Strengthening Your Vital Force

older man and woman exercising to increase vitality | goodMix

When medicine can’t help, what can we do to increase vitality?

Vitality. Vital Force. Vital principle. Animating Force. Soul. Spirit. Life Force. Life Energy. Prana. Qi. Chi….

These are all names for our inbuilt survival mechanism, our own healing & self-preservation instinct – it’s what heals our cuts, abrasions, broken bones, pimples, abcesses etc, plus all the stuff going on under the surface that we never see. It creates a fight against & helps us to recover from common infections like colds & flu. It’s what helps keep us balanced on a daily basis, auto-correcting all the time so that we can stay well – it maintains our homeostasis. It wants / needs us to be in good health – that’s our natural state (we just need to support it every day, & sometimes just listen to it & get out of its way!)

Whatever you call it, looking at ways to increase vitality is right now what we all (young & old, sick & healthy) can & should focus on.

Your ‘vital force’ is what repels ‘disease force’. Before pharmaceutical drugs completely stole the spotlight, natural vitality was totally rated!  We ultimately can’t control our exposure to Covid-19, & there’s no known medical fix yet, but we can do things (in lockdown, at home) to help build our reserves to fight it well, if & when the time comes!

A strong & unencumbered vital force bounces viruses away like a superhero.  Nurturing your natural vitality can help ensure that whatever version of Covid-19 you end up encountering doesn’t overwhelm your system. Your vital force is like your own in-house medical system – it will ‘cure you’ easily when it’s strong & you constantly support it, but it can become overwhelmed & let you down if you don’t!

Imagine 2 people of the same age, with the same risk factors go out to a crowded supermarket & both are exposed to a virus at the same level. The person who’s feeling strong & well balanced has recently been eating well, slept & exercised well, been practising stress-reduction techniques daily & who’s general health & vitality are pretty good will (in most cases) have a more appropriate immune response. They will likely experience milder symptoms & have more chance of a full recovery. The person who pays no attention to nutrition, doesn’t exercise, is super-stressed out, has poor sleeping habits, is feeling chronically emotionally ‘out of whack’ or ‘off-balance’ is more likely to suffer severely / not be at the top of his or her flu-fighting game. This is where we all need to be ASAP – top of our game! Or at least try to move up from your current status – any improvement will help. 

At this stage – if you are an at-risk Australian (or anyone in the world wanting to help protect yourself & those at risk) you need to: 

  1. avoid non-essential contact with other humans & with surfaces people may have been touching to minimise your exposure & your chances of potentially catching or spreading. 
  2. focus on raising your own vitality (a great thing that we should all do daily anyway – now it just could be a life-saver / buy some time so that you don’t end up in the hospital hallway needing a ventilator at the same time as everyone else.  

The concept of vitality / vital energy features throughout all healing systems (just not so heavily in our modern western approach!)

This has been to our detriment – we focus on external treatment (ie surgery & medication – which we have developed so effectively into almost magic, reliable & effective cures for almost everything) & place too little emphasis upon supporting & working to protect & strengthen the body’s own instinctive self-healing ability, our own vital force. 

Support your vitality & resistance against (any) infection whilst in lockdown.

Deep breathing & meditation 

These are both scientifically proven to improve immunity (both help to activate the parasympathetic branch of our nervous system – the ‘rest & digest’ part, it helps get us out of ’fight or flight’ mode, which is unfortunately where we tend to spend most of our time – especially during global pandemics & economic meltdowns!). It’s so valuable to just calm down & ‘reset’ a couple of times daily if your mind is draining you! You need to recharge & you need to sleep well, & you need to ‘switch’ yourself into a parasympathetic mode for your immune-system to work at its best. 

Enough sleep that you wake feeling rested, in a regular pattern.

There are a million strategies to help you sleep better, which I won’t go into (deep breathing & meditation are 2 of my faves anyway), but I cannot emphasise enough how important sleep is to increase vitality and keep your vital force strong!

Getting out into nature

Ocean swims, beach walks, forest hikes, bush picnics…wherever you are allowed & can remain distanced from others – just remember to be conscious of surfaces). 

Exposure to sunshine, daily 

Not too much – burning will temporarily weaken your vitality / make you more prone to disease & also obviously skin cancer. But right now – the priority has to be good vitamin D levels, don’t worry about wrinkles! 

Daily exercise

Improving blood & lymphatic circulation, helping deliver oxygen, nutrients & immune cells to where they are needed & keeping our surveillance system on high alert. Do whatever makes your body feel good, pushing yourself doing exercise you hate is not supporting your vitality! It might be dancing round the kitchen or lounge to your fave upbeat / daggy music, or it could be a chin up bar in a doorway, a yoga floor routine, a dog walk, a jog….even some squats, sit ups or lunges holding something heavy. Just get the blood & lymph pumping whenever you can, however you can. 

Expressing emotions as they come up

Unexpressed emotions can drain you. If you feel anxious, scared, annoyed, frustrated, whatever – don’t hold that inside, tell someone. Then let it go. All kinds of emotions will come up, just know they (like this) will all pass. 

Spending time doing what you love

Doing what makes you feel like you’re ‘on purpose’, something you were put on this earth to do. That may be sewing, gardening, drawing, baking, building an online business, teaching, singing, caring for animals, building, solving challenging mathematical equations, counselling people, researching statistics, dancing, cleaning….whatever makes you feel satisfied & happy & alive & growing in the right direction. Do more of that. If you don’t know what your thing is yet (& there may be many things) then make it your mission to discover something during lockdown)!

Spending time with people who make you feel ‘recharged’

Ok maybe you can only spend time with them virtually at the moment, but that still counts! Many people will finally have time to catch up for a chat! Laughter, connection & helping / giving are all great vitality boosters! And if you can’t connect to people, read books, listen to audiobooks / podcasts from people you feel charged by. Make sure you charge others as well, don’t be a constant drain. 

 

Although not appropriate for now, acupuncture supports the smooth flow of ‘Chi’ throughout the body, via meridians or energy channels, through all of our organs.

Uninterrupted flow of Chi helps bring the body back into balance. Blockages & stagnation of Chi lead to illness / symptoms. You can also use yoga, Qi gong, Tai Chi, acupressure, shiatsu, reflexology, & most forms of physical therapy & massage for supporting the flow of energy, unblocking stagnant areas & improving vitality. Now is not the best time for physical therapy, or acupuncture – but youtube will have some great yoga or Tai Chi classes to follow along with from home! And you can massage each other (if you’re locked down with others), or self massage is great if alone. Depending on the area & what you have available, you can use an old tennis ball / rocky surfaces for feet, a strong glass bottle / hand held massage machines etc.

Look after your most basic needs 

Avoid where possible (or at least be conscious of) the little ‘stressors’ you might be placing on your body daily. They can all add up to drain you if you don’t take care of them. Ie don’t sit for extended periods, don’t let yourself become dehydrated all the time, don’t smoke, don’t let an emotionally draining person ‘suck the life out of you’ with constant negativity, don’t stay indoors all week, don’t be glued to your screen consuming stressful news all day, don’t be a martyr & pretend you can cope & ‘do it all yourself without help’ ASK FOR HELP. Ask yourself “am I taking good care of me?” If you are answering no most of the time, then change it ASAP! Looking after yourself is crucial to stay well, especially if others rely on you. You can’t help fill other people’s buckets when yours is empty. Self care = not selfish. 

How I’m Topping Up My Vitality Account:

I think of my vitality like a bank account. It needs to be topped up regularly, or I’ll become depleted (that causes issues!) Realising that vitality is my best friend at the moment, here’s what I’m making an effort to do: 

Moderate exercise, every day

Just sticking to my normal dog walk / jog / a few sprints when I feel like it. I go early, beach or park, avoid contact with any humans, dogs or surfaces (take a poo bag with you). If outdoor exercise becomes impossible, I will continue to exercise first up at home using an online group or app. But for now – I’m enjoying nature because that charges me too. 

Eating well

I always try to include a Greens + Aloe green smoothie like this Green Smoothie recipe, loads of berries (often in a Blend11 smoothie like this  Choc Berry Smoothie & plenty of protein. As it gets cooler, we’re stocked to make broths & soups with loads of veg, legumes & bones.

Zero alcohol.

I want good sleep, a healthy gut, a clear mind, & great immunity. Alcohol gets in the way of them all. Am really questioning bottle shops being classed as essential (but then after a few weeks with kids home it may make sense!)

Minimal sweet stuff

I try to avoid refined sugars all the time (don’t always succeed) but now my awareness is more heightened, sugar = immune enemy.

Taking some supplements

Easy to get hold of are: Zinc & C lozenges, probiotics (there’s a good one on our site now) Terraflora Caps & herbal formulas with astragalus & mushrooms ie ‘Astra 8’ by Fusion, or formulas with Andrographis, Elderberry, Echinacea & Olive leaf are great immune support too. I use ‘Armorforce’  by Bioceuticals, or ‘Immune Defence’ by Ethical Nutrients (they should be easy to find). If you have a secret ‘Nanna’s flu remedy’ that seems to always work well for you – stick with that! If anyone in the family does show signs of a sore throat, plan is to jump straight into using Betadine throat gargle (antibacterial but also anti-viral & readily available in pharmacies & even supermarkets). Obviously they need to be tested ASAP too & isolated). Trying to be well primed, & then smash it on entry (gargle frequently & up the dose of herbs, vitamin C & zinc).

Deep breathing & meditation once or twice daily.

So helpful to stay centred & calm. We’re doing morning (& afternoon when we can fit both in / feel like it). There are so many deep breathing, relaxation & meditation guided tutorials online. Such a great habit to cultivate, & now is THE BEST TIME EVER to start.

Sun exposure

I typed a lot of this lying in the sun on a yoga mat! We try to take regular sun breaks / grab any chance to soak some in, especially now winter is coming! Just a few minutes helps ensure Vitamin D levels stay optimal

Limiting my consumption of bad news

Not being super-successful here I have to admit, because epidemiology & microbiology fascinate me! I try to stick to the science stuff, because the emotional stuff makes me feel sad. I also try to focus on the positives in this situation – imagine how happy our poor abused planet is, now that we are flying, driving, manufacturing & polluting less. Sad as it is to say, less humans = much happier planet. In this way, we can think of the too-soon-dead as ‘Covid-war heroes’ who’s lungs & lives have been sacrificed for the world to breathe better & become healthier. Adversity brings people together, & we’re in this as one human race. 

Making a list of all the things I’d like to do

So many things I want to do with the extra home time to keep myself sane / support my being!  For me it’s getting on top of the housework, gardening & maintenance (I feel so much more settled when the house is clean, organised & I’m on top of any yard maintenance). So rarely happens in my normal rushed & busy life, so this time will be great for that! Also working on our new website (coming very soon). And then, of course, some fun stuff like music & art, reading, & beach time while still allowed. 

Making a list of all the things I can do & share with my loved ones in lockdown

Will be kind of amazing to get more involved with schoolwork, learn new things together, even just to be around the kids more (though I’m sure we’ll all have our moments)! Kids & partners / flatmates all have their own separate ‘vital force’ too – remember that what energises & nurtures you may drain them & vice versa! Encourage them to get in touch with their own VF & to nurture it, so everyone stays as healthy & happy as possible. 

I’d love to hear your ideas on vitality too….what works for you / are you doing anything special at the moment?

Jeanie Xx
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

Coronavirus Survival Kit For The Elderly

group of elderly people | coronavirus survival kit for the elderly | goodMix

COVID-19 TIPS:

(NOTE these are the same tips I would offer for general cold & flu prevention to minimise the risk of severe infection – nothing changes – just support your own natural defence system)!

1. Stress control/reduction

If you are not already actively practising stress reduction, now is a great time to start. This will do you good for the rest of your life anyway! You live in the modern world, stress is a part of that & stress is your immune system’s biggest enemy!

2. Better personal hygiene

We all need a reminder now & then, wash your hands properly (we all get complacent), & be mindful of touching surfaces that potentially have too many germs.

3. Lung strength/vitality

The best thing you can do to strengthen your lungs is deep breathing techniques & vigorous exercise, this gets your lungs & diaphragm really working hard. Healthy strong lungs = hopefully less chance of a ventilator required! Click here to get your hands on starting the exercises. This can also be your best answer to stress reduction!

4. Vitamin D

It’s extremely important to get out in the sun regularly, or supplement if you can’t! The easiest way to do this is by taking vitamin D supplements.

5. Gut microbial diversity

See study below – butyrate production by our gut microbes decreases URTI’s from descending (while there is no guarantee this is the case with COVID-19 there is a good chance it will be similar). Here’s an interesting article worth checking out on Microbiome health, butyrate & immune defence, (note: data not from Coronavirus patients).

6. Great nutrition

There are so many good reasons why good nutrition is important, immunity is just one!

7. Hydration

Our mucous membranes (first point of contact for germs) need to be hydrated to defend properly. Drink hot herbal teas / watery soups if you’re sick of water (who knows if the heat-sensitivity thing makes a real difference, but it can’t hurt!)

8. Awareness of risk factors & situations.

Don’t spend time in environments where someone is coughing and sneezing! Little infectious droplets will be hanging in the air, ready to get into your nose, mouth or eyes – increasing the chances of infection.

9. Exercise

Mobilise your immune cells! If your lifestyle is sedentary, your immune system is going to be less active too. You need to move your body to get everything pumping through, recognising & attacking any invaders quickly. Don’t overdo it though (this will make you more susceptible). Just regular moderate exercise.

10. Sleep

Sleep is vital for a healthy immune system – here are some things that will help improve your sleep quality. A consistent nighttime routine, avoiding screens and caffeine, taking a hot bath, a self-massage, deep breathing, meditation, being in a cool temperature environment, blackout curtains, rising at the same time every morning, getting morning sunshine and writing lists before bed! These are just a few ways to improve your sleep. Additionally, look for a sleep guru to help, or Michael Mosely has a new, easy to read book!

11. Less alcohol

Now is not the time to use alcohol for stress relief! It will compromise your immune response, in turn, increasing the chances of infection!

12. Less sugar

Eat well all the time, especially if you don’t want pesky infections to get the better of you.

13. More fibre

Support your butyrate producers (see link below). Some foods that will help increase your fibre intake are Blend11, resistant starch e.g. raw oats, cooked and cool rice, and potatoes, green banana flour, legumes.

14. Embrace a fever!

If you ever get a fever from cold or flu, my advice is always work with your body not against it! Your immune system raises body temperature to make it less hospitable for viruses. Don’t get in the way of that! Just stay hydrated & keep your brain cool (wet cloths to the forehead etc).

 

CORONA SURVIVAL KIT FOR THE ELDERLY & IMMUNOCOMPROMISED

  • Bikini & swimming trunks – A reminder to get out in the sun daily & get your vitamin D fix. Vitamin D = essential for immune function!
  • Photos of the grandkids – It’s best not to bring them around for a bit!
  • Water bottle – Keep well hydrated for mucous membrane health & defence!
  • Lavender oil – Lavender oil aids sleeping, relaxing, lowering anxiety levels and as a bonus makes the house smell good if you’re in lockdown! 
  • Weight sets/resistance bands – Even if walking & vigorous exercise is difficult due to pre-existing injuries or conditions, your body will benefit from any extra movement that can do to get the blood & immune cells mobilised. Exercise counts even if it’s done sitting in a chair or in a bed – this is why a weight set / resistance bands are a great alternative. 
  • Meal delivery subscription A meal delivery subscription helps save time on shopping, avoids having to go into busy public spaces, allows the food to be delivered to the door & will most likely allow for healthier & more nutritious meals. 
  • Guided deep breathing recording – It can be played on whatever device they can easily operate! It helps with immunity, stress reduction, as well as strengthening the lungs & diaphragm! 
  • Good old cod liver oil caps Vitamin A & D for healthy mucous membrane defence.
  • Zinc & Vitamin C – There’s a high chance they’ll be deficient in zinc, & both zinc and Vitamin C are essential for immune defence, arming the body against infection. 
  • Protein powder – the elderly are notorious for not getting enough protein, a powder they can easily mix in with water or whatever milk they like will be a great help – protein is needed to build immune cells.
  • Greens powder & bone broth –  If they’re not eating a great diet, these are simple to prepare & contain many important immune nutrients & gut support. Remember gut health is the foundation for immune health. We, of course, recommend Greens + Aloe – because aloe vera is a great antiviral. Here are some interesting studies relevant to the potential benefits of Blend11 & Greens + Aloe during viral infection. (Note: against herpes family viruses & H1N1, not Coronavirus) – Article 1 and Article 2.
  • Immune support/prevention formula – Armaforce, Astra 8 are great options (available in health stores around Aus), or alternatively ask your local health food store or chemist what they recommend. Buy what is recommended and what you think they will take regularly. Be sure to check for interactions with a pharmacist to any of their meds – get a list of what they take. These are selling out quite fast – will likely be a toilet paper scenario soon!
  • Entertainment – In case there is the need for staying at home for long periods make sure that they have a number of things they can do for entertainment! Some things may include books, crochet, craft or cooking supplies, Netflix subscriptions, movies, puzzles & crosswords. 
  • A device to keep them connected Having a digital device to stay connected to friends & family, e.g a smartphone or iPad. To make things easier, set up a messenger group chat that everyone can keep in touch through.  
  • Homeopathic arsenicum 30c A dose each day for 3 days, 1 x per month. This can’t hurt & may prove very useful! The Indian government recommends arsenicum as the remedy of choice in this epidemic. 
  • Last but not least – toilet paper! That is if you can find any! This will, of course, help reduce stress & the need to visit supermarkets!

Easy PDF Download: CORONA SURVIVAL KIT FOR THE ELDERLY & IMMUNOCOMPROMISED

Make sure to share this blog post with any friends or family members that may be interested!

Jeanie
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

It’s Coeliac Awareness Week!

word map for coeliac awareness week | goodMix

It’s Coeliac Awareness week so I wanted to share my experience and how it has changed over the years. When I was going through my naturopathy training, gluten was not much of a thing. Most of us health freaks ate it without a second thought, because we knew there were only a handful of people who needed to worry about it – the people with Coeliac disease (which was rare) & unless you had that, gluten was totally fine. Happy days, pass the organic wholegrain sourdough please!

For years I was sceptical about the growing ‘trend’ of gluten-free foods, they started popping up everywhere on menus & in healthfood stores! I thought it was unnecessary & that all these super-sensitive people just needed to look after their gut a bit better so they could tolerate it like the rest of us (except of course for that handful of Coeliacs who genuinely reacted severely). Plus all the GF foods were just so expensive, but full of unhealthy fake / non-food ingredients & refined carbs, sugars etc. I totally shunned gluten free foods, even laughed at non-coeliac people who chose to eat them!

Fast forward to now, after spending a massive chunk of my life chatting to people face to face about their health – specifically their gut issues & poo problems, & researching plenty – I cannot stress enough to people with any gut symptoms (& even other seemingly unrelated symptoms) ‘GET TESTED FOR COELIAC DISEASE’.  I am also no longer sceptical about non-coeliac gluten avoidance – I actually do it myself, as do many naturopaths (it’s often the first dietary modification we make, as part of a treatment plan – cut out gluten (& often dairy) for a few months & see if you notice a change).

The info below is taken directly from the Coeliac Australia website:

“The symptoms of coeliac disease vary considerably. Some people experience severe symptoms while others are asymptomatic (they have no obvious symptoms at all).

Symptoms can include one or more of the following:

  • gastrointestinal symptoms e.g. diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, steatorrhea
  • fatigue, weakness and lethargy
  • iron deficiency anaemia and/or other vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • failure to thrive or delayed puberty in children
  • weight loss (although some people may gain weight)
  • bone and joint pains
  • recurrent mouth ulcers and/or swelling of mouth or tongue
  • altered mental alertness and irritability
  • skin rashes such as dermatitis herpetiformis
  • easy bruising of the skin

People who experience any of the following should also be screened for coeliac disease

  • early onset osteoporosis
  • unexplained infertility
  • family history of coeliac disease
  • liver disease
  • autoimmune disease e.g. type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid condition

Importantly, treatment with a strict gluten-free diet leads to small bowel healing, resolution of symptoms and a reduction in the long-term risk of these complications.

Although symptoms can vary considerably in coeliac disease, everybody with the condition is at risk of complications if they do not adhere strictly to treatment with a gluten-free diet. There is no correlation between symptoms and bowel damage so even if you are asymptomatic (you have no obvious symptoms), damage to the small bowel can still occur if gluten is ingested. This means everybody with coeliac disease, irrespective of the severity of their symptoms, needs to adhere strictly to a gluten free diet.”

You need to be tested for Coeliac disease before beginning a gluten-free diet, otherwise, the test will not be worth doing, it will be negative as you’re not reacting to something you’re not eating. So if you have health issues & haven’t ruled it out – get tested before you go off gluten.

You can be an asymptomatic coeliac. Yep – you can have massive gut issues brewing inside with zero symptoms. After seeing the massive rise in Coeliac awareness & diagnosis over the past 10 yrs, I think everyone should be tested for Coeliac disease before puberty (regardless of health status / symptoms). There are many many undiagnosed Coeliacs in Aus, & then there are many more who are not Coeliac, but who notice huge changes to the way they feel & function when they eat gluten. These people are not just ‘super-sensitive’ like I used to think – they have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (it can sometimes be other things like FODMAP sensitivity or wheat allergy, but gluten does not just affect Coeliacs).

There’s heaps of info now regarding Coeliac disease, gluten, FODMAPs etc online now, for further research, & awareness is growing rapidly among Drs. So as it’s coeliac awareness week, get yourself & family tested – & whether the results show up Coeliac or not, here are some awesome easy gluten free recipes with no fake food ingredients, that are full of nutrients too!

Shoot me an email anytime if you have specific questions :-)
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

Goji Berries – a Natural Jing Tonic

man practising chinese medicine | restore jing | goodMix

What is Jing? In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Jing is our basic vital energy, it’s kind of like the car battery – (where Qi energy is more like the petrol). We as humans need to have both strong Jing & abundant Qi to be able to function well & feel really good, like a car needs both battery & petrol in order to work.  So what causes it to run low and how can we restore jing?

Our Jing ‘leaks’ away as we age, & this leaking of vital energy is exacerbated by: 

  • illness
  • stress / fear / anxiety
  • inflammation
  • being stuck in toxic relationships
  • playing rough sports
  • ongoing sleep disturbance
  • emotional upheaval
  • extreme weather
  • excessive sexual activity
  • not drinking enough water
  • pregnancy / childbirth / lactating esp multiple consecutive pregnancies

…these all drain our vital energy, making us age quicker. We can help to restore ‘Jing’ & slow ageing by a) stopping the leaking / addressing the above aggravating factors; & b) incorporating more Jing tonifying foods, herbs & activities into our lives. 

Signs your Jing is really running low & could use support: 

  • burn out / fatigue
  • low libido & / or infertility
  • premature ageing
  • weakness
  • dizziness

How To Tonify Your Jing: 

  • stress management 
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • acupuncture
  • gentler martial arts (Qi Gong / Tai Chi)
  • recreation
  • hobbies
  • giving & serving
  • adaptogenic herbs (Astragalus, Rhodiola, Ginsengs, Withania & Goji).
  • good sleep habits
  • holidays / time out
  • ensuring good help & support in the period post birth & spacing pregnancies
  • eat more slow-cooked / wintery foods like soups & stews
  • black foods (ie black sesame, black beans)
  • bone broth
  • chlorella, spirulina, seaweeds
  • oats, quinoa, amaranth, millet, barley, rye
  • roasted nuts
  • watercress, celery, asparagus

So if you feel like your battery is dying from any of the aforementioned Jing – depleting things, you need to start tonifying ASAP!

Goji berries are a nice easy addition into your diet – add to smoothies, breakfast, trail mix, salads, stews & curries, or just eat plain to help boost your Jing. The advice from TCM practitioners is don’t go overboard, approx 20 gojis a day (a small handful) is plenty. I can personally confirm that it’s best not to eat too many in one sitting – you may need to race to the loo after a few too many handfuls!! I literally had to run from the beach, across the street & up 3 flights of stairs to my unit at the time! You’ve been warned – as with anything, the difference between a poison & a medicine is the dose!

If you’re interested in the western / scientific explanation, here’s a fairly comprehensive link to read on active constituents.  

Have a question?

Ask me at: jeanie@goodmix.com.au

Maintaining Your Gut Health On A Keto Diet

person eating a keto dessert bowl | keto diet for weight loss and gut health | goodMix

Maintaining and Improving Your Gut Health Whilst on A Keto Diet for Weight Loss:

The keto diet (very low carb, high fat & moderate protein) works really well for many people wanting to lose weight quickly. When you lose the constant stream of blood sugar from carbs to fuel your body, you are forced to ‘switch gear’ & adapt to burning fat for fuel instead. This sounds so simple – ditch the carbs, start burning fat & get skinny, hallelujah!  Like anything that sounds this great, it is too good to be true. Well – it is true, you’ll definitely burn fat for fuel – but the keto diet for weight loss can have some negative effects on your gut if not treated with respect.

I personally have spoken to many people who love the diet, have lost a heap of weight, feel good on it (not hungry & craving sweets; stable blood sugar & energy levels; not needing to eat so often etc & even those who have reversed insulin resistance / borderline type 2 diabetes). BUT – I have also spoken to people who’ve noticed negative gut & metabolic side effects, ongoing after switching back to a diet with more carbs (also plenty of research to back the downside of poorly managed keto diets for weight loss). Never sacrifice your long term health for a quick weight loss result. I think keto diets can be a very effective & safe tool, but I worry that a lot of people embark on this type of diet without doing their research / getting support from someone who has. Keto is a powerful tool, capable of creating drastic changes – so needs to be treated with respect.

Points to remember:

Any big dietary change will alter your gut microbiome, which is a pretty powerful thing & can work for you or against you. Consider this with all dietary changes. Don’t embark on ANY diet without considering or researching the likely impact on your microbes & gut lining. Consult a professional if in doubt / for advice specific to you.

The typical western diet (high in sugar, refined carbs, poor quality fats & not enough polyphenols or fermentable fibre) is pretty much guaranteed to wreck your gut health & your metabolism, so almost any change away from that will be a positive!

Just because your neighbour, aunty, teacher or partner has had great results on a particular diet – doesn’t mean that you will. And vice versa. Don’t just follow what the crowd is doing & definitely don’t try to force your new fave diet down someone else’s throat. Nobody knows what the ideal human diet is – the best we can do is try a few of the sensible ones (ask a professional, not your aunty), find one that works well & be open to changing when it feels necessary.

A diverse gut microbiome is a healthy microbiome, lots of different microbes, keeping each other in check, producing mostly useful / non-harmful substances. Diverse fermentable fibre & polyphenols support microbial diversity (eat the ‘plant rainbow’)!

Most of your super-healthy gut microbes require fermentable fibre as their food source (plant cell walls).

In nature, fermentable fibre & polyphenols usually come packaged with carbohydrates (ie in veggies, fruit, grains, legumes – ok & red wine & dark chocolate)!

A high-fat diet with minimal fermentable fibre can unbalance your gut microbiome, causing your gut to become populated with too many ’bile-loving microbes’. These guys produce things which can make your gut lining become ‘leakier’ – which can contribute to inflammation & insulin resistance (both big drivers of weight gain / metabolic dysfunction).

When you’re following a strict keto diet, make sure you’re not starving your healthy gut microbes out, make sure that your daily carb intake is rich in fermentable fibre to support gut microbial fermentation. Don’t blow it on a donut!!

Different gut microbes produce different by-products. Some of these substances are great for us, some are not. Sometimes our health issues can be related to the substances our gut bugs are producing.

How To Maintain a Healthy Gut On The Keto Diet:

  • Use plenty of plant proteins so that you’re not over-doing the animal (i.e., pea protein, hemp protein, nuts & seeds, nut butters).
  • Eat ‘Blend11’ daily (shameless product plug, but it is an awesome option to help you keep the carbs really low & the fermentable fibre really high)! You need options to make any diet plan sustainable – Blend11 with unsweetened coconut yoghurt is a great option to help make keto healthier & ensure your gut bugs don’t starve. (We also love Pure n Free Natural Coconut Yoghurt with a few raspberries & some cinnamon for a keto-friendly breakfast, snack or dessert).
  • Eat fermented food, drink fermented beverages (yoghurt, water / milk kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, other fermented vegetables).
  • Use prebiotics & specific probiotics as directed by a practitioner.
  • Increase intake of omega 3 fats, decrease your omega 6. (Fish, walnut, chia, flaxseed).
  • Use good quality fats & oils like oily fish, extra virgin olive, avocado, macadamia nut, hemp, nuts, seeds.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners & processed food.
  • Make veggies an absolute priority.
  • Include a variety of anti-oxidant rich berries (ie blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, goji berries, açai berries).
  • Use raw cacao powder for supporting bifido bacteria.
  • Many people find shorter periods ‘cycling’ keto with a more plant-heavy diet works well for them.
  • Work with a practitioner.
  • Monitor the impact on your microbiome with a test prior to starting & again at 1 month in. You can order microbiome tests in Aus through Microba. This link allows you to arrange a test and get results sent to both you & me (always keen to have a sticky beak at your microbiome & happy to help with personalised dietary recommendations)
    https://order.microba.com/?ref=REFJM6DXMN6

Natural Tips To Help You Quit or Cut Down on Alcohol

woman placing her hand over a glass | how to stop drinking naturally | goodMix

At this time of year, I know a lot of people are keen to drink less, have a break from alcohol or just stop drinking altogether. It can be a difficult habit to break, even for those who are just ‘social drinkers’ (some people are extremely social)…so here’s some great tools, supplements and tips on how to stop drinking naturally if that’s a goal for the new year! Share with mates wanting to kick the habit too.

Be Aware of Your Triggers: 

If you’re looking at how to stop drinking naturally, avoid stress (in all its forms). People reach for alcohol to change their state (stress is uncomfortable, alcohol makes it less so…but only temporarily!)

HALT (hungry, angry, lonely or tired) – just a few types of stress to be aware of, common triggers.

Negative emotions (grief, anger, sadness, loneliness, guilt). 

Social Isolation (finding yourself with no one to socialise with after quitting). 

Mental Illness

Physical Illness

Pain – esp chronic pain

Relationship break-ups (if you are serious about quitting an addiction, it’s actually recommended to avoid new romantic relationships until you are really confident you’re strong enough to not relapse in the event of a breakup / relationship stress). 

Complacency / over confidence (ie you think ‘I’ve quit so easily I can just do it again anytime so a few drinks won’t hurt this weekend’). So easy to just slide back into your old patterns from there, common mistake.

Celebrations – ie achievements, graduations, weddings, new jobs (especially if a pay rise makes it easier to afford more partying!)

Reunions with ‘partners in crime’ – when you catch up with people who you used to party with, make sure you set strong intentions & make everyone aware well before the catch up. You may have to just pass for a while if that’s easier. 

Giving up on quitting after a slip up. Everyone has a slip up from time to time – just learn from it & move on, don’t beat yourself up & give in. It happened, move on, get back on the wagon. 

Supplements Useful For Quitting Alcohol: 

If you’re exploring how to stop drinking naturally, it’s worth exploring whether these supplements could help:

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) 

GABA is a ‘chill out’ neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that is associated with relaxation & sleepiness. Alcohol binds to GABA receptors in the brain & mimics these effects. So – with long term alcohol use, your brain won’t respond as well to natural GABA, as the receptors become desensitised. If you’re using alcohol all the time to chill out / unwind / self medicate a level of anxiety – taking GABA (or other things that work on this same pathway) can be really useful to lessen the anxiety that can come when quitting drinking. 

Anxioloytic Herbs 

These are herbs that help calm us down. Kava, Withania, Passionflower & Oats are a few popular ones, readily available from healthfood stores. Get a naturopath or herbalist to make you a custom brew, or you can find some nice combination formulas in stores. Great to take the edge off without the side effects of using alcohol to do so (alcohol side effects include decreased ability to think clearly & make good decisions, leading to increased anxiety)!  Switch to these herbs if you tend to use alcohol to slow down, chill out, calm down. Much better long term results!

Adaptogen herbs 

Adaptogens are herbs that support our ability to cope with stress (that’s all of us in this modern age!) Withania, Ginsengs, Liquorice etc can be great (once again, best to get a tailored mix). Adaptogens are great for when you are having to cope with more than you feel you can, wether that’s physical stress (athletes) or emotional / work / relationships etc. Use these herbs if you need support to keep going strong, keep your energy up (in a sustainable way). 

L-glutamine 

This is a common deficiency in booze-lovers & is a useful supplement if you’ve been overdoing it, especially if your gut / inflammation / immune symptoms are playing up (you’ll have given yourself a leakier gut, & L-glutamine is great to help repair that). L-glutamine can also help to decrease cravings (for sugar, carbs & alcohol) by providing a glucose source for the brain (without raising blood sugars). Alcohol cravings & sugar / carb cravings can be intertwined (alcohol is a highly refined sugar that gives your brain an addictive sugar hit, similar to other refined sugars). Glutamine is also a mood booster, & can help with depression, anxiety & insomnia. Take 1 teaspoon of the powder 3-4 times a day on an empty stomach. 

Minimise Sugar

We can’t look at how to stop drinking naturally and not discuss sugar! Quit the sweet soft drink / juice mixers. I see so many people combining 3 addictions into one extremely powerful cocktail – ie consuming a beverage that contains loads of sugar, plus caffeine & alcohol – the triple whammy! A first step in this instance would be to replace the caffeinated mixers with something less addictive (ie switch coke to ginger beer or lemonade). Then remove or cut back on the sugar (use sparkling mineral water to dilute soft drink, then completely remove the sweet soft drink). You might find the alcohol addiction is only one part of a triple addiction.  

Magnesium

Magnesium is an extremely common deficiency, & if you tend to overdo alcohol you’ll almost certainly benefit from a period supplementing (especially if you are also stressed out, tend to be tight / tense, get cramps & easily fatigued muscles). Ask in your local health store or pharmacy for a quality brand (there are many forms of magnesium, you’ll need one that is well absorbed not just one that goes straight through – though these can be great for constipation). If you stressed out & are trying to quit, I would take the maximum recommended dose, 2x daily for a couple of weeks then cut back once you feel less anxious. 

Zinc

Zinc is such a common deficiency (& like magnesium & many other minerals & trace elements, is depleted by drinking) so definitely get your zinc levels checked – really important if you also have leaky gut. If your protein intake is low, it’s likely your zinc is too. One of the main enzymes required to break down alcohol (Alcohol dehydrogenase or ADH) requires zinc. If you can’t handle alcohol like you used to, it can be a red flag for zinc deficiency (also other things). Always take zinc with food, it can make many people feel nauseous if taken on an empty stomach. 

B Vitamins

If you’re looking at how to stop drinking naturally, you may need to look at your B vitamins. B vitamins will need topping up if you’ve been partying too long & hard – esp B1, folate & B12 (go for a quality B complex).  B’s are crucial for energy, nerves, memory & brain function, coping with stress, skin hair nails & many other functions. There’s some wisdom in the old ‘Berocca hangover cure’ – though you can find much better quality supps (ask in your local). B vitamins are normally best taken in the mornings (they can give you an energy boost). 

L-Theanine

L-theanine is found in Green Tea (& in concentrated amounts in green tea tablets). It has been shown to support liver health & to improve detoxification of alcohol, plus good to help with sleep / anxiety.  Useful to know, swap the wine for a green tea – or make up a big batch of iced tea. For stronger effects, get the tablets / capsules. 

NAC

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is an amino acid derived antioxidant (available in tablet form) that can lessen the toxic effects of alcohol & its by products, as well as decrease the desire to drink & help to normalise the addicted brain.  When alcohol is consumed, it’s broken down into acetaldehyde (much more toxic than alcohol). We use glutathione (an antioxidant we make) to detoxify acetaldehyde, & NAC is used to make glutathione. Drinking alcohol causes the stores of glutathione in the liver to quickly get depleted, so if you do plan to drink – NAC taken 1 hour or so beforehand may mean you do less damage & feel better the next day (don’t take it the day after as it can apparently work differently & make things worse)!  Work with a professional if you want to look at how to stop drinking naturally and use NAC to assist addiction, & obviously the best hangover prevention is to just drink less!

Nux Vomica

Nux Vomica is a homeopathic remedy, so to ensure it’ll be useful for you get advice from someone who knows their way round prescribing these remedies. Also check out Arsenicum, China, Nat Mur, & Sulphur. These remedies are all commonly used to assist with alcohol overuse, but a remedy must be a good match with your constitution / personality type & symptom picture to get good results. Nux Vomica is a fairly safe bet if your liver is a bit overwhelmed, you tend to be cranky / irritable & are prone to both overworking & overindulging.  Ask in your local healthfood store, try taking a dose of 30c once or twice daily for a week or so (stop taking if you notice changes).  Can also be used before bed to help decrease hangovers, but ideally use it to decrease desire to drink. 

Flower Essences

Flower essences are great to help with emotional issues, which often trigger substance overuse. You can experiment yourself, or get advice from a practitioner if you know that alcohol is just masking something you’d like to deal with on a deeper level.  

Rescue Remedy

Rescue remedy is so well-loved it is readily available in just about every chemist, health store (& often supermarkets). This is just a great combination of flower essences to address acute stress, anxiety, panic, insomnia etc. Use when anxious if that’s a trigger for you. 

Sleep

Sleep deprivation can be a big contributing factor to stress / anxiety / not coping / feeling the need to use alcohol for energy & fun / being able to socialise. If you’re looking at how to stop drinking naturally, make sure you’re addressing lack of sleep when trying to kick the habit. Sleep quality should vastly improve without alcohol, as booze interferes with normal sleep (even though it’s often what people use to ‘knock themselves out’ at night, you’ll get less deep sleep). 

Mindfulness, Meditation, Deep Breathing

Deep breathing & meditation instead of beers or wine to wind down of an evening. Try a yoga class or meditation sessions, even phone apps. Replace unhealthy habits with a really healthy one that will have many positive side effects. The more mindful you become, the less you will want to drink. 

CBD Oil

CBD (a non-psychoactive compound extracted from marijuana that can help with seizures, anxiety, insomnia, pain & many other things) is worth looking into. Whilst not readily available legally in Australia, it is being used by many who know of it – there’s a thriving black market. There is preliminary evidence that it can help to curb addiction, so consider – especially if chronic pain is a trigger for you. To get this in Aus you have to ‘know somebody who knows somebody’ – take a trip to Nimbin / northern NSW – you can’t buy it legally in stores yet, though in other countries it is truly booming. Dosage can vary depending on strength of the product from about 10 drops to 30 drops, ask the supplier for guidelines specific to their product.  

Treat All Levels

With any health issue, the naturopathic approach requires that you address not only the physical but also the mental, emotional & spiritual aspects of your being.  When we look at how to stop drinking naturally, working on all of these simultaneously is the best way to help with any level of addiction too. This could mean a basic programme of starting to exercise daily, sleep more & eat better, using supplements where required, & booking in to see a holistic counsellor / practitioner specialising in mental-emotional healing. A couple of phone calls to book appointments is the first step!

Change Your Routine & Remove Triggers

Restructure your daily  / weekly routine so that alcohol is no longer a feature. If you normally crave a drink on a Friday night, book a regular yoga / gym / art class for that time, or make that movie night, or massage night or whatever, just to help disrupt that usual ‘trigger’ in your routine. If you need a wine to help wind down from a stress-filled day looking after babies / small children – try a pram walk or just sit in a lavender bath (with the kids) for 30mins-1hr.  If it’s ‘the boys’ or ‘the girls’ that derail your attempts – let them all know that you’re ‘having a break’ for a period, some may want to join you (don’t say you’re never drinking & socialising with them again, just say it’s a break & come up with other cool outings & things to do together). Then the break can be as long as you like. 

Create Obstacles – Make it Harder To Drink 

If you normally buy cases of wine / get automatic deliveries  / habitually buy a carton of beer each week, then you’ll always be within a few footsteps of alcohol – not ideal for someone looking to cut down! Cancel or pause the delivery. Drive past the bottle shop on a friday. Don’t keep any alcohol in the house – if you decide you do really want to have a drink for an occasion, it will require effort, money & time to get booze. This will help your efforts to avoid it. if you normally drink too much wine – just make a rule to only buy the tiny bottles (1 at a time). Only buy a six pack for special occaisions if you normally would buy a carton & just drink the rest later. It’s the same with sugary foods – if they are in the house you’ll eat more of them. If you only buy for immediate consumption, you’ll do better at avoiding them. 

Get Support 

If you need support but feel AA meetings would be overkill, The ‘One Year No Beer’ Community (OYNB) provides an awesome motivational / how-to / practical resource / support network that you can join online. Check it out if you know you’ll need help staying on track. https://www.facebook.com/Oneyearnobeer/

Have heard great reviews & people often end up alcohol free for much longer / for life!

Start, Commit, Invest

So if you’re serious at looking at how to stop drinking naturally, decide on your start date, & tell everyone what you’re doing – ask them to help you stay on track & keep you accountable. Better yet, find a buddy who’s also keen to quit booze for a while (ideally your partner – will make life easier). Treat yourself to something healthy that you know you’ll be able to afford with all the savings on alcohol (book a class, a monthly massage, some new workout gear, a health retreat, or some of the supplements above to help you kickstart the journey!

Constipation – Natural Tips to Get Regular (Aside from Blend11!)

For any health practitioner, constipation is one of the most common complaints. Here are some tried & tested natural tips for when you are feeling blocked up, if increasing fibre doesn’t seem to be helping & you don’t want to rely on laxatives.

Diet:

Work with a dietitian, nutritionist or naturopath trained in the Low FODMAP diet, sometimes FODMAPs are the culprit in constipation (though they are more frequently associated with bloating, discomfort & diarrhoea). FODMAP’s can however provide fermentable fibre to promote microbial hydrogen production & then the consequent rise in constipating methane, produced by the methane-producing hydrogen-consuming gut bugs. So a low FODMAP fibre source can be really helpful here (ie Blend11).

Try removing gluten & dairy for a few weeks, see if there’s any improvement (have spoken to many people over the years who are constipated when eating one or both of these, & can almost instantly improve when they’re removed). It can also be other food sensitivities but gluten & dairy are the most common.

Meat can really slow things up for a lot of folks, try substituting lentils, beans & chickpeas, or just dilute meat using these mixed through (if legumes are tolerated). Also ancient grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc.

Veggies almost always need to be increased. Very few people actually get the amount of veg they need daily, despite them telling you they eat salad every day.

A daily green smoothie helps many with constipation (great way to help with the above too!)

Introduce fermented foods like sauerkraut & kimchee, just a teaspoon or 2 on the side of your plate is easy to get used to, then you can increase from there.

Intermittent fasting / 5 hours between eating. Helps many with IBS / SIBO. Gives the digestive system the essential ‘space’ needed to ‘clean up’ after digesting.

Probiotic foods, capsules or powders: 

If you’re trying a probiotic for constipation, my suggestion is normally to take a capsule 2 or 3 x daily (you can go over the dose recommended on the bottle, that’s totally fine). Here’s one I like, that should be well tolerated by most: TERRA Flora PROBIOTIC (great customer & practitioner reviews).

Digestive bitters / liver herbs:

Things like gentian, swedish bitters, butternut, andrographis, St Mary’s Thistle – all the bitter liver herbs can really help get things moving & many also have antimicrobial effects (there are many causes of constipation & microbial imbalance is often involved – microbial fermentation creates gases that can actually alter the way your bowels move – your gut bugs controlling their environment)!  Not recommended for long term use, but great as a liver & bowel kickstart. Gentler digestive herbs for everyday use could be green tea, chamomile, peppermint or liquorice teas (all great for gut & liver support). Get advice from your pharmacist regarding interactions with any medications you may be taking prior to using concentrated herbal supplements. 

Poo Position:

The ’Squatty Potty’ or similar home made device (ie a couple of bricks, pile of books, DIY wooden step) – anything to get you squatting. The terrible poo position encouraged by the western loo can be an aggravator for many with constipation. Squatting with the knees above the hip level is the way to open up the bowels properly. If you’ve never watched their now famous ad, you should – great marketing for a tricky product, they’ve nailed it!

Hydration: 

Seems obvious, but pays to mention as it’s often forgotten. Take a water bottle with you everywhere, & fill it often. 

Exercise: 

If you are not moving, neither is your digestive system! Adequate movement / exercise is one of THE most important factors in maintaining healthy digestive function. Even gut microbes change for the better with increased activity – sedentary people have unhealthy gut bugs….& are often chronically constipated. There is no getting around it – find something active you don’t hate & do it regularly. Even if you hate all kinds of exercise – choose what you hate the least, make yourself do it until you hate it less (it will happen). And so will good poos. And life just gets better from there. Just do it, & just poo it. Sorry. 

Stress management:

If you’re a stress-head, you’ll not be spending much time in your parasympathetic (rest & digest) mode because your sympathetic nervous system will always be switched on (fight or flight). You generally won’t feel like a poo when you’re in a stressful situation. But remember – a stressful situation is something that can vary greatly, depending on your attitude, interpretation & response to what is happening. Something that can completely destabilise one person, can have little to no impact on the next person. So – if you are a stressy type, you will need to find stress management techniques in order to get your digestion happening. Massage, yoga, meditation, exercise, catching up with mates, laughing more (funny shows / movies etc), making time to do what you love….stress needs to be addressed at the same time as gut for optimal results. 

Magnesium: 

Many with chronic constipation (esp the stress head types) can find relief through magnesium supplementation, & often a quick laxative effect using a magnesium oxide powder (ie Colon Cleanse). Or try Magnesium Citrate or Sulphate (epsom salts). Magnesium is such a common deficiency, so definitely worth a try – it can really help to loosen things up, with added bonus chill out & sleep better effects, plus often more energy / better muscle recovery. 

Structural Help:

Some swear by an appointment with a chiropractor or an osteopath when severely constipated. Definitely recommend this for kids / babies & adults – especially if there are also structural issues ie back problems, nerve injury etc. Even some core-twisting yoga poses can be very helpful for some.

Massage: 

Start on the right hand side & work your way up & around & down (google images colon should show you but all be guided by touch & feel as we don’t all have a colon that looks like the one on google)! Better still, book in with a professional to do the first one & teach you. Post massage do a few jumps / hijack the kids trampoline or go for a brisk walk / jog / do some twisty core yoga poses. 

Stomach acid: 

Apple cider vinegar, digestive bitters or betaine HCL before meals can help improve digestion. Not suitable for those with stomach ulceration or damage to their oesophagus, but many with either constipation, SIBO, diarrhoea, IBS, bloating etc – can be helped by addressing the stomach acid (most commonly it’s not acidic enough, yet so many people are put on PPI medications or antacids, which are known to cause IBS / SIBO as a ‘side effect’). They may help initially with the GERD symptoms, but they are guaranteed to throw everything out of whack further down the GIT & create more digestive problems in the long term. Last resort & only meant for short term use. 

Colonics:

I’m in 2 minds about colonics, my ‘gut feel’ is don’t go there unless your gut is really in a bad way, but definitely worth exploring as an option for those with a history of chronic constipation who’ve tried everything else! Some people swear by it & the procedure has apparently improved a lot since the days when you would read scary / negative reviews about it. 

Enemas:

For some people, it helps to just loosen things up at the exit point, to open the doors to freedom for the rest of the bowel. Get a professional to do it first, then the DIY kits can be used in emergencies at home. 

FMT (Fecal Microbe Transplant): 

If you’ve tried EVERYTHING & are at your wits end, definitely consider discussing an FMT (faecal microbe transplant) with a professional & experienced team (the Sydney Centre for Digestive Disease are pioneers of this treatment in Australia). They apparently have achieved excellent results using this method with chronically constipated patients (as well as many other gut problems). It makes perfect sense, as it’s like literally ‘wiping the microbial slate clean’ & starting again – replacing a dysfunctional microbial ecosystem with a functional one. Ensure good diet is adhered to following this procedure, plenty of diverse prebiotic fibre to keep the new microbial guests well-fed & happy – or the old nasties will just grow back.

Gentler Laxatives: 

Castor Oil – mild stimulant, not for long term use. Can make a pack for external use (apply heat or massage) or take internally with care (get professional advice). 

PHGG – type of fibre (partially hydrogenated guar gum) that increases bifido & lactobacillus & SCFA’s, usually well tolerated by those with IBS C & D, helpful with bloating etc, safe long term. Found in many gut / fibre / prebiotic formulas. 

Inulin – prebiotic fibre, highly fermentable & often poorly tolerated by those with IBS (FODMAP), found in many formulas or as a powder. 

Lactulose – osmotic (pulls fluid into bowel & help soften) Can use to get going then decrease dose as bowel improves (also increases lactobacilli & acts as stool softener). 

Motion Potion – a great gentle herb & fibre blend to help become / stay regular. 

*If you are already kinda addicted to laxatives, relying on them to go each day, never try to just stop cold turkey. Much more likely to have success if you wean yourself off them more gradually. Ie try 2 days on, 1 day off, then every 2nd day, then as needed (whilst supporting digestive health  / bowel function in every other way at the same time). 

Super – Pooper Shopping List: 

  • pear / pear juice
  • apple
  • kiwi fruit
  • prunes / prune juice
  • figs
  • linseed / linseed meal
  • chia
  • nuts & seeds
  • coconut / coconut oil
  • oats
  • legumes
  • brown rice
  • barley
  • green leafy veg
  • green smoothies
  • molasses
  • beetroot
  • ginger
  • beet greens
  • bitter salad greens
  • licorice tea
  • dandelion & chicory root coffee
  • regular coffee

Still not pooing & tried it all? Send me an email and I’ll see if there’s something or someone I can refer you to!

Jeanie
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

 

What Is Maca Powder? Ancient Peruvian Food Medicine!

spoon with pile of maca powder | what is maca powder? | goodMix Superfoods

What Is Maca Powder?

Maca – aka ‘Peruvian ginseng’ or Lepidium meyenni – what is it and who should try it?

I love food that ‘does stuff’. Functional food / superfood / food as medicine – whatever you want to call it, food that can make a noticeable change when you eat it is cool. 

I especially love it when there is a ‘historical uses’ & a ‘scientific studies’ reason to give it a try, as there definitely is with maca powder.

It has been used for at least 2000 years as a fertility / libido / energy tonic in Peru where it is grown on the foothills of the Andes. The Aztecs would apparently use it to promote energy, strength & stamina for going into battle, but then consumption was prohibited after the conquering of a village – to save the women from its libido-enhancing effects! 

I became interested in Maca after working in health food stores & repeatedly hearing positive feedback on it. I always ask customers what they use things for & if they notice much difference etc (nosey naturopath, yep but that’s how you learn). 

Maca powder is something that many women swear by for helping them through their menopausal years (stress, energy, libido) & men love it for boosting strength, libido & athletic performance. This mostly comes down to adrenal support – super important to support adrenals (ie don’t be living on caffeine & not enough sleep if approaching menopause or wanting to stay strong & virile for the long haul!) 

So for boosting general vitality I’ve always kept maca in the pantry & I use it sometimes in smoothies, or just mixed in with yoghurt whenever I feel like an added boost (you know, on days when I have a lot of conquering or ravaging to do). And of course it’s in the ‘BallBags’ protein ball mix.

The flavour by itself can take some getting used to – it’s not unpleasant, just different – ‘earthy’.  It has a sweet almost biscuity or butterscotch-like taste that works well with cinnamon, yoghurt, protein balls, smoothies, some healthy baking etc. It is just made from a dried, powdered root vegetable – so it’s kinda starchy in texture. 

Maca is considered an ‘adaptogen’ (like the ginsengs & many other ‘energy’ boosting herbs). Adaptogens support our adrenals & help us to handle stress better (whether it be mental or physical). Most people will notice more energy when using adaptogen herbs & often libido improvements as well, because when your general energy is higher, you will have more left over for lovin!  Most of us don’t really feel like getting it on when stressed, it’s about survival – your body knows that making babies is a bad idea when you feel like you’re barely surviving! 

Who should use maca and who should avoid maca? From my experience & research, some people do really really well on maca & then it’s just not right for others. Definitely worth a try if you’re suffering from poor energy, chronic fatigue, depression, low libido, are menopausal, feeling depleted, adrenally exhausted, having trouble conceiving, not ovulating regularly etc – but if you’re all good hormonally or know that you have excess oestrogen or an outta control libido then I don’t advise using it regularly at high doses (or just bear in mind that it may have an effect so be observant)!

How To Use Maca Powder

What dosage should I try?

Start small – 1 teaspoon organic maca powder daily, but then if all feels good, you can increase – dose can range quite a bit, apparently effective from 1.5 teaspoons up to a tablespoon or 2 daily at the higher end (that’s a very ‘earthy’ smoothie, & will be way too much for many!)  

If you have thyroid issues – be aware that maca does contain goitrogens (just like many foods including kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts etc – it is part of the same family). So don’t be going overboard on kale-loaded green smoothies with added maca if your thyroid is a problem area. Also probably not advisable with hormone sensitive cancers. 

Muscle building smoothie using Maca Powder: 

This is a post-workout smoothie for those wanting to build muscle (that’s most of us because muscle will burn fat for you, even when you’re asleep)! This recipe serves 3-4 (or maybe 2 huge footy players) so make it for the family or pour into jars for a couple of days – or you can easily do the maths for 1 serve! 

Muscle Building Smoothie

Links to some research on Maca:

Post menopausal women, sexual dysfunction, depression / anxiety.

Male endurance / athletic performance & sexual desire. 

SSRI induced sexual dysfunction

Whats your favourite superfood ingredient?
Love to hear it what it is…
Jeanie Xx
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

The Best Natural Hangover Tips

Team goodMix had a great time at the Good Food & Wine Show In Brisbane last weekend (probably not as good as the rest of the crowd, but it was fun to get amongst the party vibe!) If you’re looking at how to treat a hangover naturally now you’ve enjoyed all that wine – read on! We thought these hangover tips might come in handy – especially now that the Spring / Summer party season is coming up & everyone is stocked up on wine post event!

We have 7 things to help you prevent OR recover from a hangover naturally, plus 13 supplements to see you through the party season!

Obviously, from a naturopathic perspective – avoiding excessive alcohol is optimal. There is some evidence that small amounts of alcohol are ok / can be beneficial (the picks are red wine, white wine, & even whiskey), but going overboard will do damage. This is what it typically feels like – & some reasons why:

Hangover Symptoms: 

  • Headache (blood vessel dilation, toxicity & dehydration…possibly also sleeping a bit twisted on the floor / couch / garden / driveway).
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, decreased appetite, cravings for greasy foods (gastric irritation & excess secretion of stomach acid)
  • Weakness, lethargy, lack of co-ordination, trembling (drastically depleted blood sugar as alcohol makes you pee out all your glycogen stores. Your energy tank =  totally drained to empty).
  • Depression / anxiety / moodiness / inability to think & focus properly / poor memory (extreme blood sugar lows, lack of quality REM sleep, liver toxicity, remembering dumb stuff you said / did).

What Is A Hangover?

When alcohol gets to your liver, an enzyme (alcohol dehydrogenase) breaks it down into acetaldehyde, which is loads more toxic to your body than alcohol (like 20 to 30 times more toxic). Then it has to break that down with another enzyme & glutathione (awesome antioxidant we produce ourselves from amino acids – protein is critical for effective liver detox). That is why we feel so crappy after the alcohol – it’s the toxic metabolites that really poison us, more so than the alcohol itself (which also does some damage on it’s way through). 

Too much alcohol means your glutathione levels get used up, so the acetaldehyde (toxic metabolite of alcohol breakdown) builds up in your system, creating that ‘poisoned’ feeling. Women cop it worse, as we produce less of the enzyme that breaks down the acetaldehyde – so our glutathione is super important to top up during party season.  The best way to reduce your hangover’s effects is to decrease the amount of toxic acetaldehyde floating around in your system. 

Then there’s the effects of the alcohol itself – it blocks our antidiuretic hormone, so we just pee out all the water that we’d normally reabsorb back into our blood stream when it passes through the kidneys (along with some vital electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, & glucose). Might not sound like a big drama – but if you unbalance electrolytes & deprive them of glucose – every single cell in your body will have severely compromised function. Meaning you as a human will be highly dysfunctional as a result. Sick day totally warranted. So let’s look at how to treat a hangover naturally…

How To Treat A Hangover Naturally

These tips are just from a friend who is a naturopath & also likes the odd night out (not me, I am the perfect health freak & would never consider drinking anything except a green tea, herbal tonic or smoothie). Well ok, some might be things I swear by…remember I attended naturopath college from age 18-22 when I was a bit of a party girl!…I learnt a few things about detoxing during the week, which I put into practice on weekends!

  1. Hydration = critical. BEFORE you fall asleep after a big night, ensure you have at least 2-3 good sized glasses of water. If you forget before bed, it’s gotta be priority upon waking (drink slowly in the morning). You can use plain water, water with bubbles, fresh juices…THE ABSOLUTE BEST THING TO DO, PREVENTION-WISE, IS DRINK A GLASS OF WATER FOR EVERY ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE YOU DRINK, topping up & flushing out as you go. 
  2. Eat something substantial ie a meal with fat fibre & protein (remember, protein = essential for liver detox) before you start partying & also just prior to bed. Keep your digestive system moving, keep your gut & liver busy & the alcohol well diluted with other things.
  3. Sleep. Plan to get some extra both before & after to compensate for the inevitable party losses.
  4. Don’t use sugary or caffeinated mixers – these greatly contribute to the dehydration & stress on your body. Use sparkling mineral water, fresh juices Etc…steer well clear of the rum & coke & Vodka Red Bulls! Combat dehydration with electrolyte solution (or coconut water slushies with fresh fruit) in the morning – or better still, before you go to bed.
  5. Exercise in the morning (?? for real??) If you can possibly manage some movement, it will get your digestive system, lymphatic system & circulation, cranking – which means faster removal of all the toxic by-products of your night. Good idea also to prepare for a night out with a workout (nothing too challenging, just to ensure everything is flowing nicely before the toxicity hits.
  6. What to eat in the morning?….Fat of course! Grease is the traditional cure / craving for seedy folks, so I recommend go with your cravings here (within reason). Always, always opt for quality grease – ie free range, nitrate free / organic bacon, eggs, organic butter & mushrooms…maybe some bone broth…salt is fine (you’ll have peed out heaps) & always ensure that you have some fibre & greens too to assist with detox & getting your digestive system back to normal. A fresh icy juice or smoothie with fruit & veg is also awesome (I would include celery & grapefruit & definitley a greens powder).
  7. Poo. You have to get that shit out of your system, literally! Do whatever you need to make it happen ASAP after a big night out, you’ll feel so much better from that moment onwards. Tip – make sure you’re eating your Blend11 often & you should have no issues here! If you have some fluid, eat some breakfast, & do a little exercise – even just a walk or some gentle yoga / stretches, this should help immensely. Can also try a magnesium powder if that works well for you.

How To Treat A Hangover Naturally: 13 Supplements for people who love to party!

A basic hangover first aid kit should include: 

  1. Nux Vomica (classic homeopathic hangover / liver / overindulgence remedy). Perfect for those who suffer with nausea & headache.  Get a 30c potency from the health store or local homeopath, take 1 dose before bed & one first thing in the morning, then another later if required. (Don’t take more once improvement is noticed unless you start to fade again).
  2. NAC / glutathione (to break down the toxic by-products, ask in your local health store)
  3. Glutamine, aloe vera, slippery elm (your gut-lining will need these to repair)
  4. Zinc (always take with food or it can make you feel nauseous, not what you need)!
  5. Selenium (co-factor needed for glutathione antioxidant)
  6. B vitamins (energy pick up, do use a better quality supplement than berocca though!)
  7. Vitamin C (helps with detox & healing)
  8. Magnesium bath soak / spray (replace lost mg, you’re probably deficient anyway – most of us are)
  9. Electrolytes (you can get the ice blocks from the chemist, or coconut water)
  10. Probiotics – especially SB yeast (you’ll have killed off a heap of your ‘good guys’ & made way for your candida to flourish with no doubt too much sugar). Alcohol = really common cause / contributing factor to gut dysbiosis, thrush, candida overgrowth.
  11. Fibre (soaks up all the crap & gets it moving swiftly towards the exit, provides food to nourish the surviving good bacteria & get them back to a decent population. They also produce short-chain-fatty acids from the fibre breakdown, which are very healing substances for the bowel lining & act as anti-inflammatories throughout your entire body). Blend11 = great here.
  12. Greens (liver & gut love is much needed, greens are great for both). Greens Plus Aloe is perfect, esp with the Aloe vera for healing & soothing your gut, & for blood sugar regulation.
  13. Liver herbs (St Mary’s / Milk Thistle = best liver loving antioxidant. Helps prevent glutathione depletion in your liver. Turmeric is also excellent. If you like to party, invest in a quality liver supplement with both of these, & take it daily throughout the season). Cumin (the spice) is also apparently great for improving your glutathione levels, & whey protein, asparagus & barley grass would be great dietary inclusions too.

So there are our top tips for how to treat a hangover naturally!

***IF YOU SUFFER FROM GUT ISSUES (REMEMBER PRETTY MUCH ALL HEALTH ISSUES HAVE A STRONG GUT COMPONENT), & YOU ARE SERIOUS ABOUT GETTING YOUR  HEALTH BACK ON TRACK – DON’T EVEN GO THERE WITH EXCESS ALCOHOL. 

Even a single episode of heavy drinking can cause the lining of your stomach to become inflamed and bleed. Your gut flora & mucous membranes will be severely messed with, it will increase leaky gut severity…just not worth it.  I have actually heard from several people over the years about the sudden & mysterious onset of food allergies following a big weekend. Stick to nutritious mocktails made with kombucha / fresh fruit / ice / coconut yoghurt etc, & just laugh at the antics of your friends / family. And then laugh at them some more when you’re up & at ‘em enjoying life the next day & they are comatose & coping with their hangovers!!

Love to hear about your remedies for how to treat a hangover naturally too!

Jeanie
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

Natural Ways to Help Teens With Anxiety

Anxious teens will often ‘self-medicate’ with pharmaceuticals, illegal drugs, alcohol, comfort food or engage in other forms of escapism to help them deal with the complex emotions they have going on inside. 

To prevent this, there are loads of easy ways we can support their mental health during a time when their bodies are demanding so much physically & life can be tricky emotionally.

1. Protein:

Helps keep blood sugar & energy levels stable (blood sugar fluctuations can aggravate / cause moodiness – know anyone who gets ‘hangry’ when they have to wait too long for food?). Amino acids from protein also supply the building blocks our body needs to make many of our neurotransmitters, ie serotonin, dopamine, GABA. These chemicals strongly influence moods. Lack of protein will definitely contribute to anxiety, so make sure this box is ticked for healthy growth, strong immunity & stable moods in your teen.

2. Good fats:

Typical teens tend to consume a LOT of nasty inflammatory fats (fried foods, fast foods, crisps, pastries, bakery foods etc), so we really need to ensure there’s plenty of good fats coming in to compensate. Every cell membrane in our bodies requires fat as a major component. If your cell walls are made mostly from ‘cheeseburger & fries fats’, their function will be sub-optimal. Cell membranes let things in & out of our cells, so good fats are essential for the most basic foundations of how our body works. Brains are especially fat hungry, they are actually made up of approx 60% fat. Oily fish, olive oil, avocado, nuts & seeds (especially chia & flax), grass fed animal fats, coconut….include these often in your teens diet.  Add extra good fats to salads, smoothies, desserts, dips…everything. Good fat won’t make them get fat, it’s excess refined carbs / lollies / soft drinks / sugars & inflammatory foods that are the real culprits.

3. Fibre:

Teens tend to reach for the ‘white’ foods for a quick energy boost & minimal chewing (refined carbs with all the fibre removed – ie white bread, white sugar, pasta, cakes, pastries, buns etc). This leaves the good ‘fibre-eating’ gut bugs starving & supports an over abundance of the nasty ones (who just demand more sugar & carbs, keeping that blood sugar roller coaster going with all the mental highs & lows that come along with it!) When we add more fibre into an excessively ‘white’ diet, it helps decrease the rate that sugars are absorbed & it also helps ensure our gut microbial balance stays somewhat intact. Get fibre into teens wherever possible

4. Magnesium:

Such a common deficiency, & teens need lots of it, especially if they are very active / sporty or stressed with a heavy study workload. You can supplement with a powder or pilll, or have them add to bath / spray & rub directly onto skin. Especially great for teens with cramps or tight muscles. Sometimes tension headaches can be relieved by magnesium supplementation, & often constipation. 

5. Amino acids:

Found in protein, but also available in supplement form. Specific amino acids can be used in supplement form to support specific brain chemicals (work with a naturopath on this). Your teen may not need a prescribed pharmaceutical medication, it’s often possible to de-stress them using high dose specific nutrients instead. 

6. Sleep:

Between devices / social media / gaming & partying (hopefully some study as well) many teens are chronically sleep deprived. Sleep is when our brains ‘reset & reorganise’ themselves. Brains trying to function on little sleep will produce unstable moods & if poor sleep is ongoing, often chronic anxiety. Some great help here can be – hot bath or shower before bed, read a book until sleepy, no devices for the 1 hour prior to sleep, get to bed at the same time each night & wake at the same time, exercise every day – first thing in the morning, essential oils like lavender rubbed into temples or on pillow at sleep time, take passionflower (herbal tincture) 20 drops at bedtime, magnesium with dinner. Obviously no caffeine / minimise – esp after midday. 

7. Exercise:

Crucial for everyone wanting to take care of their mental state, it just has to be added into a teens schedule regularly. Find something they are interested in or at least don’t hate – & make it non-negotiable. In this sedentary world, exercise MUST be a part of life somehow, our bodies are just not designed to be as motionless as we are today! Especially when we are young. 

8. Massage:

Treat them to a professional massage once in a while, or as often as you can afford it. Even if you can massage ok yourself – do swaps, feet / shoulders / back / head…nothing better than a massage when you’re feeling stressed or exhausted. Teens may really crave physical touch,  they often miss out. 

9. Laughter:

Funny movies, fun games, inviting fun-loving family / friends around…laughing is such a great (& free) antidote to anxiety. 

10. Downtime:

Some teens have schedules so full that anxiety would be a logical side effect!! Although it’s great to ‘keep them busy / out of trouble’, they do need some downtime just like adults. Even if you thrive in a fast-paced environment, that doesn’t mean that your kids necessarily do. Their natural requirement for chill time may be more than yours. 

11. Herbs:

So many great herbs to help with anxiety. Ask a naturopath or herbalist, but look into withania, the ginsengs, rhodiola, passionflower, valerian etc. Also CBD oil (the non-psychoactive component of marijuana – this is not readily available in Aus yet, but should be soon).

12. Organising / prioritising weekly tasks:

Sometimes a lack of planning & a habit of procrastinating can lead to ‘overwhelm anxiety’ when it all just seems too much to deal with! Help your teen stay ‘on top’ of their essential tasks by sharing tips on prioritising, to do lists, time management & organisation apps…& allocating some time to check in regularly & help them organise their schedule.

13. Yoga & Meditation:

There are some great classes / retreats that teens can attend, or there are apps / you tubers to follow along with. So helpful. Even just showing them how deep breathing can help in stressful situations. 

15. Caffeine:

Many many teens are consuming huge amounts of caffeine daily without realising what it does to them (can cause insomnia, heighten anxiety, cause jitters, palpitations  etc). Energy drinks, cola beverages, iced coffee drinks, regular coffee & tea, chocolate, cold & flu medications – everyone has a different level of tolerance to caffeine, so just because it may have little impact on you, don’t assume this is also the case with your teen. 

16. Your own stress levels:

When you are stressed, that impacts your kids. If you are under too much pressure, not coping well, suffering from anxiety yourself, you absolutely need to sort yourself out as this will be impacting your kids for sure. All of the tips in this article can be applied to adults as well! Especially the last one – below. 

17. The Gut-brain connection:

IBS often first develops during the teenage years, & its onset can frequently be traced back to a highly stressful or anxious period. More & more evidence is being uncovered about how our emotions are impacted by what’s happening in our gut & vice versa. The gut & the brain function as a team, they are very connected! Anything we can do to support & nurture the gut will help support & stabilise the brain. Teens dealing with IBS absolutely need help with the mental / emotional side of things – I’m a firm believer in treating the gut & the brain simultaneously for best results in both areas.

18. See a professional:

Sometimes all the tips in the world are just not enough, you need real help. You may need to book in & see a professional to unravel the root cause/s (always best to go straight to the cause if possible!). A few visits to a skilled counsellor during the younger years could save a lifetime of anxiety / deeper mental health issues down the track! Find a professional who specialises in teens or comes with great reviews (ask the school counsellor /  other parents / look in online support groups). And work with a gut health specialist as well if there are gut symptoms intertwined with the anxiety (there almost always will be)! 

I’d love to hear about your teenager’s anxiety. Maybe something not listed here has helped?

Jeanie
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

Blend11 CSIRO Research Findings

What Did We Find Out? 

A lot of you have been asking at the markets, so here are the results!

Blend11 was readily fermentable by bowel microbes during the ‘in vitro fermentation trial’ & subsequently raised production of the beneficial short chain fatty acid ‘butyrate’. Levels rose very quickly, significantly & stayed high for a much longer period than with both of the control fibres (psyllium & cellulose – see graph below). This is very exciting news, especially as research into butyrate continues to reveal more benefits!

What Is Butyrate?:

Butyrate is a well researched short chain fatty acid (SCFA). It is a by-product of fibre fermentation by certain gut microbes, and is the reason for all the buzz around ‘resistant starch’ (eating more resistant starch leads to an increase in gut microbial butyrate production).

Butyrate benefits:

  • it is the preferred fuel source for the cells lining the colon
  • it helps to nourish cells & support repair of damage to the bowel wall
  • it helps maintain gut barrier integrity & thus regulate gut immunity & inflammation
  • it helps to ‘switch off’ abnormally proliferating cells in the bowel ie polyps / precancerous lesions
  • it lowers the pH of the colon (makes it more acidic), which helps stop pathogens (bad bugs) taking hold & also helps with mineral absorption into the bloodstream.
  • it helps us feel full & satisfied & stabilise blood sugar / improve insulin sensitivity (particularly important for diabetics, those battling with insulin resistance or abdominal fat).
  • it helps normalise muscular contractions & movement of the bowel (relevant to those with IBS, constipation, diarrhoea or irregular movements).

Buy Blend11 Here >>

What Conditions Is Microbial Butyrate Production Important For?

From what we know about butyrate so far, it’s important to have high levels to help with:

  • constipation / irregular movements
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
  • leaky gut
  • autoimmune issues
  • any condition where gut integrity is compromised
  • bowel cancer prevention diet / polyps
  • prevention of travel bugs / overgrowth of gut pathogens
  • diabetes
  • insulin resistance
  • abdominal fat
  • PCOS
  • osteoporosis prevention
  • bone & teeth strength
  • general health (through better mineral absorption)

…there are many other butyrate benefits & uses – this list is just the tip of the iceberg! But we know it’s a good thing for our gut microbes to be continually producing for us, & we now know that Blend11 is useful to help support that process :)

Buy Blend11 Here >>

Soaking / Activating: Do I Really Have to Soak it?

Common question, one we really hoped to find the answer to!

Interestingly – soaking overnight had minimal impact on fermentation & microbial butyrate production! Dry mix was found to create a similar increase in butyrate production, nutrient levels weren’t impacted & FODMAP’s were decreased only by a little.

So it seems that from a fermentation perspective, soaking may not be important / useful! It does however, help with gut issues (anecdotally). We speak to customers every week (for the past 6.5 years) who find Blend11 useful to help manage their gut symptoms, & there is definitely a difference (almost always better results when used soaked vs dry). There is other research suggesting that consumption of pre-soaked seeds helps with absorption of micronutrients (even though similar levels may be present in dry vs soaked seed, absorption is what counts). Also – the enzyme activity in soaked seeds may provide further nutritional / digestive benefits.

To Soak or Not to Soak?

In the absence of any firm data…we encourage you to experiment on yourself! See if you notice any difference when eating Blend11 soaked vs dry:

  • digestive comfort (how does your tummy feel throughout the day when you eat soaked vs dry Blend11)?
  • best poos ever effect (does it create the same results for you soaked vs dry – is there a difference in your bowel function?)
  • energy levels (any changes?)
  • mood
  • general wellness
  • performance
  • immunity
  • inflammation / swellings / aches & pains
  • weight
  • specific illnesses

Please let us know what your findings are!

Buy Blend11 Here >>

Next Stage:

We are now looking to move into the next phase of testing (a clinical trial with IBS patients). This will cost A LOT (for a small business – usually it’s only pharmaceutical companies who can afford these!) We’re eligible to use some government grants, but nowhere near enough to cover the entire project. So now we’re looking for help raising funds / an investor. With results from a trial of this nature, we’ll have scientific evidence that this food can act medicinally!

Your testimonials have played a huge role in getting the initial research done, we are now asking for anyone willing to come forward with their story, who would be happy to share it with the CSIRO gut research team, possibly even in a television interview (your face / name can remain anonymous, just an interview to tell your story. Any test results you may have will help, or if you have a health professional / Dr who can confirm results.

This is important for us to progress – so please, shoot me a reply with your contact details & a brief rundown of your story if you are keen to help out / think your story would be of interest! Even if you aren’t keen to get deeply involved, but you have a story or quick comment we can add to the collection, that would be very much appreciated too!

Jeanie Xx
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

Natural Support for Endometriosis

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis or ‘Endo’ (as it’s affectionately known), is a nightmare that affects more than 10% of Aussie females (& even the occasional male) at some painful point, usually starting in teenage years with progressively more uncomfortable menstrual pain & other pain associated with hormonal fluctuations.

It involves tissue like the uterine lining (endometrial) tissue growing outside of the uterus (ie the abdominal cavity, bowel, bladder, ovaries etc). This tissue responds to hormonal fluctuations throughout the month, building up & shedding like regular endometrial tissue, causing pain from recurrent irritation, inflammation & scarring.

What Are The Symptoms of Endometriosis?

  • Extreme period pain (and often pain at other times, can be daily)
  • Very heavy periods
  • Spotting before periods
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pain with bowel movements or urination
  • Bloating, abdominal discomfort
  • Lower back pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Migraines
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

What is Endometriosis Pain Like?

Endo pain can range from ‘please excuse Jenny from swimming today as she has period pain’  to ‘take me to the hospital I need a general anaesthetic’ or ‘just kill me now’ kinda pain’.

It can be extremely frustrating, excruciating, crippling, totally life-interrupting & can hinder education, career, relationships, fertility & sanity. Pain is normally (but not exclusively) in the pelvic region, & may mean intercourse, work, school, socialising and exercising are off the menu a lot of the time. Endo pain has been described by some mothers as worse than the pain of childbirth, so nothing to be sneezed at.

How Is Endometriosis Diagnosed?

Despite the severity of symptoms, for most young women it goes undiagnosed for many years (often 10 or more), which allows the situation to worsen. Because of under-diagnosis, the actual percentage of females suffering with endo may be much higher than the currently recognised 10-ish percent. To get a definitive diagnosis involves laparoscopic surgery under general anaesthetic – not simple. Most try to get by with anti-inflammatory meds, increasing until they just won’t cut it anymore, then maybe something stronger & / or the Oral Contraceptive Pill.  These are the normal treatment approaches until surgery is required to remove tissue – which can provide huge relief (until it grows back).

Severely Painful Periods Are Not Normal. They Are a Sign That Your Body Needs Help!

Please – if there are any teen girls in your life suffering with painful periods, urge them / their parents to get it looked into properly ASAP. Very painful periods are not normal, and early diagnosis and smart treatment can make a massive difference for endo progression, if that is found to be the cause.

Many a suffering teen girl will think ‘I must be just a sook’ and try to push through the monthly pain and ‘handle it’ thinking that they’re weak because everyone else seems to cope ok with their periods. This is compounded when well-meaning friends and family tell them to ’toughen up’ / get on with life. These girls can end up depressed and anxious, fearful to embrace opportunities they know pain will interfere with, and simply dreading ‘that time of the month’.  

Heart-breaking for young souls to live with such severe, recurring pain and feel like they are somehow inferior for not coping with what they assume is the norm.

The Endometriosis Gut Connection

Is endometriosis really connected to your gut health? Yep – surprise surprise, like so many other ’diseases’, endometriosis symptoms are strongly impacted by what is happening in your gut.

IBS pain and cramping can be very similar to endometriosis pain and cramping – the two are often confused, or can be found together. Around 16% of all teens are thought to experience IBS (most are female). Both endo and IBS can cause severe abdominal pain, uncomfortable bloating and painful or difficult bowel movements. Many women have both IBS and endo (jackpot!!) If your IBS gets a lot worse during your periods, you should look into endometriosis as a possible cause or contributing factor.

In one recent study, the Low FODMAP diet (known to help in most IBS cases) was found to significantly improve endometriosis symptoms, so if you do have both endo & IBS (or suspect you may), Low FODMAP is definitely worth a trial – do it seriously with help from an experienced nutritionist / naturopath to help you navigate through and find your triggers .

Often a person will have some low level of ‘dis-ease’ happening in their gut, which may not be that noticeable (gut seems to function normally / no problems), but which may form the foundation for another set of symptoms they have going on – like endo.  Endo is one of those chronic conditions you can ‘attack’ from the gut, because it’s an inflammatory disease, with immune dysfunction and hormonal sensitivity. Changing the gut environment can effectively decrease inflammation and help normalise immune function and hormonal balance.

When we have a harmonious gut microbiome we’re more likely to have an immune system that ‘knows when it’s needed’ and when to just chill. This is because – if your gut barrier is functioning nicely (supported by a healthy gut microbiome), it will only allow certain things out of the gut and into the bloodstream where the immune system is on high alert. Conversely, when the gut barrier is compromised (often due to / aggravated by microbial issues), a heavier load of inflammatory substances will end up in your bloodstream,  your immune system goes into ‘freak-out’ mode, becoming trigger-happy and reacting to all kinds of things that shouldn’t bother it. This makes any inflammatory-immune issues you may have flare up, whether it’s eczema, psoriasis, asthma, arthritis, hayfever…or endo.

Calm the gut  = calm the immune system = decrease the inflammation = decrease the pain.  Focus on your gut, don’t just reach for the painkillers – you’ll get way better results in the long term. And to help calm the gut, mental / emotional support is paramount too. 

Why Painkillers Can Make Endometriosis Pain Worse

Using NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like nurofen, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen etc) for endometriosis will reduce inflammation & pain in the short term but with continued use they will INCREASE inflammation by damaging the all-important gut lining. Inflammation leads to pain, leads to pain relief meds, leads to leaky gut, leads to more inflammation, more pain…and so on…not a cycle with a happy ending (except if you’re selling the pills)! Anti-Inflammatory drugs are not an effective solution to a chronic inflammatory disease. Great to use for one off / occasional acute painful inflammations, but not for long term stuff if there’s another approach available (and there is a naturopathic approach for endo)!

Codeine type painkillers pose a real risk of addiction, often not communicated when first prescribed – especially important for young teens who may be struggling with depression. They also cause constipation / bowel dysfunction & as a result can increase oestrogen load.  Gut microbes are heavily involved in oestrogen metabolism and excretion, and when the bowel is sluggish and lacking in microbial diversity, more oestrogen is reabsorbed back into circulation rather than being excreted. These oestrogen-influencing gut microbes are known as the ‘oestrobolome’.   Good to know that if we modify gut microbes and gut function, we can modify blood oestrogen levels – which can obviously have a huge impact on endometriosis flares, as it is an oestrogen-fuelled condition.

The Pill For Endometriosis

The OCP may slow / stop the disease from worsening, by blocking the monthly oestrogen-induced flares, but once ladies decide they do want to be fertile, & go off the pill – their reproductive communication system has some serious catching up to do!

During teenage years, the menstrual cycle is getting established – this requires communication between the brain & ovaries. Taking the pill stops this communication, stops the cycle from developing, so instead of a natural rhythm forming, you just get a fake period with no ovulation. No natural cycles happening, interrupted reproductive development. The pill hormones are not identical to the ones we make naturally, there is a list of benefits we miss out on, & a list of side effects that can come with taking the pill:

Common Side Effects of The Pill

  • nausea
  • spotting
  • bloating
  • fluid retention
  • weight gain
  • headaches
  • tender breasts
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • impaired bone density
  • decreased libido

Heavy / irregular periods are common and to be expected in teen girls, it’s part of their reproductive development that should be allowed to happen naturally. Obviously if there’s danger of pregnancy – contraception is vital, but otherwise I would run a mile from the pill, definitely give preference to non-hormonal contraceptives.  Endo progression will likely be slower with the right OCP, but there are much better ways to address it (without the list of side effects)! Other drugs (Lupron and Synarel) are commonly used to suppress oestrogen and decrease growth of stray endometrial tissue, these can absolutely help sufferers, but also have a long list of side-effects and do not allow a natural female cycle to occur. They are mostly used post surgery to slow down the regrowth of tissue.

Natural Endometriosis Support

Best to get help from a professional (ie a naturopath or integrative GP specialising in women’s health), but here are a few things to look into:

  • awareness that painful periods need attention (not just drugs to mask the pain!)
  • optimise oestrogen metabolism (support bowel and liver with regular diverse fibre, probiotics, herbs to ensure regular bowel movements)
  • trial a Low FODMAP diet (can help identify triggers and influence gut function)
  • anti-inflammatory diet (more detail below)
  • get off gluten, dairy, sugar & alcohol for a min of 8 weeks – see how your symptoms go.
  • bone broth (organic bones)
  • test for and remove any other possible food intolerances
  • decrease saturated fats & red meat, decrease animal protein (more plant based diet)
  • find a gut-repair type product (look for l-glutamine, zinc, aloe vera, slippery elm etc, or ask a naturopath)
  • decrease / eliminate poor quality ‘junk food’ with its inflammatory fats, sugars, refined carbs.
  • eat / juice use loads of turmeric, though a high strength capsule will be best for quick pain relief
  • eat / juice / use loads of ginger
  • fermented foods – sauerkraut, beet kvass, kimchi, kefir, kombucha.
  • proper regular exercise (when not in pain, make the most of it and be active)
  • get plenty of sunshine (vit D)
  • magnesium (can be rubbed into skin, bathe in mag salts or take as a supplement)
  • oily fish eaten often, or cod liver oil supplement
  • flaxseed (whole soaked seed, or ground seed – not just the oil)
  • fibre support for the gut – crucial to move bowels regularly
  • liver herbs (naturopath / herbalist can help)
  • veggie juices
  • treat complications / secondary stuff ie check iron & B12 (often low due to heavy bleeding)
  • mental emotional support (stress management, meditation training, deep breathing, counselling, massage, relationship support, reconnection with good friends, joining support groups, etc).

Being gluten free, Low FODMAP and supportive to gut integrity and microbial production of anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids, both Blend11 & PondWater fit nicely into an endometriosis support diet. We have received great feedback from several women using these with the IBS-Endo double!

Let me know if you have found your endo responsive to anything not mentioned above!

jeanie@goodmix.com.au