Cholesterol – good, bad or indifferent?

IMG_0274If you have a family history of heart disease then chances are you start having your cholesterol checked from an early age. But is it really a good predictor of Cardiovascular disease or are there better options for determining if you are at risk? One of the concerns about focusing solely on cholesterol is that in 2011 the Journal of the American Medical Association published results showing that 71% of heart attack sufferers had normal cholesterol levels and 14% had none of the conventional risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes, elevated cholesterol or hypertension. What do we look out for to see if we are at risk?

Cholesterol is produced naturally by the body (80%) with the rest provided by diet. Studies on consumption of eggs which are a high natural source of cholesterol showed that increasing consumption didn’t lead to an increase in cholesterol, in fact some parameters such as HDL or the so called good cholesterol actually improved as did levels of anti-oxidants in the blood. Note this study was done on whole eggs, not just the egg white. So what is happening – well if you increase dietary consumption basically the liver produces less cholesterol. So is cholesterol really the issue?

Cholesterol is a really critical molecule for the body and without it we would be incapable of producing hormones like testosterone or oestrogen and it is also incorporated in cell membranes. Structurally it is critical and that is why the liver is so good at ensuring we have enough to function properly.

What current research is showing is that its not the Cholesterol numbers that matter but rather the size of the particles. Small damaged LDL and even HDL cholesterol are more of a risk for heart disease than simply the numbers themselves. Why? Because the small damaged particles can penetrate the vessel walls and start to cause plaque which causes the artery to stiffen.

How do you find out whether your cholesterol is the right size or whether you are at risk? In the US integrative cardiologist, Dr Mark Houston, has a fabulous battery of tests which includes an Endopat test which measures endothelial dysfunction such as arterial stiffening. It isn’t currently available in Australia so here are some other measures which may be useful proxies.

1. Sit and Reach test – This is a quick and ready test that you can do yourself, sit on the floor and reach towards your toes. If you can reach or go past the toes great! If you are more than 8cm away from them you might want to investigate a little further as this could be a sign of some stiffening of the arteries.

2. C Reactive Protein – a simple blood test which measures an acute phase protein which is an indication of inflammation. Do further investigations if it is more than 3.

3. Fasting glucose – a good indicator of whether you may have elevated blood glucose which is a risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes and also indicates elevated cardiovascular risk in the future. Generally higher than 7 is a concern.

Another test I have been using in clinic is a full cholesterol panel from Nutripath. Whilst its a little pricy compared to a simple blood test it provides a full panel of cholesterol size and type making it easier to assess whether you have a concern. If you have small cholesterol particles for example , regardless of HDL or LDL they are more likely to cause damage and its these levels you should be monitoring.

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath based at Elemental Health, St Ives. She is available in clinic on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and is Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College on Mondays and Thursdays. Appointments can be made on 02 8084 0081 or through their online booking software.

EMF could it be destroying your sleep?

Currently I am listening to a series of Environmental Health master classes with the first one on Electromagnetic radiation. I have always had an interest in this topic as many years ago I remember being told that engineers on the Centrepoint tower near the transmitters would be infertile within fifteen minutes if they weren’t wearing shielding. That highlighted to me how dangerous even invisible sources of radiation can be to the human body.

Now for most people this isn’t a risk as they would rarely be in this situation. However over the last twenty years with the increasing use of a wide range of devices and Wi-Fi our exposures have increased dramatically and some people are really starting to be affected badly often with one of the first signs being insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. Another major symptom is usually headaches particularly at the front of the head.

Mobile Phone Base Station With Background Of Blue Sky
Generally I would be concerned about the insomnia and headaches being associated with EMF if it started after you moved house or if you sleep well when travelling but not at home. Australian levels of acceptable radiation are much higher than Europe (often as much as ten times higher) as they have largely been set by industry, rather than being based on research.

The first thing I would recommend is to remove devices from the bedroom, even a digital clock radio which emits low levels of radiation should be at least two metres from your head. Secondly do a quick audit of where you are sleeping relative to strong energy currents from your meter box, fridge or microwave oven. Ideally the further away the better but at least a metre away even through the wall where the device is located. Turning off Wi-Fi in the home at night can be beneficial. There have been reports where severe insomnia sufferers started sleeping when towns lost power for a few days at a time.

Man Removing Apple Iphone 6 From Pocket
The other area to look at is your phone. Have you noticed how much it heats up when you hold it close to your head for a ten or fifteen minute conversation. Do you really want to have that heating other parts of your body on a regular basis?? And you know where most men put their phones, at least women largely stick it in a handbag! Reduce your exposure by using your phone like a teenager and mainly texting or get a pair of headphones for calls if you need to talk to people. At home think about switching to a corded phone as even the cordless phones put out a reasonable amount of radiation.

If you are interested in more information on this topic I can recommend Nicole Bijlisma’s book Healthy Home, Healthy Living as its well researched and is focussed on solutions. Nicole is a naturopath and building biologist. She also has quite a lot of information on her blog.

Have you made changes to reduce your exposures to EMF? Let me know how it affected you.

Christine Pope is a practicing Homeopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives (8084 0081). She is also Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College at St Leonards.

Getting ready to detox!

Sick Woman On Bed Concept Of Stomachache, Headache, Hangover, SlThe first time I really detoxed was at Camp Eden. I was supposed to be studying for a nutrition exam but somehow got distracted doing “online” research and did a Blackmore’s online quiz. A few weeks later I got a phone call from Marie Claire magazine and I had won a trip for two people for a week to Camp Eden. It was an amazing week and a real turning point for me as it highlighted the benefits of just one week of healthy food and exercise.

It also highlighted how tough detoxing can be if you don’t make some preparations beforehand. I didn’t really seem to have a difficult time with it as I had already made a few changes to my diet whilst studying however I did see some quite unhappy people the first few days.

First up cut down the coffee or alcohol or whatever your drug of choice is before you arrive. With my group there were people going cold turkey from 4-6 coffees a day, several beers and a couple of other things which best stay unspecified! Just the coffee withdrawal was fairly bad, people had headaches and were quite grumpy for the first couple of days. I did hand out a bit of Nux Vomica 30c to those who were prepared to give it a try. One serious drinker left after 48 hours. So cut down significantly in the weeks before the detox. Halve the coffee for example and then reduce to one a day. With alcohol I would suggest alternating drinks with water and then making every second day alcohol free.

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Secondly start your exercise program before the detox. Ideally walking or swimming are good places to start building to at least half an hour a day. Camp Eden had a sneaky way of making you exercise as all the activities were at the bottom of the hill and the accommodation, spa and dining hall were half way up the hill. That was at least 30 minutes of intense uphill walking each day on top of whatever else you did.

The other part of the week that was a little more confronting was the group sessions which covered a range of topics from goal planning to looking at obstacles to success. If you haven’t done much counselling work on yourself you may find it a little confronting however it was fabulous to see how much other baggage people dropped as a result of this work. So perhaps a little work on yourself to see why you want to make these changes and setting yourself some goals could be a powerful addition to your motivation.

If nothing else I would love everyone to have been with us on the final day which started with tai chi on the beach at 6am, followed by an invigorating swim (it was May) and then a whole day of playing! Yep we played hours of tennis and had a lengthy water polo match. The tired stressed group who arrived at the start of the week had so much energy at the end that they could play like kids – we just had fun all day!

If you are interested in detoxing you can make an appointment on 8084 0081 or book in to our detox workshop to see what its all about.
Email christine@elementalhealth.net.au for more information

Water Medicine in the Solomons

Island

At the 2014 Australian Homeopathic Medicine Conference in Hobart, Jane Lindsay, a Queensland homeopath, shared her experiences in the Solomon Island’s. Homeopathy was originally brought out by the missionaries from the South Sea Evangelical Church as a way of looking after their own health and that of their congregations over a hundred years ago. Today is is prescribed by 150 dispensers as a primary form of health care for over 60,000 people in the Solomon’s. They use a simple numbering system as the common language is a form of Pidgin English. Symptoms can include such gems as “Belly Stop” and “Belly Run”.

The homeopathic medicines are numbered and the dispensers have simple symptom descriptions to decide which medicine is appropriate. Originally starting with 36 remedies now it has expanded to 51 as changes in the population’s diet and the introduction of vaccines has created the need for additional homeopathic medicines. (Jane also shared that they would love any materia medica’s that were no longer needed as they don’t have access to a lot of books)

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I really resonated with the idea of a simple number of medicines as I am always surprised by how many clients, once they do my first aid workshop, are able to successfully treat a range of illnesses and injuries. My favourite story was a client who travelled to Israel with her small first aid kit and treated her family’s headaches, PMS and stomach upsets.

This system seems to work reasonably well and it really brings into question for me why as homeopaths we seem to have so many medicines (I have over 600 in my own dispensary!!). I really think we might be better off focusing on a smaller group of better understood medicines rather than trying to choose own of the 1000 in our books. Are we over complicating it for ourselves as homeopaths and making it harder to practice?

So what do you think?

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.