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Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry Syrup

The Elder tree is one of my favourite medicinal plants, and one that has a few options for using as a "food as medicine" plant. Both the flowers and the berries are medicinal but are also commonly used for culinary purposes, including the tasty Elderflower "Champagne" and Elderberry wine.

Elderflowers are used in medicine and for their unusual flavour in summer cordials and wines. After flowering, the flowers turn into berries, and become a potent medicine.
Elderflower 'Champagne', aka sparkling wine, is a delicious drink.

Native to Europe, the elder is well known deciduous hedgerow plant growing alongside roads and on the edges of towns in many parts of England and Ireland. It is a highly adaptable species however, and happily grows in many countries of the world, in many different climates, including Queensland, where it tends to flower and fruit many times a year, not just in the summer.

European Elder, Sambucus nigra, has a long history of use as a remedy for coughs, colds, allergies and fevers. It has received quite a bit of research over the last decade or so, confirming that the berries in particular, have proven medicinal actions.

The berries are rich in vitamin C, bioflavonoids and polyphenols, including anthocyanidin compounds, which are largely responsible for its medicinal action. The best known of these actions include antiviral, immune boosting, decongestant and anti-sinus actions. However, research has also found that elderberries demonstrate anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer actions. It also has a diuretic and mild laxative effect and can help support healthy blood sugar regulation.

It is important to not eat the berries fresh without cooking due to the presence of a cyanide like compound that can be toxic in large doses. Small doses may be tolerated, but it is best to err on the side of caution and cook all berries before consuming.

Elderberry harvest...do not eat berries fresh, they must first be cooked to remove toxins.

Thus elderberries can be made effectively into a syrup that preserves the berries and captures the medicinal components.

Please watch my YouTube video to learn how to make a Elder syrup at home and grab the recipe below.

Get the immune boosting recipe for Elderberry Syrup

If you would like to partake of the medicine of Elder but don't have time or means to make your own syrup, you can easily find commercially available tinctures and tablets.

Coronavirus Natural Solutions

Coronavirus Natural Solutions

The Coronavirus fear is sweeping the world and so instead of getting caught up in the panic, let's get the facts. Like any other challenge we might face in life, we do best when we handle it by gathering information and making informed choices and taking sensible action. In this post we will also look at coronavirus natural solutions.

The first thing I want to stress when it comes to this whole discussion is that our immune system is our best friend when it comes to defending us against any outside invader or pathogen. Having a robust immune system will mean that even if we contract an illness, we are more likely to deal with it well and make a full recovery. See below for my top tips for immune enhancement. Generally speaking, those who are already sick, frail or undernourished are more likely to suffer the serious consequences of any bacterial or viral infection.

Now let's look a little closer at the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic which began when people exposed to an unknown source at a seafood market in Wuhan province in China became ill in early December. The infection was thought to be from an animal source originally, but transmission between people has now been observed. Wuhan is a travel and trade hub of 11 million people, so public health officials were closely assessing exposure and contagiousness of the virus.

Total cases as of beginning of February is around 11,944 and the total deaths sits at 259. The latest estimates can be found at Flutrackers website.

How is the virus transmitted?

Much like SARS virus, (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), Coronaviruses are respiratory viruses, so they can be found in the nose, throat and lungs. They can be responsible for normal colds and influenza. The Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) appears to be mostly localised to the lung and has been causing pneumonia. Of the different modes of transmission between people, respiratory transmission is the most concerning, because infections spread most rapidly this way. Theres are two main ways that respiratory transmission occurs - either through large droplets (shorter range) and airborne transmission (smaller particles over longer distances). Airborne transmission is the most difficult to control, and can occur through coughing and sneezing.

Incubation rates are thought to be 2-7 days, but authorities are giving a safety margin of 14 days to try to halt the progression of infections.

While there has been an alarming spread of the disease, it is thought to be due to large numbers of people exposed, holiday time with more regional and international travel and now there is an increased surveillance and testing, so more diagnosed cases is probable. Current evidence suggests that widespread human-to-human transmission of the virus does not occur – with possibly only up to 5 persons (or even only 1 other person) infected by close contact with any one case. However, these estimates can change as new information comes to hand.

Identifying pre-existing risk factors

People with diabetes, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, renal failure or anyone who is immune compromised or suppressed due to other illnesses are likely to be at high risk for severe disease. In these cases it is possible to develop severe pneumonia, respiratory distress, renal failure and sometimes death. I would definitely recommend for people with pre-existing risk factors to be proactive and seek professional naturopathic support to boost their immune system.

So What Can We Do to Prevent or Treat it?

This is an area of discussion that is often missed in the mainstream media reporting who tend to focus on the scaremongering aspects. And from a mainstream perspective, they are just trouble shooting the symptoms and supporting the body with secondary issues. The main information about prevention that we get is to ensure good hygiene with hand washing and avoiding people with active infection.

From a natural health perspective, there are so many wonderful ways to enhance your immunity which will ensure the best response possible if you happen to be exposed to this or any other virus.  I have summarised the crucial things you can do to boost your immune response in a downloadable checklist.

Get My Immune Boosting Tips

So instead of living in fear and anxiety, which only serves to decrease our immune response, let's all choose to be proactive and positive. Supporting our body (and mind) to be the healthiest it can be is your best defence against any opportunistic infection

Until next time, stay well!

Karen

Bush Fire Musings

Like most people, the recent bushfires have been something I have been deeply moved by. The enormity and scale of the impact of these fires across Australia are hard to fathom. It sure is challenging to witness so much destruction of nature, wildlife and human lives. As such I have been trying to take the bigger spiritual viewpoint to help try to make sense of it all and find a semblance of peace even from the helpless place on the sidelines.

There is so much fear, hopelessness and negativity in the collective, but also so much fostering of community, strength, unity and true connection. I have watched media reports of people who lost their homes and aside from sharing the pain, shock and suffering a consistent message of a shared humanity, vulnerability and love also shined through.

One farmer stated something that was so moving, that it brought tears to my eyes. Despite perhaps finding it hard to easily express or share his feelings, he was able to convey the gratitude he felt from truly being met by friends, family and even complete strangers with the simplicity of a genuine deep and tight hug. This hug contained the non-verbal and universally understood message of human connection, empathy and love. And for this man, this hug delivered something that perhaps he hadn't quite experienced before and one I am sure he won't forget easily. Others who lost everything in the fires were able to reflect that at the end of the day, if you only have your life and all your stuff is gone, you come to realise you don’t need material goods – you just need each other.

Natural disasters bring a welcome benefit of human connection in their wake.

So there are always hidden benefits from tragedies such as these. We always see this coming together of community and get to witness ‘love in action’ after events like 9.11 and natural catastrophes. People unite through shared emotion and experience. At these times we are able to set aside socio-economic, racial, religious, political and gender divides and just meet each other in the naked vulnerability of our shared human story. We are all one in the end.

Moreover, we are one not just with our fellow humans, but we are also one with the earth. And in these times of natural disasters it is almost like the earth is doing the only thing she can to wake us up and to shake us into action and force us to really be here, to be in our hearts and get out of the complacency and illusion of the matrix. She wants us to be loving, conscious, cooperative and connected in light. We need to stop the conflict, fear, judgement, competition and the distraction of consumerism. We need to have the courage to create real change and do what we need to do, even if it is complex and challenging and messy.  If people are not willing to notice the divinity and beauty and magic of this amazing planet, until it is razed down in front of them….then maybe that is the ultimate sacrifice the earth is making.

The dragonfly makes the heroic journey from being born in water to taking flight in the air during its fascinating life cycle.

In my many years of practice as a naturopath and healer focusing on holistic and preventative health paradigms, I have to say that unfortunately for most of us human beings, the change that we require doesn’t come naturally. It often only comes when it is forced. We all know we ought to eat better and exercise more, but until we get a diagnosis of some kind that threatens our wellbeing and day to day life, we tend to take our bodies for granted and prefer not to make positive preventative changes. Necessity is the mother of invention and fear can be a motivating force for us to change. Unfortunately, Gaia - our beautiful planet, is treated much as we treat our own bodies. We fail to admire the inherent beauty, intelligence and majesty of our own body, we fail to properly take care of it, we imagine it will always be there for us, that it will keep providing for us with little fuss or input, like a silent, obedient servant. And then one day it doesn’t show up as expected, gives us discomfort or other signs or symptoms and we are forced to tune in and notice it - and hopefully be compelled to act differently to redress the imbalance that we caused, consciously or not.

Our body, like the earth, needs to be honoured and cared for not just when a crisis happens.

So from a higher perspective, it seems that this planet and humanity are maybe both mirroring each other and reflecting the crisis we are in. But inside the crisis a hidden evolution is taking place in our hearts and minds as well as in the earth. Most of us can see that the old paradigm is dying a miserable death. The old way of doing business built on competition, greed, endless economic growth and the survival of the fittest mentality is unsustainable and out of step with what is needed for a living, loving and dynamic future for all of us. In the wake of this necessary change is breakdown of the old and in some sense a certain amount of loss and destruction on many levels can be expected. 

Even as we observe that old species are dying, we also have to see that other species are evolving and adapting and new species are being born alongside them. We fail to see the next stage of growth unfolding in the evolutionary process when we are stuck in destruction, fear and despair or habitually clinging to the known and predictable reality of the past. Let's face it, it is scary to let go of our attachments and the comfort of our known reality and way of doing things. Instead of facing impending change with courage and valour most of us operate in avoidance, stick our heads in the sand and find all sorts of distractions and short term panaceas for our discomfort, rather than having to face ourselves, our habits and the state of play.

Dragonfly embracing the next leg of the journey in the cycle of life

Neither position is healthy – avoidance of the problem or clinging to the status quo - and so we must attempt to walk the middle path of consciousness and maturity. Embracing the ultimate impermanence of life and the inevitability of change whilst holding grace and gratitude for the things we love and an inner zeal to protect them.

It is no easy task, and one that I wrestle with daily.  Being in the now moment and welcoming the timeless grace of each new breath, like a new beginning. And in the next moment learning to embrace, let go and surrender control. I am learning to witness and reflect on every large and small death that occurs in my life - children growing up, relationship changes, treasured things lost, body getting older, favourite clothes worn out, pets dying, bugs eating my veggies...the list goes on.

There is so much opportunity to surrender and honour the beauty of this life journey in all its challenge and complexity. Maybe we all need to take a few lessons from nature on this. Learn to witness the constant cycle of life, death and rebirth that the earth parades before us season after season and learn from this. Can we open ourselves up to let go of what is no longer working, have the courage to make some tough decisions and at the same time celebrate the always emerging new cycle of evolution and becoming?

Life is both precious, magical and somewhat of a mystery. How are you going to live your life in this new now moment, on this day and every day to come?

2020 energies

Consciousness is shifting! The new Science meets Spirit

Overcoming the stress of modern life requires intention and attention.

Another decade has come to a close and a new one is beginning. The energies out in the world seem to be getting more chaotic. The daily news tends to bring us mostly issues of conflict, suffering and environmental problems. As a result for many of us, our own lives start to reflect what is going on globally. We get hardwired to look for problems, rather than solutions and we focus on our losses rather than our successes. And the truth of the matter is that what we focus on and give our energy to is what we create more of. This is true for structures at the broadest level of our society, such as government as well as for each of us, operating in the small microcosm of our own lives. Science has proven that our mindset is a powerful creative tool.  Our consciousness at both an individual and collective level is going through an upgrade, many of us are waking up to the chaos and unsustainability of the status quo world view and deciding that it isn't working and that change is in order.

So while all this chaos is going on around us, through our own conscious intention and attention we can still make a difference in our lives and the world. And in many ways, there is lots of support and inspiration available for us to do just that! The answers to many of the questions we face both individually and collectively require a merging of science and spirit, or in other words - we need to understand the hidden energetic aspects of our material world and move away from the reductionist viewpoint. Most modern diseases and societal dysfunction stem from the widespread epidemic of spiritual impoverishment. While that is perhaps a bold statement, the statistics tend to agree. We have never had such high levels of depression, anxiety, pharmaceutical prescriptions and addictions - and this is occurring across all age groups, from the young to the elderly and most cultures and countries share similar sobering statistics. On the other hand, interest in spiritual pursuits such as mindfulness, yoga and personal growth is also exploding to verge on being mainstream.

Consciousness is the key to the new paradigm for change.

With these things in mind, it seems that what the world really needs is a revolution and a reclaiming of the importance of spirit and the spiritual. Which, in the context of this article, I will loosely define as the invisible glue that connects us and makes life meaningful! And science is in some respects and perhaps unwittingly leading the way...

Diverse branches of science keep researching and finding explanations and solutions to many of the problems we face - whether they be environmental, economic or public health crises.  We just have to take the time to educate ourselves and tune in to the alternative world view to be inspired that positive change is on the horizon. The mainstream is on the tip of going through a big change and the science that is still operating on the relative fringes is increasingly giving us insights about another whole way of seeing the world. We are invited to move away from the biochemical world view as the dominant paradigm to the energetic or quantum physics framework as the true basis for life. And when we follow this trajectory of understanding, we often end up in a place that has traditionally been relegated to the world of mystery and spirit. This Ted Talk gives a nice overview of the way quantum theories are increasingly being used to explain biological actions in cells.

The new understanding of water sheds light on how energy is generated in cells.

As technology advances we are developing tools that can measure more easily the previously invisible energies - such as electromagnetic frequencies, biophotons, light and sound vibrations. And these frequencies now appear to be the true way cells communicate and interact with each other and the environment. Water and light in many ways hold the keys to life itself, and new discoveries are demonstrating that indeed, these elements are behind many intricate aspects of cell energy production and function. See Gerard Pollack's important work on this area.

Meanwhile the branch of science known as epigenetics suggests that our DNA is highly adaptable and responsive to our environment. The environment includes everything we are exposed to externally and internally, including the foods we eat, chemicals we breathe, the thoughts we think and emotions we feel. What happens in our bodies and what we pass on to our children is a direct result of our DNA and the dynamic way it can change in response to our experiences and the environment we inhabit. To make this work in our favour, we need to be aware and practice paying attention to our stress levels, habits and daily choices and make the effort to adopt healthier and more balanced ways of living.

While I have long explored, studied and practiced what I call 'mind-body medicine' I am excited about this next wave of new science that is taking our understanding of this phenomenon even further. Through the seminal works of individuals such as Bruce Lipton and Candice Pert, we were gifted the science demonstrating how thoughts, feelings and beliefs are capable of changing our physiology. But this whole new understanding of what we might call 'quantum biology' is taking these foundations in a whole new direction. Our cells are literally able to respond to our thoughts and feelings - which are directly related to the level of our consciousness. As such our bodies often carry the messages we need to be more aware of. The unexpressed or unresolved emotions and experiences we have become the symptoms and disorders of our body. Our body is trying to wake us up, to become more conscious and to remind us that we have fallen out of balance and need to make changes to live more in alignment with our true nature and what is most healthy for us. Our body reflects our consciousness and our consciousness in turn creates our body and physical experience of life.

We can make a difference, our DNA is hardwired for this new paradigm!

Moreover, new theories propose that the DNA molecule itself gives rise to human consciousness and that DNA possesses a degree of consciousness in its own right.  So in many ways the answer to our problems lies in our mysterious DNA as well as our consciousness. If our consciousness is something we essentially have control over, then it serves that we can control both our DNA expression and our cells, and in turn how our body functions.

So with all this new knowledge we have available to us comes a new form of power. Power to change our bodies, change our lives and change our world. Learning to overcome our limitations, harness our body's innate intelligence for finding balance, health and harmony and strive towards our best self is what I feel is possible for everyone and what this next decade will gift us, if we are willing! The more science merges with spirit and the more we find spirit permeating everyday life, the more humanity will start to serve a greater purpose and we will wake up and collectively rise to the responsibility we have as caretakers of this planet. We all need first to connect to the magic and spirit of our own true nature, notice the beauty all around us and feel gratitude for the gift of our lives. The change we need in the world starts with each of us individually stepping up and being in a higher consciousness where love, kindness, freedom and truth are the codes we live by, rather than greed, hatred, fear and judgement.

If you would like help in overcoming old stuck patterns, health issues holding you back from your full potential or face any other limitations, I would love to help you. Or if you would just like to be more present, conscious and aware and learn techniques to live a more meaningful and centred life, through engaging with meditation, spiritual practice, or counselling - then please get in touch.

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. 🙂

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—that 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 are two good ones below including the new release of a great new book out on weeds, called Wildcraft, by my good friend and colleague Heidi Merika.

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 

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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!

​​​​​​The 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°C 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 – 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)

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