Dealing with the smoke haze.

The smoke haze in the Sydney basin has already lasted longer than most of us expected and many people are suffering particularly those with respiratory conditions or allergies. This week Sydney jumped to the ninth most polluted city. So what you can do to protect yourself for the next few weeks?

1. Hydrate – the body needs to be properly hydrated to keep mucous membranes moist and to flush out toxins. The mucous membranes filter out toxins and provide protection so if you are really dried out consider using a saline nasal spray or eye drops for more protection.

2. Exercise Indoors or not outside when smoke is visible. Air quality may be better inside with air conditioning rather than outside. This is particularly important if you are already asthmatic or lung function is compromised.

3. Avoid other toxins because this is a good way to lighten the load on your bodies detoxification systems, like liver and kidneys, as they already have more work to do. Toxins could be cigarettes or alcohol or foods which your body reacts such as dairy or gluten.

4. Supportive nutrients for detoxification. This could just involve dosing yourself on Vitamin C twice a day or with chronic mucous you could look at N-Acetyl Cysteine to help reduce mucous in your system.

5. Increase intake of anti-inflammatory foods: garlic, turmeric, ginger, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, beetroot and pineapples. Foods with a high sulphur content like garlic help support detoxification pathways.

6. If you do work outside consider the use of a well fitted mask to reduce exposure to fine particles.

What other strategies can you suggest? Please add your ideas in the comments section below.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. Appointments can be made on 02 8084 0081 or online at www.elementalhealth.net.au .

Carrots – seasonal veggie inspirations

Carrots are a versatile vegetable and nutritionally a great source of Beta-Carotene, Vitamins B6 and K as well as minerals such as potassium . The beta carotene in carrots can be converted to Vitamin A. They are also good food for the microbiome as the soluble starch in carrots is largely pectin.

Carrots have the advantage of being ideal raw or cooked. Carrots are available year round and are usually very reasonably priced so a great addition to the weekly shop.

How do you include carrots in your meal plan? Well in addition to being a great side dish on their own they combine well with so many flavours to add to a meal. Often the base of many casseroles or pasta sauce is to start by sauteeing carrot and onion as these “fragrant” vegetables add to the flavour profile of a dish. Adding a carrot can be a good way to increase the quantity of vegetables in a dish.

Here is a list of recipe suggestions for including more carrots in your cooking. Some of these are from recent blogs and others are just recipes I use all the time at home. Carrots are also a favourite to add to roasts as they absorb flavours beautifully specially if you cook them with the lamb or chicken.

Turkey Mince bolognaise – turkey mince is a good light option for pasta sauce.

Carrot and Apple Salad – an easy and quick combination from Carol Ray with walnuts and a lemony dressing. A nice change from coleslaw.

Carrot Pumpkin and Coriander Dip this is a slightly spicier combination but makes a really interesting change from humuus.

Carrot and Onion Side Dish

  • 500 g carrots peeled and cut into rings
  • 2 brown onions peeled and sliced in thick rings
  • 2 Tblsp fresh chopped continental parsley
  • Olive Oil

Steam carrots lightly for 3-4 minutes so they are still crisp but cooked. Saute onions in olive oil for 3-4 minutes until clear and then add carrots. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Serve with chopped continental parsley.

My favourite way to serve carrots is roasted however this combination with roasted parsnip (Maple roasted carrots and parsnip) is simple and a delicious way to get children to eat more vegetables as well.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. You can make an appointment on 8084 0081 or online.

Is your house making you sick?

How would you know if your house is making you ill ? Symptoms can be really diverse and include allergies, fatigue, sleep disturbances and less common symptoms like multiple chemical sensitivity and infertility. To really determine whether its related to the environment you need to look at a detailed history.

The acronmyn for the history taking is PHOLD which stands for place, hobbies, occupation, lifestyle, dental, diet and drugs. So lets look at how the first issue ,place, can contribute to making you ill.

Place – your geography and your home. From everyday exposures such as living on a major road and being exposed to high levels of petroleum by products to living near an airport or a coal mine, your geography increases your risks. Both of those locations create a toxic environment in the house and are associated with a higher incidence of asthma for example.

Another common issue is mould particularly in Sydney with its high ambient humidity in Summer. Often you can smell that a house is damp or musty as you walk in. The cause of the mould is often moisture or leaks that have not been treated quickly. Other examples can include old bathrooms where the waterproof membrane has decayed and mould has built up behind the tiles and fittings. In Sydney roof leaks and rising damp often contribute to problems particularly in older houses. Mould spores whether dead or alive can contribute to chronic respiratory problems, like allergies or asthma.

Another increasingly common challenge for people is EMF fields particularly from smart meters for monitoring electrical use. People who are sensitive to these fields may find that they need to move away from the smart meter to improve their sleep. For people who are very sensitive to electro magnetic radiation it is also a good idea to switch off the wi-fi overnight. It will become increasingly more difficult to remove these sources as we switch to 5G so it is a good idea to reduce your exposures wherever possible. This could mean using headphones for the phone or the speaker where possible.

Within the context of the home its also important to consider hobbies which can involve exposure to toxins or chemicals on a regular basis. Artists for example are constantly exposed to a plethora of chemical solvents, photochemicals, and chemical additives. If you are planning to become pregnant it is important to be aware of the dangers that exist when working with various arts & crafts. Hobbies that involve the handling of dyes, pigments, metals, ceramics, glass, and chemical solvents create the potential for toxic exposure.

If you are not sure whether the home environment is contributing to ill health you can get a building biologist to do a review and advise you of concerns. This is a good starting spot and the Australian College of Environmental Studies has a list on its site if you need a referral. If you are unsure as to whether the house is the problem make sure that the next time you holiday away from home you really observe how you are feeling and it may shed some light on the issue. Certainly I know people who have told me they are always better when they are on holidays, however it may be that they are away from their mouldy house !

Constructing a timeline can often help you determine if it is related to the location or if something in the environment triggered the issue originally.

If you need a bit of assistance determining the causes Christine Pope is based at St Ives and available for appointments on 8084 0081.

Iron for vegetarians (or anyone who likes plants)

Legumes a good source of iron

One of the more difficult nutrients in a plant based diet is iron, partly because it is more difficult to absorb and partly because women in particular may have higher needs at different stages of their life. In this blog we will look at requirements at different stages, good plant sources and factors that affect absorption.

How much iron do you need ?

Requirements change depending on your age and stage, but also whether there are other stressors which may affect your needs. For women who are having heavy periods extra iron is often needed. For athletes who are doing intensive training they have a higher need for iron as the training stimulates production of red blood cells.

Generally the recommended iron intake for adults is 8mg for men and 18mg for women. For women this increases to 27mg during pregnancy. Post menopausal women drop to 8mg a day the same as men. Babies and toddlers have similar requirements regardless of gender but typically around 8-11mg a day depending on the stage.

Good plant sources of iron

  1. Nuts depending on the type are good sources of iron. Pistachio’s have 14mg of iron per 100g and are about four times higher than almonds, brazil or cashew nuts. Nut butters could be a good way to increase iron in the diet.
  2. Seeds particularly pumpkin, sesame, hemp and flaxseed. Two tablespoons average between 1 – 1.4mg of iron per serve.
  3. Legumes such as beans, peas , chickpeas and soybeans with soybeans topping the list at 8.8mg of iron per cup. Legumes are also an important source of protein for vegetarians so they have multiple benefits.
  4. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, chard and kale often have between 2.5-6mg per cup of cooked vegetables. Included in a dish with legumes it gets easier to meet your recommended intake.
  5. Potatoes but the iron is under the skin so make sure you scrub the skin before cooking and don’t peel it off. A large potato has around 3mg and sweet potato a little less.
  6. Oyster and white mushrooms are good sources, however shitake and portobello have little iron content. The varieties noted above have around 3mg per 100g.
  7. Olives hold around 3mg per 100g .

How do I digest iron easily ?

Most people seem to know that having foods containing Vitamin C at the same time as eating iron sources improves their digestion, leafy green vegetables are a good source of iron as they usually contain both. Other factors which may impact absorption are consuming dairy products or tea at the same time as the iron source.

Dairy products may impact absorption of iron due to the high calcium content, which in some studies has been shown to lower absorption of the iron. This may not be an issue if your levels are adequate as its only reducing absorption however if you are suffering from iron deficiency it might be best to have your capuccino at least 30 minutes away from your meal.

Tea is high in tannins which constrict the mucous membranes lining the stomach. If consumed with meals it may limit your absorption of nutrients such as the non-heme iron from plants significantly, by up to 62% in one study. Again enjoying your tea away from your iron containing meal is probably fine.

Christine Pope is a practicing naturopath and nutritionist who is based at Elemental Health at St Ives. Appointments can be made through the website at www.elementalhealth.net.au or by calling 8084 0081.

Microbiome or genome – what tells you more?

shutterstock_609019046What tells us more about your risk of developing a disease, DNA or your microbiome? The explosion of DNA testing has meant that we have developed much more knowledge about an individual’s DNA. It’s also clear that simply having a particular gene or a snip does not mean you will necessarily develop the relevant condition. Our DNA is the terrain but the environment is the trigger.

The microbiome on the other hand can tell us more about whether the environment is triggering a condition. Microbial diversity is more critical to health. Loss of diversity seems to have a more negative impact on health and an overgrowth of particular strains of bacteria can also contribute to a higher risk of developing chronic diseases.

Cholesterol is a good example. Looking at the risk factors for cholesterol levels close to 50% is derived from your underlying genetics and 50% from your microbiome. A good diet which increases microbial diversity can make all the difference to your cardiovascular risks. In fact the microbiome strongly influences many of our metabolic risks including factors such as fasting glucose, lactose intolerance and waist circumference.

The bacteria in our gut enable exert their effects by the production of key metabolites. Certain gut bacteria can control the production of these metabolites and therefore significantly influence our function. An example of this is Bifidobacterium lactis. It increases the production of short chain fatty acids in the bowels. These activate the vagal nerve and signal that we feel full. So a deficiency of Bifidobacterium lactic can mean that we don’t have that signal working quickly and therefore we are prone to overeating.

shutterstock_1104385652

In conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Ankolysing Spondylitis the gut bacteria is often low in strains that produce a metabolite called butyrate. It is often the case that the microbiome has an elevated level of Prevotella Copri or another problematic strain. That is why treatment needs to be focused as much on rebalancing the microbiome to support the strains that are healthy and to crowd out the problematic strains. Prebiotic fibres such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Boulaardi) can be a useful part of treatment. The other critical factor is to ensure that you are feeding the microbiome and my blog on 6 Tips for feeding your gut bacteria right! is a useful guide.

There is still a lot of emerging research in this area so please follow my blog to see the latest updates.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives in Sydney. If you think your microbiome needs some attention you can make an appointment online at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au or phone on 8084 0081.

 

 

Climate Change – what can you do?

During the recent election there was a lot of debate about climate change and the need to take action. It is an overwhelming issue for any one person to deal with on their own. What I thought might help is to break it down into smaller tasks and see what you can do to reduce your carbon consumption. In the last 18 months Australians have reduced consumption of plastic bags by 1.5 billion bags so I am sure collectively we can make some reasonable changes.

First up where are the big contributors to greenhouse emissions – well it depends a little bit on your source but according to Austalian government data

transport is a major contributor to emissions.

How do we reduce reliance on gas guzzling cars ? My top four suggestions are as follows:

  1. Use public transport where possible. Ever since they dug up George St for the light rail I have found driving into town a nightmare. Roads are blocked off and its really hard to find places to cross over. Consequently my entire family now uses the train consistently and its really reduced the mileage in our cars significantly. Look at bus routes too it is so easy now with the Opal card to jump on a bus for short distances.
  2. Consider whether you really need a second car (which is an expensive cost in terms of depreciation, insurance and registration etc) and whether you could use taxis or Ubershutterstock_1216160155 particularly if you live close to where you work. If you really only use a car intermittently have a look at services like Go-Get for short term use or hire a car for bigger trips.
  3. Walk more! On Sundays we walk to a local coffee bar with the dog and pop in and buy a few things at Harris Farm. More steps for us and lower use of the car.
  4. Invest in the latest energy efficient vehicle , whether its an electric car or a hybrid like the Honda Civic.
  5. Put the kids on the bus to school. Traffic on the North Shore is chaotic in the mornings and part of that is due to the number of children who are driven to school. Due to the fact that many parents are unaware of bus services to school they don’t use them and then it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the service. 40 kids on a bus is much less problematic than 40 parents individually driving children to school.

What’s next? If you have already adopted as many of those options that are affordable probably the next area to look at in reducing your carbon footprint is food. Agriculture is responsible for around 16% of carbon emissions and the biggest part of that is methane from livestock accounting for in excess of 50%.

  1. Reduce your consumption of meat and other animal products. I am not recommending that you adopt veganism however it may well be worthwhile looking at making vegetables the star of your dinner table and meat more of a condiment.
  2. Look at more than just a Meat Free Monday – ideally look at vegetarian proteins like chickpeas, tofu and other legumes as well as cheese or eggs to make up your protein requirements. This also makes a much more affordable diet than relying heavily on meat.shutterstock_158785211
  3. What can you grow at home ? Whether its simply some herbs or fruit, most people can grow things they use regularly like lemons or mint or rosemary. It all helps reduce the amount of transport used for shipping food as well as food miles.
  4. See if you can buy produce locally as there are now lots of farmers markets or organic markets on offer.

Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is to look at reducing plastic use in your home. My recent blog on Quitting Plastic has some straightforward ideas.

How are you planning on reducing your footprint ?  Post in the comments section to share your ideas.

Christine Pope is an experienced natural medicine practitioner based at Elemental Health, St Ives. You can make appointments on 8084 0081 or online at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au .

Dinner for the next 2 weeks

shutterstock_295983977.jpg

Imagine how much better we would all eat if we had a chef shopping and cooking for us. If we didn’t need to think about what to cook and whether we had the ingredients but simply show up and eat. It sounds ideal doesn’t it ? This isn’t really a solution for most of us so I would recommend a few ways to reduce the mental load and make it a little easier to shop and cook without having to waste too much time and energy in the process.

Setting up a two week menu that you rotate with a few seasonal adjustments can be a good tool. The menu below if what I am currently working around. Ideally one night’s meal becomes a second meal reheating leftovers or reusing some of the ingredients. Here is a sample 2 week menu you can then adjust based on your own preferences (you get one night off a week for a meal out or takeaway).

Week One

Monday Easy Carve leg of lamb with roast vegetables (potatoes, pumpkin, parsnip or carrots depending on the season) and greens (steamed beans or blackened asparagus).

Tuesday Leftover lamb from roast as Lamb Biriyani or Shepherd’s Pie. Click here for an easy recipe from the Fuss Free Foodie with a couple of easy cheats.

Wednesday Turkey with Sweet Potato and Snow Peas served with rice

Thursday Vegetable Curry with Sausages or Lentils

Friday Grilled Salmon with Stir Fry Greens (see recipe below)

Saturday Asparagus and Mushroom risotto (or Spring Vegetables or Cauliflower and Peas) Leftovers make good risotto cakes for Sunday lunch with a green salad.

Week Two

Monday Easy Roast Chicken with roast vegetables (use thigh cutlets and layer on the roast vegetables with lemon juice, rosemary, olive oil and rock salt – 50 minutes for the cutlets to cook and then crisp off the vegetables for a further 10 at 180C.

Tuesday Spaghetti Bolognaise

Wednesday Leftover Lasagne Bake with a Cos salad

Thursday Cauliflower and Chicken Curry with Steamed Rice (or better yet a bed of steamed spinach).

Friday San Choy Bow with Stir Fried Greens (scroll down for the recipe)

Saturday  Grilled Steak with bay seasoned potatoes and roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

Stir Fry Greens

2 bunches of broccolini or 400g of broccoli cut into florets

2 bunches of bok choy

1/2 cup of bone broth or stock

1/2 cup soy sauce

1-2 Tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce

Combine liquid ingredients in a jug. Heat a small amount of oil in a wok and then add broccolini and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add liquid ingredients and bok choy and heat through and stir fry on a low heat for 10 minutes. Serve.

Turkey mince bolognaise

750g turkey mince (other mince works well too)
1 brown onion finely chopped
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 jar of passata (chopped tomatoes)
1 glass of red wine or beef stock
1 tsp chili (optional)
2 cloves garlic crushed

In a little olive oil saute onions and carrots on a low heat for a few minutes until onions are soft. Add mince, continue cooking until mince is browned and then add remaining ingredients and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes. Serve with pasta and a little grated Parmesan cheese.

Lasagne Bake

Add eggplant: 1-2 eggplants approx 500g.  Pierce the skin with a fork in a couple of places or it will explode in the oven and roast for 40-45 minutes at 180c. Scoop out the flesh and combine with the sauce about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Layer the sauce with lasagne sheets and bake in the oven covered for 30-40 minutes at 180C.

Christine Pope is an experienced naturopath and nutritionist but she frequently gets bored trying to think about what to cook for dinner too! Please add further menu suggestions in the comments below and share your inspiration.

 

Serves 6-8