Episode Focus: The integrated life
Mindfulness: Mindful Storytelling
Podcast chat: Naturopath Cush Reid
Creativity: Update on my own creative project: ‘Mokain Reciever’ illustration
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Podcast chat with Cush Reid
Cush is a Naturopath, qualified in Nutritional Therapy, Functional Evaluation, Herbal Medicine, Advanced Test Analysis, Gene analysis, Neuromuscular Therapy, Life Coaching and BodyTalk. Cush takes a broad focus on the mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and social aspects of well being and wholeness of health. The goal of this approach is to find the root cause of any unease or dysfunction in the body and work with this to restore optimal health and a balanced lifestyle.
Jordan: Cush, welcome to the podcast.
Cush: Thank you!
Jordan: It’s great to have you. You’re a highly qualified wellness practitioner. You’re a naturopath, nutritional therapist, herbalist gene analysis practitioner, certified gluten practitioner and body talk practitioner. What does a day in your professional life look like?
Cush: Well, I’m also a neuromuscular therapist along the way, and I did that specifically for nine years. So what does my day look like? It’s varied. So I guess I have entire days where I don’t see clients face to face, which since Covid has all been over Zoom and that is so I keep up with the paperwork because it’s really, really important.
So every day my clinic will start with my own self care routine because if I don’t look after me I can’t give to anyone else. And so I’ll prepare my breakfast and my lunch. I’m gluten sensitive, coeliac, whatever you want to call it. I find that if I eat in a hurry, it doesn’t serve me, I don’t enjoy the food and it won’t sit well in my gut, so I need that time in the morning. So for me, I’ll spend about 40 minutes in the morning when I get up, I start with warm water and I’ll drink about three or four cup-fuls before I sit to eat my breakfast.
While I’m preparing my breakfast and I always make my lunch at the same time. I need that lunch and it’s better for me to have it readily available because then I’ll eat something high quality and good rather than just snack on something that probably isn’t in the balance or the good energy. Then I’ll do some stretching. I’ll do a moving meditation.
A moving meditation for me can be anything ranging from, you know, a walk around my garden to, now that I live in beautiful Kāpiti, a walk on the beach. I’m not good at the sit-still thing. The moving meditation is much better. I love the sunrises. I love the sunsets. And then I’ll walk into my clinic. I clinic from home. So it’s very, very good for me.
So every client who comes in to me is a unique biochemical individual. There is no cookie cutter in my clinic. Everybody is different. And because of that, everyone comes up with a unique set of needs requiring their own interventions, you know, I can’t just churn out the same old, same old for every person because everyone has a story to tell. And I think it’s very important that you tailor your approach to fit.
You know, I’ve been in this industry for like two decades now and I think the thing I’ve learnt over all of that time is that no two people are the same. I can’t emphasise enough to new grads coming through. You have to look at who sits in front of you and what their experiences are.
I have a really broad skill-set and I will often draw on all of it. I’ve done counselling. I’m not a trained counsellor. I’m a very good listener. And sometimes it’s all people need. They just need someone to listen and witness this story.
And for every hour I spend face to face, I probably spend the equivalent time in the background and doing work alongside of the information they’ve given me. Designing, writing protocols, and it can be all aspects, it’s, the lifestyle, the nutritional and the nutraceutical supplements or herbal formulations, the emotional, mental component, physical, you know what their needs are. Do they need to exercise? Do they need to move? Do they need to stretch ? Their spiritual -that’s meditation, yoga, the prayer, the connections and the social, you know, loneliness. It’s a huge problem. And so I look at all of those aspects and I try to coach within each of those. We’ve got to meet the person where they are. So that requires the thinking.
I didn’t come into being a naturopath to help other people. I actually did this for my own son. When he was just six weeks old, I picked up there was something different. I have a child who’s on the spectrum. Now that he’s well grown, I happily assist people with these kids in my clinic. And I think it’s very important that when you do that, you’re looking not only at the child, but the parent, the wider family as well. And when you say to me, you know, what’s a day in my professional life look like, I think I’m I’m really looking at the big picture, you know, the whole and it takes time and energy to do it. So it’s kind of …
Jordan: …intricate and detailed and complex.
Cush: Yeah. Well, you know, if you look at what Asperger’s kids are; intricate, detailed and complex, yet you don’t have an Asperger’s kid by accident. It’s in you as well. So that detail is what has I think made me so successful at doing what I do.
Jordan: Amazing. So when it comes to women and their health, are there any things that you consistently see in your clients when they come to you asking for help?
Cush: Oh, definitely, yes. Stress. Stress is a great un-doer. You know, 150 years ago, stress happened to bridges not people. And and now we have this thing where we have ongoing persistent stress. So like we used to have a stress, it would come, it would dissipate and life would return to normal. Now we have stressors that are constant and that really erodes health.
We’ve got women juggling too many roles at once. Then there’s toxins, phytoestrogens, food, makeup, cleaning products, they all contain things that aren’t good for our health and can be hormone disruptors. And women are juggling family so they’ve got their personal diary, their children’s diary, the partner’s diary, and they’re trying to coordinate all of that. At the same time, they’re working full time and managing a household.
And women tend to look at the bigger picture. They tend to know that in three weeks, you know, we’ve got Grandma’s birthday and we need to get this done by this time because we’re away that weekend. So I think there’s an awful lot of pressures on women and in the modern world. And the thing is about stress is it impacts hormones and produces cortisol.
Cortisol is a hormone that can steal pregnenolone, which is the mother hormone. Instead of letting it run down the reproductive pathway, it’ll go down the stress hormone pathway. And before you know it, you’ve got women who are facing a rough ride through menopause or struggling with infertility because too much stress has undone their health and it just doesn’t serve us. Stress causes inflammation. Inflammation is the cornerstone of disease and then on top of that, a lot of us end up in sedentary jobs. We sit all day long, which makes it worse again. And in amongst all of that, these women are expected to care for themselves. And often that’s at the bottom of the list of priorities. They really aren’t putting themselves as number one. They need to be top of the list and they’re often not.
Jordan: You learnt human science, disease processes and biochemistry at Waikato Institute of Technology. You’ve got a really great understanding of the orthodox approach to health and good science based knowledge and qualifications. Do you think that the gap between traditional medicine and natural and complementary practices is narrowing?
Cush: Yes, I do. It’s common knowledge that it takes about 20 years for any new scientific discoveries to trickle down into actual practice. More and more GP’s are aware of what a probiotic is and the value of that. We’re seeing people like Rongan Chatterjee in the UK; a GP who did Doctor in the House – not the comedy – the medical GP. He has a goal to share this with millions of people. And he’s training other GP’s in greater wellness. That’s all about looking at the mental, the emotional, the physical, the spiritual, the social.
People don’t necessarily need a prescription for a pill. Sometimes they need to have their story heard, they need someone to validate them. They need some companionship; it might be that they need to meet up with a group of like minded people. He’s done studies showing how this has impacted and made positive impacts.
It might be that instead of heading for a surgery, someone could actually work with their physiotherapist or an extremely well trained personal trainer and overcome an injury and recover from it instead of reaching for that instant fix. We live in an instant world. But GP’s in particular, have been done a disservice. They are expected to have 10 minute appointments and make huge decisions on the fly. And I think that’s really tough on them. How can they possibly be expected to do a really good job?
And so along come support services like counsellors, like green prescription trainers, like nutritionists who can actually support them. And more and more, we’re seeing them referring out, which is a wonderful thing to see. Working collaboratively. So to answer your question, yes, I do think the gap is narrowing and I think that, what I would like to see is more and more GPs having like a nutritionist in-house and having a counsellor in-house. And so this whole integration.
Jordan: Lovely. Now, you you say that you use a functional medical approach to your clinical practice. Can you explain what that means and what it looks like for your clients?
Cush: Functional medicine is based on what I’d call the five pillars of health. So the five pillars in my world are digestion, blood sugar regulation, mineral balance, fatty acid balance, hydration, and that’s underpinned by a nutrient dense wholefoods diet.
So if you get these things balance, the body will start to work as it’s meant to. Functional medicine is about supporting the body to function optimally and encompasses functional testing and protocols in response to the functional test results.
So, for example, someone will bring in a food journal. And you can, you know, look at that food journal, you might see beautiful food, 100 percent organic, and it’s just beautifully cooked and everything else, but if they can’t digest it properly, they’re not absorbing nutrients from it. That is going to mean they’re not functioning properly. The only way to tell is to do stool test to see if they are digesting that food.
If I got someone who’s eating really well and they say, ‘oh, gosh, you know, I’m very, very tired’ or for some reason, you know, ‘I’ve got dreadful abdominal pain or I’ve got you know, gas and bloating, you kind of you got to dig and look for it. So I do a lot of functional testing. I use supplements, but I’d rather test and make sure that people get exactly what they need versus a ‘that’ll do’, on a guess basis.
Digestion is the core foundation of health. If you’ve got your digestion right, you can help the rest of it to come into balance. You’ll uptake the minerals from your food so they all come into balance. You’ll uptake the fat from your food so they will come into balance. You’ll absorb your water. If you’re eating a good whole foods diet and digesting it, well, your blood sugars won’t be out of control.
And I think that if you look at nutrition first, before reaching for supplementation – because supplementation is meant to be something that is an addition to a good diet anyway. If someone does one thing, address what they’re putting on the end of the fork on a daily basis. You have to remember that you build healthy cells every single day. You’re turning over your cells. So everything that’s on the end of your fork that you’re eating is going towards building ourselves. So do you want to build your cells from, you know, a beautiful piece of broccoli, you know, or a piece of meat or maybe tempeh if you’re vegetarian? Or do you build cells from, say, a deep fried chip?
It’s about having that balance. And people aren’t taught nutrition. People have very skewed views on what a good diet is because we’ve had so many fads come out through the years. Just because it’s printed and on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s true. We have to do our due diligence and we have to look for the science behind it.
Jordan: I think it’s fascinating. Now, one of your areas of expertise is gene analysis. How does that relate? How does that relate to our well-being? And how do you get people to engage with it? Because it seems an abstract thing, and I’m assuming not many people really understand what it’s about.
Cush: We’ll you’d be really amazed at how many people take it up, to be honest. So let’s look at the distinction between functional testing and genetics. With gene analysis, we’re not testing every single gene in the human body – but we are testing about 60 odd genes. When you test the genes, you’re looking at the potential somebody has.
People might have the potential for something but they also have to give it the environment to manifest. When you do functional testing, you’re looking at what’s happening now. So someone in their genes might have a potential to over inflame. But when you run a blood test to look at inflammation, you might see that they haven’t given it the environment to happen. They might have the potential for high homocysteine. Homocysteine is a corrosive in the arteries and the environment that they’ve given it can impact it, and so they might find their homocysteine is really high on a functional test.
And so it’s about looking at that analysis and intervening appropriately, but you never ever look at one particular gene snip. So a snip (SNP) is a single nucleotide polymorphism. You never look at one. You look at them in groups. The big group of inflammation ones, for example. And you look at how these SNPs interact with each other within that group.
So you can look at your inflammatory genes, for example, and some will cause others to ramp up further and some more dampen others down. You can look at the gene picture and see if you inflame or if you’re able to anti-inflame. What are your vitamin D receptors doing? Because Vitamin D is huge in inflammation. So when I look at genetics it covers about six areas including inflammation, cell defence (that’s your detoxification pathways), vitamin D metabolism, methylation and homocysteine metabolism.
You hear a lot about methylation, which is about energy production. And there’s a lot of side offshoots of that, like pyrroles. Cardiovascular health, fat metabolism and cholesterol regulation. You can understand your gene picture. What your caffeine intake is doing for you, how much caffeine you can process in a 24 hour period or what foods work well for you and what don’t. What form of exercise works for you? Are you someone who needs high intensity training or do you need gentle walking with active recovery, like a sauna or massage?
So I think that the genes are really great. For me, I looked at this because of my son. With him being on the spectrum, I wanted to have a look and see what I could do to help him. I remember sitting in the seminar years ago and the guy who was presenting it was talking about how a woman with this particular gene picture and if they are under stress at the time of the pregnancy and deficient, especially in the B vitamins, how they can produce an Asperger’s child. I sat there with tears running down my face because someone had finally explained what happened and why my two boys were so different.
And so that was when I started digging into it. I wanted to help my kid as much as I could. I looked at what his inflammatory pathways were and at the same time, I looked at my own. Looking at mine, I understood why when I exercise and I injure myself, I take longer to recover, because of my tendency to over inflame. My vitamin D receptors aren’t great. So I know that for me, I’ve got to keep my vitamin D levels up. My conversion rate isn’t so great. However, I can clear it well, so I knew that I was safe to supplement myself. And so that made a difference too.
It’s about recognising what your body’s capable of and mitigating the impact of those genes that are over expressing and encouraging the ones that are under expressing so that you can actually function better. Hence I do both the gene testing and the functional.
Jordan: Sounds so sensible, but actually so it’s there’s so much in it. There’s so much depth.
Cush: I get very detailed and that’s why I spend so much time on people’s food journals. When you do, for example, a functional stool test, you also look at what foods are aggravating people. Food sensitivity testing can change so rapidly that I actually default and use the Coca Pulse test all the time. I teach people how to take their own pulse and then they can work out from that whether a food is reacting to them right then and there in that moment. It’s cheaper than paying for huge amounts of food sensitivity testing. And not everybody has the tenacity to keep retesting every three months because things change in you. And you’ve got to look at the whole picture and that’s the key thing in amongst it.
Jordan: Cush, what’s body talk?
Cush: I love body talk. Body talk works on the mind, body connection it uses the biofeedback system and you work through a framework. So I have a chart and you go through it getting answers to get the things – it does require intuition on my part.
I think if we take it back two steps, how did I get into body talk? I got into body talk for a couple of reasons. One is that I was a neuromuscular therapist for many, many years, doing massage and trigger point therapy. That was my job for a long time. And then I had an accident in my kayak. Overnight, I could no longer stand in horse riding, stance to do the massage. I really injured myself and it took quite some time to recover from the injury.
So I went, ‘oh, I need to get my hands on people’ because my hands burned. I just want to touch people. It’s just amazing. And around the same time my sister died and I loved her very dearly. And I came back from her funeral and I just I couldn’t face going to clinic. I had my own clinic. I had a receptionist. I kind of went, ‘gosh, what am I going to do?’
So I thought, oh, body talk – that little three and a half day course! I’ll go and do that course and see how it goes. I ended up having 12 body talk sessions over those three and a half days. I cried so much but when I walked out of that course, I walked back into clinic and I was totally functional again. And so I spent a year embedding it and learning it and doing more and more before I bought it into clinic. And then once I put it into clinic, you know, has so many applications.
I’ve used body talk with patients who have depression and they’ve found great benefit. I’ve used body talk with people who have autoimmune conditions and they’ve experienced great benefit. I’ve helped people who have emotional, traumatic blocks and they’ve experienced great benefit. So it has a lot of applications. For me, it’s a way to make that mind body connection with people. I do say to people that if they have body talk sessions alongside of their other protocol, that I advise, we do make faster progress because you’re helping the body.
It can be something as simple as linking organ to organ or as complex as a family or workplace matrix or emotional trauma. It’s done very simply. People just come, they stay fully clothed, remove their shoes preferably, lie on my treatment table. It does involve tapping. You tap it out over the head and the heart. It’s a wonderful modality.
Jordan: Sounds amazing. Finally, if you had one tip for day to day wellness and feeling good, what would it be?
Cush: Breathe, breathe and move. The body hears everything that the mind says. So if we are moving and breathing on purpose. Our thoughts will flow from that.
Jordan: Brilliant, thank you Cush.
More about Cush
If you’re interested in finding out more about Cush and her work, you can find her through the links below.
Mobile: 027 421 4900
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