gut healing

The top 5 questions I get asked about gluten

Due to the abundance of information available and our habit of asking Dr Google for answers, there is a lot of confusion around gluten and if it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for you. I’d like to give you some evidence-based information that may help you decide the role of gluten in your diet by answering five of the most frequently asked questions I receive. 

1. What is gluten and where is it found?

Gluten is a structure that is made up of hundreds of proteins, notably gliadin and glutenin, and is found in grains like barley, durum, semolina, wheat, farina, kamut, rye and spelt grains(1). Many of these grains are used to make breads, pasta, cakes, pastries, and biscuits to give them their fluffy or stretchy texture. Gluten is used as an additive in processed foods to improve texture, flavour and moisture retention. Some foods where gluten may be hiding include vegetarian meat substitutes, confectionary, ice -cream, butter, seasonings, sauces, marinades and dressings(2). All in all, gluten plays a large role in the standard Australia diet and is delicious!

2.What’s the difference between Coeliac Disease and Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)?

Coeliac disease (CD) is an autoimmune disease in genetically susceptible individuals that is caused by eating gluten(3). Classic symptoms include diarrhoea and failure to thrive within the first couple of years of life. You may experience other symptoms or no symptoms at all and can still have CD. CD is diagnosed through a biopsy of the small intestine but may be detected in blood tests that look for specific immune markers(4).

Non-coeliac Gluten sensitivity (NCGS) occurs in people who are not affected by CD or a wheat allergy. The biggest difference between NCGS and CD is that there is a different immune response to gluten and there isn't the complete destruction of your gut villi (finger like projections important for nutrient absorption)(5,6). NCGS symptoms occur hours to days after eating gluten and can disappear when gluten is removed. Classic symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, bowel habit abnormalities, foggy head, headache, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, dermatitis, depression and anaemia(7). Clinically we see increased intestinal permeability aka ‘leaky gut’ confirmed on blood or urine testing underlying NCGS.

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3.Does gluten cause leaky gut?

In short, yes.

In susceptible individuals, when you eat gluten, the tight junctions (gate-like structures in your gut wall) are told to open-up as a result of an increased release of zonulin. Zonulin acts as a signal that says ‘open up please!’ to your gut wall. When gluten is removed from the diet, zonulin levels decrease which causes the immune system to calm down and healing to begin. It’s very important when healing leaky gut to follow a strict gluten-free diet, as the smallest amount of gluten will trigger a zonulin release(8).

4. What are some gluten-free alternatives?

There are many grains that are gluten-free including amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, rice, sesame, sorghum and teff. Products like arrowroot, lentils, rice and tapioca can produce gluten-free flour and thus to some extent replace wheat flour(1). Luckily in 2018 there is much more awareness around the need, desire or demand for gluten-free products so there are many delicious alternatives available. It is worth noting that there is great variation the quality of the gluten-free alternatives in regards to nutrient, protein and fat content and glycaemic index (how much they impact your blood sugar levels)(9). My advice is to go wholegrain where you can or at the very least, have them with nutrient dense, protein and fat rich toppings, fillings or sauces.

5.What about oats are they gluten free and can I have them?

Gluten is a complex mixture of hundreds of proteins (called prolamins), notably gliadin and glutenin. Similar prolamins exist as secalin in rye, hordein in barley, and avenins in oats and are collectively referred to as “gluten”(10).

Avenin in oats contain a smaller amount of an amino acid called proline, which is higher in some of the other proteins mentioned in wheat, barly and rye. Lower proline content may be why oats are less immune reactive compared to wheat, but may still be a problem in large quantities. Oats may still activate specific immune cells in 10% of CD patients so it may be wise to avoid oats as part of your gluten free diet (11).

Furthermore, it is common for oats to be farmed and milled with wheat and are therefore contaminated with gluten. It is possible that pure, uncontaminated oats, can be made into products that contain less than 20mg of gluten per kg, making it potentially safe in a gluten free diet (12).  One commonly recommended brans of gluten-free oats is Bob’s Red Mill.

Final thoughts

There is so much more to be said about gluten and how it may affect your health, so if you still feel unsure about gluten in your diet, please reach out to us at Narayani Wellness to receive some personalised guidance. Our support can help a potentially confusing path be more simple and accurate for you!

By Rachel Larsson, Naturopath

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

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)

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).
Prebiotic gut health

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.

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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

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)!

Nutrient diet about leaky gut

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)

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).

Balance Immune System

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.

How seeing a naturopath can better your health.

As a naturopath, we often see patients that have suffered years of ongoing, unresolved complaints and have been searching for answers without any luck. You may have a feeling that 'something more can be done', looking for a natural approach or are sick of getting prescribed antibiotics for the common cold. What about a desire to understand your body or wanting to have optimal, thriving heath and not feeling like you are just surviving? Does any of that sound familiar? If so, naturopathy may be for you. 

Naturopath's have the exciting, complex and rewarding job of looking and treating you as a whole person. What does this actually mean? This means that when you come in with a concern, for example you feel tired all the time, we will look beyond how much sleep you are getting. We will also consider your personal health history, family history, blood tests, medications, stress levels, physical examination, diet, allergies and so much more. We do this because we want to understand your unique situation as we appreciate the many causes that contribute to you feeling this way. An understanding of who you are is so important in giving you the best treatment.

The beauty of naturopathy is that the therapies we use are well tolerated and can actually be a support to conventional medicine. Although our remedies have traditional beginnings, many of them have substantial scientific evidence that support there use and efficacy. Naturopathy is also wonderful and unique in that there is no 'one fix' approach to a problem. It has a broad scope of treatment and can use the following remedy options according to your circumstance. 

  • Herbal medicine as liquids, tablets and teas
  • Dietary advice to promote food as medicine and nutritional supplements
  • Lifestyle and environmental advice to promote mindfulness and wellbeing
  • Flower essences have an energetic basis and can enhance the emotional aspects of healing.   

Using the example above, if your 'feeling tired all the time' was caused by high levels of stress we could look at using one or a combination of diet modification, herbal medicine, nutrient supplementation and mindfulness techniques. Interestingly this means that if your friend were to need help because they also felt tired all the time due to stress, we may actually consider completely different herbs, nutrients and dietary advice because we would consider their unique circumstances.  

In essence, naturopathy is based on the principle that the body has an inherent ability to heal itself. We follow these six philosophies when treating you:  

  1. The healing power of nature  (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
  2. Identify and treat the cause (Tolle Causum) 
  3. Treat the whole person (Tolle Totum)
  4. Do not harm (Primum Non Nocere)
  5. Doctor as teacher (Docere)
  6. Prevention (Preventare)
Herbal Medicine in melbourne

At Narayani Wellness, your naturopathic experience is truly unique as we have a supportive community of passionate naturopaths and integrative doctors working together. We believe more can be achieved by having these two approaches as it has greater potency and efficacy than doing things separately. Our approach to patient care embraces the combination of traditional philosophy with functional testing, and we find we get better results with our patients with the addition of functional testing. Functional testing allows us to look at the finer processes that occur within our bodies. This includes looking at how our cells function, our energy production pathways, how we clear toxins, how we make our brain chemicals, hormone profiles and how we can achieve healthy bowel functions. Our focus is to put you first and we realise the best relationship is one built on trust. All of this keeps us on our toes which motivates us to do professional development and stay current with research to continually benefit you.

We realise that Spring is a time we focus on our health and 'recover' from Winter woes. For some, this means the annual struggle of hay fever or a time to address old health issues that flared up from a change in your diet and exercise. With Spring well and truly here and the excitement of warmer days coming, maybe this is the right time for you to see a naturopath and regain your health.