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.

Understanding Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmunity is a process that occurs when the immune system becomes a little confused about which cells in the body are foreign, and which are self. In autoimmune disease, the body attacks its own healthy cells causing damage to tissues, organs or glands. This creates a chronic inflammatory response, at the same time, leaving our immune surveillance and defense against external infections depleted.

There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disease. Some have a genetic link, others are triggered by infections, but in many cases, the causes are largely unknown.
Certainly, there are no one size fits all solutions for autoimmune disease and a thorough health history is required to piece the puzzle together and find the contributing causes. It is not good enough to only attempt to ameliorate symptoms with anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs, as in the long term this will generate a new set of health issues.

There are some clear and consistent areas of health that must be addressed in order to manage or restore a healthy immune response:

Stress: Both physical and emotional stress can play a role in developing or sustaining autoimmune inflammation. The body’s response to stress is one of alarm, and an attempt to bring the body back to safety and out of danger. This response creates a cascade of events in the body which can turn off digestion, tissue repair, and cell renewal and increase oxygen and nutrient needs, metabolic waste production and inflammation. The body is designed to recover from short-term stress, but chronic stress can leave this inflammatory response switched on permanently.

Gut Health: The immune system directly responds to anything that crosses from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. Leaky gut is where under-digested food particles, microbes, waste products and toxins are able to breach the gut lining/barrier due to gaps in the tight junctions between cells in the gut wall. The immune system then creates an inflammatory response to these “foreign invaders”, and eventually a prolonged immune response can develop into autoimmunity. Gluten is one of the main culprits for leaky gut and should be avoided if you have an autoimmune disease.

Diet & Toxins: As with gluten, some foods can be a source of inflammation or toxicity in sensitive individuals. With autoimmune disease the gut lining is most likely compromised, contributing to an aberrant immune response to foods that would normally be well tolerated. Additionally, the detoxification system becomes overwhelmed by more reactive compounds or toxins entering the bloodstream. Where a healthy detoxification system may be able to safely eliminate toxins without adverse consequences to the body, an overwhelmed detoxification system may not be as efficient. Additional toxins are potentially introduced in the diet through pesticide residues found on fruit and vegetables. Some of these chemicals have been shown to be associated with an increase in autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, antibiotic residues in meat products have the potential to disrupt the body’s natural microbe balance (the microbiome) leading to a disruption in gut function and immune system behaviour.

With autoimmune disease, it is important that the aim of treatment is truly holistic in order to achieve long-term wellness and reduce the progression towards tissue damage and further dysfunction. Daily dietary, lifestyle, social and emotional behaviours must be addressed in combination with specific therapeutic approaches to both relieve symptoms, restore optimal function, reduce inflammation and balance the immune system response. Your naturopath can help guide you on a specific approach tailored to your needs.

Anne-Marie McDonald
Naturopath

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.

5 Home remedies to beat the cold weather and change of season blues

1 – Essential Oil antiseptic blend – for cold, flu, sinus congestion, stuffy nose and headache.

Add to water :

Eucalyptus oil 5 drops

Lavender oil 5 drops

Peppermint oil 3 drops

Tea Tree Oil 3 drops

*Use to inhale over a bowl of steaming hot water: Place oils into a litre of boiling hot water. Being careful not to tip it on yourself, place a towel over your head and the bowl to create a steam chamber for you to inhale the essential oil vapours and clear a stuffy head.  

*In a diffuser or oil burner to imbue the home or office with cleansing, refreshing, smells. Place the oils into the water chamber as directed by your choice of diffuser.

2 – Chesty night – time cough relief – suitable for infants through to adults.

You will need:

4 slices of fresh onion

A couple of drops of olive oil

Cling film/plastic wrap

Thick socks

A willingness for your bedroom to smell like soup in the morning. (A small price to pay for cough relief during the night)

Before bed, rub a small amount of oil on the soles of the feet. Careful place the sliced onion rings on the soles of the feet and hold in place with the cling film.  Pull your socks over the top and hop into bed. The sulfur compounds in the onions will infuse through the blood-stream into the lungs and help relieve mucous congestion and cough. Works great on kids. A jump-suit or one-piece outfit is recommended to prevent babies and toddlers distributing the onions all through the room/house.

3 – Home – made cough syrup

You will need:

1 large red onion

1 small chilli (optional)

Approximately ½-1 cup raw honey

Slice the onion into rings and dice the chilli. Place into a wide mouthed glass jar.  Cover with honey and allow to steep in a cool place for 1-3 days. To relieve a dry or raspy incessant cough or scratchy throat, take a teaspoon full of the mixture as required.

4 – Sniffle Tea – A brew for your stuffy nose…

You will need:

1 lemon, washed well.

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8th teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons raw honey

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

600ml boiling filtered water.

Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a tea pot or coffee plunger. Drop the skins in there as well.  Add the remaining ingredients and allow to brew for 10 minutes before drinking. Great for hayfever, sinus and sore throat. If you’re super keen you can also add a clove of fresh raw garlic crushed for extra antibacterial punch!

5 – Circulation Boosters – help keep your hands and feet warm in the cold weather.

As you know exercise, and a hot bath do wonders for improving circulation, but you can also include certain foods in your diet to keep your blood circulating happily:

Try:

Cayenne Pepper – Take a pinch of cayenne pepper in a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of black strap molasses. Drink 1-2 cups daily.

Turmeric & Ginger – Replace your morning coffee with a hot turmeric latte. Spice it up with some ground ginger, cardammon, cinnamon and raw honey.

Make soups, curries and casseroles with extra chilli, garlic, rosemary and turmeric to help keep your blood thin and metabolism on the go.

Snack on some almonds, walnuts, macadamias and your favourite nuts and seeds as a good source of the circulation boosting vitamin E.

5 ways to combat cold & flu season

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we believe our bodies have a type of Qi, or energy called “Wei Qi”. Wei Qi is our protective Qi and is located on the surface of the body. You can think of Wei Qi as the immune system – its job is to keep out invaders such as harmful viruses and bacteria.

As an acupuncturist, I’m always being asked by patients how they can increase their immunity at this time of the year. While most people know the importance of washing their hands there are a number of other ways you can help keep those bugs away. In addition to Acupuncture here are a few simple things you can do to help improve your immune system.

Exercise

The New York Times recently ran an article about a study which examined the relationship between regular exercise and healthy immune response.  Although mice, not humans were used in the study, it showed that mice who exercised regularly were better able to fight off infections. While exercise is important, there have been studies showing that over-exercising can actually harm your immunity, so remember that moderation is key.

 

Wear A Scarf

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the nape of the neck is believed to be particularly susceptible to invasion by the wind element, which means colds and flu. Therefore, covering your neck is important, especially on cold, windy days or when you are sitting close to an air conditioning vent or fan.

 

Try A Saline Nasal Spray and/or a humidifier

When the heat is on inside your home or office, your nasal passages can become very dry. This is a problem because your natural nasal secretions are one of the body’s primary defences against viruses and bacteria. By using a basic, inexpensive saline nasal spray several times daily and a humidifier at your home and office, you can decrease the likelihood of viruses entering your sinuses and leading to a cold or flu. Using a saline nasal spray also helps flush out viruses that are already within your nasal passages.

 

Sleep

Your body produces substances called Cytokines during sleep. Certain types of cytokines play a role in immune functions, so it makes sense that the less sleep you get, the fewer cytokines are produced. Studies show that people who don’t get 7-8 hours of sleep per night are more likely to catch a cold and take longer to recover from colds.

 

Take a Chinese Herbal Formula

There are Chinese Herbal combinations which are very helpful for people who experience recurrent colds and respiratory infections. You must always see a trained herbalist, since there is no one herb which is good for everyone’s situation. It must be individually tailored to your health history and constitution. Herbs can also be helpful if you do come down with a cold or the flu.

Written by Angela Marshall – Acupuncturist at Brisbane Natural Health

5 scientifically proven ways to reduce the risk of your children developing allergies

We are often told that allergies and allergic asthma are inherited disorders and that there is probably nothing that can be done about our children developing them as they grow up. Well, the more we learn about genetics, the more we are coming to realise that genes can be switched on or off due to environmental triggers. When your baby is in utero their DNA is very susceptible to environmental signals, which is why it is so important that you understand how your choices will affect your children’s health down the track. 5 recent scientific studies looked at links between maternal food intake and environment and infant/child outcomes for asthma and allergies

 

  1. Taking the right probiotics – Probiotics such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and L. rhamnosus HN001 have both been studied and found to reduce the incidence of eczema in children born to supplemented mothers. L. Rhamnosus HN001 was also effective in reducing allergic disease (diagnosed by skin prick test) in children born to supplemented mothers. Probiotics are bacteria that when consumed send healthy signals to the immune system – discouraging a ‘rampant response’ like we see in allergic conditions. It is likely through this action that probiotic consumption by mums helps reduce allergic issues in children. Mum’s are advised to start with these specific probiotics at least 3 months prior to birth and continue through breastfeeding[i].
  2. Keep your sugar intake to a minimum – high maternal sugar intake is associated with an increased risk of allergy and allergic asthma. Children of mothers who consumed the highest amount of ‘free sugar’ (sugar added to cooked foods, honey, syrups and fruit juice), compared with the lowest amount had a 38% increased risk of allergy and 101% increased risk of allergic asthma[ii]. Women in the lowest group consumed 1.6-34.0 g sugar per day vs women in the highest group who consumed 82.4 – 345.1 g sugar per day.
  3. Avoid plastics – in mothers who’s urine was examined for phthalates, the concentration of phthalate found directly correlated to occurrence of allergic asthma in their children. Researchers think that the plastic chemicals switch off genes required for regulating the immune system and this might be how plastic exposure is linked to allergic asthma[iii].
  4. Get dad healthy before you start trying – Fathers who have been smokers have 3 times higher risk of having children with early-onset asthma than those who have never smoked. In this article, the authors suggest that the amount of time the father have quit for prior to conception does not necessarily influence the risk of the outcome for the child, but we do know that we can positively influence gene expression with a super healthy diet, lots of nutrients and stress reduction. This same article noted that paternal exposure to welding also increased the risk of asthma[iv]. Make sure that you have both of you on a comprehensive preconception program for 3-6 months before getting started with baby making.
  5. Eating nuts – research shows that eating peanuts (so long as you don’t have an allergy to them) during pregnancy may reduce the risk of nut allergies in your children[v]

So keep in mind that you do have an influence over your children’s health outcomes. We certainly do not know everything that will have a positive or negative effect on our babies, but we can use the information that we do have to make informed decisions to get the best possible outcomes for our little bundles of joys.

[i] Kalliomäki M, Salminen S, Arvilommi Het al. Lancet 2001;357(9262):1076-9.

[ii]  Bedard A, Northstone K, Henderson, JA, Shaheen SO. European Respiratory Journal. 2017:50; 1700073

[iii] Jahreis S, Trump S, Bauer M et al. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2017.

[iv] Svanes , Koplin , Skulstad AM, et al. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2016

[v] Frazier AL, Camargo CA, Maslpeis S, et al. JAMA Pediatrics, 2013

10 ways to get better sleep

Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep can be very frustrating and becomes draining over time. Here are some safe, easy and tried and true strategies for getting you the deep, restful slumber that your body so desires:

  1. Avoid stimulating activities at night time – this includes working (!), playing on your phone, watching TV and even vigorous exercise.
  2. Turn off your screens – aside from being mentally stimulating, the wavelength of light coming from your phone and computer screen tells your brain that it is wake time and will inhibit your ability to fall asleep easily
  3. Avoid stimulants later in the day. The magic time to stop drinking tea or coffee is different for everybody, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid caffeine after midday. For some people that even means putting the chocolate bar away as these contain caffeine too. Try rooibos tea if you are used to a black tea or dandelion to replace coffee – it’s not the same but it is a great substitute. Also, be sure to limit your overall coffee intake to 1-2 single shots per day
  4. Get some exercise – burning up some energy during the day is a great way to allow your nervous system to relax and help you get into a healthy sleeping habit. For some people, night time exercise can be too stimulating, so getting your walk or run in the morning is probably best.
  5. Write lists of things you need to do tomorrow and leave them at work. Often we cant sleep because we are thinking of all the things we need to do at work (or at home). By writing a list, we are letting ourselves know that we have thought of the things that need doing and by leaving it where is belongs (at work), we don’t have to mentally take work home with us and think about it as we try to fall asleep
  6. Take a nice long bath with Epsom salts an essential oils. I recommend ½ -1 cup Epsom salts and lavender oil to calm the body and the mind
  7. Try some relaxing herbal teas after dinner – favourites are chamomile, valerian, passionflower and lemon balm – these help to calm your nervous system ready for sleep
  8. Switch your phone to flight mode – so that your sleep is not interrupted by text messages or emails and to reduce the electromagnetic frequency (EMF) coming from your phone sitting on your bedside table – EMFs are known to disrupt brain waves and sleep patterns
  9. Turn the lights down – bright lights tell the brain that it is day time and that you should be awake. Have you ever noticed how when you go camping, you fall asleep easily at 9pm even though at home you can stay awake till 11pm no worries? Part of the reason for that is the lack of artificial light when you are camping – try and recreate this effect in your home. After dinner and the clean up, switch off your overhead lights and use lamps or candles instead.
  10. Try some sleep hypnosis – there are hundreds of these on youtube and for use as aps on your phone. I suggest finding a hypnosis with a voice that you like and then downloading it to your phone so that you can listen as you drift off and still have your phone wifi switched off to avoid the EMFs. Hypnosis gives your brain something to focus on so that it can easily drift off into sleep without getting caught up with thoughts that could keep you awake.