Heat and cold, stressors which boost energy and slow ageing

Looking for a way to improve your energy levels ? Turns out we can certainly benefit from some of the strategies from Nordic countries particularly in regards to saunas and cold plunging. Mild hormetic stressors such as heat and cold can be really beneficial (and enjoyable).

What is a hormetic stressor ? It’s a mild stress to the body which actually generates a low level of free radicals. In the presence of a low level of free radicals we produce more mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy producing part of a cell and as we age we tend to start losing them. The major hormetic stressor which we are all familiar with is exercise and the reason this is beneficial is it encourages the body to make more mitochondria which in turn means we can produce more energy. Stimulating these processes gives us improvement in both our short term and long term health.

Often we talk about stress as being negative for our health however it really comes down to the type of stress and the dose. Prolonged stress of any type can have negative implications for our health in the same way that prolonged exposure to cold water can result in hypothermia. A few minutes in the cold water is beneficial, too long an exposure is a problem.

What are some other types of hormetic stress ? The top 10 include the following;

  1. Intermittent Fasting
  2. Cold
  3. Heat
  4. Hypoxia
  5. Red and near infrared light
  6. Exercise
  7. Dietary Phytochemicals
  8. UV light
  9. Xenobiotics
  10. Intermittent Nutrient Cycling

In this blog we are going to focus on the benefit of Heat and infrared light however there is more information on some of these options in my blogs such as Is Fasting for me ? and Six ways to increase your energy If you are interested in looking at cold hormetic stressors the latest blog on my clinic page is also useful Is it good to have a cold shower every day

Infra red light such at that from an infra red sauna penetrates soft tissue up to 3 centimetres warming the body and opening blood vessels in a process called “vasodilation.” The blood vessels on the surface expand and as the body heats it encourages sweating. Spending 30 minutes in a sauna is believed to increase heart rate and improve your exercise tolerance. A small study in 2005 showed that a month of sauna bathing in a group with Chronic Heart Failure saw improvements in 13 of 15 participants. In addition to a reduction in blood pressure and improved exercise tolerance they also say reduced levels of stress hormones. (1)

Recently my husband decided to see if a month of infra red sauna was beneficial and he found after a few weeks that his heat tolerance had improved, he felt his stress levels had reduced and he was noticing less muscle pain. He is a much smaller study group but still interesting to see the benefits over a short period of time. He is also quite keen to continue so expect an update on his progress in a couple of months.

A recent article in The Conversation “Can’t face running try a hot bath or sauna” looks at some of the benefits of hot bathing and also the advantages of using sauna to build up your tolerance when you are unable to exercise. In this way it could be useful for those people suffering from Chronic Fatigue for slowly improving resilience and assisting in recovery so that they can start to exercise. It is important if you suffer from Chronic Fatigue that you build up very slowly and gently with any new routine.

Need more assistance with improving your energy levels ? Book in with Christine Pope at Elemental Health at St Ives on Tuesday or Wednesdays. Bookings online at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au or by phone on (02) 8084 0081 .

(1) https://www.onlinejcf.com/article/S1071-9164(05)00108-9/fulltext

Six ways to increase your energy

One of the most common reasons for people to see a naturopath is that they are really tired and lack energy. If you are feeling like this at the moment its important to understand why your energy is low but there are also several things you can introduce which may help improve your energy levels on a permanent basis.

The area of the body that produces energy is a component of each cell called a mitochondria, think of them like little factories. As we get older the number of mitochondria in the body can reduce, typically we see a halving of the levels between 20-40 and then again by the time we reach 70. These mitochondria can also be damaged by a range of environmental factors which means they don’t work as effectively and produce less energy.

There are a number of “hacks” which can improve both the number of these little factories and also the quality. Most people are aware of the benefits of regular exercise however they may not be aware that muscle cells will build more mitochondria as a result and they will operate more effectively. However often when people are really fatigued they are not in a position to exercise so these are my top six strategies for improving cellular energy. There are other strategies however this list focuses on those with minimal costs.

  1. Thirty minutes of daylight as close to waking as possible. This is an invaluable reset for your body’s circadian rhythms and helps you produce a reasonable amount of melatonin. Melatonin is important to generate sleep but turns out it also helps with cell repair and can improve energy. Literally one week of eating my breakfast outside followed by a short walk saw a significant improvement in my energy levels.
  2. Mild stressors for the body such as cold can improve energy quality. Its really important with this strategy to start with a very modest amount and slowly increase. A cold swim in a mountain stream might be the goal but start by having a minute or two of your shower with cold water. If you are very temperature sensitive start with it on your arms and legs and then gradually move to the trunk.
  3. Eat in a 11-12 hour window. Allow the bodies waste systems to function effectively by giving them a reasonable window to operate with. This is particularly important if you suffer from brain fog as a result of tiredness. This is really fairly straightforward and may just see you have breakfast at 8am and dinner at 7pm.
  4. Reduce your exposure to blue light from computers and devices. This could involve using blue light blocking glasses however a lower cost solution is as simple as switching off all devices at least one hour before your bedtime. Blue light blocks the production of melatonin and results in more difficulty in getting to sleep. Low melatonin will also reduce the ability of the mitochondria to repair themselves and result in a worsening of fatigue.
  5. Sleep in complete darkness using blockout curtains and turning off all lights and devices. Good quality sleep is essential for energy as cell repair happens during our deep REM cycles. Typically if you aim for 7-8 hours of sleep you will have between 3-5 REM cycles. Each cycle tends to be longer with the first being about 90 minutes. For more information on improving your sleep quality read my blogs on Can you build up sleep Pressure and Six Sleep Myths Debunked
  6. Reduce inflammation in your diet as much as possible. Chronic inflammation reduces your ability to produce energy in your cells. The first step could be avoiding any known allergens or intolerances and the second to try and ensure that you are having at least three cups of vegetables a day. For more information on reducing inflammation my blog on Post Viral Fatigue has some useful resources. More generally to understand which vegetables are most useful for your health What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ?

There are also a range of strategies to improve energy using tailored diet plans and supplements however these need to be prepared in consultation with a practitioner to ensure that underlying triggers are identified and addressed.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. You can make appointments on 02 8084 0081 on online at Elemental Health .

Flavour your food with Therapeutic Herbs

Traditionally many herbs were used to flavour foods or to assist with digestion of those foods. In some instances the flavours are used to enhance the meal and in other cases they were added to alcohol and provided as an aperitif.

There are a significant number of herbs which flavour foods and are commonly used in cooking. Ideally use fresh herbs to really maximise the the nutritional content.

Ginger is a rhizome which can be used sliced, grated or dried. It is useful for stimulating digestion in terms of improving peristalsis, which is the regular muscular movement of the bowels. It is also beneficial for people who suffer from nausea and is often suggested as a tea in the early stages of pregnancy. Ginger can be used as a base for a simple stir fry of vegetables or added as part of a spice mix in Asian dishes.

Garlic is a bulb and is high in both sulphur and allicin, a potent anti-microbial. Garlic is reknown for its impact on the immune system and regular consumption can really support immune function. Many years ago on a camping trip around Thailand we were consuming the equivilant of 5-6 cloves daily. One member of our group had a bad cold but nobody else seemed to acquire it given the substantial consumption of garlic.

Garlic also has value in assisting in the reduction of cholesterol and it is useful for liver function sparing glutathione.

Both ginger and garlic can be used therapeutically in teas with more information in this recent blog Herbal teas for hydration .

Peppermint is usually considered a digestive herb due to the therapeutic properties of its essential oils. Most peppermint leaves consist of up to 2.5% essential oils. Those oils have specific uses in Irritable Bowel symptoms as they are antispasmodic and carminative. That is they relieve symptoms of cramping as well as being useful to alleviate bloating and gas. Mint goes well in salads, particularly flavours such as watermelon and strawberry.

Cinnamon is a bark which has a range of digestive actions. It was often used due to its antifungal actions to preserve baked goods but also has value in its ability to assist in the management of blood glucose and improve insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon is also a carminative which assists in reducing muscle contractions and relieves flatulence, thereby improving the appetite. The smell of cinnamon in cooking is particularly evocative. Cinnamon pairs well with many digestive herbs and spices. An easy way to introduce it in food is to sprinkle ground cinnamon on pumpkin whilst baking.

Rosemary like any digestive herb has a high essential oil content and it is considered useful for colic and period pain due to its antispasmodic actions. The flavour of any meat is usually improved by adding a combination of lemon juice, rosemary, garlic and rock salt. It pairs particularly well with chicken and lamb and is a good source of iron, calcium and B6. Rosemary is one of the few herbs that we manage to grow successfully and so I find a wide number of uses for it in cooking but also in adding as a dried herb to bath salts.

Have you managed to successfully grow herbs and use them in your cooking ? Please post in the comments if you have any tips as in the past I have managed to kill peppermint in the garden!

Supporting Vaccinations holistically

Are you planning to get the vaccine shortly ? Are you on a priority list? As Australia moves to the 1B list approximately 6 million Australians will now be offered either the AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccine . Both of these will require two shots over a period of up to 12 weeks.

If you are in a position where you can take up the vaccine then it may be useful for you to consider how you can support yourself to ensure that you minimise side effects and that you produce antibodies. To a certain extent these are new vaccines and information is being slowly developed on the optimal way to support clients through the process so this blog is based on the most recent information released.

First up protocols may change slightly between the two different vaccines due to the different composition of the components. The Pfizer vaccine is based on using messenger RNA whereas the AstraZeneca vaccine uses a virus vector based on an adenovirus. Both have clinical trials that show an efficacy rate that is much higher than the annual flu vaccine, Pfizer is estimated to be above 90% and the Astra Zeneca has had a recent trial showing an efficacy rate of 79%, interestingly it appears that a longer gap between doses appears to improve efficacy.

The common ground is the need to support the immune system to have a reasonable but not excessive response, regardless of which vaccine is given. It is recommended is that you ensure that Vitamin D levels are adequate and that you take both prebiotics and probiotics to support immunity for up to two weeks before and two weeks after each round of vaccination.

What sort of dosing is appropriate? Generally around 1-2000 IU of Vitamin D3 as well as a reasonable dose of prebiotics and at least one capsule a day of a reasonable quality probiotic, with a good variety of strains.

Vitamin D levels will be lower for you if yo are just coming out of Winter and a higher daily dose like 2000IU would be helpful.

First up what are prebiotics and how much should you be taking? Prebiotics are fibres which assist in the proliferation of beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics are available in supplement form , such as partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG) and larch. Prebiotics contain insoluble fibres which feed bacteria in the colon. Prebiotics are also sourced from fruit and vegetables, so a useful way to increase prebiotics in the diet is to make sure you are having three cups of vegetables a day from a variety of sources. Ideally have one cup each of brightly coloured vegetables, one cup of brassica and one cup of leafy greens. More information is in this blog about What are the best vegetables to feed your gut bacteria .

Adding probiotics which support the immune system can also be really useful and ideally you need to select strains which will compensate for any underlying gut dysbiosis. In a relatively healthy individual a broad strain probiotic with at least 5-10 billion colony forming units (CFU’s) for two weeks pre and post vaccine should provide good support. Strains which can be helpful include Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Lactobacillus Paracasei as these can modulate the immune response to an appropriate level.

Fermented foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut and pickles also contain useful probiotics however it can take a long time to build up levels so it is probably preferable to add a suitable probiotic in at this point.

It may also be helpful to just ensure that you are in the best condition possible before you are vaccinated. Ideally make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of good quality sleep, exercising regularly and eating an anti-inflammatory diet. If you are taking a number of medications, particularly those that affect your digestion, it might be a good idea to see a practitioner and work on your overall health before you vaccinate to assist in an appropriate immune response.

A reasonable percentage of people will experience some side effects as a result of the vaccinations. These could just be soreness at the vaccine site, which is fairly common or 24 -48 hours of flu like symptoms. At the moment based on the few vaccinations I have been able to support I have found the homeopathic Gelsemium in a 30c or 200C potency given every two hours for three doses and then as needed to be helpful in managing side effects. The advantage of using homeopathics in this instance is that it will not interfere with the vaccine process.

Christine Pope is an experienced Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. She is available for appointments on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and can be contacted on (02) 8084 0081.

How to support detox pathways with food

Detox is a naturopathic protocol that can be really helpful to restore effective function. Its basic aim is to assist your liver and kidneys so that they can remove toxins that you are exposed to in your diet and through your environment. Typically detox is recommended to support clients when they struggle with hormonal imbalance, find it difficult to lose weight or are suffering from allergies or poor digestive health.

The liver is responsible for processing food and a range of substances that we are exposed to through our diet and lifestyle. There are three phases and six pathways that support our ability to remove toxins from the body and in this blog you will find out how to support them with food. These processes convert toxins which are usually fat soluble into water soluble substances which can then be excreted through sweat, urine or stool.

First up what are the three phases and what do they do? The first phase uses enzymes called Cytochrome P450 to modify substances which produces free radicals. The second phase detoxifies these substances so they can be removed from the body. This relies on the six pathways known as Methylation, Glucoronidation, Sulfation, Acetylation, Glutathione Conjugation and Glycination. These are the pathways we can support with either food or supplements.

The third phase reduces our toxic load within the Small Intestine and supports the elimination of xenobiotics (hormone like substances).

Supporting these six pathways for detoxification requires a range of nutrients so lets focus on what foods are most helpful for you.

  1. Methylation

This process involves adding a methyl group made up of Carbon with three Hydrogen atoms. This makes the substance water soluble. The process requires B vitamins but in particular folic acid or folate. Good sources of folate include dark green vegetables such as leafy greens and asparagus.

2. Glucoronidation

This pathway is particularly important as it metabolises about 35% of the drugs prescribed and it requires the body to produce glucuronic acid. Fish oils and limonene which is found in citrus peel may activate this pathway. Ideally oily fish are a good source but the preference would be to use small oily fish like sardines. Green tea is also a good promoter of this pathway ideally try and use organic options as much as possible.

3. Sulfation

This pathway is critical for detoxifying steroid hormones, bile acids and neurotransmitters. Sulfation requires sulfur containing amino acids which are usually found in protein containing foods. In addition an adequate level of molybdenum is required. The best sources of molybdenum are found in legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans. For some people who don’t tolerate legumes, nuts and liver are other good quality sources.

4. Acetylation

Vitamin B1, B5 and Vitamin C are essential for this phase. Good quality sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits and in particular oranges. Brightly coloured vegetables, such as capsicum, and berrries such as strawberries are also good Vitamin C sources.

5. Glutathione Conjugation

Glutathione is an important antioxidant for the liver as well as supporting conjugation through the liver. Glutathione is made up of three peptides glutamine, cysteine and glycine. It is also activated by sulphorophane which is found in brassica vegetables, like cabbage and broccoli sprouts. Cabbage is also high in glutamine.

6. Glycination

This process involves the addition of amino acids to aid in the process of conjugation. Diets low in protein often result in a reduction in our ability to eliminate toxins. Good quality protein sources are important to assist in this pathway and this does include both meat based protein as well as vegetarian options such as legumes, tofu and eggs.

Ultimately supporting effective detoxification requires good quality protein sources, green leafy, multi coloured and brassica vegetables as well as legumes and fruit like berries.

If you would like more information on detoxification, or simply to understand if it can assist you and would like to make an appointment you can book in on (02) 8084 0081 or online.

For more blogs on detoxification you might like to read the following;

  1. Getting ready to detox
  2. Detoxing is it for me?
  3. What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut?