All about cholesterol

Prescription of statins for lowering cholesterol has become more and more widespread, but latest recommendations are that healthy people should not routinely be taking them. NICE (The National Institute for Clinical Excellence) recommends them for people who have a 20 per cent greater chance of developing heart disease within 10 years.

The latest study published in The Cochrane Library claims that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that statins should be taken by those who aren’t at risk.  Statins bring a variety of side-effects with them which have been reported as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, swelling of the ankles,  liver problems, kidney failure and muscle weakness.

 Vinciane Ollington,  one of Healthy Soul’s experts, explains the role of cholesterol in the body:

‘There are many myths that portray fat and cholesterol as one of the worst foods you can consume. These myths are actually harming your health.’

What is cholesterol, and why do you need it?

Cholesterol is a lipoprotein – fats combined with proteins which is found in every cell in your body, where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids. It is also vital for neurological function. Your liver makes about 75 percent of your body’s cholesterol.

According to conventional medicine, there are two types of cholesterol:
1. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, removes excess cholesterol from your arteries.
2. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, circulates in your blood and may build up in your arteries, forming plaque that makes your arteries narrow and less flexible. If a clot forms in one of these narrowed arteries leading to your heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke may result.

When HDL, the “good” cholesterol, takes cholesterol from your body’s tissues and arteries, it brings it back to your liver. It goes back to your liver because your body is trying to make and conserve the cholesterol for the precise reason that it is so essential to life. If the purpose of this was to eliminate cholesterol from your body, it would make sense that the cholesterol would be shuttled back to your kidneys or intestines so that your body could remove it.

Cholesterol and inflammation – what’s the connection?

If your arteries are damaged, cholesterol is necessary in order to replace your damaged cells. This results in a “scar” forming in your artery which is known as plaque. This plaque, along with the thickening of your blood and constricting of your blood vessels that normally occur during any inflammatory process, can indeed increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks.

It is sadly quite common for damage to occur in your body on a regular basis. In this case, you are in a dangerous state of chronic inflammation. Instead of looking at the cause of chronic inflammation, conventional medicine looks at the effect (the increased cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream to repair your arteries) and conclude that cholesterol is the cause of heart attacks.

Where is the wisdom in lowering cholesterol?

If you have increased levels of cholesterol, it is at least in part because of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there to do a job: help your body heal and repair. It does not seem very wise to merely lower the cholesterol and forget about why it is there in the first place. It would seem much smarter to reduce the extra need for the cholesterol, the reason for the chronic inflammation.

As cholesterol is essential for the good functioning of your body, all kind of nasty things can happen if your cholesterol is too low. These range from depressive symptoms and violent behaviour to higher risk of various chronic diseases. An optimum level of cholesterol would be around 200 mg/dL (5.12 mmol/L).

The adverse effects of statins
Statin drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme in your liver that is needed to manufacture cholesterol. Side effects of statins include an increased risk of polyneuropathy (nerve damage that causes pain in the hands and feet and trouble walking), dizziness, memory loss, decreased function of the immune system, depression and liver problems, including a potential increase in liver enzymes.

Statins also happen to deplete your body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), beneficial to heart health and muscle function. This depletion can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, soreness, and eventually heart failure.

It makes more sense to lower inflammation, and thereby the risk of heart disease, naturally by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. Sadly rather than educating their patients, doctors choose the easier option of prescribing a cholesterol lowering drug….. for life.    Vinciane Ollington, MSc, LCH, MARH  www.completehomeopathy.co.uk

Supplements that lower cholesterol

Dr John Briffa in his book, Ultimate Health A-Z, and renowned nutritionist Patrick Holford suggest that  Niacin (a form of Vitamin B3) can be helpful in  lowering cholesterol, but you need the ‘no blush’ niacin or you can get a kind of ‘hot flush’ in your face when taking it.  Eskimos are very healthy despite their high cholesterol diet, so eating fish all the time is obviously good for your health –  Omega 3 fish oils can have the effect of lowering LDL cholesterol. Patrick Holford also claims in his book, New Optimum Nutrition Bible, that statins block the production in the body of COQ10 (Co-enzyme Q10) which is essential for the healthy functioning of the heart.  These books are available at Amazon (see below).

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See our article on Soya Good for Cholesterol

Further reading


– Trick and Treat by Barry Groves
– The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth about what really causes heart disease and how to avoid it
by Malcolm Kendrick
– Put your heart in your mouth by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride

Click on the Amazon carousel on the home page to order these books

Prevent hay fever early

Autumn 2015 1

Start early to prevent hay fever this season with natural health remedies.

Hay fever facts :sneezing newsletter

  • Around 12 million people have hay fever in the UK
  • 95  per cent are affected by grass pollen, but many suffer from the tree pollens that are abundant from the spring.
  • Silver birch is the most prevalent hay fever trigger from trees, and it releases pollen as the temperature goes up.

Nutritional changes

More and more people are getting hay fever and age is no  barrier – you can start getting it at any age.   Ali Cullen, nutritional therapist at A. Vogel suggests some nutritional changes:

• Eat foods with anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties: including carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, avocado, mango, apricots, peaches, nectarines, papaya, pears, pineapples, blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, blackcurrants, prunes, plums, raisins, figs, herring, salmon, sardines, trout, and pilchards.
• Cut down on foods that trigger inflammation such as: caffeine and refined sugar.
• Avoid mucus-forming dairy foods – milk products – to help to reduce catarrh.

The symptoms

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen or mould which the body reacts to as alien substances. It causes numerous symptoms:

• Sneezing
• Runny, red and itchy eyes
• Blocked nose
• Wheezing
• Itchy throat
• Coughing
• Headaches and tiredness
• Sleep problems

Although it’s unpleasant the body is dealing with the alien substance by trying to get rid of it through sneezing and runny nose and eyes. Not surprisingly all this makes people feel very run down and unwell for as long as it lasts.

What else could it be?

Different people react to different pollens such as grass pollen, tree pollen and mould spores. Some weeds like nettle can affect people who are sensitive and often sufferers also react to house dust mites, animal fur and chemicals in household products and furniture.

Where you live

If you live in the south-east, the Midlands, north-east or central Scotland, particularly in a city you are more likely to suffer than people in most of Scotland and Wales, the north and the west country. The pollen season is shorter in Scotland and Wales and places like Devon or the Lake District benefit because of mountains and moorland.

What can you do about it?

Most people use anti-histamines, but they can make you drowsy.  There are some great natural remedies including a nasal wash – with a tiny bit of salt in warm water, or beetroot juice (if you can bear it) to clear out the nostrils. You can buy neti pots that enable you to do this easily – it has a little spout. This isn’t a pleasant experience and you might prefer one of the nasal sprays below.

A few tips

  • Avoid caffeine as it triggers histamine release – green teas and herbal teas are better.
  • Stay away from grassy areas particularly in the early evening when the pollen count peaks.
  • Cut down on dairy as it can increase the production of mucus.
  • Refined sugar makes blood sugar levels rise and fall, resulting in a surge of adrenaline which releases histamine.
  • Inhale steam with a few drops of basil, tea tree in to soothe nostrils.
  •  Rub some olive oil, Vaseline or HayMax on the inside of your nose to trap pollen.
  • Keep windows closed where possible. Net curtains can trap the pollen.
  • Wear sunglasses to keep pollen away from eyes

Herbal Remedies

• Luffa is little known but believed by nutritional experts such as Alison Cullen from Ayrshire to be the ‘number one treatment’. Clears a blocked or runny nose, and watery red eyes but has no side-effects, and children can take it. Start two weeks before the hayfever season is in force.
• Echinacea can be taken from one month before the hayfever season and then combined with Luffa.
• Euphrasia as a herbal tincture can ease watery sore eyes.
• Nettle for people who get skin rashes as well – a natural antihistamine.

Quercetin is a substance found in onions that is believed to stabilise the body’s cells that produce histamine and cause the allergic response (sniffing, sneezing, wheezing). It is enhanced by Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, which is said to help the absorption of quercetin into the body.

Homeopathic remedies for hay fever

Susanne Haar, Nelsons Homeopathic Pharmacist recommends trying a homeopathic consultation. Homeopathy can be used to help with the symptoms of hay fever and useful remedies include:

•    Nux vomica: for a runny nose during the day, which is dry at night; irritable and impatient mood; a person who feels worse in the morning, better in open air.
•    Euphrasia: for watery irritated eyes.
•    Allium cepa: for sneezing; runny nose; irritated eyes; when a person feels better in cool open air.
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HayMax Pollen Barrier Balm triple pack HayMax 3 x 5ml £12.49
Pollenna homeopathic tablets Nelson’s 72  tablets £5.10
Nux vomica Nelson’s 84 tablets £4.97
Vitamin C BioCare 90 x 1000 mg capsules £20.45
Quercetin Plus with Quercetin, Bromelain, Nettle, Vitamin C Biocare 90 capsules £22.96
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Colds, coughs, flu

cherriesEveryone’s got colds at the moment but there’s not much the doctor can do when you have a cold or flu,  because antibiotics won’t work for viruses. But there’s plenty you can do yourself.

  • Regular Vitamin C – especially as Montmorency cherries.
  • Echinacea daily – you can take it all winter.
  • Garlic – many people swear by garlic capsules, or if you can stomach it, plenty of raw garlic.
  • Blackcurrant – in various preparations.

 

COLDS Serious illnesses are not cured with complementary medicine, but symptoms can sometimes be managed with a healthy eating regime and use of therapies. We’re more likely to get colds when we’re run down, stressed and tired. They are most common between September and March with the peak time around Christmas (when you may be stressed and worn out). People still work when they have a cold, but rest and sleep are the best solution because the body heals itself when you sleep. Symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • runny nose
  • blocked up nose
  • sore throat
  • earache
  • sinus pain
  • low grade fever
The way to avoid colds is to eat and sleep well, manage stress, exercise and take regular Vitamin C, zinc and Echinacea in winter. Once a cold is in full force the aim is to get over it as quickly as possible.
  • Keep taking Echinacea to boost the immune system and help to clear up the cold faster.
  • Chew grapefruit seeds or take the liquid extract, according to Suzanne Woodward, medical herbalist.
  • Steam inhalations help to clear stuffed up noses – put a few drops of eucalyptus, tea tree, or lavender oil in a bowl of boiling hot water and breathe in the vapours.
  • Try ginger root tea– one inch of peeled and chopped ginger boiled in water.
  • Cherry Active is made with Montmorency cherries and is absolutely packed with Vitamin C. It tastes nice and helps to keep you in top form.
A great combination is Yarrow, Peppermint and Elder, often prescribed by herbalists as a tea – Yarrow fights fever, Elderflower eases catarrh, and Peppermint cools and calms.

The other great soothers for colds:

  • Plenty of Vitamin C – nutritionists claim that 200 mg a day or more is safe when in need
  • Garlic boosts the immune system – take capsules or if you can bear it put it raw into soups and casseroles.

Cautious note: always check with your GP if taking prescribed medication BEFORE having herbal remedies as they may contraindicate the medicines.

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Ester C Vitamin C Viridian Nutrition 30 veg caps £9.85
Citricidal grapefruit seed extract  Biocare 25ml £5.70
Eucalyptus oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £4.85
Tea tree oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £4.90
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Sambucol Elderflower Sambucol 120ml £8.49
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Antibiotics
  • Antibiotics don’t work for viruses, such as colds and flu
  • Taking too many can lower the body’s defences when it needs to fight more serious infection

COUGHS Respiratory tract infections take up more of the GPs’ time than anything else, but while pneumonia and bronchitis can be serious some coughs linger after cold and flu symptoms have gone.Trudy Norris, herbalist and president of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, suggests an infusion of thyme which is antiseptic, clears phlegm and fights chest infections . ‘Put a heaped tablespoonful of dried thyme into a litre of boiling water and fill a thermos flask. Add a teaspoonful of honey to the mixture to relieve irritation and keep near day or night.’ Just sipping a mixture of one teaspoonful of honey and warm water can prevent persistent coughing at night as well.

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FLU:

Echinacea can be taken at the first signs of aches and pains (unless you are on medication in which case you should check for contraindications), as well as homeopathic remedies:

  • Gelsemium for aches and pains, rising temperature and constant aching;
  • Rhus Tox for aches and pains which get better when moving around;
  • Belladonna for sudden high fever, with or without sweating, cold hands and feet.

Boneset is an excellent herbal remedy for someone who has had flu for a couple of weeks, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

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  SORE THROATS: Antibiotics should only be offered for infections like tonsillitis but natural remedies can help to soothe the throat. If a sore throat seems to be signalling the start of a cold the homeopathic remedy Aconite can stop it progressing. Over recent years doctors have been advised to cut down on handing out antibiotics yet research shows that 44 per cent of people who see doctors when they have a cold are given a prescription for antibiotics. The downside of this is that when they get a serious illness they may be antibiotic-resistant (as we’ve seen with many hospital infections). Propolis is made by bees from natural ingredients to protect their hives from infection and invasion, and gargling with it soothes a sore throat. Gargling with a few drops of tea tree oil or a pinch of salt in a glass of warm water also eases the pain.

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Aconite 30c Nelson’s 84 £5.30
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HEADACHES

Too many painkillers can suppress headaches and make them recur. The causes of a headache may be tension, hormonal imbalances, blocked sinuses, or back and neck problems. If headaches persist you should always consult a doctor, but if there is no serious problem you might find that a chiropractor or cranial osteopath can find the problem and ease the pain.

Trying to get rid of a headache can be really difficult, and one approach is to put strong smelling eucalyptus or camphor on the skin above the sinuses or on the forehead as so many headaches are caused by blocked sinuses. There are now several sticks available that make this easy to do, except you must be sure not to get it too near your eyes or they will pour.

Feverfew is the herbal answer to painkillers and Belladonna homeopathic remedy, is good for a throbbing headache, particularly in children.

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GLUE EAR/EAR ACHE

Often children with ear problems have repeated prescriptions for antibiotics which run down their immune systems. Homeopathy works well for glue ear and Pulsatilla is the most common remedy when there is lots of discharge. In cases of repeated ear infections a visit to a professional homeopath can be invaluable.

For adults earache can be cleared by putting a drop of lavender oil on a piece of cotton wool and placing it in the ear, but the vapours are quite strong and may not be recommended for children. For a desperate child you could try the old fashioned remedy of a baked onion, cut in half, wrapped in muslin and placed on the outside of the ear. Jenny Jones, herbalist, explains, ‘The vapours from the onion oils are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and they go into the ear and the heat of the warm onion is also soothing.’

Featured products
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Lavender oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £4.90
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The National Institute of Medical Herbalists, 01392 426022, www.nimh.org.uk For a list of homeopaths contact: The Society of Homeopaths, 01604 621400, www.homeopathy-soh.org

Jenny Jones, Creative Health Centre, Leamington Spa, 01926 316500

 

 

Autumn health tips

gingerAyurvedic and Chinese medicine put a lot of emphasis on the change of seasons and how it affects the body.   For instance, eating right for the time of year is very important so that you eat salads in summer and soups and stews in winter to warm up your body.

Other issues at this time of year: 

  • Lack of exposure to the sun leads to Vitamin D. deficiency as the winter goes on.
  • Darker days can mean that people feel depressed or get SAD – see Winter blues or SAD?
  • Colds and flu are most prevalent before Christmas.  Read Prevent Colds.
  • Sleep can also become disrupted – see Sleep problems and it’s often hard to get up in the morning!

Winter tips:

Vitamin C will help you to stave off colds – a good dose is 1,000mg and any excess is peed out.  Try Cherry Active or Viridian Ester C.

Warming foods such as stews casseroles and home-made soups help to keep the body warm in cold weather.  Include plenty of herbs and spices to keep the digestive system healthy –- ginger, cumin, basil, mustard, cardamom, black pepper, basil, turmeric, and of course garlic!

Exercise outside when it’s sunny and dry so that you get some exposure to sunlight.   According to Mind, the mental health charity, what they call ‘ecotherapy’ can positively affect your mood.

Take plenty of Vitamin D – there isn’t  enough sun in the UK in winter for your body to make Vitamin D.  So try taking a supplement such as Viridian’s Vitamin D, or Better You’s D-Lux spray.

Sleep well – sleep is as vital as exercise and healthy eating for our wellbeing. To see some tips for sleeping well in winter read: Sleep problems.

Drink spicy teas that are cleansing and warming – those containing cardamom, cinnamon and ginger are particularly good.

Hot water with lemon a slice of lemon first thing in the morning is very cleansing to the liver.

Tip from Sebastian Pole of Pukka Herbs: if the change of season affects your digestion, gives you insomnia, constipation or anxiety, try the Ayurvedic remedy: Ashwaganda ((Withania somnifera). He also suggests a delicious cup of milk simmered with a pinch of nutmeg and cardamom to settle in for a blissful night’s sleep!

You can buy these products at www.superfooduk.com  and get 5% discount by putting in the promotion code: HSoul1 .

 

 

Don’t get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

moon winterIt’s that time of year again – nights drawing in and it’s getting dark.  And we only have British Summer Time until Saturday, 28th October!  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, www.nimh.org.uk

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.