by Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc
What is Mitochondrial Disorder?
The phrases Mitochondrial Disease, Mitochondrial Dysfunction, or even merely the term mitochondria in general, can be confusing, evoke fear and leave any parent or carer utterly frustrated when these foreign words are diagnostically attached to their unwell child. When did children's health move on from coughs, colds, ear infections and scraped knees? Are mitochondrial disorders something that most children need to be routinely tested for? Why are some children being investigated when others are not?
This article aims to explain what Mitochondrial Disorders are, from the cellular level, to the population level and particularly how they may present at the individual level. Treatments and support from both a Medical and Naturopathic approach will be highlighted, with advice on accessing professional assistance to care for, manage and support any individual living with a Mitochondrial Disorder. Research into mitochondrial disorders grows every year. Consequently, this means more knowledge and support than ever before, translating into an improved quality of life for children diagnosed with these conditions.
Cells need a Battery
An understanding of the role of mitochondria is the first step in knowing how dysfunctional mitochondria affect us. The human body thrives on the chemical and electrical energy produced within our cells. To produce this energy, our cells contain tiny sub-cellular organelles ("little organs"), which extract significant amounts of energy from ingested nutrients, in order to power each individual cell and the human body as a whole. These organelles are our Mitochondria. Without them, energy production would cease and all cellular functions would be compromised.
All cells in the human body contain mitochondria, with the exception of red blood cells. It's a huge reflection of their importance for correct cellular function. The total number of mitochondria within cells varies from fewer than one hundred towards the thousands, depending on the type of cell and its energy requirements. Mitochondria are an elongated bean shape, with two bi-layered membranes constructed of lipid (fat) and protein. One of these membranes is highly folded and is nestled inside the mitochondria forming neat shelves. Sitting on these shelves are the enzymes responsible for two major biochemical pathways for extracting energy from food. These pathways are known as the Citric Acid Cycle and Oxidative Phosphorylation. Energy produced in these two mitochondrial pathways will then be used to synthesize the extremely high-energy molecule, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP then spreads within the cell, releasing energy where required to support cellular functions.
Signs and Symptoms of Mitochondrial Disorders
As mitochondria are located in nearly all cells (hence, almost all organs) of the body, the signs and symptoms of their diseases can mean two things. Firstly, mitochondrial dysfunction can affect multiple organ systems. Secondly, diagnosis may be a lengthy process. The more dependent an organ is on energy, the more profound the symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction will be.
The signs and symptoms of dysfunctional mitochondria are described in medical terms are protean, meaning they are very variable, easily and continually changing. Again, because the signs and symptoms involve multiple organs, the clinical presentation of these children can be very non-specific, affecting the diagnostic process for the medical profession. A mitochondrial disorder may not be suspected until significant progression has occurred.
Additionally, the variable and changing nature of such disorders is a source of great frustration for parents and carers, who want some control over, or insight into what ameliorates or deteriorates their child's health. Supporting the health of these children involves a whole body approach, as many organs may be compromised
Organs that are incredibly dependent on energy for optimal function include skeletal muscles, the brain, the eyes, cardiac muscle (the heart), the liver and the kidneys. The following table presents some of the signs, symptoms and known conditions associated with mitochondrial disorders.
Signs and Symptoms
Some Known Conditions
Pain, fatigue, weakness, myopathy, delayed or poor developmental milestones. In infants: poor feeding, poor head control, poor physical coo-ordination
MELAS (mitochondrial encephalomyopathy with lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes)
Neural Tissue (Brain)
Seizures, headache, loss of intellectual function, similarities to stroke, movement disorders
Leigh's Disease, MELAS, dyspraxia, autism
Compromised vision and eye muscle movement, ptosis
Seen as symptoms within many other mitochondrial disorders
Dehydration, lethargy, poor urine output
The Genetic Impact
The term Mitochondrial Disease is just that, a term. It is actually a name applied to greater than one hundred different genetic disorders that all harm mitochondrial function. As these conditions are genetic disorders, they are subject to all the complexities of inheritance patterns, tracing faulty genes and the emerging science of epigenetics in order to try and understand them.
As described earlier, mitochondria are subcellular organelles, but what makes them so unique is they are the only known organelles containing their own DNA. DNA is normally only found in the cells nucleus. It's the molecule we all know as the bearer of our genetic code, passed from one generation to the next.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) consists of 37 known genes. Genes are a code or a "recipe" instructing our cells to manufacture various chemical substances. Some mtDNA contains genes coding for enzymes involved in energy production reactions. Other mtDNA genes are not so "local". They govern the formation of RNA (DNA's cousin), which is responsible for translating the information in ALL our genes into fully functional, healthy cellular processes.
mtDNA is subject to the same damage as DNA in all our cells. Mutations can occur. Mutations in the mtDNA will produce a faulty gene and compromise the eventual healthy role of that gene in the body. With mtDNA being genetic material, it can be passed on, from one generation to the next. There are over 1500 hundred known mutations that contribute to mitochondrial disease, some within mtDNA itself and some within nuclear DNA.
From an inheritance standpoint, mitochondria in our body is inherited from our mother, that is, mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child, regardless of the child's gender. The mother's mtDNA may carry mutations. Not all of the mother's mtDNA is mutated, so as her egg combines with the sperm and the cells divide, significant amounts of mixing, dilution and mosaic spreading of genetic material occurs.
The level of damaged mtDNA versus unaffected DNA varies. As cells differentiate and develop, the types of cells affected (cardiac, brain, digestive, muscular etc.) will govern the severity and type mitochondrial disease symptoms an individual will inherit. The presentation is also generational, meaning that individuals in each generation in the same family can have a different mitochondrial disease. Due to the mosaic pattern of spread and the way that different systems are affected, each individual may have very different symptoms, with variable severity. This is another reason why the mitochondrial disorders can be so hard to identify; they are so different from one generation to the next that they don't appear inherited. For instance mitochondrial dysfunction might be the driving force behind a grandmother's heart issues, her daughter's Irritable Bowel Syndrome and her grandson's Autism.
It must also be mentioned that some mitochondrial mutations are spontaneous and not inherited. Other mutations linked to mitochondrial disease are from nuclear DNA, which can be inherited from either the mother or the father.
The presentation of these illnesses in the population is very deceptive, with the precise incidence of mitochondrial disease unknown. Worldwide statistics have changed noticeably over time, but conservative estimates from recent Australian research states approximately 1 in 250 people will carry a mitochondrial genetic defect – that equates to approximately 90,000 Australians. Not all of these individuals will develop disease or display symptoms.
Without question, there are vast amounts of scientific evidence linking environmental factors with damaged DNA. The following list provides a brief summary of these factors:
Heavy Metals. The following heavy metals have been implicated in genetic damage. Avoiding them during the pre-conception and pregnancy phase is so important, along with your family as they grow. Men need to minimize exposure in the pre-conception phase just as much as women.
Naturally occurring, but human exposure is associated with ingestion of contaminated fish and dental amalgam.
Naturally occurring, may be found in food, water and treated wood
Mining, cigarettes, soil, use of phosphate fertilisers.
Possibly drinking water, soil, dust and treated wood. Lead (Pb): paint (old houses, old toys), house dust, car exhaust, art/craft materials, plumbing and construction materials.
Other chemicals. Pesticides: mainly found in food and water. Pesticides are known to cause DNA damage, including DNA within ova and sperm. Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB's) are one well known chemical culprit. They are found in old electrical equipment and insulation. Occupational exposure can be a major source of contact with these chemicals.
Clostridium infection. There is some evidence that this genus of bacteria may be linked to mitochondrial disease. Tetanus, Botulism, Colitis and antibiotic associated diarrhea may all be linked to various species of Clostridium.
Inadequate nutrition. Lack of good quality proteins, specific fatty acids, choline, inositol, antioxidant vitamins/minerals/phytochemicals, folate, CoQ10, vitamin B12, other B vitamins can all contribute to mutations in DNA and dysfunctional mitochondria. While it may seem hopeless, disheartening and a lost battle, there is so much we can do with nutritional medicine to preserve our genetic resilience and reclaim the health of ourselves our children and their families. The most powerful and effective way to achieve this is through proper nutrition. Getting back to correct nutritional principles and avoiding hype and spin is not only simple, but enjoyable. The use of nutrition for mitochondrial disease is not utilized enough and it could be much more an established part of the future approach for preventing and managing these illnesses.
The pathology testing available for mitochondrial disease diagnosis ranges incredibly from routinely requested blood and urine tests performed every day, to highly specialized blood and urine tests and muscle biopsies. Routine pathology tests include liver function tests, blood glucose levels, full blood counts, kidney function tests and antibody levels. More specialized pathology tests include screening blood, urine or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for red cell minerals, specific enzymes, amino acids, fatty acids, metabolic wastes and substances indicative of altered cellular metabolism and poor mitochondrial function. Muscle biopsies may also be performed.
The more specialised pathology tests are requested by Paediatricians with expertise in mitochondrial disorders. Children under investigation for mitochondrial disorders are referred to these Paediatricians via their GP. Both orthodox and integrative medical Paediatricians use these tests when they suspect that a mitochondrial disorder may be the underlying reason for the child's health problems.
From a Complementary Medicine perspective, other testing may be useful. This may include IgG food sensitivity testing, complete digestive stool analysis, hair tissue mineral analysis and IgE allergy testing.
There are no long-term studies that dictate an exact or all-encompassing treatment for mitochondrial dysfunction. Every child's presentation is so highly variable and each child will have different needs in order to prevent relapses and manage their symptoms.
The main focus of medical treatment is to repair the profound deficiency in energy. This means attempting to deliver medications and nutrients to the right location within the mitochondria, which is difficult. Despite the difficulties, there are many strategies used to assist with the alleviating symptoms that are known to improve treatments and significantly help these children:
Targeted physical therapy and exercise
Astute use of nutritional medicine at the dietary level
Administration of nutrient co-factors for the deficient biochemical pathway
From a Naturopathic perspective, the use of nutritional medicine, nutrient co-factors as supplementation and phytomedicine are the modalities used to greatest effect. Wise referrals and a mutually respected integration with medical staff, the family, carers and most importantly, the child themselves become our priorities moving into the future with these very special children.
Top 10 Tips for Protecting Mitochondria and DNA
Remove processed foods from the diet. Eat wholefoods. A good tip is not to eat food your great grandmother would not recognise.
Filter your water.
Eat organic where possible, particularly animal products.
Minimise exposure to chemicals in your hobbies or occupation. Protect your body.
Remove processed, low-fat foods from the diet.
Eat good quality, organic, full fat products in their natural form, avoiding those with added sugars.
Focus on: nutritious fats, nutritious proteins, clean fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Consult a professional for supplementation: don't self prescribe
Address addictions: caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, sugar, prescription drugs (if safe to do so) and recreational drugs.
Minimise exposure to electromagnetic radiation and chemicals as much as possible.
Specific nutrients are associated with a powerfully protective effect on DNA, hence supplementation may be required. Anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals, specific B complex vitamins, co-enzymes and certain amino acids are essential for protection of genetic material, healthy cell division and replication.
Managing the symptoms of mitochondrial disease can also be achieved through judicious use of nutrition. Self-prescribing is not recommended and does not achieve adequate clinical results. Professionals such as Naturopaths, Nutritionists and Doctors trained in Nutrition have expertise in effective and safe supplementation. They can help you with finding solutions to transitioning to healthy eating, for you, your partner and your children.
Where to seek Nutritional Help
Practitioners who are listed with the MINDD Foundation as recommended practitioners are all health professionals with additional training in genetic, immune and metabolic disorders. Ask a Naturopath, Nutritionist or Integrative GP if they have expertise in this area. If it's not their area of expertise, they should be able to refer you. Also look on these professional sites:
Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc November, 2011
What everyday food is causing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and digestive disorders?
Sugar is an ongoing source of confusion for many parents. Every cell in our body needs glucose as it is the energy of life, but too much of any type of sugar is not a good thing. It can wreak havoc throughout the body and initiate a cascade of dis-ease. Too much of any sugar can contribute to weight gain, dental decay, eczema, acne, hypertension, poor gut health, damage your pancreas, trigger free radicals and oxidative stress, hormonal imbalances, reduce learning capacity and the list goes on.
Not all sugars are the same To make it even more confusing, it appears that not all sugars are equal when it comes to our health. Dextrose, fructose, and glucose are all monosaccharides, known as simple sugars, but the body doesnt recognize them as being the same or metabolise them in the same way. Glucose is made when the body breaks down starches such as carbohydrates found in fruits, cereal grains, pastas and vegetables. Dextrose is simply a form of glucose. Fructose is a type of sugar found naturally in fruits and some vegetables including beetroot, potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower, asparagus, peppers, spinach and celery.
These sugars can co-exist in foods to form more complex sugars, including the disaccharide known as sucrose, or table sugar. Sucrose comes from two sources, sugar cane and sugar beets.
The sugar doctors call “poison”
For a long while, fructose was touted as a healthy sugar alternative; with a low glycemic index and naturally derived from fruits and vegetables. But research is showing that this couldnt be further from the truth, linking this potentially dangerous sugar with a range of health issues including obesity, digestive disorder, insulin sensitivity, type 1 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, memory loss and metabolic syndrome.
Professor of Medicine, Dr Richard Johnson, at the University of Colorado says glucose is the form of energy you were designed to run on. He says every cell in the body and every living thing on the earth uses glucose for energy. But fructose is metabolized completely differently, which is why it is particularly dangerous when consumed in large amounts.
Studies conducted by Dr Johnson revealed fructose as the number one risk factor for obesity. But its adverse effects, he say extend far beyond those of the waistline. “ Most of our research at the university has focused on how it may cause hypertension, kidney disease, obesity, fatty liver, vascular disease and other problems”. Fructose, he says increases levels of uric acid, responsible for gout and hypertension and it increases abdominal fat and circulating triglycerides. These characteristics, he says, are known high risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome".
Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, has been researching the negative effects of fructose and likes to call it poison. His eye-opening video called, Sugar: The Bitter Truth reveals the relationship between fructose and the exponential increase in obesity and health problems in American children and adults.
But isnt fruit good for you? Dr Lustig points out that its important to remember that fructose alone isn't evil as fruits are certainly beneficial. Fruit in moderation, he says is good. But stay away from fruit juice as the fiber has been removed. “Fiber reduces rates of intestinal carbohydrate absorption, reducing insulin response and it also induces satiety. He adds, “Fiber helps inhibit the absorption of some free fatty acids and suppresses insulin. But when you consume high levels of fructose it will absolutely devastate your biochemistry and physiology”.
According to Dr Johnson, eating 25gms of fructose a day in fruit is the right amount, which equals between two to four pieces of fruit. "But most people consume around 70gms and in the US 25% consume more than 130gms of fructose a day, of which a lot is added to packaged foods including soft drinks, fruit juices, sauces, chips and breads”.
He adds, “Without the fiber or nutrients found in fruit that minimize the negative effects of the sugar, it goes straight to the liver, bypassing the pancreas, which normally processes sugar. Fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as carbohydrate”.
Most people, he says, rely on the low fat diet foods to lose weight but these are often the ones highest in fructose. “It isn't that fructose itself is badit is the massive doses you're exposed to that make it dangerous”, he says.
Beware of High Fructose Corn Syrup in packaged foods According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as an effective sweetener (it is way sweeter than glucose making it a preferred sweetener by food companies) in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed. In 1970, around 15 percent of the U.S. population met the definition for obesity; today, roughly one-third of the American adults are considered obese, the CDC reported. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year.
High Fructose Corn Syrup derived from corn, is particularly unhealthful; According to Dr Johnson fructose contains the same two sugars as sucrose but is more metabolically risky, due to its chemical form. The fructose and the glucose are not bound together in HFCS, as they are in table sugar, so your body doesn't have to break it down. Therefore, the fructose is absorbed immediately, going straight to the liver.
Fructose doesnt regulate appetite
According to Professor Lustig, another problem is that fructose doesnt suppress ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
Dana Flavin, PhD, a former assistant to the associate bureau director for toxicology at the FDA says that fructose may have less impact on appetite than glucose, so processed foods rich in fructose can contribute to weight gain, obesity, and its related consequences by failing to manage appetite. “Because high fructose corn syrup is not treated as regular sugar in the body, it has the potential to cause a lot of damage. The body never gets the signal that it has enough food, so there is no feeling of "fullness" that would normally accompany a meal. The sweetener also impacts on the sugar levels in blood, causing a sugar rush. After the rush has passed, blood sugar levels drop, and the body begins to crave more sugar. This cycle can repeat indefinitely if the person does not significantly cut back on his high fructose corn syrup consumption, leading to diabetes, hypertension or obesity”.
Some sugars including fructose contribute to digestive disorder
“Gut health is very dependent on our diets, and while there are many factors such as nutritional balance, toxins, food allergies and intolerances it is becoming more evident that fermentable sugars may also play an important role. Any form of gut dysfunction has the potential to affect both the body and mind” says Dr Braham Rabinov.
Certain sugars including fructose, lactose, sorbitol, mannitol, fructans (wheat, rye, onions) can undergo fermentation. It is these fermentable sugars that through osmosis (drawing fluid into the gut) and the action of the bacteria that normally reside in the gut to take up the sugars and produce chemical substances that may then act on the gut wall to produce the symptoms of the condition know as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Fructose harms memory in animal studies If the adverse physiological effects arent enough, researchers at Georgia State University have found that diets high in fructose impaired the spatial memory of adult rats. They found that unlike glucose, it is processed almost solely by the liver, and produces an excessive amount of triglycerides fat which gets into the bloodstream. Triglycerides can interfere with insulin signaling in the brain, which plays a major role in brain cell survival and plasticity, or the ability for the brain to change based on new experiences. The fructose catastrophe
Fructose does not regulate appetite
Fructose contributes to digestive disorders
A high fructose diet is a high fat diet.
Fructose causes insulin resistance in normal adults.
Fructose can cause hypertension, obesity, diabetes type 2, liver problems, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.
Replace packaged snacks with fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese and nuts
Drink water or herbal teas instead of fruit juice.
Make your own fresh fruit juice with the fibre of the fruit in it (See Vitamix)
Eat high protein snacks to help balance blood sugar levels and stop sugar cravings.
Try stevia as a healthful sugar substitute.
Sweeten recipes with real fruit such as berries and bananas.
Use raw honey in moderation-it does have beneficial antioxidant
Replace white sugar with rapadura sugar, a dehydrated cane juice and unrefined sugar which retains its molasses content as well as other important nutrients.
Avoid Agave syrup. It is highly processed and super rich in fructose (around 80%).
Avoid sugar alcohols like xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, malitol, mannitol, and erythritol as they cause problems with bloating, diarrhea and flatulence.
Gastrointestinal or "gut" problems are a dominant feature in many chronic states of ill health including cancer, dementia, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Over the past 2 decades, gut issues have become epidemic in our children and co-exist or drive a range of childhood conditions including Autism, Allergies, ADHD, food sensitivities and other learning and behavioural disorders. Although gut problems do not stand alone as the only issues that need to be addressed, treating the gut is imperative as part of any treatment program. Gastrointestinal symptoms are diverse and include: bloating, flatulence, constipation, diarrhoea, poor appetite, cravings, stomach pain, smelly stools, faecal impaction, heartburn and reflux; as well as nutrient deficiencies and yeast, bacterial and parasitic gut infections.
When treating the gut, it is best to take a holistic approach. It is a very common trap to focus solely on the different pathogenic organisms, to chase symptoms, without addressing some of the fundamental issues that have led to the development of problems. It is important to take into consideration that infections are usually the result of lowered immune resistance and nutritional deficiencies.Only in a body that is depleted or weakened can a germ, virus, parasite or yeast gain a foothold. The aim of treatment therefore should be to strengthen the child and restore vitality to assist the body's natural healing processes. Alongside vitamin and mineral supplementation, you should work to improve digestion, absorption and the assimilation of nutrients. Alongside antimicrobial and probiotic treatment, you need to change the environment in the gut and boost the immune system.
HEALING THE GUT
When healing the gut, we need to incorporate the following principles:
Nutritionally restore vitality – remove problem foods, processed foods, foods with preservatives, colours & flavours and foods high in sugar. More importantly, add in healing foods and nutrient dense foods. The diet should consist of organic whole food with a major emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruits - rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, whole grains (gluten free), nuts and seeds and quality proteins. - A ‘Primitive' or ‘Traditional' diet that alkalises the body is recommended; lots of dark leafy greens, a range of meat, seeds and nuts and low fructose fruits. It is not good enough to leave in high sugar & highly processed foods (pastas, breads, cereals and sauces) even if they are gluten & casein free. The immune system, the brain, all the cells in the body must be nourished to restore the child's vital force. In addition research has shown that various bacteria produce toxic metabolites with high sugar diets.
Enhance the immune system - stimulate the body's own innate ability to fight off infections. There are many very effective herbal remedies that assist immune function such as Echinacea, Cat's Claw, Wild Indigo, Picrorrhiza, Andrographis, Astragalus, American Ginseng, Pau D'Arco, Olive Leaf and Siberian Ginseng. In addition, Transfer Factor & Probiotics benefit the immune system, stimulating antibody production andinterferon synthesis. Vitamin C and Zinc are also important for the immune system.
Specifics – Antimicrobials, antifungals, antiparasitics, nutritional supplements, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants should all be supplemented according to the individual's needs. Synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements are often necessary but aim to incorporate organic whole food-based supplements which have a high inherent antioxidant capacity, provide immune support and are rich in phytonutrients.
Change the environment - make it difficult for the Unfriendly Faecal Organisms (UFO's) to gain dominance or remain dominant. Some important principles involved in this step are outlined below.
CHANGING THE ENVIRONMENT
Clear out the garbage
First and foremost we need to CLEAR OUT THE GARBAGE in a clogged up colon. If you try to kill UFO's when there are impacted faeces, you will have limited success. Certain parasites, bacteria and yeasts will be protected somewhat from both the immune system and any antimicrobials you use if they are able to ‘hide' under a layer of faecal matter. For successful treatment of gut infections, faecal matter must not accumulate in the bowel. The use of enemas, high dose vitamin C, magnesium oxide powders like Oxycolonic or Colon Cleanse, or herbal laxatives should be used to clear out accumulated garbage & then be repeated as necessary.
Regular bowel movements are important for the body to get rid of its garbage. The bowel should move AT LEAST ONCE per day - in the MORNING. The stool should be formed but not hard, lumpy or pebbly. It should be passed with no pain, strain, blood or mucus. It should not be sticky and should be a medium brown colour. There should be complete emptying. If faeces remain in the colon for too long (slow transit time), then the body reabsorbs much of the toxic matter that should have been eliminated contributing to autointoxication. Organisms thrive in this type of environment. Dietary changes, probiotics as well as various herbal and homeopathic formulas can be used to assist in helping to restore regular bowel movements.
By alkalizing, we are aiming to ensure that the average pH of the body is alkaline not acid.
Excessive acidity is a widespread problem in the Western world. Both modern lifestyle and diet promote acidification. In general, the current standard diet is primarily composed of acidic or acidifying elements (proteins, cereals, sugars). Alkaline foods such as vegetables are eaten in too smaller quantities; their alkaline content is insufficient to neutralise surplus acids. Furthermore, stress, nervous tension, noise and other pressures contribute to acidification through the physiological disturbances they create. In addition, heavy metal toxicity, certain infections and inflammation all contribute to acidity.
The acidification of the internal terrain is the source of many health problems. There are a number of effects that lead to illness. Firstly, the activity of enzymes is disrupted. Enzymes are the "worker drones" behind all the biochemical transformations that take place in the body and on which the proper functioning of the organs depend. Enzymes can perform their task correctly only in an environment with a clearly defined pH. Otherwise their activity can be disrupted or even cease completely.
Secondly, the body can become ill due to the harsh corrosive nature of acids present in excessive amounts within the tissues. Before they are neutralised by alkaline substances, acids irritate the organ with which they come in contact. Inflammation as well as lesions or hardening of the tissues can result. The fragile state of the tissues resulting from the invasive presence of acid makes them vulnerable to microbial or viral infection. This is aggravated by the fact that the immune system's effectiveness can also be lessened by acidity. Additionally, various infections themselves such as Streptococcus-overgrowth, can produce acidic by-products that can overwhelm the body's ability to maintain balance and a vicious cycle is set up. This is a major factor in gut dysbiosis.
Many compromised children are acidic. When a child is acidic you need to place a greater emphasis on alkaline foods (vegetables and fruits) and use specific bicarbonate based supplements to help alkalise the body.
Improve the Digestive Process
To improve digestion and absorption of nutrients, there must be adequate stomach acid. Many of these children have hypochlorhydria or low stomach acid. One study of autistic children found 62% had low stomach acid and clinically I find that the majority of the children I see fail the acid test.
Adequate stomach acid is essential for protein digestion. Poor protein digestion leads to low levels of the raw materials our bodies need to make neurotransmitters, immune cells and so much more. Poor protein digestion is also associated with an increased susceptibility to food allergies and sensitivities.
Adequate stomach acid is essential for absorption of Folic Acid, B12 and minerals. When acid is inadequate, there are typically deficiencies in Zinc, Iron, Calcium & Magnesium.
Stomach acid is essential for proper functioning of the pancreas and liver/gallbladder. The acidity of the stomach contents triggers a signal for these two organs to do their work.
Stomach acid also provides the first line of defense against pathogenic organisms that may enter the body with our food. Most organisms cannot survive in the acid environment of the stomach.
Strategies to improve stomach acid:
Reduce Stress – especially at mealtimes
Provide essential nutrients: Zinc,Niacin,Magnesium,B6 Celtic Sea Salt & Potassium
Bitter foods before meals e.g. olives, bitter lettuce & rocket
Apple cider vinegar in water before meals
Supplemental Betaine Hydrochloride before meals
Herbal Bitters before meals:
Enhance upper digestive function / improve assimilation of nutrients
Increase flow of digestive juices
Increase flow of bile
Regulate secretion of insulin & glucagon by the pancreas & liver
Stimulate repair of gut lining
Improve the micro-environment of the gut
Digestive enzymes are also important for improving the digestive process. They chemically breakdown food so that nutrients can be absorbed. These enzymes are produced in large amounts at different stages along the digestive tract, for example the digestion of carbohydrates requires enzymes from the mouth, the pancreas and the small intestine. Fat needs lipase from the pancreas and bile from the liver. Protein needs enzymes from the stomach, the pancreas and the small intestine.
Many of these children have insufficient enzymes. Signs of this are bloating, flatulence and pain particularly near the belly button. There may also be undigested food in the stool. Light tan or yellow 'floaty' stools indicate that fat digestion is poor. Supplemental digestive enzymes relieve symptoms and improve absorption of nutrients.
Balancing Gut Flora - Probiotics
Probiotics are essential both in supplemental form and in the form of fermented foods. The number of functions the gut flora fulfils is so vital for us that if the digestive tract got sterilised we probably would not survive.
One of the most important functions of the gut flora is appropriate digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. If a child does not acquire normal balanced gut flora, then they will not digest and absorb nutrients from foods well, leading to the development of multiple nutritional deficiencies. Certain species of gut flora actively synthesise various nutrients: vitamin K, folic acid, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, CoQ10, various amino-acids and proteins, all of which can become deficient in an unbalanced gut. Restoring the beneficial bacteria in the gut helps to treat these deficiencies.
Apart from taking a vital part in nourishing the body, beneficial bacteria keep the gut healthy. Certain species coat the entire surface of the gut protecting it from invaders and toxins by providing a natural barrier and producing a lot of anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal substances. At the same time they provide the gut lining with nourishment. It is estimated that 60 –70% of energy the gut lining derives, is from the activity of bacteria, which live on it. An unhealthy gut lining will substantially reduce the body's ability to absorb nutrients from food.
Additionally, gut flora are intricately involved in the functioning of the immune system. The beneficial bacteria in the gut ensure appropriate production of different immune cells. They also help balance the immune system. With dysbiosis the Th1 and Th2 arms of the immune system can get out of balance, contributing to Th2 overactivity. This causes the immune system to over-react to various foods and environmental stimuli leading to allergies.
The absence or greatly reduced numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut flora leads to overgrowths of certain species of bacteria that produce toxins in these circumstances. These toxins can overwhelm the body's natural ability to detoxify, which can contribute to the accumulation of heavy metals, pesticides & other environmental toxins as well as mimic certain food intolerances such as salicylate sensitivity. In effect the digestive system instead of being a source of nourishment becomes a major source of toxicity in the body.
In practice, I use a handful of probiotics from different companies, depending on the current state of health of the gut. Stool testing can be invaluable here to determine the most appropriate strain or strains. In general probiotic strains can be classed as transient or residential, both are beneficial & different strains or classes may be needed at different times. However alkalising & appropriate nutrition as discussed above are absolutely essential when working to restore a healthy balanced gut flora.
Another important issue to deal with when healing the gut is detoxification. This involves supporting the body's natural detoxification systems. A discussion of this issue is too complex to address here. Treating bacterial & fungal overgrowths to reduce gut toxicity is an important part of this. In general more will need to be done… " It is a mistake, it's half a therapy if you only treat the gut. The other half of the therapy is to detoxify.…..We have to get the toxins out to even allow the nutrients to get into the tissues. You can't get the nutrients in there if they are full of poisons, you can't get two things into one space." Charlotte Gerson
Healing the gut is a complex process and there are many other important factors to consider. These are just a few of the fundamental issues that should be considered in any treatment program. Below is a table with some foods & wholefood supplements that can assist in gut healing. In summary you need to consider. The order of treatment will vary by individual and should be determined by an experienced practitioner.
Nutritive, Alkalising, Support Detoxification, Promote healthy flora
Nutritive, Enzyme rich, antioxidant
Antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, Nutritive
Chia Seeds (soaked)
Flax seeds (soaked)
Nutrient Dense, Anti-inflammatory
Nutrient Dense, Alkalising
Have you tried a Green Smoothie?
Research proves it
More than 9,000 scientific studies have now proven that food is your best medicine and the single greatest protector of your health – even more important than vitamin supplements.
What you eat determines how healthy you are!
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The Vitamix 5200 releases more nutrients in minutes
The powerful Vitamix motor, laser crafted blades and precision designed container break whole food fibre into microscopic particles that release even more nutrients.
The extreme blade speed of a Vitamix has been scientifically proven to rupture the cell walls of fruit and vegetables – releasing more of the disease fighting antioxidants in whole foods than any other blender or juicer on the market today.
The Vitamix 5200 is easy
It only takes minutes in your Vitamix 5200 to make whole food juice and green super food smoothies, cook healthy soup from scratch, make delicious low-fat ice cream and even knead dough. Your Vitamix 5200 even cleans itself in seconds. Whole foods packed with superior nutrients in just minutes.
Vitamix Australia History
Vitamix Corporation USA has been selling blenders for over 90 years and is a 4th generation family owned business. "To be the best Blending Equipment in the World" is a mission statement that Vitamix surely lives up to. Vitamix is now used in over 200,000 commercial outlets and have sold over 10 million blenders worldwide.
In 1995 health visionary Tom Nicholas of 'Raw Blend' Australia (formerly Total Nutrition Center), saw the amazing Vitamix at a trade show in Houston, Texas. Tom quickly raced a Vitamix back to his wife Leah and son Tommy in Australia where they began selling Vitamix products soon after. Raw Blend has been selling Vitamix and improving the vitality of people’s for over 17 years. Raw Blend now located in Brisbane, is still a family owned and operated business.
Vitamix is built to last a lifetime
The unsurpassed quality, performance and functionality of Vitamix Blenders are designed to be used in your home 3 times a day, 365 days a year, for over 25 years. Power... Speed… Quality is what sets Vitamix apart from the competition and the amazing Vitamix 5200 now comes with a huge 7 year warranty.
Healthy eating really can be effortless with Vitamix. Incorporate more dark leafy greens into your diet and try this tasty green smoothie recipe:
It's Easy Being Green Smoothie Makes: 1.5 - 2 Litres
Ingredients 2 handfuls kale 2 handfuls parsley 2 handfuls baby spinach 1/2 cucumber 1-2 slices pineapple (with core) 2 slices honeydew melon (with seeds) 1 whole apple (quartered) 1 whole pear (halved)1-2 cups ice cubes 1/2 cup water
Sports drinks with their high sugar content and dubious artificial colours and flavours should not be your first choice to replace electrolytes lost after heavy physical exercise or sweating (e.g. after a sauna). Far better to reach for nature's sports drink – young fresh green coconut water. The coconut is a natural water filter that takes almost nine months to filter each litre of water in the shell. To get there the water rises upward through innumerable fibres, which purify the water before it ends up in the sterile nut. This clear coconut water is one of the highest sources of electrolytes found in nature.
Many people are wary of consuming coconut water because of its sugar content. The solution here is to ferment the coconut water to create coconut kefir. However it is also useful to put this in perspective. Compare the sugar content of other commonly consumed juices: 1 cup of coconut water contains 6.26g sugar. In comparison 1 cup orange juice has 20.83g, 1 cup apple juice contains 27.0g g sugar and 1 cup of carrot juice has 9.23g. Sports drinks contain nearly double the sugar content of a young coconut.
Coconut water can be obtained from fresh wild young coconuts or bought in their shaved down form from a health food store or supermarket. They are usually flat on one side, cylindrical around the edges and conical on top.
Coconut water can be used as a base for smoothies or to make cultured beverages like coconut kefir. (See The Body Ecology Diet for information on the terrific benefits of coconut Kefir).
Coconut water contains 18 amino acids. Sports drinks contain none.
Is an excellent nutrition source for infants
Great for rehydration
Contains organic compounds possessing growth promoting properties – great for improving muscle size and general physical growth in children
Cooling effects on the body (reverses pitta aggravation in the Ayurevedic system of medicine)
Topical application on the body helps soothe and even prevent skin eruptions and rashes.
Helps fight nanobacteria and the production of bad calcium in the kidneys
Has been used as a blood plasma substitute because it is sterile, does not produce heat, does not destroy red blood cells and is readily accepted by the body.
NUTRIENT CONTENT COMPARISON IN GATORADE, POWERADE and COCONUT WATER (PER 100G)
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard.
*Unlike commercially produced beverages natural products like coconut water do not have a precise chemical profile. All values listed here are averages of samples tested. These values will vary somewhat due to age, variety and growing conditions.
A note of caution: Fresh coconut water is not a replacement for drinking water. Regular drinking water should still be consumed. Coconut water is best avoided by individuals with hyperkalaemia (excessive potassium) and other conditions related to high potassium.
Interview with Supercharged Foods author, Lee Holmes
What is the principal behind Supercharged Foods?
The principal behind Supercharged Food is to use food as medicine to heal the body at a cellular level. This is done by finding the foods that work for you. Everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you. From my personal experience I omitted gluten, wheat, dairy, yeast and sugar from my diet and found that my health improved dramatically. If you have food intolerances or allergies have tests or do a food elimination diet to find out what those foods are and avoid them as they cause inflammation and an immune response in the body. Supercharged Food is about eating as naturally as possible. Keeping processed foods to a minimum and eating as fresh and organically as possible as well as combining nutrient rich super-foods into your diet when your gut is healed. Learning how to read food labels is important, many gluten free products are loaded with artificial ingredients and sugar to compensate for the lack of gluten and end up putting a strain on the body because they are hard to process. Supercharged Food is about eating as healthily as possible, banishing fatigue, providing more energy and bringing out the best in you. Keeping hydrated is really important as well as regularly detoxifying your body. In the book there is a section about all the ways that you can detoxify your body from drinking hot water and lemon in the mornings to body brushing and taking Epsom salts baths.
Who does this help?
The book Supercharged Food is written for anyone wanting to stay well or improve their health along with the increasing number of people suffering from autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's, coeliac disease, IBS, ulcerative colitis, Candida and other food allergies and intolerances. I wrote the book as many people were asking me to share my story and wanted to know how I improved my health through diet. They were looking for a kitchen companion and an easy way to eat their way to good health and Supercharged Food the book was the perfect way to encompass all of these things. Supercharged Food features a weekly diet plan; a shopping list as well as providing tips on how to plan ahead, shop, create, stockpile and maintain a satisfying, wholesome and nourishing diet. There's information about detoxing, super-foods and which foods should be avoided from your diet too.
What inspired you to create your book? Your story? What lead to your illness?
About four years ago I was forced to make a complete career change after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I gave up my job in the music industry and decided to pursue my dream of becoming an advocate for a natural health and a whole foods lifestyle. I started sharing recipes with friends and family and the easiest way to do this was through the internet so I created a website called www.superchargedfood.com to enable my friends to find the recipes whenever they needed them. The website became more and more popular and then friends of friends were sharing the recipes and it just grew from there. I wrote the book as many people were asking me to share my story and wanted to know how I improved my health through diet. When I was first diagnosed I was on a very restricted diet, everything I seemed to eat would make me come out in hives or I couldn't digest it properly. My body was reacting to everything. I began with a simple diet and consumed soups and liquids to help repair my gut which is where many auto immune diseases begin. I started to omit gluten, wheat, dairy, yeast and sugar from my diet and my health dramatically improved. As my gut and health improved I introduced nutrient rich super foods into my diet and they helped to boost my immune system and give me the energy and vitality I needed to heal my body at a cellular level.
What was your experience with health professionals? Doctors? Alternative healers? Symptoms? Treatments? Outcomes?
My experience with doctors was very interesting because they seemed to want to test different drugs on me to see which ones would work. More interestingly, I found the complex medical system that I had to navigate through a mind bender especially when you are suffering from brain fog. I spent six months in a blur, shuffling from one test to another with no answer on the horizon. It wasn't until some months later a diagnosis was reached, I was suffering from a non-specific autoimmune disease and fibro-myalgia. My fate had been decided, a life of immuno-suppressants, steroids and anti-inflammatories which subsequently made me feel worse. I didn't want to take the decision lying down and wondered whether I could alter my diet, find foods which would not irritate my condition, in the process build up my immune system and consequently be able to live my old carefree life again, no longer having to rely on drugs. I researched, consumed, read and soaked up as much information about diet and nutrition as I could, travelling the world to discover which nutrient-rich foods would benefit me. I discovered foods which could be used as medicine to heal my body at a cellular level and restore my health. Through my research I devised an eating plan that would not only heal my body and provide me with all the nutrients I needed to get well but offer hundreds of options for delicious fresh, full-flavoured, easy to cook, beautiful foods. I stopped focusing on what I couldn't have and started thinking about all the delicious health promoting foods I could and ones that could change the quality of my life forever. At that point Supercharged Food was born.
Do you complement your diet with other health practices? Energy medicine? Supplements?
I use green juices daily with spirulina to detox and alkalise my body along with taking non synthetic vitamin supplements such as Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium, Calcium, Cod Liver Oil, Vitamin D and E. I only take them during the week and on the weekends I take a break. I am not taking them as often now that my body is healed. I do like to take probiotics on a daily basis. I find acupuncture for fibro-myalgia useful also.
How is your book being received in mainstream circles? Are your beliefs/research accepted by the wider medical community? Why not? Why do they find it hard to accept that food can create autoimmune disease?
The book is being received well in mainstream circles as it is not an extremist diet but more of a long term eating and lifestyle plan to rid the body of toxins, build up the cells to a healthy level and provide energy and vitality. In regards to the wider medical community I have noticed an increasing number of medical practitioners integrating diet and lifestyle into their patient plans and recommendations. The good news is that I have had enquiries from not only integrative medical practitioners but also mainstream doctors who agree that diet is an important part of maintaining long term health and wellness, their attitude is that omitting certain foods helps lessen the symptoms associated with certain diseases. Although many do not believe that food has the power to transform and heal I do think that encouraging people to eat well and maintain a healthy diet is a step in the right direction. I believe auto-immune diseases can be genetic as well as brought on by external factors.
What illnesses does your dietary approach help?
My book is helpful for people suffering with a range of what you all Mindd disorders; from mitochondrial dysfunction to autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's, Coeliac disease, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, Diabetes, allergies and food intolerances to infections like Candida and strep to more brain disorders stemming from biochemical dysfunction such as Autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, Learning Delay and much more.
Whats your advice for those struggling w autoimmune disease?
To look at your diet and start in the gut. Healing the gut is a big part of being able to ingest nutrients from the foods that you are eating. You could have the healthiest foods in the world but unless you are absorbing them they are just going to waste and you are not receiving all of the benefits. Through my journey and as my gut and health improved I introduced nutrient rich super foods into my diet and they helped to boost my immune system and give me the energy and vitality I needed to heal my body at cellular level. Using natural antibiotics and anti-fungals such as garlic and onion and then using probiotics to add beneficial bacteria aided my recovery. Once I started to feel better, I added nutrient-rich and super foods to my diet which are foods which have a high nutrient value and are dense in particular vitamins and minerals and deliver a significant amount of these nutrients to your body. When you look at nutrient-dense foods they are the opposite of many processed foods and low-calorie foods which are low in nutrition in comparison. Nutrient rich foods and super foods deliver multiple vitamins and minerals to your body and offer amazing health benefits. They work wonders in keeping your mind and body healthy. In the book there is a section which covers my top ten superstar super foods and there you will find foods such as quinoa, spinach, kale and sardines. There are super food ingredients you can cook with too as I mentioned before such as onions, garlic and I like to use ginger as well for added flavour and zing.
Is there any bonafide research being done around this?
I don't know if there is bonafide research being done around the subject of using food as medicine. But from a personal point of view and after lying in a hospital bed for three months the thought of having to go back into hospital inspired me to take matters into my own hands and become an avid researcher of nutrition and ingredients. I spent four years, reading and learning all I could so that I could make more informed decisions about what I thought would be right for me in a dietary sense. I studied food and nutrition as well as food and beverage services, commercial cookery and hospitality and tourism in Perth when I was 18 that was almost 27 years ago, I am turning 45 this year. It was really different back then, I learnt about the science of food and nutrition, but we were taught that all fats were to be eaten sparsely and to fill up on carbohydrate filled foods to provide energy. In my new learnings I understand the importance that good quality animal and saturated fats such as coconut play in supporting a healthy immune and nervous system. In my travels overseas I have learned to love herbs, spices, flavours, all with medicinal qualities and have developed the recipes full of taste yet free of preservatives, gluten, wheat, yeast, dairy and sugar.
Why do you single out certain foods to avoid ? Is this for everyone? Wheat, dairy, soy, sugar.
Choosing which foods to avoid is a personal choice depending upon what works for you and causes a reaction in the body. However there are certain foods which cause immune responses in many people such as dairy, soy, gluten, yeast, sugar etc. Once you have determined the foods which don't work for you, it's best to avoid them completely until you are healed, some people prefer not to eat them again.
Why are some people more sensitive to triggers such as gluten and dairy, than others?
Some people are more sensitive to gluten and dairy because of their gut composition. People may have a damaged gut lining due to a number of factors it may be due to the overuse of antibiotics or diet or external factors. This can result in food particles leaking into the body and causing an immune response. Once the gut is healed and normal gut flora is established you can start focusing on ingesting nutrient rich foods which provide the cells with oxygen and provide the body with more energy.
Why do different autoimmune diseases stem from the same poor food choices; Lupus versus MS versus Crohns versus ASD 12. What changes do you think need to occur in our society to help prevent the continued increase autoimmune disease?
Poor food choices affect the health of the gut where many auto-immune diseases no matter what their symptoms are, begin. In my opinion auto-immune disease symptoms for each disease are not set in stone, you may have some symptoms from lupus, some from Crohns, MS and visa versa, symptoms are interchangable. The changes in society that need to be made are for people and communities to look at their diets and learn that processed and chemically laden foods and the foods that many of us eat are contributing to disease, along with environmental toxins and lifestyle factors. As a community we need to band together to create a worldwide movement to move away from buying and using processed foods and encourage each other and companies to get back to the basics with food production, for people to buy locally and organically as possible so that prices of organic food can go down. At the moment it can be expensive for the average person to buy organic food. In the book I cover inexpensive ways to eat well and change your diet and cook healthy foods that do not cost the earth.
What have you learnt in your research/experience that amazes you about human health?
That the body can heal itself. With the proper intake of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, changes in lifestyle, detoxification and stress management.
What is the best and simplest way to explain Supercharged Food to the average person? Do you have a good analogy?
For me food now has a purpose. I think Supercharged Food is about the individual listening to their own inner wisdom. Everything is so fast and furious these days and we tend to eat more on the run, at our desks or between emails grabbing quick packaged snacks which provide instant energy. People get into a routine of having to have an afternoon gnarly sugar-laden snack to get them through the afternoon slump. For many people food is an afterthought and because of our busy lives we don't always have the time to sit down and enjoy our food and think about where it came from and how it will affect their bodies and long term health. Let's face it if you are putting artificial, chemically laden processed foods into your body for a long period of time, your body is not going to be able to process them and toxins will build up and start to create niggly little ailments and health conditions. It makes sense if you continually feed your body the wrong things; it is going to eventually send in the unions and refuse to work. Lee Holmes is a regular columnist for WellBeing Magazine as well as author of her own blog SuperchargedFood
SUPERFOODS – BERRIES & OTHER SUPER FRUITS By Frances Dalton Naturopath, Herbalist, Nutritionist
Adding more salads and vegetables to your child's diet is important for restoring or maintaining health, however there is mounting concern about the quality of our food. Soils are becoming depleted of essential minerals, the use of farming practices like factory farming, the emergence of genetic modification & the heavy use of pesticides, herbicides & antibiotics mean that good food may not be enough. (I highly recommend "The Great Food Gamble" by John Humphrys if you would like to read more on this topic) With this in mind, the inclusion of Superfoods in the diet is a wise choice. Superfoods are nutritionally more potent than regular foods. Superfoods are the most powerful nutrient-dense foods on the planet thus they are powerhouses in any healing program. Superfoods provide nutrients in the form of phytonutrients that cannot be provided with synthetic supplements alone. These phytonutrients serve to activate phase II liver detoxification, reduce lactic acid & support mitochondrial (cellular energy) function & immune function
This article gives a brief overview of another terrific group of Superfoods – Berries & Superfruits known for their antioxidant potential, followed by a few recipes to give you some ideas on ways to incorporate them into your child's diet.
OXIDATIVE STRESS & THE IMPORTANCE OF ANTIOXIDANTS Free radicals may sound a little like an extremist terrorist group evading capture and wreaking havoc across the globe & in fact within the context of your body you would be right. They occur naturally through normal metabolism however an extra and unnecessary free radical load can be put on our bodies by external factors including pollution, cigarette smoke, radiation, heavy metals, burnt & deep fried foods & by internal factors like inflammation. The body works to combat this oxidative stress with antioxidants like the enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), Glutathione (GSH) & catalase to name a few as well as other antioxidant molecules like Vitamins A, C & E, transferrin, ceruloplasmin & carotenoids. There is mounting evidence that children with Autism & allergies have high levels of oxidative stress – lots of free radicals with inadequate antioxidant capacity. Additionally, antioxidant support is imperative during any detoxification program which is part of the treatment program for most of these children. Detoxification requires liver & antioxidant support. Interestingly "Many of the enzymes in the methylation cycle are down-regulated in response to oxidative stress, so if it's high it could be one cause of methylation issues in autistic children" (Jepson). The best way to improve your child's antioxidant capacity & combat the free radicals in the system is to increase intake of foods with high antioxidant properties. When antioxidants react with free radicals their destructive properties are eliminated. Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals in foods. They include vitamins A, C and E, carotenoids such as beta-carotene, some minerals, phenolic compounds and other naturally occurring chemicals found in fruit, vegetable & nuts. Superfoods are not only nutrient dense but have very high antioxidant properties with Berries being star performers in this category.
BERRIES & OTHER SUPERFRUITS
All Berries including strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, cloudberry, blackberry & blackcurrant are very high in antioxidants. For example, one strawberry is higher in Vitamin C than one orange. Berries contain many phytonutrients that boost the immune system. Best of all, berries have a low glycaemic index (GI) which means they create sustained slow releasing energy as opposed to creating a spike in your blood sugar levels. Being low in sugars means they are less likely than some fruits to cause issues in those dealing with yeast and bacterial overgrowth.
Goji Berries - Goji berries also known as wolfberries, are grown on vines in the protected valleys of Inner Mongolia and Tibet. The distinctively flavoured red berries are a very rich source of Vitamin C, having 500 times more Vitamin C per ounce than oranges. They are a superb source of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and E and contain a full complement of protein with 18 amino acids including the 8 essential amino acids and 21 trace minerals including zinc, calcium, iron, selenium, phosphorus & germanium. Most of all they are an excellent antioxidant, containing more beta-carotene than carrots, making them an ideal natural whole food for reversing aging and protecting against disease.
Acai Berries Açai (pronounced "ah-sigh-ee") is a natural & powerful antioxidant. Acai berries come from a type of palm tree that grows in tropical & central South America & have long been a main staple in the diet of tribes within the Amazon. The Acai berry boasts a complete complement of nutrients. For centuries the people of the Amazon have revered the Acai berry for its unique nutritional properties. Their tribal healers used Acai to promote health & longevity & their warriors consumed it as a source of strength, energy & vitality. Recently the remarkable health benefits of Acai have been validated by modern science. The high content of anthocyanin's in Acai gives the berry it's dark & vibrant colour & is the main reason for its antioxidant activity. Based on USDA data, freeze dried acai has a higher antioxidant activity on a gram for gram basis than any other known fruit or vegetable with six times the antioxidant capacity as blueberries & approximately 30 times the anthocyanins in red wine. Acai berries are also full of amino acids & essential fatty acids. Acai also contains phytosterols which reduce blood plasma cholesterol. Acai has high levels of calcium, vitamin E, phosphorus, iron & fibre. Acai contains:
Essential Fatty Acids (Omegas 6 & 9)
Vitamins A, B1, B2, C, E & flavonoids
Minerals (Potassium, Iron, Phosphorus, Calcium)
Phytosterols (cholesterol busting)
19 Amino Acids (proteins)
Trace elements (chromium, cobalt, molybdenum) Polyphenols (free radical scavenging)
In addition to its nutritional properties, Acai has antibacterial & anti-inflammatory properties. In scientific tests Acai has been shown to stimulate the activity of macrophages. Macrophages are white blood cells that are an important part of the body’s immune system – they actually swallow & destroy foreign objects & pathogens. Acai extract was found to inhibit the inflammatory action of certain types of bacteria in the body & the more Acai that was used the greater the effect.
Freeze dried Acai berry powder can be added to smoothies & deserts. Be sure to buy from a reputable supplier.
MANGOSTEEN Mangosteen is a tropical evergreen tree with deep reddish purple fruit which is sweet with a hint of citrus & peach flavours & a creamy texture. A number of laboratory & animal studies show that mangosteen has significant anti-inflammatory effects & is high in Vitamin C & beta-carotene. Mangosteen also contains xanthione extracts (garcinol & mangostin) which are anti-inflammatory agents with preliminary evidence for inhibiting carcinogens. Mangosteen also has antioxidant, antibacterial & antifungal properties.
POMEGRANATE Pomegranate is classed as a berry & has been used as a food for many thousands of years & is popular is the Middle East & Turkey. It is a red fruit which is full of seeds covered in the flesh of the fruit. There are approximately 600 seeds in each pomegranate. Pomegranate is rich in Vitamin C, B5, potassium & antioxidant polyphenols.
AUSTRALIAN NATIVE ANTIOXIDANTS Australian Indigenous fruits are currently causing a lot of interest worldwide due to their dense antioxidant capacity & potentially bioactive phytochemicals. Below is a brief summary of three of these Australian Native Superfoods.
KAKADU PLUM Kakadu plum is a native Australian superfruit that is not actually a plum but more closely related to almonds. Kakadu plum is the world’s highest fruit source of Vitamin C. Additionally, research by the CSIRO shows it has other nutritionally important polyphenolic antioxidant compounds. Two of the phytochemicals in Kakadu plums are gallic & ellagic acids, both have excellent antioxidant properties. Gallic acid has antibacterial, anti-viral activity & also shows anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-mutagenic & anti-bronchodilatory activities. Ellagic acid also has anti-cancer effects against a wide range of damaging compounds. Kakadu plum is available as a freeze dried powder that can be added to smoothies etc.
WILD ROSELLA Wild Rosella is the modified leaf or calyce of the native hibiscus plant. These fruits are a deep rich red with a slightly tart citrus like taste. Wild Rosella contain appreciable levels of anthocyanins & antioxidant activity.
ILLAWARRA PLUM Another Australian native superfood. Illawarra Plums contain high levels of mucopolysaccharides which are hugely beneficial for the gastrointestinal tract health. Deep crimson colour indicates high anthocyanins & Illawarra plums have an antioxidant activity up to 7 times that of blueberries.
RECIPES Berries & fruits are easy to add to smoothies, deserts or sauces but here are a few simple delicious recipes to get you started.
GFCF Berry Ice Cream with Raw Chocolate Sauce Serves 4 3 frozen bananas 1 1/2 cups of frozen mixed berries 1 vanilla pod or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 tablespoons raw honey Sauce 1 cup hazelnuts 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder 1 tsp Acai powder 1 tablespoon agave or 1/4 teaspoon stevia to sweeten 2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed paste) Pinch sea salt 2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil 1/2 cup of warm water 1/2 cup ice Method: 1. Blend the bananas, mixed berries, honey and vanilla in a high speed blender. 2. For the sauce, mix all ingredients except for the ice in a high speed blender. Add the ice only when a creamy consistency is formed. 3. Serve the ice cream in bowls and pour sauce over the top.
Chia Power Porridge 1/2 cup Chia seeds 2 cups Nut milk or water 1 tbsp Goji berries 1 tbsp Sultanas 1 tbsp Pumpkin seeds (soaked 4 hours) 1/4 cup Water 1 tbsp Cinnamon powder Pinch Himalayan salt Place all ingredients into a saucepan & stir over low heat for 10 mins. Place in serving bowl & Top with fresh grated apple or pear.
Goji Chocolate fudge 1/2 cup cacao cocoa butter 1/2 cup raw cashew butter or ground up cashews 1/2 cup goji berries ground up 1/2 cup agave nectar or sweetener of choice 1/2 cup goji berries soaked overnight Zest from 1 orange. Place all ingredients into a food processor except zest & soaked goji berries. Place mixture into a pretty bowl & mix in the soaked goji berries & orange zest. Chill in the fridge to set. Garnish with orange zest, cacao nibs or nuts. Cut in small squares as this fudge is very rich.
Blueberry Smoothie 2 cups wild blueberries (these are smaller & tarter than standard blueberries & have a red centre) 2 bananas
2 tbsp coconut oil 1/4 cup shredded coconut. Blend & serve.
Blueberry bliss 2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach 1 banana 1 or 2 cups of fresh blueberries. Blend & serve (add water if too thick)
Raspberry bliss 1 cup raspberries 1 banana 1 tbsp raw cacao powder 1 tsp Acai powder 2 cups almond milk Ice agave syrup or sweetener of choice to taste. Blend & Serve.
MANGOSTEEN PASSION 2 cups almond milk 1 tsp Raw mangosteen powder 1 tsp acai powder 2 tbsp raw cacao powder Cacao nibs Pinch of Himalayan pink salt. Blend & serve.
BLACKCURRANT & STRAWBERRY ICE BLOCKS (FOR SORE THROATS) These delicious iceblocks are rich in vitamin C to boost the immune function & help soothe a the mucus membranes in the throat. 1 cup blackcurrants 1 cup strawberries 1 cup apple juice (freshly juiced is best – store bought juices are pasteurised which means many enzymes & heat sensitive vitamins are lost) Blend until smooth & pour into iceblock moulds. Freeze.
In Ayurvedic medicine it is believed that numerous health issues in the body can be traced back to the digestive system and many of today's natural health practitioners often agree with this. Sensitivities we have to certain foods - such as gluten, dairy and sugar - can cause an inflammatory response in the gut and over time this can increase gut permeability. The build-up of intestinal parasites produces toxins which, together with proteins from these inflammatory causing foods, can then enter the nervous system through the gut giving rise to the connection between our diets and many of the health issues we may experience. Added to this the high level of chemicals found in today's factory produced foods, and chemically sprayed fruit and vegetables, it is easy to understand the clinical research linking food choices to auto-immune conditions and neurological disorders.
At aboutlife there are many natural alternatives to these inflammatory causing foods making it easier to maintain a balanced diet while keeping your body, and mind, healthy and vital. In addition their stores are stocked with the widest range of organic and chemical free produce in Sydney, all of which is locally sourced, and a full grocery range of organic foods that are beneficial for your health. Their Organic Good Stuff For Less Range includes 150 items which are price checked regularly and guaranteed to be the best prices on organic pantry staples in Sydney so you can be sure you are caring for your health, the environment plus your budget too.
Their wholefood cafes offer a range of nutrient dense meals with plenty of options for any food sensitivities or dietary requirements. All these items are made exclusively in their Rozelle kitchen from local and chemical free produce, plus you'll find a range of super food sweet treats, many of which are raw, and all have zero or low sugar. Added to this their coffee is a 100% organic, with only organic and fair-trade premium coffee grounds used, and a range of organic milks to choose from including almond, rice, oat and soy.
What we put onto our bodies is just as important as what we put inside them too and aboutlife stocks a full pharmacy of natural and plant based skincare, hair care, body and beauty products. Recent clinical studies of hair mineral analysis have found extremely high levels of heavy metals and chemicals which are highly detrimental to health and so keeping chemical load down, particularly in children, wherever possible is vitally important. Aboutlife also offers every household product you could need, all of which are manufactured in a safe and natural way, so you can be sure your home is a low toxin environment also.
In our modern day lives we are continually exposed to a variety of chemicals and toxins, plus foods which are detrimental to our health, and by limiting exposure to these in our food and lifestyle choices is one of the best preventative measures we can take to maintain our health for life.
DEPRESSION IS NOT JUST A STATE OF MIND – THE GUT CONNECTION Frances Dalton (Naturopath, Herbalist, Nutritionist) for the MINDD Foundation.
How you think and feel is directly affected by what you eat and how well you absorb it. This idea may seem strange, yet the fact is that eating the right food has been proven to improve your mood and emotional stability, sharpen your memory and keep your mind young.
The Gut-Brain Connection… It used to be thought that all our thinking was done by the brain. We now know that the digestive system contains a vast number of nerves, and produces as many brain signaling chemicals (neurotransmitters) as the brain. The gut for example, produces 80-90% of the body's serotonin, the 'anti-depressant' brain chemical. So in essence, you’re feeding two brains. Every time you eat something it sends signals to the brain because the gut and the brain are in permanent communication. This is why the right foods can make you happy and the wrong foods can make you feel anxious or depressed.
Depression is primarily a nutrient deficiency. In severe cases it can be a nutrient dependency. Here are 6 Simple steps to help overcome depression:
Go and eat good food. It is OK to be depressed if you are malnourished. If you eat badly you should be depressed. So don't do that anymore. Eat nice big fresh vegetable salads, lots and lots of fresh fruit and nuts and seeds and quality protein. Good food chewed well. Eat fresh organic and wholesome food.
Minimise the Six Brain Drainers - sugar, stimulants like caffeine, stress, alcohol, toxic chemicals and allergy provoking foods.
Take Niacin (Vitamin B3). If your depressed and you want to feel better take a good quality Multivitamin containing adequate amounts of B group vitamins plus extra Niacin at a separate time of day. Pure Niacin will cause a hot flush. The flush is necessary therapeutically. Vitamin B6 is also very important in overcoming depression
Take High dose Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body make certain chemicals that help improve your mood. Physicians giving large doses of Vitamin C have had striking success in reversing depression. It is a remarkably safe and inexpensive therapy to try.
Eat lots of foods that contain tryptophan like Cashews and the dark meat in chicken and turkey. Tryptophan is converted in the body to Niacin & also to Serotonin both of which improve mood. Two handfuls of cashews give you the therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of Prozac
Add in Lecithin. Lecithin aids in the production of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine among other things helps digestion, deeper breathing & slower heart rate - things you feel as relaxation.
Please be aware that if you are taking anti-depressant medication you cannot simply stop it. If you wish to discontinue its use you will need to do this under the supervision of a health care professional. You can start all of the steps above whilst still taking most anti-depressant medication. Please ask an in store naturopath for more advice on specific products and dosage guidelines.
REFERENCES "Optimal Nutrition For The Brain" by Patrick Holford "Orthomolecular Nutrition for Everyone" by Dr Abram Hoffer & Dr Andrew Saul "Clean" by Dr Alejandro Junger
HEALTHY HOME, HEALTHY YOU Written by Nicole Bijlsma ND, BHScAc(HONS), Grad Dip OHS, Dip Building Biology Building Biologist and Author of Healthy Home Healthy Family
Our home is our castle and, for most of us, it is the largest financial investment we will ever make. Despite the fact that we spend over 90% of our time in buildings, few health practitioners have a good understanding of the hazards that lurk inside a home.
What if your home was preventing your kids from reaching their full potential?
What if you were inadvertently causing them harm?
Okay, so you are aware of the problems with PVC in teething rings and lead paint in toys. What more can there be? There are so many concerns that may arise from within our homes that I have observed over the past 20 years practising as a natural therapist and building biologist that parents cannot afford to be ignorant or complacent anymore. For a start, there is a misguided perception that we need to 'sterilise' our home in order to create a healthier environment for our children. Ironically this obsession with germs is not only exposing our children to toxic chemicals but potentially creating a generation of children with allergies in epidemic proportions. Furthermore, our desire to give our kids the latest in technological gadgets is increasing their exposure to potentially harmful forms of electromagnetic energy that were not around when their grandparents were growing up. Even toxins that have been banned such as leaded paint and asbestos continue to be a threat to many children and yet few families take this into consideration when renovating their home or nursery.
3 HAZARDS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
Hormone disrupting chemicals
Did You Know? A recent study tested 500 plastic products marketed as BPA-free and found 90% of them released chemicals that in some cases, had greater oestrogenic activity than the BPA containing plasticsi
A 2012 United Nations report on hormone disrupting chemicals has uncovered the extent to which 800+ chemicals have infiltrated our homes and raises concerns about their link to breast, prostate, testicular and thyroid cancers, in addition to behavioural disorders in childrenii. Endocrine disrupters mimic, block or alter the way in which a hormone in the body is expressed. Unlike other toxins, endocrine disrupters exert their effect at levels far below what is considered to be harmful. It is the timing and duration of exposure and not just the dose that determines what impact these chemicals have on the body. Consequently the authorities' way of regulating these chemicals by providing acceptable limits in our food and household products is not adequate.
Avoid air fresheners, perfume, aftershave and any household product that contains a fragrance as many of these are likely to contain hormone disrupting chemicals
Choose fragrance free products
Perfluorinated chemicals used in non-stick cookware and food packaging have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorders in childreniii
Cook and store your food in stainless steel, ceramic, corning ware and glass
Food tins may contain a BPA epoxy resin lining.
Avoid tin food. Buy fresh fruit and vegies. Packaged foods should be bought in glass bottles or paper bags.
Water proof applications
Waterproof clothing, and waterproof chemicals applied to carpets, mattresses and furnishings
Don't use water proof applications on carpets and furnishings
Organochlorines, some organophosphates and atrazine
Use non-chemical forms of pest management
Hormone disrupting chemicals
Did You Know? There are no 'low allergy breeds' of dogs or cats as it is the skin or saliva not the fur to which allergy sufferers are likely to react to.
In the past 25 years, the incidence of allergies has more than doubled in western countries and scientists are at a loss to explain this phenomenon. Health statistics reveal a disturbing story: peanut allergies have more than doubled in the past five years, one in four children have asthma, and hospital admissions for anaphylaxis – a potentially life threatening allergic reaction – have increased by 700%. Most authorities agree that environmental factors play a major role. Here is how your house may contribute to allergies.
Don't wear your shoes inside the home
Avoid smoking inside the home
Avoid fabric drapes and window dressings
Avoid sheep skin products
Get rid of the clutter as it harbours dust
Wood combustion stoves, open fireplaces and unflued gas heaters should be avoided
Use a slightly damp microfibre cloth to dust the home
Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter and motorised head
Seal floor heating ducts in bedrooms and use radiant forms of heating instead
Lead paint and asbestos should be removed by a licensed professional
House dust mite
Wash clothes and bedding in hot water (60 °C) on a weekly basis
Air pyjamas, bedding, mattresses and soft furnishings in full sun on a regular basis
Use dust mite resistant covers made from natural fibres such as cotton, hemp, eucalyptus fibre or bamboo
Vacuum the mattress on a weekly basis as soon as you get out of bed
Use space bags to store linen, cushions, blankets and clothes that will not be used for a season or more
Ideal relative humidity levels are between 45 and 55%. Use a dehumidifier if the levels exceed 70%.
Locate and eliminate the source of moisture - dry out water spills within 24 hours, address roofing and plumbing leaks and regularly clean glutters
Good ventilation is the key to preventing condensation issues. Ensure the exhaust fan above the stove and in the wet areas of the house are vented to the exterior, are in good working order and are regularly cleaned.
Good drainage is vital to prevent water pooling around the home
If you live in a temperate climate, air your home on a daily basis
Ensure that the humidity created from a clothes dryer is vented to the outside
Adequate water proofing is required in the wet areas of the home
The damp proof course should not be damaged
Remove mould with an 80% white vinegar to 20% water solution. DONOT use bleach as it will provide a food source for some types of fungi!
Mould that covers an entire wall will need to be investigated by a mould remediator or building biologist
Plants that may trigger asthma and hay fever and therefore should be avoided in and around the home are:
Grasses: Rye grass, couch grass (also referred to as Bermuda grass), ragweed, plantain and paspalum
Flowers: The Asteraceae family which includes daisies, chrysanthemum, calendulas, chamomile and marigolds.
Herbs: Chamomile and wormwood.
Trees: Acacia, alder, ash, aspen, birch, cypress, elm, hazel, liquidambar, maple, mesquite, mulberry, oak, olive, pine, poplar, privet, she-oaks (male only), silver birch, sycamore, walnut, white cedar and willow. The wattle tree (Acacia) and Ti-tree (Melaleuca) are generally only a problem if they are growing near or on your property.
Choose a low allergy pet: turtle, hermit crab, fish or reptile
Pets should not be allowed inside. If they are an indoor pet, they should not be allowed in carpeted areas or on beds!
Brush and wash the pet weekly (do this outdoors of course!)
Hormone disrupting chemicals
Did You Know? The risk of brain tumours from cordless phone use is 470% higher when used on one side of the headiv
From mobile and cordless phones to overhead power lines, baby monitors, iPads and electrical appliances, our homes are bathed in multiple sources of radiation on a continual basis. Whilst transient exposure to high electromagnetic fields is unlikely to create a health concern in most individuals, exposure to low levels over a long period of time such as during sleep is when problems are likely to arise. In addition, the World Health Organisation classified extra low frequency magnetic fieldsv and radiofrequency electromagnetic fieldsvi used in Wi-Fi and telecommunications as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Consequently there are a growing number of schools across Europe removing Wi-Fivii, EMF free zones being created in France and Italyviii, a growing number of countries recognising Electrical Hypersensitivity as a functional disabilityix and countries like Germany actively encouraging its citizens to avoid Wi-Fi and use hard wired connections insteadx. Subsequently, it is important to ensure that you are not exposed to sources of electromagnetic fields in areas of the house where you spend time such as the bedroom and living areas
Fridge, Meter box/Smart meter and Inverter
Appliances that draw a lot of current may emit a high level magnetic field. As such keep the bed, favourite couch, desk… at a distance away from these sources
Mobile and cordless phones
Use a hard wired landline phone to make calls wherever possible
Keep your calls short
Use the speaker mode or a hands free air tube earpiece
Text instead of calling wherever possible
Use the phone in a good signal strength area (the maximum number of bars will be displayed on the screen) as it will transmit at much lower levels than in an area with poor reception such as a moving vehicle or liftxi.
Do not use the mobile phone as an alarm clock. Even in airplane mode, it will create high levels of magnetic fields when the alarm turns on
Do not carry the phone around your waist or on your chest. Where possible, keep it at a distance away from your body
Do not use the phone in the car, bus, tram or any other metal carriage as the radiofrequency electromagnetic energy may reflect off surfaces creating 'hot spots' in the vehicle
Charge the phone away from areas where you spend time such as next to the bed
Shielded phone cases should be avoided as many force the phone to increase power and inadvertently increase radiofrequency absorption in the headxii
DECT cordless phones should be avoided and substituted for a wired landline phone.
Avoid placing the cordless phone base unit in an area where you spend time such as the bedroom.
Use ADSL or cabled broadband instead of wireless technology
If you use a wireless router, change the power setting to the lowest level (refer to the manufacturer's instructions)
Keep the router away from where you spend time ie bedroom, study, living spaces…
Turn the router off when it is not in use as it will continue to emit pulsed microwaves 24 hours per day
Laptop computers and iPads
Once you have downloaded an App, video, game or document from the internet, switch them to airplane mode. This will avoid exposure to the radiofrequency electromagnetic energy however you will not be able to access the internet in this setting.
Keep the devices at a distance to your body (such as on a desk) whilst in use. Laptop computers may emit high electric and magnetic fields. An earthing mat will reduce the electric field, whilst placing the laptop on a desk will reduce exposure to the magnetic field.
Baby monitors (cordless)
Avoid them. Digital (DECT) baby monitors are of particular concern because of their close proximity to the baby and the fact that they emit pulsing bursts of microwave radiation 100 times every second all the time they are turned onxiii. If you insist on using a baby monitor, have a proper wired closed-circuit TV (CCTV) system installed.xiv
Creating a healthy home is easy once you know what hazards you are dealing with!
About the author: Nicole Bijlsma is an accomplished naturopath, acupuncturist and building biologist who has been in practice since 1989. Nicole is a woman of passion, and her passion lies in environmental medicine. She first became involved in environmental health when she began to notice the extent to which the home was causing illness in many of her patients and in addition, as a result of experiencing ten miscarriages from exposure to a high electromagnetic field. She is author of the best seller Healthy Home Healthy Family.