Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Why do women gain weight after menopause?

Weight gain after menopause is a common observation, even in women who are slender pre-menopause. There are many reasons for the weight gain.  The change of life where the reproductive years of a woman end, means that the ovaries will reduce dramatically its production of sex hormones and hand this job over to the adrenals to do it.  The adrenals do not make quite as much hormones as the ovaries do.  As fat cells are little endocrine organs, a body hungry for estrogen can make more fat cells to get more estrogen.

For women who have had a rough adrenal ride pre-menopause, (stressed, busy and tired) having the adrenals take on the additional burden can mean more cortisol and more weight gain in the abdominal area.

At menopause, the levels of progesterone also drop.  A drop in progesterone can affect water balance and fluid retention.  So clothes can feel tighter, ankles can be puffier and the rings don’t tend to slip in and out so easily anymore!  Some of post menopausal weight gain can be water and not fats.  Running body composition tests like the Bioimpedance Cellular Health test is useful to identify what the body composition and cell quality is.

With hot flushes and night sweats, women often complain of disrupted sleep which makes them fatigue during the day.  This can result in more food intake to combat the tiredness, which can result in weight gain.  Bad food choices can result in more weight gain. Mood swings can affect motivation to keep active and maintain a regular exercise routine.  Exercise improve the production of endorphins and insulin sensitivity which are crucial to maintaining a healthy appetite and curb cravings.

What can you do about it:

  1. Eat foods that contain phytoestrogen like soy and alfalfa.  Studies done on Japanese women who consume a high quantity of soy, in soy sauce, miso and tofu find that these women do not typically have menopausal symptoms.
  2. Use herbal and nutritional supplements that will help balance estrogen and progesterone, including black cohosh, vitex, bupleurum, rhodiola and withania.  However, due to the effects herbs have on the body, it is not advisable that these herbal supplements be taken long term without monitoring.  Please seek the advise and help of a health care professional trained in herbal medicine. 
  3. Practice yoga and meditation.  Yoga is calming as well as strengthening, which is a great balance for this time of life.  Reduce stress, give support to the adrenal glands.
  4. Practice high intensity interval training at least 3 times a week.  If you have a favourite sport, like tennis or netball, keep yourself active and maintain a routine for exercise.
  5. Avoid alcohol, soft drinks, fruit juices and sugar.
  6. Consume a diet high in vegetables, adequate amount of protein for your activity, and plenty of water.
  7. Have enough good fats from avocado, raw seeds and nuts, cold water fish and olive oil.
  8. Do an AMY1 test, to see how much carbohydrates you can tolerate in a day.  We offer this test.  Ask for it if you are interested.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Five-spiced Chicken with Goji Berries

4 pieces boneless skinless chicken thighs
Handful of curry leaves
1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
2 tablespoons of goji berries soaked
2 cloves garlic
½ tsp five spice powder
1 tsp salt

Marinate chicken thighs in five spice powder and salt for at least 30 minutes.

Mean while, put oil in a pan and fry curry leaves until fragrant/ golden. Set aside.

Heat some olive oil and sauté garlic until fragrant and add broccoli florets in.  Put a dash of tamari to season and add drained, soaked goji berries in.

Fry marinated chicken thighs in a pan, 10 minutes on each side until juices turn clear (not pink).  Serve with broccoli and goji.  Sprinkle prepared curry leaves on top.  Serves 4.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Which sugar is good for you?

There has been a lot of publicity of late regarding sugar and its relationship with the diabetes and obesity epidemic.  All sugars affect your insulin balance and metabolism.  If you have diabetes, candida, yeast or fungal infections, autoimmunity or are having a battle with your waistline, all sugars should be avoided.  Artificial sweeteners (zero calorie sweeteners) are no better solutions as they can be toxic to your body.  One in three adult New Zealanders is obese, and this is a serious health crisis.  If you fall into that category, please avoid all natural and artificial sweeteners.

However, if you are a healthy adult, you can have some natural sugars from raw honey or maple syrup.  For both these sweeteners, choose the darker varieties.  NZ active manuka honey is known for its non-peroxide antibacterial activities, which is unique and has been proven to react against Staph aureus.  All honeys contain peroxide antibacterial activity.  Honey is high in fructose (with some sucrose and glucose), as well as minerals and vitamins.  Honey is also a demulcent which soothes the mouth and throat.  But, if you are diabetic, insulin resistant, FODMAP and/or overweight, you should not consume honey.

Maple syrup is a natural sweetener from the sap of the maple tree.  It is rich in minerals, particularly sodium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and manganese, vitamins and polyphenol antioxidants.  Maple syrup is high in sucrose (with some fructose and glucose).  It has a lower glycemic index than table sugar and less processed.

On the other hand, there is agave, table sugar, artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup.  These sweeteners are a no go, because they are low in antioxidants, some are even artificial, as the name suggests and toxic, so using them to sweeten will just raise your blood sugar, crease an insulin spike, without any other added benefits of antioxidants, minerals or nutritional benefit.

And the whole idea of sugar free?  You need to be cautious!  If you see the label “Sugar Free”, always check if there are artificial sweeteners.  Technically there is no added sugar, but the product is still sweet.  The only acceptable sugar free substitute is if it is sweetened with Stevia or Lovia which typically are plant based sweeteners, Stevia from the stevia plant and Lovia from combining Buddha’s fruit and stevia.

Avoiding processed foods is a good way of avoiding added sugar.  

Friday, 20 October 2017

Mushroom omelette with spinach and pomegranate


2 eggs beaten
1/4 onion, sliced
4 white button mushrooms or 2 large brown mushrooms, sliced
salt, pepper
1 handful spinach
1/4 cup pomegranate


Put 1 Tbsp coconut or olive oil into a pan.  Add onion and fry till fragrant, add mushrooms.  Once mushrooms start to wilt, add in beaten eggs to cover the vegetables.  Allow mixture to firm in the pan on low heat.  Flip it over to cook the other side for another 2 minutes.

Take omelette out and serve on a wide flat plate.  Put spinach and pomegranate.  Serve.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Inflammation: Problems with anti-inflammatory drugs and what you can do naturally

Inflammation is a biological response in our body to injury, infection or irritation to remove damaged cells and tissues and initiate repair.  It is likened to the lighting of a spark to attract attention of the immune system to hasten the healing process.  The hallmarks of inflammation include redness, pain, swelling and heat. More severe inflammation can lead to loss of function. Some or all the hallmarks may be present. Acute inflammation is necessary to move white blood cells to the area of need to carry out biochemical events to help the tissues heal. 

Long term inflammation that is not resolved will result in chronic inflammation.  That is when the spark that was intended to help the tissue heal or remove the irritation now turns into a forest fire.  When chronic inflammation happens, the conventional medical treatment is to use anti-inflammatories, which is commonly in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.  These drugs can have many undesirable side effects, for example the increase in cardiac risk from the use of diclofenac sold under tradename like Voltaren. In 2004, the FDA in the US pulled a drug made by Merck, used for arthritis, Vioxx, off the market because of the increase in incidence of stroke and heart attack from its use. 

Think about this:  if pain and inflammation is a signal from your body to tell you that you are out of balance, why do you shut off that signal?  If your car dashboard has a red light, wouldn’t you want to know what has triggered the red light to happen?  You won’t use a hammer and smash the red light or use a plaster to cover over the red light, so that you don’t see it.  Why do we do that to our bodies?

We need to deal with the underlying cause of inflammation.  Identifying whether the source inflammation is from the diet, lifestyle, mental states e.g. stress, insomnia or depression; lack of nutrition, excessive exercise or increased exposure to toxins is important to treat the cause rather than just the symptoms.  It is important to maintain good quality of life whilst you correct the underlying physiology and using natural anti-inflammatories in therapeutic doses like turmeric, fish oil, astaxanthin and mineral combinations can help to manage the cause of inflammation without undesirable side effects.

One man’s meat is another man’s poison.  Addressing your individuality and which food works for you and which ones do not can reduce a large inflammatory burden on your body.  A review of your toxin exposure, exercise and lifestyle can also reveal where other triggers for inflammation are for you.  Your naturopathic or functional medicine doctor will be able help you do that.  Most of your diet should be made up of good, wholesome, clean food, not necessarily raw, but lightly cooked to assist digestion and uptake of nutrients.  You do not need to be vegan to reduce inflammation, as long as food is nutritious and wholesome, you will benefit.  As to which food items are setting off your inflammation, this needs a personalised approach and it is advisable for you to seek professional help.

So when the dash board light comes on, be curious!  Find out what is driving that problem, do not put out the light by just shutting it down.  The engine could be struggling hard and is a ticking time bomb waiting to burn out or break down.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Does coconut oil or saturated fat cause heart disease?

Many people are very confused.  One moment you hear that coconut oil is good for you, then the media will refute that to say that coconut oil is bad for you, because can cause heart disease.  Whom should you believe?  Nutrition has become a bit of a religion.

There is no evidence to show that low fat and low cholesterol diets will prevent heart disease.  NO evidence.  75% of the cholesterol that we have is produced by our liver, it’s not even from the diet!  The whole low fat diet for heart disease was flawed.  This led to a 2015 revision by the USDA on dietary fats and cholesterol.  New Zealand has also revised its food pyramid.  It is widely recognised that the recommendation of eating 6-11 servings of bread, pasta, rice and grain products daily (the broadest base of the food pyramid) and focusing on a low fat diet has not seen a decrease in cardiovascular diseases in the last 30 years.  In fact to the contrary!  The revised base of the food pyramid is now lots of vegetables and water.

So, what’s the story with coconut oil if it cannot be related to heart disease?  The statin and pharmaceutical industry has educated us that high LDL cholesterol cause heart disease. This is wrong! We should be focused on the protective cholesterol that will prevent us from getting heart disease and that’s HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).  And the fact is that coconut oil raises HDL!  We need good saturated fat like what we get from coconut oil to make good cell membranes, cholesterol, sex hormones and brain cells. However, combining saturated fats, including that from coconut oil with a high sugar, high starch and low fibre diet will cause inflammation and heart disease.

So is coconut oil good?  Coconut oil increases HDL, which decreases the Total Cholesterol to HDL ratio, which is a good predictor of heart disease.  Coconut oil improves the quality, size and type of cholesterol.  Cholesterol is dangerous if it is small and dense, but is fine if it is large and fluffy.

The medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil (MCT) boosts metabolism and improves cognitive function.  Lauric acid in coconut oil is antimicrobial and antifungal.  Another good source of lauric acid is breast milk – which is 24% saturated fats! 

I would recommend using a combination of coconut oil and olive oil in your daily intake.  Coconut oil is great for anything that needs to be heated up and olive oil in your salad dressings and low heat cooking or cold food.  Olive oil has been used widely in the Mediteranean and this region is known for its heart healthy food intake.  And do not take coconut oil with high sugar and high starch.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Organic Foods and Gluten Free Foods are not necessarily healthy

There is an increasing awareness on the accumulation of pesticides and chemicals in our food chain.  Organic food purchase is on the rise.  Studies have always wanted to defy the nutritional contents of organic food, i.e. the vitamins and minerals in the organic food that it is no better than conventionally grown food.  However, these studies have not considered how much resilience a plant without pesticides needs to have in order to survive, and when we consume organic foods, we are consuming this resilience and ability to thrive.  These are minute phytochemicals produced innately by the plant that is beneficial for us.

Gluten Free is a term used to define grains that do not contain gluten, namely rice, buckwheat, quinoa, millet and amaranth.  Root vegetables, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts do not contain gluten either.  When foods are sold as fresh produce, the contents is 100% of the produce itself, e.g. an avocado is 100% avocado, a capsicum is 100% capsicum.  There is no question of gluten, hence no need for the label gluten free, unless it is whole wheat, barley, rye, oat or spelt.  The problem arises when foods are processed, e.g. the making of gluten free biscuits, the contents may be made of sugar, butter, rice flour and potato flour.  A gluten free biscuit made out of sugar, butter, rice flour and potato flour is gluten free but high in sugar.  Everyone of the content in that biscuit other than butter is or will convert to sugar, making that biscuit a sugar load!

There are many parties that have jumped onto the organic and gluten free band wagon, including gluten free cereals, gluten free sausages, gluten free cakes and biscuits, and the prices can be many times that of their conventional counterparts.  Gluten has been shown to be a problem for many people even if they are not coeliacs.  You can only be celiac if you have the gene transcription for it.  However, you can still have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which creates many problems, digestive or otherwise.  The solution is not to get out there and buy gluten free substitutes but to go back to the drawing board and consume organic, whole foods that are rich in nutrients and low in processing.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

7 foods to avoid if you have GERD/ heartburn

Whether you have a sour taste regurgitating at the back of your throat, or a burning sensation in your digestive tract, coughing and choking in the middle of the night or have griping chest pains that is not a heart attack, you have heartburn or reflux. 

Lifestyle and diet changes can help heartburn.  The 7 top foods that I have observed, when removed help reduce incidence of heartburn:
  1. Coffee – the acidity and caffeine exacerbates acid reflux
  2. Chocolate – have been found to be a common culprit in heartburn
  3. Tomatoes – especially acidic tomatoes, non-acidic tomatoes are usually fine.
  4. Alcohol – some people use alcohol to help relax and fall asleep but it is precisely the acid reflux that wake them back up! 
  5. Spices – cayenne, garlic and onions
  6. Gluten – it is hard to digest, especially if there are gastrointestinal problems, and starts to ferment in the stomach, creating pressure to bring up acid
  7. Flour products – processed foods made out of flour can be a problem with acid reflux – breads (even gluten free ones), pancakes, etc.  Eat whole foods, rather than processed foods made out of flours, worse if it is white!
And don’t eat close bed time.  Sit upright and chew you food, 20 chews per mouthful. Your stomach does not have teeth, you need to make it easy to breakdown.

Super Seed Crackers

¼ cup chia seeds
1 cup hot water
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup linseeds/ flaxseeds
½ tsp salt (or less)
Flaky Salt to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 160C fanbake and line 2 oven trays with baking paper

Mix chia seeds with hot water stirring well with spoon in a medium bowl and allow to stand while the chia seeds absorb the liquid (about 10 minutes).  Stir in all remaining ingredients except salt to sprinkle.  Divide between the prepared trays and press out to roughly flatten with spoon.  Place a second sheet of baking paper over the top of each and roll out as thinly as possible with rolling pin (around 3mm thick).  Remove the top sheet of paper and sprinkle the cracker mix with flaky salt.

Bake for 30 minutes then remove trays from oven and flip the sheets of cracker mix and gently peel off the baking paper.  Return to oven and bake until they are crisp and firm and snap rather than fold when bent (a further 5-10 minutes).  Leave to cool and then break into crackers for a rustic look.  If you want them cut as neat crackers, bake for 20 minutes (rather than 30 minutes) before flipping, peel off baking paper and then cut into shapes.  Spread out on the trays and return to the oven to crisp (a further 15-20 minutes).  They will keep for weeks in an airtight container.

This recipe is with compliments from a client of mine, Felicia.  The crackers taste divine on their own or eaten with some guacamole, hummus or tomato and smoked salmon.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Feijoa Energy Balls

Feijoa Energy Balls
4 large feijoas, flesh removed
2 Tbsp almond butter or sunflower butter
2 Tbsp soaked chia seeds
1 Tbsp raw cacao nibs
5 dates soaked
desiccated coconut to roll

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix.  If it is too wet, add some protein powder to thicken.  Moisture can vary depending on size of feijoas and how juicy they are.

Roll into balls and roll onto desiccated coconut.  Chill for 1-2 hours.  Serve.

Golden Satay Chicken

Golden Satay Chicken – serves 2
Herb marinate
A handful of fresh turmeric
A root piece of galangal about 3-4 inches
3 large stalks lemongrass
Chilli (optional)

2 palm size piece of organic chicken breasts, sliced

Satay sauce
Herb blend
6 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 cup coconut milk
3 tamarind slices
Ground almond/ cashews to thicken
2 tsp maple syrup (optional), to taste
Salt to taste

Remove skin from turmeric and galangal or scrub them clean.  Cut out the pale part of lemongrass.  Put all herbs in a blender and blend till fine.  Put blended herbs into freezer containers, this makes about 4 serves.  Reserve 2 serves for satay sauce, where you will add garlic and onions, and other sauce ingredients in.  (do not add garlic and onion if you are FODMAP sensitive)

Slice chicken breast.  Marinate overnight or at least for an hour with one portion of the herb marinate. 

Heat some coconut oil in a pan and put chicken in to sauté until just cooked.  Serve with satay sauce.

To make the sauce, once the first herb blend is added with onions, garlic and blended again, sauté in a pan with coconut oil until fragrant.  Add tamarind slices and coconut milk to simmer for about 15 minutes.  Make sure liquid does not dry out.  After simmering discard tamarind slices and add ground almonds to thicken (you can make it crunchy if the nuts are not ground too finely).  Add maple syrup (optional) and salt to taste. If you have trouble sourcing for tamarind slices, use lime juice (1 medium fruit is typically adequate).

Save one half of the cooked satay sauce in a freezer container for later use.  Serve the other half with the cooked golden satay chicken.  Serve with 2-3 cups of lightly steamed vegetables or 150g rocket/ mesclun salad greens.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Beetroot Bowel Mover Smoothie

1 tsp organic beetroot powder
10 almonds
3 brazil nuts
1 tablespoon chia seeds
¼ cup stone fruit of your choice
2 tsp Green Fibre Blend
200mls coconut water + 100ml coconut milk

Blend ingredients and drink immediately.  The smoothie will thicken if you leave it for too long.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Why Proton Pump Inhibitors should not be used long term

One of the most commonly prescribed drugs is proton pump inhibitors to treat acid reflux, indigestion or heartburn. The most commonly prescribed PPIs in New Zealand are omeprazole, lansoprazole and pantoprazole.  Some patients take it to overcome severe reflux or heartburn or as part of a triple treatment for H.pylori infection.  Others who use this group of drug do not have regular symptoms and use it as a preventative which in the long term can cause other problems.   

After a big meal, the esophageal sphincter (that connects your esophagus to stomach) can undergo some stress and reflux some contents up to the esophagus.  However, this should not happen often, or else you are overeating.   Cells in your esophagus are not designed to handle such acidic state.

If your portions are right for your size and activity, then overacidity can be an excess of hydrochloric acid or lactic acid.  Hydrochloric acid is the resident acid in our stomach released by the parietal cells.  It is there to facilitate digestion.  The pH of the stomach should range from 1.5 to 3.5. Lactic acid is the acid produced on fermentation of food in the stomach.  This can happen if food is passing through the digestive tract too slowly when the pH of the stomach is not appropriate.  When food is not digested properly in a timely manner, fermentation occurs and production of lactic acid is part of the process.  If proton pump inhibitors are taken to neutralise lactic acid from already inadequate hydrochloric acid, this will create a snowball effect, causing more problems in the digestive tract.  This is what I commonly see in clinic.

Antacids and proton pump inhibitors should at best be used as symptomatic care or as part of the triple therapy used short term.  The root cause of the heartburn, bloating and reflux is not because of the acid. 

Long term use of proton pump inhibitors causes many symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, because food does not get broken down properly and nutrients that need an acidic pH to absorb do not get the right environment to absorb.  This can lead to many long term problems like tiredness, cardiovascular problems, bone density problems and increased risk of fracture and increased risk of infection from altered gut bacterial balance. 

For common causes of acid reflux  and how to overcome it, refer to my article

Lastly, know the difference between heartburn and a heart attack.  It can safe you your life!  If you are uncertain, please go to your GP or A&E clinic.  An immediate test can be done to check troponin, CK or myoglobin in your blood, to see if you’ve had a heart attack.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

5 reasons why you could be struggling with constipation and what you can do

Constipation is a lack of regular bowel movement or bowel movements that require straining and does not empty completely.  Many people claim they are regular and their definition is once every 2 days or 3 days.  Being regular really means one to two bowel movements a day.  There is a problem if we eat 3 times a day, but we eliminate only once every 2-3 days.

Bowel emptying is a very important part of healthy living, detoxification and weight loss.  Our liver processes toxins and dumps them into the bowels for elimination.  In cases of delayed bowel emptying, the toxins can reabsorb creating increased toxic burden resulting in low energy levels, nausea, headaches, aches and pains or a crampy uncomfortable abdomen. 

If you have constipation, the first thing you need to investigate is your diet.  Are you having enough fresh vegetables, some fruits, seeds and nuts?  Fibre is required to bind and bulk.  Are you drinking enough water?  A normal healthy person requires 30mls of fluid (excluding coffee and alcohol) per kg body weight. 

Are you on any medication where the side effect includes constipation?  If so, it is time to review your medication.

Do you have a healthy gut flora?  Have you been on antibiotics more than twice in the last 2 years?  Are you on the oral contraceptive pill? If your gut microbiome is out of balance you could be constipated.

Are you stressed?  Our ancestors were hunter gatherers and stress meant that they had to run from the saber tooth tiger.  When trying to safe our lives in an emergency, our bodies do not get us to waste time visiting the lavatory.  That said, our modern day stress is different but the impact on the nervous system and signalling remains the same.  If you are stressed, get onto natural stress management protocols.

Do you have a habit of holding it in each time you an urge to defaecate that your body is losing its ability to move the bowels regularly.  If so, make sure you listen to your body’s signalling and go when you feel the urge.  To stimulate the large bowels, squatting for a period of time to induce the urge is a great strategy.  We used to have squat toilets until sitting toilets were invented.  We were not meant to be sitting and defacating at the same time!

Don’t underestimate the benefits of pooping regularly.