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  • 13 May 2022 11:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In a recent article, Assistant Director of Pharmacy at Bond University Treasure McGuire wrote in The Conversation, "Taking vitamins and supplements to help recover from COVID-19? An expert advises if it works (10 May 2022)." Treasure McGuire made several statements about complementary medicines. Here we question the validity and present clarity in her arguments.



    1. "There is little evidence supplementation in a healthy person prevents respiratory infections such as COVID."

    CMA says: However, in Australia, the advertising of products to consumers for the treatment of COVID-19 is prohibited without prior TGA authorisation, which is issued only in limited circumstances and where efficacy can be established.

     

    Complementary medicines on the ARTG are not marketed for Covid, and TGA has no infringements have been issued for these ARTG products advertising.


    2. "Ready access to supplements without a prescription from a myriad of online and shopfront sources and the uncontrolled spread of claims that supplements can prevent or treat COVID symptoms, has created an "infodemic".

    CMA says: This is not the case in Australia. Australian complementary medicines are subject to rigorous guidelines for claims both on the label and on websites.

     

    The strictly controlled environment in Australia means that legitimate complementary medicines manufacturers in Australia do not recommend any supplement to prevent or treat COVID symptoms.


    It is precisely the regulations that Australian manufacturers are bound by that mean that Australians can be confident about claims on an Australian complementary health product.


    When taken correctly, these products are lower risk substances that can only make lower risk claims which means they are suitable for consumer self-selection and do not require a prescription.


    3. "These claims are fuelled by supplement manufacturers being able to "list" their products on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, with limited evidence of safety or effectiveness."

    CMA says: Australian manufacturers would argue that being listed on the ARTG is precisely what holds their exacting standards far above those of products produced overseas.


    Australia's risk-based approach has a two-tiered system for the regulation of all medicines, with three avenues for entry on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) for complementary medicines being:


    Lower risk medicines can be listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG),  which ensures they are manufactured in tightly quality controlled facilities subject to TGA inspections. Quantities of substances or health claims known to be unsafe are not permitted to be included in these medicines. The inclusion of the ARTG under these strict conditions protects consumers.


    Listed assessed medicines can be listed on the ARTG when the TGA has conducted a pre-market assessment for evidence of higher therapeutic claims.


    Higher risk medicines must be registered on the ARTG.


    This tight regulation means that consumers can be confident about Australian complementary medicines; this cannot be said for products bought overseas. Thus, it may be that the author is quoting overseas products?


    4. "Supplements can cause harm in adverse effects, drug interactions and expense. They also add to a patient's medication burden, may delay more effective therapy, or give false hope to the vulnerable."

    CMA says: Generally speaking, vitamins and minerals are much safer than conventional drugs.


    However, complementary medicines are medicines, and they should be taken according to the instructions on the label or after guidance from a health practitioner such as a suitably trained pharmacist. Complementary medicines can be used as an adjunct to conventional medicine and, in some cases, as a standalone medicine. Again, sound advice from a suitably trained health professional is advised. And as far as giving false hope to the vulnerable, to repeat, the label and surrounding guidance around dosage and stated indications provide an accurate overview of therapeutic and safe use.


    5. "Despite the large variety of complementary medicines marketed, most clinical trials to date have studied the impact of vitamin D, vitamin C or zinc to reduce the risk of contracting COVID, improve rates of hospitalisation or death."

    CMA says: Complementary medicines on the ARTG are not marketed for Covid, and TGA has issued no infringements for these ARTG products advertising. Clinical trials exist to educate regarding therapeutic potential. 


    Some research has found that people with a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to develop a severe or critical COVID-19 response than those with sufficient blood levels. Research regarding nutrients and Covid severity is in its early stages. However, the link between low vitamin C and zinc levels and viral infections such as colds is very well documented.


    Australia's complementary medicines industry is committed to high-quality research to underpin ingredients some people have used for thousands of years. Our industry supports high-level research to support the growing evidence base for complementary medicines and their benefits to Australians. However, any therapeutic claim referring to Covid must be pre-approved by the TGA before marketing; therefore, no inappropriate marketing can legally occur without TGA approval, even if any trials are successful.


    6. "However, supplements may be beneficial when individuals cannot achieve a balanced and varied diet."

    The vast majority of Australians – around 97 per cent – don't achieve a balanced and varied diet.


    The complementary medicines industry in Australia has always strongly advocated for people to consume a healthy balanced diet, exercise regularly and avoid high-risk behaviours. Numerous studies have shown – and continue to show – that most people do not. For example, over 90 per cent of Australians do not consume enough vitamin and mineral-rich vegetables and fruits.


    7. "High doses or chronic use of COVID supplements have also been linked with adverse effects: vitamin D with muscle pain and loss of bone mass; vitamin A with elevated liver function tests and blurred vision; vitamin E with bleeding risk; plant extracts, magnesium with gastrointestinal effects; and selenium with hair loss and brittle nails."

    CMA says: Adhering to the advice on the label prevents overdosing on every medicine – including natural medicines.

     

    Australia regulates complementary health products to the highest standards – standards considered to be a global benchmark. The Department of Health's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) stringently enforces these strict safety and quality regulations. Labels clearly state indications and dosage. Consumers are urged to read and adhere to labels created with both safety and quality in mind.


    The TGA, like other regulatory agencies around the world, monitors the safety of medicines marketed in Australia to contribute to a better understanding of their possible adverse effects; this is known as pharmacovigilance and is routine for all medicines, including prescription, OTC and complementary medicines.

     

    The TGA monitors the safety of medicines marketed in Australia using:

    • reports of adverse events;
    • sharing of information with other regulatory agencies;
    • sharing of information with Australian state and territory health authorities;
    • Risk Management Plans (RMPs) and Periodic Safety Update Reports
    • (PSURs); and
    • reviews of literature.


    Generally speaking, vitamins and minerals are lower risk than conventional medicines. However, they are natural medicines and should be taken according to the instructions on the label or guidance from a health practitioner.


    Despite increasing consumption, side effects remain rare. Thanks to a small but vocal group of anti-complementary medicines detractors, negative headlines make the news intermittently as they take the opportunity to place their views on the agenda; this can be very confusing, and their inaccuracies do a disservice to the community. Australian complementary medicines are manufactured to the highest standards globally, increasingly chosen by Australians and discerning customers overseas. Over 70% of Australians choose one or more complementary medicines to complement their health, and this figure is increasing.


  • 13 Apr 2022 11:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The prevalence of allergies continues to rise, and there are many possible reasons, including increasing airborne pollens. These climate changes affect pollen levels, air pollution and more. A healthy diet and natural compounds in foods may help ease some annoying symptoms or mild allergies.

     

    Histamine and allergy symptoms

    Histamine is a chemical that can cause allergy symptoms such as sneezing and runny eyes and nose, and it also triggers inflammation. Reducing histamine levels may help alleviate symptoms of allergies hence the popularity of pharmaceutical anti-histamines. Several compounds in food may also help. These include:

     

    Vitamin C

    This water-soluble vitamin may reduce histamine production, and research has shown that histamine levels increase when Vitamin C levels decrease. Find vitamin C in veggies and fruits – citrus fruits, berries, and capsicum are particularly rich. Eat raw or lightly cooked to retain as much vitamin C as possible. Grapefruit juice is C-rich, but it can interact with some medications, so check with your health professional.

     

    Bromelain

    This protein-digesting enzyme found in pineapples has anti-inflammatory properties. An animal study showed that bromelain's anti-inflammatory effects might benefit people with asthma or other forms of allergic airway disease. The study used bromelain in tablet form but for general health benefits, opt for delicious fresh pineapple – canned pineapple does not contain bromelain as cooking destroys the enzyme.

    Magnesium

    A component of many body functions, magnesium can decrease histamine levels and fight inflammation that commonly occurs with allergies and asthma. Over six in 10 men and seven in 10 women don't get enough magnesium every day. Good food sources include nuts – try almonds, cashews, and peanuts.

    Vitamin D

    Most of us know that vitamin D strengthens our bones – but did you know that it also reduces allergy and asthma symptoms? Vitamin D affects the immune system, and lack of it may be significant in the development and severity of allergies. A surprising number of people are Vitamin D deficient worldwide, including in Australia; deficiency may partly contribute to the increase in asthma and allergic diseases worldwide in the last half-century. The primary natural source of vitamin D is safe sun exposure. Some foods such as seafood, salmon, egg yolks and UV exposed mushrooms. Your GP can perform a simple vitamin D test to see if you need more of the sunshine vitamin.

    Ginger

    There's a reason why ginger tea is so popular to help treat the sniffles – it contains gingerol, which may help dry up mucus, aiding the relief of stuffiness. There is more gingerol in fresh ginger than in the dried kind, so choose to chop, grate or sliver to get the most benefits. Add ginger to soups, curries and bakes – stir some slices into warm water or your favourite tea.

    Quercetin

    This natural plant chemical is found in plants including red wine, onions, green tea, apples, capsicum and berries.

    Turmeric

    The bright yellow cousin to ginger that gives Indian curries their vibrant colour, turmeric contains curcumin, which blocks histamine. According to some studies, this may help to ease congestion.

    Omega-3 fatty acids

    These powerful anti-inflammatories may help ease stuffiness and nasal swelling. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are high in omega-3s. Aim to put fish on your dish at least twice a week.

    Probiotics

    The good (beneficial) bacteria that live in your gut have many benefits, and studies are underway to see if they may also affect allergy relief and boost your overall quality of life. Find probiotics in fermented foods, including sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kimchi and buttermilk.


  • 14 Dec 2021 10:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Mental health challenges affect the physical and emotional wellbeing of millions of us – they affect almost one in two adult Australians at some time, and the pandemic has exacerbated poor mental health. Now, a new book explores practical ways to support mental health with herbs and supplements. Mental Wellbeing – The Essential Guide to Using Herbs and Nutritional Supplements is the latest hands-on guidebook written by respected integrative medicine leader Dr Lesley Braun.

     

    Mental wellbeing is dynamic – the Mental Wellbeing Spiral demonstrates that it can improve as well as deteriorate.


    Growing need for services

    Chatting to a professor of psychiatry, Lesley wasn't surprised to hear that the waiting lists for psychiatric services had ballooned during the pandemic. She learnt that new patients might have to wait up to two years for a professional consultation.

     

    "When it comes to supporting mental wellbeing, there are so many tools in our space that can make a significant impact," says Lesley. "Diet, lifestyle and supplement protocols can be effective and safe. Following the correct protocol for the individual may mean that by the time someone on a long waiting list gets to the top, symptoms may have improved significantly," she says.

     

    Stress levels, sleep problems and burnout

    "The book focuses on rising stress levels, sleep problems and burnout; it does not focus on serious depression or the level of challenges that necessitate psychiatric care but feelings that are nevertheless uncomfortable and are very common," explains Lesley.  

     

    Applied and evidence-backed

    This practical guide includes features and dosages designed to help health professionals understand the therapeutic power of herbs and nutritional supplements in an applied and evidence-backed format.

     

    "The book is for healthcare practitioners," says Lesley, "doctors, pharmacists, naturopaths and more. The idea is that they all see multiple people. When good results are seen, messages get amplified and spread by one of the most effective communication processes around – word of mouth," Lesley explains.

     

    The self-care space

    "We know that there is a whole raft of options to try before prescribing certain drugs. A person may consult their GP, but the professional may not have an in-depth knowledge of natural medicines. Pharmacists can recommend lifestyle factors and have shelves full of nutritional and herbal supplements. But they may not know how to pull together an individualised program. Of course, naturopaths know and are important educators. But there is a lot that can be done in the self-care space. For all, though, practical, accurate knowledge and advice are key," Lesley says.

     

    A whole section is dedicated to quantifying stress – so that it is clear whether symptoms are improving or worsening. Introducing the Mental Wellbeing Spiral ...

     

    The Mental Wellbeing Spiral and determining stress levels

    After researching published papers, Lesley opted for a validated survey instrument consisting of ten questions that called for a retrospective recall over one month – these questions relate to behavioural and stress responses. This practical and quick tool can be used at home or in the clinic. Responses allow the individual to determine where they might sit on the Mental Wellbeing Spiral, whether protocols are effective or may need manipulation, and whether professional help is required.

     

    The idea and the tools were put before the Blackmores Institute Naturopathic and Pharmacy Advisory Boards. The boards agreed that mental wellbeing is dynamic and that the Spiral made sense; they decided that this little tool might even fill a much-needed gap.

     

    This practical resource is fully referenced, practitioner-focused, and written similarly to Lesley's successful Herbs and Natural Supplements book.

    It features:

    • The theoretical theory of stress and the stress response
    • A clinical framework surrounding stress and mental wellbeing
    • Easy-to-read descriptive reviews of the clinical evidence and recommendations for practice
    • Dietary and lifestyle recommendations should be a standard part of nearly every treatment aiming to achieve better mental wellbeing.


    This one-stop ready reckoner can be purchased at the Blackmores Institute website, showcasing what the institute is doing in this space.  

     

    Clinicians and retailers in the community love the practicality of the new publication, which helps make selecting forms and correct dosage while being aware of any potential safety issues simple.

     

    Now that this important new feature is complete, Lesley is open to suggestions for another topic or area – let her know!

     


  • 03 Nov 2021 2:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It’s a fact. Australian men are more likely to get sick from serious health problems than women and mortality from almost every non-sex-specific health problem is higher in men than women. Plus, men visit the doctor less frequently, have shorter visits, and only attend when their illness is in its later stages compared to women. This Movember, we’re asking you just a few quick questions to test your knowledge of men’s health and urge you to make better health choices for you or for the men in your life.



     

    1. Too much weight around the middle is a health risk – but how much is too much? A circumference of over 94cm (90 cm for Asian men) represents a hazardous waist size.

    A true

    B false

     

    Answer A true

    Excess body fat around the middle, called visceral fat, coats the body organs increasing the risk for chronic disease. Australia's Department of Health reports that measuring 102 centimetres or more means a "greatly increased risk".

     

    2, Suicide is more common in men than women.

    A True

    B False

     

    Answer A True.

    In 2020, the AIHW reported males aged between 40–54 accounted for over one quarter (27%) of deaths by suicide by males. If you or anyone you know needs help:

     

    3. More men die of skin cancer than any other.

    A True

    B False

     

    B False.

    According to Man Up! Prostate cancer is the most significant cause of death; 3,500 men died from Prostate Cancer in 2020. More than 200,000 men live with prostate cancer in Australia. Queensland has the highest incidence of prostate cancer than any other state in Australia. Prostate cancer may not show any symptoms in its early stages but symptoms can include:

    • difficulty in urination 
    • slow interrupted flow of urine
    • frequent passing of urine, including at night
    • incontinence.

    If you are over 50 or have any symptoms, talk to your doctor about testing. 

     

    4. Physical stress can cause magnesium loss.

    A True

    B False


    A.    True. Physical and stress can cause magnesium loss – but so can mental stress. Studies have linked low magnesium levels to higher rates of depression. Magnesium plays a crucial role in brain function, mood regulation, and stress responses. It may affect the progression and onset of depression and anxiety. Stress has a significant role in chronic illness, including cardiovascular disease and certain cancers – a US study showed that up to 80% of doctor's visits might have a stress-related component. 

     

    5. Men should exercise for at least an hour per day.

    A True

    B False

     

    B False. Adults – including men – should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most, preferably all, days of the week. Moderate-intensity physical activities include walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming, and bicycling. Find one or more things you enjoy, and make them part of each day.

     

    Wishing you a happy and healthy men's health month and beyond! 

     

     

     


  • 29 Oct 2021 11:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Herbal medicine, also known as botanical medicine, phytotherapy or phytomedicine, is the use of plants for healing. The leaves, flowers, stems, seeds, roots, fruits or bark may be used and ancient scriptures show that the Roman, Egyptian, Persian and Hebrew people all used herbal medicine to treat diverse illnesses.



    The only form of medicine of the majority of the world

    Every global culture has its own herbal remedies based on local plants and knowledge passed on over generations. Some examples include indigenous Australian, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine, Native American and European remedies. According to WHO, although herbal medicine is classed as ‘complementary’ in most Western countries, it remains the only form of medicine widely available to most people globally.


    Pharmaceuticals’ herbal medicine roots

    Many modern prescription medicines have their roots in herbal medicine and herbs work in a similar way to many pharmaceuticals. For example, aspirin is derived from the bark of the willow tree, the anti-malaria medicine, quinine, is extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree, morphine is produced from the opium poppy and CBD oil is derived from the marijuana plant.

    Plants contain a large number of naturally occurring chemicals (constituents) with different biological activity. While pharmaceutical medicines use just one active ingredient, herbalists use herbs in their complete form, retaining the balance of a variety of constituents contained in the plant. Plus, herbalists believe that plants can effectively treat many conditions with far fewer unwanted side effects that are often seen in conventional pharmaceutical treatments. However, herbs can be very potent and, if misused, they can cause serious adverse effects.


    Regulation of herbal medicines

    Medicinal products containing herbs are regulated in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). If ingredients are deemed higher risk due to toxicity, likely length of use, side effects, interactions or other features, they will be classified a registered medicine. In this case, the product will have the designation AUST R on the label. The product can be labelled a listed medicine with an AUST L label if deemed low risk.

     

    Buyer beware

    The TGA publishes safety alerts/advisories on its website about medicines of concern and advises consumers to exercise extreme caution in buying medicines over the Internet. This is because medicines bought from overseas may not meet the same standards as medicines approved in Australia; they may even contain unauthorised and potentially harmful ingredients.


    The takeout

    Herbal medicines have a very long history of use all over the world. Australian supplementary medicines are the most highly regulated in the word and a qualified health professional can provide useful guidance pertinent to individual needs.


  • 28 Oct 2021 9:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Australia’s complementary medicines industry is evolving to meet the needs of consumers and the Covid pandemic has altered the choices Australians are making. Read more here.




  • 22 Oct 2021 2:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The skin bumps and pimples that are acne are too familiar to many of us.



    Acne vulgaris affects more than 90% of young Australians aged 16–18 years and it can lead to self-esteem and emotional issues. Many factors contribute to acne development including inflammation, excess sebum and keratin production, acne-causing bacteria, hormones, blocked pores, hormones, medications, stress, age, certain foods and more. Acne bacteria may turn a clogged pore into an inflamed pimple.

    Acne lesions can increase the activity of pro-inflammatory factors on the skin (such as interleukin-1), which then trigger inflammation.

     

    A range of treatments including gentle skin care for mild acne either unblock the sebaceous ducts or act as antibacterial agents.


    Diet and nutrients may also help. Some researchers suggest that restricting refined carbohydrates, fast food, dairy, saturated fats and trans fats could be helpful. 


    Dietary factors that may help alleviate acne include:

    Paleolithic-style eating: Paleo diets are rich in lean meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts and low in grains, dairy and legumes has been linked with a reduced incidence of acne. 


    Mediterranean-style diets: Rich in vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, fish and olive oil and low in dairy and saturated fats; this kind of eating may reduce the severity of acne.


    Omega-3s: These are essential fatty acids (which means the body can't make them for itself). They have a potent anti-inflammatory action; regular consumption is linked to a reduced risk of acne. A deficiency of omega-3 fats is related to the promotion of acne. A randomized, controlled trial in 45 people with mild to moderate acne found that taking 2,000G of EPA and DHA supplements daily for ten weeks significantly decreased inflammatory and noninflammatory acne lesions.


    Probiotics: These promote a healthy gut and balanced microbiome, which is linked to reduced inflammation and a lower risk of acne. Researchers concluded that the skin microbiome, or bacterial skin balance, has more to do with acne development than a single type of bacteria. Probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles and kefir. 


    Turmeric: The active ingredient in turmeric is anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial curcumin. Studies suggest that it may inhibit the growth of acne-causing bacteria.


    Vitamins A, D, E and zinc: These play essential roles in skin and immune health and may help prevent acne.

     

     


  • 20 Sep 2021 3:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month; the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia is asking Australia to get involved and help create awareness and raise the much-needed funds to assist in the fight against prostate cancer. The most common cancer in Australia sees 20,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, with close to 3,300 deaths. About the size of a walnut, the prostate gland surrounds the bladder and urethra. It continues to grow throughout a man's life. 



     

    The prostate can become enlarged over the age of 50, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Because of enlargement and inflammation, the flow of urine out of the bladder can become blocked, resulting symptoms can include the urge to urinate, waking up in the middle of the night to urinate, painful ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. There may also be a feeling of fullness in the bladder and incomplete emptying. BPH can also cause bladder, urinary tract or kidney problems.  


    Although the development of BPH is not completely clear, testosterone may play a role. It may be that a metabolite of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, builds up in the prostate, causing it to grow. 

     

    As well as regular medical checks and consulting a doctor if symptoms develop, enjoying a healthy mixed diet is essential for prostate health. So:

    Get into and stay in a healthy weight range

    Exercise regularly 

    Cut down on red meat and saturated fats

    Moderate alcohol intake

     

    Certain nutrients are also thought to contribute to prostate health.

     

    Add omega-3s

    Try to put fish on your dish twice a week or more. Oily fish, including salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are powerful anti-inflammatories. All fish contains some omega-3s, though so white fish, canned tuna and seafood are good choices, too. Try oysters, calamari, prawns and crab are rich in zinc. A normal prostate has the most concentrated levels of zinc in the body. Research shows that prostate tissue from men with BPH had significantly less zinc than normal prostate tissue. It is not clear if prostate problems cause the depletion of zinc, or if lower levels of zinc contribute to prostate health problems.

     

    Berries and more

    Berries, citrus, and other fruits are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C; these battle free radicals, which are by-products of normal body reactions. Over time, the build-up of free radicals can cause damage such as inflammation which is an important factor related to prostatic enlargement. 

     

    Don’t skimp on veggies

    Vegetables provide a whole range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Cabbages, broccoli, bok-choy, cauliflower, onions, and garlic contain sulphur and help to fight inflammation.

     

    Love lycopene

    One of the greatest prostate-protecting superstars is tomatoes. The pigment that gives them their rich, red colour is the powerful antioxidant lycopene. Cooking tomatoes with olive or coconut oil makes the lycopene easier for the body to absorb. Watermelon is also lycopene-rich.

     

    Turn to turmeric

    A cousin to ginger, turmeric gives curry and mustard their deep yellow colour. It has been used in India as a spice and medicinal herb for thousands of years and now, science has proven turmeric's medicinal qualities. Curcumin is turmeric’s active ingredient and consuming it with piperine in black pepper enhances its absorption by a massive 2,000%. Most Australian curcumin supplements contain piperine. High doses of curcumin over a gram per day are needed for the medicinal results seen in studies.


    It is essential to discuss any concerns about regarding prostate health with a medical professional as soon as possible.

     

    The truth is that where it comes to beating inflammation, there is no one single remedy but healthy, lifestyle choices can help.

     

    So, anyone for salmon, spinach and turmeric-pepper tomatoes?


  • 08 Sep 2021 11:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By guest contributor Michelle Boyd MHSc WHM, GradCert HEd, BHScNat, FNHAA Naturopath and Herbalist, University Lecturer, Clinical Educator & Author.


    Michelle Boyd, Naturopath, Herbalist, Lecturer, Clinical Educator and Author.


    Menopause is a natural stage of life; it is not a disease. Managing menopausal symptoms is only one part of the big picture in supporting a woman’s adjustment through mid-life changes. Ideally, planning for menopause should begin long before it starts.


    The menopausal transition usually occurs from 45 to 55 years of age and may take a woman 5 to 10 years to transit menopause, with this stage of fluctuating hormones (and hence irregular menstrual cycles) referred to as perimenopause1. Perimenopause is recognised by many as a time of ‘hormonal chaos’ during which up to 80% of women suffer from both physical and emotional symptoms (60% mild to moderate; 20% severe), including hot flushes and sweats(mostly), anxiety/depressed mood and insomnia.2


    Hot flushes

    Menopausal hot flushes are thought to be hormonally driven, however they are also influenced by stress and diet (blood sugar fluctuations). No matter what the cause, it’s all about the ‘bothersome’ factor – whether women have 2 or 20 hot flushes a day, if it’s ‘bothersome' enough for them to seek help then they need relief!


    The most reliable herbal relief for hot flushes is found with Actaea racemosa (Black cohosh). Most recent Actaearacemosa studies3,4,5 involving 1200+ menopausal womendemonstrated statistically relevant reduction of major menopausal symptoms especially the incidence and severity of hot flushes with results seen within 2-4 weeks, with continued improvement shown over 3 and 9 months.


    Stress/diet related factors that may exacerbate hot flushes also need to be identified. Erratic eating behaviour plays havoc with blood sugar levels promoting the incidence/severity of hot flushes. Menopausal women need to eat (less) more regularly and think ‘paddock to plate’:Combine good quality protein with colourful plate of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables


    Relax before meals and eat dinner (early) at the table


    Alcohol promotes hot flushes – reduce/stop intake


    Anxiety and stress

    Midlife women have many sources of anxiety and stress -juggling work with life, bringing up teenagers, caring for grandchildren and/or aging parents and their own ageing. 


    Anxiety and stress can be part of the menopause picture and/or result from a very busy, caffeinated and stressful mid-life! Either way, these women need nervous system support, e.g., herbal Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort) is shownto relieve stress and anxiety, improving midlife mood – as does reducing caffeine intake!


    Insomnia

    Women can suffer hot flushes and/or sweats 24/7 which can cause insomnia. Alternatively, insomnia may be due to worrying about ‘midlife stuff’ becoming tired, cranky and frustrated – more midlife moodiness! Reducing the incidence/severity of hot flushes/sweats and promoting a good night’s sleep will help resolve her suffering and Valeriana officinalis (Valerian) and Humulus lupulus (Hops)combination, mimic the body’s natural sleep hormone (melatonin) promoting a restful good night’s sleep.6


    Silent changes

    Post-menopausal women may continue to experience menopausal symptoms; however, it is the ‘silent changes’ due to the decline in the ‘protective effects’ of oestrogen that require far more important attention. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in post-menopausal women and cardiovascular markers like increased body weight (especially abdominal fat), high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all increase in post-menopause.7 Lifestylechanges are essential to increase longevity and decrease the risk of osteoporosis and CVD. Healthy eating and regular exercise are most important to manage weight and prevent disease. 


    Healthy heart

    A diet rich in antioxidant/anti-ageing culinary herbs and spices have been shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular health.8 Most notable is turmeric, the ‘spice of life!’ with antioxidant/anti-inflammatory properties providingtherapeutic benefits for various conditions ailing menopausal women.  Others include ginger, cumin, marjoram, cardamom, garlic, cinnamon, oregano and rosemary.


    Periodic testing of blood pressure and blood lipid (fat) levels (importantly triglycerides) is recommended for menopausalwomen as is bone mass density (BMD).


    Healthy bones

    Menopause is an important time to check BMD to identify any health issues early. On average, it is estimated women will lose up to 10% of their BMD in the first 5 years post menopause. Promoting healthy bones requires both regular exercise and adequate vitamin D levels and calcium intake.9


    Menopausal women require 1300 mg/day of calcium, preferably from low calorie dietary sources (which will also contain other healthy nutrients),10 with a calcium supplement (maximum 500-600 mg per day) to top up the difference if need be. 


    Low levels of vitamin D are commonly seen in menopausal women. Vitamin D is naturally produced in our skin when exposed to ultraviolet sun light. Osteoporosis Australia’s website www.osteoporosis.org.au provides a vitamin D sunshine map to help you identify the best time/duration depending on location/time of year for optimal exposure and regular intake of vitamin D3 supplement is beneficial for those with inadequate levels.

     

    Exercise

    Regular exercise is important for menopausal heart and bone health and there are several reasons why.11

    Upright weight-bearing activity promotes strong healthy bones. 

    Inner core strength exercise helps maintain balance to help prevent falls.

    Improving reflexes promotes quicker response to help break falls. 

    Menopausal women need to consult their doctor and a qualified exercise specialist to establish their individual needs.  

    Exercise builds muscle cells providing benefits for metabolism and improved energy to enjoy midlife and beyond!  


    In closing …

    Many menopausal women (including myself) soon realise their menopausal symptoms just don’t go away overnight and some of us must endure them for many years. In knowing this, our focus becomes that of finding efficacious, clinically proven, natural treatments with good safety track records.Look for them – they’re out there 

     

    References

    1. Menopause Symptoms, Signs, Treatment, Definition (medicinenet.com)

    2. Symptoms of menopause | Jean Hailes

    3. Lopatka L et al. Black Cohosh in the Treatment of Menopausal Complaints – Results of an Observational Study with Cimifemin Uno. Journal of Menopause(English version) 2007; 2:16-21.

    4. Schellenberg R et al. Dose-Dependent Effects of the Cimicifuga racemosa Extract Ze 450 in the Treatment of Climacteric Complaints: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012. doi: 10.1155/2012/260301. 

    5. Drewe et al. The effect of a Cimicifuga racemosaextracts Ze 450 in the treatment of climacteric complaints – an observational study. Phytomedicine.2013; 20:659-666.

    6. Koetter U et al. A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Prospective Clinical Study to Demonstrate Clinical Efficacy of a Fixed Valerian Hops Extract Combination (Ze 91019) in Patients Suffering from Non-Organic Sleep Disorder. Phytotherapy Research. 2007; 21:847-851.

    7. Menopause | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government (www.qld.gov.au)

    8. Iyer A et al. Potential Health Benefits of Indian Spices in the Symptoms of the Metabolic Syndrome: A Review. Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics. 2009; 46:467-481.

    9. Menopause and osteoporosis - Better Health Channel

    10. Calcium - Better Health Channel

    11. Grindler NM & Santoro NF. Menopause and exercise. Menopause. 2015; 22(12):1351-1358. 


  • 06 Sep 2021 11:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By guest contributer, Sarah Culverhouse, Head of Education at  Fusion Health.



    Naturopath and Head of Education at Fusion Health, Sarah Culvershouse, talks herbs, hormones and tradtional Chinese Medicine. 


    Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has an interesting understanding of the changes that occur in a woman’s body during menopause. The insights offer a window into some of the core concepts of TCM as well as traditionally used symptom relief strategies for women experiencing menopausal symptoms.

     

    Menopause is a time of Yin and Yang imbalance

    The concepts of Yin and Yang and the key role that balance and harmony play in health and wellbeing1 is an aspect of TCM that most of us have some awareness of. These days, the familiar Yin-Yang symbol can be seen around the world, featured on everything from t-shirts and surfboards – and even the Fusion Health logo!

     

    In summary, TCM teaches that Yin and Yang are two opposing forces that exist in an ever-changing relationship. One may dominate the other under certain circumstances, but as long as they’re continuously returning to balance, optimal health and wellbeing will be maintained.

     

    In TCM, all Yin and Yang in the human body is traditionally believed to arise from the Kidney organ-meridian system, which is also regarded as governing all aspects of reproductive health and function – including the menopausal transition1.

     

    During menopause, it’s traditionally understood that Kidney Yin becomes deficient relative to Kidney Yang2.

     

    Yin has cooling and moistening properties, so when Kidney Yin is deficient, symptoms can develop that are characterised by heat (such as hot flushes and sweating2) and lack of moisture (such as vaginal dryness).

     

    On the other hand, Yang is heating and drying, so as it becomes more dominant or hyperactive in comparison to Kidney Yin, heat-related menopausal symptoms worsen, and the fluids in the body begin to dry up.

     

    In TCM, this symptom pattern is known as ‘internal heat in Yin deficiency’ or ‘deficiency heat’1.

     

    Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine for Menopause

     

    Anemarrhena: traditional cooling herb

    When the Kidney Yin deficiency pattern described above is present, anemarrhena is traditionally used to relieve hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness in TCM.

    It’s traditionally regarded as having cooling properties and the ability to moisten dryness, so is traditionally used in TCM to nourish Yin and cool deficiency heat.

     

    Dong quai: traditionally used to relieve menopausal hot flushes

    Dong quai is traditionally used to relieve menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes in TCM, and is also traditionally taken as a blood tonic.

     

    Yoga for menopausal women

    Research suggests that practising yoga might help women who are peri-menopausal or post-menopausal manage both vasomotor symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats, and psychological symptoms such as mood swings.

     

    In particular, regular yoga may lead to a small-to-moderate reduction in the severity of hot flushes – but you’ll need to develop a regular practice, as these effects don’t occur in the short-term, according to research published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

     

    References:

    1.    Liu, Z. & Liu, L. (Eds.) (2009) Essentials of Chinese Medicine (vol 1) Springer London.

    2.    Bensky D and Barolet R. Chinese Herbal Medicine Formulas & Strategies. 1990. Eastland Press.

    3.    Shepherd-Banigan, M. et al. Complement Ther Med, 2017;34156-64


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Resources



Six herbs and nutrients that support immunity

Herbs and nutrition have been harnessed for their health benefits by people around the world since time began. With the Australian winter nearly upon us, and given the current pandemic, here are some herbs and nutrients that have been widely used to support the immune system, reduce risk of infection and minimise symptoms should an infection occur.


A healthy, varied diet, enough sleep, managing stress, adequate physical activity and not smoking support immunity.

 

The basics

The cornerstone to good health and to supporting your immune system is enjoying a healthy, varied diet, getting enough sleep, managing stress, getting enough physical activity and not smoking. In addition, several herbs and supplements may also be used to support immunity. Check with your healthcare practitioner before taking supplements and if any symptoms persist.

Because COVID-19 is a novel virus, there are no proven treatments or preventative therapies including supplements, medicines or foods that are known to protect us. Until the virus is better understood, limiting community exposure through social distancing or isolation where appropriate, and practicing good hygiene are vital to limit the spread.


Your immune system

Like other body systems, your immune system is complex. Many cells and tissues make up your defence system from your skin to your gut and even eyelashes and white blood cells. Every area of the body is supported – so you could consider your body as your castle and your immune system as the soldiers that patrol and defend every part of your body. 

Keeping your immune system in balance is important at every age and every stage of life. And, traditionally, a number of herbs and nutrients have been used to support the immune system – feeding and supporting your internal soldiers.


1.        Astragalus

Native to China, Korea, Mongolia and Russia, the herb Astragalus has been used since the second century AD to support the immune system, and recent study has shown it supports immunity at the cellular level. This herb is an adaptogen which means that it helps to support the body's reaction to stress. Astragalus root extract is traditionally used to promote a healthy immune system, increase resistance to infection and relieve fatigue.


2.        Andrographis

Used widely in Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties, Andrographis contains andrographolide, a terpenoid compound shown to have antiviral effects, including against those that cause respiratory infections. When taken at the first sign of cold symptoms, Andrographis may help to prevent a cold from developing with full force. Andrographis may help to ease the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. It might also prevent influenza viruses from binding to cells in the body, although more research is needed to understand its effectiveness in treating the flu. It can be used to relieve symptoms of treat mild fever, the common cold and sore throat.

This herb is not recommended for use in pregnancy and breast feeding.  There is a small possibility of developing taste disturbances when using Andrographis products so follow the label instructions. 


3.        Echinacea

Echinacea is a daisy-like plant and has been used by Native Americans for centuries.  There are 2 main species used - Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia. Various parts of these different Echinacea species are active in different ways; which is why they are frequently used together.

Echinacea supports a healthy immune response when taken at the onset of symptoms. Studies have suggested that certain species improve immune health and may have antiviral effects against several respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus and rhinoviruses. The antiviral action may be due to the presence of certain polysaccharides that increase the production of infection-fighting white blood cells.

When taken at the first sign of symptoms, Echinacea can relieve symptoms of colds and mild upper respiratory infections and may reduce the duration of cold-related symptoms such as fatigue, body aches and headache.

 

4. Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, is unusual because the major source is sunshine rather than food sources (it is made when the sunlight interacts with a cholesterol-like substance in your skin). Certain groups, particularly those with restricted access to sunlight may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, which can be medically diagnosed with a simple blood test. Vitamin D is essential to support the health and functioning of your immune system. 

This vitamin works by enhancing the pathogen (disease) fighting effects of white blood cells that are part of your immune defence and decreases inflammation, helping to support the immune response.

Being deficient in vitamin D may be associated with an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections.

Food sources of vitamin D include some mushrooms, oily fish, fortified foods and egg yolks.


5. Zinc 

Zinc deficiency affects around 2 billion people worldwide and is very common in older adults. About 30% of older adults may be deficient in zinc. Low levels can increase the risk of infection because this mineral helps support healthy immune system function.

It's important not to overdo it though – too much zinc can interfere with copper absorption. Find zinc in whole grains, oysters, baked beans, chickpeas, and nuts.


6. Vitamin C 

The best know nutrient when it comes to your immune system is perhaps Vitamin C. Vitamin C is vital for immune health and may reduce the severity and duration of colds. It encourages the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes and phagocytes), which help protect against infection. It also helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals. Free radical damage can negatively affect immune health and is linked to numerous diseases.

Because it is water-soluble, you can't store large amounts so it's important to consume some every day. Good food sources include vegetables and fruits; however if you cook veggies, cook them until just tender in a small amount of water as vitamin C is destroyed by heat and can leach out into the cooking water.


Last word

Remember that although supplements can make a difference to your immune health, they can't replace a healthy lifestyle. If you are unwell, stay at home and following Department guidelines about COVID-19 – see https://bit.ly/3evgvyN


References 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6268577/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4002847

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK71143/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25832590/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25157026/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/


Soluble Fibre, Insoluble Fibre, Functions And Where to Find It

June 2020

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month which claims the lives of 103 Australians every week (5,375 people a year) - but it's one of the most treatable types of cancer if found early[i]. As well as regular testing, diet is an important factor where it comes to prevention.

Many studies have shown a diet high in fibre can help reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer. This features focuses on fibre – which four out of five Australians don’t consume enough of – and the many benefits of fibre for all-round good health.

Dietary fibre refers to the parts of plant foods that aren’t digested. Although you can’t absorb it – it never leaves your gastrointestinal tract – fibre is vital for good health. Experts recommend around 30g of fibre recommended daily for adults.

Here are six reasons your body needs fibre and easy ways to add more fibre into your diet.


1.      It gives your large intestine a workout

Insoluble fibre (the outer shells of seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables) can be stringy or coarse. The large intestine is a long muscular tube and, like all muscles, it needs exercise. Insoluble fibre draws water to it and softens the stool making waste more comfortable to pass. Keeping things moving helps to prevent conditions such as constipation, haemorrhoids and diverticular disease.

 

2.      It feeds your probiotic bacteria

Resistant starch, although not traditionally thought of as fibre, acts in a similar way. It resists digestion in the small intestine (where most food is digested) and when it enters the large intestine, provides food for gut bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria play a key role in controlling inflammation; too much chronic (long-term) inflammation may predispose people to type 2 diabetes.

 

Find resistant starch in legumes (peas, beans and lentils), seeds, grains, green bananas and certain cooked-and-cooled starchy foods including potatoes and rice.

 

3.      It helps you feel fuller for longer

Soluble fibre is usually soft and moist and is found in fruit (but not the skins), vegetables and pulses, oats and ground flax seeds. This type of fibre mixes with water in the gut forming a gel-like substance, helping to slow down digestion which, in turn, helps you feel fuller for longer. It also feeds your beneficial gut bacteria. Plus, the physical bulk helps you feel fuller so you may be less likely to consume excess calories.  

 

4.      It reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes

Research suggests that if every Australian adult added just 4–5g of fibre to their diet each day, it could help prevent 126,000 cases of type 2 diabetes and 64,000 cases of heart disease saving our economy $3.3 billion[ii].

Eating a diet that is rich in fibre can help to flatten the rise in blood glucose (sugar) after eating. And, because it can help to delay the absorption of glucose from the gut and into the bloodstream, your body does not have to release as much insulin to return blood glucose levels to normal.

 

Again, fibre provides food for your probiotic bacteria, and good gut bacteria can play a part in weight regulation since obesity is a significant risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.

 

Soluble fibre is especially important if you have insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Find it in psyllium husk, legumes, oats and ground flax seeds. Ripe fruit and vegetables naturally contain more soluble fibre.

 

5.      It protects your heart

A high-fibre diet may help protect your heart by reducing cholesterol levels in the blood – the gel-like substance may reduce glucose and cholesterol absorption into the bloodstream. Again, it can also help to control weight. High cholesterol levels, high blood glucose levels and being overweight are all risk factors for heart disease.

 

Fibre also increases the production of short-chain fatty acids by probiotic bacteria which have also been shown to help to reduce inflammation and cholesterol production.

 

6.      It’s linked with gut health

Higher intakes of fibre are associated with lower rates of bowel cancer. Probiotic bacteria the short-chain fatty acids produced help to keep the lining of the intestine healthy. They also help the body absorb minerals, enhance fat and glucose metabolism in the liver, and have anti-diarrhoeal and anti-inflammatory properties. Butyrate, one of the short-chain fatty acids that is produced by the fermentation of fibre in the large intestine, may reduce the risk of tumour growth.

 

What about supplements?

Fibre supplements may help people to enjoy the many health benefits of fibre, relieve constipation and maintain regularity. Plus, by choosing a diet that is low in saturated fat and by adding soluble fibre, such as psyllium husk, may help to lower blood cholesterol levels; this may help to reduce the of heart disease. It is important to obtain the advice of a healthcare practitioner especially if you have certain health conditions.

 

Be cautious

In some medical conditions, it may be important to restrict insoluble fibre. These include acute or subacute diverticulitis, acute phases of certain inflammatory bowel conditions such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, and after some types of intestinal surgery.

 

Some types of fibre can exacerbate underlying irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you have IBS and you’re following a low-FODMAP diet, you may find some high-fibre foods make your symptoms worse. Talk to your healthcare practitioner for individual advice.

 

Go slow and drink plenty of fluids

If you’d like to consume more fibre, go slowly over a few weeks. Too much too soon can trigger discomfort and leave you feeling bloated and constipated. And make sure you drink plenty of fluids as fibre draws water into the bowel and needs fluid to work properly.

 

How to do it

Boost your fibre intake by choosing wholegrain foods most of the time, add legumes (beans, chickpeas and lentils) to salads, soups and stews at least two-to-three times a week, and try to choose high fibre cereals instead of fibre-stripped refined foods.

 

Aim for around 30g of fibre a day. Here are some good food sources of fibre.

 

Cereals and breads

Wholegrain barley wrap 1 wrap = 10g

Wholemeal pasta (cooked) 1 cup = 10g  

Soy-linseed bread 2 slices = 6g

Rolled oats 1/4 cup = 4g

Weet-Bix 2 biscuits = 3.5g                          

Brown rice (cooked) 1 cup = 3g   

Quinoa (cooked) 1/2 cup = 2.5g

 

Beans and pulses            

Baked beans 130g can = 6g

Four-bean mix 125g can = 6g

Chickpeas (cooked) 1/2 cup = 5g

Lentils (cooked) 1/2 cup = 3.5g

Hummus 2 tbs = 2.5g     

               

Veggies and fruits

Vegetables (cooked) 1 cup = 8g  

Carrot/celery sticks 1 cup = 4g

Banana 1 medium = 3g

Apple 1 medium = 3g     

Sweet potato 1/2 small = 3g

Avocado 1/4 medium = 2g

Potatoes 2 small = 1.5g

Dried fruit 2 tbs = 1.5g

 

Nuts and seeds

Chia seeds 1 tbs = 5.5g

Plain popcorn 2 cup = 4g              

Almonds 20 nuts = 3g

Peanut butter 1 tbs = 3g               

Seed mix 2tbs = 2.5g

 

References

 

 


[i] https://www.letsbeatbowelcancer.com.au/events/bowel-cancer-awareness-month/

[i] https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/economics/articles/expenditure-savings-increased-intake-grain-fibre-australia.html

 

 

 

Gerald Quigley talks pharmacy and immune support


Community pharmacist, master herbalist, media health commentator and author, Gerald Quigley, has been passionate about integrative medicine since his early career, which spans nearly 50 years.

Gerald is passionate about empowering people to take control of their own health via greater understanding.


Right from their beginning in their shopping strip pharmacy, Gerald and his now-retired pharmacist wife, Philippa, noticed that the same people with the same health issues returned to the pharmacy over and over again. The couple made a conscious decision to become better involved with their customers and their chronic diseases, determined to help people understand their illness better and, most of all, to ensure that their illness did not define them.


“Philippa became the dispensary manager, and my role was to spend as little dispensing time as possible. I focused on mixing with customers and those whose health we felt we could make a difference to,” says Gerald.  


The couple’s aim was to empower people to take control of their own health via greater understanding.


“This is important because, of course, pharmacists are health professionals. But if you ask anyone the name of their GP or their dentist, they will know. But what about their pharmacist, the person in charge of their health,” asks Gerald?


So, the team made a point of getting to know customers by their name and be a part of their wellness. Every staff member carried a business card, and all sought feedback on nutritional medicines and how patients were progressing.


Empowering with information

The couple often saw the same people with the same conditions, including diabetes, asthma, hypertension, raised cholesterol and psoriasis. Soon, people would line up and talk about their issues, and Gerald and the team would discuss medicines and the role that complementary medicines could play.


“We aimed to help people understand that they didn’t need to be dominated by their condition. Our message might be to consume more omega-3s, exercise regularly and not smoke – we were people-centric, and people responded to that,” Gerald says.


Better understanding, greater responsibilities

Gerald strongly believes that helping people understand more about their own health comes with responsibilities. Any food a person consumes has a physiological action, and every medicine has a pharmacological action.


“Pharmacists have a responsibility to ensure the patient understands their medicines and their health plus that they provide feedback to the pharmacist so that individual and mutual understanding can grow.”


For example, when a patient is prescribed a statin, it is important to explain how Ubiquinol and CoEnzymeQ10 production is affected. And, for people taking Metformin, explaining how vitamin B12 levels can be affected. I feel that it is professionally reprehensible not to do this, and it is a fundamental nutritional requirement.”


Supporting immunity

Gerald notes that immune support is as important as ever given the current pandemic. “Many factors contribute to immune support. And there is evidence-based research to back the use of certain nutrients. Given that so many people consume takeaway foods so often, and 94% of people don’t consume enough vegetables and fruits, clearly, there is a need for better nutrition. I recently read about the role of music in immune function – anything you can do to support healthy immune function is worthwhile,” he says.


Speaking about one of the most widely used analgesics, paracetamol, Gerald notes that according to the Australian Medicines Handbook, the mode of action is not known. “Plus a study published two years ago found that paracetamol was no better than placebo for arthritic pain,” Gerald says.


Reinventing the business of pharmacy

Now amid the current coronavirus pandemic, it may be the perfect time to reinvent the business of pharmacy suggests Gerald. “Listen to the information people can share and take the opportunities to upskill everybody who works in a pharmacy.” From a complementary medicines perspective, Gerald believes that now it is more important than ever.


“The best advice I could give pharmacy staff is to research and be confident about a topic – be it pharmaceutical or herbal. You don’t have to be an expert on everything. Choose an area and specialise in it. Currently, perhaps consider immune-supporting herbs or vitamins, to offset insomnia or anxiety? For example, understanding the role of vitamin D3, Echinacea and Astragalus to name just a few and how their antiviral actions apply.”


Pharmacists’ professionalism needs to develop faster than their commercialism,” he adds, “pharmacy graduates need to shift their thinking from illness to wellness. Teaching needs a fundamental overhaul because it can make a real and positive difference to people,” he says.


Herbal and complementary medicine training 

If asked to choose between a pharmaceutical topic or herbal topic, Gerald says he would probably choose to learn about a herbal topic or one with a base in complementary medicines.


“A lot of pharmaceutical education is company-sponsored while complementary medicine presentations tend to be headed by practitioners who can also supply a patient history. And this is practical knowledge that can be used in practical situations,” he says.


Petty controversies

“CMA does great work with the TGA and responds to the petty controversies touted by FSM, e.g. focussing on imported supplements with their sometimes outrageous claims. They should be thinking more about the many ways we could reduce the risk to patients, from overseas products. Australia’s complementary medicines industry is more responsible now than ever and needs pharmacies and medicines to support them.”


The sniping in news media about complementary medicine disturbs Gerald. “There is little publicity about the dangers of prescription medicines – take Lyrica, for example. Lyrica is now the most prescribed pain medication on PBS, but there are calls for nationwide monitoring after reports that it may cause depression and anxiety. Other side effects can include coma, but you won’t read about them in tabloids. Yet if a milk thistle supplement imported from overseas causes a side effect in one person in the outback, that would make front-page news,” Gerald says.


Ethical, not monetary 

Gerald underlines the needs for a multidisciplinary approach to healthcare for patients. Developing strong relationships with dietitians and nutritionists, naturopaths and more will forge stronger professional relationships.  The basis should be ethical, not monetary.


Finding a trusted practitioner who puts your welfare before his requires trial and error stresses Gerald. “Like finding a good GP or plumber, the professional needs to understand and respect the individual and request and respond to feedback – and that includes the pharmacist. What an opportunity for pharmacists to be involved! If patients don’t have the confidence to ask their pharmacist, then it’s a sad indictment on our profession.”


We should all aspire to unite our industry to become more ethical urges Gerald. “And pharmacists and their teams understand that we can make a difference and help to make the world a healthier place,” ends Gerald.  


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