Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tired, Bloated and Gaining Weight?

Fatigue and tiredness are considered a normal part of motherhood. However, if you are feeling tired, bloated and maintaining a healthy body weight seems a thing of the past; it’s time to get to the cause.


Fatigue can be caused from simple nutritional deficiencies such as low iron or vitamin B12, or by more complex causes such as depression. Three major influences to energy levels that are often overlooked in routine testing are hormonal, digestive and metabolic disturbances.

Hormonal Disturbances
Healthy hormones are the key to feeling fantastic and maintaining a healthy body weight as they directly influence energy metabolism.  However, identifying an underlying imbalance can often prove challenging. This can be due to the fluctuating nature of many reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone and also “hormone resistance” within the cells. This means your body may be producing the right levels, however your uptake is below par, leaving you ‘hormonally depleted’.  This is often the case with thyroid hormones that are influenced by autoimmune disorders triggered by pregnancy, surgery, medications or giving up smoking.

Digestive Disturbances
Digestive disturbances such as irritable bowel syndrome, candida over growths, digestive dysbiosis (toxicity) or infections such as the Helicobacter pylori bacteria can place further strain on your energy levels, primarily due to their influence on the adrenals. In addition, the adrenal and thyroid glands work together, meaning decreased adrenal function can interfere with thyroid function, leaving you experiencing symptoms such as weight gain, bloating, fatigue and mood changes.

Metabolic Disturbances
Hormone resistance is a broad term often associated with thyroid disorders; the major regulator of fat metabolism and energy production.  Although it is a complicated process, the interaction of the four main hormones produced by your thyroid gland, (thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine/levo-thyroxin (T4), and calcitonin) directly influence body fat storage and conversion especially around the tummy.

Although your thyroid gland secretes and regulates these hormones, about 80% of the body's T3 is produced outside the thyroid gland, in the liver, by chemical modification of T4. Hypothyroid women gain weight and find it difficult to lose weight because (i) their T4 is not being converted by the liver to the metabolically active form of T3 or (ii) the converted T3 hormones is not getting to the cellular level of the body - meaning that they are producing it, but their body can't use it. So you are sentenced to a life of weight gain, chronic fatigue and feeling plain unwell.

If you are doing everything right but are still felling unwell and suffering from fatigue and weight gain, there is definitely something that needs to be addressed. Getting to the cause is not as easy as just doing routine blood tests. An interconnected approach to the review of your signs and symptoms encourages a multidimensional treatment strategy that will make a difference. So explore your options and strive for a better, healthy life!

Narelle Stegehuis, is a practicing medical herbalist and naturopath specializing in restorative endocrinology for women, with over 14 year’s clinical experience.  She is an accomplished writer, editor and technical training advisor for the natural health industry. A recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award, Narelle adopts an integrated approach of both medical science and traditional complementary health care principles.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Calendula, Chicken and Avocado Salad

Calendula officinalis is used in traditional western herbal medicine to increase wound healing, soothe inflamed skin and improve lymphatic congestion.  Containing high amounts of flavonoids, calendula extracts have been used for medicinal purposes since at least the 12th century for acne, ulcers and insect bites.  It’s petals are also commonly added to herbal tea blends to soothe the digestive system. 

In the culinary world calendula makes a beautiful colorful addition to salads, adding a subtle bittersweet flavor.

Calendula is also known as pot marigold but should not be confused with other plants that are also known as marigolds, such as corn marigold, desert marigold, or marsh marigold or plants of the genus Tagetes. 
Salad Ingredients
(Makes 4 servings)

1 large skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
4 cups baby rocket
1 blood orange peeled and sectioned
1 grapefruit peeled and sectioned
1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts
petals from 6 calendula officinalis flowers
1 avocado – quartered, peeled, sliced

Dressing (Makes 1 cup)

1/2 cup blood orange juice
2 Tbsp tahini
petals from one calendula flower
1 Tbsp honey
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon chives


Serve a bed of rocket and avocado on each plate. Top with shredded chicken orange and grapefruit sections and radish sprouts, creating as much height as possible on the plate. Sprinkle the calendula petals and drizzle with dressing.

To make the dressing blend all the ingredients until smooth. The calendula will produce a bright yellow color that is loaded with antioxidants.  Sprinkle over the salad and garnish with a calendula flower.  Enjoy!

Narelle Stegehuis, is a practicing medical herbalist and naturopath specializing in restorative endocrinology for women, with over 14 years clinical experience.  She is both an accomplished writer, editor and technical training advisor for the media.  A recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award, Narelle adopts an integrated approach of both medical science and traditional complementary health care principles.

Acidity, Hormones and Weight loss

For many women, weight loss can be challenging and although it is common knowledge to eat less and exercise more, what do you do when this formula simply doesn’t work?

Leading Australian naturopath Narelle Stegehuis understands the importance of getting to the cause. 

"It’s important to remember that although the elements of this traditional weight loss formula are justified, many others such as acidosis and hormonal factors are often overlooked", say's Narelle.

With the typical western diet high in animal proteins and processed foods, acidosis is not uncommon, and imbalance in your bodies pH can lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms including stubborn abdominal fat.

Acidosis or heightened acidity can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, aches and pains, bloating, digestive problems, hot flashes and mood changes. It has also been associated with health conditions such as Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder, endometriosis, thyroid imbalance and unexplained infertility. 

What Causes Acidity?

Acidity is primarily caused by the breakdown of food. When foods such as those mentioned above are broken down, they raise the pH in our body slightly, creating acidity, while whole foods, fruits and vegetables create alkalinity.

For many this unfortunately means that our diet has become 30 times more acidic.1,2 This is because 100 years ago, a typical diet contained more vegetables and fibre but less processed foods and soft drinks. This means the ratio of potassium to sodium has changed from 10:1 back then to 1:3 now. 

Top 5 Acidity Triggers

• Poor diet and excessive anaerobic exercise
• Excessive dieting and fasting
• Inflammation
• Health conditions such as PCOS, Diabetes or endometriosis
• Stress 

The Impact of Acidity

Over acidity has many impacts upon the body, due to its influence on the cell. Firstly, under healthy conditions, the nucleus (centre) of the cell is slightly acidic but the surrounding area is alkaline. This difference in pH creates an electrical current which allows nutrients to pass into the cell nucleus and toxins to be pumped out of it.

However, if there is little or no difference in acidity between cell nucleus and environment, there will be a reduced electrical current between the two and consequently less influx of nutrients and less elimination of toxins. This affects your cell’s metabolism.

Let’s have a look at the various areas it can impact on.

What are the effects of acidity on:

Stress hormones
An increase in acidity increases production of the stress hormone cortisol in your adrenals2,3,5.

Cortisol activates the production of inflammatory hormones such as Interferon gamma, leading to a state of (chronic) low grade inflammation symptomatic of unexplained aches and pains or fatigue.2 Inflammation puts your body in an energy-storing rather than energy-expending mode, making it easier to put on weight and harder to lose it.
Acidosis induced cortisol excess also influences tryptophan (a naturally produced mood enhancing protein). This potentially contributes to lower moods or depression.2

Glucose metabolism
Chronically high levels of cortisol reduce insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by the cells, and increase fatty tissue around the stomach.2,5,6,7,8 This can make conditions such as Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder, or other hormonal imbalances worse.

Leptin is a hormone that regulates your satiety. The lower the leptin levels are, the hungrier you feel.

Acidosis reduces leptin concentration through a negative link with cortisol: the higher the cortisol levels, the lower the leptin levels. Studies have shown that a diet high in protein (acidic) is associated with significantly lower leptin levels than a diet high in fruit and vegetables (alkalizing).2

Energy production
Acidity blocks energy production in the little powerhouses in your cell nucleus called mitochondria.2 This impairs on the influx of nutrients into the cells slowing your metabolism.

Thyroid hormones
Chronic acidity decreases T3 and T4 levels but significantly increases TSH levels. This can cause mild hypothyroidism.3,4,5

Bone health
Acidosis draws calcium from your bones, because calcium is alkalizing. If the pH in your blood increases due to an acidic diet, your body will mobilize calcium from the stores in your bones to alkalize it to reduce its harmful potential. It is your body’s way of trying to maintain equilibrium no matter what cost. This not only leads to an increased risk of osteoporosis as calcium is drawn out of the blood, but also to a higher risk on calcium deposits in the kidneys and gall bladder.3,5 

How does this affect your weight?

1. Causes hormonal imbalance
Increased levels of insulin, combined with elevated levels of cortisol, put your body in an energy saving mode. This slows down your metabolism and encourages your body to store fatty tissue, especially, but not exclusively, around the tummy area. Ironically, this fatty tissue is not just dead storage, but starts to act as a gland itself and secretes even more cortisol, insulin and inflammatory mediators. This perpetuates the cycle of unexplained weight gain.

2. Slows Your Metabolism
Your thyroid regulates your metabolism. Acidosis can trigger low thyroid function and a slow metabolism, once again putting you in energy-saving rather than energy-expending mode. Elevated cortisol levels further impact on this, because they do impair the conversion of (largely inactive) thyroid hormone T4 into the (more active) T3. This means there are less active thyroid hormones available for your body to use, slowing your metabolism even further.

3. Increases Cravings and Appetite
With low leptin levels you feel hungry more often, so it is likely that your energy intake through food will be higher. Often you’ll be tempted to choose energy dense foods such as sweets, chocolate, biscuits, or a soft drink to give you that quick boost of energy. Unfortunately, when your body is acidic, your body has no option but to store it for future use: as body fat! 

What can you do about this?

For many women, restoring balance is the first step to feeling great and getting on top of their health. It also means they can manage chronic illness or unexplained infertility more effectively as in the case of Michelle Curmi from Melbourne Australia. Once Michelle discovered the cause of her imbalance she fell pregnant after years of trying with PCOS and endometriosis.

You can read Michelle's story at

Regular exercising and relaxing help reduce acidity in your body, however the most obvious step is to change your diet. Include more alkalizing fruits and vegetables, and reduce the intake of acidic grains, meats, sugars and soft drinks. It is also important to adjust your diet to balance your hormones, especially if acidosis has created imbalances.

Alkalizing combinations containing magnesium, potassium or calcium can help improve the acid-alkaline balance, although they should be used with the guidance of a practitioner.
Remember, your body may need support to recover from the impact of all this acidity. Although it has an amazing capacity to correct itself, sometimes it needs a helping hand. Medicinal herbs and nutritional support to switch your metabolism from energy-saving to energy-expending mode and gently support natural hormonal balance are also recommended. 

How can you measure if you are acidic?

If you are concerned about your pH levels, or simply want to monitor them to ensure you do remain within the optimal ranges, you can check this yourself. There is an easy test that you can do at home, to test the pH of urine or saliva, but other body fluids can also be tested. The kit contains a booklet that lists the ideal pH range of various body fluids.

If you are interested in this test kit, or want to talk to one of our practitioners about acidity and what we can do to help you, please contact our clinic on 1300 133 536.

Narelle Stegehuis, is a practicing medical herbalist and naturopath specializing in restorative endocrinology for women, with over 14 years clinical experience. She is both an accomplished writer, editor and technical training advisor for the media. A recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award, Narelle adopts an integrated approach of both medical science and traditional complementary health care principles and can be contacted at

1. Schwalfenberg G, “The Alkaline Diet: is there evidence that an alkaline pH diet benefits health? – Journal of Environmental and Public Health, Vol 2012, Article 727630
2. Forrest Robey I, “Examining the relationship between diet-induced acidosis and cancer” – Nutrition & Metabolism, 2012, 9:72
3. Wiederkehr M, Krapf R, “Metabolic and endocrine effects of metabolic acidosis in humans” – Swiss Med Weekly, 2001;131:127-132
4. Brungger M, Hulter N, Krapf R, “Effect of chronic metabolic acidosis on thyroid hormone homeostasis in humans” – American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology, May 1, 1997, vol 272, no 5, p F648-F653
5. Mitch WE, “Metabolic and clinical consequences of metabolic acidosis” – Journal of Nephrology, 2006, March-April; 19 suppl 9:S70-5
6. DeFronzo Ra, Beckles AD, “Glucose intolerance following chronic metabolic acidosis in man” – American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 1979 April, vol 236, no 4, G328-G334
7. Souto G, Donapetry C et all, “Metabolic acidosis-induced insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk” - Metabolic syndrome and related disorders, August 2011, 9(4):247-253
8. Alemany M, “Do the interactions between glucocorticoids and sex hormones regulate the development of metabolic syndrome?” – Frontiers in Endocrinology, Feb 2012, vol 3, article 27.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Green Bean Salad

Get fresh with this easy, economical green bean salad.  You can add legumes if you like or walnuts for extra protein and crunch.

1.5 kilos fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup walnut oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/3 teaspoon rock salt
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1 large red onion, chopped
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup crumbled low fat feta cheese


Place beans boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and immediately place beans in ice water. Drain and pat dry.   

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, garlic powder, mustard and pepper. Drizzle over beans. Add the onion; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, stir in tomatoes and cheese.  10 servings.
Narelle Stegehuis, is a practicing medical herbalist and naturopath specializing in restorative endocrinology for women, with over 14 years clinical experience.  She is both an accomplished writer, editor and technical training advisor. A recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award, Narelle adopts an integrated approach of both medical science and traditional complementary health care principles.