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Olwen Anderson's Blog

Lower Cholesterol Naturally - Here's How

Sunday, November 16, 2008
Cholesterol is an essential part of our metabolism – it helps make hormones, for example. But too much in your bloodstream can be a problem, especially if it’s being left behind on the walls of your arteries. There are several simple techniques you can use to keep your cholesterol levels in a safe range, or to help reduce them if they’re too high.

Cholesterol in food is only available in animal products, especially prawns, eggs, and offal  like liver and kidneys. How your body manages that cholesterol once you’ve eaten it depends on how much fibre you ate with it, the amount of physical activity you do, your genes, and your stress level.

Here’s what you need to know about different sorts of blood cholesterol: Lipoproteins are just carriers for lipids (fat). The important ones to know about are LDLs (low density lipoproteins) and HDLs (high density lipoproteins)

LDLs carry cholesterol away from the liver, through the bloodstream, in search of cells to store it in. If there is too much LDL in the blood, these lipoproteins will deposit the fats on the walls of your arteries. This is why they’re called ‘bad’ cholesterol. 

The job of HDLs, on the other hand, is to carry cholesterol from storage back to the liver so it can be removed from the body via bile. This is why HDLs are known as ‘good’ cholesterol.

Physical exercise increases the amount of HDLs in your bloodstream. So while you’re enjoying that game of tennis or walking through the bush, the HDLs in your bloodstream are increasing in number, busy collecting fats from cells and returning them to the liver for disposal.

A high level of soluble fibre in your food slows down the absorption of fat, because soluble fibre ‘soaks up’ the fat and carries it out of your body. There are high levels of soluble fibre in oats and fruit, especially apples and pears. Psyllium husks are also a source of fibre, but its always better to obtain your fibre from food rather than supplements if you can.

Stress upsets all functions of the body, so a high stress level will mean you’re more likely to develop high levels of blood cholesterol. Another good reason to look for stress reducing activities!

If you want to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream
- reduce the amount of cholesterol you eat, 
- keep your saturated fat intake within reasonable limits, 
- increase your intake of essential fatty acids (omega 3 oils), 
- increase your soluble fibre intake, 
- stay active, 
- and manage your stress well.

Have you recently been diagnosed with high cholesterol? I've written an easy to read book that shows you how to lower your cholesterol level without drugs, how to assess your risk level from your test results, and a sample daily diet. Its available at newsagents and health food stores through Murwillumbah, or you can buy it via my web site,

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Your Daily Trace Mineral Supplement: Celtic Salt

Saturday, November 15, 2008
Trace minerals are vital for the health of your body’s cells. You could take the minerals as a supplement – but there’s an easier way to include them in your diet every day - and you won’t even have to convince the kids that it’s ‘good for them’. 

All you have to do is use a different kind of salt.

White salt that flows easily out of the shaker has been refined in its journey from the sea to your table. Most of the trace minerals are extracted, and minerals or chemicals added (usually aluminium) to make the salt flow freely. Iodine is sometimes added too, as iodine deficiency is common. The end product that you shake onto your food is almost exclusively sodium and chloride.

Unrefined natural sea salt (also known as ‘Celtic’, ‘grey’ or ‘macrobiotic’ salt), on the other hand, is pure evaporated sea water. All the trace minerals available in the ocean remain in the salt – like calcium, magnesium, iodine and iron, and lots more. 

Sea water is collected and evaporated in large ponds. The resulting salt crystals are ground then packaged for sale. Straight from the ocean to you. You can buy crystals coarsely ground (good for cooking) or finely ground, ready for use on the table.

Naturally evaporated sea salt appears grey because it hasn’t been processed. Its important though to check that the salt has been assessed for the presence of pollutants. If the salt is certified organic, it has been collected in clean waters, and checked to ensure no pollutants are present. 

Minerals in sea water are dissolved, in ionic form, which means that the molecules are arranged to be more easily absorbed by the cells of your body. This is the best possible way for your body to utilise whatever minerals are present in the food you eat.

Unrefined sea salt from different parts of the world will have slightly different colours, and slightly different tastes. 

If the idea of using grey salt doesn’t appeal to you, try including some kelp in your diet, wrapped around sushi or added to a seafood stew, as a way to obtain extra minerals from the sea.

Next time you’re buying salt, why not buy the ‘grey’ variety instead, and give your body an extra dose of trace minerals. You can easily find it in the health food store, or in the organic / health foods section of the supermarket.

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How To Create New Health Habits

Friday, November 14, 2008
Spring is a wonderful time of year, isn't it. I notice more people out and about in the mornings – training on bikes, or out jogging, or on their way to the gym for a class. Clearly many more of us are keen to get healthier now that the weather is warmer.

It made me ponder what it is that makes some people pick up a new health habit and just get on with it, while others give up trying after the first couple of days. Which category do you fit into? If you find it difficult to establish new health habits, like regular exercising, here are some tips to help you make the change successfully this time.

Our existing habits and routines add comfort and security to our lives. Its known as 'the comfort zone' for a good reason – it really is easier to keep doing what you've been doing, and your subconscious will cause you to feel uncomfortable if you try to step outside your comfort zone. To get past it, ignore the feelings of discomfort until your new habit is well established. Soon you'll be feeling so much better you'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Let's say you decide that you're going to exercise every day, perhaps a 30 minute walk around your neighbourhood, or attending an aerobics class at the gym. Both these activities require commitment to get a result, and yet no-one will punish you if you don't do them either. 

Your first step is to decide what your new health habit is going to be. Make it achievable, write it down and display it in a place where you will see it often. The first day or two will be fairly easy, but soon the exercise gremlin will land on your shoulder. This sneaky creature will whisper in your ear, explaining why you don't need to exercise (you did it yesterday, you're too tired, you can start again tomorrow…etc). This gremlin is actually your subconscious getting uncomfortable because you're moving outside your comfort zone. Flick the gremlin off your shoulder, slip on your exercise shoes and "just do it".

After a few weeks of successfully keeping your commitment to yourself, you'll feel so much better that its easy to flick the exercise gremlin off your shoulder on the rare occasions he visits you. Well done!  

After a few months of carrying out your new health habit, you'll realise that it actually feels odd not to keep to your usual routine of daily exercise. 

You can help yourself develop this new habit even more effectively by exercising at the same time every day. It will automatically become part of your routine. As we're all human, you might "fall off the wagon" a few times, but don't give up – just visualise how great you'll feel when you realise you've successfully established a new, healthy habit that's helping you enjoy life more.

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Creamy chicken, corn and pumpkin soup - dairy free

Thursday, November 13, 2008
For one person
1/4 onion, sauteed gently in olive oil
1 clove garlic, sauteed with the onion
one cup of Jap pumpkin, diced and thrown in with the onion
one 375ml carton of chicken stock, added to the pot
Bring to the boil and simmer 10 minutes
Remove from heat and puree with hand-held blender
Add 100g chicken thigh, diced, and kernels from half a cob of corn
Return to heat and simmer 10 minutes
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Taking Antibiotics? Remember The Probiotics

Wednesday, November 12, 2008
We are all carrying some extra passengers in our intestines: Friendly bacteria, over 400 species in fact. As we have evolved, these bacteria have evolved with us to result in a mutually beneficial relationship.

These friendly bugs help us absorb vital minerals and nutrients, and boost our gut immunity. They compete with pathogenic (bad) bacteria for space and resources, and actually produce substances which help keep the population of bad bacteria in check. If you're stressed or run down, your gut environment changes, making it easier for pathogenic bacteria to take over.

Antibiotic medication will kill the good bacteria in your gut as well as the pathogenic ones. You can often tell when the bad bacteria have taken over – they produce lots of toxic gases, bringing on abdominal bloating, discomfort and some very anti-social levels of flatulence. The toxins they produce can inflame your gut wall too, which makes it harder for you to absorb nutrients from your food. Sometimes they're active enough to bring on feelings of queasiness too, as your liver struggles to cope with the high level of toxic byproducts from their intestinal party antics.

 If you are taking antibiotics, here are some important steps you can take to re-populate your intestines with good bacteria and improve your well being at the same time. 

- Start taking a probiotic supplement, and continue for a few weeks after you have finished the course of antibiotics. Buy a small bottle, and choose a different brand every time as each brand will supply a different blend of friendly bacteria. You can buy probiotics at your local health food store.

- Take your probiotic supplement in the evening, with a fibre-based food like fruit or legumes, as more bacteria will survive the trip to your intestines when they can hitch a ride on fibre. Ever noticed that advertisements for probiotics boast of the high numbers of bacteria in each dose? That's because some of the bacteria won't make it past the very acidic environment in your stomach. 

- You should take your probiotic supplement in the evening, as your gut is more active overnight.

- If you are not dairy intolerant, 100g of plain yoghourt every day is a great probiotic supplement, and has been used in many cultures for centuries, along with other fermented foods, to promote bowel health. Make sure the yoghourt is young (fresh) and enjoy several different brands for the best effect.

The probiotic bacteria will start to elbow out the bad bacteria, and help calm any bowel inflammation they've caused. Now that you know how important those good bacteria are, remember to pick up a bottle of probiotics when you pick up your antibiotic prescription.

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Four Natural Ways To Win The Battle With Hay Fever

Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Its one of the hallmarks of spring that I see every year. Lots of people with red eyes, sniffly noses, and bouts of sneezing. It reminds me that spring is here, and so is the annual hay fever season.

Some people's immune systems have become over-reactive to some naturally occurring airborne particles, particularly pollens from all those new flowers. Immunoglobulins, a component of your immune system, continually patrol your mucous membranes. When they encounter an invader, they alert other members of your immune system to release histamine and throw off the foreign particles – by sneezing and producing lots of mucus to wash it out. 

Unfortunately, some of us have immune systems that have become over-reactive, leading to a full scale histamine release when only a moderate response is necessary to do the job. 

If you suffer from hay fever, you'll be pleased to hear that there are many natural remedies available to help your immune system calm down.

One old home remedy is to submerge your hands in water as hot as you can bear. This will ease the sneezing and running nose within minutes, but as most of us can’t remain tethered to a handbasin all day, its not practical in the long run.

Another, very effective remedy involves a small change in your diet. Naturopaths have long found that people who consume a large amount of dairy food are more prone to hay fever. Try excluding all dairy from your diet this week and see how your hay fever responds. (That's all milk, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream and yoghurt from cows or goat or any other animal). Some people find that excluding dairy from their diet during the hay fever season is all they need to do for a big improvement in their symptoms.

For the third remedy I must issue a warning as well, as mega doses of vitamins can be harmful. Some people find that chewing on a 500mg vitamin C tablet relieves their sneezing for about 15 minutes, then they might have to repeat once or twice more for a long term effect. Vitamin C is actually a natural anti-histamine, and acts by 'hosing down' the excessive histamine release by your mucous membranes. However this remedy should not be used by children, by anyone on medication (it might interact negatively), or if you have a kidney disorder. If in doubt, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

And finally, there are some excellent homoeopathic remedies available 'over the counter' to ease your symptoms. Your local health food store or pharmacy will have some in stock. The beauty of homoeopathics is that they're safe for everyone to use, and won't interact negatively with any medications.

So, now you have some natural tools to help you overcome your hay fever, you can enjoy the wonderful flowers of spring without worry!

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Five Ways To Avoid The Fast Food Trap

Tuesday, November 11, 2008
As I locked up my clinic tonight, I got a surprise. Across the road is a famous (national brand) pizza take-away. Its often open when I head home – but what surprised me tonight was the number of customers. People were queued out to the street waiting to order their dinner. It made me wonder how often people eat take-away as their evening meal.

Although occasional fast food isn’t so harmful (by ‘occasional’ I mean once every three months or so), it occurred to me that some people might not know the strategies cooks use to put together a fast, nutritious meal at home that will boost their health. Qualified chefs seem to be able to put a glamorous meal together within minutes, but most of us don’t have the same level of expertise!

So this week I’d like to offer you some alternatives to save you from yet another take-away dinner, and suggest some of the home made, more delicious alternatives that can be prepared in around the same amount of time.

Most fast food is extremely processed, with a high proportion of salt, sugar, fat, preservatives and additives; low in fibre and nutrients. A natural, healthy diet, in comparison, contains a wide variety of unprocessed or raw foods, prepared as freshly as possible. But if you are a busy householder pressed for time, it may seem that there’s just not enough time to prepare a spectacular feast from scratch every night. Here are some ideas to help you bridge the gap, and serve up some healthy meals for your family:

- Obtain a slow cooker. These wonderful devices can cook your meat or chicken while you’re at work, then all you have to do is steam accompanying vegetables when you get home. Cooking the vegies will probably take the same amount of time as it would to wait for your pizza order!
- Keep that BBQ on the verandah operational over winter. This is a fast way to cook chicken or fish, then serve with some salad or steamed vegetables.
- If you own a wok, meals can be created in just a few minutes using meat, vegetables and a spicy sauce.
- When you make up a labour-intensive dish for dinner like tuna mornay or lasagne, make double. Serve half, and freeze the other half to re-heat on a busy night.
- Preparing a simple home-made soup from scratch only takes 30 minutes. You could serve it with wholemeal bread on a cold winter’s night.

Taking a few minutes to prepare home-cooked meals will give you and your family a better standard of nutrition. It will be easier on your wallet too!

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Seven Ways To Boost Your Study Performance

Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Are you studying this year, either at high school, TAFE or uni? Do you know you can boost your study performance with a little attention to your well being? You can aim to feed your brain cells with optimum nutrition, and keep your energy levels steady right through to the end of the semester. Here's how:

1. More Protein Please! Your brain cells require protein to build neurotransmitters to help you think, so a steady supply of high quality protein is essential. Think eggs, seafood, chicken, kangaroo meat. Aim to enjoy some high quality protein at every meal.

2. Boost Your Brain Cell Flexibility: Essential fatty acids (from omega 3 oils) will boost the flexibility of your brain cell membranes, so they can perform better. You can find a good supply of omega-3 oils in oily fish like sardines, salmon and tuna, and also walnuts and linseed. 

3. Put Away Those Lollies: Avoid using sugary foods to give you a boost. Our brains actually use up a huge proportion of the glucose in our bloodstream, and without that steady supply our thinking suffers. That's why foggy thinking is so often a symptom of a big blood sugar slump mid-afternoon. To keep your blood sugar level well regulated, enjoy five small meals a day, each one containing a protein food and a raw food.

4. Too Much Caffeine Can Be Too Much For You! Caffeine from coffee and caffeine-laced soft drinks will give you an instant boost, but may also leave you feeling edgy and anxious. Not the way you want to be when you enter the exam room!

5. Get Out There And Move: Regular exercise will give you time out from your studies, and re-set your stress hormone metabolism. It will also help regulate your blood sugar level. You'll finish your training session feeling rejuvenated and ready to study again. Make sure its exercise you enjoy – like playing a game of basketball, going for a surf, that sort of thing.

6. Take Time Out: Time out will actually boost your creativity with your studies. Some people enjoy meditation, others an engrossing hobby like painting. Anything that requires you to focus on something other than your studies.

7. Sleep! Go to bed in line with your normal routine. Burning the midnight oil can leave you feeling burnt out the next day.

Here's a sample diet for a day to help your study performance:

Breakfast: Sardines on Toast, plus fresh fruit.

Morning tea: An apple or banana and a handful of walnuts

Lunch: Salad with chicken or egg

Afternoon tea: Hummus with carrot sticks; or corn thins topped with turkey, avocado and tomato.

Dinner: Kangaroo mince rissoles with vegetables.

In summary – eat regularly, choosing high quality food; avoid artificial stimulants, and remember to take time out every day to rejuvenate yourself. Good luck!

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Nine Bowel Signs You Shouldn't Ignore

Monday, November 10, 2008
Here’s a new habit that’s going to help you manage your health better. Next time you have a bowel motion, turn around and actually take a good look – your faeces can give you some valuable clues about your bowel health.
Here are nine signs that can alert you to problems. Some disorders are minor, some can drain you of energy and nutrients, and some can be signs that something more sinister is happening in the abdominal area.

1. Changes in form one day to the next can be indicative of a range of disorders. An extreme example is hard lumpy stools one day, and watery diarrhoea the next. The ideal form is soft yet firm.

2. Can you see undigested food particles in your faeces? This may indicate a shortage of digestive enzymes, or that your food is zooming through your intestines too quickly to be digested properly.  Without adequate time for digestion, important nutrients may not be absorbed, leaving you malnourished in the long term.

3. Pale, clay coloured stools may indicate problems with your liver. It’s the bile produced by your liver that gives stools their brown colour. Generally speaking, the more bile produced, the darker the stool. Its normal for stool colour to vary between mid brown and dark brown depending on what you’ve eaten.

4. Thin, ribbon-like stools indicate bowel inflammation of some description. Remember that the intestines are a tube. With inflammation comes swelling, so thin stools are a sign that all is not well.

5. Faeces streaked with blood calls for immediate professional attention.

6. Explosive diarrhoea can be the result of a parasite infestation. Is your water supply from a rainwater tank? Our delightful subtropical climate is also ideal for breeding parasites, like Giardia and Blastocystis Hominis. When did you last worm yourself and your family? Or clean out your rainwater tank?

7. Persistent constipation for over three months may alert you to a problem, particularly when you know you’re already eating 25-35g of fibre every day.

8. Feeling bloated can indicate a food intolerance. Identifying the culprit food group yourself is tricky, particularly as symptoms may occur up to four days after eating the problem food. Food allergies, in comparison, tend to produce immediate and rather unpleasant, sometimes even life-threatening symptoms.

9. Persistent pain in the abdominal area occurs in a range of conditions, and should not be ignored.

Some of these symptoms are collectively known as ‘irritable bowel’ although the causes behind them can vary from person to person. Fortunately, there are a host of remedies available to successfully address this condition, and natural therapies excel in addressing bowel disorders.

As humans, we tend to forget just how long a problem has been going on. If you’re unsure, try keeping a diary of your bowel movements for a week – frequency, form and colour - to get a clearer picture.  Just remember to keep looking before you flush!

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Six Reasons To Choose Organic Food

Sunday, November 09, 2008
I’ve been asked a couple of times lately whether organically labelled food is really organic. So I thought I’d write a little about why choosing organic is such a clever move for your health, and how to make sure that what you’re buying is really organic. 

We have a choice now – organic food is more widely available than ever before; even in the major supermarkets. But why make the decision to switch to organic when you have the choice? Here’s why:

Organic food tastes better. This is particularly noticeable with apples and tomatoes, but with most other foods too.

Organic food is grown using full spectrum nutrient fertilisers. This means that the plant can take up more nutrients, and that the soil remains viable. Organic food is purported to have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals as a result, although this is a subject of heated debate in the scientific community!

Because organic farmers use only natural substances to fertilise their crops, care for their animals, deter pests and combat disease, the farmers are not exposed to any harmful chemicals, and the environment is not polluted.

We are all exposed to non-natural chemicals every day. Our bodies have some ability to excrete them, but if we’re overloaded, our bodies will try to store the toxins where they won’t cause any harm. Often this is in fat tissue. Some industrial chemicals are hormone disrupters, potentially causing hormone imbalance disorders. Choosing organic reduces your exposure to these chemicals.

Some organic farmers use biodynamics, energetic remedies to further boost the life force of their crop. For a real taste treat, try biodynamic almonds or walnuts. 

To maintain the health of their animals, organic farmers use natural remedies – herbs, nutrients and homoeopathy. This makes them completely free of chemicals and artificial hormones. I particularly enjoy cooking my breakfast egg, knowing that the hen that produced it has had a happy life.

Genetic engineering is a relatively new practice in agriculture that may detrimental effects in the future. Organic food is not genetically engineered.

Organic growers must undergo a lengthy and exhaustive process to obtain the ‘certified’ logo which guarantees you are buying a truly organic product. When you buy a certified organic product you will see a retailer or producer number. Growers are regularly audited to ensure their compliance, and any organic product can be traced back to its source through the food chain. By looking for the certification logo and producer number you can be sure that the food you are buying is truly organic.

Because organic food is so widely available now, the gap between the price of organic and non-organic food has narrowed considerably; particularly in the areas of dairy, flour and bread. Next time you shop for food, enjoy the extra benefits you can get from choosing organic!

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Olwen Anderson @olwenanderson


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