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.

It’s a GUT Feeling……

image

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.

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For The Love of Cacao

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Here’s the thing, i’m not one of those girls whom reaches for milk chocolate when feeling a little or a lot worse for wear or emotionally low. It just doesn’t do it for me! If anything it actually makes me feel a little nauseous and definitely not satisfied. I’m definitely drawn to the ‘dark side’ and i go by the preference that a square or 2 of dark chocolate is good for me.

The Latin name for cocoa—Theobroma—literally means, “food of the gods” and is considered one of the original “superfoods” with its origins dating date to the Amazon and other regions in South America.

Cacao now has scientific research to back up its health benefits. Here are the facts.

  • Dark chocolate (70-85%) is nutritious containing a high quality cacao, not to be mistaken for the processed commercial version cocoa. 100gm of 70-85% chocolate contains 11gm of fibre, 67%/ 7.3mg of the RDA for iron (highest plant source known to man), 58% of the RDA for magnesium, 89% of the RDA for copper & 98% of the RDA for manganese. It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
  • Its full of antioxidants. Cacao is choc full of polyphenols, flavanols and catechins. One study showing that it has more antioxidant activity than fruits such as blueberries and acai berries.
  • Cacao improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. Bioactive compounds in cacao can improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small decrease in blood pressure.
  • Cacao improves good cholesterol (HDL) and guards against oxidation. It can lower oxidative damage and improves insulin sensitivity.
  • Cacao helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have concluded a drastic reduction in heart disease risk for individuals whom eat the best quality dark chocolate.
  • Cacao may protect your skin against the sun. Studies show that flavanols found in cacao can improve blood flow to the skin and protect skin against sun induced damage.
  • Dark chocolate may improve brain function. A study which involved healthy volunteers showed that following 5 days of eating high flavanol cacao – improvements  to blood flow to the brain occurred.Research also shows that it may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment and improve verbal fluency as well as risk factors for the disease.
  • Its full of Magnesium. Raw cacao is one of the highest plant based sources of one of my favourite minerals. Magnesium is quiet deficient in our soil and very often stripped from our food via too much processing. Magnesium is essential for muscular relaxation of the skeletal system, blood vessels and GUT and nourishes the nervous system therefore considered the “anti-stress” mineral. Also think of the benefits it could have with menstual pain ladies!
  • Cacao has more calcium than cow’s milk. 160mg per 100gm v’s 125mg per 100ml of milk.
  • Raw cacao is a natural mood elevator because its full of serotonin, dopamine, anandamide and phenylethylamine. These neurotransmitters are associated with feelings of well-being, happiness and can even help with depression.

Its essential not to confuse cacao with cocoa. Commercial cocoa has been chemically processed and roasted which destroys a large amount of antioxidants and flavanols (these help keep us healthy). In fact 60-90% of the original antioxidants are destroyed through “dutch” processing which was developed to decrease the bitterness and colour of cacao.

 

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I love to add a tablespoon or two to my smoothie, protein/bliss balls, cookies, muffins and only use raw cacao powder to make my hot chocolate drinks in the cooler months making it not only delicious but nutritious.

 

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Why Mum Was Right When She Said, “Eat Your Greens”…..

greens

From the time you could eat solids and way into your childhood and adolescence you were told to eat your veggies especially the green stuff on your plate. Unlike many nutritional messages which seem to change constantly, eating your greens has definitely stuck and isn’t a fad or myth. Hence, when mum was nagging you every night she was on to something!

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.

  • Green vegetables are little nutrition powerhouses! They are high in B Vitamins. B vitamins are essential for so many processes in 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. Vitamin A is also required for the health of epithelial tissue of which mucous membranes are composed. Vitamin A precursors –Alpha Carotene and Beta Carotene enhance the immune system and protect eye health.
  • Greens are high in Phytonutrients and Antioxidants, Vitamins K, C, E, Folate and Carotenoids as well as essential minerals Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and Potassium. Vitamin K plays a big role in intestinal function as well as heart and brain health. Good levels of Vitamin K regulate blood clotting and protect bones, decrease calcium in arterial plaques, reduces inflammation, helps prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Vitamin C plays a major role in immunity, tissue health and healing, adrenal gland function and iron absorption. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant preventing cell damage by inhibiting the oxidation of fats and the formation of free radicals.
  • Phytonutrients found in greens – beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin (important for preventing cell damage and protecting eyes). Phytonutrients also possess antibiotic and antioxidant properties, which facilitate toxin removal improving brain function, immune support and the strength of blood vessels.
  • Greens are full of fibre, which helps keep your GUT healthy and bowels busy at work moving toxins out.
  • Greens get their 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. Greens are also powerful mood enhancers, lifting the spirit therefore help depression. The colour green is also associated with spring time, the liver in chinese medicine and hence a time of renewal, refreshment and vital energy.
  • Green vegetables stimulate enzymes and bile, which help overall digestion.
  • Leafy greens assist in balancing sugar cravings.
  • Greens are anti-inflammatory on a cellular level, which is scientifically proven to be one of the main causes of illness whether it is heart disease, Crohn’s disease,  cancer or osteoarthritis.
  • Leafy Vegetables have a light flexible energy about them. Therefore, when you are feeling heavy and weighted down eat more of them and less heavy animal proteins for example.
  • Greens improve circulation and clear congestion, especially in the lungs therefore help reduce mucus build up.

Some of my Personal Favourite Greens

Baby Spinach

Endive (Bitter Green therefore great for the Liver)

Romaine Lettuce

Silver Beet

Bok Choy

Rocket

Black Cabbage

Others to Try

Watercress

Cabbage

Chard

Beet greens

Chicory

Collard green

Kale

~ Aim for 2 to 3 cups daily

eat-your-greens

Spring isn’t all Blooms & Sunshine

flower

When a new season arises such as Spring it stirs up feelings of excitement in anticipation of warmer weather, sunny days and warm nights.

However, Spring time and the appearance of new blooms for many individuals (including myself) elicits feelings of anxiety as flowers equals pollen and pollen equals dreaded HAYFEVER!!!!

Hayfever (Allergic Rhinitis) is a common respiratory condition affecting 15% of Australians (approximately 3 million / 1 in 5 individuals) and numbers seem to be on the rise every year.

When Hayfever sufferers are exposed to particular pollens, their body mistakenly thinks this is a treat and triggers an allergic reaction. Inflammatory cells quickly release mediators such as histamine and that’s when the symptoms kick in

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy mouth
  • Throat irritation
  • Burning/itchy/watery/swollen eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Itchy skin
  • Headaches
  • Nasal congestion
  • Asthma
  • Foggy head & thoughts
  • Muscle aches & fatigue

And as a consequence

  • Lack of sleep
  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability

Inhaled allergens cause a hypersensitivity reaction of the immune system known as an immunoglobulin (IgE) mediated response. The antigen-antibody reaction in the nasal mucosa and the release of histamines makes capillaries more permeable to fluid accumulation resulting in swelling and irritation.

nasal

In Chinese Medicine Hayfever is known as ‘Bi Yuan’, which literally translates to “nose pool”. According to TCM principles it’s caused by the invasion of Wind Cold or Wind Heat due to a weak body constitution, Wei (defence) Qi deficiency, Weak Lung Qi, a genetic predisposition to lung aliments and poor dietary habits.

Emotions also play a part in the development of this aliment.

Worry = spleen deficiency = damp development/accumulation

Sadness = weakens the lungs = breathing difficulties

Anger = weakens white blood cells = decreased immunity

Fear =weakens the kidneys = weakens the constitution

Wind Cold Symptoms

  • Sneezing
  • Blocked & congestion of nasal/sinus membranes
  • Runny nose with clear mucus
  • Itchy throat
  • Cough
  • Frontal headache
  • Chills

Wind Heat Symptoms

  • Itchy, sore, red throat
  • Itchy, sore, burning red eyes
  • Itchy nose with redness & swelling
  • Sneezing
  • Blocked or runny nose with yellow mucus
  • Cough
  • Sweating
  • Thirst

Once hayfever takes hold it’s difficult to tackle. The best approach is prevention and strengthening immunity before the season starts. Acupuncture is amazing at supporting sufferers pre-season and also while the symptoms are taking hold.

Herbs (Chinese & Western) are also very effective at supporting immunity and suppressing symptoms when they arise.

Diet & Gut Health

As many of you may know 80% of our immunity lies within the GUT. Hence it’s imperative to support the Gut through good nutrition.

  • Eliminate or reduce your consumption of dairy. Dairy contains lactose, which leads to the formation of mucus and phlegm in the body. This of course only heightens hayfever symptoms of nasal congestion, blocked sinuses and discharge.
  • Include more EFA (Essential Fatty Acids) in your diet by eating more oily fish (sardines, tuna, cod, mackerel, trevally, blue grenadier, herring, rainbow trout, whiting), flaxseeds, nuts such as walnuts & pecans & olive oil. These contain anti-inflammatory EPA & DHA, reducing mucus membrane inflammation.
  • Seeking out some local honey, which contains pollen from flowers and blooms in your immediate environment, is also a great supportive tool. This acts to desensitize the body and the immune system in the same way injections from an allergist would. It’s a good idea to start at least 6 weeks before the season begins and continue throughout.
  • Horseradish is useful in cooking as it has an affect on airways by clearing heat, breaking up mucous, is an expectorant and opens up sinuses.
  • Drink 2 cups of Fenugreek tea daily as it acts as an expectorant. It is also anti-inflammatory to mucous membranes.
  • Dried Chrysanthemum Flowers seeped in 2 cups of water helps reduce itchy eyes, irritability and sneezing. Allow infusion for 10 minutes.
  • Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties. Include grated ginger in cooking or slice ginger and seep it in boiling water for 5 minutes for a soothing tea.
  • Include more Garlic in your cooking as it decreases mucous, is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.
  • Eat an array of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. Bioflavonoids help inhibit histamine released by mast cells in response to allergens. In nature, bioflavonoids are found together with Vitamin C and work together to reduce allergies. Found in citrus fruits, apricots, berries, grapes, papaya, green tea, capsicum and tomato.
  • Decrease Alcohol consumption as it swells mucus membranes.
  • Decrease your consumption of cold/raw foods as these foods weaken the spleen and are difficult for the spleen to breakdown. Excess consumption leads to damp formation.
  • Decrease wheat and gluten containing products because they are inflammatory to the Gut.
  • Decrease your intake of sweets. Sweets weaken the spleen and again this leads to damp.
  • Hot spicy foods may assist in opening up the nasal passages clearing congestion
  • Avoid fried foods as they encourage damp formation. Colours, flavors, preservatives & refined carbohydrates should be greatly decreased or better still removed as they unquestionably suppress the immune system.

Supplements

  • Zinc + Vitamin C Lozenges can be useful at soothing the throat and assist in drying up mucous from the nasal passages.
  • Coenzyme Q10 is useful in regulating histamine release, improves oxygenation and immunity.
  • Vitamin C acts as a potent immune-stimulant and is anti-inflammatory
  • Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that stabilizes the membranes of cells responsible for the release of histamine which triggers allergic symptoms.
  • Probiotics increase your levels of good bacteria in the Gut. Healthy bacteria levels are essential for an effective immunity, which hence decreases susceptibility to allergies.
  • Vitamin D’s importance cannot be emphasised enough. Low Vitamin D levels have been linked to asthma, allergies be they environmental or food related.

Some Other Tips

  • Weekly washing of bed sheets & towels and finishing off the drying process in the dryer to remove any pollen, which may be sitting on the clothing, is important.
  • Advised to stay indoors on particularly windy days
  • Applying some organic paw paw ointment to the inside of your nose will trap and prevent pollen particles from entering the nasal passengers causing symptoms
  • Steam inhalations with bicarb soda can also be useful at clearing up nasal congestion.
  • Pollen count is highest in the early morning and at night so keep windows and doors closed.
  • Wear sunglasses to prevent pollen from getting into your eyes.
  • Self massage techniques.. Massage along and down the sides of your fingers. Also find the web between your thumb and index finger. Press several times. Acupressure just to the side of your nostril several times.springtime

Is Gluten Causing More Than Just GUT Issues?

gut-skin-axis

Gluten intolerance is becoming increasingly prevalent these days. In fact Coeliac Disease (the condition associated with gluten intolerance) affects on average approximately 1 in 70 Australians. However, approximately 80% currently remain undiagnosed. This means that approximately 330,000 Australians have coeliac disease but don’t yet know it. So what exactly is Gluten and why is it causing so many issues?

Gluten is the protein made up of peptides (molecular chain made up of 2 or more amino acids – the building blocks of protein) Gliadin and Glutenin found in wheat, rye, spelt, kamut, semolina and barely. Gluten (“glue” in Latin) is the protein that gives bread its airy and fluffy texture and dough its sticky texture. And glue like gluten is causing damage to the small intestine via an immune like response in intolerant/allergic and sensitive individuals. Here the lining of the small intestine swells and as a result tiny hair like projections called villi suffer damage and destruction. This in turn impairs the body’s ability to absorb nutrients hence leading to much malabsorpsion that in the long run leads to the loss of vitamins & minerals. Of course along side this are the array of digestive issues – bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, light coloured stools that float, nausea, cramps, gas and much indigestion!!

However, did you know that more than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten.

I will discuss a few of them;

~ Fatigue is a common symptom of gluten sensitivity and intolerance due to the autoimmune reaction-taking place within the body.

~ The same chemicals that are in your brain are in your gut. Hence if the brain isn’t happy the gut isn’t happy and if the gut isn’t happy the brain isn’t. Mood instability and depression have been linked to gluten’s affect on overall health. Gluten causes inflammation of the brain, which shuts down blood flow to the prefrontal cortex (part of the brain that allows people to focus, manage emotions, plan, organize and exercise short term memory). You may know or have heard that depression is caused by a lack of serotonin (chemical made in the gastrointestinal tract which contributes to our feelings of wellbeing and happiness). In fact 80-90% of serotonin is produced in our gut.

Let’s get a little scientific for a minute. Research shows that an inflammatory process is involved in the pathology of individuals whom develop depression. Signs of an inflammatory process, in particular increased pro-inflammatory cytokines (cell signalling molecules that aid in cell to cell communication in immune responses and stimulate the movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma) and increased levels of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) have been shown to be repeatedly described in major depression. Just in case you were wondering Prostaglandins are produced by the body and are responsible for inflammation features, such as swelling, pain, stiffness, redness and warm.

Apart from gluten, evidence based research shows that depression can also be caused by parasites, bacterial or viral infections in the gut. Healthy gut microbes influence the levels of serotonin produced in the gut and hence if there is overgrowth of bad bugs or an infection is present the number of healthy bacteria decreases leading to decreased happy brain chemicals.

~According to Dr Alessio Fasano a pioneer into the research of Coeliac disease also believes that the brain degeneration/inflammation that gluten causes which leads to leakiness of the blood-brain barrier also causes leaky gut. Leaky Gut is a condition where intestinal permeability becomes an issue. Intestinal permeability disrupts the usually tight junctions of the gut leading to substances leaking into the blood stream à immune reactions. As a consequence the microvilli, which line the intestines and absorb nutrients become damaged leading to nutrient deficiencies.

~ A gluten allergy and intolerance can also affect the skin. In this case the condition is called Dermatitis Herpetiformis, an itchy, blistering, burning skin rash, occurring on the elbows, knees, back, scalp and buttocks. Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is a difficult condition to live with for those whom are unfortunate to suffer from it!! Before a full outbreak of the rash occurs, individuals may feel the skin burn or itch. Pimple-like bumps start to form, filled with clear liquid. These are quickly scratched off. The bumps heal within a few days and leave a purple mark that lasts for weeks. But new bumps continue to form as old ones heal. This process can continue for years, or go into remission and return again and again.

pic_dermatitisherpetiformis-skin

Other associated conditions with gluten intolerances are

  • Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feelings of being off balance.
  • Hormone imbalances such as PMS, Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or unexplained infertility.
  • Migraine headaches
  • Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips.

If you suspect a gluten intolerance my first suggestion would be to remove it completely from your diet for up to a month and closely monitor how you are feeling and if your symptoms start to shift. Then start to slowly reintroduce gluten-containing foods one at a time. For example week 1 reintroduce wheat and pay close attention to what unfolds. Then spelt then rye etc etc. This is important to determine whether gluten overall is the issue or whether it is wheat specifically and spelt and kamut etc are tolerable. Note that gluten is a very large protein and it can take months and even years to clear from your system so the longer you can eliminate it from your diet before reintroducing it, the better.

Of course the best way to determine Coeliac disease is with lab tests which include specific blood tests and biopsies via a colonoscopy and endoscopy. These need to be undertaken via a specialist. If the diagnosis is confirmed a change in diet needs to be undertaken. This may be overwhelming and challenging at first but once affected individuals learn what they can eat to regain health it simply becomes a way of life and who doesn’t want to feel and look healthy.

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