The Flu Vaccine – Worth a Shot?


Our clinic just received its supply of Government funded flu vaccines (insert hands up emoji here). It got me thinking – how many people know who is eligible to receive the free Govenmernment funded flu vaccine ? And why might you still want to get the jab even if you have to pay for it?


Lots of patients will say that they don’t get the vaccine anymore because they “had it once and got the flu straight after.” I swear I say this a thousand times in flu season – “the vaccine CANNOT give you the flu.” It is not a live vaccine – we do not inject any of the live virus into your body. It dose make your body mount an immune response (that’s how all vaccines work) so you may experience some muscle aches (but most likely you will just have a sore arm). What is MORE than likely (if you do get sick a few days after it) is that you were incubating some sort of virus before you got jabbed, and the illness declared itself coincidentally in the few days after and you blamed the poor vaccine, when it fact you should be blaming the snotty guy at work who doesn’t wash his hands – ever! A reminder also that like any vaccine, the flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective and covers 3 or 4 strains of the flu virus (depending on which vaccine you get) when there are in fact many other strains in the community. Despite the fact it isn’t the magic bullet the vaccine does reduce the risk of flu by about 50 to 60% in the general population – and trust me if you’ve been in bed for 2 weeks with aching muscles and fevers you’ll take anything you can get to reduce your risk of getting it again.


There are certain people who get the flu vaccination for free in Australia- anyone over 65, Aboriginal and Torres Stait Islander people, pregnant women and patients with chronic medical conditions such as asthma (where the flu can trigger severe flares) or diabetes (where the immune system is suppressed). There are many other conditions that qualify for the Government funded vaccine so it is worth checking with your GP if you have a chronic medical illness. If you are fit and healthy then you can still get the vaccine- you just have to pay for it (between 15 to 20 dollars). I get it every year – I would be stupid not to in my line of work. I couldn’t tell you how many people I see in the flu season with the classic fevers and aches who look like they’ve walked straight from a steam room into my office – I’m talking sweaty, clammy, “death warmed up” kind of look. If you’ve had the flu before you will do anything to get the vaccine. And before you say “I’ve had the flu and it wasn’t that bad”– the flu is NOT a cold- they are caused by completely different viruses. A cold is often something like rhinovirus or human metapneumovirus whereas the flu is caused by viruses like Influenza A, B or H1N1 (also known as swine flu) – completely different nasties. The flu is debilitating – muscle aches, high fevers, runny nose, headaches, low appetite for up to 4 weeks – you are house if not bed bound. It can lead to pneumonia and even death in the vulnerable (infants, elderly, immunocomporomised to name a few). The flu isn’t the sore throat and headache you had for 5 days last week – it’s much much more than that, trust me.


I’m terrified of needles (yes, no joke!). Happy to jab my patients but if you come near me with a needle I will hyperventilate a little (and try very hard to hide it) which sometimes makes me  bit woozy and faint (I know, could it be any more dramatic?!). But guess what I’m doing this week? Yep, getting a flu shot because for me, a young mum, I can’t afford 4 weeks off and I certainly can’t be bringing the flu home to my little girl. A quick jab in the arm versus 4 weeks in bed – up to you!


If you would like to read more about the Influenza vaccine, including vaccination of children, check out






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A Healthy Spin on a Comfort Meal Version 1 – Tuna Mornay



Tuna mornay is a love of mine – it holds a special place in my heart… alongside twiggy sticks (I know I know!), smoked salmon and goats cheese. It’s a meal I yearn for when I’m celebrating something or when I’m devastated and need a pick-me-up. But MY tuna monray isn’t like yours- I can assure you. It’s one of the healthiest and easiest meals I make and lasts in the fridge for 2-3 days feeding the entire family – Miss S included.


If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen it in my posts – I make it often – so I thought it was time to share how I do it. So here it is – the Preeya twist on tuna mornay.


Firstly, tuna mornay (or my version of it sans white sauce and other fancy bits) is a very healthy vegetable packed meal that only needs one pot. Tuna is so good for you – rich in omega 3 hence, great for the heart and the brain of little ones especially. If you’re attempting to adopt the Mediterranean diet, because of all its wonderful evidence-based health benefits including reduced risks of cancers and heart disease, then it’s a wonderful meal for you because it contains seafood, is loaded with vegetables and uses olive oil as the cooking base.


What you will need:

Step 1 – Pick 2 425g cans of tuna (this makes a mammoth quanitity to last for 2-3 days, if you don’t need this much only use 1 can). It doesn’t matter what type of tuna you pick – either spring water or olive oil will do but ensure you don’t pick a flavoured one – we can add that ourselves! You will also need 1 or 2 cans of creamed corn (you can get this from the canned vegetable area at the supermarket) – 1 can for a small batch, 2 for large. In the recipe you might find some other bits I add sometimes.


Step 2 – Look in your fridge, veggie patch and pantry – what veggies do you have? I always use what I have – the half chewed broccoli sitting in the crisper is perfect, so are the tomatoes in the garden! Sometimes I’ll use cauliflower I have sitting around and other times I’ll use some celery, mushrooms and tomatoes. Grated zucchini is always easy and fabulous. Use what you have but make sure you add at least 3 types of veggies and one that adds some crunch like celery. I hear the critics already – “tomato in a tuna mornay??” – it’s a great addition – adds some additional moisture and sweetness!


Be creative with the veggies especially if you have kids. I tend to blitz my broccoli and cauliflower (if I’m using it) in the thermomix before I add it to the pot – it makes it like a cous cous and makes the mornay thick and creamy!


Step 3 – Always add peas and corn – it’s just how I roll.


Step 4 – Be creative with your grain! Doesn’t HAVE to be pasta. I sometimes add brown rice (cooked before I throw it in to the mix) but more often than not add quinoa which is just lovely and adds a nice texture! You can use wholegrain pasta or even chickpeas. Sometimes I don’t add a carbohydrate at all – usually because I’ve put in so many veggies there is no room. It’s always just as delicious!


The actual steps I follow:


  1. I heat olive oil in a fry pan and fry off onions (brown or red) until browned – about 5 mins
  2. I add the tuna (with the olive oil or spring water drained beforehand) and just brown it slightly for another 4 mins
  3. In go ALL the veggies I have – the spinach, tomatoes, peas and corn, cauliflower – whatever it is I chuck it in now. Stir it all in and give in another 2-3 mins.
  4. Add your binder of the dish (some fluid!) – the creamed corn! If you have a load of veggies you might need 2 cans – but 1 is usually enough. Once the binder is in – chuck you grain in now – whatever it is: pasta, quinoa – this is its moment to join the party!
  5. SOMETIMES I add a soup packet (cream of chicken or celery) to bind it further but I rarely need this. If you do choose to add a cream of chicken soup pick one with low salt (especially if your child is going to eat this).
  6. Add your herbs – I normally add parsley and spring onion from the garden but play around –there are no fixed rules – try what you have!! Parsley goes beautifully in this though as does basil.
  7. Pepper – of course!!! Be careful with salt ESPECIALLY if your child is going to eat this. I don’t add any if Miss S is going to have this for dinner – which is always given she loves the stuff!!
  8. Once it’s all bound, shove it in an oven dish – 2 cans of tuna gives you lots of food so you will need a big tray – sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top and pop it in the oven on 180 degrees for 20 mins until the cheese is golden on top! Don’t freak out – I know there isn’t any white sauce nor bread crumbs but trust me this is delicious! People don’t realise that adding something like white sauce to a meal is adding extra calories you don’t need.


And that’s it – you have a healthy tuna mornay!! You may be skeptical – is this even delicious? Hell yes it is – the veggies give it texture and sweetness, the cheese gives it the edge and the tuna is the hero as it should be!

If you have a serve for dinner this meal will give you at least 2 serves of veggies easily. Imagine how good it is for kids! I can hear you saying “Preeya this isn’t really a strict recipe with steps to follow” – I know but this is how I cook – it changes every time and you have a framework now to work off.


The wonderful thing about my mornay, like all my cooking, is there are no set rules – play around, try things out, chuck in as many good tasty things as you can! Try a comfort meal without the naughty things like white sauce – it can be just as delicious and good for you!


If you like this – I’ll pop up some of my other healthy versions of comfort food – lasagne, pasta sauce, shepard’s pie, enchiladas!! The possibilities are endless!!! Check out my Instagram feed for other healthy food ideas!!







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A Peek Inside Our Medical Kit for India


I’m a type A packer – I’m talking lists, repeated cross checking with the lists, caressing of the lists – I love the lists!! My type A personality flourishes when it comes to holiday packing.


I tell all my patients that if they are going to travel overseas they need to pack a medical kit and if travelling to the developing world then the medical kit needs to be more extensive.


So here is a look in our travel kit for India – I use the term “kit” very loosely – it’s a plastic bag filled with an abundance of ammunition in case we get unlucky. In addition to the medications I’ve packed Milton’s tablets for sterilising Miss S’s utensils and bottles (seriously handy for travel!) and water purification tablets just in case.



  1. The Basics


These are the things people sadly tend to forget (and you will kick yourself trust me!) – the every day items that you take for granted at home. Paracetamol when you have a headache, a fresh bandaid when your child falls over and grazes their knee. The basics should go on every holiday with you!


What I packed – Paracetamol and Ibuprofen (both for Miss S and ourselves), antihistamine tablets for adults (to stop my allergic husband from ruining the entire trip with his sneezing), bandaids.



  1. Traveller’s Diarrhea Essentials – incase it hits (insert worried face here)


Traveller’s diarrhea is common and affects up to 50% of international travellers. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are horrendous but it’s the dehydration as a result that is the big killer. Hydration solutions are essential- we have effervescent tablets and jelly in our medical kit this time in case Miss S gets hit. Food and water safety is key when it comes to avoiding traveler’s diarrhea (I can’t emphasise this enough!!!) but if you get unlucky anti-diarrhoea tablets (NEVER use these in children as they can have severe bowel complications) and an anti spasmodic agent like Buscopan, for that awful crampy belly pain, can help. You should always see your GP before you travel to countries where traveller’s diarrhea are likely to hit (South East Asia, India, Africa etc) for antibiotics you might be able to take with you in case – antibiotics can help as more than half of traveller’s diarrhea cases are bacterial in nature.


What I packed – Ciprofloxacin and Azithromycin for traveller’s diarrhea (for the adults), Azithromycin (for Miss S), antispasmodic agent, Loperamide, hydration solutions (both tablet and jelly), Weetbix – if something super simple is needed for Miss S (yes it is going in the medical kit area!!)


  1. Sun and mosquito safety


Another big one people tend to forget! Sun cream (make sure it’s water resistant and OK for children if you have them!) and mosquito repellant are VITAL. For some reason people don’t consider these as vital components of the medical kit – to me they are perhaps more important than some of the antibiotics you can take. Severe sunburn on a holiday is dangerous and malaria can be lethal – so put your insect repellant and sun cream purchase high on the agenda!


DEET repellant is the tropical strength stuff you can buy from the chemist. For Miss S we have the cream version to apply (not to the hands as they put these in their mouth), a mosquito net to place over her cot (Kathmandu sells these) and 50+ suncream for her (and a version for us). We have tailored our trip for Miss S (and are not travelling to high risk malaria areas) because there are no antimalarial drugs for her and having seen malaria as doctors we were not willing to take the risk so our itinerary sticks to low risk areas only. Again a visit to the GP before you travel is a great way to find out if you are going to high risk malaria areas, in which case you might need preventative medication.


What I packed – 50+ suncream for the entire family, DEET insect repellant, mosquito net, citronella candles, hats and sunglasses for the 3 of us.


  1. The “Just In Case”


You don’t know when a cold will hit so I take things for the dreaded “in case we get a cold on holiday” scenario. For adults that’s some form of decongestant tablets lest it strikes before we have to fly. For Miss S that means a bit more – the FESS nasal suction, eye wipes and Vicks are also coming along. A thermometer takes minimal room and you won’t regret packing it if someone gets sick and whilst I really want to take my stethoscope and entire diagnostic kit (did I mention I’m type A haha) I’m refraining (and I think my husband would secretly unpack it even if I tried). BUT we do have comprehensive travel insurance (please don’t go anywhere without it!!) and we have checked the English speaking hospitals that will see children in each place we are visiting – it pays to be prepared.




So I know what you’re thinking – how do you have room for all this? A few less dresses packed (I know the sacrifices we make!!) – but I won’t miss the dresses if I’m bent over the toilet bowl! And whilst I have fingers and toes crossed we won’t need anything from the medical kit – it’s ALL there if we do!!





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Dear Wobbly Bits…


A girlfriend recently commented that she envied my “body confidence” especially after having had a child. I was shocked. Me, body confident? Upon asking her how she had come to this conclusion she commented that through the Wholesome Doctor blogs and Instagram she had noted that I judged healthy on so many other things other than appearance and that surely that translated to being “very confident” with how I looked.


So I feel like I have to clear this up lest you also see me like this.


I am a woman.


I am a normal, mortal, sometimes horrendously self-judging woman.


I have cried numerous times over my body post child birth. I have squeezed my abdominal subcutaneous fat (you know the wobbly bit under the belly button that just appears post child birth) several times and pondered whether 1000 sit up, hour long planks or plain old surgery will fix it. I have looked in the mirror in my “old” clothes and felt my heart sink at the new me – “give it another month Preeya, it will fit perfectly again” – I’ve said this for the last 6 months mind you.


My body is different. I know I’m healthy – my body mass index (BMI) is clearly in the healthy range, my waist circumference is well below the 80cm cut off the Heart Foundation sets for women (its 94cm for men by the way). I eat fruit and vegetables, I do some form of exercise almost every day and I know my blood pressure and cholesterol are A-OK. But hey, I do have low moments about my body image – they aren’t frequent but they happen. Sure I’m healthy BUT the White Suede dress I pine after looks much better on someone who is classified as underweight by the BMI index, so of course I have moments of self-doubt.


I know a lot of people say this– but my husband and I have been blessed with a healthy, divine, sometimes very cheeky daughter. We have a roof over our heads and job security. And shouldn’t that be enough? Should I also yearn to have my “kind of” flat stomach back? Should I pine after my old physique knowing full well that I have nurtured another human life for 9 months, breast fed it for 6 and managed to stay reasonably (I stress the word reasonably) sane? How much do I really want? Sometimes I feel I’m pushing my luck by also wanting my old body back.


We know that eating disorders amongst the adolescent population are a real problem, particularly amongst girls. The American Academy of Paediatrics suggests to reduce the risk of these issues in their children parents should not talk about their own weight or their children’s and that the main focus should always be on promoting a healthy overall lifestyle as opposed to focusing on weight or diet too much. So the moment Miss S arrived my husband and I made a pact that I wouldn’t talk about my body low moments in front of Miss S – because that’s often how it all starts. So our 6 month old hasn’t heard any of it! Doesn’t mean when the bedroom door closes and I’m choosing an outfit for a wedding that I don’t have a small vent to the mirror or my husband!!


So please don’t for a moment mistake my “health confidence” for “body confidence!” Having said ALL of that though I truly am content in who I am and I think my contentment predominantly stems now from my love of motherhood. I’m juggling motherhood with work and I feel like I’m doing OK at both whilst remaining a decent mother, wife, daughter and friend– and that’s the main thing that matters to me if I’m truly honest. In reality my body has very little to do with my overall self-confidence and self worth – I’d rather be healthy, and I am. So to the extra wobble under my belly button – we have a love hate relationship. I know you brought with you the most divine creature in my universe but you make the clingy dresses sit a touch tighter now! But I’m sure we can work it out… I won’t be grabbing you in front of Miss S saying “look at this, its gotta go”… rather I’ll point out that you’re a part of me (just like my neurotic mind) and that’s the way it is so that Miss S will grow up striving for health as opposed to a dress size and ultimately love herself regardless of how the dress falls on her waist line.




Let there me more body love, more love for the unique bodies that we all are. Please share with a friend who you know needs a pep in her step when it comes to her less loved body bits!


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The Exercise Excuses


When I start mentioning to patients that weight loss and exercise might help their knee osteoarthritis, diabetes or blood pressure control I get hit with “but…” very quickly. The excuses come thick and fast.


I thought I would share the 5 common excuses I hear as a GP and why they usually aren’t valid. If you’ve ever uttered these words when it comes to exercise (even to yourself) then let me very gently rebut you and perhaps even change your mind!


“I can’t run because my joints hurt”


My joints don’t stop me from running- instead it’s my over active brain that has no idea what to do whilst my legs are moving. I find running utterly boring and have never been able to go past 10 minutes. If you can’t run because of your joints or because you’re brain cannot accept this mundane form of exercise then fine – but don’t let that be your ticket to “well I don’t need to exercise.” I don’t expect you to run through ankle instability or plantar fasciitis – but I do expect us to find an alternative way you can get moving and shaking that your joints will accept.


Sore joints, wobbly knees and whining feet can all cope with low impact exercises like cycling or swimming. Strength training like yoga or pilates may be just what your joints are craving. For patients who have a tough time finding exercise that suits them we involve exercise physiologists who can develop a program that suits the patient.


Running isn’t the ONLY form of exercise remember?


“I don’t have the time to attend gym classes”


I understand this – being a time poor mother and GP I can identify with this one. But it’s all a matter of compromise– do you sacrifice 30 minutes of extra sleep in the morning to get to the 6am class? It means a little bit of preparation before bed– packing a bag of work clothes and going to bed a touch earlier – but it can be done. Or do you say no to 1 or 2 evening social engagements this week and attend a class instead? That’s how I made it work prior to being a mother.


I remind my patients constantly that the gym isn’t the only place they can attend group physical activity. There are groups who meet in the park, personal trainers who run group sessions and if you have friends they might be keen to join you for an interval sprint session.


“I don’t have time to exercise… FULL STOP”


Nope – don’t believe you. When patients say this to me I get an average day timetable from them. 99% of the time I can find a pocket where they have picked couch time or social events over exercise. This is my forte – sneaking exercise in when I can – so I don’t buy the excuse of lack of time.


I bet anything that you spend SOME time in front of the TV. Most of my patients admit they watch a favourite program either once or twice a week. Boom – there’s the window. Pop a treadmill, exercise bike or cross country trainer in front of the TV and promise yourself that you will not watch your show without being on that machine (The Bachelorette is even more enjoyable if you burn calories at the same time!!). Or if you have pockets of time here and there grab a skipping rope – 3 x 10 minute sessions are perfect! If you have someone at home with you, try what my husband and I do and have a quick boxing session – excellent for fitness and any venting!


So time poor isn’t going to cut it with me. As a new mother who is working and trying to maintain a half decent home I don’t let that excuse enter my mind, so you shouldn’t either.


“I don’t feel confident swimming”


As a water challenged being I hear you but swimming is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise for people with joint issues (because it’s low impact) and asthma (indoor heated pools can be very lung friendly for those whose asthma is worse with cold air). You don’t need to Ian Thorpe it down the fast lane for swimming to count as exercise – a doggy paddle or breast stroke (and yes I’m talking head remains ABOVE the water!!!) counts too (as does briskly walking up and down the pool or attending an aqua aerobics class). If you don’t feel comfortable in bathers – a big t-shirt will save your dignity – as will going at non-peak times (something I tell my body conscious patients).


Despite all the reluctance to get into bathers – swimming is a fantastic form of exercise!


“I can’t afford a gym membership or personal trainer”


I hear this one a lot. And quite frankly it’s the weakest excuse of them all. You don’t NEED a gym or a personal trainer to exercise. You need motivation – you need to chuck your sneakers on, chuck out the excuses and go for a walk, run or cycle. Grab your partner, a friend, a group of friends and use them to help motivate you. You don’t need to pay someone to yell at you to run – tell your motivated friend that you REALLY want to join them for their weekend hike or cycle for the next month – they will end up pushing you a bit without you (or your wallet) knowing about it.


I remember telling a newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic patient of mine that weight loss would greatly help her diabetes control (if not reverse the diabetes completely). She recruited 3 girlfriends, all in their late 60s, and they would walk around the local lake 4 days a week – rail, hail or shine. Not only did she significantly improve her diabetes control, but another member of her walking group (who was also my patient) lost enough weight to come off 1 of her blood pressure mediations! Now these ladies proved you don’t need a gym or a PT behind you – just a good group of friends who are willing to chuck their sneakers on!



So ditch the excuses. I’ve heard them all before – and my response usually involves the line “I’m busy too BUT I manage to do at least 30 – 60 minutes of something active 6 days of the week” – and that’s the truth. So before you put your pajamas on tonight or sit down to watch some TV – is there anyway you can sneak in something active? And is that voice in your head that was very free with the excuses finally silent?



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Travelling? Why you should see your doctor before you pack your bathers!

We are about to head over to India, which got me thinking about what I needed to do to prep our family for the holiday. I see so many patients prepare poorly for their holidays when it comes to their health, so I thought I would share my top 6 tips with you:


  1. You’re thinking about outfits, how many pairs of shoes to pack (and do you really need a pair of heels on a beach holiday?– the eternal debate) and if you need bikinis and a one-piece (just in case!). So I get it, injections are the last thing on your mind. BUT – any overseas travel means you need to at least have a think about what vaccines you might need. Even the routine ones need to be updated now and then (like tetanus) and you may need specific ones for countries like India or Brazil. Hepatitis A, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever – do you need them? Often a patient will come and see me for a pap smear before their big trip and chuck in the line, “so I’m leaving in 2 weeks, do I need anything?”  Cue my internal screams of horror! Most vaccines take 6 weeks to be effective and if you need multiple injections it might be too late. So please see us a bit earlier so we have time to plan and get you as ready as possible before your trip!



  1. Travel insurance is non negotiable. And don’t just pick any old one – make sure you will be covered. If you’re pregnant are you covered? And is the baby if he or she decides to arrive early? And what about your asthma – are they happy to cover that too? Do more than just say yes to the travel agent when they ask you if you want it – investigate if you will actually be safe!



  1. I used to think I had an iron gut – “used to” being the operative words- until I found myself with a fever, dehydrated and hallucinating on a bathroom floor in Argentina. Food and water safety is something you can’t compromise on in a third world country. My 5 DON’Ts:
    1. DON’T have ice (as it’s usually tap water)
    2. DON’T drink water from the tap – only bottled or boiled
    3. DON’T eat uncooked fruit or vegetables washed in local water – a banana is OK because you peel the skin off but apples for instance where you eat the skin are a no no
    4. DON’T walk around with bare feet on the roads – there are parasites (i.e. strongyloides) that can enter through the feet (I know it’s not food related but an extra tip!)
    5. DON’T eat food that’s been sitting there at a roadside stall – if you want to try it (and I get it who travels and doesn’t experiment a touch!) make sure its served piping hot – JUST boiled/fried/cooked to give your gut the best chance


  1. If you take regular medications and you’ll be travelling with them ask your GP for a letter to make sure you don’t end up being questioned. Who really wants to spend time being questioned over their sleeping tablets??



  1. Take an emergency kit with you – think about what you might need as your hugging a toilet bowl. I usually tell patients to pack at least some pain relief (like paracetamol), bandaids, hand sanitizer, gastrolyte and anti-histamines if you are an allergic person. But then there are all sorts of other things you might need like antibiotics in case of bad gastro or pneumonia. Or if you are hiking Macchu Picchu you might need tablets to help with altitude sickness. See, another reason to see the doc before you hop on the plane.



  1. Mosquitoes should scare the living daylights out of you. Malaria, zika virus, dengue – these diseases are no joke. As a GP we have access to information about which countries are hot spots for which diseases and whether or not you need anti malria drugs. A few mosquito Dos:
    1. DO wear long sleeved tops and pants in a light colour at dawn and dusk (the biggest risk periods) to protect your skin
    2. DO buy the proper DEET mosquito repellant
    3. DO use a mosquito net if available at night
    4. DO (Please DO!!) speak to your doctor about whether you need anti malarial medication – there are a few available now so you have options!


So I know you’re excited. I know that the stuff I’ve just mentioned is incredibly boring compared to making a list of the restaurants and bars you want to visit whilst away BUT it’s more important I promise you. Getting malaria isn’t a joke – it can kill you. And getting diarrhea for 6 days because you drank the water also isn’t an ideal way to spend your beach holiday. So please book an appointment, do the boring stuff first… and then decide on which 700 pairs of bathers you’ll pack!

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The Definition Of “Healthy” (from a GP’s Perspective)


Everyone wants to be “healthy.” What is the definition of healthy though – is there a clothing size? A specific weight we should aim for? Is there a magic supplement or vitamin that automatically makes us healthy? The answer is no – determining health is so much harder than just looking at a person, their clothing size or their weight.


Last year at the Australian Fashion Week there was uproar when a particular model took to the catwalk – the comments and tweets came thick and fast – “Oh she is so unhealthy.” The very people who were labeling her “unhealthy” and hence, determining what the definition of “health” was were not part of the health profession and the same people who place pictures of size 6 women with thigh gaps and 6 packs in our faces. See the problem?


You are likely not healthy if you are too thin or if you are overweight or obese. So let’s clear this up.


A male or female who walks in my consultation room with a very low body mass index (BMI) is equally as concerning to me as a patient who is obese. Being seriously underweight (through restriction of food, purging, not eating at all or excessive exercise) can lead to issues with fertility (women for instance, will not have regular periods), nutritional deficiencies (like iron) and osteoporosis (where the bones become brittle).


You can be seriously underweight and have a cholesterol of 8, which is very high and not healthy. By the same token neither is being overweight or obese – it carries risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and high risk of certain cancers.


Health to me is the general “vibe” of an individual – yes, I’m talking The Castle and Mabo type of “vibe.” What’s your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, height, body mass index? What do you eat – and do you eat a bit of everything in moderation? Do you exercise – how much and how often? Do you smoke? (Please say no!) Do you drink alcohol – and if so how much? And what’s your mood like – do you think you could be depressed or anxious? That’s the stuff I want to know to gauge whether or not you’re healthy. And here’s a hot tip mental health is just as vital as the body stuff.


I am not looking at your six pack or bicep size. And I certainly won’t think you’re any healthier for purposely cutting out foods groups like dairy and meat for no particular medical reason.


There really is no concrete measure for “health” or “healthiness.” But as GPs we make those assessments every day. So am I healthy? I do something active every day, I eat fruit, vegetables, protein, carbohydrates and drink plenty of water. I love my wine and on occasion will have more than the 2 standard drinks I should but, hey I’m human!


I guess you need to ask yourself the same questions. Are you doing everything you can to reduce your risk of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol? Are you active? Do you make an effort with your diet – do you eat enough? Or too much?


So finally, yes I think my vibe is somewhat “healthy” – is yours?

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Am I Mum Enough?


I love being a mum – much more than I thought I would to be honest.


I never knew how much I would love picking Miss S out of the cot in the morning and holding her cheek against mine. I never thought I would giggle with my 3 month old in our first breast feed of the morning as we both realize the day has started and that it’s time to open the shutters and invite the day into our little world. And if someone had told me I would be taking my 3 month old to the library to borrow books and attend singing sessions (and belt out “The Little Green Frog” at the top of my lungs) I would not have believed them!


I love being a mother.


But I do (and I don’t know why I feel slightly guilty saying this) also miss work and the feeling of having contributed to society in a different way. I am not for a moment suggesting that a mother does not contribute to society, but I miss the intellectual stimulation – the tricky patients, the friendly debates with colleagues and the feeling of “what a crappy day but gosh it feels good” when you put your key in the door after a day at work.


Does this make me a bad mother? Does the fact that I yearn to have just a touch of my old life mean I don’t love my daughter enough?


Well some people certainly like to voice their opinions on how another woman mothers her child and I’ve heard the comments “it’s too early” and “how could you leave her so soon.” And it’s only now I understand the fire that very quickly ignites in your belly when you defend your own child, your family and your own ability to mother.


I am planning to go back to teaching junior doctors one day a fortnight soon. That’s literally 8 hours in a 336 hour fortnight. My husband thinks it’s a great idea to give my brain the tickle that that it’s yearning for (I also think he is sick of me grilling about his day at work and all his tricky patients so I can give my unwanted opinion!). So to answer those 2 earlier questions – no it does not make me a bad mother and of course I love her enough!


So what’s my point?


That we need to stop judging each other. I’m planning to do a day a fortnight when Miss S is 4 months old and that sits beautifully with my family and me. Some women return to full time work at 6 weeks and some never go back at all – and whatever a mother feels works for her is the right thing. There are loads of different ways we can all be mothers. My way isn’t the right way but neither is yours.


After reading so many books, listening to lots of unwanted free advice and copping uninvited judgment from all and sundry – I have worked it out that the best way is the one that works for Miss S and my family.


So when I trot off to work in a month’s time I am sure I will have a small cry and a knot in my stomach but I know that it is going to be a wonderful thing for both Miss S and I. And if it’s not hey, I’m not too proud to say “it WAS too early” and step it back… but you know what, it’s me who will say those words, NOT someone else.




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The Supplement Saga



The supplement aisle at the chemist gives me a headache and it seems I am not alone – my patients will often ask me what they should be taking and I’ve had many of you approach me on Instagram asking for a blog on the topic. So here it is – my attempt at providing some guidance (which is no way replaces a visit to the GP to answer you’re specific needs). I agree with many of you that between cranberry, gingko biloba and calcium supplements it’s hard to know what you need and what you don’t.


I’ve had bursts of “I’m going on a huge health kick – I’m going to get supplements, exercise, lose weight and just nail life,” and I suspect you’ve had those moments too. You end up in the discount pharmacy drawn to all sorts of weird and wonderful supplements that can make you fit and fabulous. So if I get sucked in and I’m meant to know better – I can see how my patients struggle.


The truth is if you have a balanced diet and no underlying medical problems technically you should not need any supplements. You should be getting all the wonderful vitamins and minerals you need through your food.


And the truth is some supplements aren’t as safe as you think they might be. Just because they scream natural and come without a prescription doesn’t mean they are completely safe. For instance, good old fish oil can make it harder for your blood to clot so some surgeons won’t operate on their patients until they have stopped fish oil because of bleeding risk!



Women planning pregnancy/ pregnant or breastfeeding:


The guidelines recommend women planning pregnancy take a supplement with at least 150 micrograms of iodine and 400 micrograms of folic acid in it everyday for 4 weeks before they try to conceive and continue this for at least the first trimester. Both iodine and folic acid are vital for a baby’s development and it’s believed the latter can help reduce the risk of spina bifida (a disorder where the spinal cord does not correctly form).


I will always suggest women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy go on a pregnancy specific vitamin to avoid products like Vitamin A, which can be in normal vitamins but dangerous in pregnancy.


So if you fall into this group – a pregnancy specific supplement is definitely worth considering!


But what about calcium supplements?


We try and advocate that people get their calcium from their diet. For some reason patients love taking calcium supplements – but truth is as doctors we only recommend this for a very small portion of the population as there is some evidence (and this is hotly debated in the medical world) that it can increase your risk of heart attacks.


So taking the supplement because you think you need it isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. It’s worth speaking to your GP or trying to get the required amount of calcium from your diet instead. All you need is 3-4 serves per day and it isn’t all dairy – nuts, green leafy vegetables and tofu can also give you the required calcium hit!


Do I need to take iron tablets? (Something I commonly get asked)


No, we don’t all need iron supplements!


The figures suggest 15% of non-pregnant woman suffer from iron deficiency. Some symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, shortness of breath when you are physically active and pale skin – if you’re concerned you’re at risk seeing your GP is the first step not only to confirm the diagnosis with a blood test but also to investigate why you are iron deficient (which includes taking a good history and examination). If you have confirmed iron deficiency then yes you may a need supplement – but if it’s mild we may talk about dietary factors instead and if it’s a significant deficiency you may need iron infused through your vein (as tablets may not be enough). With constipation and an upset belly as some of the side effects of iron tablets, it’s not a supplement you want to take unless you really need it!


I see a lot of patients on iron tablets for no particular reason and truth is if you are having 2-3 serves of red meat a week and you eat green leafy vegetables then chances are you are getting enough iron. Of course there are certain people in the population with gut disorders that affect their ability to absorb iron and they may well need the supplement for long periods.



And what about these wonder tablets- the all in one “helps with energy/weight loss/amazing skin” tablets?


Oh dear – we all get sucked in by this at some point don’t we?


You have this desperation to be healthy and feel great and a tablet that offers all these things seems like the perfect step!


Alas no there is no natural supplement that will “improve your energy levels and help you lose weight quickly.” Unfortunately weight loss will always be best achieved through diet changes and exercise and popping a pill just isn’t going to cut it for the long-term changes you really want!


And what about this Probiotic business – do they work or not?


Essentially probiotics are yeast or bacteria that you can get in a capsule, powder or yoghurt. Some people take these every day “just because” – and given probiotics are generally regarded as safe it isn’t too much of a problem.


Truth is the hard medical evidence only stands behind probiotics for treatment of infectious diarrhea when it’s caused by a virus and for preventing diarrhea due to antibiotic use. Interestingly, there is also some evidence that taking a probiotic when travelling can reduce your risk of pesky traveller’s diarrhea – so worth a shot! But a probiotic every day “just because” is not likely doing a huge amount for you!





So the truth is if you’re fit, healthy and eat a balanced diet you likely don’t need a supplement! Save yourself some money- buy more fruit and vegetables, get moving and shaking and you’re likely going to do a lot more good for your health than popping a supplement.


But – if you fall into one of the groups I’ve mentioned above who should be on a supplement OR you think you might like to investigate a specific one further – it’s always worth asking your GP what they think. I know for my patients I’ll try to answer their questions with the most evidence I possibly can (even if I have to look up articles in the consult) so that they can make an informed decision for themselves.


I’d rather you checked with me before you popped a pill you didn’t need!

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The First 2 Weeks and my 5 Survival Tips (for what they’re worth!)



So we’ve survived the first 2 weeks of our daughter’s life!


My husband and I are getting 6 hours of broken sleep per night (with the occasional horror night), we still manage a hug and laugh amongst our new duties, and we are completely besotted with this little soul who has literally flipped our life upside down. Our dining table downstairs has a changing station- gone are the candelabras that used to stand with pride as the centrepiece– hello wipes, Huggies and Sudo Cream! If someone comes to visit no effort is made to hide the rattles or the myriad of parenting books my husband has bought to ensure we raise a strong and independent girl! Hello new life!



If you have children you probably understand when I say I’ve learnt an incredible amount in the last 2 weeks – more than I ever have in my entire life (and I thought the first 2 weeks of internship were a steep learning curve!). I’ve learnt that being a mother is the hardest thing I’ve done and that being intelligent and determined means jack all to a newborn. Where my type A personality has helped me succeed in most other aspects of my life – studying hard, making sure everything is as perfect as it can be – it just doesn’t apply here. And no matter how many books or articles you read at 2am about cluster feeding or self-settling babies – what will be will be!


So all the children I’ve seen as a doctor counted for nothing when it came to my turn. I’ve reassured so many mother’s that the sleeping does improve, that providing some sort of routine does pay off and that breast feeding can get easier – but now I actually get it!


So I thought if I can survive the first 2 weeks I better share my very few pearls – so here are my top 5 survival tips for what they’re worth!


  1. Zipped suits are PURE GOLD! Bonds do a Wonder Suit that has a zip that opens from the top and bottom and let me tell you when you are changing nappies post every feed you want easy access especially at night! We use the Wonder Suit as pyjamas for Miss S and it is a godsend – dealing with 20 buttons in dim light at 2am in the morning is a great way to go completely mad!
  2. Engorged breasts hurt!!! Avent do a gel pad, which can be cooled, or heated (which you can use pre feed to assist milk flow) and let me tell you these babies straight from the freezer (in their cloth bag) on the breast soothe the pain beautifully! As GP’s we also recommend cold or frozen cabbage leaves for relief of engorgement and I would honestly use these if I hadn’t used all the cabbage to make a stir-fry with my mum!
  3. Sleep hygiene is VITAL for a baby and your sanity! Our obstetrician on day 3 post birth told us the rules for the first 6 weeks was that there were no rules – and I must say this was advice I very much needed to hear! But the only loose rule we have is trying to introduce some sleep routine consistency and it feels like it’s paying off – naps in the day occur in light, whereas nighttime is all dim light or darkness. A bedtime routine is being introduced (with some reluctance from Miss S) which involves a bath then changing into pyjamas and feeding in dim light. Most sleep gurus will suggest some sort of sleep routine and so we are giving it a go!
  4. LET GO – I was soooooo reluctant initially to leave Miss S with anyone to even have a nap. I would sit there watching my mum, aunt or husband with her – just subtly giving tips (when in reality I had no idea what I was doing either I now realize!). But I swallowed all my pride/type A-ness and accepted help and boy oh boy did life get better. I had naps, allowed my family to cook all the meals and now the freezer is full of healthy meals! And most importantly my husband and I have had moments here and there to have a hug, debrief and an odd tear! So swallow all pride and say yes to all help is my big tip!
  5. A walk a day keeps the mind and body sane. This I swear by – I was slow to get back to my walks post the emergency C section but now we are out that door every day. Miss S is rugged up, I have my sneakers on and we hit the pavement (gently) for 30 minutes at least once a day … and if things are going well we stop for a chai latte at the local café… I see the sunlight (so does she), we have fresh air, we smile at people who walk past us (and invariably someone stops for a chat when they see a new baby) and when we come home we are both new ladies!


So there it is – 2 weeks in and I still know next to nothing… but I sure know a hell of a lot more than I did! Imagine how much I’ll know in another 2 weeks – I’ll be some sort of epic baby whisperer by then (I wish!).





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