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Olwen Anderson's Blog

Nine clues your intestines have a functional problem

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
When your digestion isn't functioning as well as it could, it will let you know through symptoms like these. Take a look at the list and decide whether to take the next step - asking for help.

1. Your bowel movements change in form from one day to the next Sometimes all the way from watery diarrhoea to hard pellets within 24 hours.

2. Your bowel movements can sometimes be 'pasty' or difficult to pass
3. You see large food particles in your bowel motions that should have been digested
4. After a bowel movement, you feel like you haven't evacuated completely.
5. You experience pain across your abdominal region
6. You have urgency with your bowel movements, sometimes to the point where you don't want to leave home 'just in case'.
7. Your tummy gets increasingly bloated as the day progresses 
8. You have embarrassing levels of flatulence
9. You have an itchy anus

It’s important to see your doctor first if you have had these symptoms for more than three months: a professional diagnosis that there is nothing sinister happening is very reassuring. Then you can address what's causing the symptoms (from a functional perspective) with your naturopath and utilise natural treatments.


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Is it PCOS or is it Hypothyroid?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Missing periods? Putting on weight that just won’t budge? You might think it’s PCOS but why does your practitioner wants to investigate hypothyroidism as well? That’s because many of the symptoms of PCOS and symptoms of hypothyroid match.  Here’s some of the confounding symptoms:

- Weight gain can come from deranged adipokines (messengers from your fat cells) or insulin resistance, or both, but weight gain can also happen because your thyroid isn’t passing on the right messages to your cells, to get active. How your energy goes during the day can be the clue; hypothyroid fatigue can be relentless from sun up to sun-down. Insulin resistance of PCOS can produce energy ‘slumps’ during the day, rather like an energy rollercoaster.

- Chronic low level inflammation is increasingly regarded as a fundamental cause of PCOS; however inflammation will interfere with thyroid production too.

- Your entire endocrine (hormone) system works together, like a symphony orchestra. The instruments aren’t just your ovaries but your adrenal glands, thyroid, pituitary, hypothalamus too. When one part of your endocrine system is affected, other glands are affected too. The key is to find out which one (or more) has the primary problem.

Your practitioner may order blood spot, urine or saliva tests – or all three – to establish how your endocrine system is communicating. You’ll probably get tests for anaemia, inflammation and cortisol (stress) too. If you have a practitioner who is exploring the possibility of hypothyroidism as well as PCOS then congratulations, you have found a thorough practitioner. 

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy reading my free e-book 'The Empowered Hypothyroid'.

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Nine clues you have found the right practitioner

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Do you know it’s estimated that most of the benefit of a consultation (counselling particularly) is due to the relationship between the practitioner and their client?  Here are some clues you’ve found the right practitioner/therapist for you:

1. You feel heard; like the practitioner really worked hard to understand your perspective, and goals for treatment. What’s important to you.

2. You felt you could speak openly and honestly without fear of judgement or ridicule.

3. The practitioner was happy that you brought along a support person. (If you did).

4. Your practitioner was able to communicate the plan for your treatment (even though it usually changes as you progress anyway)

5. You didn’t feel pressured to accept their treatment plan or undergo expensive tests beyond your budget.

6. The practitioner was able to explain how the supplements they prescribed fit into your treatment, and it made sense.

7. The practitioner was happy that you asked questions.

8. You feel like the practitioner ‘gets’ you.

9. You could easily ascertain that the practitioner is appropriately qualified, and accredited with a professional association.

That’s nine I could think of….what makes you choose a particular practitioner?

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy downloading your free copy of 'what does a naturopath do'

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The connection between PCOS and inflammation and what you can do

Sunday, April 17, 2016
Source click via MorgueFile

Knowledge about the underlying cause/s of PCOS is growing. Here’s what I’ve found from reviewing a few recent papers (listed at the end of this post)

- Inflammation is becoming recognised now as the dysfunction underlying insulin resistance. This may explain why PCOS happens in slim as well as overweight women.

- Although insulin resistance and obesity promote PCOS, it is proposed that perhaps the true underlying cause is inflammation.

- There’s a strong intertwining of cause and effect; fat cells stimulated by excess androgen promote inflammation, and inflammation promotes excess androgen production. They affect each other.

- The inflammation changes the function of the ovaries, disrupting the ovulation process (which utilises a controlled amount of inflammation to ovulate).

- C-reactive protein, a biochemical marker of inflammation, is greatly increased in women with PCOS regardless of BMI.

And now on to some practical steps: Here is what you can do:

Beyond the theory, this is what the scientists established in studying the effects of diet on ovary function in mice: Saturated fats (butter, coconut oil, red meat) and trans-fats (from processed foods), omega-6 oils (from modern foods) and sugary foods are believed to promote inflammation. Eating more omega-3 oils (from seafood for instance) can help restore the balance. 


And exercise, of course. That’s fundamental to overcoming PCOS, and one of its markers, insulin resistance.  But how much do you need to do? The Rich-Edwards et al paper crunched data from the Nurses Health Study (a large epidemiological study) and found that for every one hour of vigorous activity there is a 5% reduction in infertility, regardless of weight and diet. So, imagine what you could achieve with an hour of intense fitness training every day or so!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy 'Quenching The Fires of Inflammation'

Want to delve into the papers? Here they are. (The Boots paper includes a useful model)

Alanbay et al (2012) ‘A macrophage activation market chitotriosidase in women with PCOS: Does low-grade chronic inflammation in PCOS relate to PCOS itself or obesity?’ Arch Gynecol Obstet 286:1065-1071 DOI 10.1007/s00404-012-2425-0

Boots, C & Jungheim, E.S (2015) ‘Inflammation and Human Ovarian Follicular Dynamics’ Semin Reprod Med July 33(4) 270-275 doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1554928

Dhindsa G, Bhatia R, Dhindsa M, Bhatia V (2004) ‘Insulin Resistance Insulin Sensitization and Inflammation in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome’ J Postgrad Med Vol 50 Issue 2

Dumitrescu, R et al ‘The Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: An update on metabolic and hormonal mechanisms’ Journal of Medicine and Life Vol 8 Issue 2 pp. 142-145 

González, F (2015) ‘Nutrient-induced inflammation in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Role in the development of Metabolic Aberration and Ovarian Dysfunction’ Seminars in Reproductive Medicine Vol 33(4) pp. 276-86 DOI 10.1055/2-0035-1554918

Kurt et al (2014) ‘The effect of obesity on inflammatory markers in patients with PCOS: a BMI-matched case-control study’ Arch Gynecol Obstet 290:315-319 DOI 10.1007/s00404-014-3199-3

Rich-Edwards et al (2002) ‘Physical activity, body mass index and ovulatory disorder infertility’ Epidemiology Vol 13 (2) pp. 184-90

Shorakae et al (2015) ‘The emerging role of chronic low-grade inflammation in the pathophysiology of polycystic ovary syndrome’ Seminars in Reproductive Medicine’ Vol 33(4) pp. 257-69 DOI 10.1055/s-0035-1556568

Spritzer et al (2015) ‘Adipose tissue dysfunction, adipokines, and low grade chronic inflammation in polycystic ovary syndrome’ Reproduction 149 R219-R227 DOI: 10.1530/REP-14-0435

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Make almond milk at home with bonus crackers

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Almonds, like most nuts, are powerhouses of nutrition. Versatile too. Even if your teeth aren't so good you can still extract the goodness from them by making almond milk at home. And it's so easy.

Why make your own almond milk? 

- If you're keen to minimise packaging in your life.

- When you want to avoid additives. You can review the additives in almond milks on the supermarket shelf in this article by Choice magazine

There's a heap of almond milk recipes on the internet, so browse around until you find the best one for you. This is what works for me:


One cup of almonds, preferably organic. You want to make just a small batch at a time because there's no preservatives involved; the milk will keep in the fridge for only a few days.

Water is the other ingredient.


Thoroughly rinse the almonds to wash off any dust, then soak for two days (in the fridge) in plenty of water.

Then discard the soaking water and give the almonds another thorough rinse. You'll notice the almonds have softened and enlarged a little with the soaking.

Put the almonds and two cups of water (or less) in a robust blender and blend on the highest speed available for two minutes. Now it's really starting to look like milk. Less water = more creamy milk.

Now to filter the pulp out: You can purchase a dedicated nut milk bag or just reach for a clean tea towel or a calico bag. Filter the milk and pour into a clean bottle. Squeeze the filter cloth to ensure you get all the milk possible out (You do have clean hands, don't you? Good.)

You don't have to filter the almond milk if you don't want to. Here's what happened when I didn't: 

What you have now is half a litre or more of creamy almond milk and a cloth full of almond pulp that you can use for more fun in the kitchen. Here are some ideas for using almond meal:

- make almond pulp crackers

- use the almond meal to help create banana bread or some other grain-free cakes (Take a look at the fabulous recipes at

- as an alternative to dairy milk for topping steel cut oat porridge or muesli 

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Easing The Bloat

Saturday, April 16, 2016
One of the oft-mentioned ailments people bring to the clinic is a bloated tummy full of gas. It expands from breakfast onwards so that by mid-afternoon that waistband is pretty uncomfortable. As we explore what’s in their diet, something else becomes uncomfortably evident: Their diet is full of short chain carbohydrates. Not met these before?

Carbohydrates are a major (and important) part of our nutrition needs, providing an easily accessible source of energy for cells. They’re so important that digestion begins within your mouth, with enzymes like amylase contained in saliva. The complexity of the molecular structure of the carbohydrate you ate helps determine how fast their energy can be released.  Sugar is the ultimate simple carbohydrate. Fibrous dense root vegetables are slow, complex carbohydrates.

A food that ‘melts in your mouth’ is a sign that the carbohydrates are being broken down rapidly, and their energy released quickly. Rice crackers are a good example, as are sweet biscuits. It’s easy to eat lots of this style of food: No need to chew much, they’re not too filling. You can unconsciously eat lots without noticing, as anyone who has sat in front of the TV with a packet of biscuits has found. It’s hard to consume too many vegetables though.

Consuming too much simple carbohydrate alters the environment in your gut, providing an over-abundance of food. As a result the resident bacteria produce gas, and plenty of it. You can see where this could lead if you start your day with a breakfast cereal, top up with biscuits for morning tea and white bread with your lunch: A bloated tummy. This is one of the reasons some people feel an immense sense of relief when they trial a low grain or paleo style diet – the food source for gassy bacteria just isn’t there.

If you want to ease the afternoon pressure on your waistband you may need to reconsider the carbohydrates you put in your mouth. But there’s no easy way around the solution: Instead of opening a packet of processed food, like crackers, you’ll have to make time and effort to produce your own seed crackers at home, or prepare vegetables to munch on.  Even fresh fruit is a more complex carbohydrate than what you’ll get out of a packet.

If you enjoyed this article, why not download your free copy of "A Layman's Guide To IBS and Diverticulitis", here

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Supplement shortages ahead?

Sunday, April 10, 2016
There’s a burgeoning problem looming in the nutritional supplements industry. I’ve started to experience it and want to alert you too.

Our checks and controls around supplements and remedies in Australia are quite stringent; good for us, and it also means our raw materials and supplements are in demand in other countries too. Demand seems to be out-stripping supply. There’s already been two instances this year when I haven’t been able to obtain popular supplements I usually keep in stock because the manufacturer can’t obtain the raw materials for the product. The delays meant a gap on the shelves in the dispensary for 6-8 weeks. Distributors are murmuring that this situation is likely to happen more often.

So if you take a supplement that you ‘just can’t live without’ and want to avoid getting caught up in the supply problems, I suggest you keep an extra bottle on hand. Just in case.

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An apology about flaxseed meal

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Whoops. Made a mistake, gotta 'fess up. I hope this didn't put you off cooking with flaxseed meal.

You see, I've always created my own flaxseed meal to create almond meal crackers, using my Vitalmax Oscar cold press juicer. It created a flaxseed meal with texture. Then one day inadvertently picked up a bag of flaxseed meal instead of flaxseeds. Didn't think there would be any difference; but flaxseed meal is actually much finer in texture, and created a 'gummy' texture to my baking recipes. Ew.

So if you've tried (pre-packaged) flaxseed meal and didn't like the texture, this could be the reason why. 

It's worth revisiting - even if you don't have an Oscar on your bench you might have a blender that could create well-textured flaxseed meal. After all, flaxseed/linseed is such a valuable tool in rebalancing your hormones.

If you would like to drop into the clinic with your baking efforts we'd all be happy to give them a try!

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When a low carb diet might not be the best for you

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Some people do well on low carb* diets, others really struggle, particularly women with PCOS. 

(*the term 'low carb' can mean anything from a diet with no grains and no fruit through to a moderate intake of grains, starchy veg and fruit.)

Some people chronically produce too much insulin, creating a condition known as ‘hyperinsulinemia’. Insulin, you’ll remember is the glucose salesman, travelling around your body with a glucose molecule under its arm, ready to ‘sell’ glucose to any cell that indicates it wants to buy. 

In hyperinsulinemia there are just too many glucose salesman on the road, so that when you’re active your blood glucose level can drop too far, too fast. You can almost feel it happening: Your energy drops suddenly, you might get the sweats, the shakes and some brain fog too. 

When you’re active and you have hyperinsulinemia, you’ll probably find you do best with a slow, steady supply of complex carbohydrates. In practical terms that means 

- start your day with a high quality breakfast that includes animal protein (like eggs, meat or fish), high fibre complex carbohydrates (vegetables are ideal sources) and some good fats (like from olive oil, nuts and seeds etc). You can download a free breakfast recipe e-book here. Just to to the home page, scroll down and subscribe.

- Top up with a mid-morning snack of some fresh fruit with raw nuts 

- Have a large salad for lunch with some more protein rich foods (chicken or salmon are popular choices) along with more good fats and yes, some more complex carbohydrates. Some salad ideas on my blog here 

- Your mid-afternoon snack can be similar to mid-morning - or why not try this grain-free banana cake 

- For your evening meal enjoy some more high quality protein with some steamed or roasted vegetables.
When you start following this process you’ll notice your energy slumps will begin to evaporate, your sugar cravings will diminish, and your mood is likely to be more stable too.

Hyperinsulinemia is a reason for finding the right diet for you (and the right level of carbohydrate intake)  as a unique individual. Your GP can arrange the tests to determine how well your body is managing glucose, and your naturopath can help you discern the optimum carbohydrate intake for you.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy 'PCOS depression and insulin resistance - the connection'

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Successful Aging Without Nappies or Diapers

Saturday, April 02, 2016

“Adult diapers, we’re all going that way!” I came across this alarming quote in an article about challenges facing recycling engineers. Did the mental image send a frisson of fear through you too? It certainly did to me. Me in adult nappies? No, I don't think so. I remembered with relief that not everyone does end up wearing adult nappies as they age. Incontinence isn’t inevitable, and nor is immobility, or many of the chronic health problems some are resigned to as an inevitable part of aging. 

Some people actually age very successfully, living independently at home until their last breath. From my observations there are two big issues they maintain control of:

First, they look after their pelvic floor muscles, especially important for women but also an issue for men. The contents of our abdomens are largely prevented from falling out between our legs by a hammock-like arrangement of muscles that need to be kept toned just like other muscles. Otherwise bladders and bowels can become slack too. Continence issues can become evident decades before adult nappies are added to your shopping list, and like many degenerative health problems is best nipped in the bud. Your health practitioner can guide you to the best treatment, perhaps to a specialist pelvic floor physiotherapist. 

People who age successfully also move; they refuse to melt into the couch as the years pass. Whether it’s group or solitary exercise, gardening, stretching or musculoskeletal treatments, these senior folk intuitively understand how important it is to maintain their muscle tone and core strength to prevent the kind of falls signalling the end of independent living. Don’t blame your creaky joints for your immobility; there are a multitude of medical treatment options and complementary remedies easily available and a wide range of musculoskeletal practitioners ready to help: Like massage therapists, physiotherapists and osteopaths.

Strong pelvic floor management and fitness are only two of the ways I notice people aging successfully; there are many more, like connections with loved ones, having a purpose in your community, eating well, challenging your brain. But weakness that leads to falls and to those adult nappies are big factors you can make a difference with right now.

By the way, if you’re wondering how the topic of adult diapers was of interest to an engineer building recycling plants  – it’s because they’re constructed of several different materials and include contents, like baby nappies, that can’t be separated easily by a machine. Enough said. 

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy 'Tips for Better Digestion as you Age', here

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Olwen Anderson @olwenanderson


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