Practice “Safe Stress!”

DCIM100GOPROLet’s face it, life is becoming increasingly busy with work, family, social media, and things that go beep all around us. All this stimulation sets off our internal alarm buttons, and gives our physical bodies unnecessary alerts. The messages we receive tell us that it’s hard to stay afloat of all the events and time commitments around us.   It can make you  feel like you are drowning in paper work, or going under with financial burdens. Many feel overwhelmed with commitments or unfinished projects.

STRESS!  Stress!  Stress!

It’s a killer. It’s the NUMBER ONE cause of all illnesses!  I must admit that I didn’t believe it until I felt the effects. Its A sneaky– under the radar– black cloud that just niggles at your adrenal glands until you have nothing more to put out, and find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or tossing and turning unable to fall asleep at night —Stress_2without popping a pill.  Curiously most of us just don’t recognise that we have this monkey on our back, until we actually do fall apart with some physical signs, such as autoimmune diseases, diabetes, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, allergic skin disorders, back aches, disc diseases, Digestive problems,  Cancer (through lowering your immune vigilance) heart palpitations and fibrillation or Thyroid conditions.

Image by Gdudycha :  The effects of stress on the body.

Stress from too much emotional, physical, or mental stimulation needs to be calmed. Stress causes your adrenals to push out the hormones of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. This can lead to inflammation and wear and tear on your body, it also pushes up your blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to that middle belly fat store and liver diseases.

Some stress is ok, but when we continually burn our adrenals and force them to pump out stress hormones, our bodies go to ground. PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder is a longer term effect.

Nurture and nourish your body and soul. You are here for the long haul, not just for a couple of exams or a University course, a stressful job, parenting a child with autism, or a difficult marriage, or a speeding ticket.  There options and ways to handle your stress levels, even if you cannot completely control your environment/relationship/job.

Here are  top 7 stress busters:

  1. Organize- Clutter control is the key to staying organized. Keep a wastebasket close by and throw away things that you no longer need. Dedicate at least 15 minutes of your time to organizing your study area so you do not have to waste time sorting through rubbles of books and papers when looking for something. Remove and give away excess clothing, pottery, kitchen ware, magazines, newspapers.
  2. Learn how to say “No”- Don’t get over-involved. You don’t have to join every activity, every club, and every community project. You do not have to accept all invitations to socialize with friends. Evaluate your schedule and check your to-do list to see what tasks are important and accomplish them first.
  3. Exercise- Regular exercise releases muscle tension and will rev up your energy. Join a yoga class, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Swim, go for a walk with a friend, or get up and dance in your living room. You don’t need fancy exercise machines to get regular exercise. Any type of exercise is good for your body and mind. Take a break daily to smell the grass, roses and exercise at the same time. DSC_0720
  4. Eat nutritiously- Students, nurses, doctors and busy housewives, executives and police officers are notorious for not eating right. A healthy diet can enhance your body and mental functions. A poor diet can zap you of brainpower. So grab a fruit, a veggie plate, or nutrition bar when you are hungry or have no time to prepare a healthy meal.
  5. Get enough sleep- Students, shift workers, and Medical professionals  are among the most sleep-deprived group of people due to over-commitment. Getting enough sleep will rebuild your energy and will make you feel better.
  6. Herbal Helpers- The gardening principle comes into play when nourishing your body- to last a lifetime, you will need to spend a lifetime looking after your adrenals, “weed out” the stress by removing yourself from stressful situations, and feed them well replenish them with some of the following herbs at periods of stress with these adaptogens: Withania somnifera= Ashwaganda, Rehmannia glutinosa, Rhodiola, American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), Astragalus membranaceus, Bacopa monnieri, Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng).  See a Naturopath for a consultation to tweak your own personal herbal formula.
  7. Essential oils- Good quality oils and aromatherapy massages can help your brain and adrenals recover. The oils must be of a therapeutic non contaminated blend and individualised for the person’s requirements, preferably by seeing a qualified aromatherapist. Some useful blends might include some of the following: Bergamot, Patchouli, Blood Orange, Ylang Ylang, Chamomile, Jasmine, Lavender, Rose, Sandlewood, and Grapefruit essential oils.

And lastly, remember to SMILE!    Life is a present. Open yourself to receiving JOY.

Hug your dog, neighbour’s dog, friends dog…..or get a nice well behaved and friendly dog- they make you smile!

DSC_0561smile pup



How does a Naturopath review a patient? Stick out your tongue and see!

OK so I get some weird looks from my colleagues and patients when I ask them to stick out their tongue. Embarrassment should be low on the list when you hang around veterinarians who talk about poo, anal glands, sexual organs (or lack of them- as  a lot of the time they are preoccupied with castrations and ovariectomies). Tongue sticking out is more of a human past-time, an acupuncturist/Naturopath’s pride of their knowledge base.   Generally there is little resistance to obeying this request, and no, its  NOT because they want to give me a raspberry! People are mostly curious, and usually interested enough about their health to oblige. Very often they make up some excuse about their tongue coating, such as “I just drank a cup of coffee” or “I was just sucking on a coloured lolly”. Even given this pre-examine information, the tongue never lies! (Well the words that come out of a mouth might, but the patterns on the tongue cannot be hidden).

As a veterinarian who has a special interest in dentistry, I have spent a considerable length of time looking in, and at, mouths. Tongues and teeth give me a LOT of information about  health. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) uses the tongue as a map of dis-ease and weaknesses in the body.This party trick is awesome. So what can I see in the tongue map? The tip of the tongue represents the heart, the area just behind maps the lungs and the body of the tongue is about spleen (pancreas) and stomach- ie. digestion. If the digestive system is inflammed or not working well the tongue will be somewhat swollen and will have tooth marks or indentations along the border. The sides of the tongue are about the liver and gall bladder function. If the area is red it is said to describe heat, or a deficiency of cooling fluids in that organ system. Therefore a stomach ulcer might show up as a red patch on the tongue. In Naturopathic prescription terms if the tongue is very red it may mean that the body is deficient in iron, or inflammation so check the conjunctiva. A very pale tongue could mean anemia. If there is a quiver when the tongue is shown the patient is likely to have a magnesium deficiency.  Raised strawberry dots on the tongue indicate a calcium and phosphorous deficiency. Here is a blog with a case study and picture of a tongue and here is a picture of the tongue map:

As a Naturopath and health practitioner of over 30 years there are other signs and symptoms that give a great clue to what is going on in the body, so a bunch of clues can be picked up relatively quickly. Nails are another great source of information. White spots indicate either injury or zinc deficiency, and will show up on individual nails which will also represent certain organ systems. For instance the little finger represents heart on the inside part of the finger  and spinal column on the outside. Ridges on nails represent a silicate deficiency, which might be from an inability to absorb these minerals, or a gut problem. It might also be linked to a sluggish interstitium secondary to hypothyroidism- if this is suspected check for oedema, cloudy thinking, loss of the lateral third of the eyebrow, and if you are a doggie the tip of the tail will look like a rat’s tail. Humans have more hair loss and dry itchy skin. (I have a lot of fun comparing human pathology to canines or felines! My weird veterinary sense of humour…and don’t get me started on Anal gland scents of humour…bwhaha)

The advantage of having been a veterinarian for sooooo many years is that I can cut to the centre of problems relatively quickly. I am a surgeon, after all. This means I have bad handwriting, but accurate scalpel procedures. I prefer to type, and get bored when a pen is in my hand. Too slow!This detailed examination can be done relatively quickly with a well trained eye. Naturopaths can “sum up” multiple signs at one glance! Yep, even walking down the street, a quick glance can see who is likely to be predisposed to  prostate cancer or  to mammary cancer- it’s about the midline creep/waist to hip ratio which is  linked to the obesity epidemic, which in turn is linked to the pro- inflammatory state of nutrition.

You may have guessed by now that Naturopaths are very focussed on lifestyle changes and nutrition. This means they will ask some detailed questions about faeces. Yep, poo!. The Bristol stool chart is our friend. You need to look in the loo.You want to aim for 2-3 bowel movements a day and they should be a number 4 on the chart.

Once we have that poo regime questionnaire established, we need to review your sleep patterns. 8-10 hours of sleep from an early to bed early to rise point of view is recognised as healthy. Some lucky few need less hours, and balancing the body and its essential nutrients, stress levels, reducing caffeine, and fixing the exercise regime will also complement the night-time rest period.

Exercise is also very important, and studies have shown that weight bearing helps with bone density, and short high intensity amounts (20 seconds running up a hill) followed by equal amounts of rest and recovery repeated 3 times in quick succession may be all that you need to maintain fitness.  Range of motion stretches, like your cat does, is also helpful to keep the joints lubricated and healthy.

I thought you might like to read how we take notes for a  shortened patient summary on our computerised system. Its pretty obvious how nails, tongue, iris and skin examination can give us great clues as to our health.

When we write our shorthand differentials we often abbreviate the organ systems with a letter, for instance T = Tongue exam. C=calcium, P= phosphorous. ACV is Apple Cider vinegar

Here are some notes from one of my patient files who came in with a viral illness, you can see that the signs and symptoms showed an underlying nutritional and personal stress causes which allowed the virus to take hold. We know that there are a few essential minerals that keep “the system booted”. Personal stresses, such as too much work, no relaxation and no exercise will elevate the body’s requirement for certain nutrients, particularly zinc and magnesium. When this is not met our immune systems fail and we are prone to getting infections. A detailed look at nails and tongue can tell the practitioner what is lacking and when it occurred, as the nail grows out from the nail bed approximately 1 mm per week, therefore the ridges and white marks are a chronological (yes Sherlock Holmes trick!) map. 

Patient exam:

T: white coating, strawberry dots, quiver, tooth impressions (swollen) –> CP deficient, Mg deficient, digestion problems low stomach acid

Skin_Rosacea and rash , skin dry.

Iris: ANW dark, irregular. white wash, radii solaris–> digestion/constipation , acidic

Nails: Zn def 3 wks ago (white spots) WITH Ridges (SCF)

Hx exhausted, works 7 d, does not “feel stressed” and says “has great diet” all joints ache (Rx Lympholytix and omega 3’s 1 tbs bds)

Diet recall: B- muesli, L-corn wrap with salad, D- meat, potatoes, veges, Drinks- 2 coffees/d. snacks? pastry?

Poo _ every second day

DDx constipated, dehydrated, low Zn, stress.

Rx: ACV/lemon/honey to taste first thing in am,

Go to bed EARLY have 10 hours sleep, soak in Mag S04 bath to absorb Mg++ for 30 min NOW. Take Zn supp 50 mg, watch movie “fat sick and nearly dead” and have 6-8 glasses of vege juice/day for 2 weeks and stop ALL GLUTEN. NO BREAD, NO PASTA, NO MUESLI.  Breakfast of 2 eggs and spinach and cheese, no bread. Go Paleo. plus vege juices.

Viral illness so make chicken soup with garlic and drink this 3x/d as well as take Lysine

advised to check vit D3 levels, revisit/ph check in 1 wk.


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