Category Archives: fatigue

Detoxification dieting for the year ahead

Feeling sluggish after the excesses of the festive season? Do you have permanent fatigue, sore or achy muscles for no reason, skin breakouts, bad breath and plummeting energy levels or do you just feel less vibrant than you should?

A detoxification diet is seen as the ultimate health and beauty boost, especially during January post party season.

As far as detoxification is concerned the primary organs responsible are our liver and bowels. The liver and gut work together removing unwanted toxins from our body. Detoxification is the key function of the liver but it also known as the secondary organ of digestion, as it produces bile which is used to aid fat digestion. The liver needs to be able to detoxify toxins, so that they are ready to be released into the bile and the bowel needs to be healthy and moving regularly to enable these toxins to be excreted via a stool.

There are many food and supplements that can help support both these organs to do their job effectively. Eliminating the foods and drinks that challenge them is a good start and will help you move towards a healthier lifestyle. For example, fizzy drinks, cordials, caffeine and alcohol and cleaning up your diet by removing wheat, sugar, dairy, and processed foods and not forgetting drinking lots of water. The good news is that our liver is capable of regenerating itself so with a good diet, lifestyle and the right supplements there’s no reason we cannot maintain our liver function at any age.

Choline is essential for the maintenance of a healthy liver.

Choline foods that are high in sulphur compounds such as onions, garlic, leeks and eggs are supportive for the liver. Eggs and soybeans are also rich in, a ‘lipotropic’ agent which in essence has a de-congesting effect on the liver and prevents the accumulation of fat, therefore helping to keep the liver functioning efficiently. Supplement formulas containing choline and other lipotropic agents are commonly used to help with liver detoxification. (1)

A human study in 2007 on adults given a choline deficient diet for up to 42 days proved that when deprived of dietary choline 77% of men and 80% of women developed fatty liver. (2)

Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are rich in glucosinolates, which speed up the liver’s ability to detoxify. You may wish to juice some green vegetables, rich in chlorophyll, along with your apples and ginger or make a green breakfast smoothie and add some chlorella. Add turmeric to soups and stews and cinnamon to stewed fruit or porridge as both of these spices encourage the production and flow of bile to help excrete fats from the liver.

Also we must not forget the importance of keeping the bowels clean and regularly emptied, so as not to build up toxic waste. If you have a diet low in fibre then the muscles of the colon can become weak and lazy which over time can lead to chronic constipation. Refined sugars found in cakes and biscuits and white floury goods such as white bread can ferment quickly in the gut and lead to bloating, constipation and the formation of unhealthy bacteria which will impair your overall digestion. Try natural ‘live’ yoghurt to populate the gut with good bacteria. Red and processed meats, melted cheese and processed foods have a long transit time though the bowel and may block you up so avoid these when trying to detox. Make sure you eat a blend of soluble and insoluble fibre to keep things moving such as oats, barley, pears, apples, lentils, prunes, oat bran and pulses are good forms of soluble fibre. (3) Flaxseeds are a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibre and will therefore stimulate the bowel and bulk the stool to encourage elimination. If you break them up in a blender or grind them they are more effective. Not forgetting to drink plenty of water! This time of year is a great time to focus on revitalising our bodies for the year ahead.

  1. Choline contributes to the maintenance of normal liver function.
  2. Sex and menopausal status influence human dietary requirements for the nutrient choline.
    Fischer LM, daCosta KA, Kwock L, Stewart PW, Lu TS, Stabler SP, Allen RH, Zeisel SH.
    Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1275-85.
  3. Barley and Oat grain, Wheat bran and Rye fibre all contribute to an increase in faecal bulk. Also Wheat bran fibre contributes to an acceleration of intestinal transit.
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Battling the Winter Blues

If the short, cold, dark winter days leave you feeling lethargic and energy-depleted, then you may be suffering from the winter blues, or its more severe form, seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Other symptoms include carbohydrate cravings, irritability, weight gain and the desire to avoid social situations.

The winter blues are triggered by a lack of sunlight – as the number of daylight hours decreases, levels of ‘feel-good’ hormones in our body begin to drop. The symptoms can appear in late autumn and don’t normally lift until the brighter days in early spring. Fortunately there are simple measures that can help to alleviate these troublesome symptoms.

There is certainly a link between low Vitamin D levels and seasonal affective disorder, although it is unclear whether there is a causal connection. A recent review of existing studies concluded that treating Vitamin D deficiency offers a simple way to improve mental health (1). It would seem sensible for those feeling the effects of the winter blues to test their Vitamin D levels, and to address any deficiency. Sunlight and supplementation are likely the fastest way to address deficiencies, although fatty fish, fortified milk and egg yolks will also help to boost levels.

Other studies have shown that omega-3s appear to help maintain healthy levels of the ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin. Healthy cells membranes, which require good levels of omega-3 fats, are required for the brain to respond to serotonin and dopamine. A recent large double-blind trial of more than 400 adults supports its use in treating depression (2). Based on these results, ensuring adequate omega-3 intake is certainly a sensible approach for those affected by seasonal changes.

Studies investigating the effectiveness of supplements such as St John’s Wort and 5-HTP have had mixed results, though some studies have found that supplementation improves symptoms such as fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety and lethargy in those with SAD (3,4).

Dietary changes may also help to relieve symptoms. According to Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet, a well-timed snack can help to relieve symptoms. Dr Wurtman led a study looking at the SAD-carb connection, concluding that a low-protein snack providing about 30 grams of carbohydrate was enough to provide a serotonin boost. A warm bowl of leek and potato soup in the evening might well provide that much-needed serotonin-boosting carbohydrate.

Light therapy is a non-invasive, natural, effective and well-researched treatment approach for those with SAD
Light therapy is a non-invasive, natural, effective and well-researched treatment approach for those with SAD

The most effective natural intervention, however, is probably light therapy. Light therapy is a non-invasive, natural, effective and well-researched treatment approach for those with SAD. Specially designed light therapy devices mimic the effects of sunlight to regulate levels of melatonin and serotonin. A recent meta-analysis concluded that light therapy works as an effective treatment for SAD no matter what time of day it is used, so long as it is used at least once daily (5). Dawn simulation is especially useful, and studies have found that this approach is more effective in alleviating SAD symptoms that standard bright light therapy or placebo, alongside additional benefits such as less morning drowsiness (6).

Those looking for a natural way to address the winter blues may benefit from the following approach:

1. Ensure that you are getting sufficient amounts of omega-3 and Vitamin D. You can have your levels checked by a nutritional therapist.

2. Exercise regularly. Try a 30-minute run or brisk walk in the daylight.

3. Start the day with a protein-rich breakfast, but try a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack in the evening. Good options are sweet potato, brown rice, lentils, rye bread and butternut squash.

4. Try a light therapy lamp or a dawn simulation device, making time to use the device at least once each day for the best results.

References

1. Anglin RES et al (2013) Samaan Z, Walter SD and McDonald SD. Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Br-J-Psych 2013, 202:100-107.

2. Lespérance F, Frasure-Smith N, St-André E, et al. (2011) The efficacy of Omega-3 supplementation for major depression: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 72:1054-1062.

3. Ghadirian AM et al (1998) Efficacy of light versus tryptophan therapy in seasonal affective disorder. J Affect Disord 50:23-7.

4. Wheatley D. (1999) Hypericum in seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Curr Med Red Opin 15:33-7.

5. Golden RN et al (2005) The Efficacy of Light Therapy in the Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Review and Meta-analysis of the Evidence. Am J Psychiatry 162(4):656-62.

6. Avery DH et al (2001) Dawn Simulation and Bright Light in the Treatment of SAD: A Controlled Study. Biol Psychiatry. 50:205-216.

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National Cholesterol Week

This week is National Cholesterol Week, HEART UK’s annual event to raise awareness of the dangers of high cholesterol. Heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer, accounting for around a quarter of all deaths. The good news is that if you have raised cholesterol alongside other markers of heart disease, it can in almost every case be reversed through dietary and lifestyle measures.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance manufactured by the liver and it plays an important role in your body. It is a component in the membrane of every cell in your body. It is also involved in hormone production and helps the nervous system to function properly. When there is inflammation or damaged tissue in the body, cholesterol can accumulate in the areas in need of healing. This may be why raised cholesterol can signify damage in your arteries. LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol is a particular concern because this type of cholesterol can become oxidised, leading to tissue damage and hardening of the arteries.

There are three cholesterol readings that you can have. Total cholesterol, LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and HDL (‘good’) cholesterol. LDL transports cholesterol from the liver through the bloodstream to sites where it is needed. HDL then transports it back again, and so HDL removes unwanted or damaged cholesterol from your arteries. Ideally HDL should make up at least a third of your total cholesterol.

While cholesterol is used as a marker for heart disease, in order to get a clearer idea of your real risk, it’s important to consider this marker alongside other markers such as levels of triglycerides, blood pressure and homocysteine.

If you eat a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and fried foods, and low in protective fruits and vegetables, then cholesterol is likely to become damaged by oxidation. This type of diet also provides very little soluble fibre which is essential in eliminating excess cholesterol. In general, the best diet for lowering LDL cholesterol is a low GI diet. This type of diet has been found to be particularly effective in reducing LDL and triglycerides and raising HDL (1). A huge benefit of a low GI diet is that it has greater levels of soluble fibre which helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the body. It also provides plenty of antioxidants, helping to combat oxidative damage.

Here are 10 simple ways to reduce your cholesterol level, improve your lipid profile and lower your overall risk of heart disease.

Lettuce
Leafy Greens boost magnesium, helping to relax your arteries.

1. Increase leafy greens and add raw nuts and seeds to your diet.
These boost magnesium, helping to relax your arteries.

2. Drink 8 glasses of water each day.
Proper hydration reduces blood pressure by lowering levels of sodium inside cells.

3. Reduce your salt intake.
Reducing sodium levels can help to relax the arteries.

4. Add plant sterols.
Plant sterols lower ‘bad’ cholesterol by blocking its absorption. They are present in soya beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

5. Increase low GI carbohydrates.
Soluble fibre, in oats, lentils, beans and vegetables, helps to reduce levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Beta-glucans in oats are particularly beneficial.

6. Add antioxidant-rich foods every day.
Antioxidants ‘mop up’ damage within the arteries. Try blueberries, strawberries, plums, tenderstem broccoli and spinach.

7. Boost your omega-3 intake with oily fish, flaxseed oil or omega-3 eggs.
Omega-3 fats help to lower triglycerides, lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and increase ‘good’ cholesterol.

8. Add garlic, ginger and turmeric to your cooking.
Garlic promotes healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Turmeric and ginger help to relax the arteries.

9. Consider supplementing Co-Q10 and Vitamin C.
These nutrients reduce damage in the arteries and lower blood pressure.

10. Boost your B Vitamins.
Homocysteine is actually one of the strongest predictors of heart disease (2), damaging the lining of the arteries, but B vitamins convert it into a harmless substance. If you have raised homocysteine levels, then supplementing with B Vitamins can help. Try foods rich in folic acid such as broccoli, asparagus and spinach.

References

1. Stroke Statistics. British Heart Foundation and The Stroke Association. 2009.

2. Jardine MJ et al (2012) The effect of folic acid based homocysteine lowering on cardiovascular events in people with kidney disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012;344:e3533.

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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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Sun Chlorella Smoothie Recipes

Healthy eating is one of the most important parts of healthy living. We all try to eat the best quality and the freshest food that we can, but even with our best efforts, sometimes we need to adjust our diets to include supplements.

Introducing Sun Chlorella – once a secret of The Far East, chlorella is now becoming revered in The West as a natural wholefood supplement – good for maintaining optimum health. Simply, Sun Chlorella  supplies your body with some of the important nutrition that your body may be lacking.

Chlorella is rich in a variety of nutrients including:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron

Amongst many benefits, they can help to:

  • Fight fatigue/combat tiredness
  • Maintain a healthy immune system
  • Chlorella is also known to help maintain a normal colonic function

Mix up your smoothies and try blending Sun Chlorella into your favourite smoothie. Add fruits such as a kiwi or fresh mango to give sweetness or even tomato for a more savoury flavour. Just remember – all ingredients should be fresh and raw for maximum nutrients! Here are two fantastic smoothie recipes to get you started:

Savoury Smoothie Recipe No 1:

Sun Chlorella Green Smoothie
Sun Chlorella Green Savoury Smoothie

Ingredients:

300ml water, 80g cucumber, 80g spinach, 40g rocket, 15 Sun Chlorella tablets, 20–40g avocado (optional), a pinch of salt (optional), half a clove of garlic (optional), 1–2 teaspoons of lemon juice (optional).

Can also add other greens such as fennel bulb, parsley, pak choi, basil, kale, etc.

Directions:

1. Place water in blender (liquidiser)
2. Chop all ingredients
3. Add all ingredients and blend until smooth
4. Divide smoothie in to two portions (each portion is about 300mls)
5. Consume half before breakfast and second portion refrigerated or placed in a cold thermos flask to be consumed before lunch

 

Sun Chlorella Sweet Smoothie
Sun Chlorella Sweet Smoothie

Sweet Smoothie Recipe No 2:

Ingredients:

300ml water,80g cucumber, 40g spinach, 80g banana, 40–80g strawberries, 20–40g raspberries, 20–40g blueberries, 15 Sun Chlorella tablets.

Directions:

1. Place water in blender (liquidiser)
2. Chop all ingredients
3. Add all ingredients and blend until smooth
4. Consume as part of breakfast and a portion can be refrigerated or placed in a cold thermos flask to be consumed at lunch

 

References

Content, recipes & images courtesy of the team at Sun Chlorella.

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Can CoEnzyme-Q10 combat statin side-effects?

A new study (1) confirms long-standing concerns about the side-effects of cholesterol-lowering statins. The study suggests that statin drugs can cause significant problems with energy levels and general fatigue, especially in women.

Statins are routinely prescribed to individuals with raised cholesterol levels and are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the UK. These drugs lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting a liver enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) which plays a role in cholesterol production. Unfortunately this enzyme is also important for the production of Co-enzyme Q10. CoQ10 is a nutrient found in almost every cell in the body and is essential for energy production in the muscles.

The study, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, followed a group of individuals who were randomised to take one of two statins (simvastatin at 20 mg per day or pravastatin at 40 mg per day) or placebo for six months. Participants were rated at regular intervals through the study for their perceived fatigue on exertion, general fatigue and energy levels.

Overall, statins did indeed appear to cause a significant change in energy and worsen fatigue on exertion. Women were more affected than men.

In fact, 40% of the women receiving statins reported either a reduction in energy or a worsening of fatigue on exertion. 10% of the women reported that both of these issues were ‘much worse’.

Nuts contain CoQ10
Nuts contain Co-Enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) which is beneficial towards energy levels

Co-enzyme Q10 is essential for the ‘battery’ in each cell to power our muscles and organs. It is not surprising that depletion of CoQ10 can cause muscle weakness and fatigue. CoQ10 is also vital for heart function. According to one recent study (2), 71% of healthy people develop heart rhythm abnormalities when given statins.

It is important for those taking statins to be aware of the side-effects such as fatigue and muscle weakness, as these symptoms may only appear after some months or years after beginning statin treatment.

The good news is that those taking statins may be able to protect themselves from these side-effects by including good sources of CoQ10 in their diet. The richest dietary sources of this nutrient are organ meats such as liver and kidney, as these are the bodily organs that naturally store high levels of CoQ10. Other sources include oily fish, eggs, nuts and spinach.

For many individuals, dietary sources of CoQ10 may be inadequate to combat the draining effect of statins. In these cases I would recommend would be to supplementing 50 – 100 mg of CoQ10 each day.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Golomb BA, et al. Effects of Statins on Energy and Fatigue With Exertion: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Int Med epub 11 June 2012

2. Silver MA, Langsjoen PH, Szabo S, Patil H, Zelinger A. (2004) Effect of atorvastatin on left ventricular diastolic function and ability of coenzyme Q10 to reverse that dysfunction. Am J Cardiol, 94(10):1306-10.

3. Image courtesy of Zole4

 

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Natural solutions for more energy

Are you the type of person that jumps out of bed every morning with a smile on your face as soon as your alarm goes off, ready and waiting to face the day? Do you remain full of energy and on full pelt for the rest of the day before having a great night’s sleep every night? Or are you more likely to hit snooze on your alarm as much as possible before you absolutely have to get up? Then day-dream about your bed as your energy levels drop through the floor throughout the day?! If you are more likely to be the latter, you are most certainly not alone.

A persistent lack of energy is one of the most common complaints in both men and women across the nation. Daylight, and more importantly sunlight, has a great effect on our overall energy levels.  Historically we are used to being outside all day benefiting from the effects of sunlight. Modern living, however, results in the majority of us spending large amounts of time indoors, deprived of sunlight and this causes problems with our body’s natural rhythm and well being.

Officially summer comes to an end this weekend with clocks going back an hour. This signals the start of dull days with very limited and less intense sunlight and even less opportunity to benefit from the sun. This can bring about a reduction in energy levels for much of the population and reduced daylight can, in some cases, cause Season Affective Disorder (SAD) – sometimes known as Winter Depression. As a result many people begin to dread the winter months. There are, however, many natural ways to combat low energy and SAD. Balancing your circadian rhythm is a great way to do this.

Below we have drawn up a brief guide on how you can boost your energy levels and prevent the frequent desire for those 3pm snoozes!

Early Morning (approx 6.30am – 9am)

A healthy start to the day
A boiled egg with wholemeal toast will provide you will a slow and sustained release of energy throughout the morning. (1)

Your Internal Bodyclock is in its “awakening” mode at this stage. Your metabolism is slow and rising. Your body temperature, blood pressure and cortisol levels are all also increasing, signalling to your body to wake up. You may feel ‘groggy’ first thing and crave that morning cup of coffee or a bowl of sweet, sugary breakfast cereal. This may give you a rapid increase in energy, but it will also leave you with an energy slump once the initial effects have worn off. This is where people can fall into the habit of regular caffeine or sugary snacks in an attempt to maintain this feeling.

There are better ways to boost your energy and replenish the low blood glucose levels that have developed during sleep. Try adding a slice of lemon to hot water – this has natural sugars and also helps cleanse the digestive system (having the effect of a bit of a mini detox) ready for the day ahead. Also opt for high fibre breakfasts such as 100% pure rolled porridge oats with a handful of fruit and seeds or a boiled egg with wholemeal toast. These kinds of foods will provide you with a slow and sustained release of energy throughout the morning, keeping you full for longer and reducing those energy slumps.

Try to get out in the daylight as much as possible in the morning as this will wake your body up for the day. The winter days will prevent many people from being able to do this, therefore you may wish to try using a sunrise alarm clock, like the Lumie Bodyclock Starter in the mornings. This will stimulate your brain into waking gradually, balancing your circadian rhythm and your cortisol levels, which has the added bonus of being able to also support your immune system and stress levels.

Morning until Lunch (approx 9am – 2pm)

As your cortisol levels are still increasing you are more alert and efficient and your mental capability has reached its peak of the day. This means your concentration, memory and focus are all waiting to be utilised. So use this time to get all your lingering tasks done!

You could also try using a SAD light for 30 minutes every day for energy stimulation. The effectiveness of SAD Lights is measured in lux, which is the level of light intensity that you would normally get from the sun. A SAD light with 10,000 lux is recommended for those who want to see the most benefits.

Also avoid drinking coffee at this time as this can cause the swift rises and falls in energy levels. Instead you could try green tea, which is packed with antioxidants and contains much less caffeine per cup. Other teas are also great options such as ginger tea, which is good for digestion. Peppermint, fennel and camomile are also good options.

Females should take extra care too. A lack of energy can be due to low iron levels and coffee has been shown to reduce iron stores in the body. Make sure your levels are topped up by eating foods rich in iron such as meats, some fish and leafy greens such as spinach. Consider taking an iron supplement and remember to take this with vitamin C to help its absorption. B vitamins are also great for energy – You could try adding a multivitamin with extra B Complex, such as Viridian High 5 Multi Vitamin to your daily routine.

Another helpful tip is to try to get outside during your lunch break – the fresh air and daylight can do wonders to prevent that mid-afternoon slump. When choosing your lunch, choose slow-release carbohydrates such as brown rice or wholemeal bread rather than refined carbs such as white bread or crisps. Also ensure you have some protein in your meal too – such as lean chicken, fish, beans or pulses.

Afternoon (approx 2pm – 5pm)

Your cortisol levels start to drop which can often lead to drowsiness or that mid-afternoon slump. It’s best to avoid the temptation for biscuits or chocolate for a sugar boost at this time. If you must have a snack, try a small piece of minimum 70% quality dark chocolate or some dried fruit, nuts or seeds. Make sure you prioritise your tasks for the afternoon so you know exactly what you need to achieve before home time. That way you can go home happy and content with the day. ‘A well spent day brings happy sleep’ after all. Also taking in deep breaths is great for energy levels and can help reduce stress and aid concentration.

Lumie Bodyclock Active
The Lumie Bodyclock Active, which gradually dims helping your brain to naturally switch off

Evening (approx 5pm – 10pm)

As the evening progresses your melatonin levels start to increase (the hormone that prepares your body for sleep) and your digestion slows. Try to avoid snacking in the evening and heavy meals before bed time. This will require a lot of digestion as insulin is less effective at night. Also your digestive system will struggle to cope with excess amounts of food before bed and this can lead to weight gain as well as disruptive sleep – contributing to an imbalanced circadian rhythm. It is best to avoid all stimulants such as coffee, tea and alcohol as much as possible at this time as these can also disrupt your sleep.

A bad night’s sleep can cause low energy the following day and contribute to reduced mental performance. This can cause stress and lead to a spiral of stress and disrupted sleep which is hard to get out of. If you have trouble drifting off at night, try a sunrise alarm clock with a sunset feature like the Lumie Bodyclock Active. The light gradually dims helping your brain to naturally switch off. If a sunset feature is not for you, then try spraying lavender on your pillow or rubbing some lavender sleep therapy balm on your body to help you switch off.

In addition to these helpful tips, specific nutrients that can support energy levels are:

  • Magnesium – found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • Vitamin B Complex – found in brown rice and wholemeal bread. If you supplement this, it is best taken as a “complex” of B Vitamins
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) & Acetyl-l-Carnitine (ALC) – Found in green foods such as broccoli, spinach and some red meats
  • Co-Enzyme Q10 – found in fish, organ meats such as liver and whole grains
  • Iron – found in a multitude of food sources, such as red meat, beans and pulses, leafy green vegetables, tofu and fortified breads and cereals
  • Ginkgo Biloba – a widely available supplement or combined in an energy supplement such as Femergy

Consistent poor energy levels should be treated seriously. If you think the cause of your low energy levels is more than poor diet you should always consult your GP or Natural Health Practitioner.

 

Written by Katie Guest and Lauren Foster

 

References

1.  Image courtesy of Simon Howden.

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Why magnesium is important for health

In our efforts to remain healthy and youthful there is a lot of talk about antioxidants, omega oils, calcium and several other nutrients and yet we may have overlooked the missing link in our diets, the mineral magnesium.

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and can be found in the teeth, bones and red blood cells.  In fact half is found in bone and the rest in soft tissue in the body.  The body jealously maintains about 1% of its magnesium within the blood making blood tests notoriously difficult to identify a deficiency (1).  Magnesium is our most interactive mineral.  It is essential for numerous biochemical reactions carried out within the body (over 350 in fact – more than iron and zinc combined) and interestingly the symptoms of magnesium deficiency are identical to those found in old age and include low energy levels, irregular heartbeat, clogged arteries, migraines and headaches, heavy metals build-up, high blood pressure and insulin resistance (2).

BetterYou Magnesium Oil
Magnesium – our most important mineral that we all overlook

A study published in 2005 (3) showed that a staggering 70% of the US population may be magnesium deficient and 19% didn’t even reach half the Recommended Daily Allowance, which has just been raised to 360mg in the UK.  People at serious risk of magnesium deficiency include the elderly, diabetics, children, those on low calorie diets, those over-indulging in alcohol and those engaged in heavy exercise and stressful lifestyles.

Modern Western diets

Unfortunately modern farming methods have depleted the soils and artificial fertilizer favours certain minerals over others.  Over processing food depletes magnesium levels as does increasing the shelf life of food.  Did you know that we lose over 80% of the magnesium in wholegrain flour when we convert it into white bread?  In fact, magnesium levels in our diet are half what they were hundred years ago.  Foods rich in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, nuts, wholegrains and dark green vegetables but these rarely feature within our daily staple diet.  In addition our calcium intake has never been higher (4).  Asian and African populations have a dramatically lower intake of calcium with little incidence of osteoporosis. Their magnesium intake however is at least double that of Western diets.

Magnesium deficiency develops over time so we often only notice problems when we experience changes due to age, the menopause or when our body is under stress.

Low Energy & Fatigue

Magnesium is a key mineral in the enzyme processes that convert food into energy and several studies show that individuals with low magnesium levels use more energy and therefore tire quickly.  Magnesium is critical for both the synthesis and secretion of insulin so diabetics are often found to be deficient in magnesium (5).

PMS & Hormonal Imbalances

Sufferers of PMS have significantly lower levels of magnesium suggesting a clear association.  In fact research by Dr David Thomas showed sufferers of severe PMS will tend to have common elements within their diet consuming only a quarter of their necessary magnesium but almost 80% more dairy and a staggering 275% more sugar (6)!

Insomnia

The inability to sleep may also be linked to magnesium deficiency.  If you find it difficult to sleep or find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with muscle spasms, cramps or stiffness you may benefit from higher levels of magnesium (7).

Bone Health

Although calcium is the most abundant skeletal mineral it is very poorly soluble on its own.  It requires sufficient hydrochloric acid (quantity of which reduces as we age) magnesium and vitamin D in order for it to be absorbed into the bone.  Calcium that is not made soluble cannot enter the bone and settles in soft tissue such as joints, muscles and in arteries as cholesterol plaque (8).

Cramps & Spasms

Magnesium is essential for the proper function of muscles.  Calcium is responsible for the contraction phase of muscles whilst magnesium is needed for the relaxation phase.  Cramping at night and irritating twitches in the eyelids are often clear signs of magnesium deficiency.  Restless Leg Syndrome, a poorly understood neurological disorder, responds favourably to magnesium chloride rubbed into the muscles (9).

Headaches

Many studies indicate that there is a relationship between headaches, migraines and low levels of magnesium in the bloodstream.  Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels, encouraging normalised oxygen flow to the brain (10).

Anxiety, Nerves & Irritability

A deficiency in magnesium can result in the symptoms of anxiety and irritability since magnesium is required for the manufacture of adrenal stress hormones.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones, one of the most painful urinary disorders, have beset humans for centuries.  A kidney stone is a hard mass of chemicals from urine.  The most common type of kidney stone contains calcium oxalate.  Studies indicate that magnesium helps prevent recurrence of calcium oxalate kidney stones due to its effects on solubilising calcium in urine (11).

Skin problems

Magnesium is necessary for the elasticity and dermal protection of the skin and low levels will reduce skin cell health (12).

Magnesium absorption through the skin

Our intestines are simply not efficient at absorbing relatively large doses of magnesium from supplements and increasing the intake simply results in diarrhoea.  Absorption is dramatically reduced with poor digestive efficiency, particularly as we age or when unwell.  This is why hospitals will always favour a slow, gradual supply (IV drip) rather than an oral supplement.

Magnesium chloride is the form favoured by our bodies as it is the result of all other magnesium compounds being exposed to the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs.  Magnesium chloride is in fact the result of evaporation of sea water. As pure and as simple as that and it is perfectly suited to absorption through the skin.  Cardiff University has just completed the first clinical trial to produce evidence that magnesium is excellently absorbed through the skin (13).  And an earlier trial in 2010 showed that the body could remineralise five times faster by skin application than by oral supplementation (14).

Written by Andrew Thomas from BetterYou

References

1. Last, W., “Magnesium Chloride for Health & Rejuvenation”.
2. Cargue, Otto, Vital Facts about Foods, 1933, quoted in J.I. Rodale, Magnesium, the Nutrient that could Change your Life, Pyramid Books, New York, 1968; also see “Excessive Calcium causes Osteoporosis”, Sircus, Mark, “Magnesium and Calcium”
3. CSIRO Minerals Report DMR-2378, September 2004.
4. Karpf, Anne, “Dairy Monsters”, The Guardian, UK, 13 December 2003. 
5. Office of Dietary Supplements, “Magnesium”. King, D. et al., “Dietary Magnesium and Creactive Protein Levels”, J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 2005 Jun; 24(3):166-71
6. http://www.mywire.com/a/WorldWatch/Nutrients-declining-food-supply/1632863/
7. Davis, W. and Ziady, F., “The Role of Magnesium in Sleep”, Montreal Symposium 1976,  also see http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/ articles/70832.php
8.12.Sircus, Mark, AC, OCD, Transdermal Magnesium Therapy, Phaelos Books, Chandler, Arizona, 2006, p.199; see http://www. magnesiumforlife.com/ or http://www. magnesiumforlife.com/thebook.shtml
9. Restless legs syndrome is treatable but under-recognised. British Medical Journal. 2 September 2006; 333:457-458 doi:10.1136/bmj.333.7566.457
10. Vergini, R., MD, “Magnesium Chloride in Acute and Chronic Diseases”,  or http://www.industryinet.com/~ruby/ magnesium_chloride.html
11. Piesse, J.W., “Nutritional Factors in Calcium Containing Kidney Stones with Particular Emphasis on Vitamin C” (review article), Int. Clin.
13. National School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University. Pub date TBC.
14. A Pilot Study to determine the impact of Transdermal Magnesium treatment on serum levels and whole body CaMg Ratios, Josling & Watkins.  Date of publication 09/04/2010.

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bodykind do some detective work on food intolerance

Do you have a health issue getting you down that Doctor’s just can’t seem to help with?  Do you not feel quite as well as you should?  According to Allergy UK as many as 45% of people in the UK suffer from a food intolerance (1), many of which lead to varying symptoms that while not life threatening, can make all aspects of life uncomfortable, painful or just down right miserable. Symptoms of food intolerance are varied and can have a serious effect on the quality of your day to day life.  From abdominal pains to eczema, fatigue and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, food intolerance can lead many to unhappiness.  But it is a common area that can be difficult to get help for from many in the medical profession.(2)

Do you have a food intolerance?
According to Allergy UK as many as 45% of people in the UK suffer from a food intolerance

There is a stark difference between food allergy, and food intolerance. Food allergy sparks a rapid response in the body’s immune system to a particular food.  The immune system mistakes a food for an ‘invader’ which often results in a rapid allergic reaction, commonly associated with nut and seafood allergies.(3) Food intolerance on the other hand can lead to many less serious reactions but uncomfortable symptoms that manifest themselves through skin conditions, digestive problems, aches and pains and much more.(4)

There are numerous foods that can spark intolerances including dairy, meat, fruit, fish, gluten, wheat and even vegetables.  But how can you find out just what it is that’s upsetting you.  You could try eliminating certain foods from your diet to see if this has a positive effect on your symptoms but this can be a long drawn out process (and must be done under the supervision of a qualified Nutritionist). There are a number of products on the market today however that offer home tests for a variety of different food intolerances and the Food Detective is one of the most popular.

Food Detective
Food Detective is the world's first self test for food intolerance

Simple, safe, reliable and fast the Food Detective is the world’s first self test for food intolerance.  No more waiting days for results, the Food Detective tests your reaction to 59 common foods through a finger prick blood sample and gives you results in about 40 minutes. The test identifies foods causing IgG antibody production which may be involved in various conditions such as IBS, eczema, and arthritis. The test gives you the ability to easily identify the type of foods that may be affecting your health and eliminate them from your diet giving you the peace of mind to eat the right things and improving your lifestyle.

It is important to note however that changes to diet should only be made after consultation with a qualified nutritionist.  Symptoms of intolerances and allergy can be eased with nutritional and dietary help.  “Some general advice would be to boost the immune system via a diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits which provide vitamins and bioflavonoids.  In addition to this omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish e.g. salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines (at least two portions per week) are really helpful to the immune system and also to reduce inflammation in the body.”(5)

 

Written by Mike Pye

1.  http://www.allergyuk.org/

2.  http://www.foodintoleranceawareness.org/isitfi.htm

3.  http://www.foodintoleranceawareness.org/isitfi.htm

4. http://www.foodintoleranceawareness.org/symptoms.htm

5.  Ani Kowal, Food Allergy and Intolerance Week, bodykind Blog, January 27th 2010.

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A few ways that might help to keep ‘back to work’ lethargy at bay

Many people are currently heading back to work after an extended Christmas and New Year break.  It can be tough to get back into the swing of things after having time off and often people feel lacking in energy.  There are a few natural ways that can be useful to help provide a mood boost and prevent feelings of lethargy.



Back in September I wrote about the link between anxioxidant nutrients and symptoms such as stress, anxiety and fatigue.  It is important to keep your dietary antioxidant levels high, this will boost your immune system but may also help to combat fatigue.  The best way of providing the body with ample antioxidants is to eat a variety of colourful vegetables and fruits daily.  Get a minimum of 5 portions a day.  A good way to make sure you are always supplied is to take easy to eat fruits and vegetable stick to work with you.  Keep them at your desk and snack away guilt-free.  Blueberries, any berries in fact, are packed with antioxidants and also very tasty.  Clementines are easy to peel and readily available at the moment and most supermarkets stock carrot and celery sticks if you don’t have time to prepare your own in the morning.  You can dip these into a tomato-based salsa for an extra antioxidant hit. Any fruits and vegetables will work to boost antioxidant levels in the body – remember to eat a variety to provide an array of different antioxidants to the body.  Antioxidant supplements made from natural berries and herbs are now also available to buy but should not be viewed or used as an alternative to a healthy diet.



Magnesium is also considered a great lethargy buster.  Fatigue is thought by some in the medical field to be one of the typical early symptoms of magnesium deficiency (1).  Stress hormones can promote a reduction in tissue magnesium levels and mild magnesium deficiency may promote the feelings of fatigue.  Magnesium is an incredibly important mineral and acts as a multi-functional nutrient in the body where it is present in all cells!  It takes part in around 300 processes in the body and is vital to many bodily functions such as energy production, nerve function, muscle relaxation, bone and tooth formation, heart rhythm and aids in the production and use of insulin. 


The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) of adults aged 19-64 (2) found that quite a shocking number of women in the UK are not achieving adequate daily magnesium intakes with 74% of women age 19-64 not reaching the RNI (reference nutrient intake) for magnesium and 85% of 19-24 year old women not beaching the RNI for this vital nutrient.  Many men (about 42%) too appear not to be reaching recommended levels.  Modern society does not eat as many whole grains, seeds, beans and nuts as in previous times and it is these sources that are rich in magnesium.  Processed foods contain little of this vital mineral.  Good dietary sources of magnesium include dried figs, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds and dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids!).  Wholegrains such as brown rice and oatmeal also contain good amounts.



Omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish such as salmon are vital for the brain and may help lift the mood.  Good dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids include oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout and some nuts, especially walnuts, and flax seeds.  For people who don’t regularly eat fish considering a daily omega 3 supplement could be very helpful.  In fact I would suggest that the majority of individuals in the UK do not achieve good dietary Omega 3 intakes.  For vegetarians and vegans a flaxseed oil supplement can be useful and there are now supplements containing the longer chain omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, available which are made from algae. 



Ginseng is often taken as an energy boosting supplement.  Korean Ginseng, also known as Panax ginseng, appears to be helpful in treating and reducing stress-related fatigue (3,4,5).  A short term, one month, supplement with this herb could be worth a try.  Remember to read the label and stick to the recommended dosages.



Keeping blood sugar levels stable during the day will help prevent energy and mood slumps – a key here is to ensure you include a source of protein with each meal, this could include eggs, unprocessed meats and fish, beans, lentils or other pulses and nuts or seeds.  It is also important to avoid refined carbohydrates and minimise caffeine intake since this can disrupt hormones involved in blood sugar balance.  Eating a healthy balanced diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits and minimal processed and refined foods will help to keep levels of all nutrients and antioxidants high.  If you feel that you are in need of a boost or are consistently finding it hard to eat a diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits you could consider taking a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement to cover any dietary shortfalls.  Personally I like the food-state supplements which are easily absorbed by the body and derived from natural sources.  Multi-nutrient supplements that also contain probiotics (‘good’ bacteria) are also available.  A study (6) found that such a supplement could help to reduce stress and exhaustion as well as improving the immune system.  Remember that a nutrient supplement can never be considered as an alternative to a healthy diet. 


 


(1)Saris N-E L et al.  2000.  Magnesium:  an update on physiological, clinical and analytical aspects.  Clinica Chimica Acta.  294:1-26, 2000.
(2)Henderson L et al.  2003.  The National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Adults aged 19-64 years.  HMSO London.
(3)Bannerjee U et al.  1982.  Antistress and antifatigue properties of panax ginseng:  comparison with piracetam.  Acta Physiol Lat Am.  32(4):277-285.
(4)Reay J L et al.  2005.  Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity.  J Psychopharmacol.  19(4):357-365, 2005.
(5)Reay J L et al.  2006.  Effects of Panax ginseng, consumed with and without glucose, on blood glucose levels and cognitive performance during sustained ‘mentally demanding’ tasks.  J Psychopharmacol.
(6)Grunenwald J et al.  2002.  Effect of a probiotic multivitamin compound on stress and exhaustion.  Adv Ther.  19:141-150
Written by Ani Kowal

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