for reducing the risks associated with heart disease. In Australia, fish oil supplements are the most commonly taken supplement over all others.

Recently there has been some debate (read more here) about whether fish oil supplements have any impact on lowering heart disease risk. Some of these articles paint a picture of fish oil supplementation as a waste of money. I agree.

Fish oil supplements are a waste of time and money in the following cases: 

  • Poor quality, low grade supplements which are oxidised, and may contain contaminants such as plastics, heavy metals and PCB’s.
  • Supplements without Vitamin E. An antioxidant which helps to stabilise the fish oil and prevent the it from becoming pro-inflammatory rather than an anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Not enough EPA/DHA to have an effect. Some supplements contain very little of the active components of fish oil. Studies for lowering blood fats and reducing arthritis pain recommend 2 grams of EPA/DHA per day. Taking below this amount could be likened to taking ¼ of a Panadol and expecting pain relief. The benefits of omega 3 supplementation are dependent on taking the right amount of EPA and DHA, for long enough, and absorbing it well. [A test called the Omega 3 Index, can measure how well you are absorbing omega 3’s]
  • Rancid Oils. Fish oil supplements should not have a fishy smell or taste. This is a sign the oil has oxidised or gone rancid. Oils in this state do more harm than good.

The condemning studies don’t tell the whole story.

The studies that have driven the recent backlash on fish oils are suggesting that there is little if any measurable benefit to taking fish oil as a preventative measure to reduce the risk of heart disease or cardiovascular events. The reference for this information was a systematic review of 79 randomised trials with over 110 thousand people. (Read more here) However, only 25 of the studies were assessed as trustworthy in their design and how they were conducted.  Some of the studies included only “healthy” people, while others included people with pre-existing illnesses. Thus, the questions to the weight of information in this review, remain:

  • What type of omega 3 supplements were used in these studies?
  • What strength and ratio of EPA/DHA was used?
  • Were the people in the study also consuming trans fats?
  • Did all the participants still have their gall bladders intact, as this would influence their absorption of any fats, omega 3 or otherwise?
  • Did the participants also already consume oily fish or other omega 3 supplements?
  • Did all the participants have measurable omega 3, EPA & DHA in their blood stream? ie was their omega index above 8 %.?

Well founded benefits of Fish Oil Supplementation

This review did suggest some benefits for fish oil supplementation. Findings confirmed that:

  • Fish oil supplements can reduce blood fats, and cholesterol.
  • While the study didn’t show benefit for people with no previous risk of heart disease, there is a positive role for omega 3 intake through fish consumption for people with a history of cardiovascular issues or risk.
  • Fish oil does reduce the risk of premature birth (less than 34 weeks) by 42%. Supplementation in pregnancy may be beneficial as consumption of oily fish could be a risk for mercury.

Other well designed, trustworthy and recent studies also indicate:

  • Higher total omega 3 and DHA blood levels are associated with improved gut microbiome diversity. Aka., a good variety of healthy gut bugs.
  • Omega 3 can reduce leaky gut and gastrointestinal inflammation.
  • EPA & DHA from fish oil reduces the brain plaque formation which occurs in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Omega 3’s may have benefits in allergic diseases in babies and children.
  • Insulin sensitivity and diabetes risk factors can be modified through omega 3 intake.
  • Arthritis pain may be modified and quality of life improved with omega 3 supplementation.

Just eating real food is a good rule of thumb guide to stay well. Avoiding processed foods, cigarettes, alcohol and getting a minimum of 7 hours sleep per night are also known to support healthy ageing. Eating enough, high quality fish, with low contaminant levels is a challenge that people face today. Some people dislike fish, are allergic or intolerant, or are at risk for heavy metal/mercury toxicity.

There is a valuable place for the use of high quality, pure, filtered and unoxidized fish oil supplements. Side effects are rare and minimal. Fish oil may contribute to reflux for some individuals, or cause loose bowels. High doses of fish oil may thin the blood, which means those on warfarin or other blood thinning medication should be closely monitored by their doctor.  These are easily manageable effects. Considering that statin medications (cholesterol lowering drugs) are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world, and are known to have many side effects and limited effect, there is merit to trying quality fish oil supplements at a therapeutic dose, first. Four out of five Australians do not meet the recommended daily requirement for omega 3 intake. An omega 3 index above 8% is desirable.    

The Bottom Line

Everyone is unique in their needs, body type and circumstances. There is no one size fix all approach. If you take fish oil supplements, but drink alcohol in excess, sleep less than 6 hours per night, and smoke, then it won’t matter how much fish oil you take, you will still be at high risk of a stroke. An individual and tailored approach is always the most effective which is why its best to get professional advice from a practitioner who can factor in your entire health story and create a customized plan.

If you aren’t sure whether you want to start taking fish oil supplements, stop taking them or change the type and dose, an Omega 3 Index test can help define what your body needs.

“Taking fish oil won’t save you from the damaging effects of a daily meat pie and coca cola habit”. (Anne-Marie)

Inflammation has been depicted as the evil tyrant behind all chronic disease. The inflammatory process is well documented as being the driver behind tissue damage, cell destruction, illness and dysfunction. Inflammation is listed as an underlying cause of heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, depression, Parkinson’s. But what if inflammation had a good side? What if, like most things in nature there is a “good twin” to keep the “evil twin” in check. A yin to it’s yang, if you will.

What is inflammation?

When you damage a muscle or joint, like twisting your ankle, it becomes swollen, sore and bruised. This inflammatory response is critical to the process of repair. It may not be fun, but if nothing else, it prevents you from continuing what you were doing so that you don’t do any further damage to that tissue. By allowing fluid and increased blood flow (aka swelling, redness, bruising) to the injured area, the body can direct its own first aid team to the site where a response is required. Without this initial inflammatory response the injury may never heal.

Inflammation, good or bad?

Understanding inflammation requires us to consider how long the response has been going on, and how intensely the response endures. It is the intensity and duration that determines whether inflammation is disease causing (pathological) or simply a healthy and accurate response from the body to a specific situation (physiological).

Consider inflammation like a camp fire. A small, well contained camp fire can cook a steak to perfection. An uncontrolled camp fire, can turn into a bush fire that decimates the entire campsite. In other words “good” inflammation is the efficient house-keeping kind. The house-keeping style of inflammation turns up on time, does the clean up job efficiently, then leaves the premises without fanfare and goes home to rest and restore. Inflammation that goes unchecked, for too long and has a party while it’s hanging around, can lead to disease.

Similarly, not enough inflammation can also be problematic. If there is no house-keeping, things can get messy. Tissues won’t repair, the immune system will go on strike and the house will start to crumble. This can often be seen in people on immune suppressant medications.

It’s all about finding the balance

Ideally, for optimal health, we want balance. We want inflammation to play nicely on the see-saw and not put on too much weight. Unfortunately, as we age, and with repeated insult to the body an accumulation process can occur. This is an example of when inflammation starts to “put on too much weight”, keeping the see-saw permanently tipped in it’s favour. This type of slow, accumulating inflammation (inflammaging) is thought to be the underlying cause of chronic disease. Some of this tipping towards inflammation is an inevitable part of ageing, but, much of it is a consequence of unhealthy diet and lifestyle.

Taking charge of inflammation

The good news is that we all have some control over the switch or dial that moves the inflammation see-saw. We can slow inflammaging by minimising triggers and helping the body move back to balance. Instead of focusing on constantly trying to dial down inflammation, there are ways to retrain the body to switch it off.

Most pharmaceutical medications such as pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs do a great job of suppressing pain. Chronic pain sufferers describe their treatments as pain management. Pain relief or analgesic medications such as paracetamol, codeine, and other opiate based medications block the pathways that send pain signals to the brain. Most anti-inflammatory medications work by blocking the production of inflammatory compounds in the body. The problem here is that this also blocks the signals for the body to resolve the causes of the inflammation. In effect, anti-inflammatory medications can slow down or inhibit tissue healing, repair and house-keeping.

To reduce pain AND promote tissue healing and repair we need to do three things.

  1. Remove the underlying causes and drivers of pain and inflammation.
  2. Retrain the body how to resolve or switch off the inflammation at the right time.
  3. Give the body what it needs, the building blocks, to heal and repair tissues, cells and systems.

Secondary to a health giving diet and lifestyle, certain nutrients and plant extracts in medicinal doses, can be very effective in reducing pain, repairing damage and restoring energy and vitality. Nutrients like essential fatty acids from high quality fish oils, magnesium, zinc and vitamin C are vitally important. Probiotics and spices such as turmeric and cinnamon and plants such as broccolini and medicinal mushrooms can all be used as targeted therapies in various types of inflammation.

Most of us need help and support to understand what type of inflammation is happening in our own body and what to do about it. If you are tired of dealing with inflammation and pain, or would like to slow down the ageing process and prevent chronic illness, get in touch for a personalized approach to wellness.

Naturopath appointments are available in Darwin, Northern Territory, or online from anywhere in Australia.

What type of exercise is best for hypothyroid, hashimoto's or underactive thyroid

People who suffer with hypothyroidism or hashimoto’s disease often report that exercise is difficult due to fatigue or tiredness. Others with hypothyroidism or sub-clinical hypothyroidism(TSH greater than 4.0 with T4 and T3 within the reference range), increase exercise in an attempt to better manage their weight. A common message I hear from patients who are overweight or obese, is that exercising more and eating less is not helping them achieve their desired weight. Understanding the interplay of thyroid hormones, stress hormones, oxidative stress, inflammation and the type of exercise chosen is important. Choosing the right type of exercise, implemented correctly is critical to enjoying the benefits and avoiding making things worse.

Why should I exercise?

Reduce Metabolic Syndrome:

An increasing body of research indicates that people with an underactive thyroid or suboptimal thyroid hormone levels are at an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome. This is particularly the case when a woman enters menopause. Metabolic syndrome is the term for a cluster of conditions relating to heart disease and diabetes. High blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels are the conditions which increase a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke.

It is widely accepted that exercise is beneficial for reducing metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes risk.  Additionally studies on women with subclinical hypothyroidism, who participated in exercise training for 6 months showed remarkable improvements in blood vessel function, inflammation, cholesterol and blood fats compared to sedentary women. (1)

If you are female with hypothyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism and your waist circumference is above 80 cm, it is important to include regular exercise as part of your self-care routine to prevent further health issues down the track.

Exercise for hypothyroidism
Why exercise
underactive thyroid
waist
Improve Thyroid Hormone Production:

What is recently becoming more apparent is that exercise can also influence the thyroid gland’s production of hormones. Even when already treated with thyroid hormone replacement such as thyroxine, exercise is important.  Medium intensity exercise for one hour daily for 3 months has the capacity to decrease weight and waist measurements, and improve all thyroid hormone measurements favorably.  (3)

Improve Quality of Life:

A randomized trial including women with subclinical hypothyroidism showed significiant improvements in functional capacity, general health, emotional and mental health after 16 weeks of aerobic exercise training. For this study, the women completed 60 minutes of bike riding or treadmill walking three times per week for 16 weeks. (2)

Wipe out brain fog:

Would you like to improve energy levels, brain function and learning ability? These are all symptoms of an underactive thyroid that can be improved by exercise in as little as 4 weeks. A study was done on hypothyroid rats,  measured learning ability, lethargy and recovery after exercise. The conclusions of the study were that in four weeks, all types of exercise improved symptoms significantly, and anaerobic exercise in particular was the most valuable.  High intensity interval training, weight training, tabata workouts and sprints are all types of anaerobic exercise.

Note: yes, the study was on rats, but correlations with human subjects can be found in similar studies. Also, you don’t have to workout at an elite level to get results. In fact the research shows that slowly building your exercise capacity is important rather than going hard straight up. An experienced personal trainer or exercise physiologist is the best person to help you implement a training program suitable for your needs. Pick someone who can help you grow at an appropriate pace for your current state of health.

What type of exercise is helpful?

Aerobic and Anaerobic exercise is helpful. Most of the research is done using treadmills or exercise bikes in controlled environments for the purposes of accuracy. However it’s important to find the right exercise for you. It needs to be something you will enjoy, so you can make it part of your lifestyle long term. The exercise also needs to be physically manageable. Maybe you don’t want to start running if you have dodgy knees, and don’t cope well with the heat. Swimming could be a better option if you have back issues or joint pain. The key factors are doing enough, consistently, and combining both aerobic and anaerobic activities. In other words include a combination of cardio and weights or resistance training.  The cardio training to help improve heart muscle function and stamina and the weight or resistance training to build muscle, strengthen bones and support a healthy metabolism.

The studies show that anything from 60 minutes three times per week to 60 minutes daily can be beneficial. Again, it’s important to find a routine that suits your body, that you can sustain long term and that you will enjoy. From interval training, to yoga, belly dancing or walking – there is something suitable out there for you. The choices are endless. Just pick one and move your body regularly!

Is there a type of exercise I should avoid?

Basically any exercise that you do that causes strong inflammation, distress, or that you don’t enjoy should be swapped for something more appropriate to you. The idea is to push yourself enough to get out and move your body and stimulate gradual improvement in your health and hormones over time.  Deciding to start training to run a marathon in 8 weeks time when you have never run before, would be a bad idea. Similarly being sedentary can be just as inflammatory and damaging to your body.

Extreme types of exercise in someone who is not well adapted or trained for it can cause more problems.  In a study looking at the effects of oxidative stress – 19 out of 40 patients with subclinical hypothyroidism showed a relationship between high levels of oxidative stress and the progression to hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Overtraining, or intense and excessive exercise can lead to a raised cortisol levels and increased oxidative stress. This can be counterproductive for weight loss, autoimmune disease and thyroid health. High cortisol levels may encourage fat gain around the middle, sleep disturbances, digestive problems and depression and memory problems. All the things people with thyroid problems are trying to avoid or treat!

These are some signs of overtraining:
  • Feeling ill after exercise or catching colds or flus frequently
  • Losing muscle mass, or constantly tearing or straining muscles.
  • Needing to sleep or feeling constantly exhausted after exercise.
  • Gaining fat around the waist.

Instead of trying to fit in 6 or 7 days of high intensity sessions – pace yourself. Intersperse your more intense training sessions with something more restorative like yoga or walking.

If you are motivated to train a bit harder, already compete at an elite level or want to achieve a particular goal that may push your limits, there are foods, nutrients and lifestyle practices that can help reduce the impacts of oxidative stress and inflammation on your body. Having a qualified health practitioner well versed in nutrition, antioxidants, adrenal and thyroid function is recommended.

Take home message:

The right type of exercise will help improve your health.

Appropriate exercise is good for thyroid health, hormone production and immune health. It has the capacity to improve energy, day to day functional capacity, brain fog, memory, concentration and coordination, pain scores, mood, mental health, and weight.  Exercise can reduce some of the long term risk of thyroid disease including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis and even some cancers. Don’t be disheartened if your weight on the scales isn’t changing some of the benefits are not easily visible. Exercise is not something to give up on!

Find a balance of both cardio and resistance training.

A mixture of both cardio and strength training is important to get the best overall results for your health. If you haven’t exercised before, or haven’t trained for a while, it’s important to start slow and build up gradually as your fitness improves. Get some help from a qualified and experienced trainer or exercise physiologist to get you started and keep you motivated for the long term. Whatever you choose needs to be effective and sustainable for the long term. Aim for at least 60 minutes three times per week or the equivalent of this as a minimum.

Re-assess regularly and ask for help.

There is no one-size fits all plan for success, however there are a few fundamentals that are key to every person. Eat and live for success. Avoid a diet and lifestyle that puts more stress on your body, get a good 8 hours sleep each night and surround yourself with supportive and positive people. Self-assess and reassess regularly and ask for help.

As someone who has been through Hashimoto’s and out the other side, I have made a few mistakes along the way, and learned many lessons too. If you’d like to know how to avoid the mistakes I made, and enjoy life on your terms again, get in touch for a holistic naturopathic consultation.

It’s no secret that there are hundreds of toxins our bodies are exposed to everyday.  The body does a pretty good job of being vigilant and actively working to deactivate and remove many toxins on a daily basis. However, there are some that are particularly persistent and unfortunately ever-increasing numbers and types of toxins in our environment mean that the body can at times become overwhelmed. Some of the most detrimental impacts of toxins are on our hormones.

Toxins that interfere with hormones are known as endocrine disruptors. 

An endocrine disruptor can interfere with any body tissue that is governed by hormones.  This can create the kind of cellular chaos that may be associated with infertility, cancerous tumours, birth defects and other developmental disorders.  Signs that your body may be challenged by hormone disruption include, painful or heavy periods, infertility or miscarriage, cystic breasts or ovaries, endometriosis or fibroids, acne, fatigue, reduced libido, early puberty, and for men, enlarged prostate or male breasts.

According to the Environmental Working Group (a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment), there are at least 12 serious offenders.  Here are 5 of the most potent endocrine disrupting chemicals you should aim to avoid.

·       BPA – found in recyclable plastics, and canned foods.

·        Phthalates – in plastic food containers, children’s toys, plastic food wrap, personal care products and fragrances.

·        Fire retardants – in protective clothing, furniture, foam, carpets, insulation.

·       Perfluorinated chemicals – non -stick cookware, stain and water-resistant clothing, furniture, carpets.

·       Organophosphates – widely used in pesticides and insecticides. (check here for things that might be under your kitchen sink or in your garden shed, like mortein!)   https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/publications/ocp-trade-names.

detox, juicing, vege juice, vegetable juices, hormone detox

Aside from reducing exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals, we can also assist our body to detox or cleanse it’s hormonal systems. Nature’s helpers include:

  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Green Tea
  • Flaxseeds
  • Globe artichokes
  • Lemon/Limes
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary

Choose organic where possible, and include one to two servings of at least three of these foods in your diet every day. A great way to boost detoxification is to include organic cold pressed vegetable and fruit juices including these ingredients and others.

To assist the body in getting rid of waste, it’s critical that all the detox organs are working at their best.  Sweating, dry skin brushing, sauna, colonics, massage, yoga and drinking plenty of filtered water are all helpful.

If you are concerned that your body has become overwhelmed by toxins or that you have signs of hormonal disruption, naturopathic medicine can offer a wholistic approach to help you feel good again, and trust your hormones to do what they are supposed to.  Get in touch or book in for your complimentary discovery call to make a start on finding the best solutions.

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One of the common complaints I hear when I ask patients why they have come to see me is, “my hormones are all out of whack!” Often they come to me after they’ve already tried dieting to lose weight, tried libido tonics to feel sexy again, taken a bit of St John’s Wort or Chaste tree here and there to help with PMS.  Some women have gone through many different types of contraceptive pills just to see if they could balance their hormones or regulate their periods. Women in particular are at their wits end trying to figure out what their bodies are trying to tell them, and what they can do about it. Let’s look at what hormones are, what their job is in the body and why they can sometimes get out of balance.

Hormones are chemical messengers in the body. They are produced in the endocrine glands and are transported in blood or other body fluids to tissues to control things like hunger, sex drive, metabolism, fertility and mood. Hormones can influence thirst, sleep, energy and the way we respond to different situations and tolerate stress.

Hormones maintain a high level of expert communication with one another to maintain a delicate balance and activity level of the endocrine glands. If one hormone speaks out of turn, too loudly, or too softly, the entire communication system can fall apart. This can lead to other organs in the endocrine system missing out on proper instruction or doing their own thing and running their own agenda. There are so many processes and corrections needed to maintain proper function that constant vigilance by the body’s hormonal regulation systems is required. Sometimes, when there is overload or stress on the body, these regulation systems can become distracted and dysfunction can occur.

Take Lily for example. Lily was enjoying the good life. She had recently married, had a career she enjoyed and was expecting her first child. Lily was feeling great during her pregnancy, but the birth was another story altogether. After the birth of her son, Lily haemorrhaged and lost a lot of blood. While she recovered well, all things considered, Lily’s body had to make some quick assessments and changes during that crisis. You see the body is designed to maintain a certain level of balance. It is very good at prioritising critical needs. Lily’s body decided that some processes need to be turned off and toned down in order to preserve energy and aid recovery. So, instead of ramping up the hormone that stimulate milk production after birth, these hormones were toned down. Lily’s body had determined that she didn’t have the resources to sustain feeding a baby, so it held off her milk supply. Lily also found it difficult to lose weight after the birth, and started to gain weight again. She did her best to exercise and eat well, but her weight was slowly rising.

Stress, whether it is physical or emotional, if severe, or prolonged can place a huge load on a person’s hormonal regulation system and create a series of unfortunate events. The compensatory measures that the body puts in place sometimes become so complex that it is difficult to see where exactly the problem began and where to start work on fixing it. I see patients with heavy and painful periods or unexpected weight gain not knowing where or how it all began. Medicating this without looking at the full story, promises only a short term fix if anything.

To regain health it is important to dig deeper and investigate where, when or how the body got out of whack. Working in reverse to uncover the causes, re-calibrate and re-establish a good communication network for the body’s messenger system is essential. It is possible, once the causes are identified and managed, to get hormones back into balance, fit back into clothes from your mid 20’s and trust your body to do what it is supposed to do again. Work with me

Some of the reasons your hormones could get out of whack, or have trouble returning to baseline include:

Toxins

There are certain toxins we may be exposed to on a day to day basis which can disturb hormone function. These toxins are known as endocrine disruptors. They can mimic, block or potentially alter the hormonal systems in the body. Toxins known as xenoestrogens are chemicals in our environment, that when taken into the body can imitate oestrogen. This can mean that your body exhibits symptoms of excess oestrogen due to what is coming in externally, rather than what your body is making. Xenoestrogens affect both male and female reproductive systems. In males there is evidence that xenoestrogens alter sperm quality, number and may affect fertility. Sources of xenoestrogens include plastics, chemicals, pesticides, tap water, shampoos, lotions, soaps, toothpastes, sunscreens, styrofoam cups, takeaway containers, food additives, tinned foods. Yes, endocrine disruptors are everywhere! Our best solution is to minimise our exposure and ensure our detoxification system is in peak condition

Some patients with heavy or painful periods report significant changes after a few months, when they reduce their contact with plastics, and switch to natural and chemical free body and personal hygiene products.

” One of every five adults are potentially exposed every day to all of the top seven carcinogenic impurities common to personal care product ingredients — hydroquinone, ethylene dioxide, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, nitrosamines, PAHs, and acrylamide.” Environmental Working Group.

Poor Detoxification Pathways

The liver is considered the main organ of detoxification. It’s job is to bind up or transform toxins into a safer compound that can be efficiently removed from the body. It’s step by step process is finely tuned and requires all the right ingredients for success. Then the gall bladder, colon, kidneys, skin and lungs do the job of removing the packaged toxins from the body.

Unfortunately in today’s world, the workload on the liver, and the organs of elimination is increasing dramatically. There is no longer anywhere in the world that is pure, pristine and toxin free. The water we drink, foods we eat, air we breathe, clothes we wear and products we use to clean ourselves and our homes are potential sources of toxins. Our livers are pre-loaded with toxins to deal with even before we are born, with scientists finding over 200 chemicals in the cord blood of new born babies.

In a nutshell, the detoxification systems of the body are under a lot of strain. If any of the steps in the liver detoxification pathway (as summarised in the image below) are not able to be completed efficiently, chances are your body will recycle these toxins back into your system and tuck them away “safely” in your fatty tissue. In other words, your body has a back up plan. If it can’t remove toxins for any reason, it will do its best to limit their impact on your body. Rather than double handling and leaving the toxins floating around in your blood stream, your body sequesters them into fat, bone, and brain tissue. Unfortunately these stored toxins still have some level of influence while they are trapped in the body. The fatty tissue will slowly release these toxins back in to the blood stream, meaning that fat stores become a constant trickle source of toxins. When fat is broken down during weight loss, the body can once again become overburdened with toxins and affect metabolism, detoxification and hormone systems in a cumulative way. In some cases, the body will do it’s best to minimise this toxin release by preventing a person from burning fat. Cue – difficulty losing weight.

Hormone Detox Pathways

Nutritional Deficiencies

Certain nutrients and vitamins are critical for the production and regulation of hormones. Hormones are predominantly made from cholesterol (steroid hormones); amino acids and proteins (peptide hormones) and fatty acids (eicosanoid hormones). Then there are the micronutrients which are also critical for the production of hormones. Take iodine for example. The body cannot make thyroid hormone, T4 with an absence of iodine or tyrosine. In order to make the active thryoid hormone T3, the body needs zinc, selenium, iron, b6, b1, b2 and others. Vitamin B6, B3, chromium and magnesium are important in the regulation of insulin the hormone which manages our blood sugar levels and body weight. Vitamin B6 , zinc and magnesium are also involved in the regulation of oestrogen and progesterone. In other words we need optimal nutrient levels for optimal hormone and body function!

Just getting your RDA or recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals isn’t enough. Nutrient deficiencies can occur due to insufficient intake in the diet, poor absorption or uptake from the diet, loss in body fluids such as blood, sweat and faeces and urine, and also with increased demand such as following trauma, illness or infection. The body will give you a sign when it is lacking certain nutrients. Signs can take a while to show up though and most people don’t know what to look for. Your wholistic health practitioner is trained to identify and monitor nutrient deficiencies and help you to correct this through food, functional foods and sometimes nutritional supplements. Food first where possible!

hormone helpers

Having hormones out of balance or “out of whack” will cause different issues in different people. Some will suffer fatigue, weight gain and hair loss, while others will be moody and get monthly thrush and migraines. There is no cookie cutter approach when it comes to identifying hormonal issues. Your hormone picture and how you experience life is going to be completely different to another person your age, gender and ethnicity.

Find your balance

There are certainly patterns that run in families, and this can be a good place to look for clues on where to start work. Dig deep into your health history looking with “new” eyes on the subject. Has there been prolonged exposure to toxins, either with yourself or through your parents before you were born? Do some research on endocrine disrupting chemicals to see where you can reduce the things that could be impacting your hormone system. Consider past health issues or medications which could have disturbed your hormone system eg severe stress, prolonged illness, medications like the oral contraceptive pill, hormone blockers, IVF medications or chemotherapy. Having a good understanding of your past health can provide a better action plan for your future health and hormone balance.

Restoring communication within the hormone messenger system can be complex, but a rewarding process. Once the layers are uncovered, systems cleaned, pathways cleared, and nutrients restored the body can return to a state of balance. The lines of communication will be open again, the zing will return to your step and you can trust your body to do what it’s supposed to do.

To learn more about how I can help you, book in for your complimentary discovery call.  Book Now.

If you would like some help to create a clear picture with all the pieces of the hormone puzzle you can book your naturopathic consultation here.

anxiety and exercise

What causes bloating

Do you ever feel like you want to switch into stretchy pants after a meal because you bloat after eating? Digestive bloating may be caused by the build up of gases in your middle or lower gut, by overeating or due to food intolerance. This kind of bloating has you feeling like there is a pressure from the inside pushing your abdomen out, and is usually worse within one or two hours of eating. Some people describe feeling and looking like they are pregnant due to the distension of their stomach. The discomfort of bloating is most commonly a result of nerves in the gut wall being triggered by over stretching. The good news is that this kind of bloating can often be taken care of naturally. 

Bloating…when you feel like you are growing a food baby.

How to prevent bloating

  1. Eat less. The empty stomach is typically the size of one of your closed fists. Overeating and eating foods that are slow or difficult to digest, can mean your gut becomes stretched beyond its natural preference. The slowest and more difficult foods to digest, generally speaking, are those highest in protein and fat. If bloating is a problem for you, consider eating your proteins and fats in smaller portions, rather than as a large meal late in the day. 
  2. Avoid drinking too much liquid with meals. In order to digest food adequately, we need a low pH or very acidic environment in the stomach. This high acid is needed to break down foods efficiently so they can make their way through the digestive tract. If you are drinking large amounts of water or liquids just before or during your meal this can slow things down. Not only will the liquids cause the gut to stretch, but they may also overly dilute your digestive acids, rendering them ineffective. Aim to fill your daily water quota between meals or on an empty stomach, and only sip small amounts for water during meals. 
  3. Encourage the digestion to switch on  when its time for a meal. Hurry and worry are the enemies of digestion. If you are in flight or fight mode – aka, hurrying around completing chores while you eat, this is asking for trouble. The brain needs to signal the digestive tract to produce the enzymes, digestive juices and muscle actions required to break down your food and move it efficiently through the gut. If your brain is distracted by chores, your work to do list, phone calls or traffic, chances are it is distracted away from the food that is about to enter your mouth and stomach.  Try to prepare your meal mindfully, sit down away from your work desk and concentrate on chewing your food well and slowing down while you eat. 
  4. Avoid foods you are intolerant to eg. lactose or fructose. Some people have difficulty digesting and absorbing simple sugars due to inflammation, infection, or damage to the small intestine. Excess sugars remaining in the gut may be fermented by bacteria into gases which can cause symptoms of bloating and other issues contributing to diarrhoea or constipation. If you suspect food intolerance it is not always helpful or wise to eliminate entire food groups for extended periods of time. However in the case of a true allergy such as coeliac disease life long avoidance of gluten is necessary. 

Home remedies that will help reduce bloating

Fennel seeds ease bloating.

Do you find it awkward when you have to loosen your belt buckle or escape the office after a meal to let out some gas? Sometimes, but not always, bloating comes with flatulence or belching. This can lead to a level of anxiety as you find yourself planning your day around avoiding embarrassment.  There are those unique humans who pride themselves on the volume and impact of their eructations. They know who they are. It seems they fall into one of two categories – the silent and violent or loud and proud. Either way, it’s uncomfortable for someone. To avoid categorisation into either of these somewhat unpleasant situations, there are a few effective solutions herbalists and naturopaths have been employing for centuries with great success.  

  1. Fennel  – Foeniculum vulgare is a vegetable underestimated for it’s medicinal properties. The bulb and its leafy top are useful in preventing constipation and the bloating that comes with it. The seeds made into a tea or taken as a tincture, can help relieve the abdominal discomfort, cramping and flatulence associated with bloating. Use the whole fennel bulb and leaf raw in salads or roasted. Sprinkle the seeds into salads, or in casseroles and stews.
  2. Cinnamon  – Cinnamon verum or true cinnamon is known to soothe spasms in the gut and assist digestion among many other medicinal uses. Cinnamon can help reduce nausea and diarrhoea, making it useful when lactose has been accidentally consumed by someone who is lactose intolerant. Making a tea with cinnamon, or incorporating it into smoothies, yoghurt or curries, can help soothe digestion and help your body tolerate sugars better. 
  3. Peppermint – Mentha piperita is often underestimated for its digestive properites. Helping to relieve colic, flatulence and stomach discomfort, peppermint is easy to apply. Take as a strong tea after meals, or massage the diluted essential oil onto the abdomen to relieve irritable bowel symptoms and bloating. 
  4. Ginger – Zingiberis officinalis not only relieves nausea, but also aids digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties. Combine freshly grated ginger in with your peppermint tea, or incorporate into stir fry, curries, and marinades. 
  5. Chen Pi – Citrus reticulata is known more commonly as tangerine. The dried aged peel is traditionally used in Chinese cooking and in medicine. It is valuable as a soothing digestive and useful for intestinal colic, bloating and flatulence. Without a doubt, this is one of my favourite herbs to use in customized formulas where the patient has a weak digestion and suffers with abdominal discomfort from bloating. You can sun dry tangerine peel during the fruiting season, and store in air tight containers to be used in stews, soups, broths or as a tea to boost digestion. Chen Pi is also traditionally used for lingering cough after cold or flu.

Get to the bottom of the bloat

Discussing your dietary intake, symptoms and health history can help your practitioner determine if testing or referral is necessary to determine the underlying cause for your bloating or intolerance. If the above remedies are giving you some relief, but the symptoms keep coming back after meals, this means there is a persistent issue or imbalance that needs to be identified and addressed. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to know what to eat without worrying that your stomach was going to grow or ache every single time? 

Get some professional advice and investigate the causes, so you can work to clear the issue which could be also causing nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, brain fog, mood swings, anxiety and other health issues. 

If bloating is an ongoing problem and you are waking up bloated most days, this could be a sign of more serious health issues. Abdominal discomfort and distention that is constant or painful should be investigated without delay. 

With the recent increase in flu/influenza presentations in the Northern Territory, there is a lot we can do at home to reduce our chances of both catching and spreading the illness. While the flu vaccine may offer some level of protection, we can still take a proactive stance. Natural medicines, used correctly, are considered a safe way to improve your immune system’s defenses to put up a good fight. Prevention is always better than cure, but if you are unlucky enough to succumb to the virus, mother nature has some great remedies to help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Here are 5 natural flu fighters with both the evidence of centuries of traditional use and scientific research to back them up.

gingerGinger

Ginger, Zingiberis officinalis, is a root with a long history of medicinal use. Traditionally it has been used in the treatment of nausea, pain, fever and as an anti-inflammatory. New research is supporting these uses and also the antiviral actions of fresh ginger against some strains of influenza. As always, more research is needed, but in the meantime, this is an easy natural remedy to add into your prevention and treatment regime.

A great way to include ginger in your day is by grating some fresh organic ginger into your water bottle or herbal tea and sipping on this throughout the day. Start adding a thumb size piece of fresh ginger into your morning juice extract or green smoothie. You could also crush or grate ginger into stir fry dishes and use it in marinade sauces or with poached fish. The research suggests the antiviral properties are more potent in fresh ginger, so if your aim is flu fighting, eat it raw. 

If you are taking any blood thinning medications or about to have surgery, discuss this with your practitioner before adding large amounts of ginger to your diet.

Garlichomegrown garlic

Garlic, or Allium sativum, is well known for it’s natural antibiotic properties, but is it anti-viral? This study suggests that garlic has some promising activity against the H1N1 strain of influenza. Furthermore, garlic may be beneficial against opportunistic bacterial infections that can become an issue when the immune system is weakened by viral infections. Our understanding of garlic is that many of its antibiotic and antiviral properties are due to allicin. Allicin is destroyed by cooking garlic. To be sure you are getting the best out of your garlic dosing, eat it both raw and cooked. When eating raw, crush the garlic and put in your salad dressing, on steamed vegetables with olive oil, or blend raw into some pesto, guacamole or hommus. If making an immune boosting chicken soup, cook some garlic into the soup as well as topping it with some freshly crushed raw garlic and chopped parsley just prior to serving.

Echinaceaechinacea

Echinacea is now widely recognised as an immune boosting herb. Alkylamides are the clinically proven active constituents of Echinacea and the markers of the extract’s quality. It is the alkylamides which are associated with antiviral activity against influenza and herpes viruses in studies. It is critical therefore that the Echinacea supplement not only contains alkylamides but also that they are able to be utilised by the body before they are broken down by the liver.  Research has confirmed that a unique combination of alkylamides from various species of Echinacea are the most bio-active and effective as immune boosting agents. If taking Echinacea in liquid form, you can recognise alkylamides by the tingling effect it leaves on your tongue. Echinacea dosing appears to be more effective as a preventative therapy, and taken at first signs of immune challenge. Once a flu has set it in, the value of Echinacea appears to diminish and other remedies may be more appropriate. Try adding some echinacea tea or extract to your morning green juice blend. 

Medicinal Mushroomsmedicinal mushrooms

Maitake, Reishi, and Shiitake care just a few of the many medicinal mushrooms. This particular combination helps the immune system produce compounds in the body which are shown to inhibit viral growth in laboratory studies.  You can include fresh shiitake and maitake mushrooms purchased at the grocery store or markets into stir fry, soups and stews to help support your immune system prevent and fight off the flu. There are many other benefits associated with medicinal mushrooms such as reducing allergies, cardiovascular risk, improving energy and adrenal function and also there is emerging research on the cancer fighting properties of mushrooms. At any sign of illness or to assist with recovery, a quality medicinal mushroom formula may be appropriate to reduce the impact of viral illness and support the body in its recovery process.

Foods high in Zinc and Vitamin Cvitamin c

Both Zinc and Vitamin C have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds and flu. They may also play a role in prevention, by enhancing immune surveillance. Flu season is a good time to pay more attention to your zinc and vitamin C intake through the diet. Additionally, if you are under a lot of stress, have a known zinc deficiency, are pregnant, breastfeeding or recovering from injury, burns or surgery, your requirements for zinc and vitamin C may be higher that what can be consumed through diet alone. These are times when a carefully selected supplement may be appropriate. To increase your intake of zinc through the diet, enjoy oysters, lean meat, shellfish, hemp seeds, flax seeds, pepitas, sesame seeds, whole grains and legumes. Vitamin C can be found in most fresh fruits and vegetables, but is destroyed by cooking and deteriorates after harvest. The best sources of vitamin c are freshly picked and raw guava, capsicum, kiwi fruit, strawberries and citrus fruits. If you are strictly avoiding sugars, broccoli, kale, snow peas and tomato are also great sources of Vitamin C.

Nature’s healers

herbal medicine, naturopath, mediherb
Medi Herb Medical Herbalist Liquid Herbal Dispensary

While there is a lot you can do at home to help prevent and beat illness, there are many traditional herbal medicines, that can offer an extra level of prevention or treatment when needed. These are herbs which I frequently use in my clinic and with my family, to support a speedier recovery from colds and flu. Plants such as St John’s Wort, Elder berries and Thuja may offer support against lingering or recurring viral infections, while myrrh, thyme and golden seal can act as natural antibiotics for mild bacterial infections.  Nature also provides remedies for symptom relief such as marshmallow or wild cherry for a cough and yarrow or peppermint for fevers. A practitioner trained in herbal medicine is the best person to prescribe the appropriate and specific combinations for your unique needs.

Once you know what works for you, it’s easier to take control of your health and reduce the number of days off sick and missing out on life. Get in touch if you are in need of some tailored advice for yourself or your family to help keep colds or flu at bay with natural and complementary medicines.

 

Cautionary note:

Carers of infants or small children; the elderly, frail or those with compromised immunity should seek the advice of their GP before self-prescribing any natural remedies.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27055821

Prevention and Treatment of Influenza, Influenza-Like Illness, and Common Cold by Herbal, Complementary, and Natural Therapies.

Pharmacognosy Res. 2016 Apr-Jun;8(2):105-11. doi: 10.4103/0974-8490.172562.Assessment of Anti-Influenza Activity and Hem-agglutination Inhibition of Plumbago indica and Allium sativum Extracts.

Chavan RD1, Shinde P2, Girkar K3, Madage R4, Chowdhary A1.

 

The most common complaints I hear from my thyroid patients are that they experience out of the ordinary fatigue and unexplained weight gain. One 28 year old woman came to my office completely baffled.  She had been training at the gym four days per week and playing sport on weekends for many years. She was fairly strict with a low carb diet, rarely ate out and did not smoke or drink. She was doing all the “right” things to stay healthy, but her weight had gone up 12 kilograms in 3 months and she was really having to force herself to get out to exercise.  This young lady had been to her doctor several times over the past couple of weeks to have a health check.  She’d had “all the blood tests”, but they couldn’t find anything wrong or any reason why she was gaining weight and feeling so tired. The advice she and many women are given before they appear in my clinic,  is that their thyroid’s are fine and they should just eat less and exercise more. It makes you want to scream doesn’t it!

If this sounds familiar, you know you are not alone. Millions of women in particular, are given similar advice when they present to doctors offices around the world with fatigue and unexplained weight gain. They walk away feeling depressed, frustrated and at a loss about what to do next. Often they also experience a range of other symptoms like heavy periods, anxiety, hair loss and brain fog, but it is the fatigue and weight gain that seem to stand out most. These are all signs pointing to an under active thyroid gland, but standard blood tests are not showing this to be the case. A great deal of information is being missed or overlooked!

“The standard treatment for underactive thyroid is thyroid hormone replacement therapy with levothyroxine. However, a substantial proportion of patients who reach biochemical treatment targets have persistent complaints.” The Lancet, Hypothyroidism, March 2017.

Common symptoms of an underactive thyroid – Hypothyroidism

There are many symptoms associated with having an under active thyroid and therefore low circulating thyroid hormone. These may include, but are not limited to:Underactive thyroid and overactive thyroid

  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight Gain
  • Hair loss
  • Brain fog
  • Intolerance to the cold
  • Poor fertility
  • Sore throat or hoarse voice
  • Swelling around the front of the neck
  • PMS
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Irregular or heavy periods
  • Dry skin
  • High cholesterol

Why does an underactive thyroid cause fatigue and weight gain?

The human body, and in fact all mammals, need thyroid hormones to create energy in each and every cell of the body. When you eat food, thyroid hormones are involved in alterations to metabolism and the generation of heat in the process of turning food into fuel for energy to run your brain, muscles and all the functions of your body. If there is not enough thyroid hormone circulating or being able to reach the energy substations inside every cell of your body, energy cannot be manufactured. If there is not energy being generated, not only do you feel tired, but organs and tissues become weakened as the body slows down metabolic process to preserve resources.

Even with a minimal calorie intake, a lack of access to thyroid hormones, will cause the body to become very efficient at reserving and storing anything going in to be used for critical maintenance only. This means your body goes into a lowered metabolic state, to prevent using up all its resources because it cannot convert the food energy into the energy the body needs just for the basics of life. The less and less hormone is circulating, the more dangerous this becomes. The body goes into survive and protect mode, storing any energy coming in as fat to insulate and act as a fuel reserve.

Low cellular thyroid hormone = Low power modeLow energy thyroid

Without enough circulating thyroid hormone, your body will put itself into what you might like to compare to low battery mode. When your phone or laptop battery is in low power state, usually there are functions that are not accessible until the battery is fully recharged. ie. functions are limited to only what is needed to keep the phone working for as long as possible. It is a similar story with your body. But why does this happen?

The main function of the thyroid gland is to make thyroid hormone. It is stimulated to do this by a chemical messenger from the pituitary gland in the brain, called TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone. When the TSH attaches to receptors on the thyroid gland, this should switch on production of thyroid hormones T4 and to a lesser extent T4, using enzymes and nutrients in the thyroid cells. All going to plan, the thyroid hormones are transported in the circulation to liver, kidneys, muscle, heart and brain where they are converted into their active forms and then put to use for energy production, metabolism and organ and tissue function. If there is a disturbance in this chain of events for any reason, the cell energy substations will not receive adequate T3 to make energy, keep your metabolism going or maintain your body properly.

Reasons your blood tests might show your thyroid is normal, when you’re sure it’s not

The standard screening blood test to determine whether your thyroid is healthy or not is a measurement of TSH circulating in your blood stream. As you now know, TSH is produced by the pituitary in the brain and sends a message to the thyroid gland to make more thyroid hormone. When circulating TSH is low, it means your brain thinks your body has enough thyroid hormone to function adequately. When TSH is high, it means your brain is sending signals to the thyroid to make more hormone because it thinks your body needs more. Most of this conversation happens between the brain and the thyroid gland, so a measurement in the blood stream does not give a good description about what is happening at the cellular level in your muscles, gonads and heart etc. This means that your TSH level could come back within the normal reference range, but strange things could be starting to happen at tissue level, that aren’t yet registering with your TSH.  Ideally to see a bit better what is happening at the tissue level, you would need a reading of levels of the thyroid hormones T4 and T3. Unfortunately, these hormones are not tested as part of the screening process.

When the immune system gets involved

In addition to thyroid hormones, one needs to also consider why the thyroid gland might have trouble making thyroid hormone. Approximately 90 % of adult hypothyroidism is autoimmune. Autoimmune thyroid problems can create either an over active, Grave’s Disease, or underactive, Hashimoto’s Disease, thyroid problem. In Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease, the thyroid gland is under attack by the immune system, which then alters its capacity to generate thyroid hormone. Briefly, with Grave’s disease the thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone, speeding up the metabolism, and in Hashimoto’s the thyroid cannot make enough thyroid hormone, slowing down the metabolism.  Immune system messengers known as antibodies, which may attack the thyroid, are not routinely measured when screening for thyroid problems. However, an immune system invasion of the thyroid gland can occur long before thyroid hormone abnormalities become apparent.

What to do if you suspect a thyroid problem

The biggest problem is that you can be experiencing all the signs and symptoms of an under active thyroid, but just like my 28 year old patient, you too may be told to just eat less, exercise more and get more rest because your TSH looks normal. This is unacceptable. If you have a strong suspicion that your thyroid or thyroid hormones are not working as they should, at the very least you want to investigate the full thyroid picture.  A complete thyroid panel including T3, T4, rT3 (which I will talk about in another post) and thyroid antibodies are essential to a get a good understanding of what is truly happening.

If all a full thyroid panel comes back with everything withing optimal ranges, then it is time to look elsewhere for underlying causes of fatigue and weight gain. But, in my opinion, a thyroid problem cannot be ruled out completely until this is done. This is something I am particularly passionate about, and over the past 14 years have helped hundreds of women with thyroid problems put an end to the frustrations, dieting and closed doors, helping them get their lives and health back on track. If you think you have signs and symptoms of thyroid problem, get in touch for professional integrative care from someone who know’s what it’s like.

thyroid help
Integrative Naturopathic Health Care