Healthy air travel

Flying can be a hazardous business – not from a safety point of view – but in terms of your health.

Sometimes you can catch a bug on the plane and spend most of your well-earned holiday in bed. There are many ways of easing the effects of a long flight, so that you can arrive feeling like a human being.  Although the incidences of deep vein thrombosis are quite rare, this can also be a side-effect of flying, particularly on long flights.

Before the flight

  • Find out if the airport you’re flying from has any spa, gym or other exercise facilities. There may be a small charge but it gets you off to a flying start!
  • Get to the airport early to book your seat so that you can sit in the most comfortable and convenient position.
  • Wear loose comfy clothes such as track suit bottoms and sweatshirts – there’s no reason to look smart on a ‘plane.
  • Pack a toothbrush, and other essentials in your hand luggage so you can freshen up in the tiny toilet!

Anxiety and stress

Going away can be stressful because there is so much to do beforehand. Some people have a fear of flying and get in a state about it. Often they find it hard to relax on a ‘plane.

The air conditioning can make people feel a bit light-headed, have a headache or feel slightly sick.

  • Fear: Bach Flower Rescue Remedy helps anyone who is scared of flying or generally anxious to calm down – a few drops on the tongue can be very calming.
  • Feet: Put a cooling peppermint foot lotion on your feet to keep them from swelling up.
  • Water: Try to drink water more than anything else. Rather than waiting for the drinks trolley to come round, carry your own water so that you can drink when you like.
  • Drinks: Avoid coffee, caffeine in soft drinks and alcohol because they dehydrate the body.
  • Food: Take a few snacks with you, so that you can eat when you need to rather than when the meals are provided.
  • Nausea: If you feel sick or headachey take the homeopathic remedy Nux vom. It can help you sleep too.
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DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)

The problem is worse in economy class because your legs haven’t got so much room. The longer the flight the greater the risk is, because legs are cramped up for much longer.

DVT is a medical emergency and if there is no doctor on the plane it is essential to visit one as soon as the plane lands.

Symptoms of DVT :

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness in the calves
  • Redness
  • Fever

People who are particularly at risk are:

  • pregnant women
  • anyone with a history of blood clots
  • very tall people
  • overweight people
  • women taking the contraceptive pill
  • anyone who gets dehydrated while on board.

Other ways to prevent DVT:

Exercise :

  • Before going on board and during any stops the plane makes, walk around a lot. It isn’t advisable to sit still for several hours before a long flight.
  • Once in your seat take off your shoes and wiggle your toes about. If possible simulate walking with your feet or lifting them up and down one by one. Squeeze and relax muscles throughout the body regularly.
  • Get up as often as you can and walk around the plane. One excuse is to keep going to the loo so that you’re moving around!
  • Some airlines offer exercise programmes or massages. Take advantage if you can!


  • Take your own water and drink it whenever you’re offered drinks – a couple of glasses of wine with a meal is fine, but more might make you more at risk;
  • Elasticated support stockings can prevent the risk of DVT – buy from department stores, chemists and supermarkets;
  • Take off shoes when you get on the ‘plane to prevent feet swelling up;
  • Try a supplement like VascularGuard that provides antioxidants to support the blood vessels and cardiovascular system to prevent DVT.
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Depending on what time of year you fly, there are often people around you coughing and sneezing. Try as you might to resist them, the body gets worn down during the flight and it becomes harder to fight off germs which are circulating.

There are several ways of fighting bugs:

  • If the flight is not full and you’re near someone who keeps spluttering germs, ask to be moved!
  • Take the herbal remedy Echinacea on the day before, and during a flight to boost the immune system and makes your resistance stronger during a long flight.
  • Make sure hands are clean and coat the inside of your nostrils with either olive, jojoba or almond oil to prevent germs getting in through tiny cracks inside your nose!
  • At the risk of looking strange, cover your face with a cotton handkerchief which has been soaked in water, or better still, buy an airline mask! Both help to stop you breathing in bacteria and viruses.
  • Drink plenty of water and use it to take your potions!
  • Take Vitamin C before the trip and during to protect against colds.


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Easing jet lag

Tiredness, depression, lack of concentration, constipation, and disturbed sleep are common problems as the body clock adjusts to the time difference and the long flight.

Some people suffer more than others and people who travel all the time on business don’t seem to be too affected. This could be because most of them travel in first or business class and have more room to stretch out and sleep! The more sleep you get, the better you are likely to feel.

To try to ease your jetlag:

  • Take Siberian Ginseng, an energising herb, for several weeks before the journey to make your body capable of dealing with jetlag.
  • Take homeopathic Arnica tablets to cope with the shock of travelling from one side of the world to another.
  • If sleep is going to be seriously disturbed and you are effectively missing a night, take the homeopathic remedy Cocculus every four hours from the beginning of the journey.
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On arrival

It isn’t always possible to time it, but experts say that you feel better if you arrive at your destination late afternoon or early evening.

  • For instance if you fly to New York and it’s 3 p.m. your body clock is on 8 p.m.
  • It is a good idea to have a light evening meal, go to bed around 9.30 to 10 and get a decent night’s sleep.

The worst thing to do is get completely out of sync with the country you are in and be sleeping during the day and reading your book at 3 a.m!

  • If you arrive early and need to stay awake, or if you’ve had a couple of hours’ nap and have the rest of the day ahead of you, have a long bath with a few drops of any of these aromatherapy oils in it: grapefruit, rosemary, juniper, lemongrass.
  • Before going to bed have a bath with a few drops of lavender, geranium, neroli or sandalwood oils in to help you to sleep.
  • If you’re feeling depressed and negative because of disorientation and tiredness try Bach Flower Remedy, Olive;
  • Often the mind is buzzing when you have just arrived in a new country-  Bach Flowers White Chestnut helps to stop thoughts going round and round;
  • Enjoy a good massage at your destination to soothe away jet lag and put you back on form.
  • Spend some time outside and get some exercise.
  • Keep drinking lots of water.
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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.