Gut Health – Why is it so important?


The topic of “gut health” is coming up more and more frequently in the media, documentaries and on social media.  But why is it so important?

There seems to be a lot more research coming out about the role our digestive system has on various other aspects of our physical (and mental!) wellbeing.  I find this awesome because it means that every person can do something to change their health. 

As a Naturopath, I find that almost all of my clients will show symptoms of gut issues, even if the problem they are coming to see me about isn’t specifically digestion-related.  So gut healing and repair is almost always the first place I start with their healing journey.  For many people, healing the gut can help to reduce a whole range of symptoms.

So what sort of things can be impacted by gut health?

1.  Digestion & Elimination
This is of course the most obvious one, so I will start here. Now, while what is “normal” for one person and another can vary, there are some obvious signs of digestive issues when it comes to food intake and elimination.

Symptoms such as heartburn, reflux, bloating, excessive wind or burping, pain on elimination, diarrhoea, constipation (and alternating between the two) are all problems that relate to issues within the gastrointestinal system. 

These sorts of symptoms can be problematic not just from the physical discomfort, but also with the stress and anxiety that can be associated with experiencing these symptoms on a daily basis. And while these symptoms may be due to a variety of diagnosed disorders, one of the more common disorders with these symptoms (experienced by one in five Australians (1)) is IBS.   IBS describes a set of symptoms that can be caused by a variety of things such as stress, infection, poor diet and food intolerances.  It also indicates that your digestive system may not be properly breaking down and digesting the food you eat, which means that those nutrients may not be properly absorbed.  This then can have a knock on effect with other body systems not working as well as they should be.

2.  Immune Function
When you consider the fact that poor digestive health can mean that the nutrients you eat aren’t getting absorbed properly, it stands to reason that this could contribute to poor immune function.  There are a number of nutrients such as zinc and vitamin C which are essential for immune health, and if you’re not absorbing these nutrients from your food you may end up prone to getting sick more often and unable to fight infections. 

The other factor that is important to consider is the role that the “good bacteria” in your gut plays with your immune health.  In simple terms, there needs to be a healthy balance of the varieties of bacteria in your gut – and the foods that you eat and the functionality of your digestive system plays a huge role in how well this is balanced. (2) There is a lot more research being done in this area which is very exciting, and we are learning more and more about how important this balance is for our immune function.  Not only that, imbalance can also increase inflammation in the body and lead to other diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

The flip side of this problem is that your gut health can also impact on your immune system in the opposite way, where it becomes overstimulated wreaking havoc in the form of allergies, asthma, and even autoimmune conditions. (3, 4)

3. Mental Health
There is increasing information becoming available about the link between gut health and mental health.  Your mental health can be affected by inflammation in the body, food choices, stress, your gut bacteria balance and absorption of nutrients.

Many of the neurotransmitters that are involved in mental health have a relationship with the digestive system – for example 90% of serotonin is synthesized within the gut with your gut bacteria playing an important role in that process.(5)   This is one of the great examples, as serotonin is important for mood and sleep regulation, memory and function. (6) Your gut and your brain have a direct connection with each other,(7)  and this two way relationship can be impacted both by how well your gut functions (which affects your brain) and what’s going on with your brain (for example, chronic stress can impact on how well your gut functions).  This can create bit of a loop, and can sometimes be tricky to work out what’s the bigger factor in the chicken/egg conundrum.

Improving your gut health doesn’t have to be a big complicated process.  For some people it does require a little additional help, and that’s where I come in!  But that doesn’t mean you can’t start making changes to your diet and lifestyle right away to have an impact on your health.

So, here are three things you can start doing today!

1.  Start a food diary
For many people, gut related issues stem from incompatible or intolerant foods.  The best way to start looking at this is to keep a food and mood diary for at least a week, to try and identify if there are any foods that are exacerbating symptoms.  This can be obvious for the more common trigger foods such as milk, bread, or eggs, but sometimes there can be foods that contribute to symptoms on a lower level and can be trickier to identify.  If you’re unsure, then it’s helpful to look at something like Bio-Compatibility Testing to help you work out what to eat and what to leave out.  

2.  Eat the Rainbow
I am sure you have heard this one many times over but it is one of the most important recommendations!  Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables of different colours not only ensures that you get a variety of nutrients into you, it also ensure that you are feeding a variety of those microbes that help with immune function and mental health.  Fresh really is best!  Eating the same thing every day means you’re only feeding certain types of bacteria, and you need that balance.

3.  Bone Broth/ Vegie Broth Is Your Friend
An important part of gut healing is the repair and nourishment of the gut lining.  If you’ve had chronic digestive complaints for a long time, chances are your gut lining may be inflamed and reactive, which can compound the digestive issues.  By including a nourishing bone broth or gut healing vegie broth (link) you can help to heal and seal your gut lining, reducing the inflammation and allowing it to function the way it is meant to.

While these tips are great for getting started, it is really important to be aware that if you have severe digestive symptoms that seem to have come out of the blue, you must ensure that you see a health professional about it.  There are some serious conditions that can cause digestive symptoms and so when in doubt always always get it checked out.


1.         Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)2015 03 May 2018. Available from:
2.         University OS. Gut microbes closely linked to proper immune function, other health issues2013 03 May 2018. Available from:
3.         Van Evra J. Inside the Microbiome: Why Good Gut Bacteria Is the Big Hope For Allergic Disease. Allergic Living [Internet]. 2017 03 May 2018. Available from:
4.         Craven C. How Balancing Gut Bacteria Can Ease Autoimmune Diseases2016 03 May 2018. Available from: - 1.
5.         Stoller-Conrad J. Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in Gut2015 03 May 2018. Available from:
6.         McIntosh J. What is serotonin and what does it do?2018 03 May 2018. Available from:
7.         Bertrand P, Loughman A, Jackson M. Gut feeling: how your microbiota affects your mood, sleep and stress levels2016 03 May 2018. Available from:

Spotlight On: Manual Lymphatic Drainage


Manual Lymphatic Drainage (or MLD) is a therapy which can be extremely beneficial for many people, however it is not always very well known.  It is used to reduce symptoms of a number of specific conditions such as lymphedema, chronic sinus congestion and swelling from acute injuries.  Manual lymphatic drainage has numerous health benefits, some of which include reducing pain and oedema, improving general health and wellbeing, stimulating the immune system and reducing congestion. (1)

MLD is very gentle, using a light touch that is designed to promote the flow of lymph throughout the body.  The reason such a light touch is used because we only want to stimulate the superficial lymphatic vessels just below the skin’s surface.  By stimulating these superficial vessels, the body can increase the rate at which the fluid in between the tissues can be cleared out and move through the body.  The technique is different to other styles of massage which work to manipulate the soft tissues such as muscles and fascia, meaning a firmer touch. (1)

Your lymphatic system is complex and integrates with other body systems such as the circulatory system and urinary system.   It has three main functions – maintaining the balance of fluid within the body, helping the body defend itself against foreign particles (such as bacteria) and facilitating the absorption of fats and fat soluble nutrients in the digestive system.  The lymphatic system also facilitates the removal of waste at a cellular level.   When fluid moves from the spaces between cells into the lymphatic system, it takes with it waste products such as dead cells and pathogens.  These then can be recognized by the immune system which allows for better protection in the future against those particular pathogens.  This system also helps to drain excess fluid from tissues that cannot be returned by veins. (2) 

Manual lymphatic drainage plays a role in improving the movement of lymph throughout the body and increasing the rate at which the fluid between cells in the body enter the lymphatic system.  Because this system has no pump (unlike the cardiovascular system) it relies on movement of the body to circulate the lymph through the system.  Deep breathing, movement and digestion are all ways your body pumps the fluid around the lymphatic system. MLD, exercise and skin brushing are all excellent ways for you to promote lymphatic flow. (3)

Who is Manual Lymphatic Drainage suitable for? 
MLD is suitable for most people and a number of situations and may help reduce symptoms of:
·      Sinus congestion/hayfever/chronic sinusitis/sinus headaches
·      Tension headaches
·      Stress
·      Menstrual pain
·      Chronic pain conditions
·      Assisting with detoxification programs
·      Post injury swelling (for example sprains, strains, dislocations)
·      Post operative oedema (with clearance from your surgeon)

If you would like to book your manual lymphatic drainage appointment please follow the link below to book in.  If you would like to know more about MLD please don't hesitate to call 0410 259 273 and I will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Please be aware that MLD is not suitable for everyone, and with all clients a full case history is taken prior to treatment to determine if it is suitable for you.  If you have an acute infection/fever or systemic illness then it is advisable you remain home until you have recovered prior to any form of massage treatment.  Massage treatment when you are unwell can exacerbate symptoms and so is not recommended. (1)

1.         Grace S, Deal M. Textbook of Remedial Massage: Elsevier Australia; 2012.

2.         MacGill M. Lymphatic System: Facts, Functions and Diseases. Medical News Today [Internet]. 2016 01 November 2017. Available from:
3.         Willis A. Manual Lymphatic Drainage and its Therapeutic Benefits. Positive Health Online [Internet]. 2004 01 November 2017; (104). Available from:


Spotlight On: Probiotics

Do you use a probiotic?  Perhaps you have heard of them but you’re not really sure what they are or what they do?   In this article we’ll have a (very) brief look at the world of probiotics, but first let’s start with talking about what’s going on in your gut.

Your gut microbiota is the term that is used to describe the tens of trillions of microorganisms living in your gut.  Approximately 1/3 of our gut microbiota is common to the majority of people, however the remaining 2/3 are specific just to YOU.  The estimated weight of our total microbiota is around 2kg.   You also have microbiota living in other parts of your body for example your skin and your mouth. (Health, n.d.)  Your gut microbiota play a role in digestion, maintaining and protecting the digestive tract, the production of some vitamins such as vitamin K and some components of vitamin B, and in immune function.  It is important in not only helping to fight infections, but also in keeping the immune system in balance. (Jandhyala et al., 2015)  It is so significant that some even classify it as an “acquired organ”.

I have touched on this in a previous article, however it is also important to reiterate that what we eat in our diet can drastically affect both the number and variety of microorganisms in our gut.  Prebiotics can be found naturally or added to food products, as well as being available in supplements. (Health, n.d.) These are indigestible fibres which make their way down to the bowel to feed the bacteria that populate that area.  One of the major issues with the western diet is that it has higher amounts of refined carbohydrates, animal meats and saturated fats, and less of the whole foods and fresh fruit and vegetables essential for gut microorganism diversity.  Foods that are highly refined and too easily digestible don’t make their way down to the bowel for those microorganisms. (Thomas, 2017) It is very important to ensure that your diet contains plenty of prebiotic foods – examples include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, tomatoes,  apples, almonds and brans – and in fact in my opinion this is always the first thing to address if you are lacking these in your diet.

Probiotics are preparations that “contain viable, microbial agents that have been demonstrated to improve health” (Hawrelak, n.d) You will usually find them either on their own as tablets or powders, or incorporated into supplements or foods. 

What is interesting (and really cool) about probiotics is that it’s not just a case of grabbing any probiotic off the shelf and off you go.  Just like vitamins and minerals all have specific roles and therapeutic actions, so do the different strains of probiotics.  More and more probiotic strains are being researched in order to be used therapeutically for many different health issues including digestive function and health, antibiotic use, immune function, mental health, autoimmune conditions, allergies and chronic congestion, asthma, and many other conditions.  To read more detail about the importance of the difference in probiotic strains, here’s a great link:  Some of the other benefits to particular probiotic strains is their ability to help the body rebuild its own native flora (which is particularly beneficial after antibiotic use), heal and repair the gut lining and suppress some pathogen growth.  A point worth mentioning is that every single probiotic strain is unique, even if it is the same species.  So the health benefits of one strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus could be different to another strain – and there are many many strains within each species.

Because of the variety in strains and therapeutic uses, it can be a bit daunting when you want to go and buy a probiotic from the chemist.  There are some well known brands that do label their products according to the strains in the probiotic and what their researched therapeutic properties are.  This is a great option for something along the lines of general immune and digestive wellbeing. 

If you feel that you or your family are experiencing some of the more complex issues including some digestive complaints, allergies, eczema, recurring sickness or infections then it is definitely worth the time to come in for a consultation so that I can take a full case history and prescribe a probiotic that is suited to your own personal needs, with specific strains that are indicated for your symptoms.  To book a Naturopathic appointment click the booking button below or call 9293 2999.  To find out more about Naturopathy click here.

Hawrelak, J. (n.d). Probiotic Advisor.

Health, G. M. f. (n.d.). Gut microbiota info. Retrieved from Gut Microbiota for Health website:
Jandhyala, S. M., Talukdar, R., Subramanyam, C., Vuyyuru, H., Sasikala, M., & Reddy, D. N. (2015). Role of the normal gut microbiota. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG, 21(29), 8787.
Thomas, L. (2017). How Does the Diet Impact Microbiota? Retrieved from News Medical Life Sciences website:


Winter Wellbeing - Children & Immunity

Children & Immunity

Anyone with children knows that as soon as Autumn starts to roll around, all the kids at daycare or school start turning into snotburgers and inevitably your child ends up sick too.

So why do kids seem to get sick more often than adults?  The short answer is simply that children have not had as much time for their immune system to mature, and as adults we have been exposed to more germs & viruses (pathogens) than most kids have.   Therefore kids are more easily affected by the pathogens that they’re exposed to as their immune system works to fight (and remember) them. (1)

Another key point to remember is the role gut health plays in immune function.   Living in the gut are tens of trillions of microorganisms, including over 1000 different species – and that’s just in one human! (2) These microorganisms (known as your microbiota) play an important part in maintaining your immune system balance and act as a first line defense against invading pathogens.   There are many factors that can affect the balance of your microbiota, ranging from diet, medications, to even the birth process. (3)

So what can be done by you to improve your child’s ability to fend off bugs and germs this winter?

1. Diet is Key!
As we’ve mentioned above, your gut health and microbiota plays a key role in how well your immune system functions.   And the food you eat can determine how well populated and diverse your microbiota is.   The “food” that your beneficial bacteria eat are known as prebiotics.  Prebiotics can promote the growth of many of your beneficial bacteria – and so it is important to include prebiotic containing foods in your child’s (and your!) diet.  Luckily, this can be achieved just by including fresh fruits and vegetables as part of your daily diet.  Examples of foods that are high in prebiotics include asparagus, garlic, beetroot, sweet corn, kidney beans, chickpeas, watermelon, nectarines and white peaches. (4)  Another benefit of consuming fresh fruits and vegetables is that many of them contain other key nutrients essential for immune function including zinc, vitamin C and antioxidants.  Finally, foods high in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna are also beneficial for the immune system not only helping to reduce inflammation in the body, but by potentially enhancing the activity of some white blood cells. (5)

2.  Sleep (HA!)
If you’re a parent, then it’s quite likely that the mere mention of children and sleep sends you to the corner curled up in a ball rocking to and fro in a twitching frenzy.   However, as I discussed in my last blog post, sleep is an important requirement for overall health and wellbeing, and it is also very important for immunity.  Lack of sleep can suppress immune function and affect how our bodies fight infections. (6) This is true for both adults and children and so it is important to try (as best you can) to ensure that you child gets the amount of sleep for their age.  According to the Raising Children Network, children aged 3-5 years need around 11-13 hours sleep per night, children aged 6-9 need around 10-11 hours per night, and from 10 years they will generally need 9 hours sleep per night. (7) Some ideas for the evenings to help wind kids down include;

·      Turn off electronic devices 30 mins – 1 hr before bed time and have some sort of quiet activity to help ease them into bed time;
·      A warm bath with some Epsom salts and/or bath oils such as the Children’s Blend by Tinderbox to calm their mind and relax their body;
·      Flower essences such as Bach Rescue Sleep in the bath or under the tongue;
·      Diffusing essential oils in the house or in the bedroom, with calming scents such as Lavender and Chamomile (I personally love the Plant Therapy KidSafe blends);
·      Chamomile tea or extract (I love Kiwiherb Kids Calm) is also a nice choice to help unwind at the end of the day.

3.  Exercise
With the risk of sounding like a broken record, we come again to the importance of exercise.   As a rough guideline, children under the age of 5 should be getting a total of 3 hours of physical activity spread throughout the day, and children aged 5-17 should be getting 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day. (8) People who are physically active have been shown to be less likely to develop a cold, and those who did recovered much faster than those who were less fit.   One theory is that exercise may increase the number of white blood cells which act to reduce a person’s susceptibility to certain diseases. (9) The other advantage of being physically active outside during the cooler months is that being in the sun can help the body make vitamin D, another another nutrient which is essential for immune function. (10)

There are of course many other actions you can take to help your kids get through the winter with minimal sick days – there are some beautiful herbal remedies available for kids that work well to improve symptoms of colds such as congestion and runny noses, and kids supplements that can be used in conjunction with dietary and lifestyle measures to help with improving nutrient intake over the cooler months.

If you would like to find out more about any of the oil blends, essences or extracts mentioned above, or feel you need a little extra help with improving your children’s health then please call 92932999 or email to find out more or book your appointment.


1.         Simon AK, Hollander GA, McMichael A, editors. Evolution of the immune system in humans from infancy to old age. Proc R Soc B; 2015: The Royal Society.

2.         Health GMf. Gut microbiota infon.d. 29 March 2017. Available from:
3.         Wu H-J, Wu E. The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut microbes. 2012;3(1):4-14.
4.         University M. Dietary Fibre and natural prebiotics for gut health: FAQs2017 29 March 2017. Available from: - 6.
5.         Gray N. Omega-3 backed to boost immune response, not just battle inflammation: Study2013 29 March 2017d. Available from:
6.         Mann D. Can Better Sleep Mean Catching Fewer Colds?2010 29 March 2017. Available from: - 1.
7.         About sleep2016 29 March 2017. Available from:
8.         Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. In: Health Do, editor. 2014.
9.         Lavelle P. Study proves exercise boosts immune system2010 15 March 2017. Available from:
10.       ScienceDaily. Vitamin D crucial to activating immune defenses2010 29 March 2017. Available from:
Photo credit: Janko Ferlic,

Winter Wellbeing - Stress & Immunity

Do you find that every time the colder months start to hit, you end up coughing, sneezing and needing to take time off work?  Or even worse, having to soldier on even though you really should be resting in bed?

Are you are parent with kids who have perpetually runny noses and spend the entirety of winter coughing, or having to take days off school?

Summer did try and sneak in for a few extra days over March, but there is no escaping the fact that winter is on its way.  Spending the colder months sick and tired and feverish is not fun for you, or anyone around you.  Unless maybe you have some Netflix series to binge on, or a dog who gets to curl up on your blanket and keep you company when you’re home sick…  

Now is the time to start thinking about whether there are any changes you can make to your diet or lifestyle to minimize the risk of getting sick this winter.

You may be surprised that my first tip is not a diet tip or herbal concoction, but in fact this very important lifestyle factor.   According to the Australian Psychological Society’s 2015 Stress and Wellbeing Survey, 35% of Australians reported having a significant level of distress in their lives, with anxiety symptoms in 2015 being the highest they have been in the five years of the survey. (1)  Stress has a huge impact on the body, and many people associate it with decreased energy levels or low mood.  But did you know that stress has an impact on your immune function too?

When we are in a situation of high stress, cortisol is released as part of the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism.  This allows us to be in a heightened state of arousal, allowing us to quickly deal with the stressor.  In a normal situation, the stressor is dealt with and the cortisol levels (and subsequently heart rate and blood pressure) reduce. However many of us are dealing with long lasting periods of stress, and so the stress-response system is activated over a long period of time.  When cortisol and other stress hormones are constantly high, the body’s immune response is lowered, the production and activity of natural killer (NK) cells is reduced, and inflammation is decreased. This leads to increased rate of infections and reduced ability to recover quickly from viruses. (2)

So what actions can you take today to decrease your stress levels right away?

1.  YOU-time
Who are you serving right now?  For many of us, the first person to fall by the wayside is ourselves when we are stressed.  What would it take to schedule in time for you?  It can be difficult, especially if the stress is due to being super busy – but even if you schedule 5 minutes of quiet time in the morning to yourself per day just as a start.  Then build it up.  You could get up 20 minutes earlier than you normally do and do a yoga workout from YouTube (pro tip from yours truly!).  Or find a room in your house and shut the door and let your family know not to bother you for those 5, 10, 20 minutes.  Find small ways to serve YOU first.  You cannot serve others if your cup has nothing in it.

2. Exercise
It’s well known that exercise reduces stress.  It reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body, and stimulates the production of endorphins which help to increase mood. (3) Along with the benefits that reducing stress has on immune function, exercise itself has also has a beneficial action on the immune system. (4)  Start small if you need to – 3 x 30 minutes session in a week.  Or, incorporate your new-found morning yoga practices as part of your exercise routine.  Mix it up with some relaxation and power yoga.   Go for a brisk walk (leave your phone at home!) and disconnect from your stressors – you could practice mindfulness techniques at the same time.  Do some body weight exercises in your lounge room.  Or, if you are relatively fit then make the time to go for a run or do a weights session at the gym.

3. Sleep
Sleep is essential for health and wellbeing.  When we sleep, the body repairs itself and our brain recharges.  Stress and sleep can sometimes get caught up in the vicious circle – when we don’t sleep enough we feel stressed, when we feel stressed we can’t sleep.  If you are having issues with sleep then good sleep hygiene is imperative.  Try turning off your electronic devices (TV, phone, ipad) 30 minutes before bed time to disengage and wind down.  Keep a sleep diary, to track how many hours you are sleeping – and whether that sleep is interrupted or not.   You may well find that if you start implementing step 1 & 2, then your sleep improves.

4.  Diet
When in times of stress, it can be quite tempting to buy take-away and indulge in comforting foods however many of these foods can exacerbate stress levels and have other negative effects on the body. (5)  Overhauling your entire diet can be stressful in itself however there are small changes you can make to take steps in changing what you eat and how you eat.
·  Increase magnesium-rich foods.  Many people are deficient in magnesium, and low levels are linked to stress, depression & anxiety. (6) Foods that are rich in magnesium include nuts (almond, brazil, walnuts), sesame seeds, turkey, bananas and dark chocolate.
·  Increase B-vitamin rich foods.  B-vitamins are also shown to reduce levels of stress. (7)  Foods rich in B-vitamins include yeast spreads, liver, broccoli, spinach & egg yolks.
·  Increase antioxidant-rich foods.  Chronic stress and increased levels of cortisol can increase the oxidative stress in the body.  Antioxidants work to counteract the effect (to a degree – reducing stress is still the primary goal!).  Antioxidant rich foods include blueberries, green tea, dark chocolate, fresh herbs and (small amounts of!) red wine.

If you feel like you could benefit with a little one-on-one help with reducing your stress levels and minimizing your risk of being bed-bound with yet another cold over winter, or implementing any of the above suggestions, then please don't hesitate to get in touch to find out how I can help you!




1. APS. APS Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 20152017 15 March 2017. Available from:
2. Randall M. The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science [Internet]. 2011 15 March 2017. Available from: - .WMkNcrGr1E5.
3. Watch HMsH. Exercising to relax2011 15 March 2017. Available from:
4. Lavelle P. Study proves exercise boosts immune system2010 15 March 2017. Available from:
5. Caldwell E. Weighty issue: Stress and high-fat meals combine to slow metabolism in womez2014 15 March 2017. Available from:
6. Deans E. Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill2011 21 February, 2016. Available from:
7. Stough C, Scholey A, Lloyd J, Spong J, Myers S, Downey LA. The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B‐complex on work stress. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. 2011;26(7):470-6.