Why Gelatine is Good for You

You may not have noticed, but gelatine is currently undergoing a makeover. It’s gone from a leading an unheralded life as a gourmet food ingredient in desserts like panna cotta and chocolate mousse to being a pin up star of the paleo movement.

The key to it’s turnaround in fortunes? It’s all to do with the recent explosion in our understanding of the importance of gut health and the integrity of the gut lining to our overall wellbeing. We now know that gelatine can repair leaky gut and soothe and heal the digestion like almost nothing else.

Gelatine has a gritty back story. It’s produced in a process similar to making a traditional stock, by boiling the bones, skin and connective tissue of animals like pigs and cows to yield up to 18 amino acids including glycine and proline. If you have read about the benefits of bone broth then the same applies to gelatine except that in this case the final product is both colourless and odourless and dissolves in water so it can be added to smoothies, soups, or just about any food.

Gut Health

Gelatine restores integrity to the gut lining and heals leaky gut which is often the root cause of food intolerances, allergies and autoimmune diseases. Gelatine also improves gastric secretions and helps with low stomach acid. Additionally, it’s ability to hydrate the bowel aids in promoting good intestinal transit and healthy bowel motions.

Skin and Bones

The amino acids found in gelatine are the building blocks of collagen the protein that gives the skin its elasticity and structure. Gelatine is also known to strengthen joints and soothe inflammation which makes its beneficial for those suffering from arthritis or joint soreness after exercise.

Sleep and Mood

Gelatine can keep you calm and sleeping through the night. The glycine found in gelatine has been found to assist with sleep quality without causing grogginess or side effects. Glycine naturally reduces the uptake of norepinephrine: a stress hormone which triggers feelings of anxiety and panic.

It’s important to get a good quality gelatine made from pasture raised cattle so skip the supermarket gelatine and source some from your local health food shop or trusted online whole foods retailer.

Chinese Medicine and Spring

Spring has arrived and with it we can feel the change of seasonal energy. The days are getting longer and the sun is getting warmer, thank goodness!  According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), spring is a time of upward and expansive movement of energy, of creativity, of planning and change.  Nature expresses this in the new growth in the garden, the buds and blossoms on the trees and the first blooms of spring. 

In Chinese medicine we aim to keep healthy by aligning ourselves, including our behaviours, actions and attitudes with the seasons. While winter was a time to conserve energy and reduce activity, spring is a time of regeneration, new beginnings and a renewal of spirit.  As such, it is a great time to ditch some bad habits and/or implement some healthy changes.

Spring is the ideal time for cleansing the body and rejuvenating overall health and wellbeing.  The organs associated with spring are the liver and gallbladder, organs often targeted for a spring detox and cleansing.  The liver in Chinese medicine is responsible for the free flow of qi (or energy) throughout the body. When the liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. So for optimal health in spring, we can focus on the liver.

Spring gives us the perfect opportunity to give up stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, tobacco and recreational drugs as the expansive, stimulating energy of spring gives a natural boost.  We can also take advantage of this natural boost of energy to exercise moderately on a daily basis (the warmer weather helps too!), making us feel alive and refreshed after a long and wet winter.

According to TCM, the liver controls the tendons and stores blood during times of rest and releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining flexibility and tendon health. Yoga or Tai Chi are great ways to introduce stretching into your life, or simply implement a morning stretch into your routine.

Eat more greens. While this advice applies year round for those trying to clean up their diet, it is particularly important in spring.  Green is the colour associated with the liver and spring.  Eating young plants, leafy greens and sprouts can improve the state of the liver and aid in the movement of qi.

Do more outside activities. Fresh, outdoor air helps the liver qi flow. If you are feeling stressed, grumpy or irritable, try getting outside to get the qi flowing. Go for a walk, a bike ride, or throw yourself into some gardening to sooth that liver qi.

Get acupuncture. Acupuncture can be great if you are feeling a bit stuck or low from winter. Acupuncture can unblock any blockages that have accumulated over winter to help get the mind and body moving again. Spring is a great time to work on old aches, pains and issues. Spring is also a great time to see a naturopath to fine tune your health, work on your diet or start a detox.

Living in accordance with the seasons can benefit your health in many ways.  The wisdom of TCM dates back thousands of years but is just as relevant today as ever. I hope that these tips help you to navigate the change of season in good health.

The Soul Project Canberra

The team at Live Well love getting involved in projects that enhance the Canberra community. Our very own kinesiologist, Kate Pamphilon, has joined forces with two other super-star practitioners to co-found a fun, informative and inspirational night out that is The Soul Project Canberra.

It began with a dream to bring people together. To share, to inspire, to collaborate. And so began - The Soul Project Canberra!

The Soul Project Canberra present bi-monthly events created by the Canberra community and beyond. Bringing together passionate experts in the field of health and wellness, each event inspires, motivates and supports you to live a life that is full. It’s an opportunity to get together with your friends for a fun night out!

Each Soul event explores the most relevant topics each of us face throughout our lives. Along with bringing you the best of the best powerful presenters, $5 from every ticket sold will go toward a charity in need.

Not only do you get to have a fun night out with your friends, you get to contribute to community organisations that make a difference. And just to make sure you have a great night, The Soul Project will showcase local muso’s to sing to your soul and lift your spirits.

Co-founders Lisa Donaldson, Blair Kelly and Kate Pamphilon create a beautiful synergy with their knowledge and experience of the body, mind, and spirit.

The Soul Launch - September 15th

The Soul Team are delighted to invite you to the much anticipated LAUNCH of The Soul Project Canberra with “Love the skin YOU are in”.

Mark your diaries, invite your bestie, enjoy a glass of bubbles, listen to the musical talent of Cherie Kotek and then settle in for some inspirational words from your Soul Founders. We are kicking off with a powerful theme…

LOVE THE SKIN YOU ARE IN

7:30pm Thursday 15 September 2016 (come early for a drink and music)

Palace Electric, New Acton

COST: $35/person

BUY TICKETS HERE

Leading dietitian Lisa will launch the night – helping you unpack your relationship with food. She will help you remove any guilt associated with food and develop strategies to nourish your body… not deprive it! With a focus on wellness, vitality and health, Lisa’s message will resonate with anyone who has experienced shame after indulging, who has spent their entire life on a ‘diet’ or who is simply confused about what to eat.

The inspiring Blair will take you through a journey of positive thinking, how to change your thought processes in an instant and turn up your self-love and worthy meter. Blair will guide you through how to change your internal and external language, in order to change your state in an instant. This is essential in being able to control thoughts and emotions for a positive life of fulfilment.

Rounding out the night, Kate will be discussing the fascinating topic of ‘self’ - how to discover, connect and nourish a deep sense of self. Kate will guide you through the profound art of stripping away the false self in order to live in harmony with your original nature. This is essential to anyone interested in living a joyful life grounded in a sense of self. Learning to own and protect your authenticity will become one of your greatest assets. And this, our Soul Village is ‘loving the skin you are in’.

So, throw on some lippy or a hat and diarise a night out for yourself. The Soul Team cannot wait to inspire, share, laugh and unravel so much with you… Get ready to tap into a little bit of SOUL!

$5 from every ticket sold will go toward The Butterfly Foundation, which endeavours to help people foster positive body image, strong self-esteem, resilience, media literacy and a healthy attitude towards food and exercise. Most of all, we want people to know that they are enough as they are!

See you there!

Kate

Learning Intuition For Guidance

When it comes to guidance in your life and making decisions, who do you turn to? 

Let’s get straight to the point — being guided by your intuition will not only help you live a life that is full, it will develop a strong trust in yourself. You become self-sufficient, confident and centered, no matter what comes your way. 

One of the most common places people to turn for help are family and friends. Having a network of people in your life who you can talk through options, feelings and fears with is immensely beneficial. Especially if, said family and friends are good at reflective listening over telling you what to do! This is the main point of contention for external advice, no one knows what is right for you except YOU. 

So how do you access inner guidance, especially if you’re stressed, worried or unsure? 

It’s about about your internal dialogue

Internal dialogue is the way you speak to yourself on a daily basis. When it comes to guidance in life, for the small things and the big, your internal dialogue is your biggest asset. That’s right, I’m saying that your inner voice is more important than the voice of others. 

However, there are two types of internal dialogue and the KEY to guiding yourself is knowing the difference between when you’re being spoken to by your mind and emotions, and when your intuition is speaking. 

‘Intuition’, ‘gut feeling’, ‘heart’ or ‘instincts’ - it’s all the same!

What ever word you use to describe ‘intuition’, they all mean the same thing. 

The use of the term ‘gut feeling’ leads me to key skills you can practice to gain a stronger connection with your intuition. Until you have a great relationship with your intuition and it becomes a natural part of your internal dialogue, there are a couple of things you can do to strengthen your intuitive abilities.

What do your inner voices sound like?

Start by recognising the sound of the mind compared to that of your intuition

The sound of your mind

The mind will often say a lot. It can be: loud, go round in circles and is often based in emotion such as worry, fear, doubt or even anger and stubbornness. The mind is often trying to keep you safe and protected in the ‘familiar zone’ of life. Regardless of whether this zone is a happy place, the mind works from what it’s learnt and remembered, both consciously and subconsciously from the story of your life. 

Being conscious of this and asking yourself “What’s happened in the past that’s triggering my mind and emotions to think and feel this way?” helps you to remove yourself from the story and be an observer. From this, you have the opportunity to see if the thoughts and emotions of the mind are relevant today or simply the past being brought into the present. 

The sound of your intuition

Your intuition is a gentle, soothing voice. For me, and many others will a powerful connection to intuition, the words come one by one or just a few at a time. As you connect deeper, the more it flows. Intuition can come to you not just by words but by colour, pictures, symbols and deep feelings. You’ll know the interpretation, because it will be clear as day. It’s funny how we often see things as complex or unclear, yet the heart will show you otherwise. 

How does your body feel?

To practice the second part of connecting to your intuition, you need to use your body. Firstly, sit still and bring yourself back into the present moment and back into your body. This will make it much easier to hear your intuitive voice by being grounded. Take your time by breathing slowly in and out of your nose, and gently into your belly. (Once you get really good at this, you can drop down into your heart at any give moment.) This calms the five senses so you can sense with your heart. 

The voice of your mind is often accompanied by phrases such as “I think this is what I want to do?” and a feeling in your body of unsurity. You might feel unsettled, restless or agitated. It feels uncomfortable. 

On the flip side, your intuitive voice is accompanied by a sense of “I know this is what I want to do”. While the choice may bring about questions or feelings, underneath it all lies a sense of deep knowing down in your gut — your ‘gut feeling’. Your body is at peace with the choice. If you have a decision to make, sit with each option and feel deep within yourself. How does your gut react?

Your intuition may not always guide you to the easy option, or the one that has all the components sorted. It may be confronting to know what you heart says. But know this — your intuition will always guide you to your truth, your love and your wisdom. And it’s then that you can use your wisdom mind and your inner resources to work out the details!  

Watch this space as this is the topic for my next blog! 

Are You Magnesium Deficient?

Did you know that magnesium levels in the body are depleted by stress as well as regular intake of refined sugar and caffeine. It’s no wonder that some health experts estimate that magnesium deficiency is a silent epidemic potentially affecting up to 90% of the population. 

Magnesium is crucial for wellbeing. It’s involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and is vital for healthy muscle and nerve function, maintaining normal blood pressure and heart rhythm as well as optimal metabolism and immune function. 

What are the sign of deficiency? 

Magnesium deficiency can impact on the following areas: 

Muscles
Cramps and spasms, tics and twitches are clear signs that your body needs more magnesium. 

Mental Health
Anxiety and depression are both linked to inadequate magnesium. Whilst more research is needed magnesium seems to have a protective effect on mood. 

Insomnia
Magnesium helps both the body and mind to relax which contributes to restful sleep. Additionally magnesium is required for the ‘off switch’ or GABA receptors in the brain to be triggered. 

Fatigue
Magnesium is crucial in the production of cellular energy, meaning inadequate levels can show up as fatigue and low energy levels. 

High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure you definitely should be looking at your magnesium intake. 

How to replenish your magnesium level

You can boost your magnesium levels through dietary rich sources including: spinach, pumpkin seeds, yoghurt, almonds, black beans, avocados, bananas, figs and dark chocolate. 

Topical applications, like epsom salt baths and magnesium oils and sprays (which you can find at your health food store) are an easy way for your body to absorb and replenish magnesium. 

You can also take magnesium tablets and solutions however I would always recommend consulting with our naturopath Shanna Choudhary so you get the right kind of magnesium and the right dose for your needs. 

Is Leaky Gut Legit?

Leaky gut is a controversial topic, many conventional medical experts have dismissed it as a holistic mumbo jumbo but recent research evidence is suggesting there is reason to take it seriously.

What is Leaky Gut

Your gut wall is the site of a tremendous exchange of nutrients. People suffering from leaky gut however, are thought to have a gut lining that is overly permeable. This hyper-permeability allows substances like toxins, microbes and undigested food particles to enter the blood stream and cause havoc.

How Strong is the evidence?

Whilst the theory seemed plausible, the evidence was unconvincing until a pioneer in gut health Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and his team discovered a gut protein called ‘zonulin’ which can tighten or widen the openings in the cell membrane of the gut wall. This discovery created a paradigm shift in understanding of the gut lining and whilst, there is still debate about the impact of leaky gut, we have an accepted model that explains how large molecules that cause diseases like allergies and autoimmune conditions are ending up in the blood stream.

What Causes Leaky Gut?

There is definitely a genetic component, to whether you are prone to gut permeability and whether you suffer adverse reactions from the particles that slip through. There is also strong evidence that when the balance of your gut flora, the beneficial bacteria that make up your microbiome becomes unbalanced you’re susceptible to developing an overly permeable gut lining.

What’s the Impact?

Opinions differ, but most agree that allergies, autoimmune diseases like type I diabetes, a thyroid condition called Hashimoto’s disease and Chron’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome are linked to leaky gut. Other conditions including inflammatory skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis, mood disorders and even autism are also thought by many to be connected to leaky gut although not everyone agrees. Given how rapid and steep the learning curve is with regards to the gut and the immune system it is fair to say we will no doubt hear more about the effects of leaky gut in the years to come.

How to Heal Leaky Gut?

It depends on your symptoms and your overall wellbeing, but in general terms healing the gut requires re-establishing a healthy gut flora. There are also specific nutrients that can heal an inflamed and overly permeable gut wall but it is a complex area that is best treated professionally. For further information I recommend speaking to Live Well's naturopath Shanna Choudhary or a holistic GP who specialises in nutritional wellbeing.

Understanding Mindfulness

No doubt you’ve heard about mindfulness, it’s a style of mediation that has placed this ancient practice on the modern medical and cultural map. But what does mindfulness really mean and why all the fuss?

To be mindful of something is to give it your wholehearted focus. Ask yourself this, when was the last time you gave something no less than your complete and undivided attention? The truth is probably that like most of us, you spend your day juggling many things at once, which is in itself a phenomenal skill.

Multi tasking your way through life can be, at its absolute best, an exhilarating rush. There’s nothing wrong with being good at doing many things at once, however, when you perpetually spread yourself thin you become robbed of the spaciousness and the stillness that comes with a simple, singular focus. The beauty is you don't have choose one path or another, you just need to balance the mind’s need for stimulation with its need for silence.

Luckily practicing mindfulness is easy, its simply requires you to bring your awareness to your senses and notice what is already happening beneath the thrum of daily life. The focus of your attention can be anything. The magic is that by choosing a singular focus of attention the simplest things become absorbingly fascinating. A classic mindfulness technique is to allow your attention to become fully absorbed in your breath: start by feeling the sensations of the expansion and release of the air inside your lungs with each inhale and exhale. As you do notice how your mind starts to change gears and slow down.

Even a minute of mindfully observing your breathing can profoundly effect how you feel in body and mind.

You can also practice mindfulness in everyday activities like washing the dishes: just by taking your attention to the sensation of the warmth of the water on your hands or by noticing how the light dances in the soap suds. Any activity can be done mindfully just by being present to the sensations that are arising from moment to moment. The beauty of a singular focus is that it profoundly reduces overwhelm and allows your mind and nervous system to access states of rest.

Our lives are richer and more enjoyable when we experience fullness and emptiness, light and shade. If you regularly take time to be mindful, you’ll find yourself starting to notice and appreciate the little things in life again and rather than feeling saturated and overwhelmed with life you can better appreciate and savour the wonders we have literally all around us.

If you’d like to find out more about mindfulness please visit livewellnaturally.com.au/meditation-canberra/

Keep it Simple! 3 Easy Peasy Mindfulness Exercises You CAN Start…Today!

  • Do you get easily side-tracked from what you’re doing and not getting things done?
  • Can you get stuck in thoughts and find them hard to shake?
  • Does your mind often wander rather than “staying present” in the “here and now”?

I’m sure we could all say yes to these at different times, however if you’re noticing they are occurring for you more often lately, here’s three simple mindfulness exercises to help you “zone in” to being present and help “unhook” you from negative thought patterns.

In the current mindfulness training program at Live Well (“Managing the Madness”) participants are now easily integrating these exercises into their daily lives. You might like to try them too.

1.     Mindful Breathing – if you’ve only got 6 seconds to spare, that’s OK!

2.     Noticing 5 Things You Can See, Hear and Feel … right now

3.     Adopting the Three C’s – Curiosity, Concentration and Compassion

For those who may be unfamiliar with mindfulness, a good definition from mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn is

paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally”.

In our mindfulness training course, we are cultivating the skill of noticing and observing our experiences and responses from moment to moment, mostly using our breath as an anchor, which  helps us to manage stress, stay calm, centred and present…rather than reacting automatically, doing the same old thing or things we later regret, potentially getting stuck.

Remaining non-judgemental is a challenge for most of us. Not only are our brains wired to constantly observe, analyse, prioritise and make judgements in order to survive, work and function but many of us also have a pretty active “inner critic” to content with, constantly commentating in the background. Mindfulness training helps us to notice these judgements as an “observing witness” – rather than switching the mind off (which is impossible) these exercises help us to consciously notice the noise and choose to turn down the volume.

1.     Mindful Breathing

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about breathing for long hours sitting at the top of a mountain or on retreat (although if you have time to do this, that’s great). This is about being aware of your breath as much as possible wherever you are, throughout your day.

So…when you notice that your mind has wandered off, or that you’re getting fused to thoughts that aren’t helpful, or anytime at all, try taking 5 x 6 Second Mindful Breaths as a circuit breaker.

So that’s six lovely big breaths, simply breathing IN-2-3 and then OUT-2-3.

With each breath, noticing the rise and fall of your belly….the expansion and falling away of your chest…the coolness of the air as you’re breathing into your nostrils and the warmth of the air as you breathing out. Try it now! It’s free!!

And if you take 5 Mindful breaths in this way now and again – you’ve successfully completed a 30 second meditation practice. Hey Presto. Who says you’re too busy to meditate?

2.     Five Things You Can See, Hear and Feel right now

This mindfulness exercise helps to ground us by observing what is present in the current moment. If we’re getting too tied up in knots this can introduce a sense of “what else” is in the picture which is a helpful to “unhook” or defuse from the challenging thoughts.

We can do this one any time, whether you are sitting calmly and quietly on your own, in a meeting with other people, in a busy environment – even driving your car. Obviously keeping our eyes open!

So to start – look around your environment and take extra special notice of 5 different things you can see right now. You can name the objects by speaking out loud or just internally but it’s important to notice each object individually.

Then, taking extra special notice of 5 different things you can hear right now. This may be challenging if you’re inside but see if you can notice even very subtle sounds…so it might be something like…1. the humming of the air conditioning 2. The sound of muffled voices 3. The buzzing of the computer 4. The tapping sounds of the keyboard and 5. The sound of your own breath, breathing in and out.

Finally, now noticing 5 different things you can feel right now. Whether they are internal feelings (fluttering tummy, tightness in chest) or external sensations (clothes on your skin, bottom in the chair, feet on the ground, pen in my hand), whatever you are feeling is OK….we are simply noticing and observing what’s present, then moving on to the next thing. Don’t stay too long with each one to the point of analysing it. Notice, observe, move on.

If you want to, you could then return to the beginning of the exercise and then notice 4 Things You can See, Hear and Feel right now….then 3 Things…then 2 Things and finally then just 1 Thing you can See, Hear and Feel.

Chances are you will feel a lot calmer and more centred after doing this exercise. I’ve done it myself in meetings or during stressful events (like when I accidentally backed into someone’s car last year and the driver was screaming at me…my instinct was fight or flight…I felt quite anxious and scared, but still managed to stay calm by noticing 5 things like…she was wearing a green cardigan, she had red shoes, she has a tight lipped expression, she had curly hair and was shaking her fist).

3.     Three C’s of Mindfulness – Curiosity, Concentration, Compassion

Let’s take something we all have to do from time to time – like washing up - and consider how it might be a different and potentially even more pleasant experience, if we adopt the 3 C’s….of Curiosity, Concentration and Compassion (or bring to mind another example)

So, as you are next washing up, see if you can bring some Curiosity to the task, which means washing up as though you have never done it before. Notice the warmth of the water, the smell of the detergent, the bubbles and suds, the tinkling sounds of the crockery and swishing of the water etc etc. 

Try to stay with this exercise for a few minutes by Concentrating on just the washing up. One thing at a time. So often we are multi-tasking and not totally taking in our experience of just one thing. So concentrate, and keep focused. While you are doing the washing up…you are ONLY doing the washing up. It can be more challenging than we think!

Finally, whatever we are doing, try bringing a sense of Compassion into your experience also. Sending some loving kindness to your hands, softening your heart and being open to the experience rather than just “getting it done”.

Consider how adopting the 3 C’s could bring a more mindful and calming perspective to a whole range of daily activities and experience in your day. Here’s some that the current participants in Managing the Madness have found the Three C’s to be helpful in staying present and mindful in their lives:

-        Eating breakfast without reading the paper and checking emails all at once

-        Driving to work without the radio on and giving myself some quiet time

-        Conversing with café staff while waiting for my coffee instead of checking Facebook

-        Playing with the kids at the park and not taking the phone

-        Turning off the TV during dinner time, focusing on my family and their conversations

You might find similar opportunities present themselves to you and I hope these simple exercises may be helpful for you in the weeks ahead. Practice is the key. I’d love to hear your feedback, so feel free to let us know what worked well for you and how.

If you’re keen to learn more easy mindfulness exercises, or learn some longer daily meditation practices, our Term 3 intake of Managing the Madness is now open and details are available here.

The Bugs That Keep You Healthy

Did you know that the vast majority of the cells in your body are not human. If you’re squeamish I apologise, you might want to stop reading now! Remarkably, you’re currently hosting bacteria cells that outnumber your own human cells by a factor of 10 to 1.

Before you rush off to lather yourself with antiseptic cream its worth noting that the human microbiome (the collective population of all the non-human cells that inhabit us) is a crucial part of the ecosystem that keeps you healthy and happy.

What researchers are discovering is that these microbes are not invaders or freeloaders but in fact crucial facilitators of our basic body functions including digesting food, producing vitamins and keeping the immune system buoyant.

It’s actually when we throw the dynamic balance of the microbiome out through excessive use of drugs such as steroids, hormones, anti-inflammatories and acid-blockers and of course antibiotics, as well as poor diet and prolonged stress that we start to see systematic decline in the health of our microbiome and consequently our wellbeing.

Its fair to say our current understanding of the impact of the microbiome on our health is still emerging. Yet already we know there are direct links between many types of cancer, especially colon, breast and cervical; autoimmune diseases like thyroid disorders, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes; as well as digestive disorders like Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally there are strong links to many mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.

As more evidence emerges its likely that many many more illness will be traced back to an imbalance in the microbiome which is exciting in that it opens the very real possibility of a more holistic approach to treating disease. In other words tackling the cause of illness rather than just masking or managing symptoms. Perhaps, even more importantly, our emerging understanding of the microbiome offers more scope to discover ways we can prevent illness taking hold in the first place. 

Do You Get the Winter Blues?

We don't need white ravens from the Citadel to know it’s winter in Canberra (apologies to non Game of Thrones watchers). The thick fog and blanket of frost in the mornings are more than sufficient confirmation. If the onset of winter finds you feeling lethargic, melancholy and craving carbs, you could be suffering from seasonally affected disorder which is delightfully abbreviated as SAD.

Don’t we all feel a bit like hibernating and eating comfort food when its minus five degrees outside you might ask? Well no actually! Depending on your constitution some people are enlivened by the cold. Hint, they’re the ones probably wearing shorts.

To be diagnosed with SAD, your symptoms should be noticeably relieved by the onset of spring and must have occurred for at least a two year period. SAD affects women more than men and is thought to be linked to a lack of sunlight rather than the cold. Whilst 30% of Australians report feeling a drop in their moods over winter it is thought SAD is rarer at around 1 in 300 Australians.

Curiously SAD is rare in Norway and Iceland even though the winter sunlight exposure is minimal, however Nordic diets are high in oily fish which is rich in vitamin D, the so called ‘sunshine vitamin’ which is considered to offer a protective effect. It’s also advisable to get some safe sun exposure in winter to boost your natural Vitamin D production and fortunately in Canberra even though it’s cold we usually have plenty of winter sun.

Even though I’m one to recommend adjusting the rhythm of your life in accordance with the seasons, if you suffer form the winter blues it’s advisable to resist the temptation hibernate too much. In fact its important to stay physically active and socially connected though the colder months. So resist the temptation to cancel your gym membership and stay at home watching Netflix.

Its also important to note that if staying engaged and active doesn't shift your melancholy then don't just put up with it, seek the assistance of a health professional that you trust.

Arthritis friendly yoga – uniting movement and mindset with breath for better overall health.

Hi Lovely Live Well-ers!

After last week’s solstice we are well into the chilly winter season that means feeling regularly stiff and sore for some of us. If you suffer from arthritis - whether mild or severe, seasonal or chronic - I’ve got a few tips here on ways that yoga can help you improve or manage your condition in healthy, supportive ways.

What is arthritis?

There are almost as many types of arthritis and related diseases, as there are yoga poses and ways to practice.  This is lucky because that means that within all the many options there will be something that’s suitable for you!

Characterised broadly as an inflammatory response, predominantly of joints that causes pain, Arthritis sufferers can present with a wide range of symptoms from isolated pain, swelling and reduction of movement in one joint, to much broader loss of mobility, wider organ and nervous system involvement, and debilitating loss of physical function.

What is yoga?

Yoga is an ancient science that blends movement, breathing and mental concentration and contemplation exercises into a powerful self-care practice.

How can yoga help arthritis sufferers?

Physically, the practice of yoga postures (asana) can help build strength, develop balance and improve flexibility when applied safely. Gentle exercise that doesn’t inflame joints or aggravate pain has been shown to help improve joint health and prevent worsening symptoms that result from a sedentary lifestyle in people with arthritis.

Psychologically, the breathing (pranayama) and mindfulness (meditation) aspects of yoga can have hugely beneficial impacts in helping cultivate a positive mindset, managing pain, improving immunity and reducing feelings of stress and frustration that can be helpful for people managing a chronic condition like arthritis.

Move your body, change your life!  

Even when restricted, movement is so important to our overall physical and psychological health. Arthritis sufferers, regardless of the extent or severity of their condition, can benefit greatly from incorporating some of yoga’s movement techniques into their regular wellness routine.

Despite what you may think, not all yoga requires you to turn your body into a bendy pretzel, or being able to touch your toes! There are plenty of ways a physical yoga practice can be adapted to your individual needs so that you can stretch, strengthen and relax in ways that are comfortable and accessible to your specific condition.

If you’re suffering from arthritis and looking to begin yoga, you can practice gentle variations in each of the families of poses - forward bends, backbends, twists, balances, standing, sitting and lying – within the bounds of your pain tolerance and range of movement. Incorporating supportive tools such as blocks, straps, blankets, cushions and chairs are an excellent way to help modify and assist your practice.

Where do I start?

-       Talk to your doctor first. If there are any specific movements they recommend you avoid, have them write them down so you can pass them on to your yoga teacher.

-       Find a qualified teacher who you can talk to about your specific needs (pick me!). Individual sessions are an ideal place to start if you’re new to yoga. I’m available on Wednesday afternoons for private yoga consultations where I’ll create a program tailored specifically to you.

-       If you prefer a group session, choose a beginner’s yoga class, a chair-based yoga class or a slower, prop-supported practice where you can begin learning what feels right for you.

-       Always listen to your body’s signals and never push yourself into pain.

Breathe yourself to freedom

The way we breathe can change our body chemistry and how our brains and nervous system function. The beauty of a moving practice of yoga is that it is usually paired with the deep, controlled breathing. For arthritis sufferers, even if you’re very movement limited, breathing is a powerful self care practice you can do anytime, anywhere to help create a state of calm and relaxation…or even increased energy if you feel like it too!

Through breath we can create states of calm or states of anxiety. Learning to know what your breathing patterns are and creating for you and finding new ways to produce peace and balance through focussed breathing can help you transform your state of mind, manage feelings of anxiety or overwhelm and cultivate states of calm and relaxation - by choice when ever you want to.

Where do I start?  

-       Deep belly breaths are the fastest way to calm your nervous system. They help switch off our stress ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response that’s triggered in times of stress and help bring your back to a calm, healing, restful state of body and mind.

-       You can bring your attention to your breath anytime, driving your car, sitting or standing at work, or lying down in bed! Ideally you have good posture and an even, neutral spine.

-       First start to notice the quality of your breath; is it deep or shallow, fast or slow, laboured or easy?

-       Then on an exhale squeeze out as much air out as possible, including squeezing your belly and ribs down tight. Try to hold your breath out for one or two counts is you can.

-       As you inhale let your low belly relax and fully stretch out, followed by letting your ribs fully expand up and out.

-       Take another slow, deep exhale for the count of at least four. Continue making your inhale and exhale equal length, repeat for as long as you feel comfortable.

-       Return to normal breath and notice how you feel.

-       Be mindful to stop if breathing exercises make you feel anxious, dizzy or nauseas.

Cultivate a positive mindset

Some people call mediation the ‘art of attention’. Mindfulness meditation helps provide a pathway for creating a new relationship with your self by paying attention to where your feelings and thoughts begin, how you get caught up in them and whether, in fact, your thoughts are really true, or just bad habits you’ve become used to repeating and eventually believing.

Learning to flex our attention muscle can lead to positive psychological benefits such as reducing symptoms of stress including - importantly for arthritis suffers; inflammation, reducing the incidence or severity of anxiety and depression, assisting with conditions including insomnia, and of specific interest to arthritis sufferers, helping change your relationship with pain.

Living with pain can be both physically and psychologically debilitating and practicing meditation has been shown to create measurable improvements in quality of life for arthritis sufferers.

Because pain science has found that the experience of pain is both physical and emotional, sometimes meditation can help where medication can’t by teaching you to become aware of your feelings, manage your emotions moment to moment, be compassionate towards yourself, practice acceptance and choose positive thought patterns that can help you create a more contented life with your condition.

Learning meditation is a wonderful way to start actively changing your mind, and therefore your relationship with yourself, and your condition.

Where do I start?

-       Download a free app such as Head Space or One Giant Mind and listen to guided meditations.

-       Enrol in a 6-week Managing the Madness course with Live Well.

-       Book in for a private consultation with me and I’ll set you up with a simple and specific meditation to practice on your own at home.

-       Start paying attention to when your thoughts start to spiral into negativity. Invite them back to the positive by thinking about something that you’re grateful for. A daily practice of gratitude has been proven to improve your outlook on life.

Convinced that yoga might have something to offer you?!

Whether you’re an arthritis sufferer, a regular yoga practitioner looking to deepen your practice or just yo-curious, I’m available for private yoga consultations here at Live Well every Wednesday afternoon and would love to work with you to create a tailored Yoga program that can help you achieve your wellbeing goals.

You can also join me on my upcoming Yoga and Wellbeing Retreats:

Spring Yoga Boot Camp - September 9-11

The Paradise Retreat Sri Lanka - September 18-24

Yoga Big Day Out Canberra - October 23

Namaste and be wild, be wise, be well!

Ramone

Winter Aches and Pains? How Osteopathy can help with Arthritis

If your joints are hurting or you are expecting that they might… then I am here to help.

There are two types of arthritis:

1.     Wear & tear - Osteoarthritis

•   hurts with repeated or excessive use

•   joint calcification

2.     Inflammation & digestive health - Rheumatic

•   hurts upon waking

•   the body’s immune system is attacking its own joints, causing degeneration

Painful joints occur as the cartilage or bony ends grind over one another, and the inflammation causes swelling stimulating pain receptors to fire.

Osteopathic medicine has many approaches and methods to treat joint pain. Depending on your pain level and your condition status, we can tailor a treatment plan for you.

How an Osteopath can help.

Osteopaths have many techniques at their disposal.

All forms of arthritis benefit from postural alignment. This reduces excess strain and pressure on the joints, thus reducing irritation, wear and tear.

Accurate mobilisation of an affected joint can reduce patterns of irritation in the joint, pumping the synovial fluid that keeps the joint healthy and reducing muscular strain patterns which also affect joint structure and alignment.

In addition, osteopath can normalise the nervous system to reduce inflammatory up-regulation and pain-receptor stimulation, which all adversely affect the joints. This occurs at the joint, in the spinal cord and in the digestive system. Osteopathic manipulative technique, including osteopathy in the cranial field is an effective treatment.

How Nutrition can help.

With changes to your diet you can reduce the causes of inflammation and increase the resilience of your gut lining. This can reduce the activity of Killer T cells (CD4+) and increase the activity of Helper T cells (CD8+)

Nutrients can also be utilised to support cartilage development. Research by Blitterswijk, Nes & Whisman, 2003, show that long term use of an effective joint supplement can regenerate a severely damaged spinal disc, but not a completely damaged spinal disc. 

Specific nutrients can aid to increase the quality and quantity of synovial fluid which protects the cartilage and bony ends, thus reducing pain, and wear and tear, to increase joint range of motion and support activity.

What you can do.

  • You can book an initial or consecutive osteopathic consult and treatment, to reduce pain, increase mobility and aid prevention of injury with myself.
  • You can purchase recommend joint nutritional support, which I have researched through personal use, treatment experience and literature reviews.
  • I can discuss with you the benefits of the anti-inflammatory diet for arthritis, both rheumatic and wear and tear types. Your particular needs are taken into account with this advice. This long term plan is often considered a quality of life saver in our modern environment.
  • You can also make an appointment to see the resident naturopath for further advice regarding herbal and nutritional support, especially in the case of rheumatic arthritis.

Enjoy your winter, and be careful on the ski slopes.

Matt

Reference: Blitterswijk, W.,  Nes, J., Wuisman, P.  Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplementation to treat symptomatic disc regerneation: Biochemical rationale and case report.  BMC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, 2003.

Understanding Why You Are Depressed

Let me first say that everyone’s experience of depression is different. Nevertheless there are themes that I see emerging again and again that I hope will be helpful to explore and describe.

Theme One: You’re Exhausted

From a holistic (Chinese Medicine) perspective, depression is the symptom that arises when the body’s nervous system has become overwhelmed with exhaustion. Normally when you’re exhausted you rest (and recuperate) but the cruel part about depression is that you get stuck in a limbo land where you’re unable to access true rest. Instead you find yourself in a state of agitation where you’re unable to switch off mentally and emotionally and, as a consequence, even if physically you’re quite sedentary and it looks like you’re not doing much you are still burning up tremendous amounts of nervous energy. You’ll find yourself going over things again and again in your head, thereby perpetuating a state of agitation and exhaustion.

Theme Two: How It Started

Well for some people it’s pretty obvious, symptoms first appeared after a traumatic event: the death of a loved one, a motor vehicle accident, being bullied at work or the ending of a relationship. The event didn't cause the depression but it created the conditions where the nervous system was stretch beyond its capacity for too long.

For others, they have always had the tendency to be depressed and traditional medicine calls this a ‘constitutional’ condition, modern medicine calls it genetic. Either way it means that ‘the way you are wired’ predisposes you towards depression. That doesn’t mean you just have to put up with it. However, you will need to become an expert in managing your mind and emotions to stay on top of it.

Theme Three: Toxic Emotions

Whether initiated by a trauma or whether you’re just predisposed to depression you’re likely to be suffering from an overload of toxic emotions. Whilst some people don't seem to notice much that goes on around them, people with depression are highly attuned to their surroundings and to other people (or started out that way until they got exhausted). This state of hyper-vigilance leaves them vulnerable to having their emotional circuits constantly jammed up. Once you’re in a perpetual state of overload the effect becomes toxic. Like a compost bin that is overflowing with food scraps, it needs to be emptied otherwise it turns putrid.

Theme Four: You’ve lost Your Way

The other theme with depression is feeling lost and loosing connection with your passion and purpose in life. Of course if you’re exhausted, in mental limbo and suffering from emotional overwhelm it’s impossible to connect with what brings you peace and a sense of purpose. Rather than thinking “once I figure out what I want to do in life I’ll feel better” the opposite is true. Once you feel better, it will be much more clear in what direction you should move.

How to get out of the Maze

From a Chinese Medicine Perspective it’s a pretty simple process.

Step One: Emotional Detox

The first step is to clear the backlog of emotional clutter and toxicity. Without removing the clutter, it’s almost impossible to move forward. From my experience, I’ve found acupuncture to be the key treatment to clear away the clutter and create some momentum. Other therapies that can be supportive include herbal medicine, exercise and dietary changes.

Step Two: Retrain Your Nervous System

It’s crucial to regain the ability to switch off mentally and emotionally, in order to access deep states of rest and peace. When you do, you truly begin to heal the exhaustion that underpins depression. Additionally, when you access deep states of peace you also declutter your mind and emotions which buffers you from going into emotional overload and rebuilds your residence for the inevitable stressful events that will come your way.

Again, I’ve found acupuncture excels at retraining your mind and nervous system to access states of deep peace. Who would have thought sticking pins in the body would be super relaxing but it is! I often describe acupuncture being like training wheels for your nervous system, giving the feeling of what it’s like to deeply relax. After a while you can find your balance on your own and don't need to rely on the treatment/training wheels.

Step Three: Practice Makes Perfect

Once you've got your equilibrium back, simple relaxation and meditation tools will enable you to stay feeling buoyant. The key is you need to do something that enables you to switch off EVERY DAY. Your body and mind’s need for relaxation is a bit like the need to brush our teeth. If you miss a day your mouth starts to feel a bit fuzzy and uncomfortable. It’s the same with the mind, if you don't do something that allows your mind to access rest and peace you are allowing clutter to build up and are sowing the seeds for future discomfort and distress. Meditation (and other deep relaxation practices) clear away the clutter and leave you feeling buoyant and resilient.

Please feel free to contact Live Well if you’d like further insights into how holistic approaches can help with depression.

Hot Stone Massage

As we step into the new season of Winter, hot stone massage can really bring some warmth back into our chilly bones. For those people who can never seem to get warm until spring comes again, hot stone massage can be a lovely way to come out of hibernation. Like stepping out on a cold day but into the sunlight… with the suns rays warming your body against the cold. Hot stone is the next best thing on those cold grey days we often have throughout the winter here in Canberra.

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of receiving a hot stone massage knows the intense feeling of relaxation it provides. But do you know that there are long term, lasting benefits of hot stone massage?

The Secret is in the Stone

A hot stone massage combines thermotherapy with massage techniques to provide an effective healing therapy.  The use of natural stones in conjunction with massage uses powerful earth energies to help the patient heal. Heat from stones also has the benefit of geomagnetism from a Earth source; which has a balancing and healing effect on our systems.

Discover the Deeper Effects of the Stone

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of having a hot stone massage; it consists of both warm and hot stones placed directly on the body as well as being used as a massage tool.  The localised placement of heat on a particular area increases circulation of fluids, and can assist in alleviating organ congestion. When placed along meridian points, they can assist in removing energy blockages that lead to the development of disease, illness. Massage with the hot stones reduce swelling, pain and stimulate lymphatic drainage.

Some benefits of hot stone massage include:

  • Improves circulation
  • Decongestion of the liver by relaxing ducts
  • Detoxifies blood with sweating much the same as a sauna
  • Helps with hydrating and flushing cells
  • Relaxes muscles, soothes aches
  • Increases range of motion in joint movement
  • Lymphatic drainage and cleansing
  • Relieves stress

People who love the Hot Stones, do so because it's like a hot water bottle for the body, a gentle all over relaxing feeling, which calms the body and the soul. So book in for yourself to experience this bliss and reap the benefits. It can be a great part of your wellness program for the winter.

Click here to book a hot stone massage at Live Well Naturally now!

How to live seasonally for winter health with Traditional Chinese medicine

As we move into winter it's time to rug up, keep warm and pay particular attention to our health.  According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), winter is the season associated with the Kidneys, the energy system which holds our body’s most basic and fundamental energy. It is also believed that by harmonising oneself with the seasons you can stay healthier and prevent disease, so winter is a good time to strengthen the kidneys. It is also a good time to look inward, reflecting on ourselves with meditation, writing, or other inward practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong. These practices help us to connect to our inner selves and help to support kidney energy. They are very helpful to relax the mind, calm our emotions and raise the spirit. 

The body part associated with the kidneys are the bones, so it is important to pay close attention to the bones in the winter months making sure to tonify and heal any problems in this area. This is also why winter is a time when Chinese medicine prescribes bone broths as nutritional therapy, as they are warming, nourishing and especially good for the bones and kidney energy. Bone broths are also powerful Jing tonics, as Jing is produced by the bones. Jing is depleted by activities such as extreme and prolonged stress, lack of quality sleep, working long hours and excess consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs. Winter is the best time to supplement the body’s Jing supply, and bone broth is ideal to do just that.

There are many foods that are beneficial for us to eat during winter. These foods are the ones that naturally grow in this season - pumpkin, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, apples and pears. In winter, our bodies need warming foods like soups made with hearty vegetables, and rich stocks cooked with animal bones are best. Foods that specifically nourish and warm the kidneys are: black beans, kidney beans, broths cooked with bones, lamb, chicken, walnuts, chestnuts, black sesame seeds and dark leafy greens.

A small amount of unrefined sea salt is also helpful as the taste associated with the kidneys organ is salty, but remember, moderation in all things is important and too much salt can damage the kidneys. Cooking should be for longer periods with low heat and less water. This infuses foods with heat that helps to keep the body warm in the cold winter months. Hearty soups, whole grains and roasted nuts are good on cold days and offer nourishment to feed the body and tonify the kidneys in cold winter months.

The principle of harmony between what we eat and the season we eat it in is based on hundreds of years of practical experience. Chinese nutritional therapy is an important component of Chinese medicine and there is a long held understanding that food that we consume has a profound effect on the body, affecting our health and wellbeing. 

Why Have We Become So Intolerant?

Food intolerance seems to be on the rise, a 2012 study revealed 17% of Australians are afflicted, but I’m guessing that figure has risen sharply since then. Better awareness of the the link between the foods we eat and a range of uncomfortable symptoms including headaches, diarrhoea, palpitations and mood changes is no doubt part of the rise in reporting. The other I believe is chronically high levels of stress.

What if I told you that you don't just digest food, you also digest experiences: emotions, conversations, images, thoughts and events? It makes sense doesn't it.

From the holistic perspective of Chinese Medicine the same organs that process the food you eat, are all highly involved in ‘digesting’ your life’s events. Which explains why, when you’re stressed, your digestion will often go haywire. Not only are your stomach, intestines, liver and gall bladder trying to process the muesli you had for breakfast, they’re also trying to break down and integrate everything else that’s happened this morning.

I find the link between digestion and stress most obvious when it comes to the assessing the health of the liver. From a Western perspective we’re used to thinking that what disrupts healthy liver function is indulging in alcohol and processed foods which is true, yet I see hundreds of clients who eat really well yet show signs of liver toxicity and overload. When you understand that, according to Chinese Medicine, the liver is the organ primarily associated with processing emotion, people start to get why they’re feeling irritable, fatigued and their digestion is out of sorts.

What’s this got to do with intolerances?

At the end of a busy day, your nervous system loves to switch off and relax, which is almost impossible to do when you have unresolved emotional clutter kicking around inside of you. When you can’t switch off, your immune system is constantly on edge and your digestive organs vulnerable to inflammation, both of which leaves you predisposed to developing allergies and intolerances.

So one of the most powerful ways to tackle food intolerance is to learn how to have a kinder relationship with your emotional wellbeing. The other is to make relaxation a daily habit, as commonplace as brushing your teeth. That way you’ll clear away the clutter of each day to leave your mind and body in a sate of relative peace and equilibrium.

Signs you may have food intolerance

Discovering a food intolerance or sensitivity can be a confusing process. Often, the symptoms are mistaken for simply not feeling well. Research shows it can be years before possible food intolerance is explored. We don’t like to hear that we need to cut something out of our diet, consequently food intolerances can be ignored. On the flip-side, some people are cutting out many foods they could otherwise be enjoying, unsure of what’s causing them discomfort.

The difference between food intolerance and allergy

Firstly, let’s be clear about what the difference is between a food intolerance and a food allergy. Where there is a food allergy, an abnormal immune system response prompts the body to make antibodies to 'fight off' a food. The response is usually quite sudden and intense, including symptoms such as:

●      itchy skin

●      rashes or hives

●      swelling

●      vomiting

●      shortness of breath

●      chest pain, and

●      a drop in blood pressure.

Anaphylaxis is a combination of the above symptoms — it’s life threatening and must be treated immediately. Allergies will cause an immune system response every time a person eats the allergen which is most commonly: gluten, peanuts or tree nuts, fish or shellfish, milk, eggs or soy.

Food intolerance or sensitivity is a much slower process within the body; it comes on gradually. Your body may not respond well to a substance only once it’s eaten often or in large amounts. For example, you might tolerate low levels of wheat throughout the week, or you’re able to eat a pizza when you’re relaxed and well. However, once there is a build-up of wheat in your system you start to see and feel your symptoms.

Here’s the KEY to managing intolerances: Your overall health and well-being will have a big impact on how your body handles substances that it’s sensitive to. I’ll discuss this further at the end of the article!

Signs of a food intolerance

Signs that you may have a food intolerance can be both physical and emotional. This is mainly due to the link between gut health and the brain. A food intolerance may cause one or many of the common symptoms below:

●      nausea

●      bloating, gas, cramps

●      diarrhea and/or constipation

●      Irritable Bowel Syndrome

●      stomach pain

●      joint pain

●      vomiting

●      heartburn

●      candida / thrush

●      skin rash

●      headaches

●      weight gain or weight loss

●      lethargy, feeling flat

●      irritability

●      anxiousness.

Why am I intolerant to certain foods?

There is much debate and research into what’s causing the rise in food intolerance. One recurring theme is the move away from natural and organically farmed foods to processed, artificially treated and preserved foods, as well as the many artificial additives for colouring and flavour. Many of these additives have not been tested enough to know the full effect they have on our health. Shockingly, some additives that are known to cause damage are still being used. This varies from country to country as to what chemicals are allowed to be in our food.

As an example, this image from Grainstorm.com shows how modern wheat is processed: starting as an ancient whole grain and ending up stripped of its nutrients into white flour form.

Another possibility to consider are enzymes. Lactose (the sugar in milk) is one of the most common intolerances and is due to an enzyme deficiency or defect. Enzymes are needed by the body to help with the breakdown of natural substances found in certain foods. Without the relevant enzyme, or not enough of it, the body cannot deal with part of the food. In this instance, the enzyme ‘lactase’ is needed to digest and absorb lactose. You might experience cramping, bloating, diarrhoea and lethargy as your gut struggles with breaking down the lactose without lactase.

It’s not always artificial chemicals and toxins that can cause an intolerance. While it’s extremely important that we strive to clear these damaging ingredients from our food sources, some people are intolerant to natural food chemicals such as amines found in cheese, chocolate and wine (“nooooo!”) and salicylates found in certain fruits and vegetables. This is why some people struggle to identify the source of discomfort as it can be something ‘healthy’.

What do I do next?

Mind-body medicine and a holistic approach to your health means that by checking in with your gut health and what foods may be compromising your health and well-being, a positive ripple effect will occur across your physical, emotional and mental health.

You body has many mechanisms to talk to you and let you know that there’s a problem. Listening to and observing your body after you eat and keeping a food journal is a great way to track and identify patterns of an imbalance.

If you suspect something might be upsetting you, cut it out completely for two weeks and re-introduce it to see how you feel. Your body will need some time to balance and heal which is why you need sometime without the substance.

And finally — get some help. There are many ways to use food as medicine to support health and well-being and get your body back on track. Don’t put yourself through an elimination diet without professional guidance from a naturopath, nutritionist or dietician.

Special Offer!

To help you discover what substances you may be intolerant to, I’m offering 15 minute kinesiology food intolerance testing for only $30. Let’s start the process and give you an opportunity to ask your body where stress lies with food. This offer will be available until Thursday 26th May! Call now on 6295 0400 to book your spot. Don’t miss out!

I will leave you with food for thought: food intolerances are not a life sentence — by working to heal your body, improve your physiology, treat any other underlying causes or connections. and find balance emotionally and mentally, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to once again enjoy a glass of wine or a piece of cheese.  Kate

The Cholesterol Conundrum

When ABC’s Catalyst program ran a story in 2013 about the overprescribing of statins (the medication used to lower cholesterol levels) more than 60,000 Australians stopped or lowered their medication levels. This extraordinary response caused it’s own controversy given the prevailing orthodox medical view that statins prevent heart attacks and save lives.

More recently, in 2015, a systematic review of all the research on statin use published by the British Medical Journal suggested that the benefit of taking statins was surprisingly small. When two groups of patients with similar risk factors such as cholesterol levels, age and lifestyle were compared the group taking statins were likely to live only three 3 more days than the group not on medication.

Everyone agrees that statins reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, of that there is no doubt. We also know cholesterol is used by the body to repair damaged blood vessels. However have we mistakenly assumed that because high cholesterol levels are seen when we observe heart disease that cholesterol is the bad guy?

Nutrition researcher Sally Fallon certainly thinks we’ve got the wrong end of the stick. She says “just as a large police force is needed in a locality where crime occurs frequently, so cholesterol is needed in a poorly nourished body to protect the individual from a tendency to heart disease and cancer. Blaming coronary heart disease on cholesterol is like blaming the police for murder and theft in a high crime area.”

The emerging alternative view about cholesterol is that high levels of cholesterol indicate a state of systemic inflammation whereby the body is trying to protect itself from potentially catastrophic cellular damage. If you follow this theory it appears reducing cholesterol by statin use is not going to solve the problem only mask it.

Nor is systemic inflammation treated by reducing so called high cholesterol foods but rather by replacing poor quality foods with nutrient dense ones, better managing stress levels and getting some regular exercise.

Keeping in mind no medication is side effect free, and indeed statins are linked to muscle pain, liver damage, digestive problems, rashes and increased type 2 diabetes as well as neurological side effects. In my opinion it’s worthwhile exploring alternative ways to reduce cholesterol so you’re not wholly reliant on statins to do the job.

I would also urge you not to make any changes to your prescribed regimen of medications without seeking appropriate medical advice but please do consider consulting with a naturopath in addition to you GP about the most appropriate course of action for your particular needs.

Seed Cycling: Using the nourishment of seeds to help bring your hormones (and menstrual cycle) back into balance

Seed Cycling is a practice of eating a combination of specific seeds throughout the different phases of the menstrual cycle to promote hormonal harmony. The nutritional content of which, help support, regulate, and clear our hormones (specifically Oestrogen and Progesterone) throughout the cycle.

If your cycle is out of rhythm and your hormones feel out of balance, introducing seed cycling is a way of providing your system with bi-phasic (covering both phase 1 and 2) menstrual cycle support, and is a beautiful way to help your hormones recalibrate.

If we think about it, seeds are in fact, nutrient-rich powerhouses, brimming with essential nutrients (containing all the stuff necessary for the growth of a plant). Why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of their nourishment?

An orchestra of hormones

The female endocrine system is orchestrated by an intricate composition of hormones (chemical messengers). When our hormones are in balance, this will translate to a regular, 28 day menstrual cycle that runs smoothly, with little disturbance. This would typically be characterised by an absence of (or very minimal) menstrual cycle symptoms.

Generally speaking, when oestrogen and progesterone (which act as key influencers in the menstrual cycle) are out of whack -for example, if we’re producing too little or too much of either, or having metabolic or clearance issues -our natural rhythms can go awry.  

With too little oestrogen, we may find the endometrial lining is too thin, and we can wind up not actually ovulating. On the other hand, when we have oestrogen in excess, we may be prone to erratic periods, mood disorders, and conditions such as Endometriosis and Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which are all too common.

Progesterone is an antagonist of oestrogen, so it keeps oestrogen in-check. It also acts as a building block for the synthesis of other hormones. A deficiency in progesterone (often due to excess oestrogen in the system!) can lead to late and irregular cycles, infertility, PMS (especially mood disturbances and sore breasts), low libido, and more.

Our endocrine system is highly sensitive. So our stress levels, quality of sleep, physical activity, blood glucose regulation, nutrition and nutrient deficiencies or excesses, levels of toxicity, and ability to detoxify -can have either a positive and stabilising influence on our hormonal health, or a disruptive one.

When our hormones are not in balance, we can experience an array of psychological, emotional and physical symptoms. PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is a common term used to label these changes, and can typically summarise anything from: fatigue, anxiety, decreased stress tolerance, low mood/depression, irritability, food cravings, digestive disturbances, an irregular cycle or amenorrhoea (absence of menstrual period), sore/lumpy breasts, feeling “emotional” or emotionally unstable, foggy thinking, food cravings, digestive disturbances, abdominal pain, back pain, migraines, and the list goes on…

Understanding the Menstrual Cycle

Our menstrual cycle is made up of two phases.

Phase 1 (the ‘follicular’ phase): spans from the time of your last period to ovulation (approx. the first 14 days or two weeks of the month), and is when oestrogen in the system is building up to encourage the uterine lining to plump up in preparation for possible implantation.

Phase 2 (the ‘luteal’ phase): is the time between ovulation and menstruation (days 15-28, or the second half of the month), when progesterone surges to increase libido around ovulation, maintain the uterine lining (endometrium), and ultimately, to support a developing embryo.

Here’s how Seed Cycling works…

The nutrients in the seed combinations encourage oestrogen production needed for the follicular phase; promote progesterone release in the luteal phase; and support healthy hormonal metabolism and detoxification from the system.

Do allow a good 3-4 cycles or months to begin seeing and feeling results. You may find it helpful to track your hormones by taking a daily note of your symptoms, along with their severity (rating them from 1-10, for example).

In a Nutshell…

All of these seeds share common properties. Perhaps most important, is their ability to help regulate our endocrine system. They are all also rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are necessary for hormonal production and regulation, and have an anti-inflammatory influence in the body. They are a beautiful plant-source of protein, which is needed for hormonal synthesis, and also blood glucose regulation (blood glucose dysregulation is a feature of many hormonal, mood, and stress-related conditions). They are also a great source of soluble and insoluble fibre -which is important for gut health (also mood) and for the elimination of toxins and excess hormones, which can be a major driving factor in hormonal imbalances.

Linseeds + Pumpkin seeds are used to promote phase 1

 ·      Linseeds: contain high levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs), anti-oxidants (protective) and lignans -which are fibre-like compounds that act to moderate oestogen production, and prevent oestrogen excess.

Interestingly, linseeds can also exert a phyto-oestrogenic effect, which supports oestrogen levels in the system. This is a beautiful example of how balancing wholefoods really are.

 ·      Pumpkin seeds: are high in the mineral zinc, which amongst many other functions, promotes the release of progesterone. They also have phyto-oestrogenic properties + enzyme alpha-5 reductase, which helps to modulate androgen levels (good also inPCOS) + phytosterols.

Sunflower seeds + Sesame seeds are used to promote phase 2:

 ·      Sunflower seeds: provide the mineral selenium, which is a potent antioxidant that helps the liver in detoxification processes and protects reproductive tissues and cells. They also contain phytosterols + fibre, and promote progesterone.

 ·      Sesame seeds: are high in lignans + antioxidants + EFAs + phytosterols (which aid in managing cholesterol by reducing the body’s absorption of unhealthy fats, and are a good cardiovascular and brain nutrient) + nourishing minerals

Daily dosing of seeds:

·      During the Follicular phase (first day of bleed – ovulation): Take 1 tbs of freshly ground Linseeds + 1 tbs of freshly ground Pumpkin seeds, daily.

·      During the Luteal phase (day 15 - menses): Take 1 tbs of freshly ground Sesame seeds + 1 tbs of freshly ground Sunflower seeds, daily.

Why do I need grind the seeds fresh, daily?

The seeds need to be ground in order to ensure the bioavailablity (how readily absorbed and well-utilised) of their nutrients. Which is why having the seeds whole is not recommended therapeutically.

The nutritional content of these seeds (essential fatty acids, in particular) are vulnerable to being damaged (oxidised) when they are exposed to air, light or heat. This is why storing your seeds in airtight containers, away from light and heat (e.g. sun), and grinding them fresh each day is important.

It is also important for their digestion and absorption, to chew them well.

You can add the seeds to a daily smoothie, your breakfast bowl, coconut yoghurt (it’s good to avoid dairy where possible, in hormonal and inflammation-driven conditions)

Let the moon lead the way

The best way to begin seed cycling and find your way back to your natural rhythm, is to follow the 28 day lunar (moon) cycle. In this way, phase one is the time between the new moon and full moon; and phase two is from full moon to new moon.

Castor Oil Packs for Reproductive Health

Castor oil is derived from the seeds of the Castor plant (Ricinus cammunis), also known as Palma Christi.  Castor oil’s healing properties have been utilised for many years, in ancient Egypt it was taken orally as a laxative (which is now known to be toxic). Traditional Chinese medicine, ayurvedic medicine and naturopathy recommend the use of castor oil packs because of their ability to promote circulation, healing and reduce inflammation.

A castor oil pack is a cloth soaked in castor oil, which is placed on the skin and warmed to enhance circulation and promote healing of the underlying tissues and organs.

Castor oil packs can be used to assist in cases of inflammation, pain, growths or when there is a need for increased circulation.  Castor oil packs work by supporting the liver, lymphatic and circulatory systems.  When it comes to fertility castor oil packs may be a great supportive therapy for:

  • Supporting ovarian health
  • Supporting fallopian tube health
  • Supporting uterine health
  • Supporting egg health
  • Detoxifying before conception

Stimulation of the lymphatic system occurs by applying the castor oil pack over the reproductive organs where many lymph nodes are located. This helps to cleanse the reproductive organs and promote healing of damaged tissues where the pack is applied.

The promotion of circulation by the castor oil pack will bring fresh, oxygenated, nutrient rich blood to the reproductive organs, including the uterus. Without proper circulation to the reproductive organs, the organs cannot function at their best which can leave them prone to disease, impede the healing of damaged areas and allow for the formation of scar tissue and adhesions.

To make a castor oil pack you will need:

  • A piece of soft, clean thick material like flannel, wool or cotton (organic is ideal)
  • Castor oil
  • A glass jar with lid
  • A hot water bottle or heating pad
  • A plastic bag
  • A large towel
  • Old comfortable clothes (castor oil stains fabric)
  • Baking soda

Instructions:

  • Put on your old clothes
  • Place your piece of cloth onto your jar and pour enough castor oil over it to soak it.  Make sure it is saturated, but it doesn’t need to be dripping with oil
  • Get your hot water bottle or heating pad ready
  • Place your towel on a flat surface (either a couch, your bed or the floor)
  • Lie down and place the saturated cloth over your lower abdomen
  • Cover with plastic bag
  • Place the hot water bottle/heating pad over the pack and let it sit for at least 20 mins (ideally 30-45 mins) during this time you can rest or read a book
  • When the time is up, remove the pack and clean the area with a dilute solution of water and baking soda

Store your cloth in the glass jar with the lid sealed in a cool place or in the fridge.  You can reuse the pack many times – just add a little more oil if the cloth feels dry.

Precautions: Castor oil should not be taken internally. Do not apply to broken skin. It should not be used during pregnancy, breastfeeding or during menstruation.  If you ae actively trying to conceive, discontinue use after ovulation has occurred.