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?

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.

 

Bio-compatibility Hair Testing – 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 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 and this test can really help. 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 Test for 500 foods and household chemicals for six main reasons;

  1. Its SIMPLE AND EASY – It only requires a hair sample!
  2. It is the MOST COMPREHENSIVE test available – The test 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 test 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 testing 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 test 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 this test 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!

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.

Delaying Alzheimer’s

Recent training at the Buck Institute in San Francisco gave me some major insights into the treatment of Alzheimer’s. The exciting news is that the team at MPI Cognition are making real inroads in developing treatment options for Alzheimer’s and have documented cases where symptoms have not just been halted but reversed. For a full description have a look at this article recently published in Ageing .

The initial protocol for the program involved identifying the type of triggers for the onset of Alzheimer’s. There are some factors which do trigger early onset –  traumatic brain injury is a known risk factor as is early withdrawal of hormones which often happen’s with a full hysterectomy. The five major types were summarised below however many people will present with more than one of these triggers meaning that the case is more complicated to treat.

  1. Glycotoxicity – relating to blood sugar imbalances or diabetes type 2. The brain is the biggest user of glucose in the body relative to size accounting for about 30% of our use. Systemically if we are having issues with glucose metabolism, such as commonly found in hypoglycemia and metabolic syndrome, then our bodies become increasingly resistant to insulin which is essential for the uptake of glucose. A 2011 study in Neurology showed an increased risk of dementia in people over 60 with elevated blood glucose (1).
  2. Hormonal – low oestrogen or testosterone. A significant contributor to early onset dementia is having a full hysterectomy at an early age. A long term Danish study showed an increased risk of an earlier onset of dementia and this was further increased if the patient also had an oopherectomy. (2) The risks are believed to relate to a premature drop in oestrogen and its metabolites which assist in formation of memory in the brain.Snapshot
  3. Infection/Heavy Metal Toxicity – history of ongoing infection such as Lyme or mould toxicity but also associated with periodontal disease, such as gingivitis. The Indian journal of Pyschiatry’s 2006 article on “Reversible Dementia’s” highlight’s the reversible causes at between 0-23% and includes on its list a range of heavy metal toxicities as well as infections such as spirochetes which are seen in Lyme and advanced syphilis.
  4. Vascular – associated with cardiovascular risks as well. The study mentioned above in Neurology highlighted the comorbidity associated with Diabetes.
  5. Traumatic Brain Injury – this could be related to repeated concussion, car accidents or other injury but also other assaults to the brain such as heavy anesthesia use. Boxers and Football players in particular have an increased risk associated with repeated concussion.

The protocol is relatively comprehensive and looks at a range of different areas to try and assist in returning function. The cases described in the journals have utilised not only a mildly ketogenic diet with minimal grains but also regular exercise, bio-identical hormones, supplements and brain training such as that found in the program Brain HQ .

The dietary interventions are discussed in an earlier blog, A new model for treating Alzheimer’s , however when writing that I had not appreciated the value in using regular brain training in conjunction with the program. The program Brain HQ was presented by the founders at the seminar and there are good quality studies confirming the value of its use in reducing the incidence of dementia and delaying its onset. Interestingly it seemed to be the exercises that improved processing speed which really made a difference. The ten year study is summarised in more depth in this article.

The role of exercise is also worth exploring in further depth and typically relates to its role in improving insulin sensitivity and blood flow to the brain. Regular physical exercise also helps maintain active brain tissue in particular in the hippocampus which is the seat of memory.  A 2016 study showed a reduced incidence of dementia in over 65’s who exercised at least three times a week (3).

Christine Pope is a practicing nutritionist and homeopath based at Elemental health at St Ives. If you are interested in working with her to reduce your risk then please contact her clinic on 8084 0081 to make an appointment.

 

(1) Ohara T et al, Glucose Tolerance staus and risk of dementia in the community – The Hisayama study. accessed at http://67.202.219.20/upload/2011/9/20/Neurology-2011-Ohara-1126-34.pdf

(2) Phung T et al, Hysterectomy, Oopherectomy and Risk of Dementia – An Historical Nationwide study. accessed at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lars_Kessing/publication/45508676_Hysterectomy_Oophorectomy_and_Risk_of_Dementia_A_Nationwide_Historical_Cohort_Study/links/5798a8f508aeb0ffcd08b189.pdf

(3) http://annals.org/aim/article/719427/exercise-associated-reduced-risk-incident-dementia-among-persons-65-years

Five easy detox lunch options

One of my favourite meals to eat out is lunch so before I started the detox I scoped out the local area for some good detox lunch options.

The detox is gluten and dairy free to remove inflammatory foods as well as excluding alcohol and  coffee. It’s not that challenging for me really as I am gluten free and usually only have a little cheese or yoghurt. It also excludes processed foods such as deli meats and recommends minimal deep water fish which often have heavy metal exposures.Basically the idea is to reduce as many toxins going in to your system to lighten the load. Its helpful if you make sure you also include the following;

1. 5-6 serves of vegetables a day, including at least one of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage;
2. A small handful of nuts and seeds – great nutrients for detox and you can use raw or activated nuts.
3. Two to three serves of fruit a day – berries are a good inclusion.
The detox is also supported with a low allergen rice protein powder which has good liver support included, plus some gently detoxifying greens. I tend to mix that all together as breakfast and that makes for an easy (but green) start to the day.

When eating out remember many meals can be adapted by asking for the sauce or dressing on the side so don’t worry about asking – the worst they can say is no! Usually if they say no it means its been pre-prepared and sitting around for a while so it might be better to eat somewhere else.

The Stanley St Cafe downstairs in our building has a great range of salads and is very accommodating so the week started with a lovely Crispy Salmon Salad with Macadamia nuts with a colleague. She is working on the weight loss program at the moment so her lunch was the chicken and haloumi salad. It was a bit tricky resisting the lovely saltiness of the haloumi.

 The following day we went round to Mischica for their Korean warm salad – Bim Bim Bap, they offer chicken, beef, pork or tofu so plenty of options. The warm salad comes with sprouts, greens, brown rice, carrots, mushrooms and other vegetables and, when on detox, grilled chicken. Delicious!

The Runaway Spoon at Lindfield has a reliable salad on its main menu which is filling and detox friendly, the Quinoa and Lemon herb chicken with avocado, pumpkin and tomato. Another great option at St Ives Shopping Centre, a Coconut Chicken salad with rocket, paw paw and avocado.

The one meal I ate at home during the week was a lamb salad my son made with mixed greens, cucumber, lamb and olives. A great range of flavours and adding more greens such as cucumbers or beans to a salad makes it filling as well.

What else would you add for lunches during a detox?

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath based at Elemental Health, St Ives. She is also a Director  and Treasurer of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society. She is available in clinic on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Appointments can be made on 02 8084 0081 or through their online booking software at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au