Low iron and why you are so darn tired all the time …

“Iron – one of the essential trace elements of life on earth. Formed deep within stars then scattered across space by collapsed supernovas which spew their contents right across the universe. Iron is secreted in our soils, hiding in our glaciers, floating in our oceans and carried in our blood” Ann Jones

I was amazed by this incredibly poetic description of how iron comes to us. So many of us have experienced times of low iron. So how does it happen and what can we do about it ?

Blended green smoothie with ingredients on wooden table

 

There are lots of reasons why you may be low in iron :

* Dietary insufficiency
* Blood loss from disease, trauma, menstruation
* Times of increased need e.g. recovery from injury, pregnancy, post birth, exercise
* Drug mugging – some medication make it hard for you to absorb iron. These include antibiotics, acid blocking medications, osteoporosis treatments, thyroid supplements.
* Lack of necessary digestive enzymes and cofactors needed for absorption
* Too much calcium or phosphorus

Iron is needed for many functions but the main one is for regenerating and rebuilding red blood cells. RBC’s use haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. Insufficient iron leads to low RBC count and means that the heart and lungs have to work much harder to ensure that oxygen is getting where it’s needed. Apart from blood production and oxygen transport iron is also needed for healthy levels of enzymes which control many cell functions and for healthy immune responses.

Signs of low iron :

* brittle or flaking nails
* cold hands and feet
* tongue soreness
* food cravings
* fatigue/lethargy/poor recovery/low motivation
* headaches
* shortness of breath
* lightheadedness
* palpitations/erratic heart rate
* poor immune function
* poor concentration
* depression, anxiety and panic
* muscle weakness and pale skin

Sources of iron include meat, dark leafy vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin and seeds, eggs.

Things needed to absorb iron efficiently – vitamin C, B12, folic acid, digestive enzymes and adequate stomach acid. Coffee, tea and wine can decrease your ability to absorb iron as can some medications (see above).

Blood tests :
An iron study of your blood is a snapshot of your current situation.
It is important to have good levels of serum iron and ferritin. The reference ranges on your blood test results are not always a good indicator of an adequate iron status. Read more here about pathology testing.

Depending on your level of deficiency, addressing low iron can take several months to correct and depends greatly on the quality and appropriateness of your supplement. There area number of herbal medicines which can increase red blood cell count and iron absorption making your supplementation much more effective. Anyone who has experienced constipation, nausea or other side effects of ‘off the supermarket shelf’ iron supplements can tell you how unpleasant it can be.

It’s worth speaking to someone who can identify the causes of your deficiency and the most effective, safe and side effect free iron sources for you.

 

 

 

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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’….

 

 

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

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.

 

 

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 !!!

ecoli

 

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

 

 

Sleep difficulties ? Massage to the rescue

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Over the last couple of weeks, for a number of weird and wonderful reasons I have been having real trouble with sleep. Getting to sleep, staying asleep, weird dreams – it’s all been a bit of a drag really.

At times I have felt weary, emotional, overwhelmed and frustrated. Never underestimate the importance and benefits of good quality sleep. Any insomniac will tell you that !

I have been doing guided meditations, having small evening meals, baths, warm drinks, taking magnesium and calming herbs. They’ve all helped but nothing really gave me that lovely ‘knocked out for eight hours’ feeling.

Last night my daughter, who doubles as the most skilful massage therapist I have ever known went to town on my sore muscles. She knows her stuff, she is intuitive and her help in getting me some sleep has been beyond measure. Yes, I am unashamedly biased – she is lovely, kind and talented but apart from these qualities she actually does have some serious massage game and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Check out her website or FB page for testimonials to her skills.

Some of you know her as Feel Better, Move Better Remedial Massage.

After a quick assessment she went to work easing sore muscles, finding strange spots that I didn’t even know I was holding tension in, resolving my imbalanced hips and lower back, calming my central nervous system and leaving me feeling cared for, loved up and more relaxed and calm than I thought possible. What followed was nine hours , yes NINE HOURS, of restorative slumber.

We have undertaken to do weekly massages to see how this affects my sleep – thank you massage gods for blessing me ! I’m sure it’s going to be a raging success.

So if you need some help with sleep, sore muscles, injuries or stress take my advice and book an appointment. You won’t regret it, I promise !

 

 

 

One for the boys … the magic of testosterone

 

muscles

Are you one of those men who doesn’t really pay much attention to your health ? When was the last time you felt really good ? Had a routine blood test ? Had a check up ?

Lately I have been encountering a number men who have a sadly common list of symptoms. They feel unwell, low or just not themselves somehow. Some have seen their GP but been told that everything is fine. They are testosterone deficient and it’s really dragging them down but they are being sent home without answers and it’s a crying shame.

Testosterone is a hormone that helps men feel good. It’s great for maintaining muscle mass, bone strength and density, sexual function, libido, production of sperm, confidence, good mood and energy.

At around age 40 testosterone starts to naturally decline but in healthy men this should only be by around 1-3% per year. Other reasons for declining testosterone are high cholesterol and blood pressure, too much sugar intake, poor sleep, obesity, stress, low levels of exercise, too much alcohol and some medical conditions like diabetes.

So what are the symptoms of low testosterone ? Low libido, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, low mood/depression, reduced strength and muscle loss, infertility, sleep problems, reduced energy and confidence and weight gain, especially around the belly region.

Why isn’t it being picked up by doctors ? I have seen a number of pathology results lately which place men in the ‘normal’ range according to their blood results. The problem with these reference ranges is that they are so wide you could drive a truck through them, they are based on sampling of men aged 18-69 with a host of varying health conditions and they don’t relate specifically to your age group. The ‘acceptable level of health’ has been set so low that many men are suffering unnecessarily.

A testosterone result of 8.5 might put you in the ‘normal’ range but normal for who ? A 65 year old man with diabetes, an 18 year old boy, a 45 year old athlete ? While pathology testing is useful it’s just as important to look at your symptoms and see if they match up.

So what can you do ? Make sure you aren’t inhibiting your testosterone production with the factors mentioned before – sleep, stress, obesity etc. Ensure that you have a good intake of healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, coconut oil – healthy cholesterol is the building block of testosterone and low fat diets are not your friend. Get some exercise – especially HIIT and weight bearing/lifting. The good news is that if you are trying to increase your testosterone you need to have more sex – I haven’t had anyone complain about that yet.

There are lots of ways to naturally increase testosterone. Ensuring adequate levels of zinc, potassium, vitamins A, B6, C and E is important. There are also a number of herbs which are very effective in getting things running well again.

So if you recognise yourself here don’t just put up with it. Come and see me – we can get you back on track again.

SPECIAL OFFER FOR MARCH APPOINTMENTS !!!!

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SPECIAL DISCOUNT OFFER FOR MARCH APPOINTMENTS !

 

Get $25 off your appointment ! This offer is available to the first 15 people who book an appointment in March. Offer ends Sunday 8pm.

Respond by email to info@naturocath.com.au to claim this offer.
Follow me on Facebook , like and share this post and you could get your appointment for FREE

Note : Does not include herbs or supplements

 

 

 

 

Taking my own advice ….thyroid and adrenal health

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I’m good at giving advice. I love to help people find their way back to feeling good. Few things make me happier than good feedback from clients and the feeling that I have been able to help them achieve something they thought they couldn’t. Now I’m having to try to be this for myself ….

I can tell you all about the things that will nurture your body and spirit back to health – changed diets, high density nutrition, supplements, herbal medicine, relaxation and stress management techniques, finding something fun that you love doing. I’ve got all the theories !

Recently, after a prolonged period of stress and caring for everyone but myself (most Mum’s will relate to that one !) I found myself in the midst of a thyroid/adrenal storm. I have had issues with hypothyroidism for a number of years but have managed them well and, until recently, felt pretty good about how things were progressing.

A few weeks ago I found myself completely exhausted and depleted, unable to manage my normal life and feeling bewildered by it all. Feeling flat, fatigued and gaining weight for no apparent reason rang all my thyroid bells. After some soul searching, pathology testing and getting fed up with feeling crappy I made some changes which are starting to kick in and help me back to my old self.

Like a bolt from the blue the world had conspired to have me take heed of some of my own advice. I’ve had to do those things that I have encouraged so many others to do – rest, eat really well, take care of myself, be a bit kinder and less harsh in my self judgement, let other people help me. It’s been TOUGH ! Way TOUGH ! It’s been frustrating, humbling and difficult – and shown me just how loved I am.

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I have struggled with feeling that I will be judged as being not quite up to scratch. A naturopath who is feeling pretty poorly and has had a number of weeks away from work is not a great advertisement. Or is it ??? Somehow, I am starting to realise that there is value in this experience and in taking some of my own advice. I have had to do what I routinely ask of my clients. I am learning to say no to things that don’t support me or that will take more of a toll than I can afford at the moment. I am realising that in order to look after your health and wellbeing, especially when things reach a kind of crisis point, it takes a certain amount of courage, humility and willingness to be vulnerable. These are all admirable qualities although sometimes hard to embrace when it can feel like weakness.

So here I am. On the road to recovery but not quite there yet. Still trying to balance my need to take care of myself with my need to ‘get stuff done’.

So what has changed ? I’m resting a lot. My diet is gluten free and nutrient dense – smoothies are full of fresh fruit and veg, raw cacao and maca powder. I’ve slightly increased my healthy carbs (so necessary for hypothyroidism), I’ve upped my healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil and I’m trying to listen to my body for what I need to eat. So many of us hypothyroid folk live on such spartan diets in an attempt to keep the weight off – its easy to find yourself nutrient deficient if you’re not careful. I’ve also implemented a herbal medicine and nutrient supplement regime to address the drivers and manage the symptoms. I’ve also finally started asking for help when I need it. If you ask my gorgeous husband he will tell you that this is MASSIVE for me ! Things are starting to look up….

Have a look at this list of symptoms and see if they ring bells for you… if you need some help recovering I am your gal. I’ve walked the walk and talked the talk. Been there, done that.

Signs of adrenal / thyroid issues include :

Morning fatigue, trouble waking up, waking feeling unrested
Low mood/ low motivation/ racing thoughts / anxiety
Muscle weakness
Poor focus and concentration
Bone loss
Lowered libido
Inflammation
Increased allergies or new allergy symptoms  – food or environmental
Difficulty sleeping – often feeling exhausted during the day or afternoon but then unable to get to sleep. Often have a more wakeful period late at night.
Irritability, intolerance and mood changes
General tiredness
Cravings for sugar
Hair loss
Weight gain
Muscle tension and pain
Feeling overwhelmed/ unable to cope
Low blood pressure – especially dizziness or lightheadedness when standing up.
Intolerance/jumpiness with loud noises or bright lights
Shortness of breath with minimal exertion
Iron deficiency