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How Stress Can Affect Your Fertility

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while, you’ve probably had dozens of well-meaning friends tell you to just relax, to stop actively trying and it’ll happen. While this gets more frustrating than reassuring very, very quickly, there is a kernel of truth to this: studies show that stress can affect your fertility, and make it much harder for you to fall pregnant.

The pituitary gland is the link between your hypothalamus (brain) and your endocrine system (hormones). It communicates with your ovaries through your bloodstream; first, it releases hormones that tell your eggs to mature, and then it releases hormones that cause ovulation. When you’re stressed, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland are engaged in another chain reaction; the hypothalamus releases a hormone called CRH, which causes the pituitary to produce another hormone (ACTH), which in turn triggers the adrenal glands. This stress circuit temporarily shuts down your other hormonal systems, including reproduction, so your body can divert all of its energy into dealing with the perceived threat.

Or, in simpler terms: if your brain is busy with stress, it may not send the right messages to your ovaries, which means you won’t ovulate. If there’s no egg, the sperm have nothing to fertilise, and you won’t fall pregnant. Even if you are still ovulating, some studies suggest that stress can reduce blood flow to the uterus and cause issues with implantation.

If you’ve got a stressful job or are really invested in getting pregnant (as most prospective parents are), it’s not as easy or simple as just deciding to be less anxious. There are natural treatments like herbal medicine and acupuncture which can help get your stress levels down, and your system back on track, before you decide to try more invasive methods like IVF or artificial insemination. If you’d like to know more, contact the clinic and we’ll be able to provide some natural fertility advice based on your specific situation.

What Your Period Can Tell You About Your Health

It’s easy to think of your period as a curse (especially when you’re trying to get pregnant), but it can be a valuable insight into your overall reproductive health.

Period cramps are common, and are caused by prostaglandin – a hormone involved in pain and inflammation. Severe period pain or a feeling of pressure in your lower abdomen as you bleed are an indication that something isn’t quite right – endometriosis (uterine tissue growing outside the uterus) could be at the root of your agony, or you may have fibroids. The only way to confirm is to see your doctor for tests.

The colour of your period can tell you a lot about your health. There’s three typical colours for fresh blood: strawberry red, blueberry purple/red, and cranberry juice red. If it’s the red-blue colour of blueberry jam and slightly thick, you’re likely to have high estrogen levels; excess estrogen causes your uterine lining to thicken. If your period is a light pink or strawberry jam colour, your estrogen levels are probably too low; your period may also be patchy and off-schedule. Cranberry red is the ideal colour.

The amount you’re bleeding is also a good indicator of where your health is at. If you’re soaking through super tampons within a few hours, you’re at risk for anemia and a wide range of disorders and diseases (such as polyps and tumors). If your bleeding is very light, that’s usually caused by stress, poor nutrition or hormone changes (such as perimenopause or taking hormonal birth control).

Spotting between periods is common when you’re on hormonal birth control; if you’re bleeding between periods and you’re not taking anything, it’s important that you see your doctor to rule out more serious problems.

If your period has disappeared altogether and you’re not pregnant, taking hormonal birth control or going through menopause, it may be due to your weight (extremely low and extremely high body fat can cause amenorrhea) or issues with your thyroid and/or pituitary gland.

If you notice any sudden changes to your cycle, regardless of timing, texture or flow, it’s worth seeing someone to get checked out – at the very least, for your own peace of mind.

The Ideal Fertility Diet

Improve your natural fertilityDoes the right diet help you fall pregnant? Numerous studies have shown that specific changes to the diet can improve fertility, prevent recurrent miscarriages and support a healthy pregnancy. Everything in our body is made up of what we have eaten, so the right nutrition is essential for a healthy body and reproductive system. The building blocks for hormones are found in the foods we eat. The antioxidants, which help protect the egg and sperm from free radicals, come from the foods we eat. And just as the nutrients in foods can improve fertility, there are some foods and chemicals added to foods that can be harmful to your health, falling pregnant and carrying full-term.

What is the Fertility Diet?

The Natural Fertility Diet assists your body in its reproductive efforts. It includes foods which are high in specific nutrients needed for hormone production, hormone function, hormonal balance, foetal development, egg health, sperm health, blood health, and much more. It is a diet that is designed to help your body with any fertility issues that you may have, build up nutrient stores and provide all of the building blocks for a healthy child. It is also focused on giving you a healthy pregnancy and your child the best start in life.

Why Follow the Natural Fertility Diet?

Did you know that

  • There are specific nutrients that are needed by the young foetus before you can even detect pregnancy, and a deficiency in these nutrients could cause serious birth defects?
  • The foods you eat today impact the health of your eggs and sperm 90 days from now?
  • Hormones build themselves from the ingredients you provide through your diet?
  • An important treatment for PCOS and falling pregnant despite PCOS is diet?
  • What you don’t eat is just as important as what you do eat?
  • The number one cause of infertility is anovulation (not ovulating) and that it can often be remedied by changes in the diet?

Eating a Natural Fertility Diet is something everyone can do regardless of age, time, or fertility issue. Since we have to eat, why not eat in a way that improves your fertility?

Natural Nutritional Practices for Healing

Nature has created foods to help nourish and feed the body. When the body is optimally nourished and unhealthy foods are avoided, the body is then able to repair and rebuild itself. This is very helpful for fertility, especially if there is an underlying imbalance or fertility issue. The cells in the body are constantly dying off and new cells are being created to replace the old cells. This is occurring in every organ, muscle, tissue, etc. of the body constantly. The building blocks of these new cells are provided from the foods that you are consuming. The Natural Fertility Diet is also designed to help support a healthy body which in turn can heal itself and create healthier cells.

How the Natural Fertility Diet Was Developed

The Fertility Diet is a combination of modern scientific research and thousands of years of ancient wisdom and experience.

  1. Harvard recently completed a study which showed that women who followed a combination of five or more lifestyle factors, including changing specific aspects of their diets, had an 80% decrease in infertility, according to a paper published in Obstetrics & Gynecology. The women with the highest fertility diet scores ate less trans fats and sugar from carbohydrates, consumed more protein from vegetables than from animals, ate more fibre and iron, took more multivitamins, had a lower body mass index (BMI), exercised for longer periods of time each day, and, surprisingly, consumed more high-fat dairy products and less low-fat dairy products. The results were not affected by age or whether the women had been pregnant in the past.
  2. Dr Weston Price extensively researched traditional diets followed in times when humans were at their most fertile, before industrial foods.
  3. Dr Tom Brewer developed a diet which has been shown to reduce the risks of pregnancy complications, specifically pre-eclampsia. It includes an abundance of protein, minerals, calcium and healthy oils.
  4. Naturopaths are trained in diet, nutrition, herbs and supplements to treat disease, create wellness and maximise health. Their work is based on scientific research on nutrition, and traditional herbal and diet treatments, backed up by modern research and thousands of years of empirical clinical evidence.
  5. Chinese medicine has an extensive history of over 3,000 years of detailed herbal and dietary treatments, which has been used to treat literally billions of people. It is a major therapy in China and is commonly used throughout the world.

The Benefits of Eating a Natural Fertility Diet

  • It provides antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which help to protect egg and sperm health from the damage caused by free-radicals.
  • The Diet helps the body maintain hormonal balance by providing the fats needed for hormone production and function.
  • It provides the body with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients needed for optimal health.
  • It may decrease the chances of a miscarriage due to insulin resistance and damage from free-radicals to the ova (eggs), sperm and DNA.
  • The Diet helps to build important nutrient stores for pregnancy.
  • It supports a healthy reproductive system.
  • It also promotes energy and vitality

The Most Important Nutrients for Fertility

While all nutrients are important for health, there are some that have been specifically shown to have a direct impact on fertility. Below is a list of these nutrients and the best food sources of them.

Micronutrients (Antioxidants, Vitamins & Minerals for Fertility)

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is needed to help the body create sex hormones which in turn affects ovulation and hormonal balance. Yale University School of Medicine conducted a study of 67 infertile women, where it was discovered that a tiny 7% had normal Vitamin D levels.
Best food sources: Eggs, fatty fish, dairy, cod liver oil. You can also get vitamin D from exposure to the morning sun for 15 minutes per day.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E has been shown in studies to improve sperm health and motility in men. Studies have also shown a diet deficient in Vitamin E to be a cause of infertility in rats. The meaning of the name for vitamin E ‘Tocopherol’ literally means to bear young. Vitamin E is also an important antioxidant to help protect sperm and egg DNA integrity.
Best food sources: Sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, papaya, dark leafy greens.

CoQ10: Necessary for every cell in the body for energy production, CoQ10 has also been shown in studies to increase ova (egg) and sperm health. It is necessary for good sperm motility. It is also an important antioxidant to protect the cells from free radical damage and to prevent DNA (genetic) problems.
Best food sources: Found in seafood though it is very difficult to obtain enough through the diet. Levels in the body also decline with age.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women with luteal phase defect, according to a study published in Fertility and Sterility. As for men, vitamin C has been shown to improve sperm quality and protect sperm from DNA damage, which helps reduce the chance of miscarriage and chromosomal problems. Vitamin C also appears to keep sperm from clumping together, making them more motile.
Best food sources: Vitamin C is in many plants and fruits including red capsicums, broccoli, cranberries, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruits. However levels are decreased by cooking and decline with storage.

Lipoic Acid: Lipoic acid is a very important antioxidant because it helps to protect the female reproductive organs, has been shown to improve sperm quality and motility, and helps the body to continually re-use the antioxidants in the body.
Best food sources: Found in small amounts in potatoes, spinach and red meat.

B6: Vitamin B6 may be used as a hormone regulator. It also helps to regulate blood sugars, alleviates PMS, and often helps relieve morning sickness. B6 has also been shown to help with Luteal Phase Defect.
Best food sources: Banana, turkey, salmon, cod, spinach, capsicums, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts.

B12: Vitamin B12 has been shown to improve sperm quality and production. It also may help to boost the endometrium lining in egg fertilisation, decreasing the chances of miscarriage. Some studies have found that a deficiency of B12 may increase the chances of irregular ovulation, and in severe cases stop ovulation altogether.
Best food sources: Clams, oysters, mussels, caviar (fish eggs), fish, crab, lobster, beef, lamb, eggs.

Folic Acid/Folate (B9): One of the best known vitamins required for pregnancy is folic acid, the supplement form of the naturally occurring folate. This vitamin helps prevent neural tube defects as well as congenital heart defects, cleft lips, limb defects, and urinary tract abnormalities in developing foetuses. Deficiency in folic acid may increase the risk of pre-term labour, foetal growth retardation and low birth weight. Deficiency may also increase the homocysteine level in the blood, which can lead to spontaneous abortions and pregnancy complications, such as placental abruption (where the placenta peels away from the lining of the uterus) and pre-eclampsia.
Best food sources: Folate is found in many foods, especially lentils, asparagus, spinach.

Iron: Studies have shown that women with low iron levels may suffer anovulation (lack of ovulation) and possibly poor egg health, reducing their pregnancy rates to only 60% compared to women with sufficient iron stores in their blood.
Best food sources: Lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds (raw), beef.

Selenium: Selenium is an antioxidant which protects the eggs and sperm from free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to chromosomes, which is a known cause of miscarriages and birth defects. Selenium is also necessary for the creation of sperm. In studies, men with low sperm counts have also been found to have low levels of selenium.
Best food sources: Snapper, cod, halibut, salmon, sardines, shrimp, Brazil nuts from Bolivia (just one nut contains nearly 100% of the RDA for selenium).

Zinc: In women, zinc works with more than 300 different enzymes in the body to keep things working properly. Without it, your cells can not divide properly, your estrogen and progesterone levels can get out of balance and your reproductive system may not be fully functioning. According to The Centers for Disease Control’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Report, low levels of zinc have been directly linked to miscarriage in the early stages of a pregnancy.
In men, zinc is considered one of the most important trace minerals for male fertility; increasing zinc levels in infertile men has been shown to boost sperm levels, improve the form, function and quality of male sperm, and decrease male infertility.
Best food sources: Oysters (hence the idea that oysters are an aphrodisiac), beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, green peas, prawns. Zinc can be damaged by cooking so it is important to eat some foods high in zinc in their raw forms.

Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 acids have been shown to improve fertility by helping to regulate hormones in the body, increase cervical mucous, promote ovulation, and overall improve the quality of the uterus by increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Omega-3 fats also contain two acids that are crucial to good health: DHA and EPA. These two acids have been shown to help many forms of disease. Low levels of DHA have been linked to depression and other mental health issues. During pregnancy, a lack of DHA may be associated with premature birth, low birth weight and hyperactivity in children.
Best food sources: Flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines, halibut, prawns, snapper, scallops, chia seeds.

Macronutrients (Protein, Fibre, Fats, Carbohydrates)

In addition to the micro-nutrients, macro-nutrients are important as well. This is a time for nourishing and providing building blocks for your body in preparation for conception. The foods that should be focused on are nutrient dense foods to provide the following:

Proteins: Eating healthy amounts of protein from a wide variety of sources is an important part of a healthy fertility diet, as the amino acids from protein are the building blocks for every cell, organ, enzyme and hormone in your body and your baby’s body. Make sure to include both animal sources and vegetable sources of protein daily.

Fats: A wide variety of fats are very important for fertility and the development of the foetus. Not only are essential fatty acids important, but saturated fats and good quality cholesterol are important as well. Cholesterol is a precursor to all the hormones produced in the body, including progesterone. Just make sure it is from the right foods like coconut oil, grass-fed meats, fish, nuts and seeds, and avoid hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils cooked at high heat.

Fibre: Fibre helps your body get rid of excess estrogen and xenohormones (man- made chemicals that disrupt your own hormonal system), and keeps your digestive tract functioning properly.

The Natural Fertility Diet Nutrition Guidelines

Eat Organic Vegetables and Fruits
Regular produce contains harmful herbicides and pesticides which have been shown to be very detrimental to both male and female fertility. Studies have also shown organic vegetables and fruits to have more nutritional value. (See The 5 Major Causes of Low Fertility, and The Solutions for Them for more details.)

Eat Organic, Grass-Fed, Whole Fat Dairy
Organic, grass-fed, whole fat dairy is the best choice of dairy sources. Take note that dairy foods such as milk and cheese may be congesting to the body, so in cases of congesting fertility issues such as PCOS and Endometriosis, dairy foods may aggravate the imbalance. Many people are lactose-intolerant or have a dairy intolerance, so check your tolerance by substantially increasing your dairy intake temporarily and observe how you feel. Dairy which is not organic should be avoided, as it contains added hormones and antibiotics which can contribute to increased estrogen levels in the body. There are many healthy alternatives to dairy such as fresh almond milk.

Eat Cold Water Fish
Fish provides important essential fatty acids (omega 3) to your diet. These fatty acids are needed for hormone production, to reduce inflammation, and they help to regulate the menstrual cycle. Fish is also a great source of protein and vitamin A. Avoid large fish at the top of the food chain, such as shark (flake), swordfish, barramundi, gem fish, and southern bluefin tuna, as these often contain higher levels of toxins. Also stay away from warm water fish; as a general guide, the warmer the water, the lower the omega 3 fatty acid level. The best fish are herring, sardines and mackerel, as they have high omega-3 fatty acid levels and are low in toxins. Tinned salmon are also very good, but look for brands that state they are wild caught.

Choose Meat that is Grass Fed and Organic
Conventionally raised cattle contain high levels of added hormones and antibiotics which can contribute to estrogen-dominate conditions. However grass fed meats are a good source of essential fatty acids, are low in saturated fat, and are a great source of protein. If you are experiencing endometriosis you may want to reduce the amount of red meat that you eat as a study has shown a connection between high red meat consumption and endometriosis.

Choose Free Range/Organic Chicken
Conventionally raised chickens are fed antibiotics and colourings to make the egg yolk an orange colour (whereas the yolks of organic free-range eggs are orange because of the antioxidant-rich diet of the hens). Organic and free range chickens will be pesticide and chemical free, and contain higher omega 3 levels.

Eat Grains in their Whole, Natural Form
Whole grains are filled with fibre, important vitamins, and immune supporting properties. Fibre is important for helping the body to get rid of excess hormones and helps to keep the blood sugar balanced. Avoid processed and refined white foods and grains such as white bread, semolina pastas, and white rice. Instead choose whole wheat or sprouted bread, rice or whole wheat pasta, quinoa, and brown rice.

Eat High Fibre Foods with Each Meal
Fibre helps to regulate blood sugar levels, which assists fertility issues such as PCOS, immunological issues, and promotes healthy hormonal balance. Examples of high fibre foods are fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, and beans.

No Soy Except Fermented (such as miso and tempeh)
A study has found that a compound in soy known as genistein impairs sperm as they swim toward the egg. Even tiny doses of the compound in the female reproductive tract could destroy sperm. When researchers exposed human sperm to genistein in the laboratory, the soy chemical was found to create a premature reaction in the sperm, forcing them to peak long before they could fertilize an egg.

Avoid Refined Sugars or Fruit Juices (unless freshly juiced)
Most pasteurised juices such as bottled apple juice, orange juice, and other bottled fruit juices contain concentrated sugar, which can disrupt your blood sugar levels and negatively affect your immune system. Also avoid any processed/refined and artificial sugars. Some great alternatives are stevia, or honey in small amounts.

Drink Enough Clean Water
A rough guide is to drink 2 litres of clean, purified or filtered water daily, however the colour of your urine is the best guide. Your urine should be a light straw colour, so if it is darker than this you are drinking too little, and if paler you are drinking too much. It is best to avoid bottled water as some of the plastics in the bottle such as BPA can contribute to hormonal imbalances due to their estrogen mimicking chemicals. Avoid unfiltered tap water, due to the variety of chemicals it contains.

Important Foods Specifically for Fertility

The foods mentioned below are high in the nutrients most important for fertility, and are all nutrient dense, meaning they pack a lot of nutrition per serving.

Eggs – Vitamin D, B12, Protein

Nuts and Seeds – Omega 3, Zinc, Vitamin E, Protein
Eat nuts and seeds in their raw form as essential fatty acids and zinc are sensitive to heat and can be destroyed if cooked.

Grass-Fed Meats – Omega 3, Iron, B12, Protein
Grass-fed meats are high in omega 3, have been raised without antibiotics and hormones.

Dark Leafy Vegetables – Iron, Folic acid, B6, Vitamin E

Fruit – Vitamin C, Flavonoids, Antioxidants
Antioxidants are heat sensitive, so to get their benefit eat your fruit fresh, ripe and raw.

Colourful Vegetables – B6, Vitamin C
The colour of a vegetable will tell you what nutrients and benefits it will provide for your body. For instance vegetables that are red or green in colour are high in vitamin C, vegetables that are orange have high vitamin A, white ones tend to have sulphur, etc. The easiest way to get a high dose of nutrients is to eat a wide variety of vegetables. Make sure you are eating a variety of colours daily.

Fish and Shell Fish – Vitamin D, Omega 3, Zinc, Selenium, B12, CoQ10
Fish provides an abundance of these nutrients.

Liver – Vitamin D, Zinc, Selenium, Iron, Folic Acid, B12, CoQ10
One way that you can make liver tasty is to make pâté with chicken liver and have this with whole grain crackers 1-2x’s a week. Make sure to use liver from grass-fed/free-range animals only.

Lentils and Beans – Iron, Folic Acid
You can use them to make soups, hummus, as a side dish, or in stir-fries.

Foods to Avoid

Sugar

Caffeine
Studies have shown that caffeine can affect your hormonal balance, increase your chances of a miscarriage and prevent you from ovulating.

Soy Foods

Fat-Free Foods
Foods which are altered to be reduced in fat or fat-free are highly processed and high in sugar. The right fats are very important for fertility and health.

The Fertility Superfood

Maca
Maca is a wonderful superfood from Peru that helps to balance the hormones, increase egg health, increase sperm count and sperm health, and is a tonic for the hormone system. Maca also helps increase progesterone if your body is low in this crucial hormone. A high-quality Maca in capsules is available from our clinic.

Free Comprehensive Fertility Assessment

Have you been trying for a family for months with no rewards? Some of the other causes of decreased fertility include hormonal imbalances, oxidative stress damage, excess chemical load, sluggish blood supply, and nutritional deficiencies.

For almost 20 years, we have been helping couples conceive, stay pregnant, have an easier and safer birth, and to produce a healthy baby. In that time we have learnt what works and what doesn’t. With any condition, to get good results it is important to treat the causes of the problem, not just the symptoms, and even more so with natural fertility. Otherwise you could end up wasting a huge amount of time and money on treatments that aren’t effective.

Our approach is to only offer treatment when we have completed a thorough, detailed assessment to establish:

  • What is going on in your body, and if there are any problems
  • The key factors affecting your fertility
  • The best way to overcome these issues

That way we can give you the correct advice on how you can fall pregnant as quickly and easily as possible. Some of the areas a Comprehensive Fertility Assessment covers include:

  • How your body is functioning as a whole:
    • If there any significant deficiencies influencing your fertility
    • If there are significant levels of toxins in the body, that could be affecting your fertility, or potentially affecting your baby’s health
    • Whether your stress levels are showing up as a factor
  • Your hormonal balances, including:
    • Your reproductive hormones (oestrogen, progesterone)
    • Your adrenaline levels (which can disrupt your reproductive hormones)
    • Your thyroid hormones (which can directly affect your fertility)
  • How well your reproductive organs are functioning, including your ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes

Once we have completed your Fertility Assessment, we explain in clear and simple terms exactly what is going on in your body. If you like, we can then design a treatment program for your specific fertility needs.

Normally an assessment such as this could cost $500 or more, however we are currently have a special offer of a Comprehensive Assessment free of charge. (Limited places are available.) There is absolutely no obligation whatsoever attached to your Assessment.

Whenever possible, please book your partner in to our clinic for an assessment too. We also recommend you and your partner attend each other’s assessment, so that you don’t miss out on any key information.

If time keeps ticking by, and you are looking for answers on why it seems everyone you know is getting pregnant except you, please call our Brisbane clinic now on 3376 6911 to book in for your free Comprehensive Fertility Assessment.

Let’s Keep Health Fund Cover for Natural Therapies!

Health Fund rebates

At the moment, the Australian government provides a rebate to keep down the cost of belonging to a health fund. However, they are considering stripping the rebate from any policies covering “unproven” natural therapies.

The Federal Government View

The Department of Health has recently published the Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance. The review was established to determine whether or not natural therapies should continue to receive the Government Rebate on private health insurance. The final report stated that:

‘Overall, there was not reliable, high-quality evidence available to allow assessment of the clinical effectiveness of any of the natural therapies for any health conditions. … The absence of evidence does not in itself mean that the therapies evaluated do or do not work.’

The report confirms that ‘there is value in conducting more research’ and ‘it is possible that further research may identify clinical conditions for which particular therapies are effective’. The background and the final report are available here.

Our View

We believe that the statement that there is not enough evidence supporting natural therapies treatments is incorrect, and ignores the great work natural medicine plays in correcting (and preventing!) a huge variety of health problems.

Also, if acupuncture is not effective, why is it covered by Medicare and WorkCover when performed by a doctor, and sometimes by a physio, chiropractor or osteopath (but not by a qualified acupuncturist)?

There is also ample evidence supporting other natural therapies, such as herbs and practitioner supplements, for various conditions. However, we do agree that the level of funding for research in natural therapies is very low.

Let the Government Know What You Think

To gauge public feeling on these and other changes, they have set up a Public Consultation survey. If you believe that natural therapies can help people who have health problems or are in pain, now is the perfect opportunity to let the government know that they should be supported.

Please click here to go to the survey.

Please also consider sharing the survey with your family and friends, as this will help the government clearly hear about the vital role natural medicine plays in our health. You can copy and paste the following link:
http://survey.orcinternational.com/orc/j10262/surveylinkn.asp?job=Au3000187&id=RANDOM

Thank you!

 

Stomach & Digestive Problems

A happy stomach for good health

Why More Stomach Acid, Not Less, is Often the Answer

Do you suffer from indigestion, reflux, bloating, heartburn, irritable bowel, diarrhoea, gas, stomach pain, or stomach cramps? A common belief is that reflux, heartburn and GORD/GERD are caused by too much stomach acid, and so antacid products are now a multi-billion dollar industry. However, too much acid production is actually relatively rare, and around 90% of these problems are caused by not having enough stomach acid instead! Your body is totally dependent on the nutrients from your food, so if your digestive system is not working well, every part of your body will struggle.

Your stomach processes your food so that your intestines can break it down further and absorb all the nutrients. When functioning properly, the stomach produces a powerful hydrochloric acid, with a pH (acidity level) of 1.5 to 3.0. This is strong enough acid that if it were dropped onto a piece of wood it would burn a hole through the wood. The inner lining of the stomach is protected from its own acid by a thick layer of mucous, and epithelial cells that produce a bicarbonate solution to counteract the acid. Stomach acid serves 5 main purposes. It

  1. Breaks down the proteins in the food
  2. Kills any bacteria or other bugs in the food. (So if you are travelling overseas, taking a hydrochloric acid tablet with your meal can help prevent you getting stomach bugs.)
  3. It also produces crucial enzymes needed for digestion
  4. One of enzymes needed for digestion is a very potent protein-digesting one called pepsin. Pepsin is powerful enough to destroy the cells that produce it, so it is created by the stomach cells in its inactive form as pepsinogen. The strong acid in the stomach then converts the pepsinogen into pepsin.
  5. It helps to let the stomach know when to empty the food into the intestines.

The stomach also produces intrinsic factor, which binds to vitamin B12 and allows it to be absorbed in the small intestine. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for the formation of red blood cells.

Your stomach is also a muscle, and it churns up the food and mixes it with the hydrochloric acid and enzymes. It is very common for stress to affect the muscles in the stomach.

This mixing the acid through the food continues until the mixture (called chyme) reaches the right pH, and this triggers the stomach muscles to move it into the small intestine. The high acidity of the chyme then triggers the release of other digestive enzymes from the pancreas (to continue with the digestive process) and sodium bicarbonate (to neutralize the chyme and prevent it from burning the small intestine).

What Happens When Stomach Acid is Too Low?

Your stomachWhen stomach acid production is low, various problems can occur throughout the digestive system. The body will keep the chyme in the stomach until it reaches the proper pH level, so if your stomach acid production is low, the chime will sit there for ages without the nutrients being broken down properly. The low stomach acid also creates an environment which is more friendly to the growth of microorganisms, which are fed by the carbohydrates that become fermented from sitting in the stomach for too long. The bacterial overgrowth and maldigested food will cause excessive pressure in the stomach.

The stomach has two valves, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the top of the stomach, and the pyloric sphincter at the bottom. The pyloric sphincter is a one way valve, however the LES at the top is designed to open both ways. When too much pressure builds up in the stomach, but the pH is still not acidic enough for the pyloric sphincter to open, the body has only one option to release the pressure: opening up the LES. The release of the pressure into the esophagus causes the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. Even if you have low stomach acid, any amount of this acid going from the stomach into the esophagus will cause discomfort or pain, because your esophagus was never designed to handle stomach acid. If this happens regularly, the LES becomes weakened, making the problem worse.

Other causes of LES problems can include overeating, overweight or obesity, pregnancy, hiatal hernia, and many medications (including anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, bronchodilators, beta-blockers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs).

Low stomach acid also causes digestive problems downstream from the stomach in the small intestine. If the stomach is not able to produce enough acid to bring the pH level of the chyme to the correct level, eventually the stomach will be forced to move it through the pyloric sphincter into the small intestine. Because it is not at the proper pH, the chyme does not trigger the release of sodium bicarbonate, which can cause duodenal ulcers. The lower acidity of the chyme also doesn’t trigger the release of pancreatic enzymes. The small intestine is then not able to break down the chyme properly, and the large, undigested particles of food can disrupt the lining of the small intestine. The lining becomes more permeable, and allows the undigested food particles to enter your bloodstream, where your body’s immune system believes them to be foreign invaders instead of food. This triggers a systemic immune response that can lead to food sensitivities, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ disease, lupus, type 1 diabetes, or multiple sclerosis (MS)). This condition is known as leaky gut syndrome.

Some undigested food particles may continue into the large intestine, and this malabsorbed food can disrupt the normal gut flora. The large intestine may become inflamed and conditions such as constipation, diarrhoea, or irritable bowel syndrome could develop. Having the correct gut flora is also crucial for a good immune system.

What Symptoms Can It Cause?

Because low stomach acid can have such a profound impact on your overall health, the symptoms can affect many parts of your body. They can include

Heartburn
GORD/ GERD
Indigestion and bloating
Burping or gas after meals
Excessive fullness or discomfort after meals
Constipation and/or diarrhoea
Chronic intestinal infections
Undigested food in stools
Food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities
Acne
Chronic fatigue
Mineral and nutrient deficiencies (including iron and/or vitamin B12 deficiency)
Dry skin or hair
Weak or cracked nails
Asthma
Depression
Osteoporosis
Any autoimmune disease

How Common is Low Stomach Acid?

An American doctor, Jonathon Wright (author of the book “Why Stomach Acid is Good for You”), measured the stomach pH of thousands of patients in his clinic, and found that 90% of them had too little stomach acid. Stomach acid levels are said to decrease with age, but like many ‘age-related’ issues, low stomach acid can be corrected naturally with the right treatment.

How Do You Fix It?

As you can see, medications and drugs that suppress stomach acid are not an effective, safe, or smart way to address the causes of heartburn, indigestion or acid reflux, and over time can end up making these conditions worse instead.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) can help stimulate stomach acid production. If you are not used to the taste and effects of ACV, it is best to include it into your diet gradually.

  • Start by adding 1 teaspoon of ACV to a cup of water and drink it once a day. Then, increase the amount of vinegar per serving, and the frequency of drinking.
  • Ideally, you should add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a cup of water and drink it one to three times a day, 15 minutes before a meal.
  • Some also recommend drinking it first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach.

Apple cider vinegar is very acidic, so you need to dilute it to protect your teeth, throat and the lining of your stomach. Don’t drink undiluted ACV.

We have a brand of ACV at the clinic which we recommend.

If you have any digestive issue, please call now to book in for a complimentary Health Assessment with our Brisbane Naturopaths. We can then see what is going on in your body, what is working properly and what is not working properly, what is causing the problem, and how it can be resolved naturally.

References

Wright, J. & Lenard, L. (2001). Why Stomach Acid is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux, and GERD. Lanham, Maryland, The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.

Why a Good Immune System is Vital for Your Health

Immune system superheroes

How is your immune system? If you came through the cold and flu season without coming down with anything, you would assume that it is pretty good. But preventing colds is only a small part of what the immune system does. And looking after it can make a huge difference to your future health. Imagine how our streets would end up if we had no police force and no rubbish removal system!

Your immune system is designed to maintain your body by

1. Dealing with any attack

  • Preventing invasion of your body by bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, and other pathogens, and destroying these when they get in
  • Making sure you have the right bacteria in your guts

2. Repairing any damage

  • Repairing damaged tissues and get rid of debris
  • Creating and controlling inflammation

3. Controlling your own cells

  • Destroying cancer cells
  • Getting rid of cells growing in the wrong areas (such as in endometriosis)
  • Removing worn-out cells

4. Helping your body adapt to changes in temperature and climate

There are far more microbes living in our body than you would think- around 100 trillion of them! So our immune system is constantly fighting to keep the right balance of good and bad bugs in and on our bodies.

If your immune system is not strong, it won’t help your body cope well with changes in temperature, season or climate. This is why many people get colds and flus after they are exposed to a cold wind or draft (get a ‘chill’), or during the cold and flu ‘seasons’, when the temperatures are fluctuating as the seasons change (especially around the start of winter or spring).

What HAPPENS IF IT ALL GOES WRONG?

If your immune system isn’t working well, you can end up with

  • Focal Infections- Sometimes you can get an infection somewhere, such as in your sinuses, and not even know that you have it, yet it sends off bacteria or their toxins to other parts of the body. This causes various diseases in those areas or throughout the body, such as arthritis, atherosclerosis, cancer, or mental illness. Focal infections are also a common cause of chronic fatigue.
  • Poor healing
  • Chronic inflammation, which can cause a huge variety of chronic illnesses
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Allergies or food intolerances
  • Digestive problems
  • Ongoing infections
  • Accelerated aging
  • Autoimmune diseases

Allergies and food intolerances occur when you immune system is overstimulated and reacts to something that has come into your body or on your skin. The number of people with allergies is increasing rapidly, with 1 in 4 children now suffering from them. Autoimmune conditions happen when your immune system is so overstimulated that it starts attacking parts of your own body. It is thought that one of the main reasons for all three conditions is because we have made our environments and our bodies too clean and sterile. We have removed many of the evolutionarily protective microbes (bacteria, viruses, parasites) we have evolved to have in our bodies, under the assumption that all such bugs are harmful[1]. So your immune system cannot behave and act in the way it was designed to. Biologists used to think that the human body is capable of doing all it needs to on its own to exist. However, recent research shows that the right bacteria in our bodies provides vital help with many of the body’s basic functions, including growth, digestion, and self-defence[2]. And upsetting the balanced ecosystem between the correct bacteria in our bodies and our own cells could be causing unprecedented numbers of children to develop autism, ADHD, food allergies, asthma and many other chronic problems.

leaky gut progressionAnother very common cause of food intolerances and allergies is ‘leaky gut syndrome’. Under normal circumstances, the epithelial cells that line your small intestine are joined tightly to each other. This makes the lining of your intestine nearly leak-proof, and only fully digested food molecules are allowed to pass through. If there are strong stresses on these delicate structures, these tight joins may start to separate, creating gaps between the cells. These gaps make your gut ‘leaky’, and then large, undigested food molecules can pass through into the body, where they are collected by the bloodstream and lymph vessels of your intestine.

When your immune system spots these large molecules, it decides that they are too big to be digested food, so it must be a foreign invader into the body, such as a virus or bacteria, and it attacks them. Your immune system attacking these food molecules in your blood can cause a very broad range of problems. (For more details, please see Food Intolerance Testing Now Available.)

WHAT WEAKENS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM?

  • Stress
  • Lack of energy
  • Incorrect diet
  • Low nutrition
  • Build-up of toxins in the body
  • Incorrect bacteria in the guts
  • Lack of water, fresh air, sunlight and exercise
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Not enough sleep
  • Flu vaccinations (see The Flu – To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?)
  • Antibiotics

RESTORING YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

Getting your immune system in good shape involves five things.

1. Getting rid of any focal infections
The sinuses are the most common area for focal infections, so these need to be carefully checked and treated if needed.

2. Strengthen your nutrient levels
Vitamin C and Zinc are the most important, but other nutrients, such as vitamin D, are also essential. (Vitamin D is necessary for the ‘killer T-cells’ to hunt down and destroy cells that are infected with germs or that have become cancerous.)

3. Improve any lifestyle factors
Low energy and stress both drag your immune system down. If it is not possible to change your lifestyle factors, naturopathy and acupuncture can help compensate. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, but not too much!

4. Getting your bacterial ecosystem right
Since 70- 80% of your body’s immune cells are in your digestive system[3], it is crucial to have the right bacterial balance in your gut to have a good immune system. If your diet isn’t right, you will end up with bad gut bacteria, and these bugs send the wrong messages to the immune system, creating illnesses in the body. (For more details see our article How Bad Gut Bacteria Can Cause Diabetes, Asthma, Ulcerative Colitis, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, Allergies & Autoimmune Diseases.) Probiotics can provide the good bacteria we need, however since our internal ecosystems are so complex, there is no one probiotic that can sort out everyone’s systems. For example, we supply ten different probiotics for different purposes. (These are Practitioner Prescribing Only products, so a trained therapist has to determine which is the correct one for you.)

5. Address any allergies or food intolerances
We can check the health of your digestive system, and also perform a Food Intolerance Test. Treatments for leaky gut syndrome, overactive immune systems, food intolerances and allergies are available.

If you want to take care of your immune system, or if you have any immune issues or weaknesses, please book in for a Comprehensive Assessment at our clinic. We can then have an in-depth look at what is happening in your body, what is causing the problem, and what can be done to sort it out. These Assessments are very thorough, and you will learn a lot about how your body is working. Our clients find them very helpful, interesting and informative. We currently have a limited number of free Assessments available, so please contact the Clinic soon if you would like to book in for one.

 

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841828/
[2] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ultimate-social-network-bacteria-protects-health/
[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10564096

Acupuncture for Children

Japanese Acupuncture for ChildrenHealth is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children, but their bodies are quite delicate, so it is very important that they receive quality treatments by properly qualified therapists. All of our acupuncturists are specifically trained in the treatment of children, with our youngest patient being only 3 weeks old. The most common technique we use is Shonishin (’Children’s needle therapy‘). This very gentle yet effective system uses non-insertion methods such as rubbing, stroking, and tapping on acupuncture points and specific areas of the body.

Ideally, every child would have the best possible start to their life. If you would like to find out if Acupuncture for children is likely to help their condition, please give us a call and speak to our Head Therapist Peter Mills.

 

 

Product of the Month: Maca Power Capsules

For Energy, Women’s Health, and Moods

macas increase natural fertilityMaca has some incredible benefits and can assist with your health in many ways, great to add to smoothie’s, cakes, slices and juices daily.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Balances your hormones and increases natural fertility
  • Relieves menstrual issues and menopause. It alleviates cramps, body pain, hot flushes, anxiety, mood swings, and depression. (If you are pregnant or lactating you should avoid taking Maca).
  • Can improve energy levels, and is also known for increasing stamina. Many athletes take maca for peak performance. If you find yourself tired most of the time, try a course of maca to see if it helps. Just a small amount could be exactly what you need for a boost!
  • Can help to clear acne and skin blemishes
  • Mood balance – may help with anxiety, stress, depression or mood swings
  • Some people have reported an increase in mental energy and focus from using maca

Medical Marijuana

As a reputed Brisbane naturopath we were recently approached by the local media for our opinions on Medical Marijuana and our reply (below) was posted as part of their feature:

Centenary Natural Therapies Clinic head therapist Peter Mills said sufficient trials need to be completed before the legalisation of medical marijuana.

Dr Mills said he has “cautious optimism” of the benefits of medical marijuana.

“At this point we don’t have the same understanding of medical marijuana (as other medications and herbs) so we just don’t know the full implications of using it. However the research so far is very encouraging” Dr Mills said.

medical-marijuana

Looking After Your Heart – The Full Picture

heart1Your heart is the most precious organ in your body. In fact, the Chinese say that all your other organs will sacrifice themselves to protect your heart. Modern medicine has advanced incredibly over the last decades, yet heart disease is still the leading cause of death in Australia, with one person dying from it every 27 minutes.

So it is obvious that if we want to live a long and healthy life, we need to look after our heart.

How Well Is Your Heart Performing?

The most common methods of checking how your heart is going are measuring your blood pressure and checking your cholesterol levels. But these only give part of the picture and are missing the main issues. There is now overwhelming evidence that the main indicators of Cardiovascular Disease are not high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, but instead are inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance. (Oxidative stress is the damage caused by toxins in your body, including the toxins produced naturally within your body.)

heart2These problems can’t be properly evaluated through a normal blood test. A large, dark-screen microscope can be used to examine the amount of inflammation and oxidative stress of the red blood cells. Healthy blood cells will look plump, like grapes, whereas unhealthy ones look wrinkled up, like sultanas. These wrinkled cells not only indicate a problem with the blood cells, but also point to damage and accelerated aging of the blood vessels and other tissues in the body as well. (It’s like the inside of the body becomes older and more wrinkled.)

As well as inflammation and oxidative stress, the level of insulin resistance can also be checked with a dark-screen microscope by looking at the level of fats in the blood.

heart3

Causes

The standard risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, excess weight, lack of physical activity, low fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol, and smoking. 9 in 10 adult Australians have at least one of these risk factors, and 1 in 4 (25%) have three or more risk factors.

However, recent evidence points to over 400 risk factors including

  • Stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor digestion
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Low energy
  • Lethargy
  • Poor circulation
  • Low vitamin D levels
  • Low iron levels
  • Low thyroid
  • Excess weight
  • Low testosterone
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Chronic infections or coughs
  • Osteoporosis

Treatment

It is becoming increasingly clear that, rather than just reply on medication to control high blood pressure, the best approach is to treat the causes of the problem as well as the symptoms. A healthy diet (including plenty of foods rich in anti-oxidants), the right high-quality nutritional supplements, and a healthy lifestyle to correct the factors behind the issue, will provide a far better long-term outcome for that person.*

Medications for high cholesterol levels (statins) have received a lot of bad publicity recently. The current methods of evaluating cholesterol levels include checking the

  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), considered the “bad cholesterol”
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL), or the “good cholesterol”
  • Triglycerides, another type of fat

However, there are other sub-groups of cholesterol and fats that come into the equation, and once again recent evidence indicates that this evaluation is too simplistic to get an accurate picture. As a result, normal blood tests can sometimes give a false good picture or a false bad picture of how the cholesterol and fats are impacting on the body. (So in some cases we may ask you to obtain a more detailed blood test for your cholesterol levels.)

Therefore any treatment should always include:

  • Identifying all of the risk factors
  • Checking the blood cells for inflammation or oxidative stress
  • Improving any lifestyle factors
  • Correcting any digestive weakness and nutritional deficiencies
  • Reducing the impact on the body of any excess stress or anxiety
  • Specific treatments for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.

A good example of this is a client who came to us for treatment of her high blood pressure. We found that one of the factors behind her hypertension was the stress of having it. (Sometimes known as ‘White Coat Syndrome’- a person becomes anxious when having their blood pressure taken, often on a subconscious level, and this causes the reading to be too high.) Our Brisbane naturopath helped her to understand this and the other causes of her condition, which helped to reduce her anxiety.

A treatment plan was developed to reduce her other risk factors. After a course of treatment and with the right professional-strength nutrients, her overall health showed a marked improvement, and both her blood pressure and cholesterol levels are now within a healthy range. She is now able to manage her health and help prevent any further cardiovascular problems developing.

heart4

What Now?

If you have any heart-related issues, or just want to look after your heart, please call the clinic on 3376 6911 to book in for a free Comprehensive Health Assessment. We can then let you know what is going on in your body, if there are any issues, what is causing any problems, and the best ways to improve them.

Have a long and healthy life!

*Please note: High blood pressure is a potentially dangerous condition, and so lowering your medication should only be done once we have reduced your pressure far enough, and with the approval of your doctor.