M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia

May 12th is ME and Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. The aim is to highlight the devastation that this condition causes to 17-20 million people worldwide. As for Fibromyalgia, it affects between 1.2-2.8 million people in the UK and 3-6% internationally.

Unanswered questions

It’s clear Fibromyalgia and ME can cause so much devastation to so many people’s lives. People with these conditions also have to deal with disbelief from people around them including their friends and families.

Invisible symptoms

Part of the problem is that in many cases, the symptoms are invisible. Chronic pain, cognitive difficulties, post-exertional flu like malaise after minimal physical or cognitive activity. At my worst, something as small as holding a conversation for 10 minutes or eating a meal would leave me exhausted! Other symptoms include gastro-intestinal problems, dizziness, coordination difficulties, poor balance, poor body temperature regulation. Suffers also experience increased heart rate on sitting to standing. This means the heart is working much harder to keep the person upright due to a lack of energy being produced.

These are just some of the symptoms of these conditions and are a far cry from the common perception that ME/CFS is about being tired! Another part of the problem is that they fluctuate. Therefore, people see you doing things that they’d expect you not to be able to do. However, they then don’t witness the exacerbation of all your symptoms afterwards and the debilitating effect that this can have.

Diagnostic tests

I think the biggest problem is the apparent lack of a diagnostic test.  There are lab tests (I run many of these for my clients) that can show up biochemical dysregulation. This shows abnormalities with mitochondrial energy production, parasitic infections, gastrointestinal imbalances and cortisol levels. This gives us a lot of information about how to work with the adrenals. We also get full thyroid panels, mycotoxin exposure etc. that can all be part of the picture.

But none of these tests are available through conventional medicine. So is it that there is no test, or is it that when someone’s blood panel comes back as “normal” they simply aren’t looking for the right markers that would indicate biochemical dysregulation?

Physiology of ME/CFS & Fibromyalgia

So what do we know about what’s going on inside the body in these conditions? Well, we know that there is dysfunction in the mitochondria in the cells that are responsible for producing energy. We also know that there is dysregulation of the HPA axis, and immune dysregulation. Nearly everyone I have encountered with these conditions has gastro- intestinal issues.

Is it physical or psychological?

Despite all of this evidence from researchers, there is still much controversy about whether it is a physical condition. The aim of this blog is not to get into the politics of why this controversy exists. Unfortunately publicising flawed research upon which treatments are based perpetuates the myth that this is a psychological illness, leading to discrimination and prejudice towards people with these conditions, which they have to cope with on top of their symptoms and functional limitations. Suffice to say that, unfortunately there is still much misunderstanding about the symptoms, complexity and physical nature of the condition. 

SIBO

For me, looking back at my medical records there were actually signs of something physical going on. I had delayed gut motility (delayed emptying from the stomach into the duodenum). I also had duodenitis (inflammation in my small intestine). This discovered over 20 years ago but never mentioned to me. We now know that delayed gut motility is a major contributory factor to SIBO, the cause of 60% of IBS! A recent study showed that 90% of people with Fibromyalgia have SIBO. SIBO is where bacteria have overgrown in the small intestines, producing endotoxins and nutritional deficiencies. I also had numerous blood tests showing raised levels of eosinophils and decreased white blood cell count, indicating some kind of immune dysregulation, again left unaddressed.

Iron deficiency

It wasn’t until another practitioner suggested I get a full iron panel rather than the standard iron tests that I found I had iron deficiency. The bacteria overgrowing in SIBO can actually eat your nutrients as they start to eat your food before you can absorb it.

The type of SIBO I had wasn’t even showing up on private lab tests as I had something called hydrogen sulphide SIBO. This has no definitive test at the moment, just signs from existing lab tests. And that particular type of bacteria can…. guess what? Damage the mitochondria in your cells that are crucial for energy production!

SIBO can also cause visceral hypersensitivity. This could explain why, if 90% of people with Fibromyalgia in one study were shown to have SIBO, they also had increased hypersensitivity to pain. Even after I trained and qualified as a naturopath, it took me a lot of continuing training to work out all of these pieces of the jigsaw. It was only last year that I found Lyme, candida and mould toxicity were also parts of my jigsaw.  

Naturopathy with chronic illness

Naturopathy, looks at disease quite differently to conventional medicine. Disease is a process which establishes itself over a period of time. When I first had my case history taken by a naturopath, I was surprised to see that I hadn’t suddenly been struck down by the virus that appeared to have started my ME/CFS. In reality, there had been signs of dysregulation, albeit minor, from an early age that had all depleted my immune system, coupled with my poor nutrition, poor sleep, my Type A personality causing me to always try and be superwoman at work and outside of work, despite my body screaming at me that something was very wrong.

Naturopathy also looks at the body as a whole entity, not separating the body and the mind. ME/CFS has been cited to have numerous causes. A virus was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me – my immune system was depleted and I couldn’t fight it off. I suppressed my symptoms by trying to carry on being superwoman and by continuing to do all the things that had already depleted my immune system. For other people, it might be a traumatic event, an injury, an infection, childhood trauma, over-exercising or ongoing stress. This has led to much debate within the ME community as to whether someone is correctly diagnosed with ME if their ME does not start with a virus.

But to me this is missing the point. Heart attacks can be caused by several different causes – stress, physical blockages, the food we eat, lifestyle, etc. But despite the fact that there can be numerous causes of heart attacks, nobody disputes that they are a physical condition. Nor that the end result is the same or that any stress or lifestyle factors that led to its onset need addressing. The job of a naturopath is to work out the case history to assess how the body got to that position in the first place and start to unravel it. Then you can start giving the body what it needs to kickstart its own innate healing ability.

My story

I developed M.E. back in 1996, followed by Fibromyalgia a few years later.  In my case, adverse childhood events led to an overproduction of stress hormones on an ongoing basis. Continual production of cortisol led to my immune system and my digestive system shutting down.

Dry skin

The first signs of something wrong were extreme dry skin. Unbeknown to me, this was a sign that my body was dehydrated. I had no clue until I became ill that I even needed to drink 4 pints of water a day to keep myself hydrated and that drinking tea and coffee was not the same thing.

My Diet

My diet was poor, which would certainly have been affecting my microbiome. We now know that this complex community of microbes that lives inside us are so important for the health of our bodies and minds. Couple this with a digestive system that was not working effectively and I began to develop numerous food allergies and intolerances. Which, you cannot have without gut permeability where the lining of the gut becomes permeable, allowing partially undigested food into the blood stream that shouldn’t be in there! So, I wasn’t absorbing the nutrients from my food. At the same time my body was launching an attack on what I was eating, giving rise to inflammation.

Stress

This contributed to further internal physical stress, which elevated my cortisol levels further. This gave rise to an overproduction of histamine. This resulted in histamine intolerance, which meant that I could no longer eat foods containing high levels of histamine without reacting. It was only after my training as a naturopath and further continuing professional development that I worked out that I had histamine intolerance.

Digestion

I was put on antacids due to gastrointestinal issues, which I later found out gave rise to further problems. Acid reflux can be caused by not enough stomach acid being produced as well as too much. When not enough acid is produced, this impairs the signal to the lower oesophageal sphincter to close and when this happens the acid can rise up into the oesophagus from the stomach.

SIBO

We need a certain amount of acid in our stomach to break down proteins and to kill any unbeneficial microbes that we might take in through what we eat and drink.  So the antacids contributed to the onset of my SIBO, together with more nutritional deficiencies.

At the time of the onset of my ME/CFS I was working long hours, partying hard and not getting much sleep. A virus came along and tipped everything over. For others overtraining can be a contributory factor. The point is that we all have different reasons as to why we become ill, regardless of the illness and regardless of the causes. Either shortly before or shortly afterwards I also contracted Lyme, but my immune system couldn’t fight it.

Assisting Recovery

The job of a good naturopath is to find the clues and provide education as to how to best support your body through diet, lifestyle, supplements and naturopathic techniques. 

Using naturopathic techniques starting with ensuring the bowels are working correctly. Then the liver, working backwards to the lymph and then the cell. 

So it’s about doing the right things at the right time in the right order. Before I started seeing a naturopath I thought I had tried everything.

Stress

For me, changing my stress response which has been hardwired since a child has been another big factor. Together with structural work through a chiropractor as my ribs were not expanding and allowing me to breathe in enough oxygen, in addition to the shallow breathing caused by stress. So, whilst I am not saying that naturopathy is a cure or a substitute for medical advice, for me it has been an invaluable piece of my health and wellbeing journey alongside the medical advice I have been given. If you do think you might be suffering with any of the symptoms, always speak to your GP.

What is becoming evident is that stress is a major factor in every chronic physical health condition and stress can come from a range of places, the foods we eat, the exercise we do, what we put on our skin, it isn’t just about being “stressed out” due to current or past events as we understand the term.  

There’s no magic pill for recovery

So, for all of you reading this who have ME/CFS or Fibromyalgia, I completely understand what you are going through. I have been virtually bedridden for 8 years with both conditions, with a battle over 2 decades to find the answers. Culminating in my own training as a naturopath and being able to get back to work. This is a world away from where I was. Being too ill to have a conversation for more than 10 minutes, losing the ability to read or having to crawl on my hands and knees to get from my bed to the toilet! So please don’t give up hope. I know what it’s like to feel like you have tried everything.

Taking responsibility for aiding my own healing instead of waiting for the magic answer was so empowering. Had I not done so, and learnt everything I have shared with you in this blog, I may still be bedridden with these conditions today. 

Point to remember

It took me many years to get as ill as I did, so expecting a miracle cure just wasn’t realistic. And, there was a lot of trying things out to see what worked and what didn’t. But, the main premise with naturopathy is to first do no harm. And all of the changes I made, whilst not a cure, were all part of supporting my health.

5 Things You Need to Know About Castor Oil Packing to Detox Your Liver

Castor Oil

1. The History of the Castor Oil Pack

The therapeutic usage of castor oil packing was first discovered by Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) and is now regarded by naturopaths around the world as a very effective tool for liver detox. 

2. The Method of Action that the Castor Oil Pack Uses to Liver Detox

The essential fatty acids, in particular the ricinoleic acid that castor oil contains, encourages movement of chemical energy within the body, resulting in a detoxifying effect. 

Castor oil also contains all the colours of the spectrum and colour & light are crucial to energy production and movement within the body. 

3. Reported Benefits of the Castor Oil Pack for liver detox include

It has been reported that castor oil packing has many benefits to health. The health benefits include:

  • More effective elimination of waste
  • Reduction of nausea
  • Pain relief
  • Improved digestion
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased relaxation
  • Immune enhancing benefits

4. Who Shouldn’t Use A Castor Oil Pack for Liver Detox

Castor oil packs shouldn’t be used in pregnancy as you do not want to create a cleanse when someone is pregnant. They can be used in a pre-conception programme with the aim of cleansing before conception takes place. 

You should also make sure that you are moving your bowels well when doing castor oil packs to ensure that whatever you are shifting is actually exiting the body.  For that very reason it is advised to do them together with enemas (read my blog on coffee enemas for liver detox here).

They can also be used on other parts of the body but you must ensure you pack your liver at the same time and, as mentioned above, that you are using enemas to see that waste out of the body.

5. How to Do A Castor Oil Pack for Liver Detox

  • Take your castor oil packing material (cotton – I use the large one from Nutrigold and cut it in half) and fold in two.
  • Drizzle the castor oil over the cloth – it needs to be wet (but not dripping) – you can aid this process by rubbing the cloth together on itself to spread the castor oil around more thoroughly.
  • Place the castor oil pack over the liver (located on the right side, underneath the right side of the rib cage. 
  • Either use a castor oil pack holder to prevent leakage or place a big old sheet or towel over it and pin in place. Wear some old clothes over the top as it is very greasy and will probably stain your clothes / bed sheets and is very difficult to get out of fabric.
  • Place a hot water bottle or heated wheat bag over the top of that area to warm the oil – this assists its uptake by the liver via the skin.
  • Because it can create a lot of elimination it is wise to start by packing for just 15 minutes 3 consecutive days in a week.
  • The next week you can increase this to 30 minutes if you are reacting ok, 45 minutes the week after, and so on in 15 minute intervals until you are up to 1 ½ hours for 3 consecutive days a week.
  • Because they are very calming they should ideally be used in the evenings, but this is not essential – whatever fits your lifestyle.
  • Ideally a castor oil pack would be followed by a water enema the next morning if possible to ensure that whatever is being released is being fully exited from the body. 
  • The pack can be stored in a plastic sealed bag or a container in the fridge and reused for 30-40 times (i.e. around 2-3 months) before the cloth needs to be discarded and a new pack made – if you keep it longer the oil may start to go rancid. 

If you are interested in reading around the benefits of castor oil packing take a look at William A McGarey’s book, “The Oil that Heals”.

5 Tips on How to Detox This Spring Equinox

5 Tips on How to Detox This Spring Equinox

Next month sees the arrival of the spring equinox on the 20th March. The spring equinox is the most powerful time of the year to detox our bodies.

The spring equinox is the point in the year at which the Earth’s axis begins to tilt towards the sun. It is the point where we move from the dark into the light and from the winter into the spring. We see signs of renewed life all around us as a result of the increased warmth and light, don’t we?

5 Things You Need to Know About Coffee Enemas

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), at the time of the spring equinox the alignment of the planets causes our energy to switch from hibernation state to a more open energy that allows us to cleanse.

At the spring equinox we are also moving into the wood element, according to Chinese medicine, which is all about the liver. It’s a great time to cleanse our liver that works so hard for us every day. This liver is also the planner of the body – it governs purpose and vision.

So how can we make the most of this forthcoming opportunity to set us up for our plans for health and wellbeing for the year ahead? Well here are five tips to get you on your way for your detox this Spring Equinox!

Why not book a FREE 30 minute Health and Wellbeing Review with me, to see how you can detox in the best way for you personally.

Let your body detox through symptoms

Around the time of the forthcoming equinox it is possible that our bodies will try to cleanse more. This could take the form of rashes, excess mucus production masquerading as a cold, vomiting or diarrhoea for example. If we let our bodies cleanse without suppressing the symptoms, we can often feel better than before we started!

What’s the best way to do so? Number one is rest! How many of us actually do this when we are ill? It’s not acceptable in our fast-paced modern society to rest when you have “just a cold” for example. But our bodies need to conserve energy to cleanse themselves of anything unwanted, so let’s give them a fighting chance.

Read my blog on 7 Natural Cold Remedies for natural remedies we can use, to help aid the symptoms of a cough and a cold. 

Fresh air, daylight and hydration are also important when we are trying to cleanse. If you are resting in bed, open the window so that you have a flow of fresh air coming into the room. And for your daylight prescription, 20 minutes a day of daylight straight into the retinas can be invaluable.

We hear the phrase, “feed a cold, starve a fever” don’t we? But the phrase is actually, “If you feed a cold, you’ll have to starve a fever.” Digestion takes energy and if we are not feeling like eating at that time, we should listen to our bodies – they are trying to conserve energy for healing. Give the body that energy by resting, hydrating and either fasting or keeping our diet as simple and as liquid as possible. This will allow the body the energy it needs to heal more rapidly and effectively.

Hydration is the foundation for detoxification

Water for detoxification

We cannot cleanse effectively if we are dehydrated. Hydration is essential for detoxification. It allows waste to exit our cells. It’s also essential for the flow of lymph which helps to filter unwanted substances from the blood. It aids the circulation of the blood which takes waste away from our cells and brings nutrients and oxygen to them. It allows us to form urine for excretion of unwanted substances and to eliminate toxins via our bowels. It allows us to take in nutrients from our food.

Pure water is essential to every single cleansing process in our bodies. But I rarely meet people who are taking in 2 litres of plain, still, pure water on a consistent daily basis. If this resonates with you, use this month to start building up your hydration levels in line with the advice in my blog on hydration.

Using your diet to detox

Use this month to work on moving away from ready-made processed foods and towards fresh and whole foods. Maybe thinking about switching to organic fruit and vegetables that are free from toxic pesticides. Also have a think about moving to organic meat. Do we want those nasty toxic substances that go into non-organically produced meats’ feed inside us, such as antibiotic residues which we know can destroy our gut flora? The same applies for eggs – maybe use this month to switch to organic eggs too. Have a think about the source of your fish – is it Wild Alaskan, from the least polluted waters, or is it full of mercury residue?

If you are vegan or vegetarian think about consuming more wholefoods, such as freshly prepared shortgrain brown rice or pulses. It can be easy to have an unhealthy vegan or vegetarian diet that is full of processed or microwaveable foods.

All of us will do well to stop using the microwave. Microwaves change the structure of whatever we put in them to the point where our bodies don’t recognise it as food or drink, rather as a toxin that we need to get rid of.

Have a think about whether you have any foods in your diet that are stressful to the body such as gluten and dairy, or toxic to our bodies such as damaged fats, sugar or salt.

The change of the seasons is also a time to think about eating local and seasonal produce. Our bodies need different foods in the autumn and winter than they do in the spring and summer.

Fasting for detoxification

Fasting is not suitable in pregnancy or breast feeding, for people with eating disorders, for diabetics or people with kidney failure unless under supervision, for people on medication unless your prescribing physician states that you can stop your medication for the duration of the fast, nor for those people who are very weak, very depleted in energy or significantly underweight.

If you are not in any of these categories, you could fast for 1-3 days without supervision over the spring equinox. If you are a beginner to fasting and haven’t got a clean diet already, you might want to think about a simple fast like a mono fast, where you eat only one food for a day.

A shortgrain brown rice fast is a nice one for beginners. If you can’t bear the thought of just eating plain shortgrain brown rice for a day you could add some good quality cold-pressed, dark glass bottled, organic extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon for flavour (which technically isn’t a mono fast, but whatever gets you through the day!). Use a pound of dried organic shortgrain brown rice, soak it in some filtered water for around 8 hours and then cook it well in plenty of filtered water for an optimal hydrating effect. Refrigerate and eat hot throughout the day.

You could also choose a single vegetable or fruit (although if you have candida or blood sugar issues you might want to stay away from a fruit fast because of the amount of fructose it will introduce). You want about 3 pounds in weight of the one fruit or vegetable, spread throughout the day. Grapefruit is a great choice as it helps the liver to detoxify effectively. Other ideas include lightly steamed (3-4 minutes) broccoli, carrots, apples, pears or grapes.

Make sure whatever you choose is organic. Also eat in a state of calm with no distractions and chew your food well to maximise digestion so that more of your energy can go towards cleansing instead of trying to digest.

Other options include juice fasting and water fasting for those of you who already have a clean diet and are ready to really cleanse! I recommend that water fasts are done for 24 hours unless under the supervision of a qualified nutritionist. For a juice fast I recommend 1 or 3 days without supervision. When you give the body the chance to cleanse, you can get all sorts of reactions as it lets go of those toxins.

If you are doing a 1 day fast you will need to do 2 days beforehand to walk into the fast and 2 days afterwards to walk out of the fast. This means eating less protein rich foods, cutting out animal produce and processed foods, eating more wholefoods (so no refined carbohydrates like white rice or white pasta) and increasing your intake of raw fruit and vegetables during that time. If you are doing a 3 day fast you will need a three day walk in and out.

Ideally you want the day before and after your fast to be a day where you are eating only raw fruits and vegetables if you are doing a juice or water fast. Breaking a fast with heavy meals can shock the body, leading to a stress response, and stop the cleanse that you have worked so hard to produce!

Natural detox techniques and aids

Do some detoxification techniques to aid elimination whilst on a fast. If you start to allow your cells to cleanse but you are not excreting your waste efficiently, you can do more harm than good and feel dreadful. Enemas and castor oil packs are two naturopathic techniques that offer a great way to ensure that the waste gets out of the body.

man stretching on seashore
Yoga pose | Photographer: Artem Bali | Source: Unsplash

Having a gentle stroll in nature or some yoga can help to move your lymph, enabling those toxins from your cells to move and be processed by your liver. A pinch of cayenne pepper in some freshly squeezed lemon or lime can help to move circulation to ensure that your blood is getting those toxins from lymph into liver for elimination.

The other thing is to rest! If we aren’t resting we are thwarting the bodies attempt to use its energy to get those toxins out. Give yourself time off if possible whilst you cleanse over the equinox, perhaps even go away somewhere peaceful.

And remember that just the sight and smell of food can stimulate digestion even if we aren’t eating, so it’s not a great time to socialise around food or be cooking for family so bulk cook beforehand if you have to cook for the rest of the family so that you aren’t having to cook during your fast.

With under three weeks to go until the biggest cleanse of the year, preparation is key to making the most out of this opportunity to give our bodies a really good spring cleanse!

If you want to find out the best ways for you to personally detox, click here for a 30 minute FREE health and wellbeing review.

5 Common SIBO Testing Mistakes

SIBO is fast becoming recognised as one of the main causes of IBS in over 60% of people.  With that in mind, I wanted to write a quick blog to explain the importance of getting tested in the right way.  I can’t tell you how often I see clients who have come to me having done a SIBO test elsewhere that has been conducted with several mistakes.

So here are 5 common SIBO testing mistakes to check out when you are going for a SIBO test:

1. Is the SIBO test testing for both methane and hydrogen gas?

The herbal anti-microbial supplements used for methane are different from those used for hydrogen, so it is important that the test looks at both gases.

2. Is the SIBO test using lactulose or glucose to detect SIBO?

10g lactulose is my go to substrate to use in testing because it picks up the majority of the small intestine.  If a client does a SIBO test and it comes back negative, but I have a strong suspicion of SIBO I will then test glucose next, as glucose picks up SIBO in the upper part of the digestive tract.  A glucose test alone won’t necessarily tell us what is going on in that lower part of the small intestine.

3. Is the SIBO test a 3 hour test or a 2 hour test?

It is important to see what is going on in that third hour as in the third hour we expect to see a rise in gas as the substrate hits the large intestine and the bacteria there ferment it.  However, if someone has a flat line across the whole of the test with no rise in that third hour, it is possible that they actually have a third type of SIBO, hydrogen sulphide SIBO, which again requires different supplements and even a different diet.  I myself had a flatline SIBO test which I was told by the lab I used to use was negative.  It turned out that I had hydrogen sulphide SIBO which had gone undiagnosed.  I want to prevent you from having the same false test readings.

4. Is the machine calibrated regularly and is carbon dioxide gas measured in the breath samples to check whether they are valid samples or not?

This can be important in determining the accuracy of the test as many mistakes can be made when collecting your breath samples.

5. Have you followed the correct preparation ahead of the SIBO test?

I’ve seen clients be given foods in their prep diets that can skew the accuracy of the test.  I have even seen clients who haven’t been told about the importance of doing a prep diet before testing, what supplements to avoid, etc.  All of these factors can affect the accuracy of your test results.  It is important that whoever you are working with gives you clear and accurate prep guidelines.

If you suspect that SIBO might be behind your IBS, I hope that this blog will help prevent you from wasting your time and resources on sub-standard testing methods and coming away with false negative or false positive test results.

Or read my blog on IBS and SIBO here

The microbiome

More and more studies are emerging about “the microbiome”.  This is the community of microbes that live inside us.  We have microbiomes on our skin, in our gut, vagina, mouth and nose. Practically any cavity inside us can have microbes inhabiting there.

We have about 10x as many microbes living inside us, or on us, than we have human cells (and we have approximately 75 trillion cells)!  This indicates the idea that we should be scared of microbes or bacteria is a little outdated.

Probiotics

The growing interest in particularly the gut microbiome has led to multiple probiotics coming onto the market.  The supermarkets are filled with “gut friendly” bacteria-laden yoghurt.

Is taking care of that ecosystem inside us as simple as swallowing a probiotic every day or eating some yoghurt?

Well, unfortunately, the answer is no!

Probiotics and fermented foods cannot repopulate your bowel flora – as they only stay in the system temporarily.  It’s the prebiotics that feed the microbes and can ensure the survival & flourishing of the ones we want in our systems.   

What are probiotics?

According to WHO, probiotics are “live organisms which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”  However, the cultures we get in supermarket yoghurts cannot survive the pasteurisation process that those yoghurts go through.

In order for a yoghurt to be considered a probiotic food it must contain live cultures.  Whilst it is true that raw yoghurt can contain live cultures, again these effects are only temporary.

Therefore, using probiotics and fermented foods has to be done alongside eating prebiotic, bacteria-feeding foods or supplements to really be effective.

The most well researched prebiotic supplements are lactulose, fos and gos. However, research around acacia gum and partially hydrolysed guar gum is also emerging.

What are prebiotics? Prebiotic foods include what we call “FODMAPs” which are highly fermentable carbohydrates. These include whole foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, onions, garlic and brightly coloured organic veggies.

However, these foods and supplements are often poorly tolerated with people with SIBO and IBS. Therefore, working on the IBS is essential so that someone can then work on building their gut microbiome. 

Probiotic quality

We are beginning to see that throwing multiple strain probiotic supplements, is not necessarily an effective strategy.

It’s about getting the right person for the job because different probiotic strains have different therapeutic qualities.  For example, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG, has been shown to help cell growth in the intestines and enhance the protection of the gut wall.

Some probiotics act as anti-microbials against pathogenic (disease-causing) micro-organisms and positively affect our immunity. Furthermore, they produce beneficial compounds in the gut, have anti-inflammatory effects, speed up or slow down gut transit time, and even alter our brain chemistry and metabolism!

So, how do you know that you are getting the right probiotic for the job?

Do your research! We’ve all done it, myself included, purchased a supplement because we’ve read somewhere that “probiotics are good”.  But, this is not an effective approach.  

Probiotic dosing

Importantly, dosing is about getting the right amount of intake. Unless research shows lesser doses of a particular probiotic to be effective, the general rule of thumb is that a single strain should contain at least 10 billion CFU to be effective.

Consequently, each strain within multi-strain probiotics should contain at least 10 billion CFU.  Many people don’t think about particular strains or dosages of a probiotic, so it’s a good point to remember.   

Furthermore, we have many different species of bacteria living within us.  Stool testing can show which species we have and diversity is the key. We’ve all heard of lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, but research is showing that these aren’t the only two species that can have significant impacts upon someone’s health.

Akermansia muciniphila and faecalbacterium prausnitzii, the new kids on the block in terms of research, have been shown to be protective against leaky gut and inflammation and to be good indicators of increased microbial diversity in the gut.

In conclusion, certain prebiotics feed certain species of bacteria, so by knowing what exists within us we can target our food choices more specifically to increase certain populations.   

Fermented foods.

Fermented foods can also help feed the populations in the gut.  They cannot specifically colonise in the way that probiotics can, but they can certainly be used to increase the growth and diversity of beneficial bacteria in our microbiome.

Good choices include raw sauerkraut, raw kimchi, tempeh, miso and kefir.  Heat can destroy the bacteria, so add your choices to your food at the end of cooking instead of heating them up within the food, and ensure that your kimchi and sauerkraut are raw and unpasteurised! 

Finally, each microbiome, whether it be skin, gut, oral or vaginal, is drastically different so we can’t take a one size fits all approach.  Suffice to say that the vaginal microbiome is essential for urinary tract health and reducing fungal or bacterial infections.

The oral microbiome is a whole article in itself!  And our skin microbiome, which is there to provide us with protection, has taken a real bashing from the new age of antibacterial wipes and sprays that plague our supermarket shelves! 

Key takeaways

So, what are the key takeaways? Emerging research is showing how important certain microbes that live on and inside of us are for overall health.

But, eating supermarket yoghurt and taking probiotics with no actual goal in mind with no idea of what each particular strain does and whether it contains a therapeutic dose, is not going to make much of an impact on increasing your microbial diversity.

Stool testing, which can be ordered through a naturopathic nutritionist, will give you a much better idea of the health of your gut microbiome and your overall gut health.

Once armed with that information, your practitioner can help you choose the right probiotics and prebiotics for the job by looking at the research, mixed with some raw unpasteurised fermented foods and by adding onions, garlic and eating around 14 different coloured whole foods a day!     

References 

Aureli, P., A. Fiore, et al. (2010). “National survey outcomes on commercial probiotic food supplements in Italy.” Int. J Food   
Bao, Y., Y. Zhang, et al. (2010). “Screening of potential probiotic properties of Lactobacillus fermentum   
Cao, Y., Shen, J., & Ran, Z. H. (2014). Association between Faecalibacterium prausnitzii Reduction and Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review of the Literature. Gastroenterology research and practice, 2014, 872725.  
Carlson, J., Erickson, J., Lloyd, B., Slavin, J. (2018). ‘Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber.’ Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 2, Issue 3.    
Hawrelak, J. A. (2013). Probiotics. Textbook of Natural Medicine.  
Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G. R., Merenstein, D. J., Pot, B., … & Calder, P. C. (2014). Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 11(8), 506.   
Huebner, J., R. L. Wehling, et al. (2007). “Functional activity of commercial prebiotics.” International Dairy Journal.  
Kristensen, N. B., Bryrup, T., Allin, K. H., Nielsen, T., Hansen, T. H., & Pedersen, O. (2016). Alterations in fecal microbiota composition by probiotic supplementation in healthy adults: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Genome medicine, 8(1), 52.   
Miquel, S. et al. (2013). Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and human intestinal health. Current opinion in microbiology, 16(3), 255-261. 
Mohammedsaeed, W., McBain, A. J., Cruickshank, S. M., & O’Neill, C. A. (2014). Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG inhibits the toxic effects of Staphylococcus aureus on epidermal keratinocytes. Applied and environmental microbiology, 80(18), 5773-81.   
Naito, Y., Uchiyama, K., & Takagi, T. (2018). A next-generation beneficial microbe: Akkermansia muciniphila. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, 63(1), 33-35.   
Patel, S., & Goyal, A. (2012). The current trends and future perspectives of prebiotics research: a review. 3 Biotech, 2(2), 115–125.  
Rao, R. K., & Samak, G. (2013). Protection and Restitution of Gut Barrier by Probiotics: Nutritional and Clinical Implications. Current nutrition and food science, 9(2), 99-107. 
Reid, G. (2006). Probiotics to prevent the need for, and augment the use of, antibiotics. The Canadian journal of infectious diseases & medical microbiology. 17(5), 291-5.

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How To Get A Better Sleep Naturally – Improve Your Sleep Quality

Picture of a grey cat sleeping soundly on a white duvet

Are You Getting Enough Sleep and Is It The Right Quality?

Sleep duration

Firstly, what is the right amount of sleep? Well researchers quote between 7-9 hours sleep a night. It is down to the individual to you to decide whether you can function well on 7, 8 or 9 hours. Which amount of sleep leaves you ready to spring out of bed in the morning? If the answer is “no amount of sleep leaves me springing out of bed” then read on, as I explore how sleep quality is just as important as duration.

Importance of both the Right Amount of Sleep and the Right Quality of Sleep

Researchers have found that skimping on sleep, and also have over 9 hours sleep, can both increase your chances of getting Type II Diabetes. Lack of sleep or disrupted sleep quality can also increase inflammation, affect your heart health and blood pressure, cause you to go into fight or flight mode (which means your body cannot digest, your brain cannot process as effectively and your body can’t repair), cause weight gain due to disruption to the hormones which signal to your brain that you are full after eating and even increase your chances of colorectal cancer or all-cause mortality!

So what do we mean by quality of sleep?

Well a good night’s sleep should leave you feeling refreshed the next morning. During the night our body uses sleep to repair and detoxify and we actually carry out the most detoxification between the hours of 10pm and 12pm, so I advise all my clients to have their head on the pillow by 10pm, something for all you night owls to consider.

For those of you with adrenal issues, you may find that you have something called “day night reversal” where you have more energy at night.  This is because your cortisol levels are dysregulated. Cortisol is the hormone that wakes you up in the morning and should lower throughout the day so that you can sleep at night. Often people with adrenal dysregulation get a second wind around 11pm so ideally you want to try and get to sleep before then if at all possible. But, as always, with adrenal dysregulation you do need to look at addressing the root causes, of which there can be many. There is a great app called Sleep Cycle which you can use to monitor how deeply you are sleeping https://www.sleepcycle.com/how-it-works/

Hints and Tips to Improve Sleep

So how do we go about improving our sleep?

Stimulants

Caffeine, which is found in tea, coffee and chocolate, can affect your sleep quality for over 6-8 hours so I always recommend steering clear of anything with caffeine in from at least 2pm in the afternoon. This is true of other stimulants as well, such as tobacco.

Alcohol

Alcohol may seem like it’s getting you off to sleep but the actual quality of sleep after alcohol is poor. Not only is it a diuretic, dehydrating and toxic to the brain, but it also switches off REM sleep, the most restorative type of sleep, so steering clear of alcohol a good few hours before bed if not altogether can help improve sleep quality.

Food

Staying away from food for up to 4 hours before sleeping can help us sleep more deeply as our body is not busy trying to digest food, which is a big stress on the body.  The caveat to this is those with blood sugar dysregulation, who would do well to have a little resistant starch before bed to stop their cortisol spiking throughout the night and waking them up.  However, as usual, looking at ways of addressing blood sugar issues is an even more effective strategy, which a naturopathic nutritionist can help you with.

Light after Sunset

You may well have heard about the effects of blue light on melatonin production, the hormone that assists us, amongst other things, to sleep deeply. Blue light emits from electrical devices such as computers, smart phones, digital displays on clocks or radios, etc. There are a number of apps out there such as F.lux which you can download onto your computer to enable it to dim the blue light emitting from the screen and later smartphones tend to have built in blue light dimmers that you can switch on in their settings.

For those devices where you cannot dim the blue light, the answer is simple – blue light blocking glasses such as Blu Blockers that you wear after the sun goes down. These are ideal, as it’s not just blue light but also strip lighting, lightbulbs, the light in the fridge, in fact any type of lighting that can upset the body’s melatonin production other than orange or red lighting. So another helpful tip is to change your lightbulbs to orange or red ones wherever possible.

Electronics

Electronics emit frequencies that can interfere with your sleep. Even when you put your smartphone on airplane mode, it is still emitting, so switch everything off (including switching stuff off at the plug) and position your bed away from any electrical cables or plug sockets.

Wi-fi

Wi-fi signals have been shown in research studies to significantly affect the quality of our sleep as well as our overall health. Whilst we may be surrounded by wi-fi from our neighbours, we can ensure that we reduce our exposure by turning our own wi-fi off before sleep or, even better, hard wire our devices and switch the wi-fi in your home off permanently.

Darkness in the Bedroom

How dark is your bedroom? If there is light coming into the room from devices or seeping through the window from street lights, that can all affect your sleep quality. Practical solutions include black out blinds or eye masks.

Your Body Clock

Getting up and going to bed at the same every day sets your body clock. Lying in at weekends completely disrupts your body clock, so come Monday morning your body is expecting to lie in again, so regular waking up and sleeping times will help immensely.

Exercise

Regular moderate exercise at least 4 hours away from sleep, if not more, will also help improve sleep quality. Beware of overtraining as this can actually spike your cortisol levels and may lead to adrenal fatigue.

Daylight

You might be surprised to hear that it’s not just the lighting at night but also the light that you take directly through your retinas first thing in the morning that can help to reset our sleep / wake rhythms.  Try getting 20 minutes of either direct sunlight or full spectrum daylight directly into your retinas (without glasses or contact lenses) every morning.

Hydration

Hydration can hugely impact on the quality of your sleep. I was on sleeping pills for years and still only getting 3 hours of sleep a night, but when I started to hydrate I found myself suffering less. Being better hydrated assisted with my sleeping and I stopped relying on sleeping pills. We lose water naturally even when sleeping as we lose it through our breath. So check out my blog on hydration to read more about how to keep hydrated.

Room Temperature

According to the Sleep Council, “hot, cold and draughty rooms can seriously impact on your sleep.” They suggest that the ideal room temperature for a good night sleep should be between 16 to 18°C (60 to 65°F).

Relaxation v. Stimulation

Switching off stimulation 2 hours before bed can help our brain settle down in preparation for sleep. Stimulation can take the form of work, study or even stimulating TV programmes. If you can do anything to actually slow your brain waves down, such as alternate nostril breathing or using apps such as Heartmath, that can also be a great help.

Magnesium levels can also impact how well you are able to relax. Many of my clients find that Naturopathic techniques such as Epsom salt baths and footbaths or taking magnesium citrate help them relax. These techniques can assist with the redirection of blood flow away from the brain to the feet.

References

Al-Abri, M. A., Jaju, D., Al-Sinani, S., Al-Mamari, A., Albarwani, S., Al-Resadi, K., Bayoumi, R., Hassan, M. Al-Hashmi, K. (2016). Habitual Sleep Deprivation is Associated with Type 2 Diabetes: A Case-Control Study. Oman medical journal, 31(6), 399-403.

Bedrosian, T. A., & Nelson, R. J. (2017). Timing of light exposure affects mood and brain circuits. Translational psychiatry, 7(1), BMJ Open.

Brasure M, MacDonald R, Fuchs E, Olson CM, Carlyle M, Diem S et al. Management of Insomnia Disorder. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2015. (AHRQ Comparative Effectiveness Review; Volume 159).

Chaput, J.P., McNeil, J., Despres, J.P., Bouchard, C. and Tremblay, A., (2013). Seven to eight hours of sleep a night is associated with a lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome and reduced overall cardiometabolic risk in adults. PloS one, 8(9), p.e72832.

Chepesiuk, R. (2009). Missing the dark: health effects of light pollution. Environmental health perspectives, 117(1), A20-7

Dolezal, B. A., Neufeld, E. V., Boland, D. M., Martin, J. L., & Cooper, C. B. (2017). Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review. Advances in preventive medicine, 2017, 1364387.

Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 9(11), 1195-200. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170

Hatori, M., Gronfier, C., Van Gelder, R. N., Bernstein, P. S., Carreras, J., Panda, S., Marks, F., Sliney, D., Hunt, C. E., Hirota, T., Furukawa, T. Tsubota, K. (2017). Global rise of potential health hazards caused by blue light-induced circadian disruption in modern aging societies. NPJ aging and mechanisms of disease, 3, 9. doi:10.1038/s41514-017-0010-2

Hysing M, Pallesen S, Stormark KM, et a. (2015). Sleep and use of electronic devices in adolescence: results from a large population-based study

Mirghani, H.O., Mohammed, O.S., Almurtadha, Y.M. and Ahmed, M.S., (2015). Good sleep quality is associated with better academic performance among Sudanese medical students. BMC research notes, 8(1), p.706.

Obradovich, N., Migliorini, R., Mednick, S. C., & Fowler, J. H. (2017). Nighttime temperature and human sleep loss in a changing climate. Science advances, 3(5), e1601555. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1601555

Okamoto-Mizuno, K., & Mizuno, K. (2012). Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. Journal of physiological anthropology, 31(1), 14. doi:10.1186/1880-6805-31-14

Park, S. Y., Oh, M. K., Lee, B. S., Kim, H. G., Lee, W. J., Lee, J. H., Lim, J. T.,Kim, J. Y. (2015). The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep. Korean journal of family medicine, 36(6), 294-9.

Shan, Z., Ma, H., Xie, M., Yan, P., Guo, Y., Bao, W., Rong, Y., Jackson, C.L., Hu, F.B. and Liu, L., (2015). Sleep duration and risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Diabetes care, 38(3), pp.529-537.

The Causes of Hayfever and How To Stop Symptoms Naturally

Can You Alleviate Hayfever Naturally?

Picture of woman in a field of grass blowing her nose

So along with the glorious weather, up goes the pollen count. For the approximately 20 million hayfever sufferers in the UK, that hardly feels fair does it? But do you have to dose yourself up with steroid sprays, drops and antihistamines or is there a more natural solution that doesn’t leave you with side effects?

Pharmaceutical vs Natural Treatments for Hayfever Symptoms

“I don’t have any side effects and the antihistamines work just fine”, I hear you say. Well all pharmaceuticals have substances in them that are not found in nature and therefore the body can respond in unpleasant ways such as getting drowsiness and headaches.

Side effects of steroid sprays and drops can include fatigue and even mood swings. Steroid treatments for hayfever can also play havoc with the natural production of cortisol, which helps us wake up alert in the morning, deal with stressors throughout the day and lowers to help us sleep at night.

There are natural alternatives that work in the same way as pharmaceutical products, as I’ll discuss below, which can help alleviate the symptoms of allergies. But as I will go on to explain, you still need to treat the cause when it comes to allergies, as histamine is an important and useful chemical in the body that regulates where the blood flows to, so ideally we only want to use these substances to deal with the symptoms whilst we treat the cause.

Natural Anti-Histamines

  • Notably the bioflavonoid quercetin has been found in a number of studies to have a natural anti-histamine effect. This natural substance is found in foods such as buckwheat (particularly buckwheat tea), onions, green tea, apples and berries but is even more beneficial in supplement form.
  • Vitamin C containing bioflavonoids can have a powerful effect in alleviating hayfever symptoms, as the bioflavonoids increase the absorption and therefore the antioxidant and anti-histamine action of the vitamin C.
  • Methionine helps break histamine down and binds it to get it out of the body, as some people can’t break down histamine in the body effectively due to certain variations in their genes.
  • Substance such as Beta Glucans and Lactobacillus L92 help to modulate immune function.
  • Substances such as Boswellia, Luteolin and Curcumin are all natural anti-inflammatories.

Natural Alternatives to Steroid Sprays and Drops

  • Netti potting can have a similar effect as steroid sprays and eye drops without the side effects and urine therapy can increase its effectiveness even further.
  • Haymax is a natural and non-toxic preparation which can be put in the nostrils and under the eyelashes to catch any pollen and reduce aggravation to the eyes and nasal passage.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is about introducing a tiny bit of the substance you are allergic to into the body with the aim of getting the immune system to become effective at dealing with it. However, most forms of immunotherapy are through injection.

Injections go straight through the first line of defence of the immune system into the blood stream – as you’ll see below, that’s how we get allergies in the first place, by compromising that first line of defence, which is extremely stressful and dehydrating to the body, further worsening the conditions under which the allergy manifested in the first place.

Bee pollen can be a useful oral form of immunotherapy, starting with 1 grain under the tongue and increasing by a grain a day as long as no reaction is felt.

Causes of Hayfever

Leaky Membranes

So as I’ve stressed above, alleviating  the symptoms can provide initial relief but we must also treat the cause. So how do allergies exist in the first place.  Pollen is not a dangerous substance is it? We have an external skin, but did you know that we also have an internal skin, our mucous membranes, where our skin turns inwards in our urinary tract, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and also the reproductive tract for us females. This internal skin is meant to keep things that we breathe in or ingest out of the blood stream. We cannot have an allergy unless something has somehow got through that internal skin. So how can that happen?

The membranes of our internal skin can become “leaky” for a number of reasons. The main reason is when we suppress an appropriate inflammatory response. We can have inflammation as the result of an external injury, such as a cut or a bite or an injury to tissue, but also as the result of excessive toxicity within the body.

Toxicity can build up not just through what we ingest, breathe in, or think, but also through what we suppress. So the body might have the need to release toxins through diarrhoea, vomiting, increased perspiration or even, for us ladies, heavier menstruation. However, we often thwart the body’s attempt to release the build up of toxins by using medications and products such as anti-perspirants, which stop symptoms but lead the body to throw an inflammatory response to try and deal with the toxins.

Detoxification

In addition, if the bodies routes of elimination (bowel, liver, lymph, etc) are not working effectively then this can also prevent the toxins from getting out. So then what happens (which also happens in injury) is that the white blood cells will move towards and stick to the side of the blood vessels, histamine is released into the area and the blood vessel becomes more permeable, so that the white blood cells which are part of our immune system can start cleaning up that area for us.

Pain, swelling, redness and loss of function occur as a result of our body trying to rid itself of the toxicity. It is an intelligent response. If this is allowed to run its course, the white blood cells can get through into the tissue, clean up the situation, and then the blood vessels will cease to be permeable.  However, if this response is suppressed by medications, for example anti-inflammatories, then the process cannot take place, the toxicity goes deeper and the blood vessels remain permeable, or “leaky” as the body recognises that there is still toxicity that needs to get out and keeps that membrane permeable.

Repairing Leaky Membranes

Where the membranes in the gut, or indeed anywhere else, are leaky, allowing the allergen into the blood, there are a number of useful supplements. These include:

  • L-glutamine
  • Colostrum (for those who are not allergic to dairy)
  • Collagen
  • Zinc
  • Vitamins A and D (which should be taken together as they compete for cell receptor sites)

Again, advice should be sought as to what to use when and for how long, depending on the particular issues presenting. This is why I never give dosages for supplements in my blogs, as without guidance people can continue taking inappropriate supplements for inappropriate lengths of time and throw off their vitamin and mineral balance.

Lowered Immunity

Even if a substance permeates our internal skin and gets into the blood, our immune cells should still be able to deal with it, as long as our routes of elimination are working well. But when the amount of toxicity coming into our body is greater than the immune cells can deal with or our routes of elimination aren’t operating well enough to get the toxins out effectively, of which dehydration is a huge part (read my blog about water to find out more), then the immune system’s next intelligent reaction will be to batten down the hatches to try and keep the allergen out.

So our immune system hasn’t “gone wrong” – it’s actually trying to protect us. The symptoms of hayfever, created by the release of histamine, which is a natural substance that is part of our immune system, are there to keep things out of our blood stream by sneezing out the pollen, creating mucous or creating itching which makes our eyes and nose water.

How to Decrease Our Toxic Load to Improve Immunity

It is good to take out both inflammatory foods and foods that we react to.  But we also need to look at the amount of toxins we breathe in or absorb through our skin in our cleaning products and put on our skin in terms of our personal care products.

Is the water we are drinking clean? Is the air that we are breathing in in our homes clean? What about electromagnetic frequencies in our homes such as our wi-fi, bluetooth, smartphones, wireless devices? Do we switch them off at night? Can we hardwire our computers and switch the wi-fi off altogether?  Is our food organic or covered in pesticides (or, in the case of meat, antibiotics)? Are we eating processed food that the body cannot recognise or are we eating whole unprocessed foods? Do we smoke, or take recreational drugs, or prescription drugs? Toxicity can come from a whole host of places, but the aim of a good naturopathic healing programme is to look at ways to reduce exposure as much as possible.

How to Increase our Ability to Eliminate Toxins

Sleep

Sleeping between 10:00pm-12:00am actually gives us the most restorative sleep of the whole night. Our body uses sleep to repair itself, so ensuring we turn off our electrical devices at least an hour before bed can help us get into deeper sleep when we do hit the pillow. Studies show increased imbalances in those people who sleep less than 7 hours a night and 7-9 hours is what we should all be aiming for.

Diet

We can use diet not only to nourish, but also to cleanse. But we need to make sure before we start doing things like green smoothies, juicing, fasting, superfoods, etc that our routes of elimination are open and working well, as when we start releasing toxicity from our cells, we need to ensure the body can see it out and allow it to exit efficiently.

Improving Bowel Function

Many of my clients find Psyllium husk, prokinetics such as Iberogast, enemas or soaked flaxseeds (the latter is contraindicated in those with diverticulitis) as excellent ways to ensure their bowels are open. And we cannot have our bowels working effectively unless we are hydrating with 4 pints of clean plain water a day (see my blog on water).

Improving Liver Function

Many people open up their liver’s with castor oil packing, coffee enemas (contraindicated in those with adrenal stress). Milk thistle, glutathione, n-acetyl cysteine and alpha lipoic acid are all used by many to help the liver to detoxify more effectively.

Improving lymph flow

Exercise, massage and lymph brushing can all help to move lymph, but we want to ensure bowels and liver are working well before we start to move lymph otherwise the toxins that we release will have no exit route.

Stress

Stress can also play a part in the onset of allergies as when we are under stress we produce the stress hormone cortisol which has the effect of directing energy away from the immune system. We cannot be in a state of “fight, flight or freeze” at the same time as “rest and repair”.

Stress reduction techniques

  • Journaling
  • EFT
  • Mindfulness
  • Chanting
  • Meditation
  • Laughter
  • Gratitude journaling
  • Doing something every day that you enjoy
  • Taking a daily walk in nature for 20 minutes
  • Linseed tea – see my recipe for linseed tea
  • Adrenal packs – foundations of health blog
  • B vitamins, particularly B5, are gobbled up under stress so supplementing with a well balanced vitamin B formula, high in B5, can be useful.

Gut Issues

The other major factor that can play a part in lowered immunity is the disruption of our microbiome, the community of microbes that live in and on us, in our guts, our mouths, our skin, etc, through antibiotics, poor diet and “hygiene” – i.e. the use of antibacterial handwashes, etc. Healing any gut issues is paramount when dealing with allergies, given that 80% of our immune system is in the gut.

Healing the Gut

How we do this depends on what is going on with the gut, which lab testing can show us. For example, we can have pathogenic organisms living in the gut that can impair our digestion and make our gut “leaky” so that we develop food intolerances and testing will show us what is residing there.

Probiotics

We can also increase the beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus GG.  Sacharomyces Boulardii can also be very useful in helping to maintain a healthy balance of bowel flora.

But throwing probiotics at the situation will not repopulate our bowel flora. In order to really get the balance back we need to provide our bowel flora with the foods they need to thrive. This includes prebiotic foods and fermented foods are key. However, depending on an individual’s particular gut issues, probiotics and prebiotics may not be something we initially jump into. This is because in some issues, such as histamine intolerance or SIBO, it can make symptoms worse. This is why testing is so useful.

Digestive enzymes

Digestive support in the form of digestive enzymes and Betaine HCl are often founduseful in helping to restore the gut. However, a caveat is that some people should not take Betaine HCl. Also, there are people that do produce too much stomach acid (although many others do not produce enough, despite having symptoms such as acid reflux). Therefore, a skilled practitioner can help decide whether Betaine HCl is appropriate for you.

Another important factor in healing the gut can be to consider removing inflammatory foods. This includes dairy, gluten and sugar and anything else that a person may be reacting to, which can be deduced via an elimination diet.

An inability to make our own anti-inflammatory messengers

Tissue hormones called prostaglandins modulate inflammation in the body.  If we have not got the raw ingredients to make our prostaglandins, this may affect our ability to naturally switch off an inflammatory response.

How to make our prostaglandins

To make sure we are able to make our own anti-inflammatory messengers, we need to give our body what it needs to make them. Whilst a healthy balanced diet can offer what we need, many of my clients choose to take a good quality multivitamin and mineral containing zinc, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, omega-3 and omega-6, vitamin B3 and vitamin B6 to ensure they are getting everything that is required  We need to make sure the liver is able to deal with omega-3s before we introduce them. Therefore, it’s a good idea to prepare the body by taking 2 teaspoons of good quality lecithin a day. Sources of omega-3 include flaxseed oil, with which you need to take lecithin to emulsify it, and krill oil, which contains its own emulsifier.

References

Akramienė, et al. (2007). Effects of b-glucans on the immune system

Ashraf R and Shah NP (2014). Immune system stimulation by probiotic microorganisms. Crit

Aziz et al. (2018). Anti-inflammatory effects of luteolin: A review of in vitro, in vivo, and in silico studies.

Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods (Basel, Switzerland)6(10), 92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092

Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. (2016). Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response.

Siddiqui, M. (2011). Boswellia serrata, a potential antiinflammatory agent: an overview. Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences73(3), 255-61.

Younes, A. K., & Younes, N. K. (2017). Recovery of steroid induced adrenal insufficiency. Translational pediatrics6(4), 269-273.

Linseed Tea – How To Make It & Health Benefits

Picture of linseeds and linseed tea on a saucerIn last month’s “Foundations of Health” blog series, I wrote about the importance of water for hydration.  This month, I’m taking a look at linseed tea.  Linseeds (also known as flaxseeds) are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids.  They are also rich in fibre.  But, most importantly, they have an amazing mucilaginous quality that, when made into linseed tea, allows the body to hold onto water.  In fact, linseed tea is one of the most hydrating drinks you can have, coming a close second to water itself!

Importance of hydration

Your body is made up of approximately 75 trillion cells, which need the best possible internal environment to live in to maintain optimal health.  Two things crucial to cell health are oil and water.  We need them both to run our body systems, just like a car!  So linseed tea is an excellent way to re-introduce oil and water to our cells.

Once our cells know that they are getting enough good quality hydration, they can start to release toxins, as long as our routes of elimination are working properly (lovely fluid lymph drainage, fluid blood flow, good liver detoxification processes, good bile production and good elimination via our bowels twice a day).

This is incredibly important for reducing inflammation, which is implicated in pretty much every health condition, including chronic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, etc.

How to drink linseeds

picture of a string mopYou can also drink the seeds whole, which will introduce fibre to bulk out your stools so that you can eliminate more waste as the linseeds gently cleanse the intestinal wall like a mop!  They will pass through whole, so don’t be alarmed if you see them reappear in the toilet!

Because they are so good at hydrating, they really offer a soothing message to our cells, to such an extent that drinking 1 litre of linseed tea a day can actually have a profound effect on anxiety and panic attacks!  I call it liquid Valium because of its calming, soothing effects.

How to make linseed tea

So that’s the benefits, but how do you make it?  Well there are two ways, the traditional way and the cheat method.  The traditional way is even more effective at soothing and calming as it creates a more mucilaginous consistency, but the cheat method is good for those who would find the traditional method another stress – remember, stress = dehydration!

You can increase the amount of linseeds to make a thicker tea (I find the thicker tea more soothing) or reduce them to make a thinner liquid which some people find more palatable.  If making it the traditional way, you can make a batch and store it in glass bottles / jars for up to 3 days in the fridge.

Cheat spelt out with scrabble lettersCheat method

So, for the cheat method, when you wake up get yourself a litre stainless steel flask (not plastic due to its toxicity), pop 2 tbsp linseeds in, fill the flask to the top with boiling filtered water, pop the lid on and leave for 6-8 hours.  When you’ve let it “brew” for a few hours, sip throughout the day, drinking the seeds whole for their cleansing effect.

Traditional Method

The traditional method involves a large stainless steel pan, filled with about 2 or 3 litres of cold filtered water.  I use 6 tbsp linseeds for a thick tea, you might want to start off with 3 or 4 and see how you like the consistency.  Better to start low and build up as many people find the thinner it is, the more palatable.  Bring the seeds and water almost to the boil but as soon as you see it starting to boil, switch the hob off as it can overflow very quickly, leaving a gloopy mess all over your cooker!  Leave it to sit for 6-8 hours later (or overnight).  Then simmer it on a low heat for an hour.  After an hour, it’s ready to drain the seeds away and drink.  It’s easier to drain the seeds once it is still hot as it gets more mucilaginous when it cools.  Once cooled, it can be stored in glass containers in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Happy hydrating!

References

Goyal, A., Sharma, V., Upadhyay, N., Gill, S., & Sihag, M. (2014). Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. Journal of food science and technology51(9), 1633-53.

Kajla, P., Sharma, A., & Sood, D. R. (2014). Flaxseed-a potential functional food source. Journal of food science and technology52(4), 1857-71.

Su, K. P., Matsuoka, Y., & Pae, C. U. (2015). Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Prevention of Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Clinical psychopharmacology and neuroscience : the official scientific journal of the Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology13(2), 129-37.