Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle medicine" has become a popular term, and that's a good thing for everyone, because the focus in medicine does need to change. Naturopaths have been promoting lifestyle medicine for well over 100 years, and it's still a core part of what we do. We focus on prevention and on treating the cause of illness- and lifestyle is often the cause, or a part of the cause.

Respecting the wisdom of our bodies

Respecting the wisdom of our bodies

Have you heard that weight loss diets don’t work, but only 95 % of the time? Its true- statistically, they actually pretty much all backfire long term.  But because they all tend to work in the short term, dieting is a perfect way to make women feel inadequate and guilty for not being strong willed enough to continue. Dieting has also caused so many women to have eating disorders that these have become normalised. Do we even remember what it is like to eat ‘normally’, as we did as kids (if we were lucky)?

Risk factors for disease in Australia

Some of the preventable risk factors for disease in Australia are: 

Smoking represents 9% of the total disease burden in Australia, more than any other single risk factor. Just under 15% of Australians smoke daily, more men than women, and these rates are fortunately decreasing. Smoking is more common amongst the disadvantaged than the affluent. It is associated with several cancers and many other conditions. 

Drinking alcohol more than recommended is over 5% of the disease burden - 20% of Australians average drinking more than the recommended, although overall this risk is falling. It is however a risk factor more common with affluence than disadvantage. 

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Over half of Australians do not get the minimum recommended amount of exercise. The disadvantaged are less likely to be sufficiently physically active than the affluent. 

High blood pressure is a risk factor for 1/3 of Australians and this may be related to weight but particularly to lack of exercise and diet, irrespective or weight. 

5% os Australians have diabetes (85% of them Type 2) and another 3% have impaired fasting glucose, and this is much more common with disadvantage, especially in Indiginous communities.  Half of these do not get the recommended amount of daily exercise. Overall, this condiiton is increasing and is predicted to become 10% of the population by 2040. 

Nutritional factors account for around 7% of the disease burden, according to the Bureau of Statistics. Half of Australians do not eat the recommended 2 serves of fruit daily, and and 93% do not eat the recommended 5 serves of vegetables. Yes, that is 9 out of 10 people do not eat enough vegetables recommended by the rather conservative government recommendations.

Teasing apart the risk of obesity and its consequences is not so easy because by itself, its not necessarily a risk factor, although it seems like it is in most statistics- this is more because of bias than anything. Obese people are less likely to be active, but if they are active and eat well (and about a third of them do), their risk falls dramatically. And many who are normal weight, have higher risk factors because they fall under the radar if they don’t exercise or eat well, or if they smoke, which is the case for many. 

These are the basics, and a lot of this is to do with disadvantage. However, affluence is not preventing most Australians to not eat enough vegetables, and half to not eat 2 pieces of fruit a day. And alcohol is a risk factor prevalent with affluence. 

This cannot be solved with telling people to exercise more and eat better, when causes are tied up with disadvantage- it is more complex than that. But those of us who can, can make sure we eat our vegetables, get enough basic exercise, and drink in moderation. 

     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Have you been told you have Adrenal Fatigue?   The term "adrenal fatigue" is probably not an accurate way to describe the symptoms it is referring to. And this term is criticised by the medical profession and is not a medical term or diagnosis.  However, fatigue is real. The term "adrenal fatigue" usually refers to the deep exhaustion and often associated physical symptoms, after a period of stress and/or trauma. Some people just cannot function normally or are even bedridden, just from fatigue.  Adrenal insufficiency IS a diagnosable medical condition (Addison's Disease), but this is usually not what we are referring to when we talk about adrenal fatigue.  The issue with the term "adrenal fatigue" is that it is referring to the adrenals sort of burning out and it's not quite like that. The adrenals, hypothalamus and pituitary glands are all connected (HPA axis) and there are feedback mechanisms in the body which regulate all hormones. When we are stressed for months or years- and this is becoming increasingly normal- the body is continuously flooded with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin.  Long term exposure to these hormones is not good for the body, so it downregulates their production after some time. It stops producing so many of them- it is actually an intelligent mechanism by the body to stop long term damage from being flooded with hormones which are meant to only be produced for short periods.  But when there are less of these hormones in the system- and these can be measured in blood and salivary tests- we feel exhausted and just can't keep functioning at the level we were functioning before. Adrenaline and cortisol make us hyper-functional for a while ( in order to run away from that tiger)- but eventually, we do collapse and feel exhausted and wonder why we can't keep going like before.  Can you see this is the body's protection mechanism- to keep us safe and to slow us down? And do we listen? Usually not! We just want a magic pill to be able to get back up and keep going! We take herbs and supplements and do the minimum of rest in order to "get back to normal". As if the symptom is the main problem.  If you use herbs that help support the adrenals and build tolerance to stress (adaptogens).....to avoid taking steps to reduce stress in your life, or change the way you handle stress....you will only head toward a deeper burnout further down the track. Herbs need to be respected too. They have their place but they shouldn't replace a good evaluation of one's stress levels.  Stress breeds stress. When we are stressed, we feel we HAVE to keep going at that pace. But it's rarely actually true, it just feels like it. And if it is true, then there are many ways to ameliorate the stress. Fatigue after long term stress is a gift. It is the body's message, hey, its time to slow down, this isn't working any more.  So I suggest we stop using the term "adrenal fatigue" and just refer to it as fatigue. Deep fatigue, from being stressed or going through trauma.  Fatigue can also be related to so many other things of course- chronic virus infections, or many different health conditions. But "adrenal fatigue" as it is commonly used, refers to that fatigue that happens after long term stress.  This level of fatigue is becoming more and more common, unfortunately.

Have you been told you have Adrenal Fatigue? The term "adrenal fatigue" is probably not an accurate way to describe the symptoms it is referring to. And this term is criticised by the medical profession and is not a medical term or diagnosis.

However, fatigue is real. The term "adrenal fatigue" usually refers to the deep exhaustion and often associated physical symptoms, after a period of stress and/or trauma. Some people just cannot function normally or are even bedridden, just from fatigue.

Microbes and Antibiotic Resistance.

We have been messing with the microbiome on the planet for at least the last hundred years, with antibiotics, antiseptics, pesticides, fungicides and an attitude of annihilation. Now, relatively unknown species, once no threat, are rising as a major threat (drug resistant) because what used to hold them in check - other species of microbes - have been wiped out with powerful pesticides, fungicides & antibacterial products. In the case of the drug resistant fungus, Candida aureus, talked about in this New York Times article, it is believed that fungicides used in agriculture have led to its explosion to become a major threat in hospitals world wide.

Although the article doesn’t mention Australia, I did find that it is here, and is a notifiable disease of concern. It has been detected in Western Australia. It is certainly being taken seriously.

At this stage, these opportunistic microbes, such as the recent Candida aureus, are usually only a threat to the weak and vulnerable..newborns, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, many of whom can be found in hospitals.

As a Naturopath, I certainly encourage people to take this seriously and take the drugs the doctors prescribe, if infected and detected.

From a Naturopathic perspective... keeping the immune system healthy is the best form of prevention, and also treatment if conventional drugs fail, or alongside them. This can be done with a healthy diet, low sugar, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of sunshine for Vitamin D (without burning), and managing stress levels to keep them low as much as possible.

Then we can make sure our zinc levels are adequate, that we get plenty of Vitamin C, check our Vitamin D status, and take herbs such as Elderberry, Echinacea, Cats Claw and Medicinal Mushrooms.

Essential oils such as tea tree also have their place but need to be used with care as they are toxic in quite small amounts, especially for children and babies. They are however complex molecules to which microbes can find it difficult to build resistance.

But let's not be part of the mentality of trying to kill off all the microbes in our environment- they keep themselves in check if the environment is basically healthy, with fresh air, regular basic cleaning and washing with soap and water, and sunshine where possible. I allow the sun to shine on my bed every morning through an open window, just because I can. Sunlight is a wonderful antiseptic. (Of course, hospitals are not normal environments and need a different approach.)

This is the real world we are living in nowadays. I feel it's worth thinking about and acting preventatively and proactively. The medical world is struggling to deal with the uprise of resistant microbes. Perhaps this will be an opportunity for us to work together, to acknowledge that the health of the immune system can be influenced by diet, lifestyle, and herbal and nutritional supplements….and we can step aside when they need to pull out the big guns of powerful new medicines, when needed.

Click on image to go to New York Times article

Click on image to go to New York Times article

Loneliness in relation to health and wellbeing

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Are you perhaps lonely? Loneliness is being considered an epidemic in recent studies. Sure, many people have many online connections, but there is a tendency to have fewer real life face to face regular connections, poorer solid social networks. Social media is, of course, one reason but its been heading this way for decades in western countries.

Loneliness is associated with a shorter life span- the equivalent of 15 cigarettes a day shorter, and even more of a risk factor than obesity- and with coronary heart disease and strokes. It is a risk factor for many diseases.

The elderly are particularly prone to loneliness, but it can occur at any age, of course. Loneliness causes stress. When we feel socially isolated, subconsciously we feel we must be more aware of threats in our environment, and this triggers stress. When we feel connected to and surrounded by people who care for us, that we can rely on to be there when we really need, that builds a sense of safety. Stress however leads to a cascade of physiological changes such as increased inflammation and blood pressure and lowered immunity.

Research has shown that in countries where social media use is highest, loneliness is also the most pervasive. Talking to people face to face is quite a different experience for the whole person, than chatting on social media, and social media connections cannot compensate for the human need for real connection. It builds real resilence on a personal and community level.

One of the best things we can do for our health and wellbeing, and the future of ourselves, our kids and extended families, and our whole community, is to build meaningful connections with other people, face to face. It is just as important as stopping smoking, eating well, getting enough exercise, drinking enough water and all the other things we tend to focus on. Loneliness is so pervasive that we don't even think about it as a health risk factor, but we need to.

Do you have plans to connect with at least one other person who you care about and who cares about you, face to face, this weekend?