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.




Rethinking your ‘weaknesses’….


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…..




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 :

Vitamin C and E
Alpha lipoic acid
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
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
Keep stress at a healthy level
Get enough sleep
Avoid smoking and alcohol
Minimise exposure to toxins – environmental and food sources, drugs

Where do you get your health information ????


I was listening to the radio the other day when a philosopher starting talking about ‘infobesity’. The theory is that we are gorging ourselves indiscriminately on information that may or may not have value or accuracy – fast food for our brains. He went on to talk about how we often develop online personas that don’t accurately reflect the richness of who we are but rather highlight our few high priority causes. I had a think about my online presence and realised that it’s all about me being a naturopath-lefty-chicken tragic-mother. I’m ok with all these things but surely there’s more to me than that.

The other aspect of this ‘infobesity’ is that we are often fed information that is in alignment with our views and previous searches. We sign up to newsletters for products, services and personalities we can identify with or aspire to. We narrow our own experience by filtering out ideas that are foreign to us or that we don’t agree with. That isn’t a bad thing altogether – I certainly don’t want McDonalds in my inbox but there is also the healthy notion that it’s good to keep your mind open to things you don’t understand or particularly like.

When I looked at the resources I use most frequently for health information I felt reassured that my sources were reputable, substantiated and consistent. It was however, glaringly obvious, that I am drawing from a select pool that is usually only available via subscription or to verified professionals.  A large portion of the readily available information is biased at best and false at worst. Without some background knowledge it’s hard to discriminate between the worthwhile and the valueless.

I am all for people being informed especially when it relates to health matters. I love it when people come to see me armed with knowledge and ideas about their health concerns. What I find challenging is that this information can sometimes seem very useful when in fact it’s not substantiated in any way or makes crazy promises about wonder cures. Anyone can make these kind of claims – to cure cancers, help you chose the sex of your baby, cure your chronic disease in three easy steps, radical weight loss – but really this is just nonsense and creates false hope and unrealistic expectations. I have seen some amazing results in my work but these come about through healthy changes to diet and lifestyle factors and commitment to a treatment plan that is based in evidence and experience.

I believe that it’s crucially important to understand your own health and how your body works for you. The internet is a fantastic starting point but nothing can replace speaking with someone who knows you and your circumstances and who also has the professional qualifications to back up their suggestions for treatment.

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


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



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
__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.

Adrenal Fatigue ….that wired and tired feeling


You sleep all night but wake up tired. The first thing you want in the morning is coffee and sugar. The mid morning slump and coffee craving are regular parts of your day. By midday you are hoping for an afternoon nap. Dinner time is when you find some energy then fade again by 9pm.  Can’t concentrate. Forgetful. Craving carbs, Hair is falling out. No time to feel sick but when you do you go down hard.   Sound familiar ?????

It could be adrenal fatigue…

Our adrenals are small glands located on top of your kidneys. They regulate our stress response by releasing adrenalin and cortisol. Stress comes in lots of forms –
Physical – injury, excess weight, pain
Emotional – upset, stressed, overwhelmed, grief, anxiety
Mental – studying, long bouts of concentration, work

We experience different kinds of stress but it all has the same effect on our bodies – a release of cortisol and adrenaline.  These hormones are known as the fight or flight response and traditionally provided us with a quick response to get us up and running from threats and once the danger had passed, to rest and digest. Unfortunately our lives can often feel like a constant barrage of stressful events.

Cortisol is the hormone that protects our bodies from the free radical damage that adrenaline causes. To create cortisol our bodies need protein, stomach acid to break it down, zinc, b vitamins, vitamin c, and magnesium. These nutrients are also needed for lots of other body functions so making sure you have enough, especially when you’re stressed, is hugely important.

Ways to look after your adrenals…

Sleep – aim for at least seven hours per night.
When you feel exhausted try lying flat for 10 minutes. This gives your body cues that you are responding to your stress and slows the adrenal response.
Smile – There are lots of studies proving the positive effects on stress hormones and the adrenals when a person feels happy. Be careful about what you let into your head – avoid negativity, steer clear of the sad/scary movies.
Move you body– just 20 minutes of gentle exercise daily reduces stress and adrenaline. Remember you are not doing this to train or lose weight – just enjoy a walk in the sun or a leisurely bike ride.
Swap caffeine and sugar for real nutrients – make sure you are getting plenty of  zinc, vitamin C, B’s, magnesium, and protein. Caffeine and sugar actually cause direct stress to the adrenals so while it may feel like a short term solution its actually creating a long term problem.
Try to do something for yourself or ask for some help – all too often the person with adrenal fatigue is the one who is looking after everyone else.
Get some help with your health – herbs, supplements, diet and stress management can help you feel good again. Talking to someone about your stress and how to manage it can help you feel more in control and get you back on track faster.

Helping young people with mental illness…..


I was reading an article a couple of days ago about the prevalence of mental health issues in adolescents. What struck me, and deeply saddened me, was the statistic that of all visits to health professionals by 13 – 21 year old people, almost 40% of them were for depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns. And these are the kids who are actually seeking help… the number could rise significantly if we include unsupported, financially stressed and struggling kids and families.

A study by the ANU Centre for Mental Health Research showed that 28% of people in the 19 – 21 year old age bracket had had experience with mental illness at some point. The other disturbing fact was that their research found that these kids had major concerns about the stigma surrounding mental health issues and significantly overestimated the reaction of others. These concerns often prevented them from seeking help. We need to make it easier for our kids to get the help they need and talking openly and compassionately about mental illness is a good start.

At a time in your life when you are accutely aware of how you are perceived, when you are trying to work out who you are, when you are flooded with unattainable, unrealistic and often negative images it is little wonder that kids can feel reluctant to seek help or even to let someone know that they are struggling.

So what are the signs to look out for : 

Sleeplessness/ Insomnia
Changed behaviour – problems at school, lack of or excessive socialisation
Loss of interest in hobbies or sport
Concentration problems
Anger / Agitation
Sadness, hopelessness, tearfulness
Feelings of guilt
Lack of self worth
Difficulty making decisions
Excessive or inappropriate worrying
Loss of appetite or weight changes

It’s worth talking to your kids about these issues even if you feel that they are ok. When you look at the statistics and consider that nearly 1 in 3 kids is affected at some point it is highly likely that you have a child or know a child who may be struggling.

Early intervention is key to addressing the problem before it can take hold and take over. Seeing a naturopath is a great start – at NaturoCath Naturopathy you will find a compassionate listener and herbal and nutritional support.  Assessments can be done to check for potential physiological problems which may be driving the illness and a plan can be formulated to provide support such as counselling, advice and co-ordination of care with schools, GP’s or psychologists. This approach provides a multi faceted, supportive structure and reduces the likelihood of progression to antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.

If medications are already being used, or if it is necessary to go on to medications we can work co-operatively with GP’s and psychiatrists to ensure that the medications are used in the most effective way and are supported by diet and optimal nutrition.

Talk to your kids, let them know you care enough to have the conversation no matter how hard it is. Help them develop resilience and self worth. Most importantly, take the time to listen. It may be the most important conversation of your life.

The many benefits of solitude …..


There is a lot of pressure these days to be social….constantly. I think we may be losing the valuable art of contented aloneness. Whatever happened to being able to be happily by ourselves without the constant feedback and reassurance of others ?  It’s so important to be able to feel alone without feeling lonely.

I do understand that circumstances can determine how we feel about solitude. I remember a time many years ago when I was feeling very alone and solitude was a double edged sword. Even as a child I had loved being alone and yet when it was forced upon me I felt more lonely than anything else. It ended up being a very important time for me and set the groundwork for my appreciation now of my family and friends. It drew me back into the world.

Loneliness is very different to alone time and I think we may have been getting those confused.

I have noticed that lots of people tell me that they would kill for a day to themselves and when it comes they do things like spend it at the shopping mall surrounded by thousands of strangers. I actually know a few people who have recently deleted their facebook or twitter accounts because they felt like it was all getting a bit out of control and taking up way more time that it deserved. I particularly fear for the young ones amongst us who are comforted by their 1000 facebook “friends”.  True friends are often hard to come by – treasure them, make time for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I like facebook – it’s a great way to keep in touch and is certainly a valuable way for me to get information out to my clients and friends but lets not confuse looking at peoples photos and hearing about how they spent their weekend with true friendship.

I am an unashamed solitude seeker. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends, adore my family and really like talking to people about all sorts of things but if there isn’t enough alone time I can start to feel tetchy, spread thin and less able to enjoy the social interaction when it comes. I need that space to clear my head, feel a relief from all the stimulation, to regroup. I am definitely a better person to be around when I have had enough of not being around.

It’s such a blessing to spend a day quietly, happily alone, out in the world or  in my garden or with a good book. Allowing the space for idle thoughts to turn into useful ideas, for some reflection about how you actually want to be in the world, even to just stop talking for a while.

Walking the talk… kickstarting my health plan…


It’s all very well for me to sprout on about all the things we should be doing for optimal health but it’s another thing to walk the talk.

At my house we have a great plant based diet, I go to the gym a few times a week and I try to look after my mental health by keeping an eye on the things I am grateful for and by valuing the people and relationships in my life.

However, it is easy to get stuck in a bit of a rut so I have decided to kick things along a bit and watch the benefits roll in.

Today I started off with a trip to the gym and then to the fruit shop. I bought enough fruit to make anyones palate sing and we are relying on the veges from our garden for this weeks goodness. I’m looking forward to some nutritionally dense smoothies and juices which are especially good in this hot, hot weather when you don’t really feel like eating. It’s going to be 45 degrees here tomorrow so staying hydrated is a priority.

My trip to the gym has become a bit routine so I have downloaded an app which promises to get me off the couch and running 5ks. Even though I feel reasonably fit it’s going to be good to do something different which pushes me along.

Home and starving… I have decided to make a daily smoothie of fruit, soy milk, water, ice, chia seed and Metagenics Thermo Phase Detox powder. This powder is like manna from heaven – full of lots of liver supporting ingredients, vitamins and minerals. It can also be used as a meal replacement if you are in a rush. Add to it all those super good for you fruits like blueberries, mango, berries and bananas for their antioxidant and vitamin punch.
I’m also including a daily dose of pineapple and papaya to ensure that my digestive enzymes are at a level needed to make the most of all this great food.

So why not join me in kickstarting your way to better health and get rid of some of those lurking toxic nasties at the same time. We invest so much time and money on how we look on the outside – for the price of a haircut you can be feeling great and looking good inside and out.

The detox diet myth…


It’s about this time of year that the marketing for detoxing really amps up. There’s the overpriced, often dangerous and under performing lemon detox diet and bikini diet. There are diets that advocate fasting or eliminating whole food groups and some that say you can detoxify your body by wearing sticky patches on the souls of your feet ! The list goes on and on promising all sorts of unrealistic and often unsubstantiated claims. My all time non favourite, grind my teeth in frustration kind of diet is the one that tells you that you need to starve yourself in order to eliminate toxins… this just doesn’t make sense. Your body needs good nutrition in order to function optimally.

Our bodies are designed to deal with toxins through elimination via our kidneys, liver, skin and lungs. Sure, we are all exposed to more toxins than ever and many people are eating their way to an unhealthy toxic load through food that really isn’t food at all but it doesn’t make any sense to me to starve and stress a body which is already dealing with the heavy workload of keeping us healthy.

What makes a whole lot more sense to me is to provide your body with nutritional and herbal support so that our natural detoxifying systems can work optimally. Of course we need to limit the toxic load by eating real food and staying away from harmful chemicals, cleaning products and cosmetics. When you decrease your toxic load and increase your bodies capacity to deal with toxins you are on your way to feeling a whole lot better.

You can start today by upping your plant based meals and drinking lots of water, exercising enough to work up a sweat and getting rid of any cleaning products or cosmetics that are loaded up with nasties. Try to eat as organically as you can or better yet grow your food so you truly know what’s in it.

For help and support in getting your new year off to a cracking healthy start call me today  and make an appointment for a personalised detox/health enhancing program.

Tel : 02 45677104     Mob : 0414 298645

Email : info@naturocath.com.au