Category Archives: Herbal Medicine Articles

Dietary Protein Fact or Myth

Are you getting your daily requirements?

One of the main problems I encounter in clinic is client’s overall dietary deficiency in daily protein. There are many factors for this macro nutrient deficiency. Firstly there is a lot of misinformation regarding protein itself and secondly clients seem afraid of acidifying their bodies by eating too much protein and thirdly it can often be the cost involved, particularly with a large family to feed. To understand protein and its requirements here are the facts:

Before any health issues can be resolved, healing, regeneration, balancing or detoxification undertaken the body must have its required daily protein intake.

Protein is an essential part of the diet. It is made up of various combinations of small organic chemicals called Amino acids. When we eat food, containing protein it is broken down during digestion into its constituent amino acids. These amino acids are absorbed by our bodies and are used to produce new proteins and other necessary substances. Our bodies can make some of the amino acids (non-essential) (see table 1) needed to manufacture proteins, but others must be obtained from the diet; these are the eight so-called amino acid during early growth and development ‘essential’ amino acids (table 1). In addition, infants need one other for growth and development.

Proteins form part of the structure of the body, so that a continual supply of amino acids is needed. Our bodies are able to put these basic amino acid units together, using different arrangements of amino acids, to produce specific proteins, which can only be produced if all the necessary amino acids are available.

Essential Nonessential **
Histidine Infants Alanine
Isoleucine Arginine*
Leucine Aspartic acid
Lysine Cysteine*
Methionine Glutamic acid
Phenylalanine Glutamine*
Threonine Glycine*
Tryptophan Proline*
Valine Serine*
Tyrosine*
Asparagine*
Selenocysteine

(*) Essential only in certain cases.

(**) Pyrrolysine, sometimes considered “the 22nd amino acid”, is not listed here as it is not used by humans

Eukaryotes can synthesize some of the amino acids from other substrates. Consequently, only a subset of the amino acids used in protein synthesis are essential nutrients.

The nutritional value of a protein food can be judged by its ability to provide both the quantity and number of essential amino acids needed by the body. Different food sources contain different groups of proteins, which are made up of different arrangements and amounts of amino acids. In general, proteins from animal sources are of greater nutritional value because they usually contain all the essential amino acids. Proteins from plant sources, such as cereals and vegetables, may be deficient in one or other of the essential amino acids. For example, the proteins obtained from wheat lack adequate quantities of one essential amino acid, and those from beans are deficient in another.

Because the deficiency is different in each food, when they are eaten together they complement each other and the mixture is of higher nutritional value than the separate foods, and is as good as animal protein. It is important, particularly for strict vegetarians who do not consume dairy or egg products (see Table2a), that a variety of different types of protein foods are eaten.

Cooking can alter the amino-acid composition of protein and this usually results in desirable flavour and browning development. Very little nutritional value is lost.

RECOMMENDED DAILY DIETARY INTAKE OF PROTEIN IN AUSTRALIA

The recommended dietary intake (RDI) in Australia is one gram per kilogram of body weight per day. The protein intake for a 70-kilogram man is 70 grams and for a 58-kilogram woman, 58 grams per day. However growing children, pregnant and lactating women, people undergoing stress, or are unwell (severe infections or surgery) or undergo heavy exercise or work have a greater requirement for protein because of the additional needs of these conditions (see Table 2b).

A deficiency of protein in the diet can lead to muscle wasting, fatigue, weight loss, illness, oedema, anaemia and, in children, a failure to thrive, behaviour and attention problems. Higher levels of protein consumption appear to be neither beneficial nor harmful. However, it is possible that additional calcium may be required to counterbalance an excessive protein intake. Also there is a higher load of protein breakdown products, which must be excreted by the kidneys. This is where the theoretical concerns for acidity are derived from, however if you eat a variety of fruit, vegetables and leafy greens this becomes a very well-balanced diet.

 Table 2a

Grams of protein in animal foods vs. plant foods
Animal Proteins (100g) Grams of protein Plant Proteins (100g) Grams of protein
Beef 29-32 grams Legumes (Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans) 6-7 grams
Chicken 25-28 grams Nuts (Almonds, brazil nuts, cashews) 15-20 grams
Fish 18-23 grams Seeds (Sunflower, sesame, pepitas) 20-22 grams
Eggs 5 grams per egg Tofu 8 grams
Cheese (Cheddar) 25 grams Leafy greens (Spinach, kale, rocket, lettuce, bok choi etc) 1.6 – 4.3 grams

(Kale is the highest at 4.3 grams)

Yoghurt (Natural) 5 grams Vegetables (Broccoli, beans, snow peas, cucumber, zucchini, peas) 0.8 – 5.1 grams (Green peas are the highest at 5.1g)
Milk (Whole) 3 grams Fruits (Apples, bananas, pears, kiwifruit etc) 0.3 – 1.7 grams
Protein powder (Whey) 80-90 grams Protein powder (pea) 82 grams

Table 2b

Daily Protein Requirements
Activity Level/Age group Grams of protein
Low activity (sedentary) adults Males 1g per kg                  Females 0.8-1g per kg
Light to moderate exercise – adults 1.2-1.4 g per kg
Active/Teenagers 1.4-1.6g per kg
Very active/Young children 1.6-1.8g per kg
Weight training/Infants 1.8-2.0g per kg
*Generally women require 15% less protein than males.  The required protein intake throughout pregnancy is 1.2g per kg of body weight.

(Australian Sports Commission, 2009)

* further information @ http://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/protein.htm

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Why Weight?

 A Naturopathic Understanding of Weight Management.

Does one size fit all? Certainly not, we are all shapes & sizes, maintaining, losing or gaining weight for very different complex reasons. Naturopathic weight management assesses a person’s whole health profile including; their physical health and nutritional intake, exercise or activity levels, as well as, psycho-emotional and spiritual health. The client’s case is then managed efficiently and gently by treatments and medicines. It is not about fad diets or quick fixes, however, a short program is possible if you need to lose a few kilos.

A Weight Management Protocol falls into my clinical theory of clients’ needs. Often their requirements are one or a combination of the following:

  1. Cleansing and detoxification
  2. Building up, repair and fortifying,
  3. Maintenance, Balancing, encouragement and Education

Assessment of weight management

 Cleansing and Detoxifying.

  • Ascertain body fat excess, stored toxic by-products or fluid.
  • Exercise or activity, pH, pain, restriction, limitation or inertia.
  • Diet summary including; food, junk, sugar or cravings.
  • Health issues and illness; understanding the client’s blood pathology, such as lipid (fats) levels, inflammation, infections or parasites.
  • Blood sugar levels; insulin resistance with excess tummy fat may indicate high blood pressure, as well as diabetes.
  • Digestive, bowel, liver and/or thyroid complaints.
  • Food intolerances. 

     Psycho-emotional problems can present themselves in the form of poor long-term dietary choices, or comfort eating. Also it is helpful to understand the concept of  carrying too much ‘baggage’ and carrying extra weight due to past trauma, abuse or pregnancies and surgery.

 B) Building up, repair and fortifying,

  • Poor diet and Nutritional deficiencies. Fatigue.
  • Malabsorption Illnesses such as; coeliac, graves disease or leaky gut.
  • Occupational, stress, social or relationship contributors.
  • Insomnia and sleep feeding.
  • Dental problems.

The Psycho-emotional problems associated with this assessment are related to body image and eating disorders, or people suffering from depression, isolation, anxiety or exhaustion.

 C) Maintenance, Balancing, Encouragement and Education,

Glandular problems and associated hormonal, peptide and neurotransmitter response, so called The  ‘Gut-brain’ association. Hormonal and life phase changes.

Genetic contribution.

Being ‘stuck’ or unmotivated for change.

Depending on client’s requirement’s Treatment options are:

Dietary requirements and changes for life, balancing macro-nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fats, as well as micro-nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Pharmacologically active Herbal Medicines; balancing blood and lipid levels, reduce cravings, balance Hormones, repair and assist the gut with absorption for assimilation of nutrients. Increase energy levels. Body therapies, Flower

and/or homeopathic medicines to assist with psycho- emotional or spiritual problems..

Health and vitality are the main goals in naturopathic weight management.

 

 

 

 

A’ Tishoo A’ Tishoo we all fall down! The Effect of Stress on Health & Immunity – A different approach

Both from a clinical and social perspective, people develop infections from exhaustion and nervous depletion. We become susceptible to illness when dealing with chronic stress and work. Sayings such as ‘run down’ ‘too much on my plate’ & ‘stressed out’, all mean, lowered immunity due to high levels of stress. Scientific lingo Psycho-Neuro-Endocrino-Immunology (PNEI) is the study of effects of chronic stress on human immune tissue. Research has shown remarkable instances of tissue damage and immune deficiency with continued stress. Studies in Molecular Psychiatry and Immunology have shown, chronic excess levels of cortisol production, weakens activity of immune function opening the way to inflammation and infections. Neuroendocrine-immune interactions are regulated by corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) indirectly, through activation of stress directly and through pro-inflammatory actions on peripheral immune functions. The indirect effects of stress on immune/inflammatory responses occur via the stress-induced activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic/adreno-medullary system. Glucocorticoids and catecholamines affect Th1 and 2 immune cells and mediators. Stress influences the development, course and pathology of acute and chronic health conditions such as infections, allergies, autoimmune, and inflammation. The psychological and behavioral consequences of stress have additional effects by increasing health-impairing behaviours e.g. poor diet, sleep, lack of exercise, substance abuse and mood disorders.

Medical herbalism offers a different approach, with the cooler changes ahead. Know your body and recognize the signs of exhaustion and stress. Enjoy rest, recreation, gentle exercise, sunlight (Vit D), healthy protein, Vitamins (A, B’s & C) and minerals (Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium).

Allow immune tissue to naturally respond to colds and flu, by utilising the wonderful benefits of pharmaceutical grade herbal medicines. Treatment is safe, effective and prescribed professionally.

Neuro-protective and Immune-modulating are terms used in this area of herbalism to describe Holy Basil, Withania, Siberian ginseng, Reishi and Rhodiola. These help the body adapt to stress and prevent infections and serious illness.

Immune-stimulating- modulating, Anti-inflammatory and Anti-microbial herbs include; Echinacea spp., Thyme, Boneset, Manuka, Andrographis, Cats Claw and Golden Seal.

Tonic and recovery effects are assisted with Codonopsis, Astragalus, Oats and Licorice Root. Respiratory and lung herbs effectively treat chest infections and severe coughs. These include; Inula, Ribwort, Licorice, Mullein, Pleurisy root, Hyssop and Wild Cherry bark.

General resistance herbs include; Cinnamon, Garlic, Ginger, Olive leaf, Fenugreek and Turmeric to maintain health. Herbal medicine has clinical and scientific efficacy helping to strengthen and nourish body tissue, invaluable in preventing infections. Treatment may be before, during or after illness.

 

Rhodiola rosea

Common names: Golden root, rose root, arctic root.

Botanical Family: Crassulaceae. Part used: Root

As part of my series on Nervines or herbs exerting a positive action on the nervous system, I would like to introduce Rhodiola. This is fast becoming one of my favourite herbs due to its unique actions and its ‘super-herb’ abilities.

Russian scientists and Western researchers have accumulated an impressive amount of scientific research to validate its abilities as neuro and cardio-protective, ie protecting brain, nerves, heart and blood vessels. Also it has tonic, immune-modulatory, adaptagenic and antioxidant properties. In other words in enhances physical, emotional and mental performance, particularly in times of severe stress. The saying of adaptagens in herbal medicine is ‘by taking these herbs particularly through stressful periods allows one to handle more crap for longer ‘ and not pay the price as often happens due to adrenal exhaustion.

Rhodiola boosts immune function, increases concentration, memory and energy.

It increases resistance to altitude sickness, assists with depression, anxiety and nervous system disorders. Interestingly, it assists with sexual dysfunction, anaemia, and chronic infections including post-viral syndromes, fibromyalgia and aspects of thyroid dysfunction.

Mode of Action

  1. Rhodiola has a balancing effect on the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal) axis and has been shown to favorably impact cortisol levels and modulate the stress response.
  2. It also modulates the levels and activity of monoamines and opioid peptides such as beta-endorphins.
  3. The potent antioxidant activities of Rhodiola contributes to its adaptogenic effects.
  4. It modulates the immune system and improves physical stamina by increasing the production of ATP and has been shown to improve mental capacity under stressful circumstances.

Clinical Trials

A recent systematic review of randomized clinical trials found Rhodiola to be safe with beneficial effects on physical performance, mental performance and in certain mental health conditions related to stress.

As a tonic, I mix it with Withania, Bacopa, Astragalus, Rhemania, Schisandra and St Johns Wort, Magnolia or Passionflower and Skullcap, to assist clients; immune function, exhaustion, nervous debility, depression, anxiety and mental fatigue.

References 

Chen, T.,S.,Liou, S.,Y., & Chang, Y., L.,(2008),Antioxidant evaluation of three adaptogen extracts, The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 36(6), 1209-1217.

Hung, S.,K., Perry, R., & Ernst, E., (2011), The effectiveness an efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Phytomedicine, 18(4), 235-244.

Panossian, A.,G., (2013), Adaptogens in mental and behavioral disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North American, 36(1), 49-64.

Panossian, A.,G.,wikman, G., & Sarris, J.(2010),Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): Traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine, 17(7), 481-493.

Ross, S., M., (2014), Rhodiola rosea (SHR-5), part 1 Holistic Nursing Practice, 28(2), 149-154.

 

 

 

 

Stress, Exhaustion and Depletion; the Dance of our Hormones

Stress, Exhaustion and Depletion – The Dance of our Hormones 

Stress, exhaustion, weight issues, gut/immune and mood disorders are common presentations in clinic, existing as single presentations or as very complex problems. Generally clients have gone through extreme stress or have ongoing stress or trauma; they also have a feeling of ‘burn out’ or profound apathy.

Stress factors can be; physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Issues such as; loss, grief, accidents, illness, toxicity, overtraining, dieting, injury, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, separation, financial, family problems, housing, intimidation or abuse to name a few.

The three stages of stress or General Adaption Syndrome (GAS) include:

Alarm response – flight or fight phase

Adaption phase – characterized by adaption (resilience), coping with the threat (stressor)

Exhaustion phase -when capacity for adaption becomes overwhelmed. Therefore, the more stress we endure the more we deplete our glands and hormones, so they are unable to function for normal biological processes.

The dance of the human hormones begins when people adapt to their stressful lives and stress is ongoing. If left unresolved or when chronic stress perpetuates, the adrenal and thyroid glands become chronically depleted. If the thyroid gland only is treated and the adrenals are not supported, clients can ‘burn out’ or ‘become chronically fatigued’.

The body is resilient: When prolonged stress occurs, the Hypothalamus (brain), Pituitary, (governing gland) Thyroid and Adrenals (response glands) will function constantly, performing numerous tasks that include feedback loops to keep us going. While the thyroid sets our ‘idle’ levels or baseline, the adrenals act as an energy ‘accelerator’, when requirements are greater. Prolonged elevations of cortisol -secreted by the adrenal glands during stress can affect the thyroid gland by:

  1. Inhibiting thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and conversion of the thyroid hormones, Thyroxine (T4) into triiodothyronine (T3) which mostly takes place in the liver.
  2. Decrease the liver’s ability to clear other hormones such as excess oestrogen’s (add in the Pill and HRT) from the blood.
  3. Increase of Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG). TBG’s are proteins that thyroid hormones attach to as they are transported through the blood and to the tissues. If TBG levels are high, they will bind more thyroid hormones, decreasing the free hormones available in the body, thereby leading to thyroid symptoms.
  4. Sending TSH levels up higher where eventually the receptivity capacity of the thyroid gland is reduced causing thyroid hormone resistance, particularly if there is inflammation through the gland such as Thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s Disease. Inflammatory mediators have been shown to suppress thyroid receptor site sensitivity.1 Thyroid hormone is knocking on the cell’s door, but the cells don’t answer. Iodine, vitamins /minerals or thyroid hormones help but cannot counteract this condition.
  5. General pathology tests (only TSH) and the reliance of medicating with thyroid replacement hormone (T4) or medications to suppress the thyroid, are both unreliable and confusing when it comes to understanding and treating the complexities of thyroid and adrenal problems.
  6. It is necessary to manage and deal with the stressors and assist the adrenals so the body doesn’t fall into this chronic depletion.

We all experience stress in our lives but ongoing, unresolved chronic stress can lead to:

Low thyroid symptoms: decreased body temperature, joint /muscle pain, fatigue, nodule or goiter growth, dry skin/hair loss, moodiness and weight gain.

High thyroid symptoms; racing heart, anxiety, weight loss, nodule growth, tiredness or feeling ‘wired’.

Adrenal fatigue; fatigue, moodiness/depression/anxiety, sleep disorders, craving salt and stimulants, apathy, reduced libido.

The Answer

The adaptagenic herbs are a favourite of most naturopaths when it comes to adrenal fatigue and stress. These include:

Rhodiola, Rhemannia,Siberian ginseng, (Indian Ginseng) -Withania, American ginseng, Korean Ginseng, Holy Basil and Schisandra.

 

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17910527

 

 

 

 

Skullcap (Scutellaria Latiflora)

Skullcap is one of the most widely used herbs for anxiety and nervous conditions. It is a traditional herb used for soothing a frazzled nervous system and appears to work via the GABAergic system, often through an interaction with the benzodiazepine site on GABAA receptors for its anxiolytic (assist with anxiety) activities. Also Skullcap has demonstrated neuroprotective qualities via significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions (lohani et al, 2013).

A recent placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study involving 43 healthy volunteers consuming 350 mg of Skullcap in a capsule three times a day for a period of two weeks found this intervention to significantly enhance global mood without reducing energy or cognition involving 19 healthy subjects obtained similar outcomes, noting a significant reduction in perceived anxiety without impairment of intellect or vitality (Wolfson & Hoffmann, 2003).

In clinic Skullcap is used to treat:

  • Nervous excitability, restlessness, wakefulness, anxiety
  • Physical or mental tiredness
  • Headache, depression
  • Epilepsy

 

 

 

 

Do you have Undiagnosed Thyroid Problems?

An increase of (mostly) women are presenting with undiagnosed or ‘subclinical’ thyroid problems. Their symptoms can be subtle or obvious; they present with one or more symptoms; their thyroid gland maybe over or under- active or fluctuate between. They are generally tired, moody and carrying extra weight, or thinner with heart racing, trembling and anxious.

When clients present to the Doctor, often pathology tests come back ‘within the normal limits’. TSH -thyroid stimulating hormone has to over 3.5 or under 0.3mU/L to be considered a problem-a very wide range. T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) the main thyroid hormones are not tested initially. When TSH is over 3.5 mU/L, (hypothyroidism) the medical treatment is T4, which helps initially but is just substituting a hormone, not dealing with the ongoing problem. If TSH is under 3.5 and not a ‘medical condition’, the symptoms still exist and become increasingly frustrating, as the thyroid gland regulates heat production in the body and the whole body’s metabolism slows down.

This is a complex situation as thyroid hormones are regulated and constantly adjusting to a very sensitive feedback loop involving the hypothalamus (brain), pituitary and adrenal glands. Big contributors to this common condition include; stress, worry, pregnancy, trauma, tap water (fluoride and chlorine), soya, but seems mostly due to inadequate dietary intake of iodine and selenium.

If you have 1 or more symptoms contact Vanessa for a Thyroid check or treatment options.

  • Fatigue, depression, anxiety, mood swings
  • Cold or heat intolerance
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Tremor and/or heart racing
  • Memory loss or poor concentration
  • Hair loss or thinning, dry skin, sore eyes
  • Infertility or menstrual disorders, low sex drive
  • Muscle / joint pain/carpel tunnel
  • Slow or fast metabolism, digestion problems
  • Goitre/swollen throat region/ nodules/enlarged thyroid gland