Natural Cures for Constipation

Health begins in the gut, and constipation is just one of many signs that your digestive system is out of balance. A healthy bowel motion consists of waste products from digestion, bacteria, undigested food particles, salt, bacteria, toxins and other compounds. The colon is a key organ of detoxification and elimination which is critical to the function of almost every other system in the body.

Imagine if you didn’t empty your garbage bin regularly; waste would overflow into the surrounding room, scraps could putrefy and release unpleasant odours and gases, and undesirable creatures would be attracted to the mess. A similar analogy can be applied to the bowels. If wastes are not removed effectively and efficiently, they can putrefy, damage the integrity of the lining of the gut, and cause a recycling of some toxins back into the body creating an increased workload on other organs such as the liver.

Constipation is by definition, infrequent or incomplete bowel motions. Constipation can mean hard, dry and small bowel movements or bowel motions occurring less than three times per week. If your bowel motions do not fit this checklist for what is considered normal and healthy, then you may be constipated and need to become a “poo detective” to make some changes.

Healthy Poo Checklist:
✓ You empty your bowels 1 to 2 times daily.
✓ No straining.
✓ No pain.
✓ Smooth, sausage-shaped log or a few smaller pieces.
✓ Takes no longer than 10 minutes to complete.
✓ Brown to dark brown in colour. (Red or black stools require medical attention)
✓ Consistent in its characteristics from day to day.

While constipation may be caused by irritable bowel syndrome or some gastrointestinal infections, it is most commonly caused by a lack of water intake and low fibre intake.
Constipation can also be caused by the overuse of laxatives, leading to a “lazy bowel”. The bowel walls have muscles which contract and relax rhythmically to move bowel contents along. If they are not looked after correctly, just like the other muscles in your body, they too can lose tone and become weakened, leading to constipation.

Some natural ways to relieve constipation include:

Water in adequate amounts is critical to healthy bowel motions. You want to aim for roughly 8 glasses of filtered water everyday.

Fibre is the indigestible part of plants that can act as an intestinal broom. Insoluble fibre draws water to itself as it passes through the bowel, softening and bulking the stool supporting regular bowel motions. Resistant starches also fall in the fibre category and are essential for supporting healthy microbial balance in the digestive tract. Eating approximately three handfuls of vegetables with your main meals and including nuts, seeds and legumes are all good ways to get enough fibre in your daily intake. Partially hydrolysed guar gum is a water-soluble fibre that shows promising results in clinical studies for improving the frequency of bowel motions, reducing straining, and reducing abdominal discomfort.

Good Gut Bacteria are critical to our health. They have many important functions in the body, including assisting in digestion and breakdown of foods, absorption of nutrients, production of energy, vitamins and other important compounds for the body. To help support a healthy gut colony or microbiome, including fermented foods in your diet such as yoghurt, saurkraut, kombucha, kimchi or pickles. Foods containing resistant starches such as bananas, onion, garlic, jerusalem artichoke, asparagus can also help to feed the microbes in your gut, creating a healthy environment in which for them to flourish.

Rest and digest. We often underestimate the importance of chewing our food properly, and taking time away from work to switch our body into digestion mode. Eating consciously and mindfully allows your body to send the right signals to the stomach to break food down properly, pass it successfully through the digestive tract, trigger nutrient absorption and healthy waste elimination. Eating at work or on the go detracts from these messages getting through to your digestive tract, slowing the whole process down.

Your naturopath and acupuncturist can also assist you to resolve constipation by discovering the underlying causes and creating a specific treatment plan to suit your unique circumstances. Our toolbox includes herbs, nutrients, and functional foods to enhance the overall digestive process, allowing for an adequate breakdown of foods, optimal absorption of nutrients and effective elimination of toxins. The goal of treatment is to return the bowel to natural healthy function and avoid the use of laxatives.

 

To make an appointment with a naturopath at Brisbane Natural Health, call us on 07 3186 5702 or click here.

Dry Needling

Dry Needling specifically treats musculoskeletal pain. A fine, single-use needle is inserted into a dysfunctional muscle with the aim of returning it to its optimal state. Studies have shown there to be a localised increase in blood flow and a release of endorphins as soon as a needle is inserted; both positive reactions to reduce pain and dysfunction.

What is a trigger point?

A trigger point is a contraction in a tight band of muscle which causes pain when palpated or squeezed, in a specific site and/or referring to other areas of the body. Trigger points can cause symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness, or lack of normal range of movement.

Dry Needling Vs Acupuncture?

It is important to know that Acupuncture and Dry Needling are two very distinct modalities. Dry needling is based upon the western medicine paradigm.

It is used for soft tissue correction, which involves inserting extremely fine and painless needles into muscle fibres, causing a local twitch response. This, in turn, helps to deactivate and resolve trigger points in the muscle and release constriction. Acupuncture, on the other hand, is based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine and the stimulation of Qi (pronounce Chi).

Acupuncture diagnoses using complex theories, meaning only a qualified and registered Acupuncturist or Chinese Medicine practitioner can treat with Acupuncture. Many health professionals utilise Dry Needling as a method for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain, including Myotherapists, Physiotherapists, Podiatrists and even some GP’s.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture began in China more than 2000 years ago and has been a major part of their health care system ever since. It involves fine, single-use needles being inserted into very specific points along the body’s meridians which are found on every corner of the body including the hands, feet, and head. The individual points have a specific function and are chosen depending on the condition being treated.

Acupuncture helps conditions based on symptoms using ancient Chinese theories. These theories aim to achieve wellness and to restore balance throughout the body.
The techniques are gentle and the practitioner spends quality time with the client to ensure a positive experience occurs.

Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome

Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome (CVS) is a condition causing recurrent attacks of intense nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and sometimes headaches or migraines. Attacks can last from a few hours to several days at a time. The condition is more prevalent among children, and seems to occur less frequently in adults. Many children will grow out of the condition once they reach adulthood. CVS is debilitating, and can be dangerous if dehydration occurs.

A person suffering from CVS typically has pale skin, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, but some patients will also experience diarrhoea, headaches, migraines and light sensitivity.

The cause of CVS is largely a mystery, but there do seem to be some common themes amongst those who suffer with CVS. While the cause is elusive, common triggers for CVS episodes include overexertion, fatigue, hormonal changes around a woman’s menstrual cycle, infections, lack of sleep, temperature extremes, alcohol consumption, allergies, extended periods without eating, and certain foods. Some of the food triggers associated with migraines such as chocolate, cheese and monosodium glutamate, are also considered triggers for CVS.

There are no tests to specifically confirm CVS, rather the diagnosis is based on ruling out other possible causes of the vomiting or abdominal symptoms. Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome is believed to be a class of migraine.

Similar to migraines CVS has four stages.

Symptom free phase – no symptoms appear to be present between episodes.
Prodromal phase – nausea appears with or without abdominal pain. This phase can last a few minutes to several hours.
Vomiting phase – nausea and vomiting can be violent. There is an inability to eat, drink or take medicines without vomiting. Drowsiness, exhaustion, and dehydration may occur.
Recovery phase – after the vomiting stops and skin colour, vitality and appetite returns.

 

What can be done?

The medical management of CVS often involves avoidance of triggers, symptomatic relief such as the use of medications to reduce nausea, stop vomiting and maintain hydration. Pharmaceuticals may be used also to prevent future episodes if attacks occur greater than once per month. Medications may include tricyclic antidepressants, beta blockers, antihistamines, anticonvulsants and sometimes antibiotics. These medications can be helpful in some cases in the short term, but often come with side effects such as fatigue, drowsiness and are not ideal for the quality of life or long-term use.

Naturopathic care acknowledges that CVS has many and varied potential causes, that no two people are alike, and as such, there is not a one size fits all medicine. In saying that, there is some good evidence for certain nutrients and herbs for this condition and these may be considered where relevant. For example, the cell’s ability to generate energy is considered to be a mechanism which may be affected in CVS. This is similar to what can happen with migraines and there is some evidence that coenzyme Q10 and L-Carnitine may be useful in addressing this cause and alleviating symptoms. Your naturopath may consider these as part of your treatment if indicated as part of the whole picture of your health. Naturopathic support options may also include stress management, emotional wellness practices and the use of herbal and nutritional formulas suited to your needs.

CVS is a challenging condition to live with and a potentially complex condition to treat, however, naturopathy offers the opportunity to manage the symptoms, treat potential underlying causes holistically, and reduce the need for medication which may have detrimental side effects with long-term use.

Perimenopause & Menopause

Being female and getting to your mid to late forties means you may be starting to wonder what menopause is going to be like for you. Will you suffer from the dreaded hot flushes, mood swings and weight gain or will you cruise through the change of life gracefully? The answer to this question will be different for each woman depending on her genetics, stress levels throughout life, any other medical conditions, surgeries and any hormonal issues throughout the fertile years. The important thing to remember is that menopause will be much easier if you take care of your body and adrenal glands in particular during your thirties and forties.

Menopause is a time of hormonal transition, as the ovaries gradually stop functioning and cyclically producing reproductive or sex hormones. Perimenopause signifies the start of this transition phase and can last several years prior to actual menopause.

Signs you could be going through perimenopause include:

  • Highly variable hormone fluctuations
  • Cycles becoming, shorter, longer or totally irregular
  • Bleeding becoming lighter, unpredictable or heavy.

Menopause is defined once a woman has ceased having a period of at least 12 months. Most women will reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 and still have over a third of their lives to live beyond that, so it’s important to manage this transition in the least stressful way possible. The severity and duration of menopause symptoms vary greatly and may include:     

  • Hot flushes & night sweats
  • Bloating and or weight gain
  • Crawling and itchy skin
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Sore breasts
  • Fatigue
  • Urinary problems
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings/anxiety/depression
  • Low libido
  • Brain fog or memory problems

Aside from these symptoms once a woman has been through menopause, she is more susceptible to stress on other organs and systems including the heart and cardiovascular system, bones, thyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas, pituitary and nervous system. Once menopause occurs and the ovaries have ceased function, the female body now relies on the adrenal glands for the production of sex hormones to assist health, stamina, and vitality throughout the rest of life. The adrenal glands are also responsible for stress hormone production throughout life and this is why it’s so important to manage the stress response in middle age to make the transition into menopause smoother.

What must be remembered is that menopause is a normal process of life. This transition is part of natural ageing and as with most health conditions, prevention is better than cure. To help make the transition through menopause smoother, put practices into place early in life to ensure optimal hormonal, nervous system and cardiovascular health.

Natural Menopause Treatment

If you are experiencing perimenopause or the symptoms of menopause, the good news is, most of the time hormone replacement therapy is not necessary. There are herbal, nutritional and lifestyle supports that can help reduce unwanted symptoms and help you continue to live a full and vital life. Pairing some useful natural therapies with the right diet is very effective in helping to ease menopausal symptoms.

Dealing with menopause can be an incredible stress on your life. At Brisbane Natural Health we love working with women during this transition, helping them to regain their energy, balance their moods and get back living a life that they love. Call us on 07 3367 0337 and make an appointment with a naturopath or acupuncturist at our Brisbane clinic to help.

Natural Cures for Cold Sores

Cold sores are annoying and painful lesions that occur due to an outbreak of the herpes virus – usually HSV – 1. Over 30% of people have experienced cold sores and there are even more people that carry the virus. Once the herpes virus is contracted it remains in the body for life. It resides in the facial nerve branches and can be opportunistically reactivated by stress or damage.

Cold sore breakouts commonly occur when the body is run down, the immune system is under strain or you are nutritionally depleted. They can also be triggered by physical damage to the lips from sun exposure, very cold weather, kissing, microdermabrasion or dental surgery.

 

How do you treat cold sores naturally?

The natural treatment of cold sores is focused around removing the risk factors. Our naturopaths and acupuncturists work to help cold sore patients deal with stress more effectively, most their immune systems and support their health using herbs and nutritional supplements. In particular, immune boosting and antiviral herbs can be helpful to prevent outbreaks or to clear up lesion faster.

Topically, lemon balm essential oil is very useful. Applying a 20/80 lemon balm essential oil and coconut oil blend to your lips and surrounding areas at the first onset of the cold sore (when you get burning or tingling in the prodromal phase) and throughout the day to assist with healing can help to shorten the duration of the outbreak.

 

Lysine and Arginine role in cold sores

The herpes virus requires the amino acid arginine in order to replicate. Lysine on the other hand, has an inhibitory action on arginine, starving the cold sore virus of arginine which inhibits replication.

Using the amino acid L-Lysine can help to suppress the herpes virus, due to this inhibiting relationship with Arginine. Taking 1000mg of L-Lysine daily for prevention can help, and up to 1000 mg four times a day for an active treatment. Pairing this with some zinc and vitamin C can help with the tissue healing process.

 

What foods can prevent cold sores?

Foods that support your immune system can help to prevent outbreaks. In particular, berries, lemons, pineapple, onions and garlic may be useful. Read more about boosting your immunity here.

Foods higher in L-Lysine such as mung beans, fish, eggs and red meat can also help.

 

What foods can cause cold sores?

As mentioned above, the herpes virus requires the amino acid arginine to replicate. When you eat foods that are high in arginine, and in particular, those that have high arginine to lysine ratio, you can feed the virus and cause or exacerbate an outbreak..

These foods can trigger the herpes virus to activate:

  • Chocolate
  • Nuts (especially almonds, peanuts and cashews)
  • Coffee
  • Rice (can be high in a gluten free diet)

If you need help with cold sores call Brisbane Natural Health on 07 3367 0337 and make an appointment with one of our Naturopaths now.

Detox isn’t just for hippies, addicts, or those on a spiritual journey!

It’s a toxic world we live in.  According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) there are over 900 identified potential cancer causing toxins in our environment. This is not to mention the literal tens of thousands of chemicals our bodies are exposed to everyday, that may not cause cancer specifically but harm our bodies in numerous other ways.

We are exposed to toxins every day from :

 

  • Lifestyle factors (nutrition, tobacco use, physical activity, etc.)
  • Naturally occurring exposures (ultraviolet light, radon gas, infectious agents, etc.)
  • Medical treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, immune system-suppressing drugs, etc.)
  • Workplace exposures (chemicals in printing ink, photocopiers, fumes from car exhausts, industrial carpets, cleaning products etc.)
  • Household exposures (cleaning products, body care and hair care products, carpets, polishes and furniture finishes, water supply)
  • Pollution

For any particular person, the risk of developing cancer or other health issues as a result of exposure to toxins depends on many factors, including how they are exposed to a toxin, the length and intensity of the exposure, and the person’s genetic makeup.

 

There is no longer a pure, uncontaminated place on this planet. Even Antarctica, considered one of the most pristine environments on earth, has documented levels of persistent chemical pollutants like pesticides, industrial chemicals, flame retardants and heavy metals like mercury and arsenic.

 

With this in mind, we have two choices. We can allow toxins to accumulate in our bodies and deal with the problems when they arise; or we can be proactive and do what we can with the knowledge we now have, to minimise our exposure and enhance our body’s means of getting rid of the stuff it doesn’t need.  A regular “spring clean” or detox is like a maintenance check for our body, mind, lifestyle and environment.

 

Detoxing or cleansing is simpler and easier than you might think.  Fortunately we are all unique and there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution for detox or your health.  This is why its best to talk to your naturopath for a tailored and supervised program to help you get the best results in line with your specific health needs.

 

In the meantime here are 3 things you can do now to reduce your exposure to toxins:

  1. Filter the water you drink, even if it’s tank water. If taking water to work or school, use a stainless steel or glass water bottle rather than plastic.
  2. Exercise to work up a sweat most days. Sweating is a form of detoxification. 
  3. Replace hair and body products with toxin free alternatives. For example, coconut oil makes a great hair moisturiser and can be used to make an easy deodorant. Plant based shampoo and conditioner comes in all types. We have a selection of our favourites in store at Brisbane Natural Health.

Anne-Marie McDonald B.

Naturopath

Natural Treatment of Alopecia

Hair loss or alopecia is a relatively common, but often very disturbing condition affecting approximately 2% of the population worldwide, with no significant difference in incidence between men and women. Alopecia can be classed as alopecia areata (affecting patches or specific areas of hair loss) or totalis (complete hair loss). Both conditions are quite distressing and can often be associated with psychological disturbance. Even hair thinning can cause significant distress – this can be seen in both men and women. The good news is that this condition is treatable – it can take some time and persistence, but the hair does eventually grow back. There are different causes for alopecia, and these include:

  • Hormonal imbalance – excess testosterone in women or a high conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (a stronger type of testosterone which has a greater effect on hair follicles) in men and women
  • Autoimmune disease – this is where the immune cells attack the hair follicles, causing the hair to fall out
  • Thyroid disease – both hypo and hyperthyroidism can cause hair loss.
  • Nutrient insufficiencies – often low iron, zinc, folate, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and vitamin A levels have been associated with alopecia
  • Stress – affecting every system in your body, stress is a common cause of hair loss. In this case, most likely your body is prioritising the most important functions over the others and having nice hair is not considered as critical by the body in terms of its priorities
  • Scalp infections – certain infections on the scalp will cause the hair to fall out. Common infections include ringworm, Trichomycosis Nodularis and folliculitis (inflammation of the follicles) and these can all cause hair loss
  • A combination of the above factors

 

What can we do about it?

Finding the root cause is always the best way to treat any condition. Rather than throw a bunch of supplements and dietary advice at you and hope that something sticks, it is best to investigate underlying inflammatory, autoimmune, nutritional, infective and stress-related causes and treat these, as they are what is driving the condition. Hormones require balancing through herbal and nutritional medicine and ensuring the correct detoxification pathways are open and running effectively. This can take up to 6 months, but will also provide an improvement in skin, mood, gut and overall health.

Autoimmune conditions can take a lot longer to heal as we are retraining the immune system and working on gut health to re-establish a healthy immune response. Treating stress and nutrient deficiencies is often not too difficult with the assistance of herbal medicine, dietary optimisation and stress reduction techniques, and results can be seen earlier in these cases. When there is an infection in the scalp, we need to look at supporting the immune system to get rid of the infection, using topical agents to kill off any unwanted bacteria, as well as re-establishing the healthy balance of microflora on the skin. Whatever the root cause may be, there is always a way to assist in improving body system functions, promoting tissue repair and getting you on the way to having your hair back!