Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well?

Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well?

Supplements

Many people over fifty are on a range of medications to manage chronic health problems. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 47% of the population is managing chronic health conditions which include arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, mental health conditions and osteoporosis. Whilst these medications are often essential the side effects of some of these common medications can have negative impacts on your overall health.

What can you do to manage these risks? First up make sure that your GP is aware of all the medications you are taking and that they are still appropriate. Secondly if you are having noticeable side effects with a medication see if your GP can recommend an alternative. The next step, if the medication is creating side effects, is then to consider looking at supporting yourself nutritionally to minimise the impact. Below are five common medications that may have side effects that impact your brain or physical health (1) and some strategies for managing them.

  1. Statins. A common problem for people on statins (cholesterol lowering medication) is that they start feeling less energetic as the statins deplete the levels of Co Q 10. Some people can also suffer from muscle aches and pains and develop memory problems. CoQ10 is important for energy production within the cell. Dosage is a little dependent on weight however generally 150-300 mcg is useful and its recommended that you start at a lower dose and build up slowly.
  2. Metformin which is often given for Diabetes can reduce levels of both B6 and B12. Low B12 may lead to peripheral neuropathy which can cause loss of sensation in the feet or tingling or burning sensations. Again a Multi vitamin with adequate B12 is essential . Depending on your other medications and any possible interactions you may need to use individual supplements rather than a multi-vitamin. Balancing your blood sugar is also essential when you are on these medications so have a look at the dietary recommendations in my blog Are you missing out on ways that you can start ageing outrageously well ?
  3. Anti-depressants need B vitamins for optimal effect and whilst they may not reduce levels specifically they may be less effective if you are not taking a multi vitamin at the same time. In addition your mood may be helped by considering an anti-inflammatory diet and according to the Mayo clinic, walking at least 30 minutes daily (2).
  4. Antibiotics Antibiotics can disrupt the natural bacteria flora in the digestive system, reducing beneficial bacteria, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum , this may result in symptoms like persistent diarrhoea or constipation. Use a good quality brand of probiotics such as Inner Health with at least 5 billion live organisms for effective management. Nutritionally make sure you are having at least 3 cups of vegetables a day to feed beneficial bacteria and consider a range of prebiotic fibres as well. There is a lot more information on the best options in my recent blog What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ?
  5. Hormone Replacement Therapy impacts on folic acid (B9), B6 and B12 as well as magnesium levels. A good multi vitamin plus between 400-800mg of magnesium can be useful in managing the side effects. HRT can be useful to manage significant symptoms post menopause and it is adviseable to ensure that if you are using it long term you look at liver support, such as St Mary’s Thistle, to minimise adverse effects longer term.

Food sources for some of these key nutrients such as Co Q10 can be a little challenging. CoQ10 is found in organ meats like kidney, heart and liver. Whilst you could look at including a nice pate on a regular basis, to include liver for example, it is hard to get sufficient levels without a supplement if you are vegetarian or can’t stomach organ meats. There are some organ supplements on the market which could be a good option, just make sure they are organic wherever possible.

Magnesium is found in a wide range of foods, but inadequate intake is common and is associated with a greater risk of osteoporosis. Food sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, legumes, quinoa, dark chocolate, brown rice and other unrefined whole grains (3). People who benefit from a magnesium supplement are prone to headaches and cramping and have difficulty staying asleep. They usually find that magnesium reduces cramping with supplementation. Ideally look for a form of magnesium that is combined with a citrate or an amino acid chelate as magnesium combined with oxide is usually only helpful for constipation as it has laxative qualities.

For more information on maintaining or improving Brain Health have a look at my program Ageing Outrageously which covers six key areas for ensuring that you age well. These include improving brain health, balancing blood sugar, appropriate movement, gut and digestion as well as strategies for assessing and monitoring your health. The program has been designed for people who may not have the time or resources to work with me directly but would like to invest in improving their health. The program cost of $249 is similar to the cost of my initial appointment but you can run through the program under your own pace at home and it covers content from a series of 6-8 appointments .

Key sources

(1) https://www.drugs.com/drug_information.html

(2) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

(3) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318595

Confused by Zucchini? 5 simple ways to use it in meals.

One of the best ways to keep your food budget under control is to eat seasonally. At the moment Zucchini is in season and Harris Farm is offering the imperfect picks known as unruly Zucchini at good prices. So how do you make the best use of Zucchini? One of my favourites is a stir fry with ginger and orange but its also lovely in ratatouille, grated in fritters or chargrilled in salads.

Zucchini is a low carb vegetable with one cup of zucchini providing 3g of carbohydate, 40% of your daily Vitamin A requirements and is a good source of carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. These carotenoids are beneficial for eye health and vision.

A few other options for zucchini recipes from some favourite sites and a few recipes for inspiration;

Gratin with Potato and Zucchini

  • 500g potato sliced thinly
  • 4 small zucchini cut into small rounds
  • 2 red capsicum finely sliced
  • Thyme

In a casserole dish layer zucchini, capsicum and potato. Start with zucchini on the bottom and finish with potato on the top and sprinkle with 2 tsps dried thyme. Cover with lid and cook in over an 180C for up to an hour. Serve as a side with grilled meats or fish.

Stir fried zucchini with ginger and orange

  • 600 g zucchini
  • Small knob of ginger
  • peel of half an orange grated
  • 2 Tblsp Soy Sauce

Cut zucchini into batons. Grate ginger finely and saute lightly for 30 seconds in a wok. Add zucchini and stir fry until soft and a little blackened. Stir through the grated peel and add the soy sauce, stir through for 30 seconds and then serve.

Simple Potato Curry

One tablespoon curry paste,
1 tsp each cumin, mustard, ginger and garlic
One onion
2 potatoes
1 piece sweet potato or pumpkin or 2 carrots
2 red capsicum
1 eggplant
2 zucchini
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can coconut milk


Add a little oil to the pan and a chopped onion plus the spices. Fry the onion in the spices. Add two potatoes, a quarter pumpkin, two red capsicum (scrub potatoes, don’t peel – less work and better for you). Cut all the vegetables about the same size – for instance, in quarters.

Chop and slice salted eggplant and two zucchini. (Before you use eggplant – slice it, pour salt on it and then after 10 minutes wash it off). Stir this through, add a can of chopped tomatoes, cover for 20 minutes, cook on low heat. Check that the potatoes are getting soft. Add a small can of coconut milk and simmer for a further 5 mins before serving.

Variations: add a bunch of spinach (chopped) or Chinese cabbage a few minutes before it is finished cooking. Leftovers will make another meal with a tin of legumes or chickpeas added.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. Appointments can be made on 02 8084 0081 or online.

Balancing Blood Sugar

Did you join me for my Natural Medicine Week Webinar? If you missed it or want a review of the highlights then click through to the youtube recording or scroll through the powerpoint which is attached below.

In the webinar we cover the following topics;

  • Blood Glucose and insulin how does this work and what does this mean for you?
  • What are the risks from a health perspective of poorly managed blood sugar?
  • Which diet is best able to assist you to manage blood sugar
  • A simple meal plan to help you put it altogether

The webinar recording is linked below.

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If you have any other queries please pop them in the comments below or book in with Christine on 02 8084 0081. Christine Pope is an accredited naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives and is offering both in person and online consultations.

Six ways to increase your energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Gluten and Dairy Free Christmas

Whilst organising a Christmas menu around allergens may seem a little challenging the basics such as prawns, ham and turkey don’t require a lot of modification apart from finding a suitable stuffing! Mince pies and puddings require more significant modifications.

One significant issue is the ratio of stuffing to turkey. This recipe for stuffing cups from Donna Hay is a great solution to that option. I have made it by substituting gluten free breadcrumbs and nuttelex (for the butter) and they work really well. Just make sure your pancetta is gluten free too!

The side dishes for Christmas can be a range of salads or hot dishes, there are some useful suggestions in my blog on Four easy ways to add Brassica vegetables to your meals. Salad options with a dressing based on either mayonnaise (no dairy) or oil and vinegar can also be a good way to add vegetables and variety to the day.

Focussing on baking these are my two essential Christmas recipes and they are both from my Mum!

Mince pies (Makes approx 36)

Fruit mince – I jar

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

2 1/2 cups of gluten free flour,

1/2 cup castor sugar ,

185g butter (or Nuttelex for milk protein allergies)

2 eggs.

Combine butter and sugar, add flour until mix is like crumbs and then mix through egg to combine. Put on a floured surface and loosely knead. Wrap and chill in fridge for an hour before using.

Rollout pastry between two sheets of baking paper or on a floured surface. Cut into small rounds and use half for the base and the remainder for the lids. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of fruit mince into each pie and then seal lids by pinching the pastry together. Cook at 180C for 12-15 minutes.

Christmas Pudding

250 g each raisins, currants, sultanas and 60 g peel

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

4 eggs

1 cup plain gluten free flour

3 Tblspn Rum

250 g Butter or Nuttelex (Dairy Free)

2 cups soft breadcrumbs from gluten free loaf

Rind of an orange and a lemon

1/2 tsp each salt, mixed spice, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and bicarb soda.

Chop raisins and peel, add other fruit and combine with rum. Leave covered overnight.

Cream butter, sugar and fruit rind. Add eggs slowly beating each in well then stir in fruit in alternation with the sifted flour and spices and breadcrumbs.

Place in greased pudding dish. Cover with foil and simmer for 6 hours. Keep water level about half way up the pudding bowl and check levels regularly.

Serves 10-12 people.

Ideal to serve with Coconut Milk icecream such as Over the Moo Vanilla Bean or Coyo Vanilla or Vanilla Bean and Nutmeg.

If you are busy preparing

Flavour your food with Therapeutic Herbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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