Has baby spinach been over done? Time for food diversity.

Is baby spinach or iceberg lettuce your favourite, and often only green in a salad? Or do you go for variety and diversity? Limiting food choices can lead to missing out on a variety of plant chemicals, many of which have numerous health benefits including the potential to reduce oxidative stress. Increased oxidative stress can lead to cellular and DNA damage and is linked with inflammation and chronic health conditions. In the skin, increased oxidative stress can cause skin ageing and is linked with conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis, and skin cancers. So while baby spinach is healthy, variety gives you more bang for your buck!

Skin oxidation

Researchers looked at the role diet diversity had on oxidative stress markers in the body. In the study two diets were developed, both equal in number of fruit & vegetable portion sizes. The first a high botanical diversity (HBD) diet including foods from 18 different families. The second diet only emphasised foods from 5 different botanical families (low botanical diversity – LBD), but interestingly these were from foods that are known for their antioxidant activity. In total, 106 women completed the study and the findings showed that while both diets reduced lipid peroxidation (fats becoming damaging) only the HBD diet reduced DNA oxidation (potentially leading to DNA damage and increased cellular ageing). At the end of the article is a list of foods that were consumed in the HBD and LBD diets.

The researchers conclude that while several factors impact the antioxidant status of an individual (baseline levels, absorption) the botanical diversity of the diet is likely to play a role in determining the bioactivity in the body i.e., that increased dietary diversity is key to reducing oxidative stress. They also note that rather than large quantities of a small group of food, smaller amounts of many phytochemicals have greater potential to exert beneficial effects. Summing up they note that if their research is correct, that variety and moderation are the key to a healthy diet.

oxidative stress

The balance of oxidative stress to antioxidant protection is particularly pertinent for skin health. There are numerous internal and external factors that affect individual skin health, as can be viewed in the image below. Diet can be a force for skin health or for skin ageing and inflammation. Apart from diet diversity, specific foods that have a protective effect for the skin include tea, vegetables, olive oil and legumes, with a high intake of sugar, meat, dairy, and butter appearing to have adverse effects.

My outtake from this paper is that it’s time to mix it up. It can be as simple as less spinach, more mixed greens and herbs, less blueberries, more mixed berries. I have set myself a challenge of eating 50 different foods in a week. Do you like a challenge? Will you join me? Join my FB Clear Skin Naturally to receive a rainbow food group chart to track your progress: https://www.facebook.com/groups/naturallyclearskin

Botanical family Common foods LBD diet2 HBD diet
Actinidiaceae Kiwi 1.08 ± 0.32
Chenopodiaceae2 Spinach, Swiss chard, beet 1.25 ± 1.13 0.40 ± 0.24
Compositeae Artichoke, endive, lettuce 0.93 ± 0.67 0.58 ± 0.25
Convolvulaceae Sweet potato 0.76 ± 0.42
Cruciferae2 Cabbage, broccoli, radish 1.47 ± 0.79 0.80 ± 0.32
Cucurbitaceae Cucumber, zucchini, melon 0.98 ± 1.01
Ericaceae Blueberry, cranberry 0.42 ± 0.16
Gramineae Corn, bamboo shoots 0.96 ± 0.65
Leguminosae Chickpeas, lentils, soybeans 0.87 ± 0.61 0.98 ± 0.70
Liliaceae2 Chive, garlic, onion, scallion 3.11 ± 1.38 1.35 ± 0.82
Musaceae Banana, plantain 0.89 ± 0.32
Rosaceae Apple, peach, strawberry 0.91 ± 0.34
Rutaceae2 Grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime 1.91 ± 0.83 0.57 ± 0.36
Solanaceae2 Tomato, eggplant, peppers 1.88 ± 0.90 1.28 ± 0.69
Umbelliferae Carrot, celery, parsnip, parsley 0.24 ± 0.10 0.79 ± 0.36
Vitaceae Grape 1.64 ± 0.60
Agaricaceae Mushroom 0.56 ± 0.24
Bromeliaceae Pineapple 0.32 ± 0.06
    Total Servings/d3 9.10 ± 2.62 8.33 ± 2.13

1 Values are means ± SD, n = 53; these values were computed on the basis of actual intake as recorded in the daily food records kept by each participant.

2 Botanical families emphasised in the LBD diet group.

3 Column sums will not equal total servings/d because not all foods were eaten on all days.


  • Krutmann, J., Bouloc, A., Sore, G., Bernard, B. A., & Passeron, T. (2017). The skin aging exposome. Journal of dermatological science85(3), 152-161.
  • Thompson, H. J., Heimendinger, J., Diker, A., O’Neill, C., Haegele, A., Meinecke, B., … & Jiang, W. (2006). Dietary botanical diversity affects the reduction of oxidative biomarkers in women due to high vegetable and fruit intake. The Journal of nutrition136(8), 2207-2212.

PainWISE – chronic pain education online!

Hi everyone, in this video I talk about the upcoming PainWISE chronic pain education course – who it might suit and why, and some of the concepts I will cover as part of the 4 session course. The next online course goes live on Monday 13th of September. To find out more please go here or drop me an email and I can give you a call to discuss if this course is a good fit for your needs.

Keto & Psoriasis don’t mix!

When it comes to inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, nutrition is a key factor in disease management and several studies are showing that the keto diet may be detrimental for psoriasis.  The keto diet is a low carbohydrate diet with up to 50% of food intake from fats. It has gained popularity over the last decade, promoted for various conditions from Alzheimer’s to obesity. This eating pattern is popular but what are the effects on psoriasis?

Looking at research on this topic, one study showed that dietary saturated fats are a significant risk factor for amplification of skin inflammation in models of psoriasis (Herbet, et al., 2018). This effect occurs regardless of weight i.e., skin inflammation is heightened in both obese and healthy weight states. A reduction in dietary saturated fatty acids can dimmish this effect. It was also found that in a high-fat diet medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil worsened skin inflammation, which goes to show that it is not the miracle oil it is touted as.

Interestingly, other studies have looked at the effects of high-fat diets based on healthier fats such as those from fish (omega 3), olive oil, nuts, seeds & avocado, and while it didn’t worsen skin inflammation, it also didn’t improve it (Locker et al., 2020).

Looking at the effects of omega 3s fatty acids in psoriasis, while it could be assumed that the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega 3 fish oil supplementation would benefit psoriasis, the research doesn’t back this up. While reports are mixed, no clinical benefit was found from a 2018 meta-analysis (Yang, S., et al, 2018). This was a bit of a surprise however, a trend towards benefit has been observed in diets rich in omega 3 fish (think SMASH – sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon & herring).  It may be the case that those with a higher fish intake also have healthier eating patterns than those relying on fish oil supplements. In any case, think of food before supplements when it comes to the benefits of omega 3 with psoriasis.

The other issue regarding keto diets is that they are frequently not adhered to sufficiently. It is hard to forego carbohydrates, and many don’t realise how they creep back in effectively negating the benefits of a keto diet. Unfortunately, a high-fat diet with added carbohydrates has also been shown to have worse outcomes for psoriasis. This is in fact quite like a standard Western diet, which contains on average 30-35% fat with carbohydrates, a combination that certainly has the potential to promote skin inflammation in those with psoriasis and further progress condition severity.

While the research is pointing towards fats having a negative effect on inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, it may be that other factors in the diet are protective. A Mediterranean style of eating, which is rich in plant foods, fish, extra virgin olive oil along with less processed food and red meat is emerging as a beneficial anti-inflammatory approach for those with psoriasis.

Take-home points for psoriasis:

  • Minimise saturated fats generally including red meat and coconut oil
  • Choose olive oil, avocado, SMASH fish instead
  • Benefit from the wide antioxidant profile and anti-inflammatory effect provided by the Mediterranean diet

If you are have psoriasis and don’t know what to eat consider booking in with Ananda for a personalised dietary approach.


Herbert, D., Franz, S., Popkova, Y., Anderegg, U., Schiller, J., Schwede, K., … & Saalbach, A. (2018). High-fat diet exacerbates early psoriatic skin inflammation independent of obesity: saturated fatty acids as key players. Journal of Investigative Dermatology138(9), 1999-2009.

Locker, F., Leitner, J., Aminzadeh-Gohari, S., Weber, D. D., Sanio, P., Koller, A., … & Lang, R. (2020). The influence of ketogenic diets on psoriasiform-like skin inflammation. The Journal of investigative dermatology140(3), 707-710.

Yang, S. J., & Chi, C. C. (2019). Effects of fish oil supplement on psoriasis: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC complementary and alternative medicine19(1), 1-9.



Dietary relief for arthritis & musculoskeletal pain

There’s a ton of ideas floating around social media about the best diet for chronic health issues. Some have research to back them up, many don’t. So, when I read this recent paper reviewing the studies that found positive effects of dietary changes on pain intensity in musculoskeletal pain (MSK) I was one happy practitioner!

The premise of this review paper was to assess the link between dietary patterns, specific components of a patient’s diets, and chronic MSK pain. Some interesting trends emerged, which I have outlined below.

First up, it was clear that plant-based eating was associated with an improvement in pain scores. Specifically, plant-based included lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegan, and weight loss diets. The ‘why’ behind this finding might be that generally plant-based diets are considered more healthful than omnivorous diets. The ‘healthfulness’ of the diets included in this review was compared to 2 scores (Healthy Eating Index-2010 and the Mediterranean diet score), which allowed for objective assessment of each of the diets. Additionally, plant-based diet patterns tend to be more anti-inflammatory, which is a likely mechanism underlining chronic MSK pain.

Persistent pain conditions such as low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, while presenting differently all have chronic inflammation as a mechanism. And, while chronic pain is much more complex than inflammation, as a mechanism it can lead to sensitisation and structural changes within the neurons and central nervous system which contribute to pain persistence.

So, how do plant-based diets, including vegetarian and vegan diets help? Generally, they contain less animal-based protein, sugar, fat, and caloric intake compared to omnivorous diets, which is positively linked with pain intensity and low-level inflammation. Importantly, they are also associated with higher fruit and vegetable intake, which is also associated with lower inflammatory markers.

Veggies love your guts!

Another facet to the positive association between plant-based diets and less inflammation may also have to do with the gut microbiome. Plants contain a high proportion of nutrients including dietary fibre, prebiotics, healthy fats, and polyphenols (healthful plant chemicals) that support a healthy gut microbiome. We now know that the gut-brain axis has some powerful influences on health and disease, and with regard to chronic pain, the gut microbiome can drive both systemic and central nervous system inflammation, again contributing to chronic pain and pain intensity.

Studies looking at weight-loss diets, which also tended to be healthier due to the avoidance of fat and calories overall, were also associated with less pain intensity among obese or overweight osteoarthritis sufferers. Higher sugar intake was also associated with more severe pain. While there was a correlation between sugar and fat intake, the decrease in pain might also have been connected to the loss of fat mass. Obesity itself is a state of chronic low-level inflammation and as such has negative impacts on pain. Nonetheless, the combination of less calorific fat and sugar and weight loss yielded positive pain-relieving effects.

Finally, the review highlighted that chronic MSK pain overall is associated with various nutritional deficiencies, which need to be addressed prior to, or as part of any change in dietary pattern.

Take home points:

  • The combined effects of reduced inflammation and a positive effect on the gut microbiome from plant-based diets indicate their application might help alleviate chronic MSK pain.
  • Plant-based diets don’t have to exclude animal meats completely, however, the key is reduced intake and significantly increased intake of fruit and vegetables (5+ serves per day).
  • A low-calorie diet might decrease pain severity in patients with chronic osteoarthritis pain
  • Weight loss may also help decrease pain if overweight or obese in chronic osteoarthritis pain.
  • Consider a nutritional evaluation before making significant dietary changes. Some diets may exacerbate existing nutrient deficiencies.

Please keep in mind, however, that we are all different and so the “one diet per condition” approach doesn’t necessarily hold for everyone. Individual approaches to weight loss, reducing inflammation, and supporting a healthy gut microbiome are certainly appropriate, and tend to be more effective when it comes to implementing dietary changes. If you are looking for an individual approach to pain management, please book in to see me or give me a call to chat about what strategies might work for you.


Elma, Ö., Yilmaz, S. T., Deliens, T., Coppieters, I., Clarys, P., Nijs, J., & Malfliet, A. (2020). Do nutritional factors interact with chronic musculoskeletal pain? A systematic review. Journal of clinical medicine, 9(3), 702.

Rethinking Chronic Pain

A recent article written for the Australian Natural Therapies Association magazine discussing as a practitioner how to approach pain from a holistic perspective.

We have all felt pain at some time in our lives and as health care professionals many of us are treating patients with persistent pain in our clinics. In acute pain, once the injury or trauma heals, the pain stops. But chronic pain is something different. Chronic pain persists and represents a global health epidemic, frequently exacerbated by untreated or poorly treated pain. Current care relies on a biomedical model of pain, which reduces pain to neurophysiology alone without seeing the complex social and emotional context of pain.

Ananda Mahony Article




Consulting during Covid-19

Key points from this video:

  • I am consulting via Phone or Skype for all naturopathic clients.
  • Supplements and herbs can be picked up directly from Vibe or posted out

At Vibe Natural Health we understand the concern around COVID-19 and its potential impact on our community. It is important that everyone is committed to helping stop the spread of this disease, even if they are not particularly at risk from its symptoms.

Vibe Natural Health is a low-volume health clinic. This makes us low risk. Our physical therapists and other naturopathic practitioners (apart from Ananda) are available for face-to-face consults. We are still implementing important measures to ensure we are a safe place to visit.

  • Treatment tables and consultation rooms are sanitised between every single client.
  • We are using strong disinfectant to sanitise all of the public spaces in the clinic including the waiting room and toilet regularly throughout the day
  • We are screening all clients before making bookings to ensure they are not experiencing relevant symptoms or have travelled overseas in the past 14 days
  • If you would rather not wait in our waiting room we are more than happy to call you when your practitioner is ready to see you so you can proceed directly to your treatment / consultation room
  • Our staff and practitioners always follow strict hygiene guidelines but are now being extra careful.
  • All towels used in manual therapies are used for one client only and then steam-washed with additional sanitising agents.
  • Hand sanitiser is available at reception for all clients to use on arrival

Thank you for your continued support and understanding. I look forward to seeing you online or by phone soon. If you have any specific concerns

A few links to brighten your day or make life easier:

The Best Chicken Soup – a delicious and very quick chicken soup

Green Minestrone Soup with Pesto – a nutritious vegetarian soup. I often substitute pre-cooked brown or wild rice instead of orzo (contains gluten). It takes about 15 minutes to prep and cook!

Free live dance class:

  • Ryan Heffington does free live dance classes several times a week. Join in from home. They are suitable for all.

Free meditation links / apps:

Breathing Exercises

Dartmouth College Relaxation Exercises – Three breathing/guided relaxation recordings. Also available on iTunes.

Ohio State University Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise – Five minutes long; can be downloaded or streamed.


Dartmouth College Relaxation Exercises – Five guided imagery recordings. Also available on iTunes.

PainWise – Innovative Pain Education

Hello! It has been radio silence for a while but I have been working on a project and my BIG NEWS is that we are about to launch a new pain education program at Vibe Natural Health called PainWise. I am so excited about this 4-week education program because I know how powerful knowledge is when it comes to help manage pain and reduce suffering. So if you are one of the 1 in 6 Australians that is suffering from chronic pain and you want help to understand how to manage it…please come along to our launch event…see below for more!


On Monday February 17, in conjunction with Vibe Natural Health I will be launching the innovative pain education program – PainWISE and we want to see you there!
  • Learn more about pain education from some of the leaders in their field.
  • Connect with people and allied health professionals in the persistent pain community
  • Gain insights in to how the latest in neurological pain research can help you conquer pain

PainWISE is a pain education program that has been developed by award-winning clinical pharmacist Joyce McSwan to support people living with persistent pain. Its goal is to help people to understand their pain, re-train their brain, and ultimately better manage their condition.

We at Vibe Natural Health are the only multi-modality allied health practice in Brisbane offering the PainWISE program, combining the three key areas essential to pain management success: education, team care, and community, in the one clinic.


Award winning clinical pharmacist, Joyce McSwan is passionate about helping people reduce their dependency on strong and addictive pain management medications and will offer insight into ways to conquer pain through this educational program.

On the evening, Joyce will be joined by Vibe’s expert Naturopath and PainWISE facilitator, Ananda Mahony as guest speakers for the event.

As a Naturopath and Nutritionist, Ananda Mahony is a leader in her field and currently completing her Masters in Pain Management. Ananda is a Nutrition lecturer with more than 15 years clinical experience and presents pain education to health professionals around the country.

You can find more information about the PainWISE pharmacy program here: https://painwise.com.au and you can read more about Vibe’s approach to persistent pain here: https://vibepainmanagement.com.au/.


Date: Monday, February 17
Time: 6pm
Address: 210 Days Road, Grange QLD
Guest Speakers: Joyce McSwan and Ananda Mahony
Light refreshments and food provided
“Goodie bags” with more information, samples and special offers for you!
We hope to see you there to find out how you can conquer pain and improve your quality of life!

Stay motivated!

The festive season is in full swing and like me, many of you may already be considering the next year and the plans and goals you want to set in place for 2019. Or if you aren’t yet, at some stage these ideas may creep into consciousness. Frequently goals for the oncoming year are about getting fit, eating better or losing weight, which is why there are a plethora of dietary plans, new gym memberships and weight loss programs promoted at this time. However, if you have ever embarked on a fitness or dietary regimen before, you know they often come with challenges. It can be hard to make changes by yourself. Motivation wanes, life gets busy and plans fall to the wayside. We could, of course, give up goal setting for the New Year altogether – there are many other times of year to plan, however, if you, like me are keen to set some new goals in place, an alternative approach is S.A.M., which stands for support, accountability, and motivation (credit to Belinda Fettke from www.nofructose.com for this specific acronym).

This approach recognizes that embarking on a change in health, weight or habits can be hard when you have to rely on your own motivation to pull you through, particularly when there are so many distracting messages around, for example, commercials, cultural norms e.g. our drinking culture, office morning tea with cake etc. These factors strongly influence behaviour and can work to erode that initial drive and determination to meet a specific outcome or goal.

Using the S.A.M. approach, or something similar helps to reduce the pervasive influence of these environmental and market-driven forces. It involves having a plan to succeed. So what might it look like?


Who or what can help you on your journey? Is it a program that clearly identifies what exercises to complete or what foods to buy and prepare? Is it your family or a friend, cheering you on and going on the journey with you? Is it your naturopath or nutritionist? If you are planning new goals, then think about what support you need. Maybe reflect on things that have highjacked previous attempts or think about your habits and preferences; do you need support to overcome them?


This aspect is about finding a strategy that motivates you enough to hold you accountable for your results. Who could hold you accountable: your naturopath, a coach, a personal trainer, your partner or a friend? To work this way requires giving your ‘accountability partner’ permission to call out unwanted behaviour such as sleeping in and not going for a morning walk. It could involve reporting back on a regular basis. This may work if you are using an online program. Or it could be a weekly email check in with your practitioner.


Goals can be important motivating factors but there is a big difference between an end goal and a means goal, both in formulating it and as motivators. A means goal goes something like this:

“I want to lose 5 kg by February 2019”

A means goal is frequently mistaken as an end in itself, when in fact it is just a means to a larger more exciting and motivating outcome or end goal. I mean how excited and motivated do you think you will feel if you have to get up every morning and think ‘5kg by February’? Motivation quickly wanes. End goals, by contrast, are much more exciting and motivating. They are an ultimate aim often associated with a feeling or something you want to experience. So, in this case, you might think, what is the purpose of losing 5kg? Is it that you want to feel energized and healthy? It might be about describing how you want to feel and look every day, what eating or fitness systems you would like to have in place, what physical challenges or experiences you would like to achieve if you were fitter e.g. hike Cradle Mountain in Tasmania.


cradle mountain
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania


End goals are more likely to keep you motivated than means goals but this doesn’t rule out means goals as it is often a good idea to have points of success or achievement along the journey. This is where technology, if you are into it, can help e.g. ways of tracking progress such as fitbits or similar.

For more information on end goals check out this YouTube video by Vishen Lakhiani: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4hGPzRiMAg

The saying goes if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Goal setting is much more than simply saying you want something to happen. Being clear about what motivates you and defining what you want in the first place is key to following through. Support and accountability will keep you on the path.

Good luck with your 2019 goal setting, and in the meantime, I wish you a safe and happy festive season.

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