Finding balance this Christmas

The magical month of December is here once again. I love the festive season. The days are filled with sunshine, social events and delicious food. But December isn’t here without its difficulties. The array of indulgent treats that cannot be avoided present a problem for many of my clients. So I’ve put together my thoughts on how to find balance this Christmas.

Be prepared

Say you have a specific health issue that you are trying to treat with dietary changes, such as leaky gut (no gluten) or candida overgrowth (low/no sugar). The key to getting through the Christmas season is planning ahead. Initiate an honest conversation with dinner hosts/restaurants about your dietary needs in advance or explain that you will be bringing something for yourself. 

Give yourself permission

While we must honour and nurture our physical bodies, we must also nourish our emotional self. Sharing a meal or a drink with friends and family brings joy into our lives. If you have been working on improving your diet, a day of indulging will not undo all that hard work. On these days, you can counter the negative effects of more sugar, fat and alcohol by adding in some additional digestive and liver support.  Letting go of the strict standards we put on ourselves is part of self-love and in itself can be immensely healing.

Support your digestion

Here are my top tips for optimising your body’s processing of dietary “bad guys”:

  • Drink fresh lemon/apple cider vinegar in warm water each morning to give your digestion a boost. It stimulates the vagus nerve, which is largely responsible for digestive secretions. If your tummy struggles with indigestion and reflux at the best of times, you may benefit from taking betaine hydrochloride and digestive enzymes to get you through.
  • Add in a liver support supplement over the Christmas period. St Mary’s Thistle, Globe Artichoke and Turmeric are among my favourite herbs to support bile acid production (breaks down fat), support detoxification and protect the liver against damage.
  • Take a daily probiotic such as Saccharomyces boulardii to help control gut bugs that are prone to growing out of control when we eat and dink more sugar.
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Support your mind

Stress levels can go up this time of year with more work pressures, increased busyness on the road/at the shops and less free time – which is exactly why we all need to prioritise finding time to calm the mind. Checking in with the breath each hour or a 15 minute morning meditation is enough to switch on your parasympathetic nervous system, the part of your nervous system which is responsible for “rest and digest” activities, such as producing stomach acid.

Don’t let guilt ruin Christmas

Perhaps the appeal of the Christmas spread was a little too good and you ate too much, leaving you feeling unwell and disappointed in yourself. What a perfect opportunity to turn that guilt into something positive and practice self-forgiveness. Holding onto negative feelings toward the self only exacerbates health issues. So let those feelings go and replace them with something positive, such as looking forward to the goals you’re going to kick in 2018!

Extra Resources

Looking for recipes that take into consideration your dietary needs? At Narayani Wellness we love online resources by Teressa Cutter “The Healthy Chef”, Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar and Deliciously Ella, Jamie Oliver and Lola Berry also offer some great ideas in their cookbooks.

By Lucy Mason, Naturopath

Choc Mint Cheesecake Swirl

Created by Rachel Larsson

Have you ever found that when you have decided you are ‘going to get healthy’ or you are determined to ‘feel better’, an all-or-nothing approach to food can sometimes make the process a whole lot harder?

Food has many roles and meanings; it’s nourishing, fuel for your body, a way to socialise and a source of enjoyment.

Food shouldn’t be a source of anxiety, guilt or fear.

Whatever diet you choose to follow that best supports you in your ability to thrive, I hope there is room for delicious treats to enjoy in moderation (there certainly is in mine)! 

I wanted to share with you a recipe that is delicious and you can enjoy without guilt, remorse or regret. It is perfect for Christmas (or any occasion for that matter) and you’ll have your family & friends begging for more.

The best part is - it is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegan/vegetarian friendly and refined-sugar free, but tastes just like a rich, classic cheesecake.

You’re welcome guys!

Ingredients

Base

  • 2/3 cup medjool dates
  • 1 cup raw hazelnuts ground
  • 1/2 cup linseed/flaxseed meal
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs

Filling

  • 600ml full-fat coconut cream
  • 3/4 cup cashew butter*
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted + additional 1/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup rice malt or maple syrup 
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • 4-8 drops of peppermint extract/essence (more or less depending on personal preference)
  • 12-20 baby spinach leaves or 2-3 drops of green food dye (depending on how green you want the mixture).

Decoration

  • Dark chocolate, melted
  • 1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs (optional)
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Method

1. Line a cake tin with baking paper

Making the Base

2. In a food processor add ground hazelnuts, linseed/flaxseed meal, dates, coconut oil and salt to a food processor and blend until crumbly in texture. Add in cacao nibs and blend until they are mixed in.

3. Evenly press mixture into the cake tin, and place tin in freezer for 10 minutes

Making the Filling

4. In a blender/nutribullet add coconut cream, cashew butter, 1/3 cup coconut oil, maple/rice malt syrup and salt. Blend until combined.

5. Split the filling into two even quantities.

6. To one half of the mixture add cacao powder and blend until smooth.

7. Pour this cacao filling into the base and set in the fridge for 10 minutes (until slightly firm).

8. Whilst the chocolate filling is starting to firm, make the mint filling.

9. Add to remaining half of the mixture baby spinach leaves or green food dye, remaining coconut oil and peppermint extract/essence and blend until smooth.

10. Carefully pour the mint filling onto the chocolate mixture gentle swirling with the handle end of a spoon, to create a swirled chocolate and mint design.

11. Place in fridge overnight

Decoration

12. Take the dessert out and drizzle over your melted dark chocolate to create a decorative pattern. Whilst the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle over some cacao nibs for an extra crunch.

13. Serve, sit back and wait for the smiles

Notes

*I made my own cashew butter using soaked 1 ½ cups of cashews, soaked in water for 24 hours. I then drained these and blend in a Nutribullet (or something similar) until smooth – adding some water one tablespoon at a time to help.

Storage. This dessert will last 3-4 days in the fridge, a few months in freezer.

Coconut and Buckwheat Toasted Muesli

Gluten free. Oat free. High protein. High healthy fats.

Your body will love you for starting your day with this well balanced breakfast. Many typical breakfasts are high in carbohydrate and sugar - a nightmare for your pancreas and adrenals. Nuts, buckwheat and coconut form the core of this recipe, providing the right macronutrients (protein and healthy fat) that prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking, keeping your hormones (insulin and cortisol) happy. It is my go to on the days where I don’t feel like eggs and avocado or I need a breakfast with minimal preparation - it’s quick, filling and tasty.  

Shop bought muesli is often loaded up with oats (not so great for those of us avoiding gluten) and can contain high amounts of sugar. It only takes 30 minutes to put together a homemade toasted muesli that lasts a couple of weeks, and you can personalise it to your taste and needs!

I love to serve it with fresh berries and a blob of natural pot set yoghurt or a drizzle of almond milk. It’s also great to nibble on by itself as a snack throughout the day.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole buckwheat kernels/groats
  • 2 cups roughly chopped nuts and seeds of your choice
  • (I like almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, pepitas and sunflower seeds)
  • 1.5 cups coconut flakes
  • 1.5 cups puffed millet (I have also used puffed rice or amaranth in the past with success)
  • 3 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3-4 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp rice malt syrup

  Method

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan and add rice malt syrup. Stir until combined then remove from the heat.
  3. Mix the oil mixture through the dry mixture until everything is coated.
  4. Spread the mixture out on lined baking trays, so that it is no thicker than 1cm.
  5. Bake in the oven on 120 degrees C for 20 minutes, turning once, or until the mixture is lightly golden in colour.
  6. Wait until the mixture is completely cool before packing it away for storage in the pantry.

Created by Lucy Mason, Naturopath

When to get help and when to do it alone.

We live in a wonderful time when we can access any information we want with just one easy click of the button.  For example, when I typed ‘gut health’ into Google I got a massive 133 MILLION hits! There is so much benefit to having access to this information, as you can get inspired, cultivate hope and discover some tools to help manage your health. However, having this much information has its down sides and can leave you feeling confused, overwhelmed or can even be dangerous.

In clinic I frequently hear my patients start a sentence with ‘I was reading about…’ or ‘I was Googling the other day and…’ Whilst I love hearing that they are taking an interest in their health, unfortunately the sentence usually ends with ‘now I’m confused’ or ‘I don’t know what to do’.

So, how do you know when you are out of your depth in addressing your health alone and when you need some professional help? To help you decide when you need to close the laptop and pick up the phone, ask yourself these five questions.

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1. Does your diet or supplement provide you with an immediate improvement and/or if you were to stop your treatment, would this effect be long-term?

If not, you have probably been providing yourself with Band-Aid support and not addressing the underlying issue. A great example I see a lot in clinic is constipation. Before coming to see me many patients have developed a dependency on strong coffee, laxatives or supplements to ensure a daily bowel motion. It needs to be understood that constipation is symptom of something else going on(1) and can be tricky to treat. There are many causes of constipation including an imbalance of your gut flora, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)(2) or nervous system issues, such as a side effect from a medication or low intestinal serotonin levels. Did you know 95% of the serotonin in our body is found in our gastrointestinal tract? Having enough serotonin is important because it signals the muscles along our digestive tract to contract and relax. This is called motility and it is necessary for regular bowel movements(3).

 

2. Do you feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious when thinking about your health?

If so, these emotions may be making your symptoms worse(4).  When your body experiences these emotions, it enters a state of fight or flight which causes our nervous system to tip into sympathetic nervous system dominance(5). Our sympathetic nervous system is necessary for our survival, as we use it when we need to escape danger or act quickly. However, this part of the nervous system inhibits our ability to rest and digest properly(6)(because who cares about digesting when you are running away danger). Experiencing daily stress, anxiety and overwhelm regarding your health may only be making you health worse. How ironic! A proven example of this relationship is stress and its ability to worsen or flare symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome(7). 

 

3. You have a sense that there is something else underlying the issue and are finding it difficult to get the big picture?

The perfect example of this is acne and congested skin. I meet many people that have ‘tried everything’; they have invested a lot of time and money into topical treatments, medications and diets without any improvement. Potentially this is because they are only treating one part of the problem.
Acne and skin congestion is considered a complex multi-system disease, rather a skin condition. Our skin is a huge organ and the health of it is a result of your diet, nutritional status, gut health and gut bugs, nervous system, hormones and immune system (8). So whilst the oral contraceptive pill or antibiotics may help manage your skin (9,10) if you stop these, your skin may go back to where it started. To make an effective long-lasting change in your skin, you need a holistic inside-out and outside-in approach.

 

4. Are you following advice that is supposed to help you and yet you feel worse?

You’ve starting eating healthier and have invested in cupboard full of supplements, yet you feel worse than ever with less energy, stomach pains, poor sleep and your mood has taken a turn. What could be going? It’s no surprise that we are all different - what works for someone may not work for you. A great example of this is if you have an underlying histamine issue. Histamine is a naturally occurring substance that we create in our body and is present in many foods. It is especially high in aged foods including bone broths, fermented foods, kombucha and kefir (11) and in some probiotics, which are readily promoted for gut healing (12). If you have tried any of these and feel worse, histamine sensitivity may be your issue. Perhaps you need the guidance from someone who acknowledges or understands the issue of histamine to help guide you back to health.

 

5. Is integrative medicine a better fit?

That is, are you required to take medications or are you under the care of practitioner who has limited understanding, interest or awareness of the role diet and gut healing plays in our wellbeing? If you answered ‘yes’ and you are trying to make supplement and dietary changes alone, you may be putting yourself in danger. Thyroxine (thyroid medication) is a great example of something that needs to be monitored closely. A change in supplements, medications and diet may alter the dosage needed to keep your thyroid in balance. If these interactions aren’t understood and accounted for, you may start to experience symptoms of thyroid imbalance (fatigue, shakiness, anxiety, gut issues)(13, 14). A practitioner that will consider these interactions is important in ensuring you a safe road to good health.

 

Closing Thoughts

Before you have lost all hope and motivation, spent years of your time and a mountain of money, reach out and get some professional support.  We love that you have taken the initiative in trying to help yourself and we want to be there for you to reach your health goals in a safe and effective way.   

By Rachel Larsson

BHSc (Naturopathy), BPH (Nutrition)            

Probiotics. Are they all the same?

We all know that probiotics are great for digestive health, but how do you know which one your gut needs? The bottle lists the various species of bacteria (or yeasts) contained within and offers a vague description of what they do, which really doesn’t give away a lot unless you know what to look for! This article is all about what to look for in a probiotic and in addition, I will dispel some common myths about how they work.

Let’s start basic. What is a probiotic?

The World Health Organisation officially defines a probiotic as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host” (1). Probiotics can be bacteria, such as the commonly seen Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus species, or yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii. You will find probiotics in health food stores, chemists and health clinics, sold as capsules or powders, either alive or freeze dried (alive, but sleeping). Proper storage of probiotics is essential in ensuring they are still alive and healthy by the time they reach your gut, so always follow the storage instructions on the bottle and be mindful when transporting your probiotics.

How do probiotics work?

Myth number 1 – probiotics permanently make our gut their new home. It is a common misconception that we take probiotics to replace healthy bacteria that have been lost, for example, following antibiotic treatment or during times of stress. Probiotics work their magic while they are in transit through our gut and are eventually flushed with the stool (2). They may stay in there a bit longer than our food, but it isn’t forever.

Myth number 2 – all types of probiotics fight off bad bugs. Many (not all) probiotics do have the ability to compete with bad bugs and stop them from taking over, however the beneficial action of probiotics goes far beyond (3). Additional examples of how they work includes:

  • Reducing inflammation in the gut
  • Speeding up or slowing down the time it takes for food to travel along the digestive tract
  • Reducing how sensitive our gut is to internal gas
  • Repair and strengthen the gut lining
  • Interacting with immune cells (think allergies as well as infections)
  • Influence intestinal secretions

Why are probiotics named the way they are?

As probiotics are living organisms, they are given latin names just like all plants and animals. In order to differentiate probiotics, you need to understand the terminology around their naming. I will use an example of the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.

  • The first word is the genus – Lactobacillus
  • The second word is the species – rhamnosus
  • At the end of the latin name is the strain – GG

The strain may be a combination of letters, numbers or both.

How important is the strain?

The strain is very important when it comes to treating a particular complaint or condition. You could compare strains of probiotic to breeds of dog – all dogs are the same species, but they come in a range of shapes, colours and designs. Likewise in probiotic species, different strains can have a different effect in our guts (1). For example, some strains of Escherichia coli cause intestinal or urinary tract infections, whereas the strain Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 is protective against infections (4).

The strain is commonly omitted from probiotic labels and left out of the discussion when talking probiotics. A good quality probiotic will always include the strain, just like a good clinical trial (a human study) will always state which strain has been tested. Unfortunately, many strains that have been studied are not yet available in Australia.

Which probiotic should I take?

If you wish to treat a specific health condition with probiotics, it is best to do your research and find some positive human studies, then use the same strain. It may be more expensive, but at least you can be sure your money is going into something that will work. There are many articles out there on probiotics, particularly in treating digestive, skin and immune issues such as IBS, traveller’s diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel conditions, asthma and eczema(5).

To give you a few examples, Lactobacillus plantarum CJLP133 can reduce the severity of eczema (6). Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium breve Bb99 can increase the eradication rate of Helicobacter pylori, an infection that causes stomach ulcers (7). At Narayani Wellness, we use Bifidobacteria lactis HN019 to treat SIBO, just one of the probiotics that we keep in our supplement toolbox.

If you are healthy and just looking for a probiotic to support general health, my recommendation is to get stuck into some fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir or kombucha. Strictly speaking, fermented foods are not considered a probiotic as the exact microorganisms are typically not known, nor can they be measured. However fermented foods that have been stored correctly are considered safe and beneficial to consume as they increase overall diversity in the gut when consumed regularly, which has been linked to a lower incidence of disease (5). Fermented foods also contain compounds that help to break down your food and keep your digestion working optimally.

If you are still unsure, take the hard work out of your shopping and make an appointment with us today to help find the right probiotic for you.

By Lucy Mason, Naturopath

Fermented Curried Cauliflower

Who would have thought food and drinks affected by bacteria and yeasts would be so sought after? Yes, we are talking about fermented products. No doubt you have heard about them on social media, at your local health food store, or from a health conscious friend.

Did you know, fermentation is traditionally a food preservation technique that has been traced back thousands of years. Fermentation has also helped us create new foods such as turning milk, wheat and grapes into delicious cheese, bread and wine(1). Yum!

It was only in early 20th century that scientific researchers proposed that fermented products might have health benefits (2). Fast-forward to today and we have stacks of science supporting the presence of good bacteria in these foods and how they can provide us with wonderful health benefits (1).

One of our favourite ways to reap the health benefits of fermentation is through eating fermented veggies. You may be familiar with fermented cabbage in the form of sauerkraut or kimchi, but did you know you can ferment a tonne of other vegetables including cucumber, carrot, beetroot and broccoli? Given that cauliflower is in season I thought this would be the perfect time to create a fermented cauliflower recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp coriander ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 head (600-700g) cauliflower
  • 2 grated medium sized carrots, grated
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1 -1 ½ tsp fine Himalayan or Celtic sea salt
  • Glass jar

Method

1. Rinse the cauliflower in cold water and cut into florets and slice as thinly as you can. Place in a bowl along with carrot, spring onion, spices and salt and mix with your hands. Ensure everything is well mixed and then let this rest for 30 mins.

2. Get your hands dirty again and massage the mixture again for a few minutes.

3. Press the mixture tightly into the jar, adding bit by bit, pressing down to realise the veggie juice (brine) as you go. Don’t worry if the mixture feels dry, as fermentation continues the vegetables will continue weeping.

4. After the mixture is in the jar, make sure it is pressed down and the brine is covering the cauliflower mixture.

5. After 8 hours, open the jar and give the mixture one more press down, to ensure the brine covers the vegetables.

6. Rest the jar on a plate (in case the brine seeps out) and place it in a warm place, such as above the fridge, and cover it with a tea towel. Depending on time of year you can start to taste the ferment from day 4 or day 7. When it’s ready you will be able to sense a pleasant sour and pickled taste.

7. Give the mixture another press to submerge in brine, screw on the lid and store in the fridge.

8. You will have this delicious ferment if kept refrigerated for 9-10 months. 

Things to look out for when fermenting

  • Brine. Always have your veggies covered, if your veggies are above the liquid push them back under. If you realise this later in the fermentation process, remove the veggies that have been on top of the brine level as they are no good. 
  • Note: if you are new to eating fermented foods, start consuming small amounts and increase gradually. Also if you have an issue with histamines, fermented foods may not be a great choice.

Created by Rachel Larsson

 

Low FODMAP Winter Warming Soup

You have just discovered the low FODMAP diet and your tummy is feeling much better for it, but traditional Winter food feels so bland without onion and garlic! It doesn’t have to. This delicious soup uses ginger, chilli and high quality chicken stock to give it some serious flavour. These warming ingredients are perfect for cold Winter nights, and the mix of fresh veggies makes it light, healthy and refreshing.

Not only will low FODMAP be gentle on your tummy, but the gelatin in the chicken stock may aid the healing of a leaky gut, which often accompanies FODMAP issues. At Narayani Wellness we encourage the use of high quality organic chicken broth, as pesticides accumulate in connective tissue and are therefore often found in high quantities in non-organic meat broths. You can make your own organic broth or buy it ready made from most health food stores. For a vegan/vegetarian variation of this soup, substitute chicken stock with a homemade veggie stock. Tofu, tempeh or boiled eggs could be used instead of poached meat.

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Serves 3-4. Preparation and cook time 30-40 minutes.

Gluten free, dairy free. Vegan/vegetarian option.

Ingredients:

  • Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • One fresh chilli finely chopped (seeds removed)
  • 1 tbsp oil (we like olive, coconut or ghee)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 large zucchini, seeds removed and grated
  • ½ large capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 4 stalks/1 cup broccolini, chopped
  • 500g organic meat of your choice (I used chicken drumsticks) (optional)
  • 1.5 L organic chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh coriander to serve

 Method

  1. In a large pot, saute the chilli and ginger in oil for 2 minutes on medium-high heat
  2. Add the chicken stock.
  3. If using meat, add it now to poach in the stock
  4. Remove the meat with tongs once cooked through and place on a cutting board to cool
  5. Turn pot down to a simmer, add the vegetables and cook until just soft
  6. Meanwhile, shred the cooked meat with a couple of forks or chop into small pieces
  7. Add the meat back to the pot
  8. Serve into bowls, salt and pepper to taste and top with fresh coriander!

Created by Lucy Mason

BHSc (Naturopathy)

Are prebiotics good or bad in SIBO?

Since my previous blog about IBS and SIBO I have had so many questions from my patients wanting to know more about SIBO. What stands out to me the most is a confusion around what to eat, with the most common questions surrounding prebiotic, fibre rich foods and if they help or hinder SIBO.

 

What is a prebiotic food and what does our gut do to it?

A prebiotic is a non-digestible food ingredient that it is not broken down or absorbed in the higher parts of our gastrointestinal tract(1). There are a lot of foods with prebiotic properties including chickpeas, legumes, leeks, rye bread, garlic and cashews(2). They play a special role in our health - they act as food to our gut's good bacteria, increasing their numbers (lactobacilli and bifidobacteria(3)) and improving our overall health(1).  

 

Why do these healthy foods cause discomfort?

In SIBO, the overgrowth of bacteria causes inflammation and hurts your gut wall affecting your ability to breakdown and digest food. The bugs themselves play havoc with your own enzymes and body processes. For example there is loss/decrease in an enzyme called disaccharideses, which is important for breaking down carbohydrates and sugars. This means that any food, like a prebiotic food that contains fructose, lactose and sorbitol, may not be digested properly, resulting in those uncomfortable symptoms you experience(4).

 

Treating SIBO… with prebiotics?!

You may notice that some of the foods that cause your discomfort are also considered to be high FODMAP foods. FODMAP describes a group of of short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols comprising of fructose, lactose, fructo- and galactooligosaccharides (fructans, and galactans), and polyols(5).

To provide symptom relief from SIBO we may suggest avoiding these high FODMAP prebiotics foods (looking at you apples, onions and garlic!) for a short period of time. It is really important to know that excluding these foods long term is not the answer and will not fix SIBO(6). A healthy gut is dependant on you eating a fibre rich, highly diversified diet so restricting these foods for a long period of time will only worsen your situation and increase your sensitivity to more foods(7). It's not uncommon that we see patients tolerating only a handful of foods and it's best to avoid this! 

Garlic, a wonderful prebiotic food.

Garlic, a wonderful prebiotic food.

As part of our treatment for SIBO we use certain types of prebiotics in combination with probiotics and specific antimicrobials (bug killers). These types of prebiotics have beneficial roles in our gut health that are important for restoring your gut health.

The following are four common prebiotic supplements on the market, three of which we use regularly in the treatment of SIBO. The fourth is not advised!

1. Lactulose

Lactulose is made up of two sugars, galactose and fructose, which is not broken down or absorbed in our small intestine. Lactulose increases our good bugs like bifidobacteria(8) and decreases the bad ones like clostridia(9). It is generally well tolerated, however you can take too much of it and end up with loose bowels(8)

2. Partically Hydrolysed Guar Gum (PHGG)

PHGG is a natural water soluble fibre that has been broken down by an enzyme to make it smaller and to decrease the amount of galactomannon (10). PHGG increases the good bugs Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species and decreases nasty waste products such as ammonia(11). PHGG can also give softer stools to assist constipation(12). Studies also show that PHGG in combination with an antibiotic to treat SIBO was more useful in eradicating SIBO compared with the antibiotics alone(13), how amazing!

3. Galacto-oligosaccarrides (GOS)

GOS is formed by breaking down lactose, a common sugar found in dairy. GOS is known to increase the good bugs bifidobacteria and reduce the bad bugs, clostridia and bacteroides. Another benefit of GOS alone or in combination with a probiotic is that it can support our immune system. GOS used in its recommended dosage range is well tolerated. Again, too much of a good thing can lead to problems; abdominal discomfort, cramping, flatulence and diarrhoea(14)

4. Inulin

Inulin is beneficial to out gut because it supports our good bugs bifidobacteria. However, because it is made up fructans(15), it can be really uncomfortable to consume if you have SIBO. Studies have found inulin increases flatulence, rumbling, stomach and gut cramps, and bloating(16). So best to avoid this one! 

Take home messages

Prebiotics are very powerful and beneficial for SIBO. But remember, not all prebiotics are the same.

If certain foods are causing you pain, bloating, constipation, or diarrhoea, this is your body communicating to you that your digestion system is struggling. Ironically the foods that cause discomfort are the same foods that are important to your health. Instead of excluding these foods, we need to improve your digestive system so you can tolerate these and improve your health in the long run. This can be impossible to navigate by yourself so get a professional on board to help correct your bugs, restore your gut wall and find the diet and fibre that is right for you.

After this, you may even be able to handle eating delicious lentils, onion, garlic and apples!

By Rachel Larsson

BHSc (Naturopathy), BPH (Nutrition)

Prebiotics for health

The exciting possibilities of prebiotics for a variety of digestive, immune and mood related complaints are only just being discovered. Prebiotics are receiving more attention with the increasing understanding of the human microbiota (all of the bacteria, viruses and fungi that live on and in us), as the two together can have an incredible impact on our health.

 

What are prebiotics?

Essentially, prebiotics are ingredients found in whole, unprocessed vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds which are not digestible to us, but provide the perfect food for beneficial gut bugs living within us(1). These ingredients are broken down by the microorganisms in the digestive tract into compounds that have a beneficial effect in multiple areas of the human body, which can include altering the activity of the same bugs that created them! Most prebiotics are carbohydrate fibres, and it’s the knock-on effect of eating them that makes them so special.

 

How do they relate to probiotics?

I often hear prebiotics being confused with probiotics. While they act very similarly in the gut, they are in fact different. Probiotics are live organisms that we take in supplement form, where the species of bacteria are known and measured(2) Much like the gut bugs that have been living in us since the first few days of life (our microbiota), probiotics also love to munch on prebiotics. You will often find probiotics and prebiotics in combination in a supplement to enhance the products therapeutic quality. A lot of the research around prebiotics looks at how they interact with two of the most common probiotics, Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria(3).

 

What’s the difference between fibre and prebiotics?

Most prebiotics are fibre, however not all fibres are prebiotic. Fibre is often classified as insoluble or soluble, which also provides a good basis for distinguishing which ones are prebiotic.

Insoluble fibres do not get broken down by us or by our gut bugs, however they do bulk out the stool, helping to keep us regular(4). These are the stringy fibres that give a lot of foods their rough texture, such as the skin of nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.

Soluble fibre, found in a variety of whole foods, cannot be broken down by us, but are easily fermented by bacteria. Those that exert a proven beneficial effect on us are termed prebiotics.

 

Types of prebiotics

Here is a little bit of extra information for the science lovers out there. A clear cut catagorisation of what is and what isn’t a prebiotic has not yet been established as it is still a young area of science. If we consider what has the potential for prebiotic activity, the following fibres and their respective foods are included:

  • Non-starch polysaccharides such as beta-glucans (mushrooms), pectins (pear, apple, plum, citrus), gums (guar gum, xanthum gum), hemicellulose (psyllium husk) and cellulose (broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower).
  • Non-digestible oligosaccharides such as galactans (legumes) and fructans, primarily inulin (onion, garlic, artichoke, asparagus, leek, chicory root, banana).
  • The disaccharide lactulose (only found in supplement form).
  • Sugar alcohols including sorbitol (pears, plums, dried fruits) and mannitol (button mushrooms).
  • Resistant starch, which is starch that resists digestion in the small intestine, making it available in the large intestine for fermentation (potatoes, legumes, whole grains).

How do prebiotics improve our health?

Prebiotics selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria that are indigenous to our guts, including the well-studied Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli species. These bacteria, when thriving, help to seal the barrier between the intestine and bloodstream, improve our immunity and keep potential bad bacteria/fungi (such as clostridia and candida) to a minimum.(3). With a healthy microbiota, improvements are noted in mood, skin, allergies and autoimmune conditions, just to name a few.

In addition, bacteria create short chain fatty acids (e.g. butyrate, propionate and acetate) from prebiotic fibres, which have beneficial effects throughout the body. For example, butyrate, made by Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcaceae bacteria, is a major energy source for the cells that make up our colon. Propionate acts at the liver to suppress cholesterol synthesis and acetate is utilised by the heart, brain, kidneys and muscles(1).

 

When prebiotics can be problematic

For people that have certain intestinal issues, such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), eating the wrong types of prebiotics can make symptoms worse. For example, fructans and sugar alcohols (which are both considered FODMAP foods) are known to cause bloating, flatulence and discomfort in certain people(5). However, complete avoidance of prebiotics deprives healthy gut bugs of food and can make the situation worse in the long run. If you fall into the SIBO or IBS, or are unsure, an appointment with us can help minimise symptoms while still making sure your good bugs are fed! 

By Lucy Mason

BHSc (Naturopathy)

Warm sweet potato and lentil salad

This gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian friendly recipe, developed by our naturopath Rachel, is the perfect meal or side dish to your favourite protein. 

There are so many elements to this salad that nurture and support your gut health with our favourite being fibre!

Adequate intake of fibre for men is 30g/day and women is 25g/day (1), which most Australian's fail to meet (2). High fibre intake is proven to have health-protective effects and disease-reversal benefits including heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases (3). Resistant carbohydrates and dietary fibre, from sources like sweet potato and lentils, influences the variety and number of bacteria we have in our gut, as well as their bacteria's metabolic abilities (4), which influences so many aspects of our health, including mood and immune function. So dig in to this delicious recipe and feed your gut some fibre.

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Serves 4-5. Preparation and cook time 1-hour 20min

Ingredients

  • 800g sweet potato cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 ½ C bite sized broccoli florets
  • 150g snow peas, cut into thirds
  • 1 can (400g) brown lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1-2 handfuls of rocket
  • Coconut oil 
  • ½ lemon juiced
  • 2 tsp seeded mustard
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Feta or parmesan (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Add sweet potato to a lined baking tray and coat in coconut oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Place baking tray in oven and bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.
  3. In a large bowl add snow peas, rocket and lentils. Sit this aside.
  4. To make the salad dressing, in a small bowl add lemon, mustard, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir until combined and pour into the large bowl.
  5. After the sweet potato has been in the oven for 45 minutes, add the broccoli florets to the bake try and bake for the remaining 15 minutes.
  6. After the baked vegetables are done, add them to the large bowl and mix well.
  7. Serve in your favourite plate or bowl with the option of adding your favourite parmesan or feta.

Dish created by Rachel Larsson

Join us in finding the right diet for you - food chemical sensitivity and healing leaking gut

Hi there,
I’m excited to announce that we are launching our first ever comprehensive food intolerance & gut healing program to help you, our patients, to truly find the right diet for your unique circumstance.

For some of you green smoothies or blueberry treats, and many other foods that we think are healthy for us, could actually be making things worse.

Spinach, cacao and sweet potato can be causing you to feel lousy.

Confused?
Yep. I get it. Up until recently I was too.

Many of you know snippets about my son Jarvis and his health concerns that we’ve been faced with over the past 12 months. It’s been a challenging time for my husband, Jarvis and myself. We have trialed many different diets, spent a lot of money on testing, therapies and supplements, had some wins and made some errors, not to mention had many sleepless nights and invested a tonne of energy to make sense of it all.

But like all good challenges, it has brought forward something truly magical.

This program has come about through my personal experience to help others navigate food chemical sensitivities and healing leaky gut. My aim with this program is that we find what food chemicals may be problematic in a structured way to provide symptom relief and simultaneously focus on our gut bugs & treating the underlying cause.

What is food chemical sensitivity?
In our foods there are many natural chemicals that vary in concentration. Some serve to protect the plant against insects and others come about through protein degradation. In many circumstances these chemicals are of benefit – they are antioxidants and act against cancer, inflammation and chronic disease. But for some people, they can reap havoc and be the cause of your symptoms.
Think fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, insomnia, depression, anxiety, irritability or skin rashes. Or hay fever, hives, foggy head, weight gain, hair loss… the list goes on!
The RPAH elimination diet or FAILsafe diet is a wonderful diet that helps people navigate salicylate and histamine intolerance. You can read more about this on www.fedup.com.au
However missing from this diet is oxalate intolerance. Oxalates are high in chocolate, nuts, spinach and sweet potato. They are crystals that normally are digested by our gut bugs, but if we have a problem there, they then accumulate and can cause prostatitis, vaginitis, thrush, painful red or itchy bottom, painful sex, Fibromyalgia, CFS and more.

Why not just follow the RPAH elimination diet?
This diet gets results for many people. It looks not only at food chemicals but also avoiding preservatives in our foods and other products that may be causing us problems.
Yet the suggested foods are high in sugar and well, in my mind, a bit crappy overall.
It doesn’t take into account oxalates, the gut microbiome (the world of bacteria) and supplements that can support the food chemical intolerances.  
It is a case of eliminating the troublesome food, and living this way ongoing.

Why not GAPS diet?
Again the GAPs diet has helped countless of people around the world, especially children suffering from behavioural issues.
But for us it didn’t work. In the end we were on a gluten free, dairy free, low salicylate, low oxalate, low histamine, low FODMAP, GAPs diet. Which really equates to living on air! And dealing with a huge amount of overwhelm.
My experience with the GAPS diet left me asking “what parts of the GAPs diet is beneficial?” Clearly it works and I’ve been sifting through the different principles to see what is essential and what is well, based on a “gut feeling” rather than evidence.

Introducing our program….
This program incorporates the RPAH elimination diet, selective  principles behind the GAPS diet, and the low oxalate diet.
There are three phases to the program:

  1. Preparation (3 weeks)
  2. Elimination (3 weeks)
  3. Challenge (4 weeks)

The preparation phase is essential for the success of the elimination diet. The challenge phase is structured so that you have the best chance of determining what category of foods you are reacting to. It helps us to make sense of what we need to avoid while we are working on the underlying cause, which is where this program leads you.
It recognises that whilst we may feel better on a restricted diet, we are at risk of starving our good bugs. For instance, a high fat diet can help us to feel better with less bloating (as our bugs can’t ferment fat) however our good bugs start to decline in numbers and can even become extinct. Once they’re gone it becomes very difficult to re-establish a healthy gut microbiome.
This program also challenges many assumptions about gut healing and what foods we should & shouldn’t have, using evidence to back up our recommendations.
We hope to identify what your main issues are in relating to food and gut health. Following the program, you then work with our naturopaths or myself to then focus on these, with initiation of specific supplements. It is important to follow these steps to minimise any adverse effects from the treatments. For instance, if you are salicylate intolerant, you cannot tolerate certain herbs and we can modify our approach to better help you.

Who are we looking for?
You are motivated and committed to finding answers.
You have symptoms (unexplained or listed above) and are concerned they may relate to your diet/gut.
You are willing to share this experience with others (small group) in a similar circumstance.
You are a type A personality – you like to be on time, thorough with your note taking and following instructions and are reliable.
You are happy to share what you learn with us. For instance, we will be providing recipes but hope to get your input in tweaking these or creating something new, so that our resources expand to benefit others.
You understand that nothing is guaranteed and take responsibility for your own health. 
You can attend all sessions - if a class is missed, you are happy to have a quick 1:1 consult with our naturopaths to ‘catch up’.
You can afford testing for leaky gut, +/- SIBO +/- stool culture.

A little more detail about the program: 
We have only 8 spaces available (6 are already filled) and want our first time to be as successful & enjoyable as it can be.
Starts: 17th May, runs for 10 weeks (ends 19th July).
Time: 0900-1100 every Wednesday morning.
It will be run by myself and you will also have the support of Rachel and Lucy (my naturopaths)
Each structured session will allow us to address your specific concerns as they relate to the diet and related symptoms.
You will be provided with resources, recipes, meal plans, shopping lists and strategies to help with the entire process. I am sharing everything I have learnt with you.
It will not cover 1:1 consultations required to address your other health complaints or more detailed assessment if anything unexpected arises.
Cost: 
For 10 weeks I will be running a 2 hour session to support you every step of the way.
As this is our first time running the program, I have allocated the money that Narayani Wellness tithes (yes, we normally tithe 5% profits to charity) to subsidise this.
The out of pocket fee is $50 each session, totalling $500 for the 10 week program. This will need to be paid up front to confirm your position.
Interested? 
We have two positions left to fill so get in touch with us by this Friday 5th May to let us know your interested. Lucy or Rachel will schedule a call with me so we can have a chat about your suitability.
 

Seven ways to care for your thyroid

When I was sixteen I was an avid runner who loved competing in long distance events. One day I collapsed at the finishing line, pale as a ghost, with my heart beating too slowly and not pushing enough blood around my body. I felt terrible and it was all rather dramatic.

Leading up to this day, I had been having funny turns at school. At the time, with the wisdom of a sixteen year old, I thought it was funny to be having these “drop –attacks”. They occurred while I was walking along and then bam! I’d find myself on the ground. Along with this I felt irritable, had gained weight and was feeling extremely tired. My teachers and family put this down to “raging hormones” or “growing pains”, shrugging it off as normal adolescent behaviour.  

Eventually I was diagnosed with thyroid disease due to an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I started taking Thyroxine, a synthetic form of thyroid hormone and began to feel better. I was traveling along reasonably well until I woke one morning and found that half of my face was paralysed. Yep, paralysed. I wasn’t even able to fully close my eyelids on that side. 

Can you imagine how horrific it was to see only the right side of my face moving as I screamed out to my mum? 

This time I was diagnosed with yet another autoimmune disease called Bell’s palsy. This is a condition in which the facial nerve, supplying the muscles of my face, was attacked by my own immune system. After a course of strong steroids, I was one of the fortunate ones who fully recovered after 6 weeks. For others it can take months or even years to recover. 

Prior to this double whammy of “bad luck” I had been a fit and healthy girl. Being a farm girl, I was more active than most. However I loved eating fruit and tomatoes, and this habit took its toll on my teeth. Six months prior to falling ill, I needed to have several dental fillings and in those days it was mercury amalgam. Was it just a coincidence that I fell ill with two auto-immune conditions after getting several mercury fillings? Had I known then what I know now, I would have avoided mercury fillings (aka silver fillings) at all costs . I explain my reasons for this below. 

As an Integrative GP who has lived with thyroid disease and clearly remembers living with Bell’s palsy, I’ve been intrigued as to why I had this “bad luck”.   There is so much more to autoimmune thyroid disease than just treating it with Thyroxine and this is a quick summary of what I’ve learnt.

1. Never look at the thyroid in isolation

In my case it’s clear that my immune system was going ballistic. It didn’t know what was friend or foe, and it is a good idea to ask why.

2. Start with gut health

Over 85% of our immune system lives in the gastrointestinal tract and there is very exciting emerging evidence that links gut health to a range of conditions including auto-immune diseases. Don’t worry I’ll be sharing this with you soon!

My general approach is to start with diet and nutrition, and whilst I believe no one diet fits all, I generally recommend removing any food allergens, especially gluten. I know. I get it. I too had a carb addiction, and it took me four months to quit the habit. Yet, there is evidence that patients with thyroid autoimmune disease have autoimmunity suggestive of coeliac disease (gluten allergy) and type 1 diabetes. It is definitely best to avoid gluten to prevent further problems, and for a number of my patients I have seen their thyroid function improve as a result. 

Next is healing the gut, which is one of the most exciting and interesting areas of medicine. Call me crazy, but I feel everything from depression and autism to arthritis and asthma, relates to gut health. For some, healing the gut means incorporating bone broths (or glutamine/glucosamine/turmeric supplements), and herbs like slippery elm, omega 3, and probiotics into your routine. Often there are accompanying mineral deficiencies such as magnesium and zinc, which when corrected contribute to the healing process. 

I recommend seeing a dietician/nutritionist who has training in GAPS or paleo diet to really help you fine-tune your diet and treat the cause of autoimmunity.

3. Manage the adrenal gland

During medical school I learnt very little about the adrenal gland. I got the impression that they were somewhat insignificant glands that hung out above the kidneys, rarely causing trouble.  How wrong that was! 

When supporting the thyroid gland, we can’t ignore the adrenals. They are responsible for producing our stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline), DHEA, sex hormones and mineralocorticoids (aldosterone; responsible for salt/water balance). Cortisol excess impairs thyroid function. As the gross majority of us live in a chronic state of stress, the constant fight or flight response, increases demand on our adrenal glands and in turn our thyroid gland. 

The adrenal gland is key to the mind/body connection and I will endeavour to explore the adrenal gland in future articles as a holistic approach for managing and supporting the adrenal gland is required. 

4. Remove the triggers!

There are a number of known factors that inhibit proper production of thyroid function. These are called “goitrogens” and include mercury, pesticides, lead, cadmium, halogens (fluoride etc.) and medications such as lithium. These are known “endocrine disruptors” and taking the steps to educate yourself about environmental pollutants so you can limit your exposure is so very important. If your thyroid is under strain, eating excessive amounts of certain foods such as isoflavone phytoestrogens from soy and thiocynates in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage) can tip the balance, impairing thyroid function. Best not to consume too many kale smoothies if your thyroid is strained! 

5. Support the thyroid – give it the fuel it needs.

The thyroid gland needs iodine for production of thyroid hormone. The majority of the Australian population are iodine deficient and will require supplementation or review of dietary intake. Unfortunately, an excess of iodine can also interfere with thyroid production, so getting your levels right is essential. It is best to do this under the care of trained integrative medical doctor or naturopath, who may choose to check levels (known as a corrected urinary iodine level). Iron and vitamin D are critical for proper production of thyroid hormones, and levels need to be optimised in management, alongside a number of other essential nutrients including vitamin E, B, and C. 

6. Gotta love zinc and selenium!

When it comes to thyroid health, zinc and selenium are the top two minerals that I prescribe. The production of thyroid hormone and the homeostatic feedback loop takes a bit of patience and perseverance to fully understand. A key point is that the thyroid releases T4, a mostly inactive hormone, which requires conversion to the active form T3. Zinc and selenium are essential in this conversion, with zinc also improving the responsiveness of cells to the thyroid hormone. If you are zinc and selenium deficient this pathway won’t be running at full steam, and I know I felt much better after optimising my own zinc and selenium levels. 

The thyroid contains the highest concentration of selenium, an essential trace element and powerful antioxidant, in the body. Studies have proven that selenium deficiency worsens autoimmune disease. Other research suggests that selenium is protective in prevention of disease also, especially against the harmful effect of mercury.

NB. I encourage you do to your own research on mercury (a good resource to start is http://thegooddoctors.com.au/health-podcast/dental-mercury-amalgam-an-environmental-and-health-issue/doctors) and if you elect to have it removed, do so with a dentist trained in safe removal. In a future article I will share my experience of getting mercury safely removed.

Narayani Wellness_low res-38.jpg

7. Never forget the mind body spirit connection

is a risk factor for autoimmune thyroid disease. There is clearly a link between our stress hormones and thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormone has the same precursor, tyrosine, as our stress hormones including noradrenaline and adrenaline. When under stress, Tyrosine is preferentially used for production of stress hormones, impacting normal thyroid function. High cortisol (seen in stress) and low cortisol levels (seen in adrenal fatigue resulting from prolonged stress) have a negative impact on thyroid production and how the tissues respond to the thyroid hormone. 

A holistic approach to autoimmune thyroid disease includes addressing the impact that stress has on our body, especially our gut health, as this is where the majority of our immune system lies. Meditation, exercise, living a soul driven life and having fun is all very important in stress prevention and ensuringa healthy body, including a healthy thyroid gland. 

Om Namo Narayani,

Dr. Fiona

Top tips to improve your sleep

Getting a good night sleep is essential for our health and wellbeing. We encourage our patients to aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep and recognise that for some this can be challenging!

These are some of our helpful tips to allow for an easy transition to sleep:

1. Establish a consistent sleep routine. Aim to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, even on the weekends when possible. Don’t go to bed too early or late. Aim to be asleep between 9.30pm to 10.30pm depending on your waking time.

2. Avoid napping during the day to ensure you are tired enough to sleep through the night. We may recommend a nap if you have adrenal fatigue so please clarify with us if you are unsure.

3. Ensure you have plenty of time outdoors in natural light to encourage a natural circadian rhythm. This will help regulate cortisol and melatonin. In the mornings, open the curtains to allow natural light to enter the room. If you can, go for a short walk at sunrise and sun set.

4. Make your home and bedroom as dark as possible. Use low lit lights or candles after the sun goes down to encourage sleep.

5. Avoid looking at any screens at least two hours before bed. If you have to use a screen download Flux on your computer or purchase these reading glasses to reduce the blue light from your screen and minimise the disturbance to your sleep/wake cycle.

6. Make your bedroom as comfortable as possible. Monitor the temperature, keep it tidy and as quiet as possible. Keep your bedroom for sleeping only and avoid watching TV or using Facebook in bed.

7. Wear comfortable sleepwear – loose fitting, breathable and non-irritating.

8. Include at least 30 minutes of exercise during the day such as walking, swimming, yoga, or pilates. Avoid vigorous exercise close to sleep time.

9. Avoid eating two hours prior to bed and avoid too many fluids except for a relaxing tea, for example Chamomile.

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10. Foods rich in tryptophan can help with melatonin production (your bodies sleep hormone). Try having some of these foods with dinner; brown rice, turkey, chicken, red meat, fish, eggs, pumpkin seeds and oats.

11. Reduce or eliminate caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks, energy drinks) and alcohol especially after lunch. Avoid using alcohol to help you sleep. As alcohol is broken down in your body, it causes you to sleep less deeply and to wake more frequently.

12. Don’t smoke within an hour or two of going to bed as it stimulates your nervous system.

13. Be ready for bed early. For example, after dinner have a shower, get changed for bed and brush your teeth, so when you feel tired or it is time for bed you don’t have anything left to do that might disturb you.

14. Avoid napping on the couch watching TV even if you are exhausted. Stopping this can be instrumental in giving you a better night sleep.

15. Establish a relaxation routine to prepare you for sleep. Start this at least 30 minutes before bed. Do something relaxing such as reading, have a bath, meditate or do some deep breathing to help you wind down and prepare for sleep.

16. Reduce stress. Write down your “to do” list so you don’t have to think about it at night. Incorporate relaxation techniques as above. Seek support. You can talk to us further about strategies and treatment options.

17. If sleep is still difficult, talk to us about some natural therapies that can help.

Om Namo Narayani,

Dr. Fiona

Choosing your workout

Perhaps you’ve heard about the “fat” trend - more and more people are becoming overweight, leading a sedentary lifestyle with little to no exercise and an inadequate diet. We often think about working out, only when we want to lose weight or get in shape quickly but the truth is, finding time for exercise is a pre-requisite for a healthy lifestyle.

The problem with so many people leading a sedentary lifestyle is that we focus too much on what we should do. When you think about working out, what’s the first things that comes to mind? Whether it’ll be sweating in the gym or going jogging, it’s usually something that’s unpleasant and exhausting. But exercising can actually be lots of fun - you just have to choose what works for you best.

Working out is all about engaging yourself in the process and doing something pleasurable, rather than something you “should” do. So, in order to find out what works best for you, you need to turn exercising into a hobby. If you like dancing, sign up for a salsa class. Feeling stressed or overwhelmed at work? Try some yoga or Pilates to strengthen your core. Choose the way you exercise, according to what makes you feel better - if you’re an energetic person, maybe jogging or boxing will suit your active nature best. If you prefer calmer, not-so-sweaty activities, try yoga.

The truth is, the only way you can incorporate exercise into your daily routine is by making it something you anticipate and look forward to. Include your girlfriends in your activities - go jogging together, or sign for a group class. Working out doesn’t mean you have to go home panting and sweating, and swearing off going to the gym forever. Instead, start experimenting with different activities and find the one that suits you best. Turn working out into your newest hobby and embrace your healthier lifestyle!

Om Namo Narayani,

Dr. Fiona

Why your IBS could actually be Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Picture this.

For years you have been suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  You may have experienced abdominal pain, discomfort and bloating, frustrating bowel motions and reactions to ‘healthy’ food.  You have tried diets, supplements and medications yet you are still suffering. How frustrating!!

But perhaps there is something else going on.

In our experience, many of our patients don't just have IBS but actually have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), which can be tested for and treated. Symptoms of SIBO are similar to symptoms of IBS, which is why it may have been overlooked (1).

SIBO explained

SIBO occurs when there is an increased number of bacteria in your small intestine (1). Having an increased bacterial load can cause havoc to your gut wall and can lead to trouble with digestion, poor nutrient absorption, immune dysfunction and reactions to food (2).  SIBO left untreated has also been linked to nutrient deficiencies, depression, anxiety (3), fibromyalgia (4), hypothyroidism (5) and rosacea (6).

How did I get this?

The risk factors for developing SIBO are far and wide and are commonplace in today’s society. They include low stomach acid, which can naturally happens as we get older or through nutrient deficiencies that may occur if you have an underlying gut issue, chronic illness or poor diet. You also increase your risk of developing SIBO if you have used antibiotics or the oral contraceptive pill, if you drink alcohol or experience stress (1)

Can you relate to one or two of these?

How can I find out if I have SIBO?

In clinic, I regularly hear patients say things like ‘after a meal I look and feel four months pregnant’ or ‘I react to so many foods’. These statements make me consider SIBO as part of the their problem. The SIBO test is wonderful as it identifies its presence and helps us choose the most appropriate treatment for you. It is a test that can be performed at home or in a laboratory. After drinking a sugar, the breath test measures hydrogen gas and methane gas when you exhale, which indicates if SIBO is present, the type you have (methane dominant or hydrogen dominant) and how severe SIBO is for you.

To get SIBO under control we use a gentle combination of herbal, nutritional and dietary interventions. We follow a principle of 'do no harm' and we make sure we are supporting you and any the good bugs that are already in your gut. In addition we address risk factors that caused your SIBO to give you the best chance of it never returning and to live a life free of digestive distress. 

If this sounds like something you or someone you know has experienced, it's time to take the next step forward to get you back to good health.

It’s time to beat the bloating and get our bugs back in balance!

Rachel

BHSc (Naturopathy), BPH (Nutrition)

Leaky Gut. Do you have it and what to do about it?

Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is linked to a whole bunch of common health complaints that we tend to just put up with or accept as being normal for my body. It has been linked to food intolerance's, acne and skin conditions, allergies and hay fever, asthma, fatigue and thyroid conditions. In addition to this, it can be associated with digestive symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome(1). Clearly, it is very possible that you, or someone close to you, is suffering from leaky gut.

How is this possible?

To understand how leaky gut may be at the root of your symptoms, you need to know a bit about the gut. Our gut has many roles including digestion and nutrient absorption, and is an important protective barrier that monitors our internal and external environment. It also plays a massive part in the function of our immune system. For example, did you know that about 75% of our immune cells live there(2)? It also has an intimate relationship with our nervous system. Have your ever noticed that when you feel stressed or anxious, you may experience a change in bowel movements? Nervous tummy anyone?

Why do we get leaky gut?

In a healthy gut, our gut wall cells are triggered to open up and absorb good things like nutrients and keep our bad bugs and toxins out. Our digestive system is always getting triggered to open up and close but can usually keep a happy balance and recover from any minor insults. When the gut is in contact with nasty triggers like medications, parasites, chemicals and certain foods, it’s ability to close up starts to struggle. If exposure is for a short time, the barrier can return to normal, however if these stressors continue, this barrier is strained. Then the immune system, which lies beneath the gut lining, becomes overwhelmed. It loses sense of what is self and what is a potential allergen, toxin or baddie. This dysfunction starts to cause trouble to the point of developing autoimmune conditions. Remember all the conditions mentioned at the start? Yes, the gut connection is real(3)!

What can I do about leaky gut?

Gut health and gut healing can be a tricky, especially if other conditions are present. A great place start would be:

1.     Probiotics

Probiotics help with leaky gut because of their beneficial role in supporting the immune system in the gut wall. This is evidence of their support in a vast array of health conditions. It’s so important to understand that not all probiotics are the same and this is where clinical expertise can really help. If you react to fermented foods (a good source of probiotics) or probiotic supplements something else maybe going on including histamine intolerance. This is why it is helpful to work with someone experienced in treating gut issues(4).  

2.     High fibre foods

After putting in all the good bugs into our system, we need to feed them. High fibre foods really means a vegetable rich diet. Great fermentable foods include sweet potato, lentils, pumpkin leek, garlic, asparagus, onion. Think high FODMAP foods. Delicious(5)!

3.     Reduce aggravating factors

We don’t want to keep giving our gut triggers that upset inflammation and immune function. Our body needs the time and environment to heal. This means limit alcohol, gluten, eat organic where possible and get rid of refined carbohydrates and sugar… put down the donut(6)

4.     Manage stress – yes this can be the hardest thing to do.

We live a lifestyle that fuels the fight and flight response and neglects our rest and digest nervous system – which is hugely important for our digestive ability.  Ever experience diarrhoea when you feel anxious or constipation when feeling stressed? Whether it is journalling, deep breathing, yoga or walking, it is important to find a way to manage your emotional and mental health(7).

5.     Eat a colourful, nutrient rich diet.

For our body to function at its best, it needs good sources of nutrients from a wide range of fresh, unprocessed foods. Fill your diet with good quality protein sources, a colourful variety of vegetables and fruits and you are on your way from getting all the nutrients and antioxidants you need for a healthy gut. We give a special shout out to amino acids like glutamine and nutrients like zinc and vitamin A, which the gut just loves.

How can I find out if I have leaky gut?

If you or someone you know suffer from the above mentioned conditions, then you should be considering the health of your gut and determining if you have leaky gut. As a practitioner who just loves all things gut health related, one of the first steps I take with my patients is testing for leaky gut. My inner nerd is thrilled by this test as it a brilliant way to measure how much healing needs to be done and can be tested again to assess progress. Once we identify if you have leaky gut, it is important to determine how to treat it holistically. Not only can you experience a positive shift in your current symptoms, but also prevent complications such as autoimmunity and chronic disease in the future. Isn’t that great?

If you are interested in finding out more about this or would like to be assessed, please get in touch. Let's get to the bottom of this!

Rachel Larsson

BHSc (Naturopathy), BPH (Nutrition)

How any superwoman can create life balance

After my last blog post about me getting real with myself, I thought I’d dig a little deeper and share my personal top tips to help any superwoman create life balance. (And yes, this is definitely applicable to all you awesome supermen)

1. Get real with your expectations of self.

What pressures are you putting on yourself? Are they really necessary? Or can you cut yourself some slack.

After all, you’re only human.

I highly recommend doing a brain dump of all your expectations of self and try to fit it into a weekly calendar. If you find yourself coming up against the limitations of time, then get real with yourself.  It’s best to make a conscious decision of what needs to give, rather than letting something important slide or ending up burnt out.

Be careful that you don’t fall in the trap of giving up the essential (and I mean critically important) time for self, exercise or time with friends. Yes, work at times can be a priority but a life of all work and no play is a life of struggle.  I believe that when we get our life balance right, spending time having fun with your loved ones can make your time doing work so much more productive and engaging.

2. Set a benchmark for your achievements each day.

Rather than having huge to-do lists, and becoming overwhelmed with it (which usually results in procrastination or lack of balance as you throw every single minute into ticking it all off), set a benchmark of what you need to do each day to feel successful, happy or productive.

Yes, it’s tricky for us over-achieving types, but once you get the hang of it I promise it can seem almost miraculous. You let go of pressure, life flows easier and you start to cultivate a feeling of satisfaction and success.

Since I’m balancing a newborn and running a business, my benchmark is just one thing related to my work each day. One thing only. When I manage this, then I allow myself to sit in the satisfaction of a productive and successful day.

3. Learn to prioritise and learn when to let things go.

This supports the previous two tips. It’s critical to push through your beliefs around the need to get through your to-do list or else.

Or perhaps the need to prove to everyone just how capable you are?

If you don’t get your entire to-do list done, the world won’t stop turning and chances are your life will only benefit from it. You won’t lose value and your peeps will still continue to love you.

Give yourself permission to prioritise time for self or creativity over doing the dishes or cleaning the house (unless of course these tasks really light you up). If you are a writer, then prioritise time to create in the morning, rather than leaving it until you’ve cleaned up after the kids, gone shopping, paid those bills… you get the picture. After all what’s most important to you?

4. Don’t get so busy working in your life that you forget to work on your life.

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of reading “The E-myth” by Michael Gerber, an extraordinary book for business owners or people considering becoming a business owner. He makes the wonderful point that too often we get engrossed in our lives with the doingness and day to day busyness that we forget who’s driving it.

Allocate time for you to contemplate, reflect, learn and grow.

Be the driver of your own life.

Narayani Wellness_low res-63.jpg

5. Learn to delegate and do it the right way.

What is it that you absolutely need to be doing?  I bet that for most, it would translate to only 5% of what we are doing.

In his book “The Big Leap”, Gay Hendrix describes four zones of being. The incompetent, competent, excellent and genius zones. For tasks that fall in our incompetent (we have no skill in doing the task) and competent (we can do the task, but we don’t enjoy it and we don’t do a very good job) zones, it may be helpful to delegate these to someone else. Let them go, as they don’t fill your cup and well, truth is, someone else could probably do a better job.

And whilst it makes sense for us busy superwomen to delegate tasks like house-cleaning or car maintenance, be careful to not abdicate the more important tasks that fall in your incompetent or competent zone.

It’s definitely worth getting clear on what outcome you want (and how to get there in some cases) then to leave it up to Frank or Mary, who with the best intentions may only create even more problems for you. Yes, it’s easy to think that it’s too hard to understand or too far out of your comfort zone, but be careful of letting go of all control in that area of your life. You may just be giving your power away.

I’ve done this plenty of times myself including early on with marketing the first event of The Healing Forum, a day focused on sharing healing stories and healing wisdom. I hired a marketing student to “take on” the whole marketing side of things. I was so excited initially as I believed I was delegating tasks correctly. Something that I’ve really struggled with. But in this instance, rather than delegating I was abdicating my responsibility to this very important aspect. I gave very little direction and didn’t take the time to research what I wanted or felt was best for our brand. I actually convinced myself that handing this over to a complete stranger was a show of respect…. Well, it resulted in a nightmare and ended up taking a lot longer and a lot more month. The attitude of “you just deal with it” doesn’t always work out well in the end.

When delegating be clear what outcome you want, give direction about the process and be sure that you don’t give your power away to someone else.

6. Finally, recognise there is much to be gained by being. So stop doing, and start being.

I can’t say I’ve mastered this one, but I’ve certainly glimpsed the truth of this statement. Solutions, ideas, and some of my biggest ah-ha moments have happened when I’m away from my desk having a walk in nature or a cuddle with my boys.

The most productive countries in the world are also those that promote shorter work days. But better than this, they also happen to be some of the happiest countries. Rather than getting caught in a spiral of hard work and struggle, these statistics are showing us that containing our working hours and prioritizing activities that make us happy, will actually be of benefit to our work and career.

With that, I can now tick off my one thing to do today and can go finish a jigsaw puzzle my son got for his birthday (thanks Abi!)…

 

Kapow! Bam! Zap!

Om Namo Narayani,

Superwoman Dr Fi

Getting real with myself

It’s been amazing. I’ve had the most wonderful time on maternity leave. Yes, there have been many sleepless nights and even some challenging moments with both kids having meltdowns simultaneously as I’m trying to get out the door or cook lunch or take a breather!

But generally I’ve loved it. Cherished it. And been very grateful for it all.

So with a little sadness and trepidation, mixed with excitement and curiosity, I am preparing myself to return to clinical work in December. Rather than the headstrong sink or swim type of gal I usually am, I’m easing my way into it in an attempt to embody more self-love and gentleness.

One of the rewards of breastfeeding is having moments throughout the day where you have to sit and just be. It is at these times that I deeply connect with my little one, but also get to reflect on my life.

As I sit there, feeling connected and loved, I find myself easily entering a state of enquiry. So many questions flowing through my mind challenging my state of reality and assumptions, urging me to change and grow - How do I want to live my life? Why am I a doctor? Why am I running my own business? How can I help others more, and be available for my family? How, what, why?

What if?

As the end of the year comes closer I want to share with you something I recently did, which was so simple yet profound. I created a weekly calendar and allocated times for everything I wanted to do. All of my expectations about how much work I will be doing, how much time to work on my business, how much time for study, family, yoga, exercise, daily meditation practice, cooking, friends etc etc etc… I basically did a big brain dump and tried to organise it in some way into my weekly planner.

And what I found was life changing.

I couldn’t fit everything in.

Not even remotely….

And then it dawned on me.

No wonder I forever feel like I’m not doing enough.

That I’m not enough.

It explains the pressure I constantly carry, created from the feeling that I’m not studying enough. Nor working enough.  Or doing enough exercise or spending enough time with my kids.

But in truth, if I continue with this, I can never meet my expectations of what is enough. It’s just not humanly possible. I’m setting myself up to fail in a big way and to condemn myself in the process.

But not this time round!

Next year, I’m challenging my expectations and getting real.

I’m setting myself up to win. I’m scheduling in me-time, time to be in the moment, in the state of enquiry and in that state of love and connectedness.

I’m setting myself up for a marathon, not a sprint. I do believe I can have it all, just not all at once. So to make my inner child feel like she’s not missing out, I’m drawing up a big plan to show her how even if it takes an additional 6 months, 12 months or even 18 months longer, we still get there.

And we get to enjoy the journey too!

So as the end of 2016 comes around, I wish you all luck in getting real with your plans for 2017.  And may you too push through the murkiness of misaligned expectations of self and come out the other side shining too.

With love,  

Fiona

P.S Thanks for reminding me of this during 2017. I’m always open for a bit of gentle nudging in the right direction….

Fermented Beet Kvass

One of our favourite gut loving recipes is beet kvass. Beet kvass is type of fermented drink, you know, similar to kefir or kombucha. Kvass has so many health benefits and is great for your gut. Due to it's fermentation process it is a wonderful source of probiotics which can help the health of your gut and immune system, it is also rich in antioxidants with is excellent for your liver. Using beetroot is traditionally known for it's blood cleansing properties, in addition to being a great source of nutrients.

Kvass typically has a tangy, salty flavour which can be an acquired taste. Using beetroot also gives it a wonderful earthy flavour. If beetroot isn't your thing, you can use other foods to ferment like fruits (strawberries and raisins) and herbs (mint). 

 Ingredients        

  • 2-4 organic beetroot
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • Filtered water
  • A few tablespoons whey, dripped from yoghurt or milk kefir (optional)
  • 1-1.5 litre glass jar

Directions

1. Wash unpeeled beets and chop into large cubes

2. Place beets in a jar and add salt and optional whey (if not using whey add an extra tsp of salt)

3. Fill jar with filtered water, you want to cover the beetroot by at least two inches

4. Seal with lid and leave on the counter at room temperature for 4-7 days to ferment (4-5 days in summer)

5. Transfer to fridge

6. Have about ¼ cup daily on own or dilute with water

Image: Courtesy of CERES Fair Food.

Image: Courtesy of CERES Fair Food.

How your gut is connected to hay fever and allergies

I bet you are wondering, ‘how can my water eyes, running nose and sneezing be connected to my gut?’. As you may have noticed today, there are studies coming out linking all sorts of conditions and diseases to the health of your gut. Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is no different. 

For starters our digestive system plays a huge role in the balance of our immune system. Almost 70% of our entire immune system is located in our gut(1). For hay fever and other allergic diseases the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ was thought to have a role in the increase in allergies, with the lack of exposure to microbes in early life increasing the risk of allergies in later life(2). Now something called the 'microbiota hypothesis' is thought to play a role, meaning a change in our gut bugs influence the development of our immune system(3). Although allergies are also influenced by genetics, some of the environmental and lifestyle factors that change your gut bacteria and increase your risk for allergies include infant use of antibiotics, formula feeding and being born by caesarean section(4,5). Oppositely, growing up with pets(6), growing up on a farm(7), being born through vaginal delivery and being breast fed has been linked to positively influencing your gut’s flora to include more ‘protective strains’(4,5).

What your body does in an allergic reaction

For an allergy to exist, allergen sensitisation must first occur. Special immune cells present in the mucosal surfaces of the body such as nose, lungs and gastrointestinal tract, detect the allergen. One type of immune cells comes into contact with the allergen which are then displayed on the cell's surface. This cell then lets other immune cells know to produce antibodies (IgE) specific to the allergen. From then on, if you are exposed to that allergen, an allergic response is triggered. The allergen is identified by antibodies (IgE) causing immune cells to release inflammatory mediators, such as histamine (8). Histamine is responsible for the itchy nose and runny nose, red watery eyes and dry cough.

The gut-lung connection

The lining of your gut is structurally very similar to lining of your lungs. If you are someone with allergies, inflammation will tend to happen in both areas, as it is thought that leaky gut may have a role in 'leaky lungs'. Our gut flora are also likely have a major impact on the integrity of the lung tissue(9).

Histamine and your gut

You may think histamine is the bad guy because it is linked to your allergies, but in fact is extremely important for mood, stomach acid, blood vessels, and muscle functions (10). The problem with histamine is for some people they can be suffering from histamine intolerance. This means they produce excess histamine and/or have a deficiency in the enzyme that breaks it down. When it comes to our gut, some of our microbes are capable of producing histamine. These microbes produce an enzyme, which converts histidine into histamine. The more of these microbes you have, and the more histidine you consume, the higher the amount of histamine you can produce. Histamine can be then be absorbed and taken around the body, exacerbating allergic symptoms (11).

How to improve your allergy symptoms

1. Heal your gut. Gut health and healing isn't straight forward and may require a professional to guide you. There may be other gut issues at play, like Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth (SIBO) driving gut inflammation and increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), which will also need to be addressed.

2. Balancing gut flora can balance your immune system. This means probiotics from capsules or fermented foods. Be careful with fermented foods if you are histamine sensitive though, as they are a source of histamine. If you feel worse on bone broths or foods like sauerkraut then get in touch with a trained professional to help you refine your diet and introduce these gut healing foods slowly. Some strains that can help reduce histamine include Bifidobacteria infantis and Lactobacillus plantarum (12, 13).

3. Eat fermentable fibre. Eat a diet full of complex, fermentable fibre as it helps intestinal microbiota make short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs help regulate the immune system and decrease allergic airway inflammation (14). 

4. Try eating low-histamine diet. Following a low-histamine diet can help reduce the severity of allergy symptoms. Foods to avoids that are high in histamines include canned and ready meals, fermented foods, aged and matured foods like cheese, fish, shellfish, avocados, spinach, cocoa and leftover meat (15).

5. Eat foods high in quercetin or take a supplement. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine and can be found in foods like grapefruit, onions, apples, black tea, leafy green vegetables and beans. Some herbs like Ginkgo biloba and Sambucus spp. are also sources.

6. Zinc. Zinc is a key nutrient involved in maintaining a healthy immune system. It is also necessary in healing and maintaining a healthy gut wall. Supplementing with zinc could significantly help in the healing of leaky gut(16). To find out your zinc levels and get the safest, and get most appropriate zinc supplement, see one of our professionals. Eating foods rich in zinc can also help including grass-fed beef, oysters, lamb, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chicken, spinach and mushrooms.

7. Eat local, raw honey. Raw honey contains both beneficial bacteria and trace amounts of pollen picked up by the bees from local plants. By eating raw honey, you can 'educate' your immune system to tolerate these local pollens (16). By local we mean the neighbouring suburbs, postcode or city. Australian honey isn't considered 'local' as the plants in Perth are very different to that in Melbourne, for example. 

8. For symptom relief try clearing your nasal passage using a neti pot. If any allergens are stuck in the passage this can clear them out and give some temporary relief.