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The Best Foods For Gut Health

Poor gut health can lead to a myriad of unpleasant symptoms: bloating, gas, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and more. If not treated, these symptoms can progress into systemic issues such as food sensitivities, skin disorders, hormonal imbalances, or even autoimmune diseases such as coeliac disease.

You’ve probably heard that a healthy, high-fibre diet is vital for maintaining good digestion and regular bowel movements. But did you know that certain foods can actually improve your gut health?

Here are some of the best (and most delicious) foods for improving gut health. You can even make them at home!

Bone broth

Bone broth is one of the most nourishing foods for an inflamed gut. Bone broth is made by boiling and simmering animal bones over several days. This allows the bones and connective tissues to release nourishing compounds into the broth, such as collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine. And because we humans are made of the same ‘stuff’ as animals, these compounds are exactly what our bodies need to heal.

Bone broth is especially rich in glutamine, which is an important amino acid involved in restoring damaged intestinal cells. It’s also an excellent source of minerals, including calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and much more.

The gelatin in bone broth is also highly beneficial for restoring the integrity of the gut lining, and also for supporting a healthy gut microbiome, and maintaining proper balance of gut bacteria.

You can make your own bone broth by boiling bones into a large stockpot. There are lots of recipes online! 

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut’s gut-healing benefits begin with its fibre content. It’s an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, which are both very useful for bowel regularity. Insoluble fibre is helpful for adding ‘bulk’ to your stools, while soluble fibre is a prebiotic that ‘feeds’ the healthy bacteria in your gut.  

Sauerkraut juice is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that can inhibit H. pylori. Cabbage also contains powerful phytochemicals that soothe gut inflammation. 

Sauerkraut is made with a special fermentation process that allows beneficial microorganisms to develop. These microorganisms are then delivered to your gut like a natural probiotic. It’s particularly rich in Lactobacillus plantarum, which has been shown to help improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This and other strains of bacteria in sauerkraut also help with digestion and bowel transit time. Better bowel transit time means less irritation and gas!  

It’s fairly simple to make your own sauerkraut but it’s readily available in most supermarkets, too. Be sure to choose organic, not the pasteurized canned version! 

Kefir

Kefir is another powerful gut-healing food that originates in Europe. It’s a type of fermented milk created with special starter grains. These grains are a combination of bacteria and yeast that break down the proteins in the milk to make a nutritious beverage.  And because the lactose has been broken down, even those who are lactose intolerant can drink it! 

Kefir’s complex ecology of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts can help to reduce dysbiosis and gut inflammation. It’s been shown to help rebalance the colonies of friendly bacteria in the gut, which makes it particularly helpful after a course of antibiotics.

Kefir can be made with milk, water, or coconut grains. It has a thick consistency and a pleasant smell. 

Fatty fish

Sardines, salmon, herring, mackerel, and anchovies are a rich source of protein and important long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These omega-3 acids harbour powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help to heal damaged gut tissues. 

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been found to reduce the inflammatory responses in the gut. Research has shown that these fatty acids can reduce both oxidative stress and the production of proinflammatory cytokines. 

Taking omega-3 along with probiotics and a fibre-rich diet can also improve the diversity of the gut microbiome. Specific bacteria are linked to lower inflammation in people who have a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating oily fish can help boost levels of omega-3 in the blood, which in turn increases a compound called N-carbamylglutamate (NCG). This compound has been found to reduce oxidative stress in the gut. 

Oily fish are readily available in supermarkets and fish markets! Try to eat 2-3 servings each week. 

Yoghurt

Yoghurt is one of the best-known probiotic foods on earth, and also one of the most readily available. Technically speaking, yoghurt is milk fermented by bacterial strains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. 

Numerous studies have proven yoghurt’s benefits for gut health. These are mostly related to improving microflora and bowel transit time. It’s even been shown to enhance the innate and adaptive immune responses of the gastrointestinal system.

The trick to choosing a ‘beneficial’ yoghurt is to avoid the ones with added sugars and flavours. These may taste great, but they won’t help your gut! Choose only natural, unsweetened yoghurts with no added ingredients. 

What next?

If all this makes you feel overwhelmed, just reach out to me for help. I can help you find a way to include these foods for gut health in your every day life. As well as being a Nutritionist and Naturopath, I am also a Food Scientist, and I can help you make sense of all this! Get in touch today.

The Leaky Gut Diet Plan

As explained in my previous post, Leaky Gut Syndrome occurs when the cells that line your small intestine become loose. This allows toxins, pathogens, and undigested food particles to pass through your gut lining and into your bloodstream, where they cause an inflammatory response. 

Healing Leaky Gut requires a multi-faceted approach.

In other words – we have to attack it from several different angles, not just one.

This is because Leaky Gut is often linked to other digestive issues and lifestyle factors, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution. 

Here’s a brief overview of what a treatment plan from me might look like. 

1. Remove irritants/allergies

Identifying what causes your body to react is the first step in your recovery. This involves us sitting down and examining exactly what you are eating every day, and the symptoms you experience after certain foods. 

Sugar, alcohol, food additives, wheat, and dairy are the most common causes of inflammation and intestinal damage. These foods can also worsen any microbial imbalances in the gut, which can promote further dysbiosis or intolerances. 

The best way to really pinpoint any potential allergies or sensitivities is with an elimination diet.

Although an elimination diet may take several weeks to identify the foods you’re reacting to, it is often referred to as the ‘gold standard’ of testing.

The diet involves removing one food for two weeks, then reintroducing it as a ‘challenge’. We observe your reaction to the food and make notes of your symptoms both before and after the challenge. An allergy test can then provide a definitive diagnosis.

NOTE: An elimination diet may lead to some slightly unpleasant symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, or food cravings. This is all part of the healing process, and symptoms usually disappear after a few days. 

2. Restore nutrient deficiencies 

Those with Leaky Gut often have deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals due to their inability to absorb nutrients properly. 

Replenishing your body’s nutrient stores is crucial for ensuring you can function properly every day. The tiny fibers (microvilli) that line your intestines are often so damaged that they cannot rebuild themselves properly, so you need to provide your body with nutrients that assist with cell rebuilding and renewal. 

As your Naturopath & Nutritionist, I create a comprehensive diet plan designed specifically to your needs. This includes plenty of whole foods, healthy fats, and lean protein. I choose foods that provide the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes your body needs to repair damage and rebuild healthy tissue. Some examples include oily fish, leafy greens, brightly-coloured fruits, certain herbs, nuts, and organ meats. 

Supplements can also help to provide a more concentrated and convenient dose of the nutrients you need. I will assist in prescribing or recommending a product that addresses your unique needs. 

3. Rebalance gut bacteria

Once we’ve healed the lining of your gut, we need to restore the balance of healthy gut bacteria. These flora are vital for the proper functioning of your immune system, healthy digestion, nutrient absorption, and many other roles 

A high-potency probiotic supplement can help to rejuvenate the bacterial populations of your gut. Look for a product that provides some form of protection against stomach acid (such as enteric coating) which will help ensure its passage through the harsh conditions of the stomach. 

A prebiotic is also recommended for providing ‘fuel’ to your gut bacteria. Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that cannot be broken down, so they are fermented by your probiotic bacteria. 

This helps your body to produce nutrients for your colon cells.

Fermented foods are rich in both prebiotics and probiotics. These include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha. They can help reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar control, and provide important antioxidants. 

4. Boost digestion

A little digestive support can go a long way in improving both your gut lining and your nutritional status. This is especially important for treating Leaky Gut because your body will need all the help it can get to utilize nutrients. 

Digestive enzymes and bitters are a great way to assist in the breakdown of food you eat. Most digestive enzyme supplements include the main enzymes:

  • Lipase (for digesting fats)
  • Amylase (for converting starches into sugars)
  • Lactase (for breaking down milk sugar)
  • Cellulase (for digesting fruits and vegetables)
  • Betaine HCL (for restoring normal gastric acidity)

Herbal bitters are also helpful for healthy digestive function. Bitters are a kind of tonic made up of bitter-tasting herbs that stimulate the flow of digestive juices from the pancreas, duodenum and liver.

When used together, digestive enzymes and bitters can help to reduce irritation and inflammation in the gut. When food is properly broken down, there is less of a chance that undigested particles can escape into your bloodstream and cause further inflammation. 

What’s next?

A personalised treatment plan is the most effective way to identify, treat, and heal your Leaky Gut issues. If you’re ready to address your allergies, sensitivities, and digestive problems, get in touch with me! 

Why investing in gut testing is a good idea

If you’ve ever suffered from gas and bloating, or you constantly feel run-down and unhappy, it could be a sign that all is not well in your gut.

And one of the best ways to know for sure is with a gut test!

There are many gut microbiome testing companies now offering to solve your problems with a gut test. I’ll explain how this works, and how the right test can be a worthy investment. But first, let’s look at why a healthy gut is so important. 

Why your gut health matters

You probably know that your gut bacteria are important for proper digestion. But what happens in your gut is much more complex than breaking down food.

In the past few decades, studies have shown that gut microbes have a massive influence on your overall health. The tens of trillions of microorganisms living in your body include at least 1,000 species of bacteria and over three million genes! In fact, your body is home to more bacterial cells than human cells. 

That’s why many of your bodily functions depend on the delicate balance of your gut microbiome. 

Not surprisingly, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria can have a serious impact on your health. Poor gut health has been linked to everything from inflammatory bowel conditions to anxiety.

What does your gut microbiome do?

Here’s a quick rundown of how your ‘good bugs’ work…

  • They digest and absorb food
    Your gut bacteria break down carbohydrates into glucose, a form of sugar that your body uses as fuel. Many of the carbohydrates in plants are also used to produce certain enzymes, which are then fermented and converted into short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate. Butyrate is a vital energy source for the cells lining your intestines. It also controls the proliferation of cells in the intestine and some research has even suggested it may harbour anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • They maintain your immune system
    When you’re exposed to harmful pathogens and viruses, it’s your “good” gut bacteria that work to fight them off. These tiny microorganisms are your main defence system from the toxins and diseases. Bacteria can actually elicit an effective immune response against viruses that not only infect the gut (such as rotavirus) but also those affecting the lungs, such as the flu virus.
  • They produce your energy
    Much of your daily energy comes from your gut! In fact, your body’s cells are constantly creating energy. Within each cell is a tiny ‘powerhouse’ called the mitochondria. These rely on the nutrients that your gut bacteria break down.
    By digesting and absorbing nutrients from the foods you eat, these bacteria produce the important metabolites and fuel that allows your body to function.
  • They maintain healthy mood
    Scientists now know that there’s an intimate link between the brain and the gut, which has been termed the ‘gut-brain axis’. Your gut is acutely responsive to shifts in your emotions and mental states. This is a two-way street:  your brain and emotions are also sensitive to what’s going on in your intestines. 


BUT – an overgrowth of bad bacteria (known as dysbiosis) will mean none of these things can happen as they should. 

The result? Along with various digestion symptoms, you’ll feel tired, you’ll be more susceptible to infections, and you may even be depressed. 

That’s why a gut test is so important. 

Signs that you should get your gut tested

  • Digestive issues: bloating, gas, acid reflux, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhoea and/or constipation. 
  • Sugar cravings
  • Bad breath
  • Food allergies or sensitivities
  • Skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis 
  • Low mood, depression, anxiety

What is a gut test?

A gut test analyses the composition of the microbiome in the gut. This analysis shows how many different bacteria are present by analysing their DNA (sequencing). It can also show other markers of gut health, such as inflammation.

Your results can provide:

  • An analysis of the microorganisms in your gut
  • An explanation of your microbe profile, metabolism, nutrition utility, lifestyle status, and gut type
  • A profile of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacterial strains 

Why get your gut microbiome tested?

Research has shown that a gut microbiome test can provide some vital insight into your health – both short-term and long-term.  

A gut test can provide a comprehensive picture of your own microbiome. From there, you can begin to understand what might be causing your symptoms. 

Analysing the gut microbiome has been found to help diagnose and treat certain conditions. It may even be used to prevent some health issues from developing or from getting worse. 

By working with me, you will be able to understand your gut in greater detail and take control of your health. 

I will create a treatment plan that helps you to manage the levels of bacteria in your gut.

I provide you with custom dietary suggestions to implement based on your unique microbiome and related health issues. This may involve dietary changes, lifestyle recommendations, and/or supplements such as probiotics. 

A personalised treatment plan based on your gut health can have you feeling better than ever before. Contact me today to discuss the best gut health test for you. 

Is it IBS or SIBO?

Bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhoea. Sounds like classic IBS. 

…or could it be something more?

Nearly one in three people put up with the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) every day. IBS is one of the most common digestive disorders in the world and accounts for nearly half of all visits to gastroenterologists. 

But recent research suggests that what many people think of as “just IBS” may, in fact, be SIBO: small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Recent research has shown that SIBO is much more common than previously thought. 

Here’s why identifying SIBO can make all the difference to your recovery. 

SIBO vs IBS: What’s the difference?

First things first: Irritable bowel syndrome isn’t actually a condition in itself. It’s an umbrella term for a range of gastrointestinal symptoms, such as: 

  • Abdominal pain, cramps, and spasms
  • Bowel motility issues (diarrhoea, constipation, or both)
  • Bloating, gas
  • General digestive discomfort

While symptoms may be a result of many different factors, it’s now known that the main cause is often SIBO. Studies suggest that up to 78% of patients with IBS have SIBO

What is SIBO?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is exactly as it sounds: an excess of bacteria in your small intestine. 

Now, your whole gastrointestinal tract is home to varying amounts of bacteria, but your small bowel is meant to contain much less: only around 10,000 bacteria per millilitre of fluid. Your large bowel, on the other hand, contains at least 1,000,000,000 bacteria per millilitre of fluid. Patients with SIBO are shown to have an increase in bacteria equal to or greater than 100,000 per mL of fluid. These bacteria are also often the types that would normally be in the colon.

The symptoms of SIBO are generally the same as IBS, which is partly why it is so often missed. Other symptoms can include bloating and abdominal distension after eating, food intolerances and sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies (usually vitamin B12 and iron), weight loss, fatigue, brain fog, and even fibromyalgia.

Why is SIBO a problem?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can damage the cells lining your small bowel. Over time, this damage can lead to increased intestinal permeability (known as Leaky Gut Syndrome) which then allows large protein molecules to pass through the gut lining into your bloodstream. This is a major causative factor in immune reactions linked to food allergies or sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, and chronic inflammation. It also impairs your body’s ability to digest food and absorb nutrients.

Identifying and treating SIBO should be a priority. If untreated, it can lead to chronic malabsorption, diarrhoea, unintentional weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and osteoporosis. 

How is SIBO treated?

Unfortunately, most doctors usually still prescribe antibiotics to treat SIBO – even though there’s plenty of evidence to show that antibiotics kill off both healthy AND unhealthy bacteria. This can severely hinder your body’s ability to recover. In fact, recurrence rates of SIBO are around 43.7% in the nine months after antibiotics!

The key in treating SIBO is to address the cause of the excess bacteria in your small intestines, not just the symptoms you are experiencing. Treatment involves a comprehensive consultation in which I examine every aspect of your health history, diet, and lifestyle.

There can be many reasons your intestinal bacteria have grown out of control. Certain foods, medications, alcohol intake, environmental influences, lifestyle factors (stress, lack of exercise) can all contribute to poor gut microbiome. Everyone is different, and it’s only through identifying the unique factors that have caused your SIBO that we can begin to make healthy changes. 

What is the SIBO diet?

Dietary protocols for treating SIBO generally involve avoiding foods that ‘feed’ the bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine. Instead, the aim is to eat foods that are easier for your body to digest and absorb. 

Depending on your needs, your SIBO treatment plan may include the Low-FODMAP diet, the Specific Carbohydrate diet (SCD), the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, and Low Starch diet. 

What about SIBO probiotics?

Given that SIBO antibiotics have been shown to do more harm than good, treatment for SIBO is now more focused on restoring the microbial balance of the small intestine. Recent studies have shown that certain strains of probiotics can help to do this. 

Of course, not just any old probiotic off the shelf will do! I use only practitioner-grade probiotic brands that contain the strains most effective in treating gut dysbiosis. 

Where necessary, my treatment protocol may also include a specific SIBO herbal treatment to help eliminate pathogenic bacteria and yeast overgrowth in the gut. 

How to test for SIBO

Diagnosis is best done with a SIBO breath test, which I organise through my clinic. This simple breath sample determines the presence of methanogenic or hydrogenic bacteria, which then allows me to design your personalised treatment plan. If you think SIBO may be the cause of your IBS or other digestive issues, don’t put up with it! Contact me here

Why Does My Child Have Eczema? Simple Tips For Natural Eczema Relief

Eczema is one of the most common childhood conditions, with one in five infants being diagnosed. Although it might seem like a simple skin irritation, eczema is a sign that there is something going on below the surface.

The good news? There are simple ways you can address your child’s eczema naturally.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition that causes a red and itchy rash on the skin. There are several types of eczema, but children commonly experience atopic (allergic) eczema.

Although the symptoms occur on the skin, eczema is not a surface condition. It is an indication that there are internal issues leading to allergic symptoms on the skin.

If you seek advice from your GP, they will usually offer a topical steroid cream to relieve the symptoms. But this does not address the underlying issues – in some cases, it could even make symptoms worse in the long term.

Risk factors for eczema

There are several factors that can increase your child’s risk of eczema, including:

  • Allergic conditions such as a food allergy
  • A family history of eczema
  • A family history of other allergic conditions such as allergies, asthma, and hayfever
  • Living in a colder climate
  • Exposure to pollution, allergens and tobacco smoke

Studies suggest that boys are more likely to experience eczema in infancy, but girls are more likely to have eczema in adolescence.

There is a strong genetic link to eczema. But genes alone won’t cause eczema – there also needs to be an immune system that is triggered by something your child is exposed to.

The link between gut health and eczema

There are two major components of eczema – an immune system that is prone to overreacting and a trigger that causes that reaction.

The trigger varies from child to child – it could be dietary, environmental or a combination of different factors. But when it comes to a sensitive immune system, the first place we always look to is the gut. This is because the gut and immune system are closely linked. In fact, most of the ‘immune system’ is located in the gut!

Research confirms that gut health plays an important role in eczema. People with eczema have a different balance of gut microbes compared to those without eczema. There is also evidence that increased intestinal permeability (commonly known as leaky gut) occurs in children with eczema.

Another gut-related issue that contributes to eczema is food allergies and intolerances. Research suggests that 1/3rd of children with eczema have one or more food allergies – and this could be even higher once you include intolerances.

How can I manage my child’s eczema?

Looking for ways to alleviate your child’s eczema naturally? There are a few key steps you can take.

Address gut health

If we want to take a holistic approach and tackle the underlying causes of eczema, we have to work on gut health.

My #1 tip for supporting a healthy gut is to feed your child a diet rich in wholefoods, including 5 serves of veggies every day. The fibre in vegetables feeds the good bacteria in the gut, leading to a healthier happier tummy.

Navigating gut health can be confusing, as so many factors influence it. This is where working with a nutritionist can help you to develop a realistic plan tailored to your child’s needs.

Identify food intolerances

Food intolerances and eczema go hand in hand. As food intolerances can cause inflammation and affect the balance of microbes in the gut, they are a common trigger for eczema flares. That’s why I always look for potential food intolerances when I see clients with eczema.

Depending on the client and their symptoms, I may recommend IgG testing or an elimination diet removing the main dietary suspects. Elimination diets can be tough to tackle with kids, so it’s best to work with a practitioner.

Consider dust mites as a trigger

In my experience, dust mites can be a huge trigger for eczema symptoms. You can go to your GP to get testing for a dust mite allergy.

In the meantime, to reduce dust mites, you can:

  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water
  • If your child sleeps with soft toys, add those to the weekly wash with the bedding
  • Vacuum regularly, including any upholstered furniture
  • Dust using a wet or electrostatic cloth to prevent the allergens from becoming airborne

Use natural topical options for symptom relief

Steroid creams might alleviate the itch, but they come with side effects. That’s why I recommend opting for natural topical relief instead.

Adding a handful of oats into a muslin bag and popping it in the bath is a simple and affordable option for relieving itching. You can also blend the oats into a fine powder and add it directly to the bath. Although it might seem simple, research has shown that oat baths can alleviate symptoms of eczema.

Another good option is chickweed. You can add it into a bath, or make a salve and apply it to the affected area.

What about probiotics for eczema?

Probiotics can be beneficial for eczema. But it’s not just picking up a probiotic from the supermarket or pharmacy. You want to make sure you’re using the right strains and in the right dosage for your child’s needs.

There are several specific strains that have evidence for alleviating eczema symptoms. L. plantarum CJLP133, L. paracaseiL. fermentum, and L. sakei are some of the strains that have been shown to help with eczema. But these strains are not available in the supplements you can buy over the counter.

This is where working with a practitioner can be useful. Get in touch today to start the journey to health with your child.

A Holistic Approach To Managing Your Child’s Asthma

Does your child have asthma? Asthma is a common condition in Australian children, affecting over 11% of the population.

Doctors typically prescribe medicine to relieve the symptoms. But by taking a more holistic approach to your child’s asthma, you can start to address the underlying causes.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs. The larger branches of the lungs become obstructed due to inflammation of the airway lining and constriction of the muscles around the airways. This leads to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

The condition is immune in origin – it is caused by an immune system that is confused about how to respond to a trigger. Your doctor may prescribe medications to manage the symptoms, but these do not address the immune aspect of the issue.

What triggers asthma?

There are many factors that can trigger asthma symptoms. Your child may react to only one or two, or they may have issues with all of them.

  • Cold, dry air – this is why many will flare over the winter time
  • Intense exercise
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Environmental allergens such as pollen, dust and dust mites
  • Pollutants such as tobacco smoke, perfume and chemicals in cleaning products
  • Acute illness or infection
  • Stress – you may find that your child gets wheezy or breathless after a tantrum, for example

There is a strong genetic component to asthma. Kids are much more likely to develop asthma if there is a family history of asthma and related conditions such as eczema and hayfever. But this predisposition isn’t a guarantee.

The link between asthma and gut health

Gut health is often overlooked when it comes to asthma. But it is one of the most important components to address.

Asthma is a condition of immune dysregulation. Because your child’s immune system is still learning how to react appropriately, they are more likely to experience allergic conditions such as asthma.

But why is your child’s immune system out of balance in the first place? There are a few reasons that link back to the gut, including:

Each of these can prime the immune system to overreact to something that is not a true danger.

How can I address my child’s asthma?

If you’re looking to do more for your child’s asthma than using preventer medications, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s look at some ways you can take a more holistic approach to asthma.

Work on gut health

As gut health is a pillar for building immune tolerance, this is the best place to start. There are many ways to support a healthy gut, but some simple changes include:

  • Increasing their intake of wholefoods, particularly veggies
  • Reducing their intake of processed carbohydrates and sugars
  • Encouraging outdoor play – the more microbes they are exposed to, the more the immune system learns about what is safe and what is not
  • Only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary

Uncover hidden food intolerances

It’s common for food to be a trigger for asthma symptoms, and food allergies often coexist with asthma. But an underlying food intolerance could also be contributing to the gut health and immune imbalance leading to asthma.

Dairy is the most common food intolerance I see in children with asthma. Issues with dairy can also lead to more mucus production, which can further trigger symptoms.

It’s important to identify any foods that could be causing issues. Working with a qualified nutritionist can help you to narrow down the suspects, get testing done and do a trial elimination diet.

Reduce dust mites and other allergens in the home

Most children with asthma will be sensitive to environmental allergens. The most common issue I see in asthma is dust mites. You can get testing to confirm whether your child has a dust mite allergy. But there are also simple ways to reduce dust mites, such as:

  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water
  • If your child sleeps with soft toys, add those to the weekly wash with the bedding
  • Vacuum regularly, including any upholstered furniture
  • Dust using a wet or electrostatic cloth to prevent the allergens from becoming airborne

Other potential triggers found in the home include mould, pet dander/hair, chemicals and perfumes.

Manage their exposure to other triggers

Unfortunately, we can’t avoid all of the triggers of asthma. But you can look at ways to manage exposure to some of the triggers. Depending on your child’s triggers, this might mean:

  • Sticking to moderate intensity exercise
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke and outdoor pollution
  • Switching to natural cleaning options at home

Consider nutritional supplements

There are a few nutrients that may be beneficial for children with asthma. They include:

Vitamin D – helps to balance the immune system

Probiotics some specific strains have been found to benefit children with asthma

Omega-3 fatty acids – alleviates inflammation throughout the body and could reduce asthmatic symptoms

As with any supplementation, the right nutrients and dosage depends on your child’s specific case.

What next?

Looking for some professional support with your child’s asthma?

Get in touch with me today!

7 foods to calm your anxious child

Making a few small tweaks to your child’s diet can be enough to reduce their anxiety to more manageable levels.

I’ve compiled my 7 favourite foods to incorporate into your anxious child’s diet.

Oily fish

These contain omega 3 fatty acids, which are great for all things brain and nervous system related, including anxiety. Omega 3 fatty acids contain 2 essential fatty acids called EPA and DHA. These help balance neurotransmitters and reduce inflammation in the brain. Try to get your child to eat oily fish 3 times a week. If they will eat sardines for breakfast, then you aren’t going to have any issues doing this!  Try to have salmon or trout during the week, as well as mackerel, herring or sardines.  Stay away from tuna, both canned and fresh as it can contain high levels of mercury.  Organic, or wild caught salmon or trout is preferable to farmed for many reasons.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile is a very relaxing, calming herb.  It is easy to buy and easy to drink.  Kids like it with a bit of honey.  When you’re making the tea, it is best to use loose leaf so you know how much you are getting. Some tea bags (especially the cheaper ones) will have very little chamomile in them.  Brew the tea nice and strong in a small cup to get the maximum benefit.

Sauerkraut

There is lots of research about the gut brain axis and the bidirectional flow of information (gut to brain, and brain to gut).  What happens in the gut does not stay in the gut!  Eating sauerkraut is a great way to use this to your advantage. Sauerkraut is a fermented (or probiotic) food, so it contains lots of beneficial bacteria.  Research shows that eating fermented foods like sauerkraut helps socially anxious people feel calmer and function better.  You can make your own sauerkraut or buy a good quality one from the fridge in the health food shop.

Leafy greens

These have many benefits, one of them being the magnesium content.  Magnesium is a very calming nutrient, which most children are deficient in.  For very anxious children, you may need to start with a magnesium supplement to get their anxiety under control, and at the same time, start to bump up the green leafy vegetables in their diet.  Don’t assume your child won’t like green veggies. Instead, think positive and find a way to teach them to love their veggies.  People tell me their kids love this green smoothie.

Egg yolks

The yolk is a very nutrient dense food, containing good levels of tryptophan.  This is converted to serotonin in the body, the happy neurotransmitter. Anything that boosts serotonin will reduce anxiety.  Egg yolks also contain choline which is also essential for a healthy nervous system as it is used to make acetylcholine.  Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter which impacts mood, memory and intelligence. A large study showed that people with lower levels of choline in their blood had higher levels of anxiety.  Another reason to go to school on an egg!

Berries

My favourite brain health fruit are berries.  They are low in sugar, so won’t cause massive ups and downs in blood sugar, yet they are full of antioxidants.  Most kids also love them! Anxiety states are associated with diets lower in antioxidants, so it stands to reason that anything that boosts antioxidants will reduce anxiety.  Any berries are fine, so rotate through which ever ones you can find organically grown.

Oats

Oats are used in herbal medicine as they are anti-anxiety and calming.  They are also a source of the amino acid tryptophan, used to make serotonin.  Not only that, if you buy whole, rolled oats rather than quick oats, they will stabilise blood sugar.  A blood sugar that dips as soon as your child gets to school will contribute towards anxiety

Where to next?

Making changes to your diet if difficult.

Making changes to a child’s diet is ever more difficult.

I can help with the overhwhelm.

If you would like help implementing changes in your child’s diet to help them be happier, get in touch for a free 20 minute chat with me.

5 kid friendly food swaps to supercharge your child’s diet

You don’t need to revolutionise your child’s diet over night to see results. 

Instead you can make subtle, fun, food swaps to ease your child into to a more whole foods way of eating. 

These small changes will help feed the good gut bacteria living inside your child’s gut. 

Once the good gut bacteria are making decisions (instead of the not so good bacteria), your child’s cravings will change too.

Here are 5 fairly straight forward food swaps to make straight away.

1.Weetbix & Milk → Home-made muesli and real yoghurt

Sit down with a group of pre-schoolers or primary school age kids and ask them what they had for breakfast. 

About 80% of them will say weetbix with milk. 

On the plus side, if they don’t add sugar (or honey or maple syrup), they aren’t having any added sugar. 

Realistically, this is not what is happening. 

They are more likely adding enough sugar to their breakfast to make it just as bad as any presweetened cereal.  Not only that, but the gluten (in the weetbix) and the dairy are highly inflammatory foods, which is bad for kid’s brains. 

If they go on to have a sandwich at lunch and pasta at dinner, that is 3 times in the day that they are eating wheat. 

Gut bacteria love diversity, not the same food, three times a day.  Instead, get into the habit of making muesli with your kids. 

Any way you can involve your kids in the kitchen is good.  It teaches them life skills about food preparation, it gets them away from their devices, and if you can easily turn it into a maths lesson.

To make a homemade muesli, you don’t need a “recipe”.  You can make it up as you go along.

You can use some grains like rolled oats, or grain puffs like puffed amaranth, puffed quinoa, puffed brown rice etc.  Food coops or bulk health food stores are great places to pick up these ingredients.

Then add some seeds.  You can get really creative here: chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds etc.  Seeds are full of essential fatty acids and contain protein, so great for healthy brains and happy kids.

Next add some nuts.  Again, you can go crazy with combinations.  Just make sure the nuts are raw, not salted or roasted.  The problem with these isn’t so much the salt as the type of oils that are used in the process.  These are usually highly inflammatory oils like canola or sunflower.

Lastly, add some fruit.  This is where you may need to rein in your child’s creativity. 

Most kids will gravitate to adding lots of dried fruit, but you want to have the least amount possible. 

Sultanas are a good choice as they are cheap, readily available organically and do not contain sulphites. 

Sulphites are added to lots of dried fruit to maintain the colour, but there is no need to do this with sultanas as they are already dark.  Dates and figs will usually be sulphite free too. 

Choose diced fruit, not whole, so you can get a more even distribution of sweetness and not add too much. 

If you want to include apricots or apples, make sure they are sulphite free.  This may put you off adding them, as they will be quite brown. 

Make sure any dried fruit you use is real fruit which has just been dried, rather than mixed with flavours, colours and oils.

Make a big batch, enough to last for a few weeks.  Write down what you put in, and next time you can tweak it according to what you have in your cupboard, and what you liked or didn’t like about it.

Watch a video here to see how easy it is!

Serve with coconut yoghurt or real yoghurt.  If you need help choosing a ‘real’ yoghurt, this article might help

2.Rice crackers → seed crackers.

Open a packet of rice crackers and see them disappear in seconds.

And is your child full? 

Has your child eaten a single nutrient? 

Instead, make some rice crackers like these.  Sure, there is a bit of work involved in making them, and yes, they are more expensive.  But your child’s skin, gut and brain will thank you.  Expense is the reason I am suggesting you make them, not buy them, as they do work out expensive to buy them premade.

Rice crackers are extremely easily digested. 

This has 2 major knock on effects:

It means that they get a quick burst of energy, which quickly slumps again.  This is because rice crackers are very high glycemic index foods.   

It also means that by the time food reaches the large intestine, there is no food left for the gut bacteria.  The good gut bacteria die off over time, allowing the not so good guys to flourish.  This has a direct effect on mood, digestion and immunity.

Again, make the seed cracker making a family activity.  By the time they are teenagers, they will have the skills to do all this themselves.

3.Soft drinks → water kefir

There is literally no need for any child to ever have a soft drink. 

They rot teeth, send their brains into a head-spin and set them up for habits they will need to work hard to break when they grow up. 

There are so many healthy alternatives on the market. 

Kombucha is popular, and easy to find, however it is made from tea, so it contains caffeine. 

If you want to make it at home, you can use rooibos tea, and make it caffeine free.

I prefer water kefir instead.  This is not as easy to buy as kombucha, but it’s getting more popular. 

Of course, you can also make it your-self. 

You buy water kefir grains (which are entirely different to milk kefir grains, and also not an actual grain). It is a straight forward ferment, which you can experiment with as you go.  Not only will you ditch the sugar and chemicals which are in soft drinks, your child will be consuming lots of good gut bacteria (and will not be any the wiser!).

4.Fruit yoghurt → real yoghurt

One of my golden rules is never buy a food with a Disney princess on the front, and this applies especially to yoghurt. 

Yoghurt started out as the ultimate health food, which has now been ruined by the food industry.  Read any fruit yoghurt ingredient list and see how much sugar, gums and thickeners have been added. 

A child will get a big chunk of their daily maximum sugar intake in one yoghurt.  But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. 

Real yoghurt is a great source of protein, a low GI snack and full of good gut bacteria. 

If your child doesn’t do well with dairy, you need to stick to non-dairy yoghurts, like coconut yoghurt.  I have pulled together a guide to how to choose a yoghurt , or make your own..

5.Wheat Pasta → Black bean pasta

This last swap is the easiest swap to make. 

You can now buy so many pasta alternatives like black bean pasta, lentil pasta or chickpea pasta. 

My favourite is probably the black bean pasta, as this is full of polyphenols (the dark colour of the pasta) which are super for gut health. 

This swap requires no home-cooking.

Just choose the black bean pasta off the shelf, instead of the normal wheat pasta. 

Make up some story for your kids to explain the colour, like it’s ‘Harry Potter’ pasta and you’re done.

Start making these swaps, and gradually your child’s tastes will change (as will yours!).  If you want more help to change your child’s diet, feel free to make an appointment with me and I can help!

Why is my child so anxious?

Everybody is different.

Some people (and children) tend towards being a bit anxious.

Others seem totally carefree.

This purpose of this article is not to “pathologize” your child’s unique personality.  The purpose of this article is to give you tips and tricks to help your child feel more comfortable doing day to day activities, and not be ruled by their own internal voices and fears.

The first intervention people think of then their child is anxious is a psychologist.

There is no doubt that a good child psychologist is worth their weight in gold.

But there are other ‘organic’ or physiological causes of anxiety which can be addressed too.  Combining a nutritional approach with psychological intervention is a perfect combo, as the child learns skills to deal with their emotions at the same time that the intensity of these emotions is dialled down.

Blood sugar regulation

The first place to start is blood sugar regulation.

When a child is eating high glycemic carbohydrates, their blood sugar will be going up and down all day.  This can cause anxiety when their blood sugar is too low (hypoglycemia).

This is reasonably easily addressed by making sure your child’s diet is low glycemic index (read all about that here).

Make sure your child has small, frequent meals or snacks (however not grazing, you still want to have distinct meal and snack times), and make sure meals and snacks contain some protein and fat every time.  If you wanted to take it further, you could do a hair analysis and check for your child’s chromium levels.  Chromium is a very important nutrient for blood sugar regulation, and some people will need a supplement to keep their blood sugar balanced.

Caffeine

If your child is consuming caffeine and experiencing anxiety, they should cut out the caffeine and see how they feel.  Caffeine isn’t just found in coffee.  It is also in chocolate, some soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and tea.  So if your child consumes any of those, try cutting them out.  There is a huge variation in how people metabolise caffeine.  We all know that person who can have an espresso at 10.30pm and go straight to bed.  But we also know people who can’t have coffee after 11am, or they won’t sleep.  One of your kids might be able to drink coke every day and have no anxiety issues, and in your other child it can cause massive issues.  Of course, even if it isn’t causing anxiety issues, it is still causing a myriad of other issues!

Histamine

How about histamines?  Does your anxious child also have itchy eyes and a runny nose?  Histamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter, and when it’s too high it can lead to anxiety.  If this seems to be the issue, a low histamine diet can help, as can taking supplements which reduce the load of histamine in the body.  It is also helpful to avoid triggers like food allergens or environmental allergens.

Glutamate

Is your child a vegemite lover?  Do you have takeaways or processed food in the house?  Have you moved to diet coke to avoid sugar?  Too much glutamate can be lead to feelings of anxiety, along with speech delay and irritability. You may need to reduce foods high in glutamate like MSG, vegemite, parmesan cheese, artificial sweeteners and soy sauce.

Essential fatty acids

If there isn’t enough fish in your diet, your child might be low in essential fatty acids, which are important for brain and mental health.  Children without enough essential fatty acids in their diet might also have dandruff or rough skin.  Include fish once or twice per week to ensure good essential fatty acid levels, and keep packaged food to a minimum.

Serotonin

Some children (and adults) might not make enough serotonin.  This might be because they are stressed, for genetic reasons or because they don’t have the building block nutrients in their diet to make the serotonin.  You can figure out if low serotonin is the problem by doing an organic acids test which looks at all the neurotransmitters, and also works out if there is an underlying infection which might be blocking the production of serotonin.  An easy way to boost serotonin is to introduce some mindfulness practice for your child.  It is also important to ensure optimal gut health and make sure all the nutrients are in the diet to produce serotonin.  A starchy snack at bedtime might be helpful too.

Magnesium

Many Australian kids are low in magnesium.  Partly because children are generally not consuming enough high magnesium foods, but also because foods don’t contain as many minerals as they did 50 years ago.  A hair tissue mineral analysis is a handy way to check magnesium levels, or you could just make a big effort to increase magnesium rich foods in the diet like leafy greens, nuts and seeds.  Hint – if your child is really sensitive to noise or sound, this could be the issue!

Food allergy

Food intolerance or allergy can cause enough irritation to the nervous system that they lead to symptoms of anxiety.  An elimination diet or allergy test will enlighten you as to which foods might be causing an issue for your child.

Pyroluria

And finally, there is a condition called pyroluria (or pyrolles) which can lead to anxiety in kids.  People with this condition have low vitamin B6 and zinc levels.  This can lead to anxiety, irritability and depression.  When children are low in zinc, they may also have poor immunity and growth, and might be slow to reach puberty.  If you suspect this might be an issue, you can do a urine test to find out, and then work on rebuilding gut health and give appropriate supplementation.

Summary

I hope this has given you some insight into how you can get to the root cause of your child’s anxiety, and how you can use food and nutrients to help children have a happier, more contented childhood.  If you would like to discuss your child personally, please make an appointment using this link.

How do bad gut bacteria impact kid’s behaviour?

Our gut health impacts all aspects of our health, including our mental health.  I have explained how this works in my article on the gut brain connection.

Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut will produce harmful compounds.  For example the bacterial family Clostridia produce a harmful compound called HPHPA.  This compound changes the neurotransmitter balance in the body, which leads to hyperactivity and aggression.

Why would your child have high levels of this bad bacteria?

Lots of kids have too much Clostridia, and the main reason for this is having had too many courses of antibiotics.  The over-prescription of antibiotics, especially for recurrent ear infections leads to overgrowth of harmful bacteria, as well as lots of other issues including childhood obesity.

What does HPHPA do?

This harmful compound enters the blood stream via the gut.  Here, it affects the enzymes responsible for maintaining the balance between two neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine.  If these two neurotransmitters are out of balance, emotional and mental wellbeing is affected.

Dopamine controls things like satisfaction and pleasure.  It also helps the communication between brain and muscles (which is why people with Parkinson’s disease have a tremor, because they don’t have enough dopamine).

Norepinephrine’s job is to regulate learning, emotions, attentiveness and sleep.

Normal levels of dopamine are good, but too high levels are not good.  Too much dopamine causes over stimulation, agitation and anxiety.  It also causes oxidation in the brain, which then uses up the body’s store of antioxidants.  It will make the child burn through the body’s stores of zinc, magnesium and B vitamins which are essential to brain health.

How do I know if my child has high HPHPA?

There is a urine test called an organic acid test (OAT)  which looks for HPHPA levels.  It is estimated that between 10 and 20% of children with ADHD will have high levels of HPHPA.  Whilst these numbers aren’t huge, it is still a good idea to test, as treating this root cause will improve your child’s mood and behaviour in a matter of months.

Are there any clues before I spend money on testing?

Yes.  You can have a guess at whether this is an issue for your child.

If you tried medication and your child got worse, then this might be because their dopamine was already too high, and the medication pushed it higher.

If your child has hyperactivity, agitation and aggression, they may already have high dopamine because of the HPHPA.

If your child has gut issues such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea.  That may mean they have an overgrowth of Clostridia.

What next?

Treatment of the clostridia would involve improving gut health and taking a high dose probiotic, which is best to do in conjunction with a practitioner like me, who specialises in this area.  Click on this link to make a Skype appointment with me.