‘Buy an adaptor, find my swimsuit, pick up the dry cleaning, pack the phone chargers!’. When you’re rushing around last minute preparing for a holiday, your health is often the last thing on your mind. However when you put your body in an unfamiliar environment, often with little sleep along the way, it’s important to look after your health. What’s more, your holiday should be a time to explore, relax, and let go. You certainly don’t want an upset stomach or heavy case of jetlag ruining your fun time so we’ve prepared 5 simple steps to enjoy your holiday, the healthy way.
1. Beat the jet lag
The real pros will try to adjust their sleep schedules 2–3 days before leaving on holiday. If you know that you’re going to be sleeping and waking up later once you reach a different time zone, try to work your way into that time zone before you even leave home. Even if all you can manage is half an hour or an hour of difference, it should help to make life easier (and your holiday more relaxing!) when you’re trying to adjust to a new time schedule abroad.
2. Pack healthy snacks
Spend time preparing healthy snacks for you and your family before you leave for the airport. It will be much better for your body, and likely better for your bank balance, than picking up sugary or carb-loaded snacks at the airport. Cut up some apples, carrots, or try things like sugar snap peas – they’re good raw too and with an extra crunch which should go down well with the kids.
3. Wear sun cream
Even if there is cloud cover, the sun can burn. Choose a sun cream with at least SPF 15, or at least SPF 30 if you’re off to a hot and sunny destination. Do not forget to top up on your cream throughout the day , this is where a lot of people slip up – it’s not enough to put cream on once in the morning then forget about it! Make sure you have a good sized day bag to carry all your essentials including your sun cream, snacks and water.
4. Water, water, everywhere!
OptiBac Probiotics for travelling abroad helps support a traveller’s digestive health
Do not forget to hydrate. Carry a bottle of water around with you. A lot of us forget to hydrate properly when we’re not in our usual place (e.g. at our desk at work) and hydration is all the more important when you’re enjoying a warm, sunny holiday. Water will flush the pathogens out of your body, and help to prevent any stomach upsets.
5. Look after your gut health
When visiting a new country, the body, and in particular your digestive system, have a tough time adjusting to a new environment and to new foods. Up to 50% of travellers are said to experience traveller’s diarrhoea because the ingestion of foreign microbes can upset the stomach (not much fun when you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself!).
Look after your digestive health whilst abroad by taking a probiotic especially made for travel. OptiBac Probiotics ‘For travelling abroad’ supports your body’s natural defence against bad bacteria whilst travelling. Get 60 capsules for £19.99 (usually £30.57) – perfect for those travelling as a family, or going away for a significant length of time.
Written by OptiBac Probiotics.
A new study published just last month in the journal Hypertension suggests that drinking just one glass of beetroot a day can reduce blood pressure.
The study was conducted by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. It involved eight women and seven men who had high blood pressure and who were not taking blood pressure medication.
Blood pressure is normally given as two numbers, which represent ‘systolic’ and ‘diastolic’ pressure levels. The first number, the systolic level, is a measure of the pressure created in the arteries when the heart beats. Normal systolic blood pressure is 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or below. The second number, the diastolic level, represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. Normal diastolic blood pressure is 80 mm Hg or below.
The study participants all had raised systolic blood pressure of between 140 and 159 mm Hg.
The beetroot juice in the study provided about 0.2g of dietary nitrate, levels that might be provided by two beetroots. Nitrate reduces blood pressure by widening the passageways for blood. The body converts dietary nitrate into a chemical called nitrite and then to nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide is a gas that widens blood vessels and aids blood flow.
The study involved eight women and seven men who had a systolic blood pressure between 140 to 159 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), did not have other medical complications and were not taking blood pressure medication. The study participants drank 250 mL of beetroot juice or water containing a low amount of nitrate, and had their blood pressure monitored over the next 24 hours.
Compared with the placebo group, participants drinking beetroot juice had reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The reduction was highest three to six hours after drinking the juice. Interestingly, blood pressure was still reduced 24 hours later, even after levels of nitrate circulating in the blood had returned to normal.
Study leader Amrita Ahluwalia, Ph.D., professor of vascular pharmacology at The Barts and The London Medical School, was surprised by how little nitrate was needed to produce these results. “This study shows that compared to individuals with healthy blood pressure much less nitrate is needed to produce the kinds of decreases in blood pressure that might provide clinical benefits in people who need to lower their blood pressure.”
High Nitrate lettuce is a good source of nitrate
Those drinking beetroot juice should be aware that this juice can cause a temporary pink colouration of urine and stools, which can be a little alarming but is completely harmless. Of course beetroot is not the only nitrate-rich vegetable. For those who don’t enjoy the taste, try nitrate-rich lettuce, rocket, spinach, celery, cabbage or fennel.
Increasing dietary intakes of nitrates is simple. Try adding beetroot juice to a smoothie, or lunch on beetroot soup. Use spinach and lettuce as salad bases, or snack on celery with hummus or peanut butter during the daytime. At dinner, include nitrate-rich vegetables such as bok choy, cabbage, leeks and broccoli.
“Our hope is that increasing one’s intake of vegetables with a high dietary nitrate content, such as green leafy vegetables or beetroot, might be a lifestyle approach that one could easily employ to improve cardiovascular health,” said Amrita Ahluwalia. She nevertheless advises caution in interpreting the results of this small study, as “we are still uncertain as to whether this effect is maintained in the long term.” It is hoped these preliminary findings might pave the way for more larger-scale studies in this area.
Written By Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.
1. American Heart Association (2013, April 15). Drinking cup of beetroot juice daily may help lower blood pressure. ScienceDaily. Retrieved 28/04/13
May is M.E. Awareness Month, aimed at promoting a greater understanding of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for patients, their families and healthcare practitioners. Part 1 looked at the most common symptoms of ME, along with common myths and misconceptions about this poorly understood disease. Part 2 presents five simple dietary guidelines for chronic fatigue suffers along with five supplements believed to help manage symptoms and improve their health and well-being.
In ‘Beating Chronic Fatigue’ Dr Kristina Downing Orr writes that many chronic fatigue sufferers have a dysregulation of blood-sugar levels (1). It is certainly true that poor blood sugar control can create symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, dizziness and emotional disturbances. It makes sense that managing blood sugar levels through smart dietary choices may be helpful. The following five guidelines should improve energy levels by regulating blood sugar throughout the day.
Eggs are a high source of lean protein and can easily be fitted into the diet
1. Include lean protein at every meal – chicken, game, fish, organic red meat, eggs, tofu, yoghurt, fresh nuts and seeds are good options.
2. Cut out alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee or cola.
3. Eliminate hidden sugars lurking in pre-packaged foods. Look out for ingredients such as dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, lactose, polydextrose, mannitol, sorbitol and maltodextin.
4. Eliminate refined grains that release sugar into the bloodstream quickly. These include corn flour, white rice, and white flour.
5. Aim for a balance of one third protein to two thirds ‘smart’ carbs at every meal. This means roughly a handful of protein to two handfuls of veggies.
Nutritional supplements are often used by those with CFS as they may help correct deficiencies, support the immune system and the liver, and support processes such as cellular energy-production. Here we look at five supplements commonly recommended by nutritional practitioners.
Some small studies have suggested a link between B12 supplementation and relief of symptoms, possibly because B12 improves the delivery of oxygen to the body’s organs. Vitamin B12 injections have been found to result in increased wellbeing in CFS patients when compared to placebo injections (2).
A recent pilot study of 41 CFS patients found that D-ribose improved symptoms such as energy, sleep, mental clarity, pain intensity and well-being (3). In energy-depleted states, ribose levels tend to be low. Ribose increases cellular energy by raising levels of ATP (the body’s ‘fuel’) because ribose is a key component in these ‘energy molecules’. D-Ribose supplementation appears to be well tolerated. While the initial findings are promising, more research is needed in this area.
NADH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is simply a reduced form of vitamin B3, and it is essential in maintaining sufficient levels of the fuel ATP. One good quality crossover RCT showed statistically significant effects of NADH (10 mg daily) on symptom scores when compared with placebo after 1 month of treatment (4).
The onset of CFS is linked to stress, and stress in turn is known to deplete levels of magnesium (5). Many CFS specialists believe that CFS patients have low intracellular magnesium levels, even when blood levels of magnesium appear to be normal. A randomised, double-blind controlled trial found that treatment with magnesium sulphate injections improved energy levels, emotional state, and pain scores in CFS patients (6).
Essential Fatty Acids
Researchers have suggested that patients with chronic fatigue have problems metabolising essential fatty acids, leading to problems with the immune system, nervous system and endocrine system. It may be that supplementation with fatty acids such as EPA and GLA improves symptoms by bypassing these ‘metabolic blocks’. Two randomised controlled trials have indeed found that essential fatty acid supplementation to be of benefit in CFS (7,8).
Written By Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.
1. Beating Chronic Fatigue: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Complete Recovery. Dr Kristina Downing-Orr. London: Piatkus. 2010.
2. Ellis FR, Nasser S. A pilot study of vitamin B12 in the treatment of tiredness. Br J Nutr 1973;30:277-283.
3. Teitelbaum JE, Johnson C, St Cyr J (2006) The use of D-ribose in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia: a pilot study. Nov;12(9):857-62. J Altern Complement Med.
4. Forsyth LM, Preuss HG, MacDowell AL, Chiazze L Jr, Birkmayer GD, Bellanti JA. (1999) Therapeutic effects of oral NADH on the symptoms of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 82(2):185–191.
5. Werbach M (2000) Nutritional Strategies for Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Altern Med Rev 5(2):93-108.
6. Cox IM, Campbell MJ, Dowson D. (1991) Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome.Lancet. 337(8744):757–760.
7. Behan PO, Behan WM, Horrobin D. (1990) Effect of high doses of essential fatty acids on the postviral fatigue syndrome. Acta Neurol Scand. 82:209-216.
8. Warren G, McKendrick M, Peet M. The role of essential fatty acids in chronic fatigue syndrome: a case-controlled study of red-cell membrane essential fatty acids (EFA) and a placebo-controlled treatment study with high dose of EFA. Acta Neurol Scand.1999;99:112-116.
9. Image courtesy of artur84.
May is M.E. Awareness Month, a campaign aimed at promoting a greater understanding of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and the impact it has on the lives of sufferers. This year the campaign culminates in an international conference hosted by the charity ‘Invest in ME’ to be held in London at the end of the month (1).
Part 1 will look at the most common symptoms of M.E. along with common myths and misconceptions about this poorly understood disease.
What is M.E.?
Vitamin B12 may help with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) affects several of the body’s systems, including the immune and nervous system. The result is chronic exhaustion, cognitive problems, nausea, headaches and persistent aches and pains.
In Beating Chronic Fatigue, Dr Kristine Downing-Orr describes CFS as “the body’s inability to recover following a biological or psychological trigger” (2). Essentially the body’s very healing mechanisms break down, leaving sufferers in a state of chronic ill health.
It is thought that 250,000 people in the UK have this illness, with women between the ages of 25-50 being most commonly affected (3). However, men, women and children of all ages can develop ME/CFS.
Myths and Misconceptions
Myth 1. Chronic Fatigue is all in the mind
ME is a genuine medical illness recognised by the World Health Organisation as a neurological disease. Sufferers of CFS/ME show abnormalities in both the immune system and nervous system. It is not a psychological condition. It is not depression. Nor is it ‘attention seeking’ or a ‘cry for help’.
Myth 2. Chronic Fatigue is caused by the Epstein Barr Virus.
It is true that some cases of CFS/ME develop after an infection. However, the cause of CFS/ME is still unknown. Other theories link the disease to hormone imbalance, immune problems or psychological trauma. It is quite possible that sufferers are genetically predisposed to the disease, leaving them vulnerable if they are exposed to ‘triggers’ such as infection or stress.
Myth 3. Counselling or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can ‘reverse’ CFS/ME
Psychological interventions can indeed help CFS sufferers to cope with their symptoms. However, this type of approach cannot ‘cure’ the illness (4).
Myth 4. Exercise can cure CFS/ME
Unfortunately exercise will not cure CFS/ME. Well meaning healthcare providers can sometimes recommend exercise for CFS/ME patients using guidelines intended for healthy people. In fact, increasing physical activity can worsen symptoms for sufferers. However, if undertaken in the right way, carefully monitored exercise programmes can be helpful for patients (5).
Myth 5. CFS/ME is difficult to diagnose
This is untrue. There are clear NICE guidelines regarding the diagnosis of CFS/ME. More recently, the Canadian criteria is being recognised as the standard diagnostic tool, and reflects the growing understanding of CFS/ME as a biological illness. This includes the following symptoms: Muscle fatigue or malaise following exertion; poor quality sleep; soreness and aches affecting different parts of the body; brain disturbances such as sensory problems or feelings of confusion (6).
Creating a greater awareness and dispelling myths about CFS/ME is essential. After all, effective treatment and management of CFS/ME depends on a clear understanding of the disease. In Part 2 we will look at some natural approaches to managing symptoms. This includes dietary recommendations and vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements designed to provide the body with the resources it needs to support healing and recovery.
Written By Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.
1. 8th Invest in ME International ME (ME/CFS) Conference 2013. More information at http://www.investinme.org/IiME%20Conference%202013/IIMEC8%20Home.html Accessed 25/04/13.
2. Beating Chronic Fatigue: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Complete Recovery. Dr Kristina Downing-Orr. London: Piatkus. 2010.
3. Action for M.E. http://www.actionforme.org.uk/get-informed/about-me/who-does-it-affect Accessed 25/04/13.
4. Van Hoof, E. (2004). Cognitive behavioral therapy as cure-all for CFS. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 11, 43-47.
5. Edmonds, M., McGuire, H., & Price, J. (2004). Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 1-22.
6. Carruthers, B.M., Jain, A.K., DeMeirleir, K.L., Peterson, D.L., Klimas, N.G., Lerner, A.M., Bested, A.C., Flor-Henry, P., Joshi, P., Powles, A.C.P., Sherkey, J.A., & van de Sande, M.I. (2003). Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome: Clinical working case definition, diagnostic and treatments protocols. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 11, 7-115.
Inflammation is a natural process and is part of our immune system, helping to heal injury and protect us from infection. Unfortunately inflammation can sometimes get out of control. Modern living appears to encourage chronic low-grade inflammation. For example, when the body is under stress, from poor diet, excess weight, pollution or even simply through ageing, inflammation can be triggered.
Once inflammation is triggered, it can become a chronic problem. Professor William Meggs, chief of toxicology at East Carolina University explains: “Once inflammation begins, it sets off a series of physiologic reactions that cause additional inflammation and the body’s reactions become more and more difficult to turn off” (1).
Conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, periodontal disease, premature ageing, inflammatory skin conditions and allergic reactions are all examples of chronic low grade inflammation. Achieving optimal health means taking measures to control your inflammation risk. Below are some simple dietary guidelines for controlling and reducing levels of inflammation.
1. Aim for 9 servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
Phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables have both anti-inflammatory and antiallergic agents. Studies have found that increased fruit and vegetable intake lowers markers of inflammation and oxidative stress (2). Aim each week to eat at least one of these top inflammation-fighting foods from each of the following categories:
9 servings of fruit and vegetables can help aid inflammation
Bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, watercress
Leafy green vegetables:
Collards, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach
Black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans, peas, pinto beans, soybeans
Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries
Apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, mango, pumpkin, sweet potato
2. Increase levels of omega 3.
The best sources of omega-3 are oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, sturgeon, anchovy, herring, trout, sardines and mullet. Better still, choose those with lower levels of mercury contamination such as sardines, salmon and North Atlantic mackerel. Fish oil suppresses anti-inflammatory cytokines, reducing inflammation (3). Alternatively, fish oil supplements can be added to your diet. If you are vegetarian, you should include a tablespoon of good quality flaxseed oil daily.
3. Decrease levels of omega 6.
While omega-3 has anti-inflammatory effects, omega-6 is usually pro-inflammatory. A good balance between the two is essential for optimal health. Unfortunately the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in the modern diet tends to be too high. In the UK, our ratio of omega 6 to 3 is around 20:1 whereas the ideal ratio of omega 6 to 3 is thought to be nearer to 4:1 (4). Limiting processed and fried foods containing vegetable oils and reducing foods high in arachidonic acid, such as red meat, may help to reduce levels of undesirable inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP).
4. Add olive oil to your diet.
Olive oil improves cholesterol levels and contains powerful antioxidants. This oil plays a huge part in the Mediterranean diet, which is linked to longer life expectancy and lower rates of cardiovascular disease. A recent study found that adding just 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil daily for one week reduced levels of LDL cholesterol (5). Try using olive oil as a salad dressing, or substituting the oil for your usual margarine.
5. Watch your AGE.
Highly processed foods and meats cooked at high temperatures are likely to have high levels of Advanced Glycation End products. AGE products increase inflammation, and are caused by prolonged processing such as heating and sterilising. Fortunately there are several ways to reduce AGE products. Cooking using a lower temperature, using moist heat, and adding acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar will help (6). If you are making a stir-fry, the best way to reduce AGE products is to include plenty of vegetables with a small amount of protein. You can also try steaming fish and seafood, simmering chicken in a sauce and braising red meat in liquid.
Written By Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.
1. Meggs WJ (2003) The Inflammation Cure. New York: McGraw Hill.
2. Root et al (2012) Combined Fruit and Vegetable Intake Is Correlated with Improved Inflammatory and Oxidant Status from a Cross-Sectional Study in a Community Setting Nutrients 4(1): 29–41.
3. Calder PC (2002) Dietary modification of inflammation with lipids. Proc Nutr Soc Aug;61(3):345-58.
4. Erasmus U (1993) Fats the Heal, Fats That Kill. Canada: Alive Books.
5. Stark AH (2002) Olive oil as a functional food: epidemiology and nutritional approaches. Nutr Rev 60(6):170-176.
6. Urribarri J et al (2010) Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet. J Am Diet Assoc. Jun;110(6):911-16.e12.
Antibiotic resistance has been receiving a lot of attention in the media recently. England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Professor Davies is quoted in the media as saying: “Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible – similar to global warming.” Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organisation, has also warned of a “global crisis in antibiotics”.
What is antibiotic resistance?
Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to a quicker resistance
Antibiotic resistance is quite simply a product of natural selection, or evolution. Bacteria, like any living organism, will occasionally mutate at random. If a particular mutation enables the bacteria to survive an ‘attack’ of antibiotics, then the mutated resistant bacteria will continue to live and multiply.
Several studies have shown that antibiotic usage greatly hastens the development of these resistant bacteria. Other contributing factors include incorrect diagnosis, unnecessary prescriptions (for example, when antibiotics are prescribed for a non-bacterial viral infection) and the improper use of antibiotics by patients (such as not completed the full course of antibiotics).
Antibiotics in the food chain
Perhaps one of the most worrying trends in antibiotic administration is the routine use of antibiotics in the food chain. Antibiotic resistance can be passed on to humans through eating animal products, after livestock are fed antibiotics to fatten them up and to help reduce illness in crowded factory conditions. These antibiotics are often given in long-term low doses, simply to encourage the animals to gain weight and to fend off bacterial infection.
Additionally, research at Minnesota University has found that vegetables can be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as they may have been grown with manure obtained from antibiotic-treated animals (1).
It is interesting that, way back in 1945, Alexander Fleming warned of this problem, voicing it is his speech on accepting the Nobel prize: “there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to nonlethal quantities of the drug make them resistant”.
What can we do?
It will be important moving forward to ensure that antibiotics are reserved only for when they are truly required. Choosing organic foods may well be a wiser choice. Animals raised organically should not have been exposed to antibiotics. Additionally organic fruit and vegetables marked with the Soil Association stamp tend to be grown by organic farmers with their own supply of manure, reducing the risk of bacterial contamination.
In the coming years, it is hoped that pharmaceutical companies are able to offer workable alternatives to antibiotics in light of the current crisis. The use of probiotics may offer a realistic option, especially as harmful bacteria are unable to develop resistance to probiotics – the good bacteria simply crowd them out while producing inhibitors that destroy the infection (2, 3). A recent clinical trial following 155 hospital patients found that daily supplementation with LAB4 probiotic strains alongside antibiotics significantly reduced the number of antibiotic resistant strains by more than 70% compared to the placebo group (4).
I have also had much success supporting digestive health using herbal approaches. Stool testing in clinic can identify antibiotic resistance while also testing sensitivity to herbal treatments, so that an appropriate nutritional therapy programme can be designed. For example, compounds such as those naturally present in garlic and onions, and herbs such as oregano, ginger and cloves, offer antimicrobial properties. Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern, and more research into alternatives is needed. In the meantime, both probiotic and herbal support, included as part of your everyday diet, may help boost the body’s natural defences against pathogens.
Written By Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.
1. Livestock antibiotics can end up in human foods. Enewswire.com (2007). Retrieved 29/03/2013.
2. Chukeatirot E. (2003) Potential use of probiotics. Songklanakarin J. Sci. Technol. 2003 Mar-Apr;25(2):276-282.
3. Kondadacha OD et al (2011) The role of probiotics in aquaculture in nigeria: A review. Wilolud Journals. Jan;5(1):8-15.
4. Plummer et al. (2005) Effects of probiotics on the composition of the intestinal microbiota following antibiotic therapy. Int Microbial Agents 26 (1): 69–74.
IBS Awareness Month, observed every April, is an annual campaign aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of irritable bowel syndrome.
IBS is a functional gut disorder, which means that the bowel simply does not work as it should. Around 10% of the population suffers with this disorder, and sufferers can experience a number of intermittent symptoms including diarrhoea, constipation, gas, bloating and lower abdominal pain. While the condition is not thought to damage the bowel, it has a significant impact on quality of life (1).
Before IBS is diagnosed by your doctor it is important that he or she rules out other digestive conditions such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis which are inflammatory bowel diseases.
For many, treatments such as anti-spasmodics offered by the GP have limited success. Sufferers can be left feeling helpless, and do not always have the information they need to manage the condition.
IBS: Four Steps to Digestive Health
1. Optimise digestion
Chewing food thoroughly and eating in a slow and relaxed manner can help improve the first stage of digestion by increasing levels of digestive enzymes and helping them to work more effectively. Plant enzyme formulas, such as papaya enzymes in Caricol, may also be helpful in optimising digestion, and have been found to improve symptoms of IBS (2).
2. Restore gut bacteria
Many studies have drawn attention to a link between IBS and overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Probiotic formulas can help to crowd out these problem bacteria, improving digestion, decreasing inflammatory response and restoring proper balance in the digestive tract. Strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacter look particularly promising as natural agents aimed at improving symptoms of IBS (3,4).
Prebiotic foods, such as asparagus, garlic, leeks and bananas can also be helpful as a regular addition to the diet. Prebiotics feed the friendly bacteria in your gut helping it to proliferate.
3. Repair and protect
April is IBS Awareness Month
While IBS is not classed as an inflammatory condition. However, recent research published in the journal Gastroenterology has actually found ‘mini-inflammations’ in the gut mucosa of IBS patients. This inflammation is thought to upset the sensitive balance of the bowel and cause hypersensitity of the enteric nervous system leading to IBS symptoms. Lead researcher Prof. Schemann explains: “The irritated mucosa releases increased amounts of neuroactive substances such as serotonin, histamine and protease. This cocktail produced by the body could be the real cause of the unpleasant IBS complaints.”
Natural measures to help repair and protect the gut lining, such as supplementing glutamine or omega-3 oils could help reduce this localised inflammation, improving IBS symptoms.
4. Identify trigger foods
While food choices are not the cause of IBS, they can certainly trigger symptoms. Trigger foods can vary from person to person, but common culprits include wheat, fatty of fried foods, milk and coffee. Keeping a diary of your diet and symptoms can help to identify trigger foods. Eliminating possible trigger foods from your diet should be done in a safe and healthy way, and guidance from a nutritional therapist can be helpful for those who need support with this.
The management of IBS requires a personalised approach, as what works for your neighbour may not be the best option for you. It is important to persevere in order to find the right approach. Hopefully international campaigns such as IBS Awareness Month should encourage sufferers to find the information and help they need to manage the condition effectively.
Written By Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.
1. Amouretti M et al (2006) Impact of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) on health-related quality of life (HRQOL). Gastroenterol Clin Biol. Feb;30(2):241-6.
2. Muss et al (2012) Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders. Biogenic Amines Vol. 26, issue 1 (2012), pp. 1–17.
3. Clarke G et al (2012) Review article: probiotics for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome – focus on lactic acid bacteria. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 35:4. pp. 403–413.
4. Technische Universitaet Muenchen (2010, August 20). Proof that a gut-wrenching complaint — irritable bowel syndrome — is not in your head. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819141950.htm.
A new study published in the journal BMC Medicine last month shows that caffeine is linked to low birth weight babies (1).
Caffeine intake is already a concern in pregnancy, with current guidelines recommending that pregnant women restrict themselves to no more than 200mg of caffeine (equivalent to around two cups of coffee) each day.
While the placental barrier does a good job of screening out many infectious agents, it is not able to block environmental pollutants such as pesticides, mercury and PCBs. Likewise, caffeine can cross the placental barrier, resulting in babies that are small for gestational age (SGA).
The study monitored the caffeine intake of more than 60,000 pregnant women. For every 100mg of caffeine each day, the average infant lost an estimated 21-28g. Caffeine intake also increased the length of pregnancy, with caffeine from coffee in particular having the most dramatic effect. This suggests that another substance in coffee may also contribute to the negative effects. For example, decaffeinated coffee retains other stimulants such as theophylline and theobromine.
While coffee is the primary source of caffeine in many diets, there are many other foods and drinks that contribute to overall caffeine intake. This study monitored all sources of caffeine, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, fizzy drinks, as well as foods such as chocolate and chocolate desserts.
Caffeine can cross the placental barrier, resulting in babies that are small for gestational age
As a general guide, a can of coke contains around 30mg caffeine, a cup of tea contains around 50mg caffeine, and a cup of instant coffee contains around 60mg caffeine. ‘Proper’ coffee will provide an even bigger caffeine hit. A medium cup of coffee from a high street coffee chain can contain around 200mg caffeine. For those who regularly visit high street coffee chains it’s important to note that the amount of caffeine in drinks from these stores can vary wildly making it very difficult to determine how much caffeine you are actually drinking.
Staying hydrated is especially important during pregnancy. Drinking plenty of fluids helps lessen the risks of problems such as constipation, urinary infections, fluid retention and haemorrhoids during pregnancy. The volume of blood in your body, which is made mostly of water, also increases during pregnancy.
So what are the best choices of beverage during pregnancy? Water is the most obvious choice for staying hydrated. Keep a bottle at your desk or carry a small bottle in your bag if you’re out and about. If plain water is too boring, try carbonated water and add a slice or two of lemon or lime.
Naturally caffeine-free teas are another good choice. Redbush tea is naturally caffeine free. Peppermint tea can help ease digestive troubles and ginger tea may help to relieve morning sickness. Fruit smoothies using probiotic yoghurt and digestive-boosters such as milled flax seeds is another great option.
Barley water makes a great anti-inflammatory agent for the urinary system which can be more prone to infection during pregnancy. Buy whole barley, put 40g in a litre of water, boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add a slice of lemon or the juice of one lemon and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then sip the water throughout the day.
Finally, green smoothies provide all the antioxidants of fruit juice without the sugar hit, and they can be a great source of minerals such as folate and iron which are needed in greater amounts during pregnancy. Try blending a handful of spinach with an avocado, a dash of apple juice, a cup of water, and three tablespoons of plain yoghurt for a refreshing folate and iron-rich green smoothie.
Written By Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.
1. Sengpiel V et al. (2013) Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy is associated with birth weight but not with gestational length: results from a large prospective observational cohort study. BMC Medicine 11:42.
The many benefits of omega-3 supplementation, from heart health to anti-inflammatory effects in conditions such as arthritis, are well-known. A new study conducted by researchers at Manchester University has now investigated the potential of omega-3 to protect against skin cancer (1).
Skin cancer is a growing concern in the UK, where rates of malignant melanoma have increased significantly over the last 30 years. In fact, according to Cancer Research UK, incidence rates of this type of cancer have increased more rapidly than any other type of cancer (2). And it is not just a concern for the elderly. In the UK, more than 700 young people between the ages of 17 and 34 are diagnosed with skin cancer every year.
The study is the first of its kind to test the protective benefits of omega-3 on human volunteers. The volunteers were given either a 4g dose of omega-3 or a placebo supplement. They were then exposed to the equivalent of either 8, 15 or 30 minutes of summer midday sun through the use of a light machine.
Fish is the richest food source of omega 3, with mackerel, trout and herring having the highest source of omega 3
This study measured the amount of damage to the immune system, or ‘immunosuppression’ caused by sunlight. Sun exposure and sunburn can actually suppress the immune system, and repeated exposure can cause long term damage to the immune system, making your body more susceptible to skin cancer. The results of this study showed that immunosuppression was 50% lower in those who took the supplement compared to those who were given a placebo.
The beneficial effects were noted in those who were exposed to 8 and 15 minutes of sun, but were not seen in those who underwent 30 minutes of exposure.
Professor Lesley Rhodes at the University’s Photobiology Unit, said this was the first time a study such as this has been carried out on humans. “This study adds to the evidence that omega-3 is a potential nutrient to protect against skin cancer. Although the changes we found when someone took the oil were small, they suggest that a continuous low level of chemoprevention from taking omega-3 could reduce the risk of skin cancer over an individual’s lifetime.”
Other nutritional lines of defence from the sun’s UV rays include antioxidants, which ‘mop up’ some of the oxidative damage caused by the sun. For example, previous research suggests that skin damage from the sun can be reduced by taking 2000mg of Vitamin C alongside 1000IU Vitamin E (3). Citrus fruits are the most obvious choice for those wanting to increase their Vitamin C intake, although green peppers, broccoli and green leafy vegetables are similarly beneficial. Garnishing your meals with chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts or a drizzle of olive oil will also give Vitamin E levels a boost.
While omega-3 oils and antioxidants are no substitute for suncream, these studies suggests it may provide helpful support alongside our usual protective measures. Research into the nutrition’s protective benefits for the skin continues, and Professor Rhodes’ team are currently continuing their investigations with omega-3 at Salford Royal Hospital.
Written By Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.
1. S. M. Pilkington et al. (2013) Randomized controlled trial of oral omega-3 PUFA in solar-simulated radiation-induced suppression of human cutaneous immune responses. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 97 (3): 646 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.112.049494
2. ‘Skin Cancer Incidence Statistics’ Cancer Research UK http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/skin/incidence/uk-skin-cancer-incidence-statistics
3. Eberlain-Konig B et al (1998) Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid and d-alpha tocopherol. J Am Acad Dermatol 38:45-8
Children frequently pick up and pass on common bacterial and viral infections, often through interaction with others at school which can manifest into sore throats, colds, flu, sinusitis and more. Unfortunately large numbers of these children are prescribed antibiotics repeatedly. With the current concern over antibiotic resistance, it is natural to want to avoid having your child take antibiotics if possible.
There are a number of natural ways to reduce the risk of your children picking up illnesses. The very best insurance to help prevent you and your children getting ill is to support the immune system through diet, nutrients and lifestyle.
Here are 5 ways to boost children’s immunity naturally:
1. Wash hands but don’t be a germaphobe: Good hygiene at school and at home is important to help reduce the spread of germs. Washing hands is particularly easy and effective. However, extreme hygiene practices may have a negative effect on your child’s maturing immunity.
Strawberries, melons and berries are all high in Vitamin C
2. Eat foods packed with immune-boosting nutrients: Serve nutrient-dense foods to help boost your children’s immunity. A few nutrients can be essential to supporting a balanced immune system. Vitamin C can be found not only in citrus fruits, but also in broccoli, kale, green beans, berries, cantaloupe, strawberries, melons and zinc, which supports immune cell function. Foods such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and seafood are all rich in zinc. Probiotic foods such as natural organic yogurt balance gut flora and are essential to a well functioning immune system.
3. Reduce refined carbohydrates and sugary foods: Refined carbohydrates like pasta, bread, biscuits and cakes and sugary foods like soda and candy can seriously tax the immune system. They feed bacterial growth and contribute to inflammation, which depletes and exhausts immune function.
4. Exercise: Research has shown that moderate exercise improves immune function for all ages. Turning off the TV, limiting the video games and getting the kids outdoors are great ways to boost children’s immunity naturally.
5. Try natural immune support nutrients and supplements: Bee Propolis is an immune boosting plant-based nutrient that is safe and effective for children. This resin is collected by bees, from tree and plant buds and has natural antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Olive leaf extract and black elderberry are also full of antimicrobial nutrients and are also safe for all ages. Bee Prepared Immune Support Daily Defence combines these ingredients and other equally beneficial nutrients which support immune health. Capsules may be swallowed or broken open and put into juices, smoothies or yogurt.
A practical, delicious and child-friendly way to include a few of these recommendations into your daily routine is with an immune boosting smoothie.
Immunity Smoothie Ingredients:
- 1 apple, cored, peeled and sliced
- 1 orange, peeled and seeded
- 1/2 cup filtered water or organic apple juice
- 1/2 cup natural yogurt
- 2 tsp manuka honey
- 1 tbsp pumpkin seed butter *optional
- 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger root, peeled
- 1 capsule Bee Prepared Daily Defence (open capsule and use the powder)
Combine all of these ingredients in a blender, serve and enjoy!
Written by Erin McCann NT, ND mBANT from UnBEElieveable Health.
1. Image courtesy of Roger Kirby.