The beautiful thing about naturopathy is that it allows for an individual, comprehensive and holistic approach to each person I see. I might have 10 people come to see me about a headache, and yet the treatment plan for each will be completely different.
I do notice, however, that there are some core pieces of advice which applies to the majority of clients, and in general is good advice for everyone.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your health, you are best to see a healthcare practitioner (like a naturopath!) to talk about your individual case.
1. Avoid gluten and particularly wheat.
Unfortunately the wheat and some other grains we consume today is not the same as the wheat that our grandparents enjoyed. Modern farming practices, genetic modification and processing means that so many people, particularly those with autoimmune conditions, are negatively affected by wheat consumption.
It used to be that generally only those with coeliac disease had an adverse reaction to wheat, but not now, as outlined in the brilliant documentary "What's With Wheat".
Gluten-free is no longer a fad, and I often find that this piece of advice results in the most dramatic changes for the better for many clients.
Modern living, medications, processed foods and antibiotics means that many of our gut flora is out of balance. Probiotics have now been clinically proven to show results for immune, skin, mental and digestive health, and even in weight management and child behaviour.
We now know that you need to be selective about which strain you use - seeing a healthcare practitioner trained in probiotics, like a naturopath, is important before taking probiotics.
3. Fish oil
Due to the processed foods in our diet, we don't get the levels of omega 3s we used to, and so fish oil supplementation is often required for cardiovascular and skin health, and for incredible anti-inflammatory action. There are some things to be aware of when it comes to fish oils though, and I've written about them here.
4. Know the foods that don't agree with you
There is more evidence that certain foods can cause inflammation or a negative immune response in the body, and can be responsible for not just digestive symptoms, but also conditions such as arthritis, migraines, autoimmune conditions, hormonal disorders, skin problems, asthma, hayfever... the list goes on and on.
You can work out which foods that don't work for you either via a rotation or elimination diet, or through an appropriate food allergy or intolerance test from a naturopath or healthcare practitioner.
5. Reduce your toxic load
We are all exposed to toxins on a daily basis, and while our liver and other organs do a great job in dealing with them generally, it certainly helps the healing process to avoid toxins where we can.
The website www.lowtoxlife.com is a brilliant resource on how to phase out toxins.
And don't forget to avoid toxic people as well :)
6. Take time out
I swear this is on almost everyone's "prescription pad" from me. Most of us simply do not get enough rest.
Whether you take a holiday, a long weekend or simply try to get to bed half an hour earlier, your body will thank you for it.
All the supplements, nutritional advice and herbal medicines in the world won't work so well unless you are rested.
7. Develop a wholesome, loving relationship with real food
I get so mad about some of the marketing claims made by processed food manufacturers - these include packet cereals, margarine, "snack bars", and drinks. Coupled with some poor dietary advice, I am seeing a lot of clients who are malnourished, and confused about what to eat.
It is also important to lose the guilt when eating foods you love, and instead focus on whole real foods that satisfy.
My advice is simple - eat real food - choose eggs and avocado or porridge instead of processed cereals; enjoy a handful of nuts instead of a muesli bar; don't buy the packaged pasta meals and make your own from scratch. Yes, I know it takes time but your health is so much better for eating real food, that you will find you have more time with all that extra energy and wellbeing. Truly!
Need some advice for your particular health needs? Book in and see me in person. I'd love to help. Head over to my bookings page to make an appointment online.
I recently gave a workshop, and the most commonly asked questions revolved around fish oils.
Ever since researchers noted that native sub-actic populations were quite stout and yet didn’t have many of the chronic diseases of industrialised society, fish oil has been in the research pipeline. The results of 20+ years of publications, on balance, point to fish oil having big health benefits chiefly through its potent anti-inflammatory effect (helping with everything from cardiac disease and mental health, from skin conditions to arthritis).
However, for years I’ve told most of my clients that while they think they have this base covered, the junk they’re buying at the chemist or supermarket store isn’t helping. Now a recent study highlights that fact.
This study compared the effectiveness of 4 different types of fish oil, including concentrated (and more expensive) fish oil, cheaper concentrated fish oil, cheap krill oil and unconcentrated salmon oil.
The more expensive concentrated fish oil was found to be far, far more effective.
Furthermore, it is worthwhile remembering that fish oil can go rancid - even in capsules. So if you are buying a big bottle of fish oil that was sitting in the bargain bin outside the chemist for some time, and then that sits on your kitchen bench for even longer, then chances are it has gone off on the inside. Rancid fish oil actually CREATES inflammation in the body, the exact opposite of what you want.
You can check the freshness of your fish oil by biting into a capsule. If it tastes like fresh fish, then you are probably OK. If it tastes bitter, rancid or unpleasant, then it might not be that good for you. I often recommend fish oils that you take off the spoon as you can always taste whether it is OK, and you also get a good therapeutic dose that way.
There are many other factors to consider when buying fish oil - including the ratio of EPA/DHA (types of fatty acids) - differences here help us know whether your fish oil is best for mental health or cardiovascular health for example. If you are going to shell out on a supplement, then you might as well get the one which is formulated for the particular effect you are after.
Of course, it is always good to get your fish oil from fresh fish as well. Some varieties are better than others, but that is a whole other blog post (or kettle of fish, so to speak!).
Next time you are in for a consultation, feel free to ask me for a recommendation on the fish oil best for you. I am not aligned with any particular manufacturer or supplier, so happy to provide an unbiased recommendation.
What's the deal with coffee? And why do some people do well on diets, and others don't? Why are these two topics related?
You might have noticed lately that there seems to be a few studies coming out about coffee. And they are confusing, right?
One study tells us that coffee will help prevent cancer. The next tells us that coffee may cause cancer. Coffee helps us lose weight. Coffee is bad for cardiovascular disease. And so on.
So what do we make of this information? Do we drink coffee or don’t we? Maybe we can limit it to one or two cups a day. But is that enough to get the benefits? Or is it too much?
And then there are the diets. Paleo, Primal, Atkins, Vegan, Low Carb, Low Fat, High Carb, High Fat, Fasting, Eating more…. Where do you start to work out what is best for you?
The easiest way to cut through the confusion is to remember that we are all different. Very different.
Our genomic make-up, the environment we live in, the food we eat, the activities we undertake, whether we are stressed or relaxed, how much sleep we get, our family history, our hormone health, our happiness levels all vary and make us the individual we are.
This is something that naturopaths have always taken into account when helping our clients get healthier. It is why your first consultation with us can take up to 90 minutes, and we also make use of some pretty comprehensive questionnaires and use functional pathology testing in clinic to get a holistic picture of who you really are.
It is why we recommend you consult with someone trained in vitamins, minerals and herbal medicines before taking supplements. What works for one person, may not be great for another.
And now we even have access to looking at your how your genomic profile influences your health. As we learn more about our genes, we are starting to get some pointers to a range of health clues through genomic profiling tests which can tell us:
• Your ability to metabolise sugar and, in turn, your risk of diabetes.
• Your in-built stress response and the impact stress has on your body.
• Your personal need for a range of key nutrients vital for health including omega 3, vitamins, and CoQ10.
• The best way for you to reduce and maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
• Your liver detoxification ability.
• The optimal amounts of fats and salt your body requires to support health.
• Your risk for late onset lactose intolerance and coeliac disease.
• How your body responds to caffeine and the impact caffeine has on your body.
• Bone health for prevention of osteoporosis.
• Your oestrogen detoxification ability.
• Your inflammatory response to food and lifestyle.
• Antioxidant response and antioxidant levels.
• The best exercise regime for strength and stamina for you.
• And even your seasonal variation to sleep, mood, appetite and social activity.
The emerging science of epigenetics reveals that how genes express themselves are influenced by what we eat and ingest, our lifestyles, emotions and environment.
By accessing your genetic profile, you can learn how to optimise your diet and modify your lifestyle to “turn of” genes that have the potential to cause harm and “turn on” genes that help to prevent disease.
It is an exciting time we live in to be able to access this information.
PS – if you want to learn more genomic wellness testing, then right this way!
I blame the smartphone.
We are so used to having everything instantly that we have forgotten how to wait.
We want everything right now. Whether it is a piece of information, our coffee order, or a response from someone; we have little patience if something is taking longer than we think it should. Even Facebook will rate a business's page based on how quickly that business responds to messages. We want everything now!
On top of that, we are always on the go. In fact 24 hours, 7 days a week. We keep ourselves busy, busy, busy and rarely take the downtime to do nothing. And if we do, we feel bad that we aren't doing something.
We are incredibly impatient when it comes to our health too. We feel sick and want something that will fix it right now.
The thing is, our bodies don't realise that we are living in the 21st century. Our adrenal glands struggle to pump out the large quantities of noradrenalin we demand it to get up and start everyday.
Our over-anxious minds struggle to slow down so we can rest properly. I mean blissed out, completely relaxed rest.
We start to burn out with all the caffeine and sugar we feed it to keep going, and then our livers don't get a rest from the alcohol we drink to try and slow down.
Have a cold? Then we take something to "soldier on".
Many cultures of ancient times valued and appreciated the body's need for downtime. These cultures understood the moon cycles (often linked to menstrual cycles) and that during menstruation women needed to retreat and be introverted. They understood and respected the seasons of the year and that in winter we needed to slow down and sleep more. If only our workplaces respected this as well!
Many cultures also knew that we need significant rest after traumatic events - for example mourning periods lasted for months and years. Today we get 2 or 3 days of bereavement leave.
The impact that big life events has on us are also not marked as they once were. Whether we have started or ended a relationship, moved house, had a new baby or started a new job, we are expected to keep going at the same pace as always.
The thing is, in nature, things take time.
You can't just plant a seed in the ground and expect a fully-grown tree to spring up straight away. You need to water it, give it the right nutrients, have cycles of warmth and coldness, light and dark. And wait.
It is the same with achieving long term health. You have to give yourself time. The right nutrients. Periods of rest. Periods of activity. And be patient.
For true wellness - on a physical, mental and emotional level, we simply can't bypass the laws of nature. Sure, we can obtain a quick fix or band-aid solution, but for long term good health, we have to work in with the cycles and laws of nature.
Nearly every one of my clients are overworked and struggling to keep pace with the expectations of society. Every single one. Too much depending on adrenalin. Too much fast food. Too many quick fixes. Not enough self care and nurturing.
It is often the cause of so many health conditions.
I've been there too. I get it. It is incredibly hard to take the time to heal ourselves properly.
Society just doesn't make it easy for us to slow down.
But sometimes, we just have to.
The only way though to change things is to put your health first. You have to prioritise it.
Sometimes that means making difficult decisions such as taking time off work. Asking for space. Making time to cook from scratch. Making more time for exercise. Most importantly, more time for rest.
And, I'll say it again, it simply has to be done. You can't hurry biology or nature. Our body's have evolved with a slower pace of life over thousands of years. Which is why we are now burning out as things speed up so quickly.
Let's be more gentle on ourselves. More gentle on each other. And more patient.
Some time ago I was gifted a wonderful, musty-smelling but obviously well-loved book. I was so delighted as I adore vintage books, and discovering that it was all about family health and medicine made it so much more special.
And what a gem of a book it is turning out to be. Titled “Modern Medical Counsellor – A Practical Guide to Health” published in Melbourne, Australia in 1959, it offers almost a 1000 pages of medical and health science of that time.
Now, I must admit that I was prepared to have a bit of a scoff at the advice given in the pages of this 1950’s text. The world in general, but especially our knowledge of health and medicine has advanced so much in 60 or so years, hasn’t it?
But after an initial flick through the title pages, my prejudices started to fall away as I spotted chapters dedicated to “Diet”, "Climate", “Mental Attitudes” and “Growing Old Gracefully". Hmmmm. This book was starting to look like it covered the pillars of naturopathic health philosophy which looks at an individual's nutrition, lifestyle, environment and emotional health when considering treatment options and advice.
And then I came to Chapter 18 “Natural and Other Rational Remedies”.
Let me repeat that. Natural and Other Rational Remedies.
It was at this point that I was won over. And surprised. I had a vague perception that by the 1950’s, natural remedies were beginning to be put aside (and even scorned) as pharmaceuticals and surgery were on the ascendant.
It made me think about how often in what we consider mainstream and orthodox medicine today, do we see the words "natural" and "rational" in the same sentence. Sadly, with many looking to discredit natural medicine in favour of new pharmaceuticals, you rarely see the word “natural” and “rational” in the same sentence today.
This text now had me intrigued. What actually was the current medical thinking on natural medicine in 1959?
Let quote directly from the book.
“There continues to be much talk about ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ remedies in connection with the treatment of disease. There is so much solid truth and good sense in this talk…we also hear the word ‘rational’ applied to various remedies or treatments. This word is properly applied to whatever is the logical or reasonable remedy given in any case. A truly natural remedy is always rational.”
“It should be self-evident that the most reasonable way to fight a disease is to find its cause and then to remove or correct that cause. And since the body has numerous natural defences and great powers of self-repair and restoration, another reasonable way to fight disease and restore health is to reinforce or co-operate with the body’s own defence and restorative forces, thus increasing the effective of these natural remedies.”
Wait, what! These paragraphs are essentially the underlying principle of naturopathy - aiming to work with the body’s own innate ability to heal, rather than fight against these natural processes.
The book then goes on further to talk about patients who “give far too much credit to the drugs and seem to think that they should seek primarily for some pill, powder, medicine, tablet or injection to use in treating every variety of disease in any of its stages. Such individuals will leave a doctor who gives their case careful study and then tells them to change their habits of eating and working but gives them no prescription to take to a chemist, and go to another doctor who takes but a minute or two in questioning and examining them and then prescribes from two to half a dozen different kinds of medicines. Sometimes a physician who would prefer to make a much greater and more nearly exclusive use of natural remedies is forced by these circumstances to write prescriptions in order to keep the patient under his care long enough for the natural remedies he recommends to take effect.”
Wow. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Now I don't want to go into the whole debate of pharmaceuticals and natural medicine right now - I believe there is a place for both where appropriate. But it would appear from this book that so many individuals look for the “fast fix” or silver bullet” to take away symptoms without addressing the underlying cause. And that this way of thinking has been in place for some time.
What I think we are starting to see now, however, (and research backs me up on this), is that more and more are turning back to natural medicines, and indeed consulting with natural and integrative practitioners who are able to take the time to really delve into a patient’s case on a wholistic level.
It makes sense. We have evolved over many thousands of years along with the plants that have provided our much of our food and medicines. Our bodies simply haven't adapted to the rapid increase in chemicals in our day to day living. So is it any wonder that we see side effects from our reliance on modern drugs, processed foods and cosmetics? And then find that the solution we really need is to take the time to look after ourselves with food and herbal medicines, just as our ancestors have for millennia?
I see so many clients are finding that the quick fix hasn't been serving their long-term health, and instead are getting lasting results by the use of herbal medicine, good solid nutrition, and living in harmony with our natural environment. This does take time and is not always a fast fix. And there can be so much to investigate with each person to figure out the right combination of natural medicines as we are all so different. An initial consultation with a naturopath can take up 90 minutes and that is really just the beginning of the journey to helping a client to bring their health back into balance.
So it is just wonderful, as a naturopathic practitioner who believes wholeheartedly that nature provides us with what we need to stay well, to have this affirmed in the pages of a medical text. Even if it is from the 1950's. I think our grandparents had the right idea when it came to taking care of ourselves - just eat real food and respect the herbal lore of our ancestors. By all means, turn to modern medicine when we need to, but let's also use the gifts of nature to stay well.
Food for thought indeed.
In the meantime, I’m going to read on, and perhaps share more wisdom from this 1950’s text on medicine in future posts.
The chapter “Survival in Atomic Bombing” is no doubt going to be fascinating...
Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist