“The Dreaded Monthly”

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For some reason females are lead to believe from a young age that with periods come pain, emotional upheaval and chocolate cravings.

The truth is that females are meant to bleed every month without an array of unwanted signs & symptoms. The uncomfortable “add on’s” that tag along are in fact signs of disharmony. Common symptoms females experience are

  • Headaches
  • GUT bloating
  • Emotional up’s & downs from crying over a television commercial to wanting to poke a fork in someone’s eyes
  • Lower back pain
  • Sore/tender breasts
  • Food cravings in particular sweet
  • Constipation
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Skin breakouts
  • Fluid retention
  • Painful periods

In Chinese Medicine menstruation is initiated by the Kidneys, which are responsible for our growth, development and reproduction. The essence of the Kidneys known as ‘Jing’ is the origin for the formation menstrual blood.

Once the period comes the Spleen, Liver & Heart hold very important functions and are responsible for a healthy menstrual flow every month.

Spleen ~ Although the Heart governs blood and the Liver stores blood according to Chinese Medicine principles it is the Spleen that controls the blood. In fact it is the Spleen, which keeps blood in the vessels. The Qi (vital energy) of the Spleen is what holds organs in their position. In the case of menstruation Spleen Qi keeps the uterus in place, otherwise it would prolapse. The Spleen produces blood by extracting Qi from the food consumed (post-natal Qi) and forms blood in the Heart with the help of (original Qi) from the Kidneys.

Heart ~ Just as Western Medicine views the Heart’s function as circulating blood, Chinese Medicine also views the Heart as governing blood the same way. The Heart has a direct connection to the Uterus and along with Kidney ‘Essence’ and the Qi extracted from the food we eat the Heart forms menstrual blood too. The Heart sends its blood to the uterus in preparation for menses. If Heart Qi doesn’t descend Heart blood to the uterus menstruation does not occur.

Liver ~ The Liver stores the blood according to Chinese Medicine principles. At times of movement it moves blood from the vessels into the muscles and organs and at times of rest back into the vessels. In terms of menstruation the Uterus stores menstrual blood, which is mainly received from the liver. The Liver also represents the connection between menstrual blood and normal blood. Most importantly Liver Qi moves blood for menstruation to occur.

When looking at PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) a disharmony in the following organs causes the preceding symptoms.

Liver Qi Stagnation –>  Sore/Tender breasts, emotional up’s & down’s, constipation, headaches, GUT disturbances, skin breakout, irregular period, painful periods known as dysmenorrehea.

Spleen Deficiency –> GUT disturbances such as bloating (along with the liver), sweet cravings, fatigue, excessive blood loss known as menorrhagia (spleen not holding blood in the vessels).

Kidney Deficiency –> Lower back pain, constipation, fluid retention.

Kidney Jing ‘essence’ Deficiency –> Amenorrhea (no period)

Heart Blood Deficiency –> No period, insomnia -which heightens prior to menstruation.

Helpful PMS Tips

 Acupuncture & Massage

Regular treatments are always important and essential for overall health maintenance and wellbeing. Having a treatment a week or a few days prior to menstruation really helps prepare and strengthen the body for blood loss and encourages the smooth flow of Qi to prevent PMS.

Supplements

B6 ~ Helps break down inactive oestrogen. Oestrogen dominance is responsible for much of PMS (nervous tension, anxiety, mood swings, cramps etc). B6 is also a diuretic helping with fluid retention.

Evening Primrose Oil ~ Contains essential fatty acids (gamma-linolenic acid & linoleic acid) which influence prostaglandin activity leading to a reduction in cramps and other premenstrual symptoms such as breast tenderness.

 Magnesium ~ Relaxes muscles hence assisting with premenstrual headaches, overall muscular tightness and menstrual cramps. This essential mineral also assists with depression, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue & increased an appetite.

Vitamin D ~ Vitamin D is not a vitamin but in fact a hormone hence essential for hormonal balance.

Vitamin E ~ Fat soluble vitamin which oxygenates tissue and protects unsaturated fatty acids, sex hormones and other fat soluble vitamins from oxidation. Improves tension, irritability, depression, headaches, insomnia & breast tenderness.

 Vitex ~ A herb which has an affect on stimulating and harmonizing pituitary gland function especially progesterone function. Its main strengths are in harmonizing the female sex hormones and in correcting imbalances which present is dysmenorrhea and other premenstrual symptoms.

Dong Qui ~ Chinese herb extremely effective at regulating female hormonal imbalances, oedema, insomnia & depression. Dong Qui main function is in nourishing blood.

Essential Oils

Rub the following essential oils on the abdomen mixed in the some base oil such as almond oil. Clary sage (balances hormones) Lavender (relieves stress, tension, pain, headaches), Peppermint (nausea, headaches) Chamomile (balances female reproductive system, assists with cramps, induces relaxation).

Movement

Exercise encourages Qi movement hence helps with the management of stress levels, and tension. By encouraging Qi movement menstrual cramps are also prevented and relieved. Gentle forms of exercise such as walking, yoga or Pilates are best, nothing heavy or strenuous!!!!

Diet

  • Reduce refined sugar as too systemically inflammatory.
  • Increase green leafy vegetables to support the detox function of the liver hence supporting the removal of excess ostrogen from the body.
  • Reduce intake of cold, raw foods, dairy and fried greasy foods as they are too difficult for the spleen to break down and process hence leading to further spleen deficiencies.

Increase intake of good fats. avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and milk, nuts and seeds and oily fish for their anti inflammatory actions & hormonal support. Good fats also regulate mood hence great for stabilizing anxiety and depression.

  • Increase intake of herbal teas such as chamomile to reduce nervous tension and abdominal cramps. Lavender tea to reduce irritation and tension. Ginger to assist with any digestive issues such as nausea and bloating and dandelion to support the liver. Fennel tea is also great to assist with flushing out excess fluid, which may be sitting in the tissues.

 Keep Warm

Cover up and protect your lower back and abdominal region from the cold weather. This is essential to support the kidneys and prevent further menstrual cramping.

Menstruation is a part of life but it doesn’t have to cause misery every month. Implementing some of the above tips can make the world of difference.

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Think Zinc……

Zinc-Deficiency-

Zinc is a trace mineral that is very important for our overall health and wellbeing having a multitude of functions and potential uses, yet is largely underrated in its importance particularly by the Western Medical Profession. Unfortunately, there is virtually no zinc in Australian soil as it has been removed with the high use of super-phosphate fertilizers and stripped from our food due to processing and manufacturing.

Zinc must be consumed each day as there is no particular ‘storage system’ for it in the body and depletion in this mineral can produce a variety of symptoms. Only small traces of zinc are found in the body – approximately 2.0 to 2.5 grams in total.

Zinc absorption might vary from 12% to 59% of ingested zinc depending on the individuals GUT health, their stomach acid concentrations and how much their body needs at the time. In the body the 2.0-2.5gm of zinc is stored in the tissues however predominantly in skeletal muscle and bone (85%). The next concentrated tissues are the heart, spleen, lungs, brain, adrenal glands and the retina of the eye. The skin contains a good amount of zinc but in fewer concentrations than other tissues. Zinc is also found in teeth, hair and nails and hence why this mineral is so important in the health and maintenance of these tissues.

Zinc is essential for normal growth and development, the maintenance of body tissues, sexual function, skin healing and repair, immune system function and the detoxification of chemicals and metabolic irritants. Carbohydrate metabolism is influenced by zinc and it is required in the synthesis of DNA, which aids in the body’s healing process. Zinc is also essential along with Vitamin C to reduce healing time following surgery or burns and many prostate issues.

Lets now look at the benefits of Zinc in more detail.

Health Benefits of Zinc

Immune Support : Zinc helps activate immune cells in the body. Having low zinc levels may make you more susceptible to pathogens and hence prone to illness (think colds, influenza etc). Zinc improves antibody response and cell mediated immunity by helping regulate the function of the white blood cells.

Diarrhoea Prevention: Zinc may help treat and prevent mild diarrhoea in individuals. It is assumed that this is due to the infection-fighting nature of zinc in the body.

Learning and Memory Support: Research conducted in America states that zinc plays an important role in regulating how neurons communicate with one another in the brain. This in turn affects how memories are formed and how we learn.

Hormone Balancing: Zinc plays an important role in hormone production, including increasing testosterone naturally. Zinc is important to male sex organ function and reproductive fluids. It may also help female sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) and is also involved in both the creation and release of eggs.

Cardiovascular Health: Zinc is required to help maintain the health of cells in the cardiovascular system, while also lowering inflammation and oxidative stress. It helps maintain heart health by supporting healthy circulation and cholesterol levels in the body.

Liver Health: Zinc can help with a liver cleanse to reduce inflammation within the liver, reduces free radical damage, helps with nutrient absorption in the GUT and allows for proper waste elimination.

Muscle Growth and Repair: Zinc plays a crucial role in both cell division and growth. This means that zinc helps repair and grow muscle by allowing the body to heal itself and maintain strength within the muscular and skeletal systems. Zinc also has an anti-inflammatory function especially within the muscles and joints and artery lining.

 Vitamin A Levels + Skin Health: Zinc is thought to help utilize and maintain Vitamin A levels within the body. Vitamin A along with Zinc are essential in mucus membrane health, skin cell health and thus may be helpful in generating new skin following burns and injury. Via zinc’s function of assisting collagen production, zinc may also improve wound healing. Zinc aids skin’s oil gland function and as a result will assist in the maintenance and repair of acne conditions. Please note white spots on the nails aren’t related to a calcium deficiency as many may think, they are in fact related to a zinc deficiency.

Digestive Health: Zinc plays a role in digestion, in particular protein digestion. Zinc also has a role in insulin activity and a deficiency in the mineral has been found to be related to a lack of taste sensations.

Antioxidant Function: It is now known that Zinc has some antioxidant properties being part of superoxide dismutase, which helps protect cells from free radical damage. Through this antioxidant role zinc is also beneficial in cell membrane structure and function.

Food Sources of Zinc: Overall most animal food sources have adequate levels of zinc. Oysters are especially high with 10 times the amount of other sources.

Other sources: beef, lamb, pork, liver, herring, blueberries, capsicum, egg yolks, ginger, seafood, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, whole grains, rye, oats, yeast. Note that grains have most of their zinc content stripped because of manufacturing.

Daily Requirement Levels

0-6 months 2.0mg

7-12 months 3mg

1-3 years 3mg

4-8 years 4mg

Boy’s 9-13 years 6mg

14-18 years 13 mg

Girl’s 9-13 years 6mg

14-18 years 7mg

Women 8mg

Male 14mg

Pregnancy and lactating 12mg

The above nutrient reference levels for Australians and New Zealand are according to the Australian Government National Health and Medical Reference Council.

However, the majority of practitioner only Zinc supplements for adults have 25-30 + mg of zinc which is much superior level for optimal health and wellbeing. Taking zinc 2 hours away from meals or first thing in the morning increases absorption levels. It is particularly important to avoid taking zinc along side a meal of oats and other grains as the phytates and fibres in the grain reduce absorption.

If you are suffering from any of the above aliments definitely think ZINC!!! Seek the help of a professional natural medicine practitioner to get the right advice and supplement requirement. Practitioner supplements unlike those found in supermarkets are at therapeutic level.

 

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Tea….I like BIG Cups….

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Ahhhh…… tea you would be hard pressed to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy a cup whether black or of the herbal kind first thing in the morning, mid way through the day and into the evening to end a long hard day.

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage worldwide, second to water. Black tea, white tea, green tea and oolong all come from the same plant -Camellia Sinensis. Though from the same plant, the levels of antioxidants differ between teas. This depends on the level of processing and how young the leaves were when picked. For example white tea has higher levels of antioxidants because it is actually the baby leaf of green tea hence picked much earlier.

The reason why tea induces a sense of relaxation and calm is because it contains a compound known as Theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found in both black and green tea however higher levels are found in green tea. Recent research into the effects of Theanine shows that it crosses the blood brain barrier, increasing alpha brain waves. Alpha waves are seen on an EEG and mostly found in wakeful relaxation with eyes closed. The compound seems to help people focus on mental tasks. For me the most unique and interesting quality of theanine is that it helps alert focus whilst inducing calmness. The calming effect of theanine is related to its upregulation of inhibitory neurotransmitters, while also regulating dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain.

Tea also contains a compound known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Recent studies show that EGCG is effective against cancer cell growth, cardiovascular disease, endometriosis, chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases and dementia to mention a few.

Let’s look at the health benefits of some different types of tea.

Green Tea
Green tea holds a large amount of benefits. Firstly it’s high in antioxidants (free radicals fighters) known to cause damage to our cells. Studies support its affect on lowering cholesterol levels and its support of our cardiovascular system including high blood pressure due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-blood clotting effects. Due to green teas high levels of EGCG, research also shows improvement of diabetes. Green tea also has an affect on metabolism hence fantastic to drink when trying to lose and maintain weight. In Chinese Medicine we look at the cooling properties it has to the blood therefore recommend patients with skin issues such as acne, eczema and psoriasis to consume 2 to 3 cups daily (these conditions are aliments where blood heat is part of the cause). Several new research studies have recently been published that show the benefits of green tea and its effect on anti aging. Who doesn’t love the sound of that!!!

Tip :Green tea can be bitter in nature, so when making a cup pour some boiling water over the bag or leaves, throw out that water and then proceed to pour more boiling water into your cup or pot. Adding lemon juice also ups the antioxidant levels of the green tea.

White Tea
As previously mentioned white tea is the baby leaf of green tea therefore has higher levels of antioxidants and isn’t bitter. The same amazing properties found in green tea hold here, especially its anti cancer properties.

Chamomile Tea
One of the most popular herbal teas consumed universally for its calming and soothing affects both physically – soothing a unset GUT or menstrual cramps and emotionally/mentally to calm and sooth an overactive mind as well as induce restful sleep. Chamomile tea is also great used topically to sooth irritated eyes and skin. Brew up the leaves or tea bag, allow to cool and apply. I’ve often applied cooled chamomile tea bags to red, irritated hay fever affected eyes.

Rooibos Tea
One of my absolute favourite teas consuming daily with pleasure. A caffeine free herbal tea rich in minerals (iron, calcium, potassium,copper, manganese, zinc, magnesium) antioxidants, high levels of polyphenols as well anti microbial properties. Rooibos tea encourages relaxation, helps insomnia, headaches and soothes an upset stomach and other gut issues (nausea, cramps, diarrhoea). Due to its property of reducing inflammation Rooibos helps improve skin.

Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea is a very popular tea regularly drunk for its calming effect on the GUT. It also helps clear a blocked nose, soothe a sore throat and ward off a cold. Due to peppermints invigorating aspect it can calm an anxious stressed individual.
In Chinese Medicine when patients have a weak spleen and stomach leading to bloating, indigestion or a lack of appetite we don’t particularly advise patients to consume too many cups, as its cooling nature weakens the digestive organs. The spleen and stomach prefer warmth to perform their roles optionally.

Ginger Tea
Ginger is such an amazing herb for its warming, anti inflammatory and balancing properties. In Chinese Medicine we recognise ginger as a balancer of Yin & Yang. The most widely known property of ginger is its effect on stopping nausea. Due to its anti inflammatory nature it’s beneficial in cases of arthritis and rheumatism, lowers cholesterol and helps with weight loss.

Chai Tea
The warming combination of herbs – nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and clove in part a beautiful warming soothing effect. I often recommend my patients drink a few cups daily especially in the cooler winter months because of its warming properties.

Dandelion Tea
Known for its beneficial effects on the liver it cleanses the liver, eases constipation and helps digestion. Dandelion also reduces fluid retention and relieves the pain and swelling of arthritis. Drinking too many cups can bring on nausea because of its effect on the liver so start with one cup and slowly build up to 2 or 3 cups or your level of tolerance.

Drinking herbal teas which are caffeine free is a great way to maintain fluid levels in the body too, as caffeine is a diuretic – flushing water out of the body. In the cooler months i personally find it really difficult to drink water even at room temperature therefore drink lots of herbal tea to maintain hydration levels.

When choosing tea, organic is always best to avoid harmful pesticides and herbicides and try to look for unbleached tea bags for obvious reasons.

Let’s FACE it – Part Two

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In my previous blog post Let’s FACE it I spoke about skin loving and glow giving foods. Part two of the blog will comprise discussing skin traitor foods.

The skin is our largest organ accounting for 12-16% of our total body weight with a weight of approximately 4.5 to 5kg. It isn’t just a shield against the outside world but a true reflection of our state of health in many ways, including our digestive, hormonal and emotional health. Aging is inevitable however the rate and how well we age really bears on the choices we make especially when it comes to food. Let’s look at choices that you should steer clear of!

Skin Traitors 

SUGAR

I was first introduced to the damaging effect that sugar has on the body in 2001 when I read a book called “The Wrinkle Cure” by Nicholas Perricone M.D an American Dermatologist whom I consider the first “No Sugar” advocate. He has been writing, researching and talking about eliminating sugar from our diets due it’s impact on skin health and appearance for 15 years. Here’s the thing about sugar molecules, they attach themselves to fibroblasts (a cell in connective tissue which produces Collagen, Elastin & other fibres). When sugar attaches to these proteins -which give our skin, suppleness, plumpness and structure, it causes something called Cross-Linking which leads to the formation of wrinkles and hence ageing. Sugar is also a major cause of systemic inflammation within the body hence a large contributor of skin irritation. There also is a link between the inflammation involved in the formation of breakouts/acne and sugar intake. Research is now supporting the link between the two making it clear – hormonal imbalances caused by our diet trigger acne. When you consume too much inflammatory sugar in your diet insulin levels rise. Insulin is a hormone that is released by the pancreas to maintain glucose equilibrium within our body. This in term interferes with sex hormones like testosterone, androgen & inflammatory cytokines such as IGF-1, which are involved in the formation of acne.

The biggest factor affecting our hormones is the glycemic load of our diet. GI is determined by how quickly consumed food increases blood sugar and insulin levels. So those whom claim that poor food choices hold no influence on acne are scientifically uninformed.

Another interesting fact is that sugar is acidic in nature, steals nutrients and hydration from skin and curbs the production of anti aging hormones within our body.

If we look at sugar from a Chinese Medicine perspective, sugar depletes the spleen. The more stressed we are the more we tend to crave sugar as a means of comfort and quick energy. This in turn causes a vicious circle of feeling low in energy and mood and cortisol elevation, which is one of our stress hormones along side adrenaline.

CAFFEINE

Coffee contains a number of organic acids, which affect blood sugar and raise cortisol levels. A rise in cortisol levels contributes to wrinkle formation. Caffeine also puts strain on our adrenal glands and liver and is quiet acidic on the pH scale therefore contributes to the formation and elevation of inflammation. It is now well documented that disease thrives in acidic environments. Instead of coffee think green tea, which contains a compound known as L Theanine (amino acid which counteracts the affects of caffeine and is anti-inflammatory).  It is also interesting to note that the catechins an antioxidant found in the tea lowers corticosteroid.

Looking at coffee/caffeine from a Chinese Medicine perspective, it is heating to the blood. In TCM we view most skin conditions such as eczema and acne as blood heat conditions. Hence you don’t want to be contributing to the creation of more heat and inflammation. That’s where swapping your mid morning or afternoon coffee to green tea steps in as its effective at clearing heat from the blood according to traditional Chinese Medicine and gives a big boost of antioxidants!

ALCOHOL

Consuming alcohol really is like guzzling empty calories and offers no nutritional benefits at all. Actually what it does to the body and is visually obvious after a few too many drinks is dehydrate the skin and body. Alcohol also causes disruption of hormone levels and puts extra strain on our already over worked liver. Alcohol also affects blood flow to the skin causing it to appear dull, without lustre and causes unsightly broken capillaries. Once again according to Chinese Medicine principles alcohol causes heat in the blood leading to systemic inflammation.

DAIRY

Dairy consumption can definitely be an issue for some individuals when it comes to skin aliments, especially when consuming non-organic forms, which are chock-full of antibiotics and hormones. Antibiotics leads to dysbiosis of the microbiome in our gut and the proliferation of bad bacteria as well as the disruption of hormone levels in particular androgen, which is well known to encourage and contribute to acne. Imbalances in microbiome are linked to many skin conditions-acne, eczema, skin irritations and rashes etc. Dairy is also relatively acidic in nature, which once again leads to inflammation.

According to Chinese Medicine principles dairy places strain on the spleen our major digestive organ and is quiet damp forming. At times damp accumulation congeals and leads to heat formation in the body.

PROCESSED (FAKE) FOOD

Ever heard the quote “if your grandmother wouldn’t recognise it don’t eat it” well nothing could be truer. Processed foods can last on supermarket shelves and in your pantry for up to a year! They are full of artificial preservatives, additives, fake flavours and dyes. Basically what I like to call a chemical bomb for your body. These chemicals release aging inflammatory compounds filling your body up with free radicals renowned for damaging cellular structures plus our DNA. Many processed foods also sit high on the glycemic index meaning they cause spikes in blood sugar levels and by now we know what this does to our inflammation levels within the body.

We really influence the state of our overall health and wellbeing with every mouth full that we take! Start to become more consciously aware of your food choices as bad nutrition equals inflammation which equal skin problems. Great nutrition is non-negotiable!

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Lets FACE It.

Healthy-skin

Lets FACE it, age creeps up on us all. How old we feel isn’t always a reflection of how we look! You can feel frustrated or unhappy with your skins appearance whether you are 16 or 60. At 16 it may be the breakouts and persistent acne that weighs you down. At 60 the lines, wrinkles, sagging and lack of inner glow may be what stares back at you every time you step in front of the mirror.

Skin health really is an inside job. When it comes to skin wellbeing and appearance what you eat and drink is extremely important. What you ingest can either give you smooth, glowing, radiant skin or lack lustre, dry, irritated and inflamed skin.

Though essential to take care of your skin externally in order to protect it from external environmental factors (UVA & UVB rays, pollution, heating + cooling & harsh winds) all which wreck havoc on our skin, dietary choices are the most influential. The connection between nutrition and skin conditions or rather the effect of nutrition on skin health and aging has been an interesting research field for scientists and humans throughout the ages.

You write your skin story with every bite that you take just as you change the microbiota (GUT bacteria) with every mouth full. What you eat becomes who you are instantly. There are no overnight miracles however switching from an inflammatory diet to an anti-inflammatory diet starts to take effect quite quickly.

Our skin is made up of 3 layers. The epidermis the outer most layer of the skin is our border between the inside and outside environment. The epidermis provides a waterproof barrier, makes melanin that creates our skin tone and holds immune cells. The dermis the second layer of the skin holds sweat & oil glands, is the root of hair growth and holds nerve endings. The third layer known as the subcutaneous fat layer is made up of fat and connective tissue. Here body temperature is controlled and this layer of fat attaches the dermis to muscles and bone.

Within these layers there are proteins (collagen, elastin + keratin) and fats which provide skin cushioning as well as assist with communication between our internal and external world through nerve fibres covered by fat. Therefore doesn’t it make sense to nourish and feed our skin with what it is in fact made up of?

Lets look at which foods are going to give you the glow.

 The Glow Givers

Good Fats

Lets get things straight–not all fats are created equally. Healthy fats are essential for strong cell membranes, supple hydrated skin, the absorption of nutrients and energy production. In fact much evidence now leads to the conclusion that the replacement of fats from our diet during the low fat era led to the increase in carbohydrate and simple sugars intake which lead to the development of many present day diseases (depression, hormonal imbalances, increased risk of certain cancers, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis and skin aliments like eczema and psoriasis).

So which skin loving fats should we be eating daily?

  • Avocados (fires up the natural detox process of the liver to flush out unwanted wastes, rich in Vitamin E (antioxidant), B3 – Niacin needed for detox, DNA repair and the reduction of redness and inflammation).
  • Olive oil (anti inflammatory, rich in Vitamin E which strengthens cell membranes, protects skin against UV damage & works along side Vitamin C to produce collagen).
  • Coconut Oil (made up of medium chained fatty acids coconut oil contains lauric acid an anti viral, anti bacterial component – awesome for skin woes.
  • Chia Seeds (complete protein packed with cell strengthening Omega 3 that reduces inflammation. Being full of fibre chia seeds assist elimination meaning there’s less nasties systemically which may lead to skin issues).
  • Fats from Nuts & Seeds (protein rich, B Vitamin & Mineral rich).
  • Flaxseeds (anti inflammatory Omega 3’s help reduce hormonal levels that can factor in clogged pores and breakouts).
  • Salmon & Oily Fish (anti inflammatory Omega 3’s help protect skin from sun damage and keep skin smooth and supple).

Healthy fats are essential for beautiful, glowing, supple skin pushing dryness and inflammation aside.

Antioxidants

The reason why fruit and vegetables are so brightly coloured = antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds found in foods that search and neutralise free radicals. Free radicals cause oxidation and cellular damage which leads to a multitude of issues one of them being collagen breakdown and therefore aging! Examples of antioxidants found in food are Vitamins A, C, E, Folic Acid, Beta-carotene –which gives food the orange pigment, & Lycopene, which gives food its red pigment. In terms of skin loving antioxidant filled foods/drinks think berries, pomegranates, reservatoal found in grapes, vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini, capsicum, spinach etc), green + white tea, raw cacao, nuts, herbs and spices etc.

 Protein

Protein is the building block of life, helping maintain structure and function of the entire body. Protein is responsible for repairing and rebuilding muscle and tissue, hair + nail growth, the creation of enzymes and hormones as well as the health and maintenance of internal organs and blood. If we look specifically at Skin – it is in fact 25% protein being made up of three major proteins à collagen, elastin and keratin. Hence, doesn’t it make sense to feed skin with what it is in fact mad of? Skin loving proteins to include in your skin health program à organic free range eggs, salmon + other oily fish, grass feed poultry and meat, raw nuts and seeds, legumes, quinoa and pea protein to mention a few.

 Greens

Dark leafy greens have a multitude of health benefits. In fact green vegetables are the most nutritious carbohydrate and most nutrient dense of all foods. Anti inflammatory on cellular level, green vegetables are little nutrition powerhouses! They are high in B Vitamins essential for so many processes within our bodies from energy production to hormone regulation, nervous system health and support, digestive health as well as skin, hair, liver and mouth health etc. Greens have great amounts of Vitamin A which supports the turn over and production of new skin cells therefore eating adequate amounts helps prevent rough, dry, wrinkled skin. Greens are high in Phytonutrients and AntioxidantsVitamins K, C, E, Folate and Carotenoids as well as essential minerals Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and PotassiumVitamin C plays a major role in, tissue health and healing and importantly collagen synthesis. Greens are full of fibre, which helps keep your GUT healthy and bowels busy at work moving toxins out. Greens get their beautiful colour from Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll has a very detoxifying action on the body. It cleanses the body of harmful toxins, which can lead to hormone imbalances and flare skin ailments. It also oxygenates blood, alkalizes the body’s ph level and improves circulation to increase nutrient supply to skin cells.

Zinc

Foods rich in the mineral Zinc are also indispensable. Zinc is fundamental to skin integrity as well as healing/renewal of skin cells. Research shows that dietary deficiency of zinc is found in 50% of patients suffering with skin conditions (dry, itch skin, acne). You may be interested to know that 6% of the body’s zinc is found in skin. Foods rich in zinc are oysters, grass fed meat, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, pecans, walnuts mushrooms, quinoa and tahini.

Humans undergo two types of aging. Chronological aging otherwise known as intrinsic aging determined by genetics. The second type of aging extrinsic aging is the result of external factors mainly UV exposure, environmental pollutions, stress and poor nutritional choices. Hence doesn’t it make sense of take control of what we can to ward off extrinsic aging as much as possible?

Look at for part two of this blog where I will discuss skin traitor foods.

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Liver Love

imageThe liver has certainly attracted a lot of attention over the last couple of years. Numerous books, blogs and magazine articles have been written regarding ways of taking care of our second largest organ via the use of detoxes, juice fasts, specific eating plans and supplements.

Centuries ago the liver was considered to be the seat of the soul. Plato the ancient Greek philosopher believed that our subconscious thoughts and deepest desires passed through our liver to be deciphered while the rational mind was asleep. The art of reading the liver (Hepatoscopy) began during the period of the Bronze Age (approximately 5000 years ago). In fact ancient Greek’s examined the livers of sacrificed animals to predict natural disasters while ancient Italians formed connections between the Gods and constellations with zones of the liver.

The liver holds great importance in Chinese Medicine and plays many important roles within the body. In fact in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the liver is viewed as the Army General as it’s involved in the overall planning of the body’s function.

Here are the roles the liver plays according to TCM
Stores blood and controls the volume of blood within the body. Blood flows to muscles and tendons during periods of movement and activity and later gets stored in the liver at periods of rest.
Ensures the smooth flow of Qi (energy) throughout the body. If Liver Qi stagnates, emotions, digestion and menstruation will be affected.
The liver is responsible for our capacity to recover energy.
Controls the tendons. In fact the blood of the liver nourishes tendons.
Manifest in the nails. A deficiency of liver blood is noted in dry, cracked, splitting nails.
Opens into the eyes. Liver blood nourishes the eyes, hence good vision relies on the liver. If heat occurs within the liver red, irritated and itchy eyes will occur.
Regulates menstruation. Along with the spleen which is involved in blood production via the food it receives, the liver blood provides for menstruation to occur. If liver blood is lacking the period will be too.
Houses the ethereal soul known as the HUN which influences our capacity to plan.

In TCM the liver is the place where we store anger, frustration, unresolved emotions and energy. It is most active between the hours of 1-3am hence it is common for individuals to process their emotions and blood at this time. In fact it is very common for an anxiety attack to occur between 1-3am.

Unfortunately on average most people’s knowledge of the liver extends as far as its involvement of filtering alcohol. You might be surprised to know that our liver is involved in approximately 499 processes within our body making it the ultimate multi-tasker! Everything we eat, drink, put on our skin and breath in is taken in by our liver to be processed, purified and redistributed around the body, to then be extracted via the kidneys, bowels or skin.

Our liver is also involved in the manufacture of hormones, cholesterol and bile (stored in the Gallbladder – involved in fat metabolism). It stores glycogen (form of glucose used as an energy source), amino acids (building blocks of protein), vitamins A, B12, Vitamin D and iron. It’s assist with the filtration of blood, blood sugar regulation and disposes old RBC (red blood cells). It is also the distribution centre sending hormones and nutrients where they are needed most in the body. The most amazing thing about the liver is that it regenerates itself. Hence if it undergoes surgery and a piece is removed it has the astounding capacity to regenerate itself.

We Acupuncturists place much emphasis on the liver and the overall health/function of the female gynecological system in particular menstruation. Western medicine also strongly recognises the role the liver plays with menstruation.

The liver processes excess levels of oestrogen allowing it to be extracted. Signs and symptoms related to this female hormone being unbalanced are hair loss, weight gain, leg cramps, mood swings, depression, nausea and vomiting, bloating, headaches (often bilateral and pounding), fluid retention, breast soreness, recurrent yeast infections, yellow tinged skin as well as excessive bleeding during menstruation. PCOS and endometriosis are also signs that the liver isn’t clearing oestrogen as it should. Oestrogen is normally balanced by another hormone known as progesterone. Progesterone is produced by the adrenal glands and is known as an anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, diuretic and fat burning hormone. Our adrenal glands are more commonly known for their role in producing two stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline. When the body is under excessive stress the consequence results in the ceasing of progesterone which makes females feel less than average.

The frightening outcome of an overloaded liver is that excess oestrogen gets sent to the bloodstream. From here it gets stored in fat cells such as breast tissue. Research findings show that individuals diagnosed with oestrogen sensitive breast cancer have oestrogen levels 400 times higher than in other individuals. Hence an important reason to look after your liver!!

So how do we support our liver?
~ Limiting alcohol or removing it for a period of time when your liver is showing signs of overload is the first step.
~ Steering clear of highly processed, packaged foods, refined sugars and trans fats.
~ Begin your day with a cup of warm water and lemon juice to purify the liver and alkaline the body.
~ Increase fibre in the diet. As an example eating oats for breakfast would help mop up excess oestrogen levels in the body – pushing them out via the bowel.
~ Drink liver supportive tea such as dandelion. Aim for 2 cups daily.
~ Milk Thistle is a herb which is very liver supportive. Taking it as a supplement can be quite beneficial.
~Eat greens daily (spinach, spring beans, silverbeet, broccoli) and include bitter greens a few times a week (endive, radicchio, rocket, dandelion greens, nettle, watercress) are a few examples.
~ Reduce coffee intake or better still steer clear of it all together for a while to take pressure off the liver.
~ Eat organic produce whenever possible to lessen the impact and levels of pesticides and herbicides absorbed by the body.
~ Do not store food in plastic containers and most importantly don’t heat up food in plastic containers in microwaves. When plastic is heated it releases xenoestrogens an environmental compound which mimics oestrogen and is a well known endocrine disruptor.
~ Chemical overload impacts the liver as previously mentioned. Hence use toxin free cleaning products whenever possible. Earth and Eco Store are two great non toxic cleaning and laundry products easily accessible in supermarkets.
~ Exercise to encourage and move liver Qi and lymphatic waste.

If there is one organ that should be grabbing your attention it’s definitely your liver.image

Its a GUT Feeling…….

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When the ‘Father of Western Medicine’ Hippocrates stated, “All disease begins in the GUT” over 2000 years ago he definitely was ahead of his time.

Our GUT is home to 100 trillion foreign bacteria, known as microbiome, which play a pivotal role in the way many of our body’s organs and systems work. In fact approximately 1200 different bacterial species can be found in the GUT of an individual living in a developed country. Through research we now know that our GUT bacteria are responsible for how many kilojoules we absorb from the food we eat, how well our immunity works, how much Serotonin we produce (a neurotransmitter responsible for many processes in our body in particular mood stabilisation) and the detoxification of the body. About 20 of the body’s essential hormones are also produced in the GUT.

Science has uncovered that damage to this ecosystem (one of the most complex on the planet) known as Dysbiosis is linked to the development of many diseases such as Chron’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Thyroid Issues, many Auto-Immune Diseases, some Cancers, Heart Disease, Autism, Skin Issues and Mood Disorders such as depression.

Of all the recent research that has been uncovered about the GUT, the most interesting and exciting is the profound connection between the Brain and GUT. The GUT has its own nervous system – The Enteric Nervous System (ENS). The GUT is known as our ‘second brain’ however research is now starting to unfold that quiet possibly our GUT is formed prior to the brain in the womb. Our emotions and brain are constantly responding to what is happening in our GUT and our intestines are linked to our emotions and mental state. In fact the same chemicals that are in the brain are in the GUT hence why when nervous we may find ourselves running to the bathroom more than once!!! We have all heard the expressions “Go with your GUT”, “GUT Instinct” and “GUT Wrenching” and can now understand their meaning.

Some of the latest research is also now focusing on the link between the bacteria in our GUT and our body weight. Bacteria have different capabilities for harvesting energy according to Gastroenterologist Dr Robynne Chutkan. “You can take the exact some meal and give it to 2 people with different GUT microbiome and one individual will absorb 1250Kj and another will absorb 2100Kj from the same meal”.

The bad news is that our modern lifestyle is really bad for our overall wellbeing and this precious ecosystem. So what leads to imbalances in our digestive tract and damage to our GUT lining?

  • Consuming Sugar as it promotes the growth of bad bacteria and therefore gets in the way of the growth of beneficial species. Stay away from refined carbohydrates & processed (non-food) & soft drinks.
  • Inflammatory gluten and excessive quantities of dairy
  • Food containing preservatives (kill healthy bacteria) and grown with antibiotics and growth hormones.
  • Chemicals from plastics and the absorption of chemical compounds from cleaning products. This is why I always use non-chemical cleaning & laundry products.
  • Our obsession with hand sanitizes has lead to a disturbance in the balance of bacteria in our GUT.
  • The over use of Antibiotics has lead to the destruction of not only the bad bugs but also the essential good ones! When good bacteria die off bad bacteria thrive and out number healthy strains. The over prescription of Antibiotics by Doctors has played a huge part!!
  • Stress – It is no surprise how stressful situations impact out GUT.

Healthy GUT = Healthy Body

A diet filled with plentiful amounts of wholefoods, greens, vegetables and pre & probiotics can rehab your microbiome. Examples of prebiotic foods are sweet potato, asparagus, brussel sprouts, avocado, garlic & onion. You may be interested to know that your GUT microbes use fruit and vegetable fibres as food ‘fermenting’ these prebiotics in the intestines.

Taking a course of high strength Probiotics a few times a year is also another fantastic way of realigning the microbiome in your tummy. These live microorganisms really are “pro + bios = for + life. There are several different strains of probiotics, which are specific to certain aliments.

A healthy Gut means a healthier life. Give your GUT some more love so that it can love you back.