FF 09: ‘Balancing a busy family life’ with naturopath Melinda Carbis-Reilly

Mums often struggle to balance Mum-life with everyday life. In this podcast, Dorte Bladt discusses finding a healthier balance with Newcastle Naturopath, Melinda Carbis-Reilly.

Melinda, a local dynamo, mother of 5, gym owner and naturopath talks to us about how she helps busy Mums and families get a healthier balance in their lives.

Intro: Flourishing Families with Dr. Dorte Bladt, the Switched-On Kids chiropractor and her passionate friends sharing the secret of inspiring wellness to help your families thrive.

Dorte Bladt:  I’d like to welcome Melinda Carbis-Reilly to our podcast today. Thank you for joining us. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Thanks for having me. I am the owner of Redhead Wellness Sanctuary – I’m a naturopath there. I’m also a fitness and Pilates instructor. My latest babies are my books. I’ve written a book called The Natural Path and that one is aimed for families. It’s more of a reference guide to keep it up in your medicine cupboard and when your kid has an earache or you have a tummy bug, you get it out, you flip to that page and there’s some nice home remedies there for you to get stuck into so you don’t have to race off to the doctors at midnight if it’s not necessary. Sometimes it is.

Dorte Bladt:  That sounds good.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: The other book I wrote was Diggin’ Your Dark Side. That one is more to help people that are a bit challenged with stress, mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, or possibly suffering from addictions as well. So that book is based on my life when I went through a bit of a depressive state when I set up my business, ironically, in wellness is when I hit my absolute bottom with adrenal fatigue and things, so I just shared all the tools I learnt from that in there.

Dorte Bladt:  Wow. That sounds like it’s built on experience. That’s always interesting to read.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly:  Oh, makes a complete difference to textbooks when you actually experience it.

Dorte Bladt:  Totally. And you remember it for a lifetime.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yes.

Dorte Bladt:  So you say that you are a fitness instructor.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yes.

Dorte Bladt: Yes. What sort of fitness are you looking at?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I do love my classes. That’s what I’ve stuck to now. I used to do a lot of rehabilitation and physical therapy back when I first started in the industry, especially with my Pilates. I was very much into that. But now I really like the group fitness because everyone is happy when they walk in the room. They’re ready to go hard and then go home. So I do love my strength and cardio and spins, probably one of my favourites as well.

Dorte Bladt:  You also have your naturopathy side of things. What do you specialise in? What’s your favourite?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: My favourite is probably gut health, I must say. I do love working with the gut because, as a typical naturopath, we believe that’s where it all starts. But I also love helping Mums and kids. That is a big passion and that’s where most of my clients lie. I find that a lot of kiddies come in that have immune problems and they have gut problems as well. I’m seeing a lot of kids with anxiety which is quite concerning, really, and the Mums are stressed. Mums are worried. Mums are busy so I like to help them get on top of that and their stress levels.

Dorte Bladt:  If you have a child with anxiety that comes into your office, what would you look at? How would you address that kid?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: We really as naturopaths like to look at it quite holistically, so we will look at from the ground up. We’ll look at their physical health; we’ll want to know how they’re going and if they’re doing any exercise. We want to know what their diet is like.

We’ll do some iridology and I like to look in their eye. The eye doesn’t give you a full picture but it gives you something to lead with, so we like to use those tools. I personally like to use those tools to have a look at what’s going on physically. Then we like to look at their lifestyle and socially what’s going on for them as well, so we can paint a really big picture and not just blame it on one thing… And then we can start to tweak the lifestyle choices and the diet.

And help Mums, as well, understand because sometimes it can be quite confusing.  There are so many different messages out there about what is healthy and they can think they’re doing something amazing for their child but their child in particular is quite sensitive to that supplement or that food choice and it’s taking them down a different path. So it’s nice to help the parents with that knowledge too.

Dorte Bladt:  Totally. How would you assess what a child may be sensitive to from a food perspective?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: From a food perspective, a lot of Mums go down the food intolerance testing path. I’ve done quite a lot of those on little kiddies and it gives me a nice understanding.  There are 46 different foods that we can test in this 45-minute process where we mix the blood chemicals and by the end of it, we can give the parents a bit of an overview of foods that the child might be sensitive to. We also look at other things, like is your child coming up with rashes and hives and are they having difficulty breathing, because it can help us point, particularly with dairy and gluten. They’re very obvious symptoms that they come up with. So it’s good to have those scientific processes in place but also having that good, solid conversation about what’s going on at home as well.

Dorte Bladt: What would you say, if you’re doing a blood test? My understanding is the test that you’re doing is a finger prick type test.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yeah, it is.

Dorte Bladt: It’s not too invasive, not painful or anything?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: No.

Dorte Bladt: So you would go in and see, okay, you’re sensitive to, let’s just say, gluten. What are the symptoms that could be related not just to gluten sensitivity but to food sensitivity?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: There is quite often a lot of issues with… anxiety is a big one. Rashes is another big one that we tend to see. Bowel issues. So sometimes they can’t have movements and sometimes the movements are quite loose. Sometimes it’s alternating as well, so sometimes the child could go for days constipated and then their movements are very loose.

Gas is also a big symptom. Headaches are another one and then looking at their minerals as well. So if their minerals seem to be out of balance then we can do like a quick Zinc Tally test. We get them to have a little drink. It’s 10 ml of zinc and that will tell us how their zinc levels are going. So we can have a look at their mineral balance as well because if they’re eating foods they’re intolerant to, they’ve inflamed their gut. They now have impaired their gut lining and they’re normally not absorbing the nutrients from their food because of that. So if we can have a look at that.

Dorte Bladt: Basically, I guess what I’m trying to get out of you is that there is a link between what you see in the blood and the gut health.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Absolutely.

Dorte Bladt: So what you’re really doing is you can’t stick your nose in their gut but you can definitely have a look at how the gut digests the foods that we eat and then the outcome that that has in the rest of our systems.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yes, definitely.

Dorte Bladt: You were talking about the stressed Mums. How would you look at them?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Stressed Mums. I think a modern day issue is that us women try and do it all. We’re not just staying at home as frequently as Mums used to and we’re trying to juggle still being a great Mum and an attentive parent as well as having a working life, and then we need time for ourselves as well. So I think parents, particularly Mums, are really pushing their limits with what their body can cope with and I think that’s the difference. Our mind is able to do more than our body can as a general rule, as a very general rule. The body starts to fill quite rundown when the mind wants to keep pushing and taking on all these projects.

So with Mums, a lot of it is about helping them identify that. To identify that they don’t have to be everything to everyone and it’s okay to say no. I guess there’s a bit of counselling involved. I actually heard on a podcast I was listening to yesterday, a beautiful quote and this lady said, “If you’re saying yes to someone, you’re actually saying no to someone else.” I thought that was beautiful, because if you’re investing your time and energy into a project that you could have possibly said no to, you’re really saying no to your family and your loved ones or something that might have…

Dorte Bladt:  So true.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yeah, so that really resonated. I think we do that a lot and then we feel guilty so we try and make up for it and we’re just in this vicious cycle of never-ending work. So Mums that are quite rundown, what’s going on on a physical level is we’re trying to push our bodies to the limit and when we stop working from a loving, calm place, we put ourselves into our sympathetic nervous system. So we’re in that fight-and-flight where our stress hormones are being released constantly in our body. We don’t have to work from that place. We can actually work much more effectively when we’re not, but we tend to go there because we’re trying to achieve too much.

When we run out of those hormones or we’re overproducing them, we have what we call adrenal glands and they sit like little hats on top of our kidneys and as they’re secreting these hormones, they actually begin to burn out and we end up with what we call adrenal fatigue. So the adrenals have just said, “I am done. You are demanding way too much from me. I am shutting up shop.”  So we’ve gone from a point where we’re just stressed and wigged out and switched on all the time to absolutely flat and finding it hard to get motivation and inspiration because our hormones have just said, “I’m over this.”

Then it affects our sleep because it’s a big part of our circadian rhythm. So it’s a really important thing that we have cortisol. I think cortisol has had a really bad rap because we relate it to stress but we actually need stress. We particularly need cortisol first thing in the morning. When the sun comes up, cortisol levels rise in our body and that helps us feel ready for our day, feel zesty.  But we’ve gotten into this practice as a general rule that we don’t rely on that anymore. We wake up groggy and cranky until we have our first injection of caffeine.

Dorte Bladt: Right. That should get you going for the day.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yes. So I think we’ve gotten into a habit of expecting that external energy.

Dorte Bladt: How do you help a Mum that comes in like that? Obviously, there’s the counselling part. It’s so easy to say, “just say no.” Not so easy to do. But what would you potentially do physically for a Mum like that?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: So once we’ve had that little chat of the things they need to start learning to do for themselves to help themselves, we need to assess how far gone they are. That’s really important.

At some point, sometimes, we do need to do some blood tests. We’ll send them away for pathology just to see if we’re really feeling this has gone quite far because it affects your thyroid, it affects your gut health, it affects everything. So we need to see how far it’s gone sometimes. That might be the first thing we do if it’s quite extreme. If it’s not, we can just start looking at boosting the adrenals if they’ve gotten fatigued. So things like licorice root are amazing, Rehmannia. I’m talking about herbs here. We’ve got some beautiful herbs that help. If it’s not too far gone, just a herbal tea remedy is enough. Sometimes it feels nice to just sit down and have that cup of tea. There’s more therapy in that than some of the chemical constituents that are actually in the tea, because we’re getting them to chill out and have three cups a day.

Dorte Bladt: Sit down. Like sit down, shut up and enjoy yourself.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly:  Exactly. Gingko biloba is another beautiful one that works on circulation, just to get the body moving again. It really helps with cognition and clearing the head because once we’ve been firing constantly, the thoughts become so powerful that we can’t really dim them out anymore. We’re very much run by our mind, so having things that can help bring us clarity again and help our cognition expand instead of it being a big muddled mess is really important as well. So ginkgo biloba is another beautiful remedy. But then there’s things lifestyle-wise that we strongly encourage and that’s things like meditation. If you don’t feel connected to meditation then you could just do breathing exercises. Yoga is essential for your nervous system especially very restorative practices and to help those adrenals calm down. They’re probably the main things we would do for people.

Dorte Bladt: That’s very good. Now, I’m not a coffee drinker but I just hooked on to the way you said that people use that as a pick-me-up in the morning. Do you have any dietary things that you would suggest maybe to do before the coffee? Other certain foods that might be better to get into your system to maybe get your cortisol to a level where you can maintain sanity.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yeah. The best thing we suggest to people that are trying to come off coffee, number one is just I don’t want to take coffee away. I’m the same as you. I’ve never even tasted it. So I don’t get the addiction but I understand it’s there because some people they look at me with not love in their eyes when I start messing with their coffee, but if they just moved that morning coffee, that first-thing-in-the-morning coffee to 11:00am, that straightaway makes a huge difference to their body because they’re not waiting for that caffeine injection. The body says, “ah, okay. I’ve got to do this job myself.” So it gives it that wakeup call. Then the next thing you can do, because you don’t want to just take something away that never works, you’ve always got to replace it. So replace that morning kick with something like a dandelion root coffee. That’s a beautiful way to start your day. A lot of people find that an easy transition, especially if you’re an instant coffee drinker, because it comes in a tin. You make it like coffee. It looks like coffee so it gives them the mental…

Dorte Bladt: Does it taste like coffee?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: It doesn’t quite taste like coffee, apparently, but people are finding if they just add a dash of raw honey or a bit of cinnamon or something to give it some flavour, it’s enough like coffee to get them going.

Dorte Bladt: Very good.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yeah, that’s a good way to do it. Green tea as well. If you just, like you said, you want to still give them a little bit of caffeine and not take them off straightaway, green tea with jasmine or something like that is a beautiful replacement as well.

Dorte Bladt: Also very relaxing and an excuse for sitting down. Coffee is often, my understanding is that it’s often something you have on the run. Almost with a cup of tea, you can’t have it on the run.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: No.

Dorte Bladt: I can’t. I have to sit down.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: You’ve got to infuse, you’ve got to wait for it, the aromas.

Dorte Bladt: If people find it hard to get to the yoga class, now you said breathing – that’s great. Can you think of any apps or websites you might have come across where people can find a way to chill, meditation?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Definitely.

Dorte Bladt: Something for two minutes or five minutes?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: There are two apps that are amazing. One is called Headspace and I strongly recommend Headspace for people who are completely new to meditation because it’s progressive. It shows you this cool little cartoon of what your mind looks like. A bit of an analogy with the road. It’s nice, it’s engaging. So you get engaged with, “ah, this is why I’m doing this.”  Then it takes you into a really simple quick meditation so you’re not there for too long. Then next step, and you kind of graduate at the end of the process so it’s quite nice for people who are totally new. If you have a little bit of experience with meditation but you haven’t quite got there to make it a regular thing, there’s another app called Insight Timer and that one is my favourite.

Dorte Bladt: Why?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Because it’s so broad. You can get on there, say you’re at work and you’re really stressed and you can feel yourself getting anxious and flighty. You’re not productive when you’re in that state so you need to bring yourself down and clear your head, but you’ve only got three minutes. In Insight Timer, you can just type in “I have three minutes” and it will find a meditation for you.

Dorte Bladt: Wow, fantastic. That’s very good.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I know, or if you have fifteen minutes, you type in “fifteen”. You can also type in “I’m having trouble with sleep” so you type in “sleep” and it will bring up all the meditations that help you sleep… So you can choose the topic that you need help with, as well as morning, there’s a beautiful morning gratitude ritual on there. So it’s very vast.

Dorte Bladt: And would you be able to put kids in that?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yes.

Dorte Bladt: I understand, going back to the anxious kids, to get them onto meditation is easier said than done. It’s great when there are some tools to help them, but can you type that in?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yes, definitely. I’ve got many kids using Insight Timer and they love it. It’s like the oils. When I get kids to start using their oils, do TERRA oils or any essential oil, and getting them to do the app, it’s almost like they take ownership of their health because it’s something that they can have by their bed, their oil or their iPad, and they have control of it and they feel quite good clicking it on or putting their oil on before they go to bed. So as a general rule, they do enjoy doing them.

Dorte Bladt: That’s great. Now, you talk about kids and you have a couple yourself?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I have a couple, yes. I do. I’ve given birth to three. My eldest passed away and my husband has three, so we have a blended family with five little cherubs in our house.

Dorte Bladt: How old are your little cherubs?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: They range from eight to fourteen… fifteen, sorry. Sorry, Flynn.

Dorte Bladt: How the heck do you manage to run a business, doing your naturopathy, doing your wellness sanctuary, and a family of… let me just count. Seven. Do you have a dog? Eight.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: We’ve got two dogs actually and sixteen chooks.

Dorte Bladt: Right. This is a big family.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: It’s a big family.

Dorte Bladt: Do you see yourself as being chronic fatigued? Do you have adrenal fatigue? How are you coping?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I certainly went through it. That was the basis of the book is I was trying to do it all, and I guess I still do if I’m honest. I do still try and do it all, but it’s about finding that balance and listening to my body. I’m much better at that now. I used to just keep trying to push through but now, because I’ve been to that darkest place and that lowest place, I can feel it when, okay, you’ve taken on too much. Just either pass that onto someone else or pause that one and it’s time to go run a bath.

Dorte Bladt: Yeah. So just create that little bit of space in your day.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yeah.

Dorte Bladt: So with having five children, how are they going with interacting with the meditations? How are they going with their roles? How are they going with the food suggestions that you would have as a naturopath? I imagine that you would have an idea of what a family diet should be like.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: It’s very interesting as they grow older because when they were younger it was so easy. My kids just they woke up and they had vital greens every morning. Green spirulina, barley grass, all those things grounded down. They would just wake up and have that because that’s what they knew and they would have their little gummy bear vitamins and we had tofu and we had fish. We’d go to the shop and I’d say to them, “if you’re good, I’ll get you a banana,” and they honestly thought that was a treat. It wasn’t until they went to school and they went to a party and they go, “Mum, what have you been doing to us? All this stuff!”

Dorte Bladt: It’s a secret.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I started to lose that control but you just have to go with the flow. My philosophy is if it’s not in the pantry, they can’t eat it. So you can’t say I can’t stop my kids from eating junk food. If you don’t have it in your home, then it’s not available to them as much as what it would be if it was there. They can only get it when they go to a friend’s house, they go to their grandparents’ house, they go to a party. Or, like my kids, they’re now earning their own money and they’ll go to the shop and they will buy themselves things that I don’t like them having, but I’ve decided to take the approach of you know what? I’ve brought you up so far to have a good understanding of what nutrition is and I will continue to remind you when you tell me you’ve got a sick tummy or you’re running around the house like a crazy person. I’m going to remind you that you just had a can of Coke.

So I do take a bit more of a laid back approach to it now that they’re older, that I’ve sown the seed. I’ll keep having only healthy foods in my pantry. If you happen to make choices other than that then you will need to go through that… you called it “rebellion” when we had that little private chat before. I believe, like your children have, they will come back to me because they know what it feels like to be healthy.

Dorte Bladt: Yes, very much. So we’ve had a private talk before. My kids are adults and are on their own and I have, as a mother, secretly checked their cupboards and they look so clean. I am so impressed. What’s interesting that what you’re saying with having… we tried to control what the kids eat, we tried to control how much time they spend on the screen, we tried to control the fact that they’re taking time out and doing the right thing, and I feel personally that we’re very, very good as parents, and I will take total ownership of this, very good at telling other people what to do but we’re not necessarily doing it ourselves, and having the cupboards… if you don’t buy it, you are usually the one, you or your partner are the one that’s doing the shopping. Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. Only buy what you know that you are happy for the rest of the family to eat. Don’t buy it for yourself. Don’t spend all your spare time on the screen unless you want your kids to think that that’s the way they have to live. So it does come back to you being the role model for their future family life, I think.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I agree and we do tend to do that sometimes, don’t we? I catch my husband out and, if I’m honest, he does for me too, just constantly on the phone checking emails.  I’m like, “honey, you complain about the kids. Look at you.” And we do have to catch ourselves because that’s where our work is.  That’s where everything is, isn’t it? It’s on our phone.

Dorte Bladt: Absolutely. There was a study, I put it on my website probably six months ago, maybe a year ago. They were surveying children and asked them what they thought of their parents’ screen habits. There was something like 46% of children thought that their parents spend too much time on screens and were choosing the screens over their children’s company. So it is quite significant. It’s not something you necessarily can verbalise as a young person, but the older you get and the smarter you get, the more I think you realise that you’re actually losing out on connection because you’re looking at something that’s…

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yeah, that’s not even really there. It’s sad, isn’t it? I read about this in my book. I was busy writing an email, sat at the dining table, because, you know, I give myself credit because I pick my kids up from school.  But sometimes if I pick them up from school and they just go off in their own direction, I’d straightaway get the computer and I’ll start working.  You’ve really got to catch yourself but I sat there typing an email and I was engrossed with what I was writing and Oscar was talking to me and was saying, “Mum, can I go to my friend’s house?” I just wasn’t really listening. “Mum? Can I go to my friend’s house?” I didn’t hear him again because I was just engrossed.

Then he said to me, “Mum, can I go play on the street?” And I just went, “yeah, no worries.” I wasn’t actually listening and he’s like, “Mum! I just said could I go play on the street. You totally don’t listen to me.” And it was the biggest wakeup call for myself.

So we introduced at our home, maybe this is helpful for parents listening, we introduced the elbow grab. So my kids know now if they can see that I’m really engrossed and just by talking to me they’re not going to get my attention, they actually come up and grab my elbow. As soon as they do that, that’s my key that I just step back straightaway, okay, and I can look them in their eyes and step away from what I was doing because I know they need me. It’s quite extreme when you go to those. So the elbow grab, if that’s relevant for anyone else.

Dorte Bladt: It is about having those, isn’t it? Because we do have to do everything we have agreed to do and deadlines and stuff but, yes, our family comes first.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: They do. They definitely do.

Dorte Bladt: Do you have an interesting funny experience that you can share with our parents that are listening to the podcast today?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I do actually. I’ve got a couple just on the line of my kids because we’re talking about it already. It just reminded me of another little funny thing that happened because I’m a blended family and we never had cow’s milk in our home. We just had almond and rice milk. Then when my husband and his kids moved in from a family that has lots of chocolate and they’re used to cereals, which is interesting because their Mum is a dietician, but everyone has a different approach. The kids were used to having cow’s milk so my step daughter created a PowerPoint slide for me as to why we should have – she was eight at the time – why we should have cow’s milk in our home to present to me, so I had to give in.

Dorte Bladt: Oh, it’s because you can’t argue with that one.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I can’t. I mean, I certainly played back and sent her a video why we shouldn’t but I still gave in. I thought that was pretty funny and another time when Oscar got home from school, he had a headache and so immediately I’m running the water, hot water on the floor, put his feet in and I’m putting lavender oil on his head and I’m massaging the pressure point between his thumb and his pointer finger and he just looked at me and he said, “can’t you just give me Panadol like a normal Mum?”

Dorte Bladt: No.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Yeah, the answer was no, but I just thought that was quite funny.

Dorte Bladt: And here I am loving you with all my heart.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I know. It would have been easy just to flick you Panadol but I’m actually trying to care for you… but that was his response.

Dorte Bladt: Well, he’s obviously a clever boy. Any final tips or advice for families that may be listening?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I think the biggest advice I can give is chill out. I think we stress way too much. Like you said, it’s control, control, control. We’re always trying to control everything about our kids. I think sometimes it’s just to make the simple choices, like I said the pantry. Do things, lead by example. Let them see you meditate or let them see you nurturing yourself.  Let them see you hold hands with your husband.  Let them see you laugh and be joyful and playful. Throw the bubbles out of the sink at your kids. Have a messy kitchen. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Let them see that life is supposed to be joyful and fun. I think leading by example will just help them relax. I think that’s the biggest problem in our health today is that we’re so uptight and stressed about everything that our bodies are just reacting. So I think that would be my number one tip.

Dorte Bladt: That’s very good. I’m taking that on. I’m taking the day off.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Awesome. Straight after this.

Dorte Bladt: Absolutely. Again, just tell us who are you and how can people find you?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: I’m Melinda Carbis-Reilly and you can find me most of the time at Redhead Wellness Sanctuary. That’s where I do most of my stuff.

Dorte Bladt: Do you have a website or anything that people can look up?

Melinda Carbis-Reilly:  Yeah, we do. Go to https://www.redheadwellness.com and at that site, you’ll find a lot about the centre. Then there’s also http://melindareilly.com.au and that one has more about naturopathy and there’s a lot of articles. There’s also a free ebook there too called The Happy Diet. It’s a book that I wrote to a company, my other book, but this one is completely free. Just download it and it’s got lots of tasty recipes on there that are amazing for happiness, promoting good, neurotransmitter health.

Dorte Bladt: That’s perfect. I’ll go and do that on my day off. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Melinda Carbis-Reilly: Thanks for having me.

Outro: The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Family Chiropractic or the host. Brought to you by Family Chiropractic Centre Charlestown, serving the families in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Charlestown.