The Epidemic of Fibre Deficiency

mag edit 9This the unedited version of my article from Edition 9 of

The Australian Vegan Magazine

You can order your copy here.


Australia, like all Western societies, is suffering from an epidemic of fibre deficiency. In an article published in the May edition of Nutrition, written by researchers from Nutrition Research Australia and the Department of Statistics, the authors reported on fibre intakes among Australian children and adults, using the 2011–2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. They found that only 42.3% of children and 28.2% of adults met the Adequate Intake (AI), and “less than 20% of adults met the Suggested Dietary Target (SDT) to reduce the risk of chronic disease.”

These statistics were gathered before the latest carbophobic ketogenic diet fad kicked in, so the current figures may be worse. When people assume ALL carbs bad, they are effectively throwing the baby (the fibre) out with the bathwater (the refined carbohydrates). Thankfully, popular concepts such as superfoods, nutrient density, gut health, and the anti-sugar movement, have been helping to turn the tide. Anytime we step away from refined, processed foods and embrace whole plant-foods, we’re repairing our broken relationship with fibre and giving ourselves an opportunity to live longer, healthier and happier lives. Continue reading

The Healing Properties of Kitchen Herbs- Part 3

veg mag 8This the unedited version of my article from Edition 8 of

The Australian Vegan Magazine

You can order your copy here.


In this third and final ‘Healing Properties of Kitchen Herbs’ article, I will be sharing what I know and love about seven herbs I have in my garden and kitchen. Two of these are green leaves, the healthiest and most under-appreciated food group on the planet! The other five are seeds I source in bulk from organic growers. When I was a child, my mother, who loved the idea of using food as medicine, inspired within me great respect and admiration for the nutritional properties of edible seeds.

“Seeds are very rich in proteins, healthy fats, and minerals. They are little nutrient powerhouses!” she would say. “Think about it: they not only produce life in the form of a new seedling, sometimes after laying dormant for years, they’re packed full of all the nutrients the seedling needs to survive until it grows roots and pushes its way up through the earth into the sunlight.”

Just when I thought seeds couldn’t possibly get any more interesting, my mother’s mother retired from medicine, began studying botany, and was soon waxing lyrical about the sex-lives of plants. “They really are quite clever!” she would say with a blush. Grandma could tell me anything I wanted to know about the sexy ways seeds are made, and the very creative tricks Nature has for dispersing these tiny packages of promise. 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

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

Being a student

I’ve been happily neglecting all my websites at the moment because I’m working on a book about my grandparents and my great uncle, but every now and then some fascinating naturopathic references pop up, a paragraph here and there, in the letters I’m scouring through in the search for book material.

The other day an old unsent letter reminded me that I had originally been looking at studying to become a dietician. I had forgotten about that. The timing, looking through these old letters, is quite interesting because my daughter has just started studying naturopathy and she too was faced with the same subject dilemma.

The latest letter I’ve found doesn’t have a date on it, but I’m guessing it was in the late 1990’s. I was just about to start my clinic time. I apprenticed myself to some amazing herbalists and naturopaths around town, including a local psychologist who helped me hone my spiritual counselling and colour therapy skills. I was also in the midst of studying pathology, which really wasn’t my idea of fun: Continue reading

Neuralgia

I was recently asked to talk about neuralgia by one of the members in our group “Ask the Vegan Naturopath”. Whenever my replies are longer than a few paragraphs, I prefer to turn them into blogs. 

Neuralgia is nerve pain, tingling and/or pins and needles from inflamed or damaged nerves.

Each client is treated as an individual and remedies are chosen that suit each unique case. The first thing to consider is the underlying cause, if it can be identified. Is the problem being caused by something structural in the musculoskeletal system tied in with injury or bad habits like poor posture and sitting too much? Is it damage caused by too much alcohol or drugs, or by too much glucose in the blood? Other causes might be too much artificial supplemented vitamin B6 or some kind of environment poisoning eg arsenic, mercury, lead, organo-phosphate residues from weed-killers and so on. An example of a nutrient deficiency that might cause nerve pain is vitamin B12 deficiency. Nerve pain can also be caused by infections like shingles. And the list goes on! Continue reading

Oats

Don’t you just love the look of this breakfast?! I’m not much of a cereal-for-breakfast person myself, but if I do have cereal, porridge is it! This is whole-oats porridge with rice milk, coconut yogurt, banana, apple, strawberry, mandarine, chai seeds, LSA (ground up linseed, sunflower and almonds).

I love food-herbs like oats. Food herbs are often also nutritive herbs, herbs that are packed full of nutrients; a whole-food multi-mineral/vitamin source. Oats is extremely rich in silicon, iron, chromium, sodium and magnesium. It also contains high levels of phosphorus and calcium, reasonable amounts of iron and selenium, and smaller quantities of iron, zinc, manganese and potassium. The magnesium-calcium-potassium team is a classic nervous system team and in herbs like this it’s present in beautifully synergistic or perfectly balanced ratio’s that the body loves. Continue reading

Synergy

From a nutritional perspective, synergism is the way certain nutrients within a food are interlinked and work together as a team. The fact that iron is absorbed better in the presence of vitamin C is a very simple example of synergism, but if I pick up my Nutrition Bible, the synergistic nutrients listed for iron are Vit B2, B12, citrate, copper, clic acid, histidine, lysine, molybdenum, and selenium.

In this, one of my favourite textbooks by Henry Osieki, Henry describes synergistic nutrients as those who “work together in particular metabolic pathways as well as cofactors that activate the nutrient in question.” He says that “supplementing a synergistic combination of nutrients with the nutrient in question will result in better health outcomes at (a)lower dose of the star nutrient for a condition.” Continue reading

Blood thinning foods and herbs

There are two herbal terms in herbal medicine that I associate with blood thinning: anti-platelet aggregation, and anti-thrombotic (anti-blood clot). The gingerols have anti-platelet action. These chemicals are found in ginger. They stop platelets in our blood from gathering together (aggregating), which creates an aspirin-like blood thinning action.
I’ve done a bit of research and can firmly say that although aspirin has blood thinning action, natural salicylate-containing herbs and foods do not. So when you come across articles written by people saying grapes, raisins and prunes have blood thinning action because they contain salicylates just like aspirin, this is incorrect. Chemists modify the extracted salicylates slightly to create aspirin, and this modification turns the original salicylate into a blood thinning chemical. Continue reading

Coumarins

One of my favourite phytochemistry groups when I was studying naturopathy were the coumarins. I find it enchanting when the presence of a plant chemical can be guessed at from the taste, smell or some other observable factor, such as the soapiness of plants containing saponins. Continue reading