Skin Nutrition and PCOS with Rachel Aust

We all know by now that there is a substantial link between what we put into our bodies and what comes out. No one preaches this more than the beautiful and ever so driven, Rachel Aust. If you haven't heard of Rachel, than you are in for a treat! 

Today on the blog I will be going over some important food and skin related topics with Rachel who has successfully managed her PCOS and adult onset acne through nutrition. 

You've heard me discuss the rise of ‘21st century illness’ on here before, but along with these inflammatory diseases came the rise in acne also. Once upon a time, acne was only common in adolescents during puberty. Now, millions of adults are experiencing acne for the first time.

Statistics show, over eight million people see the dermatologist every year for their acne, whilst millions seek guidance from highly marketed cosmetics products with a whopping  $100 million in sales every year. Prescriptions for ‘acne drugs’ come in at over a billion per year! Acne is on the rise, but why?

We are too busy looking for a lotion or magic pill to cure our acne, instead of getting to the root cause. Lets remember what acne is exactly - a topical symptom of an internal inflammatory response. 

In our western society, we are bombarded daily with mass marketing companies pushing artificially modified foods high in refined sugar. Our carbohydrate intake has risen substantially over the years! Now, not all carbohydrates are equal. Carbohydrates cover a vast range of foods. A ‘quarter pounder meal’ comes under the heading of ‘carb’, but so does a bowl of steamed vegetables. 

These vegetables can be considered as ‘slow carbs’ which are low-glycemic and don’t spike your blood sugar or insulin. These slow carbs usually come loaded with micro nutrient and fiber (essential for good skin health). 

Then there are the highly processed carbs , stripped of their nutrients and fiber. These are your refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and white flour filled foods. After you eat a high refined carb meal, your insulin spikes and your blood sugar plummets, leaving you very hungry and fatigued. 

Data suggest that a high intake of refined carbohydrates may increase the risk of insulin resistance (1). The normal function of the hormone insulin is to transfer glucose from the blood into the liver and muscle cells, to be used as energy, and managing our blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance is where the insulin is no longer very efficient at metabolising the sugar correctly, causing more to be released, and ultimately creating a surplus in the bloodstream. One study estimates that 65-70% of women with PCOS are obese and have insulin resistance.

Skin problems are very common with women suffering PCOS due to the androgens and other hormonal imbalances. Excess insulin in the bloodstream stimulates the ovaries to produce testosterone, leading to traits such as acne,excess hair growth or even the opposite, hair falling out, alopecia, which can also be a consequence of excess androgen.

Rachel Aust is a Photographer turned nutritionist and fitness inspiration. 

In 2017 Rachel followed a ketogenic diet for 11 months to help improve some of her PCOS symptoms. Her body wasn’t using carbohydrates correctly, and she was having a very hard time maintaining her weight, with her body gaining fat despite the fact she wasn’t eating in a caloric surplus. No matter how much she trained or what she did, it just felt like my body didn’t ‘work’.This was due in part to insulin resistance, which had tagged along as part of her PCOS.

Along with these symptoms came adult onset acne. I wanted to bring Rachel on the blog to chat from the perspective of a qualified Nutritionist, the importance of food when it comes to skin and an insight into her skin journey through nutrition. 

Here are Rachel's top tips for dealing with PCOS symptoms, cleaning up your diet and how a short term Keto diet, may be the answer to your skin concerns:

1. What would you recommend is the most important foods to avoid once you have been diagnosed with PCOS?

When it comes to PCOS there are no 'hard and fast' rules, as what works well for one might not work well for another, but there have been some general trends studied, and also some principles I like to use with both myself, and the clients I am coaching who have PCOS:

Avoiding refined/processed sugars (+ sugars without fibre)

By keeping these at a minimum we are not only looking after the health of our gut, but also helping stabilise our blood sugar levels. Gut health and PCOS are so strongly linked, and if you aren't considering what the food you are eating is doing to your microbiome, now is the time to start.

On top of this there is a strong relationship between PCOS and insulin resistance

Your body does require sugars for energy, however sugar isn't able to get into your blood cells on it's own - this is where insulin comes in. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which regulates how much glucose goes into your blood. It 'attaches' to the sugar and feeds it into the blood cells.

If you have or are developing insulin resistance the insulin has a much harder time getting into your blood cells. Regularly spiking blood sugar levels from things like fizzy drinks, chocolate, lollies, and even your beloved açai bowls can lead to your body producing more insulin on top of this ("the sugar isn't in the cells yet.. why not? Let's send out more insulin to get it in!"). 

In the short term elevated insulin levels can lead to increased free testosterone levels in females - which is exactly what we are trying to avoid with PCOS.

In the long term this can lead to your body producing more and more insulin until the pancreas is worn out, which results in Type 2 Diabetes.

Ditch the alcohol

Women with PCOS already have enough trouble keeping their hormones stable and stopping their body from gaining excess weight. Our ability to burn fats and sugars slows right down when we drink alcohol and your liver is too busy dealing with the alcohol to make stored sugars for you to use later, leading to massive blood sugar drops, which you'll then attempt to spike back up with your post-drinking feed at 3AM or the following day. When your liver is not functioning at it's best hormones can recirculate through the body, and lead to hormonal excesses and/or imbalances

Other things to limit

I'd also recommend (for everyone, not just people with PCOS) limiting foods that contain transfatty acids (think of your fast food chains and fried foods) and processed meats (ham, hot dogs). 

2. What is the Ketogenic diet and how did it help you with your symptoms?

The ketogenic diet is a very high fat, moderate protein and extremely low carbohydrate (<50g per day) diet - there are no cheat meals, and very little room for error. It was created in the 1920s as a treatment for childhood epilepsy, and has since been used as a neuroprotective diet for Alzhiemer's and Parkinson's, and also in conjunction with treatments of early stage cancers. Before we jump into it I have to preface this by saying, I am well versed in nutrition, and even when I was on the Ketogenic diet I was still working with a GP, a gyno, and a naturopath. It is a diet which should be monitored, including regular blood testing, if followed incorrectly it can lead to some serious health complications, and shouldn't be done on a whim. Similar results can be achieved with a low carbohydrate diet, only go into ketosis if it is absolutely necessary. 

I was at a point where my body felt.. stubborn. I was training most days of the week, I was eating what most would consider healthy, and my body wasn't feeling as fit, if anything, my results were going backwards. I felt inflamed, I was gaining body fat despite the exercise output, adequate protein intake and a caloric deficit. I was constantly tired, my menstrual cycle had become irregular again, according to blood work I was displaying signs of insulin resistance, and my acne wasn't going away. 

I was in ketosis from February 2017 until December 2017, eventually jumping off because I had lost too much strength in the gym and weight training is one of my favourite things. During this time I got a blood test every 4-5 weeks. 

The results I saw were:

- Weight loss

- Reduced resistance training performance

- Increased cardio performance

- Regulated menstrual cycle

- No more signs of insulin resistance

- Regulated free testosterone levels
- Reduced acne

Please speak to your healthcare professional or a dietician before proceeding with a ketogenic diet.

I am now back on a more maintainable macronutrient ratio of 40% carbohydrates (high fibre, unrefined), 30% (lean) proteins, and 30% fats.

3. How long did it take you to notice an improvement in your skin once you cleaned up your diet?

The skin is a tricky thing! It takes a long time, it's an organ, the largest one in your body in fact. I think we're so often sold the idea that we can have miraculously clear skin in 2 weeks if we just follow this skincare regime, or pay $500 for this one-off treatment, and it's not like that at all. It's taken me years of consistently looking after the internal, as well as the external. Treatments like microdermabrasion, peels and LED therapy are AMAZING for maintenance, but if you're not treating the core problem internally, it's always going to come back, no matter what you do to the skin itself.

My skin went through a bit of an ebb and flow, it'd clear up for a few months, then break out again, then clear up again, etc. Then, slowly, the breakouts stopped happening, or if they did it'd be a single spot, rather than half my face. So I can't give a 100% accurate time line, but let's just say you need to stick at what you're doing consistently for a while to truly notice the difference.

4. Your top 3 foods you couldn't live without for glowing, healthy skin?

Water!!! (I know it's not a food, shush)

3-4L a day minimum! I train hard, so I need to drink more. Your water intake will depend on your gender, age, activity levels, and the climate where you live. Water aids the liver's natural detoxification process, and like I mentioned before, this can help restore or retain proper hormonal balance.

Fatty fish

Salmon is a regular part of my diet. It's packed with omega 3's which help flight inflammation in your body.

Broccoli

Hear me out on this one, but I go through nearly a 500g bag of frozen broccoli every day. It's packed with Vitamin C, which is vital for collagen production. However, Brassicas (broccoli and it's cousins, kale, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower etc) have a hormone regulatory effect and also support the liver's detoxification process. You'll want about 2 cups of Brassica veg per day to aid with mild hormonal imbalances.















Functional Approach to Treatment of Depression

As an RN, I can see up to fifty patients/ clients a week, majority of which I will notice are on an extensive list of medications treating individual concerns. Most commonly noticed is an antidepressant. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). On average, around 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men will experience some level of depression in their lifetime. From their, they will then be prescribed some form of antidepressant. (1)

Now, I am not writing this blog post to state that taking an antidepressant is wrong, as they can often be effective, however, I am aiming to open your eyes to a well rounded and holistic approach to treating depression.  

The conventional therapeutic approach to dealing with a disease like depression is to wait for the problem to set in and then give you a drug to stop you feeling depressed. It is typically treated as a chemical imbalance in the brain (endogenous depression). This then leads to the prescription of drugs such as some common known antidepressants Cymbalta, Pristiq, Tegretol etc. But how are these drugs working exactly?

There are many different types of antidepressants, but a common prescription is the Selective serotonin re uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) . These are medications that increase the amount of the neurochemical serotonin in the brain. It is believed that when people suffer with depression they will  often have lower serotonin levels in the brain. The SSRIs work by blocking the re absorption of serotonin so it remains in the brain therefore helping with the treatment of depression. But did you know that 90% of our serotonin is actually formed in our guts?

Most antidepressants are generally safe, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all antidepressants to carry a black box warning, with the strictest warning for prescriptions. In some cases,especially in the first few weeks after starting or when the dose is changed, children, teenagers and young adults under age 25 may have an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviour when taking antidepressants.

Often these drugs are prescribed with very little investigation into other imbalances in the body. This is where the functional medicine approach takes precedence. Addressing the root cause of any disease is always an effective approach. Functional Medicine attempts to eliminate things that cause imbalances in core systems in our body and aims to provide our body with things it needs to heal (like good food, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fats etc). Looking beyond just the chemical imbalances in our brain, some other imbalances in our body systems that can contribute to depression, include:

  • Low thyroid function: When thyroid hormone levels are low, many organs and internal systems slow down, creating a wide range of symptoms — including depression.

  • Vitamin D deficiency: Have a physician  check your Vit D levels to ensure you have optimal serum levels

  • Folic acid or B12 deficiency: Along with vitamins B6 and B12, folate helps break down the amino acid homocysteine. High blood levels of homocysteine are associated with Alzheimer's disease and depression.

  • Omega-3 fats deficiency;  The brain is made up of fats and health ratios of omega 3: omega 6 fatty acids are absolutely essential to happy mood and healthy brain function.

  • Food allergies: Keeping inflammation at bay is critical if you want great sleep and a happy mood!  Gluten and other common foods may be causing hidden inflammation.

There is growing evidence surrounding nutritional deficiencies, blood sugar control, hormonal imbalance and all of the above creating a dysfunction in the brain. The mind is affected by the different organs of the body and vice versa. Some studies also show that problems with neurotransmitter production starts from the gut before it affects the brain. So why are millions of us expecting one pill to heal multiple bodily dysfunctions?

As stated above, approximately 90% of the serotonin in the body is located in the gut. The remaining 10% is synthesised in the central nervous system. The neurotransmitter serotonin can actually modulate motility in the gut. When levels of serotonin are off, this can cause either constipation or diarrhoea. Gut bacteria have also been found to play a significant role in the communication that goes on between the brain and the gut.

There is a huge body of research and excitement around the “Gut-Brain axis”. Many other prescription drugs, can cause havoc on the guts microbiome which can lead to depression and insomnia. Environmental toxins too, including additives, preservatives, oestrogen, pollutants, pesticides and metals can all alter mood by attaching to, or damaging, nerve receptors. (2)This is where I utilise Essential oils to help reduce my toxicity exposure and to help balance my central nervous system.

See, it is all linked! Please be mindful to listen to your whole body and seek help from a professional, trained to treat your body as an integrated system, not just as a collection of individual organs. Again this blog is not to take away from the advice given by your doctor, just to compliment treatment you make currently be undertaking.

Here are some research based Essential oil blends, to help bring balance and aid in mood elevation:

1. Bergamot

Bergamot has positive benefits for your mental and emotional health. It helps fight feelings of anxiety and depression by promoting the secretion of hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. (3)

2. Ylang Ylang

Ylang ylang is a well-known essential oil that helps fight negative emotions and depression. Inhaling this essential oil through a diffuser or aromatherapy inhaler can remedy depressive moods and promote positivity. Ylang ylang essential oil is known to be highly effective in balancing hormones, which can relieve stress and cortisol levels.

3. Lavender Essential Oil: Lavender was found to protect against neurological damage of the brain & used to effectively treat neurological issues like migraines, stress, anxiety and depression. (4)


https://www.thefunctionalnurse.blog/essential-oils/

*Please always seek help from a professional if you are suffering depression. I want to clarify that this article does not suggest that one should discontinue their medication.


Know your sh*t!

OK, let's just cut the crap right here (See what I did there?). Poo is no longer a taboo topic and something you will just have to get use to me talking about! It is an important part of your skin and overall health, I promise! You all know now from reading my blogs, that our gut is our second brain and that 80% of our immune system is in our gut, etc etc. Well our poo (which if you didn't already know, starts in our gut) can reveal A LOT of information about our health.

It can tell us a lot about the balance of bacteria in our gut, how well we’re absorbing nutrients, and whether our body is detoxifying toxins properly. Our daily intake of food is typically three to four meals a day for most. Our body will absorb what it needs from those meals and then excrete the rest. (2)Our bodies way of doing this is via having daily bowel motions. Yes, daily! I cringe if I ask my patients/ clients how often they move their bowels and they respond with anything less than once a day. When the gut is functioning normally, you should expect to have a bowel movement at least once a day, and up to three times in a day can be normal for most.

So, you might be thinking, well aren't you a skin and gut specialist so why are you talking about poo? Well remember, your skin is our largest organ and a major form of elimination for the body. If you aren't moving your bowels regularly then the toxins will try to excrete elsewhere. The face is covered in pores just waiting to excrete toxins in the form of lovely pustules! Now, for the women reading, this is the most important information you need to take from my blog! You MUST have regular bowel motions to ensure your body does not store toxic hormones. Our bodies produce hormones, and the liver is responsible for processing and inactivating them. Our hormones go through a process of deactivation to be moved out of the body via the gut. If our bowel motions are not regular, the hormones can hang around a little too long in the gut causing an overload. Our gut then produces an enzyme called "beta-glucuronidase" which causes our body to recycle the toxic hormone. For women, this means disruptions to our bodies rhythm, causing issues such as irregular menstrual cycles, purges of acne, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety and also thyroid disorders. Not to mention increase risk of hormonally derived cancers like breast and ovarian cancers.(1)

I recently assisted my best friend through a terrible health  ordeal which started with prolonged constipation. This constipation had been getting progressively worse over three months. Every specialist she saw, prescribed her laxatives of some form or informed her that her future would require a colostomy bag as her bowels were no longer working sufficiently. This was her experience with the conventional medical approach (not to say everyone's experience is like this). No answer as to why at the age of 25, young and fit, her bowels had just stopped working, but instead, a whole list of terrifying interventions. My friend decided to take her health into her own hands and started watching very carefully what she was putting into her body and how her body was reacting. After some time and a lot of research, she had found that a certain preservative that was in her protein powder and a couple of other daily regular packaged foods, was causing the issue. Since cleaning up her diet and eliminating this preservative, her bowel motions have become a lot more regular without the use of laxatives and she has learnt to read her stools and link them to her her food intake. She found her root cause and focused on this which in turn eased the symptoms, instead of treating a symptom which would not fix her root cause (in fact it would have made it worse long term!). And to think, just a few months ago we were bracing ourselves for the life altering procedure of a colostomy bag!!!!

Knowing your own body and how it works, is so empowering. We pay hundreds of dollars for maintenance services on our cars, yet think its too expensive for testing and professional guidance when it comes to our bodies?We know the ins and outs of how our computers and iphones work, but so many of us have no idea how our body is meant to function. We seem to think that that's just the Doctors job. We didn't study medicine, so what would we know? For me that's just not good enough, the health of myself and my loved ones, is the most important thing in the world. I sure as hell don't want to leave that up to a 5 minute consult with a random Doctor once or twice a year. Know your body, know what the root cause of your health concern is. If you don't get the answer from one Doctor, see a Naturopath or a Functional treating Doctor. If they don't find the answer, go to ten more! Research yourself! There is a root cause for all of your health concerns, but the biggest problem of all is not knowing you need to find it. Don't be that patient who is on ten different medications all counteracting each other and treating the symptoms not the cause.

My online consulting will cover bowel motions and I will assist you in learning how to read your own stool and how to encourage regular healthy bowel motions, if you aren't already having them. Your skin will start to clear up and your body will thank you for it, I promise!



 

Reducing your daily dose of chemicals!

Let me start this blog off with quoting a snippet from my all time idol, Alice Nicholls.

“The BEST way for woman to detox, is to have a baby, because we literally can dump our toxins directly into the child. US studies show over 200 synthetic chemicals presenting in the umbilical cords of newborn infants.” This is greatly due to our lifestyle factors! Reading this was a life and mindset changing moment for me! It reinforced a major goal of mine in life, to create a home as toxic free as possible for my future bubs and family.

Our genetic code and microbiome has been greatly altered, bringing forth a new world of 21st century auto immune disorders such as eczema, asthma, IBS and autism. Long gone are the days of smallpox, measles or polio being common killers within the community. As the 21st century unfolded, so did the magic of antibiotics and vaccinations. Our 21st century lives are somewhat sterile and although we are no longer threatened by the acute and dangerous bouts of infectious disease, we have seen a rise in what we class as chronic “21st century illnesses”.

Think of all of your family and friends. Now i'm sure you know at least one of these people:

-Your brother who has to carry an epipen where ever he goes incase he comes in contact with a peanut.

-That friend who has to inject themselves with insulin several times a day because they are a type 1 diabetic.

-Your friends child who can't use certain soaps or laundry liquids because their eczema will flare up.

-Or how about your annoying friend who has to make sure every restaurant you go to has a gluten free option, or else they will spend the night with painful diarrhoea.

Asthma, eczema, diabetes type 1, allergies, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, these are all just becoming the norm. But surely this cannot be normal? Irritable bowel syndrome affects up to 15% of people and, as a previous Gastrointestinal Nurse, I first hand witnessed chrons disease and colitis on the rise also. I saw far too many patients with a bag attached to their abdomen.

So the big question arises! Why are these 21st century illness on the rise? Sure, genetic makeup does have an impact. One person may carry a gene that makes them slightly more susceptible to say, obesity, however the rise in obesity is happening too intensely to correlate with the laws of progress of human evolution. Our 21st century lifestyle has a lot to answer for! The refined sugar filled foods we eat along with the toxic chemicals we apply to our bodies daily! Think plastic sanitary pads, chemical deodorants, hairspray, carcinogenic makeup. Also our homes are filled with disinfectant sprays killing off bad and GOOD bacteria, leaving us with completely impaired microbiomes and pathetic immune systems.

I am certainly not perfect, especially considering my job as an RN in the hospital and the Cosmetic Nursing world. I am surrounded by chemicals daily. My passion for my jobs remains the same and not something I can control, however, I can certainly control my daily use of chemicals in my home and on my body. Starting the journey to reducing the daily chemicals in your life can be daunting. I know I certainly felt that way, however I started small and am improving daily.

I looked at what I was using every single day on my body. Makeup, deodorant and perfume were three things I rarely left the house without. So I started there. My makeup is now Lamav organics. In an ideal world, no makeup would be best, but hey, I am a makeup wearing gal, so I choose organics! Now I can feel far less guilty and it actually looks so much nicer and dewier than normal heavy duty Priceline makeup anyway!!!

My deodorant is a funny topic in my home. I switched to 'schmidts natural deodorant' about a year ago. Now the base of this deodorant is baking soda and is quite thick, so I manage to get it all over my black scrubs of a morning. But it smells absolutely divine! Clancy (my beautiful partner) always jokes before we leave the house “have you got your cake batter on babes?”. This was such an easy transition for me, as I am a big sweater! But natural deodorant is seriously ten times better at masking smells and reducing sweaty patches.

Next came perfume. Now this has always been a game changer for me, as growing up I have always been super sensitive to synthetic smells and a trip through Myers perfume section, would result in the biggest headache! I switched to essential oils as my perfume around one year ago and it has honestly been life changing. I use certain oils as my perfume to suit/ alter my moods for the day.

It has only just been the last year or so where I have learnt the medicinal properties and the actual power that my oils hold. After finding lavender oils ‘sedative’ properties, helped me much greater than sleeping pills after night shifts, I started to incorporate my oils into my medication kit. I slowly learnt how to replace certain prescriptive/ over the counter drugs with my oils. I’ll leave more information on my medicinal use of my oils and my home cleaning products for another, more in depth blog ( as I could talk about this topic for days).

I use doTERRA essential oils now and I am obsessed. I have dabbled in the past with cheaper options, however when using my oils daily and medicinally, to support my endocrine, adrenal and central nervous system, I am super fussy. I only use oils that are 100% pure and free from herbicide, pesticides and no toxic added fillers.

As I said, I am far from completely chemical free yet (and I don't know if I ever will be) but the changes I have made already have had such a positive impact in my life, from my moods, to my skin and gut health. I find great joy in spreading the message in hope that you can achieve a healthier, happy body and mind also.

If you want to make the first step to a less toxic lifestyle today, please DM me at any time. I can help you get started with your essential oils ( 25% discount off retail prices for all my beautiful Functional Nurse readers). Or click on my Essential Oils tab for instructions. https://www.thefunctionalnurse.blog/essential-oils/

Also the beautiful people at Lamav Organics, know how much I love their products and have offered any Functional Nurse readers, 10% off their first orders. (I am not sponsored, I just love this organic brand) 

https://lamav.com/

USE THE CODE 'LM10' in the check out. You can thank me for your glowing skin later ;) xx

Chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation is the root cause of majority of autoimmune disorders and disease. Inflammation in the gut from the foods we eat and drink and the medications we take, can cause systemic inflammation affecting the entire body.

One of my biggest annoyances being a Nurse is the lack of communication between specialities. Doctors, Dermatologists, beauticians alike, all seem to be treating the downstream effects of inflammation, instead of looking upstream at the root cause. Take one of my typical patients from the hospital for example. Dispensing their extensive medication lists, actually gives me a headache! Some patients can be on 10 plus regular pills, all treating a downstream symptom of an upstream problem! Some common chronic health issues that stem from inflammation include; heart disease, autoimmune conditions, arthritis, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases, anxiety, depression, brain fog, and hormonal imbalances.

Skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, melasma and eczema especially are all triggered from inflammation as well. This is why assessing the foods we eat and regular medications we take, are essential in ensuring we are reducing the inflammatory response in our bodies.

These are some common triggers of inflammation.

  • Poor diet

  • Lack of exercise

  • Stress (physical and emotional stress)

  • Viruses, bacteria, yeasts or parasites

  • Allergens from foods or the environment

  • Long term use of certain medications

  • Toxins such as mercury and pesticides

  • Mold toxins

Here are some inflammatory promoting foods that you should avoid:

  • Refined Sugar and high- fructose Corn syrup - Consuming a diet high in sugar and high-fructose corn syrup drives inflammation that can lead to disease. It may also counteract the anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Artificial Trans Fats have been shown to cause inflammation and increase disease risk

  • Vegetable and Seed Oils are high omega-6 fatty acid content and may promote inflammation when consumed in high amount.

  • Refined Carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels and promote inflammation .

  • Excessive alcohol consumption can increase inflammation and potentially lead to a "leaky gut" that drives inflammation throughout the body.

 

Here are my top Anti inflammatory foods that you can easily add to your diet to reduce inflammation:

  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards

  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts

  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines

  • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

  • Grass fed meat

  • Turmeric root

  • Ginger

Some of my top tips to reduce inflammation!

  • At times of stress I will utilise Essential oils! Frankincense: Apply to the bottom of my feet to relax and balance mood swings.

  • Lavender essential oil: Diffuse at night to help sleep and calm central nervous system.

  • Remove coffee and replace with a turmeric latte.

  • Learn to actively relax to engage vagus nerve, the powerful nerve that relaxes our whole body and lowers inflammation. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing or even taking a hot lavender oil bath.


 

Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogenic Herbs are classed under phytotherapy which refers to the use of plants as medicine.These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions and are still used in the Functional Medicine world today. Adaptogens work to rebalance, protect and restore the body. The plants do this by interacting with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathoadrenal system, both of which are involved in the body’s response to stress and therefore help our bodies to better handle stress.

Adaptogens are one of my go-to tools for improving my own health issues, along with my patients and loved ones. How can adaptogen herbs help you?

RELIEVE STRESS

Our bodies are built to release the hormone cortisol in response to stress, however continual stress means elevated cortisol levels over long periods of time. This level of stress is a potent poison to the body. It cripples the immune system, upsets our hormones, disrupts digestion and produces inflammation throughout the whole body. Continual stress lies at the root of inflammatory disease! Adaptogenic herbs are an amazing natural medicine to relieve stress and reduce long-term cortisol levels. These are a few of my favourite cortisol reducing herbs that i could not live without:

Ashwagandha: This herb has the ability to regulate cortisol and is a powerful calming tool to have on hand. (careful! Ashwagandha is considered a nightshade and should be used with caution for those suffering an autoimmune disorder)

Licorice root: Also helps decrease cortisol in the body creating homeostasis.

ANTIAGEING

Considering my line of work in clinic, anti ageing adaptogens are my go to!

Chaga: This super food mushroom is loaded with antioxidants that help fight free radicals to ensure cell health and youthful skin.

Cordyceps: This is the ultimate anti-aging adaptogen. Not only does this mushroom increase antioxidants, but it decreases the pro-inflammatory monoamine oxidase and lipid peroxidation activity that significantly contributes to the ageing process.

BALANCE HORMONES:

With the many physical and chemical stressors in our day to do life, it is very common for our hormones to be disrupted. Are you feeling cranky, more irritable and depressed for no good reason, whilst experiencing irregular periods and PMS? Well the chances are that your hormones are out of balance. Adaptogenic herbs help to regulate the endocrine system function, which is is needed to help balance hormones.

Maca root: Maca root supports and balances the endocrine system, aiding the pituitary, adrenal and thyroid glands. It is essential in helping balance out female hormones. Research also support maca root as a natural alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy for early-postmenopausal women.

Ashwagandha: Supports overall endocrine function.  It is particularly good for balancing the thyroid and adrenal glands.

Shatavari: This herb has been known to help relieve PMS, increase fertility and to alleviate menopausal symptoms.It is also known as a natural aphrodisiac, and therefore can help with low libido.

HOW TO INCORPORATE THEM INTO YOUR DIET?

You can find many good quality, organic adaptogens online and at health foods stores. Straight herbs can be added to teas (chaga tea is my favourite) or you can buy adaptogens in  pre-mixed powder to spice up everything from smoothies to soups to your morning elixirs.



 

PCOS and Acne.

Polycystic ovarian Syndrome is a collection of signs and symptoms that has multiple possible causes. A common cause is the overproduction of testosterone in the ovaries, which typically results from insulin resistance. When blood sugar levels are high, the ovaries are forced to absorb sugar and use the extra energy to make both estrogen and testosterone.

These fluctuations in hormones can cause ovarian cysts, infertility, and menstrual irregularity, as well as hirsutism (unwanted hair growth) and acne! Hirsutism is present in 60-80% of women with PCOS, with unwanted hair potentially forming on the top lip, chin, lower back, stomach, hands and feet etc.(1)

New onset acne as a female adult can be highly predictive of PCOS. Acne connected with PCOS is due to high levels of your androgen or “male” hormones – testosterone and DHEA, in the body. Acne caused by PCOS tends to flare up in ‘hormonal sensitive’ areas around the lower third of the face. Typically under the skin, angry inflammation through the cheeks, jawline, chin, and upper neck.  

Common treatment via conventional medicine for these symptoms includes the oral contraceptive pills (OCP), androgen-blocking medications or diabetes medications such as metformin.  

What bothers me about the above treatment plan however, is that the OCP is not a cure for PCOS. It simply masks some of the symptoms while the syndrome continues unhindered in the body. Would you not want to know the root cause of your insulin sensitivity, your irregular periods, your excess hair growth or your adult onset acne? Not just mask the symptoms? 

When being treated by a Functional Practitioner, finding the root cause of the issue can take quite a bit of testing. They will typically consider gut health testing, comprehensive blood panel and heavy metal burden, in order to search for anything that could be contributing to hormonal disruption, immune imbalance or chronic inflammation.

PCOS can put intense stress on the body, however often the external factors like the acne, abnormal hair growth or weight retention can be a woman's number one focus. They will willingly spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars trying to treat these symptoms topically, however treating the root cause is where the focus needs to lie for long term results!

My best recommendation is to have thorough testing to know your individual diagnosis and reasoning for developing PCOS. This will allow you to know exactly what treatment plan will be a success for you. For instance, if your adrenal glands are over-stimulated by continual sugar highs and lows, they will produce too much adrenaline and testosterone, preventing ovulation altogether. If your primary issue is insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction, then a low-carb/ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting to regulate blood sugar, may be your answer. Whereas somebody else may find through testing, that they have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and this inflammation has led to disruption of the female hormones and caused the overproduction of testosterone. Therefore the SIBO would need to be addressed.

Here are some of my internal focused, more holistic tips I recommend to my PCOS clients suffering from acne;

Eat less carbs and more fat:

Many studies support that a higher fat and lower carb diet can help alleviate the symptoms of PCOS. When consuming high intakes of carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates (ie. refined sugar, white bread, white rice, etc.) they will quickly turn to sugar and cause spikes in insulin. Diets like the ketogenic diet and Paleo diet can be more effective when treating PCOS over the conventional, low fat high carb diets. (2)

Berberine:  

Berberine is a herb that can be as effective as metformin in treating hyperinsulinemia. It up regulates insulin receptors and stimulates glucose uptake into the cells. This can help reduce the intensity of your acne breakouts. Studies do show however, that pre and probiotic support should be taken along side long term use of Berberine, to ensure good gut health due to Berberines antimicrobial properties.(3)

Flax Seeds:

Flax seeds are high in fiber, high in omega 3 fatty acids, and contain essential amino acids that are great for the skin. They also contain lignans that increase sex-hormone binding globulin levels and reduce androgen and insulin levels. This can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of PCOS

Cinnamon:

Cinnamon can help reduce insulin resistance and restore ovarian function in women. This powerful spice is very easily added to our daily intake and gives a serious glow to the skin from inside out!

Reducing plastics and toxins in your daily life:

Certain chemicals in plastic can mimic hormones or bind to hormone receptor sites, disrupting the body’s hormone balance. These toxins can affect the endocrine system, reeking havoc for the already imbalanced hormones. Try replacing your daily water bottle or tupperware with glass to reduce your daily chemical intake.

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Our Microbiome

Up to 100 trillion cells live in your gut creating us our own microbiome bacterial fingerprint, specific to us as individuals. We are just the host to this highly complex echo system. Our microbiome includes at least 1000 different species of known bacteria with more than three million genes. Of the bacteria living in our gut, some are considered probiotics (good bacteria) and others pathogens (bad bacteria). These microorganisms are involved in multiple functions that are critical to our overall health and well being. People often associate bacteria as being unhealthy, however, these bacteria are not all bad and play a key role in digesting the food we eat, and help with absorbing and synthesising nutrients.(1)

The more diversity of good bacteria in our gut, the better chance our bodies have to fight off and resist pathogens. As I stated in my previous gut health blog, your gastrointestinal tract acts as a protective barrier from the outside world keeping the good stuff in and bad stuff out. Our gut microbes play a major role in maintaining the integrity of our gut lining by assisting the barrier function.

Our bacteria are not just critical for the process of gut health, but many other important processes including our metabolism, skin function, immune system, brain functions and our mood. (Hence my emphasis on healing your gut to relieve you of majority of your health issues!)

Therefore a poor microbiome, can be linked to disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease and can course an onset of conditions such as food allergies, asthma, acne, arthritis, mild skin rashes, eczema and psoriasis to name a few. (2)These complex bacteria also live on the skin. A balanced microbiome on the skin equates to a healthy barrier function and in turn, healthy skin. An unbalanced microbiome on the skin leaves you with an altered/ impaired barrier function resulting in atopic skin conditions and the penetration of irritant allergens.

So if you are suffering from any of the above conditions, it may be time to consider nurturing your little buddies and re-establishing your gut terrain! So instead of just leaving you with the obvious tip of taking a daily probiotic (if you're not already taking one, then yes I recommend you should be!) I'll leave you a list of the ‘good bacteria killers’ that a lot of us are subject to daily without realising.

1. Overuse of antibiotics

Yep! Antibiotics are not picky. They kill off ALL the bacteria in our body. Even the friendly bacteria our body relies on for optimal health.

2. Refined sugar and GMO foods (genetically modified organisms)

Sugar and chemicals feed populations of microflora that can outgrow other populations creating an imbalance in our gut bacteria. We need balance in our microbiome for optimal health.

3. Gluten

Not only is gluten an irritant to the gastrointestinal system, It requires an abundance of healthy bacteria to properly digest!

4. Stress

Stress can harm the good bacteria and overstimulate the immune system.

5. Medications

Regular medication such as, NSAIDS, analgesics and antidepressants, can also kill off good bacteria. (Ironic considering roughly 90% of our serotonin is made in the gut!?)

6. Over sanitising and using highly antibacterial body washes

This can strip our barrier function and these topical antibacterial chemicals can make their way into our bloodstream and kill off good bacteria.

7. Preservatives in cosmetics

Chemical preservatives like parabens and other formaldehyde donating preservatives that can often be added to our cosmetics, potentially make their way into our bloodstream and affect the ability of our gut flora to flourish.






 

The Gut & Skin Link

Gut health seems to be a very popular topic at the moment, and rightfully so! Our gut is the root cause of majority of our health concerns, especially when it comes to the skin!

Two years ago I started working in the hospital as a Registered Nurse. I believed I had drew the short straw when I was allocated a full time position on the gastrointestinal ward. I was hoping to be placed on the plastic reconstructive ward so that I could learn all about the skin and its anatomical structure. I believed this would equip me better when treating my patients skin in the cosmetic world.

It turns out the short straw I drew was instead the universes push in the direction of my new found passion and carer and provided me with an abundance of valuable knowledge.

Working on the gastrointestinal ward, taught me the western medical diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of bowel complications. I learnt a great deal about the gut, but unfortunately found when it came to treatment, medications were the soul and primary focus.

The gut includes everything from the mouth all the way through to the anus. Its primary responsibility is to absorb the nutrients from our food, house both good and bad bacteria and then excrete any waste from our bodies.

Studies have shown, there is a direct link between both gut and skin health and gut and brain health. We know now that 80 percent of our immune system cells are found in our gut (1). 80 percent! It is any wonder we are noticing a rise in 21st century illness’ such as, food allergies, eczema, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome etc. This is why I place a huge emphasis when treating my patients on the need to heal their skin/bodies from inside out.  

When we constantly put our gut under stress with our ignorant western diet, we damage our intestinal tract and jeopardise our skins defence system. The skin's main function is to act as a physical, chemical and antimicrobial barrier.

When the gut is under stress and sparking inflammation, it can impair the integrity and protective function of the guts barrier, this can lead to a permeable gut wall. This is quite commonly referred to as a ‘leaky gut’. A leaky gut means that the gastrointestinal system is now allowing toxins and undigested food through the gut wall and directly into the bloodstream. This ‘leak’ then causes systemic inflammation. As the body is now full of these harmful toxins, its main objective is to excrete them. Due to the skins decrease in its antimicrobial defence system, we can unfortunately notice an increase in infection and inflammation as a form of excretion through the skin.

Whether you have been informed you have gut issues or not, being kind to your gut is imperative for your overall health. There are tests that can be done in clinic to determine intestinal disorders however we can all take small measures every day to ensure optimal gut health and prevent future risks.

I will be writing more in depth blogs in the months to come explaining how certain foods affect our gut health and the importance of our microbial system, but for now here are some of my personal top tips to ensure you are being kind to your gut today and creating the glow from inside out!

  • Take a daily oral probiotic. Probiotics have been shown to decrease lipopolysaccharide (an endotoxin that triggers major inflammatory response in the gut) , improve intestinal barrier function and reduce inflammation.

  • Incorporate fermented and cultured foods into your diet that are naturally rich with probiotics. Ie, sauerkraut, coconut yoghurt, kombucha, kimchi etc.
  • Start taking L-Glutamine  supplements. This is an essential amino acid and helps reduce inflammation and fuels the cells that line the intestine which can aid in the repair of the gut and intestinal lining.

  • Remove/ reduce refined sugar from your diet!

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Vighi, G., Marcucci, F., Sensi, L., Di Cara, G., & Frati, F. (2008). Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 153(Suppl 1), 3–6. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03713.x