Category Archives: aloe vera

Sun Safe: Natural Solutions for a Healthy Holiday

Make sure you’re Sun Safe

Sun Safe and Sun FunIt’s holiday season and many of us are looking forward to a hard-earned break. Whether you’re a sun-worshiper, an adventurer or a culture vulture, the summer holiday is one of the key events in our annual calendar. That’s why looking after our health on holiday is especially important. Read on for natural ways to protect yourself against the most common holiday health problems and being sun safe.

Tummy bugs

Traveller’s diarrhoea is the most common health problem related to travelling abroad. Between 10% and 20% of holiday makers travelling to southern Europe or the Caribbean will have their holidays spoiled with episodes of food poisoning. Those travelling to areas such as Asia, the Middle East and Latin America should be particularly cautious as more than 20% will fall ill with traveller’s diarrhoea [1].

The best way to avoid food poisoning abroad is to be extra careful about food hygiene measures. Use bottles or sterilised water if local tap water is unsafe, and avoid ice in drinks. Avoid buffet food that has been left out at room temperature for extended periods – remember hot food should be piping hot and thoroughly cooked, cold food should be cold, and choose fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself. Dressings such as mayonnaise and ketchup are commonly linked with food poisoning, so try using single-serve sealed packages.

A sensible way of protecting against food poisoning is to take a probiotic supplement while travelling. Probiotics bolster the intestinal lining’s protective barrier, making it difficult for infections to take hold. Well-studies strains include L. acidophilus, B. bifidum and L. bulgaricus.
Some probiotics actually secrete antimicrobial substances that protect the body from infection. The probiotic L. Reuterei works in this way, and studies have found it to be particularly effective in preventing gastrointestinal infections and diarrhoea in children [2].

Jet Lag

For those travelling further afield, jet lag can spoil the early days of a long haul holiday, and can leave you feeling tired rather than revitalised on your return.
Jet lag symptoms are made worse by dehydration, so drink plenty of water during your flight, and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Natural treatments for jet lag include melatonin, a hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle. Food sources of melatonin include goji berries, almonds and raspberries. However, a natural source of melatonin is the Montmorency cherry (used in the CherryActive range. Studies suggest cherry juice appears to raise melatonin levels and to have a positive effect on the sleep cycle [3]. The anti-inflammatory properties of tart cherry juice may also enhance this effect by reducing inflammatory cytokines [4].

Sun Safe ProtectionSunshine

Most of us are aware of sensible sun protection measures, such as covering up, wearing sun-cream and limiting sun exposure. In addition, taking a small amount of the lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes, for a few weeks before travelling can also protect skin against sun damage [5]. Just 16mg lycopene has been found to protect against sun damage. This amount can be found is around 3 tablespoons of tomato paste. Other good sources are watermelon, grapefruit and sweet red peppers – all helping to keep you sun safe.

Not taken our advice on being sun safe? One of the best natural treatments for sun burn is topical aloe vera. This leafy plant grows abundantly in hot countries, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Simply break open a leaf and apply the soothing inner gel. Another helpful topical treatment is cider vinegar, which reduces pain, itching and inflammation. Try adding a cupful to your bathwater. Remember the best way to avoid sun burn is to be sun safe in the first place. Whenever and wherever you’re travelling to – have fun!

References

  1. National Travel Health Network and Centre. Traveller’s Diarrhoea. 06/02/2014. https://www.nathnac.org/pro/factsheets/trav_dir.htm Visited 10th May 2015.
  2. Rosemarie De Weirdt (2012) Glycerol Supplementation Enhances L. reuteri’s Protective Effect against S. Typhimurium Colonization in a 3-D Model of Colonic Epithelium. PLoS ONE, 7 (5): e37116
  3. Howatson et al (2010) Effect of tart cherry juice on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr 51(8):909-16
  4. Opp MR (2004) Cytokines and sleep: the first hundred years. Brain Behav Immun. 18(4):295-297.
  5. Rizwan et al (2011) Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Dermatol 164(1):154-62.
Share

Top 5 Benefits of Aloe Vera

Boasting immune boosting, anti-microbial and wound-healing properties, the therapeutic uses of aloe vera are surprisingly diverse. Here are my top 5 uses for this versatile supplement.

1. Digestive Support
Aloe vera is often used by those with digestive complaints. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis are marked by long-lasting inflammation within the digestive tract. The natural anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera have led to a number of studies investigating the possible benefit of this plant for these conditions.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of aloe vera in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis demonstrated improved symptoms in patients taking aloe vera compared to those in the placebo group (1). Similar benefits have been reported in patients suffering with ulcerative colitis (2).

2. Immune Support

Aloe vera contains a special type of sugar molecule called acemannan which boosts the activity of macrophages. Macrophages (from the Greek, meaning ‘big eaters’) are white blood cells which function to destroy or ‘eat up’ pathogens. Alongside this action, acemannan also enhances T-cell function and interferon production. This type of immune enhancement is evident in studies which show that consumption of aloe vera gel is effective in combating candida infection (3).

3. Detoxification

The detoxifying effect of aloe vera has been scientifically verified by lab tests of urinary indican levels. Indicans are molecules found in the urine, and they can be used to measure bacterial activity in the small and large intestine. Raised levels of indicans suggest compromised digestive health, including problems such as protein malabsorption and bacterial overgrowth (4). Aloe vera has been found to reduce urinary indican levels after just one week. This suggests that aloe consumption can improve protein digestion and absorption, or improve bacterial balance in the bowel.

Aloe-Vera-Gel
Aloe Vera Gel applied to the skin can help with 1st or 2nd degree burns

4. Skin Benefits
Applied topically, aloe vera can be used to help heal damaged skin. A recent meta-analysis, which examined studies involving a total of 371 patients, concluded that aloe vera may be considered effective in treating first and second degree burns. In fact the studies showed that topical application of aloe vera reduced healing time by an average of 9 days (5). It is thought that naturally occurring substances in aloe help cells to regenerate, speeding up healing.

Aloe is especially useful in the summer months owing to its cooling and soothing properties. A common ingredient in aftersun lotions, aloe vera is believed to act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Research is conflicting, although a recent randomised, double-blind trial found aloe vera to be more effective than hydrocortisone cream in reducing sunburn symptoms 48 hours after application (6).

5. Diabetes and blood sugar regulation

There have been several studies investigating the efficacy of aloe vera in the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. One of the first studies involved a group of 3,000 diabetic patients who supplemented their existing treatments with a natural remedy containing aloe gel and psyllium seed husks. In 94% of these patients, fasting blood glucose levels fell to normal levels within two months (7).

In diabetic models, consumption of aloe vera has been found not only to reduce fasting blood sugar levels, but also to reduce levels of liver enzymes (a sign of liver damage), and cholesterol (8). Aloe’s high fibre content, glycoproteins and antioxidant benefits are believed to help the body to regulate blood sugar more effectively.

A further controlled study of 72 diabetic patients supports these benefits, showing that 2 tbsp daily of aloe vera resulted in a significant reduction in blood sugar levels over a period of 42 days (9).

Aloe appears to have a huge number of nutritional benefits and healing properties, making it a versatile nutritional supplement.

References

  1.  Langmead L et al (2004) Anti-inflammatory effects of aloe vera gel in human colorectal mucosa in vitro. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 19:521–527
  2. Langmead L et al (2004) Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 19:739–747.
  1. Jackson JA et al (2000) Urine Indican as an Indicator of Disease. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 15, No. 1
  2. Sun-A Im et al (2010) In vivo evident of the immunomodulatory activity of orally administered aloe vera gel. Arch Pharm Res Vol 333:3, pp. 451-456
  3. Maenthaisong R et al (2007) The efficacy of Aloe vera used for burn wound healing: A systematic review. Burns. 33:713–18
  4. Reuter J et al (2008) Investigation of the anti-inflammatory potential of Aloe vera gel (97.5%) in the ultraviolet erythema test. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 21(2):106-110]
  5. Agarwal 0P (1985) Prevention of Atheromatous Heart Disease. Angiology. 36: 485-92.
  6. Okyar A et al (2001) Effect of Aloe vera leaves on blood glucose level in type I and type II diabetic rat models. Phytother Res.15(2):157-61.
  7. Bunyapraphatsara N (1996) Antidiabetic activity of aloe vera L. juice 11. Clinical trial in diabetes mellitus patients in combination with glibenclamide. Phytomedicine. 3:245-248
Share

Get a good gut feeling about digestive health – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Part III

On the 16th July I wrote about artichoke leaf extract (ALE) supplements for cholesterol lowering.  Evidence is also mounting for the usefulness of this plant supplement in the reduction of IBS symptoms (1,2).  In one study (2) 208 adults with IBS were given ALE for a two month period.  The individuals had a significant improvement whilst taking the supplement with a normalising of bowel pattern away from alternating constipation/diarrhoea toward normal.  The IBS sufferers also had a significant improvement in their total health-related quality of life scores.  The trials were small and provide preliminary evidence but it certainly seems that artichoke leaf extract is useful for an array of digestive complaints.  If you decide to try ALE supplements for the management of your IBS symptoms please follow the manufacturers dosage advice, taken in excess it may cause digestive upset.



When discussing IBS it is difficult not to mention the issue of food sensitivities or intolerances.  Some studies indicate that a large proportion of people afflicted with IBS have food sensitivities, very few have true food allergies, and that gas production and other IBS symptoms diminish when the sensitivities are discovered and the offending food(s) eliminated (3,4,5,6).  Assessing sensitivities can be quite subjective and therefore difficult to assess properly in a clinical-trial setting. 



Research suggests that some people with IBS may malabsorb the sugars lactose (found in milk), fructose (found in high concentrations in fruit juice and dried fruit) and sorbitol (found in diabetic and sugar-free products) (7).   Research shows that in a large majority of IBS patients with lactose malabsorption, a lactose-restricted diet can improve symptoms markedly both in the short term and the long term (8).  Fructose- and sorbitol-reduced diets in subjects with fructose malabsorption reduce gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, cramps, osmotic diarrhoea and other IBS symptoms (9).  Hence, individuals with IBS attempting to uncover food sensitivities should consider the possibility that milk, fruit juice, dried fruit and products containing sorbitol might cause worsening of their symptoms.



A note of caution – please do not attempt elimination diets without supervision from your GP or a fully qualified professional.  Many ‘food sensitivity tests’ are advertised at very high cost and, in my opinion, can often be unhelpful.  Working with a professional and keeping food diaries and symptom scores may uncover specific triggers for your personal symptoms.  Stress, emotions and psychology may also be playing a major role in your IBS symptoms so assessing how you feel could also prove helpful.  Foods may be triggering symptoms in conjunction with stressful/emotional periods but less-so at other times.



Finally I would like to briefly mention aloe vera juice.  Many individuals with digestive complaints report that their symptoms diminish greatly with the regular ingestion of an aloe vera juice drink or supplemental aloe capsules.  Most of the evidence so far is anecdotal (but that does not lessen personal experiences).  A few animal studies have started to provide weight to the evidence but very few human studies have occurred to date.  A test tube study(10) using human colon cells has shown that aloe vera did appear to work as a potent anti-inflammatory.  You may find it useful to try the juice yourself to see if it is helpful in reducing your personal symptoms.  Remember to follow the dosage guidance and try and keep note of your symptoms for about a week.  If the juice works for you then it is worth continuing with. 



That ends my posts on IBS, I do hope that the information presented over the last few days has been of help?!



(1)Walker AF et al.  2001.  Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in post-marketing surveillance study.  Phytotherapy Research.  15:58-61
(2)Bundy R et al.  Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life in otherwise healthy volunteers suffering from concomitant dyspepsia: a subset analysis.  J Altern Complement Med.  10:667-669
(3) King TS et al.  1998.  Abnormal colonic fermentation in irritable bowel syndrome.  Lancet.  352:1187-1189
(4) Jones AV et al.  1982.  Food intolerance: a major factor in the pathogenesis of irritable bowel syndrome.  Lancet.  ii:1115-1117
(5) Smith MA et al.  1985.  Food intolerance, atopy, and irritable bowel syndrome.  Lancet.  ii:1064
(6) Parker TJ et al.  1995.  Management of patients with food intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome: the development and use of an exclusion diet.  J Human Nutr Diet.  8:159-166
(7) Fernandez-Banares F et al.  1993.  Sugar malabsorption in functional bowel disease: clinical implications.  Am J Gastroenterol.  88:2044-2050.
(8) Bohmer CJ, Tuynman HA.  2001.  The effect of a lactose-restricted diet in patients with a positive lactose tolerance test, earlier diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome: a 5-year follow-up study.  Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol.  13(8):941-944
(9)Ledochowski M et al.  2000.  Fructose- and sorbitol-reduced diet improves mood and gastrointestinal disturbances in fructose malabsorbers.  Scand J Gastroenterol.  35(10):1048-52
(10)Langmead L et al.  2004.  Anti-inflammatory effects of aloe vera gel in human colorectal mucosa in vitro.  Aliment Pharmacol Ther.  19:521-527



Written by Ani Kowal

Share