Anytime is a good time to talk about healthy drinking but it is especially important as we head into Christmas and New Year celebrations. Don’t get us wrong, we are not suggesting you can’t enjoy a few beverages (naturopaths drink too!), but we want you to make informed choices and create healthier habits when it comes to drinking.
There are some excellent benefits when it comes to cutting back on alcohol consumption including reduced risk of disease, decreased anxiety, improved mood, better sleep, aid in weight-loss efforts and more. If this sounds like something you want in your life, please read on.
Let’s start with some facts.
What is a healthy amount of alcohol?
1–2 drinks per day for women, maximum 7 in a week
2–3 drinks per day for men, maximum 14 in a week.
This is the amount recommended by many health experts as being a ‘safe’ limit. Drink more than this and your body really starts the feel the effects.
Excessive drinking can affect:
hormones – exceeding the above amount can have a deleterious effect on hormones especially in women
gut – we have all been using alcohol to sterilise our hands this year, so think of what it does to the microbiome. Consistently consuming high amounts of alcohol can cause dysbiosis in the gut.
the brain – it is a known neurotoxin and can cause neuroinflammation, which is highly correlated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s
the liver – alcohol is metabolised through the liver, putting excess strain on what is already a highly used organ.
Alcohol inhibits the absorption and usage of vital nutrients such as thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B12, folic acid, magnesium, electrolytes and zinc. These are crucial for energy production and important for the formation of neurotransmitters and the reason behind why you may feel low and exhausted after a night of drinking.
Kismet Health Organic Herbal Energy Tea
In addition to how much you drink, what you drink is important to think about and we suggest always choosing good quality alcohol. Many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar and contain preservatives and sulphites (which can cause increased hangovers and allergic type symptoms).
Clear spirits are a good place to start as they contain fewer toxic compounds that are formed when alcohol is fermented. When it comes to wine, again quality wins so look for organic and, ideally, wild fermented. Aim for a darker wine, for the benefit of the range of polyphenols and resveratrol found in red wine, and a drier style of wine to limit the amount of sugars per glass.
Tips for the festive season
Get as much sleep as possible before your drink. Alcohol shunts the secretion of melatonin so getting that deep, restful sleep in beforehand is crucial.
Increase your polyphenol content pre-party to help mitigate oxidative damage caused by alcohol. This means eating lots of colourful vegetables, olive oil, dark chocolate, herbs and spices.
Ensure you eat even a light meal before you drink. Most drinks contain a decent amount of sugar and slowing both this and the alcohol into the blood stream is important. Aim for a balanced meal containing protein, fats and complex carbohydrates.
Drink water between each alcoholic beverage. Alcohol is a diuretic and dehydration plays a significant role in the severity of the hangover.
Give your drink a health boost!
Add lemon or lime. These influence liver detoxification, helping you to remove the alcohol from your body more quickly. This also helps with bile production which aids in protecting the gut – 25 per cent of waste is removed through the gut.
Add bitters. The bitter taste stimulates receptors on your tongue to help the digestive process and improve liver function.
Mix with soda water instead of tonic. Tonic contains a substantial amount of sugar which adds up over a few drinks and worsens the hangover.
Try kombucha as your mixer! This is our favourite way to supercharge your drink. It is bubbly and sweet without containing too much sugar. It also contains beneficial bacteria. Add a sprig of mint and you’ve got yourself a cocktail!
If you would like to learn more about supporting your body and what good health really means, please book an appointment with us. We’d love to help you. Bookings available here.
Wholefoods in general are the most important and healthiest fuel for your microbiome. Ensuring you are eating enough fibre is an essential part of managing a lot of gut issues. It will also help you to promote a healthy gut long term. The recommendation is to eat at least 30 g of fibre daily. However, too often we are not even getting close to this amount due to our Western style diets and highly processed food consumption.
In this blog, I wanted to outline some other foods and dietary suggestions that could help you to improve your gut health. I would also like to highlight when some foods should be considered with caution.
Bitter foods stimulate the secretion of digestive acids to improve digestion of foods and proper absorption of their nutrients. In particular, people suffering from acid reflux may benefit from eating some bitters before a meal to support adequate stomach acid for better digestion. Bitters improve digestion and regularity as they help to increase fibre consumption and therefore improve gut flora health. Bitters stimulate mucus secretion in the stomach that can reduce inflammation and be protective from ulcers, thus also helping in the healing of ulcers. Bitter foods also have an action on the liver, promoting healthy liver detoxification.
Many bitter vegetables can be eaten raw, cooked or juiced. Here is a short list of some bitters: chicory, dandelion greens, kale, spinach, radicchio, rocket, cumin, Swiss chard, watercress, artichoke, broccoli and ginger.
Bitter herbs: Burdock leaf, chicory root, dandelion root, dill, gentian root and milk thistle. These are some of my favourite herbs I use from our large herbal dispensary at the clinic.
There is a reason why you should add fresh pineapple to your morning smoothie, and it’s not necessarily because of its delicious taste! Pineapple is high in bromelain, an enzyme that helps break down proteins and aid in digestion. Bromelain is also found in high amounts in the stem/core which is the part people often cut off and throw away. Make sure you are using this part for higher bromelain goodness!
Vegetables and foods with skin
These wholefoods are high in fibre and therefore have a greater ability to promote the growth and function of many different strains of beneficial bacteria that currently exist in your gut. Examples include potato, sweet potato, beans and legumes.
Fluid consumption while eating
A common suggestion I give in clinic is to avoid drinking while eating. In your stomach, digestive enzymes and HCL are found and these are essential for breaking down your food. If you have a large drink before or during your meal, it is likely you will be diluting the amount of these in your gut and you are therefore more likely to experience gut symptoms. It also might mean your food is entering the next stage of the digestive tract not having been broken down. As such, less nutrients will be absorbed due to these parts of the digestive tract not being the location for breaking down your food, rather the location for absorption. Try avoiding drinking fluids 10 minutes before, during and 10 minutes after eating to ease digestive symptoms and better your long-term gut health.
FODMAP foods, sauerkraut, kombucha and other fermented foods
Now, this is a classic example of ‘there is no one size fits all approach’ when it comes to gut health. For some people, these foods will be beneficial; for others, they may be foods that could be contributing to some of your digestive issues. While these foods are healthy, gut-health promoting and often suggested, please consume with caution if you do have gut health issues. Seek further professional help if you suspect these foods are triggering some of your symptoms.
If you want to know more about the FODMAP diet, you can read about it here and learn why it isn’t a long-term solution!
I really want to emphasise the need for an individual approach to your gut health. Recently I was reminded of this due to a personal health journey. Following a flare up in my digestive symptoms, I reviewed my past gut health results and found there was a high amount of a particular species of bacteria (a bad one) in my gut. After looking into this further, I discovered that this bacterium thrives with certain fibres and also doesn’t cope very well when eating saturated fats. The month prior I had been eating more bliss balls and snack foods due to breastfeeding and these contained butter, ghee, coconut oil and other coconut-based products (hello healthy saturated fats!). Even though these are healthy foods, they were not healthy for ME at that time. Since reducing these from my diet, I have noticed a difference.
So, always think twice when reading about a food or product that is good for gut health and just following the advice. This happens a lot and it just might be that the product is not the right thing for you, right now.
I hope this is helpful information. Keep loving your guts!
FREE GUT HEALTH MASTERCLASS! Karly is hosting an online Gut Health Masterclass where you can discover all you need to know about your gut and what it takes to look after it.
Get an in depth understanding of what digestion and gut health really is, the powerful connection between your gut health and whole body health plus how to start healing your gut NOW.
Gut Health Masterclass Wednesday 5 August 2020 @ 7.30pm
Online via Zoom
Live attendance is FREE!
With many scientists around the world working to create potential treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, it may be hard to see why you would need to be doing anything yourself. However, there is a lot you can – and should – do to prepare your immune system naturally. After all, it is your best defence against not only COVID-19 but all infections! Preparing your body can also be the difference when it comes to the severity of the symptoms you may experience if you do get ill.
It is very important to also comply with government and World Health Organization recommendations but that does not mean you can’t take responsibility for your own health, creating a warrior-like immune system ready to fight off anything that comes its way.
Acute naturopathic treatment will focus on the systems most affected by the pathogens, including the lungs, systemic inflammation and mucous membranes (ears, nose, throat, gut, mouth). Every case will be different and may have a completely different symptom picture. It is crucial to ensure you are helping your body recover to the best of its ability to prevent any complications now or in the future. Treatment is tailored and directed to specific areas that require immediate attention.
(Our acute appointments are ideal for this type of illness as they are just 20 minutes in duration and focused on the presenting symptoms.)
Testing is also important to gauge where systems in your body may be affected or to assess levels of critical nutrients and cofactors required for immune function. Testing allows us to get a clear picture of what is going on and treat it quickly and effectively.
Immune system boosting nutrients and food
Our diet plays an extremely important part in how well our body functions. By consuming nutrient rich foods necessary for optimal functioning, we can positively affect and even boost our immune system.
Vitamin D enhances the immune system’s response to pathogens, creating a tailored response to infection. It also has a high influence on the regulation of cytokine production of the immune system. Making sure you are getting out in the sun is important as people who are depleted of vitamin D have a higher risk of infection. Fifteen minutes of sunlight in the middle of the day is a great start to boosting your vitamin D levels. Some small amounts of vitamin D are found in fatty fish, butter, eggs, fish and liver. As we head into winter it is more difficult to get your recommended daily dose so a supplement may be required.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and immunostimulant that regulates immune cells. There are certain states that compromise our vitamin C levels including air pollution (for example bushfires) and physiological stress, which unfortunately covers a lot of us in Australia this year. High amounts of vitamin C can be found in kiwi fruit, capsicum, papaya, berries, broccoli, lemon, lime, pineapple and cabbage. Aim to eat fresh fruits and vegetables in their raw state where possible as cooking reduces vitamin C significantly, with up to 100 per cent reduction in some cooking methods.
Selenium prevents pathogens from replicating and holding onto our cells. It is an antioxidant and immunomodulator meaning it regulates, not overstimulates, our immune cells. Infection is shown to severely deplete selenium so boosting stores post-infection is important. Luckily, one brazil nut is the daily recommended dose so indulge in a few to boost your levels quickly. Selenium is also found in grass-fed meat and shellfish.
Vitamin A is an important antioxidant immune stimulant and supports mucosal immunity. Vitamin A creates a surface that can help combat the pathogen at the site. Vitamin A is also a mucolytic meaning it helps to break up mucus, a problematic facet of COVID-19. Good quality vitamin A can be hard to obtain but the best sources are butter, eggs, grass-fed meats, liver and sardines. An antioxidant that converts to vitamin A is beta carotene which can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, dark leafy greens, squash, broccoli and peas. However, it does require conversion to work within the body.
Zinc is critical for all development of immune cells. Australian soils are depleted of zinc so we need to consciously consume this nutrient. Also, unfortunately, it does not store in the body making it even more important to ensure we include it in our diet every day. Suboptimal zinc ingestion can lead to reduced immune defence capacity by as much as 30–80 per cent. The best sources of zinc are shellfish, oysters, grass-fed meats, cashews, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds.
Essential fatty acids are the cell gatekeepers of immune cell regulation and influence the behaviour of proteins involved in immune cell activation. They also play an important role in regulating inflammatory responses. This is crucial for COVID-19 treatment due to the out of control inflammatory response which is the cause of the more sinister issues. Most concentrated sources which are lower in heavy metals include fatty fish, mackerel, halibut, herring, sardines and salmon. Vegetarians can obtain ALA from consuming chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts however it requires conversion within the body making it less efficient.
Probiotics create a protective barrier against antigens, influence immune response and modulate the immune system (including modulation of cytokine response). You can stimulate the gut bacteria through fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut and kefir. Alternatively, stimulation through feeding your beneficial gut bacteria via prebiotics is another angle. Prebiotic foods include artichoke, bananas, chicory, garlic, leek and onions. It is recommended to further investigate microbiome levels as this can provide a more targeted approach.
Quercetin directly inhibits coronavirus replication and draws zinc into the cell to help combat the pathogens. It is found most densely in onion, capsicum, grapes, tea (black and green), cherries, leafy greens, apples, grapes and red wine. It is an antioxidant, antiviral, immunomodulator and anti-inflammatory. Quercetin is also cardioprotective and antidiabetic.
If in doubt, eat the rainbow!
A varied diet of unprocessed and organic foods covers many bases from a nutrient perspective and helps to reduce inflammation which reduces cytokine production.
(Our Immune Packs contain high quality products to assist with boosting your immunity. Check them out under Health Kits in our shop.)
If you would like to know more about boosting your immunity through naturopathic treatment, book an appointment with one of our naturopaths. Treatment provided is individual and targeted to your needs.
In the recent blog ‘The Digestion Sessions’, we discussed what a healthy digestive process looks like. The main goal of the process is to digest nutrients from our food to help our body do all the amazing things it does.
Now let’s have look at some of those nutrients and the role they play in your health. To kick things off, we will start with biotin.
Biotin is a member of the B vitamin family (B7), although it is sometimes referred to as vitamin H. Like other members of the vitamin B complex family, biotin is a water-soluble nutrient. Itis essential for human health and is involved in important metabolic pathways for energy production and metabolism. It also acts as a co-factor (helps other nutrients to ‘work’) for other actions in the body.
Where do we get it?
Many foods contain biotin including organ meat (such as liver), meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts and certain vegetables (such as sweet potatoes). Humans also synthesise biotin in the gastrointestinal tract via our gut microbes.
What it does for us
Our body uses glucose as its primary energy source, mainly because it’s easy. Our bodies are really quite efficient and will take the easy road where possible. Because we have an abundance of carbohydrates (sugars) available to us, this is what the body will use as energy. Any excess in glucose is stored in the liver and skeletal muscles as glycogen – a process called glycolysis. Once those stores are full, excess glucose is stored as fat.
Fun fact – humans have an unlimited ability to store excess energy as fat. Our fat cells (adipose tissue) upregulate in response to requirements so the more excess we have, the more fat cells increase in size and number in order to store this excess.
There are some tissues in the body that need glucose to function. In order to provide glucose for vital functions such as the metabolism of red blood cells and for the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) during periods of fasting (greater than about 8 hrs after food absorption in humans), the body needs a way to provide glucose from other nutrient sources (fats and protein). This process is referred to as gluconeogenesis, essentially making new glucose from non-carbohydrate sources. It occurs in the liver and kidney and makes energy through the oxidation of fatty acids. Pretty amazing that our body can adapt like this and, really, this is what our bodies are designed to do.
So, what does all this have to do with biotin?
Well, biotin is essential to this process. It is one of the nutrients that activates the enzyme reactions required for this reverse glycolysis to happen.
Biotin is also an integral part of our gut microbiome and the functions it facilitates. As our microbes (gut bacteria) are breaking down our food, specifically fibre, they produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) – butyrate, acetate and propionate. These SCFAs are known to have wide-ranging impacts on human health and disease. They are important for maintaining health through regulation of the immune system, maintenance of the epithelial barrier (gut barrier) and promotion of satiety following meals (letting you know you are full and satisfied). They may be protective against several diseases including colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, graft-versus-host disease, diabetes and obesity. And SCFAs can’t do any of those things without the help of biotin.
Some other important functions of biotin
– Helps to maintain hair, skin, nails, sebaceous glands (oil glands), bone marrow and sex glands
– Metabolism of protein, fats and carbohydrates
– Cell growth
– Reduction of cholesterol plaques on blood vessels
Humans only require a small amount of biotin daily (30 micrograms), therefore biotin deficiency is rare, and supplementation isn’t usually required.
Biotin seems to be a popular addition to over-the-counter supplements marketed to support the growth of hair, skin and nails; the dosages in these formulas being well above what your body needs.
Taking biotin, especially in high doses, can influence how other nutrients work in the body and can alter blood test results. It can cause the results of these tests to be either falsely high or falsely low. As a result, people can be misdiagnosed or treated incorrectly which can have serious consequences.
The affected tests are immunoassays that use biotin in their testing mechanism to bind chemicals and other substances in the blood to the test tube so they can be measured. Excess biotin in the blood from supplements can block that binding and the substances are not measured accurately. For anyone taking any biotin-containing supplements, it is important to cease taking the supplement for at least 48 hours before having blood taken for testing.
It is also a great idea to see a qualified health practitioner to decide if in fact biotin is indicated for you.
Written by Amanda Lorch, BHSc
Naturopath & Kinesiologist
If you would like to know more about this topic, or have a digestion- or other health-related concern, book an appointment with Amanda and find out what’s really going on in your body.
Have you been guilty of buying a jar of tahini with all good intentions of using it for hummus, only to put it in the fridge long enough for it to go rancid then, after the appropriate amount of time, throw it out?
Our nut and seed butters are so good for a variety of different reasons, yet they don’t tend to get a lot of airtime when it comes to nutrient-dense foods. Given that the nuts and seeds have been ground up, they are more digestible which is great if your digestion is not as strong as it could be. (Are you guilty of not properly chewing the nuts you eat? Many clients report they can see bits of the nuts they eat in their bowel movements.)
When you can digest and absorb all the goodness in nuts, they are a great source of some of your macronutrients (protein and good fatty acids) but can also pack a punch when it comes to your micronutrients as well.
Another great benefit of tahini is that it has a good component of fibre which helps to keep your microflora happy. There has been some promising research recently looking into the cardiovascular protective benefit of sesame seeds in regards to reducing overall blood pressure.
So, don’t discard that fresh jar of tahini just yet! To help you make good use of it and gain all the excellent benefits, here’s a simple dressing you can make using that pot full of goodness.
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
Simply blend all the ingredients together. If a thinner consistency is desired, add additional water to suit the dish.
This dressing can be used in many ways and would go well on a quinoa salad-based dish.
Is it time to change your habits and get the best from the foods you eat? Phil has two excellent events starting this week!
4-week RESET Program – starts 8 January: Start the new year on the right health path for you. RESET will help get you to the level of health you desire, in a supportive and structured way, under the guidance of a qualified and experienced professional. Included in the program are consultation with Phil, VLA testing and follow up, meal & recipe plan support, daily accountability, yoga classes and more. Book now to join RESET.
Getting Unrefined – Workshop 8 January: Discover how to return to wholefood-based eating and give your body the essential building blocks for optimal functioning. Experience greater energy, clearer skin and happy digestive system. Book your place at Getting Unrefined workshop.
Many more people suffer from allergies these days than ever before. This may be caused by external sources such as pollen, animals or environmental chemicals. But it might surprise that certain foods also contain substances that can contribute to allergic reactions by increasing our histamine load.
Our body requires histamine and it is normal to have small amounts of it in our body; it allows our body to function normally through dilating the capillary bed and allowing our nonspecific immune system to access hard to reach areas.
When found in excess amounts, histamine can contribute to many allergy type symptoms including:
– runny nose and watery eyes
– headaches and dizziness
– rashes and skin redness including itching and hives
– nausea and reflux
– disturbance of regular sleep patterns.
Many of us are familiar with the term ‘antihistamine’, that is, a type of medication found on the labels of numerous over-the-counter medications. These types of medications may be necessary in some cases but, largely, making simple dietary changes can help to reduce symptoms.
Here are some suggested foods to avoid to aid in reducing excess histamine in your system. They may not necessarily need to be taken out of the diet permanently but only as a short-term adjustment to allow your body to rebalance.
Aged and fermented foods:
Cheese, yoghurt, alcohol (all types including beer, wine and spirits), pickled vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles etc), bread, products showing ‘yeast’ or ‘yeast extract’ on the label, vegemite, soy sauce, aged meats (salami, tinned meats – as a general rule the older the meat the more histamine content).
Sour tasting foods:
Vinegar (all types), citrus fruit and tomato-based products (including tomato paste, sauce and the raw forms), some nightshade vegetables (eggplant, potato, capsicum).
Chilli, hot curry.
Additionally, heat is a histamine trigger as it can cause mast cells (which contain histamine) to release their contents in the skin and cause itching. Avoid exposure to extremes of heat (hot showers, sitting next to external heat sources).
When making dietary changes, it is always recommended you consult your practitioner to ensure your nutritional needs are being met. We can work with you to develop an appropriate meal plan to support your work in addressing specific health issues.
We also run programs which address balanced eating in conjunction with overall health and wellbeing. The latest of these is our 4-week RESET Program, developed and delivered by naturopath Phil Chua. See the full details here.
For more information, contact us to arrange a consult with one of our qualified and experienced naturopaths here.
Christmas can mean many things to people but for myself and my family it’s all about the food. Both of my grandmothers used to lovingly make their puddings the old-fashioned way – from scratch – and when they passed away our tradition was gone. Sadly, my mum missed out on the cooking gene (she admits this herself!) and was never interested in making the pudding. Enter the pre-made supermarket puddings (urgh). Once I commenced my health journey and went gluten free and dairy free, I didn’t have to eat the chemical-laden puddings and, with no good alternative, just learned to live without it. (Devastating, I know.)
But then, a few years ago, I came across this seriously amazing recipe and thought I’d give it a go. With some minor tweaks, it has become a Christmas staple. I even have a couple of family members who send me money to make them a special batch for taking to their in-laws (or in the case of my sister, to keep in the freezer so she has a personal stash of pudding well beyond Christmas!). And the best part? You can make it 100% gluten free and dairy free by switching the butter for coconut oil. I’ve also made it using different types of flour (i.e. coconut flour) and duck eggs instead of chicken eggs and it’s still fabulous. It may even be possible to replace the eggs with mashed banana or egg replacer, although I haven’t tried doing this. If you give it a go, please let me know how it turns out. I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with this delicious pudding, unless you were my mother, of course. (Sorry Mum! Love you.)
Here’s the recipe.
375g raisins, roughly chopped
200g dried apricots, roughly chopped
150g pitted prunes, roughly chopped
¾ cup brandy
¼ cup green ginger wine
½ cup dark berry jam of your choice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon mixed spice
4 eggs, at room temperature (or 3 duck eggs)
250g butter, melted, cooled (or swap for coconut oil)
4 tablespoons of light olive oil
½ cup coconut sugar (or sweetener of choice)
1 ½ cups banana flour (or 1 cup of coconut flour)
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
Add to a large mixing bowl the dried fruit, brandy, wine, jam and spices. Mix well, cover and stand overnight, stirring occasionally. (Pro tip: I usually leave it for 2-3 days so the fruit gets good and drunk).
Whisk eggs and butter together. Add to fruit mixture with sugar, flour, oil and bicarbonate of soda. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
For a traditional steamed pudding:
Grease a 10-cup capacity pudding basin with melted butter. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Brush with butter again. Line base of bowl with baking paper.
Spoon mix into prepared basin.
Cut 1 large sheet of foil and 1 large sheet of baking paper. Lay paper over foil. Make a 3 cm pleat in the middle. Place, paper-side down, over pudding. Secure with string or use pudding lid to lock down.
Place an upturned saucer into the base of a large, deep saucepan. Place basin onto saucer. Pour hot water into saucepan so it comes one-third of the way up the side of the basin. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Keep checking water level as the water can evaporate and may need to be topped up. Simmer for 5 hours or take off lid and check with a skewer (this is risky as it is very hot!).
Remove pudding from water. Stand for 30 minutes. Turn onto a platter. Serve as desired. Alternatively, cool completely then store.
(Recipe courtesy of Natural Evolution Foods)
If you want to do what I do and have individual puddings:
Grease cupcake pans (or use silicone moulds) and add pudding mix. Don’t fill them quite to the top as they will expand a bit.
Bake in a 180° oven for 35-40 minutes OR steam them in a water bath in the oven OR steam them in your Varoma dish in your Thermomix. (This is what I do.)
Individual puddings can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge until Christmas Day. Warm them in a gentle oven or re-steam them in the Varoma and serve with custard, cream or ice cream (dairy or non-dairy options).
Any way you make this it is absolutely delicious, and your entire family will love it. I don’t even tell my family it’s gluten free (because they would turn their nose up at it!) and they think it’s the bee’s knees.
Enjoy and have a very merry Christmas!
Denise Berry BHSc
To learn how you can eat healthy, feel well and take care of your body for the long term, book an appointment with one of our naturopaths; they would love to help you!
Let’s talk about your liver. You hear naturopaths talking about the liver all the time so why is it so important?
Our liver is one of the hardest working organs in our body. It performs many vital functions including digestion, assimilation and storage for essential nutrients and red blood cells.
Its primary role, however, is the detoxification of our bodies.
You see, every metabolic process that occurs in our body, every minute of every day, creates toxic by-products which the liver makes into less toxic substances and excretes from our body (primarily in our faeces and urine via the bowel and kidneys).
In addition to the internal toxins produced by normal metabolic function, we come into contact with a variety of external toxins every day; everything we breathe, taste and touch has to be processed through our liver.
Let’s think about that for a minute. Toxins are in the air we breathe, the clothes we wear (including what they are washed in and chemicals used in the manufacturing process) which sit on our skin all day and what we sleep on all night.
The food and drink we consume all has to be processed through the liver, as do the toxins in our skin care products (soap, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, toothpaste, mouth wash, moisturisers, make up, shaving cream, deodorant, aftershave and perfume) and our hair care products (dyes, styling products, hairspray). Our furniture and surroundings produce chemicals – think about sitting in the car in traffic, household cleaning products, air fresheners, medications we take, alcohol, nicotine and other drugs and so on and so forth.
The liver clearly has a lotto do. It is busy enough with all the internal metabolic functions and we go and add a whole heap of other elements in there for it to deal with as well. Is it any wonder our poor old liver struggles?
And what does our liver actually do with all this stuff?
Liver detoxification goes through three main phases to turn these fat-soluble compounds (we will call them toxins) into water soluble molecules that can be excreted from the body via one of the five systems of elimination – liver/bowel, blood/lymph, lungs/respiration, skin/perspiration and kidneys.
Phase I– cytochrome P450 pathway
The phase I reactions are the beginning of transforming toxic compounds into non-toxic molecules to be excreted. In other words, the P450 enzymes convert fat-soluble substances into intermediate compounds that have increased water solubility. This provides the body with the ability to process and remove compounds that could change or even damage cellular function.
Things that speedup your phase Iliver pathway include alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, some medications and illicit drugs.
Things that slowdown your phase I pathway include hormones, medications, heavy metals, environmental chemicals, liver damage and nutrient deficiencies (B6, zinc & magnesium).
After the phase I reactions, the compounds are then broken down into smaller particles and they wait in the intermediate phase before moving on to phase II. This is a bit like a taxi rank full of cabs waiting for rush hour.
Phase II – conjugation
During this phase, the particles proceed to find their pathway out of the body. There are six different phase IIpathways: peptide conjugation (glycine & taurine), methylation, sulphation, glucoronidation, acetylation and glutathione conjugation. Each of these pathways metabolises different compounds and enables them to be excreted from the body.
It is in this phase that things are normally slowed down and our liver has trouble in keeping up with everything. It’s like a packaging plant, where the conveyer belt gets faster and faster and the person at the end packaging up the boxes can’t keep up.
When one or more of these phases of detoxification are impaired in some way, it slows down the whole process, creating a backlog of toxins waiting to be processed.
Here are some common signs that your liver may need a little help:
Indigestion or feeling nauseous or unwell after eating, especially after consuming fatty foods
Altered bowel movements – frequent diarrhoea and or constipation
Feeling of fullness and food not moving after eating
General fatigue and tiredness
Altered mood, feeling a little more grumpy than usual
Itchy skin, rashes, eczema, psoriasis etc
Muscle/joint aches and pains
Insomnia/disrupted sleep, waking between 1–3 am on a regular basis
Abdominal pain/bloating/distension after eating
Excessive sweating, especially the feet
Body odour and/or bad breath
High cholesterol levels.
This is just to name a few! Most people today have some level of liver dysfunction. This is purely due to the foods we consume and the every day exposure the liver has to deal with.
But you can certainly help your liver and one of the best ways to help your liver, and your body in general, is through your food. We all need to eat, right? So why not consume foods that are beneficial to your health and wellbeing and avoid foods that cause problems. Try to incorporate some of these liver-friendly foods into your diet every day.
While it might sound boring, your whole body—especially your liver—loves water. Make sure you get at least two litres of this amazing stuff every day (preferably filtered water that takes out these nasty chemicals we are talking about).
Not the sliced variety in a tin, I’m talking about real, whole, fresh beetroot (including the leaves). These little beauties are great at cleansing and purifying the blood. They contain fibre plus a whole stack of beneficial nutrients your blood and liver will love.
This is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, with other family members including cabbage, kale, bok choy, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. This family of vegetables are high in sulphur—and one of the phase II detox pathways is the sulphation pathway so these vegetables help to improve the flow through this pathway. They also contain lots of other nutrients that generally help to support healthy digestion and liver function.
Garlic and onion
Again, these are sulphur containing foods that stimulate liver detoxification. They are also anti-inflammatory which means they help to slow or reverse inflammation in the body. When your liver is under stress and not keeping up with things, it can become inflamed and that can cause it to slow down even more. They also help to activate liver enzymes which are essential in the detoxification process to help flush out toxins.
Lemon and limes contain high levels of vitamin C which helps the liver turn fat soluble molecules into water soluble compounds so they can be excreted. It is also an antioxidant so is protective for the liver. Drinking lemon or lime juice in warm water before meals can help to stimulate gastric acid production and the flow of bile acids. These help us digest our foods properly so we can absorb the nutrients we need to aid our body to do all the things it needs to do.
Green leafy vegetables
These are our best friend when it comes to liver health! Get as many of these vegetables into your diet every day as you can—there are so many benefits. The darker the colour, the more nutrients they contain. They contain chlorophyll (this is what gives them their green colour) which helps to alkalise the body and suck up toxins, rendering them neutral and unable to cause damage. They are also high in fibre which helps with fat metabolism and the absorption and excretion of toxins (more details below).
This type of vegetables helps to clean the liver and protect it from damage.
Avocados help to produce glutathione which is essential for healthy liver function and is the master antioxidant in the body. It protects the structure of the cells, which helps them to function optimally.
Wow, what can I say here! Amazing! A very powerful antioxidant, turmeric helps to stimulate detoxification and glutathione production. There are some studies that show turmeric helps to regenerate a damaged liver—that’s pretty amazing.
Fibre is your friend. Our liver makes cholesterol as part of its normal function, we need cholesterol and all of our cells and hormones are made of cholesterol. But when the liver is not functioning well and is being harmed by alcohol, medications, sugar, processed foods, chemicals and toxins, it produces more cholesterol as a means of protecting itself. This is where cholesterol can become a problem in the body, as it has nowhere to go so it accumulates in the blood vessels.
In this situation, a high fibre diet can help. Cholesterol is sticky (like chewing gum) and fibre is coarse (like sawdust). What happens when you drop your chewing gum in sawdust? Yes, the dust sticks to the gum. This is what fibre does in the body; it collects the excess cholesterol and helps it find its way out of the body. It also does the same for the fat-soluble toxins. If you put sawdust on an oil spill, the sawdust soaks up the oil and it is easier to clean up; the same happens in the body.
It also acts like a broom through our digestive system, especially the colon. As we know the colon is one of the main exit routes from the body. If the bowel isn’t working well, even if the liver was clearing things out, it can cause a traffic jam in the colon. So it’s vitally important to have healthy bowel function to support the liver in doing its job.
There are also some pretty powerful herbal medicines and nutritional supplements that can be prescribed by your naturopath to assist with optimising liver function. If you suspect you have issues with your liver or would just like to make sure yours is functioning well, seek the advice of a qualified natural health professional—like one of our naturopaths. In the meantime, eat your greens!
The food we eat for breakfast and how we eat it can have a significant effect on how we feel for the rest of the day.
For our grandparents, a cooked breakfast was the norm, but this trend has changed over the last couple of generations with many of us now opting towards a more ‘grab and go’ type breakfast focused on convenience. This switch has been driven by a couple of factors.
Daily food routines
We tend to slow down and have larger meals when we have the time to cook and enjoy them. For most households, this is after our regular workday has finished and has led to dinner being the largest meal of the day.
When we get into any health pattern we must stop and consider if it serves our health. Having our largest meal towards the end of the day affects other areas of our health. We suffer with the amount of energy we have during the day (which is lower as there is less fuel available for us), our sleep quality is not as good as it could be (as our digestion is working when it would ideally be resting) and we have a tendency towards weight gain.
Did you know that it is not written anywhere that you must have cereal or toast for breakfast? Some of the cereals on the market might even be the worst thing you could have!
Dual income households
Our grandparents are largely the last generation to commonly have one person stay at home. Now it is much more commonplace for both people in a relationship to be working, meaning our priorities have shifted. Many of us are often in a rush to get out the door in the morning, not realising the importance of fuelling our body for the day.
When we eat a great breakfast, our blood sugar levels are more balanced throughout the rest of the day. This means we are better able to be emotionally balanced and make better food choices.
Here are three simple things to look for when it comes to breakfast:
minimal refined foods (keep sugars to a minimum and consume less packaged foods where possible)
add some protein (this can be from eggs, nuts and seeds or even animal sources)
sneak in some vegetables (With nearly 70 per cent of the population not even getting to five veg and two fruit daily, getting some plant matter in early is a great way to start the day with a win on the board.).
Ensuring we have enough of the right food in the morning and eating slowly to assist our digestion will give us the best start to our day.
Feel better and live healthier, starting with a good, wholesome breakfast.
…because it’s the only outfit we will wear for the rest of our life.
Did you know that true skin health starts deep inside? In fact, the condition of our skin, along with our hair and nails, gives a good indication of our internal health.
As with most health conditions, skin conditions start in the gut. How our gut processes food, assimilates nutrients and expels wastes has a direct impact on the health of our entire body, including our skin.
Our skin is our largest organ! That’s right. It’s not just a flesh bag to carry our muscles and bones in, it is an organ and has a functional role in our health and wellbeing.
Let’s have a look at the structure of our skin.
The skin is comprised of three main layers. The outer most layer is called the epidermis; this is the part of the skin we see and touch. This layer varies in thickness, depending upon the body surface it covers. For example, the skin on the soles of our feet is thicker and courser than the skin on our face. The cells that make up this layer are called keratinocytes.They layer together, like a brick wall, producing a physical barrier to protect our body from external pathogens. This outer most layer also contains melanocytes to give the skin its pigment [colour] and protect it from the sun by producing melanin. Langerhans cells [immune cells] are also a part of our skin. They provide both a physical and chemical barrier to protect our body.
The next layer down is the dermis. It is 20–30 times thicker than the epidermis and is structurally made up of collagen—a denser, more fibrous substance—and elastin which gives the skin its stretchiness. The dermis layer is what gives our skin structure, integrity and elasticity and houses hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous [oil] glands. These structures provide sweat and oil to the skin surface, creating a barrier to pathogens.
The bottom layer is known as the hypodermis. It is made up of a specialised layer of adipose [fat] and fibrous tissue. It cushions and insulates the body and stores excess energy in the form of fat.
It takes about 28 days for the skin cells to move from the base layer up to the surface layer. Once they reach the outer most layer, the bonds between the cells break apart and the skin sloughs off. Any changes made internally for skin health can take up to a month to be apparent. Routine is key here. Stick with it, be consistent and the changes will surface.
Now we know a bit about the structure of our skin, let’s have a look at how it functions.
The main function of the skin is to act as a barrier between our internal and external environments. It acts as both a physical and a chemical barrier to prevent microbes, chemicals, allergens, toxins and carcinogens from entering our body. This function is supported by the immune cells located in our skin tissue.
Our skin does this by dilating or constricting the blood vessels near the surface of the skin and this controls the transfer of heat out of our body. As previously mentioned, the fatty layer of the skin provides insulation against the cold. Our other temperature control mechanism is through evaporative cooling via our sweat.
Ultraviolet (UV) protection
This occurs through the production of melanin, produced by the melanocytes. Melanin is a dark pigment that gives skin the multitude of colours we see. The darker the skin tone, the more melanin present. Upon exposure to UV light, the melanocytes upregulate their melanin production. This melanin travels up to the keratinocytes where it absorbs the UV light, protecting the basal layers underneath from UV damage.
Vitamin D production
This is a fat-soluble nutrient essential for our health and wellbeing. Vitamin D is a little different to others in that it doesn’t come from our diet but rather from exposure to sunlight. We make a cholesterol-based substance called 7-dehydrocholesterol in the sebaceous glands of the skin (these same glands produce sebum and can become infected in acne). Exposure to sunlight, specifically to UVB rays, converts this substance into vitamin D over a 2–3 day period.
The skin has a large nerve supply which gives us the sensation of touch. The skin is a direct interface with our external environment and is constantly feeding back sensory information to our brain.
When the integrity of the skin is compromised, through injury or a wound, it has a cascade of events to help the wound close and heal as quickly as possible to protect the organism—you.
Ok, so what does all of this have to do with our gut you might be wondering…
Both our gut and skin are highly innervated and have an extensive vascular supply [nerves and blood are what we are talking about here]. The skin and digestive systems are where the outside meets the inside and provide a physical and immune barrier to prevent our internal structures from exposure to pathogens. You might be aware of the gut microbiome—a population of microbes inhabiting the digestive tract, essential to homeostasis. Well, our skin has its own microbiome.
Research has established a bio-directional communication between the gut and the skin known as the ‘skin–gut axis’. So, we could think of our digestive tract as the internal skin system. In fact, it is lined with cells that are similar in structure to that of our external skin cells and is host to a multi-functional population of microbes. As such, these two organ systems are essential to the structure, function and health of the organism—again, you!
As naturopaths, we commonly see clients with skin issues who also have some level of gut dysfunction, and we wouldn’t treat one without the other. Acne, dermatitis and psoriasis are three common conditions that are very much related to the gut and manifest in the skin.
Now you know a bit about the structure and function of our skin, what can we do to help ensure healthy skin through all phases of our life?
One of the biggest influences we can have on the health of our skin [and our gut] is our diet. Just like everything else in the body, our skin needs nutrients to do all the amazing things it does. Eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods helps to feed and nourish the microbes in the gut and on the skin. Because the lining of the gut and the skin are made up of living cells, they need nutrients to carry out their many functions. Having a healthy, optimal-functioning gut that can digest, absorb, synthesise and assimilate nutrients is paramount to healthy, nourished, glowing skin.
Here are the top skin-loving nutrients.
Yep, our cells, including skin cells, are made of fat. To make sure they are nice and plump and juicy, ensure you have regular intake of good quality fats. Oily fish containing essential fatty acids or cold-pressed organic olive oil are loved by our entire body, including the skin.
Fat soluble nutrients
Protects the skin from UV damage and slows ageing of the skin. It also promotes healthy skin cell production, keeping the skin barrier intact, which means nice, firm, healthy skin. Through this action of enhancing skin integrity and barrier, it also prevents against infection. When the skin surface is damaged in some way (even through dryness), it makes it easier for an infection to enter.
It comes from the sun and is synthesised by our skin cells. Vitamin D ensures the healthy turnover of skin cells, promotes wound healing and maintains the barrier of the skin. It is also an essential nutrient for the immune system and fighting infections.
This provides protection from the sun, preventing sun damage to the skin, and also anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. Being a fat-soluble nutrient, it helps to keep skin cells plump and juicy.
Protein and collagen
The protein we eat is broken down into amino acids, the building blocks of our body. The body uses the amino acids to make other proteins – collagen and keratin – which form the structure of the skin.
Working hand in hand with collagen, Vitamin C allows the protein matrix to hold its shape and is also helpful for the immune system and fighting off infections.
Water makes everything in our body work better and the skin is no exception. Our skin loves pure filtered water. Water aids in digestion, circulation, absorption of nutrients and even the excretion of wastes. While our cells might be made of fat on the outside, they have water on the inside which helps them to keep their structure and carry out all the functions they need to.
To sum it all up, our skin is a living organ in the body, made up of various types of cells with specialised functions. Both our skin and our gut have an ecosystem of microbes that have many beneficial functions in maintaining health. These microbes communicate with each other. Eating a nourishing wholefood diet helps to support the health and function of both our skin and digestive tract.
A note on skincare
Be informed about what you put on your skin. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, or you wouldn’t eat them, it’s probably safe to say you don’t want them on your skin either! There are heaps of luscious natural skincare products on the market or why not make your own?
If your skin needs some extra love and support or if you have acne, psoriasis or dermatitis, the issue isn’t skin deep. It is gut mediated and we need to support your gut health to support your skin. Book a consult with a naturopath to assess what is going on and the best way to support you and your skin.
Written by Amanda Lorch (BHSc) Naturopath & Kinesiologist