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World Community – Today and Tomorrow

World Community – Today and Tomorrow

I’ve had a surprising number of people request a copy of my service and address from last year, so I’ve decided to make them easily accessible – here’s the first presented as a full text of the service, however you can jump straight to the address here



World Community: Today and Tomorrow

Principle 6: The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all


 Welcome & Opening Words

The first weekend of spring – what a beautiful day to welcome you all here.  If you’ve lived in Queensland any length of time, you’ll know that this is likely to last about… a week?  By the next service, summer may well be in full swing… even if the calendar says otherwise.


Lighting of the chalice:

We light a chalice at every service. This is the one symbol that Unitarian Universalists used world wide. It represents different things for different people: search for truth; community; social justice…

We light this chalice to find inner peace, love for each other, and faith in ourselves.  A reminder to be welcoming to whomever we meet and kind to all living creatures.  I would like to invite Abby to light the chalice today.  We gather around this light of hope as we share this time together.


Song:          #360 Here we have gathered

Here we have gathered, gathered side by side;

circle of kinship, come and step inside!

May all who seek here find a kindly word;

may all who speak here feel they have been heard.

Sing now together this, our hearts’ own song.

Here we have gathered, called to celebrate

days of our lifetime, matters small and great:

we of all ages, women, children, men,

infants and sages, sharing what we can.

Sing now together this, our hearts’ own song.

Life has its battles, sorrows, and regret:

but in the shadows, let us not forget:

we who now gather know each other’s pain;

kindness can heal us: as we give, we gain.

Sing now in friendship this, our hearts’ own song.


For younger members:

In essence, a community is a place where everyone belongs and everyone wants to belong somewhere safe and loving.  Every person you meet wants to belong somewhere, not only to be safe, but to feel needed, wanted and treated fairly.  While everyone likes a little bit of quiet time now and again, in our hearts, nobody really wants to be truly alone – we all want to be part of something special.  A community is a very special thing.  They can be of any size.  Some are small – like a family; some are medium sized – like your school or sports team; and some are big, really big – like the world!  But the most important thing about communities is that there is a place for everyone.

For the story today, I’d like to introduce you to a little dog who’s just looking for his place to belong…


Story & Discussion with children    Mutt Dog


Joys and Concerns

I invite anyone who would like to to come forward and light a candle to honour a special milestone, joy, or sorrow in your life.  I will light a candle for all the unspoken joys and concerns that are still held in our hearts and minds.


Song:          #323 Break not the circle

Break not the circle of enabling love,

where people grow, forgiven and forgiving;

break not that circle, make it wider still,

till it includes, embraces all the living.


Come, wonder at the love that comes to life,

where words of humour are with freedom spoken;

and people keep no score of wrong and guilt,

but will that human bonds remain unbroken.


Join then the movement of the love that frees,

till people of whatever race or nation

will truly be themselves, stand on their feet,

see eye to eye with laughter and elation.



We will now take a minute for quiet reflection and contemplation.  This is an opportunity to centre yourself and either clear your mind for a moment of peace, or focus on whatever is in your heart for a moment of clarity.



A few weeks ago, I was conversing with my brother about how we communicate with those around us, which then turned into a discussion about who it is that we have around us and then HOW they came to be around us.  It was interesting to me that I have a very small, tight circle of people online and a slightly larger circle of people in real life, whereas his was a tiny circle in real life, but a huge circle online.  Both of us are influenced, fuelled and challenged (for better or for worse) by those circles of people, yet we built those circles up in vastly different ways: me, preferring to let my intuition and direct experience with a person shape my circle; him, trusting algorithms to place him in the path of interesting people!  Ultimately, though, each of us has built up our own bespoke communities that fit our needs.

When you hear the word ‘community’, what does it conjure up?  In your minds eye, what do you see?  Most likely – you see people (although some people might see animals first!).

But are there many people… or just a few?

Are they in real life, warm bodies with handshakes and hugs… or virtual, names and photos on a screen with emojis and sarcasm font?

Do they look like you, speak like you, think like you, act like you?

Is there are wide variety of appearances, voices, thoughts or behaviours?

Are they family, friends (also known as the family we get to choose), workmates… perhaps even a congregation?

There is no wrong answer here, as a community can be any of these as long as there is something that ties people together.  Something that brings them together in the first place, but then keeps them coming back.  A community of any sort is what its members make it.

In any community, for it to survive and thrive, what unifies it must be outweighed by what divides it.  Sometimes these divisions can be particularly difficult to deal with and present a particular set of challenges and necessitate specific tools for success.   For the UU communities worldwide, there is such diversity in language, beliefs and individual identity that it becomes essential for members and leaders to assess activities for signs of oppression or discrimination (however unintentional) and to ensure the promotion of inclusivity, so that it can withstand such a high degree of theological diversity.  When this is done, despite this gloriously incredible diversity, individuals are able to come together for safety, support and even to be challenged.

Any community, from the smallest family unit to the largest global network, makes mistakes along the way.  These mistakes, however, are often a cloaked opportunity to learn more about who we are.  As we are exposed to differing views that may well challenge our own, we are forced to scrutinise and assess our own views and perhaps even adjust them.

The idea of accepting ‘the other’ – an idea, a person or belief – when it challenges us has to be understood to be more than an option, but a necessity.  Meeting that challenge does require tolerating a certain amount of discomfort within the heart and mind, but (as with a good massage) discomfort can be transformative.  We grow, eventually being able to view strangers as friends, especially those who might easily be ignored.  Every person has a deep seated, innate need to belong and that sense of belonging is not physical.  It doesn’t come from changing where we live or what we do for a living – it comes from within us as individual and radiates out into the communities we build.

The benefit here is twofold – by expanding ourselves and our comfort zones, we develop new ways of bolstering not only our community, but also ourselves.  By recognising and welcoming ‘the other’ in ourselves, we open the path for true growth and development as individuals, which in turn pours back into and strengthens our communities.

It takes courage to engage and stretch our selves in this way, and mistakes will be made along the way.  There will be doubt and fear.  How do we know that what we are doing is just?  How do we know that our thoughts, actions or beliefs truly are peaceful?  How do we ensure that our daily life moves others towards liberty, rather than further away from it?  These are valid questions and there is no simple definitive answer.  It is easy and often tempting to surround ourselves with those who are already like us and do not challenge us in any way, but to do this would stunt a persons growth – intellectual, moral, spiritual – but like a muscle, these all need to be regularly and gently stretched and challenged to grow and thrive.  Through conversation with others, we may not necessarily directly change either them or ourselves, but we may create the space required to embrace change.  Through regular introspection and self-examination coupled with open communication with ‘the other’, we are granted the opportunity for authentic growth.  As exemplified by the communities my brother and I had created to surround ourselves, the method of communication has changed over recent decades, but the purpose of communication hasn’t.  When we show acceptance, we affirm people as they are.  When we show them encouragement, we help propel them to who they might become.  Equally, when we fully engage with our communities, when we are vulnerable and open with them, we are granted the same gifts in return.  Authentic acceptance is more than mere tolerance – it is more challenging, but the rewards for everyone are far richer.

But let’s look at our community goals – peace, justice and liberty.

As an individual, these seem daunting.  They’re just too big.  Too scary.  Too impossible.  And that’s ok.  The tiny steps of the journey that we take on the way to these goals IS the path to achieving these goals.  A single person taking those steps on their own may achieve some level of peace within themselves, but it may be a lonely, isolated peace.  When they undertake that same journey with the support of their community, in whatever form it may take, they all benefit from the shared experience and the end result is far more than a single person could ever have envisioned.

As we look at the world today, it can be easy to lose hope.  Burning forests.  Mass shootings.  Displaced peoples.  Cruelty, hatred, fear, intolerance – sometimes from those close to us or those in power of us.  It can seem like the goals of peace, justice and liberty are further away than ever before.   However, there IS hope.  Globally, and this may surprise you, we are living in one of the most peaceful and progressive times in human history.

The percentage of people who die violent war-related deaths has plummeted through history and our tolerance for many things that were once acceptable has declined – brutality was an accepted form of amusement, human sacrifice to placate the gods was expected. Bondage and oppression as a means for saving on workforce costs was considered economical and mass killings for political expediency was merely strategic. Brutal persecution and dismemberment as customs of sentence was righteous. Slaying for minor crimes and transgressions was social order. Assassination, massacres, manslaughter and duels were all commonplace. They were all considered acceptable, if not even reasonable courses of action.

Now, these actions are generally denounced around the world. We have entire global organizations devoted to suppressing, staving off, and condemning these sorts of acts.  As a global society, the ability to recognise and respect the experiences of ‘the other’ has been instrumental in reshaping the world.

It may not seem like it, but the world community is forming fast and, more importantly, communicating even faster.  We are sharing views, assistance and resources more than ever before and further than ever before.  We are hearing about events, sometimes even within seconds of their occurrence, on the other side of the world and we are able to take local actions to effect change far away.  Individuals are forming every imaginable type of community to meet their needs and the needs of others.

We speak of justice, liberty and peace for all – these are certainly lofty goals and may well seem unattainable.  Today they are.  But what about tomorrow?  What will you do today to improve the prospects of peace for tomorrow?  What will you do today to ensure justice is served tomorrow?  What will you do today to protect liberty for tomorrow?  It’s easy to hope that someone else or some other group will step in to fix things, but remember that all groups, all communities, are made up of individuals who all contribute something, no matter how small.  Alone, their contribution may seem paltry or insignificant.  Alone and individual may feel powerless.  But when surrounded by their community, when bolstered by their peers, they are powerful.  Just as a single candle can seem inadequate and ineffectual, many candles can light the darkest cavern.  The power of community is far, far greater than the sum of its parts.

How we share our thoughts and actions is incredibly important.  When we are working towards a common goal, we share not for the fame or fortune it brings us, but to be an example to others.  In the end, does it matter whether what brings us into any particular community is a personal intuition or an algorithm, as long as we can look forward towards the future with a vision for a better tomorrow for all.

Reflection and discussion on the topic


Song:          #378-379

Let those who live in every land declare that fear and war are done –

Joined by the labour of their hands, in love and understanding, one.


Ours be the poems of all tongues, all things of loveliness and worth.

All arts, all ages, and all songs, one life, one beauty on the earth.


Final thoughts

Before we finish up, I would like to leave you with the words of Edward Everett Hale as they speak to the special nature of community and why every member matters:

I am only one, but still I am one.

I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.

And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.


Extinguish Chalice

It is now time to extinguish the chalice.  I would like to invite Abby to put out the flame today.

Let us remember that we extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth, the warmth of community or the fire of commitment.

These we carry in our hearts.




Sore throat tips for winter

Sore throat tips for winter

Sore throats can happen at any time of year, but tend to be more common in winter as a combination of dry cool air and spending more time crowded indoors with other people (and sharing their germs!).

 When looking at sore throats it’s important to identify the cause of the pain – the most common causes are viral or bacterial infections, or environmental and allergic reactions.  These can be generally managed quite easily, but there can be more serious causes as well that may require more than basic treatment.

 In terms of symptomatic relief, the classics are classics for a reason – they are generally soothing, coat the throat to provide a protective barrier against damage and infection, and some substances have anti-inflammatory or anti-microbial effects.  Starting with the most basic of remedies, gargling with warm salty water is both anti-microbial and soothing, while warm thick drinks containing honey and lemon coat the throat and fight infections.  Good quality manuka honey has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, but needs to be taken regularly at a high concentration for proper therapeutic effect – regular honey just won’t cut it.  Ginger infusions are pleasantly warming and combine very well with both lemon and honey for a soothing, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial drink.  Ideally, these would be sipped regularly while the drink is warm to maintain a protective layer, or (in the case of salt water) can be gargled regularly before and after meals.  

When it comes to herbs, there are a number of options to consider, but as always it’s incredibly important to check herb-drug interactions, be aware of allergies and only use high quality herbal extracts.  The following have a good scientific backing for their medicinal properties: 

  • Marshmallow extract is usually prepared in glycerine rather than alcohol, meaning is it sweet, thick and provides anti-inflammatory effect to the respiratory and digestive tract – and is pleasant to take! 
  • Sage and liorice root also have anti-inflammatory properties (although liorice can loosen chest congestion that will need to be coughed up and out)
  • Echinacea extract is an immune modulator that can assist the body in dealing with infections. 
  • Clove extract has an anaesthetic effect and can be taken as a spray or lozenge to numb the throat and reduce pain, although should be used sparingly as it’s easy to cause accidental mouth damage when it’s all numb!

Most adults should be able to tolerate the above remedies without issues, however precautions should be taken with children and only given under professional guidance.  Honey (especially raw honey) should be completely avoided in children under 1, and lozenges should be avoided in children under 4 as they are a choking hazard.  When dispensed by a professional, herbs will be dosed appropriately for the childs’ age and weight.  Liorice is fine for children in small doses, but higher doses can cause headaches, high blood pressure and altered electrolytes and should be avoided in people with high blood pressure.

 From an environmental point of view, using a humidifier and avoiding cold air can make a big difference – as does avoiding sick people and crowded places to avoid spreading infections.  It’s important to maintain fluid intake to keep respiratory tissues moist from the inside and to avoid allergic triggers that would worsen symptoms.  Keeping the throat and chest area warm is generally beneficial and while some people with a sore throat find ice-cream soothing due to its numbing and ‘icing’ effect, I would generally discourage this as the cold can aggravate it further.  Eating soft foods are generally well tolerated and are less likely to irritate inflamed tissue than, say, pineapple fritters!

 Learning to cough ‘silently’ (a technique used by speech pathologists to minimise harm to the vocal cords) can also be useful to avoiding irritating an already sore and tender throat.  The technique involves tilting the head forward after a deep exhalation and then swallowing to clear mucous and phlegm without the harsh cough.

Lastly, symptomatic relief is all well and good, but a viral or bacterial infection will have a different progression and possible consequences than a physiological cause like silent reflux or oesophageal nodules. A sore throat that doesn’t resolve within a reasonable time (usually a few days to a few weeks) and is accompanied by other symptoms should trigger further investigation to rule out longer term issues.


5 Ways to Boost Your Circulation This Winter

5 Ways to Boost Your Circulation This Winter

As the cooler weather sets in, even cooler hands and feet start being noticed when shaking hands or hugging – or even climbing into bed! Apart from the usual thick socks, rubbing hands together vigorously or holding hot cups of tea, what else can you do to boost your circulation and warm up those icy extremities?

1. Stop Smoking

It’s never too late to quit! Every day that you don’t smoke, every part of your body benefits – including your red blood cells, blood vessels, lungs and heart, all of which contribute to how you react to cold. Even if you’ve been smoking for years, the negative effects can be reversed and you start to experience benefits from as little as 20 minutes after you stop smoking as heart rate and blood pressure drop and return to normal! In only 12 hours, the body clears excess carbon monoxide, which blocks your lungs and heart from carrying oxygen, increasing your whole body’s oxygen supply. One day after quitting, these increased oxygen levels and lower blood pressure make physical activity and exercise easier, which in turn improve blood flow. Lung start to heal after a month and will have significantly healed by nine months – most people notice their ability to breathe, exercise and feel good improved from about three months after quitting.

2. Iron

People over 65 are more likely to have iron-poor diets, be taking blood thinners or have kidney problems resulting in trouble making red blood cells or processing protein rich foods. Even if you’re not pumping iron at the gym each day, you should at least make sure your dietary intake is adequate. Ideally, consume plenty of iron rich foods every day – and not just red meat! Eat a variety of iron rich foods such as legumes (including lentils, chickpeas and beans), tofu and tempeh, nuts and seeds, whole-grains and iron-fortified cereals, and leafy green veggies such as spinach, silverbeet, asparagus and broccoli or dried fruit such as prunes and raisins. The fruit and vegetables will also help supply Vitamin C, which is necessary to properly absorb iron from food. If you struggle with solid foods, then an iron supplement may be a great alternative during the cold season when your body needs it more. Look for an easily absorbable form that does not cause constipation, and take 2 hours before or after other medications (especially thyroid medications, antibiotics, some antidepressant drugs, calcium or fibre supplements).

3. Herbs

There are a number of herbs that improve circulation, but which herb is right for you depends on what you need to address. Some herbs works as blood thinners to keep blood flowing smoothly [such as ginger (Zingiber officinale) or willow bark (Salix alba)], decreasing venous pooling [such as bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) or butchers’ broom (Ruscus aculeatus)], others relax and stabilise blood vessels to allow more blood through [such as hawthorn (Crataegus spp), Ginkgo biloba, or cayenne (Capsicum annuum)]. ‘Warming’ herbs [such as ginger or black pepper (Piper nigrum)] are well known for bringing blood to the capillaries and can be taken internally as teas or tonics, or externally as creams or balms. Herbs rich in antioxidants and other active phytochemicals [such as turmeric (Curcuma longa) and gotu kola (Centella asiatica)] protect blood vessels from damage, strengthen connective tissue and decrease inflammation.

4. Exercise

Everyone benefits from daily gentle exercise! A daily walk or cycle outside in the sunshine (ideally early morning or late afternoon and with someone else, because you’re more likely to reach your goals, rather than make excuses, if you’ve got support) boosts circulation by raising your heart rate for a short time and making muscles work to keep them strong and effective. For those with joint problems, an indoor heated pool is perfect – water walking is a great gentle resistance exercise that gets the heart going, but while completely supporting your body and minimising falls risks. If you have limited mobility, then chair yoga, air boxing or using a small stationary pedaller can keep your blood moving. Even sitting down to watch TV can be turned in to an active opportunity to improve circulation – start by air boxing or pedalling during one advertisement (usually 20-30sec), then over time slowly build to as many ads as you can!

5. Sunshine

Exercise outside has more than one benefit – apart from warming up freezing hands and noses, a session in the sun produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential component of healthy heart tissue, blood vessels, bones and hormones, including repair of damaged blood vessels! Vit D deficiency is considered to be a global problem, with between 50% and 100% of older adults low in Vit D (depending on location, season, age bracket and background). The most common causes are reduced production due to aging and environmental factors, but reduced intake of food sources contributes as well. You can make most of your required Vit D by exposing your skin to 15-30min of bright morning or late afternoon sunshine every day – midday sunshine may be tolerable in winter, but should be avoided in Australian summers due to extreme heat. You should aim to eat a daily portion of Vit D rich foods, such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), beef liver, eggs or fortified dairy, juice or cereals, or consider taking a supplement during times when getting sunshine is harder than usual – Vit D3 (or cholecalciferol) is the same form that your body makes.

Remember, before starting any new exercise regime, herbs or supplements, check with your qualified health practitioner to maximise health benefits and minimise risks, especially if you are taking any medication or are recovering from injury or illness.

Can you eat your way to a better brain?

Can you eat your way to a better brain?

I often talk about the connection between the body and the mind, but what about the MIND diet?

The MIND diet is the happy hybrid of two other great diets – the Mediterranean and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. As you might have guessed, the MIND diet is heavy on vegetables and wholefoods, but it does go further to emphasise specific brain-healthy foods groups.

So far the evidence points to it assisting in slowing down age related negative effects on brain health.  This is particularly important given dementia is the second leading cause of death of women in Australia (behind heart disease).  While dementia is often thought of as a memory disorder, it’s more accurate to define it as a fatal brain failure – a terminal disease that can cause physical death.

In research studies, those who closely followed the diet had a 53% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and a brain age 7.5 years younger than those who didn’t follow the principles.  Even those moderately following the diet benefited with a 35% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk compared with those who followed it loosely or not at all.

So what should you be eating??

Eat a rainbow across the week

No, this doesn’t mean you should only eat red things on Monday, yellow things on Wednesday, blue things on Friday and violet things on Sunday!

A central aspect of the MIND diet is its emphasis on a variety of healthy foods, as well as overall diet quality, rather than overly focusing on individual nutrients.  Aim for a wide variety of foods that includes colourful fruit, vegetables and legumes, as well as different types of wholegrain cereals, protein and plant-based oils.  If you’re comfortable with the Mediterranean diet, the MIND diet is just a few small inclusions away!

Green means go!

As always, green leafy vegetables are the superstars because they are nutritional goldmines. High in healthy-brain nutrients such as folate and flavonoids, as well as essential vitamins and minerals, eating several serves per day can slow your cognitive decline by as much as 11 years when compared to those who eat very little.

Berry nice…

If you want to really nourish your brain, berries – especially blueberries – are your low sugar, high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory winners.  Blueberries in particular are rich in polyphenols, plant compounds linked with beneficial changes for ageing.  Fresh or frozen makes no difference – aim to have a serve each day.  If blueberries are not an option for you, then plums, prunes, blackcurrants and black grapes (noticing a pattern here?) are also high in polyphenols.

Something fishy?

The fats you eat can affect brain health, given your brain is approximately 60% fat!  Eating daily serves of healthy fats, such as omega-3s found in oily fish, can help to limit inflammation and oxidation.  These are vital aspects of brain protection given oxidation plays a significant part in age-related cognitive decline.

Over two decades of research points out that Omega-3s (especially DHA) may help delay cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease. Eating more fish helped in slowing down age-related memory decline with even one fish meal per week lower dementia risk, however eating fish 2-3 times per week showed even better risk reduction.

Not all fish are created equal though – the best for your brain are the ones with the highest amounts of omega-3 fats.  Aim to eat sardines, mackerel, herring, salmon, trout, tuna and calamari.

Vegetarians or vegans aren’t left out either, as linseeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds are valuable plant sources of omega-3 fats.

What else is different?

The MIND diet focuses heavily on a variety of vegetables, nuts, beans, wholegrains, poultry, olive oil and red wine (in moderation!) because of the valuable nutrients in each of them.

It’s all about balance…

While foods that nourish the brain have beneficial effects, some foods can have the opposite effect when eaten too often.   Treats can be part of your life, but they shouldn’t be the core of your diet!

A diet high in processed foods (such as biscuits, snack foods, sweets, fried foods and processed meats) and even obesity appear to be a contributing factors to the development of age-related mental impairment.  While the mechanism behind the link is still largely unknown, future research will likely focus on the impact of insulin resistance, imbalanced gut bacteria and inflammation.

If you’re already following eating patterns that minimise heart disease risk, these may also protect against dementia development, especially Alzheimer’s disease.  A good rule of thumb is if it’s good for your heart, there’s a good chance it will be good for your brain!


Ready to start?

Want a taste of what you could be enjoying on the MIND diet?  Try these out!


  • Breakfast booster (GF) – Mix 2tbs seeds, ½ tsp cinnamon, 2tbs chopped walnuts and ½ cup blueberries. Add to morning yoghurt or porridge or yoghurt for flavour and brain boost.


  • Dried fruit and seed balls (GF, WF, DF, Veg/Vegan) – In a food processor mix ingredients until mixture starts to come together. Roll into balls, then roll in desiccated coconut to coat.  These high-fibre treats will help satisfy your chocolate cravings and are made with anti-inflammatory ingredients.
    • Date & ginger – 1 cup macadamia nuts, 1-2cm fresh ginger, ½ cup dates, ½ dried figs, ¼ cup cacao, ½ cup linseeds
    • Prune & almond – 1 cup soft pitted prunes, 1 cup almonds, ¼ cup cacao, ¼ cup goji berries, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ cup sesame seeds.


  • Warm rainbow salad – This nutritionally fulfilling and colourful Mediterranean salad lets you swap ingredients according to taste or sensitivities. Toss together 2 potatoes (steamed & cubed), 1 can beans (cannellini, borlotti or butter beans), 2 handfuls leafy greens (baby spinach or rocket or even wild greens, if your garden has them!), 1 cup each of red and green salad vegetables (cherry tomatoes halved, red capsicum and red onion; sliced fennel and cucumber), some protein (1 tin mackerel in olive oil or 2 boiled eggs), ¼ cup black olives, 1-2 cloves minced garlic, large handful of chopped fresh herbs (dill, coriander or flat-leaf parsley), 30-50g goat’s or sheep’s feta, crumbled.  Dress with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and apple cider or wine vinegar.
5 Easy Health Changes That Will Have You Feeling Better Immediately!

5 Easy Health Changes That Will Have You Feeling Better Immediately!

Life is busy. Time is short. How are we supposed to look after ourselves when we’re looking after everyone else?

Everyone knows I have five basic rules to good health, but how can you incorporate them into your life?

Here are five ways to include positive steps into your life without thinking too much about it.

1. Eat Mindfully

This means paying active attention to your food with all five senses and noticing everything about it, before you even take your first bite! To start with, don’t eat while watching TV or reading as your attention is focused on something else. It will help you feel fuller and more satisfied with your meal earlier than when paying attention to something else, potentially stopping the urge to binge or consume excess food without even noticing.

2. Introduce Incidental Exercise

While not everyone can get off a stop early from the bus or train, take the stairs instead of the lift, or walk down to the corner shop instead of being tempted to drive, there are ways to include additional exercise in your day. It’s recommended that we exercise for at least half an hour every day, but it doesn’t have to be all at once. Doing small chunks of exercise might be easier and has been found to be just as beneficial to health.

3. Go On A Tech Fast

Taking temporary a time out from social media and constant availability to everyone via your mobile phone can help you slow down and relax. You can stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, give work a break (except when you’re at work, of course!) and be more mindfully  present with your family or loved ones.

4. Give Up Sugar

Just for a little while! Ok, so everyone is doing is and you’re probably sick of your neighbour/colleague/friend from school/sister-in-law telling you how sugar is bad and fruit causes all kinds of problems.  In all honestly, there’s likely no nutritionist who will tell you that free sugar (the extra that is added to drinks, coffee, tea, cakes, biscuits and sweets) is necessary for your health. Giving it up for a few weeks can help your skin and help you make better food choices.  If you quit for at least three weeks (ideally two months), you’ll help reset your sense of taste and need less of it in the future to reach the same level of satiety – win, win!

5. Set An Alarm

A regular bedtime can help you create strong and healthy sleep patterns.  Sleep is your scheduled maintenance and downtime – it’s absolutely essential for physical and mental health!  It’s too easy to lose track of time in the evenings and before you know it it’s nearly midnight (or later!). Why not set an alarm for sleep time, just like you do for wake time?

The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet.

The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet.

What exactly is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet is not a diet of vegetables alone. It is a diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, which may exclude or minimize animal products, including chicken, dairy products and eggs. The aim is to also exclude foods made from refined flour and sugar, and certain refined vegetable oils.

Be inspired by the delicious foods you can enjoy!  Many of these can be included as ingredients in familiar dishes you may want to prepare, such as pizza, mashed potatoes and burrito bases.

  • Fruit: mangoes, bananas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries, plums, lemons etc
  • Vegetables: lettuce, dark green veggie varieties, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, cabbage etc
  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, yams, yucca, squash, peas, sweet potatoes, peas, green beans
  • Whole grains: millet, barley, brown rice, whole wheat products, oats, whole grain cereals
  • Legumes: All varieties of beans such as black beans, lima beans, kidney beans and cannellini beans, as well as legumes like chickpeas and lentils.

Iodized salt may be added to your food as it is a great source of iodine to help maintain a healthy thyroid, although excessive sodium intake should be avoided.

The basis of a plant-based diet

Starch-based foods and fruit form the basis of a whole-food plant-based diet. Leafy greens play an important part in the diet as they are very nutritious, but they are low in calories and may not provide enough calories, resulting in decreased energy levels and leave you feeling hungry.  When combined with starch-based foods (such as corn, peas, potatoes, etc) however, they provide fantastic all-round nourishment and keep the energy pumping.

The idea of a plant-based diet is not to eat one food for a single nutrient, such as oranges for vitamin C, but rather s a package of the foods that you enjoy, which contain all the essential nutrients to be of enormous benefit to your general health.

Health benefits of a plant based diet

  • A plant-based diet often lowers blood pressure because of the potassium- rich legumes and nuts
  • Plants contain no cholesterol (although some is required for hormone production, too much can be detrimental to your health)
  • The fibre in plants helps control high blood sugar by slowing down the absorption of sugars into the blood stream
  • A low fat, plant-based diet significantly lowers your risk of developing a variety of cancers
  • Weight management is easier when you eat wholesome, unrefined foods, lots of fibre, take in natural vitamins and minerals, while avoiding animal fats and sugary, floury foods
  • Research has shown that replacing saturated animal fats with mono-unsaturated fats (found in nuts, avocados and olive oil) substantially lowers your risk of cardiovascular and heart disease
  • Sugary and fatty foods contribute to systemic inflammation and can lead to other problems like constipation. The fibre in a plant based diet will also help keep your colon healthy.

The best way to start a plant-based diet

Changing to a vegetarian or almost vegan-type diet is not always easy, especially if you have not been a healthy eater in the pasts. Whether you want to embrace a fully plant-based diet, or perhaps keep some animal products as part of your diet is a decision that only you can make. But there is no doubt that reducing your meat intake, and following a plant diet is one of the best things you can do for your health.

If you are finding it difficult to immediately flip over to a new diet, here are some tips to help you on the way.

  • Begin with including legumes in your regular diet, as they are generally feel-good foods, will make you feel full and give you energy
  • You can also substitute one or two refined items with a plant-based food in a meal each day
  • Gradually exclude red meat from your diet.
  • If retaining chicken and fish in your diet, make sure that the chicken is skinless and opt for healthy fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna or mackerel for maximum omega 3 content.
  • Try replacing one or two days of your week’s meals with a full vegetarian meal.

Backed by science

The health benefits of a plant-based diet are supported by scientific research. Cardiac disease is rated as the biggest single cause of death in first world nations, mainly due to poor lifestyle habits and unhealthy diets.  Embracing a healthy diet can help lower your risk of a future heart attack and cardiovascular disease.


Spotlight on: Moringa

Spotlight on: Moringa

Have you heard of Moringa before?  I’ve had a few patients bring it up recently and thought I’d share a little information about it.

Moringa (Moringa oleifera) is also known as the Ben Oil Tree, Drumstick Tree, or Indian Horseradish. It is a fast growing tree typically cultivated in India, tropical Asia, Africa and Latin America, yielding long seed pods that resemble drumsticks, hence the name Drumstick Tree.

Moringa has long been used in eastern medicine to treat many ailments such as low energy, adrenal fatigue and helps to naturally support the liver. As a dietary supplement, moringa is high in protein, Vitamins A, B and C and contains minerals such as calcium and iron.

It is also rich in flavonoids, a class of compounds found in plants that contribute to essential plant functions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Moringa products have antibiotic, antitrypanosomal, hypotensive, antispasmodic, antiulcer, anti-inflammatory, hypo-cholesterolemic, and hypoglycemic properties”. In essence, this makes moringa a wonderful food addition that is nutritious and medicinal.

Moringa is particularly mentioned in Ayurvedic treatments as the most nutritious tree in India. In traditional Indian Ayurvedic treatments, moringa is used as a natural and safe detox, often used as a regular tonic of the body. Apart from wellness from within, moringa leaves and barks can be processed into a balm for external application, alleviating joint pains and rheumatism as the plant has a mild analgesic effect.

In western herbal medicine, moringa products come in various forms, with the most convenient and widely-available form being powder ground from dried leaves or taken as a supplement in pill form.

Some of the health benefits of moringa include:

  1. Nutrient-packed – vitamins A, C, and E; calcium; potassium; and protein.
  2. Reduces free radicals, molecules that cause oxidative stress and cell damage
  3. Reduces inflammation – helping to prevent chronic diseases like diabetes II, respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and obesity
  4. Reduces diabetes symptoms – reducing lipid and glucose levels
  5. Cardioprotective – prevents plaque formation and reduces cholesterol levels
  6. Hepatoprotective – with high concentrations of polyphenols in the liver
  7. Antimicrobial and antibacterial properties to fight infections

The best way to take moringa depends of what suits your needs and lifestyle best.

In Tablet Form

Due to different manufacturing styles and ways to process the plant, the dosage can be varied. Always check the label for recommended dosage given they have different concentration of active ingredients. Most manufacturers will prepare their formula for easy dosage of a single tablet per day.

In Powder Form

Moringa leaf powder is typically sold in packets or jars. For the most effective health benefits, it’s best taken raw, as heat may destroy some of the useful and healthful compounds. The general suggestion is to start off slow and add more powder day by day. Start off with a quarter teaspoon added to your smoothies, iced tea, water or sprinkled on your breakfast such as yoghurt or overnight chia pudding and slowly build up to 1 tablespoons a day.

Seeds and Leaves

You might come across roasted whole Moringa seeds or even whole leaves. These are usually hard to come by so if you want to use these, it’s best to check your local health food store, Asian markets or Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. The seeds are typically bitter and astringent though; how much you use will depend on personal taste. To use Moringa seeds, remove the shell and chew five to ten seeds a day if possible, or grind them into powder and sprinkle on your food.

When it comes to cooking moringa leaves and seeds, the spices used in Indian cooking, such as cumin and turmeric, complement the anti-inflammatory effect of moringa. If eaten raw, start off with a quarter cup of leaves per day, and build up to half cup a day.


No matter how you choose to have your moringa for its therapeutic effect the key is moderation and consuming it in line with you and your body. For some that means being able to handle more at first, for you it might be to only take a quarter of the recommended dosage.

It’s important to remember that moringa is ultimately not medication, but a nutrient-rich food that supports a healthy diet and lifestyle. It’s not meant to be a food that gives you everything you need or a cure for all your ailments.

If you are pregnant, never consume moringa tree bark or root as it could cause early labour or uterine contractions. If you are menstruating, it may cause excessive bleeding.

As always, consult your healthcare professional before incorporating moringa into your daily diet.

Breakfast for Busy Women – Why It’s Important Not to Skip

Breakfast for Busy Women – Why It’s Important Not to Skip

The alarm goes off and you are rushing around preparing for a busy day ahead.  Whether you have children to get ready for school or papers to read for a morning meeting, by the time you’ve watched the news, brushed your teeth and sorted your make-up, you are already exhausted – sound familiar?

It’s no wonder so many busy women end up skipping breakfast and just grabbing an expensive coffee which is drunk in the car on the way, but there are many reasons why this habit is bad for our health.

Breakfast Provides Many Benefits to Our Health and Wellbeing

When you wake up in the morning, your body has had no fuel since your evening meal the night before – potentially 12 hours beforehand. Think about the words – “break” & “fast” – literally the meal which breaks the fast you have been on while sleeping. You need the energy to kick-start your system and get your body ready for the day ahead.

According to nutritionists, a healthy breakfast should give you around 30% of your daily calorie requirements. It should provide you with energy, protein, calcium, iron, fibre and B vitamins which are all needed to get you through the day. If your body doesn’t receive these first thing, studies have shown your body is less effective at taking them on during the rest of the day.

 How Eating Breakfast Helps You Lose Weight

If you skip breakfast you are not providing your body with what it needs for energy – you will soon feel hungry and are more likely to then reach for high sugar, high fat snacks to compensate. People who skip breakfast tend to end up reaching for the snacks around 10am which doesn’t help if you are trying to lose weight.

Ideally, breakfast needs to be eaten between 45 minutes and two hours of waking up. This timing gives you the chance to put the needed fuel into your body to make sure your metabolism is balanced throughout the day. It is also the premium time for your body to absorb any of the carbohydrates you consume, which helps balance out your insulin levels. All of these aspects mean breakfast really sets your body up for the day and can help curb those mid-morning sugar cravings.

A recent study published in Obesity showed that people who not only ate breakfast, but made it their largest meal, lost almost 8kg over a three month period. The other people who took part in the study ate the same calories during the day, but most of these for their evening meal, lost only around 3kg.

Other Health Benefits Beyond Weight Loss

Breakfast brings a large number of health benefits, besides weight loss – providing more reasons why it really is important not to skip this particular meal.

  • Brain Function – Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast do better at school as they are better able to concentrate and improve their behaviour. Breakfast helps to establish good levels of glucose which are necessary for brain function. This helps to improve memory, concentration and mood and also lowers stress levels. We all know that feeling of increased irritability that rises up through being hungry. Breakfast can help us avoid becoming hangry!
  • Energy Supply – Breakfast is the first supply of energy your body receives after you wake up. A nutritious breakfast will give you all the energy you need to take you through to lunchtime and should be around 300 calories (as a general rule, though this may differ based on your individual caloric needs). If you think about the energy you burn, you need the most in the morning and you need the least in the evening when you are more likely to be relaxing and winding down before resting for the night. Make breakfast your energy supply priority!
  • Diabetes – A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that not eating breakfast could actually increase the risk of developing diabetes for women. The study showed that women who did eat breakfast between 0-6 times a week were at far higher risk of developing the disease than those who ate it daily.

Fab Ideas for Quick and Nutritious Breakfasts for Busy Women

So it’s all very well telling you why you should eat breakfast and why it’s good for you, but realistically you probably knew most of those things already and yet here we are!  Knowing you need to eat breakfast doesn’t mean you suddenly gain time in the morning to start preparing and enjoying amazing morning meals, does it? That’s why I have come up with some tips for tasty breakfasts that are super quick to make.

  • Instant Porridge – There are many instant porridge options around now – all you need to do is add water and microwave for a few minutes and then you have a healthy breakfast. Avoid the ones with added sugar and flavours to keep the calories down, but a plain version provides an easy breakfast virtually instantly and you can add fruit such as berries or coconut flakes to change the flavour quickly and easily.
  • Greek-Style Yoghurt – Go for natural plain Greek-style yoghurt and add in fresh fruit for a nutritious, quick and healthy breakfast on the run. Again, this only takes a minute or so to prepare and can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing.  Sprinkle over some muesli for crunch and you’re setting yourself up for a good day!
  • Boiled Eggs and Fruit – The combination of a piece of fruit and some boiled eggs creates a very portable balanced breakfast providing protein, carbohydrates, fibre and vitamins. What can be quicker than just peeling a pre-boiled egg and a piece of fruit and eating them straight away?
  • Smoothies – Where a solid morning meal is just not going to happen, a smoothie may be a better option.  It can contain anything you like in an easy to consume and portable format that will provide your body with a good start to the day.  Adding fruit, greens, spices, protein powder or even compounded nutritional powders can make such a difference to your health.  Make sure you avoid the sneaky sugar filled flavoured powders as these will increase your calorie intake while not necessarily being nutritious. Check the nutrition panel before adding to your morning smoothie.

For many women a busy lifestyle means rushing in the morning and skipping breakfast is a common bad habit easily developed.  Breakfast can make a big difference to our health and weight and there are many options which are quick and easy to make, so no more excuses!

10 Ways to Kick Stress!

10 Ways to Kick Stress!

When we are stressed it’s quite easy to develop negative thinking patterns as we become frustrated by our challenges and increasing feelings of being overwhelmed. This negative outlook then makes it even harder for us to manage those challenges and move forward and break through the stress cycle.

Practicing positive thinking helps to focus on our strengths and accomplishments, which increases happiness and motivation. This, in turn, allows us to spend more time making progress, and less time feeling down and stuck. The following tips provide practical suggestions that you can use to help you shift into more positive thinking patterns:

  1. Take Good Care of Yourself

It’s much easier to be positive when you are eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest.  Easier said than done, but still important to say it!

  1. Remind Yourself of the Things You Are Grateful For

Stresses and challenges don’t seem quite as bad when you are constantly reminding yourself of the things that are right in life. Taking just 60 seconds a day to stop and appreciate the good things will make a huge difference.

  1. Look for the Proof Instead of Making Assumptions

A fear of not being liked or accepted sometimes leads us to assume that we know what others are thinking, but our fears are usually not reality. If you have a fear that a friend or family member’s bad mood is due to something you did, or that your co-workers are secretly gossiping about you when you turn your back, speak up and ask them. Don’t waste time worrying that you did something wrong unless you have proof that there is something to worry about.

  1. Refrain from Using Absolutes

Have you ever told a partner “You’re ALWAYS late!” or complained to a friend “You NEVER call me!”? Thinking and speaking in absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘never’ makes the situation seem worse than it is and programs your brain into believing that certain people are incapable of delivering.

  1. Detach From Negative Thoughts

Your thoughts can’t hold any power over you if you don’t judge them. If you notice yourself having a negative thought, detach from it, witness it, and don’t follow it.

  1. Squash the “ANTs”

In his book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” Dr. Daniel Amen talks about “ANTs” – Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the unhelpful thoughts that are usually reactionary, like “Those people are laughing, they must be talking about me,” or “The boss wants to see me? It must be bad!” When you notice these thoughts, realise that they are nothing more than ANTs and squash them!

  1. Practice Lovin’, Touchin’ & Squeezin’ (with consent!)

You don’t have to be an expert to know the benefits of a good hug. Positive physical contact with friends, loved ones, and even pets, is an instant pick me-up. One research study on this subject had a waitress touch some of her customers on the arm as she handed them their checks. She received higher tips from these customers than from the ones she didn’t touch!

  1. Increase Your Social Activity

By increasing social activity, you decrease loneliness. Surround yourself with healthy, happy people, and their positive energy will affect you in a positive way!

  1. Volunteer for an Organization or Help Another Person

Everyone feels good after helping. You can volunteer your time, your money, your knowledge or your resources. The more good you put out into the world, the more you will receive in return.

  1. Use Pattern Interrupts to Combat Rumination

If you find yourself ruminating, a great way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern and force yourself to do something completely different. Rumination is like hyper-focus on something negative. It’s never productive, because it’s not rational or solution-oriented, it’s just excessive worry and stress. Try changing your physical environment – go for a walk or sit outside. You could also call a friend, pick up a book, or turn on some music.

It’s important to understand the signs of stress and react with a positive way of handling it such as these 10 tips. The key to busting stress is making sure that you look after YOU. As your happiness levels increase, your stress levels decrease. Have a look at your work life, your personal life and social life to see if there are any areas you can create more happiness. You might be surprised on what you find.

If you feel that you need a little more of a helping hand and support in implementing these tips, then seeing a qualified integrative naturopath and therapist is a great start to making the small changes that can have huge positive impacts.

Does Good Health Begin with Gut-Health?

Does Good Health Begin with Gut-Health?

What Is Gut-Health?
There has been lots of talk recently about what has become known as “gut-health.” The Johns Hopkins Medical Center, one of the most well-respected hospitals and Medical Schools in the United States, notes there is a good reason for this. Hidden within the walls of your digestive system is what is known as “your second brain” and this “brain in your gut” is changing the way that we look at the links between mood, digestion, health and even the way that we think.

Does Disease Begin with Gut-Health?
There’s no simple answer to this one. Not all diseases start in the gut, such as genetic or inherited diseases, acquired infections and trauma based disorders. But, there is evidence that many of chronic metabolic disorders and mental health conditions do begin in the gut, or are at least heavily influences by gut health. We can help prevent these diseases by following some easy steps.

Step 1: Know What Second Brain Is and Why It Matters
This “little brain” is called the “enteric nervous system” or ENS and it comprises of two thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells that line your GI tract from your esophagus to your rectum. The role of the ENS is to control digestion, including swallowing, releasing enzymes that help break food down, and control of blood flow to immediate tissues which aids with both nutrient absorption and elimination. The ENS communicates with our brain and body surprisingly effectively.

When you have an unhealthy gut the symptoms may manifest in other parts of your body. It’s your body trying to tell you that something is wrong or out of balance and needs attention.

Studies have found that increasing your gut-health can lead to improvements in:
• Immune function – 80% of our immune system is located in our guts
• Brain function
• Symptoms of disproportional anger, sadness, anxiety and depression
• Obesity
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Allergies
• Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

How Is This Even Possible?
The ENS may ‘sense’ things that our cerebral brain can’t. Evidence has been found that when the GI tract is irritated it sends signals to the central nervous system (CNS), which can trigger our mood and ultimately affect it. Considering that between 30%-40% of the population have bowel problems of some kind and a high percentage of these individuals develop depression and/or anxiety, it’s reasonable to consider a possible connection.

Our bodies are filled with bacteria – good and bad, depending on whether they’re where they’re supposed to be in the right numbers. There are more bacteria in a human body than there are cells and there are an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms living in our bowels alone.  The key here is to have more good than bad bacteria in your gut.

Probiotics help us do things like:
• Digest food;
• Absorb nutrients;
• Break down medications; and
• Kill some of the bad bacteria that lead to negative symptoms.

Step 2: Get More Probiotics
There are quite a few ways to get good gut bacteria, but one of the easiest is to take a supplement called a probiotic. There are many different kinds and brands and talking to your qualified naturopath will ensure you get the the most appropriate one for your needs.

There are foods that are also high in probiotics, including:
• Kefir
• Yoghurt
• Tempeh
• Miso
• Sauerkraut
• Apple Cider Vinegar
• Kimchi
• Kombucha

Getting more probiotics into your system is one of the best ways that to improve your gut-health!

Step 3: Play in The Dirt!
This is true both literally and figuratively. Gardening is good for getting outside, exercise, and putting your hands in soil introduces your body to the microorganisms that are found on the plants and in the ground.
In a more figurative way, and leading on from last months post, avoid over-cleaning with antimicrobial substances.  There has been a recent push to reduce the amount of antimicrobial agents in cleaning and personal care products because both good and the bad are affected.  Pets are another way to get dirtier – in a good way!  Studies have shown that children who grow up with a dog have both a lower risk of allergies and a generally healthier immune system.  Dog companionship also helps in other ways by increasing exercise and outdoor time and lowering stress.

Bonus Step: More Probiotics, What Else?
Now we get to the ones we hate to be told because they’re painfully obvious.  Stress Less. Laugh More. Stress, especially long-term stress, not only affects our gut bacteria, but also affects the production of hormones and neurochemicals. In long-term stress these chemicals and hormones can change permanently (unless you specifically work to change them back). Long-term stress may also lead to high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), stomach ulcers, IBD, IBS, and potentially food allergies/intolerances.

Laughter really is the best medicine. It helps to reduce stress and floods your body with happy hormones and neurochemicals. This study even compared healthy people and those with atopic dermatitis (a condition often associated with gut bacteria imbalances) and asked participants watch funny movies daily for one week. In only one week, the patients’ gut microbes had changed and more resembled that of the healthy participants!

It may well be that a large part of maintaining good health is maintaining good gut-health. There are many ways that you can do this, however, some of the easiest changes that you can make include:
• Probiotics – through supplements and food
• Laughter
• Stress management, including exercise and time outdoors
• Avoiding over-cleaning and overuse of antimicrobials