Yoga for Insomnia

There are a myriad of reasons for interrupted sleep. Whether you suffer chronic insomnia or find yourself having a hard time getting back into a healthy sleep routine after travel or a change in stress levels or life circumstances, Yoga offers a range of techniques to calm your busy mind and relax your tired body so that you can do what you're meant to overnight; recover and restore. 

The forward bending family of poses are a great place to start for calming an outwardly focused mind and tuning into the natural internal rhythms of your body to prepare for a good night's sleep. 

Forward folds come in all shapes and sizes from standing to seated and wide leg to one leg at time. Generally in Yoga, forward folding postures are credited with encouraging mental rejuvenation and stress relief by bringing stillness to an overactive mind, physical release along the back side of the body including hamstrings, upper and lower back and balancing us energetically by asking us to look within, rather than without for the answers to all we may seek to find, to stop running away from pain or chasing the next high and instead rest in that which we are experiencing right now and finally with listening to our hearts, instead of getting caught up in the melodrama of our minds. 

If you struggle with getting to sleep or with getting back to sleep after waking in the night, a simple sequence of floor based, restorative forward folds paired with deep, intentional breath can help prepare you to reenter 'rest and digest' as soon as your head hits the pillow. 

There are plenty of forward folding poses you can try from simple child's pose, seated forwards folds with straight legs, wide legs, crossed legs and folding over one extended leg at a time. Have a play with what feels good for your body and use as much support as you can such as pillows, cushions or blankets to support the front side of your body. This support will help you really relax into your chosen forward fold. If you suffer sciatica or have other lower back or hamstring injuries, please be careful that your forward folds don't aggravate your condition. 

Spending at least 5-10 deep breaths in each position will allow you to gain some of the benefits of mental quiet and emotional space from each pose. A helpful mindfulness tool to pair with each pose is to visualise breathing right down to the soles of your feet and working your awareness back up the body, piece by piece, breath by breath. This is a great way to get out of your head and back into connection with the grounding energy of your lower body. 

So next time you find yourself fighting to find sleep, take five minutes out of bed and set yourself the intention to surrender to the still place inside your body, through a series of simple forward folds. Hopefully you'll reset your system to find peace and have a new tool to add to your personal wellbeing toolbox! 

 Namaste and sweet dreams! 

Insomnia - accept it or banish it?

“I’m an insomniac - I just live with it”. Sound familiar? It’s quite common to hear people say comments such as “I live on four hours sleep, I’ve just trained my body to deal with it” or “I’ve had insomnia for years, it’s just how I am”. Margaret Thatcher (the Iron Lady!), Bill Clinton and Madonna are all well-known for saying they function on just four hours sleep per night and this created a movement of people following in their path, believing they could be highly productive and healthy with little sleep. However, there is a plethora of research that reveals we need to have around eight hours per night. As you’ve read in previous Live Well blogs, sleep is not something we do just for the sake of it.

Sleep plays a crucial role to our physical, mental and emotional well-being.

So, whose fault is it that so many of us are struggling to reach the golden 8 hours per night? Factors such as medication, diet, weight, chronic disease, anxiety and depression are well-known players in the game of sleep. Of course, the biggest culprit is a term we’ve come to use in daily life - stress. In fact, stress from the working week has created a community of ‘sleep bulimics’, a term coined by associate professor of psychiatry, Robert Stickgold whereby those who sleep very little from Monday to Friday are binging on sleep at the weekend. The problem with this is that sleep is accumulative and a simple binge on the weekend won’t make up for the negative effect the week has had on your mind, body and emotions. Indeed, the body craves to be at one with the day-night cycle, known as the circadian rhythm.

Complementary medicine can help you reset your sleeping patterns by treating the underlying causes of insomnia such as your hormones and your nervous system and help you to deal with external stressors such as work and relationships. I have written much about sleep and how complementary medicine can help, so start by reading my most popular article Why You Wake Up At The Same Time Each Night.

So, do you accept that you’re an insomniac or someone who ‘functions’ on very little sleep?

Or do you challenge this limiting belief and give credit where credit is due? Sleep is an invaluable part of your health, wellness and basic survival. Without it, you sacrifice a healthy immune system, a strong mental state and a balance of emotional well-being - all for the sake of getting even more done that you’re already doing. I know which one I choose. What about you? Choose sleep and then see how much you get done! I work with all ages, so book in with me for kinesiology and start breaking the pattern of insomnia.

A Naturopathic Perspective on Insomnia

When it comes to insomnia and poor sleep my clinical experience tells me that what we really need to be doing is look at the source. In other words, if you were a tree and the insomnia or poor quality of sleep (the symptoms) are represented by the leaves, our inquiry needs to be centred around what’s happening at the level of the soil and at the roots (of the proverbial tree). This is where we find the diet, stress and lifestyle factors that contribute to nutrient deficiencies, toxicity, inflammation and the other driving factors that are causing the disturbances and symptoms in the first place. So rather than just trying to band-aid or prune the leaves and branches with various remedies (that are not going to treat at the source level), you’ll find it more effective (and life-changing) to work from the ground up…

So what does that mean?

The substances we put in our body have such a major influence on our physiology –from our hormones and nervous system (including our brain), our immune system function, how we feel emotionally, clarity of mind and concentration, ageing processes, you name it –the lot! And whilst there are many factors that can contribute to a person’s experience of insomnia, our diet and the kinds of things we’re eating and drinking can be a (if not THE) major culprit. To read more on food & sleep, see my Guide to Eating Right for Better Sleep)

If you’re suffering through your own version of poor sleep or insomnia, it’s likely you’re not feeling great. Once insomnia and poor sleep establishes a habit, it can become difficult to cope after a while.  You probably still having to get up and appear like a normal, functioning person…  So what do you do?

Well, most people begin to rely on caffeine and high energy, sugar-laden foods to get up and going and push you through the walls of fatigue and dullness so they can show up and get things done. Physiologically, blood-sugars will spike -which will help you through; but they’ll soon also crash -which is a bit like catching a wave to surf and then being dumped! It essentially creates a cycle of reliance on substances and behaviours –for example, that propensity for an alcoholic beverage of an evening, carb/sweet or salty cravings, inordinate amounts of screen-time and being sedentary.

Whilst these practices initially appear to help in managing the fallout from the poor quality sleep, it also creates not only a deficit in the system (from poor nutrition and unbalanced stress and lifestyle factors) but establishes an unhealthy crutch that you probably feel you need to go about your day and demands, and to get through. You’ll likely be relying on “uppers” –things you’ve found that help to get you functioning -like coffee or chocolate for example; and “downers” like alcohol, a big rich meal or even chocolate again (seemingly conversely, but it also hits the “reward” centres in the brain and alters the brain chemistry to soothe, as well as pep you up). These things appear to work in the short term and help bring you back to a place that feels more “relaxed” or is more conducive to falling asleep. 

But how you feel in the morning when you wake is usually the best sign to go by, as it is your indicator for quality of sleep. And we’ve all had those “perfect” 8+hr nights of sleep and woken feeling less-than-amazing. So it’s not necessarily about the amount of sleep-time you’ve clocked up in a night, nor the fact that you may be sleeping through. So let’s explore quality of sleep a little further…

What kind of sleep disturbances are you experiencing?

□      Having difficulty getting to sleep, feeling tired, but too “wired”, and unable to wind down at the end of the day?  

□      Have you come to rely upon certain “crutches” -like alcohol, chocolate, ice-cream or tv to help you wind down?

□      Are you generally able to fall asleep OK, but are waking during the night?

□      Are you technically “sleeping through”, but your sleep is restless and non-refreshing –are you waking feeling just as tired (or more so!) than when you went to bed the night before, feeling headachy, unmotivated, slow  or foggy on a regular basis?

□      Do you find yourself waking too early in the (middle-of-the-night) morning, having 2 a.m, 3 a.m and 4 a.m wake-ups; lying awake for hours at a time and unable to fall back asleep, or falling asleep right before your alarm goes off…?

Well, you’re not alone!

Here are some of the most common factors that play a role in insomnia and poor quality of sleep:

·       Stress! Plays a huge role in insomnia, and is an absolute must-look in any case.

·       Diet and nutrition: excesses, deficiencies, toxicity and inflammation; psychoactive substances such as caffeine, sugar, alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines, opioids and medications.

·       Blood glucose imbalances (one of the triggers for insomnia) can cause a neuroendocrine response that activates the brain to be awake -hence, an early dinner that is not rich and is easily digestible + a light snack or gentle supper in the hour before bedtime can help. (see my Guide to Eating Right for Better Sleep for more information on how our food choices can help you sleep better)

·       Hormonal disturbances and irregularities e.g. menopause

·       Rich meals and desserts

·       Stimulant intake throughout the day - sugar, caffeine, alcohol (yes, alcohol initially acts as a depressant on the nervous system; but it winds up messing with blood glucose levels and burdening the liver, which can be a major causative factor in sleep issues)

·       Electromagnetic disturbances from electronic gadgetry, wiring and lights in the bedroom

·       Exposure to short wavelength blue light emitted from our phones/tv which impacts the pineal gland and reduces melatonin (the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep and circadian rhythm)

·       Other underlying conditions, for example:  stress, anxiety or depression; sleep apnoea; menopause; arthritis; gastric ulcer

·       Medications

·       Sedentary lifestyle

It is worth noting that many of the factors listed above are not only underlying causes in insomnia and poor quality of sleep; but many –such as elevated stress hormones, intake of high-caloric, sugary, quick energy-releasing foods, use of stimulants, hormonal disturbances, depression, anxiety and states of inflammation like arthritis –are also behaviours and effects that are in turn, driven by insomnia and poor sleep. So a vicious cycle ensues, and it can be a real “chicken or egg” situation.

Good quality of sleep is so vital to our health and wellbeing.

If we’re sleeping poorly, it not only impacts our energy, how we feel, or our focus, cognition, and how we eat on any given day. Chronic poor quality sleep also sparks inflammation and disease pathways in the body, can cause leaky gut, foggy head -and even brain damage; it promotes metabolic, endocrine and cardiovascular disorders, and is terrible for mood and mental health. In essence, if you are experiencing consistent poor quality sleep or insomnia it’s an awful space to be in, and it’s important you to seek professional help so you can feel well and be well again soon!

Food Intolerance

When you first hear the words “You’ve got a food intolerance”, for just a second, the world stops, the noise disappears and that little two year old inside you throws a giant tantrum internally screaming ‘noooooooooo’! And right then and there, you’re catapulted into an alternate universe that you don’t recognise, have no idea how to navigate and you’re wondering if you’ll even be able to survive it… well, you can and you will, and these three easy practical steps can help you get started.

1.      Understand what you’re dealing with.

It’s estimated that 25% of the Australian population suffers from a food intolerance in some form or another, and the term is so commonly bandied around these days, most people think they understand what a food intolerance is, but here’s a simple concept, just in case. A food intolerance occurs when the body can’t digest a certain food, chemical or additive. It’s basically an adverse reaction to food that causes a wide array of unpleasant symptoms, usually digestive and can result in severe and prolonged illness. Though they can be quite debilitating for the sufferer, they are generally not life-threatening: which is significantly different from a classic food allergy, that can be life threatening and is an immune response to a specific food protein.

2.      Recognise your symptoms.

People can develop sensitivity to anything from wheat and milk to sulphites and histamines, the list is actually mind blowing and the symptoms are as wide and varied as the ice-cream flavours at Ben and Jerry’s! Typically though, the most common symptoms of a food intolerance can be as specific as bloating, nausea, migraines and wheezing to vague ones like brain fog and general malaise. Once you’ve been diagnosed, it’s time to listen closely to your body and start identifying those symptoms that are related to your food sensitivity – understanding the symptoms and your reactions to food triggers, can help you make better and informed eating choices moving forward.

3.      Take action to implement change

When you’re diagnosed with a food intolerance, change without your consent occurs across many aspects of your life, including: grocery shopping, cooking, dining out and travelling. It can be overwhelming and daunting and many people struggle to understand both the change required and how to implement it. The secret is to start small, with weekly goals that you build on and develop over time so that you will enact the positive, long-term and sustainable change required to live healthily and happily within your new food landscape: remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

The thing is you don’t have to figure out this new landscape all on your own, you can get expert guidance and support and in fact that’s where I come in! I am a lifestyle, food and wellness coach and a specialist in providing you the structured guidance and support that will empower you to learn, grow and develop beyond what you can do alone. I can help you navigate your way from confusion and panic about what to eat to confidence, ease and wellbeing.

Homeopathy and insomnia

A recurring theme in previous blogs about homeopathy is that no one condition exists in isolation. In order to treat a clinical condition, it needs to be understood in the context of the whole person suffering from that condition, including the totality of mental, emotional and physiological symptoms.

Insomnia is no exception to this rule. In fact, insomnia is most often a symptom of some other underlying factor. It may be a consequence of stress, dietary habits including excessive alcohol and coffee intake, grief, depression, having a baby, travelling, poor sleep hygiene, amongst many others. In the case of “stress” for example, the line of questioning follows a path of “what kind of stress?”: as it is so unique to each individual. Identifying causative factors underlying insomnia is also important.

I recall two recent cases of women with chronic insomnia that had gone on for years. Both women would wake between 2-4AM; one with worries about her children and the health of her elderly sick father. Both women also experienced menstrual problems and lower back pain. The turning point for both women was since having had children: “since children my sleep has never been the same”.

Sound familiar?

Although a number of medicines are indicated in such cases, both women received the homeopathic medicine Kali Carbonicum, with excellent results. It helped break the pattern. Within a few weeks their sleep patterns normalised resulting in longer, deeper, more restful sleep.

I very often observe that until the underlying causative factors are dealt with, symptoms such as insomnia will tend to persist and recur. If you want to get to the bottom of your insomnia, consider homeopathy.

Sleep Hygiene Tips Part 2

...continued on from Part 1

Be mindful of bright light exposure after dark. Research has demonstrated that night time light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin, the major hormone secreted by the pineal gland that controls sleep and wake cycles.

Unfortunately melatonin suppression has far worse consequences than simply poor sleep outcomes: it has also been shown to increase the risk of cancer, impair immune system function, and possibly lead to cardio metabolic consequences such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease. 1-hour and 2-hour exposure to light from self-luminous devices could significantly suppressed melatonin by approximately 23% and 38% respectively.*

Along with blue light emitted from electronic devices, research has shown that being exposed to normal levels of room lighting can have similar negative effects on melatonin.

Things that can help. Applications on your computer e.g. f.lux (free download), a program that makes the colour of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. This program can be installed on computers, iPads, and iPhones, and may have a significant effect on your melatonin secretion when using these devices at night.

Or if you want to get serious amber-lensed goggles once the sun has gone down. These blue-blocking lenses are highly effective in reducing the effects of blue light exposure, and in most cases completely eliminate the short-wavelength radiation necessary for nocturnal melatonin suppression.

These goggles have been shown to improve sleep quality as well as mood, simply by blocking blue light and simulating physiologic darkness.*
 
Sleep Well,
 
Bryden

Sleep Hygiene Tips Part 1

'Sleep hygiene' means habits that help you have a good night's sleep, something we all know and love but don’t often get. Common sleeping problems (eg. insomnia) are often brought about by bad habits reinforced over years but you can learn to retrain your body and mind so that you sleep well and wake feeling rested.

Some basic points:

  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep as the body begins to metabolise the alcohol, causing arousal. Other drawbacks include waking frequently to go to the toilet and hangovers. Instead, have a warm, milky drink, since milk contains a sleep-enhancing amino acid.
  • Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night's sleep.
  • Obey your body clock. Get up at the same time every day. This will help to ‘set’ your body clock.
  • Don’t ignore tiredness. Go to bed when your body tells you to!
  • Don’t go to bed if you don’t feel tired. You will only reinforce bad habits such as lying awake.
  • Get enough early morning sunshine. Exposure to light during early waking hours helps to set your body clock. Especially in the first 30 minutes.
  • Food can be disruptive right before sleep.  Stay away from large meals close to bedtime. It’s better to have a bigger lunch and light dinner.
  • Good sleep is more likely if your bedroom feels restful and comfortable. Invest in a mattress that is neither too hard nor too soft. Ensure the room is dark enough. Buy a pair of earplugs if needed or a good poking stick for your partner whatever works for you!
  • Sleeping pills – drawbacks include daytime sleepiness, failure to address the causes of sleeping problems, and the ‘rebound’ effect – after a stint of using sleeping pills, falling asleep without them tends to be even harder. These drugs should only be used as a temporary last resort and under strict medical advice.
  • Relax. Take a warm bath. We’re very good at worrying as it is, so don’t practice in your sleep! Try relaxation exercises.  There are a heap of options, so you just need to find the right one for you. For starters, you could consciously relax every part of your body, starting with your toes and working up to your head (don’t forget your jaw). Or you could concentrate on the rhythmic rise and fall of your breathing expelling your tension on the out breaths.
  • If you can’t fall asleep within a reasonable amount of time, get out of bed and do something else for half an hour or so, such as reading a book.
  • Come see one of us. As an Osteopath- a sign that the treatment is helping is your sleep improves. Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Kineosiology, Acupuncture, Yoga and massage can all help in different ways.

Take Care.

Banish Insomnia

The Perfect Night’s Sleep

Ahhh sleep, you know the drill, your head hits the pillow and you drift effortlessly into a long, peaceful and rejuvenating nights rest….or maybe…..not! Unfortunately, for many this is not your reality.

Instead your mind is awash with the thoughts and experiences of the day playing over and over again on repeat. You revisit the annoying conversation, the difficult conflict or the embarrassing moment ad nauseam.

Or perhaps it’s not a particular thought that keeps you awake, rather a general sense of restlessness and irritation or physical discomfort.

For others getting to sleep is the easy part, staying asleep is the problem. You wake at the same time each night and then toss and turn until the alarm goes off and signals the end of another unsatisfactory night. Or something wakes you like a crying baby, a pet or a crazy neighbour and you lie awake long after the interruption has passed.

Sleep and your health

The problem with these scenarios is that sleep is no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’; it is an essential foundation of wellbeing. Poor sleep not only leads to chronic exhaustion but also to chronic disease. Anxiety, depression, heart disease, hypertension, obesity and diabetes are just some of the many conditions linked to chronic insomnia.

The reason sleep is so super important is because the quality of your sleep determines the health of your nervous system and when your nervous system is out of balance it effects everything else: immune system, hormone balance, metabolism, mental health, digestion and so on.

If you want to prevent cancer, if you want to heal from auto-immune disease, if you want to lose weight, if you want to overcome depression or anxiety then start by addressing the quality of your sleep and the rest will follow.

Quality and quantity

What about those people who have chronic illness and already sleep a lot? It comes down to quantity plus quality. Many people with conditions like chronic fatigue or depression will sleep for long hours but wake up feeling exhausted. This indicates that whilst your eyes might be shut your body and mind are stuck in a limbo land between wakefulness and deep rest. It’s like you’re dipping your toes in the waters of relaxation when every cell of your body wants to be able to dive right in and soak up the recuperative waters.

Banishing insomnia

The good news is natural therapies are very effective in restoring quality sleep. Everyone’s pattern of insomnia is different and the underlying causes are as unique as the person themselves which is why holistic approaches are often successful where other avenues have failed.

Throughout July at Live Well, we’re focused on helping you solve the puzzle of getting a good night sleep. So stay tuned and keep an eye out for blogs, information resources, seminars and more to help you get the quality sleep and rejuvenation you deserve.

If you do struggle with sleep, don't ignore it or put up with it any longer. It’s not a trivial issue so make a time to connect with one of our practitioners and get help. The quality of your wellbeing is depending on it.

We are here to help.

Keep your spine supple with Yoga this winter!

Yoga Pose! Seated twist: Bharadvajasana

With the winter chill in Canberra seriously setting in, there are a range of that Yoga practices that can help you keep you feeling supple and centred despite the cold.
 
Whether you have sore wrists, achy knees or a stiff back from arthritis, there are still gentle Yoga poses you can make a part of your day to help keep your body feeling elastic and flexible throughout winter.
 
Some Yogis and other health professionals believe that optimal health starts with our spines. So keeping your spine mobile and limber throughout the chill of winter can have benefits from improved posture, reduced pain and an improved sense of mental and emotional wellbeing.
 
Gentle seated twists are a great way to encourage healthy range of motion in your spine and assist with improving your posture, digestion freedom of movement. This seated twist 'Bharadvajasana' doesn't take a lot of time and you can even it them from the comfort of your office chair.

To set up: 

Find a comfortable seat that allows you to sit up straight and tall. You can sit on the floor or on a firm, stable chair that won't limit your twisting movements.

Begin to focus on the rhythm of your breath, noticing your inhale and exhale. Eventually invite a deeper breath in as you sit up taller and as you exhale gently connect into your core muscles.

To twist:

On an inhale breath sit up tall as you exhale twist your chest and shoulders to the right.
try to keep your chin in line with the centre of your chest.

You can place your right hand on your knee and use your left hand behind you for support against the floor or chair back.

Spent 2-3 breaths here, sitting taller with each inhale and gently exploring the twist with each exhale.

On an exhale breath, gently release back to centre. Repeat opposite side.
 
You can repeat this twist as many times as you like throughout the day to help re-set your posture and your reinvigorate your mindset. As along with the physical benefits of flexibility to your hips, spine and chest, breathing deeply helps flush out stale air in your lungs and enliven your mind to bring some energy back to your attitude!  

Be careful to:

Move slowly and gently - if you meet any sharp pain, stop and see your health professional for advice. Sit up tall at all time - this is the safest way to avoid compression in your vertebrae.
Stretch across smile on your dial as well! A little movement and breath can help drop away the winter blues and leave your feeling happier each day!
 
Namaste!

Arthritis: movement beyond your joints

One of the most effective ways to approach dis-eases such as arthritis is to remind ourselves that we are more than just our physical body. As Aristotle so eloquently explained ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Eastern healing traditions such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and yogic-Chakra medicine have known this for hundreds of years and have always encompassed the mind, body and spirit. For Eastern medicine, the physical body is not seen as separate to our other ‘bodies’ such as emotional, mental and spiritual; together they create a blueprint of ‘energy’ that is unique to each of us. They’re intricately connected. Kinesiology draws upon both Eastern and Western healing wisdom and techniques in order to treat the whole person. And here’s why this approach helps those who suffer from arthritis - let’s explore this through two of the most difficult symptoms of arthritis: pain and lack of movement or stiffness.

Pain as stored emotions or thoughts

As a general rule, wherever there is physical pain in the body, there is an associated emotional and mental pattern and the same can be said for emotional pain being held in the physical body. So often we try to shift pain yet it continues to return. We question what it is that we’re doing to trigger the pain again and again. However, the answer lies not only within the structure of your joints, but within the life you have experienced. When you reflect on your life thus far, what emotions and moments did you try to ignore or put away as they were too confronting or uncomfortable? When you don’t resolve aspects from your life, it gets stored in your energy system and as it builds can create stress, dis-ease or pain within the body.

Stuck in body; stuck in life

This leads me to the next common symptom of arthritis which is lack of movement or stiffness. A common theme for people who suffer from arthritis, or have limited motion within joints, or painful areas within the moving parts of the body is their relationship with direction, change and flexibility. I’m not talking about the ability to simply freely move your hips or fingers, or to bend your knees and take a step. I’m talking about how you respond to the hurdles and challenges that life brings you. Do you go with the flow and adapt with the changes of the wind, or do you remain intent to hold onto your direction, views and behaviours? Your body can reflect your inner workings of feeling stuck with what to do next, how to move forward or how to let go.

Your body is your guide

In Kinesiology, we are able to get detailed enough to explore the different areas of your body that are inflamed or stiff and sore. For example, the elbows are a reflection of your ability to embrace life and to embrace others. Conversely, you could be holding your arms tightly and protecting yourself from the world around you. When we experience inflammation in particular part of the body, it’s an opportunity to listen to your body and understand what it’s trying to tell you.
 
By revealing what it is that we need to understand and accept and to then release this, we can begin to ease the inflamed response from your body. Essentially, flexibility in life brings a free flowing movement within your energy system and from this you can roll with the punches and feel peaceful, calm and centred. If you would like to talk to your body through Kinesiology and work to release the blocks, book in for a session with me, Live Well’s resident Kinesiologist.

Arthritis - the homeopathic & herbal approach

Homeopathy and herbal medicine can be simple and very effective therapies for people with arthritis. Well-known UK homeopath, Ian Watson, found homeopathy to be so successful in helping people with musculo-skeletal problems (including arthritis) in his clinic, that he published a book on the subject (Aspects of Homeopathy: Musculo-Skeletal Problems).

There are many types of ‘arthritis’, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis. There’s also rheumatism, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia, gout, gouty arthritis, Raynaud’s Disease. Then there’s “I have stiff knees”, “I’m aching all over but my Doctor says I’m fine”, “I’m not moving as well as I used to”, “the cold weather’s getting to me”, and so on.

What type do you have? Does it fit into a neat box?

To a homeopath or herbalist, a diagnosis of “arthritis” is just the start, not the end point.

There is no ‘medicine for arthritis’. Rather, the approach we take is to understand the unique physiological makeup of the person who has the arthritis and its characterising symptoms, as it uniquely expresses in that person. Bundled into this is assessing any causal factors: Is it an inherited familial trait? Is it the result of an old sports injury? Has it been triggered by hormonal changes during menopause? Does it happen before rain?

To illustrate the approach, imagine two people that have received a diagnosis of ‘osteoarthritis’. The first person experiences stiffness and pain in the morning upon waking, which gets progressively better throughout the day as he moves the joints and ‘limbers up’. For the second person, his arthritis symptoms worsen the more he moves; he only gets relief when he is still. This is just the start - the homeopath/herbalist then also looks for other unique, guiding symptoms and/or conditions that together define the overall pattern of illness. A medicine is chosen on the basis of this overall pattern.

For example, Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) may be prescribed for someone with rheumatic arthritis, who also experiences menstrual irregularities, faulty digestion and experiences migraines with changes in weather (especially before rain).

The following cases help illustrate how this works in practice

Years ago an old dairy farmer came in with debilitating arthritis in his spine. He was on a waiting list for surgery, scheduled six months down the track, but he was having great difficulty managing his pain during the wait (even with strong pain suppressant medication). His arthritis was the result of multiple old injuries, including a broken back, from earlier in his life. Homeopathic Symphytum, which is often indicated in injuries or trauma to the skeletal system (no matter how old), successfully provided the relief he needed to manage the pain until his surgery.

Another man presented to the clinic with painful osteoarthritis in his big toe joints, which had become progressively worse throughout his fifties. His toe joints had advanced osteophyte formation (bony bumps). He was worried because he had booked an overseas hiking trip with his wife later in the year, and already his movement was becoming restricted; was there anything that could be done? Conventional wisdom would say “not in such a case”; the advanced state of his joint deformation didn't fill me with hope that he’d be trekking ever again. His experienced of ‘osteoarthritis’ was as follows: pain and stiffness, worse in the morning upon waking, alleviated by heat and movement (gradually better as the day went on), much worse in cold weather and especially when it was cold and wet. His diet was good; there were no old injuries, no other major stresses in his life. I prescribed the homeopathic medicine Rhus tox to be taken daily. He came back to see me for follow a couple of months later and I don't know who was more surprised. Not only had his arthritis symptoms (pain & stiffness) considerably improved, but the osteoarthritic growths on his toe joints had reduced by 60%. He continued to take the medicine and comfortably completed his overseas trek later that year. I saw him again a couple of years later as the problem had started to worsen again - because he had stopped taking the medicine as he had felt so much better. Resuming the medicine got him back on track. This is a good example of how chronic conditions need to be worked with over time.

Let me know if I can help.

Gerry

Arthritis and How Osteopathy Can Help

Our bodies are very good at compensating for different stressors and strains we put on the body and it's only when we push it that little bit too far that I often get to see you. These compensation patterns can lead to poor biomechanics of the body. This can be due to having some muscles too weak and other muscles too tight and this can cause joints to function poorly. Which can then lead to arthritis if left untreated for a few decades, but it’s never too late to start improving posture and muscle tone. Movement is key.

I think arthritis often develops in the joints that have become ‘stuck’ and no longer have good vascular and lymphatic drainage leading to inflammation and degeneration. So getting things ‘moving’ again is key. Simply things like breathing from your diaphragm, sitting on the floor versus the couch, walking barefoot on the grass and looking into classes that encourage movement and strength through the body. Like Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi are fantastic.  
 
Often other parts of the body are affected, for example a bad knee may affect the hip, pelvis or lower back causing extra problems such as back or hip pain. This can also work in reverse – the aggravated hip or back then causes postural changes which go on to make the knee even worse. With treatment, we aim to assess and solve these other issues in order to improve overall body function. I can also offer advice on the right forms of gentle exercises that can help mobilise the affected joints and release surrounding muscle tension.
 
Osteopathic treatment cannot cure the actual arthritis but aims to reduce pain and improve the range of movement that is available without pain so the problem will be less noticeable. It can help people to move better and have more normal lives. Pain in arthritis is often made worse by tight muscles surrounding the joint.

Easing this muscle tightness can substantially relieve the discomfort. Mobilisation of the joints, stretching and massage can improve blood flow and nutrition to the joints promoting healing. You spend thousands getting your car serviced each year (a depreciating asset), maybe it’s worth giving your body some of the attention it deserves? Because unfortunately there’s no trade ins.
 

The First Step to Overcoming Depression

If you're reading this and you suffer from depression, then please know I'm going to keep this short and simple. The last thing you need is to be bombarded with too much information. If you're reading this for yourself or with someone in mind, please know that the message I'm about to give you is the starting place from which to begin healing. It's the very first step. It's how to get up and get going again.

From experience of working with people who suffer from depression, which now spans 11 years, the worst thing you can say is “just get up”, “just get a good night's sleep”, “just go for a run and you'll feel better” or the very worst “just get over it”.  The point that these comments are missing is, that a person with depression does not have the energy to click their fingers and make change. And by 'energy', I'm not just talking about calories and endurance – I'm talking about the energetic fuel for life that comes from within.

I particularly love how Dr. Alexander Lowen in 'Depression and the Body' explains that “Depression is a loss of an organism's internal force comparable in one sense to the loss of air in a balloon or tire. This internal force is the constant flow of impulses and feeling from the vital centres of the body to the periphery... what moves the body is an energetic charge. When it results in an action, we call it an impulse – a pulse from within. In the depressed state impulse formation is sharply reduced both as to number of impulses and their strength...a loss of feeling on the inside and action on the outside.” Thus, saying“just get up” is illogical.

Rather than kicking you when you're down and exposing the pieces of your life that immobilise you, the most beneficial place to start is by reversing your deflation. This is done by helping you to tap into your internal force, the fire in your belly and the spark you once knew. Once you regain your balance of energy, we can begin to look at your triggers, trauma or behaviours. You'll feel stronger to face them, more powerful to heal them and already on the way to reaching your full potential.

I always love to share some techniques to try at home and help you on your way, so let's start with sleep. There's a mountain of research that connects depression with insomnia and other sleep disorders. One may lead to the other and for some, it's unclear as to which started first.

Have a read of The Sanctuary of Sleep Series Part Three: techniques to help you relax and sleep and try one or two of these simple techniques. Life is often that much better after proper rest and rejuvenation.

The gentle practices of kinesiology will help you connect back with your internal fire, teach you a lot about yourself and the ways in which you can be your own friend. It's about being able to feel life again and break the hold that depression can have on you. Depression is the opposite to feeling as it is indeed, the absence of feeling. Most importantly, depression is a cloud and no matter your history with it, I leave you with the ancient writings of Persian Sufi poets, with “This too shall pass”. Start moving the cloud by booking in for kinesiology!

Tags

It's been cold are you suffering from Arthritis?

With a chilly -6 degrees this week, achy and swollen joints are all too common in these cold winter months. This is commonly referred to as Arthritis and is the major cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia with 3.85 million Australians affected at a cost to our economy of more than $23.9 billion each year in medical care and indirect costs such as loss of earnings and lost production.*

Arthritis refers to inflammation or degeneration of a joint.

Osteoarthritis, often called ‘wear and tear,’ is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by a process of inflammation of the smooth cartilage surrounding a joint. The surface becomes less smooth and eventually wears away.

Another common form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the tissues of the body. 100’s of other forms exist including gout, reactive arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis etc.

With normal use a joint can last for a lifetime, however abnormal or excessive use, or having an injury to the joint can cause the wear to accelerate. Most types of arthritis are caused by many factors acting together. You may be naturally more likely to develop certain disorders as a result of your genetic make-up. Old football injuries to joints, car accidents, years of heavy lifting or doing repetitive activities such as squatting, kneeling, assembly line or even computer work that excessively uses joints can also accelerate the ‘wear and tear’ process. Being overweight puts strain on joints of the knee, hip and spine and is a big contributing factor to the pain of Osteoarthritis. However, it is not a purely mechanical issue, but can also be affected by diet and other aspects of general health.

The symptoms of arthritis tend to vary from day to day and from week to week. As an example, episodes of back pain or painful ‘flare-ups’ of rheumatoid arthritis are often short-lived, even though the underlying cause hasn’t changed. Other conditions, including gout, while typically relate to an exquisitely painful big toe can often be controlled by treatment. Many types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, are long-term conditions, where the disease cannot be cured. The symptoms of these conditions tend to vary over time. Your symptoms may go away for quite some time (remission) and there may be periods where they become worse. A good assessment of the situation is vital as the problem may not be arthritis at all, or it may be mild arthritis combined with muscle tension or other issues. Diagnostic tests such as X-ray, MRI, CT scans, blood tests, etc can help to diagnose the problem and the extent of it.

How can I tell if I have osteoarthritis?

Arthritis can start suddenly without any obvious cause, and at any age. Sometimes something in your lifestyle or medical history or a combination of these could be responsible.

With osteoarthritis the joints become increasingly painful when under load such as the knee or hip after walking. There may also be swelling in the joint. When the spine is affected it is painful to bend and your back may ache after long periods of sitting still.  You ache and feel stiff particularly in the mornings. It is worse in the winter because the muscles tighten up and circulation to the outer parts of the body is not so good. Your joints become less mobile and may become weaker as muscles may sometimes waste away around the joint.


Osteopaths spend a vast amount of time dealing with the pain and suffering caused by arthritis. Many people mistakenly assume that they must learn to live with their symptoms. In many cases, osteopaths are able to help considerably. Pain relief and lifestyle management can really improve the quality of life for arthritis sufferers.

*Painful Realities: The Economic Impact of Arthritis in Australia in 2007

Mind Body Connection - An Osteopathic Perspective Part II

...continued on from Part I

Exercise appears to have a similar action as an antidepressant, by acting on particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and helping patients with depression to re-establish positive behaviours. 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity is all that is needed. After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, you have more energy – and you’ll be motivated to exercise again tomorrow. A bad mood no longer becomes a barrier to exercise; it is the very reason to exercise.

As for how I can help.

An Osteopath is obviously not a psychologist. However depression has important physiological and anatomical components. Many physicians consider patients to be in remission when their acute emotional symptoms have abated, but residual symptoms—including physical symptoms—are very common and increase the likelihood of relapse.
 
Psychiatrists and primary care physicians are now beginning to recognise that even though symptom domains in the areas of motivation and physical illness are frequently part of depression, they are often ignored in the assessment of depression and, subsequently, in the treatment goals. Often, pain is not included in the treatment goals because it is interpreted as a sign of a somatic illness.

Pain and depression share common pathways in the limbic (emotional) region of the brain according to some research. In fact, the same chemical messengers control pain and mood. Many people suffering from depression never get help because they don’t realise that pain may be a symptom of depression. The importance of understanding the physical symptoms of depression is that treating depression can help with the pain – and treating pain can help with depression.
 
Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) has been shown to improve cardiac indices, increase lymph flow rates through the thoracic duct, and decrease sympathetic tone in postoperative patients and those in intensive care. Another study has looked at how OMT can increase secretory IgA which provides our first line of defence against bacteria, food residue, fungus, parasites and viruses.
 
Osteopathy can also help to reduce some of the strains and stressors placed on your body in order to bring you back to equilibrium. Either through the postural compensations brought about from depression or through treating the pain causing tissues that can lead to depression. Posturally there is often a shortening of the abdominal muscles and a tightening of the diaphragmatic arch which pulls the chest down and forward, limiting its ability to expand during breathing.

Combined with medial rotation of the shoulders and internal rotation of the arms resulting in a increased kyphosis (mid back curve) that further restricts breathing. Without the support of the thoracic region, the head and neck will often move forward and down and further into collapse. Which can lead to follow on affects in the lower body. Through exercise prescription and treatment we can help resolve some of these extra stressors.

So yes Osteopathy can help but is it the miracle cure?

No, Osteopathy has a place in health and wellbeing. However, if we keep being overstimulated physically, psychologically or create stress through anticipation (literally worrying ourselves sick) it will only offer short term relief. This short term relief however in the long term is not to be underestimated, as it opens the gateways for new insights.

Mind Body Connection - An Osteopathic Perspective Part I

There are signs of depression that most people automatically can identify like feelings of hopelessness, sadness and anxiety but depression can also cause unexplained physical symptoms or worsen the symptoms you already have. The two are closely linked and simply put, pain can be depressing, and depression causes and intensifies pain.
 
In fact, vague aches and pain are often the presenting symptoms of depression. These symptoms can include back pain, gastrointestinal problems, chronic joint pain, limb pain, tiredness, sleep disturbances, psychomotor activity changes, and appetite changes.
 
Psycho neuro immunology is what scientists are now calling the field showing how our mind, our brain and all our other systems in our body all interact to have an impact on our health. Thanks to developments especially in MRI technology over the last 5-10 years we can actually look at what's going on in the brain while it’s happening and then extrapolate what's going on in things like the immune system.
 
The stress response (fight or flight), is fantastic when a Saber tooth tiger is chasing you, when triggered you release many hormones including adrenaline and glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids help mobilise energy, inhibit storage of energy and suppresses immune function. Adrenaline, has an influence on blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate which are increased. Meaning extra blood is being pumped to the muscles because the muscles are going to be doing a lot of work over the next few minutes while you try and get out of away from those shiny teeth. Sugars and fats pump into the bloodstream, your metabolic rate goes up, you start to feel hot and you sweat to keep yourself cool while you are exerting yourself.
 
Increased blood flow to the muscles means it's has to come from somewhere else so you go pale, the blood is diverted away from the skin and away from the gut due to adrenaline’s vasoconstrictor action, so your gastrointestinal system shuts down. Your blood gets thick and sticky and will clot faster than normal, which could be the difference between life and death if the tiger gets a hold of you. Your immune system is activated by pumping out inflammatory chemicals, so there is a short-term burst in immunity. And you become very focused.
 
Unfortunately as smart as our bodies are, we do have to consider the fact that the evolution of technology and consciousness is far faster than that of physical adaptation. Adaptations are said to accomplish a goal, however the adaptation does not have to be, nor is it in many, many situations, optimal. So when we activate this stress response all the time through our modern lives, by anticipating future events or replaying past events, or for another example becoming overly angry and reactive to normal day to day events, we end up over activating this pathway, which can have a long-term cumulative effect that's called allostatic load. Heart disease, diabetes, ulcers and growth problems for example can then ensue.
 
In the brain, chronic stress or the release of glucocorticoids will decrease glucose delivery to the hippocampus (Limbic system: emotion, memory) and cortex (neocortex and prefrontal cortex: cognitive region) to probably divert it to the more reflexive brain regions (reptilian brain: survival). But these effects are measurable not just in terms of physiological and metabolic effects and immune effects but also to the very DNA of the cell, it can accelerate the rate of ageing of the DNA which is measured by the telomeres, which are the little caps on the end of your chromosomes. So these effects are really how we accelerate the progression of chronic illness, and those effects are also observable in the brain as well. Thankfully these changes seem to be able to be reversed.

Meditation is fantastic, as is exercise, counselling, diet and manual therapy.

To be continued in Part II...

Depression - How Can Homeopathy & Herbal Medicine Help?

What is depression?

It’s a name, a term to describe a general area of mental suffering. It often co-exists with other conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and feelings of low self worth. As a homeopath and herbalist the key question for me always is, "how do you individually experience your depression?" This is what I need to understand to help. The answer is always unique to the person; no two people experience depression the same way.

What is the cause, the trigger? Is it just how the person is by nature, or did something happen in their life that opened up a black hole?

A few short cases may help show how this works …

One man I treated several years ago fell into a sudden, terrible ongoing depression after he found his wife dead in the middle of the night from a heart attack. His depression was triggered by unexpected trauma. His depression was ongoing, unresolved internalised grief and shock, with insomnia and anxiety. He would not leave his house unless he had to. Antidepressants and counselling had helped him cope, but the underlying feeling was still there. Homeopathic Natrum-muriaticum steadily and permanently shifted him out of his state so he could move on with his life.

For another woman, there was no apparent trigger - depression alternating with anxiousness was something she was just prone to during times of stress. She did very well on a medicine called Argentum-met (a homeopathic preparation of silver): for reasons that were completely unique to how she experienced her depression alongside other constitutional factors.

For another woman, her debilitating depression was significantly aggravated by an undiagnosed intolerance to wheat, which she craved (people usually crave what they are intolerant to). Removal of wheat from her diet quickly improved her condition by 50% and allowed her to go off a side-effect producing medication. This allowed us, over time, to work through the underlying reasons for her depression.

Yet another woman was helped by herbal extracts of Leonurus and Melissa for non-specific anxiety and depression associated with palpitations, mild thyroid dysfunction and other menopausal issues.
Can you see the diversity of each persons presentations, the causes and the treatments available to suit each person?

Homeopathy, herbal medicine and conventional treatment

Homeopathic and herbal medicine has a special role to play in working with suffering of the mind, where conventional drugs can only palliate or suppress symptoms. As the above examples illustrate, people are often greatly surprised to discover just how powerful these therapies can be. I’ve often heard it said, “I should have come to you in the first place!”.

Can you seek help from natural medicine while you are taking other medication?

Absolutely. In fact, the two approaches often synergise well. While medication can stabilise your condition, natural medicine can deal with the underlying causes to the point where medication may no longer be needed  (in consultation with your doctor).

I'd like to help.

Gerry

Depression and Food for your Mood

Feel-good foods

The foods we eat can be either a completely destabilising cocktail for a healthy mood, accelerating and compounding depression; or an extremely powerful tool for preventing and treating it. So let’s take a look at the kinds of foods we can use in order to boost mood and enhance mental health. At the most basic level, it means eating a nutrient-rich, wholefoods (real foods) diet, and avoiding a handful of offending foods...

As a rule of thumb, try to opt for a SLOW foods diet:

Seasonal (in-season for you and your climate right now)

Local (sourced from close to where you live –Farmer’s Markets are great for this!)

Organic (wherever possible = higher nutrient value, with the added benefit of reducing intake of nasty chemical residues from pesticides)

Whole (foods in their natural state -such as fresh vegetables, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit, fish and lean, organic, well-fed, raised and sustainably farmed meats)

Wherever possible, try to avoid the packaged, processed, “food-like products” that are high in sugar, additives and unhealthy fats.  I saw a quote I loved recently, which said: “Real foods don’t HAVE ingredients, they ARE ingredients”They also supply your body with an array of nourishing and balancing nutrients that every cell, organ, tissue and body system depends on for good health and functioning.

Eating by these principles, your mood and your body will absolutely notice the difference!

At a glance, you really want to be increasing these specific nutrients in your diet on a daily basis;  so on a whole (pun might be intended!), the major foods to look at are:

Healthy (Omega 3) fats

Essential fatty acids play an important and therapeutic role in depression. The brain needs these fatty acids for both structure and function, as well as being required for serotonin and dopamine transmission, and to stabilise neuronal function.

Healthy fats are highly protective for the brain, neurological system and all body cells; and are necessary for brain chemistry production, amping up feel-good mood transmitters and enhancing their receptivity. They are necessary for hormonal regulation, and play a huge role in reducing inflammation, which is known to play a major role in the pathophysiology of depression, particularly as inflammatory processes degrade and inhibit health neurotransmitter production.

Find healthy, Omega 3 fats  in:

Oily Fish such as Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, Sardines; Coconut and Olive oil; Avocado; all Nuts & Seeds; Eggs; Tofu.

Protein

The amino acids in protein foods are the raw materials the body needs to make our neurotransmitters for healthy mood; for example, Serotonin (feel good), GABA (relaxing), noradrenalin (motivating). If we are not getting enough quality proteins through the diet, our bodies won’t have the building blocks to synthesise our brain chemistry.

Protein-rich foods include:

Fish; Meat; Eggs; Nuts and Seeds; Legumes; Tofu; Tempeh; Quorn; Wholegrains (e.g. oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millet..).

B complex vitamins

B vitamins are necessary for optimal functioning of the brain and neurological system; for production of feel-good neurotransmitters and their transmission; as well as for stress support, digestion and absorption of nutrients, and energy.

Find B complex vitamins in:

Dark, leafy greens; Whole grains (e.g. oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millet..); Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, Brazil, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachios, Walnuts, Sesame seeds/Tahini, Sunflower seeds; Soya beans; Yeast (bakers / dried / spread);Eggs; Kangaroo, Chicken, Turkey; Oily and white fish; Mushrooms.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential nutrient required by our bodies for stress, mood and nervous system support; energy production; and numerous cellular functions that play a role in depression and the regulation of neurotransmitters.

Find Magnesium in:

Dark, leafy greens;  Whole grains (e.g. oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millet..); Legumes; Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, Brazil, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachios, Walnuts, Sesame seeds/Tahini, Sunflower seeds; Yeast (bakers / dried / spread); Licorice (confectionery), Dark Chocolate ; Chilli powder, Curry powder, Mustard powder; Goats milk;  Red meat, Chicken liver, Pork, Chicken, Turkey; Dried fruit: Apple, Apricot, Currants, Date, Figs, Sultana, Prunes; Passionfruit, Bananas, Blackberries, Raspberries.

Zinc

Low levels of zinc in the body are correlated with depression, with studies showing the more deficient the zinc levels are, the worse the depression. Zinc is a co-factor (necessary ingredient) for neurotransmitter production (feel-good brain chemistry) and many other important functions in the body.

Find Zinc in:

Pumpkin seeds; Eggs; Oysters; Nuts: Brazil, Almonds, Cashews, Pine nuts, Walnuts; Tahini, Sesame seeds and Sunflower seeds; Garlic; Green peas; Broad beans, Butter beans;  Spinach and dark leafy greens, including fresh parsley & basil; Mushrooms; Yeast spread; Tomatoes – sundried; Red meats, Chicken, Duck, Turkey; Cheese  (especially hard, yellow & blue cheeses).

Vitamin D

A deficiency of vitamin D is associated with depression and is responsible for modulating several neurotransmitters. Vitamin D  exerts neuroprotective effects, and interestingly, studies show it having a neuroactive hormonal influence as well. So it is a vital nutrient for many functions.

Vitamin D is best sourced by soaking up some sunshine through exposure of the skin to UVB rays (this accounts for approximately 90% of bioavailable D3 in the body) short periods, at non-extreme UV times of day. But you also need to have the correct amounts of magnesium present in order to activate it in your body. Obtaining adequate amounts of vitamin D through diet alone is unlikely, as vitamin D is produced in the body, and relies upon exposure to UVB rays in order to do so.

Find vitamin D in:

Sunshine (direct contact to skin); Oily fish –Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Sardines; Eggs, Beef; Butter; Mushrooms.

And don’t forget these important nutrients:

·    Quality sleep

·    Daily exercise

·    Rest, relaxation and fun

·    Nature (especially fresh air and sunshine)

Taking care to avoid certain things is also really important.

You’ll be doing yourself and your mood a real service by limiting or eschewing the following:

Caffeine

Caffeine has a demonstrated correlation with depression. It’s actually a highly psychoactive substance; and whilst many of us casually use caffeine in our daily diets, it depletes essential nutrients such as B complex vitamins and magnesium - which are vital to our wellbeing, in helping buffer the impact stress has on our nervous system and adrenal glands. Caffeine  also alters neurotransmitter function, for example via its effects on dopamine transmission, and has a  negative impact on  quality of sleep –which is a fundamental pillar for mental health and mood.

Sugar and artificial sweeteners

Studies have implicated sugar intake as a notable causative factor in depression. It can be linked to several actions, including dysregulation of blood sugars (a marked driver of depression); exacerbation of inflammatory processes that impact the brain and mood; and the leeching of important minerals needed for neurotransmitter production and function.

Sugars and high-carbohydrate foods (that rapidly flood the bloodstream with glucose upon ingestion) hit the reward centres of the brain, and act to temporarily boost mood and relieve depression. This can create a cycle of reliance upon the very substances (e.g. chocolate, biscuits, bread and alcohol) further perpetuating the situation.

Alcohol

Whilst it can appear to help temporarily, the fact remains that alcohol is indeed a depressant, especially on the neurological system; and so will have a worsening effect on depression. Alcohol also rapidly uses and depletes those nutrients the body needs to maintain a healthy mood, and causes huge blood sugar spikes and crashes; so it can be a real triple-whammy!

Wheat and dairy

What we know is both wheat and dairy are highly inflammatory and aggravating to A LOT of peoples’ systems. There is much more that could be said on the matter, particularly discussing the link between wheat in the diet and depression (along with other psychiatric conditions!). But if you really want to try a simple, no-nonsense approach with your (mental) health and wellbeing using a nutritional, food-as-medicine-based approach;  try cutting these two “bad boys” down or out of the diet completely (along with reducing or eliminating caffeine, sugar and alcohol –if and where you can) for 3-4 weeks…

Be sure to keep a food and symptom log, either on notebook or on your phone to jot down what you are eating, and also to check in with yourself and how you’re feeling; are you noticing any changes or improvements?  See if you can track the quality of your mood, your energy, clarity and focus, sleep, stress/anxiety, digestion etc. (whatever symptoms and markers are relevant to you). A useful way to do this is to rate your mood and symptoms each day from 1-10. Starting your log a few days to a week before you make any changes will help you to establish a baseline so you can really see your improvements on paper, as well as feel the benefits!

Proper nutrition and nutritional therapy can be a real game-changer…

If you experience depression or other stress and mood-related disturbances, I encourage you to seek the support of a qualified and experienced healthcare professional, such as a Naturopath, for a holistic assessment and specific treatment plan that will be therapeutic for you.

Shanna


Overcoming Depression Naturally

Australians use of anti-depressants has doubled over the last decade to the point where close to one in ten people are on medication for depression. Recent research into the impact of anti-depressants shows very little evidence of any benefit beyond placebo, especially for mild to moderate symptoms.

Of course that doesnt mean that for some people, drugs dont provide essential respite from difficult symptoms but for many the combination of unwanted side effects as well as limited effectiveness has them searching for an alternative. That search has created a surge in interest in non-drug based approaches like natural therapies.

Depression Postcard.png

Beyond masking the symptoms

A holistic perspective tells us that depression, like any other symptom is a sign that your mind and body are out of balance. Regardless of their effectiveness, anti-depressants ultimately don't tackle the underlying causes of depression which makes it worth considering approaches like natural therapies that treat you holistically and work to restore your balance and wellbeing.

 In my experience, natural therapies do offer true relief from symptoms rather than a band aid and long lasting improvement rather than just a short term fix and thats why they are emerging as a potent compliment or alternative to conventional approaches.

Where to start

Seek professional advice. Unfortunately when it comes to most peoples first foray into using natural therapies, theyre more likely to get advice from Dr Google or from their friends than seek expert advice. Even worse, even if they manage to figure out exactly what they need, most people then go and buy cheap, low quality supplements from the supermarket and are disappointed when they dont see any results. As a first step I would suggest booking in with a suitably qualified naturopath or acupuncturist.

Not so fast

Incidentally, if a client comes to me and tells me they want to get off their depression medication I always tell them that we have to get them feeling better first. Just like theres no point throwing away your crutches until your broken leg is healed, theres nothing to be gained by coming off anti-depressants before your body and mind are ready for it and even then only under supervision and guidance of your GP.

Wes

Read more about Wes.

Make an appointment to see Wes.

 

 

 

For the month of May, Live Well is focusing on helping with depression. For more information please head to the Live Well website livewellnaturally.com.au

MALE FERTILITY AND NUTRITION

It takes two to tango…

When a couple wishes to conceive, naturally improving their fertility (the health and function of your body and reproductive system) is often the next step. And whilst it’s great that people are generally now more aware of the impact of their health history, diet and lifestyle habits when looking at making a baby; it is far too common to see (and hear) male fertility being overlooked in the equation. In fact, male fertility issues have been found to account for 40-50% of couples having difficulty conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy*.

Sperm + Egg = Baby

Taking the whole realm of fertility back to basics for a minute, it’s really important to consider that a healthy baby is made, when a healthy sperm and a healthy egg meet… This is fertility 101. So let’s get down to what we’re here to talk about today; the nitty gritty of making healthy sperm…

It all comes down to stress, digestion and quality nutrition

The business of making top-notch swimmers and being fertile essentially ties back to 3 things; the impact of “stress” (physical, mental/emotional, environmental) on our physiology; how well we can digest, absorb and utilise the nutrients in our food; and whether or not we are adequately nourished from the foods we eat…

You could almost say that above all else, the number one key to healthy sperm and reproductive health is good nutrition!

Because, when the body has available to it all the raw materials it needs in order to establish and maintain cellular health and integrity, it means our entire physiology is then equipped with what it needs to keep good health, and function well. This includes the multitude of processes that are essential to our bodies on a daily basis, for example, in the regulation of the our organs and body systems, to produce energy, synthesise hormones, maintaining good brain chemistry, an effective immune response or acid/alkaline balance; as well as to bind and eliminate toxins adequately, and generally buffer our body against the impacts of stress, toxins and modern-day living…

These “raw materials” are the nutrients that come from our diet. That is, what we’re putting into our bodies on a daily basis. Which means our level of health, wellbeing, and fertility is directly related to the quality of food we eat, and the nutrients our body receives from our food -such as the vitamins, minerals, healthy fatty acids, amino acids, anti-oxidants and other health-boosting compounds (especially from plant-based food sources) that protect our cells (and DNA), organs and tissues from damage, keeping them in good health and working order.

However, all of this also relies upon good digestive function, and our body’s capacity to break down and metabolise the nutrients in our food to send to our tissues and cells.

A well-nourished body can protect against, and off-set the impact of stress, toxic load and other factors…

Did you know…

Nutritional and lifestyle interventions play a significant role in addressing the major causes of male infertility including*:

·         Low sperm count (when number of sperm produced is low),

·         Poor motility (sperm too unfit to swim),

·         Sperm agglutination (coagulating),

·         Impotence (unable to achieve or maintain an erection), and

·         Ejaculatory disorders (premature, delayed or absent ejaculation)

For good sperm health, there are some specific nutrient deficiencies to look out forincluding*:

·         B-complex vitamins (especially B12, which has been shown to improve sperm count and motility),

·         Omega 3 fatty acids (highly protective effect for sperm, and needed for integrity of sperm membrane and sperm motility),

·         Zinc (huge sperm-health nutrient, that has proven beneficial for male infertility, and is needed for optimum testosterone levels, sperm production and motility),

·         Vitamin C (is a potent antioxidant, which protects against oxidative DNA damage; helps prevent against sperm agglutination (sticking together or clumping), and has shown positive effects improving sperm viability and motility.

What’s “stressing” you…

It is equally important to address the impact “stress” has on our health, fertility and nutrient status; as stress rapidly uses up (and depletes!) nutrients in the system (that’s assuming we’re eating and digesting well to begin with, let alone if we’re not!).

Whether your stress registers in your awareness or is flying under the radar, some things to be mindful of, include:

·         Events, relationships, experiences, worries  and emotions;

·         How much stuff is “on your plate”?

·         How busy or rested you are; 

·         Your environment -what is (or has) your system being (or been) exposed to? For example, the quality of air in your home, or working environment;

·         Level of chemical exposure, from pesticides and additives in foods; toxins absorbed from personal products e.g. like your antiperspirant or body wash (our skin is our biggest organ of absorption);  

·         Exposure to heavy metals and common industrial chemicals found in seafood, petrol fumes, adhesives, paints and the like;

·         Radiation from mobile phones, flying, x-rays, digital televisions, wi-fi etc.

·         Lack of, or poor quality sleep;

·         Sedentary lifestyle;

·         Alcohol intake, smoking, recreational and pharmaceutical drugs (cigarette smoking has been implicated as a direct causative factor in poor sperm quality and quantity; alongside which, recreational and pharmaceutical drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, anti-depressants, antibiotics and steroids can also impact sperm health and quality)*.

·         Inflammation and infections;

·         Testicular temperature;

The biggest contributing factors to testosterone deficiency in men are: stress, lack of regular exercise, nutrient deficiencies, insulin resistance, obesity, smoking and toxicity. These factors contribute to low production of testosterone in the gonads, which is essential for sperm production**.

Testosterone deficiency: typically characterised by symptoms such as low libido; mood disturbances, depression; erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation; fatigue; Adropause (yes, that’s right; the male equivalent of menopause. Men experience this as their natural levels of testosterone decrease); insomnia; increased visceral fat (fat deposits stored in abdomen, around organs); decreased muscle mass, weakness; loss of bone density; loss of facial, underarm and pubic hair; heat flushes; signs of premature ageing; testicular shrinkage, anaemia; increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. When testosterone levels decrease, risk of inflammatory conditions, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance and hypertension all increase.

Oestrogen excess which may be characterised in men by the development of breast tissue (colloquially referred to as “man boobs”); an enlarged prostate (also known as, benign prostatic hyperplasia -BPH), including symptoms such as difficulty urinating, urgency, urinary incontinence or waking during the night to urinate, urinary tract infections, bladder or kidney stones; and prostate cancer.  Too much oestrogen in the system can occur through an over-abundance of oestrogenic influences that disrupt the endocrine system; for example, from regular beer intake, xeno-oestrogens from plastics (especially those that are heated and leeching into our foods/body systems), and those from fish, soy products and fast foods common in the standard Western diet.

When addressing fertility, it’s necessary to consider the impact all of these things (“stresses”) have on our physiology; and the potential influence they have in either protecting, promoting, or compromising our health (and fertility) to various degrees –whether it be contributing to nutrient depletion/deficiency; glandular and hormonal disturbances; immune dysfunction; acidity and inflammation; they all affect the body’s overall health and ability to function well.   

It’s worth noting that the improvements we make to our nutrition, digestive function, and stressing less (see list above for potential hidden stressors in your life) can absolutely turn reproductive health and fertility around... The science of epigenetics (the influence of external modifications, such as diet, nutrition and stress have on the ability to turn certain genes on or off), and the study of nutrigenomics (how nutrients in our diet directly affect our genes, and the potential nutrition has in preventing, mitigating and even treating disease) are a testament to this.

Finally, a minimum of 4 - 6 months of corrective treatment before trying to conceive is advised*.

I am happy to help.

Shanna

 

Read more about Shanna.

Make an appointment to see Shanna.

 

 

References:

*Osiecki, H 2006, The Physician’s Handbook of Clinical Nutrition 7th edn. Bio Concepts, QLD Australia.

**Metagenics, 2014, Female Hormonal Disorders, QLD Australia.