Are you living with an Irritable Bowel?

Have you been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS? Have you been told you have to live with your symptoms? IBS is what is called a diagnosis of exclusion.  This means that people are given this diagnosis when other reasons for their symptoms can’t be found. There are no tests specifically for IBS. They are basically saying ‘we don’t know why your digestion is so bad, so we’ll call it IBS’. 

Common symptoms are constipation or diarrhoea, urgency to have a bowel movement, a small volume of stool or pain in the abdomen all while appearing otherwise healthy.  

Once you have been given this diagnosis, problems such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, parasitic, fungal and viral infections or cancer should have been ruled out. At this point you may have been told that you just need to live with your symptoms, which can be disheartening.

But poor digestion is not something that you should live with. If you are not digesting your food properly, you are not getting the nutrients you need. The toxins that your body is trying to expel are sitting there for longer than they should.  This can lead to any number of problems including cancer, arthritis, fatigue, migraines, and depression.  Many symptoms will get better by improving your digestion, so it is very important to make sure that your gut is working properly. 

There are in fact many causes of IBS.  There can be a hormonal connection, a lack or imbalance of bacteria in the gut or overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine called SIBO.  IBS can also be caused by a high stress lifestyle, a generally poor diet, or a sedentary lifestyle. The most common reason I find is an imbalance of bacteria going along with food intolerances.

In addition to the IBS symptoms, food intolerances can also present themselves as headaches, fatigue, depression, arthritis, chronic respiratory problems, weight problems, anxiety, insomnia, and migraines. 

Food intolerances develop when there is inflammation in the lining of the gut allowing small particles of food to cross where they are not meant to.  The body does not like them there, and so reacts to them.  Reactions can be delayed and can last for days to weeks, so they are difficult to diagnose.  The best way to diagnose and treat food intolerances is to do an elimination diet.  This usually gives a very clear picture of what foods an individual is intolerant to and which ones they can eat.  Common foods are wheat, dairy, soy, tomatoes, bananas, and sugar, but everyone is different and so the foods will be different for everyone.

There are several supplements that can help with IBS depending on a person’s specific symptoms, but a probiotic is almost always recommended.  Talk to your naturopath to make sure you get a good quality one as some of the ones in the stores do not have a very high bacteria count and so are a waste of money.

If you think you might have IBS, talk to your doctor to rule out any other nastier problems.  If you know you have IBS, all is not lost.  There are several treatments options to try. No one should live with poor digestion.

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease

GERD, GORD, reflux, regurgitation, or heartburn.  It doesn’t matter what you call it, if you suffer from it, you know how painful it can be.  Some people can get reflux due to a hiatal hernia or from high stomach acid (hydrochloric acid or HCL), but I find the most common reason to be from low stomach acid.  At the top of the stomach is a sphincter, the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES), which closes in reaction to stomach acid.  When there isn’t enough acid, this sphincter doesn’t receive the signal to close resulting in what acid there is, leaking up the oesophagus.  This can result in painful reflux most often at night, but also after eating certain foods.

HCL is needed to digest protein, so a common feeling of low HCL is feeling like your food is just sitting there after you eat. HCL helps to kill pathogens, inhibit overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, encourage the flow of bile and pancreatic enzymes and facilitate the absorption of several vitamins and minerals including folate, B12, vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.  Low HCL can result in many problems down the road if left untreated. Stomach acid can decrease with age and with several medications.

An easy test for low stomach acid (and the beginning of treatment) is to take a supplement that contains hydrochloric acid.  If you take one capsule and feel nothing, you are likely deficient.  Treatment consists of an increasing number of capsules until your body learns to create HCL on its own again.

For reflux that is caused by high stomach acid, there are many options as well.  Melatonin has been found to be a very effective treatment for reflux and can help you sleep better at the same time.  Studies find that if you take it for 8 weeks you can achieve remission of symptoms. Food intolerances can cause reflux also, so doing an elimination diet or a food intolerance test is usually warranted. 

If you think you might have a hiatal hernia, this technique may help – drink a large glass of water upon rising in the morning. While standing, rise up on your toes and drop back onto your heels – the weight of the water may help to replace the herniated organ. 

For natural symptom relief, you can try liquorice (the real stuff, not just candy), slippery elm powder or baking soda in a bit of water.  If you have high blood pressure, use DGL (deglycyrrhizinated liquorice) instead.

Other triggers for reflux include caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, cigarette smoking and stress. Reducing these can help with symptoms as well.

With prolonged reflux, damage can be done to the oesophagus which can eventually result in cancerous cells forming there.  Some treatments to reduce this risk are folic acid, mushrooms, zinc and probiotics.  Fish oils and turmeric are also useful for decreasing pain and inflammation.

Medications can decrease HCL, but these come with side effects such as decreasing the absorption of the vitamins and minerals mentioned above and reducing the breakdown of protein.

These are just some of the options for treating reflux. Contact a naturopath before starting on any supplements for reflux to make sure they are right for you and that you have the correct dose and timing.

What are Trans Fats?

Trans fats are an unsaturated fat but the trans form results in a straight fatty acid like a saturated fat and so is more solid at room temperature.

They were manufactured in order to make a solid fat that would have a longer shelf life than saturated fats. They do occur naturally in some meat and dairy but in very small amounts. 

The body does not digest them as well as other fats and so they can cause problems such as increased cholesterol, decreased visual acuity, increased heart disease, insulin resistance (leading to diabetes), reproductive difficulties, decreased nutrition in breast milk and cancer. 

Read labels and avoid anything that contains ‘trans fats’ or says it is hydrogenated (the process of making a trans fat).

Stay Healthy this Winter

We are very lucky in Australia to have the day-to-day freedoms that we do.  In most other countries at the moment, they continue to be restricted on where they can go and how many people they can interact with.  But with these freedoms and interaction comes the transmission of bacteria and viruses.  We are entering into cold and flu season where your body is more susceptible to getting sick. 

So here are some tips to keeping healthy this winter.

Sleep is the most important activity your body needs. When sleeping, your body restores, heals, and creates important hormones. Get to bed early and stay there for at least 7-8 hours each night.  Avoid caffeine after noon to ensure you get a good quantity and quality of sleep.  Read my blog article “Having Trouble Sleeping?” for more advice.

Psychological stress is associated with a greater risk of depression, heart disease and infectious diseases.  Take time out – exercise, garden, meditate, whatever it is that helps you to relax.

What would one of my articles be if I didn’t mention exercise?  Exercise is important for everyone. To keep your immune system at its best you want at least a brisk 30-minute walk each day.  If you are an avid athlete, you also need to take care, as very high intensity exercise can put a strain on your immune system.

Our bodies are composed of 70% water. Proper hydration is important for the optimum functioning of all your body systems. Increase your water intake slowly getting up to 2L per day.

Hot-Cold showers are an excellent way of improving your immune system, increasing circula­tion and elevating energy levels. After finishing your regular shower routine, do 20 seconds of cold and 1 minute of hot. Alternate 2-3 times, ending with cold.  The increase in circulation will also help decrease sensitivity to the cold.

There are several supplements you can take to help boost your immune system. Daily zinc supplementation has been shown to shorten the duration and severity of the common cold, reduce the incidence of acute lower respiratory tract infections in preschool children by 45% and reduce the incidence of pneumonia by 41%.

Vitamin C is found in high concentrations in immune cells and is quickly consumed during an infection.  It is a natural antihistamine and has been found to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections.

More than 80% of the body’s immune system is in the digestive tract.  A lack of good bacteria in the digestive tract can cause a reduction in the immune system allowing increased infections.  Take a good quality probiotic to prevent bad bacteria from taking hold.

Vitamin D has a direct effect on the immune system. Vitamin D stimulates the production of natural antibiotic proteins thus killing more bacteria.  Insufficient levels are related to a deficiency in our immune system to protect us against infections.  

If you get sick, try warming socks.  You will be surprised at how effective they are!

These are just a few suggestions for staying healthy this winter.  For personalized advice, contact your local naturopath. Let’s stay healthy this winter!

To Breakfast or Not to Breakfast?

Breakfast.  This is a surprisingly contentious issue for such a simple meal.  Some people say to always eat it while others say to never eat it.  And yet another group say to eat it sometimes.  So, what is right for you?

Well, that’s just the thing.  We are all different and what is right for one person is not going to be right for the next.  Here are some things to consider as you think about whether you should eat or skip breakfast.

Do you feel light-headed and hungry in the morning?  Then you should eat breakfast.  Don’t force yourself to wait until later because someone else said it worked for them.  Make yourself something healthy with a good portion of protein and some healthy fats and you will start the day off right.

Are you completely exhausted and stressed? (Think mum of young kids who is barely keeping it together or other completely rundown equivalent).  You should eat breakfast.  Skipping breakfast adds stress to your body.  This can be a good stress for some that can help get the right hormones motivated and going, but if you are already exhausted, it is too much and will just make you more tired.  

Are you skipping breakfast but then eating something sweet at 10am?  Then you should really eat breakfast.  Craving sweets means that your body wanted protein earlier but didn’t get it. Try having breakfast with a good portion of protein and your morning tea sweet cravings will start to dissipate.

Do you wake up feeling like the last thing in the world you want is to eat food?  Then you should probably skip breakfast and wait to eat until later as long as your lifestyle allows you to eat something healthy later in the morning.  Eating an early lunch around 11am can be a good option if it works for you.

Whether you are eating or not eating breakfast, is it working for you?  Do you wake up feeling great?  Are you feeling satisfied in the morning?  Then keep going with what works. You don’t have to change just because your neighbour had a great experience with the opposite.  

Also, some days you might want to eat breakfast while others you don’t.  That’s ok.  Some days it might be more appropriate to eat it based on what you ate the night before, your energy level and what you have going on that day.

If you think you should be eating breakfast, but it still doesn’t sound appetising, try starting with something lighter or even liquid.  These tend to go down easier.  A protein shake, some chia pudding or yogurt tend be easier options first thing in the morning.

Most people I see as patients have issues with fatigue and energy so I usually recommend breakfast.  But if you are feeling ok, then you can try experimenting with skipping breakfast and see how you feel.

So, what are you going to do tomorrow?  Will you have breakfast and if so, what will you have?

Happy Healthy Lunches

As the school holidays are ending many of us are thinking about what we are going to put into school lunches again! If you are like me, then making lunches is not an enjoyable part of the morning routine. 

I’m here to help!

As a naturopath, I usually do a talk for kindy parents at my local school each year about healthy lunches.  It didn’t happen in 2020 due to everything being canceled, so I decided to put it online.

You can find it here with lots of information about why kids (and adults) should eat a healthy lunch as well as a downloadable with lots of ideas of what you can put in that lunch box.

https://be-healthy-movement.mykajabi.com

It is free, you just need to sign up.

If you have any questions about healthy lunches feel free to give me a shout.

I hope you all enjoy the last week of school holidays!

Do You View Your Number 2s?

Stool, poo, number 2, bowel movement, poop, whatever you want to call it, you should be looking at it! I know this makes some people squeamish, but it is so important.  Your digestion is the cornerstone of your health and your stool gives you a lot of clues about what is going on in there.  To learn more about what happens in your gut and how important all the little bacteria friends that live there are, check out my article 10% Human.

So, what should you look for?  To start with you want to check the consistency.  Check out this chart to give you an idea of what you are looking for.  Too hard or too soft are both indications of trouble brewing. You want your stool to look like Type 4.

You also want to look at size, colour and frequency and if there is any mucus or undigested food in there.

Check your stool for a few days and if you have any issues you really want to sort them out as issues in your gut are associated with health issues in all other parts of your body. The solution depends on what the problem is.  Every problem has a different solution.  It is really best to talk to a naturopath if you think there is anything going on with your digestion so that you can get the right answers and be on the road to a healthier you.

Happy viewing!

EASY Holiday Pasta Recipe!

Do you need to bring a salad to your next holiday event? Or do you just need a quick dinner? My whole family loves this one (a rarity when you have 3 kids😳).

  1. Fry up a whole bunch of veggies. For a festive theme pick red and green ones, but whatever you like or have in the fridge works.
  2. Cook pasta as per directions.
  3. Combine pasta and veggies.
  4. Add 1-2 tins of salmon (drained)
  5. Add pesto and mix well.
  6. Enjoy!

You could also add tinned tuna or chicken. I like to do salmon for its good fats but also I don’t have to cut up any meat.

Dairy and Snot Connection

Is there a connection between dairy consumption and nasal secretions? (we’re talking snot here people).

There is much controversy around dairy and its health benefits versus drawbacks. I’m not going to get into the whole thing today. I just want to talk about nasal congestion and dairy. Many people will try to say that no matter what you should always consume dairy for its calcium content. There have been studies in the past, but I found a recent one clearly showing that drinking dairy increases nasal secretions.

The participants had no allergy nor intolerance to dairy, and all had a history of persistent nasal mucous secretions. All participants went completely dairy free for 6 days and then after that had either a dairy smoothie or soy smoothie each day for 4 days. All participants had less secretions during the initial stage. The dairy smoothie group had significantly increased nasal secretions compared to the soy group. This was a double blinded study meaning that neither the researchers nor the participants knew who drank the dairy and who drank the soy.

So, if you have persistent nasal secretions (or lots of snot), or have a cold, it might be worth taking dairy out of your diet for a few days and see what happens.

Here is the study if you would like to take a read: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30178886/

For more information, give me a shout!

www.natactive.com.au

Naturally Active Naturopathic Clinic – Natural Family Healthcare

Emily’s Healthy Muffin Recipe (the one I sell:)

Healthy Delicious Zucchini Banana Muffins

So here it is.  This is the recipe that I use to make muffins to sell.  These are healthy, delicious, dairy-free, sugar-free and lunchbox friendly.  They are super versatile as you can make the base and then add whatever flavourings you want.  You can easily make several different muffin types in one batch.

 

 

In these muffins there is no sugar (unless you add the chocolate chips) no dairy (as long as you use dairy-free chocolate chips) and no nuts. They do contain plenty of fruit, whole grains, healthy fats and even a vegetable! Everyone in the family loves the berry and apple versions, but my daughter is a bit of a chocolate fiend, so I make some chocolate chip for everyone as well.

I like to make muffins that are on the smaller side to go into lunch boxes for my little people, so this recipe usually makes about 36 muffins. They freeze really well and can be pulled out when you are in a rush. I hope your family enjoys them as much as mine does!

Ingredients

Wet:

  • 2/3 cups melted coconut oil
  • 4 eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff from Canada)
  • 3/4 cups apple sauce
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups packed mashed ripe bananas (about 6 bananas)*
  • 1 grated zucchini (about 1.5 cups)

Dry:

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 cups wholemeal flour

This makes the base.  Then you can add whatever flavourings you feel like.  Some ideas are:

  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks (I often cut up a Green & Black’s 70% organic dark chocolate bar)
  • 6 medium apples cut into small chunks
  • 2 cups mixed berries (I defrost some frozen ones)
  • 1 cup cacao powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius fan forced (380 degrees Fahrenheit). Grease muffin tray with coconut oil if necessary. I use a silicone tray that does not require it.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in a large bowl if it is solid. Beat in the eggs, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla until it is all mixed. I find the stand mixer works best for this.
  3. Add the mashed banana and grated zucchini. 
  4. If the coconut oils gets cold it can separate.  If this happens, put your bowl into the sink surrounded by warm water and gently stir until the oil melts and mixes back in.
  5. Mix all the dry ingredients together in another bowl. If you can, get ‘help’ like I did.
  6. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together.
  7. If you are going to make different flavours, now is the time to split the mixture into separate bowls.  
  8. Add chocolate chips, apple pieces or berries to each bowl and stir until mixed.
  9. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Bake muffins for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan. Enjoy now or freeze some for later. Oh and remember not to feel guilty about eating them, because they are actually healthy!

Notes

*I find it best to use previously frozen bananas. Freezing them seems to break down the cell walls and makes the muffins moister.