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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 – 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 – both nutritional and herbal – 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!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

anxiety in kids

Anxiety In Kids

I have been managing some anxiety in my 11 year old son recently, and thought it would be good to explore this important topic of kids and anxiety and how to best support them.

I treat many children in my clinic with anxiety and nervousness and I believe it is very important to deal with anxiety in children, otherwise you often end up with an anxious teenager and then if it remains unaddressed, the anxious adult tends to follow on. Anxiety is a growing issue that plagues many adults and has a big impact on a person's quality of life, choices and behaviours. Thus preventing and managing anxiety in childhood will help a child in their life now but will also give them a brighter and happier future.

roadIt is important to know that at various developmental crossroads throughout childhood, anxiety can be a common feature. But the difference in how children are managed at these juncture points can be vast. It is essential to offer appropriate support for children through the developmental stages they face through childhood. When we meet them in healthy and meaningful ways we ensure that they successfully navigate the journey from childhood to adulthood.

Of course, the first thing that needs to be highlighted is that many anxious kids are the product of anxious adults. If you or your partner has anxiety, you need to be conscious of how much you are contributing to your child’s anxiety. There are links from both a genetic perspective as well as a learned behaviour aspect. Children takes cues about the world directly from their parents, so many of kid&mumthe learned beliefs and programming comes from their parents. If you are wracked with worries and fears and tend to stress about certain things in life then you can be pretty sure your child will worry about the same stuff. The trick is to get support for yourself to better handle your anxiety and also avoid sharing your “stuff” with the kids. Be mindful to keep your own issues to yourself and try to remain calm and centred around your kids. Many adult concepts that children overhear parents talking about or watch on the news are the source of anxiety in kids. They are often too young to fully comprehend many issues and just like when we eat too much or the wrong type food we can’t digest it and we get indigestion, kids can’t digest these experiences and feelings and they tend to come out in other ways physical or emotional. Physical symptoms that manifest from underlying anxiety can include stomach pain, nausea, rashes and headaches as well as behavioural issues.

I have had instances of children in my clinic developing anxiety and fears about things after watching movies, reading books or hearing news stories. An important development crossroad occurs for children between 9-10 years, where they are aware of mortality for the first time and take the first tentative steps into adulthood and start the process of leaving childhood behind.  This can result in a range of feelings and behaviours that can appear contradictory, confusing or exasperating! One minute they are wanting to be independent and all grown up, controlling every choice they can, and the next minute they can behave like a small child being dependent, unreasonable, insecure and needy. This time can be fraught with anxiety and nervousness and children can get worried about death and dying - in either themselves or their parents or loved ones. There is a real perceptible shift in children that occurs here and I find many children present with digestive upsets, insomnia and headaches around this time, which are more psychosomatic in origin.  Being aware of the underlying transitional theme common to this age can normalise it and really help both parents and children manage it better.

While we need to protect our children from adult concepts and our own personal stuff, we also don’t want to fall into the other trap where we protect them from all experiences that are tough. It is very important to not rescue your child from experiencing negative emotions, as much as we might want

Helicopter parentsto as parents! It is hard to see our loved ones suffer, but experiencing all the highs and lows of life, both the good and the bad, builds emotional intelligence and resilience. The modern phenomenon of the hovering “helicopter parent” and “cotton wooling” our kids to protect them is creating children and young adults who are ill equipped to deal with the reality of life. We only learn through experience and we get stronger and wiser when we face trials in life, no matter how big or small.  Even though I am suggesting that we shouldn’t rescue our kids from feeling negative emotions such as sadness, pain or rejection it doesn’t mean we are abandoning them and making them suffer in isolation. We still need to give kids tonnes of love and support and the practical resources and skills to manage difficult situations and cope with the feelings that arise and flow through them. Speaking of flowing, the old adage that emotions or e-motions are just energy in motion is a good one to remember. We only get tripped up by emotions when we don’t allow them to flow and move through us. When we hold onto them and they get stuck, we tend to create more problems for ourselves. Not only do we prolong the suffering but often the negative emotions can end up in the physical body as pain or dysfunction.

It is good to let your child know that no emotion is good or bad, it just is. But what we do with our emotions is the key to a healthy response. I like to use the analogy of the emotional backpack – all the things that happen to us that we don’t process well and hold on to we put in the invisible backpack we carry around.  Over time, this bag gets heavier and heavier and we all know what an adult with a lot of “baggage” looks like!  Try to be empathic, understanding and patient with your child when they are expressing fears and worries. You need to validate their concerns on the one hand while gently reassuring them on the other. Often when supported like this, they find their way to a feeling of peace and calm or they are able to find their own solution to their problems.  This feeling and experience of autonomy and being able to work through emotions is very valuable in building self-esteem and confidence.

sandplayOther creative outlets that involve art, story or play can also be useful for kids to find a non-verbal solution to their problems. Art therapy and sand play therapy are great tools for kids to explore their inner life and emotions without needing to talk. Often the feelings that arise in kids are big and the adults around them expect the child to be able to discuss their feelings. But for many children, they can find it difficult to put their finger on what is wrong and feel ill equipped to understand or be able to verbally discuss things. Through sand play, they can choose from many different symbols by way of figurines to represent the emotions and situations they are struggling with. Adding them to the sand tray and interacting with them tells a valuable story and brings things from the inside out into the light and allows them to be processed more effectively. Kids can easily learn simple breathing and mindfulness strategies that they can use to help manage anxiety and calm down. There are a range of different apps and audios that you can easily download that give specific exercises and creative visualisations for kids with anxiety.

While it is advisable to work mostly with practical and creative tools for kids with anxiety, there may be a place for dietary change and nutritional or herbal supplements. Ensuring a healthy, whole food diet is important to stabilise blood sugar which can aggravate anxiety. Likewise, correcting deficiencies in key nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and zinc is also essential to improve anxiety.  In some cases, we also want to assess children for underlying issues that are causing or aggravating anxiety such as conditions like pyrrole disorders or methylation issues. Herbal medicines and flower essences can also be prescribed in individual cases to help calm children with more moderate or severe anxiety.

Anxiety in children is a problem that is increasing in tandem with the growing rates of anxiety in the adult population. Our lives have become too busy and overloaded and kids are often over scheduled and easily stressed. It is important to create a dynamic at home that offers a haven of peace and calm for our children (and us!) and encourage plenty of time in nature and to explore activities that allow kids to slow down and relax and take time to smell the roses!

If your child is suffering from anxiety, fears or phobias, please bring them in for an assessment so we can give you and them some much needed support. I also have a range of good therapists I refer to for art or sand play therapy when appropriate.

 

SIBO

SIBO

Gut issues are very common in our modern population and according to the Gut Foundation, at least 50% of our population complains of a digestive complaint in any twelve month period. In many respects the health of our gut dictates or reflects the health of our overall body, so sorting out gut issues is very important – to help with everything from mental health to immunity and energy levels.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a relatively new digestive disorder on the radar and appears to have increasing prevalence. SIBO is a condition with strong links to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Based on some studies, it is estimated that at least 80% of people with irritable bowel syndrome in fact have SIBO.

So before we dive into look at testing, diagnosing and treating SIBO, lets take a look at the backdrop to the digestive landscape and get the lay of the land.

abdoThe digestive tract mostly comprises of the mouth/oesophagus, the stomach, the small intestine and large intestine or colon and (indirectly the liver, gallbladder and pancreas). Its primary role is to process and breakdown food so that we can use the nutrients for growth, development, repairs and maintenance of our body.

Most of us are aware by now that we need healthy flora (also called the microbiome) in our digestive tract for maintaining health. But the types and location of bacteria in the digestive tract can make the difference between health and disease. For example the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, in the stomach can contribute to ulcers, while lactobacilli bacteria promote health in the bowel. The small intestine, unlike the large intestine, has only small amounts of bacteria present. The large intestine has approximately one million times more bacteria than the small intestine, and the types and functions of the bacteria in the small intestine differ in some ways to the large.

The small intestine and the bacteria present play an important role in digesting food and absorbing nutrients, protect us from absorbing damaging bacteria or yeasts from our food and thus plays an important part in maintaining a healthy immune system.

tummySo SIBO refers to a condition where the amount of bacteria in the small intestine increases or changes in type and composition. This gives rise to a whole set of symptoms. The bacteria ferment carbohydrates and produce gases such as hydrogen and methane which in turn contribute to symptoms such as bloating after meals, burping and wind, constipation or diarrhea, cramping and nausea. Less obvious symptoms can be experienced outside the digestive tract and show up throughout the body, as nutrient levels are affected, the gut is inflamed and immunity is impaired. Particular conditions which have a strong link to SIBO include food intolerance, allergies, acne rosacea, arthritis, restless legs, liver disease, diabetes, depression and even Parkinson’s Disease has been found to be linked to SIBO.

A range of possible causes have been linked to the development of SIBO. These include prior antibiotic use, previous episodes of food poisoning, viral or bacterial gut bugs, acute or prolonged stress, the oral contraceptive pill, antacid medications, nutrient deficiencies and underlying diseases such as coeliac disease or other autoimmune diseases.

To test for SIBO, a simple home test kit measuring breath gases is an accurate way of identifying bacteria in the small intestine. The sugar lactulose is used after a period of fasting and the gases are collected every 20 mins and can determine if there was a rise. It takes around 2 hours for lactulose to enter the large intestine, so any gases produced from fermenting are the product of the small intestine. If there is a high baseline or a rise in gases during the test period, then a diagnosis of SIBO is likely. The test is not covered under medicare and costs around $200. (I use sibotest.com for the SIBO lactulose breath test.)

Treatment involves a combination of dietary change and antimicrobial treatments to both starve and kill the bacteria present.

Fibre foodsThe FODMAPs diet is often recommended for irritable bowel syndrome and it is thought that the fermentable sugars and carbohydrates contained in these foods are the problem. Avoiding these foods will certainly eliminate or reduce digestive discomfort in many people with IBS. However, when they eat those foods again, the bloating, constipation or diarrhoea often returns. It appears that there is still an underlying cause not being addressed and in my opinion in most cases it is SIBO. The diet alone doesn’t always deal with the bacterial imbalance, although avoiding the foods that the bacteria feed on is a very important part of treatment. The diet to follow during active the SIBO treatment phase is one that is very low in carbohydrates, starches, sugars and dairy to eliminate food supply for the bacteria.

Antimicrobials to kill the abnormal bacteria are also necessary. These can be conventional antibiotics or herbal therapies. These options have been shown to be equally successful for treatment of SIBO.  Herbal antibiotic therapies normally combine a range of different herbs such as wormwood, berberine containing herbs, garlic and certain essential oils. They are rotated over a 2 week period in many cases to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance. Holistic strategies always include a follow-up phase after active antibiotic treatments. This involves specific probiotics to restore the gut flora, gut repair strategies to help heal the lining of the digestive tract and motility agents.

If you suffer from digestive disturbances such as irritable bowel or inflammatory bowel disease and suspect you have SIBO, then please make an appointment to assess your options. Restoring the health of your gut will improve your health in many diverse ways!

 

 

 

 

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