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Unfortunately, there are many endless factors that are not in our control. Stress needs no invitation to sneak up on us. Sometimes, it feels like no matter how hard we try to get rid of, stress finds its way to crawl back into our life.

We blame our jobs, relationships, financial aspects, and/or other personal reasons for being under stress; however, the truth is that it is us that ultimately have to pay the price, and not anyone else. Managing stress is in your hands only.

Failing to cope with everyday stress can mess with body physiology to cause health disorders including heart disease, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, headaches, weight gain, sleep problems, memory loss, and lack of concentration.

Stress Affects Body Functions  

While we try our best to lead a healthy lifestyle by taking care of our internal health, both acute and chronic stress can spoil that plan. Adverse effects of chronic stress are not only restricted to our mental health since it creates havoc in many essential body systems.

Brain Functions

Our brain is constantly engaged to everyday stressors; it processes, analyses and reacts to everyday situations. Studies on human health conclude that stress can cause structural changes in certain brain areas and affects the functionality of the human nervous system. This is evidenced by the phenomenon of “Steroid psychosis”, which is induced by anti-inflammatory drugs (considered to be synthetic hormones) when used on behvioural and cognitive disorders.

Chronic stress can lead to brain mass atrophy, and can even reduce its weight. It affects cognition, learning, and memory functions. In summary, researchers concluded that chronic stress is linked to reduced cognition, neurogenesis disorders, weakened verbal memory, and disruption of memory & judgement.

Long term brain changes due to stress leads to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Immune System

For decades, health researchers have shown interest in understanding the relationship between the immune system and stress. Impaired immune system is one of the most critical adverse effects of stress. A compromised immune state leads to higher risk of illness. Stress can modulate processes in the central nervous system to affect the functionality of immune system. In fact, the secretion of hormones, managing numerous immune functions, can also be affected by stress.

Studies investigated and concluded that stress mediators like glucocorticoid hormone can adversely affect immune functions as they are capable of passing through the blood-brain barrier, thus affecting processing and cognition abilities long-term. Severe stress can also lead to malignancy.

Cardiovascular System

Cardiovascular diseases and stress are positively correlated. Both acute and chronic stress leads to an increase in heart rate due to constriction of blood vessels, which in turn increases blood pressure. Stress can cause blood clotting disorders, increase in blood lipids, atherogenesis (fat deposition), leading to cardiac arrhythmias and subsequent myocardial infarction.

Gastrointestinal System

Stress is known to reduce appetite, and can adversely affect gastrointestinal (GI) track functions. Studies have shown that stress can lead to GI inflammation. Moreover, it affects the absorption process, ion channel functions (critical for movement of substances across cell membrane), and stomach acid secretion. Stress can cause critical GI diseases such as irritable bowel disease (IBS), Crohn’s disease and other ulcerative diseases.

Are you aware that a nutrient poor diet can also contribute to worsening your stress level? Hundreds of health studies have suggested a strong connection between stress and poor nutrition. Nutrition is a vital stress buster. Switching to a healthier diet is quite a common recommendation from physicians and health experts for better stress management.

Managing stress should be an important part of a healthy lifestyle.  Another efficient way to manage your stress is by introducing stress reducing techniques, or therapies.  

Acupuncture is blessed with body relaxing and calming effects, it enables physiological changes that release endorphins and other calming chemicals. This makes acupuncture a great enabler to relieve stress and anxiety.

Do not let stress disrupt your brain health & body chemistry? After all, we all deserve a stress-free, healthy lifestyle.

 

References:

  1. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057-1072. Published 2017 Jul 21. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480 
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. Mayo Clinic. 2016 [Online] Available from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037   [Accessed: 9 March 2019]
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Protect your brain from stress. Harvard Medical School. 2018 [Online] Available from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/protect-your-brain-from-stress [Accessed: 9 March 2019]
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Food intolerance is relatively a new concept, and can be difficult to understand. Even most doctors have a poor understanding of it, particularly when there is a mixture of signs and symptoms that do not belong in the same disease group or there is no pathological explanation.

Common complaints such as headaches, bloating and tiredness after eating may be due to food intolerance. Importantly, this is different from food allergy which occurs as an immune reaction that releases the chemical histamine into the tissues, causing itchy rashes, stomach upsets, cough, wheeze and more severe life threatening anaphylaxis symptoms. At times symptoms of  food intolerance can be similar to food allergy reactions, which can cause confusion. A food allergy will normally show up on allergy tests, however food intolerance may not. For this reason having food allergy tests do not always give the answers that we seek.  One way to look at this is as a spectrum, where food allergy is at the severe end whilst food intolerance is found in the middle with good health at the other end.

In food intolerance substances in food can increase the frequency or severity of existing symptoms or cause new symptoms. This can depend on the amount of the offending food that is eaten. Small amounts may not cause any problems, whilst larger amounts will give rise to troublesome symptoms. The reaction time to an intolerant food varies and since we eat and drink many times a day, sometimes we may get a confused picture of the problem.

Food intolerance adverse reactions may include;

  • General feeling unwell after eating e.g. bloating, heartburn and indigestion.
  • Malaise, tiredness and feeling sleepy.
  • Headaches, arthritis and eczema.
  • Flushing, nausea and bloating.
  • Diarrhoea and/or constipation.
  • Aversion for certain foods where the person not only dislikes the food, but also reacts at the sight or smell of the food. In some this is triggered by emotional association with the food.
  • Underlying anxiety can cause hyperventilation and considerable distress resulting in dizziness, tight chest, blurred vision, unusual body sensations or numbness.
  • Gut upset, weight loss and anaemia.

Food intolerance causes include;

  • Enzyme deficiency e.g. lactose intolerance.
  • Food poisoning: A history of gastroenteritis or food poisoning can leave longer term digestive problems.
  • Food additives: In sensitive people additives used for food preservation, consistency, colour and taste can trigger symptoms e.g. sulphites used to preserve dried fruits and canned goods, and some sweeteners can cause headaches.
  • Certain conditions e.g. irritable bowel syndrome increases the risk of food intolerance.
  • Celiac disease is triggered by eating gluten (found in wheat and other grains). There are some features of food allergy, but symptoms are limited to the digestive system.
  • Continual or recurring stress, or psychological factors.

Diagnosis of food intolerance is based mainly on a detailed history, response to treatment and a continual process of dietary review over a period of time. As explained earlier allergy tests are of little value. The history will help to identify the offending foods or other factors that aggravate symptoms. Often people are able to recognise some of the foods themselves, or by a process of trial and error i.e. by temporarily excluding a suspect food from the diet. Using a food diary to keep a record of what is eaten and any symptoms that may develop during that time is very helpful. Another way is to avoid all suspect foods from the diet until there are no symptoms, followed by a gradual reintroduction of one type of food at a time to see which cause symptoms. In both cases there is a risk of having an inadequate diet, therefore always seek advice from an experienced and knowledgeable medical or health practitioner.

In my experience the use of a combined integrated approach to treat food intolerance offers excellent results. It is important to remember that every treatment plan is individualised to the person, as each person is unique and different in the problems they experience. Additionally, they also vary in their response to treatments. In general following a detailed history every treatment will start with a dietary review, followed by reducing or avoiding the intake of problem foods. Learning to read ingredient lists of processed foods is key to ensuring that the appropriate foods are avoided. Often I find that there is a poor understanding of processed foods and what they may contain. In many cases because of deterioration in health there is food hypersensitivity, where people start to react to non-problem foods and present at my clinic with a very confused picture. Regular acupuncture treatments aimed at restoring healthy body function, by enhancing blood circulation, immune function and flow of Qi (energy), will help calm the body and reduce reactivity to foods. It also eases abdominal cramps, nausea, stress and anxiety. Where necessary multivitamins and supplements are advised to help reduce nutrient deficiencies, alleviate symptoms and in the long-term promote healing of the gut.

References:

  1. Food intolerance (2014). Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-other-adverse-reactions/food-intolerance
  2. Li JTC, (2016). What’s the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy? http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538

 

This January Many people are thinking about weight loss you are not alone.  Its when many  try to shed a few pounds with the aim to have health and happiness.  For some, this is a regular New Year event, the main reason being making a positive change in their life or a variety of reasons. Maintaining cosmetic appearances should not be the main reason  to pay attention to your weight. Sometimes a diagnosis of obesity, heart condition, diabetes or arthritis  may be the impetus  for change.

In the UK 77% of men and 63% of women are either overweight or obese.  In the last 20 years obesity has risen by 16%. Being overweight dramatically increases the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (particularly osteoarthritis),  cardiovascular disease,  diabetes  and some cancers.  There is much evidence to support a strong link that carrying excessive fat around the waistline  triggers long-term inflammatory processes throughout the body.  It also increases insulin resistance,  abnormalities in blood fats and build-up of fat in the liver.

Being overweight isn’t caused by single type of food or a lack of willpower.  Healthy choices are not always easy to make. Eating out,  ready meals and larger portion sizes also  make it more difficult. Our lifestyle has become more sedentary,  we are less likely to walk, run  or cycle.

Which type of diet is best ?

New diets are constantly being lunch throughout the year.  Each diet is promoted to be the diet to end all diets. Unfortunately,  most of these are short term solutions, can be very restrictive and not designed to achieve long-term success. Most diets either restrict calories or minimise carbohydrate (including sugars) and fat intake.

  • Calorie restriction can be highly effective and can improve metabolic imbalances caused by obesity e.g.  inflammation, insulin resistance, raised blood fats  and high blood pressure.  Most  research studies use  around 20%-30%  reduction in calorie intake from the baseline. However, in long-term weight loss there appears to be no difference between diets low in fat compared to diets low in carbohydrates (and sugars).
  • Fasting can make calorie restriction easier for some people. There are many versions of a fasting diet. They include;
    • Periodic fasting : limiting a diet to 500-750 calories a day for  2 to 5 days every month,  or every couple of months.
    •  Intermittent fasting:   commonly known as the “5: 2 diet”  recommends 500- 750  calories a day for 2 days every week. OR  “the 16:8”  fasting overnight (13-16 hours) every 24 hours.  the latter does not involve restricting calories but simply narrows the window in which calories are consumed.

We can’t all just get Thin !  There are many functional imbalances that prevent the best attempts at weight loss.  These include:

  • Imbalances in the gut absorption and digestion
  • Problems with blood sugar control
  • Thyroid gland problems e.g.  hypothyroidism
  • Disruption in adrenal function, causing imbalances in various hormones
  • Imbalances in sex hormones
  • Imbalance in the brain chemistry
  • Problems with appetite controlling chemicals
  • High toxic load

Ultimately,  the most effective diet is one that the individual find easiest to stick with  in the long term.  Usually,  this will be a low glycaemic load (low-GL) diet. Carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized and therefore there is a slower rise in blood sugar and insulin  resulting in lower and consistent sugar levels.

On their own dietary measures are rarely sufficient to manage weight loss. Diet with exercise is far more effective  both for short and long-term weight management.  Evidence suggests that regular aerobic type exercise or resistance training plus walking approximately 10,000 steps a day.  Exercise not only  burns calories,  but also releases endorphins which improves food cravings and insulin sensitivity. Adequate hydration is also crucial to achieving a healthy weight.  Lack of sleep leads to ghrelin hormone production stimulating hunger and suppresses leptin hormone which controls appetite.  In one study women who slept less than 7 hours and night had a 30% higher likelihood to add 33 lbs over a 16 year period.

Without doubt supplements are essential for healthy weight loss. These include; multi-vitamins, B-vitamins, minerals, fish oil, green tea, probiotics, L-Theanine and others.

 

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Flavourings and preservatives have been used for centuries to enhance the taste and freshness of food. Do you wonder if they may be unsafe to eat?, or have you tried to identify all the additives that are in your food ?

Additives are not naturally found in food. They serve a number of purposes;

  • Colours  that add or restore lost colours to food.
  • Preservatives that help protect against food deterioration caused by bacteria.
  • Antioxidants that slow down or stop the oxidative deterioration of foods, e.g. when fats and oils go rancid.
  • Artificial sweeteners which impart a sweet taste for fewer calories than sugar, but also cheaper to use.
  • Flavour enhancers that improve the taste and aroma of food.
  • Presentation and texture enhancers e.g. thickeners, gelling agents, emulsifiers, emulsifiers.
  • Nutrient additions that increase the nutrient value of foods

Without many additives our food may not taste as nice, bread would go sour more quickly. Some foods will no longer be worth eating due to their low nutrient value.

Traditional methods of preservation include; smoking, salting, vinegar and drying are accepted for their long standing safe historical use. The use of additives has to go through a lengthy process to prove that they are safe to use, but despite this there are still many concerns. Below are some of the problems that additives may give rise to.

Allergy

  • Sulphite and sulphur dioxide (E220-28) have been known to cause allergic reactions. Specifically, asthma sufferers should avoid sulphur dioxide gas due to increased sensitivity, but there are also recorded cases of worsening of asthma after drinking soft drinks containing it. They are mainly found in dried fruits, dessicated coconut, relishes and fruit-based pie fillings.
  • Food colours like tartrazine (E102) can cause mild allergic reactions and some studies show that sunset yellow (E1 10) can cause tumours.
  • Annatto, a natural food colouring found in margarine, cheese, smoked fish and cakes is implicated in allergic reactions and irritable bowel.

Cancer

  • Aspartame (E951) has been linked to various cancers(1,2,3), although studies by US National Cancer Institute and European Food Safety Authority concluded that it did not increase the risk of cancers.
  • Erythrosine is a red food colour. Research has highlighted concerns about its potential tumour formation and inhibition of the normal functioning of the thyroid.
  • Allura red has been associated with cancer in mice but evidence is not consistent.
  • Nitrites and nitrates (E249-52) may convert to potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines.

Hyperactivity

  • Although a definitive link has not yet been established food colours like, sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129), tartrazine (E102) and ponceau 4R (E124) have been associated with hyperactivity in some children. These are commonly found in a variety of processed foods, especially in children’s sweets, confectionary, squashes, soft drinks, jams and cakes. Prevalence of hyperactivity is estimated to be about 2.5%.
  • Aspartame has also been linked with changes in behaviour.

Headaches

  • MSG (monosodium glutamate- E621) is a flavour enhancer can cause headaches in some people. Although in a recent review there was no conclusive direct evidence.
  • Aspartame is also linked with causing headaches.

Other


The Bottom Line

Additives are overused in the processed foods industry, so try to avoid them as much as possible.

  • Keep processed foods to a minimum, including sweets, lollies, soft drinks and cakes.
  • Be careful of foods that are presented as low-fat, sugar-free as majority will contain some form of additive.
  • Not everyone reacts to additives in the same way. If you experience signs of reacting to certain foods, then minimise or avoid eating it.
  • If your child shows signs of hyperactivity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) then eliminating some colours from their diet may prove beneficial.
  • Always read food labels to be fully aware of what you are buying.

 

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It’s not uncommon for the proponents of conventional and of holistic systems of medicine to feel that they inhabit competing camps in the war to alleviate human suffering. In fact, Western and Eastern medicine are essential branches on the great tree of scientific knowledge.  Many of us are working towards the ideal of a continuum of care that provides the very best treatment to all patients. Western medicine has achieved remarkable triumphs.  Vaccination against many infectious diseases has greatly reduced their incidence; science has eradicated smallpox and come close to doing the same for polio.  It has saved millions of children from the scourges that once prevented so many from reaching their fifth birthday.

The specialties of surgery and emergency medicine save countless lives every day.

After decades of clinical practice I still wonder; Where does Western medicine fall short?  In the promotion of lifelong wellness; in the diagnosis and treatment of complex disorders; in the unnecessary or excessive use of pharmaceutical drugs; in safe, effective, ongoing pain management.

We’re certainly making progress in bringing these two branches of medicine closer, for example;  acupuncture has been proven to offer effective pain relief and increasingly accepted in medical pain clinics, and it doesn’t carry the risks associated with drug-based analgesia. Integration of auricular acupuncture in addiction clinics is another measure of its success. There is worldwide recognition of acupuncture for anxiety and stress particularly in cancer treatment, post traumatic stress disorder amongst veterans, and its potential value as anesthesia during surgical procedures.

I have always found that it is necessary to treat the whole person, and not just deal with an immediate crisis or what presents as their most significant symptom. I wanted to share this story (to ensure anonymity names and certain details have been changed).

Ria’s Story-  “Please… I Just Want the Pain to Stop”.

In the hospital waiting room Ria’s stomach churns and twists once again sending shooting pains throughout her body, followed by a cold sweat.  Over the past six months, she’s seen six different doctors; has endured repeated blood tests and other procedures.  No one has been able to offer her a definitive diagnosis. After each visit, she’s sent home with different prescriptions but no effective treatment for the repeated, alternating bouts of diarrhoea and constipation, sometimes nausea too.  Pain medication doesn’t bring any relief.  Her husband Pete feels equally anxious and frustrated.

Visits to six different doctors, blood tests and investigations all have proven to be unhelpful – there is no definitive diagnosis. Each time she is sent home with new meds, pain medication doesn’t work, one tells her that she is stressed and emotionally disturbed and prescribes her antidepressants another says there is some inflammation in her spleen, but nothing else. Ria is desperate, her symptoms are worsening.

Ria is beginning to doubt herself; wondering if it really is “all in her mind.”  She’s afraid to eat because everything just makes her feel worse, and she’s now two sizes smaller.

After yet another round of tests, Ria’s new consultant is also perplexed by her symptoms.  His examination of her shows nothing significant.  He’s ruled out cancer or other serious disease; all her other results are relatively normal. But fortunately for her, this doctor takes the time to listed to her and has a positive view of complementary therapies; he understands that functional disorders often underlie a patient’s stress and anxiety.  He knows that food intolerance is increasingly common and is often very hard to properly pinpoint. He asks her if she would be willing to accept a referral to a holistic physician.  Ria has always had an interest in complementary therapies and gladly agrees. He also gives her advice on juicing and enrolls her on to a mindfulness course.

As a holistic practitioner, I see Ria’s physical and emotional distress to be strongly interrelated, but requiring individual attention, with this in mind I begin acupuncture treatments. Almost immediately, they help to ease her distressed state and bring some relief for her stomach pain.

Over a period of months I guide Ria to make changes to her diet.  Together we develop a plan to identify problem foods. She learns about carbohydrate intolerance and how the FODMAP diet can help.  Ria finds the mindfulness course very effective in relieving her anxiety.  She began to realize her physical and emotional distress began years before the manifestation of painful bowel dysfunction.

Six months after starting treatment, Ria has made great progress.  She knows it will take time to regain the good health she thought was out of her reach, but she is no longer frightened and discouraged.  She is starting to take pleasure in eating again.  She and her husband are now enjoying what they thought might never be possible again–everyday pleasures.

 

If you are struggling with your Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms (IBS), don’t give up just yet instead, Take back control !

IBS is a functional disorder athat affects the colon and causes irritable of the lining of the colon. Symptoms can include; diarrhea and/or constipation, bloating, gas and abdominal cramps. Whilst a small proportion of sufferers need to take medication, most people can control it with dietary changes. Studies have shown that avoiding certain foods can help to reduced severity and fewer symptoms, with much improvement in quality of life.

All IBS Is Not The Same

Understanding your IBS is the best way to manage it. Some general tips are;

  • Have regular meal times, chew well and avoid eating in haste to help the process of digestion.
  • Drink at least 8 cups of fluids a day. This can include water, soups, herbal or non-caffeinated drinks.
  • Regular exercise has shown to help reduce symptoms.
  • Reduce stress
  • Benefit can be had from gaining advice on nutritional supplements e.g. multivitamins, essential fatty acids and probiotics to remedy any nutritional deficiencies that may have resulted due to prolonged IBS symptoms.
  • Complementary therapies like acupuncture can help to reduce symptoms and calm the digestive system. It is particularly effective for functional problems. It can also help to reduce stress caused by a busy and demanding lifestyle.

Dietary Changes

  1. Avoid or restrict drinking tea, coffee, alcohol and fizzy drinks.
  2. Avoid artificial sweeteners.
  3. Avoid fatty foods.
  4. Start to keep a food diary and when symptoms occur. This will help to identify problem foods.
  5. Avoid or limit foods that may worsen symptoms.
  6. If you have persistent or frequent bloating, a low FODMAP diet can help. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Essentially these are carbohydrate, but specifically FODMAPS are certain types of carbohydrates that are not easily broken down and so have difficulty being absorbed by the gut. Left undigested in the gut they quickly start to ferment to release gases resulting in bloating. Low FODMAP diet essentially involves restricting your intake of high FODMAP foods e.g. some fruits and vegetables, animal milk, wheat products and beans. There is a danger of eliminating too many foods, potentially impacting on general health. Thus seeking guidance from a knowledgeable professional will ensure that you maintain a healthy balanced diet. You can read more about the low FODMAP diet here.

Give Foods Another Chance

When you are actively experiencing IBS symptoms it can seem like you react to almost everything that you eat. Often people may have eliminated food that they are able to eat if their colon is not in a reactive state. Thus, after a minimum of 3-4 weeks of food avoidance or limitation, the colon will have rested and calmed down. At this time you can start to can bring back foods one at a time at a rate of one item per week. You might be pleased to discover that you’re only sensitive to one or two FODMAP carbs, not all of them e.g. wheat is a problem but dairy is OK.

Creating Your Own Personalised Diet

The aim is to find out what foods or other factors (e.g. stress) trigger your IBS symptoms. In this way you can create your own personal diet which gives you all the nutrients you need but only includes the foods that you can handle.

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What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols naturally occurring in foods or as an additive.  As a group they are known as FODMAPs (Fermentable Oliogosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols). Not all carbohydrates are considered FODMAPs and the content level also varies.

Collectively they have three common properties:

  1. Incomplete digestion and absorption. They can be classified into two groups;
    • Those that are partly absorbed FODMAPs (fructose, lactose polyols)
    • Those which are not absorbed in anyone (fructans and galactooligosaccharides)
  2. Osmotically active action drawing in water into the large bowel.
  3. Rapidly fermented by bacteria due to their short chain molecular structure.

FODMAP image
Low FODMAP diets are scientifically proven and was first pioneered in Melboune, Australia for the management of IBS. However, in the UK it is still a relatively new concept. The effectiveness of FODMAP diets is variable. In people with IBS it is around 70%. All FODMAPs have a role in symptom development, but the dietary amount varies across the different genetic, ethnic and dietary groups. For example people who can digest lactose, dairy products are not a problem. Fructans and fructose are most common in North American, Western and European diets. Furthermore, we have to consider that the rate of absorption of fructose in the small intestine is widely variable and consequently the effects experienced by different people will also vary.

How do FODMAPs affect the bowel?

Luminal distension is considered to be the common physiological cause of many functional gut disorders. It induces symptoms of pain, bloating and abdominal distension. This evidence comes from Barostat and gas infusion research studies. FODMAP food that has not been digested passes through the small intestine to the colon where they are fermented by the bacteria resulting in the release of gas causing bloating, wind and pain. Due to their osmotic nature water enters the colon resulting in loose motions and diarrhoea. Research has shown that in individuals with sensitive bowel function (e.g. IBS) FODMAPs tend to react more readily.

What can I do to find out what if FODMAPs affect me?

If you have gastrointestinal symptoms, diarrhoea, constipation, gas, bloating and/or cramping then you are more likely to be sensitive to the effects of FODMAPs. Reduce your intake of high FODMAP foods for 4-8 weeks and observe whether your symptoms improve. If they do then you can start to reintroduce some of the higher FODMAP food one at a time to see if your symptoms recur. You can track your symptoms in a diary or use a symptom tracker app.  The lists below will also be helpful.

  1. Low FODMAP shopping list (Kate Scarlata, 2014) PDF
  2. Low FODMAP food list (SIG, 2016) PDF 

Resources:

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Having depression comes with the feeling of being helpless when medication is your  only option. Thankfully, you are not limited to this and there are a number of therapies that can be used. These therapies can do a lot to fight back and they range from direct effects on brain chemicals responsible for mood, mind-body and physiological changes. Not all therapies are suitable for everyone, but most people will find that there will be some that will work for them.

Life Style Changes: Eating well, physical activity and getting sleep are crucial to good mental and physical health. Trying something new and set (realistic) goals for personal achievement.

Laughter Therapy: Develop a good sense of humour and laugh. Laughing gives you an instant hit of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that controls feelings pleasure and reward. Of course, laughing by yourself may be hard to achieve, so you can try to use a laugh phone app. One study by Loma Linda University researchers found that even the anticipation of a jovial laugh reduces the levels of stress hormone cortisol, which increases when you are anxious.

Planned rest and relaxation:  A planned period of relaxation “Time for myself” has profound benefits. This can be anything from 3 mins of quiet contemplation or 30 min of meditation, yoga, walking, tai chi, or anything you find therapeutic and relaxing e.g. reading, dancing, gardening or singing. Researchers have found that after a period of relaxation, shy men with social anxiety had lower heart rates after they interacted with people.

Essential Oils: Essential oils like lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang and bergamot are good for treating depression. Lavender has a calming effect and can be safely used in the home. A drop on the collar bone or on the chest, or gently rubbed into either side of the temple.  The odour is extremely relaxing and studies have shown that it induces calm.

Grounding: In the event of an anxiety attack  “do something tangible” to distract your brain e.g. pick up a pen and run your fingers along it, hold a ball or a paper weight in your hand. This works because your brain cannot be in two places at the same time and it will shift negative catastrophic thoughts.

Planned rest and relaxation:  A planned period of relaxation “Time for myself” has profound benefits. This can be anything from 3 mins of quiet contemplation or 30 min of meditation, yoga, walking, tai chi, or anything you find therapeutic and relaxing e.g. reading, dancing, gardening or singing. Researchers have found that after a period of relaxation, shy men with social anxiety had lower heart rates after they interacted with people.

Acupressure: Stimulating acupuncture points are known to make positive changes to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation. It also deactivates the ‘analytical brain’ which controls anxiety and worry. Research also shows reversal of stress related behaviour changes and biochemistry. Applying finger pressure, with tiny circular movements for a few minutes will stimulate the points. Stimulating these points can also be used as a grounding technique. Some useful points are; Lu 1, P6, LI4.

P6 acupoint.jpg Lu1 point Li4

Yoga: Research has found that yoga boosts levels of the amino acid GABA are higher in those that carry out yoga. GABA is essential for brain function which helps promote a state of calm in the body. Low levels of GABA is associated with anxiety and depression. Here is a video on yoga breathing techniques to reduce anxiety.

Tai Chi and Qi Qong: Tai Chi and Qi Qong is a form of mind-body exercise that originated from China. It is a form of ‘mindful exercise’ using slow meditative movements and breathing. Beneficial effects include; lowering of blood pressure, greater physical functioning and more likely to have reduction in depression symptoms. Here is a tai chi video you can try.

Tea: Chamomile is a good anti-anxiety tea with mild relaxing effects. Green tea is rich in L-theanine amino acid which lowers heart rate, blood pressure and ease anxiety. Lemon Balm has sedative effect therefore calms the nerves, but also beneficial for digestion.

Face the fear: Sometimes it helps to confront your ‘fear’. Understanding what you are scared of can best way to allay your anxiety. Talk to a friend or a mentor.

Supplements: There are a variety of supplements that can help anxiety and depression disorders. These include; multivitamins, essential fatty acids, B-complex, L-Theanine, GABA, 5-HTP and St John’s Wort. It is important to remember that supplements can interact with other medication therefore consulting a knowledgeable health professional is essential.

It does take effort to help yourself, but once you get started it becomes easier and gradually you will start to have Fun. when you reach this just remember “don’t stop” !

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common chronic conditions of the digestiveStomach pain system found in around 1 in 5 people. Women are 2-3 times more likely to develop IBS. It is characterised by bouts of abdominal cramps, bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and/or constipation. The severity varies from one person to another. They can last from a few days to months. Symptoms may ease after going to the toilet, often the condition is life-long. Unfortunately the cause of IBS is unknown, but most people find it is related to an increased sensitivity of the gut and problems with digesting certain foods. Stress is also a known contributor. IBS can be painful and debilitating affecting personal, social and professional life. Treatments for IBS are mainly limited to symptom control, stress reduction, altering the amount of fibre in the diet, regular exercise and identifying trigger foods in the diet.

IBS is described as a functional problem, which means that anatomically or physiological investigations are completely normal. Instead there is impairment of the body’s normal function. This makes it difficult to treat. An increasing number of studies have found that IBS can be safely and effectively managed using acupuncture.

In Chinese medicine, IBS is considered to be an imbalance between the liver and spleen. The liver is associated with emotions and stress, while the spleen is linked to digestive function in the body. A weak spleen Qi (energy) allows the liver to dominate. When this occurs over a long period of time the continued disharmony causes IBS symptoms to manifest.

Acupuncture
Research evidence has consistently demonstrated that a course of acupuncture improves IBS symptoms and general wellbeing. These include;
• Pain relief
• Regulating the motility and movement of the digestive tract
• Reducing gut sensitivity
• Reduce stress related sympathetic nerve impulses e.g. abdominal spasm, by increasing the parasympathetic tone of ‘rest and digest’.
• Reducing anxiety and depression by increasing production of mood altering chemicals serotonin and endorphins.

Nutrition
IBS related changes in diet are individualised. It should focus on identifying trigger foods and eliminating them from the diet. These can vary from wheat, dairy, alcohol, coffee, fatty foods and some fruits and vegetables In the case of constipation adding adequate fibre to the diet is helpful. Some people may find that soluble fibre like, oatmeal, berries, legumes, beans and lentils are easier than insoluble fibre from raw vegetables and bran. Probiotics, multivitamins and minerals can be helpful to normalise the digestive environment.

Life style changes
Some of the following lifestyle changes can benefit IBS symptoms, but are also good for general health and well-being.
• Regular exercise to relive stress, regulate the bowel and alleviate constipation
• Practicing meditation, mindfulness, yoga, breathing exercises will help to manage stress levels
• Good and adequate sleep is important for everyone, but particularly for those with IBS. It helps the body to rest and heal. Tiredness increases stress and irritability which in turn triggers IBS.

Book an appointment or Call  07810024687 to discuss your needs with Dr Rhonda Lee. Dr Lee is a Holistic Physician trained in medicine, acupuncture, nutrition, aromatherapy, massage and other techniques. She specialises in digestive disorder, chronic fatigue, pain management and stress and depression.