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Words by Brooke Oke

When you’re not feeling your best, it’s important to listen to your body. Because it’s probably telling you loud and clear what’s wrong - you just need to learn to read between the lines. When things aren’t right on the inside, your body tends to let off warning signs on the outside. The trick is paying attention to all the symptoms and figuring out what’s the underlying cause.

As a naturopath, Brooke Oke is all too familiar with reading the signs. So we asked the Australian wellness expert to shed some light on common wellbeing issues, the symptoms to look out for, and how to address them for better health.


#1 / Struggling to sleep

The signs

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Mind not switching off at night
  • Waking overnight
  • Waking up feeling groggy or tired

The potential issues

  • Cortisol and melatonin imbalance
  • Blood sugar and insulin imbalance
  • Anxiety, mood issues or pain

What may be going on internally 

Poor sleep can be due to your body and nervous system being in fight or flight, aka sympathetic nervous system dominance. This disrupts your normal sleep hormones and rhythms leading to lower quality sleep. Cortisol levels need to be low enough for your melatonin to rise (aka sleep hormone), if stress or anxiety is an issue for you this often results in slow or no melatonin being released and helping you drift off. 

Fluctuations in cortisol out of the norm can lead to spikes and drops of your blood sugar and insulin levels which really disrupts sleep too. Under-eating or not eating balanced meals throughout the day can lead to insulin and blood sugar issues which really impact sleep. 

The natural remedy

For stress:

  • Anything containing Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) - withania is an amazing adaptogen which helps reduce cortisol levels and improve melatonin synthesis. Try The Beauty Chef Adaptogen Inner Beauty Boost Supercharged.
  • Magnesium is a great nutrient for stress and sleep. It is often depleted during times of high stress or exercise so can be good to replace. I recommend a topical spray or magnesium salt baths.
  • Essential oils such as lavender are beautiful to diffuse by your bed or add a few drops on your pillow or in the shower and let the steam diffuse the oils. 
  • Put your legs up the wall before bed for 10-15 minutes, this can help force your system into a parasympathetic state which aids relaxation and a reduction in cortisol.

For blood sugar and insulin levels:

  • Eating a protein-rich meal at dinner time is crucial for blood sugar balance. Proteins also support amino acid activity in the body leading to better levels of neurotransmitters like tryptophan and serotonin which aid sleep.
  • Having something warm to drink with a nice source of fat is lovely for balanced blood sugars. Think of things like butter, coconut oil or ghee blended into your hot drink of choice (caffeine free!)

#2 / Breakouts around the jawline

The signs

  • Congestion, active breakouts and pimples around the jaw/neck
  • Excess redness or oil production
  • Slow wound healing or scarring

The potential issues

  • Possible hormonal imbalances such as high androgens or oestrogen
  • Consumption of too much sugar, dairy or gluten
  • Digestive issues such as bacterial overgrowth, parasites or candida 
  • Environmental pollutants

What may be going on internally

Any breakouts on the face and neck are signs of something deeper going wrong. Typically breakouts around the jawline can indicate hormonal imbalances or digestive issues. It is important to consider things like bacteria on your hands when you’re touching your face (or leaning on your hand!), bacteria on bedding and pillowcases or bacteria in makeup brushes etc. If you’ve ruled these areas out then it might be useful to look within. 

It’s really common to have breakouts when coming off the OCP (the pill); this is usually due to the rebound androgen surge which aims to stimulate ovulation again, however androgens drive more sebum production and more oil equals more breakouts. Overconsumption of dairy and sugar also drives higher androgen levels so reducing these can help. 

When it comes to the digestive system things can be a little more complicated. It’s recommended you seek practitioner for guidance with this one as you need to make sure you’re treating things correctly. For example, you may have candida overgrowth, a parasite or SIBO which is driving your breakouts, however they all require different treatments. 

The natural remedy

To support happy hormones:

  • Eat lots of fibre and cruciferous vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, cauliflower, silverbeet, rocket as these support liver metabolism of hormones and keep your bowels regular (important for hormone balance).
  • Turmeric is a really great anti-inflammatory but also supports hormone levels and liver metabolism, it’s lovely at supporting skin healing and is also anti-microbial. You can include more in your diet or supplement with something like the Tonik Turmeric Capsules.

To support gut health:

  • Minimise the consumption of refined sugars (lollies, processed snacks), dairy (cows dairy) and gluten (processed breads, pastas etc) as these can drive inflammation of the skin and slow wound healing. They can also be fuel for bad bugs and yeasts such as candida so it’s helpful to avoid them while healing skin.
  • Collagen is a lovely nutrient for the gut and skin: it improves the integrity of the lining of your digestive system and supports skin texture and healing. We like the Mukti Organics Bioactive Collagen Booster
  • Drink green tea daily. Green tea is a powerful antioxidant containing catechins which have been shown in clinical trials to reduce acne lesions and improve wound healing. Bonus is that it’s also wonderful for anxiety due to the L-theanine content. I recommend 1-3 cups of organic green tea per day (or matcha!).

Topical options:

#3 / Heightened anxiety

The signs

  • Feeling on edge
  • Feeling overwhelmed easily
  • Fidgeting and shaking
  • Nervous tummy or poor appetite

The potential issues

  • Stressors in life, work, relationships, school, etc
  • Neurotransmitter issues
  • Dietary triggers

What may be going on internally

Anxiety is a complex symptom that is really common; it’s not something abnormal as such, but more of a reaction to a stressful situation that is misinterpreted as dangerous by the nervous system. Supporting your nervous system is the number one goal when helping anxiety. We want to calm the ‘fight or flight’ response and try to rewire the connections in the brain that are going wrong. Mild anxiety often responds well to basic changes in your diet and lifestyle, however, if you suffer with more repeated and intense anxiety I would definitely recommend you seek support from a healthcare practitioner to guide and support you. GABA is the main neurotransmitter we look at with anxiety, sufficient levels of GABA are needed in the brain to block certain nerve signals that trigger fear, anxiety and stress. Low or poor receptor activity can worsen anxiety and mood. 

“Sorry to say, but if you struggle with anxiety coffee may not be your friend. Coffee can spike cortisol and insulin leading to more anxiety and blood sugar dysfunction.”

Brooke Oke, Australian naturopath

The natural remedy

  • Try to reduce your caffeine intake or only have caffeine with food to reduce the cortisol issues. I love green tea as a lower caffeine option that is a natural anxiolytic due to the L-theanine content. Swap your coffee for a matcha and be that cool girl. 
  • Meditation and breathwork are so powerful at shifting anxiety. Make yourself a relaxing space and take some time out to centre yourself. Sometimes it’s helpful to lower your stimulus to the outside world with headphones and an eye mask. The Slip silk eye mask is so luxurious. 
  • Supplements containing anything relaxing or adaptogens are so great to support anxiety. 

#4 / Dull, lacklustre skin

The signs

  • Skin that marks easily, is wrinkled and dry
  • Overly textured
  • Uneven tone

The potential issues

  • Undernutrition or simply not eating enough
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Poor sleep or high stress levels
  • Dehydration

What may be going on internally

Dull skin can be really hard to get on top of, but if you try the tips below it should improve the texture and quality of your skin quite quickly! Dull or poor textured skin is often from simple dehydration, accelerated ageing from stress, poor diet or drug and alcohol use as well as lack of proper nutrition. Nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E, and K are essential for plump, hydrated skin and are so important for wound healing and collagen formation. 

The natural remedy

  • Firstly, drink more water. Try to drink filtered water if you can as common contaminants such as chlorine and heavy metals really dry out skin and impact your health. 
  • Pay attention to your diet and include more nutrients for skin. My favourites are berries, nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, fatty fish, eggs, citrus and papaya. Include a few serves of these daily and watch your skin glow.
  • Daily gua sha practice or use of a micro vibration wand are amazing at improving circulation and overall texture of the skin; using a serum or oil is great for that dewy glow under your daily makeup and at night. 
  • Coconut oil is a wonderful ingredient to support essential fats and skin tone. We love Tonik Coconut Oil Capsules.
  • Supplementation with collagen is a no brainer for beautiful glowing skin. Try Vida Glow Natural Marine Collagen Original.

    #5 / Lack of energy

    The signs

    • Waking up feeling tired
    • Afternoon energy slumps
    • Lowered motivation

    The potential issues

    • Sluggish energy systems
    • Adrenal insufficiency
    • High stress 
    • Chronic health issues

    What may be going on internally

    Low energy is a tell-tale sign of vitality and overall health. Energy is an indicator of how well your mitochondria are functioning and is a product of sound adrenal function. Fatigue can occur when you have been under prolonged stress which chronically raises cortisol levels, this eventually leads to sluggish adrenal and thyroid function which results in lowered energy. Without supporting the adrenal glands it is often hard to get out of the depletion phase of lowered energy. If you crave salt a lot, are always thirsty, or crave sweets in the afternoon, your adrenal glands may need some extra love. 

    The natural remedy

    Obvious one: support the adrenals! Anything containing adaptogens will be your best friend. Ashwagandha again is great, as well as rhodiola, bacopa, licorice, ginseng and gotu kola. We love My Tribe Type Strong.

    • Sometimes an activated multivitamin containing B group vitamins can be helpful. B vitamins are the building blocks of neurotransmitters and cellular energy production so supplementation can help. Speak with a practitioner about what might be best.
    • Eating protein rich meals 3-4 times a day is essential for good energy levels; this also helps to balance blood sugar and insulin and fuel your brain. 
    • Dehydration can make you feel really fatigued. Drink more filtered water or infuse your water with some mint or citrus to entice you.

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