Neuroinflammation: The causes, treatment and how it contributes to depression.

Depression, anxiety, ADHD, addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s share common links which include immune activation and resulting neuroinflammation as potentially causative factors (1). Neuroinflammation is defined as inflammation of the brain and central nervous system, and it may be responsible for a large part of global mental health burden. It is the brain’s response to disrupted homeostasis, or equilibrium.

Some level of neuroinflammation is helpful to resist pathogens and promote early brain development. However, when the inflammatory response does not switch off, inflammation turns from acute (short term) to chronic (long term) and could be likened to a fire that simmers away, but never goes out.

Obesity,  inadequate dietary intake of antioxidants and healthy fats, lack of exercise and chronic stress contribute to the development of neuroinflammation due to disruptions in metabolic homeostasis. In addition, untreated infection via pathogens, oxidative stress, high blood sugar levels, and other chronic inflammatory health conditions contribute to the development of neurological imbalances. Inflammation caused by these aberrations of normal functioning of the human body results in neurotransmitter dysregulation, neuron dysfunction, poor neurite outgrowth and reduction in the growth of new brain cells (4).

How does inflammation affect brain health?

Inflammation can affect brain health in a variety of different ways: It disrupts neurotransmitter receptor response and transmission (affecting mood, sleep, and movement), and neuronal plasticity/growth (including memory, cognition and learning). Studies have linked oxidative stress and resulting neuroinflammation to depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, schizophrenia, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (2).

In addition, research meta-analyses have revealed that inflammatory markers are often increased in those suffering from disorders such as major depression, including tumour necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6, and C-reactive protein (4). It is suggested that this response precedes depressive symptoms, not vice versa, and that increased inflammatory markers during childhood are strong predictors for risk of depression in later life.

Does neuroinflammation start in the gut?

The gut-brain connection is an incredibly important factor when considering brain and whole-body health. The microbiome literally “talks” to the brain and is a whole organ unto itself. The inflammatory response begins in the gut when tight junctions between gastrointestinal cells open in response to allergens or inflammatory foods such as gluten and dairy. This allows tiny food particles and the products of digestion to leak out of the gut and into the bloodstream, activating the immune system and causing a chain reaction throughout the rest of the body.

Improving gut health positively affects symptoms of many conditions, including those of the brain. For example, certain strains of probiotics have been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression (3). A lack of microbial diversity can contribute to the development and maintenance of mental disorders, with some strains of probiotics shown to reduce psychological symptoms of distress and reduce urinary cortisol (5). Links also exist between the pathology of ‘leaky gut’ and major depressive disorder, adding to the evidence that depression is not a purely ‘brain-related’ condition.

Stress produces inflammation and worsens symptoms of depression.

Research has shown repeatedly that stress negatively affects symptoms of depression. In a study examining medical students, stress was shown to increase depressive symptoms by an average of 173% (6). Unfortunately, chronic stress also increases inflammatory response throughout the body via the hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) which, when chronically stimulated, results in cellular glucocorticoid resistance and an upregulation of the chemical messengers that increase inflammatory processes (proinflammatory cytokines). The HPA axis is responsible for our “flight or fight” response, but was never meant to be activated for long periods of time. Acute or short-lived periods of stress are usually beneficial, because they force the body to adapt, but chronic or long-term stress results in damage and dysregulation over time. In effect, disorders such as depression and anxiety appear to be the result of the body’s attempts to adapt to long-term stress.

How to support brain health with diet and lifestyle

How we nourish or don’t nourish our bodies has serious implications for present and future health. Western diets often lack nutrients essential for wellbeing, while creating an excess of others. A diet high in sugar, processed food, while also lacking fruits, vegetables, good fats and protein seriously disrupts our metabolism and damages both body and brain. A recent study highlighted the relationship between consuming higher amounts of added sugars and an increased risk of depression (7).

Supporting your brain with diet  is one of the simplest changes you can make to positively influence its health. Essential fatty acids from fish, nuts, oils and avocados are perfect ‘neural nourishment’, while consuming a rainbow of fruits and vegetables provides a wealth of phytonutrients that promote antioxidant production. A recent study found that those who ate 2-3 servings of green vegetables a day, were found to be 11 years younger (cognitively speaking), than the control group who did not (9).

Along with nutrition, daily exercise, meditation, and taking time out for self is also of vital importance to help reduce inflammation, stress and create balance. A 2016 study highlighted how a group of experienced meditators showed reduced inflammatory and cortisol response when subjected to stress tests, in comparison to their non-meditating counterparts (8). Even just 2 minutes twice a day is beneficial in lowering stress and calming the mind.

Recent studies have found that regular exercise reduces inflammatory markers, corresponding to a reduction in depressive symptoms (10). Exercise also stimulates the production of a substance known as BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which assists in improving synaptic connections, increasing neuron outgrowth and stimulating the growth of new brain cells (11).

Lifestyle changes are powerful when it comes to supporting the health of the central nervous system. Avoiding sugars, processed foods, and consuming a whole-food based diet provides both body & brain with the nutrition it needs to thrive. Exercise, relaxation and taking the time to be involved with community are all effective means of connecting with self and those around us, reducing the effects of stress and supporting mental and emotional wellbeing.

If you’d like to learn more about neuroinflammation, or how best to support brain health, please feel free to contact us.


(1) Ransohoff, R. M., Schafer, D., Vincent, A., Blachère, N. E., & Bar-Or, A. (2015). Neuroinflammation: Ways in Which the Immune System Affects the Brain. Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), 896–909.

(2) Miller, M. W., & Sadeh, N. (2014). Traumatic stress, oxidative stress, and posttramatic stress disorder: neurodegeneration and the accelerated-aging hypothesis. Molecular Psychiatry, 19(11), 1156–1162.

(3) Liu, R. T. (2017). The microbiome as a novel paradigm in studying stress and mental health. American Psychologist, 72(7), 655–667.

(4) Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Derry, H. M., & Fagundes, C. P. (2015). Inflammation: Depression fans the flames and feasts on the heat. American Journal of Psychiatry, 172(11), 1075–1091.

(5) Dinan, T. G., Stanton, C., & Cryan, J. F. (2013). Psychobiotics: A novel class of psychotropic. Biological Psychiatry, 74(10), 720–726.

(6) Fried, E. I., Nesse, R. M., Guille, C., & Sen, S. (2015). The Differential Influence Of Life Stress On Individual Symptoms Of Depression HHS Public Access. Acta Psychiatr Scand, 131(6), 465–471.

(7) Sanchez-Villegas, A., Zazpe, I., Santiago, S., Perez-Cornago, A., Martinez-Gonzalez, M. A., & Lahortiga-Ramos, F. (2017). Added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, dietary carbohydrate index and depression risk in the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project. British Journal of Nutrition.

(8) Rosenkranz, M.A., Lutz, A., Perlman, D.M., Bachhuber, D.R.W., Schuyler, B.S., Macgoon, D.G., Davidson, R.J. (2016). Reduced stress and inflammatory responsiveness in experienced meditators compared to a matched healthy control group. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 68, 117-125. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.02.013

(9) Morris, M. C., Wang, Y., Barnes, L. L., Bennett, D. A., Dawson-Hughes, B., & Booth, S. L. (2018). Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline. Neurology, 90(3), e214–e222.

(10) Lavebratt, C., Herring, M. P., Liu, J. J., Wei, Y. Bin, Bossoli, D., Hallgren, M., & Forsell, Y. (2017). Interleukin-6 and depressive symptom severity in response to physical exercise. Psychiatry Research, 252(November 2016), 270–276.

(11) Szuhany, K. L., Bugatti, M., & Otto, M. W. (2015). A meta-analytic review of the effects of exercise on brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 60, 56–64.

Heal your body and change your life with natural medicine.

Natural medicine has become a force to be reckoned with. Droves of frustrated and sick people are turning back to what was once our only form of medicine, addressing issues that ‘mainstream’ medicine simply lacks the ability to tackle effectively at this point. Masking the symptoms of disease often only prolongs discomfort and potentiates a vicious cycle. In comparison, complementary medicine aims to treat the cause of illness/imbalance, so that treating symptoms becomes irrelevant.

Treat the cause

Disease causation differs from person to person, and there are almost always precipitating environmental factors (stress, diet, physical activity, toxin exposure, lack of social support etc). In natural medicine, client-centric care is important to establish all reasons why the condition has developed and continues to exist – these may include social, emotional, physiological, or psychological factors.

For example, strong evidence links physical conditions with social and emotional factors such as loneliness, or emotional stress/tension (1). Simply masking these issues with medication is certainly not the answer. Addressing the multifactorial elements of disease by understanding the holistic nature of health and wellbeing is fundamental to establishing and implementing effective treatment. The well-established link between gut health, depression, and other mood disorders proves that both body and mind need not be considered as separate entities, but part of the whole (2).

Food as medicine, and addressing our relationship with it.

It’s no secret that we are what we eat. Food does not just provide energy, but vital information that regulates genetic expression. The right nutrition will reduce oxidative stress and allow our bodies to regulate cellular function and protect against disease; the wrong diet will result in cellular dysfunction, inflammation, damage to our mitochondria and DNA.

Food is the backbone of health and wellbeing. Herbs and nutritional supplements are great for acute needs, but nothing can substitute a nourishing diet. Do you know what foods suit you best? We should all be aware that nutritional requirements change throughout the lifespan – from infancy, to childhood, to adolescence, adulthood, menopause/andropause, and in later years. Getting enough lean protein, good fats and moderating carbohydrate intake helps to support metabolism, cellular reproduction/growth and repair (note – not everyone utilises these macronutrients in the same way). Removing processed foods from the diet is essential while increasing our intake of fresh vegetables and fruit nourishes the body with phytonutrients and allows natural detoxification processes to occur efficiently.

Personalised nutrition will change the way we think about food.

Change is on the horizon. The one size fits all approach is on the way out – or at least it should be! Dietary needs change depending on health status, stress, genetics, level of physical activity… even where we live in the world affects our nutritional needs.  Personalised nutrition is paving the way for a more individual approach and will surely be the way of the future for all types of medicine. There is some fascinating research coming out at the moment regarding how each person may process fats, carbohydrates and proteins differently depending on their genotype, and what this means for dietary intake (3).

Herbal support

To say that herbs are a powerful healing tool would be an understatement. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, they can treat multiple body systems at once without the nasty side effects. Scientific research on herbal and nutritional remedies grows by the day, and most practitioners now utilise ‘evidence-based medicine’, which means that treatments are scientifically researched and proven to be effective.

A naturopath or herbalist is your best resource regarding herbal remedies, which should never be self-prescribed. There are still important interactions between medications and health conditions that must be assessed by a registered, qualified practitioner. Achieving therapeutic dosage is vital and retail preparations often fail to achieve quality or quantity of herbs required to do so safely, and be free of toxins (pesticides, heavy metals, etc).

Support, empowerment and accountability

Good health is a precious thing. Making changes now means that benefits will be reaped both now and in the future. Your naturopath or natural health practitioner provides a wealth of knowledge and is an expert at listening, understanding and supporting you throughout your wellness journey.

Taking accountability for your health is an important part of the healing process, and practitioners takes their role as educators seriously. It’s our job to empower clients to listen and understand their bodies….the transformation that takes place once this occurs is incredibly powerful. So take the power back, talk to your natural therapist about improving your health today.

Please feel free to contact us if you’d like any more information about this topic.


(1) Leigh-Hunt, N., Bugguley, D. Bash, K., Turner, V., Turnbull, S., Valtorta, N., Caan, W. (2017). An overview of systematic reviews on the public health consequences of social isolation and loneliness. Public Health, 152: 152-171

(2) Slyepchenko, A., Carvalho, A.F., Cha, D.S., Kasper., S & McIntyre, R.S. (2014). Gut emotions – mechanisms of action of probiotics as novel therapeutic targets for depression and anxiety disorders. CNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets. 13(10):1770-86.
(3) Weber, K. S., Knebel, B., Strassburger, K., Kotzka, J., Stehle, P., Szendroedi, J., … for the GDS Group. (2016). Associations between explorative dietary patterns and serum lipid levels and their interactions with ApoA5 and ApoE haplotype in patients with recently diagnosed type 2 diabetes. Cardiovascular Diabetology15, 138.


Eat right for your health type, with healing foods.

In this new age of health and wellbeing, personalised nutrition is becoming a formidable phenomenon. However, many of the theories behind it have been around for centuries. It’s all about catering for the individual: metabolism, body type, family history (or genetics), environmental influences and current state of health. In fact, for most naturopaths and nutritionists, personalised nutrition is rule of thumb.

For many years now, mainstream health advice has subjected us to a ‘one size fits all’ approach, primarily because it makes it easier to sort everyone into generalised boxes. It’s abundantly clear that this is doing more harm than good. A prime example of this is the advice that was and still is, being given by many health professionals in regards to low fat, high carbohydrate diets to lower blood pressure, cholesterol or weight. Not everyone is the same, nor is their absorption and utilisation of macronutrients. As a result, we have a whole generation of people who are prediabetic or already suffering from type 2 diabetes, with obesity more of a problem than ever.

While food can either harm or heal, tailoring food choices to suit individual health challenges & environmental interactions (think stress, city living vs country living, physical work vs office work, etc) can truly provide personalised nutrition, optimising wellbeing in ways you never thought possible.

….there’s a food for that.

Throw a health condition at me, and I’ll tell you “There’s a food for that!”. For example, if you have hypertension, increase your intake of magnesium and potassium rich foods such as leafy greens, nuts or bananas (check with your doctor first if you’re taking potassium sparing medication). Fish and walnuts are rich sources of omega 3 that can help to prevent build up of atherosclerotic plaques and reduce arterial endothelial inflammation and oxidative stress (1).

Struggling with hormonal imbalances? Reduce or preferably cut out altogether processed foods and sugar, and increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts to conjugate and remove excess oestrogen from the body (2). Sugar cravings towards the end of the menstrual cycle can be eradicated by making sure you get adequate protein, and adding some cinnamon to meals or shakes.

I recently had someone ask me about supplements to support liver health, and I immediately responded by asking what their daily intake of leafy greens and bitter foods was. Far be it for me to not sing the many praises of the many liver supportive supplements I prescribe, the first line of defence against disease should always be nutritionally based. All the supplements in the world simply cannot replace good personalised eating habits.

Food provides our bodies with energy and nutrition, but equally as important, food provides our body with information. This information then tells our genes what to do and what not to do (3). The right foods will switch on antioxidant production, slow ageing, regulate immunity and reduce inflammation. The wrong foods will increase blood sugar levels, increase oxidative stress, store fat, disrupt metabolism and cause inflammation.

For treating health conditions, the nutrients that provide the vital compounds needed for repair and maintenance are often depleted; this is why particular foods high in specific nutrients are needed for healing. Take for example, dermatitis. Many people experience a flare-up of this condition in winter, which is often put down to the effects of heating and climate control. However, evidence suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be strongly implicated in both acute and chronic dermatitis (4). It is difficult to maintain our vitamin D stores in the colder months, even with supplementation. In my clinical experience, it is not uncommon for my clients to see an improvement in their symptoms using foods that contain vitamin D along with daily sensible sun exposure. Eggs and fatty fish are two such sources of this important vitamin; incidentally they also contain EFA’s, another nutrient vital for skin integrity and healing. Can you see the synchronicity between the nutrients we consume and how it impacts health? It’s not just coincidence.

How do I know what foods are right for my health type?

Good question. You can certainly do your own research, but if you decide to take advice from books or Dr Google, it can be a dangerous minefield. Unfortunately, there is plenty of information out there that is not evidence-based, so make sure you look for references to recent research within the source. If you decide to run the gauntlet, be careful that the advice you acquire isn’t just putting you into a box…remember that everyone is different.

The best way to discover which healing foods are right for you is to ask a qualified naturopath, nutritionist or dietician. These people have very specific training and know which foods will be best taking into account your personal challenges, goals and also any allergies, intolerances, or contraindications. These professionals can provide you with the best possible information directly related to your circumstances, and provide advice to help YOU make educated decisions regarding your nutritional intake going forward.

For further information on personalised nutrition and how it can support your health, or to make an appointment, please contact us.


(1) Swanson, D, Block, R., & Mousa, S.A. (2012). Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Advanced Nutrition, 3(1): 1-7

(2) Higdon, J.V., Delage, B., Williams, D.E., & Dashwood, R.H. (2007). Cruciferous Vegetables and Human Cancer Risk: Epidemiological Evidence & Mechanistic Basis. Pharmacological Research. 55(3): 224-236
(3). Park, J.H., Yeogran, Y., & Park, Y.J. (2017). Epigenetics: Linking Nutrition to Molecular Mechanisms in Ageing. Preventative Nutrition and Food Science, 22(2), 81-89.
(4) Szczawinska-Poplonyk, A., & Breborowicz, A. (2012). Vitamin D impact on immune functions: Implications for preventive strategy of allergic disease? Postepy Dermatologii i Alergologii, 29(3), 176

Burnout – Are you experiencing the warning signs?

Burnout is a term that gets used frequently, but unlike depression, anxiety or other related disorders, it cannot be officially diagnosed. However, the symptoms can be very similar to depression, although it is more likely that burnout is a sign of adrenal exhaustion, following a period of chronic stress. General adaptation syndrome, as described by Hans Selye (1), states that there are three phases of stress:

  1. Alarm
  2. Resistance
  3. Exhaustion

Exhaustion is the final phase, where the body has depleted all of its reserves in trying to maintain status quo, and becomes overwhelmed. The symptoms of exhaustion and burnout are very similar, including:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Depression/low mood
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances or poor appetite
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of exercise
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Hypertension
  • Inability to concentrate

Unfortunately, a modern lifestyle provides little chance for those feeling the effects of chronic stress to take time out to relax and bring some balance back into their lives. Many people feel guilty just at the thought of taking time to put their health first, and so the struggle continues.

Burnout is caused by chronic “life stress”.

Many people associate burnout with work, but there are many other causes too. Human beings require a certain amount stress in order for us to survive, a phenomenon known as ‘hormesis’. Small stressors allow us to adapt to our environment, and even result in positive changes to gene expression that upregulate antioxidant pathways and improve longevity. Currently however, stressors frequently push us far beyond hormesis and into unregulated stress. I constantly have clients tell me that they “can’t switch off”, and I’m sure lots of people can relate. Literally and figuratively this is absolutely correct. We can’t switch off – technology does not allow it. Where our working days used to be 9-5, they are now practically 24 hours a day or whenever you’re in front of your phone, laptop or tablet. And even if we’re not working, access to the internet and social media keeps our brains switched on and running hard.

Burnout can happen to anyone, no matter what their circumstances. Long term, chronic,  and unresolved stress is most certainly the cause, so what’s the solution?


Yes, stop. Sometimes, we all just need to have a time out. That doesn’t mean quitting your job, neglecting to pay your bills, or caring for your family. What it does mean is that you  need to take some time for yourself, grab a notepad and pen, and write down what’s really important to you, and work backwards from there. If you find that you’re doing or worrying about anything you don’t need to, work on being able to let those things go.

Talk to somebody about how you’re feeling. An objective opinion can be helpful. It could be a friend, a counsellor or other therapist, someone you can rely on to give you support. If you feel like you don’t have anyone that you can trust, try Beyond Blue. It’s important to remember that even when you feel like you’re alone, you’re not.

Make time for yourself

In my opinion, this needs to part of everyone’s daily routine. I recently had a situation where I was very close to burnout (chronic overcommitting!), so I stopped, worked out what was really important to me, and instead of pushing myself till I went to bed every night, I now switch off my phone at 7pm, and do something relaxing – for me this is anything that allows me to be creative.

Taking care of your physical health is very important, but this requires an entire post of it’s own (which we will publish next week, so stay tuned!). Personalising your nutrition will provide your body with the right nutrients to get you back on track, and there are plenty of soothing herbs that are useful in helping the body cope with the demands of stress, and recovery from burnout.

As always, do not self-prescribe herbs or supplements, especially if you’re taking medication or have a medical condition.

If you’d like to know more about how we can help you manage stress or the symptoms of burnout, please feel free to contact us.


(1) Selye, H. (1950). Stress and the General Adaptation Syndrome. British Medical Journal1(4667), 1383–1392.

Adaptogenic herbs – Regulating the stress response.

In herbal medicine, herbs are put into groups to explain the effects they have on the human body. Hypnotics assist sleep, sedatives calm the nervous system (very different to prescription sedatives), tonics rejuvenate and revitalise, and demulcents soothe and protect. There are many different types of herbs that cover every organ and body system. Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help the body respond to stress, and increase physical and mental performance. They do this by acting on the adrenals directly or the hypothalamus, but as most herbs are multitalented, this is not all they do.

Which herbs are classified as adaptogens?

The Korean & Siberian Ginsengs (Panax ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus), Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), Withania (Withania somnifera), Astragalus (Astragalus membranceus) & Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa) are adaptogenic herbs. Generally, a herb that assists with performance under stress by regulating the adrenals or the hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA axis), improving mental and physical performance, while reducing fatigue, is classified as an adaptogenic. These types of herbs are often prescribed to treat physical, mental or emotional stress, depression and anxiety, and to assist those that require extra support to perform at their best on a daily basis (e.g. students, busy mums and dads, those in high pressure jobs). The goal of treatment with adaptogens is to reduce fatigue and anxiety levels, regulate cortisol, improve focus, concentration, motivation and endurance.

The research

As with all herbs, treating the individual is important; there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Finding the right herb for the right set of conditions is essential, and this relies on the assessment of a number of different factors. Due to emerging evidence of the damaging effects of chronic mental and physiological stress there is an overwhelming amount of research to guide clinical practice and administration of adaptogenic herbs.

Korean Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) – A trial examining hyperactivity and inattention in children aged 6-12 found that Korean Ginseng was able to improve both these parameters significantly (1). It has also been shown to enhance cognitive performance during periods of high mental demand, and helps to lower blood sugar levels (2).

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) – This fabulous herb is not quite as well known as some of the others mentioned here, but there is strong evidence regarding its use in stress, depression and even athletic performance. One clinical trial asked its participants to rate feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, stress and confusion over 14 days. The incidence of all 5 emotional states were found to be significantly reduced with overall improvement in mood also noted (3). Interestingly, Rhodiola has analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits, which is perhaps the reason it is highly sought after to promote athletic endurance.

Withania (Withania somnifera) – Otherwise known as Ashwaghanda, Withania is certainly one of the better known adaptogenic herbs. It has an amazing ability to improve mental performance while also having sedative properties, making it great for those who deal with high pressure in their daily lives, but also suffer from anxiety or an overactive mind. Well researched and with hundreds of studies examining its use and application, I could easily write a book on the benefits of Withania. In brief, it possesses anti-stress, anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-diabetic properties. It acts as an antioxidant, helps to regulate programmed cell death (important for cancerous conditions), supports mitochondrial and endothelial function (4). Need I say more?

Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa) – Rehmannia is a herb better known for its immune modulating effects, however, studies show that can help to lower cortisol levels, reduce vascular inflammation, oxidative stress and regulates blood sugar (5). In addition, Rehmannia is a liver protective herb, helping to reduce hepatic inflammation and elevated enzymes (6).

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) – Astragalus possesses some remarkable properties. Used to treat everything from cancer to cardiovascular disease, research support its use in physical performance, specifically, for reducing fatigue & lactic acid build up, increasing hepatic and muscular glycogen stores, and increasing endurance capacity (7).

Nutritional support for adrenal and nervous system health

Herbs are an effective means of helping the human body cope with the demands of a stressful lifestyle. However, it is always important to support the body nutritionally as well. Stress depletes essential nutrients, in particular B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C and zinc, so ensuring that you are eating a diet high in these and other nutrients is very important. Although it is common to experience sugar and salt cravings during periods of stress, this is a sign that your body requires a little extra nourishment – try to increase your intake of lean protein and healthy fats to support metabolism.

As always, do not self-prescribe herbs. Make sure you speak to your qualified natural health professional. If you have any questions regarding these or other herbs and nutrients, feel free to contact us.

(1) Ko, H.K, Ki, I., Kim, J.B., Moon, Y., Whang, M.C., Lee, K.M., & Jung, S.P. (2014). Effects of Korean red ginseng extract on behavior in children with symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. 24(9):501-8
(2) Reay, J.L., Kennedy, D.O., Scholey, A.B. (2006). Effects of Panax ginseng, consumed with and without glucose, on blood glucose levels and cognitive performance during sustained ‘mentally demanding’ tasks. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 20(6):771-81
(3) Cropley, M., Banks, A.P., Boyle, J. The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms. Phytotherapy Research. 29(12):1934-9
(4) Dar, N.J., Hamid, A., & Ahmad M. (2015). Pharmacologic overview of Withania somnifera, the Indian Ginseng. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. 72(23):4445-60

(5) Ruxue, Z., Jinhuang, Z., Zhengping, J., Yongxiang, Z., & Guoming, G. (2004). Hypoglycemic effect of Rehmannia glutinosa oligosaccharide in hyperglycemic and alloxan-induced diabetic rats and its mechanism. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 90(1):39-43

(6)Wu, P.S., Wu, S.J., Tsai, Y.H., Lin, Y.H., Chao, J.C. (2011). Hot water extracted Lycium barbarum and Rehmannia glutinosa inhibit liver inflammation and fibrosis in rats. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 39(6):1173-91.
(7) Yeh, T.S., Chuang, H.L., Huang, W.C., Chen, Y.M., Huang, C.C., Hsu, M.C. (2014). Astragalus membranaceus improves exercise performance and ameliorates exercise-induced fatigue in trained mice. Molecules. 19(3):2793-807

Personalised nutrition – the science behind nutrigenomics

If our bodies could talk, what would they tell us about the foods we eat? What nutrients would they say each of us needs most? Well, science has come up with a way to help us figure out just that. Nutrigenomics is the science of discovering how food & nutrients interact with our genes.

Genetic expression is not static; genes can be switched on and off in response to certain environmental conditions like stress, toxins, or the foods we consume. The right diet provides information that tells our genes what to do to keep the human body healthy. The wrong diet will do the opposite. But we are not all the same, and our genetics strongly influence which foods are suitable for optimal health. For example, some people function better eating a diet that is lower in carbohydrates, while others need more protein. Some people may require more vitamin B6, while others might need a diet higher in folate. How do we know what’s best for us? That’s where nutrigenomic profiling comes in.

Tired of trying to work out what foods suit you best?

We’ve all been exposed to the myriad of different ‘fad’ diets that seem to pop up every week. While many of these are restrictive and unsafe, some diets are relatively sensible and will work for some…but they don’t work for everyone. Why? The answer is simple; our genes do not interact with nutrients all in the same way and this variation is an important component of understanding our individual metabolism and its different requirements.

Nutrigenomics is not the same as allergy or intolerance testing. While these tests investigate immune responses to foods, nutrigenomics interprets our genetic information and how eating the right foods helps to optimise health and promote a healthy weight. It is different to other genetic testing that estimates the likelihood of developing certain diseases, rather it aims to avoid this by maximising nutritional intake in relation to individual needs.

How can nutrigenomics and personalised nutrition work for me?

Once we have the right information, understanding what suits the body best nutritionally becomes less of a guessing game. Weight loss becomes simplified.  Based on nutrigenomics, a qualified practitioner can tell you what kind of exercise might suit you best, and even how likely you are to experience food cravings and food disinhibition (overeating). Many major health issues can also be pre-empted such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Nutrients are not just vitamins and minerals; carbohydrates, fats and protein are also required by the body for energy storage, maintenance, and synthesis of essential structural components. People utilise fats and carbohydrates differently, and a personalised nutritional consultation can help you to decipher the proportion in which to consume these macronutrients, particularly in relation to weight management.

The way forward with prevention

Personalised nutrition will help us move forward from our present situation. Much of Western society is overweight, plagued by chronic disease, and searching desperately for ways to slow or stop the steady decline of health as the human life span increases. Nutrigenomics can estimate the likelihood of developing nutrient deficiencies before they occur. Practitioners can assess the diet and actively recommend foods (or additional nutritional supplements, if necessary), that will support optimal health.

If you’d like to know more about how personalised nutrition can support your wellbeing, please feel free to contact us.

Source: Neeha, V.s., & Kinth, P. (2012). Nutrigenomics research: A review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 50(3), 415-428.

7 things you can do right now to improve your gut health

We all know how important it is to have a well functioning gut, right? When it comes to digestive health, understanding the importance of the bacteria that live in our gut and their subsequent contribution to wellbeing is vital. So, we’ve come up with some simple and easy steps that you can take right now to make your gut microbes happier and healthier!

  1. Diversity. Feed your gut lots of different things. Try a new vegetable, a different wholegrain, add loads of delicious herbs and spices to your food. Diversity of food =  diversity of gut bacteria. The more, the merrier.
  2. Feed your gut or it will feed on you. Yes, that’s right – if you don’t feed the little bugs that call your digestive system home, they’ll start to eat the next best thing. Fibre (otherwise known as a prebiotic), is what they love best and this is vital if you want to foster a healthy microbiome. A high fibre diet not only provides food for them, but also facilitates toxin removal and bowel movement consistency.
  3. Eat clean, live clean. Toxins in processed food and the environment are no good for gut bacteria. Pesticides and herbicides used for growing fruit and vegetables can harm or even kill off our microbes, so source organic food where you can. Feeling sluggish and gluggy? Perhaps a gentle detox is what you need – but you should only do this under the guidance of a qualified health professional. Forcing your body to detox too quickly or under the wrong conditions can be detrimental.
  4. Reduce stress and get plenty of sleep. Yes, even stress can affect the digestive system. The enteric nervous system governs gut function including motility and digestive secretions, and chronic stress may suppress it’s ability to do it’s job. (1)
  5. Exercise. Get moving…everyday. Did you know that people who exercise have better microbial diversity than those who don’t? The mechanisms behind this are not yet clear, but the research is certainly there to support it. (2)
  6. Probiotics. These beneficial bacteria do not colonise the gut as once thought, but rather optimise the diversity and function of those that do. These permanent inhabitants are known as our “commensal population” (3). Taking probiotics daily is like having a personal trainer for your gut, but not all probiotics are created equal so make sure you’re taking the right strain. Speak to your registered natural health practitioner or contact us for more info on this one.
  7. KNOW YOUR GUT! This is very important. If you are experiencing bloating, abdominal discomfort, reflux, indigestion or any other unpleasant symptoms, start a diary of when and where they occur. Monitoring your stool regularity (or irregularity) and consistency can provide a great deal of information on how your gut is functioning.

Finally, consult your practitioner. They are your best resource for practical and individual solutions to improve the health of your gut and should be your first port of call for any concerns.

If you’d like any information on gut health, or how to treat effectively the cause and not just the symptoms, feel free to contact us.


(1) Konturek, B.C., Brzozowzski, T., Konturek, S.J. (2011). Stress and the gut; pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 62(6):591-9

(2) Monda, V., et al. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.

(3) Sanders, M.E. (2016). Probiotics and the microbiota. BioMed Central Medicine.

Feeling sluggish? How to beat fatigue and regain your energy.

Feeling tired? Having difficulty losing weight? You’re not alone. It’s become such a common problem that almost everyone can relate. Fatigue, lethargy, poor sleep and weight gain often go hand in hand. Why are these issues so prevalent and what can be done about them?

Our cells are malfunctioning.

Mitochondria are little powerhouses within each cell that produce energy, or ATP. They regulate homeostasis and control much of our metabolic processes. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a major cause of fatigue and is implicated in chronic conditions involving low energy, metabolic disease and weight gain.

Clinical research into fatigued patients has found that enlarged or hypertrophic mitochondria are common, indicating a loss of function and reduced ability to produce energy. Antioxidant capacity was also found to be limited, resulting in increased oxidative stress and further damage to cells. CoQ10, an enzyme utilised to enhance energy production, was depleted in comparison with healthy subjects (1).

We live in a toxic world.

Toxins such as food additives, pesticides & herbicides, chemicals in household cleaners, makeup & personal products, and toxins in the air and water are known to be metabolic and hormonal disruptors,  Avoiding all of them is almost impossible, but there are ways in which to reduce exposure. Filtering water, avoiding processed foods and choosing organic produce can assist in reducing much of the toxic burden. Use natural personal products – but do your research as not all are what they seem. Lemon in water first thing in the morning, or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar will stimulate toxin removal and promote liver health.

Stress & sleep

When it comes to regaining energy, it goes without saying that getting enough sleep is essential. 7-8 hours of solid rest each night is needed to recharge the body for the following day. However, stress can disrupt sleep and impact circadian rhythms resulting in lethargy and insomnia. Take some time each day to unwind; a warm bath before bed, read a good book, or get a massage. Make the time to take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing.


A huge contributor to fatigue is an improper diet. Foods that contain refined carbohydrate make up a large proportion of the Australian diet, leading to weight gain, low energy, and impaired metabolism.

Protein is an often-overlooked component of the diet when it comes to improving energy levels. Amino acids not only make up the structural components of the human body, but are also part of the enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and essential biochemical reactions required to maintain human health.

How to shake fatigue and regain your energy!

While the factors mentioned above are just a small sample of the many causes of fatigue, it is important to assess this on a case by case basis. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, your naturopath or other qualified natural practitioner has many tools with which to tackle this issue. These may include:

CoQ10 – Often found to be deficient in those suffering from fatigue, enzyme CoQ10 is an essential part of the electron transport chain. Produced within the body, it can be supplemented when necessary  – but make sure you are taking the most bioavailable form.

Carnitine – Acetyl-L-carnitine is a personal favourite of mine. Excellent for reducing muscle fatigue and soreness, improving concentration and memory, carnitine helps to utilise fatty acids for energy production by the mitochondria.

B vitamins – As always, B vitamins are essential co-factors in energy production (among many other things!). A complete B formula is the best bet, single formulations can result in imbalances.

Green Tea – A great herbal remedy for fatigue, memory and concentration difficulties. Also strongly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, green tea helps to up-regulate mitochondrial function. (2)

Alpha Lipoic Acid – Required for energy production and a great antioxidant, ALA is often also used for managing diabetes and other metabolic conditions.

Managing fatigue and metabolic disruption naturally

We all have a basic idea of what we need to do to stay healthy. Eat well, exercise, stress less…right? But what happens when you’re doing these things and nothing improves? It’s time to ask the professionals! A qualified natural health practitioner can support you in managing your fatigue, and with the right solutions, get you back on track.

If you’d like more information on how to naturally improve your energy levels, lose weight, or improve your wellbeing, please contact us.


(1). Filler, K., et al. (2014). Association of mitochondrial dysfunction & fatigue: A review of the literature. BBA Clinical. 1, 12-23.

(2). Rehman, H., Krishnasamy, Y., Haque, K., Thurman, R. G., Lemasters, J. J., Schnellmann, R. G., & Zhong, Z. (2013). Green Tea Polyphenols Stimulate Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Improve Renal Function after Chronic Cyclosporin A Treatment in Rats. PLoS ONE8(6), e65029.

Excessive working hours contribute to health risks.

How many hours do you work each week? Most full time workers in Australia work somewhere between 38-40 hours, but many work significantly more, whether they’re on or off the clock.

A new study has linked working more than 39 hours/week to an increased risk of physical and mental health problems (1). The researchers suggest that more needs to be done  in order to change attitudes about long working hours, including supporting male family members in taking on caregiving duties without fear of prejudice. With womens inequality in terms of pay and autonomy constantly under scrutiny of late, the authors of the study also suggest that working hours for females should only be around 34hrs/week, given the extra unpaid labour that is performed during caregiving or home duties. (2)

While the extra mental, emotional and physical stress of working long hours is almost a given, the study highlights that excess time spent at work reduces the amount of the day that can be given over to exercise, relaxation and eating a healthy diet.

Work/life balance

While working an appropriate number of hours is essential to support health, taking time to relax when not at work should also be observed. Meaningful relaxation may include physical activity, meditation, mindfulness, time spent with family and friends, and other activities that support mental and physical wellbeing. This helps to lower cortisol levels, and promote the activity of neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA and dopamine.

Long hours spent at work usually results in less sleep, and this is something that must be addressed. Sleep restriction or deprivation is associated with increased risk of chronic disease including obesity, depression, autoimmunity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (3).

Manage your stress naturally

A certain amount of stress is required for the human body to operate at optimal levels. It forces us to adapt and positively influences health and wellbeing. However, society often demands a much higher workload than we are equipped to deal with, and chronic stress is the result. Making time to relax is very important, but what else can be done to support physical, mental and emotional health? Good nutrition is essential: Eat plenty of fresh food, clean protein and good fats. Herbs such as St John’s Wort, Valerian, Withania, Licorice, and Passionflower support the adrenals and nervous system.

Hope for the future

With the rise in chronic disease and mental health issues due to work related stress, it is likely that we can expect a change in government and individual company policy in relation to maximum working hours in Australia. Many large organisations no longer authorise overtime, and with new research supporting the use of a 3 or 4 day working week, it seems that positive changes will be made to working hours within the next decade (4).

If you would like any more information on how to manage stress naturally, please contact us.


(1)Dinh. H et al (2017). Hour-glass ceilings: Work-hour thresholds, gendered health inequities. Social Science and Medicine. (176) 42-51.

(2)  Pash. C. (2017). Science Alert. Study Suggests That Working Over 39 Hours a Week is Bad For You. Retrieved from:

(3) Center for Disease Control. (2013). Sleep and Chronic Disease. Retrieved from:

(4) ABC News. (2016). Three-day working week provides best cognitive function for over 40s, Melbourne study finds. Retrieved from:

The link between stress, mood and sleep.

How does stress affect you? Would you describe yourself as feeling wired and tired? Or do you feel tired all day, but then can’t sleep at night? Perhaps it feels like your battery is flat, or you’re irritated, moody and unmotivated. Would you be surprised to hear that any or all of these symptoms suggest adrenal fatigue and/or poor sleep quality?

The various links between stress and mood are well documented – but where chronic stress and low mood are present, sleep deprivation is likely to exist as well. The reverse is also true; sleep disturbances are strongly related to increased cortisol levels and the development or exacerbation of mood disorders.

The importance of a good night’s sleep

Getting good quality sleep is an essential part of maintaining great health. While we rest, the human body performs many functions that support growth and repair, energy balance, metabolism, immune response, concentration, memory and cognition. 7-8 hours of good quality sleep is required each night for adults. Children require significantly more.

Many of us simply do not get enough sleep. And not necessarily because we aren’t going to bed early enough either. Sleep quality is often poor, and this is due to REM and NREM cycles being disturbed as result of poor eating habits/diet, sedentary lifestyles, exposure to blue light from phones, tablets and TV screens, stress or poor sleep hygiene.

How does sleep impact mood?

When the brain does not get enough sleep, it cannot operate efficiently. Irritability, anxiety and increased sensitivity to pain are common following periods of disturbed sleep (2). This is partly due to raised levels of cortisol, but inflammatory markers like interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) are also common in those who suffer from insomnia. This is because regulation of inflammatory and oxidative processes throughout the body are sleep dependent (3). From depression to Alzheimer’s, low grade chronic inflammation in the brain (known as neuroinflammation) is known to be a cause of synapse disruption and neuron destruction. The subsequent reduced brain and neurotransmitter function results in symptoms of depression, anxiety and other cognitive disorders. It is important to note that poor diet and lifestyle are also heavily implicated in the development of inflammation in the brain.

Stress and sleep

Cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline are secreted when we experience stress. These hormones are synthesised by the adrenal glands, and allow us to respond and survive stressful situations. However, during periods of chronic stress, this response becomes dysregulated, resulting in disrupted sleep patterns, fatigue, anxiety, low energy and/or hyperactivity, and depression. But sleep reduction or disturbances also increase cortisol levels (1). It’s a vicious cycle, but fortunately it can be broken.

Break the cycle

Small lifestyle changes, coupled with a nourishing diet and planned relaxation time help to calm the nervous system and reduce stress. Exercise and exposure to natural light help to regulate the sleep-wake cycle and is of particular importance for those that work mostly inside. Yoga and regular meditation are excellent methods to promote relaxation of body and mind.

A bedtime routine and appropriate sleep hygiene helps to prepare the body for rest. Go to bed at around the same time each night, and make sure the bedroom is cool, dark, quiet and free of electronic or wifi devices. A warm bath/shower and a cup of relaxing herbal tea is a good idea to integrate into your routine, and works well for children too.

Basic nutrition is essential. B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, essential fatty acids and vitamin C support nervous system and adrenal function. Protein is an important component of neurotransmitters and adrenal hormones and should be included with each meal. For extra mood, sleep and adrenal support, there are many beautiful herbs that have proven calming and sleep promoting effects. Passionflower, Valerian, Withania, Californian Poppy and Zizyphus are a few that I use effectively for my clients on a regular basis.

As always, please check with your qualified natural health practitioner before taking any supplements. If you would like more information on sleep, stress or mood support, please feel free to contact us.



(1) Vgontzas, A.N. et al. (2003). Impaired nighttime sleep in healthy old versus young adults is associated with elevated plasma interleukin-6 and cortisol levels: physiologic and therapeutic implications. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 88(5):2087-95.

(2) Vanini, G. (2016). Sleep Deprivation and Recovery Sleep Prior to a Noxious Inflammatory Insult Influence Characteristics and Duration of Pain. Sleep. 39(1): 133–142.

(3) Irwin, M.R et al. (2016). Sleep Disturbance, Sleep Duration, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies and Experimental Sleep Deprivation. Biological Psychiatry. 80(1):40-52