Super Foods

Spicy Rainbow Coleslaw

Spicy Rainbow Coleslaw

Ever heard the term "eat the rainbow?"

20170922_122641_resized[1]Coloured veggies are known to pack a potent punch of goodness providing plenty of plant based antioxidants that our bodies just love! The carotenoids that give vegetables particular colours can improve our cardiovascular health, prevent cancer and support eye and skin health. So us naturopaths are always encouraging our patients to get a wide variety of different coloured veggies into their diets - effectively eating a rainbow of colours!

I find lunch is the perfect meal for getting a good nutritious boost of salad into your day. I often have patients who have other family members who aren't as adventurous or health conscious as they are. The evening meal has to work for everyone, because who wants to cook more than one dinner, right?!

Whereas, many of us eat a separate lunch at work or home - especially once the kids are at school and take a packed lunch. So lunch time can be a handy way of getting an extra intake of salad or veggies that might be missing at dinner.  I recently created this super food salad bowl, a spicy coleslaw recipe, rich in the coloured goodness of veggies and protein and is a tasty way of getting tonnes of nutrients into you!  Herbs and spices should be added to as many of your foods as possible as they are potent sources of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals - and they make everything taste more delicious!  

Enjoy!

Spicy Rainbow Salad Recipe

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Food Cravings and Instinctive Eating

Exploring the science behind food cravings...

Kale please, Mum!

Kale - rich in nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.... just what a sick body needs for a boost!

Kale - rich in nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.... just what a sick body needs for a boost!

After my son requested a bowl of kale (with lots of butter, please!) when he was recently sick, it got me thinking about the science behind instinctive eating. Hidden in our intelligent body are mechanisms that initiate cravings for certain foods that our body needs. But judging by the way most people eat, I think we have lost the art for healthy instinctive eating.

I am always fascinated how animals are so instinctive with their food choices - and yet humans seem to need to google for advice about what foods are good for them or maybe they come see a nutritional health professional like me!

So what went wrong?  When did we humans stray so far from our innate intelligence about what is good for us to eat? Most cravings we experience now are for the addictive substances like caffeine and sugar! While we all know the damaging effects of too much sugar, the cravings for sugar have do a biological drive behind them. Those hardwired desires for sugar, meant we ate sweet foods when they were available seasonally and they kept us alive and ensured our survival through the lean winters of bygone eras. Unfortunately we have gone overboard on this front as modern life allows us to eat whatever we want, whenever we want. We are no longer at the mercy of nature to provide our food - we are indeed spoilt for choice!

food habits over time

The change from eating close to nature towards modern food processing has resulted in chronically unhealthy humans.

I think the superpower that created us all those years ago, clearly didn't predict a time when we would be so disconnected from nature and our food supply. The clever system that allowed humans to flourish throughout history with all sorts of hardships, does not seem so clever now when we look at how we have ended up the fattest and most chronically unhealthy species. We were smart enough to develop agricultural methods of growing grains and crops, domesticating animals and eventually creating modern food manufacturing methods of processing and preserving. Clever on the one hand, yes, but our genetics unfortunately takes thousands of years to catch up with a changing landscape, not hundreds of years!  So we are now at the mercy of a very different food and eating landscape than we were designed for, and where our fine tuned instincts for certain foods have gone been hijacked by the drive for sugar!

Food brings with it not only sustenance but also pleasure. Everyone has experienced the multilayered sensory pleasure of a delicious meal. Modern neuroscience has now started to uncover some of the underlying mechanisms of associated brain changes that come with eating for both pleasure and health benefits. Overall, the accumulated evidence shows that the innate pleasure evoked by tasty food is remarkably similar to that of other rewards. This suggests that an innate pleasure system exists for humans, and is activated when we engage with food, sex, social and other higher-order rewards. So indeed, we are hard wired to seek pleasure as well as survival. Food is thus not only highly pleasurable but also an excellent way of learning fundamental principles of brain function.
pica

Pica is the craving for 'unnatural' food choices such as dirt, that may herald a mineral deficiency as dirt is rich in minerals that the body may need.

Instinctive eating - essentially means eating what our innate intelligence determines to be good for us. We are all born with the ability, much like other animals, to select appropriate food for our requirements. For example, a craving for bananas may show you are lacking potassium, while a craving for green leafy veggies may indicate you need more magnesium. The term 'pica' is used to define mineral deficiencies (often iron) that results in people eating strange things - such as dirt, rocks or ice. Most commonly seen in pregnant women and young children who have a high need for nutrients, pica is the most researched nutrient craving issue. Studies observe that individuals with symptoms of pica often have low iron, zinc or calcium levels. Supplementing with the lacking nutrients can reduce the pica behaviour in many cases. Craving for salt is also more common in those individuals who have low salt levels, so the wisdom of the body to correct the deficiency is obvious.

There is more evidence to suggest that, unlike hunger, for many of us cravings are largely about what your brain wants, rather than what your body actually needs.
Studies suggest that chocolate craving, especially among women, may result from a sense of deprivation or in reaction to stress, hormonal fluctuation and modulation of neuropeptide concentrations. The theory behind craving carbohydrates in order to make us feel happy, results from some observations that diet can modulate the serotonin system in the brain, which is linked to mood.
stressed

Emotional eating is a problem that can be explained by modern brain science.

Evidence also shows that our need to eat certain foods (often unhealthy types) is sometimes driven by emotions. Many people are "emotional eaters" and tend to eat for reasons that are driven by emotions and have nothing to do with being hungry or needing a nutrient. People who craved foods were shown in studies to more likely to be bored or anxious or have experienced a depressed mood immediately before cravings. Several brain imaging studies have shown that overconsumption of certain foods creates the same changes in the dopamine receptors of the human brain as alcohol and other addictive substances.

So all in all, we do not fully understand what is happening in our brains when we crave or consume certain foods. It is definitely a vastly complex process and is attenuated by many different cues coming from social and cultural inputs as much as nutritional drivers. For example, most celebrations have particular foods that are so strongly associated together that we barely question it.  What is a birthday celebration without the birthday cake?

The one thing that is worth taking home is to pay more attention! Try to differentiate when the craving is just coming from an old habit or an emotional driver and see if you can notice cravings for healthy choices that might still be available to you.  Tune in first, before you eat and see what your body really wants! If you find you are really stuck on an underlying pattern with your eating habits or food choices, remember that there is a lot we can do (such as mind/body techniques like Psych K) to help remove the block and give you more freedom around food, so consider coming in and getting extra help!  

Buon appetito!

Natural Anti-Ageing Strategies

Natural Anti-Ageing Strategies

Understanding the basis of human ageing is an area of medical research that is growing rapidly.  Age is the most important risk factor for most of the common diseases that we face as we age.  As such, to help slow the course of ageing is one of the great biomedical challenges in our modern times. Following on from this, there has been a lot of attention in recent years on a range of nutrients that can promote health and prevent ageing. So let’s look at the theories of ageing and some of the new darlings of the nutrient world touted to help prevent or slow down ageing.

There are many theories that expound on the process of ageing and even more theories on how to prevent this process. Essentially most researchers agree that ageing starts with molecular or DNA damage. This damage then leads to cell, tissue and eventually organ dysfunction and disease. The best known and most long standing argument for ageing is the free radical theory. Free radicals, also known as ROS (reactive oxygen species), create havoc in the cells and tissues of the body and cause DNA damage and inflammation. Antioxidants are what the body uses to neutralise or scavenge the ROS and thereby repairing or protecting the body from damage.

Mitochondrial function is one area that is now leading the race in new theories and understanding of ageing. The mitochondria influence or regulate a number of key aspects of ageing. These include cellular senescence (when cells stop replicating and become dormant), chronic inflammation and the age-dependent decline in stem cell activity.

mitoMitochondria are like miniature organs that exist in almost all cells of mammals. The mitochondria are essentially like small batteries that are responsible for producing energy in the cell. Dysfunction in the mitochondria is thought to be one of the reasons that we age. The mitochondria itself, during its processes of energy production also produces ROS.  New understanding of how mitochrondria function has created a plethora of health strategies directed at improving mitochondrial quality and function to have far-reaching beneficial effects.

In adults, tissue homeostasis is highly dependent on stem cell (SC) function. These adult SCs are not only essential in continuously-proliferating tissues, like the blood, intestinal and skin systems, but also involved in more dormant tissues, such as skeletal muscle and brain that undergo regeneration only after damage or exposure to disease. Ageing is accompanied by a decline in adult SC function, termed SC senescence, which leads to loss of tissue function and the capacity for regeneration.

So let’s now look at some novel ways that have been shown in research to slow down the ageing process – including specific eating patterns, nutritional supplements and exercise.

The Hidden Benefits of Exercise

pushupIn ageing, skeletal muscle mass decreases from mid-life onwards at the rate of about 1% per year. Along with this loss of mass in our muscles, is a reduction in mitochondrial function. Similarly, muscle strength is also seen to fall with age. However, it can be hard to attribute these changes to ageing per se, as inactivity often accompanies older age groups and will contribute to this functional decline as well. Studies that compare active groups versus sedentary groups always show a much greater deterioration in mitochondrial function in the sedentary groups. It is interesting to ponder whether the deterioration leads to loss in energy production and then levels of fatigue increase which leads to further sedentary behavior.

In any case, we now know that staying active as you get older is an essential component of preventative health and can boost your mitochondrial function. Physical exercise acts to tune up our existing mitochondria but it also has been shown to stimulate the production of new ones, a phenomenon known as mitochondrial biogenesis. This has been best observed in muscle cells -  studies finding the muscles of endurance athletes house very high concentrations of mitochondria. Endurance exercise also stimulates increased ROS scavenging despite the fact that increased exercise can cause some increases in ROS production.

When looking at exercise and ageing, the great news is you don’t have to be a super fit marathon runner to grow new mitochondria. Simply engaging in consistent, regular aerobic activity stimulates your muscle cells to make this adaptation to increased energy demands.

runningHigh intensity interval training, commonly known as HIIT, is by far the best exercise for supporting mitochondrial health and resilience. For many years we have been told to exercise for at least 30-60 minutes to get the benefits but new evidence shows that we can gain the same benefits from HIIT as we do from endurance type training. HIIT training involves low to moderate training (such as walking) with short 30 second bursts of high intensity output (such as running as fast as you can) followed by rest/low intensity.  HIIT has been shown to be much more efficient at promoting fat burning and has numerous benefits on mitochondrial function. HIIT also promotes nitric oxide to be released which keeps the cardiovascular system healthy and lowers the blood pressure.

Eat Less, Live Longer

Calorie restriction (eating less food) is an intervention for which the greatest evidence exists for slowing ageing. It was initially thought that calorie restriction would lead to lowered basal metabolic rate (BMR) and in turn decrease ROS production. However, calorie restriction actually can lead to an increased BMR by triggering mitochondrial biogenesis – a process whereby the mass of the mitochondria increases along with energy production and ROS. However, despite this, the ability to scavenge ROS also increases.

dinnerSome of the oldest living cultures have low calorie intake diets and it seems that restricting food, in the form of a mild fast, initiates a whole cascade of beneficial effects on the body. On the back of mounting evidence, intermittent fasting and calorie restriction have become popular methods to improve long term health and slow down ageing. There are two main methods the 5:2 method and the 8 hour eating pattern. The 5:2 diet stipulates eating normally for 5 days and then a 2 day calorie restriction of around 500-600 calories. With the 8 hour method, food intake is limited to an eight hour window each day to increase the overnight fasting state. Both of these methods can promote weight loss and tend to have favourable impacts on cell function and repair, gene expression, insulin sensitivity, inflammation markers and can potentially reduce the risk of cancer. The main thing to still focus on with either of these diets is to remember that you are withholding calories and not nutrients. So if you focus on nutrient dense foods, you can do very well on these diets.

Supplements For Longevity

supplementsWhile eating a diet rich in whole foods is the most important health foundation stone, we can enhance the effect of this by supplementing with key nutrients that can really pack a bigger punch on our body function. Many of these nutrients highlighted below will be ingested as part of a whole food diet, but only in small amounts. Supplements can hone in on areas we need specific support with or boost particular functions we are aiming for.

  • Resveratrol –is a type of natural phenol, and is generally classified as a phytoalexin which is a compound produced by a plant in response to injury or stress. Resveratrol acts as an antioxidant and helps to reduce inflammation. Research has found small benefits of this compound on brain function and cardiovascular health.  Not a lot of strong evidence exists so far on other conditions such as cancer and diabetes but research is continuing.
    • Sources: grapes, berries, red wine, Japanese Knotweed (herb) and Pine trees
    • Average amount in red wine is 4.7mg/litre whereas supplements contain far greater amounts.
    • Japanese Knotweed contains a form of resveratrol known as Trans-resveratrol and this chemical form is best absorbed and utilized by the body. While red grapes are high in resveratrol, it must be converted into trans-resveratrol in the body.
  • blueberriesPterostilbene – similar to resveratrol, pterostilbene is actually a dimethylated derivative of resveratrol. This particular molecule gives it the advantage of better availability and stronger antioxidant potential. While it is still in the early stages of research, it appears to be particularly good for cognition and brain function and reducing blood sugar and blood pressure.
    • Sources: Blueberries (yum!), almonds, grape leaves (think dolmades).

 

  • Vitamin C – one of the most important nutrients for literally thousands of processes in the body, good old vitamin C can often be overlooked. It is probably one of the supplements I prescribe the most, because it is so needed and can be hard to get in sufficient quantities.  It is so important, I have previously written a whole post on it – which you can find here.
    • Vitamin C offers specific anti-ageing support by stimulating collagen production for ageing skin and generally lowers free radical damage to mitochondria to boost energy and wellbeing.
    • Best Sources:  most fruits and vegetables – particularly wild berries, kakadu plum, rosehip, acerola cherry, guava, parsley, citrus, capsicum, tomatoes.
  • energyCo-enzyme Q10 – aka ubiquinol. One of my favourite supplements for energy and general health, CoQ10 acts as a potent antioxidant and can support energy production in the cell. It is a naturally occurring fat soluble substance similar to a vitamin and is housed mostly in our mitochondria.  We slowly lose our capacity to make optimal levels as we get older due to our genes and mitochondria malfunctioning and this is one of the reasons why energy levels fall as we age.
    • Be wary that CoQ10 supplements can appear in either the ubidcarenone or ubiquinol form. Ubiquinol is a derivative of CoQ10 that is fully reduced and saturated with extra electrons which enhances absorption and is my preferred form to supplement with. Both CoQ10 and ubiquinol are key components in the electron transport chain, facilitating the production of energy (ATP) in redox reactions.
    • Food Sources: muscle meats - especially the heart, meat, fish, smaller amounts can also be found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils. Supplements are the most reliable source of CoQ10.
  • eggsVitamin A – vitamin A is well known for its impact on boosting collagen production in the skin and is a popular and effective ingredient in most anti-ageing skincare regimes. Oral supplemental doses of vitamin A are also effective for a range of general parameters for the body and as an anti-oxidant.
    • Best sources: cod liver oil, butter, eggs, liver,  also the precursor beta carotene can be sourced from vegetables, but conversion may be limited in some people.
  • Vitamin B complex: The B vitamins are a synergistic group of vitamins that work together in a multitude of ways in the body to promote and maintain health. Everything from energy production, skin health, liver enzymes, and neurotransmitters to hormone production, blood sugar regulation and immunity involves some of the B vitamins. Being water soluble vitamins, we rapidly use these up and need a regular intake to maintain health and reduce the stresses of lifestyle as we age.
    • Best sources: different vitamins are found in different foods but generally they are found in eggs, meat, liver, nutritional yeast, wheat germ, nuts, seeds and grains.
  • NAD+ - Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) is a co-enzyme found in all cells and is involved with gene expression. NAD can be synthesized from diverse dietary sources, including nicotinic acid and nicotinamide (B3 vitamins) and tryptophan.
    • Another active B vitamin nicotinamide riboside (NR), is a precursor to NAD and supplements of this may boost NAD levels. The benefits of calorie restriction on metabolism discussed above and other cellular functions, such as cognition, involve NAD+ interacting with the class of genes SIRT1/3 which mediate aging and mitochondrial function.
    • Food Source: NR and NAD is also found in trace amounts in milk.

 

  • roosterHyaluronic Acid – found most abundantly in the combs of chickens (!), this compound is also synthesized. A naturally occurring component of connective tissue, skin and nerve tissue that promotes water retention, helping to lubricate the cell and keep it supple.
    • It is great for improving joint health and mobility as well as promoting better moisture retention in the skin.
    • It is mostly used in the beauty industry in topical products to promote healthier skin and reduce wrinkles.
    • Oral doses have also been studied and researchers found definite improvements in dry skin and better joint mobility after taking oral supplements of hyaluronic acid.

 

  • belly fatAlpha Lipoic Acid – Alpha lipoic acid supplements have been shown to reduce mitochondrial loss in humans and boost mitochondrial biogenesis and energy. Being both a fat & water-soluble antioxidant it can help produce cellular energy and also shift glucose into muscles and away from fat cells.
    • Alpha lipoic acid supplementation has been very well researched and found to improve a whole range of parameters important for health. In particular, it has been shown to shift body composition, burn fat, boost cognitive function, reduce dementia risk, improve glucose tolerance, lower cardiovascular risk and improve diabetes management.
    • Sources: found most abundantly in the following foods: heart, liver, kidney, spinach and broccoli

 

  • Key Amino Acids: Amino acids are small proteins that are essential for maintaining health. Some amino acids have very specific roles in the body – such as boosting neurotransmitter levels or promoting detoxification in the liver. The following are particularly well researched for their role in mitochondrial function and ageing:
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine - Carnitine is biosynthesized from two other amino acids, methionine and lysine and acts as an antioxidant and helps regulate metabolism. Carnitine plays a key role in mitochondrial function, mood and neurotransmitter levels as well as liver enzymes.
  • L-arginine - L-arginine, is an amino acid that is the primary precursor of nitric oxide (NO)—one of several biochemical pathways that supports cardiovascular health and mitochondrial function. In addition to its protective effects on the mitochondria, L-arginine and its counterpart citrulline both stimulate NO production and exert a very powerful role on the vascular system, in particular stimulating vasodilation of the blood vessels and keeping blood pressure healthy. This vasodilatory effect of the amino acid citrulline has also shown to be good for erectile dysfunction by increasing the blood flow to the genitals.

 

A Note About Choosing Supplements

vitaminsWhen choosing supplements it is important to know about quality and synergy. Just as our body has been used to receiving complex combinations of nutrients through the diet for thousands of years, in some cases taking smaller doses of key nutrients mixed together into one supplement can dramatically improve absorption and efficacy than taking large single doses of the same nutrients. Likewise, the quality of the supplement is important to ensure you get the best effects from supplementing. Your practitioner should be able to help guide you into knowing the best supplements regime for your own requirements to help promote your health and vitality as you age.

 

 

 

Garlic

garlic-picWe just harvested our garlic crop. It is always great to pull up the garlic heads after their six month gestation period over the cooler months. Organic garlic is a wonderful addition to both the kitchen and the medicine cabinet! 

Garlic is rich in a range of sulphur compounds, which are thought to be responsible for its flavor and aroma. One of the main medicinal agents from garlic is the substance known as allicin. But interestingly, allicin is not found in its natural state in garlic. Allicin is actually formed from the coming together of two compounds that garlic contains, called alliinase and alliin. When the enzyme allinase reacts with the compound alliin — which happens when garlic is chopped, minced or crushed  — they form the special compound known as allicin. The reaction happens very quickly and the allicin that is produced is what gives garlic it’s distinctive smell and flavour.

Allicin is a great therapeutic agent and has been found to be effective as a natural antibiotic and anticancer agent and it can also help cardiovascular health - in particular will help to lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar and high blood pressure. I often prescribe garlic as an antimicrobial agent in my treatment of digestive issues, particularly SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and it is also great for colds, sinus and chest infections and as a natural antiseptic.

Unfortunately when garlic is cooked, the allicin is destroyed, so it is best to eat it raw, freshly crushed and left to sit for 10 mins or so to get the best medicine. The best way to simultaneously peel and crush garlic is to use a heavy knife blade and bash it hard. The garlic shell will easily come free and the garlic can be chopped or smashed with the back of the knife.

garlic-smash

garlic-crush

Crush garlic and leave for 5-10 mins to maximise the allicin content

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course garlic still tastes great in cooking when it is roasted or braised, we just don't get the medicinal benefit. You can crush some garlic and mix with herbs and butter to make a nice final addition to everything from steamed veggies to soups, pastas or served on top of a steak. Garlic can be added to pine nuts or cashew nuts and blended with basil and olive oil to make a delicious super food pesto dip.

For sore throats or cough crushed garlic can be mixed with honey and taken as a sweet syrup medicine.

Make sure you source organic garlic when buying garlic as much of the imported garlic comes from China and it is treated with bleaching agents, antifungals and other chemicals that prevent sprouting. Methyl bromide is one such chemical routinely used in garlic harvesting and production and this is a highly toxic agent that can impact on the respiratory and nervous systems. Imported garlic tends to have much less flavour as well!

parsley

Parsley is a great cure for garlic breath!

 

Lastly, what's an article on garlic if you don't mention garlic breath!?  There are many folk cures to help with garlic odour and garlic breath. I find using a lemon and bicarb soda is a good way to take the smell off the hands.  Some good cures for garlic breath include chewing on parsley or sucking a lemon wedge. However eating an apple or drinking green or peppermint tea can also be a good idea. These all contain substances called polyphenols which can inactivate the sulphur compounds that contribute to garlic's odour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Sapote

The black sapote fruit, is also commonly called chocolate pudding fruit, due to its resemblance to a sticky chocolate pudding!
This unusual fruit comes from the persimmon family and makes a delicious and healthy treat that is also very versatile in cooking. It is quite high in vitamin C and Vitamin A as well as containing potassium and a few other minerals.

black-sapote-green

black-sapote-ripe

 

We are blessed with a large established tree that rains down black sapotes throughout spring. They fall off the tree hard and green and then you must allow them to ripen on the bench for a few days (a bit like an avocado) until they get soft and the skin changes to a dark green/brown colour. They almost look like they are spoiled and over ripe at this point, but that is the best time for eating. You can then store them ripe in the fridge for a few more days if need be. You can sometimes see black sapotes at organic shops and locally at green grocers during their season in sub tropical and tropical areas.

The black sapote flesh is rich and creamy and it has a mildly sweet and chocolate flavour. I find it is delicious whipped into a chocolate mousse with some organic cream and a splash of maple syrup!  You can also add it to smoothies and make a simple chocolate ice cream by freezing the mashed up pulp.

sapote-cakeIt is great in cakes and brownies. You can use it much like you would a mashed banana in recipes and you can also add extra cacao or dark chocolate for a stronger chocolate flavour. I just created this recipe below for a chocolate banana cake!

Get my recipe for a banana and chocolate sapote cake

 

Boost your brain power

Natural Ways to Boost Your Brain Power

Who doesn't want better memory, focus, concentration and mental performance? Whether you are a stay at home mum with little kids, a corporate executive, a student or a builder working on a complex building project - we all need our brain to be in top gear. Let's explore some natural ways to boost your brain power with herbs and nutrients.
bacopaOne of my favourite herbs that can help sharpen the mind and adapt to stress is Bacopa. Bacopa monnieri is a herb, which hails from the Indian Ayurvedic tradition, has been used for thousands of years to aid memory and learning. It is also a wonderful adaptogen, which essentially means it can help us adapt to stress by supporting adrenal and nerve health. This small creeper thrives in wet and marshy conditions and is found in many regions throughout the world, including Australia. I have some growing in my garden in a water pond and the small leaves and white flowers are very pleasant, though quite bitter to taste!

 

Modern research has revealed that Bacopa is indeed a valuable herb to improve cognition, mental performance and memory. There has been a large body of research including clinical trials that have been done on a specific Bacopa extract that have found it to be neuroprotective, antioxidant, anxiolytic and antiinflammatory - which basically means it can protect our brain cells, decrease inflammation and decrease anxiety. It has been shown to improve the speed at which we learn and process information as well as improve our short and long term memory. As Bacopa also helps us when we feel stressed and anxious, it makes it a valuable herb for modern times.

 

negative-thinking-patterns-fullIndeed, stress is a big impediment to mental performance and memory. When our brain is in a flight or fight response, we tend to access our primitive brain centres and act on impulse rather than being able to utilise our higher brain centres involved with reason, logic and even intuition. Stress makes us feel anxious and overwhelmed and will adversely affect our ability to think, remember and perform mental tasks. Our brain is really not designed to multitask the way modern life dictates. While we can certainly be engaged in many things at once, we tend to lack accuracy and focus and our performance declines. We really are far better to switch off our phone and email and remove ourselves from other distractions when we need to engage with some serious study, learning or mental work tasks.

 

Herbs and nutrients that can help us with stress will often indirectly improve our brain function and walnutsperformance. In addition to Bacopa, other herbs we often use to improve mental function include Gingko, Rhodiola, Gotu Kola and the Ginsengs. The B complex vitamins, magnesium and omega 3 fats (fish oils) are probably the most important nutrients to optimise memory, concentration and brain function.  Making sure you have regular meals and protein rich snacks will also ensure your blood sugar is stable and this will in turn enhance performance and mood. Nuts are a great option as a snack as they are rich in magnesium which has been shown to increase the cell connections in our brain. I love the way walnuts just look like little brains - a perfect example of the doctrine of signatures! Generally increasing fruit and vegetables will provide the antioxidants your brain needs for optimal function.

 

It is well known that when it comes to brain power if we "don't use it, we lose it." This motto is behind the push to exercise our brain as we get older, engaging it in specific tasks to improve mental performance and memory such as crosswords, puzzles and learning a new skill like an instrument or creative activity. Working with using all aspects of your brain, gives you a well rounded function that supports learning and cognition as you age.

 

timeout natureWorking with your stress levels and engaging in relaxing practices like breathing, yoga, sitting down with a cup of tea for a conscious break, walking in nature, playing with a pet, doing a craft project, playing an instrument or getting some sunshine are all important. Choose one that resonates with you and give yourself regular small "time outs" that will make a big difference to stress and performance!

 

Lastly, ensure that you get adequate sleep as being sleep deprived is a certain recipe for poor brain function! Research shows that learning is also consolidated at night when we sleep, so the old traditional saying that "the morning is always wiser than the evening" is true.

 

 

 

apple cider vinegar

ACVApple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of those natural remedies with little science to back up the claims, yet mountains of anecdotal reports, going back thousands of years, praise its powers.

There are many folk medicine claims that ACV will cure just about anything! Some of the popular uses for ACV include for weight loss, blood sugar imbalances, digestive dysfunction, high pressure and cholesterol, skin complaints and a host of inflammatory conditions.

Historical Uses of ACV

Apple cider vinegar has a long history of use - as far back as in Ancient Egypt where it was used as a preservative. Hippocrates (around 400 BC), was one of the first to extol its virtues medicinally where he recommended it for bacterial infections. In many other cultures ACV was used for strength, endurance and health. In modern times, ACV has recently made a bit of a come back and is used and recommended by both natural therapists and lay people alike.

oak vinegarThere are many types of vinegars, and apple cider is just one of them. The word “vinegar” comes from the French words “vin aigre”, which means sour wine. This is reference to the fact that vinegar is often made from grapes but in fact vinegar can be made from many types of fruits or grains. Basically anything that has a sugar base can be fermented into a vinegar. Asian cultures often use rice, coconut and cane sugars as a base, while Europe has favoured fruits such as grape, which gives us the popular balsamic and red/white wine vinegars as well as apple cider.

The bacterial culture that is added to the fruit or grain grows slowly over weeks or months and produces a cloudy sediment known as “the mother”. In most commercial vinegar production, the mother is filtered out as some people may find the cloudy residue suspicious. Pasteurisation is then performed to kill the bacteria prevent more cloud forming. Unfortunately, pasteurisation kills off the beneficial probiotics (good bacteria) as well.  So there is more benefit from including the live cultures and enzymes so always source a vinegar that is raw (unpasteurised) and includes its cloudy mother!  Given how much apples are sprayed, you really want to get an organic product as well!

Research

There are a few studies on the benefits of vinegar, but like many herbs and nutrients that have been around forever, there isn't a stack of research as products that can’t be patented can't make any money! A few studies however, have confirmed some of the folk claims for apple cider vinegar which is always a good thing.

sushicook-rice-400Several studies have shown vinegar to be useful in diabetes and insulin resistance. In one study, 20mL of white vinegar in salad dressing reduced by 30 per cent the glycaemic response to a mixed meal containing 50g of carbohydrate.

A Japanese study found that including pickled (fermented) vegetables or vinegar decreased the blood sugar surge from white rice by 20–35 per cent. Other research has found that taking vinegar before meals significantly increased insulin sensitivity and dramatically reduced the insulin and glucose spikes that occur after meals. Those with insulin resistance saw the most benefit, achieving around 50% reduction in their blood glucose readings.

Other studies have found that vinegar might help people to feel full and can help with weight loss. For example, in one study different groups drank a 500mL drink containing 30mL, 15mL or no vinegar every day for 12 weeks. Those in the vinegar-drinking groups had modest weight loss, ACV weightlossaveraging 1.2kg in the 15mL group and 1.7kg in the 30mL group. They also had lower BMI, visceral fat area, waist measurement and serum triglycerides. Other studies have shown vinegar to reduce triglycerides and increase "good" cholesterol and also lower blood pressure.

Increased research into fermentable foods and the benefits of good bacteria on the microbiome of the gut may give credence to the folk reputation of raw apple cider vinegar on many aspects of health.

How To Use

The general dose of ACV is to take a tablespoon before meals in about half a glass water. If  you don’t enjoy the taste of apple cider vinegar on its own, you can instead use it to make a really delicious salad dressing (see below for my recipe) or make it more palatable by adding a little bit of honey. Avoid taking it neat (undiluted) as it is too acidic and may corrode tooth enamel or burn the throat and avoid adding it to hot water as it will destroy the good bacteria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Ginger

gingerGinger is one of my favourite herbs and we are lucky to be able to grow it here in subtropical South East Queensland.  It sure loves the wet hot summers more than me!

Ginger is also known by the latin name, Zingiber officinale, and it is related to other species in the Zingiberaceae family including the well known turmeric and galangal.

The juicy roots and rhizomes are used in many cultures both as a medicinal plant and culinary favourite. Ginger adds a distinct, warm and spicy flavour to many different dishes and cuisines.  I like growing ginger because you can harvest the young juicy roots which are often hard to find in the grocery store. They are great to throw into vegetable and fruit smoothies to add some warmth and flavour!

Medicinally ginger is excellent for nausea and has been well studied with favourable results in particular for morning sickness and motion sickness. It is also good for other digestive disturbances, including bloating and wind. Some promising research has found that ginger may play a role in decreasing cancer growth.

Ginger is also excellent for improving the circulation and decreasing inflammation. You can add a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger to boiling water to make a tea that is helpful for colds and coughs. I like adding it to chicken broth for an Asian flavour and it is particularly good when feeling sick, along with garlic and a hint of chilli.  The dried spice can be used in baking and curries and is one of the important ingredient in ginger bread men and sweet baked goods.

 

gingercookieGrain Free Ginger Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup tapioca or arrowroot
  • 1 tablespoon dried ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried cinnamon powder
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar or rapadura sugar
  • 125g butter
  • ½ teaspoon bicarb soda mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (or molasses for a stronger flavour)

 

Method

  • Combine the first 6 dry ingredients together in large bowel and mix thoroughly.
  • Melt butter, add bicarb & water mixture, mix thoroughly with honey until well combined.
  • Mix this wet ingredient mix into dry until well combined.
  • Place dessertspoonfuls of the mixture onto greased baking trays with space between to allow for spreading. Flatten slightly with a fork.
  • Bake at 170C for about 15 mins or until golden brown.
  • Allow to cool on tray before removing.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

Mental Health Naturally

Managing Mental Health Naturally…

mental healthIt is mental health week and it is a good time to take a look at natural ways of supporting our body-mind.

Research confirms that rates of anxiety and depression are increasing – even among children and adolescents. While mental health issues are wide and varied with different causes and presentations, the fact that they are all increasing suggests that the cause may be connected to our modern life and changing habits. Social isolation, increased work hours and pressure as well as the constant 24-7 digital life we all lead can give rise to mental health issues. Depression and anxiety are clear signs that there is an imbalance in one or more areas of our life. Taking a holistic look at mental health naturally includes looking at diet, lifestyle, stress levels, sleep habits, relationships and work-life balance. All of these things can impact on our quality of life, happiness and ability to cope. Finding the area that is out of balance and making positive and healthy changes is essential in getting lasting results.

Many patients that I see in my practice are under stress – both short term stress as well as low-grade persistent stress. Aside from depression, anxiety and mood swings, other signs that your body is not coping with stress can include poor sleep, recurrent infections and slow recovery from illness, digestive disorders, fatigue, headaches and muscle tension and pain. People who are stressed are also more likely to use or abuse alcohol and other drugs to cope and this in turn can trigger mental health issues.

stjohnwortDietary changes can help cope with stress and anxiety and improve moods. Eating regularly and not skipping meals is very important to maintain blood sugar, energy and moods. Protein is particularly important in the diet as it contains amino acids that are important precursors for our neurotransmitters that help regulate our mood, such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine.

Supplementing with nutrients, such as B vitamins and magnesium, can be helpful to support the body and mind under stress. I find herbs to be excellent at calming and rejuvenating a stressed body and mind and they are a great alternative to pharmaceutical medications for many people. Herbs work on both supporting the adrenals as well as having a direct effect on the nervous system to decrease anxiety or depression, without the common side effects associated with antidepressants.

As we have seen, stress often causes or accompanies many mental health issues, so stress management techniques are essential. A good strategy that everyone can learn to do is relaxation/meditation. The benefits of meditation have been well studied in recent years, with positive effects reported for conditions ranging from pain, heart disease and cancer to anxiety and depression.When we relax the heart rate slows, the mind quietens, the muscles soften and the body can concentrate on healing and functioning properly. It also helps us to get a better perspective on life and be less reactive. Other techniques such as yoga, exercise and massage can also be employed to help improve moods and wellbeing.

Having emotional support from family and friends can really help with our ability to cope and manage mental health issues. Despite our all-pervasive social media access, many people are more isolated than ever and lack meaningful interpersonal contact. Having someone to talk through problems with and get useful tips and strategies from can make a real difference. Undertaking professional counselling is also a great tool to help manage mental health issues and is especially important for people who lack social support.

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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!
Megan Wolarczuk
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