The microbiome - we hear so much about it these days - but what is the microbiome?
Did you know that it is estimated that there are as many microbes in our microbiome as there are human cells in the body?
Did you know that the microbiome includes the microbiome of your gut, your skin, your mouth, your privates - in short everywhere?
A healthy microbiome - what exactly is that? Well, diversity appears to be the key factor. Perhaps easier, is to ask - what is an unhealthy microbiome? This would be a microbiome that is heavily populated by microbes that can cause disease or at least symptoms of dis-ease such as flatulence, burping, gas, constipation, diarrhoea, skin issues, etc. Perhaps an over-run of fungals such as candida. What we also know is that our microbiome has changed significantly over the last 50 years in line with the increase of highly processed foods in our diet.
Diseases that may be implicated with an unbalanced microbiome:
What can you do? Include plenty of vegetables in your diet - eat a rainbow diet of coloured vegetables and healthy proteins. Foster a healthy microbiome with prebiotics such as vegetables and investigate the use of recommended probiotics.
Contact me if you would like more information on the microbiome.
Eat well! 🥗🥕🍅🌽🥦🫑🌱
Image source: NIH, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Thyroid disease affects every single cell in your body. This is because there are thyroid receptors in every cell of your body. It is estimated that more than half of people affected by thyroid disease, don't know it yet. Women are 10 times more likely to experience thyroid problems, probably due to the interaction of female hormones.
Broadly speaking, thyroid disease can be divided into hypoactivity or hyperactivity of the thyroid. However, many times, these two actions of the thyroid can be the result of both of the main two thyroid diseases - Hashimoto Thyroiditis and Graves' disease.
Hashimoto Thyroiditis was named after the Japanese physician Hakaru Hashimoto who first described the disease in 1912. Grave's Disease was named after the Irish doctor Robert James Graves in 1835. Both diseases are autoimmune and attack the thyroid, though with differing effects. Sometimes, people can have both diseases which are diagnosed by assessing thyroid hormone levels and antibody tests.
Symptoms of these disease can therefore also overlap, depending at what stage each disease is. For example, weight gain is a common symptom of Hashimoto and weight loss for Graves' disease though often these are reversed depending on each body's response to the autoimmune attack.
An overview of thyroid dysfunction is illustrated here:
As you can see, symptoms vary greatly and it takes a bit of detective work to tie these together and investigate for thyroid disease. Sometimes, blood testing does not give an immediate black and white result. This is especially common in the early stages of thyroid disease and sadly, patients are often told, they are 'fine', when they don't feel 'fine' and are often told they just have anxiety/depression. As you can see, depression is a common symptom of thyroid disease - however, anxiety is even more common and frequently dismissed as a symptom of physical disease.
As the thyroid is so widely involved in body mechanics - it is not surprising that ignoring thyroid health can have devastating long term effects. Undiagnosed and further, untreated thyroid disease can be linked with many illnesses and symptoms. Just some of these can include:
Depression, anxiety, miscarriage, infertility, vertigo, eye disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, thyroid cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, stroke, heart attack and congestive heart failure.
Take thyroid health seriously - your body and mind will thank you for it.
If you would like further help with your thyroid health, please contact me.
I have also started a Thyroid Health group on Facebook, linked under the Tolle Totum Health Facebook page. You can access this group here.
In the meantime, eat well. 🥬🍎🥑🍓🐟🥦🍣🌱
Photo credit: Psychology Today
The purpose of this blog is to make people aware of the physical causes of anxiety and panic attacks and that there are solutions and options for dealing with it.
Where to start? Anxiety has been the bane of most of my life. However, for quite a large amount of time, I didn't really understand what anxiety was, what caused it and why it was happening to me. I think a lot people can identify with this. Anxiety is very common - and indeed, talking about it, has made it something we now talk about often. At what point, however, does anxiety become a real problem? Sure, we all have anxiety about public speaking, starting a new job perhaps, or going to the dentist. When does anxiety become an issue that affects your everyday life?
Anxiety symptoms can include several of the following: shortness of breath (or episodes of deep breathing), racing heartbeat, constant and repetitive thoughts, disturbed sleep pattern, exhaustion, unsettled digestion, increased sweating, easily startled, trembling, shaking and headaches. These an further culminate in an 'anxiety attack' or 'panic attack'. This is a more severe form and can include: rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, nausea, fear of dying. This can be a very scary experience and I advise that you seek medical advice to find out what could be causing these panic attacks.
So what is anxiety? Anxiety is a complex set of biochemistry events that are orchestrated within your body. It can involve neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), adrenalin & noradrenalin (or epinephrine & norepinephrine), dopamine and thyroid hormones. All of these are involved in a beautiful dance of harmony within the human body. However, sometimes, these neurotransmitters can behave in an erratic and unusual way that can result in anxiety that is beyond 'normal' levels of anxiety. I have purposefully quoted 'normal' as everyone is different and we fit on a scale of normality that may be normal for some people and not for others. The key is finding out what is 'normal' for you. In fact, many people are suffering from anxiety and may not even know that they have anxiety - and the key here is - why they have anxiety.
So anxiety can occur from factors within the body and of course, from factors from outside the body. This can be an outside event, such as trauma from a car accident, earthquakes, etc. but, importantly, anxiety can also come from internal events. These can be from self-induced factors such as drugs like caffeine, nicotine, cannabis and alcohol. Yes, usually cannabis has a calming effect on the body and brain - but often, cannabis (in particularly high THC cannabis, not medical cannabis) can cause the opposite, in particular with long-term use. This can create a vicious cycle, where individuals will feel anxious, then use nicotine, cannabis and/or alcohol to help them calm down in the short-term, but in the long-term, some individuals can be much more anxious as a result. The key here is noticing that these substances can cause this issue. Many people are unaware of this problem and it may take someone close to that person to point this out.
There are also other causes of anxiety. Nutrition plays a key role in anxiety - the body needs a variety of vitamins and minerals to support neurotransmitter production, so a deficiency in these from a poor diet or poor gut health, will often predispose the body to an imbalance of neurotransmitters which can cause havoc with your emotions and mental health. Good nutrition and gut health is vital in supporting the body and mind.
Diseases such as thyroid disease are often a hidden cause of anxiety and panic attacks. I began my journey into natural health after a 20 year struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, finally resulting in a diagnosis of thyroid disease. I now specialise in helping people discover and treat thyroid disease.
More on this in my next blog.
I am a food. Most people like me though some can't stand me.
I was used by the Romans as a laxative and to cure fever. The Greeks offered me to the sun god Apollo in the temple of Delphi. My worth was equal in weight to silver.
My juice is highly valuable and has been shown to lower high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose.
I am a rich source of folate, potassium, manganese, iron and vitamin C.
I am rich in inorganic nitrate and researchers believe I have a positive effect on the balance of the oral microbiome (mouth bacteria) if you drink my juice.
I am also useful in assisting in moving bowel motions.
I am high in nutrients such as anthocyaninlutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, vitamin C, fibre, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and quercetin.
I help with the digestion of fatty foods by thinning bile in the gallbladder and assisting the liver in detoxification.
Kiwis seems to have a particular liking for me (the people, not the bird).
Consumption of me can cause urine and bowel movements to be dyed red. In fact, I am often used as dye in the food industry.
Have you guessed who I am?
I am beetroot.
Beetroot can be eaten raw, cooked or pickled. Leaves are delicious in salads and curries. The famous beetroot soup, Borscht, of Eastern European origin, can be made hot or cold.
Drinking one cup of beetroot juice every day can have a significant effect on people with high blood pressure (Siervo et al., 2013).
Beetroot juice can also lower blood sugar levels after eating (Wootton-Beard PC, et al., 2014).
Contact me if you would like further information how I can assist in improving your health.
In the meantime, eat well. 🥬🍎🥑🍓🐟🥦🍣🌱
Siervo M, et al. (2013). Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation reduces blood pressure in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. DOI: 10.3945/jn.112.170233
Wootton-Beard PC, et al. (2014). Effects of a beetroot juice with high neobetanin content on the early-phase insulin response in healthy volunteers. DOI: 10.1017/jns.2014.7
Research into supporting depression through good nutrition has been increasing in recent years. Twelve key nutrients have been identified as 'antidepressant nutrients' that can play a role in the prevention and promotion of recovery from depressive disorders. These ‘antidepressant nutrients’ are:
1. Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs)
7. Vitamin A
8. Vitamin B1
9. Vitamin B6
10. Vitamin B12
12. Vitamin C
During one such study (LaChance & Ramsey, 2018) an antidepressant food score was developed and identified three highest scoring foods:
Non-seafood sources of omega-3 rich foods in particular, include nuts, seeds, seaweed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts and kidney beans (Medical News Today, 2020).
Unfortunately, many Western diets are low in antidepressant nutrients. Focusing on increasing foods rich in these nutrients could make a difference to your health.
Give it a go 🥬🦪🥑🐟🥦🍣🌱
LaChance, L. R., & Ramsey, D. (2018). Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World Journal of Psychiatry, 8(3), 97–104. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v8.i3.97
Medical News Today, (2020). What are the best sources of omega-3? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323144
I am a chemical produced by the body that acts as a neurotransmitter.
I help regulate stomach acid and boost libido, support the brain and help fight off infection.
Oestrogen increases my production.
Too much of me can result in nausea, headaches, vertigo, flushing, rapid heartbeat, stomach aches, diarrhoea, nose congestion and asthma.
I am also present in food and drinks and can also cause the body to produce more of me. Some foods and drinks can cause a strong reaction in some people because of me.
The body produces me to ward off allergies but I can also cause an over-reaction. I have an important role in making you itch.
Have you guessed who I am?
I am Histamine....
Histamine is a protein produced by mast cells, a type of white blood cell. Too much histamine can be due to mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) where excess histamine is released. Excess histamine can also be caused by poor gut function.
Oestrogen can increase histamine levels in the body by stimulating mast cells and at the same time, reduce the body's ability to clear excess histamine from the body. This combination can also cause heavy periods and period pain.
If you need help assessing whether or not you have a possible issue with histamine, you can contact me here.
Photo credit: Nicole de Khors
It is the autumn or March equinox here in New Zealand and conversely the spring equinox in the Northern hemisphere. During the equinox, the tilt of the Earth's axis with respect to the sun is exactly 0. Daylight and nighttime hours are now almost equal. It is a time of balance and good reminder to take stock of where you find yourself at this point in time. Autumn is an important part of nature - it's time to prepare for the winding down phase of the year. This does not always reflect in our real lives - we don't usually tend to wind down over winter but nevertheless, your body probably does. This might not be obvious but I think everyone has their own clues about when autumn starts to prepare you for winter. It could be the little sighs you have when it's getting darker earlier, or the little bits of apprehension one gets when the weather turns cooler.
Take your cue and listen to nature. Prepare yourself to wind down a bit mentally, slow down physically. Take stock. Check if you are doing ok. How is your health? How are the stress levels? Do you need to schedule in some time to relax? Do you know that winter might make you feel a bit down? Does lack of sunshine affect you? Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is associated with reduced access to sunshine and in particular, vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in New Zealand and indeed, around the world. We used to think that just spending 15 minutes in the sun, was enough time for us to maintain vitamin D levels. This alone, does not explain why so many New Zealanders experience vitamin D deficiency - we are an outdoor-loving people. Vitamin D regulates expression of over 2000 human genes. It helps regulate calcium, phosphorous and bone turnover. It supports the immune system by regulating inflammation and acts as a hormone which is involved in insulin secretion, controlling the metabolism and modulating excess cell proliferation.
But like in nature, vitamins don't work in isolation - they need the synergy of other vitamins and minerals to function at their best. One of these includes magnesium. Magnesium is needed to support the utilisation of vitamin D. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include tense and sore muscles, headaches, migraines, irritability, constipation, high blood pressure and struggling to sleep. Foods high in magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, avocado, corn, garlic, blackberries, cabbage, grapes, pineapple and mushrooms.
So now is the time to reflect, enjoy some sunshine and make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet - eat well. 🌞🥬🥑🍇🍎🥦
Photo by Avelino Calvar Martinez
The term 'quake brain' is now another kiwi saying that has become associated with the Canterbury quakes similar to 'munted' and 'kia haha'.
Though many of us can certainly relate to it - not everyone knows who experiences it, what it is. Quake brain has been described as a 'mental hangover' from the stresses that the earthquakes caused. Brain fog, fatigue, irritability, the inability to put words into sentences are just some of the symptoms experienced. It has been associated with significant impairment in memory and functions such as emotional processing. A recent study also found that Cantabrians who had experienced the earthquakes also had significant poorer visual memory than others. There are many more issues such as PTSD and anxiety issues that are associated with traumatic events such as these. Recently funding has been extended to conduct further research and I look forward to solutions that may be presented in due course.
It is important to recognise 'quake brain' as it demonstrates that the term 'resilience' so often used to describe human's ability to cope with trauma is not recognising the fact that we are also suffering. We often say we are 'fine' when in reality, we are not. We often suffer in silence and the longer term issues of poor mental health are swept under the carpet. Yes, we are resilient. We were stoic, we coped, we went back to work, school and carried on. However, we also need to acknowledge there are issues. Only when you see the problem, can you strive to resolve it.
One notable, local researcher in recent years, Prof Julia Rucklidge, has been working to help people struggling with mental health. Her research into nutrition and its affects in mental health have been ground breaking in that the connection between these two are clearly demonstrated. Naturopaths and Nutritionists has long recognised the connection with good nutrition and mental health and we appreciate research being conducted into this vital area. If you are interested, Prof Rucklidge is often looking for research participants and can be contacted at Te Puna Toiora: Mental Health and Nutrition Research at Canterbury University.
Stay well and eat well ❤️🥕🥦🥑🍎
Photo credit: Ryan Bruce
Samira Manners - registered naturopath, medical herbalist and nutritionist.