Sugar cravings? Feeling ‘hangry’? Energy levels all over the place? Does this sound like you? If it does, there is a good chance that the reason for your symptoms is an underlying imbalance in your blood sugar levels, and the good news is that these symptoms are fixable.
Your body has some very tight controls in place to keep things working at optimal function and this is especially true when it comes to blood sugar levels. Blood sugar can either be too high, which is what happens in diabetes when insulin is either no longer produced or does not work properly, or you can also have low blood sugar, which is what causes the symptoms mentioned above.
High blood sugar causes damage to organs over time and is generally not considered a crisis for the body in the short term. Low blood sugar, on the other hand, is considered an emergency for the body as sugar is the primary energy supply to the brain, and once levels get too low, your brain can stop working properly – definitely an emergency! We know that high blood sugar can be caused by a diet high in simple (refined) carbohydrates, sugar and not enough exercise, but why does low blood sugar occur? Well, there are a few reasons. One of these is called reactive hypoglycaemia which occurs when your body’s insulin signalling is out of balance. What happens in reactive hypoglycaemia is that when you eat something (especially foods high in sugar or more refined), your body releases too much insulin. Insulin acts like a key to open the doors of your cells, allowing glucose to go into the cells to be used to make energy. When you release too much insulin, more of the glucose travels into the cells and you are left with less in your blood. When the blood glucose levels get to low, your body sends out distress signals such as carbohydrate or sugar cravings, shaking, sweating, feeling like you might kill someone if they stand in the way of you and food (hangry) and your energy levels can drop too as your body thinks it is in starvation mode and stops producing energy.
The other reason that you can have low blood sugar is simply because you are not eating enough, regularly enough or have done lots of exercise without eating enough. This second type of low blood sugar is easily remedied by making sure you eat regularly especially when exercising.
So, what can be done about it?
Reactive hypoglycaemia is a reaction to the food that you are eating, so the easiest thing to do is to change your diet. The best diet for this condition is a well-balanced whole foods diet with a special focus on eating a good breakfast containing protein. Research shows that eating a higher protein breakfast leads to reduced food intake throughout the day. Make sure that you have protein with each meal, some unrefined complex carbohydrates (like whole grains, fruits and vegetables) and some healthy fats too as these also help to slow down the digestive process and reduce spikes in blood sugar.
Other things that help with healthy insulin signalling and maintaining good blood sugar levels are:
- Avoiding high sugar foods and refined carbohydrates
- Exercising (improves insulin signalling) and making sure you eat after exercising
- Eating at regular intervals – try not to go too long in between meals – snacks are a good idea for you
- Omega 3 fats – these assist insulin signalling
- Nutrients such as chromium, zinc, magnesium and vitamin B3 also help your body to hear the signals it is receiving
- Reducing stress – the release of cortisol, your main stress hormone, increases blood glucose and can cause a crash later on in the day
- Avoid caffeine – this works in a similar fashion to stress at causing blood sugar crashes
- Talk to your naturopath about herbal medicine to help your body get back into balance
If you have symptoms of blood sugar dysregulation, it is important that you seek the advice of your health care practitioner as these symptoms can be due to other health issues which need investigating.
Our naturopaths routinely help people with diabetes, pre-diabetes and blood sugar dysregulation. Call us on 07 3367 0337 to make an appointment.
For many years we have been taught to avoid bacteria, as ‘germs’ are the source of infection and therefore illness. While this is true to a point, the reality is far more complex than previously understood.
The human body – as we may well know- is a very complex organism. Even more complex though, are the bugs that inhabit the body. There are actually 10 times as many bacterial cells on and in a human than there are human cells!! And what is even more fascinating is that the bacterial world is like any other ecosystem, where numbers of one bacteria support the levels of another, and too many of one type, may crowd out others. If one group starts to get out of hand, it can force out another group and disrupt the balance of the colony. It is important to keep all of the members of the colony happy. Even though some bacteria do not confer a directly positive health effect, they help another type of bacteria to do their job, and so are necessary for overall health.
We are starting to learn more about how what we do in our lives affects our bacterial colonies. The foods that we eat (or don’t eat), the medications that we take, our exercise and sleep patterns can all have an effect on the types and numbers of bacteria that live in the different parts of our bodies.
You have probably heard news of how antibiotics can reduce beneficial bacterial numbers and allow the overgrowth of less beneficial bacteria (such as in antibiotic associated thrush – a candida albicans overgrowth). Other medications can also affect the gut flora. For example, the oral contraceptive pill can alter the delicate microbial balance, leaving you – the host – with a colony that looks less than ideal.
In addition, the composition and quality of your diet will have a great impact on your gut flora. Bacteria require lots of fibre to feed on to survive – that means that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is going to help to keep your bacteria happy (what a surprise!) Remember – when you feed your body, you are feeding your flora too!
The direction of influence is not a one-way street though. The flora in our bodies can impact our health and change the way we live our lives, just in the same way that what we do can influence bacterial health. Gut flora has numerous affects on the health of its host, including the breakdown of food for absorption, the production of certain vitamins such as vitamins K and B12 and stimulating our immune system.
Furthermore, your gut flora can affect how much sex steroid hormone (such as oestrogen or testosterone) is floating around in your body and can even influence your appetite and food choices! Some studies have found that when a patient receives the flora (bacteria) from an overweight or obese person (such as in faecal transplants – yes, it’s true!), the recipient also becomes obese within a short period of time. Other studies show that bacteria have a way of ‘talking’ to our nervous systems and telling us which foods to choose and helping us to identify when we are full. Ensuring that our gut flora is in a healthy balance is essential to good health.
If you are not sure if your current diet supports healthy gut flora, or whether your flora are working with, or against you, an appointment with one of our naturopaths will help get your gut back on track and keep your bugs happy and healthy.
Are you nuts? Well maybe we’re all a little nuts sometimes, but do you eat them? If you answered yes then read about the wondrous things they are doing for your body below. If you answered no, we think that you’ll change your mind by the end of this article.
So why should you be going nuts over nuts? Well, for starters, they are one of the best sources of minerals that you can include in your diet. Besides dairy, nuts are one of the highest sources of calcium, which we all know is essential for keeping our bones strong as well as helping with many other body processes. They also contain good levels of magnesium, a mineral that we need for over 300 reactions in the body. Without enough magnesium we can feel more stressed, fatigued, get muscle cramps and crave more sugar.
In addition to calcium and magnesium, nuts contain varying levels of other minerals important to health. Brazil nuts are the richest source of selenium, which supports thyroid function and is essential for breast cancer prevention. Cashews and pine nuts are high in iron, which we need to carry oxygen around our bodies.
Nuts are also an excellent source of essential fatty acids. They contain beneficial omega 6 and 9 fats, and walnuts in particular are a great source of omega 3. These good fats are essential from everything to mood balance, hormonal function and brain health. To get the benefit of these fats, nuts need to be consumed raw and untoasted so the oils retain their properties.
To top off their excellent nutritional profile, nuts also boast good levels of both protein and fibre. Eating a small serving of nuts alongside a serve of fruit is a great way to reduce the effect of fruit on blood sugar levels.
If you’re not eating nuts yet, there are many ways that you can include them in your diet. They are the perfect snack on the run and a great thing to keep in your office drawer for when you’re feeling peckish. You can also add nuts to salads and vegetable dishes to give them extra flavor and nutrition. Presoaking nuts and adding them to smoothies is another great way to include them in your diet.
So how many nuts can you have? We recommend having 1-2 small handfuls each day, always raw. Nuts can be difficult to digest, so make sure that you chew them very well or activate them if your digestive system is sluggish.
As we say goodbye to another year and another festive period of overindulgence, it is now time to look at how we can cleanse our bodies and help our cells to function as effectively as they can. Most people have some goal that they aim to achieve in the year to come, with health and wellness high up on the agenda. January is traditionally detox month at Brisbane Natural Health as we try to help people get back on track and give them a great start to the New Year.
Cleansing is something that we all need. We should be cleansing our bodies on a day-to-day basis, as well as having periods where we intensify the process to rid our bodies of unwanted toxins, excess weight and anything else that can make us sluggish. As well as cleansing your physical body, it is important to consider cleansing yourself of any unwanted emotions that no longer serve you. Perhaps you’ve had a hard year, with lots of challenges. Or you’ve been feeling frustrated and negative about your situation. Part of cleansing involves identifying and detoxifying these emotions so that you can get back on track.
You body detoxifies in every single cell, every single minute of the day. To assist the process, it helps to avoid processed foods, sugar, trans fats, factory farmed meat, excessive coffee and alcohol. On the other side, eating loads of fresh vegetables, green leafy veggies, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds and gluten free whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, will help your body to detoxify. You also want to think about any environmental toxins that can place an extra strain on your body. Avoiding phthalates (cosmetics and plastic), BPA (plastic and canned food), artificial food additives, preservatives and non-organic produce can help aid your body’s ability to detoxify.
To address the emotional side of cleansing, you can do simple things like journaling, daily gratitude rituals, meditation or other relaxation tools. To go a little deeper, you could consider a session with a hypnotherapist or energetic healer to release any harmful emotions from the subconscious so that you can embrace the New Year with added vigour.
There are many ways to cleanse your body and mind; try several to find out what works best for you. A good indication of success is that you should end a detoxification program with renewed energy, glowing skin and a happy more positive frame of mind.
Our team can help you with detoxification in several ways. Our naturopaths can design you a tailor made program based on your individual needs. You can book a session with our hypnotherapist or energetic healer to work on the emotional side of cleansing. We also offer a range of natural beauty services and products so you can look your best without the use of harsh chemicals while detoxifying.
Call our team on 07 3367 0337 – we’d love to help.
There’s a lot of hype about quitting sugar out there at the moment. The popular book ‘I Quit Sugar’ by Sarah Wilson, offers an 8 week plan to ditch sugar in the diet for renewed health. But what exactly is sugar?
In I Quit Sugar, sugar removal is based on fructose, a sugar identified as ‘bad’ in the work of David Gillepsi in his book Sweet Poison. Studies have identified that a high intake of fructose can have detrimental affect on health. Not only is eating fructose thought to make you eat more, but your body can easily convert it straight into fat. Studies have also shown that fructose may be linked to dementia, cancer, infertility, ageing and immune problems.
But before we get carried away and strip all fructose from the diet, including fruit, we need to take the results of these studies in context. There is no real evidence that an everyday intake of fructose, such as that contained in a couple of pieces of fruit, will cause harm. There are however many studies linking a high intake of fructose, such as that contained in high fructose corn syrup and soft drinks, to some serious health detriments.
I have to admit, I am a bit of a Nazi when it comes to sugar – I believe that refined sugar is a huge part of the reason why chronic diseases have shot through the roof. I’m a big promoter that foods with added sugar should be avoided and that we should avoid other refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and baked goods.
Sarah Wilson mentions in her book that fruit should not be demonized. I agree with this comment – fruit has a unique array of fibre and nutrients that are different to veggies and I think that they are a vital part of the diet. The trick with fruit is that you don’t want to be eating too much – 2 serves a day is plenty otherwise you are getting in too much sugar. It has to be whole fruit though – the fibre in fruit helps your body to break it down more slowly, avoiding spikes in blood sugar. Fruit juice should be avoided as this provides a concentrated source of sugar that goes straight into your bloodstream.
Here’s the food you want to steer clear of to keep your sugar intake to a minimum:
- Commercial cereal
- Muesli with added sweeteners
- Sweetened yoghurt
- Soft drinks
- Fruit juice
- Muesli bars
- Baked beans and tinned spaghetti
- Frozen meals
And if you’re cooking yourself, here are some refined sugar alternatives that you can use:
- Raw honey
- Maple syrup (natural)
So, what’s the verdict? Keep added sugar to a minimum and don’t overdo it on the fruit and you’ll be fine. If you are a sugar addict, it might be worthwhile trying the I Quit Sugar program, which has some great recipes. You could also check in with your naturopath, as sugar cravings are your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong (often originally caused by sugar in the first place).
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Are you tired or moody? Do you have difficulty losing weight, constipation or dry skin? Is your memory failing you? These are all common symptoms of hypothyroidism, or an under active thyroid gland. Up to 15% of the people have an under active thyroid gland, with many people going undiagnosed.
However it’s not always black and white, different people will present with different symptoms.
If you have hypothyroidism you may have some of the following symptoms:
- Chronic fatigue or low energy
- Depression or feeling melancholy and/or anxiety
- Constipation or harder stools
- Puffy face and eyelids
- Memory loss, confusion, brain fog
- Weight gain that is difficult to lose
- Dry coarse skin
- Intolerance to temperatures, hot or cold
- Menstrual issues
- Infertility/ recurrent miscarriage
- Cold hands and feet
- Muscle weakness
- Loos of libido
- Reduced sweating
So what exactly is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly shaped gland that sits just over your wind pipe in the middle of the throat. The thyroid gland has the job of regulating every tissue and organ in the body. Your thyroid controls your metabolism, moods, digestion, hormone balance, energy levels and much, much more.
How do I know if I have a thyroid problem?
As well as evaluating your symptom picture, there are several tests that may be useful to determine if your thyroid is under functioning.
TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone, is secreted by the body to stimulate the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormones. The higher the TSH, the more the body is trying to encourage the thyroid to work harder. A high TSH indicates a lowered thyroid function.
TSH is a poor indicator of thyroid function, as it doesn’t really take into account the whole picture. Unfortunately this is the gold standard that doctors use to check thyroid function, and if you are ‘in range’ then you are dismissed as being normal.
T4 and T3
T4 and T3 are your actual thyroid hormones. T4, the inactive form, coverts into T3, which is the hormone used to regulate tissues in the body. You need to have adequate levels of both T4 and T3 in order for your thyroid to function optimally. By testing T4 and T3, we can assess if there is a problem with hormone production or the conversion of T4 to T3. There are different nutrients involved at each stage, so we are able to gain insight into nutrient deficiencies and know what to prescribe based on these results.
Reverse T3 occurs when T3 ‘flips’ into a reverse form. Reverse T3 attaches to receptors and prevents T3 from binding to them. Checking for reverse T3 is important as your T3 could be normal, however if you have high reverse T3 then you will still have an underactive thyroid. Reverse T3 is not recognized by most doctors as being important, however we find it an essential part of the picture when evaluating someone with hypothyroidism.
Thyroid autoantibodies can show if there is are immune factors that could be causing an autoimmune thyroiditis called Hashimoto’s disease. In Hashimoto’s, your immune system attacks the thyroid gland, leading to dysfunction. Autoimmune thyroid problems require different treatment to standard hypothyroidism, so it is important that this is ruled out.
Unknown to many, often the cause of high cholesterol levels is hypothyroidism. In fact, high cholesterol was previously used by doctors as an indicator of hypothyroidism. This was before the introduction of statin drugs, which it seems are the only thing that are looked at when a cholesterol issue arises. The problem with this is that you could end up on cholesterol lowering drugs, while the underlying cause is not rectified.
There are many nutrients involved in thyroid function. A deficiency in any of these nutrients can cause hypothyroidism to occur.
- Vitamin D
- Tyrosine (an amino acid)
Iodine is needed to make your thyroid hormones – T4 and T3. Iodine deficiency is a major cause of hypothyroism. Iodine is best tested through the urine, this test can be ordered through the clinic.
Hair mineral analysis
A hair mineral analysis can assess mineral levels in the body, as well as how your body is functioning. There are also many heavy metals that can inhibit thyroid function, so it is worthwhile ruling out this.
What treatment options are available?
Thankfully, there are many herbs and nutrients that have been clinically proven to improve thyroid function. If you have a suspected thyroid problem, seeing one of our naturopaths is a good first step. First we’ll make sure you have all of the right testing done, and then we’ll develop a treatment plan based on your individual symptom picture. Our naturopaths have helped hundreds of patients to overcome hypothyroidism so that they can get their mojo back.
Acupuncture is also a good option for those with thyroid problems, from a TCM perspective. Treatment can include a combination of acupuncture, herbs and nutrition in those with severe or chronic thyroid problems.
To make an appointment or to discuss treatment options with out team, call us on 07 3367 0337 and we’ll be happy to help.