Mind Your Liver

This time of year, and day 4 of 12 days of Christmas, I’d like to remind everyone of the huge job our livers do, processing and storing the food and drink we eat. In addition our livers also do the job of breaking down toxic and allergenic products in our diet and on our skins. Too much food and too much Alcohol is well known as a challenge to the liver, but I’ll list a few other surprise challenges to the liver.  Also I’d like to give you some advice on getting your liver in better order……………………

Moderation in food and alcohol are of course first in my advice list, to help your liver. Not everyone is good at moderation, but a few skipped meals, or delayed meals can be easier to cope with. Recent studies in animals show that restricting eating to a narrower window of the day, greatly improves health and reduces weight gains that would occur if the food were extended over the usual 24 hour timetable. Michael Moseley’s 8/16 diet is one I would recommend, and you can read about it on his website. He suggests restricting eating to 8 day-light hours only and try and do “non-eating” for a further 16 hours, which means the rest of the day. This gives your entire body system a 16 hour rest, and in particular perhaps your tired old liver.

The best tonic for the liver is a combination of tonic liver herbs, such as my Des Lardner Liver tonic (needs consult) or Fusion Liver Tonic tablets. Also Dandelion coffee too is available in store. Use 1-2 cups prior to meals or between meals for improved digestion.  Bitter herbs/foods are the simplest liver tonic and include: vinegar, lemons, olives, apple cider vinegar, ginger, and turmeric. Less common tonics are globe artichoke, rhubarb and dandelion plants, occasionally used in cooking in the kitchen.

Signs your liver is stressed, include weight changes, digestive disorders and tiredness, along with headache, muscle aches, memory loss, allergies, mood disorders, poor skin, trouble digesting alcohol, pale stools, dark urine, dark circles under the eyes and around 25 other symptoms. Any of these would suggest a more thorough questioning and testing would be wise, preferably from a natural therapists like our naturopaths. The liver generally responds well to tonic therapy and can heal itself, once the cause of the problem is located and the right repair started.

Foods to avoid or cut back after Christmas include sugar and sugary drinks, especially with Fructose, also short chain proteins that occur in some muscle building supplements, caffeine, excess alcohol as above, high fat foods, and exposure to modern chemicals. In the meantime relax and enjoy those Yuletide feasts.


Welcome to the Silly Season 2019

Welcome to the Silly Season 2019! Today is also Feel Good Friday with 15% off in-store (some exclusions apply) so perfect way to finish off your Xmas shopping or perhaps start your shopping.

Over the next 12 days we will have ideas on how to survive the Festive Season and even feel better in the process! Topics to include improving your sleep, exercise, keeping hydrated, gratitude to name a few.

Firstly, call in and receive your FREE bag of Epsom salts as our Gift to YOU. Why Epsom salts? Epsom salts is also known as magnesium sulfate being made up of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen. Originally discovered in Epsom, England many centuries ago. It has an appearance similar to bath salts and looks like table salt. It has a bitter, unpalatable taste and not recommended to consume. The benefits of Epsom salts is attributed to the magnesium and essentially a mineral we don’t get enough of in our daily diet.

We have noticed these past couple of weeks customers stating feeling anxious, exhausted due to work deadlines, real or perceived deadlines in personal life and generally wanting to cancel Xmas. Alongside of media images or television shows screening the ‘how to host the perfect Christmas dinner’. This week I watched Jaimie Oliver prepare a spectacular meal for his extended family in his beautifully, Xmas decorated kitchen then served in his magnificently decorated dining room. I know my home won’t have that same ‘home beautiful’ look! Nor am I concerned about it.

The way Epsom Salts works and why we think it is important for you to experience, once dissolved in water it releases magnesium and sulfate ions and is absorbed through the skin, important for body function. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body with calcium being the first. Sufficient levels of magnesium is required for sleep and stress management by assisting the body to produce melatonin. Melatonin promotes sleep. It is also considered beneficial in reducing muscle soreness and cramps. In some cases Epsom salts helps with pain swelling.

So, taking a bath regularly at least once a week will help you survive the next couple of weeks…

References:

Elliot Brianna, Epsom Salt: Benefits, Uses and Side Effects Health Line Media Dec 2018

Ingraham Paul, Does Epsom salt Work? Pain Science. Com Sept 2019


To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

“To sleep, perchance to dream” wishes Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

We all crave restful sleep, but not everyone achieves this. Recent research suggests sleep

has immense repair value to us all. The Sleep Health Foundation suggests 33-45% of

adults sleep is affected. Conversely, poor sleep has a role in increasing blood pressure,

increasing blood sugar, increasing body weight by changing certain hormones,

increasing cardiac risk factors, and reducing daytime energy, researchers even suggest

many major disasters were linked to lack of sleep including the Exxon Valdez oil spill,

the Chenobyl nuclear disaster and Challenger spaceship explosion of 1986.

A complex phenomena, sleep disorders plague many and can include insomnia, obstructive sleep apnoea, snoring, restless leg syndrome and sleep behaviour disorders, such as sleepwalking, night terrors and teeth grinding. Studies reveal that less than six hours of good old zzzzzzs can increase the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease!

Consider these tips to help resort a good sleeping pattern:

  • Spend at least 30 minutes each day outside in natural sunlight to reset your body clock. Natural sunlight, first thing in the morning stimulates cortisol production which helps you wake up as nature intended, but research also suggests we need some sunlight throughout the day too, to produce Vitamin D and fire up our immune system.
  • Learn relaxation techniques to manage stress. Ask our staff for a Relaxation Fact Sheet or our naturopaths can teach you progressive muscle relaxation at a consultation, and follow up with a wonderful CD on the technique. Our naturopaths also suggest you make a list of your stressors, worries and troubles during the day and write out a timeline for resolving them. That way you won’t take your worries to bed with you.  Taking worries to bed is a pointless exercise, as any great solutions you dream up will be forgotten by morning!
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine at night.
  • Have a calming bedtime routine such as a warm bath or shower, some peaceful music, slow deep breathing or a warm milk drink just prior to bed.
  • A Sleep diary can be downloaded at nps.org.au/sleepand taken to you doctor when you fill it in over a week or two.
  • An individualized herb mixture from a herbalist is often effective. Herbs can interact with modern medicine so bring your medication list when visiting our herbalists. Herbs we often use include withania, zizyphus, valerian, skullcap, Kava, lemon balm and lavender.  There’s lots of herbs but the ideal ones for you are best worked out at a consultation. Talk to herbalist and pharmacist Des Lardner.
  • The sleep hormone Melatonin can be prescribed by a doctor. Des suggests the liquid Melatonin drops, taken under the tongue,  is often the most effective dose form for Melatonin, as these are absorbed directly into the bloodstream, whereas slow release tablets must undergo “first pass” metabolism in the stomach and liver before they can work, which means a larger dose is possibly needed for tablets to be effective. We can send information to your doctor.

Lack of sleep catches up on you quicker than you might think. We need a decent amount of sleep to allow our body time to repair itself and regenerate energy.  So, spare a thought for sleep between the catch ups, parties and family gatherings. Aim for a proper eight hours on most nights and remember that, if you feel sleep deprived, it is okay to say no occasionally rather than burning yourself out completely. Your body will appreciate the break.


Watch Your Water

Celebration food and drink tends to be very acidic, leading to toxin accumulation, so it pays to drink plenty of water, and stay alkalised this time of year. It’s often said “the solution to pollution is dilution. “

My recommended amount of water is 2 litres daily, but varies a little with body weight and physical activity. This should be a minimum for most adults. Also that water is best in alkaline form, which is achieved by adding herbal teas (sorry not black tea or coffee) to your water.  Alternatively you can generate alkaline and filtered water using a Zazen water filter, where the water is filtered and then run over mineralized natural rocks. (These filters are sold by our staff, and are a great Christmas gift, around $600, which is cheaper than buying them over the internet. )  Our naturopaths are greatly in favour of Zazen water filters as they tick many health boxes.

Try to avoid Soda waters and soda drinks, as these are acid and have the associated problems of acid diets: – toxin accumulation and arthritic diseases like gout, fibromyalgia, muscle pains, restless legs, liver troubles and kidney troubles. Mineral water is great because it’s alkaline which is what we used to get from our reservoirs but make sure it’s not the modern effervescence type. That fizz makes it suddenly acidic, and not ideal for your health.

So along with those festive drinks, I suggest intersperse a bit more water, and also try to intersperse an occasional missed meal. Water has the advantage of making you feel full, so replacing that unneeded meal with a few glasses of old fashioned water is often easier than just skipping a meal.

If you are concerned about acidity, consider a pH test Kit, from our store. They do about 70 tests of saliva or urine. Also consider more alkaline supplements  in your diet. These include : Morlife Alkalising Greens, Spirulina,  Chlorella, and Barley Grass. Alkaline foods include grapes and celery and all fruit and vegetables. Ask about our acid-base food charts, which are about $12 in full colour, showing the acidity (PRAL value) of most common foods.

Keep drinking over the Christmas break, but make sure it’s mostly alkaline water.


Your Wellbeing 2020

Around Christmas time is a great time to look to new resolutions and improving general well-being sometime soon. What are the principles of good health? As in most things the correct answer is probably “It all depends”. Meaning it depends on your current health status. However even our fittest clients can benefit from 3 general principles. These are………………..

Firstly examine your nutrient intake. Are your eating mostly good quality food from primary food sources, like whole fruit, grains, vegetables and fresh healthy meats? Try to avoid high human intervention foods, which are so called “processed foods”. “Human intervention”( Dr John Tickell calls it “HI”) Factor requires a bit of thought, and is often a little disguised. Factors like cooking, additives, stuffing, long storage, packaging, force feed foods and foods that have had a tough time, are all HI factors.  Grapes that are air-freighted from California would be an example of the later!

If you can’t always meet these criteria, then a Multi-vitamin should be considered as a stop-gap measure. But remember a Vitamin supplement is no substitute for healthy eating.

A second area of well-being is good oils in your diet. The advertizers once rightly said “Ooils aain’t ooils”. Are you getting enough good oils in your diet? Are you getting the right ratio of oils into your diet? The body is able to manufacture all but 2 essential oils, the rest it can manufacture itself, given the right raw materials. These are Linolenic acid or Omega 3 oil, and Linoleic acid or omega 6 oil, both of which we can’t do without. Also important has now been found to be the ratio of these 2 oils and traditional society has a 1:3 ratio of these respectively whilst a USA citizen has a 1:24 ratio and often greater for these essentials. One thus gets oversupplied at the expense of the other, which has been shown to lead to inflammatory diseases like heart disease, arthritis and cancer.

You can help improve the ratios by eating more fish, sea-foods, flaxseeds, hempseeds, chia  cereal, perilla, and day old fruit and vegetables. It’s also important to obtain what you can of any of these  in the cold-pressed form or preferably in their natural form direct from the plant or source

Third path to better general health is bacteria.

Try to add more good bacteria to your diet. That is to say, bacteria like yogurt, vinegar, apple cider vinegar, cheeses, (non-processed), sour krout, Kambucha, ginger beer, and traditional foods,  these are known to be safe if prepared by old methods. Now termed probiotics, good bacteria, or what I call, good bugs, all stimulate G regulator cells in the immune system and encourage T helper 1 responses in the blood, this leads to more white blood cells and a stronger immunity noted by Dr Élie Metchnikoff as early as 1894. This leads to less infections and less allergies.

The take home message is “get your bugs up”! Also get your fish and fresh foods up! And third, load up those nutrients! Then you can expect improved general well-being in 2020.

 photograph courtesy Jonathan Borba


Osteoporosis

Recent studies reveal new things about osteoporosis, we generally hadn’t thought about as we were contemplating the rising cost of Osteoporosis in Western Society. Back in 1990 the cost was estimated at $90 a second, now it vastly exceeds that so we’ve ceased publishing cost estimates.

A major book by Magnesium expert Prof Jurgen of Germany, (available from our store) points to long term use of an acidic diet (low minerals) as the very major diet mistake. The argument of Prof Jurgen is that our miraculously designed bodies can tolerate minor dietary mistakes with low mineral intake, soft water, soft drinks, and high meat consumption with mineral depleted foods (an acid diet) over short periods of time, but he points out that Western cultures are making these mistakes life-long! You can abuse your body short term and survive, but not long term. If the body has a long-term low mineral diet, it must balance those low minerals out to survive, and thus draws minerals from our bones to maintain that equilibrium.

My advice is start today with more minerals by increasing your unprocessed fruit and vegetables to 2/3 of your food intake (this is called an alkaline diet1), increase your exercise levels, and throw away your “Nike” padded footwear in favour of leather shoes, which increase impact when walking and exercising.

Whilst osteoporosis is symptom free in early stages, if you have a diagnosis of osteoporosis or the risk factors, (below) you would be advised to do all of these:

  1. Increase mineral intake, perhaps with a multi-mineral product with magnesium, Vitamin K2 and Vitamin D.2
  2. Increase gentle but high impact exercise (tennis, walking, running, hiking) and get out in the sun (for free Vitamin D). Leave your car at home.
  3. Check your hormone levels with your doctor: Estrogen, testosterone, Thyroid and Cortisol levels all interplay against your bone strength if abnormal.
  4. Talk to our naturopathic staff about how you can increase or moderate thyroid hormones, estrogen levels, testosterone and cortisone with herbs and vitamins. Cortisol levels can be moderated with stress relieving herbs and a better diet.
  5. Increase Omega three fatty acids in the diet with more Fish, nuts, flaxseeds and fresher fruit and vegetables. Many foods lose these good oils within 24 hours of harvest.

Watch these risk factors:

  1. Personal or family history of osteoporotic fracture.
  2. Thin body frame and/or low body weight <58 kg
  3. Oestrogen deficiency; post-menopausal, or hysterectomy
  4. Low vitamin D intake, and poor nutrition.
  5. Smoking, lack of exercise, excess coffee, alcohol and carbonated drinks consumption
  6. Prolonged corticosteroid use, e.g. prednisone , asthma, stressful lifestyle.
  7. Coeliac disease (due to the inability to absorb calcium)
  8. Heavy metal poisoning
  9. Oral contraceptive use and other hormone intake, Endocrine disorders (e.g., hyperparathyroidism, hyperthyroidism), blood disorders, arthritis disorders, proton pump drugs for indigestion.
  • 1. Ask about our alkaline diet sheet, in full colour
  • 2. Ask about Des Lardner’s favourite osteoporosis supplement.

Des Lardner

Dip.Botanical Medicine, MHM, (Hons) B. Pharm., TH, A, M.P.S. Grad Dip Nutrition.


The Methylation Revelation – A Light Bulb Moment for Female Fertility

This blog has been a long time in the making on a subject close to my heart:  female fertility. Albeit only one half of the baby making equation, I wanted to tackle this topic through experiential knowledge. I know what women are reading and researching and I am well aware that this information can be confusing, conflicting and sometimes frustrating. I wanted to not just talk about prenatal care in a general sense, but really speak to those women past and present who have had fertility challenges. While some people’s questions about “why it is not happening for them” remain largely unanswered, Naturopaths like myself turn to new research that is emerging in our understanding of parental nutritional and wellbeing.

There are definite diagnosable female reproductive conditions like endometriosis and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) that have a bad reputation as far as increasing the chances of fertility problems.1 But beyond that, and beyond the conventional treatments for these conditions, what other factors are worth considering when addressing female fertility? There are many, many likely culprits that negatively affect fertility including poor nutritional status, thyroid conditions, maternal age and stress, but one that is often overlooked is methylation cycle issues (what on earth?!?)2

The focus of this discussion is to briefly touch on the “methylation cycle”, in an effort to gently introduce the concept to those who have not heard of such things. Please keep in mind that it will barely scratch the surface of the far-reaching importance of methylation and its consequences. So *spoiler alert*: I won’t be covering all aspects of this one puzzle piece in its entirety.

What is the methylation cycle?

To the average 25 plus year old, here’s where it might start to sound a little like an episode of Breaking Bad. On the contrary, the methylation cycle is a natural series of chemical changes that occur all the time within most human cells. These reactions are constantly changing one chemical to another by helping to shift around and sharing “methyl” groups. These methylation reactions are necessary for the production and the recycling of many critical proteins (hormones, neurotransmitters etc) involved in processes right throughout the body, ultimately effecting the growth and development of all cells. Sounds pretty important and it is, particularly when it comes to conceiving and growing a baby. We need this methylation cycle to be working well in order for successful baby making to happen. In certain individuals there can be challenges to how well this cycle works: poor intake of nutrients, stress, toxic load, lack of exercise and genetic glitches (AKA gene mutations / single nucleotide polymorphisms / SNPs) to name a few.3,4

In clinical practice, this is the point where I would get out some coloured diagrams and highlighters and spend about an hour giving a basic explanation on how the cycle works and which nutrients are involved. The importance of seeing a diagram like this,5 is not to get bogged down in its complexity, but to demonstrate that there is a lot of steps in this cycle and a lot of spots where things can go haywire. Conversely, that there are many opportunities to help improve the cycle.

 

A useful place to start the explanation is with the nutrient folate. Most women who are seeking to fall pregnant soon become aware that folic acid is an ingredient included in all pregnancy multivitamins for the prevention of neural tube defects in the baby, so they can immediately see the relevance of folate. Dietary folate and /or synthetic folic acid needs to undergo a few changes before it becomes ACTIVE folate. The ACTIVE folate (5-MTHF) then helps with the chemical changes of the methylation cycle, along with some other key nutrients. If we don’t make adequate ACTIVE folate, there is a risk that the methylation cycle will not be working optimally and there may be a build-up of Homocysteine.6 Elevated Homocysteine has been associated with pregnancy complications including neural tube defects, 7,8 along with higher risk of blood clotting issues and cardiovascular risk.9 Taking in dietary amounts of the key nutrients and, in some cases, supplementing can often offset the chance of elevated Homocysteine.10 Some of these key nutrients are: folate in various forms, active B12, choline, Magnesium, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Serine. There are also lifestyle modifications that improve Homocysteine levels and the methylation cycle in general, including spending time in ‘green space’ and exercising regularly.11

What is MTHFR and what does it have to do with fertility?

You might be mistaken for thinking that I am swearing at you when you read the acronym MTHFR (and secretly that’s how we commit it to memory). But all jokes aside, MTHFR is actually the shortened version of “methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase” which is an enzyme that is critical for making ACTIVE folate.

It has been found that quite a high percentage of the population (approximately 20% or more) have SNPs in the genes that code for MTHFR.12 If you have a genetic fault in the code, your MTHFR enzyme may not work as well as a person that doesn’t have this glitch and it may put you at higher risk of methylation issue and increased levels of Homocysteine.13 Remembering that high levels of Homocysteine are what we want to avoid when trying for pregnancy.

It strikes me that my city counterparts and their clients seem to be very well educated on the value of checking for gene SNPs that might affect the methylation cycle and it seems that EVERYONE is talking about MTHFR gene mutations, dare I say sometimes overstating or misrepresenting its relevance. However, as a rural practitioner, I notice that people in general remain unaware of these potential issues and DON’T talk about it or investigate it ENOUGH.

In my opinion, detection of methylation issues and MTHFR gene mutations doesn’t hold all the answers for fertility problems, but we should be at least be screening for them to identify if this is likely to have an impact on any woman that is struggling. One of the tests that you can do is a simple and relatively inexpensive one to check for MTHFR gene mutations – either a blood test or a buccal swab. Also, to check blood levels of Homocysteine would be useful, again a relatively inexpensive, fasting blood test. These tests need a referral from your doctor, specialist or Naturopath.

During my Naturopathic career, I have learnt from experience that it is better to jump into considering these methylation issues as important factors as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the right moment to bring them up. In my opinion, the more you can learn about your own body and move towards giving it the best chance and hence your potential baby the best chance, the better. I have met some amazing women in my time, some that are so committed to working on their diet and lifestyle and seem by any standards to be perfectly healthy and well. Yet they are struggling with conception or retaining pregnancies, so exploring these issues and addressing them has been integral to their pregnancy success.

It is definitely a worthwhile investment in energy, time and expense to question your Healthcare Practitioner about methylation issues and how it might be affecting your fertility. The intricacies and potential solutions can be explored in great detail and can be tailored to suit your individual context, so it is always advisable to consult your Healthcare Practitioner for accurate, evidence based information about fertility.

Written by Emily Grieger – Naturopath.

1.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reproductive Health. Available at: www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/index.htm. Accessed October 25, 2018.

 

2.Metagenics Clinical Seminar. Perinatal Planning for Future Generations. Metagenics Australia. Sept-Nov 2019: 11.

  1. Gomes SLopes CPinto E. Folate and folic acid in the periconceptional period: recommendations from official health organizations in thirty-six countries worldwide and WHO. Public Health Nutr.2016 Jan;19(1):176-89.
  2. 4. Li KWahlqvist MLLi D. Nutrition, One-Carbon Metabolism and Neural Tube Defects: A Review. 2016 Nov 23;8(11).

 

  1. Boyd A. Figure 2. What is Methylation? FxMedicine 2019. Published online Feb 2017.

6.Nazki FHSameer ASGanaie BA. Folate: metabolism, genes, polymorphisms and the associated diseases.Gene. 2014 Jan 1;533(1):11-20.

  1. Mascarenhas M, Habeebullah S, Sridhar MG. Revisiting the role of first trimester homocysteine as an index of maternal and fetal outcome. J Pregnancy. 2014;2014:123024.

 

  1. Micle O, Muresan M, Antal L, Bodog F, Bodog A. The influence of homocysteine and oxidative stress on pregnancy outcome. J Med Life. 2012 Feb 22;5(1):68-73.

 

  1. Nygård O, Nordrehaug JE, Refsum H, Ueland PM, Farstad M, Vollset SE. Plasma homocysteine levels and mortality in patients with coronary artery disease.N Engl J Med. 1997 Jul 24; 337(4):230-6.
  2. Li KWahlqvist MLLi D. Nutrition, One-Carbon Metabolism and Neural Tube Defects: A Review. Nutrients.2016 Nov 23;8(11).
  3. Okura TRankinen TGagnon JLussier-Cacan SDavignon JLeon ASRao DCSkinner JSWilmore JHBouchard C. Effect of regular exercise on homocysteine concentrations: the HERITAGE Family Study. Eur J Appl Physiol.2006 Nov;98(4):394-401. Epub 2006 Sep 19.
  4. Dajani RFathallah RArafat AAbdulQader MEHakooz NAl-Motassem YEl-Khateeb M. Prevalence of MTHFR C677T single nucleotide polymorphism in genetically isolated populations in Jordan.Biochem Genet.2013 Oct;51(9-10):780-8.
  5. Avinash KumarHenry A. PalfreyRashmi PathakPhilip J. KadowitzThomas W. Gettys, and Subramanyam N. Murthy. The metabolism and significance of homocysteine in nutrition and health. Nutr Metab (Lond).2017;14:78. Published online 2017 Dec 22.

 

 

 

 


“Breast is Best” – Part 2 Herbal support for breastfeeding mothers and babies

 

In our blog ‘Breast is Best- Part 1’ we discussed the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and babies, why breast milk is so unique for the overall health of infants, national breastfeeding guidelines and dietary and nutritional tips to support breast milk production. To continue our support for World Breastfeeding Week, this blog discusses the benefits and concerns around the use of Western herbal medicine during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

As Naturopathic practitioners, we have access to herbal medicines that have traditionally and clinically shown to have a ‘galactagogue’ action….. “a galacta-what?”. Galactagogue is a Greek word meaning ‘a substance that promotes lactation in humans and other animals.’ There are a number of natural remedies that can be helpful to support breast milk production and breast milk quality for breastfeeding women, as well as assisting their postpartum recovery and their adaptation to new routines and challenges.

Not all herbal and nutritional supplements are safe for use during pregnancy and should not replace a balanced diet. As a general rule, we do not recommend the use herbal medication during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to the lack of evidence verifying their safety. Some of these herbal benefits and concerns will be discussed below.

 

Herbal medicine:

The most popular and traditional Western herbal medicines we use as galactagogues here at Des Lardner’s Organic are: fenugreek seed, goat’s rue, shatavari and blessed thistle. Although clinically we find these herbs to assist breast milk production, quality and flow while breastfeeding, they are not safe for use during pregnancy and should not replace a balanced diet. According to the literature, the following herbal medicines have been shown to be both safe and effective for breastfeeding mothers and babies:

Fenugreek seed- Fenugreek seed taken three times daily as a seed or a 610mg supplement has been shown to significantly increase daily breast milk production from 207ml in week one postpartum to 464ml in week two postpartum; these results were significantly higher than subjects not using the herb1. Another study has also shown a fenugreek herbal combination to increase average breast milk volume from four weeks postpartum to eight weeks postpartum by 104%, compared to no supplementation2. Therefore it is evident that fenugreek seed may assist lactation for breast feeding mothers’ challenges in breast milk production and flow. An interesting side effect to note is that, at high doses, mothers may experience a maple syrup odour to their urine, sweat and faeces, possibly due to the sotolon constituent in fenugreek2.

Goat’s rue- The Latin name for goat’s rue is Galega officinalis, derived from the word ‘gale’ meaning milk and ‘ega’ meaning ‘to bring on’3. Most of the scientific studies surrounding this herb are based on its active ingredient guanidine, which has been extracted and synthesised into the popular diabetes drug metformin3. The earliest literature on goat’s rue was noted in a letter by a farmer named Gillet Daimette in 18733. He detailed that the weed increased milk yield by 35-50% when fed to his goats and dairy animals3. Goat’s rue has been used as a galactagogue for humans and animals for hundreds of years with no reported safety issues, besides caution in patients on antidiabetic drugs or insulin3.

Shatavarai- Shatavari in Ayurvedic medicine translates to “she who possesses a hundred husbands”, implying its ability to increase fertility and vitality4. It also supports longevity, immunity, mental function, vigor and is used for nervous disorders, inflammation, liver stress and constipation. This is all very helpful for an exhausted, sleep deprived mother5. Gupta and Shaw found shatavari root extract to have a significant effect on prolactin levels and infant weight gain4.

Other herbal considerations: Blessed thistle is another herb we consider safe for most breastfeeding mothers upon consultation and clinically we see positive results, however its use is mainly guided by the Materia Media and traditional literature.

As practitioners, we may consider adaptogens, nerve tonics, and immune support for each client’s individual circumstance and health status. You may have read or heard of other herbal remedies used during breastfeeding from the internet, friends or other health professionals; however we recommend always consulting with a herbal medicine or naturopathic practitioner before considering supplementation.

Mothers’ have a challenging but amazing role in nurturing their child during breast feeding. No matter your choice or your role in feeding your baby (including father), we offer support here at Des Lardner’s Organic.

If you would like more information about how we can help to support breastfeeding mothers, please contact our staff in store or ask to speak to our Naturopathic practitioners. A lactation consultant, midwife, doctor or nurse can also provide information, as well as the Australian Breastfeeding Association.  Please see part 1 of this blog, for more information on nutritional support for breastfeeding mothers and babies.

 

Written by Naturopath, Ebony Jordan.

B.H.Sc Naturopathy

 

References:

  1. Khan TM1Wu DB1Dolzhenko AV (2018), Effectiveness of fenugreek as a galactagogue: A network meta-analysis. Phytother Res.32(3):402-412.

 

  1. Turkyılmaz C1Onal EHirfanoglu IMTuran OKoç EErgenekon EAtalay Y (2011), The effect of galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life. J Altern Complement Med. 17(2):139-42.

3.       Drugs and Lactation Database (2006), Goat’s Rue, National Library of Medicine (US)

4.       Gupta M, Shaw B (2011), A Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial for Evaluation of Galactogogue Activity of Asparagus racemosus Willd. Iran J Pharm Res. Winter; 10(1): 167–172.

  1. Shashi Alok,1,*Sanjay Kumar Jain,1 Amita Verma,2 Mayank Kumar,1 Alok Mahor,1 and Monika Sabharwal (2013), Plant profile, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Asparagus racemosus(Shatavari): A review. Asian Pac J Trop Dis. 3(3): 242–251.

“Breast is Best” – Part 1 Nutritional support for breastfeeding mothers and babies

 

 

 

World Breastfeeding Week is on 1-7th August each year and is aimed at promoting awareness and support for breastfeeding mothers to achieve better health outcomes for both mothers and babies. At Des Lardner’s Organic, we understand the challenges that mothers face when breastfeeding and aim to support them in a holistic way.

Breastfeeding is valuable for the bonding of mother and child and can be nurturing for both. However, for many women, breastfeeding doesn’t come easily. There are a number of reasons breastfeeding may not be possible for mothers such as: difficulty latching, caesarean section, ongoing infections and obesity. Ironically sleep deprivation and exhaustion are the leading causes of breastfeeding challenges; effecting milk production, flow and quality.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Australia’s infant feeding guidelines recommend “exclusive breastfeeding of infants to at least six months of age when solid foods are introduced and continued breastfeeding until the age of 12 months and beyond, if both mother and infant wish” 1. A 2010 Australian survey showed 90% of mothers begin exclusively breastfeeding their babies from birth1. However this figure drops dramatically to only 15.4% of babies being exclusively breastfed at 5 months of age1. Part 1 of this blog discusses dietary and lifestyle tips to best support the health of mothers and babies during the first six months of breastfeeding, then in part 2 we will discuss the benefits and concerns around the use of Western herbal medicine in breastfeeding.

Breast milk is made up of a unique rich blend of nutrients, immunoglobulins, B-cells, T-cells, neutrophils, macrophages and antibodies. Colostrum, protein and fat content in breast milk varies for each individual depending on the feeding infant’s age, method of feeding and time of feeding. Early in a feed the composition of breast milk is lower in fat. As the breast empties the milk becomes higher in fat content – this keeps bub fuller for longer and the fatty consistency steadies the speed of digestion and helps to reduce colicky symptoms by half 2. Breastfeeding promotes a long list of health benefits for both babies and mothers. There is strong evidence it reduces rates of colic, diarrhoea, respiratory illness, middle ear infection, type 1 diabetes and childhood leukemia for babies 1. Breastfeeding speeds up mothers’ healing and recovery time from childbirth, reduces risk of breast and ovarian cancers later in life, strengthens bonding between mother and child and reduces maternal depression 1 .

An herbal or nutritional supplement will never replace a good diet, quality sleep and a calm stress-free mind. That is why first and foremost we recommend focusing on a whole food diet enriched with healthy fats, quality protein and plentiful fruit and vegetables.

 

Nutritional breastfeeding support:

Good fats- salmon, mackerel, sardines, nuts and seeds, avocados and olive oil contain essential fatty acids for babies’ brain and nervous system development.

Protein- red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, yoghurt, goat or sheep milk/cheese, tofu and legumes help sustain energy, balance sugar levels and support growth and repair for both mother and baby.

Fresh fruit and vegetables- at least two servings of fruit and at least 5 servings of vegetables daily. Pre-preparing vegetable sticks, smoothie packs or cutting up fruit into snack-size pieces so you can quickly and easily refuel with one hand while nursing or feeding bub is ideal.

Complex carbohydrates- Ditch processed, prepackaged breads, pasta, biscuits and chips. Processed carbohydrates turn into sugar once eaten and will only exacerbate your blood sugar roller coaster and add to your exhaustion. It can also increase your risk of nipple thrush and mastitis. Choose complex carbohydrates which are essentially whole grains in their original state like: brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, spelt and oats.

Hydration- Changes in oxytoxin levels (the love and mothering hormone) during and after suckling increase thirst in breastfeeding women3. Aim to drink at least three litres of water per day while breastfeeding and ensure this water is readily available. Sit multiple bottles of water in each room of your house, in easy reach while nursing bub.

 

Additional breastfeeding support:

­Lactation cookies- Choose/bake lactation cookies that contain good amounts of brewer’s yeast, oats, and rolled flaxseed. All of these ingredients contain a high nutritional profile; brewer’s yeast contains nearly a complex set of B vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and biotin, oats also contain a good B vitamin complex for energy production and stamina. They have a thymoleptic/mood boosting action, as well as being a great source of fibre for balancing blood sugar. Rolled flaxseed are one of our favourite superfoods, rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. These seeds are also high in the minerals: magnesium, calcium and zinc.

Mothers anecdotally report an increase in breast milk production by 50-60mls within 5-6 hours after consuming three lactation cookies4. Our favourite brand is Franjo’s Kitchen co-founded by Donald born Naturopath Joanna Clark.

Probiotics- Specific probiotic strains for both mum and bub can support healthy immune systems, prevent mastitis, thrush and colic. Science also shows Lactobaccillus rhamnosus LGG probiotic strains during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and for the first three years of life can reduce rates of allergy-related conditions like eczema, food intolerances ad asthma in children5.

Fish oil- Omega-3 fatty acids are made up of EPA and DHA. As mentioned above, DHA has been shown to help babies’ brain and nervous system development and EPA can help reduce inflammation and assist in postpartum recovery. A healthy omega-3 fatty acid ratio also supports a healthy breast milk composition.

Topical- Our nipple creams are a blessing for raw cracked nipples. And the old wives’ tale of cabbage leaves for engorged, inflamed breasts – just as most natural remedies passed down from generation to generation- does indeed work.

There is a phrase – ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and we are sure every mother would agree. To all breastfeeding mothers, “you are doing great and you are not alone. “To friends, family or neighbors of a breastfeeding mum who are reading this blog – we encourage you to support mothers as much as possible; whether it is cooking a nutritious meal, filling up their water bottle or offering tips from your personal experience.

If you would like more information about how we can help to support breastfeeding mothers, please contact our staff in store or ask to speak to our Naturopathic practitioners. A lactation consultant, midwife, doctor or nurse can also provide information, as well as the Australian Breastfeeding Association.  In part 2 of this blog, we will discuss herbal support for breastfeeding mothers and babies.

 

Written by Naturopath, Ebony Jordan.

B.H.Sc Naturopathy

 

References:

  1. Australian Government Department of Health (2019). Breastfeeding, https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-brfeed-index.htm?Open=&utm_source=health.gov.au&utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=digital_transformation&utm_content=breastfeeding
  2. Renfrew M, Fisher C and Arms S (2004). Bestfeeding: How to Breastfeed Your Baby, Berkeley, CA:Celestial Arts.3. James RJ1Irons DWHolmes CCharlton ALDrewett RFBaylis PH (1995),Thirst induced by a suckling episode during breast feeding and relation with plasma vasopressin, oxytocin and osmoregulation. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 43(3):277-82.

    4. Franjo’s Kitchen (2018), Galacta-what-Galactagogues, https://franjoskitchen.com/blogs/news/galactagogues

    5. Michael D. Cabana, Michelle McKean, Aaron B. Caughey, Lawrence Fong, Susan Lynch, Angela Wong, Russell Leong,Homer A. Boushey, Joan F. Hilton (2017), Early Probiotic Supplementation for Eczema and Asthma Prevention: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics.

     

    Photo by @gowildmama

Photo by @gowildmama


We can grow our brain back – BDNF to the rescue!

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to think and remember more clearly, stave off depression and anxiety, change your stress response and get your brain working top notch? There is absolutely no doubt that prolonged stress shrinks your brain1, but the good news to share is:  “we can grow our brain back!”

The chemistry of the brain continues to be very complex and baffles scientists the world over, however there is emerging evidence about very important chemicals that can help improve the way the brain adapts to the stressors and challenges of life. One of these chemicals, called BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor),  has attracted much interest in recent years because it seems to function in achieving all of the goals listed above. Some liken BDNF to a ‘fertilizer for your brain’ because it helps to prevent the death of existing brain cells and stimulates the growth of new ones, supporting brain function in many ways. Low levels of BDNF are linked to anxiety, depression,2 obesity,3 Schizophrenia4 and Alzheimer’s Disease.5

While science delves into the microscopic detail of the roles of BDNF, the most solid evidence that has been uncovered is about the very simple ways that this chemical can be increased in the brain.

How to increase BDNF = Top Tips for Growing your brain back:

Exercise (the challenging type) – the most consistently reliable technique for increasing BDNF production. High Intensity Interval Training done regularly over a period of months will elevate BDNF significantly6 and therefore help you better adapt to everyday stress.

Sunlight – catch some rays every day, every bit helps. Locking yourself away in an office can work against you in terms of stress management and productivity. In a Norwegian study of 2851 people, levels of BDNF directly correlated with hours of sun exposure in both men and women, levels dropped when hours were reduced.7

Diet –  a whole food, Mediterranean style diet is beneficial. A diet high in fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, with the addition of ‘good fats’, while avoiding refined sugar, prepackaged and takeaway foods, has been shown to promote higher BDNF levels in the brain, compared to a standard Western style diet and even compared to low fat style diets.8 Results are noticed if these dietary changes are consistently followed for two months or more.  Poor response to sugars and high levels of inflammation seem to effect BDNF negatively, so this is the proposed reason why the Mediterranean style diet works well:9 ‘Good fats’ (from fish, olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados) have anti-inflammatory properties, and natural sugars found in wholefoods (fruits, vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds) are processed more effectively by the body than refined sugars.

Food restriction / Intermittent fasting – Eating less will challenge our brain to produce more BDNF.10 A sensible way to achieve this is simply eating only during certain hours. For example, some people may choose to eat only between the hours of 8am and 4pm (effectively fasting for 16 hours overnight). It is most important though to consult your health practitioner to assess whether this eating style is appropriate for your health background.

Exposure to cold (brr…) – Strange, but true, exposure to bursts of cold stimulates BDNF production.11,12 For those of you that don’t fancy the idea of plunging into icy water or doing nudie runs in the snow, this may be partly achieved by turning the hot water off during showering for approximately 20-30 seconds on a regular basis.

Stress Less – Prolonged perceived stress is a huge inhibitor of BDNF production, which sets up a viscious cycle that is difficult to interrupt. Researchers are examining the effects of a variety of interventions to increase the plasticity of the brain so that individuals can adapt more effectively to stress.  “Enriching the environment” of a person’s life produces a positive effect on BDNF and improves stress resilience. Some examples of enrichment strategies are:

  • bevavioural therapies including CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), mindfulness and meditation techniques.
  • finding meaning and purpose in life
  • increasing social support and human connection
  • physical activity.13

Natural Compounds – Good evidence exists for the supplemental use of various nutritional and plant compounds for increasing BDNF levels and managing the drivers of BDNF depletion. Magnesium,14 Vitamin B12,15 Turmeric (Curcuma longa)16 and Saffron (Crocus sativus)17 are strong contenders as excellent choices for brain health in that they stimulate BDNF production and other similar growth factors. Please consult your professional Healthcare Practitioner for advice on the dosage and appropriate use of these supplements and always use in conjunction with sound medical advice.

Find out more!

The strategies listed in this blog are our top picks for stimulating new brain cell growth, however there are many more ideas on the subject that can be shared. Please see your qualified Healthcare Practitioner for more details and to tailor a treatment plan that suits your circumstances.

Written by Emily Grieger – Naturopath at Des Lardner’s Organic.