Artificial Sweeteners: Healthy Or Not?

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The promise artificial sweeteners make is to give you the taste of sweetness without the calories. After all, it’s called ‘diet soda’ so it must be good if you’re watching your waistline or trying to loose a few kilos, right?

Historically, research on artificial or non-caloric sweeteners has proven controversial with studies throwing up conflicting results. What we do know is that whist consumption levels of non-caloric sweeteners have climbed steeply so too have obesity rates, with one in four children and two out of three adults in Australia now overweight or obese.

A new study, from the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University based on a more detailed understanding of the metabolic affects of artificial sweeteners may help explain the problem. The researchers compared the results of feeding rats

diets high in glucose versus two common artificial sweeteners : aspartame or acesulfame potassium. It found that diets high in artificial sweeteners changed how the body processes fat and gets its energy and lead to negative changes in fat and energy metabolism.

It echoes the findings of an earlier study from George Washington University, which found that low calorie sweeteners increased fat-producing genes and glucose transport into cells of obese people who consumed them. The greater the dose, the greater the effect. In other words, artificial sweeteners were actually worsening the problems they were designed to solve leading to increased weight gain and increased susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes.

So what is healthier, sugar or artificial sweeteners? In moderate doses, our bodies seem much better adapted to handle natural sugars over artificial ones. Artificial sweeteners might trick our tastebuds and give us an emotional ‘sugar hit’ however they do appear to come with significant side effects and certainly offer zero nutritional benefits. We all need a little sweetness in our lives, just aim for sources of sweetness that are the least refined. As the saying goes choose something grown by a plant over something made in a plant.

 

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.

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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.

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Shanna is a qualified Naturopath and EFT Practitioner, and member of the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA). 

Shanna's interest in natural medicine came about through her own health challenges. She has a special interest in helping people with natural fertility, hormone balance, stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue and general wellbeing. 

Learn more about Shanna
Make an appointment to see Shanna

The Controversy of Homeopathy

Mired in controversy.

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Last year, homeopathy in Australia was dealt a blow when the NHMRC, Australia’s peak medical research body tabled a report that found there was insubstantial research evidence showing the clinical benefits of homeopathy.

Confession Time

Given this week is homeopathy awareness week, I thought it was as good a time as any to out myself as a fan of homeopathy, which I realise gives me all the social standing of a climate change denier.

I’m not a homeopath, I don’t claim to really understand how it works but I have experienced some remarkably good results with it in my own personal use of homeopathy. So either I am a) delusional and simply ascribing a benefit to something where a causal relationship does not exist, or b) there is something to it. Luckily I am not alone in my experience. Although marginalised in Australia, worldwide an estimated 200 million people use homeopathy on a regular basis.

What is Homeopathy Anyway?


There are two basic tenets of homeopathy both of which are somewhat counter-intuitive.

The first one is ‘like cures like’ which is the opposite of most traditional systems of medicine. In Western herbal medicine, for example, if you have an inflammatory condition like reflux or colitis you would reach for a soothing, slippery and sweet herb like marshmallow (the real thing, not the ones you toast on a camp fire!). This fits neatly with our idea of natural remedies working to bring about balance. We intuitively get the idea that to restore balance you would ideally follow an active busy day with a restful nights sleep, or offset hot spicy foods with a cooing drink.

The principle of ‘like cures like’ turns this notion on its head and proposes to give the body more of the same, in this case using a plant that is stimulating and irritating in order to trigger the body to re-balance itself. How curious!

The other core principle, which is even more challenging is the idea that the more you dilute a substance, the more potent it becomes. Most homeopathic remedies are in fact so dilute that there is none of the original substance remaining in the solution or pill that is prescribed. How could that possibly work?

Please Be A Sceptic

Sceptics by definition are inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions and have the confidence to make judgements based on their own lived experience. When it comes to homeopathy, most people I encounter who disparage homeopathy have never tried it and dismiss it based on their intellectual assumptions.

I challenge those sceptical about homeopathy to simply try a remedy like arnica the next time they whack themselves hard enough to expect a bruise. Rub some arnica cream on and see what happens. A double blind placebo controlled trial it is not, however if you, like me find the results interesting then perhaps you’ll also wonder if we really have all the answers. We’ve made so many wonderful advances in science and medicine but yet there is still so much more that we don’t understand.

Like to find out more about homeopathy? Check out: justonedropfilm.com

Experts Say: Forget Surgery, Try Yoga for Back Pain

When thirty-one of the world’s leading back pain experts are in agreement it’s worth taking note.

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That’s exactly what happened when leading researchers published a remarkable report in The Lancet stating that treatments doctors regularly prescribe for back pain such as addictive opioid medication and surgical intervention like spinal fusions don’t actually work. Through Medicare we spend around 4.8 billion in Australia on back pain treatments with little evidence of efficacy, yet the interventions that are shown to work like Yoga are not subsidised.

At a time when everybody is concerned about blow outs in medical budgets and advocating for the advancement of evidence based medicine, it’s astonishing a condition that effects so many people in Australia: one in two have experienced back pain in the last month, could be so poorly managed on such a large scale.

A world leading back pain expert from the University of Sydney, Professor Chris Maher sums it up nicely, "We waste billions. People are being treated with too much of the wrong stuff and missing out on the right stuff".

We can assume that all doctors want to help their patients but they are either badly informed or blindly believe in treatments despite the lack of clinical evidence to back that belief. There’s also the prospect of vested interest in the medical industry and amongst clinicians being at play according to lead author of the editorial and Monash University academic Professor Rachelle Buchbinder.

The good news: some of the least expensive treatments like exercise therapy and psychological counseling showed good results.

We know the risk factors for back pain include obesity, inactivity and a job that involves heavy lifting. What interesting is that disliking your job and depression also heighten your risk of back pain.

Whilst it’s fair to say that everybody’s experience of back pain is unique, the most effective strategies I have seen work are therapies that enable back pain sufferers to improve their mobility and posture. Ultimately getting moving in any way that brings you joy is a goal that supports wellbeing on every level.

 

Did You Know You’re Driving A Rolls Royce

Health is the one thing that really underpins the quality of our life. We can have everything else covered: great relationships, financial security, a place to live and food on the table but if your health comes unstuck there are no amount of creature comforts that can mitigate the suffering of chronic pain, depression or any other significant health crisis.  

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In light of that it’s surprising how often we pay little regard to our wellbeing. We often take better care of our motor vehicles by way of regular services than we do of our body and mind. When you think about it, when was the last time a warning light came up on your car’s dashboard and you just kept driving around for months before you called the mechanic? Probably never right. On the other hand, how may times have you ignored your body’s warning signs, otherwise called ‘symptoms’ such as headaches, constant tiredness, aches and pains, digestive discomfort, insomnia, skin breakouts and so on and just tried to put up with them.

What’s potentially even more problematic is when you can no longer put up with uncomfortable symptoms it’s tempting to mask the symptoms, for example taking pain killers for regular headaches. Whilst I’m not suggesting you should be stoically suffering or never seek pharmaceutical help, what I would ask you to consider is that taking a medication to mask a symptom is like cutting the wire to the warning light on your dashboard. You don’t have the symptom alerting you to the problem and that’s a relief, but neither has the underlying reason for the symptom been addressed. How comfortable would you be continuing to drive your car around knowing there was an unresolved issue that was probably getting worse?

A holistic approach to resolving symptoms is to find the cause of the symptom, which typically involves figuring out which body system needs support. Once you know what’s driving the symptom it’s often quite straightforward to restore the body system in question to balance.

So maybe it would help to think of your body as a Rolls Royce (or Maserati or whatever takes your fancy) and before you ignore that warning light on the dash for one more day, book yourself in for a service with a trusted health professional.

 

Are you tired but wired?

Can't switch off? Feeling on edge and irritable? Desperate for a really good night's sleep?

You really would like to wind down and relax but modern life has other plans for you. When the birds start chirping you desperately want to stay a little longer under the doona but that desire is squashed by the need to get to work or get the kids off to school.

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Once you are awake it's difficult to slow down. You are subject to an increasing onslaught of information and stimulation unlike anything humanity has previously known. One edition of the Sydney Morning Herald contains more information than someone in the 17th Century encountered in a whole lifetime. No wonder your mind is busy and can't switch off.

Its not surprising that so many clients we work with at Live Well are what I call 'wired but tired'. It's easy to become wired when your nervous system, which is responding to an avalanche of stimulation runs faster and faster just to keep up. 

As a consequence of being wired, it becomes progressively harder to switch off. Have you ever noticed how babies when they get overtired can’t settle and become increasingly distressed? As adults the same process is happening but we are better at pushing through the tiredness barrier and soldiering on. In other words you are good at 'switching on' and even when you do stop for a moment your nervous system stays on standby mode, ready to leap into action again at a moments notice. It’s not surprising all this go, go, go leaves you feeling deeply exhausted.

So how do we access the deep rest our bodies are craving? Try these tips:

  • One night a week, go electronics free: switch off the TV, turn off you mobile phone and hide the laptop. Better still turn off all devices at least 2 hours before sleep and give you body and mind a chance to unwind. 

  • Include a relaxation practice in your day, even a five minutes starts to re-train your nervous system to unwind.

  • Get out in nature or learn to meditate both are very healing and proven to reduce stress.

  • Let go of multi-tasking all day. Find space in each day where you can stick to one task. Your nervous system will thank you.

  • Remember to breathe. A few deep mindful breaths will quickly bring your mind and body into the moment and offer your nervous system a much needed pause.

  • Reach out and get support. Acupuncture is exceptionally good at helping rewire you body and mind to relearn how to access deep relaxation and restful sleep and Herbal Medicine can profoundly soothe an irritated and depleted nervous system. 

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Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. 

When Traditional Wisdom is Lost in Translation

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What do the phrases “balance aggravated vata” and “tonify kidney essence” have in common? They both come from two of the most sophisticated and respected systems of medicine in the history of civilisation, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. They can also sound implausible or even amusing to an unfamiliar Western ear and for some people that’s enough reason to denounce them as “a dangerous mixture of "fiction and hope" as Dr Bastian Seidel, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners did last week.

A brouhaha has emerged as the Therapeutic Goods Administration is proposing some 1000 or so traditional medicine terms be included in a list of ‘permitted indications’, meaning they could be printed on the bottles of supplements that you or I might find at our local chemist, supermarket or health food store.

The principal concern seems to be that consumers may consider TGA endorsement as tantamount to a government stamp of approval, leading them to falsely assume they have been scientifically proven to be effective. Actually, what I find implausible is that someone would read the line ‘balance aggravated vata’ and assume the findings were the results of a double blind study.

To me what is unfortunate about the debate is that those who are ignorant of the subject matter generally conduct the public discourse. If you don’t understand what ‘balance aggravated vata’ means then denigrating the term based on your own unfamiliarity is bombastic laziness. To further criticise these traditional terms for not being based on logic or common sense is to further expose ones own ignorance.

If we accept and embrace the WHO position on traditional medicines, as Australia has, then we must acknowledge that these medicines have a role to play within modern medicinal frameworks. Ignorance and unfamiliarity is not enough reason to dismiss something as dangerous or misleading.

By the way, “balance aggravated vata” can be translated as “reduce an overactive sympathetic nervous system” or in layman’s terms, mitigate the effects of prolonged periods of stress. Helping people cope with the effects of prolonged stress is one area where traditional medicine actually does excel and it would be a shame if thousands of years of wisdom were discarded because something sounded a bit funny.


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Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. 

Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

Learn more about Wes
Make an appointment with Wes

Nutrients to Combat Anxiety

When it comes to anxiety, nutrition can make a huge difference to your resilience and wellbeing. That means your diet, along with carefully chosen and professionally prescribed supplements, are key tools for reducing the symptoms and the effects of anxiety in your body and mind. Below is a summary of what your brain and nervous system are craving when you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

Magnesium

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Supports:

  • Mood, wellbeing & relaxation of the nervous system.
  • Also needed for activation of B vitamins & vit D + decreases lactate in system

Found in:

Dark, leafy greens; whole grains e.g. brown rice, quinoa, oats; nuts & seeds e.g. almonds, cashews, sesame; eggs; legumes e.g. beans, lentils; avocados; bananas; brewer's yeast.

B vitamins

Support:

  • Nervous system health & function + necessary for brain chemistry production.
  • Many anxiety symptoms are associated with vitamin B & Magnesium deficiency .
  • Deficiency in B & Magnesium also increases lactate in blood;
  • Note: B vitamins + Magnesium both feed the & relax the nervous system

Found in:

Dark, leafy greens; whole grains –brown rice, quinoa, oats; nuts & seeds; legumes e.g.  beans, lentils.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Support:

  • Healthy nervous system function (protects & nourishes).
  • Necessary for nervous system transmission (communication between nerves/brain)
  • + Healthy mental/psychological function including mood (EFA therapy is highly beneficial in treatment of anxiety & depression) 

Found in:

Avocado; cold-pressed oils (especially olive and sunflower); oily fish (salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel); nuts and seeds.

Adequate protein

Supports:

  • Rule of thumb: 1g protein per 1kg of body weight, per day
  • Protein provides us with amino acids (building blocks) that are the precursors (needed substances) to produce the brain chemistry we need

Found in:

Lean meat, fish, eggs (try to get organic & free-range where possible); legumes e.g. beans, chickpeas, lentils; nuts & seeds…

Try to have protein as a part of every meal/snack, and you will notice a difference! J

Complex Carbohydrates

Support:

  • Smooth, sustained energy release; Balance blood glucose; High in essential nutrients & fibre.

Found in:

Whole grains e.g. brown rice, quinoa, oats; dark, leafy greens e.g. silverbeat, kale, bok choi, lettuce; sprouts; vegetables (root vegies like Pumpkin, carrots, turnips, Swede, sweet potato are esp. grounding in anxiety!); Sprouts (nutrient powerhouses! Loaded with essential nutrients e.g.  vits, mins, phyto(plant)chemicals, anti-oxidants..)

REMEMBER, OUR BRAIN & NERVOUS SYSTEM ARE LIKE PONDS WE NEED TO KEEP TOPPED UP


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Shanna Choudhary is a qualified Naturopath and EFT Practitioner, and member of the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA). 

Shanna provides holistic and individualised support to promote more vibrant health and ease of wellbeing; using Food as Medicine & Nutritional Therapy, Herbal Medicine, EFT meridian tapping, lifestyle practices and self-care techniques.

She works closely with her clients, applying a blend of evidence-based, scientific knowledge, with traditional wisdom, Eastern/Western & metaphysical philosophies and approaches; along with the underpinning principle of Holism (honouring the mind/body/spirit connection, and that we are the sum of all of our parts), to meet you where you are at, and provide an individualised treatment path, along with the education and tools to empower you in taking charge of your wellness, so you can get the most out of your health care.

Learn more about Shanna

Make an appointment to see Shanna

The Benefits of Eating Olives

Olives have long been held in high esteem, apparently Moses exempted from military service the men responsible for cultivating olive trees and it was a dove bearing an olive branch that signaled the end of the great flood in the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.

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 Prized for their fruit and oil, olives have been extensively cultivated throughout the Mediterranean and other hot dry climates in which the olive tree is particularly suited. Olives also have longevity on their side with a single tree often living for hundreds of years.

Fruit

Olives are the fruit of the Olea Europaea tree. Green olives are picked before they are ripe, whereas black olives are picked later in the season at peak ripeness. If you’ve ever tasted a raw olive you’ll know they taste very different (peppery and bitter) before they are salted, pickled or soaked in brine, which mellows the flavour considerably. They are high in anti-oxidants (always a good thing) and healthy fats like oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid linked to reduced blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk. Olives also contain omega-3-rich alpha-linolenic acid.

Oil

The whole olive is pressed to extract the oil from the fruit. As with the fruit, the oil is similarly blessed with good fats and antioxidants. Like wine, varieties and growing conditions and processing methods will all affect the quality and taste of the oil produced. Only oil that is free of flavour defects and has lower levels of oleic acid (less than 0.8%) can be labelled as “extra virgin” and is considered the superior tasting and most valuable.

Leaves

The leaves of the olive tree are highly astringent and are prised in herbal medicine as a immune boosting tonic. The leaves have remarkable properties as an antiviral, antibiotic, antifungal and antiparasitic.

Flowers

The use of the flowers as an essence was popularised by Dr Edward Bach. The essence is used to treat mental and physical exhaustion after a period of sustained exertion. The person needing olive essence will feel like every day is a struggle and life has become a chore. Like the olive branch in the story of Noah’s Ark, olive flower essence can restore hope after an arduous and difficult period in your life.

Olives are proof that quite often, foods that are delicious are also good for us.

Love Is All You Need

Do you recall going a little bit crazy when you have fallen in love… such as obsessively checking for a new text or email every five seconds? Apparently the phrase madly in love is quite apt as the brain chemistry of ‘being in love’ temporarily mimics the brain chemistry similar to that of mental illness.

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Falling in love unleashes a potent cocktail of high adrenalin levels (flight or fight hormone) as well as surges of phenethylamine (the body's natural amphetamine), dopamine (which triggers the brain's reward and pleasure centers), and oxytocin (the love, trust, cuddling hormone). It’s no wonder we find love such an intoxicating and thrilling ride!

What is more reassuring is that if your new romance survives the first flush of craziness to become an enduring loving relationship then instead of being a health liability – love becomes a health boon.

Research is now proving what we already knew intuitively: loving relationships are linked to many positive health outcomes. Clinically some of the health findings include:

  • Lower stress levels, one study showed couples who were separated physically, had higher cortisol levels (long term stress hormones) and worse sleep than when they were together.

  • Apart from giving you a warm and fuzzy feeling, loving relationships are associated with lower blood pressure and lower rates of heart disease

  • Longer life expectancy – a loving relationship adds an average of five years to your life

  • Lower rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s

So this Valentines Day you now know to be even more appreciative of your loving relationships as they may well be the secret to a long and healthy life. However if you are going out on a hot date with a new love interest…beware the onset of feeling a little ‘love sick’.

Plugging the Gaps: Healing a leaky gut

Last week we explored what leaky gut is, the symptoms it causes and how it’s diagnosed. The good news is that naturopathic approaches for treating leaky gut are very safe and effective.

In part two of this article I’m going to share some of the naturopathic treatment approaches that I use to heal the permeability of the gut lining, switch off the inflammatory response of the immune system and restore your digestive system’s ability to absorb nutrients from food.

A positive test, what next?

HERBS AND SUPPLEMENTS

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Glutamine – One of my favourite and most prescribed supplements for leaky gut, glutamine is an amino acid involved in rebuilding and repairing damage to the mucosal lining. It also provides protection from further damage, modulates immune function and decreases inflammation

Zinc – Maintains intestinal wall integrity, supports immune function and protects the mucosal lining

Probiotics – Support and restore a healthy microbiota. Having a healthy amount of good bacteria will massively contribute to a robust immune system and decrease inflammation. There are particular strains of bacteria that I will use in the treatment of leaky gut so it is important to seek advice on the right probiotic supplement for you.

Boswellia – Boswellia is one of my favourite herbs when treating leaky gut because it is great at reducing systemic inflammation. I have found that glutamine and boswellia work synergistically and both support the healing and sealing process

Turmeric – The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric are well known, but it can also tighten the spaces in the bowel lining reducing that permeability.

IDEAL FOOD CHOICES FOR LEAKY GUT

Bone broth – provides important amino acids and minerals that can help heal leaky gut and improve mineral deficiencies. Digesting broths and soups is easy on the body and doesn’t take much effort to breakdown

Fermented foods – coconut kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut or kimchi. These fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria that will provide protection against invading pathogens

Steamed vegetables – non-starchy vegetables that are cooked or steamed are easy to digest and nutrient-rich

Healthy fats – consuming healthy fats in moderation like egg yolks, salmon, avocados and coconut oil are easy on the gut and promote healing

Fruit – Consuming 1-2 servings of fruit in its whole state daily provides an excellent source of fibre, which helps to feed the good bacteria in the gut. Steer clear of fruit juices, they have very little fibre and a high amount of sugar

Aloe Vera juice – Aloe vera is anti-inflammatory and can help heal the digestive system. It’s a great addition to green smoothies too

Gluten-free grains – these can help alleviate digestive strain, especially for those that are gluten intolerant: Quinoa, millet, buckwheat, brown rice and amaranth

Putting it all together.

Every case of leaky gut is different. One of the things I love about my work as a naturopath is being able to tailor a treatment protocol to your individual needs to maximise healing and a speedy return to radiant wellbeing.

If you suspect leaky gut might be an issues for you come in and see me and we’ll do some testing and get your digestion and your wellbeing back on track.

CARLA WILTSHIRE

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Carla's interest in natural health began at a young age, sourcing remedies from the backyard and kitchen where possible. After living in China and Papua New Guinea, where she got to experience alternative health practices, Carla’s interest in natural medicine developed into a passion.

Carla’s main areas of interest include digestive disorders, immune dysfunction, and female health issues. Her aim is to educate her clients so they can take pro-active steps to take control of their health.

Book an appointment with Carla now

 

LEAKY GUT: Is Your Digestion Making You Sick?

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In my role as a naturopath at Live Well, one of the conditions I get asked about a lot is leaky gut. With more awareness about the massive impact of gut health on our wellbeing lots of my clients seek support to maximise the health of their digestive system.

What is leaky gut?

Leaky gut occurs when the lining of your digestive tract is damaged causing the gap junctions in your digestive tract to become porous. The increased permeability of the gut lining allows particles like food molecules, toxins and bacteria to pass into your bloodstream causing a myriad of health issues.

In a healthy body, our intestinal lining provides a barrier to keep harmful substances away from the bloodstream, but when that barrier is compromised our immune system detects these invaders and goes into attack mode. The result of this attack causes inflammation, which puts a lot of stress on the body. The longer the digestive lining is permeable and allows invaders to leech into the bloodstream the greater the damage caused by the inflammation.

The build up of stress and accumulation of toxins causes the liver to work over time to keep up with filtering these substances out of the body. More often than not the toxic load is too great and it builds up faster than it is eliminated. As a result, symptoms continue to worsen.

Can you test for leaky gut?

Thankfully if leaky gut is suspected there is a simple and reliable test, called the Lactulose/Mannitol Test that we can do to determine whether or not you have leaky gut. The test involves drinking two substances (lactulose and mannitol) and assessing their concentration in the urine. Lactulose is made up of large particles that are difficult to be absorbed through healthy intestinal lining, so high concentrations of lactulose in the urine indicates that the digestive lining is too permeable. Mannitol, on the other hand, is made up of smaller particles that should be well absorbed, however if the mannitol concentration is too low that can be indicative of absorption issues

Signs of leaky gut

Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?

  • Food intolerances and allergies – this can be a sign that the body is developing antibodies to fight off certain foods
  • Irritable bowel syndrome – caused by the inflammation and damage of the digestive lining
  • Fatigue, brain fog – this occurs as a result of toxic overload
  • Eczema, dermatitis, rashes – as the skin is an organ of elimination, the body may try to release the toxins through the skin if the other pathways of elimination are congested
  • Poor nutrient absorption – caused by impaired breakdown of food and absorption of essential vitamins and minerals

 

Next week: Part Two
How to heal a leaky Gut

 

CARLA WILTSHIRE

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Carla's interest in natural health began at a young age, sourcing remedies from the backyard and kitchen where possible. After living in China and Papua New Guinea, where she got to experience alternative health practices, Carla’s interest in natural medicine developed into a passion.

Carla’s main areas of interest include digestive disorders, immune dysfunction, and female health issues. Her aim is to educate her clients so they can take pro-active steps to take control of their health.

Book an appointment with Carla now

 

What is Worth Suffering For?

So 2018 is already whirring into gear. It’s likely you’re back at work, with your holidays already a distant memory. Before the magic dust of inspiration that comes with each New Year slips through your fingers it worth taking a moment to consider how you want to invest your time and energy in 2018. When you do come up with some goals its important you check that you are prepared to suffer to reach them, if not you may as well not bother. Let me explain.

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Like a lot of people over Christmas I read a really interesting book called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*@K” by Mark Manson. One juicy piece of wisdom he articulates beautifully is that all choices we make in life lead to a mixture of happiness and suffering. For example you might decide you want to loose weight but the path to loosing weight involves the suffering and pain of getting up early to train, not eating ice cream, wrestling with your willpower when your motivation wanes and some days just feeling terrible about yourself. The point is that whatever path you choose you need to be willing to accept and even embrace the pain that is inherent in that path. Otherwise, when you come up against the inevitable suffering or pain associated with your decision to, in this example, loose weight you’ll stop taking action and won’t reach your goal.

If you think about it, anything worth doing has a mixture of suffering and joy:

Having kids involves sleepless nights, lots of worrying, complete life disruption vs the boundless love, laughter, sense of meaning that kids bring.

Finishing a uni degree involves exams, HECS debt, loads of stress vs better career prospects, life long friendships, sense of satisfaction.

Learning to play a musical instrument involves frustration; being initially hopeless at it, hours of your life you’ll never get back vs the blissful joy of making music.

So when you contemplate what you want to do differently this year make sure you reconcile yourself with the both the downside of the suffering you are signing up for as well as the upside of what you are planning to achieve. If you mentally get that balance right first, your expectations of the journey will align much better with the actual lived events. Then it’s much more likely that when you go through the moments of suffering you will be prepared for them and wont throw in the towel.  


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Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. 

Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

Learn more about Wes
Make an appointment with Wes

Why We’re Going Crazy for Kombucha

Is it just me, or are you also suddenly seeing kombucha everywhere? Kombucha, for the uninitiated, is a fermented tea drink first documented in 3rd Century China. Named the ‘tea of immortality’ kombucha’s popularity spread through the Far East and into Russia.

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As regular Live Well Blog readers already know, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and especially kombucha are ‘so hot right now’. It’s mainly thanks to the plethora of research evidence showing the link between healthy gut flora (or microbiome) and our wellbeing and the role fermented foods play in supporting healthy digestion.

Riding high on the wave of fermented food popularity, kombucha is now entrenched in the mainstream. Consequently, kombucha has morphed from something your fisherman’s pants and bead wearing hippy friends were brewing in their kitchens to a something your local supermarket is probably now stocking. Not bad for something described as tasting like ‘rancid pineapple juice’. Nowadays, that description is probably a bit unfair. Just as the craft beer movement has exploded the beer drinking options available, so too the new wave of kombucha creators, like Canberra’s very own Booyah Kombucha have perfected the art of combining fermedted goodness with foodie friendly flavours. Orange and ginger or melon and lemon grass kombucha anyone?

3 beneifts of drinking kombucha

Digest: Kombucha contains probiotics, enzymes and beneficial acids to support healthy digestion

Detox: kombucha is high in Glucaric acid, which is beneficial to the liver and aids it’s natural detoxification.

Boost: kombucha is naturally high in antioxidants, helping boost immune function.  

Key Kombucha Lingo

SCOBY or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast is the what is added to tea and sugar to catalyse the fermentation process if you're making it at home.

Booch: what the cool kids are calling it.

Precautions:

Pregnant and nursing moms and anyone with a medical condition should check with a doctor or trusted health professional before consuming.

Tips to Unwind and Recharge These Holidays

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Whether you’re heading to the coast, having a ‘staycation’ in Canberra or travelling to be with family over the Christmas holidays, apply these tips to make sure your body and mind get the most benefit from your break. These suggestions are especially important if you’re someone who is busy all the time and, when you do stop for a break, you find it hard to unwind.

Unplug

Give yourself a break from the world of screens. Working, for most people, requires staring at a screen for most of the day. If, on top of that, you like to unwind by watching TV, gaming or being on your phone/tablet/laptop then you’re long overdue for a digital detox. Dust off the board games and the jigsaw puzzles, get out the craft gear and the paint brushes, read some (real) books or tackle some cryptic crosswords. Whatever you choose, your nervous system will thank you.

Monotask

Are you always juggling about a million priorities? It’s time to master the art of monotasking and kick your multitasking habits to the kerb. Even if you’ve got a tribe of kids and you’re unruly in-laws are coming to stay, you can still find a part of each day where you allow yourself the luxury of being able to focus on just one task at a time. When you give your mind just one thing to do, a kind of magical meditative stillness is unleashed and your whole body and mind can surrender into being in the moment. 

Nature

It’s as easy as opening your front door and walking through! Get yourself outside and into nature these holidays in any way shape or form that takes your fancy. Have a picnic in the park, potter in the garden or head off for a night or two camping. Time in nature elevates your mood and is one of the most healing treats for an exhausted nervous system. If you’ve got the energy you can combine nature and exercise and accrue extra bonus points viabushwalks, mountain biking or kayaking. However, if it takes all your strength just to drag yourself out of the house, treat yourself to a snooze under a shady tree in the back yard instead.

Holiday Living

When you get back from your break make an effort to continue to integrate your favourite holiday habits into your regular routine. It takes practice but you can learn how to keep your relaxation tank topped up in order to build resilience and bolster your wellbeing throughout the year.


Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. 

Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

Learn more about Wes
Make an appointment with Wes

Are You Getting the Massage?

End of Year Essentials

With the end of 2017 now in sight are you racing to the finish or limping across the line? At busy and stressful times like the end of the year can be for many, it’s important to remind yourself that self care is an essential requirement, not an indulgence.

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Ease the squeeze

Typically, the busier we are the more likely it is that self-care gets squeezed out of the schedule when actually the opposite is what’s called for. The more stressed you are the more it feels like you can’t make time for your gym class, morning meditation or cup of tea on the balcony, the more tenacious you need to be about protecting your ‘me time’.

There’s a saying about meditation, which applies to any kind of self care, that for most people 20 minutes a day is a good time to aim for, except of course if your are really busy and pressed for time, in which case you need to do 30 minutes twice a day!

Lock it in

When I’m working with a client at Live Well who is particularly affected by stress, we will always explore how they can tweak their lifestyle to better support the treatment goals. Left to their own devices, when push comes to shove I know my really stressed clients will probably forget about self-care. So one trick I find works well is to make sure whatever we settle on as a self care task is not some vague idea but is something that gets booked and scheduled.

For example, it could be a series of pampering and deeply relaxing massages, if you’ve booked the appointments or even better pre-paid there’s no way you’re going to miss them. The same goes for a term of Yoga classes or even a weekend away at the coast. Book it, pay a deposit and you’re much less likely to not turn up.

Guilt free zone

When we look ahead to 2018 one wellness trend I’d like to see emerge is the reclaiming of self-care as a conscious and healthy choice. It is the ‘first put your own oxygen mask on’ of the wellness world as the better your look after yourself the better you’re able to support and look after those around you.

Nervous System Overload?

Nervous System Overload?

By far the most common thing we see and treat at Live Well is what I would describe as different presentations of nervous system overload. What’s interesting is that an overwhelmed and burnt out nervous system can present in many different ways. Here are just some of the most common:

Insomnia

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The quality of your sleep is a reliable gauge of your nervous system’s wellbeing. Both cause and effect of nervous system overload, insomnia is a clear indication that your body and mind are unable to switch from action mode into rest and recharge.

Anxiety

Clammy hands, knots in your stomach, palpitations, a rising sense of panic or dread are just a few of the manifestations of anxiety but what drives all these symptoms is an inability to regulate levels of nervous system excitement. When you suffer with anxiety, your nervous system is very adept at moving into high levels of alertness and engagement but unable to de-escalate and drop back down to neutral. Like a car engine constantly revving, your mind and nervous system are stuck in overdrive.

Digestive Problems

According to Chinese Medicine, we don’t just digest what we put in our mouths we also digest experiences, thoughts and emotions. What that means is that prolonged stress will often first show up as digestive problems like reflux, bloating and pain.

Exhaustion

Whether you’re always feeling tired or suffering from even more debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome, exhaustion is a clear sign that your body is unable to access deep states of rest. It might be stating the obvious but the best cure for exhaustion is rest. However when your nervous system has become addicted to high states of activity and is no longer able to wind down you just can’t drop into the deep restorative rest you need.

Autoimmune

Prolonged states of nervous system overload will, in some people, eventually wear down the resilience of the immune system and lead to autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, thyroid disease, alopecia.

What can you do?

If you recognise yourself in any of these patterns, the good news is that holistic approaches to treat nervous system overload like acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutritional therapy, kinesiology, craniosacral therapy, meditation and bodywork are all very effective.

 

 

 

Science Says: Eat Your Greens

We know we should be eating our greens, and as an avid wellness column reader, you no doubt already have a diet rich in green goodness. What you may not know is that, according to new research eating your greens has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 40%.

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This latest advice is courtesy of the researchers at Edith Cowan University, School of Medical Health and Science who studied the diets of more than 1000 West Austrian Women. The researchers focused on the women’s dietary intake of nitrate from vegetables.

Putting the Breaks on Blood Pressure

The researchers observed a fascinating process that is occurring inside our mouths. The bacteria that are present in our mouths break down the nitrates in the foods we eat and transform them into a compound called nitrite as well as other bi-products which are essential to regulating our blood pressure reducing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Where are nitrates found?

Nitrates are an essential nutrient for all plant growth but they are found in particularly high concentrates in leafy green vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and kale as well as prominently in radishes, beetroot and celery.

Does that mean Bacon is Healthy?

I know what you’re thinking, bacon is cured using sodium nitrate so it must be amazing for cardiovascular health right? Not according to most health experts who explain that the nitrates in bacon are not converted in the same favourable way your body converts vegetable nitrates. Nevertheless, bacon lovers, don’t despair: there is some spirited debate about the pros and cons of bacon consumption, a topic we may revisit.

How much do you need?

To satisfy your body’s needs for nitrates, the recommended intake is about a cup of raw veges a day. Which means that if you have a generous portion of salad every day then you’re giving your cardiovascular system a fighting chance of many more years of faithful service.

The Strength to Overcome Pain

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The Strength to Overcome Pain

In my role as an acupuncturist I see a lot of people who are suffering from one kind of pain or another whether it be back or neck pain, joint pain or headaches. Fortunately, just about everyone leaves feeling much better as one of the things acupuncture does well is release areas of chronic tension, reduce inflammation and help the nervous system rebalance.

So You’re Pain Free, What Next?

Once people are feeling consistently pain free I try to ensure that they take up some form of supervised strength training whether it be working with a Pilates instructor, an exercise physiologist or a switched on personal trainer. That’s because, in my experience, the vast majority of ongoing pain is caused by postural weakness. The best way to retrain your body and resolve postural weakness is by working with an expert. Changing your posture can be a long term project as the way we sit, stand and move feels ‘normal’ to us but usually we’ve picked up some bad habits along the way that are causing less than optimal movement patterns.

The Office Slump

Take for example the classic posture of a sedentary office worker: shoulders slumped, chin jutting forward, abdominal muscles switched off and lower back slouching. Whilst this ‘path of least resistance’ posture may feel comfortable and easy to sustain, it causes big problems. Sitting like this for many hours a day causes crucial postural muscles to switch off and become chronically weak whilst leaving the work of holding your body upright to a few habitually overworked and consequently tense muscles. To make matters worse, it’s impossible to breathe properly in a slouched posture, which compounds the tension build up, depresses your mood and flattens your energy levels.

Banish the Niggles

Sustaining better posture requires both mobilising areas that are tight and restoring strength to areas that are weak. The good news is every incremental improvement in posture results in less chronic tension in the body. We’re not aiming for perfection here, just to be free from aches and pains and have freedom and ease of movement.

A Note on Standing Desks
Changing positions throughout the day is an improvement on sitting still however most people’s standing posture is just as problematic as their seated posture. So the need to work on your posture still applies. 

Breathe easy to beat anxiety

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We know that one in seven Australians have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, which means that even if you don’t suffer anxiety yourself, it’s likely you know someone that does. This week I had the pleasure of talking with Canberra physiotherapist Tess Graham who’s just published Relief from Anxiety and Panica new book about overcoming anxiety by changing the way you breathe.

Graham’s interest in breathing was sparked when two of her three children began suffering from chronic asthma. Whilst exploring ways to help her children that didn’t rely solely on medication, she discovered research which showed that if you can restore breathing to a physiologically normal level, you can resolve asthma symptoms. Fascinatingly, there are also lessons here for anxiety sufferers.

Tess explains, “asthmatics, like people with anxiety, characteristically over-breathe – that is all the time, but worse at the beginning of an ‘attack’. For an asthmatic, the over-breathing irritates the airways causing dehydration, inflammation and the narrowing of airways which causes wheezing and difficulty breathing. For those with anxiety, over-breathing revs up your nervous system and creates imbalance in blood chemistry, which causes blood vessels to narrow and interferes with the release of oxygen to your tissues, particularly to the heart and brain. The result can be dizziness, feeling spaced out, breathlessness, heart palpitations, tingling, nausea and feeling terrified.”

Rather than trying to employ a new breathing technique when you’re in the midst of a panic attack or anxiety episode, Graham’s advice is to learn how to adjust your everyday breathing to a softer and slower breath. In the book, she teaches the benefits of ‘nine habits of healthy breathing’ – a simple, step-by-step approach that is backed by research. “We breathe around 16,000 times while we are awake, so that is 16,000 opportunities to practise breathing a little better each day,” she explains.

The wisdom of this approach is that it changes your physiology in favourable ways. For example, it can lower your heart rate, improve oxygenation and modify an overly active sympathetic nervous system. The end result is being able to access greater feelings of calm, stabilising your nervous system at a very deep level and banishing episodes of anxiety.

* Relief from Anxiety and Panic, $29.99, from breatheability.com


Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression

Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.

Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

Learn more about Wes

Make an appointment to see Wes.