the vicious cycle of anxiety

What’s behind your anxiety?

By Cameron Stirling, Naturopath

Anxiety is not a disorder itself, but a symptom of a variety of physical and psychological disorders. To treat it successfully, we need to find the cause, not just give band-aid treatment. Common causes of anxiety include: Deficiencies of magnesium, folate or B vitamins, Hyperthyroidism, Depression, Fibromyalgia, Hypoglycaemia, Irritable bowel syndrome, Adrenal insufficiency and hormonal imbalance.

the vicious cycle of anxiety

Females tend to produce more cortisol under stress, and during the pre-menstrual phase, and this disrupts neurotransmitters in the brain, contributing to anxiety. Also the Pill increases cortisol levels. The high histamine person sets high standards for herself, is driven, keeps her anxiety hidden from the world, and can “crash and burn”.

Emotions originate in physical sensations. A person might feel hot and cold due to an infection or have loose bowels due to IBS or be dizzy due to low blood sugar or have difficulty sleeping due to worry. She might interpret these sensations as anxiety and be “feeding” her anxiety via a vicious cycle.

So what we need to do is break this cycle. Instead of avoidance behaviours, one can learn to use coping behaviours like meditation, mindfulness, and better ways of thinking
A psychologist can help with this. The physical symptoms can be traced to their cause and treated with diet and natural remedies, so they’re no longer a driving factor. 

If you feel like anxiety is interfering with your life and you want a real solution, ask your doctor for some basic tests (liver function, blood count, thyroid function and urine analysis), and bring copies of the results to your consult with me.

I will do some other inexpensive tests to assess deficiencies, bacterial overgrowth and adrenal function and check your personal history and diet. Using your body’s innate healing capacity, and with the help of natural remedies and diet, we will be able to modify the driving factors and teach you some health-promoting habits. Anxiety can be a thing of the past!


Skin cancers

Preventing Skin Cancer

Skin cancersIn answer to questions about prevention of skin cancer…
I recommend Green Tea extract, Curcumin, Rosemary and Grape seed extract which are all in MediHerb’s Vitanox. Take 2 – 3 daily away from meals (eg 1 before breakfast and 2 before bed).  Also 150 mcg of Selenium daily, which is 0.5 ml of Selenosol. EPA from fish oil has also been shown to have a protective effect. I would advise a good quality concentrated fish oil; the cheap ones are contaminated with PCBs and mercury. You need to get the equivalent of 700 – 1000 mg of EPA. That’s 2 – 3 capsules of MH Enhance brand Omega 3 Forte.

If you’re exposed to potential carcinogens (toxic chemicals) in your work, Withania is a herb that prevents skin cancer induced by carcinogens. I’d recommend 2 daily of MediHerb’s Withania & Ginseng or Withania Complex if you’re a bit stressed and run down. For heavy chemical exposure I would recommend a visit to the naturopath for some advice and help on boosting your detoxifying capacity.

Foods that can help include beetroot (canned is OK) and garlic. Avoid margarines; they contain trans fatty acids which promote skin cancer.

For more information contact Cameron Stirling, 07 5483 7688.


Natural Eczema/dermatitis Relief

Children's eczema can be resolved with natural remedies

Eczema and dermatitis are now regarded as the same thing. You can treat just the symptoms with antihistamines or cortisone cream or you can work with the body to strengthen and balance the immune system and improve the condition permanently. To get results this way it helps immensely to have an understanding of the root causes of eczema and work on those.

Eczema represents an imbalance in the immune system caused by things like low stomach acid, overgrowth of bad bacteria in the intestines and a leaky gut, food allergies, zinc deficiency and an inherited tendency to atopy (genetic tendency to form excessive IgE antibodies). It’s said that ‘genes are the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger’. This genetic tendency to atopy can be brought out by antibiotic usage, deficiency of zinc and essential fatty acids and can be modified by diet, nutrition and the right probiotic.

Once the eczema has been established for a while, the barrier function of the skin is compromised and normally harmless skin bacteria can cause infection, adding to the inflammation. Also, airborne allergens can penetrate the damaged skin and aggravate the inflammation.

To assess a child with eczema, we would take a case history including relatives’ health issues, birth and breast feeding history and antibiotic usage. We would do an Indican test on a urine sample to check for leaky gut and a zinc taste test to check zinc status.  We may use applied kinesiology to assess food allergies, or iridology. All these tests except the zinc test can be used with infants.

Once we've found the causes for that particular child, it's a simple matter of using the right diet and remedies to bring the immune system back into balance. Usually there is a great improvement in 2 to 3 weeks.

The probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG has a proven track record of improving eczema. If we found the child or infant to have leaky gut and bacterial overgrowth, we would use remedies to kill off bad bacteria and well as this probiotic to balance the immune system. Eczema Relief cream containing Calendula and Myrrh gives symptomatic relief from itching and inflammation.

 For natural relief of eczema or dermatitis, see Naturopaths Cameron Stirling or Michelle Carroll, or Herbalist Mylinda Johnson at Sunshine Health, 5483 7688.


sleeping man

How to get a good night’s sleep

Insomnia helped by minerals, herbsRestorative sleep is very important for good health and vitality. Our bodies detoxify and do repair work while we’re asleep. It’s OK to have the odd night’s poor sleep, but if it’s an ongoing issue for you, it can cause fatigue, worsen pain, make it difficult to lose weight and worsen general health.

1. Keep your body clock tuned in to the day/night cycle by being outside for at least 15 minutes when the sun is low in the sky in the mornings and afternoons. If you can’t do this (eg shift worker) the herb Chaste Tree will help your sleep.

2. If you feel wide awake at night and tired in the morning, you probably have an altered cortisol rhythm (a sign of excess stress). Use herbs to correct this – Withania, Skullcap and B vitamins in the daytime and a herbal combination called NeuroSom in the evening.

3. Reduce 24 hour hyperarousal, a major cause of insomnia. Make a daily practice of doing a Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise (pick up a copy at Sunshine Health) or get into yoga or meditation. Go to  and click on Dare To Meditate for a simple explanation of what to do.

4. Do physical activity. Lack of activity causes insomnia and studies show that 30 mins of cardio exercise daily improves it.

5. If overweight, get onto a healthy weight loss program (low carb, protein at each meal, healthy oils, detoxify if needed, exercise). See Cameron, Mylinda or Michelle at Sunshine Health for help with this. Being overweight contributes to insomnia and vice versa, so we need to break the vicious cycle.

6. Use minerals to help you sleep. If you get to sleep OK, but wake in the night, have restless or unrefreshing sleep or muscle tension or cramps, you’re probably low in magnesium. See our story on Magnesium. If you have trouble getting to sleep, you may be low in calcium. You need calcium + magnesium in the ratio 2:1 in the evening.

7. Use safe, proven herbs to improve sleep quantity and quality. Valerian, Hops, Passionflower, Kava, Zizyphus and Magnolia at therapeutic doses have been shown to improve sleep. Cameron, Mylinda or Michelle can help you with these. Medications for insomnia often don’t improve sleep quality and have the potential to induce addiction, withdrawal symptoms or rebound insomnia.

8. Develop good ‘Sleep Hygiene’ habits. In the evenings, turn off the TV, computer, mobile phone, dim the lights and wind down. Do quiet, gentle activities like talking, reading or listening to pleasant music. Go to bed when you feel sleepy; avoid pushing past this feeling.

9. Consider Hypnotherapy & NLP (see Mylinda) for help in changing your fears, anxieties and not-so-good sleep patterns.

Using these tips will improve your sleep. If you need more in-depth assistance, make an appointment with Cameron, Mylinda or Michelle at Sunshine Health, phone 5483 7688.


Stressed, tense & tired? U could be low in Magnesium

Magnesium is a key element in our metabolism; it’s involved in over 300 vital enzyme systems throughout the body.  It’s essential for brain activity, detoxification, regulating blood sugar levels and fat burning. It is required to produce energy from food, regulate nerve and muscle activity, keep the heart and arteries healthy, prevent unwanted calcium deposits and strengthen bones.

A natural sedative

magnesium a natural sedativeBecause magnesium is a natural sedative, the more serious the magnesium deficit, the edgier a person may become.   When some people are under mental or physical stress, their bodies excrete more magnesium.  This can worsen the problem because at a time when they need the natural sedative effect of magnesium, it is being eliminated.

Unfortunately, doctors know little about magnesium and people are often treated with drugs when they would respond to correction of magnesium deficiency! Health problems associated with magnesium deficiency include heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, diabetes, kidney stones and osteoporosis.

Causes of magnesium deficiency

As well as stress, many factors in our lifestyle conspire to lowering magnesium levels, eg:

  • Caffeine, sugar, white flour, alcohol
  • Heavy sweating, poor digestion, loose bowel movements
  • Fluid tablets, calcium supplements without magnesium, high dairy intake
  • Frequent use of antibiotics, oral contraceptive, laxatives or synthetic oestrogen

Signs of magnesium deficiency

If you experience some of these you may be deficient:

  • muscle cramps at night in bed or during activity
  • muscle tics or twitches
  • muscle tension that feels better when massaged or rubbed
  • painful muscle spasms
  • throat constriction or difficulty swallowing
  • fatigue, inability to concentrate
  • high blood pressure
  • startle easily, feel anxious or on edge frequently, PMS
  • sensitive to noise
  • low pain tolerance
  • restless sleep, wake in the night, feel tired on waking in morning

Find out if you’re deficient with the questionnaire available at Sunshine Health.

Food sources

We need to eat really well to get enough magnesium from food alone. Good foods include:

  • Dark green leafy vegies, beans, peas
  • Nuts, seeds, legumes
  • Wholemeal sourdough bread
  • Seaweed
  • Rolled oats (soaked), brown rice, wheat germ

Magnesium (Mg) supplementation – buyer beware

It’s been found that around 80% of people are deficient in magnesium. To correct deficiency you need 400 to 1,000 mg of elemental Mg daily (500 mg Mg chelate contains 100 mg of Mg so you’d need at least 4 daily). You may have already recognised that you need Mg and be taking a supplement (well done), but you may not be taking enough! There are many supplements in health shops and chemists stating One-a-Day, which contain impressively high amounts of Mg, but it’s the oxide form, which is  poorly absorbed by many people, and in fact, acts as a laxative in some people.  The best forms of Mg for good absorption are Mg chelate, citrate, phosphate or aspartate.  So always read the label and avoid the oxide.

Guidelines for supplementation

At Sunshine Health, we carry several types of Mg for different needs. Thompsons Organic Magnesium is a reasonably priced tablet with 175 mg of Mg.

For mild stress and muscle twitches you need 2 daily. For tight muscles, cramps, nervous tension, anxiety you’d need 3 daily or Ultra Muscleze as below.

Bioceuticals UltraMuscleze is a practitioner-strength Mg powder with 280 mg per teaspoon. For muscle pain, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, toxicity you need 1 teaspoon twice daily.

For severe deficiency, fibromyalgia, or to build Mg levels quickly, there is a transdermal Magnesium Oil or Gel which is applied to the skin once daily. It can also to be rubbed into areas of muscle spasm, to help relax the muscle, in conjunction with oral supplementation. Mg is a natural anti-inflammatory and the Mg oil can be used on inflamed joints or nerves.

In conclusion

Stop being one of the 80% whose style is being cramped by magnesium deficiency and take some simple action to feel better … call into Sunshine Health, do the questionnaire, get onto a useful supplement, improve your diet a bit and voila! … a new you.