Women’s Health Week 2018

Women’s Health Week 2018

Raising awareness with women that health is an important priority in life and moving it from the bottom of your to-do-list to the top is definitely a wise move to make. Naturopath, Emma McLauglin, explains how you can reach your health goals in a holistic and fulfilling way.

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Health Check: five reasons to put the kettle on and have a cup of tea


Clare Collins, University of Newcastle

Growing up, tea drinking was reserved for my grandmother’s visits. Making it followed a strict and fascinating ritual. Take scalding hot water. Warm the tea pot. Add one spoon of tea leaves for each person and one for the pot. Cover with a tea cosy. Turn the pot three times to the left, three to the right, then three to the left. Leave to brew. Warm the cups; milk in first, pour through a tea strainer.

My grandmother could taste any attempt you made to shortcut the process. Once Grandma approved the tea, pressure eased and conversation flowed.

In Australia 38% of the general population and 67% of those aged over 70 are tea drinkers. Our median intake is two cups a day, about 400mls.

By world standards we rank 55 for tea consumption, compared to the United States at 69, New Zealand 45 and the United Kingdom, number five. Turkey takes out the number one spot, consuming more than ten times the per capita intake of Australians.

1. Tea and survival

Around the world, tea is the most common drink after water. Popularity increased in the 1800s because the practise of boiling water to make the tea meant water-borne pathogens like cholera and typhoid would be killed, making it safer to drink.

Tea comes from the leaves and buds of the plant Camellia sinensis. Black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong varieties all come from the same plant, but are processed into dried leaves differently.

Science has muscled in on our tea drinking habits and started to unravel what makes us love our “cuppa”. There is a large group of bioactive components in tea called polyphenols, which include catechins and tannins. Concentrations of these compounds vary depending on how you make the tea, including the amount of tea leaves per cup, water temperature and brewing time.

Catechins have anti-oxidant properties and are most abundant in green tea. Tannins, which inhibit non-haem iron absorption in the gut, are most abundant in black tea. So if you have iron deficiency, avoid drinking tea with meals. But if you have the excessive iron storage condition haemochromatosis, drinking tea with meals will help reduce iron absorption.

2. Tea and your brain

Components of tea that can boost brain activity include caffeine, catechins and the amino acid, L-theanine.

In a systematic review of the effects of tea on mood and cognitive function, the combination of L-theanine and caffeine was shown to increase alertness and attention-switching accuracy up to two hours after consumption. The researchers also found small enhancements in accuracy of visual and auditory attention.

Catechins and the amino acid, L-theanine, can boost brain power. ned the head/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Preliminary evidence also suggests catechins may have a calming effect during the second hour post-cuppa. The authors called for further research using a greater dosage range of catechin and L-theanine to help separate any effects due to caffeine intake.

At this stage however, there is no clear evidence that drinking tea will protect people from developing dementia.

3. Tea and weight loss

There has been a lot of interest in whether tea, particularly green tea, can increase energy expenditure and help with weight loss.

Two Dutch meta-analyses have examined the evidence in studies comparing catechin-plus-caffeine mixtures versus caffeine-only supplements on energy expenditure and fat oxidation (breaking down fat). They found that compared to placebo and caffeine-only groups, people who had catechin-plus-caffeine mixtures were more likely to break down fat.

They also evaluated whether green tea could improve body weight regulation. Their meta-analysis found the group consuming catechins from green tea had a 1.3 kilogram greater weight loss and were more likely to maintain this loss; although there were some differences based on ethnicity and usual caffeine intake.

4. Tea and diabetes

Last year, a pooled analysis of 12 cohort studies compared tea drinking with risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that among those who drank three to four or more cups per day there was a 16% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to those who usually drank just one or no cups of tea.

But when they drilled down into the studies, the lower risk was only found in women and those of Asian ethnicity. We need to keep in mind that associations found in cohort studies do not prove causation.

In a meta-analysis of ten randomised controlled trials that lasted eight weeks or more, totalling 608 adults with type 2 diabetes, researchers found mixed results for the impact of drinking tea, or consuming various tea extracts, on blood markers of diabetes control.

While there were improvements in fasting blood insulin and waist circumference, there was no impact on other markers, including fasting blood glucose, LDL (bad) or HDL (good) cholesterol, body mass index or blood pressure.

Both green tea and black tea can significantly reduce blood pressure. Selma Broeder/Flickr, CC BY

Researchers are now focusing more closely on the phenolic components in tea to try and develop compounds that could be used to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes.

5. Tea and heart disease

A Cochrane review evaluated 11 randomised controlled trials that ran for at least three months and were aimed at preventing heart disease in healthy adults or those at high risk of heart disease.

Pooled results showed that both green tea and black tea significantly reduced blood pressure, with black tea lowering LDL-cholesterol and green tea lowering total cholesterol. The small number of studies to date though means these results need to be interpreted with caution, but they do look promising.

Meanwhile, for a host of other reasons it seems that my grandmother was right: a good brew does more than than just warm you up (or cool you down). So put the kettle on, get out your best tea cups, create your own tea making ritual, gather the clan and relax with a cuppa.

The Conversation

Clare Collins is Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

So you think you have IBS, coeliac disease or Crohn’s? Here’s what it might mean for you


Rebecca Charlotte Reynolds, UNSW Australia

Conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract are common in modern humans and many are on the rise. The gastrointestinal tract extends from the mouth to the anus, via the stomach and the bowels, which include the small intestine and the large intestine (colon).

Around one in five Australians suffers symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at some point in their life. Around one in 70 have coeliac disease (though many don’t know they have it). Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which usually manifests as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, is less common, affecting three in 10,000 Australians.

The gastrointestinal tract. Blamb/Shutterstock

Irritable bowel syndrome is also called irritable colon. People with IBS have sensitive large intestines that are easily aggravated.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body reacts abnormally to gluten, which is found in wheat, oats, rye and barley. (An easy way to remember this is the acronym WORB.) This abnormal reaction to gluten causes damage and inflammation to the small intestine.

Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or intolerance. Some people can be sensitive to gluten, but not have coeliac disease. This is called non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

In inflammatory bowel disease, the gastrointestinal tract becomes swollen and red from inflammation. Abscesses and cracks can develop in any part of the tract in Crohn’s, while open sores called ulcers usually affect the large intestine in ulcerative colitis.

The causes of these gastrointestinal conditions are not well-understood, but may include a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as infection, psychological stress and diet. Researchers have reported associations, for instance, between higher intakes of total fat and meat and an increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.


Symptoms of these gastrointestinal tract conditions include bloating, cramps, abdominal pain, excessive wind, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, fatigue, mucus or blood in stools, body aches, weight loss and nutrient deficiencies.

Suffering from a gastrointestinal condition can be very stressful. Imagine being in constant abdominal pain and your toilet habits alternating between diarrhoea and constipation. Or your gut becoming so inflamed you have to go to hospital.

See your doctor if you suffer from these symptoms, particularly if you’ve had them for weeks or months; don’t wait years. Due to similarities in the symptoms of these gastrointestinal conditions, diagnosis often takes some time. It may also be necessary to investigate bowel cancer as a possibility.

It’s best not to self-diagnose or self-treat. If you remove gluten from your diet and feel better, for instance, that doesn’t automatically mean that you have coeliac disease and need to carefully avoid gluten for life.


Many gastrointestinal afflictions cannot be cured, but can be managed with combinations of medication, diet and psychological treatment.

Thankfully, irritable bowel syndrome can sometimes resolve over time and leave no long-term damage in the gastrointestinal tract. A 2015 review found that for the management of IBS symptoms, an individual’s diet, lifestyle and medical and behavioural factors must be taken into account. Because of a link between IBS and stress, psychological therapy has also been shown to reduce symptom severity and improve quality of life.

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These nutrients are poorly digested and absorbed in the small intestine, and therefore reach the large intestine, where they are fermented by bacteria. A low FODMAP diet and certain probiotics may also help ease IBS symptoms, although the long-term benefits of a low FODMAP diet are unclear.

In comparison, coeliac disease cannot be cured and must be managed with a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet to prevent small intestinal damage. And I mean strict. Even the gluten in a wheat bread crumb can cause bowel injury.

Conversely, symptoms associated with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity may indeed be due to gluten, or may be associated with other dietary components. Recent research has implicated FODMAP in non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. Like with the dietary management of IBS, a diet low or free from gluten and/or FODMAP may improve non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

Inflammatory bowel disease cannot be cured and is often managed with medications such as steroids and immunomodulators that control the high levels of gut inflammation. There is currently insufficient evidence to suggest dietary changes can treat inflammatory bowel disease, but future directions may involve manipulation of gut bacteria using combinations of antibiotics, prebiotics, probiotics and diet.

So, what can I eat?

The first step is to find out if you actually have a clinical gastrointestinal problem, which you can only do by consulting with a medical professional and having appropriate tests. Any dietary advice will depend on this diagnosis, as well as your individual situation.

Avoiding FODMAP-containing foods if you have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity or IBS may help ease symptoms and improve quality of life. This means cutting out otherwise healthy, fibre- and nutrient-rich foods, such as apples, onions and lentils.

The total removal of gluten from a coeliac’s diet means a rigid avoidance of not just bread and pasta but also many processed foods, including sauces, stocks, processed meats, ice cream, mayonnaise, vinegar and other products.

It also means shunning foods that are supposedly “gluten-free” but may have been contaminated with gluten by the use of shared apparatus, such as tongs to serve both gluten-free and other cookies in a cafe.

Avoiding gluten if you have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity may not need to be so strict.

For inflammatory bowel disease, the evidence may not yet clear enough to prescribe nutrition therapy, but eating a healthy and balanced diet can’t hurt.

People with gastrointestinal problems may benefit from personalised dietary advice from a health professional, such as a dietitian. There are also several national organisations that provide essential advice and support, such as Coeliac Australia.

The Conversation

Rebecca Charlotte Reynolds is Nutrition lecturer at UNSW Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.