Hormones and Anxiety: Understanding the Connection

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! 

Kate

kate

Help with Hay Fever

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With "the fluff" otherwise known as the prolific flowers of the Populous alba tree flying though Canberra’s air, students minds might turn to university exams and hay fever sufferers minds turn to sneezing, watering eyes and fatigue.
 

Why Do You Get Hay Fever?

If your hay fever is seasonal, then it is caused by your immune systems over-enthusiastic response to what are normally benign substances like pollens, grasses and flowers. In spring, prolific quantities of these minute particles float though the air and into the delicate mucous membranes of your sinuses where they meet the defenses of your immune system.
One of the basic defenses of your immune system is to flush out offending substances with tears and mucous, the bigger the immune reaction, the more copious the streaming eyes and mucous discharge.

Why Doesn’t Everyone React The Same Way?

If you don’t get hay fever then it just means your immune system is not over-reacting to environmental triggers…lucky you!

How Do You Switch Off The Hayfever Response?

Many people choose to mask the symptoms of hay fever with drugs which work by suppressing the immune systems response, drying up secretions and masking pain signals.

However, for a more holistic solution that doesn’t just mask the symptoms you need to do two simple things:

De-stress

Stress is the difference between your immune system reacting calmly or over-reacting to triggers in the environment. Hay fever is usually a good indicator that your stress levels are too high and need some attention.

Try leaving work on-time, go to a regular Yoga or gym class, learn to meditate or take up a hobby. If you know your stress levels are really high then seek professional support.

Detox

The other area of your body calling out for support when you have hay fever is your liver. Hay fever essentially alerts you that your liver is over-burdened.

Simple ways to support your liver include to cutting out alcohol and processed foods. Try eating a more whole food based diet including lots of veges, whole grains and legumes and reduce meat and dairy.

If you address hay fever in a holistic way, the chances are you’ll beat the symptoms and feel more energized, sleep better and enjoy life more.

A Gut Feeling

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

Why a gut tune-up is important:

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

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

Signs to look out for, include:

       Nutrient malabsorption -the inability to absorb essential nutrients

       Fatigue

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

       Candida or Thrush infections

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

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

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

       Hormonal imbalances, for example PMS or PCOS.

       Skin conditions: eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea

       Thyroid disorders

       Joint pain

       Weight gain

       ‘Syndrome X’ (metabolic condition)

       Toxic build up

       Headaches and migraines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       Seeking professional help for a proper assessment, and treatment.

 

How to help your child through anxiety

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We just want them to be happy! We wish that they see in themselves what we see: brilliance, inner beauty, wit, compassion and love. These little people with whom we spend so much of our energy supporting their growth, safety and exploration through life. More and more I am seeing precious children come into Live Well showing signs of anxiety and sensitivity. Sometimes parents are aware of anxiety in their child, other times it is revealed in the session. Either way, no parent likes to see their child struggle with anxiety.

How anxiety presents in children

Anxiety has common characteristics among children and you may see one or more of the following:

  • sweating and a red face (excluding after running around!)
  • tense muscles, clenching hands or jaw
  • shallow or quick breathing, or holding their breath
  • sleeping problems – trouble falling asleep or waking often
  • loss of appetite or over-eating
  • verbalising or physical expression of worry, being scared, low self-esteem or confusion
  • wetting the bed or frequent toilet use
  • an increase in challenging behaviours such as tantrums, anger or frustration, or

Why is my child anxious?

Anxiety is an aspect of survival and 'fight/flight mode'. When a child doesn't feel safe or they're worried or uncomfortable about something, their body responds by releasing stress hormones from the adrenal glands to help them deal with the situation. Stress hormones cause a child's breathing to quicken, their heart to race, the blood to rush away from their logic brain and to their survival brain and their body gets ready to 'fight' or 'flight'. In fact, many of the symptoms you see in the list above are caused by stress hormones.

A child can start to struggle with anxiety because they don't know how to calm down at the end of the day, to feel safe again and to know that all is well. It could be stress around making friends, being bullied, frustration about learning something new or 'not being good enough'.

Frequently, the emotional and mental pattern is linked to how a child feels about themselves: Do they feel comfortable being themselves? Do they believe in themselves and accept who they are? Do they express self love and kindness? Are they confident?

What you can do for your child

I am sure that many parents reading this article are already doing a lot for their children in terms of expressing their love and support physically and emotionally. If there is a known source to your child's anxiety then it is important to address this: does the school and staff need to be involved, does your child need some tutoring or do they need to be supported to express how they feel? Emotional resilience comes from emotional intelligence and a life-long lesson is understanding and expressing our authentic self.

Whilst you are working through any external elements, you can support your child through anxiety from the inside out by using complementary medicine!

  • Acupressure: ask your child to make a loose fist and press or massage where the tip of their little finger rests – this will help relieve the anxiety and connect them to spirit/instinct.
  • Essential oil: place a few drops of Rose essential oil into their bath or on their pillow, or place one drop into a teaspoon of a carrier oil such as almond oil and massage into their hands and wrists, feet and ankles. Rose essential oil will help your child to feel love and to express love rather than feel isolated.
  • Nutrition: foods high in refined sugars and/or caffeine can set off stress hormones as the adrenals work to balance blood sugar levels, so it's important to give your children healthy treats that maintain their blood sugar levels. 

And remember, all of these techniques can also be used by adults who suffer with anxiety!

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If you would like help to understand what is happening with your child or support with helping your child through anxiety, then call Live Well and book your child in for a kinesiology session with me (Kate!). Kinesiology is gentle and safe for children of all ages – they end up having a great time learning and listening to their body! You will be given tools and techniques to take home which can be used as resources for life. Help your child to reach their full potential and to be happy and strong within themselves.

*Concession prices available for children and students

**Private health fund rebates available from participating health funds

***Weekday and Saturday sessions

Resolution Revolution

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Why do we make New Year's resolutions? It boils down to an acknowledgement that we want to feel different. For example ‘I’m going to give up eating junk food’ or ‘I’m going to start running/walking 3 times a week’, probably translates as ‘I don’t want to feel tired, overweight and slightly depressed anymore’.

 

Be Positive

Take a closer look at what you want to change. Instead of focusing on how you don’t want to feel, shift your focus on to the feelings you really want in your life. So if you were contemplating giving up junk food or starting regular exercise it’s quite possible you want to feel more energised and happier.

 

Boost Your Motivation

Positive feeling goals like wanting to feel more energised and happier are much more motivating than giving up something that you like such as junk food or lying on the couch! The thought of not being able to do the thing you like sets up an association of pain with your new goal and is likely to make you stop. On the other hand when your goal is focused on the positive feeling it sets up an association of pleasure and gives you much more chance of staying on track.

 

Get Creative

The other great thing about positive, feeling based goals is that you can unleash your creativity. If you focus is on being energised and happier you can probably think of lots of ways you can support your goal other than the original junk food/exercise intention. What else makes you feel energised? What places, books, art, people make you come alive? Also consider what saps your energy and joy? What creative ways can you lessen these activities or build resilience? If you stay focused on the feelings you want and find lots of ways to support them you are much more likely to succeed.

So take some time to reflect on how you’d like to feel this year, make these feelings your ‘theme of the year’ and watch them sprout, grow and blossom as you nurture them with your loving intention for change.

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.

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. 

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

Top 3 Merry Stress Busters: How to Stay Centred and Authentic this Silly Season

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December is my favourite month of the year but getting caught up in the silly season can be a fast track to crazy-making if you let your monkey-mind take over and forget what's at the essence, not only of the celebrations at this time of year, but within yourself.  So to give you a little Yogic helping hand to staying merrily stress-free here’s my top 3 stress busters to help you stay centred and acting authentically this silly season:

1. Remember to BREATHE! 

Three (3) deep breaths can change your life! They definitely change your ability to stay present, rather than reactive in the face of stress or pressure. Deep, controlled, steady breathing actually changes your body and brain chemistry. This gets you out of the 'fight or flight' response and back into 'Yes and Bless' (also known as 'rest and digest'! Fight or flight can be thought of as the Blame and Shame system when it comes to our emotions!). The physical chain reaction that 3 deep breaths give you acts like a circuit breaker - rather than react primarily to a trigger, you gain a little space and can then CHOOSE your actions mindfully.

So when you're driving around on Xmas eve looking for last minute gifts because work has been mental and someone cuts you off in the car park, instead of flipping the bird, STOP, breathe in to your belly and fill your lungs as deeply as you can. Exhale for at least the count of six, ten is even better. Do this three times, then smile, say YES, you're welcome to have the right of way, send them your blessings for a safe and happy Xmas and go merrily and less stressfully along your way. 

Same applies if your Aunt tells you that 'you're looking bigger this year darling' or if you accidentally burn the Xmas tofurkey (yep, it's an actual thing, not a typo) -Breathe, smile, send your blessings and let it go... Often a little circuit breaker like 3 deep breaths lets you let go of the drama, or your 'story' about how things 'should' be and gives you the chance to see the humour in the situation or find some compassion for the other person.

2.Remember the answer is always LOVE

It might sound corny but asking yourself the question "What would love do?" when someone or something is pushing your buttons can help you gain a little perspective, and again a little space, before you react to a trigger. It works REALLY well when coupled with #1! 

This applies equally to your interactions with others as to your relationship with yourself. Often we find ourselves the hardest person to love, accept and treat with respect and this sees us making decisions that don't honour our best selves. This includes our actions such as food choices, the company we keep, and the way we interact with others and our thoughts such as negative self talk, guilt and shame. The perfect seasonal example is drinking too much at the work Xmas Party, taking actions you wouldn't be proud of if you were sober and then guilting on yourself about it all afterwards - sound familiar? 

The trick to preventing this chain of avoidable events is taking the time to consider your options (remember that 3 breath thing above at #1?!) and then asking "What would love do?" and listening in for the answer. If you really, truly loved yourself, what would your honest answer be? There's a trick to listening for the answer to this question too - it won't come from your head, so if you're thinking about it, you won't get an honest answer. 

The real answer will come from your heart, as a feeling, or a sense of knowing and it probably won't be easy to recognise at first, but intuition is like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Another hot tip is: it probably won't be the easy/popular/people pleasing choice. It might involve saying no in the face of peer pressure, or missing out on something. Yup, FOMO usually keeps you stuck in your same-old behaviour patterns, where it's safe and easy but probably not really what serves your highest good.

3. Remember to practice Yoga DAILY

Yoga is not always about physical asana or learning how to control your breath. Yoga is a myriad of personal and interpersonal practices that you can use to learn to love and manage yourself, and to harmonise your interactions with others. 

Your daily yoga practice may take many forms; physical movement, meditative stillness, intentional breath, devoting time to truly listen to another person or a random act of kindness. It may look like something else entirely. That's the beauty of Yoga - it is personal to you. 

You can practice Yoga anytime you want, wherever you happen to be. Like on the golden sand of your favourite beach or in the seat of your car as you drive cross-country. You could practice in your place in the queue for photos with Santa. Where ever it is, the point is that you have the opportunity to give yourself the gift of presence - being mindful of where you are, who you're with and how you choose to direct your thoughts and energy (remember #2: What would love do?) towards them and yourself. 

Each time you practice it's like a deposit in your spiritual bank account, your energy grows and enables you to invest a little more each time you come back to practice again.

So when you're cruising the shopping centre car park after your yoga class on Xmas eve and cut off that person you could clearly see was waiting before you, maybe if you just took 3 deep breaths and asked yourself 'What would love do?', you might find it within yourself to practice a bit of Yoga right now too? Like the butterfly effect, you'd be surprised how far reaching your simple practice of breath, mindfulness and love  - your yoga in action - can be. 


Ramone is Live Well's Thai Yoga Massage practitioner and resident Yoga teacher. Her passions include exploring the connections between the body, mind and abundant health, helping people cast-off their limitations so they can start living more fulfilling lives and encouraging laughter, lightness and wildness once in a while! She combines these loves by hosting retreats that combine yoga, meditation and self-study in stunning, natural locations. 
Ramone specialises in Thai Yoga Massage for Pregnancy and is also a qualified Pre and Post Natal Yoga teacher tailoring individual programs.

Thai Yoga Massage

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Thai Yoga massage is a blissfully relaxing treatment that combines massage techniques and Yoga movements to leave your body and mind feeling balanced, calm and deeply relaxed.

During a Thai Yoga Massage treatment, the therapist will move you through a sequence of gentle yoga stretches whilst using their hand and body pressure along your meridians and pressure points. This unique combination of movement, stretching and massage really opens up the body and allows for a deep release of tension and stress.

Thai Yoga massage’s development began thousands of years ago in the Buddhist temples of Thailand. It is an ancient form of therapeutic healing that has roots in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. It thrived as a means for spiritual people to share the benefits of meditation and compassion in a physical form. It is a respected form of healing practiced today in hospitals and temples throughout Thailand.

The benefits of this massage are numerous and include:

Physical Benefits

  • Leaves you feeling relaxed, balanced and free of tension
  • Detoxes your body and boosts your immune system
  • Increases your blood circulation and can lower your blood pressure
  • Releases muscle tension and pain
  • Increases flexibility in your muscles
  • Improves breathing
  • Improves posture, balance, corrects body alignments and dissolves energy blockages
  • Improves athletic performance
  • Helps arthritis and back pain,
  • Helps tone the body, strengthen joints
  • Slows the aging process
     

Mental Benefits

  • Improve your outlook towards life;
  • Help with concentration and creativity
  • Clear and calm your mind
     

Psychological effects of Thai Massage

  • Boosts your mood and your resilience
  • Reduces and relieve stress and anxiety
  • Builds your confidence
  • Boosts your inner vitality

Thai Yoga Massage is performed on a mat on the floor, with both the practitioner and client wearing comfortable clothing that allows ease of movement and flexibility.

Here at Live Well we are lucky enough to have two of our own Thai Yoga massage experts, Ramone and Takako who both have a wealth of knowledge of the body's movement patterns from years spent practicing Yoga and martial arts as well as understanding of the body's energetics making them exceptionally aware of, and in-tune with, the human body.

Please click the link to find out more information about the kinds of massage therapies we offer at Live Well or to make a booking with Ramone or Takako.

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

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

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

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

An orchestra of hormones

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding the Menstrual Cycle

Our menstrual cycle is made up of two phases.

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

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

Here’s how Seed Cycling works…

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

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

In a Nutshell…

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

Linseeds + Pumpkin seeds are used to promote phase 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily dosing of seeds:

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

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

Why do I need grind the seeds fresh, daily?

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

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

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

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

Let the moon lead the way

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

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
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When Green Tea Met It’s Matcha

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words by Wes Smith

Wes 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.

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Keep your spine supple with Yoga this winter!

Yoga Pose! Seated twist: Bharadvajasana

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

To set up: 

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

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

To twist:

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

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

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

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

Be careful to:

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

Arthritis: movement beyond your joints

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

Pain as stored emotions or thoughts

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

Stuck in body; stuck in life

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

Your body is your guide

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

Arthritis - the homeopathic & herbal approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following cases help illustrate how this works in practice

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

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

Depression and Food for your Mood

Feel-good foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy (Omega 3) fats

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

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

Find healthy, Omega 3 fats  in:

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

Protein

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

Protein-rich foods include:

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

B complex vitamins

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

Find B complex vitamins in:

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

Magnesium

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

Find Magnesium in:

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

Zinc

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

Find Zinc in:

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

Vitamin D

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

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

Find vitamin D in:

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

And don’t forget these important nutrients:

·    Quality sleep

·    Daily exercise

·    Rest, relaxation and fun

·    Nature (especially fresh air and sunshine)

Taking care to avoid certain things is also really important.

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

Caffeine

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

Sugar and artificial sweeteners

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

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

Alcohol

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

Wheat and dairy

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

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

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

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

Shanna


MALE FERTILITY AND NUTRITION

It takes two to tango…

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

Sperm + Egg = Baby

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

It all comes down to stress, digestion and quality nutrition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you know…

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

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

·         Poor motility (sperm too unfit to swim),

·         Sperm agglutination (coagulating),

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

·         Ejaculatory disorders (premature, delayed or absent ejaculation)

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

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

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

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

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

What’s “stressing” you…

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

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

·         Events, relationships, experiences, worries  and emotions;

·         How much stuff is “on your plate”?

·         How busy or rested you are; 

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

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

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

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

·         Lack of, or poor quality sleep;

·         Sedentary lifestyle;

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

·         Inflammation and infections;

·         Testicular temperature;

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am happy to help.

Shanna

 

Read more about Shanna.

Make an appointment to see Shanna.

 

 

References:

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

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

 

 

Natural Medicine for Pregnancy and Childbirth

Current statistics indicate that a growing proportion of couples, around one in six, find it difficult to conceive. The reasons for this are complex and varied, but a major factor includes chronic stress and tiredness, from people working harder and longer hours, and other stresses associated with modern living. Nutritional factors also play an important role. To fall pregnant and then sustain the pregnancy, you need to be relaxed!

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One client who suffered debilitating anxiety, as she failed to fall pregnant one cycle after the next, was told by her GP “stop trying for three months while we run some tests”. Relieved, she fell pregnant that week.

Physiologically, the hypothalamus in the brain not only plays a role in regulating the endocrine (hormonal) system, it also forms part of our emotional response system. Natural medicine interventions can greatly assist couples to fall pregnant, and then safely support the pregnancy through its stages, from fruition to childbirth.

Areas where natural medicine can assist the fertility/ pregnancy/ childbirth cycle include, but are not limited to:

Infertility (= not yet pregnant ) – addressing causative factors and obstacles, whether:

Physical – for example insomnia, low sperm count, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome or other reproductive issues that interfere with fertility; or

Emotional, Mental – for example stress, anxiety, depression, tension, negative self-beliefs, poor body image.

Miscarriage – especially where there is a pattern of miscarriage and/or a history of miscarriage in the family;

Morning sickness – there a number of safe, effective herbal and homeopathic medicines that can assist when chosen according to the woman’s specific symptoms;

Health maintenance during pregnancy & preparation for labour – there are a number of herbs in particular (e.g. Raspberry Leaf) that can be safely used to enhance the health of the mother and foetus, and optimally prepare both mother and child for labour. Different herbs are indicated at different stages of the pregnancy.

A Story to Share with you

To help illustrate how natural medicine can help I wanted to share a case with you.

A woman who had recently conceived then miscarried fell into an intense, debilitating grief. Those around her did not understand, as it was their perception that it was “just a miscarriage”. To her, it felt like nothing less than the death of a child. She felt she could not conceive again until she resolved her grief, anxiety and depression.

A homeopathic medicine indicated in this particular scenario acted quickly and deeply, to help her to resolve her grief and move on. She fell pregnant within three months without further trouble.

She is now a mother of four young children (and that’s another story …).

Take Care.

Gerry 

 

The Journey of Fertility

Ensure your body is in optimal condition for trying to conceive.

Having a period is not much fun at the best of times, and while you are trying to conceive it can be downright heartbreaking.  I have had many clients explain to me how with each menstrual period they feel a sense of loss, hopelessness or despair.  These feelings are often further compounded with unpleasant symptoms such as emotional volatility, pain and fatigue, none of which help during this sometimes difficult time.

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Instead of seeing each menstrual period as a setback on your path to parenthood, consider it as a time to take special care of yourself and prepare for the next chance at conception.  Ancient Chinese physicians called menstruation Tian Gui or ‘Heavenly water’ because they believed that menstrual blood was different from the blood that circulates through and nourishes the body.  During the menstrual period there is a loss of blood or ‘Heavenly Water’, but this loss is not simply a monthly discharge of discarded material from the uterus, it is Qi, the vital energy that is required for life.

It is for this very reason that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views the menstrual period as a time when women need to take particular care of themselves.  As blood is discharged from the uterus during Heavenly Water, the body is in a state of qi and blood deficiency - as blood is lost so is qi. During this stage of the menstrual cycle, the body is more vulnerable to be influenced by external factors, such as cold.  In TCM theory, cold has the ability to obstruct qi and suppress healthy reproductive function.  This can result in cramping pain, irritability, bloating and cravings for sweet foods. Ingesting cold foods and drinks (this can mean food and drinks that are physically cold such as ice cream or chilled water, as well as salads, juices and raw foods) can allow cold to enter the body, as can standing on cold floors with bare feet, being under dressed for the weather and swimming during your period.

I wanted to share with you this egg soup recipe as it helps to increase circulation, nourish the body and keep it warm - enabling the smooth and free flow of qi and blood.  You can make this during your period to ease menstrual pain and to ensure your body is in optimal condition for trying to conceive. 

Egg Soup - Makes 1 serve                                                

1 cup water                                                                                                                                              

1 tablespoon raw sugar      

2 eggs                                                                                                                                                    

3 tablespoons rice wine (available from Asian grocers)

In a medium saucepan, add 1 cup of water and dissolve raw cane sugar. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Crack 2 eggs into the boiling water and stir as it returns to the boil.  Add rice wine and remove from heat. Serve hot.

Remember to like and care for yourself.

Sally

 

 

Sally has a special interest in working with couples to overcome fertility challenges as well as continuing to support women throughout pregnancy and beyond. 

Sally has a Bachelor of Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) from the University of Technology Sydney and a Diploma of Health Science in Eastern Massage therapy (Shiatsu and Tuina) from the Canberra Institute of Technology.

To find out more about acupuncture and how it can help with infertilityendometriosisstressanxietyback pain and throughout pregnancy please click on the links. 

Learn more about Sally
Make an appointment with Sally

 

Little Things You Can Do To Unplug

21 Ways you can Reduce Anxiety in Your Life

When anxiety has taken a hold, grasping onto something simple to help you out of that space and to recalibrate, can be immensely helpful.

Whether it's in the form of a ritual that supports your balance on a daily basis, or an emergency exit strategy, the key really,  is in having a few tricks to keep up your sleeve that are both super-easy and totally (fail-safe) doable. 

What are some small, key things you could do to throw yourself a lifeline next time you're heading out to sea in the rip of an anxiety tide?

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Putting together a little list for yourself of the kind of things that you feel could work for you, can be useful. Because when anxiety has taken charge it can be incredibly difficult to access that clear, wise, creative part of our brain that would otherwise be really helpful in that situation.

 In the list below, you'll find 21 simple ways you can reduce anxiety in your life. I encourage you to pick and choose whatever personally feels good and resonates with you. And perhaps even to have a think and see what other kinds of things might help you re-set next time you're feeling anxious and strung-out.

1. B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Just breathe... Bringing your awareness to the breath, drawing your inhalation in through your nose, into your chest, and down into your navel (imagine filling up a balloon in your belly) interrupts the stress response, and sends ripples of instant calm throughout your nervous system! 

 2.  Practice Acceptance, and just.. Letting go. Of whatever you can, whenever you can... Even if it just means letting go of a particular stressful thought, for even only a minute... It still counts!

Resisting what IS in our lives creates a physiological stress response in our bodies. It's like when the river (that is, life) is flowing one way, and we are busy busting our chops, trying to swim upstream against the tide, or clinging to the riverbank; but if we can learn to just let go a little, find acceptance in what is (our feelings, the situation...), there's an almost-instant relief to be found in just that shift, alone. We can then stop struggling, and deal with what's on our plate from a different, calmer space.

3. Nourish your nervous system and adrenal's with wholesome food choices. Top up on your dark leafy greens, healthy fats, quality protein sources (a steak of oily fish or bowl of dahl, for example), and root veggies, which have a grounding effect. Also, take care to chew your food well.

4. Prioritise. When things seem overwhelming, take a minute to (re)consider what is most important and at the very top of your agenda, and focus on just doing that...

 5. Be in Nature. Even if just for 5 minutes. Get outside, be in the elements, and bring awareness to all of your senses. Feel the sunshine or the fresh, crisp air on your skin; notice the colour of the sky or the shapes in the clouds; listen to the sound of birds singing or acorns crunching underneath your feet. Let your eyes soak up all the green they possibly can.

 6. Nip it in the bud. If there's something worrying you, and you can’t put your finger on it, pop your creative and strategic hats on, identify the issue, and do whatever is in your power right now to send it packing.

7. Ground yourself. Go and be in the garden; pull out a few weeds, plant something new; or simply take off your shoes and sit on the grass for a while. It's hard to stay too anxious in this space.

8. Tune in. Take your awareness past all the frenzy, and feel the sensations in your heart, throat and solar plexus regions... Can you feel tightness, knots, churning, butterflies, sinking, pulling...? What sensations do you get in these physical centres, when you're feeling anxious? Just bringing awareness to it can be enough to help the energy to dissipate and clear.

9. Listen up. Play some feel-good tunes or listen to a guided meditation, and let them help you to feel better.

10. Get physical. Discharge anxiety physically and get your feel-good endorphins flowing. Try walking, riding, jogging, rowing, swimming, lifting weights, dancing, stretching, yoga, pilates, kick-boxing, however  you like to get your body moving.

11. Tea time. Have a cup of herbal tea. Chamomile, Passionflower, Valerian and Hops are all great for calming and relaxing the nervous system. 

12. Burn or vaporise some soothing, uplifting essential oils such as Lavender and Peppermint, Sandalwood or Bergamot. They have the power to benefit your emotions by directly stimulating the limbic system.

13. Bring your creativity into play. Whether it's in a colouring book, painting, playing with kinetic sand, crochet, losing time on Pinterest, cooking up a storm… What gets your creative juices flowing? Being in the "flow" + engaging your creativity are two major anxiety busters!

14. Take time out. Book a holiday, a weekend away, or even just go on a day trip. Make an opportunity to get out of your usual surrounds, head to the beach, the mountains, the snow, the country or another city; maybe even abroad!

15. Light candles and have a bath (even just a foot bath!). Add a bunch of Epsom salts, and a few drops of your favourite essential oil/s. Tea, book, and music all optional.

16. Choose your thoughts. Take note of the quality of your thoughts/self-talk. Are they helpful? Supportive? Insightful? Critical and judgemental? Irrational? 

17. Detach from expectations and outcomes. When we can bring our attention to the present, and relax our minds from particular expectations and outcomes, we can also take a detour from the anxiety and pressure we might have been inadvertently placing on ourselves. 

18. Have an early night. Give yourself one of the best gifts of all: An Early Night... Giving your body adequate time to rest and restore at night is a vital part of re-setting the nervous system and encouraging greater resilience (ability to tuck & roll, bend with the wind and bounce back easily). And sometimes just “sleeping on it” really does help.

19. Blow it all off. When it all gets too much and life feels like it's getting on top of you, take a more radical approach to the whole situation; if you need to, take the day off or give yourself an early mark, but take some time out to abandon responsibility and do something that sweetens the deal for you and helps you take your mind of things for a while... 

20. Hugs and laughs whether it's a dog, a cat, a human, a gift or your favourite funny movie/TV series. Hugs and laughs are real, good medicine. 

21. See your Naturopath to have a chat and get some much-deserved wellness support.

I encourage you to pick and choose whatever personally feels good and resonates with you. And perhaps even to have a think and see what other kinds of things might help you re-set next time you're feeling anxious and strung-out.

 Shanna

Hormones and Anxiety: Understanding the Connection

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! 

Kate