8 strategies for stressed parents

shutterstock_19655527As a working parent with two children I know how stressful the juggle can be with work, finances, activities and parenting not to mention finding time with your partner. How do you make it a bit easier on yourself ? Steve Biddulph recommends making a 5% change so I have made a few suggestions on some good starting points.

Childcare is a cost of working – get the best you can afford

For many parents the cost of childcare for a young child makes them wonder why they are returning to work (Its for your sanity/mortgage payments/contact with other adults). Whilst the ideal may be a full time nanny its just not affordable for everyone, so think about what it may look like. Maybe a combination of long day care, a regular sitter for after work functions or other commitments and hopefully some helpful grandparents. Just remember planning is critical so you aren’t in a constant panic. Finding a regular sitter or two, who is available on short notice, can be a real god send.

Just remember they will only be in long day care for a few years, then you have the joy of navigating lengthy school holidays and after school care. You still need to think about a budget for childcare even when they are at school its just going to be lumpier. School holiday camps such as YMCA and Crusader Camps can be a good way to occupy a week but the costs will add up.

Trade off $$$ for annual leave

The other option can be to trade for additional leave to cover some of the school holidays, many employers are now offering this option or you may be able to negotiate an extra week or two in lieu of a pay rise. Given the ratio of 12 weeks school holidays to four weeks paid leave this can be really helpful.

Outsource as much as possible

Cooking , cleaning , shopping, washing and ironing – what ever you don’t enjoy doing think about outsourcing. Personally I think a cleaner is essential for any working parent. After a full day at work coming home and starting to clean is just exhausting. It also reduces the volume of arguments about cleaning on the home front which is another plus.

shutterstock_51065257Reduce scheduled activities

So many parents are shuttling kids from activity to activity after school with no downtime. Why? Do they really need to speak Mandarin, be coached in maths, play two sports and the piano? Schedule play dates with their friends and help them build social skills. Or just limit to a couple of things they really want to do – whether its football and drama or dance and tennis. Better still many schools offer activities as part of the after school program so make it easier by having them at the same venue and fill any gaps with after school care.

Involve kids in food preparation

The best time to have a chat with your kids about what’s happening is when they are a little distracted. Getting kids to peel carrots or chop up a few vegetables can be a good time for them to tell you about their day or chat when something is worrying them. Often they will also try new foods when they have been involved in the preparation. My kids went to a Montessori kindergarden and used knives from Age 3. Frankly I found it terrifying initially but they did develop skills quite quickly.

Tear up those parenting books (and blogs)

The first year I was home with young children, another colleague and I agreed that the parenting books were driving us insane and making us feel inadequate. So we agreed to just rip out the chapters that irritated us. There wasn’t much left. Its a bit like that with social media now, the pressure to rear these perfect children who always behave in public and have perfect grades.

Ban Homework in Primary School

This one might be a bit controversial but really there isn’t any good evidence to suggest that regular homework at this primary school makes any difference. They have already spent 6-8 hours at school that day so why send parents more work to do that night?

I still have nightmares about my daughter’s worst ever parent teacher interview where I was told by her Grade 4 teacher that she had the most appalling attitude to homework. Now the teacher was asking my daughter to write spelling words up on the board that she already knew and then wanted her to copy them out three times as well. I calmly suggested I would support homework that was useful, but this clearly wasn’t and that she knew by asking my daughter to write the words on the board that she already knew how to spell them.

You can have it all just not all at the same time!

Having kids is a big job. Very few people would try being CEO of 2 businesses at once. In the first couple of years it’s normal to be shell shocked or sleep deprived. So if work demands a 12 hour day then think seriously about a sideways move for a couple of years until you are ready to handle it. One of the hardest things I ever did was ask my boss for a four day week but it completely saved my sanity. Years later he told me he was soooo relieved as he thought I was going to ask for three days!

Christine Pope is a Naturopath, Homeopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives. She is available for appointments on 8084 0081 if you need help managing stress!

Going back to school!

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This year I was reminded by the old movie “White Christmas” to count my blessings instead of sheep. One of my big blessings this year was studying with a great group of final year Naturopathy students who really reminded me of the value of what natural medicine can do for clients. What was I doing back at college after 12 years of practice as a Homeopath and Nutritionist (including three years as Head of Nutrition at the College)? Well I decided to finally finish my full naturopathic qualification which included three years of Herbal Medicine and additional student clinic hours. I successfully completed it in September this year.

First term this year at college I completed two clinics on Friday’s back to back. It was a full on day and often we had no time for breaks. The clinics were surprisingly busy and this was largely due to the fact that the group I was studying with brought in lots of their own clients (friends and family) and this meant we saw a much wider range of clients than I would usually see in my own clinic. The first reminder from my group was that you need to keep marketing all the time and and as a result I kicked up my own efforts in terms of both networking and social media marketing.

The second learning was that simple changes to diet and an individual herbal mix or a few well chosen supplements can often make a big difference. For example changing someone’s diet to gluten free when they are suffering from constipation and are also managing an auto-immune condition such as Hashimoto’s can result in big improvements.

Another area that often surprised me was that the information from a well taken case is as comprehensive as extensive blood testing in determining what is needed (although its nice to have the testing as well). In clinic I use some additional testing in terms of Oligoscan, which provides details on 20 nutrient minerals as well as 10 heavy metals plus Quadscan which provides information on body mass parameters, such as muscle mass, fat mass and hydration. Click on this link for more information on the Oligoscan .

shutterstock_318010247There was also a deeper reminder with my core training as I was often asked to sit in on a case when they thought a homeopathic medicine was needed. What impressed me every time was how skilled these new graduates to be were in taking these cases and how as a group we prescribed some very effective homeopathic medicines. It was a good learning about  how the right homeopathic remedy can really shift an emotional state, particularly when people are stuck in grief or anxiety.

Overall I found that finalising Naturopathy added another essential tool to my kit as the value of herbal medicines for organ support is useful in so many cases. Many supplements also contain a mix of herbal medicines and vitamins and minerals so its good to be clear about the value of each component.

Have you done more study recently? What did you get out of it?

Christine Pope is a Naturopath, Homeopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. You can make appointments online at Elemental Health or book on 02 8084 0081.

Natural medicine first aid – bruises, sprains and strains

SprainA natural medicine first aid kit is an essential when travelling or on holidays, having key homeopathic medicines means you can deal quickly and easily with a range of minor accidents or illnesses without having to find the local pharmacy.

Common remedies for injuries are Arnica, Hypericum, Rhus tox and Ruta. Often there may be only one or two specific symptoms. It’s a little different to traditional homeopathic prescribing where you often need 4-6 symptoms to accurately prescribe a remedy.

Good additions to a natural medicine first aid kit would also include a Calendula based cream, which is good for treating cut and scrapes and usually helps avoid infections as well as my current favourite, Traumeel gel which has a gentle anti-inflammatory action and absorbs well.


First remedy to consider for falls, sprains or strains, particularly concussion or nosebleeds from an injury. Generally key symptoms are a sore bruised feeling anywhere in the body but with a particular affinity for bruised feeling in the back and sprained ankles. Symptoms are worse for being touched or overexerting themselves and they are better if lying down.

Often the person will want to be left alone and insists that nothing is wrong.


Arnica is a great remedy for soft tissue injuries then Hypericum is its match for injuries to areas rich in nerves. In particular for smashed fingers or toes or a fall on the coccyx. Typically the patient has sharp shooting pains along nerves or radiating upwards from the injury site.  Consider for injuries to areas which are rich in nerves such as fingers and toes. Also very useful where a person has had dental work done.

Symptoms are often better for rubbing the affected area and worse for jarring.


Homeopathic medicine.jpgRhus Tox

First remedy to consider for sprained ankles or joints. Stiff joints which are better after they first start moving around – known as the “rusty gate” . Generally people who need Rhus Tox are restless and needs to move around. They feel worse for getting cold or wet and better for warmth.

Can also be useful for chicken pox or shingles or dry hot itchy rashes and for flu where the major symptom is that they are restless and their joints ache.

Rhus tox is usually for busy active good humoured people.


Usually if Rhus Tox has not helped a sprain or strain you would then consider Ruta. Injuries to tendons, cartilage or the shins, particularly wrists and ankles. Person feels sore and bruised and they are easily fatigued. Pains are better for moving and warmth.

Generally the person who needs ruta is grumpy and inclined to argue.

Some other useful blogs on first aid remedies are Stomach Aches and Pains and Treating Colds  and Flu naturally and Travelling with a Weak Gut .

Christine Pope is a Naturopath, Homeopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives in Sydney. You can make appointments by phone on 8084 0081 or online at www.elementalhealth.net.au .

Oligsoscan – find out your mineral status!


Oligoscan is an in house testing system for minerals and heavy metals. Its an invaluable tool in clinic and I use it in almost every initial consultation . Why? Because like all testing it can give me some additional invaluable insights which can help me target what needs treatment as efficiently as possible.

There are lots of tests available however this also helps me focus on what if any further tests to order. For example if iron is at the low end of the range and a client is exhausted then I may order an Iron Panel to check if they are borderline anemic or they just have low iron stores and sometimes it’s both.

What does an Oligoscan tell me: The report gives me 20 nutrient minerals and 10 heavy metal levels and the ranges. For example it can tell me whether they are in the normal range or whether individual levels are high or low. Often its the correlations that can give you the most insight. For example many people have good levels of calcium but they have relatively low levels of magnesium. This means that they may be suffering signs of magnesium deficiency, such as cramping, fatigue and difficulty sleeping.

How does it do this: The test is based on spectrometer analysis and is a simple scan of the palm of your hand in four points. Spectrometer analysis uses the fact that every element on the spectrum has its own colour and this gives an indication of the overall composition. It also relies on parameters such as height weight and blood type to give accurate readings.

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Why is this helpful: Once I have taken an initial case history and I have the Oligoscan report I can then target treatment effectively. If symptoms point to low immunity for example and key minerals such as zinc are low then ensuring adequate zinc supplementation as well as appropriate immune support will ensure that clients improve more quickly.

Monitoring of results over time is also helpful. There have been cases where just supplementing deficiences hasn’t resulted in a change in levels. In these cases its usually because their digestion is compromised and the key deficiencies can provide insight into which digestive pathways are compromised. In this case its important to address the digestion and make sure that they client is absorbing effectively before giving further supplements. Every person is different and constantly changing which is why the testing if useful and necessary.


Like all tests the Oligoscan gives more information but still needs to be interpreted within the context of the client and their history. Usually if you focus on the symptoms that a client presents with and how they correlate with the results it’s most useful.

Spectrometer analysis has a long history of use and there are several studies that have been completed on Oligoscan which I have listed below if you are interested in further evidence about how well it correlates with other tests.

Studies evidencing the efficacy of the Oligoscan

The following studies have been undertaken to assess the efficacy of the Oligoscan.

2013 2 studies by Dr Marion Ljuba in Klagenfurst Austria.
 On 650 samples over 8 months showed an acceptable correlation with blood tests.
 On 200 samples over 33 patients showed sensitivity and reproducibility of results.

Dr Phillipe Marego dental medicine and micro-nutrients reviewing symptoms
versus Oligsocan results showed a 94% clinical correlation. Test panel was 100
patients and 100 samples.

A further three trials are pending publication on heavy metal evaluation ,
anti-ageing medicine and pain syndromes.

The Oligoscan test can be done separately within a short appointment for those who are interested. It can also be booked if you are working with other practitioners and just need the test. You can book in for the test on 8084 0081 if you are in the local area or you can go to the Oligsocan website to find a local practitioner at www.oligsocan.net.au .

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.


5 Tips for good gluten free menu’s

Breakfast at The Conservation Hut

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

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

Gluten free at the Hydro Majestic

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

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

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

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

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






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

(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