Surviving the “SILLY SEASON”

Staying-Sane-in-the-Silly-Season

Ah Christmas or as we like to fondly call it “The Silly Season” is upon us!!!! It happens every year and every year we tell ourselves “This year I won’t over eat, I will make better food choices, I will pace myself with alcohol, I will get to bed at a reasonable hour”. However for most of us that seems to fall by the way side by the second week of December right.

Here’s how you can balance your wellness this holiday season.

  1. Stay hydrated. Always have a bottle of water with you at all times, just please don’t make it plastic!!!!!! Drink plenty of herbal tea (hot or cold) for variety and add some fruit slices to your water to infuse flavour & vitamins.
  2. When out at a Christmas function or dinner alternate between a glass of water and an alcoholic drink. Alcohol is very dehydrating!! Think sad skin the next day.
  3. If drinking alcohol choose wisely and stick to white spirits with lime and soda – these beverages contain a lot less sugar than wine and cocktails. REMEMBER ALCOHOL IS FULL OF EMPTY CALORIES AND SUGAR.
  4. If heading to a Christmas party it is always highly advisable to have a snack before you leave (and no a doughnut doesn’t count). Have a bowl of vegetable soup or some scrambled eggs and avocado or a small piece of grilled chicken with some grated vegetables or avocado.  Rice crackers with some tuna or salmon are also great. This will prevent you from reaching out to every platter of food that comes your way. I mean lets face it most of the food on those platters is deep-fried.
  5. Eat mindfully. There will always be another dinner or Christmas dinner.
  6. Try and stick to your routine as much as possible. Get to bed at a reasonable hour preferably around 10pm whenever possible. Every hour of sleep prior to midnight equals two hours after midnight.
  7. Getting to bed a reasonable hour also prevents the activation of the hormone GHRELIN known as our hunger hormone. When we aren’t getting sufficient sleep and we are feeling fatigued our brain and gut tells us we need fuel and unfortunately for most that means reaching for sugar for a quick fix.
  8. Whenever possible food prep is key. Spend two hours on a Sunday afternoon for example prepping food for the week ahead so that healthy nutritious food is ready to go after a long day.

Stay Healthy this Festive Season.

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My Top Supplements For Wellness Support.

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We all know that eating well is the first step to achieving health & wellness. However, due to environmental, work, family and emotional stresses etc in our daily lives our body needs extra support. This is where the addition of supplements targeted at specific aliments can be very beneficial.

The following blog post will focus on my top 6 supplements which I believe are beneficial  and supportive of our body.

Magnesium 

Magnesium is an essential macronutrient known as the “Anti-Stress” & “Anti-Spasm” mineral. Magnesium is very depleted in our diets as it is stripped from soil and further removed via food processing. Alcohol, sugar and caffeine also decrease the amounts of magnesium within our body.

Functions

  • Production of energy within our body
  • Cardiovascular function
  • Stress management (stress increases excretion from the body)
  •  Relaxes skeletal muscle, blood vessels and the gastrointestinal tract
  • Anti-spasmodic
  • Protein & carbohydrate metabolism
  • DNA production & function
  • PMS support (irritability, fatigue, depression, water retention, menstrual cramps)
  • Nerve support
  • Assists in management of anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, depression
  • Assists in the management of constipation as it helps relax the bowel wall
  • Aids in muscular recovery especially following strenuous exercise
  • Helpful in the management of migraines and headaches

Food Sources

  • Seafood
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Kelp
  • Nuts (almonds, pecans, cashews, brazil nuts)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
  • Legumes
  • Soy flour & tofu
  • Wholegrains – Wheat bran/germ
  • Millet
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Avocados
  • Apricots
  • Dates, prunes
  • Blackstrap molasses

Interestingly 85% of magnesium is lost from grains when milling them into flour. Soaking & boiling also leaks magnesium levels. Oxalic acid in spinach and chard greens can stop the absorption of magnesium as does phytic acid in nuts hence why activated nuts are best where the phytic acid is removed.

It is best to take Magnesium supplements at bedtime or in-between meals for better absorption.

500-1000mg is a great supportive daily dose.

Vitamin D

Known as the “Sunshine” vitamin, Vitamin D is a hormone rather than a vitamin. Our skin (when exposed to UV rays), bloodstream, liver & kidneys all contribute to the formation of fully active Vitamin D3 levels in our body.

Functions

  • Regulates calcium metabolism and absorption
  • Decreases the excretion of calcium via the kidneys
  • Maintains the normal calcification of bones. Stimulates osteoclasts (bone cells) which take calcium out of bones, but also increases blood calcium levels which leads to bone calcification and health.
  • Stimulates reabsorption of calcium and phosphorous from bone. Helps put these minerals into teeth
  • Maintains normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus within the body
  • Works together with the parathyroid for calcium absorption
  • Has a role in blood clotting (regulated by calcium)
  • Involved in respiratory health
  • Involved in the production of gastric juices

If Vitamin D levels are low, blood levels of calcium and phosphorus decrease. As a consequence the body pulls these minerals from bones. This can then unfortunately lead to osteoporosis, rickets and osteomalacia.

Food Sources

  • Fish liver oils – Cod Liver Oil
  • Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
  • Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks of organic free range eggs

Minimum of 2000IU is required daily.

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral which is involved in more body functions than any other mineral. Zinc is highly removed from soil, through food processing and the refining of grains. Naturally found in small amounts within the body at 2.0 to 2.5 grams in total, mainly in the liver, kidneys, lungs, red blood cells, pancreas, prostate, retina, lens and pituitary gland.

Functions 

  • Growth & development
  • Maintenance of body tissues (essential for cross linking of elastin & collagen fibres within skin)
  • Hair health (deficiency associated with alopecia & brittle hair lacking pigment)
  • Sexual function & desire. Particularly necessary for the production of sperm and sperm motility as well as prostate health
  • Immune system support (white blood cell production and T cell production)
  • T cell secretion by the thymus gland which is primarily involved in immunity
  • Anti-viral activity
  • Essential for Vitamin A metabolism and maintenance of Vitamin A levels within the body
  • Detox of chemicals & metabolic irritants
  • Carbohydrate metabolism
  • Synthesis of DNA
  • Essential for the healing of skin tissue following surgery and burns
  • Aids oil gland function (think acne)
  • Energy production (involved in the Kreb Cycle = Energy)
  • Protein digestion
  • Necessary for the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes
  • Involved in the removal of lactic acid from muscle metabolism – think strenuous exercise consequence
  • Important for normal insulin activity
  • Involved in taste sensation
  • Zinc has an anti-inflammatory function

Sources

  • Oysters
  • Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)
  • Liver
  • Fish (herring, tuna, anchovies)
  • Egg yolk
  • Wholegrains (whole wheat, rye, oats)
  • Chicken
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Ginger root
  • Pecans & brazil nuts (activated)
  • Split peas
  • Lima beans

Zinc absorption varies from 12-59% depending on body needs and stomach acid concentrations.

Recommended daily requirement 15-30mg

Vitamin C

Essential nutrient found only in fruit and vegetables, the highest level in uncooked food. One of the least stable vitamins, Vitamin C sacrifices itself and is willing to be damaged to save other vitamins. Vitamin C is more concentrated in different parts of the body – adrenal gland, pituitary, brain, ovaries, eyes and testes.

Functions

  • Immunity!!! I like to think of Vitamin C as a soldier standing guard and protecting us from any nasty invaders
  • Essential in the prevention of the common cold & flu
  • Vitamin C is vital in helping produce and maintain healthy collagen within skin allowing it to support body cells and tissues and bring more rapid healing to injured or ageing tissues (ageing skin, burns, fractures, bedsores, skin ulcers, wound healing). Hence great pre & post surgery along with zinc
  • One of the major Antioxidants – protecting our body from oxidative damage
  • Gives support & shape to the body
  • Maintenance of healthy blood vessels. Has a role in the prevention and treatment of Atherosclerosis and therefore reduction in the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown a reduction of platelet aggregation – an important factor in reducing the formation of plaque and clots
  • Stimulates adrenal function and the release of norepinephrine & epinephrine (adrenaline) however prolonged stress depletes Vitamin C
  • Assists with thyroid hormone production
  • Aids in cholesterol metabolism & its elimination
  • Vitamin C protects Vitamins A, B, B2, Folic Acid & B5 from oxidation
  • Vitamin C is involved in the process of detoxification. It reduces the side effects of such drugs – cortisone, aspirin and insulin.
  • Reduces toxicity of heavy metals – lead, mercury and arsenic
  • Vitamin C has a role in reducing histamine levels – think allergies and hayfever
  • Vitamin C is a natural laxative therefore helpful in cases of constipation
  • Essential in the absorption of iron
  • Has an anti-inflammatory action

Sources 

  • Citrus fruits (lemon, orange, lime, tangerine, grapefruit)
  • Rosehip
  • Cherry
  • Papaya
  • Cantaloupe
  • Strawberry
  • Red & green capsicum
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Tomato
  • Asparagus
  • Parsley
  • Dark leafy greens & cabbage
  • Sprouted whole grains, seeds & beans

Recommended daily intake 500-1000mg

B Vitamins 

B vitamins are essential for an array of functions within our body. B vitamins are water soluble in nature and not stored well in the body hence required via our diets daily. Some B vitamins are produced within the body by microorganisms especially in the large intestine (bacteria, yeast, fungi & molds).

B1 – Thiamine

B2 – Riboflavin

B3 – Niacin

B5 – Pantothenic Acid

B6 – Pyridoxine

B9 – Folic Acid/Folate

B12 – Cobalamin

Functions 

  • Functions as co-enzymes to catalyse many biochemical reactions within the body as such converting carbohydrates to glucose
  • Fat & protein amino acid metabolism
  • Essential for nervous system function & support
  • Relaxation & energy production/function especially within those whom are stressed & fatigued. Essential during times of increased stress, fatigue, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia & hyperactivity
  • Essential to hair, nail, skin, eye, liver & mucosal lining health. Signs of deficiency are dry itchy dermatitis rashes and cracks at the side of the mouth for example
  • Aids in the general muscle tone of the gastrointestinal tract. Allows the bowels to function most efficiently
  • PMS & menopause support and relief

Sources 

  • Yeast
  • Germ & bran of cereal grains
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Nuts
  • Liver
  • Leafy greens

Recommended daily intake 50-100mg

Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria also known as ‘microbiome’ or ‘live microorganisms’. This population of microbiome comprises groups including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. As well as bacteria, certain yeasts may be used as probiotics.

The word ‘probiotics’ itself is born from the marriage of two Latin words pro and biota, which together mean ‘for life’; it’s a fitting definition, considering your body contains such a huge volume of microorganisms – this number is thought to outnumber your body’s cell count by ten-fold.

Functions

  • 80% of our immunity is in our GUT therefore without a healthy microbiome the incidence of illness increases. I am not just talking colds, flu & bronchitis but cancer, arthritis, auto-immune illness, skin issues & mood stabilisation/disorders such as anxiety & depression
  • Improved digestion & absorption of nutrients from the food we eat
  • Increased energy from production of vitamin B12
  • Probiotics destroy candida – harmful yeasts which cause havoc on our body
  • Aids in healing leaky gut syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Assists and encourages proper bowel clearance
  • Antibiotic associated diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Production of Vitamin K2, Enzymes, B-Vitamins and SCFA Butyrate
  • Modulation of the IgA and IgG immune cells, B & T Cells and our inflammatory response
  • Crowding out the “bad bacteria”, yeasts and fungi

Sources

  • Organic dairy such as yoghurt
  • Fermented vegetables (Kim chi, sauerkraut)
  • Milk kefir
  • Water Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Miso

It is important to note that probiotics are strain specific, meaning that certain strains work best for particular aliments. Therefore it is always best to seek the assistance of a professional health care practitioner such as an Acupuncturist, Naturopath, Nutritionist etc.

Practitioner only supplements are also more superior in their quality.

Probiotic strengths vary from 25 Billion to 500 Billion.

Whats up with Seed Cycling……

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I became intrigued in the topic of Seed Cycling after seeing the Seed Rotation picture on blogs and social media posts. I wanted to research into it further and see what the theory was behind it. Here is my understanding of this hormone rebalancing method to get periods back on track!!!

The environments that we live and work in are optimal for disrupting our hormone levels. Hormonal disrupters are abundant;

  • ●  Pesticides & Herbicides
  • ●  Environmental Toxins
  • ●  EMF’s (Electromagnetic Fields)
  • ●  Electric lighting which interferes with sleep inducing hormones
  • ●  Xenoestrogens in plastics
  • ●  Chemicals in cosmetics
  • ●  Fast food and sugar
  • ●  Food Sensitivities
  • ●  GUT Imbalances
  • ●  Caffeine
  • ●  Alcohol
  • ●  Hormone injected meats and poultry
  • ●  Medication
  • ●  Stress leading to elevated cortisol levels

    The above disruptors cause Oestrogen Dominance and an array of issues. For more information on this topic please read my previous post on PMS “The Dreaded Monthly”.

    Now getting back to seed rotation. This method of hormone regulation helps balance the menstrual cycle by using different seeds at different times of the menstrual cycle either to boost oestrogen in the first half of the cycle or progesterone during the second half of the month.

    The method of rotating seeds can be useful for any female experiencing irregular periods, menorrhagia (heavy periods), amenorrhea (no periods), PMS, acne flares and cramping. The technique is also useful for females experiencing perimenopausal symptoms.

    METHOD

    FLAXSEEDS + PUMPKIN SEEDS PROMOTE PHASE 1

    From Day 1 to 15 (first day of blood loss to ovulation) oestrogen is required to build up the endometrium lining (uterus lining) which is eventually sheds when the period arrives. This stage of the menstrual cycle is known as the Follicular Phase, the oestrogen boosting seeds required being flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds. Flaxseeds and Pumpkin Seeds contain lignans which contain chemicals which bind up excess hormones and block the harmful type of oestrogen. Pumpkin seeds are high in the mineral zinc, which amongst many other functions, promotes the release of progesterone. They also have phyto-oestrogenic properties, enzyme alpha-5 reductase, which helps to modulate androgen levels (good also in PCOS) + phytosterols. The omega 3 oils contained in pumpkin seeds also act as an anti-inflammatory and the essential fatty acids (EFA) provide the building blocks required to make hormones.

SUNFLOWER SEEDS + SESAME SEEDS ARE USED TO PROMOTE PHASE 2

The second part of the cycle known as the Luteal Phase runs from days 15 to 30 (ovulation until the end of the cycle). The corpus leteum (temporary endocrine structure involved in ovulation) begins to release progesterone which is known as our happy, calm inducing hormone. Progesterone helps thicken the uterus lining and prepares it for implantation should that occur. Sunflower seeds contain the mineral selenium, which is a potent antioxidant that helps the liver detoxification process of excess hormones and protects reproductive tissues and cells. They also contain phytosterols & fibre and promote progesterone. Sesame seeds are high in lignans, antioxidants, EFAs & phytosterols.

If you are perimenopausal or not menstruating seed rotation can still be useful. In this case use flax seeds and pumpkin seeds for 15 days followed by sunflower & sesame seeds over the next 15 days. Should you be menopausal the seed combination is up to you however it’s ideal to still maintain the 15 day turn over.

It’s important to note that the seeds must be freshly ground in order for better absorption and bioavailability. Allow for 3 to 4 menstrual cycles to gain the benefits of seed cycling.

 

Oestrogen Dominance

Progesterone Deficiency

  • ●  PMS
  • ●  Sore/Tender Breasts
  • ●  Fluid Retention
  • ●  Hair Loss
  • ●  Headaches
  • ●  Weight Gain
  • ●  Fibroids
  • ●  Cysts
  • ●  Endometriosis
  • ●  Breast & Ovarian Cancer
  • ●  Anxiety
  • ●  Depression
  • ●  Insomnia
  • ●  Menstrual Headaches
  • ●  Infertility
  • ●  Miscarriages

Organic Flax Seeds Organic Pumpkin Seeds

1 tablespoon each freshly ground raw flax seeds and pumpkin seeds daily.

Organic Sunflower Seeds Organic Sesame Seeds

1 tablespoon each freshly ground raw sunflower and sesame seeds daily.

How does this relate to Chinese Medicine?

 

In TCM seeds are said to help tonify and strengthen the kidneys and Jing (essence) which is the basis of our reproductive development and growth according to Chinese Medicine Principles. TCM practitioners will often recommend our kidney deficient patients eat black sesame seeds to support and strengthen kidney essence. Seeds are great for fertility, after all you need a seed to create a seed don’t you?

“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……

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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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