Shin Splints

Shin splints or Tibial Syndrome is one of the most common running injuries that I see at Shift. It can affect both professional and recreational athletes equally and it’s not only runners that get affected. Tennis players, basketballers, indoor soccer players, netballers, all those high impact knee jarring sports. A simple change to your training routine can be the change that brings on the symptoms.

WHAT CAUSES SHIN SPLINTS?

The most common cause of Shin splints that I often see, stems from an increase in the intensity of training programs, a change to harder running surfaces or running hills regularly. All of these can increase your risk of shin splints. The following conditions can also put you at a higher risk of getting shin splints:

• Flat feet (overpronation)

• Shoes that lack support or don’t fit correctly

• Weak core muscles, hips or ankles

• Not stretching before and after exercise

TYPES OF SHIN SPLINTS

There are two types of shin splints:

1. Medial shin splints – common among people who have a collapsed medial arch or flat feet. This is the most common type of shin splints and often effects the lower 1/3 of the inside of the shin.

2. Anterior shin splints – this type is more common with runners who over-train on hills, as it requires repetitive use of the tibialis anterior muscle. Ironically, pain is typically worse when running downhill.

HOW ARE SHIN SPLINTS MOST COMMONLY TREATED? 

The keyword here is “treated” and should be replaced with “resolved”. Unfortunately, conventional Western medicine techniques don’t do much for treating shin splints. While the following methods are routine, they don’t actually get to the root of the cause and once most athletes return to exercise the original injury will resurface, sometimes leading to more extensive damage.

The most common approach to treatment is icing and resting the injured leg, and also using painkillers or anti-inflammatories. Herein lies the most obvious challenge. Telling a runner to stop running and expecting that they will adhere to the advice. Well, I have met a few runners and athletes in my time and this is near impossible for most.

In a desperate attempt to rid themselves of the pain, some people are forced into making questionable choices along the way. Usually, the first step is to invest in a different and usually more expensive pair of running shoes. Next people try different stretches or go and spend a small fortune on orthotic interventions. The most concerning approach from my point of view, however, is the reliance on the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These days we just want to get on with things and don’t realise that we are just masking the pain and indirectly causing more damage in the long run. Often people will continue running and masking symptoms with NSAIDs. This, however, can lead to more severe micro-fractures or compartment syndrome.

WILL TAKING A REST FROM RUNNING SOLVE THE PROBLEM?

Even with complete rest, the pain can take 6-8 weeks to resolve but the problem usually manifests itself again very quickly after resuming running.

ACUPUNCTURE FOR SHIN SPLINTS

There are a variety of techniques that different acupuncturists employ for treating shin splints. Regardless of the system used, the goal of acupuncture is to promote circulation, loosen the muscles around the tibia and prevent recurrences of the problem.

HOW TO KNOW WHEN YOUR SHIN SPLINTS HAVE HEALED?

 I often get this question and it is mostly due to prior failed attempts in their return to training. The best indicators that you can confidently return to your exercise routine is:

• The affected leg is as flexible as your non-affected leg and feels just as strong.

• You can now put excessive weight on the leg that had the shin splint without pain.

• You can exercise without pain.

WANT PROOF?

A random controlled trial from 2002 found acupuncture to be more effective than any other combined therapy.

Acupuncture & Tibial Stress Syndrome [Shin Splints]. Journal of Chinese Medicine 2002 vol 70.

Spring Clean

Now that warmer weather has arrived leaving us in no doubt about the arrival of spring we turn to new rituals. Packing away our bulky winter woollies, making room for lighter brighter clothing. The slow cooker tends to be stored in the back of the cupboard, fresh salads replacing slow-cooked soups, and the inevitable renewed gym membership to give ourselves a body overhaul for summer. These are all the external signs that spring cleaning is underway but what about internal signs? Do we pay attention to what is happening on the inside?  With the renewed burst of energy and lightness, that spring brings it is a good time to consider giving our internal workings an overhaul and tune-up. 

In assessing how our internal health is checking our skin, hair, general vitality and alertness are a good way to go. Changes happening inside will be evident externally and dull skin, brittle nails and a general feeling of lethargy are strong indications that an internal ‘spring clean’ and tune-up is in order. 

We often have a perception that a detox involves giving things up and living on lettuce leaves and consuming some disgusting concoctions each day. But this is not the case, as an abundance of vital and beautiful fruits and vegetables start to arrive at the supermarket, putting together a detox and giving your body an overhaul can be a tasty, inspiring and invigorating thing to do. 

Starting the day with drinking some warm water, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, a dash of maple syrup and cayenne pepper, this kick starts your liver, digestion and gets you ready to begin a day of nourishing yourself back to energy and vitality. 

Do an inventory of the following foods and see how many are in your current diet. 

Omega-3’s 

Check your Omega-3 intake. These are an essential fatty acid, anti-inflammatory and necessary to take either as a supplement or in food. Our bodies don’t make them. For the best sources, try fish oil or algae and flax oil if you are vegan.

How is your essential vitamin and mineral intake 

Daily B vitamins generate energy, are absorbed in our gut and can be overly consumed under times of stress and alcohol intake.  Having sufficient B vitamins will help manage stress and balance your overall mood. Brewer’s yeast and whole grains are rich in B vitamins while meats are high in B12. Fresh fruit and vegetables contain essential B vitamins. 

Herbs and Spices for detoxing

Incorporating detoxifying spices and herbs. Dandelion, turmeric, milk thistle, and nettle all support the liver by circulating nutrients. These can be incorporated into the diet in dandelion coffee, replacing caffeine, Tumeric lattes, with nut milk, getting rid of dairy, adding bitter greens to your salad will stimulate your digestion. 

Feed the gut 

Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria Bifidus ar a couple of the bacteria that keep the digestive tract and immune system healthy all year round. In addition to supporting good health, pre and probiotics produce vitamins that assist with digestion. If you’re lacking the correct balance of bacteria you may find yourself bloated, craving sugars and generally feeling flat and off. The coconut of water Kefir, kombucha, coconut yoghurt, Kim Chi, Sauerkraut and other fermented foods are essential to maintaining a healthy immune and nervous system.   

Building Vitamin D

Get outside! Sunlight converts on the skin to vitamin D, having a healthy liver is essential for this process. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and often best consumed as supplements or through foods like eggs, salmon and soy.

Digestive support

Eating bitter greens, like endive, arugula, rocket and peppermint all help with digestion, encouraging the production of stomach acid and the release of bile. Having some water or mineral water and Angostura bitters with a meal will also support digestive enzymes.  If you’ve been feeling constipated or bloated these past few months, it may be time to start eating more bitter foods. 

Try Organic 

Try to moderate exposure to toxins found in animal-sourced foods. If you eat meat, opt for meat that’s free of antibiotics and hormones — just make sure you read these labels on the packaging. Switch things up and reach for colourful vegetables and fruits throughout the day. Buying organic fruits and veggies limits toxin exposure, but there are some foods like avocados and watermelon that don’t need to be bought organic. Check out the dirty dozen and clean 15. 

Moving everything through 

Eating soluble fibre helps to keep you full while slowing digestion to balance your blood sugar. As soluble fibre moves down the digestive tract it absorbs water and helps the body eliminate hormones and cholesterol. Try foods like avocados, kidney beans, peaches, prunes or oat bran. Include some Chia seeds in your day.

Balance body, mind and soul

Try and find something in the gym that works for you, yoga, Pilates, boxing. Whatever it is. Not only will working out give you more energy, but your body and mind can destress as well. Find a gym with a sauna to speed up your detoxing process.

Get the right advice

Often no matter how good our intentions are going it alone can be challenging. That’s where the team at Shift at Brisbane Natural Health can support you on your journey and be the best version of you. Our Naturopaths can put together a program that will work for you. Checking your digestion, thyroid, hormones and other organs and providing additional support where needed. This way once you start you know that you will end up in a better place when you complete your own personal ‘Spring Clean.’ The emotional wellness team can help you check your emotional baggage and create clear space and clean page to move into Spring with.

Why IBS is Not A Real Diagnosis

So, you’ve been suffering from gut issues for a few years or longer and you finally get along to your GP who may or may not have referred you for some testing or sent you off to see a gastroenterologist. After some poking and prodding, and maybe pooing into a cup so your poo and can be tested for nasty things, you are told that you have a condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. Yahoo! You have a diagnosis. But what does this really mean and what can you do about it? You may be prescribed a medication or you may be told that there is not much that can be done for IBS. Either way, often, a path to recovery is not part of the discussion, or most importantly, a chat about WHY the bowel might be irritated in the first place. 

Let’s start with a discussion about what a syndrome is. A syndrome (as opposed to disease) is a cluster of symptoms – to be diagnosed with a syndrome, you have to meet the criteria of X number of symptoms from a list of many.  What this means is that although a lot of people suffer from this same group of symptoms (and therefore must be recognised medically – or else we are all crazy), there is no one test that can diagnose the issue as there is no one single process in the body that can be considered aberrant.  So why then are these symptoms arising? Well, sometimes in human health, there are multiple reasons for symptoms to occur. This means that there might need to be several events happening at the same time for the condition to show up. In addition, your body might be reacting to the environment in a way that the next person’s body does not react, so what may cause IBS in one person may not cause any discernible issues for the next. Essentially what this means is that in order for recovery to occur, each patient needs to be assessed on an individual basis and the underlying cause for them be identified. From here, a healing process can occur. 

What can be causing IBS? 

There are so many different elements influencing our gut function every day – it is important to consider them all. The first is always the food that we eat as this comes in direct contact with the lining of the gut and is often a source of irritation. Many of the foods that we eat today were just not made for processing by the human gastrointestinal tract, and although some seem to handle them better than others, for the patient with IBS, they need to be considered as part of the problem as a first approach. If I was to put a bunch of lotions on my skin every day and I developed a rash that was red, painful and caused my skin to peel off, it would be silly to disregard the lotions as potential irritants. The same applies to the food that we eat – this is essentially ‘applied’ to the skin of the gastrointestinal tract and therefore must be considered as a potential irritant. 

The microbiome (or gut flora) is another area that should always be looked at in IBS cases. The microbiome is a couple of kilograms of bacteria, yeasts, viruses and archaea that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract.  These ‘bugs’ should ideally be in balance to support our gastrointestinal health, immune system, brain function and hormones (probably every physiological function really). If they become damaged through the use of antibiotics, pesticides in foods, stress, improper dietary habits or the use of medications, then we get an imbalance and this can lead to the symptoms associated with IBS. Sometimes there are parasites, bacteria or yeasts growing in the gut that just don’t belong there, and sometimes it is bugs that should be part of a healthy ecosystem, but have started to take over and cause problems in the ecosystem. Either way, comprehensive stool testing can uncover these imbalances or infestations and assist your practitioner in guiding you through rebalancing the gut flora and resolving symptoms.

Finally, the nervous system can be a contributing factor in the irritation of IBS and it is recognised that stress and anxiety are often part of the IBS symptomatology. Stress, anxiety and depression can all cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea and bloating. In turn, an imbalance in the microbiome or consumption of the wrong foods can cause neurological symptoms such as anxiety and depression. This is called a bi-directional relationship which means that a gut issue can cause brain symptoms and brain issues can cause gut symptoms. Sometimes it is important to tackle both issues at the same time to get lasting relief for both areas of health. 

The good news is that whatever the underlying cause of your symptoms is, they are fixable! A comprehensive stool analysis is a great start to assess your microbiome and figure out imbalances there. Your naturopath can help guide you through foods that might be irritating your gut and support your nervous system too. Healing IBS symptoms is not something that will happen in an instant, but with the right conditions, and a little bit of time, your gut can certainly heal and you can look forward to a symptom-free future.

To chat with a naturopath about how we might be able to help you, please call 07 3367 0337 and book a complimentary 15-minute assessment. We hope to help you soon ☺  

Acupuncture’s Role In Treating Bell’s Palsy

If you were wondering – Yes you can speed up your recovery from Bell’s Palsy with Acupuncture. Chinese medicine has been treating Bell’s Palsy with acupuncture and herbal medicine for over 2000 years. According to Chinese medical theory, Bell’s Palsy is a condition caused by an attack of external wind pathogen to the ear and subsequent blockage of the meridians.

Bell’s Palsy is a form of facial paralysis that results from inflammation of the facial (7th cranial) nerve. Named after Charles Bell, a Scottish anatomist who first described the syndrome in 1812, Bell’s Palsy is the most common form of acute facial paralysis. The symptoms are usually one-sided and cause an inability to control the muscles on the affected side of the face.

The facial nerve innervates the facial muscles and is responsible for smiling, frowning, blinking, chewing, and sensing taste. This facial nerve also supplies the tear ducts and the salivary glands. Bell’s Palsy occurs as a result of an inflamed, swollen or compressed cranial nerve. The exact cause of the damage is unknown. Most scientists agree that it can be caused by a viral infection.

Symptoms

  • Facial weakness or paralysis, 
  • drooping eyelids or difficulty closing the eye causing irritation to the eye
  • difficulty eating and drinking
  • difficulty making facial expressions, and host of other symptoms

Prognosis

The prognosis for recovery is mostly very good. Ultimately the extent of nerve damage is what will determine your degree of recovery. Most medical advice suggests that recovery will begin 2 weeks from the initial onset of symptoms, and most people will recover completely within 3 to 6 months. Based on this advised most people take the recommended medications and wait out the 3 to 6 months.

This is a concern as a lot of people don’t respond to conventional treatment during this time frame and symptoms can continue on for a lifetime. The ‘wait and see’ approach is a risk that can and should be avoided. Early intervention is the aim if you are considering acupuncture. 

Acupuncture

The ideal time to start acupuncture is within the first 2 weeks from the onset of symptoms. The sooner you can start acupuncture the better. It is very common to receive inquiries about treatment from interested patients at the 6-month mark. These are the people who didn’t receive the full recovery they hoped for. A positive outcome is still realistic 6 months later, but greater treatment frequency is required to get the required results. Acupuncture is great for treating the underlying symptoms of Bell’s Palsy as well as the more obvious physical symptoms.

Other treatment 

In the initial stages, your doctor may prescribe steroids to assist with the inflammation and swelling. Other drugs, such as antivirals (virus) or analgesics (pain relief) may also be prescribed. Beyond the first few weeks, there are limited to no other treatment options available.

Care advice

Consult your doctor to rule out anything more sinister like a stroke

Avoid direct wind – it isn’t good for you. Avoid sitting close to a fan, air conditioner, or open window.

Acupuncture – start as soon as possible

Herbal medicine  – your practitioner will prescribe herbs to assist your recovery

Sleep – this is when your body will heal

Breath – Studies show that high stress contributes to weakening the immune system. 

Acupuncture is a safe, drug-free form of treatment for Bell’s Palsy with no side effectsFor more information and to start your recovery make a booking today.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow” is the most common chronic pain condition affecting the elbow. Despite the name, only 5-10% of sufferers actually play tennis.

Tennis elbow is also known as

  • Lateral epicondylalgia
  • Lateral epicondylitis
  • Lateral epicondylosis

How does it develop?

Tennis elbows is a painful condition that presents with pain in the outer elbow and usually involves inflammation of the tendons that attach to the boney area on the head of the humerus.  Usually a repetitive stress injury, tennis elbow is caused by overuse of the forearm muscles, creating strain and tears in the muscle and tendons.

Often I see this condition come about from people who have repetitive occupations or hobbies. Carpenters, gardeners and manual labourers often develop both tennis and golfer’s elbow type pain. This is due to constant lifting and moving of heavy objects which puts too much strain on the elbow joint. Personally, I first started to experience elbow pain after lifting and constantly carrying my very clingy daughter. Like many overuse injuries, the onset was gradual.

Symptoms of Tennis elbow:

  • A slow onset, weakness of the forearm
  • Tenderness of the lateral (outer) elbow
  • Pain travelling down the forearm.
  • Pain when lifting or gripping anything heavier than a coffee cup
  • Pain may become worse by rotating the forearm.
  • The pain exacerbated by overuse, fatigue or wet weather

Note

“Golfers Elbow” occurs on the inner side of the elbow and is much less common than tennis elbow. Both injuries respond well to a course of regular acupuncture.

Standard treatment of tennis elbow

More and more doctors are recommending cortisone injections. Cortisone is a steroid with strong anti-inflammatory effects. In most cases, it can provide long term relief, but I regularly see patients who experience only short term gains. If cortisone is unsuccessful your doctor may then refer you to a specialist for further investigation.

Can Acupuncture help my Tennis elbow?

We see elbow pain regularly at BNH, both acute and chronic cases.  The consensus is that the longer the joint has been inflamed, the slower it is to fully recover. The point is that the sooner you can seek out acupuncture treatment the better and quicker the outcomes.  For the best results, you will normally require a number of acupuncture treatments. The number of sessions required will be established following an initial assessment of the injured elbow. Aside from resting the elbow, acupuncture is very good at relieving elbow pain for good.

Research

Acupuncture therapy for patients suffering from tennis elbow has shown itself to be an excellent alternative to steroid injections. Twenty-one out of 34 patients who were treated with acupuncture became much better-completely free of pain. Many of them had previously been given one or more steroid injections without improvement.

Acupuncture Therapy for Tennis Elbow

Treating the whole person

The most significant benefit of choosing acupuncture, rather than other kinds of needle-based therapies, is that your acupuncturist can assess your  whole-person signs and symptoms and tailor a whole-body treatment plan for you. Acupuncture embraces a holistic approach to the treatment of tennis elbow.

 

Prevention

• Warm-up – before you start work or sporting activities take a few minutes to warm the muscles of hands, forearm, upper arms and shoulders. This can be as simple as gently massaging these areas.

• Stretch – Develop a daily stretching routine that targets the muscles of the hands, forearms, upper arms and shoulders.

• Rest – Take days off from activities that can aggravate the condition. If you perform repetitive tasks that involve gripping or typing during the week try and avoid these movements and tasks on your days off.

If the pain from your tennis elbow continues to persist gives us a call to find out how we might be able to help you.

The Invisible Enemy – How Acupuncture Can Help Your Hayfever

Allergies can affect anyone and statistically, hayfever (Allergic Rhinitis) affects up to 40% of the world’s population. It might not be obvious to the naked eye but air pollution and seasonal pollutants such as pollen cause allergy sufferers extreme discomfort. Seasonal change can be particularly difficult in Australia.

Going indoors to avoid allergens and to seek refuge is sometimes not possible either. Some pollutants are up to five times more concentrated indoors compared to outdoors.

There are actually two types of allergic rhinitis

  • Seasonal (hayfever)
  • Perennial (all year round)

Some of us are affected by the seasonal type, which is usually caused by airborne pollens. For others, it’s persistent hayfever that lasts all year round and this is usually due to dust mites, moulds, pet dander and just about anything that floats in the air.

Symptoms

• Sneezing

• A blocked or runny nose (postnasal drip)

• Itchy or watery eyes

• An itchy nose, palate or throat

Hayfever causes inflammation of the sinuses and often impairs nasal drainage. It is the impaired drainage that can often lead to secondary sinusitis or sinus infections.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine

The key to taming allergy symptoms is to get on top of the body’s inflammatory immune response. The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers seasonal allergies (as well as asthma and sinusitis) as one of the respiratory diseases that can be treated effectively with acupuncture. Current research shows that acupuncture can help with both seasonal and perennial hayfever.

What can I expect in an acupuncture consultation?

The Chinese Medicine approach to hayfever is very different from conventional techniques. At BNH our practitioners take a holistic approach to every person that walks through our doors. With hayfever, we usually schedule a series of treatments as part of your treatment plan. As much as we would all love a magic pill a series of treatments are required to allow your sinus inflammation and hypersensitivity to reduce. In more severe cases we sometimes include a course of Chinese herbs in your treatment plan.

Other Solutions

We can never completely avoid outdoor air pollution but there are some simple things we can do to reduce the indoor air pollution levels in our homes.

  • Wash/vacuum floors weekly
  • Wash your bed sheets at least once a week
  • Turn on an extractor fan while cooking or open a window
  • Choose floor varnishes, paints, waxes and furniture with low VOC levels
  • Use an air purifier or consider getting some indoor plants

 

Research 

1. In 2017 The Acupuncture Evidence Project found evidence for the effectiveness of 117 conditions. Acupuncture for hay fever was in the ‘Evidence of positive effect’ category.

https://www.acupuncture.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/28-NOV-The-Acupuncture-Evidence-Project_Mcdonald-and-Janz_-REISSUED_28_Nov.pdf

2.Reinhold T, Roll S, Willich SN, Ortiz M, Witt CM, Brinkhaus B. Cost-effectiveness for acupuncture in seasonal allergic rhinitis: economic results of the ACUSAR trial. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2013 Jul;111(1):56-63

3. Feng S, Han M, Fan Y, Yang G, Liao Z, Liao W, et al. Acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2015 Jan-Feb;29(1):57-62.

4. Taw MB, Reddy WD, Omole FS, Seidman MD. Acupuncture and allergic rhinitis. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Jun;23(3):216-20.

5. Seidman MD, Gurgel RK, Lin SY, Schwartz SR, Baroody FM, Bonner JR, et al. Clinical practise guideline: Allergic rhinitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Feb;152(1 Suppl): S1-43.

6. McDonald JL, Smith PK, Smith CA, Changli Xue C, Golianu B, Cripps AW. Effect of acupuncture on house dust mite specific IgE, substance P, and symptoms in persistent allergic rhinitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2016 Jun;116(6):497-505.

7. Xue CC, Zhang AL, Zhang CS, DaCosta C, Story DF, Thien FC. Acupuncture for seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2015 Oct;115(4):317-24.e1.

8. Kim SY, Lee H, Chae Y, Park HJ, Lee H. A systematic review of cost-effectiveness analyses alongside randomised controlled trials of acupuncture. Acupunct Med. 2012 Dec;30(4):273-85.

How A Walk in the Forest can Help Cure What Ails You

We’ve been hearing more and more about how getting out into nature can help to improve mood, reduce stress and promote overall good health. It makes a fair bit of sense that as humans have evolved with nature, and therefore our nervous systems may feel most ‘at home’ when we are amongst nature. But it seems that there is more to it than that. Studies are now showing that some of the compounds produced by the trees in the forests we walk
in have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, neuroprotective and antitumor effects. These compounds (forest aerosols) are excreted by our trees (in particular, conifer and camphor laurel trees) and we can be said to be ‘showering in them’ when we take a forest walk. Forest aerosols are being shown to have many beneficial effects on health in laboratory testing and may be the reason that walking in the forest has been shown to benefit asthma,
atopic dermatitis, immune health, cancer and nervous system health (Cho KS, 2017).  It is not only conifers and camphors but other plants such as lavender, citrus, hops, peppermint and chamomile that also contain these beneficial compounds. If anyone needed a reason to go for a walk in a lavender or chamomile field, here it is!

Other health benefits can be attributed to the production of a compound called brain- derived neurotrophic factor (or BDNF) when we exercise. BDNF promotes what we call ‘neuroplasticity’ which basically refers to the ability of brain cells to heal and create new connections as is seen in learning and healing from damage due to stress, depression or trauma. A reduction in BDNF is seen in neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and has also been linked to major depression, stress, obesity and cardiovascular disease. In the case of BNDF, we do not need to be walking in the forest to promote its production – any exercise will do (but a forest walk is a great option if available). Studies show that moderate to high-intensity physical activity are the most effective in achieving the desired increase in BDNF (Phillips, 2017).

So why not make a regular walk in the forest part of your health regime? When you breathe in those delicious foresty smells you are taking your aerosol shower and providing your body with many healing agents. If you are sick, it may assist your healing process, and if you are not, it will certainly provide protection against some long-term health complaints.

So, get a map, pack a lunch, get a buddy and get out there!

The Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Nervous System & How They Affect Our Daily Life

In today’s day and age, people are under heightened states of stress more than they’ve ever been before. Stress in our daily life has a direct effect on the hypothalamus in our brain, which governs hormone synthesis in our bodies. The result of this is a stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system, and in turn, our parasympathetic nervous activity is reduced.

During sympathetic nervous system activation, adrenaline and noradrenaline are released as an evolutionary signal from the brain to the body that the body needs to protect itself from a direct threat. Our pulse and respiration rates increase and the “fight or flight” response kicks in. Another stress hormone, cortisol, is also released and at the same time, functions such as digestion are suppressed, as the brain considers these to not be essential towards survival from immediate threats.  

Therefore, it is easy to see why being under a constant state of stress means that our digestion is seldom functioning optimally, meaning that the food we consume is not being adequately broken down to release the nutrients we require from our food for optimal health.  This can lead to a variety of nutrient deficiencies, and if not corrected, the development of illnesses as a result. 

Prolonged periods of stress can also lead the cortisol resistance.  Under normal conditions, our cortisol levels are the highest first thing in the morning, and this is what helps us to get out of bed and get on with our day.  Cortisol levels normally decline through the day and should be at their lowest level by our bedtime.  Melatonin patterns are normally opposite to those of cortisol and are meant to be at the highest levels in the evening, allowing us to get to sleep and stay asleep.  Any disruption to these patterns, such as prolonged periods of stress, means disrupted sleep patterns will often occur.  Cortisol resistance can also lead to blood sugar dysregulation.    

There are many things we can do, in order to modulate our nervous system and increase parasympathetic nervous system activity.  These include:

  • During meal times, put your phone down, step away from the work desk, and take a few deep breaths to relax before you start to eat.  If possible, eating outside in the fresh air and sunshine is also helpful.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing – take a deep breath in for 4 seconds and as you do so, think of breathing into your sides.  Hold your breath for 4 seconds, then breathe out for 4 seconds.  Repeat a few times. 
  • Exercise most days of the week, even just 20 minutes a day will make a difference. Yoga is excellent for stress reduction.  
  • Reduce screen time, and especially eliminate altogether an hour before bedtime as blue light from screens disrupts melatonin production.
  • Diffuse some essential oils around the house, such as lavender or chamomile, or another blend of essential oils made for this purpose.  
  • Meditation. This can be done sitting up or lying down, it can be done outside or inside. There are some great apps available such as Calm and Insight Timer, if you prefer to do guided meditations. 

Implementing these things in daily life will go a long way towards improving our health outcomes in the long term.  Naturopaths can further help to optimise the healing process in various ways, such as modulating nervous system activity with herbs and nutrients, improving digestive health, addressing any dietary deficiencies, and also considering lifestyle factors.

Other modalities such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy or myotherapy can also assist with stress reduction and nervous system modulation. 

The naturopaths at Brisbane Natural Health are highly experienced in nervous system manifestations, so if you would like to start taking steps towards better health, call Brisbane Natural Health on 3367 0337. 

Are you out of touch with your feelings?

This may sound rather strange and almost a bit insulting! How could we not know what we’re feeling?  The truth is that while we go through so many different experiences on a daily basis that arouse an array of feelings, it’s quite possible that some of these feelings can be kept a secret – even from ourselves.

This happens because there are at least two parts to our mental lives – a feeling self and an observer self. Sometimes the two are completely aligned. We are asked what we would like for lunch and the communication is immediate; we simply answer a Buddha Bowl! At other points, it is trickier. 

We might be relaxing on the couch after a long day at work and we are under the impression that everything is ok and we feel quite calm. But suddenly an apparently minor remark from our partner arouses us to deep irritation. We quickly move into feelings of injustice and unfairness about a host of issues we hadn’t – until then, been aware we even felt strongly about – and soon we feel out of control and all worked up.

Sound familiar?

Why is it so hard for the “observing self” to report accurately on our feelings?

One reason is that we carry beliefs about the unacceptability of particular feelings. In order to know ourselves well, we have to rely on the level of self-awareness, courage and honesty that’s presented to us in our surrounding culture. We can be easily conditioned by what our families, peers, schools, and wider culture see as “normal”. Across childhood, we have it instilled in us, so subtly we don’t even notice, strong notions about what are and are not okay things to experience. Traditionally, this might have looked like boys were not allowed to admit they wanted to cry, or that girls were not able to grow up to do the same kinds of work as boys. We may have moved through these more naive notions today, but there have been equally as powerful ones to take their place.

What have we picked up over the years that have allowed us to suppress our feelings?

Is it a sense of shame that we view things like; not being able to cope at work, be tempted by an affair, or still upset over a break up from years ago? And while we may live in more sexually liberated times, what sexual impulses are impossible to admit to?

There seems to be a great deal of things we are not meant to “feel” in order to fit a desirable category. 

When difficult or uncomfortable feelings do threaten to emerge, the “observing self” might take fright and look away! Rather than produce a more honest and accurate account of feelings, it may go numb, to try and file a report that is more acceptable that it is true: “I’m tired”, rather than “I feel abandoned and like you’ve let me down”; or “I’m depressed”, rather than “I’m furious”.

Our problems here are compounded by the way powerful feelings like upset, envy and frustration, can swirl through us by apparently trivial and unrelated things. It can be hard to admit to ourselves that something huge and impactful has been released in our inner lives when there appears to be no significant external cause there. 

We might feel a deep sense of envy and no way to express this when we hear about our friend’s new relationship. Or our partner may look away three and a half seconds before we’ve ended an explanation about how a tricky meeting at work went, and we experience a sense of indignation that we haven’t got their full attention. We say nothing because to own up to all these feelings of upset involves acknowledging a humiliating degree of sensitivity and fragility. 

Yet these feelings that haven’t been acknowledged don’t go away. They linger and spread their energy randomly to other issues. Envy might come out as spite. Anger of inattention might come out as a snide remark – though of course, by the time hurt has manifested itself as aggression, any chances of being comforted are over.

Emotions that we don’t have a handle on and are unprocessed weak havoc. They force themselves forward in troubling, furious and depressed ways and can put an unhealthy strain on our minds and bodies. We develop addictions, we suffer from anxiety, and we sit an overwhelm of melancholy in depression, we develop gut problems and autoimmune disease. Our sleep becomes troubled – insomnia and waking in the night is the feeling self’s revenge for all the thoughts that haven’t been properly catalogued in the day. 

How might we be able to become better observers and be aware and process our emotions?

1: We need a language for our feelings, the words and how it looks. Novels and movies allow us to able to observe how the spectrum of emotions can look in others, and offer a window into what we may ourselves be experiencing. 

2. Dedicated time for self-observation. While we don’t always allow ourselves the time and space to reflect and express, honest moments with our journals,  or a pause and out- breathe in meditation are valuable actions to allow our observer self to catch up with the feelings that might have been too shy, ashamed or stressed to emerge.

3. Surround yourself with people who are aligned with our search to identify and catalogue our feelings. Good listeners are imperative. This might come in the form of friends, family or a therapist. Part of coming to know how we feel is having an audience that can be receptive to the truth about us. In the company of open-minded and accepting people, we are able to circulate more freely in our own minds. We remember the feelings that we may have censored and we become more in touch with ourselves.

While feelings are not always wonderful and we should be cautionary in which ones we follow, but if we allow ourselves to accept the fact that if we deny, ignore or overlook them entirely, the price is higher and worse; they can exercise a powerful dark inner influence across our lives. Learning to correctly label and take ownership of our own and others’ orphaned feelings is a key art in living well.

Could High Histamine Food be causing your Headaches, Itchy mouth, Anxiety or Bloating?

What is histamine?

Histamine is a compound that is released from immune cells as a normal part of a healthy functioning immune system. It helps us communicate with the brain, alert the immune system to a potential threat, and launch an inflammatory response.

Histamines can be released in response to environmental triggers such as pollen, animal fur and dust but can also be released in response to the foods and drinks we consume, as well as digestive imbalances, and enzyme deficiency.

What happens if I have too much histamine?

When there is toomuch-circulatingg histamine we can feel an increase in allergic-like symptoms such as sneezing, itching, watery eyes and nasal congestion, but also symptoms that aren’t as easily identified as being related to histamine – such as migraines, headaches, irregular menstrual cycles, and difficulty regulating temperature, amongst many others.

There are 3 main reasons we can have elevated histamine levels:

  1. We’re eating too many foods high in histamine, and/or
  2. We’re consuming too many histamine liberating foods or drinks and/or
  3. We lack enough of the enzyme that helps us break down and eliminated histamine from the body.

What is Histamine Intolerance?

Histamine intolerance can occur when your body is unable to break down the histamine efficiently. One of the ways the body does this is through the Diamine Oxidase (DAO) enzyme which inactivates and metabolises histamine.

If you don’t have enough DAO or its ineffective, histamine can be absorbed through the intestines causing a wide range of symptoms. The symptoms such as those listed below can often occur following the consumption of foods and drinks that contain a large amount of histamine like bananas, avocado’s, spinach, tomato’s, fermented foods, aged cheeses, and alcohol.

Histamine content of foods increases as the food ages. For example, aged cheeses tend to contain higher histamine levels than fresh cheese. A boiled egg left in the fridge for 1 day would have higher histamine than a boiled egg eaten immediately.

We know that fermented foods are extremely beneficial for our gut health but as they are fermented, they may also be high in histamines and therefore not tolerated by some people when their histamine balance is compromised.

What are the Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance?

Because histamine is released into many body tissues its effects are far-reaching. Some of the more common symptoms may include:  

  • Digestive issues like abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea and vomiting 
  • Nervous system issues like fatigue, anxiety, difficulty or light sleeping
  • Vascular issues like headaches and migraines, tissue swelling, vertigo, dizziness, high blood pressure, difficulty regulating temperature, irregular heart rate, or flushing after histamine-containing food and drink – especially wine and beer
  • Immune issues like sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy mouth
  • Skin issues like hives, rashes or itchy skin
  • Reproductive issues like irregular menstrual cycles

How can I find out if I have high histamine or histamine intolerance?

Our Naturopaths at Brisbane Natural Health can take a thorough case and diet history from you, and if appropriate can organise a lab test for histamine and DAO enzyme levels. A high ratio of histamine/DAO signifies that you may be consuming too much histamine and that you may not have enough DAO to break it down.

 

How can I recover from symptoms of histamine intolerance?

Our Naturopaths at Brisbane Natural Health would look at your Lifestyle and diet factors, aim to boost your enzymes, minimise the histamine load, and regain balance to your body.

Most importantly, working with a Naturopath will enable you to find out what is your root cause for your histamine intolerance, and will be able to design a personalised dietary or supplement protocol to help restore balance to your body and to your symptoms.

If you would like to investigate this area of your health further, please call our Naturopaths at Brisbane Natural Health on 07 3367 0337.