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 water soluble toxins and making them fat soluble via two phases of enzymatic reactions.

Once these toxins are fat soluble, they are sent to the bowel for elimination. At the bowel, it is possible for these toxins to be de-conjugated by gut bacteria and recirculate in the body, which is why healthy bowel function is so important for detoxification.

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

Holistic ways to support testosterone levels in men

What is testosterone? 

When we think of testosterone, images of big macho men often come to mind. But its role in health extends far beyond the development of muscles and libido. And it’s also a critical hormone for women too. In men, the Leydig cells in the testes produce testosterone.

This hormone has many functions for men's health including:

• Muscle mass and strength

• Bone mass

• Sperm production

• Healthy libido (sex drive)

• The distribution of fat

• Red blood cell count

• Protecting against type 2 diabetes

• Regulating sleep patterns

Declining testosterone levels

Testosterone levels naturally decline in men as they age. By the age of 35-40, most men enter “andropause”, which is the equivalent to female menopause. During andropause, testosterone levels drop by around 1-2% per year and by the age of 70, testosterone levels have usually dropped 30% lower than their peak level at age 20.

A number of studies done in the US have identified that the decline in testosterone levels is occuring at an earlier age. One study revealed that 20% of adolescent and young adult men aged between 15-39 years have testosterone deficiency and this was attributed to increased BMI, obesity and the rise in chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Other factors contributing to lower testosterone levels include chronic stress, poor diet, high phytoestrogen intake, sleep apnea, statin medications, low vitamin D levels and environmental toxins.

Symptoms of low testosterone levels include:

• Fatigue

• Low libido

• Erectile dysfunction/sexual dysfunction

• Infertility

• Bone loss

• Loss of muscle mass

• Muscle weakness

• Increased adipose tissue

• Poor sleep quality

• Low mood

• Poor concentration

• Brain fog

• Insulin resistance

Natural ways to increase testosterone levels

The conventional treatment for low testosterone involves testosterone replacement therapy. This may provide some improvement in symptoms, but it may cause side effects including irritability, acne, hair loss and lower sperm count, and doesn’t address any potential root causes of the low testosterone.

Holistic and natural ways of supporting healthy testosterone production include:

Avoiding processed and packaged foods, refined sugar and grains

These foods are nutrient deplete and contribute to obesity which is associated with low testosterone levels.

Increasing healthy fats

Studies have shown that men who reduced their intake of healthy fats had lower levels of testosterone in their blood. Eating omega-3 rich fatty fish, olive oil, avocados and coconut oil will help support healthy testosterone levels.

Increasing zinc-rich foods

Zinc is an essential mineral for testosterone production and regulating testosterone levels in the blood. Zinc deficiency is common in NZ due to our food being grown on zinc-depleted soil. Boosting foods that are high in zinc like oysters and other shellfish, grass-fed beef and lamb, activated pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and cashew nuts will help increase zinc levels.

Managing stress levels

Testosterone is produced down the same pathway as the stress hormone cortisol. When we experience chronic stress, the body prioritises the production of cortisol over testosterone, leading to a decline in testosterone levels. Managing stress with daily mind-body practices like meditation, mindfulness and yoga helps lower cortisol levels and supports testosterone production.

Quality sleep

It is during sleep that the majority of daily testosterone release occurs in men. Research has revealed that men who sleep 5 hours or less have significantly lower morning serum testosterone levels compared to when they slept 10 hours. Sleep fragmentation (waking throughout the night) and sleep apnoea are also associated with lower testosterone levels.

Sleep hygiene practices can improve sleep quality and potentially give testosterone a boost. These include regular sleep/wake times, reducing blue light exposure, natural sunlight first thing in the morning and winding down with a calming bedtime routine (e.g. meditation, soft lighting).

Avoiding endocrine disrupting chemicals

Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) is associated with a reduction in testosterone levels. Common EDC’s include: phthalates in plastics and personal care products, BPA in plastics and lining of cans and perfluorinated compounds (PFC’s) in teflon and lining fast food wrappers and pizza boxes.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

Woman in Sauna

5 ways to support post-workout recovery

We are all familiar with the feeling of aches, pains, muscle fatigue and stiffness that accompany a strenuous workout or hike. These discomforts, often collectively referred to as DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness, usually occur a day or two after working out. DOMS can get in the way of our ability to function and may even prevent us from staying consistent with our workouts and negatively impact our overall health.

DOMS and other post-workout symptoms like swelling and reduced range of motion are the result of the tiny, microscopic tears in our muscles that occur when they are subjected to forces during a workout. These tears trigger an inflammatory response, drawing immune cells and fluid into our muscles to try to “repair” the damage and build new muscle fibres. In the process, these immune cells produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) which cause further damage to muscle fibres, exacerbating the pain.

Although we can’t avoid DOMS entirely, there are things we can do to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms. Here are 5 ways to support your muscles to recover post-workout:

1. Contrast therapy

Alternating between exposing our body to hot and cold temperatures is known as contrast therapy. Contrast therapy can be done by switching between a hot and cold plunge pool or bath or using a combination of sauna bathing and cold water.  As the body is immersed into hot temperatures, the blood vessels near the surface of the body dilate and blood flows towards the skin, bringing oxygen and nutrients to our muscles which help repair damage and regenerate tissues.  As the body is immersed into cold water, these same blood vessels constrict and blood flows in the opposite direction towards the internal organs, flushing toxins out from the muscles. Contrast therapy lowers inflammation and studies have shown that its use post-workout leads to faster restoration of strength and power in muscles and an improvement in recovery from DOMS.

2. Massage

Whether you book in for a sports massage or practice self-massage with foam rollers, there is evidence that a 10-30 minute massage administered 2-6 hours post-workout can significantly reduce DOMS, ease muscle tension, improve flexibility and lower swelling and inflammation.  One of the ways that massage helps with post-workout recovery is by flushing toxins and lactic acid produced during workouts out of the muscles. Massage also improves circulation, drawing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the site of muscle damage, to aid repair, and helps relax muscle tone and decrease muscle fatigue.

3. Protein

Protein rich foods such as eggs, poultry, meat, dairy and legumes provide the body with amino acids, which are the building blocks of our cells and tissues. Eating protein before and after your workout can help with recovery by providing the muscle tissue with what it needs to repair damage and rebuild as well as improving muscle protein synthesis.  There are many studies out there exploring the timing of protein intake post-workout and the impact it has on muscle repair and building. Some suggest that the “anabolic window” is an hour post workout and recommend that protein is eaten immediately after exercise to provide muscle repair and rebuilding benefits. More recent evidence is emerging that the timing is not as important, as long as protein intake is spread across 24 hours post-workout. Most studies agree on the amount of protein to eat after your workout - which ranges from 0.3-0.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight. So for a 65 kg female, you’re looking at around 20-30 grams of protein, which is 2-3 eggs.

4. Hydration

Sweating during a workout is the body’s way of regulating its core temperature. As sweat builds up on our skin, the water from sweat evaporates and this helps to cool down the surface of our body. In the process, our body loses water and electrolytes which can lead to dehydration. Dehydration impacts body and brain function and can slow down our recovery. It is important that we maintain our hydration levels by drinking water and electrolytes throughout and after a workout to prevent dehydration and support recovery.  Rather than reaching for an artificial and sugar loaded sports drink, choose natural electrolyte rich drinks such as coconut water or try adding a pinch of quality Himalayan salt or sea salt to your water.

5. Magnesium

Magnesium is a key mineral used by the body to produce energy and help our muscles contract. When we experience chronic stress - whether it’s mental, emotional or physical (working out lots) - our body churns through magnesium leading to deficiencies. Signs of low magnesium include restless leg syndrome, muscle twitches or cramps, muscle weakness, fatigue and anxiety.  Magnesium is a key to post-workout recovery. It works by blocking calcium uptake, which helps muscles relax better after contracting throughout a strenuous workout. It also reduces post-workout muscle cramping and pain. Increase your intake of magnesium rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocado and cacao (bring on the dark chocolate!) and look at supplementation with a quality, well-absorbed form of magnesium such as magnesium bisglycinate.


Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

Contrast Therapy

Contrast Therapy: All The Health Benefits You Need to Know

Contrast Therapy

What is contrast therapy?

A lot of hype has elevated cold therapy lately, with figures such as Wim Hof blazing the trail for ice baths and cold swims as potent stimuli for healing. But what about contrast therapy, the age-old process of alternating between the extremities of hot and cold? If you think cold therapy was good, imagine cold therapy amplified.

Contrast therapy is a healing practice that dates back to ancient Roman times, where bathers tested various hot pools of increasing heat, following that up with an icy dip. Recently, the similar practice from Scandinavia of alternating between snow and sauna has been popularised.

While the methods of contrast therapy vary from place to place, at Hana, we’ve selected a 70°C infrared sauna and 6°C ice bath for maximum benefit, offering water and electrolytes to keep you hydrated throughout your session. Fluctuating between the two temperatures stimulates blood vessel dilation and constriction, consequently shifting blood flow from the body’s periphery to the internal organs and back again. Contrast therapy reduces systemic inflammation and resets the nervous system.

Benefits of contrast therapy

While contrast therapy provides more benefits than a short blog post can do justice to, here are a few of our favourites:

Improve your recovery

Many of you already are familiar with using ice or heat packs following a workout, but you may not have experienced contrast therapy. The hot–cold technique is effectively an alternating ice and heat pack for the full body, which amplifies the beneficial effect for tired and sore muscles.

First, contrast therapy helps to remove lactic acid, which builds up in the muscles during exercise. This relieving effect is supported by several peer-reviewed studies. Second, contrast therapy intervenes before delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can set in, relieving soreness and weakness more effectively than passive resting techniques. Third, a 2017 meta-analysis of numerous studies found that contrast therapy sped up athlete recovery within 24–48 hours after a game.

Minimise pain from injury

Injuries often hold us back, with inflammation causing pain as white blood cells and fluids amass at the site of damage. The good news is that contrast therapy provides a natural form of pain relief for these injuries, helping to reduce swelling and inflammation around affected areas.

Not only that, contrast therapy also acts as a kind of anaesthetic, dulling pain receptor pathways in the brain. One particular study of various hot and cold therapies on pain management suggests that when temperature extremes are applied, the receptors for pain signalling along the spinal cord are inhibited.

Anecdotally, many contrast therapy enthusiasts find that due to the short, sharp contrasts between hot and cold environments, their bodies release significant amounts of tension and stress. This release during each session beneficially stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, or “rest-and-digest” system, which, when activated, reduces perceptions of pain.

Detox your system

In today’s world, encountering environmental toxins from pesticide sprayed food, our water supply, polluted air, plastics, personal care products and more is inevitable. While the body naturally engages in daily detoxification through the liver, sometimes these toxins—especially for those living in urban environments or under constant stress—cannot be fully eliminated. When the toxic load grows too great for the body to cope with, it exerts an array of negative effects, from hormone and gut disruption to brain and mood disorders.

Fortunately, you have a few ways to supercharge natural detoxification processes. Contrast therapy is one of these ways. Heat therapy has long been known to improve lymphatic elimination through sweating. Throw in some cold therapy, and the benefits are even greater.

Support immunity and healing processes

Finally, contrast therapy aids natural healing and immunity. In small doses, the stark contrast between hot and cold temperatures stimulates a bodily process called hormesis, in which the organism responds to stress by becoming more resilient. Crucially, this process helps to bolster immunity, with an extra dose of energy and vitality as a bonus side effect.

In a recent study of over 3000 people from Netherlands, those who practised contrast therapy during their daily shower were 30% less likely to call in sick—even throughout a whole year.

Another study that reviewed contrast therapy for treating COVID-19 indicated that participants increased their number of white blood cells, as well as improving other markers of a healthy immune system. The authors concluded that contrast therapy is a promising avenue for study in relation to COVID-19 risk prevention.

What’s next?

Feeling like your system needs a reboot? Want to heat up and chill out with a few friends? The team at Hana can tailor the perfect contrast therapy session for you. Call us on 09 954 0920, drop into our Grey Lynn clinic, or simply book online. We look forward to seeing you!

The Vagus Nerve

Toning your vagus nerve

The Vagus Nerve

What is the vagus nerve?

The vagus nerve is a bidirectional communication network between our brain and many of the body's organs including the gut, heart and lungs. The word “vagus” in latin translates to wanderer, which is a good description for this nerve, as it wanders all over the body innervating different organs and tissues.

The vagus nerve is a key part of the parasympathetic nervous system and regulates whether we feel calm, how our immune system functions, the inflammation levels in our body and how hungry we feel.

More research is emerging identifying the link between many chronic disease states and poor vagal tone. Stimulating the vagus nerve and increasing its tone is our gateway to unlocking the rest of the nervous system and improving our mental, emotional and physical health. 

How do we stimulate the vagus nerve and increase vagal tone?

There are a range of different methods to stimulate the vagus nerve, many of which don’t cost anything and are able to be practiced at home on your own. With regular practice, these techniques can help to increase vagal tone, measurable by changes in heart rate, breathing rate and heart rate variability (HRV). When your heart rate variability (HRV) is high, your vagal tone is also high. 

Slow and deep breathing

Slowing down your breathing rate and breathing diaphragmatically, so that the breath expands and contracts your belly is a great way to stimulate the vagus nerve and engage the parasympathetic nervous system. This can help to slow down heart rate, reduce blood pressure and induce a sense of calm. This style of breathing has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve immune system function. 

How to:

Various breathing techniques can be adopted, with a focus on slowing down breathing rate to about 6 breaths per minute and allowing your belly to move in and out with the different phases of the breath. Lengthening the exhale breath is also key to stimulating the vagus nerve. Here are some ways to practice slow and deep breathing: 

1. Inhale slowly over 6-8 counts, exhale slowly over 8-10 counts

2. Box breathing: inhale slowly for 4 counts, hold the breath for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold the exhale for 4 counts. 

Singing, chanting, humming and gargling

When we sing, chant, hum and gargle we are activating the vocal cords and muscles at the back of the throat which are connected to the vagus nerve. Engaging in these practices regularly may increase vagal tone and heart-rate variability, which is associated with an improvement in stress resilience and relaxation.  

How to:

The best thing about these methods is that most of them can be practiced as you go about your daily routines. Try exercising your vocal cords by humming while you work, gargling after you brush your teeth or singing your favourite tune while you’re washing the dishes or in the shower.  There is evidence that all forms of singing and chanting, including loud and expressive, or soft and gentle stimulate the vagus nerve. 

Exposure to the cold

Regular acute exposure to cold temperatures stimulates the vagus nerve and increases vagal tone. There is also evidence that regular cold exposure lowers the sympathetic nervous system response and increases the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to reduce stress markers and may provide relief from anxiety and depression. 

How to:

Expose your body to the cold with cold showers and dips in icy oceans, lakes or rivers. If you have a bathtub at home, you could create an ice bath or book yourself in for a contrast therapy or cryotherapy session. Ease yourself into it - start with short cold blasts in the shower and slowly build up your tolerance. It’s important to note here that if you have a condition affecting the cardiovascular system, speak with your healthcare provider before practicing cold therapy.


Meditation practices involving a conscious awareness of the breath are able to activate the vagus nerve and increase vagal tone. Styles of meditation including mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness have been shown to increase heart rate variability associated with an increase in vagal tone. These practices also help to lower the sympathetic nervous system response and increase positive emotions. 

How to:

For a breath awareness meditation find a quiet space somewhere in your home. Bring your body into a comfortable position, whether you’re seated with your legs crossed, sitting in a chair or lying down. Tune into the sounds around you, the feeling of your body resting on the ground. Slowly draw your attention to the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your body. Keep coming back to the breath each time your mind travels away from it. Connect with the way your body moves with each breath.

There are many other methods for stimulating the vagus nerve and improving vagal tone and even some nutrients you can boost and devices and surgical implants that can benefit people with chronic illness. Whatever technique you use, the key is to stay consistent to reap the rewards of better vagal tone.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist

Sauna Therapy

A holistic approach to anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions affecting 1 in 4 New Zealanders at some point in their lives. It’s highly likely that you know someone that suffers from anxiety, and if so, you’ll be aware of how debilitating this condition can be. After depression, anxiety is the leading cause of unhappiness, life dissatisfaction and suffering, yet 40% of people with anxiety do not seek treatment.

Anxiety is triggered by different things for different people and can be categorised as -  generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and specific phobias. This group of disorders is more common in women and can be exacerbated during different phases of the menstrual cycle and life stages like menopause, indicating the impact of hormones.

What does anxiety feel like?

Anxiety often presents as a range of mental, emotional and physical symptoms. Many people describe anxiety as a bubbling of nervous energy or an amplified version of butterflies in your stomach. Common manifestations of anxiety include:

• Feeling nervous or on-edge

• Fearful of the future/the unknown

• Difficulty controlling feelings of worry

• Unable to concentrate on anything other than the present worry

• Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom

• Irritability and restlessness

• Headaches, muscle aches or unexplained pains

• Sleep problems - difficulty falling or staying asleep

• Feeling fatigued and weak

• Gastrointestinal symptoms - abdominal pain, loose stools

• Increased heart rate

• Heart palpitations

• Breathing more rapidly (hyperventilation)

• Shortness of breath

• Sweating

• Trembling

What are some causes of anxiety? 

The mainstream view of anxiety is that it is purely to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain. Too much of the excitatory neurotransmitters including glutamate, adrenaline and noradrenaline and too little of the inhibitory neurotransmitters like GABA, serotonin and dopamine are linked to anxiety.

Pharmaceutical drugs have been created that target these neurotransmitters. This includes benzodiazepines (e.g. valium) which increase GABA levels in the brain, producing a sedative action that helps reduce anxiety or SSRI’s that increase serotonin levels by targeting their receptors. Although these medications can be effective in alleviating anxiety for some people, they are not addressing the root cause of the problem.

A more holistic approach to anxiety can provide sustainable shifts by going deeper into the root cause/s of anxiety. This approach looks at anxiety on a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual level, whilst also addressing these neurotransmitter imbalances. Here are some examples of imbalances that contribute to the onset of anxiety.

Anxiety and gut issues

It is likely that you have heard that ‘the gut is our second brain’. The gut-brain axis is the connection between the central nervous system in our brain with the enteric nervous system in the gut. Another way these two systems are connected is through the gut microbiome (bacterial composition), which produces a large amount of our brain’s neurotransmitters, including serotonin implicated in depression and anxiety.

An increasing amount of research is being produced exploring the link between our gut health and mental health disorders like anxiety. Gut dysbiosis (an imbalance in the microbial composition) due to antibiotic use, chronic stress, toxin exposure and poor diet can impact the production of neurotransmitters and nutrients required for brain health and function.

Dysbiosis causes inflammation of the gut lining, which increases gut permeability (‘leaky gut’). This can lead to the infiltration of bacterial endotoxins (lipopolysaccharides or LPS) into our circulation and inflammation in the brain. Inflammation is one of the leading causes of depression and there is increasing evidence for its link to anxiety. Overgrowth of certain histamine-producing strains of gut bacteria can also cause high histamine levels that contribute to anxiety in some people.

HPA dysfunction

The HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis is a network of hormone-secreting glands that functions as the body's stress response system. This system is designed to switch on when we are under threat (e.g. bear attack), helping to mobilise energy to enable our escape.

In the world we live in today however, these ’threats’ are everywhere - they are the work deadlines, financial stress, relationship difficulties and traffic jams. And so this stress response system that is evolutionarily designed for an environment with acute stressors, becomes chronically activated.

A chronically activated HPA axis results in changes to the release of our stress hormones cortisol, DHEA and pregnenolone. This impacts the production of other hormones and brain chemicals, resulting in mental health imbalances like anxiety and depression. Things that impact the HPA axis include:

~ What a person perceives as stressful - this varies from person to person and may be dictated by past trauma, upbringing and life experiences. It is also often exacerbated by situations where there is a lot of uncertainty.

~ Inflammation levels - Inflammation is a stressor brought on by poor diet (see below), gut infections, gut dysbiosis and leaky gut.

~ Disruption of the circadian rhythm due to overexposure to blue light from screens and lack of natural sunlight first thing in the morning contributes to HPA dysfunction.

Poor diet

A typical western-style diet that is high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, processed food, preservatives and vegetable seed oils negatively impacts our mental health, increasing the likelihood of anxiety for a number of reasons.

Firstly, this diet is typically nutrient deplete and leads to deficiencies, including some of the key nutrients required for the production of our neurotransmitters like zinc, vitamins B6, B12, choline and folate. The glycemic highs and lows (blood sugar dysregulation) produce energy fluctuations and mental health symptoms like anxiety and low mood.

This diet is inflammatory, especially the industrialised vegetable seed oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids. It also lacks anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish that aid fluidity of the cell membrane of neurons in the brain. An increase in inflammatory cytokines in the brain is associated with anxiety and depression, due to the effect these chemicals have on neurotransmitter systems.

How do we support anxiety holistically?

Eating an anti-inflammatory nutrient dense whole foods based diet: 

• Reduce your intake of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates that cause blood sugar dysregulation and inflammation.

• Eliminate industrialised vegetable seed oils (e.g. canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean) that are chemically processed and cause inflammation.

• Choose complex carbohydrates like kumara, pumpkin, carrots, quinoa, buckwheat and millet that provide fibre to balance blood sugars.

• Eat a palm-sized portion of protein with each main meal to provide the amino acids required for neurotransmitter production. This is especially important at breakfast time as it helps to regulate blood sugars for the remainder of the day and supports the HPA axis.

• Include protein and healthy fats with carbohydrate rich foods and snacks, to stabilise blood sugars e.g. nut butter on apple slices.

• Have fatty fish like salmon, sardines and anchovies in your diet regularly (2-3 times per week).

• Eat eggs from pasture raised hens (2-3 per day if you can tolerate them). Eggs provide B vitamins, choline and omega-3 fatty acids for neurotransmitter production and brain health.

• Fill your plate with colourful vegetables and fruit to provide antioxidants that lower inflammation and prebiotics to support a healthy gut. Including green leafy vegetables like spinach, rocket and Brussels sprouts for their folate, to support methylation required for neurotransmitter production.

• Include organ meats in the diet, especially liver which is nutrient dense and provides micronutrients required for neurotransmitter production such as folate, vitamin B12, choline and zinc. Liver also supplies vitamin D3 which is anti-inflammatory and implicated in anxiety.

• Limit intake of caffeine as this is a stimulant that increases stress and exacerbates anxiety.

• Limit alcohol intake as this is inflammatory and affects the gut, acts as a stimulant and can impact our neurotransmitters.

Spend time outdoors daily:

• Sunshine exposure throughout the day provides an array of wavelengths of light that are beneficial for our mental health including inflammation-lowering red light and vitamin D producing UVB.

• Grounding/earthing by placing your bare feet on the earth's surface in nature allows the absorption of negative ions, helping to neutralise the artificial positive charge our body has absorbed through urban living (electricity, EMF) that increases stress and exacerbates anxiety.

• Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing, which involves immersing yourself in nature and paying attention to your senses, has been shown to reduce stress levels and anxiety. There is also evidence that the feeling of awe derived from being in nature has the ability to reduce symptoms of PTSD.

Adopting a regular mind-body practice: 

• Mind-body practices like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, qi gong and others reduce anxiety by focusing attention on your bodily sensations and breath, rather than the fearful thought that is triggering the anxiety. With regular practice, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) becomes activated, which is the “rest-and-digest” calming branch of the autonomic nervous system. This in turn quiets the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) responsible for the “fight-or-flight” stress response.

• Diaphragmatic breathing which is a form of slow and deep breathing, with a lengthening of the exhale breath, engages the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system to bring calmness and alleviate anxiety.

We are releasing a new blog post in a few weeks on ways to stimulate the vagus nerve to alleviate stress, anxiety and improve your overall health - watch this space!


Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist