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.

 

 

 

Why pathology reference ranges aren’t giving you the answers you need….

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I have had a spate of clients recently with all manner of symptoms who been told that their blood test results are all in the ‘normal’ range. They have been looking for answers but they’re not finding them at the doctors office.

When discussing their declining health some have been told that this is just the way it goes, some have been offered antidepressants and others have been told that there is nothing wrong. One woman whose quality of life was very poor was told to be grateful that she didn’t have something more sinister going on. If your blood results are ‘normal’ then there is nothing to be done no matter what your symptoms are saying.

It’s hard when you are feeling genuinely unwell and seek help but end up being told that their is no evidence for the way you are feeling. It can lead people to feel fobbed off, disbelieved or like it’s all in their heads. One woman I saw recently told me that she had seen two GP’s and a specialist for terrible fatigue and headaches. She had blood tests, scans, spent hundreds of dollars and came out with a referral to a psychologist and a script for an antidepressant. She told me that she felt like they thought she was ‘just a complainer or one step away from a straight jacket’. This capable, productive, warm and friendly woman really was feeling quite low but not because of her original symptoms.

When we looked at her pathology results we discovered that the laboratories reference ranges were hugely wide. When we compared her iron levels and B12 levels to those of a year ago they had decreased significantly. They were still barely within the reference range but something had obviously happened to bring about such a drastic change in her normal range.

The previous year she had suffered a terrible personal loss, had changed jobs and had lost a lot of weight due to her inability to eat while grieving. All of this, combined with the enormous nutritional requirements of that kind of stress, had left her iron depleted, lacking in B12 and with some other essential levels barely scraping by.

After three weeks of nutrient therapy, herbal medicine and recommencing some gentle exercise her low mood symptoms had significantly reduced. She felt like ‘the fog had lifted’ and her energy levels were slowly building up again.

It will take a few more months to feel the full benefit of treatment but at least she is back on track, feeling hopeful and not the least bit ‘crazy’. She can see that there was a physiological cause for her symptoms and is feeling that there is light at the end of the tunnel. She is also feeling validated and good about the fact that someone has taken her seriously.

If this story resonates with you why not make an appointment to have a health assessment and review of your pathology tests. The results may surprise you and give you the answers you are looking for.

  • Story shared with permission of client

 

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.

 

 

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

The lowdown on cortisol …

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Most of us know that there is a link between stress and cortisol levels but there’s a lot more to this little steroid hormone than you may think.

Cortisol is produced in two ways – in response to stress and as part of our natural sleep and wake cycle. It peaks at about 8am to help us rise and shine and get active for the day.The levels drop throughout the day with the low point happening at around 4am before it ramps up again for our daily wake up call.

Cortisol plays a big role in our stress response. Cortisol helps us deal with stress by shutting down some  functions to allow the body to direct all its energy to dealing with the stress. This cortisol reaction is supposed to be short term and just long enough to deal with the source of stress. Unfortunately our lives can be anything but stress free and when stress is chronic this becomes a problem.

How does cortisol affect us ?

  • It stimulates glucose production and slows insulin meaning you end up with lots of sugar in your blood. Thats great if you actually have something you’re trying to run away from but not so good when you’re just sitting around feeling stressed about how to pay your bills.
  • Cortisol hinders the immune system when levels are high making your body more susceptible to infections and bacteria. Have you noticed how you always get sick when your stressed ?
  • It also slows bone formation and decreases calcium absorption so when its too high there’s no bone growth and no muscle growth.
  • It causes high blood pressure and decreased blood flow to organs
  • Too much or too little cortisol messes up thyroid hormones
  • Leads to increased stomach acid and reflux
  • Makes us less fertile and more likely to miscarry
  • Changes our metabolism and makes us hungry and less able to realise when we are satisfied

Our body has a system that is meant to regulate cortisol levels by shutting down production when things get too high. Unfortunately when we are stressed all the time the system gets mucked up and can’t regulate properly  – kind of like insulin resistance when we flood our bodies daily with sugar. The result is that our cortisol levels become unhealthy and high or  low at the wrong time of day leaving us feeling out of kilter.

Ways to lower cortisol

  • Regular exercise – not marathon running – try yoga, pilates, walking, stretching
  • Meditation, relaxation, breathing exercises
  • Get enough sleep
  • Listen to music you love
  • Drink black tea – about 3 cups per day
  • Get a massage
  • Learn some stress management techniques
  • Avoid all alcohol
  • Eat nutrient dense food – especially those high in magnesium, vitamin C and B vitamins.
  • See a naturopath for help doing all of the above ! There are some great herbal medicines and supplements that can support you back to healthy cortisol levels.

Stressed, wired and tired ? Take the adrenal quiz to see how you score ….

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Some of you may have read my posts about adrenal fatigue. If not, you might want to check them out here….

https://naturocath.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/adrenal-fatigue-that-wired-and-tired-feeling/

https://naturocath.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/adrenal-fatigue-do-you-fit-the-bill-13/

So many of us are living hectic lives, finding it hard to sleep and concentrate, feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and lacking resilience. It’s time to have a good look at how you are feeling and do something about it.

You may think that you are coping well with your busy stressful life but take a few minutes to complete this quiz and see what your numbers tell you.

Adrenal Stress Quiz

Score 1 beside symptoms you have had in the past, 2 for symptoms that happen occasionally, 3 for symptoms that occur quite often and 4 for symptoms that occur frequently. Add up the total score.

­ __Hormonal imbalances (e.g., thyroid problems, PMT, menopausal symptoms)
__Emotionally reactive – short fuse/quick to anger/easily unsettled
__Prolonged exposure to stress (job, family, illness, caregiving)
__Headaches or jaw pain
__Environmental or chemical exposure or sensitivities
__Low blood sugar / feel cranky when hungry
__Food allergies
__Poor concentration/memory problems /brain fog
__Low energy/excessive fatigue
__Racing thoughts especially when trying to sleep
__Dizziness upon standing
__Inflammatory conditions (arthritis, bursitis)
__Nervousness, depression, irritability, anxiety, or anger
__Shortness of breath/yawning a lot
__Cold hands and feet
__Low back pain or sore muscles
__Insomnia/frequent waking
__Heart palpitations
__Eyes sensitive to light
__Cravings: sugar, salt, coffee or other stimulants
__Alcohol intolerance
__Recurrent colds or infections
__Digestive problems or abdominal pains
__Weight gain or weight loss (unintentional)
__Sugar cravings – especially 
at a round 11am and 3pm
__Constipation/Diarrhoea
__Feeling wired but exhausted
__Waking up tired/unrefreshed
__Getting a second wind of energy around 6pm

Total Score

What your score indicates ….

Under 30 – You are doing really well. Good for you !

30 and 50:  Your adrenals are starting to feel the strain. It’s time to start looking at ways to reduce your stress levels.

50 and 80: It’s time to talk about starting some adrenal support supplements. You are past the point of being able to manage this on your own. You may need specific supplements and lifestyle changes to get back to a healthy score. The good news is that you have caught things at a manageable stage.

80 and 100: Your adrenals are suffering. You may want to consider how you can change your lifestyle, diet and circumstances to better support your health. Herbal medicines and nutritional supplements can help you kick start your way back to health. It is important that you address this now before things become more difficult to treat.

Over 100: You are suffering from adrenal fatigue and will require some longer term adrenal support to feel well again. It is important that you do something about this now not only to feel better but also to avoid the health risks associated with adrenal exhaustion.

There are a number of health issues related to untreated adrenal fatigue including :
poor immune function, increased risk of allergies, higher rates of auto immune disease, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia and sleep disturbance, hormonal imbalances, premenstrual syndrome symptoms, menopause symptoms, higher rates of cold/flu and infection.

If you feel concerned about adrenal fatigue or would like to improve your numbers call and book an appointment to talk about the many simple ways I can help you feel good again and reduce your risk of adrenal related health problems.