Simple Techniques to Alleviate Stress

Simple Techniques to Alleviate Stress

Tired and stressed? We have all felt that way but it can be managed naturally through simple techniques such as breathing and challenging the way we think about stress.

Our psychologist Grace talks about stress and provides some simple tips on how to manage it.

What is stress?

We talk so much about it: “I had a stressful day”; “My job is very stressful”; “I don’t spend time with the kids as when I get home I am far too stressed”.

Stress can be defined as a physiological state that prepares our body  (the organism) for action. In other words, stress is our emotional and physical reaction to pressure.

That pressure can originate from external factors such as illness, death, an earthquake, having a demanding job, study etc. Also, that pressure can be caused by the way we relate to our environment.

Our bodies are ‘wired’ to respond to stress in ways that will protect us from danger. For example, when we face everyday life demands such as a demanding boss or tight deadlines it can interpret those everyday hassles as life threats. As a result, the hypothalamus (a miniscule region at the base of our brain) sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts our adrenal glands, to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Once the supposed threat has passed, hormone levels are likely to return to normal. However, if we are often passing the message to our body that it needs to get ready to fight our fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.

The challenge is that long-term activation of the stress-response system combined with the overexposure to cortisol (and other stress hormones), can destabilize/confuse our body’s processes. As a result we are at risk of developing health problems such as anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, weight gain, memory, concentration impairment etc.

As humans we are active agents who can influence the impact of a stressor throughout our behaviours, thinking and emotional state.

Tips to manage stress:

  • Breath! The way you breathe affects your whole body. Breathing exercises promote feelings of calm and relaxation, and relieve stress. Breathing exercises are easy to learn and you can do them whenever you need.
  • Challenge your thinking. Researches have shown that people give different cognitive meaning to stressors. Meaning that stress is a very personal/subjective experience. What stresses me may not stress you! Therefore, our cognitive interpretation plays a key role on the eventual magnitude on our stress response. So the way we interpret and respond to stress is crucial.
  • Notice how you may respond to thoughts such as “I haven’t got enough time”; “I can’t do this”; “This is too hard”; “I will never finish in time”. Thought are just thoughts. Perceive them just like cars in a busy road, they are just passing by, no need to react to them, observe them and just let them go. You are the thinker and not the thought!
  • Music is such a great healer. Have a relaxing playlist on your phone and take a few minutes during the day to listen to it when you need to relax.
  • Be present. We often miss the ‘here and now’ as our thoughts can be in the past or in the future. Try to take day by day and don’t plan too far ahead.
  • Develop techniques that may help you to transit from a busy day to me time or family time. Some people like to have a shower or get change when you get home.
  • Limit your responsibilities and communicate assertively – it is ok to ‘say no!’
  • Write down your stressful thoughts and feelings. Researchers have shown that Written Emotional Disclose is a valuable and cost effective therapeutic approach as it can help you to process what has happened and will give your mind a break.
  • Go back to the basic – healthy balanced diet, with lots of fruit and vegetables, reduce caffeine and alcohol intake, drink plenty of water and go to bed early.

If you are feeling stressed and would like to talk about it then either call to see your GP at the Holistic Medical Centre or call Grace or Katarina at Richmond Psychology located within the Holistic Medical Centre on the corner of Ponsonby and Crummer Rds.

Acupuncture and Pregnancy

Acupuncture and Pregnancy

Acupuncture is an ideal treatment during pregnancy and childbirth, offering women drug-free relief for a myriad of complaints that can occur during a normal pregnancy.  A noninvasive treatment; we use hair-thin sterile single-use needles to stimulate certain points and create a positive reaction.  I have found that the increased blood flow of pregnancy enhances the effects of acupuncture with fewer needles and less treatments required.

In my experience acupuncture can be beneficial in the treatment of the following conditions that can occur during a normal pregnancy;

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Varicose veins
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Chronic UTI’s
  • Sinusitis
  • Odema
  • Pregnancy induced hypertension
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Anemia

Acupuncture is a great support during the first trimester, especially for women who suffer from recurrent miscarriages. Progesterone supports the fetus until 12 weeks when the placenta is fully-grown and takes over.  Stress negatively affects progesterone with the increase of cortisol in the body.  The acupuncture treatment protocol for supporting early pregnancy is to reduce stress, calm the mind, balance the hormones and treat any underlying disharmony.  Treatment is usually continued on a weekly basis for the first trimester, which also helps with any nausea and fatigue.

If you are having a difficult time with your pregnancy, looking for a healthy supplementation treatment contact us to ask how acupuncture could help you. or

Tips and advice from The Holistic Medical Centre on all things Type 2 Diabetes

Tips and advice from The Holistic Medical Centre on all things Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a condition which mostly occurs in people aged over 40. However, globally we are seeing increasing numbers of younger people and even children diagnosed or at risk.

Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1, but in most cases can be managed through a healthy diet and lifestyle. Diabetes develops when there is not enough insulin produced and / or your cells do not use insulin properly (insulin resistance), and in type 2 diabetes the body still produces insulin so the condition develops slowly over time.

There are well known risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. These are:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Sedentary
  • Having a first degree (does this mean descendant?) relative with type 2 diabetes
  • Having pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance)
  • Having diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)

If type 2 diabetes is not well controlled it can lead to long term complications including

  • Kidney damage
  • Eye disease
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Nerve damage
  • Foot complications

Prevention is always better than cure, but if you do develop diabetes there are many things you can do to manage the effects of the disease and live an active and healthy life. We recommend coming into the Holistic Medical Centre for a thorough consultation and blood tests. We are then able to make specific recommendations to assist you individually with prevention or management.

Changing our lifestyle and diet is the most important form of treatment in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. It is also important to keep alcohol consumption to within recommended limits and to stop smoking.

Losing weight if you are overweight will improve your body’s ability to use insulin (reduce insulin resistance). It also helps lower blood pressure and can help lower cholesterol. In doing this, you reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke as well as reducing the risk of diabetes.

The best way to lose weight is to look at both diet and exercise together. Current guidance is that we do something active every day and a minimum of 2.5hours of moderate exercise spread throughout the week. It is also important to do some strengthening exercises at least twice per week. Ideally, you want to develop an exercise regimen that you can maintain long term. Exercise doesn’t have to be done at a gym, consider sports and activities you enjoy doing.

Maintaining a healthy and well balanced diet is also important.  Eating whole foods as much as possible, and getting nutrition from a range of different food sources is key to maintaining a healthy diet. We understand that making changes can be difficult, so our naturopaths can help you identify and implement specific nutritional and lifestyle changes to assist you in losing weight, prevention and management of diabetes.

If changes in lifestyle alone are not helping, there are medications that can be prescribed to help control your blood sugar levels.

The onset of type 2 diabetes is often slow, and you  The main symptoms are:

  • Excessive thirst / hunger
  • Passing large volumes of urine
  • Fatigue
  • Recurrent sores or infection
  • Blurry vision

If you have any of these symptoms or you are concerned about diabetes make an appointment to see one of our GPs at The Holistic Medical Centre

Our osteopath’s practical tips for managing sciatica

Our osteopath’s practical tips for managing sciatica

Sciatica is a fairly common condition that is estimated to affect approximately 2% of the population annually with the vast majority of cases caused by a spinal disc injury. Fortunately the prognosis for sciatica is generally good, and with some practical steps you can maximise your chances of a full and speedy recovery. Frequently asked questions:

Q: Should I rest to help my recovery?

A: There is good evidence that trying to remain active within your capabilities will aid in your long term recovery. This could include some simple stretching, water walking at your local pool or going for a short walk (even just down to the mail box can be helpful).

Q: When should I see my doctor?

A: If sciatica is having a significant impact on your everyday life, if you have had a significant accident, or if you experience any incontinence or numbness around the groin. For acute cases of sciatica the primary goal of treatment is managing your pain so it’s usually worth discussing medication with your doctor, particularly in the early stages.

Q: Do I need an X-ray?

A: Sciatica is mainly diagnosed by talking to your therapist or doctor and a physical examination. In most cases, people with sciatica don’t need an x-ray or an MRI.

Q: How can osteopathy help sciatica?

A: Osteopaths work to identify and address any underlying conditions, by obtaining full history and conducting a thorough examination of the musculoskeletal system. Your osteopath will put together a reliable strategy to manage your pain that will help:

• improve joint mobility
• minimize muscle stress and nerve irritation
• help reduce likelihood and severity of future episodes
• provide guidance on posture, exercise and stretching

With appropriate treatment and self-care strategies, most patients can expect to see improvements within days, and resolution of symptoms within weeks without the need for surgery and reduced reliance on medication.

If you are suffering from sciatica then please book online at or call Alastair on 021 1660254. Or contact the Holistic Medical Centre for a full examination on 09 3700650.

Hormone Balance

Hormone Balance

Hormones are a hot topic, it seems everyone is finally talking about them. The lives we lead can create a huge impact on our hormone balance leading us to feel like we’re going slightly crazy!

You are not alone. You may have ticked all the boxes in life…. job, house, partner, travel, recreational activities, but something is just not right. Your moods swing, you’re not sleeping well and you’ve started experiencing anxiety. PMT is off the charts, those hot flushes are getting you down, your family and friends notice something is off and you just don’t feel right!

Your clever sophisticated hormonal feedback systems have been affected by a myriad of things; those regular takeaways, too much alcohol, over the counter medications taken for that weekly headache, daily double espresso to get you going in the morning, pressure to meet the deadline and pressure to organise the family gathering.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals can also interfere with our own endocrine (or hormonal) systems. Some examples of these are beauty products, cleaning products, dioxin, PCB’s, pesticides, synthetic hormones in food and animal products.

If any of these sounds like your life, the first thing you can do to is come in and see us at the Holistic Medical Centre for a full and comprehensive assessment and functional testing. It could be as simple as a saliva sample, some blood tests or a dried urine test of comprehensive hormones (DUTCH test). These results will help us determine what your hormones are doing, and from there one of our practitioners will guide you through your analysis and prepare a simple treatment plan to help put you at ease immediately.

Menstrual cycles are on average once a month; therefore in order to assess how treatment is progressing it is necessary to follow a plan for at least 3 months to gauge the affects on your cycle. Some people get immediate relief with changes to diet and lifestyle, others need to take a recommended supplement regime for 3-6 months to help balance hormones. Most pertinent is learning how to manage stress. Stress can be actual or perceived, which places an extra load on the mind and body affecting us physically and psychologically. Learning techniques to bring the mind and body into a relaxed state will be of benefit to your hormones too, by helping to bring balance.

Tips for a healthy and happy festive season

Tips for a healthy and happy festive season

As exciting as the festive is, the fun is often precipitated by an awful lot to do and finding balance can be a challenge.

A few simple tips to help you regain some balance and keep up at this time of year:

1. Make time for quiet personal time: take a walk on the beach or with the dog, have a cup of tea and read a book or your favourite magazine, water the garden, be present in the moment or try a few yoga stretches.

2. Practice saying ‘no’: if saying yes means you are stretching yourself only to then burn out, it is worth finding ways around this or saying no, kindly. You can only give what you have, if you are feeling at the end of your tether and need a quiet night in, then go for it.

3. Dietary: Nutrients can often be lacking in the general festive diet of eating out, alcohol and sugary treats. Delicious Christmas treats can easily be over-indulged on, and often not just for 1-2 days. Here are a few tips to support your system while you still enjoy the decadence of Christmas:

  • Keep up your vegetable intake – aim to have some at each and every meal
  • Keep up with regular meals: skipping meals makes you more likely to indulge in sugar, large portions or both
  • Support the liver – try Artemis Liver Detox tea before eating out to assist with digestion and bloating and supporting detoxification within the body
  • Moderation is a good thing – enjoy your treats as opposed to allowing guilt to take over the experience.

4. Skin: Safe sun exposure increases our Vitamin D levels, which help support mood, bone density and reduces inflammation. Some of our favourite sunblock’s include: Synergie Uber Zinc; Coola Sunscreen and Skinnies – all available at The Holistic Medical Centre.

5. Keep Hydrated The holiday season usually involves running around in the sun. Hydration at this time is very important, aim to have 2.5 litres of water daily (this does not include caffeinated beverages). If drinking water is something you struggle with, add a few slices of cucumber, or seasonal berries or citrus fruit. If you exercise frequently especially outdoors, make sure you have electrolytes added into your water (without the sugar is a better option) we recommend the Elete Electrolyte drops mixed in with some fresh lemon juice.

Gut Health

Gut Health

The importance of a healthy gut cannot be underestimated, but it is often something that is overlooked. How do you know if this is something of concern for you? Some signs and symptoms of having a gut issue can include one or more of the following symptoms: uncomfortable bloating, indigestion, appetite issues, excess wind, loose bowels, difficulty in moving bowels, moving bowels more than 3 times a day or less than once a day, pain or discomfort before or after eating, pain or discomfort in the gut, headaches, fatigue, bad breath and skin issues.

Gut health is an important part of health and wellbeing for everyone!

Why is our gut health so important? Did you know that your ‘gut’ starts at your mouth and finishes at your anus? This remarkable system known as the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) contains blood vessels, nerve endings, mucosal tissue, muscle tissue, exocrine glands and accessory organs (gall bladder, liver, pancreas). Food enters the body to be digested, absorbed, metabolised (processed) and excreted.

The nerve cells lining the GIT are known as the enteric nervous system and they have a direct connection to our brain. Hence the term brain-gut connection. We all know the feeling of “butterflies” in our stomach before taking an exam or giving an important presentation. This refers to a fluttery sensation which can make us feel nervous, nauseous and makes our heart beat faster – a prime example of the brain-gut connection, which is a physical reaction to the psychlogical stress your brain is feeling.

This is why it is so important to be mindful of what we feed our brain and our body in terms of thoughts and food as these directly affect our brain and gut health.

Everything we consume needs to be digested effectively in order for our bodies to absorb and process all the required nutrients for life. 

Our top tips to improve your gut health:

  • Regularly achieve a relaxed state to relieve stress and improve digestion. When stressed the sympathetic nervous system dominates over the parasympathetic, directing blood flow and energy away from the digestive tract to the muscles and brain to co-ordinate fight or flight mode. Learning to calm the mind and body prior to meals will assist with digestion.
  • Chew food well and eat slowly to allow the start of the digestive process with enzyme release from salivary glands, triggering chemical digestion to commence in the stomach.
  • Eat unprocessed, natural whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, dairy and meat to support energy levels, mood, strength, stamina, individual cellular processes and major organ function.
  • Include 7-10 serves daily of dark leafy greens and colourful vegetables in the diet, chop, slice, grate, raw, roast, or steam. One serve is one of your handfuls.
  • Include bitter foods such as radicchio, endive, mustard greens, chicory, dandelion leaves, cos, silverbeet and grapefruit to aid digestion by stimulating bile flow.
  • Ensure your daily diet contains fibre sourced from whole foods, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains.
  • Fermented foods contain pre and probiotics that support the GITs natural flora.
  • Drink 1.5-2L of filtered water and herbal teas daily.

If you want to learn more about your gut health, or if you are currently experiencing a gut related health issue such as IBS, IBD, Coeliac, Crohn’s, candida, dysbiosis, allergies, intolerances, skin issues, autoimmune disease, menstrual and menopausal issues, UTI’s or recurrent infections, you would benefit from making an appointment with one of our Holistic Medical Centre Health Practitioners. We can provide a thorough consultation and functional testing to investigate the root cause of your issues, and support you with a manageable treatment plan guiding you to your optimal health.

Please note: some people with gut issues are unable to tolerate high fibre, fermented or raw food diet, especially during acute phases of illness – consult your Holistic Medical Centre Naturopath for dietary guidance.

Exhaustion and Fatigue – Cause and Dietary Advice

Exhaustion and Fatigue – Causes and Dietary Advice

How many of you are dragging yourselves out of bed in the morning to get to the gym, take the kids to school, get to work, make another deadline, attend to a sick family member, keep the house/kids/job/partner happy, arrange extracurricular activities….. phew where is the YOU in this?

Or have you reduced your workload, cut out the gym, said no to that invitation, let the washing and the dishes accumulate, have no dependants, and you’re still exhausted?!

Exhaustion and fatigue can be the result of physical and/or emotional stressors. Each person will be effected differently and have a different perception of these effects. Acute or chronic illness, poor diet, abuse, over work, injury, grief, substance abuse, poor sleep, constant worry/fear, poor digestion, toxicity – the list is endless.

Firstly it is most important to have a thorough check up with your Holistic Medical Centre G.P. to rule out any underlying medical causes. It could be as simple as having a set of routine blood tests covering the following:

  • Full blood count
  • Iron studies
  • Thyroid function tests
  • Hormone levels
  • Liver and kidney function
  • Nutrient levels; Vitamin D, Zinc, Folate/B12, Magnesium

Further functional testing that can provide detailed information

  • DUTCH (Dried Urine testing for Comprehensive Hormones)
  • Salivary hormones and Adrenocortex stress profile
  • CDSA (Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis) or Bioscreen
  • OAT (Organic Acids Test)

Your Holistic Medical Centre Naturopath will provide a full and comprehensive personal assessment, looking at your signs and symptoms, health history, diet and lifestyle.

Some quick tips to help you get started on the right track:

  • Eat a diet of unprocessed whole natural foods, preferably organic
  • Eat an abundance of fresh colourful and dark leafy green vegetables. Aim for 5-10 servings a day (one serving is one of your handfuls)
  • Include healthy fats, at least 2 Tablespoons per serve of avocado, olive oil, walnuts, chia seeds, sardines, organic eggs
  • Keep hydrated with 1.5-2L of filtered water daily
  • Get 30-60mins of safe sun exposure daily
  • Gentle daily movement, walks in nature, yoga/tai chi, swimming
  • Spend time feeling joyful, watch funny cats on youtube, play guitar, sing

Allergies – Hay fever: Allergic Rhinitis

Tips for reducing hayfever symptoms naturally

Hay fever also known as allergic rhinitis affects 20% of New Zealand’s, for some it is only experienced for a short duration of the year – most commonly through spring and summer and can vary in duration and severity.

Exaggerated immune responses to these common allergens are usually triggered by wind borne allergens from trees, grasses, weeds, mould spores, dust mites and animal dander.  This can lead to an exaggerated immune response by inhaling, touching or ingesting these commonly found culprits.  Symptoms can include runny nose, stuffy nose, coughing or an itchy throat, bouts of sneezing, irritated and watery eyes.

As part of the body’s response to these allergens, the body secretes a compound called ‘histamine’ in response to allergies, and causes dilation of capillaries leading to the unwanted symptoms. While it’s impossible to avoid the outdoors all together, there are certain ways to ease the body’s response to allergens.

Tips to reduce Histamine:

  • Avoid High Histamine Level Foods:
    • Alcohol
    • Pickled or canned foods
    • Matured cheese
    • Smoked meats: salami, ham, sausages
    • Shellfish
    • Beans and pulses: chickpeas, soy beans, peanuts
    • Nuts: walnuts, cashews
    • Cocoa based products
    • Vinegar
    • Salty snacks or sweets with preservatives and artificial colouring
  • Avoid foods that trigger the release of histamine:
    • Eggs, corn, wheat, yeast, dairy products, citrus fruits, food additives and preservatives
  • Increase Vitamin C intake
    • Food sources include: pawpaw, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, tomatoes, cabbage, and strawberries. *Citrus has been excluded as this can trigger the response of histamine.
  • Increase intake of quercetin rich foods:
    • Onions, garlic, capsicum, apples, blueberries
    • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, broccoli sprouts
  • Lifestyle suggestions to reduce pollen:
    • Wash bedding and dry either in clothes dryer if windy day or you are mowing lawns.
    • Vacuum 2-3 times per week especially if you have pets – use a vacuum that has a Hepa-Filter such as a Dyson vacuum.
    • Avoid going out when it is dry and windy as pollen release is increased on a warm, dry, windy day whereas rain washes the air clean of pollens.

To find out more on how you can decrease the symptoms of your allergies, book in to see a naturopath at the Holistic Medical Centre on 09 370 0650.

7 Positive Side Effects of Acupuncture

7 Positive Side Effects of Acupuncture

Most people find their love for acupuncture following initial treatment for musculoskeletal issues.  Through treatment for existing pain, they become aware other aspects of their health are improving.  Yes, acupuncture will help your neck, shoulder and lower back pain, but the benefits for your health and wellbeing are much more far-reaching. These are several positive side effects of acupuncture most often reported:

Improved sleep – within Chinese medicine, one falls asleep easily, sleeping consistently throughout the night, opening eyes only when the sun rises.  One of the best side effects of regular acupuncture treatment is better sleep.  Reducing pathological habits resulting in difficulty falling asleep, light sleeping, thirst at night, vivid dreaming, nocturia, waking at intervals and night sweating.  Good sleep is a foundation to healing in the body and is always added as a treatment protocol if needed.

Digestion – What we eat is the easiest way to build more Qi (energy) and make us stronger.  Acupuncture aids absorption and regulates digestion.  In most treatment protocols the Spleen energy (digestion) is examined, with dietary and lifestyle advice.  Repetitive injuries can be due to irregular diet or digestion issues, causing weakness.

Boosts immunity – As any imbalances are regulated in the body, acupuncture builds your bodies Qi and positively affects the T cells in the body, making one less susceptible to cold and flu as well as aiding unpleasant symptoms of the winter season.

Reduced Stress – Many people start noticing how much better they are coping with their stress.  Often we hear how something previously bothersome no longer affects them.  They are making better lifestyle choices for work-life balance and fitting more gentle exercise in.  Acupuncture is one of the best ways to ward off the negative effects of stress on the body.

Reduced anxiety and depression – Research has shown that acupuncture greatly reduces anxiety and depression.  It stimulates the neurotransmitters increasing serotonin and endorphins in the body.

Regulates the emotions – Often we get told that the highs and lows of emotions have evened out throughout treatment.  People say the traffic is not making them angry, or they are not yelling at their children so much.

Regulate menstruation – Many women say a positive side effect in balancing the Qi in the body is that their menstrual cycle is better with reduced pain and less premenstrual symptoms.

Acupuncture is a holistic approach to healthcare providing individualised treatment.

We are ACC registered practitioners feel free to contact us to talk about any pain you might be experiencing or ask how acupuncture can help your body heal.  We are available Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays at the Holistic Medical Centre.  Visit to contact us or make a reservation.