Brain Fog – is your brain suffering?

Brain Fog – is your brain suffering?

Those of us who have given up gluten are often familiar with the concept of brain fog. Basically that’s what used to happen to us every time we had gluten ( the big protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, spelt, barley and oats).

However there may be other reasons you get a foggy brain, problems with your memory or keep losing things like the shopping or even the car at the shopping centre! Many of us just blame it on getting older or being really busy but what about if its something more concerning? Really what if the brain is starting to struggle and it needs more support?

Recently I have been reading a lot about the concept of a “leaky brain” , in many ways a similar concept to that of a “leaky gut”. The blood brain barrier is supposed to be relatively impermeable to protect our brain. There are a whole range of factors which can damage this barrier including not surprisingly diet but also infection and toxicity.

Diet is a relatively easy example. In the US Cyprex labs tests include a wide range of gluten intolerance testing including transglutamaninsases 2 ,3 and 6. Each of these is associated with different types of gluten intolerance reactions and only one of them is a gut type reaction, commonly associated with coeliac or gluten intolerance. If you have antibodies to the transglutaminase 6 for example you can be reacting to your central nervous system – on other words autoimmunity to brain tissue. Some early indications suggest this is what may be happening in the case of MS where the sheath around nerves starts to unravel.
Bakery Bread on a Wooden Table. Various Bread and Sheaf of Wheat
How do you support brain health if you are having problems? First up if you have coeliac or gluten intolerance in the family get testing done to ensure you are not coealiac (much easier to do whilst still eating gluten) and then do a food intolerance panel to eliminate any other allergens. Unfortunately the testing done in the US is not available here yet but you can easily get gene testing done on a couple of genes which do indicate a strong possiblity of gluten intolerance.

Next try eliminating gluten and dairy for 6-8 weeks. I know it seems like a long time but it takes a while for damage to be repaired and for you to see a shift in your symptoms. Make sure they are eliminated and not just reduced and also include any foods which come up in the food intolerance panel. During this period make sure you are eating a lot of vegetables ( 3 cups a day) and a couple of serves of fruit a day. You may even find smaller meals more often will support your energy levels better.

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In addition some basic anti-oxidant support in the form of fish oils as well as resveratol may also be useful but at a minimum ensure that you are eating good quality fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil and including sources such as nuts and seeds and avocado.

Then see how you are going? Is your memory better, gut less upset etc. If it shifts it might be time to say goodbye to gluten!

What’s your mineral status like?

Dairy products

Most of us are aware that we need calcium and the dairy lobby do a great job at reminding us that we need three serves a day. I think we need a marketing lobby for the other sixteen nutrient minerals which really don’t get the same air time but have really critical roles to play in how well we function.

I have posted extensively about the role of magnesium in the past as its probably calcium’s forgotten partner. Calcium and magnesium are required for effective muscle contraction and release as well as to assist calcium to mobilise into bone. Muscle cramping is a common sign of magnesium deficiency. Good sources of magnesium include most of the green leafy vegetables, ideally at least one cup a day.

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Magnesium is also well indicated if your energy levels are low and will often help improve energy quite quickly. However if magnesium isn’t doing the job you may need to add Manganese as well. Good sources include most of the legumes such as chickpeas and lentils.

Zinc for example is critical for effective digestion as it is required for many digestive enzymes. Good sources of red meat are zinc and oysters – two things that many women don’t eat enough of or don’t like (really oysters YUK). Low zinc status means low immunity so you are prone to getting every infection that goes around. Signs of zinc deficiency include white spots on the finger nails and noticing you are losing your sense of taste or smell. Compromised digestion can also be another signal that zinc levels are low.

So how do you check all these levels easily – there are a couple of tools in naturopathic practice , Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, which is offered by a few companies such as Interclinical and Healthscope Pathology. There is also a new tool which has been recently released in Australia called Oligoscan, which uses Spectrophotometry to measure the optical density of the trace elements, minerals and heavy metals, currently present in the tissues. It provides, in real time, a precise analysis of the minerals in the skin and peripheral blood vessels. No biopsy, blood or hair sample is needed. There are often delays in waiting for Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis as women often need to grow out colour before a sample can be taken and many dislike cutting their hair.

Having recently introduced the Oligoscan I have found it really helps target potential health issues related to mineral deficiciencies and heavy metal toxicity. One of the areas that is consistently a problem is Aluminium levels as we are exposed to it in so many ways. Basically you think of Aluminium in cans and foil but it is widely present in toiletries and cosmetics as well as being used in the form of aluminium sulfate to treat water to kill off bacteria. Given the concerns about Aluminium and it relationship to Alzheimers it would be sensible to reduce your exposure to this element as much as possible. A good quality water filter should remove the Aluminium before you drink the water, after all you only need the Aluminium sulfate to do its job killing bacteria you don’t need it after that.

A quick preview of the technology is given on this Youtube clip. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6nwFFQndS10wG6t2FWBsGQ

More information on Oligoscan is on their website at http://www.oligoscan.net.au or you can visit me at St Ives and organise a test either as part of a consult or as a standalone test. Clinic number is 8084 0081 and I am available Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Other days I am lecturing at Nature Care College.

Field trip – the gluten free expo

gf products

Last week I went to my first gluten free expo. Not sure what I was expecting but I was surprised when I got to Homebush to find people queued up around two sides of the building waiting for it to open at 12. Also many of those people had those wheelie trolleys ready to stock up on gluten free goodies.

At the entry we were handed a Coles green bag with a few goodies in it, which was a great idea as I came away with a bag full of new things to try.

First up, my biggest success as far as my children were concerned , were the Genius brand croissants that actually tasted flaky and buttery. Subsequently found them in the freezer at Coles and I am now trying their puff pastry. They have a range of other gluten free breads and muffins and even pain au chocolat!

Bakery Bread on a Wooden Table. Various Bread and Sheaf of Wheat

The other big success was a “paleo” version of a protein bar, called Paleo Bars. There were two flavours and they are gluten, dairy and soy free. The key ingredients are walnuts, dates pecans, cocoa and coconut oil in the original and apricots, almonds and ginger plus the coconut oil in the ginger bar. They both taste good and don’t have that dehyrating after effect that you usually get from a protein bar. The website is http://www.bdpaleo.com and you can order both in boxes of 10 or 25. My son was quite impressed with the taste and said he had more energy at the gym when he had a bar before training. The Medicum Chain Triglcyerides in the coconut oil are used preferentially by the body for energy.

Another favourite and portable gluten free snack was the corn crunch. I am sure you could easily make these at home but the roasted corn kernels are rather tasty and a good snack that fits easily into the handbag or school bag. I know with so many schools gluten free this type of snack is going to become more popular and I would also recommend the roasted chickpeas and broad beans you can find in the Woolworths health food section.

Next year when I go back to this expo I will make sure I am prepared to make a couple of trips to the car with bags as well as coming on an empty stomach so I can do lots of tasting!! All the stallholders were very generous with their tasting supplies and it does make things easier if you can graze and grab lots of flyers so you know where to order it from in the future. I am sure since Coles were one of the major sponsors that there will be a number of the products carried in their stores but for others it was great to know you could order online.

What’s for dinner? Save time with meal planning

One of the hardest things to deal with every night is what’s for dinner? Its worse if you are getting home after work and don’t have everything to ready to prepare. Each week I usually prepare a list for weekday meals and then make sure when I order online or shop that I have the basics for those meals – it reduces stress dramatically as whoever gets home first can start cooking.

curry

My usual meal plan for a week looks something like this;

Monday : Gluten and Dairy Free turkey and eggplant lasagne with Cos salad (often make the lasagne Sunday afternoon when I have more time)

Tuesday: Roast Lamb and Vegetables with steamed snow peas OR Easy Roast Chicken and vegetables

Wednesday: Sausages (usually organic gluten free chicken and leek) and Potato Curry

Thursday :Honey Soy Chicken Drumsticks and Wombok salad

Friday : Leftovers with some cold meats, humuus, olives and crudites.

Saturday :Cauliflower and Chicken Curry with rice.

I really like doing a roast early in the week as the leftovers are great for school lunches or even a lamb salad (cos, lebanese cucumber and olives with lamb and aoili mayonnaise). The easy roast chicken is basically the same as roasting a chicken except you use thigh cutlets and roast two per person on top of your choice of roast vegetables and just sprinkle the chicken with rosemary and rock salt plus the juice of a lemon and some olive oil. The vegetables that work well include parsnips, sweet potato, carrots and pumpkin. Usually takes about 50 minutes at 180c for the chicken which I then take out and keep warm and just crisp off the vegetables. Best part is that it all cooks together in one roasting dish.

The recipes for the Wombok salad, cauliflower and chicken curry and potato curry can be found under my page gluten and diary free dinners on my blog and the recipes for the lasagne and chicken drumsticks I will detail below as they are really quite easy.

Honey and Soy Chicken Drumsticks
Mix half cup each of caster sugar and soy sauce (Fountain for gluten free soy sauce) and pour over chicken drumsticks which have been scored (cut in two places) to help absorb the marinade. Cook for 40-50 minutes at 180C and then serve with Wombok salad. Always make up extras allowing 2-3 drumsticks per adult as they are a favourite in the lunchbox.

Lasagne – Turkey and Eggplant

Orgran Lasagne (or similar gluten free lasagne)
2 jars of tomato sauce or 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
One onion and one carrot diced
2 cloves of crushed garlic
600g turkey mince (chicken, pork or beef all work well too)
1 large or 2 small eggplant

Pierce eggplant with a fork in several places and roast in oven at 180c for 40-50 minutes. Allow to cool and then remove skin and add soft eggplant chopped in small pieces to simmering lasagne sauce. Once eggplant is soft you can often just spoon it out of the skin.

Saute onion in carrot in olive oil until onion is soft. Add turkey mince and brown and then add crushed garlic and tomato sauce. Simmer on low for a further 20 minutes. Add eggplant and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Layer lasagne sheets and mince in a large casserole dish. Start with a thin layer of the sauce and then place a layer of lasagne sheets,cover the lasagne sheets with the sauce and then add another layer – you usually have three or four layers.

Cook in a warm oven at 180C for 40 minutes with the lid on – then serve with a cos salad.

Healthy Food in a Hurry

Last weekend I was invited to attend a Thermomix demonstration. Who could say no when they offer to cook you lunch? And lunch was good – it started with strawberry sorbet, obviously to cleanse the palate (so to speak) and then we had a herbed dip, a beetroot salad, a vegetable soup and chicken veloute with freshly made bread rolls and to finish an amazing custard. All cooked in about 2 hours.

Thermomix

What impressed me most with the demonstration is that the machine can replace several gadgets as well as being a big timesaver in the kitchen and can help you saving money by using fresh unprocessed food wherever possible. It was also very simple to clean.

For those of you unfamiliar with a Thermomix you can actually grind your own flours with it, use it as a juicer, make sorbets and icecream as well as easily chopping up vegetables. It also cooks at several different temperatures and can even stir ingredients on a couple of different settings to allow you to make a stew, stir fry or a risotto. If you want more information have a look at their website or hop on to the youtube channel and actually see it in action.

The benefit that really appealed to me as someone who spends a lot of time cooking from scratch is the speed with which you can produce a healthy meal. Now finally someone is focussing on some better options for time poor people in a busy world. Even more so when you are catering for children with allergies and intolerances where the food becomes more expensive. A gluten free loaf of bread for example is often around $7, even just making your own gluten free flours as you need them could be a great cost saving.

If you decide to follow up on a Thermomix there are lots of people around who sell them through party plan so just do it quietly or risk being inundated with offers!!

How do I save time in the kitchen? One way is to prepare batches of meals and freeze them – I particularly like the site Once a Month Freezer Meals as I think its a great resource and they even have gluten free and dairy free meal plans. My best timesaver however was teaching my husband to cook a few simple meals – although the children got annoyed when he added chilli to my gluten and dairy free lasagne but it tasted great!! And my proudest moment was when I came home and found him teaching my daughter to make the lasagne. The best timesaver of all – sharing the load.

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist who practices at Elemental Health, St Ives. She can be contacted for appointments on 8084 0081.

Four easy ways to add brassica vegetables to your meals

First up why the focus on brassica vegetables? Well every diet that I have been looking at for chronic disease recommends daily inclusion of these vegetables – generally at least one cup a day.

Indian vegetable curry with spinach, cauliflower and potato

The brassica vegetables include cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale , kohlrabi, collard greens and broccoli. These vegetables support effective detoxification which can also help minimise your risk of serious diseases.

One of my favourite ways to cook cauliflower and broccoli is roasting. Cut the vegetables into florets and sprinkle with lemon, garlic, celtic sea salt and olive oil and roast for 20-25 minutes until soft. This brings out the sweetness of these veggies and I find that the cauliflower can then be pureed with chicken stock to make a tasty soup as well.

Brassica veg

Red cabbage shredded can also be added to salads, either a mixed green salad or recently I had it in a chicken waldorf and it was a great addition. The waldorf salad had tarragon poached chicken with red cabbage, celery, walnuts and witlof. Personally I was keener on the red cabbage than the witlof which has a very sharp taste.

Red cabbage with apple makes a great side dish specially with pork or lamb chops. The apple brings some sweetness to the cabbage and most children will give it a try. Stephanie Alexander’s cookbook, The Cook’s Companion, has a really easy version of this recipe. Frankly every house needs this cookbook as you can find recipes by ingredients so if you have lots of cabbage look up that chapter for five ways to prepare it. Better still there is now an app with all of her recipes on it plus lots of other information about storage and seasonal use of produce. http://www.stephaniealexander.com.au/cook-companion-app/

Let me know if you have any other good ways to add more brassica vegetables to your menu.

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives. She is also Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College. One of her focuses in clinic is the use of comprehensive detoxification to help clients to return to good health as quickly as possible.

How to ensure your child gets the best gut flora.

Beautiful pregnant woman relaxing on grass
Most people think that a baby gets its gut flora during delivery and that C section means they don’t acquire the same beneficial flora. Actually a baby can develop gut flora up to about age four and there are a number of factors that can affect it.

First up it seems that the uterus is not sterile and there is already some gut flora distributed in utero. So if you already have a child with allergies, or you have them, make sure during your pregnancy that you supplement with a good range of probiotics or consume fermented foods regularly but at a minimum for at least two months prior to the delivery.

Spoon Of Yogurt With Blueberries On Top

Breast feeding also passes useful flora to the baby and you don’t really need to breastfeed for that long to see a significant benefit. Solely breast feeding to 4 months was shown by a large scale South Australia study to reduce allergies by at least 25%. I know its often challenging breast feeding and if you have difficulties its really worth speaking with either the nurses at the Early Childhood Centres or the Nursing Mother’s Association, both sources of invaluable support.

If you end up having intervention like a C section or you can’t breastfeed , it may be useful to add a specific probiotic for children, as well.

Minimising antibiotic use during the first few years is also an important way to ensure a stable and resilient gut flora. Homeopathic medicines can make a great alternative treatment for children during the early stages of illness. I often use a combination called ABC mix for parents to assist with fevers and ear infections. ABC mix is three homeopathic medicines known as Aconite, Belladonna and Chamomila and can be a good combination to use with mild fevers or ear pain.

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist based at St Ives at Elemental Health. She is also Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College at St Leonards. She runs regular workshops on health related topics at her practice and her next workshop is on “Managing Stress” on July 15 with Coach, Cheryl Alderman .

Are probiotics worth the money?

Spoon Of Yogurt With Blueberries On Top

Probiotics seem to one area where even doctors and pharamacists seem to be comfortable recommending that patients take a probiotic with or after an antibiotic. However regular probiotics can help you avoid the need for the antibiotics in the first place.

The Cochrane Collection, which is the gold standard of scientific research, has reviewed 14 clinical trials on probiotics involving over 3454 people. Overall they concluded that probiotics reduced the risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections and reduced the need for antibiotics. Nice to have the scientific evidence however I know from my own practice that a good general preventative through winter is a daily probiotic plus Vitamin C, particularly if your children are in daycare.

Home Made Cultured Or Fermented Vegetables

Probiotics for the whole family may be an expensive option (although getting sick is often more expensive) and some other great ways to include a good range of gut bacteria are to introduce fermented foods. This can be through a good quality yoghurt without a lot of sugar and additives or through regular consumption of fermented vegetables such as kim chi and sauerkraut. If you are interested in making your own fermented foods there are a number of people running workshops – have a look at Georgia at Stirring Change on facebook or Pinkfarm. The ladies at Pinkfarm even provide lists of people with starter cultures who are happy to share.

There are quite a few different strains of probiotics and we are just beginning to understand all the different roles that they can play in terms of keeping our immune system strong as well as in supporting effective digestion. The advantage in using foods is that often there are up to 50 strains or good bacteria in keffir whereas a commercial probiotic will only have a few strains.

There are several strains that we know are useful in the gut and often because they help crowd out problematic strains, such as candida. Some strains are known to be anti-inflammatory such as the lactobacillus plantarum which is often recommended to people with IBS. The predominant strain researched in the Cochrane collection was lactobacillus rhamnosus. If you do have more specialised health problems you may need advice on tailoring the strains to suit your particular needs.

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath who practices at Elemental Health at St Ives. She can be contacted on (02) 8084 0081. If you are looking for practitioners in other areas of Australia have a look at the metagenics website which lists practitioners who are experienced at working with probiotics and natural medicine.

How to avoid the medicare $7 co-payment.

Health food ingredients in white porcelain bowls over papyrus ba

The Federal Budget had a few surprises in it however overall for many families your cost of living will increase. Whether its the 2% debt levy, loss of the Family Tax Benefit or the $7 co-payment that will be introduced if they get it through the senate

One of the best things you can do to reduce your cost of living is to look after your health. Fewer visits to the GP means fewer co-payments and also fewer hours you spend waiting and waiting!
I always remember as a new mum panicking when my children were sick. One of the things I try to get mum’s confident about when I run my homeopathic first aid course is when they can treat something themselves and when they should get straight to the GP. For example in a small child if the temperature is over 39.5c and they are floppy or disorientated seek medical attention as soon as possible.

There are some simple ways to improve your health and making these changes could help reduce the number of times you have to shell out for the co-payment. These include;

1) Eat well – lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (still not GST on those) and small amounts of lean protein.

2) Add good sources of probiotics – it could be a supplement or fermented foods such as yoghurt, kim chi, sauerkraut or keffir (much cheaper options). Good gut bacteria are your first line of defence for your immune system.

3) Exercise – you don’t need to join a gym just put the baby in the stroller or take the kids to the park and walk for half an hour a day – your stress levels will reduce and you will be less prone to infections.

4) Learn more about first aid through St John’s or do my Homeopathic First Aid Course. Its much easier to make a decision about health if you know when you should panic!

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives. She is also head of nutrition at Nature Care College where she supervises nutrition clinic and lectures in Homeopathy. She can be contacted for appointments on 8084 0081.

Research – can we research natural medicine?

A recent blog talked about how easy it was to poke holes in research so with this one I will look at some of the challenges when you are researching natural medicine interventions, such as homeopathy.

First up most clinical trials are set up on the basis of giving a patient one treatment and seeing how it compares to another or to placebo. Most of the time in natural medicine we don’t just give one thing so that does make it difficult to see how a more complex treatment works.

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The first part of a consultation is really listening to your client for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how long that initial consultation takes. Think about the value of really being heard for up to an hour. This process gives the practitioner time to think about how the whole person is affected by what is happening to them and what may need treatment. Sometimes I find in that time the solutions become clear to the patient and just that process alone can be invaluable in helping them heal.

How do we measure this?  There are tools in which natural medicines such as homeopathy perform quite well .  Valid forms of evidence  including case studies, patient reports of satisfaction , quality of life and observational studies. Here, homeopathy does much better than in Randomised Controlled Trials.

One of the largest observational studies was undertaken by the National Health Service in the UK. It involved a total of 6544 consecutive follow-up patients who were given outcome scores. The patients were all using homeopathic treatment for chronic diseases. Of the patients 70.7% reported positive health changes, with 50.7% recording their improvement as better or much better (1). A similar study undertaken at an Italian hospital in Lucca also showed 74% of patients reporting improvement with the most common conditions being respiratory, dermatological and gastrointestinal.

Isn’t this a better way to assess the value of a treatment like homeopathy?  A research tool which looks at the outcomes for the patient in terms of quality of life and improvement in their health.

 

 

(1) Spence DS1, Thompson EA, Barron SJ., J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Oct;11(5):793-8., Homeopathic treatment for chronic disease : a 6 year University- Hospital  outpatient observational study.