A few of you have asked what alternatives to use to replace mainstream chemicals, so I thought I would write a short list. You can Google anything nowadays, so I am sure you will find plenty more!
Garden and bugs
A great bug deterrent for plants is a mix of garlic, grated soap, chilli flakes, mixed in water and use in spray bottle on your plants. White vinegar on its own or with soap flakes, sprayed directly onto weeds can ‘wither’ them within a few hours.
Some plants are not as susceptible to vinegar. A waxy coating or a “hairy” (fuzzy) surface may interfere with the absorption of the vinegar. This is the type that would suffer more by adding the soap to a vinegar weed killer recipe. (1)
If you can pull out your weeds it is much better for our soil and our health.
To deter flies coming in your house try putting basil plants near the doors. There are also some great bug zappers, fly traps and mosquito deterrents and zappers available in camping stores and online.
White (home brand) vinegar, Its antibacterial, antifungal, inhibits mould, and has been shown to kill the Flu virus. Anti bacterial sprays and soaps don’t do this. They just break down the natural barrier of your skin and expose you to some nasty toxins. There are some great natural antibacterial soaps and hand washes based on olive leaf extract and tea tree oil and other essential oils. Lemon essential oil is highly antibacterial and clove essential oil is great for killing mould (be careful with this one as its pretty potent).
Bi carb soda is great for dirt you have to ‘scrub” and mixed with white vinegar makes a pretty potent cleaner!
White vinegar and newspaper makes a great glass and mirror cleaner! You probably already know that one…..
If you would prefer to buy one, the ‘Eureka’ eucalyptus and citrus spray is a great multi purpose cleaner. Its great for bathrooms and cleaning tables. I use it in my clinic and it smells great! It doubles up as a relief of aches and pains and can be sprayed onto cuts to disinfect them.
‘Eco store’ are a natural range of cleaning products and include dishwashing and clothes detergents.
Most soaps contain animal fats (sodium tallowate) and synthetic fragrances. Not really that nice to rub all over your body. There are now some great natural soaps in the supermarkets. I prefer the coconut oil based ones, but olive oil and goats milk soaps are also very soothing and nourishing for the skin. Dr. Bronner’s do an organic range of soaps and skin care. Check out:
The one big thing to avoid in skincare and make up is parabens. They have been shown to contribute to cancers. Try and avoid any long sounding chemical names. A must have is ’The Chemical Maze’ book. This pocket seized book has a comprehensive listing of chemicals in food, cosmetics and household products , analyses them and tells us what the potential sides affects can be. Get it at Booktopia here: http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-chemical-maze-bookshelf-companion-bill-statham/prod9780957853584.html?source=pla&gclid=CN_x8-XJttACFQqAvQod6kgGUQ
I have come across some great natural skin care over the years, and it just keeps getting better! Depending on your skin and your needs you can choose from Antipodes, who also have a completely natural face moisturiser with sunscreen. They have a range that suits every skin type. I also love the local ‘Renew me’ natural anti-aging skincare range for mature skin, made in Adelaide and available only online.
A range of body moisturisers I like are Avalon organics , Weleda and Dr. Bronners. Trilogy do the best hand cream I have ever come across- their ‘Ultra Hydrating hand cream “. For anyone that washes their hands a hundred times a day like me and needs to give them extra hydration.
And talking about washing hands, avoid those antibacterial washes. Apart from making bacteria more resistant, they destroy the natural barrier and of your skin, causing a ‘leaky ‘ skin barrier which is more susceptible to dermatitis. Look for a natural pH balanced hand wash. The best I have found is Melrose liquid castile soap was made from lots of lovely organic oils such as olive and flaxseed.
There are a lot of mineral make ups out there. Beware of the powders as they clog your pores. Try the liquid minerals from Inika, a fairly new and organic range of make up. I am using it right now and find its great! I also love Young Blood and Vani -T (also local). Miessence also have a range of very pure makeup, skin care and toothpaste.
Pure by phytocare make a great Papaya ointment for lips and cracked irritated skin. This one doesn’t have any petrochemicals in it like the Lucas paw paw has (the one in the red tube).
Sunscreens without the nasties
Moogoo have a great sunscreen with an SPF of 40+. UV natural have a range from sports to baby. You cant go past the popular coconut oil , although I would not recommend to rely on it if you are in the sun for hours on end. But it acts as a natural sun protectant and the more you use it, the more effective it becomes.
I really love the Biologika organic range of deodorants. They smell divine! They double up as perfumes as the essential oils they use are quite strong. But there are plenty of others that are natural and aluminium free. You can also use essential oils instead of perfumes, and make up your own unique scent with a mixture of a few of them.
Vicco , Miessence and My magic mud are some great natural toothpastes, free of chemicals and fluoride. They are great for sensitive teeth also.
Watersco. Australia have great portable water filters. They get rid of 99.9% of fluoride and alkalise your water. There are also Alkaway filters and for plumbed under the sink filters ‘Wellness Filters’ are very good.
There are a huge amount of natural alternatives out there, to help make ourselves healthier and create a healthier, safer planet to live on.
“I’ve got a gut feeling about this”. We have all used this expression at some stage of our lives. There is a real relevance to this as our gut really does influence our feelings!
One way this happens is through the vagus nerve. This nerve joins your brain to your intestines, and along the way connects other organs also, such as the heart. It is one of the largest nerve systems in our body, second to the spinal cord. The vagus nerve influences our parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest and digest’ part of our nervous system.
This ‘enteric nervous system’ of the intestines is known as the second brain
Stress, fatigue and anxiety reduces vagal nerve activity. When there is poor vagal nerve activity this manifests as low digestive enzymes secretion and therefore poor digestion of foods and poor gallbladder function. This poor gut function then leads to overall inflammation in the body and this inflammation inhibits vagal activity. It’s a vicious cycle! It can lead to IBS symptoms (irritable bowel syndrome) with symptoms such as erratic bowel movements, bloating, flatulence and intestinal cramps.
Poor vagal activity → Decreased gut, pancreatic and gallbladder function
Mental health disorder → POOR BRAIN FUNCTION decreased gut immune system & intestinal blood flow
Leaky blood brain barrier ← pathogenic gut bacteria
and activation of microglial cells leaky gut, low grade inflammation
*Microglial cells are immune cells which can cause inflammation of the brain.
Leaky gut …. Leaky brain
Leaky gut or intestinal permeability is when your small intestine becomes more permeable and unwanted molecules are absorbed back into the blood stream instead of being excreted. This is a leaky gut barrier.
This is more prevalent today and I see it regularly in my clinic.
Leaky gut can be caused by;
- food allergies or intolerances
- intestinal dysbiosis (imbalance of bacteria in bowels)
- pathogens such parasites, bacteria or candida
- from frequent antibiotic use
- ongoing severe stress
- poor dietary choices.
- Poor digestion and/or low stomach acid
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Frequent NSAIDS, antacids or aspirin use
Leaky gut leads to inflammation which can increase production of cortisol (from the adrenal glands) and reduces the function of the inhibitory neurotransmitters such as GABA, which makes us feel calmer. Therefore leaky gut can lead to anxiety. It can also result in poor sleep, reduced production of serotonin and melatonin (our sleep hormone) and chronic pain.
The inflamed brain, anxiety, fatigue and poor memory
Leaky gut can cause symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, anxiety and even depression.
These symptoms occur when the leaky gut causes inflammation in the body, and this inflammation can access the brain (the blood brain barrier) and lead to negative brain and mood health. If this is ongoing it reduces brain cell function. If it happens in the hippocampus of the brain, this contributes to low mood and cognitive function, therefore memory is affected.
“Inflammatory, toxic and oxidative stressors that arise from leaky gut can deteriorate blood brain barrier integrity. This allows the passage of unwanted compounds into the central nervous system, setting off a cascade of damaging reactions”. (1)
An example of this is the high levels of ‘MMP -9’s’ in people with schizophrenia and depression. MMP-9 is ‘matrix metalloproteinase -9’ which is a specific proteolytic enzyme which breaks down the ‘extracellular matrix’ (the complex meshwork which fills the space between the cells of your body’s tissues).
Leaky gut breaks down tryptophan, which is an amino acid needed for the production of serotonin (our happy hormone) and melatonin (our sleep hormone). You produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine in your gut. It also activates our HPA axis, which is the communication of the hypothalamus, pituitary (glands of the brain) and the adrenals. Which can over activate the production of cortisol and adrenalin, leading to anxiety.
Over exercising is a form of inflammation which can contribute to leaky gut. So if you have a leaky gut then reduce your exercise to light to moderate.
When homocysteine levels are high, as mentioned in my previous blog on MTHFR, this results in inflammation and MMP-9 and increases intestinal permeability (yes, the leaky gut again!). This high homocysteine can be linked to having the MTHFR gene mutation.
What to do
Treat leaky gut with change of diet and lifestyle, antimicrobials, pre and probiotics and gut healing supplements. As treating leaky gut is quite complex and individualised to each person, consulting a naturopath is the best course of action here. Anti inflammatory herbs such as curcumin (in turmeric) and fish oils can be taken.
Reduce stress, anxiety and reduce exercise if there is too much.
Stimulate the vagus nerve. You can do this by singing loudly, gagging (even though not fun), gargling several times a day, with coffee enemas (not for everyone) and yoga. You could try the following exercise;
Yoga poses for digestion and vagus nerve stimulation
Kneel on a yoga mat with your buttocks on your heels. Put a rolled blanket on your lap and let it rest against your lower abdomen. Inhale to lengthen your spine and then exhale and lean forward over the blanket. Try to reach forward far enough so that you ribs are over the top of the blanket. Slowly walk your fingers forwards reaching your head down towards the mat. Breathe fully and stay in the pose as long as you like. To exit the pose just walk your hands back into a seated position.
Also deep breathing, in for three and out for five, shuts off the sympathetic nervous system ( the ‘flight and fright’) and allows for vagal activation (which activates the parasympathetic nervous system to do with – resting and digesting!)
If you have a leaky gut then adhering to an anti inflammatory gluten and dairy free diet for at least 6 weeks is recommended. I also suggest the avoidance of all sugars and processed foods. Anti inflammatory diet would contain oily fish, nuts and seeds, organic eggs, lots of organic vegetables, some fruit and limited gluten free grains such as organic brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa (they are really seeds).
Gluten has been shown to harm the gastrointestinal tract, brain and nervous system. A third of people with gluten sensitivity show no symptoms. Wheat is especially highly processed now days and it is harder to digest.
Eliminate known allergens and food sensitivities or test for these. You can also try an elimination diet and slowly introduce one food at a time to observe reactions.
Mood and gut health, to sum up…
Having and maintaining a good bacterial balance in the gut will improve;
- Digestion and nutrient uptake
- The immune system
- neurotransmitter production (ie serotonin)
- protection against toxic agents and heavy metal toxicity that can reduce mental and cognitive health
- prevention leaky gut
- prevention of local infections which can cause mood imbalances
As it is a two way street, anxiety and stress can cause leaky gut and leaky gut can cause anxiety and low mood. Re-establishing the microflora (the good bacteria) in the intestines plays an the important role of maintaining healthy moods in the long term.
If you suspect you have a leaky gut or are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, please contact me for a consultation.
Biological mood management and mental health. Stacey Jarvis.
Dr. Sircus “The function of the vagus nerve”
(1) FX Medicine spring 2014. ‘The state of mind – How gut health affects the brain’. Bioceuticals trade manual
The digestive and renal systems ; Henry Oseiki and Fiona Meeke
Did you know that 70-80% of the body’s immune cells are in the gut? This is because the food and water we consume contains the most common source of antigenic invasion, so the gut needs the most protection. The digestive system is home to gut –associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). An example of lymph tissue in the gut are ‘Peyer’s patches’, which are patches of elongated tissue in the small intestine which produce the T – Lymphocytes, T and B cells. Lymphocytes are white blood cells and are named as such as they are found in lymph tissue. Other examples of lymph tissue are lymph nodes, the spleen, tonsils and the appendix.
For your immune system to be strong you need to have a healthy gut…. More on this later.
So what is the immune system anyway?
The immune system protects the body from potentially harmful substances. It does this by recognising and responding to Antigens, which are large protein molecules on the surface of bacterial, viral, cancer or fungal cells. Or antigens can be chemicals, toxins and drugs. Antigens stimulate the production of antibodies, which attack these antigens and promotes inflammation. Antibodies, or immunoglobulins are proteins that prevent harm in the body.
B cells are white blood cells which produce antibodies which are proteins which are specific for an antigen which invade the body. T-cells mainly produce antibodies which fight viruses. GALT plays a large role in protecting against pathogenic infections such as parasites, bacteria, yeast and fungus and viruses.
Now back to the gut and digestion…
A poor diet containing excessive caffeine, excessive alcohol, sugar and junk food all weaken the immune system. Exposure to chemicals and toxins such as car fumes, pesticides sprays and chlorine and fluoride in your drinking water in food, can make you more susceptible to coming down with an illness. This is partly because this causes the body to become more and more acidic. Most pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses love an acidic environment to thrive in.
Toxicity from processed foods and unfiltered water causes the body to become more acidic during digestion. When you have low stomach acid and don’t digest your foods properly, this leads to the body becoming acidic. The body, when acidic cannot effectively absorb nutrients and therefore has a weakened immune system, ages rapidly and cannot detoxify efficiently.
Low stomach acid leads to bacterial overgrowth in the intestines and SIBO, which is ‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’. This can include the overgrowth of candida alblicans, a yeast that lives in our intestines and over populate in an acidic body and weaken the immune system.
” The relationship between an acidic body and illness has long been established, and the medical term for this condition is “acidosis”.”
-The Health Wyze Report
Three supplements you can take to improve your gut health…..
To boost your immune system by improving your gut health you can take probiotics, colostrum and betaine hydrochloride (with or without digestive enzymes). Colostrum supplements are commonly bovine in nature (cow), and contain immunoglobulins and lactoferrin and therefore give the immune system a real boost. Sometimes they are found in a probiotic formula.
Food additives are your foe…..
To make your immune system strong, avoid processed foods or at least the ones containing food additives. Some food additives look like an infection to our immune system, which stimulates inflammation in the body. Inflammation is an indicator of immune activation. Ongoing, unresolved inflammation can drive diseases such as auto immunity, cardio vascular disease and cancer.
“The Standard western diet promotes inflammation
Diet patterns high in refined starches, sugar and saturated and trans-fatty acids, poor in natural anti-oxidants bad fibre from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and poor in omega 3 fatty acids are pro- inflammatory. “
Guigliano G et al. The effects of diet on inflammation; emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Aug 15; 48(4);677-85
C’mon get moving!!
The human is designed to move! The hunter-gatherer people would walk up to 40 km a day to search for food. We are now becoming more and more immobile due to labour saving devices. As they say, ‘sitting is the new smoking’! This lack of movement increases inflammation throughout the body. Regular exercise reduces inflammation and strengthens our immune system.
Post viral fatigue
Chronic viruses such as Epstein Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalo virus (CMV) and Ross river virus (RRV) can cause long term fatigue or chronic fatigue. In people who have suffered these viruses, 80% of them have been found to have a rare mitochondrial degeneration by researchers. The mitochondria is the ‘energy centre’ of each of the cells in our body and is affected by the ongoing inflammation these viruses produce. This leads to fatigue and lethargy and an inability to detoxify efficiently.
Stress can make us sick….
When we are stressed, we produce larger amounts of cortisol and adrenaline. Stress increases inflammation in the body and decreases our T1 helper cells, and therefore the ability fight to viruses, bacteria, fungus and cancers. T1 helper cells are white blood cells that have the ability to suppress or regulate immune responses. Long term or chronic stress suppresses your immune system, making it harder to fight off any foreign invaders the body is exposed to. Stress can be many things to your body- a lack of sleep, meeting a deadline at work, a demanding husband and children, over exercising, injuries, ongoing exposure to chemicals (for example in jobs such as hairdressing, mining and mechanics.)
Vitamin D…. not just for bones….
Get out in the sun for your dose of vitamin D! In winter months as the sun is further from the earth, the sun’s rays are weaker and we absorb less of the beneficial UV-B light on our skin. A cholesterol (fat) precursor on the skin then helps us to absorb and convert these rays in the kidneys and liver into the active form of vitamin D (1,25-dihydrixy D). Vitamin D is important in regulating the immune system, and there is an association between Vitamin D deficiency and auto immune diseases.
Zinc and Vitamin C
The average orange only contains about 60 mg of vitamin C. Our body will use about 100mg of vitamin C every 4 hours. Many people are deficient. Stress depletes vitamin C, so does smoking and exposure to toxins (car fumes, fly sprays, pesticides etc.). Vitamin C is also destroyed by heat and light, therefore cooked food contains a lot less than raw food.
Do you get little white cloudy spots on your fingernails? This is a zinc deficiency. Zinc is involved in around 100 processes in the human body. It is vital to the maintenance of the immune system.
‘Anti’ the Antibiotics
Time and time again in my clinic I see patients who have had multiple doses of antibiotics over the years and have ended up with recurring illnesses, usually the very one they are trying to treat with the antibiotics.
Antibiotics are destroying the beneficial bacteria in your bowel and letting yeasts such as candida and other unbeneficial bacteria to overgrow. This causes a weakened immune system and in some cases, ‘leaky gut’ or intestinal permeability, where you absorb toxins or unwanted molecules into the blood stream through the intestinal lining. Leaky gut is also strongly associated with auto immune diseases. This bacterial imbalance in the bowels, called ‘dysbiosis’, can lead to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms, food intolerances, recurring sinus and urinary tract infections, just to name a few. Avoid them where you can and use antimicrobial herbs such as Echinacea, andrographis, olive leaf and golden seal.
Pro’ the Probiotics and Prebiotics!
If you must take antibiotics you should always take a probiotic with a prebiotic, for at least a month afterwards. This will help restore the beneficial bowel bacteria. A prebiotic is a form of fibre (such as slippery elm, inulin, arrabinogalactans and pectin) that encourages the growth of the good bacteria in your bowel. If you still have any after effects from taking antibiotics, it’s a good idea to see a naturopath who can get you and your immune system back on track!
For good health our immune system is one of the most important parts to look after. It helps us fight viruses, bacterial, yeast and even cancer every day.
You don’t need to feel sick all the time!
Book a Skype or phone consultation with me and I will help you get your immune system strong again. I also consult face to face in my office at Glenelg South, South Australia.
Eagle; practitioner technical information
Metagenics; Immunity, Key clinical concepts
The Adrenal glands are a walnut sized gland that sit on top of the kidneys. They produce several hormones such as the androgens; testosterone and oestrogen, the mineralocorticoids; aldosterone, the glucocorticoid; cortisol, and the ‘flight and fright’ hormones; adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Adrenal exhaustion is on the increase, or ‘Burnout’ as it’s commonly called. This is usually chronic (long term) and suffered by many including busy mums, high achievers, and busy executives. General weakness which follows any acute illness is an example of acute (short lived) adrenal exhaustion.
Common symptoms can include fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, low blood pressure, loss of memory and ability to concentrate, and over sensitiveness. Also people can feel ‘detached’ with despondency during the day and anxiety at night.
Other symptoms may include allergies, digestive disturbances and shakiness. The immune system is suppressed and these people tend to get sick more often or tend to get secondary infections (ie; bronchitis, sinusitis) after having a cold. The treatment includes nutritional and herbal supplementation, dietary changes and relaxation techniques.
Come and see me if you think this is affecting you!