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


Red light therapy

PBM & Energy Production

Photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy also known as low level laser therapy (LLLT) or red light therapy is the therapeutic application of red and near infrared wavelengths of light to the face and body via light emitting panels.

This treatment uses concentrated levels of light naturally found in sunlight to stimulate healing. As these wavelengths of light penetrate into our tissues and enter the cells, they are absorbed by the cytochrome c oxidase enzyme and calcium ion channels on our mitochondria - the cells' energy producing organelles.

This leads to an increase in production of ATP (cellular energy) and up-regulation of antioxidant defences, which protects the mitochondria and our cells from damage.

Since dysfunctional mitochondria are at the core of ageing and associated with many chronic diseases, PBM therapy offers protective anti-aging and health benefits.

Some of the benefits of regular PBM therapy treatments include:

~ Improvements in energy levels and mood

~ A reduction in inflammation, swelling and pain (including muscular or arthritis related)

~ Faster muscle recovery post-workout

~ Prevents delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

~ Improvement in skin elasticity and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles due to increased collagen production

Book your PBM session at Hana and start reaping the rewards of better functioning mitochondria!


Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist


Our mighty mitochondria and the energy they produce

The mitochondria are tiny organelles inside our cells that are responsible for the production of cellular energy. Often referred to as the ‘battery’ or ‘powerhouses of our cells’, these organelles convert the fuel from food and oxygen into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) - the main energy ‘currency’ our cells use to run our day-to-day processes like growth and movement. 

ATP molecules carry energy in their chemical bonds and this energy is released for use as the bonds are broken. The mitochondria then recycle ATP, converting it back into its active form. In other words, the mitochondria converts the leftover parts of used ATP back into the currency that the body can spend all over again!

The mitochondria’s job is two-fold: it both creates energy and recycles ‘used’ energy back into a usable form. This is why its health and function have a huge influence on how we feel at any given moment! They produce the energy to help us get out of bed in the morning. They provide our muscles with the energy to enable us to move and lift weights. They provide our brain with the fuel to concentrate on tasks and retain new information. 

As we age, the number and function of our mitochondria naturally declines, resulting in the symptoms we typically associate with ageing such as low energy,  muscle loss, weight gain and poor cognition and memory. 

Mitochondrial dysfunction may also happen prematurely as a result of mutations in mitochondrial DNA. These are inherited maternally or as a result of toxin exposure and poor diet and lifestyle. There are a number of chronic health conditions associated with mitochondrial dysfunction including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental illness. 


How to take care of your mitochondria? 

We can protect our mitochondria and slow down the ageing process by changing how we eat and the lifestyle we live:  

  • Lower inflammation and increase antioxidants

Antioxidants are important to counteract free radicals, which are generated as a natural byproduct of mitochondrial ATP production. Free radicals cause damage to cells and mitochondria. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet high in antioxidant-rich colourful vegetables and fruit supports mitochondrial health. Sulphur-rich vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are particularly beneficial as they aid the production of glutathione, the body’s most potent antioxidant. 

Include foods high in healthy fats such as avocados, walnuts, flaxseed, olive oil, coconut, fatty fish (e.g. wild caught salmon, sardines and anchovies), egg yolk and grass-fed meats.  

Avoid inflammatory foods such as refined sugar, refined grains (e.g. white flour) and vegetable seed oils (e.g. canola, sunflower, soybean). 

  • Lower exposure to toxins 

Exposure to environmental toxins like heavy metals lead and mercury depletes our glutathione levels, which makes the mitochondria prone to oxidative damage. Choosing organic foods, filtering your water and using natural cleaning products and personal care products are just a few steps you can take to lower your toxic load. 

  • Improve the quality of your sleep

Poor sleep quality has been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction. As we sleep, the mitochondria in our brain cells remove cellular waste, so poor sleep means a build up of toxins which damage our mitochondria and brain cells. Ways to improve your sleep quality include reducing your exposure to blue light from screens, having a regular sleep/wake cycle and avoiding stimulants like caffeine later in the day.

  • Exercise regularly

When we exercise, our demand for energy increases which triggers our mitochondria to replicate and produce more energy.  Studies have identified that high intensity interval training (HIIT) can increase the mitochondrial content of skeletal muscle cells, improving overall energy production. 

  • Expose yourself to red light

The red light wavelengths from natural sunlight are more concentrated in the morning and early evening and enhance energy production by increasing the number and function of our mitochondria. Another way to increase your red light exposure is with photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy - the therapeutic application of concentrated red light to the body.

Book your PBM session at Hana today!

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist

Edited 16 August 2022

Activated Charcoal

Detoxify your body with Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal

The use of activated charcoal as a supplement has risen in popularity over the last decade. You may have even seen this tar black powder added to smoothies and slices at your local organic cafe!

Activated charcoal is different to the charcoal you barbeque with, which contains chemicals and toxins. It is a natural product produced through the decomposition of carbon-based substances, including coconut shells and peat (vegetable matter).

Activated charcoal has been used traditionally to improve intestinal health and mop up toxins from the body for thousands of years. Conventional medicine even caught onto its detoxifying powers in the early 1800’s when doctors started using it as a treatment for patients that were poisoned or had overdosed.

How does activated charcoal remove toxins from your body?

By a process known as adsorption, which is different to absorption. Activated charcoal has a porous texture which gives it a large surface area and is negatively charged so it can bind positively charged toxins and trap them. When you take activated charcoal orally, it isn’t absorbed. It travels to the gut where it traps toxins, chemicals, mould and gases, removing them from the body via bowel movements.

What are some of the benefits of using activated charcoal?

~ Improves the health and function of your digestive tract and body by cleansing it of toxins, including pesticides, heavy metals and mould that are associated with inflammation, oxidative stress, weakened immunity and can cause allergic reactions

~ Cleanses the digestive tract without disrupting the balance of your gut microbiota

~ By removing toxins, it takes the pressure off the kidneys and liver, improving their function

~ Can reduce flatulence and bloating by trapping gases that are produced by bacteria in the gut

~ May reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol by binding to cholesterol-containing bile acids in the gut

~ You can even use it to whiten your teeth - simply apply activated charcoal to your toothbrush, brush your teeth and rinse!

Have a look at the Hana shop for the Cymbiotika Activated charcoal. A perfect product for mopping up toxins that have been mobilised during your sauna session.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist

Where toxins hide

Where toxins hide

Where toxins hideIt’s impossible to avoid exposure to toxins in the world we live in today. We are under a constant barrage from toxins in the food we eat, the water we drink and bathe in, our cookware, homeware, cleaning products, personal care products and the air we breathe.

Toxins are invisible but they impact every part of our physiological function and contribute to many symptoms and diseases.

For example, benzene found in petrol and car exhaust fumes can damage DNA and increase your risk of cancer with chronic exposure.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) such as BPA, phthalates and perfluorinated compounds (PFC’s) can be found in plastics, personal care products and non-stick pans. These chemicals mimic our body’s natural hormones, wreaking havoc on our hormonal balance and contributing to a higher risk of diabetes and reproductive diseases like endometriosis, PCOS, reproductive cancers and infertility.

Exposure to the heavy metal, lead, has harmful effects on brain function and is linked to neurological diseases like ALS (motor neuron disease) and Parkinson’s disease.

Being surrounded by so many toxins may seem frightening, but there are many effective and accessible solutions to reduce toxin exposure and keep ourselves and our family’s as healthy as possible. But first we need to know where toxins hide.

Toxins in our food supply

  • Conventionally grown fresh produce: This is typically sprayed with neurotoxic pesticides to kill insects and carcinogenic herbicides like glyphosate to kill off weeds.
  • Inorganic factory farmed animals: These are often fed GMO corn and soy (thankfully not in NZ!), or they feed on pesticide-sprayed pasture and are treated with antibiotics and hormones. When you eat meat, poultry and dairy from conventionally farmed animals you are exposed to these toxins that have accumulated in their fatty tissue.
  • Large fish: Fish species tuna, king mackerel, marlin and swordfish are high in mercury.
  • Canned food and beverage cans: These are often lined with BPA, which leaches into the food and drink. Most beverage cans are also made of aluminium which is neurotoxic.
  • Packaged food: Oils, nut butters, yoghurt and other foods packaged in plastic bottles and jars accumulate BPA and other harmful toxins. The paper cartons that milk and yoghurt come packaged in have a waterproof BPA lining inside them and so do disposable coffee cups. Microwave popcorn bags and some pizza boxes are coated with grease-resistant PFC’s. Coffee often comes packaged in aluminium bags and may be mouldy and high in mycotoxins, depending on how it’s processed.

How to reduce your exposure:

  • Choose organic meat, poultry and dairy, and organic or spray-free fruit and vegetables as often as possible. This is especially important for fruit and vegetables that don’t require peeling such as apples, grapes, broccoli and green leafy vegetables, as they accumulate higher pesticide levels. If cost is a barrier, try to grow some vegetables in your garden or visit your local farmers markets where produce is often far more affordable than supermarkets .
  • Eat smaller, low-mercury seafood like sardines, anchovies, wild-caught salmon, tarakihi and shellfish like oysters and mussels.
  • When purchasing canned foods, opt for BPA free cans. Avoid drinking beverages from cans and choose glass bottles instead. Opt for foods that come in glass jars rather than plastic or cartons that have a BPA lining, especially those containing fatty foods like oils and nut butters. Purchase coffee in paper bags, rather than aluminium, and choose coffee that has been wet processed as it is lower in mould and mycotoxins.
  • Purchase a reusable glass or ceramic keep-cup for takeaway coffees. Make popcorn at home in a pot (simple recipe: corn kernels + butter + heat) and avoid microwaveable popcorn.

Toxins in our cookware and cleaning products

  • Teflon cookware: The non-stick coating on your teflon pots, pans, oven trays and cake tins leaches toxic PFC’s into your cooking
  • Aluminium cookware: Aluminium pots, pans and coffee percolators leach neurotoxic aluminium.
  • Plastic containers: Drink bottles and food storage containers (even if they are BPA-free) leach toxins like bisphenol-S or bisphenol-F.
  • Cleaning products: Bleaches, ammonia and other chemicals used in cleaning products are highly toxic.

How to reduce your exposure:

  • Use stainless steel or cast iron cookware, glass or stainless steel food storage containers and drink bottles.
  • Swap out your chemical cleaning products for natural ones or use a 50/50 solution of vinegar, water and essential oils.

Toxins in our water supply

  • If you are connected to a mains water supply, you will be receiving water that has been treated with chemicals like chlorine and fluoride and is delivered to your home via lead, copper and plastic pipes, which can leach into the water supply. Certain faucets and plumbing fixtures may also leach lead.
  • If you are on tank water, there may be contaminants entering your water supply due to leaching from rainwater catchments (lead and other heavy metals), poor air quality and chemicals from the plastic tank.

How to reduce your exposure:

Purchase a filter for your drinking and cooking water and a filter showerhead, since you are breathing in chemicals from the steam as you shower. and Ionza are companies that provide quality water filter jugs and home filtration systems. Have a look on their websites:

Toxins in our personal care products

Our skin is a living, breathing organ that absorbs around 70% of what we apply to it. Most of the skincare, haircare, fragrances, toothpaste and makeup on the market are loaded with toxins, including endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) like phthalates and parabens, formaldehyde and triclosan and heavy metals like lead and mercury.

How to reduce your exposure:

Use personal care products that are made from natural ingredients such as coconut oil, shea butter, plant extracts and essential oils. A good rule of thumb is: what you apply topically should be safe enough to eat!

Toxins in the air we breathe

Although outdoor air pollution due to industrial processes and exhaust fumes exposes us to many nasty toxins, it may be surprising  that indoor air quality is often a lot worse than outdoor air.

Damp, cold and leaky homes are a breeding ground for harmful mould, which releases mycotoxins that we breathe in and swallow, causing allergies and systemic inflammation.

There are also toxic VOCs released from paint fumes, carpet and furniture and pesticides and flame retardants used on carpet, mattresses and upholstery.  Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in adhesive used in plywood and furniture and can off-gas into the atmosphere. The dust in your home is also a big source of BPA!

How to reduce your exposure:

Ventilate your home daily by opening all the windows, even during the winter months. Vacuum regularly, heat your home when it’s cold and use an air purifier, especially in your bedroom when you’re sleeping.

This extensive list of environmental toxins may leave you feeling overwhelmed, but rather than taking everything on all at once, start with a few small changes. The next time you run out of your shampoo, purchase one with more natural ingredients. Grow a few herbs in your garden and make a vinegar cleaning solution to use in your kitchen. Slowly, over time, incorporate more of these changes into your life. If you’re concerned about the exposure you’ve already had, support your body to eliminate toxins by eating a whole foods diet high in fibre-rich vegetables, stay hydrated with filtered water and electrolytes, practice movement and seek the support of a qualified naturopath to guide you through detoxification.

Join us in a few weeks for a blog post focused on ways activated charcoal can rid your body of toxins.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist