Currently viewing the tag: "nutrition"

Widely used in traditional medicine, Turmeric is a spice that gained popularity for both its flavorful properties and health benefits. With its spread across Asia, it has been used through ages, as a major ingredient in curries and across cultures as a vital food seasoning ingredient. It originates from the turmeric plant (Curcuma Longa) which is a flowering plant in the same family as Ginger. Its amazing collection of properties make it well utilized as a source of food-colouring, food seasoning and even food supplements. From teas to smoothies and even chocolate bars and hot meals, Turmeric has proven to be a relevant additive that provides a set of benefits.

tumeric, curcumin

It is a perennial and herbaceous plant with a warm-bitter taste, a yellow hue and have been utilized even in Ayurvedic practices for its purported benefits. This rich history and use profile of the plant makes it a vital herb of interest as more and more researchers continue to investigate the reason why Turmeric may be advantageous to human health. Even in its earliest stages of use, in Asia it as a viable treatment for skin conditions, pains and digestive issues. Research would later show that all of these were accurate as the active ingredient “Curcumin” possessed both anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties that helped with a wide range of health problems.

The function of Turmeric/Curcumin as an anti-inflammatory substance

Curcumin is the active ingredient in Turmeric that gives it both its flavour, taste and most of its healing properties. It represents about (5-6%) of the entire composite makeup of the spice. While Turmeric contains over a hundred different compounds, curcumin as the active compound is credited with most of the healing properties and is often the point of interests in many studies. It appears to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects useful in a variety of conditions.

Curcumin’s well-stacked nutritional profile makes it a favourable treatment for metabolic symptoms, soreness, inflammation, anxiety and even arthritis. It is a polyphenol that works by targeting multiple signalling molecules while also functioning at a cellular level. By delivering therapeutic anti-inflammatory effects, it helps in relieving a wide range of symptoms. It is important to note, however, that while curcumin is responsible for the beneficial properties of the plants, it loses effectiveness when ingested alone as a result of its limited bioavailability.

This limited bio-availability, in turn, creates an atmosphere for rapid elimination, poor absorption, and rapid metabolism, three factors that hinder actual cellular absorption. Thankfully, bio-availability enhancers like Piperine (found in black pepper) can significantly help by increasing absorption up to 2000% and thus in turn, the effectiveness.

How does Turmeric help fight off inflammation?

Inflammation itself is a highly beneficial process of the body’s self-regulation without which bacterial and viral attacks on the body, could cause severe damage. However, not all cases of inflammation are the result of bacteria or viruses e.g. arthritis, autoimmune disorders, cancer. Chronic infection, over a prolonged period, is a cause for slow, sustained cell damage and is more challenging to treat.

Curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties explain the two primary pathways that explain most of its effects, and reason for having a wide base of effectiveness. There is evidence that it increases body serum antioxidant activities such as super dismutase (SOD), with significant benefit to the oxidative stress factors in the body. Curcumin is also an excellent free radical scavenger, which further assists in reducing oxidative stress load within the body. Free radicals are unstable atoms that cause cell damage. Lower availability of free radicals is associated with lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

Chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s,  ME, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergy, colitis, arthritis, diabetes, depression, fatigue and others, all involve a process of inflammation. It is a well-known fact that sites of inflammation release free radicals, further worsening the disease. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effect is by blocking the NF-kB molecule (a molecule responsible for inflammation with direct involvement in chronic diseases). This potent anti-inflammatory property puts it right on par with pharmaceutical drugs). In fact, a study involving 45 people showed that Turmeric outperformed Diclofenac as an anti-inflammatory agent for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment of Health conditions

While there aren’t a lot of studies that show more details on the function and therapeutic effects of Turmeric. However, early research has shown great promise, and its actual use is evidence of just how effective it is as an anti-inflammatory. One study shows that low doses of curcumin in healthy people can provide some health benefits. It is associated with improved memory function,  reduced cholesterol and reducing healthy biological inflammation. In combination with other supplements, its effects are enhanced even further.

When compared to pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory, curcumin has a significant advantage of having minimal side effects. It is most effective when combined with agents that can help to increase its bio-availability, and research suggests its benefit for inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety and high cholesterol.

 

References:

  1. Chandran B, Goel A. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012;26(11):1719‐1725. doi:10.1002/ptr.4639.
  2. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017;6(10):92. Published 2017 Oct 22. doi:10.3390/foods6100092
  3. Kesarwani K, Gupta R, Mukerjee A. Bioavailability enhancers of herbal origin: an overview. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013;3(4):253‐266. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(13)60060-X

Thanks to environmental pollutants, allergens, increased pesticide usage, smoking, obesity, UV radiation, alcohol consumption, and nutrient poor diet, cancer has become the leading cause of deaths across the globe. The number of people diagnosed per year in the United Kingdom and the United States are about 0.3 and 1.5 million respectively.

CancerWe all know that “Prevention is better than cure”, but how many of us are actively managing our lifestyle or actively taking preventive measures to avoid being slammed by cancer? Just knowing and understanding has never been enough. Nutrient poor diet is not only associated with energy exhaustion, stress, fatigue, and irritation as it is linked with the development of many types of cancers.

If your routine diet is lacking essential nutrients (minerals, anti-oxidants, protein, vitamins, healthy fats, and fiber), nutritional supplements helps to replace missing nutrients in the body. These supplements are most effective either to reduce cancer risk by strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation, or to help ease side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. To date there is still insufficient data on their anti-cancer effects.

Why Nutritional Supplements to Fight Cancer?

Hundreds of world’s leading research institutes are trying to find the answer to cancer prevention/management. Taking the approach of “Prevention is better than Care”, one of their key priorities is to understand the effectiveness of nutritional supplements , and how best to use them.

Nutritional supplements can be put into two groups; anti-toxicity and anti-cancer agents, both widely used among cancer patients. There is a strong recommendation that cancer patients must have an open dialogue with their physicians about using these supplements as the usage needs to be individualized based of various factors such as genetics, tumour histology, and background diet1.

Omega -3 Fatty acids
In a 2015 review, omega-3 fatty acids supplements known for their anti-inflammatory properties may reduce the risk of the development of breast cancer.  The review also concluded that onions and garlic supplements may reduce the risk of the development of cancers associated with our digestive track2. This is particularly true as people who eat a lot of garlic have a lower risk for developing certain common cancers. In laboratory experiments conducted in a 2018 study revealed that garlic extracts can block the growth of some types of cancer cells3.

Curcumin
A 2016 review suggested that curcumin from Turmeric supplements can leads to the death of cancer cells and can slow tumour growth4. A recent review found that it is effective both in vitro and in vivo against cancers of prostate, breast, colo-rectal, pancreatic and head and neck. Its efficacy and safety has been demonstrated in several human clinical studies. The mechanism of action is thought to be via interfering different cellular pathways to either inhibit or induce production of cytokines, enzymes and growth factors. The limitation of curcumin is its poor water solubility, which reduces cellular absorption and oral bioavailability. Chemically it is also unstable. Research is ongoing to try and find an improved delivery system to enhance its effects within the body5.

Vitamin D

Research data published by the National Cancer Institute suggests a possible link between vitamin D and cancer development. Studies on mice cancer cells have found that can slow or prevent the development of cancer including; cell mutation and growth, while at the same time enables cell death and reducing tumour blood vessels from forming. Higher blood levels of vitamin D is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer6.

Green Tea

Green Tea contains polyphenols; a compound with powerful anti-cancer effects. Polyphenols inhibit the growth of new blood vessels in tumours, thus limiting its growth and spread. However for it to be effective one would have to drink 10-12 cups. A study on ovarian cancer found that those who drank green tea were likely to survive longer (after diagnosis) than women who did not. A higher level of consumption was associated with better survival rates7.

Antioxidants

Discussions on the use of antioxidants as an anti inflammatory and for cancer prevention and treatment are still unresolved. However there is sufficient data to suggest that antioxidant supplements including, green tea, vitamin A, C, E and multivitamins can improve quality of life for some patients7.

Some types of cancers can also damage our body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. In such instances, the use of probiotics can help to protect the gut and enhance absorption. Doctors may also prescribe multivitamin and mineral supplements to overcome the nutrient deficit.

Health comes first; and we are solely responsible for taking good care of our body. Adapting a healthier lifestyle is no longer an option as we are constantly battling with life-threatening diseases and health disorders including cancer. Wholesome diet along with nutritional supplements can play a vital role in keeping cancers at bay.

To avoid any risk to your health status, it is not advised to take any type of nutritional supplements as an alternative to cancer treatment without consulting your physician or health professional.

 

References:
  1. Harvie M. Nutritional supplements and cancer: potential benefits and proven harms. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2014:e478-86. doi: 10.14694/EdBook_AM.2014.34.e478
  2. Fabian, C.J., Kimler, B.F. & Hursting, S.D. Omega-3 fatty acids for breast cancer prevention and survivorship. Breast Cancer Res. 2015; 17( https://doi.org/10.1186/s13058-015-0571-6
  3. Petrovic V, Nepal A, Olaisen C, et al. Anti-Cancer Potential of Homemade Fresh Garlic Extract Is Related to Increased Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress. Nutrients. 2018;10(4):450. Published 2018 Apr 5. doi:10.3390/nu10040450
  4. Deng Y, Verron E, Rohanizadeh R. Molecular mechanisms of anti-metastatic activity of curcumin. Int J Cancer Res. 2016; 36(11): 5639-5647.
  5. Tomeh MA, Hadianamrei R, Zhao X. A Review of Curcumin and Its Derivatives as Anticancer Agents. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(5):1033. Published 2019 Feb 27. doi:10.3390/ijms20051033
  6. National Cancer Institute. Vitamin D and cancer prevention. (2013, Oct 21). https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/vitamin-d-fact-sheet.
  7. Parker H. Vitamin and supplements for cancer patients. (2010, Dec 17) https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/cancer-supplements#2
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Known as the “Silent Killer”, High blood pressure (BP) or hypertension is quite common and estimated to be responsible for 10.7 million deaths globally each year. In England amongst adults around 31% of men and 26% of women (2015) have been diagnosed with high BP, which equates to 12.5 million individuals.

 

hypertensionHypertension occurs when the pressure of blood flow in your arteries becomes higher than normal. Over a long period of time, it can result in serious damage to the blood vessels leading to the development of further complications, some of which can be life-threatening. Some of these include; heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and other health problems. In all of these cases high BP is a primary cause.

BP is measured as two numbers representing highest and lowest pressure measurements, recorded as millimeters or mercury (mmHg). The top is known as the systolic (on contraction) and the bottom is the diastolic (on relaxation). The ideal adult BP is between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80mmHg.

The good news is that it is quite easy to prevent having high blood pressure. If you are generally in good health then all you need to do is to incorporate some changes in diet and lifestyle. Supplements like potassium and magnesium are helpful for their role in homeostasis by playing a vital role in dilatation of blood vessels. Potassium lowers the high BP by acting on the walls of the blood vessel to relax them. Similarly, magnesium assist in producing prostaglandins (E1), one their function is to, control inflammation and blood flow. It relaxes blood vessels therefore reducing BP. However, magnesium supplement works more effectively when given in combination with potassium supplement1. Further high sodium levels in the body inhibits nitric oxide levels, thus increases the BP. Nitric oxide concentrations help to dilate regulate blood vessel.

Acupuncture lowers blood pressure

Another method for staying in good health or controlling your blood pressure is via Acupuncture. Acupuncture has been used traditionally for over 2000 years for a variety of conditions including BP. Studies have shown that it can aid BP by alleviating stress and stimulating the body’s process through which it can be lowered.

A US trial published in the journal Medical Acupuncture confirmed that acupuncture was helpful for patients with mild to moderate high BP. The study method used electroacupuncture over a period of 6 weeks in patients with hypertension.  In the treatment group blood levels of norepinephrine, a blood vessel constricting hormone dropped significantly (41%), along with a drop in the enzyme renin (67%) and aldosterone (22%). The researchers concluded that with regular use, electroacupuncture could reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in people by managing their BP2.

Although the exact mechanism is still not know the one of the effectss of acupuncture on BP is said to be on the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). BP is the body is regulated by RAS. Renin is one of the hormones that help to regulate BP by increasing it (when it is abnormally low). Studies show that acupuncture helps to suppress the production of renin that is produced by kidney.

Other effects of acupuncture are on the vascular system, where it is able to relax the walls of the blood vessels.  It also reduces oxidative stress and therefore any inflammation in the blood vessels. Another effect is via the influence of the neuroendocrine system, by releasing endorphins and activating opiod receptors3.

There is much evidence to support the acupuncture can be used as an adjunct to conventional therapy to manage BP in those with hypertension. With a high incidence worldwide, patients with hypertension endure not just complex health implications but also impact on their personal and social life. At times it can also become a heavy financial burden on their family. For this reason prevention and good BP management is essential.

 

Reference:

  1. Houston, MC, Harper, KJ. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium: their role in both the cause and treatment of hypertension. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2008;10(7 suppl 2):2–11
  2. Li Peng et al. Long-lasting reduction of blood pressue by electroacupuncture in patients with hypertension: Randomised controlled trial. Medical Acupuncture, 2015;27(4) : 253-66.
  3. Li J, Sun M, Ye J, Li Y, Jin R, Zheng H, Liang F. The mechanisam of acupuncture in treating essential hypertension: A narrative review. Int J Hypertens. 2019:8676490.
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Fighting a global pandemic

Following the Coronavirus outbreak in China, the whole world has been facing a pandemic challenge that has affected both the medical and financial health on a global scale. The novel Coronavirus has proven to be both deadly and extremely contagious, making it a potent combination that has crippled our daily activities on a massive scale. While it is true that a large majority of people who contact the COVID-19 disease suffer from only mild to moderate symptoms, however, a substantial number of people will experience severe symptoms.

At the time of writing this article, the World Health Organization had reported around 6.2 million confirmed cases spread out across 216 countries with nearly 380,000 recorded deaths. However, the true infection and death rate is still unknown. Justifiably, we have seen an equally strong response from governments who have dug deep to mobilize record amounts of resources to control the virus spread. Sadly, the most vulnerable and immunocompromised are most susceptible to COVID-19.  There is a global consensus that poor nutritional status and pre-existing health conditions increase the risk of a poorer outcome. These conditions include; diabetes, chronic lung and cardiovascular disease, obesity, dementia and various other diseases. The common cause is pre-existing systemic inflammation.

Researchers from all over the world have diverted all their focus to finding viable treatment solutions and vaccines in the shortest possible timeframe. Included in this are efforts to unravel possible treatments that may help in the fight against the infection by bolstering the body’s response to the virus. In the absence of definitive treatment or a vaccine, the importance of nutrition as a strategy to support the immune system and mitigate risks has never been more important. One of these treatments is the use of Nutraceutical supplements.

The effect of Nutraceuticals against COVID-19

Nutraceuticals are non-drug components found in food that can provide nutritive benefits. Having a wide range of benefits, they are often known as “medical foods” or “functional foods”. The most notable benefits of Nutraceuticals is their ability to help in the prevention of many harmful diseases, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, and so many more. It is this specific ability to help combat cardiovascular disease and viruses in general that have made them a topic of interest in the fight against COVID-19.

The coronavirus is a respiratory disease that is transmitted through droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. When inhaled by the receptor, it gains entry into the cell through the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), thereby infecting the lower respiratory tract. When this happens, the body’s immune system naturally begins to respond by recruiting antigens and manifesting through inflammation. This crucial stage is what decides the severity of a person’s condition. It can lead to either mild/moderate symptoms or severe symptoms like organ failure, septic shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and even viral pneumonia. The entire goal of treatment, in this case, is to help reduce the inflammatory response, thereby enabling the body to function while maintaining homeostasis.

Data for the effectiveness of  COVID-19 interventions are still emerging. With this in mind, the aim of nutraceuticals would be,

“To optimize modifiable lifestyle and nutritional factors, in order to enhance overall immune function.
Subsequently,
reducing the progression from mild infection to illness”.    

 

How can Nutraceuticals help fight COVID-19?

A powerful effect of these non-drug entities is their ability to mitigate infections and boost the type 1 interferon response to RNA viruses. Among its many other functions, Type 1 interferon acts to prevent the spread of the virus to uninfected neighbouring cells.  Some of the other nutraceuticals that can be considered;

  • N- Acetylcysteine (NAC), interestingly has historically proven to be effective in the fight against chronic respiratory diseases for its actions as a mucolytic (thinning the mucus). This particular feature helps with reducing the mucus congestion in the respiratory tract. Doses up to 600 mg/day has proven to be effective as a mucolytic. Even more important is its ability to act as an antioxidant at higher doses of 1200mg or more. This makes it a strong anti-oxidant preventing oxidative stress, thus reducing the formation of pro-inflammatory factors in the body.  In turn, this would reduce the risk of complications involving COVID-19.
  • Quercetin which has antiviral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Curcumin could reduce viral replication and is a good anti-inflammatory.
  • Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), commonly known as green tea has shown to prevent flu in healthcare workers.
  • Resveratrol has shown to have antiviral modulating activity.
  • Elderberry is likely to be most effective in the prevention of early viral infection of the respiratory system (based on animal research).
  • Immune boosting with antioxidants such as vitamin A, B, C, D, E, and Zinc.
  • Immune Support with Omega 3 Fish Oil.
  • Immune health with probiotics to support the gut environment.

One must note, however, that there is no conclusive evidence regarding the efficacy of  Nutraceutical supplement against COVID-19, and the use of treatment has been very strain-specific and therefore inconclusive for every case of the virus.

Benefit can also be had from ensuring a nutritious healthy diet with a plentiful of fibre, fruits and vegetables. Unsurprisingly, all of this is not dissimilar to advice for the Flu. It is important to note that while there may be no specific set treatment and guaranteed cure for the COVID-19, the dynamic action of Nutraceuticals in inflammation reduction makes them a highly valuable asset that allows the immune system to function more effectively.

References:

  1. World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019. (accessed: 3 June 2020).
  2. Lordan, Ronan & Norton, Catherine & Tsoupras, Alexandros. (2020). COVID-19: The Inflammation Link and the Role of Nutrition in Potential Mitigation. Nutrients. 12. 1466. 10.3390/nu12051466.
  3. Van Hecke O, Lee J. N-acetylcysteine: A rapid review of the evidence for effectiveness in treating COVID-19. CEBM. Apr 2020. https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/n-acetylcysteine-a-rapid-review-of-the-evidence-for-effectiveness-in-treating-covid-19/ (accessed: 2 June 2020)
  4. The Institute of Functional Medicine. COVID-19: Functional Medicine Resources. Apr 2020. https://www.ifm.org/news-insights/the-functional-medicine-approach-to-covid-19-virus-specific-nutraceutical-and-botanical-agents/ (accessed: 3 June 2020)
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Are you frequently experiencing physical exhaustion as well as emotional fatigue? Do you often find yourself fighting for energy? If the answer is affirmative, then it is time to start making some healthy changes to your diet and charge up your routine life.

Energy Absorbing Demons

Do you know that even some unnoticeable habits like poor nutrition can cause energy exhaustion? “Why I always feel tired?” is one of the most frequent complaints that health practitioners are receiving around the world. Well, the answer is not so complex to understand as it is the direct result of what we eat, do, and don’t do.

Lack of physical exercise, overdependence on caffeine, inadequate sleep, smoking, lack of proper body hydration, and excessive consumption of sugar and alcohol are some of the most prominent reasons for your physical as well as emotional exhaustion.

Energy Boosting Dietary Habits

1. The Science of Wholesome Nutrition

According to Harvard Health Publishing, incorporating a balanced diet is of paramount importance. Nutritionally, your diet should include balanced portions of healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, anti-oxidants, unrefined carbohydrates, and minerals. Choose unprocessed foods packed in vitamins and mineral e.g. healthy oils found in nuts, fresh green vegetables, whole foods, lean meat cuts, fatty fish with higher omerga 3 content such as, salmon, sardines, mackerel, and fresh fruits must be the key architect of your routine diet.

2. Consume Smaller Meals

Eating smart is also the key here. Heavy meals are a burden on our digestive system, but also negatively hamper brain activity triggering a state of fatigue. Our brain demands a steady supply of essential nutrients, and thus, it is helpful to divide your meals into 5-6 smaller portions a day. It not only keeps you charged up, but also improves your mood.

3. Low Glycemic Foods

Our body is slow to absorb sugar from low glycaemia foods, which helps in preventing energy lag and reduces energy highs and lows. Energy levels are more consistent and constant. Increasing consumption of foods with low glycemic index such as nuts, high-fibre non-starchy vegetables, whole grains like oats, lentils, whole wheat, and healthy oils such as olive oil.

4. Timing Is Crucial

People are known to skip their meals thinking that it will make no difference. As per nutrition researcher and professor of nutrition, Dan Benardot, PhD, RD, FACSM, “Never let your tank get on empty,”. Our body demands fuelling from time to time as it is biologically adapted to receive food at regular interval. It is imperative to have your breakfast, lunch and dinner around your routine time. Skipping meals or having them at irregular time lowers down blood sugar and depletes our energy level.

5. Energy Boosting Foods

To keep you charged up throughout the day, include following energy boosting foods as much as possible. Foods to include more in your diet are salmon, tuna and other fatty fish, bananas, sweet potatoes, apple, whole eggs, avocado, quinoa, yogurt, oatmeal, lentils, beans, strawberries, oranges, green tea, nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.) and seeds (flaxseeds, chia seeds, etc.) These foods have shown to facilitate energy production within body cells. 

6. Caution with Deprivation Diet

If you are following any health diet that encourages you to deprive yourself of food, then it is time to rethink. Staving yourself, no matter what health goals you are trying to achieve, reduces metabolism, which encourages our body to preserve as much energy as possible and shuts down energy release mechanism. It leads to the feeling of lethargy and physical exhaustion. A better option would be to reduce the volume of food you eat but be clever about what you eat. In this way you will still consume the much needed proteins and carbohydrates but also the essential vitamins and minerals.

7. Body Hydration = Energy

This seems like the most obvious tip, yet millions of people face energy drain due to improper body hydration. Even mild dehydration can deplete your energy level. When our body is ideally hydrated, it ensures that all essential physiological functions are carried out optimally. It maintains ideal energy level and promotes better mood. Ensure that you are drinking at least 2 litres or 8 (8-ounce each) glasses of water every day.

Apart from effective nutrition for the body, therapies like acupuncture and massage are also a potent solutions to regain your lost mental energy level and feel charged up. They can de-stress you, enhanced your blood circulation, promote better sleep, assist in rest and healing and facilitate positivity in your mood.

 

 

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Unfortunately, there are many endless factors that are not in our control. Stress needs no invitation to sneak up on us. Sometimes, it feels like no matter how hard we try to get rid of, stress finds its way to crawl back into our life.

We blame our jobs, relationships, financial aspects, and/or other personal reasons for being under stress; however, the truth is that it is us that ultimately have to pay the price, and not anyone else. Managing stress is in your hands only.

Failing to cope with everyday stress can mess with body physiology to cause health disorders including heart disease, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, headaches, weight gain, sleep problems, memory loss, and lack of concentration.

Stress Affects Body Functions  

While we try our best to lead a healthy lifestyle by taking care of our internal health, both acute and chronic stress can spoil that plan. Adverse effects of chronic stress are not only restricted to our mental health since it creates havoc in many essential body systems.

Brain Functions

Our brain is constantly engaged to everyday stressors; it processes, analyses and reacts to everyday situations. Studies on human health conclude that stress can cause structural changes in certain brain areas and affects the functionality of the human nervous system. This is evidenced by the phenomenon of “Steroid psychosis”, which is induced by anti-inflammatory drugs (considered to be synthetic hormones) when used on behvioural and cognitive disorders.

Chronic stress can lead to brain mass atrophy, and can even reduce its weight. It affects cognition, learning, and memory functions. In summary, researchers concluded that chronic stress is linked to reduced cognition, neurogenesis disorders, weakened verbal memory, and disruption of memory & judgement.

Long term brain changes due to stress leads to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Immune System

For decades, health researchers have shown interest in understanding the relationship between the immune system and stress. Impaired immune system is one of the most critical adverse effects of stress. A compromised immune state leads to higher risk of illness. Stress can modulate processes in the central nervous system to affect the functionality of immune system. In fact, the secretion of hormones, managing numerous immune functions, can also be affected by stress.

Studies investigated and concluded that stress mediators like glucocorticoid hormone can adversely affect immune functions as they are capable of passing through the blood-brain barrier, thus affecting processing and cognition abilities long-term. Severe stress can also lead to malignancy.

Cardiovascular System

Cardiovascular diseases and stress are positively correlated. Both acute and chronic stress leads to an increase in heart rate due to constriction of blood vessels, which in turn increases blood pressure. Stress can cause blood clotting disorders, increase in blood lipids, atherogenesis (fat deposition), leading to cardiac arrhythmias and subsequent myocardial infarction.

Gastrointestinal System

Stress is known to reduce appetite, and can adversely affect gastrointestinal (GI) track functions. Studies have shown that stress can lead to GI inflammation. Moreover, it affects the absorption process, ion channel functions (critical for movement of substances across cell membrane), and stomach acid secretion. Stress can cause critical GI diseases such as irritable bowel disease (IBS), Crohn’s disease and other ulcerative diseases.

Are you aware that a nutrient poor diet can also contribute to worsening your stress level? Hundreds of health studies have suggested a strong connection between stress and poor nutrition. Nutrition is a vital stress buster. Switching to a healthier diet is quite a common recommendation from physicians and health experts for better stress management.

Managing stress should be an important part of a healthy lifestyle.  Another efficient way to manage your stress is by introducing stress reducing techniques, or therapies.  

Acupuncture is blessed with body relaxing and calming effects, it enables physiological changes that release endorphins and other calming chemicals. This makes acupuncture a great enabler to relieve stress and anxiety.

Do not let stress disrupt your brain health & body chemistry? After all, we all deserve a stress-free, healthy lifestyle.

 

References:

  1. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057-1072. Published 2017 Jul 21. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480 
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. Mayo Clinic. 2016 [Online] Available from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037   [Accessed: 9 March 2019]
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Protect your brain from stress. Harvard Medical School. 2018 [Online] Available from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/protect-your-brain-from-stress [Accessed: 9 March 2019]
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Food intolerance is relatively a new concept, and can be difficult to understand. Even most doctors have a poor understanding of it, particularly when there is a mixture of signs and symptoms that do not belong in the same disease group or there is no pathological explanation.

Common complaints such as headaches, bloating and tiredness after eating may be due to food intolerance. Importantly, this is different from food allergy which occurs as an immune reaction that releases the chemical histamine into the tissues, causing itchy rashes, stomach upsets, cough, wheeze and more severe life threatening anaphylaxis symptoms. At times symptoms of  food intolerance can be similar to food allergy reactions, which can cause confusion. A food allergy will normally show up on allergy tests, however food intolerance may not. For this reason having food allergy tests do not always give the answers that we seek.  One way to look at this is as a spectrum, where food allergy is at the severe end whilst food intolerance is found in the middle with good health at the other end.

In food intolerance substances in food can increase the frequency or severity of existing symptoms or cause new symptoms. This can depend on the amount of the offending food that is eaten. Small amounts may not cause any problems, whilst larger amounts will give rise to troublesome symptoms. The reaction time to an intolerant food varies and since we eat and drink many times a day, sometimes we may get a confused picture of the problem.

Food intolerance adverse reactions may include;

  • General feeling unwell after eating e.g. bloating, heartburn and indigestion.
  • Malaise, tiredness and feeling sleepy.
  • Headaches, arthritis and eczema.
  • Flushing, nausea and bloating.
  • Diarrhoea and/or constipation.
  • Aversion for certain foods where the person not only dislikes the food, but also reacts at the sight or smell of the food. In some this is triggered by emotional association with the food.
  • Underlying anxiety can cause hyperventilation and considerable distress resulting in dizziness, tight chest, blurred vision, unusual body sensations or numbness.
  • Gut upset, weight loss and anaemia.

Food intolerance causes include;

  • Enzyme deficiency e.g. lactose intolerance.
  • Food poisoning: A history of gastroenteritis or food poisoning can leave longer term digestive problems.
  • Food additives: In sensitive people additives used for food preservation, consistency, colour and taste can trigger symptoms e.g. sulphites used to preserve dried fruits and canned goods, and some sweeteners can cause headaches.
  • Certain conditions e.g. irritable bowel syndrome increases the risk of food intolerance.
  • Celiac disease is triggered by eating gluten (found in wheat and other grains). There are some features of food allergy, but symptoms are limited to the digestive system.
  • Continual or recurring stress, or psychological factors.

Diagnosis of food intolerance is based mainly on a detailed history, response to treatment and a continual process of dietary review over a period of time. As explained earlier allergy tests are of little value. The history will help to identify the offending foods or other factors that aggravate symptoms. Often people are able to recognise some of the foods themselves, or by a process of trial and error i.e. by temporarily excluding a suspect food from the diet. Using a food diary to keep a record of what is eaten and any symptoms that may develop during that time is very helpful. Another way is to avoid all suspect foods from the diet until there are no symptoms, followed by a gradual reintroduction of one type of food at a time to see which cause symptoms. In both cases there is a risk of having an inadequate diet, therefore always seek advice from an experienced and knowledgeable medical or health practitioner.

In my experience the use of a combined integrated approach to treat food intolerance offers excellent results. It is important to remember that every treatment plan is individualised to the person, as each person is unique and different in the problems they experience. Additionally, they also vary in their response to treatments. In general following a detailed history every treatment will start with a dietary review, followed by reducing or avoiding the intake of problem foods. Learning to read ingredient lists of processed foods is key to ensuring that the appropriate foods are avoided. Often I find that there is a poor understanding of processed foods and what they may contain. In many cases because of deterioration in health there is food hypersensitivity, where people start to react to non-problem foods and present at my clinic with a very confused picture. Regular acupuncture treatments aimed at restoring healthy body function, by enhancing blood circulation, immune function and flow of Qi (energy), will help calm the body and reduce reactivity to foods. It also eases abdominal cramps, nausea, stress and anxiety. Where necessary multivitamins and supplements are advised to help reduce nutrient deficiencies, alleviate symptoms and in the long-term promote healing of the gut.

References:

  1. Food intolerance (2014). Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-other-adverse-reactions/food-intolerance
  2. Li JTC, (2016). What’s the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy? http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538

 

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.

 

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.