We recently had a (remote) chat with local Naturopath, Clinical Nutritionist, and all round lovely lady Layla Metcalfe. While her area of specialty is usually Women’s health, since the arrival of her little one Velzy last year she’s developed a keen interest and passion for the health of our tiny humans.
Layla has been kind enough to provide us with some insights into her life here in the Northern Rivers, Motherhood, Naturopathy and of course amazing tips and advice about the health of kids.
HI LAYLA! PLEASE TELL US, WHAT WAS THE PATH THAT LED YOU TO NATUROPATHY?
I grew up in a house with a mum who leant towards a more alternative approach to health and was always cooking cooking cooking!!! and a dad who was very science smart and evidence based in his decisions and also very interested in the human body and mind. I think this combo sparked my love of food, curiosity in medicine and fascination with the human body and its super powers.
From the age of 2 I developed very aggressive asthma and eczema and spent a lot of time as a kid in hospital and taking lots of medication.
In my teens I had reproductive ‘period’ problems and as an adult also had a few unexplainable illnesses that left me quite ill. As a result I was exposed to lots of different therapies, medicines and diets from a very young age to help manage these illnesses.
So when I learnt of a degree that would teach me how to get qualified in all of the things I already loved to learn about, it seemed a no brainer to pursue naturopathy as a career path.
AS A LOCAL TO THE BYRON AREA, WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE THE NORTHERN RIVERS AS THE HOME FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY?
I was born in Byron but relocated to Sydney when I was young and have been up and back since I finished high school. The Northern Rivers is full of easy going, like-minded people who appreciate the magic of the hybrid coastal country life the same way we do.
We love to surf and spend our days at the beach as well as go for a bush walk and swim in a waterfall. We live 5 mins walk to our local coffee shop and have cows in our backyard. This kind of magic is very unique to the Northern rivers.
While we miss our families who don’t live close by, we have all of our best friends raising their families close by. The pace is slower than the city’s, people are in less of a hurry and life isn’t taken so seriously. Easy come, easy go. I like that.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SUPPLEMENTS OR HERBS FOR BUILDING IMMUNITY IN KIDS?
Ideally good food and nutrition should be enough to keep us healthy however kids can be fussy which means food options can be limited and young kids get sick a lot as they cycle through day care, preschool and back to school germs so their immune system is constantly under the pump and easy candidates for extra support.
First and foremost FOOD can and should be medicine. Easy ways to do this are:
- Cut out processed sugars - these deplete your body white cells ability to defend against bad bacteria
- Eat Veggies - packed with nutrients with lower sugar than fruit. For fussy kids, hide them in smoothies!
- Herbs and spices - turmeric, cinnamon and all of your garden herbs and teas are medicinal!!!
- Vitamin D/ sunshine
Supplements and herbs need to be prescribed by a practitioner as infants and kids are not able to take adult doses.
Cod liver - contains both vitamin A and Vitamin D - important for healthy immune system function, skin health, cognitive function and healthy eyesight.
Zinc - anti-inflammatory, antiviral and can reduce the symptoms of the common cold. Also great for hair, skin and nails as well as healing wounds.
Probiotic - different strains are important for different things and can focus on anything from digestion to eczema.
Vitamin C - anti-inflammatory and helps support the immune systems bacterial fighting powers.
Herbs - Can be in liquid formulas or as tea!
Elderberry and echinacea are both powerful immune supporting herbs. (And elderberry tastes yummy).
Withania/ ashwagandha - is a herb used to help manage stress, support the adrenals and can help absorb iron.
Little Velzy with her Amazon Divided Plate Set!
HOW HAS NATUROPATHY CHANGED THE WAY YOU MANAGE YOUR HEALTH/WELLBEING?
I am a passionate foodie and love to help people. I also really enjoy teaching and education and so being a naturopath allows me to combine all of these and share with others. I feel very privileged to be able to support people to be the best and happiest versions of themselves.
Having come from a place of suboptimal health, I am motivated to stay healthy and happy and I am very familiar with how to do this. It makes me so happy to be able to keep my family healthy.
When I was in my early days of naturopathic college, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour that I decided to treat with a naturopath instead of pharmaceutical medication. I came out on top and from this point I became really passionate about health education and passing on all the information I know to help others.
In the last 10 years I had a hard time with endometriosis and again chose the most naturopathic approach (besides surgery) which helped me manage my condition to the point of being symptom free.
I was told I would have a lot of trouble conceiving naturally and we were lucky to prove them wrong and now have a beautiful, healthy and happy little baby girl Velzy.
I am all for Dr's and western medicine but think that naturopathy - which looks at the body holistically and preventatively offers a really powerful treatment and management option to be healthy and happy.
MOTHER TO DAUGHTER VELZY, WHAT DO YOU HOPE SHE CAN BENEFIT MOST FROM THE WORK YOU ARE DOING TODAY?
Velzy is already my little taste tester of herbs for infants and so is absorbing the power of herbal medicine by accident / whether she likes it or not. Haha
She loves my teething blend of herbs which I’m sure is because it does the trick and not just because it’s delicious. And now that she has started day-care a day or 2 a week, it's important to me that she has a little artillery of herbs and supplements to keep her as healthy as she can be so she is not constantly slammed with baby cooties and a snot filled face.
I’d hope that leading by example with healthy food around the house and listening tome harp on about good food that she will have the knowledge to make healthy choices for herself and enjoy doing it rather than it be a chore..(when she can at least hold a spoon).
DO YOU FEEL THAT MOTHERHOOD CHANGED YOU?
Motherhood has chewed me up and spat me back out a far better version of who I was before. I never knew love could exist like this. And it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and better and better and better. Things that used to matter, no longer matter at all. And everything matters so much more.
I am a stronger and wiser woman now as a mother.
I also never knew I could be a mother or how to be a mother and Velzy teaches me everything I need to know just by being herself. Motherhood is such a crazily beautiful gift.
WHAT’S YOUR APPROACH TO PROVIDING WHOLESOME NUTRITION FOR VELZY?
Velzy is completely mad for the boob which I feel so lucky for.
She is totally interested in food but her appetite is inconsistent. She won’t say no to anything I feed her but, is quite happy to try once and then throw everything around the room.
We began solids at 6 months when she was able to sit up and her digestive system was more developed and advanced than when she was lying down or hunching over. This meant she would be able to digest and absorb her food better and therefore have less tummy pains and constipation or diarrhoea.
We have adopted a mix of baby led weaning where she holds the food in her own hands and makes the decisions about what she eats based on her attraction to the food, taste, texture, colour smell etc. as well as spoon feeding where we feed her ourselves. The combo allows Velz to make her own decisions and is said to lead to less fussy food behaviours as she ages as well as a little bit of support and encouragement when she gets lazy or bored.
Iron is really important for babies' nutrition as they are unable to absorb from breast milk at the capacity necessary for optimal levels. So each meal we like to offer something rich in iron like eggs, bone broth, fish, lentils as well as fibre for her digestion, fats and protein.
I like to hack some type of super food into everything that goes into her mouth so that if she doesn’t eat much then at least I know she is getting something extra in.
Until she can feed herself properly.
For example I will add a probiotic and prebiotic to her chia yoghurt, cook lentils in bone broth, add dulse flakes to her buttery eggs.
She loves the greenest of green juices which is so weird but so great! So she will happily drink spinach, kale, cucumber and celery.
We do a smoothie together every day so that I can pack in a range of ingredients that she may not get on her own like a protein powder. Chia seeds. Avocado. Cod liver. Berries. Gluten free oats.
FOR OUR OWN CURIOSITY, AND AS AN ON-GOING SOURCE OF INSPIRATION, WE ALWAYS LIKE TO FIND OUT AS MUCH AS WE CAN ABOUT OUR FEATURED GUESTS, CAN YOU HUMOUR US WITH THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO MIND FOR EACH THE BELOW?
CURRENTLY I AM...
DRINKING... dandelion, cleavers, nettle tea – it’s actually gross but it’s great for fluid retention, constipation and iron absorption.
COOKING... fresh caught jew fish. just garlic butter and salt and it’s amazing
PLANNING.. our renovations! We get a new kitchen and bathroom so soon! we have been living in rennos since the day Velzy was born.
LISTENING... Marlon Williams and Lauryn hill and 2pac. Mixing it up
DREAMING... of travelling further than 5km
WEARING...clothes covered in avocado, chia seeds and something that smells weird
WATCHING... transparent and re runs of sopranos
READING... books about infant development – I’m obsessed.
TO HEAR…. My baby girl laughing, best sound ever
TO SEE…. My fam post covid
TO HOLD… my new little niece and nephew
TO VISIT…. Japan. I got a ticket for my bday 3 years ago and it ain’t happened yet.
You can get in contact with Layla for private consultations or find out more about her via email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Instagram @layla_metcalfe.