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We all exercise for different reasons. You might be exercising to make you happy, to build muscle, to boost your energy levels, to lose some weight, etc, etc.

But why does exercise have such positive effects on our mind and body, and what happens if you choose to be sedentary?

The Benefits of Exercise

Here is just a handful of reasons why you should try to add movement to your regime:

  1. For healthy blood sugar regulation

Irregular blood sugar metabolism can lead to hormonal problems, PCOS, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, weight gain, fatigue, a foggy mind, fainting, sleep issues and more, and immobilisation is strongly correlated with insulin resistance. Research suggests that exercise is a critical component to diabetes treatment and management, so might help anyone with other blood sugar imbalances. Exercise improves the way muscles respond to insulin and assists with glucose regulation even hours after exercise. It also increases glucose uptake by the muscles, which reduces the amount of insulin needed.

  1. It positively affects your gut microbiome

You have a myriad of microbes living in your gut that can impact how you feel in many different ways. Many illnesses are highly correlated with imbalances in our gut microbiome, and exercise has been shown to positively impact the balance of these microbes. One way in which it improves our gut microbiome is by increasing the diversity in the microbes, which has been linked to better overall health. This allows you to sleep better, experience better moods, be more energised, digest your food more efficiently, and much more.

  1. To increase your happiness

Exercise has been proven to be an important part of treatment for those with depression. Some of the reasons for this include that it improves dysregulation in neurotransmitter production and processing, inflammatory responses, and the function of the mitochondria (the energy powerhouse of each cell). It also enhances your beneficial microbes which therefore increases the production of happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine.

  1. To maintain bone health

It is said that: ‘Bone tissue is continuously remodeled, and as a dynamic tissue, it adapts and responds to various stimuli, such as physical exercise and mechanical vibration. During physical activity mechanical forces can be exerted on bones through ground reaction forces and by the contractile activity of muscles, resulting in maintenance or gain of bone mass. Studies have already pointed out many of the mechanical stimuli that are beneficial to bone tissue, including some physical activities as aquatic and ground exercises.’

‘A Little Exercise Goes a Long Way’

What we need to realise is that a little exercise can go a long way. You don’t need to sign up to a gym and do an hour session every day. Exercise to you might be doing some lunges in the kitchen whilst cooking, parking your car further away and walking a little more, walking to the shops rather than driving, going for a walk along the beach, lifting heavy books in your office for a few minutes, or doing 10 minutes of yoga on your bedroom floor. This all matters, and is all positive.

I often get asked what I do for movement, and so I will give you a brief overview here. I really mix things up depending on how I feel. I have no set routine, which might not work for some people – instead, I choose to listen to my body and do what works with my schedule (which changes daily depending on the timing of my clients, deadlines and events).

At the moment I am LOVING F45 training (a gym-based training session). I enjoy being pushed to the point where I am a sweaty mess! I am only doing this 2 or sometimes 3 times a week if my schedule allows. On other days, I do yoga at home, go surfing with my lover, go for walks with my dog, enjoy bike rides and I also try to climb a mountain once a week.

I love to move every day, in whatever way my body feels is right. I move because it makes me feel good mentally and physically, not out of fear of putting on weight or losing muscle.

Eat Right to Make Exercising Easier

What you are putting in your mouth should be your priority. When you eat foods that throw your gut microbiome out of balance or add inflammation to your body, then you will feel unmotivated and fatigued, which will prevent you actually WANTING to move. Start by moving in ways that you love to move and progressively improve your diet to help the transition into more movement.

Let me know what has worked for you in the past. What keeps you motivated? What exercise are you loving? Why do you exercise? Or what is preventing you from exercising?

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I have always struggled with my weight and have been on and off diets my entire adult life.

It was when I realised just how much of a hold my favourite treat had over me that I first started cutting out sugar. I read many books from authors including David Gillespie, William Davis and Robert Lustig and experimented with Paleo and low-carb lifestyles. I lost weight and for a time I was very dedicated, but at some point I slipped back to bad habits.

I have suffered with IBS since my late teens. it was always worse during times of stress or busyness but on the recommendation of my doctor to manage it with anti-diarrhea medication I never addressed the cause, only the symptoms. My IBS became particularly bad after each of my boys was born, to the point that I was tested for Coeliac disease in 2008, not long after my eldest son Cameron was born. This came back negative and so I continued on as I had been – managing the symptoms. When it got really bad, I was prescribed anti-anxiety medication to calm my gut down.

A Heart Attack at 36

In 2015, I was happily travelling along – I had two young boys, was happily married and planning on building our dream home. We had spent a week at the snow as a family, enjoying our first ski holiday since our honeymoon. I thought my health was good – while I was not at a weight I was happy with, I had been going to the gym and was fit and strong for our ski holiday.

The morning after we got back, however, I suddenly started feeling quite unwell. I was nauseous, hot and sweaty and had difficulty breathing, so I called an ambulance. The paramedics decided to take me to hospital for a check over. Upon arriving in emergency and being attached to an ECG, I was told I was having a heart attack. This was so hard for me to comprehend.

At 36 and generally in good health, I had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection that caused a heart attack.

As you might imagine, this caused a whole lot of disruption to our lives and for many, many months I was not in a good place. I was consumed with anxiety and panic – all the ‘what ifs’ concerning my boys made it hard for me to get out of my own head. But gradually I did just that. I got some counseling, I found a health coach and signed up for a metaphysics and personal development course that started to change my perception on everything.

My transformation this time was starting from the inside. I felt the heart attack was like a big red stop sign, and I had to choose which way to go…continue on as I had, or change direction. Slowly I turned in a different direction. I changed my poor thought paths (those crazy, wild, naughty little monkeys in my brain) through affirmations and replaced them with more positive ones.

The health coach I worked with also helped change my perception when it came to food. I started more gently this time, without putting too much pressure on myself. I slowly started changing what I ate, choosing local suppliers of good quality food.

One of my biggest wins was coming off all my medications, something I now want to maintain for the rest of my life.

A Natural, Wholefood Approach to Food

Fast-forward to mid-2017 and I felt like my brain and emotional body had done some big leaps and bounds and that I was now ready for my physical body to catch up.

I did a fermentation class with Melinda of Emu Wellness and Cyndi’s podcast was one of her suggested listenings. I listened to Cyndi through her podcast, and also as a guest on many other podcasts, I watched her videos, read her book, watched her documentary and cooked meals from her cookbook. I have gained so much knowledge from her insights and years of research.

I am also truly grateful to have come across Cyndi’s Up For A Chat podcasts through the Wellness Couch – I feel like Cyndi, along with co-hosts Carren Smith & Kim Morrison, are like my personal cheerleaders, always giving me a little nudge to remember what is important! I listened to a few and then decided that I needed to go back to the beginning to learn more. I’m so glad I did, as that’s when I discovered the 4 Phase Fat Loss Protocol.

It took me a few months of researching the 4 Phase Fat Loss Protocol before I decided to jump in, as it sounded quite different to anything I had ever tried before. But what won me over in the end is that it involves only wholefoods, and that it is all natural. There was no comparison to the weird shake diets that I had done before!

I have completed the 4 Phase Fat Loss Protocol twice now and have lost over 25kg. My weight loss is really just the cherry on top of all the other benefits I have gained: my aches and pains that plagued my back have disappeared, my anxiety is minimal and my mood is generally so much more positive and my IBS is under control. Three people I know have decided to do the program just from observing the changes in me, and many more are asking me lots of questions about why and how I am looking so well!

I hope that by implementing all that the 4 Phase Fat Loss Protocol has taught me, my health will continue to improve, and that I am also improving my chances of never having to go through another heart event. 

Healthy Eating Tools for Life

The only time that my symptoms reappear is when I have allowed myself to eat foods that do not work for me, like recently when we went on holidays and I had some treats. I can see these times for what they are now, a great learning tool for me – and I try not to be too hard on myself. When my symptoms reappear, it is a big incentive for me to stay on track.

The tools that the 4 Phase Fat Loss Protocol has given me will be with me for life now. I know I will continue to have to work to change a lifetime of habits, but my reasons for sticking with it are now more important and obvious to me.

My intention going forward is to learn even more from Cyndi. I will be enrolling in the Functional Nutrition Course and the learning will continue. I’m not sure where this is going to lead me but I know it is the right next step for me and I am truly looking forward to it!

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Statistics show that cardiovascular disease is killing one Australian every 12 minutes, and between 2009 and 2010, half a million people were admitted to hospital with the disease.

Cardiovascular diseases include heart attack, heart failure, stroke, arrhythmia and heart valve problems. Many studies are showing that either the risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease, or the disease itself is highly correlated to the gut.

However, before we get to the crux of things, if someone is diagnosed with a form of heart disease, it is important to ensure many factors are considered, not just the gut. This may include looking at things like nutrient deficiencies (particularly vitamin K2, vitamin D, high antioxidant foods, coQ10, omega fatty acids, magnesium and potassium), stress, inflammatory foods, individual food sensitivities, environmental pollutants, heavy metals, household chemicals and/or biotoxins and much more. It is important to work with someone you trust when it comes to heart health, and even better to have a team of trustworthy practitioners to support you.

Gut Issues and Heart Health

The kinds of gut issues that, according to research, could be linked to your cardiovascular health include:

Low Beneficial Microbes in the Gut
The administration of beneficial microbe Lactobacillus plantarum has been associated with improved heart health, particularly with the reduction of infarct (dying tissue) size and improved left ventricular function post myocardial infarction (heart attack). In addition to this, Lactobacillus rhamnosus has also showed promising benefits after experimental myocardial infarction (in lab studies) as well. In simple terms, this means that we need to improve the beneficial bacteria in our gut to maintain heart health or treat cardiovascular disease.

Gut (and Mouth) Infections
Some evidence has shown that those with artherosclerosis (a disease of the arteries) have higher levels of harmful microbes such as Chlamydia pneumonia and H. Pylori. Other research has found that those with chronic heart failure had huge levels of pathogenic microbes (overgrowths of microbes causing issues).

Periodontal (mouth) diseases have also been highly correlated with cardiovascular disease, so it is critical to get those infections or diseases under control in order to prevent further problems. 

Leaky Gut
Research has indicated that increased intestinal gut permeability (leaky gut) is strongly linked to chronic heart failure when compared to healthy individuals. Therefore, it is recommended that this is assessed and forms an important part of treatment if need be.

Gut Issues Affecting Nutrient Absorption and Production
Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) prevents atherosclerosis as it stops the calcification in the arteries by activating matrix gla protein (MGP). Vitamin K2 is found in foods like grass fed butter, natto, other fermented foods and liver, and is also produced by the bacteria in our gut. If we have issues with our gut flora, then it is likely that we may not be supplied with sufficient levels of vitamin K2, particularly if it isn’t supplied in the diet.

Moreover, microbes in our gut are required to digest and absorb nutrients, and therefore it is critical that we have adequate beneficial microbes like bifidobacterium and lactobacillus in order to digest and absorb nutrients efficiently.

Other Risk Factors Coming From the Gut
Obesity is a large risk factor of cardiovascular disease, and leptin resistance can be a huge contributing factor towards obesity. Leptin is a hormone that regulates body weight, maintains energy expenditure and reduces overall food intake. Research has shown that butyrate (a short chain fatty acid) can positively regulate leptin expression. Butyrate is produced by our gut bacteria when fibre and real food carbohydrates are consumed (particularly in the form of resistant starch like green banana flour). Increased levels of butyrate are also shown to decrease hypertension, which is a risk factor of cardiovascular disease.

What Can I do To Improve my Gut Health? 
As I always say, what we put into our mouths directly influences what is living in our gut. It is critical to avoid processed foods that are highly inflammatory, such as sugar, gluten and genetically modified foods like corn and soy, and increase anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, ginger and green vegetables. You may also want to consider increasing prebiotic foods to enhance your beneficial microbes in the form of fibre through vegetables, as well as resistant starch fibres like green banana flour and cooked and cooled starchy vegetables. 

The use of antimicrobials and/or prebiotics has been shown to positively impact leaky gut, as well as lower inflammation, reduce toxins in the blood (endotoxemia) and improve glucose tolerance. However, this must be done with an experienced practitioner and we suggest using herbs and not antibiotics. In addition, the Changing Habits Heart Health herbs are a fantastic way to support the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

You may want to consider a comprehensive stool test to determine what infections may be lying in your gut, and what beneficial microbes you need to enhance. This can be done through most practitioners that support the improvement of gut health. You can read more about our nutritionist consultations here

I hope this at least plants the seed for further investigation if you or a family member is suffering with a form of cardiovascular disease.

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If you’re a fan of Cherry Ripe chocolate bars, then you will LOVE this recipe from Melinda Blundell of EMU Wellness! It delivers a satisfying chocolate hit and wonderful texture, but is also full of goodness – so you can nourish your body and spoil your taste buds!

Base Ingredients:

Base Method: 

  1. Line a tray with baking paper.
  2. Process all ingredients well in a food processor or Thermomix (speed 5, 30 seconds).
  3. Pour mixture into tray and press down with fingers to create an even base. Put into freezer while you prepare the next layers.

Berry Middle Ingredients:

  • 100g berries of your choice (if you are using frozen berries, thaw out first)
  • 1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut 
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut yoghurt – you can make your own with Kultured Wellness Yoghurt Starters.

Berry Middle Method: 

  1. Process berries first in food processor or Thermomix until a puree (speed 7, 10 seconds).
  2. Add in coconut, coconut oil and vanilla and process again. (Thermomix method: speed 5, 30 seconds).
  3. Fold in coconut yoghurt. (Thermomix method: reverse setting, speed 3, 10 seconds).
  4. Spread mixture evening over the base and return the tray to the freezer. 

Chocolate Top Ingredients:

Chocolate Top Method – Thermomix version: 

  1. Mill cacao melts on speed 9, 10 seconds.
  2. Add coconut oil and syrup. Melt everything together 37 degrees, speed 3, 15 minutes.
  3. Pour chocolate onto slice and allow to cool at room temperature before cutting into squares.

Chocolate Top Method – Stovetop version: 

  1. Boil water in the saucepan. Place double boiler or stainless steel bowl over the top (make sure the water does not come right up to the bowl).
  2. Add all ingredients together and stir over low heat for 10 minutes or until everything is melted together.
  3. Pour chocolate onto slice and allow to cool at room temperature before cutting into squares.

This slice will keep well stored in an airtight container in the freezer. Allow pieces to thaw in fridge before eating. If keeping slice in the fridge, it is best consumed within 3 days as the yoghurt will ferment the berries to alcohol if left too long together.

We’d love to know if you make this slice – share your photos in the comments below!

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It’s estimated that up to 5% of the Australian population has iron deficiency or anaemia. If you’re not getting enough iron, it makes it difficult for your blood cells to deliver the oxygen your tissues and organs need – so it’s not a nutrient you want to lack.

Symptoms that you are lacking in iron include:

  • Feeling tired or not having enough energy
  • Having an upset stomach
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate or remember things
  • Having trouble keeping your body temperature regulated
  • And easily catching infections or getting sick. 

While the body can store iron, it cannot make it, so you need to get it from the food you eat. Haem-iron is the best form of iron, as up to 40% of it is readily absorbed by your body. In terms of its bioavailability, non-haem iron is absorbed much less efficiently than haem-iron.

Sources of Haem-iron

  • Red meats
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Turkey
  • Oysters
  • Offal such as liver
  • Pork
  • Seafood

Sources of Non-Haem Iron

  • Green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and silverbeet
  • Legumes
  • Grains
  • Tomato
  • Nut and seeds
  • Dried fruit

Foods That Inhibit Iron Absorption

Some dietary factors bind with non-haem iron, inhibiting absorption. These factors include the following:

Polyphenol Rich Foods – can inhibit iron absorption in the body. Polyphenols are found in various amounts in plant foods and beverages, including vegetables, fruits, some cereals and legumes, tea, coffee and wine. Coffee and tea both have a high content of polyphenols. One study determined that drinking a cup of black tea with a meal reduced iron absorption by 60-70%, regardless whether the tea was weak, normal or strong. However, when participants drank tea between meals, the reduction in absorption was only about 20%. To counteract the negative effect of polyphenols, be sure to leave a couple of hours between drinking your tea or coffee and eating a meal.

Phytate Rich Foods – such as walnuts, almonds, sesame, dried beans, lentils, peas, cereals and whole grains can reduce the amount of iron your body absorbs from iron-rich foods. Even low levels of phytates have a strong inhibitory affect on your body’s ability to absorb iron from foods by approximately 50-65%. This is why it’s so important to prepare your nuts, seeds, beans and legumes properly (ie by soaking, activating or sprouting).

Oxalate Rich foods – impair the absorption of non-heme iron. Oxalates are compounds derived from oxalic acid and found in foods such as spinach, kale, beets, nuts, chocolate, tea, wheat bran, rhubarb and strawberries and herbs such as oregano, basil, and parsley. The presence of oxalates in spinach explains why the iron in spinach is not absorbed. In fact, it is reported that the iron from spinach that does get absorbed is probably from the minute particles of sand or dirt clinging to the plant rather than the iron contained in the plant!

How to Improve Iron Absorption From Food

Meat, fish and poultry contain not only the well-absorbed haem iron, but also a peptide called the ‘MFP factor’ that actually promotes the absorption of non-haem iron from other foods that are eaten at the same time. Vitamin C also enhances non-haem iron absorption. It captures non-haem iron and stores it in a form that’s more easily absorbed by your body. Vitamin C also helps to synthesise red blood cells and iron is the main part of haemoglobin, which is found in the red blood cells. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, capsicum, melons, strawberries and Camu Camu. In one study, taking 100 mg of vitamin C with a meal increased iron absorption by 67%.

Individual Variations That may Affect Iron Absorption 

Iron absorption will also depend on an individual’s health, stage of life and iron status. Absorption can be as low as 2% in a person with severe gut issues and as high as 35% in a rapidly growing child. The body adapts to storing more iron when iron levels fall too low, or when you are pregnant, for example. Similarly, the body adapts to absorb less iron when iron stores are sufficient. As you might expect, vegetarian and vegan diets don’t benefit from the easy-to-absorb haem iron or the ‘MFP factor’, which enhances absorption. If you are vegetarian or vegan, I highly recommend speaking to your chosen health care practitioner to get individualised advice about dietary iron, and to find out whether or not you need specific supplementation.

Summary

  • Iron is a vital mineral that’s essential for the function of your body. Two types of it are found in food — haem and non-haem iron.
  • Meat, fish and poultry contain the haem-iron form, which is more easily absorbed by your body.
  • Non-haem iron is mainly found in plant foods, but this form is harder for your body to absorb.
  • You can improve your body’s absorption of iron by eating foods containing the MFP factor and vitamin C, during your meals – for example, by squeezing lemon juice over your seafood or chicken and leafy greens.
  • Foods containing phytates, polyphenols and oxalates can hinder iron absorption, so be sure to prepare them properly.

References

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Dopamine is an important chemical in the brain that’s involved in reward, motivation, memory, attention and even regulating body movements. But what exactly does dopamine do for your brain and why should you want more of it? How can you tell if you don’t have enough? And are there ways to get more of it naturally?  

What is Dopamine?

There are about 86 billion neurons in the human brain. They communicate with each other via brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Dopamine is one of the most extensively studied neurotransmitters and it plays important roles in attention, memory, mood, learning, sleep and movement.

When dopamine is released in large amounts, it also creates feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivates you to repeat a specific behaviour (to get more dopamine) and to continue feeling good.

In contrast, when your dopamine levels fall, you can start to experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation, concentration and focus
  • Forgetfulness
  • Moodiness
  • Insomnia or sleep issues
  • Sugar cravings
  • No/low libido
  • Low interest in socialising
  • Feeling fearful, anxious or nervous
  • Addictions to caffeine or other stimulants
  • Self-destructive behaviours

Low dopamine levels can also lead to Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, restless leg syndrome and more.

So if you struggle to get out of bed each morning, have lost all interest in watching Game of Thrones, are drinking countless cups of coffee or glasses of wine per day, or crave sugar or cigarettes, you may have a dopamine deficiency. Very few people realise that they’re self-medicating to get a boost of dopamine when they’re engaging in dangerous, addictive and self-destructive behaviours. Stimulants such as nicotine increase dopamine by 200%, cocaine by 400%, and amphetamines by a jaw-dropping 1,000%. However these only provide a quick boost and end up disrupting the natural dopamine production process in the long-term.

Neurotransmitters such as dopamine have not only been shown to play a role in our brain’s reward, motivation and pleasure system, but also in controlling and maintaining homeostasis within the gut system in terms of nutrient absorption, blood flow, gut microbiome, local immune system, and overall gut motility.

10 Ways to Boost Dopamine Naturally

Foods like potatoes, avocados, broccoli, oranges, spinach, and Brussels sprouts contain some dopamine. Bananas are a particularly rich source of dietary dopamine. However, the dopamine consumed in food doesn’t cross the blood–brain barrier and has no impact on your brain. If you want to elevate your dopamine levels with food, you’ll need to ensure you’ve got the basic building blocks that are needed for dopamine synthesis. We cover these basic building blocks and also suggest other ways to help boost your dopamine levels naturally here:

1. Tyrosine

L-tyrosine is the precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine and is essential to aid in any stressful situation, cold, fatigue, emotional trauma, prolonged work, or sleep deprivation. It is shown to improve memory, cognition and physical performance. Tyrosine is mainly found in protein rich foods such as:

  • Beef, chicken and other meats
  • Seafood
  • Legumes
  • Almonds
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Milk
  • Coffee
  • Avocados
  • Cherries
  • Artichokes
  • Watermelon
  • Chocolate
  • Green tea
  • Bananas

2. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is an antioxidant that helps increase dopamine levels in the brain. You can get this from:

  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Strawberries
  • Mulberries
  • Peanuts
  • Dark chocolate
  • Grapes
  • Pistachios
  • Organic, preservative-free wine (in moderation of course)

3. DHA Omega 3 Fatty Acids

DHA is the primary fatty acid in the human brain; it helps to boost dopamine levels as it supports the brain’s electrical signals and reduces the production of the enzyme that breaks down dopamine. DHA can be found in:

  • Herring
  • Lake trout
  • Mackerel
  • Wild caught salmon
  • Sardines
  • Seaweed
  • Anchovies
  • Caviar

4. Butyrate

Butyrate is therapeutic for brain health. It can be used for treating anxiety and depression as it influences the processes in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for emotions and emotional memory. It reduces the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons and may protect and aid in the recovery of Parkinson’s disease. Butyrate can be found in:

  • Grass-fed butter (the richest source of butyrate)
  • Grass-fed ghee
  • Fibre-rich foods (butyrate is a short chain fatty acid formed by bacterial fermentation of dietary fibre)
  • Animal fats
  • Goat, sheep and buffalo milk

5. Magnesium

Magnesium is shown to increase the sensitivity of dopamine receptors. Magnesium inhibits N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-induced norepinephrine (NE) release. NE is synthesised from dopamine, so inhibiting the conversion will result in more available dopamine, which provides a calming effect. Some magnesium rich foods include Changing Habits Cacao Melts, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, artichokes, dates, salmon and avocado. You can read more about magnesium here.

6. Sunbathe

Being exposed to sunlight helps to increase our dopamine receptors and provides us with vitamin D, which also activates certain genes that release dopamine. Light triggers the release of dopamine in our eyes, which could be the reason behind our screen addictions.

7. Curcumin

The active ingredient in turmeric is called ‘curcumin’, which has been found to enhance levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, thereby reducing depression. I recommend adding turmeric to your foods. Sneak it into scrambled eggs, curries, mango smoothies, chicken soup or orange and almond cake.

8. Carvacrol

Carvacrol is another chemical that helps produce dopamine when taken in low doses. It also protects your liver, fights bacteria, and acts as an anti-depressant. Carvacrol can be found in:

  • Oregano oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Wild bergamot

9. Use Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogenic herbs help to buffer the negative effects of stress and allow our body to adapt to stress, balancing the production of neurotransmitters, boosting brain cell signalling, modulating brain waves, protecting from brain cell damage and eliminating heavy metals and toxins.

Dopamine is synthesised in this sequence: phenylalanine > tyrosine > L-dopa > dopamine. For this reason I’m currently loving mucuna pruriens, which is an adaptogenic herb. It’s the best natural source of L-dopa which is the direct pre-cursor to dopamine in the body. I personally consume a small amount of a high quality powder and blend it into my morning bulletproof coffee or matcha latte each morning. You can read more about the benefits of adaptogenic herbs in my blog here.

Please note that it is best to speak to your chosen health care practitioner to see if adaptogenic herbs are right for you or if there may be any negative interactions with your medications or supplements.

10. Improve Your Microbiome

In order for the body to manufacture dopamine, we need good stomach acid and digestive function to break down proteins into amino acids so we can absorb L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine. In addition, we need proper amounts of iron, copper, zinc, vitamin B6 and magnesium. If we are deficient in these nutrients we will not be able to produce adequate amounts of neurotransmitters.

We also know that our gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in regulating our mood. Our gut bacteria also generates butyrate which I mentioned earlier. Butyrate has been linked to reduced anxiety and depression. In addition, the microbiome is intertwined with the immune system, which itself influences our mood and behaviour. An overabundance of bad bacteria results in toxic by-products called lipopolysaccharides which destroy the brain cells that make dopamine.

So what does this all mean? We need to nurture and nourish our gut bugs properly. You can start by eliminating inflammatory foods from your diet and find out whether or not you have parasites, pathogens or bad bacterial overgrowths. Eat a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet as it’s key for stimulating the growth of the right bacteria and starving bad bacteria. If you need help with this, please contact us to arrange a consultation so you can get the help, support and guidance you and your gut bugs need!

I also recommend you seek advice from your chosen health care practitioner before using any supplement to increase your dopamine levels.

Have you suffered from low dopamine levels? How did you boost them?

References

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At 23, my daughter Casie was a healthy young woman – she could eat anything, had boundless energy and not an inkling of anxiety or depression. 

However, that changed soon after she had her wisdom teeth extracted. She became anxious, more and more intolerant to many foods, had a bloated tummy, chronic fatigue and suffered social isolation. 

After consulting with my wonderful integrative doctor, Carlos Sanchez, he invited me to his home (on 50 acres of pure bliss) for lunch. He eluded that Casie may have cavitations (infection in the jawbone) which would cause these symptoms. For a full history of what happened to Casie, read this blog.

To cut a long story short, we found an amazing dentist in Melbourne, Dr Lisa Matriste, who was able to fix the four cavitations that had become evident. With help from Kultured Wellness and Dr Lisa, not to mention her own unwavering determination to stick to the program set out for her, my daughter has turned her health around.

‘Say No To Mercury’

Little did I know that Dr Lisa had a passion that went beyond her scope of dentistry. Lisa and her son Alistair have formed an organisation – Say No To Mercury. Their first and most important task is to educate people about mercury, a relatively invisible toxin, and how it affects the environment and human health. Dr Lisa has set up a strict protocol for the removal of mercury from teeth.

Not only are they concerned about mercury fillings, which are still being put in people’s mouths under the name ‘amalgam’, but also environmental mercury as well.  You can see the website at www.saynotomercury.com. To read more about how mercury affects our health, click here

I would call Dr Lisa the Australian version of US environmental attorney and activist Robert F Kennedy Jr (see his organisation’s website at www.worldmercuryproject.org).

Dr Lisa and her son Alistair are your advocates to the government for safety. The following are their goals:

  1. Ratify The Minimata Convention (a global treaty to protect people’s health and the environment from the effects of mercury)
  2. Ban Dental Amalgam By 2020
  3. Ban Sale Of Recycled Mercury

Visit the website to see how you can help. They don’t necessarily want your money, but your time, encouraging you to contact your local council and ministers detailing the concerns you have about mercury.

We are fortunate that we have many people in this country who are passionate about the land, animals, our purity of water, as well as health for all, and who act selflessly to make a difference. Collectively we can all help in this campaign. Take the time to create an action plan to help Dr Lisa and Alistair make a difference. 

Thank you for making a stand.

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It is that time of year – cooler weather, longer nights and…flu.

The influenza virus is, again, a hot topic of conversation at the moment as the rates of those affected start to rise. Last year saw 250,000 people in Australia diagnosed with the virus and almost 1,100 deaths were attributed to it.

Some of the measures being rolled out across the country in an attempt to avoid another bad flu season include flu vaccinations and the provision of Tamiflu, an antiviral drug.

What is Tamiflu?

Tamiflu (active ingredient oseltamivir) is a prescription drug that is said to lessen the severity of episodes of the flu. It is a neuraminidase inhibitor, a group of medications that blocks the neuraminidase enzyme, found on the surface of the flu virus and which enables it to reproduce from the host cell.     

There was a shortage of Tamiflu in some parts of Australia last year as flu-stricken patients rushed to get hold of it. But, there is some debate over whether it is, in fact, helpful at all.

The Cochrane Review into neuraminidase inhibitors is based on 20 trials concerning Tamiflu and 26 concerning Relenza (another neuraminidase inhibitor). It shows a small decrease in the length of time people suffered from the flu after taking such medication – but only half a day or so. Plus, there is little evidence to suggest that such medications reduce the number of hospitalisations due to flu or are instrumental in limiting the spread of the virus from person to person.

“We now have the most robust, comprehensive review on neuraminidase inhibitors [NIs] that exists,” said Dr David Tovey, Editor-in-Chief of The Cochrane Library. “Initially thought to reduce hospitalisations and serious complications from influenza, the review highlights that [NIs are] not proven to do this, and it also seems to lead to harmful effects that were not fully reported in the original publications. This shows the importance of ensuring that trial data are transparent and accessible.”

So What Are the Side-Effects of Tamiflu?

Despite doubt over its effectiveness, it is clear by the shortages last year that people are still happy to take it. But, as with all medications, it has some side-effects.

According to NPS MedicineWise, a not-for-profit independent information organisation that helps people make informed decisions about their healthcare, side-effects of Tamiflu can include:

“Nausea (feeling like vomiting), vomiting, dizziness/spinning sensation (vertigo), headache, stomach ache, indigestion, diarrhea, cough, bronchitis, asthma (breathlessness, wheezing, a cough sometimes brought on by exercise and a feeling of tightness in the chest), sinusitis (stuffy nose and/or feeling of tension or fullness in the nose, cheeks and behind the eyes, sometimes with a throbbing ache), runny nose or nose bleeds, ear problems or ear infection, conjunctivitis (discharge from the eyes with itching and crusty eyelids), visual disturbances, insomnia (difficulty sleeping), fatigue, aches and pains, mild skin rash.”

Tamiflu has, albeit rarely, also reportedly been linked to psychotic episodes. In one particular instance a 6-year-old girl is believed to have allegedly suffered such a reaction when she ran away from home and tried to jump out of a second-storey window.

How to Combat the Flu Naturally

If you decide against taking Tamiflu or other medication to fight the flu this year, you’ll be pleased to know there are measures you can take to boost your immune system naturally. For example, these 5 foods have been shown to boost your immune system, helping to ward off colds and flu:

  1. Fresh Ginger – A natural treatment for the common cold and flu. Try making your own ginger tea by steeping some in hot water.
  2. Turmeric – Curcumin is the active component in turmeric and is antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. It’s so easy to incorporate turmeric into your diet – you might like to try this recipe here or here.
  3. Zinc rich foods – Eggs, liver, oysters, pepitas and red meat are all great sources of zinc, which can help reduce the symptoms of cold and flu.
  4. Oregano oil – A powerful antiviral and antifungal and great for treating sinus problems, viral infections, inflammation and more. Click here to find out how to use oregano oil.
  5. Thyme – Great for a nasty cough and nasal congestion. Try adding a couple of teaspoons to Changing Habits Broth and drinking throughout the day.

See this blog for more information about fighting off winter sickness naturally.

Have you ever resorted to medication to fight the flu? Or do you prefer to do things naturally? Share your experiences below.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC525087/

http://www.cochrane.org/news/tamiflu-and-relenza-getting-full-evidence-picture

https://thenewdaily.com.au/life/wellbeing/2018/04/13/flu-influenza-vaccine-prevention/

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-18/flu-drug-shortage-queensland-tamiflu/8819498

http://kellybroganmd.com/tamiflu-and-abnormal-behavior/?utm_source=Kelly+Brogan+MD+Newsletter&utm_campaign=db26dc6aca-Tamiflu+and+Abnormal+Behavior&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d0f977a8c5-db26dc6aca-122643949

https://www.nps.org.au/medical-info/medicine-finder/tamiflu-capsules

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Many people who suffer from problem skin – acne, pimples, rashes – often resort to medication. Although medication may offer a quick fix, it does not address the root cause of the problem. This means that problems could manifest into something else later on.

Here we look at what could be causing your skin issues and suggest ways in which to set things right, naturally.

Things To Consider if You Have Problem Skin

  • Food

Have you heard of the gut-skin axis? There is a strong interaction between your gut and the health of your skin. For example, if you eat processed foods, you may find you have a skin flare-up. Poor food choices can lead to inflammation, the body’s inability to detox, and may also help to feed something unsavoury in your gut (like bad bacteria or yeast).

You can create a happy gut bug environment by removing inflammatory foods such as gluten. Gluten causes leaky gut and inflammation. Sugar is another culprit. Parasites, yeast and bad bacteria all love and thrive on sugar, resulting in the production of toxins in your gut. As the body starts to detox these from your skin, you may notice spots and pimples, or other skin issues.

Bad fats like trans fats and fake fatty acids (like those found in margarine) are another no-no when it comes to good gut health. Replace these bad fats with skin-loving good fats – each cell membrane in the body is comprised of 50% saturated fat and we need saturated fats for good skin. Good fats include butter, ghee and coconut oil.

If you are looking for glowing skin, you should also avoid unfermented soy. The body sees it as an estrogen, which can lead to hormonal imbalances, resulting in skin problems. Fermented soy, such as tempeh, is generally considered okay.

  • Nutrient Deficiencies

There are some vitamins and minerals that have an important role when it comes to healthy skin:

Vitamin A – This balances your hormones by decreasing androgen (the male hormone steroid). It also promotes new skin growth and helps the skin to heal more quickly. It is also immune enhancing, can lower inflammation and helps the liver to detox. Vitamin A is found in cod liver oil, Changing Habits Camu Camu, other good fats and liver.

Zinc – Zinc increases the vitamin A content in your blood. It is also wound healing and fights against infections in your gut. To find out more about zinc, read this blog.

Sulphur – This is a great detoxifier. It is found in foods like broccoli, brussels sprouts, garlic, cabbage and onion.  

Apple Cider Vinegar – This is antimicrobial, nutrient rich and great for optimising stomach acid. Around 40% of people with acne have low stomach acid due to a microbial imbalance. For general health, start by taking a tsp in water each morning on an empty stomach, building up to a tbsp.

  • Topical Skin Care

Our bodies don’t do well when we eat foods laced with chemicals and the same goes for skin care. Use chemical-free products on your skin, such as the range available at Twenty8.

Bentonite clay is also good at drawing out toxins. Mix it with a histamine-lowering cultured yogurt or kefir (such as those available at Kultured Wellness), or some apple cider vinegar, apply it to your skin and leave for 20 minutes. You could also add a spoonful to your bath with a drop of apple cider vinegar. This will help change the pH of your skin. Microbes create a pH they love – this bath will create an environment they don’t thrive in, resulting in improved skin.

Watch this video for more about skin issues, their root causes and how you can fix them – and get glowing skin!

Main Takeaways From the Video

To fix skin problems:

  • Nourish your gut with real foods
  • Make sure you aren’t lacking any skin-supporting vitamins or minerals
  • Ditch chemical-laced skin care products.

Our nutritionists can help you with your gut, skin and overall health. You can read more about their consultations (face-to-face, over the phone or via Skype) here.

Our fortnightly Facebook Live sessions are a great way to get the answers to the questions you need. Let us know what other topics you would like us to cover during these sessions in the comments below!

Follow our Facebook page for details of our next Facebook Live session – see you then!

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Around 75% of women experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (aka PMS). Furthermore, roughly 8% of women have such extreme symptoms that they are said to have PMDD – premenstrual dysphoric disorder. 

Here are some of the most common symptoms of PMS to look out for:

  • Breakouts or acne (particularly along the jaw line/chin area)
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings, anxiety, depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Cramps
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating
  • Getting teary or experiencing crying spells
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Water retention
  • Sore lower back
  • Fatigue
  • Food cravings (for things like chocolate and sugar)
  • Constipation

If you have one or more of these symptoms around the time of your period, month after month, it’s probably PMS.

What Could Be Causing My PMS?

The main cause of PMS is hormonal imbalance which can be triggered by the following:

  • Lack of exercise – your body requires exercise to help balance hormones
  • Consuming too many inflammatory/processed foods and refined sugar  – this can promote hormonal and gut imbalances
  • Alcohol – this contributes to problems because it damages the liver and prevents it from excreting excess estrogen
  • Low vitamin and mineral levels
  • Stress – this, of course, makes everything worse
  • Environmental toxins – estrogen-like toxins from pesticides and pollution
  • Constipation and imbalances in the gut bacteria – these problems can worsen the situation, because they lead to the reabsorption of estrogen from the gut back into your blood, even after your liver has tried to get rid of it.

How To Reduce PMS Symptoms

Fortunately, research shows that there are many ways you can help to get your hormones back in balance naturally. Here are 7 simple things you can do to help reduce PMS symptoms:

  1. Clean Up Your Diet

In a nutshell, you need to try and avoid foods that cause inflammation in the body – foods such as refined flour, sugar, vegetable oils and processed foods. You can read more in my blogs Inflammation Explained and Inflammation Fighting Foods.

  1. Consume More Omega-3 Fats

Research shows that adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet reduces common PMS symptoms. Symptoms that responded to omega-3’s include depression, anxiety, lack of focus, breast tenderness, breakouts, bloating, headaches and lack of focus. Research also showed that the longer people supplemented or consumed omega 3’s, the more their symptoms decreased. So, in other words, if you want to see benefits, make it a consistent part of your long-term PMS treatment plan. The best thing to do is to fill up your plate with plenty of quality omega 3’s such as wild salmon, fatty fish and seafood. Changing Habits Inca Inchi Oil is also a wonderful plant-based option for those who are vegetarian or vegan. Healthy fats like these are important for hormonal balance and also creating an optimal environment for conception.

  1. Get More Magnesium

Because of large-scale farming and soil depletion, our vegetables don’t take up as much magnesium as they did hundreds of years ago. So many of my clients are magnesium-deficient, which is bad news because magnesium is essential for over 300 different biochemical processes within our body! A good supply of magnesium supports our hormones because it’s required in the metabolism of estrogen. Researchers found that increasing magnesium intake (via food or supplements) reduced the frequency and severity of menstrual migraines and reduced PMS symptoms in general. Epsom salt baths are also another incredibly easy way you can top up your magnesium levels. They also reduce inflammation, soothe the pain from menstrual cramps, help you to de-stress and support detoxification. You can read my blog here for more information.

  1. Consume Maca Root

Maca root is a radish and part of the cruciferous family that is renowned for its hormone-balancing qualities. Maca root has favourable effects on energy and mood, fertility, improving sexual desire and decreasing anxiety. Maca is an adaptogen – it improves the entire body’s resistance to stress (not just a particular organ or system) and creates balance and harmony in the body, thereby reducing inflammation and balancing hormones. Maca can help nudge estrogen in the right direction and improve symptoms such as PMS, infertility, loss of sex drive and mood swings. It is best to tune in to your body to determine if it is the right medicinal food for you. I always recommend starting with a low dose of ¼ teaspoon. You can blend it into yoghurt, bliss balls, your morning coffee or smoothies.

  1. Consume Broccoli Sprouts

One of my favorite foods that helps to rebalance the estrogens is broccoli sprouts. Broccoli sprouts also contain high amounts of the anti-inflammatory sulforaphane, which can also be found in smaller quantities in other cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli or cauliflower. Studies have shown that ¼ cup to 1 cup of broccoli sprouts a day can create profound health improvements as they rebalance estrogen dominance. They also aid in boosting the immune system and cleansing and strengthening the blood.

  1. Drink More Herbal Teas

Cinnamon Tea is fantastic for helping to reduce cramps and menstrual pain due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. To make cinnamon tea, you can simply add cinnamon to some water and boil it for 15 minutes. For some sweetness, add in your preferred choice of milk or honey. That said, if cinnamon tea is not the thing for you, you can always opt to sprinkle the spice on your morning porridge, pancakes or add it your coffee or smoothie.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is another fantastic aid because it helps to tighten the muscles in the pelvic region which also helps to reduce the cramps that are caused by spasms. For relieving those nasty PMS symptoms, simply start having the tea 1 week before your period and continue through your period to slow down the blood flow (if you’re a really heavy bleeder). Do note though, red raspberry leaf tea should not be confused with raspberry tea. Red raspberry leaf tea is not commonly available in most supermarkets but you should be able to grab some from your local organic store!

  1. Nurture Your Gut Bugs

The bacteria in our gut work with our own bodily systems to help optimise our immune system, our blood sugar levels, boost our metabolism as well as regulate our moods and hormones. Did you know that levels of estrogen in the body are affected by our digestion? By optimising digestion, probiotics help keep excess estrogen out of circulation. Read more about probiotics here

A normal bowel transit time (ie a perfect bowel movement 1-3 times daily) allows excess estrogen to pass out of the body, rather than be reabsorbed. So, if you’re suffering from constipation you’re reabsorbing the toxins you would get rid of through a bowel motion, as well as estrogen from the gut back into your blood, even after your liver has tried to get rid of it. If you are suffering with constipation, I would highly encourage you to read this blog Why You Could be Constipated and 14 Tips on How to Relieve it Naturally.

It’s clear that our friendly gut flora play a starring role in keeping our hormone levels in optimal balance. Here are a few blogs you can read to find out more about nourishing and nurturing your own gut health:

Lastly, unless absolutely necessary, I recommend weaning yourself off hormonal birth control (with the help of your chosen healthcare practitioner). The synthetic hormones could hurt your thyroid function, hormones, and digestion. I’m not going to go into too much detail as you can read more about why going off the pill is a good idea from some experts in the field here and here.

Whether you’re looking to balance your hormones, fix your gut, or reduce inflammation, following the above tips can be hugely instrumental in helping to alleviate and reduce your PMS symptoms. Have you tried any of these suggestions to help beat your PMS?

References

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