wellness

Winter Blues Getting You Down?

I’m not sure how it is at your place, but where we are (and hearing from clients and friends) there are some NASTY bugs going around at the moment!  And winter has barely begun! 

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I’ve written before about some general tips on winter wellness but this month I’m going to delve a little more into specific remedies that I usually have at home for my own family (and like to use this time of the year).

Some of these are available over the counter as retail products, but some may require a consultation and prescription. 

The good news is that I do offer Express Consultations (15 mins) for acute issues like colds and bugs – so if you or your family get sick then please do call the clinic and book one in.  It’s only $35 for the consultation and will allow me to prescribe you what you require to help you get over these awful bugs a little quicker (we hope!).  If you can’t get in, then you can always ask at your local health food store or pharmacy about what they might have that is similar/equivalent.

1. Zinc & C
Zinc is always my number one go to for winter colds, and I use/prescribe a product that contains vitamin C in it as well.  The one I prefer is a practitioner product, meaning it does require a consult to prescribe it, however there are many retail brands that offer something similar.  BioCeuticals have a range that you can get by asking at a chemist/health food store, and Ethical Nutrients also do a product with Zinc & C in it.  If your family is prone to catching all the bugs, then it’s a good idea to take it at the recommended maintenance dose throughout winter as a preventative.

2. Vitamin D
If you get sick a lot, then speak to your GP about it and ask them to check your Vitamin D levels!  Vitamin D is ESSENTIAL for good immune function, and if it turns out you’re low it’s a simple fix to get it sorted.  Be mindful that there are “normal” levels (which are usually defined as within the reference range of the tests) and optimal levels.  It’s a good idea to chat with the GP about this, because the results might say your levels are normal, but they might be on the lower end of the scale, meaning you could still do with having them bumped up a bit more.

3. Probiotics
Yep, another one which keeps coming up.  There are a number of different types of probiotics that are specific for different conditions, and immune health is a key one.  As above, if you are someone who is prone to getting sick then I would suggest taking a probiotic which is specific for immune health all winter.  Retail brands that would be worth looking at are again BioCeuticals & Ethical Nutrients, though I prefer the practitioner brand that I use both at home and in clinic.

4. Tissue Salts/Celloids
Tissue salts & celloids can be really helpful to use as soon as you start to get a sniffle, cough or fever.  Tissue salts can be purchased at health food stores – the brand to grab is Scheussler’s.  The ones you will want to look for specific for winter colds are ferr phos (fever or inflammation), kali mur (for congestion or clear mucus) and kali sulph (for mucus that is yellow or greeny in colour).

Celloids are a practitioner only product but work in a similar way – I tend to use celloids more at home as I find they work brilliantly for the whole family.  I do also make up custom liquid tissue salts formulas for my kids and my clients.   These can be helpful for younger kids as liquids in a dropper are easier to just add to water or squirt in the mouth with a dropper.

5. Homeopathics
These are also generally available from health food stores, and the brand I stock/recommend are the Owen Homeopathics brand.  I always have these on hand in the home too to help try and kick the body into healing!  The remedies most commonly used through winter are as follows:

Aconite – This is a great remedy to always have in the home as it’s useful for pretty much any symptom that comes on very suddenly and seemingly out of the blue.  This could include a sudden fever, croup colds or coughs that come on suddenly after exposure to dry cold wind, exposure to temperature extremes.

Ant tart – Coarse, loose & rattling cough that feels suffocating with shortness of breath.  The chest feels like it is full of mucous that doesn’t seem to come up.  Worse early morning (3-4am).

Belladonnna – For use during the first stage of the inflammatory process, when the skin feels hot and red and the face is flushed.  Usually the symptoms come up suddenly.  Also can be used for intense tearing pain in the middle/external ear, a dry tickling cough or inflamed tonsils.

Bryonia – For a dry, hacking, painful coughs.  Tough mucous in the throat that only loosens after much hacking.

Euphrasia – Nose blocked up in the evening but can be watery during the day.  Sinus headache due to congestion, and a hacking cough that usually only occurs during the day and hoarseness of the voice.

Nux Vomica – Runny nose during the day which gets blocked up at night.  Cold weather causes the nose to get stuffed up and possibly alternating between nostrils.  Itching in the ears and tickly nose which triggers sneezing.  Dry, tight, hacking cough with gagging.  Tendency to feel chilly/shivers if uncovered, wants to stay wrapped up & warm.

6. Herbal Medicines
I like to prescribe custom herbal liquid formulas, so that I can ensure that the herbs chosen are specific to your symptoms or health complaint.  Herbal medicine is one of my major tools at home for my family! However if you are after an of-the-shelf brand, you really can’t go past the Kiwiherb range.  I always have their De-Stuff for Kids in the home, and use it regularly throughout the winter for both my kids.  They also do an immune range for adults which you can buy online.  Another great product is the BioCeuticals Armaforce - and they have recently created products for pregnancy and children as well.

Now it goes without saying that this information is not medical advice and does not replace the advice of your GP.  However they are very handy to have in the home at the onset of cold & cough symptoms, and they are a great complement to support your healing in conjunction with your health care professional’s advice.

Silly Season Thrive Guide

Credit: Jeffrey Wegrzyn http://www.unsplash.com

Credit: Jeffrey Wegrzyn http://www.unsplash.com

Yep, it’s December and that means Christmas is already here.  Again?! How did it happen so fast?  It’s the same question, I ask myself every single year.

For many people, Christmas is a frantic time of stress, busy-ness, and can actually be quite unpleasant.  These past couple of years I’ve actually asked myself, what has happened to the magic and joy of Christmas – for me, personally – and why has it suddenly become a time of year just to try and get through? 

I don’t know if this resonates with anyone else but I used to LOVE Christmas.  I loved the anticipation, the decorations, putting the tree up and sprucing up the house Christmas style.  I have spent the last 4 years studying non stop and that has meant that Christmas has been just another thing on the pile of things that I need to get done and deal with.

So what can we do a bit differently this year to not just survive the silly season, but to enjoy it?  Or at the very least, not feel completely burned out by it?

De-Stress
If you’re already leading a high stress life, then this time of year can always make it feel just that little bit worse.  It’s really hard to find time for ourselves when we’re super busy, but it is actually the most important thing you can do.  Looking after you is the number one most important thing – even if it means scheduling “me time” into your calendar!  It’s little things like reading a book at a café by yourself, or spending time in the garden, whatever it is you love to do, to recharge.  Make sure you fit it in as often as you need to re-fuel your energy so that you’re not a burnt out mess by New Years.

Move
Yes, move!  Exercise and movement isn’t just going to be helpful for those few extra treats we all enjoy this time of year, but don’t forget how essential it is for your mental health.  Bringing it back to the point about stress, we ALL know by now the health benefits of exercise when it comes to stress levels, and it ties in also with making time for you.  Try and fit it in where you can – walk the dog, get to the gym if that’s your thing, get some friends together and play volleyball on the beach or go walking around neighbourhoods checking out the Christmas lights with your fam.  Whatever it is, see if you can make it an “essential” not a nice to do, and see how it affects your mood over the Christmas period.

Food
How important is healthy eating to you?  The answer to that is none of my business (unless you’re my client and you need me to help you with something!) – however YOU should pay attention to where YOU are at.  If you are trying super hard to eat well and have done so all year with a diet, health or other goal in mind, how are you going to feel if you let it slide over Christmas?  If fine with it – great!  If you feel like it would impact you negatively, then see how you can ensure that you make the choices you need to get to the other side still feeling pretty darn good about yourself.   On the flip side, Christmas can be a time for good food and good company.  If being super restrictive is going to make you miserable, see what choices you can make to still stay on track but still enjoy the festivities.

Choice
As hard as it might be – one important thing to remember is that you have choice.  And I don’t mean about what to eat and what not to eat, but choosing what is right for YOU to keep your sanity during the Christmas period.   If that means choosing not to attend certain functions or parties because it would stress you out too much, you are free to choose that!  And you’re allowed to choose that without feeling guilty.  Sometimes part of the big stress over Christmas is feeling like we have to please everyone, see everyone, do everything for everyone – but if you are already in a high stress state these are the things that can be tipping point for some of us.   Look after yourself and don’t wait for January 1 to nurture yourself – start it now.

I wish everyone the happiest Christmas and festive season! xo

Remedial Massage Therapy – Not just your regular massage!

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I am not sure about you, but for a very long time the only massage that I was aware of was relaxation massage.  I knew that remedial massage could help with tension, stress and backaches, but I had no idea that there was so much more to it than that.

Generally massage practice in Australia is divided into two levels based on the level of qualification – Relaxation/Swedish massage therapy and Remedial massage.   Massage falls under the “Complementary and Alternative Medicine” (CAM) umbrella, and so is a great therapy to complement other therapies including your regular primary care from a GP or other health professional.

The role of a Remedial Massage Therapist (RMT) is to assess and treat musculoskeletal and other system disorders. (1)  So it’s not (always) just a case of show up, hop on the table, treat and off you go.   There are various assessments and techniques that are available to provide a holistic treatment in order to get you well and more importantly KEEP you well.

Below I’ll discuss what to expect during your remedial massage treatment, what techniques are offered as part of your treatment plan, and what you may expect with regards to long term prevention strategies.

First things first….
If it is your first time coming for a remedial massage treatment or you are coming in because of a new injury or problem, then I’d strongly recommend booking in a 90 minute appointment instead of a 60 minute appointment.  The reason for this is because in order to come up with a suitable treatment plan both for that day and long term, I may need to do some musculoskeletal assessments or screening processes in order to determine what is causing the problem and how to provide the best treatment for you.  Sometimes we will re-assess during the treatment to determine the outcome of some of the techniques, however in most cases they’ll be done again after the treatment to compare pre and post treatment range of motion and/or pain levels.

I’ll also take a thorough case history to get a general idea of your level of health, the history of the complaint and any other relevant health history details.  Depending on the problem that you are presenting with, this can take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes.  If you’re just after a relaxation massage, the health history interview will be brief – however the treatment will only consist of relaxation massage which is of course beneficial for stress and tension reduction but may not specifically address your health concern.

A remedial massage treatment may consist of a combination of techniques including relaxation massage, deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, stretches, myofascial release and kinesiology taping.

Deep Tissue & Trigger Point Therapy
Deep tissue massage consists of strokes similar to relaxation or Swedish massage, however they are deeper, firmer, and can feel more intense depending on the area being treated.   Deep tissue massage is intended to reduce pain, lengthen and stretch muscle fibers, improve lymph and blood flow, separate adhesions and deactivate trigger points.  Trigger point therapy will generally be incorporated at the same time as deep tissue techniques, as usually the trigger points are found during the massage.  A trigger point is a localized area of hyperirritability within a muscle that can be extremely tender when touched or compressed.  In some cases, you may not know you have any until the massage, but in other cases they can be what’s causing your pain.  Trigger points usually have a “referral pattern” of pain, that feels like a dull ache or a pain that you can’t quite work out how to describe or know where its coming from.  Once trigger points are deactivated, pain can be reduced or eliminated completely. (1) When working on a trigger point I’ll ask you to let me know what level the pain is (on a scale of 1-10) to determine how much pressure is used.

Myofascial Release (MFR)
Myofascial release works within remedial massage to reduce adhesions and restrictions in the connective tissue throughout the body.   The fascia within the body connects everything together – and is spread throughout the body as a single structure.  If you can imagine a knitted jumper – if you were to pull on one sleeve it can affect the whole jumper.  The analogy relates to the human body in that if there is a restriction or adhesion within the fascia in one area of the body it can potentially affect other areas.  This can contribute to pain and postural problems.  The techniques used in MFR are aimed at lengthening the fascia, improving fluid flow in the areas, increasing range of motion, and reducing adhesions.  They are slower than deep tissue and trigger point therapy, and the pressure can vary between light and firm/deep.  In some clients, MFR can cause an emotional release either during the treatment or after treatment. (1)

Stretching & Taping
Stretches may also be incorporated as part of your remedial massage treatment in order to lengthen the muscles and improve range of motion.  Stretches may be passive, or may include your participation via your resistance to further improve range of motion to specific muscles.

Rocktape application may be recommended to further enhance the treatment, provide relief or improve posture in the days following the treatment.  Rocktape is a hypoallergenic and water resistant brand of kinesiology tape that is used toprovide functional support to the body during and post exercise, decrease pain, swelling and bruising and improve posture. (2)

Post Treatment
Post treatment you may be prescribed stretches or strengthening exercises to address the issues that are causing your pain or discomfort.  Stretches will be prescribed to further lengthen tight muscles, and strengthening exercises will be prescribed to improve weak muscles.  These two issues together are a big contributing factor to pain and injury.  The exercises prescribed will accommodate your level of fitness and exercise knowledge – both gym exercises and home exercise can be recommended.

So as you can see, remedial massage is more than “just massage”!  If you’re ready to book in your treatment then call 9293 2999 or visit the “Book Online Now” button below to make your appointment.

 

 

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

2.         Rocktape n.d. [Available from: https://rocktape.com.au/.

 

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: https://www.probioticadvisor.com/probiotic-essentials-1/the-importance-of-strain/  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.


References:
Hawrelak, J. (n.d). Probiotic Advisor.   https://www.probioticadvisor.com/

Health, G. M. f. (n.d.). Gut microbiota info. Retrieved from Gut Microbiota for Health website: http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/about-gut-microbiota-info/
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:

 

Just a little about me....

This week I thought I’d share a little bit about me, beyond what you may have read in the About section.

As far as employment history goes – my background is 15 years in the IT industry.  So, this is a pretty big change!  

My interest in natural (or dare I say it “alternative”) therapies probably stems back for at least 10 years.  I put the “alternative” in there not as a “either this OR that” but more because some of my personal beliefs about life are in that realm – I have always believed that there is more to life than just the physical reality and my first dabble down this path was when I was living in Montreal, Quebec and found an interest in natural therapies, crystals and energy work.   

I struggled in school with attention and focus, and through most of my 20s with various emotional and mental health issues (including depression and anxiety).  A lot of my mental health issues stemmed from my belief that there was something wrong with me, because I was trying to function like everyone else and couldn’t.  At age 29 was diagnosed with ADHD (which I will talk more about in another blog entry).  This diagnosis was a pivotal moment for me, because it gave me answers about why I behaved the way I did, why I struggled in the areas I did, and the knowledge that there was actually nothing wrong with me. 

It was a conversation with a friend who was studying Ayurevda at AIHM (where I decided to go to study) that changed my path career wise.  I loved what she was telling me about what she was learning, I read the book she gave me, and I started to take on board some of the changes from a dietary and lifestyle perspective.  And it was when a number of health issues that I had been experiencing for many years (adult acne, IBS, ADHD, depression) ALL started to improve that I decided I wanted to become a complementary health practitioner.  I would never have thought that any of the issues I had were interconnected, but the changes I made improved them all.  After a couple of years thinking about it, I finally decided to just go for it and enroll to study Naturopthy.  During my studies I also learned Swedish Massage which I loved so much that I decided to go to TAFE this year and complete my Diploma of Remedial Massage.

It is my personal experience with finding my way through the adult diagnosis of ADHD, depression and anxiety, my lack of self belief and self worth and overcoming these things to be living a life where I am happy, and creating amazing things that gives me a strong focus and passion on helping others experiencing mental or emotional difficulties and helping them through their own journey to turn things around.

My little fam bam

My little fam bam

I am also a mother to two children –Alex who is 6 and Archer who is just over a year old.  Motherhood has been no walk in the park, especially during my single parent journey during Alex’s first couple of years, and then juggling school and work throughout my second pregnancy and through Archer’s first year.  It is through this journey of motherhood that I developed an interest in child health, which is my other area of focus. 

I am super lucky to have a husband who is so incredibly supportive of me, and his support means that I can do this work and study - we met when I was going through college and he was there for me to make sure the home was running smoothly while I had my late nights and weekends in the student clinic to get my studies done.  

Like most people who end up in this field, it is my past experiences that have shaped who I am and motivated me to try and find ways to help others who may be in a similar situation.  It might not be exactly the same, but those who have struggled with their health (physical, mental, emotional) and are yet to find a way to move forward.  If this is you, or someone you know, then I’d love to see you!

 

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 alexia@holistia.com.au to find out more or book your appointment.

 


References:
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: http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/about-gut-microbiota-info/.
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: http://www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/gastro/prebiotic/faq/ - 6.
5.         Gray N. Omega-3 backed to boost immune response, not just battle inflammation: Study2013 29 March 2017d. Available from: http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Omega-3-backed-to-boost-immune-response-not-just-battle-inflammation-Study.
6.         Mann D. Can Better Sleep Mean Catching Fewer Colds?2010 29 March 2017. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/immune-system-lack-of-sleep - 1.
7.         About sleep2016 29 March 2017. Available from: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/sleep_the_hows_and_whys.html/context/730.
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: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2010/11/02/3054621.htm.
10.       ScienceDaily. Vitamin D crucial to activating immune defenses2010 29 March 2017. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100307215534.htm.
Photo credit: Janko Ferlic, www.unsplash.com

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!

 

 

 


References:
1. APS. APS Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 20152017 15 March 2017. Available from: http://www.psychology.org.au/psychologyweek/survey/results-stress-and-wellbeing/
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: http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/2011/02/the-physiology-of-stress-cortisol-and-the-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis/ - .WMkNcrGr1E5.
3. Watch HMsH. Exercising to relax2011 15 March 2017. Available from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax.
4. Lavelle P. Study proves exercise boosts immune system2010 15 March 2017. Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2010/11/02/3054621.htm.
5. Caldwell E. Weighty issue: Stress and high-fat meals combine to slow metabolism in womez2014 15 March 2017. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140714100128.htm.
6. Deans E. Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill2011 21 February, 2016. Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201106/magnesium-and-the-brain-the-original-chill-pill.
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.