Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a complex condition and is an umbrella term given to this functional disorder of digestion. One of the problems in getting a diagnosis is that there are other conditions that can mimic IBS. Often people assume they have IBS but there could be other issues lurking. This is why a trip to your family doctor can be helpful in ruling out other possible conditions. In fact conditions that mimic IBS can range from cancer to diverticular disease to coeliac disease. Metabolic disorders such a hypo and hyperthyroidism also impact bowel health. If you are experiencing abdominal distension, pain with bowel movements and relief afterwards or more frequent loose stools or find that you go between constipation and looser stools, a visit to the doctor can be useful to rule out other culprits. In IBS, the colon may either be squeezing too hard in the case of diarrhoea or not hard enough as is the case with constipation, neither of which are issues we should ignore long term.
IBS is thought to affect between 10 and 15 percent of the population and accounts for around 30 to 50% of referrals to gastroenterologists. However the true figure may be much higher as many just live with the symptoms and never seek help. It is also thought to be a leading cause of missed work days behind the common cold.
One thing’s for sure, the prevalence of IBS has increased in recent decades which begs the question, what has changed? What factors could be behind the increased issues with bowel and digestive function? Well when you are steeped in the research as I am, you can’t help but notice the increased evidence for changes to our gut flora which have impacted our digestive health. The reasons for this are many and complex but all sets us up for the perfect conditions for conditions like IBS. Here are just a few examples….
So, you have your diagnosis, what next? Well fortunately there is much that can be done, but often that involves further investigations. Because of biochemical individuality there isn’t a one size fits all approach here. We need to identify our individual triggers and go from there. The most common approaches involve the following.
Increase dietary fibre.
Although this can be an obvious starting point particularly if someone has constipation, we have to be careful about which fibres we choose. Keeping a food diary becomes useful here to note any individual difference in response to foods. In the past people have used wheat bran as a high fibre food. However due to the link between wheat and food allergy and intolerances this is perhaps better replaced with dietary sources of fibre from fruits and vegetables. Psyllium seed husks are a useful and popular way to supplement the diet and can relieve constipation. We also need to be mindful that certain high fibre foods can be a trigger for some people and we need to find our own balance here while we are healing our digestive system. For example, you may see it recommended that you should eat more soluble fibre with prebiotic benefits such as artichokes, leaks, onions and garlic which are ideal for many but if you are one of those who is affected by foods high in fodmaps, this is not going to be the best strategy! It’s also why an appointment with a Nutritional Therapist is invaluable to help you identify some of those challenges and also find out the WHY! We can find ourselves going in ever decreasing circles if we don’t find out the WHY and it can be very frustrating.
Simple tip to do at home to support constipation
Soaked linseeds or chia seeds to relieve constipation. Soak 1-2 tsp of cracked linseeds in half a pint of warm water and soak overnight. Drink on rising and follow with another glass of warm water. Delay breakfast for about half an hour.
It may surprise you to find out that the relevance of food allergies in IBS has been known about since the early 1900’s! Recent studies have shown that around two thirds of patients with IBS have at least one and often several food intolerances. As a result many people find marked improvement following elimination diets. In practice I find elimination diets to be the most helpful in eradicating or reducing symptoms and go from there to identify other triggers. It is quite clear that for some, certain foods provoke an inflammatory response which is thought to be behind IBS symptoms in practice an elimination of common culprits such as gluten and dairy can bring significant relief. Studies have indicated that the most common triggers are dairy and grains. But what if stress is also a component which needs to be addressed or what if there are other inflammatory aspects of foods which are contributing to symptoms? The nightshade foods are an example of this and are also common triggers for many. These include potatoes, tomatoes, aubergine and peppers. When I see people in clinic, the most helpful starting place from experience is the elimination diet. At this point some people also choose to take up the opportunity of food intolerance testing. However, we build a programme over time addressing all possible triggers. This means we are not just looking at foods but also our digestion, whether we eat quickly or slowly, how we prepare foods, our stomach acid levels, digestive enzymes and also whether other medications might be contributing to our symptoms. Sometimes a stool test is done to identify any signs of infection, inflammation and to get a full picture of digestive function. Although food diaries can be helpful at identifying trigger foods, if food intolerance as opposed to food allergy is the issue, testing can be more effective as IgG food intolerance reactions can be from 2 up to 72 hours following consumption. More info on the differences here.
Dietary FODMAPs (Fermentable oligo-di and monosaccharides and Polyols.)
For some people reducing foods that are high in FODMAPs can be the way forward. These are foods with short chain carbohydrates which are poorly absorbed and therefore find themselves being fermented by intestinal bacteria. This fermentation can produce gas and and lead to abdominal bloating. One example of FODMAPs are oligosaccharides called fructans and include wheat based foods, onions and artichokes. Similar to fructans are galactans which are composed of chains of fructose with a galactose molecule on the end. These include legumes e.g. chickpeas, lentils, dried beans, cabbage and sprouts. A well known disaccharide that is implicated in IBS is lactose in dairy products but which also finds its way into other foods such as soups and sweets. Open studies have suggested that one in four patients will see a reduction in symptoms following a low FODMAP diet. This kind of approach can be particularly helpful in cases of SIBO. It doesn't mean eating low FODMAP's forever, as after a period of healing, gradual inclusion of previous trigger foods can be achieved with a very individualised approach.
When IBS appears out of the blue…
If you’ve never had bowel issues before and have suddenly experienced a shift, many questions need to be asked. Obviously a change a living circumstances, different water, perhaps moving abroad or students living away from home for the first time whose diets have changed, all of these issues are going to cause some inevitable changes. However, often changes can follow on from a high stress period or trauma, sudden death, divorce, accident. In practice I’ve also come across clients who suddenly developed a shift in bowel function following a period on non steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Perhaps they were involved in an accident or recently developed arthritis which was followed by a time on NSAID’s. Equally, repeated infections such as UTI’s, sinusitis, tonsillitis and chest infection etc can compromise our gut as a result of repeated rounds of antibiotics and we can find ourselves with IBS type symptoms. Therefore when I’m going through a very lengthy patient history I’m looking for these sorts of patterns which can trigger changes in both digestive and bowel function. Interestingly, autoimmune disease including Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis) and also increasingly common, underactive thyroid, can follow these kinds of long term use of particular medications due to gut/immune system compromise. If you are experiencing blood in the stool, we would recommend you attend your family doctor to rule out a potential IBD or anything sinister. When we do stool testing we can also see if there are any raised inflammatory markers such as calprotectin which would warrant further investigation via your GP and a secondary care referral.
Multiple rounds of antibiotics can also result in SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which basically means that there is an overgrowth of the number and types of bacteria in the small bowel which would normally reside in the colon. SIBO can also be a part of the IBS story with IBS and low stomach acid as part of the risk factors for this.
Natural approach and supplements
Primarily the Nutritional or Functional medicine approach involves identifying root cause and also triggers, be they food related, drug induced, infection or stress or a combination of factors. We then address the need for some gut healing including reinoculation with good bacteria or probiotics to redress current imbalance. Studies have shown that for some patients a 6 month supplementation with probiotic can reduce symptoms significantly. We use different probiotics which are each researched and appropriate in different situations according to patient history. It is essential to incorporate a gut healing approach so that at least some of the current food triggers or intolerances can be reintroduced back into the diet after a few months of healing and in a controlled manner. This is very much an individual approach and supports each case as we find it. We also offer symptomatic relief while we get to the bottom of individual triggers which can include peppermint oil for its antispasmodic benefits. However, the functional protocol which offers the most comprehensive approach to triggers and drivers in gastrointestinal challenges is as follows and what we call the 5R approach.
Remove: This can apply to eliminating pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites. Also foods that have become triggers. We also remove foods/drinks that are unhelpful to changing the ecosystem in our guts and make choices that support a healthier environment for the good bacteria.
Replace: This involves identifying anything that is missing which could be contributing to a picture of compromise. Digestive enzymes are very relevant here and stomach acid. A lack of the necessary enzymes to break down and digest foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies and a range of symptoms and conditions can result.
Reinoculate: This refers to the reintroduction of good bacteria or probiotics into the intestine to reestablish the microflora balance. This can incorporate food form and supplements as appropriate.
Repair: The Gastrointestinal mucosa represents the largest mass of rapidly proliferating cells and repair is needed whenever there has been a loss of integrity of structure or function or both. Damage can result from chronic nutritional insufficiency, food allergen, dysbiosis, xenobiotic exposure (toiletries etc), pathological intestinal infection and chronic inflammation. Nutrients required include glutamine , essential fats, and zinc.
Relax: You may have heard of the gut brain connection and personal experience will indicate the impact of stress on gut health! However, when it comes to finding a comprehensive approach to creating a healing environment in the gut it is essential to address this aspect. That means recognising and finding approaches to rebalance the mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of our lives so as to support a move away from sympathetic dominance to parasympathetic in digestive function.
Whatever your story and range of symptoms, it's important that you get to the bottom (if you'll pardon the pun!) of this one. Living with compromised bowel and digestive function can compromise our immune health, mental health and long term leave us vulnerable to a range of conditions. If we are not absorbing nutrients properly, this can lead to low energy levels and often we find ourselves with a range of unexplained symptoms further down the line if we continue to ignore the condition. To give an example of where IBS can cause nuisance, there are many out there who have experienced repeated iron deficiency over the years. Often with the right support for gut healing this kind of problem can be prevented.
Further information on what's involved in a Nutritional Therapy consultation here
Mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries but it is only in the last few decades that scientific studies have revealed some of their health benefits. There are over 100 types of mushrooms but some of the most studied for their health benefits are Shiitake, Cordyceps, Maitake, Oyster, Lion's Mane, Enoke, Reishi and Chaga.
Mushrooms contain important vitamins, minerals and enzymes that have been shown in numerous scientific studies to boost the immune system. They also contain bioactive molecules that have anti viral, anti inflammatory and antioxidant abilities.
Due to their immune boosting properties, there has been a lot of research into the effect of mushrooms in Cancer prevention. Some studies have suggested that mushrooms can inhibit tumor formation and stop cell mutation whilst protecting healthy cells and increasing the bodies capacity to detoxify itself from harmful substances. According to the medical journal 3 biotech , "mushrooms anti-cancer compounds play a crucial role as a reactive oxygen species inducer, mitotic kinase inhibitor, anti-mitotic, angiogenesis inhibitor and lead to apoptosis, and eventually checking cancer proliferation."
In 2000, a report published by Cancer Research UK and the University of Strathclyde looked at different types of mushroom and cancer. Pure extracts of exotic mushrooms such as shiitake, enoke, maitake and oyster were shown by researchers in China, Japan and Korea to have anti-tumour properties and be capable of stimulating the immune system to fight disease. In addition, the use of medicinal mushrooms was found to reduce the side effects of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, including sickness and hair loss.
Another study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology looked at the effects of chaga mushroom on cancerous human liver cells. The research reveals that chaga extract may be able to prevent liver cancer cell growth, which it has been thought make it a potential treatment for cancer in the liver.
Medicinal mushrooms have also been shown to have special fighting abilities against deadly multi-resistant bacterial strains and microorganisms responsible for gut and skin problems. Interestingly, some substances present in antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline are derived from mushroom fungal extracts.
Many types of mushrooms help to lower cholestrol levels naturally, support energy and improve brain function. Mushrooms such as Reishi are also considered to be adaptogens that lower cortisol and help your body to deal with stress and anxiety. Reishi mushrooms have also been shown to improve memory and concentration and because they contain lanostan, an antihistamine, they can also be beneficial for arthritis and soothe muscle aches.
Cordyceps mushrooms can help to increase stamina and endurance due to their ability to help the body produce ATP. These mushrooms are also used as an adaptogen to increase energy and reduce fatigue. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine demonstrated that supplementation with Cs-4 (Cordyceps sinensis) improved exercise performance and contributed to overall markers of wellness in older adults.
The study into medicinal mushrooms is a vast subject and there are many other health benefits and ongoing studies and research in the area. If you would like to learn more about medicinal mushrooms, pop into the shop and ask to speak to our nutritional therapist at Nourishing Insights, 44 St Andrew Street, Aberdeen.
A subject that we're getting more and more questions about these days is how food intolerance can impact sports performance. Testing is growing in popularity as more and more of our top professionals have found that removing foods that they are intolerant to can have a big impact not only on their health but also their performance. In the Tennis world, it was Djokovic who famously removed food intolerances in his diet and he credits this for his ability to remain at the top of his profession.
Food intolerance is estimated to effect 45 percent of the population and can show itself in a variety of symptoms, for example, headaches, migraines, IBS, eczema, joint pain, unexplained fatigue among others. More on food intolerance and health can be found here. One of the difficulties for sports people and a common trap that they can fall into unwittingly is that they can follow diets that can become quite repetitive and find themselves eating allot of the same foods which can itself lead to food intolerance. An example of this would be eating a high number of eggs as it is a protein rich food. But if we become intolerant to this food, we can find ourselves with various symptoms, fluid retention and sub-optimal sports performance. Another common intolerance is to dairy products, so imagine the number of sports people out there who are regularly consuming whey based proteins in shakes and protein bars who may be impairing their performance without realising it. Intolerance to specific foods can also lead to challenges around weight management, so if you are finding that you are struggling to lose weight even although you believe that your diet and exercise program is optimal, it may be that you have underlying food intolerance which could be driving inflammation and leading to some challenges around losing weight. Typically people find that they lose a few of those extra pounds fairly quickly after removing problematic foods as they lose fluid retention and going forward find that they are better able to maintain an optimal weight for them.
A number of studies have indicated that a risk factor for food intolerance in sport can result from very intense training which can impact our immune system negatively and lead to impaired intestinal barrier function which allows food proteins to find their way into our blood system. One study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that "sports performances and health in elite athletes depend on food intolerance in many ways. The elimination diet for 3 months significantly improved health, body composition and faster lowering HR after cardiopulmonary testing."
The particular test that we offer is from the Lorisian laboratories and they have a number of case studies after working with a number of high profile sports professionals and sports teams, notably Newcastle United and Wigan Warriors Rugby League Team. Some examples of individuals are marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, Professional rugby players Peter Stringer and Rob Vickerman, triathlete Matt Perry, International Hockey Player Mike Shaw and runner Dani Rowlinson.
Paula Radcliffe found out she was intolerant to egg, chicken, wheat, tomatoes and dairy and said,
After I cut these foods out of my diet, I was able to run without doubling up in pain. I have a lot more energy and I am back to my normal self. It truly made such a difference to my life and I would recommend it to anyone else suffering from symptoms like these.
England Rugby 7's player Rob Vickerman had always followed a protein rich diet designed to help fuel his training and assumed the foods he was eating were the best possible choices to compliment his exercise. He said,
At no point throughout my professional career did I even think about awareness of my nutritional make up. I, like many of my peers ticked the usual boxes of high protein quantities, low carb and fats without really knowing what was good for me or why.
Rob Vickerman is a classic example of someone eating the very foods he was intolerant to and in very high amounts which led to some health challenges. He says,
To overlook what fuelled me meant I was perhaps missing the most important information contributing to my performance. I used to react somewhat 'typically' after taking protein shakes, seemingly no different to the majority of my teammates. I never questioned this, nor the fact when I had eggs I would have a similar reaction, bearing in mind I was having 20-30 eggs a week.
Triathlete Matt Perry also benefitted his sports performance after taking the test. He said,
I have lost over an inch from my waist and lost 17lbs in weight. My energy levels throughout the day are higher; I am more focussed and clear headed. Also in my first triathlon of the season I knocked 17 minutes off my time from last year... A simple test and re-education on your eating habits can turn your life around.
Are there any other tests relevant to optimising sports performance?
One that I recommend is the Optimal Nutritional Evaluation which is a simple and convenient urine test which analyses key nutritional biomarkers including antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals, digestive support and amino acids. The report also gives advice not only on any nutritional deficits you may have but also suggested nutrients and optimal dosing for you to rectify any deficiencies or imbalance.
Our nutritional status is impacted not only by what we eat but what we absorb of what we eat. We may therefore require further support in the form of digestive enzymes and probiotics. As excessive sport is known to impact free radical damage, we also need to be mindful of optimising antioxidants in the diet. Another factor which we can't underestimate in sport is stress, not only because it impacts performance but also because it can have a negative impact on our digestion and absorption of nutrients. Another test which may therefore be appropriate in some cases is cortisol. It is well known in sport that mind set and keeping stress under control can be pivotal in taking us to the next level.
For further information for individuals or for teams contact us at email@example.com or phone 01224 969637. We are open Tuesday to Saturday.
This week we are very excited to have become Aberdeen's very first stockist of Kaerlig Beauty. These beautiful liquid soaps are truly natural - no parabens, no alcohol, no colour and a pH of 7 - the same as water! Available in 3 colours Red, Blue or the unscented Naked. We've invited Amy to take over the blog and tell you all a wee bit more about her products and how she ended up making soap in the first place!
Hi - Amy Alexander here from Kærlig Beauty. I am thrilled that Nourishing Insights are stocking Red, Blue and Naked, my soaps!
These small runs of luxury liquid soap were born as a direct result of my experiences with breast cancer. After being diagnosed with triple negative cancer, an operation, chemotherapy (the dreaded hair loss), sickness and radiotherapy quickly followed and three people, in particular, took the brunt of it all. My very own heroes, 51, 17 and 16 picked me up and I owe them so much. They did not complain and got used to sickness being an unwanted companion. I am still cross that I couldn’t protect them all from seeing me poorly.
After treatment, I was somewhat surprised that I didn’t bounce back quickly. To put it bluntly, I was ravaged by treatment. Unlike so many others, I was not brave! Aside from the forced menopause, pain and sheer exhaustion, my skin was so thin, so dry and quite frankly, so ghastly. And to top it all, my hair was non-existent, although a wonderful wig helped me feel more like myself.
My college background is in lecturing sociology and psychology. I recognised the impact that the illness and treatment was having on my mental health. I wanted to take back control. Soap-making was a therapeutic hobby and so it made sense that the fight back would start there.
I kicked back. No more whining. No more avoiding the mirror. I signed up and completed a Diploma in Organic Skin-Care and embarked on a joyous journey that now includes a ‘big girl laboratory’, terrifying EU testing regulations and countless failures. I tell you what though, 51, 16 and 17 always smelt pretty good, even if my soaps didn’t look as smart as they do now!
The soaps are all locally made in Strichen, Aberdeenshire. They contain jojoba, castor and coconut oils and are loaded with extra glycerine for a real boost of skin-friendly. The stylish (modest, aint I?) glass bottles each have a colour assigned to them after countless sniff tests. What do you imagine Blue and Red to smell like?! The exception is Naked, more about her later.
Each is packed with essential oils: Blue smells so fresh, of spearmint and lime; Red is grapefruit and bergamot. It is rather boastful, I know, but they are lovely. The fragrance lasts ages! Oh, and they are truly natural - no parabens, no alcohol, no colour and a pH of 7 - the same as water!
What about Naked? Well, as the name suggests, it is naked, a pure soap. No fragrances, just gentle wonderfulness. A soap perfect for people who have sensitive skin. This is the soap that cleansed my skin so gently after treatment.
What makes these soaps stand out is the sustainability factor. I detest plastic and really wanted to help my customers be able to re-use, thanks to a cost-friendly refill pouch, a stylish product. And of course, the glass bottle will last for years.
I have been a vegetarian for almost 30 years and although sustainability was important, so was being cruelty-free. I didn’t want to make and use a product that had involved animal testing at any point in the supply chain. These soaps are proudly vegan!
And finally, the name is simply Danish for ‘caring’. I have a great deal of admiration for the Danish culture. I love the strong sense of family, of being present and of appreciating others and our world. And of course, the Danes are known for their cool style. I’m a bit of a fan!
What do you think your favourite colour will be?
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a common women’s health condition affecting 1 in 10 women in which cells from the endometrium (lining of the uterus) appear and flourish outside the uterine cavity, usually on the ovaries. Symptoms can worsen at certain points during the menstrual cycle as cells are influenced by female hormones. Symptoms can include pelvic pain, painful periods, painful intercourse and infertility. Usually this condition is diagnosed after a laparoscopy of the pelvic cavity although pelvic ultrasounds are also used to detect endometrial tissue outside the uterus.
Risk factors for endometriosis include: family history, a diet high in trans-fats, use of intrauterine devices, and unbalanced oestrogen levels.
Symptoms are often managed with hormonal medication to suppress the natural menstrual cycle, plus painkillers to manage the associated discomfort. Occasionally progesterone creams may be prescribed. The most aggressive treatment is surgery, with some women opting for a hysterectomy.
The naturopathic approach to endometriosis is focussed on:
· Reducing inflammation
· Enhancing detoxification (especially of excess oestrogen)
· Reducing symptoms
Inflammation is a huge driver for endometriosis. The Nurses Health Study II found that women who consumed the most trans-fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils often used in processed foods) were 48% more likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis. Women with the highest consumption of omega-3 fatty acids were 22% less likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis. Reducing the amount of omega-6 fatty acids at the same time as increasing omega-3s also helps reduce inflammation. Ideally we would have an omega-6:omega-3 ratio of 3:1 however the western diet is closer to 16:1!
Foods that are high in omega-6 and should be avoided include sunflower, corn, soybean and cottonseed oils. In addition to this opt for grass-fed meat as livestock fed a grain-based diet high in corn and soya produce meat high in omega-6.
Foods that are high in omega-3 include: Oily fish like salmon and mackerel; flax and chia seeds; organic free-range eggs; extra virgin olive oil; and walnuts. Some people may also benefit from supplementing with an omega-3 oil in the short term while they make dietary changes.
Yes, we are talking about poo here! Actually detoxification involves the gut and the liver but it’s vitally important to make sure that we move our bowels at least once every day if we want to facilitate optimal detoxification. We also want to make sure that we are having a normal bowel movement. On the Bristol stool chart below we should be aiming for a 3-4. If you are having anything other than that pop in and have a chat because there are lots of things you can do to support healthy bowel function. Constipation is a common problem in hormonal imbalance across the board and we need to get to the root cause to eliminate this risk factor properly.
Increasing the amount of vegetable-based fibre in the diet is vital if we want to support our gut bacteria as this is what the good bacteria feed on. Increasing our intake of vegetable fibre has been shown to help clear excess oestrogen from the bloodstream. Cruciferous vegetables are particularly good at this so increase your intake of: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and cauliflower. Supplementing with DIM and the right B vitamins can support detoxification of hormones promoting balance. Endometriosis often involves higher oestrogen over progesterone (which tends to be low), another commonly used herbal supplement which is used to rebalance the hormones is Vitex.
Studies have shown a significant reduction in symptoms in women who move away from eating higher-glycaemic carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, cakes, etc.), reduce caffeine and increase their intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. Caffeine can have be a problem for many women with endometriosis with one study showing consuming 150-225mg of caffeine per day (about 1-1.5 cups of coffee) increased the risk of endometriosis by 20% and those who drank more than 225mg of caffeine had a 60% increase.
Turmeric has been shown to reduce inflammation, support blood sugar (important when you’re trying to reduce food cravings), reduce pain and support liver detoxification making it a key supplement in the support of endometriosis.
Food intolerance also play a part here in that if we continue to eat foods which we are intolerant to we add to the picture of inflammation. One of the biggest drivers in endometriosis is gluten and studies have shown a significant reduction in symptoms following a gluten free diet. However, when IgG food intolerance testing is done, we can see a further reduction in symptoms. Other food triggers can be dairy, soya, yeast, eggs, corn, peanuts, cane sugar and also foods in the nightshade family eg tomatoes, potatoes etc. Endometriosis has a strong link with IBS so following the anti-inflammatory protocol above and an elimination has been found to be supportive of both conditions.
Massage therapy can also help reduce symptoms. An Iranian study showed that massage of the back, sacrum and abdomen lead to a significant reduction in painful dysmenorrhea caused by endometriosis. Abdominal massage can also stimulate peristalsis in the large intestine therefore support detoxification. In addition to this abdominal massage can also help to breakdown scar tissue and adhesions.
In all cases risk factors can be individual and an appointment with a Nutritional Therapist can help you uncover the triggers and drivers of your condition and support you with an individualised protocol.
Cardiovascular Disease typically refers to all diseases of the heart and circulation. For example: congenital heart defects, atrial fibrillation, heart attack, and coronary heart disease. There are many risk factors for cardiovascular disease including congenital defects, high blood pressure, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, diabetes and stress.
While little can be done about congenital conditions, the good news is that by making lifestyle changes you can help to reduce your risk. Walking for just 30 minutes each day has been shown to reduce your risk by 20%, compared with those who were sedentary. Daily exercise can also help manage your blood sugar which is another risk factor.
What we eat of course is also important. Reducing the amount of processed, inflammatory foods in your diet will reduce your risk factors. Enjoying a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables daily, foods high in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, and nuts and seeds and good fats like avocado all help to support the heart and keep it ticking. To learn more about how Nutrition can help, make an appointment with a Nutritional Therapist.
Stress and Anxiety
But what are you doing about reducing stress and anxiety? We know that stress and anxiety raise levels of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase the rate of breathing, heart rate and blood pressure sending the body into the “fight or flight” response. When you live under constant stress the increased demand on your heart begins to cause serious damage. If that wasn’t bad enough studies have shown a link between stress and a change in the way blood clots, increasing the risk of heart attack.
So how can massage help?
Many of you will have experienced the stress relieving effects of a massage. But do you know how it works? Massage stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering cortisol and adrenaline and pulling you out of the “fight or flight” scenario. It also increases dopamine and serotonin (our happy, feel-good hormones) and lowers excitatory hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine (too much of which can lead to feelings of anxiety).
Massage also helps to lower cortisol and adrenaline by promoting relaxation and improving sleep. When we get restorative sleep the body is able to recover and the stress hormones return to normal. In addition, massage is a wonderful way to reduce pain levels. When we are in pain, the stress response is activated and our cortisol and adrenaline levels shoot up. Massage helps to calm us down, reducing blood pressure and therefore the strain put on the heart by elevated stress levels.
What the studies say…
To book your appointment email Harriette at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01224 969637.
Chen, W.L., Liu, G.J., Yeh, S.H., Chiang, M.C., Fu, M.Y., Hsieh, Y.K.(2012). Effect of Back Massage Intervention on Anxiety, Comfort, and Physiologic Responses in Patients with Congestive Heart Failure. J Altern Complement Med
Jamali S, Ramezanli S, Jahromi M. K, Zare A, Poorgholami F. Effect of Massage Therapy on Physiologic Responses in Patients with Congestive Heart Failure. Biosci Biotech Res Asia 2016;13(1)
University of Bonn. "Anxiety Linked To Blood Clots: Fear That Freezes The Blood In Your Veins." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080325111800.htm>.
January can so often be a time where people intend to make radical changes and become a new person. Unfortunately time and again the enthusiastic plans we have for the new year so often fall by the wayside. After all, who wants to go running on a dark evening? Or eat a salad when there is snow on the ground?! In nature the vast majority of plants and animals use winter as a time to rest and restore ready to bloom again in the spring.
So why not take January and February to really think about what you want to achieve this year and make a plan? Then go for it come the spring when the nights get lighter and nature comes alive. That's not to say you can't make a start now but make them small and realistic. Here are our top 5 things to do more of in 2018!
1. Go for walks in the woods.
Getting out for a walk in nature is a wonderful way to exercise in a calming and rejuvenating way. Spending time in nature has been shown to improve mood, boost the immune system, reduce stress and improve sleep. But I bet you didn't need a study to tell you that?!
2. Stay hydrated.
An oldie but a goodie... how many of us actually drink enough each day to achieve optimal hydration? Try and drink more water or herb tea throughout the day. Remember caffeinated drinks don't count towards your hydration goals as they are dehydrating. An easy change to make this month would be to swap just one of your cuppa's for a herb tea to help keep you hydrated.
I didn't think that meditation would be for me. But then I tried it and loved it. It can be so hard to find time for ourselves to just chill when life is so busy with work, children, dogs to walk, houses to clean, bills to pay... I'll stop before our blood pressure goes up! It's really worth just carving out 5-10 minutes a couple of times a week (or every day if you can) to just take a breath and chill. It doesn't need any equipment, it doesn't have to cost anything and you can do it anywhere. I really like the headspace app but I'd recommend trying a few (lots of videos on youtube) and finding one that suits you.
4. Eat more Greens.
Green vegetables like kale, cabbage, sprouts and broccoli are so good for us. Packed with fibre to feed our good gut bacteria and B Vitamins like folate which can improve brain function and support fertility. If you just can't face eating your greens why not try Pukka's Clean Greens an organic daily blend of 11 super-rich green foods including Nettle, Kale Sprouts and Wheat Grass Juice.
5. Make your bed.
This will probably seem like such a random addition but hear me out. By making my bed each morning before I leave the house I know if nothing else goes right I have at least achieved one thing. It also encourages me to try and make my room a little more organised and less of the dumping ground it could so easily become. It's also lovely at the end of the day to walk into my room and see a nicely made bed ready for me to curl up in with a good book and a sleepy tea. Maybe you do this already? If not try it and let us know how you get on.
For this final piece in my 12 days of Christmas. I’m thinking about rhythm and how it impacts our lives and health and can be a force for good at many levels of our consciousness as humans. Some of these, you may not have considered. I hadn't a
great deal and yet I know I am naturally drawn to this very natural phenomenon of rhythm in a variety of different ways and I find each one necessary and comforting.
At the centre of our own our being is the drum that beats all the time and is part of our daily rhythm, just there doing its thing. From the beginning of life in the womb, we have always had that rhythm.
I remember being first aware of my heart beating as a very small child and found it a strange concept, scary even. But one things for sure, we need to rely on it every moment of every day. Rhythm is something we feel and bring in to dance and music and even walking, marching and language. The power of rhythm is quite remarkable as it can help soldiers march better and stronger even when exhausted and it can get
a baby to sleep.
Rhythm is also part of language and speech. Poetry is a wonderful example of rhythm in the written word and it’s something that has the power to bring us together as humans in a way that general everyday language and speech cannot. Reading poetry much like listening to a beautiful piece of music can soothe the soul and heal the sad and burdened. In our overly technological age of memes and quips lacking depth and sincerity, finding our way back to rhythm in beautiful and and carefully crafted language can be as good as a massage. Another wonderful thing about poetry is that in our fast paced modern lives, its slow and gentle paced rhythm simply slows us down with it, taking us on a journey into a deeper sense of
self and ultimately bringing a sense of peace.
Whether we literally take up drumming, play another musical instrument, join a choir, walk, dance like no one is watching, read some poetry or listen to a waterfall, connecting with that natural rhythmic force can calm and heal in a profound way.
Choose your rhthym. Find your beat. Feed your soul.
“Rhythm is our universal mother tongue. It’s the language of the soul.” - Gabriella Roth
This one refers to the 11 faithful disciples. This made me think of antioxidants as these are truly faithful disciples in our diet as they mop up free radicals preventing the oxidative damage associated with chronic disease from cancer to heart disease to dementia. Science is quite clear that we need the best variety of these to maintain optimal health and prevent those diseases of the modern age. We can experience free radical damage from poor diet, taking medications, chemicals, toxic working
environments, cleaning fluids, cosmetics and more. Antioxidants protect us from the effects of this at cellular level. Some of the best antioxidant foods to include as your 11 disciples are......
Don't forget antioxidant rich herbs:
Traditionally this refers to the 10 commandments. Now if we want to stay leaping throughout the year one of the most important ways of achieving this is to de-stress. One of the things I’ve noticed with clients is that we are all stressed to a greater or lesser extent and whether we think we manage it well or not, we all of us (myself included!) need to observe the commandments of relaxation and stress relief to stay on top of our health and prevent unnecessary health challenges.
One of the things I see a lot in my work is that often period of stress and particularly if there is a trauma, we can find ourselves developing symptoms we didn’t have before or even a new condition! So I was having a think about 10 commandments for stress management all of which are evidence based. These are simply.....
Go for a walk! It only takes ten minutes to release those endorphins which you’ll be glad to hear reduces our stress hormones. Walking in green spaces also offers a few moments of meditation and peace.
Deep breathing. I especially like the alternate nostril breathing used in yoga sessions as breathing deeply in one side and out through the other can help get us into a parasympathetic state. It only takes 5 minutes and makes a dramatic difference.
Meditation is something I never did until this year. I didn’t believe I could! But actually thanks to great apps like 'headspace' and 'calm' it’s actually quite easy to take a few moments of quiet and calm the mind. No this doesn’t mean switching the mind off (we can’t actually do that any more than we can ask our hearts to stop beating). It just means letting the thoughts float away without actually taking them on. The research on the benefits of mediation is enormous and something to be ignored at our peril!
Bring nature into the home! House plants are great as air purifiers but also bringing nature into the home brings calm. A study at Washington State University demonstrated a drop in blood pressure when house plants were brought into offices!
Kissy kissy! Apparently those who kiss more have less stress (Or maybe those who are less stressed kiss more!) Northwestern University studied 2000 couples and found this to be the case. So better pucker up!
Music is one of my favourites. Well known as a stress reliever, it’s something we need to use more pro-actively as part of our routines. I play relaxation music now whenever I work or study and am actually listening to some now! It makes a huge difference to concentration and I think aids memory.
Laughter is the best medicine! Who needs research to prove this one?!! But ask yourself when was the last time you consciously put on a funny movie or box set of your favourite show. Spending time with friends who you know life your spirits and make you cry with laughter is medicine you can’t get in any supplement. It’s so easy to get in a rut and not make time for these things so make space for laughter. Your body will thank you!
Eat something sweet! Choose carefully here, but a little bit of dark chocolate or a carefully made piece of baking with a little honey or maple syrup can blunt cortisol. That doesn’t mean eating our body weight in ice cream when we are feeling low, but just a little something to give us a wee boost, a date, a couple for squares of dark chocolate or a teaspoon of quality raw honey.
Visualisations are a great way to imagine where you’d like to be or hat you'd like to achieve in your life. Research demonstrates you can imagine winning a sport or killing cancer cells or anything you put your mind to. The amazing thing is that this technique works and is being used in fields of health , business and sport more regularly. So simple too!!
Switch off that phone! There's no doubt about it, smart phones are one of the biggest stresses around. Remember a world when you could eat, sleep, bath, be ill, go to the loo etc etc without that thing bleeping, pinging and generally driving us mad! More and more people are switching them off at night and doing social media detoxes. We need to or we are gonna go crazy!!
Take up these tips and you will surely leap into next year!
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