Iron deficiency anaemia… Why iron supplementation isn’t the answer and why 1 in 5 have stored iron overload causing tissue damage and early aging

Iron deficiency anaemia… Why iron supplementation isn’t the answer and why 1 in 5 have stored iron overload causing tissue damage and early aging

Iron is one of the most abundant minerals on earth and present in many foods, both animal and plant based.  If this mineral is so abundant, why are there so many people that are showing signs of anaemia even though they are supplementing? Perhaps its iron deficiency anaemia is actually anaemia though chronic inflammation or a bioavailable copper issue, I’ll explain this further down the article and why iron supplementation may not be the right way to fix symptoms of anaemia.

On the other side of the equation, 1 in 5 men and postmenopausal women have excessive ferritin levels (tissue stored iron). These high levels can contribute to a range of detrimental health conditions including cancer, erectile dysfunction, diabetes, advanced aging, low testosterone, kidney disease, liver disease and many other conditions.

People with ferritin levels above 100 ug/L should consider donating blood to reduce their stored and oxidised iron levels.

The function of Iron

In humans, Iron has a number of roles.

These include;
Oxygen Transportation – the most well-known purpose of iron, iron forms part of the protein haemoglobin that carries oxygen from the lungs throughout the body via our red blood cells. Haemoglobin accounts for up to 60% of the body’s iron

Myoglobin – Iron is required for the formation of Myoglobin. Myoglobin assists with the storing of oxygen in muscle cells, it provides the red colour in muscles.

Immunity – Poor immunity is associated with low iron as well as excess iron. Iron is required to allow the immune response of the body to function efficiently. Our immune system stops invading microbes further expressing through depriving them of iron through an immune defence substance known as lactoferrin, made in breast milk and our intestines.

Enzymes – Enzymes are plentiful in our system and involved in a multitude of chemical reactions. Iron is required for a number of enzymatic reactions that drive the cells and produce energy.

What is the optimal Iron Level?

There are varying schools of thought around the amount of iron we require. As detailed above, iron is crucial to our health and wellbeing. Dr Mercola outlines in an article on elevated iron levels that Ferritin levels should be between 20 and 80ug/L with the optimal range between 40 and 60 ug/L.

Ferritin is our stored iron level and those with levels of over 100ug/L are at risk of having iron overload symptoms and causing damage to their body. Some people have a condition known as hemochromatosis, this condition causes the storage of excess iron, but many without this condition have accumulated far too much iron. and are having a silent and often untreated underlying root cause .

Just like in nature, iron rusts due to oxidisation, in our body iron also oxidises, causing destruction and oxidation. This iron excess accelerates aging and tissue damage that can lead to a range of conditions such as cancers, heart disease, diabetes, bacterial and viral infections, liver disease and many more.

Ferritin levels of over 100ug/L should be reduced to avoid chronic disease and tissue damage. Many doctors will be happy to see ferritin much higher than 100ug/L, do your research and see why this is slowly killing you.

Some of you may have your ferritin within this ideal range but have been told to supplement or are experiencing anaemia symptoms such as lethargy, poor memory and concentration, shortness of breath on exertion, pale skin, dizziness etc.

Perhaps the answer lies in the way that our body utilises iron and transports it along with the way it interacts with other minerals such as copper. More about iron and copper dysregulation below.

So with all this Iron around, why am I anaemic?

This is a really good question and one that requires an approach of reducing chronic inflammation and balancing the minerals of the body.

Iron supplementation is normally not the answer and will only lead to more oxidised iron in our system and further iron accumulation in the liver.

True iron deficiency anaemia isn’t very common in the western world with those most at risk during pregnancy or those on long term poorly maintained vegetarian diets.

We need to look at why the iron in the body is not being utilised properly and other minerals that are lacking such as magnesium and bioavailable copper. As Iron accumulates over time, magnesium in our system reduces. More Iron oxide is produced further increasing the rate of aging and catabolism, and reducing energy through less ATP output.

Supplementing magnesium is crucial for a number of reasons including to allow enzyme pathways to function properly and help regulate calcium and vitamin D and other minerals.

Without bioavailable copper, iron will not be converted from the ferric form to the ferrous form properly and inhibit the production of haemoglobin. Therefore iron CANNOT be absorbed without bioavailable copper.

Copper imbalance is more common in women and normally the reason why iron anaemia is diagnosed as the symptoms of copper anaemia are exactly the same. High estrogen has an affinity to high bio-unavailable copper.

Copper dysregulation will lower ferritin levels as seen in blood tests. Even copper toxic people that have high stored copper in their liver, brain and kidneys are unable to make the iron bioavailable.

Furthermore, when the body has an infection, or is chronically inflamed due to a long term condition, it draws the iron in to the liver to starve the infections and releases copper into the blood from the liver to fight the infection. This can explain why anaemia type symptoms are experienced with chronic infection and inflammation.

In addition, when ceruloplasmin is low, the copper is not transported into the blood efficiently to kill the virus or pathogen further explaining why those with low bioavailable copper are so susceptible to infection and viral outbreaks.

The secret to copper availability sits with a copper transport protein known as ceruloplasmin. Ceruloplasmin ensures Copper is transported properly so proteins can be attached to iron and be able to be utilised properly.

How to increase Ceruloplasmin and help correct anaemia

Ceruloplasmin can be tricky to increase, a proper functioning liver and adrenal glands are required. Many hypothyroid patients are also deficient in bioavailable copper.  Adequate ceruloplasmin levels help to balance the iron/copper dysregulation and recommended serum ceruloplasmin levels should be 35-40 mg/dL.  Ceruloplasmin requires retinol, whole food vitamin C and copper to be produced.

There are also a number of factors that can reduce ceruloplasmin including supplementing iron, calcium, ascorbic acid (synthetic vit C), high dose zinc supplementation, excess stress and GMO foods. Often a full mineral balancing program is required.

Steps to increase Ceruloplasmin

– Consume cod liver oil to increase retinol in the liver, 1 tbsp daily

– Supplementation with magnesium to support stress, adrenal and enzyme reactions, Dr Carolyn Dean, author of the Magnesium Miracle recommends around 10mg/kg daily. Look for a magnesium glycinate or malate for best absorption that won’t interfere with ceruloplasmin production.

– Consume wholefood vitamin C as a source of copper, 400-800mg/daily (acerola berries, camu camu etc)

– Supplement Biotin (B7- 500-1000mcg) and riboflavin-5-phosphate (Active B2 – 25-50mg) to regulate iron and copper in the liver, (there are a small number of multi B products that contain a range of B vitamins and don’t have iron, calcium or vitamin D in their ingredients)

– Intake Boron to assist with ceruloplasmin production (prunes, apples, chickpeas, avocado, pears, almonds and carrots are all good sources)

– A paleo type diet with adequate protein and healthy fats and plentiful fruits and vegetables is best suited

– Support thyroid health and assess iodine status do see if supplementation is required, more on thyroid health can be read on my root cause of thyroid disorders blog.

Iron Overload

Believe it or not excess iron overload is more common than true iron deficiency anaemia. As mentioned earlier, those at greatest risk are adult males and post-menopausal women.

After childhood, adults accumulate approximately 1mg of excess iron per day that is predominantly stored in the liver. A 40 year old male will have twice that of a female due to the female’s menstruation.

Symptoms of iron overload usually appear in men aged over 40 years old and later in females that are post-menopausal. Many males much younger than forty have also been shown to have excessive ferritin stores in the high 100’s or more.

Iron is accumulated through the diet. Excessive read meat consumption and the consumption of iron fortified foods increases iron intake. Regular alcohol use also increases the storage of ferritin in the liver. From this alone you can see why many young Aussie males have high ferritin levels.

Excess stored ferritin causes testosterone to decline, as well as reduces thyroxin levels in the thyroid, insulin in the pancreas and hormones in the adrenal and pituitary gland to decline, not to mention again all the chronic disease states that high ferritin contributes to.

Giving blood is the easiest way to lower your ferritin stores, one whole blood donation of around 470ml will on average lower your ferritin by 30ug/L. The Red Cross donor centres in Australia allow eligible donors to donate this amount every three months.

Other ways to lower your stored iron levels is by reducing your consumption of red meat, avoiding cast iron pans, eating rice bran (a natural iron chelator) and avoiding iron fortified foods (mostly commercial wheat and cereal products). The iron fortified in foods in non-organic and foreign to the body and should be avoided. Many of the “popular” cereals and breads contain high levels of fortified iron.

Mineral Balancing

There are many misleading indications of anaemia and a range of minerals that require balancing to correct dysfunction. Clinically, we commonly use both blood tests and hair tissue mineral analysis to evaluate patients and provide recommendations to balance the body chemistry and reverse unwanted symptoms.

We use wholefood based recommendations along with targeted mineral therapy as required.

The Naturopath Life offer free 10 minute initial phone consults to discuss your health goals and assess your requirements.

Bookings can be made at by clicking the BOOK NOW button on the top right of the page.

Do you have a high copper to zinc ratio?

Do you have a high copper to zinc ratio?

Is your Anxiety or PMS caused by high Copper to zinc ratio?

Copper and zinc are two important minerals in our body and required for a multitude of functions and processes. Zinc (Zn) deficiency and copper (Cu) excess are common clinical scenarios in both Australia and worldwide causing a high copper to zinc ratio.

A high Copper to Zinc ratio (Cu/Zn) can cause a range of detrimental health effects including growth and mental abnormalities, increased age degeneration, contribute toward cancer progression and increase oxidative stress and cardiovascular disease risks.

Both copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) are antagonistic to each other, meaning the more of one element you retain the less of the other you will have in your body. The ratio between copper and zinc is a fine balance and one that is commonly being tipped toward copper in modern society to the detriment of our health.

Copper Excess

Excess copper is far more common that Cu deficiency in Australia. Highly farmed lands are often high in Cu and low in Zn, water pipes, drinking water, pesticide residue and Cu added to animal feedlots are all forms of exposure that over time artificially increase our levels of this mineral.

On the other hand, Zn is estimated to be deficient in over 50% of the population despite it being supposedly available in many foods. Again, poor farming methods and low quality food, nutrient imbalances with high Cu, low stomach acid reducing the adsorption of Zn and metabolic processes that use up our Zn stores leaving us low are all common reasons many of us are Zn deficient.

Physical low Zn signs include slow healing wounds, dry and poor quality skin, white spots on finger nails, poor smell and taste and an intolerance to loud sounds.

Symptoms of High Copper and low Zinc

• Anxiety, panic attacks, general inner tension
• Despair and depression
• Fatigue
• Hypothyroid symptoms (cold hands and feet, brain fog, dry skin)
• Overly sensitive, obsessive thinking
• insomnia, interrupted sleep
• Fluctuating blood sugar causing cravings
• Mood swings, Paranoia
• Constipation
• Racing heart / palpitations
• Adverse reaction to vitamins and minerals ( due to copper dumping from the supplements )
• Poor attention span / spacey feeling
• Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, overeating)
• Yeast infections (candida and fungus)
• Cramping and body aches

Conditions associated with high Copper to Zinc ratio

Excess Copper is associated with a range of mental and behavioural disorders, it can contribute to the symptoms of depression, panic attacks, anxiety, fearfulness, excessive anger and schizophrenia.

Other conditions associated with excess copper include premenstrual syndrome (PMS), gallstones, viral infections, scoliosis, yeast and fungus overgrowth. Viral, yeast and fungal infections all thrive in a high Cu and low Zn environment. Viral infections lower a person’s metabolic rate promoting the retention of copper.

A low zinc level is involved with sleep disturbances, depression and other mood disorders. Zinc is required in both the production of melatonin and serotonin. Without adequate zinc we cannot create sufficient levels of these to allow for restful sleep and a well-balanced stable mood. A low level of zinc is also associated with various skin conditions, sickle cell anaemia, diabetes and anorexia.

In relation to PMS, as the copper levels rise within the body so does estrogen. Low levels of Zn cause imbalances with progesterone, testosterone and further compound the increase in estrogen that Cu causes.

Pyrrole disorder is a common condition that highlights many of the mood related symptoms outlined above. Pyrrole disorder causes a deficiency of both Zn and B6, another vitamin crucial in neurotransmitter support. Pyrrole disorder sufferers almost always have excess Cu and require ongoing Zn and B6 supplementation. It is estimated at least 10% of children have pyrrole disorder and as high as 30-40% of the population that suffers from mental disorders.

We regularly deal with clients with Pyrrole disorder and others than have elevated Cu levels. More information on pyrrole disorder and a symptom checklist, please follow this link.

Studies – Behavioural Disorders in Children

A number of studies have been performed on kids with elevated Cu levels and their mood, attention and learning ability. One study focused on a group of 49 young children with an average age of 10.

The study found that the children with aggressive behavioural disorders all had a high Cu/Zn ratio when compared to a control group of similar aged children without behavioural disorders.

The study also found that those children with the most violent and disruptive behavioural patterns had the highest Cu/Zn ratios in the group. (1)

Furthermore, four separate outcome studies were conducted where nutrient therapy was administered to children with behavioural disorders. Biochemical nutrient therapy focuses on restoring nutritional balance with vitamins, minerals and amino acids such as zinc, vitamin B6, magnesium, methionine and vitamins C and E.

The four outcome studies found that out of the 207 participants, 88% of the people reported a reduced frequency of destructive behaviour and 53% of these had totally eliminated their destructive behaviours. (2)

In addition, a high Cu/Zn ratio was found to be linked to heavy metal accumulation and found to be a possible biomarker in those with autism spectrum disorder. When zinc levels are depressed, opportunistic heavy metals accumulate in the brain and body causing a wide range of adverse symptoms. (3)

Studies – Advanced Aging and Degenerative disease

A study was conducted on 81 healthy and 62 unwell individuals in their 90’s who were affected by chronic degenerative disease. The purpose was to assess the effect of a high Cu/Zn ratio on aging and age related degenerative disease by measuring the blood content of copper and zinc. The serum Cu/Zn ratio were found to be all significantly higher in the elderly with chronic degenerative disease over the elderly without.

The study concluded that there is a strict relationship between copper and zinc and the systemic oxidation and ageing of the body. Furthermore, it was suggested that a high Cu/Zn ratio be a useful predictive biomarker for poor health in the elderly. (4)

Another study also measured the plasma Cu/Zn ratio and measured various inflammatory markers of 498 people aged between 20 and 60. Subjects with cardiovascular disease all had higher plasma Cu/Zn ratios than those without, mainly due to increased plasma Cu.

In other subjects, most of the age related health decline appeared to be from a progressive decline in plasma Zn levels. The study highlights the importance of the levels of zinc in the body and the detrimental health effects when the Cu/Zn ratio is high. (5)

The role of both zinc and copper are of the utmost importance. Zinc is essential for healthy immune function, the reproductive system, normal growth and development and a range of other functions. It is also a major mineral for hormone production and is a copper antagonist.

Copper is required for a healthy nervous system, bones, joints, skin, blood vessels, mood regulation and myelin sheath formation. When levels become too high, particularly when zinc is low, toxic effects on the body can be observed.

Zinc is commonly low when copper is high as copper has a strong antagonistic effect on zinc. This imbalance appears to play a contributing role in many mental diseases including schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, ADD, as well as many other degenerative diseases related to oxidative stress including advanced ageing and cardiovascular disease.

Cancer formation can be found within studied patients that had high Cu/Zn ratios, again suggesting the oxidative and biochemical disruption high Cu/Zn has on the body.

Functional Testing

If some of the above symptoms resonate with you of your family members, it would be wise to have your Cu and Zn levels tested. Common blood test result ranges that are considered ok are not sufficient to go by, the amount of Cu in relation to zinc and ceruloplasmin is required to be calculated. Ceruloplasmin, a copper transport protein, should also be tested at the same time that Cu and Zn blood levels are taken to able to calculate the amount of unbound copper in the system.

We also commonly use a hair mineral analysis or other spectrometry scan to assist in giving a full mineral profile and a longer term picture as mineral levels are transient in the blood. It would be wise to work with a functional practitioner who understands this imbalance, knows the particulars of pyrrole disorder, excess copper syndrome, the consequences of copper dumping and can correctly interpret your blood and hair results.

We offer free complimentary 10 minute phone consult to all new clients that would like to discuss their health goals or concerns and we are well versed in treating the effects of high copper.

My full critical analysis paper on the effects of a high Cu/Zn ratio that was published and presented at the Western Australian Symposium of Neuroscience, held by Curtin University in June 2017 can be found here on the Naturopath Life website.


1. Walsh W. Elevated Blood Copper/Zinc Ratios in Assaultive Young Males [Internet]. 1st ed. 1996 [cited 15 November 2016]. Available from: 11. Walsh W. Reduced violent behavior following biochemical therapy [Internet]
2. Walsh Institute. 2016 [cited 15 November 2016]. Available from: 12
3. The plasma zinc/serum copper ratio as a biomarker in children with autism spectrum disorders: Biomarkers: Vol 14, No 3 [Internet]. 2016 [cited 15 November 2016]. Available from:
4. Copper/zinc ratio and systemic oxidant load: effect of aging and aging-related degenerative diseases [Internet]. 2016 [cited 15 November 2016]. Available from:
5. Malavolta M, Giacconi R, Piacenza F, Santarelli L, Cipriano C, Costarelli L et al. Plasma copper/zinc ratio: an inflammatory/nutritional biomarker as predictor of all-cause mortality in elderly population. 2016. Available from :

7 ways to overcome Adrenal Fatigue

7 ways to overcome Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal Fatigue is an endocrine disorder that effects millions of people worldwide and without guidance it can be difficult to overcome. It is a condition that slowly creeps up on us as the additional stresses accumulate and take their toll. I’m not just talking about the stress most of us generally think of such as work or family pressures, these obviously play a key part too, but there are many other stressors that contribute to our overall stress picture that are often overlooked.

Poor eating habits, processed white flour and sugar products, smoking, excess alcohol and coffee, lack of nutritious food, wound healing, emotional upsets, allergies, underlying viral infections, environmental toxins, financial pressures, lack of relaxation, fear and anxiety, negative beliefs and doing the daily grind in a job we hate are all things that add to our stress load and put pressure on the adrenal glands.

Adrenal fatigue can hit at any time and can slowly creep up on us, other times it comes upon us after a major traumatic event such as a loss of a loved one, car accident, major relationship breakup, redundancy etc. Another common cause that is often missed is the presence of a chronic infection or virus.

Many people live with chronic infections and viruses every day and have no idea that these are a common cause of seemingly unrelated illness such as adrenal fatigue and thyroid conditions. I talk more about this is another blog Root causes of Thyroid Disease. Respiratory and sinus infections are common in people suffering from adrenal fatigue as are other more stealth type infections such as Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Lyme disease, parasites and yeast.

4 Stages of Adrenal Fatigue

There are four main stages of adrenal fatigue, many of us are already in stage one or two and may not even know it and just put up with the general fatigue as an aging or overworked consequence. Did you feel this tired 5 years ago even though you did a lot more and went out a lot more?

Stage 1 –Fight of flight

The first stage of adrenal fatigue is where stressors begin to build up and your body is alarmed by bombardment of stress, your body starts to react strongly by producing anti-stress hormones such as cortisol. At this stage, any fatigue is mild and the body can cope pretty well with this in the shorter term.

No major changes are noticeable except some minor increased tiredness in the morning or mid-afternoon, normal function would occur. Often in this stage people are reaching for stimulants such as coffee for a “pick me up” or “kick start” to help get through the day. Blood sugars may start to deregulate in this stage also.

Stage 2 – Body Resistance

After prolonged or chronic stress, the adrenal glands begin to suffer from all the overstimulation and can’t keep up with the excessive cortisol production. As the tiredness increases, other symptoms begin to be noticeable such as insomnia, anxiety, excessive morning tiredness, irritability etc. Recurrent infections, PMS and hypothyroidism related symptoms can also appear such as weight gain, cold hands and feet, low mood, reduced libido etc.

Often during this stage is when people will visit their doctor for the first time usually to receive no convincing answer from blood tests results or are prescribed anti-depressants to improve their mood. People rely further on stimulants like coffee to help get through the day the best they can. Addressing the root cause of your adrenal gland and / or thyroid issue is key here to prevent further progressing of the dysfunction and reverse the cascade of events.

Stage 3 – Adrenal exhaustion

Stage three shows that the body’s main aim is to slow down and conserve energy. The adrenal glands cannot keep up for the demand for cortisol and chronic disease begins to manifest. Hormone precursors are robbed by the body through a process known as pregnenolone steal to further keep up with the supply for cortisol, wreaking havoc on your body.

A whole range of symptoms further develop with widely fluctuating blood sugar, anxiety, cravings, brain fog, reduced sex drive, energy crashes and now the inability to be able to successfully cope with the daily demands and stressors of life. Additional naps throughout the day or exhaustion at the end of the day is common in this stage. Isolating from friends and family and leisure activities because you don’t have the energy, motivation or the right mood to do this is also typical. A marked progression of symptoms from stage two that has slowly started to interfere and disrupt your life.

Stage 4 – Adrenal Failure      

This is the extreme end of adrenal fatigue when the adrenal glands are wiped out and cannot cope with the cortisol demands of the body. This stage is similar to Addison’s disease, a dangerous auto immune condition that attacks the adrenal glands causing very low insufficient cortisol output, the body can fall into an adrenal crisis in this stage that is life threatening.

Symptoms of an adrenal crisis include pain in lower back, abdomen or legs, severe vomiting and diarrhoea, very low blood pressure, a loss of consciousness and electrolyte imbalance. If these symptoms have a sudden onset, particularly after a stressful or traumatic event, seek emergency help.

Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

• Difficulty getting up in the morning
• Salt cravings
• General lethargy
• Increased effort / struggle to complete the daily chores / work day
• Difficulty losing weight
• Lowered sex drive
• Inability to handle stress
• Continuing fatigue not relieved by sleep
• Chronic bronchitis or other chronic infection or virus
• Dizziness from standing up quickly
• Brain fog
• Less joy from daily interactions
• Mild depression
• Increased irritability and a low tolerance with others

Thyroid Disorder

A questionnaire to help assess is you may be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue can be found here. Another way to help confirm adrenal fatigue is to have a saliva hormone test. This is particularly helpful with an inconclusive symptom sheet assessment or intermittent symptoms of fatigue. A salivary cortisol test will measure cortisol levels at different times throughout the day including in times of fatigue to assess the impact the cortisol level is contributing to the symptoms, therefore either confirming or otherwise the presence of an adrenal component relating to the presenting symptoms.

Tips to overcome Adrenal Fatigue

So, I’m suffering from some of the symptoms listed above and suspect Adrenal Fatigue, what should I do?

Working with a qualified practitioner that has a solid understanding of this condition is always advisable as this is a long term chronic condition that will require guidance over a period of time.

Below are some tips and protocols we recommend to clients that you can start with straight away before seeing a practitioner that will help tremendously.

1. Lifestyle modification – understanding what is currently in your life is crucial here and ascertaining whether each aspect is either good or bad for you. Creating a list to work out what you should do more of and things you should look to avoid and try to discontinue is a great start.

Things to look at include toxic friendships/relationships, changing or removing stressful situations or the way you are accustomed to reacting to them, increasing quiet time, mediation, reorganising your schedule, asking a friend or partner for help in some way to assist you to achieve more balance. This could be as simple as having the kids watched for an hour or two while you go to a yoga class.

2. Breathing techniques – assess your general breathing pattern. Are you breathing form the abdomen? Many people have faulty breathing patterns and are sub-consciously contributing to their stress levels, and a range of other negative effects, through incorrect breathing.

To focus on belly breathing, lay down and place your hands on your naval area, breathe into your belly with the first two thirds of the breath raising your belly and the final third following to expand your chest. This is the natural way we should breathe all the time and the way babies breathe. We can retrain ourselves to breathe once again like this, by practicing in a quiet area for 10 minutes each day it will assist retraining your breathing pattern, also try to be conscious at other times throughout the day to belly breathe.

This quiet 10 minutes focussing on breathing each day will go a long way to reducing your stress levels.

3. Sleep – A key area of your overall health and one you need to address with adrenal fatigue. Many people suffering adrenal fatigue have insomnia or wake in the night and cannot get back to sleep. Practicing good sleep hygiene can go a long way to helping to normalise sleep patterns.

Getting to bed by 10 – 10:30pm each night is one of the most important aspects, it ensures you are resting at the right times to maximise repair and helps to get the required 8 or so hours rest per night. Resetting your body clock can take time, getting out of bed in the morning at a suitable hour and getting sunlight to yours eyes is a great way to help reset your body clock.

Avoiding artificial lights from tv and phones at least an hour before bed is another way to assist with the unwinding process. Studies show the blue light emitted from such devices as your smartphone mimic daylight to the receptors in your brain contributing to disrupted sleep patterns.

A cause of waking in the night can often be attributed to low blood sugar levels, a small protein snack before bed can help.

Other tips such as using lavender on your pillow at night and avoiding stimulants such as coffee after lunch also help.

More information on sleep hygiene can be found on the Naturopath Life website under lifestyle. For many cases, in addition to the above basics, we commonly prescribe herbs and various trace minerals to address specific imbalances and normalise sleep.

4. Fun and laughter – A great way to de-stress and one area than many of us can get distracted from. Taking the time out to have a joke with a friend, watch a funny movie, laugh at a joke, do a silly dance or something that will make you laugh is great for your adrenals.

Laughing reducing your stress response, increases endorphins and has long lasting effects.

5. Exercise – We all require exercise, when suffering from adrenal fatigue it can be hard to incorporate and sometimes the last thing we want to do. There are various forms of exercise you can incorporate to suit the level you are currently at. Once progress is being made you will likely be able to increase your exercise commitment.

Anything from walking, dancing, weights, yoga, Pilates, swimming and riding a bike are all great forms of exercise. You can go at your own pace, the key is to just get moving. Exercise helps remove toxins, improves circulation, releases endorphins and helps normalise blood sugars and other hormone levels including cortisol.

Exercise is one area that should not be avoided.

6. Diet – A crucial area of anyone’s life and of great importance with adrenal fatigue. Eating a quality diet and eating often enough is vital to stabilising fluctuating blood sugar levels that are commonly experienced in adrenal fatigue sufferers. When cortisol levels are low during adrenal fatigue, blood sugar levels are hard to maintain and further stress the adrenal glands.

Stimulants such as coffee, high sugar foods, processed grains, cow’s milk, hydrogenated oils, alcohol, low fat option products, white sugar and white bread, cool drink and fast food all spike blood sugar levels and cause blood sugar crashes negatively effecting cortisol.

Allergy foods also affect our adrenal function, keeping a food and symptom diary is crucial in identifying offending foods, the most common food allergies are gluten containing grains, dairy and soy. If you think you may be reacting to a food, eliminate it completely for a minimum of three weeks and then test the food by consuming it again taking note for any adverse reaction such as increased fatigue, pains, bloating, diarrhoea, mood changes etc.

As your adrenals heal, it is likely you will be less reactive to certain foods. We commonly use gut repair protocols with our adrenal fatigue clients.

Diet wise, you should be aiming for a quality whole food diet consisting of adequate protein, quality fats from sources such as olive oil and oily fish, raw nuts and seeds and a wide variety of vegetables and some fruit. Each meal and snack should be balanced to include protein, carbohydrate and fat. For instance, snacking on a piece of fruit would be better with a small handful of walnuts or almonds to provide protein and fat with the carbohydrate from the fruit.

Some chia seeds, yoghurt or an egg in your morning smoothie are added examples that can provide the required fat and protein in your breakfast smoothie. Having a snack in between main meals and before bed can help stabilise blood sugar levels throughout the day.

7. Nutrients – The adrenal glands like the rest of your body require a balanced and adequate supply of vitamins and minerals. When our body is out of balance we often require supplementation to rebalance in a quicker and more efficient manner. Many of our adrenal fatigue clients are given herbs and supplements to realign and support their body through the recovery phase.

Supplements such as vitamin C, B vitamins, Magnesium and a number of trace minerals are required to support the adrenal function. In addition, herbs such as licorice, withania, ginseng, gingko, rhodiola and rehmannia are all great herbs that are often prescribed.


Recovery from Adrenal Fatigue can be a long road if the key fundamental areas are not addressed. Working on each of the above areas will lay a solid foundation that you can work from in restoring your adrenal health and increasing your energy output.

Probiotic Benefits & Gut health…Should you be taking them

Probiotic Benefits & Gut health…Should you be taking them

Should you be taking Probiotics?  

There is a lot of information around presently on probiotic benefits and their impact on gut health.

So, what’s all the fuss about…

Are they really that beneficial and can they improve my health if I’m already feeling reasonably well?

Can they cure gastrointestinal symptoms or other totally non related symptoms I may be experiencing?

The short answer to the two above questions is a resounding……………YES


Probiotics can really improve your overall health and also relieve and target a very wide range of symptoms and conditions, not just symptoms related to the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) either.  Many of studies have focussed on GIT symptom relief such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and cramping but there is also much evidence from the use of probiotics benefiting for other disease states.

The old saying “All disease begins in the Gut” cited by Hippocrates centuries ago was a very insightful quote and the more research that goes into this area the more true this statement is becoming.

There are over 100 trillion bacteria present in and on out body at any given time, when compared to the 10 trillion cells of our body, that is a lot of bacteria.  Most of them are good bacteria with around 90% of them residing in our gastrointestinal tract, which is often termed the “Gut” when people talk about healing the gut collectively.

A number of studies and clinical evidence that show the resounding effect using probiotics and rebalancing the microbiota of the gut can have on a person’s overall health.

Key areas that probiotics can help

  • IBS symptoms – Constipation, diarrhoea, cramping, bloating
  • Skin issues – eczema, psoriasis, dryness
  • Auto immune disorders – Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease
  • Mood disorders – depression, anxiety
  • Energy production – Fatigue / lethargy
  • Musculoskeletal – aches and pains, joint issues
  • Respiratory – Asthma, sinusitis
  • Immune defence and many more

Probiotic supplementation aside, the best way to influence good and diverse range of gut bacteria is to eat a healthy well balanced whole food diet.  This would consist of generous amounts of vegetables, fruit, protein sources, quality fats and minimal to no refined foods.

Eating processed foods and foods with added sugar, alcohol, environmental toxins, pesticides and a range of other chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis all influence our microbiome balance and harm our good bacteria.  Often, a way to jumpstart a shift toward a more healthy set of gut bacteria is to use a high strength probiotic supplement.

So what probiotics are best to take?  There are so many different strains, some must be kept in the fridge, others are heat stable and prices vary dramatically.

I have developed a 4 page guide to choosing the right probiotic supplement for you and your family.  It includes an explanation of some of the different probiotic strains, beneficial uses and specific Australian brand supplements that I commonly prescribe in clinic and see favourable results with.

To have the Probiotic Supplement Guide emailed directly to your inbox now, please fill in your name and email address below.

Treat The Root Cause Of Your Thyroid Disorder And Get Your Life Back

Treat The Root Cause Of Your Thyroid Disorder And Get Your Life Back

Why treating the “REAL” root cause of your thyroid disorder will finally give you your life back.

Thyroid disorders are one of those mystery disorders than can often go undiagnosed for many years, and if diagnosed, medication can often not fully address the problem or only improve things for a short time before symptoms reappear.   Symptoms can vary between individuals and often people are told that the symptoms they are experiencing are in their head or unrelated to the thyroid.  Common symptoms include anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, hair loss, cold hands and feet, brain fog, IBS type gut issues and many others.  Quite often the range of symptoms are not seen as related and treated in isolation with NSAID’s, anti-depressants, antacids etc.  People are told they are just ageing or need to find more time for themselves.

Not always easy if you’re looking after a family, working, or both…

If you are diagnosed with a thyroid issue, often you are told your thyroid is sluggish and to take some thyroid medication such as “Thyroxin” to increase your thyroxine levels.  This usually improves things quite quickly but after a while things seem to slip back, this is often when medication is further increased.

What if the root cause of the disease was discovered and addressed… perhaps a full recovery of symptoms could be achieved and medication no longer required?  Well this is what many people have done that have addressed the root cause of their illness.

One of the most common thyroid disorders is an underlying thyroid autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  This is a condition in which the body starts attacking itself and destroying the thyroid gland.  This can happen over a period of many years before it is detected in tests.  Often blood tests are “within range” but are starting to move from the optimal range, this can be an early warning sign, see my other post regarding thyroid lab test ranges for more information.

There are many root cause triggers than can cause Hashimoto’s or other thyroid disorders to develop, the most common underlying root causes being;

  • Poor gut function
  • Viruses and infections
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Toxicity
  • Stress

Most clients have a more than one of these underlying triggers.  Addressing your early symptoms is much easier with quicker recovery times achieved rather than waiting until the condition has progressed and much more damage is done.

Common Root Causes of Thyroid disorders

Poor Gut Function

Gut health needs addressing to some extent with everyone showing thyroid symptoms, and most people in general to be honest.  Poor gut health can be a major contributing factor to many diseases and disorders including thyroid conditions.  Key areas of gut health from a treatment and restoration perspective are;

  • Remove reactive foods
  • Reduce inflammation of gastrointestinal tract
  • Restore and repair gut lining
  • Restore balance to the microbiota

These four areas sound pretty easy to address, however they take some time, dedication and know how on your part.  Here are some basic tips to get you started in each of these areas.

Foods to remove

  1. Gluten containing grain products (breads, cereals, pasta, cake etc.)
  2. Dairy products (milk, cheese, ice-cream etc.)
  3. Soy products
  4. Alcohol and ideally coffee too

Reduce inflammation

  1. Eliminate processed foods with and foods with added sugar
  2. Increase anti-inflammatory foods such as berries, oily fish, turmeric, ginger, olive oil

Restore and repair gut lining

  1. Whole foods that are non-irritant will help repair the gut lining
  2. Use L-Glutamine supplement to repair tight gap junctions in gut wall
  3. Use slippery elm supplement to soothe and protect gut lining

Restore balance to the gut microbiota

  1. Increase intake of probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso etc.
  2. Use a quality probiotic supplement. Signup to our free newsletter at to receive a complete guide to probiotic supplement including Australian supplement recommendations and specific strains to look for.
  3. Increase prebiotic foods to feed the good bacteria, these include garlic, onion, cabbage, sweet potato, apples etc.

Viruses and Infections

Viruses and infections can also be an underlying cause and trigger of many diseases.  Quite often a downward spiral of ill health leading to a chronic health condition can be traced back to the contraction of a virus or infection.  The trouble is, viruses and infections are so common these days and there are many variations that sometimes we don’t even know if we have contracted a virus or have a low level chronic infection that is affecting us.  We may get a bit ill for a week or two and our immune system fights the attack off and we feel better, however certain viruses such as the many variations of the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Lyme disease and herpes lay dormant reactivating when our immunity is compromised.

Other infections in the gut such as H-pylori and Blastocyctitis Hominis are common and cause a range of ill health effects with key symptoms being acid reflux, bloating, diarrhoea, stomach pain, food sensitivity etc.  Without addressing some of these underlying causes it can be near impossible to return to full health.  Specific treatment or immune building protocols will be required for each individual infection/virus, relevant testing should be performed to identify the presence of such pathogens.

Nutrient Deficiencies

There are a number of key nutrients that are required for proper function of the thyroid.  However, depending on the thyroid condition, certain nutrients may be required in abundance while others may need to be avoided.  Nutrient recommendations are made by qualified practitioners based on presenting symptoms and laboratory test results.

A quick overview of the main nutrients used by your thyroid.


A mineral that is deficient is much of the population and very commonly deficient in those with a thyroid condition.  Low selenium has also been associated to low immunity and a range of other conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.  Studies show that Australian soils are particularly deficient in selenium.  Selenium is used specifically in thyroid disorders to increase conversion of T4 to T3, protect the thyroid from oxidative stress and reduce antibodies in autoimmune thyroid disease.  Common dosage is 200mcg/day, excess selenium can be toxic so ensure you are monitored by a qualified health professional.


A vital nutrient for the thyroid, and the building blocks for the thyroid hormones T3 and T4.  Iodine deficiency can be a primary cause of hypothyroidism.  Iodine deficiency is also related to a range of other health disorders and having sufficient levels of iodine can help protect against some cancers including breast and prostate cancer.  Dr David Brownstein, a well-regarded doctor who has extensively studied iodine, believes everyone should be tested for low iodine and a study of over 5000 patients in his clinic were found to have low iodine.

Testing should be conducted prior to supplementation as iodine may worsen the thyroid condition in cases of hyperthyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease.  One of the better ways to test iodine status is through an iodine load test.


Zinc is such an important nutrient in the body for many reasons.  It is involved in over 200 enzymatic reactions and a vital nutrient in thyroid and gut health.  It is required for the uptake of thyroid hormone and also protects the thyroid from oxidative damage.  Zinc is also required for the creation of stomach acid, another common problem of thyroid patients being low stomach acid causing acid reflux, Yes, the most common reason for acid reflux is LOW stomach acid.  Zinc is very commonly deficient in a large portion of the population and is also low in Australian soils.


Tyrosine is an amino acid that is a precursor for the creation of thyroid hormones.  Supplementation with this amino acid can assist to increase thyroid hormone production and reduce the effects of hypothyroidism. It is also a precursor to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in our reward and pleasure centres of the brain.  People with low dopamine levels often has issues related to addiction, mood swings, poor memory and low mood.

Dopamine is a precursor to epinephrine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters involved in the body’s ”fight or flight” response so be careful not to overstimulate here as most people with thyroid disorders also have a degree of adrenal fatigue.

Other Nutrients

Additional nutrients are also required to assist the thyroid function and the conversion of hormones.  These include B vitamins, vitamins A and E, chromium and others.  In addressing thyroid disorder, a whole body approach is required balancing the body chemistry, rather than just isolating one or two areas.


Toxicity can be a major root cause of thyroid disorders.  Toxins are everywhere in the current day, whether we like to admit it or not.  They are in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we consume, the cosmetics we use, the furniture we sit on, the clothes we buy, the utensils we cook with and so on.

When the body accumulates toxic substances such as unwanted heavy metals and other chemicals, it disrupts the normal function of the tissue, cell or gland and other important substances are displaced from the body.  For instance, exposure to toxic halides such as chlorine (swimming pools, shower steam), bromine (spa’s, pesticides, Gatorade and some soft drinks) and fluoride (tap water, toothpastes) displaces the iodine from our thyroid and can result in an iodine deficiency causing a range of ill health effects including a thyroid disorder.

Reducing your toxic load is crucial when suffering from a chronic illness such as a thyroid disorder.  It is particularly important with those suffering an autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s.

Key areas to address are;

  • Ensuring you drink a quality source of filtered water and plenty of it
  • Reduce exposure to plastics and other endocrine disruptors
  • Ensure your detoxification system is working efficiently
  • Try to eat organic food or at least fresh, local, free range and/or wild caught produce
  • Avoid processed foods and avoid foods with preservatives, artificial flavours etc.
  • Investigate what skin products and cosmetics you are using, also cleaning products


Stress is an underlying cause in all chronic disease and needs to be addressed.  The impact stress has on our system can be huge and varies between individuals.   There are many different types of stress, these include mental, chemical, physical, electromagnetic and nutritional stress.  All stress accumulates and contributes to your overall stress load.

Examples of the different stress that may be contributing top your condition are;

Mental -               consistent negative thoughts, anger, sadness, anxiety, worry, resentment

Physical -             over exercising or not exercising enough, poor posture, spine misalignment

Chemical -           toxic chemical exposure, synthetic medications, agricultural chemicals on foods

Nutritional -        poor diet lacking required nutrients, excess sugar and processed foods displacing

required nutrients from the body

Electromagnetic – excess exposure to electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) through devices such as

microwaves and Wi-Fi signals, excess mobile phone/iPad use etc.


Key steps need to be taken to reduce your stress.  An action plan such as the one below is a great way to start;

  1. Identify your stressors
  2. Make an action plan to eliminate or find a way to better cope with the stressors, sometimes a stressor cannot be changed but the way we look at it or react to it can be changed
  3. Ensure you eat a balanced nutritional diet and get adequate sleep. Your body cannot deal with stress appropriately if it doesn’t have the resources to make the appropriate hormones through good nutrition and adequate rest.
  4. Exercise – ensure you move your body and do some form of exercise, even if it’s just getting outside to do some walking. Your body will appreciate the movement, it will aid detoxification and release endorphins to improve motivation and mood helping to break vicious cycles that we can fall into.  The additional sunshine will also benefit.
  5. Mental exercise – Try to set some time aside for positive thinking, visualisation, writing down what you are grateful for, mediation, tai chi or other form of mental exercise. Reduce the amount of time you are in front of a screen or on your phone.  A bit of time spent on these areas will reap huge rewards on your overall state of health.

Thyroid conditions can be quite complex and treatment methods vary from patient to patient.  It is advisable to seek the services a knowledgeable specialist practitioner that can assist in formulating a correct plan of action to manage your thyroid disorder.

For more information on naturopath consultations, both in person in Perth, Western Australia and internationally via skype, please visit

We offer a free 10-minute phone/web consultation to all new clients to assess your health goals and discuss how we may be able to help you.

Thyroid Tests Come Back Within Range But Still Not Feeling Yourself?

Thyroid Tests Come Back Within Range But Still Not Feeling Yourself?

Been feeling tired and sluggish lately?  Feeling like normal day to day chores have become a lot more effort?  Are those kilos slowly creeping on even though your diet is pretty good?

Perhaps you have a thyroid disorder…  Many people have had their thyroid tested and been told that their test results are “within range” and their thyroid is fine.  People can have an underlying thyroid issue for up to ten years before it is picked up on a common Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) blood test.  Unfortunately, thyroid blood testing has a very wide “acceptable range” that patients can fall within and be told their thyroid function is “normal”.  This results in a large number of patients being overlooked for a thyroid condition.

Thyroid disorders are one of the most commonly underdiagnosed medical conditions today.  There are a variety of different thyroid disorders and these can present with varying severity.  Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can manifest in patients from a range of root causes.  Some of the most common root causes of thyroid disorders include viral infections, nutrient deficiencies, toxicity, stress, genetics and poor gut function.

Many times thyroid conditions carry an autoimmune component.  Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune hypothyroidism) and Graves’ disease (autoimmune hyperthyroidism) are the two main thyroid autoimmune conditions.

Common symptoms for Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism

• Fatigue
• Low mood
• Dry skin
• Reduced libido

• Difficulty concentrating
• Constipation
• Enlarged neck / goitre
• Irregular menstruation

• Weight gain
• Food sensitivities
• Dry and brittle hair
• Heavy periods

• Intolerance to cold
• Digestive disorders
• Hair loss
• Exhaustion

Common symptoms for Grave’s disease and hyperthyroidism

• High resting heart rate
• Irritability
• Increased perspiration

• Palpitations
• Weight Loss
• Enlarged neck / goitre

• Hypertension
• Difficulty sleeping
• Shakiness

• Nervousness
• Bulging eyes
• Tremors

Thyroid Function

The Thyroid is a small gland located in the front of the neck area near the Adams apple.  It is an extremely important gland that is required for our survival.  The thyroid regulates the activity of all cells and tissues within the body and regulates our metabolism, energy levels, body temperature, brain development and brain function.  This is one gland that you want to be functioning well…

The thyroid produces the hormones thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3) and is regulated by the pituitary gland that excretes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in to the blood.

Thyroid Hormones & Lab Test Ranges

The most common standard thyroid blood test is the TSH test.  This is often the only test performed to assess patient thyroid status in most cases.  This approach leaves many gaps in the full thyroid health picture and can allow for a dysfunctional thyroid to be missed.  The T3 and T4 blood levels should also be tested to see how much stored and active thyroid hormone is in the system, often this additional testing will uncover a requirement to treat the thyroid.  In addition, thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies and TSH receptor antibodies (TRAb) should be tested in cases of suspected thyroid disorder to rule out any autoimmune component to the disease.  A patient can show a “normal” TSH for many years but may have TPO or TRAb antibodies that are causing an attack on the thyroid.  This attack can often be the main reason for the presenting symptom picture.  Unfortunately, thyroid testing other than TSH is often not routinely done when TSH is “within range”.

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

TSH is excreted by the pituitary gland to regulate the thyroid.  The more TSH released, the harder the pituitary is trying to stimulate the thyroid.  This is the most common thyroid blood test performed and lab test ranges are generally between 0.5 and 5.0mU/L.  Unfortunately people that fall within this range are commonly told their thyroid is fine or “a bit sluggish”.

Functionally, a test result between 1 and 1.5mU/L is ideal, with a test result over 2.0mU/L warranting further investigation into possible sub-clinical hypothyroidism.  A test result less than 0.5mU/L would deserve further investigation into hyperthyroidism.

Thyroxine (T4)

Thyroxine is the main thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid.  Thyroxine is made up of 4 molecules of iodine.  In order to be able to utilise this to deliver energy and oxygen to the cells, the body must remove one molecule of iodine, therefore converting T4 to the active form T3.  The laboratory reference range for T4 is usually 9.0 – 19.0pmol/L.  Again, these ranges are very wide, having a reading somewhere near the top half of the range is ideal, above 13.5pml/L with results in the lower portion of the range requiring further investigation into sub-clinical hypothyroidism.

Triiodothyronine (T3)

T3 is the active thyroid hormone in the body.  The thyroid produces some T3 directly with the majority coming from the conversion of T4 to T3.  Some of this process happens in the liver and requires certain nutrients.  The lab ranges for T3 are commonly between 3.0 and 6.5pmol/L.  A result of less than 4pmol/L would be indicating possible hypothyroidism with results above 6.0pmol/L warranting investigation into hyperthyroidism.

TPO antibodies   

Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies are markers of an attack on the thyroid itself.   TPO antibodies attack the thyroid and result in destruction of the gland over time.  This results in inflammation of the thyroid and raised levels are commonly seen in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis cases.  There should be no antibodies or very few (<5) antibodies present when tested, the lab ranges are 0 – 35IU/ml.  If you are showing raised TPO antibodies, autoimmune treatment protocols should be investigated.  The higher the number of antibodies, the greater the attack is on the thyroid.  It should be noted that not all Hashimoto’s sufferers will test positive for TPO antibodies, some 20-40% of patients are known as seronegative and do not register TPO antibodies.  Diagnosis would be required through a symptomatic profile and/or an ultrasound of the thyroid itself to assess physical damage.

TSH receptor antibodies

TSH receptor antibodies (TRAb) are related to Graves’ disease (hyperthyroidism) and stimulate the thyroid to enlarge and release excess thyroid hormone.  Lab tests have a range of less than 1.8U/L.  This test is commonly used to diagnose Graves’ disease and also used where a toxic multinodular goitre is active.  Any reading here would warrant further investigation into hyperthyroidism.

If you feel that you may be suffering from a thyroid condition or you have test results “within range” but outside the ideal ranges as mentioned above, it would be advisable to see a practitioner educated in thyroid health.

More information on thyroid health and information regarding our specialist naturopath consultations in both Perth, and internationally via skype please visit

See my other blog on Treating Common Root Causes of Thyroid Disorders.

To download a free Thyroid Health Checklist, visit