Both Hannah and Bronwyn have finished an epic 10-week, very intensive educational course all about Naturopathic & integrative approaches to digestive health. It was hosted by Jason Hawrelak from the Microbiome Restoration Centre - who is an incredible practitioner and a pretty excellent teacher.
They loved every minute of it and decided to do a little video on everything they learnt. Well, maybe not everything, but a few key important things.
Have you been craving certain foods and gaining weight? Maybe you’re fatigued and can’t concentrate, then wake up in the middle of the night. The latest TikTok wellness trend would have you believe high cortisol levels are to blame.
Cortisol also does more than this and regulates many other biological functions. It affects nearly all the cells of our body and is essential for survival.
Some of what is being blamed on cortisol are symptoms of chronic stress or depression – which makes sense, since these are linked.
Cortisol is the main “stress hormone” of the body. This might make people think cortisol is bad for them, but this is not the case.
Stress is an inevitable part of life, and our stress response has evolved as a survival mechanism so we can react quickly to dangerous situations. Both psychological and physical stresses elicit the stress response.
Our immediate reaction to a sudden threat is the fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline is released from the adrenal glands into our bloodstream. This instantly increases our heart rate and breathing rate so we can be ready to act quickly to escape or avoid danger. However, the adrenaline response is only very short-lived.
When a threat or stress persists for minutes rather than seconds, cortisol is released from the adrenal glands. Its main role is to increase blood glucose (sugar) for energy.
Cortisol affects the liver, muscle, fat and pancreas to increase glucose production and mobilise stored glucose. This increases glucose to the brain so that we are mentally alert and to the muscles so we can move.
In a healthy and normal stress response, cortisol rises quickly in response to the stress and then rapidly reduces back to baseline levels after the stress has passed.
However, chronic stress and ongoing increased cortisol secretion are not healthy. Chronic stress can cause dysregulated cortisol secretion: when cortisol remains high even in the absence of an immediate stress.
It can take weeks for cortisol dysregulation to return to normal after chronic stress.
Emerging evidence suggests chronic stress and dysregulated cortisol may contribute to the development of depression. Our research team has shown that people with depression have, on average, higher cortisol than people who don’t have depression. We also found that higher cortisol was associated with more negative thinking and lower quality of life.
The symptoms described on TikTok as being due to high cortisol may be caused by stress, depression or anxiety. Depression can also cause insomnia, increased appetite, and weight gain or loss.
The relationship between cortisol, weight changes and depression are complex. High cortisol also increases the activity of adrenaline. This explains why when you are stressed you can be extra reactive and snap into fight-or-flight mode quickly.
However, some of the symptoms described on TikTok as due to “high cortisol” may actually reflect low cortisol. Low cortisol can be caused by chronic stress and high cortisol during childhood or earlier in life. This is why some people with depression, particularly those with a long history of depression, have low rather than high cortisol.
Low cortisol causes fatigue and weight gain. This is more common in women and we found this was linked to leptin, a satiety hormone.
Despite claims on TikTok, we cannot tell whether our cortisol is in balance or high or low.
The only way to know is to have your blood, urine or saliva analysed in a laboratory. This is not done routinely and would be a waste of resources. A doctor would only check this if they suspected you had a disorder of cortisol production, but these are rare.
Besides, your cortisol levels vary considerably across different times of the day and night.
One of the most important roles of cortisol is in the circadian system of the body. The hypothalamus in the brain sets the circadian (approximately 24-hour) rhythms of our biological functions to match the light-dark cycle. Cortisol communicates these signals from the brain to the rest of the body.
Cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands increases in the early hours of the morning, peaks at about 7am, and then is lowest from about midday until early morning.
Cortisol is our body’s natural alarm clock. Higher cortisol during the morning or at the end of the sleep period stimulates wakefulness, increased energy, and physical activity. Lower cortisol during the night encourages sleep and restorative functions.
You can try to maintain healthy levels of cortisol by addressing the underlying causes of cortisol dysregulation.
Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy can reduce the reactivity of the stress response.
Finally, a healthy balanced diet gives your body the building blocks for good hormone health.
If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Thanks to The Conversation for this research from Theresa Larkin (Associate professor of Medical Sciences, University of Wollongong) and Susan J Thomas (Associate professor, University of Wollongong)
Green tea - what's not to love?
Not only is Green tea a beautiful beverage, but research on this amazing plant is growing fast. It contains a variety of bioactive compounds, including polyphenols, which have been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
But did you know that green tea may also have a positive impact on the microbiome, the community of microorganisms that live in and on our bodies? Not just the gut, but skin and of course the vaginal microbiome!
Several studies have shown that green tea can increase the number and diversity of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome while reducing the abundance of harmful bacteria. For example, one study found that green tea extract supplementation increased the abundance of Bifidobacterium. Bifidobacterium is a type of probiotic bacteria that is known to have numerous health benefits, including improving gut health and reducing inflammation.
Another study found that green tea polyphenols can help modulate the gut microbiota by increasing the abundance of beneficial bacteria and reducing the levels of harmful bacteria in the gut. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind green tea's effects on the gut microbiome, these studies suggest that incorporating green tea into your diet may have a positive impact on gut health.
The research on the effects of green tea on the vaginal microbiome is also growing, there is some evidence to suggest that it may have a positive impact. One study found that green tea extract was effective at reducing the growth of bacteria associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common vaginal infection. BV is caused by an imbalance of the vaginal microbiota and is characterised by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. The study found that green tea extract inhibited the growth of BV-associated bacteria, and also helped to restore the balance of the vaginal microbiota. The researchers suggested that green tea extract may be a useful alternative to antibiotics for the treatment of BV.
Another study found that green tea catechins were effective at reducing inflammation in the reproductive tract of mice. Inflammation in the reproductive tract can disrupt the vaginal microbiota and increase the risk of infections. While more research is needed to fully understand the effects of green tea on the vaginal microbiome, these studies suggest that it may have potential as a natural treatment for vaginal infections and inflammation.
Just a cup or two a day can help, ensure you get good quality green tea! I personally love the Japanese blend of Green tea with Roasted Rice and Matcha, Genmaicha and Matcha. You can grab this from good Japanese grocers. I know many of you enjoy your daily Matcha latte as well. But just a nice cup of plain Green Tea will do the job as well.
As herbalists, we often use extracts of Green tea in liquid or tableted forms. For vaginal microbiome, we'll even use it in a pessary! But please only do this under the guidance of an experienced practitioner. The health conditions that Green Tea has been shown to benefit are complex and seeing a Naturopath to get a wholistic view of them can be very beneficial.
So, are you having your green tea today?
New Leaf Naturopathic Health is a 100% Virtual health and wellness clinic. Our highly trained and experienced naturopaths, nutritionists and herbalists are here to help you find the balance in your health. Book your appointment online today.
Do you know how often you should be passing a number 2? Learn more about healthy toilet habits and how to regulate your digestion.
I talk a lot about bowel movements in clinic. Yes, it is a bit of a giggle topic, but once you get over the ick factor and understand how important healthy toilet habits you’ll be talking about it as well. Or at least pay more attention to your daily toilet time.
Many of you out there have changeable bowel habits. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, sometimes not at all.
So, how often should you poop:
Well, at least once a day, maybe 2 times. That is the ideal amount for healthy digestion and proper function gastrointestinal tract. Check out the Bristol Stool Chart to gauge where you sit – ideally, we want a Type 4 for your Number 2’s.
The official medical definition of constipation is:
“The passage of infrequent or hard stools with straining – bowel frequency < 3 times/wk”
That means if you pass less than 3 stools a week you are considered constipated. As a naturopath I would consider anyone who is missing every other day constipated as well. If this is you then you’ll be experiencing bloating, pain, feelings of heaviness, and perhaps some nausea. You’ll most likely also have sensitivities to certain foods, perhaps skin breakouts and rashes and generally feel kinda MEH.
Constipation can be caused by many different things:
If there is blood, mucous or a complete lack of a bowel movement please see a doctor – it could be a sign of something more serious that needs investigating.
The most important thing you can do is get your bowels moving naturally. Relying on laxatives long-term creates a lazy bowel, and can increase your dependence on them. Healthy food choices, drinking plenty of water and discovering and addressing the underlying issue will help. Make an appointment with a naturopath to help discover what can be done.
So, in answer to your question: How Often Should You Poop – every day. If not – do something about it!
(I’ll save the conversation about diarrhoea for another day!)
On International Women's Day 2023, Naturopaths and Women's Health Advocates Hannah Boyd and Lara Briden got together to chat. The wonderful Bronwyn Quinn hosted this informative discussion on hormone health.
Hannah Boyd and Lara Briden emphasise that women's health is not just a matter of physical well-being but is intimately tied to social and cultural factors as well. They discuss that addressing issues related to menstrual health requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account factors such as education, access to healthcare, and cultural attitudes towards menstruation.
Overall, the video provides a thought-provoking and informative discussion of the many challenges facing women's health today and highlights the need for greater awareness and advocacy on these issues.
Enjoy this wonderful discussion here on YouTube
Have you ever heard of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)? It's a debilitating condition that causes extreme fatigue that can't be explained by any underlying medical condition. Recently, a study published in the journal Microbiome revealed that people with CFS have different gut bacteria compared to healthy individuals.
This finding is particularly interesting because gut bacteria play a crucial role in our immune system, metabolism, and overall health. It also suggests that CFS may be linked to an imbalance in the gut microbiota.
The researchers hope that this discovery could lead to new ways of diagnosing and treating CFS. By understanding the connection between gut bacteria and CFS, we might be able to develop more effective therapies that improve the lives of people with this condition.
So, this study sheds light on an important area of research and could have significant implications for those living with CFS. Let's hope that further studies build on this research and lead to new breakthroughs in the treatment of this condition.
The exact cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is still unknown, but researchers believe that a combination of factors may contribute to its development.
Some possible triggers of CFS include
It's important to note that not everyone who experiences these triggers will develop CFS, and the condition can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses.
If you think you may have CFS, it's best to speak with a healthcare provider who can evaluate your symptoms and provide a diagnosis. They can also work with you to develop a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and improves your quality of life.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Long COVID share many similarities in terms of their symptoms, such as extreme fatigue, brain fog, and difficulty sleeping. Additionally, both conditions can occur after a viral illness.
However, there are some differences between CFS and Long COVID. Long COVID is a term used to describe ongoing symptoms that persist after a person has recovered from a COVID-19 infection. In contrast, CFS is a chronic condition that can develop after any type of viral infection, not just COVID-19.
Naturopathically, we are seeing many similarities in the patients recovering from LC and CFS.
Did you know that people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) may benefit from seeing a naturopath? This recent study revealed that people with CFS have different gut bacteria compared to healthy individuals. This suggests that a person's gut health may play a role in the development of CFS.
Naturopaths are trained to assess a person's overall health and may recommend changes to their way of eating, support with nutritional and herbal medicine, or advise on lifestyle - all of these things can help improve gut health. For example, they may suggest incorporating more prebiotic and probiotic foods, reducing stress, and getting more restful sleep.
Working with a naturopath can be an effective way to manage symptoms and improve overall health. By addressing gut health and other lifestyle factors, a naturopath can help a person with CFS feel better and enjoy a better quality of life.
So, if you or someone you know is struggling with CFS, consider working with a naturopath to explore how natural approaches can support overall health and well-being.
We are so excited to be hosting this informal but very informative conversation between the incredible naturopath, author and women's health advocate Lara Briden and New Leaf naturopath Hannah Boyd for International Women's Day 2023.
Together they'll be answering everything you want to know about health and hormones - so let us know your questions over 👉 here, and the wonderful Bronwyn Quinn will be hosting the event.
All you need to do is register your interest in the event here to access the free, live Zoom conversation on International Women's Day 2023 - 8th March!
Don't forget to get your questions in via this form as soon as possible.
Naturopathic doctor, Women's health activist, & bestselling author
Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor and bestselling author of the books Period Repair Manual and Hormone Repair Manual — practical guides to treating period problems with nutrition, supplements, and bioidentical hormones.
With a strong science background, Lara sits on several advisory boards and is the lead author on a couple of peer-reviewed papers.
She has more than 20 years’ experience in women’s health and currently has consulting rooms in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she treats women with PCOS, PMS, endometriosis, perimenopause, and many other hormone- and period-related health problems.
Naturopath, Herbalist & Clinical Nutritionist
Hannah Boyd is an Australian Naturopath, Herbalist and Clinical nutritionist. She runs a successful virtual clinic, New Leaf Naturopathic Health and lives on the beautiful NSW South Coast.
As a practitioner, Hannah’s philosophy focuses on your stories and your symptoms, while providing personalised care in an inclusive environment - with a few laughs along the way.
Balancing the use of botanical and nutritional medicines with education and natural remedies, Hannah is here to help you live a balanced and healthy life.
She is currently the president of the Naturopaths & Herbalists Association of Australia.
Yes, it sure is. And if you’ve had a baby in the last few years (or even the past decade) and are asking yourself whether you will ever feel energised and vital again, you may well be suffering from this under-recognised syndrome.
Postnatal depletion is a collection of symptoms that encompass not only the physical but the psychological and emotional. Set in motion by the huge amounts of nutrients required to carry, birth and then potentially breastfeed a baby; then compounded by chronic sleep deprivation and the stress of motherhood, postnatal depletion can really take the joy out of being a parent if left unchecked.
With so much focus placed on the pregnancy and birth of the child, many parents feel that post-birth they are left to struggle through on their own, often with minimal physical or emotional support. Over time, this can lead to the onset of symptoms including brain fog, fatigue (often extreme), headaches, heightened sensitivity to light/sound/smells, and other not-so-fun stuff like hair loss, dry skin and brittle nails, and receding gums.
Emotionally there are also big shifts that take place. During pregnancy, the brain physically changes to develop the areas that will make it more attuned to the needs of her child. This, combined with major hormonal changes, disrupted circadian rhythm, and the inevitable social and psychological pressures that come with being a new parent, can be a recipe for a barrage of unwanted emotions. These may include fear and hyper-vigilance, anxiety, anger, guilt, overwhelm, and feelings of isolation and insignificance.
These symptoms may persist for years, and with the birth of subsequent children may even continue to worsen. Hence the importance of starting to address some of these issues sooner rather than later. Many mothers lack key micronutrients such as iron and zinc; correcting these deficiencies alone can make a real difference to energy levels and mood.
Macronutrients need to be rebuilt as well and this involves implementing a whole-food diet with appropriate levels of fats, protein and carbohydrates. Whilst this may seem like mission impossible for weary and time-poor new parents, it is highly achievable with the correct guidance and support.
Similarly, the hormone dysregulation present in postnatal depletion can be addressed through appropriate diet and lifestyle changes, and the addition of herbal medicine is a major component here, with a wide range of herbs available to support the restoration and revitalisation of the mind and body.
Postnatal depletion can make every day feel like a struggle, but with the correct treatment, it can quickly be forgotten, to let you get on with the important task of enjoying parenthood.
As we help our patients through their fertility journeys, we always encourage all our parents to be to focus on preparing for their postpartum period. However, it's never too late to address the physical and emotional stresses of becoming a parent. Please speak to one of our naturopaths today if you need help. Book your appointment online here
We are all for anything that works to help support you through your #period here at New Leaf.
There is no 1 size, method, practice or rule that fits all when it comes to those uniquely diverse and delicate days.
For many, this is an extremely challenging time, whether it be a surplus of painful, heavy symptoms or a just as painful lack of them, discovering your own personal flow (pun intended) through this time is extremely vital.
The first version of the Menstrual cup popped up as early as 1937 and has been evolving ever since. Its invention has supported thousands of people, reduced waste and contributed to the reduction of period poverty around the world due to its reusable nature and decreased financial commitment.
Information surrounding the proper use, selection, shape and size of cup is not always offered on packaging when choosing one & can get overwhelming.
Menstrual cups are generally considered safe, but it is always important to know what you are using. Have a look at the links below to see what size might be best for you and how to correctly use one during your bleed. A place like Put A Cup In It will give you some good options
Individuals suffering from complications such as pelvic inflammatory disorder, endometriosis or adenomyosis are not always able to utilise options such as the Menstrual Cup (or even tampons) due to the inflammatory nature of these conditions and the pain that can be experienced with insertion or removal. It may work perfectly for you if you do have any chronic conditions, however, we do encourage a gentle, cautious approach with use as finding a rhythm can take time, trial, error and potential difficulties.
We would love to know your Menstrual Cup recommendations to celebrate and champion choice, accessibility and education within this area. So if you have found a resource, a product or just some helpful information, we would love to know and share it with our community to take some of the guesswork out of it for everyone.
As you may know, I have recently just completed a clinical trial for Group Naturopathic Consults for people with Endometriosis. It was such a fantastic experience to take this beautiful group of humans on a journey through 12 weeks of education, sharing and support. If you are already a patient of mine, you'll understand the benefits of naturopathic medicine in the treatment of your chronic condition. For myself, to see how much it benefited people with Endometriosis was so inspiring. We all had a really great time.
Group Naturopathic Consults is a new thing, I don't know many other practitioners who are using this treatment method in clinic. Having done this trial, and completed numerous educational courses on how to deliver this new type of care I'm so excited to offer this to my New Leaf clients.
That's you! So I'm starting by continuing the Group Consults for Endometriosis & Adenomyosis. At this stage, the group is only open to existing clients and participants of the trial and I am inviting you to take part!