Self saucing chocolate pudding you can feel good about … well, at least not so guilty ….

Self-Saucing-Chocolate-Pudding-0334

It is my belief that the desire for pudding comes in direct correlation with the decrease in temperature. The days have gone from 44 to 24 degrees here so it’s time to let you in on a pudding recipe that ticks all the boxes – delicious, warm, gooey and chocolatey with a luscious sauce that forms magically under the cake. It also happens to be reduced in sugar, easily adapted to be gluten free or vegan and has the benefits of maca, cacao, flax and almond meal.

Saucy chocolate pudding 

* see below for details of products that can make things less complicated 🙂

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup gluten free flour (you could also use wheat, spelt or coconut flour here)
1/2 cup almond meal     *
2 heaped tablespoons of flax meal      *
4 tablespoons cacao powder (you can use cocoa powder here)     *
4 tablespoons maca powder      *
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup apple sauce)
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your milk of choice)

Sauce ingredients
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons white or coconut sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease a 20x20cm baking dish.

Mix together sugar, flour, almond meal, flax meal, cacao, maca, baking powder and salt.
Add eggs (or apple sauce), vanilla and milk and stir until combined.
Pour into baking dish and smooth surface with the back of a spoon or spatula.

For the sauce mix together sugars and cocoa powder and sprinkle over cake batter. Gently pour the boiling water over the top – it will look weird, don’t worry it will all come together beautifully.

Bake for 30mins.

* To make things easier I buy Power Super Foods Maca and Cacao Smoothie blend from the local health food/organic store. You can use this in baking, smoothies, to make hot chocolate as well as replacing the maca and cacao powders above with the equivalent amount of this product.

maca

*this flax and almond baking meal is available in the health food aisle of supermarkets and is a healthy and more cost effective way to include flax and almond meals into your baking. You can replace the flax and almond meal above with equivalent amount of this blend.

flax meal

Advertisements

Saving the earth one sandwich wrapper at a time … DIY beeswax food wrappers

 

Do you hate single use plastics ? Things like take away food containers, cups, shopping bags, cling wrap – all of the plastic that has ever been made – is still here on the earth making a mess of things.

So what can you do ?  Bring your own cups and containers when you go out, remember your reusable shopping bags and MAKE SOME BEES WAX FOOD WRAPPERS !

You may have seen these for sale but been put off by the price  – about $35 for six –  so why not make some yourself for about $8 in bees wax and fabric ?

This is a really simple thing to do. It’s fun, easy, means you can do away with cling wrap and will make you feel like an eco warrior !

INSTRUCTIONS

What you’ll need to make four 20x20cm and two 40x40cm wrappers

40 cm of 100% cotton fabric   (150cm wide)
50 – 60gm food grade bees wax
Cheese grater
A couple of teaspoons of coconut oil
Non stick baking paper
Iron
Pinking shears or sewing machine

1. Cut your fabric to the desired sizes. I made mine in the sizes detailed above.
Use pinking shears to trim edges or use sewing machine to hem to avoid fraying.
If you’re feeling particularly cruisy you can just use the cut fabric and risk a few loose threads.

FullSizeRender-3
2. Grate beeswax with cheese grater.

FullSizeRender-6
3. Place a piece of baking paper on ironing board, sprinkle with grated beeswax and dot with a small amount of coconut oil (about 1/4 tsp for the small wraps). Cover with another piece of baking paper and use iron to melt wax and oil so that it soaks through the fabric making sure that all fabric is covered.You can sprinkle a little extra beeswax onto areas not fully covered and repeat the ironing process.

4. Once you’re happy with your wrap lift off top layer of paper, peel away from bottom paper and place on cake rack to cool completely. Be careful – it will be hot.

FullSizeRender-4

To clean after use simply wipe with a warm cloth. After a few months you may need to lightly re-wax your wrappers. You can do this by repeating the above steps with a more sparing amount of beeswax.

 

 

Tahini biscuits…

fullsizerender

 

My eldest daughter Zoe has an obsession with tahini. She loves it in all it’s forms. I’ve been making tahini salad dressing, black tahini banana bread and now I’ve whipped up a batch of tahini biscuits.

Tahini is the paste of ground sesame seeds. It has a lovely nutty taste and is a fantastic source of calcium.

If you’re looking for a refined sugar free, gluten free, vegan and delicious biscuit to have with your afternoon cup of tea I urge you to give these a go.

Tahini Biscuits 

90mls maple syrup
90mls treacle (you could use honey, molasses or golden syrup here)
90mls tahini
zest of an orange
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups oat flour (this can be made by processing rolled oats in a food processor until your get a flour consistency. Alternatively, you could use plain or GF flour instead)
150g almond meal
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds or flaked almonds for dipping

How to..

With an electric or stand mixer blend together maple syrup, treacle, tahini, orange zest and vanilla. Beat for a few minutes until well mixed and fluffy.
Mix in oat flour and bicarb soda.

Roll into teaspoon size balls and roll in seeds or almonds. Flatten slightly and place on baking tray. Refrigerate for 30 mins.

Heat oven to 180 degrees. Bake biscuits for 10-15 mins.
Cool on trays.

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….

blood

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

 

Rethinking your ‘weaknesses’….

rethink

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…..

 

cur

 

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 ….

test_tubes_5

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