Wednesday, 19 April 2017

What becomes of the broken hearted....

It's been nearly a year since we found out that mums ticker wasn't working the way it should. What we thought was a chest infection, quickly escalated into hospital staff actually telling us mum had heart failure, along with an Arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and severely high blood pressure and heart rate. We were worried, scared even. and I don't know about my other siblings, but I also worried for my own heart. These things are hereditary aren't they ? I mean, mums mum and dad both had heart conditions, so surely we will ! Well its not quite so straight forward. Yes there are cases in which being extremely healthy hasn't helped on the heart front (look at those athletes that have died from a heart attack despite being in their prime), but its not all bad news. In fact, a few lifestyle changes can, in all fairness, help a lot.

Its important to fuel the body with good quality and healthy foods, as well as exercise regularly and reduce stress. Yes, yes, yes... we know this. But is there anything specific that can help... well here goes.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
These have been shown lower the risk of Arrhythmia and atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries through fatty deposits). Most people would suggest eating oily fish, but in fact this isn't necessary, and many research studies now show that a plant based, vegan lifestyle is in fact the healthiest diet for prevention and cure of heart disease and many other long term health conditions. Omega 3 can be found in flaxseeds, chia seeds and other nuts (such as almonds, walnuts and pistachio. Hempseed can also be used for cooking, and Hemp and nut milks are now extremely popular. However when consuming these, please bare in mind that as a food, nuts and seeds can actually contain a lot of fat (yes good fats, but fat none the less).  

There is also a theory that promotes a diet high in fibre, as it is a powerhouse at lowering cholsterol and acts like a sponge and brush effect where it mops up and brushes out cholesterol and toxins that have not been absorbed or discarded by the blood stream. The fibre spoken about here is the kind found in wholegrain breads, rices and pasta, oats and oatbran and a wide range of fruits and vegetables. The recommended intake of Fibre a daily is 30g. A good start to anyones day would include porridge  or oatbran with a nut milk, a tablespoon of milled flaxseed and a sprinkling of berries and seeds.

Eat the Rainbow
The suggestion is that people eat 5 portions a day of fruit and vegetables. But why leave it at 5? The numbers have been increasing in the past few years as research has discovered that fruit and vegetables now contain lower amounts of vitamins and goodness than they did years previously. This is possibly due to the intesen farming methods and quality of soil used nowadays. Eating a rainbow of produce daily will not only provide a good daily dose of fibre, but will provide an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to protect the immune system, mop up free radicals that are produced in the body and provide flavanoids that show a lowered rate of suffering a stroke caused by clotting in the blood. These also help to lower blood pressure and dilates the blood vessels in the body. The brighter the color of the fruit and veg, the more antioxidants and vitamin rich they are! However, it is worth noting here that fruit does contain a fair amount of sugar. Yes its natural sugars, but the body will utilise it as sugar all the same. I eat one or two pieces of fruit a day, and the rest is brightly coloured vegetables. It would be too much to try and explain the role of each vitamin here, but eating a good variety of fruit and vegetable will provide people with most of their Vitamin intake daily. Just as an example, Potatoes are great source of Potassium which helps ot lower blood pressure, as well as having a great amount of fibre. add Sweet Potatoes and you also get a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Tomatoes are also a great source of Potassium, and contain am antioxidant called Lycopene which helps you get rid of LDL (bad cholesterol) and keeps blood vessels open and blood flowing nicely.

It is suggested that everyone gets 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense aerobic activity a week. But come on, most people will have realised that means you only need to be active for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Does this mean that the rest of the time you can sit watching daytime TV, or lounging in bed ? No, it does not. Research has suggested that even with a good exercise routine, it is the people who sit down longer during the period of a day that are unhealthier and more prone to heart attacks/strokes. So, basically you could run 20 miles a week, but if the rest of the time you are a couch potato, you arent doing yourself ANY favours at all. I would suggest that you get up and move as much as you can. Walk to and from work if you can, stand up whilst on the phone, walk on the spot when watching TV. Anything. Just keep moving.

There is always a headline in the media regarding fat, and to be quite honest people are confused. Dont eat fat at all, eat monounsaturated fats, no dont do that, do this. Frankly, each time a researcher finds out something the angle on which fat is approached changes and people are just left wondering what in earth to do when it comes to fat. Personally, you should be reducing ALL types of fat, including the 'Healthy' ones. Avoiding all fats as much as possible would mean a cleaner eating regime, and less chance of any heart health issues. This includes Olive oil, vegetable oils etc. Most people have been told that we need fat to increase our levels of Omega 3, but we dont need Olive oil to do this, eating Olives would be fine. That way we would also have a direct hit of the vitamins they contain also, and we dont eat the concentrated fat thats extracted from them. See where I am going here ? The truth is, eating a diet low in fat with minimal meat, fish and eggs is actually one of the healthiest diets. Plants can provide all neccesary vitamins and minerals, apart from Vitamin B12- which will be discussed in another post. The idea of a plant based diet is hard to imagine for some people, and I get that. But by reducing meats, eggs and dairy you are cutting fat straight away. A lot of people are following 'Reductionism' where they dont pledge to be fully vegan, but they do pledge to reduce animal products from their diets.

The truth is, we need salt. It is vital to the millions of processes that take place in our cells billions of times a day. What we dont need is the amount of salt we consume. In fact, its frightening how may of our packaged foods is loaded with salt and sugar for taste purposes. A healthy level of salt maintains a healthy blood pressure, a overload of salt can be fatal. Its all about balance. So instead of choosing convenience and packaged foods, have a go at making sauces and soups yourself. and substitute table salt for a pinch of Himalayan rock salt- it contains close to the same mineral make up as the human body! Try not to add salt to a salad, why not add a squeeze of lemon juice instead !

OK, well this is a given ! Not only does smoking contribute as one of the main causes of Coronary Heart Disease, it also doesnt do your lungs any favours either. Smoking causes cancers of many types, Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease, Asthma and many other diseases of the mouth, throat and lungs. Please, stop !

How many of us feel that we have a grip on our stress levels ? I know sometimes I definately need a little help. Whatever it is you do to get relaxed, do it and keep doing. We live in a world where everything is constant, we are bombarded with stressful things on an hourly basis. We have streams on social media updating us on worldy events (or family members who then tell us), we have smartphones that allow us to make contact and reply to someone any hour of the day, we can reply to work emails on a cruise ship for heavens sake. The truth is we are bombarded by stress, and sometimes we dont even realise how much. We check our smartphones before we go to sleep, not knowing that bluelight that it ommits will actually decrease the amount of quality sleep we will get. We have Instagram feeds that show us how we SHOULD be living, creating a false reality and an underlying anxiety to those who strive for a better life. It needs to stop. Its hard to make it stop forever, its the way the world is. But for an hour a day at least. Do some yoga, mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, cooking- anything that doesnt involve social media, newsfeeds, emails, chatting to anyone. Be yourself, by yourself, and be in the moment. Im not going to lie, it will be hard at first. We are so accustomed to being in touch with everyone, every moment of the day, but You will see the benefits I promise. Stress can increase blood pressure and heart rate, increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke, and cause a lot of anxiety related symptoms that just arent pleasant. Yes, I agree, life does seem to be all GO GO GO.... but as the picture says, wouldnt it be nice to just dance in the rain for a while ?

For all those that want to know, Mum is doing great now. She has had major heart surgery to fix the valves that were failing. But lets be honest, she was one of the lucky ones. Some people dont have the chance to find out they have a dodgy ticker until its too late. She has changed her lifestyle, her perspective, and she most definately doesnt wait for any storm to pass. Who has the bloody time after all ? Thankyou for reading this post. And please, dont become one of the broken hearted....

Thursday, 19 January 2017

I'm Back !!

Its been a long while since I've been able to post on here, and my days have I missed it. I have so many things floating around upstairs that sometimes its nice to just get it all down on paper. I will one day decide to research something, and until I have wrote it down in a cohesive format for others to read, I drive people nuts by keep mentioning it. Did you know that Auriculotherapy is the same format as reflexology in that it is like a holographic form on an organ that corresponds with the rest of the body ? See. I did it again.

There have been a few reasons for why I haven't posted. The main one has been technology. Once again, I have been prevented from regular updates due to a laptop that decides every 5 minutes to freeze and whatnot, and a phone that won't upload the blogger App. But with abundance of money being an issue, then said repairs have been left and left... and left. Ooooops.

But also, time has been an issue. Around 6 months ago I started a new job that has required I work extra hours than I was before, usually at the times that the blog posts would have been written (when daddy does bedtime duty!) But as a light worker that is in touch with what the universe provides, I accepted this change and understood that maybe I needed the break from blogging, for fresh ideas maybe? Inspiration ? well Yes, and No. I came to realise that I actually love to teach. My blog posts inform people about the natural alternatives to products and medicines, and it reminds people we can live a more wholesome life with a more holistic approach. I think the universes way of making sure I kept in touch with all that was to put me on the fruit and veg department in a local supermarket. Oh the irony. But I use my time at work to think of new recipes, look at any new products that are out, research ones Ive never heard of (what on earth is a Mooli?) and just generally fall in love with nutrition all over again.

Around the time of the last post I wrote my mum had just been diagnosed with Heart Failure. It was a huge shock to the family, but also a massive wake up call to a few of us. Lives and subsequent lifestyles have now changed, relationships aren't taken for granted, and generally selfishness is banished in the household. It has brought up a few things that may have needed healing on a deeper level, and although she is awaiting open heart surgery, she is now living each day as it comes.... and isn't that what Mindfulness and living in the moment is all about ? I always believe that what gets sent your way is never a mistake, its always set out just for you at the perfect moment. And we are all in this together. So my next blog post will be around the heart healthy ways that you can help overhaul your diet, lifestyle and thinking patterns. After all, our Heart and Soul are what drives us through this life.

So, Expect regular posts from now on. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy researching (the extra few bits I may not have rattling round up there) and writing them. I enjoy to teach, and I enjoy passing on information, especially when its as invaluable of how to live better.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Natural ways to ease Hayfever

So its Spring. So that means lots of lovely long walks out in the countryside, connecting with nature. Sounds perfect doesn't it ? But some may recoil in horror as they first thing that they associate with it is runny noses, itchy, sore eyes and throat, sneezing and just general feeling of crapness. Hay fever is an allergic form of Rhinitis, an inflammation of the nose which is caused by airborne pollen or spores released during the spring and summer. The body produces too much Histamine to help fight the pollens/perceived threats to the body. So, no, that walk doesn't sound perfect to some of you. There are many medications out there that can help, but as mentioned before, the natural way doesn't include adding chemicals into the bloodstream and can be just as effective. Here are some natural ways to ease the Hay fever reactions.
* Honey 
Honey in its entire form is Bee Pollen. Simple. Which has been manufactured from the flowers pollen. So by using honey it may help desensitise the reaction to the pollen in the air as you have already been exposed to it in a different form. The best honey to use is a local honey as it will contain pollen from the flowers/trees that may be causing the reaction. IT is best to use natural honey a few months before the season sets in so you have had a decent exposure by the time Hay fever sets in.
* Vitamin C
Vit C whilst being a powerhouse for the immune system, is in fact a natural anti histamine (helps to combat allergies). If you use citrus fruits as your source of Vitamin C, think Lemons, Oranges, Grapefruits etc then you will also be adding a healthy dose of Bioflavanoids- also help to assist with the anti allergen campaign we have going here. A combination of both Vitamin C and Bioflavanoids are a natural decongestant (will help to unblock the stuffiness/nasal congestion) and a natural Anti Histamine. One way to get those citrus fruits in is to drink lemon water on a morning (see previous blog post for its other array of benefits).
* Chamomile
Chamomile, amongst other essential oils are great for relieving Hayfever. The other oils will be discussed later in the post, but as Chamomile is so readily available in tea form its worth putting this separately. It is a great anti oxidant and has a strong anti inflammatory effect on the bodies system. Have a cup of warm tea to help unblock the nose and throat, ideally with a spoon of honey, and then use the cold teabags as a eye soother. And there we go, a multi talented teabag !
* Hot Peppers/Turmeric
Both hot peppers (chilli's) and Turmeric contain a compound called Capsaicin- this is what gives Turmeric is warm colour. This helps to open the nasal passages to help reduce congestion, and has an overall anti inflammatory response on the bodies processes (see anti inflammatory blog post). An inflammation is the bodies way of fighting a stressor or threat to the body, by helping to ease inflammation you help the body to stop trying to fight the threat (pollen).
* Garlic and Onions
Garlic and onions work in the same way as the hot peppers and Turmeric. They contain a compound called Quercetin, a  natural Anti Histamine that has an anti inflammatory effect. It is always better to start including the diet powerhouses a few months before the hay fever season hits ("well that's going to help now!" I hear you cry), but its never too late to start ! (phew). If you cannot stomach eating all this garlic then you can always use a good supplement with a natural capsule form of possible.
* Carotenoids
These are the natural pigments that are found in plants and hold a host of benefits as well as being a great source of Anti Oxidants. These will help to clear the system of free radicals that are produced by the body in times of stress. Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables contain these, Carrots being one of the highest concentrations, along with a good dose of Vitamin A.
* Essential Oils
Essential oils are the concentrated life force of plants that have been extracted in various ways. Essential oils therefore should always be a consideration when dealing with anything from nature that may be causing a problem. The term fight fire with fire is kind of the same aspect, fight inflammation caused by pollen, with a plant based solution. There are many essential oils that offer a great anti inflammatory and anti histamine effect but the main ones (and most readily available) are Rose, Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon, Melissa and Eucalyptus. 
Treatments with essential oils can be a matter of trial and error for each individual, as we are just that, Individual ! And also, as essential oils work firstly be their aroma (more to come on the effects of the brain on an individuals perception of smell!) then a person may hate a treatment containing lemon if they really don't like the scent.
You can use the oils in various ways-- add a few drops of an oil to a bath of warm water, and lie back for a decent amount of time to let the oil sink in to the skin.
Regular massage to the neck, shoulders and chest with 4 to 5 drops of an oil in a base carrier oil such as Sweet Almond, Coconut, Olive,  or Peach Kernel oil.
Sore, red eyes can be relieved with cold Chamomile or Peppermint tea bags, or make a cold compress using rose water (not the essential oil).
For inflamed mucous membranes in the nose, mix 2 to 3 drops (total) of Rose, Chamomile and/or Lavender oil to a tsp of Vaseline and add this to the insides of the nostrils 2 to 3 times a day.
* General
It is best to avoid dairy during a flare of Hay fever, however eating a low fat natural yoghurt occasionally does contain an anti histamine. Caffeine and Alcohol are also thought to exaggerate the symptoms as they produce an inflammatory effect in the body. Aim to eat a good portion of brightly coloured fruits a veg each day and include garlic and onion where possible. Chilli's and Turmeric can be used to enhance or add flavours, and by adding black pepper this will enhance the effects of the Turmeric. A general self awareness of diet and lifestyle can help in the prevention and coping of Hay fever: if the body is already under stress from dealing with inflammatory conditions caused by lifestyle choices, it will struggle to deal with yet another inflammatory condition. (See previous post).
Natural is a wonderful, beautiful thing but it can be troublesome for some people. Please lets try and combat its symptoms so we can still appreciate and spend time in nature as we are designed to do.  

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Essential Oil: ROSE

Latin Name- Rosa Centrifolia (Cabbage Rose)/ Rosa Damascena (Damask Rose)

This is the favourite flower of many countries, but the oil is mainly obtained from Morocco, Turkey and France, but Damask Rose originates in Bulgaria. It can also be referenced to as Rose Otto, translated to simply as Rose Oil.
Rose was more than likely one of the first plants to be used in the distillation by Avicenna, a 10th century physician who used plants and their corresponding oils in healing and treatments.

Rose has many benefits, and it is by far, my favourite oil. I use it in a lot of my home made face creams and oil blends as I find that it is balancing as well as nourishing and calming.
 Rose has a soothing effect on the mind, it calms emotions and helps with depression, jealousy and resentment. It is a fabulous aid to meditation as it allows focus and peace, and helps people to cope with grief.

Rose, to me, is known as the 'Womans Oil'. It is a tonic for the reproductive system, regulating the menstrual cycle and easing pre menstrual tension (PMT). It helps to soothe any underlying issues with sexual health problems by easing the tension and stress that may be causing the problems in the first place. It also helps the male reproductive system too, but any lady that is suffering from hormonal or menstrual problems, this is definately the oil I would use.
Rose is also a tonic for the heart as it seems to activate sluggish circulation and increase blood flow. Any emotional upsets will benefit from this soothign oil, but ones that may cause stomach issues as a result will benefit as it has a antiseptic and purging action that helps to eliminate toxins and clear the system. It can to some extent ease nausea and vomiting and may help with constipation- however there are other oils that I would use in these circumstances as they are more powerful than Rose in this instance.
Rose is great for all skin types, but mature, dry or hard skin benefits greatly from this oil. It is rich, and helps to create a more toned and fresh appearance as it has a tonig effect, but it also nourishes the skin from within. Its toning action makes it great from thread veins.

There are many ways you could use this essential oil, heres how I use this oil in my home and on myself. If ive had a particulary stressful day I jump in a warm bath and add around 10 drops of essential oil and soak for as long as I am able (without a screaming baby or hubby needing the toilet). Its soothing and it allows the oil to penetrate the skin and be absorbed into my blood stream. I love the fragrance, and the sense of smell someone has is in fact controlled by the mind/emotions. Thats another blog post, but all I will say is if a fragrance brings back happy memories, it will have much more effect than if it striggers off a nasty thought.
I also have pre made blends around the home which contain Rose. My face cream is blended with Rose, Geranium and Tea Tree oil and my body oil contains Rose and Sandalwood (as I use it at bedtime to help soothe and relax).
I drop a few drops of oil in an oil burner in the house and allow the fragrancs to fill the home, helping to clear energies and balance the energies of both myself and my little boy. I have also added a few drops of the oil to home made drawer pouches- filled with dried rose petals and sewn into a pice of muslin material.

Rose really is invaluable in its benefits of easing tension and soothing. It balances and also has an antiseptic effect- If you are looking to start an Aromatherapy Oil kit to use at home, make sure Rose is in there somewhere.  But Ill be honest, even with all of its benefits its the Fragrance that I absolutely love. Many perfumes include Rose oil now, but they are masked with other tones of Vanilla etc..... WHY ??    a dab of Rose Oil on each wrist is as good and smells much better than any perfume to me !! Pure Rose oil can be really expensive, but Rose Absolute is great as it is essence of the Rose but has just been extratcted from the petals differently and more cost effectively.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Nourishment: Anti Inflammatory Foods

OK, so let me get this straight. Not all inflammation in the body is bad news. Inflammation is a complex biological PROTECTIVE response to a harmful stimuli such as pathogens, damaged cells or irritants. Something inflammatory to the body will show up by swelling, heat, pain and redness and without inflammation the body cannot heal. For example if you injure your knee the tissues around the joint will swell, therefore reducing the risk of causing any further injury by protecting the damaged tissues and local area, whilst allowing the injury to heal and repair its tissues. It is whether the Inflammation is acute or chronic in which the problems to the bodily functions lie. Acute is short term, a protective response involving the blood vessels, immune cells and various other systems, but chronic inflammation can cause the tissues involved to deteriorate over time. There can be and very often is a toxin build up and vital nutrients to the areas involved are depleted. It is chronic Inflammation in which this post is looking to target, the inflammatory response that has continued in the body due to poor food choices and a possible acid/alkaline imbalance in the body. If a diet is rich in inflammatory foods there will be a constant state of low level inflammation. The immune system will concentrate on fighting the inflammation, as this is its job, and it will not be able to concentrate on protecting against other attacks/abnormal cells. It is therefore arguable that a physical body in a low state of inflammation may have a lowered immune response to infections, and maybe even cancer cells.
The foods in which we eat today are processed, highly refined and packed full of additives, chemicals and general nastiness. They lack vital nutrients and are high in inflammatory ingredients such as certain types of fats (Trans Fats), sugars, refined starches and artificial sweeteners. It is advised that to allow the body to lower its immune response to inflammation and restore the balance all processed and refined foods should be avoided and replaced with foods that are know to have high anti inflammatory properties. So, to be avoided are;
* Fried foods    * Sugar     * Fizzy drinks    * Pastries     * Processed foods  

and they should be replaced with the list of foods mentioned below. It is thought that an Acid/Alkaline imbalance in the body may be a cause of Inflammation, but a way to make the body more alkaline is to also follow roughly the same list of foods. An Acidic PH is toxic to the body, and this is thought to be one of the causes of Chronic Inflammation.
So to restore balance it is worth reading on to see the food choices that you could make to assist in this process.

* Peppers- particularly the spicy/hot ones !
They contain Capsaicin which is thought to inhibit the release of an enzyme known to cause Inflammation in the body. So choose Jalapenos and Cayenne over the milder bell peppers, but the anti oxidants found in all of them will help clear the body of harmful free radicals. I add Jalapenos to a lot of my cooking, and chillis are never far either- Spaghetti bolognaise, salads, curries, salsas have all contained them !

* Turmeric and Ginger- The active ingredient in Turmeric is Curcumin, which gives it its rich golden colour. It is a known anti inflammatory and its effects can also be seen in ginger, but not to the high levels in Turmeric. It has high antioxidant properties and its effected are known to be heightened 2000 times over if used in combination with black pepper. My favourite thing to do with Turmeric is add a tablespoon of it with a black pepper, salt and olive oil to a tray of vegetables to be roasted. Slice a Aubergine, courgette, peppers, chilli's, onions, tomatoes, garlic and carrots and you have a Mediterranean medley that you can use to substitute starchy potatoes, or I have often put in the fridge as a salad the next day.

* Onions and Garlic- These contain a Phytonutrient called Quercetin, it helps the body to fight environmental allergies as it is a Histamine Inhibitor. May be good to try in the Hay fever season then ! Garlic is said to have similar properties to a Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory painkiller such as Aspirin as it shuts off the pathways that lead to inflammation. Onions also have similar anti inflammatory chemicals and contains a compound called Allicin which breaks down and helps to fight free radicals. Onions and garlic is used in our house as a base of nearly everything that's cooked ! Chasseurs, casseroles, stews, soups, stir fries- you name it, it probably starts with these two.

* Fatty Fish and Oils- Omega 3 oil is a natural anti inflammatory and the best Fish sources are Salmon, Mackerel and Sardines. Olive Oil contains Oleic Acid which is a Omega 9 Fatty acid- this helps the Omega 3 do its job. The rawer the oil the better ! Anything that says refined or the lighter oils will have lost some of the nutrients during the process.  Aim to eat Fish at least twice a week, and Olive Oil can be used in all cooking, dressings for a salad or to dip wholemeal bread in as a snack. Combine with some Veggie sticks and some olives and you are on to a winner !

* Dark Leafy Greens- These are packed with Vitamin E which protects the body from Pro Inflammatory molecules. The best sources of Vitamin E are Spinach, Kale and Broccoli, as well as other key and vital nutrients needed by the body. They have a higher concentration of Vitamins and Minerals such as Calcium, Iron and Phytochemicals- all vital for the smooth running of the body and nourishment of cells. They contain Alpha Linoleic Acid- which is an Omega 3 fatty acid, which offers the same benefits as the Omega 3s found in oily fish. I use Spinach in most of my salads, but you can use the veg in most things that you cook. Add to bolognaise sauces or casseroles, roast the veg and eat alongside a piece of fish a few times a week, or even chop up and eat with a small amount of Salsa (all anti inflammatory ingredients, see below), as an alternative to chocolate, cake or crisps.

* Nuts- Nuts and seeds are packed with the healthy fats that help to lower Cholesterol and keep the heart healthy. These fats are what other foods contain (Omega 3), particularly ALA (mentioned above). They are a powerhouse of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and this helps to fight the damage caused by inflammation. Cooking/roasting nuts destroys the Omega 3's so they are best eaten raw. Some nuts have more Omega 3 than others, and Flaxseed is a great source. All nuts have great quantities of other nutrients, but portion control is important here as due to the fats they can be calorific. Swapping processed snacks for a handful of raw nuts and a few squares of dark chocolate is a much better option, full with antioxidants and wont cause the Insulin level to spike in the body.

* Tomatoes and Beets- Because of their bright colours it would be correct to assume that these contain mountains of Antioxidants and Vitamins. And you are right ! The deeper the colour of the vegetable the more there often are ! Tomatoes are rich in Lycopene which helps to combat inflammation in the body, particularly the lungs. And beets are said to slow down inflammation too, as well as mop up the free radicals that can damage the cells and tissues. Throw these into a salad or salsa, and there you have it, extra Anti Inflammatory ingredients.

* Low Fat Dairy Products- Dairy products, particularly natural yoghurt, contain Probiotics. These are the good bacteria that are needed to help balance the bad bacteria that is found in the gut. Often people don't have enough good bacteria, and this can be a problem. The gut accounts for around 75% of the immune system (I know!). Happy tummy usually equals happy body. Therefore it is correct to assume that any gut inflammation may be causing problems else where in the body. So to help with gut inflammation, be kind and provide the good bacteria some Probiotics and some generally nutrient dense, easy to digest, whole food ! The processed rubbish that is consumed puts a lot of stress on the gut and can leave you feeling very lethargic if it cannot move things along. The gut has its own nervous system (The Enteral System) so anything that affects the gut will affect the body and vice versa. Stress has a massive impact on the gut as its physical effects tend to be felt here. Eat a portion of natural yoghurt with a handful of oats and berries as a morning starter !

* Whole grains- Compared to their processed, dyed and refined counterparts, Whole Grains are much higher in the stakes of nutrition and Anti Inflammation ! The rawer the ingredient used in a product, the less refined, the better. The Whole grains contain more fibre, and they reduce the level of a C-Reactive Protein, which is a marker for inflammation that shows in the blood. Also Whole grain products tend to contain less sugar and nastiness, they don't cause havoc with the glucose-insulin breakdown, and they tend to keep a more steady stream of energy flowing rather than peaks and troughs which can lead to moodiness. Use Whole grain bread, pasta and subsequent products rather than white and fluffy processed rubbish.

* Berries and Pineapple- Berries contain Anthocyanin's, chemicals that give them their vibrant colours. These are said to help reduce inflammation. Pineapple contains a compound called Bromelain which is said to suppress Inflammation and reduce swelling. Pineapple is fabulous at reducing coughs and sore throats, but is best if the juice is fresh and doesn't contain added sugar- as that will not help the Anti Inflammatory kick you're on !

Also as mentioned in a previous blog post, Lemon water is fantastic at reducing the Acidity levels in the body and helping the environment to become more Alkaline. Lemon actually helps to reduce the level of Uric Acid in the muscles, a cause of inflammation. IT also helps to soothe the gut so will help with inflammation there too ! Half a lemon in a decent cup of warm water on waking every morning. Wait around 30 minutes for breakfast, and you have already helped your immune system immensely. Alternatively you could fill a jug with water and squeeze the lemon in and leave overnight to chill. Personally I prefer it warm, but hey, whatever you prefer !

So there you have it. A varied and sometimes surprising list of what foods can heal the chronic inflammation that some people are suffering. People may not even realise that they are in a state of Inflammation. But the chances are, if you lead a life stuffing yourself full of processed and refined junk, then possibly yes ! And what would be the harm to try and minimise the risks of your body becoming inflamed... I would say from the list of conditions that are inflammatory in nature, it would be best to try and prevent rather than cure (Rheumatoid Arthritis, Gout, Inflammatory Bowel disease, Pelvic Inflammatory disorder). The truth is people don't usually realise until its too late, but preventing a condition is much more proactive than curing one (reactive). An Anti Inflammatory diet may see a decrease in colds and infections, as the immune system isn't having to fight the inflammation all the time, and the added Probiotics will work wonders for the immune system. So give it a try, anything is better than packing yourself full of additive and artificially flavoured rubbish. Our bodies were never designed to eat like that, and Inflammation  is a key factor in our physical body telling us so. You will have so much more energy and vitality, and the less peaks and troughs in sugar levels, the better ! Its time to start treating our bodies like the well 'oiled' vehicles they should be- and health should always be paramount. Let me know how you get on !

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Superfoods: Chia Seeds

There is a category of foods out there that are known as Superfoods. It is a marketing term used to define a food that has health benefits, and quite often the term is strewn about in a bid to get you spending more!  However, It could be argued that some foods are not what you would term, 'super'. Yes, they are healthy and they have health benefits, but to a much greater extent that other foods? Often not. However Chia Seeds really ARE a superfood. If you can incorporate them your diet, you wont regret it. Here's why !

Firstly it would be good to define what they are and where they come from... that is a common question ! Chia Seeds are the grain of the Salvia Hispanica L. Plant (you really don't need to remember this), and it is a plant that forms part of the Mint family. It typically originates from South America. The Aztecs and the Mayans prized them for the countless energy that they would provide, and they weren't wrong to do so. The seeds have a high concentration of nutrients and it would be easier if I broke this down.

2 tablespoons of Chia seeds, calculates to around 137 calories...

Of this, 11g is Fibre (Carbohydrate), 4g protein, and around 9g is fat (5g is the Omega 3 fats that are so good for us, and roughly 1g is Saturated!)
They provide 18% RDA Calcium, 30% RDA Manganese, 30% RDA Magnesium and 27% RDA Phosphorus. They have a wealth of micronutrients and trace elements such as Iron, Zinc, Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Copper and Selenium. All these are needed in smaller amounts in the body compared to the macronutrients such as Carbohydrate, Protein and Fats, but they are essential all the same. These nutrients allow the body to develop and repair tissues, control muscle contractions (heart), transport essential nutrients and compounds to organs and tissues and keep the immune, nervous, muscular, blood and digestive systems healthy. Chia Seeds contain 18 Amino Acids (there are 22 altogether, and 9 are essential- chia contains all of the essential acids). Therefore it is a food known as High Biological Value- there are food non-meat foods that can be classified as this as usually meat is found to contain all essential Amino Acids. Therefore, Vegetarians would be advised to add this to their diet to supplement the Macronutrients, Micronutrients and Trace Elements that may need replacing.
Because of all of the nutrients mentioned, they can help improve the health of the Heart and the Bones, help to transport nutrients around the body, but they can also help to fight the production of Free Radicals that circulate the body. These can damage molecules in cells, and ultimately they contribute to the ageing process and disease in the body. Free radicals can put the bodily systems under a certain stress that means that it is continually trying to fight off the damage, Anti Oxidants (found in Chia Seeds), can 'mop up' these free radicals and prevent any damage.

So how can you use them ? Anyway you want ! You can sprinkle onto cereals, yoghurts and in smoothies. A lot of people actually mix with water and use as an egg alternative in recipes. The seeds are Hydrophilic, so they absorb water, this consistency helps to bind the dry foods in certain recipes, how an egg would. I've used Chia Seeds soaked in Apple Juice (natural sweetener) as part of a healthy snack bar that I make. You really can use them in anything, soups, casseroles, puddings... the list is endless ! And the health benefits means that you can feel good at the same time knowing that you really are adding a Superfood to your diet !

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Natural ways to beat Stress and Anxiety

I have been asked a few times about how to reduce stress and anxiety, and what techniques can help during panic attacks. The thing is, it really isn't that simple. To fully ease the symptoms it is more of a long term intervention rather than a short term fix. I have categorised the information as there are many ways to help, and it is easier to put into identifiable categories.
We have evolved into a species that although is highly intelligent, we have lost our natural abilities to survive in the natural world. Stress is a physiological in response to a 'stressor', and in essence is useful as it has helped us to survive. The 'fight or flight' response has allowed us as a species to survive, as in direct response to a danger our body would release Cortisol (a hormone) and Adrenaline to all of the muscles to prepare the body to attack a threat or run from it.
The problem is, it is very rare these days that a person would come into contact with a danger such as a Bear or wolf, we have evolved to become stressed to problems that our ancestors would only dream about !
In a world where everything is available nearly 24 hours a day, work is the main part of our day, emails are still coming through at bedtime and juggling responsibilities and worries has become the norm, it is no wonder that stress and anxiety are common problems in todays lives. So can we help this continual pattern of  worry/anxiety and stress ? Yes. But be prepared to make a few changes.
Food and Fluid Intake
The term 'You are what you eat' could not be truer here. We now live in a world where our water contains chemicals, our meat is pumped full of hormones and our vegetables and fruit have been crammed with genetically modifying chemicals to enable them to grow quicker, bigger and have better shape/colour. These chemicals cause havoc with our bodies, changing our chemical make up and affecting our hormones, which regulate our system. They build up in our system and with an inefficient lymphatic system/liver, digestive system we cannot remove these toxins. The first and most important thing to do is to look at diet and fluid intake. Increasing foods rich in Anti Oxidants as they will mop up the free radicals in the system that have been produced as a result of food oxidising. These toxins can cause illness and disease and contribute to the bodies stress response.
The first thing that will help diet-wise is by increasing the amount of Whole grain's in your every day intake. They contain Magnesium and an Amino Acid called Tryptophan- this helps the body to convert Serotonin which is known to calm the body and improve mood. Some of the best sources of Tryptophan are Banana's, Turkey and lean meats, and High Biological Value Proteins such as Meats and Quinoa. The body processes complex carbohydrates slower than refined sugars, and allows a slower release of energy into the bloodstream. This will stop the peaks and troughs in the energy release which can cause mood swings, and jitters from too much sugar. Oats are fantastic for slow release energy, as is whole-wheat pasta, bread and grains.
Foods high in Omega 3's (oily fish such as Salmon, Tuna, Sardines and seeds such as Linseed)  lower the levels of Cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline in the body, whilst also lowering the levels of Bad cholesterol in the blood stream. High Cholesterol can cause High Blood Pressure, and fatty deposits in the arteries that can cause havoc with the heart and circulation system.
L-Lysine (which is an Amino Acid) is the building block of the brains neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) and can help the synapses fire at a rate in which they should. Foods rich in this are beans, meat and fish.
The stomach has been described as the 'second brain', and it even has its own Nervous System (the Enteric Nervous System). Millions of receptors are embedded in the Gastrointestinal Tract, and they react to fear by speeding up or slowing down digestion. One of the best ways to calm a nervous stomach is Lemon Balm- this can be taken as a supplement. Peppermint is also fantastic, and is best in Tea form, taken after a meal.
Avoidance of some foods is also vital. Caffeine, Alcohol and added sugars such be avoided at all costs- these contain stimulants, depressants and are simple sugars (which are metabolised quickly by the system- causing the mood swings/spikes in energy).
B Vitamins have also been shown to reduce the level of anxiety and these are contained in eggs, milk, meat and avocados. Foods that help to regulate and lower the stress hormone Cortisol include foods rich in Vitamin C, Omega 3's (as above) and Magnesium- such as Spinach and dark leafy veg. Dark chocolate has also shown in some studies to lower Cortisol (so its not all out with nice food!)
Drinking herbal teas has also been shown to lower levels of Cortisol and promote relaxation. Chamomile Tea contains 2 chemicals called Luteolin and Apigenin that are responsible for increase in relaxation. If getting to sleep is an issue, teas which contain Valerian, hops and lemon balm are really useful for helping to drift off naturally. These also help to
replace the caffeinated drinks that can keep you awake. A natural way to stimulate the body on a morning is to drink Lemon water on first waking (see previous blog post).
Essential Oils
I love essential oils ! I use them every day in some way, and prefer to use these completely naturally alternatives (life essences from plants) rather than medication or chemical packed alternatives. Some of the best oils I have used to ease anxiety and stress are Vetivert, Benzoin, Chamomile, Lavender, Rose, Ylang Ylang or Sandalwood. A blend of oils is very personal for each individual, depending on what type of smells you enjoy. I personally love the earthy/woody smells so making a blend with these works for me. There are many oils that can help with anxiety- but the most popular and often used are Lavender and Chamomile. The best way to use them is in an oil burner or by adding a few drops to a bath. You can also add a few drops to a  carrier oil and rub this on your wrists or temples to help ease anxiety, 3 drops in 20ml of carrier oil (such as coconut, sweet almond or grapeseed work well). If you are pregnant or have any long term health conditions it is best to check with a qualified practitioner before using oils as they can be potentially harmful. A massage using these oils will also work wonders... the massage in itself is healing, encouraging the removal of toxins and lymph, and blood flow around the body. It is the ancient art of touch therapy, we benefit from touch as it helps to encourage self acceptance, improves self esteem and helps the body mind and soul to feel loved- adding the healing powers of essential oils to this healing would be a powerhouse in the help against anxiety. It regulates breathing, and the oils penetrate the skin and olfactory nerves to work their magic ! as already mentioned, consult a qualified specialist if unsure as what oils to use or whether massage should be performed. Ask a partner for a shoulder rub, or take your healing into your own hands and massage your hands and feet yourself !
Practical Techniques
Running a warm bath is fantastic as raising the body heat can help regulate mood and anxiety ! (massage increases blood flow and therefore raising body heat). Add essential oils and listen to calming music- or as mentioned in another blog- try Tibetan Singing Bowl music. It helps to release Theta waves in the brain that are responsible for deep meditative and relaxation states. Any type of Hydro therapy is wonderful ! We are back to the natural relationship between land, water and man... and there is no other way ! if you cant run a bath, have a shower and drop some essential oils in the tray, the water will hit the tray and send the fragrance upwards- hitting your olfactory nerves and easing the tension whilst the water does the massage. Water is essential to life, and has a very high energy, and it is so natural. If you cant run a bath or shower, run a tap and watch it for a few minutes. The sound of running water is so relaxing, and focusing on the water (the speed at which it falls from the tap, the way in which it hits the sink, and laps into the drain) can help to empty your intrusive worrying thoughts.
Try and spend as much time during each day being Mindful. Mindfulness has been practised in Buddhism for thousands of years and has recently become more mainstream in the West. Mindfulness is about being Present in the moment- by sitting and focusing on the breath, it can bring you back to really living in the present- not thinking about the past or worrying about the future- focusing solely on the breath. This would be a Mindfulness practice, but you can practice Mindfulness during every day moments. How many times have you travelled to work and not actually taken much notice of how you have actually got there ? Next time you are on a train, be aware. Notice how your body feels against the chair, notice what sounds are around you. Notice your breathing, and watch everything through the window. Look at how the light hits the window, and the warmth you may feel from the sun. I could go on, but honestly, try it ! You would be amazed how much you will notice when you learn to be mindful ! During a panic attack, try and become Mindful on your breath.. focus on how long you breathe in, try and retain the breath for as long as you can, and try to regulate the breathing out.
Also, try and limit the amount of 'Blue Light' you expose yourself to. We were never designed to spend all day on tablets, smart phones or computers. The light emitted from these can seriously affect our natural circadian rhythms, increasing anxiety and stress as we never feel able to switch off. It is especially important to limit the use of these before bedtime, we use the natural cue of darkness to tell us its time to sleep, but using these bypasses our bodies cues and keeps us awake. The body produces a hormone called Melatonin when we are subjected to darkness, which helps the body to relax and drift to sleep. Blue light will keep the body firing on all cylinders until in the early hours, and will affect the type and amount of sleep we get.
Crystals are fantastic for helping to ease stress and anxiety, and they work through resonating and affecting the vibrations that your energy is giving off. The crystals have their own vibrational frequencies, and some contain minerals that are known for their therapeutic properties. Rose Quartz is bar far my favourite crystal, and this is excellent for reducing agitation and anxiety. It helps to lower blood pressure. Blue Lace Agate helps to clam things down, and will help to balance the Throat Chakra, so if stress affects the throat area with repeated bouts of throat problems, this is a great stone. Using any of the stones paired with a Clear Quartz will amplify their properties, whilst a Clear Quartz will help to clarify any issues that may be troubling you. There are many crystals you can use, and please seek the advice of a practitioner, but I have highlighted these as these are the ones I use.
We as beings are energy, everything around us is energy. It is the basis of all life. I will be doing another blog post on Us as Energy beings soon, but for now I will briefly explain stress as an energy. We have layers to our Aura, and our physical body is our first layer. We absorb energy from our environment, and thoughts, feelings, and words are all energy. Stress and Anxiety is the build up of energy in our outer energy layers that have manifested on the physical level. We can help ourselves as much as we can, we can help to relax the physical body and nourish our first 'layer' with good food choices, but if we are continually putting ourselves in stressful situations then this will penetrate our layers, whatever we do. Think about the situations you put yourselves in- can I change the way I think about work ? Are you in an abusive relationship ? Any negative energy will have an impact.... we can help to alleviate the stress and anxiety on the physical level- but if we are not dealing with the cause, it will be a perpetual occurrence. See the blog for further information on energy and its impact.
So to sum up....
Eat better- Wholegrains, Tryptophan containing foods, less toxins and sugars.
Limit Caffeine, Alcohol, and stimulants.
Increase amount of Omega 3's and Magnesium rich foods
Eat plenty of foods containing Vit C and Vit B's- maybe consider a supplement
Herbal Teas- Chamomile, Peppermint
Essential Oils- Lavender and Chamomile as a good start
Hydrotherapy- Baths, showers, walking by a stream
Practice Mindfulness as often as possible
Limit the amount of Blue Light, especially at bedtime
Crystals- Rose Quartz, Blue Lace Agate, Clear Quartz
Look at the cause- can anything be changed
See yourself as an energy being- are your choices lifting or lowering your energy?