Endometriosis is a common yet frequently under-recognised chronic disease. It affects one in every ten Australian women, with the average diagnosis taking between seven to ten years.
It’s a highly individualised disease, with its symptoms and impact ranging significantly from person to person. It often leads to severe chronic pain and in some cases, compromised fertility and sexual function.
Last week the Australian Government announced that they’ll be supporting women and girls with Endometriosis by investing in more than $9.5 million in research projects 👏👏👏
Over the past few decades we have really shifted away from eating foods in their most natural form – whole. Wholefoods are foods in the form that nature intended. Most people notice a dramatic difference in their energy, gut function and mood by eating this way. There are so many benefits to eating wholefoods including: increasing energy, boosting “happy hormones”, slowing the ageing process, balancing hormones, and balancing your pH levels.
Increase and Balance Energy Levels
This is done by balancing your dietary hormones. Have you noticed over the day that your energy fluctuates up and down? When you eat a high carbohydrate meal your body releases insulin, this causes your blood sugar levels to shoot up and then drop down quickly. With this you may notice your energy change. It is important to reduce insulin because too much can lead to hormone imbalance, inflammation, poor sleep, weight gain and fatigue. By eating wholefoods you usually will get a reduction in excess insulin release.
Boost Neurotransmitter Production
These are your “happy chemicals” and they are made with protein and a cocktail of nutrients. They are the chemicals that your nervous system uses to communicate. If your plate is constantly lacking sufficient protein and nutrient dense foods you may find yourself feeling more anxious, depressed, tired and unable to sleep deeply. These are all signs of a neurotransmitter imbalance. Colourful fruit and veggies is key.
Slow the Ageing Process
Every single cell ages with time, and the speed of this is increased with a lack of nutrients. Make sure your plate is colourful. You need antioxidants and nutrients. Essentially the more colourful your plate is the more nutrients you will receive. Antioxidants are what keep our cells healthy, improve our energy and stop us from ageing so quickly. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition explained the importance of increasing nutrients on your plate to prevent DNA from ageing. Vitamin C and E showed very protective properties. Think colourful fruits, vegetables and nuts and seeds.
Support the Digestive System
You are what you eat, digest and absorb! The digestive system is like a root system to a tree. It is where your body gathers its fuel to function. The food you eat can either support or hinder its function. Processed foods or foods not in the most natural form irritate the gut lining.
There are four vital functions of the gut:
1. Absorb nutrients
2. Regulate immunity – 80% of your immune system is in your gut
3. Support neurotransmitter production
4. Detoxify toxins including those made by the body example excess oestrogen Bacterias in the gut help us absorb nutrients from our food. Some bacterias have been implicated in conditions such as IBS, anxiety, skin conditions, allergies, fatigue, muscular stiffness….. and the list goes on. It is important that you eat a moderate level of carbohydrate to keep these bacteria under control.
BUT you also need plenty of cruciferous veggies (such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts and especially Sauerkraut) to help the good bacterias grow. Some bacterias such as a good strain of E.Coli love protein, these bacterias are important for CoQ10 (an energy nutrient) and neurotransmitter production.
Support Hormone Balance
Eating wholefoods increases nutrient density of food, provides the building blocks to hormones and reduces inflammation. Inflammation is a potent driver of hormonal imbalance. It is a physical stress response. This response puts pressure on the antiinflammatory pathways in the body, and as a result of a cascade of events following this your hormones are more likely to go out of balance. Eating this way assists in reducing excess oestrogen in the body. Oestrogen dominance is so common in both males and females. The cause of this is multifaceted – oral contraceptive pill, HRT, inadequate detoxification, lack of exercise, poor sleep quality, over consumption of processed foods and oestrogenic foods, inflammation and excess stress. Signs of oestrogen dominance may be: fogginess, fatigue, breast tenderness and enlargement in both males and females, acne like skin conditions, irregular period for females, depression, bilateral headaches, bloating, unexplained weight gain and difficulty shifting it.
Balance Your pH
pH is a measurement of assessing alkalinity (high pH and acidity low pH). If you have a fish tank you know that you need to keep the water a certain pH for the fish and plants to remain healthy – it is the same in our body. Blood pH has a very fine window and doesn’t change dramatically as your body knows how important that is. But some tissue pH, particularly the gut, can alter outside of the optimal range. This is a result of poor dietary choices. Friendly bacteria cannot live in an acidic environment in the gut, but unfortunately the “nasty” bacteria can. The body as a whole works better in an alkaline environment as opposed to an acidic environment. An alkaline diet is more anti-ageing. When they body is acidic it is harder for the antiageing “cell protection” process to occur.
Foods that are beneficial for promoting alkalinity include:
Green leaves: Spinach, kale, beetroot green tops, lettuce
Nobody wants to talk about it, but your toilet habits can actually say a lot about your overall health. Do you spend way too much time in the loo or experience constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating or flatulence? These symptoms can be a sign you may have a functional gut disorder. It is important to ensure your digestive function is top notch, as it impacts the health of your whole body and how you feel each day. Your Practitioner can help you get your gut health back on track. Simple additions to your daily routine such as taking probiotics and/or prebiotics can help return your gut to full health.
The Lowdown on Functional Gut Issues
How often you move your bowels can be an indicator of how well your gut is functioning. While daily bowel motions are ideal, having a slow transit time of less than three poos a
week is considered clinical constipation, while frequent, loose stools may indicate diarrhoea. Follow on symptoms such as pain, bloating, flatulence, and straining, feelings of incomplete emptying, or even seeing undigested food, blood or mucus in the toilet can all indicate a potential functional gut disorder, and this needs to be managed effectively.
Why Do I Suffer This Way?
Diet, stress, and your past health history may all play a part
in the development of functional gut disorders. An imbalance in the gut microbiota (bacteria and other organisms in the
gut), and irritation and inflammation from dietary or immune triggers may lead to increased permeability in the gut lining (leaky gut), exacerbating symptoms. You may even fit the criteria for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). See your natural healthcare Practitioner to map out your symptoms, identify your likely triggers, and assess whether a strain specific probiotic or prebiotic is suited to your needs.
Probiotics and Prebiotics to the Rescue
Strain specific probiotics and prebiotic fibre can help promote a healthy gut microbiota and relieve functional gut issues. Probiotic, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, and partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG) help improve constipation, bloating, pain and flatulence. These two ingredients have been shown to improve motility (make it easier to poo) and ease the associated symptoms of functional gut issues.
PHGG: is a wonder fibre will help feed all of the health- promoting friendly bacteria in your gut and increase short chain fatty acid production to support good bowel health.
Lactobacillus plantarum 299v: If you have been
diagnosed with IBS, then you may benefit from this specific strain that has been clinically trialled to relieve symptoms such as alternating diarrhoea and constipation, and severe abdominal pain.
Simple Ways to Improve Your Poo
Get your digestive system back on track with these easy tips:
Include two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables in your daily diet, plus wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. This ensures you get adequate fibre to feed the gut bacteria and help keep you regular.
Consume fermented foods e.g. yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha to provide additional gut friendly bacteria.
Drink 2L of water daily. If you’re constipated, it helps moisten the stool, or can replace fluid lost with diarrhoea.
Exercise regularly; movement improves circulation to your digestive tract to support healthy bowel function and keep you regular.
The Strain is Over
There is no need to struggle with annoying gut symptoms anymore. Reach out to your Practitioner to discuss how probiotics and prebiotics can help you and ensure your body runs like clockwork.
Are you suffering with IBS and/or strong Bloating? Perhaps the trigger is FODMAPS. What are they?
FODMAPS stand for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides Polyols Sorbitols. These are foods that have been found to exacerbate IBS symptoms as they are osmotic, meaning they attract water into the bowel and are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, which then leads to symptoms of IBS such as bloating, gas and diarrhoea.
Some researchers believe that in some cases IBS is actually a FODMAPS intolerance and there has been huge success with reducing symptoms of IBS when following a FODMAP diet. However, every person is different and not everyone with IBS will only react to FODMAPS. Other foods can include gluten or other grains which can also cause problems with digestion. It is important to speak with your practitioner in regards to what specialised diet you should be on. There are many triggers for digestive problems and your practitioner can help to distinguish between different foods and reactions.
Note: Only follow a FODMAP diet if advised by your Practitioner
Progesterone is a female sex hormone produced by the ovaries that helps balance the menstrual cycle. It is important in fertility as it is released by the ovaries after ovulation to thicken the uterine lining to help accommodate a fertilised egg.
It is not only needed for pregnancy but also as an antidepressant, calming agent, regulate blood sugar levels and to balance out oestrogen.
Symptoms of low progesterone
PMS and mood swings
Irregular periods – Heavy bleeding, painful cramping etc.
There should be the right balance of oestrogen and progesterone. However, a hormonal imbalance resulting in low progesterone levels may increase oestrogen dominance.
Because of the increase in exposure to xeno “bad” estrogens such as plastics in day to day life, this type of hormonal imbalance with low progesterone is quite common.
Progesterone is also needed to protect against the negative effects of excess oestrogen which is why it is important to address hormonal imbalance.
A mental health care plan is a plan that your GP writes about treating and managing a mental health condition.
It enables you to access certain allied health professionals, such as psychologists, social workers or occupational therapists who can provide you with psychological support.
Mental health care plans are a part of the Better Access initiative, which aims to improve access to mental health care services through Medicare.
Am I eligible for a mental health care plan?
You are eligible for a mental health care plan if you have a mental illness or mental disorder that has been diagnosed by a doctor.
If you are experiencing mental health issues but you have not been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, you will need to see your GP for a mental health assessment to determine whether you are eligible for a mental health care plan.
What is a Medicare rebate and how much do I get back?
A Medicare rebate is when Medicare refunds you part of the cost of your appointment. If you have received a mental health care plan referral from your GP, this enables you to claim a Medicare rebate of $84.80 for a general psychologist or $124.50 for a clinical psychologist per session.
If you are not eligible for a mental health care plan, you may be eligible for a enhanced primary care (EPC) plan. With an EPC plan, you will receive a rebate of $52.95. These amounts are set by Medicare.
How do I claim my Medicare rebate?
Most of the time, your rebate can be processed straight after you’ve completed the session with your psychologist. You will be required to pay the total cost of the appointment first and then your refund can be processed.
You will need to have your Medicare card and a debit card (refunds cannot be processed with credit cards) with you for the rebate to be completed so please make sure to bring these with you when you attend your appointment to be able to receive your refund on the spot.
Alternatively, you can claim your Medicare rebate online through the myGov website.
How much am I out of pocket?
The ‘gap fee’ or the ‘out of pocket’ cost will depend on the psychologist’s fee. With a GP referral, you will still need to pay the difference between the psychologist’s fee for the session and the Medicare rebate. This amount will vary.
It is best to ask what the ‘gap fee’ is when you book your appointment.
Can I use my private health insurance as well as claiming a Medicare rebate?
You cannot use your private health insurance to pay for the ‘gap fee’. You can use your private health insurance to claim a partial rebate (depending on your level of cover) if you do not claim a Medicare rebate.
However, the two cannot be used together to pay for one psychological session.
Can I see any psychologist with a referral from my GP?
If you have a mental health care plan or an enhanced primary care (EPC) plan and would like to claim your entitled Medicare rebate, you must see a psychologist who is registered with Medicare and has a Medicare Provider Number.
Your GP can refer you to a specific psychologist or other mental health service, or, you can do your own research and choose a particular mental health professional you might like to see.
To access psychology services under Medicare, you need to have a referral from your GP, a psychiatrist or a paediatrician.
People who are eligible for a mental health care plan can receive up to 10 individual or group therapy sessions covered under Medicare in one calendar year (12 months from 1 January to 31 December).
However, referrals do not cover all 10 sessions. With a mental health care plan from your GP, you are entitled to a maximum of 6 Medicare rebatable sessions.
If you complete these six sessions within the calendar year and need to continue treatment with your psychologist, you will need to visit your GP for a mental health plan review.
Your GP will determine whether further sessions are needed and if so they will provide another referral for the remaining four sessions.
What happens if I complete all 10 sessions within the calendar year?
If you complete all 10 sessions within the calendar year, you can still see your psychologist for psychology services, however, you will not be able to claim the Medicare rebate using your mental health care plan.
If your mental health practitioner recommends to continue treatment, you may be eligible for an EPC plan.
An EPC plan enables you to claim a rebate of $51.95 for a maximum of 5 sessions per calendar year through Medicare.
If within the calendar year, you use all 10 sessions on your mental health care plan and you still wish to continue treatment with your psychologist and receive Medicare benefits, you will need to see your GP for a mental health review to determine whether you are eligible for an EPC plan.
Once a new calendar year begins (1 January), you can visit your GP for a new mental health care plan.
Do I need a GP referral to see a psychologist?
You do not need a referral from your GP to see a psychologist. If you see a psychologist without a GP referral, you will be required to pay the full amount for your session.
If you have private health insurance with psychological counselling as extras, you may be able to claim a partial rebate.
It is best to contact your private health fund for further information about your coverage.
If I am already seeing a psychologist, can I access Medicare benefits?
If you have been seeing a psychologist and paying for your sessions out of your own pocket, you will need to visit your GP for a mental health assessment to determine whether you are eligible for Medicare benefits.
Can I receive 100% Medicare Bulk Billed sessions?
We do offer a limited number of bulk billed sessions per week to cater to those who are under financial strain. You will need a mental health care plan and it is subject to eligibility and availability. Please contact us for more information.
Featured in the October 2018 edition of Holistic Bliss Magazine
Authors: Kate Mason and Suzi Le Fanue
Gut decision may seem reckless and impulsive but did you know you have more neurons in your gut than in your brain?
The gut brain connection is the communication between your digestive tract and the central nervous system. This is known as the gut-brain axis which enables your gastrointestinal tract to send and receive signals to and from your brain. The foods we eat and absorb translates to how we feel, think and act.
Our digestive system contains a large community of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi known as the gut microbiome. This microbiome is the key mediator between the gut and the brain. These organisms feed on nutrients from foods we consume and produce compounds in the body that can affect the way we feel and function.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals and they are made from protein and nutrients we absorb from our diet. If your diet is lacking sufficient protein and nutrient dense foods you may find yourself feeling more anxious, depressed, tired and unable to sleep deeply.
Approximately 95% of the body’s serotonin (our happy neurotransmitter) is produced by our gut microbiome. So when digestive bacterial balance is disrupted, a condition termed dysbiosis, you may be more prone to conditions associated with imbalanced happy chemicals such as anxiety, low mood, low energy and depression.
Another factor that can affect the brain-gut connection is SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. It is an extremely common digestive imbalance, however, is rarely investigated or diagnosed.
The digestive tract contains over one kilogram of microscopic bacteria, usually made up of good bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria and other bacteria that don’t provide benefit and/or cause harm, bad bacteria.
SIBO occurs when there is an overgrowth of BAD bacteria in the small intestine. This overgrowth means that before the villi can release enzymes to break down food, the bacteria will feed off the food you are consuming and cause it to ferment.
Do you have gas and bloating after meals? Cramping, diarrhoea or constipation? This could be SIBO.
SIBO causes the release of gases, such as hydrogen and methane, which cause the IBS like symptoms of SIBO. These gases also cause damage to the fragile villi on the gut lining meaning that nutrient absorption is compromised, which after a period of time may exacerbate hormonal balance, neurological issues, fatigue and sleep problems.
Many cases of IBS are actually cases of SIBO or both, they produce similar symptoms.
A breath test is a simple, non-invasive, and extremely accurate test that detects bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
We mustn’t forget the importance of addressing your mental wellbeing when working correcting gut imbalance. An imbalance in stress hormones such as cortisol is known to affect gut function and nutrient absorption.
Essentially, it’s important to address both the gut and the brain when looking to correct an imbalance of either mental or digestive health as they both affect each other.
Kate Mason & Suzi Le Fanue Naturopaths at Integrated Wellness Clinic
In certain circumstances there is a place for pharmaceutical intervention, however, do medications really address all facets of mental health? Mental Health is so multidimensional – there are many neurotransmitter, hormonal, biochemical imbalances, lifestyle and psychological factors that an antidepressant simply cannot address.
Nutrition & Gut Health
All neurotransmitters are made from amino acids and nutrient cofactors. Amino acids are essentially from protein in your diet. For example, the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is important for mood regulation, requires the amino acid tryptophan. This means it is incredibly important to make sure you are eating sufficient levels of protein. As well as this, over 90% of serotonin is found in the gut, and more and more research is confirming the link between the health of the gut and the health of the mind. The types and levels of bacteria in the gut have been shown to play a role in the production of serotonin.
Numerous genes have been linked to mental health conditions. One that has significant supportive research is the MTHFR gene, particularly the C677T polymorphism. This gene is fundamental in the process of folate utilisation. Low serum folate can be seen in those with mental health conditions, such as depression.
Pyroluria is a genetically determined metabolic condition characterised by elevated kryptopyrroles in the urine. It is thought that around 10% of the population have “pyroluria”. When pyrroles are high it can be more difficult to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin. This is because your body requires higher amounts of nutrient cofactors needed for neurotransmitter production, such as zinc and vitamin B6. Elevated pyrroles can be seen in the urine of many people with depression, anxiety, insomnia, alcoholism, IBS, anger, inability to cope with stress, strong fatigue and children with behavioural issues.
A Naturopathic Approach to Mental Health
We take an extremely integrated approach to treating mental health conditions. We consider all possible underlying causes, and work alongside other health professionals such as psychologists, counsellors, and GPs. Generally, treatment plans include pathology testing, nutrient analysis, improving gut health, lifestyle changes and the care of a psychologist.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Vs. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – what is the difference?
You may have heard of these two common digestive disorders. They share many of the same signs and symptoms, but did you know there is a significant difference between the two?
IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that causes a range of digestive signs and symptoms, most commonly altered bowel motions (diarrhoea and/or constipation) and abdominal pain. The cause is not well understood, and there is no diagnostic test, so IBS is usually diagnosed using a symptom checklist. Natural treatment of IBS can involve correcting gastrointestinal bacterial imbalance, identifying and avoiding foods that exacerbate symptoms, and reducing stress and anxiety. There are many medications that are prescribed to help control IBS signs and symptoms, however, there is no single drug that has proven to be effective.
IBD is an umbrella term for a range of diseases, including Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. IBD is characterised by inflammation due to the fact that it is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. In IBD, this response takes place in the digestive tract, causing debilitating signs and symptoms, such as abdominal pain/discomfort, diarrhoea, constipation or both, and blood in the stool. IBD can be diagnosed through blood tests and endoscopy examinations. Medical treatment usually involves anti-inflammatory medication, immunosuppressants, or sometimes surgery. A natural approach to IBD aims to reduce inflammation, regulate the function of the immune system, and address environmental and lifestyle factors that worsen signs and symptoms.