Category Archives: stress

stress

Mental Health Awareness Week: Stress Busters

Focusing on Stress

May 14th is the beginning of National Mental Health Awareness week. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, this year the focus is stress. Tackling stress early is crucial for good health because ongoing stress can lead to depression and anxiety, and is also linked to physical diseases such as heart disease and immune problems.

The stress response is actually a healthy response to threat or danger. It is designed to give us a quick boost of energy to fuel our fight or flight response. When stress becomes an everyday experience, however, the body struggles to cope. Blood pressure rises, inflammation is triggered and hormone levels are disrupted. Experts call this ‘allostatic overload’ and it can result in anxiety, depression and insomnia.

Several key nutrients have been found to help deal with stress and support the organs that are involved in the stress reaction. Taking time to nourish the body in this way can therefore offer protection against the effects of stress.

The ‘Fighting Five’

Nutritionist Ian Marber emphasises five key nutrients – which he calls the ‘fighting five’ – needed to support the body under stress (1). These are vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals zinc and selenium.

Each of these nutrients helps in disarming the free radicals produced when the body is under stress. Free radicals are molecules that harm cells in the body through oxidative damage. They have been linked to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and accelerated ageing.

The ‘fighting five’ antioxidants help by neutralising these free radicals, helping to prevent the cell damage caused by stress. While antioxidant supplements can help to ensure a good intake of these nutrients, it is recommended that dietary sources should be included every day. The best sources of these valuable antioxidants include plums, tomatoes, dark green vegetables, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and seafood.

Cortisol and Stress

Another hazard associated with stress is elevated levels of cortisol. When the body is under stress, the adrenal glands begin to pump out higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that powers the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Over time, elevated levels of cortisol can become a problem, leading to anxiety and depression, as well as weight gain and breakdown of muscle and bone. Early signs of high cortisol include sleep problems, weight gain, raised blood pressure and difficulty concentrating.

Several nutrients have been found in studies to be effective in lowering cortisol levels. The most effective of these include the herb ashwaganda root extract, and the nutrient phosphatidyl serine. Both of these nutrients have been found to improve mood and lower feelings of stress and anxiety (2, 3 & 4).

Adrenal Health

Finally, protecting the health of the adrenals is particularly important for anybody experiencing ongoing stress. The key nutrients required by the adrenal glands are vitamin B5, vitamin C and magnesium.

Because our body cannot store vitamin C, it is important to provide it with a regular daily supply, particularly when stress levels are high. The adrenal gland requires higher levels of vitamin C during times of stress. The richest sources are black and red berries, citrus fruits and red peppers. Similarly, vitamin B5 cannot be stored by the body, and so including wholegrains and green leafy vegetables daily would be a sensible measure to help protect the body from the effects of stress.

The mineral magnesium is crucial to the health of the adrenals, and requirements for magnesium increase when the body is under stress (5). Stressed individuals may therefore benefit from supplementing around 300mg magnesium each day. Good dietary sources include leafy greens, wheatgerm, almonds, cod and mackerel.

While we may not be able to influence everyday stressors, such as commuting, financial worries or workload, we can certainly give the body the fuel it needs to cope with the stress response. Taking early measures to protect the body from the effects of stress is a sensible way to safeguard long term health and wellbeing.

References
1. Marber & Edgson (1990) The Food Doctor. USA: Collins and Brown.
2. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul-Sep; 34(3): 255–262.
3. Lipids Health Dis. 2014 Jul 31;13:121.
4. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Jul 28;5:11.
5. Tarasov et al (2015) Magnesium deficiency and stress: Issues of their relationship, diagnostic tests, and approaches to therapy. Ter Arkh 87(9):114-122

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Stressed out? Try this herbal remedy to de-stress naturally

April is stress awareness month, so what better time to check in with yourself and your loved ones to make sure your lifestyle is sustainable and that you’re managing your stress levels? Although some stress is a natural part of life, we often forget that it doesn’t need to be ongoing.

Stressful situations trigger the body to increase the activity of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) which activates our fight-or-flight response. This heightens our senses and makes us hyper-alert to keep us safe during times of immediate danger. Naturally, and ideally, once the threat has passed the body should dampen down the SNS and find a balance with the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which supports rest and digestion and anything that requires a relaxed and calm state. Sadly, due to the pace and constant stimulus from our modern lifestyles, many people are living with SNS dominance.

Chronic stress can become a catalyst for disease if left for too long. Ongoing stress can manifest in disorders such as anxiety and depression, accelerate the ageing process, trigger reproductive issues for both women and men and interrupt sleep patterns. Unbalanced levels of cortisol from chronic stress can lead to a compromised immune system and regular infections, autoimmune disease, allergies and increased fat stores around the waist (1). Chronic inflammation from long-term stress is implicated in many diseases and when it comes to heart health, researches are suggesting that it could be as important a risk factor as smoking and high blood pressure!

Adaptogens

When your stress levels have gone on for a bit longer than expected and your nervous system needs a bit of support in toning down its overactive response, there are herbs that can help. Herbs classified as adaptogens are used by herbalists to help the body cope with stress to help you feel calm while increasing energy and focus. It is thought the effect is associated with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a part of the stress-system that plays a key role in how the body responds to and adapts to stress (2).

Siberian ginseng (Eleuthero) is one of the oldest and most popular adaptogenic herbs prescribed by herbalists today. It has a long history of use in Asian cultures as a tonic to reinforce qi, calm the nerves and support fertility. Research indicates that Eleuthero works with your central nervous and hormonal systems to moderate how your body responds when you feel tense and anxious (3). Other research suggests it also has the ability to protect your brain from the damaging effects of stress (4).

Stress and the gut

Times of intense stress can literally shut down your digestion. Interestingly, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is considered a “gut-brain disorder,” since it is often worsened by stress. Half of IBS sufferers also have difficulties with depression or anxiety (5).

The gut and the brain talk to each other via the gut-brain-axis. This is a bi-directional pathway of communication which means that one can influence the other. For example, science has found that certain bacteria in the gut can have a short term influence on anxiety and calm the nervous system via their effect on the neurotransmitter receptors GABA (6). However, on the other side of the coin, stress can destroy healthy gut bacteria, showing that it’s equally important to look after both!

Perfect combination

Taking Sun Eleuthero together with Sun Chlorella makes for the perfect combination in supporting your nervous system and gut health. The founder of Sun Chlorella had become very ill from a hard military life. His pursuit for healing lead him to Chlorella and Siberian ginseng, which changed his life so dramatically that he gave up his business and dedicated the rest of his life to sharing his findings.

Sun Chlorella is a sustainable fresh water algae that contains fibre, chlorophyll, protein, vitamins and minerals. It acts as a prebiotic food to support gut function and a healthy gut microbiome as well as helping rid the body of toxins. The chlorella plant’s ability to photosynthesise at a rate unlike any other makes it rich in a protein called Chlorella Growth Factor, which is known for its healing properties.

Aside from its benefit as a healing food, chlorella also has many environmental applications from reducing greenhouse gases to cleaning up oil spills. It cleaned up the earth’s atmosphere millions of years ago to make it one that could support life and scientists hope they can use it in a similar way.

The chlorella plant has a tough exterior cell wall which contains the valuable nutrients – but this fibrous exterior makes it difficult to digest. Sun Chlorella is the only company that uses a patented process called the DYNO®-Mill to liberate the nutrients without the use of heat or chemicals to make them available for absorption and assimilation by the body.

References
1. Epel ES, McEwen B, Seeman T, et al. Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosom Med 2000;62(5):623-632.
2. A Panossian Ge Wikman ,Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity, Phytother Res. 2005 Oct;19(10):819-38.
Panossian, A., Wagner, H. (2005). Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytotherapy Research, 19(10), 819-838.
3. Farnsworth NR et al. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus): current status as an adaptogen. In: Wagner H, Hikino H, Farnsworth NR, eds. Economic and medicinal plant research. Vol. 1. London, Academic Press, 1985:217–284; Yance D. Adaptogens In Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press. Rochester, VT: 2013; Halstead, BW. Eleutherococcus Senticosus. Oriental Healing Arts Institute. 1984. P. 4
4. Panossian A et al. Adaptogens Stimulate Neuropeptide Y and Hsp72 Expression and Release in Neuroglia Cells. Front Neurosci. 2012; 6: 6. Published online 2012 February 1. Prepublished online 2011 November 12
5. Borre YE, Moloney RD, Clarke G, et al The impact of microbiota on brain and behavior: mechanisms & therapeutic potential. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:373-403.
6. Bravo JA, Forsythe P, Chew MV, et al. Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011;108(38):16050-16055. [Full text]

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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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Ease stress levels with Magnesium for restful nights this Sleeptember

September marks the start of a new school year. Typically at this time of year our lives become busier, the holiday period is over and work pressure builds as we head into the colder, darker months in the run up to Christmas.

A recent study by The Sleep Council found that 90% of people admit to suffering from some form of stress in their lives, with almost two out of five saying they are regularly, frequently or constantly stressed.

Not surprisingly three quarters say they have problems sleeping while stressed, with the catch 22 that almost a third say when they can’t sleep they get stressed, while just over a quarter say the best way to relieve stress is to have a good night’s sleep.

It is not always possible to remove stress from our daily lives, but transdermal magnesium can help you to relax and increase the body’s ability to cope with stress.

Magnesium is a natural relaxant, but stress can greatly increase magnesium loss.

This can be a vicious circle, as our body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest, but a lack of the mineral in our Western diets means many of us do not get the levels we need.

When magnesium levels are low, the nervous system gets out of balance, and we feel increasingly anxious, with our muscles naturally tightening. Magnesium deficiency promotes excessive muscle tension, leading to muscle spasms, tics, restlessness, and twitches. Studies also suggest that magnesium deficiency may also be one of the causes of insomnia.

Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director at BetterYou, said: “The physical effects of stress, including high heart rate and blood pressure, tense muscles and fast and shallow breathing, can play havoc in our bodies. Sleep helps to slow these effects and encourage a state of relaxation.

“Our body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest, but a lack of the mineral in our low magnesium Western diets means that we are not getting the levels we need. Magnesium levels are difficult to rectify via traditional tablets, as our body benefits most from small regular amounts rather than a large single dose.”

A pilot study by Watkins & Josling (2010) found that magnesium levels increased with BetterYou Magnesium Oil an estimated five times quicker compared with oral supplementation.

Following this, a clinical trial by Cardiff University (2011), highlighted how well magnesium is absorbed through the skin. BetterYou’s range of magnesium products, including oil sprays and flakes, are absorbed faster than capsules and tablets; delivering magnesium directly into the skin tissue and entering cells immediately.

References

Stressember: The worry starts here
Opinion matters surveyed 2035 UK Adults on behalf of The Sleep Council
http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/2014/08/stresstember-the-worry-starts-here/

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Festive Digestive: Eat, drink and be merry this festive season

Did you spend last Christmas with a queasy, acid, bloated and uncomfortable stomach?

The combination of family events, rich foods, alcohol and late nights can be stressful and normal stomach enzyme secretion can be impaired by the influence of stress hormones. Avoid the misery of acid indigestion by taking a high potency Digestive Aid with a powerful combination of enzymes to aid digestion. Certain enzymes aid in the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates ensuring your digestion is at peak performance, working hard when you are playing hard.

Help restore your gut balance of good bacteria. Probiotic formulas add a combination of good bacteria to aid digestion and boost immunity. Perfect to aid recovery from the festive season’s culinary excesses.

Provided you have enough of the health-promoting bacteria, they act as your first line of defence against unfriendly bacteria and other disease-producing microbes including viruses and fungi. The good bacteria make some vitamins and digest fibre, allowing you to derive more nutrients from otherwise indigestible food, and also help promote a healthy digestive environment.

Keep your New Year’s Resolution this year with a few helpful tips from Viridian Nutrition:

Untitled-2
Higher levels of vitamin B5 can help support energy levels
  • Don’t think of yourself, think about your poor old dog! A stroll with the dog for half an hour can make a big difference after a few weeks to both your physical and emotional fitness and will cheer the dog up too. Wrap up warm and enjoy the simple and loving company of your furry friend. If you don’t have a dog, offer to walk a neighbour’s.
  • Big meat eater? Try one day a week without meat and see how your energy levels and digestion improve.
  • Veggie or vegan? Top up with B12. Vitamin B12 can contribute to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue and also supports immune function.
  • Feeling under-the-weather? Choose a multivitamin & mineral like High Five Multivitamin and Mineral Formula from Viridian Nutrition. The higher levels of vitamin B5 can help support energy levels, normal mental performance and boost overall vitality.

Emotional Health

  • Help others. There is no better pick-you-up than helping others. Volunteer, be a good listener or write letters to friends to bring them cheer.
  • It can be hard to keep your spirits up in the dark winter months, try some extra vitamin D. Vitamin D has been the subject of a wealth of research studies and has been shown to contribute to the normal function of the immune system as well as essential in the health of bones, muscles and teeth. Sometimes called the Sunshine Vitamin, we often miss it most in the winter months.
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Back to the Daily Grind. Can diet and supplements relieve the pressure?

I recently offered some nutrition tips for kids as they prepare for the new academic year. However, September is not only ‘back to school’ for kids, but it can also mean ‘back to the daily grind’ for busy parents and teachers too. The return to work after a summer break can be quite stressful for many. Fortunately a few nutritional strategies may help to cushion the blow.

A recent Health and Safety Executive report states that stress is one of the most common types of work-related illness, with teachers, healthcare workers and social workers most commonly affected (1).

There are in fact numerous nutritional strategies that can help support stressed workers. For example, choosing foods and adopting eating patterns to keep blood sugar levels stable can help to manage mood and anxiety levels. Below is a quick guide to some of the most effective nutritional strategies for dealing with work-related stress.

Healthy Snack
Healthy Snacks such as fruit and nuts can help maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Foods to include:
Including protein with each meal will go a long way towards helping your body cope with the demands of work stresses. In fact, starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast such as eggs or yoghurt can actually help control your blood sugar levels for the rest of the day, helping to keep you mood and energy levels more stable.

Keeping healthy snacks at hand – fruit, nuts or even protein shakes are easy to store at the office – will also help to manage your blood sugar levels as well as providing nutrients such as zinc and vitamin C which are in great demand at times of stress.

Finally, keep hydrated with plenty of water, herbal teas and decaffeinated teas throughout the day. Dehydration can affect mood and concentration, making it more difficult to cope with the everyday demands of the office.

Foods to avoid:
Alcohol is used by many as a stress reliever, and a couple of glasses of wine in the evening seems harmless enough after a hard day at work. Unfortunately, alcohol can in fact deplete levels of vitamins and minerals that are needed in times of stress, and over time it alters levels of stress hormones such as cortisol (2).

Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause irritability. Many office workers habitually turn to caffeine for a mid-afternoon boost when energy is flagging. Unfortunately stimulants such as caffeine place additional pressure on the adrenal glands, important bodily organs which we rely on in times of stress.

Sugar can impair the function of out ‘stress buffers’, the adrenal glands. Eating sugary foods means that the adrenals must work harder to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Nutrients for stress: B, C and Omega-3
Nutritional therapists often recommend B Vitamins alongside Vitamin C in order to help the body to cope with stress. In fact a recent study has found that a simple B Vitamin supplement may provide welcome relief to stressed workers (3).

The study was a double-blind, placebo controlled trial. To determine whether a high dose B vitamin supplement could improve mood and psychological wellbeing linked with chronic work stress, researchers supplemented 60 men and women with a high dose B Vitamin or placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, those who had taken the B Vitamins reported significantly lower levels of stress symptoms such as depressed mood, confusion and personal strain.

The B vitamins are needed in higher amounts when the body is under stress, as the adrenal glands require these nutrients to function effectively. B vitamins are also involved in the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and acetylcholine which help to ward off feelings of anxiety.

A recent review of functional foods in the management of psychological stress concluded that the most promising nutritional intervention in relieving stress is high dose Vitamin C with omega-3 fish oils (4). Well-controlled human trials have found that high dose sustained-release vitamin C can lower the effect of stress on blood pressure and improve recovery time after stressful periods (5). Omega-3 supplementation has also been found in several human studies to lower the stress response and decrease levels of stress hormones (6,7).

Many of us have suffered with work-related stress at one time or another, and this type of ongoing stress has a serious effect on wellbeing and quality of life. Returning to long days at the office after the summer holidays can be a daunting prospect for the best of us. Choosing the correct nutrition might just help make that transition a little easier.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
1. HSE (2011) Stress and Psychological Disorders. www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/index.htm

2. Badrick et al (2008) The Relationship between Alcohol Consumption and Cortisol Secretion in an Aging Cohort. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 March; 93(3): 750–757.

3. Stough C et al (2011) The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Hum Psychopharmacol 26:7 470-476

4.Hamer et al (2005) The role of functional foods in the psychobiology of health and disease. Nutr Res Rev 18, 77–88.

5. Brody 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 159, 319–324.

5. Sawazaki et al (1999) The effect of docosahexaenoic acid on plasma catecholamine concentrations and glucose tolerance during long-lasting psychological stress: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology (Tokyo) 45, 655–665.

7. Delarue et al (2003) Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited
by mental stress in healthy men. Diab & Metab 29,289–295.

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How Oxygen can help…

Oxygen – the natural energy provider

We’ve all heard the expression to “take a deep breath” when we’re stressed. We know that we yawn when we’re tired. And we all understand that we breathe harder when we exert ourselves.

In every case, it’s the body demanding more oxygen. Oxygen fuels our brain and our muscles and actually provides 90% of our nutritional energy.

Here are some interesting facts about oxygen:

  • Two thirds of the mass of the human body is oxygen
  • Oxygen concentration in our blood is around 60% to 70% – anything below 52% and life becomes extinct
  • Before the industrial revolution oxygen levels on the planet were as high as 38% – in some places now they are as low as 10%
  • Oxygen is colourless, odourless and tasteless. But as a liquid or solid, it’s pale blue
booost Oxygen
booost Oxygen can help when breathless at high altitude, during sports or due to pollution levels

Canned oxygen is becoming increasingly popular – celebrities like Simon Cowell and Lady Gaga are using it, and sports stars are increasingly incorporating oxygen into their training and nutrition plans, both to help peak performance and to aid recovery.

One way to think about oxygen is to imagine it like an energy drink – it really does give you that kind of boost, both mentally and physically. But the big benefit is that unlike most energy drinks, oxygen has no calories and no sugar in it, and you don’t suffer from a post caffeine “low” in the same way as you do with most concoctions.

bodykind has recently teamed up with British company booost Oxygen to offer their product to their customers. You can find booost on the bodykind website.

They recommend a few “shots” if you’re feeling tired or lethargic. For exercise, they suggest up to 5 beforehand, as many as are needed during the workout, and 5 more at the end during your recovery phase.

As well as booost focusing on the sports benefits of using oxygen, there are many other uses for canned oxygen:

  • There’s plenty of research that headache symptoms (particularly so called “cluster” headaches) can be relieved
  • Oxygen is well known as being helpful for hangover symptoms
  • People living in areas of high pollution may certainly benefit from breathing pure, clean oxygen
  • It’s helpful at altitude, so anybody visiting high places for skiing, snowboarding or hiking could use the product
  • Canned oxygen is no substitute for medically administered oxygen, but for scuba divers, when there is no alternative, puffing canned oxygen can help until any decompression symptoms are being properly treated
  • Although it can’t help with weight reduction, using it to keep you motivated whilst exercising could contribute to a weight loss programme

Written by the team at booost Oxygen

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Omega-3 supplements buffer the effect of mental stress

Mental stress is known to have a negative effect on heart health, and unmanaged stress is linked with increased blood pressure, an important predictor of heart disease. Managing mental stress can be a huge help to those looking to support their cardiovascular health. Of course this is often easier said than done. After all, stress is a part of everyday life and it cannot be eliminated entirely.

However, managing our physical reaction to mental stress may be one way to support heart health.

High EPA
Omega 3 supplements high in EPA can be good for mental stress and heart health

With this in mind, a team of researchers at Alleghany College in the US recently investigated the effects of an omega-3 supplement on the effect of mental stress in adults. The team gave a group of 43 college students either a daily omega-3 supplement or a daily placebo supplement for three weeks. They then measured blood pressure and heart rate of the students at rest and during a mental arithmetic task. The stress response to the maths test in the omega-3 group was found to be significantly lower than that of those in the placebo group.

The authors concluded that supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce cardiovascular reactivity to stress.
The study is preliminary and will hopefully encourage further research to clarify the role of omega-3 in cardiovascular health.

The supplement used in the study provided a daily dose of 1400mg omega-3 (1000mg EPA and 400mg DHA). This intake is fairly normal for adults living in countries such as Japan where fish, seafood and tofu are a major part of the diet. In the UK, however, the level of omega-3 in the diet is far lower and is estimated at an average of 244mg daily.

Options for increasing EPA and DHA intakes include use of fish oil supplements, increased consumption of fish or consumption of foods enriched with omega 3 such as omega-3 enriched eggs.

Those considering taking fish oil supplements should first check with their GP, especially if they are taking medications such as anticoagulants. Also, be sure to choose a good quality oil that has been screened for contaminants. Finally, if your fish oil supplement leaves you with a fishy aftertaste this is a sign that the oil has oxidised (‘gone off’). I tend to favour omega-3 oils that can be taken straight from the spoon, such as the Eskimo brand, so that I can be sure on tasting that it is a good quality, fresh oil.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
Ginty AT, Conklin SM. Preliminary Evidence that Acute Long-Chain Omega-3 Supplementation Reduces Cardiovascular Reactivity to Mental Stress: A Randomized and Placebo Controlled Trial. Biol Psychol. 2012, Jan. 89(1):269-72.

 

 

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The Sun Chlorella guide to a healthy gut – Part 2

Continuing from Wednesday’s blog post on gut health, the team at Sun Chlorella follow on with the second part of their 10 point guide to the facts and fictions of gut health.

Sun Chlorella - The Ultimate Superfood
Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ is a natural green algae whole food supplement from Japan.

Sun Chlorella expert nutritionist Nadia Brydon, is on hand to separate the fact from the fiction when it comes to keeping your guts healthy.

“The most important thing when managing your digestion is to identify the causes and stop the patterns that lead to pain and discomfort.  Once you know how healthy your gut is you’ll be able to prevent any bloating.” says Nadia.

Don’t eat fruit – FICTION!

Candida overgrowth is a major cause of bloating and is essentially fermentation inside the gut.  Foods that encourage fermentation include sugar and that means sugar in fruit too.  However, not all fruit causes bloating.  Avoid citrus fruits but stock up on bananas, figs, blueberries, mango and papaya instead.

Supplements don’t work – FICTION!

If you are susceptible to bloating and trapped wind there are a number of effective and natural solutions.

Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ – a natural green algae whole food supplement from Japan – is Nadia’s number one choice for bloating as it contains a staggering range of nutrients including around 10% fibre, to help move food through the system more effectively.  Due to its special component – the Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF) – Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ re-stimulates the growth and repair of cells, including the growth of good bacteria (Lactobacilli) four-fold once it’s absorbed, which aids digestive health*.

Nadia explains, “Taking Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ on a daily basis helps to keep the gut healthy and happy by acting as an ‘intestinal broom’ and cleansing the bowel.  Chlorella has the highest known concentration of chlorophyll – the green pigment found in plants that converts water, air and sunlight into energy – and this helps to bind to any toxins in your intestines, preventing absorption and eliminating them as waste.”

Other options include activated charcoal – an age old remedy to help ease the feelings of trapped wind.  Peppermints or warming peppermint tea will ease digestion whilst fennel seed tea or chewing fennel seeds or dill seeds after a meal can also help prevent bloating.

Increase your fibre intake – FACT!

Diet is really important.  Avoid bread and any processed or low glycemic foods and try to eat fresh foods instead.  Cutting down your intake of foods which are low in fibre – and therefore ‘bind’ inside your gut – such as eggs, chocolate, red meat, cheese and processed foods will help reduce bloating too.  A supplement such as Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ also contains fibre which can help to move food through your system.

Sun Chlorella 'A'
“Taking Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ on a daily basis helps to keep the gut healthy and happy by acting as an ‘intestinal broom’ and cleansing the bowel.

Food mixing can lead to bloating – FACT!

Bloating can often be caused by the slowing down of digestion caused by mixing incompatible foods (such as protein and carbohydrates) at meal times – which have different digesting times.  Bread, along with lactose and gluten, is also high on the list of causative factors.

Stress can lead to gut discomfort – FACT!

Stress is a huge factor as it can cause tension in the body which in turn interrupts the digestion process.  Try to find time to unwind at the end of each day – simple breathing exercises, a relaxing bath or even meditation could help the body to de-stress.

* a recent review of research concluded that the potential of chlorella to relieve symptoms, improve quality of life and normalize body functions in patients suffering with ulcerative colitis (a long-term (chronic) condition affecting the colon and causing inflammation of the intestines), suggests that larger, more comprehensive clinical trials of chlorella are warranted; A Review of Recent Clinical Trials of the Nutritional Supplement Chlorella Pyrenoidosa in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia, Hypertension, and Ulcerative Colitis, Randall E Merchant, PhD, and Cynthia A. Andre, MSc

 

Written by Nadia Brydon

 

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Job stress associated with overweight and obesity

A few years ago I wrote two pieces related to work-based stress and bodyweight:

Is your work weighing heavy on your body?

Balanced diets may improve work energy and productivity levels

In these posts I described how stress hormones can affect appetite, inflammation in the body and bodyweight and how watching blood sugar levels could be helpful.  I also mentioned specific foods that can help to keep blood glucose levels stable as well as long chain omega 3 fatty acids (found in oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines) and how these could be useful.

A recently published study (1) has found that chronic job stress, coupled with lack of physical activity, is strongly associated with being overweight or obese.  The study also found that exercise seemed to be highly important in managing stress and keeping a healthy weight. The study authors looked at workplace stress (job strain and job insecurity) and weight status in over 2,700 employees.  The authors conclude that workbased wellness programmes should target health enhancing behaviours to minimise the health effects of work conditions/work stress

Although the study took place in New York the results can be considered relevant to almost any job situation which is stressful and where redundancies are a concern.  In a press release (2) the lead study author, Diana Fernandez, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the URMC Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, said her study is among many that associate high job pressure with cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, depression, exhaustion, anxiety and weight gain. She also said that is was high time to improve corporate policies that better protect the health of workers “In a poor economy, companies should take care of the people who survive layoffs and end up staying in stressful jobs,” “It is important to focus on strengthening wellness programs to provide good nutrition, ways to deal with job demands, and more opportunities for physical activity that are built into the regular workday without penalty.

The study group heard from the participants that after a hard day of work, especially particularly stressful days with meetings and lots of computer time, that what workers looked forward to was to go home and do nothing in front of the TV.  Some of the workers that took part in the study also reported that they did not take time to eat well or to exercise at lunch time because they were worried about being seen to leave their desks for too long (2).  In interviews the employees confided to researchers that they were “stress eating” and burned out from “doing the work of five people,”(2).  Importantly more than 65% of the workers said that they watched two or more hours of television daily and among those who watched 2-3 hours 77% were more likely to be overweight or obese.  Those watching 4 or more hours of television increased their odds of obesity by 150% compared to those watching less than 2 hours daily.  Previous studies have linked TV time to overweight and obesity in adults as well as children.  The lead author said “We are not sure why TV is so closely associated with being overweight in our sample group of people,” “Other studies have shown that adults tend to eat more fatty foods while watching TV. But this requires more investigation.” (2).  It is probable that more high-calorie snack type foods are consumed in front of the TV.  It can be very easy to over-consume on snack foods such as crisps, biscuits, chocolates and processed convenience meals when sitting in front of the TV.

Stress at work can impact health behaviour in a direct and indirect way.  Stress is known to affect the neuroendocrine system – the brain-hormone system – which can have an impact on abdominal fat levels and can also be detrimental to sex hormones which can also impact weight.  Stress is also linked to the consumption of sugary foods, high-calorie foods lack of exercise and physical activity.  Stress has also been linked to lack of sleep, which in turn is linked to over-eating in some people.  For more information on help for insomnia please read my previous posts

The authors of this study (1) have also looked at workers that participated in a comprehensive, two-year nutrition and exercise program. This included walking routes at work, portion control in food, and stress-reduction workshops. The data comparing control groups and the groups who took part in the nutrition and exercise program is still being analyzed I look forward to seeing those results when they are published.  In conclusion, the study suggests that workplace wellness programs should not only offer ideas on how to be healthy, but should examine the organizational structure and provide ways to minimize a stressful environment for everyone (2).

For more information and ideas on healthy eating during stressful times please visit the links at the start of this post and also browse the blog in general as there is plenty of information that you may find helpful.  In general I would suggest a healthy balanced diet that will keep blood sugar levels stable in conjunction with some form of daily exercise.  Even two 15minute walks could prove beneficial to feelings of stress (please read the two posts linked at the beginning of the post for more detail).

(1) Fernandez ID et al.  2010.  Association of Workplace Chronic and Acute Stressors With Employee Weight Status: Data From Worksites in Turmoil.  Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 52(1S):S34-S41

(2)Press release.  University of Rochester Medical Center (2010, March 25). Study connects workplace turmoil, stress and obesity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2010/03/100324142133.htm

Written by Ani Kowal

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