Sometimes, things just don’t go to plan and it always seems to be at the most inconvenient time.  None of us are immune to change, but it is inevitable. Some would even say that change is the one certainty in life. When it comes to your health and changes that occur it’s important to reflect on what you CAN do to direct the outcome and your experience of it.

Every day, I help people with changes to their health and fitness that are no longer acceptable to them. These are just a few of the things I hear in my clinic when someone first comes to see me.

  • “I don’t know how I got to this state, and I don’t know how to fix it.”
  • “I do all the right things, eat well, don’t drink, and yet I have this {health} problem.”
  • “Why me?”
  • “I know why I am this way, I don’t know why I didn’t take action sooner.”
  • “This thing happened to me, and it’s changed everything, I just want to go back to the way things were.”

At the point where you realise that you are no longer content with the way things are, it’s time to start to question what can be done. For some people this takes a matter of minutes, for others months or even years. There is no right or wrong.

Pro-Active Versus Re-Active

At any point in time, you can choose to be pro-active or re-active. If you choose to be re-active, consciously or not, you might find yourself, worried, anxious, frightened, fearful, teary, depressed or angry. Re-active choices mean that on some level you blame circumstances, people and just the general tides of life for the outcomes you experience. As though, someone else is “calling the shots.”

For many, being pro-active takes more effort and practice than being re-active. But, everyone has the ability to strengthen this skill. Being pro-active means consciously choosing to change the things you can, ahead of time, towards the outcome you’d prefer. Some examples of being proactive would be:

  • Stretching and warming up before exercise and after, to prevent injuries and enhance the experience.
  • Scheduling time for self-care to avoid missing out or burning out.
  • Talking to your boss about some of the things that aren’t working for you in the office, and presenting some possible solutions.
  • Choosing to eat some eggs and veges for breakfast or a green smoothie, rather than a bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes every day.

It’s important to find the balance between planning ahead, being proactive and allowing for a little bit of adventure and dynamism. We don’t get to choose or control all the outcomes, but we can definitely have a say! You have permission to live your best life, and do what it takes to reach for your goals. If you need a little help, please reach out.

“The moment you accept responsibility for everything in your life, is the moment you gain the power to change anything in your life.”

Hal Elrod

https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2/

An underactive thyroid can make you feel tired, gain weight, have brain fog, hair loss, low mood and other hormonal issues. In fact, the symptoms can be so wide and varied, sometimes it’s tricky to know if it’s a thyroid gland problem or just a random collection of annoyances. So, what on earth does it mean when you’re told, “your thyroid is “borderline”, but we’ll keep an eye on it.”?

Gosh it’s frustrating to hear this when you’ve gone to the doctor because you don’t feel quite yourself. You know something isn’t right, but all the tests are “normal”.  You might start to wonder if it’s all “just in your head”. I know I did.

What do you do with this lack of information and support? Do you just, wait and see what happens? Do you google for help? What will you search for on the internet? If you walk into the health food store looking for a way to help yourself, how do you decide where to start? Those walls of vitamins can be overwhelming when you don’t have a nutrition or herbal medicine degree.

Having an underactive thyroid can be overwhelming when it feels like your health is on a downward spiral of fatigue, hair loss, brain fog and weight gain with no easy way out. But, if you understand what your body is trying to tell you, which questions to ask, and where to get support, you can claim back your energy and confidence.

First of all you need to understand what the thyroid gland does and how it fits in with the rest of your hormone systems.

The basics of thyroid gland function and testing

In a nutshell, a general screening check up on the thyroid gland usually measures just one thing, TSH. If a significantly abnormal TSH is detected, then free T4 might be measured as well.

If TSH and T4 fall within the statistically generated reference range, then there are often no suggestions given for treatment or medication even if you don’t feel right.

When TSH is too high – it means the thyroid is slow.

If TSH is too low- it means the thyroid is running too fast.

But, what if it’s “borderline”?

The diagram below provides a helpful summary of the possibilities that need to be considered.

There is much more to the story than just little old TSH and T4. There are other checks and measures that can be taken to define what is happening in the body and define a more wholistic or comprehensive treatment plan.

The first step involves teaming up with a practitioner well versed in thyroid hormones and wholistic, functional medicine. I happen to be a little bit passionate about this, because I’ve been down this road myself.

Next, it’s important to investigate and uncover the drivers or root causes of the imbalances.

With this information at hand, an individually tailored treatment plan can be created to remove obstacles to healing, nourish the body correctly and boost it in the direction of optimal hormone balance. The end goal….to enjoy a healthy active life again.

If you’d like some assistance to understand your thyroid and hormonal system better, reach out. You can book an FREE discovery call to see if we’re a good fit to work together, or book a New Patient appointment to get started right away. https://thebarefootnaturopath.com.au/book-now/

Being female and getting to your mid to late forties means you may be starting to wonder what menopause is going to be like for you. Will you suffer with the dreaded hot flushes, mood swings and weight gain or will you cruise through change of life gracefully? The answer to this question will be different for each woman. Genetics, stress levels, medical conditions, surgeries, toxic exposures and other hormonal issues throughout the fertile years could have an impact. The important thing to remember is that menopause will be much easier if you take care of your body and adrenal glands in particular, during your thirties and forties.

Menopause….handling the heat
What does Menopause Mean?

Menopause is a time of hormonal transition, as the ovaries gradually stop functioning and cyclically producing reproductive or sex hormones. Peri-menopause signifies the start of this transition phase, and can last several years prior to actual menopause. 

Signs you could be going through perimenopause include:

  • Highly variable hormone fluctuations
  • Cycles becoming, shorter, longer or totally irregular
  • Bleeding becoming lighter, unpredictable or heavy. 

Menopause is defined once a woman has ceased having a period for at least 12 months. Most women will reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 and still have over a third of their lives to live beyond that, so it’s important to manage this transition in the least stressful way possible. The impact of menopause symptoms on a woman’s quality of life can vary greatly and may include:

  • Hot flushes & night sweats
  • Bloating and or weight gain
  • Crawling and itchy skin
  • Headaches or migraines 
  • Sore breasts
  • Fatigue
  • Urinary problems
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings/anxiety/depression
  • Low libido
  • Brain fog or memory problems
The Far-Reaching Impacts of Menopause

Aside from these symptoms once a woman has been through menopause, she is more susceptible to stress on other organs and systems including the heart, bones, thyroid, and nervous system. Once menopause occurs and the ovaries have ceased function, the female body now relies on the adrenal glands for the production of sex hormones to assist health, stamina and vitality throughout the rest of life. The adrenal glands are also responsible for stress hormone production which is why it’s so important to manage the stress response earlier in life, to make the transition into menopause smoother. 

What must be remembered is that menopause is a normal process of life. This transition is part of natural ageing and as with most health conditions, prevention is better than cure. To help make the transition through menopause smoother, put practices into place early in life to ensure optimal hormonal, nervous system and cardiovascular health. 

Natural Menopause Treatment

The key goal for any treatment for menopause should be to improve or relieve symptoms, enhance life experiences and promote healthy ageing and longevity.

If you are experiencing peri-menopause, or mild to moderate symptoms of menopause, the good news is, most of the time synthetic hormone replacement therapy is not necessary. There are herbal, nutritional and lifestyle supports that can help reduce unwanted symptoms. Pairing some useful natural therapies with the right diet and exercise is a great way to ease menopausal symptoms. 

Food as Medicine

There is some evidence for the benefits of phytoestrogens in the reduction of hot flashes. These are plant based “oestrogens” which occur naturally in soy, legumes, flaxseeds, red clover, alfalfa, maca and other foods.

On the flip side, there has also been some concern in the past questioning whether soy based supplements are a risk for people with breast cancer or a history of breast cancer. There is data that goes both ways. It seems we don’t have all the answers yet.

The rule of thumb guide here is, if you don’t have a personal or family history of breast cancer, but do have an increased risk of osteoperosis, and are suffering with hot flashes, phytoestrogen foods may be of benefit to you, taken in moderation.

If you have a low thyroid function or hypothyroidism, high amounts of soy based foods are discouraged as they can in theory slow thyroid hormone production. You may instead benefit from whole soy foods in fermented form such as tempeh, miso, tofu. Combine them with a plant source of iodine such as kombu, kelp, dulse or wakame to reduce the the impact on thyroid function. Dr Mark Hyman has written a great summary on the safe use of soy in the diet.

Other dietary recommendations for hot flash prevention include following the Mediterranean diet and avoiding chilli, wine, sugar and processed foods.

Herbal Helpers for Menopause

Wild Yam can relieve menopausal symptoms when taken orally. Women report feeling less agitated, reduced hot flashes intensity and reduced aches and pains when taking wild yam. The benefits from topical wild yam creams are questionable, but some women still swear by it. Wild yam may assist with hormone balance, inflammation, and abdominal spasms or cramping.

Chaste Tree also known as Vitex, can support progesterone balance indirectly. Progesterone and estrogen both decline during perimenopause and menopause. Chaste Tree extract can be particularly useful when there are breast pain, heavy period bleeds, insomnia and PMS like symptoms present.

Rehmannia is traditionally a cooling herb. This herb proves helpful when hot flashes persist day and night, alongside constipation, a history of heavy bleeding and joint aches and pains.

Sage is a plant you may be familiar with from your herb garden. This little beauty is great for putting a stop to excessive sweating. It can be taken as a tea or used in herbal preparations from your naturopath/herbalist.

Other natural therapies that may be of benefit during menopause include hypnotherapy ( up to 50% reduction rate in hot flashes); aromatherapy, acupuncture, reflexology.

While there is no one size fits all approach, it is likely that an integrative approach will be the most valuable for a smooth transition through peri-menopause and menopause. A collaborative relationship with your doctor and a qualified Naturopath is a great place to start and ensure you have the right mix of therapies for you now and to reduce other menopause associated health risks in the future.

The immune system is your defence force against foreign invaders to the body. It is designed to detect and destroy potential threats to the body before they create too much damage. An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system becomes confused and redirects its hostile attack towards your own body cells, resulting in tissue and organ destruction.

 

There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disease. While the causes for many autoimmune diseases are not well defined, modern theories suggest that a genetic predisposition along with an environmental trigger result in the immune pathways that lead to tissue destruction.

 

The complexity of potential causes, widespread inflammation and therefore diagnosis of autoimmune disease creates a sometimes overwhelming challenge for efficient treatment or cure. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for autoimmune disease.  To try and relieve symptoms alone, with anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive drugs, can only lead to the generation of a new set of health issues in the future. The personal experience of an autoimmune disease can impact the entire body and it’s capacity to function.  A wholistic approach is required to meet the challenges of autoimmune disease head on and functional medicine can provide this.

What is Naturopathic Medicine

Functional medicine has become a somewhat new phrase that describes how holistic medicine practitioners such as naturopaths and herbalists have been practising for centuries. Rather than focus on the name or official diagnosis of the disease or which body system it belongs to, wholistic practitioners take a more global approach. To define the root causes of the disease process a persons’ genetic predisposition, constitution, environment, diet, life experiences, toxic exposures both physical and emotional are considered. The complex web of drivers that lead to whole body imbalance showing up as a particular disease process become the foundations for the treatment process.

Autoimmune Profile Diagram
Autoimmune Disease Profiling Tool
There are some key areas of health and potential triggers that must be addressed in order to manage or restore a healthy immune response:

 

  1. Check for stealth infections like yeast, viruses, bacteria, or parasites.
  2. Investigate gut health, microbiome diversity, digestion and food intolerances or allergies.
  3. Detect or define any potential toxic burdens such as heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals, solvents, inhalants, drugs or radiation which have been associated with increased autoimmune disease prevalence, disturbed gut barrier function or nutritional deficiencies.
  4. Stress, both physical and emotional can be a trigger or driver for chronic inflammation and poor immune regulation.
  5. A collaborative approach between therapists, practitioners, doctors, specialists, family and other support networks.

A functional health approach seeks to ask why the inflammation is occurring in the first place and how that inflammation and immune system can be better regulated to resolve the destructive process of autoimmunity. Obstacles to health need to be identified and removed, while the body is stimulated towards it’s natural ability to heal. There are various nutrients foods, supplements and herbal medicines that may be beneficial to nourish and regulate immune system behaviour. Talk to a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner to find the wholistic approach that best suits you.

Your sense of wellbeing is determined by a complex web of experiences that influences how you feel each day. Working from home requires a recalibration of your thoughts and behaviours as the boundaries become blurred between work and play. Simply shifting the work environment and behaviours to the home without redefining the boundaries can result in reduced productivity, increased stress, exhaustion, mental health issues, insomnia, anxiety, relationship troubles, and negative changes to your health.

Working from home
Wellbeing at home

Many years ago I started a business from home. I thought this was going to be the best way to set my self up with plans to also start a family in years to come. It was so exciting to be a new “entrepreneur”, starting my own life, my own business, getting to be in charge of how and when I spent my time, making my own decisions. I was excited to be the “boss of me”. The dream was alive.

I got off to a great start. I worked day and night getting set up, fuelled by excitement for my future. Frustration would set in when my husband would get home from work and want to “hang out” for hours. Wasn’t dinner enough? To me, at the time, this was a distraction from my dream and my goals. I didn’t have time for that! I was a start-up! Multi-tasking was my M.O. Eating while sending e-mails or doing research and taking calls at all hours or weekends because I wanted to “be there” for my clients.

Soon enough the tell tale signs of  poor self-management, structure and routine started to show. Tasks that should have only taken an hour, could easily take up half a day, the hours worked didn’t equate to the funds in the bank, and my husband and I were barely communicating. I gained weight that was hard to shift, and eventually found myself struggling to get up in the morning. Partly from exhaustion and partly from a lack of motivation. The potential of my business had died right along with my dreams, and wellbeing.

Deflated, I went back to working for someone else, in a shop front and sucked on those sour lemons for a while. In time though, the lessons I had to experience in order to learn, became crystal clear. Since I figured out the success foundations for working form home, the idea of going back to a location specific life is no longer appealing.

Whether you work for an organisation or work for yourself, working from home can offer the benefits of flexibility, improved efficiency, tax benefits, reduced business overheads, better nutrition,  and a better work life balance. To achieve and sustain these things there are some important considerations to negotiate.

Here are four core foundations to set yourself up for a successful home-work life and long term wellbeing.

  1. Routine
  2. Boundaries
  3. Communication
  4. Remember Who You Are

Routine

Having a good routine means scheduling non-negotiable times for the important stuff.

Eat & Hydrate Well. Set a routine that works for you and your nutritional needs and stick to it. Set alarms if you need reminders through the day. Eg. On workdays,  take your meals at the same time each day. Allocate a specific time for your meals and snacks throughout the day, and give yourself time away from the desk or work space to eat mindfully and chew your food well. 

Plan your weeks worth of meals ahead, so that there are no excuses for poor eating behaviours or unhealthy snacking. This way you can have nutritious meals at your fingertips. To help you on your way, check out this healthy eating habits checklist from Louise Ellen Nutrition.

Stay Active. Schedule your exercise time for 30 minutes each day of your work week. Pick a time and stick to it. Put it in your diary, block out your appointment/meeting calendar for that time each day, turn off your phone or notifications for that time. Set an alarm to go off 10 minutes before the scheduled exercise time, to alert you to wrap up your task for that session.

Connect with People daily. When working from home, it’s easy to get caught up in your tasks and flow and forget to nurture human (or pet) connections, or become irritated by interruptions. Make it clear in your household or family, when you will start and finish work tasks, and when you will take breaks for conversations to be had. This can be a bit trickier with young kids and toddlers, but I find the more you create a routine around spending quality time with your kids, the better they understand the boundaries.

If you live alone, it’s important to schedule dates with friends, family, pets or colleagues each day. Whether by phone, video or face to face. It could be something like a morning walk together, a quick face-time chat at lunch time, or a phone check in while you make dinner.  Put it in your diary to do everyday until it becomes a habit!

Sleep. Set a wind-down alarm, about an hour before your planned bed time, so you can start turning off screens, dimming lights and start your sleep hygiene routine. Plan to rise at the same time each day, to help your body get into a good rythm. Getting regular, adequate sleep is essential to your health, well being and productivity.

Boundaries

Setting boundaries means deciding what works for you first.

What do you need in terms of time to complete a task, rest, play, sleep, connect with others etc?

Which parts of your day are sacred, and need to be uninterrupted?

Who are you willing to invest your time with and who do you need to say “No” to?

What fits in with your ideal work:life ratio and what does not?

How can you create rules and defined guidelines around what is best for you?

Make the boundaries clear to everyone in your household and virtual office/business space.

Some tips for Healthy Boundaries When Working from Home

  • No work related conversations can occur once you cross the bedroom door threshold.
  • The kitchen table is for eating and family or friendship communication. Not project management and packaging products.
  • Voicemail kicks in from 5pm as does your email responder so you can feel free of work outside of your business hours.
  • Bed time is 9:30pm during the week.
  • Have specific “work clothes” and home/fun clothes.
  • Keep your work zones and leisure zones seperate. Ie. Avoid working on couch in front of the TV.
  • Don’t take your laptop to bed with you.

Communication

This foundation is about telling others what you are thinking and planning, so they can support your plans. If you don’t let your family or household know that you have changed your schedule on a particular day and plan to work late, their could be issues with mismatched goals or intentions. If your partner is planning to cook you dinner on Monday night and you have planned to attend a webinar, their could be disappointment and frustration if you both only discover this at the last minute. Not great for mental health!

Remember who you are

Are you a person who thrives on strict routine and structure, or one of those people that prefers a more free floating, and at the same time productive go with the flow kind of day? Likely there are many personality traits and personal preferences that are not easy or sustainable to change. It’s important to know your strengths and work to them, rather than trying to enforce actions and behaviours that don’t suit you.

Do you enjoy technology, stationary and your work desk, or do you prefer nature time? If you don’t do well in confined spaces, is there potential for you to work outdoors? Maybe you could schedule daily nature time to bring the best of both worlds together.

Are you a foodie? Planning to eat a banana sandwich every day for convenience is soon going to do your head in! Working from home gives you the opportunity to set aside a time to meal plan, choose some new recipes to try and food prep. Think of all the time you save on commuting too and from work, and on grocery shopping when you can order online. You can use that saved time to meal prep and plan tasty and exciting meals and snacks for the week.

Maybe you thrive on sports and fitness? Great – plan for it. You can work around whatever you need! All you need to do is decide, schedule it, set boundaries and communicate your plans with those that matter or who are affected.

In other words, don’t force something that isn’t your style or M.O. Find your way to work within these four foundations, and you can enjoy success and wellbeing while working from home.

Maintaining a sense of wellbeing when working from home is a wholistic process. Remember to also include the ergonomics of your work space, ventilation, lighting, etc. Your achievement of a balanced life needs you to take the time to consider what makes you comfortable and happy in mind, body and soul and set your foundations around this.

The world is an uncertain place at the moment, and for many of us, this not only means a dramatic change to our normal routine, but also a realisation that there may be some things we were not prepared for.  Maybe you found yourself questioning how well prepared your body is to fight infection should it come your way. It is increasingly important to also remember that it is not just the immune system we should be worrying about, but also our response and resilience to long term stress. 

The “distress” created by recent events and the subsequent disruption it has caused should not be underestimated, nor brushed aside. In fact, stress has the capacity to unravel efficiency of your immune system defenses leaving you weakened in the face of viral and bacterial invasion. The secret to staying well is building a strong, healthy immune system AND keeping your stress response in check.

Your immune system is your “department of defense’. It protects you from potentially harmful invaders by recognizing and responding to them as a threat. In optimal condition, the immune system acts like a powerful, well-regulated army consisting of multiple specialised white blood cells. There are several naturally derived medicines and nutrients that can nourish and strengthen your immune system “army” to ensure they are in their best form possible if and when action is required.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C increases the activity of infection fighting white blood cells, and can inhibit viral growth to reduce the incidence of the common cold. Vitamin C has been shown to be most effective when given with other nutrients such as zinc. (1)

Vitamins A & D

Vitamin D enhances immune system surveillance and may reduce viral growth. It is beneficial in reducing upper respiratory tract infections and may be of particular supportive benefit for people with asthma. (2,3) 

Vitamin A is anti-inflammatory, enhances immune function and nourishes and supports the lining of the respiratory tract. 

Zinc

Zinc is crucial for the normal development and function of white blood cells (aka the immune army). It is also an important ingredient in the production of antibodies which help build immune memory to protect you against similar infections in the future. Inadequate levels of zinc  in the body can dramatically reduce your ability to fight bacteria and viruses. 

Zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds and sore throat. (4)

Japanese Mushrooms

Shitake, Reishi, Coriolus & Grifola have immune enhancing effects by stimulating the activity of protective white blood cells. These mushroom extracts can be used both to support the treatment of acute infections as well as be taken as a daily remedy for chronic immune weakness, to maintain good health. 

Andrographis paniculata

This herb has a long history of use for viral and bacterial infections. Andrographis is beneficial in treating cold symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, hoarseness, chill, headache and fever. 

Astragalus membranaceus

Astragalus has been used for centuries to support healthy immune function. It is effective for building immune resilience in people who have had chronic or long term infections. 

Echinacea spp. 

Echinacea species have been widely studied for their benefits in supporting the immune system and reducing the symptoms of cold and flu. Specific compounds (alkylamides) found in quality standardised echinacea extracts have been shown to enhance immune activity and suppress the inflammatory responses of lung and respiratory tract cells to viruses and bacteria. 

It is not enough to rely on just taking supplements to support your immune system and keep you healthy, fit and strong. When you are stressed, your ability to fight off infections is reduced. This is because hormones released in the body when you are stressed, can suppress your immune and diminish the activity of your white blood cells. 

Simple and effective ways to nourish your nervous system, manage your stress response and improve your immune system at the same time include:

  • Eat a diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid sugars, white flour (bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes etc.) and excess alcohol.
  • Schedule time each day for relaxation and leisure.
  • Exercise regularly. 
  • Increase water intake to 6-8 glasses per day. 
  • Get enough sleep : 7-8 hours per night.
  • Supplement your diet with recommended nutrients and herbs.

Prevention is better than cure

See your practitioner before you get sick, to help you find the best way to support your specific needs. If you have a chronic illness or medical condition, it’s important not to neglect the routines and treatments that help you manage your condition and prevent flare ups. Just because everyone is talking about the immune system right now, doesn’t mean that your other pre-existing health concerns are not important. In fact, if you have a long standing health concern, it is even more important to focus some attention to sorting this out, so you can keep yourself in the best condition possible throughout these uncertain times. 

(1)Vitamin C Is an Essential Factor on the Anti-viral Immune Responses through the Production of Interferon-α/β at the Initial Stage of Influenza A Virus (H3N2) Infection

(2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6121423/

(3)Vitamin D supplementation to prevent asthma exacerbations: a systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data.

(4)Does zinc improve symptoms of viral upper respiratory tract… : Evidence-Based Practice

(5)Applications of the Phytomedicine Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) in Infectious Diseases(6)Stress Weakens the Immune System

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.