Do you eat meals with your kids?

The family that eats together nurtures confident children

Meal time ideally is a time of family gathering, engaging in conversation where food is consumed around a table. Toddlers and children who grow up eating with the adults learn all sorts of valuable life lessons. Shared mealtimes teach our next generation acceptable mealtime behaviours and sets them up for healthy eating attitudes and wonderful social skills.

Kids model their behaviour on the people closest to them. Sharing relaxing and enjoyable meal times around a communal table without screen time, is possibly the most important window of opportunity in your day as a loving parent, no matter how busy the rest of your day is.  Eating mindfully can enable our minds and our digestive tracts to connect with our food. That’s why it is not ideal to offer children food, even snacks, in the street or in front of a screen.

Meal time is not really about nutrition. That might sound like a strange statement from a Nutritionist. If you plonk food in front of a child and put pressure on them to eat it all up because you know what is best for your child in terms of nutrition, it may lead to fussy eaters, children who refuse to eat what is ‘healthy’ for them. Further, if they are the only ones eating at the time, all the focus is on the food, not really on them. They have no sense of control or choice and no opportunity to learn from a role model.

Children are born with a capacity to self-regulate food intake. When they grow up sharing meal times with the adults, they become “confident eaters”. Confident eaters don’t need to eat too much. They won’t be inclined to overdo any particular food such as sugar, as long as they don’t see their parents doing that. They will grow up mindfully eating and it can become a lifetime habit.

Try giving your child a choice of everything that you are preparing for the family meal. This could be as a share plate or a number of dishes tali-style (Indian) or ‘service à la française’ (French). By having a choice, it is very likely that your children will try different foods that might surprise you. They may watch the adults and make good choices. But the most important thing is that meal time is about conversation, family bonding, sharing.

They can be involved in the menu choices for the day or the week, even the shopping list, from a surprisingly young age. Getting the children to help in the preparation and serving of meals can set the scene for much fun, establishing life skills, good habits and most of all a happy family atmosphere.

By Kathy Harris – Naturopath, Nutritionist, Western Herbal Medicine, Homoeopathy, Functional Testing. Wholistic Medical Centre, Surry Hills

A diagnosis of PCOS and IBS – a wholistic approach can help


Getting to the cause of PCOS and IBS with a holistic approach

29-year-old Sonya* came to see me for help with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which had both been diagnosed by her GPs many years ago. She had been taking different medications over the years for both of these conditions, but had not seen much progress or relief in her symptoms. They were also causing her to experience significant unpleasant side effects and so had to keep ceasing and changing her medications.

Anxiety, fatigue and insomnia

Ever since being diagnosed with PCOS and IBS, Sonya had been experiencing daily anxiety, fatigue and insomnia, which are commonly seen in people who have both of these conditions. She was understandably overwhelmed and exhausted, but hopeful that a more wholistic approach to her conditions could offer some relief and a deeper look into the underlying causes of her symptoms.

While gathering all the background to Sonya’s health and medical history, it became apparent that Sonya had in fact been experiencing digestive issues such as bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhoea, cramping and excessive flatulence, since she was a young teenager. These digestive symptoms had become considerably worse after a bout of food poisoning when she was travelling overseas.

The pill masked the symptoms of PCOS

Sonya had taken the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) from the age of 14 until she was 25 years old. She became very distressed when she stopped taking the OCP and her periods didn’t come regularly. In fact, she was lucky to have 8 in a year. She also developed facial and body acne. Along with everything else, this was very distressing.

What tests to do?

Sonya had some baseline testing done with her GP for hormones, inflammatory markers and iron studies. Due to her history, I ordered a comprehensive DNA stool test, called the GI Map, to assess the levels of good and bad gut microbes that may be influencing her current symptoms. Also, I was looking to rule out any involvement of parasites, pathogenic bacteria, worms, yeast and fungi that may have been causing her digestive distress.

While awaiting the results, Sonya followed an initial naturopathic treatment plan. This included herbal medicines and nutritional support to reduce her daily digestive symptoms, as well as to improve her sleep quality and reduce her anxiety.

Stool testing revealed that Sonya had significantly low levels of ‘good’ bacteria in her gut microbiome associated with insulin sensitivity (a key feature of PCOS), as well as overgrowths of bacteria that are associated with inflammation.

Balancing the microbiome

Sonya was placed on an individualised treatment protocol with specific probiotic, prebiotic & anti-inflammatory treatments to repopulate the levels of good gut bacteria, and a low FODMAP diet temporarily whilst healing her gut. Sonya was educated on the importance of eventually reintroducing FODMAP foods back into her diet once her gut microbiome and digestive function had improved, as it is only a short-term strategy for symptomatic relief while dealing with the more significant underlying issues.

Sonya’s blood tests with her GP showed high insulin resistance, high testosterone and high inflammatory markers. These sorts of results are common in PCOS, although are not always present in every case, thus the importance of testing rather than assuming.

She was prescribed targeted herbal medicines along with diet and lifestyle support to assist in improving her insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation, with the aim to see her periods become regular and reduce her acne breakouts.

I met with Sonya one month after starting her comprehensive plan. She was happy to report that her digestive symptoms had significantly improved – she was having regular and easy to pass bowel motions and was not experiencing bloating or cramping. Sonya was feeling much more energetic, her mood had improved and she was sleeping through the night. Her period was running late but her acne had calmed down slightly. We discussed the importance of sticking to our treatment plan long-term as these symptoms of PCOS need time to see improvement.

The effort was worth it

Sonya continued her treatment plan for the next 12 months and was happy to report that within 6 months she had started to have noticeably regular periods that were pain free, and her skin had dramatically improved with no more breaking out.

Sonya continues to take gut-healing supplements and an individualised herbal medicine to this day, to ensure she is in the best state of health possible.

* Name has been changed

By Steven Judge – Clinical Naturopath, Nutritional Medicine, Western Herbal Medicine

Dysbiosis and leaky gut

Dysbiosis and leaky gut

Dysbiosis and ‘leaky gut’: recurrent gastrointestinal infections compromise a young girl’s development.

Twelve year-old Jenny*, was brought to see me as an Integrative GP by her mother. Around a year prior, she had suffered a gastrointestinal illness with nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. This had lasted approximately 3 days. Three months later, she had fainted at school then suffered another gastrointestinal type illness.

Dysbiosis and leaky gut

Since the initial illness she had failed to put on weight and had lost her appetite. She was always slim (her family being of a lean predisposition), but Jenny had started to lose significant weight during this time (3-4kg). She felt tired and unwell plus had poor concentration at school, and couldn’t achieve the sporting level that she had been able to achieve previously.

She had undertaken a panendoscopy which showed slight stomach inflammation. During the procedure, a biopsy for coeliac disease was taken and showed negative.

Some background to Jenny’s development of dysbiosis and leaky gut

Up to the time of her illness, Jenny was a normal child. She had been breastfed for 6 months. She had had glandular fever when she was 5 years old. Helicobacter pylori was found when she was just seven years of age. This had been treated with the usual antibiotics and she had been on a gluten-free, dairy-free diet since then.

Years ago, Jenny’s mother told me that she had worked on a vegetable farm, where sprays were used routinely. Jenny’s siblings were all healthy and thriving. All children had been vaccinated fully.

On examination Jenny weighed 26kg which put her below the third percentile on the weight-for-age scale. Her height was 146cm which placed her on the tenth percentile. All her body systems were normal.

Testing that showed the dysbiosis in detail

She was sent for specific blood tests and a very comprehensive stool test. Blood tests were normal. Her stool test showed Dientamoeba fragilis, a bowel parasite, as well as generally low good bacteria. It also showed fat alabsorption and protein maldigestion.

She was prescribed a protocol of antibiotics for 10 days, targeting the parasite. After this, she was feeling slightly improved but was still tired and had a poor appetite.

One month after the treatment, a further stool culture was taken and it showed no evidence of D. fragilis. Jenny was then started on some very specific probiotic strains, forms of fibre and nutrients that were soothing and healing to her leaky gut, and some digestive enzymes.

After another 2 months of treatment, Jenny’s weight had increased to 26.6kg. Because she was suffering some anxiety after being so unwell for so long, she was put on some specific nutrients for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This was later changed to a multivitamin with gastrointestinal healing amino acids specially formulated for her age group.

By another two weeks her appetite had improved and her weight had increased to 27.1kg. An intestinal permeability test showed gut hyper-permeability; a stool test showed continued low levels of good bacteria so her probiotics and supplements were all continued.

By 12 months post treatment, Jenny’s height was 154cm and weight was 31.1kg. She is now in high school, doing sports and eating well (mother has her on a very healthy diet!). She remains on her various supplements at present with no symptoms of dysbiosis and leaky gut.

*Name has been changed

This case study is for educational purposes only. Results may vary due to individual circumstances.

Case Study on Dysbiosis and leaky gut by:

Dr Mark RobertsonNutritional Medicine, Integrative GP, General Medical Practice, Wholistic Medical Centre


Autistic behaviours may be reduced with wholistic medicine



Autistic behaviour may be reduced with holistic medicine

Did you know that many challenging behaviours associated with autism may be reduced through a biomedical approach as part of wholistic medicine?

Ben*, three-and-a-half years old, was brought to the Wholistic Medical Centre by his parents, after being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by his local paediatrician a few months previously. The paediatrician had referred them to early intervention services, but Ben’s parents wanted to explore a more integrative biomedical approach for his challenging behaviours.

Ben was a very picky eater; he didn’t sleep well at night, had poor speech and preferred to sit by himself, lining up his toys. He wouldn’t socially interact with other children at his playgroup, and was distant with his parents and grandparents.

Wholistic Biomedical testing in autism

During the consult, a detailed history was taken and a number of tests were decided on to check for imbalances or inflammation in the body.

Results revealed that Ben was experiencing a number of issues that are common in ASD patients. Ben’s body wasn’t making enough neurotransmitters (chemicals that transfer signals between neurons in the brain), or enzymes that allowed him to fully utilise folic acid, and he had low levels of zinc. Also, the parts of his cells that make energy weren’t functioning properly; he had poor digestion of protein, his body had low levels of good bacteria and he suffered from leaky gut (where the lining of the gut wall is damaged and toxins can leak through to other parts of the body and cause an autoimmune reaction).

Reducing autistic behaviours

During the follow up consultation we reviewed the test results. Ben’s parents were advised to start him on a gluten and dairy free diet. This would help reduce the inflammation in the brain and in the gut. It would need to be a lifelong diet change to maintain the health of both. Supplements, probiotics and other important gut healing nutrients were started to help improve Ben’s nutrient deficiencies.

Two months later, Ben’s parents were beaming!

He had started hugging them and his grandparents and was starting to interact socially with other children at his playgroup. He often didn’t want to come home!

Ben was in the early stages of re-balancing the deficiencies and imbalances in his body, and moved on to further support and modify supplements as necessary.

Some background to reducing autistic behaviours

Whilst the causes of autism are not yet fully known, children with autism commonly experience high levels of oxidative stress – where too many free radicals aren’t being removed from their body, as they should be. Biomedical support looks at these imbalances & attempts to provide solutions.

Some children respond better than others to treatment, but there is usually a level of improvement in most.

*Name has been changed

This case study is for educational purposes only. Results may vary due to individual circumstances.

Dr Mark RobertsonNutritional Medicine, General Medical Practice, Wholistic Medical Centre