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Gallstones are a common condition and gallbladder removal is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in Australia, where about 18,000 are performed using keyhole surgery each year.
The gallbladder is a small pear shaped pouch-like organ in the upper abdomen just under the liver, that works alongside the liver to digest foods and eliminate toxins. It is responsible for breaking down fats, mostly cholesterol, so that they can be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine.
Bile is made in your liver from recycled red blood cells, cholesterol and bile salts (minerals). The bile then passes from your liver into the bile duct and gallbladder which acts as a storage house. Here the bile is concentrated ready to be released when it is required. After a fatty meal more bile is needed to digest the extra fat and can be released quickly from the gallbladder into the intestine to help with digestion.
When your gallbladder is not functioning well it can affect your energy level, your weight, exacerbate thyroid conditions, cause bloating, gas and stomach pain and other miscellaneous pains. But many people nowadays have poorly functioning digestive systems and often regard many of these symptoms as being normal.
Many people have gallstones and are not even aware of them as they have no obvious symptoms. But for some the presence of gallstones can cause excruciating pain and other symptoms.
Bile is usually liquid, but when the different components are out of balance the bile hardens and over time forms gallstones. They can be the result of insufficient amounts of bile or an excess of cholesterol (fat) in the bile. At first the fat clumps to form a sludge. With time this sludge thickens to become first ‘sand’, then ‘gravel’ until eventually the ‘gravel’ becomes one or more gallstones, which can be as big as a golf ball. They form in the liver and most of them are carried through into the common bile duct on their way to the small intestine.
Problems arise as the gallstones pass from the liver through the common bileduct. When a stone begins to make its way down this tube the result can be what is known as biliary colic. Pain suddenly starts under the ribs on the right side, sometimes radiating up into the back, getting steadily worse for a few hours until the stone passes out of the bile duct and into the intestines. It can be accompanied by sweating, vomiting and great restlessness. The attack passes, but will recur again later.
The next stage of gallbladder disease, cholecystitis, is similar to biliary colic but involves inflammation and fever and vomiting. The pain is often stronger and lasts longer and jaundice occurs if the stone becomes stuck along the way. If the stone gets impacted in the neck of the gallbladder it impedes the flow of bile and the gallbladder eventually becomes infected. This is when a major attack occurs, often requiring surgery.
After the gallbladder is removed the bile drips steadily into your intestines. Because there is no longer anywhere to store it, there are no reserves for the body to draw on if it has to digest a greater amount of fat so it becomes vital not to eat large amounts of fat that will overwhelm the system.
There are a number of factors that make you more susceptible to gallstones.
- They are twice as common in women than men.
- It seems that oestrogen plays a role and having more children puts you more at risk.
- So does pregnancy, obesity, liver disease, diabetes, high fat diets, the contraceptive pill, a sedentary lifestyle, family history of gallstones and some forms of anaemia.
- Their incidence also increases with age particularly for those over sixty years old.
Some Natural Ways To Prevent Gallstones
The gallbladder works with the liver to digest food and eliminate toxins. When either of them is clogged up from poor nutrition or a buildup of toxins the cholesterol in the bile crystallizes to form gallstones. Gallstones are far more difficult to break down than to prevent, so it is worth taking steps to keep your liver and gallbladder happy.
Gallstones won’t form if you are digesting fats properly. However, removing fats totally from your diet, while it might seem like an easy option, is not the answer. Your body needs fats in order to function efficiently and therefore it is a matter of choosing better forms of fat and digesting those fats well. In fact eating fats helps to prevent the bile in the gallbladder from stagnating as it promotes the flow of bile.
The best approach lies with choosing healthy fats. Olive oil, coconut oil and saturated fats from grass-fed animals for instance, actually help assimilate nutrients from foods that help to maintain a clean liver and gallbladder. Select foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish or chia seeds, to reduce the toxic burden. One way to help break down the fat in your meal is to have lemon juice before you eat. Add it to warm water as a tea and drink thirty minutes before eating. It will cut through the fat making it easier to digest.
Avoid unhealthy fats and oils such as canola oil, soybean oil or other vegetable-based hydrogenated processed oils as they cause inflammation and chronic inflammation leads to chronic disease. In addition chronic inflammation causes high cholesterol. Don’t include foods high in unhealthy fats like burgers, fried foods, ice-cream, or cheese.
Liver and gallbladder health is strongly affected by what you eat. Foods are perhaps the simplest way to make changes to your health. Here are a few that will support your gallbladder or even dissolve gallstones.
1. Apples are a great friend for the gallbladder and eating apples is a particularly useful way to support the gallbladder. They contain pectin to soften and disintegrate existing gallstones and prevent new ones forming. Raw, unfiltered apple juice is very rich in pectin. Juicing reduces inflammation and enzymatically helps to detoxify your liver and gallbladder. Good selections to add to apples are lemons, celery, tomato and beets. Another wonderful apple juice variation is to add Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with malic acid to it, which makes a great gallbladder flush. The richest source of malic acid is apples.
2. There are a number of foods that are perfect for offering support to the liver, and therefore the gallbladder. Green vegetables including artichokes, rhubarb, beets and cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli etc) stimulate bile production. Other helpful foods include green leafy vegetables, fresh ginger, and foods rich in pectin. Add them to your meals wherever you can.
3. Diets high in refined carbohydrates are a problem because they reduce the solubility of the bile, making it more likely to ‘sludge’
4. Eat lots of soluble fibre (apples, celery, dark green leafy vegetables) which goes a long way to help prevent gallstones forming and can even reverse them once they have formed.
5. Having sufficient bile is also essential and some foods that promote bile production and flow are artichokes, beets, dandelion root, and turmeric.
6. Turmeric is certainly a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food. Adding it to your meals helps maintain a healthy gallbladder by improving the solubility of your bile, so that it is able to break down the minerals and cholesterol in it more efficiently. You can take also take curcumin (the active component of turmeric) as a supplement – 300mg of curcumin three times a day.
Support For Your Liver And Gallbladder
Because the liver and gallbladder work alongside each other, taking care of your liver also benefits your gallbladder. Reducing your toxic load greatly reduces the strain on your liver and how hard it has to work. You can do this by reducing your intake of caffeine, alcohol and unnecessary medications. In addition try to reduce any toxins you are exposed to, but don’t actually ingest. Hair care products, skin and body care products, toxic fumes, even the pesticide residue on non-organic foods are some factors that put stress and strain on your liver. Don’t forget that you body may regard and respond to many seemingly harmless foods as toxins. Foods such as gluten and dairy foods are perfect examples.
There are a number of botanicals that you can treat your liver to. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) protects liver cells. Dandelion root, a classic bitter herb can be taken as a tea or latte, and stimulates bile production as well as bile action. Rosemary is another herb that stimulates bile production. Both young milk thistle leaves and dandelion leaves (picked from your garden) can be steamed like spinach or added to salads.
There are many wonderful Homeopathic remedies such as Chelidonium, Dioscorea, Nux vomica and Lycopodium amongst many others, used to successfully relieve the symptoms of gallbladder attack as well as to redress a dysfunctioning liver and gallbladder and prevent more gallstones developing.
If you find you get mild pain after eating fatty foods you could take the digestive enzyme lipase to help digest the fat. But, if you provide extra enzymes as a supplement over a long period, and your body is no longer required to manufacture them at all, it may cease making them altogether. It is far better to improve the health of your body so that it is able to more easily make the enzymes it requires itself. In the long run it is the healthier outcome.
Supplementing with lecithin is one easy way to dissolve gallstones. Make sure it comes from sunflower or non-GMO soy. The digestion of lecithin requires large amounts of bile, and in the process hardened gallstones are also dissolved. Taking even one gram of lecithin three times a day has been shown to increase the concentration of lecithin in the bile. Taking more (up to ten grams) produces even greater increases.
Lastly, increasing exercise and stretching can help prevent gallbladder disease.
All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.
- Higher BMI Increases Risk Of Gallstones, Especially In Women (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Everyday Practices That Will Help Prevent Gallstone Attacks (medicaldaily.com)
- Gallstones Genetic Risk (23andme.com)
Although I write about many different things you can do to build your health on this blog, this week I want to share a purely anecdotal story about Homeopathy, because after all, it is the main method of treatment that I use for the people who come into my clinic, and it is the reason that I actually started out on this gentle journey to better health myself.
Many people don’t even know that Homeopathy can be pretty darn useful for treating acute illnesses like flu, coughs and colds, diarrhea, vomiting, viral infections, hay fever, headaches, teething, nausea and so on, you get the idea. When people caome in to see me many say they “have tried everything else and so may as well try Homeopathy”, it is often only used when things have reached rock bottom.
But Homeopathy can be an excellent treatment for ‘new illnesses’when used according to homeopathic principles, and something to consider before starting a course of antibiotics. Once I discovered how good well-matched simplex Homeopathics (not the ‘complex remedies’ sold over the counter) were for treating acute illness it was all I ever used for my children. We headed out to the Homeopath, right past the doctor, whenever they got sick. In fact one, now 25, has not taken antibiotics, not once, since he was 3, which was when I first discovered Homeopathy. The youngest has grown up with only Homeopathics, and has only had antibiotics ONCE EVER, when he developed a terrible infection after swimming beside a sewage outlet at a beach in Thailand. The others are also healthy. Antibiotics didn’t get used in our house at all after we turned to Homeopathy. That’s a pretty awesome record!
So, here is what has been happening at my house this week, a perfect example of why I love Homeopathy so much.
I’m a pretty good prescriber of Homeopathic remedies for acute illnesses. There is a bit of a knack to this, and the way that my brain processes information happens to be well suited to this type of prescribing.
However, when I get sick myself it is another matter altogether, because, as any of my students that have completed the Homeopathy @ Home Short Course I run (where they learnt how to prescribe Homeopathics for first stage acute illnesses and first aid for themselves and their family) will agree, it takes a clear head to find a good match between a “Symptom Picture” in a patient and a “Homeopathic Remedy Picture”. Getting that match right is what gets the results – a really close match equals a great result, a so-so match equals some improvement, maybe.
Like most of you,when I am sick my brain just doesn’t work clearly and I often struggle to prescribe for myself in that state, which is what I want to tell you about.
My husband came home last week and brought with him one of the nastiest, most violent coughs I have ever seen (not up there with the whooping cough we had once, but running a good race) which he promptly shared with me…violent cough, headache to knock you out, sore throat etc etc…winter illness at its worst! The pair of us sat hacking away in unison all weekend, each just as sick as the other. I endured it, my head too foggy to even think about what remedy to take. But every night when I lay down to get to sleep it was just getting worse and worse, getting to sleep was a nightmare.
Then came the night when I was coughing so badly I had to go and it the bathroom as I was certain I was going to throw up from it. I sat on the edge of the bath coughing it out and realized it was ‘do or die’, I needed to rally enough to find a remedy match fast. It was heading towards 1am, but I gathered my books, and really focused, in spite of the brain fog, and came up with a remedy very quickly, which I made up and took straight away.
Five minutes later, all my coughing, wheezing, headache and breathlessness had stopped and I dropped off to sleep.
The next morning instead of waking to a major coughing fit I was pretty good. I took another dose then (and a couple more in the days since). I am still a little bit hoarse and cough once in a while, but otherwise I am good, none of the severe symptoms have returned and I feel great, full of energy.
This is what happens when a really good Homeopathic prescription is made for an acute illness. Symptoms may be stopped in their tracks. But even better is that you feel great and full of energy even though to others you might still sound a bit sick. It is almost as if your body ‘knows’ that it has got on top of this virus and the battle is on its way to being won. You feel it is ok to go about your life again because you don’t need to ‘conserve your strength’, to crawl into bed to recuperate.
Well he has an on/off relationship with Homeopathy which it seems is turned to ‘off’ right now, and he is letting nature take its course. He didn’t go to work today (unheard of!) and spent the day lying in bed, unable to move, coughing his lungs out every time he woke up, feeling like death. I realize this is only a winter virus, although certainly a pretty nasty one, but this story is a perfect example of how Homeopathy can be so useful for treating acute illnesses.
I have been working as a Homeopath for thirteen years now and I repeatedly see how so many of the people who come through my clinic experience an improvment in their health quickly and effectively when they use Homeopathy to treat their sickness. Watching the amazing response in my son twenty two years ago was how I was first introduced to this treatment, that I had never even heard of, and you can read about that right here.
But, in spite of what I know and have seen over all those years, of what I expect to see happen, I sometimes still sit in my clinic, listening to clients tell of the changes they have experienced after taking their prescribed Homeopathic remedies, and in spite of what experience has taught me good Homeopathic prescribing is capable of, there are still times when I am just blown away by the response the person has experienced, and the extent of their improvement.
It doesn’t happen all the time by any means, but when it does it still amazes me, and that is the main reason why I love being a Homeopath and why I still love the amazing possibilities of Homeopathy.
When the symptoms of an illness that someone is experiencing are matched perfectly to the correct Homeopathic remedy, and that remedy is taken according to homeopathic principles, at the correct potency to match the strength of the illness, it is as if the body, or the immune system if you will, is suddenly jolted into action, and the rapid healing response that follows is an absolute joy to watch.
I realize that this is just one example and ‘does not a case for Homeopathy make’, but when you watch a response like this happen there is no doubt that there are powerful possibilities here…and the intellectual questions about how it can be happening get brushed to the side.
But, as with all things, everyone has their own path to follow. The Homepathic road was the one for my family but it may not be for you.
Have you ever experienced or observed one of these very rapid responses to treatment with a perfectly matched Homeopathic remedy? Tell us about it in the comments below.
You might also like to check out this Youtube playlist where lots of people have posted about their personal experience of how “Homeopathy Works For Me”. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF0F0329B561969C8
- I’ve never been to the doctors (dailyecho.co.uk)
- PART 1: Patients turn to homeopathic remedies instead of traditional medicine (kvue.com)
- Classical Homeopathy – the interview of a lifetime (By Nicole Noles DOM LMT) (vitalichi.wordpress.com)
For many people an underactive thyroid slows them down and leads to a host of other unpleasant symptoms. Most of those people are never diagnosed with the disorder. Many are never treated. Many fail to make the changes in their diet and lifestyle that can really help ease their symptoms. Most go on living their life in a debilitated state.
The Thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in the middle of the front of your throat. It’s purpose is to release hormones that help in the regulation of many body functions – metabolism, heart rate, maintaining your core temperature, healthy skin, your weight, fertility and more. It slows you down or revs you up to make you more energetic. It also activates your immune system. It plays a part in most of the body’s physiological processes, so when it is out of balance, so are you. In fact every cell in your body has receptors for thyroid hormones.
Sometimes the thyroid does not work as it should and, depending on whether it is pumping out too many hormones or too few, it becomes under- or over-active, what is known as either Hyperthyroidism (too many thyroid hormones in the blood) or Hypothyroidism (too few).
Thyroid conditions can be quite common and it is estimated that about 20-25% of the female population may suffer from hypothyroidism. An estimated 30% more of people over the age of 35 may suffer from “subclinical” hypothyroidism, where they either have no obvious symptoms, or their test results are within the ‘normal’ range but they have mild symptoms of low thyroid function.
Many people live with the symptoms of low thyroid function often for years, where their thyroid gland works sluggishly without them even realizing it. With too few thyroid hormones in the blood the body processes start slowing down, and so do they.
However, there are some telltale signs to look out for. Here are some of them, although there are many more:
- Fluid retention or swelling in the legs, feet, arms or face
- Cold hands or feet, poor circulation and intolerance of cold
- Dry skin, acne and eczema
- Lethargy, fatigue, poor stamina and sleeepiness
- Forgetfulness, slow cognitive function, brain fog
- Constipation, indigestion
- Weight gain, or difficulty losing weight
- Poor brittle, slow-growing nails and hair, hair loss
- Heavy periods, irregular cycle, PMS
- Infertility, low libido
- Muscle and joint aches and pains
- Food cravings, food intolerances, hypoglycaemia
- High cholesterol/ triglycerides, palpitations, high or very low blood pressure
Illnesses where symptoms seem vague or scattered could actually be providing warning signs that you have a problem with your thyroid. Diseases and syndromes such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, menopausal symptoms, muscle and joint pains, IBS, PMS, heart disease or depression, which all have a wide variance in the symptoms they present with, may be improved when underlying thyroid issues are redressed. Sometimes an underactive thyroid can be due to an autoimmune disease, Hasimoto’s disease.
However, low thyroid function may actually not be the root of the problem. There is a strong relationship between your adrenal and thyroid glands and it is very common for adrenal fatigue to go hand-in-hand with hypothyroidism. In many cases the adrenal glands become weakened, leading to a malfunctioning thyroid gland. If treatment is only directed towards the thyroid gland and the adrenal issues are not addressed then the person’s health will simply not improve. It’s important to reduce stress in your life as both the adrenals and the thyroid are very sensitive to stress. Practicing meditation, yoga, qi gong, or relaxation techniques will go a long way to reducing the stress response and support the action of these glands.
Two hormones, T4 and T3 are produced by the thyroid. T3 is the active form of thyroid and is the one that does the vast majority of work in the body. When levels are low enough the traditional approach is to use synthetic hormone, but they only contain T4 and the problem with this is that most people have difficulty converting T4 into T3.
Thyroid hormone levels can be tested with a blood test. If symptoms are vague and do not point directly to a disorder, testing will probably be done alongside other blood tests.
The normal range for tests is 0.5 to 5.5 IU/ml.
The problem for many people is that they suffer symptoms of low thyroid function when their measured levels of the hormone are between 2.0 IU/ml and 5.5IU/ml – levels that are considered to show ‘normal’ thyroid function. They are told their levels are normal and left with no explanation or treatment for their symptoms. When it comes to thyroid hormones setting the boundaries of ‘normal’ for thyroid levels is very misleading as there really isn’t any ‘normal’ level…the levels change depending on factors such as age or health.
All the different hormones of the body work together in a delicate dance and when one is not working all the others are affected also. Many reproductive hormone-related symptoms may be experienced when thyroid hormones are low. PMS, infertility, fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, heavy bleeding, menopause symptoms, fibrocystic breasts or even post-natal depression may all result.
Low thyroid function can easily be confused with the symptoms of menopause. While symptoms such as hot flushes, period irregularities, weight gain, night sweats and insomnia are often experienced during peri-menopause or menopause, night sweats and insomnia in particular, may also be key symptoms of low thyroid function. Using hormone replacement to deal with these symptoms simply makes the problem worse, as the oestrogen in the medications interferes with the thyroid hormones further, impairing the thyroid function even more. This in turn slows down metabolism and leads to weight gain. It is a vicious circle.
As usual it is easy to point the finger at poor diet and lifestyle as contributing factors to thyroid dysfunction and sugar, processed foods, stress, lack of exercise or toxic environments all play their part.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Low thyroid function can be addressed in a number of more natural ways.
I treat many people (mainly women) for low thyroid function with huge success using carefully selected Homeopathic remedies, reversing their debilitating symptoms and allowing them to live a normal life. But with this being a complicated chronic issue it is not one that can be self-treated and requires prescribing by a fully-trained professional Homeopath.
But luckily there are a number of things that you can do as a first-line defense for hypothyroidism, and using natural methods avoids the side effects of medications.
A well balanced diet that is made up of unprocessed, unrefined whole foods, with organic or biodynamic vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy, is the best way to combat hypothyroidism, if you also include the following guidelines.
It’s so important that you stay away from sugar and caffeine which simply cause thyroid burn-out. If going ‘cold-turkey’ is too hard then cut back more gradually. Cut out refined and processed carbohydrates as well as they behave just like sugar when they are metabolized in your body.
Make sure to eat protein as it transports thyroid hormone into your cells. Include nuts, nut butters, legumes, quinoa, and less frequently and in smaller quantities eggs, meats, fish and dairy.
Good fats help to create hormone balance (including thyroid hormones) – avocados (one of my favourite good fat sources), coconuts and coconut milk and oil, olives and olive oil, raw nuts and nut butters, organic butter and yoghurt, organic egg yolks, flax seeds. Avoid trans fats.
Make sure you are getting enough Vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin A, Vitamin D, the Vitamin B’s, iodine, selenium, zinc, copper, iron and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Organic produce will be higher in vitamins and minerals as long as it isn’t old and wilting.
Thyroid hormone production is just another of the many functions of Vitamin D which is produced in the body from sunlight. This is yet another reason to have levels of this crucial vitamin tested and maintained, and you may actually need to supplement this.
Cut out gluten especially if you have Hashimoto’s as the gluten mimics thyroid tissue and aggravates the autoimmune response
Watch out for foods that interfere with thyroid function especially those containing goitrogens and don’t eat them unless they are cooked – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, turnips, spinach, strawberries, peanuts, millet
Get tested for food sensitivities, especially if you find there is a food or food group that you crave, as eating these foods sets up an autoimmune response in the body.
The thyroid gland requires iodine to make thyroid hormones so iodine deficiency may be a contributing factor to hypothyroidism. Many people are deficient in iodine so include more sources of iodine in your diet like seaweed (kelp, dulce, nori), shellfish, saltwater fish, eggs, yoghurt, mozzarella cheese
Supplement with probiotics as good thyroid function depends on healthy gut flora
Add vitamins and minerals particularly if you are not getting adequate amounts in your diet.
Other supplements that help thyroid activity and the manufacture of thyroid hormones are Tyrosine, Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), magnesium citrate and Potassium iodide. Look for these in a combined thyroid supplement.
Ashwaganda is a herb that can help to improve the level of T4 hormone and guggal Commiphora wightii to convert the T4 into the active T3. Guggal has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and is now difficult to source due to its scarcity after overuse – you may want to reconsider using this herb for this reason.
Exercise lowers insulin levels and increases thyroid function. Work out or walk for 40 minutes three times a week, and make sure you get out of breath.
- Thyroid- Home remedies (harikrishnamurthy.wordpress.com)
- The Relationship Between Hypothyroidism and Infertility (thyroid.answers.com)
- Hypothyroidism Treatment and Diet (healthandwellnessblogging.wordpress.com)
- Iodine Deficiency symptoms (healthylifestylesliving.wordpress.com)
A question that is worth asking yourself right now is “am I well enough to weather winter?” If you build your health before winter arrives you are more likely to get through it without falling victim to lots of colds or worse, the flu.
During these last weeks of Autumn a really nasty flu/cough/virus arrived alongside the change in weather, and people have been struck down with it all around, including me. It seems to be tagged as ‘flu’ but mine was more of a really nasty cough & cold. Most of the viruses that look and feel like flu are in fact not, with probably less than 20% actually being flu. But this does not stop the others from being downright unpleasant and highly contagious.
Preparing your health for winter really needs to begin as soon as the weather begins to change from summer into autumn, with a careful plan to bolster your immune system. But if you have not prepared yourself and have already had a taste of the illnesses that lie ahead this winter then there are still various tactics you can use to help you get through with minimum damage.
While aspirin or other medications may make you feel better because you can forget your symptoms for a bit they only suppress the symptoms and don’t actually make you better any faster. For that you need to look at other options, as well as making a few changes right now.
When my family catch the flu or any other cough or cold we all reach straight for the best selected Homeopathic remedy, because they are so effective against viral infection (unlike Antibiotics which we would avoid anyway). This is what I took this week to get rid of the bout I have just had fast. Homeopathic remedies are great as they reduce the unpleasant symptoms such as aches and pains or headache dramatically as they clear up the infection. But to get the fast, complete resolution the choice of remedy needs to be made individually – the remedy that did it for me may not be the same as the one you need. So if you would like to use this wonderful treatment head off to a Homeopath or else look for a short course to learn how to home-prescribe for acute illnesses yourself.
While there are many great Homeopathic medicines that are awesome for the flu, it is much better not to catch the flu in the first place.
PREVENT THE FLU
Here are some steps you can take to help prevent getting the flu. It is really important to make sure you follow these steps if you have come into contact with someone who has flu. But when flu is doing the rounds you can bet that you have been in contact with sufferers, at work, the train, the shopping centre, at school, or anywhere you have been.
Rest Get plenty of rest. Your immune system recharges itself while you are asleep. When you are overtired your system is not strong enough to fight off infection. Try for eight solid hours a night.
Water Drink enough water as it improves the function of every system in your body
Nutrition Increase fresh fruit and vegetable in your diet, preferably organic if you can. Fresh organic produce in a rainbow of colours is packed full of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are crucial for maintaining your immune health. Add spices such as turmeric, oregano, cinnamon and cloves have high ORAC scores http://www.oracvalues.com which equates to high levels of antioxidants. Adding a high quality daily multivitamin will fill in any gaps in the full range you may have.
Exercise Get regular exercise. Exercising for 30 to 60 minutes a day improves your immunity although it is not known exactly why. But it does need to be regular and consistent exercise, running occasionally won’t do a lot. However don’t overdo it as too much exercise makes you more susceptible to infection.
Hygeine Wash your hands often, especially before eating. You need to use warm water and soap and to really lather up. This is one of the best ways to avoid contracting the virus. Also, try not to touch your mouth, nose or eyes to prevent the virus entering your system.
Sugars Cut back on sugar and grains in your diet as they are both very weakening to your immune system.
The time you need to take steps if you want to fight the flu off is at the very first indication you are coming down with it because this is when the strategies work their best. Don’t just do a few things, you need to fight the virus off on all fronts by adopting every strategy you can – nutrition, sleep, exercise, supplements, calm.
Take some time off to rest up and recuperate. It is much better to rest for one day rather than getting sick for much longer, simply because you pushed on when your body was telling you to slow down
There are a number of supplements you can take to help to prevent flu which improve your immunity and help your mucous membranes stay healthy.
Vitamin D Most importantly get on to Vitamin D. It produces antimicrobial peptides in your body to kill viruses as well as bacteria. Huge numbers of the population are deficient in this crucial vitamin and because the source is sunlight their levels drop even further during the winter when sunlight is scarce or weak. 2000 IU a day has been found to keep flu away.
Vitamin C Adding a Vitamin C supplement during the flu season will provide your immune system with lots of extra power when it comes to warding off viral illness, as it acts as an antioxidant in your body. You can find it in many foods including lemons, limes, oranges, red pepper and broccoli.
Beta Carotene (Vitamin A) Vitamin A also acts as an antioxidant. It is of huge benefit to dramatically increase the amount you take each day if you do fall ill. Food sources are orange and yellow foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin as well as broccoli and dark green vegetables.
Zinc Strong immunity is dependant on good zinc levels but many people are deficient in this trace element, as the body has no way to store it. It increases production of infection fighting white blood cells and helps your immune system release more antibodies. If your levels of zinc are low you will be much more susceptible to infection. Your natural health practitioner can test your levels for you.
Vitamin E Another antioxidant, it improves immune function. If you have Hypertension make sure to take a water soluble version. Good food sources are olive oil, almonds, avocado and spinach.
Vitamin B6 Vitamin B6 deficiency leads to a weakened immune system. Vegetarians need to be particularly careful as most sources of B6 are animal foods.
Selenium It has been found that viruses tend to mutate easily into more damaging forms that lead to flu-related lung damage in people who are deficient in Selenium.
Olive Leaf Extract is a very effective immune system builder
Probiotics Studies show that long term use of lactic acid bacteria can protect against flu infection.
There are many herbs that support and boost your immune system and help you stave off the flu, while also helping the mucous membranes, such as Astragulus membranaceus, Hydrastis Canadensis, Sambucus nigra, Shitake mushroom and Garlic. Echinacea is useful for the first twenty-four hours of the illness.
Garlic is one food that really gives you a huge boost. If you take your garlic as a food you need to know these first. The health benefits of garlic are destroyed by cooking, much better if it is raw. You need to be able to smell garlic for it to work – odour free tablets are useless. The inside of the clove needs to be exposed to the air to be effective, so cut or crush the clove before you eat it. You should take two cloves a day. If you cut it up very small and swallow the bits with water or tea they will be easier to eat. Often when I need some garlic I squeeze the cloves right on the top of my pasta or casserole after I have served it and just eat it with the first mouthful. That way it is raw so still effective but the taste is masked by the taste of the food. Chew on parsley after taking garlic to avoid ‘garlic breath’
Reishi, Shitake and Maitake mushrooms have been used medicinally by the Chinese for over 6,000 years as they are excellent for increasing white blood cell activity to better fight off infection. There are many great mushroom supplements in tablet form available as well as the liquid herbs.
IF YOU STILL CATCH THE FLU
If in spite of taking preventative measures you are unfortunate and do catch the flu, here are some suggestions to help ease the flu symptoms a bit.
- Hot water bottles or heated wheat bags are great for sore, chilly patients
- Hot baths with Epsom salts: Put 1-2 cups of salts into a warm bath and soak . This helps draw out inflammation and ease muscle pain
- Gentle massage can help increase circulation
- Vitamin C in a powdered form in juice or water is easier to swallow than tablets and will ease inflamed mucous membranes as it passes over them.
- Chicken soup can be good as it helps replace electrolytes plus has other healing properties
- If you feel nausea ginger or chamomile tea may help
- Here are some nice herbal recipes for the symptoms of viral colds and flu, including a Cold & Flu Tea and a Sore Throat Gargle
And don’t forget, when you start feeling better it is important to remember that you are more vulnerable than normal and so you should take things a bit easier for a while, cutting back your schedule and keeping down your stress levels.
What’s your best tip for combating the flu?
All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.
- Time to think about Zinc! (purevitamins.com.au)
- Fighting the flu naturally with some tips from Dr. Helen. (ecostore.com.au)
May is an important month for Homeopaths here in Australia as it marks the celebration of Homeopathy Awareness Week (13th – 19th May). This year the theme is “Homeopathy To The Rescue” and the focus is on the ways Homeopathy can, and has been used in the treatment of trauma and disasters.
The purpose of this annual celebration is to get you all noticing the impact Homeopathy has on a global scale and to start you thinking about how Homeopathy could be useful in your life.
While there is a long history of Homeopathy being used with wonderful results during epidemics and after disasters , using Homeopathic medicine to deal with the small traumas of your everyday life is where many people first encounter the healing benefits of the remedies.
Homeopathic Arnica is one remedy that I would have been lost without in raising my four sons, and in fact I cannot imagine how the Mums of active boys manage without it. When my boys were young they played a lot of sport, basketball, AFL football, baseball, hockey, netball, gymnastics, and rockclimbing, to say nothing of rough and rowdy games through the bushland around our home.
In addition to the kit of remedies I have at home, I always carried a Homeopathic First Aid kit in the boot of my car so we would have what we needed when we were out and about. In this kit was trusty Arnica.
Homeopaths often reach for Arnica as the first remedy to heal anyone affected by shock, trauma or injury, where it acts on the emotional or spiritual shock as well as on the physical shock.
Arnica has lots of uses but it is perhaps best known for its use when there is damage to soft tissue. It has amazing healing properties for muscle damage showing in symptoms such as bruising, swelling and aching. At sporting events, particularly football, I soon became known as the go-to-girl for help when the boys were hurt on the field, and would often have parents come to me asking for some arnica for their son.
I have to say that one year it actually saved one of my sons team from despair, because Arnica was the remedy that ensured the team a place in the Grand Final (which they then won!) How? At half time the star player, the full forward (the one who does most of the goal scoring) was taken off the field because his hand had been stomped on by a boot with ‘stops’ on the sole and there were four distinct dark bruises on his palm. I gave him one dose of Arnica at the start of half time, and by the time the second half started twenty minutes later, the bruising had almost disappeared so he was allowed to play, and to go on and kick the winning goal.
Over the course of many years of kids sport there were many, many other instances of parents being able to watch bruising or swellings, like ‘eggs’ on the head, actually go right down over a very short time, and so the Arnica was often sought out.
Arnica got these boys through the injuries with minimal fuss and allowed them to get back out to their game.
Arnica is a remedy that I give to many of my patients and not just the boys. Many people use it after they have had a big workout at the gym, or a hard day in the garden to relieve the aches and pains. Others use it after having dental work. It is a remedy that many now value in their home first aid kit, and the first remedy they think of for injuries and trauma.
What is Arnica?
Homeopathic Arnica Montana is made from a small plant of the Compositae family. It grows in the mountain pastures of mainland Europe where for centuries it has a long history of use as a herbal to treat bruises, sprains, rheumatic pain, emotional shock, hematoma and oedema.
Today, Arnica creams are widely used in the sports industry, and in fact a number of Olympic athletes have found them helpful in reaching the pinnacle of their chosen sport. Here is the testimony of one and here a long list of other sports stars using Homeopathic Arnica.
Arnica has an affinity with the blood vessels, repairing them so that bruising and stagnation is able to dissipate from the site of the wound.
The benefit of Arnica, as you read in the story of my son’s football team, is that it speeds up the healing process. The bruising passes quickly, aching muscles return to normal faster, swelling subsides quickly, allowing a faster return to training, the game, or everyday activity.
When could you use Arnica?
Although I make some suggestions here for when Arnica may be helpful, I do not advocate using it without consulting your Homeopath first. Whilst Homeopathic remedies are very gentle they need to be prescribed with an understanding of how they work in order to be used effectively and safely. In addition if you have a seious accident or injury it is essential to get checked out for concussions, broken bones or other serious damage. But, even when these do occur Arnica can be useful to speed the healing process.
- After accidents where there is shock
- After an injury that leaves bruising of muscles
- After an injury that leaves soft tissue swollen and sore
- After over-exerting yourself
- After surgery or dental work
Because Homeopathy Awareness Week is about using Homeopathy to deal with trauma this year, I am once again running my very popular short course “HOMEOPATHY @ HOME – TREATING ACUTE & FIRST AID AILMENTS” beginning during Homeopathy Awareness Week, where you learn when and how to use thirty Homeopathic remedies, including Arnica, that will completely change the way you deal with acute illnesses and accidents in your family.
If you have missed this course but would like to join one later, check back again for details of the next course as I run it once every year.
If you would like to read about the latest research and thoughts on how Homeopathy might work, you may like to read Dana Ullman’s summary in this article published last week in The Huffington Post
But for those who have used Homeopathic medicine with enormous success the question is NOT how it works, or even whether it works. They have seen many times, that it does work effectively and that is enough reason to continue to love and use this remarkable treatment.
I don’t know how it works, nobody does yet. No doubt as research delves deeper and our knowledge grows, just how Homeopathic medicines work will become clearer. After all, in medicine there are also many medications and anaesthetics that were used and seen to be effective, long before the mechanism of how they work was known.
If you have had a positive experience with using Homeopathic Arnica let us know about it in the comments below.
All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.
With the end of the year racing towards us it is very easy to succumb to overwhelm, and here in Australia I believe that we actually do this season much harder than we need to, and perhaps harder than they do overseas. The festivities of Christmas, or whichever of the Holidays you celebrate, coincides here with the end of the school year, the end of the working year, and the end of the calender year, all in one short week.
Trying to juggle a myriad of ‘end-of-year’ school activities, dance concerts, exam study, shopping for the festivities ahead and socialising, together with having so many businesses closing down for at least a few weeks and preparations for the mass post-Christmas exodus to various idyllic beachy places, it is very easy to get caught up in a sense of “approaching the end”. Easy to get that nagging feeling that you need to finish absolutely everything, to tie up all the loose ends in your life.
It seems that the whole nation drives itself into an absolute feverpitch of stress through December and then shifts to the opposite extreme and shuts down totally after Christmas Eve. It is no wonder everyone races around with a sense of impending doom if everything isn’t done and finalized on time.
Perhaps this Australian ‘end-is-nigh’ approach to December actually fuels the stressful emotions that are experienced.
Are You Driving Yourself Too Hard?
How many times do you say to people ‘we must catch up before Christmas’? How much do you drive yourself at work to finalise jobs that realistically might wait a week or two? How many parties do you attend? How many late nights do you have? How much fattening, sugary, or rich food do you eat? How often are you driven to do or buy something which could wait, without really knowing what drives you to do it right now? And these are only what you are actually doing – they don’t even start to address the emotions that get stirred up at this time.
This last part of the year can be a time of escalating stress for so many during the build-up to Christmas with ‘so much to get done’, loneliness, increasingly tired children as they approach the end of the school year, the pressures of self-run businesses to cover added end of year costs such as holiday pay for staff, a calendar that seems to overflow, loss of a job and financial constraints, plus many more difficulties.
Loneliness and Grief
This part of the year is also the time of tremendous emotional stress for many. It is the time when the loss of loved family members, whether through separation or their passing, comes home and strikes with almost paralyzing force. For some people the whole season is wrapped in a tight mantle of grief that draws in around and stifles them.
It can also be the time when singles feel the most lonely, when isolation from family and friends or an abscence of them in your life strikes most intensely.
For others the experience of returning into a family where everyone is suddenly thrown back into the role they played as a youngster and the family dynamics that played out when they were children, is too difficult to deal with.This is in spite of the fact that in their real everyday life they are responsible and competent parents, partners, employees or employers with wide and admirable skills and abilities.
In this scenario is it any wonder that the anxieties of childhood rear their ugly heads. Is it any wonder that behaviour reverts and childish tantrums or bickering, petulant unhappiness or resentment and various other actions that arise from the uncertain and fearful child that is still living deep within, start to occur.
But whatever the reason the ability to engage in the Christmas spirit eludes many and the season is anything but bright.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
There are a number of natural strategies that you can adopt to help deal with these issues. Rather than go into each of them in detail I will give you a link to some that I think are sound and effective. You can have a look and try a few out and then use any that suit you the best.
Even making a little time to get some exercise or relaxation is a good way to start. When we start to rush both exercise and relaxation space often go by the wayside. Schedule the time in your calendar and then stick to it.
Remember that a massage can work wonders especially if you carry your stress in your neck and shoulders, and it will be even more effective if it includes aromatherapy essential oils for relaxation.
Emotions respond beautifully to any of the varied forms of energetic medicine. Medicine delivered in an energetic form can be very effective in ‘re-balancing and re-setting you’ so that you are able to deal with whatever it is you have to face. Hear are a few.
Homeopathy offers some great remedies for many of the issues such as stress, overwork, grief, over-excitement, anxiety, guilt, exhaustion and so on.
Homeopathic Coffea helps with getting over-excited children off to sleep on ChristmasEve. Ignatia is often a first choice for grieving. Nux vomica can work wonders if you are driving yourself towards burnout with overwork.
Homeopathic remedies need to be matched to your own idiosyncratic symptoms, the particular way you manifest the stress so unless you are familiar with self-prescribing for acute situations, or if your stress is long-standing you should consult with a fully trained and registered Homeopath.
Visiting an Acupuncturist is a great way to deal with the stress, but even better, you can do Acupressure yourself anytime and anywhere, and it works along the same lines as acupuncture. Here is a good demonstration of one way to relieve stress by Donna Eden, an expert at using acupressure in her energy medicine work.
This advice and demonstration of acupressure points to use for hangovers could be useful if you are partying hard. And here are some acupressure points to help with feelings of anxiety felt throughout the holiday season.
Flower essences can have a great benefit when trying to deal with grief. They work very gently, but effectively on the emotions.
The basic Bach Rescue Remedy or Australian Bush Flower Emergency Essence are both good ‘all-purpose’ mixes for dealing with stressful situations but there are a number of others that can be tailored to each individuals requirements. FES Five Flower Formula is similar to Bach Rescue Remedy.
Perhaps my favourite for this time of the year would be the Australian Bush Flower ‘Calm & Clear’ essence – the name says it all.
There are flower essences to help relieve all the other stressful emotional responses to the holidays and they are well worth investigating.
For information about each of the Bach remedies look here, for Australian Bush Flower Remedies look here and Californian Flower Essences here. And this blogger describes her response to flower remedies which is interesting if you have had no experience of them before
Here are some useful strategies for those who have to deal with intensified extended family tensions. They give you the opportunity to plan ahead and devise strategies for you as well as your family.
Importantly it is all about taking back the reigns and getting back your sense of control. If you are able to clearly identify where your stress is coming from then you have a better chance of achieving this control. If there is a tradition in your festivities that causes more stress than joy, then it is time to give yourself permission to change things. Maybe 2012 is the year to make changes, after all you cannot help others if you are not really coping yourself.
Don’t forget, it is not all about the ‘Big Day’. The stress of the lead up through December can be just as bad or worse, and the significant health effect that prolonged stress can have on your whole system is often not recognized or acknowledged until it gets serious.
Remember to check in with situations and ask yourself whether they are of joy or of stress right through the whole Month of December.
Make this the year where you decide to be a bit kinder to yourself. Sure there are always going to be pressures, but maybe by being aware of the extent of the manufactured pressures you embrace, you can let a few slide, and in easing up your obligations you will be able to deal with those stresses you really cannot avoid.
It is time to allow yourself the gift of self-love and self-care.
Last year my family traveled from three different continents to meet up at a beautiful Caribbean beach on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. As always I took a kit of 25 Homeopathic remedies with me. The Homeopathic kit has traveled with me wherever I travel for over twenty years and has been invaluable for all sorts of acute illnesses and first-aid situations many times.
Initially my kit included remedies for small children’s problems but as the boys grew the remedies changed a little to suit their changing activites and destinations. Remedies for teething relief eventually gave way to ‘hangover rescues’ and as we ventured overseas we added remedies for “Bali-belly” and jetlag.
Of course some remedies remained, the same remedy served for the effects of falling of a bicycle with training wheels as did for falling from a small Asian motorcycle. And some were always there because they were such fundamental stalwarts. Arnica is one that I would be lost without, in fact I can’t imagine raising a family of four boys without this gem in the medicine chest!
Being a practitioner I have access to a broader range of Homeopathic remedies than are found in most kits, and I have the knowledge of a wider range of applications, so that I am able to tailor the selection of the Homeopathic medicines more closely to our specific need. But nonetheless I still often manage to find myself without the necessary remedy for the problem we face. When one son had his drink spiked in Asia I knew which remedy he needed to counteract the nasty effects of the drug, but not having it with me had to make do with another that while it did help ‘bring him down’ was not ideal.
However, back to Mexico, as I said there are some remedies I never leave home without.
We arrived in Mexico in the late summer and it was hot! Seriously hot, especially after coming out of the tail of the Melbourne winter. The villa we were staying at had a pool, sun lounges under the cabana and backed onto an amazing fish-filled lagoon. So the family was quick to soak up the long-missed sun and it only took one day before one of the boys came to me seriously sunburned. There are a number of Homeopathic remedies that are useful for burns, but there is one I always carry as it dissipates sunburn with amazing speed. But for hot, sunny Mexico I had forgotten to pack it.
Luckily being Mexico the garden was full of succulents and a quick walk around the garden revealed our second treatment choice, a clump of Aloe Vera plants. My son broke a leaf applied the gel to his burnt skin with good healing results. Most people know one of the characteristics of Aloe Vera is it’s ability to soothe the skin. But it is not only an excellent anti-inflammatory, it also actually heals any tissues it touches. It is great for skin problems such as acne, dandruff, eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis. (Although I prefer to treat psoriasis with a deeper-acting treatment like homeopathy) On the skin it will also help heal infections, although you must not apply it to any deep vertical wounds (such as those from surgery). And of course it soothes and starts the healing process for sunburn, cooking and ironing burns or insect bites.
Many people drink Aloe juice regularly for its laxative qualities, as a general health tonic for the Gastrointestinal system, or to help build up the immune system. However, do not use Aloe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a kidney disorder, IBD or intestinal obstruction, or for young children. Also, Aloe can cause irritation on the skin in some people with a specific sensitivity to the plant, although it is uncommon.
AN ALOE IS AN ALOE, RIGHT? WRONG!
There are over 240 varieties of Aloe and there are also a number of plants that look very like Aloe but don’t have the same healing properties. The one you need is Aloe barbadensis and the clue to identifying Aloe is in the way the leaves sit. In a true Aloe plant they all come up from the base in a circular pattern, like in the picture below. If there are leaves pointing in only a couple of directions it is not an Aloe. The edges of the leaf have short little barbs a bit like a cactus, although it is actually a member of the lily family and not a cactus. The fleshy leaves can vary in colour and even be spotted but they will always grow in this shape. There are lots of Aloe varieties but Aloe barbadensis is the one you want to use.
The useful part of the plant is the gooey gel in the centre of the leaf. The outer part of the leaf contains constituents that can be problematic and you want to avoid. The outer part also has a bitter taste whereas the gel does not so if the juice or powder tastes bitter it is a clue that the product is not good quality as it has some of the outer leaf mixed in with the gel.
The other problem that can be a problem with commercial products is that the gel oxidizes when it is exposed to the air for more than about four hours. This is like the apple going brown after it is cut. Some manufacturers buy Aloe gel and stockpile it for long periods during which time it deteriorates. Rather than wondering whether the bought product is truly good or poor quality it makes sense to formulate your own ‘Aloe’ products from your own plant.
HOW TO USE ALOE
You can apply the gel directly to your skin, as my son did, to relieve inflammation, whenever there is a breakout, or as a regular beauty treatment. It is also useful for dry skin. You can also use it to de-frizz your hair before you blow-dry it, as it is the main ingredient of most defrizzers on the market. It is easy to apply because of its consistency.
You can substitute Aloe for your shaving cream, it gives a great close shave and, being anti-inflammatory and with a high water content stops the need for moisturizers afterwards. In fact it sorts out razor burn beautifully – use it after you shower and again before bed.
Aloe vera is high in a range of nutrients that will be absorbed into your skin. It contains all eighteen amino acids, including the eight essential ones, twenty minerals, the standouts being calcium, zinc, selenium and magnesium and twelve vitamins, including Vitamins A, C and E which benefit the skin because they have antioxidant activity that neutralizes free radicals.
Aloes are very easy to grow in a pot on a sunny windowsill. They like hot, dry weather and are fine inside. They need almost no care and the danger is that they will die from over-watering rather than neglect. They are fine outside but you will need to bring them in during a cold snap especially if there is frost. Once your plant is established you can easily grow more by planting a ‘pup’ from the parent plant into some Cacti potting mix. Keeping a pot of Aloe vera is the best way to have a ready supply of fresh gel on hand.
SKIN CARE RECIPES
Once your Aloe vera plant is growing you might like to use it to make a face mask for yourself. Here is how:
Cut one of the bigger leaves off the plant with a knife close to the base. Put the leaf onto a plate and leave it for about 20 minutes to allow the yellow sap to flow out. Then wash the leaf under running water.
Slice your Aloe leaf in half vertically (from the top to bottom). Take care, it will be slippery. Then with a spoon scrape the
gooey gel out of the inside of the leaf. It is really gooey, like very sticky egg white, and will stick to your fingers. (If it is a very big leaf cut it across before leaving it to sit and store half in the fridge for another time. The leaf end will seal over and stop any oxidisation)
To make a very easy Aloe and Honey mask, take about 2 teaspoons of the gel and mix well with equal quantities of honey, ideally Manuka honey or otherwise organic honey. Add ¼ teaspoon of rose hip oil. Apply to your face with your fingers and leave on for 20 minutes. Then wash it off your face. This mask is rejuvenating for dry skin when used twice a week for two months. (If you have no Rose Hip Oil make this with just the Aloe and honey)
A Cucumber and Aloe mask is great after being out in the sun. It is also excellent for acne, or any stressed and inflamed skin. Peel and deseed ½ a cucumber and then process it to a smooth paste with about 2 tablespoons of Aloe vera gel. Spread over your face (and neck), relax for 20 minutes and then wash off gently.
Alternatively, if you are pressed for time you can simply rub the inside of the leaf directly on your skin. It is safe to use on your face, although better to avoid the eye area. It will help heal outbreaks as well as tightening and toning the skin.
You do not need to cleanse afterwards as Aloe is cleansing, and you can simply apply a moisturizer or face oil if you wish.
This advice is not intended to replace the advice of your Health Care Practitioner. Please seek professional advice for serious medical problems.