curcumin

Just How Good for You Is Curcumin?

If you haven’t heard of curcumin yet, where have you been? This polyphenol is extracted from turmeric and responsible for its multitude of health benefits. Over recent years, there has been an explosion in popularity for turmeric-based drinks – such as turmeric latte, golden milk and even turmeric herbal tea – but don’t be fooled into thinking this is simply a gimmick for the ‘in scene’; the benefits of turmeric, and more specifically curcumin, have been valued for centuries in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medicine. Sure, the drinks look Instagram perfect, but there is a lot more to this pretty little spice than meets the eye.

The multiple health benefits of curcumin – inflammation and beyond

Curcumin is wonderful for so many things: for reducing inflammation, which underpins most health conditions; it’s antimicrobial, meaning that it will help the body fend off nasty bacteria; it has antioxidant activity to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals and has even been shown to help modulate the immune system. Plus, if you’re prone to respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, laryngitis or sinusitis, you’ll be happy to hear that curcumin also has positive effects on the respiratory tract.

Inflammation is linked to many chronic health conditions including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) is considered the inflammatory master-switch, responsible for the initiation of the inflammatory cascade within cells (1). One of the main ways in which curcumin exerts its beneficial anti-inflammatory benefits is by blocking NF-kB from entering the cell, and therefore supporting the body in the healthy balancing of inflammation.

As an anti-inflammatory, when there is pain, there is inflammation, which probably explains why curcumin is found to be most useful for those with joint pains – often being associated with arthritis. These benefits are not just limited to pain-related health conditions though; research has also confirmed that curcumin reduces inflammation from exercise-induced muscle damage, perfect for those who enjoy a rigorous workout (2).

Overcoming the poor bioavailability of curcumin

Turmeric contains only 5-10% curcuminoids, 75% of which is curcumin, and whilst some cultures use turmeric in high quantities on a daily basis, the western world won’t benefit from the wonders of curcumin with the odd turmeric latte. Extracting curcumin for supplements will easily increase your intake of curcumin but, unfortunately, the body is extremely efficient at removing this spice from the body. With such poor bioavailability, you may need to take up to 8 grams per day to achieve the benefits. Whilst many technologies and additions (such as piperine) have been applied to curcumin to address this poor bioavailability, they are limited in their ability to exert a beneficial effect. Longvida technology from Igennus, however, enhances the bioavailability by 285x, with 7x longer-lasting action and 65x higher peak plasma levels. Longvida is also the only technology that has been shown to help curcumin pass the blood-brain barrier to provide the health benefits associated with curcumin to the brain as well as the body.

Igennus Longvida for neurological benefits

With its ability to pass the blood-brain barrier, Longvida technology has been shown to provide many neurological benefits such as improvements in working memory and mood (3); it also reduces beta-amyloid protein, a marker of brain ageing that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease (4). Beta-amyloid aggregation can be promoted by metals, but curcumin exerts its beneficial effects by chelating some metals, and therefore helping to inhibit aggregation (5, 6).

With its plethora of neurological benefits, Igennus Longvida Optimised Curcumin is ideal for people of all ages who are looking to support both their short – and long-term brain health.

Longvida as a cardioprotective

Studies show that using Longvida technology to deliver curcumin also helps to lower triglycerides, high levels of which are associated with an increased risk for poor cardiovascular health (4), as well as reducing total and low-density cholesterol (3), making it a very useful supplement for supporting those with high cholesterol levels. Curcumin is also safe for those on statin therapy.

Supplementing with Longvida Optimised Curcumin

Each tub of Igennus Longvida Optimised Curcumin contains 30 capsules, with a recommended 1 capsule per day dosage to support general health, and supplementation with up to 3 per day to provide more intensive support for short-term use.

References
1. Nahar PP, Slitt AL, Seeram NP. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Novel Standardized Solid Lipid Curcumin Formulations. J Med Food. 2015 Jul;18(7):786-92
2. Takahashi M et al., Effects of curcumin supplementation on exercise-induced oxidative stress in humans. Int J Sports Med. 2014 Jun;35(6):469-75.
3. Cox KH, Pipingas A, Scholey AB. Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population. J Psychopharmacol. 2015 May;29(5):642-51.
4. DiSilvestro RA, Joseph E, Zhao S, Bomser J. Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lipidated curcumin in healthy middle aged people. Nutr J. 2012 Sep 26;11:79. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-79.
5. Yang F, Lim GP, Begum AN, Ubeda OJ, Simmons MR, Ambegaokar SS, Chen PP, Kayed R, Glabe CG, Frautschy SA, Cole GM. Curcumin inhibits formation of amyloid beta oligomers and fibrils, binds plaques, and reduces amyloid in vivo. J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 18;280(7):5892-901.
6. Ono K, Hasegawa K, Naiki H, Yamada M. Curcumin has potent anti-amyloidogenic effects for Alzheimer’s beta-amyloid fibrils in vitro. J Neurosci Res. 2004 Mar 15;75(6):742-50.

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stress

Mental Health Awareness Week: Stress Busters

Focusing on Stress

May 14th is the beginning of National Mental Health Awareness week. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, this year the focus is stress. Tackling stress early is crucial for good health because ongoing stress can lead to depression and anxiety, and is also linked to physical diseases such as heart disease and immune problems.

The stress response is actually a healthy response to threat or danger. It is designed to give us a quick boost of energy to fuel our fight or flight response. When stress becomes an everyday experience, however, the body struggles to cope. Blood pressure rises, inflammation is triggered and hormone levels are disrupted. Experts call this ‘allostatic overload’ and it can result in anxiety, depression and insomnia.

Several key nutrients have been found to help deal with stress and support the organs that are involved in the stress reaction. Taking time to nourish the body in this way can therefore offer protection against the effects of stress.

The ‘Fighting Five’

Nutritionist Ian Marber emphasises five key nutrients – which he calls the ‘fighting five’ – needed to support the body under stress (1). These are vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals zinc and selenium.

Each of these nutrients helps in disarming the free radicals produced when the body is under stress. Free radicals are molecules that harm cells in the body through oxidative damage. They have been linked to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and accelerated ageing.

The ‘fighting five’ antioxidants help by neutralising these free radicals, helping to prevent the cell damage caused by stress. While antioxidant supplements can help to ensure a good intake of these nutrients, it is recommended that dietary sources should be included every day. The best sources of these valuable antioxidants include plums, tomatoes, dark green vegetables, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and seafood.

Cortisol and Stress

Another hazard associated with stress is elevated levels of cortisol. When the body is under stress, the adrenal glands begin to pump out higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that powers the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Over time, elevated levels of cortisol can become a problem, leading to anxiety and depression, as well as weight gain and breakdown of muscle and bone. Early signs of high cortisol include sleep problems, weight gain, raised blood pressure and difficulty concentrating.

Several nutrients have been found in studies to be effective in lowering cortisol levels. The most effective of these include the herb ashwaganda root extract, and the nutrient phosphatidyl serine. Both of these nutrients have been found to improve mood and lower feelings of stress and anxiety (2, 3 & 4).

Adrenal Health

Finally, protecting the health of the adrenals is particularly important for anybody experiencing ongoing stress. The key nutrients required by the adrenal glands are vitamin B5, vitamin C and magnesium.

Because our body cannot store vitamin C, it is important to provide it with a regular daily supply, particularly when stress levels are high. The adrenal gland requires higher levels of vitamin C during times of stress. The richest sources are black and red berries, citrus fruits and red peppers. Similarly, vitamin B5 cannot be stored by the body, and so including wholegrains and green leafy vegetables daily would be a sensible measure to help protect the body from the effects of stress.

The mineral magnesium is crucial to the health of the adrenals, and requirements for magnesium increase when the body is under stress (5). Stressed individuals may therefore benefit from supplementing around 300mg magnesium each day. Good dietary sources include leafy greens, wheatgerm, almonds, cod and mackerel.

While we may not be able to influence everyday stressors, such as commuting, financial worries or workload, we can certainly give the body the fuel it needs to cope with the stress response. Taking early measures to protect the body from the effects of stress is a sensible way to safeguard long term health and wellbeing.

References
1. Marber & Edgson (1990) The Food Doctor. USA: Collins and Brown.
2. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul-Sep; 34(3): 255–262.
3. Lipids Health Dis. 2014 Jul 31;13:121.
4. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Jul 28;5:11.
5. Tarasov et al (2015) Magnesium deficiency and stress: Issues of their relationship, diagnostic tests, and approaches to therapy. Ter Arkh 87(9):114-122

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thrush

Thrush and supporting your intimate area the natural way

What is thrush?

Let’s begin with the most important question – what is thrush? Thrush is a very common condition caused by a yeast infection usually in the genital area, affecting predominantly women. Symptoms include irritation, inflammation, soreness, itchiness and excess discharge.

80-90% of the time, the yeast infection is caused by an increase of a fungus called Candida albicans. This fungus normally lives harmlessly on the skin in various areas of the body like the mouth, gut and on the vagina.

The Candida albicans is kept under control by bacteria (called lactobacilli) which also naturally occur on your skin, but when the fungus multiplies – due to a weakened immune system – it can cause thrush. Important to emphasise here is that thrush has nothing to do with lack of hygiene – it’s all to do with your immune system, like so many skin related issues.

Who gets thrush?

Most women get thrush at some point in their lives, but it’s most common for women in their thirties and forties. So, if you feel your intimate area is sensitive or displays thrush-like symptoms, don’t worry – you’re not alone!

Even more so – many women may also suffer from thrush more than once in their lives, with it recurring frequently for some.

Factors that make us more prone to thrush:

  • If you are ill or stressed
  • If you take antibiotics
  • If you take contraceptive pills
  • If you have diabetes
  • If you are pregnant
  • If you are undergoing chemotherapy
  • If you wear tight clothing
  • If you are menstruating

Also, be aware that some shower and bath products might irritate the vaginal areas, especially products that are quite synthetic – containing known irritants on the sensitive skin, like parfum, SLS and parabens. Check the ingredients of your skincare products before you buy or use them.

What are the symptoms of thrush?

Every woman is unique. So everyone may experience symptoms of thrush differently, with some women not even being aware they have it until they undergo a cervical smear test. Symptoms and severity of the symptoms may also vary every time you get thrush.

Most common symptoms include:

  • Vulvar itching and soreness
  • Irritation and inflammation
  • Excess discharge, often white and odourless
  • Pain or discomfort during sex
  • Pain or discomfort when passing urine
  • Slight swelling of the labia (vaginal lips)

What is Salcura’s Topida Intimate Hygiene Spray?

Salcura’s Topida Spray has been formulated to provide a safe, effective and practical solution for thrush or other fungal infections. The fine liquid of the spray is easily absorbed into skin – providing the body with what it needs to strengthen the immune system and recover a healthy pH balance.

Topida Intimate Hygiene Spray is dermatologically tested to be safe for use on dry and sensitive skin.

What makes Topida unique?

Salcura believe in the body’s natural ability to heal itself if given the right tools to do so. By using spray applications, the body can absorb the fine liquid much deeper. As a result, we can reach new skin cells earlier in their lifecycle, feeding them the minerals, vitamins and other nutrients they need to grow to the surface healthier. A healthier skin is better able to fend of any allergens and to find a healthy balance.

Topida contains natural oils of eucalyptus, lemon and peppermint to cool and soothe the skin – safflower, rosehip and plive to nourish and moisturise – tea tree, thyme and sea buckthorn for their anti-bacterial properties – and is naturally fragranced with lavender, cinnamon and fennel.

  • Instant relief from itchiness & soreness
  • High grade essential oils to restore a natural pH balance
  • Full of vitamin E (antioxidant)
  • With lactic acid to support a healthy vaginal environment
  • Easy application with 360° spray
  • Cruelty free & vegan
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smoothie

Detox Smoothies to Spring Clean the Gut

Spring Clean from the Inside Out

The beginning of Spring is the ideal time to concentrate on nourishing your body to give you a ‘spring clean’ feeling from the inside out. Incorporating a daily smoothie is a simple way to include fresh ingredients to support your health naturally. Here are three super smoothies designed to spring clean your body by aiding digestion, healing and repairing the gut, and boosting your liver function.

1. Cleanse with Antioxidants

Antioxidants are known to protect the gut lining, which is particularly important for those who suffer with conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (1). New research also suggests that irritable bowel syndrome is also marked by raised levels of inflammation in the digestive tract (2).

Antioxidants also help to support healthy levels of beneficial bowel flora, making them an essential consideration for anyone looking to support digestive health.

Super Antioxidant Chocolate Mint Smoothie

If you’ve overindulged on Easter chocolates, then this Chocolate Mint smoothie is the perfect detox remedy. Black beans, cacao and fresh mint have particularly powerful antioxidant properties, while bananas boost levels of healthy bacteria in the gut. Peppermint relaxes digestive spasms, easing symptoms of indigestion and IBS. This smoothie also packs in a whopping 20 grams of fibre, making it the ultimate digestive cleanser.

If you’d like to sweeten it further, then a couple of medjool dates are the best fibre-rich sweetener available.

Superboost your smoothie: add a teaspoon of acai powder for a powerful antioxidant boost.

2. Soothe and Repair with Demulcents

Certain plant foods provide special demulcent fibres. These fibres form a gel with water and coat the gut lining, forming a soothing and protective layer. Smoothies with demulcent ingredients are perfect for soothing irritated or inflamed tissue, making them valuable digestive ‘cleansers’.

Gut Healing Apple Pie Smoothie (Serves 2)

The ingredients in this smoothie all have properties that support and repair the gut lining and help to protect against infection. Apple pectin, oat beta-glucans and chia are special ‘demulcent’ fibres which soothe and protect the gut lining. Cinnamon, ginger, manuka honey and coconut milk each have antibacterial properties. In studies, glutamine has been found to protect the intestinal lining, effectively healing a ‘leaky gut’ (3).

Superboost your smoothie: add a teaspoon of glutamine powder to nourish the intestinal lining.

3. Boost Digestion with Bitters

Bitters have long been valued for their unique ability to cleanse the body. This is because bitters or ‘cholagogues’ stimulate the liver to produce digestive enzymes, improving overall digestion and the absorption of fats. They also provide essential balance to the Western sweet and salty diet.

Liver Cleansing Green Smoothie

The best green smoothies are packed with detoxifying ‘bitters’ or ‘cholagogues’. Try this super cleansing green smoothie for a refreshing digestive boost . Leafy greens, citrus and almond butter also provide a combination of Vitamins A, C and E for antioxidant support.

    • 1 cup water
    • 2 handfuls of kale
    • ½ avocado
    • ½ lime
    • ½ lemon
    • large handful of frozen pineapple chunks
    • 1 tbsp almond butter

Superboost your smoothie: add a couple of teaspoons of supergreens powder – a simple way of including more ‘bitters’ and phytonutrients from greens such as kale, broccoli and artichoke.

References
1. Miller et al (2001) Dietary antioxidants protect gut epithelial cells from oxidant-induced apoptosis. BMC Complement Altern Med 1: 11.
2. Barbara G et al (2015) A role for inflammation in irritable bowel syndrome. Gut 51:1
3 RadhaKrishna Rao and Geetha Samak. (2012) Role of Glutamine in Protection of Intestinal Epithelial Tight Junctions. J Epithel Biol Pharmacol. 5(Suppl 1-M7): 47–54.

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aloe vera

Introducing: Simplee Aloe! All Natural Aloe Vera Products

Simplee Aloe are leading the way with an array of all natural Aloe Vera products. Whether you are a hard-core health fanatic and want a dose of pure Aloe Vera, or a keen discoverer who wants to uncover the benefits with something slightly softer; there is something for everyone. Give Simplee Aloe a try and begin your Aloe journey to a healthier and optimally functioning body.

Benefits of Aloe

Aloe Vera, known by the Egyptians as the Plant of Immortality, has been used for centuries as a healing super-plant. Aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory properties have a soothing effect on the gut, leading to a healthier digestive tract, while its natural prebiotics are a fantastic boost for the immune system. Perfect, because as we all know, a healthy gut is key to a healthy body and mind!

Aloe Vera is a natural prebiotic, with a high polysaccharide content. It forms and develops healthy gut flora, allowing our body to cultivate the ability for higher nutrient absorption from what we eat. As such, not only does Aloe Vera relieve our body from negative digestive symptoms, it gives our bodies the best chance of retaining and maintaining optimal health through high nutrient absorption and good bacteria flow.

Aloe & the brain

Already, it has become clear how wondrous this power-plant is. In fact, it doesn’t stop there! Recent research by Harvard and nutritionists such as Libby Limon have uncovered the added benefit of Aloe Vera, arguably the most influential of all; impacting our brain. Its ability to transform our digestive tract, the bacteria it contains and the nutrients our bodies absorb has been shown to directly impact anxiety, depression and other mental health difficulties. In short, this can be explained through the fact that the state of our gut directly impacts the state of our brain. With good bacteria surrounding our gut lining and high nutrient absorption, our digestive system communicates with our brains in an optimal way. Stress is shown to be relieved, anxiety reduced and general mood and outlook to be far more positive as our bodies are absorbing and flowing with bacteria that helps our systems function at their best.

Simple Aloe Range

Simplee Aloe offer organic health supplements & all natural juices. Try Simplee Aloe’s 100% natural & organic Aloe Vera, 10 servings per bottle & highest level of polysaccharide content of any inner leaf supplements on the market! Or for those wanting a refreshing alternative to a sugary fruit juice with the added benefit of Aloe Vera, try Simplee Aloe’s Aloe Vera Coconut Water.

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stress

Stressed out? Try this herbal remedy to de-stress naturally

April is stress awareness month, so what better time to check in with yourself and your loved ones to make sure your lifestyle is sustainable and that you’re managing your stress levels? Although some stress is a natural part of life, we often forget that it doesn’t need to be ongoing.

Stressful situations trigger the body to increase the activity of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) which activates our fight-or-flight response. This heightens our senses and makes us hyper-alert to keep us safe during times of immediate danger. Naturally, and ideally, once the threat has passed the body should dampen down the SNS and find a balance with the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which supports rest and digestion and anything that requires a relaxed and calm state. Sadly, due to the pace and constant stimulus from our modern lifestyles, many people are living with SNS dominance.

Chronic stress can become a catalyst for disease if left for too long. Ongoing stress can manifest in disorders such as anxiety and depression, accelerate the ageing process, trigger reproductive issues for both women and men and interrupt sleep patterns. Unbalanced levels of cortisol from chronic stress can lead to a compromised immune system and regular infections, autoimmune disease, allergies and increased fat stores around the waist (1). Chronic inflammation from long-term stress is implicated in many diseases and when it comes to heart health, researches are suggesting that it could be as important a risk factor as smoking and high blood pressure!

Adaptogens

When your stress levels have gone on for a bit longer than expected and your nervous system needs a bit of support in toning down its overactive response, there are herbs that can help. Herbs classified as adaptogens are used by herbalists to help the body cope with stress to help you feel calm while increasing energy and focus. It is thought the effect is associated with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a part of the stress-system that plays a key role in how the body responds to and adapts to stress (2).

Siberian ginseng (Eleuthero) is one of the oldest and most popular adaptogenic herbs prescribed by herbalists today. It has a long history of use in Asian cultures as a tonic to reinforce qi, calm the nerves and support fertility. Research indicates that Eleuthero works with your central nervous and hormonal systems to moderate how your body responds when you feel tense and anxious (3). Other research suggests it also has the ability to protect your brain from the damaging effects of stress (4).

Stress and the gut

Times of intense stress can literally shut down your digestion. Interestingly, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is considered a “gut-brain disorder,” since it is often worsened by stress. Half of IBS sufferers also have difficulties with depression or anxiety (5).

The gut and the brain talk to each other via the gut-brain-axis. This is a bi-directional pathway of communication which means that one can influence the other. For example, science has found that certain bacteria in the gut can have a short term influence on anxiety and calm the nervous system via their effect on the neurotransmitter receptors GABA (6). However, on the other side of the coin, stress can destroy healthy gut bacteria, showing that it’s equally important to look after both!

Perfect combination

Taking Sun Eleuthero together with Sun Chlorella makes for the perfect combination in supporting your nervous system and gut health. The founder of Sun Chlorella had become very ill from a hard military life. His pursuit for healing lead him to Chlorella and Siberian ginseng, which changed his life so dramatically that he gave up his business and dedicated the rest of his life to sharing his findings.

Sun Chlorella is a sustainable fresh water algae that contains fibre, chlorophyll, protein, vitamins and minerals. It acts as a prebiotic food to support gut function and a healthy gut microbiome as well as helping rid the body of toxins. The chlorella plant’s ability to photosynthesise at a rate unlike any other makes it rich in a protein called Chlorella Growth Factor, which is known for its healing properties.

Aside from its benefit as a healing food, chlorella also has many environmental applications from reducing greenhouse gases to cleaning up oil spills. It cleaned up the earth’s atmosphere millions of years ago to make it one that could support life and scientists hope they can use it in a similar way.

The chlorella plant has a tough exterior cell wall which contains the valuable nutrients – but this fibrous exterior makes it difficult to digest. Sun Chlorella is the only company that uses a patented process called the DYNO®-Mill to liberate the nutrients without the use of heat or chemicals to make them available for absorption and assimilation by the body.

References
1. Epel ES, McEwen B, Seeman T, et al. Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosom Med 2000;62(5):623-632.
2. A Panossian Ge Wikman ,Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity, Phytother Res. 2005 Oct;19(10):819-38.
Panossian, A., Wagner, H. (2005). Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytotherapy Research, 19(10), 819-838.
3. Farnsworth NR et al. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus): current status as an adaptogen. In: Wagner H, Hikino H, Farnsworth NR, eds. Economic and medicinal plant research. Vol. 1. London, Academic Press, 1985:217–284; Yance D. Adaptogens In Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press. Rochester, VT: 2013; Halstead, BW. Eleutherococcus Senticosus. Oriental Healing Arts Institute. 1984. P. 4
4. Panossian A et al. Adaptogens Stimulate Neuropeptide Y and Hsp72 Expression and Release in Neuroglia Cells. Front Neurosci. 2012; 6: 6. Published online 2012 February 1. Prepublished online 2011 November 12
5. Borre YE, Moloney RD, Clarke G, et al The impact of microbiota on brain and behavior: mechanisms & therapeutic potential. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:373-403.
6. Bravo JA, Forsythe P, Chew MV, et al. Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011;108(38):16050-16055. [Full text]

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brain

National Brain Health Week: Smart Foods and Supplements

This week is Global Brain Awareness Week, a campaign which promotes awareness of brain health and research.

While many of us know about the link between fish oil and brain health, there are a number of other nutrients which have been shown to support the brain, improving memory and focus, and protecting against age-related cognitive decline.

Read on for some valuable ‘brain boosting’ foods to add to your weekly shopping list, and some useful ideas to incorporate them simply and easily into your everyday meals and snacks.

1. Breakfast Brain Booster: Supergreens

A recent study on brain health and nutrition conducted at Rushmore University Medical Center found a ‘protective benefit from just one serving per day of green leafy vegetables’ (1). Leafy greens such as kale, romaine lettuce and spinach are a rich source of vitamin K, believed to slow brain ageing and improve memory and cognitive abilities.

Add a handful of kale into your fruit smoothie each morning, or stir spinach into your scrambled eggs. Supergreens powders – leafy greens in concentrated form – are also easy to add to smoothies or stir into porridge.

2. Smart Snacking: Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate boosts mood, focus and alertness, making it a guilt-free snack. Just a couple of squares of dark chocolate supplies enough potent flavonols to boost the brain’s supply of oxygen, enhancing brain function for around two hours (2).

Try a couple of squares of good quality dark chocolate, a cup of cocoa or a handful of raw cacao nibs mid-morning, to keep you alert until lunchtime.

3. Lunchtime: Brain Boosting Beetroot

Dietary nitrates, such as those naturally present in beetroot, boost blood flow to the brain. An optimum supply of blood and oxygen to the brain is essential for mental alertness and cognitive function. A recent study confirmed these benefits, showing that older adults displayed brain patterns and activity similar to much younger adults after a daily shot of Beet-It beetroot juice and a brisk walk (3).

Try a beetroot and goat’s cheese salad for lunch, or add nitrate-rich rocket and raw grated carrot to sandwiches and wraps. A shot of beetroot juice is another great way to boost your dietary nitrates after lunch. Follow with a brisk walk to boost the flow of oxygen to the brain and keep your brain sharp throughout the afternoon.

4. Dinner: Black and Blue Brain Boosters

Anthocyanins – touted as being the most valuable plant pigment for brain health – help to repair and protect brain cells. These powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients are found in very dark coloured plant foods such as black beans, black rice, aubergines, blueberries and blackberries.

Studies have found that these blue-black foods rich in anthocyanins improve brain signalling, which has a positive effect on learning and short-term memory (4).

Try a bean chilli for dinner, using brain-boosting kidney beans and black beans. Use anthocyanin-rich black rice instead of white or brown rice. Tart and juicy blackberries work well with evening meals too, mixed with fresh side salads or paired with rich meats such as duck or venison.

References
1. Morris MC et al (2017) Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline. Neurology. December 20.
2. University of Nottingham. “Boosting Brain Power — With Chocolate.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070221101326.htm (accessed March 4, 2018).
3. Meredith Petrie W. et al (2017) Beet Root Juice: An Ergogenic Aid for Exercise and the Aging Brain. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 72, Issue 9, 1 September 2017, Pages 1284–1289
4. Krikorian R et al (2010) Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14; 58(7): 3996–4000.

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bacteria

Just How Beneficial Is ‘Good’ Bacteria to the Body?

It’s quite well known that the good bacteria of our internal microbiome help to support the health of the digestive system. However, recent research has highlighted other areas where using specific good bacteria could support other areas of health and wellbeing. This includes intimate health, skin health, mood and memory.

Good bacteria for mood and memory

In the last decade, it has been revealed that the brain and the gut are in constant communication with each other. This has led to a field of research known as ‘psychobiotics’, investigating the link between the gut flora and the development of psychological problems (1).

Specific bacteria shown to be helpful for mood and memory
  • Studies have indicated that probiotic treatment can induce behavioural and psychological changes, including improved memory and reduced anxiety (2). The strains with the most consistent research include Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum.
  • In a study on chronic fatigue syndrome, supplementation with L. casei was linked to a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms (3).
  • L. rhamnosus has been shown to reduce stress induced anxiety and depression (4).
  • A study providing L. acidophilus, L. casei and B. bifidus (2 billion of each) over 8 weeks: The patients who had received the probiotic combination had significantly decreased total scores on the Beck Depression Inventory. In addition, they had significant decreases in systemic inflammation (2,5).

Good bacteria for intimate health

Vaginal infections affect 300 million women worldwide:

  • 75% of women will suffer thrush at least once in their lives and over 5% will suffer recurrent episodes more than 4 times a year.
  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is actually the most common cause of vaginal infections in women of childbearing age, affecting up to 84% women. BV in some women may also produce irritation and discomfort. Left untreated BV can lead to infertility and premature labour.

Treatment for BV (antibiotics) can lead to the overgrowth of candida, resulting in thrush. Likewise, treatments for thrush can lead to dysbiosis in the vaginal flora, resulting in a change in vaginal pH leading to BV. Therefore, a product which can address both issues, without the need for a woman to know which infection she has and offering prevention as well as treatment of both, will help to break the vicious cycle many women find themselves in.

Specific bacteria researched for intimate health

A combination of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobateria animalis subsp. lactis has been extensively researched for their role in the maintenance of vaginal pH and control of bacteria and yeasts, and has been shown to be effective against both thrush and BV infections.

In a trial carried out using L. rhamnosus, L. plantarum and B. animalis subsp. lactis the women who were using the supplement reported effective relief from:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Discharge
  • Dryness (6)

Good bacteria to support skin health

The link between skin health and the health of the gut is not new. Researchers as far back as 1930 suspected a link between gut health and skin health – modern research though, has confirmed the importance of this relationship.

This means that good bacteria could be very helpful in reducing the severity of all manner of skin complaints.

Did you know?
    • 40% of those people who suffer with inflammatory bowel diseases, also struggle with some form of skin disorder.
    • Unbalanced gut flora is 10 times more common in those people who are suffering with acne rosacea.
    • Many skin conditions including acne rosacea, psoriasis and dermatitis have now been shown to be linked to increased levels of unfriendly bacteria in the gut.
Specific good bacteria researched for benefits in skin health

A combination of Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, has been extensively trialled for its action on skin health. This specific combination has been found to inhibit the following pathogens: (7)

  • Staphyloccocus aureas – responsible for skin infections, pimples, impetigo, boils, abscesses and cellulitis. The combination of bacteria can inhibit this pathogen within 24 hours.
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa – responsible for inflammation, sepsis, skin infections and dermatitis. The bacteria are strongly effective in reducing this pathogen within just 3 hours and they maintain their inhibitory effect for over 24 hours.
  • Propionibacterium acnes – responsible for skin discomforts such as acne vulgaris and oily skin. The bacterial combination has been shown to have the ability to inhibit this bacteria within 48 hours with a continued reduction over 7 days.
  • Staphylococcus epidermis – an opportunistic pathogen responsible for unbalanced skin microbiota and the worsening of skin conditions. The 3 strains reduced levels of this pathogen within 3 hours.

Written by Jenny Logan, Natures Aid Technical Training Manager

References
1. The best probiotics for mood: Psychobioitcs May enhance the Gut-Brain Connection. Kathleen Jade, UHN Daily, Apr. 2017.
2. The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review. Caroline J K Wallace Ann Gen Psychiatry 2017
3. A randomised, double blind, placebo controlled, pilot study of a probiotic in emotional symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. A Venket Roo et al, Gut Pathog, 2009
4. Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behaviour and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse, via the Vegas nerve; Javier A Bravo et al, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2011
5. Nutrition 2015 Sept 28 pii 50899-9007
6. Intimique FS – Efficacy Dossier – Principum Division – Rev 01/01/2017
7. Synbalance ProBeauty Shield – Efficacy Dossier Rev 01 2017

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heart

National Heart Month: Heart Health and Omega-3

The heart is the most vital organ in the body, beating around 100,000 times per day to get blood pumping to all areas of your body, transporting vital nutrients and oxygen to enable optimal function. It is estimated that around one quarter of deaths in the UK each year are attributed to cardiovascular disease (CVD), with an equal gender split of those with a cardiovascular condition. So where does it all go wrong and, importantly, how can you protect your heart?

Some of the risk factors for CVD include poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and being overweight, as well as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. When considering these risk factors, it is clear that applying some healthy dietary and lifestyle techniques is likely to have a beneficial effect.

EPA & DHA reduce the risk of CVD, reducing high blood pressure and high cholesterol

It’s no secret that the Inuit consumed high doses of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), from a diet rich in oily fish. Interestingly, Inuits also had an overall reduced risk for coronary heart disease. Coincidence? Well, when we look at the research, we see that both EPA and DHA have been shown to reduce high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, risk factors for CVD.

You can obtain EPA and DHA from oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring, anchovies and sardines, with studies suggesting a decrease in CVD risk with the consumption of 2-5 portions of fish per week. The Food Standards Agency recommend 2-3 portions per week, due to sea pollutant levels; high amounts of fish in the diet could increase mercury exposure, which is also suggested as a possible contributor to poor heart health (1). For the few times per week that you do enjoy a portion (140 grams) of fish, consider broiling or baking your fish rather than frying it, as frying increases exposure to trans fats, which may increase cholesterol levels and negate any benefit for a healthy diet.

High levels of arachidonic acid (AA), an omega-6 long-chain fatty acid, relative to EPA levels, are an established risk factor for CVD. Whilst we obtain EPA from fish, AA is obtained from grains, as well as meat and dairy products produced from animals fed a high grain diet; for this reason, organic meat and dairy products are recommended as the animals consume at least 51% of their diet from pasture.

If you are not a fan of fish, or wish to further reduce your risk of CVD, consider supplementing with a purified fish oil supplement obtained from wild fish, such as Igennus Pure Essentials Super Concentrated Omega-3 Wild Fish Oil, containing 660mg of EPA and DHA per capsule (2). One capsule also contains 25mcg of vitamin D (2.5x the recommended daily intake), with deficiency of vitamin D also being linked to an increased risk of CVD (3). Unfortunately, the body’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight is vastly diminished in the UK, especially during the winter months, making this supplement ideal for protecting the health of your heart.

Whilst some vegetarian forms of omega-3 oils exist, many studies suggest that supplementing fatty acids from animal sources has a more potent effect than using a plant form of omega-3 oil (4). This is likely due to the body not being very efficient at converting short-chain fatty acids (ALA, SDA) to the beneficial long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA.

If you have been diagnosed with CVD, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, consider a higher dose EPA and DHA supplement such as Pharmepa Restore and Maintain, as at least 1 gram of EPA and DHA per day is shown as beneficial in reducing levels of these important CVD risk factors (5). This is particularly beneficial for those prescribed statins, as studies suggest that DHA levels are depleted with use of statins whilst, simultaneously, supplementation of EPA when taking statins has a positive effect on cholesterol levels (6, 7).

Antioxidants, such as CoQ10, have a cardioprotective effect

Statins work by blocking the liver’s production of cholesterol, to manage those with high cholesterol levels. However, a common side effect of statins is reduced energy, as they also block the liver’s production of a naturally occurring substance – co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is required in every cell of the body for energy production, especially in the heart area where a lot of energy is required. For those taking statins, a supplement is highly recommended to support reduced energy levels, support the health of the heart and, as studies also show, it has a beneficial effect on blood pressure and cholesterol levels (8). Supplementing with Igennus VESIsorb Ubiquinol provides the body with CoQ10 in its ready to use form, allowing quick absorption and utilisation in the body. Ubiquinol is also a potent antioxidant, providing protection to the heart against the oxidative side effects of CVD, as well as stress, smoking, consuming alcohol, and a poor diet.

Other antioxidant-rich foods that can be included in the diet to protect the heart and other organs from oxidative stress include fruit and vegetables, especially brightly coloured berries and dark green leafy vegetables, green tea and cocoa, with green tea showing an additional cardio-protective effect by reducing total cholesterol and blood pressure (9).

Optimising the diet to protect the heart

Be aware of your salt intake. Whilst it is well known that a high salt diet can have a negative impact on blood pressure, many are still unaware of just how much salt you should consume each day, and of how much is contained within foods that are consumed. The British Heart Foundation recommends a maximum of 2.5 grams of sodium and 6 grams of salt per day for an adult, and much less for those under the age of 18. The common culprits of foods high in salt include ready-meals, take-away foods, tinned foods, salted crisps and nuts, and cooking sauces. Become familiar with reading food labels and keep track of how much salt you consume each day.

Adherence to both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet have shown promise in reducing risk for developing CVD, and for reducing cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Both diets recommend antioxidant-rich foods from fruit and vegetables, as well as good quality fats from fish and nuts, whilst reducing your intake of processed foods (high in salt), reducing refined foods such as cakes and biscuits, and recommending the consumption of whole grains.

Finally, get the heart racing

Whilst many positive changes to the diet can have a beneficial effect on the health of your heart, increasing your activity levels can also reduce your risk of developing CVD. Activity trackers, such as a pedometer or a fitness tracking watch, can be a fun way to ensure you are moving around and getting active each day. Some now even contain heart rate trackers, as well as the ability to track your food intake, useful for ensuring you don’t exceed your recommended level of sodium.

References
1. Genchi, G., Sinicropi, M. S., Carocci, et al. (2017). ‘Mercury Exposure and Heart Diseases’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(1), 74.
2. Lentjes M. A. H., Keogh R. H., Welch A. A., et al. (2017). ‘ Longitudinal associations between marine omega-3 supplement users and coronary heart disease in a UK population based cohort’, BMJ Open 2017, 7
3. Mozos, I., & Marginean, O. (2015). ‘Links between Vitamin D Deficiency and Cardiovascular Diseases’, BioMed Research International, 109275.
4. Liu L., Hu Q., Wu H., et al. (2016). ‘Protective role of n6/n3 PUFA supplementation with varying DHA/EPA ratios against atherosclerosis in mice’, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 32, pp. 171-180.
5. Alexander D. D., Miller P. E., Van Elswyk M. E., et al. (2017). ‘A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials and Prospective Cohort Studies of Eicosapentaenoic and Docosahexaenoic Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Coronary Heart Disease Risk’, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 92 (1), pp 15-29.
6. Nozue, T., & Michishita, I. (2015). ‘Statin treatment alters serum n-3 to n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids ratio in patients with dyslipidemia’, Lipids in Health and Disease, 14, (67).
7. Yokoyama M, Origasa H, Matsuzaki M, et al. (2007). ‘Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on major coronary events in hypercholesterolaemic patients (JELIS): a randomised open-label, blinded endpoint analysis’, Lancet, 369 (9567), pp. 1090-1098.
8. Flowers N., Hartley L., Todkill D., et al. (2014). ‘Co-enzyme Q10 supplementation for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease’, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12.
9. Hartley L., Flowers N., Holmes J., et al. (2013). ‘Green and black tea for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease’. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, 6.

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mood

How to Beat Blue Monday: Natural Energy and Mood Boosters

The holiday season is behind us and the most depressing day of the year is on the horizon. Blue Monday (the third Monday of the year) is cited to be the ‘perfect storm’ of post-holiday blues, gloomy weather, work stress and financial woes following Christmas over-indulgence.

Read on for tips on how to bring some post-Christmas cheer to your January with natural energy and mood boosters.

Probiotics for the Brain

New research shows that the health of our digestive tract has a direct impact on mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Our brain and our gut are in constant communication. In fact, our gut microbiome – the microbes naturally present in our gut – influences the function of the brain because of its affect on the immune system, our hormones and neurotransmitter pathways.

“Our habits – including our diet – are important factors modulating the microbiome-gut-brain axis, so an appropriate diet is important for adequate mental health”, says physician Juan Lima-Ojeda, who specialises in mental health research.

Indeed probiotic supplements have been shown to relieve symptoms of depression and even show improved brain function in areas of the brain linked with mood.

For anyone looking to support a healthy mood it would be wise to focus on a diet aimed at optimising gut bacteria. Overindulgence at Christmas usually means an abundance of sugar and a lack of healthy fibre. Redress the balance with prebiotic foods such as bananas, garlic, leeks and onions to encourage a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotic yoghurts and good quality probiotic supplements can also help to replenish healthy bacteria, supporting mood and wellbeing.

Amino Acids improve Energy and Mood

Tyrosine is an amino acid used to make brain chemicals such as dopamine, and noradrenaline. It is often used in supplement form to support energy levels and to protect against the effects of stress.

When you experience stress, your brain uses tyrosine to make noradrenaline. This stimulates your central nervous system and increases your energy and mental power. It can, however, take time to then replenish tyrosine stores and so tyrosine supplementation may be helpful during stressful periods. Some studies suggest that both memory and performance under stress are improved with tyrosine supplementation.

Tyrosine may also be helpful after periods of sleep deprivation. Studies have found that tyrosine supplementation may help to improve memory, reasoning and vigilance in sleep-deprived adults.

To ensure a healthy intake of tyrosine, be sure to include plenty of tyrosine-rich foods such as fish, eggs, almonds, lima beans, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats and bananas. Those who supplement normally take around 500mg to 2000mg daily, split into two doses.

A second amino acid linked to mood is tryptophan, which is used to make serotonin, your brain’s ‘feel good’ hormone.

Low serotonin levels are linked with conditions such as depression. There is a lot of interest in a form of tryptophan called 5-HTP, a natural supplement that has been found in preliminary studies to be as effective as antidepressant drugs such as imipramine and fluvoxamine. Other studies have found that 5-HTP enhances feelings of wellbeing in healthy people.

The richest sources of tryptophan are beans, seafood, chicken and eggs. The supplement 5-HTP is believed to be effective at boosting brain levels of serotonin, especially if it is taken separately from food. The usual dosage for depression is 100mg, taken two or three times a day.

DHA: Brain Food

The human brain is almost 60% fat, and so the right type of fats are essential to support optimal mental health. The type of fat that makes up the cell membranes in the brain is an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. Without good levels of DHA, the brain has trouble utilising serotonin. Low levels of DHA are therefore linked with depression and anxiety.

In studies, 300mg fish oil daily – a rich source of DHA – has been found to be effective in the treatment of mild depression. Fish oil has also been found in double blind studies to be helpful in relieving symptoms of anxiety at a dose of 2g daily.

The best sources of DHA are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. While flaxseed provides some omega-3, vegetarians and vegans can actually obtain DHA through marine algae. Omega-3 supplements made from algae are just as effective as fish oil supplements, and provide a simple and direct source of vegetarian DHA.

References
Juan M. Lima-Ojeda et al. “I Am I and My Bacterial Circumstances”: Linking Gut Microbiome, Neurodevelopment, and Depression” Frontiers in Psychiatry. Published online August 22 2017
Tillisch K et al. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology. 2013 Jun; 144(7):1394-401, 1401.e1-4.
. Dash S et al. The gut microbiome and diet in psychiatry: focus on depression. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2015 Jan; 28(1):1-6.
Maria Ines Pinto-Sanchez et al. Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: a Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology, 2017
Badawy A. Novel nutritional treatment for manic and psychotic disorders: a review of tryptophan and tyrosine depletion studies and the potential of protein-based formulations using glycomacropeptide. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013
Iovieno N et al. Second-tier natural antidepressants: review and critique. J Affect Disord. 2011
Kiecolt-Glaser JK et al. “Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial.” Brain Behav Immun 25:1725-1734 (2011)

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