Eastern v Western Medicine

The human body forever captivates me in all of its beauty to carry out its millions of functions, each and every day that you venture around this earth. It baffles me the commitment that the body has to keep someone ticking over, even when they completely abandon their health, poisoning themselves with cigarettes, alcohol and food that doesn’t deserve to even be called food. But the body can also hold a lot of darkness when it comes to disease.  When the body has had enough, it clearly lets you know. I felt this in what some might consider to be subtle, but nonetheless has opened my eyes more to my commitment to health and nutrition.  

One CT of my esophagus, a handful of blood tests, more radiation by way of a procedure in hospital, called a barium swallow, and a whole lot of worry, drew doctors to the diagnosis of acid reflux. Here I was thinking I was dying a slow death, when a sensation of something being stuck in my throat, sporadically occurred over the course of this year.throat.JPG While it ended up being a minor diagnosis, that’s very easily treatable with lifestyle changes, it still woke me up to take more care of my health. I imagine that other diseases on people have the same effect, although I know of many that still choose to ignore the warning signs.

East v West treatment

I very rarely go to visit a GP, perhaps once a year, at least when I’m not head butting reefs in the Philippines. I’ve been very fortunate to find a doctor that practices a blend of Eastern and Western Medicine. His name is Dr Ali and he loves Ayurvedic approaches, one of the most ancient medical systems in the world. It pre-dates Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine combined.

Dr Ali is happy to print me a script of antibiotics, but he’ll forewarn me that it’s a last resort approach, running through the various side effects, such as the destruction of good bacteria in my gut and increase in free-radicals. He will even go so far as handwriting traditional Chinese remedies, or supplements to take if I choose to be prescribed with the antibiotics, in a bid to counteract their damaging effects. The Eastern and Western divide can be described in the following extract from National Institutes of Health:

“Western medicine, while excelling at acute care and surgery, puts great emphasis on the chronic use of drugs to suppress the symptoms of illnesses. What is forgotten is that our bodies have a natural wisdom and intelligence; they have an intrinsic knowledge of how to grow, heal, maintain balance, restore homeostasis, and regenerate. Our bodies have evolved over aeons with these capabilities, but when they are suppressed, for example, when nutrition, exercise, and diet are not given adequate attention, or people ingest toxins, then “lifestyle-related” diseases including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are much more likely to arise”.

Unfortunately, the divide between East and West has become all too much for Dr Ali and as he was helping me in my plan to tackle reflux, he told me he was taking off to Colorado in two weeks to study genetics as he’d had enough of the practice.

The Western Approach

I had requested blood tests of my own will, to rule out any issue with my thyroid and of course I was itching for the results. On the day of my appointment with Dr Ali, he had called in sick last minute, so I had to re-book with another unknown doctor.

Let me tell you, he was one of the coldest humans I had ever met. Even his white skinwestern medicine looked cold, as he pressed the dispenser of the antibacterial gel, that sat atop of his desk, lathering his hands in eliminate-all-bacteria, while his eyes glanced over my breasts and legs.

He remained expressionless, as he asked me why I had requested blood results for an issue with my throat. Before I could even answer, he found ways to talk over top of me. Scrolling through the results, he uninterestedly told me all my vitamin levels were fine and he couldn’t see anything worth concern. With a CT of my esophagus and blood tests showing nothing, I knew I had to book into the procedure in hospital.

The Eastern approach

After my results came back from hospital and I returned to the welcoming rooms of Dr Ali, the diagnosis of reflux was noted, but he also told me my blood tests were not great. My vitamin B and folic acid levels in particular, he described in his words as “ratsh*t”! On a running scale of worst to best, I had just made over the worst rating, which apparently was enough for the cold doctor to clear me of any concern. Something he had been taught in medical school Dr Ali mentioned.

The thing that shocked me most, was that the doctor had a discussion with Dr Ali asking chinese medicineif he had followed some particular code of practice, that again. had been taught in medical school in Australia. Dr Ali carrying over 30 years’ experience, in his unique blended approach and  practicing all over the world, mocked his colleague in his chest-puffing capabilities.

Dr Ali went back in the system and read the clinical notes of that doctor, from my visit to receive the blood test results. They were utterly appalling.  Any of the words that I managed to get out that day, throughout being cut, were recorded in the notes in quotation marks as if I was mad, and his final recommendation was to prescribe me psychotropics! Dr Ali laughed and said “well I won’t be doing that anytime soon”. My only guess is that as reflux can be triggered by stress and anxiety, this doctor’s approach was to prescribe me some anti-depressants! That shall fix the problem! I think I’ll stick to my yoga and meditation.

Holistic treatment

Of course a giant wave of relief washed over me as I found out that I was in fact, not dying. Relief turned into excitement in finding ways to better improve my already pretty good diet. The most uncanny aspect about the whole event, is that I’ve been writing health articles for a client on acid reflux for the past three months. I also had a gut instinct long before diagnosis to increase my vitamin B’s (being vegetarian) and had ordered PH test stripsnatural medicin for saliva months before.

Dr Ali handwrote his prescription of various supplements and Chinese Medicine that I could order to best treat my reflux. He also wittingly drew a map to the nearest fresh food market with the best raw treats in town.

It’s only been one week since I got my results, but I feel so full of life and energy, from mindfully increasing my intake of fresh fruit, vegetables from my garden, and Chinese teas containing a mixture of various healing plants and flowers. I’m yet to receive my supplements from an online order, but I think life will become even richer when I do.  I’m so proud of everything that I’ve learnt on holistic approaches to health over the years and everyone that has influenced that. Even though Dr Ali will be off overseas, on another journey and no longer there to guide me, I’m forever inspired to seek out alternative practitioners for any future health issues, and avoid prescription medications at all cost.

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Better choices of probiotics

Recently I spoke to a friend about a house party I briefly showed up at and how I had only had two small 330ml bottles of Stones ginger beer. Those two small bottles held almost 60g of sugar as I later discovered. Of course this wasn’t to be found anywhere on the bottle, I had to search the internet. I wouldn’t consume that amount of sugar in many days let alone one sitting! She asked me if I had watched the documentary called That Sugar Film which I hadn’t but was inspired to do so that night. So I did.

People on this planet are growing sicker every day.

It’s a story of a completely healthy guy that gave up sugar but wanted to run quite a that sugar filmridiculous medical experiment to prove to others just how bad sugar is for your health. He went from no sugar in his diet to consuming the average Australian intake of a whopping 40 teaspoons a day. The aspect of the experiment that captivated me most was that the sugars had to be hidden sugars, such as those in breakfast cereals, juices and even savoury pasta sauces.

Within two weeks he developed fatty liver, his energy levels rapidly declined, his ability to focus completely decreased and was well on his way to a pretty dangerous health situation. After all, sugar is a very modern and foreign element of our lives as compared to our evolutionary past. Unfortunately, it’s become the norm to be in just about every food item in our supermarket.

Throughout the film I noticed common food products that I include in my diet but in moderation, as I always make sure I read the ingredient panel on the rear of the packet. However, I was a bit shocked to see him guzzling a milk probiotic supplement you might know as Yakult in Australia.

yakult

Here I was thinking I was taking control of my gut health with my daily probiotic intake, but really I was consuming 9g of sugar per tiny bottle. That’s over  two unnecesarry teaspoons. If anything that’s going to upset my gut balance not keep things in balance. Here are some other alternatives I’ll be indulging in once I use up the last of my Yakult supply in my fridge:

  • Pickles-Traditionally these include pickled cucumbers but any kind of pickled vegetables will boost your intake of probiotics. An easy ingredient to add to any salad.
  • Dark chocolate coated probiotic balls– it’s hard to go past dark chocolate in this convenient form and you only need one to three small balls per day.
  • Miso soup– A tasty form of probiotics you can sip on daily. Just be aware that one cup of miso soup includes 600-900mg of sodium so if you have a lot of other high sodium foods throughout the day, it’s better to keep a watchful eye on your intake.
  • Dark chocolate in general– aim for above 80% to get the highest intake of probiotics. Other great benefits of dark choc is that it’s an antioxidant rich food, great source of manganese and of course tastes great! It’s best in moderation though as you’re trying to lower sugar intake as much as possible!
  • Sauerkraut-One of the richest sources of probiotics and also a very affordable option. I wrote about the benefits of sauerkraut here.

As you can see there’s plenty of options available for alternatives to the cleverly marketed and convenient shot size bottles of Yakult. As Eastern practices are teaching us, health begins in the gut and we have to be sure we are looking after this balance for our overall vitality. Make it a daily habit to include probiotics somewhere throughout your day.

It is becoming increasingly clear that there are untold connections between our resident microbes and many aspects of physiology…” NCBI

 

Kombucha- Brew your own

A friend recently told me he’d been getting into making batches of kombucha at home and excitedly told me just how easy the whole process is. I’ve wanted to try it for a while but in my mind always thought it was a lengthy task and pretty risky messing around with different types of bacteria. After a recent catch up he sent me on my way with a kombucha recipe and a “scoby” in a little snaplock bag with starter tea, which to me resembled something between a mushroom and an alien!

The benefits of kombucha

Finally much knowledge from the ancient East has swept to the West and in particular the view that many diseases begin in the gut. You need a fine balance of good and bad bacteria to support the production and absorption of nutrients throughout the body, to have goodkombucha benefits digestion and strong immunity (amongst other things). Kombucha helps in all of these ways due to the beneficial probiotics contained within. The scoby stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast” and is the “heart” of the kombucha which can be used time and time again and in fact duplicates upon almost every batch. This allows you to spread the love amongst any friends that are interested in brewing their own batch! Kombucha is a refreshing and bubbly alternative to synthetic soft drinks packed with sugar and artificial flavours.

Key benefits

  • Detoxifying
  • Immunity boosting
  • Increased energy
  • Supported digestion
  • Supports a healthy nervous system
  • Decreases sugar cravings
  • Antioxidant rich

Rather than buying expensive probiotic supplements or milk drinks (you’ve seen the ads!) why not try make your own kombucha! It really is so easy and I can almost do it with my eyes closed only after making a few batches.

How to make kombucha

Ingredients

  • 2L water
  • 100ml white vinegar
  • 1x kombucha scoby (you can purchase online)
  • 125ml starter tea (comes in package you buy online)
  • 4 bags of tea of your choice (I use rosehip & black tea)
  • 1/2 cup of raw sugar

Equipment needed

  • 1 x small funnel
  • 1x pot (to hold 2L water)
  • 1x 2.5L glass jar with sealed top
  • Swing top glass bottles for keeping final product in fridge
  1. Bring 2L water to the boil then remove from heat and stir in sugar and tea bags. Then leave to cool to room temperature (I leave mine out overnight). The mixture needs to be cooled otherwise it will kill the important bacteria in the scoby.
  1. Once cooled remove tea bags and stir in your 100ml of vinegar then pour the liquid into a sterilized glass jar (use boiling water to sterilize). Now pour in your starter tea and either allow the scoby to slide out on its own or rinse your hands in vinegar and carefully place the scoby into the jar. Rinsing your hands with vinegar disallows any unwanted bacteria to enter the batch. You want to make sure the scoby is sitting flat on top and not folded in half.
  1. Seal off the glass jar and use a label to mark the date of brewing. Store the jar at room temperature somewhere out of direct sunlight and leave to ferment the kombucha for 7-14 days. Around the 7 day mark I use a straw to slide in under the scoby and taste test- it’s up to you how long you want to leave it to ferment and all comes down to taste.

There you have it! It’s as simple as that! You will find you need to experiment a little with the balance of vinegar and sugar, I found myself using slightly less vinegar than the recipe and slightly more sugar due to my batch tasting too vinegary. It’s completely normal for floaty or stringy bits to hang off the scoby and even turn up in your final product. You will often find the scoby grows a second layer, which can be separated and given to a friend (see below notes) or simply thrown out into the compost.

To continue making further batches places the original scoby in a small seal bag with 125ml of the final kombucha (this becomes the starter tea). It’s important to inspect the scoby and make sure there is no green or black mold and no rotten or unpleasant odours before using it for a fresh batch. Happy brewing!

Image courtesy of Dr Axe (www.draxe.com)

 The Importance of BYO skincare products when travelling remotely

I think it’s amazing these days seeing the prevalence of cancer amongst seemingly “healthy individuals”. How many times have you heard someone say “yeah he passed away from cancer but it makes no sense, he was the healthiest guy, always eating the best foods and exercising regularly”. It is my belief it all comes down to the products we are applying externally and surrounding ourselves in daily that are endocrine disruptors (or hormone disruptors). See Wikipedias definition here.

A few years ago I never used to care for what I was putting on my skin, in my hair or brushing my teeth coconut oil with until I dated a highly passionate vegan. I hadn’t even heard of the concept of chemical beauty products, all that mattered was that it smelt pretty, moisturised, left a minty taste, smoothed or untangled. A simple internet search of unpronounceable chemicals contained in my favourite deodorant or moisturiser revealed some pretty disturbing results.

I started exploring alternative options and visiting speciality health food stores and paying more money for natural products. This was certainly trial and error as I found many products were not effective and I had to go through many brands until I found one that suited. For example finding a natural deodorant that actually worked took quite a few months and quite a few dollars, but I was so happy when I finally found a reliable brand and have to this day stuck with it.

Common Misbeliefs 

The biggest misbelief people follow regarding everyday skin care products you find at your supermarket is “if it’s so bad how can it end up in the supermarket and why would these companies want to harm your health?”. The sad truth is many companies want to find the most cost-effective option for manufacturing their products, with very little care for your health but total focus on how much profit they can make.

The use of animal products 

This involves using multiple animal by-products which include ground up intestines, meat industry beauty productshormones from adrenal glands and proteins obtained by boiling ligaments, bones and skin. For a full list see peta.org’s animal ingredients’ list here . The reason companies decide to use animal products is because they are cheap and usually by-products from the meat industry. Also animal skin oils etc are most closely related to our skin, therefore giving a smooth texture upon application, especially in moisturisers and makeup.

The use of chemical products

Again the main reason companies (including big names) use chemical products which are harmful to your health is because of the low cost involved. Have a look at the top chemicals to look out for in your personal skin care products here. You will see listed many chemicals which can affect internal organs, lead to skin allergies, cause chest pain, nausea, affect your immune system and the worst- cancer.

So the issue is not if you use these products once or twice or even for a few months at a time. Rather it is the long term exposure to these carcinogenic chemicals that will do the damage. Of course your skincare routine is engrained to your daily habits- my main tip is don’t change your entire beauty product range overnight- it’s just too overwhelming, trust me I tried! Once you start looking at the ingredients of every bathroom product you will find toothpaste, shampoos, moisturisers and all hair products contain some kind of toxic chemical or ground up animal part. Start with just one and go from there. It took me almost a year to almost fully change my beauty products to natural options. It is also a process of simplification- for example my everyday hair wash I just use diluted apple cider vinegar and for moisturiser face and body I use coconut oil.

The problem with remote regions

Luckily in countries like Australia there are regulations and bodies in place to measure what makes a product “organic” or “vegan-friendly”. Many remote spots just haven’t been educated on the dangers, therefore I’ve found products are much worse off than Australia because of a largely unregulated industry. In Thailand there are entire sections in supermarkets that claim to be organic but a simple scroll of the ingredients will reveal anything but. Small villages in Indonesia, Polynesia and Philippines that I have lived in all rely on toxic products as there is no other option.

Herein lies the importance of bringing your own beauty products on your surf trips. You could say you’re only living in these spots for less than a few months but once you are aware of just how bad most supermarket products are, it’s hard to go back. Again simplification wins. You don’t want to pay for excess baggage because of all the products you’re going to bring to last a few months.

The lesson learnt is not to only evaluate what you put inside your body but equally as important, be aware of what you’re exposing your body to and the long-term effects on your health.

Homemade Beeswax Hair Product/Lip Balm

About three years ago I came across a great recipe for a natural alternative to commercial hair product of the wax & pomade kind. It’s been great for travelling as I don’t have to try and find some strange branded hair product in a foreign country packed full of chemicals. It’s inexpensive, very easy and quick to make and it feels amazing to use a product you made with your own two hands and know exactly what ingredients are contained within.

I also use this same recipe as a soothing lip balm without having to alter the recipe.

Ingredientsnatural beauty

2 Tbs. grated beeswax

1 Tbs. Olive oil

1/4 cup coconut oil

Beeswax is usually obtainable from your local market or speciality health store. For those around NSW/QLD border I buy mine from Byron Bay- $3.50 for a solid block of wax in a container that holds 15Tbs or more grated! You’ll also need a container to scoop the finished produce into. I use a small glass container with a screw top lid. You can use an old lipstick tube and scoop the mixture into it if you are also using as a lip balm.

Remember both beeswax and coconut oil have great healing properties (particularly beeswax) so you can also apply the mixture direct to reef cuts or other wounds to help keep infections at bay.

Directions

Slice sections of beeswax off the block or use a grater and measure out 2Tbs. (or thereabouts) of beeswax. You can experiment with the amounts, the more beeswax the more solid the mix. Depending on the season bear in mind that coconut oil solidifies in more cooler temperatures and liquifies in heat.

Heat a small saucepan on low-medium heat and place the grated beeswax in the pan. Measure out the olive oil and coconut oil and pour in. The beeswax will melt into the oil much like butter would. Gently stir until all of the beeswax has dissolved and remove from the heat.

Set aside for 5-10 minutes or until the mixture starts to turn cloudy off-white and begins to harden enough to scoop into your container. Allow to cool.

This amount will last me up to six months and is certainly investing the short time it takes to make a safe and chemical free hair and multi-purpose product.

El Naturale Teeth Whitener

The teeth whitening industry is currently estimated to be a whopping $11 billion industry. That’s a pretty high figure considering many people have a fear of being in the dentist’s chair! Aside from a wisdom tooth extraction at an army base in Thailand which cost me about $7AUD (story for another time) I haven’t visited the dentist for around a decade and don’t plan to unless I experience obvious pain or problems with my teeth, mouth and gums. I much prefer to be pedantic about brushing my grills twice a day every day without exception, eat as close to nature as possible to avoid cavities from highly processed, sugary foods and once a week brighten my smile with a simple at home method.

Baking soda & lemon teeth whitener

This little at home teeth whitening trick is relatively new to me but I’m pretty happy with the results. I’ve been using this method for about two months and have noticed an improvement in the whiteness of my teeth (I do love my coffee) and the general smooth natural teeth whitenerfeeling of my dentures after I use the baking soda and lemon combo.

  1. Grab a small bowl and mix in about one heaped teaspoon of baking soda.
  1. Cut open a fresh lemon, only a small end slither of about 2cm and slowly squeeze the lemon juice onto the baking soda which will cause the baking soda to fizz from contact with the citrus. Stir the lemon juice in and gradually add more juice as needed until you have formed a smooth paste.
  1. Place your toothbrush in the mixture until its surface has a nice layer of the paste and lightly brush those grills, reapplying the mixture onto your brush along the way. natural whitener Brush for about two minutes then rinse out your mouth with fresh water.

This is such a simple, easy and cost effective way to whiten your teeth. The baking soda is pretty abrasive therefore you only want to be using the above technique once a week max. The idea of the fresh lemon juice is that it helps activate the properties of the baking soda and increases the effectiveness of the teeth whitening.