Rethinking your ‘weaknesses’….

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As a naturopath you can feel a lot of pressure to be healthy and full of go all the time. If you aren’t bounding around with endless energy and happiness people might think you’re a bit of a fraud. Surely, if you were good at your job you’d be applying all that knowledge to yourself to live like Peter Pan, never ageing, forever.

Really ? Is that truly what people think ?

For the last few months I have been dealing with some health issues which are taking a little while to sort out. I was trying to treat myself and unsurprisingly, wasn’t totally successful  – it took me a while to accept that sometimes you need an objective, fresh set of eyes looking at what’s going on. I took myself off to see an integrative GP which was an expensive exercise in frustration that left me feeling flat. I continued to look after myself but I just wasn’t getting the results I wanted. After a couple of months of searching I was able to track down a very knowledgeable and approachable specialist (yes, they do exist) and we are working together to sort this stuff out.

When I first went to see her I had a strong sense of failure in myself. I felt like I was flying the white flag of defeat. I came out with a sense of hope, some new information and a plan of attack. I felt that someone was finally taking me seriously and was interested in helping me find some answers.

During this appointment I explained the treatment plan I had formulated to support myself and how frustrated I was at not being able to get the results I wanted. I was feeling like a big fat naturopathic failure until she said to me “If you hadn’t been doing these things you would have been in hospital long ago”.  Suddenly I was rethinking everything.

I had been doubting myself, my skills and my clinical abilities. I had been feeling like a failure because I didn’t have all the answers. That’s crazy – no one has all the answers. The best we can do as health workers is to take our clients issues seriously and be genuinely caring and committed to doing our best for them. I had forgotten all the people I have been able to help and was focused on what I saw as my weaknesses. Why are we so damn hard on ourselves ?

I saw a lovely friend/client the other day. We were chatting briefly about my recent health issues because there were some similarities to her own. She said to me that knowing this about me made me more relatable. It helped her feel that I actually understood what was happening for her. It made her feel less alone and more believed. It made her feel that I understood her frustration at having to search high and low for someone to take you seriously.

So here I was, feeling like a failure and a fraud and there was she thinking how good it was to be understood by someone who had experienced what she was going through. Now that’s a good reminder to rethink your ‘weaknesses’….

 

 

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Oxidative stress and inflammation and why you should be taking curcumin…..

 

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Everyone’s talking about turmeric and curcumin ! Here’s why it’s such a popular topic and incredibly powerful health promoter….

 

Oxidative stress is a state where there are insufficient antioxidants to neutralise free radicals. Free radicals are a natural by-product of cellular function in the body which, left unchecked, can damage cells or create abnormal cells like cancer. Antioxidants act to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Some antioxidants are made in the body but most come from the food we eat.

A good balance between free radicals and antioxidants leads to a healthy ‘redox state’ for cells. Too high or too low levels of ‘redox balance’ affects the efficiency of our cells and can lead to problems like premature aging, cell damage and dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, dementia and arthritis.

Antioxidants are our front line protection against cell damage, they improve general health outcomes and boost immune function

Inflammation is often thought to be a totally negative thing but in fact is incredibly important. It helps the body fight foreign invaders and also has a role in repairing damage. Without inflammation, pathogens like bacteria could progress unchecked making us very sick indeed.

Although acute inflammation is beneficial in protecting us such as when we are injured, it can become a major problem when it is chronic and inappropriately affecting our body’s own tissues.

Long term, low level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and various  conditions such as arthritis, IBS, Crohn’s disease, asthma, dermatitis etc. Sources of antioxidants that help fight chronic inflammation play a vital role in preventing and treating these diseases.

 

Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory. Clinical trials have shown that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, has none of the nasty side effects and has the benefit of a number of other health promoting properties.

Curcumin is also a source of antioxidants and not only protects our cells from free radical damage but also boosts our bodies levels of antioxidant enzymes.

Curcumin has beneficial effects on several factors known to play a role in heart disease. It improves the function of the endothelium which has positive impacts on blood pressure and blood clotting reducing risks for cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart disease.

Other important benefits include management and reduction of arthritis symptoms, cancer treatment and prevention (through the modulating of cell damage, division and proliferation), treating depression by increasing BDNF which is vital to the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine

Curcumin is the active beneficial compound found in turmeric. The spice turmeric only provides about 3% curcuma by weight so it’s virtually impossible to receive a therapeutic dose through diet alone.

Curcumin, when taken as a supplement, is most effective when combined with a good quality fat source and pepper. Swallowing a few whole peppercorns when you take your curcumin will hugely increase its absorption.

 

Others  antioxidant supplements include :

Glutathione
Vitamin C and E
Alpha lipoic acid
CoQ10
Resveratrol
Carotenoids found in bright coloured fruit and vegetable.

 

Dietary sources :

Bright and dark fruit and veg – orange fruit and veg, berries, kiwi fruit, dark grapes, dark green leafy vegetables
Nuts
Tea – black and green
Whole grains

If you’re looking for ways to include more turmeric into your diet why not try this favourite of mine – Tofu and Chickpea Curry 

 

Prevention is better than cure !  Ways to reduce oxidative stress

Eat a low sugar diet
Exercise
Keep stress at a healthy level
Get enough sleep
Avoid smoking and alcohol
Minimise exposure to toxins – environmental and food sources, drugs

Darcy’s excellent dinner … power bowl magic

Is there anything better than when you’re sitting around reading the Saturday paper in front of the fire and your utterly lovely daughter says “I’ve made a bit of dinner, want some ?’

The answer, hell yes please.

This is what came my way two minutes later ….

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Super yummy, healthy, nourishing.  The beauty of this kind of meal is that you can use whatever you have at hand and zing it up with her crazy good dressing.

In this version we had brown jasmine rice, steamed sweet potato rounds and spinach, fresh julienned carrots, seared tofu and thinly sliced nori. The nori really makes a difference so make sure you include it !

Darcy’s Power Bowl Sauce

2 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon tahini (we used black tahini but white is fine too)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

Mix it all together with a whisk and pour over your choice of yummy things.

 

 

Amazing Vegan Pavlova. This is not a drill…

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Do you have a sweet tooth ? Crave a bit of pavlova every now and then ? Well do I have the recipe for you. This delicious mess of aquafaba meringue, creaminess and tart fruits is sure to have you swooning.

This pavlova is vegan and tastes amazing. Not just ‘that’s good for a vegan pav kind of amazing’ but truly delicious.  It’s got all the necessary elements – crunchy meringue, your choice of creamy goodness ( I used a soy based whipped cream) and tart yummy berries and passionfruit.

A quick search told me that the average egg meringue and dairy cream based pavlova has whopping 50 grams  (10 teaspoons) of sugar per small serve. This generously sized version has less than 10 grams of sugar and that includes the meringue, the fructose in the fruit and the small amount in the cream. This is one pavlova you can actually have and not feel like you’re heading for an insulin spike or a sugar induced coma.

The meringue is from a previous post and is super easy to make (especially when you have a new Kitchenmaid mixer woohoo).

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This recipe made enough for about 30 palm sized meringues and a tray of about 50 small meringue kisses which store well in an airtight container for at least a couple of weeks. Recipe link here …Aquafaba Meringue Recipe

I used Soyatoo Soy Whip because it’s quick and easy and and I didn’t have a tin of coconut cream in the fridge to make coconut whipped cream. This stuff is great when you are in a hurry and has the added benefit of having a lot less fat content than cream and less wastage than great big bowls of whipped coconut cream.

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To assemble I put a meringue nest on a plate, topped it with some soy cream,added a handful of berries and some passionfruit. I also mashed some raspberries to make a kind of coulis to drizzle over the top. That’s it ! Nothing to it. Once you have the meringues on hand the whole thing comes together in minutes.

I got my husband to take one for a test drive and it was gone in record time with a second serving  following close behind. My vegan daughters are pretty darn excited too. I think this could become a family favourite.

If you are liking these recipes or are interested in vegan, gluten free, allergy friendly baking head on over to my Quirky Cake Facebook page and have a look around.

 

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Wedding carrot soup with coriander pesto

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About 14 years ago my eldest daughter Zoe changed schools. On her first day at her new primary school she met a girl called Sammy and from then on they were inseparable. She loved Sammy and so did I and since then I’ve always thought of her as one of my girls. Last weekend I had the honour of attending Sammy’s wedding to her lovely new husband and it was such a wonderful thing to see them so crazy happy together.

Sammy is one of those girls that you cant help but love – brave, beautiful, kind, creative and gentle. She’s a dreadlocked, musical, vegan, fun loving girl and it’s no wonder she has found someone who loves her so well.

After a walk down the aisle to Radiohead in her lacy gown (and Doc Martens) we headed for the party where the vegan food and great music kept coming. I was so taken with the super delicious carrot soup that I pulled up all my carrots and picked some coriander and now have a pot bubbling on the stove.

carrot        pesto

Carrot soup with coriander pesto 

1kg carrots
2 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon curry paste
1 litre vegetable stock
pepper

Fry onions and garlic till soft. Adding curry paste and stir until fragrant. Add in chopped carrots, stock and pepper. Simmer for 30 – 40 mins until carrots are tender. Whiz in a blender till smooth.

Coriander pesto

A good handful of coriander – about 2 cups
1/2 cup roasted cashews
2 tablespoons each of sunflower and sesame seeds
1/2 clove garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Olive oil

Place all ingredients in blender and whiz till smooth adding enough olive oil to get the consistency you like.

 

Blood tests come back normal but you still feel bad ….

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Does this scenario sound familiar to you ? You don’t feel well. Something doesn’t feel right in your body.  You go to the GP, get some blood tests done and they all come back within the ‘normal range’. The GP tells you everything is fine and that’s that. You go home feeling like it must be in your head. No one has taken how you feel seriously. You still feel crappy, tired, down, sore or sick but there’s no ‘evidence’ so nothing gets done about it. You are within the ‘acceptable level of health’ but is it acceptable to you ?

If I had a dollar for each time I looked at a set of blood results and saw that things were not, in fact, all ok, I would be a lot wealthier than I am. It is rare for me to see a completely normal, unremarkable set of bloods. There is almost always something out of kilter or at least off the mark enough to indicate where there may be a problem.

The ‘normal ranges’ set for most pathology tests are not accurate for everyone.  They are based on averages of a wildly diverse group of people. For instance, your iron results might look normal on paper but would you still feel they were accurate if I told you that they were based on a reference range sourced from a group of men or women ranging in age from 18 – 69 years with little consideration given to factors such as disease, hormone status, level of activity or specific diets which all impact on peoples ability to use and store iron ?

Same goes for thyroid function. Natural health practitioners estimate that 10% of adult women are in the sub-optimal or low functioning range yet the stated ‘normal range’ doesn’t back this up. Standard testing accepts a thyroid stimulating hormone range of    0.5 – 4.0 mIU/L.  Anything below 1.0 or above 2.0 rings alarm bells for me. People may have many, many signs of thyroid dysfunction but if the tests are ‘in range’ you go home without any support for what can be a very difficult health issue.

So if you are feeling below par and want to know why book your appointment, bring in your paperwork and lets find some answers and solutions.

 

 

Vegan Meringues…. weird chickpea magic

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Before you freak out at the thought of using chickpea cooking liquid to make meringues can I ask you to suspend your disbelief and give these a whirl. Not only do they taste great (not a bit like chickpea), they also contain a much smaller amount of sugar than standard meringue and would be a fun thing to do with kids. Known as aquafaba in the business, this liquid is a great all round egg replacer.

I used these meringues recently for a vegan cake I made and the consensus was that they are the business for vegans or anyone who can’t have egg.

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Aquafaba Meringues       Makes 80 small meringues

1/2 cup chickpea liquid – the liquid drained from a standard can of chickpeas
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place chickpea liquid and vinegar in a very clean bowl. Any trace of fat will ruin this so I like to wash my bowl well with hot soapy water before I start. Beat with a stand or electric hand held mixer for about 5 mins until stiff peaks form. Slowly add sugar one spoonful at a time whilst continuing to beat. Once all the sugar is incorporated add in vanilla.
At this stage you could also fold in flavourings such as coconut or almond meal if you’d like to.

Pipe or spoon meringue onto trays lined with baking paper and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours at 100 degrees c. Small meringues will obviously take less time to cook than pavlova sizes and will feel dry to touch when ready. Once cooked open oven door slightly and allow to cool for another 30 minutes.

*** If you want to get creative you can tint meringue mixture with food colouring, pipe into different sizes and shapes or, like the photo above, you can paint food dye (you can use natural colourings) onto the inside of your piping bag, fill with meringue and pipe stripy meringues onto trays.

Sticky, sweet, spicy tofu ….

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Last night I headed to the vegetable garden looking for inspiration. I came back with an armload of broccoli, spring onions, bok choy and kale. They looked like the perfect match for some tasty tofu. Here’s what transpired …

Sticky, Sweet, Spicy Tofu 

500g block of firm tofu – well drained and dried on paper towel or tea towel.

Marinade
3 tblsp soy sauce
1/2 – 1 tsp chili flakes
4 tblsp honey
2 tblsp oyster sauce ( you can get vegetarian oyster sauce if you’re a herbivore like me)
2 tblsp rice wine vinegar
1 tblsp sesame oil
lots of ground black pepper

Extras
1 tblsp honey
2 tblsp oyster sauce
3 teaspoons cornflower
Sesame seeds
Spring onions

Heat oven to 180 degrees.

In a large bowl mix together all of the marinade ingredients. Cut tofu into 2cm cubes and place into bowl with marinade. Leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Scoop tofu out of marinade and place on baking tray in a single layer. Keep leftover marinade ! Bake tofu for 15 minutes, turn and bake further 15 minutes until golden and slightly crisp. To the retained marinade add the cornflour and extra honey and oyster sauce and set aside as this will be used later.

Heat frypan and place baked tofu into this. Pour leftover marinade into the hot frypan with the tofu. Stir for about two minutes until sauce thickens and coats tofu. Move to serving plate and sprinkle with chopped spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve with rice and lots of green vegetables.

 

Published Case Study

 

Case Study: Resolution of a Recurrent, Antibiotic-Resistant UTI

Metagenics Update Professional Journal
http://www.metagenics.com.au

Case Presentation

A persistent infection can be stressful, debilitating and hugely inconvenient. This was the case for the 50 year old female who presented to Naturopath, Catherine Walker, with a history of urinary tract infections (UTIs), including a current UTI of five months duration. Her symptoms included low back pain, urinary urgency, digestive discomfort, exhaustion and emotional distress. Her dysuria and urinary urgency left her reluctant to go out, creating social isolation where previously she had been active, ‘confident and happy’. In the preceding five months the patient had been prescribed three separate antibiotics with no resolution. A recent mid-stream urinalysis (MSU) tested positive for Escherichia coli and the presence of blood, and the patient was diagnosed with antibiotic-resistant UTI. Hospitalisation was advised by her GP to avoid kidney damage, and a nephrologist and urologist referral issued with a view to further testing. Resigned to accept her situation, the patient presented to the Practitioner at her friends encouragement, reluctant to proceed with hospital or specialist services. An in-clinic urinary test was performed at the initial visit that tested positive to blood and protein, suggestive of compromised kidney function.

Treatment Plan

The Practitioner developed a holistic treatment plan (Table One) aimed at eliminating the current infection, addressing the suspected concomitant gastrointestinal tract (GIT) microbiota imbalance, and enhancing immune function. In addition, the patient was given lifestyle recommendations to reduce future UTI risk, including increasing water consumption to a minimum of two litres per day.

Clinical Outcomes

Within one week the patient reported feeling ‘quite a bit better’ and despite her initial misgivings, was now feeling more hopeful and optimistic. She noted an increase in energy and described a 75 percent reduction in low back pain and urinary urgency. This positive outcome motivated her to continue treatment and by week three she was walking her dogs and socialising again without concern of urinary urgency. A repeat in-clinic urine test remained positive for blood but negative for protein indicating an improvement in renal function. The Practitioner decreased the frequency of the Chinese Herbal support for Urinary Disturbances to a maintenance dose and requested a follow-up MSU to check progress. At week five the patient reported her MSU was now clear of infection for the first time in six months. She was very happy with the treatment outcomes with no symptoms of dysuria, only minor urinary incontinence and a reduction in GIT discomfort. By week eight the patient described ‘feeling very well’ with no urinary symptoms remaining and her in-clinic urine test was now negative. She had recommenced her voluntary work and was feeling optimistic and empowered. At this point all supplements were stopped other than the Immune Enhancing Probiotic, deemed necessary for ongoing maintenance.

Prescription Rationale
Chinese Herbal Support for Urinary Disturbances Concentrated traditional Chinese herbs to relieve and manage urinary disturbances including sensations of pain and burning.
Nutritional Support for the Kidneys Traditional Western herbs including 3.0 g cleavers along with 1.1 g bearberry per dose, to support kidney and bladder health and enhance urinary waste elimination.
Immune Enhancing Probiotic L. acidophilus (NCFM®), B. lactis (HN019) and L. rhamnosus (HN001) indicated in recurrent infections to promote cellular immune response, support GIT health and help maintain a healthy immune system.
Zinc with Vitamin C Powder Foundational immune supporting nutrients including therapeutic doses of zinc and vitamin C.
Topical probiotic A probiotic used intra-vaginally to help restore local microbiota balance.
Table One: Holistic Treatment Plan

Discussion

Any chronic infection is debilitating, however when accompanied by ongoing pain and dysfunction that impacts simple everyday tasks and pleasures, as a UTI can do, then a persistent infection becomes a life-altering event. It can degrade quality of life leading to poor mental health and outlook. A priority in these instances is offering rapid symptomatic relief to raise vitality, whilst identifying and addressing any related factors, such as the likelihood of dysbiosis in a recurrent UTI case, therefore the need to correct GIT microbiota imbalance.

In this case, the Practitioner gave rapid symptom relief by prescribing the combination of Chinese Herbal Support for Urinary Disturbances and Nutritional Support for the Kidneys, motivating the patient to commit to treatment. Lycopodium japonicum is traditionally used as a urinary astringent and antiseptic,1 making it ideal for relieving symptoms of UTIs such as urinary irritation, dysuria and haematuria. Additional antimicrobial properties offered by Smilax china assist to relieve the pain associated with UTIs,2 by addressing the underlying infection. The traditional Western herb Galium aparine also supports the urinary elimination of wastes,3 necessary in any infective situation for healing to occur.

Up to 90 percent of UTIs are caused by E. Coli originating from the bowel, as it can migrate easily to the urethra, causing a spectrum of genitourinary complaints.4 As the risk of reinfection is high, lending itself to recurrent UTIs, rebalancing the microbiota with strategic probiotic therapy helps target the underlying microbial insult. The specific probiotic strains Lactobacillus acidophilus (NCFM®), Bifidobacterium lactis (HN019) and Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001) demonstrate high adherence to intestinal epithelial cells.5 This increases the number of beneficial bacterial species within the GIT that enhance the immune system,6 as well as promoting an environment conducive to keeping pathogenic species in check. Interestingly, the strains HN019 and HN001 have both demonstrated protective characteristics against E. coli in murine models,7,8 which may explain the particular success of this combination in UTI cases. In this particular case, a further key strategy was the specific advice offered to the patient such as hydration and good hygiene practices as these have an additive effect, helping to minimise exposure to pathogenic bacteria.

This case is a good example of how combining an effective prescription with appropriate education can work promptly to address even the most challenging cases, offering patients a positive outcome and the tools to manage their health in future.

My UTI article has been published !!!

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I recently had an article published and I’m pretty excited about it.

It’s a case study of a client I saw who had a persistent, antibiotic resistant urinary tract infection that wasn’t responding to treatment. It was causing her a lot of pain and distress and there was a fear that it could lead to permanent kidney damage and hospitalisation.

I am happy to say that we got on top of it and she remains well and happy. I shared this information with Metagenics and they kindly published it in their journal and now on their website.

If you’re nerdy like me or need information about ways to treat UTI read on ….

Metagenics Journal Update – UTI Case Study NaturoCath Naturopathy