Good Digestion

HEALTHY DIGESTION

Here are some basics to consider, as well as remembering to take a holistic approach (hint: it isn’t just about food choices!), but essentially the journey for each person is unique and the most important thing is to experiment and listen to your body.

  • Please recognise that it can be very confusing for your body if you are constantly chopping and changing with diets, especially if those changes are sudden and/or extreme. It takes time to build up gut the gut flora needed to digest (breakdown, ferment, transform) specific foods, if you haven’t been eating them (or much of them) previously. For this reason, there are times when making slower, more gradual changes can be kinder and more sensible that jumping from one therapeutic way of eating to the next every couple of months.
  • When testing out an approach to eating to see if it’s right for us, we need to be constantly listening for that sweet spot that sits half-way between really giving the therapy a decent chance to work its magic and really listening to what your body is telling you. And this can be confusing, because in the early stages, how do you tell the difference between ‘I feel uncomfortable because my body is still adjusting to the changes’ verses ‘this food/approach really doesn’t work for me’. This is why transitioning gradually can be wiser: your body struggles less and you can test the various elements of the new way of eating/living more slowly and effectively. As my husband says, reduce the variables: test one thing at a time.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to diets, because we are all so uniquely different. The true therapeutic diet that is going to work best for you is one that is probably a mish-mash of different approaches from different eating philosophies. Find what works for you by exploring and experimenting. I personally think cherry picking can be a smarter move than copying what someone else has found works for them. Because you are not them! It’s imperative that you listen to your body and find what works for you. Having said that, every nutrition/health teacher and therapeutic diet is going to teach you something. Keep a diary and note down what seems to work for you as an individual, rather than needing to subscribe to a particular ‘club’, no matter who that external authority happens to be.
  • Now that I’ve told you that, I’m going to share what I have learned about a healthy gut from my training, my personal experience, working with clients, research and so on. But my opinion is of course, just one more in a sea of clamouring voices and I hope I don’t add to the overwhelm! All I can do is share my take, but my personal and professional perspective is not The Truth, The Way…. you have to find your own truth, your own way (ie listen to your body while you experiment):

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Understanding Zinc

zinc

ZINC and the IMMUNE SYSTEM

I can’t say that zinc is a go-to solution for me when I’m boosting the immune system, even though deficiencies in zinc can impact the immune system. In part, this is because I know immune boosting herbs tend to be rich in zinc as well as the many other nutrients required for healthy immune functioning.

Zinc is not the only or even the best answer for immune deficiency, by a long shot. It’s worth noting zinc is often prescribed or self-prescribed for immune deficiency even when there is no evidence of a zinc deficiency. The thing is, while correcting a zinc deficiency can help improve immune function, boosting zinc levels when they are already fine won’t do anything to improve your immune function, and may actually be counter-productive.  Continue reading

Recommended Nutrient Intake

Question:

“I am looking for “naturopaths’ advice” on vitamins and minerals levels -zinc, magnesium, calcium, chromium, iron, B12, D, C etc. I know the GPs recommended levels, which are not the optimum levels, I would like to know where I can find the “real” levels we actually need.”

Answer:

GP’s recommended nutrient levels, so long as the GP in question is staying up to date with changes, are generally coming from the best research available at the time. You can access this information via government websites such as this: https://www.nrv.gov.au/introduction

As you can see from this Australian Government page about Nutrient Reference Values, there are quite a few different methods used, with the approach used and amounts recommended varying between countries. It really isn’t as cut and dried as you might think: there is no definitive “ideal nutrient intake” list. Researchers, organisations, governments and countries don’t necessarily all agree, and the lists we do have are a ‘best guess’ for the average person. Continue reading

The Super Hero

I had a lovely morning talking with my daughter and she has inspired some blogs. Here’s the first one, before I forget everything she told me!

“I don’t understand. You get these people who go vegan, but they haven’t done their research and they aren’t eating properly, and they get sick, and then instead of fixing up their diet, they just decide veganism is bad for them and they stop altogether. Where’s the sense in that?

It’s like being a super hero and burning out because you are saving too many people and doing it all night when you should be sleeping. So you go to the doctor and you ask him for advice and he says ‘Oh you should stop being a super hero, it’s bad for you’.

If you really loved helping and saving people, you wouldn’t accept a lame kind of response like that. You’d think ‘This doctor is useless. If he was a decent doctor, he’d say ‘Let me help you organise your time and energy better, and set some limits on how much work you do and when, so that you can keep doing what you love’.” Continue reading

Injury healing and tissue repair- Part 2

In Part 1 we looked at the role of inflammation in wound repair and the management of inflammation. Part 2 is about tissue perfusion. A lot of this information is applicable for preventing tissue damage in the first place and explores practises that ensure better recovery. Injuries, wounds etc obviously come in many different forms, so this information is general only.

What are tissues? Tissues are groups of cells that are bound together or are working together as a team to do a special job. You could think of cells as being the bricks in the house, and tissues as being the walls i.e. the bricks/cells combine together to form the walls/tissues. Just as cells combine to create tissues, tissues combine to create organs. Using our house building analogy, an organ would be a group of walls working together to become a room! And all of our organs working together as a team are the equivalent of the house as a whole.

Good tissue perfusion is a good blood supply to the tissues. Good tissue perfusion is really helpful when it comes to repairing wounds and/or reducing excess inflammation. When enough blood is being delivered to our body tissues, the cells in our tissues are being nourished with nutrients and oxygen from our blood. As well as delivering what the cells need to survive and thrive, our blood also helps to remove waste products from the tissues and cells, which is just as important for maintaining healthy tissue and cellular function. Continue reading

Injury healing and tissue repair – Part 1

 Managing inflammation

Inflammation is often what causes pain but it’s important to understand that inflammation is the bodies attempt to repair a wound and resolve or prevent infection. When there is a broken bone or broken skin, inflammation is the magical process that helps knit everything back together again.

A little bit of inflammation is natural and helpful, but quite often when it comes to healing, it can help to dampen the inflammation process slightly, because our Western/modern diet and lifestyle tends to tip inflammation into overdrive or to steer it in unhelpful directions that hinder rather than help healing.

In some scenarios, inflammation is a natural response to irritation and friction. For example, in osteoarthritis the loss of friction-avoiding, shock-absorbing cartilage means that bones start to touch and rub against each other. This causes inflammation. Friction-based inflammation can occur on a day-to-day basis when we neglect our posture, put too much pressure on the musculoskeletal system by being overweight or ignore injuries and continue to aggravate them rather than resting and getting help to recover properly. One of the most important things you can do to prevent inflammation is to avoid sitting too much, pushing your body too hard, and engaging in repetitive physical movements that result in wear and tear of specific muscles and joints. Continue reading

Probiotics, prebiotics and gut flora

Taking a probiotic or fermented food can be helpful to our gut flora but only to an extent. They really don’t survive long if they aren’t being fed and the quantity of microbes in the tablets or fermented food compared to the the population in the gut itself…. well, think of it as being a bit like asking one doctor to service an entire hospital. A mere drop in the ocean so to speak!

Probiotics and fermented foods can add new strains (species) but they don’t do a lot to really boost numbers. What really makes a difference is your diet. Within days of changing what you eat, your gut flora changes too, because it’s your diet that boosts or starves each strain. And the healthiest bacterial populations in our gut feed on plant foods (indigestible fibre) so this is what we need in order to nurture and build a thriving healthy gut environment. Animal products don’t contribute to this healthy population because they don’t contain fibre. In fact, by having too much animal foods in your diet, you risk starving your healthy gut flora, and as I’ve pointed out previously, this can lead to inflammation both in the gut and the body as a whole. Continue reading

Nourish rather than destroy

Your microbiome is your personal ecosystem of microbes that live in and on your body. Microbes are small organisms, e.g. bacteria and viruses, more commonly known as ‘germs’ or ‘bugs’. These microbes out-number our cells 10 to 1, and while most of us think of microbes as being bad, the vast majority of microbes within and around us are friendly or benign. Many of the microbes that share our body with us are vital to the function of body systems, and we could not survive without them. While most of them live in our gut, they inhabit every surface of our body that comes into contact with the outside world, such as our skin, throat, nose, lungs, bladder, vagina and so on.

A healthy balance of microbes in your body is very important to the healthy functioning of your immune system. Imbalances in our micro biome can contribute to many modern diseases involving inflammation and immune dysfunction such as allergies and automimmune disease. In a way, you could think of your microbiome as being part of your immune system, because it helps keep bad bugs under control. I think of these microbes as being a support team for our white blood cells. Continue reading

Enhancing Iron Absorption

When we source iron from animal products and/or supplements, our body isn’t able to intelligently modulate uptake. The iron is absorbed, whether we need it or not, and this can put us in danger of iron excess. Iron is pro-oxidative and hence damaging to DNA and other molecules.

Iron excess is associated with a broad range of chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal and other cancers. Chronic (long term) iron overdose can result in aggressive behaviour, fatigue or hyperactivity, gut damage, seratonin imbalances, liver damage and so on.

When we source our iron from plant based foods, our body automatically adjusts how much we absorb based on what we need, which means we are in no danger of iron excess. If we need less, we will absorb less; if we need more, we absorb more. Vegans and vegetarians typically develop lower ferritin stores and this optimizes their absorption of iron.

WHAT ENHANCES IRON ABSORPTION?

You can dramatically enhance this absorption process by making sure you have vitamin-C rich foods with (or around about the same times as) iron rich foods. Most fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, but some of the richer sources are broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsley, capsicum, black currants, guava, kiwifruit, mango, orange, pineapple, rockmelon, and strawberry. The citric acids in citrus fruits also enhance absorption, as do the beta-carotenes in yellow, red and orange foods. Continue reading

St Johns Wort- safe use

St John’s Wort is probably one of the most researched and self-prescribed herbs around, so I thought I’d let people know some info for safe usage. These are some of the things I have to think about, as a professional, before prescribing:

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: while this herb appears to be safe so far given studies on both pregnancy and breastfeeding, I tend to err on the side of caution in pregnancy and use less or no herbs (or only miscarriage-prevention herbs), especially if there is any history of miscarriage.

There is a wonderful word we use in herbal medicine called ‘contraindicated’, which is the opposite to ‘indicated’. When someone says “St John’s Wort is indicated in ___”, this means “use this herb for this condition”. If a herb is contraindicated for a particular condition, it means DONT use it.

For example, St Johns Wort is contraindicated for people who have skin photosensitivity, and people taking high doses should be careful if they get a lot of sun exposure or artificial UVA irradiation.

St Johns Wort has been listed as contraindicated with the following drugs: warfarin, digoxin, cyclosporin, indinavir and related anti-HIV drugs, the contraceptive pill… and many others! This is because doctors are worried that something in SJWort may make the body metabolise prescribed drugs faster and thus reduce their effectiveness. It looks like the cause for this might be a specific phytochemical called hyperforin that is present in some subspecies of STWort and not others. Low SJW doses of no more than 2g per day, and/or a form containing less hyperforin (e.g. liquid herbal extract like the ones us herbalists use!) can make SJW safe to use with prescribed drugs, but it should still be done with professional supervision. I’ve certainly seen people get pregnant while on the pill due to taking SJW concurrently (at the same time). So basically, if you are on prescribed medication, don’t self-prescribe SJW- get professional guidance. Continue reading