Tuesday, 27 August 2013

What does your poo (stool) tell about your health?

This sounds like a “dirty” topic.  But as a naturopath, I always ask about bowel movement and stool consistency.  Your poo tells a lot about your health.

First there is the type of poo.  Watch the video to see what I say about pebbles and watery mush.

If you are constipated, you will find it hard to pass the stool, you may strain or feel some pain.  Always look at your stool, to observe the colour, the texture and the smell.  I’m not saying that it should smell good, but it should not be highly offensive.  It should smell quite “benign”.  Highly offensive, bad odour could indicate that there is a malabsorption disorder.  Rotting food at body temperature not only gives a bad odour, it can also create a lot of gas.  Flatulence or passing of gas is a normal phenomenon, up to 14 times for men and up to 7 times for women. 

Offensive odour of stool can also indicate Celiacs or Crohn’s disease.  These inflammatory conditions in the gastrointestinal tract not only cause bad odour in the poo, the stool can be mushy and watery, and the person may complain of fatigue.

If you have not been eating beetroot or red beets, your poo should not be red.  Red poo other than eating beets or coloured foods, can indicate some form of bleeding in the bowels and needs to be checked out.  If it is higher in the gastrointestinal tract, it may be darker or even black. Never be complacent with red or black stool if you have more than one or two of them.

On the other hand, poo that lacks colour – i.e. white, grey or looks faded can indicate problems in the bile duct, liver, gallbladder or pancreas. 

A normal bowel movement should be at least once a day, brown coloured stool that is well formed like sausage but not hard, and should not have any offensive, bad odour.  After the movement, you should feel that the bowels have been “emptied out” and feel complete.  It should not feel like there is still stuff stuck within.

I sometimes see in clinic patients who have lost the ability to poo normally and are dependent on enemas or colonics to poo.  Whilst this is a relief, it can be a bandaid to a more serious problem.  Adults need 35g of fibre a day.  A lack of fibre is a major cause of constipation.  Rather than relying on stimulants like enemas or laxatives, it is important to make sure that fibre intake is sufficient.  Green Fibre Blend is a combination of soluble and insoluble fibre that can help increase fibre intake if you believe you are lacking fibre in your diet. A blend of soluble and insoluble fibre in Green Fibre Blend acts as a fibre adaptogen, i.e. if you have not eaten enough fibre, it bulks it up, on the other hand if you have loose stool, it helps to bind it.  Fruits and vegetables provide fibre to move the bowels and plant based nutrients (phytonutrients) that has many different benefits to our bodies.

A good probiotic can help to balance the good and bad bacteria in the bowels and can be a big help to constipation or diarrhea.  You should always investigate the real cause of your constipation or diarrhea.  I have to emphasize a good probiotic as there are many different types out there, and some do not have numbers for therapeutic benefits, or some have not been manufactured or handled properly and many of the probiotics are dead.

Emotional stress, busy time lines causing us to ignore the urge to defacate, excessive use of laxatives or dependency on enemas or colonics are common reasons why people can have problems moving their bowels.  Whilst recycling is a great virtue, recycling stored toxins in the bowels should be avoided at all times!

If bowel movements, the lack of or excessively moving your bowels bother you or you often suffer from gut pain or have discoloured stool, you should investigate the causes with your qualified health care professional and deal with the source of the problem, not putting a bandaid over it to mask the situation (the common bandaid used here is often a laxative or enema!)

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Natural Treatment for Hayfever, Sinusitis or Seasonal Allergies

The arrival of spring normally indicates the end of the miserable cold winter weather and the beginning of warmer days and more outdoor activities.  But, for some people, spring is a time of misery as the increase of flowering plants sets off their hayfever, sinusitis and other allergy reactions. During spring, pollen can be the major trigger for the allergic response that causes hayfever; other triggers or allergens may include grass, dust and animal dander.  These allergens irritate the nasal passages causing inflammation, increased mucus production and symptoms such as itchiness, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose and congestion.

Besides hayfever, some people can also suffer from sinusitis during spring.  Sinusitis is a painful condition involving inflammation of the paranasal sinuses (hollow spaces around the cheeks and eyes).  It may be an infection and is commonly accompanied by headaches, pain and mucus congestion.  Sinusitis if left unresolved, may lead to chronic infections lasting weeks or even months.

In allergic conditions like hayfever and sinusitis, one aspect of the immune system becomes overactive and leads to excessive immune activity causing all the signs and symptoms experienced by allergy sufferers.  Standard treatments for allergies, hayfever and sinusitis include steroids, antihistamines and decongestants.  All of these can provide symptomatic relief, but unfortunately, do little to address the underlying immune imbalance.

Natural treatment for hayfever, sinusitis or seasonal allergies involves reducing inflammation, restoring balance to the immune system and supporting long term immune health.

Here are what you can do naturally to manage your body’s response to allergens and reduce the allergic reactions or symptoms:

·              Use natural herbs and nutrients that can help manage the symptoms of sinusitis, hayfever and seasonal allergies, as well as restoring balance to the immune system.  These herbs and nutrients include Quercetin (vitamin-like compound which calms the immune system down), Albizzia (traditional Ayurvedic herb for the relief of the symptoms of allergies), Atractolodyes (a herb used in traditional Chinese medicine to support healthy immune function) and Perilla (a herb for maintaining healthy immune balance).

·              Almost 80% of your body’s total immune system is present in your digestive system.  Improve the health of your digestive system by reinoculating your digestive system with “good” bacteria.  These beneficial bacteria or probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactics send calming messages to the immune system and help reduce the allergic responses that have been generated. 

·              Keep yourself well by making healthy lifestyle changes.  Eat a healthy diet, high in nutrients and essential fatty acids.  Minimise intake of red meat, refined starches and sugars.  Have fish as your primary source of protein.  Consume a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.  Drink appropriate amount of pure water (ideally 6-8 classes a day), and most importantly, exercise regularly and have fun.  

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Your Painkiller can put you at Higher Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

The NZ Herald has reported at least a couple of times this year about diclofenac, sold as Voltaren, and its link to increased cardiovascular risks.  This drug is prescribed to 400,000 New Zealanders a year. 

Earlier in February 2013, researchers from the UK and Canada say Voltaren should be pulled off the market because it raises the risk of heart attack and stroke. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10865535

Diclofenac is the active ingredient used in Voltaren which belongs to a bigger group of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Painkillers are commonly used in higher doses and for longer periods of time in arthritis sufferers and people who constantly suffer from headaches and migraines.

Pain, redness, swelling and heat are all signs of inflammation.  In some areas of our body, we can only “feel” the inflammation, i.e. pain.  Our diet, lifestyle and nutrition, or lack of, are major contributors to inflammation. Fortunately, there are many things that we have naturally that are natural anti-inflammatories.  Having adequate sleep to allow our bodies to repair is anti-inflammatory.  Eating a diet high in fresh food and low in processed food loaded with additives and sugar can reduce inflammation.  For each person who is in pain, you need to remove the trigger, and using diclofenac to kill or mask the pain is not a solution.  It is a bandaid to simply remove signs or feeling of the pain.  You don't feel the pain but the pain is actually still there as you have not addressed the cause of the pain.

To enjoy better health, you always need to address the cause of your health imbalance, not put a bandaid over it, especially if the bandaid increases your cardiovascular risk!

Monday, 5 August 2013

How to prevent Heart Disease and maintain a Healthy Cardiovascular System

How healthy is your heart? 

  •         Do you smoke?
  •         Are you overweight?
  •         Do you have high blood pressure?
  •         Do you have high cholesterol?
  •         Are you on cholesterol or blood pressure medication and don’t like the side effects?
  •         Does your family have a history of cardiovascular disease?
  •         Do you do very little exercise?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions above, you should look at how you can help your heart and blood vessels be as healthy as possible naturally.

Keeping your cardiovascular system healthy is vital.  Your heart and blood vessels make up your cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the world today, especially in the developed countries.

Here are five steps you can follow to optimise your heart health:

1.      Follow a healthy eating plan:
·        Eat a minimum of 3 cups of vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit every day.
·        Eat a handful of nuts and seeds and up to 2 tablespoons of “good” fat from foods such as fish, nuts, seeds and cold pressed vegetable oils (eg. Olive oil). 
·        Include protein-rich foods in each meal or snack.  Make sure you choose lean protein sources.  Reduce fatty meats high in saturated fat such as bacon.
·        Drink a minimum of 8 glasses of pure water daily.
2.      Exercise regularly.  For a healthy heart you need to do a minimum of 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise at least 5 times in a week.  Gentle to brisk walking is recommended.  Consider having a friend to join you for the exercise so you can keep each other motivated.
3.       Relax and have fun.  Stress can have a major effect on your body, especially your heart! You need to manage stress to ensure balance and health.  Take 30 minutes of each day to enjoy some relaxing and fun activities.
4.      Commit to some key lifestyle changes such as getting regular wellness checkups, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking if you smoke.
5.      Take natural supplements beneficial to your heart and cardiovascular system such as Bonito Peptides, Policosanols, DHA, Taurine and Magnesium, Krill Oil and Coenzyme Q10 (if you have elevated cholesterol and are taking medication for this from your doctor, then Coenzyme Q10 is even more important to take.  A class of cholesterol medications called “Statins” have an unfortunate side effect of reducing the body’s ability to manufacture Q10, which may lead to side effects such as fatigue.)

Don’t wait until it is too late to look after your heart.  Commit to improving your cardiovascular health now by making the dietary and lifestyle changes.  You can improve your heart health and maintain a healthy cardiovascular system naturally using natural herbal medicines and supplements without the side effects of drugs.