Harvest Health

Harvest Health

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


This Spring in Melbourne has seen many people suffering with hay fever.  Even people who have never had hay fever before are experiencing symptoms.  So, what exactly is hay fever?

 It's correct name is seasonal allergic rhinitis, and it is the result of the body mounting an allergic response to pollens and grasses that are present at certain times of the year - particularly late winter and spring.  Symptoms may include sneezing, runny nose, irritated eyes and itchy ears or mouth.  The exhaustion that many people experience is a result of the immune response that the body mounts in response to the pollen.  The body views the pollen as an invader, and releases cascades of inflammatory chemicals.

There are many things you can do apart from taking anti-histamine medication, to reduce your symptoms.  They include:

Take a good quality vitamin C tablet or powder regularly during the day.  Up to  3g of Vitamin C over a day should be fine.  Vitamin C in conjunction with the bioflavonoid quercetin works best, as quercetin is a natural anti-histamine.

Elderflower tea can be very effective, especially for nasal symptoms.  Choose an organic, loose leaf tea, and drink several cups throughout the day.  Nettle tea is also very useful.  You can make it with either fresh nettle leaves (use gloves!), or buy it as a dried organic tea.      

Liquid herbs
One of my favourite things as a naturopath is being able to create individualised herbal tonics for people.  Herbal tonics can be formulated to be anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory and immune modulating so are great for helping the body reduce its immune response to pollens.

If hay fever symptoms are still getting you down, it may be a good time to review your diet.  To decrease the load on your immune system, reduce any foods that could be potential allergens.  This could involve avoiding or reducing wheat products such as bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, pastries, etc.  Dairy products may also be increasing the allergenic load on your body so need to be reduced.  Food additives such as the sulphur that is in non-organic dried fruit, and wine can worsen or trigger hay fever symptoms, so are best avoided.

The best results are achieved by preparing your body for hay fever season a good 6 weeks before you expect symptoms to start.  However, if it is already upon you, taking good quality herbal and nutritional supplements will still greatly decrease your symptoms.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

These seven words sum up the philosophy of professor and journalist Michael Pollan. On Sunday night Michael Pollan gave a talk for the Wheeler Centre at the Melbourne Town Hall.  He was an excellent, entertaining speaker, but I have a feeling his talk was falling on the ears of the already converted.  If only his message could be spread further to the general public, and not just be received by those with already strong or professional interest in food and diets.

His message is very simple, but has a lot of research behind it.  He believes that if we got back to our traditional food wisdom, and didn't look to big corporations to feed us, we would dramatically improve our health.  He doesn't claim to be an expert on nutrition, but can see very clearly that we have gone horribly wrong with our current western diet. 

I think the first part of his message is the most powerful, but at the same time it is easy to miss.  Eat Food.  The processed food products that make up much of the western diet are not, in fact food, but rather 'food like substances'.  These products have many additives, and scarily long shelf lives.  To make his point, Michael brought with him a bag full of products he had bought from Woolworths.  None of them were what people from a generation or two ago would recognise as food.  And interestingly, most of them were in brightly coloured packaging that was making some form of health claim, or boasting the addition of the latest talked about nutrient (e.g. omega 3's).

If any 'food' makes a health claim it is probably wise not to eat it.  The foods that are genuinely good for us don't make any health claims.  Fruit and vegetables will not come in bright wrappers broadcasting their health giving properties.  If any food product contains an ingredient that a third grader wouldn't be able to pronounce, don't eat it.  If a product contains more than five ingredients, don't eat it.

Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Naturopathic Wisdom

Last night I went to a talk given by a woman who was one of my lecturers during my Naturopathy degree.  I hadn't heard this woman speak for many years, and it was a wonderful experience to sit and listen to her wise words again.  She trained as a naturopath in the 'old' days, over 30 years ago.  Back then Naturopathy hadn't been complicated by the need to be evidenced based and scientifically valid, which is now the case.  Most courses now only teach evidence based treatments.  It is considered progressive and more desirable to make naturopathy more scientifically accountable.  Prior to the last 10 -15 years, there was a strong emphasis on teaching students naturopathic philosophy.  Naturopathic philosophy hasn't changed for the last couple of hundred years, but is at risk of being forgotten, or over-shadowed, by evidence based treatments, and dare I say it, a need or desire to sell lots of products or supplements. 

If naturopaths are focused on prescribing products to their patients, they may not be focused on understanding their patient, and viewing their disease or condition through a naturopathic paradigm.  In this instance there is little to distinguish a naturopath from a medical practitioner.  The only difference will be in the prescription - drugs versus herbal and nutritional supplements.

A naturopath that remains true to naturopathic philosophy will not sell you a product to treat each symptom that you present with.  Naturopathy has so much more to offer.  A good naturopath will investigate how the condition or illness you present with is being experienced in your body. The basis of naturopathic philosophy is that the body is self healing.  Therefore, what processes have occurred or not occurred to allow this condition to take hold in your body?  How do you operate energetically, metabolically, and emotionally?  It is the job of the naturopath to determine how healing has failed for their patient, and what processes are not functioning well to allow the disease process to take hold.

This is the strength of naturopathy.  We are able to do this through having a longer consultation time with people, and asking many questions, and also through using Iridology.  Sometimes a thorough case history may provide all the information, and sometimes Iridology can be used to understand a person and what is happening in their body more deeply. 

Knowledge of scientific research and evidence based treatments is necessary, but allowing naturopathic philosophy to determine a patient's treatment protocol is essential to provide good naturopathic care.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Jamie's Ministry of Food

Last night I went to see a talk given by one of my heroes - Jamie Oliver.  It was just a one hour talk put on by the Wheeler Centre here in Melbourne. 

Jamie was here to promote his Ministry of Food initiative which has begun operating in Australia.  I love the simplicity of his approach.  What he hopes to achieve is a decrease in obesity rates by teaching people at a grass roots level about food and how to cook it.  The focus is on basic, wholesome food on a budget, not fancy 'chef' food that people find intimidating.  This is trying to create change at a micro level.

His other focus is on teaching children about food, where it comes from and how to make healthy eating choices.  He made the pertinent point that children won't die an early death by not doing their Geography homework, but we are doing them a disservice if we don't teach them about food and how it affects their body.

Here's hoping the Ministry of Food is successful here in Australia, and changes many people's lives.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


The New Year induced desires to cull, toss and organise.  One of the jobs which I have to admit to starting but getting nowhere near finishing involves this recipe book:

Which unfortunately is crammed full of loose papers, and looks like this:

There are lots of newspaper cuttings and computer printouts, - all recipes that I thought at one time or another I would like to make.  Needless to say, with them all jammed in like this, I haven't made many of them.  I know there are some good recipes in there.   I think that I would find good recipes for family meal planning, and new vegetable recipes, if I could get this in working order.  It appears to be, however, one of those jobs that is started with enthusiasm, but ends in a muddle soon after.

Does anyone else have a recipe book that looks like this, or even better, does anyone have any good ideas on how to store random recipes to increase their chance of being cooked?

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Joy of Eggs

 Why Eggs are good:

1.  Eggs are a great source of protein.
Eggs are a complete sources of protein.  This means they contain all the essential amino acids we need from our diets.
2. Eggs keep you full
The protein and fat in eggs keep you satiated.  Unlike a breakfast of processed cereal or white bread which will leave you feeling hungry again in an hour or two.

 3. Eggs are relatively inexpensive
Compared to other complete protein foods such as meat and fish, eggs are quite inexpensive

4. Eggs don't make your cholesterol worse
Eggs got a lot of bad press in the 1960s when doctors linked high cholesterol with heart disease.  Not all cholesterol is bad, in fact cholesterol is an essential component of every cell membrane of your body.  High cholesterol problems are more likely to do with high sugar consumption, and lack of exercise.

5. Eggs can assist weight loss
This is related to eggs keeping you full.  Also, eggs are low GI, so they don't cause your blood sugar to spike.

6. Eggs contain Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
EFAs are essential for our health.  They are particularly important for brain, heart and immune health

One of my (happy) chooks!
Not all eggs are equal
This had been said many times before.  But factory farmed eggs are not only bad because of the living conditions of the hens that produce them, they are far inferior in their nutritional profile.  The egg from a hen that has been able to forage in daylight and eat grass has a much higher nutrient content, in particular the amount of omega 3 it contains.  Eat free range and/or organic eggs.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Sweet Potato Wedges

The unseasonal cold weather we've just had made me feel like warm, comforting foods.  To be honest, it made me feel like eating chips!  Luckily I was able to satisfy this craving with some delicious sweet potato wedges, in place of regular potato chips.  It felt good to be getting good nutrition from what is usually an unhealthy indulgence.

Sweet potato wedges
  • Wash 2 sweet potatoes well, but don't peel them
  • Cut them into wedges by cutting lengthways into quarters, and then into desired size
  • Line a baking tin with baking paper, and brush lightly with olive oil
  • Brush the wedges with olive oil and sprinkle with a mixture of ground coriander and salt
  • Roast for about 25 minutes in a reasonable hot oven (190 - 200C), until tender and golden brown.

Sweet potatoes are one of the richest source of beta-carotene - a precursor to Vitamin A.  Not only is Vitamin A  necessary for good eyesight, it is also necessary for a strong immune system and healthy skin.
Sweet potatoes also have a lot lower GI (Glycaemic Index), so are good for those trying to lose weight.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

New Years' Promise

I'm still loving the feeling of it being a new year.  I can't help feeling there is a sort of 'fizziness' to this time of year.  The new year feels like a new start, and without being 'New Agey', it as though there is a fresh energy.  The end of a year, with all its busyness and commitments is exhausting.  It is always such a relief to get through the Christmas period and come out the other side in a brand new shiny year. 

Making a few resolutions has increased my feelings of excitement and promise.  I think perhaps that is what is exciting - the potential of what lies ahead.  There is the potential for changing lifestyle, shifting priorities, new learning and new patterns.

Of course, these feelings of promise and energy might  just be due to the fact that it's Summer and school holidays here, and we have been able to spend some lovely days in the sun!

Diamond Bay

Lionshead beach, Werribee Gorge

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The humble Cabbage

OK, it's not the sexiest, or most fashionable of vegetables, but cabbage has a lot going for it.  It is part of the brassica family (which includes broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts), and this group of vegetables receive a lot of attention for their liver cleansing abilities.  It's the high chlorine and sulphur content in cabbage which together exert a cleansing action.  You can spend a lot of money on liver cleansing packs from the chemist or health food shop, or you can regularly eat cabbage! Cabbage is beneficial for good intestinal flora, which means it's good for your digestion.  It also contains high amounts of Vitamin C. 

The only potential problem with cabbage is that it can be detrimental to people with thyroid problems, as brassica vegetables contain goitrogens, which depress thyroid function.  This is only an issue if you have low thyroid function, and eat cabbage several times a week.

As a child I really disliked coleslaw, but times have changed, and now I love it.  This Summer I have been craving it.  There are countless coleslaw recipes, but here are two I have made and enjoyed in this Year of the Vegetable.

A Basic Slaw
Mix together in a bowl:
1 small cabbage, or 1/2 a larger one, shredded finely
1/2 small red or white onion, sliced as thinly as possible
1 apple diced or grated

Make a vinaigrette by mixing together:
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
Then adding and mixing:
3 tablespoons olive oil

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and mix well.  Sprinkle with parsley or coriander if desired.

I used savoy cabbage in this, which I think was the main reason it was so delicious.  You could also use normal green cabbage or purple cabbage, or a mixture.

Easy Asian coleslaw
1/4 savoy cabbage, shredded finely
1/4 purple cabbage, shredded finely
1 lebanese cucumber, halved lengthways, deseeded and sliced thinly
1 carrot , grated
Handful of mint shredded
Handful of coriander, shredded
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tsp honey
2 tsp mirin
1/2 lemon or lime, juiced

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients.  Combine the vegetables and herbs.  Add the dressing and toss to combine.  Sprinkle on the sesame seeds.

Although the Asian coleslaw tastes good, I was surprised by how good the Basic 'Slaw tasted.  I have been putting off making it as I thought it was too plain.  Wrong.  The simplicity of it was delicious.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Year of the Vegetable

Initially I thought that I wouldn't write a blog post about New Years resolutions - too cliche, too common, and it has all been said before.  But over one of many BBQ dinners with friends this Summer, an innocent comment led to me feeling inspired, and I have re-thought my attitude.   My friend made the simple comment that she wished she ate more vegetables.  It started me thinking.  The result is a new found respect and interest in new years resolutions and how they can help us live the life we want to live

The simple, but startling fact is that if we all ate more vegetables, the rates of many chronic illnesses would dramatically decrease.  The need for so many pharmaceutical medicines would decrease.  Digestive, reproductive, skin, joint, mental health and immune system problems would all decrease.  I'm not saying they would be cured or disappear, but the overall incidence in our society would decrease.  I can't help thinking that if there was a magic pill that could have the same effect, we would all go out and buy it!  Eating more vegies, however, is somehow not as an appealing option to many people.

Obviously eating more vegetables is not a new idea.  Mothers have been banging on about it for decades.  Somehow though the message is ignored.  I should say - I'm not a vegetarian.  I'm talking about eating more vegetables as well as being a meat eater. 

Personally, my new years resolution isn't about eating more vegetables, it's more specific.  It's about learning new ways of preparing vegetables.  I want to explore new recipes for salads, dips, stir fries, roasts, anything.  (Initially I thought maybe I would try a new recipe each week, but I think maybe each fortnight is more realistic).  It will be a challenge for me, as I often don't follow recipes, but make meals up as I go.  Currently my meals will contain a pile of steamed vegetables, or sliced raw veg in a basic salad.  I like, however, the idea of developing a vegetable repertoire.

So this isn't actually about needing to eat more vegetables, it's about learning new ways to prepare them.  It's about feeling inspired to start the year with a new energy to learn new things to improve my health.

Back tomorrow with some salad ideas.