Tips to ease hay fever symptoms naturally

Tips to ease hay fever symptoms naturally

Winter is quickly coming to an end, and on fine days we can start feeling spring is arriving soon. In Chinese Medicine, spring is the season of the Wood element and the Liver organ system. This means a time of rejuvenation and new growth. Unfortunately, for some of us, it also marks the season of hay fever.

Hay fever is a common condition in which the immune system “over reacts” to seasonal changes. Plant pollen and dust irritate the mucus membranes in our respiratory system and cause and allergic reaction. It is important to recognise what triggers your hay fever for better treatment results. Symptoms can include a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, post nasal drip, sinus congestion and headaches. Your doctor may prescribe antihistamines or decongestants to address these symptoms. However, these medications can make you feel drowsy and there are other ways, more natural ways, you can prepare yourself for spring.

Acupuncture treatment is a great way to ease acute hay fever symptoms as well as addressing the root cause of the condition; an overactive immune system.  In Chinese medicine we call this your wei qi or antipathogenic qi, basically your immune system.  Treatment is a balance between treating acute hayfever signs and boosting your immune system to reduce the factors that cause it to overact to your various triggers.

Acupuncture treatment is a holistic personal treatment, each person has different triggers and reactions. Your acupuncture practitioner will tailor the treatment to your needs and will recommend life style adjustments to reduce your hayfever reactions.

To help reduce hay fever symptoms, we recommend you reduce intake of alcohol and dairy food and increase the intake of easy to digest, warm food such as soups and slow cooked stews. Elderflower Tea may help relieve the symptoms of nasal congestion, sinus inflammation, runny nose, headache and itchy eyes.  You may also want to increase your intake of vitamin C to support your body through the change of seasons.

If you regularly suffer from hay fever, schedule an appointment soon, so we can help before symptoms arise.  Get in touch with our acupuncture team and we’ll help you spring into spring. For a personalised, natural and safe way to improve your health and ease hay fever give acupuncture a try.

info@acupunctureauckland.co.nz or http://www.acupunctureauckland.co.nz

Ashwagandha: Nature’s Gift for Anxiety

Ashwagandha: Nature’s Gift for Anxiety

Ashwagandha is probably one of the most popular and prescribed herbal medicines at the Holistic Medical Centre, by our doctors and naturopaths alike. As a result, we thought this wonderful herb deserved a special introduction of its own.

Also commonly known as Withania, ashwagandha is a herb native to India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. It has been prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners for thousands of years and has many studies supporting its safety and efficacy. Traditionally, the herb has been used to support convalescence after a period of illness. However, its ability to reduce anxiety symptoms, boost mood and strengthen the body against stress and fatigue has made it a valuable tool for combatting these common ailments of modern society.

Through supporting adrenal performance, calming the nervous system, and enhancing immunity and brain function, ashwagandha has an excellent all round ability to support individuals through prolonged stressful periods that all too often result in further health disturbances. As a result, the herb has become a firm favourite in our practice for helping our patients to cope with stress and anxiety, as well as reducing associated symptoms such as mood and sleep disturbances, heart palpitations, feelings of overwhelm, and heightened sensitivity to stimulation.

Preliminary trials have found ashwagandha to be as effective as some prescription anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs. Additionally, it has been shown to lower the production of the stress hormone cortisol which is often elevated in stressed individuals (on the flip side, it can also increase cortisol in people with low levels of this hormone). It is thought to exert many of its calming effects affects via stimulation of GABA activity – a natural hormone produced by our bodies to calm and relax us.

As with many herbs, ashwagandha has numerous beneficial therapeutic actions that make it an excellent medicinal herb to use for the many conditions associated with or exacerbated by, anxiety, these include:

  • Reducing anxiety and calming the nervous system
  • Protecting against the effects of stress
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Enhancing learning and memory
  • Increasing libido in men and women
  • Supporting convalescence after illness
  • Enhancing immune function
  • Helping ease inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and painful joints

So you can see why we find this herb so beneficial in our practice!

Diet and lifestyle also have an important role to play in reducing anxiety.

Alongside herbal support, it is so important to look at our daily nutritional intake and lifestyles, and how they may be contributing to our symptoms. Two important aspects to consider in anxiety are dietary and breathing patterns.

Fluctuations in blood-sugar levels can trigger the release of our stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol which in turn can trigger anxiety symptoms such as shaking, heart palpitations, and heightened awareness. Regular consumption of alcohol and sugary foods will cause an initial rise in blood sugars, followed by a corresponding drop. During the high you tend to feel relaxed and alert, while the drop can leave you feeling anxious and shaky. This is because your body responds to low blood-sugar levels by releasing adrenaline and cortisol in order to bring your glucose levels back into balance. If you find yourself constantly turning to sweet foods or caffeinated drinks for energy then this is a sign that you will be experiencing some degree of blood sugar fluctuations.

Coffee consumption can double the levels cortisol and adrenaline released, as well block the production of GABA – one of our feel good, calming hormones. Thus, in susceptible individuals, coffee consumption can lead to worsened anxiety. In fact, ask any anxiety expert and they will confirm that the food that most readily stimulates anxiety is coffee!

The best way to avoid blood sugar fluctuations, as well as unnecessary adrenaline and cortisol release is to limit your consumption of caffeine and limit sugary or refined carbohydrate foods like breads, muffins, biscuits and sweets in preference for whole complex carbohydrates, quality fats, fibre and protein. The thought of going without a daily coffee and muffin break can be horrific for some people, but rest assured there are some wonderful alternatives. Likewise, many people are unaware that their diet may be low in protein or quality fats, so often getting a little support and advice from one of our naturopaths can make a big difference here.

Anxious people often breathe in their upper chest, using short, shallow breaths, rather than breathing into their lower chest. Upper chest breathing mimics the rapid shallow breath that we switch on in stressful situations and can exacerbate and even trigger anxiety symptoms.  Ideally, we should spend the majority of our time using gentle, lower chest breathing which utilizes our diaphragm muscle and turns off our stress response – helping us to feel calmer and focused. Take a minute to observe what your breathing habit is – you may be surprised! Correcting your breathing patterns takes practice and commitment – but it can be done. Try starting with the simple breathing practice below.

At the Holistic Medical Centre, we combine our medical expertise with naturopathic healthcare and disciplines, including herbal medicines, lifestyle and nutritional advice. The combination of these practices allows us to limit the need for medications where appropriate, while at the same time provide effective and supportive treatment for our patients. Herbal medicines are generally safer than prescription drugs, and pose no addiction concerns. Therefore, wherever possible we seek to find herbal and lifestyle solutions for your anxiety issues.

Ashwagandha is a very safe herb with very few reported side-effects. However, as with all herbal medicines, it should not be taken without supervision by a qualified practitioner.

Breathe out: breathing practice to reduce anxiety

Belly breathing is easy to do and very relaxing.  Try this basic exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress.  It can be practiced at home, in the shower, at the traffic lights – anywhere when you have a few minutes to sit or relax quietly.  I recommend practicing this 3 times daily when you can as it will really help to encourage relaxation and switch off stress.

Method

  • Sit in a comfortable position.
  • Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
  • Take a slow gentle breath in through your nose to a count of 2, and let your belly push your hand out.  Your chest should not move.
  • Pause for 2.
  • Breathe out gently through your nose to a count of 3. You can do this through pursed lips as if you were whistling if your nose is blocked or runny.
  • Feel the hand on your belly go in slightly as you breathe out.
  • Do this breathing 3 to 10 times.  Take your time with each breath.

Good Posture: Why should we bother?

Good Posture: Why should we bother?

Your posture provides the foundation for every movement your body makes and can determine how well the body adapts to the variety of stresses placed on it. In many cases, posture is also an important factor in addressing complaints ranging from hip pain to headaches. For example, it is a fact that many people with ongoing low back pain habitually adopt a slouched or flexed position when sitting that actually exacerbates their pain. While many people are aware that altering their posture may have positive effects, unfortunately, it usually isn’t as simple as sitting up straight.

For most of us, good posture conjures images of erect spines, retracted shoulders with a plumb line running from ears to ankles like the Queen’s Guard, standing to attention outside Buckingham Palace. This preconception results in the most common strategy that people attempt to improve their posture, forcing themselves to sit straighter. While it is certainly possible to adjust posture by sheer willpower, for most of us it simply isn’t feasible to maintain attention on our posture for more than a couple of minutes before the distractions of everyday life intervene and we end up falling back into old habits. The next issue that is often encountered is that sitting straight doesn’t always feel natural, in some cases it actually makes people feel worse. Over working all of your postural muscles may actually make them more sensitive and painful than relaxing them and allowing yourself to slouch a bit could actually be more beneficial than straining to sit up straight.  The truth is that ideal posture is unique to each person and depends on their particular structure and there really is no one size fits all solution.

If you believe that your posture is contributing to a problem, or you simply want to try to improve your posture here are some tips that may help get you sitting or standing a little more comfortably.

How to improve your posture

Lay the foundation for change with osteopathy

It can be really challenging to change your posture if you are already in pain, so it is a great idea to address the pain before trying to change your posture. Muscle pain is often very responsive to manual therapy so a visit to your osteopath will help set up the best environment for postural change. For example, you may find that sitting upright feel much better in the low back but then may lead to a niggly pain in the hip. This is an example of an impairment in hip movement that doesn’t allow the spine to return to a neutral position. Osteopaths are great at finding these impairments and helping you unravel them.

Sort out your sleep

Fatigue can be a significant barrier to changing any habits including posture. Enacting some simple sleep hygiene may be enough, but persistent insomnia may require a visit to your naturopath or GP. Some useful tips can be found on the Holistic Medical Centre blog here

Use external cues

Old postural habits die hard, especially if you aren’t even aware of them. A few strategic post it notes, a reminder on your phone or asking friends and family to remind you to reset your posture can all be valuable ways of shifting stubborn postural habits.

Exercise

What sort of exercise? Really any will do. There are a number of reasons that increasing activity is a good idea beyond the potential benefits to your posture. There is plenty of evidence to show that sedentary lifestyles lead to deconditioning of muscle, including those oh so important postural muscles. Choosing something challenging and yet engaging will eventually lead to your body adapt to the demands placed upon it regardless of whether it is weight lifting or water-skiing. So just get moving and focus on activities you enjoy. Easy!

Spend some time on the floor

Our ancestors evolved in an environment without couches, lazy boys and ergonomic office chairs. Their world was composed solely of hard jagged things. Spending even 5 minutes a day in one of the archetypal human postures of squatting, kneeling or sitting cross-legged is a great way of introducing some much-needed variety into our postures and can help reactivate some of those atrophied postural muscles.

Final thoughts

Good posture is about being able to adapt to the variety of demands placed on the body, thus allowing for efficient movement in a pain-free and easy way. If you can meet these requirements then you probably don’t need to worry too much about your posture, regardless of how it looks. Is there really such as thing as perfect posture? The simple answer is no, not really. A healthy posture can be thought of in much the same way that we think of a healthy diet. Variety is important for both. If you would like help with your posture you can call Alastair on 021 166 0254 or book online at www.medosteo.co.nz for an assessment.

 

Winter Wellness from Your Naturopath

Winter wellness tips from your naturopath

As the cool winter months set in many people find that they are more prone to catching coughs and colds and other airborne viruses. Rather than await your wintery fate, it can be a good idea to consider a few supplements and dietary changes to help increase your immunity and ward off the winter ills and chills naturally.

One of the most powerful ways to boost your natural defenses against the winter bugs is through diet and lifestyle. By following the steps below you will be on a fast track to a healthier winter!

  • Eat plenty of leafy greens that are rich in immune-enhancing phytonutrients.
  • Enjoy foods rich in vitamin C.  Some of your best winter food sources of vitamin C are parsley, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, leafy greens, red capsicum and fresh sprouts.
  • Include antimicrobial, immune boosting herbs and spices in your daily diet  – ginger, turmeric, garlic, rosemary, and thyme are all excellent options.
  • Get adequate, good quality sleep. Sleep has a powerful regulatory effect on your immune system.  Studies show that sleep deprivation can lead to compromised immune function, leaving you more at risk of catching coughs and colds.
  • Enjoy regular exercise. Exercise will not only boost immune function but also stress resilience.

There are a number of herbs and supplements that have proven immune boosting properties and can be very beneficial to take at this time of year, below are just a few examples of the numerous tools you have on hand to support your good health through winter!

Probiotics

Did you know roughly 80% of your immune system resides in your gut! Thus, a healthy immune system depends on a healthy gut. Probiotics supplements may help reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections as well as supporting your immunity generally.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has excellent immune enhancing properties as well as significantly reducing the risk of respiratory infections in children. This valuable nutrient also takes quite a dip through the winter months as your sunlight exposure drops naturally.  It is best to talk to a qualified health practitioner before supplementing with vitamin D as this is one of those vitamins where too little and too much can be dangerous.

Zinc

Zinc can help to prevent or decrease the duration of sore throats and respiratory infections that are so common in winter.  As zinc is generally low in New Zealand soils, deficiencies are commonly found here. We generally recommend most people take a zinc supplement for three months during winter. Excess doses can cause gastric upset and nausea so it is important to talk to your health provider to find the correct dose for you.

Astragalus and Echinacea

Astragalus and echinacea are two powerful immune-supportive herbs that can help to prevent the occurrence of coughs, colds and respiratory tract infection, as well as shorten the duration and severity of these winter ills. Astragalus also has “adaptogenic” properties, which means it helps your body better deal with the effects of emotional and physical stress – both of which can compromise immune health and function.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C supports white blood cell activity, which in turn helps to fight off infection and improve your immune resilience.  It is useful to take a loading dose of vitamin C at the first sign of infection.  As vitamin C is a water soluble nutrient, it cannot be stored for a long time in the body, so small regular daily doses are important. A buffered vitamin C in a drink bottle (ideally glass) sipped throughout the day over a handful of days is a good way to top up your vitamin C levels without upsetting your digestion.

If you are particularly prone to recurrent infections at this time of year then booking in a naturopathic appointment to have a full assessment may be a wise investment.  We will be able to prepare a treatment plan with individual herbs and supplements tailored to your specific needs.

Children can be particularly at risk of respiratory infections, viruses and flus during the winter time as their immune systems are still developing, and they are often picky when it comes to eating healthy immune boosting- foods.  A naturopath can help you to develop dietary strategies as well investigate other factors that may be contributing to your child’s compromised health, such as food intolerances, nutritional deficiencies and digestive imbalances.

Prevention is always better than cure – and can save you a lot of time and energy in the long run!

Perimenopause – could this explain your symptoms?

Perimenopause – could this explain your symptoms?

We have all heard of the term menopause – the time of life when a woman naturally stops ovulating, and as such her periods cease and her oestrogen and progesterone levels drop off. Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 48-55 years and can result in a varying degree of uncomfortable symptoms including hot flashes, vaginal dryness and sleeping problems.

However, many women in their 40s can be surprised to experience menopausal-type afflictions, most commonly hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, shortened menstrual cycles, and lighter or heavier periods, or a combination of the two. These symptoms can be difficult to manage and greatly interfere with quality of life. They can also understandably cause confusion and concern…Am I going through menopause when I am only 41?!

Most likely this is not the case. Rather it can be the lesser-known transitional period of perimenopause that can last anything from 2-10 years plus and often produces more discomfort than menopause. It usually begins around the age of 45 but can start from anything up to 10 years prior. The symptoms of perimenopause are most commonly caused by wildly fluctuating oestrogen levels, which lead the individual on a roller-coaster ride of emotions and hormonal disturbances. Elevated oestrogen levels result in irritability, fluid retention, painful breasts and heavy menstrual flow, while a plummet to low oestrogen triggers hot flashes, night sweats and depression.

Declining levels of the feel-good, anti-anxiety hormone progesterone further exacerbates these symptoms. The majority of a woman’s progesterone is produced during ovulation, thus progesterone levels naturally decrease during perimenopause as ovulation becomes less frequent. This decline can be buffered somewhat by progesterone secretion from the adrenal glands. However since the adrenal glands are also responsible for producing the stress hormone cortisol, if a woman is highly stressed, then adrenal progesterone production will be dialed down in preference for cortisol production.

Sadly, perimenopause is barely recognised as a condition that needs support, yet women going through this transition are clearly very vulnerable and have much higher rates of anxiety, insomnia and depression. Add to this, one of the most stressful periods of a woman’s life – often busy with careers and family, and you have a recipe for melt down!

How to support the perimenopause

Fortunately at the Holistic Medical Centre there are many natural ways our naturopaths and doctors can help prevent and alleviate the discomfort of perimenopause.

Oestrogen balance

Firstly by using natural supplements we can help prevent oestrogen levels fluctuating too wildly. Some of the supplements we may recommend include:

DIM (diindolylmethane ) is an extract from broccoli that helps detoxify and clear oestrogen levels safely and naturally. We stock a lot of this on our shelves as it works so well!

Iodine makes your body less sensitive to oestrogen and helps to balance oestrogen levels. We often recommend it when breast tenderness or low thyroid function may be an issue. We do not recommend high dosing iodine, however, as high levels can cause thyroid problems.

Herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion root and bupleurum improve clearance of oestrogen via the liver and bowels and can improve uncomfortable symptoms of breast tenderness, fluid retention and anxiety.

Progesterone support

The herb chaste tree (Vitex angus castus) can be used to help balance progesterone levels through promoting regular ovulation. It can also make the body more sensitive to progesterone, thus helping to counterbalance the effects of high or low oestrogens.

In more severe cases, natural progesterone can be prescribed by our doctors. It is a safe and effective way to increase progesterone levels and buffer the effects of fluctuating oestrogen levels. We recommend regular monitoring when using natural progesterone.

Magnesium is a great tension reliever, helping with the symptoms of stress and sleep disturbances. It is also helps modulate cortisol production and assists with the manufacture of progesterone thereby helping to support healthy levels of this balancing hormone.  We often prescribe taurine alongside magnesium. Taurine is an amino acid that helps promote a full night’s sleep and calm the mind. It is often depleted in women who have elevated oestrogen levels.

Ashwaganda is a wonderful herb to use during the perimenopause, or for any stressful period in your life (and great for your partners too!). Its many actions include: improving mood, reducing anxiety and irritability, enhancing energy and concentration, as well as helping to induce sleep.

We recommend any supplements and herbs are prescribed in the context of a clinical consultation to ensure they are being prescribed to meet your specific health needs.

Alongside herbs and natural supplements, making some simple dietary and lifestyle adjustments can help you  to maintain a balanced oestrogen profile.

Diet and lifestyle tips

  • Reduce alcohol – aim to have at least 3-4 nights alcohol free per week, and no more than 2 standard drinks. Alcohol is a liver loader and as such hinders your liver’s capacity to detoxify oestrogens.
  • Flaxseeds are a rich source of fibre that helps you to bind and eliminate unwanted oestrogens from your gut. They are also a source of phytoestrogens that can help to modulate oestrogen levels in the body.
  • Enjoy fermented foods in your daily diet, or take a good quality probiotic to encourage healthy intestinal bacteria. Gut bacteria help to breakdown oestrogens ready for excretion.
  • Eat plenty of gorgeous green and brightly coloured vegetables! Veggies support your liver’s ability to clear oestrogen, and also provide valuable fibre to feed your gut bacteria and assist with regularity – helping your body to remove unwanted oestrogens.
  • Avoid or minimize dairy. Dairy can increase insulin levels leading to blood sugar fluctuations, weight gain and enhanced oestrogen activity. Dairy also contains cow oestrogens that can further add fuel to the fire.
  • Exercise regularly and eat wisely to maintain a healthy body weight to reduce oestrogen build up. A certain type of oestrogen, Oestrone, is produced by our body fat cells and this can exacerbate problems in our 40s.
  • Be mindful of exposure to xenoestrogens such as plastics, pesticides, cleaning products and cosmetics containing parabens, fabric softeners and dry cleaning chemicals. Our naturopaths will be able to support you to find healthier alternatives.

If this sounds like you, or someone you know, please don’t suffer this out – there is plenty we can do to support you, and we would like to help! Our naturopaths and holistic doctors are available for appointments and will be able to provide you with a personalized treatment plan to support your needs.

Low Winter Moods

Low Winter Moods

Winter can often be a hard time of the year mood wise. For some people, it’s accompanied by a lower mood than during the lighter months of the year. Looking at what may cause such a change in mood, it is evident that there are a number of different of factors involved. These include lifestyle changes such as isolation, reduced physical exercise, changes in nutrition and fewer interactions with people throughout the winter months. As psychologists however, we often meet people who cannot seem to explain why they feel more flat, unmotivated, low and very tired. Sometimes it sneaks in gradually, but for some it feels more as thought a switch has turned all of a sudden.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) commonly has an onset during fall and can linger around to the start of spring, sometimes longer. SAD is a form of depression that is related to the seasonal changes in the level of daylight we have access to, and has an effect on our circadian rhythm, D vitamin levels, lifestyle and hence our mood.

In the northern hemisphere this is a known phenomenon arising from the lack of daylight. There it is not uncommon to see people visiting “light cafes” where they sit in front of specially designed lamps thought to correct the delays in our circadian rhythm during the winter months. Others may supplement with vitamin D as an additional measure, as the ultraviolet-B rays are more limited in winter which impacts of the absorption of D vitamin. Some may see a therapist to get some extra support.  Hence, if low winter moods are a common pattern for you, it can be wise to see your health practitioner for an overall “warrant of fitness” to check levels of important nutrients and minerals, particularly in the lead up to winter.

The characteristics of SAD are the same as major depression but they normally subside with the change in seasons. People may notice some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Low mood
  • Sleeping too much and difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities they would normally enjoy
  • Difficulties in focusing and making decisions
  • Thoughts of death and suicidal ideation
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Some may experienced a reduced libido
  • Increased sense of agitation
  • Changes in appetite and craving carbohydrates more than during other times of the year

However, there are a number of things you can do during the winter months to improve mood. Although looking after ourselves is important at all times of the year, it can be wise for those more prone to lower winter moods to plan ahead, and do some preparation when we’re feeling more at ease.

One such solution is to create some good, simple and realistic routines; creating opportunities for social interactions, focusing on nutrition or engaging in forms of exercise that are not limited to the summer months. Your local community centre will have a good overview of what activities and workshops are available in your area.

It is also wise to try and get as much daylight as possible. Get outside, go for a walk, visit a friend, enjoy a cup of tea in the sun.

Since changes in thinking commonly accompanies low mood it may also be useful to learn about unhelpful thinking and how we can change it to become more rational, balanced and helpful. This has a great impact on how we feel and behave accordingly. Helpful information can be found online, or visiting a therapist can also be useful.

Get some social support, talk to a friend, a family member or a professional about it. Reducing social isolation is a preventative measure, and helps prevent low mood. Some people may experience loneliness which further impacts this. Things like attending a Meetup, joining a community group or doing some volunteering may help with this.

Improving the moment! In the northern hemisphere people sometimes turn the focus towards working alongside the darkness rather than beating it. Making it cosy so that they can better manage the darker months of the year is a common theme. Lighting the fire, or some candles, wrapping up in a nice big blanket with a good book, nice music and a cup of tea is one example of this. In Norway they refer to this atmosphere as ‘koselig’, in Denmark they call it ‘hygge’ and in Sweden they call it ‘mysigt’. Google these terms and you may get some ideas of how you may be able to work with the darkness to improve your mood.

Natural Support:

Alongside the psycho-social aspects that are important to address, there are a variety of natural supplements and dietary modifications that can offer additional benefits for people suffering from SAD. Your naturopath will be able to help support you to find the right approach for your needs.

In people with SAD, serotonin, our “happy” hormone may be depleted. Low levels of serotonin are linked with poor mood and depression. 5HTP is a safe and effective supplement that helps to stabilize levels of serotonin in the brain, and can have a hugely positive impact on mood and anxiety.

The herb St John’s Wort is also an excellent mood enhancer and has been proven in clinical studies to be effective in the treatment of SAD. It works through modulating a number of our brain neurotransmitters which are associated with mood and motivation, including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

Although both 5HTP and St John’s Wort are very safe, there is the possibility of interaction with other medications, particularly anti-depressants, so please see your naturopath or holistic doctor before taking either of these therapies.

Nutritional support can also prove highly beneficial. As mentioned above, Vitamin D deficiency is considered a key causative factor in SAD. Your best source of vitamin D is of course sunlight, so if you can manage to book in a sunny winter vacation then you will certainly reap the rewards! However, if this isn’t a possibility, then you may well benefit from a daily supplement through the winter months. Dosage needs to be adjusted according to needs. Therefore having your levels checked is recommended.  Foods only contain low levels of vitamin D and cannot generally be relied on to boost your levels. Cold water fish such as cod, salmon and sardines are your best sources, while cow’s milk, eggs and shiitake mushrooms also contain limited amounts.

Other nutrients that can help those experiencing SAD include omega 3 oils, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. Deficiencies in any of these can contribute to the low mood and lethargy associated with the winter blues.

Carbohydrate and sugar cravings are often a symptom of SAD. However, although tucking into a chocolate muffin may have an initial positive impact on your mood, the reward is short-lived. Succumbing to sweet cravings too often can disrupt blood-sugar levels and actually worsen low-moods. Choosing foods containing healthy sources of proteins and fats such as nuts and seeds, legumes, eggs, tofu, fish and avocados will help you to balance your blood sugar levels and beat the carbohydrate cravings. Enjoy complex carbohydrates including whole grains, kumara, pumpkin and quinoa. These foods are nourishing and grounding and do not cause extreme blood-sugar fluctuations. There are plenty of deliciously healthy sweet treats out there to enjoy on occasion too – why not get creative in the kitchen, or visit your local health store to stock up on these should the cravings over-come you!

If you are experiencing SAD and feel that therapy and/or alternative treatments may be beneficial, then please be sure to contact us at The Holistic Medical Centre so that we can link you up with our wonderful psychologists, naturopaths and holistic GPs.

Setting Goals

Setting Goals

Achieving your dream is certainly not an easy task; however it is worth the effort!

Eleven tips to achieve your goals:

  1. To achieve your goals, start by getting yourself organised and create a template using a ‘SMART’ way to set your It is an easy yet powerful way of achieving your goals.  To set SMART goals:

Specific – (i.e. what do I want to accomplish?) – Be clear and specific about what you wanted to achieve.

Measurable – (i.e. how will I know when it is accomplished?) – Take baby steps! Acknowledge your progress, which also will help you to stay on track and motivated to reach your ultimate goal.

Attainable – (i.e. how can the goal be accomplished? Are your goals realistic?). Take baby steps to figure out ways that you could make it work. As soon you are clear that your goals are achievable your attitude and skills are likely to focus towards it.

Relevant – (i.e. is it worth persevering?) – with integrity ask yourself how relevant this journey is for you. And, if I get stuck, do a pros and cons exercise to double check if you are on the right track.

Time – (i.e. what can you do today?) – Set your a time. It is not unusual for people to get overwhelmed if you think about the end result, especially if your goal queries time. Thus, to help you with that, set your goals focusing on day-to-day basis and tried not to look too far.

  1. When the challenges do arise, try not fight them, instead, see if you’re able to work with them. There is probably a lesson to be learned or it may be time to stop and reflect on if what you are doing is working for you. There is nothing wrong that if half way thought your journey you realise that you have changed you mind. At the end of the day, we are allowed to change our opinions, to make mistakes and to continue to learn about who we are and what we want.
  2. Allow yourself to be flexible so you can enable yourself to respond to new situations and challenges. Sometimes things can get on our way; life is like a surprise box…we never know what the future will bring.
  3. Be kind to yourself. While on the journey of achieving your dream it is likely you will have to go through some “hard times”… remember… it is just part of the journey and mistakes are there so we can learn from them. But also, one of the biggest obstacles that we are likely to encounter is ourselves. We have a tendency to be our own taskmasters, to be tough on ourselves; to demand high levels of perfectionism and to set goals that in reality may be likely fail. Therefore, be kind to yourself, it makes you more effective.
  4. Learn how to deal with stress, learn what triggers your stress and start to observe how your body reacts to it. Then it may be easier to work around this, to find solutions and eventually move further towards your goals.
  5. Develop a good routine for self-care i.e. go for walks, have baths, yoga, meditation, socialising etc. Having a good self-care will help to keep your body and mind balanced.
  6. Accept that sometimes things are out of our control and all you can do is your best. And that our best will differ dependent on our circumstances.
  7. Get in tune with yourself. Learn to distinguish what feels right and what feel wrong. If it feels wrong it is time for self-reflection, as something is not right.
  8. Plan! Plan! Plan! We are always trying to fit more and more into our days! Prioritise what is important to you. Get organised. Try writing a goal achievement diary, and list what has contributed to your goal and how proud you are of your self for doing it. Find the positive side of things specially when you are facing a difficult situation.
  9. Reconnect with your values, reflect on what is important to you and refocus on you goals. Goals are easier to work towards if they align with what is truly important to us.
  10. Treat yourself for working so hard. It is important that you reinforce your behaviour if you’ve done something that you feel proud of. A good trick is to have a hat full of papers folded with treats (i.e. a massage, have a night out, have a bath, go to the movies, etc) and if you work the hours planed for the week allow yourself to pick a treat from the hat!

How to improve your heart health!

How to improve your heart health!

Carrying excess fat, high blood pressure and cholesterol imbalances all have an impact on the health of your heart. Nutritional deficiencies such as B12, folate, iron, vitamin D and zinc are also important to keep an eye on, in order to maintain the health of your heart. Imbalanced levels of these can vastly increase your risk of cardiovascular problems and yet are usually simple to address.

The good news is that your cardiovascular health can be greatly improved – and preserved – through following a healthy diet and lifestyle. If caught early it is much easier to manage cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, cholesterol imbalances and inflammation naturally, and thus avoid the need for medication.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, as Hippocrates’ ancient saying goes. Following a Mediterranean-style diet has been consistently proven to be one of the most effective steps you can take to prevent heart disease. There is no calorie counting, but rather simple guidelines around the best foods to eat, including an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, regular servings of oily fish, cold pressed oils such as olive and avocado, fresh nuts and seeds, and wholegrains rather than refined carbohydrates.

Follow a heart- healthy Mediterranean-style diet by including:

· An abundance of fruits and vegetables rich in heart healthy antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
· Lean and plant-based proteins such as fish, poultry, beans, nuts and seeds.
· High-quality oils and fats such as cold pressed olive oil and avocado.
· Whole grains including brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and oats.
· Fibre, in the form of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
· Heart protective herbs and spices such as turmeric, garlic, ginger and cinnamon.

To optimise your cardiovascular health and get expert advice, make an appointment with one of the Holistic Medical Centre Naturopaths or Holistic GP’s . Contact us on 09 370 0650

Tips to improve your skin’s health

Tips to improve your skin’s health

Good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle and making sure you are getting essential nutrients, are all ways to you can improve the health of your skin. Premature ageing, rosacea, eczema, acne, fungal infections and rashes are all signals that there may be internal deficiencies and imbalances that need correcting. Often people with chronic conditions such as eczema, rosacea and acne become reliant on topical corticosteroids or other prescribed creams and medications. While these can be useful in the short term, it can be beneficial to understand and address the underlying factors contributing to these skin conditions.

Dietary and lifestyle modification is an excellent start to improving your internal health and ultimately your skin health – this includes enjoying plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet alongside whole grains and good quality proteins such as fish, chicken, tofu, eggs and small portions of lean red meat.

The following nutrients are especially important for promoting skin health and healing:

·       Zinc is important for skin repair and immune health. Zinc can also help to balance blood sugar and hormone levels that can negatively impact skin health. There are many great food sources of zinc such as oysters, shellfish, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, yoghurt and non-GMO tofu. Despite this, zinc deficiencies amongst Kiwis are common because New Zealand soils are low in this vital mineral so supplementation may be necessary.  Eczema and acne are two skin conditions that can respond well to zinc supplementation. Excess doses can cause gastric upset and nausea so it is important to talk to your health provider to find the correct dose for you. 

·       Omega 3 Fish oils can have strong anti-inflammatory effects in the body and can assist with some skin conditions. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids include oily fish such as sardines, salmon and anchovies, as well as chia, flaxseeds and walnuts. 

·       Vitamin C is a key nutrient involved in collagen synthesis. Collagen gives your skin its strength and structure, and assists in maintaining the elasticity of your skin. Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables. 

·       Probiotic bacteria are important for the health of your bowels and your immune system. Having a healthy balance of probiotic bacteria in your gut may have a positive impact on inflammatory skin conditions including acne and eczema. Fermented foods such as yoghurt, miso and sauerkraut contain a good supply of probiotic bacteria, but it can be hard to include enough in your diet. If this is the case for you, then a good quality probiotic supplement may be a good addition to your diet.

 To optimise your health and get expert advice on how you can improve your skin and get the essential nutrients you need, make an appointment with one of the Holistic Medical Centre Naturopaths or Holistic GPs . Contact us on 09 370 0650  

Five Foods to Improve Your Mood

Five Foods to Improve Your Mood

Hormonal changes, fluctuations in blood sugar, and thyroid issues all play a part in our mood levels. Any deficiencies in our vital nutrients can have a knock-on effect on the way that we feel. Good nutrition plays a key role in maintaining our mood also.

Here’s 5 food groups that can start you on the way:

· Mushrooms A handful of mushrooms will provide 36% of your recommended daily intake of selenium, a vital component in supporting your immune system, and are the richest source of selenium in the produce department.

· Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and silverbeet are excellent sources of mood boosting nutrients folate and magnesium. Include a good serving of these daily

· Seafood is a rich source of omega 3 oils for healthy mood as well as zinc and iodine for thyroid health. Choose oily fish such as sardines, anchovies or wild salmon for their superior omega 3 supply. Mussels and oysters provide high levels of zinc, and sea veggies such as New Zealand karengo are rich in iodine.

· Fermented foods supply beneficial probiotic bacteria to support bowel health and the production of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin.

· Cinnamon is a spice that is traditionally used to help support blood sugar regulation. Use this liberally in cooking, mixed into natural muesli, or add to soups and smoothies to help with maintain your blood sugar levels and rebalance your mood.

To optimise your health and get expert advice on how you can best support your mood and energy levels through nutrition, make an appointment with one of the Holistic Medical Centre Naturopaths or Holistic GP’s . Contact us on 09 370 0650