Prebiotic vs probiotic ?

shutterstock_583825927You are taking a probiotic and you think you understand what that does. Now people are talking about prebiotics and you’re not sure whether you should be taking that as well ?

A prebiotic is a food that feeds the  gut bacteria whereas a probiotic is a  combination of strains of various gut bacteria. Different types of prebiotics can feed different strains of bacteria so the prebiotic can be used therapeutically to promote beneficial strains at the expense of more problematic strains.

Lots of different foods are prebiotics as well as various supplements. For an appropriate  list  of foods look at my most recent blog Feed your Good Gut Bacteria . In terms of prebiotic supplements there are a number of interesting options to consider.

  1. Hydrolysed Guar Gum is a partially broken down soluble fiber which is extracted from the Indian Cluster bean.
  2. Galacto-oligodisaccharidases (GOS) are made from either a milk product source or from chicory roots.  It is helpful if someone is also constipated and may increase bifidobacteria as well.
  3. Larch is the bark of a tree. It supports the production of a key fuel to support the integrity of the gut lining known as butyrate. It also has been shown to support the growth of good gut bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus which reducing the growth of E Coli and Clostridia. It is thought that the larch stimulates the immune system and therefore keeps opportunistic bugs in check.
  4. Lactulose is made of up of two sugars galactose and fructose and is used to treat constipation. It is not digested like other sugars and therefore when it moves through to the colon the bacteria can feed on it and it draws water into the stool making it easier to pass.

Once you know the composition of your gut flora you can really assist in building better diversity by supporting the growth of beneficial strains or by crowding out problem bacteria. Ideally using testing such as a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis or directly through a group like Ubiome you can improve your knowledge of your gut bacteria.

If you need assistance with gut health please make an appointment with Christine Pope on 8084 0081.

Terry Wahl’s diet for Multiple Sclerosis

shutterstock_227550832At the Bioceuticals Symposium in Melbourne recently I was fortunate to hear from keynote speaker, Dr Terry Wahl’s on the program which put her Multiple Sclerosis into remission. One of the refreshing things about this presentation was the strong focus on diet first, then exercise second and then supplements. The benefit of this approach is that it isn’t just suitable for MS but also anyone suffering from an autoimmune disease and current indications are that this could be in excess of 20% of the population.

Dr Wahl’s was diagnosed with MS in 2000 and used conventional therapies to manage the symptoms. She deteriorated to the extent that she was in a tilt wheelchair and needing to resign from her position at the hospital. Motivated by the downward spiral and with a background in clinical research she started looking for options in the medical literature and looked more broadly at other degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Huntingdon’s disease. The drug therapies being tested were decades away so her research then led her to vitamins and supplements. What she found was a number of nutrients that slowed the pace of her MS but did not resolve the underlying condition. After discovering Functional Medicine in 2007 she decided to redesign her diet to try and incorporate those nutrients from food. This had such a significant impact that she went from a wheelchair to walking in one year.

The basis of her program is significant dietary change, basically flooding the body with nutrients. This is done by removing gluten, dairy and sugar and replacing it with a lot of nutrient dense vegetables and phytochemical rich fruit as well as small amounts of good quality protein and fats. The program encourages the use of butter which has been demonised for so long although ideally only the butter of grass fed cows so its rich in nutrients. It also includes small amount of organ meats, ideally organic, for their nutrient density. So pate is back on the menu but you can’t eat it with bread!

Key components of the diet are as follows;

  1. Up to 9 cups a day of vegetables and fruit of which ideally 3 cups are green leafy vegetables and 3 cups are sulphur containing vegetables and the remaining are brightly coloured vegetables and fruit.
  2. Small quantities of good quality protein ideally grass fed or organic.
  3. Fermented foods in small quantities initially to assist in feeding beneficial gut bacteria.
  4. Seaweed to provide adequate amounts of the essential mineral iodine
  5. Organ meats such as liver or heart once or twice a week, these should ideally be organic but particularly important to have organic liver as many toxins can be stored in the liver.
  6. Good quality fats such as olive oil and  grass fed butter.

For more information on the specifics of this diet her book is invaluable and she also has many resources on her website including meal plans.

In addition to the dietary changes, adequate sun exposure for Vitamin D as well as regular exercise are critical. Typically exercise is often difficult for MS patients however she recommends working with a suitably qualified exercise therapist to ensure that activity is appropriate and builds up gradually. The advantage is that regular exercise increases the number of mitochondria which assist in building energy, so this is helpful with the fatigue associated with MS and other auto-immune conditions.

Christine Pope is a Naturopath based at Elemental Health at St Ives and can be contacted for appointments on 8084 0081. Christine works with clients to optimise the diet and support them with supplements and herbal medicine.

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.

 Arnica

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.

Hypericum

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.

Ruta

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.

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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.