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Teen Depression & Diet

The Role of Diet in Depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

Food variety and a healthy diet

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

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

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

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

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

So how do you measure up?

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

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

What Did Our Hunter Gatherer Ancestors Eat?

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

Take the 7 Day Variety Challenge

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

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

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

Download my Food Variety Challenge record sheet.

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

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

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

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

Eat Your Weeds!

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

Exploring the Benefits of Weeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources & Field Guides

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

eczema psoriasis natural treatments

Eczema and Psoriasis Natural Treatments

Getting to the Root Cause

Eczema is commonly a red, dry, itchy rash

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

Underlying Causes

Psoriasis has thick scaly lesions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Does The Immune System Go Awry?

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

Beyond Food - The Hidden Culprits

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

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

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

Personalised Treatments Work Best

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

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

 

 

Healthy Easter Treats

Healthy Easter Treats

eggIt is that time of the year again when consuming copious amounts of chocolate moves from everyone’s wishlist to their to-do list! Unfortunately (and not surprisingly) eating large amounts of the sugary stuff is not good for either our waistlines or our insides.

While the old saying, "everything in moderation" is a sound one, there are some things we need to be even more careful with. Sugar is one of them! And there is a big difference in types of sugar and types of people, so we need to be aware of individual circumstances and proceed carefully.

Of course, the problem with sugar for most of us, is that we are hard wired to want more of it and it is a very addictive substance. It was a relatively rare thing in the past to have access to lots of sugar and our bodies learnt that it was a super big energy hit, so it was good to consume lots of it when we happened upon some - saving the extra for storage for the lean times that would inevitably come. The common issue these days is that we tend to over consume sugar, it is abundant in so many different forms and rarely have our seasonal lean times and so we never get good break from it. A little bit of sugar can easily turn into a whole lot of sugar.

Choc ChicksI don't recommend extremes of anything as a general rule, and so a little bit of sugar here and there is not going to cause too much harm for most people.  And the tradition of Easter lends itself to us needing to find a healthy medium for sugar and chocolate intake. Many a recipe is deemed to be healthy if it is branded with the Gluten Free or Dairy Free tagline, but beware. Any sweet treat, despite its relative benign and healthy appearance, should only be consumed in moderation.

These recipes below offer a way of having some sweet treats at Easter time and can be made with the kids and while not super good for you, they are certainly much healthier than the standard alternatives! Some of these recipes call for protein powder, so please check out my other blog post for more info about the best protein powder for you. It can be fun to make these bliss balls into egg shapes or little chicks to fit with the season.

Remember to find other ways to celebrate Easter that doesn't just involved eating chocolate! Dying boiled eggs and doing other easter crafts can be a nice activity and try getting outside for a walk in nature to ponder the changing seasons and the spiritual significance of easter.

So please enjoy these recipes and then remember to give your body its sugar break again after easter!

Fruit & Nut Bliss Balls

Chocolate Coconut Easter Chicks

Protein Fudge Balls

Chocolate Strawberry Bounty Balls

chocstrawberryballs

Dance for Health

Dance for Health!

danceFinding exercise that we love and want to do is the key to making sustainable, lasting habits.

Some of us need a form of exercise that involves a challenge, others need to be in a group or team environment to be motivated to exercise, while some of us like the steady rhythm of quiet time in nature while exercising. Whatever our own interest and experience, if we find something we enjoy, then it is easier to exercise regularly without the internal conflict of what you "should" be doing rather than what you "want" to be doing.

I have been a long term morning walker for many years, and coupled with yoga, this has been my main form of exercise. My morning walk provides physical exercise as well doubling up as a form of mindfulness practice and it also gives me a regular dose of time out in nature. I love to watch the sun rise each morning, which gives me the valuable benefit of sun gazing, alongside my mountain walk.  Walking is an easy exercise that nearly anyone can do, and it is easy to do it at a pace that suits you and in an environment that appeals to you.  Barefoot walking or beach walking is particularly good as it helps to also ground us and reduces inflammation in the body.

hunterSometimes, we want or need the additional benefit of some cardio though as so many of us are sedentary and modern life gives us few opportunities to really get the heart rate up or strengthen our muscles. New research shows that high intensity interval training alongside stretching and weights, gives superior benefits on cardiovascular health and fitness. High intensity interval can be done with short sprints - such as running or riding....or in my case - dancing! This form of exercise is aimed at mimicking what our hunter-gatherer ancestors did - by engaging in activities that build endurance and strength coupled with short bursts of cardio. In contrast, long distance running doesn't offer the same benefits.  Most cultures around the world also have forms of dance and creative movement, and traditionally dance has tended to be a part of both sacred or religious practice as well as entertainment.

dance2I have always loved to dance and for a long time never really thought it could be a regular form of exercise. In my younger years in Melbourne, while studying at uni, I would go out dancing to venues or to see live music, and often rode my bike there, drank water all night and road home again! I loved the escape of dancing and the fun social time with my friends and as a struggling student, it was a cheap night out! While I have danced on and off over the last decade or so, I found that raising young kids while working full time, didn't lend itself to much partying or dancing! Yet, dancing has found its way back into my life in a much bigger way over the past year.  I have now embraced it as a genuine form of exercise that I can incorporate into my day and weekly rhythm. The thing that I love about dance is that it serves as a form of exercise as well as a form of meditation and a way of expressing my emotions.

Dance really is medicine for the soul! Dance lets us get into our body, get out of our head and by using music that speaks to us, we are freed up to take a journey within and without. I also find that dance is the perfect way to get into my feminine energy of flow and creativity. Many modern women are stuck in the mode of busyness and achieving and working hard out in the world. All of which calls on our masculine energy and leaves us a bit hard edged and exhausted. When we shut down to our feminine flow, our creative energy is stifled and our physical bodies suffer. When we are stuck in our head, we tend to split off from our connection to our body - the very thing that houses and supports us!

wild danceWorking with our emotions and finding ways to regularly express them is super important at staying healthy on every level. Another article I have recently written on emotional health and detox highlights the many ways emotions can interfere with our physical health. By adopting a practice that gets you into your body, your senses and your feelings gives us an avenue to release tension and pent up emotions, free up our energy and boost our vitality.  There have been many modern dance practices that have been created to work with dance as a form of sacred movement and emotional release. The Five Rhythms and other conscious dance practices are very popular and even the No Lights, No Lycra dance nights show the popularity of people wanting to dance for health, fun and exercise.

So dance is the perfect embodiment practice to work with the emotions and with this in mind, I will be offering some local workshops and gatherings to explore dance and reawaken women to their feminine essence. I am blessed to have the perfect studio space on my hinterland property for workshops which doubles up as my dance studio and practice space.   The best part of dance as a form of medicine or therapy is that it is super fun and gets you fit in the process!

If you would like to learn more or participate in the women's dance nights, please click here or see the 'what's on' page for dates.

 

Emotional Health

Emotional Health: The Key to Optimal Health

Is it time to detox your emotions?

Finger art of people. The concept of a group of people with different personalities.Emotional health is the ultimate key to achieving optimal physical health. It is as beneficial to do an emotional cleanse as it is to do a physical detox!
After 20 years in practice, I can say without a doubt that emotional health is the ultimate key to really achieving optimal physical health. With all the research and modern scientific understanding we now have about us humans and the relationship between our emotions and how our cells function, we really can no longer separate out our physical issues and complaints from our emotional state, our state of mind and our spiritual wellbeing.

Many of us focus on caring for physical bodies and try to make healthy choices in foods and lifestyle habits. Likewise, it is hard to ignore the mainstream popularity of detoxing our physical bodies, as we are regularly told via magazines, television health shows and from social media gurus that the body needs a cleanse from time to time. And of course this is true! On top of the socially accepted "poisons" we choose to ingest such as cigarette smoking, alcohol and over the counter medicines, modern life also gives us a wide array of hidden environmental toxins.  Many things make their way into our bodies, without our express permission.  Most of us are exposed to a myriad of everyday toxins such as pollution from petrol fumes, paints, plastics, chemicals lurking in modern furnishings and pesticides in our vegetables to body care products, fragrances and preservatives and artificial colours in our foods.  All of these things take a toll on our health and can impact on our hormones, brain function, energy and immunity. So our body can certainly enjoy a break from this constant exposure from time to time and will definitely benefit from a good detox to boost our system, organ function and energy.

But what about the impact of our emotions, thoughts, beliefs and feelings?

Could these be impacting on our health and wellbeing too?

Is it beneficial to do an emotional and mindset cleanse?

The answer to these questions is a resounding YES!

HBModern research proves that the quality of our emotions and beliefs has a massive impact on our cells and body function. As much as it is easy to separate out our body from our mind and spirit for ease of understanding, in reality we function as one complex and highly coordinated dynamic system. Moreover, the directives that our body receives come from our heart and mind and thus the impact of our beliefs, programming and feelings will be felt right down into our cells. With the advent of modern science and medicine, we embarked on the path of deconstruction, compartmentalising and separating our body into systems and specialties. But before that, in most cultures around the world, the human being was always viewed and understood as a complex whole being - comprising physical, energetic and spiritual aspects. In all traditional medicine and healing philosophies across different cultures importance was always placed on the mind and emotions and now science has come full circle and is proving this to be true.

So getting in touch with our emotions, doing a bit of an inner detox is just as important as an outer detox. We like to promote the benefits of eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep, but being aware of your inner state and working consciously with your emotions and beliefs is paramount for optimal health and happiness.

There are a range of different methods to support emotional health - and by identifying and releasing old patterns and emotions I have found we can make a massive difference to our health, energy, wellbeing and inner state of mind. At the end of the day, we all want to feel happy, energetic and peaceful. Often our emotions are stored in our bodies and our physical body carries our stories. So many cases I have seen demonstrate the link between our emotions, old stuck patterns and subconscious beliefs and our physical health issues. So as a holistic practitioner always seeking to find the underlying cause of health issues, I tend to end up in areas beyond the physical. So over the years, I have trained in various methodologies to deepen my capacity to support healing on these more subtle and energetic levels in addition to the physical surface issues.

bodyemotionI find our bodies very effectively tell our stories or mirror our beliefs through our symptoms and signs and illnesses. Most of the time we are unaware of this link and so we poke and prod our physical bodies, aiming to reduce or suppress our symptoms as quick as possible through medications such as painkillers, antihistamines and antibiotics. In other words, we shoot the messenger before it has delivered the message! Which tends to mean the next message is louder and potentially more destructive - to get our attention.

What if instead of waiting until symptoms arrive on our doorstep or worsen, we dealt with our emotional health on a regular basis? Cleansing, releasing, healing and integrating our experiences and emotions is the foundation for deeper health and wellbeing. By doing this, our body is free to get on doing what it does best and it no longer needs to carry the emotional baggage we should have left behind at the last train stop!

There are many methods of doing emotional integration work and can range from inquiry, journalling and talk therapy, to guided visualisations and healings, through to more dynamic, fun and interactive body based methods and kinesiology. The best part of working with emotions and clearing them is the release and freedom that comes with letting go. It is amazing how quickly energy improves and symptoms can disappear, when the underlying cause is addressed.

suppTips to start working with your emotions include self inquiry techniques such as reflection, journalling, dream recall, art therapy and music  as well as finding ways to express your emotions regularly through the body - with movement, sound and breath.

If you would like to unlock old patterns or emotions and experience greater health and well being, then I would be very happy to work with you, facilitating this process. Together we can design a programme that is right for you, to allow you to move through things at a pace and style that suits you. Having facilitation and guidance always fast tracks your experience and helps you to reach your goals quicker!

 

 

Spicy Rainbow Coleslaw

Spicy Rainbow Coleslaw

Ever heard the term "eat the rainbow?"

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Spicy Rainbow Salad Recipe

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Food Cravings and Instinctive Eating

Exploring the science behind food cravings...

Kale please, Mum!

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

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

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

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

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

food habits over time

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

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

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

pica

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

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

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

stressed

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

adventures in Ireland & London

Adventures in Ireland & London...

I took off on a girl's own adventure of sorts in June and July - to visit Ireland and London....here are my highlights!

20170622_055407_resizedAfter spending the best part of the last 15 years busy mothering and working, it was a rare treat to have some solo time for travel. As I was heading to speak in London at the International Naturopathic Congress, I decided to take some time out to complete a short pilgrimage walk and do some mountain hiking through Ireland. It had been on my 'bucket list' for a while, so the universe aligned and it seemed that my time had come. Although I dislike international flying, it was easier traveling solo without the kids.  When arriving in Dublin after 24 hours of flying, I got locked into my Airbnb accomodation. I was deliriously tired and starving, but in the end was rescued by a lovely young woman who took me under her wing and took me out with her, showing me some famous Irish hospitality. Half way through the evening we discovered we were both McElroy's and both of our grandparents/great grandparents heralded from County Tyrone. So we decided we were probably related as distant cousins of sorts, which was the strangest synchronicity!

 

20170622_071413_resizedI soon headed off from bustling Dublin to the magical Irish countryside where I started my pilgrimage walk, in the name of Brigid - Ireland's ancient goddess/Saint. I spent 3 days making my way through rural areas, farms, forest, bogs and along the grand canal to finally arrive at the historic town of Kildare. I was the only one doing the walk as a solo pilgrimage, and I often walked without seeing anyone else for hours.  This was a wonderful adventure that included getting lost a few times, swimming in the canal, tended my blistered feet (!), communing with nature and being very, very grateful that Ireland has no snakes or other things that could kill you while hiking in the middle of summer through long grass!

The lush green land, gentle sun and mild weather made it a perfect few days.  After arriving at Kildare, rather exhausted from my 50+km walk I spent a couple of days in the hermitages at the lovely Solas Bhride centre, visiting Brigid's sacred well and cathedral, walking the  spiral labyrinth and spending time in quiet contemplation. The women who run this beautiful centre were kindred spirits of sorts and very inspiring for me.

 

Beautiful Inistioge

Beautiful Inistioge

I then hired a car, headed through the pretty countryside visiting lovely towns such as Inistioge in the Nore Valley, and then made my way to Wicklow Mountains. Hiking along the rugged windswept mountains and down to the lakes below was an amazing experience. Lough Tay and Lough Dan were just spectacular! After Wicklow I then headed up to Meath where I stayed in a stone cottage for a couple of days and visited the ancient sacred sites of New Grange and Knowth. Amazing that these stone megalithic tombs are estimated to be 5000 years old, and made before the wheel was even invented.  I was blessed with lovely weather for most of my 10 days in Ireland and this magical trip will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

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At the ICNM Congress

Heading to the busy, big smoke of London was a bit of a shock after rural Ireland! But I soon got my bearings and had a great week there - and was happy to see my sister for a few days, who popped over from her home town of Milan to visit. London highlights included visiting the Chelsea Physic Garden, walks through Hyde Park, seeing the musical Wicked, lots of amazing food and yes, some retail therapy on Oxford Street!  The final weekend was the International Congress on Naturopathic Medicine - which was a great conference attended by over 500 delegates from around the globe.

So all in all I had a wonderful time away and it was a little hard to come back home to work and kids and the general busyness of my life. So I am determined to hold onto the spaciousness that I created and try to find a better work-life balance for myself. Lots of plans were hatched for creating new programmes and various ideas for my future work - which will no doubt unfold over the coming months.  I hope you enjoy the photos and slideshow below!

 

 

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