The Two Sides of Stress - Why We Don’t Need to Fight or Fly

You could eat the most nutrient-dense diet, exercise daily and take a cocktail of quality supplements, but when you’re chronically stressed, every organ and system in your body will be affected. This includes your gut, brain, thyroid gland, reproductive organs and cardiovascular system.

Chronic stress, although common, is incredibly debilitating – its negative effects can override all our other efforts to live healthy.  It leads to nutrient deficiencies by lowering the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. It contributes to dysbiosis – an imbalance in the gut microbial composition – and leaky gut, which is linked to atopic conditions such as eczema and allergies, and autoimmunity. Stress impacts your sleep and energy levels and weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections. And it affects the balance of your hormones, as the body always prioritises survival over reproduction.

And perhaps most alarmingly, chronic stress puts you at higher risk of a number of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety, autoimmune diseases and hypothyroidism.

Simply put, chronic stress is not a good thing to subject our bodies to. But that doesn’t mean all stress is bad. There are other types of stress that are essential responses within normal and healthy human function. To understand the distinction, it’s important to establish what stress is.

What exactly is stress?

Stress is about survival. The physiological changes that happen when we experience stress are designed to enable us to react quickly in response to danger in order to find safety.

It begins with the activation of something called the sympathetic-adreno-medullar (SAM) axis, more commonly known as the "fight or flight" response, which occurs following exposure to a stressor. This supports us to either fight the threat or flee the situation. The release of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline from the adrenal glands trigger a cascade of changes resulting in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and cardiac output. More oxygen-rich blood floods into our skeletal muscles, increasing muscle strength and improving our ability to perform strenuous physical activity.

At the same time, stress engages what's known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis – an interweaving of the central nervous system and endocrine systems. This network has extensive effects on our metabolism, behaviour and immunity, and once activated, results in the release of glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, from the adrenal glands. Cortisol mobilises our energy reserves to ensure that we have the resources required to respond to a real or perceived threat.

These functions are part of a normal and healthy human body. They’re a big reason why we’ve survived as a species for so many thousands of years, battling or escaping predators, and they still serve us today whenever we find ourselves in dangerous situations where we need to respond quickly to avoid or mitigate harm.

When does stress become a problem?

Although it’s normal to experience temporary “survival” stress in response to an acute threat, it becomes a problem when the stress and its effect on the body lingers long after the danger has passed. Sadly, in the world we live in today, many of us are experiencing this type of continuous stress – and it's causing major health issues.

It’s easy to imagine why being in a state of chronic stress with adrenaline constantly pumping round our body might not be the best thing for your mental and physical health.

But there are other, subtle effects chronic stress can have. It can lead to changes in the output of cortisol, also known as HPA axis dysregulation. Initially, cortisol levels become high in response to chronic stress. But longer durations of chronic stress lead to low overall cortisol levels – a state commonly referred to as “burn out”.

Chronic stress also impacts the natural diurnal (daytime) rhythm of cortisol release. Normally, cortisol secretion rises after we wake, peaks after 30 minutes and slowly declines over the remainder of the day. When the HPA axis is dysregulated, cortisol levels may become too low in the morning and too high at night, manifesting in low energy levels after rising and a “second wind” in the evening – right before you’d normally go to bed.

HPA dysregulation also changes the production of hormones, like DHEA and other sex hormones and may impact our neurotransmitters. There are a wide range of symptoms experienced with HPA dysregulation, from menstrual cycle irregularities, ovulation issues, infertility, sleep issues, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, blood sugar imbalances, insulin resistance, gut dysbiosis, leaky gut and more.

Identifying your stressors

The big question is: why are we chronically stressed? We’re unlikely to be running from bears or wolves on a daily basis, so what perceived or real threats are stalking us so relentlessly that we are in a perpetual state of fight or flight?

The answer, unfortunately, comes down to how modern societies are geared, and the responsibilities and interactions within them.

Work deadlines, exam stress, relationship conflict – these are some of the most common and obvious stressors that many of us respond to with perpetual surges of adrenaline. But there are many hidden stressors we may not be aware of that are adding to our cumulative burden of stress – otherwise known as allostatic load.

These stressors can be hard to identify, but they are broadly categorised as psychological, physical, psychosocial and psychospiritual.

• Psychological stress are things that impact our emotional or mental wellbeing. Some common causes of psychological stress include grief after the loss of a loved one, living with a chronic illness, financial difficulties and the demands of parenthood. Certain behavioural traits that can make people more prone to psychological stress include perfectionism and being self-critical.

• Physical stress is a category of stress that includes overexercising, undereating, nutritional deficiencies, exposure to toxins and radiation, poor oxygen supply and musculoskeletal misalignments. Athletes and women that regularly practise high intensity exercise often experience physical stress manifesting as menstrual cycle changes like anovulatory cycles (cycles without ovulation) or amenorrhea (loss of period). This is especially true if the energy demands are not compensated by adequate nutrition.

Psychosocial stress is related to relationship issues, workplace conflict and lacking connection and social support. Psychospiritual stress may be related to lacking purpose and meaning, feeling unfulfilled by your work or living out of integrity with your core beliefs and values.

Identifying the main triggers for your stress is the first step to lowering your allostatic load, as it enables you to reassess your lifestyle and make any necessary adjustments.

For example, if an unfulfilling high-pressure job is causing you stress, seeking out work that lights you up is the solution. However, making a major life change such as finding a new job can be a slow process. So while you’re still living with the stressor, it is essential that you find ways to regulate your nervous system.

Stress management practices

Having a regular stress management practice is one of the most impactful things you can do for your health. But it’s challenging, as many of these self-care practices force us to slow down and simply “be”, which often clashes with our culture of achieving and perpetually doing.

For a practice to work, it’s important that you find one that resonates with you and allows you to attain a sense of presence and calm in the most accessible way possible.

Here are some common but immensely useful practices that can help you do this.


By bringing your focus to your breath, the sensations in your body, or the sounds around you, you can take your mind away from the stream of thought that is often the source of so much of our worry and stress.


A form of movement meditation, yoga allows us to tune into physical sensations and bring our minds away from problematic streams of thought.


Having a faith-based or spiritual ritual such as prayer, can help you establish a sense of safety, allowing you to see that, no matter what the stressor, you are in some way protected and taken care of.

Immerse yourself in nature

The healing power of nature has been revered for as long as humans have been experiencing worry. A simple bush walk, a swim in the sea, a stroll along the beach – these activities all have the ability to bring calm by showing us that we are, in different ways, crucial parts of the boundless and ever-changing system of nature.

Whichever practice you choose, the objective is the same: reach a state of mind where you can recognise that your stressor is not the life-or-death threat that you often perceive it as – and that you don’t need to fight or fly away from it.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

6 natural ways to boost your immunity

It’s now the middle of winter, a time that usually sees many of us bombarded by infectious pathogens. Winter illnesses such as the cold and flu can be inconvenient and debilitating, often forcing us to take time off work and bringing our lives to a halt. But just because there are more bugs around, it doesn’t mean we have to catch them.

However, an immune system can only do this critical work when it’s functioning correctly. Unfortunately, there are many factors that can compromise how it functions. Nutrient-devoid diets high in processed and packaged foods, refined sugar, refined grains, vegetable seed oils, preservatives and additives, stress, lack of sleep, antibiotic use, exposure to environmental toxins and lack of sunshine all impair the function of our immune systems, making them less effective at protecting us from sickness throughout the winter.

Fortunately, there are just as many ways we can bolster our immune systems, giving them the resources they need to do their jobs and keep us healthy and vibrant.

1. Boost your vitamin C

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that neutralises free radicals, lowering levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. It protects immune cells from free radical-induced damage and enhances the function of phagocytic cells – protective cells that ingest and destroy harmful microbes.

Vitamin C also stimulates the proliferation of certain immune cells, including B- and T-lymphocytes. This vitamin also supports the function of the epithelial barrier providing protection against pathogens. Studies have identified that getting sufficient vitamin C in your diet can help to speed up recovery from respiratory illnesses like the common cold and alleviates the symptoms of respiratory infections.

Although vitamin C is essential for human beings, your body cannot produce it. It therefore must be consumed through your diet. Foods such as capsicum, citrus fruit, broccoli, blackcurrant berries and mango all contain high levels of vitamin C and provide easy ways to get it into your system.

2. Get more of the ‘sunshine vitamin’

One of the reasons we are more susceptible to colds and flus over winter is that reduced daylight hours and the cold and rainy weather prevent us from spending time outdoors. Less exposure to sunlight depletes our vitamin D stores and this sunshine vitamin has a key role in modulating our immune systems.

Vitamin D deficiency impacts close to 50% of the global population and increases susceptibility to infections. There are also links between vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The best way to get vitamin D is to expose your skin to sunshine. The UVB wavelengths of light required for vitamin D synthesis are higher in concentration around midday, so exposing your arms and legs to 15-20 minutes of midday sunshine 3-4 times per week sets you up for the week. During the colder winter months, it is important to include vitamin D rich foods in your diet, such as cod liver oil, wild-caught fatty fish (sardines, salmon), egg yolks and beef and chicken livers.

3. Increase your intake of preformed ‘active’ vitamin A

Vitamin A has been referred to as the “anti-inflammation vitamin” because of the key role it plays in enhancing immune function. Vitamin A is important in the development and differentiation of the epithelium and mucous membranes of the body, including those that line the nose, sinuses, mouth and gut.

Vitamin A also promotes the secretion of mucin, the most abundant macromolecules found in the mucous layer lining the gut and respiratory tract. This mucous layer plays a role in improving the antigen non-specific immunity function of these tissues.

Contrary to popular belief, beta-carotene found in carrots, pumpkin and other vegetables is not vitamin A and must go through an enzymatic conversion to become active vitamin A. For many people, especially those with a SNP (mutation) in the BCo1 gene, this conversion is low. Preformed vitamin A on the other hand is the active form of vitamin A found in animal foods including wild-caught fatty fish (sardines, salmon), cod liver oil, egg yolks and beef and chicken livers.

4. Increase your intake of zinc 

Zinc plays a central role in the immune system. It supports the barrier function of the skin and is essential for the development and function of cells involved in innate immunity, including neutrophils and natural killer cells. Zinc helps to keep inflammation under control, by controlling the release of inflammatory cytokines (proteins), preventing damage to tissues. It is also involved in the regulation of genes within lymphocytes (T and B cells) and plays a role in the phagocytosis and cytokine production by macrophage cells (immune cells that engulf pathogens).

Zinc deficiency is common in NZ, due to the soil being depleted of this essential mineral. High consumption of diets that lack zinc-rich foods is also a major cause. People that are zinc-deficient have an increased susceptibility to infection by a variety of pathogens. There are links between zinc deficiency and infectious diseases including measles, pneumonia, malaria and Tuberculosis.

Increase zinc in your diet by including oysters and other shellfish, quality red meat, pumpkin seeds and other seeds and nuts.

5. Support the health of your gut microbiome and gut lining 

A healthy gut is essential for a healthy immune system. Around 70-80% of our immune cells are located in the gut and the gut microbiome plays an important role in programming the immune system in early life. Studies on mice have identified that a sterile environment in the gut doesn’t allow the immune system to develop properly.

Gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the gut microflora, can occur due to antibiotic use, gut infections, poor diet, chronic stress and toxin exposure. Gut dysbiosis contributes to lingering chronic inflammation, a weakened immune response and immune system dysregulation which is linked to the onset of allergies and autoimmunity.

Ways to improve your gut health include eating probiotic rich foods like sauerkraut, kefir and coconut yogurt as well as a diverse range of colourful vegetables, which provide the prebiotics to feed beneficial gut bacteria.

Incorporating bone broth and meat stock from slow cooked gelatinous cuts of meat into your diet has the additional benefit of providing amino acids like glycine and proline which help to heal and seal the gut lining, improving gut integrity for lower inflammation and healthy immune function.

6. Manage your stress levels

Physiological changes, such as a rise in heart rate, that follow exposure to an acute stressor are designed to help us escape threat. Unfortunately, many people experience stress on a regular basis and our stress response system isn’t designed to cope with this repeated exposure.

During periods of chronic stress, it is common to feel run down. Our immune system function will often become compromised, due to the rise in cortisol and other hormones, making us prone to new infections and illnesses.

Chronic stress may also result in the reactivation of dormant viruses such as herpes simplex virus, manifesting in cold sores and other symptoms. Long-term exposure to stress is associated with higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chronic inflammation and dysregulation of the immune system which has been linked to autoimmunity.

The first step to managing your stress levels is to tune into the root cause. For example, mental and emotional stress may be triggered by everyday challenges such as work deadlines or relationship issues, while physical stress can come through extreme practices such as overexercising or undereating.

Once you have identified the triggers for your stress, try to find solutions. For instance, delegating tasks to family members, limiting your number of weekly commitments or swapping one of your high intensity workouts for a gentle mindful movement practice. You may also benefit from exploring if you have a tendency to overcommit, and asking yourself if this comes from a need to please others or difficulty saying no.

The next step is to adopt a practice that will help regulate your nervous system. Mind-body techniques like meditation, yoga, Tai chi and deep diaphragmatic breathing are great ways to engage the vagus nerve and bring our nervous system into a calm and relaxed state.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

Tea station at Hana

The do’s and don’ts of coffee


To drink coffee or to not drink coffee – this is an endless dilemma that many of us grapple with. If you’re on the coffee train but are trying to cut back, it’s difficult to resist the delicious aroma of a fresh morning brew wafting through the entire house, or the smoky, rich flavour that lights up every last one of your taste buds.

But often, the hardest thing to give up is the ritual: that simple act of grinding, brewing, pouring – taking that first sip and letting that wave of energy and clarity permeate your body and mind.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll latch onto every piece of evidence suggesting that drinking coffee is a healthy daily habit. Coffee is high in antioxidants and can improve concentration and  our ability to learn. Some studies have also found that drinking coffee reduces your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease and may help with depression.

However, there are a number of well-reported negative effects attributed to drinking coffee. Coffee is, after all, a highly addictive mind-altering drug. If you’re chronically stressed, coffee adds to your allostatic load or cumulative burden of chronic stress. This may bring you nearer to burn out (more correctly known as HPA dysfunction). And the stimulatory action of caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and insomnia for those that suffer from these conditions. Coffee is also a common trigger for migraines and hot flashes in menopause.

How you react to the caffeine in coffee may be related to your genes. Some people are slower at metabolising caffeine because they have a variant of the CYP1A2 gene – a gene that normally encodes a liver enzyme helping to break down caffeine. Because the variant doesn’t work as well, caffeine builds up in their system and over time may increase their risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

But even if you’re a slow metaboliser of caffeine, there are certain things you can do to improve the impact that coffee has on your body and mind.

1. Don’t drink coffee first thing in the morning

There are several reasons why we should wait at least an hour after waking to drink coffee and ideally have it after our first meal.

Firstly, we lose around 1 litre of water while we are sleeping so first thing in the morning we are often dehydrated and our body needs water and electrolytes. Coffee is a diuretic that makes the body lose more water, causing further dehydration.

Secondly, about 30-45 minutes after waking, our body produces a natural spike in cortisol, giving us a boost in energy. The caffeine from coffee also causes cortisol release, putting us in fight-or-flight mode. So coffee first thing may make you feel jittery and for some people it actually reduces its energising effects. Chronically elevated cortisol weakens the immune system, upsets the balance of our hormones and is associated with a number of health issues.

2. Avoid having coffee on an empty stomach

The bitterness of coffee stimulates acid production by the stomach, which can be problematic for people that have IBS or other digestive issues. Lining your stomach with food before drinking coffee may prevent stomach irritation and reduce jitteriness in those that are caffeine sensitive.

If you’re going to have coffee without eating first, add a source of fat like butter, coconut oil or MCT oil to your coffee. This will slow the release of caffeine for more sustained energy release and less jitters.

3. Stop drinking coffee at least 8 hours before bedtime

The caffeine in coffee impacts our ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and the quality of our sleep. Studies have found that caffeine intake affects the length of time you will spend in deep, “slow-wave” sleep, which is essential for you to feel well-rested and refreshed the following day.

So if you go to bed at 10pm, the cut off for drinking coffee should be 2pm. If you’re experiencing sleep issues, this cut off should be shifted to earlier in the day.

4. Choose single origin, organic coffee grown at higher altitudes

Coffee blends are usually made up of inferior-quality beans from a number of different sources. When you choose single origin coffee, you know exactly where the coffee beans are grown. And opting for coffee grown organically means you aren’t exposed to toxic pesticides like organophosphates (OP), pyrethroids, and carbamates which are harmful to human health. Also, coffee grown at higher altitudes such as in the mountains of Central America is less likely to have mould growing on it.

5. Avoid instant coffee

All coffee beans that are roasted to a high temperature contain a certain amount of acrylamide. This can be toxic to human health and is linked to disorders related to the nervous system. Instant coffee has a much higher level of acrylamide, about 100% higher than freshly roasted coffee!

6. Be selective with the decaf you drink or opt for healthy coffee alternatives

Most decaf coffee is chemically processed to remove caffeine from the coffee beans. Also, since caffeine is actually the coffee plant's natural antifungal, when you remove caffeine from coffee beans they are more prone to growth of harmful mould. A lot of the decaf out there is therefore loaded with chemicals and toxic mould!

If you’re able to get your hands on coffee that has been decaffeinated using the Swiss method – immersing coffee beans in water rather than chemicals – this is a much better option. Otherwise, healthier coffee alternatives include matcha (green tea powder) which is lower in caffeine and contains the calming amino acid L-Theanine, which balances the excitatory caffeine. Cacao is also a great option, if you’re wanting to ease off on coffee as it has lower caffeine, contains magnesium and is rich in antioxidants.


Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

How to improve sleep

How to improve your sleep

Good quality, uninterrupted sleep is a pillar of our physical, mental and emotional health. Entering a deep sleep is restorative. It allows damaged cells and tissues to undergo repair and supports healthy immune system function.

During the deeper stages of sleep, certain hormones are released that stimulate collagen synthesis, which helps improve our skin integrity, the health of our joints and the integrity of our gut lining.

The glymphatic system - the brain's lymphatic system or waste clearance system - only becomes active when we are sleeping. So, poor sleep can also contribute to a build-up of toxins in the brain that are damaging to our neurons.

Not sleeping long enough and poor sleep quality causes daytime sleepiness and can impair our cognitive function - making it harder to think clearly or focus on tasks. Ongoing sleep issues have even been linked to a number of chronic illnesses including type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia (unhealthy cholesterol levels), cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety.

Sleep issues may include difficulty falling asleep, waking through the night, going to sleep too late, waking too early and poor sleep quality. Creating better habits around sleep/wake times can be a helpful way to improve sleep quality. But there are a number of other dietary and lifestyle recommendations that can improve the way we sleep. This blog describes holistic ways to improve your sleep quality.

Go to bed and wake up in sync with natural light cycles

When we are only exposed to natural light, like when we go camping, our circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) naturally becomes synchronized to sunrise and sunset. This helps us to stay awake during the day and go to sleep when it becomes dark.

Restructuring our bed times so that we’re going to bed and waking up in sync with natural light cycles can help maintain a balanced circadian rhythm. Consistently following a sleep schedule can also help to optimise sleep-wake homeostasis.

To shift your current rhythm it may be more helpful to introduce an earlier wake time, rather than forcing an earlier sleep time. Exposing your eyes to bright daylight first thing in the morning and throughout the day (without sunglasses) also helps to reset the circadian rhythm and increase melatonin release in the evening, supporting sleep.

Restrict your exposure to blue light

Electronic devices with screens such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and TVs and the lighting in our homes emit artificial light, high in blue light. Blue light disrupts our circadian rhythm by impacting the production of melatonin - a hormone that plays an important role in the regulation of sleep.

In the world we live in today, it’s impossible to completely avoid exposure to artificial blue light. There are however ways we can reduce our exposure to improve the quality of our sleep:

  • Avoid using screens at least 2 hours before bedtime
  • Use a blue light blocking filter like FLUX on your computer screen at all times - this is a free download on the website
  • Reduce the backlighting on your phone and set up night-mode to switch on automatically
  • Invest in a pair of blue light blocking glasses or if you already wear glasses, add a blue light blocking filter next time you’re due for a lens change
  • Use low lighting in the evening or blue-blocking light bulbs such as amber, red or low blue light bulbs
  • Make your bedroom as dark as possible at bedtime by using blackout curtains, an eye mask and switching off any light emitting devices e.g. alarm clocks

Only use your bed for sleep and create a calming bedtime ritual

Avoid working from your bed, watching TV in bed or doing anything else that is overly stimulating before bedtime.  Using your bed only for sleep (with sex being the exception) trains your brain to associate your bed with sleep.

Creating a calming bedtime ritual including soft music, diffusing lavender essential oil, self-massage, journaling and meditation will help you associate bedtime with feelings of calm and serenity.

Manage your stress levels

When you’re chronically stressed, you spend a big part of your day engaging the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is the fight or flight branch of the autonomic nervous system. This makes it difficult to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) - rest-and-digest branch of the autonomic nervous system, required to fall asleep at night.

High stress levels and anxiety also contribute to poor sleep quality, reducing the length of time you spend in deeper sleep stages and disrupting REM sleep.

Finding ways to reduce your stress levels, including taking on less, delegating tasks and adopting mind-body-practices like meditation, yoga, deep breathing and time in nature will improve the quality of your sleep.

Eat more carbohydrates in the evening

The brain needs the amino acid tryptophan to produce neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin which are involved in regulating our sleep/wake cycles. We get tryptophan from eating protein, however carbohydrates are actually required to increase the uptake of tryptophan by the brain.

Eating a meal that is rich in complex carbohydrates such as root vegetables and wholegrains a few hours before bedtime boosts tryptophan levels in the brain and the production of sleep-inducing neurotransmitters.

Incorporate glycine-rich foods

Glycine is an amino acid abundantly found in foods rich in collagen - including cartilaginous cuts of meat, bone broth, gelatin and eggs. Glycine stimulates the production of serotonin, involved in the production of melatonin and sleep regulation. Studies have shown that boosting glycine improves sleep quality and reduces symptoms of insomnia.

Increase your magnesium levels

Magnesium can help to alleviate stress and anxiety due to the calming effect it has on the nervous system. It also relaxes tightness and tension in our muscles, which can disturb our sleep. A number of studies have shown that those suffering from insomnia have low magnesium levels and that increasing magnesium through diet and supplementation improves sleep quality and can be used as a treatment for insomnia.

Magnesium can help to alleviate stress and anxiety due to the calming effect it has on the nervous system. It also relaxes tightness and tension in our muscles, which can disturb our sleep. A number of studies have shown that those suffering from insomnia have low magnesium levels and that increasing magnesium through diet and supplementation improves sleep quality and can be used as a treatment for insomnia.


Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

6 benefits of taking the cold plunge

Although ice baths have gained popularity in recent years, cold water hydrotherapy, also known as cryotherapy, has been used as a healing modality for centuries!

The ancient Greeks used cold water therapy for its therapeutic benefits and as a way to socialise and relax. And, Hippocrates, the father of medicine himself, regularly prescribed cold water to his patients for pain relief. He even made the claim that “the water can cure anything”!

Using cold water therapy as a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic after injuries or intense workouts is a well known benefit. There is however a growing body of evidence suggesting that the benefits of cold exposure go even further, including improving our mental health and stimulating the immune system. Learn 6 ways that ice baths benefit your health in this blog post!

1. Reduces Inflammation and pain

Immersing your body into cold water constricts the blood vessels near the surface of the body, redirecting circulation towards the internal organs. As blood flows away from skeletal muscles and joints, swelling is drawn away. This can be helpful when someone has an injury, as not only does it reduce inflammation but can also alleviate pain. Ice baths may also provide relief for people with chronic inflammatory conditions impacting their muscles and joints, including arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

2. Reduces DOMS and speeds up post-workout muscle recovery

Working out leads to micro-tears in muscle fibres which results in inflammation, triggering an increase in muscle mass. One of the side-effects of an intense workout is DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) which is the muscle soreness and stiffness that occur after a workout. Ice baths are fast becoming an “active recovery” practice used by athletes and people that work out regularly. Exposure to cold water lowers inflammation, reducing DOMS and helping to speed up muscle recovery after a workout. There is also evidence that the constriction of blood vessels with cold exposure draws lactic acid away from muscles after a workout, and dilation of blood vessels after leaving the ice bath brings oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the site, helping to repair any damage.

3. Strengthens the immune system

Studies have identified that brief periods of cold exposure daily result in an increase in the number and activity of immune cells involved in innate and adaptive immunity, including natural killer cells and T-lymphocytes. Natural killer cells provide protection against viruses and tumour cells.  Cold exposure has also been shown to increase the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines (proteins) and reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines following an infection, which means less inflammation overall.

4. Supports our mental health

Many people who ice bath regularly do so for the mental health benefits. And there is actual scientific evidence to back the calmer, more uplifted feeling you get from immersing your body into cold water! Firstly, cold exposure triggers the release of endorphins, which are hormones that induce a sense of happiness, optimism and wellbeing. Cold water immersion has also been shown to increase dopamine levels in the brain, your “feel good” neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood, enhance attention and focus.  The vagus nerve becomes activated on cold exposure. This nerve is responsible for engaging the parasympathetic nervous system and inducing a sense of calm, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety. Lastly, exposure to extreme cold is a form of hormetic stress that helps to build your resilience to stress and may even increase your lifespan!

5. Boosts metabolism and stimulates brown adipose tissue

When we are exposed to cold temperatures, the shivering response is activated. Our muscles contract involuntarily in order to raise our core temperature, which ultimately increases our metabolic rate. Regular cold exposure also boosts the production of brown adipose tissue (BAT), which has the primary role of generating more heat for the body. BAT burns glucose and free fatty acids in the blood as fuel to generate heat, which results in an increase in metabolic rate. An increase in BAT also improves our metabolic health by increasing insulin sensitivity.

6. Aid lymphatic drainage and detoxification

Similar to blood vessels that constrict on exposure to cold, our lymphatic vessels also constrict in response to the cold. When we leave the ice bath and the body starts to warm up again, these lymphatic vessels open up.  The pump-like action created in our lymphatic vessels as we go in and out of the ice bath or alternate between the ice bath and hot shower or sauna can help the flow of lymphatic fluid and lymphatic drainage, to aid the removal of toxins.


Interested in taking the plunge? Try an ice bath at Hana here.


Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist 

The Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is an intricate network of lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, tissues and organs that traverses the body, transporting lymphatic fluid, white blood cells and fatty acids.

This body system has an important role in our immunity, helping to fight infections and kill off abnormal cells. It also aids detoxification by draining fluids away from our body’s tissues, and removing toxins and metabolic waste products. This ensures our cells are bathing in healthy, nourishing interstitial fluid.

Unlike our circulation, which has the heart pumping and supporting the movement of blood around the body, the lymphatic system is a passive drainage system that relies on the contraction of our muscles and movement of our joints for its flow.

Sluggish and stagnated lymph can become overburdened with toxins and may lead to fluid retention and swelling, weakened immunity, sinus infections, skin infections, eczema and itchy skin, chronic inflammation, chronic fatigue, swollen glands, respiratory illnesses and many other symptoms.

This blog post details 7 natural ways of supporting a healthy lymphatic system.

1. Move your body

Whether the form of movement you practise is walking, running, crossfit or yoga, the contraction of your muscles and movement of your joints helps to create a flow of lymphatic fluid around the body. This supports lymphatic drainage and the removal of toxins from the body. Rebounding on a trampoline is a particularly effective way of moving stagnated lymph as it contracts your muscles, provides gravitational pressure and stimulates the one-way valves of the lymphatic system.

2. Deep diaphragmatic breathing

Slow, deep, belly breathing contracts the diaphragm muscle, which acts as a pump for the lymphatic system, encouraging flow and drainage of lymphatic fluid.

~ Inhale slowly over 4-6 counts
~ Hold your inhale breath for a few counts
~ Exhale slowly for as long as feels comfortable for you
~ And repeat

3. Dry skin brushing

Brushing your skin with a natural fibre brush with medium-soft bristles helps to stimulate the flow and drainage of lymph, as well as unclogging pores and making it easier to sweat out toxins. Have a look at the Hana shop for our beautiful Sisal dry brushes.

4. Sauna bathing

Using infrared saunas mobilises toxins stored deep in our fat cells, sending them to the lymphatic system to aid their elimination. Sauna bathing also helps us eliminate toxins from the body through sweating, taking some of the pressure off the lymphatic system.

Book in your next sweat at Hana here.

5. Stay hydrated

Dehydration is one of the main causes of a stagnated lymph. Ensuring you are adequately hydrated is key to the health of your lymphatic system.

The appropriate level of hydration for you depends on your activity levels, the climate you live in and the water rich foods in your diet. Generally speaking, drinking between 1.5-2.5 L filtered water is sufficient to keep lymph flowing and also aids your bowel and kidneys to eliminate toxins.

6. Wear loose clothing

Wearing tight clothing restricts the circulation of lymphatic fluid and may lead to blockages that result in toxins building up in your body. It has even been speculated that tight fitting underwire bras are detrimental to breast health as they cause lymphatic restriction, causing the accumulation of fluid and toxins in breast tissue (though this has not been substantiated with evidence).

Choose breathable, natural fibres and loose fitting clothing, including your gym wear and underwear.

7. Contrast therapy

Alternating between exposing your body to hot and cold temperatures makes the lymphatic vessels constrict and dilate, providing a pump-like action that aids the flow of lymphatic fluid. You can achieve this by switching between hot and cold when you shower, jumping into an ice-cold lake or ocean after a hot and sweaty workout or booking into our contrast therapy at Hana here.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

Natural ways to support brain fog

What is brain fog?

Are you familiar with the forgetfulness, confusion, low energy, difficulty concentrating and lack of focus and mental clarity that are often collectively termed brain fog?

Although brain fog is a common range of symptoms affecting many people, there is no single cause for it, making it difficult to diagnose and treat.

This journal post is a discussion of factors that contribute to brain fog and holistic ways to support healthy brain function and boost memory, cognition and mental clarity.

What causes brain fog?

Poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation due to chronic stress, excessive exposure to blue light and irregular sleep-wake cycles causes low energy and brain fog. Studies have identified that  sleep deprivation slows down the firing of neurons in the brain and disrupts their ability to communicate with one another, which can impact memory and cognition.

Inflammation is one of the root causes of brain fog. Inflammation impacts neural networks involved in mental alertness and cognition. Inflammatory molecules (e.g. cytokines) stimulate the activation of microglia in the brain, which are immune cells that further exacerbate inflammation and damage brain cells.

Poor diet & nutrient deficiencies - A diet high in processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol and vegetable seed oils (e.g. canola, sunflower) is inflammatory and nutrient deplete. Since the production of  neurotransmitters/hormones responsible for mental focus, including serotonin and dopamine, is dependent on nutrients in our diet including folate, vitamin B6 and protein, a processed diet lacking in these cofactors is associated with brain fog.

Chronic stress, often brought on by job dissatisfaction, financial stress, poor relationships and chronic illness, causes a rise in cortisol levels which can reduce dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, impacting mood, cognition, memory and mental clarity.

Holistic support for brain fog

Eat enough protein - Having a palm-sized portion of protein (e.g. 2 eggs, chicken leg, stek) with each main meal and protein-rich snacks throughout the day supplies the amino acids needed to produce brain chemicals (serotonin, dopamine etc.) that play a role in focus and mental clarity.

Eat healthy fats - including fatty fish (sardines, salmon), egg yolk, pasture-raised butter and ghee, coconut, avocados, walnuts and flaxseed. Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA found in fatty fish are particularly important as they are anti-inflammatory and increase cell membrane fluidity of neurons in the brain, improving memory, concentration and cognitive function.

Avoid inflammatory foods - limit your intake of processed foods, refined sugar, refined grains, vegetable seed oils and alcohol. Sugar and refined grains also cause unstable blood sugar levels, which produce energy lows that affect brain function.

Opt for an anti-inflammatory diet - Increase your intake of fresh vegetables and fruit, nuts, seeds and fatty fish. Include complex carbohydrates like kumara, pumpkin, carrots and quinoa in your diet for stable release of blood sugars and to keep brain serotonin levels stable.

Adopt Sleep hygiene practices - avoiding screens before bedtime, regular sleep/wake times, making your room dark at night with blackout curtains or an eye mask and creating a relaxing bedtime routine (e.g. self-massage, diffusing lavender).

Practice stress management techniques - like meditation, yoga, time in nature, deep breathing, prayer and journaling. If you suffer from anxiety or find it difficult to cope with life’s stressors, talking to a counsellor may be helpful.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

5 foods that aid detoxification

Detoxification is the elimination of toxins from the body. This process involves the liver, kidneys, bowel, lungs and even our skin! The liver is a major organ of detoxification, taking fat soluble toxins and making them water soluble via two phases of enzymatic reactions.

The function of our detoxification/elimination organs is influenced by our diet. What we eat can burden the liver and cause bowel stagnation, especially if it is high in refined sugar, refined grains, preservatives and other artificial additives.

Our diet can also support the optimal function of our detoxification organs. A number of nutrient cofactors found in certain whole foods are required for our liver enzymes to function, which is why eating a nutrient-dense whole-food based diet is so important.

There are also certain foods that help to normalise bowel movements, aiding the removal of toxins. This blog post details 5 foods that you can include in your diet to support the liver, encourage healthy bowel function and the elimination of toxins.

1. Beetroot

Beetroot helps to activate liver enzymes and supports healthy gallbladder function, improving the production and flow of bile. Bile flow stimulates peristalsis (wave-like muscle contractions) in the intestinal tract, which helps to normalise bowel movements and relieve constipation.

Beetroot contains betaine, which supports methylation - a process that is required for liver detoxification and healthy bile flow. It is also high in betalains, antioxidants that lower inflammation and oxidative stress, protecting the liver from damage.

Beetroot can be grated fresh into a raw salad, roasted with other root vegetables or freshly squeezed with ginger and lemon into a juice.

2. Turmeric

Sprinkle some into your curry or make yourself a spicy golden latte. This anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich spice has a special active ingredient called curcumin, which supports liver detoxification and protects the liver against damage from free radicals and toxins.

Since curcumin is fat-soluble, it is best to consume it alongside fat rich foods (e.g. coconut cream, coconut oil or ghee) to aid its absorption.

3. Cruciferous vegetables 

The cruciferous family of vegetables include broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and collard greens. These vegetables contain sulphur containing compounds known as glucosinolates that aid liver detoxification.

Sulfurophane is a glucosinolate that directly supports both phase I and phase II liver detoxification. It is also a potent Nrf2 (nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2) inducer - a transcription factor activated in response to oxidative stress that promotes the expression of many antioxidant genes and those involved in detoxification.

DIM (Diindolylmethane) is a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol, a glucosinolate found in cruciferous vegetables that upregulates detoxification enzymes.  These vegetables are also high in fibre, which supports the bowel to eliminate toxins and feeds beneficial gut bacteria for a healthy microbiome.

4. Flaxseed

Flaxseed has a good balance of soluble and insoluble fibre, helping to normalise bowel movements. The insoluble fibre adds bulk to the stool, promoting bowel regularity which  removes waste containing harmful toxins processed by the liver.

The soluble fibre is what gives flaxseed its gel-like consistency when combined with water. This form of fibre is a prebiotic which feeds healthy bacteria in the gut. It also helps keep blood sugars stable and lowers blood cholesterol.

The best way to include flaxseed in your diet is to soak it whole overnight and add this to smoothies or other meals or sprinkle freshly ground flaxseed to salads, oats and other meals.

5. Lemon

We’ve all heard of kickstarting the day with lemon water, but did you know that lemon and other citrus fruits stimulate the liver, support detoxification and promote healthy bowel function?

The vitamin C and flavonoids in citrus are antioxidants that protect the liver from oxidative damage and pectin supports a healthy gut lining, reducing the burden on the liver.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

5 natural ways to slow down skin ageing

Ageing is a natural process that every single one of us will inevitably experience.

The root cause of ageing is oxidative stress- where reactive oxygen species known as free radicals accumulate in the body and damage DNA, proteins and lipids in our cells. Over time, these damaged cells die, impacting the function of our tissues and causing the body to age.

Our exposure to free radicals comes from the environment (UV exposure, toxins) as well as those made by our own body. A higher toxic load and lack of antioxidants in the diet increase levels of oxidative stress and speed up the ageing process. There are certain modifiable factors related to our diet and lifestyle that can impact the rate at which our skin ages. This journal entry details 5 natural ways to slow down skin ageing.

1. Increase antioxidants in your diet

Antioxidants are able to neutralise free radicals that cause our skin to age. Eating an abundance of colourful vegetables and fruit provides a range of antioxidant phytonutrients including anthocyanins from blueberries and carotenoids in carrots.  Including foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruit, cruciferous vegetables, capsicum and strawberries not only provides potent antioxidant benefits but vitamin C is also a building block for collagen synthesis by the skin.

2. Protect your skin from excessive sun exposure

Exposure to UV radiation through sunlight induces oxidative stress that causes collagen and elastin in the skin to break down. This reduces skin firmness and elasticity, speeding up the ageing process. Wearing a sunhat and using a natural mineral-based sunscreen like the P40 sunscreen on your face when you’re spending time outdoors protects your skin from the sun's damaging radiation.

3. Expose yourself to the cold 

Exposing your body to cold extremes through cryotherapy, ice baths (contrast therapy), cold showers and ocean swims can inhibit the enzymes and hormones that break down collagen and may even stimulate an increase in collagen production. The other anti-ageing benefits of cold exposure include better circulation (bringing nutrient and oxygen rich blood to the skin’s surface), a boost in antioxidant production by the body and lower inflammation. Have you booked in your contrast therapy?

4. Include fatty fish in your diet

Low mercury fatty fish like wild-caught salmon and sardines are loaded with essential fatty acids and nutrients that protect against ageing. The omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in oily fish are incorporated into the cell membranes in the epidermal (top) layer of the skin, preventing moisture loss from the skin for plumper, more hydrated looking skin. These oils help to regulate the skin’s own oil production and lower inflammation to reduce visible signs of skin ageing. There is also evidence that increasing your intake of EPA and DHA provides some protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays, reducing the risk of sun damage. Salmon is also high in astaxanthin, an antioxidant that improves skin elasticity and moisture levels and reduces fine wrinkles.

5. Lather up in a natural skincare

Applying a layer of natural oils (such as jojoba oil) or moisturisers to your skin provides ceramides that help to create a protective barrier, sealing moisture into your skin. This prevents dryness that’s associated with wrinkles and may protect against the skin damaging effects or environmental toxins and UV radiation.

You can also apply certain nutrients topically to your skin underneath your moisturiser,  including vitamin C, which boosts the skin's production of collagen and may reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Rosehip oil is naturally high in vitamin C and so is kakadu plum, featured in the Terra Tonics clean collagen serum. This product also contains Bakuchiol, a natural plant-based alternative to vitamin A (retinol) that increases skin collagen production and reduces hyperpigmentation without the side effects of synthetic retinol.


Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

Hana Christmas Gift Guide


Gift your loved ones with self-care this Christmas by purchasing one of our nourishing skin care rituals. Each of these rituals is designed to improve the texture and quality of your skin, using the highest quality natural ingredients.

1. Sans Xmas gift sets

The Sans [ceuticals] collection is pure, clean and without any unnecessary or harmful ingredients. Developed by beauty industry expert Lucy Vincent, Sans concentrates your daily beauty regime to a concise selection of effective and multifunctional products. These sans self-care kits are stowed in the beautiful Sans limited edition canvas olive toiletry bag or handy box.

Grab + Glow Skin Trio Kit is designed to give your skin a healthy glow. This kit includes the Activator 7 Body + Hair + Face Oil, Goji Body + Face Cleansing Oil and Superdose Luminosity Masque.

Hair Health Retreat Kit is the best selling hair rejuvenation kit that transforms tired, over-treated hair to glorious health. Treat your hair with this simple 3-step ritual - beginning with the balancing Hair Wash, followed by the Nourishing Hair Hydratant Ultra+ and the pH + Shine Corrector.

Superdose Pro Facial Kit is a deeply nourishing professional-quality facial that rejuvenates and recharges your skin overnight. This facial includes the Superdose Sleep Infusion Masque, Superdose Luminosity Masque and Goji Body + Face Cleansing Oil as well as a ritual card to help guide you.

2. Biotyspa Gua Sha Duo

Biotyspa holds the core belief that the main purpose of our skin is to breathe. This is why their range of skincare products are made with naturally derived ingredients and free from pore-clogging chemicals.

The Gua Sha Duo Kit contains the Biotyspa face oil serum, made with natural plant extracts and oils, and a Gua sha. Using this duo will help reduce skin congestion, improve the firmness of your skin and boost collagen production.

3. The Beauty Chef limited edition holiday kits

The beauty chef was founded by Carla Oates after discovering the link between skin and gut health. This range of bio-fermented, probiotic-rich whole food supplements and organic topical skincare products will support your skin to be healthy, from the inside out.

The Plump and Glow Kit features GLOW Inner Beauty Essential and Collagen Inner Beauty Boost, which work together to boost your collagen production, strengthen the skin and nourish the gut.

The Super Glow Kit is made up of Glow Inner Beauty Essential and the new GLOW F.A.C.E intensive rejuvenating oil. These products team together to create glowing skin,  from the inside out.

4. The RAAIE AM/PM set

Raaie represents a new realm of science-backed botanical skincare. Leading with the antioxidant power of New Zealand botanicals and backed by the latest ingredients in cosmeceutical science, RAAIE is looking to redefine the clean cosmeceutical skincare game.

The RAAIE AM/PM set are two potent, active serums designed to work together based on what your skin needs at different times of day.

The Morning Dew Vitamin C is designed to brighten and protect your skin. This refreshing, gel-like serum contains two types of stable Vitamin C, combined with the antioxidant power of New Zealand botanicals.

The Yellow Moonbeam Retinal Elixir is luxurious evening elixir containing encapsulated Retinal, bakuchiol, niacinamide, squalene and a range of native NZ botanicals that work together to accelerate cellular turnover to reveal fresher, bouncier, firmer looking skin.

5. Baina Towelling

Baina towels are the perfect addition to your skin care rituals. Made with 100% Organic Cotton, these towels are luxuriously soft and are the perfect stocking filler.

6. Hana gift card

And if you’re stuck on which ritual to gift your loved one or you’d prefer to provide a luxurious experience, a Hana gift card is the perfect solution! Our gift cards can be used towards any of our treatments and products from the Hana shop.

Happy Christmas!

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist