A recent placebo-controlled trial has found that a combination of probiotics and vitamin C helps to prevent cold infections in young children.
The study, published last month in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved 69 preschool children who each received either a placebo supplement or a chewable probiotic and vitamin C supplement for a period of six months. The study was double-blind, meaning that neither the researchers nor the children or their parents knew whether each child was taking the supplement or a placebo.
The results at the end of the six month period were promising. The children who received the probiotic and vitamin C supplement had experienced fewer upper respiratory tract infections (ie common colds), and as a result had fewer absences from preschool and fewer visits to the doctor. The probiotic and vitamin C group were also less likely to have taken antibiotics, painkillers, cough medicines or nasal sprays compared with those children in the placebo group.
Both probiotics and vitamin C are known to modulate the immune system. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, reverses oxidative damage caused by infection. It is also believed to support production of phagocytes, cytokines and lymphcytes – cells that battle infection.
Healthy probiotic bacteria ramp up the body’s production of antibodies and lymphocytes, defending the body against infection (2).
In fact, around 70% of the body’s immune system resides in the digestive system which is home to around 100 trillion (about 3lbs) bacteria.
This particular study used 50mg of vitamin C alongside Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium lactis strains of probiotics. Other strains of probiotics have also been linked with increased resistance to infection, though more research needs to be done in order to determine which particular strain is most effective. Hopefully this study will pave the way for larger trials to be carried out. In the meantime, probiotics have repeatedly been demonstrated as a safe supplement for children, and so trying a probiotic supplement with vitamin C would seem a sensible measure for parents of children who seem to have one cold after another.
Ideally, all children should all eat a diet which is rich in vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, and encourages growth of healthy bacteria. This means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding foods that deplete levels of healthy bacteria such as sugar and white grains. Unfortunately children’s sugar intake is consistently above the maximum recommended amount, and only around 10% of children in the UK manage to eat their ’5-a-day’ requirement of fruit and vegetables (3).
Especially good sources of prebiotics – foods which feed and therefore boost probiotic bacteria – include leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus and bananas. Natural probiotic yoghurt can also help to support children’s levels of healthy bacteria. Most added sugar comes from breakfast cereals and soft drinks, and so parents should look out for these items in particular, and read labels to check from hidden sugars.
Boosting vitamin C intake and reaching the 5-a-day recommendation means adding fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks – for children, small changes such as adding blueberries to breakfast or pureeing vegetables into pasta sauces are simple changes that can make a huge difference, ensuring that children are happy and healthy both in and out of school.
- Garaiova, I. et al (2014) Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomised controlled pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- Resta SC. Effects of probiotics and commensals on intestinal epithelial physiology: implications for nutrient handling. J Physiol. 2009. 587:4169-4174.
- National Diet and Nutrition Survey: results from Years 1 to 4 (combined) of the rolling programme for 2008 and 2009 to 2011 and 2012. Public Health England and Food Standard Agency. 14 May 2014
Want natural remedies for women’s intimate health? Try Probiotics.
Us women are great at talking about nearly everything you can think of. However, despite the fact that most women will suffer from thrush, cystitis and / or bacterial vaginosis (BV) during their life time, it appears that intimate health is something we are all apparently too shy to talk about.
The facts are that 75% of women suffer from thrush once in their lifetime, 50% suffer from cystitis at least once and BV affects 1 in 3 women with a high rate of recurrence. Typically these are treated with topical ointments which tend to give just temporary relief, or antibiotics and antifungals which can result in recurrence and can make you feel unwell.
So how and why does having a good balance of friendly bacteria in the intimate area help alleviate and prevent these conditions? Well there is a lot of research behind this.
Thrush is usually caused by the yeast fungus Candida albicans which usually lives harmlessly on the skin and in the mouth, gut and vagina. However, sometimes this yeast becomes overgrown, resulting in thrush. The causes of BV are similar, stemming from a change in balance of bacteria in the vagina as well as a more alkaline pH. And again cystitis is caused by a bacterial infection and interestingly occurs more often in menopausal women due to the lower oestrogen levels.
So in a nutshell, it’s about bacteria! How can probiotics help? The issue with typical treatments are that they do not replenish the healthy bacteria and antibiotics not only knock our good bacteria further out of kilter but also multiple use can lead to antibiotic resistance. Probiotics help replenish our healthy bacteria. But it’s important to note that not all probiotics contain the correct strains of bacteria which are specifically required for these specific intimate issues.
Certain probiotic strains have been trialled and have been shown to increase the efficacy of standard treatments, as well as lowering the risk of recurrence. In particular 2 specific probiotic strains, L. reuteri RC-14® and L. rhamnosus GR-1® are well documented in women’s health, with over 30 years of scientific evidence. OptiBac Probiotics ‘For women’ is a brand new, unique supplement that contains these specific strains and has had significant trialling in itself.
In one trial, participants with thrush took an antifungal capsule with either ‘For women’ daily or placebo for 4 weeks. At follow-up those who had been taking ‘For women’ had 70% fewer symptoms and yeast cell counts than the placebo group.1
In another trial, 252 women who suffered with recurring UTIs took ‘For women’ or antibiotics (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) for one year. After 12 months the number of UTIs had more than halved in both groups, with ‘For women’ being almost as effective as antibiotics. (An impressive result for a natural remedy)2
OptiBac Probiotics ‘For women’ works via several mechanisms: It colonises the vagina, crowds out candida by competing for space and nutrients, fortifies women’s natural defences against Candida , inhibits E. Coli, produces bactericocins which kill pathogens and E. Coli, restores a healthy pH of <4.5, and produces a substance which breaks down the pathogens defensive biofilm.
Taking these strains of bacteria is clearly an impressive start to improving symptoms as well as preventing recurrence. But are there any other natural remedies which can help?
- When rebalancing our bacteria it’s always a good idea to stay away from sugar and yeast containing foods and drinks which can feed the growth of yeast and bad bacteria, this of course includes alcohol and fruit juices, except low sugar Cranberry which can help in the case of cystitis
- Drink plenty of water and reduce your coffee
- Ideally if you have thrush, try to include antifungal foods in your diet such as garlic, coconut oil, ginger and cinnamon among others.
- Avoid using soaps and douches in the intimate area and swap nylon for cotton underwear and avoid perfumed sanitary products
- Urinating before and after sex can help with cystitis.
- The pill can sometimes upset intimate flora – talk to your doctor about alternative contraception
OptiBac Probiotics ‘For Women’ can be taken alongside standard treatments to increase the effect of standard treatments, but is also recommended as a continual method of prevention if a recurrence is an issue. So, if you’re looking to support your intimate health, take a look at OptiBac Probiotics ‘For women’.
September marks the start of a new school year. Typically at this time of year our lives become busier, the holiday period is over and work pressure builds as we head into the colder, darker months in the run up to Christmas.
A recent study by The Sleep Council found that 90% of people admit to suffering from some form of stress in their lives, with almost two out of five saying they are regularly, frequently or constantly stressed.
Not surprisingly three quarters say they have problems sleeping while stressed, with the catch 22 that almost a third say when they can’t sleep they get stressed, while just over a quarter say the best way to relieve stress is to have a good night’s sleep.
It is not always possible to remove stress from our daily lives, but transdermal magnesium can help you to relax and increase the body’s ability to cope with stress.
Magnesium is a natural relaxant, but stress can greatly increase magnesium loss.
This can be a vicious circle, as our body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest, but a lack of the mineral in our Western diets means many of us do not get the levels we need.
When magnesium levels are low, the nervous system gets out of balance, and we feel increasingly anxious, with our muscles naturally tightening. Magnesium deficiency promotes excessive muscle tension, leading to muscle spasms, tics, restlessness, and twitches. Studies also suggest that magnesium deficiency may also be one of the causes of insomnia.
Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director at BetterYou, said: “The physical effects of stress, including high heart rate and blood pressure, tense muscles and fast and shallow breathing, can play havoc in our bodies. Sleep helps to slow these effects and encourage a state of relaxation.
“Our body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest, but a lack of the mineral in our low magnesium Western diets means that we are not getting the levels we need. Magnesium levels are difficult to rectify via traditional tablets, as our body benefits most from small regular amounts rather than a large single dose.”
A pilot study by Watkins & Josling (2010) found that magnesium levels increased with BetterYou Magnesium Oil an estimated five times quicker compared with oral supplementation.
Following this, a clinical trial by Cardiff University (2011), highlighted how well magnesium is absorbed through the skin. BetterYou’s range of magnesium products, including oil sprays and flakes, are absorbed faster than capsules and tablets; delivering magnesium directly into the skin tissue and entering cells immediately.
Stressember: The worry starts here
Opinion matters surveyed 2035 UK Adults on behalf of The Sleep Council
It can be difficult getting your kid’s into a back to school mind-set after the summer holidays, so why not prepare them in advance by boosting the mental and physical performance of your little one with a diet packed with vitamins and nutrients and regular exercise over the next 6 weeks.
Follow our checklist to help you give your child a head start of their next school year:
- Its summer so make sure your little one gets a small dose of vitamin D courtesy of the sun (all fair-skinned people need is a few minutes of sun on their hands, arms and face every day). However, if the sun isn’t shining, then be sure to include it in their diet through fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, and egg yolks.
- Children need calcium to make strong bones, but they can only deposit this calcium until their early 20s. Make sure yours get their three servings a day – a serve is a 250ml glass of milk, a 200g tub of yoghurt or two slice of cheese (40g).
- Poor concentration, failing memory, hyperactivity and mood swings can also be an indication of omega 3 (EPA and DHA) deficiency. Our brains need these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for brain structure and function. Try supplementing your child’s diet with a kid friendly omega 3 supplement.
- Iodine deficiency is the world’s most prevalent, yet preventable cause of brain damage and lower IQs according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Make sure your child gets between 90mcg and 120mcg a day. Yoghurt, cow’s milk, eggs, mozzarella cheese and strawberries are excellent sources of iodine.
- Magnesium de¬ficiency has been linked with learning difficulties, hyperactivity and insomnia and it’s believed three quarters of children don’t consume enough of this mineral. A half-cup of cooked frozen spinach provides 75mg. You should aim to include 130mg a day.
More Top Tips
- Exercise, chill time, and regular, nourishing meals and snacks enhance concentration by banishing energy wobbles.
- Friendly foods include fresh fish, vegetables, pulses, whole grain carbohydrates, nuts, and seeds. Water helps too!
- Cerebral zappers include sugar, caffeine, soft drinks, junk food, processed foods, excess salt, meat and dairy, and refined or hydrogenated fats and oils (be sure to read the labels!).
- We all need sleep to function properly, but while adults need eight hours, children need a minimum of 10 hours shut-eye every night. Encourage regular exercise during the day, and participation in age appropriate extracurricular activities after school which will both result in adequate sleep at night.
- Make sure your child is protected against colds with a drink of Manuka Honey and fresh lemon juice in hot water. Echinacea will also support the immune system, prevent infections, and minimise the risk of bronchitis and sinusitis.
A new study published last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that magnesium supplementation can improve physical performance in older women (1).
“Compared with the placebo group, the magnesium group made significant improvements in all measures of physical performance”
A focus on healthy ageing is paramount because the UK population is getting older. Currently one-in-six of the UK population is aged 65 and over. By 2050, this number will reach one-in-four. Life expectance is steadily increasing. Unfortunately ‘healthy life expectancy’, or years free from disability, is not increasing at the same rate (2). Good nutrition is a critical component of healthy ageing, allowing us to take charge of our health and remain fit and independent in later life.
This particular study tested the effect of magnesium on older women’s ability to carry out everyday functional movements such as lifting and carrying, alongside other measures of strength and balance.
The researchers studied a group of 139 healthy women with an average age of 71. Each of the women underwent a gentle 12-week exercise programme. While half of the women were given a placebo pill, the remainder of the group were given a daily magnesium supplement.
At the beginning and end of the study, each of the participants were tested for measures of physical performance. Simple functional movements, such as getting out of a chair and balancing tasks, were assessed. Compared with the placebo group, the magnesium group made significant improvements in all measures of physical performance.
The magnesium group also made ‘substantial’ improvements in walking speed compared to the placebo group. This result was of particular interest to the researchers because walking speed is an independent predictor of adverse health events.
The benefits of supplementation were most pronounced in those women whose diets were deficient in magnesium. However, improvements were also noted in those whose magnesium intake met the Recommended Daily Allowance.
As we age, we have a tendency to lose muscle mass. This degenerative loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, robs older people of independence by limiting mobility and the ability safely to carry out simple functional movements. “These findings suggest a role for magnesium supplementation in preventing or delaying the age-related decline in physical performance, particularly in magnesium-deficient individuals”, wrote the researchers.
Magnesium is involved in more physiological processes than any other mineral. It plays a critical role in energy production, bone and tooth formation, muscle function, cardiovascular health, bowel function and blood sugar regulation.
Unfortunately the average women in the UK does not manage to obtain the recommended amount of magnesium through her diet, and older women are even more at risk of deficiency (3). Eliminating refined grains, sugar and other processed foods from the diet goes a long way towards ensuring a good intake of magnesium. Magnesium supplements, and increased intake of magnesium-rich leafy greens, beans and lentils, can also help address deficiencies.
This particular study used magnesium in the form of magnesium oxide, at a dosage of 300mg elemental magnesium. While magnesium oxide is cheap, it is not the most bioavailable form of magnesium. Magnesium citrate or magnesium malate, which demonstrate superior bioavailability, are often considered more helpful by nutritionists.
- Veronese N, et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program: a randomised controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Epub 9 July 2014
- Cracknell R (2010) The ageing population. Key Issues for the New Parliament. House of Commons Library Research.
- Food Standard Agency. (2011) National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults over 65 years.
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A new study published in the journal Atherosclerosis earlier this month indicates that Vitamin C supplementation benefits heart health, and that its positive effects are most helpful for those with type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol (1).
The study, a meta-analysis carried out at Newcastle University, analysed data from 44 clinical trials, and concluded that Vitamin C has positive benefits on endothelial function.
The endothelium is the inner lining of blood vessels which, in a healthy body, works to assist the immune system and regulate blood clotting. It also expands and constricts, helping to regulate blood pressure.
Endothelial dysfunction is linked to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Unfortunately these conditions are becoming increasingly common. Currently, around 30% of men and women in the UK have hypertension, and more than 50% have raised cholesterol levels.
The endothelium can be compromised by oxidative damage and inflammation as a result of infections, smoking, or an inflammatory diet loaded with sugar and trans fats. If the endothelium ceases to function properly, there can be serious health consequences, including atherosclerosis, stroke and heart attack.
the best way to increase your vitamin C intake is by incorporating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the day
There appear to be two ways that Vitamin C works to improve heart health. Firstly Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant, quenching oxidative damage to the endothelium. Secondly, this particular vitamin increases the availability of nitric oxide, a molecule that improves blood flow by causing blood vessels to relax.
The researchers found that higher doses of Vitamin C were linked with ‘significant improvement’ in endothelial function, with doses of 500mg and above showing the most benefit. The strongest benefits were seen in people with atherosclerosis, diabetes and heart failure.
For those interested in boosting Vitamin C levels, the best way to increase your vitamin C intake is by incorporating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the day. While oranges can provide a reasonable dose of vitamin C, other fruits and vegetables contain far greater amounts. See below for the richest sources. You can also boost your nitric oxide levels by eating a large leafy green salad every day. Spinach, arugula and beetroot are particularly good sources. Finally a healthy lifestyle is essential in protecting cardiovascular health, as regular exercise, weight loss and smoking cessation can all help to improve endothelial function.
Top 10 sources of vitamin C
|Food (100g serving)
||Vitamin C (mg)
|Red bell pepper
1. Ashor AW, Lara J, Mathers JC, Siervo M. Effect of vitamin C on endothelial function in health and disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Atherosclerosis. 2014 Jul;235(1):9-20
The human intestinal tract is home to trillions of “friendly” bacteria that are crucial in maintaining good health. These bacteria are instrumental in protecting against tummy problems, supporting digestion and absorption of nutrients. The balance of this gut micro flora is also intrinsically linked with immunity, ensuring a positive balance of beneficial gut bacteria will give your immune system a fighting chance of beating off the majority of opportunistic pathogens.
Antacids, antibiotics and low fibre refined diets all disrupt this delicate balance. This is possibly why an estimated 1 in 5 adults in the UK suffer from gastrointestinal complaints. Rebalancing the gut micro flora through the diet or by taking a “probiotic” supplement containing strains of friendly bacteria has been shown to help maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid digestion, reduced bloating and the establishment of a regular bowel habits.
A change of food may upset a sensitive tummy
Our immune system is used to dealing with bacterial or viral challenges on a regular basis, but when we travel we can encounter different or possibly more pathogenic strains that then cause us to become ill. A change of food may also upset a sensitive tummy, as well as traveller’s diarrhoea people may also suffer from bloating or discomfort. You can reduce your chances of falling ill by giving your immune system and gut flora extra support by taking a probiotic supplement before jetting off to exotic destinations. Closer to home evidence continues to grow that probiotic supplements are a key element in the management of IBS, a combination of L.plantarum and L.acidophilus has been found to be especially effective.
Choosing a probiotic supplement
The effectiveness of probiotics is linked to their ability to survive the transit from stomach to small intestine; to do so they must be able to resist both acidic and alkaline conditions.
To confer health benefits probiotic supplements must contain live bacteria capable of adhering to the intestinal lining and colonise in the colon. Always choose products by trusted and established manufacturers.
Lyophilised (freeze dried) bacteria are stable at room temperature so do not need refrigeration.
Look for a delayed release product, delaying the release of the bacteria until they reach the small intestine protects them against the acidic environment of the stomach and delivering them directly where they are needed.
A study published recently in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that supplementation with the probiotic L. rhamnosus encourages weight loss in overweight women.
A probiotic supplement may encourage weight loss and healthy metabolic changes when used alongside a healthy, balanced diet.
A group of 125 overweight men and women were placed on a calorie restricted diet for 12 weeks, followed by a further 12-weeks of a ‘weight maintenance’ diet. While half of the participants were given a placebo supplement, the other half were given two capsules of L rhamnosus probiotic supplements at a total daily dosage of 1.6 billion L rhamnosus bacteria.
Both body weight and body composition were measured at the beginning of the study and then at 12 and 24 weeks. The probiotic supplement did not appear to affect weight loss in the men at all. However, the effect of probiotics on the women in the study was more marked. Compared to the women in the placebo group, those women taking probiotics experienced significantly more weight loss at the 12-week mark. While the placebo group managed a loss of 2.6 kg, those women on probiotics experienced an average loss of 4.4 kg.
After 12 weeks, all of the women were placed on a weight maintenance diet. As expected, the women in the placebo group maintained their original weight loss. In contrast, the women in the probiotic group continued to lose weight and body fat, losing an average of 5.2 kg by the end of the study. These women were also found to have lower levels of circulating leptin, a hormone that helps to regulate appetite and satiety.
It is particularly interesting that the women taking the probiotic continued to lose weight despite eating at maintenance. The study’s results suggest that the L. rhamnosus strain may encourage metabolic changes that favour weight loss. The researchers suggest that probiotics may act by altering the permeability of the intestinal wall. Because probiotics can prevent certain proinflammatory molecules from entering the bloodstream, they might therefore help prevent the chain reaction that leads to glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. This mechanism of action suggest that other strains of probiotics could have a similar effect. Indeed other studies have encountered similar successful results with probiotics such as lactobacillus fermentum, lactobacillus amylovorus, akkermansia muciniphila and lactobacillus gasserei (2-4).
It is not clear why the rhamnosus probiotic appeared to benefit the women but not the men in the study. The researchers suggested that the men may have needed a higher dose or a longer period of supplementation.
Clearly maintaining a healthy weight requires a healthy, balanced diet. For those wanting to lose weight, this study suggests that a probiotic supplement may encourage weight loss and healthy metabolic changes when used alongside a healthy, balanced diet. The link between probiotics and weight loss is a particularly fascinating one, and hopefully this study will encourage further research in this area.
Sanchex M et al (2014) Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women B J NutrApr 28;111(8):1507-19.
Omar et al (2012). Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus as probiotics alter body adiposity and gut microflora in health persons. Journal of Functional Foods.
Everard A et al (2013) Cross-talk between Akkermansia muciniphila and intestinal epithelium controls diet-induced obesity. PNAS 110:22, 9066-9071.
Reference: Kadooka, Y. et al; ‘Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randmomized controlled trial.’ European Journal of Clinical Nutrition., June 2010, Vol. 64, No. 6, Pp. 636-643.
Making the decision to have children may sometimes be easier than getting pregnant. There are many potential causes of infertility, with fertility problems affecting either the man or the woman. Common causes of infertility in women include lack of regular ovulation and endometriosis, and in men the most common cause is poor quality of semen.
Optimum nutrition is absolutely vital for conception and food supplements are useful where an additional intake of specific nutrients is required. AnteNatal Forte provides a combination of nutrients designed to support a woman throughout conception and pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. It is free from vitamin A for those wishing to avoid it, but supplies beta carotene which the body can convert to vitamin A as required. It contains zinc to support normal fertility and reproduction, vitamin B6 which contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity, and folic acid which contributes to normal maternal tissue growth during pregnancy.
ASC Plus provides a combination of synergistic nutrients to support male fertility, including L-arginine, vitamin E, L-taurine, L-Carnitine, zinc and selenium. Zinc supports normal fertility and reproduction, whilst selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis – the process in which sperm is produced.
Pregnancy and omega-3 – a clever combination for baby’s brain
Assuming normal fertility, the next challenge is pregnancy, where there are significant biological changes which occur including an increased demand for nutrients such as vitamin D, B12, folic acid, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.
A healthy baby begins with a healthy mum – eating a well-balanced and varied diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses and fish will help to provide the nutrients that you and your baby need. Where an additional intake of nutrients is required, a specific pregnancy supplement can be useful. Pregnancy & Lactation Formula is designed to offer comprehensive nutritional support to women during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It includes folic acid at recommended levels along with vitamin B12, iron, zinc and vitamin A at a level considered safe in pregnancy. It’s also important to avoid harmful habits such as smoking and excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption to help reduce the risk of any pregnancy complications.
Pregnancy and omega-3 – a clever combination for baby’s brain…
NHS recommendations suggest that eating fish during pregnancy is beneficial to your health as well as the development of your baby. However it is suggested that you should avoid consuming more than 2 portions of oily fish per week as it may contain pollutants. Omega-3 fatty acids provide EPA and DHA – maternal intake of DHA has been shown to contribute to normal brain and eye development of the foetus and breastfed infants, making its intake rather important.
Mega EPA is a naturally concentrated fish oil of outstanding quality and high potency. Each capsule provides omega-3 fatty acids in a natural triglyceride form, perfect for everyday use. It is of outstanding purity and free from detectable contaminants, so can safely be used during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.
Arrival of the newborn
Some expectant mothers choose to take probiotics throughout their pregnancy, as well as give them to their newborn baby. AnteNatal BioFlora is a clinically proven probiotic for pregnant women containing LAB4B – a specific and clinically proven blend of probiotic bacteria. It has been designed to be used particularly during the last trimester of pregnancy, and provides a guaranteed 10 billion live bacteria per daily intake. Baby BioFlora is an easy-to-use powder and contains the same specialist blend of LAB4B probiotics as AnteNatal BioFlora with the addition of G.O.S (galactooligosaccharide) which is found in high concentrations within breast milk. It is suitable to be given to babies from birth and can be used to help establish intestinal microflora in newborns up to 12 months.
In England, 32 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women have high blood pressure. Unfortunately, many people simply do not know their blood pressure level, despite the fact that measuring blood pressure is quick, easy, cheap and painless.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force that blood puts on the walls of your arteries when it is pumped around your body by your heart. It is measured with two readings – when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and when it relaxes (diastolic pressure). Essentially, your blood pressure provides an indication of your risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke. It is not something to be ignored. Over time, high blood pressure can not only lead to a heart attack or stroke, but it can also damage the kidneys and even cause blindness.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when blood becomes too ‘thick’ or when arteries become blocked or inflexible. Hypertension can also be caused by changes during pregnancy or by another underlying condition. For the majority however, hypertension is a ‘lifestyle disease’, caused by poor dietary and lifestyle choices that take their toll over time.
Diet and Lifestyle
The first line of treatment in hypertension is often dietary and lifestyle changes. Being overweight, lack of exercise, drinking alcohol and smoking are often the first issues to address. Simple changes include reducing alcohol consumption to 7 units or fewer each week for women or fewer than 14 units for men. Maintaining a healthy weight and following the DASH diet, which emphasises wholegrains alongside 8-10 servings of fruit and vegetables each day, is also recommended.
The importance of sleep is often overlooked in addressing hypertension, yet it is an important consideration. Lack of sleep activates the central nervous system, raising blood pressure. As a result, those of us who are sleep deprived tend to have higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those who make sure to get the recommended 8 hours (1).
Stress management is another essential element in guarding against high blood pressure. Unmanaged stress raises levels of corticosteroids which increase blood pressure. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and progressive muscle relaxation can reduce hypertension when practiced consistently (2).
Most of us are aware of the link between salt intake and high blood pressure. This is because excess sodium can increase the constriction of the muscles surrounding the arteries. Magnesium, on the other hand, works to relax these muscles. Magnesium intake is therefore an important factor in managing blood pressure. There is a strong link between magnesium deficiency and heart disease. In fact magnesium supplementation has been found to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (3). Many of us fail to achieve the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which is 300mg for men and 270mg for women. Cutting down on tea, coffee, sugar and alcohol can help your body to retain magnesium, while increasing magnesium-rich foods such as wholegrains, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses is recommended.
Increasing intake of omega-3, either by eating more oily fish or by taking an omega-3 supplement, is also a sensible measure. Omega-3 helps to reduce the viscosity of blood and also lowers levels of inflammation, potentially helping to protect arterial walls and prevent blood clots.
Finally, a small but promising trial published just last month found that a daily glass of beetroot juice lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (4). Beetroot juice provides a helpful dose of nitrate which appears to lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels. Those who don’t like beetroot should try to include other nitrate-rich vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli.
Nutritional strategies are especially helpful in the early stages of high blood pressure, and can enable those affected to make positive changes to restore optimal health. Keeping an eye on blood pressure levels with regular checks is therefore a worthwhile task for all of us.
1. Knutson et al (2009). Association Between Sleep and Blood Pressure in Midlife: The CARDIA Sleep Study. Archives of Internal Medicine 169 (11): 1055.
2. Schneider et al (1995) A Randomized Controlled Trial of Stress Reduction for Hypertension in Older African Americans. Hypertension. 26: 820-827.
3. Sun Ha Gee et al (2002) The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Am J Hypertension 15 (8): 691-696.
4. Ghosh SM, Kapil V, Fuentes-Calvo I, et al. Enhanced Vasodilator Activity of Nitrite in Hypertension – Critical Role for Erythrocytic Xanthine Oxidoreductase and Translational Potential. Hypertension. Published online April 15 2013.