Just thought I’d share with you one of the sessions of a seminar I attended on Sunday on Mental Health, Childhood and Autism. The particular session, delivered by Rob Santich, n Herbalist with 25 years experience was on resilience in children and the emerging factors in today’s society which place ever more pressures on children to be as resilient as ever.

Whether you agree with them or not here are some of the factors that really struck a chord with me

1. The fact that we live in an economy instead of a community, which values predatory capitalism. This capitalism breeds a culture of consumerism which, in turn, favours a false sense of self-esteem created by over-permissiveness. It also paints a picture of success which is dictated by the number of possessions a family owns. Advertising in the consumer world creates expectations which can never fully be achieved and which therefore results, in the long run, in low self esteem.

2.The role of the media in promoting the unrealistic aims of consumerism not only in advertising but in placing social identities on pedestals which promote narcissism as the ideal.

3. Capitalization also favours urbanisation which physically reduces the amount of green spaces children can play in, thereby creating a disconnect with nature and corresponding increase in behavioural problems. This is interesting for me as I did quite a bit of research in my health promotion days on the link between adequate green spaces and physical activity. Evidently there is also a direct link on child mental health, not just via the increased exercise involved in improved access to green spaces.

4. An education system which currently has an ideology rooted in continuous standardised assessment rather than the promotion of free thought and opinion.  This current system is placing undue stress on the families of primary school children.

Arthur Ashe said “Success is a journey, not a destination” and if you consider childhood as the start of one long journey it seems to me these pressures create a generation of children that have very little hope of being happy, successful adults. As a society there needs to be a complete shift in consciousness, a re-evaluation of what is truly important in life.

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Inevitably the seasons change and spring turns to summer which is great for some because it means longer days, time outside and swimming. For others, it’s a dreaded time when they consider whether they can indeed fit into last year’s swimsuit. Which category do you fall into? It’s hard to lead an active lifestyle and have fun when you are constantly self conscious about your weight. Now is the perfect time to get started.

Counting Calories

The most basic approach to weight loss is to simply make sure you use up more energy exercising than you ingest in the form of food, called calorie counting. It is a great idea in theory but unfortunately there are a few disadvantages of the technique:

  •  It does not ensure you get all your required vitamins and minerals, some of which are vital for fat burning and curbing cravings;
  • It does not take into account variations in people’s metabolism;
  • It does not address underlying health problems which may be contributing to weight (eg low thyroid function);
  • It does not help you deal with emotional eating; and
  • It is not sustainable

The key to weight loss is to change your mindset about food, focus on nutritious foods that you can eat in abundance to nourish your body, correct nutrient deficiencies and make you feel healthier and more energetic.

I use a flexible approach to weight loss whereby clients can choose to simply to have their diet reviewed right through to a  product based weight loss system called ‘Shake It’. Whatever approach you decide to take the aims are still the same; to switch on fat burning, ensure muscle mass is maintained so that metabolism does not slow down and to address underlying health problems. The choice is yours.


Targeted Fitness – Personal attention in a gym setting



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Allergies in spring can really get you down.

Spring is a beautiful time of year; warmer weather, clearer skies and blooming flowers. Unfortunately for some, this time of year also heralds the start of sneezing, itching eyes and throats and even sinus congestion and pain.  If you suffer from asthma or eczema this may also flare up at this time. Conventional treatment of hayfever and sinus, the most common ailments, usually involves antihistamines and steroid sprays. but these are only really a band-aid solution and do little to address the underlying reasons why the immune system is hypersensitive.

From a natural perspective there is much that can be done to deal with the symptoms, tone the area of the body affected and bring the immune system back into balance. Herbs such as Baical Skullcap, Licorice and Nettle prevent the release of histamine from specific immune cells called mast cells as does vitamin C and a group of antioxidants called flavonoids, of which quercetin is the most effective. Other herbs such as Perilla are effective for dampening the immune response responsible for allergies and Eyebright and Ribwort tone the mucus membranes of the sinus cavity.

A Question of Balance

The hygiene hypothesis proposes that there is now a higher prevalence of allergy in Australian children because of the use of antibacterials in the home and wider environment.
This is because a particular group of immune cells called T-helper 1 cells are not required as much to fight off small everyday infections. The depression in T-helper 1 cells means a corresponding rise in a group of cells called T-helper 2 cells (both types should be in balance) and these are the cells responsible for allergy.

Additionally, healthy gut flora has a regulatory role in keeping T-helper 1 and T-helper 2 cells in balance. Babies’ gastrointestinal tracts are sterile just before they are born and if they are born into a completely sterile environment the development of healthy gut flora is hindered. In babies and small children it can be enhanced by taking probioticcs in the third trimester of pregnancy, having a natural birth and breastfeeding where possible. Commercial probiotics are also useful for babies over two months, children and adults alike.

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This week (May 1st – May 7th) marks Heart Week this year so it seemed like the opportune time to discuss what natural measures can be taken to protect your cardiovascular system from the effects of high cholesterol and blood pressure such as heart attack and stroke.

You can be working everyday to prevent these devastating outcomes by maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise, quitting smoking and eating an anti-inflammatory diet. This means avoiding saturated fat (fat from animals) and increasing your intake of healthy fat sources such as deep sea fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines) to two serves per week, or a tablespoon of flaxseed oil daily if you are vegetarian. It is also a good idea to include foods in your diet which prevent the re-absorption of cholesterol in the large intestine such as oats and other fibrous foods such as psyllium, fruit and vegetables. A fish oil supplement is a must if you are getting on in years or have a family history of heart problems.

If you already have risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol and/or blood pressure there are certainly natural treatment options you should consider.
Krill oil is actually more effective for the treatment of high cholesterol than fish oil. These small plankton that whales feed on are harvested from the pure waters of the antarctic. The oil contains a potent antioxidant called Astaxanthin and the omega-3 fatty acids are packaged in such a way that they are much more readily absorbed into cells in the body. This means you only need one 1000mg capsule per day instead of multiple fish oil capsules.

There are also several herbs which can assist with the treatment of high cholesterol such as Fenugreek, Globe Artichoke, Garlic and Ginger, the latter two also being flavoursome additions to the diet. High blood pressure can be treated with Mistletoe, Olive Leaf and Limeflowers and a supplement called Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This naturally occurring substance exists in every cell and is important for energy production. It is also a must for anyone taking a class of cholesterol drugs called the statins (eg Crestor, Lipitor) which deplete CoQ10 in the body and cause muscle weakness and fatigue as a result, including to the heart itself.

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Have you, or a loved one, been trying to fall pregnant for months on end with no success? Perhaps you’ve even had tests done and been told there is nothing wrong, or that there is but the only answer is IVF.

Your fertility is a result of a fine balance of your hormones and there are many factors that contribute to this balance such as your nutritional status, stress and environmental toxins. For example, there are many toxins in our environment which mimic estrogen (eg those found in plastics) and as a result it is common to find women suffering from symptoms indicative of an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone.

Additionally, there are a number of conditions which contribute to fertility such as allergies, intolerances and infections.
These conditions require herbal medicine specific to the condition along with those that re-balance the hormones in addition to dietary advice.

Another condition affecting fertility,  which is increasing in its prevalence is Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). This condition, which is related to other metabolic conditions such as diabetes, is characterised by insulin resistance, higher than normal levels of testosterone, low levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and high levels of luteinizing hormone (LH). The result of all this is that rather than ovulating normally, a series of cysts form on the ovaries which cause much pain. Treatment of PCOS involves a low glycaemic diet, herbal medicine that re-balances the hormones and stimulates ovulation and treatment of cysts as required.

Your partner is obviously important too! A nutritionally rich diet along with antioxidant and zinc supplements are essential as a minimum. Men may also require specific herbs to boost testosterone levels as well a detoxification program if they have been subjected to occupational toxins.

Many couples have a high level of stress when they are trying to conceive. This too can be managed with appropriate natural medicine, good diet and relaxation techniques.

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September 13 to September 19 is National Herbal Medicine Week and the perfect time to discover the benefits of using herbal medicine instead of, or as a complement to, conventional medicine.

Herbal medicine is the oldest and still the most widely used system of medicine in the world today. It is medicine made exclusively from plants and is used in all societies and common to all cultures.  More than 80,000 types of plants are used around the world for medicinal purposes and over 75% of the world’s population relies on herbal remedies for regular treatment.

There are many different “types” of herbal medicine that spring from different cultures around the world and these have been documented for almost 4000 years. All these types have the use of medicinal plants in common, but they vary in the plants they use, the way they prepare and use medicines from these plants, and the philosophy of their treatment approaches. Different cultures may also use the same plants but differ in how it is used, or the part they use.

What is often misunderstood about modern pharmaceuticals is that they were often first isolated or discovered in plants. For example, the heart medication Digoxin, Aspirin and Pseudoephedrine were first discovered in the plants Digitalis, Willow Bark and Ephedra respectively.  However, Herbalists recognise the value of prescribing the whole herb because plants, being organic like the human body, have complex chemistry which protect the person from side effects and contribute, in a synergistic fashion, to the overall effect on the person.

People consult with Medical Herbalists for a range of reasons. Perhaps you can identify with one or more of them:

  • You have a chronic condition that cannot be treated, at best only managed, by conventional medicine;
  • You are tired of the side effects of modern drugs;
  • You have a set of symptoms that are undiagnosable by the mainstream medical system;
  • You simply and intuitively believe that natural medicine is more compatible with the human body.

If you consult with a Western Medical Herbalist, such as myself, you will more often than not be prescribed a compounded mixture of a few herbal extracts. These herbs in liquid form are the end result of a process of percolation to extract the active chemicals found in the plant. This compounding procedure ensures the use of more potent and effective herbal preparations whilst allowing the practitioner to prepare a medicine that is more personalised to the client’s specific needs.

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Do you suffer from cold and flu every year? Perhaps you even get the flu shot and still find yourself with those same old symptoms, nose that runs like a tap, stuffy head and achiness.  Many people also suffer from secondary chest infections which make life even more miserable and take longer for them to get back to day to day activities. The common trap people fall into is not looking after their immune system, waiting until they fall ill and then medicating themselves with harsh over the counter drugs to simply suppress the symptoms so they can get back to their daily routine.  This does nothing to address the underlying cause, their immune system dysfunction.

Natural Medicine Can Help!
Why not arm your body with the right tools to fight infections before you’re even exposed to them? Herbs like Astragalus, Echinacea and Reishi mushroom can strengthen the immune system so your own body attacks the virus before it takes hold. Many people are also deficient in some of the vitamins & minerals which are essential for proper functioning of the immune system. For example, Vitamins C & D as well as zinc, can be supplemented if the diet is lacking. Does your diet measure up? Do you get 15 minutes of sunshine every single day to ensure you have adequate Vitamin D.  My immune stimulating plan might be for you.
Treatment Too?
Herbs and supplements can also help fight a cold or flu once it has struck. I have in stock at the moment a great Metagenics product called Andro NK which has a therapeutic dose of Andrographis which, alongside the herb Picrorrhiza and zinc, stimulate the body’s own immune cells such as natural killer and white blood cells to stop the virus in it’s tracks. It also contains Elderflower to break down the mucous congestion. They’re like cold and flu tablets from nature!

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