Seven ways to make sure Christmas is as much fun as when you were a kid!

Do you remember the excitement of Christmas when you were a kid ? Trying to figure out where Mum and Dad had hidden the presents ? Looking forward to eating three different types of desserts or just pudding and custard? Better still if the weather was fine enjoying weeks of school holidays with a gang of friends moving from house to house.

When you get older it gets harder to enjoy the day as so often the run up to Christmas day can be exhausting. It’s often a busy time with a combination of end of year events, extra shopping and cooking plus organising a range of presents. All this whilst trying to hold down a job as well as possibly wrangling children as well. So how do we find the magic of the day again?

  1. Start by only accepting invitations to events you really want to attend. Things that sound like fun or at a restaurant you really like or with people you really want to catchup with in person. Also look at your diary and make sure there aren’t too many events in the same week. If the invitation involves standing around at a pub drinking and you would rather be soaking in a hot bath then give it a miss.
  2. Make sure you are looking after yourself in the weeks leading up to Christmas – prioritise exercise by scheduling it in first. Book in appointments that are important for you whether its massage, acupuncture, beautician or hairdresser. You will enjoy the day more if you are in top physical form and not jump limping to the end of the year.
  3. Make gift giving easier by suggesting Secret Santa, even if its just for the adults. Buying one gift instead of six or eight reduces the load for shopping and also usually means that you get one gift that you really like. Other options could be doing a charitable donation instead of giving presents. It really depends on what will make your family happiest and reduce the stress associated with gift buying.
  4. On the day ensure the food preparation is shared with all the adults attending. Splitting responsiblity (and costs) for the celebration make it easier. Whether its prawns or ham, salads or desserts, sharing the work makes a big difference. If you are dealing with a variety of food intolerances then have a look at my blog A Gluten and Dairy Free Christmas .
  5. Break out the board games for entertainment, having some at an appropriate level for the group can really provide good entertainment for a few hours. Current favourites in my house are Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Katan but don’t forget old favourites like Monopoly and Scrabble. We also have a tradition of finding the silliest games possible like Hungry Hippos and Peanut Elephant.
  6. Make sure your Christmas menu includes something you really enjoy. The most recent addition to our Christmas menu is Donna hay’s wonderful stuffing cup recipe. It’s not hard to make and ensures there is enough stuffing for everyone.
  7. Start a new tradition such as watching classic Christmas movies as a family (options rang from Die Hard to Love Actually or The Holidays) or enjoy opening one gift each on Christmas Eve. Bake a favourite cookie, pudding or mince pie. The blog A Gluten and Dairy Free Christmas has my recipes for both pudding and mince pies, well they are modified versions of my mother’ recipes and are gluten free with a dairy free option.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist and has an online program called Ageing Outrageously. She is in practice at Elemental Health, St Ives and appointments are available on (02) 8084 0081 or by booking online at .

Why do I want to encourage people to Age Outrageously Well?

A couple of years ago I was working with a wonderful group in a program called Maverick. We were encouraged to think about our vision for our healthcare practice. Mine was to reduce the burden of chronic disease by 50%. A big goal but we need some big goals in healthcare as our current system is not always delivering good outcomes for people.

What are these chronic diseases that affect 46.6% of Australians? They include cancer, arthritis, type two diabetes, respiratory diseases and heart disease. The cost of supporting people with these conditions is $38 billion annually, but this money is mainly spent on acute treatment and medications rather than any real focus on prevention. Nationally our preventative health spend is around 2%.

For those with Type two diabetes for example the treatment is likely to be glucose lowering medications rather than exercise or nutritional prescriptions. Even if the GP has time to discuss nutrition chances are they don’t have the time to work through the dietary changes needed to effectively balance blood sugar. The GP also doesn’t have the capacity to refer for appropriate exercise options under Medicare.

Balancing Blood Sugar is a critical part of improving your health as you age, a concept that was highlighted in the ReCode protocol training in delaying Alzheimers. The brain is the biggest user of glucose in the body relative to size accounting for about 30% of our use. Systemically if we are having issues with glucose metabolism, such as commonly found in hypoglycemia and metabolic syndrome, then our bodies become increasingly resistant to insulin which is essential for the uptake of glucose. A 2011 study in Neurology showed an increased risk of dementia in people over 60 with elevated blood glucose.

Another key risk highlighted in the Recode training was underlying infections and heavy metal toxicity. The Indian journal of Pyschiatry’s 2006 article on “Reversible Dementia’s” highlight’s the reversible causes at between 0-23% and includes on its list a range of heavy metal toxicities as well as infections such as spirochetes which are seen in Lyme like illnesses.

In clinical practice I often work with older clients who see good improvement in their health and energy by improving their diet, tweaking or adding more exercise and supporting themselves with appropriate supplements. Unfortunately not everyone has the ability to commit to a course of naturopathic treatment and work individually with a practitioner. My eight part Ageing Outrageously program was developed to bridge this gap, providing people with the information they need at the cost of approximately one consultation.

The program covers all the key information that you can use to improve your health and how well you age. It looks at critical dietary support with a focus on Balancing Blood Sugar and Getting Moving as well as looking at whether there are possible interactions with common medications. In addition the program focuses on supporting your Gut and Digestion, which are essential to being able to absorb nutrients from your diet as well as looking at how you can support effective detoxification.

The major advantage of an online program is that a bigger group of people can work on improving their health than I can work with individually. It mightn’t get me to a 50% reduction in chronic disease but its a good start. More information on the Ageing Outrageously program is on this link. Registering on this link means you will also get regular content on Ageing Outrageously as well as being advised of any specials including the upcoming Black Friday sale!

What do you do with all the leftover pumpkin?

delectable baked pumpkin pie
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Halloween is usually all about candy but what happens to all the pumpkin that is left over after all the carvings and decorations are finished ? In this blog there are seven ways to include pumpkin in your diet with smoothies, bowls, muffin, porridge, humuus and loaf recipes.

Pumpkin is a nutritious orange vegetable, high in fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and beta carotene. These nutrients may reduce the risk of age related macular degeneration. Including brightly coloured vegetables in your diet is a good way to keep a good range of nutrients. Beta-carotene which converts to Vitamin A, is an important nutrient for the immune system and may assist in supporting respiratory health.

Scroll through the recipe booklet below and see which recipes you might like to try and then download the booklet if you would like to keep the collection. Happy Halloween!

What is homeopathy and how can I use it to support my health?

Homeopathy is a system of medicine developed in the 18th century by Dr Samuel Hahnemann, which approaches good health in a holistic way – taking account of the whole person and not just the symptoms or ‘disease’. Homeopathy uses natural substances (plant, minerals or animal substances) to stimulate your body’s ability to heal and strengthen your overall constitution.

Homeopathy is now the second most widely used form of natural medicine globally and is used by over 200 million people annually. In England it is estimated that over 6 million people use Homeopathy regularly and in India many of the homeopaths are originally trained as doctors and there are over 11,000 homeopathic hospital beds.

Hahnemann was originally trained as a medical doctor but observed that very few of the treatments at that time actually worked, apart from a few herbal medicines. Hahnemann trialled these herbal medicines on himself and found that they caused similar symptoms to those that they treated. This lead to the first principle that “like cures like”. For example think about peeling an onion and how your eyes water and your nose may start dripping. These type of hay fever like symptoms would mean that you would use the remedy, Allium Cepa, which is red onion.

The process of experimenting with physical doses of a substance, even herbs ,was often quite overwhelming in terms of the symptom picture so he started trialling a diluted amount of a substance to see whether he still got an effect, which is now called a proving. He found that smaller and smaller amounts would still produce symptoms or a therapeutic effect. This is the second principle which is “minimum dose”. Homeopathic medicines are often diluted and shaken or “succussed” and still have a therapeutic effect.

Hahenmann and a group of his colleagues eventually “proved” about 50 remedies, primarily from herbal medicines initially and started using them to support patients. Over time the process of dilution and succussion allowed them to use substances such as minerals and animals.

Pandemic Prescribing

Homeopathic medicines have been used for a wide range of conditions and in particular were helpful during epidemics of infectious diseases. In 1854 reports were given in the UK showing that the hospitals were experiencing a death rate of 46% from an outbreak of cholera, in comparison the homeopathic hospitals had a rate of 18.4%. In original data the homeopathic hospitals were excluded as they distorted the data but after a public uproar they were published.

Homeopathy in the Home

Once you understand the basics a small first aid kit plus a few books is usually enough for most people to start using it for lots of common conditions including coughs and colds, stomach upsets, sore throats and sinusitis as well as sprains, strains and common injuries. There are useful prescribing tips in the following blogs Natural Medicine First Aid 2022 which looks at bruises, bumps, strains and sprains, Treating Colds and Flu at home which looks more at remedies for upper respiratory tract infections and Stomach Aches and Pains for stomach upsets including diarrhea and constipation.

My first experience of the value of homeopathy came when my son had an earache in the early hours of the morning. Having already discussed this with my homeopath we were fairly sure Belladonna was needed for his ear infection. He got one dose and settled down and after a second dose he rolled over and went back to sleep. Better still with treatment the run of ear infections stopped and we didn’t have the need for antibiotics and panadol.

For more information on using homeopathy there are some really useful courses on my site and if you are keen you can join my next Using Homeopathy Made Easy Course which starts on the 4th October and runs at lunchtime from 12-1pm. If you miss the live course I will record it to have it available as a resource. If you are unsure about doing an online course why not see my recent webinar on Natural Medicine for Common Illnesses and see if you are comfortable with the format.

Over 50 and struggling with frustrating roadblocks to weight loss?

Are you finding as you get a little older that you are doing all the things that have always worked for you in the past but you can’t lost weight? In fact it even seems to be creeping on around the middle?

There are a few obstacles that can affect you as you get older that make it harder to lose weight. One of the biggest roadblocks is nutrient deficiency and there are three areas that are critical;

  1. Key minerals for metabolism like chromium and iodine.
  2. Protein in adequate quantities.
  3. Kilojoules at an appropriate level.

Chromium is a key mineral for blood sugar balance and low levels are often associated with cravings for sugar and carbohydrates (to give you the quick sugar fix). While its found in a range of foods, such as meat, grains, green beans and fruits, levels can be impacted by a diet high in refined foods and simple sugars.

Iodine is an important nutrient for glands and in particular the thyroid gland, which controls growth and metabolism. There aren’t a wide range of food options with iodine, which may explain why deficiency is fairly common. Good food sources include seafood, seaweed, organic eggs and celtic sea salt. Some products such as salt can be fortified with iodine.

A deficiency of iodine is harder to detect as quite often symptoms are sub-clinical, however one of the most common symptoms is weight gain. In more significant deficiency you see signs of fatigue, hair loss and chilliness. Another symptom that often appears for women is fibrocystic or “lumpy” breasts.

A combination of chromium and iodine deficiency results in a significant block for metabolism and makes it very difficult to lose weight.

Inadequate amounts of protein in the diet can also make it hard to lose weight. Many women often find they tend to crave carbohydrates as they provide quick and easy energy. Protein has the same kilijoules per gram but also provides balanced blood sugar for a longer period. Including an adequate amount of protein at each meal keeps your blood sugar balanced and reduces cravings. What is an adequate amount of protein? Generally for weight maintence you are looking at 0.8g per kilo and for weight loss between 1-1.2g per kilo.

Translated that means for a women who is 80kg she needs to be eating 64g of protein a day to maintain weight and between 80-96g to lose weight. You also need to be aware that typically the protein content of animal meats is usually about 20-25% whereas for vegetarian proteins its typically 10-15%. A typical day could include 2 eggs (12g of protein), a small can of tuna (24g) and a chicken breast fillet (50g).

Under eating is also a significant problem for many people. Years of yoyo dieting and keeping kilijoules low can reduce your metabolism and make it difficult to lose weight. An historical study in Minnesota with prisoners looked at the impacts of prolonged starvation with calories reduced so that participants lost 25% of body weight. The study showed a reduction in the bodies metabolism, as well as an increase in depression and emotional distress.

Eating inadequate kilijoules can cause your metabolism to slow down, meaning you won’t burn as much fat off when you engage in physical activity. Your body requires energy when you walk, work out, think, breathe, just about everything!When you deprive your body of the fuel it needs to burn calories, it will begin to store food and enter a sort of “survival mode.” So even when you exercise, your body will protect the fat that it has stored, and you may not be able to lose the weight you want to lose. 

To recover from long periods of yoyo dieting you may need to work on increasing your metabolism as a priority. Gently increasing exercise plus using hormetic stressors is a useful way to approach the problem. Heat and cold, stressors which boost energy and slow ageing has a good summary of some approaches which may be helpful.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives. You can make appointments online or by calling on (02) 8084 0081. Christine is also the author of the Ageing Outrageously program and there is more information on the website here.

How does chronic inflammation affect your skin?

A key factor in accelerating ageing is long term inflammation and it can be damaging both to our bodies and in particular to our skin. Inflammation is a complex defence mechanism in which white blood cells move from from the circulation into damaged tissues to destroy the agents that potentially may cause tissue injury. Acute inflammation is a helpful response, particularly during an infection, whereas chronic inflammation is persistent and can lead to tissue damage. 

What are the usual indicators of chronic inflammation? Markers such as C Reactive Protein or Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (EDR) are often used as indicators and will commonly be checked on blood tests. CRP is often raised in the acute stages of inflammation and may continue to be elevated in the chronic stages as well. It is often used to monitor how people respond to a particular treatment.

Common sources of inflammation include the following;

  • Chronic infections
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diet
  • Isolation and chronic stress
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Obesity
  • Environmental exposures and toxins
  • Injuries

The body reacts to these triggers by increasing the flow of nutrients to the area to enable it to resolve however in some cases the trigger persists and you develop chronic inflammation. In the skin the chronic inflammation results in a layer of the skin thickening and may cause the lymphatic vessels in the area to increase in size and number.

Skin inflammation longer term can also result in senescent cells. Senescent skin cells, which accumulate over time, play a crucial role in the response to chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation arises when the immune system responds to persistent or recurring stimuli, such as infections, environmental factors, or cellular damage. In the case of skin, chronic inflammation can also be triggered by factors like UV radiation, pollution, or even chronic skin conditions. When the skin is subjected to such insults, it activates an immune response that recruits immune cells, including macrophages and T cells, to the affected area.

The Effects of Chronic Inflammation on Aging Skin:

  1. Inflammatory Molecules: Aging skin cells, known as senescent cells, release various substances like pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and enzymes that break down the skin’s structure. These molecules attract immune cells and contribute to more inflammation in the affected area. This ongoing inflammatory environment can worsen skin damage and disrupt the natural healing processes.
  2. Impaired Function: Senescent skin cells have reduced functionality and struggle to perform essential tasks like wound healing and tissue regeneration. This impairment occurs due to changes in the way genes are activated and signaling pathways operate. Consequently, the skin’s ability to repair itself becomes compromised, leading to slower healing and an increased risk of chronic wounds.
  3. DNA Damage: Chronic inflammation generates oxidative stress, which can cause DNA damage in aging skin cells. This damage can result in genetic mutations that further contribute to the cells’ dysfunctional behavior. Over time, the accumulation of these genetic abnormalities can potentially raise the risk of skin diseases, including cancer.

Chronic inflammation poses a significant challenge to the health and appearance of aging skin. The release of inflammatory molecules by senescent cells, their impaired functionality, and the accumulation of DNA damage can lead to a decline in skin health and an increased risk of skin diseases. Understanding the impact of chronic inflammation on aging skin cells is crucial for developing strategies to mitigate its harmful effects and promote healthier skin aging. By adopting lifestyle practices that reduce inflammation, such as maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise and managing stress levels you can assist in maintaining healthier skin.

For more assistance in managing lifestyle factors and making the changes that will support healthier skin (and a healthier you) have a look at my resources including my free webinar 6 Tips for Ageing Outrageously .