The mysterious overlappings of life and work

As a naturopath it makes sense that my work would influence my life. Through these years of study and practice I have learned many valuable lessons about how to live my life to encourage health rather than disease. I love that a big part of my work is to share this with my patients and to empower them to make small changes that I know over time will lead to huge benefits.

I was originally drawn to study and practice naturopathy because many of the professional roles I found myself in made it difficult to make health an ongoing priority in my life. I got to a point where I was done with sacrificing my health for my work.

Now I have found that my work as a practitioner has become relevant to my own life in more ways than I ever expected.

My husband and I have had difficulties with our fertility for the last few years and this has been the most challenging experience of my life so far. I understand the processes and problems of infertility in more detail than is probably helpful for someone going through it themselves..! A big challenge has been stepping back and accepting that it is not up to me to ‘fix it’ for myself. I have sought support from a team of brilliant practitioners and this has helped. A lot.

But I can never really let go of my need to understand why. This drives me through every day of my own health journey and it absolutely drives me in my work with patients. I want to help people learn why, and how, and what can be done. But I also recognise that the answers to these questions are not always available to us when we want them. I trust that in the future we will be able to look back and realise what this was all about. We will realise what we learned in the process, what we never would have learned if we hadn’t gone through it.

Until then, I am going to keep asking why, and how, and what can be done..                   But I will also remember to let it all go once in a while.

 

… and there goes 2014!

Dear 2014, thanks for being excellent.

I have had the great pleasure to work with so many wonderful people this year. Thank you to all of my patients, students and colleagues for the challenges, successes and constant learning! Special thanks to my colleague Lara Briden for sharing so much wisdom.

Personally there has been a lot happening this year. 2014 saw me get married, travel to Mexico and New York for the first time, move house and support my husband in his change of career and new business. So much action has been very satisfying (and a little exhausting!).

I am left thinking about balance and restoration of energetic reserves to face another big year… or maybe not. Maybe 2015 will be a more moderate, settled time which will require a softened approach, a loosening of the drive to create and change to allow a different kind of growth. I am excited to find out :)

Wrapping up 2013

As I  wrap up my last clinic day for 2013 I can’t help but reflect on an incredible year of naturopathic practice.

All intentions for regular posts went out the window (clearly :) ) with the challenges and excitement of each new patient and the inevitable work load of a small business. This has been a year of great learning (as they all seem to be) and a number of themes have emerged:

  • The contraceptive pill is offered with ease and removed with difficulty. I have worked with a number of women of all ages this year who have had far from straight forward experiences coming off the pill. This is not the case for everyone, of course,  and thankfully I feel well placed as a naturopath to support these transitions. I do feel that women need to be better informed about the end game of their time on the pill, preferably when making the decision to start.
  • Sometimes the diagnosis is misleading. My work with women who have been diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) has really highlighted the flaws in this diagnosis. PCOS is not a great name for what is really going on and there are many underlying, modifiable factors that have nothing to do with cysts. I am excited to see that treatment can bring real change to symptoms.
  • Health is dynamic. It is dawning on me that the quest for balance and ‘perfect’ symptom-free health is unrealistic. Not because we are all doomed to be unwell, but because our bodies are dynamic, reactive and changeable. There are cycles that drive us through the day, month and year and through our lifespan. This is part of the magic of being alive. The goal of any practitioner can be to support this constant change with a flexible approach.
  • Symptoms are our bodies way of telling us.. something. My own health journey this year has opened my eyes to the role of symptoms and the importance of allowing the space to listen to the message that is behind those symptoms. Do you need to slow down? Do you need to get up and move? Do you need to open your eyes, or your heart to something bigger?

I have been honoured to play a role in the health and lives of so many incredible people this year. My life has been changed by you as well, so thank you.

Nourishing traditions

2013 has been the year of getting back to my roots. By this I mean reconnecting with family, deepening my community in Sydney and establishing a routine of work and life that involves some new hobbies and grounding rituals. I will tell the story of my edible gardening adventures in another post – now I want to focus on a wonderful book that it took me far too long to read and a simple, delicious food that has become a nourishing staple.

Nourishing traditions by Sally Fallon will be familiar to anyone who is interested in the Weston A Price Foundation and their approach to food. Their website has lots of information about the health benefits of traditional diets as well as guidelines for avoiding diet-related chronic disease.

They advocate the proper preparation of grains and legumes to increase digestibility, the consumption of healthy fats (with an interesting slant on what these are considered to be) and the preparation of fermented dairy and vegetable foods to add natural probiotics and digestion boosting enzymes to your daily meals.

One of the simplest fermented recipes to try is Sauerkraut or pickled cabbage. I have always felt an affinity with this juicy, tangy side dish thanks to my Polish roots and it was so exciting to have a go at making my own.

The king of Sauerkraut – beautiful organic cabbage

The recipe is pretty simple:

1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded

1 tablespoon sea salt

4 tablespoons whey (optional – extra salt can be used instead)

1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional – but delicious)

Whey from strained yoghurt aids the lacto-fermentation process

The fermentation process is known as lacto-fermentation and involves the breakdown of carbohydrates by bacteria making them more digestible. Whey aids this process by providing probiotic bacteria to help encourage a healthy balance in your Sauerkraut and also adds a tangy flavour to the finished batch.

I got my whey by straining some plain organic yoghurt through a clean tea towel over a colander over night in the fridge. The whey can be kept in the fridge for up a few weeks for use in other fermented recipes and the solids are called yoghurt cheese and can be used in the same way as cream cheese (and is absolutely delicious!)

Pounding the ingredients releases juices and encourages fermentation

The method is simple and quite therapeutic!

Mix all your ingredients in a big sturdy bowl and grab something solid with which to pound. I use an ice cream scoop, I have seen others suggest a potato masher. The idea is to pound the cabbage until it has reduced in volume and release lots of juices. This might take 15-30 mins with breaks, depending on your tool and strength. Then pack it all into a clean jar, pressing down firmly and pouring in all the juices. You need a one inch gap at the top of your jar to allow for expansion (heed this warning – it will expand). Make sure that the cabbage is pretty well covered by its liquids to avoid mould forming.

My finished jar of Sauerkraut with not quite enough of a gap left at the top..

I left my jar in a room temperature cupboard for 3 days, checking daily to watch as bubbles formed and then liquid expanded. One day I opened the jar and released a build up of gas (apparently this is called ‘burping’). I tasted it after the third day and it was tangy but still crunchy (it seems the salt contributes to this, according to this great website).

At that point I put it in the fridge. And spent the next month enjoying colourful breakfasts and delicious salads. Sauerkraut can be eaten daily, can be added as a condiment to any meal and is a brilliant way to boost your digestion and nutrition. The flavour continued to develop over time and I enjoyed every mouthful!

A colourful breakfast - rye toast with yoghurt cheese and sauerkraut

For more information about the Weston A Price Foundation you can have a look here.

Any questions about this recipe or the benefits of fermented foods, feel free to email me at sgnaturopath@gmail.com

 

New!

I’ve finally got a new picture to add to my ‘About’ page!  Thanks to my man behind the lens for putting up with me being an uncomfortable model.  I have also put up the link to my new clinic in North Sydney.  It is a wonderfully soothing place to practice and the tea cupboard is always well stocked.  I’ll share some photos soon.

Spring in Sydney

Happy Spring!  It has been a big two months for me, getting back in the swing of Sydney. There have been hugs, tears, and time reconnecting with family and friends.  Inspired by our little village in north London, I am building a community around our new home on the northside.  You can find me working here, exercising here, and hopefully back in clinic very soon.  The gorgeous Sydney weather is inspiring new detox diet ideas which I will be putting together into a spring wellness program.  Stay tuned!

Home

When you fly from one side of the world to another it is always a shock to the system!  It is lovely to arrive for the end of winter, the crisp air is like an echo of our first month in London, like we have come full circle.  The distance from there to here and then to now seems vast.  For the last 8 months I have been able to hold my home at arms length and bring into focus the things that really matter.  I feel so lucky to be able to come back here with this fresh perspective on life, work and what makes me happy.

London Permaculture festival

It has been nearly 7 months and we are preparing to head home to Australia.  I have been working through a list of last minute London must-dos, like lunch in Brixton and visiting the Chelsea Physic Garden.  Last weekend I took the opportunity to visit the London Permaculture festival, a day long event filled with friendly faces and informative sessions. We have been doing some reading about permaculture whilst we have been here, ironic I know considering the idea was born in our home land!   The festival was a nice first connection with the permaculture community and I came away really inspired!

The first talk I wandered into was by Matt Morton from Oxford, introducing his research into the concept of a city block as a potential farming space, where individual residents come together to share land and/or resources to provide food for the block community.  A great idea in theory, faced with lots of difficulties in practice and raising interesting ideas around the way we perceive our usable space, often growing ornamental gardens rather than food gardens.

The edible landscape idea was continued by Pam Warhurst from Todmorden, a small town in northern England, who has pioneered a concept called Incredible Edible Todmorden.  She and her ever growing team of volunteers have gradually filled their town with edible gardens, making use of public spaces that are otherwise bare or ornamental, and building a strong community around growing food and sharing knowledge.  They have encouraged schools, police and fire services, health workers, residents of housing estates and local business people to get involved in community gardens and make real food a priority.  There are now cities all around the world who have taken up the same goal and the town has become a popular tourist destination.

The point that Pam made at the end of sharing the evolution of this project with us is that it all began with a simple idea and a small action and, most importantly, it started a conversation.  That’s what I got from attending the festival, my first taste of being part of conversations around permaculture and food growing.  To be continued when we get home to Australia!

The roots of Herbalism: A workshop with Penelope Ody

I feel very fortunate to be spending this time in the UK.  On various adventures outside London I have now seen for myself the majesty of the Lake District, the un-mistakeable English-ness of the Yorkshire Dales, and northern Wales in all its glory.  These areas are amongst countless other twists and turns of the British landscape, all with deep connections to the history of their culture.  Time after time I have been impressed with the way the past is cherished and shared through local exhibits, National Trust properties, or by keeping alive a traditional practice like dry-stone walling and thus preserving the landscape.

A goal for my time whilst living here has been to connect with the history of herbal medicine and bring alive the theory that was introduced during my herbalism studies in Australia.  Last week I took the opportunity to visit Walnut Cottage, the Hampshire herb garden of Penelope Ody, renowned herbal practitioner and author, by taking part in a day long workshop offered on her website.  The workshop, Leechbooks and Wort Cunning, discussed myths, legends, and traditional uses of plants that we still use medicinally today, whilst tracing the evolution of herbal medicine through the Druids, Saxons, Greek and Roman influences, and Medieval Christianity.  We were a small group which allowed for lively discussion and shared excitement, especially when we got to tour the herb garden and collect cuttings!

In the lovely herb garden at Walnut Cottage

Penelope Ody gives us a tour of her garden

We were casting ourselves back into the minds of our fore-mothers and fathers and regarding the plants with a deeper, more superstitious and magical significance.  We learnt that a popular use for herbs was to make them into an amulet that would bring the wearer luck or protection, depending on which plants were selected.

The cuttings for my herbal amulet

I collected cuttings of Bistort, Clover, Fennel, Rosemary and Walnut for good luck, courage, strength, improved mental powers and protection from illness and evil (covering all bases then).  I added cardamom pods for peaceful thoughts.  We also collected nine different cuttings from sacred plants such as rose, elder and mugwort to make a midsummer bouquet to be dried and hung in our homes.

My mid-summer bouquet

One of the treats of the day for me, aside from the delicious home cooked lunch, was getting to rifle through Penny’s amazing collection of old herbal books. One in particular,  The Leech Book of Bald, is the oldest surviving medical book in England.  In old English laece or leech means healer and this book was compiled by a monk named Bald during the 9th century.  We chose a traditional recipe, a cough syrup, from this ancient text and gave it a go.  The recipe stated: ‘Against a cough and narrowness boil sage and fennel in sweetened ale and sip it hot; do likewise as often as may be needed’.  The result tasted quite pleasant and the sensation after drinking was a soothing warmth in the throat.  These are herbs that we still use medicinally for coughs and congestion today, probably due in part to old references like this.

Herbal amulet, bouquet and medieval throat tonic

Now all that remains is to keep my amulet close and enjoy luck, health and an absence of evil!