Monday, 7 September 2015

Chronic Disease or Not?

More of us are suffering and dying from chronic diseases than ever before.

Whilst modern medicine is fantastic with acute infections, injuries, diagnostics and life saving surgery; it can, at best only manage the symptoms of chronic disease at huge expense to the taxpayer.

Generally, once prescribed, pharmaceuticals are then taken for life, whilst a naturopathic approach aims to restore proper function so that both drug and Naturopathic treatment can be withdrawn.

Unfortunately, due to our reliance on drug medicines, our healthcare system is overburdened and underfunded. Dietary recommendations that offer a one size fits all apporoach are too general and don’t take into account genetic polymorphisms, pregnancy, growth phases, occupational exposures, stress and mental health issues.

To effectively treat a chronic disease one must address more than the symptoms.
The underlying cause must be uncovered and addressed.

Diet, nutrition, exercise, rest, relaxation, social connection, sleep quality,  self expression, intellectual stimuli and genetics are all taken into account. Ideally, balance needs to be achieved, in all aspects of life, to achieve wellbeing.

A Naturopathic model of healthcare is perfect for the management of chronic illnesses. Chronic diseases are essentially lifestyle diseases, they usually develop after years of denying your body the condtions it needs to thrive.

Think of a tree, if a tree is showing signs of diseaase the ideal strategy would be to improve the environmental conditions, eg the soil, rather than remove the diseased bits and hope for good regrowth.

Think of yourself in much the same way… If branches on your tree are sick then improve the soil!
Medications will never improve the soil , however, they can, if necessary be used to manage symptoms whilst you work to address the underlying causes.

Functional foods, individualised dietary and exercise plans, as well as herbal therapeutics, as prescribed by a highly trained practitioner, can be used to improve the quality of your ‘soil’ so that your tree can thrive!

Is stress making you sick?

Undoubtedly two of the most complex systems in the body are the immune system and the stress response system. Years of research have highlighted the impact of stress on our immune systems.

Did you know that acute stress actually upregulates our immune response, and this is a good thing?

This system developed as a result of our prehistoric existence where our very life was threatened by injury and infection. Therefore, an enhanced immune response at times of (acute) stress offered a survival advantage.

For many of us today, our stressors are insidious and chronic by nature. Chronic stress has been shown to suppress immune function, with subsequent immune depletion.
On a biochemical level, chronic stress suppresses interleukins 12 & 4, resulting in immune suppression. Also, biochemically, chronic exposure to stress results in cortisol resistance and a failure to down regulate the inflammatory response.

This could be described as a double whammy, we are left with both immune suppression, so at risk of increased of lingering infections, alongside of uncontrolled inflammation which exaggerates the signs and symptoms of infection. Basically, sicker for longer!! Aargh!!

I could go on and on about dietary and lifestyle interventions for stress management…
And I will some other time…

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Did you know that the human organism is home to 10 times more microbial DNA than human DNA?

This begs the question, are we more more microbial than human? Your inner ‘environment and its inhabitants’ have a significant impact on your health.
The complexity and profound effect this ‘inner’ environment has on health is what drives my special interest in complex gastrointestinal disorders.

With gut symptoms constituting a large percentage of health complaints in the community, it is vital to engage the services of a health professional familiar with the nuances of gastrointestinal dysfunction.

Our gut is a many layered organ. First, there is the influence of diet, which plays a huge role in determining gut health. Other influential factors include digestive enzymes, microbial balance, membrane (gut lining) function, gut based immunity and the enteric nervous system.

It is the enteric nervous system that allows for that ‘butterfly’ feeling in the tummy when we’re nervous.
IBS? Crohns? Ulcerative Colitis? NCWS? Coeliacs? FODMAP Intolerance, H.Pylori, SIBO, Lactose Intolerance, diarrhoea and/or constipation, bloating, flatulence… the list of bowel disorders goes on and on.

SCD, GFCF, Paleo, Vegan, Blood Type, FODMAPS, Wellness, Anti-Candida, Biofilm Busting, Elimination, Nourishing Traditions, Low GI, Mediterranean and so goes the list of possible dietary interventions.

Lactobacilli , Bifidobacterium , Thermophilus, E.coli , Clostridia, Bacteroides, Fermicutes, Klebsiella, Candida spp. on and on goes the list of diverse microbes living in and affecting your gut.

What this means, is that if you have ‘gut issues’ talk to someone that is trained in, and understands the complexity of your gut and its microbial terrain. In doing so, you can better understand the causes of your gut issues, apply the best dietary strategy and optimise the population of your gut inhabitants.

Cholesterol – Fast Facts

Cholesterol is VITAL for:
  • Hormone production
  • Brain function
  • Skin health
  • Nerve health
  • Immune finction and lots more…

Did you know that 75% of your total cholesterol is actually made by your LIVER!

1 in 3 Australians have elevated cholesterol and currently anticholesterol medications are the most prescribed class of drugs and are often prescribed for life. Many people on statins will experience muscle fatigue and pain that impacts  significantly on their quality of life. Furthermore, new research highlights a link between statin use and an increased risk of diabetes (in certain age groups).

Of course, given  that there are many ways to skin a cat, there are also a myriad of options available in restoring cholesterol to optimal levels. Understand though, low cholesterol is not always the best measure of ‘healthy’ cholesterol.

Nature has provided us with a variety of substances that can be used for managing high cholesterol. It is no coincidence that many of these substances are fats. For example, Fish oils, Vit E, phytosterols, nuts and seeds.

It is reasonable to expect that before starting a medication one should adopt a 3 month protocol incorporating these elements; judicious use of Omega 3’s, fibre ( more than you would imagine) nuts & seeds, phytosterols, anti-oxidants and liver support.

Additional factors such as obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, exercise and refined carbohydrate intake all need to be considered when targeting healthy cholesterol levels.
For those individuals that are considered high risk for cardiovascular events (stroke, heart attack) specialised pathology testing can be utilised to determine how severe their risk is and therefore informing the best approach to treatment .

Saturday, 5 September 2015

ME: The Toxic Tiredness

I wanted to share this resource with you.

A BBC documentary, ME:The toxic Tiredness (available on You Tube) explores Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) through a series of case stories from sufferers and practitioners. Part One highlights the incredible individuality of each case and potentially devastating consequences, whilst Part two provides expert medical opinions.

Through the case stories and ongoing research a message of hope emerges with clear explanations of the benefits gained from supporting both the physical body and the mind-body aspects of the patient. This illustrates the benefits of an holistic approach in chronic, complex conditions such as CFS.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Skin IS Deep!

Chronic skin conditions can be uncomfortable, unsightly and downright dangerous, at least making life awkward, at worst increasing the risk of systemic infections.

Approximately 27% of Australians suffer one or more skin condition. The most prevalent are eczema, acne, rosacea and psoriasis and are usually inflammatory or allergic. The lymphatic system is a network of nodes, vessels and immune cells responsible for delivering and draining lymph fluid. A congested lymphatic system results in a build up of metabolic wastes and toxins placing an increased burden on the skin.

Unlike the blood which has a pump (the heart) our lymph system relies on skeletal muscle to keep things moving. Many of you know I’m a big fan of exercise, here’s YET another way exercise contributes to our wellbeing, it is vital for healthy lymph and skin.
Lifestyle strategies to support lymphatic health include dry skin brushing, deep breathing exercises, massage and a clean vegetable heavy diet.

In the case of stubborn, difficult to treat skin conditions, herbal and nutritional medicines can be used to enhance elimination via the lungs, liver, gut and kidneys. This reduces the lymphatic burden. Echinacea (a favourite herb of mine) Burdock, Yellow Dock and Poke Root are all lymphatic herbs with a long history of use in skin conditions. Additionally, zinc and Vitamin A can provide nutritional support for lymphatic clearing and skin healing.

But let’s not forget the role of hormonal imbalance and skin disorders……… More on that later……

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Antibiotic resistance affects us all

 High rates of antibiotic use in rich countries has
led to the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria. The World Health Organisation’s report states that this is a ’cause of high concern’ and that resistance to ‘last resort’ antibiotics is now global.

If we continue to use antibiotics at such high rates we risk losing them working AT ALL!

Shamefully, Australia has one of the highest rates of antibiotic over-use in the world and as a result, once easily treated bacterial infections are becoming increasingly difficult to cure and even at times, life threatening.

As consumers of medicine we all have a role to play and can exert a significant ripple effect by what we choose. Save the use of antibiotics for true bacterial infections only, and even then, in non life threatening situations. Why not try something plant based first. After all, we use plant based compounds all the time, take aspirin, for example.

So, what are our other options?

First, ensure your immune system is in tip top shape. Nutritionally and herbally this means;  ensuring you have adequate iron, zinc, Vitamin C, D and E to start with. As well, you can improve your immune systems ability to detect and fight bacteria and I especially love a combination of Echinacea and Astragalus for this job.

This might also mean you need to get more sleep, improve your diet, stress less and exercise more!

Secondly, specific agents that possess antibacterial properties can also be used. Some useful ones include Garlic, Golden seal, Myrrh, Andrographis and Thyme. Lactoferrin, derived from colustrum is an incredibly powerful antibiotic agent to consider too. Furthermore, different herbs have different affinity for different body parts. For example, I would use Thyme for a chest infection and Golden Seal and cranberry  for a urinary tract infection.

I am passionate about preserving the viability of antibiotics for when people really need it.

I am available for economically priced ‘acute’ consultations when you want to get the best, most effective natural treatments for infections of any kind.

Really, the treatment possibilities are almost endless…