Category Archives: antioxidant

Igennus MindCare® : Lift your mood

Lift your mood with optimum nutrition MindCare cover woman iStock_000016416086XXXLarge - Copy

Nutrition can have a huge impact on mood, by providing the brain with the right building blocks for the structure of the brain, as well as supporting production of mood-enhancing brain chemical messengers such as serotonin. The brain requires an array of vitamins and minerals to support cell structure and enzyme processes, so it’s no surprise that nutrition has such a strong effect on mood.

For this reason, Igennus have formulated four targeted MindCare® supplements offering all-in-1 advanced brain nutrition to transform how you feel.

Key nutrients for enhancing mood

Omega-3 EPA and DHA

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are possibly the most well known and beneficial nutrients for supporting brain function and mood. A diet naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids from seafood effectively boosts mood and also correlates with reduced levels of bipolar disorder, helping to stabilise mood. (1)

A deficiency of omega-3 can result in an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, resulting in excess inflammation in the body. Low levels of omega-3 EPA not only induces a state of inflammation in the brain, but can also lead to destruction of serotonin (2), the chemical messenger in the brain responsible for giving us feelings of happiness. It is not surprising, then, that a state of chronic inflammation coupled with imbalanced omega fatty acids is associated with depression. (3,4)

It is important to note that not all omega-3 fatty acids are equal as they have very different roles in the brain: to improve your mood you should concentrate on the active omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA, in particular, plays a key role in controlling inflammation in the brain, protecting against damage and promoting transmission of messages in the brain, helping us to feel balanced and happy. Omega-3 DHA is required for structure of the brain due to its presence in cell membranes.

In an ideal world, we would all be eating plenty of oily fish, but this is certainly not the case. If oily fish is not regularly consumed in the diet, a concentrated EPA and DHA supplement may help to boost mood.

When it comes to choosing a fish oil, concentration and dose will determine how effective they are for supporting mood. A standard fish oil capsule, for example, only provides 30% of the active ingredients EPA and DHA, whereas ideally you want at least 70% concentration EPA and DHA to achieve full benefits of a therapeutic dose.

A supplement providing EPA and DHA at a ratio of 2:1, or over 60% EPA, is considered ideal for depression, as these levels have been shown to significantly reduce depressive symptoms. (5;6) For general mood support, look for a supplement providing at least 400mg EPA and 250mg DHA.

Antioxidants

Low mood is often a side effect of too much stress on the body, both mentally and physically; correct nutrition can help your body deal with stress efficiently, so look seriously at your diet. Antioxidants are found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and have the ability to mop up damaging free radicals, thereby protecting the brain against oxidative damage. Concentrate on vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium for their powerful antioxidant effects and ability to recycle other antioxidants in the body.

B vitamins

B vitamins are essential for the functioning of many enzyme processes in the body, particularly those required to produce brain chemical messengers. Feed your enzymes with B vitamins, particularly B6, and your production of serotonin may be improved, helping you to feel happier. Requirements for B vitamins are also increased when you are stressed as the body will be using up significant amounts. If stress is associated with your low mood, B vitamins may be very effective at helping to lift you out of it. B vitamin supplements have been shown to significantly improve dejected mood, reducing stress. (7)

Vitamin D3

We have all heard of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), or at least we can empathise with those who suffer from mild depression during the gloomy winter months. As we get most of our vitamin D from skin exposure to the sun, it is no surprise that vitamin D deficiency is associated with low mood and depression, with lowest vitamin D levels correlating with severe depression. (8) Consider supplementing with vitamin D, particularly in the months October to March.

5-HTP

If your nutrition is generally spot on, and your brain is functioning clearly, to really lift your mood, you could also try adding a 5-HTP supplement to your regime. 5-HTP converts directly to serotonin in the body, helping to boost your mood. A dose of 100mg is ideal for its effects.

References
  1. Noaghiul S, Hibbeln JR. Cross-national comparisons of seafood consumption and rates of bipolar disorders. Am J Psychiatry 2003 Dec; 160(12):2222-7.
  2. Wichers MC, Maes M. The role of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) in the pathophysiology of interferon-alpha-induced depression. J Psychiatry Neurosci 2004 Jan; 29(1):11-7.
  3. Conklin SM, Manuck SB, Yao JK, Flory JD, Hibbeln JR, Muldoon MF. High omega-6 and low omega-3 fatty acids are associated with depressive symptoms and neuroticism. Psychosom Med 2007 Dec; 69(9):932-4.
  4. Pottala JV, Talley JA, Churchill SW, Lynch DA, von SC, Harris WS. Red blood cell fatty acids are associated with depression in a case-control study of adolescents. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2012 Apr; 86(4-5):161-5.
  5. Rondanelli M, Giacosa A, Opizzi A, Pelucchi C, La VC, Montorfano G, et al. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on depressive symptoms and on health-related quality of life in the treatment of elderly women with depression: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. J Am Coll Nutr 2010 Feb; 29(1):55-64.
  6. Sublette ME, Ellis SP, Geant AL, Mann JJ. Meta-analysis of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in clinical trials in depression. J Clin Psychiatry 2011 Dec; 72(12):1577-84.
  7. Stough C, Scholey A, Lloyd J, Spong J, Myers S, Downey LA. The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Hum Psychopharmacol 2011 Oct; 26(7):470-6.
  8. Milaneschi Y, Hoogendijk W, Lips P, Heijboer AC, Schoevers R, van Hemert AM, et al. The association between low vitamin D and depressive disorders. Mol Psychiatry 2014 Apr; 19(4):444-51.
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Sun Chlorella: How to cope with the snooze you lose

Sleep trouble? Could Sun Chlorella help?

Most people will experience problems sleeping at some point in their life and it is thought that around a third of Brits suffer with chronic insomnia.

Many things can contribute to a sleepless night – stress, diet, environment and lifestyle factors – but when we do find ourselves tossing and turning into the small hours of the night, it can be all too tempting to reach for the sleeping pills – but a report published by a leading mental health charity suggested that Britain has become a nation of ‘sleeping pill addicts’.

Reduce your risk of becoming addicted to these pills and try something natural instead, such as Sun Chlorella. Research from across the globe has suggested that some whole foods may improve sleep quality by up to 42% . So before you pop those prescription pills, take a look at these tips from Sun Chlorella Holistic Nutritionist Nikki Hillis who has shared some of her favourite foods to help you achieve a longer, deeper sleep.

Sun Chl  1. Chlorella

It might seem bizarre but an algae supplement such as Sun Chlorella® is rich in chlorophyll that contains high amounts of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, tryptophan and omega 3 fatty acids, all essential nutrients for quality sleep.

A recent study by Oxford University showed that the participants on a course of daily supplements of omega-3 had nearly one hour more sleep and seven fewer waking episodes per night compared with the participants taking the placebo.

Furthermore, the tryptophan found in chlorella is a sleep-enhancing amino acid used by the brain to produce neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin that help you relax and go to sleep. While young people have the highest melatonin levels, production of this hormone wanes as we age. Calcium and magnesium relax the body and B vitamins are essential for stress relief.

nuts2. Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds and sesame seeds are rich in magnesium and calcium – two minerals that help promote sleep. Walnuts are also a good source of tryptophan. The unsaturated fats found in nuts improve your serotonin levels, and the protein in the nuts help maintain a stable blood sugar level to prevent you waking in the night. 100 grams of sesame seeds boasts over 1000 micrograms of tryptophan. The same amount of chia seeds have over 700 mgs of tryptophan, while pumpkin seeds have almost 600 mg.

3. Herbal teas (such as Chamomile, Passionflower, Valerian, Lavender, Lemongrass)

Valerian is one of the most common sleep remedies for insomnia. Numerous studies have found that valerian improves deep sleep, speed of falling asleep, and overall quality of sleep. Lemongrass’ calming properties have been long revered to ward off nightmares while chamomile tea is used regularly worldwide for insomnia, irritability, and restlessness.

kiwi 4. Kiwi Fruit

Research suggests that eating kiwi fruit may have significant benefits for sleep due to its high antioxidant and serotonin levels. Researchers at Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University studied the effects of kiwi consumption on sleep and found that eating kiwi on a daily basis was linked to substantial improvements to both sleep quality and sleep quantity. After 4 weeks of kiwi consumption, researchers found that the amount of time it takes to fall asleep after going to bed decreased by 35.4%, the amount of time spent in periods of wakefulness after initially falling asleep fell 28.9% and the total time spent asleep among the volunteers increased by 13.4%.

5. Honey

Honey promotes a truly deep and restorative sleep. If you take a teaspoon or two of honey before bed, you’ll be re-stocking your liver with glycogen so that your brain doesn’t activate a stress response, which often occurs when glycogen is low. Honey also contributes to the release of melatonin in the brain, as it leads to a slight spike in insulin levels and the release of tryptophan in the brain.

Sun Chlorella 'A' 6. Sun Chlorella Sound Asleep Smoothie
Smoothies are a popular and satisfying breakfast but we rarely associate them with bedtime. Here, Sun Chlorella Holistic Nutritionist – Nikki Hillis – shares her ‘Sound Asleep, Sun Chlorella Smoothie’ packed with tasty ingredients to help you nod off and enjoy a restful kip.

  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup uncooked oats
  • 2 cups kale
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 1 sachet of Sun Chlorella®
  • Bee pollen to sprinkle on top (optional)
  • Cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a blender and sprinkle with bee pollen and cinnamon.

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Sun Chlorella: Gorgeous Summer Skin Starts from Within

Glowing, youthful skin
We all want glowing, youthful-looking skin, especially at this time of year. Good skincare isn’t just about what you put on it – looking after your skin from the inside out is also vital for a fresh, healthy complexion. That’s where chlorella comes in. One of the world’s best-kept beauty secrets, it’s a single-cell green algae packed with high levels of nutrients, and can nourish your skin in a number of unique and powerful ways.

Concentrated in chlorella’s nucleic acids is a unique substance called Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF), which is what makes the plant grow so rapidly. CGF – even in small amounts – is known to stimulate tissue repair. The result? Chlorella can help your cells mend and protect themselves, leading to fresh, rejuvenated skin.

Youth-boosting superpowers
Chlorella’s major skin benefit lies in its unusually high levels of nucleic acids, substances that help the body’s cell walls to function efficiently. Chlorella is rich in two forms of nucleic acid called DNA and RNA. Our natural production of these slows as we get older, which can contribute to signs of ageing. Dr Benjamin Franks, a pioneering researcher into nucleic acids, found that a high intake of dietary nucleic acids led to improvement in lines and wrinkles and smoother, more youthful skin. Chlorella is one of the best ways to get nucleic acids into your diet as it’s extremely high in RNA and DNA.

The ultimate cleanser
Chlorella can also help keep your skin clear – that’s down to its high levels of chlorophyll, the green pigment all plants use to absorb energy from sunlight. Research has found taking chlorophyll supplements can help support bowel function. As healthy digestion is vital for clear skin, chlorophyll can have direct benefits for your complexion. Chlorella is the richest known source of chlorophyll in the plant world.

A holistic all-rounder
Chlorella also contains a range of other nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, folic acid, fibre and essential fatty acids, all known to help promote healthy skin. Its broad spectrum of nutrients makes it ideal for supercharging your overall wellbeing and energy levels – perfect for making the most of summer!

Why Sun Chlorella?

Sun Chlorella® is produced in a special way that ensures your body gets the most from all the nutrients. Chlorella has a very tough cell wall, which stops us from digesting it properly. Sun Chlorella® innovated a special process to solve this problem, using the DYNO®-Mill, a machine that breaks the cell walls so you can digest and absorb it efficiently.

There are different ways to get the benefits of Sun Chlorella®. For the ultimate easy health boost on the move, try Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ Tablets, or add them to smoothies (see recipe, below). You can also apply the goodness of chlorella direct to your skin with Sun Chlorella® Cream, a unique and indulgent moisturiser which harnesses the power of CGF. And you can add Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ Granules to drinks.

Top Recipe – For the ultimate deep cleanse, try this delicious treat:

Sun Chlorella Drink Recipe

  • 300ml water
  • 80g cucumber
  • 80g spinach
  • 40g rocket
  • 40g celery
  • 20g kale
  • 5-15 Sun Chlorella® tablets
  • 20-40g avocado
  • 1 slice of kiwi fruit – optional

Whizz the ingredients together and drink half before breakfast. Store the rest in the fridge and drink before lunch.

For your chance to win almost £150 worth of Sun Chlorella beauty goodies, simply visit us at bodykind.com and answer one simple question.

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Age-Proof Your Brain: Three key brain nutrients

March 16th sees the beginning of Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to increase awareness of the benefits of brain research. In the UK, we are living longer. This means that more and more people will be affected by diminished brain function and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Taking measures to age-proof your brain has never been more important. Read on to discover the 3 most important brain nutrients.

Omega-3

More than half of your brain is made of fat. The most important fat to ‘feed’ your brain is DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. DHA helps to keep the membrane of each brain cell flexible, so that it can function and communicate quickly and efficiently (1).

If your diet is heavy in saturated fats and trans fats from processed foods, on the other hand, then these types of fats will be used in your brain cells, making then rigid and slow to communicate.

Good sources of DHA include low-mercury oily fish such as wild-caught Atlantic salmon, fresh water trout, herring, anchovies and sardines. If you don’t eat these foods regularly then you may benefit from a regular fish oil supplement, or a vegan omega-3 supplement containing DHA.

Antioxidants

Every time a cell makes energy, it produces damaging waste substances called free radicals. These substances have a tendency to bind with other healthy cells, causing damage called oxidation. In this way, our organs and tissues, including the brain, are constantly under attack.

When free radicals attack your brain, they can prevent the brain from producing energy, which in turn causes fatigue, and can even affect memory, mood and coordination (2).

A systematic review published just last year found evidence for the benefit of antioxidant nutrients in the prevention of cognitive decline. The strongest evidence was in support of the antioxidant mineral selenium as well as vitamins C, E and carotenes (3). These antioxidants were found to slow age-related decline in cognition, attention and psychomotor speed (the ability to coordinate fast thinking with doing something quickly, for example in driving a car
or following a conversation).

B Vitamins

There is growing evidence that B Vitamins – in particular folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12 – play a critical role in protecting the brain from the effects of ageing. B vitamins help to protect the brain by lowering levels of homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid that is ‘neurotoxic, and therefore linked to damage in the brain. In studies, levels of homocysteine in the blood have been linked with memory problems and difficulty processing information, as well as age-related cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer’s (4).

A recent randomised controlled trial of 260 elderly people found that a daily B-vitamin supplement reduced levels of homocysteine by 30%, and improved test scores in both cognition and memory (5).

Folic acid and vitamin B6 are present in leafy green, beans, nuts and seeds, while B12 is present in fish, milk, eggs and meat. Unfortunately our
absorption of Vitamin B12 becomes less efficient as we age, and so for some people a supplement may be a sensible measure.

Brain function can in fact start declining as early as age 45, a condition labelled ‘age related cognitive decline.’ (6). By looking after our health and nutrient status in middle age, we can ‘age-proof’ our brain to help ensure a sharp mind and independent lifestyle in later years.

References
  1. Cole GM, Frautschy SA. DHA may prevent age-related dementia. J Nutr. 2010 Apr;140(4):869-74.
  2. Poon HF et al (2004) Free radicals and brain aging. Clin Geriatr Med. 20(2):329-59
  3. Rafnsson SB et al (2013) Antioxidant nutrients and age-related cognitive decline: a systematic review of population-based cohort studies. Eur J Nutr 52(6): 1553-67
  4. Sachdev (2005) Homocysteine and brain atrophy. 29(7):1152-61
  5. de Jager et al (2011) Cognitive and clinical outcomes of homocysteine-lowering B-vitamin treatment in milkd cognitice impairment: a randomised controlled trial. Int J Geriat Psych. 26(6):592-600
  6. Singh-Manous A et al (2012) Timing of onset of cognitive decline: results from Whitehall II prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal. 344:d7622
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New Year Detox

Too much alcohol, and eating the wrong types of food (and too much of it!) over Christmas can lead to bloating, tiredness, poor skin and weight gain. This is why January is the perfect time to take a look at the health of your digestive system and liver, to ‘detox’ your system and start the year as you mean to go on!

Eliminating just a few foods from your diet can help to give your liver and digestive system a welcome break. For many, the most important change to make is to eliminate alcohol. Alcohol is taxing for both the digestive tract and the liver. It also destroys B Vitamins, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin C, it irritates the digestive tract and it dehydrates the body.

Giving your body a break from wheat is recommended. This gluten-containing grain is commonly associated with allergies and intolerances and can be irritating for many. Gluten-free grain alternatives include quinoa and brown rice.

The second most common allergen is dairy. The protein in dairy, casein, can trigger immune responses in sensitive individuals. Others experience digestive problems in response to lactose, the sugar in milk. Good alternative sources of calcium include nuts (almonds, brazils), seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin), beans, lentils and vegetables (spinach, cabbage, kale, carrots).

Caffeine is an addictive stimulant and can rob your body of energy in the long run. It also impedes digestion by diverting blood away from the digestive system. Giving your body a break from caffeine can restore healthy digestions and improve sleep quality, helping you feel more rested and refreshed each morning. For those who can’t manage without, try reducing your consumption to one cup in the morning, switching to other drinks in the afternoon and evening. Switching from caffeinated drinks to more hydrating beverages such as Rooibos tea, herbals teas and fruit smoothies is recommended.

Supplements designed to support your body’s detoxification pathways are often used alongside ‘detox’ diets. The liver performs a special process called ‘conjugation’ which chemically transforms toxins so that they can be removed from the body. My top three supplements for supporting the health of the liver are N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) and Milk Thistle Extract.

N-Acetyl Cysteine is a powerful antioxidant that boosts levels of glutathione in the body. Glutathione is primarily used in the liver, where it is needed for the liver’s conjugation processes. When toxic load become too great, this process can be overwhelmed, and so NAC supplements can provide welcome support.

Milk-Thistle
Milk Thistle may help the production of new, healthy liver cells.

Milk thistle, also known as silymarin, is another supplement that boosts glutathione levels. This plant extract also inhibits the production of leukotrienes (inflammatory substances that can harm the liver), and stimulates the production of new, healthy liver cells.

As it is both fat and water-soluble, alpha-lipoic-acid is a ‘universal antioxidant’. It has the ability to enter all parts of the cell, gaining access to toxins stored in fat cells. It also helps to support blood sugar regulation and energy production.

A detoxifying diet should contain an abundance of fibre and nutrient-rich plant foods. Foods that are especially good for supporting the liver include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower which boost levels of detoxifying liver enzymes. Glutathione-boosting avocado, walnuts and oily fish are also great additions. Finally, foods particularly high in protective antioxidants include tenderstem broccoli, berries, tomatoes, plums and watercress.

Suggested Meals

Breakfast: Warm water with fresh lemon juice. Scrambled omega-3 eggs with cherry tomatoes, spinach and watercress.

Snack: Grapefruit

Lunch: Marinated artichoke and chickpea salad with steamed asparagus, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.

Snack: Raw veggies with homemade guacamole

Dinner: Grilled salmon fillet with dairy-free pesto, puy lentils and a large green salad.

 

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Movember: Eat to Beat Prostate Cancer

Thousands of men across the UK are sprouting moustaches this month, in aid of Movember, an annual event aimed at raising awareness of men’s health issues.

Men are less likely to visit their GP when ill, less likely to access disease screening services and less likely to seek support with healthy-living initiatives such as stop smoking schemes. Consequently, serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes tend to be diagnosed later in men than in women. This is why raising awareness and encouraging a dialogue about men’s health issues is particularly important.

Prostate cancer is a particular focus for the Movember campaign because this disease can be difficult to spot in its early stages. In addition, one in eight men in the UK will develop prostate cancer, making this the most common type of cancer in men.

Lamberts_fish_oil
For those who do not eat oily fish regularly, it may be prudent to supplement with a good quality fish oil supplement.

The prostate, found only in men, is located below the bladder. Its function is to produce fluid to nourish and protect semen. The prostate often enlarges as men get older, causing troublesome symptoms for some men.

Symptoms of all prostate problems include:

  • needing to urinate often, especially at night
  • difficulty starting to urinate
  • straining to urinate or taking a long time to finish
  • pain when urinating or during sex

There is plenty of research suggesting that dietary changes help reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Studies have found that men with a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids in their body had a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Omega-3 is present in oily fish and in smaller amounts in flaxseed and some plant foods. One study of more than 6000 men found that men who regularly ate oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel had a reduced risk of developing this condition. The men who ate no fish were more than twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as those who ate moderate to high amounts. For those who do not eat oily fish regularly, it may be prudent to supplement with a good quality fish oil supplement.

High dairy consumption is linked to an increase risk of prostate cancer as evidenced by a number of studies in this area. One study found that men who consume two and a half serving of dairy each day have a 40 per cent increase in prostate cancer risk (2). This is probably because eating diary raises levels of Insulin like Growth-like Growth Factor which can promote growth of cancer cells. A recent meta analysis reports that soya consumption, on the other hand, is linked with a reduced risk of prostate cancer (3), and so replacing cow’s milk with soya milk is likely to be a helpful measure.

Cancer is known to be triggered by damaging molecules known as free radicals. Antioxidants ‘mop up’ these free radicals and so it seems sensible to ensure that the diet is abundant in rich sources of these nutrients. Men who eat four servings of vegetables a day have a 35 per cent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to those who eat just two servings. In addition, vegetarian men have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer than meat eaters.

Two supplements that have been widely studied in relation to prostate cancer risk are selenium and saw palmetto. Selenium has antioxidant properties and aids DNA repair, and a recent meta-analysis showed a potential inverse association between toenail, serum, and plasma selenium levels and prostate cancer risk (4). Selenium is present in most multi-vitamin and mineral supplements. Alternatively, just two Brazil nuts each day will fulfil your daily requirement of this mineral.

Saw palmetto is often used for its protective benefits. This nutrient is anti-inflammatory and also helps to prevent the conversion of testosterone to DHT, an agent that promotes prostate cancer (5). Large studies have found saw palmetto supplementation to be beneficial in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP) or non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate (6). While more research need to be done in this area, saw palmetto appears to be safe to supplement and has no known drug interactions, making it a worthy of consideration in supporting prostate health.

References

1. P Terry et al, Fatty fish consumption and risk of prostate cancer, The Lancet (2001), vol 357 (9270), pp 1764-1766

2. Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, Ajani U, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci E. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians’ Health Study. Presentation, American Association for Cancer Research, San Francisco, April 2000.

3. Hwang YW, Kim SY, Jee SH, et al.: Soy food consumption and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Nutr Cancer 61 (5): 598-606, 2009

4. Brinkman M, Reulen RC, Kellen E, Buntinx F, Zeegers MP. Are men with low selenium levels at increased risk of prostate cancer? Eur J Cancer 2006;42:2463-71.

5. W H Goldmann et al, ‘Saw palmetto berry extract inhibits cell growth and Cox-2 expression in prostatic cancer cells’, Cell Biology International (2001), vol 25(11), pp 1117-24.

6. Wilt TJ, Ishani A, Rutks I, MacDonald R. Phytotherapy for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Public Health Nutr. 2000 Dec;3(4A):459-72.

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Back to School: Immune-boosting tips for kids

The start of the new school year is upon us, and this can cause worry for some parents whose children seem particularly vulnerable to illness. Coughs, colds, ear and chest infections are commonplace in schools, with the average child catching between 8 and 12 colds or flu viruses each year. This is not surprising when we consider that the school environment is the perfect breeding ground for infection – up to 90% of children with a cold are carrying the virus on their hands, and germs can survive up to three days on surfaces.

Fortunately there are some simple measures that can help support your child’s immune system, helping to lessen the duration of an infection or even avoid illness altogether.

A good night’s sleep
Children need more sleep than adults, with primary school children needing at least 9 hours each night. Any less than this can compromise the immune system. Sleep deprived children have lower levels of germ-fighting T-cells, leaving them vulnerable to infection (1). Tips to improve sleep include keeping a regular bedtime routine, ensuring that televisions are kept out of the bedroom and reducing sources of caffeine such as chocolate and sodas.

Immune-boosting antioxidants
Another way to help support your child’s health is to ensure that his or her diet provides plenty of immune-boosting antioxidants. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C boost production of interferon, helping to prevent infection from taking hold (2). Vitamin E and carotenoids help to increase production of natural killer cells, B cells and T cells, increasing antibodies against specific germs (3).

Fruit-Bowl
Kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost.

Finally, nutrients called bioflavonoids actually work to block cell receptors so that germs cannot get access to cells. Present in whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains, flavonoids have been shown to exert both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity (4). Flavonoids are not easily absorbed from foods we eat. For the best sources of well-absorbed flavonoids, make sure your child eats plenty of blue and purple fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and red grapes.

If infection has already taken hold, then steps to reduce the length of an infection can be helpful. During an active infection, the body’s requirement for Vitamin C is increased dramatically. A fruit salad made with oranges, kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost. During an active infection, taking a vitamin C supplement 3-4 times daily can also be a helpful measure to speed up recovery.

Protective probiotics
Probiotic supplementation offers a further protective measure for children who suffer with repeated infections. Probiotics reduce the risk of allergies, tummy upsets and diarrhoea, and have recently been found to prevent the common cold (5). They give the immune system a boost by increasing natural killer cell activity and phagocytosis, both important mechanisms for protecting against infection. In children in particular, probiotics work to ramp up levels of mucosal immunoglobulin A, the first line of defence against harmful pathogens that enter the body (6).

Probiotic supplements designed especially for children offer a safe way to support your child’s immune system. Adding some probiotic yoghurt to fruit salad or breakfast muesli can help keep your child’s levels of immune-boosting bacteria topped up.

While children can’t be shielded from every bug in the classroom, these simple measures can help ensure that your child building blocks of a strong immune system and feels fit for the new school year.

References

1. Diwakar Balachandran, MD,  director, Sleep Center, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

2. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold (Review) Hemilä H, Chalker E, Douglas B. Cochrane Review. 2010. Issue 3.

3. Hughes DA: Antioxidant vitamins and immune function; in Calder PC, Field CJ, Gill HS (eds): Nutrition and Immune Function. Wallingford, CAB International, 2002, pp 171–191.

4. Middleton E (1998) Effect of Plant Flavonoids on Immune and Inflammatory Cell Function. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Volume 439, pp 175-182.

5. En-Jin Kang et al (2013) The Effect of Probiotics on Prevention of Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trial Studies. Korean J Fam Med. 2013 January; 34(1): 2–10.

6. Lomax & Calder (2009) Probiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence from studies conducted in humans. Curr Pharm Des. 15(13):1428-518.

7. Image courtesy of vanillaechoes.

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Five Ways to Fight Inflammation

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:

fruit
9 servings of fruit and vegetables can help aid inflammation

Cruciferous vegetables:
Bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, watercress
Leafy green vegetables:
Collards, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach
Legumes:
Black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans, peas, pinto beans, soybeans
Berries:
Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries
Beta-carotene-rich foods:
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.

References

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.

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Alpha-lipoic acid improves blood sugar control in diabetics

A new double-blind controlled study suggests that alpha lipoic acid supplementation may benefit patients with type 2 diabetes (1). Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of the condition, accounting for around 90% of diabetes sufferers.

Researchers investigated the effect of alpha lipoic acid supplements on glycemic control and oxidative status of 38 diabetic patients over a period of 6 months.

Alpha Lipoic Acid may help combat type 2 diabetes.
Alpha Lipoic Acid can help increase levels of antioxidants

Alpha-lipoic acid is a naturally occurring antioxidant that is present in every cell in the body. Its function is to help turn glucose into energy. It can help to increase insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake. In fact, previous clinical studies in humans have demonstrated improvement in insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes after supplementation with alpha lipoic acid (2).

Another benefit of alpha lipoic acid is that it can help to increase or maintain levels of other antioxidants including COQ 10, vitamin C, vitamin E and glutathione. This may be of benefit to diabetic patients because this condition leads to increased need for antioxidant protection. Even when diabetes sufferers are able to control their blood sugar well, they are still at risk of other complications as a result of raised levels of free radicals. Complications can include peripheral neuropathy, scar tissue formation and inflammation.

For these reasons, the researchers believe that the antioxidant properties of alpha lipoic acid may offer an additional benefit to diabetes patients.

The thirty-eight volunteers were randomly assigned to receive an alpha lipoic acid supplement (in doses of 300, 600, 900 or 1200 mg/day) or a placebo for 6 months. Each patient was instructed to take their supplement 30 minutes before meals.

All of the patients were receiving standard medical care for their condition, and were either taking prescribed drugs for diabetes, or following a prescribed diet.

After the 6-month period, all patients underwent blood tests to assess glucose levels and signs of oxidation.

The results showed that fasting blood glucose levels were lower in patients who had received alpha lipoic acid. Levels of substances called PGF2α-Isoprostanes, a product of oxidative stress, were also measured. These levels were lower in the alpha lipoic acid group, suggesting that this group also had lower levels of oxidative damage.

The supplements were monitored for safety, and were found to be well tolerated. The researchers state however that a larger test group may be needed to clarify the study’s results.

In the UK, numbers of people diagnosed with diabetes have doubled in the last ten years, and these figures continue to rise (3). Hopefully this study will pave the way for further research into natural adjuncts to standard treatment, to help improve quality of life for those affected.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

1.Porasuphatana S, Suddee S, Nartnampong A, Konsil J, Harnwong B, Santaweesuk A. Glycemic and oxidative status of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus following oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid: a randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled study. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2012;21(1):12-21.

2.Kamenova P. Improvement of insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus after oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid. Hormones (Athens). 2006;5:251-8.

3.Diabetes UK. Diabetes in the UK 2012: Key statistics on diabetes.

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January is Love Your Liver Month

December is a month filled with office parties and festive celebrations. While Christmas is a wonderful time to relax and celebrate with family and friends, all this overindulgence can play havoc with our health. It therefore seems timely that the British Liver Trust has named the month of January national Love Your Liver month.

The liver is extraordinary. It filters around one and a half litres of blood every minute, ridding our body of toxins such as alcohol, caffeine, drugs and food additives. Weight gain over Christmas time results in extra fat stored in the liver, and the extra caffeine, alcohol and the morning-after painkillers, all place additional pressure on this important organ.

In fact, according to the NHS, 1 in 5 people in the UK have a fatty liver, and rates of liver disease in the UK are rising (1).

How does overindulgence damage the liver?

When the liver tries to break down alcohol and other toxins, this can cause oxidative stress which damages cells in the liver. It is also thought that alcohol and other irritants can damage our intestine which means that toxins from the intestine can get into the liver, leading to inflammation and scarring. The liver turns glucose into fat which it sends round the body to store for use when we need it. Alcohol affects the way the liver handles fat meaning that fat starts to build up in the liver.

Dr Mark Wright at the British Liver Trust explains that the liver tends to suffer at Christmas because Chritmas indulgences are not simply restricted to a single day – instead the festive period is drawn out over several weeks, meaning that the liver is subject to excess fat, alcohol and calories over a long period of time. If we bombard our liver with too many toxins we can eventually overstretch our liver’s resources.

How can we protect and repair the liver?

The good news is that these early signs of liver disease are reversible as the liver has the remarkable ability to repair itself. The Love Your Liver campaign suggests just three simple steps to protect your liver’s health:

1. Stay off alcohol for 2-3 days in a row each week;
2. Take more exercise and stay fit;
3. Cut down on sugar and fat.

Nutritionally, there are a number of measures that are also believed to help an over burdened liver to repair itself. Foods that help promote healthy liver function include:

Are you eating enough fruit to help keep your liver healthy?
Are you eating enough fruit to help keep your liver healthy?
  • High sulphur foods, such as garlic, legumes, onions and eggs;
  • Water soluble fibre such as pears, oatbran, apples and legumes;
  • Cabbage family vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts;
  • Functional foods such as artichokes, beets, carrots, turmeric and cinnamon.

A good quality antioxidant supplement can also support your liver by providing it with the resources it needs to repair oxidative damage. Certain nutritional supplements can also support the liver’s detoxification processes. For example, sulphation is the chemical process used to detoxify substances such as alcohol and paracetemol.  The supplement methyl sulphonyl methane (MSM) – a form of sulphur – helps to support this sulphation process in the liver. The antioxidant supplement silymarin, or milk thistle, is also frequently used to help support and repair the liver, with much research supporting its benefits in diseases of the liver (2).

Stay Health Aware

As the liver has no nerve endings, it can be hard to notice the first signs of problems. If you feel you have been overindulging with fatty foods and alcohol over a long period of time you can ask your GP for a liver function test.

The Love Your Liver Roadshow is touring throughout the month of January and offers free liver assessments to the public. The roadshow is planned to stop at Portsmouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bradford, Leeds, Middlesborough and Glasgow. For the most up to date information, visit the British Liver Trust’s Love Your Liver website.

Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

1. Liver Disease Summary Statistics. www.liver.nhs.uk.

2. Saller R, Brignoli R, Melzer J Meier R. (2008) An updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin. Forsch Komplementmed.

3. Image courtesy of winnond.

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