Overbreathing: A recipe for unwellness

Ever find yourself wanting to strangle your partner for snoring? Do you feel like you’re chest breathing when you’re anxious? Do you experience sleep apnoea or sinusitis? Are you the deep loud breather in your yoga class? Do you have a child who suffers from asthma or a constantly blocked nose? Is sighing a regular response to your daily activity? These are all signs that dysfunctional breathing has settled in.

90% of humans are dysfunctional breathers and therefore create a carbon dioxide deficit or habit of overbreathing.

Luckily for us, science has come along to confirm the benefits of yet another yoga technique: when it comes to longevity and wellbeing, actually breathing less, not more, is proving to be more beneficial.

For those of you who haven’t hit the yoga mat yet, Pranayama is one of the 8 limbs of yoga that focuses on the cessation (or slowing down/directing flow of) our breathing. I know when I have done a great yoga practice, because my breathing almost ceases to exist and slows down to a rate of about 5 breaths per minute (it’s normally about 8–12 breaths per minute). It brings a profound state of calm to my mind and leaves me feeling so much less ‘needy’.

I recently attended a course with Canberra’s own breathing educator Tess Graham of breatheability.com. According to studies, we have developed bad breathing habits due to periods of high stress levels, poor posture, mouth breathing, poor nutrition, chronic coughing, overheating and the list goes on. The good news is it’s fairly easy to correct with more awareness and practice.

 

What is normal breathing?

  • Breathe through your nose not your mouth if comfortable (day and night).
  • Have an upright posture to give the diaphragm space to soften and open. The diaphragm under ribs (not belly) has a small movement.
  • Breathe silently in a regular and smooth rhythm.
  • Breaths are soft and gentle, and only deep under strong exertion.

Making small regular changes during the day will set you up for good breathing habits at night and may save your marriage! And by simply retraining yourself to breathe ‘normally’ you will be able to put yourself back to sleep when you wake up at 2 am – what a revelation! You can also reduce muscular tension and stimulate the release of natural antihistamine in spring. It also helps to:

  • reduce sinus congestion
  • avoid snoring
  • cure restless leg syndrome
  • avoid ADHD and sleep apnoea
  • dilate your arteries.

 

Deep yogic breaths: not so yogic after all!

For years, modern yoga has taught us to take deep breaths and blow off our CO2. But has modern yoga forgotten to relate back to traditional texts?

So long as the (breathing) air stays in the body, it is called life. Death consists of passing out of the (breathing) air. It is therefore necessary to retrain the breath. Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Original yoga manuscripts (Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Gheranda Samhita and the Shiva Samhita) do not have any referrals to ‘deep breathing’. They suggest the opposite: to restrain, keep in, calm and hold the breath. Yet many modern yoga texts claim deep breathing, particularly deep exhalations, expel toxins like CO2.

As we move through asanas (yoga postures), and we feel our metabolism demand increase, it makes sense to allow the deeper breath to naturally arise, and let it naturally quieten as a response. It also produces a relaxation response. Synchronising movement and breath brings deeper levels of awareness to our ability to observe the mind during asanas or postures.

You may have heard of many having reversed asthma with the Butekyo breathing technique. Doctor and physiologist Dr Buteyko focused on Hatha yoga and the main Hatha yoga breathing exercise, Pranayama, particularly promoting breathing cessation (under supervision).

Yoga pose is a steady and comfortable position. Yoga pose is mastered by relaxation of effort, lessening the tendency for restless breathing, and promoting an identification of oneself as living within the infinite breath of life. The sage Patanjali

 

CO2 eliminates mental chatter and promotes easier meditation and mindfulness.

Breathing retraining has a strong effect on reducing mental chatter, as well as anxiety levels. Most meditation and mindfulness techniques naturally lead to slower and easier breathing. And remarkably, CO2 is a natural muscle relaxant. Voila!

If you would like help to retrain your breathing, book in for an initial Reflexology Health Insight session where I will check your breathing patterns.

Kendra

Gut Health and The Microbiome

gut health

What is gut health?

Whilst ‘gut health’ is not clearly defined in scientific literature, the term has become an increasingly popular concept in modern medicine and the food industry. Gut health is undoubtedly complex encompassing both the upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts. It is core to overall health and involves five major criterion:

  1. Optimal digestion: normal nutritional status/absorption of food, regular and consistent bowels, and limited bloating/flatulence
  2. Absence of gastrointestinal (GI) illness: no reflux, inflammation, enzyme deficiencies, carbohydrate intolerances, IBD/coeliac, and colorectal/other GI cancers
  3. Stable, resilient, and diverse microbiome: no bacterial overgrowth, normal composition of commensal bacteria, no infections, or antibiotic-associated complications
  4. Systemic health and immune response: normal gut barrier function and immune response/tolerance
  5. Overall well-being: normal quality of life, balanced gut-brain function, and positive gut feeling

 

What is the microbiome?

Do you ever feel alone? Well don’t, because your gut microbiome (also termed microbiota) is home to hundreds of microbial cells (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) that happily coexist in your small and large intestines. These ‘bugs’ are uniquely diverse, have their own DNA, and are susceptible to change depending on one’s diet, environment, medication intake, and more.

The gut microbiome starts evolving from birth with rapid changes taking place in the first two to three years of life. These early changes are predominantly dependent on two things:

  1. Source of dietary intake – breastfeeding/bottle feeding/food
  2. Environmental exposure (including birth delivery)

After three years the infant microbiome becomes the blueprint of the adult microbiome.

Over recent years the gut microbiome has become a hot topic of research, mostly due to the accruing links to a plethora of health conditions. The microbiome can harbor both beneficial and harmful (at varying levels) microbes. Microbes have the ability to use what you consume (food) as a source of fuel and in turn produce certain metabolites such as short chain fatty acids, gases, and vitamins. Short chain fatty acids such as butyrate, propionate, and acetate have particularly key roles in influencing various body systems for e.g., immune, nervous, and cardiovascular.

 

What is a healthy microbiome?

Gut microbiome exploration is an ongoing endeavour. Thus far we only have gained a drop of knowledge when it comes to the sea of microbes within the human gut. What constitutes a healthy microbiome is subjective. One person’s considered ‘healthy’ microbiome may not be healthy for another person. A collective understanding among researchers is that ‘good’ microbes need a good amount of fibre as a fuel source. Increased dietary fibre intake has been long-established as an integral nutrient/ingredient with various health benefits. Hence, it comes to no surprise that our ‘bugs’ love fibre too. Low fibre diets have been linked with an altered gut microbiome composition including a reduction in beneficial bacteria and an increase in the production of not so beneficial metabolites.

 

How do we test the microbiome?

Thanks to rapid advances in microbiome testing technology, testing the microbiome has not only become affordable but also easily accessible. Most companies supply at-home non-invasive testing kits that require a small amount of faecal load. Microbiome testing involves elevated levels of DNA sequencing technology. Your poo has quite the potential; it can tell you a lot about your inner workings, i.e., how your gut microbes may behave, what they love to eat, and ultimately what they can produce. Shotgun metagenomics is top tier when it comes to microbiome analysis followed by meta-transcriptomics and metabolomics:

  • Shotgun metagenomics sequencing: sampling all microbe genes (DNA) (whole-genome) and their potential (species level) – who is there and what they can do
  • Meta-transcriptomic sequencing: sampling of microbes and their functional profile – which genes are collectively expressed under different conditions (i.e., conditions that are present within the host at time of testing) and what they do
  • Metabolomic sequencing: sampling of microbes at specific regions (genus level – e.g., 16s) under different conditions (i.e., conditions present at the time of testing) and their by-products – does not reveal which bacteria produced them, nevertheless a great method of discovering new metabolites

Whilst these tests are not diagnostic per se, they do supply great insight into the community of microbes that exist within you. Each approach in its singular sense provides a substantial amount of information, and a significantly more comprehensive picture when combined. Combined testing is not readily available yet, but it is something to be pursued from both a clinical and research lens.

 

References

Bischoff, S. (2011). ‘Gut health’: a new objective in medicine. BMC Med, 9:24. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-9-24

Cronin, P., Joyce, S., O’Toole, P., & O’Connor, E. (2021). Dietary Fibre Modulates the Gut Microbiota. Nutrients, 13, 1655. doi: 10.3390/nu13051655

The Power of Whole Food Supplements

A large proportion of the Australian population take nutrient supplements with research showing 47% of women and 34% of men reporting that they regularly consume supplements. Supplementation use varies with different populations with the United States, United Kingdom and Denmark being the highest in supplement use, reported at between 35 and 60% of adults. 

There has been much debate over whether synthetic nutrients provide the same benefits as a natural nutrient such as those that are found in whole foods. The recent rise in the interest of supplements that may help to reverse or reduce the risk of disease has led scientists to investigate wholefood supplements and their potential ability to be absorbed better than traditional vitamin and mineral supplements (6).

 

What is meant by “whole food” supplements?

Nutrients (vitamins and minerals) can either come from natural sources or they can be synthesised. Synthetic nutrients are made in a laboratory setting or industrial process and natural nutrients are those found organically in whole foods.

Whole food supplements are typically made with plants that have been concentrated or dehydrated such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, roots, and legumes. 

The important fact to remember about whole food supplements is that they contain “whole” and complex structures that are organically found in foods. This means you are not only consuming a particular vitamin or mineral but also the enzymes, co-enzymes, trace elements and antioxidants that are naturally found together in that plant.

The production method of synthetic nutrients is very different to the way plants and animals naturally create them. This means that even though they may have a similar structure, the body can react differently when ingesting synthetic nutrients. At present, it is still a little unclear how well the body absorbs and uses synthetic nutrients. Some may be more readily absorbed and used than others (7). 

Synthetic versus whole foods- what the research says

Synthetically made nutrients are often produced the way pharmaceuticals are. If there is not enough of the natural enzymes or cofactors in the end-product then the body might not be able to absorb and use the nutrients in that supplement. When we eat real food, we are not eating synthetically made, single nutrients, but instead we ingest an abundance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and co-factors that allow for optimal use by the body.

Recent studies have shown that the natural nutritional state of a plant is believed to be far superior to a synthetic supplement. Evidence is now showing that the best nutrition comes from whole foods; however, when nutritional supplementation is required then whole food nutritional supplements offer a more reliable delivery of nutrients (5). 

In 2014, a review investigated current clinical trials that had compared whole tomatoes with a single nutrient lycopene supplement (lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes) and how each improved the risk factors of people suffering with cardiovascular disease. The research showed that the best approach to improving cardiovascular health should firstly be to consume whole tomato-based foods as they provided more beneficial results than using only lycopene supplementation in this study (1). 

In 2011, researchers set out to compare the bioactivity of broccoli and broccoli containing supplements, specifically in their potential to reduce various forms of cancer. The study used a broccoli supplement that didn’t contain all the enzymes that broccoli in its natural state contains. The study focused on some specific plant chemicals that broccoli contains and found that broccoli as a whole food contained significantly higher levels of these important immune boosting plant chemicals that may help in the prevention of cancer (2). 

Thus, research so far tends to promote whole food sourced products as a more efficient way to deliver health enhancing nutrients to the body.

Choosing the right supplement for you

Choosing high quality supplements can be challenging, especially since there is an abundance of options and that many multivitamin supplements contain chemical preservatives and fillers. Not all supplements are equal and whole food supplements are proving to have a more beneficial therapeutic effect. This is because while synthetically based supplements are made to mimic the same activity of natural nutrients, the body may not be able to absorb or use them in the same way as whole food based, natural supplements (3, 4.)

In exceptional whole food supplements, great care is taken to make sure that the whole foods used in the product are organically grown, are as minimally process as possible, produced at low temperatures (proteins in foods are denatured by high heat levels) and contain the naturally occurring co-nutrients that support maximum absorption, disease prevention and optimal long-term health (5).

References:

1. Burton-Freeman BM & Sesso HD, (2014). Whole Food versus Supplement: Comparing the Clinical Evidence of Tomato Intake and Lycopene Supplementation on Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Advances in Nutrition;5;5,457–485.
2. Clarke J, (2011). Comparison of the response to broccoli sprouts or broccoli supplement consumption in human subjects. The FASEB Journal;25; S1, 234.7.
3. Nutri-Con: The Truth About Vitamins & Supplements. (2006). Retrieved from https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/nutri-con-truth-about-vitamins-supplements
4. Liu, R. H. (2003). Health benefits of fruit and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combinations of phytochemicals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78(3), 517S-520S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/78.3.
5. Rubin, Jordan, (2004). The case for whole food nutritional supplements. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients;247-248, Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 27 Jan. 2022.
6. Burnett AJ, Livingstone KM, Woods, JL & McNaughton SA (2017). Dietary Supplement Use among Australian Adults: Findings from the 2011-2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Nutrients, 9(11), 1248.
7. Yetley EA, (2007). Multivitamin and multimineral dietary supplements: definitions, characterization, bioavailability, and drug interactions. Am J Clin Nutr; 85(1):269S-276S.

Are you Hydrated?

What would you say if I told you that dehydration is the underlying cause of many chronic diseases?

In his book “your body’s many cries for water”, Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, M.D. talks about how his research into the role of water in our body, and how dehydration can lead to many health complications.

There are two terms used for the roles of water in our body; “bound water”, which is water that is involved in chemical reactions, or activities for normal functioning; and “free water”, which is water the body requires for any new/extra functions; such as digestion, sweating, etc.

Do you feel tired without having done a good day’s work? Do you wake up first thing in the morning and don’t feel like getting out of bed? Feeling flushed and irritable? Anxious? Dejected? Depressed? Heavy head? Cravings? These are all signs of dehydration.

Dehydration can cause mineral deficiencies, amino acid deficiencies, and an acidic pH level.

Morning sickness in pregnancy is also a sign of dehydration. Increased water intake in early pregnancy can reduce morning sickness, fluid retention, and the infants grow much better in the intrauterine phase.

Cholesterol is also linked to dehydration. If you do not have sufficient “free water” for digestion, the gastro-intestinal tract will take water from the circulation, and the circulatory system will then replace that water with water from organs and tissue of the body; there is barely enough water to break down the food for absorption. More water is required to filter through the liver, and more is lost in the lungs via respiration. By the time your blood reaches the left side of your heart, it is so acidic that it burns the arteries, causing abrasions and tears. This is where cholesterol comes in; it covers the tears, in order to stop blood secreting through them, and allow it to heal.

Not only is it important to drink enough water daily, but it is also important to correct hydration issues within the body.

The body will dehydrate an area of the body for a number of reasons; to weaken nerve signals and make chronic pain easier to deal with, or to suppress a physical/emotional trauma that the mind/body cannot find a way to overcome. So, whilst you may drink enough water daily, it may not be absorbing into your body sufficiently.

This is where Kinesiology can be beneficial.

Not only will balancing hydration correct a large number of imbalances, it also balances over 90% of the major muscles in the body. Hydration balances allow us to gain access to the physical imbalance, and the emotional stress which the body is holding in these dehydrated areas. Correcting these imbalances will restore the body to optimum hydration levels, and can also alleviate physical symptoms and emotional stress.

The level of hydration during a correction will determine the depth of access the body is willing and able to give to any imbalances. Proper hydration is also important for processing any toxins that may be released during a balance.

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) Explained

Do you want to know more about your body? Are you trying to gain or lose weight? Are you an athlete looking to enhance your performance? Are you trying to recover from an injury or improve your physical health? Maybe you’re a health-conscious individual who would like a way to monitor their wellbeing? A BIA scan might be able to help.

What is Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)?

Have you ever heard of bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA)? If you’ve ever walked around a gym, health clinic or personal training studio before, you may be familiar with a BIA device. They come in different shapes and sizes and have one thing in common: to provide better insight into your overall physical health and body composition. Health professionals around the world commonly use BIA because it is a non-invasive, low cost, fast and reliable approach that provides valuable insights into their client’s general health and wellbeing.

How does BIA work?

Bioelectrical impedance analysis is very similar to standing on a set of scales. In addition to measuring your weight, BIA devices can also take very precise measurements of your body tissue composition by sending a low frequency electrical current around the body. As the current travels around your body, the BIA device constantly measures the resistance of the tissue it is travelling through. For example, the current travels quicker through blood, less quickly through muscle, less quickly through fat and even less quickly again through bone. In less than one minute, the BIA device calculates the composition of your body based on the resistance of the current travelling through your tissues, and then presents this information in a comprehensive, user-friendly report.

What does BIA measure?

BIA assesses a wide range of body composition markers including weight, body mass index, basal metabolic rate, intra and extracellular water, muscle mass, fat mass, skeletal mass, biological age and a range of other useful markers. Not only does a BIA take measurements of the whole body composition, it is also able to provide measurements for specific limbs, which can be very useful, particularly for people looking to optimise their physical functionality. After all of the measurements have been taken, the BIA device sends the data wirelessly to a computer, which is then compiled into a comprehensive report.

How can BIA help me?

Undertaking a BIA is useful for a number of reasons. Firstly, BIA is a great tool for establishing baseline markers. Maybe you are looking to achieve a goal weight (ie. lose weight or put on muscle)? By taking comprehensive baseline measurements, it is easier to track your progress with subsequent BIA scans and to fine-tune your dietary and exercise regimen to optimise results.

Secondly, BIA provides an insight into the composition of your body, allowing for highly individualised dietary and lifestyle recommendations. For example, the BIA can provide insight as to how much fat tissue you have, where it’s distributed throughout your body and whether or not it may be posing a risk to your health.

Thirdly, BIA can be useful in identifying a potential issue before it becomes a problem. If you were to get a BIA every 3-4 months, changes in body composition can be closely monitored. For example, your fat mass might be slowly increasing and your muscle mass might be decreasing over time (which is a risk factor for a number of chronic diseases). A BIA can identify these changes before they become a problem, allowing for fine-tuning of dietary habits and lifestyle practices.

Who can benefit from BIA?

Bioelectrical impedance analysis is a great way to keep track of your general health and wellbeing, and is suitable for a wide range of people including:

  • Anyone wanting to track weight loss or weight gain
  • Athletes looking to optimise their body composition and performance
  • Health-conscious people interested in learning more about their body
  • Older people looking to prevent musculoskeletal problems
  • Anyone wanting to monitor changes in body composition undertaking a particular diet
  • People recovering from an illness or injury

It’s important to note that BIA is not suitable for pregnant women and individuals with electrical implantable devices.

How do I get a BIA analysis done?

All of The Practice Wellbeing Centres around the country (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) use state-of-the-art BIA devices. Book in for a BIA consultation today with one of our student practitioners. Consultations take approximately 20 minutes, which includes a short health assessment, bioelectrical impedance analysis and a BIA report which will be interpreted by the student clinician.