Currently viewing the tag: "wellbeing"

More than ever, your body is in strong need for a coping mechanism that can fight off the chemical/toxin onslaught. One way or other, those health hazarding toxins, environmental pollutants, pesticides, heavy metals, carcinogens, chemicals, and allergens find their ways into our body thorough direct touch, food consumption, inhalation, or by some other means.

In the midst of a hectic routine lifestyle, keeping your body toxin free and ideally nourished is a cumbersome task. That is why we want to talk about simple and easy to follow detox tips to effortlessly incorporate in routine lifestyle.

Are you frequently experiencing unexpected weight gain and/or prolonged periods of being under stress? Do you often find yourself feeling foggy and fatigued for no reason? If yes, then it is time to detoxify your body and gift it with full and flourishing health.

What is Total Natural Detox?

The approach towards achieving total body detox aims at flushing out toxins and other harmful elements in a natural way. By strengthening your immune system, achieving natural detox protects your body against many serious diseases. It allows you to perform your best by being at your best. It is centered around;

  • Promoting natural weight loss
  • Preventing a state of fatigue and improving energy level
  • Delivering a solid immune boost
  • Rejuvenating health & fitness levels

How to Achieve Total Detox

Sleep Detoxification

Research studies have supported our brain’s role in detoxification through its waste management system. When we are asleep, this system gets activated, which is referred in scientific term as the glymphatic system.

This system facilitates pumping of cerebral spinal fluid through brain’s tissues, which then pushes harmful waste back to our body’s circulatory system. From then, the liver takes on to promote toxin excretion as its routine functions.

When we deprive our body of adequate sleep, it hampers the functions of the glymphatic system and leads to toxin build up. A relaxing sleep at night ensures optimum functioning of the brain to support our body’s detoxification process.

Alcohol Curb

Our liver metabolises around 90% of total alcohol consumption. Liver enzymes convert alcohol to acetaldehyde through metabolism. Acetaldehyde is a known cancer causing chemical. Liver identifies acetaldehyde as a harmful toxin and assists in its excretion from body.

Excessive alcohol consumption causes liver inflammation along with fat build up. It affects liver’s toxin excretion capabilities, which then leads to toxin build up such as acetaldehyde. Limiting alcohol consumption is a smart and effective way to keep your body toxin free.  

Sweat Out Toxins

Did you know that our skin is capable of flushing out metallic toxins like lead, mercury and arsenic? Exercise is a great way to get rid of toxins through sweating. You do not necessarily need to join Gym classes. Start with a mild-moderate workout sessions including stretching, jogging, pushups, crunches, etc. and then move your way up. 

Hydration for Health  

A state of ideal hydration has been associated with total body detox. As mentioned earlier, the liver and the brain facilitate toxin excretion. However, it is water that serves as a transportation medium for these toxins and other types of waste. Ensure that you are drinking at least 2 litres or 8 (8-ounce each) glasses of water every day to maintain a state of optimum hydration.

Clean Eating

The concept of clean eating is not news to most of us. Clean eating has become a way of life to stay healthy and most importantly for natural detox. Get rid of harmful processed foods including commercial fried foods, fast foods, refined snacks, sugar based drinks, fruit juices and beverages. Excessive sugar, salt and oil leads to toxin build up. Incorporate clean eating by consuming more wholesome fruits, fresh vegetables, healthy greens and other healthy organic foods.

Let’s detoxify to live to your fullest. Keep your body disease free as well as toxin free to accomplish total body detox.

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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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Are you familiar with waking up felling sluggish, groggy and irritated after pulling an all-nighter, staying up till wee hours, or finishing a night shift?

Unfortunately, apart from feeling exhausted and lethargic, improper sleep does more harm to our health than we assume. We are not only paying fines for sleep deprivation in terms of lack of focus and bad mood; it has greater consequences for our long-term health.

The Vicious Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Despite rising awareness about the importance of proper sleep at night, health disorders associated with lack of adequate sleep are on continuous rise. It is estimated that approximately 1/3rd of human population suffers from health hazarding effects associated with poor sleep, working on computer and stress.

Alone in the US, approximately 50-70 million people are suffering from chronic health problems linked with sleep and wakefulness. Diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, and shortened life expectancy are the most common health disorders linked with poor sleep at night.

Research studies conducted on a group of volunteers state concluded that people getting inadequate sleep are at higher risk of falling victim to chronic diseases such as impaired control of blood glucose, increased inflammation, increase blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. According to these epidemiological research studies, long term sleep deprivation is also linked with the development of health problem in people who are initially healthy.

Why Sleep Matters?

Usually, while we are sleeping, our body goes through a healing process; it provides a much needed energy boost to our body in order to effectively carry out hundreds of routine functions.

In order to function properly and sustain healthy energy level throughout the a day, a person needs good sound sleeping of 8 hours at night. Sometimes, our day starts with sluggishness and fighting for energy; usually, it happens due to inadequate sleep that prevents our body from getting sufficient relaxation.

Mental Well-Being

Critical mood disorders including depression, mental distress, stress and anxiety are linked with chronic sleep deprivation. Adequate sleep keeps us focused at work by improving mental clarity and reducing stress level. As per a study, mental exhaustion, sadness and depression are correlated with people getting less than 4 ½ hours of sleep per night.

Diabetes Prevention

Research studies point out to a strong connection between development of diabetes and getting less than 5 hours of sleep. It increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by adversely affecting the way our body utilises glucose.

Immune Boost & Sex Drive

Adequate sleep improves our body’s immune strength and saves us from health problems associated with a weakened immune state. Lower libido is common among men and women not getting enough sleep at night. Sleep apnoea in men is associated with lower libido due to lower testosterone levels.

Healthy Heart

As per research studies, if a person is suffering from hypertension, even one night of sleep deprivation leads to increased blood pressure the following day. Poor sleeping pattern is well known to be associated with stroke, increases blood pressure, and the development of many cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease. Adequate sleep improves our cardiovascular health and helps in reducing high blood pressure.

Healthy Weight Loss

Sleep promotes natural weight loss. In truth, sleep deprivation means putting on more and more weight. If you are sleeping less than 7 hours, it increases your chances of gaining more weight.

Increased Life Expectancy

It is not surprising that sleep deprivation is associated with lower life expectancy. Epidemiological studies narrate that sleeping 5 hours or less at night increases mortality risk by 15 percent.

So what’s you are going to pick? Heart disease, obesity, diabetes, shortened life, or a soothing, relaxed sleep at night?

 

References:

NHS. Why lack of sleep is bad for your health. NHS, UK. 2018. [Online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/ [Accessed 5 March 2019]

Harvard Medical School. Sleep and disease risk. 2007. [Online] Available at: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk [Accessed 5 March 2019]

NIH. Sleep deprivation. NIH. 2016. [Online] Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sleep/conditioninfo/sleep-deprivation [Accessed 5 March 2019]

Neurocore. How sleep affects mental health. Neurocore. 2018. [Online] Available at: https://www.neurocorecenters.com/blog/how-sleep-affects-mental-health [Accessed 5 March 2019]

 

Unfortunately, Acupuncture cannot offer quick fixes. Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) discipline; its origins are in Taoism which is rooted in the natural world offering a view of health in relation to the natural environment.  Many Chinese philosophers were also contemplative, in depth scientists who devoted their life time to observing natural phenomenon. From this they developed a range of philosophical models to describe human body functions and its relationship to health. In this way they expressed their understanding of health using the language of natural forces and cycles.

TCM teaches us that health is a state of harmony between the many biological and energetic forces within our own body. There is no distinction between us as living beings, our mind and our body. When there is a problem or conflict in any then disease manifests itself as pain or other illness. Attainment of good health is a gentle process of balancing these forces. Healing takes place over a period of time.

In a modern technological world where complex tasks have been simplified to an effortless push of a button, people are often disappointed when told that regaining health is not a simple task, nor is it a short term endeavour. In many cases they have been battling with their health for many years whilst receiving medical treatment. Often patients want acupuncture to be a quick-fix without too much effort. It is amusing to think that they have such confidence in acupuncture. That a single or a few treatments will forever rid them of their health problems. Unfortunately, this is not the case although all acupuncturists would love to have such an ability to heal.

Acupuncture and TCM treatment is akin to gardening- building up healthy fertile soil, eliminating pests, growing complementary plants together, adequate water, sun and suitable temperature to grow the best possible crop. Gardening takes time. It takes regular and consistent care over many months before one can reap the harvest. With constant changes in the environment, wind, rain, sun and snow there is a need for steady ongoing care. Similarly, health is not a constant state of being; there is always an ebb and flow which needs to be cared for. The body needs good nutrition to build up resistance and resilience to overcome disease. The mind needs a suitable environment with the necessary stimulation to experience feelings of contentment and happiness. Spiritually, there needs to be a connection within oneself, others and the natural world. This is the catalyst for a person’s self-healing.

Self-healing is true healing, acknowledged by many ancient philosophies and texts. Through the natural rhythm of the universe, humans have an innate ability to self-heal. This ability is masked when the natural balance and self-awareness is lost e.g. when there is unhappiness, mental stresses or a disease state. Acupuncture and TCM treatments aim to return the balance by restoring the smooth flow of qi thus activating self-healing in the body. Unlike medical treatments that only addresses symptoms, acupuncture and TCM treatments also affects the mind, emotions and spiritual self. A strong inner self resides within us which is able to communicate the process of self-healing to the body. Reconnecting to the inner self is key to initiating this process. Acupuncture and TCM can help start this process of reconnection and harmonising.

How long will it take for your garden to grow ?

This January Many people are thinking about weight loss you are not alone.  Its when many  try to shed a few pounds with the aim to have health and happiness.  For some, this is a regular New Year event, the main reason being making a positive change in their life or a variety of reasons. Maintaining cosmetic appearances should not be the main reason  to pay attention to your weight. Sometimes a diagnosis of obesity, heart condition, diabetes or arthritis  may be the impetus  for change.

In the UK 77% of men and 63% of women are either overweight or obese.  In the last 20 years obesity has risen by 16%. Being overweight dramatically increases the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (particularly osteoarthritis),  cardiovascular disease,  diabetes  and some cancers.  There is much evidence to support a strong link that carrying excessive fat around the waistline  triggers long-term inflammatory processes throughout the body.  It also increases insulin resistance,  abnormalities in blood fats and build-up of fat in the liver.

Being overweight isn’t caused by single type of food or a lack of willpower.  Healthy choices are not always easy to make. Eating out,  ready meals and larger portion sizes also  make it more difficult. Our lifestyle has become more sedentary,  we are less likely to walk, run  or cycle.

Which type of diet is best ?

New diets are constantly being lunch throughout the year.  Each diet is promoted to be the diet to end all diets. Unfortunately,  most of these are short term solutions, can be very restrictive and not designed to achieve long-term success. Most diets either restrict calories or minimise carbohydrate (including sugars) and fat intake.

  • Calorie restriction can be highly effective and can improve metabolic imbalances caused by obesity e.g.  inflammation, insulin resistance, raised blood fats  and high blood pressure.  Most  research studies use  around 20%-30%  reduction in calorie intake from the baseline. However, in long-term weight loss there appears to be no difference between diets low in fat compared to diets low in carbohydrates (and sugars).
  • Fasting can make calorie restriction easier for some people. There are many versions of a fasting diet. They include;
    • Periodic fasting : limiting a diet to 500-750 calories a day for  2 to 5 days every month,  or every couple of months.
    •  Intermittent fasting:   commonly known as the “5: 2 diet”  recommends 500- 750  calories a day for 2 days every week. OR  “the 16:8”  fasting overnight (13-16 hours) every 24 hours.  the latter does not involve restricting calories but simply narrows the window in which calories are consumed.

We can’t all just get Thin !  There are many functional imbalances that prevent the best attempts at weight loss.  These include:

  • Imbalances in the gut absorption and digestion
  • Problems with blood sugar control
  • Thyroid gland problems e.g.  hypothyroidism
  • Disruption in adrenal function, causing imbalances in various hormones
  • Imbalances in sex hormones
  • Imbalance in the brain chemistry
  • Problems with appetite controlling chemicals
  • High toxic load

Ultimately,  the most effective diet is one that the individual find easiest to stick with  in the long term.  Usually,  this will be a low glycaemic load (low-GL) diet. Carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized and therefore there is a slower rise in blood sugar and insulin  resulting in lower and consistent sugar levels.

On their own dietary measures are rarely sufficient to manage weight loss. Diet with exercise is far more effective  both for short and long-term weight management.  Evidence suggests that regular aerobic type exercise or resistance training plus walking approximately 10,000 steps a day.  Exercise not only  burns calories,  but also releases endorphins which improves food cravings and insulin sensitivity. Adequate hydration is also crucial to achieving a healthy weight.  Lack of sleep leads to ghrelin hormone production stimulating hunger and suppresses leptin hormone which controls appetite.  In one study women who slept less than 7 hours and night had a 30% higher likelihood to add 33 lbs over a 16 year period.

Without doubt supplements are essential for healthy weight loss. These include; multi-vitamins, B-vitamins, minerals, fish oil, green tea, probiotics, L-Theanine and others.

 

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Seeking to maintain or restore good health?  Think harmony–not tune-up or repair.

Illness is dissonance.   The holistic practitioner does more than focus on wrong notes.  He/she undertakes a detailed examination of the body’s many systems to discover where and how they have stopped working properly together.

Patients are sometimes surprised by the questions a holistic practitioner asks and the nature of the examination.

Perhaps you’re troubled by constipation.  Why is the practitioner looking at your feet or your hand? Why are they checking pulses on both wrists, rather than just one? Why do they ask about your emotional temperament or what position you sleep in? What relevance is your blood type?

Traditional and complementary therapies centre on getting the body to work like an orchestra to make beautiful music. Like sections of the orchestra, each body system can perform separately–but all the time fully aware of the fundamental role every other part plays. Restoring good health requires our body’s orchestra of organs, tissue, muscles and bones to be at their best individually but also collectively.

Mind-Body-Spirit is the mantra of Holism, comparable to musical chords made up of top, middle and lower notes. Regardless of the sequence of notes they are equally important. What happens when we play an incorrect note?  Instead of music we get incoherent, disjointed ‘noise’ i.e. disharmony between mind-body-spirit.

A symptom like constipation is the consequence of such disharmony. Understandably, most people will think immediately of a problem in the digestive system. However, it may only be acting up as a result of a domino effect from another system or organ. Constipation can result from a poor diet; intolerance to certain foods; side effects from antacids containing calcium or aluminium.

More significantly it can also be due to low thyroid activity or neurological problems. So will taking a laxative solve the problem? The answer is no.

We need to address the root problem which offers a much better and longer-term solution.  Using this approach holistic practitioners assess beyond just the digestive system to look for clues that can tell them where the root problem lies.

Practitioners may look at your feet or hands for changes in the skin but also to examine acupuncture or acupressure points. Comparing both wrist pulses for their rhythm is an essential Chinese diagnostic tool. Changes in behavior, sleep patterns or sleeping in certain positions can allude to certain diagnostic patterns in homeopathy, Chinese and ayurvedic medicine.

Practitioners adopting Dr. Peter D’Adamo’s approach (author of Eat Right For Your Type) will use your blood type to determine how it chemically reacts to certain foods.

Health restoration is like tuning a musical instrument, and must encompass a look at not just the body itself, but also what you put into it, and the environment it lives in. Most of our problems have been acquired over decades of gradual exposure to various health hazards.

  • Start with the fundamentals of a healthy life style, diet and exercise.
  • Get the right amount of sleep. On average7– 91 hrs for adults, more for children.
  • Cut out or minimize intake of processed foods.
  • Keep hydrated (preferably with filtered water).
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Routinely supplement with good quality multivitamins and minerals and omega- 3, 6.
  • We increasingly live indoors which reduces our body’s ability to manufacture vitamin D. Thirty minutes daily (less for fair skinned people) of good midday sunshine on bare skin in e.g. shorts and tank top. In the UK it is almost impossible to get this amount particularly in the autumn and winter months thus creating a need for additional supplementation.
  • As much as possible eliminate toxic environmental stresses. Xenobiotic chemicals found in our food and water, pesticides, plastic packaging, metal jewellery, shower gels, cosmetics, prescription medication etc. act as anti-nutrients and increase our nutritional requirements e.g. nickel increases the need for zinc and fluoride increases the need for iodine.

If you currently have health concerns, and your GP has not found a resolution to them, you may need additional advice on supplementation or holistic treatments. Consider going to a holistic practitioner, or for more complex problems, a holistic physician.

 

 

 

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.