Vitamin D levels low even after summer

Sun skyFor years we have been told that too much sunshine is dangerous and it is, but the sun is also vital to healthy living.  A recent study by The University of Surrey on Vitamin D  showed that most people in UK are deficient even at the end of the summer.

Vitamin D is produced in the body when it is exposed to sunlight. To get enough sun you need to have your skin exposed and be in it frequently.  You can ask your doctor about having a Vitamin D test, because this vital vitamin is responsible for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, effective muscle function, and keeping the heart and nervous system healthy, and enabling the blood to clot properly.  Vitamin D has also been linked to preventing colds and maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Our Vitamin D levels are very low at the end of winter but they are particularly low among Asians living in Britain all the time. In fact there is talk that rickets has returned among some Asian children.

So what is anyone supposed to do? The answer is moderation as usual. If you are like me and you used to go to Greece for the summer, spend hours and hours in the hot sun, you may now have skin damage. We are lucky not to have skin cancer – this is not the way to deal with the sun.

It takes common sense – being out in the sun for hours on end so that your skin is going pink and getting sore is crazy. But having a healthy amount of sunshine as often as possible is good for you. The sun needs to get to your skin so being covered up all the time doesn’t enable your Vitamin D levels to go up. This is why women who wear burkas are particularly deficient in Vitamin D.

You can take Vitamin D supplements, and this is certainly a good idea in winter, and you can get it from food – oily fish, fortified cereal, dairy products and fortified margarine. But it is natural to have sunlight on our bodies. It’s good to be cautious but not extreme!

You can either take a daily spray of Vitamin D: Better You DLux 1000iu D3 spray (15ml), £8.67

or tablets/capsules:

Health Aid Vitamin D3 10,000iu, 30 vegicaps, £10.57

Higher Nature Vitamin D 500iu, 60 capsules, £6.00

To purchase these, go to www.superfooduk.com and put in the Healthy Soul promotion code: HSoul1 to get a 5% discount.

 

See Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sun

Be healthy for the exams


exams black girlGCSEs, A-levels and finals students – it’s the most important time of the year.  After months of hard work it’s important to stay focused, healthy and alert.

On top of doing lots of work it’s important to:

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Eat healthy foods, not sugary snacks.
  • Take breaks and relax.
  • Calm down – try Rescue Remedy!

Many students reach for the fizzy drinks, chocolate bars, and caffeinated drinks to keep themselves going, but they often have the opposite effect.  Too much sugar or caffeine in the body can bring about mood swings and poor concentration, while healthy eating and drinking plenty of water help much more.

There are plenty of tips about diet, relaxation, sleep and mental attitude below.  Rescue Remedy drops, spray, or pastilles are a great boon and you can be confident that Confidence Essence and Concentration Essence really can help – see below.  Many of these products are on special offer this May/June.

REMEMBER:

  • Take a bottle of water into the exam with you – your brain needs fluid.
  • Conversely go to the loo before the exam so you’re not thinking abou thow you need to go all the way through.

Life coach, Carole Gaskell, advises:

· ‘Focus on the big picture on what you want to achieve – not just the test or the exam, as they are a means to an end. This helps to lift the pressure slightly and make the brain clearer;

  • Believe that as long as you give it your best shot you’ll be fine;
  • Visualise feeling good during the exam instead of nervous and stressed, and imagine a positive outcome and how you will feel when you get good results.’

‘We all carry our own reality in our heads with words buzzing around so make them positive. Say positive things to yourself such as “I owe it to myself to do my best”.’

Getting zzzzzs

Stephen Palmer, director of the Centre for Stress Management, has a few tips:

  • ‘It’s helpful to get into a routine before going to bed so that you calm down and can sleep well;
  • Don’t do anything too exciting, like watching a horror film;
  • Maybe read a book, drink a glass of milk – avoid Coke or anything with caffeine in it – and unwind.’

He also suggests:

  • Playing some relaxing music before bedtime;
  • Making sure the bedroom isn’t cluttered.
‘If there are school bags around it reminds them of exams, or if the room is messy they may think about their parents nagging them to tidy up. ‘It’s really helpful to lie down and imagine they are on the beach, walking the dog or anything else they really enjoy.’
Some other ways of getting a good night’s sleep:
  • Put a few drops of lavender or geranium essential oils into a night time bath to relax you;
  • Put a couple of drops of Lavender oil on a tissue under the pillow;
  • Take the herb Valerian half an hour before bedtime to promote normal sleep: a trial on students at the University of Surrey found that after a seven day course of Valerian the volunteers were more relaxed and found tests less stressful without feeling dopey – if on medication consult your GP before taking herbal medicines.
  • Drink a glass of milk at night, rather than coffee or fizzy drinks which contain stimulating caffeine.
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Rescue Night Spray Bach Flower Remedies 20ml £9.45
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Concentration

Weeks of revising and exams can take their toll and it becomes harder to concentrate and focus, but natural remedies can help.

  • Peppermint, rosemary and basil essential oils clear the head and help concentration – put in an oil burner when studying or put on a tissue and carry into the exam to keep focused – do not use strong oils if taking homeopathic remedies.
  • All schoolchildren used to be given a spoonful of cod liver oil every morning with good reason – Fish oils contain essential fatty acids which are required for healthy brain function, improving focus, and the ability to deal with stress.
  • Concentration Essence combines Larch, Blackberry, Yarrow, Hornbeam, White Chestnut, Nasturtium, Mullein, Wild Oat, Cerato and Peppermint flower essences, especially useful for exam time.
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Eating for energy

It’s really important to eat well during the exams and not snack on crisps or chocolate all the time, which may appear tempting.  Snacking means that you won’t feel hungry at meal times when you need fuel for your brain.  Sugary snacks and drinks (especially fizzy drinks) prompt a surge in blood sugar levels followed by a slump, which could arrive during the exam and make you feel tired and unable to concentrate.  Also you could feel sick, have an upset stomach or bloating because of your nerves.

The best way to ensure that you feel good is to eat plenty of fibre and an energy-boosting diet:

  • Fish – particularly oily types like mackerel and tuna – because it builds healthy brain cells;
  • Fruit and vegetables which are rich in nutrients to keep the system in top gear;
  • Plenty of fibre – brown rice and wholegrains such as lentils and beans, wholemeal bread and pastas.
  • Healthy snacks – fruit and vegetables, nuts or seeds, or even healthy snack bars.

Vitamin C and Vitamin B are excellent for helping the body to cope with stress. A good multivitamin every day will help.

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Breakfast is essential

The worst thing to do is rush out of the door on an empty stomach – that’s a sure way to find it hard to concentrate in the exams. Even if you don’t normally have breakfast, make sure you do on exam days.  Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast or eggs with bacon provide plenty of protein. Try to avoid sugary cereals or pasties.

Confidence boosting

Lack of confidence can make a capable person under-perform, but natural flower essences encourage self-assurance.

  • Seven drops of Australian Bush Flower Confidence Essence morning and night under the tongue at night brings out positive qualities and confidence, and prevents subconscious negative beliefs!
  • For anyone who doesn’t expect to do well the Bach Flower Remedy, Larch builds up confidence;
  • Gentian Bach Flower Remedy helps someone who hasn’t got much faith in themselves, particularly if they didn’t do well in the mocks.
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  • Calming nerves

    When we panic we shallow breathe prompting headaches, muscle tension, dizziness and a general feeling of tiredness.

    Stephen Palmer of the Centre for Stress Management recommends, ‘Don’t take deep breaths. Breathe slowly and let your stomach go up and down as you do. To really switch off from panicky thoughts pick a number at random and say it in your head as you switch off.’

    Some of Sue Leach’s homeopathic tips:

    • Gelsemium for paralysing fear: ‘If someone feels dizzy, faint, apathetic, heavy, weak, unable to focus and feel like that they’re going to have diarrhoea, it’s ideal. Take one on the morning of the exam and one just before starting.’
    • Argentum nitricum for people getting in such a state that they can’t think straight and their memory has gone to pot. ‘Time seems to stand still yet they operate at double speed and keep wanting sugary things.’ Follow the same directions as for the three As.
    • Rescue Remedy for quick calming. ‘Put a few drops in a bottle of water on the desk to calm down during the exam. Staying hydrated is essential for keeping the brain ticking – studies show dehydration lowers concentration and scores in exams.’
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    Argent nit 30C Ainsworths 120 £7.59
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Hay fever top tips

grass kidsYou’ve started sneezing, your eyes are sore, and you know that this year’s hay fever has started. Read our top tips from Alison Cullen of A. Vogel.

And read Prevent hay fever.

1. Caffeine triggers histamine release which can bring the skin up in a red, itchy, angry looking rash and dilate your blood vessels until everything feels inflamed – try green tea or herbal teas instead.

2. Dairy products are mucus forming. People prone to allergic reactions often struggle with dairy, so check out dairy-free options like goat’s milk, soya milk, almond milk, rice milk, for a start.

3. Refined sugar triggers a dramatic rise and fall of blood sugar levels, which causes an adrenalin surge that activates histamine release. Choose sweet dried or fresh fruit for a natural sugar fix instead, or stevia which is a natural sugar substitute.

4. Vitamin C acts as a natural antihistamine – fresh fruit and vegetables ensure a steady intake throughout the day. Your body can’t make or store vitamin C, so it has to be available in low, consistent doses to support your nasal lining.

5. Eat anti-inflammatory foods including blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, blackcurrants, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, mangoes, apricots, peaches, nectarines, papaya, pears, pineapples, prunes, plums, raisins, figs, avocadoes, herring, pilchards, sardines, salmon, pumpkinseed oil and flaxseed oil to help counter inflammation.

6. Dry clothes indoors as damp clothes on the washing line will collect pollen.

7. Undress in the bathroom not the bedroom so the pollen from clothes doesn’t float around the bedroom.

8. Spread Vaseline around the edge of each nostril to trap or block pollen. Reapply each time you blow your nose.

9. Keep an eye on the pollen count using the free A.Vogel hayfever app at www.avogel.co.uk so you know when levels are high. It uses GPS to find your location and shows forecast levels for trees, grass and weed pollen.

10. Stock up on A.Vogel Pollinosan tablets (see below), a natural remedy containing seven tropical herbs that work on all the symptoms of hayfever and allergic rhinitis, without the drowsy side effects associated with some medicine. For best results, it can be taken a month before your symptoms usually start.

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Are you sleeping in the right position?

Are you sleeping incorrectly?sleeping people

When it comes to sleep, many of us wish we could have more of it, and to improve the quality of the sleep we are getting. But did you know, that you could be your own worst enemy when it comes to getting the rest you need?

To help you get a better night’s sleep, Sealy UK, in conjunction with experts from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA), has outlined the top four mistakes you’re making that could be affecting the quality of your sleep, and what you can do to correct them.

Mistake 1: Sleeping with too many pillows

When it comes to pillows people usually fall into two camps – those who can’t properly sleep unless they have two fluffy pillows and those who swear by only having one very thin pillow to sleep on. But which is the best to help prevent back and neck problems from developing?

Marc Sanders, Chiropractor, British Chiropractic Association says:
“It is best to adjust the amount of pillows you use so that your neck is in a neutral position, ensuring your neck is in line with the rest of your spine when you lay your head onto your pillow. Often two, depending on the thickness of your pillows, can be too many, as it can cause your neck to excessively bend, whereas if your pillow is too thin, you may find that your neck is bent backwards. When we adopt these ‘end-range’ neck postures during sleep they can increase biomechanical stresses on our neck, leading to stiffness and pain in the morning.”

The answer? – Try using a single, supportive pillow that is thick enough to keep your neck in a neutral, comfortable position

Mistake 2: Choosing the wrong mattress

We spend a third of our lives on them, but when it comes to our mattress, many of us are guilty of not taking them seriously. Whether it’s keeping hold of an old mattress for too long (8 years is the maximum time recommended by experts before you should look at changing) or not spending enough time finding the right mattress for your needs, the wrong mattress could play havoc with your health and wellbeing.

But which is best, a soft mattress or one that’s firmer?

Marc explains: ‘The best mattress is a supportive one, and it really depends on a number of factors – a 16 stone person sleeping on a mattress may not get the same support as a 10 stone person sleeping on the same mattress for example. If you are lying on your side, your spine should be parallel to the mattress – your spine should not sag as this could mean the bed is too soft, or bow, as this could mean the bed is too hard.’

The longer you can spend lying on a mattress before you buy it, the more accurate this feeling will be – a good excuse to spend an hour or two in a bed shop!

The answer? – Make sure to try before you buy

Mistake 3: Sleeping in the ‘wrong’ position

Whether you sleep on your side or prefer to lie on your back, when it comes to sleeping positions, we all have our favourites. But which is best?

‘The best advice is to try and adopt a sleeping position which creates less physical stress on your back. This could be bad news for people who like to sleep on their front, as this position can be one of the worst for putting extra strain on your back and neck,’ Marc says.

‘If you find that you can’t sleep in any position other than on your front, reduce the strain by placing a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen. Whatever your sleeping position, those who have a bad back should try placing a pillow under their knees when they sleep. This can help flatten the back and relieve pain.’

The answer? – Use an extra pillow to reduce back strain and relieve pain

Mistake 4: Sleeping with your partner

Love it or loathe it, sharing your bed with another person can play havoc with the quality of your sleep, if you’re not careful.

If your partner moves around a lot at night, this can disturb your sleep and aggravate conditions such as back and neck pain, and you could even find that they don’t have the same mattress preferences to you, which could lead to disagreements and one of you compromising on their comfort. However, don’t look to banish your partner to the spare bedroom just yet. If it’s your partner’s movement that is disturbing you, try a mattress that has a zero deflection spring system, which combats both weight and movement to avoid motion disruption.

The answer? – Find a bed that works for both of you

For more information about Sealy UK, go to https://www.sealy.co.uk/

The British Chiropractic Association, https://chiropractic-uk.co.uk/

Cystitis tips

One in three women get cystitis in their lives and some get recurrent attacks, but doctors can only provide antibiotics as a solution. There are plenty of ways of trying to prevent it and natural solutions when you’ve got it.  At its worst cystitis can be excruciating.There are a number of symptoms and some can be present without the others:

•  burning sensation on passing water
•  pain in the lower abdomen
•  pain in the lower back, the kidneys and in the ureters   – the tubes from the bladder to the opening.

Often the vagina itself feels inflamed and there may be general malaise, depression and fever.

The woman may have to go to the toilet regularly and as this is a painful experience it makes it even worse. The urine becomes cloudy, smelly and often contains blood streaks, although these may not be visible to the naked eye. The pain can be so severe that you feel like pulling your hair or sticking your nails in your palms – this is danger point and requires medical attention.

It is vital that if someone is in severe pain and has a temperature that they see a doctor immediately because it can spread to the kidneys and become very serious. At this stage self-help may not work.

Repeat attacks

Some women are particularly prone to cystitis and bladder discomfort, which may not involve an infection but means that going to the loo can feel uncomfortable afterwards with pain in the bladder situated in the lower abdomen or in the back.

The medical profession has found little to no solutions to repeated cystitis and bladder discomfort. Common treatment is by antibiotic which will certainly take away an infection fairly quickly but often has the effect of giving thrush as well. It is possible that the antibiotic you get doesn’t fight the specific bug and you have to go back to the GP and get a different one.

Antibiotics don’t help to prevent further attacks and unfortunately if someone has cystitis regularly repeat prescriptions eventually wear down the immune system making them more susceptible to everything!

Prevention is the answer

As there’s no medical cure self-help is the only answer. Standard advice is:

• Drink plenty of water to flush out the infection;
• Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol which are all diuretics and make you go to the loo even more;
• As germs come from the anal area wipe from front to back with toilet paper;
• Don’t use soaps, shower gels, bath lotions contain chemicals;
• Go to the loo immediately after intercourse and wash in a bidet or bath;
• Wear cotton pants;
• Ask your partner to wash his genitals before sex – often embarrassing!

Intercourse triggers attacks

Intercourse is one of the most common causes of bladder problems and it may be the position of the bladder and the womb that cause it in some females and not in others. Most women don’t want to give up sex for the rest of their lives so they need to find an answer!

Cystitis is caused by bacteria going up into the bladder and causing infection. This is often because the penis causes bruising to the vaginal walls and bladder and the bruising sets up infection. If the woman is using spermicides or the cap it is more than likely that these will aggravate the condition as does menopause when the vagina becomes dryer.

One of the reasons why women suffer from this debilitating problem rather than men is the position of the genitals. The anus is full of germs and is situated very close to the vagina, which is near to the ureter so it is easy for germs to move from one to the other.

Candida

Sometimes repeated attacks of cystitis are due to candida, a yeast infection that takes a hold on the system. There are plenty of symptoms of candida including fungal infections (thrush, athlete’s foot), digestive problems, bloating, tiredness, lethargy. See our article on Candida in Women’s Health.

Natural remedies

There are a several over the counter solutions, many of them based on bicarbonate of soda which aims to neutralise the acid in the urine. There are also plenty of herbal and homeopathic solutions:

  • Uva ursi – a herbal remedy for urinary infection
  • Echinacea – boosts the immune system and can help to prevent an attack when the first twinges start
  • Taking regular probiotics such as Acidophilus helps to keep the gut replenished with healthy bacteria which reduces chances of infections
  • Cranberries – contain PACs (proanthocyanidins) that attach themselves to the bacteria – mostly E-coli – preventing them from attaching themselves to cells in the body. Supplements can be good but choose a juice that has no artificial sweeteners or sugar in
  • D-Mannose, made from the bark of the spruce tree, is a compound which is present in the urine to fight bacteria, but by providing more in a supplement it can ease cystitis
  • Cantharis – homeopathic remedy when there is a burning sensation on going to the loo
  • Witch-hazel squeezed on a piece of cotton wool at the opening to the ureter so that it can be felt right up into the tubes or held in the vagina to soothe inflammation
  • Gokshura and Shatavari are Ayurvedic herbs for urinary discomfort with pain on passing water, urgency, dribbles, burning and blood streaked urine


Complementary therapies

Naturopathy – looks at lifestyle and the causes of the problem which could be emotional as well as finding herbal and other natural solutions. People with bladder problems are said to be holding on to the past or they may be feeling out of control in their lives (literally!).

General Council and Register of Naturopaths & British Naturopathic Association, 01458 840072,  www.naturopathy.org.uk

Reflexology – particularly helpful during an attack because the reflexologist can work on the bladder area and can help it to go away entirely.

Association of Reflexologists, 01823 364951,  www.aor.org.uk

Nutrition – unhealthy eating habits won’t help sufferers of cystitis to get better. A nutritionist can be more specific, but generally it may help to eat organic food so that chemicals aren’t irritating the bladder and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. As the problem may stem from candida, an overgrowth of yeast, avoiding bread and sugar may help.
 

The British Association of Nutritional Therapists, 0870 6061284,  www.bant.org.uk
The Institute for Optimum Nutrition, 020 8614 7800,  www.ion.ac.uk

Emotional Freedom Technique – where tapping the ends of the meridians helps to get out emotional causes for illness.

The Association for the Advancement of Meridian Therapies: www.meridiantherapy.org

Chinese Herbal Medicine – herbs have to be boiled up and drunk twice a day as a tea to build up the ‘chi’ or energy in the kidneys.

Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, www.rchm.co.uk,  01603 927420

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