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Teen Depression & Diet

The Role of Diet in Depression

I came across a new study last week that made me laugh out loud. Literally. It was one of those moments when you see research that is proving something that is so obvious and part of my known reality, that it seems comical that the research findings are showcased as if it is a new breakthrough in understanding.

The source of my latest moment of research happiness came when I read about Australian research intervention into teenage and young adult depression and diet. The researchers put a group of depressed teens and young adults (17-35yrs) on a healthy diet for just 3 weeks and found that by the end of the study, most had improved to the point that they no longer fit the diagnostic criteria for depression. Yep, that is it. Dietary change had a better statistical result than antidepressants and in only three weeks! The dietary recommendations to the study participants involved increasing their intake of a broad healthy range of fruit, vegetables, wholegrain and cereals, natural dairy products, lean protein, fish and other seafood, olive oil, nuts and seeds, olives or avocado and spices.

Although it seemed like a 'no-brainer' to me, I was actually happy to see this latest research show to the world how a simple dietary intervention for depression is plausible and effective. And despite my humour, my tongue is firmly in my cheek, because as well all know depression itself is no laughing matter and it is a growing concern. According to the WHO*, depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide. Depression rates in American teens have risen by over 50% in the past decade. According to Beyond Blue, one in sixteen Australians are currently experiencing depression.

Of course many different things contribute to depression and the alarming increase over the past decade in youth and young adults has been linked to social media, screen time, poor sleep and sedentary habits. A new theory has even found that antidepressants appear to work by attenuating our body's use of light in neurotransmitter synthesis such as melatonin and serotonin. Using screens at night disrupts this natural circadian cycle and causes a chronic jet lag scenario, which includes depression as a side effect. Of course, if antidepressants are possibly working by increasing sensitivity to light, then we can invest in more sunlight, which is the most powerful enhancer of mood and circadian regulation, rather than need antidepressants. Many of you would know, I have a passionate interest in this topic and have been following the benefits of sunlight in human health and disease for some time....you can read further here.

Anyway, despite all this compelling and interesting research, I was happy to see more researchers expanding their criteria for depression to see if dietary habits played a role, however I was not at all surprised at their findings.

Having good mental health requires a whole swathe of nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium. In addition, the amino acids derived from protein are required to make neurotransmitters. Many brain pathways that impact on depression risk are modulated by nutritional intake. These pathways include everything from mitochondrial function and inflammation levels through to interactions with the gut microbiome. So it is no surprise that the research intervention found that a healthier diet was an effective treatment for depression!

The role of diet in different aspects of health continues to be examined across many research areas including mental health. However, while natural therapists like myself, have always known of the connection between depression and diet and have utilised it in our treatment strategies, oddly enough it has really only been examined in mainstream research for the past 10 years or so.

A recent study in the USA also found a link between fast food intake and depression in young adolescents. The Mediterranean style diet has also been shown in a number of studies to reduce depression risk. One large study examined populations consuming different diets and found that people following a more Mediterranean-like diet had a 33 percent lower risk of developing depression compared to those whose diet least resembled a Mediterranean diet. Other studies have examined the impact of inflammatory foods on the risk of depression and found that those who avoided inflammatory foods such as sugar, processed grains and unhealthy fats had a 24% reduced risk for depression.

Teenagers are known for their desire for freedom and independence and many parents have less control over what their teenagers eat. However, if you can ensure that at least breakfast and dinner are healthy, they will probably have less negative impact from any additional junk food consumed during their social activities. Educating them about the importance of healthy food starts young, but many teens will still listen and take in the message when they are suffering from mood changes, skin issues or poor energy...even if they appear to be ignoring you!

So the take home message if you have a teenager in your world, is to ensure that their diet is as nutritious as possible and create firm boundaries around phone use at night, and I am sure you will be rewarded with a happier teen! And of course if you are an adult suffering from depression, make sure you also follow this simple advice and please seek help from a healthcare professional if you need more support. ūüôā

References:

Food variety and a healthy diet

Variety in our diet is super important! But did you know that many average Australians might only include about 10 different foods a day?

The latest 2018 government statistics released last year present a very sobering picture of the Australian diet. Only a dismal 5% of adults were meeting the recommended daily intake of 2 serves of fruit and 5 or more serves of vegetables. All Australian age groups including children as young as 2-3 years old were reported to be having too much sugar and too many unhealthy foods that are low in nutritional value. These so called 'discretionary foods' account for over a third of the daily diet across the different population groups. For children, sweet biscuits, cakes and muffins, potato chips, corn chips, pastries, ice cream, soft drinks and fried potato products are leading contributors to discretionary food intake. While in adults these foods were combined along with alcohol to make up the vast proportion of unhealthy food intake.

"Australians of all ages generally are considered to have a poor diet‚ÄĒthat is they do not eat enough of the 5 food groups and eat too many discretionary foods high in salt, fat and sugar. Inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption in particular is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and overweight and obesity. "

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/food-nutrition/reports
Junk food makes up a large proportion of most Australian's daily diet!

While we are encouraged to eat five serves a day of vegetables, most Australians only average around 2-3 servings. The other thing that was not highlighted, but one I find essential to mention is the importance of different types of veggies. For instance, you could have tomatoes with your fried eggs for breakfast, tomato with your ham sandwich at lunch and then some tomato with lettuce at dinner. This might be considered three serves, but really it is just the one vegetable. Likewise, the grain servings make no distinction between types of grains, so having weetbix for breakfast, wheat bread sandwich for lunch and then wheat pasta for dinner, would be considered three serves of grains, but really it is just three serves of the one type of wheat grain. Clearly, this might be meeting serving requirements for the food groups, but obviously makes no contribution to getting a broad diversity of foods.

So how do you measure up?

Most of you who have seen me in clinic would have probably recorded your diet for an average week. While this gives me valuable information about the food choices you make and what your nutrient intake is, many people also find it is an eye-opening exercise. The fact is, many people think they are eating healthier than they actually are! So take a good look at what you are eating and see how it can be improved. I can help you with this during a consultation, but it is good to start the reflection for yourself.

So the purpose of this article is to mainly get you eating more variety! Food variety and a healthy diet go hand in hand. So start this initial journey by recording and counting all the different types of foods you have eaten over the past few days. When we are considering food variety and the task of recording all the different foods for the variety challenge, it is important to note that when we are adding up all the different foods ingredients we might eat, we are not including all the unwanted ingredients hidden in many processed foods as part of our score! We are just want to add up the 'real foods' that we consume. If you aren't sure of the difference between 'real foods' and 'processed foods', then take a look at my previous article on this topic. Though with all this in mind, you could certainly keep a separate record to see what chemical preservatives, flavours and colours you are unwittingly consuming in some of the foods you eat, it may surprise you!

What Did Our Hunter Gatherer Ancestors Eat?

In contrast to our limited food choices here in our modern industrialised country, I was intrigued to learn recently of how many different foods some hunter gatherer cultures traditionally got into their diet! While it is hard to know exactly what our ancestors ate, we do know from fossil records that humans were generally very adept at making use of as many different plants and animal foods as possible from their local environments. Check out this article for an interesting look at our ancestral food choices. Really when we have never before had so much knowledge of food and the capacity to grow and source foods from different regions with modern transportation it is very sad that our dietary choices are still so limited. Being so removed from nature and where our food really comes from is a major part of the modern problem, along with the convenience of fast foods, takeaway and the savvy marketing of convenience meals. It is time to get educated, make some changes and be more aware and responsible for improving our diet!

Take the 7 Day Variety Challenge

So why don't you take up my challenge and see if you can expand your food choices over the next month or so. There are many benefits for our body by including different types of foods. The most obvious first one to consider is that when we eat a broad variety we get exposed to more potential nutritional sources. Other hidden benefits of including a diversity of plant foods in particular is getting the many phytochemicals they contain. Plants contain lots of goodies, aside from vitamins and minerals, such as compounds that have antioxidant, anticancer and cardiovascular benefits.

Another often forgotten benefit of including a wide variety is our microbiome. The microbiome refers to our diverse gut bacterial colonies, who need many different foods for fuel. Different diets will favour different types of bacteria, and our bacterial ratios will change even after one different type of meal to our normal meals. To have a truly healthy microbiome we need plenty of different foods, especially the fibre rich plant foods that provide prebiotic fuel for our bugs, and this helps to keep our bacterial diversity robust. Learn more about fermented foods and the microbiome.

So as part of my 7 day Variety Challenge I have made a little cheat sheet with a list of loads of different types of foods in each food group category. See if you can get at least 50 different foods over the course of 7 days.

Download my Food Variety Challenge record sheet.

Keeping a record helps you be more aware and inspired to maintain the healthy habits into the future. I would love to see your lists and see what creative recipes you have come up with and the amazing variety you can include! Involve your kids and the rest of the family and help to raise awareness. Children's eating habits generally inform their life long eating habits, so it is so important to start educating them when they are young. Encourage your kids to keep a record of what they eating too, and young children can even keep a visual food diary where they draw the foods they eat or stick pictures in a scrapbook. Get them to try new things and make it a fun challenge. The more foods you include, the better it is!

Remember, one great way of getting more diversity with your vegetables and plant foods is to include wild foods like weeds! Check out my video on youtube for inspiration to get harvesting. Weeds can be included in green smoothies, added to salads and cooked in stirfries and soups. Check out my super food salad below with over 10 different salad greens and weeds as well as avocado, carrot, sweet potato, cabbage, toasted pepitas, almonds and goat's feta....that's 17 ingredients in one salad, not including the homemade dressing!

Remember, that local and seasonal foods are still highly recommended, which helps us eat local and cut back on food miles as well as ensuring we are getting the best and freshest foods in our diet!

So I hope you are inspired to take up my 7 Day Variety Challenge and start building your health and resilience today!

Eat Your Weeds!

The humble dandelion!
A weed with super nutrition and medicine for the kidneys and liver

Exploring the Benefits of Weeds

Everyone is big on superfoods these days, but maybe the best superfood of all is growing right in your backyard! Unlike many superfoods that travel across the world, clocking up huge food miles before they end up on your plate, nature provides us with simple weeds, growing abundantly and freely in everyone's neighbourhood. The benefits of weeds are many and varied!

While weeds are often relegated to the compost heap or dowsed with toxic herbicides like glyphosate, these much maligned plants are possibly one of our best sources of both food and medicine! Wild plants generally have much higher nutritional composition than cultivated plants, being clever at mining the soil for minerals and they also tend to be more resilient and strong, producing important phytochemicals that help them prevent disease and pest attacks. These same phytochemicals are capable of interacting with our body and offering many benefits such as anticancer, antioxidant, antimicrobial and immune regulating actions.

Watch my video below to learn more about incorporating a few wild plants into your diet!

Many of the wild weeds and plants growing locally in many parts of Australia are edible and nutritious and also in many cases contain a treasure trove of important phytochemicals and medicinal ingredients.

Weeds to look out for include: Fat Hen, Green Amaranth, Nodding Tops, Dandelion, Chickweed, Cobbler's Pegs, Purslane, Warrigal Greens, Cleavers, Wood Sorrel, Chicory, Fennel, Cress, Shepherd's Purse, Prickly Lettuce and Plantain to name just a few!

A few things to be aware of when foraging wild plants and weeds:
  1. Correct identification - be sure that the plant you are eating is the plant that you meant to eat! Many plants can look similar to other plants, so consult a good field guide. See below for resources.
  2. Oxalic acid - some wild plants (and some cultivated greens like silver beet and kale) contain high amounts of oxalic acid or calcium oxalate which can bind minerals and contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Cooking greens high in oxalates breaks them down, making them safer to consume. Otherwise be sure to choose the younger leaves when planning to eat them raw in a salad, and just don't have too many at once!
  3. Sprays! - unfortunately most people don't know about or appreciate the important health benefits contained in wild weeds, so they are targeted with toxic herbicides like glyphosate (eg. roundup). If you are gathering wild greens in public places, be sure that the area hasn't been sprayed to avoid getting unwanted chemicals in with your wild foods.
  4. Don't over harvest! - when gathering wild foods it is very important to not take a whole colony of a plant at once. Leave a few plants or fruits to allow the plant to reproduce (so there will be more for next time!) and also to share with other people or animals who also want a free feed! Sustainability and respect for the earth is a major part of the deal with wild food foraging.

Ensuring you get the right species is essential when foraging for wild greens. Adding colourful flowers like this red clover into salads, makes "eating the rainbow" easy and most flowers are chock full of vitamin C and energy!

So next time you are out in the backyard, or going for a hike in your local area check out what wild plants are growing and forage for fun, nutrition and medicine!

Resources & Field Guides

Unfortunately some of the good resources I use and recommend are now out of print! Here is one good one below and in November this year, there will be a great new book out on weeds, called Wildcraft by my good friend and colleague Heidi Merika....stay tuned!

5G safety concerns

5G Safety Concerns

As a health care provider, I have been an active advocate for reducing exposure to wifi devices and mobile phones for many years, and have closely followed the research into the various potential health impacts of this technology. You can see other articles I have written and my webinar for more detailed back ground information on this topic. As it is a constantly changing landscape with new technology coming onto the market all the time, it is time to write an update, particularly on the 5G network and related technology...

Of recent concern, is the imminent launch of the new 5G technology, which is being promoted as the vehicle that will deliver faster wireless speeds for mobile and internet users and will also spur new innovation for internet-connected devices. The internet-of-all-things (IOT) encompasses the new technological vision of a whole swathe of internet connected devices from self driving cars to smart devices and that is fast becoming a reality across the globe.

The new 5G network that is starting to be rolled out across many different countries will be substantially different than the existing 4G networks. This new technology employs waves of  different electromagnetic frequencies  - using a bandwidth of between 24-100 GHz, compared to 3-6GHz used in the current 4G network.

These smaller waves, know as millimeter-wave frequencies are more easily blocked by objects in the environment, such as trees and buildings, which necessitates erecting many small 'cell towers' around 100-500 metres apart to support the network. This means that dozens of these mini cell towers will likely be installed in your neighbourhood. Aside from been unsightly, these devices will continually emit millimetre wave frequencies and bathe neighbourhoods in radiation 24/7. Plans are also underway to install satellite cell towers in space that transit 5G technology, meaning that virtually no place on earth will be free from the impact of these unproven and potentially hazardous frequencies. Moreover, the delicate electromagnetic frequency of the earth, also known as Schumann resonances, may be influenced by this technology with unknown consequences on human and other biological life forms that have evolved on earth alongside this particular frequency and phenomenon.

Scientific literature has found that ambient electromagnetic fluctuations on the planet, such as geomagnetic activity, may affect the physiology and behaviour of  humans and other species. In particular the heart, brain and nervous system are highly sensitive to EMF. Research has found that EMF both from man-made and natural sources, can cause disruption to cardiac function and melatonin output by the pineal gland.* Adding a new frequency into the earth's atmosphere and locally on the ground with this new 5G infrastructure, it is impossible to predict the possible changes in life rhythms and biological functioning of different species on the planet, particularly at a time when we are already facing unknown consequences from imminent and rapid changes in climate conditions.

Scientists, doctors, allied health professionals and environmental experts from all over the world have banded together to express concern for this unprecedented change to the environment and potential human health impacts, with the 5G Space Appeal.  Research has conclusively shown that electromagnetic frequencies affect living organisms at levels well below most international guidelines, causing increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increases in free radicals, genetic damage, autoimmune disease, changes to the reproductive system, infertility, learning and memory deficits, cardiovascular and heart arrhythmias, neurological disorders, as well as disrupting the circadian rhythm of diverse life forms. The 5G technology and its high-frequency waves are absorbed into the skin and reach deeper into the body with sweat ducts potentially acting as antennas*. While some authorities argue that it is only a transient and surface penetration, my concern is the sheer magnitude and volume of the 5G tower network, that has the potential to be far a more pervasive and persistent exposure on the human body, than the current 4G technology. After all, 5G frequencies are already used in military protocols in the world's major defence departments as an effective non-lethal crowd control device known as the Active Denial System. The heating of the skin that these frequencies cause, creates an intolerable burning sensation that causes people to panic and flee.

Electrohypersensitivity syndrome(EHS) is now a known condition recognised by the WHO, diagnosed when people develop a range of health issues connected to exposure to electrical and electromagnetic frequencies. These individuals find it increasingly difficult to live in the modern wireless world and suffer from headaches, brain fog, heart palpitations, unexplained fevers, extreme fatigue, immune disorders and pain syndromes. Magda Havas PhD is a biologist, researcher and lecturer, who estimates that around 3% of the population have severe reactions to EMFs and another 35% are potentially compromised by EMF and experience symptoms such as poor sleep, anxiety, depression, brain fog and poor concentration.  Here is one personal case study that provides a detailed account of living with EHS.  It is impossible to know or even predict the potential implications for both the health and environmental impacts of 5G technology until we start to see the issues arising post roll out. As a health professional, it is difficult to ascertain the level of exposure and the unique sensitivity of each individual to these types of technologies and EMF. Many mysterious health issues that have no clear medical diagnosis may indeed be the result of cellular changes occurring in response to these frequencies.

The regulatory body in Australia (ARPANSA) whose job is to keep the Australian public safe and informed about radiation based issues, receives money from the telecommunication industry, posing an alarming conflict of interest. Moreover, their recent media statement on 5G seems to be out of step with the mounting evidence for EMF and specific health impacts. While they state they will continue to research frequencies above 6GHz, it seems that in the meantime we will remain the guinea pigs as this technology is being rolled out before the research has proven its safety.

Also of increasing concern is the fact that telecommunication companies have been making legislative inroads into federal government jurisdictions, to fast track the rollout and effectively eliminate local councils and the public's right to protest against or reject this technology being installed in their own backyard, school, workplace or neighbourhood. Interestingly, government documents on this issue seem to be largely concerned with safety of information and security of data rather than addressing health concerns and public safety.

It is time to get involved and help stop this new technology from being rolled out before it is proven to be safe for human and other life forms!

Sign the Australian petition to have your say....

And the 5G Space Appeal 

YouTube Preview Image

Let's research and employ safety standards for human and environmental health first before rolling this new technology out!

 

 

* References for further reading:
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656447/#!po=9.37500
  • https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00207459108985440
  • http://www.spirit-science.fr/ArchivesScientifiques/2001cherry-schumann-resonances.pdf
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29459303
  • https://principia-scientific.org/study-human-sweat-ducts-act-as-antennas-for-5g-radiation/

Seasonal Eating

Seasonal Eating

In years gone by, eating according to the seasons used to be a given. People wouldn't have talked about seasonal eating, because there was no alternative! 

Nowadays, we can access food grown right across the globe, all year round. As such, much of what we eat is often out of season. Aside from the environmental cost of food miles, it is important to know that our bodies have always lived close to nature and the seasons and may well do better on the foods grown locally, than the ones that come from another country, hemisphere or the opposite season. Many folk medicine traditions also recommend that locally grown herbs and weeds are often the best medicine for the local population, like some kind of reciprocal nature agreement!

‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚ÄčThe other advantage of seasonal eating is that it is¬†fresher, more nutritious and often cheaper to buy food that is in season,¬†especially organic produce. When there is an¬†abundance of the in season fruits and vegetables, it drives the prices down and makes them more affordable and easier to source.

When are disconnected from nature and the cycles of the earth, we often have no idea what food is in season and when. If you ask the average person when asparagus or cherries are in season, they might not know as these foods, which used to be available only with a short season, are now imported and seem to be around for most of the year. To keep food fresh and able to survive the long travelling distance has lead to genetic variations being developed that might make a food hardier and easier to transport, but less flavoursome and nutritious. Moreover, often chemicals are added to the produce to delay the deterioration, which isn't always the best or healthiest option either.

So although there can be quite significant geographical differences in locally grown produce across the vast country of Australia, the following list highlights foods that are readily available and in season during different seasons for most of Australia.

Experiment with vegetables or fruits that you maybe haven't tried before and try some new recipes!  A wide variety of plant foods means more of the powerful phytonutrients (healthy plant based goodies!) that our bodies love. Having actions that can include anticancer, antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti ageing - fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits can be medicine in our meals!

Download this handy seasonal food guide

 

 

Slow Cooked Kangaroo

Slow Cooked Kangaroo with Fig & Rosemary

 

Kangaroo is an under utilised Australian meat. For years this Australian emblem has been etched into our minds as a cute and cuddly cultural symbol. Because of this, kangaroo has remained for the most part far from our dinner plates. Meat culture in Australia follows a westernised diet of beef, lamb, pork, poultry and fish. We think nothing of consuming these animals giving little thought or consideration to the environmental impact our diets leave in their wake.

The beef industry is a major contributor to the production of methane gas, however new modelling shows that when including the carbon sequestration and storage of grassland pastures, the methane production is reduced compared to grainfed beef. Regardless of the difficulty in estimating the negative impacts of agricultural practices on the environment, we can all agree that using wild caught, sustainable produce is best. Kangaroo, an alternative source of red meat, has an array of benefits on both our health and the environment. Depending on the cut of meat chosen, Kangaroo lends itself well to BBQ, stirfries, mince based dishes such as Bolognese and slow cooking such as the recipe featured below.

Features of Kangaroo Meat:

  • Highest meat source of the essential fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid (five times higher than lamb) the beneficial conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and also contains omega 3 fats EPA/DHA
  • High in minerals iron and zinc and B vitamins
  • All kangaroo meat harvested is wild, with the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia implementing tough guidelines around harvesting.
  • Being a wild caught animal, it is free of antibiotics, growth hormones and other chemicals used in modern farming.
  • Kangaroo over-population (now considered to be at pest levels) caused by European settlement causes land degradation.

 

RECIPE

Serves 4-6
What You Need
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 100g chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed & chopped
  • 2 anchovies
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1kg diced kangaroo meat
  • 2 tablespoons of besan (chickpea) flour
  • 375mL red wine
  • 500mL beef stock
  • 8-10 dried figs (stalks removed)
  • 2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
What To Do

Preheat oven to 150¬įC or switch on slow cooker is using

Pour 4 tablespoons of oil into large frying pan.

Fry the onions, celery, rosemary and anchovies.

Once the onions are browned and beginning to caramelize, add the garlic and figs cooking for 2-3 minutes.

Add the wine and transfer mix to a large ovenproof baking dish or slow cooker pot.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in frying pan.

Lightly dust the kangaroo with besan flour and brown in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes

Transfer the kangaroo to the baking dish/slow cooker pot.

Heat the beef stock in the frying pan and once the stock is brought to the boil, pour over meat in the baking dish/slow cooker pot.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 3-4 hours or in slow cooker on low for 6-7 hours.

Transfer kangaroo to plate and allow to rest.

While the meat is resting, pour the cooking liquid into a frying pan.

Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce until liquid becomes a thick sauce ‚Äď add salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle the sauce over the meat and serve with steamed or wok tossed vegetables on the side and your choice of cauliflower mash or rice/quinoa/polenta.

 

 

Recipe adapted from the Warm; Kunara Cookbook (2015)

Medicinal Honey

Medicinal Honey

Exploring Manuka Honey & Jelly Bush Honey for Health

The therapeutic use of honey can be traced as far back as early Egyptian civilizations. Despite this long traditional use, it was not until the twentieth century that honey proved its worth in scientific trials. In the past 100 years countless studies have shown manuka honey and other medicinal honeys to offer an effective treatment of coughs, sore throats, burns, wounds and ulceration with far less side effects than other topical treatments such as silver sulfadiazine.

Honey & Coughs

Honey has also been found to be equally effective as cough medicines for soothing coughs. This research paper highlights that most prescribed and over-the-counter preparations for cough in children are not effective and might carry the risk of adverse events. A single dose of honey before bedtime was shown to diminish cough and the discomfort experienced by children and their parents. And only regular honey was used in this study, so we can imagine that medicinal honey would be even better!

Honey & Wounds

Honey’s wound healing properties are attributed to osmolarity, pH, hydrogen peroxide production and nutrient content. The high osmolarity of honey draws excess fluid from the wound helping relieve inflammation. pH refers to the level of acidity and alkalinity of an environment. The low pH of honey creates an acidic environment that reduces bacterial growth and stimulates wound healing. These factors work synergistically in creating a favourable environment in the wound bed during the early stages of healing.

Manuka Honey

Not all honey is created equal.  Manuka honey comes from flower nectar of the manuka bush Leptospermum scoparium, a plant indigenous to New Zealand. Although all honey possesses generalised antibacterial activity, Manuka honey is a cut above. These unique antibacterial and antifungal properties, discovered by researchers in 1981, is what sets this honey apart from the rest. New Zealand native bees do not produce honey, however, the European honey bee was introduced to New Zealand and became the source of local medicinal honeys.

Jelly Bush Honey

Australian Jelly Bush honey also possesses similar antibacterial properties to Manuka honey. The Jelly Bush or Golden Tea Tree plant, Leptospermum polygalifolium, grows in certain areas of the coast between Kempsey and Bribie Island as well as in Far North Queensland. Tasting a lot like paperbark honey, with a strong malt taste, Jelly Bush honey is only produced in the spring when the coastal heath explodes into a shower of tiny flowers that the local bees love. Some say that Australian Jelly Bush does not crystallise as readily like its competition across the Tasman, making it superior for skin wounds that refuse to heal. The Australian Aborigines have a long history of using native bees - harvesting both honey, pollen and wax for many applications. See this article for more info.

How Medicinal Honey Works

The chemical compounds hydrogen peroxide, methylglyoxal and dihydroxyacetone give active honeys their antibacterial power. These compounds, also known as the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is what Manuka honey is graded on. So far researchers world wide have not been able to identify all the exact compounds in the plant that the bees harvest and are specifically responsible for the efficacy of the active honey.

Image courtesy of Dr Ben McKee, Managing Director of Capilano Honey Ltd (2018)

Methylglyoxal (MGO) has been shown to be effective against the following bacteria infamous for causing skin infections, leg ulcers and peptic ulcers:

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • Psuedomonas aeurginosa
  • Proteus mirabilis
  • Enterobacter cloacae
  • Helicobacter pylori

 

Grading System

Most manuka honeys use the UMF grading system. This grading system was set up by the UMF Honey Association of New Zealand (UMFHA) to ensure industry standards.  Another standard commonly referenced is the MGO level or methylglyoxal content.

Below is a conversion chart to help understand the two systems:

Image courtesy of Comvita (2018)

Active Honey Doesn’t Come Cheap!

The price of manuka honey is dependent upon the UMF or MGO rating. A higher rating denotes that the honey has a greater therapeutic effect and therefore a higher price. Because there are two grading systems, it is easy to get confused between what each means. UMF is largely thought of as the better grading system because it not only takes into account the methylglyoxal content but also the hydrogen peroxide and dioxyacetone levels. In a nutshell the higher the number, the better the honey. Active honey can range in price from $20 to $80 for a 250g jar ‚Äď depending on its activity rating. I stock the Active Jelly Bush Honey in my Buderim clinic for $35 for UMF 15.

So while we need to be mindful of consuming too much sugar and honey is no different, active honeys from Manuka or Jelly Bush offer health benefits as well as a sweet taste.  Using these honeys topically on wounds, for inflammation and for a local antiseptic action on sore throats or for coughs is a great way of getting a simple natural remedy we can use at home!

 

 

lymphatic system

Lymphatic System

A key player in immunity, detoxification and overall health!

The lymphatic system is one that is regularly overlooked when it comes to health. Comprised of a complex interrelated network of vessels and lymph nodes as extensive as the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system is vital in maintaining our life force. The lymphatic system also includes the organs of the spleen and thymus gland as well as the tonsils and adenoids ‚Äď highlighting its importance in immune function as well.

The lymph and its special role in regulating an entire host of functions, has historically held great importance in cross cultural medicinal traditions. Hippocrates, the father of both western and herbal medicine, was the first ever to document what we now know as the lymphatic system in the Hippocratic treatise ‚ÄėOn Glands‚Äôor Peri adenon.¬† Since ancient times our knowledge of the lymphatic system has deepened although much of our understanding remains the same. Hippocrates postulated that lymph glands both attracted and received fluid and that the fluid or moisture in the body caused these lymph nodes to become overfilled in times of illness and imbalance.¬†Contrast this to our current understanding and it is clear that not much has changed. Our current understanding of the lymphatic system‚Äôs role, though much more detailed than what Hippocrates first proposed, includes fluid regulation, waste removal and filtration and immunity.

 

Fluid Return

Our lymphatic system is the little brother to our cardiovascular system. Our heart and blood vessels work hard to deliver much-needed nutrients and oxygen around our body. Due to complicated reasons, the exchange of blood that happens at our tissues results in a little more fluid being given to our cells than received back by our blood vessels. This difference in fluid is where the lymphatic system comes in. The lymphatic vessels collect this extra cellular fluid and return it to the heart via a complex network of vessels and lymph nodes.

Without a proper functioning lymphatic system, fluid accumulates resulting in swelling and oedema. In naturopathic philosophy there are certain constitutions that are more prone to lymphatic congestion. If you find you are prone to swollen lymph nodes and oedema there are certain things that can be done to support your lymphatic system.  However, please note that if you are experiencing oedema of any kind it is best to talk to your medical practitioner to rule out any serious health conditions.

As the lymphatic system is comprised of vessels that run towards the heart, for most of the time the flow of lymph is fighting against gravity. Unlike the blood vessels that are aided by the strong muscular force of the heart beat to transport blood, the lymphatic vessels rely on a more passive process of muscular contractions to help direct the flow. This is why lymphatic swelling is usually located in the lower limbs ‚Äď it is hard work moving against the downward forces of gravity. Manual manipulation can be used in cases of insufficient lymph flow to support the return of fluid back to the cardiovascular system. As the lymph vessels are located superficially ‚Äď quite close to the skin surface, gentle pressure is best. Ways to support the lymph flow manually include a specific type of massage, known as lymphatic drainage massage, usually perfomed by a remedial masseuse or alternatively dry skin brushing that you can do yourself.

Dry skin brushing is a traditional technique used and recommended by natural health practitioners to encourage the drainage of lymphatic vessels. It involves applying a light amount of pressure to the skin using a soft-bristled brush in long stroke motions towards the heart. (NB: we sell these dry skin brushes over the counter at Noosa Holistic Health).

Another lifestyle recommendation that has been shown to improve lymphatic flow is movement. As mentioned above, muscular contraction aids the flow of lymph, so a sedentary lifestyle can aggravate lymph congestion. Whereas engaging in mild to moderate exercise ‚Äď including simple walking and yoga, causes the muscles surrounding lymph tissue to contract helping to push the lymphatic fluid towards the heart thereby promoting clearance. Rebounding, which involves bouncing on a mini trampoline, is an excellent exercise to promote lymphatic flow as the gentle movements work against gravity.

There are certain herbal remedies with an affinity for the lymphatic system and fluid balance, such as dandelion leaf, calendula, red root, violet and cleavers. Incorporating herbal teas into your diet and ensuring you are drinking enough water are gentle ways of supporting lymphatic flow. For a more tailored and therapeutic approach consulting a naturopathic physician may be more appropriate for longstanding lymphatic congestion. 

 Immunity & Toxin Clearance

Lymph nodes are bean-shaped organs situated along the lymphatic vessels. There are approximately 500 lymph nodes within our bodies ranging in size from 1mm to 4cm. Their job is to filter unwanted pathogens such as bacteria and viruses from the blood and toxins from the environment. Sometimes lymph nodes become overwhelmed from the pathogens they are trying to destroy or the toxins they are trying to clear. High levels of bacteria or viruses might get trapped in the node, but due to an insufficient immune response these pathogens are not dealt with effectively. Likewise, if we are exposed to a higher burden of pollution or toxins, there may be a localized swelling as the toxins are cleared.  Both of these issues can result in lymph node swelling. Painful lymph nodes usually occur during infection whereas lymph node swelling not associated with pain or tenderness can be a sign of certain types of cancers. In cases of chronic lymph node swelling not associated with infection, it is best to consult your doctor for further investigations.

As the lymphatic system is so intrinsically linked to our immunity it is important to not only support the flow of lymph but also the immune system when addressing lymphatic congestion. It should come as no surprise that eating foods high in antioxidants and fibre supports your immune system. When fighting infection both the immune system and the bacteria and viruses themselves can produce chemicals and toxins that promote inflammation. Antioxidants help reduce this inflammation and promote healing. Usually most people think of fibre for improving gut function and regulating bowel motions. In addition to these actions, fibre also provides our healthy gut microbes with food. About 80% of our immune system resides in our gut and is influenced by the microbes that inhabit our colon. Supporting a healthy microbiome (the collective term for our friendly inhabitants) also supports a healthy immune system.

Given our current lives, most of us do not get enough sunlight to support the production of vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating our immune system and there are other important health benefits from exposure to natural sun light and full spectrum light. An article detailing the importance of sunlight exposure and vitamin D can be found here.

So all in all, a healthy diet, fresh air, regular exercise and keeping hydrated with pure water, will go a long way to support our lymphatic system ‚Äď one of our most important, but often overlooked pathways of detoxification and immune function. If extra support could be beneficial for you to promote specific aspects of immunity or detoxification, then consider a tailored approach of herbs and nutrients to optimise your lymphatic system by seeing Karen for an appointment.

 

 

 

Paleo Muesli

Natural Muesli Recipes

for Busy Mornings

Popping some muesli and yoghurt in a jar can give you a healthy breakfast to go for those busy mornings!

It is important to start your day the right way with a decent amount of protein, fats and fibre. Sometimes our busy lifestyles prevent us from chowing down on a serving of eggs and veg, and ironically these more stressful times are the periods we need these food groups the most. Often when our busy lives prevail we reach for a less-healthy, more convenient breakfast food like cereal.

Muesli, like all cereals, should be thought of as an occasional alternative to a more protein rich breakfast. We can also get sick of having eggs every morning and sometimes we just need a bit of variety. While many cereals are loaded with unnecessary sugars, when we make our own wholeseome muesli we can be more in control of the fuel we give our body on those busy mornings when we need it most. Here are two recipes that you can try:

 

Toasted Oat, Macadamia & Cranberry Muesli Recipe

Why it’s good

Oats are a good source of B-complex vitamins, protein, amino acids and minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc and iron. As well as being a valuable source of these nutrients, oats contain a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, to which most of the food’s health benefits are owed:

  • Beta-glucans increase bile acid synthesis that¬†inadvertently decrease blood serum cholesterol
  • Being a soluble fiber, beta-glucans slow¬†stomach emptying thereby reducing the rise of blood glucose following a meal

Cranberries outrank many other common fruits and vegetables in antioxidants, with an antioxidant (ORAC) score of 8,983 per cup of whole cranberries. See this article for a discussion of the ORAC score and antioxidant ratings for many superfoods.

What further sets cranberry apart from others in the fruit family is it’s high content of A-type-proanthocyanidins, a more biologically stable counterpart of B-type-proanthocyanidins found in other fruits.

Coconut is a good source of copper, manganese, selenium, iron and potassium as well as being high in lauric acid, an essential saturated fatty acid that promotes HDL (the good cholesterol) and also weight loss.

Macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to improve blood lipid profiles and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

 

Ingredients: What you need
  • 2 cups of rolled oats
  • ¬Ĺ cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 cup of shredded coconut
  • ¬Ĺ cup of macadamias (raw or roasted)
  • ¬Ĺ cup of sunflower seeds
  • ¬Ĺ cup of pepitas

*This recipe makes enough for about seven servings

Method: What to do

Toast oats in oven, spread out on a tray until they develop a slight golden colour

Chop cranberries and macadamias roughly

Combine all other ingredients with oats, macadamias and cranberries

Serve up a bowl and enjoy your delicious yet nutritious muesli with your choice or milk or yoghurt and fresh fruit if desired.

 

Paleo Alternative

Why it’s good

Walnuts contain almost double the antioxidants compared to other nuts such as almonds and pistachios. They also contain the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA is renowned for its protective effects in the cardiovascular system whereas DHA is important in brain and eye health.  

Pecans, like other nuts,¬†contain a plethora of healthy fats and minerals. Contrary to popular belief these fats actually improve weight loss and reduce weight gain. This is because eating a diet high in healthy fats (and low in carbohydrates) helps our body switch from burning sugar to burning fat for energy. An additional benefit of these fats is that we stay fuller for longer as these fats suppress the ‚Äėhunger hormone‚Äô ghrelin.

Cacao powder, the unrefined brother of cocoa, is a good source of magnesium and antioxidants but still provides the chocolate hit we all crave. Recent studies have shown cacao to improve pancreatic beta-cell functioning (the cells responsible for producing insulin). Increasing cacao (while limiting sugar) may improve blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of developing type II diabetes.

 

Ingredients: What you need
  • 1 cup of chopped raw walnuts
  • 1 cup of chopped raw pecans
  • 1 cup of shredded coconut
  • ¬Ĺ cup of macadamias
  • ¬Ĺ cup of sunflower seeds
  • ¬Ĺ cup of pepitas
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, rice malt syrup or honey
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons of cacao powder

*This recipe makes enough for 7 servings

Method: What to do

Mix ingredients together. It can be easier to mix the coconut oil, syrup and cacao powder together first before mixing it with the nuts and seeds. Spread onto a baking tray.

Toast muesli in oven on a low-medium setting for 10 minutes, stirring half way through to ensure even toasting.

Serve up a bowl and enjoy your delicious yet nutritious muesli with your choice of milk or yoghurt and a few mixed berries if desired.

 

 

 

 

References:

Martin, M.A., Ramos, S., Cordero-Herrero, I., Bravo, L., & Goya, L. (2013). Cocoa phenolic extract protects pancreatic beta cells against oxidative stress. Nutrients, 5(8), 2955-2968, 10.3390/nu5082955.

Feinle-Bisset, C., Patterson, M., Ghatei, M.A., Bloom, S.R., & Horowitz, M. (2005). Fat digestion is required for suppression of ghreline and stimulation of peptide YY and pancreatic polypeptide secretion by intraduodenal lipid. American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism, 289(6), 948-953, https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.00220.2005.

Prior, R.L., Lazarus, S.A., Cao, G., Muccitelli, H., & Hammerstone, J.F. (2001). Identification of procyanidins and anthocyanines in blueberries and cranberries (Vaccinium spp.) using high-performance liquid chromatography/Mass spectrometry. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, 49(3), 1270-1276, 10.1021/jf001211q.

Ho, H.V.T., Sievenpiper, J.L., Zurbau, A.L., Mejia, S.B., Jovanovski, E., Yeung, F.A., Jenkins, A.L, & Vuksan, V. (2016). The effect of oat beta-glucan on clinical lipid markers for cardiovascular disease risk reduction: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Federation of American Sciences for Experimental Biology, 30(1), 10.3945/ajcn.116.142158.

eczema psoriasis natural treatments

Eczema and Psoriasis Natural Treatments

Getting to the Root Cause

Eczema is commonly a red, dry, itchy rash

Our skin is a major part of our immune system, and literally covers our insides to protect and shielf us from the outside world. Two of the most common disorders that affect the skin are eczema and psoriasis. Conventional management of eczema involves the identification and avoidance of allergens and aggravating factors, beyond this little is done to address the underlying cause. Pharmaceutical management usually relies heavily upon creams containing glucocorticoids and histamine blockers to reduce inflammation and histamine respectively. This limitation in treatment is because conventional treatment tends to view conditions and body systems in isolation of one another. However in more recent years, novel new treatments involving UV light therapy are showing good results for psoriasis.  Known risk factors for both eczema and psoriasis include food allergens, atopic family history, psychological stress and toxin exposure.

Underlying Causes

Psoriasis has thick scaly lesions

When viewing eczema and psoriasis through a naturopathic framework it is easy to see how food allergens, psychological stressors and toxin exposure contribute to the development of these conditions. Eczema and psoriasis are largely driven by an overstimulated immune system. Eczema is a hypersensitivity type-1 reaction, meaning that the condition is driven by an allergic response. The allergen causes chronic inflammation and activation of the innate immune system. Psoriasis, a much more complex condition involving increased cell turnover and skin keratinisation, is driven by different immune system pathways often involving the adaptive immune system.

So what is the difference between the innate and adaptive immune system?

Innate immunity can be thought of as the body’s first line of defense. It involves immune cells and molecules that are non-specific. Allergic reactions are a result of activation of these innate immune cells and molecules. The adaptive immune system can be thought of as the body’s second line of defense. It involves immune cells that specifically target an invader or foreign substance. Both the innate and adaptive immune systems interact and work alongside one another to identify and resolve threats. The innate immune system includes immune cells known as eosinophils.

The immune system is busy defending us from the outside world deciding what is safe or harmful to us

It is these cells that the body uses to fight allergens through the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE). If the body becomes over sensitized to an allergen, the body produces too much of these eosinophils and IgE molecules. Eczema is a condition largely driven by this immune response resulting in local inflammation and histamine release. Though both the innate and adaptive system is involved in all immune system responses, the adaptive immune system is primarily implicated in the development of psoriasis. This condition is largely thought of as a type of autoimmune condition meaning the body produces specific immune cells that, due to a case of mistaken identity, attack cells of the body. This then results in cell death, increased cell turnover and thickening of the skin resulting in plaque formation.

Despite the differences between these two conditions, similarities exist. Both conditions are a result of immune system dysfunction.

Why Does The Immune System Go Awry?

 The immune system is responsible for our interactions with the outside world, and the majority of that interaction occurs in our gut. Seventy percent of our immune system resides in our gut in an area known as the Peyer’s Patch. The Peyer’s Patch is forever sampling the food we eat and the bacteria in our gut and deciding whether these molecules are friend or foe. When the Peyer’s Patch deems something to be a foe, a local immune system reaction occurs to protect the body. If our gut immunity is exposed to enough of these foes, chronic inflammation can occur. This inflammation causes the lining of our gut to become leaky allowing molecules to cross into our system. Our body initiates an attack on these molecules causing an allergic response. Through this, it is easy to see how food allergens and gut inflammation is a major causes of immune system dysfunction.  To learn more about food allergies versus intolerances, see my previous article.

Beyond Food - The Hidden Culprits

Gluten and other lectins in grains are often linked to autoimmunity and skin issues.

Gut immune reactivity is not only a result of the foods we knowingly consume but also the substances we ingest unknowingly. Pesticides, herbicides, food additives, preservatives and artificial colours are agents we ingest on a regular basis that our immune system also has to deal with. All of these substances place significant burden on our immunity and have been linked to the development of food allergens. For example, Glyphosate (round up) is a herbicide that is increasingly coming under the spotlight for its role in the development of a range of chronic conditions ‚Äď including autoimmunity, autism and cancer. It seems that the irritation on the gut wall by glyphosate opens the door and lets proteins and lectins through, including the problematic lectin, gluten. Gluten sensitivity is widely linked to many autoimmune conditions and I have found many cases of psoriasis and eczema to improve when following a low lectin and gluten free/grain free diet. ¬†Other food chemicals can cause histamine release and inflammation which also exacerabate immune issues and the skin.

To reduce immune reactivity it is therefore important to not only limit consumption of known allergenic foods such as gluten from wheat, casein from dairy and mold from peanuts but also limit our exposure to the more hidden chemicals found in our food. Choosing whole foods that are minimally processed and preferably organic foods wherever possible is very important. Check out my previous article here on organic foods and the different chemical load found in a variety of fresh foods left over from agricultural practices.

Personalised Treatments Work Best

When treating psoriasis or eczema it is important to get a personalized approach as these conditions need to be understood in a holistic and individualised way. Addressing diet change, gut health and repair is always a cornerstone of treatment, along with using a range of remedies ‚Äď both nutritional and herbal ‚Äď that are specific for skin health, immunity, gut repair and inflammation.

Our skin is our most major external defence against the outside world and its health is very important on our overall health. It is also one of the few areas we get to see the visible health of it. Afterall, most of our organs are hidden inside the body and we can’t see how they look to gauge their health. So perhaps we need to pay attention to our skin, teeth, hair and nails to receive important clues as to our overall health!

 

 

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To me Karen is an absolute angel! I highly recommend Karen to anyone who is going through the whole ‚Äėroller coaster‚Äô 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 ‚Äėmagic potion‚Äô 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‚Äôs rooms, I‚Äôm so glad that I found her I can never thank her enough for my positive out come!
Megan Wolarczuk
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