Patrick Holford’s Feel Good Factor

Feeling just ‘alright’ is not all right, according to Patrick Holford, nutritionist, author, broadcaster and director of the Brain Bio Centre  He surveyed 55,000 Britons to find out what makes them leap out of bed in the morning with enthusiasm, a consistent good mood and a sharp mind.

The Brain Bio Centre works with people who have depression, anxiety, insomnia, and dementia, who have been helped by making lifestyle and diet changes.  In the large survey Patrick and his team found that:

  • one in eight people complain of low energy
  • one in two often feel depressed
  • and 47 per cent have difficulty concentrating.

Patrick has written The Feel Good Factor book and is on tour around the UK to give people tips about how to improve their energy and develop the feel good factor.  (See the Amazon carousel on the home page to buy this book).

These are the topics he’s covering:

•           How to increase your mental energy and motivation

•           10 proven ways to improve your mood

•           The secret to keeping your memory sharp

•           How to increase your ability to stay focused

•           How to stop your brain shrinkage

Patrick is a prolific author and has written many books about diet, nutrition, and preventing serious illness. See the Amazon carousel below.  Find out more from

Is red wine good for you?

Paracelcus ((1493-1541),, ‘Wine is a food, a medicine, and a poison – it’s just a question of dose’.
So what is the truth?  There has been alarming news recently about the increase in liver disease, particularly among young people, so how can drinking ever be beneficial to your health?  Red wine can protect the heart, but too much alcohol of any kind leads to hypertension, high blood pressure and consequently strokes and heart disease.

The French paradox
But  what used to confuse health experts was that the French who eat all that cheese, loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat, should have lower incidences of heart disease than the rest of Europe. According to Professor Roger Corder, who has spent much of his career researching cardiovascular health and wine, red wine is the only alcoholic drink that actually has health benefits.

The health warning

The warning is that red wine has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, provided it is drunk (a) in moderation and (b) in conjunction with a healthy diet and (c) a healthy lifestyle – i.e. no smoking.   See Alcohol – do we drink too much?

High quantities of red wine like any other alcohol raise blood pressure, and he claims that beer and spirits are not protective. The health warning is:  drinking 20g (2.5 units) a day of red wine could have benefits in terms of reducing heart disease risk, whereas drinking 80g (8 units)  a day is likely to cause coronary disease.

Red wine and dark chocolate

He explains it is the polyphenols (an antioxidant compound found in red wine) that provide the protection, and not the reservratrol as so widely reported by some newspapers and advertisers. And it doesn’t have to be red wine, because the same effect can be gained from the polyphenols in cranberry juice, cocoa, cinnamon, apples and (this is the best news) dark chocolate.

Liver disease

None of this conflicts with the depressing news that cases of liver disease have doubled in the last 10 years in the UK, as opposed to other European countries where governments don’t allow cheap booze. Increasing numbers of young people, including women, have liver damage, and much of this is due to binge-drinking.

The French and Italians, Professor Corder explains, do their drinking in a different way. They may have a couple of glasses of wine with a meal while eating, and later on a couple more glasses with dinner. It is true that food helps to soak up alcohol, and one of the problems with young Brits’ drinking is that they go out for the evening often on an empty stomach, with the view of eating a meal later on, which means they get more drunk and do more damage to themselves.

Relax, relax, relax

N2K_Stress_2011_6mmStress is at epidemic levels. Health and Safety Executive Research shows that stress accounts for half of all working days lost each year, costing employers £26 billion a year.

A survey for Mind suggests that one in 11 British workers has been to the GP for stress and anxiety from the financial squeeze.

Stress is unavoidable

Stress is a fact of life so it’s impossible to avoid it. The only answer is to find ways of coping with it better, but it’s easier to start to build up our strength and ability to cope when we’re having a good time. Once everything appears to have gone wrong it’s incredibly difficult to be positive and try something new.  See also Are You Stressed?

Experts agree that there are various ways of relieving stress:

  • Leading a sociable life and having good friends;
  • Having at least one person to confide in;
  • Plenty of exercise and time outdoors;
  • Healthy eating and avoiding junk foods which actually sap the brain;
  • Talking to a counsellor or stress management trainer;
  • Having regular massage;
  • Not overdoing alcohol intake;
  • Relaxation techniques and meditation;
  • Yoga and t’ai chi relax the mind.

Learning to relax

Twenty minutes of meditation a day is said to be equivalent to a night’s sleep so practising it every day makes you less tired, more full of energy, healthier and improves memory and concentration.

  • It prolongs the body’s anabolic process of cell production, growth and repair and reduces the decaying process;
  • It is believed to reduce blood pressure and it is claimed that if a roomful of people are meditating, anyone who passes by will also experience a slight drop in blood pressure levels!

Transcendental Meditation involves sitting quietly for 10 to 20 minutes with eyes closed and focusing on a mantra – a word in the ancient Sanskrit language – which is endlessly repeated to attempt to get the mind to still.

Some people can do this by just counting one on an in breath and two on the out breath, but most find that it takes some time before thoughts stop interrupting!

According to The Sivananda Book of Meditation, ‘After the age of thirty-five our brain cells die off at a rate of 100,000 a day; meditation reduces this decline, preventing or minimising senility.’

Read the book Stress – The Essential Guide by Frances Ive, £8.99 from  

Relaxation Techniques

  • Sit down and close your eyes for 10 to 20 minutes every day, and imagine a favourite place by the sea, in the mountains, or wherever, to refresh mind and body
  • Buy one of the many relaxation CDs to talk you into a relaxed state


Inner calm and a perfect body are just two of the claims made for yoga, but in reality you don’t have to be Geri Halliwell or Madonna to benefit. Yoga suits people of all ages and sizes, and if you’re not supple it’s an even better reason to do it. It’s not competitive and you do everything taking into account your own ability, rather than trying to achieve.

  • The roots of yoga go back thousands of years in Indian culture;
  • It is integral to the Ayurvedic system of medicine which has a holistic approach rather than a purely medical one;
  • The word yoga means union in Sanskrit, as its aim is to unite mind, body and spirit for health and wellbeing.

In a typical yoga class there are a number of different postures performed while standing, lying and sitting, as well as breathing exercises, meditation and deep relaxation.

Physical postures are designed to tone and strengthen muscles, stretch the body, improve the functioning of all internal organs and the cardiovascular system. They help you to

  • concentrate the mind
  • sharpen the intellect
  • attain inner peace
  • and improve posture and balance.

The amazing popularity of yoga is reflected by the different types now available, the most common of which are Astanga, Iyengar, Sivananda, Hatha, Satyananda, but they are all based on the same concept and have similar far-reaching benefits.

Yoga enthusiasts claim that their body becomes supple and flexible, and that they can cope with stress better. Instead of becoming stiff and finding movement more difficult as they grow older, they feel fit and healthy and more in control of their mobility.

Yoga for Health

Joy Mankoo of the former organisation Yoga for Health which used to run courses and does remedial yoga for those with MS, cancer, ME, arthritis, cancer, breathing problems and Parkinson’s, explains:

‘Yoga relieves stress and calms the mind, improves muscle tone and posture and exercises the joints. Because of emotional and mental stress many people aren’t breathing well and their diaphragm does not move freely.

‘Stress becomes stuck in the muscles making them tight. In yoga full respiration is restored through both the breathing and stretching exercises. Breathing naturally and fully improves the flow of energy, relieves pressure on the chest and enables more air to be drawn into the lungs. Blood is naturally drawn back to the heart encouraging the circulation of blood and lymph, while slow, calm breathing also has the effect of calming the mind.’

British Wheel of Yoga, 01529 303233,

T’ai chi

Chinese people have been practising t’ai chi for centuries and they believe that it is rejuvenates them and leads to a prolonged life. In the west it has gained in popularity as we struggle to find ways of dealing with our stressful lives.

  • T’ai chi means literally supreme ultimate which indicates the spiritual level which people practising it hope to achieve
  • Originally a martial art it is frequently practised in a non-aggressive but gentle therapeutic way, as well as a method of self-defence
  • Both t’ai chi and chi kung – which is similar but aimed specifically at improving health – consist of a series of graceful movements or ‘forms’.

The forms help to relax and calm the mind, body and soul, while gently toning muscles, improving balance and posture, boosting circulation and reducing stress. The slow gentle movements stimulate the body’s energy or chi, massage the meridians – the lines which run through the body in the acupuncture system, and give a complete inner and outer workout.

Linda Chase Broda, teacher of t’ai chi, explains, ‘Traditionally the doctor and the kung fu master in Chinese and other eastern cultures were one and the same and t’ai chi was associated with keeping healthy, energising and repairing the body.

‘The slow rhythmic movements performed in a long sequence allow the body to resonate with its own natural rhythm, heartbeat and breath. The gentle exercises stimulate circulation, but not at a fast pace like aerobics but more at a normal pace as if walking across the street.

‘Both T’ai chi with its long series of movements and Chi Kung with its shorter movements concentrate the mind, bringing awareness into the functioning and process of the body and begin to promote relaxation and a feeling of wholeness. Movements are not physically strenuous so you can start practising at any age and carry on forever.’

Linda claims that the gentle and graceful movements of T’ai Chi and Chi Kung:

  • Maintain suppleness and mobility of the joints;
  • Help to improve balance and stability which deteriorates with age – particularly helpful in fall prevention;
  • Are very good for concentration and untangling the mind – because you have to focus the mind and remember what comes next.

Linda Chase Broda is Course Director at the Tai Chi and Chi Kung Forum for Health and Special Needs, Manchester

For details of practitioners contact: T’ai Chi UK, 0207 407 4775,

Flower Remedies

There are a whole range of Bach Flower Remedies that help people to deal with difficult emotions, and they can provide a way of coping without the need for antidepressants. There are now plenty more flower essences and remedies from around the world, including Australian Bush Flower remedies to help cope with emotions.

The original flower remedies were developed by Sir Edward Bach to help people cope with a range of emotions. They are homeopathically prepared from plants and flowers and they help to balance negative thoughts and feelings which bring people down.

Sceptics should try Rescue Remedy and see how it instantly calms you down!

  • Star of Bethlehem is for times of grief and great unhappiness due to a shock or trauma;
  • Oak is for people who are struggling on in the face of adversity but need to be strong because others depend on them;
  • Sweet Chestnut helps to relieve extreme feelings of distress which seem absolutely unbearable;
  • Elm is for when someone feels that they are doing their best but they don’t feel that they can carry on;
  • Larch is for anyone who lacks confidence and needs a boost.
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How much alcohol, and what’s a portion of fruit?


fruit berriesAccording to The Health Survey for England:

  • Only 14 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women know what a portion of fruit or veg is.
  • Only one third of adults knows what the recommended amount of alcohol is for a man or a woman per week.
  • One third know how much exercise they should do each week.
Most people don’t know how much alcohol they can take, nor are they sure what makes up five pieces of fruit or vegetables.
Most people know that they should only drink alcohol in moderation, that five pieces of fruit or veg a day are recommended and that regular exercise is essential for good health.
So what constitutes a portion of fruit or vegetables?
According to the Food Standards Agency it is:

• 1 apple, banana, pear, orange or similar sized fruit
• ½ grapefruit or avocado
• 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
• 3 heaped tbsp of beans and pulses – however much you eat they only count as one portion per day
• 2 plums or similar sized fruit
• 1 handful of grapes, cherries or berries
• Dessert bowl of salad
• One glass of fruit juice – however much you drink it counts as only one portion a day
• 3 heaped tbsp of fruit salad or stewed fruit
• 1 heaped tbsp of dried fruit

What are the guidelines on alcohol?

(Figures from Food Standards Agency website)

• Women – 14 units a week
• Men – 21 units a week

What is a unit?

• 1 unit – ½ pint standard strength beer, lager or cider
• 2 units – one glass of wine
• 1.5 units – small bottle of Alcopops

How much exercise is healthy?

The British Heart Foundation recommends 30 minutes of exercise five or more times a week to prevent heart disease and this is a good guide for general good health.

Photo-dynamic therapy – gentler cancer treatment

 ‘With PDT you don’t suffer skin burns. You don’t have your hair falling out. Your white blood cells aren’t destroyed, so your immune system stays intact and allows you to fight off all the other bugs,’ according to Chris Tarrant.

Just recently Jean Pringle from Bishop Auckland was dying from mouth cancer. She was unlikely to live long enough to attend her son’s wedding in August 2008. She was due to have radical surgery which would remove her tongue, part of her jaw and several teeth. A feature on PDT in a national newspaper changed Jean’s fortunes. She was given Photodynamic Therapy by the specialist, Colin Hopper, and now Jean will be able to attend her son’s wedding with an intact face.

The choices for anyone faced with cancer are often grim – if they take conventional treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy they are often beset with serious side-effects such as losing their hair, skin damage and being sick. Surgery too can induce physical and emotional scars that take a long time to heal.

A non-invasive treatment – photodynamic therapy (PDT) – that uses non-toxic drugs based on chlorophyll and low-powered lights and lasers, is increasingly being used for throat, skin, prostate and now even lung cancers with great success. Usually PDT only requires one treatment. Although little known about it is available at 30 UK hospitals.

PDT is designed to be selective, and only zap the cancer cells. If healthy cells are zapped by accident, they re-grow within weeks. That’s not the only advantage. PDT can usually kill cancers in just a single treatment and, if a few cancer cells are missed, you can repeat the treatment.

There is no real down side with PDT, while many patients are advised to stay in a darkened room for a few days after their treatment. That’s because PDT uses a light sensitive drug that is activated by a low-powered light. It kills the cancer cells by knocking out the oxygen supply to the cancer cells.

‘I have realised that the frequency of my visits to churches to attend the funerals of close friends is starting to increase,’ says Chris Tarrant, DJ and TV presenter, who has given his backing to the Killing Cancer charity which aims to get photodynamic therapy more recognised among the medical profession and more available within hospitals.

‘Fifty years ago medical boffins realised that sunlight had a positive effect on all sorts of patients. For example, they found that leukaemia patients in the shady half of a ward remained quite poorly while those on the sunny side got better quite quickly.

Photodynamic therapy has been used to treat patients at London’s National Medical Laser Centre at UCL for a dozen years or more. The science has moved on fast and some of the greatest success has been with skin and mouth cancers and now PDT is available at 30 NHS hospitals in the UK.

Chris says, ‘For me 30 centres is not enough. Until more of us know about PDT ourselves and more GPs know about it this treatment is going to remain a secret.

‘I met the Professor who is leading the research in the UK. I met the professor who is leading the research in the UK. He is one of those rather special people who are all too rare in the world. Steve Bown explained to me that PDT is treating thousands of patients around the world for skin, head, neck and mouth cancers. They are also working on something called Barrett’s Oesphagus that is the pre-condition to oesophageal cancer, successfully treating patients.

‘They have also been working on lung cancer, getting some great results, and are treating patients with prostate cancer. The point is, with more money, they could be developing PDT for lots of other cancers, including liver, brain, pancreas and colon.

‘The problem for the charity is that they don’t have the millions in the bank that other cancer charities do, and the drug companies who are working with them are paupers when compared to the big names we see on the pills and potions that pack the shelves in our bathrooms.

‘Your GP doesn’t know about the PDT option because the small drug companies involved don’t have the vast funds needed to promote the treatment. To promote something like PDT, you need a lot of money.’


‘If you are still undecided about PDT,’ Chris continues, ‘There is nothing more powerful than meeting the patients being treated with this incredibly effective cancer killer. The first I met was Kim. She’s an elegant woman, and the mother of four smashing kids.

‘She was diagnosed with a skin cancer on her nose, and from all the research she did, everyone pointed her to having PDT. Her GP didn’t know the first thing about PDT.

‘Thanks to the Internet, she read up all about it. For Kim, the alternatives would have been radiotherapy or surgery. Depending upon how deep the roots were of the cancer, they would have to chop away more or less of her nose. In the worst cases, they remove the entire nose and replace it with a plastic shell and scavenge flesh from other parts of your body to create something of a patchwork quilt. It sounds revolting.

‘She found out about the possibility of a PDT treatment at the National Medical Laser Centre just three days before her visit to the man with the scalpels. She thanks her lucky stars every day, and the PDT bonus for her was that there has been no scar. To look at Kim, you wouldn’t know she has had a brush with cancer.

‘Kim knows how and why she got her cancer. It was a legacy of teenage years when thinking that having a tan didn’t have its down side. She was pleased as punch to go back to school after winter skiing trips with a rich tan. She didn’t know the damage she was doing to herself in the long term.

‘These days, we know more of the dangers of skin cancer and the implications of getting that wonderful tan. These days, Kim’s only tan comes from a bottle.

‘When you realise that skin cancer is being discovered in people in their teens, you realise again that cancer is something that is hitting people of all ages.

‘Where I am really shocked is of the public ignorance about the level of protection that we need from our sun screens. There are two types of rays that can give us skin cancer, and not all the lotions cover you for both.

‘So, the task for the people at Killing Cancer is as much about education as it is about fund raising. We all know of dozens of cancer charities. We have them for every different cancer, and in some cases there are several all seeking to find a cure for the same thing. Each and every one of us has probably given money to a cancer charity at some time or another.

‘But am I the only one of us who is starting to think that, despite the millions and billions spent on research into cancer, we still don’t appear to be any closer to a cure? Surely, after all this time, we should have something more to show for all that money?

‘My introduction to PDT has raised lots of issues for me. While the other charities are researching a cure, Killing Cancer isn’t asking for cash and my celebrity support to find a cure for this or that cancer. They have a cancer treatment … but they needed funds to develop it.

To find out more visit