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.

6 ways to quit plastic

Last year Coles and Woolworths decided to remove free plastic bags from the checkouts. In the 12 months following this announcement it reduced the number of single use plastic bags by 1.5 billion. However we are still using 3.5 billion plastic bags annually and there is quite a long way to go in reducing our reliance on plastic. After reading the book Quitting Plastic recently I have developed a quick list to start on helping you reduce your plastic use further.

  1. Ditch single use bags – reducing plastic bag use means that you need to take reusable bags every time you go shopping. Ideally return them to the car as soon as you have emptied them so they are ready for the next trip. Also have a think about whether you need bags as you buy items in the fruit shop. Can you just put them loose in a couple of your recyclable bags for weighing at the checkout?  If we do end up with a few bags from the shopping we reuse them as dog bags.
  2. Reduce plastic wrap – find containers that can be reused for storage rather than placing plastic wrap over the contents. For smaller items that do need coverage invest in some beeswax wraps. One medium wrap I bought I cut into three pieces and used it for wrapping cheese and another section for rewrapping around cold cuts. Beeswax wraps can be washed in lukewarm (not hot) water with a little dish soap to reuse them for up to 6-12 months.
  3. Find a drink bottle – single use water bottles are another significant contributor to our overuse of plastic. Stainless steel bottles can be used for both hot and cold drinks however there are also good quality plastic bottles that can be reused multiple times. Just try and avoid other nasties such as BPA or phthalates.
  4. Dine in or Keep Cups – two or three takeaway coffees a days can add up to a lot of cups cluttering landfill. Better alternatives are a keep cup that is reused or dining in.  Many cafes are now offering a discount if you use a keep cup which is another plus. Actually an even better option is to sit at the cafe and have your coffee or tea in a real ceramic or porcelain cup which then gets washed and reused. It’s also a good way to give yourself a little break during the day and its environmentally sound. It’s good to know I can justify a cuppa at my favourite locals when I am at work so look out for me at Pattisons or Stanley St Cafe !
  5. Freezer options – The first four items to me felt reasonably straight forward however I know that with keeping meat in the freezer I do not feel comfortable with it being unwrapped so what are the alternatives? The best options I can find so far are cornstarch bags (which are biodegradable) or using reusable plastic or glass containers. I have been freezing stock in glass bottles however I probably do lose an occasional one to breakages so you do need to be careful about how you store it in the freezer. Also do not put hot food into glass and then straight into the freezer, let it cool first.
  6. Clothing – To be really honest when I read the book Quitting Plastic I really hadn’t thought through the amount of plastics used in clothing and more concerningly the tendency for those plastics to generate micro-plastics in the washing process. These microplastics accumulate in our water supplies. A quick and panicked look at labels revealed a few good purchases and a few more concerning ones, in particular my favourite workout gear which is very flattering was also largely derived from plastics. BUT throwing it out will mean more plastics in landfill. So I am going to wear them out and find a bag that I can wash them in which will trap the microplastics (guppyfriend.com) and I can then throw them out. In the meantime I am carefully checking clothing and looking for a high percentage of cotton, wool, silk or bamboo or pulped wood fibres or cellulose such as viscose and rayon. One label that does offer alternatives in bamboo in colourful prints and designs is Maiochi. Country Road also offers some and quite a large range of cotton and linen.

For more ideas on quitting plastic have a look at my Instagram (@allaboutnaturalmedicine) this month or my Facebook page. You can also get your own copy of Quitting Plastic for a large range of other ideas from Booktopia, Target, Angus and Robertson or Dymocks.

Menopause could be a report card

shutterstock_258522395One of the myths about menopause is that symptoms are related to a deficiency of hormones, either estrogen or progesterone. Yet if that was the case why wouldn’t all women get these symptoms ? My favourite assessment of menopause is that its a “report card” on the last 10 years. That’s great if you have been doing all the right things but it can be problematic if you live in a big city, work full time with kids or have dealt with a  lot of stress.

Generally in practice the consistent triggers for menopausal havoc are adrenal fatigue, toxicity, dysbiosis (gut dysfunction), hormonal imbalance, excess weight and inflammation. In the more difficult cases it can be a combination of these factors and that’s why its important to ensure you review all these areas in your initial case taking and think about which areas you need to prioritise.

So how do you decide what’s contributing to your symptoms ?

  1. Adrenal Fatigue – also known as I am a full time carer, full time worker and full time nanny/housekeeper (also known as Mum) or combination of some or all of the above. Stress initially raises adrenaline to prepare us for fight or flight. Longer term it results in elevated cortisol which may result in fluid retention and weight gain.
  2. Dysbiosis or gut dysfunction – if your gut isn’t working properly its hard to digest the nutrients you need and also support your liver to detoxify effectively. This will result in hormone imbalance particularly through peri-menopause when the liver is already working harder to detoxify hormones. Signs of gut dysfunction could include flatulence, bloating or reflux. Treatment will often involve identifying and removing food intolerances whilst supporting digestive function to reduce reactivity.
  3. Toxicity – two big areas areas are Heavy Metals or Endocrine Disruptors which can be a little tricky to determine but think lots of plastics or old fillings (usually amalgams contain mercury and silver). Switch over to glass or BPA free plastic as much as possible to reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors. Also look at your cosmetics and skin care products to ensure you are minimising your exposure to chemicals and reducing the burden on the liver. One problem with toxicity is that it makes it harder to lose weight as the body will push these toxins into fat and will resist releasing it to protect you.
  4. Inflammation can be due to carrying excess body fat but can also be due to chronic injuries which trigger constant inflammation in the body. Anti-inflammatory supplements such as fish oil and tumeric can be helpful but exercise has an important role to play here in reducing inflammation as well. Just make sure its not aggravating an existing injury and consider whether you may need more support such as in acqua aerobics in the pool for example which can take pressure off joints.
  5. Hormonal Imbalance for some women hormones will be imbalanced because of some of the reasons listed above however there are some good herbal and homeopathic options available which can help. The most widely used herbal medicine is probably Vitex or Agnes Castus which can assist women with menopausal symptoms. Usually with herbal medicine and certainly with homeopathic medicines it is preferable to prescribe based on the client’s specific symptoms. In the last few months I have found clients have had relief from symptoms with Glonoine, Sepia and Sulphur homeopathically, its never one size fits all . A 2008 study of 438 women with hot flushes showed a significant improvement in symptoms for 90% of women in the trial (1).

Christine Pope is a Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. Appointments can be made on 8084 0081 or online at the website

 

 

(1) Treating Hot Flushes in Menopausal Women – an observational study accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18194760

Is Fasting for me ?

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Fasting is a time honoured Naturopathic tradition although its not really taught as part of main stream courses anymore. It is still a really useful protocol for some people. There are now a wide range of options with fasting,  Juice Fasting, Five Two, Elemental Fasting, Six One and Intermittent Fasting, just to name a few . So what are the current options?

  1. Juice Fasting – this is usually a shorter fast such as a weekend or a few days and limits your intake to mainly vegetable juices, with a small amount of fruit. It floods your body with nutrition and hydration but can sometimes provoke extreme hunger on day 2. This is often used as a cleanse or weight loss starter and the usual feedback is about half the weight lost is water you do become more concious of what you eat after a juice fast.
  2. Five Two – a popular adaptation this allows you to eat on an unrestricted based 5 days a week whilst restricting calories to 25% of your normal intake on two of those days. This diet was popularised by Micheal Mosley a few years ago. Ideally to really minimise side effects and benefit from this approach you need to eat nutrient dense foods the other days and ensure that you are getting enough protein and micro-nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals on your non fasting days. Proponents of this approach suggest starting with a 12 hour fast overnight for a few weeks to make it easier.
  3. Elemental Fasting – this is used therapeutically for a digestive reset for those with serious infections such as parasites or severe SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). This fast needs to be run under supervision and comprises shakes which contain adequate amounts of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The approach is to starve out the problematic bugs.
  4. Six One – A slight variation to the Five Two it involves completely fasting on one day a week whilst eating normally on the other days.
  5. Intermittent Fasting – Routinely fasting for twelve hours overnight – basically eating dinner by 7.30 and then breakfasting at 7.30 – can be an effective way to improve your response to glucose and insulin. As part of the Bredesen protocol I studied in 2016 it is recommended as part of a strategy to improve blood sugar as well as specific sensitising nutrients if levels are elevated. In addition its recommended that people with the specific gene for Alzheimer’s known as APO4E fast for up to 16 hours a day. For more information on this protocol see my blog Delaying Alzheimer’s 

shutterstock_513957496So what are the benefits reported from fasting ? Micheal Mosley in his 5:2 diet cites three major areas which include weight loss, improved metabolic markers and reduced inflammatory markers such as C Reactive Protein. Research published recently on pubmed is also showing that intermittent fasting or time restricted feeding is proving beneficial for weight loss and metabolic health. (1)

Intermittent Fasting can be a good way to stabilise blood sugars at the early stages of insulin resistance. The 5:2 protocol can be helpful for people who want to lose weight but have trouble sticking to a restrictive diet. Ideally your fast days are separated and you include a small amount of protein in the meals to help stabilise blood sugar.

Christine Pope is an experienced Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives. You can make an appointment on 8084 0081 or book online at the website .

Why is my skin like this?

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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 Intolerance testing 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.

 

Bio-compatibility Hair 500- What’s Right for your Body?

allergen photoItchy skin, rashes, unhappy stomachs, headache, insomnia, fatigue.

Any of these sound familiar?

These symptoms can be really frustrating and options are often limited to managing symptoms, but they all have one thing in common.

They can all be caused by food intolerance/sensitivity!

So how can you get to the core of the problem and get REAL RESULTS?

Even if you have a healthy, balanced diet this doesn’t mean you will be symptom free as it may not necessarily be the right diet for you! That is why food compatibility testing can help you get results as it can help to explicitly identify what does and doesn’t work for you.

shutterstock_5227150661.jpgOver my 12 years in practice I have tried a number of approaches based on my training and subsequent study. Initially I would try and find the perfect homeopathic remedy which really didn’t work as much as I would have liked. Then I tried the Naturopathic detox approach – identify and remove allergens (usually through an IGG test) and then heal and seal the gut. Lots of products and a reasonable success rate but quite expensive from the point of view of the testing and the supplements.

It is also important to remember that particularly with skin cases it can often be external factors as much as the diet that can be triggers. Sometimes you need to be a bit of a detective . I always remember seeing a client who had puffy eyes for 10 days where nothing was helping. On questioning her the new curtains in her room from China had gone up 2 weeks earlier. Knowing that these materials are often packed with chemicals I simply got her to remove them for a few days and it cleared the problem.

In previous blogs I have covered the options available for different forms of testing however currently I am recommending the Bio-compatibility Hair 500 foods and household chemicals for six main reasons;

  1. Its SIMPLE AND EASY – It only requires a hair sample!
  2. It is MOST COMPREHENSIVE – It covers 500 household foods and household chemicals. Including all food groups, bathroom, laundry and kitchen products and even local brands found in supermarkets and health food stores!
  3. It is the BEST VALUE – $259 for 500 foods vs the same or higher cost for only 40-90 foods
  4. It’s NOT INVASIVE – No blood sacrifices required! (Trying to get a blood test from a toddler is not fun!)
  5. It is EASILY UNDERSTANDABLE – The results come like a shopping list so its easy for you to see what works and what doesn’t for your body.
  6. FREE INITIAL CONSULT – I am currently offering a free 15 minute consult to see if Bio compatability hair 500 is right for you!

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In the past skin cases were one of my groan cases – I knew it was a long process and most people want quick results and they often didn’t see them fast enough. Sometimes these cases even get worse before they get better. This process has really helped achieve some great results for clients where they have tried other options, particularly with eczema cases but also with some more complicated auto-immune conditions. In most cases clients who are compliant would see some reasonable progress in 4-6 weeks and sometimes earlier.

If you are interested in using it I do offer a FREE 15 minute consultation to see if it is suitable for you. This is not a quick fix but rather a focused process with some dietary changes required based on your individual results. You can call my clinic reception on 8084 0081 to set up a time or email me at christine@elementalhealth.net.au for more information.

If you are not based in or around St Ives then please email me at Christine@elementalhealth.net.au and I will find a local practitioner for you.

6 Tips for feeding your gut bacteria right!

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%!

You might find more useful information in a recent blog on Prebiotics versus probiotics.

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.