Babies & Infants

Fever

Natural Fever Management

fever thermometerI see many children in my practice with recurrent infections and lowered immunity. In these cases, I always check in with the parent about their usual routine for fever management. So many parents are scared of fevers and I spend a large part of the consultation educating about the importance of fevers, their role in immunity and how to manage them more naturally.  It is not uncommon for parents to give multiple doses of paracetamol or ibuprofen containing medicines to lower a fever. While every parent is well meaning and wants to ease discomfort in their child, these drugs are not without side effects. Many children overdose from excess paracetamol ingestion and it is the leading cause of paediatric hospital admissions and calls to poisons information hotlines.  Children aged between 1-3 years old have the highest incidence of accidental poisoning.

Why Do Fevers Occur?

coldFevers are a common occurrence in children and less common in adults possibly due to a child's immune system being more immature and many adults tend to suppress the fever response over the years and have a generally lower vitality. The most important thing to know is that fevers are not a disease but rather a symptom of another disease process. The body uses a fever to stimulate and enhance the immune system to deal with the actual disease process. A fever may occur in response to many different challenges that the body faces, including infections, burns, dehydration, heatstroke, vaccination, drug and alcohol use, excessive exertion and exhaustion. In babies and young children fevers can also accompany teething, overdressing and overexcitement. Most fevers that occur are the result of a viral infection and are considered a natural defence mechanism employed by the immune system.  Research has revealed that the raising of core body temperature destroys many viruses and bacteria which can only survive in a narrow temperature range. Fevers also enhance immunity through increasing white cell counts.

The thermoregulation of the body (temperature control mechanism) is a finely regulated process. While many people get alarmed that the body temperature is elevating and might not stop, it is important to understand that the fever process is finely regulated by the brain. The hypothalamus (brain region) acts like a thermostat and responds to substances in the body and can increase or decrease temperature states.  These substances called pyrogens are produced by the body but are also produced by infectious agents such as viruses and other pathogens. In most cases though the temperature rises to 39-40.5 and stops. In very rare cases, if the core temperature stays elevated for too long at a very high temperature above 41 degrees C, it is possible for the fever to cause damage to tissue and impair cell function.

But what about febrile convulsions – aren’t they dangerous?

brainThe fear of a febrile convulsion is certainly what drives many parents to turn to paracetamol or ibuprofen during a fever. A febrile convulsion or mini seizure normally occurs when the body temperature rises too rapidly and contrary to popular thinking is not due to how high the temperature is per se.  A febrile convulsion generally only lasts one to two minutes but can last up to 10-15 minutes. The actual risk of febrile convulsion is actually very low, only occuring in approximately 3% of children. These convulsions, while being stressful to witness, are actually benign, do not damage the brain or impair intelligence. There is no long term complications or increased risk of epilepsy or other seizures following a febrile convulsions. Research has shown that paracetamol does not decrease the risk of febrile convulsions. It is possible that as the medicines wear off, there can be a more rapid rise in temperature as the body attempts to increase the fever response and that might be a possible trigger for seizures.

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever?

sick childLike many ‘old wive’s tales’ there is truth in this saying. When we eat while having a fever it diverts energy away from the vital response and can decrease our ability to fight the illness. In addition, it is possible that the body may misinterpret food substances absorbed from the gut as allergens during a fever response as it is on high alert. In most cases of fever, our body ensures we don’t eat too much anyway, as our appetite is often very low and we don’t feel like eating.  However, it is very important to remain well hydrated during a fever as the increased body temperature and sweating can lead to dehydration. Small frequent drinks of water and medicinal herbal teas are best initially in the early stages and then you can use bone or vegetable broth or diluted vegetable juices once on the mend.

It is normal for a fever to increase the heart rate and be accompanied by other symptoms such as a headache. Remember that when using paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve a headache or lower the fever might make your child more comfortable, it will also make their body work harder to fight the infection. So instead of trying to bring a fever down, consider allowing it to do its job. I find in most incidences when a fever is allowed to run its natural course the patient

dispensaryrecovers much quicker. I have also found that in cases of chronic lowered immunity and recurrent infections, allowing a fever to run its course has an immune enhancing effect that boosts the vitality and helps to prevent another infection – effectively breaking the cycle of recurrent infections. There are some remedies that you can use during a fever to alleviate some of the unpleasant side effects but still support your body. I find homeopathic remedies can be effective and some herbal teas are useful.  Supporting your body with vitamins can also be a good way to enhance the immune response without lowering the fever.

Natural Fever Management Tips

When dealing with a fever, you should aim to support yourself or your child by staying warm, keeping well hydrated and getting plenty of rest.  The onset of sweating will often resolve the fever, but do not force your child to be over dressed or covered to stimulate this.  As a general rule, if you or your child is still shivering or has cold hands or feet, do not attempt to lower the temperature as the body is still raising the temperature to the optimal level.  Wait until the body is universally hot or sweating has started, as this heralds the climax of temperature. The body will naturally bring the temperature down when it deems that the time is right.

RED FLAG : redflag
  • While most fevers can be managed safely at home, always seek medical advice when fevers are accompanied by other major or severe symptoms such as persistent cough, vomiting, headache with neck stiffness, respiratory distress or marked mood disturbance or when fevers are very high and continue for more than 24-48 hours.

 

 

Summary of Tips For Managing Fever and Keeping Hydrated
  • Offer plenty of water or rehydrating formulas but avoid using juice or milk as hydrating agents

broth

  • Use homemade bone broth or vegetable broths / soups once on the mend. Recipe is available here.
  • Herbal teas such as rosehip, yarrow, elderflower & peppermint can help with fever and cold symptoms.

homoeopathy

  • Homoeopathics such as Belladonna, Aconite are great for sudden onset fevers.
  • Tepid baths and sponging can make children more comfortable and will help to lower the fever a little if you feel it needs to.
  • Make sure  you or your child child gets plenty of rest and sleep!

 

 

 

 

Harmful Effects of Screen Time

Harmful Effects of Screen Time

Kids and Media Use:  How Much is Too Much?

School holidays are fast approaching again! Many parents (and kids!) look forward to less routine, no school lunches and rushed mornings! Hopefully the spring weather will draw kids outside to play in nature and at the beach - but many children I see in my clinic tend to spend their holidays stuck behind screens. Without the 'school night' curfews, often it is a free for all when it comes to kids and screen time during holidays.

So are screens (TV, computers, mobile devices) harmful and should we be limiting our children’s time in front of them?  Normally when we look at holistic health we include all manner of things - from diet and lifestyle to family history and individual health history.   I always ask children (or their parents) about not only their food diet but also their media diet. Just like food, media experiences must be ‘digested’ and fully understood and essentially ‘made our own’.  In the same way rich food can disagree with sensitive stomachs, screen experiences that are too rich or too abundant can overstimulate and disagree with sensitive brains and emotions.  Children do not have the capacity to process in a rational or logical manner screen experiences the way that adults can.  Their developing brains and emotional immaturity put them in a vulnerable position, where too much too soon can leave a lasting impression.

sad childThere has been a big interest in the past few years into how the brain is affected by the increasing screen time that many children are now experiencing. In fact, some argue much of the fear, anxiety and depression that is becoming so prevalent in today’s children is merely reflecting overstimulation and premature exposure to media influences. Some children in my clinic who suffer nightmares, phobias and anxiety often report being scared when watching a movie or a computer game.  Many other children do not understand where their fears and anxieties come from. They are possibly a build up of many different experiences that are poorly digested and appear as behavioural issues, emotional lability or sleep disorders. Parents always report bad behaviour or restlessness after screen time – yet often feel powerless to limit their children’s time.

We all know about the modern ‘explosion’ in children with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorders (ADD/ADHD) and autism. Much research is being done and possible causes have been identified – most being related to environmental issues.  These include diverse things from food additives to vaccinations and media exposure. Other researchers are examining the way the brain is changing in children after being exposed to screens.  The instant gratification offered by computers and continuous snippets of information bombarding our brains from surfing the web to SMS messages and emails is literally changing the way the brain is connected and operates.

mediaThe virtual world is very different from the real world. Screens do not readily explore metaphor, abstract concepts or logical narrative. They do not encourage long attention spans or imagination.  Is it any wonder that so many of our kids can’t concentrate or sit still for very long – their brains are programmed from a young age to do the opposite. Screen experiences are always processed in the moment, with very little capacity for follow-up or consequences.  For example when a game allows you to shoot someone, you don’t have to deal with the consequences of that death.  Then if you happen to ‘die’, well you just start over. Susan Greenwood is a leading UK researcher in neuroscience and has observed a real shift in brain function.

"In the current generation if they've been exposed, as most western people have, to screen culture, they will have a shorter attention span and an emphasis of process over content. This means that these young people don't necessarily spend time evaluating the meaning of things and are perhaps rather impulsive and live in the moment, demanding a high degree of sensory stimulation, as opposed to the ability to reflect and think about abstract things."

girl natureIf you need some inspiration to create a new low screen time environment at home, you should check out Susan Maushart’s book, “The Winter of our Disconnect”. It provides a fascinating look behind the scenes at a single mother and her three teenager’s experience of going screen free. Like most teenagers, they were heavy users of online social networking, mobile phones, TV, digital music and computer games.  The book documents many of the issues and withdrawal symptoms that she and her kids had with letting go of their myriad devices.  But the interesting part is how they adapted and how they came to appreciate other things in life.  Her son took up saxophone and her daughters started cooking – and they spent lots of time together as a family.  Without screens to escape to, mealtimes were lingered over and became a time to connect as a family and dusty old board games were given a new lease of life.

A truly holistic view of a child’s health must incorporate their diet, their home life dynamic, screen time and their school and social life.  All these things will impact on a child’s physical and emotional health.  In my view, limiting screen exposure is a responsibility few parents are willing to embrace. Yet, a childhood rich in real life experiences with people, places and the natural world is a gift that will pay dividends.  So consider having a family media holiday – even one day a week - and enjoy the many rewards of connecting with each other rather than a screen.

You may also want to check out my video webinar on the effects of wifi and mobiles on health.

 

Dangers of Doctor Google

Dangers of Doctor Google

Google-DrWith the advent of google and everyone being able to access health information, the general public has never been more aware and informed about health and disease. This is, for the most part, a wonderful thing. I am a major proponent of patient education and information and most of what I do is to promote self reliance in your diet and lifestyle choices and help you achieve optimal health and prevent disease.

The internet can be a wonderful tool for accessing information, recipes, ideas and other health tips. However, all this comes with a warning. 'Google' and other search engines are not always your friend and may indeed be a foe when it comes to health. There are dangers in seeking online advice, particularly when it comes to diagnosing an illness. Without the medical training and knowledge of tired 2the body, it can be hard to interpret the information and make sense of the often conflicting information. Research in the UK, found that around 25% of women made a wrong diagnosis based on using the internet for their health issues. In many cases they misdiagnosed breast cancer, thrush, high blood pressure and asthma. Researchers also found that at least 10% of women experienced unpleasant feelings and worry after their self-diagnosis.

I have had many instances of patients who have come in after googling their symptoms, and they are full of anxiety that they have a serious illness. Anxiety and panic attacks themselves are often the source of much googling and of course can mimic a range of other serious illnesses. We can get into overwhelm and worry very easily when researching health issues for ourselves or loved ones online. In the worse case scenario, we may make changes to our diet or take inappropriate supplements that can jeopardise our health. High profile cases that have been reported, include Melbourne parents who fed their new born infant rice milk as they were worried about dairy allergy. The infant ended up getting severe malnutrition and died from a systemic candida infection.

Karen@clinicAnother, often overlooked pitfall of managing your own health via online or virtual support is that you get exhausted managing your own health and you may be too close to your own case or your child's cases to get perspective. There is something really liberating in receiving support and care from a trusted practitioner who can give your a clear picture of what is going on and prescribe appropriate measures to take. Letting go and receiving support is healing in itself and is why I still seek the support and care of other holistic practitioners for managing aspects of my own healthcare.

Do You Know Where Your Nutritional and Herbal Supplements come from?

UnknownThe ability to easily access health information online has lead to a massive increase in self-prescribed medicines and people can now buy all sorts of things online from local and overseas companies. Sourcing your own vitamins and herbal supplements may be safe and appropriate. However, it is important to know that there are no safeguards in place for either what you have decided to take or the quality of what you end up purchasing. The quality of online and over the counter supplements can be highly variable.

Manufacturing standards are not as stringent in many countries producing herbal and nutritional supplements as they are in Australia. This includes the USA, China and India who are some of the leading manufacturers of herbal products. Products produced in some of these countries may have elevated levels of heavy metals, pesticides, or microbial contaminants, as herbs are not screened for contaminants in many countries. They may also contain low levels of stated herbal active ingredients, the wrong herb entirely, or be adulterated with other unknown ingredients. Many reported cases of serious side effects from herbal or nutritional products have been traced back to heavy metal contamination or poisonous herbs that were disguised or misidentified and included in the product. Clearly, taking products that are contaminated or adulterated poses a serious risk to the general public, especially those who are already unwell and more vulnerable.

As a practitioner I only source from companies that I can rely on for quality and effectiveness. I need to know that what I am giving my patients is what it says it is to ensure the best effect and outcome. I also need to be confident that there are no hidden nasties in any product such as fillers, binders or preserving agents that might cause allergies or have other negative impacts. For most Australian practitioner quality products, there is a high level of testing and quality assurance.

medherbHere are some of the standard guidelines used by a range of Australian practitioner suppliers who I recommend and prescribe:

  • Herbal ingredients are sourced where possible from organic, fair trade, sustainable or wild-crafted (harvested) crops.
  • Herbal ingredients are tested to ensure the correct material is used and the active ingredients of the herb are at an appropriate level.
  • Nutritional products are formulated with nutrient combinations that are appropriate and synergistic for the desired effect.
  • Nutritional ingredients are tested to ensure correct composition and include the ones that are most active and bio-available for the body to utilise.
  • Products are manufactured under stringent Good Manufacturing Practice conditions.
  • Finished products are tested again to confirm that active ingredients have survived the manufacturing process.
  • Microbiological tests are performed to ensure safety before released for sale.
  • Products are placed on stability trials so that you know what is on the label is in the product and that the product will be active until the use by date.

food allergy

Food Allergies & Intolerances

Sneezing, itching skin, watery eyes, digestive disturbances…these are all the tell tale signs of allergies and intolerances. There has been a dramatic rise in allergies over the past few decades, both food related and environmental.

allergy It is important to understand that food intolerance is different to food allergy. In the case of intolerance, the reaction is not immediate and the symptoms can be many and varied, whereas allergies give rise to reactions that tend to be immediate and more severe.

Allergies are common in children and many adults also suffer from allergies. Food allergy has been estimated to occur in around 1 in 20 children compared to only 1 in 100 adults.  However, the incidence continues to rise, with a study released in 2011 finding that 8% of 38,000 children surveyed were allergic to at least 1 food. Estimates for people suffering from food intolerance are far higher.

There has also been a fivefold increase in hospital admissions for anaphylaxis over the past decade. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergy that can be life threatening. Common foods that cause anaphylactic reactions are peanuts, egg and shellfish, while bee stings are another common cause. People with these severe allergies usually carry an Epipen (containing a shot of adrenalin) which can be lifesaving first aid in cases of accidental exposure to allergens.

Food intolerance is less severe but far more pervasive and often gives rise to chronic health issues. Common problems such as gluten intolerance (coeliac disease) and lactose intolerance are well known, however food intolerance to other foods is also widespread. Symptoms of food intolerance are the result of an overloaded immune system and often involve poor digestive function.

bloatingHere are some of the conditions linked to food intolerance:

  • digestive issues (bloating, wind, constipation or diarrhoea)
  • headaches
  • hyperactivity
  • restless sleep
  • frequent colds
  • eczema
  • asthma

 

There are many theories behind the rise in food allergies. These include the hygiene hypothesis – which states that we have distorted our immune function through lack of exposure to common bacteria. Our modern day obsession with hygiene and ‘antibacterial everything’ has actually lead to an imbalance in the immune system that favours the development of allergies. Challenges to the immune system by everyday bacteria are necessary for the development of normal immune function, particularly in children. Studies, for instance, have shown that children who live on farms or have pets are much less likely to suffer from allergies. Other theories relate to digestive function and the use of antibiotics, which can upset the normal gut flora and can promote inflammation and increased permeability of the gut to common foods.

FoodAllergiesDiagnosing food allergy or intolerance can involve different approaches. Traditional testing for IgE allergies (including anaphylaxis) normally involves skin scratch tests.   Tests for food intolerance are now available and practitioners specialising in allergy can perform these in their clinic with a small skin prick blood sample.  These food intolerance tests detect IgG or IgA antibodies to a range of common foods. While I use these tests in my clinic, I often find that doing a food elimination process followed by a food challenge will also give clear indications as to what foods are contributing to symptoms. The food intolerance blood tests cost between $250-$400, so the challenge is sometimes more affordable for some patients.

Once an allergen or food intolerance has been identified (either through a test or exclusion process), management normally involves avoiding the food for an extended period of time. In the case of anaphylaxis, normally the food needs to be strictly avoided for life. Though I have had quite a few adult patients who seem to have grown out of their severe food allergies that they had as a child. However, it is clearly not wise to experiment with food allergens that can cause anaphylaxis.

Slippery elm

Slippery Elm Bark - a great gut healing herb

Naturopathic treatment of allergies and intolerances also involves nutrients and herbs for healing the gut and supporting the immune system. Improving the microbiome of the gut is also essential to help heal and reduce inflammation. When done properly, intolerant foods can often be reintroduced without causing a reaction and they can then be included back into the diet. In some cases, however, people do better when they continue to avoid the food or only have it occasionally.

If you have lingering or unexplained health complaints, consider the quality of your diet and the possibility that food intolerance may be a feature. Come in for a visit and I can assess your case and recommend either testing or simple changes to your diet to establish what might be causing your health issues.

Thyme

creeping thyme.JPGTime for Thyme!

Thyme is one of my favourite herbs in the dispensary for complaints such as colds, coughs and bronchitis.

The medicinal benefits of thyme have been recognized for thousands of years in many different regions and countries throughout the world. Thyme has a range of medicinal actions including anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. In addition to thyme chest congestion remedies and using it for respiratory issues such as sore throats, thyme has also been used for arthritis and urinary tract complaints.

Thyme is rich in aromatic essential oils, which is another reason that aside from its use in my clinic, it is also a popular herb in my kitchen for cooking! It pairs well with roast vegetables and meats and the effects of its essential oils on the gut mean that it can also improve digestion. The powerful essential oil has even been shown to be a potent inhibitor of harmful bacterias such as Staph and the tincture of thyme has been found to be beneficial for acne.

balmThyme is an ingredient in my popular lung and cough tea. Another great way to use Thyme is by making a chest rub, that can be a wonderful addition to your winter medicine kit! It is much like the classic Vicks vaporub but uses natural oils and beeswax rather than petroleum jelly as a base (which like other mineral oils and paraffin can leach minerals out of your body). It is super easy to make and lovely to use.

Wifi

Health Risks Wifi

wifi-marketingA significant new factor in our environment that has the potential to impact our health over the past decade is wireless technology and microwave frequency radiation.

This field has literally exploded in the past two decades and its use is growing at an alarming rate. Coupled with the massive increase in mobile phone usage, we have a major new health risk that has been rolled out with absolutely no public health testing before hand.

Despite this independent researchers are continually examining this technology and finding serious impacts on human health and wellbeing. Mobile phones and wifi are classified as low frequency microwave radiation. The original understanding of the negative potential of mobile phones was in relation to the thermal effects (or heating) of cell tissue, much like a microwave cooks food. These thermal effects were minimal for mobile phones in most normal usage.

However new understanding shows that microwave frequency radiation has the potential to disrupt cell signalling and cause changes in cell function which can lead to physical signs and symptoms. Free radical damage (also known as reactive oxygen species) is created by the low frequency radiation and can harm cells, cause DNA damage and dysfunction and promote cancer.

wifi

When reviewing this data in 2011 the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed microwave frequency radiation as a Class 2B 'possible' carcinogen. Many researchers believed this to be a bit conservative and really there was enough data to state that it was a 'known' carcinogen.

Research shows that significant increase in the occurrence of various tumours among long-term and users of cellular phones:

  • brain tumors
  • acoustic neuromas
  • tumors of parotid glands
  • testicular seminomas
  • melanomas
  • leukaemias
  • lymphomas

brain tumourSome of the other associated health impacts of MWR include the following:

  • Blurry vision & dizziness
  • Headaches, Neck Pain
  • Nausea
  • Impaired Brain Function
  • Memory Loss
  • Autism, ADHD
  • sperm count & quality
  • fertility and birth defects
  • Immune issues including autoimmunity and allergies.

listeningWhile many of these issues clearly have many different associated causes, one that may be overlooked due to lack of awareness is the microwave radiation issue.

One of the most important things to know is that children are at a much greater risk of damage, due to their smaller size, thinner skulls and ongoing development.

Avoiding or minimising your child's use of mobile phones, tablets, ipods and games is essential to avoid the potential harmful effects of these devices. Advocate to have wifi removed from your children's school. See Wifi In Schools Website for more information.

 

Watch my recent webinar Wifi Time Bomb to learn all about this topic:

YouTube Preview Image

I have also put together a Wifi & Mobile Safety Sheet which you can download to get more specific strategies.

See also below for specific research papers and websites for more technical information on this topic.

 

 

YOU TUBE CLIPS FOR MORE INFO ON WIFI & HEALTH

Lemon Foot Bath

Lemon foot baths are a simple, yet very effective way to ground yourself and support healing and wellbeing.

 

lemonA lemon foot bath will stimulate blood circulation, support our warmth body and promote gentle cleansing and healing. They are perfect to use during transitions and times of change or when you feel a bit overwhelmed or have a lot going on. Children can especially benefit from lemon footbaths when they have picked up too much from the environment or after busy days out and about. The healing qualities of lemon will help ground them and restore balance and harmony.

The feet are particularly absorbent skin surface and have a long history of being used to administering medicines. Foot baths can help to bring the energy down from the head into the feet and induce calm and balance.

Click on link to download my Lemon Footbath Instructions

 

 

 

Preconception Care

Preconception Care

The term ‘preconception care’ can be defined as optimising health prior to attempting conception in the hope that a couple will conceive easily and attain a healthy pregnancy and birth.

This idea has been part of a holistic approach to happy couplereproductive health for many years but has been gaining popularity in mainstream medical circles of late. By addressing a range of lifestyle issues in the preconception timeframe we not only can help couples conceive more easily but also help them have a healthy baby in the long term. It takes around 3-4 months for the egg and sperm to fully develop and mature, so it makes sense that changes need to be undertaken before planning conception.

There is greater need for preconception care today than ever before, given such things as inadequate diets, a polluted environment and our often stressful lifestyles. Moreover, as many as 50% of couples who conceive report an unplanned pregnancy. Thus the preconception period is crucial to reducing many of the risks of birth defects and premature birth. Nearly 85 percent of women receive early prenatal care, which can improve maternal and infant health. However, even early prenatal care may be too late to make a difference in some cases. Some interventions work best, and others only work, if they begin before pregnancy.

Nutritional Factors

More and more research has shown the importance of key nutrients in preventing birth defects and pregnancy complications. Good nutrition is essential during the preconception period and beyond. Nutritional supplements are often required for certain nutrients which are often lacking in the modern diet and essential to the healthy habitshealth of your developing baby. Folate is one essential nutrient that we have known can prevent a range of birth defects such as spina bifida if taken during preconception and early pregnancy. Recent research has found that taking folate before pregnancy also results in a 25% reduction in the risk of having a low birthweight infant. Babies who are small for gestational age have poorer outcomes in the short term and long term and until recently there was no known preventative strategies.

However, besides folate there are a host of other nutrients that are equally important to the health and development of the foetus that may be necessary to supplement with.  These can include activated B vitamins, vitamin E, Vitamin C, iodine and omega 3 fatty acids. The best approach to preconception nutrition is to have a personalised consultation with a naturopath or nutritionist. This will provide you with a specific diet and supplement plan to suit your unique needs - taking into account your background health, age and other environmental or occupational factors that may enhance your need for certain nutrients.

wine couplesCaffeine should be avoided as it has been linked to infertility and impaired foetal brain development as well as decreasing iron absorption.

Alcohol should also be avoided as it increases the risk of miscarriage & failure to thrive as well as lowering sperm count and quality. Alcohol also decreases absorption of B vitamins & increases the excretion of magnesium & zinc, all of which are essential for optimal fertility.

Lifestyle Factors

Smoking, drugs and alcohol are detrimental across the board - to fertility, pregnancy outcomes and infant health. While much of the focus on preconception care has been aimed at women, researchers are also becoming increasingly aware occupational hazardsthat a man's health at the time of conception has an impact on the baby's health. A child born to a male smoker is four times more likely to have cancer in childhood. Moderate alcohol intake of 1-5 drinks per week increases the risk of fertility problems and miscarriage in women and fertility problems and sperm DNA damage in men. Men working in occupations that have environmental risk factors such as exposure to chemicals, heavy metals or radiation need to receive additional support to detox these hazards and improve sperm quality.

As many as 40-50% of the adult population are considered overweight or obese. Overweight women have a 2-5 fold increase in fertility issues and higher miscarriage rates. Weight reduction by as little as 5-10% can improve pregnancy rates and outcomes.   Overweight men also suffer lower fertility and erectile dysfunction.

 

Getting Expert Advice

Having a consultation as a couple with a naturopath specialising in fertility is a good idea. They can assess your diet and lifestyle and advise on any individual changes necessary and prescribe appropriate nutrients. If there are any couple consultunderlying health issues for either partner relating to reproductive health such as poor sperm count or specific gynaecological conditions, a holistic approach may include herbal and nutritional remedies to improve chances of conception including couples on IVF. A collaborative approach can be very beneficial when both doctors and naturopaths can work together to achieve the best outcomes.

Getting support and inspiration to make healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle can have far reaching impacts on your fertility and general health, now and in the future!

 

 

 

Coping With Motherhood

 

New mothers all around the world are given the same job description which looks something like this:
  • Must be able to multi-task 24 hours a day, cope with no sleep and expect no pay. No prior training is available. Job satisfaction is anticipated to be high.”

Motherhood-imageCertainly new motherhood brings with it unprecedented joy but also a fair share of anxiety and exhaustion. With so much to learn from feeding, changing nappies and sleep cues to settling and interpreting crying, mothers often look outside themselves for answers. Yet despite our information age of internet and chat forums, as mothers we should also remember that we possess good instincts and intuition that ought to be listened to. So many mothers go against their instincts when they choose to follow some of the modern parenting styles such as controlled crying and teaching early independence. When we really stop to listen to what we need and what our children need, there is no need for experts because we already know the answers. Even so, the road to being a relaxed and confident mother often starts rocky and has many pitfalls.

Postnatal depression is common these days as mothers struggle to meet their own and society’s expectations.   The myth of the superwoman who can have it all – a successful career, happy children, a healthy relationship and personal intimacy has been questioned more and more in recent years. We now know that this is hard to achieve or sustain and rarely brings the quality of life that we want. Most mothers (and fathers) crave more time with their kids and more meaningful relationships with their partners and loved ones. When this fails to be achieved it can bring about depression and anxiety.

mother overwhelmOther causes of postnatal depression are birth dissatisfaction or trauma, not having any support from family or friends and hormonal imbalance. Another risk factor for postnatal depression and anxiety which affects most new mothers is simple sleep deprivation. Babies are born very dependent on their mothers for their wellbeing and survival.  Unlike most species, humans are born with an immature physical and mental capacity and they take the longest to mature to adulthood.  This means that babies and children depend on their parents (or caregivers) completely for food, clothing, shelter, warmth, hygiene and emotional security.   These needs are most intense and physically demanding in the early days and often lead to exhaustion.

Babies need to be fed regularly as their tiny tummies don’t hold much. Humans are a ‘cached’ species – meaning that we have evolved carrying our babies and feeding them regularly. The composition of breastmilk is designed for this close relationship with mother and baby. It is high in lactose (milk sugar) and relatively low in protein and fat. This means that babies really need to feed regularly as breastmilk is quickly broken down.   This contrasts with ruminant mammals such as cows whose milk is much higher in protein and allows the offspring to have much longer stretches between milk feeds and they grow quickly to maturity over a year or two.

Being up feeding a tiny baby in the night means a full night’s sleep is uncommon for mothers in the first 6-12 months.   Breastfeeding does offer some help by way of hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin that promote calm and connection. After breastfeeding mothers tend to sleep deeper and more soundly until the next feed, so even though their sleep is interrupted it is still refreshing. Even so, night after night does add up and most mothers end up feeling tired and emotional at least some of the time.

timeout natureLooking after ourselves really well is essential to prevent exhaustion and depression.   This means making sure you eat a healthy, nutritious diet to provide nutrients for physical and mental wellness and stamina.   If depression or anxiety is apparent then herbal and nutritional remedies can be safe and effective, even while breastfeeding.  Mothers of all ages need to take time out for themselves regularly. Even just a short walk, a long bath or the occasional massage can really help with our ability to cope with the demands of motherhood. Ensuring you have a nap in the day occasionally can really help to recharge your mind and body.

Baby’s thrive on gentle rhythms and predictability and are easily upset by overstimulation and too many activities. As parents we need to welcome this time of quietness and stillness and learn to say ‘no’ to unnecessary engagements. Slowing down and not over-committing to social engagements is a good idea. Trying to let some days unfold at their own pace will bring a sense of calm and peace for you and your baby.

Last of all, build a community of likeminded friends and ask for help from family where possible. Support makes all the difference – so don’t try to do it all on your own!

 

 

 

Birth Interventions

 

Did you know that birth interventions are a growing problem in most countries? Caesarean births are as high as 50% in many Australian private hospitals and around 30% of births in Australia are now by caesarean. Given that the World Health Organisation state that caesareans should normally only be around 10-12% researchers are looking for reasons why.

c-section-1

Why The Excess Intervention?

Epidurals are now in the spotlight as they have been shown to lead to prolonged second stage labour and women often end up with so-called 'emergency' caesareans. Approximately 30-50% of Australian women have epidurals during birth - the rates depend on the woman's age, place of birth and whether a woman has already given birth before.  A recent study found that an epidural actually prolongs labour for more than 2 hours - and almost 3 hours for women who have previously given birth.  The normal perceived time line for epidurals is only 1 hour, which means that many normally progressing women are misdiagnosed as failure to progress or abnormal labour - which leads to intervention.

The classic 'cascade of intervention' often starts with induction of labour, whereby a birth is artificially started with a drug called syntocin. Mimicking the action of the birth hormone oxytocin, syntocin stimulates uterine contractions. Unlike natural release of oxytocin, which is regulated by the body, a syntocin drip may not provide the correct amount. For many women, artificial induction or augmentation increases pain, requiring an epidural which further interferes with the natural birthing environment. Epidurals prolong labour and interfere with the ability for a woman to read her body's signs and signals of birth. Artificial induction and prolonged labour quite commonly lead to distress in the baby and in turn an emergency caesarean is usually the next step in intervention.

birthcostsThe Many Costs

The cost of birth interventions including caesareans in terms of the financial public health burden is massive. The WHO estimate that the cost of the global “excess” in c-sections was estimated to be a massive US$2.32 billion, while the cost of the global “needed” c-sections were around US$ 432 million. (WHO 2010)

Not surprisingly, women giving birth in private hospitals have a higher risk of birth interventions.  One study looked at low-risk Australian women having their first birth in either private or public hospitals. For women giving birth in private hospitals only 15 per 100 women had a vaginal birth with no obstetric intervention compared to 35 per 100 women giving birth in a public hospital.

While it is easy to estimate the financial cost of excess c-sections, the emotional and health costs for both the mother and baby are harder to quantify.  There have been many studies looking at the immediate and long term impacts of birth intervention. Postnatal depression rates are higher in women who have had birth intervention and there are lower breastfeeding rates also linked to birth intervention. Also for every caesarean a woman has, her likelihood for additional caesareans in subsequent births is markedly elevated. The risk of uterine rupture and hysterectomy following caesareans increases to 1 in 1200 in women who have had 2 or more caesareans. This can be a shock for women who did not anticipate that their fertility would end following what seemed to be a 'normal' birth option. This is a stark contrast to 1 in 30,000 risk of hysterectomy during birth for women giving birth vaginally.

For the baby, allergies are more common following a caesarean birth as the baby does not have the benefit of the vaginal flora of the mother which occurs during the normal descent through the birth canal. Breastfeeding initiation and duration is also compromised with birth intervention, which further puts the infant at a disadvantage.

newborn2While clearly some births end up in intervention due to unavoidable complications, our birthing culture has become such that for many women interventions have become the norm, rather than the exception.  Conversely, the benefits of having a natural birth are many and varied.  Preparing for birth well with healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices, having continuity of care with a midwife and having birth support with a known midwife or doula are all factors that have be linked to enhanced outcomes for the mother and baby.

I am pleased to provide comprehensive natural and holistic support for women through pregnancy, birth and the post-natal period.  Alongside diet, exercise, relaxation and lifestyle advice I also offer personalised prescriptions of safe and effective natural supplements, herbs and homoeopathic birth kits for labour.

For more information and local resources for preparing for birth naturally please click on the links below:

 

 

 

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To me Karen is an absolute angel! I highly recommend Karen to anyone who is going through the whole ‘roller coaster’ journey of IVF. It was so lovely to actually have someone that actually listened to me, it was in 2010 when we decided we would give IVF one last go before having a break. Karen put me on a super tonic which I call her ‘magic potion’ and after a few weeks in taking this my FSH levels dropped dramatically and this was my lucky month and my dream had finally came true. I always feel so positive every time I leave Karen’s rooms, I’m so glad that I found her I can never thank her enough for my positive out come!
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