Winter Warmers

There are a few little tricks that I use to keep the family well and full during winter. Along with some good quality vitamin c and a winter immune boosting tonic, I like to do this with food.

One of the easiest and cheapest ways that you can load yourself and the kids with nutrients, keep the gut healthy and bolster the immune system is with bone broth. During winter I like to keep a broth in the slow cooker most days. I just set it on low and add more water as I take the broth out and use it. This is known as a master stick in restaurants and it is our master broth at home. Every second day I take out some of the bones and veg and add fresh stuff to keep it packed with goodness and tasty.

It’s all well and good for me to tell you to make bone broth but many of my clients aren’t really sure what to do with it and are not too keen on drinking it straight from a mug each morning. Whilst I love a brothee to replace my coffee on a cold winter morning, there are other tasty ways to use your broth.

Try an omelette in broth. Callie and I have been loving this lately and it is so easy to do. Simply cook eggs (I like an omelette) as you usually would and heat up some broth to go over the top. It kind of looks like an egg in soup. I then add loads of pink salt, fresh cut herbs, pepper and a good few splashes of Tabasco or some kimchi to top it off. 

You can also add your broth to all slow cooked, pressure cooked, oven baked or even pan fried food. Put a cup into your spaghetti mince, use it instead of wine or water in the slow cooker and add to potato or veggie bakes in the oven.

You can also make some really simple tasty soups at home which will do lunches for a few days, save you loads of money on meals and will warm the soul. Simply bake pumpkin, onion and garlic in the oven and then blitz it all up with a few cups of broth. Or, add flavour and nutrition to your pea and ham soup this winter with broth instead of water. 

We love winter food in our house. Winter is when you can put something in the slow cooker in the morning and come home to a house filled with delicious smells and dinner already done. It is easy to super charge your food in winter by simply adding broth to your meals. 

Mel's Health Journey

In 2014, I went to Bali for a friend’s wedding and brought a parasite home with me. After a year and no luck killing it I was sickly, underweight, depressed and suffered constant stomach troubles, migraines and fatigue. When I finally succumbed to antibiotics (literally my life saver) I was left with 11 food intolerances and a journey of discovery as to what anaphylactic allergies I had developed.

Obviously, my diet was limited, but as fellow foodies will know this does little to diminish a passion for food. And so, I started to adapt recipes and get creative in the kitchen. At first, I made complex and expensive meals with gluten and dairy free alternatives, egg replacer and faux foods. However, I soon got tired of needing an assortment of special foods just to make dinner or whip up a treat for the weekends. 

From this came a return to real food (with my own twist) and a return to healthy well-balanced food. Many gluten free options are high in refined starches and sugar, many dairy alternatives are full of soy or sugar and something like egg replacer suddenly seemed ridiculous. Why not use a banana, some chia seeds or psyllium husk to hold a cake or meatball together? Using food as food and adding nutrition at the same time. 

I found myself going back to recipes that my Grandparents had taught me and made for me as a child. Stews, casseroles and slow cooker meals, roasts, braised meats and curries. Eating slow cooked meals and including offal where I could, meant that I could access an array of nutrients which were already broken down so my poor tummy could absorb them. All naturally free from inflammatory foods, filling, homey and packed with fat, protein and nutrition.

My years in health food made it easy for me to start to replace simple things like nuts with seeds, eggs with chia eggs and milk with a range of seed milks and coconut milk. Along the way, I learned the value of fermented foods and developed skills in doing this at home, which I now teach all my clients and anyone else who is interested. In addition to tasting great and adding new flavours to my palate, fermented foods were key to healing the damage done to my gut by the parasite. 

And then there are my clients. If I thought I had it bad I had no idea - the tummy troubles that people struggle with! Do we think it’s normal? Or is it because we have been given the diagnosis of IBS we think there is nothing more to be done? From chronic diarrhoea to chronic constipation, bloating and pain after eating and then fatigue, depression and anxiety that this can cause.

I will never forget the lady who had suffered terribly with chronic stomach trouble since childhood; Swinging bowels, urgency, weight gain, sharp pains and severe bloating. Only to be told there was nothing wrong and nothing to be done. She just had IBS. Working together for the last 3 years, she is now healthy, fit, strong and well with absolutely no stomach or bowel complaints. I could not be happier or prouder of all her hard work. We have now started to successfully reintroduce some of the foods which had previously caused her pain. 

As I started to find wellness again and develop a tolerance to reintroduce foods, I wanted to share this way of healing through food. Of course, I am an herbalist and I use herbs and supplements as well to help heal the gut but this is short term and the goal is always to help the body find normality again. Food is long term medicine, lifestyle change and re-working how you think about food is essential. 

Rather than new ideas, I find myself preaching old ways of eating and enjoying food that we have moved away from and lost throughout the many years of fat free, sugar free, low carb, fad dieting. This way of eating involves going back to our roots and how our ancestors ate. I could then integrate my knowledge of health foods and really utilize the best offerings of the super food movement. 

To me, all whole foods are super foods. Whole foods are foods that come just as they are and have been, for the best part, unchanged. Think fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and many animal products. The study of nutrition and implementing a balanced way of cooking and eating really took me back to my childhood and what my grandparents cooked, ate and shared with me. Reintroducing butter and throwing away margarine, saving the lard from the cooking process and learning to prepare, cook and eat new (and old) parts of each animal. 

Moving away from fast food cooking and towards slow cooking, braising and pressure cooking allows so much more nutrients to be transferred from the food to our bodies plus gives such a better flavor. It is also a wonderful way to eat for leaky gut and an easy way for kids to enjoy tougher cuts of meat. An extra bonus is that when we eat this way we save money! By eating cuts that are not as popular and using the whole animal we get better yield (so are able to feed more people) and we do not pay a premium. It is cheaper to buy one whole chicken than a few kilos of chicken breast. This allows us to afford better quality meat and move away from mass produced, feed lot animals and to stop supporting such industries. 

My favorite part of all of this is being transported to my Grandad’s kitchen as a child whenever I smell offal cooking, such as kidneys or liver. Many people will screw their nose up at the idea of eating offal but as you read through the book hopefully you will see the beauty that I do in using these incredibly nutritious and delicious parts, and maybe even try them! Starting with something as simple as a steak and kidney pie is a great way to introduce new flavors to the family in a familiar and tasty way. 

Eat well and be well.

What Is A "Normal" Period?

As women, we love to talk and one thing we love talking about is our cycles. There are many different types of periods but when you find someone who is in your club it’s like winning the menstrual jackpot. There is the PCOS club, the endo club, the dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea club plus everything in between. 

Let’s get armed with some serious facts so next time we chat we know what’s normal, what’s not, just how common menstrual dysfunction is and what can be changed and fixed with herbs and what might need little extra help.

A normal bleed can come anywhere between every 21 days to every 35 days. Irregular menstruation affects 1 in 5 Aussie women of reproductive age. This does not just affect our cycle but impacts on our lifestyle, relationships and mental health. 

A period should not be painful! Cramps, dragging and clots can all be assisted by herbal medicine. Along with mood swings, sugar cravings, anxiety and headaches.

A longer cycle may be PCOS, a shorter cycle may be endometriosis.

Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects around 20% of women worldwide. The most common symptoms are irregular bleeding and period and normally a long cycle. This means that you may not bleed as often as your friends. This makes it a little harder to get pregnant as your ovulation will also not occur as regularly, plus it’s sometimes hard to know when you are ovulating.

There are some really effective herbs for this and I use them all the time in the clinic. These herbs can help support normal ovarian function, regulate menstruation and alleviate adverse effects such as pain. There may also be a blood sugar dysregulation with PCOS that can play into weight management issues. Want more info? Check out: https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2012/october/polycystic-ovary-syndrome/ 

Endometriosis is far more common than most realise affecting 1 in 10 Aussie women, including myself. It is one of the most common things I see in clinic and generally responds quickly to herbs that support endometrial tissue.

Endo occurs when endometrial cells grow outside the uterus (where they should stay).  A major symptom of endo is pain with a period, pain with intercourse and sharp pains outside of a bleed. Many women think this is normal and it can take an average of 7 years for endo to be found and diagnosed. Taking the pill can mask the symptoms but does not treat the issue. Check out: https://www.endometriosisaustralia.org/endometriosis-facts for more info. 

If you are worried, see your doctor. If you want help with these or any hormonal complaints, symptom relief or just to create a more regular beautiful cycle, come in and see me in the clinic.

Put A Little Offal In Your Day!

Offal is not awful. These parts of animals were traditionally the parts fought over at the family dinner table as they were so tasty. In many cultures, the brain is the most prized part of the animal. It is so delicious that it is hidden from children for the adults to enjoy alone. Organ meats are also more nutritious than the lean muscle counterparts.

It is so interesting to me that our ‘normal’ food choices, including what cuts of meat we eat, are culturally determined. As an adult, it is not difficult for me to try new parts of animals as I had some experience growing up with offal, but it can be overwhelming for those who are new to it. Start slow and introduce small amounts of offal into the normal foods that you enjoy at home.

If you have had a bad offal experience than you just haven’t tried it in the right way. Make it how you feel you would like it. If you are just starting out, don’t go for the full offal! Start by adding it to your normal weekly meals. Make a pie with some kidney cut through it. Add some liver to your spaghetti bowl. Don’t overdo it- just a little each week will add buckets of nutrients.

The most important thing about offal is the quality. We need to ensure that the offal we are eating is from an animal that has been cared for, loved and fed well. Grass fed, not grain fed.

WANT TO LEARN HOW TO COOK OFFAL?

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY OF FROM PEASANTS FOOD TO SUPERFOODS TODAY! 

Why I Am Releasing A New Book.

I should start by saying I am no chef!

My new book, From Peasants Food To Super Foods has come about through my own journey with food intolerances and the need to share this information with my clients, who were experiencing similar things.

It started to grow and expand when I realised that there was a gigantic gap in what people thought was healthy and what actually IS healthy, what we are being told for financial gain and what is the truth for our best health.

One of the biggest obstacles that people face when trying to change their diet is the onslaught of opinions about good and bad food. I believe there is no ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ food. Sure, there are some imposters on our supermarkets shelves pretending to be food, but when you stick to whole real food there are no enemies. The key to a balanced diet is moderation, not avoidance or restriction and simply eating the real, seasonal food that nature has gifted us.

I do not have time for strict fad diets, extremism or dogmatism. What I want to share is everyday food, to educate people that life is not all or nothing, it is a constant balance. An effort and a choice to maintain equilibrium...That means eating cake at the party sometimes and enjoying a drink too!

I come from a genuine place when I give advice. I believe in what I tell my clients, I believe it is the best way to live a healthy life. I practice what I preach and I preach what I practice. I do not believe in giving a false sense of perfectionism. 

I want to educate people on a way to live a simple and balanced life through the food and medicine we have been surrounded by in our environment. I believe this is the key to good health, happy minds and managing chronic conditions effectively.

I hope you can use the recipes in my new book and that some may even hold a coveted space on your weekly meal planner for the family.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY NOW BEFORE THE END OF MARCH!

All About "From Peasants Food To Super Foods"

From Peasant’s Food to Superfoods features over 100 recipes using old and new ingredients from my perspective as a qualified Nutritionist and Naturopath. Based on cooking for the entire family, this book guides cooks from all experiences on how to integrate healthy foods into everyday life. Using ingredients we all take for granted in the kitchen this book aims to educate people of the benefits of the food we eat and how we can use food as medicine as well as filling our tummies.

This book welcomes you with an open and honest manner, telling my own story and the similar story of many clients I have seen in private practice over the years-my inspiration for writing the book. Recipes are complemented with nutritional information, personal experiences and recommendations throughout, including the reasoning for including certain ingredients and how we can nutritionally enhance even the simplest home-cooked dishes.

From Peasants Food to Superfoods explains the simplicity of food and removes much of the confusion and fear around healthy eating. I take traditional home recipes and transform them into nutritionally dense super-meals. I use culinary history to shape the book and educate you about food origins and why we ate particular foods and should continue to do so. 

Rather than produce overwhelming recipes that need expensive and exclusive ingredients commonly associated with health and super foods, I'll show you how you can use many of the everyday ingredients you have at home, and how to add to the pantry so this becomes the norm. The recipes use many of the same base ingredients to make them easy for people to create without having to shop every time. 

My recipes are fresh, of our time and take into account modern tastes and trends such as fermentation and pickling as well as the use of pressure and slow cookers. In the book I address common concerns of the clients I see, as well as the general public with regards to diet, health, lifestyle balance, time constraints, seasonality and cooking techniques.

For first time cooks this book offers simple, delicious and nutritionally balanced meals to whip up on a weeknight for the whole family. For the seasoned foodie, it provides over 100 innovative recipes that will excite and delight.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY HERE

INTRODUCING...My Brand New Book!

I never planned to write a cookbook. I had been helping clients in clinic with their diets and providing meal plans, recipes and ideas that they could work the whole family into for a host of different goals from weight gain to weight loss. The feedback was always positive and made my heart swell.

For some reason, as human beings we think we need to be hurting for something to work, to attack everything at an all or nothing pace-and this goes for diet and nutrition as well. When I suggested a balanced, moderated, real food approach I was often worried I was boring people, that they would think my advice was too simple. But, as more and more clients flowed through the doors, sent by the previous client who told them about the meal plan I wrote for them, I realised that simple was really what these guys needed. Not only needed, but liked, enjoyed and continued long term.

There is so much conflicting advice on nutrition, what to eat and what not to eat, and we have come to a place where anyone can give food advice from t.v breakfast hosts to the old lady down the street. It is confusing and I noticed a sense of fear when I asked people to recount their daily food intake. Thinking that my clients felt judged, even by me, about what they were eating gave me a great sadness and reinforced the ridiculous state we are in when it comes to food. It made me start doing talks on banishing fad diets and avoiding extreme restrictions. It made me reach out to my clients on what they really wanted and what was really working at home. 

At some point my recipes became so popular the suggestion of a cookbook became a weekly comment from clients and friends. SO, being the good Virgo girl that I am, I set about getting it done. It took well over a year to write my first book. It was only 70-odd pages and took almost as long to edit, eventually a third version was released which (I hope) has no typos! I thought, sure I’ll write a cookbook, it can’t be that hard, right? Ha, not only was it difficult, frustrating, all consuming, time-eating and expensive-it was also small and cost a fortune to get printed! But, there was so much support and love that to date I have sold over 300 copies. What else was there to do but to set about writing a second! ☺

Now, I want to bring these recipes to more people. So, I have joined the 2 books together and added 50 new recipes as well as loads of extra info including a 2-week weight loss meal plan which has been the most popular and successful meal plan I have written to date. AND, I am pre-selling it, starting at only $20 for both a hard copy and ebook version. The more pre-orders that this book gets the more publishers will be interested in finalising and printing it and my greatest hope is to have it in BIGW nest to Pete Evans!

If you have my first 2 books, then I know I am asking a lot, but the extra info and 50 recipes alone make this book worth the $20 investment plus I’ll love ya forever! There are also loads of extra bonuses if you want to give a little extra support-would you like to have your name in the book??? It is only for pre-sale for 30 days. That’s it, after which-finito!

I want to bring joy back to food. I want it to be nutritious, enjoyable and above all easy. I want everyone in the family to enjoy it and I don’t want people to be restricted unless absolutely needed for health reasons. I want to get this book into more hands to remove some of the confusion and fear around food. I do need your help to do all of this – please and thank you from my big foodie heart. 

PRE-ORDER NOW

The Job Of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is not the easiest thing in the world to pick up and it reminds me of starting a new job. To begin, you meet all the new people in the office including the lactation specialist, the many midwifes plus the other new Mums also starting work on the same day and trying desperately to quickly pick up the ins and outs of this new vocation.

Then, all of a sudden you are left at your desk on your own with sole responsibility of the task. Except, this task is not just learning how to input numbers into Excel. It is feeding a little live human being in the unbelievable hope of simply providing them with enough milk to let them live. 

All the other workers who have been there awhile can walk on past and give helpful handy tips but at the end of the day it is your responsibility and this is a job that only you can do.

There’s no 9-5 work hours. This is the ultimate full time job with round the clock hours and no set breaks, if any.

It is honesty one of the hardest jobs I have ever done. It is also the most rewarding, extraordinary and valuable things I have ever done. There have been low points when I wanted to give up, quit and walk out, and there have been high points when I have had the ultimate exhilaration.

IT DOES GET EASIER!

Those first few weeks you need help just to fill up your water bottle or if you are really lucky, plonk a cup of tea on your desk. As time goes by, like with any new job, it gets easier. You learn a few tricks to the system, some shortcuts that suit you and the workload lessens. There is the occasional hiccup but overall you work hard and get better at the job as you go. Plus, baby gets better at it as well!

Unlike a desk job though, this is not just a job of the mind, but of the whole body. Planning and care must be taken in food and hydration to maintain output. A breastfeeding woman needs 2000 more kJ than when she is not. Plus, they really should be appropriate kJ to get the best possible milk you can produce.

Like any dietary change, a breastfeeding diet is another job in itself. Plenty of protein and good fats but also more carbs than I have ever eaten before, are necessary to sustain you and your new little life.

It’s a job that I feel blessed to be able to do and that I wouldn’t change for the world. It’s also a job that must not be underestimated. To breastfeed well and stay sane you must rest often, drink litres and litres of fluid per day and eat plenty of nutrient dense food. On top of all of this, I also find I need some breastfeeding support herbs once or twice a week to keep my supply up. Not to mention lots of love and support from a husband who is learning his own unique new job!

If you need help with final trimester, birth preparation or breastfeeding support book in to see Mel.

Composting Is FUN!

Composting is one of the most fun and rewarding things I have done around the house in a while. I know you’re thinking I must have a pretty boring old little life, but composting really gets me excited. Plus, domesticity is bliss, right?

Yes, it’s an extremely satisfying and rewarding way to help the environment but in all honesty, I love to compost because it significantly reduces the amount of rubbish I have to carry out. So, really, it’s a selfish act in the end.

You would be surprised at the things that one can compost in the right composter. I treated myself to an Urban Composter and then when I couldn’t rotate it quick enough I got a second. Now I can be adding to one and letting the other work its magic for a fortnight before I bury it. With this particular compost, I can put all organic waste in, except large bones.

Before you think of any excuses not to compost let me tell you this. I live in an apartment on the fourth floor. I have a very small balcony and a few little plants. You can get yourself a small bucket sized compost and find somewhere else to bury it like me. (Thanks Dad.) And, if you do your research you can compost it in a way that reduces the odour and fastens the break down. 

I love this list of things to compost from How Stuff Works. Our compost gets toilet paper rolls and the packaging (from Who Gives a Crap), paper towel, tissues, all food waste, tea and coffee bags and grinds, small light bones such as chicken, hair from my brush, compostable bags I keep dirty nappies in while we are out and so much more! 

It really is surprising how much less garbage we have and also just how much we all now love to find more things around the house that we can compost!

NATURAL DEODORANT 101

When it comes to natural deodorants many people give up after their third of fourth try. They can be expensive and often don’t work. It is important to remember that because natural deo’s do not have aluminium in them (the whole reason we try to swap over), they do not stop sweating. They stop bugs from hanging around and causing smell but do not block the pores. 

So, prepare for some wet days at first. This lessens with time as your body adjusts to the change. There will often be a clean out of sorts if you have been using aluminium based deodorants as these would have been blocking the excretions and causing a build-up. You may smell different than usual when you first begin as well, as natural deo’s allow the body to release toxins.

All of this combined with many natural deodorants that don’t work can make finding something that suits you very hard! So, after 6 years in health food I have tried most of what’s on the market and here are my recommendations for awesome natural deodorants that work.

Twig Botanicals

A beautiful deo paste, yes paste, made by a fellow Herbalist. It may sound odd to recommend you spread a paste in your pits but this really is one of the best I have used. Not only does it work when you wear it but you end up not even needing to apply everyday as it just keeps working. Great for summer as it stays on as well. 

Body Crystal

This is an oldie but a goodie and if the paste scares you, this roll on is for you. Rather than getting an actual crystal stick which can be difficult to use, scratch your pits and break easily, this roll-on version makes it easy to apply and travel with. 

Eco Tan

A paste, a roll on and here is your spray for those who prefer it. A beautiful coconut smell, perfect for summer.

Learn To Eat Like A Kid Again!

I am so tired of fad diets and restrictive meal plans. I always thought it was a poor choice for children to be restricted in the food department, unless necessary, and now I am a Mum I feel I can say it. There is no need as parents to put our food restrictions on our kids and there is no need for us to eat as adults and them to eat as children either. 

There is a new food movement in town and it’s called just eat real food. Real, whole, fresh, delicious food. Let’s all move towards eating together with the best possible health outcomes in mind. This will come from moderation, variety, seasonal food and REAL food. 

Where to start?

Put a selection of food on your plate rather than just 2 or 3 options. For breakfast, lately I have been having 1 piece of nut and seed loaf, half a cut up carrot, a dollop of homemade labna, 2 scrambled eggs, a few cherries and half a mango. This might sound like a lot of food but you get the idea. Variety and moderation, not restriction. 

This is how I used to eat as a child and while writing my new book for family meals I have been going back to it more and more. It is interesting how fulfilling it is and how I have noticed when I am full more effectively. Eat it with your hands as well as your fork! Touching food helps us keep in touch and sense when we are full, it lights up our joy and connection to what we are doing and eating. It brings us into that moment.

Eating like a kid is fun and nutritious filling our plate with colours and textures! 

All Things Herbs, Pregnancy & Placenta!

There are stages of herbs for each trimester throughout pregnancy and after. I have a lady due in 3 weeks who just started a tonic for labour prep, energy, iron, nutrients and breastfeeding, plus to prepare her body for what is to come. This will be adjusted as needed throughout her first few months as a new mum.

However, the most important support, in my opinion, is in mummy metal health. No matter what your history contains, whether you have experienced anxiety, depression or no such worries, post-natal low affects most women. I believe it is unfathomable to think that such an enormous life change plus super hormonal fluctuations will leave even the most rock solid of us new mums untouched.

On the topic of eating our own placenta, I feel the jury is still out. I have so much respect for every individual decision made during this precious time by both mums and dads. For me-I did not find a convincing enough reason to do so. There was little evidence surrounding placenta ingestion and the argument that is was traditionally done in other cultures seemed not to be as common as I would have first thought. 

There is the argument that the placenta is leftovers and is no longer needed. It may also be that much of what the placenta protects baby from-our toxin load-will be passed on during breastfeeding if we ingest it. Possibly in countries where food/nutrients were low this was good option and also if Mum was bleeding a lot. However, the placenta would likely have been eaten soon after birth and in its raw state, not fried up with onions and encapsulated. 

The evidence seems mostly anecdotal as to the benefits. Mums reporting that they feel great while taking placenta capsules and I reckon if it works for you then stick with it. It is a really personal choice and totally up to you. The only thing I ask of you however, is not to rely on it solely for support post-partum. There is a serious need for refuelling that comes from great food, copious amounts of water plus nutritional and herbal support as well if you so choose. All of this will mean that you recover quicker and have a better chance of easily producing milk.

My First Three Months As A Mum.

I realise that having a baby does not make a baby expert, but I find myself magnetically drawn to any baby story and all fellow mums in my new baby bliss. It is half an attempt to understand what is happening and if it is all “normal” and the other half some kind of immense need to know that other people have gone through and are experiencing the same thing. With this in mind, the urge to write about my first three months as a mum has been bubbling away.

I have discovered a new-found respect for anyone with a child, as well as a new appreciation for my own mother and father and what they went through to raise three children. There is so much information and support while you are pregnant and there is time to learn. With six months up your sleeve (once you find out, settle on the reality and get over the morning sickness, hopefully) to research and chat to others expecting or with children. I felt that there was a real gap the first week I was home with baby in hand. 

For some weeks, I felt a great rage towards all those women I had spoken to who had babies. Why didn’t they warn me? Explain how hard labour really is so that I may be better prepared mentally and physically. I remember demanding of my own Mum-why didn’t you tell me? She smiled, “you forget”. I have yet to forget.

I have determined now that there is no real way to possibly explain such an experience. To truly know one must go through it themselves. This was the most excruciating, frightening, grounding and rewarding thing I have ever been through and it has taken three months for me to look back and realise that I would not change a thing.

It has also taken me three months to find my breath and myself again. Although not fully re-discovered, I am starting to see glimpses of my pre-labour self. Not that I minded being completely besotted and enthralled with this new little life and not noticing the rest of the world for a while. It is now still a magical mix of these moments and then a rare hour or even two where I think, “What did I used to do with myself?”.

For the first time, with Callie 17 weeks old, I went off to work and forgot I had a baby. What an odd feeling it was when Sam walked in the door at work with her and I thought, “Oh, my baby”. Rather than beat myself up about it (easy to do and I’m always willing as a new Mum), I instead decided that this was entirely healthy. Now, sometimes when she sleeps I work or write and am present with myself again. I think it makes me a better Mum having had some time to myself and I can appreciate every smile she has for me when I’m with her. 

There is no denying it, the first three months are hard. It is constant and there is so much uncertainty, no matter how sure you were five minutes ago. Lots of google-ing and online forums (not always helpful) and way too many tears.

There are also loads of firsts and more joy than I knew could exist inside of me. I have felt sad, confused, distraught, elated, blessed and proud all before breakfast (and did I mention the tears?).

I know my life will never be that same and I wouldn’t want it to be. These last three months have been so much more than I ever could have expected. One thing having a baby does is put many things into perspective.

The important things and people in life make themselves very clear and all the rest fall away. Life is simpler in a more complex way. Life is very, very good.

OUR TOP FIVE WELLNESS TIPS FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

1. Celebrate the seasonal flavours

Unlike our northern hemisphere friends, an Australia Christmas falls in the midst of our summer, when a smorgasbord of fresh seasonal produce is available to all.

Instead of turning to mince pies, chocolates and fudge – which tend to be high in sugar and other additives – opt for fruit skewers, chia puddings and icy poles as the treats you turn to!

You'll find an array of nutrient-dense treats in both of my books, Simply Balanced and The Gut Blueprint, available here.

2. Pick your indulgence

There’s no end of indulgences during the silly season, from decadent cocktail parties to a fridge full of booze, and no one should have to go without!

However, instead of indulging in everything choose what you most enjoy and give the rest a miss.

If baking is something you love, try to prevent over catering, or opt to give away most of what you make to ensure that you aren’t over-indulging throughout the holiday season.

These holidays are all about celebration, being with loved ones and taking some well-earned time off (hopefully) so allow yourself some fun, and maybe add in some enjoyable exercise alongside it.

Why not purchase my detox program for after the holidays to ease yourself back into healthy habits?

You can find it here.

3. Swap your favourite dishes

Some of our favourite Christmas dishes aren’t the healthiest choices, so why not try swapping them for healthier incarnations? 

Choose chilli prawns over a classic prawn cocktail, go for a zingy pesto rather than a cheese dip, or make bliss balls instead of the usual truffles. Not only do these dishes feel indulgent, they are absolutely delicious as well.

You can find some great inspiration in either of my cookbooks, or why not join us this weekend in Newcastle for our Healthy Christmas Feast making (and tasting) workshop?

Book here!


4. Stay hydrated

With the temperature rising, and an abundance of sugary treats on offer, it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger, and to reach for just another truffle or piece of shortbread.

Instead, keep a jug with sliced lemon, lime and mint sprigs on the bench, or your desk, and keep it topped up with water.

This will encourage you to top up your glass throughout the day, and ensures you’re staying well hydrated.

OR have some gut healing kefir water on hand!

Find your FREE recipe on the website here.

Natural Remedies To Boost Your Mental Health

A few quick things that may help improve your mental health. Whether you have mild anxiety, depression, social anxiety, mood disorder, eating disorders, bipolar or hormonal sadness some simple things may help you feel better on a day to day basis.

All of these ideas will of course work better with a mental health plan and a team of practitioners to assist you, including your doctor. 

One in five people will experience symptoms of anxiety and depression at varying degrees. While medication and herbs are amazing and work so well, there are additional things you can do to continually gain benefit and ensure the support you do have is working at its best. 

Exercise is medicine. I’m not kidding! Check out exerciseismedicine.com.au and read their factsheet on depression if you don’t believe me.

Even though this is Sam's (my husband) area of expertise, it is a big part of naturopathic medicine as well. Exercise may be just as effective as pharmaceuticals, and imagine how it will add to the effectiveness if you are taking medication.  

Diet is so important. If you are missing key nutrients you will be at a higher risk of depressive symptoms.

After the birth of a baby and breastfeeding the rates of post-natal depression are higher due to the quick use of Mum’s nutrients for her baby (same goes for during pregnancy). Plus, if you are on any restrictive diet including a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may be missing key nutrients that support brain biochemistry.  

Research has shown that improvements in diet quality can even treat anxiety and depression. This comes down to the quality of the food and how those nutrients feed our gut and immune system overall. 

There is a strong relationship between physical and mental health which is why both exercise and diet are key influences. Sam and I know first-hand how much prioritising these daily habits can assist in how well we cope with stress and our own clarity of thought. 

Want to know more about exercise as medicine? An Exercise Physiologist can help you.

The best one in town just happens to be my hubby (no bias here). He works with many clients experiencing anxiety, depression and PTSD. He works with Department of Veteran Affairs and is Medicare accredited so you can talk to your doctor about getting a referral. He is also covered by private health funds.  

Want to know more about dietary intervention or using herbs with or without current medication for any of these symptoms? I can help. Pop into the clinic and let’s chat. I’d love to help! 

The Fear Of Fructose!

The fear of fructose (sugar) has seen us move away from whole foods like honey and fruit. Beautiful, nutrient filled foods which happen to have fructose components as part of their whole.

Human beings have always and can continue to process fructose efficiently in these forms. The issue lies with isolated fructose and in our load of fructose. Our ancestors ate seasonal fruit, in reasonable amounts. We love sugar and have always been attracted to it as a species because it gives us quick energy and essentially keeps us alive. 

BUT if you eat an enormous fruit salad for lunch each day this isn’t the best choice you could make plus we could probably add to it so it serves you better in terms of energy and blood sugar levels.

If you add to that fruit salad with skim milk and cereal for breakfast, sweetened yoghurt and a soft drink or two throughout the day, we can see how the load of fructose on our body starts to easily rise. 

Processed fructose such as high fructose corn syrup is also to blame for the negative side of sugar, which seems to be in MOST pacakaged foods these days and can be disguised under a number of names. 

However, I have not seen any harm come from nature's sweetener, honey. Honey naturally contains chromium so it balances our blood sugar levels when we eat it. Brown rice syrup, a popular "healthy" alternative however has a GI of around 98 so it spikes your blood sugar. Plus, I have to ask, how did they get rice to become that? 

My advice is to look for real whole foods always and avoid highly processed alternatives to what nature has given us. Eat a range of foods in moderation and stick to seasonal fruits and vegetables as this is when our body can best utilise those sugars and nutrients.

You really can’t go wrong if you follow these simple principles. We are smarter than ever with so much knowledge and information at our fingertips, but this can be a dangerous thing when we try to put that information into our everyday lives. We must search for balance amongst all of the information and fight to maintain it every day.

Tales From My Clients

One of my very first clients was a young man who we will call Finn. Finn was a professional athlete and among other things came in for something we can all relate to - burn out.

Finn's burn out was boarding chronic fatigue. His stringent training, low calorie intake to maintain a low weight and numerous injuries had all combined to push his body past breaking point. He had a very detailed clinical history, as he had been through a lot very young as somewhat of an elite athlete. He had tried a combination of herbs, supplements and body work over the years, but always treating himself without, seeking guidance from a trained professional.

I started him on a herbal mix full of adrenal support and nourishing nervous system support and immune tonics. At this point, he was feeling depressed about his body letting him down. It was easy to guess his eyes would tell me he was a person who was incredible hard on himself, a perfectionist, a workaholic and when he was out of balance, sugar and caffeine were his crux and would replace food in many cases to keep his weight below a normal range.

Within a few weeks on herbs, Finn was feeling better, he had finally shaken the never ending cold-like symptoms and his body had started to gain a sense of strength back. He started to add in some more training. Over the next year, we adjusted his herbs as needed, adding stamina and endurance into his mix but always keeping adrenal support.

It took a few months but we managed to come to an agreement on his eating habits and put together various eating plans depending on his goals. Convincing him he would need to eat more food to drop his weight and support his training schedule was one of the biggest challenges, bringing up fears around food that even surprised him. More food allowed him to increase his training, preventing injuries, exhaustion, bolstering his immune system and making it easier to drop weight when he needed.

His mental health changed dramatically in this time and his motivation and positivity returned. His brain was no longer starving.  Whenever he is in Australia, Finn grabs a herbal mix, has a check up and we have a big hug. Providing the tools for long term sustainable lifestyle change, long term clients, mutual love and appreciation, these are the biggest rewards and why I am so blessed to be able to share my passion.

Another client came in with very similar symptoms to Finn. He thought his feelings were acute but as we went through his history we both realised that the last 6 years had been a challenge.

He loves to ride road bikes and would do hundreds of kilometres over a weekend. He also had an extremely high pressure job. His angry outbursts were out of character and it was affecting his marriage and his work.

His fatigue was his biggest complaint. Half way through a ride he would literally feel like he had hit a wall and would have to call his wife to pick him up as he couldn’t imagine getting home. He would then sleep for hours and have to take the next day off work. They were about to have their second baby and he is still to this day my biggest critical thinker.

Hyperactive and hyper functioning, his whole life he questions every herb I give him every supplement and every piece of advice. After three consults and still now I learned to have some piece of research/evidence or basis for what I was prescribing. I like it as it keeps me on my toes.

On this third consult, I also suggested it was time to get some blood-work as herbs were helping slightly but not enough and I wanted to know why. Luck, intuition, I’m honestly not sure but I gave him a referral to get his iron checked to start with. A process of elimination I thought would see us through numerous blood tests.

His iron was the lowest I have ever come across. A few months on now he came to a talk I gave the other day and I overheard him speaking to one of the other guests afterward. He warmed my heart with his sincerity in recommending she come and see me. He is vibrant again, colour in his face and excitedly told me about his most recent ride. He was tired, but not wiped out and he was ecstatic. Something so simple had affected his lifestyle, his relationships and his work for so long. 

Not everyone’s story is life changing. Sinus infections, allergies, depression, even chronic fatigue are reoccurring manifestations. As soon as we are stressed, have large life events or are out of balance our body will go to that place that is inherently our weak spot. What we can do with herbs is support natural balance and prevent sickness before it flares.

You Need A Break.

Sometimes you just need to get away! Have a break. Take some time out.

This is what Sam and I did for ourselves a few months ago, with a simple two day trip to Mudgee. That’s all you need (obviously more if you can). Recharge and refuel, and then come back and to a more productive, happier, less stressed you.

It’s interesting how sometimes we need to stop and step away to really take stock of what is happening around us. You would think that being in the thick of it each and every day would keep you alert and up to date. That you would know what is going on and how you feel about it all. But this isn’t the case for most of us.

When we are running from today to tomorrow and to the next day there is no time to stop, and take stock and reflect on what we are actually doing in these moments. We are literally on auto-pilot and what happens when we are zooming through life is that we miss the good stuff.

Life is busy and it does fly by, there will be days when you just need to put you head down and get through it, but the next day you should be tired and worn out and happy.

Instead, we put our head down for a year, or two, or more and when we come up for that one day of rest, recovery and reflection we have missed chunks of our life. Or of our children’s life, or family and friends. 

I put my head down prior to our trip away in preparation for some of the final big things that I needed to do before Callie was born and I could not have been more grateful for a weekend away with the most amazing husband I could dream of.

But it also reminded me that I need to stay more mindful and aware each day and that I had lost a little of the things I do to achieve in the busy months that had been.

Spending time on you is not selfish, it is necessary for you to maintain your joy in life and balance for those you love.

It is not even something you need to spend loads of time on. It can be as simple as a bath a few nights a week and 15 minutes with a cup of tea on the other days. Maybe you like to read? Don’t tell me you don’t have time for a single page each night or to tune in to your favourite podcast (The Naked Naturopath?).

I have brought my daily mindful practice back with me from Mudgee and I hope this helps you find yours too!

DETOX For Life

A detox should not be a quick weight loss fix, but a method to prepare the ground (your body) for long term harvest. A comprehensive detoxification program should be a means to achieve your goals, yes.

But, also and most importantly, to set up long term sustainable lifestyle changes to achieve fundamental improvements in your health. Now and in the future. Our body will give us back what we put in.

So, what are you putting in yours? 

Toxicity is unavoidable in today’s modern society. When we walk outside we are exposed via our lungs, skin, and digestive system. We have a residual burden of 2 to 3 thousand new-to-nature chemicals which are invented and released into the environment every year. These are in our air, food, water and soil. 

There are exotoxins (outside factors) which impact on toxicity include alcohol, nicotine, car fumes, industrial waste, pesticides, herbicides, food additives including colourings and flavourings, pharmaceuticals, recreational drugs, solvents and heavy metals. There are also endogenous toxins. These are by-products from metabolism and impaired digestion. Toxins from within emphasise the importance of a healthy gut flora as many toxic metabolites and by products are the result of dysbiosis. The imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. When foods are not digested properly they become fuel for harmful or pathogenic bacteria and yeasts. As the bad guys grow and reproduce the good guys get pushed out of the way and die off. The terms dysbiosis and leaky gut have been related to diseases as varied as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, autism and autoimmunity. 

So where do we start?

The first and easiest thing that we can do is reduce the burden on our body. We do this by reducing as much of our toxic load as possible through healthy diet and lifestyle choices. This is where diet comes in. As well daily choices about what you put in your hair and on your skin, even what you brush your teeth with. Perfumes, makeup, deodorants are often toxic and there are natural alternatives. Women can layer themselves with over 22 different chemicals before leaving the house each morning. 

The second is to enhance the body’s natural detoxification capacity. This can be done by cleaning up gut function and reducing the production of internal toxins. We can also improve the function of the liver and kidney excretory channels with herbal medicine.

It is important to keep in mind that certain medications will slow the detoxphases in the liver such as Advil, asprin and Non steroidal anti-inflammatories. As well certain deficiencies will also have an impact such as selenium and zinc deficiencies as well as glutathionone and a low protein diet, which is why there needs to be ample protein in your diet. 

Specific herbs can support the body’s resistance to toxins by stimulating your body’s natural detoxification abilities. These herbs will lay the stepping stones for maximum toxin processing and elimination. They will assist the cells to protect themselves against toxins and inflammation and function at their peak. St Mary’s Thistle can even assist the liver to regenerate after damage and it is in your herbal tonic along with cleaners for your kidneys, lymphatics and your skin. 

If you have specific health goals, weight loss goals, are wanting to reduce your need for pharmaceutical medications, or prevent chronic illness a detox regime is the perfect place to start. Nothing is more precious or priceless than your body and your health. 

How Is Your Relationship With Food?

And why healing this is perhaps the most important part of your wellness journey...

What is your food relationship?

As with everything else in our lives, we have a relationship with food and this can be positive or negative and can change at any time.

I have spoken before about my negative relationship with food when I was a teen and this is such a common occurrence, with 1 in 3 teens starving themselves. As women, and as mothers we need to be aware that our daughters pick up on everything we do and say and as eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness in young women, we must be responsible for change.

It is so common that my clients have the goal of weight loss and I work on nutrition with most people I see to reach a range of goals. However, something has to shift in our society for a large-scale change to happen.

We have moved so far away from an everyday friendly diet and into the realm of mono-diets and food fear, that I am often coaching people and giving my permission for them to have a piece of fruit each day. I nearly always end up telling people that they need to eat MORE food to lose weight!

So, what the hell is a mono-diet? When you only eat one food. That’s right, be it bananas or potatoes. Or one type of food, for example only vegetables or only meat. 

And what is food fear?

More and more I see people who have come to fear a food or food group. This is what was done to fat in the 50’s and it is being done to an array of foods now, including sugar. But we are not happy to just hate on sugar itself, so it has been split into its halves with fructose being attacked on all sides.

When will we learn?

Whenever we isolate a food from its whole, it changes the way the body sees it. A common misconception is that full cream milk has added sugar. This is not often the case, but taking the fat from the milk (to change it to low fat or skim), turns it from a whole food with a balance of nutrients, into primarily a carbohydrate. This is the sugar macronutrient and therefore the body will see and use it differently to its fatty counterpart or the whole milk left untouched.

If we continue down this path of extreme diets we will be left with no food! So what’s the answer?

It’s always the same song I am singing; Whole foods, real foods, unprocessed and well-balanced. Check your plate; Do you have protein? Do you have fat? Do you have carbs? All of the macronutrients should feature in our everyday lives to allow us to live the healthiest life we can.

I would love to help you navigate your way to a healthy food relationship. You can book your appointment with me here.

Please seek further help from a medical professional if your relationship with food and your body is negatively impacting your life.

You can also contact the Butterfly National Helpline here. For crisis cases, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.