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.

Protein Porridge/Oatmeal

There is nothing better than hot oatmeal on a cool morning. Honestly, I eat it all year round no matter the temperature. It is delicious and filling and a great way to get protein in the morning.  Mix up the recipe with different fruits and nuts.  Apples and berries are great additions to this recipes.  You can swap the walnuts for pecans which offer a sweeter taste.  Or add in some pumpkin or sunflower seeds.  Although banana and apple will usually make this dish sweet enough, you can add some honey or maple syrup to make it a bit more indulgent.  Enjoy!

Serves: 1 
Prep: 5 mins 
Cook: 5 mins

What You Need:

1/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cups almond, pea or dairy milk
1/2 banana sliced
3 Tbsp walnuts (or other nuts and seeds to taste)

Options:
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)
1/3 cup berries
1/2 apple cut into small pieces
1 tsp cinnamon

What You Need To Do:

In a small pot add in the milk, oats and nut and seeds. Cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid sticking. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the protein powder until well combined.

Top with the sliced banana or berries. Add any desired sweetener. Serve immediately.

Chickpea Bruschetta Recipe

I have to admit I do love a good chickpea recipe.  Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are delicious and also contain protein, fibre, folate, manganese, and even some iron, phosphorus and copper.  If you love chickpeas, then this is a great recipe and a delicious and easy alternative to hummus.

Serves 2
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins

What You Need:

•2 slices bread, toasted

•1 cup (165g) chickpeas, drained

•1 tbsp. tahini

•½ cup (75g) cherry tomatoes, quartered

•1 tbsp. parsley, chopped 

*1 tbsp. olive oil

*1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

*salt and pepper 

What You Need to Do:

Toast the bread on both sides.

Place the chickpeas in a small bowl with the vinegar and tahini. Mash with a fork and, season with salt and pepper.

Combine the tomatoes, parsley and olive oil in a small bowl. Spread the chickpea mixture over the toasted bread. Top with the tomatoes and serve immediately.

Optional: Squeeze a lemon wedge over to taste

Quinoa, Beef and Zucchini Burgers (Bun Optional😁)

With the start of Spring in Australia people also start to look for more summer foods such as burgers! This is a great recipe to give you some veggies with your burgers in case they get missed as a side dish😳.  I know it happens.  So hide some veggies in there where no one can see them and know your family is having a complete meal all in one.  Add some seasoning of your choice to mix it up!

Makes 8

Prep: 25 mins

Cook: 10 mins

What you need:

•1 zucchini, grated

•14 oz. (400g) lean, ground beef

•1 cup (185g) quinoa, cooked

•2 cloves garlic, minced

•1 egg, beaten

*1 tsp. salt and pepper

*2 tbsp. olive oil

What you need to do:

Grate the zucchini and squeeze out any excess moisture using some clean kitchen towel. 

Transfer the zucchini into a bowl. Add the beef, quinoa, garlic, egg, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Combine all the ingredients together using clean hands. 

Form the mixture into 8 patties. Heat a part of the oil in a grill pan over medium-high heat, and cook the burgers 5-6 minutes each side. They can also be cooked on the BBQ.

The burgers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Pesto Pasta Salad

My family loves a good pesto pasta salad as a side to any main meal.  If you have ever been to my house for dinner, or I’ve brought food to yours, then you have probably had a pesto pasta salad.  Its easy to make and super delicious.  Experiment with what you add.  Other options include chopped tomatoes, broccoli, peas or a colour mix of peppers to add lots of colour.  Veggies can be cooked or raw for a different taste and texture. Add some chicken to make it a meal.  So many options, but always so delicious! 

Serves 4

Prep: 10 mins

Cook: 20 mins

What you need:

•11 oz. (320g) whole wheat pasta

•13 oz. (360g) roasted peppers, drained, sliced

•6 tbsp. basil pesto

•1 mozzarella ball, chopped (125g)

•4 oz. (120g) rocket

*salt and pepper to taste

What you need to do:

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packaging. Once cooked, drain and rinse under cold running water until cooled.

In a large bowl, toss the pasta and the remaining ingredients together until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Alternatively, place in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Beat Those Viruses this Winter! (and all year long!)

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While it is almost summer for all of you in the northern hemisphere, it is coming into winter down under which means cold and flu season has come around again. Although for those of us with kids in daycare and school it seems that cold and flu season lasts all year-round! Here are some helpful hints for keeping the whole family healthy in winter and all year long.

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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 to ensure you get a good quantity and quality of sleep.  Read my blog article about caffeine for more information on the effects it has on your body.

Psychological stress is associated with a greater risk of depression, heart disease and infectious diseases.[1]  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.[2]bacteria on hands

Always wash your hands before eating.  There was a 75% reduction in flu-like symptoms when a test group wore masks and washed their hands.[3]  This is especially important for kids who are more apt to putting their hands in their mouths.  It can really be just that easy!

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.  Check our my article about water for more information.

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%.[4]

There are lots of herbs that can help boost your immune system. You can drink my Change of Season tea daily to stay healthy while the weather is changing.  You can also check out my Cough and Cold Soother tea for a delicious mix that can help fight off germs if you get sick.

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.[5]  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 have any questions, you can join one of my Boost Your Immune System talks.  Or if you are inspired to make lifestyle changes, but you aren’t sure where to start, you can join one of my 5 week step-by-step group Get Healthy programs.

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

1  Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ, Miller GE, Frank E, Rabin BS, Turner RB. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. PNAS, 2012 April 17; 109(16): 5995-5999.

2  Society for General Microbiology. Couch potato or elite athlete? A happy medium keeps colds at bay(Internet). ScienceDaily. 2012 January 5 (Retrieved 13 May 2012). Available from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105112158.htm

3  Aiello AE, Perez V, Coulborn RM, Davis BM, Uddin M, Monto AS. Face masks, Hand Hygiene, and Influenza among Young Adults: A Randomized Intervention Trial. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (1): e29744.

4  Hunter P. Health Benefits of Zinc. Bioceuticals Advanced Clinical Insights, 2004; 5.

5  Plummer N. Dysbiosis and Disease: Ground breaking new research into probiotics and their role in preventing treating disease (presentation notes). FIT-BioCeuticals, Ltd. Online. 2010.

How to lose weight … slowly!

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I don’t like to use the word diet, as that implies a sudden change in what you are eating for a short period of time.  Losing weight, in a healthy way, requires a lifestyle change.  No, you won’t be dropping kilograms each week, but you will slowly notice that your clothes are a bit looser, you have more energy, and that you just feel happier. Everyone has their own reasons to lose weight and become healthier.  Find yours and start today.

There are basics that apply to everyone, which I will talk about in this article, but each person is going to be different.  If you eat and exercise the exact same as someone else, you won’t both lose or gain the same amount of weight, or both be your healthiest self. When I was taking my degree the college had a program called “Be Your Best Self”.  I love this title because that what’s its all about.  It’s not about how you compare to someone else. Be the best you, you can be.  Finding the healthiest lifestyle for you may take some trial and error, but you will get there eventually, and you will feel better for it.

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The most important part of a healthy lifestyle is what you eat. If you have seen me as a patient, you know my plate analogy.  Cut your dinner plate in half and put veggies on one side.  On the other half, make two-thirds protein and the last third carbohydrates. If you have a sweet tooth it is usually because you are not eating enough protein.  Make sure you have protein in every meal as well as plenty of good fats to make you feel fuller longer. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats.  I have lots of information on my blog explaining why you need them and which ones to pick. Drinking plenty of water is also important for losing weight as it helps make you feel full and improves your metabolism.

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What you eat is about 80% of losing weight, but exercise is still needed to achieve a healthy lifestyle.  It improves cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, depression, sleep apnoea, sleep, arthritis, immune health, and how you look and feel. Just to name a few. It will also help you lose weight when combined with other healthy lifestyle choices. Read here for tips on how much you need to exercise.

Last, but certainly not least, you need to get enough sleep and reduce your stress level. If you need help with sleep, check out my blog article with some sleep hygiene suggestions. In times of stress, our bodies like to hold on to fat ‘just in case’.  Make sure you are getting enough rest at night, and taking time during the day to let your body and mind relax.

Food intolerances and other digestive issues can be a barrier to losing weight and being healthy.  If you are eating foods that don’t agree with you, your body could have a lot of inflammation. As with stress, it makes your body want to hold on to fat ‘just in case’.  If you have any digestive issues, make sure you talk to your local naturopath so you can start on your journey to a healthy lifestyle.

 

Is Your Sleep Obstructed?

 

Girl and baby sleeping together

Sleep apnea is when there is a pause in breathing while asleep. There are 3 different kinds of sleep anpea – obstructive, central and mixed. Obstructive is when the airway has become narrow, blocked or floppy. Central is when the brain temporarily stops sending signals to the muscles that are responsible for controlling breathing. Mixed is a combination of the two. This article will focus on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), although many of the causes and treatments are similar for all kinds.

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It is estimated that between 3% and 7% of the population have OSA but this number could be higher as many people do not seek treatment. Older men who are obese are more likely to have sleep apnea, but it can effect women and any age group including children. Obesity is the biggest risk factor for OSA so it is projected that OSA will become more common as the population becomes bigger and bigger.

 

OSA can cause increased blood pressure and is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It is also associated with an increased risk of stroke, daytime drowsiness, motor vehicle accidents and lowered quality of life. Rates of depression are also higher in people with OSA so it is very important to seek treatment.

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Treatments

Starting to exercise is the first place to begin if you have OSA. Studies have found that OSA improved even when participants didn’t lost weight. This can have a big effect on improving overall quality of life as decreased OSA will result in a better sleep leading to more energy during the day. Then you will be able to exercise more! You want to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. See my blog article on exercise for weight loss for more details.

Studies have shown that acupuncture and herbal medicine are both safe and effective treatment options for OSA.

It is also important to avoid sleeping on your back. Purchase a pillow that encourages you to sleep on your side or you can sew a tennis ball into the back of your pyjamas to keep yourself on your side.

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Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol within 6 hours of sleep will worsen sleep apnea.

Quit smoking. Easier said than done, but smoking is another major risk factor for OSA.

Sleep hygiene is also very important.  Read my article about sleep to make sure your are doing everything you can to get a good night’s sleep.

If you think you may have OSA it is important to see your healthcare provider as even mild cases are associated with increased morbidity. For natural treatments, contact your local naturopath and start on your path to better sleep and better health.

 

Having Trouble Sleeping?

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As we are sleeping our bodies have many important jobs to do.  This is the optimum time for growth and rejuvenation of the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems.  This is when muscle growth, tissue repair and protein synthesis occur.  Our bodies are healing, as this is the best time for white blood cell and antioxidant functioning.  We also secrete hormones such as growth hormone and melatonin and clear the build up of substances like adenosine.  Sleeping is also the key time for brain development and memory processing.

Although we still don’t know everything our bodies do while we are sleeping, we do know what happens when we don’t get enough sleep.  Lack of sleep can more than double the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.  It can also be a risk factor for weight gain, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.  Sleep difficulties are associated with depression, alcoholism and bipolar disorder.  Sleep deprivation affects judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information and increases the risk of accidents and injury.  When sleep deprived our white blood cell count decreases.  In a study, animals deprived entirely of sleep lost all immune function and died within weeks.  Sleep problems have even been associated to digestive problems such as inflammatory bowel and Crohn’s disease.

So what is enough sleep? One study found that people who sleep six to seven hours each night live the longest.  But this is only if people wake naturally instead of with an alarm clock.  It is generally accepted that you have had enough sleep if you have no periods of tiredness through the day.

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If you suffer from sleep problems the first thing to start with is to look at your sleep hygiene.

  • Keep the TV, computer, tablet, phone, anything with a bright screen out of the bedroom.  Artificial light can shift your circadian rhythm.
  • Sleep in complete darkness.  Even a little light can stop the creation of sleep hormones such as melatonin.
  • Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea or energy drinks after noon.  Some people can take as long as 18 hours to clear caffeine from their system so should not drink it at all.  Check out my blog article on caffeine for more information about its effects.
  • Try using an alarm clock with sleep stage monitoring.  This monitors what stage of sleep you are in so you are woken during a lighter sleep rather then a deep sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol.  Although this will initially aid going to sleep it gives a worse quality sleep and you can wake in the night.
  • Most sources say a routine is very important.  Counter to this is the theory that you should only go to bed when you are tired.  Try both and see what works best for you.
  • And last but certainly not least, exercise and diet. Regular exercise and a healthy diet will improve your sleep along with most other ailments.  Check out my blog article about exercise to learn more about how much we need.

If you are still having problems with your sleep some supplements may be helpful in the short term, but talk to your naturopath before trying anything.  Happy sleeping!

 

References

Ferrie JE, Shipley MJ, Cappuccio FP, Brunner E, et al. A prospective study of change in sleep duration: associations with mortality in the Whitehall II cohort. Sleep 30 (12): 1659–66.

Harvard Medical School: Healthy Sleep

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits‐of‐sleep/why‐do‐ we‐sleep

Thase M. Depression and sleep: pathophysiology and treatment. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience 8 (2): 217–226.

Rowland R. “Experts challenge study linking sleep, life span”. CNN.