sore throat naturopathy nutrition immune health

Natural remedies for a sore throat

sore throat naturopathy nutrition immune health

Winter has made its presence felt, which means the cold and flu season will start to take a hold. Often, we get a few niggling signs of a cold or flu a few days before they really strike. A scratchy, sore throat is usually the first to appear and this is the time to take action.

Why do we get a scratchy or a sore throat before a cold or flu?

First things first, let’s start with why you get a sore throat before coming down with a full-blown cold or flu.

Viral infections are the culprit in cases of cold and flu, and these viruses invade the body via mucosal surfaces in the nasal passage, sinuses, mouth and eyes. Once the virus breaks through these membrane barriers, they don’t get far before being detected by the immune cells on patrol in the lymphatic glands located at the back of the throat and under the jawline. These immune cells raise the alarm, creating a localised response to invading virus that results in inflammation, swelling and some discomfort or pain — all of which can cause that scratchy “feels like I have swallowed razor blades” sore throat.

A sore throat is your first indication to take action — nip it in the bud

It is during the very early stage of infection (when you get that initial niggle in your throat) that you can really nip that cold or flu in the bud. There are a few key things you can do to support your immune system in fighting off the infection and prevent it progressing to a nasty cold or flu.

1. Rest

Your immune system is working overtime to quash this infection and this takes energy. So, one of the most supportive things you can do is rest. Skip the high-intensity gym session and opt for a restorative yoga class or a gentle stroll along the beach. Head to bed early with a good book and cup of herbal tea. Carve out some time during your day for restful breaks — do a meditation, sit outside in the sun or even a quick lie down under the desk if you can’t escape the office. Resting doesn’t always equate to sleep, you just need to take things down a notch or two.

2. Nourish

Your hard-working immune system needs nourishment, so it’s time to dig out mum’s chicken soup recipe. Soups and slow-cooker meals are really nourishing foods that provide nutrients and energy to keep your immune system going. If you don’t have a go-to soup recipe, this immune-boosting chicken soup is delicious and packed with medicinal foods. Make up a batch and keep and emergency stash in the freezer.

3. Hydrate

Inadequate hydration can impact our health in a number of ways, including immune function. Healthy mucous membranes are normally coated with a thin layer of mucous, which traps particles such as dust or pollen and microbes such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Small finger-like projections in the mucous membranes (known as cilia) beat simultaneously to sweep the mucous out of the body. With dehydration, mucous membranes tend to be drier and stickier, making it difficult for the cilia to sweep out the mucous and debris it has accumulated, and much easier for pathogens to take up residence and cause infection.

As humidity levels are often lower in the winter months, we can lose more water via our skin without really noticing. Keep up your fluid intake with lots of warming herbal teas, soups and bone broths.

4. Soothe

Soothing your sore throat and preventing a full-blown infection is likely to be the main priority at the moment. So, here is a simple naturopathic remedy you can brew up at home with infection-fighting properties and a soothing, anti-inflammatory action.

Sage natural remedy for sore throat

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory herb, traditionally used for infections, head colds, aching joints and sore throats. Sage is also has astringent properties, making it ideal for strengthening the integrity of mucosal tissues.

Ingredients:
organic green tea (either bags or loose leaf)
4-5 sage leaves
1 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoons of Manuka honey

Method:
Combine the lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and honey, then add the sage leaves to soak for an hour. You can also leave it to soak overnight to get a stronger, more potent mixture. Brew up a pot of green tea and add in your sage, honey and lemon juice mixture. Sip on tea throughout the day to soothe that scratchy, sore throat.


Author — Sarah Woolner, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist at Total Health Brookvale. Read more about Sarah

hay fever; allergy; spring

Hay fever & allergy fighting foods

hay fever; allergy; spring

Spring has definitely sprung here in Sydney. It is a gorgeous time of year, with the days getting longer and the sun shining a little stronger. For those with hay fever and seasonal allergies, however, spring can be quite a miserable time. Sneezing, itchiness, scratchy throats, and dripping noses do not make for an enjoyable spring.

What causes hay fever and allergies?

Hayfever and other allergies occur when the immune system becomes highly reactive to substances known as allergens. Some common allergens include pollens, dust mites, cockroaches, animals (saliva), moulds and cigarette smoke. Reactions to allergens vary greatly from person to person and the severity of allergies depends on a number of factors such as genetics, antibiotic use, and dietary. While there is not much we can do to change our genetics and previous exposure to antibiotics, there is a lot we can change about the food we eat.

Allergy-fighting foods

Generally speaking, increasing your intake fruits and vegetables will go a long way in supporting a healthy immune system. There are, however, some foods with specific anti-allergic properties that you may want to add to your diet — especially if you suffer from hay fever.

Kiwifruit, pineapple, and papaya

Loaded with vitamin C and bioflavonoids, these fruits are a fantastic immune food. Vitamin C and bioflavonoids help to prevent the release of histamine from immune cells. Histamine is a chemical that is released in response to allergens and contributes to allergy symptoms.

An added benefit of these lovely tropical fruits is that they naturally contain enzymes that aid in the digestion of foods we eat.

Ginger and turmeric

These spices pack a big anti-inflammatory punch. Reducing inflammation can help relieve congestion symptoms in hay fever, as well as skin irritation and welts that can occur with contact allergies.

Try adding a little fresh ginger and turmeric to your salad dressing or juice/smoothie. You could also try a soothing ginger, turmeric, and honey tea — perfect for that scratchy throat.

Brazil nuts

The humble brazil nut is one of the richest sources of the mineral and antioxidant, selenium. Adequate intake of selenium is essential for a healthy immune system. Unfortunately, our Australian soils are somewhat deficient in selenium, which means our produce will be typically lower in selenium too. So, when buying brazil nuts look for South American origin brazil nuts as they are likely to contain more selenium.

Eating 4-6 brazil nuts per day will provide a healthy daily dose of selenium and keep your immune system in check.

Legumes

Lentils, legumes, and beans provide prebiotic fibres that feed our gut bacteria, known our microbiota. Why is feeding our gut bugs important? Because our microbiota makes up a significant part of our immune system and can help in controlling the allergic response. If you are new to trying legumes, introduce them slowly — they have a tendency to create a bit of wind.

To help reduce the wind-producing factor, soak dried legumes/lentils for 24 hours in cold water and rinse thoroughly before cooking.

Naturopathic care for hay fever and allergies

While a diet full of healthy fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds will provide a solid foundation for balancing an overreactive immune system, sometimes a little herbal intervention is required to help ease acute symptoms. There may also be other environmental or dietary factors contributing to your hay fever symptoms, which can be assessed in a naturopathic consultation.

Sarah Woolner
Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist


If you are in need of support for hay fever, allergies or allergic asthma, I would love to help you. You can book in a naturopathic appointment to see me in clinic or phone us on (02) 9907 3339.
Pregnancy prenatal nutrition

Prenatal Nutrition Care

Pregnancy prenatal nutrition

Growing a little one from an embryo of just a few cells to a functioning human being is a beautiful and fascinating process. Prenatal nutrition is important during pregnancy, as nutritionally, it is a very demanding process. Each and every pregnancy is different and requires a unique approach to prenatal nutrition care.

The importance of prenatal nutrition

Healthy eating is a key aspect of prenatal nutrition care as nutrient requirements increase to support the growth and development of a healthy baby. Meeting these nutritional needs is also essential for supporting the health of the mother — throughout the pregnancy and in the months and even years that follow.

The availability of these nutrients will depend on the foods the mother is eating — which can be a challenge for expectant mothers, especially during the early stages of pregnancy. Nausea, morning sickness, and food aversions can limit the foods an expectant mother can stomach. Add to this a list of high-risk foods that should be avoided during pregnancy, and you can see that for some women, it may be difficult to meet the nutritional demands of pregnancy through diet alone.

Prenatal or pregnancy supplements

Prenatal supplements address the nutritional gaps that the diet may not always cover. There are many prenatal or pregnancy supplements on the market, each claiming to be the best one for you and your baby. But, how do you know which one to choose?

Unfortunately, I cannot give you a simple answer. Each mother’s prenatal nutrition needs are unique and can even change with each pregnancy. As you can see in the chart below, formulations of various pregnancy supplements differ in both the nutrients that they contain and the dosage of those nutrients.

Prenatal nutrition supplement

Comparison of Prenatal Multivitamins — this graph shows the variation of nutrient concentration in different prenatal supplements

This wide variation is actually a good thing. While the essential prenatal nutrients — folate, iodine, and iron — are included in most pregnancy multivitamins, there is much variation in additional nutrients such as vitamin D, selenium, zinc and B vitamins. This allows for more flexible prescribing. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a supplement:

The form of the nutrients included.

Not all forms of nutrients are equal in terms of absorption and effects on the digestive system. For example, the dosage of iron in retail supplement #1 is significantly higher in comparison with other prenatal supplements. However, it is in a form that is poorly absorbed in the gut and is more likely to cause constipation. For a woman with a tendency to constipation, retail supplement #1 may not be the most appropriate choice for her.

Specific nutrients lacking in the diet.

Pregnancy can bring about enormous changes in appetite, perceptions of taste and smell as well as food aversions and nausea. These factors can limit the foods a pregnant woman can tolerate, and potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies. Choosing a supplement that covers these nutrient deficits in the diet may help to support a healthy pregnancy for both mum and her bub.

Tolerance of a supplement.

This is probably one of the more important factors to consider. Women will tolerate some supplements better than others, and her preference may change throughout the different stages of pregnancy. At the end of the day, a supplement that is perfect on paper but, not taken or able to be kept down due to low tolerance, is unlikely to provide any nutritional benefit.

Integrative approach to prenatal care

Prenatal care often involves a number of practitioners. First and foremost, you will generally have an obstetrician and/or your GP, and often a midwife as well. Some women require physical support such as prenatal massage therapy, physiotherapy or prenatal chiropractic care to help with the structural changes that come with growing a little human. Some women find they need more emotional support in the form of counselling — bringing new life into this world involves significant change and responsibility, whether it is your first child or your fourth. And then there are women that need some extra prenatal nutrition support and guidance. Not only to nourish her growing bub but, also to nourish herself.

It is important that a mother nourishes herself with whichever forms of healthcare or support that she needs throughout pregnancy and beyond so that she can continue to care for and nourish her offspring.

Preconception, prenatal and postnatal nutrition at Total Health Brookvale

As a naturopath, I work with clients that are preparing for pregnancy, currently pregnant or new mothers. We look at the mothers diet is quite a bit of detail and then based on the dietary assessment, I can then create an individualised nutrition plan and recommend the most appropriate supplement that will help fill the nutritional gaps identified.

Sarah Woolner
Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist


If you are in need of support for preconception, pregnancy or postnatal nutrition, I would love to help you. You can book in a naturopathic appointment to see me in clinic or phone us on (02) 9907 3339.
Nutrition for chronic pain

Pain. Can we ease it simply with nutrition?

Nutrition for chronic pain

In the clinic, we see a lot of clients with pain. Sometimes it is acute pain from recent injuries, although the majority of the pain we see is chronic, ongoing pain. One of the factors that may be contributing to persistent, chronic pain is an imbalance the acidity of our tissues — mainly as a result of poor nutrition.

We all know that vegetables and fruits are good for us and that we need to be eating more of them. They are a great source of nutrition and keep our energy levels high. But, did you know that increasing your intake of plant foods may help with pain relief?

pH balance and pain

Our bodies are designed to produce acid, mainly as a process of metabolism. Cleverly, our bodies also have effective ways of breaking down and eliminating acids via the kidneys and lungs. Physiologically, this system works well — until we overburden the system with the likes of poor food choices, stress, alcohol, inflammation, and ageing. As a result, our tissues become more acidic.

When I talk about acidity, I am referring to the pH of the fluids in and around our cells as well as urine — not the pH of our blood. The pH of our blood is very tightly regulated, and will not vary much at all. If it does, it is more than likely fatal.

pH is a measure of free hydrogen ion concentration, which determines whether a substance is acidic, neutral or alkaline — the higher the concentration of hydrogen ions, the more acidic a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 0 -14, where pH < 7 is acidic, pH = 7 is neutral, pH > 7 is alkaline

So, how is tissue acidification related to pain? Well, as the pH of our tissues becomes acidic, there are increased levels of free hydrogen ions. These hydrogen ions are able to switch on specific pain channels in the nervous system. This not only increases our sensitivity to pain but can also damage the cells and cause inflammation — further exacerbating pain.

How do our diets create acidity and contribute to pain?

Typically, our modern diets contain high amounts of processed foods, sugar, animal foods and unhealthy fats — which we know don’t provide much nutritional value and can contribute to weight gain, and conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When these foods are metabolised, they contribute to the acid load on the body.

And it is not only the increase in acid load that is causing acidification tissues. More importantly, it is due to a deficiency of our most important buffers — VEGETABLES!

Vegetables provide us with many nutrients, but they also provide a good dose of citrates, malates and gluconates. These compounds are able to buffer the acidity produced by mopping up excess the hydrogen ions (that create acidity), forming neutral substances that are more easily eliminated from the body. By increasing our vegetable intake we can lower the acid burden on the body, meaning those little pain channels are less likely to be activated.

How do I know if I have an imbalance in acidity?

If you are living in the modern world and not eating a truckload of vegetables daily, then it is likely that you have some imbalances in tissue pH levels.

As a naturopath, there are a few things that I look when assessing acid balance in clients:

  • Symptoms such as pain, fatigue, blood sugar imbalances, low appetite, headaches, muscle fatigue or weakness
  • Nutritional status
  • Dietary balance of acid load and buffering foods
  • Stress, exercise, and sleep
  • Urinary pH
  • Blood chemistry pathology

Naturapthy and good nutrition can help relieve pain

The next step is to put together a buffering plan of attack — which invariably involves vegetables. I may also prescribe other supplements or herbal medicines to provide extra support and pain relief, particularly as part of your initial naturopathic treatment plan. However, there is really no substitute for the buffering power of vegetables.

Sarah Woolner
Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist


If you are in need of some nutritional support for chronic pain or fatigue, I would love to help you. You can book in a naturopathic appointment to see me in clinic or phone us on (02) 9907 3339.
immune blog

Support Immune Health Naturally

A well functioning immune system is essential during the cooler months. While we cannot always avoid exposure to those nasty winter bugs, there are natural approaches that we can incorporate to promote healthy immune function.

Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables
Ensure you get a good range of essential nutrients to fuel your immune system. Colourful whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and nutrients that help our immune system fight infections. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are also rich in fibres that feed our healthy gut bacteria. This microbial population makes up a large part of our immune system, so keeping it well fed will boost immune function.

Boost lymphatic circulation
Our lymphatic system is a network of vessels that transport fats and proteins, drain cellular waste and toxins, and is where majority of our infection-fighting white blood cells reside. Lymphatic fluid moves through the lymphatic vessels and drains into lymph nodes (more commonly referred to as glands), where any unwanted debris, toxins and waste is filtered out. These lymph nodes or glands are also an immune checkpoint, where the white blood cells screen the lymphatic fluid for pathogens such as bacteria. Keeping the lymphatic fluid moving is essential for optimal immune function, and there are a few simple ways we can encourage this:
1. Regular exercise and movement
By physically moving our bodies we can increase out lymphatic circulation. Research has also shown that Exercise can boost immune cells that fight off infections, so rug up and get moving for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week.
2. Dry skin brushing
Regularly brushing your skin with a body brush is a great way to boost lymphatic circulation. It is also great for exfoliating dry skin during the winter months. Always brush towards the heart using a gentle sweeping motion.
3. Therapeutic massage
Massage stimulates the movement and drainage of the lymphatic fluid as well as boosting immune cells that fight off those dreaded winter bugs. Massage is also a great stress-buster and helps to reduce cortisol levels (a stress hormone that reduces immune function).

Keep your nervous system in check
Our nervous system has many, many functions in the body and can be impacted by both physical and mental or emotional stress. The nervous and immune systems are intricately connected, and where there is imbalance in the nervous system, the immune system cannot function at its best. Adequate sleep is essential for rejuvenating the brain and nervous system, as is stress management. Meditation is great for managing stress levels, or even just taking some time out for yourself can be just as effective. Finally, maintaining the physical health of you nerves (and joint structures that surround them) will ensure that they are functioning and communicating with other body systems efficiently.

Medicinal herbs and spices
Herbs are a great natural immune booster, as they contain plant chemicals that help fight off infections and strengthen our immune response. Herbs such as garlic, ginger, thyme and basil can be easily incorporated into your diet, while herbal teas are perfect for keeping you warm and hydrated during the cooler months. For an extra immune boost or some soothing relief add a teaspoon or two of Manuka honey to your herbal tea.

Enjoy the seasonal shift to cooler days and remember to give yourself a little extra nourishment. The team at Total Health Brookvale are here for you, if ever you need us.