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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Christmas Healthy Holidays

Healthy Holidays – Enjoying a healthy Christmas

Healthy Holiday Eating – A Healthy Christmas

For many of us, the Christmas holidays are a time of indulgence. Festive eating means mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas pudding and brandy butter. Unfortunately, over-indulgence can also make us feel lethargic, impair our immune system and can leave us facing the New Year feeling tired, bloated and run down.

Fortunately there are ways to incorporate some healthy habits through the festive period while still enjoying traditional Christmas treats. Simply adding protein, fibre and superfoods to your usual meals and snacks over the holiday can help to keep your energy levels more stable, reduce your sugar intake and ensure that your meals are nutritionally dense.

Festive Fibre Boost

Adding fibre to your food reduces the glycemic effect of the meal, meaning a lower insulin response and less inflammation. You will also feel fuller for longer, and so less likely to gain weight over the holiday period.

Fibre-rich chia seeds are also a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 and a good source of calcium and antioxidants. Try adding them to cranberry sauce and stuffing. They can also be added to eggnog to make a fibre-rich festive pudding – simply stir a quarter cup of chia seeds into a cup of eggnog and place in the fridge for 15 minutes until the mixture transforms into a thick pudding.

Seasonal Snacking

It can be hard to resist evening snacking during the long winter nights, and bowls of sweets, salted nuts, chocolates and crisps are often at hand while waiting for Christmas dinner.

Nuts are actually a perfect snack as they won’t upset blood sugar levels and are nutritionally dense – packed with essential fatty acids and antioxidants. Raw, unsalted nuts are the healthiest choice, with almonds being the best choice for anyone watching their weight as these have been linked with weight loss. Mix them with some dried fruit and a little dark chocolate or a few cacao nibs for an antioxidant boost.

A nutritious alternative to crisps is roasted chickpeas. Try draining a tin of chickpeas and then soaking them in apple cider vinegar or liquid aminos and then roasting in the oven for a crunchy savoury snack. Those who prefer a sweeter option should try nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger during roasting for a Christmas spice flavour. Simply toss the spice blend through the chickpeas and then roast in the oven.

Boost your Breakfast

Oatmeal is the perfect warming breakfast for cold winter mornings. Beta-glucans in oats support the immune system and stabilise blood sugar levels. Add a further nutritional boost by stirring in some antioxidant rich cacao nibs and acai berries, or some energy boosting maca powder. Another good boost for your oatmeal is to stir in a tablespoon or two of protein powder, which will help stave off sugar cravings throughout the morning. Rather than sweetening with sugar, try stevia or a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Superfood Sides

Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips and potatoes are a key part of the Christmas meal and are a super healthy option. Unfortunately they are usually roasted in plenty of salt and fat.

Coconut oil can be a good alternative for anyone who has problems digesting fat – coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTS) which are easier for the body to digest, and also help to fight infection. Roast your seasonal vegetables in coconut oil by simply adding the solid oil to your vegetables and tossing through, or by melting the oil for a few seconds first.

Try adding some pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds to your roasted vegetables for a boost of omega-3, zinc and calcium. Instead of salt, try stirring in a handful of goji berries for a delicious sweet-tart taste and an extra boost of phytonutrients.

Nutritious meals over the holidays shouldn’t mean forgoing all of your favourite Christmas foods. Adding a few healthy tweaks to the usual Christmas menu should mean that you can enjoy the holidays without feeling deprived, and celebrate a happy and healthy New Year.

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Digestive Health

Digestive Health – Beat the Bloat

Beat the bloat – Taking care of your digestive health

Indigestion covers a variety of symptoms from cramping in the stomach, to heartburn, bloating, wind, belching, and even pain in the bowel. It is usually a sign that the digestive system is having difficulty coping with breaking down food, and this is frequently due to a lack of stomach acid and digestive enzymes in the small intestine. The problem can be made worse if you eat too quickly and don’t chew food thoroughly. Overeating, drinking to excess, eating poor food combinations, or eating when stressed all exacerbate indigestion. Our digestive processes are only fully functional when our nervous system is relaxed, so when we are stressed enzyme activity decreases significantly, which can lead to various symptoms including bloating.

What are digestive enzymes and how can they help?

Digestive enzymes act like scissors to break down food (fats, proteins, carbohydrates, starches, milk, sugars) into their basic building blocks so that they can be absorbed into the bloodstream and transported throughout the body and cells. Undigested food can putrefy in the intestines, feeding undesirable micro-organisms which produce gas, bloating and toxins detrimental to the body. When undigested food particles are absorbed into the blood stream, the immune system produces antibodies to attack them along with secondary effects like inflammation, pains, migraines, rashes, asthma, behavioural changes and other symptoms of food intolerance/allergies. Diets lacking in raw foods and heavily processed/packaged foods devoid of essential enzymes often lead to symptoms of indigestion, bloating, acid reflux, IBS, fatigue and candida. By supplementing with digestive enzymes you support the digestive system by breaking down food into its basic building blocks for proper assimilation.

What are microbiotics and how can they help?

Microbiotics are the “good” or “friendly” bacteria that are normal inhabitants of the intestinal tract. Although the word bacteria is usually associated with germs and illness, friendly bacteria help the body to function, maintain health and fight infection. “Bad” or “pathogenic” bacteria on the other hand can cause intestinal microflora imbalances and lead to symptoms such as bloating, intestinal infections, yeast imbalance, constipation, diarrhoea and flatulence. Research is establishing the importance of supplementing with microbiotics. They not only help to balance out the gut bacteria, but they help to support the immune function of the gut, produce antioxidants, aid nutrition through the enhanced breakdown and absorption of vitamins, minerals and amino acids and they synthesize B vitamins, which are necessary for a healthy nervous system.

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SAD

SAD: Tips for a Happier and Healthier Winter

SAD: Tips for a Happier and Healthier Winter

At this time of year, as the days become darker, many of us find that we are travelling to and from work in the dark. This lack of sunlight can have a tremendous effect on us, affecting our mood and appetite, and creating a greater need for sleep. These symptoms are typical of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mood disorder affecting around 1 in 15 of us in the UK.

SAD is caused by a lack of sunlight, which in turn affects the body’s production of mood-balancing hormones melatonin and serotonin. These hormones also affect our sleep cycle and appetite, leaving those affected feeling tired and prone to weight gain.

While anti-depressants are sometimes prescribed for SAD, there are a number of natural measures thought to be effective in addressing SAD.

1. Vitamin D and Omega-3

Vitamin D and omega-3 are commonly in low supply in the UK diet. The British National Diet and Nutrition Survey indicates that 25 per cent of British adults have low vitamin D status (1). Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression, because this vitamin helps to regulate levels of both serotonin and melatonin.

SAD has been found to be less common in people who have a higher intake of omega-3, present in fish oils and some plant oils. Icelandic and Japanese populations have a high intake of fish, and a low prevalence of SAD. Seafood consumption has also found to be linked to lower rates of major depression (2). Like vitamin D, omega-3 helps to modulate the mood hormone serotonin.

2. Physical Activity

Exercise is well-known to boost levels of endorphins, lower stress levels and improve sleep quality. Regular exercise is therefore recommended. A recent Cochrane review concluded that exercise is effective in reducing symptoms of depression, with aerobic exercise being particularly effective. Michael J Rice, a professor of psychiatry at Nebraska Medical Centre, advises that those with SAD should make a concerted effort to exercise throughout the winter months, and that exercising outdoors is particularly beneficial (3).

3. Light Therapy

Thought to be the most effective treatment for SAD, light therapy has a beneficial effect on levels of melatonin, and increases blood flow to areas of the brain affected by SAD. Light therapy is also thought to affect levels of serotonin and the stress hormone cortisol. There have been more than 60 randomized, controlled trials of light therapy for SAD, and almost all of these studies have shown positive benefits.

Light boxes can be bought for home use, and are most effective when used daily and in the morning for around 30 minutes. For those experiencing SAD, the positive benefits should be felt after just a couple of weeks.

Anyone choosing light therapy should ensure that they are using an effective device, as some devices may not emit light at an effective intensity. In light therapy treatment, the intensity of the light is directly linked to the effectiveness of the treatment. Compared with placebo, bright light at levels of 6000 lux was found effective for patients with depression. Patients received bright light for 1.5 hours each day, while the placebo group used a sham device. More recently, a randomized trial published earlier this year found that just 30 minutes exposure to a bright light device is effective in treating depressive symptoms (4).

For anybody experiencing SAD, the dietary, lifestyle and light therapy measures above are possibly the safest and most natural ways of bringing the body back into balance. For those beginning to feel the winter blues this month, taking action early can help to ensure a happier and healthier winter.

References
1. National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) Rolling Programme. May 2014. Food Standard Agency.
2. Hibbelm JR (1998) Fish consumption and major depression. Lancet 351:1213
3. SAD no more: preparing for seasonal affective disorder. www.everdayhealth.com. Visited 31/10/2016.
4. Lam et al (2016) Efficacy of bright light treatment, fluoxetine, and the combination in patients with nondeasonal major depressive disorder. A randomised clinical trial.

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Winter Wellbeing

Winter Wellbeing – Key Health Support Tips

Key Health Support Tips for Winter Wellbeing

The darker nights and drop in temperature means we need to prepare ourselves and our bodies for winter.

At this time of the year it’s essential to provide the relevant ingredients to (naturally) fuel our bodies so that we can stay healthy and keep our immune system in good order.

Homemade soups and stews are often thought of as essential winter foods, so experiment with traditional produce such as root vegetables, squashes, seasonal greens, beans and other items such as whole grains to create delicious flavour combinations. Don’t forget that you can also make nourishing dishes using cooked apples, pears and citrus fruit – all key to your body’s maintenance.

If you think your diet alone is not providing sufficient nutrients during the cold snap, try using food supplements to support the immune system. Typical winter supplements are vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc. A good preventative supplement for winter colds is taking beta glucan to strengthen your immune system. Meanwhile horseradish and garlic are both rich in compounds with immune boosting, antibacterial and antiviral activity. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can also help support healthy immunity.

Don’t be discouraged from going outdoors because of the cold weather. Doing at least 30 minutes daily exercise – such as a brisk walk – will keep your circulation going and help keep the viruses at bay. Also try to keep a healthy mind as well as a healthy body by considering some stress management practices such as yoga or meditation.

There are simple measures to help reduce the risk of becoming susceptible to winter bugs: drink plenty of fluids to maintain hydration and remember to regularly wash your hands to prevent infecting others.

Most importantly take time to relax, rest and recover as the cold and darkness urges your body to slow down.

Winter is a great opportunity to reflect on your health, replenish and conserve energy levels by eating the right foods and adapting some lifestyle changes.

Remember, it’s a combination of all the above factors that will help you stay well.

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