Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Winter Warming Beef Stew

hormones, weight loss, tummy fat diet, belly fat diet

Hearty comfort meals can be healthy.  This delicious beef stew, is full of vegetables for added nutrition.

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 1 cup dried borlotti beans
  • 1/3 cup lentils
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 800g beef chuck steak, cut into
  • 3cm pieces
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 200g button mushrooms, halved
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 400g can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch silverbeet or kale, trimmed, shredded finely


  1. Place beans and lentils in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water. Set aside for 1 hour. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat half the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add half the beef. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining oil and beef.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and garlic to pan. Cook for 3 minutes or until tender. Add mushroom and wine. Bring to the boil. Return beef and juices to pan. Add tomato, stock and capsicum. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour 15 minutes. Add beans and lentils. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until beef is tender. Stir in silverbeet. Cook for 5 minutes or until wilted. Serve.

Osteoporosis: Calcium Deficiency or Excess?

Osteoporosis is the most widely recognized disease connected with calcium and affects over 15 million people in the USA alone. But did you know that both too little and too much calcium can make your bones fragile? A recent study by the Mayo clinic showed that extra calcium supplementation tripled the risk of non-spinal fractures in women already suffering from osteoporosis.1 This confirms findings of previous studies that calcium supplementation can increase the risk of hip fractures.8 How can this be?

Osteoporosis can be classified into two categories: type I and type II.

Type I Osteoporosis
Type I osteoporosis is the classical type associated with calcium deficiency. It occurs in people with a fast metabolism. An overactive thyroid gland causes the body to partially lose its ability to retain calcium and magnesium. At the same time, activity of the parathyroid gland slows down because thyroid and parathyroid glands are each other’s antagonists2. With decreased parathyroid function, cells that normally produce hard bone (osteoblasts) become inactive. Less calcium and magnesium are absorbed into the bone while more is excreted through the kidneys. As a result, bones become deficient in calcium and magnesium, grow brittle and easily break.1,2 People who suffer from this type of osteoporosis benefit from extra calcium supplementation.

Type II Osteoporosis
People with a slow metabolism, on the other hand, do not benefit from calcium supplementation at all. In fact, the opposite: it makes the problem worse. In their case, a sluggish thyroid triggers increases activity of the parathyroid gland2,3. This leads to more absorption and retention of calcium, while at the same time increasing the number of cells that break down bones (osteoblasts).5,6 This allows calcium to be drawn from the bone, weakening the bones. Since the calcium can’t be reabsorbed into the bone due to increased osteoblast activity, the body deposits it in soft tissue. This can result in gall stones, kidney stones, stiffness in joints due to calcium deposits, increased arterial plaque formation1,8 and dry skin. In those cases calcium supplementation will not solve the problem. In fact, it will make it worse.1,2,8

Osteoporosis due to insulin resistance
Calcium bone loss can also be the result of an underlying metabolic problem. For instance, people with adult onset diabetes or insulin resistance have an increased insulin production. The pancreas can only release insulin when there is enough calcium available.4,7 To make sure enough calcium is available, the body starts to retain calcium by reabsorbing it in the kidneys, while at the same time the parathyroid also steps up its activity to withdraw calcium stored in the bones. In summary, calcium is stopped from being excreted through the kidneys, and is withdrawn from its storage in bones, to meet the increased demand by the pancreas to produce insulin. Any calcium that is not used for insulin production will not be reabsorbed into the bones due to osteoblast acivity but stored elsewhere, once again not only leading to gall stones, kidney stones etc but also to osteoporosis.1

How to test?
So how do you know if you should or shouldn’t be taking extra calcium to prevent osteoporosis? A blood test is not useful, because the body will do its utmost to keep levels in the blood the same – either by storing excessive levels in the tissue if levels in blood become too high or withdrawing it from the bones if levels in the blood become too low (homeostasis). It is only when stores in bones are depleted or when the body runs out of tissue to deposit it, that blood levels will start to fluctuate, but by then it is far too late.
Hair Mineral Analysis is more effective way to asses storage levels of calcium. Hair is the second most metabolically active tissue and it provides a reliable record of metabolic activity during its period of growth. The first 4 cm closest to the scalp can provide a good indication of nutrient exposure over the previous 8 – 16 weeks. Mineral deficiencies or excesses can indicate a possible deficiency, excess or bio-unavailability of one or more minerals within the body.

If you are interested in getting a hair mineral analysis done, please contact our clinic on 1300 133 536 or visit our website at:

1.     Dr D.L Watts, “Trace elements and other essential nutrients” – 6th Writer’s B-L-O-C-K, USA 2010, p 52-58
2.     Tortora & Grabrowski, “Principles of anatomy and physiology” 9th edition, p 581-587 – Biological Sciences Text Books, 2000
3.     Tarrage Lopez PJ et all, “Osteoporosis in patients with subclinical hypothyroidism” – Clin Cases Mineral Bone Metabolism, 2011 Sep;8(3):44-8
4.     Curry DL, Bennett LL, Grodsky GM: Requirement for calcium ion in insulin secretion by the perfused rat pancreas. Am J Physiol214 :174–178,1968
5.     Nagata Mutsuko et all, “Subclinical hypothyroidism is related to lower heel QUS in postmenopausal women” – Endocrine Journal, 2007, vol. 54, no4, pp. 625-630
6.     Bertoli A, Fusco A, Andreoli A, Magnani A, Tulli A, Lauro D, de Lorenzo A, “Effect of Subclinical Hypothyroidism and Obesity on Whole-Body and Regional Bone Mineral Content” - Horm Res 2002;57:79–84
7.     L. Bent-Hansen, K. Capito, C.J. Hedeskov, “The effect of calcium on somatostatin inhibition of insulin release and cyclic AMP production in mouse pancreatic islets” - Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - General Subjects Volume 585, Issue 2, 12 June 1979, Pages 240–249
8.     Reid IR, Bolland MJ, Grey A, “Effect of calcium supplementation on hip fractures” – Osteoporosis Int (2008) 19:1119-1123          

Is Your Body Baby Ready?

If you have been trying to conceive with no success, your body may not be ‘baby ready’. The great news is, making targeted changes can help you to fall pregnant faster and maintain a healthy viable pregnancy.

For many women, the key to improving fertility naturally is to ensure healthy hormonal balance.  One such hormone is insulin. This hormone is so easily influenced and is the key to overall hormone balance, regular ovulatory cycles, optimal egg quality, healthy embryo development and implantation.  It also plays a role in maintaining the PH of cervical mucus.


So What Exactly Does Insulin Do?

Understanding the influence of insulin is the first step in the right direction to making pregnancy happen.  Symptoms of imbalance can include cravings, weight gain, mood swings, headaches and insomnia.

Although maintaining balanced insulin levels can be challenging, it is widely agreed that dietary changes, although an integral component healthy insulin balance; are not the only influence. 

Researchers now agree that there are other underlying factors aside from diet such as  infection, toxins, digestive problems, stress and immune irregularities that can influence  insulin secretion. [i] [ii] [iii] This is why identifying and addressing these underlying factors plays such an important role in ensuring your body is baby ready.

My Solution is Simple. 
Solve the Problem That Others Seem to Ignore.

The good news is, improvement in these areas can be achieved with a little helping hand from mother nature.  Getting things right takes expertise, guidance and an individualized approach.  

The best way to improve fertility naturally is to peel back the layers and get to the root cause.  Without this important step, all your efforts may merely be bandaging symptoms.  Although this can take time and requires expertise, the results can be startling. Restoring balance to each of these levels will dramatically increase your odds of conceiving.  The great news is, with the right guidance and advice, you can restore balance. 

In my experience, fertility challenges stem from a combination of factors that don't come down to a single test result or finding.  Isolating these causes is fundamental to improving pre-conceptive health.  This is why I recommend my patients complete my full fertility profile and assessment.

I've had amazing success with women faced with challenges and am confident to say that once your body is baby ready, you will dramatically increase your odds of falling pregnant faster and have a healthy pregnancy.

Narelle Stegehuis, is a practicing naturopath and medical herbalist with over 30,000 hrs of in-clinic experience specializing in the natural treatment of women's health and fertility. She is both an accomplished writer, editor and recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award. 
To find out more, visit

[i] Wang, C.-H., Wang, C.-C. and Wei, Y.-H. (2010), Mitochondrial dysfunction in insulin insensitivity: implication of mitochondrial role in type 2 diabetes. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1201: 157–165. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05625.x
[ii] Tehrani, A. Bonakdar., Nezami, B. G., Gewirtz, A. and Srinivasan, S. (2012), Obesity and its associated disease: a role for microbiota?. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 24: 305–311. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2982.2012.01895.x 
[iii] Yasuhiro Uchida, Kyosuke Takeshita, Koji Yamamoto, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Takayuki Nakayama, Mieko Nomura, Xian Wu Cheng, Kensuke Egashira, Tadashi Matsushita, Hideo Nakamura, and Toyoaki Murohara.  Stress Augments Insulin Resistance and Prothrombotic State: Role of Visceral Adipose-Derived Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1 Diabetes June 2012 61:1552-1561; published ahead of print March 6, 2012, doi:10.2337/db11-0828

Monday, June 18, 2012

Acne, Hormones and Chocolate

Gone are the days of believing chocolate was to blame for the acne we experienced as teenagers. Personally, I suspect that the spread of this myth was mum’s way of getting us to eat more fruit. Acne is generally an accepted part of growing up, but it is with increasing frequency that we hear of women in their 30’s and 40’s that are still battling this problem.
Acne itself is caused by a blockage of the sebaceous glands of the skin. When there is an overproduction of sebum, excess oil and dead skin cells clog the pores. During puberty, increased hormone levels cause excess sebum production. This provides an important link in identifying a cause of adult acne. Among the many symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances, acne rears its ugly head in quite a few common conditions. It is estimated that 20-30% of women aged between 20 and 40 suffer from acne due to hormonal imbalances.
Let’s look at Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This condition revolves around an increase in androgens (these are our masculinising hormones), which cause the classic symptoms of erratic/absent ovulation and menstruation, male pattern hair growth, acne and obesity. Looking back quickly to puberty, it’s a little easier to understand why adolescents, especially boys, are affected by acne due to high levels of androgens. 

Acne is also a symptom of endometriosis, cysts or fibroids.  In some women it occurs during menopause, often accross the upper back area.

Here are some other examples of hormonal factors that can contribute to acne:
  • Excess weight: fat can convert oestrogen into hormones that behave like androgens, promoting acne by increasing the production of sebum.
  • Oral Contraceptive Pill: some OCP’s can cause acne by boosting sebum production.
  • Stress: studies have shown that women who work in competitive environments under stress can overproduce androgens. Many women juggle jobs, friends, family, financial commitments and many other life stresses which make adrenal glands produce more cortisol hormones, which can set off acne. Also, acne itself can cause stress!
  • Insulin resistance: metabolic abnormalities, such as high insulin levels, can also play a role in female adult acne. The harmful effects of high insulin levels include over-stimulation of the ovaries, which can lead to ovarian cyst formation (e.g. polycystic ovaries), menstrual cycles of variable duration, infertility and higher levels of hormones with testosterone-like effects.
Now, I’m not saying this gives you open reign to a full packet of Tim Tams. It is important to think of the influence your hormones are having on your skin if you want to nip those pimples in the chocolate bud. A full hormonal assessment will help you establish where your areas of imbalance lie and what your best treatment options are.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Watercress, Pistachio and Apple Salad

Serves 8 as part of a main course

leaves from 4 bunches watercress, trimmed
3 granny smith apples, cored and cut into eighths
juice of 2 lemons
150ml extra virgin olive oil
seal salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g roasted pistachios, chopped roughly
½ cup chopped chives
Rinse the watercress well and pat dry with papertowel. Place the apples in a bowl with half the lemon juice. Whisk the remaining lemon juice with the olive oil, and season to taste. Place the watercress in a large salad bowl with the apples, pistachios, chives and dressing, toss well and serve.

Narelle Stegehuis, CEO of Mass Attack is a practicing naturopath with over 30,000 hrs of in-clinic experience and health editor for Empower magazine. Specializing in the natural treatment of women's hormonal imbalances, she has a trained eye for hormonal weight gain. She is both an accomplished writer and recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award. To find out if your hormones are making you fat, visit

Exciting New Research - Tummy Troubles Cause Hormonal Havoc

Healthy digestion is high up on the list of health priorities for many women.   However, did you know, tummy troubles are considered the top triggers of hormone imbalances in women?  

Those niggling symptoms of bloating and irregular bowel movements are important signs that things are not right.  They are your bodies way of crying out for help.  Ignoring these can lead to heightened imbalances in female reproductive hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone and those associated with metabolic performance such as insulin.  This combination creates the perfect blend for unexplained weight gain, especially around the middle.

New and Exciting Research  

While traditional research indicates rises in obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) to be due to a combination of genetics, inflammation and environmental influences [i] [ii] [iii][iv] [v] [vi] [vii] [viii] [ix] [x], exciting new research suggests tummy troubles or ‘digestive dysbiosis’ also play a role and contribute to female reproductive disorders [xi] [xii] [xiii] [xiv] [xv] [xvi][xvii] [xviii]. This is one reason why getting on top of your health and maintaining a healthy body weight may prove so challenging! 


Break Free and Restore Health 

Getting on top of your tummy troubles and health is like peeling back the layers of an onion and takes expertise, experience and time. Establishing the cause of your bloating and digestive upsets is an involved process, requiring professional symptomatic screening techniques and targeted dysbiotic testing. But this is only the first stage.  Repairing the damage and restoring balance with medicinal herbs and targeted probiotics is fundamental to finally becoming symptom free.

Narelle Stegehuis, CEO of Mass Attack is a practicing naturopath with over 30,000 hrs of in-clinic experience and health editor for Empower magazine. Specializing in the natural treatment of women's hormonal imbalances, she has a trained eye for hormonal weight gain. She is both an accomplished writer and recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award. To find out if your hormones are making you fat, visit

[i] Hossain P, Kawar B, El Nahas M (2007) Obesity and diabetes in the developing world–a growing challenge. N Engl J Med 356: 213–215.
[ii] Lazar M. A (2005) How obesity causes diabetes: not a tall tale. Science 307: 373–375
[iii] Doria A, Patti M. E, Kahn C. R (2008) The emerging genetic architecture of type 2 diabetes. Cell Metab 8: 186–200.
[iv] Rankinen T, Zuberi A, Chagnon Y. C, Weisnagel S. J, Argyropoulos G, et al. (2006) The human obesity gene map: the 2005 update. Obesity (Silver Spring) 14: 529–644. 
[v] Walley A. J, Asher J. E, Froguel P (2009) The genetic contribution to non-syndromic human obesity. Nat Rev Genet 10: 431–442.
[vi] Freedman A. S, Freeman G. J, Rhynhart K, Nadler L. M (1991) Selective induction of B7/BB-1 on interferon-gamma stimulated monocytes: a potential mechanism for amplification of T cell activation through the CD28 pathway. Cell Immunol 137: 429–437.
[vii] Wellen K. E, Hotamisligil G. S (2005) Inflammation, stress, and diabetes. J Clin Invest 115: 1111–1119. 
[viii] Weisberg S. P, McCann D, Desai M, Rosenbaum M, Leibel R. L, et al. (2003) Obesity is associated with macrophage accumulation in adipose tissue. J Clin Invest 112: 1796–1808. 
[ix] Xu H, Barnes G. T, Yang Q, Tan G, Yang D, et al. (2003) Chronic inflammation in fat plays a crucial role in the development of obesity-related insulin resistance. J Clin Invest 112: 1821–1830.
[x] Arkan M. C, Hevener A. L, Greten F. R, Maeda S, Li Z. W, et al. (2005) IKK-beta links inflammation to obesity-induced insulin resistance. Nat Med 11: 191–198. 
[xi] Meadows R (2011) Gut Bacteria May Override Genetic Protections against Diabetes. PLoS Biol 9(12): e1001215. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001215
[xii] Cani P. D, Amar J, Iglesias M. A, Poggi M, Knauf C, et al. (2007) Metabolic endotoxemia initiates obesity and insulin resistance. Diabetes 56: 1761–1772.
[xiii] Cani P. D, Bibiloni R, Knauf C, Waget A, Neyrinck A. M, et al. (2008) Changes in gut microbiota control metabolic endotoxemia-induced inflammation in high-fat diet-induced obesity and diabetes in mice. Diabetes 57: 1470–1481. 
[xiv] Creely S. J, McTernan P. G, Kusminski C. M, Fisher M, Da Silva N. F, et al. (2007) Lipopolysaccharide activates an innate immune system response in human adipose tissue in obesity and type 2 diabetes. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 292: E740–E747.
[xv] Chung S, Lapoint K, Martinez K, Kennedy A, Boysen Sandberg M, et al. (2006) Preadipocytes mediate lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation and insulin resistance in primary cultures of newly differentiated human adipocytes. Endocrinology 147: 5340–5351.
[xvi] Spor A, Koren O, Ley RUnravelling the effects of the environment and host genotype on the gut microbiome. Nat Rev Microbiol 9: 279–290.
[xvii] Khan, K.N., et al., Toll-Like Receptors in Innate Immunity: Role of Bacterial Endotoxin and Toll-Like Receptor 4 in Endometrium and Endometriosis. Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, 2009. 68(1): p. 40-52.