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.

 

Food and Mood - emerging research aligns with traditional wisdom

You may have you heard about the gut-brain connection, or heard the gut being referred to as our ‘second brain’. But what if I were to tell you that you could fundamentally change your mental health and how you feel, by treating your gut?

Sounds “out there”, doesn’t it...

But if you’ve ever “followed your gut”,

had “butterflies” in your tummy from excitement,

or a “knot” in the pit of your stomach when you’ve been worried,

a “gut-wrenching” experience,

“lost your appetite”,

found yourself “hangry”  (being a moody-chops because you haven’t eaten in a while),

or had the proverbial “s**ts” with something;

then you’ve experienced the gut-brain connection first-hand, and can probably conceptualise how inextricably linked our gut, mood, and emotions are.

It may come as little surprise to you, that anxiety and other mood and mental health disorders can be directly linked to poor gut health...

Whilst gut health has always been at the core of Naturopathic philosophy and treatment (we’re talking in the realm of a couple-thousand years, since Hippocrates ‘The Father of Modern Medicine’ time). It is only in more recent times that we are seeing both a huge shift in paradigms and awareness; with more promising research on the gut-brain relationship emerging, the idea is coming into a space of more understanding and general acceptance. There are now even bestseller books based solely on gut health at the local book store! It’s wonderful to be able to discuss the relevance of the gut and how it is linked to mood, skin, autoimmune disorders and more -and suddenly it’s actually kinda plausible; not just some crazy thing you might hear about in a Naturopathic consultation...

Did you know that you are about 90% bacteria?! I’m not kidding...And the make-up, or balance, of this bacteria (our personal “ecosystem”) can impact not only our gut, digestion, and immune system function; but can also profoundly impact our mental health and emotional wellbeing.

There is a rapidly expanding body of research showing that specific strains of bacteria are indeed influencing our brain. They are actually termed ‘psychobiotics’, because their actions are not dissimilar to that of psychiatric pharmaceutical drugs (like common anti-anxiety drugs that work by targeting GABA receptors). These bacterial strains have been observed toinfluence our emotions, higher cognitive functions, ‘intuitive’ (perhaps quite literally, “from the gut”!) decision-making and motivation. In studies on both mice andhealthy human volunteers, using an array of brain-scanning and psychological tests, psychobiotics are having distinguishable effects.

One study on mice of calm vs. anxious highlighted the psychiatric possibilities of modulating gut flora when faecal microbiota was transplanted from an anxious strain of mice caused a previously calm mouse to behave very anxiously. And, yep, you guessed it... A transplant of gut content from the calm strain had a relaxing (and even confidence-boosting) effect on the anxious strain.

Our mircobiome is influenced by factors like how we were born (vaginal vs c-section), if we were breastfed or bottlefed, our diet or stress levels, metabolism, medications -especially antibiotics, age, geography, and genetics. Whilst there is much more to learn, especially on the exact mechanisms of action; what we are understanding is their ability to modulate our brain chemistry. With a serious percentage of neurotransmitter (NT) production and receptor sites residing in the gut (40 NTs in the gut have been identified, to date), it makes sense that if the ecology of our gut is out, our mental and emotional wellbeing is going to follow (and vice versa).

But our mental health and emotional wellbeing is not just governed by the health status of our microbiome. It is also profoundly influenced by an orchestra of nervous system data, endocrine, inflammatory and immune messengers...

The gut pretty much has an entire nervous system cosmos of its own. This is the Enteric nervous system, which is embedded in the gastrointestinal lining, and also referred to as the “second brain”. The Enteric nervous system contains an estimated 500 million neurons -yup; and it is thought to house more neural tissue than that the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system (everything outside of the brain and spinal cord!).This means there is a veritable information superhighway in there; that is constantly sending, receiving and reacting to various neural and chemical signals!  Some of these messengers that traverse it include:

●      Stress hormones such as Adrenalin, Noradrenalin, Cortisol

●      Metabolites including toxic materials produced by the microbiome -which, Sarkis Mazmanian, a Medical Microbiologist and Professor at the California Institute of Technology, says function as “equally drug-like chemicals” in their communication with the brain.These metabolic molecules have a demonstrated ability to cause behavioral abnormalities in mice that are associated withanxiety (and even autism) when otherwise healthy mice are inoculated with them.

●      Inflammatory cytokines: messengers of inflammation

●      Serotonin: the happy, calming, feel-good NT (95% of which is produced in the gut, meaning only 5% is made in the brain)

●      GABA: the chillaxing NT (significant amounts of GABA are synthesised by the bacteria species Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are known to inhabit the gut);

●      Dopamine: the pleasure and motivation NT (about 50% produced by the enteric nervous system in the gut)

The role of stress

“Stress” can be experienced on different levels (mental, emotional, physical), and originate from various sources (e.g. nutritional, chemical, psycho-social, environmental, visceral). Now, consider how extensive this nerve plexus in our bellies I’m talking about is; and how positively connected this neural superhighway is to our brain... This (enteric) nervous system, and the vagus nerve are highly attuned to our thoughts, moods, emotions, and of course, stress response. In fact, stress signals release neurotransmitters and proinflammatory cytokines, affecting the gut in a number of ways, one of which being the initiation of an inflammatory cascade, which compromises intestinal integrity; contributing to ‘leaky gut’ issues.

Some studies have demonstrated how bacterium exposed to noradrenaline (a stress hormone) clearly responded to stress, and may even induce stress, as a heightened perception of stress or anxiety-like behaviour has been demonstrated.

So, whilst the ‘beneficial’ bacteria are associated with more positive mood and mental health states, greater nerve plasticity and repair; the pathogenic bacteria appear to have the opposite effect.

As you can see, a crucial part of treating anxiety, and other mood and mental health disorders (even more serious disorders such as bi-polar and schizophrenia) actually lies within addressing the gut.

Naturopathic treatment

The basis of Naturopathic treatment uses the tenets of ‘Nutritional Psychiatry’ (that is, a nutritional medicine approach to prevention and treatment of mental disorders) to restore mental (emotional and behavioural) wellbeing.

From a Naturopathic standpoint, it is always important to work holistically. So one would also consider the regulation of these pathways through not only the modulation of the microbiome inhabiting the system; but also the repair the intestinal lining to resolve any pervasive“leaky” gut issues. The latter being where toxic metabolites may be escaping into the bloodstream causing a cascade of chemical messengers to ensue. This inflames the system and the brain; which is a mechanism shown to cause, drive, and exacerbate mood and mental health disorders.

The power of a few significant dietary and lifestyle changes are utilised; avoiding those things we understand have a negative impact on our gut, microbiotica, and mood -such as: processed, fried, and sugary stuff.  And getting stuck into real, whole foods; fresh, from the source, non-adulterated, that grows in the ground, on trees, in your garden, or hails from a farm, and are recognisable as foods (wild-caught fish, organic, grass-fed meat, free range eggs, legumes, leafy greens, and an array of fresh, seasonal fruit and veg for example), rather than packaged goods. Along with specific, individualised supplementation to replete and balance the system, where necessary.

Craniosacral therapy

The Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility reported the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 normalised anxiety-like behavior in mice with infectious colitis by modulating the vagal pathways within the gut-brain. The gut-brain connection is actually via the vagus nerve, which acts as a direct neuronal higway between our gut, brain and organs.

Craniosacral therapy can work to activate and “tone” the vagus nerve. This downregulates the sympathetic stress response in the body, and promotes your natural relaxation response, elevating feelings of calm and stability, and decreasing inflammatory mediators.

As your vagus nerve is activated, you are reassociated with what it feels like to be at ease. It stimulates the release of oxytocin (aka the “hug” or “bliss” hormone), and has a myriad of other benefits on the gut, digestion, organs and wellbeing.

If you would like to make a Naturopathy or Craniosacral therapy appointment, you can book online.

Hope For Anxiety Sufferers

Studies tell us that around 1 in 4 Australians will be affected by an anxiety disorder and every year a staggering 7.5 million scripts for benzodiazepines like Xanax are dispensed. 

In other words, despite a lot of effort being expended in tackling anxiety, we’re not making great headway towards finding a solution. It won't surprise you to hear that I believe natural therapies have a big role to play in changing the plight of anxiety sufferers. 

Anxiety, form a holistic perspective is a signal that your nervous system has reached it’s point of maximum capacity. This state of overwhelm can happen slowly over the course of many months and years or it can arrive suddenly after a traumatic experience. 

I ask people to image their nervous system has two opposing states: one of deep relaxation and rest and it’s counterpoint of maximum coping capacity. If you’re suffering from anxiety, essentially your nervous system is at or very close to its maximum coping capacity most of the time. At that point you have precious little buffer left to absorb the stress and strains of daily life let alone deal with the many substantial difficulties life may throw at you. 

No matter what state you find yourself in, there is hope. You never truly loose the capacity to switch off, wind down and access states of deep rest although when you’re out of practice it may seem like you have. It’s like a path in the bush that becomes overgrown from lack of use, even though it’s indistinct and hard to find its still there.

In general, those with anxiety are good at switching on, usually highly aware of everything around them and often very stoic. Its qualities like this that may have allowed them to be high achievers, diligent workers and thoughtful friends. But once the nervous system reaches saturation point these qualities work against them and prevent them from regaining balance.

Holistic solutions for anxiety involve retraining the nervous system to navigate away from maximum coping capacity and back towards deep relaxation. Reclaiming your ability to switch between action mode and rest mode is central to restoring your nervous system to balance. Thankfully, every incremental movement towards relaxation and rest brings substantial relief.

To find out more about how to successfully recover from anxiety join Live Well Director Wes Smith and Kinesiologist Kate Pamphilon as they share the strategies, tools and insights that have helped hundreds of Canberrans overcome anxiety and reclaim their quality of life. 

Words by Wes Smith

To find out more about Wes click here

To make an appointment with Wes click here.

 

Sleep Easy

Without consistent, quality sleep you can easily find yourself feeling run down and trapped in a world of exhaustion and pain.

Sleeping pills can provide a temporary fix but have unwanted side effects, are addictive and often result in a downward spiral of increasing dosage with diminishing results.

Thankfully, there are natural solutions to sleep problems. In my experience natural treatments are highly effective and don't just mask the symptom but reestablish deep restorative sleep. One of the most helpful tools I have come across to treat insomnia is herbal medicine.

Herbs have the ability to switch off your busy mind and usher your nervous system into a state of deep relaxation. The key with herbs is to take the right ones. Sounds obvious doesn't it? However to a herbalist there are lots of different types of insomnia and each is treated with a different approach. That’s why the mass produced natural sleep remedies sold at supermarkets will often be ineffective. In my opinion, you’re better off seeking professional advice from someone who can give you a personalised formula that’s just right for you.

Some of my favourite herbs for insomnia include:

Hops: a key ingredient of beer, hops is especially good when a person can’t get to sleep because they are worrying about something in the future, e.g. what’s happening at work tomorrow. Hops suits people with a shy and quiet temperament.

Passionflower: is a specific remedy for circular thinking where the same thoughts are going around and around in your head and your can’t switch them off.

Skullcap: Is a remedy for insomnia and associated nightmares, its helpful for highly charged people who are always ‘up’.

Camomile: one of the classic insomnia remedies but especially for people who need and love to go over the events of the day again and again either in conversation or in their heads.

For more information about how natural therapies can help with sleep download our free e-book ‘How I Found Success Through Rest’ by Live Well Kinesiologist Kate Pamphilon

Good Sleep is a Reachable Dream

As modern times would have it, we’re venturing further away from peace, serenity, tranquillity and a state of deep rest. As a consequence, many of us are living from our head space and disconnected from our body, gut instinct and full potential. There has been a surge in momentum toward meditation, relaxation, yoga and mindfulness as many seek a balance between action and rest, between thought and emotion, between work and life. The very word 'balance' has found its way into modern vocabulary representing the broader concept of mind, body and spirit. “I just feel out of balance”.

Common symptoms of this imbalance are sleep disorders. Yes, that old friend. With World Sleep Day on the 18th of March fast approaching, it's an opportunity to start talking about your sleep habits and what’s not working well for you. With ‘Good Sleep is a Reachable Dream’ as the slogan for the 2016 World Sleep Day, it’s time to talk about your dreams.

Dreams occur during your Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep time, which is only about two hours. Science is yet to really discover why we dream and some suggest that it’s the cortex within your brain trying to make sense of the messages it receives during REM sleep. Psychology and complementary medicine certainly have more to offer on dreams, be it processing the day, receiving messages about the past, present or future, astral travel or Freud’s "safety valve" for unconscious desires. And then there’s nightmares.

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, nightmares are most common in children and often stop by the age of 11. When nightmares continue past this age and into adulthood, it’s knownas ‘idiopathic nightmares’. While ten to fifty percent of children have nightmares, adults range more between 2.5 to ten percent. So, I guess here at Live Well, we see that small percent! The more obvious links to nightmares are: traumatic or stressful events and scary movies or books. The less obvious links are: continued lack of sleep, excess in diet such as sugar and alcohol, overstimulation before bed or patterns of fear, stress, anxiety or depression.

Here’s my hot tip for nightmares - if your dreams are so vivid that you’re waking tired, or if you or your child struggle with nightmares then head to a health food shop and buy a good quality essential oil of Frankincense. Place a drop on your pillow or mix one to two drops (one for a child) with a carrier oil such as coconut or almond oil and rub on your wrists. You can also put a few drops in a bath or oil burner. Frankincense is well known for soothing nightmares and bringing about a sense of protection.

But what about your OTHER dreams? The ones you have where you visualise the ultimate career, your purpose in life, your relationships, your lifestyle, your happiness? The dreams where you consciously create the look and feel of your deepest desires. Well, this next part is for you, dreamer!

As our contribution to World Sleep Day, I'm giving away my eBook How I Found Success Through Rest for FREE! All you need to do is enter your details here and we’ll send you the eBook.

This is a call out to all insomniacs and to all who struggle to sleep deeply! I'm calling out to all who may sleep, but wake tired, and to all who are restless!

This is a call out to all who need to hear this message – in order to reach success, you must first find true rest. If your energy, drive, passion and focus are inhibited by lack of quality sleep or an imbalance in your life then this eBook is for you. I am so inspired by the technique that I teach in my book and the reasons behind why it is so powerful. I am driven by the countless people it has helped over the years.

And please, do your friends and family a favour and open the lines of communication - ask them how their sleep is, what their energy levels are like. Ask them about their balance in life. Share this blog with them. And finally, let’s start talking about YOUR dreams.

Try this one profound technique. It will change how you live. 

Endometriosis: A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), when a woman is in a state of optimal health the menstrual period should be painless and accompanied by minimal, if any premenstrual signs and symptoms. 

In conditions such as endometriosis, the flow of qi (energy, vital life force) and blood has become impaired, resulting in stagnation.  This stagnation can manifest as pain, dark or clotted menstruation and premenstrual signs and symptoms such as emotional volatility, breast tenderness and digestive changes such as constipation or loose stools.  All of the symptoms associated with endometriosis reflect elements of blood and/or qi stagnation and as such, can be effectively managed with TCM treatment.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine restore the flow of blood and qi throughout the body in order to rectify any imbalance and return the body to a state of optimal health.

TCM treatment aims to:

·       Manage and treat stress, a major contributing factor in endometriosis.

·       Move stagnant qi and blood which causes pain and can contribute to fertility problems

·       Support the meridians involved in menstruation and the bodies detoxification pathways

·       Encourage lifestyle and dietary changes to strengthen vitality and minimise symptoms

Depending on the severity and stage of endometriosis, the length of treatment may be three to six full menstrual cycles. 

Many women will experience relief of symptoms within this timeframe, however it is recommended to undergo a full course of treatment so that the condition is fully addressed.


Endometriosis: From a Naturopathic Perspective

Endometriosis is a condition that really needs to be treated using the best that both the Medical and Complementary healthcare systems have to offer. That is to say, treatment for Endometriosis should be undertaken in a comprehensive and focused way to throw everything you can at it, and achieve an effective therapeutic outcome.

Medical treatment may seek to reduce or stop periods altogether, using hormonally active medications to induce a continual pregnancy-like hormonal state or produce a temporary menopausal state. It would also be concerned with medicating for pain management, mood swings and depression. Medical procedures can range from the less invasive, to the higher end of the “invasive” scale, and may involve:

•       Medication -for example, oestrogen-modulating (e.g. the oral contraceptive pill),  progestogens (e.g. Provera), and analgesic medicines

•       Laparoscopic investigation and surgery/ablation

•       Regular D and Cs (dilation and curettage)

•       Hysterectomy

Naturopathic treatment for Endometriosis is centred on supporting appropriate organs, systems, and pathways in the body through a comprehensive nutritional and herbal prescription to target the disease pathways; as well as beneficial dietary and lifestyle modifications in order to mitigate symptoms, improve reproductive health and fertility, and ultimately, to manage and reduce disease progression.

After proper assessment of the condition -that is, how active the Endometriosis is, severity of growth and symptoms, treatment goals (symptomatic improvement vs fertility, for example), and contributing factors; the main areas of focus in treating Endometriosis from a Naturopathic perspective involves the regulation and support of:

•       Hormones (especially oestrogen and cortisol)

•       Liver detoxification pathways to improve toxin and hormonal clearance

•       Gut health and function

•       Lymphatic and immune function

•       Inflammation pathways

•       Oxidative stress within the system

Naturopathic investigations may also include:

•       Assessment of goal for treatment e.g. symptom reduction, fertility or treatment of entire disease process

•       Hormonal and Pain tracking

•       Hormonal profile (salivary test)

•       2 and 16 (pathways) oestrogen metabolism testing

•       Adrenal hormone profile

•       Food igG and IgG profile

•       Coeliac profile

•       Complete Digestive Stool Analysis

•       Vitamin D status

•       Lipid profile

•       Gene screen

•       Liver function: capacity for detoxification/assessment of phase I and II of liver detoxification processes

•       Levels of oxidation, pro-oxidant factors in the diet and lifestyle (e.g. stress and poor nutrition), and antioxidant status

Nutrition

Nutritional and dietary measures are mainly focused on the repletion and boosting of key nutrients, as well as the avoidance of foods and substances necessary to impact Endometriosis pathways (outlined above). Basic principles of which, include:

•       Nutritional (and herbal) prescriptions to provide symptomatic support (including psychological and emotional stress), and target inflammation and other disease pathways

•       Limit pro-inflammatory substances and foods, such as: dairy, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, non-organic meats and farmed fish, processed/packaged foods, saturated fats and deep-fried foods, soy and other oestrogenic foods (including xeno-oestrogens, commonly ingested through use of plastics)

•       Include more: fresh, whole (natural, non-processed), and organic (this is actually really important, therapeutically) foods that are nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-packed!

•       Increase fibre to aid digestion, enhance the ecology of the gut, and clearance of oestrogen and toxic waste from the system

LifeStyle measures may include:

•       Meditation and relaxation techniques can be invaluable in helping deal with the psychological, emotional and physical impact of endometriosis

•       Moderate, daily physical activity like walking, stretching and yoga are beneficial

•       Losing weight (if necessary), as adipose (fat) tissue produces more oestrogen, and is very hormonally active

•       Refraining from sexual intercourse during menses (due to the link to possible retrograde blood flow)

•       Awareness around what’s in your environment, food and personal care products (e.g. moisturiser, make-up, deodorant, sanitary items); and making appropriate changes to avoid and decrease exposure to chemicals and toxins (for example, heavy metals, pesticides, parabens, phthalates, solvents, and moulds), is a must.

References:

Cook, K and Trickey, R. Endometriosis. Crows Nest, N.S.W: Allen and Unwin, 2002.Print.

Hechtman, Leah. Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Sydney, Australia: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier Australia, 2011.Print.

 

A Gut Feeling

You may have already heard the term “leaky” gut floating around. Also known as Increased Intestinal Permeability, “leaky” gut is a term used to describe a condition whereby the integrity of the tight junctions and cells of the intestinal wall, and thus its functions (particularly the containment of materials and toxins) have been compromised. So the gut ends up “leaking” undigested proteins, particles, microbes, toxins, and waste metabolites into the bloodstream where they freely circulate (and shouldn’t be!). This can impact many aspects of our health, and can even affect the brain.

Why a gut tune-up is important:

The condition and functioning of the gut is not only important for digestive health, such as the ability to break down, absorb and utilise nutrients from our food, or mitigation of digestive conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It also feeds into, and has implications for other less obvious conditions.

Interestingly, the gut is also thought of as the ‘second brain’. This is mainly due to the fact that it relies upon the same neurons and neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) that are found in, and communicate with the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). This helps us to understand the link between gut health and mental health, and how they feed into each other. And suffice it to say, how psychological, emotional and physical stress can cause digestive troubles.

Signs to look out for, include:

       Nutrient malabsorption -the inability to absorb essential nutrients

       Fatigue

       Chronic inflammatory conditions, such as: Asthma, Eczema, Heart disease, Dementia, Fibromyalgia, Pancreatitis, Gall bladder disease, Obesity, Autism, Depression, Lupus, Bleeding gums and Dental caries.

       Candida or Thrush infections

       Immune system function -susceptibility to, and ability to ward off infection; sensitivities and allergies; and autoimmune conditions such Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Type I Diabetes.

       Cognitive function: for example, clear vs foggy thinking, and memory decline.

       Mental health: poor mood (or moodiness and irritability), depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder

       Hormonal imbalances, for example PMS or PCOS.

       Skin conditions: eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea

       Thyroid disorders

       Joint pain

       Weight gain

       ‘Syndrome X’ (metabolic condition)

       Toxic build up

       Headaches and migraines

Factors that contribute to poor gut health and function, and “leaky” gut include:

       Stress! Stress has a major impact on the gut (among other things!), and I see this in clinic, time and time again… The gut is a sensitive organism, that is highly vulnerable to the ill-effects of stress. From the tension held in the nerve plexus that feeds into the gut (the vagus nerve), changes to appetite, decreased digestive capacity (the ability to break down, absorb and utilise nutrients from our food), ulcers, reflux, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea and IBS, to lowered immunity, increased susceptibility to infections, and the development of neurodegenerative and autoimmune conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

       Poor Diet -The SAD (Standard Australian Diet), which is laden with nutrient poor, processed, sugary, and fried foods. The SAD burdens the body with rubbish, and typically lacks essential nutrients found in a nutrient-dense fresh produce, and a chemically-reduced (Organic, where possible) wholefood diet that the body requires to maintain good health and functioning.

       Foods that commonly contribute towards and aggravate poor gut health include: sugar, gluten and unsprouted grains, dairy (although the A2 variety appears to be less so), caffeine, alcohol, processed/packaged and foods.

       Medications: particularly antibiotics, due to the fact that they tend to wipe out the good bacteria colonising the digestive tract, destroying the ecological balance; the oral contraceptive pill; paracetamol and ibuprofen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) being most common.

You can take back control of your gut health today by:

       Remove common culprits from the diet, like gluten, dairy, and sugar. This can be challenging to think about, but it doesn’t have to be too complicated or hard. The ability to collate the right resources and support, and make a plan goes a long way in making any dietary transitions like this smooth.

       Take your time to eat. Even if it is just 5 minutes, undistracted.

       Chew well. It may sound silly, but by paying attention to chewing each mouthful more completely, we’re actually helping the mechanical breakdown of our digestive process, which takes a burden off our digestion, and makes it noticeably smoother. Digestive disturbances are reduced, and nutrient absorption is enhanced.

       Get serious about minimising your stress levels -see my articles on 6 Ways to Beat Stress Fast, and Little things you can do to Unplug for a few good pointers.

       Eating more leafy greens, which feed and encourage good bacteria growth in the gut, and help physically sweep toxic waste out from the bowel. They’re also rich in stress-busting nutrients.

       Trying a gut-healing Bone Broth. You can find good recipes for how to make a bone broth all over the net. It is a nutrient-rich, mineralising broth that helps restore the mucosal lining of the gut, aids digestion and the immune system.

       Seeking professional help for a proper assessment, and treatment.

 

Unleash the Sour Power

Kombucha, kimchi and kefir are just a few stars of the ‘so hot right now’ fermented food
resurgence. Long a staple of traditional diets fermented foods had until recent times become rare
in most Western diets. Now, they’re back in favour, and getting serious kudos for their ability to
promote healthy digestion and boost wellbeing.

What are fermented foods?

Fermented foods are foods that have gone through a process of lactofermentation, in which natural bacteria break down sugars and starches to produce lactic acid. In the process, the foods become nutrient powerhouses: easier to digest and dense with beneficial enzymes, B vitamins, probiotics and omega 3 fatty acids.

What’s all the buzz all about?

Having a healthy balance of gut flora is re-emerging as a vital core of wellbeing and fermented foods are the ultimate food based source of these essential probiotics. To get the most benefit, it’s recommended you eat a variety of types of fermented foods to ensure you’re getting a broad
spectrum of bacteria your gut needs.

Heathy Gut, Healthy Mind

The more we understand the link between the gut and the brain the more links between mental
illness and gut health are being established. Whilst still an emerging area of medicine theresearch is very promising and could lead to gut health being a standard treatment for anxiety, depression and mood disorders.

Immune Boost

With around 70% of your immune system being found in the gut, it makes sense that a healthy
digestion is the key to a vibrant immune system. What you may not have realised is that allergies,
arthritis, autoimmune conditions, autism, cancer and may other diseases can be linked to gut
health.

So where can you get your hands on these magical fermented foods? Pop down to your local
health food store or organic vegie shop for the best quality products. Alternatively, you can make
your own.

Easy Sauerkraut Recipe:

Home made sauerkraut is a great source of beneficial bacteria and is really easy to make.
Remove the outer leaves from one medium cabbage (1.5kg is roughly the equivalent of one green
or two red cabbages). Shred the cabbage and then rub in one tbs of fine sea salt by hand until the cabbage starts to wilt and release its juices (around 5 minutes)

Pack the cabbage (including juices) as tightly as possible into a large jar to squeeze out all the air
bubbles, leaving a layer of juices on top. Finish by inserting a smaller jar filed with weights to create a steady downward pressure which will continue to squeeze the liquid out of the cabbage.
Cover with a piece of cloth secured by string or an elastic band and store in a cool place (not the
fridge and away from direct sunlight)

Sauerkraut will be ready to eat in 3 -10 days, with the flavour getting stronger the longer you leave it. Once you’re happy with the flavour pop it in the fridge where it can be stored for up to 2 months.

Want more tips on getting started with fermented foods?
Then check out Lisa and Nick's Small Steps to Fermenting online course, it has how to videos, recipes and more to take the fear out of fermenting!

When you’ve run out of one hundred ways to say “I love you”, and a cliché just won’t do!

Ok. So, the mediocre jewellery stores have begun their sales; there are love heart-shaped chocolate displays in the department stores, and although there are what feels like a hundred advertisements blaring at you from the television and radio stations, you’re still feeling uneasy as to what to treat your significant other to this Valentines Day...

Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you this year and these gifts are sure to leave anybody feeling EXTREMELY lucky and well-loved! (Perfect timing, we know!)

Here are a few suggestions…

Live Well Spa Menu

The ultimate way to say “I love you”. Our Spa treatments are the ultimate conception of love and luxury, complete with a welcoming flower ritual, herbal tea, and a post-treatment relaxation pod session, we think there is no sweeter treat under the sun!

Bliss Signature Treatment – The name says it all, our ultimate rejuvenating experience. Includes… Flower essence welcome ritual | dry brush exfoliation | full body massage | body serum wrap & reflexology | recovery pod & herbal tea. $190

Splendour Signature Treatment – A delightful treatment combining face & body elements to leave your loved one feeling deeply relaxed and radiant. Includes… Flower essence welcome ritual | full body massage | facial | recovery pod & herbal tea. $205

Plumberry Juice Peel Facial – Unveil fresh smooth skin infusing the goodness from nutritious berries and plums to hydrate and quench the skin’s thirst. This super antioxidant rich treatment has the ability to reduce the signs of sensitivity using pure enzymes, milk acids, beetroot and Vitamin C to brighten and plump the skin… you are a touch away from irresistible skin! $125

Pamper Me Massage – A luxurious and delightful experience incorporating Infinite Love serum, enjoy a full body massage with hot stones and blissful reiki. $163

Live Well Shop

Skin Juice  – We have a beautiful Australian Skincare range priding themselves on producing natural, nurturing products for all skin types. Pick up one of our Lemon Sorbet Body Treats- Gift bag  (comes in a cute travel bag!) for just $ 61, or choose from their range from our shop front at reception.

Lotus Wei – We’ve previously spoken about these divine Elixirs and Mists containing fragrant flower extracts to alter moods and perceptions. We have a Beautiful new product available for this Valentine's Day Infinite Love Perfume $65 which is sure to create feelings of love and put a smile on the face of the one you care for.

So, when you know that you can’t get away with presenting your loved one with another single rose, obvious (afterthought) chocolates, or a card with an “IOU” inside for the third, fifth, or 20th year running, pop in and see us and we’ll help you select the perfect gift.

Psssssst! Also, your partner’s probably read this too and is now already lusting after a little Live Well luxury… you know what you need to do.

Click here to book now, or phone us for more details!

The Wisdom of Your Heart

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, thoughts turn to matters of the heart. Is the heart just a muscle that pumps blood or is there more to it than that?

In poetry and popular culture the the heart is known as a reservoir of not only deep feeling but also wisdom. Phrases such as “follow your heart” or ‘listen to your heart’ encourage us to turn to the heart for guidance.

In The Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf, is racked with concern over the fate of Frodo, he turns to Aragorn, who asks “What does your heart tell you?”

Interestingly, in Chinese medicine, for over 2000 years the heart has been referred to as ‘the Monarch’ in recognition of its supreme position in the hierarchy. The reverence given to the heart is principally because of it’s ability to provide ‘wisdom and insight’.

Is it just a fanciful romantic notion that the heart has anything to do with inner guidance or is it possible to find any evidence of a physiological underpinning to these poetic musings? If anyone is capable of answering this question its the folks at the Heart Math Institute, who like to explore the cutting edge between the heart and science.  

One of their startling findings in a 2004 paper titled ‘Electrophysiological Evidence of Intuition’ was that the heart is involved in receiving and decoding intuitive information. In an experiment subjects were shown either calm or emotionally stimulating images. Before the image was revealed the heart had already perceived and responded to the image. In other words the heart showed an extraordinary capacity to ‘know’, before the rest of the body’s perceptual apparatus, what was about to occur.

So if you are betwixt and between and can’t make up your mind about important decisions, such as to whom you should send a Valentines Day card, take a moment to stop and listen to your heart, much of the time it’s already knows what to do and is patiently waiting for you to catch up.

Words by Wes Smith
Wes is the Director of Live Well and is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality so they can live life to the full. Wes has a special interest in Immune Health as well as the treatment of stress, anxiety and depression. 

 

To find out more about Wes

To make an appointment with Wes

When Green Tea Met It’s Matcha

Superfoods are like the boy bands of the wellness industry, after their 5 minutes of fame they are shuffled off to obscurity as soon as the next big thing arrives. 

It wasn't long ago that spinach was crowned a superfood only for kale to come along steal it’s glory. Come 2016 and, I’m not making this up, kalettes (a hybrid kale and brussel sprout fusion) is poised to wrest leafy green supremacy. 

So spare a thought for humble green tea, in it’s halcyon days it was hailed for its low caffeine and high flavonoids and catechins. Then matcha tea came along boasting 137 times higher antioxidant levels and suddenly it was the tea being invited to New York fashion week. I say this as a friend green tea, it’s time to move on before you become the nutritional equivalent of the Backstreet Boys. 

To its credit, matcha does have an intriguing backstory. It’s comes from the same humble Camellia sinensis bush as green (and black) tea but matcha has lead a more rarefied life. First it was grown under shade to protect it’s delicate flavour and texture, then hand picked whist still young and packed with nutrient vigour and then delicately steamed, stemmed and stone ground into a fine powder ready for you and me to enjoy. 

The thing that strikes you about matcha is its intensely vibrant green colour which is a clue to all those ‘show offy’ nutrients. Traditionally a teaspoon of the powder is whisked with a bamboo brush into half a cup of not quite boiled water until a foam is created. This health promoting elixir is said to aid weight loss, improve concentration, reduce stress, detoxify your liver and boost your energy levels. Remarkably it also tastes pretty good.

So, by all means, keep drinking green tea just be sure to do it in your Led Zeppelin t-shirt and Ray Ban aviators to complete the retro ensemble. However, if you want to capture the 2016 wellness zeitgeist then don’t be seen with anything but a bowl of foaming matcha. 

Words by Wes Smith
Wes is the Director of Live Well and is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full. Wes has a special interest in Immune Health as well as the treatment of stress, anxiety and depression. 

To find out more about Wes

To make an appointment with Wes

Make Mediation Your 2016 New Year’s Resolution

Happy 2016, may this year be filled with what you deeply desire!

I don’t know about you, but every New Year I love to take some time to reflect on what I want the year to bring. I clarify what qualities and experiences I’d like to nurture and what I’ll need to change to support those qualities blossoming in my life.

The whole idea of a New Years resolution is curios really. It’s just a date in a calendar but it really does feel like every January brings the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and bring fresh momentum and energy into creating a life even more aligned with your values, hopes and aspirations.

Into this sea of emerging possibility I’d like to offer the suggestion of making meditation a part of your life. The benefits of meditation are well documented: stress reduction, enhanced brain function, boosted creativity and better sleep. But perhaps even more importantly, mediation connects you the the present moment and away from future worry and past regret. It allows you to be grounded, to live life from a place of centeredness and peace and deal with the inevitable
challenges and opportunities that come your way with grace as well as grit.

If you’re new to mediation it might surprise you that meditation techniques are not difficult. I like to say, if you can breathe you can meditate. However, expert guidance makes the journey of learning to meditate a whole lot more enjoyable.

Having been an avid meditator myself for 20+ years I know first hand how incredibly transformative and helpful mediation has been for me. It would have been selfish to keep this amazing wellness and happiness tool to myself!!

So I set about sharing this gift in my own way with as many people as possible. With that in mind I created an online learn to meditate program that gives you the tools and support to allow you to learn the art of meditation as well as establish an enjoyable and sustainable home practice. It can be completed in as little as seven days or you can take your time and complete the course over several weeks. It is suitable for complete beginners and for those that are rusty and want to re-establish their practice.

For you, my dear Live Wellians, I’m delighted to let you in on a secret - I have temporarily reduced the price of the course by $50 on the standard course fee of $247 (+GST). This will be for a limited time so if you’re keen jump in fast!

Wes’s meditation teaching is an inspired distillation of a range of lineages and mediation styles including Mindfulness, Vipassana, Vedic and Yoga. The core of Wes’s approach is to teach how to meditate in the simplest, most accessible and enjoyable way possible.

Pre-Natal Yoga

Somehow, in the wonderful way the western world has of taking an ancient teaching and morphing, modernising and making it their own, yoga has become a form of 'exercise' and quite recently something that women take up for the first time when they become pregnant. Prenatal yoga has become 'the thing to do' if you want to have a peaceful, healthy pregnancy.

I am all for more people participating in yoga but I'm also passionate about promoting the fact that yoga is far more than a physical activity performed in a room under the guidance of a self proclaimed modern guru.

So... With that out of the way!

What is it that yoga can offer pregnant women?

1. Space - whether you already have kids at home or you just need some time to yourself that's not at work or at home, prenatal yoga classes offer an opportunity for 60-90 mins of dedicated 'me time'. You get to be completely self- focussed, self-absorbed and self-centred in a fully sanctioned and supported way!

2. Rest - again, similar to the above, whether you're already a working mum of one or more or working while navigating the new territory of your first pregnancy, there are times you can feel completely exhausted. Prenatal yoga classes can offer you an opportunity to restore your energy

3. Strength/power - labor can be long. You need not only physical stamina but mental focus as well. Prenatal yoga can help build your physical strength and teach you skills to help direct your focus either towards calm when it's necessary or for commitment to tapping into your internal reserves of strength, stamina and determination in the face of fear and challenge.

4. Peace - the internal working of our minds and be loud, busy, hectic and chaotic - just as sometimes our lives are as well. Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean what you worry about stops or that the rest of your life and its demands stop either. Prenatal yoga is a place you can learn tools and techniques to manage the madness - whether it stems from internal stories and habits, or external forces and circumstances of your life. Practices such as pranayama and meditation are excellent tools for cultivating inner peace as they develop concentration, disciplined mental focus and help promote calming of the nervous system.

5. Connection - to others to your body/yourself to your baby. Especially in a transient town like Canberra, where many people may not have family or close friends available to support you through or talk to about your pregnancy, sometimes it can feel quite isolating. Prenatal yoga classes can be a great place to meet and connect with people who may be experiencing similar things to you! A good prenatal yoga class should feel like a safe space where you can share what's going on for you physically and emotionally and feel supported by your teacher and the group to hold space for you to express what you're feeling. Connecting with people is a great way to not feel like you're bearing the load or feeling fears, insecurities all on your own. Sharing and sometimes even just hearing others share how they feel can be so helpful in understanding you're not on your own.

During Pregnancy your body undergoes significant changes in physical, hormonal and emotional ways. Prenatal yoga can help you build a deeper understanding of how your body is changing. This knowledge of your mind/body connection can help you be aware of the changes your body undergoes in the stages of labour. Being present during the process - and applying some of the techniques of breath modulation, focussed mental commitment and physical stamina also learned in prenatal class - can help get you through your labor successfully.

Finally, the meditation, visualisation and breathing techniques you learn in prenatal yoga class can help build a closer, deeper connection between you and your baby. Energy flows where intention goes and Cultivating a relationship between you and your baby can begin long before you get to meet them face to face!

There are many more ways that prenatal yoga can be beneficial during your pregnancy and also how postnatal yoga can help you recover and return to physical and mental balance and health post pregnancy.

If you've got questions or would like to experience pre or post natal yoga if love to hear from you!

Preparing For Labour and Birth

While every pregnancy is unique, the trimesters of pregnancy have a natural progression that can be both exciting and challenging. The first trimester is well known as the time of ‘morning sickness’ which for many women should really be called ‘all day sickness’! The second trimester, if you’re lucky, can be a wonderful time of renewed energy, continuing exercise, work and just getting on with it!

It’s not often until the third trimester that pregnant women begin to focus on getting set-up for the arrival of the baby, known as ‘nesting’, and reality sets in - this growing baby inside your swelling belly will need to come out!

These days, for many pregnant women there are several options for:

●      the type of birth you choose (or at least - plan for!)

●      location of labour and birth (home, conventional hospital, birth centre or water)

●      who supports you through your labour and birth (obstetrician, midwife, doula) and,

●      the many painkillers available, if needed.

In many ways, these options have supported women to have the right to choose how they plan for the birth of their child. On the other hand, the cascade of intervention has increased. Whatever your choices are around the many aspects of the coming labour and birth, it’s important to prepare so that you feel physically, emotionally and mentally strong. This way, you have the best chance of having the labour and birth you wish for.

Focus on grounding, earthing and opening

To bring your beautiful baby into this world requires a focus on lowering and opening your energy, and your body will follow suit. We often look at birth as the baby coming ‘out’, however it is more about the baby ‘moving down’ then out. This can be seen through the natural physiology of birth preparation. As you venture further into the third trimester, your baby’s head and body start to move lower down into your pelvis, this is known as ‘engaging’. It’s a sign that you and your baby are getting ready. Once you’re into the full swing of contractions, and you’re often fully dilated, you begin to feel ‘bearing down’ contractions which is an intense need to push down into your bottom to help the baby down and out.

This natural pull toward Mother Earth is why many women across the world give birth in a squatting, standing or kneeling position as these positions support the need to bear down and allow your body to best open up. Allowing your energy to lower, will also help you to calm your mind, rein in your emotions and balance your hormones - thus, the important phase of ‘nesting’. The key, therefore, is during your third trimester spend time grounding yourself by:

●      taking time out to calm your mind and emotions through activities that are relaxing (swimming, baths, gentle walks, reading, gardening, mindfulness - yes, go buy a colouring book, better yet - make something for the nursery!)

●      keeping an eye on your stress levels (this raises your energy up toward your head instead of lowering, and can knock out the balance of hormones)

●      spending time in a gentle and supported squatting position (prenatal yoga classes are wonderful for teaching this)

●      meditation and visualisation focusing on a smooth, safe and joyful labour and birth

●      practice breathing down into your body and sending your breath to where pain is so as to ease the sensation, and

●      sit and fold baby clothes and blankets!

Build your team

An integrative approach to your health and wellbeing throughout pregnancy is vital. By ‘integrative’, I mean accessing both the mainstream medicine field just as much as kinesiology, acupuncture, naturopathy, osteopathy and yoga. Many women who come for kinesiology report that the ease, success and recovery of labour and birth came down to how physically, emotionally and mentally fit they were.

Pregnancy is quite a ride; one full of wonder, awe, anxieties, fears, tears and joys. Be gentle on yourself with how you’re feeling and know that somewhere, around the world there’s another woman (if not, many more) feeling just like you. If you’re feeling worried or anxious about labour and birth, if you would like to check in on your body, hormones, emotions or mental strength for pain, if you would like to check in on your baby to see if s/he needs anything, or if you would like to learn cool tips and tricks then come along to Live Well for some kinesiology. It’s all about team work for you and your baby.

Take A Pregnant Pause Before You Swallow That Supplement!

There’s perhaps not a more important time to be more scrupulous and selective about what we are putting into our bodies than when you are pregnant, lactating, or looking to conceive. With so many conception and pregnancy products on the market, which ones do you need to take? And what brands should you choose? I hope this article may shed some light on what can be a confusing matter, and help you to make the most considered, informed choices that you can for a healthy, happy pregnancy and beyond.

Have you ever wondered what the real difference is between the supplements you pick up from your local supermarket/chemist/healthfood store and those your Natural Health Practitioner (Naturopath, Nutritionist, Chiropractor etc) prescribe you?

Practitioner-only products are nutritional and herbal supplements that are only available by prescription through consultation with a qualified health practitioner. These products are not available for self-selection or over-the-counter (OTC) sale.

The reason why Practitioner-only products need to be prescribed for use by qualified health practitioners is because they contain more concentrated, therapeutic doses of key ingredients and co-factors needed for maximum efficacy. This includes co-factors to ensure nutrient absorption, ready uptake and utilisation at a cellular level (even down to a particular type of a specific nutrient -for example a magnesium is not just a magnesium…); as well as synergistic effect -that is, having the necessary components for the desired therapeutic outcome that together, interact in such a way that they actually increase the overall effect.

These products are highly researched and developed so treatment can be more targeted, rather than generic. Your Practitioner will have an understanding of your unique needs, as well as a comprehensive working knowledge of the nutrients, herbs and formulas they prescribe. Qualified Health Practitioners attend numerous courses and seminars, and partake in various other forms of continued professional development each year to ensure their knowledge is up-to-date and they can give their clients the best healthcare options available to them.

The select few Practitioner-only company products that I personally use (both in clinic for my clients, as well as for myself and my family) are dedicated to not only the innovation (e.g. upgrading product formulas to reflect new knowledge), research and development side of things; but to sourcing the highest quality raw materials, and placing products under stringent quality-assurance assays (e.g. for purity and stability), and follow strict manufacturing processes in order to confirm both the raw materials and the final products are the purest and most efficacious. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Over-the-counter products.

There is so much information out there, freely available -online especially. Which in many ways is wonderful that we can just ‘Google’ something to find out more about it, and can educate ourselves in countless ways. But often, when it comes to seeking advice on our health it can be confusing -there’s a lot of conflicting information out there; who or what can you trust?

It seems there is an epidemic of unqualified or poorly qualified health “bloggers” out there; spouting health information with next to no accountability for the advice they are giving out. Not to mention crafty marketing tactics that are “informing” our choices. Indeed, there are so many products available at the local chemist, supermarket or healthfood store -that what it really comes down to for most consumers IS the marketing-the brand positioning,  buzz words and ingredients, a celebrity endorsement or commercial on tv…

According to the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), which is a Government initiative for complementary medicine research -over 70% of Australian adults use over-the-counter complementary medicine products. Of that 70% who are using these medicines, it is estimated that only 5% of these people consult a qualified health practitioner; and rely instead on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends or family members, or indeed self-prescribe after checking with ‘Dr Google’.

There are definitely benefits and much empowerment that comes from being able to research our health and wellbeing, and I am all for people having the knowledge and being empowered to take care of their health. But is this really how we choose to take care of our health? It is possibly where the supplements being “expensive urine” and Natural medicines “don’t work” arguments stem from; generic advice (often given by Dr Google) combined with the use of substandard, over-the-counter products that are ultimately ineffective.

Using Practitioner-only products also minimises the risks associated with OTC products, such as the use of low grade raw materials, lack of purity (especially when it comes to fish oils!), substitution or contamination, manufacturing standards or misleading labelling.

To me it’s about maintaining a certain level of integrity, and my commitment to my clients to provide the best healthcare options and support available. It’s important that these recommendations are made specifically for an individual, by a professional who has an in-depth, working knowledge and the ability to be discerning with regard to technical information on exactly why specific types of nutrients, herbs or formulations will be beneficial to the individual’s physiology -that is, the treatment is personalised, based on health history and context of a person’s life, work, mental/emotional/physical stressors etc; rather than a cookie-cutter or protocol approach.

I personally consider the use of pure, high-potencyproducts of crucial importance in my practise. As a healthcare practitioner, I want to know about the latest research and developments and how it translates into better, more effective therapeutic products for my clients. I also want to be assured that the ingredients are pure and of the highest quality.

Miscarriage and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a long history of treating and preventing miscarriages.  While some miscarriages are inevitable, it is reassuring to know that there are treatment options available, especially in cases of threatened miscarriage.  According to TCM, one of the most common causes of miscarriage is a deficiency of Spleen and Kidney energy leading to deficiency of qi and blood.

These deficiencies result in the uterus not getting enough blood supply to support sufficient growth and nourishment of the foetus, resulting in miscarriage.  In order to prevent miscarriage, women should ensure that their body is balanced even before planning a pregnancy. This can take time, and in some instances some fairly drastic lifestyle changes are required.

Work and family commitments should be re-arranged where necessary to avoid overdoing it and depleting the qi.  Working long hours depletes the qi, there is no way around it.

Ask for help where necessary.  If you are looking after young children and are exhausted, ask your partner/family/friends for some help, be specific, chances are they have no idea how run down you are and would love to help if only they knew how.  Exercise should be kept to a minimum, and only at a low intensity, walking is perfect.

If you have a previous history of miscarriage, it is important to take some time to allow your body to recover and replenish qi and blood before attempting to fall pregnant again.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be of great benefit here. If you are currently pregnant, have a history of miscarriage and feel that you have not fully replenished your energy, don’t panic! Slow down, relax and make an appointment to see a local TCM practitioner. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbs can be prescribed to prevent threatened miscarriage and are very effective. There is no effective conventional (Western) medical treatment for threatened miscarriage to date, however any vaginal bleeding during pregnancy should be reported to your doctor.

The following is a very popular congee (rice porridge) dish in China that has been used for many years as a preventive measure for miscarriage.  This dish can be eaten three times a week, before or during pregnancy.  Lotus seeds are a medicinal food in Chinese Medicine and can be used to strengthen the Spleen and Kidney energies to prevent miscarriage.  Red dates are nutrient rich, a good source of fibre and iron, and act to tonify the blood.  Red dates and lotus seeds are available from Asian grocers.

Red Date Lotus Seed Congee

1 Handful of white rice
15 Lotus seeds
10 Chinese red dates, rinsed
500ml-800ml (approx. 2-3 cups) of water
Soak Lotus Seeds for 2-3 hours before cooking
Cook rice and lotus seeds in 500ml-800ml water on simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice softens.
NB Do not eat Lotus seeds if suffering from a cold or flu or have a fever.

Feeling Stressed? What next?

Stress is often perceived as an outside force putting us under mental strain.  Such as bills that need to be paid, boss’s pleased and keeping family happy, especially with Christmas around the corner!

The reality is there are too many causes of stress to simply list them all here. But what is stress really? Why does it make us anxious?  Why do we get headaches, a sore neck, sore shoulders, and a myriad of other physical symptoms?

Going back to our good old flight or fight response we need to realise that despite our obvious advancements as a human race, our basic framework of anatomy and physiology has not evolved at the same rate as our intellect, which leaves us a little unable to cope with the 21st century stress placed on our bodies. When under acute stress, our brain knows that you are either going to have to fight and kill, or run like the wind.  Either way this is going to use a lot of energy, so we are going to need oxygen because without it we’re not going to get far. So in conjunction with that initial burst of adrenaline, we start to breathe differently.

Normally in order to take a breath in, the diaphragm descends, which creates more space in our thorax, which brings air into the lungs. When we need a greater volume of air we need to create a bigger thorax.  Which is achieved by employing muscles in the neck and chest which are attached to the upper ribs.  Those muscles hoist the upper ribs up and expand the rib cage which gives us more oxygen to work with.

Now when a bear was chasing you, this response was wholly appropriate. However, today it can be problematic. Since we can’t physically fight our bosses (as much as we would like to sometimes), and we can’t run away from bills and other responsibilities, our stress response is now somewhat inappropriate.  This means that we never use the energy we are trying to store, and we carry on breathing as if we are about to run away or fight. Therefore those muscles in the neck and chest that are only meant to be used in the short term become tight, shortened and over worked.  This can cause neck pain, shoulder tension, headaches, dizziness and lead to more anxiety.

So what can be done about this?

Osteopathy is an excellent approach to combat stress.  Because so much of our stress response is so physical, it follows that a hands on treatment would be very effective.  By gently working on the neck, shoulders and upper ribs, the built-up tension can be eased. What else? Many people are familiar with the sub-occipital release, with the practitioners fingers strategically placed in the soft-tissue at the base of the skull (feels great). This, and other cranial techniques, can reduce irritation of the vagus nerves, the primary parasympathetic nerves, as they exit the skull to pass to the heart, lungs, and digestive organs.

Work at the sacrum can have a similar effect via the parasympathetic nerves to the pelvic organs.  The adrenals live in proximity to the thoracolumbar junction of the spine where the diaphragm and psoas muscle meet. Normalising tensions in those structures and mobilizing the spine can improve adrenal function. I can also teach you some breathing exercises and simple stretches. Giving your body a much better threshold for dealing with stress.  

To get you started. A simple breathing exercise is to breath in to the count of 4, hold for 6 and breath out to the count of 6. Cycle through for a few minutes. Give it a go!

Stress: Look Deeper, See Further

By now, most people understand what it feels like to be stressed. In previous articles, I have explained the hormonal connection of stress, which when not tamed can lead to anxiety, insomnia and possibly depression. Individually, we all respond to stress in different ways whether it’s held in your muscles and posture, digestion, immunity, or emotional and mental stress to name just a few (tip - many people ignore the effects of emotional and mental stress).

Sadly, we often become so well acquainted with being stressed that it begins to be the norm for daily life. Consequently, you can begin to say “No, I’m not stressed”. What once might have been quite high levels of stress is then considered to be ‘OK’. Especially, given that we can look around us and see others doing the same thing! That doesn’t make it OK though, does it?

Why we’re talking about stress

A common message throughout the articles for this month’s theme of ‘Banishing Stress’ is actually recognising stress within your life - how you react to stress, different approaches to healing stress and the hot tips for preventing stress. For me, Live Well is lighting up a big sign that says ‘Don’t ignore stress in your life’! Don’t accept your stress levels as they are; it’s like asking you to live a life that is second best or worse.

What do you typically view as stress - being very busy at work, run off your feet and on the go? Sure, this can indeed be stressful. However, what about stress related to troubles within an intimate or important relationship, stress related to finding a network and social circle within your community or stress around accepting and loving who you are? How about those mental loops and not being able to move forward with a thought or issue? I’d love to hear about what you find stressful and how stress affects you as this discussion will help others to see that it’s a much bigger field than they think. It’s why the word ‘stress’ has become one of the most highly searched terms online.

Tip for overcoming stress

The essential oil ‘Sandalwood’ keeps showing up in clinic this October and it has a great message for everyone no matter if you believe you’re stressed or not - it’s easy to become entrenched in your own life and the story that we create. Sandalwood supports us to take a step back and reflect on what is actually happening. It’s like walking to the top of a hill to be able to gain a new perspective on things. Indeed, this is a lovely action toward mindfulness!

Your homework this week is to find a hill or mountain and climb it - the very action of looking out toward the horizon and the bigger picture will enable you to do this for the many layers of your life. Gain a new perspective, see the way through and change how you do things for the better.