How do you feel about winter in Canberra? Do you find it beautiful and invigorating or a season that has to be endured until the warmer weather arrives?Read More
It’s enough to have you choking on your green juice.Read More
Discovering a food intolerance or sensitivity can be a confusing process. Often, the symptoms are mistaken for simply not feeling well. Research shows it can be years before possible food intolerance is explored.Read More
What do Valium, Serapax, Mogadon and Normison all have in common? If you guessed: they are all benzodiazepines:highly addictive and commonly prescribed medications for insomnia you are correct!Read More
We each have an immense capacity to love. At the very heart of who we are, despite the feeling that the world sometimes loses its way, we deeply care. From this sense of great care, what sometimes follows is worry.Read More
How are we to best navigate the conflicting sources of information about health? Google just about any health topic and discover anew the tribal and combative nature of the internet where both passionate advocates and detractors abound.Read More
Chronic pain is a massive health issue in Australia afflicting one in five Australians with an estimated cost to the economy of upwards of 34 billion dollars a year in medical costs and lost productivityRead More
MOTHER’S DAY SUNDAY 12TH MAY
Celebrate Mum this Mother’s Day with one of our beautiful Signature Spa Treatments.
Quality sleep, nourishing diet and movement or exercise are the usual top three on well-being to do lists. Whilst they are all powerful tools that you want to be using to your advantage, this year I’ve come up with an alternative list that are just as important but often overlooked.Read More
Think you can’t eat gluten…. Think again.
If you or someone you know is sensitive to gluten you might be surprised to know that you may still be able to enjoy some wheat based breads.
Canberra locals, Lisabeth Gavins and her Naturopath Husband, Mark have been teaching Sourdough Bread Making and Fermented Foods Workshops for around 15 years. Over the years they have received overwhelming feedback from gluten sensitive people who are able to eat wheat bread, made using the authentic Sourdough method that they teach, with no symptoms. “But be warned”, says Lisabeth, “there are a lot of fake sourdoughs out there!”
So why is sourdough more digestible?
Many years ago the only way to make bread was with a “mother” Sourdough Culture that was passed down through generations and shared throughout communities. These live bacteria cultures were made up of wild yeast species and broad range lactobacillus bacteria. These cultures not only made the bread rise, but the bacteria pre-digested the gluten content in the grain through a fermentation process called lacto-fermentation, making grain more easily digestible and the nutrients more available.
“When bread became commercialised the sourdough method was forgotten. This was the start of all our problems with gluten. Our digestive systems just can't handle grain that has not been fermented first,” said Health Kultcha Founder Lisabeth Gavins. “This is why gluten intolerance and Coeliacs is a modern day disease. We stopped fermenting our grain.”
These days wheat is sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, it's irradiated for long term storage, it’s processed so the wheat germ and bran are removed, it’s bleached, and worst of all, it's no longer fermented.
So is our problem wheat, or what we have done to it?
“Major bread brands know that Sourdough is trending right now, and some have been busted adding vinegar to their loaves and calling it “sour” dough. This is completely deceiving as there is absolutely no lacto-fermentation taking place whatsoever.” Said Lisabeth
Baker’s yeast is one single bacteria species that was isolated, initially to brew beer, and later found to make bread rise quickly. So Bakers could say good-bye to the 4 – 6 hour proofing period used in the traditional sourdough method.
Lisabeth and Mark are the proud owners of a 120 year old Ancient Sourdough Culture that originates from Germany. It is available to purchase online at www.healthkultcha.com.au & through Health Food Stores Australia wide.
Sourdough Spelt Hot Cross Bun recipe.
¾ cup active 120yr old Ancient Sourdough Culture visit www.healthkultcha.com.au/sourdough for full instructions)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1½ teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
50g melted butter (cooled) or oil
1 egg (optional)
1 cup Water or milk
150g currants, raisins & sultanas, or mixed dried fruit
4 cups Organic white or whole Spelt Flour – or a combination of the two.
Activate the culture
Combine all ingredients in order listed
Mix flour in 1 cup at a time, stir in until it is too stiff to turn by hand. Leave a little excess flour for kneading.
Knead dough for a few minutes
Cut into 9 or 10 even pieces and roll into balls.
Place on a greased tray.
Place in a warming cupboard for 2-6 hours between 29 and 35 degrees C
Once risen, make up a thick paste with flour and water, thick enough so the mixture doesn't run off the buns.
To make the crosses use a cake decorator, or a plastic bag with a hole cut in the corner
Bake at 190°C for 20-25 minutes.
Glaze the top of the buns with 50/50 melted honey and water.
Serve warm with butter – best eaten fresh from the oven
When I think of Switzerland, my mind conjures up images of snow clad peaks and bubbling pots of fondue, Swiss Army knives and delicious chocolate. Yet within this country famous for its impartiality and civic order lurks a radically progressive model of healthcare.
In 2017 the Swiss government recognized that complementary medicine modalities including homeopathy, traditional Chinese Medicine and herbal medicine met sufficiently high criteria of quality and safety to satisfy the requirements of the Federal Act on Health Insurance. This ruling guaranteed Swiss citizens universal access to complementary medicine
Surprisingly the sky did not fall in. In fact, the Swiss Society of General Internal Medicine and the Swiss Medical Association along with the major political parties, backed the interior ministry’s decision. Not surprising really given, that in Switzerland, it is commonplace for GP’s and specialists to prescribe natural remedies like herbs and homeopathic medicine.
How are the Swiss faring? They’re very well thank you in fact they enjoy the second highest life expectancy in the world (just pipped by Japan).
Contrast that to the situation in Australia, where our government is on April 1st preparing to axe health fund rebates for a swathe of complementary medicines including herbal medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, pilates, tai chi, and yoga. It seems that, whilst the Australian public has embraced complementary medicine, our political parties and health institutions seem intent on dragging us back to a 1950’s white picket fence model of conservative health care.
In 2018 Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) commented that “People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk, if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.”
I wonder what the 27% of Swiss GP’s who prescribe homeopathic medicines alongside pharmaceutical medicine think? Can such a large cohort of highly educated and well-trained physicians be blindly putting their patient’s well-being at risk or are they finding that the natural remedies they use are both safe and effective when used judiciously.
I’d like to think that in 2019 its time for Australia to be embracing a Swiss style progressive medical landscape where we support and celebrate the wide choice of health modalities we have available.
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, stress, anxiety 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.
In an earlier wellness column, we looked at the hugely significant problem of anti-biotic overprescribing. Heading into the colder months it’s important to be mindful that antibiotics are not recommended, even though they are routinely offered, for common conditions like chest colds and sore throats. It’s always ok to ask your health professional for more information about the benefits, risks and alternatives of any medication or procedure. You and your doctor share a common goal: your wellness. Consider yourselves partners.
There are however times, when antibiotics are needed, and in these instances it’s helpful to know how to support your body to bounce back.
What do antibiotics do?
Antibiotics kill bacteria in an indiscriminate way, meaning that both harmful and beneficial bacteria bite the dust. It’s a bit like clear-felling a forest, not very subtle but, when you need them, hopefully very effective.
How long does it take for your microbiome to recover?
Your microbiome is the name given the colonies of bacteria that make your body home. Oh, and by the way, you’re currently hosting bacteria cells that outnumber your own human cells by a factor of 10 to 1. However, when you’re healthy these microbes are not invaders or freeloaders but in fact crucial facilitators of our basic body functions including digesting food, producing vitamins and keeping the immune system buoyant. So, it kind of sucks to have to kill them!
A 2018 study published in Nature Microbiology suggests that it takes around six months for your gut bacteria to recover after antibiotic use, which means six months of potential gut issues, sub-par energy, brain fog and so on. The study also found that some species of bacteria may become permanently lost or severely depleted so, like the clear-fell analogy, once you chop down the rain forest, even after it regrows, the ecosystem is never the same again.
What about probiotics and when do I take them?
Probiotics are supplements that you take to re-introduce helpful bacteria. You don’t need to wait to take probiotics until the end of the course of your antibiotics the suggestion is to take them 2 or more hours either side of each dose of antibiotics.
The more we understand about the microbiome the more we realise our knowledge of probiotics is still quite primitive. My advice with any supplement is, if you have the opportunity, seek the advice of an expert such as a naturopath otherwise you can end potentially taking lots of things that won’t help and can even give you unwanted side effects. For example, some probiotics can set of histamine reactions worsening any gut issues you might be experiencing.
What about food to help?
Fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi are renowned for their probiotic content however if they’re loaded with refined sugar they will do more harm than good so check the label first.
Gut repairing foods like bone broth, collagen and even supplements like glutamine can help to ensure the barrier function of the gut is restored.
Other than that, eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and proteins whilst minimising processed foods and refined sugars ensures your gut is getting the best chance of recovering fast.
Quality sleep, a nourishing diet and regular movement or exercise are the usually at the top of wellbeing to do lists. Whilst they are all powerful tools that you want to be using to your advantage, this year I’ve come up with an alternative list that are just as important but often overlooked.
Connect with the ones you love
What like talk to them? That’s the idea! Expand the time you connect with those nearest and dearest, you can start small like making one night a week a sacred time to connect and build from there.
This will require turning off the TV, downing the devices, unplugging the headphones and making time to engage in a shared activity like a board game, an after-dinner walk, cooking a meal together or anything else that takes your fancy.
Do more of (or find out) what lights you up
Do have a solid grasp of what fills you with delight and regularly make space for it in your life? One of the most crucial steps of being responsible for your wellbeing is to keep discovering what nourishes your contentment and bliss and determinedly making the time and space to access this precious gift that life has to offer.
I suggest brainstorming a list of activities you love and plan your week so that you can make time for them.
Not sure what lights you up? Think of things you used to love that have fallen by the wayside. If you’re still stumped, then don’t worry it just means it’s the perfect time to get out of your routine and try some new things.
Soak up some silence
Information and entertainment are so readily available that it’s actually become necessary to consciously make time to remove yourself from stimulation in order to let your mind and body rebalance.
So take a bath, go for a walk in nature or just sit in the garden with a cup of tea and let your nervous system recalibrate. Just don’t take your phone with you!
If, at first, you feel agitated or unsettled when you unplug from stimulation, don’t worry, it’s a sign your nervous system is detoxing from the constant noise. It can take a while for silence to feel normal. Try starting the day with a bit of quiet, get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning and spend some time outside in your garden or the local park.
Anxiety is one of the most common struggles within our community today, it is a syndrome that can affect anyone no matter their age, gender or upbringing. Anxiety can be triggered by past events and for some, it feels like we are made this way – stressed, anxious, panicked or depressed.
How to disconnect the triggers
So what can we do when our body sends us into a state of anxiety when triggers arise? How can we disconnect the wires in the brain and the central nervous system from activating flight/fight when it's not necessary? Essentially your mind and body have learnt from past experiences that it needs to respond in this way as a protective mechanism. Any time your mind and body experience something that is similar to past hurts, be it physical, emotional or mental, it turns on your survival mode – the physiological response to stress and anxiety.
Through kinesiology, I talk to your body to find out what your triggers are, when they occurred and where they are sitting in the body and energy systems. I look at your entire energy system through Traditional Chinese Medicine meridians and yogic-Chakras to explore emotions, thoughts, physical sensations and blocks that prevent you from being at your best. One of the key ways to balance your mind, body and spirit from anxiety is through the yogic-Chakra system. The energy of chakras penetrate through your endocrine system – the very hormones that are released when you're stressed! Understanding physiology and clearing the wired response of the brain then allows you to then understand the source and break the pattern of anxiety.
Stay with me while I simplify the connection between hormones and the endocrine glands behind anxiety
Once a stressful event occurs, a chain of hormonal messages start within your brain travelling through the hypothalamus to your pituitary gland and finishing up in your adrenal glands (which lie on top of your kidneys). It's your adrenal glands that release stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine as they help you to deal with stress.
The HPA Axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) is a brain and hormonal feedback system within your body that regulates your response to stress. Unfortunately in a fast-paced world, or through long-term stress our adrenals can become locked on and continue to pump stress hormones even through times of attempted rest, sleep and normal daily events. It's often during this phase that you can become agitated, anxious or experience panic attacks. Your levels of stress hormones flowing through your body become too high. Eventually your body cannot sustain this level of survival mode and you can experience adrenal exhaustion where you're unable to release stress hormones. If you experience anxiety, can you think back to times of high level stress? Or are you highly stressed presently? So you can see the spectrum of why hormone imbalances occur these can be from stress ►anxiety ► panic ► exhaustion.
By working with the energy model of the Yogic-Chakras, kinesiology can restore your endocrine system to balance. Once back in balance your experience of daily life is different. Your old seemingly 'hard wired' response to stressful triggers is no longer dominant. Typically you will have insights about the source of old patterns and the awareness to create new more helpful responses to stressful events.
3 Chakras & 3 Tips to calming anxiety
As I mentioned before, the seven major chakras each penetrate through glands of your hormonal system. By working to balance a chakra, you are in turn, balancing your body, mind and spirit. This connection is the foundation of kinesiology. Here are three tips you can try now to heal your anxiety naturally.
Your Crown Chakra influences your hypothalamus gland – the first gland in your brain that responds to stress. Frankincense essential oil slows and deepens your breathing, treats fears and anxiety, nervous tension and stress. Place a few drops in a bath, on your pillow or mix 1 drop with 5mls of almond oil and place a drop on the top of your head directly on the Crown Chakra.
Your Brow/Third Eye Chakra influences your pituitary gland – the second gland in your brain that responds to stress. Brain foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, nuts, and avocado nourish your Brow Chakra. Blueberries and strawberries can support our memory and ability to concentrate. The powerful antioxidants within berries help improve our cognitive thinking and reasoning which we can lose when anxious.
Your Base/Root Chakra influences your adrenals – the glands above your kidneys that respond to stress. My favourite way to balance the Base Chakra and adrenals is connecting to Mother Earth energy by finding each person's 'off switch'. What brings you a sense of calm, peace and connection? Ideas include walking or sitting in nature (especially with your shoes off), gardening, music, baths, art, reading, yoga, Tai Chi, meditation and massage.
You can read about my personal experience with childhood anxiety through to post-natal anxiety in a book I co-authored called Heart to Heart, The Path to Wellness which you can pick up at Live Well Spa and Wellness Centre and I have provided you with some of my previously written articles on anxiety that you may like to read.
Remember you don't have to do it alone. Don't let anxiety define you!
If you’re suffering with pain you already know how much it impacts on your life. Everything you do is measured against the impact it will have on your pain levels. You might have to give up activities you love, working can be difficult, anything that requires concentration is a struggle. You might even feel depressed as it’s not much fun when your life contracts, it can become pretty miserable, lonely and scary place to be.
For all these reasons it’s really important that you get the right help for back pain as every day you’re in pain is one too many. As well as wasting time, you can also burn through a lot of money seeking a cure, so my first piece of advice is if you have been in pain and the treatment you’re already receiving is not working seek an alternative. When I say not working I mean you are feeling only minor improvements after treatment or the improvements only last a day or two. You want to see obvious improvements after a treatment and over the course of a few treatments see significant change, otherwise you have to ask is this treatment really treating the cause of my pain?
There are many options to choose from but these three treatments are the ones I have seen be the most effective for back pain:
Most people associate acupuncture with pain relief and for good reason. Clients invariably walk out feeling significant relief from just their first session and in all but the most difficult cases that improvement is sustained. The reason acupuncture is so effective in treating back pain is that it’s able to do three things exceptionally well: reduce inflammation, release muscular tension and relax your nervous system.
Pain doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Sometimes the pain can be traced to an injury such as a car accident or a fall, however when you think about all the injuries you’ve had in your life, 99% of the time you recover without needing any help. It’s the 1% of the time when the injury has exposed an underlying weakness in you body, an area of chronic tension or postural imbalance for example, when you get stuck. Osteopathy restores optimal movement, corrects postural imbalances and treats the underlying structural causes of why you’re in pain. It also works fast.
Not all massages and massage therapists are equal. A properly trained and experienced remedial massage therapist is able to treat the underlying cause of your pain not just offer a temporary feel good experience. They can also advise you about what self care strategies such as specific stretches that will complement the treatment and have you feeling better sooner. We have three senior massage therapists at Live Well who are exceptionally skilled and experience in helping people recover from injury and pain.
If you need help figuring our where to start then please send us an email or give us a call and we’ll direct you to the best possible care. We’d like nothing more than to help you resolve your pain and be able to live you life to the full again.
Have you ever felt really angry or afraid, embarrassed or lonely? Of course you have, they are just some of the common side effects of being alive! What's interesting is that whilst we may answer YES when asked directly, we may still expend enormous energy trying to not feel these common emotional states when they arise. Why is that? Well its a good question, one that I'd like to explore here and in doing so we will cover one of the most helpful concepts I've ever come across, one that's made a huge impact on my life.
Emotions are like the weather
One of the most helpful lesson I have learned from Yoga philosophy is that emotions are like the weather; they are very changeable (a concept that I grasped easily having grown up in ‘four seasons in a day’ Melbourne) but more significantly emotions are BEYOND OUR CONTROL. We have no say in whether it rains or is sunny today all we can do it adjust the way it is, if its cold we rug up, if its raining we take an umbrella. No amount of effort will change what the weather wants to do! If its sunny and we want rain….too bad!
When it comes to emotions, most of us want it to be sunny all the time, we prefer “positive” emotions like love, joy, happiness, contentment and gratitude to so called “negative” emotions like fear, sadness, anger, despair and bitterness. The problem is at some stage or other we experience all emotions, every day a hundred or more emotional states arise within us. If we like some and don’t like others we’re going to try and hang on to the one’s we like and push away the ones we don’t like…the result is tremendous tension and guaranteed misery.
Before I understood the idea that emotions were beyond my control I had been suffering under the illusion that I could make myself feel only enjoyable emotional states if I tried hard enough. If I felt bad, sad or mad I thought I must have done the wrong thing, I should have meditated more, should have exercised more, should have thought different thoughts or eaten different foods! In truth, I could have done everything "right" and yet be visited by sadness, confusion or fear. When I truly understood emotions come and go of their own accord it was an immense relief, for I could begin to accept how I felt. It was the start of a journey away from trying to make circumstances fit how I wanted them to be and towards a state of more ease with how things are.
Having a War With Reality
Yoga teacher and author Steven Cope describes the battle between how we want things to be and the way things are as our “War With Reality”. Fundamentally whenever we are suffering the root cause is this war between how we want to feel and how we actually feel. The result of denying or suppressing the unwanted feelings we have is we lose the opportunity to feel ok with how things are.
Remember the weather analogy, if its raining we’re sad, if its sunny we’re happy and even though we know its not going to last we spend our days chasing this temporary happiness and running away from (or suppressing) a temporary sadness. It’s exhausting and futile and we end up being anxious about not just how we feel but also who we are and how our life is.
What heals the dissatisfying gap between how we want to feel and how we actually are feeling is the practice of acceptance. Remember no amount of wanting the sun to come out when it’s raining is going to make a difference, so its time to stop fighting a loosing battle. A good starting point is to become curious, just like meeting new people is interesting, meeting these previously shunned feeling states is fascinating. What we find is that these yucky feelings are really not that scary when we consciously choose to be with them rather than run away from them. Some states are more challenging than others, who really wants to feel ashamed or lonely or full of dread, I’m not saying this is always fun or easy necessarily but it’s a relief to really FEEL what’s been there all the while. Each time you feel an uncomfortable emotional state without running away you start dismantling the tension built up around trying to avoid feeling it. The experience is like being able to welcome all these feelings that are just different parts of yourself, no part of you need be in exile anymore, all of you is welcome.
So the theory is very simple, feel whatever arises, whether it’s a pleasant or unpleasant emotion. I would suggest starting with a daily practice of quiet observation for 2o minutes. In that time sit or lie somewhere where you won’t be disturbed, close your eyes and take your awareness inside your body and feel what’s present. It’s a bit like sticking your head out the window to see what the weather’s doing but this time your taking a look inside of your self. Ask yourself how you feel. Is its sunny and warm and peaceful in there or is there a storm raging with wild winds or something in between. The crucial thing is to not judge what you find but practice welcoming what you feel. Imagine you are opening the door to a dear friend, as you open the door you don’t know if she is elated and smiling or upset about something and in tears, either way you welcome them in. Extend the same courtesy to yourself and welcome what you find no matter what state you’re in.
If you find it hard to feel anything, try mentally visualising the events of the day in one hour blocks and see whether it triggers any emotional states to observe. With practice you can check in with your emotional state throughout the day, it only takes a moment to stop take your awareness inside and feel what’s going on in there. In time you’ll be able to stay aware of uncomfortable feelings as they’re arising even in really challenging situations.
Avoid the Story
Try to avoid getting involved in the story of WHY you feel how you feel, for our purpose of making friends with your feelings the why is not important, it can easily become a distraction from feeling which is our goal.
Acceptance is not the same as being passive
Accepting how you feel from moment to moment isn’t the same as being passive and accepting circumstances in your life that you need to change. For instance your may observe a feeling of frustration arising frequently. Really feeling the frustration and accepting its presence (without wishing it was wasn’t there and without creating a story about why it’s occurring) lets you be comfortable with observing the feeling in yourself. Once we tap into and accept our true feelings they can be a catalyst to change and growth as we are no longer numb, no longer in such conflict with ourselves. Feeling frustration arise regularly and accepting its presence may lead to embarking on a new path, perhaps more in accord with your deep desires in life. Interestingly the more we can open to feeling the uncomfortable emotions like fear and loneliness the more open we are to feeling the enjoyable emotions like love and contentment.
You’re not alone
You’re never alone. If you feel overwhelmed by grief for example, imagine all the billions of human beings around the world, and in the very same moment that you are grieving many thousands of others are also in that exact same state. We’re all human, we all have the same challenges and experiences, that can be a comforting thought.
Sometime this work brings up sensations and feelings that are very powerful and challenging. If you feel overwhelmed and scared find a professional to support you as you do the work, such as a psychologist, or counselor.
I hope these ideas and practices help you as much as they have helped me over the years. Its an ongoing task but one that is well worth the effort.
Wishing you the best of health and happiness.
No doubt there are times in life when we need grit and perseverance. Most achievements in life like building a career, running a business or just continuing to front up to the daily grind of work day after day require effort and determination. It’s not surprising we’re surrounded by messages telling us to not give in, to push through and stick it out. Our hero’s are generally those amongst us that have overcome adversity through sheer hard work and determination.
But what if, on a day-to-day level, all that striving leaves you feeling a bit strung out and exhausted. What if, in trying so hard to get ahead, you miss out on valuing let alone savouring the journey. What if you’ve spent your life climbing the ladder only to realise it was on the wrong wall?
An anti-dote to finding yourself strung out and stretched too thin is to regularly access states of deep rest and peace. Like a holiday for your mind and nervous system, inner peace nourishes feelings of contentment as well as mental and emotional clarity.
Cultivating feelings of peace starts with taking a little time out every day to find some mental and emotional space away from to-do lists and demands. It can be enough to spend time each day doing something fun and engaging that you love - gardening, singing, rollerblading - whatever lights you up! Combine this with simple relaxation and meditation practices that help you access deep states of quiet.
If you're feeling really stuck and you’re in need of a mindset reboot, a powerful tool to try is a gratitude diary. You simply spending time each day reflecting on and recording what you are grateful for. Can’t think of anything? Start with the things you're probably taking for granted i.e. the roof over your head and build from there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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