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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cold

Natural Treatments for the Common Cold

Cold and flu season is upon us, meaning that 1 in 5 of us are currently suffering with the telltale coughs, sore throats and congestion. Those who feel run down with these symptoms more than a couple of times each year would do well to boost their body’s defences and take natural measures to ease symptoms.

Read on for the top three ways to support your immune system and stay fighting fit this winter.

The Perils of the Party Season

Colds spread quickly in winter, as we tend to congregate indoors in large groups. This means that we need to take special care to protect ourselves against infection.

Two well-known ‘anti-nutrients’, which deplete our immune defences, are found everywhere during the party season – sugar and alcohol. Both sugar and alcohol deplete levels of immune boosting nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, vitamin C and selenium. Eating or drinking 8 tbsp of sugar, the equivalent of a couple of mince pies and a hot chocolate drink, can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by forty percent. Alcohol also suppresses the ability of white blood cells to multiply, meaning that infection can take hold more easily.

Avoiding sugar and alcohol completely can be hard during the party season, but a couple of simple measures will help protect your immune system. Try eating a high protein snack before a party, to reduce sugar cravings later on. Keep alcohol intake to no more than two drinks each day.

Prevention is Better than Cure

The immune system is dependent upon a whole host of nutrients to keep it functioning optimally. However, there is one particularly critical nutrient which tends to be lacking in winter months. Vitamin D levels begin to fall in October as the days get darker. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that daily vitamin D supplementation should reduce the risk of colds and flu, especially in the winter months (1).

It is difficult to obtain adequate vitamin D from food sources, meaning that supplementation is normally recommended. Public Health England recently advised that during the autumn and winter, all children and adults should be taking supplements with ten micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D daily.

Fighting the Virus

If a cold has already taken hold, there are some effective ways to lessen its duration and reduce the severity of symptoms.

Recent studies have found that probiotic bacteria have immune boosting benefits. They have natural antibiotic properties, and they help to boost the activity of white blood cells which fight off the cold virus. Taking a probiotic supplement has been shown to reduce the duration of the common cold by two days. Probiotics also appear to reduce the severity of symptoms and the incidence of fever. They are also considered safe and beneficial for children. Children taking probiotics are also less likely to suffer with fever, coughing and congestion, and have fewer days off school due to illness. The types of probiotic found to be most helpful are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium (2,3).

Other studies have found zinc to be useful in fighting cold symptoms, with zinc lozenges proving particularly useful in reducing cold symptoms and the duration of illness (4). During an infection, zinc is used by the body to activate lymphocytes, to attack and kill the cold virus. Zinc deficiency impairs cell-mediated immunity, meaning that viruses can take hold and multiply more easily.

While there is no cure for the common cold, there are certainly ways to boost your natural defences, and to quicken your road to recovery. Keeping your immune system fighting fit can help to ensure that you enjoy a happy and healthy festive break.

References
1. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ 2017;356:i6583
2. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics 2009;2008-2666
3. Probiotics for prevention and treatment of respiratory tract infections in children. Med 2016 95(31):e4509
4. Zinc gluconate lozenges for treating the common cold. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Ann Intern Med 1996;125(2):81-88

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omega 3

Omega 3 Benefits with Wild Nutrition

Wild Nutrition’s Top 3 Benefits of Omega 3

Good levels of omega 3 essential fatty acids in the form of EPA and DHA are required for our brain, eyes, immune system, heart, skin, cognition and nervous system. Omega 3 forms part of the cell structure which explains why it’s so integral to so many systems in the body. We can get these fats from the foods we eat and from sourcing the best quality supplements.

Here are Wild Nutrition’s top 3 benefits of omega 3:

1. Keeps omega 3:6 in balance

In the western diet we often get more omega 6 than omega 3, which can disrupt our omega 3:6 ratio. This means our need for it goes up as it’s important to keep these two essential fats in balance to help prevent inflammation. Eating wild caught oily fish can be helpful or alternatively you can supplement with a fish oil to keep your omega 3 within a healthy range.

2. There is no need for conversion

Many people consume flax, chia and hemp and assume they are getting enough omega 3. However, these plant based foods contain the precursor to omega 3 called alpha linolenic acid (ALA). The body has to convert ALA to omega 3 but unfortunately the conversion rate can be quite low in humans. This conversion is also reliant on iron and zinc so these nutrients must not be deficient. Taking a high quality fish oil that contains omega 3 which has already been converted in the body of the fish, means it is therefore readily available for the human body to use.

3. Prepares the body to conceive

Omega 3 is very important if you are preparing to or trying to conceive for both the man and the woman. It plays a central role in sperm formation, having a positive effect on fertility. The foetus, young infant and growing child need omega 3 just like their parents as EFAs (essential fatty acids) are very important for brain development. The human brain is around 60% fat with DHA found predominantly in the grey matter, which includes areas of the brain responsible for sensory perception and intelligence.

Wild Nutrition have recently launched a new easy-to-swallow Pure Strength Omega 3 with small capsules, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified Alaskan Pollock and a ratio of EPA to DHA that is naturally found in these fish.

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stress

International Stress Awareness Day – Relieving Stress Naturally

Natural Stress Relief

November 1st is International Stress Awareness Day, a campaign aimed at highlighting the importance of stress management and ending the stigma associated with mental health.

Stress is one of the most common illnesses in the UK, costing the country an estimated £10 billion each year. The first signs of stress are usually sleep difficulties, low energy, tense muscles and digestive problems. Long term stress has been linked to a wide range of serious diseases including heart disease, obesity, depression and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Modern lifestyles often mean that stress is unavoidable. Tight work deadlines, juggling work life and family life and financial pressures all increase stress levels. While many of these pressures are unavoidable, it is important to be able to manage our response to stress effectively.

Taking early steps to support your physical and mental wellbeing can prevent stress from becoming a more serious and long term problem. Below are three of the most effective ways to beat stress naturally.

Balance Your Blood Sugar

Stress can cause blood sugar swings because stress hormones create signals to raise blood sugar. This can result in a vicious cycle, leading to poorly controlled blood sugar peaks and dips, sugar cravings, poor energy levels and sleep difficulties.

For this reason, eating in a way that helps manage your blood sugar levels is crucial. Eating a protein-rich breakfast and reducing sugar and caffeine will help to eliminate extreme blood sugar fluctuations.

Also try to base your main meals around blood sugar stabilising whole foods that are rich in soluble fibre, protein and essential fatty acids. These include foods such as oats and barley, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, vegetables, berries, natural yoghurt and oily fish.

Work Out to Wind Down

It is well known that exercise reduces stress. Studies show that those who exercise suffer from less depression and anxiety (1,2). For those too tired to exercise, it may be worth considering that exercise is also known to reduce levels of fatigue (3,4).

Exercise boosts the levels of certain brain chemicals such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which help to buffer the effects of stress. Exercise also increases the levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter with a potent calming effect on the mind and body. For a lower intensity workout, yoga has been found to be particularly effective in raising levels of stress-relieving GABA (5).

The mood-boosting effects of exercise are both immediate and long-term. Just one exercise session triggers the release of mood-boosting chemicals, while it is thought that in the long term the brain can actually be remodelled with a greater proportion of ‘calming’ neurons to defend against stress (6).

Stress Relieving Supplements

The adrenals, which sit on top of the kidneys, are the chief organs for dealing with stress, producing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Ongoing stress can make it hard for the adrenals to function properly, leading to unhealthy levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. The result is symptoms such as sleep disruption, weight gain, anxiety disorders and fatigue. One way to protect against the effects of stress is to support the adrenal glands.

The health of the adrenals relies on two key vitamins for healthy function – vitamin C and vitamin B5. The adrenals need these vitamins to manufacture hormones. Studies have found that vitamin C and B5 supplementation lowers excessive cortisol levels and helps adults to feel less ‘stressed’ (7,8).

Another adrenal supportive nutrient is the mineral magnesium. Sometimes referred to as the ‘anti-stress mineral’, magnesium supports our adrenals and also improves quality of sleep. It increases GABA, a ‘calming’ brain chemical, and lowers levels of cortisol (9).

Medical herbalists often use adaptogens to help relieve stress. Adaptogens are believed to help the adrenal system regulate hormones and manage stress. For example, the adaptogen ashwagandha has been found to significantly lower cortisol levels in stressed individuals when taken over a period of 60 days (10). Other popular adaptogens include Siberian ginseng, rhodiola and maca.

References
1. Rethorst CD et al (2009) The antidepressive effects of exercise: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. Sports Med. 39(6):491-511.
2. Wipfli BM (2008) The anxiolytic effects of exercise: a meta-analysis of randomized trials and dose-response analysis. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 30(4):392-410.
3. Resnick et al (2006) Cross-sectional relationship of reported fatigue to obesity, diet, and physical activity: results from the third national health and nutrition examination survey. J Clin Sleep Med. 2(2):163-9.
4. Theorell-Haglöw J et al (2006) What are the important risk factors for daytime sleepiness and fatigue in women? Sleep.29(6):751-7.
5. Streeter CC et al (2010) Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study. J Altern Complement Med. 16(11): 1145–1152.
6. Schoenfeld et al . (2013) Physical exercise prevents stress-induced activation of granule neurons and enhances local inhibitory mechanisms in the dentate gyrus. J Neurosci 33(18):7770-7
7. Brody S et al (2002) A randomized controlled trial of high dose ascorbic acid for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective responses to psychological stress. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 159(3):319-24.
8. Onuki M, Suzawa A. (2016) Effect of pantethine on the function of the adrenal cortex. 2. Clinical experience using pantethine in cases under steroid hormone treatment. 18:937-940. [Article in Japanese]
9. Möykkynen T et al Neuroreport. 2001 Magnesium potentiation of the function of native and recombinant GABA(A) receptors. 12(10):2175-9.
10. K. Chandrasekhar et al (2012) A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 34(3): 255–262.

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Vitamin

Fighting Your Vitamin D-Mons with BetterYou

Fight Your Vitamin D-Mons

With winter well on the way, the coughs, headaches and constant tiredness you take for granted may be a symptom of something more serious than just sunlight withdrawal.

So BetterYou, the vitamin oral spray experts, are on hand to explain the importance of vitamin D.

Why is vitamin D so important?

Vitamin D is vital for the development of healthy bones, boosting immunity and helping to fight off colds and flu. Having adequate levels of vitamin D has also been linked to helping prevent cardiovascular diseases, IBS and other auto-immune diseases.

How do I get vitamin D?

We make vitamin D from sunlight, but sadly even during the summer months we miss out on the vital vitamin as we layer on the SPF or head for the shade. So, along with our increasingly indoor lifestyles, by the time it gets to winter we have no chance of maintaining our levels from the sun alone.

Another way of getting vitamin D is through our diet, but unless you plan on eating at least seven eggs or twelve packets of cheese everyday, it is extremely difficult to get the recommended daily allowance, even with a healthy diet.

The easiest way to get the right amount of vitamin D is therefore to use a supplement.

Are you at risk?

The Government now recommends that everyone should take a vitamin D supplement throughout the autumn and winter months, with ‘at risk’ groups being advised to supplement all year round, which include:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Infants and children
  • People over the age of 65
  • People with darker skin
  • Those who have low or no sun exposure

What are the signs?

It’s not surprising that around one in five adults and around one in six children (that’s more than 10 million of us!) have low vitamin D levels. So how do you know if you are lacking in the sunshine vitamin?

Tiredness & fatigue, bone & teeth problems, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), coughs & colds, and low mood are all symptoms of vitamin D deficiency that are often overlooked.

If you suffer from any of these on a regular basis it could mean you are lacking in vitamin D and now is the time to start fighting off those D-mons!

Sunshine in a spray

Many of us don’t like taking pills – we can find them difficult to swallow and are restricted to when we can take them.

But now, supplementing the sunshine vitamin has never been so simple. BetterYou has created a range of vitamin D oral sprays suitable for the whole family which deliver the nutrient directly into the bloodstream, via the soft tissue of our inner cheeks, which trials have shown is 2.5 times more effective than taking vitamin capsules.

Taking a spray rather than tablets or capsules also means that the vitamin is not lost through the processes of the digestive system, and is easy to use on the go with no need for food or water.

Take a look at how an oral spray can help boost your levels.

Fight your vitamin D-mons with the award-winning DLux Vitamin D Oral Spray range by BetterYou and get 20% with bodykind this Vitamin D Awareness Week.

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cleaning

Green Cleaning – What does it mean?

What is Green Cleaning?

More and more people are looking at alternative lifestyle choices to minimise their impact on the environment and cleaning is no exception. With terms like “green”, “natural” and “eco” popping up on packaging all over the place the key question is – what actually makes a cleaning product green?

There are no quick and easy answers to this question, but one of the key things to look out for is product ingredients. There are some ingredients that are commonly used in detergents and household products that have a huge impact on the environment. Here are a few to be aware of.

The ingredients Bio D leave out – what to avoid

Phosphates

Used as water softeners and to improve cleaning, they can stimulate excessive growth of algae in the receiving waters. These algae often grow in such great numbers that the water becomes starved of oxygen, killing fish and plant life.

EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid)

This is sometimes used as a substitute for, but also in addition to, phosphates. It is a sequestering agent that attracts heavy metals such as lead and mercury, both of which have known carcinogenic properties. These heavy metals can eventually find their way back into water supplies and are extremely difficult to remove completely.

Optical brighteners

Used in laundry products to give an illusion of ‘whiteness’, they attach themselves to fabric to reflect ‘white light’. Clothes only appear cleaner. Optical brighteners are extremely difficult to biodegrade and can cause severe skin irritation. They can also cause mutations to microorganisms in receiving waters.

Chlorine bleaches

These are contained in conventional toilet cleaners, sanitisers, nappy powders, washing powders and dishwasher detergents. During the breakdown of these types of bleach, carcinogenic toxic substances are formed, similar to the banned pesticide DDT.

Petroleum-derived additives

Most conventional household cleaners contain petroleum-derived additives and detergents. They often break down incompletely and contain toxic impurities that are highly irritant, cause allergic reactions and can endanger plant and animal life.

In addition to those listed above, the following ingredients are contained in the majority of conventional brands of toiletries and cosmetics. Bio-D never use them:

  • Enzymes
  • Lanolin
  • Thiozoles (MI, MIT, MCI and BIT)
  • Urea
  • Tallow
  • Triclosan
  • GMO/SMO
  • Phthalates
  • Synthetic fragrances
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Sodium tallowate
  • Chemical plasticisers
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skin

3 top tips for glowing skin and beating the bloat

Making waves on the beach – 3 top tips for glowing skin and beating the bloat

Summer is all about feeling good, looking good and hopefully, enjoying a well-earned break. Most of us know the general advice on how to get in shape for the beach, we just need to find the willpower to do it.

However, sometimes no matter how much effort you put in, many of us still feel far from glowing and confident in our bikinis or beach shorts. So, what last minute tips can you employ that might actually make a difference?

3 top tips for glowing skin

  • There’s truth in the saying that great skin starts from within. Boosting intake of essential fats, particularly the omega-3 fats that are often deficient in our diets, can improve skin lustre and reduce inflammation. Try increasing consumption of oily fish such as mackerel or salmon to three portions a week and add a daily snack of a tablespoon of raw unsalted nuts and seeds. These protein rich foods also increase satiation, helping to curb cravings for sugary snacks. If you are not a fish fan, or if you are vegan or vegetarian, try drizzling Udo’s Choice, a plant based omega blend on salads or in smoothies.
  • Hydration really helps improve the skin but remember to sip water throughout the day rather than all in one go.  If you find water too boring, experiment with infusing a jug of water with seasonal fruits and garden herbs such as watermelon and mint. Cucumber water is also deliciously refreshing.
  • You’re not likely to be heading to the Himalayas on holiday but try to make use of some fine grade Himalayan salt crystals in a DIY body scrub to get the skin glowing. Known for their detoxifying properties, these pretty pink crystals have been around for millions of years and contain an impressive 84 minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium.

3 top tips for beating the bloat

Bloating can falsely change your shape and size, and can make even confident people feel body shy. Depending on the health of your digestion you may also be prone to gaining weight or suffer with food intolerance’s. A dodgy gut can also be the root cause of lethargy, headaches and skin problems.

  • Increase natural, digestion-friendly fibre such as that found in fruit and vegetables. Not only will it improve transit time, but fibrous food also bind to excess oestrogen in the digestive tract, carrying it out of the body. Good sources include brown rice, carrots, cucumbers and celery. However, contrary to good long term advice, don’t overdo plant proteins like beans, pulses or binge on broccoli in the run up to your travels if they are not already in your diet. All can create excessive gas!
  • If you’ve already joined the gut-health trend then you will be familiar with probiotic rich natural foods such as natural yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut. These foods are an ideal way of increasing beneficial bacteria in the gut that help sort tummy issues at source and even help with natural immunity. If you are new to these foods, introduce small amounts daily.
  • How you eat is important too. Mindful is a word that’s becoming ubiquitous for just about anything related to wellbeing but it is fits perfectly when it comes to eating well. Chew slowly and don’t eat when stressed, simple rules that help ease the bloat. And, when a busy day is coming to an end, soak in a magnesium rich Epsom salts to relax muscle stiffness and help promote a restful beauty sleep.
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Turmeric

Can Fermentation Unlock Turmeric’s Health Potential?

Fermentation: The Key to Unlocking Turmeric’s Health Potential?

Turmeric seems to be the current king, and though it’s pronunciation may be up for debate (is it tur-merick, or too-merick?!), it’s potential health benefits certainly aren’t. Though it may be the star of the health and wellbeing movement, currently featuring in everything from turmeric lattes to skincare products, it has been around for a long time and has a history of traditional use as a spice and medicinal herb.

Turmeric is a product of curcuma longa, belonging to the ginger family (1). It has been used for thousands of years across Asia, featuring strongly in traditional medicine, with various cultures globally prising it for its support of inflammatory disorders (1). It is considered to be a potent anti-inflammatory, and with many modern-day diseases linked to chronic inflammation like cardiovascular disease (2), its benefits cannot be understated. Turmeric also has antioxidant properties (1), helping and supporting the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and supporting the body’s own production of anti-oxidant enzymes.

Turmeric is made up of many components, though many supplements are focusing on extracting one of the parts which shows benefits, this is curcumin. The problem with this approach is that by isolating compounds within foods we tend to lose out on the synergistic health effects of the whole plant. More than 100 components in total have been isolated from turmeric, and curcumin is just one part of a greater whole, including the other curcuminoids and volatile oils which have been found to have supporting health benefits(1).

Curcumin is not particularly well-absorbed due to rapid metabolism by the body, and low aqueous solubility (3;4). One solution to this is to use a fermented form of turmeric. Fermentation, like turmeric, has been around for thousands of years, and used traditionally by many cultures to aid nutrition. Fermented foods rich in enzymes, beneficial microorganisms and other nutrients would have been a staple of many cultures traditional diets. However, fermentation has made a big comeback, and it’s becoming easier to buy good quality fermented foods like kefir or sauerkraut. Fermenting herbs and foods is a good way to help to increase their bioavailability and enhance the nutrients and functional properties due to transformation of substrates and formation of highly bioavailable end-products (5). Nothing is extracted or taken away, and you are supporting the nutrients contained within the plants and naturally activating them.

Living Nutrition’s Turmeric Alive uses a kefir-kombucha style fermentation, using 35 microorganisms to deeply ferment the turmeric and create a living matrix rich in enzymes, nutrients and beneficial microorganism. It has a whole profile of curcuminoids, along with other active compounds and phytonutrients that turmeric is naturally rich in. Fermented turmeric is highly bioavailable as it has increased water solubility, and contains a higher level of antioxidants and potent active components like tetrahydro-curcumin which in can be more efficient than its curcumin analogue (3;6;7). The fermented turmeric is combined with non-fermented turmeric which also is considered to support immune systems, alongside ginger as they have a wide range of active nutrients. It is organically certified by the soil association, Vegan friendly, and contains no fillers, binders or excipients.

References
1. Prasad, S. and Aggarwal, BB. 2011. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd Ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/
2. Wang, Z. and Nakayama, T. 2010. Inflammation, a link between obesity and cardiovascular disease. Mediators of Inflammation, Volume 2010: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2010/535918/
3. Epstein, J., Sanderson, IR., MacDonald, TT. 2010. ‘Curcumin as a therapeutic agent: the evidence from in vitro, animal and human studies.’ British Journal of Nutrition, 103 (11), 1545-1557. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/curcumin-as-a-therapeutic-agent-the-evidence-from-in-vitro-animal-and-human-studies/225164D1A70D11C765C147A5CD022200/core-reader
4. Shoba, G. Joy, D. and Joseph, T. et al. 1998. ‘Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers.’ Planta Medica, 64(4), 353-356. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9619120
5. Marco, ML., Heeney, D., Binda, S. et al. 2016. ‘Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond.’ Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 44, 94-102. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095816691630266X
6. Portes, E., Gardrat, C. and Castellan, A. 2007. ‘A comparative study on the antioxidant properties of tetrahydrocurcuminoids and curcuminoids. Tetrahedron, 63, 9092-9099: http://castellan-publicatio.monsite-orange.fr/file/e74b48a4ec9894d6718b424e7583c857.pdf
7. Pianpumepong, P., Kumar Anal, A., Doungchawee, G. et al. 2012. ‘Study on enhanced absorption of lactobacillus-fermented turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.) beverages in rats.’ International Journal of Food Science and Technology, 47(11), 2380-2387: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2621.2012.03113.x/abstract

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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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