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

 

 

What is anxiety?

Anxiety and worry go together like peas and carrots! An anxiety disorder is a medical condition defined by persistent and excessive worry. The feeling of dread and constant questioning of “what if something goes wrong”, can create so much distress preventing a person from carrying out day to day tasks. Experiences as seemingly innocuous as going to the grocery store or going for a walk, can become so uncomfortable that anxiety sufferers can  become diligent at avoiding such situations and miss out on life.  Anxiety is excessive worry about what may or may not happen in the future, whereas depression tends to be a persistently low mood relating events in the past and things that can not be controlled or changed. The two mental health conditions can occur together, or independent of each other.

Anxiety can show up in many forms and affects men, women and children every day. It can range from short-lived episodes of hesitancy to do something, to severe debilitating anxiety and panic attacks which may require hospitalisation and medication.

Any person can experience anxiety at some stage in their life. In fact experts suggest that some level of anxiety is important to keep us motivated. For example, if we didn’t worry about the bills that were due, we may not be inclined to attend work. However a person with an anxiety disorder may experience debilitating distress most of the time for no apparent reason. You could have anxiety if you can relate to feeling:

Other symptoms of anxiety disorders may include a pounding heart; difficulty breathing; upset stomach; muscle tension; sweating or choking; feeling faint or shaky, finger nail biting or picking.

Are anxiety and excitement the same?

The experience of excitement may seem quite similar to what has been described as mild anxiety. The jittery feelings, butterflies in your stomach and restless behaviour can all feel a bit like anxiety. The difference lies in the choices you make in the moment. Do you continue to wait in line for the new roller coaster ride and enjoy the anticipation and then the ride, or, do you make choices that stop you from really getting the most out of life.  For example, avoiding activities  like joining a gym, or accepting the opportunity to make new friends by going out to a party on your own can be early signs of anxiety.

However, if you are able to sit with the discomfort, separate your thoughts and feelings from who you are and still choose to participate, then this is probably quite a healthy response and just excitement.  The feeling of excitement is your body preparing you to try something new.  If, on the other hand, the feelings become intense and the thoughts progress into a viscous cycle of negativity which drives you to opt out of life, then it’s important to seek help from a qualified health professional such as your doctor, counsellor, psychologist.Anxiety

Are anxiety and depression related?

Depression is a mental health condition which affects how a person feels, thinks or acts. Depression, like anxiety, can vary from mild to severe. A person may feel sad or have low mood at times, but not have a mental health disorder. When mood is consistently low, and a person loses interest in activities they once enjoyed, loses their appetite, has an altered sleep pattern or feels constantly fatigued, these can be signs of a more serious condition. In severe cases, depression can cause a person to feel worthless, guilty and have thoughts of ending their life. If you or someone you know feels this way, or speaks of ending their life it is important to seek help sooner rather than later. In Australia, calling Lifeline on 13 11 44 is a great way to start.

As anxiety can cause constant worrying thoughts, feelings of dread, and concerns about the future, this often can lead to mental fatigue and depression. Living with anxiety can be exhausting and the risk of developing depression in addition to anxiety is high. People who are depressed can often feel anxious and worried and one can trigger the other.

What causes anxiety?

Many things can cause anxiety. One factor is a genetic link and family disposition to anxiety.  Genes associated with mood disorders are involved in making enzymes in the body which can alter the levels of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and hormones in the body. If these genes are switched on or triggered by certain events such as extreme stress, toxic exposure, major life events, food intolerances, or inflammation, they can begin to affect the balance of mood related chemicals in the body. One of the most well known of these chemicals is serotonin.

Serotonin is believed to influence mood, social behaviour, sense of well being, sleep, memory, sexual desire and function.  If serotonin levels drop, a person may experience anxiety or depression. It is estimated that 90-95% of serotonin is made in the gut, and influenced by the types of bacteria and micro-organisms present in the digestive tract. In fact, altered levels of serotonin have been linked to irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease and osteoporosis. Serotonin can also be found in blood platelets and throughout the central nervous system. In a nutshell, serotonin is a natural mood stabiliser. Studies on people with depression show that they have lower levels of serotonin compared to people not experiencing depression, and that this also occurs in people with anxiety and insomnia.

Gut feeling is the key…

You may have experienced anxiety as a “gut feeling”, a general uneasiness about a certain situation.  The interesting thing about gut feeling is that science has now started to qualify this sensation and describe it in relation to the gut-brain connection. With the understanding that a most of the serotonin in the body is made in the digestive tract, changes can be made to diet and lifestyle which will directly influence anxiety levels. The good news is that even if you have a genetic predisposition to anxiety, a lot can be done to alter how these genes are expressed and which hormones and neurotransmitters are influenced.

Treating anxiety and depression with medication alone would be missing the point. To truly reach the underlying causes of mental health disorders, it is important to optimise diet, lifestyle, environmental and spiritual health at the same time. You must become a detective, trust your intuition, explore all the different areas of your life, and seek help to correct the underlying imbalances that are causing you to feel anxious or depressed. Taking control of your future choices means you can shift the mental energy from worrying what might happen, to creating positive outcomes and visioning a healthier happier future. 

How to reduce anxiety naturally.

  • Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages as caffeine is a known trigger for anxiety. Caffeine has a stimulating action on both the gut and nervous system. If you have anxiety you need a calming action like chamomile or passionflower tea for example. 
  • Aim to achieve a minimum of 7 and a maximum of 9 hours of sleep per night. This is the magic range for optimal health and well-being.
  • Turn off wi-fi, mobile phones, and electronic screens, including the TV for at least one hour before going to bed.  Limit your screen time during the day where possible.
  • Address any food intolerance or digestive disturbances. It is critical to have good digestive health to absorb the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are involved in the manufacture of serotonin and other critical compounds in the body. It is also crucial to ensure there is a healthy diversity of micro-organisms that can live and populate the digestive tract and drive the production of serotonin.
  • Eat a rainbow every day. That is, include a variety of living, whole, unprocessed foods in your diet to make sure you are getting the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are required to keep your nervous system healthy. To help work out what foods are right for you talk to your naturopath, nutritionist or dietician, who are trained to modify diets for individual needs.
  • Enjoy quality time with friends and family without devices on and the TV going.
  • Walk barefoot on the grass – earth yourselfbarefoot, earthing, anxiety
  • Treat yourself to fresh air and sunlight every day. Vitamin D is deficiency is know to contribute to anxiety and depression. Skin exposure to the sun is a great source of Vitamin D. Enjoy 10-15 minutes of sun exposure to the largest and whitest areas of your skin during the least UV intense times of day. eg. early morning or late afternoon.
  • Avoid feeding the mind with traumatic or negative inputs such as watching the news, viewing crime or destructive and violent fantasy shows on TV or listening to death metal music.
  • Avoid spending time with toxic people. The type that have something negative to respond to everything you say, or drag you down.
  • Choose to surround yourself with people who are positive, uplifting and supportive of you.
  • Practice mindfulness, you can see a practitioner trained in mindfulness training for support, or get started with some home practice here. 
  • There are an abundance of herbal and natural medicines with evidence for being helpful in treating mild to moderate anxiety and depression. See a qualified naturopath
  • Exercise daily, even if it’s just a short walk during your lunch break.
  • Practise deep abdominal breathing in and out through the nose, whenever you can.

Sometimes healing the mind will heal the gut and vice versa.  Eat nutrient dense foods, whole foods as nature intended, and manage your stress, and you will be surprised at just how far those two little things can take you. To help you put all the pieces together, and get the best treatment plan for your needs, get in touch.

A “normal period” is something that many women have become confused about.  A healthy woman’s cycle should occur at regular 28-35 day intervals and should come and go predictably with little or no discomfort or distress. It seems that period pain and PMS have come to be considered “normal” simply because these symptoms are so common. However, these symptoms are signs that the body is not in balance. Pain, PMS, irregular periods, painful sex and heavy bleeding are all good reasons to ask the question, “What is out of balance in my body”? If the symptoms are severe, investigation with your health practitioner is recommended sooner rather than later, especially if you’d like to have children someday. 

What I tell my patients is that the period is their monthly report card.  How a woman feels in the lead up to their period and during the period can be a good indicator of what is going on in the body. The nature of the period bleed itself can give clues about potential nutrient imbalances, inflammation, hormone imbalances, detoxification pathways and stress on the body. Many of the symptoms of period pain and hormone related reproductive dysfunctions such as endometriosis and poly cystic ovaries (PCO) are thought to be related to an imbalance between the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone and can also indicate problems with the thyroid gland, pancreas, adrenals and ovaries.

Oestrogen and progesterone have a delicate and specific way of cycling throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle and certain symptoms can give us clues about what is occurring as the two hormones need to be in correct balance to allow your body to do what it has to do.  For example, progesterone is associated with being the cool, calm and relaxed hormone.  So, if you notice you get particularly cranky before a period, it could be a sign that your progesterone is low in relation to your oestrogen levels. A comment from one lady with progesterone deficiency was, “when my period starts I tell my husband to duck and hide for the next two days.”  Neurotransmitters – the brain chemicals that drive how we think feel and behave, are also influenced by hormones. Mood swings, low libido, fatigue, depression and anxiety can be strongly influenced by the interplay between hormones and neurotransmitters, leading to the tell-tale signs of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) or in its extreme, PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder).

The many roles of progesterone in the body:

  • maintaining a healthy uterus lining.
  • moderating breast tissue growth
  • metabolism and weight management
  • maintaining fluid balance in the body
  • stimulating the growth of new bone tissue
  • enhancing how thyroid hormones work
  • calming anxiety and relieving depression
  • assisting healthy sleep patterns
  • preventing some forms of migraine
  • libido

Oestrogen is also critical in the body, but too much or too little can create havoc. There are 3 main types of oestrogen made in the body; estrone E1, estradiol E2 and estriol E3. Estradiol E2 produced by the ovaries, is the dominant oestrogen in women in their reproductive years, whereas the weaker Estrone E1 is dominant during menopause and produced mainly from the adrenal glands.  We’ll discuss menopause in another article, as it is often associated with symptoms of low estrogen.  However, in the menstruating woman or women who have had a hysterectomy but have intact functioning ovaries, the symptoms of excess relative oestrogen are more common and may include:

  • Heavy or painful periods
  • Swelling and tenderness of the breasts
  • Lumpy or cystic breasts
  • Mid section weight gain
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Fluid retention

The good news is that there are things that can be done to reduce the relative oestrogen excess; progesterone deficiency; inflammation and the annoying symptoms associated with a woman’s monthly cycle. Diet and lifestyle changes are long-term influences that can be beneficial in reducing symptoms, or preventing recurrence after surgical procedures. Depending on a the severity of a woman’s symptoms or condition there are many medicinal herbs which can assist with reducing pain, improving mood, regulating blood loss and improving fertility outcomes.  Most women are now familiar with Chaste tree for its benefits in PMS. Herbs such as shephard’s purse and lady’s mantle can be useful for heavy periods, and others such as damiana or shatavari may assist with libido.

An integrative approach is the best way to find out what you require as a unique woman with specific needs.  Working collaboratively with your GP, OBGYN and Naturopath may help you not only relieve the symptoms, but also deal with the underlying causes to reach a more long-term and optimal management strategy with the least side effects.  If your monthly report card is telling you something isn’t right, start asking questions and discover ways to make your periods more graceful, less painful and easy to manage. 

 

With school concerts to attend, barbeques to host and Christmas shopping to do, this time of year can really put the proverbial last straw on the fatigued camels’ back!

The main culprits for causing us to drag ourselves around seem to be the same for most of us.  Late nights, early mornings, bored school children, rushed meals, skipped meals, poor food choices, sitting for long periods of time and putting self-care onto the back-burner until the New Year. We survive by keeping a close eye on our diaries, calendars, alarms and clocks while life rushes past at a seemingly increasing speed towards that one day of the year that seems to hold so many expectations. But, is it really good enough to just survive? Why not make the most of it?

Fortunately and unfortunately, our bodies still need the basics to function properly, nutritious food, a health digestive system, adequate water, exercise, sleep and relaxation time, whether it’s the festive season or not.  We’ve heard this all before, eat well, get a good night’s sleep, exercise, etc but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Here are a few little festive season hacks I use to keep energy high and enjoy life as much as possible with my family.

  1.       Modify your exercise routine – make it a priority, it will keep your energy up.  Instead of flogging yourself, change it to fit in with your new routine or lack thereof. Try going for a bike ride with the kids on Saturday mornings instead of trying to squeeze in a gym session before the rest of the world wakes up, and still trying to stay awake for that dinner party.
  2.       Stick to the 80:20 rule with your eating. Eighty percent of your plate should be fresh from the land or the sea. Limit packaged processed or high sugar or unhealthy fat foods where possible. Enjoy a little indulgence at the party, but send the leftovers home with your guests so you won’t be tempted to eat any more. Or better still, cook healthy treats, so the temptations are good ones.
  3.       Take a good quality multivitamin every day. I call this nutritional insurance…after all, nobody is perfect.  Do the best you can to eat as healthy as possible, but accept a little help when times are hectic and not as routine as you’d like.  Choose a supplement that has good doses of the B complex of vitamins, zinc and vitamin c. Coenzyme Q10 is also a great energy boosting nutrient that helps lower blood pressure, protect arteries, improve heart health and muscle function.  It can give you that little extra get up and go when it’s got up and gone.
  4.       Stay hydrated – it’s one thing to drink plenty of water, but if you are sweating, or losing body fluids in any way, you are also losing electrolyte minerals which are essential for cell energy production, heart health, muscle energy, brain function and more.  Consider using a good quality, low sugar, balanced electrolyte drink such as Endura Rehydration formula or make your own electrolyte drink with 50:50 coconut water and pink grapefruit juice with a pinch of macrobiotic or celtic sea salt to help give you energy and keep your strength up.
  5.       Herbal helpers such as Siberian Ginseng and Rhodiola have been used for centuries to promote vitality, stamina and improve stress tolerance.  These two herbs can be useful during times of fatigue and diminishing work capacity and concentration.

Of course, there are many other causes of fatigue that may need further investigation, but for the most part, when it’s short term, and related to a temporary change in routine, these tips can make all the difference to how well you cope with the extra demands of the season.  

If fatigue is dragging on beyond what is normal for your lifestyle, get in touch for a health review consultation.

 

Anyone at any age can potentially have a thyroid gland which is not functioning properly, and this can occur for many reasons.

The two main risk factors for hypothyroidism are age and sex. Statistically women are 10 times more likely than men to have hypothyroidism. It is believed that the female hormone oestrogen plays a role in influencing thyroid gland function and this is why hypothyroidism tends to appear around significant hormone changes in a woman’s life cycle such as during pregnancy, and menopause.

Other risk factors include:

  • Family history of thyroid disease or any auto-immune disease
  • You already have type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disease.
  • You have taken a medication that affects the thyroid such as anti-thyroid medication for grave’s disease or treatment for thyroid cancer.
  • You have had surgery to remove your thyroid gland for the treatment of thyroid cancer or goiter.
  • Your chest or neck area has been exposed to radiation.

Some facts about Hypothyroidism:

  • In Australia there are approximately 60,000 new cases of hypothyroidism each year.
  • In Australia the prevelance of overt (TSH above 5.0um/L and
  • reduced T4 and T3) hypothyroidism is between 1 and 2 % of the population.
  • Hypothyroidism is 10 times more common in women than men.
  • Subclinical hypothyroidism (TSH between 2-10, with and thyroid hormones within reference range) occurs in between 3% and 18% of the population.
  • 10-15% of Australians have some level of thyroid dysfunction
  • Even though there is a higher incidence of hypothyroidism in women, it is suspected that many male issues including low testosterone, weight gain, libido and erectile dysfunction can be attributed to poor thyroid hormone conversion in the peripheral tissues.

The key point to remember here is that we can’t just rely on TSH as a marker of whether the thyroid gland and thyroid hormones are maintaining balance in the body, its far more complex than TSH!

TSH tells us only about the picture of hormone management from the pituitary gland in the brain. It does not tell us what is happening in the rest of the body. The thyroid gland is part of what is known as the endocrine system  – a network of glands responsible for the production and regulation of hormones. Hormones, in a nutshell, are chemical messengers which act to direct and drive our bodily functions. The interconnectedness of this messenger system is such that any gland in the network that is out of balance, will impact the function and efficiency of other glands in the network. For example a lack of adrenal hormone production may influence the behaviour of the thyroid and the reproductive organs. An under active thyroid can upset the function of the ovaries, contributing to infertility or disrupted periods.  The adrenals, pancreas, ovaries and gonads all play a role in regulating thyroid hormone action at a cellular level, and consequently how we look and feel.

The role of the thyroid gland is to maintain balance in the body and in order to do this it relies on proper oxygenation of our blood, organs and tissues; adequate energy production in our cells, and antioxidant protection from compounds which damage our DNA. The peripheral tissues and the central nervous system are in control of how much thyroid hormone each cell of the body see’s or has access to, whereas the thyroid gland is predominantly the T4 factory. This is why circulating thyroid hormones do not provide a complete representation of health and often do not match the patients’ symptom picture.

When the body is placed under stress, more resources are required to keep the body functioning until the stress has passed. For example, if, hypothetically, you were to have a lion chasing you, your adrenal glands would pump out adrenaline and nor-epinephrine, to get the heart to pump faster to supply more oxygen to the muscles, because they are working harder and faster to get you out of danger. This means you would be breathing heavier, and sweating more. Your body has to prioritise what will be important. It is going to be burning up quick fuel, glucose, in the blood stream and muscles and as it does this it will be needing more nutrients including b group vitamins, and amino acids from proteins to help run the furnace.   This situation is a survival switch for the body, and is designed only for short term activity. The trouble with modern life is that stress is no longer necessarily in the form of running from a lion, but also in running late and sitting in traffic, working longer hours and not sleeping well, eating poorly, toxins etc. So rather than being short lived, stress can be persistent throughout the day, creating a huge burden on the body, disrupting not only nutrient levels but also hormonal regulation and the capacity of the glands to produce adequate hormones. Relating to the thyroid hormones, a down regulation of metabolism occurs in order to conserve critical resources. This is useful in short lived crisis, but in modern life chronic activation of the stress response can be associated with reduced thyroid hormone activity resulting in weight gain, fatigue, infertility and low mood. Due to the cyclical and complex nature of women’s hormones, females are particularly more susceptible to hormonal disruption by stress. 

 

 

 

 

 

.1. New insights into thyroid hormone action.Mendoza A1Hollenberg AN2.Pharmacol Ther. 2017 May;173:135-145. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2017.02.012. Epub 2017 Feb 4.

 

 

Cholesterol may not be the lethal enemy you have been led to believe. In fact, cholesterol is required to keep you healthy. It is found in the bloodstream and in every cell of your body, so not having enough cholesterol can be as problematic as having too much! Cholesterol is used to produce hormones, vitamin D and bile acids. Cholesterol is produced by the liver based on the body’s needs, but can also be obtained from foods.

The two most familiar forms of cholesterol you’ve probably heard about are LDL – the “bad” and HDL – the “good” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol has been promoted as the substance which can clog your arteries and increase your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. HDL may help lower your risk of developing heart disease. There has been a lot of fear mongering around cholesterol, but recent research suggests that lowering cholesterol may not have the impact on reducing heart disease risk as was once thought. Authors of the article “Does ‘bad cholesterol’ deserve it’s bad name“, suggest that to say LDL cholesterol causes heart disease is very misleading. In this article Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, Ph.D. — a former medical practitioner and independent researcher is quoted saying that people with low levels of LDL have just as much plaque in their arteries as those with high LDL levels. The consensus is that the research has isolated cholesterol as the bad guy for the purposes of helping people make “informed” choices about taking statin medications, and has failed to take into account other cardiovascular risk factors such as inflammation, stress, infections and smoking.

The key issues identified in The Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology 2015 “How statistical deception created the appearance that statins are safe and effective in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease” are:

  • the data stating the benefits of statins compared to relative risk were grossly misleading.
  • primary prevention trials aimed at lowering cholesterol have NOT been successful in reducing the risk of death from heart disease.
  • the serious side effects of statin drug use have been severely underestimated.
  • the side effects of taking statin medication are extensive including but not limited to, memory and brain function issues, diabetes, cancer, cataracts and musculo-skeletal problems.
  • the dietary recommendations including low fat diets, low fat dairy, the avoidance of eggs and the use of margarine over butter may be doing more harm than good.

So why does cholesterol go up ?

There are various diseases and drugs that can cause cholesterol to go up. It is important therefore, before even considering a statin drug to ask “what is the cause of my high cholesterol?” Health conditions known to raise cholesterol levels, particularly LDL levels, include:

  • pre-diabetes and diabetes
  • hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid)
  • cushing’s disease (a disorder where your body produces too much cortisol)
  • kidney failure or kidney disorders
  • alcoholism
  • hormonal and metabolic disorders
  • anorexia nervosa

Some medications can also raise cholesterol levels. These may include HRT , the oral contraceptive pill, Beta blockers (most commonly used for lowering blood pressure), steroids and diuretics.

The primary focus in regards to cholesterol and reducing our risk of heart disease is to keep active exercising for at least 30 minutes 5 days per week and moving the body out of a sedentary position every hour. Reducing inflammation, infections, and avoiding cigarette smoke, are also key.  In regards to diet avoid refined and processed foods, sugar, white flour, low fat dairy products, and foods containing hydrogenated fats and trans fats such as margarines, fried foods, processed biscuits cakes and crackers.

Enjoy in moderation saturated fats (preferably from grass fed or organic animal sources) or from coconut, full fat un-homogenised dairy products, eggs, lean grass fed, ethically raised meat, chicken and fish. Include plenty of green leafy vegetables, fibre in the diet from fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.

High cholesterol is not something to fear, but rather a cue to raise your awareness about what is happening in your body, signalling you to make some changes to diet and lifestyle, and ask more questions about the state of your health and wellbeing.