As we get into the deep mid winter here in Orange, what can you do to reduce the chance of catching a cold, or shorten the duration of a cold?
I have 3 young kids at home and sniffles and sneezes are pretty common at this time of the year. As a starter I often swap dairy intake for a non-dairy source. Dairy proteins are known inflammatory triggers in the gut, and can contribute to mucousy symptoms in the nose, sinuses and throat. I would recommend avoiding all dairy for 30 days to allow gut repair to happen. Most of our immune system is in our gut so it’s a great place to start.
Other triggers may include dust including house dust mite waste products. So what can you do to reduce the circulation of these microparticles?
Air your house often, yes even in winter, a fresh breeze can do wonders for cleaning up the air in your home.
Wash doonas regularly, change pillows annually, use a mattress protector.
Take your shoes off when you walk in to reduce dirt and toxins picked up from outside.
Some people regularly use essential oils to freshen the air, and these natural oils have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
How good is your nutrition? If you are deficient in certain nutrients it may take longer to get over a common cold. For example zinc is essential for good immune function. Zinc is naturally found in red meat, oysters and pulses. It is important to discuss this with your doctor if you are supplementing with zinc tablets as high levels can be dangerous.
Vitamin D has a multitude of good functions in the body including immune health. Ideally we can get this through sun exposure, however over the winter months a supplement may be of benefit as the strength of the sun is less over winter and it’s cold so we don’t get our skin out so much!
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can be found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables. Did you know that we are one of the few mammals on earth who cannot make vitamin C? So we are dependent on nourishing foods to supply enough vitamin C for our system.
And finally, I would include in any patient consultation or when looking at the health of my kids, that they are having enough sleep on a regular basis. Our bodies need enough sleep to regenerate, detoxify and maintain a healthy immune system. So for an adult aim to get eight hours of good restorative sleep most nights and your body will be able to work on any pesky bugs who may be responsible for a common cold.
If you are getting coughs and colds more often than usual, it may be wise to visit your health care provider to ensure your body, including your immune system, is working well.
Are you aware that your surroundings may contribute to you and your family’s health? An important part of maintaining and restoring good health is to address your environment and the impact it can have on a cellular level.
Potential sources of toxins I commonly find in clients seen in clinic include:
- water supply
- chemicals used for cleaning in the home
- gardening supplies
- furniture which can release toxins, called “off-gassing” which can be harmful particularly when the item is brand new
So what can you do to help your body detoxify these toxins from the inside out?
Supply your body with plenty of phytonutrients. These are naturally occurring compounds found in plants which increase your body’s ability to detoxify. We have receptors in our gut lining for phytonutrients.
Examples are whole, real foods such as broccoli, bok choy, kale and Brussel sprouts. Foods which are high in antioxidants include dark, leafy green vegetables and berries are great choices.
Avoid plastics. These are commonly found in items such as disposable coffee cups, canned foods and even in supermarket receipts.
Bring your own keep-cup to the barista, buy tomatoes in jars or cartons and avoid touching the supermarket receipt.
Use glass or stainless steel for a water bottle and to store leftovers in. Rather than buying water in a plastic bottle, install a water filter at home – I have a reverse osmosis water filter installed at the kitchen sink.
Avoid mercury in foods you eat. Choose smaller fish like sardines or cold water fish such as salmon or mackerel. These fish have lower mercury levels than some of the big fish such as tuna and swordfish. For fruits and vegetables select organic where you can to minimise exposure to environmental toxins.
Look at your cleaning products and personal care lotions and potions. Where you can, make changes to use natural, simple products. These can include easily available items such as vinegar and baking soda for cleaning the house. For personal care, coconut oil is natural and smells great. It can be used for make up removal and moisturising.
Just think, if you would be ok eating the product you’re using then it’s safe for your skin.
Finally get moving! We can detoxify through exercising and sweating. Find a buddy and get out into the fresh air or try a sauna or steam room.
So make your life cleaner for yourself and your family. Look into where you can combine a whole-foods diet with a less toxic environment and a healthy lifestyle and notice what rewards you reap.
A few weeks ago, I went to Leura to attend a 3 hour seminar on obesity, held by Metagenics. It was a great turn out from practitioners from Sydney, Canberra as well as the Blue Mountains and Central West.
In Australia, it is estimated that by the year 2025, there will be more obese
(BMI >30) people than people in the healthy weight range (BMI 20-25). Currently 63% of Australians are overweight or obese.
Why is this so important? Obesity is a medical issue in terms of the potential health implications. The more fat mass a person carries the greater risk of chronic disease:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Sleep apnoea
- Mood disorders
- Neurological diseases
Even modest amounts of weight loss (5-10% reduction) leads to dramatic improvements in health. The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that losing 5.5% of body weight over 2.8 years, decreases the risk of getting diabetes (from a pre-diabetic situation) by 48%. (1)
Obesity relates to our brains – they drive what we eat. We are hardwired to seek out more calories and remain less active, so we have ample supplies for the lean times. But in 2018 with food available 24/7 the lean times don’t come.
Body weight regulation is under UNCONSCIOUS homeostatic control – similar to blood pressure, blood sugar and pH regulation. The body weight our body likes to maintain is called the “body weight set point”. There is a 2-6kg fluctuation around this point. (2)
Our body weight set point is developed around the age of 20y, around 24y in some males. This body weight set point goes up in our 50s and as we then get older, this starts to drop. If there is obesity in childhood, the body weight set point will be set higher at an earlier stage.
Our brains control the energy we use. For example, in a group of obese people who had 20% weight loss, they were inclined NOT to move MORE than obese people who had lost 10%.
So, the gut-brain connection rears up again – in animal studies, inflammation in the brain (in particular the hypothalamus) precedes obesity. What drives inflammation? A high fat and high sugar diet. Eating food triggers dopamine release, a neurotransmitter, which activates reward, motivation and learning centres in the brain. The more calorie dense a food is, the more dopamine is released. (3)
Studies show that obese people demonstrate higher reward centre activation in the brain compared with lean controls. (4)
What are some of the real causes of obesity in 2018?
- We are eating more than we have historically – calorie intake is 425 kcal/day higher
- The body weight set point is reset so there is a 20% increase in energy intake (2)
So, what can we do to lower the set-point?
- Have a diet with low to moderate palatability (tastiness)
- Eat adequate protein
- Restrict fat OR carbohydrate
- Have diet breaks (time off restricted eating, to prevent metabolic adaption and give a psychological boost)
- Ensure adequate good quality sleep
- Maintain good levels of physical activity
Having a buddy when focusing on weight loss has been shown to be very beneficial for accountability, psychological support and better outcomes.
Watch out with the upcoming holiday season….much of weight gained through the year happens during the smallest window. Research shows that annually 52% of weight gain occurs over the holiday season, which is only 12% of the year. Lots of hyper-palatable (very tasty) food is consumed/over-consumed, which has been found to drive up the set-point. (5)
- Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study. Lancet. 2009 14;374:1677-86
- Obesity Pathogenesis: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement. Endocrine Rev. 2017 1;38:267-296
- The gut-brain dopamine axis: a regulatory system for caloric intake. Physiol Behav 2012 6;106:394-9
- Widespread reward-system activation in obese women in response to pictures of high-calorie foods. Neuroimage 2008 41:636-47
- Defence of body weight depends on dietary composition and palatability in rats with diet-induced obesity. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2002 282:R46-54
In order to really understand the health of the gut, we do advanced lab testing. The test is comprehensive and gives a picture of the good and not-so-good bugs (the microbiome) who are living in the bowels, as well as detailed information on digestion, the immune system and inflammation.
The test we use at Braid Health is the GIMAP, a comprehensive stool test which uses DNA PCR analysis to identify the little critters on board.
“More than ever before, we are keenly aware of the health benefits or disease risks brought about by the microorganisms that inhabit the human body. Culture techniques, previously the standard, left up to 50% of bacterial species virtually invisible. Because most of the bacteria of the GI tract are anaerobes (survive in no-oxygen surroundings), culture-based methods cannot cultivate them which leaves a large blind spot for clinicians when trying to diagnose the source of infection.”
Quote from the GIMAP website
The turnaround for testing is quick. Samples have to be sent to the USA by Fedex for express shipping, then lab results are usually ready 6 days after the sample has arrived.
Who would benefit from GIMAP testing?
People with symptoms of:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Autoimmune Disease
- Acute and Chronic Gastroenteritis
- SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
- Suspected H. pylori infection
- Fungal or Yeast infections
- Bacterial and Parasitic infections
- Viral pathogens
- Intestinal permeability
Here is an example of a report.
Here is a video I made to use the test kit correctly.
Overall this is a very thorough test and I often use it with clients of Braid Health. Cost of this testing is around $535 (including shipping). If you have any queries about the GIMAP please let me know.
Women’s health is a very important topic every day.
By far the majority of the clients I see at Braid Health are women and there is nearly always a hormonal overlay to optimising their health, whatever stage they are in their lives.
So what exactly is the menopause?
It’s the cessation of menstruation, the life phase that begins 1 year after the last period. The age of most women starting menopause is 45-55 years.
And have you heard about the perimenopause?
This can be a time between 2-12 years before menopause, when hormones and fluctuating like a rollercoaster. Symptoms can include heavy periods, hot flushes and insomnia and these can start from age 35. About 20% of women will experience the dramatic rollercoaster ride!
So what hormones are we talking about here?
Firstly oestrogen, a very important hormone that affects multiple areas in our bodies from brain to gut to breasts and of course our reproductive organs. It has multiple functions including:
- Increase in metabolic rate
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Regulates body temperature
- Maintains muscles
- Improves sleep
And secondly there is progesterone, which prepares and sustains a woman’s body for pregnancy. Generally as ovulation stops, the progesterone level drops more rapidly than oestrogen and it is this imbalance in hormones which causes symptoms.
Other functions of progesterone include:
- Neuroprotective calming effect
- Eases anxiety
- Supports immune system
- Smooths skin and improves hair growth
Have you come across the “Grandmother theory”?
We are genetically programmed to stop reproduction relatively young to dedicate time to dependants and their offspring. Other mammals are not programmed this way. Orca whales are the only other species to undergo menopause.
Some suggestions that may help with symptoms in the perimenopause include:
- Managing stress. Aim for good sleep and self care routine
- Reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol impairs healthy metabolism of oestrogen, and lowers progesterone and the calming action it has on the brain
- Keep track of your cycles with a perimenopause diary. Here is one to try out: cemcor.ubc.ca