Currently viewing the tag: "complementary therapy"

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes pain, stiffness, inflammation of the joints, joint deformity and reduced physical function. Autoimmune disorders are characterised by the body’s immune system attacking healthy body tissue. Both T- and B- immune cells are implicated in the underlying pathology due to overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines.  Inevitably, it affects quality of life and life expectancy. Unfortunately, the cause of RA is still unknown. Patients often receive strong medication and may require surgical treatment. However, frequently patients will seek non-medical alternatives to try and alleviate their symptoms.

Acupuncture is often sought by patients for pain. Through its ability to modulate pain signals and release of neuro-chemicals e.g. serotonin and endorphins that influence biochemical changes within the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.

A new systematic review of the clinical efficacy of acupuncture on RA was published which included 43 studies. The study concluded that acupuncture alone or in combination with other treatment modalities is beneficial to treating RA, by improving physical function and quality of life. Possible mechanisms included anti-inflammatory effect, anti-oxidative effect and regulation of immune system function.

Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the circulatory and nervous system causing the release of

  • Release body chemicals and changes the way the brain and spinal cord processes the pain signals. These chemicals include; endorphins and other neurohumoral factors e.g. neuropeptide Y, serotonin.
  • Increases local release of  nitrous oxide(NO) known to play an important physiological role in skin local microcirculation, neurotransmission, immunity and wound healing.
  • Reduces inflammation by regulating the immune system, thus normalising immune function.
  • Increases the release of adenosine, which reduces the sensitivity to pain
  • Modulates parts of the brain network (limbic and paralimbic system), responsible for anti-pain, anti-anxiety, and other therapeutic effects
  • Improves muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation, and therefore blood circulation.
  • Benefits depression by acting through other pathways involving dopamine, noradrenaline, cortisol and neuropeptide Y. Stress-induced behavioural and biochemical changes may also be reversed. Acupuncture can generally be safely used in combination with medical treatments.

Alongside acupuncture dietary changes to avoid anti-inflammatory foods e.g. consider reducing consumption of meat, avoid gluten and eliminate dairy products, avoid citrus foods and consume sugars and in small amouts only.  In addition supplements  can help to support the immune system;

  • Essential fatty acids (EFA) like fish or fish oil, flax seed and borage seed oil.
  • Probiotics
  • Turmeric or ginger for its anti-inflammatory action.

 

Once again the media have focused on the use of E-cigarettes. For good reason there are still doubts on its safety. Majority of safety research has been on the e-cigarette liquid prior to it being vaped based on its constituents having fewer carcinogenic toxins. In a recent study scientists at the University of Birmingham believe that e-cigarettes commonly known as vaping is much more harmful than previously thought. Although safer in relation to causing cancer, 20-30yrs of vaping is associated with a higher risk of long term lung disease such as, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after 20-30yrs of vaping. Scientists mimicked the vaping mechanism, once the vapours are inhaled it turns back into a liquid condensate within the lungs. They tested this new condensate on samples of lung tissue and found significantly harmful effects.  It inhibits the alveolar macrophages from working effectively thus affecting the lungs ability to get rid of dust, bacteria and other allergens. Alveolar macrophages are a vital part of the lungs immune system.

When first introduced e-cigarettes had my own alarm bells ringing. The World Health Organisation has expressed concerns over e-cigarette safety. In the UK sales soared by 340% in one year, with the industry worth rising from an estimated £44 million (2012) to £193 million (2013). In 2017 sales increased by 50% to reach £1bn and set to exceed £2bn by 2020.

Vaping is advertised as a safer alternative to tobacco smoking, but is it really?  ‘Vaping’ is the inhalation of a mixture of carrier substances; propylene glycol (an alcohol) and glycerine (produced from fats and oils), added with nicotine and flavourings through an electronic vapouriser. Scientists are still divided on its safety. One camp believes that vaping is a safer alternative to tobacco smoking, while others are sceptical of its longer-term use. The finger has been firmly pointed at the many ‘flavours’ and ‘carrier substances’ that cause physiological effects. Vaping also releases volatile organic compounds and (ultra) fine particles into the atmosphere therefore for the rest of us increasing the risk of passive vaping. A study at New York University (Jan 2018) suggested that vaping may raise the risk of cancer and heart disease. Researchers observed changes in DNA which were similar to those found in secondhand smoke. In another stuty  the toxic element chromium and four times more nickle was found when compared to traditional tobacco. A BBC investigation found that a VIP butterscotch flavour refill contained a chemical diacetyl which, although safe to eat is not safe for inhalation and has been linked to a serious lung condition called ‘Popcorn worker’s lung’.

It took a long time for us to realise the health risks of smoking tobacco. Doctors used to recommend smoking to aid the nerves. How long will it take for us to realise that e-cigarettes are not safe? The rise in popularity amongst young smokers is worrying as they are drawn towards its image as a ‘safer’ alternative to smoking, consequently making it a potentially major public health issue. It is hard to accept that regularly spraying your lungs with layers of vegetable fat and other chemicals was OK! There is talk of e-cigarettes undergoing stricter regulation, and for its sale to be made illegal to the under 18s, while the WHO advised on banning its use indoors. Personally, I feel both of these cannot come soon enough as we need to establish a few facts before it is too late and lives are lost.

 

 

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One would have thought that anatomist would have discovered everything there was to discover in the human body. Au Contraire!  Hidden in plain sight researchers discovered the “Interstitium”; a mesh network of fluid filled spaces that lies along the web of collagen and elastin tissues throughout the body. It is estimated to be 20% of the total body volume. In the past it was simply labelled as dense connective tissue. Dr Neil Theise (co-senior study author) describes it as an “open, fluid-filled highway”. This was an accidental finding during studies on the bile duct. These spaces were never identified because the fluid filled spaces are only visible in living tissue, in dead tissue the fluid is lost and the compartments collapse and flatten losing their structure. Researchers used probing techniques on living tissue to see them in their full form. The spaces appear to be pre-lymphatic and appear to drain into lymph nodes.

In the human body around 70% of the water is found in cells. This finding helps to answer questions about where the remaining extracelluar fluid resides. Various theories for the function of the Interstitium have been put forward including being a source of lymphatic fluid. Consequently, it has a role in the body’s immune system and could be involved is the process of spread of cancer cells.

Researchers have speculated that in Acupuncture the tip of the needle goes into these spaces and may explain how it works. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners (including acupuncturists) learn about how the healthy and balanced movement of qi is vital to maintaining health and that blockages or stagnation results in health problems. Results from this study support this understanding. Past articles have discussed the existence of interstitial fluid network along fascia lines. These fluid-filled matrix correspond very closely to the acupuncture meridian channels where Qi (vital energy) flows. We can therefore postulate that the flow of interstitial fluid is crucial and any impediment would compromise the interstitium’s ability to fully function.

The use of cupping in acupuncture, where the skin is sucked up has the effect of raising tissue and loosening these spaces therefore allowing the flow of interstitial fluid. The Interstitium spaces are supported and organised by collagen lattice and thus described as a dynamic compression and distension shock absorber to protect tissue during daily functions. Data on keloid scars shows that they appear on skin under high tension, and so the effects of forceful mechanical forces of these spaces and the fluid flow within can be considerable. Similarly massage and acupressure techniques include compression and lifting actions that would act on these spaces and therefore the interstitial flow. Further, the process of wet cupping where through a small incision blood is sucked into cups is understood to remove toxins or ‘stagnant blood’ can be directly linked to clearing these interstitium spaces and encourage the flow.

Future studies on the Interstitium could give much more detailed answers on how acupuncture works and finally confirm ancient TCM theories around 5,000 yrs old.

 

References:

Benias, P.C., Wells, R.G., Sackey-Aboagye, B., Klavan, H., Reidy, J., Buonocore, D., Miranda, M., Kornacki, S., Wayne, M., Carr-Locke, D.L., Theise, N.D. Structure and distribution of an unrecognized interstitium in human tissues. Sci Rep. 2018;8:4947. Link

 

Stress and Anxiety is a very common presentation, ranging from everyday life stress of crossing the road safely, or more serious worries like a life threatening illness, divorce or loss of a loved one. However for some even in the absence of notable stressful event there is still anxiety. There is no logical reason for the anxiety but every little event weighs them down physically and emotionally. Social events are an uphill struggle and going to work is equally challenging.

No matter the cause of the stress, instinctively the body reacts by initiating a “stress response” and your body is flooded with stress hormones. Your muscles tenses up, there is rapid breathing, and adrenaline increases your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. Cortisol increases blood sugar (glucose) levels and increases its availability to the brain.

Challenging situations are part of daily life, and so there is a need to have the necessary capacity and ability to manage stress. Therefore developing more positive, healthier ways to respond to stress becomes paramount.

Invoking a “relaxation response” is a good way to counter act stress. There are many different ways of doing this, and you will need to find the one technique (or a few) that work best for you. Initially, it will feel strange, but with regular practice you will gain confidence and create a source of relaxation and calm that is free to use and available day or night. Practicing relaxation has many benefits including;

  • Slows down breathing rate
  • Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improves digestion, maintains normal blood sugar levels
  • Reduces production of stress hormones
  • Reduces muscle tension and improves blood flow to the muscles
  • Enhances confidence and calm, reduces anger and frustration,
  • Improves sleep and energy levels

Here are five relaxation techniques that help initiate a relaxation response.

1.  Conscious breathing. Breathing is a simple but very powerful tool. Research has confirmed a link between breathing to relaxation. Specialised brain cells constantly monitor our breathing sending signals to other parts of the brain. It can differentiate between sighing, yawning, gasping, sleeping, laughing and crying.

The 4-7-8 Breath technique is the perfect antidote to stress that can bring on relaxation in a very short period of time. It does not require any equipment and can be done anywhere and in any position, but start practicing by sitting with your back straight. This technique may not be suitable for people with breathing problems.

During the exercise the tip of your tongue should lie and just touch the upper front teeth. Then, before starting exhale completely through your mouth.

  1. Inhale quietly through your nose (closed mouth) to a mental count of four.
  2. Pause and hold your breath for a count of seven.
  3. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.

Now repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. The time spent on each breath cycle is not important, but the ratios of 4:7:8 is key to good practice. With practice the breaths can be slowed down with deeper inhalation and exhalation breaths.

 

2. Body scan.  Together with the breathing technique you start to become aware of your physical body. Starting from the top of your head you start to ‘feel’ each part of our body, becoming more aware of it thus enhancing your mind-body connection. Gradually you work all the way down the body. Becoming aware of the body helps to release muscle tension and enable relaxation. This technique may not be suitable for people who have difficulties with their own body image.

3. Visualization.  In this relaxation technique, you close your eyes sitting or lying down in a quite spot and create mental images of calming or peaceful places or experiences to focus on and take a visual journey there. You can be in the forest or at the seaside, imagining the sounds, touch and smell e.g. feeling the warmth of the sun or smelling the fresh countryside air.

4. Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation can help with anxiety, depression and pain control. It focuses on being in the present moment reminding us of its importance, rather than dwelling on past or future concerns. You will need to find a quite space, sitting comfortably focus on your breathing whilst concentrating in the ‘here and now’.

5. Prayer. If you are religious or spiritual repeating a silent short prayer or phrase along with focused breathing will help relaxation and calm.

Other relaxation techniques include; tai chi, qigong, yoga, music and art therapy, walking, biofeedback and sports. There are a number of home remedies you can also try. For additional help complementary therapies like; massage, acupuncture, and reiki may be helpful.

Learning relaxation techniques takes practice, but is an extremely useful skill. Be patient, practice daily for 10-15 min. If you are really short on time than even 5 (full) minutes every day will make a difference. Try different ones. Start with the breathing technique and once you are comfortable with it then expand into the other techniques.

 

Smoking is a significant risk factor for many diseases including cancer, cardiovascular, chronic lung diseases and gastric ulcers. According to The WHO  smoking kills nearly 6 million people each year i.e. approximately one death every six seconds. 5 million of these results directly from smoking, while more than 600,000 are due to passive smoking. Due to the lag of many years, smoking is a slow gradual killer and people don’t realise its impact on their health until much later.  By then they have already developed an addiction.  A survey in China revealed that only 38% were aware it caused coronary heart disease.  Amongst smokers who are aware of its dangers, most want to quit however worldwide national smoking cessation services are only available in 21 countries. Smokers wanting to give up have tried, but most attempts are unsuccessful. E-cigarettes have become the new alternative to smoking but its safety is yet to be evidenced, and in my opinion there is a need to be cautious before giving it the green light. Getting help through cessation advice services using nicotine replacement therapy and counselling may be helpful but don’t always work for everyone. Complementary therapy studies have been done on acupuncture, hypnotherapy, yoga, mindfulness meditation herbal remedies and dietary supplements with some encouraging preliminary results.

Acupuncture is an ancient traditional Chinese therapy involving the insertion of fine needles at specific points in the body. It aims to affect symptoms of withdrawal, and studies show that it reduces the taste of tobacco and the intensity of the desire to smoke. A review of of 38 acupuncture and related randomised studies found inconsistent evidence of benefit, however there is enough to support the possibility of a positive effect that is greater than placebo. When used in combination with education it is found to have greater benefit. Studies on  smoking longer term effects show that it helps to keep smokers motivated to reduce or even quit smoking, with the effects lasting up to 5 yrs.

Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic tool used to affect patterns of behaviour. A Cochrane review found the evidence to be unclear, and not more successful than other therapist contact interventions. Any encouraging results were attributed to the individual’s strong motivation.

Yoga, breathing exercises and meditation-based therapies demonstrate some positive results to stop smoking in a small number of studies. Yoga compared to a psychologist led wellness group showed greater rates of abstinence in the longer term, but also improvements in anxiety levels and perceived health and well-being.

Dietary supplements and herbal remedies, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SaMe), silver acetate, lobeline (Lobelia inflate) and St. John’s Wort have not shown to be effective, and should only be tried with the advice and guidance of an appropriately qualified health professional.

There has been an ongoing interest in the use of complementary therapies to stop smoking. Regularly, I get smokers who express a need (for all the right health and economic reasons) to give up smoking and inquire about the effectiveness of complementary therapies.  My answer has always been the importance of a <b>strong inner desire (rather than just need) to give up, without which nothing works completely. Therapies like acupuncture can help to alleviate stress, aid relaxation, reduce withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke thus easing the journey to becoming smoke free somewhat soother, but in my experience the reason for smoking is the key influencing factor which needs to be addressed. Issues of life style choices, work, family, relationships and childhood can all form part of the picture. Finally, what determines which way it swings is a willingness to make real life changes, which is the ultimate ‘Crunch Factor’.

 

Finally, spring may have just sprung. The long, cold and damp winter has not been kind to our bodies with exacerbations of arthritic and rheumatic pains and nasty cold and flu viruses in the air. Dark and cloudy days and staying mostly indoors have deprived us of sunlight and vitamin D. Your body may need just a gentle nudge to get it back into the seasonal flow.

 

Here are 12 signs to look out for, and the reason for you to spend a little bit of effort getting your health back on-line.

  1. Weight gain, a few extra pounds gained over the winter overeating indulgence.
  2. Tired and sluggish, can’t think properly, ‘brain fog’ and poor concentration.
  3. Emotionally feeling stressed, low and lethargic.
  4. Tired eyes, dark circles around the eyes or puffiness around the face.
  5. Digestive discomfort or bloating and heartburn.
  6. Poor sleep. Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up tired and unrefreshed.
  7. Drinking alcohol in the evenings to unwind or relax.
  8. Stopped attending the usual exercise, sport, yoga, and dance or meditation class.
  9. Eating more processed food or ready meals, and less fresh fruit and vegetable.
  10. Appearance of spots, dry skin patches or exacerbation of allergies and eczema.
  11. Headaches
  12. Body aches and pains.

To get yourself back on track, here are some things you can do.

  • Shift that body: It is a known fact that physical activity promotes the release of ‘endorphins’ also know as feel good chemicals. It relaxes the muscle and joints and invigorates the mind, thus preventing low mood and depression. Movement also improves the body’s blood circulation but also lymphatic flow which is important for our immune system. When we move our muscles act as a natural pump, helping blood to return to the heart, whilst the lymph flow is increased by 15-30 times. Our bone density responds to high impact movements (like jumping), making them stronger. Exercise also helps with weight management.
  • Good sleep regimen allows the body to rest and recuperate. The body has a natural circadian rhythm which is linked to the release of hormones and regulation of body functions. Research has shown that when we are awake the brain is in a state of inflammation, and sleep helps to reduce that inflammation.
  • Hydration, the body is 70% water and the blood and lymph circulation is dependent on it. Avoid dehydrating drinks such as tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
  • Clean up the diet by minimising processed and high carb foods especially bread, cakes, biscuits and fatty and fried foods. Avoid sugary foods.  Freshly cooked foods are much preferred. Regularise your eating and increase fruit and vegetables and essential fats found in fish, seeds and nuts.
  • Mindfulness is an excellent practice to manage stress and emotional distress. It calms and relaxes the mind and body.
  • Friends and Family is important for our well-being. Enjoy some relaxing or playful time with them.
  • Supplements can help to make up for loss due to increased stress, but also normalise existing body levels. Stress increases cortisol levels, which makes you eat more thus contributing to weight gain. In particular it also uses up B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals magnesium and zinc. It also affects the digestive microbiome of good bacteria which is extremely important for our immune system, so increasing pre or probiotic intake through food or supplement can help.
  • Therapies like massage, acupuncture, yoga is extremely beneficial for well being. They give an extra boost to health. Their importance is even more so when the usual self-management or health changes may not be sufficient. They are an added dimension to the overall treatment to facilitate and focus on health improvement to get added benefits to getting better.

 

Fibromyalgia  is a chronic conditions that causes widespread pain in the body. It is accompanied by increased pain sensitivity, extreme tiredness, muscle stiffness, sleep difficulties, headaches, functional impairment e.g. memory and concentration (known as “fibro-fog”) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The cause of fibromyalgia is not well understood, but genetic, automimmune factors,  traumatic events and stress are contributory. Treatment is limited to improving function using pain medication, antidepressants and antiepileptic, supported by physical and talk therapy.

Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, acupuncture can provide respite from symptoms.  One study found that 1 in 5 people suffering with fibromyalgia use acupuncture within a period of 2 years after diagnosis. The WHO recommend acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia but conclude that more research is needed.

Pain intensity was noticeably reduced after 10 weeks using tailored acupuncture treatments at weekly intervals in a multicentre trial conducted in three primary care centres. Participants were randomly assigned to real acupuncture or placebo, whilst continuing their medical management.  A total of 153 participants completed the study. The acupuncture group reported a 41% reduction in pain, compared to 27% in the placebo group. The effects were still apparent at the end of 12 months, reporting 20% and 6% reduction respectively. Other measures of anxiety, fatigue and depression were also significantly reduced at 10 weeks.

A review of multiple small studies concluded that acupuncture was safe to use for fibromylgia. Electro acupuncture was more effective than manual acupuncture for pain and stiffness, well-being, sleep and fatigue. Effects lasted up to one month.

Acupuncture is well knows to be effective in reducing many types of chronic pain, including arthritic, rheumatic, headaches. It releases feel-good natural pain killers in our body called endorphins. These same chemicals are also released after orgasm, thus leave us with a relaxed warm afterglow.  Its ability to modify pain, reduce stress and enhance well being is ideal to tackle these fibromyalgia symptoms.  The insertion and twisting needle action also release adenosine, an anti-inflammatory chemical that lingers for up to an hour after the treatment.

It is unsurprising therefore that many people with fibromyalgia would be interested in trying acupuncture.  A  Personal story  from  one sufferer shows how acupuncture  can help change lives.  Despite the mixed results from studies, most suggest that it may have a beneficial role in treating fibromyalgia, which can be used without anxiety about its safety. It can be used on its own for symptom management, but often advocated in addition to other exercise or physical program.

 

Puffy eyes, Runny nose, Sneezing and headaches…..  ?

Slowly but surely we are moving into the allergy season. The combination of sun, fresh flowers and grass and warm air could be the end of a good spring or summer.

Good News! although the seasons are unavoidable, the need for antihistamines and a constant supply of tissues can be avoided with a few simple steps.

Hydration: Make sure you are well hydrated. On average drinking 2 –2.5 litres of fluids (includes drinks and soups) daily will ensure that your body functions can be optimised.

Supplements:  Start taking supplements now so that your body is fully protected when the allergy season starts. These are called ‘essential’ because the body is unable to synthesize them and they have to be obtained directly from food sources.  Supplements  are to be taken not necessarily as a treatment, but to support general health. They will top-up any existing nutrient deficiencies. To get the most benefit choose a formula that is right for your health needs. Here are some recommendations;

  • Vitamin C with bioflavonoids – strengthens the immune system
  • Acidophilus/probiotics-  support the gut, and helps the immune system
  • Multivitamin/mineral – supports vitamin and mineral deficiency or  added requirements
  • EPA/DHA fish oils –  provides omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are not normally produced in the body
  • Quercetin – anti-oxidant and anti- histamine action

Honey: Honey is one of the best natural allergy treatments. In particular if you can find honey that has been produced locally. Take a teaspoon full of honey daily for at least 6 wks before the allergy season starts.

Acupuncture & Acupressure: Effective both as a treatment and prevention for allergies and headaches, acupuncture regulates the body functions thus reducing the allergy response. The best part is that you can do it YOURSELF, but can prolong the effects of acupuncture treatments therefore requiring less frequent treatments. A great time to start is 4-6 weeks before the allergy season, but if you miss this preventative window you can still use it. It is not usual for people to experience immediate clearing of sinuses and heaviness of the head.

Face allergy

Specifically, there are 7 acupuncture points that can work wonders. All it takes is a little concentration and your fingers. Stimulating the points is not a substitute for real acupuncture but is excellent as a preventative measure and for treatment of sudden allergy attacks.

 

So, where to press?

Six points on the face. Three on each side, Bladder 2, Stomach 2 and Large Intestine 20.  All three points are pressed with firm circular pressure symmetrically on each side moving in the direction shown on the picture.

 

Spleen 5The seventh point is Spleen 5, located just below and distal to the medial malleolus (prominent bone on the inner ankle). In Chinese medicine allergies are linked to ‘dampness’ and this point acts on it. Dampness in the body is not healthy and acts like heavy sludge causing obstruction. You need only hold and press this point on one leg and massage it gently with tiny circular movements. The easiest position is to sit cross legged.

Seasonal allergy sufferers no longer need to stay indoors or suffer its effects. No more, thanks to acupuncture !

 

Note: This is a revised version of an previous post published 13/6/2016.

Christmas is one of the most testing periods of the year. It can be stressful but also challenging for our digestive system. We are excited but also anxious about organising the festivities and celebrations, whilst at the same time agonise about what presents to get for our friends and family. Being the end of the year we are also preparing to ‘wind down’ and regenerate for the New Year.

 

‘Tis the season for Flu and Colds’

Changes from autumn to winter means that the period prior to Christmas is full of flu and colds. This can carry on well into the spring. Frequent travel both local and distant exposes us to different cold viruses. Minimise your risks by maintaining a healthy immune system so you are more able to fight off any viruses. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and not smoking will help. More about flu supplements.

 

 ‘All I want for Christmas is Food’ 

Food and drink is a large part of Christmas. We must remember to stuff the turkey, but not ourselves. Food is always plenty at Christmas, turkey, nuts, chocolates, cheese, pudding, mince pies and cheese straws.  One Christmas dinner can add up to 3000 calories, between 500 -1200 calories more than the average adult requirement.  This does not include what we eat the rest of the day. Slowing down the speed of eating and savouring each bite will help to make the meal more satisfying. Remember that it takes our brain 20 min to register that the stomach is full.  A huge meal will give us indigestion and make us tired, thus contributing to weight gain. Be mindful about what you eat, and decide if it is something you really want before popping it into your mouth. Don’t eat it just because it is there.

 

‘Keep calm and say Ho, Ho, Ho……’                                                         

Don’t stress about making sure Christmas is Stress-Free. Most of us will be working through long lists of shopping, cooking and cleaning and visitors, so try to keep things manageable. Plan ahead and try to be organised. Shopping online can make things easier and if you are terrible at wrapping presents use gift bags.  It’s not a disaster if everything is not perfect and the mashed potatoes were a bit lumpy, or that the top of the Christmas tree you bought is not perfect – it’s what makes Christmas memorable. You could think ahead and consider organising some therapeutic treatments in the New year. Complementary therapies work really well for stress relief.

 

Peace, love and Joy’ 

Catching up with family and friends is a big part of the Christmas spirit. Instead of the usual salutatory wishes in a festive card, consider instead a photo card or a few sentences updating them about you and the family.   We have little choice in who we are related to, so there will always be a critical mother-in-law or a disapproving relative.  Prepare yourself for what is to come, but remember it is only for one day and you still have the rest of the year without them.

 

‘Silent night’

Make sure you rest and renew with plenty of restful sleep. Despite the time off work, late night celebrations from Christmas to the New Year will disturb our normal sleep pattern. Sleep hugely influences our physical and mental wellbeing. It is when our body heals and recovers from our waking activities. Try to return to your normal sleep pattern as soon as possible. Further about the benefits of sleep here.

 

‘Don’t get Ho, Ho, Hammered!’ 

During Christmas, alcohol is free flowing, mulled wine, bucks fizz, brandy, wine and even alcoholic punch. Don’t just indulge, decide what your limits are and then keep tabs on how much you are drinking. Mix non-alcoholic drinks in between and it will make it much more enjoyable. Excess alcohol can affect others. Be aware that although it can lift your mood initially, it is also a depressant and in some people can bring out unsociable and aggressive behaviour.  There is a considerable rise in the number of assaults and drink driving over Christmas and New Year. Added to this is increased incidence of alcohol poisoning.

 

Happy New Year! 

Let’s be honest, most of us spend the entire year not thinking about our health. Review the past year and consider if your health needs some attention. If you have had more frequent flu and colds, developed an allergy or skin condition, tend to get tired more quickly, fatigued most of the time, bones and joints ache, have a brain fog or spend time feeling frustrated and depressed, then it is time to make a plan to do something about it. It is more important than ever to get out the vitamins and minerals, consider having some therapies or book a doctor’s appointment.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !

Moringa olifera Lam is a vegetable from the Brassica order. It is a small tree native to the sub-Himalayan region commonly used as a vegetable amongst the local people. Uniquely every part of the plant is edible; leaves, roots, seed, bark, fruit, flowers and the immature pods. Labelled as a superfood lately the Moringa has surged in its popularity and use.  Traditionally used as an Indian medicinal herb is usually found in tropical and subtropical countries, now most commonly found in both India and the Philippines but its cultivation has spread to other countries in Asia, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

Widely known for good health it has it is referred to as ‘the miracle tree’. For centuries it has been used for its anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-hypertensive, anti-tumour, anti-oxidant, anti-pyretic, anti-ulcer, anti-epileptic, diuretic, cholesterol lowering, renal, anti-diabetic and liver protective actions. Due to these amazing abilities it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, such as skin infections, anaemia, anxiety, asthma, blackheads, blood impurities, bronchitis, catarrh, chest congestion, cholera and many other illnesses.

 

Densely packed with Nutrition

Moringa is claimed to be ‘the most nutrient-rich plant yet discovered’. The reason for this is because it is densely packed with nutrients. Most greens constitute 90% water and 10% nutrients, in comparison moringa leaves are 80% water and 20% nutrients. This includes many essential nutrients such as, vitamins (B6, C,B2, A) , minerals (iron, magnesium, zinc), proteins and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Leaves are most commonly used part of the plant for nutrition and traditional medicine use because they are rich in protein, mineral, beta-carotene and antioxidant compounds.

High in Antioxidants

Naturally the trees are able to withstand environmental stresses, diseases and attack from pests due to a defense mechanism gained from phytochemicals, which includes antioxidants and other defence compounds. This benefit is gained when consumed by people. The tree stores these phytochemical compounds in an inactive form. When chewed or crushed by an insect the compound is activated through enzymatic action and released, thus deterring the insect with a bitter or spicy taste.

In the human body these same compounds act a potent anti-inflammatory, useful for combating conditions like cancer, diabetes or arthritis which are associated with chronic inflammation. In addition to vitamin C and beta-carotene it also contains powerful antioxidants like, Quercetin and Chlorogenic acid. A state of constant inflammation contributes to improper functioning and processing by the body therefore reducing the body’s ability to recover and heal.

In one study participants with type 2 diabetes were given 8gms of moringa daily for two months found that their glucose levels decreased by 28%.

Health Benefits

  1.   Regulate blood sugar levels: Isocyanates present in the plant helps to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics.
  2.   Lowers cholesterol levels through its anti-inflammatory effects
  3.   Improves anaemia: 100gms moringa leaf contains 28gms of iron.
  4. Water purification: moringa seed powder can be used to clarify and purify water by lowering bacterial concentration, making it safe for drinking.
  5. Enhances lactation; traditionally used to increase milk production in mothers.

Moringa can be extremely useful to improve nutritional health. In particular if there are underlying conditions with chronic inflammation. There is proven evidence on its role in benefiting diabetes, lowering cholesterol and as a water purifier.

 

Bibliography

Health benefits of Moringa oleifera. Abdull Razis AF et al. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. (2014)

Cultivation, Genetic, Ethnopharmacology, Phytochemistry and Pharmacology of Moringa oleifera Leaves: An Overview.Leone A et al. Int J Mol Sci. (2015)