Last year Coles and Woolworths decided to remove free plastic bags from the checkouts. In the 12 months following this announcement it reduced the number of single use plastic bags by 1.5 billion. However we are still using 3.5 billion plastic bags annually and there is quite a long way to go in reducing our reliance on plastic. After reading the book Quitting Plastic recently I have developed a quick list to start on helping you reduce your plastic use further.
- Ditch single use bags – reducing plastic bag use means that you need to take reusable bags every time you go shopping. Ideally return them to the car as soon as you have emptied them so they are ready for the next trip. Also have a think about whether you need bags as you buy items in the fruit shop. Can you just put them loose in a couple of your recyclable bags for weighing at the checkout? If we do end up with a few bags from the shopping we reuse them as dog bags.
- Reduce plastic wrap – find containers that can be reused for storage rather than placing plastic wrap over the contents. For smaller items that do need coverage invest in some beeswax wraps. One medium wrap I bought I cut into three pieces and used it for wrapping cheese and another section for rewrapping around cold cuts. Beeswax wraps can be washed in lukewarm (not hot) water with a little dish soap to reuse them for up to 6-12 months.
- Find a drink bottle – single use water bottles are another significant contributor to our overuse of plastic. Stainless steel bottles can be used for both hot and cold drinks however there are also good quality plastic bottles that can be reused multiple times. Just try and avoid other nasties such as BPA or phthalates.
- Dine in or Keep Cups – two or three takeaway coffees a days can add up to a lot of cups cluttering landfill. Better alternatives are a keep cup that is reused or dining in. Many cafes are now offering a discount if you use a keep cup which is another plus. Actually an even better option is to sit at the cafe and have your coffee or tea in a real ceramic or porcelain cup which then gets washed and reused. It’s also a good way to give yourself a little break during the day and its environmentally sound. It’s good to know I can justify a cuppa at my favourite locals when I am at work so look out for me at Pattisons or Stanley St Cafe !
- Freezer options – The first four items to me felt reasonably straight forward however I know that with keeping meat in the freezer I do not feel comfortable with it being unwrapped so what are the alternatives? The best options I can find so far are cornstarch bags (which are biodegradable) or using reusable plastic or glass containers. I have been freezing stock in glass bottles however I probably do lose an occasional one to breakages so you do need to be careful about how you store it in the freezer. Also do not put hot food into glass and then straight into the freezer, let it cool first.
- Clothing – To be really honest when I read the book Quitting Plastic I really hadn’t thought through the amount of plastics used in clothing and more concerningly the tendency for those plastics to generate micro-plastics in the washing process. These microplastics accumulate in our water supplies. A quick and panicked look at labels revealed a few good purchases and a few more concerning ones, in particular my favourite workout gear which is very flattering was also largely derived from plastics. BUT throwing it out will mean more plastics in landfill. So I am going to wear them out and find a bag that I can wash them in which will trap the microplastics (guppyfriend.com) and I can then throw them out. In the meantime I am carefully checking clothing and looking for a high percentage of cotton, wool, silk or bamboo or pulped wood fibres or cellulose such as viscose and rayon. One label that does offer alternatives in bamboo in colourful prints and designs is Maiochi. Country Road also offers some and quite a large range of cotton and linen.
For more ideas on quitting plastic have a look at my Instagram (@allaboutnaturalmedicine) this month or my Facebook page. You can also get your own copy of Quitting Plastic for a large range of other ideas from Booktopia, Target, Angus and Robertson or Dymocks.
This year think about reducing your footprint and making Christmas a little greener. Here are a few suggestions from fellow Naturopaths for you this year.
- Brown Paper Packages – most gift wrapping can’t be recycled so this year use brown paper and some fun stamps or fir sprigs to create an attractive Xmas wrapping. Brown paper is also highly cost effective at $10 for 30m at Officeworx.
- Kris Kringle – avoid buying lots of gifts which may end up in landfill and consider doing a Kris Kringle where everyone draws a name and buys one gift for the person on the list. The best thing about a Kris Kringle is that it saves hours of driving around looking for gifts as well.
- Gift of expertise – is there something you make or bake really well? Consider making some delicious chutney, jam or fermented vegetables in bulk and giving them at Christmas. Berries are in abundance at this time of year so its perfect for making jam. My husband’s Scottish grandmother made the most amazing shortbread and every year she would bulk buy butter when it was on sale to prepare her shortbread at Christmas. It’s still the best shortbread I can remember eating.
- Buy a real tree it has already sequestered some carbon. It is recyclable and in some countries now they run pickup programs to turn them into mulch for parks.
- Shop Local – cut down on the driving and support local businesses. Its also easier to drive to your local shops and pick up all your Christmas food at one time.
- Share the load – if friends or family are running an event offer to bring something like a dip and vegetable platter to help with the catering. That way you have a healthy option to eat and you take a load off your host or hostess.
- Presence is presents – catch up with friends for a cuppa at a local cafe and spend time with them. Maybe put the phone on silent for an hour too unless you need it for pictures of the kids.
- Regiftmas – if you do end up with a number of presents that aren’t really you consider organising regiftmas. Everyone brings a gift they won’t use and puts it in the middle. Then let everyone select one they do want. Alternatively look at giving them to a local charity. Women’s refuges are often happy to receive new toiletries and local charities often appreciate clean unworn clothing.
What is your set point and can you change it? Set Point is a theory that once your weight stabilises the body will use a series of signals to maintain that weight and most people will bounce around a consistent weight plus or minus a couple of kilo’s. When they start reducing weight below the Set Point by more than 2 kilos then they will feel hungrier when it goes above they will more easily be full.
What interferes with these signals? Hyper palatable foods! Doesn’t sound that bad does it? These foods result in cravings for more food and then a round of unsuccessful yo yo dieting which sees overall weight increasing consistently. How do you go about resetting this mechanism and achieving lasting weight loss?
There are a few key principles to achieving lasting weight loss but the first one is avoiding the foods which sabotage our efforts for at least 6 weeks. What are these foods? Well think about what you would least like to miss out on and I can almost guarantee its on the list;
- Ice Cream
- French fries
- Potato chips
- Buttered popcorn
- Breakfast cereal
The combination of fat and carbohydrate is particularly difficult to resist. Add in preservatives and other flavour enhancers and it changes our brain chemistry to crave these foods. Six weeks of avoiding these foods really helps resetting our brain chemistry and provides us with fewer cravings which can sabotage our efforts when we are tired and stressed.
The other key principles for resetting the Set point involve supportive dietary and lifestyle changes. Its critical to ensure the following are included;
- Adequate protein – this is critical to ensuring that you feel full and that your blood sugar is stable. Diets high in carbohydrates result in significant fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Diet breaks – this one was a personal favourite! To ensure that the body doesn’t keep returning to homeostasis or your old Set Point we need to ensure it doesn’t get used to a particular routine and sabotage our efforts. One of the key findings from research is that long term caloric restriction reduces your basal metabolic rate. You either slow down or burn fewer calories. Implementing breaks interferes with these compensatory mechanisms and yields longer term weight loss and maintenance of that fat loss.
- Adequate sleep – whilst it may appear contradictory good quality sleep is actually more critical than exercise. Poor quality sleep reduces willpower, increases appetite and reduces the desire to exercise. In teenagers who were overweight simply increasing sleep resulted in an overall reduction in appetite and decrease in fat mass.
- Regular physical exercise either medium to high intensity. Regular exercise builds mitochondria in the cells. Mitochondria are like little factories which produce energy and the more we have the higher our baseline energy consumption. Research is highlighting that high intensity training can be the best way to build mitochondria so to give your efforts a boost you need to ensure you have 4 to 5 sessions of exercise a week.
- The right diet for you – for some people its low carbohydrate and that is certainly popular at the moment however for other people its low fat. Again the evidence is that either can result in successful weight loss in conjunction with regular exercise and stress management.
Are you ready to try and change your Set Point? Book in for a consultation with Christine Pope at Elemental Health and see how we can work together to change it. Appointments can be made on 8084 0081 or online at the website www.elementalhealth.net.au .
More information about obstacles to weight loss can be found in the recent blog What’s your metabolism blocker ?
Sometimes I think we are dealing with an epidemic of insomnia. The number of people that I see who have problems falling asleep or staying asleep is concerning. Recently I was fortunate enough to go to a seminar by a Sleep Physician which looked at all the research on sleep and I was surprised to find that some of my beliefs around sleep had in fact no basis in reality whereas other areas were more critical than I thought. Let’s start with some of the myths that originated from the Puritans.
- 16 hours awake, 8 hours asleep. This myth originates from a time of the Puritanical work ethic but is the root belief that we need 8 hours of sleep is derived from this time period.
- Sleep before midnight is more valuable – well actually no if you are a night owl trying to get to sleep earlier may result in more stress and less valuable sleep than if you work with your natural time clock. Going to bed at twelve and waking at eight may be a much better fit for you and result in better energy through the day. However if you need to get up early on a regular basis you may need to wind bedtime back to an earlier time to operate effectively.
- Waking is not normal. Actually the evidence shows we start with a deeper sleep cycle that gets progressively lighter and we usually experience up to 4 of these a night. For women over fifty it is normal to have the cycle peak and result in waking at least two to four times a night. Being stressed about waking will probably extend the period between cycles.
- Screens affect sleep . I have always told people that screens in the bedroom are not a healthy option either for their relationships or their sleep patterns. Turns out that it is partially right. TV screens at a distance are actually much less problematic than devices close up, largely due to the blue light of the devices. This blue light triggers wakefulness and can affect sleep adversely. Also the noises that most phone make even on silent can interrupt sleep.
- Eating impacts sleep but primarily if it represents a change in routine. Eating dinner at eight or nine isn’t a problem as long as its your regular option. The body will produce digestive enzymes in accordance with your regular routine. Its only when you change your routine that it may impact your sleep.
- Wake up refreshed actually less than 3% of people wake up like that. For most of us it takes two hours to get to 80% of your cognitive ability. Give yourself time to wake up in the morning before kicking into work mode.
For a lot more useful information about sleep check out the website sleephub.com for a variety of podcasts and other resources. Lets hope in future you wake up more like this.
Hopefully after reviewing these myths and making a few changes you will start to feel as though you are having better quality sleep. If not make an appointment to see me and see how we can work on the causes of poor quality sleep. Appointments can be made on 8084 0081 or online at the website
One of the myths about menopause is that symptoms are related to a deficiency of hormones, either estrogen or progesterone. Yet if that was the case why wouldn’t all women get these symptoms ? My favourite assessment of menopause is that its a “report card” on the last 10 years. That’s great if you have been doing all the right things but it can be problematic if you live in a big city, work full time with kids or have dealt with a lot of stress.
Generally in practice the consistent triggers for menopausal havoc are adrenal fatigue, toxicity, dysbiosis (gut dysfunction), hormonal imbalance, excess weight and inflammation. In the more difficult cases it can be a combination of these factors and that’s why its important to ensure you review all these areas in your initial case taking and think about which areas you need to prioritise.
So how do you decide what’s contributing to your symptoms ?
- Adrenal Fatigue – also known as I am a full time carer, full time worker and full time nanny/housekeeper (also known as Mum) or combination of some or all of the above. Stress initially raises adrenaline to prepare us for fight or flight. Longer term it results in elevated cortisol which may result in fluid retention and weight gain.
- Dysbiosis or gut dysfunction – if your gut isn’t working properly its hard to digest the nutrients you need and also support your liver to detoxify effectively. This will result in hormone imbalance particularly through peri-menopause when the liver is already working harder to detoxify hormones. Signs of gut dysfunction could include flatulence, bloating or reflux. Treatment will often involve identifying and removing food intolerances whilst supporting digestive function to reduce reactivity.
- Toxicity – two big areas areas are Heavy Metals or Endocrine Disruptors which can be a little tricky to determine but think lots of plastics or old fillings (usually amalgams contain mercury and silver). Switch over to glass or BPA free plastic as much as possible to reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors. Also look at your cosmetics and skin care products to ensure you are minimising your exposure to chemicals and reducing the burden on the liver. One problem with toxicity is that it makes it harder to lose weight as the body will push these toxins into fat and will resist releasing it to protect you.
- Inflammation can be due to carrying excess body fat but can also be due to chronic injuries which trigger constant inflammation in the body. Anti-inflammatory supplements such as fish oil and tumeric can be helpful but exercise has an important role to play here in reducing inflammation as well. Just make sure its not aggravating an existing injury and consider whether you may need more support such as in acqua aerobics in the pool for example which can take pressure off joints.
- Hormonal Imbalance for some women hormones will be imbalanced because of some of the reasons listed above however there are some good herbal and homeopathic options available which can help. The most widely used herbal medicine is probably Vitex or Agnes Castus which can assist women with menopausal symptoms. Usually with herbal medicine and certainly with homeopathic medicines it is preferable to prescribe based on the client’s specific symptoms. In the last few months I have found clients have had relief from symptoms with Glonoine, Sepia and Sulphur homeopathically, its never one size fits all . A 2008 study of 438 women with hot flushes showed a significant improvement in symptoms for 90% of women in the trial (1).
Christine Pope is a Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. Appointments can be made on 8084 0081 or online at the website
(1) Treating Hot Flushes in Menopausal Women – an observational study accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18194760
Taking a week out in the sun in Winter is an ideal way to recharge the batteries. This year I went to Fiji for a week with the family and it made such a difference to have a mid year break. The question is how do you keep the batteries charged when you get back?
Think about incorporating some of the relaxing rituals from your holiday into your life on your return or use it as a chance to start eating better. Some useful options to consider could be:
- Daily walks – one thing you tend to do as a tourist is walk, often quite a lot more than you would normally. So once you have started why not keep it up. Walking along the beach is always relaxing and incorporating a weekly beach or bayside walk is ideal. The great thing about walking is you don’t need a lot of equipment and you can always walk to a coffee bar for a convenient top up.
- Being in nature – barefoot on the beach or on your back lawn. Walking the Corso in Manly is a great way to pick up your mood. Spending some time in nature each day really helps us stay grounded.
- Massage or other bodywork – incorporate this into your weekly or monthly schedule to help maintain your self and calm your cortisol. The village adjoining the resort in Fiji offered a one hour massage for about $30 Australian. Easier to afford at this price but with health funds rebating up to $30 for a treatment it could be a good way to add some self care on a regular basis. My clinic at St Ives has three excellent massage therapists offering lymphatic, craniosacral or remedial massage.
- Add greens to your diet. Again something simple and relatively easy to incorporate that will give you long term benefits. My breakfast in Fiji included sautéed okra and spinach, both locally grown so they were really tasty. Try adding spinach to your breakfast omelette or a salad at lunch.
- Eat seasonally it’s often cheaper and the food is usually in peak condition. The imperfect pick section in Harris Farm is usually a good indicator of what’s fresh , seasonal and well priced. At the moment lots of root vegetables and cauliflower as well as citrus and apples and pears.
- Hydrate ! If you can’t find someone to open a coconut for you at least drain the water bottle by lunch. We loved being able to enjoy the coconut water from a freshly opened coconut and then ate the young flesh from inside. Good hydration and good fats!
Christine Pope is an experienced naturopath based at Elemental Health St Ives. Appointments can be made on 8084 0081 or online at the Elemental website .
You 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.
- Hydrolysed Guar Gum is a partially broken down soluble fiber which is extracted from the Indian Cluster bean.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.