The gut-brain connection in a nutshell.

We work closely together with a team of psychologists because so many physical ailments are caused by stress and anxiety. The brain and all of our organs communicate and can cause an array of symptoms if we don’t look at both.

Lets look at it this way:

In African wild life sanctuaries many go to see the ‘big five’ (leopard, lion, elephant, rhino, and buffalo), in mental health the ‘big three’ are depression, anxiety, and stress. Unfortunately the prevalence of mental health issues is increasing at a faster rate than the speed at which wildlife is declining in Africa.  The first of the ‘big 3’ we will explore is that of anxiety. 
 
A ‘whole person’ approach to treating anxiety
Anxiety plays a role in signalling that self-protective action is required to ensure safety and thus cannot be labelled as globally pathological. However when we experience anxiety in the absence of any real threat our capacity to function effectively is impaired and quality of life is diminished. Anxiety is not our default state and chronic anxiety that is always there impairs optimal functioning. 
 
Three specific psychological mechanisms that are often a focus in treatment include:

1. Reducing ‘future orientation’. Anxiety is a ‘future oriented state’. Mindfulness skills can enable us to become more ‘present focussed’. 
2. Behavioural strategies to manage hyper-arousal. Diaphragmatic breathing is one important behavioural strategy. When the body is tense breathing is affected even before panic begins. 
3. Identifying and influencing thought patterns related to anxiety.  Thoughts can be both the result and trigger for anxiety states.  Thus the relationship between thoughts and feelings is bidirectional.  Consciously influencing thoughts can result in a significant reduction in anxiety.  Catastrophising thought patterns often begin with “Oh no!”.  These cognitions block us from a realistic appraisal of threat.   Anxiety is often associated with difficulty in perspective taking that has been referred to as a tendency to ‘over care’.  For example, nobody likes the idea of sudden unemployment however becoming preoccupied with this future possibility amplifies distress. 
 
Three physiological mechanisms in the body that are related to anxiety include:

1. The HPA axis is the communication between our hormones and stress. Anxiety confuses our hormonal system and elevates stress levels even when we are asleep. Anxiety related hormones such as cortisol can easily be measured in the blood or in saliva and might be a key factor in solving the underlying cause of chronic anxiety. Once diagnosed, hormonal imbalances can be significantly reduced by supplementing with Magnesium, as it has a direct effect on lowering stress hormones in the blood. 
2. The brain and the gut are connected through a ‘nerve highway’ called the Vagus nerve. The gut is covered with many nerve endings and researchers now call it our second brain because of the tight knit connection the brain and the gut share. Anxiety releases stress chemicals which affect the nerve endings in the gut. This results in an inability to digest food properly. Stress chemicals switch off digestive juice secretion which often results in cramping, bloating and bowel habit changes. Long term IBS is often a result of Anxiety and can be treated successfully by restoring the gut lining with Glutamine, probiotics and Food therapy. Gut Function tests and Food sensitivity testing can be useful in restoring healthy function.
3. Low levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA is implicated in anxiety. Low levels of GABA contribute to anxiety and sleep issues. GABA is made from Protein sources such as meat and eggs but we need Vitamin B6, Magnesium and Zinc. If these are lacking, anxiety and agitation are often more prevalent. Get your levels of Vitamin B6 and Zinc checked regularly to rule out imbalances.

Credits:

Wade Jacklin – Clinical psychologist @ 4Life Psychology
Sarah Henschel – Naturopath and Nutritionist @ Natology

Zesty Zucchini soup

Zesty Zucchini Soup

Serves 3-5

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
Pinch Celtic salt and freshly cracked pepper 1kg zucchini, trimmed and chopped
1 large handful baby spinach
3 cups natural vegetable stock (homemade is much better than commercial!) Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon organic apple cider vinegar
Melt oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cooking, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until softened. Add turmeric and seasoning, then cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds or so. Reduce the heat slightly and add zucchini, then cook, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes or until the zucchini is beginning to soften.
Add the stock, zest, juice and vinegar and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the zucchini is very tender. Add the baby spinach and allow to wilt.
Remove from heat and allow to cool a little, then puree in a food processor or blender. Return to the saucepan over low heat, and warm to desired temperature before serving.

What is the deal with Folate during pregnancy?

PRECONCEPTION

Why is MTHFR important in preconception and pregnancy ? 

Written by our fertility Naturopath – Shannon Stokes

1. MTHFR is an enzyme in your body that converts the folate you eat (leafy greens and legumes) into a usable and active form for absorption
2. If you have a mutation in the gene (which is what we can test for) the absorption of folate you consume via diet or prenatal vitamin will be affected. 
3. Folate is absolutely essential for a healthy pregnancy. 
4. If we know there is a mutation in this gene we can help ensure you are getting the right types of active folate to assist with getting you pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy and healthy growth and development of your baby. 
4. A mutation in one of the tested genes or even both of the genes tested is very common and could be affecting your chance to conceive or have a healthy pregnancy. 
5. Taking higher doses of folic acid in a prenatal vitamin if you have this gene mutation is not the answer and can be impacting your fertility and may lead to pregnancy struggles. 
6. So many foods and cereals are fortified with folic acid which is overkill if you ask me, so you may be overloading via diet and then taking a prenatal vitamin with already high levels of folic acid form. 
7. This science is hugely complex and not a one size fits all approach, don’t opt for a quick over the counter prenatal vitamin especially if you feel there might be some problems getting pregnant or having frequent miscarriages.
8. Some of the signs that you may have a defect are;

depression
– fatigue
– anxiety
– low B12 levels
– elevated homocysteine (blood test)
– multiple miscarriages
– ADD
– ADHD
– high blood pressure
– chronic constipation. 

All this aside, it is important to know that the MTHFR gene resides in every single cell in the body. People with the genetic variant can have up to 40-60% reduced ability to utilise folate. It is suggested that 1 in 4 people carry a variant or mutation. That’s pretty high odds if you ask me?!
If you would like to know more, call us for a chat and get the test done at our clinic or have it posted to you. The test is simple and quick with a finger prick test and the information gained and treatment post MTHFR test is actually really easy, but always individualised! 

Credit:

Shannon Stokes

Naturopath and Nutritionist at our Brisbane clinic.

Specialising in fertility, pre-conception care, pregnancy and women’s health, children’s and adolescents Nutrition

To learn more please contact us!

Thyroid blood spot tests

Have you ever wanted to know if your metabolism is slow because of hormone issues?
Maybe you really hate blood tests (don’t worry, so do I and who can raise their hand with me for being notorious for fainting before the needle even comes close?).
Fear not, there are other options. Most our patients including myself are ok with a finger prick blood test (and for those of you who are not, there are even thyroid urine tests available – go figure..).

What is the Thyroid gland and why would anyone want their Thyroid function tested?

Positioned just over your wind pipe in the middle of the throat, the thyroid is a sensitive, butterfly-shaped gland that controls our metabolism, cell growth and repair, energy production and much more. And like the delicate winged creature, the thyroid can be influenced by the slightest of changes.
Disruption to itʼs balance can manifest in a range of symptoms including:

– Anxiety and depression – Unusual weight loss or weight gain – Menstrual irregularities, including infertility – Fatigue and lethargy – Memory loss, confusion and brain fog – Muscle weakness – Lower digestive disturbances – Heightened sensitivity to hot or cold – …. and the list goes on!

Thyroid abnormalities are increasingly prevalent in our current society and the causes are diverse. So what can disturb the equilibrium?

– Consistent stress – Environmental toxins encountered daily
– Fluoride – Chloride – Most plastics (including Teflon)
– Synthetic perfumes and body products – Chemical fertilizers and insecticides
– Hormonal changes including pregnancy and menopause

As you can see, we are exposed to these common elements regularly.
Nutritional deficiencies can also cause thyroid disfunction, those include:

– Iodine – Zinc – Selenium – Vitamin D – Iron – And the amino acid Tyrosine

In some cases the immune system could be attacking the thyroid gland, resulting in inflammation, destruction of the gland and reducing itʼs ability to make hormones. This is called Hashimotoʼs disease, which is treated differently to other hypothyroid conditions so it is essential to ascertain if this is the underlying factor to your symptoms.

THYROID AND FAT LOSS

Most of us know that a good diet and lots of exercise should get you looking like Elle McPherson in no time if we only do it for long enough and not slip off the wagon…
What about those of us who have done it all, shakes, the Atkins diet, Paleo, vegan, intermittent fasting, you name it… and haven’t seen the results you were looking for?
Have you ever wondered if there might be more to calories in and out when it comes to weight loss?
The answer is yes, there is a lot more to it than most of us think. One very important little gland called the Thyroid gland might be holding the key to the answer you have been looking for all this time.

Think of the Thyroid gland as the key guardian for all your cells. We need those keys to unlock cells to get energy production happening and to regulate our temperature.
In a nutshell – The Thyroid controls your metabolism.

To give you a few examples of what I often hear Thyroid patients say in my clinic:

• Feeling cold, can’t get warm even when others feel hot or can’t cool down even when they stand in the freezer section of the supermarket;

• Their hair is falling out and they see strands come out in the shower and wonder how they still have hair left on their head;

• Eyebrow hair is coming off and they need to make an extra effort pencilling in the gaps in the morning;
• Weight has come on suddenly with no change in diet or exercise and they are very, very frustrated about that;
• They exercise daily and tried every diet under the sun and can barely keep their weight stable, or worse keep putting it on;

• Their Nails and skin feel dry and brittle and hairstyles don’t last more than an hour;
• They feel tired and often sad for no reason;
• Constipation has been more noticeable;
• A swollen neck or croaky voice has been there on and off;

So, I guess most of you would say, well my GP checked it in my last blood test and there was no issue, so I’m sure everything is fine.
Hold up, not so fast! Which marker was tested and what range was it in?

Did you know that in most cases the Thyroid is not checked unless you ask AND if it is checked only 20% of all Thyroid markers are checked if you do ask? If it is not functioning properly but not yet necessary to be medicated, you won’t be notified.

Be sure to always check for the following:

TSH – This is generally tested as the only marker and shows how fast the gland works – like an employee in your little key making business

T4 – indicates how much metal is on the shelf to make keys – no metal – no keys

T3 – this marker tells us how many perfectly shaped keys you actually have to unlock cells

Reverse T3 – This checks for blunt keys, pretty much blocking your cells up and stopping energy production = tiredness and weight gain

Sometimes we need to check for immune conditions affecting the Thyroid but I will go into that more in my next post.

You can see how important all of this is and how we need to assess all markers rather than one.
If you want to have your levels checked, we can perform a Thyroid blood spot in the clinic for you or you can have a test kit sent to your home, this is a good option for those of you who fear needles. The blood spot is only a small finger prick and you can either do it at home or come into our Brisbane or Sydney clinic to have it done.

GOLDEN MILK WINTER RECIPE

If you are trying to keep warm this winter and have been knocked down twice (like I have) with a cold and Fly this year it is time to give your immune system a little extra love. This recipe works wonders as a superfood immune booster and acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic,analgesic plus it is great for lowing cholesterol and to keep extra weight off this winer from eating too many winter treats. Enjoy!

GOLDEN MILK

Golden Milk

Step 1: Turmeric Paste:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup of turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
1/2 cup of filtered water
Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a small a small sauce pan and mix well. Turn the heat to medium high and stir constantly until the mixture is a thick paste. This does not take long so don’t walk away from the pan.

Let this mixture cool and then keep it in a small jar in the fridge.

Step 2: Golden Milk

Ingredients:

1 cup of almond milk (hemp or coconut are also good options)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon or more of turmeric paste
Honey
Directions:

Combine all the ingredients, except honey in a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium. While heating make sure to stir constantly and do not allow the mixture to boil. Add honey to taste.