Why is my skin like this?

skin problems

For many years skin problems were one of the more difficult conditions that I saw in clinic. Whether it was tinea, rashes, acne or excema often treatment can be lengthy and involve significant dietary change. Also I find it can often flare up as you are detoxing and this requires careful management.

Skin is the largest organ of the body and performs an important role in detoxification, so if you are eating badly it will show up on the skin. Even when you improve your eating patterns it may take 4-6 weeks to show changes as it takes time to work through your system, to reduce inflammation and ultimately to heal.

So what you say, I have a really good diet but I still have skin problems ? Well fabulous that you have sorted out diet but ideally this comes down to identifying the underlying triggers for your skin issues. Usually I find it comes down to one of the following ;

  1. “My excema is always bad when I am stressed ” In this case stress hormones are hijacking your system and simply addressing the skin isn’t going to be enough. Often the strategy here is to use lifestyle interventions to manage the stress – yoga, meditation, reframing exercises as well as using appropriate supplements to support the adrenals and manage the skin. People who are stressed are usually more acidic so alkalising nutrients such as lots of vegetables work well or supplements with magnesium and potassium.shutterstock_553662235
  2. My skin it so itchy but I really don’t know why? It doesn’t seem to matter what I eat or what products I use on it! Two big areas here – one in exposure to foods or external triggers which are incompatible with your system. In this case I usually look at the Bio Compatability Hair Test to identify potential triggers and determine what is causing the reaction for that person.
  3. The skin problems only seem to happen at a certain time of year ??? Yes it could be a particular stressor (like a big family Christmas) but in this case its important to be an environmental detective. Even in dry winters its possible that the house has underlying damp and mould and this can create havoc for people who are sensitive. However it could also be a seasonal intolerance to a particular plant – apparently although wattle gets blamed for a lot of hayfever its not usually the suspect as the particles are too big. Apparently grass and dust are more common allergens. If mould is the underlying issue its important that it be treated appropriately and there are specialists in its detection and removal.
  4. My tinea flares up whenever I drink a lot! This is often related to an underlying candida overgrowth which feeds off sugar – alcohol is literally liquid sugar in many cases. Apart from sticking to spirits with lime and soda and not lemonade or coke (which is not very good naturopathic advice but it does help) its important to treat the underlying fungal picture. Foods which are good sources of anti-fungal compounds include coconut oil and garlic, however I usually find a combination of approriate herbs and essential oils is faster at cleaning up the tinea.Coconut oil and fresh coconut
  5. Not only do I have rashes constantly but I am also really anxious or down. This can be related to an excess of copper in relation to zinc which reduces your ability to break down histamine and mount an appropriate immune response. In my first consultation I always include my inhouse minerals analysis tool – Oligoscan – and this can detect these imbalances. The other option is hair tissue minerals analysis which does take a little time.img_0543
  6. My baby is completely breast fed and yet he still has excema? Well unfortunately this means Mum is probably consuming something that doesn’t agree with her system and bubs is reacting.  It probably started with a colicky whiny baby and has now progressed. If this is the case its essential for Mum to eliminate any foods she reacts to and monitoring the impact this has on bubs. Usually within 2-4 weeks you can expect good resolution if you know what your triggers are. Occassionally it may be the baby care products that could be causing a reaction but its much more common that it’s Mum’s diet. Its always a bit tough since a new breastfeeding mother has a large appetite and probably not a lot of energy for lots of cooking as well as all the other chores she now gets to enjoy, however longer term it makes for a much happier baby and Mum!

The first suggestion I would make is to ideally keep a food diary for a week and track your reactions to what you are eating. Record not only what you are eating and drinking but also whether you feel tired or energised afterwards. Keep note of what is happening with your stomach as well particularly if you have urgency or constipation after a particular meal or are suffering bloating or reflux. Note how your mood is impacted by what is happening as well. Over a week you should start to see patterns emerging that will help you detect which foods are a problem for you.

If that doesn’t shine any clarity on it for you take your food diary to a naturopath or nutritionist and ask them for help. My clinic is at St Ives in Sydney and you can make appointments on 8084 0081.

 

6 Tips for feeding your gut bacteria right!

Research shows that on average probiotics last 13 to 17 days in the gastrointestinal tract which means that, whilst it is a good strategy in the short term to crowd out problematic bacteria, the reality is that diet is the best way to improve your gut flora.

So what do you need to do to feed your gut bacteria right?

  1. At least 6 serves of veggies and 2-3 pieces of fruit daily! Why? The resistant starch as well as pectins found in these foods provides a good source of food for gut bacteria so you need to make sure that your diet includes sufficient to feed them well.shutterstock_553662235
  2. Take probioitic strains that you may be low in – many people use a Comprehensive Digestive Stool analysis (CDSA) to see if they are low in specific strains.
  3. Know your yoghurts – Whilst most claim that they contain beneficial strains only Vaalia and Activa have been tested and have verifiable claims. Vaalia yoghurt contains three beneficial strains which seems to generate good results at approximately half a cup a day. Most people who are lactose intolerant can cope with approximately half a cup.shutterstock_348174332
  4. Spirulina, green tea and almonds have been shown to increase the levels of Lactobacilli – green tea also may increase fat burning and almonds are a good source of essential fatty acids.
  5. Bifidobacteria can be assisted by eating raw carrots and brown rice – which also provide a source of good fibre for the gut.
  6. Fermented Foods like sauerkraut, kim-chi and cabbage are another proven method to improve gut health and flora as well as added benefits such as – reducing pesticide residue, helping metabolise hormones and reducing anti-nutrients while increasing the concentration of key nutrients such as niacin by up to 175%!

If you have any other questions about feeding your gut bacteria right or requests for other blog topics please comment below!

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath based at Elemental Health at St Ives. Her focus in clinical practice is on improving gut health as it is critical to improving overall wellbeing.

5 Tips for good gluten free menu’s

Breakfast at The Conservation Hut

 Australia Day we added a couple of days leave creating a long weekend and headed up to the Blue Mountains. Being strictly gluten free I did some research before I left and came up with an impressive list of options. Unfortunately the definition of gluten free varied widely. So here are some tips for aspiring cafes and restaurants.
1. Having gluten free bread available is nice but it doesn’t make for gluten free options . We particularly enjoyed the gluten free high tea at the Hydro Majestic because we got to enjoy lots of delicious options which were all gluten free. They even toasted the bread which is essential when you are dealing with gluten free bread. A particular highlight was a raspberry macaroon served with fresh raspberries. Just wish they could sort out the gluten free scones – there are some great options around and they are an essential part of a high tea. Also just remember if you do provide gluten free bread then be careful about cross contamination with food handling.

2. Provide real gluten free options. At Anonymous Cafe at Blackheath the gluten free breakfast options included gluten free toast, spiced pumpkin loaf and a gluten free muesli. The spiced pumpkin loaf was served with marscopone and jam and was a delicious option.

Gluten free at the Hydro Majestic

3. Remember people who are gluten free often have multiple intolerances including dairy and egg so ideally include options which don’t double down on the intolerances. Great breakfast options could include adding a vegetable hash with optional inclusions such as salmon, egg or bacon. The Conservation Hut at Wentworth Falls offered a smoked trout hash with a poached egg and was happy to leave it off when requested.

4. Educate your staff about your menu’s. At one restaurant which will not be named I was asked by one waitress whether potatoes were gluten free? She then advised that only two of the main courses were options but subsequently a different staff member then told me that everything could be made gluten free. This was a bit misleading as it turned out they removed the portion of the meal that required gluten. For dessert it was actually the crumble part of the peach and apple crumble and it would have been nice to know that half the dessert would not be included. Its so easy to make gluten free crumble mix – any mix of almond meal, brown sugar, quinoa or rice flakes would work well.

By contrast we also enjoyed dinner at Vesta‘s in Blackhealth where the waitress not only could tell you what was possible in terms of gluten free but provided options such as flaxseed crisp to enjoy with the pate on the charcuterie board. The small board made a good sized entree between two people and included a pate and a terrine as well as some meats and excellent pickled vegetables.

5. Mark the menu with the gluten free and other options, such as vegetarian. This means when you search menu’s its easy to see if there are real gluten free options and quickly identify what they are. The Ori Cafe at Springwood and Papadino’s at Katoomba both have well marked menu’s with a good range of options. The night we ate at Papadino’s the specials board even included a gluten free gnocchi. It was served with a Napolitana sauce which was quite garlicky but also delicious.

Christine Pope is a Nutritionist and Homeopath who practices at Elemental Health at St Ives. If you need help managing food intolerances or just some good restaurant recommendations you can make an appointment on 8084 0081 or book online .

 

 

 

 

 

Are you reacting to your dinner ?

If you constantly have an upset stomach, headaches or skin problems chances are you have thought about whether something you were eating was triggering your symptoms. So what options are there for finding out whether a food is upsetting you ?

The medical testing for allergies consists of either skin prick testing to determine if a substance provokes a reaction or blood testing for antibodies to Immunoglobulin E known as RAST testing. Naturopathically there are a number of other options including an Elimination Diet,  Food Intolerance Panel or Bio Compatability Hair Testing. So what are the advantages of each of these forms of testing ?

Skin prick testing involves scratching the skin with a range of allergens to see what generates a reaction. Usually done by a specialist you do need to be under supervision if a topical reaction causes full on anaphylaxis to an allergen so that you can be treated appropriately. Understandably many parents are not enthusiastic about this option however it does accurately identify  true allergens. A blood test to detect antibodies can be done where the skin prick testing is too invasive. It detects antibodies to specific allergens such as dust, pollens and foods.

Another option for determining intolerances is to use an elimination diet. Basically you eat very simple plain foods for 7-10 days  and then gradually introduce new foods to determine if it provokes a reaction. The elimination diet generally takes up to 6 weeks but has the advantage of being focussed on real food. Ideally you would also exclude any of the foods below that triggered a reaction.

What you can eat on a food sensitivity elimination diet:

  • Vegetables, well-washed (preferably organic), eliminate nightshade vegetable (such as eggplant,tomato and capsicum) if you suspect they are a problem
  • Fruits, well-washed (preferably organic), start with berries initially
  • Meat and fish (preferably organic and free range meats and wild fish)
  • Fats and seasonings – Extra-virgin coconut oil for cooking, and extra-virgin olive oil for dressings and other low-temperature applications, sea salt, herbs
  • Drink: only water (filtered if possible)

Naturopaths often conduct a food intolerance panel which looks for an immunoglobulin G reaction. It’s useful but will usually only tell you about foods you have been eating in the past few months. So if you haven’t had wheat for a year it may not show up.

Recently I have also looked at Biocompatibility Hair Testing conducted by Naturopathic Services. It has the advantage of not requiring a blood test and covers 500 widely available foods including a significant list of health foods. The test is reasonably priced and far less invasive for young children. It also has the advantage of covering foods which the client isn’t currently consuming. Blood testing will only reveal antibodies to a food that you are currently eating.

Other practitioners I know who use the test advised that it was making a big difference in cases involving skin and irritable bowel syndrome, two conditions I see frequently in clinic. Certainly in the last few months I am already seeing some significant changes in symptoms simply from removing aggravating foods from the diet.

If you have any questions about testing for food intolerances email me at Christine@elementalhealth.net.au or you can make an appointment on 8084 0081.

 

 

 

 

 

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/test-ige.html

Travelling with a weak gut?

It can be quite tricky travelling when you have a range of food intolerances but even more so when you have a weak gut that is quite reactive. I have put a few tips together for supporting your gut whilst travelling however I would always recommend that you get it in the best shape possible before you go as the ideal way to prepare.

First up how do you just prepare for an extended trip? Make sure you are taking a good quality probiotic for up to two months before you travel to seed your gut with a good range of protective bacteria for your journey and then travel with a heat stable probiotic. If you have quite a few food intolerances ideally do a bit of a heal and seal protocol before travelling which should include high doses of glutamine. Better still a full detox would get your whole system working as well as possible to protect you on the journey.

What are some things you can do to acclimatise your gut when you get to your destination? On an extended journey start consuming the local fermented food – it could be kim chi, sauerkraut or yoghurt but it will help innoculate your bowel with the protective species of your local environment.

Feed the good gut bacteria a range of fruit and vegetables, just remember to stick to cooked or peeled as much as possible as salads which are washed in local water can be very problematic in some regions. Ideally aim for at least six serves of vegetables a day which will optimise your nutrition as well as keeping gut bacteria happy.

For gut protection and repair you can’t go past traditionally made bone broths or stocks. Whether its a miso soup in Japan or just a hearty home made soup, bone broth is a great source of nutrients as well as providing healing ingredients for the gut, such as gelatine. On the off chance that you do pick up a tummy bug the tips in my Stomach aches and pains blog for suitable homeopathic medicines would be helpful reading.

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath based at Elemental Health at St Ives. Appointments can be made on 8084 0081.

Gluten Free Made Easy

 There are a lot of people who need to change their diet and go gluten free. Whilst approximately 1% of the population need to go gluten free as a consequence of coeliac disease another 6-8% of the population suffer from non-coeliac gluten senstivity. Many people who suffer from other auto-immune conditions also find that removing gluten from the diet assists in managing their condition.

You realise that you need to make this change but you don’t really know where to start? This blog will help you get started with those changes. Lots of recipe ideas are contained in my page Gluten and Dairy Free Dinners and the recent blog Seven gluten and dairy free breakfasts.

The best way to start a gluten free diet is to do it after restocking your pantry and freezer. Look at what you usually eat and then prepare a shopping list to enable you to stock up on alternatives.

Ideal suggestions could include the following;

  • Replace bread and crackers with suitable gluten free alternatives. Suitable alternatives for bread could include gluten free bread from Country Life, Dovedale, Healthybake, Schars or gluten free bakeries. Choices Bakery at Turramurra has a wide range and Deeks Bakery in Canberra provides online ordering across Australia. Gluten free bread is best served toasted and should be stored in the freezer so you can use it as needed.
  • There is already a good range of gluten free crackers including rice crackers and corn cakes available in most supermarkets. Just read labels to make sure that there are no  other ingredients that are problematic particularly if you have multiple food intolerances.
  • Breakfast cereals often include gluten so its important to ensure that you have a suitable alternative. Commercial rice bubbles and cornflakes for example can contain gluten so its best to find alternatives such as puffed rice. Making your own muesli is an easy and cost effective option using a range of gluten free puffs and flakes as well as dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
  •  The porridge below is from Brookvale farms and is served with stewed plums and coconut yoghurt. Its tasty and only takes a few minutes to prepare.
  • Pasta might be a good option for quick meals and there are several gluten free pastas to choose from including Orgran who have an excellent lasagne as well as San Remo. Ideally when cooking gluten free pasta keep stirring it whilst cooking to stop it sticking together. Also make sure that you rinse it well before serving.
  • Baking is easier with gluten free options at hand such as gluten free plain and self raising flour plus gluten free cornflour. These can often be substituted in baking however generally if you don’t have gluten free flour you are better off using a mix of different gluten free flours to really improve results.
  • Stock up on a range of rice including basmati and risotto rice so that you have a few different alternatives for meals.
  • Check the Celiac organisation website for lists of foods which may have some gluten. Often it can be surprising with things such as soy sauce and BBQ sauce containing gluten which doesn’t seem quite unnecessary.

Do you have any other tips for going gluten free easily? Please post them in the comments section below.

Need help deciding if you need to change your diet? Christine Pope is practicing at Elemental Health St Ives and can be contacted for appointments on 8084 0081.

 

 

 

Gluten free Canterbury NZ

Seafood Platter with Gluten Free Bread, The Trading Room, Akaroa

A trip to the South Island of NZ is a great short holiday but what impressed me on this trip was how well food intolerances were managed. It’s obviously easier with a common language to discuss menus but consistently I saw staff who were across the issues and could advise on alternatives.

One of the good things around the Canterbury region of NZ was that menu’s were often marked gluten free (or dairy free or vegetarian). Even in fairly small towns with two or three cafes there was often at least one cafe with allergens marked.

The first night we landed in Christchurch around 11pm so we were happy to eat breakfast in the hotel  restaurant and I was thrilled to see a gluten free vegetarian slice on the menu. I ordered it with a side of bacon and it was very tasty. They also had a water urn with fresh citrus which was such a good idea when you are dehydrated after a flight.

We stayed at the Commodore Hotel near the airport and I can highly recommend this option for travellers. From the shuttle driver who picked us up late at night with a string of helpful instructions to the staff on the front desk who basically insisted on driving us to the car rental the next day and the restaurant staff who went out of their way to organise tea for me at midnight. It was a well run hotel with a great team!

 

The next day we travelled via a little town called Springfield to Arthur’s Pass where we had booked in at a wilderness lodge for New Year. Trip Advisor had flagged a gluten free cafe there but it had shut for the holidays which was disappointing. The Yello Shack cafe, which sat next to Springfield’s major attraction (a big donut) did offer a range of gluten free treats, including a gluten free caramel slice that was almost as good as my brother’s.

 The lodge at Arthur’s Pass was a bit of a treat for our anniversary and provided all our meals for a few days. They catered well to allergens for entree’s and mains but were not quite as comprehensive on desserts. They also had a nice gluten free sourdough the first night with olive oil which I really appreciated. The packed lunch with sandwhiches made with a seeded Vogel loaf were also excellent.

My favourite entree was a Salmon and Potato Fish Cakes which was made with mashed potato and was fresh and flavourful. We also enjoyed fresh venison and other local specialities. Must remember to send them some gluten free muesli slice , quinoa choc chip cookie recipes and a few dessert options to round out their offerings.

 

Salmon and Potato Fishcakes, Arthur’s Pass Wilderness Lodge

From Arthur’s Pass Wilderness Lodge which had included guided walks we repaired to Hanmer Springs to soak our tired limbs. On the drive we stopped at the Red Post Cafe in Culverden which had a sign up inviting you to ask about their gluten free options. We both enjoyed a Smoked Chicken salad with a cranberry style dressing, sweet but tasty.

Hanmer Springs is a popular tourist spot with lots of dining options including our hotel which had quite a formal restaurant. The Braemar Lodge was a recommendation from my youngest sister from her last trip to NZ and its a luxurious spot if you want to indulge. They have very large rooms, spas on the balcony’s and their own Beauty Spa, which was largely priced better than the one at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools. The only downside is its about 3km of dirt road to get there and it really isn’t easy walking distance to the Springs.

The standout meal for us whilst we were there was at Malabar, which is advertised as Asian Fusion. The menu was clearly marked with gluten and dairy free options and when queried staff could easily explain when a dish wasn’t marked gluten free. We started with onion and spinach bhaji which was in a chickpea batter and followed it with caramelised pork belly (gluten containing ingredient was soy sauce) and wok fried fish with some poppadoms. It was all delicious and we would happily have eaten there again.

There were a lot of other options for gluten free dining in Hanmer Springs with options such as salads, nachos and the option of gluten free bread for sandwhiches and our hotel also provided gluten free cookies and gluten free bread at meals which were really appreciated. The major surprise for me was that when I walked into the cafe at the thermal springs they had quite a range of gluten and dairy free items, including a delicious ginger slice which went very well with my cup of green tea.

 

Fresh caught fish

 

A day trip to Akaroa, which is a lovely little French town about 100km’s from Christchurch brought us to the Trading Room restaurant with a very reasonably priced seafood platter served with gluten free bread and salad. It included generous quantities of prawns, calamari, two types of fish and the local specialty Green Lipped mussels.

We did a little bit of shopping for picnics and generally found the best gluten free options in the New World Supermarkets. We did try Pak n Save once but never again!!

My advice to people travelling in this region is to do a little bit of research on gluten free options online before you travel however Trip Advisor turned out to be the most useful app giving reviews for local restaurants and I was glad that I taken up Vodafone on their $5 a day NZ plan to access my usual data as Trip Advisor and Google Maps really made the trip a lot easier.