All posts by James Webster

heart

National Heart Month: Heart Health and Omega-3

The heart is the most vital organ in the body, beating around 100,000 times per day to get blood pumping to all areas of your body, transporting vital nutrients and oxygen to enable optimal function. It is estimated that around one quarter of deaths in the UK each year are attributed to cardiovascular disease (CVD), with an equal gender split of those with a cardiovascular condition. So where does it all go wrong and, importantly, how can you protect your heart?

Some of the risk factors for CVD include poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and being overweight, as well as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. When considering these risk factors, it is clear that applying some healthy dietary and lifestyle techniques is likely to have a beneficial effect.

EPA & DHA reduce the risk of CVD, reducing high blood pressure and high cholesterol

It’s no secret that the Inuit consumed high doses of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), from a diet rich in oily fish. Interestingly, Inuits also had an overall reduced risk for coronary heart disease. Coincidence? Well, when we look at the research, we see that both EPA and DHA have been shown to reduce high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, risk factors for CVD.

You can obtain EPA and DHA from oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring, anchovies and sardines, with studies suggesting a decrease in CVD risk with the consumption of 2-5 portions of fish per week. The Food Standards Agency recommend 2-3 portions per week, due to sea pollutant levels; high amounts of fish in the diet could increase mercury exposure, which is also suggested as a possible contributor to poor heart health (1). For the few times per week that you do enjoy a portion (140 grams) of fish, consider broiling or baking your fish rather than frying it, as frying increases exposure to trans fats, which may increase cholesterol levels and negate any benefit for a healthy diet.

High levels of arachidonic acid (AA), an omega-6 long-chain fatty acid, relative to EPA levels, are an established risk factor for CVD. Whilst we obtain EPA from fish, AA is obtained from grains, as well as meat and dairy products produced from animals fed a high grain diet; for this reason, organic meat and dairy products are recommended as the animals consume at least 51% of their diet from pasture.

If you are not a fan of fish, or wish to further reduce your risk of CVD, consider supplementing with a purified fish oil supplement obtained from wild fish, such as Igennus Pure Essentials Super Concentrated Omega-3 Wild Fish Oil, containing 660mg of EPA and DHA per capsule (2). One capsule also contains 25mcg of vitamin D (2.5x the recommended daily intake), with deficiency of vitamin D also being linked to an increased risk of CVD (3). Unfortunately, the body’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight is vastly diminished in the UK, especially during the winter months, making this supplement ideal for protecting the health of your heart.

Whilst some vegetarian forms of omega-3 oils exist, many studies suggest that supplementing fatty acids from animal sources has a more potent effect than using a plant form of omega-3 oil (4). This is likely due to the body not being very efficient at converting short-chain fatty acids (ALA, SDA) to the beneficial long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA.

If you have been diagnosed with CVD, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, consider a higher dose EPA and DHA supplement such as Pharmepa Restore and Maintain, as at least 1 gram of EPA and DHA per day is shown as beneficial in reducing levels of these important CVD risk factors (5). This is particularly beneficial for those prescribed statins, as studies suggest that DHA levels are depleted with use of statins whilst, simultaneously, supplementation of EPA when taking statins has a positive effect on cholesterol levels (6, 7).

Antioxidants, such as CoQ10, have a cardioprotective effect

Statins work by blocking the liver’s production of cholesterol, to manage those with high cholesterol levels. However, a common side effect of statins is reduced energy, as they also block the liver’s production of a naturally occurring substance – co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is required in every cell of the body for energy production, especially in the heart area where a lot of energy is required. For those taking statins, a supplement is highly recommended to support reduced energy levels, support the health of the heart and, as studies also show, it has a beneficial effect on blood pressure and cholesterol levels (8). Supplementing with Igennus VESIsorb Ubiquinol provides the body with CoQ10 in its ready to use form, allowing quick absorption and utilisation in the body. Ubiquinol is also a potent antioxidant, providing protection to the heart against the oxidative side effects of CVD, as well as stress, smoking, consuming alcohol, and a poor diet.

Other antioxidant-rich foods that can be included in the diet to protect the heart and other organs from oxidative stress include fruit and vegetables, especially brightly coloured berries and dark green leafy vegetables, green tea and cocoa, with green tea showing an additional cardio-protective effect by reducing total cholesterol and blood pressure (9).

Optimising the diet to protect the heart

Be aware of your salt intake. Whilst it is well known that a high salt diet can have a negative impact on blood pressure, many are still unaware of just how much salt you should consume each day, and of how much is contained within foods that are consumed. The British Heart Foundation recommends a maximum of 2.5 grams of sodium and 6 grams of salt per day for an adult, and much less for those under the age of 18. The common culprits of foods high in salt include ready-meals, take-away foods, tinned foods, salted crisps and nuts, and cooking sauces. Become familiar with reading food labels and keep track of how much salt you consume each day.

Adherence to both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet have shown promise in reducing risk for developing CVD, and for reducing cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Both diets recommend antioxidant-rich foods from fruit and vegetables, as well as good quality fats from fish and nuts, whilst reducing your intake of processed foods (high in salt), reducing refined foods such as cakes and biscuits, and recommending the consumption of whole grains.

Finally, get the heart racing

Whilst many positive changes to the diet can have a beneficial effect on the health of your heart, increasing your activity levels can also reduce your risk of developing CVD. Activity trackers, such as a pedometer or a fitness tracking watch, can be a fun way to ensure you are moving around and getting active each day. Some now even contain heart rate trackers, as well as the ability to track your food intake, useful for ensuring you don’t exceed your recommended level of sodium.

References
1. Genchi, G., Sinicropi, M. S., Carocci, et al. (2017). ‘Mercury Exposure and Heart Diseases’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(1), 74.
2. Lentjes M. A. H., Keogh R. H., Welch A. A., et al. (2017). ‘ Longitudinal associations between marine omega-3 supplement users and coronary heart disease in a UK population based cohort’, BMJ Open 2017, 7
3. Mozos, I., & Marginean, O. (2015). ‘Links between Vitamin D Deficiency and Cardiovascular Diseases’, BioMed Research International, 109275.
4. Liu L., Hu Q., Wu H., et al. (2016). ‘Protective role of n6/n3 PUFA supplementation with varying DHA/EPA ratios against atherosclerosis in mice’, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 32, pp. 171-180.
5. Alexander D. D., Miller P. E., Van Elswyk M. E., et al. (2017). ‘A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials and Prospective Cohort Studies of Eicosapentaenoic and Docosahexaenoic Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Coronary Heart Disease Risk’, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 92 (1), pp 15-29.
6. Nozue, T., & Michishita, I. (2015). ‘Statin treatment alters serum n-3 to n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids ratio in patients with dyslipidemia’, Lipids in Health and Disease, 14, (67).
7. Yokoyama M, Origasa H, Matsuzaki M, et al. (2007). ‘Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on major coronary events in hypercholesterolaemic patients (JELIS): a randomised open-label, blinded endpoint analysis’, Lancet, 369 (9567), pp. 1090-1098.
8. Flowers N., Hartley L., Todkill D., et al. (2014). ‘Co-enzyme Q10 supplementation for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease’, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12.
9. Hartley L., Flowers N., Holmes J., et al. (2013). ‘Green and black tea for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease’. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, 6.

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mood

How to Beat Blue Monday: Natural Energy and Mood Boosters

The holiday season is behind us and the most depressing day of the year is on the horizon. Blue Monday (the third Monday of the year) is cited to be the ‘perfect storm’ of post-holiday blues, gloomy weather, work stress and financial woes following Christmas over-indulgence.

Read on for tips on how to bring some post-Christmas cheer to your January with natural energy and mood boosters.

Probiotics for the Brain

New research shows that the health of our digestive tract has a direct impact on mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Our brain and our gut are in constant communication. In fact, our gut microbiome – the microbes naturally present in our gut – influences the function of the brain because of its affect on the immune system, our hormones and neurotransmitter pathways.

“Our habits – including our diet – are important factors modulating the microbiome-gut-brain axis, so an appropriate diet is important for adequate mental health”, says physician Juan Lima-Ojeda, who specialises in mental health research.

Indeed probiotic supplements have been shown to relieve symptoms of depression and even show improved brain function in areas of the brain linked with mood.

For anyone looking to support a healthy mood it would be wise to focus on a diet aimed at optimising gut bacteria. Overindulgence at Christmas usually means an abundance of sugar and a lack of healthy fibre. Redress the balance with prebiotic foods such as bananas, garlic, leeks and onions to encourage a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotic yoghurts and good quality probiotic supplements can also help to replenish healthy bacteria, supporting mood and wellbeing.

Amino Acids improve Energy and Mood

Tyrosine is an amino acid used to make brain chemicals such as dopamine, and noradrenaline. It is often used in supplement form to support energy levels and to protect against the effects of stress.

When you experience stress, your brain uses tyrosine to make noradrenaline. This stimulates your central nervous system and increases your energy and mental power. It can, however, take time to then replenish tyrosine stores and so tyrosine supplementation may be helpful during stressful periods. Some studies suggest that both memory and performance under stress are improved with tyrosine supplementation.

Tyrosine may also be helpful after periods of sleep deprivation. Studies have found that tyrosine supplementation may help to improve memory, reasoning and vigilance in sleep-deprived adults.

To ensure a healthy intake of tyrosine, be sure to include plenty of tyrosine-rich foods such as fish, eggs, almonds, lima beans, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats and bananas. Those who supplement normally take around 500mg to 2000mg daily, split into two doses.

A second amino acid linked to mood is tryptophan, which is used to make serotonin, your brain’s ‘feel good’ hormone.

Low serotonin levels are linked with conditions such as depression. There is a lot of interest in a form of tryptophan called 5-HTP, a natural supplement that has been found in preliminary studies to be as effective as antidepressant drugs such as imipramine and fluvoxamine. Other studies have found that 5-HTP enhances feelings of wellbeing in healthy people.

The richest sources of tryptophan are beans, seafood, chicken and eggs. The supplement 5-HTP is believed to be effective at boosting brain levels of serotonin, especially if it is taken separately from food. The usual dosage for depression is 100mg, taken two or three times a day.

DHA: Brain Food

The human brain is almost 60% fat, and so the right type of fats are essential to support optimal mental health. The type of fat that makes up the cell membranes in the brain is an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. Without good levels of DHA, the brain has trouble utilising serotonin. Low levels of DHA are therefore linked with depression and anxiety.

In studies, 300mg fish oil daily – a rich source of DHA – has been found to be effective in the treatment of mild depression. Fish oil has also been found in double blind studies to be helpful in relieving symptoms of anxiety at a dose of 2g daily.

The best sources of DHA are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. While flaxseed provides some omega-3, vegetarians and vegans can actually obtain DHA through marine algae. Omega-3 supplements made from algae are just as effective as fish oil supplements, and provide a simple and direct source of vegetarian DHA.

References
Juan M. Lima-Ojeda et al. “I Am I and My Bacterial Circumstances”: Linking Gut Microbiome, Neurodevelopment, and Depression” Frontiers in Psychiatry. Published online August 22 2017
Tillisch K et al. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology. 2013 Jun; 144(7):1394-401, 1401.e1-4.
. Dash S et al. The gut microbiome and diet in psychiatry: focus on depression. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2015 Jan; 28(1):1-6.
Maria Ines Pinto-Sanchez et al. Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: a Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology, 2017
Badawy A. Novel nutritional treatment for manic and psychotic disorders: a review of tryptophan and tyrosine depletion studies and the potential of protein-based formulations using glycomacropeptide. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013
Iovieno N et al. Second-tier natural antidepressants: review and critique. J Affect Disord. 2011
Kiecolt-Glaser JK et al. “Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial.” Brain Behav Immun 25:1725-1734 (2011)

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cold

Natural Treatments for the Common Cold

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

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

The Perils of the Party Season

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

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

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

Prevention is Better than Cure

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

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

Fighting the Virus

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

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

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

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

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

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omega 3

Omega 3 Benefits with Wild Nutrition

Wild Nutrition’s Top 3 Benefits of Omega 3

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

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

1. Keeps omega 3:6 in balance

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

2. There is no need for conversion

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

3. Prepares the body to conceive

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

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

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stress

International Stress Awareness Day – Relieving Stress Naturally

Natural Stress Relief

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

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

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

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

Balance Your Blood Sugar

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

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

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

Work Out to Wind Down

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

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

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

Stress Relieving Supplements

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

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

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

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

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

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cleaning

Green Cleaning – What does it mean?

What is Green Cleaning?

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

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

The ingredients Bio D leave out – what to avoid

Phosphates

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

EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid)

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

Optical brighteners

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

Chlorine bleaches

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

Petroleum-derived additives

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

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

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

Defending against allergies, hay fever, and much more!

Our immune system is supposed to protect us from harm, but sometimes it can be a little bit…overprotective. Nothing demonstrates this better than an allergy, when our immune system causes a response to defend us from something we know isn’t going to hurt us. Common allergies include pollen (hay fever), dust mites, pet fur, detergents and certain food groups. Whatever the cause, few things are as uncomfortable or as irritating as an allergy.

One product however, is standing out as the go to supplement for fighting allergies. With documented benefits, more than 200 published trials and contented users around the world, many sufferers are turning to Pycnogenol for reliable relief from allergies.

So what is Pycnogenol?

Pycnogenol is a unique plant extract from the bark of the maritime pine trees (grown in sustainable French forests). Key to many of its benefits, Pycnogenol is a source of antioxidant plant compounds known as proanthrocyanadins which have been shown to help protect cells from free radical damage amongst other benefits.

What happens during allergies?

To understand how Pycnogenol can benefit, it helps to understand what happens during hay fever first. All allergies occur when the body’s immune system has an exaggerated response to foreign particles which it perceives as dangerous. Let’s take hay fever as an example. Simply put, hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen counts are on the rise and specifically, the pollen season separates into three smaller seasons:

  1. Tree pollen: late March to mid-May.
  2. Grass pollen: mid-May to July.
  3. Weed pollen: end of June to September.

This is important, as individuals typically react more to a specific type of pollen. In Britain, hay fever is caused by grass pollen in around 95% of sufferers for instance.

Once in contact with the allergen (such as pollen), our mast cells (a type of white blood cell) release the hormone histamine throughout the body, triggering allergic responses involving inflammation of delicate tissues (such as the nose, mouth, airways and skin). This inflammation can make breathing difficult through constricting the airways. Histamines also encourage the membranes of the nose to produce mucus, leading to the iconic runny nose and irritated throat.

Free radical exposure (reactive molecules produced by pollution and intense exercise) can further increase the amount of histamine produced by the mast cells, so this should be addressed also.

How can Pycnogenol help?

Pycnogenol has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects that may counter many allergy symptoms such as blocked sinuses, red irritated nostrils and constricted breathing, common to most sufferers.

In one study, a significant reduction in inflammation was found in subjects consuming Pycnogenol. The proposed mechanism is that Pycnogenol controls NF-Kappa B, which is a protein complex found in our cells that sends out compounds (such as cytokines) into the body that trigger inflammation (1). The benefits of these anti-inflammatory effects can be wide reaching, and Pycnogenol has been indicated in improving rheumatoid symptoms! Pycnogenol also supports the production of nitric oxide, a compound that widens the diameter of the blood vessels, supporting a range of circulatory conditions. Just this year, a study showed that Pycnogenol may even normalise cardiovascular risk factors in perimenopausal women (4).

Various trials have shown Pycnogenol to have an anti-histamine effect, also combating the allergic response. The antioxidant compounds in Pycnogenol are able to neutralise free radicals, reducing the amount of histamine that’s initially released from the mast cells when an allergic ‘attack’ happens. Pycnogenol also increases the uptake of histamine into the storage component of the mast cells, rather than releasing them throughout the body where they would trigger inflammation (3).

In a particular lab study, this antihistamine effect was demonstrated to be more favourable than sodium cromoglycate, an antihistamine normally found in pharmaceutical hay fever medications, demonstrating Pycnogenol’s efficacy (2).

Trying it out

Pycnogenol is a well researched and unique plant extract that is proving to be a successful solution for allergy sufferers all over the world. Not only have studies shown its anti-histamine actions, but other mechanisms such as anti-inflammation associate Pycnogenol with many other health benefits. There is a range of Pycnogenol products on the market, one of which is Bio-Pycnogenol from Pharma Nord. Produced to pharmaceutical standards, Bio-Pycnogenol was developed with efficacy, absorption and scientific evidence in mind.

References
1. Grimm T, Chovanová Z, Muchová J, Sumegová K, Liptáková A, Duracková Z, Högger P. Inhibition of NF-kappaB activation and MMP-9 secretion by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol). Journal of inflammation (London, England). 2006 Jan 31 [cited 2017 Feb 8];3. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16441890.
2. Choi Y, Yan G. Pycnogenol inhibits immunoglobulin e-mediated allergic response in mast cells. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2009 May 15 [cited 2017 Feb 8];23(12):1691–5. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19441014.
3. Sharma S, Sharma S, Gulati O. Pycnogenol inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2003 Jan 31 [cited 2017 Feb 8];17(1):66–9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12557250.
4. Normalization of cardiovascular risk factors in peri-menopausal women with Pycnogenol® – Minerva Ginecologica 2017 February;69(1):29-34 – Minerva Medica – Journals [Internet]. Minervamedica.it. 2017. Available from: http://www.minervamedica.it/en/journals/minerva-ginecologica/article.php?cod=R09Y2017N01A0029

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3 Simple Steps to Spring Clean your Gut

3 Simple Steps to Spring Clean your Gut

At this time of year, many of us clear out the clutter and give our homes a spring clean. Spring is also the ideal time to nourish your body by spring cleaning from the inside too. Read on for 3 Simple Steps to Spring Clean your Gut.

1. Cleaning juices and smoothies

Including cleansing smoothies and juices for breakfast for just one week will help give your gut a break, and is a great way to kick start healthy habits for spring.

Eating raw vegetables can give an extra health boost because no vitamins are lost in cooking. It’s also a great way of including ingredients that aid digestion. The best vegetables to include are carrots, beetroot, spinach and cucumber, while fruits with the highest ‘detox’ potential include apricots, melon, red grapes, blueberries and kiwi.

Try adding fresh mint leaves to combat cramps, aloe vera to reduce inflammation, ginger to stimulate digestive juices, a teaspoon of glutamine to support the lining of your gut, or fennel seeds to combat gas and bloating. A teaspoon of spirulina or supergreens powder will pack in additional nutrients.

The following recipe, from Natasha Corrett’s Honestly Healthy Cleanse, is a perfect example of a smoothie that aids digestion while feeling rich and indulgent.

Cacao, cinnamon, pear and fennel smoothie

  • 170g pear, cored
  • 50g fennel
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 240ml almond or rice milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Simply blend until smooth, and enjoy.

2. Give your Gut a Break

Removing common gut irritants can help to combat troublesome digestive symptoms, whether you suffer with IBS or simply have a sluggish gut that needs some extra care. Try removing these three common offenders – sugar, alcohol and wheat – for a week.

Sugar feeds harmful bacteria in the gut which can then lead to discomfort and bloating. Try going sugar-free for a week, remembering that sugar is not only present in sweets and chocolate but also in breakfast cereals, energy drinks and many low-fat foods. To satisfy a sweet tooth, snack on fruit such as apples and plums, which will provide plenty of gut-cleansing soluble fibre.

Avoiding alcohol will also help to support your gut, because alcohol is an intestinal irritant. It also depletes your body of zinc which is essential for a healthy gut lining. Instead, be sure to drink plenty of water which will help to support a sluggish bowel.

Wheat and gluten can also cause problems for those with sensitive guts. Those who suffer with IBS are more likely to have nonceliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), meaning that gluten-containing foods trigger symptoms such as cramps and bloating (1). Try gluten-free oats, brown rice, quinoa and millet instead, to stabilise your blood sugar levels and give your gut a welcome break.

3. Cleansing herbs

Gas, bloating and discomfort can sometimes indicate an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut. This is especially true if your diet has been high in sugar and low in prebiotic plant foods. A herbal cleanse designed to banish pathogenic yeast and bacteria can help to restore a healthy balance.

Herbal teas are an easy way to enhance a digestive cleanse. The best choices are fennel, chamomile, peppermint and nettle. Try to drink a cup between every meal.

Some herbals in supplement form are proven to be helpful in eradicating pathogenic bacteria fungi and parasites. One well-studied herb is berberine which is often used to address gut overgrowths (2,3). Grapefruit seed extract has similar properties (4). Herbals supplements such as this can be a valuable part of a ‘spring clean’ for anyone who needs to redress a healthy gut balance.

References
1. Eswaran et al (2013) What Role Does Wheat Play in the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Gastroenterol Hepatol 9(2): 85–91.
2. Lezak M. H(2000) Herbal antimicrobials for intestinal infections. ANSR – Appl Nutr Sci Rep:Advanced Nutrition Publ, 1-6.
3. Patil T et al (2015) Antimicrobial Profile of Antidiabetic Drug: Berberine International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Research 7(1); 45-50
4. Ganzera M et al.(2006) Development and Validation of an HPLC/UV/MS Method for Simultaneous Determination of 18 Preservatives in Grapefruit Seed Extract J. Agric. Food Chem. 54, 3768-3772

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Sleep

Q&A with James Wilson – The Sleep Geek

March is National Bed Month, a campaign which aims to highlight the importance of a good night’s sleep, so we’ve teamed up with BetterYou and Sleep Geek, James Wilson, a Sleep Behaviour and Sleep Environment Expert to answer some common and not so common questions about sleep.

1. How Much Sleep Do We Need?

The media is obsessed with this question and you see lots and lots of different answers. Generally, between 6-9 hours is the norm and to get 80% of our physiological need from sleep, we need about 5 and a half hours’ sleep. We know less than 5 and more than 11 can have a detrimental impact on our long-term health. Rather than obsessing about duration, I help people focus on quality and to create a sleep routine that gives them the sleep they need.

2. Tell me the one thing I can do to make me sleep better?

Unfortunately, for sleep, there is no one thing. We can eat better, and decide to exercise more but we cannot force sleep. What we need to do is create a healthy pre-sleep routine, ensuring we are looking to drop our heart rate and core temperature in the hour before bed. Learn what sleepy feels like, rather than tired and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends! If more of us did this, then the quality of our sleep would improve. As I have already said, it is as much about quality as it is about quantity.

3. I keep pressing my snooze button in the morning and I struggle to get up. How do I stop this?

It may be that your sleep type is a night owl; someone who goes to sleep later and gets up later, but you are trying to get up earlier than your body wants. What is currently happening is that your alarm is going off and you are waking up with a shock. You go into fight, flight or freeze mode, your senses check to see if you are under attack and when they realise you are not, they let you drop back to sleep. To combat this, use a daylight alarm clock. Our bodies are designed to be awake when it is light and these alarm clocks mimic the sun. They wake you up more gently and the sunshine like light stops the production of Melatonin, meaning you are less likely to drop off back to sleep.

4. How Do I Stop My Little One Waking Up in The Night?

Parents often ask me this and although there are several causes, one of the main reasons is that the child’s environment has changed since they went to bed. What often happens is that our little ones go to bed with a night light on, or a lullaby, or a cuddly toy type product that claims to help them sleep. These products either switch off automatically or we, as parents, turn them off. We wake up numerous times in the night, but normally go straight back into our sleep cycle, so don’t remember them. However, if we change their environment, our little ones wake up and want us to reassure them that everything is ok. If we keep the environment consistent, then they are less likely to wake up fully out of sleep.

5. The strangest question I have had:

“I was struggling to sleep and my friend recommended I take a potato to bed with me. It worked! Why do you think this is?”

I was asked this question as part of a radio phone in I took part in. My thoughts would be that the gentleman in question created a routine for himself that meant his body knew when it was time to start producing melatonin. I always recommend creating a healthy pre-sleep routine that is consistent and it helps if we use something to anchor this process. You could use brushing your teeth, removing make-up or, using a high quality magnesium supplement such as BetterYou Magnesium Oil Spray or BetterYou Magnesium Flakes. As well as providing an anchor, magnesium relaxes us and helps our heart rate drop which is important to the production of melatonin.

BetterYou are offering one lucky person the chance to Win a Sleep Bundle worth over £40, including Magnesium Flakes, Magnesium Oil Goodnight Spray, Magnesium Lotion and an Inflatable Footbath, helping you to put an end to restless nights.

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Sleep

Top Three Supplements for a Good Night’s Sleep!

March is National Bed Month, a campaign which highlights the importance of a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep can lead to numerous health problems, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, poor immunity and mental health issues (1). Sleep is clearly crucial to our health and wellbeing. Unfortunately more than a third of us don’t get enough of it (2).

According to the latest Great British Bedtime Report, the most popular self-medication for sleep problems is alcohol. In fact, one in four of us is turning to alcohol at bedtime to help get to sleep. This figure has climbed worryingly since 2013 when the survey was first conducted.

Alcohol is one of the worst ways to treat sleep problems, as it blocks REM sleep – the most restorative type of sleep. It can worsen snoring and sleep apnea, and a nightly alcohol habit is likely to contribute to weight gain.

Fortunately, there are several healthier alternatives for those seeking a good night’s sleep. Here are the top three natural supplements commonly used to relieve insomnia and encourage restful sleep.

L-Theanine

L-theanine is the reason that many of us enjoy relaxing with a cup of tea. This amino acid, naturally present in tea leaves, has been shown to have calming effects on the brain (3). It reduces levels of the brain’s ‘excitatory’ neurotransmitter glutamate, and boosts levels of relaxing GABA.

Theanine supplements are well absorbed and have been found to enter the brain within 30 minutes. The dose often recommended for improving sleep is 200 to 400mg, taken an hour before bed.

Magnesium

Often deficient in modern diets, magnesium is one of the first nutrients to consider for anyone suffering through restless nights. Magnesium reduces electrical conduction in both muscles and nerves. These muscle-relaxant and sedative properties explain the link between magnesium and improved sleep. Those who supplement magnesium get to sleep more quickly and stay asleep for longer (4).

Dietary magnesium can be increased by eating plenty of leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and unprocessed grains. Many people have success with magnesium oil spray or magnesium salts added to a bath before bed, as magnesium is well absorbed through the skin. Others might prefer an oral supplement. The dose often recommended for sleep is around 400mg, with chelated forms such as magnesium glycinate or magnesium taurate or magnesium citrate being the best option.

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid that reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while increasing means the production of GABA – our brain’s ‘calm’ chemical is increased. Because this supplement appears to reduce the body’s response to stress, taurine may be of particular interest to those who feel that stress is affecting their sleep. Because magnesium is effective for muscle relaxation and relieving anxiety, taking taurine in the form of a magnesium taurate supplement may be the best choice for stressed individuals seeking a relaxed night’s sleep (5).

References
1. Why Lack of Sleep is Bad for your Health. NHS. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx
2. The Great British Bedtime Report. The Sleep Council. https://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/The-Great-British-Bedtime-Report.pdf
3. L-Theanine: Unique Amino acid of Tea, and Its Metabolism, Health Effects, Safety. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2015
4. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: a double blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012
5. Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Neuropharmacology 2012

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