New year tips to kick start your health

Even if you don’t have real resolutions most of us see the New Year as a new start in life, when we’re going to get fit, go to the gym, lose weight, eat and drink less, exercise more, work harder…..Try these tips for a good start to the year:

 1. Drink water for more energy Cut down on tea, coffee, and colas as they contain caffeine which is a stimulant that gives a quick fix followed by a slump, and opt for water instead – eight glasses a day is recommended to flush out the toxins – and try peppermint, fruity or dandelion herbal teas instead of your normal hot drink.

2. Get plenty of zzz After partying over Christmas and New Year when the days are short and dull it’s a tiring time, but the body needs sleep to heal itself and be fit enough to fight off all the circulating winter bugs, so try to aim for seven or eight hours a night.

3. Binge on fruit and veggies

They are the healthiest thing you can eat because they are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which fight free radicals that cause cell damage, cancer and heart disease – avoid pesticides by choosing organic and try home-made soups and fresh juices.

4. Shedding those extra pounds

Don’t give up eating because you’ve overdone it but eat healthily – three meals a day and regular snacks of nuts, seeds and fruit with plenty of fruit, vegetables, rice, pasta, and pulses like lentils and cut out or reduce bread, sugary and processed foods.

5. Up your vitamin intake

Pollution, smoking, stress and alcohol all wipe out nutrients in the body, so take a good multivitamin/mineral supplement to make sure you’re not deficient in any of them. Taking Vitamin C as well helps to prevent colds and flu, reduce stress levels, ensure healthy skin and turns food into much-needed energy in the body.

6. Exercise boosts your energy

Even though you might be feeling sluggish the more exercise you do the more energetic you feel, so check out the gym or try Yoga and Pilates classes for good stretching exercise, or simply add a 20 minute walk to your daily routine to keep trim and healthy.

7. Remember to relax

Stress is the scourge of 21st Century living and too much leads to illness, so try to give yourself half an hour a day to relax – even if you’ve got kids or a hectic job – take a long aromatic bath, listen to music, read a book or learn to meditate.

8. Hide the chocolate

If you’ve eaten too much over the festive season try to keep it out of reach from Monday to Friday at least and have some on the weekends if you can’t give up altogether. Too much sugar causes blood sugar levels to fluctuate giving highs and lows so try to reduce intake of sweets to a minimum and see if you feel better.

9. Make this the year to give up smoking and start now!

There are so many ways to quit smoking from patches to pills that the doctor can give you or for something different you can try acupuncture, hypnotherapy or have a go at the charity Quit’s email support:

10. Have a herbal boost

Herbal remedies can give you much needed support at this time of year – Echinacea enables the immune system to fight infection and stave off colds, Milk Thistle protects the liver if you’ve over-indulged this year, and Siberian Ginseng is energising and helps you to focus. (Check with a doctor if you are taking other medication or are pregnant).

To purchase A. Vogel Echinaforce Echinacea, Milk Thistle, and Eleutherococcus Siberian Ginseng, 50ml each, £9.15 go to and put in the code HSoul1 for a 5% discount.

Cannabis for multiple sclerosis?

Hydrotherapy bath at Park Attwood

The debate about cannabis has brought to mind how many people with Multiple Sclerosis found that the herb eases the discomfort and helps them to live a normal life.  However, the fact that GPs are now prescribing CBD (cannabis oil) doesn’t mean that they will get it because it is solely available for children with severe epilepsy.  CBD which is somewhat less potent is now on sale in health food stores though.  This has probably more to do with cost than any other sensitivities, so it seems grossly unjust.

Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease of the nervous system affecting some 100,000 people in Britain and 3 million worldwide. It is incurable and potentially life-threatening and is more likely to affect women than men.

The average age at which symptoms start is from mid 20’s to mid 30s but it can develop at any time from the teens up to the mid 60’s.

  • MS is an autoimmune disease which means that instead of defending the body from infection and illness, the immune system actually attacks healthy cells and tissues.

The disease occurs when there is damage to the thin membrane or myelin sheath which surrounds the nerve tracts in the brain and spinal cord. The inflamed sheath loses some of its covering and hard scar tissue or lesions form. Damage to these nerves means that the right signals do not reach various parts of the body nor are the right signals sent back.

As a result the muscles become weak and this may affect mobility, eyesight, bladder and bowel control, speech, and cause pain, numbness and tingling in all parts of the body. Symptoms vary from person to person and it is helpful to treat a person as an individual rather than as an MS case.

People’s experience of MS is often very different and some are confined to wheelchairs while others live a relatively normal life holding down a job and having a family.

Cannabis is controversial

Cannabis has been used in healing for over 2,000 years and smoked recreationally by young people since the 1960s. However,  there is much controversy about the fact that young people who smoke too much cannabis may be susceptible to mental illness. And, it should be recognised, that the cannabis available in the 21st Century is far stronger than anything smoked in the 60s and 70s.

There is growing sympathy with the claims that cannabis can help MS and cancer sufferers, people with rheumatoid arthritis but its prescription is severely limited at this stage.  Years ago I interviewed many people who smoked it to relieve their symptoms. From time to time they were charged by the police, but they felt that it was worth it to feel better.

Complementary therapies for MS

No one therapy is the right one but people may benefit from any or several:
• aromatherapy
• homeopathy
• reflexology
• physiotherapy
• yoga
• qi gong
• tai chi
• hypnotism
• oxygen therapy
• counselling
• meditation
• nutrition
• hydrotherapy
• acupuncture
• healing
• Alexander Technique.

Tips for healthy eating:

All conditions improve with a healthy (preferably organic) diet made up of plenty of fruit and vegetables and Omega 3s and 6s in oily fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna, and sunflower, pumpkin and sesame oils and linseeds (or flaxseed).

There are some foods that should be avoided:

• Instant coffee
• Saturated fats – butter, cream, full cream milk, full fat cheese, red meat, peanuts
• Trans fats – these are in some processed foods and are made when vegetable oils are turned into solids (read labels on food or stick to fresh foods). See Trans Fats

There are other foods that are particularly good for MS sufferers including:

• Sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds and linseeds (or flaxseed)
• Brazil nuts and fish for their selenium content


Homeopathy, Acupuncture and Yoga helped me

Jane was a P.E. teacher when she was diagnosed with MS in 1983. She retrained as a business studies teacher but was forced to give up work six years later after a very bad MS attack.

She tried some 40 different ways of helping her MS and finally settled on three: homeopathy, yoga and acupuncture.

‘I used to have an attack every year for 11 years. It was like a creeping paralysis where my energy plummeted, my muscles would fall off me, I had chronic fatigue and it took so long to recover.

Jane takes three homeopathic remedies, Lureticum, Tuberculinium and Psorinum which all come under the nosode heading – a category of homeopathic remedies which are prepared from disease products.

‘I used to take these when I started to go downhill and once I even halted an attack completely with nosodes. I had dreadful side effects from steroids – a hyperactive thyroid, my skin would get so thin it scraped off in the bath, I was weak and kept collapsing. These do not give me any side effects so I have given up all drugs now and I haven’t even had to take the nosodes for 47 weeks.

‘I started yoga 13 years ago and now do it daily. The breathing in yoga is particularly beneficial and I also meditate. My condition is much better, my energy is markedly improved, I no longer have the brain fatigue which was so depressing and I haven’t needed antidepressants since I started doing it. Things that used to bother me don’t now.


CASE STUDY: Acupuncture is my 100 per cent lifeline

Peter was 42 when he started falling over a lot. As sales manager for a company he had been in Scotland on business. ‘I went into the motorway services to go to the loo on the trip home and the next thing I knew I was waking up in bed. That was the end of my working life.

‘I had MS attacks every 18 months and a number of different symptoms, but three years ago I started going blind. At this point I visited Richard Blackwell and started having acupuncture. Fairly soon after my sight came back and now I go every week to see him.

‘Richard completely eliminated the severe pain I was having in my neck and shoulders, and it never came back again. Another time he put a pair of needles at an angle between my scalp and skull. The effect was remarkable – the burning sensation that I had permanently on the skin on my feet and legs was switched off and stayed that way for 24 hours. Unfortunately the needles were so painful that I haven’t been able to repeat it.

‘Acupuncture is my 100 per cent lifeline. It is far more important than anything that Western medicine can provide.’

The Northern College of Acupuncture is on 01904 343305,

Exercise helps me

Susie, 48, spent the first 10 years of her illness in her 20s feeling frightened, confused and ashamed, but a trip to the Peto Institute in Hungary changed her life. She now walks with a stick, feels fit and healthy and oozes enthusiasm. She owns and runs The Cornell Centre, a health and fitness centre for everyone but with its own special MS programme, and she has written a book and made an exercise video.

‘I had been told by the doctors in England just to rest. At Peto I discovered that exercise made me feel much better. The doctors there taught me to use my brain while doing simple exercise – for instance to count while doing leg lifts.

‘When I got back from Hungary I wanted other people to benefit from what I had learnt so I started a clinic. Over the years I have developed the programme and also trained in reflexology, aromatherapy, anatomy and physiology, clinical homeopathy.

‘The gym is full of healthy people and those in wheelchairs too. All our MS members get a full physical assessment before they start on the programme. Once you are labelled with MS by the medical profession they never look at you again. If I had found my programme 25 years ago I wouldn’t have a problem now.’

The Cornell Centre can offer nutritional evaluation, MS assessment, exercise programmes, advice and nutritional therapy, 01245 268098,



The Multiple Sclerosis Society provides support for anyone with MS, fundraising activities and information on research, 0808 800 8000,

Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centres, gives details of all centres in the UK that offer high dose oxygen therapy, physio and counselling for MS people:


Multiple Sclerosis (Natural Ways), Richard Thomas
Cooking Without Made Easy, Barbara Cousins
The Complete MS Body Manual, Susie Cornell

Click on the Amazon ad on the right of the page to buy these books.

Don’t get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

moon winterWe’ve had such a lovely summer, but it is clocks back time again – so the nights are longer and darker.  Winter blues affect some 17 per cent of Britons*, while 7 per cent experience  SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).   Winter blues can mean feeling extra tired, lacking in energy and feeling low.
Symptoms of SAD include:

• Depression – low self-esteem, misery, despair, hopelessness, numbness,apathy
• Constant fatigue
• Disturbed sleep patterns with early morning waking
• Lack of energy
• Craving for sweet foods and carbohydrates – consequent weight gain
• Mood swings
• Anxiety and inability to cope with stress
• Loss of libido
• Lowered immune system so more prone to colds
• Bursts of activity in spring and autumn

People who get SAD tend to live far north of the equator (Britain, Scandinavia, Alaska, Iceland), because of the long nights and short days.  They are more likely to be pre-menopausal women than anyone else.

Why it happens

Light deprivation is the main cause of SAD and in some people it causes a deficiency in serotonin and dopamine – chemicals the brain needs to control mood, appetite, sleep and sexuality.

The main cause of SAD is believed to be a drop in levels of serotonin, a brain chemical or neurotransmitter, responsible for:

• hunger   • thirst   • sexual activity   • sleep patterns   • moods    • body temperature   • (indirectly) the production of hormones.

Daylight triggers the hypothalamus gland in the brain to produce serotonin, so lack of daylight leads to reduced levels.At night the pineal gland which is attached to the brain releases the hormone melatonin (a derivative of serotonin) giving the signal to the brain that it is night time and that it is time to sleep. Similarly, during the day when light hits the retina in the eye signals are sent to the brain to bring about change in the pineal, adrenal, pituitary and thyroid glands.

However, if it is dark more often than it is light there is too much melatonin being released and may account for tiredness, lethargy and fatigue in SAD sufferers.

Light boxes

One of the best ways of dealing with SAD is to use a light box, which can be rigged up in the workplace with a minimum of half an hour recommended twice a day. Dawn simulator alarm clocks also help people to wake up with a ‘natural’ dawn when the mornings are dark.

Doctors and complementary therapists alike recommend light therapy.

 How SAD affects our appetite

Comfort eating helps to relieve depression and many people with SAD crave sugary snacks and stimulants like caffeine. These give a temporary lift but blood sugar levels plummet afterwards and cravings become worse. When someone gets trapped into a low blood sugar cycle they tend to put on weight because they are constantly craving and consuming foods and drinks which are high in sugar.

Change of diet

A change of diet to boost serotonin levels, cut down cravings for sugary foods, and eat more healthily is the best way to lose weight and gain confidence to try and avoid getting SAD every winter.   A diet high in proteins helps to boost serotonin levels because proteins contain tryptophan, an amino acid, which is converted by the body firstly into 5HTP and then into serotonin.

High protein foods include:

  • Fish, turkey, chicken
  • Beans – kidney, borlotti, lima and aduki, lentils,
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Wheatgerm, oats, quinoa.

Herbal medicine: St John’s Wort (use the code HSoul1 for 5% discount) has been proven to improve some symptoms – 900 mcg a day is recommended from mid-October through the winter. It is essential to consult a GP or registered medical herbalist before taking St John’s Wort  because it contra-indicates some medicines and can cause side-effects when used at the same time as light therapy.

One natural remedy that can be very good for SAD is a type of algae, Blue Green Organic Klamath Algae, (use the code HSoul1 for 5% discount)  which is abundant in minerals and contains a natural (feel-good) endorphin and plenty of antioxidants.


If in doubt contact: The National Institute of Medical Herbalists,

Other recommended therapies:

• Acupuncture
• Reflexology
• Homeopathy
• Nutritional therapy
• Yoga
• Counselling
• Hypnotherapy

See Complementary Therapies for more information.

*According to an ICM Online Omnibus Survey conducted for Lumie of 2,000 people in the UK.

Painful, heavy, irregular periods?

woman very attractiveAnyone whose periods are extremely painful every month, who has stopped having periods or who is suffering from heavy periods should see a doctor. Complementary therapies and self-help tips can be a solution once serious problems, such as endometriosis, fibroids, or cancer, have been ruled out.  Complementary therapies can, however,  help for both endometriosis and fibroids (see Hysterectomies – are they really necessary?).

Painful periods

Many women experience pain at the start of their periods – back pain, low abdomen pain, feeling sick and sweaty, exhausted and feeling generally unwell.

Periods can be painful for a variety of reasons but if they are consistently causing you considerable pain it is essential to visit a doctor and be examined to ensure that nothing serious is wrong such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. Once you are sure that there are no other problems some self-help can ease some of the symptoms.

Taking a painkiller may be the answer to relieving the pain but it isn’t removing the cause. Periods may be painful because of other factors such as deficiency in certain nutrients, being overweight, or a general unhealthy state. By improving diet and general health it is possible that periods will settle down and not cause any problems. However, from around 40 onwards in the peri-menopausal stage periods do change and may become heavier and more painful. Similarly at the start of having periods a young girl often experiences a lot of pain which goes away as she gets older.


It might seem a touch repetitive but healthy eating benefits the body in so many ways and can considerably improve periods for women. To find out more about eating healthily look in Nutrition/You Are What You Eat.

A healthy diet consists of:

  • organic fruit and vegetables
  • wholegrains like brown rice
  • pulses such as lentils
  • nuts and seeds
  • oily fish – herrings, mackerel, tuna, salmon and sardines
  • (organic) chicken and turkey
  • plenty of water – preferably filtered or spring water

Deficient in vitamins or minerals?

Few women have enough nutrients in their diet, however healthily they eat, and therefore the body is not in a fit state to cope with periods often causing pain and other symptoms at that time of the month.

A staggering 96 per cent of women aged 19 to 24 and 91 per cent 19 to 64 year old women have well below the recommended intake of iron, according to research by the Food Standards Agency and Dept of Health. The figures are also very low for magnesium, copper, calcium, zinc, iodine, folic acid, Vitamin A and other vitamins. Therefore it is well worth taking a multivitamin which is specifically for women of menstruating age.

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Aromatherapy oils

  • Clary sage is a very pungent aromatherapy oil that can do wonders for period discomfort – just a few drops in a bath with lavender oil can soothe period pain in the lower abdomen and back.
  • A few drops of lavender, clary sage and chamomile oil in an egg cup of carrier oil such as almond oil massaged into the lower belly can also ease pain.
  • In her book Aromatherapy for Women Maggie Tisserand suggests one drop of clary sage in a glass of water with honey to ease pain – we are wary about suggesting this because ingestion of aromatherapy oils is not advised, but having tried it and found it extremely soothing it’s worth passing on.
  • You can make up a mixture in 30ml of massage oil (olive oil, jojoba oil, or almond oil) of two drops of peppermint oil, 10 drops of clary sage oil, two of chamomile and five of geranium.
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  • Warmth is great for soothing pain – so snuggle up with a hot water bottle.
  • Contrary to old-fashioned thinking doing some exercise actually improves pain rather than making it worse.
  • Drink chamomile tea to calm the system.
  • Relaxation is helpful for persistently uncomfortable periods – consider Yoga and/or Meditation – see Therapies and Mind Body Spirit/Mind/Live Long, Stay Young

Complementary therapies

These may help for all kinds of problems with periods and once you have been checked out medically to ensure that there is nothing serious wrong it is worth trying any of these:

  • Acupuncture
  • Cranial osteopathy
  • Reflexology
  • Homeopathy
  • Herbal medicine
  • Chinese Herbal Medicine
  • Naturopathy
  • Nutrition

For information about these and how to find practitioners look at Therapies

Heavy periods

Women are very aware when their periods have changed and they are having to use more sanitary wear than normal.

This can be due to the onset of menopause but it is always worth a visit to the doctor to rule out any serious problems. Until recently most women with heavy periods had their wombs removed – it is worth reading the article in the Women’s Health section on Hysterectomies as many have been performed unnecessarily and there are alternative ways of dealing with some problems such as fibroids.

An Aromatherapy Mix

Make up a mixture of 30 drops of cypress oil, three drops of rose oil, 25 of chamomile and 20 of geranium and mix together. Then put five or six drops of the mixture into your bath, making sure the oil has properly dispersed – some people mix it with milk to make it disperse better.

No periods

It’s important to ensure the obvious reasons why periods might stop – that you’re not pregnant!

Otherwise they can stop because of losing too much weight, high stress levels or illness. Therefore it is vital that you see a doctor to rule out serious health problems or pregnancy!

Irregular Periods

Again there may be many reasons for irregular periods but is worth a look at lifestyle.

Are you drinking too much, smoking and not eating regularly and healthily?

It is important to seek professional help for all of these problems – initially from a doctor and if the problem is not resolved or you do not wish to take prescription drugs, try seeing a qualified practitioner in any of the following (always check their qualifications):

  • Homeopathy
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Reflexology
  • Nutrition
  • Chinese Herbal Medicine

For information about the relevant associations and how to find practitioners look at Therapies


Natural Health Advisory Service Ltd,  01273 487366 ,

Dr Marilyn Glenville has clinics in London and Tunbridge Wells: 08705 329244 Postal consultations available.

Save your skin in the sun

The best summer most of us have ever seen has enabled us to live like the continentals. Day after day of hot weather has been good for those who have respect for the sun, but has caused many people to end up in hospital through over-exposure.

There’s a mixed message about the sun – the skin needs exposure to the sun to make that vital Vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones and teeth,  immune system and cognitive function – pretty important!  Yet we have been receiving a message for years that too much sun (and exposure to sunbeds) can cause skin cancer. View Skin Cancer Rates High in the UK.

For a great  natural range of sun care products go to Neals Yard Remedies – click here or on the ads on the right.

The problem starts when we are young and we think we’re invincible, and despite what they say, we still love a tan.  Children’s skin is more at risk than adults and it is from a young age that we need to be protected – so why not take a leaf out of the Australians’ book? The Slip, Slap, Slop campaign A very successful advertising campaign in Australia was Slip Slap Slop: • Slip on a T-shirt • Slap on a cap • Slop on the sunscreen!

Why the sun is good for us

No wonder people get fed up with conflicting messages but it is true that exposure to the sun without sunscreen enables the skin to manufacture Vitamin D. It is also a fact that many of us are deficient in Vitamin D, according to recent research. Vitamin D helps to maintain healthy bones and teeth, and regulates calcium and phosphorus levels which ensure good muscle function.  Read more in Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sun.

This doesn’t therefore mean that spending hours in the sun without sunscreen is a good idea when it’s exceptionally hot. Good judgement helps most of us to know how much sun is enough depending on the temperature outside. But of course children cannot make this decision for themselves and are usually so busy playing that they don’t think about it. There are other reasons why too much sun isn’t that good for us – everyone has seen people who have tanned so much that their skin becomes tough, old and wrinkly. Also too much sun on a very hot day can bring on sunstroke which results in headaches, dehydration and sickness and can be dangerous.

Sunscreen yes – chemicals no! Once you become keen to avoid pesticides in your food, and start looking at cosmetics to see what they contain, you become aware of what’s in sun creams.  There are a range of different chemicals in them including  phthalates, PABA, BPA and parabens. There are also said to be chemicals in them that mimic or disrupt hormones and these can be in the ‘parfum’, a cocktail of chemicals or oxybenzone.


One of the worst chemicals is parabens which is usually found in well known brands of sun tan lotion. It appears in many different forms: methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, butyl paraben, propyl paraben, and propul paraben. Research studies found that propyl paraben has been found to decrease sperm production and traces of parabens have been found in human breast tissue. There are now plenty of healthier alternatives which are good for the skin, make it moist and also prevent sunburning. Given that it’s not a good idea to spend hours and hour in hot sun, these sunscreens are perfectly adequate. Parfum too is a strange term that covers a whole gamut of fragrance chemicals, the names of which are not listed. People with allergies often have a reaction to parfum. It’s perfectly possible to buy sunscreens that use natural ingredients up to about 46 F.  Some contain essential oils, several contain aloe vera. They smell great, they work and they keep your skin soft and protected, without allowing harsh chemicals into the bloodstream – particularly suitable for kids.


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