The Evolution of Vital Child (thoughts on my ‘why’)

The Evolution of Vital Child (thoughts on my ‘why’)

But a lot has changed in 20 years. My babies are now teenagers and my eldest will be 21 this year. Their health issues have changed and my role as their parent has evolved. They need me and they don’t need me as teenagers do. In clinic, I’ve seen the health picture of a collective generation change as well. In the early days, my practice was busy with asthma, eczema and allergies. Now, along with the gut and immune issues, I regularly see behavioural and spectrum disorders with children on multiple prescription pharmaceuticals an increasingly common scenario. Will we really be (as has been reported) the first generation to outlive our children?

Thankfully, there is now more appreciation for the naturopathic approach to health then when I started out. I rarely have to explain what a naturopath is now. That the environment and our nutrition plays a role in our health is no longer questioned as it was. There may still be a ways to go before naturopaths are respected health professionals in Australia but it hasn’t stopped people voting with their wallets. Many people end up in naturopathic clinics because they’ve exhausted all other options. I know for parents, if we’re not getting answers and our children aren’t getting better, we’ll keep searching, often long after we’d have given up if it were for our own health issues.

All in all, I’ve found working with children and their parents to be extremely rewarding in spite of the challenges and the nights spent awake anxiously looking up a potential interaction I might have missed. The responsibility of advising parents around children’s health weighs heavier I believe than working with adults and I’ve had to learn to mediate that middle ground of being cautious but not ruled by fear in my clinical decision making.

In the last few years I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue to focus on children’s health in my naturopathic practice. My own children were growing up, and my health interests had expanded to issues I was facing myself, like perimenopause, hormones, stress, sleep and brain function and all the other aspects of how to live well post 40 years.

But every time that I’ve been close to giving in to the fear that I’ve nothing to offer families anymore, I’m reminded just how bloody isolating and hard it can be, sitting at home with a sick child or an unhappy, anxious teenager, feeling like they’ve run out of options – I remember that feeling and it’s like I’m right back there myself. If I can utilise my education and clinical experience and offer my support and reassurance to alleviate some of the parenting struggle, I know it’s worth it. After all, as the proverb goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. And I’m honoured to continue to play my role in that village.

Got a Cold? You Know WHAT to Take but do you know HOW?


Who hasn’t made up a soothing cup of tea with honey and lemon for a sore throat? Honey is a pure whole food containing lots of vitamins and antioxidants and the benefits are amplified if it’s Manuka honey which has antibacterial and antifungal properties as well. But you won’t get the best out of your honey if it’s overheated which runs the risk of destroying its medicinal benefits. This is also the reason why raw organic honey is best, as honey is heated during the refining process. You can work around this issue by adding the honey once the tea has cooled to at least 40 degrees Celsius.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C’s role in the prevention and treatment of the common cold has been argued over ever since Linus Pauling1 first popularized the idea over 40 years ago. Current research lends weight to the idea that taking vitamin C at the onset of a cold will shorten its duration but is not useful as a means to prevent colds in otherwise healthy persons. So dig in at the first sign of a sniffle and don’t be stingy with the quantity is probably the best advice. For this purpose, I would recommend getting vitamin C as a powder – ascorbic acid is the most easily absorbed but getting a mixture of ascorbic acid with ascorbates will cause less stomach irritation. You can take up to 6g a day without worrying about overdosing but break it up into divided doses, say 1g six times a day and ease off if it causes stomach irritation and/or diarrhea.

Herbal Medicine

Herbs are a fantastic resource when it comes to alleviating cold symptoms and supporting our own immune systems. I’ve seen the power of properly prescribed herbal medicines with my clients countless times and experienced it myself so I can’t recommend them highly enough. They work. And they work by improving the efficiency of our natural response to illness rather than by suppressing symptoms so we end up not only recovering from the acute illness but with a strengthened immune system because of it. Win/win!

Ideally, consult with a herbalist and get some advice about the right mix of herbs for your particular situation – they can make up a special mix for you and they will also advise on the dosing. But failing that, my advice would be to not be afraid to dose acutely for an acute condition. By this I mean, once you feel the onset of cold symptoms, start taking herbal medicines every 2 hours. For a chronic condition, a herbal formula may be prescribed at 5mL three times a day but that same formula (if the herbs are appropriate) may be recommended every 2 hours for the first day of a cold, then 6 times a day until the symptoms subside. Some herbs that may be prescribed include Andrographis, Echinacea, Eyebright, Elder, Yarrow and Pelargonium.

Getting a Cold Means it’s Time to Rest

I know this seems basic and we all know it, but I think the reminder is often necessary. Take the time to rest and let your body recover fully. Having a cold is a time to stop, rest, drink lots of water and herbal teas and enjoy wholesome soups. By doing this, in conjunction with getting the most from your natural remedies, you’ll be up and back into the swing of life in no time.

Acute case consultations are available at Vital Child so the next time you feel a cold coming on, try a herbal mix made up for your specific symptoms and see if you feel the difference.

[1] 1970, Pauling, L. Vitamin C and the Common Cold



Adrenal Fatigue. A Modern Epidemic?

Is Adrenal Fatigue Real?

First, let me clarify that ‘adrenal fatigue’ is a term in common usage relating to these symptoms however, the more medically correct term would likely be ‘HPA axis dysfunction’ and there are good biochemical reasons for this. As the purpose of this blog is to offer some general treatment options rather than delve into the science, I’m sticking with adrenal fatigue. I’m sure you can appreciate why.

Our adrenal glands play a crucial role in the ‘fight or flight’ stress response. We generally know when we’re burning the candle at both ends and often we instinctively compensate during a stressful time by letting go of less urgent responsibilities in order to cope but it also takes a lot of metabolic energy to recover. When we don’t allow ourselves the time and space and nutrition to recover fully, we leave ourselves at risk of adrenal fatigue.

Recovering from requires a nurturing approach. It’s a time to heed the warning that for every ‘push’ there requires a ‘pull’, a time to nurture and rebuild our reserves so we are ready for the next challenge. I was relieved to hear that Sonya had already pulled back on her training regime, taking care to listen to her body’s cues about the level of exercise most suited to her at this time. I highly recommend restorative yoga for its re-balancing abilities and for lowering cortisol especially for those of us ‘heady’ people who are good at adding to our stress levels with our busy, driven minds.

Help For Adrenal Fatigue Recovery

  • Supportive nutrients for the adrenals include Vitamin C, Magnesium, B Vitamins and Zinc. Seek advice about the optimum forms and dose of these nutrients for you.
  • Unrefined sea salt or Himalayan pink rock salt is a good source of trace minerals in natural levels that nourish the adrenals (1 tsp per day is all that’s needed).
  • Don’t forget to drink enough water – the general rule is 33ml per kg of body weight per day.
  • Be careful not to be too restrictive with carbs at this time. Our bodies need ready energy so ensure a minimum of 50-75g CHO per day (1 cup of mashed sweet potato = 50g). Root vegetables in general have grounding properties so add them in where possible.
  • Herbs such as Siberian and American Ginseng, Withania, Licorice, Rhodiola and Rehmannia are great adrenal supportive herbs.
  • Get outside – walk, swim, sit in nature. As well as soothing a frazzled mind and body, the extra vitamin D will help.

On a final note, it’s hard to fully resolve adrenal fatigue issues without addressing other health issues such as inflammation, thyroid health, blood sugar regulation and gut health. If you’d like to look more deeply at this issue for yourself, book a naturopathic consult to ensure the support to get and stay on the road to recovery.


All Blocked Up?

What Causes a Cold?

Over 200 different viruses cause colds, the most common being the rhinoviruses. The virus spreads through coughing, sneezing and touching things that have been handled by a cold sufferer and mainly affects the lining of the nose and throat, sometimes spreading to the chest with sore throat, congestion, cough, headache, sneezing and tiredness the predominant symptoms.

One of the defining symptoms of a cold is congestion which makes us feel ‘blocked up’ and restricts our breathing. Mucus has a protective function in the respiratory system, acting as a barrier to foreign particles and bacteria and carrying them out of the body when we sneeze, cough or blow our nose. In a cold though, the build up of mucus may become a breeding ground for bacteria with its moist, nutrient rich environment which is why it’s helpful to assist the body to clear this excess congestion during a cold.

Herbs For Congestion Relief

To loosen phlegm and help expel excess mucus through coughing or clearing the throat:

  • Elecampane (Inula helenium)
  • Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
  • Pelargonium (Pelargonium sidoides)
  • Sundew (Drosera longifolia)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – also suitable for an irritating dry cough often at the end of a cold.

Note that Licorice may exacerbate symptoms of fluid retention or high blood pressure in some people so seek professional advice if these symptoms are present.

Herbs For Cold Prevention

Useful to take for the purpose of supporting our immune system and preventing colds:

  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
  • Echinacea root (Echinacea angustifolia/purpurea)
  • Elder Berry (Sambucus nigra)
  • Withania (Withania somnifera)

Other Tips for Good Immune Health

Of course, our lifestyle plays a role in whether or not we enjoy robust immune health. Eating a healthy diet with lots of fresh, unprocessed food lays the foundation for good health. :

  • Get 6-8 hours sleep every night
  • Eat a balanced diet consisting largely of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds.
  • Drink at least two litres of water a day
  • Manage your stress. Regular massages, long walks and taking time out to relax and do things you enjoy can all help reduce stress and its impact on the immune system.
  • Exercise – we all know it’s important but how much do we make it a part of our lives?
  • Zinc and vitamin C are helpful nutrients to support the immune system. Zinc is found in shellfish and red meat with pumpkin seeds being a high vegetarian source. Vitamin C is high in red capsicum, guavas, kale, broccoli, kiwifruit and citrus with Kakadu Plum (an Australian native) being the highest source.

Need Further Help?

Book an acute case consult and have a personalised herbal formula made up specifically for your needs. If recurrent colds and chronic immune issues have been troubling you or your children for a while, a full naturopathic consultation is advised to look at all aspects of your health picture.

Coconut, Carrot and Apple Muffins with Coconut Cream Frosting (Gluten free, Grain free, nut free and dairy free)

Ingredients for frosting

  • ½ Cup coconut milk
  • ½ Cup coconut syrup or agave
  • Pinch Himalayan salt
  • 3 Tsp arrowroot powder
  • ½ Tbs water
  • ¾ Cup coconut oil



  • Turn the oven onto 160°, and arrange muffin/cup cake cases in a tray
  • Mix the flour, sugar, desiccated coconut, baking powder, chia seeds and salt in a large bowl
  • In another bowl mix the apple, carrot, coconut water, coconut oil and egg yolks
  • Mix the wet ingredients into the dry bowl, adding a little more water if needed
  • Gently fold in the egg whites (the mixture will be on the thick side)
  • Spoon the mixture into cases, bake for approximately 30 minutes  (longer if needed)
  • In a medium saucepan, heat together the coconut milk, coconut syrup and salt (simmer for about 10 minutes)
  • In a small bowl combine the arrowroot and water, add to the milk and syrup
  • Whisk vigorously to combine, bring mixture to the boil briefly (should be shiny)
  • Using a hand blender gradually beat in the coconut oil
  • Allow pot to cool for approximately 10 minutes
  • Once cool enough place in the fridge for at least an hour (frosting will solidify and lighten in colour)
  • Remove from the fridge and beat until light and fluffy
  • Spread over the cooled muffins

Sugar – Sweet Poison?

Most of us are already aware on some level that too much sugar is not good for us but do we equate it to poison? Do we really know how much sugar in our diet is too much and do any of us know just how much sugar we are actually consuming in an average day anyway? Are we addicted to sugar and exactly how hard is it to give up the sugar habit anyway? All these questions and more are addressed in the above books, and the answers might surprise you.

There are two components to sugar; sucrose and fructose. Sucrose is converted to glucose in our bodies and becomes usable energy but fructose is converted by our liver immediately to fat which eventually shows up on our waistlines. Obviously this is a very simplified version of a rather complex biochemical process too involved to detail here, but true nevertheless. The other disturbing issue with fructose is that one of the effects of having too much is that our normal appetite control mechanisms become suppressed. In other words, we stop feeling satisfied after eating hence we eat more and more often. All this over-eating of largely sugary foods leads to persistently high blood sugar which in turn leads to obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as many other chronic health conditions that have been linked to excessive fructose consumption.

As Gillespie points out, “In 1945, only a quarter of the sugar we ate was already in our food when we bought it. Now, more than three-quarters is already in the food.” Food manufacturers add sugar to their products because we like it and this gives them an advantage in the marketplace. Some so-called healthy breakfast cereals are a quarter to a half sugar and we’re not just talking about the obvious ones usually marketed to children. Even worse, often it’s the low-fat variety of food products that contain the most sugar, this is definitely the case with just about everything found in the dairy aisle at the supermarket, especially yoghurt. Supposedly healthy alternatives such as fruit yoghurts often contain just as much sugar as chocolate dairy desserts.

We joke about being ‘chocoholics’ and having ‘sweet tooths’, and make light of our sugar addiction, however this is a habit that may just well be as deadly in the long-term as nicotine or alcohol. Gillespie suggests that if you answer yes to any one of the following questions you’re addicted to sugar:

  1. Do you struggle to walk past a sugary treat without taking ‘just one’?
  2. Do you have routines around sugar consumption – for example, always having dessert, or needing a piece of chocolate to relax in front of the TV, or treating yourself to a sweet drink or chocolate after a session at the gym?
  3. Are there times when you feel as if you cannot go on without a sugar hit?
  4. If you are forced to go without sugar for 24 hours, do you develop headaches and mood swings?

Be reassured though that you can break the sugar habit, and when you do you can expect to feel better and lose weight, all without feeling deprived. In fact, most people who’ve kicked the sugar habit report they no longer crave or desire sugar at all. They feel satisfied with less food as their bodies’ appetite control systems once again function optimally, and food generally just tastes better.

Vicki Jarvela lives in Brisbane Australia. She is a mother of two vital childrenand a recovering sugar addict.