Reduce your breast cancer risk

Attending an Integrative Oncology conference online in June 2021 was an interesting experience. The organiser provided an extensive program looking at treatment options and naturopathic support. One in three people will develop cancer at some point and improvements in testing and treatment have resulted in significant improvements in survival rates with those for breast cancer increasing from 75% to 91% over the past twenty years.

In addition to medical treatment there is also useful research on changes that can improve your survival risks and indeed may be useful preventative strategies, particularly if there is a history of breast cancer in the family. These strategies include diet, exercise , therapeutic foods and reducing alcohol consumption.

First up diet! During treatment doctors may advise that diet really doesn’t matter. Largely this is due to the concern that the nausea and lack of appetite resulting from chemotherapy or radiation treatment will result in significant loss of weight and you are less able to sustain treatment. At this stage maintaining kilojoules and weight is key. Post treatment however diet becomes critical.

What is the best diet for reducing your breast cancer risk ? Ideally a plant based whole food diet which still includes adequate amounts of protein from either animal or plant sources. Let’s consider the key components of this type of diet and how it may help.

Eat your vegetables

A wide range of vegetables is ideal and at least three cups of vegetables a day. There are four major reasons why vegetables are critical to good health;

  1. Vegetables provide a wide range of nutrients including key minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.
  2. Vegetables are a good source of fibre for gut flora. The benefits of adequate fibre are significant as it feeds beneficial strains of bacteria in our gut.
  3. The fibre in vegetables which assist the body in processing our hormones down a less proliferative pathway.
  4. The fibre in vegetables results in a slow release of energy, which assists in maintaining blood sugar and a healthy weight range. Being significantly overweight or obese increases your risks.

In addition to vegetables a couple of serves of whole grains daily in the form of good quality sourdough or brown rice is also useful in terms of ensuring adequate fibre.

One to two serves of fruit

The polyphenols in fruit, like grapes, apples, pears , cherries and berries has been shown to be protective against many chronic diseases. Polyphenols are a component of plants that serve to protect them from ultraviolet radiation or infections. They are considered natural antioxidants and assist in both the treatment and prevention of cancer (1).

Adequate protein

A small amount of protein at each meal is essential for repair post surgery and treatment but also provides stable blood sugar. Ideally a palm size , palm width portion is sufficient. Wherever possible consider including plant based sources of protein , such as chickpeas, lentils and tempeh, nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds make an ideal snack to include daily as they are a powerhouse of nutrition with the benefit of incorporating healthy fats as well as essential minerals like zinc.

Add Therapeutic Foods

There are many foods which really have therapeutic effects outside of superfoods from the Amazonian rain forest. These include options such as green tea , cruciferous vegetables, flaxseed and turmeric. Through a range of pathways they are beneficial as they can assist in modulating genes which affect cell expression, growth and proliferation. Therapeutic foods may be helpful in that they can assist in reducing inflammation and support the development of tumour suppressor genes

  1. Green tea which contains useful polyphenols that can act as anti-oxidants in the body. From a preventative aspect the dosage of the active ingredient would result in you consuming up to four cups of green tea a day, preferably organic.
  2. Cruciferous vegetables which contains natural sulforaphane shown to slow down tumour growth and block the genetic mutations that lead to cancer in the first place. At least one cup a day of raw cruciferous vegetables which includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage.
  3. Flaxseed, which contains beneficial omega 3 fatty acids and contains compounds that
    may reduce the body’s production of oestrogen. 1-2 Tablespoons a day is
  4. Turmeric, the most potent natural anti-inflammatory food on the planet; it is also many times
    more antioxidative than vitamin E.

Exercise regularly

One intervention that has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by up to 55% is brisk walking of up to 2.5 hours a week. Exercise has the advantage of reducing inflammation but also assisting in the management of stress levels. Walking 30 minutes a day five days a week is enough to see a significant benefit it just needs to be at a pace where you can talk but not sing ! (2)

Reduce alcohol

The recommendation for alcohol consumption for women are 1-2 drinks a day however even at these levels it has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer by 30-50%. (3) The equivalent of one standard drink a day increases risk by about 5%. Alcohol reduces the ability of the body to detoxify hormones and so it is particularly concerning with hormone receptive cancers.

So which intervention is more useful for you and your particular circumstances ? Not sure if it is my bias as a nutritionist but sorting out diet tends to make a significant impact and usually improves your energy so that you can increase your physical activity as well.

If you need assistance implementing changes or just want to check in on your current diet and supplements Christine is available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Elemental Health at St Ives and you can make appointments on 02 8084 0081. You can also book an online consultation on Zoom.

(1) Quideau S., Deffieux D., Douat-Casassus C., Pouységu L. Plant polyphenols: Chemical properties, biological activities, and synthesis. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2011;50:586–621. doi: 10.1002/anie.201000044.

(2) https://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/exercise-improves-survival-and-reduces-risk#:~:text=The%20researchers%20found%20that%20women,t%20meet%20the%20minimum%20guidelines

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3832299/

Natural medicine for sore throats

My kids have always been a little worried when they were first getting sick, except when they had a sore throat as they would be excited as they could have honey! Good quality Manuka honey that is usually combined with a lemon and garlic tea.

The first symptom that many people notice with a cold or flu is often a sore throat. A niggling or slight scratchiness initially and then within a few hours it has developed into a sore throat. Depending on the symptoms its usually a good idea to provide gentle immune system support and some appropriate homeopathic remedies. Three options are useful for supporting the immune system manuka honey, elderberry and lemon and garlic tea.

Sore throats are often a precursor to a cold or flu so supporting the immune system with Elderberry is ideal. A good over the counter option for Elderberry is the product Sambucol which comes in capsules or lozenges. The advantage of a lozenge is that it provides a way of topically treating the sore throat. This option also tastes a lot better than most which helps if you are treating children.

For sore throats where there is also congestion or a cough its usually helpful to add a good quality tea combined with manuka honey. To make lemon and ginger tea boil up 5 cloves of garlic with a quartered organic lemon in about 1L of water. Bring to the boil an then reduce to simmering on the stove for 20 minutes. Keep the lid on as this ensures that the limonene essentials oils are retained in the tea. One to two cups a day with a teaspoon of good quality Manuka honey will help with symptoms and recovery.

Homeopathic medicine is a useful way to support recovery from a sore throat. Its usual to match the symptoms of the sore throat to the homeopathic remedy. First up look at the location of the sore throat, is it on the left or right side. Then look at the type of pain associated with the sore throat, is it dry, sore, stabbing or burning ? Check to see if anything makes it better or worse (this is what we call the modalities), this could be that its better for cold or warm drinks for example. It could be a little different in that they are better for covering the throat. Then look at any other symptoms that are occurring at the same time and see if they have a similar patter.

Two remedies that focus on the side on which the sore throat starts are Lachesis and Lycopodium, Lachesis tends to start on the left side and usually is associated with burning pain in the throat. Lachesis is also known for people who may have a sore throat but can still talk incessantly. People who need Lachesis often find drinking doesn’t help but eating my provide relief. Lycopodium tends to start on the right side or is worse on the right side and the pain is usually better for warm drinks.

Hepar Sulph is often useful where the pain extends to the ears and the sore throat comes on after a cold or after getting chilled.

Where the throat is more infected and glands are swollen you should consider Mercurius Solubulus (Merc Sol). When this remedy is indicated there may be excessive saliva such that the pillow is drenched in the morning as well as bad breath. The sensation in the throat could be dry or burning pain. This remedy can be of significant benefit in the acute phases of glandular fever.

For more information on managing the symptoms of acute illnesses see the recent blogs Treating colds and flus naturally , Stomach Aches and Pains and Natural Medicine First Aid .

Christine is a practicing Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives and can be contacted on 02 8084 0081.

Supporting Vaccinations holistically

Are you planning to get the vaccine shortly ? Are you on a priority list? As Australia moves to the 1B list approximately 6 million Australians will now be offered either the AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccine . Both of these will require two shots over a period of up to 12 weeks.

If you are in a position where you can take up the vaccine then it may be useful for you to consider how you can support yourself to ensure that you minimise side effects and that you produce antibodies. To a certain extent these are new vaccines and information is being slowly developed on the optimal way to support clients through the process so this blog is based on the most recent information released.

First up protocols may change slightly between the two different vaccines due to the different composition of the components. The Pfizer vaccine is based on using messenger RNA whereas the AstraZeneca vaccine uses a virus vector based on an adenovirus. Both have clinical trials that show an efficacy rate that is much higher than the annual flu vaccine, Pfizer is estimated to be above 90% and the Astra Zeneca has had a recent trial showing an efficacy rate of 79%, interestingly it appears that a longer gap between doses appears to improve efficacy.

The common ground is the need to support the immune system to have a reasonable but not excessive response, regardless of which vaccine is given. It is recommended is that you ensure that Vitamin D levels are adequate and that you take both prebiotics and probiotics to support immunity for up to two weeks before and two weeks after each round of vaccination.

What sort of dosing is appropriate? Generally around 1-2000 IU of Vitamin D3 as well as a reasonable dose of prebiotics and at least one capsule a day of a reasonable quality probiotic, with a good variety of strains.

Vitamin D levels will be lower for you if yo are just coming out of Winter and a higher daily dose like 2000IU would be helpful.

First up what are prebiotics and how much should you be taking? Prebiotics are fibres which assist in the proliferation of beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics are available in supplement form , such as partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG) and larch. Prebiotics contain insoluble fibres which feed bacteria in the colon. Prebiotics are also sourced from fruit and vegetables, so a useful way to increase prebiotics in the diet is to make sure you are having three cups of vegetables a day from a variety of sources. Ideally have one cup each of brightly coloured vegetables, one cup of brassica and one cup of leafy greens. More information is in this blog about What are the best vegetables to feed your gut bacteria .

Adding probiotics which support the immune system can also be really useful and ideally you need to select strains which will compensate for any underlying gut dysbiosis. In a relatively healthy individual a broad strain probiotic with at least 5-10 billion colony forming units (CFU’s) for two weeks pre and post vaccine should provide good support. Strains which can be helpful include Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Lactobacillus Paracasei as these can modulate the immune response to an appropriate level.

Fermented foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut and pickles also contain useful probiotics however it can take a long time to build up levels so it is probably preferable to add a suitable probiotic in at this point.

It may also be helpful to just ensure that you are in the best condition possible before you are vaccinated. Ideally make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of good quality sleep, exercising regularly and eating an anti-inflammatory diet. If you are taking a number of medications, particularly those that affect your digestion, it might be a good idea to see a practitioner and work on your overall health before you vaccinate to assist in an appropriate immune response.

A reasonable percentage of people will experience some side effects as a result of the vaccinations. These could just be soreness at the vaccine site, which is fairly common or 24 -48 hours of flu like symptoms. At the moment based on the few vaccinations I have been able to support I have found the homeopathic Gelsemium in a 30c or 200C potency given every two hours for three doses and then as needed to be helpful in managing side effects. The advantage of using homeopathics in this instance is that it will not interfere with the vaccine process.

Christine Pope is an experienced Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. She is available for appointments on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and can be contacted on (02) 8084 0081.

Healthy Lunch boxes and snacks

School holidays can be a welcome relief from prepping the dreaded lunch boxes. It can be difficult to be inspired about providing healthy lunches and snacks five days a week. In this blog we will be reviewing some ideas on prepping lunch boxes as well as providing you with a list of snack ideas and recipes. Scroll down for a link to a recipe book with five snack ideas for lunchboxes.

Ideally lunch boxes include a range of healthy foods your child enjoys which can keep them motivated for a full day at school. There are six key features to consider when organising a lunch box.

  1. Think about the macro content , that is try and include protein and carbohydrates at every meal to maintain energy levels over the day. Carbohydrates are typically quick at releasing energy but if the meal is solely based on carbohydrates (bread, rice or pasta) then energy levels lag after an hour or two. Protein is ideal for slow release of energy and also to maintain balanced blood sugar through the day. Protein sources can include meat, fish , chicken, eggs as well as vegetarian proteins like legumes such as chickpeas, lentils or tofu and tempeh.
  2. Use vegetables with dips instead of crackers or corn chips. Most people struggle to get children to eat enough vegetables so including carrots, capsicum or cucumber with humuus or a dip just helps increase the nutrient quality of their diet and normalise eating vegetables. Harris Farm also carries little snack packs of mini cucumbers and carrots which can be an ideal size for lunchboxes as well as maintaining their structure through the day.
  3. Salads are a good alternative to sandwhiches but need to be robust enough to keep in a school bag in the heat. Ideally pack in a thermos to keep them cool or include a small drink bottle with frozen water to keep it fresh. Good options can include a ham and rice salad, tuna nicoise or shredded chicken with coleslaw. Cabbage salads tend to be more robust and keep better. A family favourite is this wombok salad which works well with chicken drumsticks for lunch.
  4. Stock the freezer with useful options, many muffins freeze easily and make an ideal snack. Mixing it up with options like banana muffins, chocolate pumpkin muffins and zucchini and goat cheese muffins (recipe in the snack book below).
  5. Prep home made treats and make enough for a few days and keep in air tight containers. Home made popcorn can be an ideal treat to add to lunchboxes and adds a good dose of fibre as well. Other home made options can be trail mix with dried fruit and seeds (avoid nuts for school lunchboxes) or crispy chickpeas.
  6. A couple of pieces of fruit can be an ideal inclusion. From a packing perspective apples or mandarins are easy to pack however its always a good idea to have variety and include small tubs of berries, kiwi fruit or melon or a couple of small apricots or plums.

For some more recipes for snacks download the recipes from the link below for a range of ideas for lunchbox snacks.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental health St Ives. You can make appointments to discuss from meal planning on 02 8084 0081 or book online.

Five minerals you need to know about !

In my clinic last year there was a lot of focus on Calcium and osteoporosis but realistically everyone knows they need Calcium for bone health. There are however 20 essential minerals for health and in this blog you are going to find out about five that could be having a big impact on your current health and wellbeing. In case you do want more information on Bone Health read my latest blog on Building Healthy Bones.

Iodine is basically found in things that come out of the ocean, like fish and seaweed, but also in organic eggs and celtic sea salt. Iodine is an essential nutrient for glandular health and in particular the thyroid gland. Thyroid hormones require iodine to form T4 or thyroxine which then has an iodine ion removed to become the active hormone T3, or tri-iodothyonine.

The thyroid is responsible for growth and repair, so effectively controls your metabolism but also your ability to heal effectively. When your thyroid health is impaired you tend to have one of two reactions, first up if your production of thyroid hormones is too low you tend to become fatigued, foggy, constipated and suffer from dry skin and hair loss. If you are overproducing thyroid hormones you tend to be agitated, lose weight easily and have loose bowels. You do need to be careful supplementing with iodine particularly if you suffer from auto-immune conditions and its preferable to build supplements up slowly as well as having iodine from food sources.

Selenium is also a key nutrient for thyroid health and is important for the production of anti-oxidants such as glutathione. Australian soils tend to be low in selenium and to get an adequate dose four brazil nuts a day is recommended, but ideally they actually come from Brazil where the soils are still replete in selenium.

Glutathione is an anti-oxidant which can prevent damage to cells, it also regulates DNA production. It can be taken as a supplement however supporting your own body to produce adequate glutathione is probably recommended as a longer term strategy.

It is usually fairly easy to determine whether Chromium is a deficiency for someone as they will crave sweet foods and may be prone to dizziness or fatigue if they haven’t eaten in a few hours. Chromium is a key component of glucose tolerance factor. If you eat a meal high in carbohydrates and then feel tired a couple of hours later it is possible that you cannot manage the surge in glucose in your blood from the food. Glucose tolerance factor binds to insulin and enhances its reaction often by a factor of three, so low levels of chromium will reduce your ability to manage foods high in glucose.

People who are deficient in both Chromium and Iodine will have a lot of difficulty in losing weight as they are two key minerals for your metabolism.

Potassium is another key nutrient as it is an important electrolyte in the body and it is a useful marker of adrenal health. Ideally potassium and sodium need to be in a reasonable balance as an indicator of good adrenal health. Potassium is the major electrolyte in the intercellular fluid and sodium is the major electrolyte in the extracellular fluid. Low potassium levels can result in cells being dehydrated and operating less effectively.

Potassium is frequently low in people who have been under chronic long term stress or those who do not eat sufficient fruit and vegetables, which are usually the best sources.

Most people cite bananas as a good source of potassium at about 400mg. There are a range of good quality sources including half an avocado (487mg) or a medium sized sweet potato (541mg) or 1 cup of navy, lima or canellini beans (840mg) which all contain a higher level of potassium than bananas.

Copper is a mineral that often gets ignored as the focus for the immune system in particular is often on zinc, however inadequate copper levels make it difficult for you to respond to bacterial infections. It is found in all  tissues and plays a role in making red blood cells and maintaining nerve cells and the immune system. The best sources include seafood, organ meats, whole grains and legumes. A popular source of copper is Chocolate, however it is the raw cacao that is high in copper.

Copper is usually more problematic when is it in excess and this can be associated with increased anxiety, headaches and allergies.

Interested in finding out more about your mineral levels and what you may need to include in your diet. Christine Pope is available for appointments on Tuesday and Wednesday at her clinic at St Ives, Elemental Health, You can make appointments on 02 8084 0081 or book online.

Gluten Free North Coast

Bill’s Fishhouse

Do you find travelling with food intolerances difficult? On a recent trip to Port Macquarie it is clear that holidaying in the regions with food intolerances is getting easier but there are still a few areas that need to improve. In this blog you will find some tips for locating friendly restaurants and navigating your way through menus.

First up road food? Depending on where you are travelling you may find it easier to pack your own snacks and lunch or scope out some suitable alternatives. Gluten free options when travelling to the North Coast include chains such as Olivers who stock a range of healthy foods including fresh juices and a good range of gluten free options.

Secondly download Trip Adviser and review the restaurant choices in the area you are visiting. Trip Advisor lets you choose restaurants based on dietary requirements as well as options like online booking. Although during the current coronavirus crisis many restaurants have turned off online booking so that they can take deposits or confirm that you are planning on dining.

Once you have downloaded Trip Adviser its a good idea to search a list of cafes or restaurants which meet your requirements. Going one step further its a good idea to jump onto the menu and make sure that gluten free for example doesn’t just mean we offer gluten free toast.

LV’s on Clarence

Reviewing the options in Port Macquarie there were three breakfast options close by to our accomodation which included LV’s , the Pancake Parlour and The Pepperberry. Each had reasonable reviews however our standout favourite was LV’s initially as they had a fabulous Mushroom fungus toast with ham that was delicious and served gluten and dairy free. Staff were also very competent at dealing with requests for changes due to intolerances. The Pancake Parlour had the ability to provide gluten free pancakes for a number of menu options but the quality of the food was a little average. The Pepperberry was a standout for its range of gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options including two types of fritters. The Morrocan fritters with corn were excellent, a little spicy and they benefited from the use of besan (chickpea) for a richer taste.

The standout options in Port Macquarie were Bills Fishhouse and Twotriplefour at Cassegrains Wines. We dined at Bills Fishhouse on the Friday night and had emailed to let them know of the various dietary requirements which included one gluten free and one both dairy and gluten free. The waiter was really well prepped and also adjusted the Fish Tasting Special to our requirements, replacing oysters with a delicious Kingfish sashimi with coconut cream. They also offered some interesting options with Kingfish wings ( a bit fattier and tastier than the main fish) as well as a delicious salt and pepper squid.

Having mentioned that we were dining at Twotriplefour the following day for lunch we were really thrilled to see printed menu’s already adjusted for our dietary requirements. It may have triggered a round of over ordering as there were so many options, however we really didn’t need to eat dinner that night so it was worthwhile. We has a delicious entree of warm marinated olives, mushrooms, eggplant and a herb and lettuce salad followed by lamb rump. Twotriplefour also offer hampers for picnicking in the grounds and that may be an option for later trips.

Bago Maze and Winery

A third tip is to contact the venue in advance either by email or phone and see if they can accomodate your dietary needs. The Bago Maze and Winery offers both salami and cheese platters and can provide gluten free crackers on request. The other venue which had a surprisingly good menu was the cafe at Billabong Zoo which offered a range of salad bowls with gluten free and vegetarian options. Both of these options we were made aware of at the venue and would probably have changed out trip to eat at those venues if we had realised. Regardless make sure both venues are on your list for your trip, Billabong zoo is in sub tropical grounds and has an impressive range of animals. Personally loved being able to feed the wallabies and sneak in a little gentle pat on the back but we would recommend being at the lion enclosure just after 11am as the keeper gets up close and personal with the lions.

Bago Maze is one of the superior hedge mazes from our travels and takes a good hour to really explore and conquer both turrets as well as identifying the many features. For Christmas they had hidden a range of Austalian animals in the maze so it was fun to go down dead ends just to see if you could find the platypus or the wombat.

Perhaps the only criticism to make at this point is that restaurants seem to freely indicate on platforms that they offer dietary options however the menu’s do not always meet these claims. A number of cafes in the area advertised gluten free but then failed the menu test as there were no gluten free items marked. Its also essential that staff recognise the importance of separately preparing gluten free foods, which in most cases these venues did by checking if the diners were coeliac. The other item is to ensure that gluten free options if fried are only prepared in a separate fryer, otherwise you risk trace contamination.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist who enjoys eating out and travelling. Clearly this year’s efforts are restricted to NSW. For useful blogs on the subject have a look at Mountain high – adding dietary options to your holiday. and A tea lovers guide to the Blue Mountains . Christine is available for appointments on 02 8084 0081 and can offer online consultations for those not currently based in St Ives, Sydney.

Building Healthy Bones

Surprisingly large numbers of women (and men) in Australia are being diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis. This is despite a very high rate of dairy consumption in the country. So what is happening and can you build healthy bones as you get older?

There are three major areas that need to be addressed for good bone health, namely exercise, nutrition and lifestyle factors. Most people think about calcium and perhaps Vitamin D but don’t necessarily address the other key areas.

Bones are constantly being broken down and remodeled and this process results in up to 10% of the bone mass of an adult being replaced every year. This means that changes will take time to have an impact but that you can maintain or even improve your existing bone density.

One indication that you have a problem with your bone density can be having a bone fracture easily or having a fracture take a long time to heal. Usually the bone will remodel and repair over 6-8 weeks however if this process takes considerably longer its essential to get your bone density assessed.

Lifestyle factors are an important consideration and conditions which affect absorption such as celiac disease will increase your risk factors. There are also certain medications , such as corticosteroids, which reduce bone density. Other key lifestyle factors are heavy smoking and drinking. Heavy drinking usually results in a range of key nutrient deficiencies and Calcium and Vitamin D are just two that can be impacted.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Exercise is critical for bone health and even two hours of regular walking a week can make a difference. Walking causes micro fractures which encourages the process of bone remodeling. Walking needs to be brisk, at a pace where you can speak but not sing! Ideally incorporate some hills and keep stretching yourself.

Weight bearing exercise is also helpful as it can prevent further bone loss and strengthens existing bone. Impact exercise such as aerobics, dancing , tennis and basketball have the benefit of being weight bearing as well as building bone. These are classified as the ideal exercises to build bone however its important to start exercising at an appropriate level and build up slowly.

Nutrition is an area that often gets overlooked or there is a strong focus on calcium containing foods at the expense of synergistic nutrients which assist in bone formation. So how much and what type of nutrients should you be reviewing in your diet?

First up make sure you are absorbing nutrients well. Generally good digestive health is key and this would usually mean that you don’t suffer from reflux, excessive flatulence or belching and that you don’t require medications to manage these conditions. Other indications of poor digestive health can be constipation or diarrhea as in both cases you may be less able to absorb nutrients.

Secondly look at the key minerals required for good bone building. This includes Calcium, Magnesium, Boron, Silicon and Vitamins D and K. In my initial consultations we usually assess these minerals either based on signs and symptoms or further testing as required. How would you know you had a deficiency ? Magnesium for example is a common deficiency and usually results in symptoms like headaches and cramping or an inability to manage stress such that you feel constantly tired but wired! Silicon is a surprisingly common deficiency in Australia and usually results in dull flat looking hair and weak nails.

A good way to introduce more minerals to your diet is to add bone broth ideally made from organic bones. This provides soluble minerals in an easy to digest form. The collagen and gelatine in bone broth is also a gentle treatment for the digestion and may assist in improving the quality of the lining.

Another key nutrient for bone building is protein with about half of the bone comprised of proteins. Very low protein intake can decrease calcium absorption and may affect the rate of bone formation. Very high protein diets can leach calcium from the bone to reduce the acidity in the blood. Up to about 100g of protein from food a day balanced with a good range of vegetables appears to be the right level. Just remember that its 100g of protein and not 100g of protein containing food. For example chicken is about 25% protein so a 200g chicken breast fillet is about 50g of actual protein.(1).

For more information about building healthy bone make an appointment with Christine at Elemental Health on 02 8084 0081.

(1) Beasley JM, LaCroix AZ, Larson JC, Huang Y, Neuhouser ML, Tinker LF, Jackson R, Snetselaar L, Johnson KC, Eaton CB, Prentice RL. Biomarker-calibrated protein intake and bone health in the Women’s Health Initiative clinical trials and observational study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Apr;99(4):934-40. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.076786. Epub 2014 Feb 19. PMID: 24552750; PMCID: PMC3953886.

Can you build up sleep pressure?

Good quality sleep means that we can build up enough pressure to induce sleep. It is part of the equation with your circadian rhythm. If you are finding it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep it may be that you haven’t build up enough sleep pressure.

What stops you building pressure to sleep? The major areas that you can influence are chronic pain, blue light, and stress. Age and genetics also play a part but these factors are less influenceable.

Chronic Pain affects your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. Lack of sleep can also increase the risk that you develop a chronic pain condition. There are a number of natural medicine options in pain management however it will depend on what medications you are taking. Generally these conditions will be helped by regular gentle movement. Supplements which can be helpful include high strength fish oils, curcumin and PEA.

It can also be helpful to manage chronic pain with regular bodywork such as osteopathy or massage. If you are very sensitive it can be worthwhile to look at gentle treatments such as craniosacral therapy or lymphatic massage.

Most people seem to know that they shouldn’t use devices in bed but don’t necessarily realise that using the devices for up to 3 hours before bed may affect their sleep. How does it do that? At night the body increases its production of melatonin, this helps activate and maintain sleep. The blue light emitted by your device signals the brain that it is still daytime and can delay production of melatonin for 1-3 hours. Ideally stop using your phone or other device at least 1-2 hours before bed. Watching TV from a distance of up to 2 metres and looking away every 20 minutes can be a good way to reduce the impact.

Some non- pharmaceutical options for blue light exposure include wearing anber reading lenses two hours before bed which improved sleep quality after just a week. Getting morning sunlight has also been shown to be helpful in resetting the circadian rhythm. the nutrient lutein and Zeaxanthin assist in filtering blue light. These nutrients are found in green leafy vegetables and egg yolks.

Stress is of course another big area for interrupting sleep. Chronic long term stress elevates cortisol and can result in the pattern of early morning waking (4-5) and difficulty getting back to sleep. Stressors are different for different people but two of the most common concerns at the moment are unrewarding jobs and anxiety about health. Generally being in a job where your efforts are not rewarded can be a source of ongoing stress.

There are a number of stressors which result in a job being perceived as unrewarding and surprisingly its not about dollars for many people. A British study by Micheal Marmot found that cardiovascular risk as a marker for stress was not highest amongst those at the top but actually lower. It actually correlated with the amount of control that people had over their work and working environment. It is essential to build in processes that allow people flexibility in their work and increase their control as well as avoiding micro management. If you are in an environment where your work is subject to rigid control and micro management it can be worthwhile looking at whether changes can be made.

The second area of anxiety for many people is anxiety about health and this can be particularly acute when a “pandemic” is declared. Worse still with the media constantly triggering you with daily corona counting it can be difficult to stay calm. If this is affecting you generally staying off social media and looking at some routines to calm your brain such as meditation can be helpful. There are a couple of useful apps in this regards including Calm and my current favourite Gaia, which has a range of meditations as well as yoga classes. Still its ideal to do this a couple of hours before bed and avoid screen time before bed as recommended.

The other way to reduce your anxiety about health is to ensure all your regular health checks are up to date and there is no physical reason for the anxiety. For some people who may be prediabetic or insulin resistant difficulties with blood sugar can result in problems with sleep. It can be a good idea to not only get a fasting blood glucose test done annually but also consider whether a more comprehensive test like a 2 hour glucose tolerance test may provide more insight. Frequently in clinic the problems are early stage and occurring at the one to two hour mark.

Reducing caffeine intake and incorporating some carminative herbs can also be useful and you could substitute some calming chamomile tea or peppermint tea as an alternative. These teas before bed could assist in improving sleep pressure.

For more information about sleep have a look at 6 Sleep Myths Debunked .

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. If you would like more help with identifying the causes of your poor quality sleep and modifying them you can book in for appointments on 02 8084 0081.