Body with towel

Natural ways to support acne-prone skin

Acne vulgaris, commonly known as acne, is an inflammatory skin condition that affects over 85% of adolescents and is becoming more common in adults, especially adult females. It manifests as raised red skin lesions on the face, neck, chest and back, and can lead to blemishes and scarring of the skin in severe cases.

While the physical impacts of acne are difficult to endure, they can lead to a range of emotional and psychological effects that are often far more debilitating. Acne is associated with lower self-esteem, social anxiety and higher rates of anxiety and depression.

The conventional medical approach involves masking or suppressing acne with harsh chemical cleansers and creams, extended courses of gut-damaging antibiotics and liver-damaging medications like Accutane (or Roaccutane), which increase the risk of depression and suicide.

When treating acne holistically, it’s critical to explore the root cause of the condition. Topical applications and treatments can help, but because inflammatory skin conditions are manifestations of an internal imbalance, they can only be treated effectively and permanently by exploring diet, lifestyle and health history of someone suffering from acne.

What causes acne?

Acne is characterised by inflammation of the pilosebaceous follicles in the skin. This can be caused by many factors:

• Higher circulating androgens (testosterone) that affect the production of sebum (oil), causing hyperkeratosis and blockage of the follicle

• Colonisation of follicles by the bacteriaPropionibacterium acnes followed by an inflammatory response

• Imbalances in the skin microbiome

• Imbalances gut microbiome (dysbiosis) and intestinal hyperpermeability (‘leaky gut’)

• A sluggish liver overburdened with toxins, resulting in toxins being pushed out through the skin

• Dysregulation of the nervous system

• High levels of oxidative stress

Making nutritional shifts to lower inflammation and oxidative stress, boost skin supportive nutrients and balance blood sugars is a key step to heal acne. Equally important is supporting digestion, optimising detoxification, balancing the gut microbiome and working on gut healing to reduce systemic inflammation.

 Acne and what you eat

• Adopt a low glycemic-load diet by eliminating refined sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. This includes high-fructose foods like honey, dried fruit and fruit juice. High glycaemic load diets are inflammatory, raise insulin levels and cause spikes in IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) associated with the onset of acne. They can also raise testosterone levels in women, contributing to acne.

• Avoid conventional cow’s dairy including milk, cream, ice cream and yoghurt. Cows dairy has inflammatory A1 casein and causes spikes in IGF-1 which are associated with acne. Opt for goats and sheeps dairy, which have less inflammatory A2 casein and continue having butter as it has very low levels of protein.

• Avoid eating inflammatory trans-fats found in margarine, vegetable shortening and other spreads as this increases inflammatory markers associated with acne.

• Eat an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich diet:
→ Boost antioxidant-rich phytonutrients by eating 4-6 portions of colourful vegetables and 1-2 portions of fruit per day, including dark green leafy vegetables and berries.
→ Include foods high in vitamins A like fatty fish, egg yolks and organic liver
→ Include vitamin C-rich citrus fruit, blackcurrant berries and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli
→ Add sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts and avocado to your diet for vitamin E
→Increase zinc by having oysters, pumpkin seeds and quality red meat
→ Add anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger to your cooking
→ Drink 3-4 cups of green tea daily and apply green tea topically to your skin to help lower inflammation

• Support the detoxification/elimination pathways - liver, kidneys and bowel - to excrete toxins and help clear androgen metabolites.
→ Eat fibre rich foods like flaxseeds, chia seeds, psyllium husk, oats and green leafy vegetables to support elimination via the bowel
→ Stay hydrated to support the kidneys and elimination via the bowel
→ Support the liver with bitter foods like rocket, mustard greens and dandelion greens and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

Other considerations for acne

• Supplemental zinc can help acne-prone skin to heal as it is bacteriostatic against Propionibacterium acnes, reduces keratin and lowers testosterone levels. Taking 30 mg per day of a quality zinc supplement in the form of zinc citrate or zinc picolinate is recommended.

• Take encapsulated broccoli sprout powder or add whole powder to smoothies. Broccoli sprout powder contains DIM (diindolylmethane), which naturally blocks androgens. It also contains sulfurophane, which upregulates our body’s detoxification capacity and activates genes related to the antioxidant defence system.

• Photobiomodulation therapy. The therapeutic red light therapy penetrates into deeper layers of the skin, targeting sebaceous glands and providing anti-inflammatory properties by impacting the release of inflammatory  mediators.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist

https://www.naturalhealingcompany.org


Preconception Care & Nutrition

Preconception Care & Nutrition

Preconception Care & Nutrition

What is preconception care?

With global fertility rates declining and 1 in 6 NZ couples struggling with fertility, it has never been more critical for potential parents to prepare their bodies and minds for pregnancy. Preconception care is where couples are supported to become the healthiest they can in order to optimise fertility, to have a healthy pregnancy and the birth of a healthy baby.

Ideally, a qualified naturopath, nutritionist or naturopathic doctor will guide couples through preconception care. This should begin at least 4 months prior to planned conception,  allowing 120 days for eggs to mature and become ready for ovulation and 80 days for sperm to reach maturation. Couples are provided with fertility and pregnancy focused lifestyle and nutritional recommendations as well as herbal medicine and supplementation specific to their needs.

During preconception care couples boost nutrient stores and antioxidant status, balance blood sugars, reduce toxic load, correct any hormonal imbalances and manage stress levels. This blog post focuses on the foods to eat to prepare your body for conception.

Preconception Nutrition

Pregnancy is a period of immense growth. During the first trimester alone the embryo/foetus increases in size 2.5 million times and develops organs including the brain and spinal cord. To support this growth and  healthy eggs and sperm, sufficient reserves of nutrients are required. The antioxidant status of both partners is also important for counteracting oxidative stress that can damage the DNA of sperm, lower sperm count and motility and affect egg quality.

Rather than waiting to become pregnant before eating a whole-food based, antioxidant rich, nutrient dense diet, preconception care ensures that you begin this in advance, to avoid deficiencies and postpartum depletion.

Foods to include during preconception:

~ Egg yolks from pasture raised hens for brain nourishing choline, cholesterol and omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin D, vitamin A, iodine, B vitamins and antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

~ Dark green vegetables including spinach, collard greens, rocket, broccoli and brussel sprouts for their folate and antioxidants. Green leafy vegetables provide fibre, helping to clear toxins and hormone metabolites.

~ Organic beef and chicken livers are one of nature’s most nutrient dense foods. Matched in weight to beef muscle meat, beef liver has triple the iron, almost 20 times the vitamin D, 60 times the B12, 30 times the folate and an insanely high 1335 times the vitamin A.

~ Wild caught cold water fish including sardines, salmon and anchovies (avoiding bigger fish like tuna which is high in mercury). These are high in cholesterol, which is the precursor to our sex hormones. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin D.

~ Organic berries are loaded with antioxidants like anthocyanins that can improve sperm motility. Blackcurrant berries also provide a good dose of vitamin C, that is a potent antioxidant, lowers stress hormones and supports the production of collagen for mum and bubs connective tissues.

Food and drinks to avoid during preconception:

~ Processed foods, refined grains and refined sugar. These foods are nutrient deplete, inflammatory and contribute to dysregulated blood sugar levels, impacting your hormones and ovulation.

~ Industrialised vegetable seed oils and trans fats including canola, sunflower and soybean oils and margarine and vegetable shortening. These oils are inflammatory and contribute to oxidative stress.

~ Alcohol intake of 4 drinks a week increases your risk of infertility. Chronic alcohol use can impact ovulation and menstrual cycle regularity. It also overburdens the liver, contributing to hormonal imbalances and may lead to lower testosterone levels and sperm production in men.

On top of making dietary and lifestyle changes, consult with a natural health practitioner about starting on some quality prenatal supplements that are low in excipients and contain nutrients in their most absorbable form.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist

https://www.naturalhealingcompany.org


Gut Microbiota

The Gut Microbiota & Our Health

Gut Microbiota

Of all the complex components of naturopathic and functional medicine, gut health almost always takes centre stage. It’s not hard to see why. Starting at the mouth and extending to the anus, the gut is the main internal interface with the outside world.

Also known as the gastrointestinal system or digestive system, the gut is a series of hollow organs (and accessory organs including the liver, gallbladder and pancreas) that are connected to one another from the mouth down. The main function of this system is to break down the food we eat, absorb our nutrients and eliminate our metabolic waste products. But the role of the gut goes far beyond simply digestion. 

Within the gut, mainly the large intestines, resides the gut microbiota - a complex ecosystem made up of roughly 100 trillion microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites and archaea. The gut microbiota is involved in functions that support the health of the gut lining, but has also got a wider systemic role in health. Beyond aiding digestion, gut microorganisms are responsible for producing vitamins (including B1, B12, folate and K2),  supporting peristalsis (movement of food along the intestines) and are involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as mood-altering serotonin. The gut microbiota also aids the production of a protective mucous layer that coats the gastrointestinal lining, stimulates the growth of intestinal epithelial cells to maintain gut barrier integrity and protects against infection by competing with pathogens. With up to 70% of the immune system located in the gut, the gut microbiota also plays a key role in the induction, training and function of the immune system. 

 

Gut health and what disrupts it

Hippocrates was right when he said “all disease begins in the gut” over 2000 years ago.  We now know that gut health is critical to our overall health. A disruption to the balance of the gut microbiota, with alteration in number and diversity of gut microflora is known as dysbiosis. Common gastrointestinal symptoms associated with dysbiosis include bloating, abdominal pain, belching, flatulence, acid reflux, diarrhoea and constipation. Other manifestations of dysbiosis include cravings for sugar and carbohydrates, skin rashes and hives. If left untreated, dysbiosis can result in gut inflammation and increased intestinal permeability (‘leaky gut’), which collectively contribute to the onset of a number of chronic diseases, including autoimmune diseases (like type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and MS), allergies, eczema, IBS, diabetes, obesity, anxiety and depression.


Common causes of dysbiosis include:

Western style diet - consuming too much processed foods, refined sugar, refined grains, and industrialised seed oils (e.g. canola, sunflower) feeds non-beneficial microorganisms and promotes inflammation which affects gut microbiota. The typical Western style diet is also deficient in dietary fibre, which are prebiotics that feed gut bacteria. This diet starves and kills off beneficial gut bacteria. 

Inorganic produce - eating pesticide sprayed produce, especially the “dirty dozen” crops that have the highest pesticide residue, impacts the health of the gut microbiome. Exposure to glyphosate (a herbicide also known as Roundup), has been linked to a reduction in beneficial Lactobacillus species and overgrowth of opportunistic gut bacteria. 

Antibiotics and other pharmaceutical drugs - Antibiotic use can kill off beneficial gut microorganisms, reducing microbial diversity and causing the overgrowth of non-beneficial opportunistic microorganisms, such as Candida albicans. Recent studies have shown that a single course of antibiotics is enough to destroy the balance of the gut microbiome for up to a year. 

Other pharmaceutical drugs that disrupt the gut microbiome include the oral contraceptive pill, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like nurofen and proton pump inhibitors including Omeprazole, commonly prescribed for acid reflux.  

Chronic stress - Stress affects gut motility and stomach acid levels, which contributes to dysbiosis. Catecholamines, including norepinephrine released during the stress response, alter gene expression of certain gut bacteria, which can lead to dysbiosis. 

Gut Infections - the gut microbiota is affected by pathogenic gastrointestinal infections, including both acute and chronic infections with bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal pathogens. 

 

How to improve the balance of the gut microbiome

Healing dysbiosis and rebalancing the gut microbiome to improve gut barrier function requires a holistic approach of dietary adjustments, lifestyle changes and in some cases herbal medicine and supplementation. Below are some easy changes to improve the balance of gut flora. However, more targeted treatment under the guidance of a naturopath may be required. 

  • Eliminate refined grains and refined sugar to regulate the gut microbial balance by eliminating unhealthy sugar-eating microorganisms. 
  • Avoid non-organic produce, particularly grains and the dirty dozen list of fruit and vegetables. 
  • Eat more fibre-rich foods and resistant starches that fuel beneficial gut bacteria. Include whole food plant sources such as green leafy vegetables, carrots,  kumara and other root vegetables, garlic, onions, unripe bananas, flaxseed and oats. 
  • Include fermented foods in the diet such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir to provide probiotic cultures that repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria.
  • Include polyphenol rich foods that inhibit growth of pathogenic bacteria while increasing beneficial gut bacteria. This includes berries, plums, ground flaxseed, dark chocolate, globe artichoke, green tea, apples, almonds and hazelnuts. 
  • Add bone broth to your diet, for gut healing amino acids 
  • Adopt techniques to manage stress such as meditation, deep diaphragmatic breathing, time in nature and exercise.

 

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist

https://www.naturalhealingcompany.org


Lady sitting

Women’s Health and the Menstrual Cycle

What is the menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle is a reflection of a woman’s underlying health and is now regarded by many practitioners as the “fifth vital sign”, alongside heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and respiratory rate. This cyclical change in hormone levels, controlled by various brain regions and glands in the body including the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, creates changes in the tissues of the reproductive organs, with the aim of preparing a woman’s body for the possibility of pregnancy.

Phases of the menstrual cycle:

Throughout the roughly month-long menstrual cycle, there are a sequence of events associated with maturation of an egg, that can be divided into distinct phases. The two main phases of the menstrual cycle are the follicular phase and the luteal phase.

The follicular phase is the “pre-ovulatory” phase, which begins from the first day of menstruation until ovulation. During menstruation, oestrogen and progesterone levels are low, signalling to the pituitary gland to release follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH stimulates the recruitment of a cohort of ovarian follicles for maturation in each ovary. One of these follicles becomes the dominant follicle, destined to burst open and release its egg during ovulation. The length of the follicular phase is variable, ranging between 7-21 days.

The luteal phase on the other hand, does not generally vary in length and is usually 14 days.  This “post-ovulatory” phase extends from after ovulation until the next menstrual bleed. After ovulation, the remaining cells from the ruptured follicle in the ovary form a temporary endocrine organ called the Corpus Luteum, which is responsible for the production of progesterone and oestrogen throughout the luteal phase. If the egg is fertilised, it implants in the uterus, pregnancy commences and the Corpus Luteum stays on to produce hormones until the placenta takes over at 3 months. If fertilisation doesn’t occur, the Corpus Luteum stops secreting progesterone and degenerates after 10 days. Since progesterone is needed to maintain the endometrium, this lining is shed which is the menstrual bleed.

Ovulation and Charting

A menstrual cycle isn’t a menstrual cycle without ovulation. This mid-cycle event involves the release of a mature egg from the ovary and movement of the egg down the fallopian tube, where it may be fertilised. Knowing when ovulation happens is not only important as a fertility awareness method used for conceiving a child, but is a useful method of natural contraception.

One of the best ways to identify whether ovulation has happened is charting the menstrual cycle. All you need to chart your cycle is a basal body temperature thermometer, a paper chart or a charting app.

Temperature charting involves recording basal body temperature, which is the resting temperature recorded first thing in the morning upon rising, over the course of the cycle. A mid-cycle temperature rise of around 0.5 degrees Celsius indicates that ovulation has happened. This temperature rise occurs as a result of the production of the hormone progesterone by the corpus luteum. Whether the increase in temperature on ovulation is sustained over the luteal phase, indicates if sufficient progesterone is produced, which is not only essential for maintaining a healthy pregnancy but has a calming effect on the mind and is important for bone and cardiovascular health. Charting the changes in cervical mucous over the cycle adds an extra layer of valuable information, with an increase in amount if cervical mucous and a raw egg white consistency signalling the fertile window and ovulation approaching.

Menstrual irregularities and their common causes

A healthy menstrual cycle is one that comes regularly and is anywhere between 21-35 days long. The menstrual phase of the cycle should be 2-7 days with no more than 80 mL of menstrual fluid loss and only mild discomfort. During the luteal phase leading up to menstruation, there may be some symptoms experienced, however severe PMS symptoms like pain and bloating, painful swollen breasts, fluid retention and fluctuations in mood are not normal. Any irregularity in the menstrual cycle signals that there may be hormonal imbalances or a gynaecological disease present. Modifiable factors like chronic stress, poor diet and nutrient deficiencies, high toxic burden, poor function of the elimination organs, certain medications and other lifestyle factors can play a part in menstrual irregularities.

~ Chronic stress and the resultant increase in synthesis of stress hormone cortisol, leads to hormonal imbalances. This is due to cortisol production occurring down the same biochemical pathway as the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone and the body prioritising cortisol production and “survival” over reproduction.

~ Sex hormones are derived from cholesterol and require micronutrient cofactors like zinc, vitamins A, E, B3 and B12. A diet lacking in healthy fats and nutrient dense foods does not supply the precursors for sex hormone production.

~ Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) are a class of environmental toxins that mimic our sex hormones, contributing to hormonal imbalances. These include phthalates, parabens and BPA found in plastics, personal care products, air fresheners and perfumes.

~ Poor function of the elimination pathways, the bowel in particular, contributes to hormone imbalances. If there is slow gut motility and constipation, hormone metabolites, especially oestrogen metabolites, destined for elimination via the bowel, may be deconjugated by gut bacteria and re-enter circulation.

~ If heavy and painful menstrual bleeds are experienced each month, further investigation is warranted. There could be an underlying gynaecological condition such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids or adenomyosis that may be detected with a pelvic ultrasound or laparoscopic examination.

Is it really a period?

Not many people know that it’s possible to experience a bleed each month that resembles a period, without actually ovulating. These cycles without ovulation are called anovulatory cycles and women experience them for a range of different reasons including: recovery post-pill, polycystic ovarian syndrome, hypothalamic amenorrhea from undereating or overexercising, high prolactin levels or perimenopause. Since there is the absence of a luteal phase and no progesterone produced, fertility is compromised and the many benefits of progesterone are absent. Anovulatory cycles are often cycles that are shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days and the bleed is normally longer than a normal period (>7 days). Another cause for cycles without ovulation is the oral contraceptive pill (OCP). The breakthrough bleed that occurs when taking the OCP, surprising to many women, is not an actual period! The synthetic hormones in the OCP actually suppress ovulation so when you’re on the OCP you do not have a menstrual cycle.

How to rebalance your cycle

~ Adopt stress management techniques such as daily mindfulness, meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, exercise and journaling to alleviate stress and support healthy hormone balance.

~ Reduce exposure to environmental toxins by opting for spray free or organic produce, filtering your water, using natural personal care products, avoiding plastic for storing food and instead using glass or stainless steel, using natural home cleaning products and stainless steel or cast-iron cookware.

~ Drink 1.5-2 L filtered water and eat plenty of fibre rich fresh non-starchy vegetables to aid bowel function and the complete elimination of toxins and hormone metabolites.

~ Eat an anti-inflammatory wholefoods diet like the Mediterranean diet, rich in fresh vegetables, fruit, quality meat and healthy fats in the form of nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, and olive oil. These healthy fats provide cholesterol – the precursor for production of our sex hormones.

~ Include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and broccoli sprouts in the diet regularly. These vegetables contain glucosinolates, which are sulphur containing chemicals that are broken down in the body into compounds including Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which activates detoxification enzymes that support the detoxification of oestrogen.

 

If you are experiencing menstrual irregularities such as severe PMS symptoms, PMDD, amenorrhea (absent periods), heavy and painful periods or have been diagnosed with a condition like endometriosis, PCOS, uterine fibroids or adenomyosis, there’s a lot that can be done with the support of an experienced natural health practitioner. Get in touch!

 

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist

https://www.naturalhealingcompany.org

 

 

 

 


Female body

The Cardiovascular System

What is the Cardiovascular System?

The cardiovascular system (CVS) is a network of chambers and vessels that transfers blood to and from every tissue in the body. The heart is an essential part of the cardiovascular system, made up of cardiac muscle, lining four distinct chambers.   When the lower right chamber (right ventricle) of the heart muscle contracts, this provides a pump like action, sending oxygen and nutrient rich blood to our tissues via the arteries. At the tissues, our cells use oxygen in a biochemical reaction to make cellular energy known as ATP.  The deoxygenated blood and by-products of cellular respiration (including carbon dioxide) then return to the heart through the veins. This blood gets pumped by the lower left chamber to the lungs, where re-oxygenation and gas exchange happens.   Since optimal function of the cardiovascular system is associated with flow of blood through the body and the health and function of all tissues, making adjustments to modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease,  should be at the forefront of preventative medicine.

What causes damage to Cardiovascular system?  

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the western world, with 1 in 3 deaths in NZ attributed to this cause. Atherosclerosis is one of the main manifestations of damage to the cardiovascular system, involving the gradual narrowing and hardening of arteries, due to accumulation of plaque, containing cholesterol, calcium and macrophages (white blood cells). Complete blockage of the arteries or rupture of atherosclerotic plaques is what typically causes life-threatening myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke.

Although genes have a part to play in the onset of CVD, there are a range of modifiable risk factors in the development of atherosclerosis and other conditions of the CVS including dyslipidaemia (dysregulated blood cholesterol), hypertension (high blood pressure), elevated body mass index, unstable blood glucose levels, oxidative stress and inflammation. Dietary and lifestyle factors that exacerbate the risk factors for CVD include:

• Inflammatory foods such as trans fats (margarine, vegetable shortening) and industrialised seed oils (sunflower, canola, and soy bean)

• Processed and packaged foods containing refined carbohydrates and sugar that contribute to poor blood glucose regulation and insulin resistance

• A diet lacking in fresh colourful antioxidant rich fruit and vegetables that are protective against oxidative damage

• Lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle

• Exposure to environmental toxins including tobacco smoke

• Mental, emotional and physical stress

 

How to support cardiovascular health through diet:  

Dietary shifts towards a wholefoods-based anti-inflammatory diet, like the Mediterranean diet, are supportive of cardiovascular health, lowering blood pressure and normalising blood cholesterol levels.

• Make half your plate look like a rainbow with colourful antioxidant rich vegetables and a few portions of fruit per day

• Eliminate trans-fats and industrialised vegetable seed oils

• Increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids by including fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, pasture raised eggs, walnuts and flaxseed • Include plenty of extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds and fermented dairy

• Ensure you have optimal levels of B12, folate and other methylation supportive nutrients to help normalise homocysteine levels, by adding organic chicken or beef livers, other organ meats, seafood, dark green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetable like broccoli and cabbage and egg yolks

• Eliminate refined sugar and swap out refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, white rice for fibre-rich complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, buckwheat, whole oats, kumara and pumpkin.

What lifestyle factors to adopt  

Physical activity helps with weight management, improves insulin sensitivity, reduces inflammation and supports healthy blood pressure levels and blood lipid profile. Including an average of at least 150 minutes per week of graded physical activity, where aerobic activity is slowly increased to match a person’s fitness level, is associated with a reduction in CVD risk. This could be done by including walking, swimming and a strengthening yoga practice.   Stress is a leading risk factor for hypertension, dyslipidaemia, dysregulated blood sugar levels and inflammation, through the actions of the stress hormone cortisol. It is therefore important to adopy regular stress management techniques and rituals such as meditation and mindfulness, yoga, deep diaphragmatic breathing, journaling and time in nature.

Sauna bathing and cardiovascular health  

Regular heat therapy through sauna bathing and hot water immersion may lead to improvements in cardiovascular function through positive effects on the health of our vasculature. A prospective 30-year study identified that people that were lifelong sauna bathers had lower cardiovascular-related deaths.    The cardiovascular protective effects of heat therapy include an improvement in endothelium-dependent dilatation, reduced arterial stiffness, modulation of the autonomic nervous system, beneficial changes in circulating lipid profiles and lowering of systemic blood pressure! With regular sauna bathing, there is the added benefit of sweating, which aids the elimination of toxins that contribute to oxidative damage and inflammation. Despite these outlined benefits of heat therapy for cardiovascular function, in the presence of any pre-existing conditions it is recommended that consultation with a healthcare provider takes place.

 

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist
https://www.naturalhealingcompany.org


body care

How To: Detox

Detoxification is the elimination of toxins from the body. For detoxification to happen properly, the pathways for elimination must be functioning optimally. These elimination pathways include the liver, kidneys, bowel and skin.

When our system is overburdened with toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides, the liver becomes sluggish. Suboptimal liver function can impact our health by reducing our ability to metabolise cellular waste products, hormones and toxins.

Signs of a sluggish liver and a need to detoxify include:

~ skin issues such as itchy skin and eczema

~ fatigue and recurrent headaches

~ digestive imbalances including bloating, constipation, nausea

~ hormonal imbalances manifesting as PMS, irregular cycles and acne

~ body odour

Simple detoxification steps include:

~ Reducing exposure to toxins by eating organic, filtering your water and choosing natural cleaning and personal care products

~ Dry skin brushing and movement to encourage lymphatic drainage

~ Sweating through exercise, Epsom salt baths and sauna bathing

~ Supporting the liver with bitter foods like rocket and dandelion greens, sulphur rich cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower as well as adequate protein intake

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist
https://www.naturalhealingcompany.org


Balancing Hormones

Balancing Hormones

We have all heard of hormones, but what exactly are they and why do they become imbalanced?

The endocrine system is a network of glands throughout the body that produce a range of hormones or chemical messengers. Working similarly to the nervous system but at a slower pace, hormones are secreted into the bloodstream and act as signals, travelling to different glands to trigger the release of other hormones or creating changes in target tissues of the body.

An example of this is the hypothalamus producing the hormone TRH which signals the anterior pituitary gland to release TSH, telling the thyroid gland to increase production and secretion of thyroid hormones.

Hormones can be broadly divided into peptide hormones and steroid hormones. Peptide hormones such as insulin and glucagon are made of amino acids whereas steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol. Our sex hormones including oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone are steroid hormones that are produced within the same pathway as our stress hormone cortisol. 

Signs of a hormonal imbalance include:

Fatigue, weight gain, weight loss, sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures, dry skin, low libido, infertility, heavy and painful periods, PMS symptoms, mood disturbances, anxiety and much much more.

Some common causes of hormonal imbalances include:

Poor nutrition

A diet high in nutrient deplete processed food, refined sugar and refined carbohydrates that is lacking sufficient protein, healthy fats and micronutrient cofactors (vitamins and minerals) required for hormone production.

Poor elimination

Being constipated means our hormones that have been metabolised by the liver and released into the bowel for elimination are lingering, becoming de-conjugated by microorganisms in our gut and released back into our bloodstream to wreak havoc on our system. 

Toxin load

We are exposed to toxins through the air we breath, the food we eat and what we put on our skin and hair. Many of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors, which means they mimic our natural hormones leading to hormonal imbalances. In addition, high toxin load taxes the liver, reducing its ability to metabolise hormones destined for elimination.

Stress

The body will always favour the production of our stress hormone cortisol over other steroid hormones, therefore stress is one of the most common contributing factors to hormonal imbalances. 

So how can we support a healthy hormone balance?

Swap out refined sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods for a wholefoods diet consisting of:

  • Whole grains – quinoa, buckwheat, millet, brown rice
  • A wide range of colourful vegetables and fruit
  • Plenty of healthy fats – avocado, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, coconut, ghee, butter, salmon, sardines, mackerel
  • Protein with every meal – organic free range meat, chicken, eggs, salmon, organic tempeh, organic hemp seeds

Supporting the pathways of elimination by:

  • Consuming fibre rich foods daily – flaxseeds, chia seeds, green leafy vegetables, kiwifruit, wholegrain oats
  • Drinking 1.5-2.5 litres of filtered water daily
  • Physical activity – walking, running, gardening, basically moving your body

Reducing our toxin load:

  • Swapping personal care products (shampoos, creams) to natural products – a good rule of thumb is if is good enough to eat, it’s good enough to go on your skin
  • Investing in a water filtration system that removes heavy metals, halides and other nasty chemicals and microorganisms – I recommend the Waters Co. brand. 
  • Swap from storing foods in plastics to glass or stainless steel and NEVER heat foods stored in plastic in the microwave!
  • Eliminating Teflon (non-stick) cookware and using cast iron or stainless steel with an 18/8 or 18/10 stamped at the bottom
  • Choosing organic foods if and when possible, especially the dirty dozen list of fruit and vegetables that are heavily sprayed with chemical pesticides, meat and dairy. If eating canned foods, opt for BPA free cans and whenever possible choose fresh or frozen over canned.

Identifying the root cause of your stress & supporting stress reduction by:   

  • Adopting a mind-body practice such as meditation, yoga or tai chi
  • Spending time in nature – in particular physical activity in green spaces
  • Journaling thoughts or feelings at the end of each day
  • Connecting with loved ones
  • Scheduling in time for rest and fun
  • Seeking the support of a trained professional such as a counsellor or psychologist

How infrared sauna treatments can encourage healthy hormone balance:

The use of infrared saunas aids the elimination of toxins, including heavy metals and endocrine disrupting toxins such as BPA and phthalates, through the process of sweating. Endocrine disruptors mimic our hormones, docking onto receptor sites on our cells and wreaking havoc on our hormonal balance, so their elimination supports our hormonal balance. In addition, there is evidence that regular sauna use can help with stress management as the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged during the cool-down period after heat therapy, bringing us into a calm and relaxed headspace, which we know is key to a healthy hormone balance.

 

Written by Shaz Andrew, Holistic Nutritionist at Hana

 

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What is inflammation?

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection, toxins and injury. It involves an interplay between damaged cells, immune cells and the release of proteins and antibodies.

The resultant increase in flow of blood to the area brings about the cardinal signs of acute inflammation including redness, heat, pain and swelling.

When this natural defence mechanism lingers, it becomes known as chronic inflammation. This happens as a result of unresolved acute inflammatory responses to infection or injury or when there is long-term exposure to irritants, such as air pollution and chemicals. Over time, chronic inflammation leads to loss of structure and function of our tissues and organs and the onset of many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. In cases of autoimmune disease such Hashimoto’s disease and multiple sclerosis, healthy tissues and organs are attacked by the body’s own immune system, resulting in chronic inflammatory states.

Chronic inflammation is impacted by our diet and lifestyle. High stress levels, smoking and excessive alcohol intake increase inflammation. Foods that create inflammation include processed food, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed meat and trans fats contained in margarine.

Ways to support an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle to reduce the impact of chronic illness or prevent the onset of disease include:

  Eliminating inflammatory factors including smoking and inflammatory foods listed above

  Eating a diet that is high in fresh colourful antioxidant rich fruit and non-starchy vegetables

  Increasing intake of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in foods like salmon, mackerel, flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts and reducing intake of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids contained in industrialised vegetable oils (e.g. canola oil, soybean oil)

  Spending time outdoors, exposing skin to sunlight for the production of anti-inflammatory vitamin D

  Regular physical activity to support healthy blood circulation and lymphatic flow

  Mind-body practices such as mindful yoga, meditation and tai chi to lower stress levels

Photobiomodulation therapy (red light therapy) has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers and result in an overall reduction in inflammation. This therapy provides relief from pain in arthritic joint conditions and traumatic injuries. It is beneficial for speeding up the recovery of muscles post workout. It helps to heal acne, blemishes and speeds up wound healing by enhancing collagen synthesis.

 

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Re-establishing a connection to the natural rhythm with Jen Raoult

Wellness: What does it mean to you?

While the term itself is oversaturated, the exploration of how we define ‘being well’ for ourselves is more important than ever. It’s personal, but it doesn’t need to be preachy or complicated. Health and wellness can be nurtured in any aspect of our lives, from the physical to the mental, emotional, spiritual and financial. Any of these pillars, when examined and cared for, can contribute to a richer and more enjoyable existence. In this series, we share the stories, challenges and discoveries of a diverse range of people who each have a unique perspective on health and wellbeing, and how these pillars manifest in their lives.

“Wellness is made up of the conscious choices we make in order to thrive instead of just survive.”

For photographer and film-maker Jen Raoult, a firm belief in the healing power of nature guides her approach to her own wellbeing. Having grown up in a small town in the South of France by the Mediterranean Sea, her career has taken her all over the world — from Paris to London, India, America, Mexico and Africa. She relocated to New Zealand in 2009 and, through it all, a close attachment to the natural environment has remained an important part of her life. 

“I believe wellness is directly related to the relationship we have with our environment,” she says. “Many of our ailments and discomforts in our lives, I think, come from a disconnection with our surroundings — with the natural world.” For Jen, the pursuit of wellness centres on finding a balance in all aspects of life — the emotional, the physical, spiritual and mental — through both stillness and movement; connection and nourishment, to re-establish a connection to the natural rhythm that guides all things. 

It’s also about living life to its full potential, she says. “Wellness is made up of the conscious choices we make in order to thrive instead of just survive.” 

This connection with the nature is a guiding factor in her photographic and film work. “I mainly photograph people in their natural environment, or a place they’re resonating with that tells their story. I also mainly work with natural light.” In terms of film-making, Jen says she loves taking people into an intimate and immersive experience, an emotional and sensorial journey that leaves an impression on more than just their intellect. 

When it comes to her own health journey, Jen says she’s not had any major issues to speak of, however has always harboured an awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and how to go about working towards that. Her very first experience with a sauna was in Mexico, but rather than an infrared sauna, it was during an ancient sacred cleansing ceremony called a Temazcal ceremony — “basically, a sauna inside an igloo-shaped hut in the forest, led by a shaman.” 

“To look after ones self is to look after the whole.”

Jen started regularly frequenting Hana very soon after it opened, and loves that the space incorporates both the benefits of the infrared sauna and a beautifully-designed, calming and luxurious atmosphere. “I love hanging here. I always feel blissful the next day, with a lot of energy.” 

She has noticed several other benefits from regular sauna visits, including reducing muscle and back pain, and helping eliminate toxins in her body. “My skin is also looking and feeling amazing — so smooth,” she says. A large part of the appeal is the easing of mental burdens, thanks to a session in the sauna being so calming and relaxing. 

Jen’s other wellness rituals are copious – “I love rituals!” – and include 20 minutes of meditation upon waking every morning, followed by a self pamper session-of-sorts using natural oils, serums and moisturisers on her face and body after a shower. Diffusing essential oils in her house and drinking herbal teas are habitual, and she treasures moments of affection, kisses and cuddles with her partner and daughter. In these disconnected times, as many of us spend large chunks of the day on screens, the therapeutic effect of skin contact with loved ones is very important, she thinks. “But, the most essential one is spending time in nature, among trees or by the ocean,” says Jen. “This is the most healing, effective, powerful ritual — along with the kisses!” 

Jen believes that the key to establishing our relationship to the earth lies in seeking out self-knowledge and learning, and also in having a holistic viewpoint that looks externally as well as internally. “To look after ones self is to look after the whole. We need to feel responsible, as our wellness choices are impacting each and everyone — and the health of our planet.” 

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The power of changing your reality with Kelly MacDonald

Wellness: What does it mean to you?

While the term itself is oversaturated, the exploration of how we define ‘being well’ for ourselves is more important than ever. It’s personal, but it doesn’t need to be preachy or complicated. Health and wellness can be nurtured in any aspect of our lives, from the physical to the mental, emotional, spiritual and financial. Any of these pillars, when examined and cared for, can contribute to a richer and more enjoyable existence. In this series, we share the stories, challenges and discoveries of a diverse range of people who each have a unique perspective on health and wellbeing, and how these pillars manifest in their lives.

“Wellness to me means prioritising lifestyle, nutrition, training, mental health, relationships and self care. It is also having the ability to set goals and achieve them and help as many people as possible in that process.”

For some, a love of movement transcends a run-of-the-mill exercise regimen, soaring beyond the iterations many of us are familiar with trying to fit around other aspects of our lives. This is the case for award-winning personal trainer Kelly MacDonald, for whom dedicating herself to mobility and holistic health was an impetus sparked at a young age. From beginning rhythmic gymnastics at the age of seven, she was selected for the national squad by 12 and travelled the world competing for New Zealand, before representing the country in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Having founded her personal training business in 2017, Kelly has gone on to become an in-demand mobility specialist, whose ability to connect with and understand her clients ultimately stems from her own experiences with health and wellness.

Kelly experienced a holistic upbringing from her mother, who sadly passed away from cancer two months before the Games in 2014. This, coupled with her own personal health struggles, helped to guide her career towards the health and fitness industry and holistic wellbeing. Nowadays, Kelly views the term ‘wellness’ as suitably well-rounded, encompassing many different aspects. 

“Wellness to me means prioritising lifestyle, nutrition, training, mental health, relationships and self care. It is also having the ability to set goals and achieve them and help as many people as possible in that process.” Wellness and balance are two terms that go hand-in-hand for Kelly, and the knock-on effects of not having balance are often directly impactful. “If I don’t get enough sleep, the reaction is that I don’t perform as well for my clients and that’s not fair to them,” she says. “Long story short, wellness is having all aspects of your life in balance — whatever that means for you.”

Having experienced issues with her digestive system growing up, plus hormonal imbalances, loss of her period for three years, migraines and seizures, Kelly says accepting that her body is sensitive has helped her prioritise its health and ability to function day-to-day. The most challenging of these has been her seizures, she says, which began at age 19. 

“I’ve had multiple since then and doctors haven’t been able to diagnose me with epilepsy. My brain simply decides when it’s burnt out and it decides to seize.” Lack of sleep, overstimulation and stress can all be catalysts, which is hard for Kelly as a go-getter who finds it challenging to relax. Because of this, her regular Hana sessions have been vital in helping her to prioritise taking time for herself.

“There is something about Hana, as soon as you walk in the door it’s like a zen zone — I feel immediately relaxed,” says Kelly.

“If you don’t like something in your life — change it. Only you have the power to change your reality.”

Other than blissful relaxation, Kelly has noticed several positive results from her regular weekly Hana visits. “My skin is so much clearer and I’m the healthiest I’ve been in a long time in terms of hormonal health. My period is back and regular, my digestion and gut health has not been an issue since I started and my body recovers so much better from all my training.”

Kelly has also loved the ability to bring a friend along to sit in one of the two-person saunas, combining a catch-up with beneficial infrared therapy, and plans to continue doing this moving forward as well as using it as a personal reflection space.

Other self-care practices that Kelly swears by are journaling, goal-setting and play. “Play is very important to me — I put a lot of pressure on myself to be at my best all the time, so giving myself permission to not take an activity so seriously sometimes, is so powerful.”

When it comes to her advice for a well and healthy life, Kelly says it’s important to remember we have the ability to make our own situation what we want it to be. “If you don’t like something in your life — change it. Only you have the power to change your reality,” she says. “Make sure you take some time to really find out what is it that you want to do, what your purpose is and how you feel you can help this world to leave your mark in a positive way. If you find your passion in life you will never be lost, and if you turn your passion into a career I promise you will never work a day in your life.”

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