Balm Blog Archives - Balm Natural Health

Hot flush or power surge?

Posted by | Anxiety, Balm Blog, Blog, Hot Flush, Insomnia, Menopause, Naturopathy, Physical stresses, Sleep, Weight Gain | No Comments

Some months ago, before the whole COVID situation took over our lives, I wrote a blog on Menopause and why some women breeze through it while others suffer terrible symptoms.

I promised my next blog would be all about the hot flush and so finally here it is.

It is one of the most troublesome and common symptoms of menopause. Some women report just a few mild flushes per week while others report debilitating extreme flushes every hour. The natural drop in oestrogen at this time contributes to this symptom but is not the only cause.

What is a hot flush?

The hot flush is the body’s way of quickly lowering the body’s core temperature when it senses that the body has become overheated. Blood vessels near the skins surface expand (or vasodilate) allowing that excess heat to escape from the body via the skin. So why are menopausal women’s bodies overheating so much?

The hypothalamus in the brain acts like a thermostat, keeping body temperature to within a particular temperature range. When the body’s temperature falls outside this range, it will bring in mechanisms to either heat or cool the body to bring it back within the range. For women who suffer regular hot flushes, it seems this temperature range is narrowed meaning the body is more likely to fall outside of the acceptable range, causing the body to think it is overheating.

Why does the thermostat narrow?

The lowered oestrogen levels which go hand in hand with menopause are partially to blame for this temperature thermostat narrowing, however, levels of other types of body chemicals are also involved. For example, a neurotransmitter called GABA is important for sleep and feeling relaxed. This can narrow the thermostat when it is low.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter important for feelings of happiness and wellbeing. This can narrow the thermostat when it is low.

DHEA is produced by the adrenals and can be converted to oestrogen in the tissues of the body.  This too can narrow the thermostat when it is low.

Stress

There is one major thing that can cause all of these things to be depleted in the body and that is stress. Stress also raises the level of cortisol in the body, otherwise known as the stress hormone. And you guessed it, high cortisol also narrows this thermostat range. This explains why women who are stressed often experience more severe hot flush symptoms.

Controlling stress is key

One of the best things you can do to control your hot flushes is therefore lowering or managing your stress level. There are so many physical techniques and lifestyle adjustments you can make which can make a huge difference here. There are also a lot of beautiful herbs and nutritional supplements which can help the body cope with stress and raise the levels of GABA, serotonin, DHEA and even oestrogen, while helping lower cortisol.

Click here for more information on how naturopathy can help with all of your menopause symptoms.

Why do we even have an appendix?

Posted by | Balm Blog, Diet, Digestion, Health, IBS, IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Microbiome, Naturopathy | No Comments

Have you had your appendix removed? Ever wondered what you’re missing?  We’ve always been told that it serves no known purpose and is removed routinely at the first hint of inflammation. 

However, research is suggesting the appendix has been dismissed unfairly and has a couple of important functions.

Firstly, it has an important part to play in our immunity. It contains immune cells important for producing antibodies and for surveillance and destruction of mutated cells and invaders. It also contains cells important for regulating the immune system, helping to prevent it overreacting in certain situations.

Secondly, it acts as a reservoir of good bacteria for the bowel. It works kind of like a safe house keeping a reservoir supply of bacteria safe during infection, diarrhoea and antibiotic use. Things which usually wipe out and disrupt the normal microflora balance in the gut. This reservoir of bacteria can then be released into the bowel to quickly recolonise the microflora after these sorts of insults.

Removal of the appendix has been linked with an increased risk of developing the following:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Colitis
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Gallstones
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ischaemic heart disease
  • Mental health disorders
  • Endometriosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

So, if you have had your appendix removed, it is important that you give your gut ongoing support to maintain a healthy microbiome. This is especially important both just after your appendectomy operation, and during any antibiotic therapy. I can help direct you to the best quality products containing the particular strains of probiotics specific for you and your unique situation

Lockdown Stress and Anxiety

Posted by | Anxiety, Balm Blog, Lockdown, Naturopathy, Sleep, Social isolation | No Comments

Just when we thought we were beginning to head back to some sort of new normal, here we are back in lockdown again.  How you dealt with lockdown back in March doesn’t necessarily predict how you will deal with it now. The first time around it was kind of novel and we watched in horrified fascination as we seemed to fare so much better than many other countries around the world. Then restrictions were relaxed and we breathed a sigh of relief as we were able to slowly get back to seeing our loved ones, using the gym and going out for dinner again.

This time people may be feeling a real sense of going backwards and worried that this may become a recurring pattern. Some people were already deeply concerned about their job and financial security. Others were simply hanging out for their winter holiday in the sun which is just not going to happen now.

Stress Tolerance

The ability to tolerate stress varies from person to person. We all have our own coping mechanisms. However, often these are negative behavioural patterns which might numb the feelings for a short time but are usually more harmful in the long term. This includes things like smoking, drinking alcohol and binging snack foods in front of the television. The body will try to deal with some of your stress during sleep. Interestingly there has emerged a phenomenon called COVID-19 dreams. When there is an increase in the complexity of life’s problems there is often an accompanying increase in vividness and clarity of dreams.

Sometimes these coping mechanisms can seem to get you through short term stress, but when the stress level begins to exceed your tolerance level, real problems can arise.  Stress has physical consequences for the body. It disrupts just about every system in the body. It can affect your heart function and blood pressure, lower immunity, increase allergy, decrease digestion producing IBS, cause insomnia and upset your hormonal balance. It also can have a major impact on your mood leading to irritability, angry outbursts, anxiety and depression.

Physical Brain Changes

Interestingly, over time, long term stress and worry can cause physical changes in your brain structure which sets you up for anxiety to become your “go to state”. Have a listen to my 3 minute video on how this phenomenon can impact your brain and your mood.

What Can You Do?

There are so many beautiful herbs, minerals and vitamins which can make a huge difference to the way you feel. They calm and soothe the nervous system, promote more restful sleep and help the body produce those feel good neurotransmitters.  There is also a lot you can do yourself to help the body cope with and combat stress. I challenge you to choose one of the following to do everyday for the next week and see how you feel.

  1. Take 5 minutes to sit quietly with your eyes closed and do some deep breathing, concentrating on making the out breath longer than the in breath.
  2. Download a meditation app (there are so many options available) and try 5 minutes of guided meditation every day. Eg Calm or Smiling Mind
  3. Take a nice long hot relaxing bubble bath
  4. Go for a half an hour walk in a nearby park if you have one and try to get as much exposure to nature and sunshine as you can.
  5. If you are always tired and feel you don’t get enough sleep, go to bed half an hour earlier
  6. Reach out to someone in your life to connect to. Maybe you haven’t spoken to them for a while. Give them a call or set up a Zoom chat to reconnect.

Free Consult during lockdownWhile Melbourne is in lockdown I’m offering anyone who needs help a 25 minute, FREE, Lockdown Stress and Immune Resilience consult. The consult can be held online or in person. I’ll come up with 3 things for you to boost your immune health as well as some particular techniques and exercises you can do to bolster your mindset and help relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. Click here to book yourself in online.

Who will you be post social isolation

Posted by | Accountability, Balm Blog, Blog, changing habits, Diet, Exercise, Fat, Health, Naturopathy, Social isolation, Weight Gain, Weight Loss | No Comments

Most people are going to go one of 2 possible ways during the months of home isolation we are facing.

  • They will use the time to keep fit, using a home gym or doing whatever they can to work out at home. They will come out looking great, healthy, toned and fit. OR
  • They will spend the majority of their time on the couch feeling down and depressed, eating all of the comfort food they have stocked up on. They will come out feeling rotten and having put on lots of weight.

Quick question…

Which category are you going to be in once we are allowed out to socialise again???

One of the biggest issues with social isolation and having to spend so much time at home, is that it can have a profound effect on your mindset. This in turn impacts your health and your waist line because you are doing less and generally eating more calorie dense foods. The consequence of both poor mindset and gaining weight is that it can impact your immunity making you more susceptible to infections. Furthermore, any illnesses can then hit you harder than they otherwise might have.

The three key issues you need to consider to keep you healthy, fit and trim & terrific in ISO are:

  1. Easy and constant access to the wrong food

In the past we were always told simply not to have bad food in the house. But when the hoarding began, it was generally the quick energy, lower nutrition and processed foods that people grabbed. This generally included pasta, noodles, biscuits, processed snacks and canned food. Having so many of these foods in the house provides a constant temptation at a time when your resolve is probably at its lowest.

Quick tip #1 – Plan your meals ahead.  Choose meals that use healthy fresh ingredients wherever you can, such as fruits and veg. If you don’t have to think about what you are going to have when it is meal time and you are already hungry, you are less likely to reach for the quick fix.

Quick tip #2 – If you just can’t help yourself with the snack food, decide ahead what you consider to be a healthy amount of snack food to consume in a day. Then use containers to create daily quota portions. Once your daily quota for the day is gone, that is it! Your next option is to eat an apple or carrot sticks.

  1. Reduced motivation to exercise

When you fill your body with energy dense foods, this can spike your blood sugar up. This is always followed by a blood sugar low. Low blood sugar not only drives you to seek more energy dense food to bring the blood sugar back up again, but it will reduce your energy and motivation to exercise.

Quick tip #1 – Getting up and starting to exercise is always the hardest part. Once you start exercising you will start feeling better straight away. Schedule a time that you will set aside to exercise and have any equipment and work out clothes out and ready to go. At the time, just get started. Even if you tell yourself “I can stop in 10 minutes if I need”. Once you’ve started, you’re more likely to keep going.

Quick tip #2 –  Get in as much incidental exercise as you can. For example, do your housework with vigour, do some squats while waiting for the kettle to boil or jog on the spot during the advert breaks on tv.

  1. Lack of accountability

Research has shown that those people who are regularly accountable to someone will lose far more weight than someone who is accountable to no-body or only now and then.  This is probably one of the most important aspects of weight loss. During social isolation many people are living alone and therefore not being accountable to anyone.

Quick tip #1 – Set yourself up an accountability buddy. Tell them what you plan to do each day in terms of exercise or diet and how much weight you want to lose each week and check in with them at least weekly (if not daily) to boast how well you’ve done or confess what you just haven’t managed to do.

Quick tip #2 – Even better, take your health online. set yourself up on a program making you accountable to a professional who is completely on your side and knows how to keep you motivated and can provide professional advice and tips to keep you on track.

So, the 3 things you need to really watch for are: Be aware of what food you are making accessible to yourself and make sure you have plenty of healthy options available; find ways to get any exercise in where ever you can and make a plan for your daily physical activity; make yourself regularly accountable to someone who can keep you honest, motivated and on track.

By the way, if social isolation is turning you into a comfort food eating couch potato and your frustrated by not being able to go to the gym, missing the peer support and accountability of your friends and personal trainer and don’t know where to start with keeping fit and health at home then the ‘TeleHealth to Trim and Terrific’Online MiniProgram will be perfect for you.

Click here to find out more

Why do some women breeze through menopause while others suffer?

Posted by | Balm Blog, Blog, Cardiovascular disease, Diet, Digestion, Fat, Health, hormones, Hot Flush, Insomnia, Menopause, Microbiome, Naturopathy, Sleep, Weight Gain, Weight Loss | No Comments

Menopause seems to be a uniquely different experience for every woman. However in my experience as a naturopath helping women through the transition, a few symptoms seem to be more common than others. Hot flushes and weight gain around the middle are of course the main ones. Another common complaint is swinging wildly between anxiety, depression and irritability. Sometimes so bad it almost becomes rage. One lady explained how her rage seemed to be centred on one poor man at her work who hadn’t even done anything in particular to anger her. She would just see him and immediately feel rage at him. It sounds like a script for a comedy but it was actually quite distressing for her as she wasn’t that sort of person and she felt guilty for the way she was thinking. Other common symptoms are fatigue, feeling more highly stressed, insomnia, night sweats, loss of libido, aches and pains and changes in skin and hair condition.

I’m going crazy, why aren’t you?

So why do you feel like you are going crazy and that life is about to end while your friend says “Oh my periods just stopped one day and that was it”. That can be infuriating to hear from someone already suffering bouts of rage and depression. Of course genetics do play a large role in how well your body copes with the transition. Generally, if your mother and older sisters had a hard time of it, chances are it won’t be a breeze for you either. But there are a lot of other factors involved which you do have much more control over.

Stress and body weight

One of the biggest things determining how well you will experience menopause is your stress levels. When you are constantly under stress, your adrenal glands are continuously being stimulated and their production of something called DHEA is affected. DHEA can be converted to a form of oestrogen in your fat cells. When the production of oestrogen from the ovaries is in rapid decline, this source of oestrogen can really help to reduce the symptoms of menopause.

For this same reason, your weight plays a big part too. Thinner women can sometimes experience more symptoms simply because they don’t have the fat reserves needed for this oestrogen conversion to occur.  This is also the reason the body seems to put weight on at this time.

Diet and lifestyle

As you will have guessed, diet and exercise are also extremely important determinants of how well you cope with the transition to menopause. Phyto-estrogen rich foods such as tofu and flaxseeds help raise the body’s perceived level of oestrogen. This can greatly reduce hot flushes and night sweats, not to mention help reduce the later risks of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

Consumption of stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, sugar and spicy foods will be detrimental while good dietary fibre, antioxidant rich foods and good fats will help.

There’s not much exercise isn’t good for and menopause symptoms are no exception. Many studies have found exercise, especially of the short burst HIIT (high intensity interval training) variety, to be most effective in reducing many common symptoms of menopause. Since stress is not helpful, spending gruelling long hours in the gym won’t help and isn’t necessary. Just a couple of short sessions a week (combining both cardio and weight bearing exercises) can make a huge difference.

My specialty area

Menopause and the associated symptoms, especially fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression, is my specialty area. If you think you could use some help, book yourself in online or if you’re not sure, give me a call for a free 10 minute phone chat to explore if it’s the right thing for you. Check out my webpage all about menopause here. I can work with you to design a tailored plan to help you through the transition and beyond with dietary and lifestyle advise as well as TGA approved, highly affective herbal and nutritional supplements.

Want more?

Email me if you’d like a great 3 page handout with diet and lifestyle recommendations for managing menopause. balmnaturalhealth@gmail.com

Keep an eye out for my next blog which will be all about the hot flush. What is happening and why and what to do about it.

3 foods to eat before Christmas

Posted by | Balm Blog, Blog, Diet, Digestion, Food intolerance, Health, IBS, IBS, Microbiome, Naturopathy | No Comments

Can it really be time to start thinking about Christmas already? How did that happen?

Do you sometimes worry about how the excesses of food and alcohol at Christmas time will affect your health and digestion? Do you sometimes deny yourself that extra serving of Christmas pudding or the extra dollop of gravy or brandy custard because you know your gut will punish you for it later? Well what if I told you it has more to do with what you eat in the lead up to Christmas rather than what you eat on the day!

Our own personal internal farm yard

It all comes down to the state of your microbiome, or the colony of bacteria that reside in our large intestine.  You can think of it as your own personal internal farm yard. There are many different species of microbes or animals in this gut colony. Some are beneficial to us and get along well with everyone else in the colony. These could be the chickens, sheep and cows. Some are star players and keep law and order amongst the rest of the inhabitants. These could be the working dogs or the prize bulls. Others can cause damage and disruption. These could be rabbits, rats and ticks. The cleaner the environment we keep for our farmyard, and the better the quality of food we feed the inhabitants, the healthier they will be and the more the ones we want in the farm yard can grow, flourish and reproduce.

Most of the genetic material in your body is not your own

Because these microbes that live inside our intestines are living beings, they each have their own genetic material and produce their own wastes and metabolites directly into our digestive system. Did you know that we have such a large number of microbes living in our gut that the amount of genetic material they contain is hundreds of times greater than the amount of genetic material in our own cells. This means that your microbiome can have a greater influence on your health than your own genes! 

The picture below shows just some of the ways this colony of gut bugs can influence the way our body functions. The metabolites they produce can directly affect our immune system, heart health, nervous system function and bone health, not to mention digestive health. The more we feed our personal colony the right foods, the happier they will be and the more the types of species we need in our gut will flourish. So the better we feed our gut bugs during the lead up to Christmas, the better the health of our farmyard on Christmas day and the more resilience we will have to enjoy ourselves on the day.  

What to eat before Christmas?

There are a number of foods which have been shown to enhance our microbiome. (If you would like a copy of the full list, just send me a message.)

However, simply concentrating on the following 3 foods during the next couple of months will benefit you on Christmas day.

  1. Natural rolled oats
  2. Blueberries
  3. Colourful vegetables.

These foods will provide what your farmyard needs to make it happy, harmonious and function well. Namely fibre, resistant starch, polyphenols, fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin. These things provide nourishing food for the gut bugs and the right environment in which they can thrive.

Late last year I did a 2 part blog titled “What is the Microbiome and does it need probiotics?” Read it here.

Part 1 –  https://www.balmnaturalhealth.com.au/what-is-the-microbiome-and-does-it-need-probiotics/

Part 2 – https://www.balmnaturalhealth.com.au/what-is-the-microbiome-and-does-it-need-probiotics-2/

Why take fish oils?

Posted by | Balm Blog, Blog, Fat, Fish oil, Health, Heart health, hormones, Omega-3 | No Comments

Most people know that fish oils are anti-inflammatory and good for joints and skin health, but that’s generally where public awareness ends. Fish oils are a cornerstone treatment for so many conditions and have been shown to have significant benefits for asthma, eczema, migraine, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, depression, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other autoimmune conditions. Fish oils can also help improve your cholesterol values on your blood test, are important for baby’s development during pregnancy and can improve memory, vision and nerve function. However, before you race down to the supermarket for your tub of 500 capsules for $10, know that in a lot of circumstances, fish oils can actually have the opposite effect and be pro-inflammatory!

Quality is key!

I often tell my patients that of all supplements, ensuring you are buying quality is most important when it comes to fish oils. Fish oil can easily oxidise which is why it is important to keep fish oils in the fridge after opening, just to preserve the quality and prevent oxidation due to heat. Unfortunately, many of the cheaper fish oils aren’t manufactured or transported under controlled conditions and can already be completely spoiled before they hit the shelves. Also, they can be high in heavy metals such as mercury, plastics, pesticides and other environmental toxins. Many manufacturers don’t even test at all for levels of plastics. 

The fish oils I use are strictly manufactured and third party tested to be as pure and fresh as possible. They guarantee levels of these contaminants to be many times lower than the health and safety requirements dictate as acceptable.  

How do I know if I need a fish oil?

If you’re not consuming oily fish such as salmon or tuna at least once or twice a week, you likely won’t be getting enough omega-3. Similarly, if your diet is highly processed and low in fruits and vegetables, this will bring down your omega-3 status. 80% of Australians are not meeting the recommended daily intakes for omega-3 fatty acids. 

A simple finger prick test allows us to find out your omega-3 index. You want to aim for a value between 8 and 12%. Most people from cultures who consume a lot of oily fish generally fall within this range. Unfortunately, most Australians are closer to the 4-6% mark.

I have test kits in the clinic. You can either come in and I’ll perform the test for you, or you can pick up a test to complete at home and post off for analysis. Click here for more information.

Can it be dangerous?

There is really only one precaution to using fish oils. That is that they can thin the blood slightly. This is actually one of their many benefits as it is cardioprotective. However, if you are about to have surgery it can prolong bleeding so should be stopped for a few days before and a couple of days after surgery. 

Give me a call if you’d like to discuss whether fish oil supplementation or omega-3 testing is a good idea for you.

Sleep and the modern day body clock

Posted by | Balm Blog, Body clock, changing habits, Circadian rhythm, Health, hormones, Insomnia, Naturopathy, Sleep | No Comments

In our modern day lifestyles, our body’s desire to stick closely to a set sleep/wake time (our body clock or our circadian rhythm) is often overridden, ignored and generally abused. The fact that shift work has now been classed as a carcinogen is surely proof of the importance of working with rather than against our body clock.

There are actually circadian clocks in every organ of the body and never before have we lived so out of tune with these circadian rhythms.  There is even a term for this. It is called social jet-lag and refers to the misalignment between our biological clock and our work and social schedules. One of the main consequences is poor, broken or inadequate sleep. This then causes fatigue and anxiety and can heighten any other underlying conditions such as allergy, hormone imbalance ad weight gain.

The way to manipulate our body back into a regular rhythm and improve sleep is to provide our body systems with the right cues at the right time to encourage the body into a strong, regular rhythm where all organs are in tune.

One of the biggest cues our body clock responds to is light and dark cues.  Because we now expose ourselves to so much unnatural light late into the evening (lights, television, computers, phones etc) we confuse our body clock and force it backwards. These lights inhibit the production of melatonin which is important for sleep initiation. Many people find themselves laying there wide awake when they first get into bed, but then struggle to wake up when the alarm goes off. These people may believe themselves to be natural night owls when in reality they have just confused their body clocks. The best way to combat this is to keep lights turned down and switch televisions, computers and phones off at least an hour before you want to get to sleep. If that’s not possible, you can get devices or glasses to block the stimulating blue light emitted by these devices.

Another strong cue used by the body to set our internal clock is eating and fasting. It is recommended to keep your eating to a 10-12 hour window during the day. There is a close relationship between the gut microbiome and the circadian clock and so eating late at night will confuse our sleep/wake rhythm. This disruption then contributes further to weight gain meaning that the timing of your calorie intake contributes to obesity beyond the simple fact that you consumed extra calories.

Activity and inactivity are also strong cues for circadian rhythms. If you find you have to drag yourself through your morning, exercising first thing on a regular basis can convince the body that early morning is wake up time. Similarly, exercising late into the evening  disrupts the body’s wind down and can make for a poor sleep followed by a tired, sluggish day.

Keep in mind that your body prefers to be in a strong, regular pattern and you can manipulate this by giving your body awake time cues during the morning and day with sunshine, activity and healthy food.  Then use slow down cues at night with lowered light, less activity and stop eating well before bed time.

Body temperature also follows a circadian rhythm and having a warm bath or shower before bed can also help initiate sleep as the drop in body temperature following the warm shower is another trigger for the body to fall asleep.

Contact me if you’d like a copy of my sleep tips handout.

Private health rebate removal – why?

Posted by | Balm Blog | No Comments

As you are probably aware by now, as of 1 April you will no longer be able to claim part of your naturopathic consultation on your private health insurance. This is due to a flawed government review that found there is “no evidence that naturopathy works”. However, their study carefully included only papers looking at naturopathy as a whole health service, specifically excluding the hundreds of thousands of statistically significant research papers looking at individual herbs, minerals, vitamins, nutrients and lifestyle techniques and their impact on various conditions and health states. They also didn’t acknowledge the incredible clinical results we as naturopathic see in our practice every day. Even though their overarching message to the public is that there is no evidence, their report itself actually stressed that the findings should not be taken to infer that the therapy is not effective!

There does seem to be a real movement out there to discredit natural medicine and you can’t help but to wonder how much of it comes from the pharmaceutical companies who are financially able to be very persuasive. Some even see the removal of the rebate as a move to reduce confidence in the profession rather than being about saving tax payer dollars. Every so often you’ll see an overinflated report claiming someone to have had an adverse reaction to a natural medicine. There is of course a small potential for this when natural medicines are overused or misused, incorrectly combined with pharmaceuticals or purchased from unregulated overseas sources.  (See my previous blog “Self Prescribing from the internet – What could go wrong?”) This in itself forms a strong argument for why the need to consult with a qualified naturopath before embarking on any natural or alternative health treatments.  It is important to bear in mind that the number of actual adverse events from natural medicines is vastly and overwhelmingly outweighed by the huge number of adverse events, irreparable damage and deaths caused by pharmaceutical medications every day. This never seems to be reported with quite the same enthusiasm.

Natural medicine has so much potential to benefit health in the long term, especially when it comes to prevention and those chronic conditions for which conventional medicine has no real solution. An important niche area for naturopathy is when you know you just don’t feel right yet your doctor claims they can’t find anything wrong with you. (See my previous blog on “Naturopathy’s Sweet Spot in Healthcare”.) Nothing shows up in your blood tests and your doctor is not able to give you any diagnosis and therefore no matching drug. If people feel they can no longer choose to see a natural health care practitioner, they will instead be forced to continue seeking a new opinion from doctor after doctor.  This puts further strain on the medical system and eventually outweighs any potential small financial gain that may be made from removing the rebate.

Many of my patients receive only a token rebate from their consult fee anyway, so it is my hope that people continue to use naturopathy despite losing this benefit. In the meantime, be assured you that there area a number of bodies out there still campaigning against this change and we are always hopeful of it being overruled or reversed in the future. To add your weight to this fight please visit www.yourhealthyourchoice.com.au and sign their petition.

What is the Microbiome and does it need probiotics?

Posted by | Balm Blog, Blog, Diet, Digestion, Food intolerance, Health, IBS, IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome | No Comments

Part 2

What do probiotics do

Many people believe that taking a probiotic simply puts back the good bacteria into the gut. However, this is not the case. In fact, many of the strains of microbes in probiotics don’t even count amongst the most popular species of commensal microbes. For example, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are present in almost all probiotics, yet generally make up less than 2% of the microbiome.

Similarly, many believe that the higher the number of microbes, and the more strains present in a probiotic, the better. This also is not true.

Rather than ‘seeding’, or contributing directly to the colonies in your gut, probiotics are generally transient species which exert appreciable benefits during their journey. In fact, good probiotics today are generally made up of only 1-3 strains of bacteria. These well chosen species can be likened to superheros who come into a community, restore order to the environment and allowing the residents to continue to perform their important tasks in harmony.

How can I influence the microbiome

There is much you can do to influence the make up of your microbiome and shift it towards being as diverse as possible, since greater diversity has been shown to confer the most health benefits.

  1. One easy way is to simply increase the diversity of plant foods that you consume. i.e. the greater the diversity of your diet, the greater the diversity of your microbiome. It has been shown that people who consume more than 30 different types of plants and vegetables each week have a much more diverse microbiome than those who consume 10 or fewer types of plants weekly.
  2. Alcohol can directly influence your microbiome and produce changes that can trigger gastrointestinal inflammation. Ideally consume only 1 standard drink per day and keep 2 days per week alcohol free.
  3. Fibre is extremely important as your microbes rely on fibre to feed them. A low fibre diet reduces the diversity of your microbiome.   Including as many microbiome friendly foods as possible every day will make your community of microbes very happy and contribute to your overall health in many ways. Examples of microbiome friendly foods include:
  • Inulin and fructooligosaccharides: garlic, leek, onion, asparagus, banana, barley, honey, tomato, rye and Jerusalem artichoke
  • Resistant starch: potato (roasted or steamed and cooled), cashew nuts, rolled oats, white beans, lentils, banana
  • Fibre: flax seeds, vegetables, fruit, whole grains
  • Polyphenols: berries, peach, plum, tea, resveratrol, cocoa
  • Other prebiotic foods: kiwi, beetroot, fennel, green peas, snow peas, cabbage, chickpeas, red kidney beans, pistachio nuts, peaches, watermelon, grapefruit, pomegranate, dates, figs.
  1. Stress releases hormones that sensitise your body to inflammation, including gut inflammation. This compromises the conditions needed by your commensal microbes to flourish, and causes a loss of diversity.
  2. Exercise, among the many other health benefits we already know, also contributes to promoting microbiome diversity.
  3. Finally, antibiotic use can lead directly to the loss of core commensal bacteria, allowing pathogenic bacteria to flourish, sometimes resulting in diarrhoea. If you do need to take a course of antibiotics for what ever reason, ensure you get a good probiotic to assist in discouraging those pathogenic species and assist the commensals to regain control. Give me a call and I can provide you with the right probiotic to use along side your antibiotic (but separated by at least 2 hours) to ensure it has the least impact on your all important microbiome.