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 .

 

 

 

 

 

Reversing 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

2016 was a blast!

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Often at this time of year there are so many messages about planning for 2017 and making New Year’s resolutions. How about starting by recognising your achievements in 2016!

This is by far one of the most useful exercises that I have done. Last year I worked with Cheryl Alderman of Be Ultimate and as part of our planning for the year we started by acknowledging the achievements from the previous year.

In many ways 2016 was a big year personally and also for nutrition.

On the nutrition front there was some significant progress in terms of recognising flaws in government dietary guidelines. For the first time we seem to be recognising the role of sugar in obesity and ceasing to demonise all fats as the enemy. Whether this is due to “That Sugar Movie” or “I Quit sugar” or simply that the research is showing that cutting down fat has not actually resulted in improvements in obesity . In fact we have actually seen significant increases in obesity due to the substitution of sugar in many products.

img_0061We have also seen a discussion about the introduction of a sugar tax in Australia to discourage the use of sugar in products but also to address the continued costs of the obesity epidemic.

2016 has also seen the rise of interest in traditional foods such as bone broth and fermented foods such as yoghurt, keffir, kombucha and sauerkraut. Many of these products are now commercially available providing people with great food based options for gut healing and nutrition.

From an industry and personal perspective as Chair of the Marketing Committee for ATMS I oversaw the introduction of Natural Medicine Week and the development of a microsite to support it at www.naturalmedicineweek.com.au  There was great industry support with members from my association hosting over 44 events to promote the week. This included Open Days, Public Talks and Special Offers. My own event, a Homeopathic First Aid workshop booked out, meaning that I ran a second workshop.

Natural Medicine Week occurred during the run up to the Federal election and one of the focal points was encouraging discussion on the proposal by Bill Shorten to remove natural medicine from Private Health insurance rebates. A personal highlight was seeing that measure was not successful.

From my practice standpoint I was fortunate enough to attend the Metagenics Congress in June 2016 and see Dr Dale Bredesen speak about his protocol for reversing Alzheimer’s and in December this year I attended the Buck Institute and completed the program to train you in the protocol. Watch this blog for updates as I figure out how to access the testing I need to implement the protocol !

I also found a non invasive form of testing for food intolerances which was affordable and is already yielding good results in my practice particularly with skin problems which can often be tricky.

So achievements for 2016 – launching Natural Medicine Week, lobbying on Private Health Insurance, new testing and working on Reversing Alzheimer’s . Watch out 2017!

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath based at Elemental health at St Ives. She is available for appointments on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on 8084 0081. Alternatively the website has online bookings.

Travelling with a weak gut?

It can be quite tricky travelling when you have a range of food intolerances but even more so when you have a weak gut that is quite reactive. I have put a few tips together for supporting your gut whilst travelling however I would always recommend that you get it in the best shape possible before you go as the ideal way to prepare.

First up how do you just prepare for an extended trip? Make sure you are taking a good quality probiotic for up to two months before you travel to seed your gut with a good range of protective bacteria for your journey and then travel with a heat stable probiotic. If you have quite a few food intolerances ideally do a bit of a heal and seal protocol before travelling which should include high doses of glutamine. Better still a full detox would get your whole system working as well as possible to protect you on the journey.

What are some things you can do to acclimatise your gut when you get to your destination? On an extended journey start consuming the local fermented food – it could be kim chi, sauerkraut or yoghurt but it will help innoculate your bowel with the protective species of your local environment.

Feed the good gut bacteria a range of fruit and vegetables, just remember to stick to cooked or peeled as much as possible as salads which are washed in local water can be very problematic in some regions. Ideally aim for at least six serves of vegetables a day which will optimise your nutrition as well as keeping gut bacteria happy.

For gut protection and repair you can’t go past traditionally made bone broths or stocks. Whether its a miso soup in Japan or just a hearty home made soup, bone broth is a great source of nutrients as well as providing healing ingredients for the gut, such as gelatine. On the off chance that you do pick up a tummy bug the tips in my Stomach aches and pains blog for suitable homeopathic medicines would be helpful reading.

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath based at Elemental Health at St Ives. Appointments can be made on 8084 0081.

Ultimate stress management tool – Pokemon Go !

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Managing stress isn’t always easy but the latest tool assisting in my arsenal is a surprising one – Pokemon Go! So how does a kids game help manage stress?

First up most adults spend a lot of time on devices, checking emails, social media or the Internet. What we seem to have forgotten is how to use devices for fun. Imagine that instead of checking your emails you are checking which cute little Pokemon you can catch. Yep add a bit of fun to your day instead of more work.

Another area many of us forget when our work piles up is exercise but when you get rewarded for walking by hatching eggs with new Pokemon there is suddenly value in making sure you exercise frequently. Eggs need 2, 5 or even 10 km of walking to hatch and you get rarer Pokemon with higher value eggs. No surprise then that the first week with the game I probably upped my walking by 10 kilometers in the week and now try and walk every day instead of just a few days a week.

Many women are juggling a constant range of pickups and drop-offs. Many days I will have done two trips to the station before I head to my clinic in the morning. It used to get me quite irritable specially at night when I am cooking dinner and got constant interruptions. Now I am like excellent , I can top up on my poke balls at the poke stops at the station ( you use these to catch the Pokemon). So a source of irritation has now become an opportunity. Often reframing stressors can change our reaction.

img_0527Finally a few people when they get stressed withdraw from socialising and their community – well this game positively inspires social interaction. Yesterday I had a lively discussion with an eight year old boy at the park about the difficulty we were both having catching a Bulbasaur at the local poke-stop. Even in my clinic I have found this a great ice breaker with children who usually aren’t that happy to be dragged in to see a natural therapist.

Many of my colleagues commented that with the advent of this game teens are roaming the streets – that’s right instead of playing a game solo in their rooms they are outside interacting with nature and each other!! I am planning a trip to Circular Quay for Pokemon hunting with a group of friends next week. Anyone else want to join us???

Christine Pope is a practicing nutritionist and homeopath based at Elemental Health St Ives. Appointments are available Tuesdays and Wednesdays on 8084 0081 or you can book online at Elemental Health . She is currently at Level 24 on Pokemon and  has just caught a Pikachu in a Xmas hat.

 

Innovation in Healthcare

Last weekend I was at a conference where the topic was Innovation. It was an interesting area to consider as a Director and even more challenging was its application. How do you encourage and develop innovative thinking in your organisation?  It’s an even bigger challenge for most of the attendees as the organisations were largely associations and Not for Profit’s  who usually aren’t well funded and often run by volunteers. So what were some of the suggestions and how could this be applied in the healthcare space ?

Spend time brainstorming issues

Often with packed agenda’s in a meeting its hard to find time to solve problems creatively. Allowing time on every agenda to brainstorm a problem allows for discussion of other options and possibly new insights. It also creates an environment where people don’t feel they have to stick to the status quo – the dreaded “that’s the way we have always done it”!!

Encourage feedback from the quiet participants

Not everyone is happy to provide input quickly and succinctly in a meeting. Asking everyone around a table to express a viewpoint on a subject provides a forum to open up the discussion. Ideally don’t just start with the same person but mix it up.

img_0363Meet differently

Be open to having meetings in different locations or even bringing in external parties to present different views. The energy of meeting in a coffee bar can be a lot livelier than a set meeting room. Even changing rooms on a regular basis can be a good protocol just make sure everyone has enough space to be comfortable and can move around.

So how can we apply this in healthcare? Specifically how could I apply this in my practice?

Staying current with new developments is really critical and one of the reasons I am constantly looking at seminars or workshops. How can I get people better faster? For example I had always found treating Candida with a diet and specific homeopathics quite difficult and slow. Anti-candida diets are basically no wheat, no dairy, no yeast and no fun! On the basis of a recommendation at a workshop I tried using a berberiene based herbal product and found my results were significantly quicker and much easier for clients to maintain. My strategy is to look for the innovators and pick the eyes out of their treatment protocols.

In terms of meeting differently I would occasionally run workshops and I really enjoy the energy of working with a group and the networking that often results. This is now on my agenda with a permanent focus on education around existing programs but also continuing some of my successful workshops. Using this format is also a good way to keep costs down. A 2 hour workshop at $49 is a great addition to a treatment program and also keeps costs down and makes healthcare more affordable. Maybe another alternative is to start recording the sessions and make them available to clients as an easier way to work with me.

The reality of innovation is much more difficult to grasp than the concept. Often in practice I see clients who are stuck in a situation and think they have no options. As soon as you start to see stress levels come down its amazing how possibilities open up. For practitioners I think its a question of staying current and adopting strategies that work well for them and how they practice.

Christine Pope is based at Elemental Health at St Ives and is available for consultations on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Appointments can be made online (very innovative!!) at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au or by calling 02 8084 0081.