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.

Four Food Groups to Kick-start Your Liver

Four Food Groups to Kick-start Your Liver

Struggling with poor sleep, irritability, weight gain (especially around the middle) and poor digestion. The best way to get all these things back on track is by doing a cleanse.

Here’s 4 food groups that can start you on the way:

· Go green. Veges such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, watercress and brussel sprouts.

· Spring into sulphur. Cruciferous vegetables, eggs, onions, raw garlic, leaks and spring onion are all excellent sources of sulphur compounds.

· Bitter is better. Excellent bitter foods include rocket, endives, mustard leaf, dandelion greens, kale, turmeric and grapefruit. These foods help to promote natural detoxification by the liver and reduce cravings for sweet foods.

· Antioxidants Fresh fruits and vegetables, and herbs and spices, provide an abundance of natural antioxidants. Some of the highest-rated antioxidant foods include goji berries, blueberries, raw dark chocolate, rosemary, thyme, turmeric.

Click here for more info and to find out about The Holistic Medical Centre’s Cleanse Package

To optimise your health this year make an appointment with one of the Holistic Medical Centre Naturopaths or Holistic GP’s . Contact us on 09 370 0650  

Back to Basics with Food Choices

Back to Basics with Food Choices

We are fortunate to live in a country where healthy food choices are in abundance. At the same time, diet fads change daily and marketing spin has far too great a punch. It’s therefore not surprising that so many of us feel completely confused and overwhelmed by what we should, or shouldn’t, be eating. This is particularly the case as we head into the summer months, when many of us begin to focus on weight loss.

As a naturopath and holistic nutritionist, one of the most common questions I am asked is: what should I eat? When I’m asked this question, I go back to basics.

Become a food detective

Generally speaking, if it is a wholefood that has been grown and prepared as nature intended, without excessive heating, processing or additives, then it will serve your body well. The challenge is when food is being portrayed as whole and natural but has actually been transformed into something quite different. For this reason, I really encourage you to become a food detective and read all food labels carefully:

  • If it has more than 5-6 ingredients on the label, includes numbers, flavourings, or buzz words like “lite”, “fat free” , then it’s probably not all that good for you.
  • Similarly, be wary of terms such as “natural”, “sugar-free” and “gluten free”. Just because it sounds healthy, it may still contain high quantities of sugar or sugar alternatives.
  • Heavily heated oils (deep fried) and hydrogenated fats (widely used in sweets, frozen meals, fried foods and many dairy products) will have had a change in structure, which means they are no longer in their natural form.

Manage your portion sizes

Another question I’m often asked is which protein, fats and carbohydrates should I eat, and how much. The answer will depend on the individual and their circumstances, how well they tolerate different food groups, and how active they are. For the average person, however, the following generally applies at each meal. By following these simple guidelines, most people are amazed by how good they look and feel once they start getting this balance right:

  • Protein the size of your palm– with red meat no more than twice weekly, 2-3 servings of fish per week, and plenty of plant-based proteins too.
  • A tablespoon of healthy fat such as olive oil, coconut or avocado.
  • A cup of good quality carbohydrate such as kumara, pumpkin or brown rice.
  • 2-3 servings of extra vegetables.
  • And stop eating once you feel feel 80% full…it can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to actually register that you are full.

Therapeutic or restrictive diets such as FODMAPS, high fat, or low carbohydrate diets are best practised under the guidance of a qualified health practitioner, and be followed for a limited period to achieve the best results. Our bodies are not designed to go for long periods without certain macronutrients, and over time this can cause health problems in itself.

Anticipate and manage the dreaded cravings

One of the biggest hindrances to following a healthy diet can be food cravings. We can have the best intentions, but somehow that bag of chips, packet of biscuits, or bar of chocolate manages to sneak its way in.

Food cravings can be incredibly debilitating when it comes to the food choices we make, so it is really essential to address the cause of these if you want to overcome them. One of the most common reasons for cravings can be that you are not getting enough good quality protein and fat in your meals, particularly at breakfast.

There are lots of ways to help beat the cravings, including:

1) Breakfast like royalty! Start your day with a good hearty breakfast, rich in healthy proteins and fats, and this will set you up for the rest of your day. Eggs with steamed greens, chia pudding, porridge or muesli with plenty of nuts and seeds mixed in.

2) Include protein or healthy fats in each meal and include these macronutrients in your snacks too. If you get the balance right, you should find you don’t need the afternoon coffee and muffin after all.

3) Don’t graze through the day. Have a quality breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then if you need to, a small good quality snack in between, such as some mixed nuts and seeds, or veggie sticks with hummus.

4) Use cinnamon and ginger to sweeten and flavour your food. These spices are not only delicious, but they also help to regulate your blood sugar and combat your sweet tooth!

5) There can often be an emotional element to people’s food cravings or eating habits. This may stem from ongoing stress, or it may well be more deep rooted than this. If this resonates with you, then I encourage you to consider seeing a qualified practitioner .


Andrea Frires is a qualified naturopath, nutritionist and medical herbalist from The Holistic Medical Centre, 48 Ponsonby Road. To make an appointment for a consultation with Andrea, Nicola or any of the holistic GP’s call T: 09 370 0650 or visit for more information.

Healthy Babies

Healthy Babies


There are many nutrients that promote the formation of healthy sperm to enhance fertility for couples who are planning for a baby. Different nutrients have different effects on sperm production and the important ones include: increasing sperm count, increasing sperm quality and improving motility which means how active and in-motion the sperm are. This is an important factor in achieving conception.

Carnitine is an amino acid from protein that increases sperm motility. The richest food sources include lamb and beef with dairy at a distant third. Clinical trials that have achieved this benefit were 3000mg/day. Zinc can increase the sperm count, motility and quality. Oysters are a great source of zinc and meat runs a distant second.Folate can increase sperm count. Rich food sources include whole grains such as rye and wheat, chickpeas (hummus), spinach and brewer’s yeast*.

Vitamin B12 can increase sperm count. Meat, brewer’s yeast*, tempeh (Indonesian soy food), sardines and nori (sushi) are good sources of B12. Co-enzyme Q10 may assist in male fertility through improving sperm count and motility. CoQ10 is concentrated in the sperm where it is involved in energy production. Sardines, mackerel and soybean oil are very rich in CoQ10.


Babies need some key nutrients for their healthy development especially for the healthy growth and development of the brain and nervous system.

Vitamin B6 – needed for healthy brain development. Rich in beef, bananas, avocado, chicken, hazelnuts, salmon and walnuts. Vitamin B12 is needed for the formation of nerves, in particular the outer myelin sheath of the nerve which is required for the conduction of nerve impulses. Food sources include: meat, brewers yeast*, tempeh (Indonesian soy food), sardines and nori (sushi) are good sources of B12.

Folate is well known for preventing neural tube defects and foods rich in this very important nutrient include: whole grains such as rye and
wheat, chickpeas (hummus), spinach and brewer’s yeast*.

Choline – is needed for the myelin sheath around the nerves. The riches sources are lecithin and beef. Zinc is crucial for many aspects of development of the baby including normal weight and growth. Oysters are a great source of zinc and meat runs a distant second. Ideally your pregnancy multi will have some zinc in it. Iodine is needed for healthy brain development and can lower the risk of behavioural problems in children. Good food sources include
seaweeds such as nori (sushi) and wakame (in miso soup). There are some very tasty seaweed shakers in health food shops which can be sprinkled over salads and sandwiches. Thyroid hormone is dependant on iodine for its synthesis in the body and is critical for the development of the nervous system during pregnancy.

Fish oil – Fish has two substances that are of interest to us in regards to healthy babies. DHA (docohexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentanoic acid). In terms of a healthy nervous system, both, are important. The richest source of DHA in the body is in the nerve endings where it enables the nerves to communicate with other nerves.

EPA has an anti-inflammatory effect and has been shown to be useful in behavioural problems where inflammation plays a significant role. A pregnant woman who is not allergic to fish would ideally consider fish oil as a supplement both during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Please note vegetable sources of oils are not as rich in these substances as fish oil. Food sources include kahawai, salmon (fresh is preferable over farmed), fresh tuna, mackerel and herring.

Vitamin D has a role in promoting a healthy birth weight, healthy bones, teeth and nervous system. It is synthesised in the body as a result of
exposing the skin to sunlight. Iron may become deficient during pregnancy and should be supplemented only when needed. Your lead maternity caregiver can order a blood test if needed. Rich in brewer’s yeast*, kelp*, pumpkin seeds, molasses, sunflower seeds, almonds, molasses and beef.

* Popcorn sprinkled with brewers yeast and a little kelp provides a very tasty snack as well as covering many of the nutrients listed above.