5 Easy Tips For a Better Sleep

Are you getting enough? More quality sleep = far better health.

As adults we need somewhere between 7-8 hours of good quality sleep each night to allow our best chances of recovery and regeneration overnight. This helps maximise our energy levels and brain power for the following day. Poor sleep can impact on our health by affecting our hormones, elevating both physical and emotional stress and making it difficult to lose weight. Try these easy tips to boost your sleep quality:

  • Maintain a regular bedtime – plan to go to bed around the same time every night. We insist on this with our young children, but lose the art as adults, although it is just as important. A short daily bedtime routine may include consuming a herbal tea, taking a warm bath and having a good read to calm the mind and soothe the body ready for sleep.
  • Identify and eliminate anything that may stimulate the senses before bed – eg. caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Some medications can disrupt sleep as well because they contain caffeine. While alcohol may have a sedating effect, the enzymes that we produce to break down the alcohol actually have the opposite effect. Certain compounds such as colourings, flavourings and refined carbohydrates can also act as stimulants.
  • Don’t dine too late – try to have a regular schedule for meals, which will keep your appetite hormones in check.
  • A small bedtime snack may help – low night time blood sugar levels can cause insomnia. Choose foods high in tryptophan, eg. turkey, chicken, eggs, cottage cheese and nuts, especially almonds. This should be a snack, not a full meal, so it is easily digested.
  • Set the scene – aim to keep your bedroom a peaceful haven by removing all electronic devices including TV’s and bright lights. Cultivate the mood for sleep with dim lighting and encourage winding down.

 

Fix Your Memory Now!

How is your memory?

Do you ever walk into a room to get something and can’t remember what you are there for?

Poor cognitive function is a part of the ageing process. Right?

Wrong! We now know that our lifestyle choices are what impacts our brain health and that if we made smarter choices over the decades, we could maintain healthier brain function for life.

How the brain works

“We are designed to be smart people our entire lives. The brain is supposed to work well until our last breath.” (Dr David Perlmutter: The Grain Brain)

Our twenty-first century lifestyles have derailed our health. The diseases we are predisposed to today, (eg, heart disease, diabetes, dementia), are brought on by our lifestyle not being in sync with our genetic makeup.

It is correct to think that increased risk factors exist for people with a family history of a particular disease, such as heart disease, autoimmunity or cancer. But succumbing to these diseases is not a fait accompli. The same applies to brain health. Not only do we have the ability to reduce these risk factors, but we can actually reprogram some of our DNA to work more beneficially. Our brains are like plastic – we can repair and regenerate new brain tissue.

What we can do to improve brain function

Our food choices, the exercise we get or neglect to get, our sleep quality, the stress that we feel or avoid and even the relationships we have with friends and family, all have an influence on our genes and the way they are expressed. We now know that we can alter around 70% of the genes that directly impact on our health and longevity. This is exciting news!

A particular type of protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) plays an important role in creating new neurons. Studies of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s, show that these patients had far lower levels of BDNF. Those people who had higher levels of BDNF in their blood had less than half the risk for dementia. Low levels of BDNF are also linked to the following conditions: schizophrenia, depression, bipolar, anxiety, addictive behaviours including alcohol, sleep & eating disorders, obesity and a history of suicide attempts. So, if we know what to do to generate more BDNF, do we have the secret to better brain function? You bet!

Ways of elevating your BDNF

  • Exercise – when you exercise, you exercise your genes. Genes that are linked to longevity are turned on. The more we move, the fitter our brain becomes.
  • Caloric restriction – extensive human studies continually report that with caloric restriction comes an increase in BDNF production and improvements in memory and other brain functions. Since 1970, our caloric intake has increased by 23% and most of this is sugar & refined flour. If we returned to our calorie intake of 50 years ago, we would be practicing caloric restriction and better dietary choices. Intermittent fasting also activates the production of BDNF.
  • Ketogenic diet – this describes a diet that contains moderate levels of protein, high levels of good fats and low levels of carbohydrates. Eating good fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds, fish oils, coconut oil, olives, olive oil and flaxseed have resulted in significant improvements in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. This dietary choice also has been shown to reduce amyloid plaques in the brain (observed in patients with cognitive decline), increase the production of glutathione (a potent brain-protective antioxidant) and an increase in the size of the hippocampus – the part of the brain connected to our memory and emotions. It also helps stimulate the growth of our mitochondria, the ‘mini factories’ contained within our cells where we make our energy. Put quite simply, when the body is in ketosis, it makes ketones for fuel instead of relying on sugar. The brain loves this!
  • Gluten – there is increasingly more evidence to show that gluten consumption can impact the health of our brains in much the same way as it can affect our gut lining or the walls of our small intestine. Gluten consumption can cause leaky gut and we now know that it can cause leaky brain. If you experience brain fog and poor memory, avoid gluten for a two to three months and note the changes in your level of cognition and memory. Include other recommendations listed here and you will easily notice the difference!
  • Curcumin (in turmeric) – this phyto-nutrient has the ability to increase BDNF in the brain. Studies reveal that this translates to an improvement in memory, improved attention and general mood.
  • DHA (in fish oils) – one-quarter of the brain is DHA, a type of omega-3 fat found in fish oil. This is an important constituent of the cell wall and its presence has a major impact on cell health. If taken as a supplement this nutrient can facilitate the growth & function of the brain, as well as help reduce inflammation in the brain. DHA can help regulate the production of BDNF, which we know benefits brain function.
  • Intellectual stimulation – in much the same way that we can stimulate the growth of muscle by lifting weights and eating the right nutrients, our brains can be stimulated and respond with growth and memory improvement. By choosing to learn a new language or musical instrument, solving crosswords and puzzles, further education and reading widely, even exercise like weight training or learning something challenging and new, can bolster our brain function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. I include the act of meditation here as well as the evidence is now undeniable, that regular meditation reduces the chances of developing poor memory with ageing.

Take charge of your brain’s destiny today with smart food and lifestyle choices and maintain great brain health for life! 

5 Tips to Reduce Your Food Allergies

What are food allergies?

When we think of food allergies we often recall peanut allergies, that may send a person to the emergency room with an anaphylactic reaction. This is called an immediate reaction or an IgE hypersensitivity reaction. It can result in swelling of the face & eyes, extreme itchiness, severe rashes, swollen tongue and worse still, inability to breathe. Fortunately, this is not common.

The less dramatic & deadly type of allergic reaction is a delayed allergy or IgG delayed hypersensitivity reaction. This is much more common and can create a lot of suffering for millions of people. It can cause symptoms from a few hours to a few days after ingestion. Problems like weight gain, fluid retention, fatigue, brain fog, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), headaches, joint pain, sinus, acne, eczema and much more. 

Putting the Puzzle Together

Collectively, these common adverse food reactions can be associated with:

  1. alteration of the gut bacteria (eg. antibiotics will reduce the good gut bacteria in the microbiome)
  2. intestinal enzyme deficiency (eg. low lactase in the gut means a person will be sensitive to dairy)
  3. a defective mucosal barrier lining the gut
  4. poor immune function
  5. heightened inflammatory response

 

Why do some people have allergic reactions to food?

In a nutshell, the diet you eat, your lifestyle choices (such as alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, overwhelming stress) and the medications you are taking are to blame for allergic reactivity. All of these things impact on your gut lining and break down the barrier that protects us from many of these assaults. This exposes our immune system to the toxins and results in leaky gut. 

When the partially digested food particles begin to ‘leak’ across the damaged barrier, your immune system begins to attack these particles. This is when the food intolerance or IgG allergic reaction occurs.

How can Naturopathy help reduce allergic reactions?

Here are 6 ways a Naturopath can help reduce the ‘flames’ and allergic raections:

  1. Eating an anti-inflammatory, low allergy diet will go a long way to improve the situation. Reduce refined, processed carbohydrates and starchy sugars (found in white potatoes, flour etc). Also avoid refined vegetable oils or ‘trans fats’. These are highly toxic. Many of these are found in refined processed foods.
  2. Eliminate food allergens & sensitivities in the short term and boost immunity, with a personalised detox. This will enable the gut to heal and toxins to be cleared out, to help reduce reactivity and strengthen the gut mucosa. 
  3. Some foods irritate the immune system more than others. These include gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut), dairy (milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt), eggs, soy, corn, some nuts, nightshades (tomatoes, capsicums, eggplant, potatoes), citrus and yeast. Some of these can cause acute reactions and need to be taken seriously.
  4. Exercise regularly as this helps reduce inflammation. Begin with a low impact regime such as yoga & Pilates, and progress to higher impact exercise and weight training as inflammatory load reduces.

Boost Your Health, Grow Your Food

Boost your health – start with sprouts

One of the easiest ways of boosting your health and ensuring that you get the best quality & freshest fruits & vegetables on tap, is to grow your own. Even if you start small with an indoor ‘sprouts’ garden for alfalfa, mung beans, pea sprouts etc. These are easy to set up and you can pick them fresh in just 3-5 days for use in salads.

Add a herb patch!

After you’ve set up your indoor garden try an outdoor one, beginning with a bunch of different herbs. When planted from seedlings you can pick them after a week or so, once they have achieved some lush growth and they will continue to thrive and thicken. 

Organic fruit and vegetables

Then perhaps a vegetable patch is next. Starting with seedlings always makes it quicker, but make sure the soil is prepared ahead of time with some good mushroom mulch or similar fertile base, mixed in with the soil. Water heavily on hot days for maximum yield. Plant a fruit tree or two and now you’re talking!

Not only do organic fruits and vegetables taste far better, they last in the fridge longer because they have ripened naturally, they are more nutrient-dense than non-organic (you get a better bang for your buck) and the activity will keep you fitter and in touch with nature. Pick a vase of herbs and spread their wonderful aroma through your house today! Enjoy!

Reflux Relief for People in a Hurry

GERD

Many people suffer from a condition called GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) and are often prescribed medication for high stomach acidity. But is this treating the real cause and is it the best treatment?

Stomach pH

It is a well-documented fact that as we age we produce less hydrochloric acid in our stomach. This acid environment is the natural environment for our stomach so that proteins and other nutrients can be largely digested before passing into the small intestine. If we make less of it as we age, why are so many elderly people being increasingly prescribed more medications to lower stomach acid levels, when they are already low? Reflux medications are one of the highest selling medications to the elderly.

An interesting point to note is that these medications can temporarily mask some symptoms (of low stomach acidity), but once the medication is stopped, the symptoms often return and can be a lot worse than before. 

Causes of reflux

When reflux occurs, a burning sensation or bitter, acid taste can be felt in the throat and mouth. This is largely as a result of a faulty esophageal sphincter valve, which is no longer separating the stomach from the esophagus effectively, thus allowing acid to move upwards. Whether stomach acid levels are normal or low, this will still occur if the valve is faulty. 

Reasons for faulty valves

The main reason for malfunction of this sphincter valve is intra-abdominal pressure. This can occur due to:

  • overeating
  • being overweight
  • consuming too many refined, processed carbohydrates
  • bending over or lying down too soon after a meal
  • eating too many spicy, fatty foods
  • a bacterial overgrowth

How to treat reflux

  1. Reducing intra-abdominal pressure will help improve the integrity of the sphincter valve.
  2. Reducing intake of refined, processed carbohydrates
  3. Avoiding overeating 
  4. Losing weight
  5. Avoiding lying down after meals. 
  6. Avoiding spicy, fatty foods.
  7. Providing enzymes & digestives to promote better digestion if stomach acid levels are low.
  8. Being treated for bacterial overgrowth with herbs that knock out the pathogens.

Food for thought.

Want To Live Longer, Live Healthier? Who Doesn’t!

… Start by looking after your “telomeres”. These are the tiny end units of our DNA strands, which prevent the DNA from unraveling. (… Think of a shoelace which has it’s ends bound tightly.)  As our cells replicate our telomeres shorten. Longer telomeres lead to longevity. So how do we lengthen them?

Lengthen your telomeres, live longer & healthier with a few simple lifestyle adjustments:
  1. Improve your quality of sleep each night.
  2. Reduce stress with regular meditation and relaxation. 
  3. Exercise regularly and include HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) one to two times a week.
  4. Eat the right fats.  Include a small amount of good fats at each meal and snack, eg. nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, olives, deep-sea fish, fish oils.
  5. Keep vitamin D levels adequate.  Include deep-sea fish, eggs, mushrooms (grown in sunlight). Expose skin daily to sunlight to boost your own production of Vitamin D. In Summer you’ll need less time in the sun because of the higher UV Index. This varies a little depending on location and season of the year.
  6. Reduce levels of inflammation by avoiding or greatly reducing refined processed carbohydrates, deep-fried foods, alcohol, caffeine, added sugars including artificial sweeteners. Choose green leafy vegetables, quality protein, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit & vegetables, free-range eggs, herbs.
  7. Reduce risk factors – quit smoking & recreational drugs, reduce alcohol intake, include daily movement and exercise.         … Does any of this sound familiar? 

How To Lose Belly Fat

No amount of daily sit-ups will help you lose belly fat. Some lifestyle, exercise and dietary adjustments are necessary. Incorporate a few changes at a time so you are not overwhelmed. 

Exercise adjustments:

  1. Include HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) one to two times a week, for about 20 mins a session. Muscle tissue burns 3-5 times more energy than fat tissue. So as you gain muscle your metabolic rate increases, allowing you to burn more calories even while sleeping. Note: workout for short bursts of maximum intensity (eg. 30 sec) and rest in between these spurts for a similar time.
  2. Include weight (resistance) training. Perform your sets using the correct technique and at a slightly slower pace, squeezing & holding the abdominals taut during each set. Rest in between. Core-strengthening exercises like “planking” engages a wide group of muscles to improve overall strength. Push-ups are a great exercise to perform in sets of 20 throughout the day. We all need a break from sitting!

Dietary recommendations:

  1. Incorporate more protein in your diet if it is currently low, especially if you are doing weights regularly. We need good levels of quality protein to build more muscle.  Also protein has a higher Thermic Effect of Food. Protein burns about 5 times more calories than carbohydrates or fats.  So including extra protein and less carbs, means you will expend more energy & burn more body fat.
  2. Choose more organic, raw wholefoods containing fibre. This is better for the bowels and will help you feel fuller for longer.
  3. Cut out or reduce processed refined foods that deplete the body of energy.
  4. Add small serves of good fats throughout the day, eg. avocado, nuts & seeds, coconut oil, olive oil, green leafy veg, fish, fish oils. Avoid trans fats.
  5. Greatly reduce alcohol or avoid altogether.
  6. Add probiotics daily to make your tummy balanced, healthy and happy.
  7. Add a serve of fermented foods daily: eg. yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, lassi. Anything that makes the tummy balanced and happy will help reduce bloat and fluid retention.
  8. Add 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar to a 1/2 glass of water once a day to increase your satiety and restore gut health.

Lifestyle suggestions:

  1. Reduce stress: cortisol is a fat-storing hormone that is produced in higher amounts under stress. Incorporate some daily relaxation or meditation (10-15 mins) to improve your sleep and recover your energy.
  2. Get some sunlight exposure each day and feel more grounded. This helps us sleep better at night. Take a walk outside during your lunch break.
  3. At night after dinner, dim the lights and reduce your exposure to blue lights and electronic devices an hour or so before bed. Both of these disrupt your natural melatonin production. This is the hormone that helps us wind down and sleep at night. If you’re wired, you’ll get tired! 

Reduce High Blood Pressure Naturally

We have all experienced a rapid heart rate as a response to a stressor at some time. Whether it is being late for work or school, not meeting a deadline or almost getting hit by a car when crossing the road, the stress will generally result in shallow, fast breathing that activates a release of cortisol, adrenalin and other stress hormones. 

On the other hand, controlled, deep-breathing activates the relaxation response and calms the nervous system. This not only slows our heart rate, pulse and blood pressure, but also our digestive system, while at the same time promotes a state of calm.

Try my simple Yoga-breathing Exercise and feel the difference:

  • Lie flat on floor or bed, arms down by your sides, palms facing up, feet falling out (called Dead Man’s Pose)
  • Close your eyes
  • Focus on your breath – take 2-3 slow deep breaths, through the nose, breathe out through the nose (quietly)
  • This time, breathe in for 1 second and out for two seconds. Repeat.
  • Continue this breathing pattern. Place one hand on your stomach. As you breathe in, make the stomach rise. As you breathe out, make the stomach fall.
  • Now, as you are in a more relaxed state, change the breathing pattern. Breathe in for 2 counts and out for 4 counts. Keep your hand on your stomach, to check that your stomach is rising and falling as you breathe.
  • Return hand to your side and continue this pattern. Focus on the count as you breathe.
  • 10 to 20 minutes per day is highly recommended to reduce stress significantly.
  • When your session is complete, stretch and open your eyes slowly. Become aware of your surroundings, before you get up.

… There now, don’t you feel a little calmer? Have a lovely day.

Weight Loss in Adelaide

We are very fortunate to live in a city that is world renown for it’s fantastic restaurants and nearby wineries in Mc Laren Vale and the Barossa Valley. The downside is that with all this high quality, easy to access food and wine, many of us find ourselves a few kilos above our balanced weight. 

This is not just a South Australian problem, but a National problem with over 63% of the population now over-weight or obese (Australian Bureau of Statistics). If you are in this over-weight or obese category, you are part of the majority. If you have tried everything you can think of to lose weight to no avail, you may need some help.

Imagine your car won’t start. You know it has a new battery, a full tank of fuel and new spark plugs, but you can’t get it going. What do you do? Take it to a mechanic who diagnoses the problem and fixes it.

Many individuals are unable to budge body fat despite eating well and exercising regularly. A professional weight loss expert can help. I use a scientific test that provides an overview of your health, to help identify reasons for slow weight loss. This test allows me to target strategies for improvement and provides a means to track your progress.

As with any indulgence in life, in moderation, we can sample the goodness and enjoy the experience of great food and wine that our state has to offer. 

Lost your Drive & Motivation?

You may be dopamine deficient.

Dopamine is one of a 100 neurotransmitters in our brain. It is sometimes called the ‘motivation molecule’. People low in dopamine tend to: feel fatigued, forgetful, unmotivated to finish things and moody; they may crave sugar and have difficulty concentrating.

Boost your dopamine production naturally with foods that contain tyrosine, such as: fish, chicken, almonds, avocado, eggs, beans & bananas.

You can feel better today!