All posts by James Webster

Sugar

Will Cutting Out Sugar Change Your Health?

Can you “detox” sugar?

Sugar is on the tip of everyone’s tongue with heated arguments around regulating sugar, health warnings and taxes. But the big question is – will cutting sugar out of your diet really change your health?

There’s no doubt that sugar is big business; today’s consumption of added-sugars is 478.8g for men and 344.4g per week for women, which works out as an average of 16 to 11.7 teaspoons per day respectively.

The World Health Organisation and Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in England advise:

  • Less than 9 teaspoons per day for men.
  • Less than 6 teaspoons per day for women.
  • Less than 3-6 teaspoons per day for children.

The sugar in our diets is almost exclusively from added-sugars hidden in foods, mostly sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g. soft drinks, milk drinks, energy drinks), and packaged and processed foods (especially cereals and baked goods). The prevalence of sugar in foods may be shocking, but food manufacturers use sugars with many different names, eg, corn syrup, maltodextrin, erythritol, brown rice syrup, agave nectar or syrup.

While a bit of honey in your tea may be harmless, regular consumption of foods laced with added sugars is a different matter. Large-scale studies of sugar-sweetened beverages have shown strong links to heart disease, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. In most cases the risks are similar in magnitude to smoking or not exercising.

Perhaps surprisingly, other diseases now strongly associated with sugar are gout, arthritis, autoimmune disease, fatty liver disease, depression and dementia.

Despite the popularity of sugar detox or reduction diets, only recently has light been shed on the health effects of quitting sugar. And it appears that detoxing sugar could indeed transform your health.

Sugar is now viewed as the new tobacco, with comparable health implications and controversy surrounding its regulation. The evidence clearly shows that too much is toxic, but many find it hard to quit. The problem is that modern, processed foods are sugar-coated, literally and figuratively. The taste buds become accustomed to the sweetness, and so a short, sharp sugar detox can be the most effective way to rehab from this sweet addiction.

Fortunately, there are natural supplements that can help rebalance blood sugars and make the ‘cold turkey’ period easier. Check out the new Viridian 7 Day Sugar Detox Kit, available at bodykind.

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Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions: Quitting Bad Habits

New Year’s Resolutions: Quitting Bad Habits

Around 7 million of us will make New Year’s resolutions this month, hoping to improve some aspect of our health. Giving up common vices, such as alcohol, caffeine and sugar can have tremendous health benefits. Unfortunately only 8% of us manage to keep our resolutions. Read on for tips on how to boost your chances of success for a healthy and happy 2017.

Caffeine

Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. The reason drinking anything caffeinated feels so good is because caffeine triggers the release of dopamine, our brain’s ‘reward’ hormone.

In moderation, coffee actually has some health benefits, including some protective effects for the liver. However, if you’re relying on caffeine to give you an energy blast or a mood boost, or if you’re having any sleep problems, then it’s time to reduce your caffeine intake.

The problem with quitting caffeine ‘cold turkey’ is because the effects of caffeine withdrawal can be miserable. Headaches, mood changes and tiredness are common. Other symptoms such as constipation can arise in the absence of caffeine’s stimulating effects on the bowel.

Quick Quit Tips

Don’t go cold turkey. Instead try to reduce slowly over the course of a week. For example, replace one of your regular coffees with a decaf, and then switch another high-caffeine drink to a cup of black tea.

Find another way to boost your dopamine levels. Exercise boosts feel-good dopamine and serotonin. Exercise doesn’t need to be gruelling – a simple brisk walk is sufficient. Supplements such as tyrosine, theanine and rhodiola can also support dopamine levels (1,2).

Guard your energy reserves by balancing your blood sugar levels. Follow a low GI diet with snacks such as fruit and nuts rather than your usual coffee fix. Consider taking supplements designed to support blood sugar and energy levels containing chromium, magnesium and B vitamins.

Alcohol

Binge-drinking over the Christmas period is common, and the effects include unwanted weight gain, poor quality sleep and low mood. For women, more than 6 units of alcohol is defined as binge drinking. Pub serving sizes can be large – a 250ml glass of wine contains almost four units, and so it is easy to overindulge (3).

Giving up alcohol is a popular way to ‘detox’ and to lose weight after the Christmas period. The health benefits of giving up alcohol, even just for a month, are considerable. A recent study found that committing to a ‘dry January’ resulted in a 15% decrease in fatty liver, a 5% decrease in cholesterol and a 16% decrease in blood glucose levels. Those who managed a full month without drinking also tended to drink less often and have fewer drinks in one sitting six months later (4).

Quick Quit Tips

Try changing your environment to avoid temptation. Rather than visiting your local pub, have a film night, book some theatre tickets or meet in a cafe.

Try out some non-alcoholic tipples. Refreshing, low sugar options include pink grapefruit juice, sparkling water, slimline tonic, fresh mint and lemon. Herbal teas and fruit teas can also work well – simply brew the tea and then keep it chilled in the fridge.

Enhance the positive impact of abstinence on your liver, with some liver-supportive nutrients. Silymarin (milk thistle), a herb with strong antioxidant properties, is commonly used as a natural liver-supportive supplement. N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), another powerful antioxidant, has been found to improve liver function in those with fatty liver disease (5).

Sugar

In the UK we eat the equivalent of 26 teaspoons of sugar each day, contributing to widespread obesity, as well as digestive and blood sugar problems. Like alcohol, certain types of sugar have also been found to put pressure on the liver. High fructose corn syrup, found in all kinds of processed foods, has been found to cause damage to the liver over time.

Giving up sugar can feel like quite a task, especially as sugar is added to many processed foods from breakfast cereals to pasta sauces. Those who have relied on sugary snacks for regular energy boosts throughout the day can experience strong cravings and might struggle without a careful strategy to reduce their intake. It is worth persevering however, as the benefits of giving up added sugars are huge. As well as weight loss and improved energy levels, a reduced sugar intake is linked with lower rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Quick Quit Tips

Those with a sweet tooth can still include sweet foods in their whole food form. Snack on naturally sweet bananas, grapes and pineapple. These whole foods are naturally high in antioxidants, fibre and prebiotics, supporting the liver and digestive system. Simply pair with a protein such as nuts or natural yoghurt to control the effect on your blood sugar level.

Include protein with your breakfast and switch to a low GI diet to help control sugar cravings. Eggs, fish, yoghurt or a protein shake with fruit make excellent breakfast foods, while nuts, seeds and oatcakes are handy for snacks.

Natural sweeteners such as xylitol and stevia can be added to sweeten foods for a lesser impact on blood sugar. Sweetening with a little chopped fruit, and using seasoning such as cinnamon or nutmeg are other good options.

Supplements designed to support healthy blood sugar regulation should contain nutrients such as chromium, magnesium, and B vitamins. Cinnamon is also known to help maintain normal blood glucose levels. Try adding a spoonful to your porridge in the morning. If you don’t like the taste, then cinnamon can be taken in supplement form.

Sticking to your New Year’s resolutions may seem tough at times, but the benefits could be huge. Let us know how you’re getting on with your New Year’s resolutions on Twitter or Facebook.

References
1. Phytother Res. 2007. Jan 21(1):37-43
2. Neuropharmacology 2012 Jun. 62(7):2320-7
3. Unit and Calorie Calculator. https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/understand-your-drinking/unit-calculator?gclid=CPTr-IOvo9ECFUqdGwodf-sAIA.
4. de Visser et al (2016) Voluntary abstinence from alcohol during ‘Dry January’ and subsequent alcohol use. Health Psychology. 35(3) 281-289
5. Khoshbaten et al (2010) N-acetlycystein improves liver function in patients withnon-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Hepat Mon 10(1):12-16
6. Kavanagh K, Wylie T, Tucker K, et al. Dietary fructose induces endotoxemia and hepatic injury in calorically controlled primates. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013.

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Christmas Healthy Holidays

Healthy Holidays – Enjoying a healthy Christmas

Healthy Holiday Eating – A Healthy Christmas

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

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

Festive Fibre Boost

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

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

Seasonal Snacking

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

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

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

Boost your Breakfast

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

Superfood Sides

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

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

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

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

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Digestive Health

Digestive Health – Beat the Bloat

Beat the bloat – Taking care of your digestive health

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

What are digestive enzymes and how can they help?

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

What are microbiotics and how can they help?

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

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SAD

SAD: Tips for a Happier and Healthier Winter

SAD: Tips for a Happier and Healthier Winter

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

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

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

1. Vitamin D and Omega-3

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

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

2. Physical Activity

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

3. Light Therapy

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

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

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

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

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

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Winter Wellbeing

Winter Wellbeing – Key Health Support Tips

Key Health Support Tips for Winter Wellbeing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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vitamin D

Vitamin D Awareness Week: Dealing with vitamin D deficiency

Dealing with vitamin D deficiency

Celebrity chef Tonia Buxton sprays her way to health after realising ‘you can’t eat your way out of vitamin D deficiency’

Are you tired? Feeling low? Suffer from headaches, aches and pains? You could be suffering from vitamin D deficiency.

When nutrition expert Tonia Buxton discovered she was deficient in vitamin D, despite an incredibly healthy lifestyle, it came as a huge shock. “If I can be vitamin D deficient – then so can you” says Tonia.

“I decided to look into which supplements I should be taking and hands down the best option for me was BetterYou’s DLux Oral Vitamin D Spray, for formula as well as absorption. I love using the spray; I can use it on the go and have peace of mind that I’m getting an optimal level of vitamin D with just one spray a day.”

Watch Tonia’s story below:

Vitamin D Awareness Week

Vitamin D Awareness Week is a major public awareness campaign to elevate the nation’s understanding of the health issues associated with declining levels of vitamin D. Timed to coincide with the clocks going back and days getting shorter, it aims to show how we can easily improve our family’s intake and eradicate deficiency once and for all.

Visit the website

New Government guidance

Earlier this year, new guidance was released to the Government by Public Health England (PHE), recommending that everyone take a daily vitamin D supplement to protect bone and muscle health during autumn and winter.

Even during summer months in the UK, we simply are not getting enough vitamin D. We tend to cover up with a high factor sun cream and wear clothing to protect skin and therefore the UVB rays do not reach or penetrate the skin.

Faster absorption than tablets – guaranteed

Luckily, supplementation is easy and cost-effective. BetterYou’s DLux Vitamin D Oral Sprays offer superior absorption and absolute convenience for adults and children alike. Research by Cardiff University has shown that by applying it directly onto the inner cheek it is absorbed through the soft inner mouth tissue and immediately enters the blood system. This bypasses the digestive system and guarantees a level of uptake which traditional tablets and capsules cannot. Keep the deficiency away with BetterYou’s DLux Vitamin D Oral Spray.

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Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis – Love Your Bones; Protect Your Future

Osteoporosis: Protect Your Bones – Three Key Nutrients You May Be Missing

October 20th is World Osteoporosis Day. This year, the theme of the campaign is Love Your Bones; Protect Your Future, encouraging all of us to take early action to protect bone health.

From the age of 50, one in every three women and one in five men will suffer a bone fracture as a result of poor bone health. “The progressive bone loss that occurs with osteoporosis may be invisible and painless, but this ‘silent’ disease results in fractures which cause pain, disability, and ultimately loss of independence or premature death,” states Prof. John Kanis, President of the International Osteoporosis Foundation.

Fortunately, taking care to adopt a healthy diet and undertake regular exercise is well-known to help protect bone health in later years. Vitamin and mineral supplements containing key nutrients for bone health – such as calcium, magnesium, vitamins D and K, and boron – can also be a sensible way of providing additional protection.

While many of us are aware of the role of nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D in bone health, it is important to note that healthy bones are dependent on a whole host of nutritional factors. Below are the top three commonly overlooked bone-boosters.

1. Protein

In the past, there has been concern over the link between protein intake and bone loss. It was believed that high protein intake might result in loss of bone mass by causing calcium to be leeched from bones.

However, more recent research has found that, provided calcium intake is sufficient, adults with the highest protein intakes have the lowest rates of bone loss (1). Protein makes up about 50% of bone, and so bone requires a constant intake of protein to maintain its mass.

Ensuring a good intake of foods high in both calcium and protein is essential, especially for older people whose protein intake tends to be lower. For those who drink protein shakes, try adding in some calcium-rich kale, Greek yoghurt or a spoon of tahini or almond butter. Aside from dairy, good sources of both calcium and protein are canned salmon (with bones), tofu, almonds, white beans and sesame seeds. The top choice however, is tinned sardines which are cheap, easily available and also provide another little-known bone builder, omega-3.

2. Omega-3

Osteoporosis has strong links with inflammation, because inflammatory compounds have a direct effect on the cells that form and break down bone.

It is widely understood that omega-3 fats have an anti-inflammatory effect. While larger studies are needed to confirm this benefit, research to date is promising. For example, combining exercise with omega-3 supplements has been shown to improve bone density better than exercise alone (2). In a second study, a test diet with a higher amount of omega-3 fats was found to reduce bone breakdown, when compared with a typical Western diet (3).

Taking care to include sources of omega-3 in the diet is recommended to fight chronic inflammation. Omega-3 fats are abundant in oily fish, and are also present in leafy greens, chia and flaxseed.

3. Antioxidants

Oxidative stress is damage that occurs when free radicals attack our body. This can include damage to bone, by reducing bone formation and increasing bone resorption.

Women with osteoporosis have been found to have lower levels of antioxidant nutrients in their blood than women with healthy bones (4). Fortunately, antioxidants in both whole foods and supplements have been found to protect bone health (5,6).

Including antioxidant-rich foods would therefore appear to be a sensible way to help keep bones healthy. While some might choose an antioxidant supplement, key antioxidants are also easy to include in our daily diet. For example, blueberries and green tea supply flavonoids, tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene and red grapes provide resveratrol.

References
1. Thorpe et al (2008) Effects of meat consumption and vegetarian diet on risk of wrist fracture over 25 years in cohort of peri- and postmenopausal women. Public Health Nutr. 11(6):564-572
2. Tartibian et al (2011) Long-term aerobic exercise and omega-3 supplementation modulate osteoporosis through inflammatory mechanisms in post-menopausal women: a randomized, repeated measures study.” Nutr & Met 8:71
3. Griel et al (2007) An increase in dietary n-3 fatty acids decreases a marker of bone resorption in humans. Nutr J.16;6:2.
4. Maggio et al. (2003). Marked decrease in plasma antioxidants in aged osteoporotic women: Results of a cross-sectional study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 88(4), 1523-1527.
5. Peters, B. S., & Martini, L. A. (2010). Nutritional aspects of the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metab, 54(2), 179-185.
6. Rao et al (2007). Lycopene consumption decreases oxidative stress and bone resorption markers in postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int, 18(1), 109-115.

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PMS

Women’s Health: Tips to beat PMS cravings

Tips to beat PMS cravings

Why do women suffer with cravings when suffering with PMS?

As many as 85% of women experience at least one symptom of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), the disruptive physical and emotional changes that can strike anytime in the last 2 weeks of the menstrual cycle. A common symptom women suffer from is PMS related food cravings, which has the potential to sabotage your diet.

Fortunately, a better understanding of PMS in general and food cravings specifically can keep women from getting caught in a diet-destroying cycle. When food cravings do hit its generally for high fat sugary foods and/or salty foods; like chocolate, sweets, ice cream or crisps.

The hormonal ups and downs that occur throughout a woman’s cycle are the major culprits in PMS. As levels of oestrogen go up and down, so do levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And when cortisol levels are high enough, the body turns on its fight-or-flight response, a woman becomes more metabolically charged, and her appetite is stimulated. This, in turn, causes a woman to seek out carbs and fat, the fuels needed for the fight-and-flight response.

Other research has linked PMS to low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia that occurs in the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Whether it’s blood sugar or cortisol levels that are out of whack, experts say eating huge servings of ice cream, chocolate and chips are the worst ways to bring levels back in balance. Proper nutrition and lifestyle habits will achieve a better balance, with long-lasting results.

Is there anything in terms of diet and lifestyle that a woman can do to reduce such cravings?

Eating a balanced diet containing complex carbohydrates, vegetables, protein and healthy fats is key in providing the body the nutrients required to balance symptoms associated with PMS. Healthy fat and protein in particular help to balance blood sugar levels as they have a slower digestion and make you feel fuller for longer. Foods high in essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6, such as nuts, seeds and their oils will slow absorption of carbohydrates, stabilize the blood sugar and stop cravings in their tracks. Try a baked sweet potato with tuna and salad for lunch. Drizzle over an organic seed oil such as Udo’s Choice Ultimate oil blend for healthy fats.

Remember to drink plenty of water. 2 litres a day helps to flush the body out and reduce bloating.

It’s best to avoid all processed sugar if you are suffering from food cravings. Simple sugars increase insulin secretion, which lowers blood sugar. If insulin levels shoot up enough, your appetite for carbs and bad fats increases.

Lifestyle wise, you want to get plenty of sleep, with 8 hours per night being ideal. This will make you less tired throughout the day and more likely to exercise and make better food choices. Any form of physical activity should be done for 30 minutes a day, from swimming, brisk walks to jogging, activities that raise the heart rate will lower cortisol levels.

Are there any nutritional supplements that can help?

A well-rounded women’s multi-vitamin is beneficial to get all the nutrients one needs, as well as an omega 3 supplement that contains EPA/DHA, which will help with balancing female hormones.

Additionally, chromium is a mineral needed for blood sugar control and metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Liquid chromium supplements are available. Take 1-2 drops under the tongue before each main meal.

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Eye Health

National Eye Health Week: Taking Care of Our Eyes

National Eye Health Week: Taking Care of Our Eyes

The seventh annual National Eye Health Week begins on 19th September. The campaign’s aim is to promote the importance of eye health and help people to understand the best ways to look after their eyes.

According to the campaign organiser Vision Matters, sight is the sense people fear losing the most. While regular sight tests are widely understood to be one of the best ways to prevent sight loss, there are several other ways that we can protect eye health. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of sight loss by preventing high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. Sun protective eyewear is also important to shield eyes from damaging UV rays.

Another important consideration is the effect of nutrition on eye health. Vision Matters emphasise the importance of a good diet in protecting eye health, especially as 60% of people living in the UK are unaware that our diet can affect the health of our eyes (1).

Low GI Diet

A good diet, full of low-GI, antioxidant-rich whole foods is crucial for eye health. Excess sugar in the blood can damage delicate eye tissues. Diets high in refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and sugary treats have been linked to an increase in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (2).

Degeneration of sight is also thought to be linked with diabetes. Sugar in the blood can damage the optic nerve at the back of the eye, as well as the lens at the front of the eye. Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels in diabetes can also affect the blood vessels supplying the eyes, eventually leading to blurred vision and sight loss.

Adopting a low-GI diet can be done with a few simple changes. Go for whole grains rather than refined grains and whole fruit rather than fruit juice. Concentrate on high fibre foods such as beans and vegetables and eat some protein with every meal, including breakfast.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fats are important for all-round eye health. They provide structural support to cell membranes and are also helpful for sufferers of dry eyes. Omega-3 fats are helpful in promoting proper drainage of intraocular fluid from the eye, and they also decrease the risk of glaucoma. Just one portion of oily fish per week has been found to reduce the risk of developing AMD by up to 40% (3).

The best sources are sardines, salmon and rainbow trout, as these oily fish are also low in mercury. Those who don’t like fish can obtain the omega-3 fat DHA from a good quality fish oil or algae supplement.

Antioxidants

Several clinical trials suggest that diets high in antioxidant nutrients are linked with lower rates of AMD (4).

By far the strongest evidence for the value in antioxidants in protecting eye health is for two nutrients called lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin help your eyes to filter out UV light and also protect the macula (the centre of the retina) from damage.

In a study of more than 4000 adults, those who ate the most foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin had a 35% lower risk of developing AMD (5). Consequently, the researchers supported the use of lutein and zeaxanthin supplements in the prevention of AMD.

Top 10 Foods for Lutein & Zeaxanthin (per 100g):

Kale (raw) 39,550 mcg
Kale (cooked) 15,798 mcg
Spinach (raw) 15,798 mcg
Collards (cooked) 8,091 mcg
Spinach (cooked) 7,043 mcg
Lettuce (cos or romaine) 2,635 mcg
Broccoli (cooked) 2,226 mcg
Corn (cooked) 1,800 mcg
Peas (canned) 1,350 mcg
Brussels sprouts (cooked) 1,290 mcg

References
1. Eyecare Trust ‘Healthy Eyes Report’.
2. Mares JA and Moeller SM. Diet and age-related macular degeneration: expanding our view. Am J Clin Nutr 83:4 pp. 733-734.
3. van Leeuwen R, Boekhoorn S, Vingerling JR, et al. Dietary intake of antioxidants and risk of age-related macular degeneration. JAMA 2005;294:3101–7.
4. The Relationship of Dietary Carotenoid and Vitamin A, E, and C Intake With Age-Related Macular Degeneration in a Case-Control Study Archives of Ophthalmology September 2007, Vol. 125 No. 9.
5. Seddon JM, Cote J, Rosner B. Progression of age-related macular degeneration: association with dietary fat, transunsaturated fat, nuts, and fish intake. Arch Ophthalmol 2003;121:1728–37.

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