Immune boosters

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 – 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 – 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 ‘On Glands’or 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’s 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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.

 

 

 

Turmeric

Turmeric Health Benefits

Turmeric, also know as Curcuma longa,  is a spicy perennial plant of the ginger family, (Zingiberaceae) with potent health benefits.

turmeric plantNative to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, Turmeric has been used for thousands of years for both medicinal, dyeing and culinary purposes in a range of cultures. Turmeric was often used as a cheap substitute for saffron to give fabrics or foods a bright yellow colour.

In recent years Turmeric has been under the spotlight and undergone much research. In particular the active ingredient Curcumin is the most potent agent of research. Curcumin is a polyphenol, a particularly beneficial molecule found in many fruits and vegetables. 

Curcumin, which gives the yellow color to turmeric, was first isolated in 1910. Traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine has long used Turmeric for a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including those of the skin, lung and digestion systems and for general aches, pains, wounds, sprains, and liver disorders. Extensive research within the last half century has proven that most of these activities, once associated with turmeric, are due to curcumin.

turmeric & gingerResearch has found that curcumin beneficially modulates many diseases including diabetes, fatty-liver disease, atherosclerosis, arthritis, cancer and neurological disorders such as depression, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. It's primary role is as a potent anti-inflammatory and many of the modern chronic diseases have an inflammatory component driving them. You can use curcumin for pain such as headaches, period pain and back or joint pain.

Curcumin also displays potent antimicrobial actions against different bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites and can play a role in antibiotic resistance. A synergy between curcumin and antibiotics has yielded favourable results in some studies, but caution is warranted against using it routinely with all antibiotics as curcumin has also been shown to decrease the efficacy of some classes antibiotics by mechanisms which protected the bacteria from the action of the drug. 1

Curcumin can be a bit difficult to absorb and the best results come from a supplement that is altered to ensure it is well absorbed. Specifically it needs the present of fat to aid absorption. While the absorption and bioavailability is something we always focus on, in some cases, turmeric still has a beneficial role even with poor absorption. Interesting new research has found that curcumin could maintain the intestinal integrity and improve the barrier of the gut and and thereby decrease the release of gut bacteria-derived lipopolysaccharide (LPS), even with marginal absorption.   High levels of circulating LPS are linked to chronic inflammation and many metabolic disease. 2

Supplements v Dietary Intake?

While using Turmeric in cooking is a great idea, it may be difficult to get high amounts of the active ingredients in cooking.  Absorption is definitely enhanced by fats and black pepper - which is why these ingredients appear in the classic Golden Paste recipe. There will be many benefits from eating fresh or dried turmeric root as a regular part of your diet, but if you are after a superior action on inflammation, pain, bacteria or cancer, it will be more useful to take a quality supplement. Moreover, many people get sick of the turmeric taste in their cooking and may find it hard to get sufficient turmeric into their diet or regularly enough to have a big impact.

curcumin capsulesSupplements should have concentrated amounts of curcumin and also be combined in a way to enhance absorption - such as including the addition of liposomes or phospholipid complexes. Differences in absorption of different curcumin supplements can be as much as 10 fold, and you definitely pay for what you get! As practitioners, we source some of the best supplements, so come in and have a chat if you are interested in trying it out. In some cases we combine it with other herbs to give a more beneficial result.

All in all, Turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin are highly useful for many health conditions - both prevention and treatment.
It is so easy to include it in your diet, it also pares well with its sister plant, ginger, in cooking and medicine.  So try some of my Golden Paste and see how you go with this little gold nugget of a herb!

 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24877064
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29420166

 

Fever

Natural Fever Management

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

Why Do Fevers Occur?

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

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

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

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

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever?

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

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

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

Natural Fever Management Tips

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

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

 

 

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

broth

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

homoeopathy

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

 

 

 

 

Garlic

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

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

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

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

garlic-smash

garlic-crush

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

parsley

Parsley is a great cure for garlic breath!

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

natural treatment for autoimmune disease

Natural Treatment for Autoimmune Disease

We have seen a real increase over the past few decades in a host of diseases that are often called diseases of affluence. These degenerative diseases are on the rise include heart disease, cancer and a category known as autoimmune diseases.

Antibodies attack normal healthy cells in the body in cases of autoimmune disease.

Antibodies attack normal healthy cells in the body in cases of autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases are a broad category that share a common immune dysfunction – essentially when the body attacks itself. In autoimmune diseases, the body fails to recognise itself correctly and starts to see its own tissues or cells as foreign it begins to attack the tissue as if it is a foreign invader. Immune cells, called antibodies, are created against our own tissue and launch an attack which destroys and damages the tissue.

Autoimmune diseases can affect many different parts of the body and there are thought to be more than 80 known autoimmune disorders. For example in rheumatoid arthritis the antibodies are directed against the joints causing inflammation, pain and loss of mobility. In Hashimotos or Graves disease the body makes antibodies against a person’s thyroid causing an overactive or underactive thyroid disorder. Other autoimmune diseases include inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohns diease), lupus, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. All autoimmune diseases result in destruction of tissue which leads to loss of function over time. Some people can get more than one autoimmune disease.

General symptoms of autoimmune disease may include fatigue, malaise and low grade fevers. Symptoms of autoimmune diseases can come and go with some cases going in to remission for years. Many patients report increased stress as a prelude to developing an autoimmune disease or as a flare up of existing autoimmune disorder. This can seem odd as we know that stress normally has a negative effect on the immune system as increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, has an immune suppressant effect. So this reveals the complexity of the immune system – a system that has a delicate balance that can be easily upset.  Interestingly, many women find that their autoimmune disease goes into remission while they are pregnant as the immune system normally is mildly suppressed during pregnancy.

Causes of Autoimmune Disease

viral autoThe exact cause of autoimmunity is not known, but there are some theories as to why the immune system becomes aberrant. Other than stress, mentioned above, other triggers known to stimulate autoimmune disease can be infections – in this case the immune system gets a workout and the heightened activity appears to increase certain immune cells that can cause autoimmunity. Research has shown that viruses are behind many autoimmune disorders, with different potential actions such as molecular mimicry, bystander activation and the persistence of a virus that leads to high antibody levels. Multiple sclerosis, myocarditis and diabetes are three immune-medicated diseases often linked with virus infections. Allergies are another possible cause of autoimmune diseases. There is much research being done to identify possible allergens that can mimic our own body cells. For example some allergens have a very close resemblance to our own cells. The immune cells constantly circulate looking for the allergens but when they find the similar looking body cells they can attack these by mistake.

Treatments for Autoimmune Disease

Conventional treatments for autoimmune disease include suppressing the immune system with drugs (such as steroids) or it may require replacing a hormone or substance that has become deficient. For example in Type I diabetes, destruction of the pancreas impedes the output of insulin so the patient is required to inject insulin to maintain health. In Hashimotos disease, patients need to have thyroid hormone as the destruction of the thyroid tissue decreases the output of this essential hormone.

Getting sunshine for vitamin D is essential for treating autoimmune disease.

Getting sunshine for vitamin D is essential for treating autoimmune disease.

Naturopathic treatments assess the whole person and tries to identify imbalances that can cause dysfunction. Reducing the allergenic load of a patient can calm the immune response and may bring about a reduction in the symptoms of some types of autoimmunity. Assessment of an individual’s diet and digestive health is a very important component of managing autoimmune diseases. Removing potential food allergens and following an anti-inflammatory diet can definitely help some autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked with a range of autoimmune diseases as the nutrient interacts with our genes and modulates our immunity. Many patients I have seen with autoimmune disease are very deficient in this important nutrient and correcting deficiency is essential.

Echinacea is a great immune modulating herb.

Echinacea is a great immune modulating herb.

Other nutrients such as omega 3 fats and certain herbs can bring about a reduction in inflammation and pain in some patients. There is often a mistaken belief that immune boosting herbs such as Echinacea should not be used in autoimmunity. This is incorrect, as many of the immune supportive herbs actually work to normalise and modulate immune function rather than stimulate it per se. For example in cases where the immunity is overstimulated the herbs can help to calm the response and in cases where the immune system is underactive the herbs can stimulate a normal response.

Other herbs such as Hemidesmus have more of an immune suppressant action. I have used immune modulating herbs many times with good outcomes in patients with autoimmunity. Consulting with a professional naturopath or herbalist is always the best way to get the right formula matched to your individual case.

Hopefully, more research in the future will uncover the causes behind autoimmunity and bring about increased understanding, improved prevention and better treatments.

 

Adrenal Health

Adrenal Health

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

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

 

Some of the signs that your adrenals are struggling include:

stressENERGY & MOOD

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

SLEEP

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

IMMUNE

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

obesityDIGESTION, WEIGHT & BODY COMPLAINTS

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

Stress and Adrenal Function

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

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

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

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

Adrenals & Reproductive Function

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

Stress Management – the key to healthy adrenals

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

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

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

 

Herbs & Nutrients for Adrenal Health

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

Holy Basil - a great herb for supporting the adrenals.

Holy Basil - a great herb for supporting the adrenals.

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

 

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

 

Thyme

creeping thyme.JPGTime for Thyme!

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

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

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

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

Managing Stress

Managing Stress

givingMany of you know I have been researching the heart and its role in our health and wellbeing for some time. I am fascinated with all the new research that shows that the heart is much more complex that a simple pump, instead being a highly developed organ of perception and insight. In many studies, the heart responds before the brain to stressful events and can even predict future events and stresses before they happen (!)
Along the way, some of you have learned a technique for stress management from me called heart breathing which can help shift you into a state of peace and calm. I am excited to now offer a tool and device which gives additional insight and feedback on how well you are managing stress and the impact your state of mind is having on your health. These range of important and simple tools and practices can help manage your stress and teach you how to get out of mental and emotional chaos and into peace and balance!

 

Using this cutting edge emwave pro device from HeartMath we can assess how stress is impacting on you and teach you how to get yourself into a healthy mind and body. When you are operating from a place of inner balance, the benefits are widespread including improved moods, balanced hormones, anti-ageing effects, better digestion and robust immunity.
HRVUsing the HeartMath tools and technology gives us important bio-feedback which can help to change our nervous system’s response to stress, and in turn achieve new levels of health and wellbeing.  The device displays heart rate variability which gives you accurate feedback on what your internal state of being is, displaying it in wave patterns. (see picture right)

 

When we experience stressful or negative emotions such as tension, anxiety, irritation, frustration and anger our heart rhythm pattern becomes irregular and incoherent, which negatively affects many aspects of health from digestion to immunity and hormones. It can also negatively impact on brain function, performance and our moods and sense of well-being.  In contrast when we experience positive emotions such as love, gratitude, appreciation, compassion and joy our heart, brain and respiratory system experience optimal function and promotes health and wellbeing throughout the body.

 

vitalityIf you would like to learn some simple stress management methods to shift your inner state out of busyness, stress and chaos into inner peace, calm and effectiveness, then make an appointment for a stress busting session.  Get accurate feedback with a scientific tool and learn to manage anxiety, depression, anger and watch how your health and happiness improves!

Vitamin C

Vitamin C - not just for colds!

When we think of Vitamin C we often think of it in relation to colds and immune health. But vitamin C is a vitamin with far reaching effects and benefits in the human body.

Did you know that humans are one of only a couple of species (including guinea pigs) who cannot manufacture their own vitamin C? Even plants make vitamin C!  The theory is that we lost the ability to produce it over time because our diets were rich in vitamin C and we no longer needed to make it.  However, most of us now have a diet that is rich in processed foods and we do not live as close to nature – so in most cases we do not get our foods straight from the garden and our vitamin C intake has been much reduced.  Vitamin C levels decline easily in foods once they are picked or processed, so that by the time we eat even so called ‘fresh’ foods thelevels are often very low.

Animals are known to increase their production of vitamin C when they are sick or stressed – sometimes to amazing levels.  Acting as a free radical scavenger (or antioxidant), vitamin C is able to protect the body against toxins and stress.  Scurvy is the classic sign of gross vitamin C deficiency – giving rise to easy bruising, skin lesions, bleeding gums, depression and fatigue. While most people consume enough vitamin C to prevent overt scurvy – which is about 50mg per day, there are also theories that many western people suffer from a more chronic kind of scurvy – due to insufficient vitamin C levels.  This has been implicated in a range of conditions from cardiovascular disease to cancer, skin conditions, premature ageing and diabetes.  It is an essential nutrient for adrenal health and when we are under stress we go through lots of vitamin C.  Anyone who smokes, will also use up around 5-10mg of vitamin C per cigarette, so there is another reason to quit!  Vitamin C also acts as a natural anti-histamine and is great for allergies and inflammation.

While focusing on a healthy diet rich in vitamin C foods is recommended , supplementing is also worthwhile – particularly if you suffer from stress, immune dysfunction or your diet is not always optimal.  Foods rich in vitamin C include most fruits and vegetables – particularly wild berries, rosehip, acerola cherry, guava, parsley, citrus, capsicum, tomatoes.

The native Australian fruit the Kakadu plum (pictured right) has the highest known source of vitamin C – giving around 1000-5000mg per 100g! Meats – especially liver also contain vitamin C.  Remember that cooking foods will reduce the vitamin C content by around 50%, so be sure to have some raw foods in your diet.

Supplements can be in powder or tablets and should really contain bioflavonoids for best effects, as this is how they occur in nature.  Massive doses of injectable vitamin C have also been used in modern medicine for treating cancer.  As a water soluble nutrient the risk of toxicity is minimal as it is readily excreted when consumed in excess.  The standard of bowel tolerance is often used when dosing vitamin C supplements. As loose stools are a transient sign of excess intake, we generally recommend dosage be scaled back if this occurs.

Please discuss this if you think you could benefit from vitamin C next time you visit the clinic, and we can look at the best one for you from the range of vitamin C supplements, I stock.

 

 

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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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