Brain Fog – is your brain suffering?

Brain Fog – is your brain suffering?

Those of us who have given up gluten are often familiar with the concept of brain fog. Basically that’s what used to happen to us every time we had gluten ( the big protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, spelt, barley and oats).

However there may be other reasons you get a foggy brain, problems with your memory or keep losing things like the shopping or even the car at the shopping centre! Many of us just blame it on getting older or being really busy but what about if its something more concerning? Really what if the brain is starting to struggle and it needs more support?

Recently I have been reading a lot about the concept of a “leaky brain” , in many ways a similar concept to that of a “leaky gut”. The blood brain barrier is supposed to be relatively impermeable to protect our brain. There are a whole range of factors which can damage this barrier including not surprisingly diet but also infection and toxicity.

Diet is a relatively easy example. In the US Cyprex labs tests include a wide range of gluten intolerance testing including transglutamaninsases 2 ,3 and 6. Each of these is associated with different types of gluten intolerance reactions and only one of them is a gut type reaction, commonly associated with coeliac or gluten intolerance. If you have antibodies to the transglutaminase 6 for example you can be reacting to your central nervous system – on other words autoimmunity to brain tissue. Some early indications suggest this is what may be happening in the case of MS where the sheath around nerves starts to unravel.
Bakery Bread on a Wooden Table. Various Bread and Sheaf of Wheat
How do you support brain health if you are having problems? First up if you have coeliac or gluten intolerance in the family get testing done to ensure you are not coealiac (much easier to do whilst still eating gluten) and then do a food intolerance panel to eliminate any other allergens. Unfortunately the testing done in the US is not available here yet but you can easily get gene testing done on a couple of genes which do indicate a strong possiblity of gluten intolerance.

Next try eliminating gluten and dairy for 6-8 weeks. I know it seems like a long time but it takes a while for damage to be repaired and for you to see a shift in your symptoms. Make sure they are eliminated and not just reduced and also include any foods which come up in the food intolerance panel. During this period make sure you are eating a lot of vegetables ( 3 cups a day) and a couple of serves of fruit a day. You may even find smaller meals more often will support your energy levels better.

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In addition some basic anti-oxidant support in the form of fish oils as well as resveratol may also be useful but at a minimum ensure that you are eating good quality fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil and including sources such as nuts and seeds and avocado.

Then see how you are going? Is your memory better, gut less upset etc. If it shifts it might be time to say goodbye to gluten!

Field trip – the gluten free expo

gf products

Last week I went to my first gluten free expo. Not sure what I was expecting but I was surprised when I got to Homebush to find people queued up around two sides of the building waiting for it to open at 12. Also many of those people had those wheelie trolleys ready to stock up on gluten free goodies.

At the entry we were handed a Coles green bag with a few goodies in it, which was a great idea as I came away with a bag full of new things to try.

First up, my biggest success as far as my children were concerned , were the Genius brand croissants that actually tasted flaky and buttery. Subsequently found them in the freezer at Coles and I am now trying their puff pastry. They have a range of other gluten free breads and muffins and even pain au chocolat!

Bakery Bread on a Wooden Table. Various Bread and Sheaf of Wheat

The other big success was a “paleo” version of a protein bar, called Paleo Bars. There were two flavours and they are gluten, dairy and soy free. The key ingredients are walnuts, dates pecans, cocoa and coconut oil in the original and apricots, almonds and ginger plus the coconut oil in the ginger bar. They both taste good and don’t have that dehyrating after effect that you usually get from a protein bar. The website is http://www.bdpaleo.com and you can order both in boxes of 10 or 25. My son was quite impressed with the taste and said he had more energy at the gym when he had a bar before training. The Medicum Chain Triglcyerides in the coconut oil are used preferentially by the body for energy.

Another favourite and portable gluten free snack was the corn crunch. I am sure you could easily make these at home but the roasted corn kernels are rather tasty and a good snack that fits easily into the handbag or school bag. I know with so many schools gluten free this type of snack is going to become more popular and I would also recommend the roasted chickpeas and broad beans you can find in the Woolworths health food section.

Next year when I go back to this expo I will make sure I am prepared to make a couple of trips to the car with bags as well as coming on an empty stomach so I can do lots of tasting!! All the stallholders were very generous with their tasting supplies and it does make things easier if you can graze and grab lots of flyers so you know where to order it from in the future. I am sure since Coles were one of the major sponsors that there will be a number of the products carried in their stores but for others it was great to know you could order online.

Healthy Food in a Hurry

Last weekend I was invited to attend a Thermomix demonstration. Who could say no when they offer to cook you lunch? And lunch was good – it started with strawberry sorbet, obviously to cleanse the palate (so to speak) and then we had a herbed dip, a beetroot salad, a vegetable soup and chicken veloute with freshly made bread rolls and to finish an amazing custard. All cooked in about 2 hours.

Thermomix

What impressed me most with the demonstration is that the machine can replace several gadgets as well as being a big timesaver in the kitchen and can help you saving money by using fresh unprocessed food wherever possible. It was also very simple to clean.

For those of you unfamiliar with a Thermomix you can actually grind your own flours with it, use it as a juicer, make sorbets and icecream as well as easily chopping up vegetables. It also cooks at several different temperatures and can even stir ingredients on a couple of different settings to allow you to make a stew, stir fry or a risotto. If you want more information have a look at their website or hop on to the youtube channel and actually see it in action.

The benefit that really appealed to me as someone who spends a lot of time cooking from scratch is the speed with which you can produce a healthy meal. Now finally someone is focussing on some better options for time poor people in a busy world. Even more so when you are catering for children with allergies and intolerances where the food becomes more expensive. A gluten free loaf of bread for example is often around $7, even just making your own gluten free flours as you need them could be a great cost saving.

If you decide to follow up on a Thermomix there are lots of people around who sell them through party plan so just do it quietly or risk being inundated with offers!!

How do I save time in the kitchen? One way is to prepare batches of meals and freeze them – I particularly like the site Once a Month Freezer Meals as I think its a great resource and they even have gluten free and dairy free meal plans. My best timesaver however was teaching my husband to cook a few simple meals – although the children got annoyed when he added chilli to my gluten and dairy free lasagne but it tasted great!! And my proudest moment was when I came home and found him teaching my daughter to make the lasagne. The best timesaver of all – sharing the load.

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist who practices at Elemental Health, St Ives. She can be contacted for appointments on 8084 0081.

How to ensure your child gets the best gut flora.

Beautiful pregnant woman relaxing on grass
Most people think that a baby gets its gut flora during delivery and that C section means they don’t acquire the same beneficial flora. Actually a baby can develop gut flora up to about age four and there are a number of factors that can affect it.

First up it seems that the uterus is not sterile and there is already some gut flora distributed in utero. So if you already have a child with allergies, or you have them, make sure during your pregnancy that you supplement with a good range of probiotics or consume fermented foods regularly but at a minimum for at least two months prior to the delivery.

Spoon Of Yogurt With Blueberries On Top

Breast feeding also passes useful flora to the baby and you don’t really need to breastfeed for that long to see a significant benefit. Solely breast feeding to 4 months was shown by a large scale South Australia study to reduce allergies by at least 25%. I know its often challenging breast feeding and if you have difficulties its really worth speaking with either the nurses at the Early Childhood Centres or the Nursing Mother’s Association, both sources of invaluable support.

If you end up having intervention like a C section or you can’t breastfeed , it may be useful to add a specific probiotic for children, as well.

Minimising antibiotic use during the first few years is also an important way to ensure a stable and resilient gut flora. Homeopathic medicines can make a great alternative treatment for children during the early stages of illness. I often use a combination called ABC mix for parents to assist with fevers and ear infections. ABC mix is three homeopathic medicines known as Aconite, Belladonna and Chamomila and can be a good combination to use with mild fevers or ear pain.

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist based at St Ives at Elemental Health. She is also Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College at St Leonards. She runs regular workshops on health related topics at her practice and her next workshop is on “Managing Stress” on July 15 with Coach, Cheryl Alderman .

Are probiotics worth the money?

Spoon Of Yogurt With Blueberries On Top

Probiotics seem to one area where even doctors and pharamacists seem to be comfortable recommending that patients take a probiotic with or after an antibiotic. However regular probiotics can help you avoid the need for the antibiotics in the first place.

The Cochrane Collection, which is the gold standard of scientific research, has reviewed 14 clinical trials on probiotics involving over 3454 people. Overall they concluded that probiotics reduced the risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections and reduced the need for antibiotics. Nice to have the scientific evidence however I know from my own practice that a good general preventative through winter is a daily probiotic plus Vitamin C, particularly if your children are in daycare.

Home Made Cultured Or Fermented Vegetables

Probiotics for the whole family may be an expensive option (although getting sick is often more expensive) and some other great ways to include a good range of gut bacteria are to introduce fermented foods. This can be through a good quality yoghurt without a lot of sugar and additives or through regular consumption of fermented vegetables such as kim chi and sauerkraut. If you are interested in making your own fermented foods there are a number of people running workshops – have a look at Georgia at Stirring Change on facebook or Pinkfarm. The ladies at Pinkfarm even provide lists of people with starter cultures who are happy to share.

There are quite a few different strains of probiotics and we are just beginning to understand all the different roles that they can play in terms of keeping our immune system strong as well as in supporting effective digestion. The advantage in using foods is that often there are up to 50 strains or good bacteria in keffir whereas a commercial probiotic will only have a few strains.

There are several strains that we know are useful in the gut and often because they help crowd out problematic strains, such as candida. Some strains are known to be anti-inflammatory such as the lactobacillus plantarum which is often recommended to people with IBS. The predominant strain researched in the Cochrane collection was lactobacillus rhamnosus. If you do have more specialised health problems you may need advice on tailoring the strains to suit your particular needs.

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath who practices at Elemental Health at St Ives. She can be contacted on (02) 8084 0081. If you are looking for practitioners in other areas of Australia have a look at the metagenics website which lists practitioners who are experienced at working with probiotics and natural medicine.

Is wheat a problem for me (or even worse gluten)?

Bakery Bread on a Wooden Table. Various Bread and Sheaf of WheatYears ago at a seminar I got some really good health advice. It was information that I knew but I really didn’t want to hear. Don’t you hate that?

We were doing bioimpedence analsysis which looks at energy quality, muscle mass, fat mass and inflammation. I was sitting in a group of what seemed like really amazingly healthy naturopaths and chiropractors who were all happily showing off their high energy quality and low fat mass percentages and looking at my own numbers which were not that impressive (and the fat mass percentage is still not great).

What the presenter said was basically “Christine I have never seen anyone with thyroid problems who isn’t better, off gluten.” Now I knew that and I also knew there was coeliac in our family history but this finally motivated me to change my eating habits and it was the best thing I could have done.

First up I stopped feeling like I needed an afternoon nap if I had a sandwhich at lunch time. Secondly I felt like my brain was clearer and better still initially I lost a few kilos which had been hard to shift.

Now I can’t promise the same sort of results if you come off wheat or gluten but it does give you a good picture of the type of problems that wheat or gluten could be creating for you. Fatigue, fuzzy thinking and difficulty losing weight.  What other types of symptoms suggest a problem with wheat? Bloating after eating – the so called wheat belly!

Gluten Free Grains Food - Brown Rice, Millet, Lsa, Buckwheat Fla

 

What alternatives are there to wheat? Do you have to give up your cereal for breakfast, sandwhich for lunch and pasta for dinner?  I hope so because its really way too much grain anyway and it is generally not a good source of nutrition. Alternatives to wheat are many and varied but include quinoa, rice, buckwheat and flours made from almond, tapioca and coconut. Many of these alternatives provide much broader nutrition but again focus on variety and make sure you are eating at least six serves of vegetables a day as well.

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath based at Elemental Health , St Ives.  She is also Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College at St Leonards.  If you need help with identifying food intolerances make an appointment with her on 8084 0081.

Help – my child can’t have dairy!

 


So I thought after all my blogs on research it was time to get back to food again.

I frequently get people tested for food intolerances and whilst its good to know what the child is reacting to its not always easy to change the diet.

The most common issues I am seeing in clinic at the moment are wheat, dairy and surprisingly egg. So what do you do when you need to cut these foods out and how do you find easy replacements?

In this blog I want to look at dairy. The first thing people freak out about is that cutting out dairy means that the child won’t get enough calcium. Actually they haven’t been getting enough calcium because they couldn’t digest the milk so it probably is better that they remove a food which was affecting them and start having foods then can actually digest.

old wooden typesetter box with 16 samples of assorted legumes: gThere are lots of food sources of calcium – nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils – you know all those things that kids really love to eat (ok well they might when you cut out the stuff that’s been making them feel average).

Many processed foods use milk or dairy as cheap fill and flavouring , often when you don’t expect it. My children both went down an entire aisle of biscuits trying to find one they could have.  They found just one brand – this was a few years ago and now there are a few more options . Often food that is vegan is quite dairy free friendly since they don’t include anything from animals. Just watch out for words in processed foods like casein, whey and rennet – these are all dairy based.

Usually when I see someone who has to cut our dairy I spend a bit of time focussing on alternatives.  Easily available are soy, almond, coconut and rice milk. Each of these has particular uses and almond and rice milk can also contribute to calcium intake (rice milk 110mg of calcium per glass).  I am not keen to replace a significant intake of dairy a day with a direct substitute as variety in food is really important. However I do find it handy in cooking to always have the substitutes easily available.

Soy milk works better in savoury dishes – so if you need a little milk for scrambled eggs or a quiche. Rice milk is sweeter and I find substitutes easily into baking muffins or cakes.  Either works well as a substitute for milk on the morning cereal as well.

Coconut milk is a great way to add a creamy flavour to a curry or stew. One of my favourite breakfast dishes is easy chia pudding – which basically is 1 cup of coconut milk to 1/3 cup of chia seeds and half a cup of frozen berries. Stir and leave overnight and top with flaked almonds to serve. Filling and delicious. The chia absorb most of the liquid but still have a nice little crunch to them as well.

Coconut oil and fresh coconutDepending on how intolerant your child is you may need to stop using butter as well – again use some good oils in its place. Olive oil is great to dip bread in or drizzle over vegies and coconut oil has a higher melting point and is good for longer slower cooking. With coconut oil just make sure you use the extra virgin one or it can have quite a strong odour.  Remember fats are important as they help us take up minerals such as calcium so adding a little fat to your steamed vegetables will help with absorbing as many nutrients as possible (and make it taste a lot better).

 

Christine Pope is a practising homeopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives, Sydney. She is also the Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College where she lectures in Homeopathy and supervises Nutrition clinic.