Sugar

Changing Bad Habits

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Approximately 45% of what we do each day is habit. All habits were once conscious decisions we made which we continued with until it became an automatic behaviour.

Why are habits so difficult to change?

Habits are strongly influenced by all of our previous life experiences, plus, people generally prefer an immediate reward over more significant, delayed ones. This is known as delayed discounting and was the subject of a cute experiment with children which you’ve probably seen on tv. Children were told they could either have a marshmallow now, or if they waited 15 minutes then they could have 2. Many found that 1 marshmallow too irresistible and were not able to adjust their behaviour in order to wait 15 minutes and alter their outcome.

Willpower

But changing habits also requires a certain amount of willpower. Willpower is like a muscle in that it can fatigue with use. Our willpower is stronger in the morning and once we have used it 3-4 times in a day, it generally starts to decline. How many times have you woken in the morning with the intention of eating well and exercising but then found yourself on the couch that evening with a glass of wine saying, I’ll start tomorrow? This is why it is easier to change a morning habit than one later in the day.

The Cue

There are 3 components to every habit: a cue, the behavior itself and the reward. One key to establishing good habits is to manipulate the cue. For example, if your plan is to go for a run after work on Monday nights, then before you leave the house that morning, lay out your running gear and bottle of water where you will see it as soon as you walk in the door. Then you don’t have to think too much. Just change into the gear, pick up the bottle and off you go. Remove as many distractions, road blocks and reasons to make excuses as possible.

The Reward

If the reward of feeling good after the run isn’t enough to sustain the new behaviour until it becomes a habit, maybe use the reward of a small piece of chocolate straight after the run as incentive to establish the behavior.

Goal-setting and self monitoring

It has been found that one of the most effective behavioural change techniques is the use of goal-setting and self-monitoring. Be accountable to yourself and track or chart your results. Couple that with some short term dedicated willpower and you are in the best position for creating a new habit. See attached my Exercise Diary which you can use or adapt to track your progress in the behaviour you want to change or implement.

Substitution

When it comes to eliminating bad habits, substitute that bad behavior with a better behaviour. For example, if sitting down in front of the tv on a week night is your cue to pour yourself a glass of wine, try substituting the glass of wine for a herbal tea or some other healthy drink. The cue of sitting on the couch at night will eventually no longer be associated with wine. Whats more, I can assure you that when you do allow yourself that glass of wine on the Saturday night, you will enjoy it so much more!

 

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The Human Naturopath

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What type of naturopath would you prefer to see? One who’s just like you who has a few vices and enjoys their life (but knows when and what to rein it in to keep healthy)? Or one who is a purist and never relaxes their high level expectations, looking down at you from their conceitedly perfect existence? I’m sure a lot of people resist going to see a naturopath because they think they won’t be able to live up to their perceived expectations of what they’ll need to do. They may think “I don’t want to have to buy everything organic” or “I like my wine and chocolate too much and don’t want to be told I can never have it again” or “I don’t like goats milk, carob, or kale and I’m sure I’ll be told to have these instead of the foods I love”.

The beauty of naturopathy is that it is tailored to the individual. It is in my best interest to create a treatment plan that will not only be effective for you, but also feels realistic and achievable for you. What is the use of a perfect treatment plan if it is just too hard to follow. A person who is completely daunted is more likely to do nothing at all. On the other hand, if the instructions are not scary and feel achievable, they are more likely to follow them and will get far better results.

As a real, non-purist naturopath I come from a place of non-judgement and acceptance. How can I relate to my clients and their health struggles if I’m perfect! I like a wine and some chocolate often, I love a really good licorice all-sort and why on earth would I say no to a piece of my friends birthday cake. I don’t live an organic, macrobiotic, gluten free, dairy free, vegan lifestyle so why would I expect you to. Life is about moderation and balance and being healthy most of the time but knowing when to enjoy yourself and take the pressure off. Besides, it promotes relaxation, connection with family and friends and happiness and all that “good” far outweighs the occasional “bad”.

We are all on our own health journey, some of us are just at the beginning and other may be well advanced. The benefit of seeing a naturopath is that we work with you and your lifestyle and where you are at on your health journey. This ensures you obtain results that are realistic and achievable for you.

I’m sure most people would prefer to go to a naturopath who’s not a purist living the perfect existence. What about you?

FODMAPs – A simple solution for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

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Last blog I spoke about small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) as one of the main causes of IBS. I briefly mentioned that one of the main treatments which brings relief to 90% of IBS sufferers is to follow a low FODMAP diet. So what is a FODMAP?

It’s a bit of a mouthful but FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and ployols. Essentially, it is an indigestible sugar that ferments in the gut and provides fast food for bowel bacteria, allowing them to produce excessive amounts of gas.

Two of the biggest culprits within these categories are fructose (a monosaccharide mostly in fruits) and lactose (a disaccharide mostly found in diary food). Two foods which seem to be the most problematic for people with FODMAP issues are (unfortunately) onion and garlic and these should always be eliminated when attempting a low FODMAP diet.

The important thing is the amount of bacterial gas produced, and the way our bowel does or does not cope with it. This is what produces the common symptoms of IBS, namely abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea or constipation. Generally your system can cope with a little of your problematic food, or a little of a few foods from within your problematic FODMAP category. However, once a certain threshold of the FODMAP sugars is reached, that is when symptoms are triggered. This is why it can be so difficult to work out which foods are problematic for you because sometimes you can eat them with no problems and other times you can’t.

The great news is that once you work out which foods or FODMAP categories are a problem for you, cutting them out of your diet temporarily seems to greatly alleviate, if not completely resolve the symptoms for around 90% of IBS sufferers. The even better news is that after only 1-3 weeks most people can begin to reintroduce their problem foods and usually find that after having given their system that short break, they no longer experience the same issues from eating that food.

Monash University has developed an app you can purchase for around $10 which contains information, recipes and a traffic light system for hundreds of foods, products and condiments. It lets you know which category any particular food falls into so you can soon work out if you have an issue with just one of the FODMAP categories or several. It has the ability to create shopping lists, personal notes on particular foods, and has a 7 day trial you can follow to assess your body’s response to a low FODMAP diet.

Balm Naturopathy can assist you with working out which foods may be causing you a problem. Or, if you believe you have already tried eliminating FODMAP foods and are still experiencing symptoms, Balm can help explore alternative causes and devise a treatment plan to address those causes and bring you welcome relief.

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So is fat okay now?

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There has been a lot of new information coming out lately regarding fat and sugar. First fat was the big nasty and everyone steered clear of any fat, often favouring low fat or “lite” versions of food believing we were doing the right thing for our arteries. Now it seems this was the wrong thing to do as these products generally have had the fat content replaced by extra sugar. And sugar is now the new demon.

Latest findings show that sugar is the thing doing us the most damage these days because it is so readily converted to fat for storage within the body, including within the liver. It is pro-inflammatory and causes oxidation which accelerates damage and aging throughout the body. So, does this mean we can now eat all the fat we like? After all, it has been shown that populations with some of the highest fat intakes also exhibit some of the lowest incidence of cardiovascular disease.

Well, when it comes to cardiovascular risk, yes, eating fat is fine. However there are a couple of guidelines which we’ll look at later.

So what is the interaction between sugar and fat in the blood? Sugar (including that readily obtained by the body from breaking down excessive carbohydrates) can cause oxidative damage to the fats circulating in our blood. This is the time when high blood fat and cholesterol levels become a problem. When blood fats are in good condition and circulating in healthy, undamaged blood vessels, they are protective. It is only when inflammatory damage has occurred (usually from excessive sugars), that plaques can form, leading to heart attack and stroke.

The other interesting thing is that excessive carbohydrate and sugar intake is more likely to cause an increase in your blood fats than eating dietary fat. This is because one of the ways the body deals with excessive carbohydrates is for the liver to convert it into fatty acids.

So don’t feel guilty about including fat in your diet. Stop buying low fat versions of food just because you think it’s best for your health. Simply follow these 5 guidelines:

  1. Trans fat intake is the only fat shown to have a significantly detrimental effect on cardiovascular risk. This should be avoided wherever possible. (See below for a list of the different types of fats and their main sources)
  2. Omega-3 has been shown to have a significantly protective impact on cardiovascular risk and should be included wherever possible.
  3. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 intake is 2:1. The average dietary intake is closer to 20:1 and this imbalance promotes its own inflammation. So enjoy eating sources of omega-6 but make sure you are also eating good sources of omega-3.
  4. Only if you are already suffering insulin resistance and inflammatory damage should you moderate saturated fat intake, taking care not to subsequently increase your carbohydrate intake to compensate.
  5. Fat is an essential nutrient and generally only detrimental when consumed in excess, along with excessive calories overall, inadequate exercise and inadequate fruit and vegetable intake.

The Types of Fat:

  1. Saturated fat – found in meat, dairy, eggs and coconut oil
  2. Monounsaturated fat – found in meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil and canola oil.
  3. Polyunsaturated fat:
    1. Omega-6 – Found in nuts, seeds, poultry, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, sesame and soybean oils.
    2. Omega-3 – Grassfed beef, dairy, seafood, fish, flaxseeds, fish oil and flaxseed oil.
  4. Trans fats – partially dehydrogenated fats, deep fried foods, commercial cakes, biscuits and pastries.

The brilliant thing is that most natural foods contain a variety of types of fat, not just saturated or unsaturated, and they are generally in the best ratio for your body’s health. What’s more, natural, unprocessed foods are also packed with all the antioxidants needed to offset any oxidative damage that may occur to the fats they contain. This is the beauty of nature.

Raw salmon pic ID-10017101

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