Digestion begins with the thought, sight and smell of food. These senses trigger appetite and oral and gastric secretions, preparing the upper digestive tract for food.
The next stage is chewing your food, breaking it down into smaller pieces and mixing it with saliva. Our saliva contains enzymes, minerals and antibacterial substances. The enzyme lipase helps to break down fats and amylase breaks down carbohydrates. This is where protein digestion starts.
Now on to the oesophagus. This is the gateway for food which travels through the sphincter and into the stomach. Loss of sphincter tone is one of the major causes of reflux, not an issue with acid as many people think.
Then we have the stomach. The inner most layer of the stomach is made up of parietal cells which secrete hydrochloric acid, chief cells which produce pepsinogen and mucous-secreting cells. Can you believe that around one to three litres of gastric fluid containing hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and binding products is secreted in a day? All of this helps to break down our food when it reaches the stomach. The main role of the stomach is to break down protein, convert enzymes, solubilise nutrients and convert iron into its bioavailable state. Water, iodine, copper, fluoride and molybdenum are all also absorbed in the stomach.
The small intestine is up next. This is where the MOST of our digestion occurs. A series of finger-like projections, called villi, are present on the mucous membranes of the small intestine, increasing the surface area where ABSORPTION occurs. Carbohydrate digestion is completed here as more enzymes are released by the pancreas. Protein is also further digested and fat digestion continues.
The small intestine is so important as this is where substances are absorbed including essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. If people have upper-digestive issues, constant inflammation or damage occurring to the small intestine, they are at risk of further issues throughout the whole body.
The small intestine can get an overgrowth of bacteria which is called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This is highly correlated to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder causing abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. Many people who are diagnosed with IBS actually have SIBO. There are numerous causes of SIBO including medication use, infections, stress and poor diet to name a few.
One of the most important elements within the small intestine is secretory IgA (SIgA). SIgA plays an important role in mucosal immunity, the part of our immune system that separates the outside environment from the inside of the body including digestive and respiratory tracts. An important activity of mucosal surfaces (SIgA) is that they serve as a first line of defence to repel pathogenic microorganisms and provide a finely tuned balance to guarantee controlled survival of essential commensal bacteria.
SIgA may also have beneficial effects in overall immunity by reducing inflammation within the digestive tract. Microbiome testing can identify if levels of SlgA have been affected (commonly by medication use, poor diet, high stress, inactivity, infections, high gut inflammation and poor gut immunity) and are contributing to major gut symptoms. Prolonged low SIgA levels are not ideal as this creates an environment within the gut where unwanted bacteria and infections can thrive, creating an imbalance in the gut microbial community associated with disease. When we can identify low SlgA levels, we can address it through naturopathic treatment, changing the health of people’s gut.
Written by Karly Raven BHSc Naturopath
Want to know more about the digestive system?
The above is an excerpt (modified) from Nourish Your Gut, the latest ebook from naturopath and gut health guru Karly launching on 29 October.
A special pre-launch party is kicking off on 26 October in the Nourished Gut Community on Facebook. Join now to be a part of the fun and receive special bonuses, live Q&A and education sessions plus your chance to win a copy of the ebook!
The connection between diet, nutrition and mental health conditions has come to the forefront in recent years. Nutritional neuroscience is an emerging discipline bringing to light the notion that nutritional factors are intertwined with human cognition, behaviour and emotions. While it is more widely accepted that mental health conditions are the result of biochemical imbalances or emotional responses to varying environmental factors, diet and nutrition in fact play a key role in the onset, severity and duration of mental health conditions.
Many correlations have been made between diet, nutritional status and mental health conditions. In particular, a lack of proper nutrition and an inadequate intake of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients have been linked to the onset and severity of mental health conditions, particularly depression and anxiety. The general Australian population consumes a diet that is typically low in many essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, which could play a part in the rising levels of mental health conditions being reported.
Furthermore, having a mental health condition has been shown to be associated with an increased likelihood of developing poor eating habits, such as low appetite, skipping meals and greater desire for sweet and sugar-filled foods, which in turn increases the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies. This can further impact the severity and duration of mental health conditions.
More commonly reported and well-researched nutritional deficiencies seen extensively in patients with mental health conditions include omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), B vitamins and amino acids or protein. Each of these key nutrients are explored below regarding their role in mental health and how we can increase levels of these nutrients within our diet to improve mental health outcomes.
Neurotransmitters are made up of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Protein has many important roles in the body including the synthesis of neurotransmitters (mood hormones). We must ensure we are consuming adequate protein in order for our bodies to make adequate amounts of neurotransmitters. For example, dopamine is a neurotransmitter made up of the amino acid tyrosine. If you are not obtaining adequate amounts of tyrosine from your diet, there will not be enough to synthesise dopamine, the reduction of which affects mood.
Omega 3 EFAs are found in high levels within the brain where they are important for maintaining proper structure and function of the brain and nervous system. For example, grey matter within the brain contains more than 50 per cent essential fatty acids (33 per cent of these being omega-3 essential fatty acids). Therefore, by consuming omega-3 EFAs in our diet, we help support healthy brain structure and function. Omega-3 EFAs also have a powerful anti-inflammatory action which means they help to reduce any inflammation in the brain and nervous system that may be contributing to, or exacerbating, mental health conditions.
Individuals with mental health conditions have been shown to have lower levels of folate in the blood. Folate is essential for breaking down homocysteine within the body. Without folate, homocysteine levels remain elevated and this has been linked to mental health conditions including depression and anxiety.
Similar to the role and function of proteins, B vitamins play a pivotal role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. They are considered ‘cofactors’ for neurotransmitter synthesis, meaning they are involved in the enzymatic reactions that must take place for neurotransmitter synthesis to occur. We must ensure we are consuming adequate protein for our bodies to make adequate amounts of neurotransmitters.
Diet and nutritional status are just part of the puzzle when it comes to mental health conditions, albeit an area that must not be neglected or overlooked. Improvements in diet and nutritional intake, alongside good quality nutritional supplements (where required), can be incredibly advantageous as part of the prevention or management of mental health conditions. In some instances, this has also been shown to improve efficacy of pharmaceutical medications, such as antidepressants, used to treat mental health conditions.
If you are proactive about your mental health, suffer from suboptimal mental health or have a diagnosed mental health condition, speak with one of our naturopaths. They can help you understand how diet and nutrition may be playing a part and what you can do to improve individual mental health outcomes. Book an appointment to discuss your individual circumstances.
The liver gets a very large focus when it comes to detoxification. It is involved in 300 processes within the body so it’s important not to overloaded it with work. Fortunately, the liver is not our only organ of elimination.
The skin (yes, it is an organ), digestive system, kidneys, lungs and lymph also play a significant role in the removal of waste from the body. Stimulating and improving the functioning of these will help to prevent a healing crisis, which often causes a worsening of symptoms (headaches, skin breakouts and mood changes) as we are depending on the liver to flush out a whole load of backed up toxins.
The reason many fad detox diets are not successful or do not have lasting results is due to the majority of the focus being on the liver. Creating a personalised detox focusing on other systems can help you to get better and longer-lasting results specific to your needs.
Organs of Elimination
Liver: One of the key functions of the liver is filtration of the blood. This process serves to clear the blood of large molecules, such as bacteria, bacterial endotoxin and antigen-antibody complexes.
Gut: This wouldn’t be a Kismet blog without talking about the gut! It plays a major role in the removal of toxins, hormones and non-beneficial bacteria. The gut excretes and processes 25 per cent of the waste from our body. Keeping your diet irritant-free and full of colourful, fibre-rich fruits and vegetables is a good start to supporting positive gut health.
Skin: This is one of our largest excretory organs and really helps to remove environmental waste from our body, including bisphenol A which is a very well-known endocrine disruptor found in many plastics and now our waterways. Using toxin-free skin products is important as the skin absorbs up to 80 per cent of what you put on it.
Lungs: Increasingly important this year, the lungs play a crucial role in removal of toxins from our environment. Our lungs are the filter between the air and our body. Deep breathing through the nose is a good way to ensure your lungs are getting the movement they need to help move out toxins.
Lymph: The lymphatic system lies just below the skin and this directly influences the skin’s capacity to act as an organ of elimination. A congested lymphatic system puts an increased burden on the skin, contributing to inflammation, poor complexion and other skin problems. The lymph does not move by itself like the circulatory system which has physical mechanisms, it only processes through direct movement by us. Exercise and dry skin brushing are great ways to move our lymph and remove the waste from our system.
Why do I have to remove gluten and dairy when detoxing?
Gluten specifically stimulates the release of zonulin, a molecule responsible for the opening of tight gap junctions in the gut, leaving our gut open and vulnerable to pathogens and irritants.
Why do I have to detox if I have a healthy diet?
Environmental toxins are rampant. Even if you follow a healthy organic diet, what surrounds us is absorbed into our skin and lungs and must be removed from the body so as not to be contributing to numerous health conditions.
What results can you get from doing a detox?
Reduction of pain symptoms
Removing waste from the body is a complex biological process and one which is important for our health. Fortunately, we have access to wonderful foods and herbs that work with biology to support our eliminatory organs.
Ideally, we want to keep our diet as free from toxins and preservatives as possible. Education is the focus within a detox period, as is stripping back what we do not need and instead including nourishing food to correct any nutritional deficiencies. This will help support biological processes in the body and not leave you feeling deprived when you change your diet.
Personalising your detox is important as each person can have an overload in a particular system of the body or may have a genetic predisposition. Work with one of qualified naturopaths for the best way to care for your body. See our exciting new program below!
Written by Ally Stuart BHSc Naturopath
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‘A study in the journal Child Development shows night-time usage of a cell phone can increase anxiety and depression in teenagers and reduce self-esteem. This is the first study that shows a direct link between screen time and mental health.’
It is not only teenagers who are affected by the use of mobile phones. If we are being honest, most of us are addicted to our devices. And it is not just to keep up with the news or stay connected via social networks. We use our phones for work too and feel we are never able to completely switch off because we are always contactable. It is important for all of us to really take a good hard look at ourselves and be truthful about our mobile phone usage – and then do something about it!
In light of the trending documentary The Social Dilemma, which explores the dangerous human impact of social networking and exposes how we are being manipulated by the very platforms we engage with every day, we thought it timely to share some tips on reducing your phone usage to improve your mental health.
Here are some things you can do right now to get started.
Limit your time on your phone
This is a tough one but you can start by avoiding checking email, messages, apps etc. until you get to work (or at another designated time). It is also highly recommended that you avoid checking your phone before bed (see additional tips below). Some people take this a step further and switch their phone to Aeroplane Mode or Do Not Disturb when driving (this is a smart move!) or at other times when they don’t want to be distracted. Be honest with yourself about your phone usage and set limits that are workable for you.
Turn off all notifications
This might seem a bit scary at first but it can be incredibly liberating. You don’t realise how many of these little interruptions you actually receive every single day and which cause you to unnecessarily glance at or pick up your phone. Remember, you can always check in with your various apps whenever you need or want to. Give it a try and watch your anxiety levels drop.
Have a relaxing bath before bed with Kismet Calm Bath Salts
Activate ‘Do Not Disturb’
This is a great smartphone option which allows you to switch off all incoming calls, messages and notifications during a set window of time that you nominate. Try setting it from 9 pm until 7 am and give yourself a chance to wind down before bed and wake up calmly.
Switch to ‘Aeroplane Mode’
In addition to ‘Do Not Disturb’, active Aeroplane Mode overnight while you sleep. This will help to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields and the damaging effects they have on the body (especially in terms of sleep and mental health).
Turn your phone OFF
There is always the option of switching your phone off completely to ensure you get the screen-free time you need, when you need it. Often we hear the excuse that people need their phone for their alarm in the morning. There are other options available for this sole purpose which are better for you and will help you in your efforts to reduce screen time. It is about choices and how seriously you want this.
We have only focused on mobile phone usage here as our phone is the most utilised screen we have but you should also consider the time you spend in front of the TV, laptop/computer and other devices. This all counts as screen time.
Everyone is different and has different needs. Be aware of what you need and find the strategy that works for YOU.
If you would like to improve your health, start some good habits and get a better, uninterrupted sleep, chat to one of our naturopaths for guidance and support. Bookings available here. We’d love to help you.
As many of you know, I am super passionate about skin health, and this passion extends to all aspects of integumentary health. The integumentary system comprises the skin and its appendages (hair, nails and exocrine glands) which are designed to protect the body from various damages caused by the outside world.
When it comes to our bodies, integumentary health can sometimes be overlooked. It is typically of lower priority (compared to other organ functions) and is often the last organ or system to receive vitamins and minerals from our diet and supplements.
In fact, hair, skin and nails that are dull, dry, brittle or lacklustre can tell a lot about an individual’s internal health and nutritional status. Today I want to shed some light on hair health in particular.
First and foremost, let’s take a quick look at hair loss. Hair loss (or hair thinning) is a very common complaint in naturopathy clinics and can be quite emotionally distressing for the individual. It is important to thoroughly investigate all possible causes of hair loss in order to determine whether further or more advanced treatment is required.
Possible causes of hair loss include, but are not limited to:
nutritional deficiencies, including iron deficiency anaemia
hormonal changes – puberty, pregnancy, postpartum and menopause
reproductive conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome
chronic health conditions, for example lupus (SLE), cancer
Nutrition for hair health
Regardless of whether you are experiencing hair loss or not, enhancing the nutritional profile of your diet will assist with improving the appearance, thickness, amount and health of the hair on your head.
Protein (amino acids)
Over 95 per cent of our hair is made up of a fibrous structural protein called keratin (made up of amino acids) which is produced within the hair follicle. It is therefore important that we obtain adequate protein through our diet for hair growth and thickness.
Protein sources: beef, chicken, cheese, eggs, fish, lamb, yogurt, beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh
(Aim for a palm-sized portion of good quality protein with each main meal and snack.)
One of iron’s most important roles within the human body is to assist the production of red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs transport oxygen throughout the bloodstream to our organs and tissues, including our hair follicles, allowing them to function effectively.
Iron sources: red meat, liver, tempeh, kidney beans, cashews, spinach
Zinc is believed to play a crucial role in DNA and RNA synthesis, which is a requirement for normal and efficient division of hair follicle cells, ultimately leading to improved hair growth and thickness. Zinc is also critical for tissue repair, with deficiency being linked to weakening of the protein structure within hair follicles causing hair to fall out.
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) nourish the hair, beginning at the hair follicle to enhance strength, lustre and thickness. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega 3 EFAs also help to reduce scalp inflammation that can contribute to hair loss.
It is well known that vitamin B3 improves blood circulation throughout the body, including to the scalp. As a result, vitamin B3 increases oxygen and nutrient transport to the hair follicles, assisting with faster and thicker hair growth.
Selenium is a potent antioxidant that helps to fight off any free radical damage to the hair follicles which causes them to become weak and brittle.
Selenium sources: Brazil nuts, beef, tuna, couscous, eggs, oats, walnuts
Silica is a trace mineral heavily involved in the repair and regeneration of collagen and connective tissue found within the hair. Silica therefore repairs damage to hair and hair follicles to improve hair strength and thickness.
Silica sources: cucumbers, sprouts, leeks, green beans, strawberries
At Health Radiant Body Protein Powder available in Kismet shop
Topical products/external practices
When it comes to hair health, our internal health and what we put into our bodies is just as important as what we are using and exposing our hair to daily. I like to implement a few practices to promote thick, healthy hair.
Select natural hair care products
Just like our skin care, we want our hair care to be free of nasties. Harsh ingredients, such as sulphates, parabens, silicones, preservatives, alcohols, fragrances etc, found in many conventional hair care products can negatively impact the health of your hair. These ingredients cause scalp sensitivity and inflammation, strip away natural oils creating dryness and block our hair follicles, which inhibits hair growth. A build-up of these ingredients over time causes the hair to become thin, weak, dull and prone to damage, breakage and split ends.
I strongly recommend using salon-quality hair care products. Speak to your hairdresser who will be able to recommend the most suitable products for your hair needs.
Avoid over-washing your hair
Over-washing or washing the hair too frequently strips away the hair’s natural oils, resulting in dry hair and scalp. It also throws out the balance of your scalp’s microbiome, which can allow overgrowth of bacteria and fungi, subsequently causing problems such as scalp inflammation and dandruff.
On the flip side, washing your hair too infrequently and over-using products such as dry shampoo may also cause damage to your hair and scalp, as dry shampoo builds up and blocks the hair follicles which can inhibit hair growth.
Avoid frequent use of heat or heated styling tools
When applied to the hair, heat or heated styling tools (i.e. hairdryer, hair straightener, hair curler) essentially burn the hair, altering its chemical structure leading to dryness, damage, breakage and split ends. It is recommended that you use heat or heated styling tools on your hair no more than once per week. Begin with a low-heat setting and work your way up and always apply a heat-protectant product to the hair before applying heat.
It is also advisable to avoid tying your hair up in the same way every day as this can cause unnecessary pulling on the hair shaft, which leads to damage and breakage. Scrunchies can be a good alternative to hair ties as they are slightly gentler on the hair.
Giving yourself a scalp massage (you can use some form of oil to assist, i.e. coconut oil, grape seed oil, essential oils) encourages scalp stimulation and increases blood (and nutrient) flow to the scalp which, in turn, helps to promote hair growth. You might like to finish the scalp massage by brushing your hair with a wooden bristle brush to help pull some of the scalp oils down through the rest of the hair shaft.
If you would like to improve your nutritional profile and give your hair and skin a nourishing boost, book an appointment today. We’d love to help you.
If there is one thing you should focus on for your health it is sleep, yet so many of us are forgoing this most important health factor when it comes to preventing disease.
Sleep problems including insomnia and a general lack of sleep are frequently experienced by people of all ages. In fact, it is estimated that up to one third of people experience sleep problems. Not getting enough sleep, even by one hour, can have many detrimental health effects.
In our modern day, we are at a point of genetic mismatch due to technological changes. Our bodies are hardwired to respond to certain factors to alert us of when it is time to wake up to ensure we are ‘safe from predators’. These alerts include sounds and light. The introduction of electricity has changed the way our days are structured, and we can now keep our lives illuminated for longer than the 12 or so hours given to us by the sun.
Systems of the body correlated with poor sleeping patterns:
Hormonal disorders – testosterone levels can be affected with as little as one night of poor sleep
Magnesium status – poor sleep depletes magnesium (conversely, increasing magnesium status can promote a deeper sleep)
Poor immune health – we produce immune cells as we sleep. Poor sleep causes a reduction in cells we need to fight infection.
Reduced growth hormone – increased ageing, interfering with fertility
Poor gut health
Weight gain and increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
How much is enough?
The researched amount of sleep to prevent disease is 7–8 hours every night. It is different for everyone, especially our little humans who need a lot more sleep than adults. The only way we can discover how much sleep is enough for us is by checking in with yourself and how you are feeling throughout the day with varying amounts of sleep. Children and adolescents require much more than adults so ensuring they are getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for proper brain development. Research also suggests that correct sleeping patterns can increase performance at school.
Creating bedtime rituals is key to getting a good sleep
At least one hour before bed, cease all screen time and opting for reading, meditation or chatting with friends and family instead.
Aim to live by the sun – rising to natural light also helps us to regulate our circadian clock
Hack your lighting – ensuring the colour of the light bulbs in your bedroom is more orange to yellow and the dimmer the better with as few lux or lumen as possible. Research shows melatonin suppression is impacted by levels of light greater than 5 lux. An average e-reader provides 30–50 lux and a night light about 40 lux. Ideally, use candles as they provide the right colour of light and sit at around 12 lumen.
Minimise alcohol consumption – one to two alcoholic drinks can be enough to disrupt sleep patterns for some people
Limit caffeinated drinks to before 2 pm – caffeine shifts our circadian rhythm over an hour later with every cup. Caffeine has a very long half-life (the time taken for the body to eliminate one-half of the caffeine) meaning if you drink it at 4 pm, it can still be in your system as late as 2 am.
Smells can stimulate a limbic response – using the same smell every night is a great way to stimulate a response in the limbic portion of the brain, signalling to you that it is time for sleep. Supercharging this by using lavender as it stimulates GABA production, a relaxing neurotransmitter.
Finish eating three hours before bed – our digestive system will take preference if you have eaten close to bedtime, not letting our body fully rest until food is digested. Aim to eat light in the evening and at least two hours before bedtime, if not more.
Keep a regular bedtime – we are creatures of habit. Letting your body know that it is time to rest helps your body get into a good rhythm, knowing it is safe to sleep deeply.
How can naturopathic care help
Even if you are getting eight hours sleep, it may not be enough to make sure you are getting the deepest sleep possible in the time you are asleep. If you are waking unrefreshed and feel like you have been tossing and turning, it is likely that you are falling short in the amount of sleep your body needs. At Kismet, we have numerous herbs and nutraceuticals that help with falling asleep and staying asleep.
Let us help you! Speak to one of our naturopaths to deepen your sleep and get the energy you need to get your health back in check. Book an appointment today.
Iron deficiency is a condition of insufficient iron stores within the body. Iron deficiency anaemia occurs when the condition reaches the point that it begins to reduce the production (or number) of red blood cells (RBCs).
Iron is involved in the production of RBCs and plays a vital role in helping them transport oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency occurs when iron losses, or physiological requirements for iron, exceed the amount of iron absorbed by an individual.
Commonly, people attribute a diagnosis of iron deficiency to an individual’s lack of dietary iron intake. However, there are several other possible causative factors of iron deficiency, including the following.
Excessive blood loss most typically occurs due to some degree of physical trauma, including injury and internal trauma/ bleeding. Infection with intestinal parasites can cause blood loss through the gastrointestinal tract. In females, monthly menstrual bleeds are an unavoidable cause of blood loss and are of particular concern where the menstrual bleeds are heavy or prolonged.
Malabsorption of iron is caused by an apparent reduction in the absorptive capabilities of the gastrointestinal tract mucosa. This may be a result of damage to the gastrointestinal tract mucosa or due to exogenous agents that bind to iron in the gastrointestinal tract and inhibit their bioavailability (ability to be absorbed). Examples of exogenous agents that inhibit the bioavailability of iron include compounds such as tannins and some medications, including antibiotics.
Malabsorption of iron may also be caused by low stomach acid levels. High levels of stomach acid create an acidic environment within the stomach which enhances the solubility and therefore absorption of iron through the gastrointestinal mucosa. Furthermore, a number of nutritional co-factors are required for the gastrointestinal absorption of iron, including vitamin C. Where there is a lack of nutritional co-factors available, iron absorption is reduced.
In some circumstances, certain individuals may have an increased physiological demand for iron. Most commonly we see this in pregnancy, where the demand for iron increases significantly due to the expansion of maternal RBCs and foetal growth. Increased physiological demand for iron is also typically seen in elite athletes due to their high training (exercise) load. High training loads stimulate an increase in RBCs within the body, which increases the demand for iron.
During infection, one of the body’s non-specific defence mechanisms to inhibit pathogenic bacteria growth is to reduce serum iron levels. In response to infection, the body’s temperature rises and, subsequently, serum iron levels drop. Once the body’s temperature is raised to ‘fever’ level and iron levels have dropped low enough, the growth of pathogenic bacteria is inhibited. Therefore, ongoing or chronic infections can negatively impact an individual’s iron levels.
Typical signs and symptoms of iron deficiency include:
fatigue or extreme fatigue
pale skin and mucous membranes
shortness of breath
intolerance to cold
cold hands and feet
impaired cognitive function
dizziness and lightheadedness
In the case of suspected iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia, it is important to conduct thorough investigation through pathology testing. Routinely, individuals will be sent for ‘iron studies’, which are a set of tests that measure different aspects of iron in the body. Some of these are outlined below.
A serum iron test measures how much iron is in the serum (liquid component) of the blood.
Ferritin is a protein that stores iron. A ferritin test measures the amount of iron stored in the body, or more specifically the liver.
Transferrin or Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)
Transferrin is the main protein that transports iron throughout the body. A transferrin or TIBC test measures how much and how well the body transports iron. Your body makes transferrin in relation to your need for iron. When iron stores (ferritin) are low, transferrin levels increase.
Transferrin saturation is a calculation between serum iron and transferrin or TIBC that represents the percentage of transferrin that is saturated with iron.
While iron studies are most helpful in determining iron deficiency, in addition, individuals will typically also be sent for a ‘Full Blood Count’, which helps to further determine or rule out iron deficiency anaemia.
Where a diagnosis of iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia is made, treatment will depend largely on the cause and severity of iron deficiency. However, almost always treatment of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia will include dietary modifications (increasing iron-rich foods and co-factors for absorption) and iron supplementation.
Heme vs. non-heme iron
The iron obtained from our diets comes in two main forms: heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron comes from animal-based sources, such as beef, pork, chicken, kangaroo, lamb, seafood and other meats. Non-heme iron comes from all other food sources, typically plant-based sources, such as leafy green vegetables, beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds etc. Generally speaking, non-heme iron sources are less bioavailable and not as easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract as heme iron sources. For this reason, it is recommended that individuals combine heme and non-heme iron sources where possible.
The tables below list examples of heme and non-heme iron sources and their iron content based on typical serving sizes. The recommended dietary intake (RDI) of iron for adult males is 20 mg per day and adult females is 18 mg per day.
Non-Heme Sources of Iron
Heme Sources of Iron
In addition to increasing heme and non-heme iron sources in the diet, there are several other dietary modifications that can be made to help maximise the absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract, including:
combining heme and non-heme sources of iron (see above)
consuming vitamin C-rich foods together with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C enhances the body’s absorption of iron.
consuming any dairy products away from iron-rich foods and meals. Calcium found in dairy competes or interferes with the absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract.
avoiding the consumption of tea/coffee close to main meals. Certain constituents in tea and coffee can inhibit the absorption of iron in the stomach.
cooking non-heme sources of iron. This increases the bioavailability of the iron.
cooking in cast iron cookware. Iron from the cookware leaches into the food, boosting the iron content of the food.
In most cases of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia, iron supplements will be recommended or prescribed. Iron supplements vary in terms of the ‘form’ of iron and the amount of iron they contain, and thus it is important to speak with your health care practitioner about which iron supplement is best for you. There are certain risks associated with taking iron supplements where iron deficiency is absent and therefore it is advised that they only be taken under the supervision of a medical or qualified health practitioner.
Let us help you! To consult one of our naturopaths for testing, supplementation or dietary and lifestyle support, please book an appointment today.
“Did you know that being more ‘fertile’ can actually improve your health and wellbeing?” —Dr Nat Kringoudis
Ovulation is a sign of health. It is how we make oestrogen and progesterone, both of which have amazing health benefits. Let’s dive right in and see what all the fuss is about!
Oestrogen is needed to stimulate luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), both of which work together to trigger ovulation and stimulate the production of fertile mucous.
We need sufficient oestrogen to ovulate, and we need to ovulate to make oestrogen.
Oestrogen is your ‘get up and go’ hormone as it boosts neurotransmitters including serotonin (important for wellbeing and happiness) and dopamine (important for motivation and pleasure). If your libido has exited the building, you might have an issue with oestrogen.
For those of you who like to look good (and who doesn’t?), oestrogen has beautifying effects too, including softening our skin, mucous membranes and blood vessels. It also keeps our bones nice and strong. If you struggle with vaginal dryness, recurrent UTIs, skin issues or weight gain, there is a chance you may have a relative oestrogen deficiency. These symptoms are common in perimenopause and menopause, but you might be surprised to learn they are also quite common in younger women, especially those who are on the pill (more on this below).
One of oestrogen’s best-known roles is thickening the endometrium, which is why women with excess oestrogen levels experience heavy bleeding and women with relative oestrogen deficiency have light bleeding or spotting only.
As you can see, oestrogen is important for our health. It is all about the balance.
Progesterone is the yin to oestrogen’s yang. I love progesterone and want every woman to have it in their life for as long as possible. Here’s why.
Progesterone thins your uterine lining and balances prostaglandins (involved with pain sensitivity), resulting in lighter and less painful periods. It stimulates your thyroid, promotes hair growth and stimulates your metabolism, supporting weight management. It reduces inflammation, builds muscle and promotes sleep.
Need more? Here is one of my favourite reasons to love it.
Progesterone converts to allopregnanalone (a calming neurotransmitter similar to GABA) in the brain which soothes the nervous system and reduces anxiety. It also improves brain health and cognitive function.
Remember: we only make progesterone when we ovulate.
Do you need some more progesterone in your life?
Hormonal contraception and ovulation
I don’t know about you, but I find that ovulation and fertility are rarely spoken in a positive way (unless you are trying to have a baby, of course). For many teenage girls and women, if there are any issues with their period or skin, or if they are looking to prevent a pregnancy, then what is the first thing that is offered by GPs? The oral contraceptive pill. And what does the pill do? It shuts down your ovaries and puts you into what is essentially chemical menopause.
I want you to stop and think about that for a moment. In fact, go back and re-read it. And now re-read the benefits of making your own oestrogen and progesterone through ovulating. How does that make you feel? It makes me angry, and sad. But it also drives me to educate YOU so you can be informed and make better choices for your body and your health, and for the health of our daughters.
Remember, everything is fixable. If you have hormone imbalance or want to prevent a pregnancy, there are other (better) ways than going on the pill.
So let’s get you ovulating!
How to know if you are ovulating
Blood tests are available but you must get the timing right for them to be useful. There are also testing kits you can buy from the chemist. However, there are some really simple ways that don’t cost any money that are equally as effective.
Some women experience ovulation pain called mittelschmerz around 14 days before their period. I am one of those women so I know I ovulate. The severity of the pain can vary from a dull ache to a cramp to a sharp and sudden pain and can last from a few minutes to a day or two. Every woman is different.
If you don’t experience ovulation pain, then you can look for fertile mucous. This is clear and slippery and can be stretched between your fingers. It is not a guarantee that you are ovulating, as many women with high oestrogen levels can produce mucous throughout their cycle, but for most it is a good indicator.
Temperature tracking is another great way to see if you are ovulating. You will need a basal thermometer and to take your temperature at the same time every morning before you get out of bed. Your temperature increases with progesterone (remember you only make progesterone when you ovulate), so if you can see a noticeable increase mid-cycle, you are probably ovulating.
Ovulation is good for our health. Period.
When you are healthy, your menstrual cycle should be regular and essentially symptom-free. If this is not you, then your period is trying to tell you something.
Written by Denise Berry BHSc Naturopath
FREE WOMEN’S HEALTH WEEK EVENT
Denise Berry is hosting a webinar all about menopause! She will discuss hormone changes during your 40s, 50s and beyond, the cause of common symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause, how HRT works + more. Join us!
Wednesday, 9 September 2020
7.30 pm, duration 1 hr
Online via Zoom BOOK HERE!
It’s time to grab a cuppa because this one is long – just like my labour!
This is the second part of my homebirth story. Part one was all about choosing to birth at home and some of the challenges we experienced after making this decision at 37 weeks pregnant. You can read the first part of Homebirth – Our Story here.
On the night of Wednesday 29 April, at 39 + 1 weeks pregnant, I fell asleep on the couch at 7 pm (watching homebirth videos on YouTube). I was so exhausted that whole day and felt really different. I woke around 10 pm and moved into the bedroom, however I could not fall back to sleep. I was experiencing mild Braxton Hicks. I’d had these on and off for approx. the past two weeks and mostly at night, so I wasn’t thinking too much about it at this point. I also felt very restless and could not get comfortable. I eventually fell asleep after putting a movie on TV.
The next thing I knew was waking at 1 am when my waters had broken. I also started getting contractions which were quite frequent (about four minutes apart) and strong in intensity. I woke my husband Lachie who was in a deep sleep and took about five minutes to fully realise what was happening. There were a few giggles as I do think he was sleep walking initially! After a little while, we decided to call our doula Lou and midwife Claire to let them know my labour had started.
I had a nice warm shower and then we decided to go back to bed where I rode out each surge and got as much rest and sleep as I could. During this time, I also had more water releasing. I was really surprised by how much water was released.
At some point, I ate a mandarin and some porridge.
That morning our doula Lou arrived after my surges became around 1–2 minutes apart. I remember her initial presence by her soft whispers and the smell of her perfume.
Writing this now, it is really difficult to remember exactly what was happening at that point and how frequent my surges were is a blur to me. I was not focusing on how close together they were but rather I went into this place where I was working through each surge. I feel like I meditated through a lot of my labour, making it hard to now recall. I believe my eyes were closed for the majority of the time.
Over many hours that Thursday, what I do remember is focusing on each surge, breathing and then resting when it finished. I laboured mostly in our bedroom, at times using the fit ball, the bed, the ground and also Lachie for support during the first 24 hours.
At times, the surges were more intense which made me teary but having a cry helped to release some of the emotions I was feeling.
I really loved water during my labour. The shower provided some pain relief. It was the light sensation of the water on my back and the heat that felt amazing. Leaning up against the shower wall with my head in my hands riding more surges, each one bringing me closer to meeting our little Will.
I continued to labour around the house, moving from the lounge to the kitchen, bedroom and shower. I also took a short walk outside for some fresh air.
As the day turned into night things were progressing well and I got into the bath. I felt as though I went through a transition in the bath where things really changed and there was another level of intensity. After some time in the bath, I started to feel things slow down. I was thinking about the length of my labour, how challenging it had been and all I wanted at that point was for it to be over.
I continued labouring until I was exhausted. After speaking to my midwife Claire, I decided to rest and moved back into the bed. The contractions continued throughout the early hours of the morning.
Friday morning things had really stalled. I continued resting for the next 10 hours or so. We had lovely gentle music playing as I laid on the couch. My birthing team had decided to leave us for the day and Lachie and I chose to do some techniques from Spinning Babies to bring my labour back on. I also took more showers and tried nipple stimulation. I believe this all had an impact on helping the labour to pick up again.
It was during this day that I had to work through some BIG things. I was worried about the risk of infection at this point. I remember also switching into a different frame of mind, a negative one where I didn’t think I could do it. I was also frustrated that things had stalled as I knew I still had quite a while to go. It was my husband and my birthing team who assisted me to talk through what I was experiencing and helped me out of this mindset and put me back into the frame of mind that I needed to birth this baby.
My doula set up a beautiful atmosphere in our nursery, suggesting that I labour and spend some time in that room. I instantly felt so comfortable in there. I spent hours leaning over the change table riding out more surges. I also went through a transition in that room. The change table was the perfect height and I used a stack of baby blankets to rest my head on between surges.
I remember Lachie offering to put a pillow under my head at one point and me quickly, and slightly angrily, moving it out. Lachie also asked me a question here and I strongly told him to shush! I believe now this was me going through transition. I did not feel agitated at any point other than this and things were really ramping up at this stage.
I never knew how dilated I was. I never knew what the time was. These were two things I did not want to know. I didn’t want to find out and then become disheartened. I didn’t want these to be factors that stalled my labour.
The surges were not as intense or painful as the pain I had in my back. It was constant; it was intense; it was overwhelming. A friend had kindly let me borrow her TENS machine and it helped so much. I remember wearing this for hours and hours until it was time to get back in the bath again.
Once in the bath, things ramped up. There was so much progress and then, like the night before, things suddenly felt different again. I called Claire in and told her I felt like baby was stuck. I also had increasing amounts of pain in my back. I think it was then that she mentioned baby was mostly likely posterior and we could try moving into different birthing positions to help baby move down and around.
The thought of moving was terrifying to me. I didn’t want to move. Each time one of the midwives wanted me to move, it took the most amazing amount of mental and physical effort to do it. The pain in my back was incredible! I did it though. I trusted them so much. I think we did nearly every birthing/rotating position in the book. They gave me the space and time I needed to get into the positions and supported and guided me so much.
At this point, I really needed guided/coached pushing. It had been nearly 47 hours of labour and I was exhausted but determined. We could now see baby’s head and being able to see it myself helped a lot. It gave me the encouragement to keep pushing as I knew I was so close.
Claire suggested I move back into bed, laying on my back to try and push to help take the pressure off my back. This position was so comfortable. Interestingly, it was the position I didn’t want to birth in as I knew there was an increased risk of tearing when birthing laying on your back. However, I surrendered and just went with what felt right for my body in that moment.
I could hear the birds outside our bedroom window so I knew it was the early hours of the morning (Saturday). Baby’s head was making more progress. These birds are now a constant reminder of birthing our beautiful William. Often I am up early feeding William in our bed with these birds singing us songs.
I continued to push. Nudie fruit juice was my saviour, sipping on many glasses gave me the energy I needed to keep going. I couldn’t and didn’t eat much during the days of my labour. I did not feel sick, I just wasn’t hungry.
Two things kept me going mentally. A friend of mine, who I was in contact with during my labour and knew things were taking a long time, told me I was Wonder Woman and that I could do anything. When things were tough or hurting, I would literally image myself dressed in a Wonder Woman outfit and would say to myself, ‘I am f@#%ing Wonder Woman. I can do this!’
I was also hanging out for the moment baby crowned and I experienced that ring of fire. I had heard and read that the ring of fire was really painful. I found I was so keen to feel this burning pain as I knew that if I was feeling it, I was nearly there. What was interesting was that when I did experience that sensation, I didn’t think it was extremely painful because I was just so happy and relieved for the feeling. (What an amazing example of the power of the mind.)
In the final stage, I received the most amazing support from my midwives, with guidance on resting rather than pushing, along with the amount of pressure to use to push, plus help to reduce potential perineal injury. With one more big push our beautiful little baby boy was born.
That feeling is simply indescribable. Here is a photo to show you all the feelings I was feeling. I couldn’t stop crying. The whole room was full of incredible oxytocin love. Smiles, celebrations, kisses and hugs. We were so wrapped up in this feeling it was some time before we even knew the gender. Then Lachie announced, ‘It’s a boy’ and the celebrations continued.
As we attempted the breast crawl with William, while doing delayed cord clamping, a delicious plate of sourdough toast with avocado and fetta along with a cup of tea in my brand new ‘Mum’ mug was handed to me while laying in my own bed. Thanks Doula Lou, you incredible woman. She knew this was my favourite breakfast without even asking me!
Wrapped up in bed with my new baby boy and now sleeping husband (he was just as exhausted as I was) was pure bliss. I just remember feeling overwhelmed with happiness, while around me the midwives were doing the checks on baby.
Meanwhile, my placenta still had not been delivered. I was aiming for a natural physiological third stage. After two hours and numerous occasions of pushing, the placenta had still not released. After discussing the risks and gaining full information about the Syntocinon injection, I decided it was time to do it. It did nothing. There was silence. I was starting to get worried.
I was told that if the placenta was not going to come away, I would need to transfer to hospital where a procedure would occur which would involve an epidural. Holy moly! I was still silent but in my mind I was thinking there is no f@#%ing way I have laboured for this long and given birth free of intervention and pain relief to now have to have these things for my placenta.
I noticed both Claire and Lou remove themselves from the room. I was still processing it all. Louise, my second midwife, was doing further checks on Will, helping him latch in the hope it would also help the placenta come away.
I then rolled onto my side where I felt a change in my body. After communicating this to Louise we decided to push again. At this stage, I remember so clearly thinking it is one last big push. This is it; you can do it. Then the placenta finally came away.
More tears rolled down my face, that feeling of doing it again. Women really are amazing. Pure achievement, empowerment and strength. I was so proud of myself and so relieved. I had just needed more time; I just needed to be mentally ready again. My body was exhausted, it did not want to push. This was another lesson in surrender and trusting that you are more capable than you realise.
Louise called out, ‘Claire we have a placenta’. Next thing we had everyone in the room again, Lachie woke up and it was like there was a second birth celebration – more tears!
I could rest now. I could cuddle my baby boy now. Wrapped up in bed as a family of three for the first time ever, in the comfort of our own home, is how we spent our first moments together and what we did for many hours that day. We were in our own little love bubble that lasted for weeks.
I am beyond grateful for choosing to birth at home. I know now for a fact that I would have been writing a very different birth story and experience if I had birthed within the hospital setting. Numerous factors, the main one being not being given/allowed enough time, would have seen a cascade of intervention occur. Time was my most precious thing and it was never taken away from me.
Perhaps more time is what is needed for many other women. More time to work through the incredible journey that the body has to go through in order to bring our babies to us.
I can’t wait for homebirth number two. I only hope the issues we faced as mentioned in part one of our story are sorted out by then.
Thank you so much to my birthing team in Claire from Your birth Midwifery, midwife Louise Thornton, Doula Lou and most importantly the love of my life, Lachie, who was the most incredible support partner.
We all want the best for our children and a large factor of a child’s health rests in what goes into their bodies. Children have a great need for quality nutrition as their bodies are growing rapidly. Lack of proper intake of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals equals lack of physical growth and neuronal development.
Laying the groundwork early is important to not only solidify their health but make it easy for them to make healthy choices as they grow into adults. Creating a healthy relationship with food early on can prevent a lifetime of illness. Holistic health includes having the right amount of nutrients as well as teaching your children where their food comes from, how it is grown, how to prepare it and why it is good for their bodies.
Focus on food quality
Most foods can be switched for a healthy, nutrient-dense alternative. Many parents are obsessed with making sure their child eats a lot of food. However, focusing on hitting nutrient targets rather than large quantities of food is a better goal to have in mind. If you are struggling to get your child to eat sufficient amounts, it is definitely a good idea to swap in some nutrient-dense, calorie-dense foods so they are getting quality in what they are eating.
It is ok if your child does not want to eat at mealtimes
Creating intuitive eating patterns early on is important as once emotional bonds and habits are tied to food it is very difficult to unwind them. Whilst intuitive eating is a recent theory, research has discovered it is associated with better weight control and psychological health. It may be hard to loosen the grip when you just want the best for your child but research has found that parental control over feeding activities inhibits a child’s ability to self-regulate their eating. It also increases the temptation and desirability of restricted foods. Creating an intuitive eating pattern means better health outcomes and psychological wellbeing rather than associating food with emotions or situational triggers.
How do we create intuitive eating patterns?
Let your child decide when they are hungry
Teach them about new foods
Help them understand and experience foods that are good for them and how those foods make them feel
Question, don’t tell. Ask them if they are hungry or how they feel after eating certain foods to get them in touch with their own body and intuition.
Meeting their needs
Below are some important nutrients to focus on and signs of associated deficiencies.
Amino acids (the building blocks of protein) – poor immunity and wound healing, behavioural changes, anxiety and depression, fatigue.
Speak to a health professional to discuss your child’s needs through the different age brackets.
Tips for fussy eaters
Recruit your child’s help. Get them into the garden to help grow their food then teach them how to cook and create with it. This gives them a sense of accomplishment when they get to eat the food they grew.
Meet hunger when it is there and respect your child’s appetite or lack of. Let them drive their intuition.
Be patient when introducing new foods. It can take many tries to get their palette used to new foods.
Encourage your child to stay at the table for mealtimes. Even if they aren’t eating, it forms a connection and bond with your family.
Make food fun and creative. Some simple ways are getting cut-outs to cut fruit into stars or other shapes and utilising natural colourings like beetroot powder and turmeric to make things colourful and interesting.
Praise and reward with non-food items or activities. Using food as a reward can set up an unhealthy relationship with food.
Let them know the superpowers the food will give them.
Minimising toxin load
Another key health goal is to minimise the toxin load for your child and includes food sources. Focus on providing organic and wholefoods and avoid artificial colouring and additives as they can cause a range of symptoms including hyperactivity, asthma, rashes and gastric upset.
However, food is not the only contributor where toxins are concerned. Skin products can be full of chemicals which can be absorbed into the body by as much as 80 per cent. This increased load can lead to behavioural conditions such as autism and ADHD. Avoiding chemical-filled body products can also help minimise the presentation of many skin conditions and skin irritations.
Holistic care for kids
Can we give our children herbal medicine? The answer is a resounding YES! How do we get herbal medicine into kids? This is not always easy but many companies now produce children’s versions of our favourite supplements. These are in small dosages and taste good. Lucky kids! Another bonus is that as children are smaller, they require less of the supplement meaning the price is often lower.
We love seeing happy, healthy children in clinic and watching them thrive as they grow and develop. Just as the children themselves are all different, so are their needs. If you would like help with your child’s specific nutrition and development, please book an appointment and consult with one of our naturopaths.