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Olwen Anderson's Blog

How Do You Know That You Need Those Supplements?

Thursday, December 18, 2008
We all want to feel better, to do the 'right thing' for our health. And so many of us use the internet to find out how to be healthier, what supplements to take. As well, our friends and family will often recommend this or that product because it did so much for them. 

Its easy to start taking lots of different supplements, in the hope that you'll feel even better. But you're not sure whether you really need it. And if it doesn't give you the boost you’re looking for, that's your hard-earned dollars down the drain.

I always ask new clients to bring any supplements they're taking to their first consultation, and we talk about their reasons for starting them. Often they purchased them based on a casual conversation, and aren't really sure whether they're helping at all. I can understand why this happens, as so many supplements list benefits that we think will be what we need.

How do you avoid wasting your money on supplements you really don't need, and how do you find out what supplements you actually do need?

You could visit a nutritionist or naturopath who will advise you based on what you tell them and some in-clinic diagnostic tests.

But if you really want to know the nuts and bolts of 'which supplement' and 'how much', you need to arrange some functional pathology testing. This kind of pathology testing reveals what your organs and body systems are actually doing, and what nutrients you need to fix any imbalance. Most use saliva, urine or stool testing, very non-invasive, and you can do them at home. (Yes, they're available in the USA as well as Australia.)

Here are tests that measure what your metabolism needs based on urine samples. All you have to do is visit your naturopath, ask for a 'urinary organic acids test'. If  you want to get the full picture, ask for a test of your amino acid status, your oxidative stress analysis (so you'll know whether you need any anti-oxidants) and your urine elements profile (which will reveal any heavy metals in your system). Based on your symptoms, your naturopath may recommend other tests as well.

When the tests have been completed you can return to your naturopath to discuss the very comprehensive results. They're mostly in colour, and graphical, making it easy to interpret. Now you know exactly what quantity of what supplement you need to feel on top of the world. 

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I'm a woman - so why is my hair falling out?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I'm a girl – my hair's not supposed to fall out!

We all know that some men become bald as they age – its just part of their genetics. But if you're a woman and notice your hair thinning or falling out in clumps its pretty disturbing. Why is this happening? I'd like to offer you some clues.

STRESS can certainly cause hair loss in larger amounts than normal. If you suspect that stress is the cause, look for ways to manage your stress more effectively. Although you can't change the circumstances around you, its possible to alter the way you respond to them, and so modify your body's stress response. Check that you're having a period of unstructured relaxation time every day, as well as exercise in some form. Walking in nature, on the beach or in the forest, can be a great stress reducer.

ANDROGEN HORMONES are produced by both males and females in different amounts. Androgens promote the expression of male characteristics like beards, and baldness. Although women have far smaller amounts of circulating androgens than men, some women have more androgens than normal. Oestrogen hormone production during childbearing years helps keep androgen levels under control; but after menopause oestrogen levels drop, making women more susceptible to the effects of androgen. This can include 'androgenic alopecia', where hair follicles become too sensitive to the circulating androgens and bring on steadily thinning hair. Your doctor or naturopath can arrange hormone testing to find out if androgens are what are causing your hair loss.

CHECK YOUR THYROID gland is functioning properly. Your doctor or naturopath can arrange testing to see if this is causing your hair loss. Women with underactive thyroid glands often notice they have thick, dry skin, and become cold and lethargic.

If your hair is falling out in patches, you should consult your doctor. You may have a fungal infection on your scalp.

Its always good to check in first with your doctor or naturopath. They can then refer you to a specialist trichologist if necessary. There are also many new 'light treatments' such as IPL widely available that can promote new hair growth in all the right places. The process of hair regrowth takes months to years, so don't put off finding out what's causing your hair to fall out.
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Cheese anyone? Here's a compelling reason to have just a little.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008
You're at one of the endless parties on at this time of year. A waiter appears with a tray of some truly delicious looking food - hot pastries, dips, and look - cheese and crackers too. Surely the cheese is the healthiest option here? Perhaps - but I'd like to explain why its good to restrain yourself and have just a tiny sliver.

Cheese has been around for centuries - some people speculate that it was created to enable milk to be preserved so that there was food during winter. Whatever the reason, it is a very concentrated food.

If the piece of cheese you picked up is about 30g (1oz), it took a whole glass of milk to make it. That one delicious mouthful will give you around 8g of fat, which is around 20% of your entire day's recommended fat intake - and most of it is saturated fat - not the best! Imagine how much fat you're eating if you pick up four or five cubes.......

But isn't cheese good for calcium and protein intake? Well yes, but because its so concentrated, and has zero fibre content, its easy to eat lots before you feel full.

Enjoy that bite of cheese; yes, it certainly is delicious. But to keep your waistline trim and your arteries free of cholesterol watch your intake.
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Pumpkin, Green Bean & Sesame Salad

Monday, December 15, 2008
This makes a really spectacular looking but simple salad. 

Steam (or roast) some pumpkin pieces and cool.
Blanch or lightly steam an equal amount of green beans, cool
Combine the pumpkin and beans. (they look great in a blue bowl)
Sprinkle over some unhulled sesame seeds (unhulled sesame seeds have a higher calcium content)
Dress with your favourite vinagrette or balsamic vinegar
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Helping Your Bowels Survive All That Holiday Food!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
If your bowel health is sensitive to the types of food you eat, then its possible you approach the overload of 'function food' that the holiday season offers with some degree of nervousness. For some of us, eating the 'wrong' food can result in several days of pain, bloating, flatulence and upset bowel motions.

I use the term 'function food' to describe the sort of food that's usually served up at parties and some large group dinners: Often prepared a day or so beforehand, high in fat and sugar, low in fibre, and often high in additives and presevatives. The opposite of what most of us eat to stay healthy.

If you fall into this category, I'd like to offer you some strategies to minimise your risk:

- At a 'finger food' party, ignore the trays of hot food. You'll be able to do this more easily if you've eaten a substantial snack at home before you left for the party. If the party is happening around your usual dinner time, be especially careful to eat beforehand. Otherwise, if you're ravenous, your stomach will ask you to tuck into all those rich pastries - and to hell with the consequences!

- At a function dinner, if you can, call the organisers or restaurant a few days beforehand and ask for a 'special meal'. Most caterers now are very familiar with gluten intolerance. If in doubt, ask for just steamed vegetables and meat, no sauce. Note: Its important to arrange this several days in advance, not when you sit down to your meal!

- At a private home, let your host know when you get the invitation that there are some foods that make you sick. Offer to bring a suitable dish that can be shared by all the guests. Of all the food situations you can face, this is the most tricky, and may need all your diplomatic skills!  Most people are familiar with the concept of food intolerance, but not all. I'll leave it up to you which strategy or excuse you want to use if your hosts are openly intolerant of your intolerance!!

Start taking your bowel health supplements again as if you were already treating a problem. This will strengthen your system, making it easier to cope with indiscretions. Give your health practitioner a call for their recommendations. 

Good luck!  If anyone has a particularly effective strategy they'd like to share, please tell us!

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Meditteranean yoghourt and cucumber dip

Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Now that you know which yoghourt to choose (see blog post for 4th December), here's a recipe to create a healthy dip.

Remember to use carrot, capsicum or zucchini sticks as dippers - more extra vitamins, minerals and fibre than those salty crackers!

Ingredients:
1 large cucumber, grated
500ml yoghourt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 tablespoon white wine vinegar
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped mint
1 garlic clove, finely crushed
chopped parsely

Method:
Mix all together, except parsely which is sprinkled on top.
Chill for at least one hour before serving so flavours can combine.
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More Protein Please!

Monday, December 08, 2008
Ever wondered just how much protein you really need to include in your diet? Here's the guide:

A normal healthy person needs 0.8g of protein per kilogram of their ideal body weight. E.g for a 70kg person, that's 56g of protein every day.

If you're an athlete, you will need more protein: Check with your health professional as your requirements will vary with the intensity and type of your training.

If you're recovering from illness or surgery, you need to increase your protein intake to 1.5g per kg: That 70kg person now needs 105g of protein every day. (Note: if you have kidney disease or a history of kidney disease in your family you should always check with your health professional before altering your protein intake.)

Our requirements for protein increase as we age, to help maintain muscle mass. If you're elderly, make sure you get at least 1.1g of protein per kilogram per day. For example, if you're 70kg and over and elderly, make sure you eat 77g of protein every day.

So where can you get protein? Here are some common sources:
- 100g of chicken or red meat will supply 20-25g of protein
- 100g of seafood will supply 15-20g of protein
- 1 cup of milk or yoghourt will supply 8g of protein
- 1 egg will supply 6g of protein
- 30g of hard yellow cheese will supply 6-8g of protein
- 100g of white cheese will supply 11g of protein
- 1 cup of dried legumes will supply 8-15g of protein*
- 120g of tofu will supply 9g protein*
- 1 cup of soy milk will supply 6g of protein*
- 1 cup of whole grains will supply 5-12g of protein*
- 1 tablespoon of peanut butter will supppy 5g of protein
- 30g of sunflower seeds will supply 6g of protein*
- 1 tablespoon of tahini will supply 2g of protein*
- 30g of nuts will supply 5g of protein*
- 1 cup of fruit or vegetables will supply 2-4g of protein

*Vegetarians and vegans should combine non-animal protein sources to obtain complete proteins: Grains with dairy, legumes with grains, or nuts with grains

Not sure if you're getting enough protein? For one day, write down everything that you eat. Then at the end of the day go back and count your protein intake. Adjust your diet tomorrow depending on the results.

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Ways To Use Green Broad Beans

Friday, December 05, 2008
If you live in Australia, green broad beans are in season right now. Great fibre source: 100g will give you 8g of fibre. Here are some ways to use them.

  • - remove the beans from their green pods.
  • - put the pods in salted boiling water and simmer for half an hour or so, until the beans are soft (test them)
  • - drain

Ways to use them:
  • - keep a small tub of cooked beans in the fridge for a day or two, use as a 'nibbly' when you get the urge for food but its not time to eat.
  • - sprinkle a handful through your salad
  • - serve topped with a rich home made tomato sauce as a side vegetable

Has anyone else got any suggestions for how to use these delicious beans?

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How to buy the right yoghourt - and get used to the taste!

Thursday, December 04, 2008
Yoghourt – The Probiotic In A Tub

Yoghourt has been used for centuries in many ancient cultures both as a food and as a medicine. Our ancestors realised that the good bacteria really boosted their health, as well as giving them a new way to enjoy dairy food. Here's how you can use yoghourt to benefit your health today:

That tub of sour-tasting milk is actually a fermented brew of healthy bacteria for your gut. We all have many varieties of bacteria in our bowels, both healthy and unhealthy varieties. They compete for passing nutrients, and some of the good ones help us absorb vitamins and prime our immune systems too.

By enjoying yoghourt, you are actively replenishing the good bacteria in your gut, and making life harder for the bad bacteria.

When you visit the supermarket to buy some health-giving yoghourt, follow these simple steps to get the result you want.

- Choose plain unsweetened yoghourt, and add fresh fruit at home to sweeten if you need to. The extra sugar in flavoured yoghourt can really expand your waistline!

- Avoid flavoured 'low fat' yoghourt for the same reason. Extra sugar has often been added to compensate for the reduced fat. Plain low fat yoghourt though is great. 

- Remember that the fresher the tub, the more friendly bacteria it contains: Check the use-by date.

- You don't need to eat much yoghourt to get a benefit. 100g, or four dessertspoons, will give you the right dose of friendly bacteria for the day.

- Choose a different brand of yoghourt every time you shop. Different brands contain different friendly bacteria varieties. Each of these varieties will have a different benefit for your gut.

Here's a tip to help you adjust your palate to the more 'sour' taste of real yoghourt: Mix some plain yoghourt with pineapple or orange juice. Use it as a 'dip' for pieces of fresh raw fruit. As you become accustomed to the taste, reduce the amount of fruit juice. The kids will really enjoy this as a treat if the fruit pieces are threaded onto skewers first.

Yoghourt can also make a great dip mixed with fresh raw minced garlic and finely diced cucumber. Use carrot sticks as dippers rather than crackers. Very refreshing on a hot day!

NOTE: If you have diarrhoea or have been taking antibiotics, you need probiotic capsules for a really big dose of good bacteria to reinoculate your gut.
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How To Use Vitamin C As An Anti-Histamine

Monday, December 01, 2008
Got the sneezes 'cos its Spring? (at least, it is in the southern hemisphere!)

Here's a tip to stop that sneezing fit in its tracks. Pop into the supermarket and pick up a bottle of 500mg chewable vitamin C tablets.

When you feel the sniffles coming on, chew on a tablet. Vitamin C is a natural anti-histamine, so it will tone down your symptoms for around 15minutes. Then you may need another tablet if you're feeling sniffly again.

***Note: people with kidney disease, pregnant women, and those taking the oral contraceptive pill or medication, should not use this remedy without checking first with their doctor. This remedy is useless for anaphylactic allergic reactions. You should always consult your doctor regarding your health concerns. This blog is not intended to replace qualified professional medical advice. If you ignore this warning, and get sick or die as a result, we'll just chalk it up to the ongoing process of natural selection.***

I'll write more about the benefits of vitamin C in another blog soon.
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Olwen Anderson @olwenanderson

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