Weight Issues

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.

 

 

 

Stress and weight gain

Stress and Weight Gain

stressed womanIt has been increasingly understood that being stressed is a factor in weight gain and the inability to lose weight. But before we look closer at that, let's first look at stress and its role in the body, and define exactly what stress is.

In biological systems, stress refers to what happens when an organism fails to respond appropriately to threats. While our modern day “threats” are more benign and less life threatening compared to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the impact can be equally demanding on our bodies. Of course, we know that some stress can be beneficial and can give an incentive to accomplish necessary goals and improve performance. However, in many cases, stress can reach chronic levels and have harmful consequences, such as compromised immune function, poor digestion, weight gain and reproductive issues.

It is important to note that while we will be exploring the role of stress, cortisol and weight in this article, scientists continue to argue that it is not a simple one-to-one relationship between cortisol/stress and weight gain. There are many different mechanisms of action and we are slowly understanding more and more of the complexity of this modern epidemic.

Now let’s look more closely at what we do know about stress, metabolism and weight issues. Stress is one of those things that can cause us to lose weight, gain weight or have difficulty losing weight. For some people being really stressed or suffering from anxiety can cause weight loss. For other people, stress can cause weight gain or a reduced ability to lose weight. Mechanisms for changes in weight involve a host of potential issues. Stress itself causes a change in behaviours for people - from changes to diet, to reduced exercise, late nights and poor sleep habits. Many people initially lose their appetite when suffering from acute stress and yet other people turn to food to cope and comfort eat. We will learn later, that both of these changes in eating patterns are in many cases caused by the complex and varied action of the adrenal hormone, cortisol. If you would like a bit more information about optimal adrenal health, please see my related article here.

The intensity of how the body responds to stress, and the impact that it has, is a large part to do with the stress hormones, particularly cortisol. Cortisol, can play a pivotal role in the maintenance of our body weight. It will have an impact in one direction when it is chronically elevated with ongoing acute stress or in the other direction when it is suppressed as what can happen with adrenal burn out. Getting a healthy balance in cortisol levels is essential in promoting normal adrenal function and promoting healthy weight levels. If the body perceives it is in a state of stress, it can go into a holding pattern and slow metabolism down. A whole cascade of interactions happen that create havoc for our desire to shift stubborn weight, even though it is the body's attempt at keeping us 'healthy'.

hurryWhen we are stressed, the adrenal gland actually produces more cortisol and other hormones such as adrenalin to have a very specific action on our survival. Cortisol’s main function is to restore homeostasis following exposure to stress. The effects of cortisol are felt over virtually the entire body and can impact a range of important mechanisms for health.

Cortisol in particular has a major impact on our blood sugar balance and promotes gluconeogenesis – which is the production of glucose.  During states of fasting, when blood glucose has been depleted, cortisol ensures a steady supply of glucose through its promotion of gluconeogenesis.  Cortisol is also involved in our wake/sleep cycle, has impacts on memory and has anti-inflammatory actions which in the short term can be beneficial, but in the long run can suppress immunity. The long-term, constant cortisol exposure associated with chronic stress impairs cognition, decreases thyroid function, and promotes the accumulation of abdominal fat, which in turn can increase risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

stressed outCortisol has a two-fold effect on our body fat. When the stress first occurs, fat is broken down to supply the body with a rapid source of energy. When we experience something stressful, our brains sends a signal to put the body on alert and send it into "fight or flight" mode. As the body gears up for battle, our appetite is suppressed, and the digestive system shuts off temporarily. Cortisol and adrenaline, help to mobilize carbohydrate and fat for quick energy for the body to use to flee or fight the stressor. Once the immediate stress is gone, the adrenaline dissipates, but cortisol hangs around to help bring the body back into balance.

An increase in appetite following a stressful event can often occur. This is primarily thought to be aimed at replacing the carbohydrate and fat we would have theoretically burned while fleeing or fighting the threat. However with modern day stress, we often have no need to actually expend much energy in physically fighting or running from our stressors, we often just feel stressed internally or emotionally. So this ancient mechanism that is operating to replenish our physical reserves after a stressful event, can lead in our modern times to weight gain. Sustained low grade stress often leads to chronically elevated levels of cortisol which promotes an increase in appetite and glucose production. The elevated glucose of course in turn causes insulin to be elevated and insulin resistance can occur, where the cells become resistant to insulin and fail to respond to the signals. Together insulin resistance and high levels of glucose promote the conversion of glucose into fat as a stored energy mechanism. Often this fat accumulates in the tummy region as this area is more sensitive to cortisol and insulin and is the preferred area for storing fat.

junkNow, enter the thyroid, a gland largely responsible for our metabolic rate and energy production. So how does the thyroid interact with stress, metabolism and weight?  In a previous article I took a look at the thyroid gland in more detail, but here I am just going to focus on its role in metabolism and weight for the purpose of this article. Stress can suppress the thyroid gland which can further aggravate the situation, in particular by slowing down our metabolism. A low thyroid function can also make a person feel tired and flat may increase comfort eating or the consumption of caffeine and alcohol – both of which in turn increase cortisol. Moreover, stress can also lead to sleep deprivation which in turn will aggravate the situation. Some research showed that cortisol levels were elevated by up to 45 percent after a night of sleep deprivation and lack of sleep often leads to poor food choices and increased eating and snacking the next day.

So we have now identified how chronic stress and elevated cortisol may be factors in weight problems, so it stands to reason that we want to reduce our exposure to stressful events and improve our resistance to stress.

Exercise is one of the best things we can do to reduce stress and improve insulin sensitivity. Even a simple daily brisk walk will help as it can promote weight loss by burning calories, but it also reduces insulin resistance and helps to neutralize stress hormones and their effects, which in turn will further help to keep weight off.  Even better, a walk out in nature will offer an extra break from our busy lives and helps us to get a better perspective.

meditationOther stress reduction techniques that are excellent include meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. Improving time management can also be essential to reducing stress in one’s hectic lifestyle. These activities or similar techniques, as well as getting adequate sleep, can help reduce your body’s physiological response to daily stressors.

Third, how a person perceives stressful situations is also important. One individual may feel major stress from a particular situation, whereas another person will handle it better by using the event as an opportunity to learn. Hence, stress makes life difficult, but our reaction to it is important as well. Learning to better manage stress and work with our inner mindset is a great way for tackling the underlying causes of stress and will help our goals of weight loss.

Next month I am offering my popular Busy But Balanced Stress Management Workshop once again to give you all the tools for managing stress, supporting your adrenals and achieving your goals – whether they be weight loss, inner peace or better digestion! Stress impacts on pretty much everything and effectively managing stress is a fundamental basic tool for optimal health and wellbeing.  Click here to learn more about the workshop and book your spot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Functional Testing

Functional Testing Explained

There are many different medical tests to assess how the body is functioning. Conventional medicinetesting blood utilises standard blood tests, urine tests, stool tests, scans, x-rays, MRIs and the like. However, while these tests are very useful, they often are more geared towards picking up pathology rather than dysfunction.

For determining how well a system is functioning, many tests fail to really give a true assessment of organ function unless there is a gross pathology. Functional testing is a whole different branch of medical testing that looks to assess function of different organs. Many of these tests give us a more in-depth look at what is going on behind the scenes. These tests can also pick up abnormalities before they are at the level of pathology, allowing preventative treatment plans to be developed.

Unfortunately in most cases these functional tests are not covered under medicare, so the patient has to pay for them privately.  These can vary from as low as $50 for some tests and can be as high as $500-600. Many tests are around the $100-200 mark. Obviously, functional tests are only recommended when the results gathered from the test will give very specific information that can be used to tailor an individualised treatment plan for the patient. Many of the tests are offered as simple home test kits for collecting urine, saliva, stool and blood spots however some do need blood draws from a pathology centre.

Let's take a look at some of the different functional tests available within a few body systems.

Digestion and Liver Function

Standard testing for digestive issues can include colonoscopy and gastroscopy - where scopes (camera like devices) are used to take a look at the inside of the colon or gut. These can pick up pathology such as polyps, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and gastritis (inflammation and ulceration of the stomach or oesophagus). In some cases doctors will run a PCR test to look for bacteria and parasites in the stool such as blastocystis and giardia. While these tests are useful, there is a whole host of other things that can be tested that give us a really good insight into the digestive system. For example, knowing what levels of good bacteria are present is very important and assessing enzyme levels and short chain fatty acid levels can highlight underlying gut issues and dictate the best treatment strategy. A complete digestive stool test yields lots of information that can give a detailed look at gut function.

SIBO-testingBreath testing for Helicobacter pylori is a standard test now for stomach ulcers and gastritis. The lactulose SIBO breath test is also a very specific functional test to more accurately assess and diagnose the underlying cause of irritable bowel symptoms such as bloating, wind and erratic stools. Food intolerance testing can show what foods might be contributing to health issues - including digestive issues, allergies, sinusitis, eczema and asthma.  Leaky gut can be diagnosed based on the intestinal permeability test. A functional liver detoxification profile takes a look at how efficient the liver is at detoxing certain chemicals - which is far more useful than a standard liver function test which only measures liver enzyme levels - which tend to be elevated with inflammation of the liver and do not determine the cause. We often want to get a sense of how well the liver is functioning in a day to day sense, and the liver detox profile is the best test for that.

Hormones and Reproduction

Standard blood tests are useful for looking at hormone levels, but they tend to give a fairly broad understanding. For example, there are at least 4 different types of oestrogen that can be tested, some of which are more proliferative and linked to breast and endometrial cancers while others are more protective and less damaging. Standard blood tests just give the total oestrogen level and do not differentiate between the different types. Understanding the amounts of different hormones present will also potentially highlight issues with poor excretion of hormones and poor liver function and give specific treatment strategies to reduce risk of disease and treat specific issues such as heavy periods. Functional tests look at salivary levels as well as dried urine to give a more sensitive and detailed assessment of hormone status.

Genetic testing for underlying issues with folate metabolism (MTHFR) is also an important aspect of a fertility workup that Karen undertakes. Polymorphisms (defects) in the MTHFR genes can impair methylation and this has been linked to infertility and miscarriage along with certain cancers and mental health issues.  As the methylation pathway is a nutrient dependent pathway, it is one that specific nutritional supplements can improve.

Adrenals and Thyroid

saliva testThe adrenal glands modulate and support the function of every tissue, organ and gland in your body to maintain balance during stress or illness to help you heal or keep you alive. Many of the hormones produced by the adrenals are essential for good health and vitality, so if your adrenals aren’t functioning well, there can be widespread impacts. Likewise the thyroid is a highly important organ responsible for metabolism and energy in the body. Assessing full thyroid function (not just TSH levels) is important to get an accurate look at the thyroid function. Likewise, a 24 cortisol test can be a good way of assessing adrenal function, whereby salivary cortisol levels are taken 4 times during a 24 hour period to assess how the adrenal functions throughout the day. Other comprehensive dried urine hormone tests can give a lot of information about the adrenal hormones and subsequent adrenal function. For more information on adrenal health click here.

A Summary Of Functional Tests Currently Available:

  • Comprehensive Stool Analysis - this test is an excellent way of  for beneficial & dysbiotic bacteria, clostridium, candida & yeast, secretory IgA, Lactoferrin, White blood cells, Mucus, Pancreatic Elastase, pH & details of possible food digestion impairment of fats, pH testing etc)
  • Parasite testing (Blastocystis hominis, Dientamoeba fragilis, Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium)
  • SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • MTHFR gene mutation tests
  • Methylation testing (Methionine, Cysteine, homocysteine, SAMe, SAH etc.)
  • Pyroluria / pyrroles test (a genetic condition linked to anxiety, depression, addictions and behavioural issues)
  • Saliva Hormone Testing (Cortisol, DHEA, oestrogens -E1, E2, E3, progesterone, androgens, testosterone, melatonin)
  • Thyroid Hormones (TSH, fT4, fT4, Reverse T3, Thyroid antibodies)
  • Nutritional Blood Profiles (Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, B12/Folate, Vit C, Vit D, Vit E, Co-Enzyme Q10, iron studies, magnesium, calcium, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, zinc, glutathione, omega 3 levels, etc.)
  • Urine Amino Acids profile
  • Histamine testing
  • Hair Mineral Analysis & Heavy Metal Toxicity Testing (mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminium etc.)
  • Environmental Pollutants & Chemical Toxicity
  • Liver Detoxification Profile (Assesses Phase 1 & 2 status with chemical exposure)
  • Metabolic ‘Organic acids’ Testing (36 metabolic acids that may determine causes for fatigue, depression)
  • Urinary Hormone Steroid Profile (Includes testosterone, oestrogens, progesterone, Melatonin, Cortisol, DHEA adrenal hormones)
  • Food Sensitivity & Allergy Profiles:
    • (IgA, IgE & IgG antibodies) 
    • ALCAT food sensitivity test
    • Both food sensitivity methods can test with accuracy the immune response of the body to up to 200 foods, herbs and spices.
  • Celiac Antibody Profile and Celiac Gene Test (HLA DQ2 & HLA DQ8)
  • DNA Gene Profile Testing (Smart DNA, 23 & Me)
  • Intestinal Permeability testing
  • Zonulin testing  - for diagnosing leaky gut syndrome

 

If you would like to discuss the merits of a functional test for your specific health issues or as a simple preventative strategy to optimise your health and vitality, please contact Karen.

 

 

Adrenal Health

Adrenal Health

suprarenalThe adrenal glands are small glands that sit like a hat on top of the kidneys. They are powerful little endocrine glands that manufacture and secrete steroid hormones such as cortisol, DHEA (which in turn can be made into oestrogen and testosterone) as well as adrenalin (sometimes called epinephrine). Many of the hormones produced by the adrenals are essential for good health and vitality, so if your adrenals aren’t functioning well, there can be widespread impacts.  They modulate and support the function of every tissue, organ and gland in your body to maintain balance during stress or illness to help you heal or keep you alive. The adrenal hormones closely modulate many metabolic processes in the body:

  • the utilization of carbohydrates and fats
  • reproductive function and fertility
  • the conversion of fats and proteins into energy
  • bone density and muscle mass
  • inflammation and immune function
  • the distribution of stored fat  – especially around your waist
  • normal blood sugar regulation
  • proper cardiovascular function
  • gastrointestinal function and digestion

 

Some of the signs that your adrenals are struggling include:

stressENERGY & MOOD

  • low energy, tired all the time
  • up and down or erratic energy
  • tired but wired feeling
  • irritable, easily angered, cranky
  • depressed, sad, teary, anxious

SLEEP

  • poor sleep, waking often, insomnia, night sweats
  • increased need for sleep, excessive sleep
  • waking unrefreshed and tired in the morning

IMMUNE

  • recurrent illness (colds, flu, sinusitis)
  • take a long time to recover from simple disorder
  • chronic & autoimmune conditions like eczema, arthritis & allergies.

obesityDIGESTION, WEIGHT & BODY COMPLAINTS

  • headaches and migraines
  • craving sugar or caffeine
  • weight gain (especially around belly), difficulty losing weight,
  • digestive problems (irritable bowel, nausea)
  • muscle tension and pain
  • chest pain, difficulty breathing

Stress and Adrenal Function

It is important to understand the role of stress and how it influences adrenal function when we are looking at improving the function of the adrenals and optimizing energy and vitality.

The body has an inbuilt survival mechanism which allows us to mobilize its resources to escape or fight off danger and survive. The fight or flight response is a well known cascade of physiological effects that harness energy and strength to enable us to survive. While we may have evolved dealing with real life threatening situations (such as escaping from a wild animal or enemy clan) our bodily response to modern day stresses are the same. We don’t differentiate very well between true life threatening stress and mere emotional stress, because the part of our brain that responds to stress needs to act quickly and automatically. Taking time to consider the options and engage the rational mind, may delay actions that could be costly or deadly.

tired business manModern life for many of us is fraught with constant low grade stress. Even being available and switched ‘on’ 24/7 can often give us a feeling of mild stress. We are always anticipating the next thing to do or the next stress to deal with. Common stresses that I see amongst my patients include work dissatisfaction, a difficult boss, financial stress, relationship dramas and parenting demands. Then we also have the issues of environmental stress such as air pollution, electromagnetic radiation and chemicals in food and water. The stresses in turn can lead to a variety of physical and psychological health problems that can themselves be a further source of stress.

It is also the job of the adrenal glands to keep our body’s reactions to stress in balance so that they are appropriate and not destructive. Cortisol has a protective anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity that can help to minimize the inflammatory reactions in allergies and autoimmune disorders.

Adrenals & Reproductive Function

The adrenals are also responsible for producing DHEA which is a precursor to oestrogen and testosterone and thus have a role in reproductive function. Prolonged stress is a well known cause of reproductive dysfunction and in women can lead to delayed or lack of ovulation, erratic cycles or heavier periods.  In men, chronic or acute stress can impact on hormones and lead to lowered sperm count and poor libido in men. After mid-life when the ovaries and testes start to decline in function, the adrenal glands gradually become the major source of the sex hormones circulating throughout the body in both men and women. These hormones themselves have a whole host of physical, emotional and psychological effects, from the level of your sex drive to the tendency to gain weight. Thus, I find in my patients that the function and integrity of the adrenal glands is an important predictor of how easy or trouble free a woman's experience of menopause will be.

Stress Management – the key to healthy adrenals

corporate yoga womanLearning to manage our stress is essential for health and wellbeing on all levels. Much of what I do with many of my patients is help them make choices and create strategies that can moderate their stress. We go through all the events or situations which contribute to their stress load and identify the things that they can change in a practical sense. In some cases, even just changing our attitude or perception of situations can help decrease the effect of these stresses on our health and wellbeing.

Generally I find the two best strategies for managing life’s inevitable stresses are exercise and relaxation/meditation.  Some people find one is enough, but most people will benefit from doing both. In terms of exercise, though,  I want to emphasize that it is important to not overdo it. While many of us use exercise as a stress management tool, sometime it can add more pressure and physiological demands on our system. Many patients I have treated for adrenal fatigue and burnout have been over-exercising. Once they slowed down and did more gentle approaches, they started to improve.

I am a big fan of having a daily practice of some kind, such as meditation, yoga or breathing. Having a regular activity that allows us to pause and get perspective can make a big difference in how we feel and cope with stressful events. Learn more about managing stress with specific meditation and breathing tools I can teach you here.

 

Herbs & Nutrients for Adrenal Health

The first thing to know when it comes to supporting your adrenals is to ensure you choose foods and eating patterns that stabilize your blood sugar. Skipping meals or eating high carbohydrate or sugar laden foods will put more pressure on your adrenals (as well as your liver and pancreas!) Choosing regular meal times and ensuring there is a good quality protein (think eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy, meat/fish) at each meal. Protein and good quality fats will create a stable slow burning energy and avoid blood sugar swings. It is also good to avoid caffeine which can be too stimulating on worn out adrenals. There are a range of nutrients that can support optimal adrenal function and energy and normally I prescribe specific supplements designed to support the adrenal glands, that often include B vitamins, zinc, amino acids etc. You can learn more about foods and how they support energy here.

Holy Basil - a great herb for supporting the adrenals.

Holy Basil - a great herb for supporting the adrenals.

Herbs that support adrenal health are normally referred to as adrenal tonics or adaptogens. Kidney herbs can also be useful for supporting the adrenals. Some of my favourite adrenal herbs include Rhodiola, Withania, Siberian Ginseng, Licorice, Oats and Holy Basil. These herbs can help support our body to adapt and better cope with stress and promote good levels of energy. Generally speaking these types of herbs are taken for a period of at least 6-8 weeks and often for a number of months to get the best results in building resilience, conserving energy and preventing burnout during stressful or demanding periods.

 

So in summary, having well functioning adrenals is essential for optimal health. Take time to look after yourself, make healthy food choices, get regular exercise and manage your stress and you will be rewarded with healthy adrenals which will flow on and impact the rest of your body, mind and spirit!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face reading

I am pleased to host the lovely Mel Midegs in this blog post.

Mel is sharing all about the fascinating world of face reading and psychosomatic therapy.

 

Face Reading and Psychosomatic Therapy

There is much more to your face than meets the eye. Your bone structure, tissue distribution and features all represent your personality, emotional wellbeing and provide great insight to the belief patterns you are holding onto. Your face is telling the story of who you are to the world. Every feature, every line, the shape… it’s a canvas of where you have been, what you have endured, and more importantly it shows the true essence of who you are.

Psychosomatic Therapy is aimed at assisting you in understanding the body you are living in.  Aches, pains and excess or low bodyweight is more than just that. Your body talks, and when it’s feeling a certain way it’s bringing your attention to a specific part of your body that relates to a particular area in your life.  For example, a common complaint is a sore lower back. Broadly, this represents relationships with others, money, how you feel supported and are you having fun doing what you do?

Face Reading is an amazingly accurate diagnostic tool, as the whole body can be seen in the face. When looking closely and in tune with someone’s energy, it is easy to see that negative behaviour is a cover or a mask for the emotional unbalance that lies deep within. The eyes are related to the heart chakra, and as they say ‘the eyes are the window to the Soul’. Looking into someone’s eyes you can see if their light is shinning bright inside or if the light has been dimmed over time. Are you comfortable to shine your light and look into the eyes of another? Or do you look away protecting your heart? For those with blue eyes, you are sensitive Souls and those with green have the courage to make a difference. Brown eyed beauties have such a deep earthiness that keeps you grounded and have a fiery passion inside! Be sure to keep in alignment with your passions otherwise you’ll start perceiving the world as an uninspiring place.

To look at the nose, is to look at how you express your personal identity. Are you a leader and love responsibility? Or are you happy to live a happy go lucky life and lead the way for fun and enjoyment? The tip of the nose holds great insight. Touch the tip of your nose and wiggle it around. If it’s very flexible you will be flexible to the needs of others. It is good to have the quality of wanting to assist others – but don’t let this take you off track… it may be a sign of putting others before yourself.  If the tip is hard, you will tend to get straight to the point. You are a hard worker and your lesson will be to be kinder and nurture yourself. Soften the self-criticism… you are doing a great job! The harder you are on yourself, they harder you may be on others.

Psychosomatic Therapy is closely aligned to the chakras of the body:

Hairline Crown Chakra How you use your mind
Forehead Brow Chakra Your ability to see the bigger picture
Eyebrows Throat Chakra Your ability to communicate your Will
Eyes Heart Chakra The window to your Soul
Nose Solar Plexus Chakra Expression of your personal identity
Mouth Sacral Chakra The taste you have for life
Chin Base Chakra How you feel supported in life

 

A Face Reading will provide you with a clear understanding of what emotions and past experiences your body may be holding onto in its cellular memory. The body’s muscles and tissues remember past events and the emotions that are associated with that event. A shoulder twinge is not just a shoulder twinge, and excess weight is not just excess weight, these are bringing your attention to a part of your body and life that needs to be looked at more closely.

Psychosomatic Therapy offers a variety of strategies to assist with positive outcomes when it comes to understanding the truth of who you are and being comfortable with the skin you are in. A face reading can reveal great insight to your personal behaviour patterns and lift the veil on the essence of your true self.

 

 

Mel Midegs

Lifestyle Therapist

Seed To Soul

www.seedtosoul.com.au

 

Benefits of Fats

It seems like nearly everyone I see in my practice lately avoids fats. When recalling their daily diet to me, they proudly point out all the low fat and fat-free foods they eat. This is all very well, but I am not too impressed. The reason is that fat is essential for good health. With the growing controversy in the media recently regarding cholesterol and statin drugs, it is time to set the record straight about the benefits of fats.
So why do we need fats in the diet?

Fats are important for healthy brain function (60% of brain is composed of fat), for hormone production, for absorption of certain nutrients and for healthy cell function. Certain fats also carry the 'fat soluble' vitamins (vitamin A, D, E & K), so a low fat diet often creates vitamin deficiencies. Fat in a meal will slow down the absorption of other foods such as sugars and increases satiety – a fact often overlooked. Most fat-free products contain additional sugars and flavours to make up for the absence of fat. This in turn adds calories to the product and can lead to weight gain despite its fat-free label. Many people report being hungry again soon after eating fat free products which may cause them to eat more. Indeed, the increasing incidence of obesity and diabetes is linked to carbohydrate intake, not fat intake.

So fats are essential in the diet but all fats are not equal when it comes to health. Let’s look at different fats and see which ones are good for us and which ones are not so good. Firstly you need to know that fats are categorised according to their chemical structure. In reality, all fats are made up of different types of fatty acids, however the dominant fat is the one they are grouped under. The more 'saturated' a fat, the more stable it is, whereas the 'polyunsaturated' fats have inherent instability in the structure and can easily be denatured with cooking and processing.

  • Saturated Fats – saturated fats are found mostly in animal foods (eg. butter), but also in coconut and palm oils. While these fats have been demonised in recent years, saturated fats make up 50% of every cell membrane in the body, contain important vitamins and are required for a host of body functions including healthy immunity. These fats are also very stable for cooking.
  • Monounsaturated Fats – well known one is olive oil, but many people are surprised to learn that lard (pig fat) is also a monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturates are healthy fats that are also quite stable for cooking.
  • Polyunsaturated Fats – this large group of fats have a chemical structure that makes it vulnerable to oxidation and damage. Polyunsaturates include the wonderful omega 3 fats (eg. Fish oil) linked to healthy hearts and smart brains. While many of these oils have health benefits, they should never be heated in cooking as they form free radicals.
  • Trans Fats – these are not generally found in nature and are formed when polyunsaturated fats are hydrogenated. Hydrogenation is used to convert liquid vegetable oils into margarines or other solid fats and in the process changes its shape making it a very unstable free radical. Trans fats can damage healthy cells in the body and have been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer.  You should void margarines and all commercial foods containing margarines or hydrogenated fats (check labels).  See my article on butter versus margarine for more info.
  • Cholesterol – around 80% of the cholesterol in our blood is made by our liver. Cholesterol is essential for hormone production, bone health, brain function, digestion and other cell functions. Avoiding cholesterol in the diet will only have a modest effect on blood levels of cholesterol. While many people are scared of cholesterol and its theoretical link to heart disease, it is much more complex than merely looking at cholesterol levels in the blood. Eg. The proteins lipoprotein (a) and homocysteine are also involved in atherosclerosis and lifestyle factors such as smoking and stress are linked to heart disease.  For more information about cholesterol see Cholesterol & Health website.

 

So don’t assume that a fat free diet is healthy as healthy fats are essential for many aspects of body function. If you are worried about weight gain, cut back on the carbs before you cut back on the fats!

 

 

 

 

 

Obesity

Obesity - is it a disease or a lifestyle issue?

There has been much debate and controversy lately since the American Medical Association reclassified obesity as a disease, rather than a lifestyle. The obesity disease classification came about in July this year. Obesity is a growing problem worldwide and affects a third of the US nation and is estimated to cost the US healthcare system $190 billion annually and the costs are rising. More and more children and young adults are overweight or obese and the resultant diseases of heart disease, diabetes and cancer are rising in direct proportion.

Clearly, obesity is not something you can catch or contract like a regular disease, but it is the result of a lifestyle imbalance. Obesity certainly gives rise to a range of diseases, just as smoking gives rise to lung cancer and heart disease. But what they both have in common is the lifestyle choice factor. There are genetic factors, but really it is epigenetics rather than straight genetics - in other words it is the result of genes interacting with poor lifestyle choices that 'switch' on obesity genes.

Food is one of the few things many people freely choose each day, but some argue that the culture has become so entrenched with marketing of high sugar and junk foods and a focus on media use and lack of exercise that people no longer can 'choose' what they consume or how to live their life. Some in the medical profession argue the obesity disease classification will increase funding for research. Others suggest that it will make it easier for paediatricians to approach parents in terms of treating a disease rather than telling them their child eats too much or fails to exercise enough. But is this just avoiding the cold hard facts?

Please watch the interesting video below where a range of experts discuss this widespread social and health problem and look at ways of dealing with it.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Sugar

 

Getting the Scoop on Sugar

I don't advocate the same diet for everyone and I prefer to personalise things for each person. But when it comes to sugar, the reality is that we really all do better without it.

Sugar is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, fatigue, headaches, tooth decay, cancer and it also promotes premature ageing. It is a highly addictive food, that some argue is more difficult to quit than many street drugs. According to the latest statistics, sugar consumption in Australia is around 42 kgs per person per annum. The problem is that sugar is in just about every processed food today...from tomato sauce, breakfast cereals, savoury crackers and breads to yoghurts, dips, tinned foods and the obvious lollies and sweets.

In recent years with the push towards low fat products, we have seen a big rise in the amount of sugar going into processed low fat foods. When food manufacturers remove the fat from a product to make it 'low-fat' they replace it with sugar! 

Sugar is used to make up for the loss of taste, because much of the flavour in our foods comes with the fat. Just think about the taste difference between full cream and skim milk. Sugar is also used in products as a natural preservative - when the sugar level is high enough bacteria can't survive....which makes you wonder why we think we can survive with a high sugar diet!
Why Aren't Artificial Sweeteners Recommended?

Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (nutrasweet) and sucralose (Splenda) are not a safe option in any way. These processed food additives have been linked to cancer, migraine, obesity, high cholesterol and a range of brain issues - including memory loss, seizures and cancer.  What is probably most absurd is that the artificial sweeteners can even contribute to weight gain and increased sugar cravings. Aspartame failed to get FDA approval for 20 years, before it was finally approved in what appeared to be political bargaining rather than assured safety.

 What is wrong with fructose?... Isn't it just fruit sugar? 

There has been so much research into the damaging effects of sugar and processed sweet foods on our health. In particular a large body of evidence is mounting regarding consumption of high fructose corn syrup. This sweetener is used in many commercial goods that are sweetened, including cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and lollies. While fructose does not raise your blood sugar level directly the way that glucose does, it creates a whole series of other stresses that we can ill afford. The major problem with fructose is the effect that it has on the liver and is linked to many diseases including fatty liver and hyperlipidemia as well as obesity and cardiovascular disease.  Most forms of fructose also have a glucose molecule with it, so you tend to get both sugars operating in different ways in the body - making it double trouble.

Humans never evolved in an orchard with fruits all year round - so our modern ability to eat abundant amounts of fruit, regardless of the season, is a big unknown experiment. This is aside from the other issue of the enormous food miles in many cases that the imported or interstate fruit travels to get to our fruit bowl!  If you are going to eat fructose - you really are best to get it from local in-season fruit as the fibre it contains helps slow down the sugar surge. But remember you should really be limiting your fruit intake as well as it is still high sugar - so just stick to a couple of pieces a day of seasonal fruits. This is of course, as opposed to vegetables - where there is no limit!

What about the 'natural' sweeteners?

The judicious and occasional use of natural unrefined sugars such as rapadura sugar or coconut sugar can be an option when you need to bake or prepare traditional items. These work well in cooking as a substitute for regular sugar, though they will impart more flavour and colour to the recipes. Honey and maple syrup are also good natural sweeteners but they are still very sweet and should be used very sparingly.

Honey

Honey has a host of medicinal benefits - especially when in the raw and unheated form. Although honey is around 50% fructose it is a natural sweetener that has been prized for centuries. It is important to note that cooking with honey destroys some of these enzymes. Medicinal honey such as Manuka (from NZ) and Jelly Bush (from Australia) have high amounts of active constituents with antibiotic, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. It can be used externally for wounds as well as internally for sore throats, mouth ulcers and coughs. (I sell the Australian Jelly Bush honey in my clinic.)

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is a traditional sweetener that has the characteristic earthy and caramel flavour. It is naturally quite high in a range of minerals - particularly manganese and zinc - that are important nutrients for a range of body functions. The syrup is a clear sap when tapped from the Maple tree and is then boiled to evaporate off the water and what is left is the golden brown syrup that is around 60% sugar.

Rapadura & Molasses

Evaporated cane juice is an unrefined sugar, also known as rapadura sugar or jaggery (which can sometimes come from palm sugar/dates).  As there is no refining and minimal processing, rapadura and jaggery still contain many of the natural minerals.  Do not confuse rapadura with brown sugar - as brown sugar is just refined sugar with some molasses added for colour and flavour.  Molasses is the left over by product of cane sugar or beet sugar refining. It is the mineral rich dark sticky byproduct and can be used sparingly as it is a rich source of minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. It has traditionally been used as a health tonic - served in water. Its very strong and robust flavour only lends itself to a few traditional recipes if used in cooking.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is a sugar produced from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm. It has been used as a sweetener for thousands of years throughout Asia.  The sap is collected and then heated to evaporate the water content which results in a thick syrup which is then reduced into a crystalline granulated form. Coconut sugar is a low GI sugar that is also a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Compared to brown sugar, coconut sugar has 36 times the iron, four times the magnesium, and over 10 times the amount of zinc!

Agave syrup

Agave nectar/syrup is the new darling sweetener of the health food world - but in reality it is far from a good option. Agave is a mild flavoured low GI sugar alternative - but one that is very high in fructose - close to 90%!  We have already learned above why we would want to avoid too much fructose. The other problem with agave is that it is not a traditional sweetener in the same way that honey or maple syrup is. Agave has only been manufactured since the 1990's and requires quite a bit of processing to get it to be edible and commercially viable. While it starts out as a sweet watery liquid known as aguamiel or 'honey water' - it undergoes centrifuge processing and enzymatic conversion that turns the natural sugars into ones rich in high fructose and dextrose and then it is further processed and evaporated to condense the sugar content. The resultant sugar nectar is a far cry from the original honey water traditionally consumed and it packs a powerful fructose punch.

Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the very sweet leaves of the South American herb, Stevia rebaudiana. Stevia is a safe sweetener and has no effect on blood sugar balance or liver health - though it is very sweet and slightly bitter in its natural form and is not always suitable in all recipes. Processed Stevia products have had their bitter compounds removed and come in the way of granulated products or liquids that can be used in cooking.

 

So really, all in all, the best thing to do is to kick the sugar habit! Once you stop having sweet foods all the time, your body adjusts and the cravings abate. Ensuring plenty of good quality fats and protein in your diet will also be helpful when giving up sugar as it ensures your blood sugar stays stable and your cravings will be minimised. I often use key nutrients and herbs when we need to support the body in initially adjusting to a low sugar life, so consider some personalised support by way of a consultation, if you are struggling to curb sugar cravings.

Remember you are sweet enough - so no added sugar is required!

 

 

 

 

 

Festive Season Health

The festive season is now upon us and that generally means an increase in social engagements.   While for most of us this is a fun time of year, it can also result in health issues such as sluggishness, weight gain and fatigue.  So let’s look at what goes on and how we can stay healthy during the Christmas and New Year period.

Alcohol is certainly the first thing most people think of when they think of the ‘silly season’.  Most of us know that alcohol and our livers are not good friends.  In fact, alcohol consumption can affect many different systems not just the liver.  Alcohol directly damages the stomach wall causing inflammation and alcohol is also a nervous system depressant, which can lead to mood change, irritability and depression – especially over time or with excess consumption.

The amount of alcohol that a person can safely consume is highly individual, depending on age, sex, weight and family history.  So the festive message is to be mindful of the affects that alcohol has on your body and take it easy.  Pace yourself with drinks (no more than one per hour) and drink hydrating water in between alcoholic drinks to avoid dehydration which is the major cause of hangovers.   You can easily make festive non-alcoholic drinks with plain mineral water by adding lime, mint and berries. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed on an empty stomach, so be sure to always eat something when you are having a drink.  Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should completely avoid alcohol. Supplementing with a multivitamin that contains good amounts of B vitamins is also a good idea to support your health especially at this time of year.

With all the socialising that comes with the festive season, many people not only drink too much but often end up eating too much food and more of the wrong kinds of food.  Finger foods at functions are often high in refined flour products and sugar and may be cooked in trans fats.  Try to avoid foods with artificial flavours, colours and preservatives which stress the liver and kidneys. Choose where possible healthy options such as raw vegies with dips, cheese, wholemeal pitta breads, succhi, fruit platters and nuts.  Avoid over eating by not eating lots of nibbles before dinner.  When planning your menus think about choosing lighter alternatives such as fresh seafood, salads, fruit and cheese instead of a hot, traditional festive lunch or dinner.  Also try to keep up your exercise routine, and think of swimming when the weather is too hot for other exercise.

Many of my patients find the festive season very stressful emotionally.  Some people are not close or compatible with their family and find getting together very difficult.  While others might feel lonely spending Christmas miles away from their family.  Regardless of our situation, nearly everyone gets a bit overwhelmed with the sheer busyness of the festive season.  However, we can approach Christmas with a different attitude and take time out for ourselves to reflect on the year, our friends and family.  This is particularly helpful with children who can get too easily caught up with the commercialism of the season.

Remember what the underlying meaning of this time of year is and seek to be more peaceful and content with simple pleasures.  We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful natural environment – so connecting to nature through the sea or the bush can bring much needed peace.  Try not to fill the social calendar to capacity, allow some time for a quiet night or day. Lastly, it is essential to try and get good quality and sufficient sleep as this will help recharge your batteries.  This might even mean taking a siesta - something we shouldn’t feel guilty about at this time of year!

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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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