allergies

Defending against allergies, hay fever, and much more!

Our immune system is supposed to protect us from harm, but sometimes it can be a little bit…overprotective. Nothing demonstrates this better than an allergy, when our immune system causes a response to defend us from something we know isn’t going to hurt us. Common allergies include pollen (hay fever), dust mites, pet fur, detergents and certain food groups. Whatever the cause, few things are as uncomfortable or as irritating as an allergy.

One product however, is standing out as the go to supplement for fighting allergies. With documented benefits, more than 200 published trials and contented users around the world, many sufferers are turning to Pycnogenol for reliable relief from allergies.

So what is Pycnogenol?

Pycnogenol is a unique plant extract from the bark of the maritime pine trees (grown in sustainable French forests). Key to many of its benefits, Pycnogenol is a source of antioxidant plant compounds known as proanthrocyanadins which have been shown to help protect cells from free radical damage amongst other benefits.

What happens during allergies?

To understand how Pycnogenol can benefit, it helps to understand what happens during hay fever first. All allergies occur when the body’s immune system has an exaggerated response to foreign particles which it perceives as dangerous. Let’s take hay fever as an example. Simply put, hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen counts are on the rise and specifically, the pollen season separates into three smaller seasons:

  1. Tree pollen: late March to mid-May.
  2. Grass pollen: mid-May to July.
  3. Weed pollen: end of June to September.

This is important, as individuals typically react more to a specific type of pollen. In Britain, hay fever is caused by grass pollen in around 95% of sufferers for instance.

Once in contact with the allergen (such as pollen), our mast cells (a type of white blood cell) release the hormone histamine throughout the body, triggering allergic responses involving inflammation of delicate tissues (such as the nose, mouth, airways and skin). This inflammation can make breathing difficult through constricting the airways. Histamines also encourage the membranes of the nose to produce mucus, leading to the iconic runny nose and irritated throat.

Free radical exposure (reactive molecules produced by pollution and intense exercise) can further increase the amount of histamine produced by the mast cells, so this should be addressed also.

How can Pycnogenol help?

Pycnogenol has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects that may counter many allergy symptoms such as blocked sinuses, red irritated nostrils and constricted breathing, common to most sufferers.

In one study, a significant reduction in inflammation was found in subjects consuming Pycnogenol. The proposed mechanism is that Pycnogenol controls NF-Kappa B, which is a protein complex found in our cells that sends out compounds (such as cytokines) into the body that trigger inflammation (1). The benefits of these anti-inflammatory effects can be wide reaching, and Pycnogenol has been indicated in improving rheumatoid symptoms! Pycnogenol also supports the production of nitric oxide, a compound that widens the diameter of the blood vessels, supporting a range of circulatory conditions. Just this year, a study showed that Pycnogenol may even normalise cardiovascular risk factors in perimenopausal women (4).

Various trials have shown Pycnogenol to have an anti-histamine effect, also combating the allergic response. The antioxidant compounds in Pycnogenol are able to neutralise free radicals, reducing the amount of histamine that’s initially released from the mast cells when an allergic ‘attack’ happens. Pycnogenol also increases the uptake of histamine into the storage component of the mast cells, rather than releasing them throughout the body where they would trigger inflammation (3).

In a particular lab study, this antihistamine effect was demonstrated to be more favourable than sodium cromoglycate, an antihistamine normally found in pharmaceutical hay fever medications, demonstrating Pycnogenol’s efficacy (2).

Trying it out

Pycnogenol is a well researched and unique plant extract that is proving to be a successful solution for allergy sufferers all over the world. Not only have studies shown its anti-histamine actions, but other mechanisms such as anti-inflammation associate Pycnogenol with many other health benefits. There is a range of Pycnogenol products on the market, one of which is Bio-Pycnogenol from Pharma Nord. Produced to pharmaceutical standards, Bio-Pycnogenol was developed with efficacy, absorption and scientific evidence in mind.

References
1. Grimm T, Chovanová Z, Muchová J, Sumegová K, Liptáková A, Duracková Z, Högger P. Inhibition of NF-kappaB activation and MMP-9 secretion by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol). Journal of inflammation (London, England). 2006 Jan 31 [cited 2017 Feb 8];3. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16441890.
2. Choi Y, Yan G. Pycnogenol inhibits immunoglobulin e-mediated allergic response in mast cells. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2009 May 15 [cited 2017 Feb 8];23(12):1691–5. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19441014.
3. Sharma S, Sharma S, Gulati O. Pycnogenol inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2003 Jan 31 [cited 2017 Feb 8];17(1):66–9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12557250.
4. Normalization of cardiovascular risk factors in peri-menopausal women with Pycnogenol® – Minerva Ginecologica 2017 February;69(1):29-34 – Minerva Medica – Journals [Internet]. Minervamedica.it. 2017. Available from: http://www.minervamedica.it/en/journals/minerva-ginecologica/article.php?cod=R09Y2017N01A0029

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3 Simple Steps to Spring Clean your Gut

3 Simple Steps to Spring Clean your Gut

At this time of year, many of us clear out the clutter and give our homes a spring clean. Spring is also the ideal time to nourish your body by spring cleaning from the inside too. Read on for 3 Simple Steps to Spring Clean your Gut.

1. Cleaning juices and smoothies

Including cleansing smoothies and juices for breakfast for just one week will help give your gut a break, and is a great way to kick start healthy habits for spring.

Eating raw vegetables can give an extra health boost because no vitamins are lost in cooking. It’s also a great way of including ingredients that aid digestion. The best vegetables to include are carrots, beetroot, spinach and cucumber, while fruits with the highest ‘detox’ potential include apricots, melon, red grapes, blueberries and kiwi.

Try adding fresh mint leaves to combat cramps, aloe vera to reduce inflammation, ginger to stimulate digestive juices, a teaspoon of glutamine to support the lining of your gut, or fennel seeds to combat gas and bloating. A teaspoon of spirulina or supergreens powder will pack in additional nutrients.

The following recipe, from Natasha Corrett’s Honestly Healthy Cleanse, is a perfect example of a smoothie that aids digestion while feeling rich and indulgent.

Cacao, cinnamon, pear and fennel smoothie

  • 170g pear, cored
  • 50g fennel
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 240ml almond or rice milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Simply blend until smooth, and enjoy.

2. Give your Gut a Break

Removing common gut irritants can help to combat troublesome digestive symptoms, whether you suffer with IBS or simply have a sluggish gut that needs some extra care. Try removing these three common offenders – sugar, alcohol and wheat – for a week.

Sugar feeds harmful bacteria in the gut which can then lead to discomfort and bloating. Try going sugar-free for a week, remembering that sugar is not only present in sweets and chocolate but also in breakfast cereals, energy drinks and many low-fat foods. To satisfy a sweet tooth, snack on fruit such as apples and plums, which will provide plenty of gut-cleansing soluble fibre.

Avoiding alcohol will also help to support your gut, because alcohol is an intestinal irritant. It also depletes your body of zinc which is essential for a healthy gut lining. Instead, be sure to drink plenty of water which will help to support a sluggish bowel.

Wheat and gluten can also cause problems for those with sensitive guts. Those who suffer with IBS are more likely to have nonceliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), meaning that gluten-containing foods trigger symptoms such as cramps and bloating (1). Try gluten-free oats, brown rice, quinoa and millet instead, to stabilise your blood sugar levels and give your gut a welcome break.

3. Cleansing herbs

Gas, bloating and discomfort can sometimes indicate an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut. This is especially true if your diet has been high in sugar and low in prebiotic plant foods. A herbal cleanse designed to banish pathogenic yeast and bacteria can help to restore a healthy balance.

Herbal teas are an easy way to enhance a digestive cleanse. The best choices are fennel, chamomile, peppermint and nettle. Try to drink a cup between every meal.

Some herbals in supplement form are proven to be helpful in eradicating pathogenic bacteria fungi and parasites. One well-studied herb is berberine which is often used to address gut overgrowths (2,3). Grapefruit seed extract has similar properties (4). Herbals supplements such as this can be a valuable part of a ‘spring clean’ for anyone who needs to redress a healthy gut balance.

References
1. Eswaran et al (2013) What Role Does Wheat Play in the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Gastroenterol Hepatol 9(2): 85–91.
2. Lezak M. H(2000) Herbal antimicrobials for intestinal infections. ANSR – Appl Nutr Sci Rep:Advanced Nutrition Publ, 1-6.
3. Patil T et al (2015) Antimicrobial Profile of Antidiabetic Drug: Berberine International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Research 7(1); 45-50
4. Ganzera M et al.(2006) Development and Validation of an HPLC/UV/MS Method for Simultaneous Determination of 18 Preservatives in Grapefruit Seed Extract J. Agric. Food Chem. 54, 3768-3772

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Sleep

Q&A with James Wilson – The Sleep Geek

March is National Bed Month, a campaign which aims to highlight the importance of a good night’s sleep, so we’ve teamed up with BetterYou and Sleep Geek, James Wilson, a Sleep Behaviour and Sleep Environment Expert to answer some common and not so common questions about sleep.

1. How Much Sleep Do We Need?

The media is obsessed with this question and you see lots and lots of different answers. Generally, between 6-9 hours is the norm and to get 80% of our physiological need from sleep, we need about 5 and a half hours’ sleep. We know less than 5 and more than 11 can have a detrimental impact on our long-term health. Rather than obsessing about duration, I help people focus on quality and to create a sleep routine that gives them the sleep they need.

2. Tell me the one thing I can do to make me sleep better?

Unfortunately, for sleep, there is no one thing. We can eat better, and decide to exercise more but we cannot force sleep. What we need to do is create a healthy pre-sleep routine, ensuring we are looking to drop our heart rate and core temperature in the hour before bed. Learn what sleepy feels like, rather than tired and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends! If more of us did this, then the quality of our sleep would improve. As I have already said, it is as much about quality as it is about quantity.

3. I keep pressing my snooze button in the morning and I struggle to get up. How do I stop this?

It may be that your sleep type is a night owl; someone who goes to sleep later and gets up later, but you are trying to get up earlier than your body wants. What is currently happening is that your alarm is going off and you are waking up with a shock. You go into fight, flight or freeze mode, your senses check to see if you are under attack and when they realise you are not, they let you drop back to sleep. To combat this, use a daylight alarm clock. Our bodies are designed to be awake when it is light and these alarm clocks mimic the sun. They wake you up more gently and the sunshine like light stops the production of Melatonin, meaning you are less likely to drop off back to sleep.

4. How Do I Stop My Little One Waking Up in The Night?

Parents often ask me this and although there are several causes, one of the main reasons is that the child’s environment has changed since they went to bed. What often happens is that our little ones go to bed with a night light on, or a lullaby, or a cuddly toy type product that claims to help them sleep. These products either switch off automatically or we, as parents, turn them off. We wake up numerous times in the night, but normally go straight back into our sleep cycle, so don’t remember them. However, if we change their environment, our little ones wake up and want us to reassure them that everything is ok. If we keep the environment consistent, then they are less likely to wake up fully out of sleep.

5. The strangest question I have had:

“I was struggling to sleep and my friend recommended I take a potato to bed with me. It worked! Why do you think this is?”

I was asked this question as part of a radio phone in I took part in. My thoughts would be that the gentleman in question created a routine for himself that meant his body knew when it was time to start producing melatonin. I always recommend creating a healthy pre-sleep routine that is consistent and it helps if we use something to anchor this process. You could use brushing your teeth, removing make-up or, using a high quality magnesium supplement such as BetterYou Magnesium Oil Spray or BetterYou Magnesium Flakes. As well as providing an anchor, magnesium relaxes us and helps our heart rate drop which is important to the production of melatonin.

BetterYou are offering one lucky person the chance to Win a Sleep Bundle worth over £40, including Magnesium Flakes, Magnesium Oil Goodnight Spray, Magnesium Lotion and an Inflatable Footbath, helping you to put an end to restless nights.

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Sleep

Top Three Supplements for a Good Night’s Sleep!

March is National Bed Month, a campaign which highlights the importance of a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep can lead to numerous health problems, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, poor immunity and mental health issues (1). Sleep is clearly crucial to our health and wellbeing. Unfortunately more than a third of us don’t get enough of it (2).

According to the latest Great British Bedtime Report, the most popular self-medication for sleep problems is alcohol. In fact, one in four of us is turning to alcohol at bedtime to help get to sleep. This figure has climbed worryingly since 2013 when the survey was first conducted.

Alcohol is one of the worst ways to treat sleep problems, as it blocks REM sleep – the most restorative type of sleep. It can worsen snoring and sleep apnea, and a nightly alcohol habit is likely to contribute to weight gain.

Fortunately, there are several healthier alternatives for those seeking a good night’s sleep. Here are the top three natural supplements commonly used to relieve insomnia and encourage restful sleep.

L-Theanine

L-theanine is the reason that many of us enjoy relaxing with a cup of tea. This amino acid, naturally present in tea leaves, has been shown to have calming effects on the brain (3). It reduces levels of the brain’s ‘excitatory’ neurotransmitter glutamate, and boosts levels of relaxing GABA.

Theanine supplements are well absorbed and have been found to enter the brain within 30 minutes. The dose often recommended for improving sleep is 200 to 400mg, taken an hour before bed.

Magnesium

Often deficient in modern diets, magnesium is one of the first nutrients to consider for anyone suffering through restless nights. Magnesium reduces electrical conduction in both muscles and nerves. These muscle-relaxant and sedative properties explain the link between magnesium and improved sleep. Those who supplement magnesium get to sleep more quickly and stay asleep for longer (4).

Dietary magnesium can be increased by eating plenty of leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and unprocessed grains. Many people have success with magnesium oil spray or magnesium salts added to a bath before bed, as magnesium is well absorbed through the skin. Others might prefer an oral supplement. The dose often recommended for sleep is around 400mg, with chelated forms such as magnesium glycinate or magnesium taurate or magnesium citrate being the best option.

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid that reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while increasing means the production of GABA – our brain’s ‘calm’ chemical is increased. Because this supplement appears to reduce the body’s response to stress, taurine may be of particular interest to those who feel that stress is affecting their sleep. Because magnesium is effective for muscle relaxation and relieving anxiety, taking taurine in the form of a magnesium taurate supplement may be the best choice for stressed individuals seeking a relaxed night’s sleep (5).

References
1. Why Lack of Sleep is Bad for your Health. NHS. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx
2. The Great British Bedtime Report. The Sleep Council. https://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/The-Great-British-Bedtime-Report.pdf
3. L-Theanine: Unique Amino acid of Tea, and Its Metabolism, Health Effects, Safety. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2015
4. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: a double blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012
5. Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Neuropharmacology 2012

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menopause

How to Manage Your Menopause

How to Manage Your Menopause by Cleanmarine Nutritional Therapist Susie Perry Debice

When can a woman expect their menopause symptoms to start?

Most women will start to see early menopause symptoms from the age of 50, although an early menopause can start at 45 and a late menopause may start at 55-60 years old. The best way to gauge when you are likely to begin heading into the menopause is to ask your mother when she started her menopause as you are likely to start at a similar time.

How long does the menopause usually last?

A short menopause can last around 5 years whereas a long menopause may take up to 15 years, but on the whole most women are completely through the menopause after 10 years.

What causes the symptoms?

The signs and symptoms of the menopause become pronounced when your body naturally starts to shut down your fertility. During the fertile phase of your life you experience a monthly ebb and flow of the female hormones progesterone and oestrogen which stimulate ovulation and then either support a pregnancy or initiate a period. These hormones also have an impact on other areas of your health such as your skin quality, bone health, heart health, mood, energy and memory.

Women are born with a set number of immature eggs that are stored in the ovaries and a handful of these eggs are matured at each monthly cycle. Eventually, after years of the cycle running smoothly, the egg stores start to decline. This is when your body decides that it’s time to begin the menopause and start shutting down your monthly cycle. Over the next few years, levels of oestrogen and progesterone slowly start to drop, ovulation stops and periods also stop, but this process doesn’t happen overnight. You can go through years of irregular periods, hormone highs and lows along with accompanying symptoms until eventually your body reaches a baseline level of oestrogen production that is constant and doesn’t fluctuate across the month. When this baseline of oestrogen has settled in, periods have stopped and all symptoms have settled down, then you enter into the post-menopausal phase of life.

What dietary advice should women follow when experiencing menopausal symptoms?

The best dietary advice is to reduce their intake of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, cheese, and refined carbohydrates. Eat plenty of fresh, natural foods and keep your blood sugar balanced by eating small frequent meals and snacks. Start the day with an oat-based cereal with fresh berries and natural yoghurt, have a fresh salad with egg, fish or white meat for lunch and always have 3-4 vegetables with your evening meals and include wholegrains such as quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, red rice and lentils and pulses for added fibre and B-vitmains.

What supplements would you recommend and why?

There are so many supplement options that it can get confusing so I would choose a multi-nutrient formula, such as Cleanmarine MenoMin that offers plenty of hormone balancing support. Look for one that contains Krill Oil (to help reduce hot flushes and to support mood and hormone balance), soy isoflavones (to support hormone balance), B-vitamins – folate, biotin, B1, B2, B6 and B12 (for liver, mood and energy support) and vitamin D (for bone health).

About the Author

Susie Perry Debice – Nutritional Therapist of Cleanmarine

Susie has over 15 years of clinical experience working as a Nutritional Therapist helping women with a diverse range of female health conditions such as PMS, menopause, PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids and healthy dieting. In her book ‘Premenstrual Syndrome: The Essential Guide’ Susie shares her diet and lifestyle tips for restoring hormone balance.

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Superfood

The New Superfood Trends for 2017

The Hottest New Superfood Trends for 2017

A great way to make sure you stick to your healthy New Year’s Resolutions is to keep your diet fresh and interesting. Boost your culinary repertoire and stay in tip-top health with three of this year’s hottest new superfood trends.

Turmeric

The healing properties of turmeric are well known amongst medical herbalists, as this spice boasts more than 8,000 peer reviewed articles supporting its health benefits (1).

A powerful anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric has been found effective in relieving a range of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, and inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis (2-4). It reduces levels of unhealthy triglycerides in the bloodstream and helps to prevent blood platelets from sticking together, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes (5).

There is growing interest in adding turmeric to the diet in a variety of ways. The ‘golden latte’ – a healthy anti-inflammatory alternative to your usual coffee fix – is predicted to become popular as the year draws on. Simply heat 2 cups of water, 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a little grated ginger in a pan for 10 minutes. Strain and then add a little honey and 2 tablespoons of coconut milk for the perfect creamy latte.

For those who don’t fancy brewing turmeric tea, this spice can be taken in capsule form. For example, 400mg standardised extract daily, is effective in relieving general and arthritic pain (6), and just one tablet (around 100mg) of turmeric extract daily has been found to improve irritable bowel syndrome (7).

Medicinal Mushrooms

Those who were enjoying green tea in 2016 will soon be quenching their thirst with a mushroom coffee.  Joining functional foods such as acai and cacao, medicinal mushrooms are bursting onto the superfood scene.

Mushrooms are in fact one of the most widely studied superfoods in the world. In natural medicine, their ability to balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation is well known (8). One of the few food sources of vitamin D, mushrooms also contain beta-glucans, compounds that support the immune system by boosting levels of white blood cells. Some varieties of mushrooms even have adaptogenic properties, meaning that they can help the body cope with stress.

Four Sigmatic founder Tero Isokauppila claims that the two varieties to look out for are the Chaga mushroom which “can help to fight pathogens and lower inflammation,” and lion’s mane which is believed to have “brain and nervous system protecting properties.”

The mild, earthy flavour of mushrooms means that they make a delicious healthy pairing for strong flavours such as coffee or chocolate. Mushroom lattes, made with a milk of your choice, or mushroom hot chocolate made with cacao and a healthy sweetener, are good options for those wanting to enjoy the healing benefits of mushrooms.

Prebiotic Foods

Those of us who take probiotics for digestive wellness may be adding prebiotics to boost gut health in 2017. Prebiotic fibres act as fertiliser for healthy bacteria in the gut, and so eating prebiotic foods regularly is a great way to grow your own healthy bacteria. Interest in prebiotic foods and supplements is set to grow this year, and is has been suggested that they may soon become even more popular than probiotics (9).

As well as boosting digestive health, prebiotics offer a host of health benefits including improved bone density, improved digestion, lower levels of inflammation and lower anxiety levels (10).

The king of prebiotic foods is the Jerusalem artichoke. Those who want to boost their own healthy bacteria should also include chicory root, asparagus, carrots, jicama, leeks and onions in their diet. Inulin works well as a healthy sweetener with prebiotic benefits, and snacks such as bananas or crisps made with prebiotic-rich Jerusalem artichoke are an easy way to get a healthy dose of prebiotic fibre.

References
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=curcumin
2. Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2006.
3. Effect of curcumin on diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain: possible involvement of opiod system. Eur J Pharmacol. 2013
4. Therapeutic strategies for the management of ulcerative colitis. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2009
5. Protective effects of Curcuma longa on ischemia-reperfusion induced myocardial injuries and their mechanisms. Life Sci. 2004.
6. Comparative evaluation of the pain-relieving properties of a lecithinized formulation of curcumin, nimesulide, and acetaminophen. J Pain Res. 2013
7. Turmeric extract may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomology in otherwise healthy adults: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2004.
8. Recent progress of research on medicinal mushrooms, foods, and other herbal products used in traditional Chinese medicine. J Tradit Complement Med. 2012
9. Industry Arc Booming Digestive Health Market to Propel the Usage of Prebiotic Ingredients. Accessed 25/02/2017.

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Heart

A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart!

A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart!

Cardiovascular Disease is one of the biggest health issues in the Western World. Increasing numbers of people are suffering with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, atherosclerosis, heart problems and strokes – these conditions may often result in an early death.

To decrease your cardiovascular disease risk, it is crucial to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy and functioning optimally. There are many simple ways. For example, exercise is essential for optimal heart health, so it is a must for everyone! There are many foods that provide nutrients that play a vital role in heart health such as oily fish – high in omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Read on for easy and nutritious ways to keep your heart in top condition.

Exercise

We’ve all heard that it’s essential to exercise. Cardiovascular exercise increases our heart rate, blood flow, circulation, oxygen levels and more. Many of us spend hours at work or at home at a desk, then a sofa in the evening, so we’re often not moving enough. Exercise is the number one thing you can do to help your heart to be healthy. Ideally you should exercise for a minimum of 30-45 minutes per day, or at least 3 times a week. Walk rather than catching a bus, take the stairs rather than the lift, go for a brisk walk during your lunch break, take your child to the park and run around with them, go for a swim, do a yoga class. Bring exercise into your daily routine – your heart will love you for it!

Fish Oils

Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies are a rich source of Omega 3 EFAs. Fish oils contain EPA and DHA, which are essential for hormonal regulation and most importantly in the reduction of inflammation. Inflammation is a component of all cardiovascular disease. Omega 3 oils play a role in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Blood Sugar Levels

Raised blood sugar levels (BSLs) and diabetes are major health problems that are rapidly increasing. Too much sugar in the blood may damage the blood vessels and ultimately the heart, as well as exhausting the pancreas, which can lead to diabetes. Avoid sugar and many processed foods. Increase your intake of vegetables, fruit and whole foods. Protein in every meal will help to balance the meal and your blood sugar levels. Educate yourself about the Glycaemic Index of Foods and avoid high glycaemic foods, as much as you can.

Coenzyme Q10

An essential nutrient for the production of energy within ALL cells. The heart needs more Coenzyme Q10 to function properly. Those who are taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol are likely to become deficient in Coenzyme Q10, as statins block the production of Coenzyme Q10.

Magnesium

Magnesium plays an essential role in the production of energy within ALL cells, as well as the functioning of ALL muscles. The heart is the most important muscle in the body, and it needs magnesium to function properly. Increase your consumption of magnesium-rich foods such as greens, leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, eggs and molasses.

Garlic

Countless studies have shown the positive effects that the herb Garlic has on the heart and cardiovascular system. It may help reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, atherosclerosis, circulation and heart health.

Walnuts

Are a fabulous source of nutrients including good oils, protein and minerals, so why not enjoy a small handful per day?

Fibre

A healthy bowel is one that moves a minimum of once a day and it is vital for your health and for your heart. Fibre increases the bulk of the stool, whilst binding excess cholesterol and toxins for excretion. It also helps to feed the healthy live bacteria in our intestines and colon, which are vital to optimum digestion and our immune system.

Stress

The more stressed we are, the harder the heart has to work, as blood pressure increases. Stress is a killer, so we must try to manage our stress so that it doesn’t take over. Talk to those you trust and work through your worries – communication is important. Practice mindfulness, learning to be in the moment. Practice deep breathing often. Start to meditate for even 10 minutes a day to centre and ground yourself.

Happiness & Gratitude

Studies have shown that those who are optimistic and positive, and who feel gratitude on a regular basis, are less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke. Happiness comes from within; no one can give it to you. Start to have gratitude as often as you can and watch it grow, the result is increased happiness, which will make your heart happy.

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Prebiotics vs Probiotics – What’s the Difference?

What’s the Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics?

You might have heard of the terms ‘prebiotics’ and ‘probiotics’ being mentioned in association with digestive health on BBC television show “Trust Me I’m A Doctor”. But what’s the difference between them and which one is more important?

Our digestive tract contains high amounts of probiotics ‘beneficial bacteria’, which play a vital role in supporting the optimum function of our digestive system. They do this via many various mechanisms including supporting digestion and enhancing our gut immunity.

Prebiotics

The best way to look after our gut bacteria is by feeding it well and the best foods for it are known as ‘prebiotics’. Prebiotics (also known as dietary fibre) are the indigestible components of food that are able to reach the large intestine (where most of our gut bacteria resides) to feed our beneficial bacteria to promote its growth and function. We are recommended to consume 30g of fibre daily, however, due to the introduction of the western diet which is high in processed and refined foods and contains very little fibre, the current average intake of fibre in the UK is 18g/day.

The main food sources of prebiotics include vegetables and fruits such as artichokes, garlic, leeks and onions and fermented foods such as kefir. Prebiotics are also available in the form of food supplements such as ‘fructooligosaccharides’ (FOS) and inulin.

FOS and Inulin

Research indicates that FOS and inulin are some of the most beneficial types of prebiotics for feeding our gut bacteria. They belong to the same family of fructo-polysaccharides, and the primary difference between them is that inulin is a longer chain fructo-polysaccharide than FOS. Although they both have very similar effects in terms of promoting the size, diversity and physiological functions of our gut bacteria, some research indicates that FOS may exert a broader therapeutic benefit than inulin. Both of these can be naturally derived from chicory, they are naturally sweet and can be used as a healthy alternative to sugar when the powder is sprinkled over food such as porridge for example.

Probiotics

Common modern lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption, processed food intake and antibiotic use can impact negatively on the levels of our beneficial bacteria, hence the growing interest in the use of microbial preparations to supplement the diet known as ‘probiotics’. Therefore, although feeding our bacteria with prebiotics is important, it’s just as important to have the right balance of beneficial bacteria to be fed in the first place, which is why both probiotics and prebiotics are just as important as each other.

References
1. Slavin J. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417-1435.
2. Bornet et al. Nutritional aspects of short-chain fructooligosaccharides: natural occurrence, chemistry, physiology and health implications. Digest Liver Dis. 2002; 34 (2): S111-20.

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Sugar

Will Cutting Out Sugar Change Your Health?

Can you “detox” sugar?

Sugar is on the tip of everyone’s tongue with heated arguments around regulating sugar, health warnings and taxes. But the big question is – will cutting sugar out of your diet really change your health?

There’s no doubt that sugar is big business; today’s consumption of added-sugars is 478.8g for men and 344.4g per week for women, which works out as an average of 16 to 11.7 teaspoons per day respectively.

The World Health Organisation and Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in England advise:

  • Less than 9 teaspoons per day for men.
  • Less than 6 teaspoons per day for women.
  • Less than 3-6 teaspoons per day for children.

The sugar in our diets is almost exclusively from added-sugars hidden in foods, mostly sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g. soft drinks, milk drinks, energy drinks), and packaged and processed foods (especially cereals and baked goods). The prevalence of sugar in foods may be shocking, but food manufacturers use sugars with many different names, eg, corn syrup, maltodextrin, erythritol, brown rice syrup, agave nectar or syrup.

While a bit of honey in your tea may be harmless, regular consumption of foods laced with added sugars is a different matter. Large-scale studies of sugar-sweetened beverages have shown strong links to heart disease, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. In most cases the risks are similar in magnitude to smoking or not exercising.

Perhaps surprisingly, other diseases now strongly associated with sugar are gout, arthritis, autoimmune disease, fatty liver disease, depression and dementia.

Despite the popularity of sugar detox or reduction diets, only recently has light been shed on the health effects of quitting sugar. And it appears that detoxing sugar could indeed transform your health.

Sugar is now viewed as the new tobacco, with comparable health implications and controversy surrounding its regulation. The evidence clearly shows that too much is toxic, but many find it hard to quit. The problem is that modern, processed foods are sugar-coated, literally and figuratively. The taste buds become accustomed to the sweetness, and so a short, sharp sugar detox can be the most effective way to rehab from this sweet addiction.

Fortunately, there are natural supplements that can help rebalance blood sugars and make the ‘cold turkey’ period easier. Check out the new Viridian 7 Day Sugar Detox Kit, available at bodykind.

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Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions: Quitting Bad Habits

New Year’s Resolutions: Quitting Bad Habits

Around 7 million of us will make New Year’s resolutions this month, hoping to improve some aspect of our health. Giving up common vices, such as alcohol, caffeine and sugar can have tremendous health benefits. Unfortunately only 8% of us manage to keep our resolutions. Read on for tips on how to boost your chances of success for a healthy and happy 2017.

Caffeine

Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. The reason drinking anything caffeinated feels so good is because caffeine triggers the release of dopamine, our brain’s ‘reward’ hormone.

In moderation, coffee actually has some health benefits, including some protective effects for the liver. However, if you’re relying on caffeine to give you an energy blast or a mood boost, or if you’re having any sleep problems, then it’s time to reduce your caffeine intake.

The problem with quitting caffeine ‘cold turkey’ is because the effects of caffeine withdrawal can be miserable. Headaches, mood changes and tiredness are common. Other symptoms such as constipation can arise in the absence of caffeine’s stimulating effects on the bowel.

Quick Quit Tips

Don’t go cold turkey. Instead try to reduce slowly over the course of a week. For example, replace one of your regular coffees with a decaf, and then switch another high-caffeine drink to a cup of black tea.

Find another way to boost your dopamine levels. Exercise boosts feel-good dopamine and serotonin. Exercise doesn’t need to be gruelling – a simple brisk walk is sufficient. Supplements such as tyrosine, theanine and rhodiola can also support dopamine levels (1,2).

Guard your energy reserves by balancing your blood sugar levels. Follow a low GI diet with snacks such as fruit and nuts rather than your usual coffee fix. Consider taking supplements designed to support blood sugar and energy levels containing chromium, magnesium and B vitamins.

Alcohol

Binge-drinking over the Christmas period is common, and the effects include unwanted weight gain, poor quality sleep and low mood. For women, more than 6 units of alcohol is defined as binge drinking. Pub serving sizes can be large – a 250ml glass of wine contains almost four units, and so it is easy to overindulge (3).

Giving up alcohol is a popular way to ‘detox’ and to lose weight after the Christmas period. The health benefits of giving up alcohol, even just for a month, are considerable. A recent study found that committing to a ‘dry January’ resulted in a 15% decrease in fatty liver, a 5% decrease in cholesterol and a 16% decrease in blood glucose levels. Those who managed a full month without drinking also tended to drink less often and have fewer drinks in one sitting six months later (4).

Quick Quit Tips

Try changing your environment to avoid temptation. Rather than visiting your local pub, have a film night, book some theatre tickets or meet in a cafe.

Try out some non-alcoholic tipples. Refreshing, low sugar options include pink grapefruit juice, sparkling water, slimline tonic, fresh mint and lemon. Herbal teas and fruit teas can also work well – simply brew the tea and then keep it chilled in the fridge.

Enhance the positive impact of abstinence on your liver, with some liver-supportive nutrients. Silymarin (milk thistle), a herb with strong antioxidant properties, is commonly used as a natural liver-supportive supplement. N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), another powerful antioxidant, has been found to improve liver function in those with fatty liver disease (5).

Sugar

In the UK we eat the equivalent of 26 teaspoons of sugar each day, contributing to widespread obesity, as well as digestive and blood sugar problems. Like alcohol, certain types of sugar have also been found to put pressure on the liver. High fructose corn syrup, found in all kinds of processed foods, has been found to cause damage to the liver over time.

Giving up sugar can feel like quite a task, especially as sugar is added to many processed foods from breakfast cereals to pasta sauces. Those who have relied on sugary snacks for regular energy boosts throughout the day can experience strong cravings and might struggle without a careful strategy to reduce their intake. It is worth persevering however, as the benefits of giving up added sugars are huge. As well as weight loss and improved energy levels, a reduced sugar intake is linked with lower rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Quick Quit Tips

Those with a sweet tooth can still include sweet foods in their whole food form. Snack on naturally sweet bananas, grapes and pineapple. These whole foods are naturally high in antioxidants, fibre and prebiotics, supporting the liver and digestive system. Simply pair with a protein such as nuts or natural yoghurt to control the effect on your blood sugar level.

Include protein with your breakfast and switch to a low GI diet to help control sugar cravings. Eggs, fish, yoghurt or a protein shake with fruit make excellent breakfast foods, while nuts, seeds and oatcakes are handy for snacks.

Natural sweeteners such as xylitol and stevia can be added to sweeten foods for a lesser impact on blood sugar. Sweetening with a little chopped fruit, and using seasoning such as cinnamon or nutmeg are other good options.

Supplements designed to support healthy blood sugar regulation should contain nutrients such as chromium, magnesium, and B vitamins. Cinnamon is also known to help maintain normal blood glucose levels. Try adding a spoonful to your porridge in the morning. If you don’t like the taste, then cinnamon can be taken in supplement form.

Sticking to your New Year’s resolutions may seem tough at times, but the benefits could be huge. Let us know how you’re getting on with your New Year’s resolutions on Twitter or Facebook.

References
1. Phytother Res. 2007. Jan 21(1):37-43
2. Neuropharmacology 2012 Jun. 62(7):2320-7
3. Unit and Calorie Calculator. https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/understand-your-drinking/unit-calculator?gclid=CPTr-IOvo9ECFUqdGwodf-sAIA.
4. de Visser et al (2016) Voluntary abstinence from alcohol during ‘Dry January’ and subsequent alcohol use. Health Psychology. 35(3) 281-289
5. Khoshbaten et al (2010) N-acetlycystein improves liver function in patients withnon-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Hepat Mon 10(1):12-16
6. Kavanagh K, Wylie T, Tucker K, et al. Dietary fructose induces endotoxemia and hepatic injury in calorically controlled primates. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013.

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