5 Things You Need to Know About Castor Oil Packing to Detox Your Liver

Castor Oil

1. The History of the Castor Oil Pack

The therapeutic usage of castor oil packing was first discovered by Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) and is now regarded by naturopaths around the world as a very effective tool for liver detox. 

2. The Method of Action that the Castor Oil Pack Uses to Liver Detox

The essential fatty acids, in particular the ricinoleic acid that castor oil contains, encourages movement of chemical energy within the body, resulting in a detoxifying effect. 

Castor oil also contains all the colours of the spectrum and colour & light are crucial to energy production and movement within the body. 

3. Reported Benefits of the Castor Oil Pack for liver detox include

It has been reported that castor oil packing has many benefits to health. The health benefits include:

  • More effective elimination of waste
  • Reduction of nausea
  • Pain relief
  • Improved digestion
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased relaxation
  • Immune enhancing benefits

4. Who Shouldn’t Use A Castor Oil Pack for Liver Detox

Castor oil packs shouldn’t be used in pregnancy as you do not want to create a cleanse when someone is pregnant. They can be used in a pre-conception programme with the aim of cleansing before conception takes place. 

You should also make sure that you are moving your bowels well when doing castor oil packs to ensure that whatever you are shifting is actually exiting the body.  For that very reason it is advised to do them together with enemas (read my blog on coffee enemas for liver detox here).

They can also be used on other parts of the body but you must ensure you pack your liver at the same time and, as mentioned above, that you are using enemas to see that waste out of the body.

5. How to Do A Castor Oil Pack for Liver Detox

  • Take your castor oil packing material (cotton – I use the large one from Nutrigold and cut it in half) and fold in two.
  • Drizzle the castor oil over the cloth – it needs to be wet (but not dripping) – you can aid this process by rubbing the cloth together on itself to spread the castor oil around more thoroughly.
  • Place the castor oil pack over the liver (located on the right side, underneath the right side of the rib cage. 
  • Either use a castor oil pack holder to prevent leakage or place a big old sheet or towel over it and pin in place. Wear some old clothes over the top as it is very greasy and will probably stain your clothes / bed sheets and is very difficult to get out of fabric.
  • Place a hot water bottle or heated wheat bag over the top of that area to warm the oil – this assists its uptake by the liver via the skin.
  • Because it can create a lot of elimination it is wise to start by packing for just 15 minutes 3 consecutive days in a week.
  • The next week you can increase this to 30 minutes if you are reacting ok, 45 minutes the week after, and so on in 15 minute intervals until you are up to 1 ½ hours for 3 consecutive days a week.
  • Because they are very calming they should ideally be used in the evenings, but this is not essential – whatever fits your lifestyle.
  • Ideally a castor oil pack would be followed by a water enema the next morning if possible to ensure that whatever is being released is being fully exited from the body. 
  • The pack can be stored in a plastic sealed bag or a container in the fridge and reused for 30-40 times (i.e. around 2-3 months) before the cloth needs to be discarded and a new pack made – if you keep it longer the oil may start to go rancid. 

If you are interested in reading around the benefits of castor oil packing take a look at William A McGarey’s book, “The Oil that Heals”.

5 Tips on How to Detox This Spring Equinox

5 Tips on How to Detox This Spring Equinox

This month sees the arrival of the spring equinox on the 20th March. The spring equinox is the most powerful time of the year to detox our bodies.

The spring equinox is the point in the year at which the Earth’s axis begins to tilt towards the sun. It is the point where we move from the dark into the light and from the winter into the spring. We see signs of renewed life all around us as a result of the increased warmth and light, don’t we?

5 Things You Need to Know About Coffee Enemas

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), at the time of the spring equinox the alignment of the planets causes our energy to switch from hibernation state to a more open energy that allows us to cleanse.

At the spring equinox we are also moving into the wood element, according to Chinese medicine, which is all about the liver. It’s a great time to cleanse our liver that works so hard for us every day. This liver is also the planner of the body – it governs purpose and vision.

So how can we make the most of this forthcoming opportunity to set us up for our plans for health and wellbeing for the year ahead? Well here are five tips to get you on your way for your detox this Spring Equinox!

Let your body detox through symptoms

Around the time of the forthcoming equinox it is possible that our bodies will try to cleanse more. This could take the form of rashes, excess mucus production masquerading as a cold, vomiting or diarrhoea for example. If we let our bodies cleanse without suppressing the symptoms, we can often feel better than before we started!

What’s the best way to do so? Number one is rest! How many of us actually do this when we are ill? It’s not acceptable in our fast-paced modern society to rest when you have “just a cold” for example. But our bodies need to conserve energy to cleanse themselves of anything unwanted, so let’s give them a fighting chance.

Fresh air, daylight and hydration are also important when we are trying to cleanse. If you are resting in bed, open the window so that you have a flow of fresh air coming into the room. And for your daylight prescription, 20 minutes a day of daylight straight into the retinas can be invaluable.

We hear the phrase, “feed a cold, starve a fever” don’t we? But the phrase is actually, “If you feed a cold, you’ll have to starve a fever.” Digestion takes energy and if we are not feeling like eating at that time, we should listen to our bodies – they are trying to conserve energy for healing. Give the body that energy by resting, hydrating and either fasting or keeping our diet as simple and as liquid as possible. This will allow the body the energy it needs to heal more rapidly and effectively.

Hydration is the foundation for detoxification

Water for detoxification

We cannot cleanse effectively if we are dehydrated. Hydration is essential for detoxification. It allows waste to exit our cells. It’s also essential for the flow of lymph which helps to filter unwanted substances from the blood. It aids the circulation of the blood which takes waste away from our cells and brings nutrients and oxygen to them. It allows us to form urine for excretion of unwanted substances and to eliminate toxins via our bowels. It allows us to take in nutrients from our food.

Pure water is essential to every single cleansing process in our bodies. But I rarely meet people who are taking in 2 litres of plain, still, pure water on a consistent daily basis. If this resonates with you, use this month to start building up your hydration levels in line with the advice in my blog on hydration.

Using your diet to detox

Use this month to work on moving away from ready-made processed foods and towards fresh and whole foods. Maybe thinking about switching to organic fruit and vegetables that are free from toxic pesticides. Also have a think about moving to organic meat. Do we want those nasty toxic substances that go into non-organically produced meats’ feed inside us, such as antibiotic residues which we know can destroy our gut flora? The same applies for eggs – maybe use this month to switch to organic eggs too. Have a think about the source of your fish – is it Wild Alaskan, from the least polluted waters, or is it full of mercury residue?

If you are vegan or vegetarian think about consuming more wholefoods, such as freshly prepared shortgrain brown rice or pulses. It can be easy to have an unhealthy vegan or vegetarian diet that is full of processed or microwaveable foods.

All of us will do well to stop using the microwave. Microwaves change the structure of whatever we put in them to the point where our bodies don’t recognise it as food or drink, rather as a toxin that we need to get rid of.

Have a think about whether you have any foods in your diet that are stressful to the body such as gluten and dairy, or toxic to our bodies such as damaged fats, sugar or salt.

The change of the seasons is also a time to think about eating local and seasonal produce. Our bodies need different foods in the autumn and winter than they do in the spring and summer.

Fasting for detoxification

Fasting is not suitable in pregnancy or breast feeding, for people with eating disorders, for diabetics or people with kidney failure unless under supervision, for people on medication unless your prescribing physician states that you can stop your medication for the duration of the fast, nor for those people who are very weak, very depleted in energy or significantly underweight.

If you are not in any of these categories, you could fast for 1-3 days without supervision over the spring equinox. If you are a beginner to fasting and haven’t got a clean diet already, you might want to think about a simple fast like a mono fast, where you eat only one food for a day.

A shortgrain brown rice fast is a nice one for beginners. If you can’t bear the thought of just eating plain shortgrain brown rice for a day you could add some good quality cold-pressed, dark glass bottled, organic extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon for flavour (which technically isn’t a mono fast, but whatever gets you through the day!). Use a pound of dried organic shortgrain brown rice, soak it in some filtered water for around 8 hours and then cook it well in plenty of filtered water for an optimal hydrating effect. Refrigerate and eat hot throughout the day.

You could also choose a single vegetable or fruit (although if you have candida or blood sugar issues you might want to stay away from a fruit fast because of the amount of fructose it will introduce). You want about 3 pounds in weight of the one fruit or vegetable, spread throughout the day. Grapefruit is a great choice as it helps the liver to detoxify effectively. Other ideas include lightly steamed (3-4 minutes) broccoli, carrots, apples, pears or grapes.

Make sure whatever you choose is organic. Also eat in a state of calm with no distractions and chew your food well to maximise digestion so that more of your energy can go towards cleansing instead of trying to digest.

Other options include juice fasting and water fasting for those of you who already have a clean diet and are ready to really cleanse! I recommend that water fasts are done for 24 hours unless under the supervision of a qualified nutritionist. For a juice fast I recommend 1 or 3 days without supervision. When you give the body the chance to cleanse, you can get all sorts of reactions as it lets go of those toxins.

If you are doing a 1 day fast you will need to do 2 days beforehand to walk into the fast and 2 days afterwards to walk out of the fast. This means eating less protein rich foods, cutting out animal produce and processed foods, eating more wholefoods (so no refined carbohydrates like white rice or white pasta) and increasing your intake of raw fruit and vegetables during that time. If you are doing a 3 day fast you will need a three day walk in and out.

Ideally you want the day before and after your fast to be a day where you are eating only raw fruits and vegetables if you are doing a juice or water fast. Breaking a fast with heavy meals can shock the body, leading to a stress response, and stop the cleanse that you have worked so hard to produce!

Natural detox techniques and aids

Do some detoxification techniques to aid elimination whilst on a fast. If you start to allow your cells to cleanse but you are not excreting your waste efficiently, you can do more harm than good and feel dreadful. Enemas and castor oil packs are two naturopathic techniques that offer a great way to ensure that the waste gets out of the body.

man stretching on seashore
Yoga pose | Photographer: Artem Bali | Source: Unsplash

Having a gentle stroll in nature or some yoga can help to move your lymph, enabling those toxins from your cells to move and be processed by your liver. A pinch of cayenne pepper in some freshly squeezed lemon or lime can help to move circulation to ensure that your blood is getting those toxins from lymph into liver for elimination.

The other thing is to rest! If we aren’t resting we are thwarting the bodies attempt to use its energy to get those toxins out. Give yourself time off if possible whilst you cleanse over the equinox, perhaps even go away somewhere peaceful.

And remember that just the sight and smell of food can stimulate digestion even if we aren’t eating, so it’s not a great time to socialise around food or be cooking for family so bulk cook beforehand if you have to cook for the rest of the family so that you aren’t having to cook during your fast.

With under three weeks to go until the biggest cleanse of the year, preparation is key to making the most out of this opportunity to give our bodies a really good spring cleanse!

The microbiome

More and more studies are emerging about “the microbiome”.  This is the community of microbes that live inside us.  We have microbiomes on our skin, in our gut, vagina, mouth and nose. Practically any cavity inside us can have microbes inhabiting there.

We have about 10x as many microbes living inside us, or on us, than we have human cells (and we have approximately 75 trillion cells)!  This indicates the idea that we should be scared of microbes or bacteria is a little outdated.

Probiotics

The growing interest in particularly the gut microbiome has led to multiple probiotics coming onto the market.  The supermarkets are filled with “gut friendly” bacteria-laden yoghurt.

Is taking care of that ecosystem inside us as simple as swallowing a probiotic every day or eating some yoghurt?

Well, unfortunately, the answer is no!

Probiotics and fermented foods cannot repopulate your bowel flora – as they only stay in the system temporarily.  It’s the prebiotics that feed the microbes and can ensure the survival & flourishing of the ones we want in our systems.   

What are probiotics?

According to WHO, probiotics are “live organisms which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”  However, the cultures we get in supermarket yoghurts cannot survive the pasteurisation process that those yoghurts go through.

In order for a yoghurt to be considered a probiotic food it must contain live cultures.  Whilst it is true that raw yoghurt can contain live cultures, again these effects are only temporary.

Therefore, using probiotics and fermented foods has to be done alongside eating prebiotic, bacteria-feeding foods or supplements to really be effective.

The most well researched prebiotic supplements are lactulose, fos and gos. However, research around acacia gum and partially hydrolysed guar gum is also emerging.

What are prebiotics? Prebiotic foods include what we call “FODMAPs” which are highly fermentable carbohydrates. These include whole foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, onions, garlic and brightly coloured organic veggies.

However, these foods and supplements are often poorly tolerated with people with SIBO and IBS. Therefore, working on the IBS is essential so that someone can then work on building their gut microbiome. 

Probiotic quality

We are beginning to see that throwing multiple strain probiotic supplements, is not necessarily an effective strategy.

It’s about getting the right person for the job because different probiotic strains have different therapeutic qualities.  For example, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG, has been shown to help cell growth in the intestines and enhance the protection of the gut wall.

Some probiotics act as anti-microbials against pathogenic (disease-causing) micro-organisms and positively affect our immunity. Furthermore, they produce beneficial compounds in the gut, have anti-inflammatory effects, speed up or slow down gut transit time, and even alter our brain chemistry and metabolism!

So, how do you know that you are getting the right probiotic for the job?

Do your research! We’ve all done it, myself included, purchased a supplement because we’ve read somewhere that “probiotics are good”.  But, this is not an effective approach.  

Probiotic dosing

Importantly, dosing is about getting the right amount of intake. Unless research shows lesser doses of a particular probiotic to be effective, the general rule of thumb is that a single strain should contain at least 10 billion CFU to be effective.

Consequently, each strain within multi-strain probiotics should contain at least 10 billion CFU.  Many people don’t think about particular strains or dosages of a probiotic, so it’s a good point to remember.   

Furthermore, we have many different species of bacteria living within us.  Stool testing can show which species we have and diversity is the key. We’ve all heard of lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, but research is showing that these aren’t the only two species that can have significant impacts upon someone’s health.

Akermansia muciniphila and faecalbacterium prausnitzii, the new kids on the block in terms of research, have been shown to be protective against leaky gut and inflammation and to be good indicators of increased microbial diversity in the gut.

In conclusion, certain prebiotics feed certain species of bacteria, so by knowing what exists within us we can target our food choices more specifically to increase certain populations.   

Fermented foods.

Fermented foods can also help feed the populations in the gut.  They cannot specifically colonise in the way that probiotics can, but they can certainly be used to increase the growth and diversity of beneficial bacteria in our microbiome.

Good choices include raw sauerkraut, raw kimchi, tempeh, miso and kefir.  Heat can destroy the bacteria, so add your choices to your food at the end of cooking instead of heating them up within the food, and ensure that your kimchi and sauerkraut are raw and unpasteurised! 

Finally, each microbiome, whether it be skin, gut, oral or vaginal, is drastically different so we can’t take a one size fits all approach.  Suffice to say that the vaginal microbiome is essential for urinary tract health and reducing fungal or bacterial infections.

The oral microbiome is a whole article in itself!  And our skin microbiome, which is there to provide us with protection, has taken a real bashing from the new age of antibacterial wipes and sprays that plague our supermarket shelves! 

Key takeaways

So, what are the key takeaways? Emerging research is showing how important certain microbes that live on and inside of us are for overall health.

But, eating supermarket yoghurt and taking probiotics with no actual goal in mind with no idea of what each particular strain does and whether it contains a therapeutic dose, is not going to make much of an impact on increasing your microbial diversity.

Stool testing, which can be ordered through a naturopathic nutritionist, will give you a much better idea of the health of your gut microbiome and your overall gut health.

Once armed with that information, your practitioner can help you choose the right probiotics and prebiotics for the job by looking at the research, mixed with some raw unpasteurised fermented foods and by adding onions, garlic and eating around 14 different coloured whole foods a day!     

References 

Aureli, P., A. Fiore, et al. (2010). “National survey outcomes on commercial probiotic food supplements in Italy.” Int. J Food   
Bao, Y., Y. Zhang, et al. (2010). “Screening of potential probiotic properties of Lactobacillus fermentum   
Cao, Y., Shen, J., & Ran, Z. H. (2014). Association between Faecalibacterium prausnitzii Reduction and Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review of the Literature. Gastroenterology research and practice, 2014, 872725.  
Carlson, J., Erickson, J., Lloyd, B., Slavin, J. (2018). ‘Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber.’ Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 2, Issue 3.    
Hawrelak, J. A. (2013). Probiotics. Textbook of Natural Medicine.  
Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G. R., Merenstein, D. J., Pot, B., … & Calder, P. C. (2014). Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 11(8), 506.   
Huebner, J., R. L. Wehling, et al. (2007). “Functional activity of commercial prebiotics.” International Dairy Journal.  
Kristensen, N. B., Bryrup, T., Allin, K. H., Nielsen, T., Hansen, T. H., & Pedersen, O. (2016). Alterations in fecal microbiota composition by probiotic supplementation in healthy adults: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Genome medicine, 8(1), 52.   
Miquel, S. et al. (2013). Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and human intestinal health. Current opinion in microbiology, 16(3), 255-261. 
Mohammedsaeed, W., McBain, A. J., Cruickshank, S. M., & O’Neill, C. A. (2014). Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG inhibits the toxic effects of Staphylococcus aureus on epidermal keratinocytes. Applied and environmental microbiology, 80(18), 5773-81.   
Naito, Y., Uchiyama, K., & Takagi, T. (2018). A next-generation beneficial microbe: Akkermansia muciniphila. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, 63(1), 33-35.   
Patel, S., & Goyal, A. (2012). The current trends and future perspectives of prebiotics research: a review. 3 Biotech, 2(2), 115–125.  
Rao, R. K., & Samak, G. (2013). Protection and Restitution of Gut Barrier by Probiotics: Nutritional and Clinical Implications. Current nutrition and food science, 9(2), 99-107. 
Reid, G. (2006). Probiotics to prevent the need for, and augment the use of, antibiotics. The Canadian journal of infectious diseases & medical microbiology. 17(5), 291-5.

Website Disclaimer

IMPORTANT – PLEASE READ

The content within this website is for general information and education purposes only. The information provided within this website is provided by HealthyBe and although we strive to keep the material up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is, therefore, strictly at your own risk.

Therefore the information within this website, it is not to be considered or acted upon as a substitute for professional health advice. Nothing in this website is in any way offered or should be considered as prescription, diagnosis or treatment for a medically diagnosed condition. Any form of self-treatment or other self-help health programme is undertaken at the individual’s own risk. Persons needing a medical diagnosis, treatment or care should seek the services of a suitably qualified healthcare professional.

In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website.

Through this website you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of HealthyBe. We have no control over the nature, content, suitability and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorsement of the views expressed within them. In addition, we are not responsible for broken or unavailable links to other websites.

​Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, HealthyBe takes no responsibility for, and will not be liable for, the website being temporarily unavailable due to technical issues beyond our control.

​Limitation of Liability:

HEALTHYBE WILL NOT BE LIABLE TO YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON OR ENTITY FOR ANY LOST PROFITS, PUNITIVE, SPECIAL, INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, INCIDENTAL OR OTHER SIMILAR DAMAGES, COSTS OR LOSSES ARISING OUT OF THIS AGREEMENT, EVEN IF HEALTHYBE HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES, COSTS OR LOSSES. SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT PERMIT THE EXCLUSION OR LIMITATION OF IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR LIABILITY.

 

The Complete Guide To Improving Your Heart Health

Some Shocking Statistics on Heart Health

Back in the 1920s heart attacks and strokes were very rare. Since then, Public Health England has found that 78% of people have a heart age higher than their actual age. With 34% showing a heart age more than 5 years above their real age, and 14% showing a heart age of 10 years higher than their real age!

According to the British Heart Foundation, 7 million people live with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK, causing 1 death every 3 minutes! So we have to start asking what has happened over the last century to see this huge increase in incidences of heart problems.

Could the increasing prevalence of processed and microwaved food, with a lack of the nutrients we need, have anything to do with it? Firstly, let’s take a look at what is going on in the body, in the heart and blood pressure problems.

Causes of heart problems

We want our blood to be 90% water, flowing easily through our body. If our blood is anything less than 90% water, it becomes sludgy, like a swamp, and cannot flow as easily. This impairs our ability to get nutrients and oxygen around the body and eliminate waste from our cells.

A lack of adequate intake of water is a major factor in both high blood pressure and low blood pressure. This can be detrimental if someone is experiencing symptoms of dizziness or faintness with it. As without enough pressure to pump the blood around the body efficiently, oxygen and nutrients cannot get to where they need to be. Additionally, metabolic and other waste cannot be removed from the cells as efficiently.

Cholesterol – bad guy or good guy?

If you’ve read my blog on hydration, you’ll know that we lose 4 pints of water every day. If we are not replacing this water with clean, hydrating fluids, studies suggest that our body will recognise there is a drought going on.

The body then cleverly resorts to ‘drought management’ by making more cholesterol to coat our cells to stop them losing more water. This can lead to an electrolyte imbalance in the cells, as potassium and magnesium cannot get into the cells as easily and sodium and calcium cannot get out as easily. Our cells become sodiumised and calcified, which results in our blood vessels becoming more rigid. Furthermore, the lack of magnesium affects the pumping mechanism of the heart.

Cholesterol is also cleverly produced by the body and used, along with calcium, to form plaque. This patches up any damage to the lining of the arterial walls, also known as free radical damage or oxidative stress. This is very clever, as it means that blood can still flow through those arteries.

However, if the root causes of why cholesterol is being produced in such quantities is not addressed (i.e. the water shortage in the body and the free radical damage caused by our daily lives), then the build up of cholesterol can narrow the arteries.

The level of cholesterol in the body is measured by LDL, HDL and VLDL. These are simply carriers of cholesterol, which all have important roles in the body. LDL and VLDL carry the cholesterol from the liver to wherever it’s needed in the body. HDL collects up all the excess and takes it back to the liver where it’s broken down.

Common medications for heart health and their health implications

Statins are used to lower cholesterol, but in simply prescribing this, we haven’t addressed the route cause. It is a bit like blaming the firemen for the fire because they’ve come to put the fire out and been found at the scene.

We need cholesterol for a number of processes in the body, such as making our steroid hormones and making our cell membranes. So, you can begin to see why reducing production of cholesterol, without addressing the route cause, can have implications on hormonal and cell health.

In addition, research has indicated that statin medications could have a major impact on energy production in the body, as they deplete Co-enzyme Q10, which is essential for this process. Red rice yeast is a natural supplement that has been shown to lower cholesterol (Heber et al., 1999).

The same is also true of blood pressure medications. They lower the amount of blood volume by increasing urination, causing further water loss. It fixes the problem of the blood pressure, but doesn’t address the root causes, one of which is a shortage of adequate hydration in the body.

So, whilst I am not for a second suggesting that anyone stop taking their medications. I am suggesting you do your research around side effects and make informed choices with your prescribing physician. And, most importantly, address or, even better, prevent the root causes with hydration and good nutrition.

Good nutrition for heart health

Magnesium

Magnesium’s role in heart health

Magnesium is involved in hundreds of enzymatic processes throughout the body. It is an essential mineral for the heart to be able to relax as well as contract. It is also implicated in migraines, cramps, bladder issues, acid reflux, basically in any function of the body that involves contraction and relaxation. Magnesium is essential for making our tissue hormones, called “prostaglandins”, which are involved in the repair of arteries.

Another role of magnesium in heart health is to break down homocysteine which is a by-product of protein break down. Homocysteine levels in blood plasma have been found to be a far better indicator of heart health than cholesterol is. Blood plasma levels above 9 are considered a high risk of cardiovascular disease and ideally we want to see levels between 5 and 7. Some GPs will request this in a blood draw if you ask them, but if your GP won’t, the test can be obtained from York Test and done privately.

Sources of magnesium

It is hard to get an adequate intake of magnesium through our food without supplementation. This is because our soils are very much depleted in magnesium, due to modern agricultural methods.

Food sources of magnesium include apricots, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, sea vegetables / seaweeds (from a clean unpolluted source such as Atlantic seaweeds), legumes and avocados. Magnesium citrate is a bioavailable form of magnesium, meaning it is better absorbed. However, it can have a slight laxative effect if taken in high doses.

Magnesium glycinate is another bioavailable source. A great source of magnesium is transdermal magnesium, i.e liquid magnesium that can be absorbed through the skin. Magnesium malate tends to be used in those with energy issues and magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed, hence its use in a lot of natural laxative supplements.

It is best to seek advice when deciding on the right magnesium supplement for you and the right dosage. This is due to the fact that magnesium can be very cleansing to the cells. Additionally, if your detoxification pathways in the body aren’t working as efficiently as they should e.g. you’re not having a bowel movement twice a day or your stools are pale and floating. Then whatever waste is being eliminated from the cells will not be able to exit the body effectively.

Detoxification in the body requires the bowels, the small intestine, the liver, the kidneys, bile flow, sufficient blood flow, lymph drainage and the release of waste from the cells all to be working beautifully. Unfortunately this is often not the case, as so many people nowadays don’t even have healthy bowel movements.

This is where naturopathic techniques come into their own, but they should always be used as part of a holistic treatment programme to prevent them from causing problems. Contact me to find out more or come on my Health on A Plate course to learn about practical application and much more!

Best time to take magnesium

There seems to be some debate over the best time to take magnesium supplements. Taking magnesium before bed can be very relaxing and aid a restful night’s sleep. However, it is best absorbed in an acidic environment so taking after a meal can also be a good choice.

Phytates and oxalic acid found in certain foods (nuts, seeds, legumes, etc) can interfere with its absorption. So ensuring you don’t eat excessive amounts of oxalate foods and you soak & rinse phytate containing foods before consumption can alleviate this. High fat diets and a lack of vitamin D can also reduce the absorption of magnesium.

Zinc

Zinc’s role in heart health

Just like magnesium, zinc is also involved in making prostaglandins, which can repair damage to the lining of the arterial wall. In addition, zinc is also involved in metabolising homocysteine.

Sources of zinc

Zinc comes predominantly from animal sources. Vegans can easily get zinc from soaked and rinsed nuts and seeds (especially sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds & pine nuts), sea vegetables and soaked and rinsed legumes.

Zinc citrate is a good form of supplemental zinc, but should be taken under advice, as zinc and copper work in balance with one another. A good nutritional therapist should be able to assess whether you need a zinc supplement alone, or one balanced with copper.

Methyl-movers

Other movers and shakers in the break down of homocysteine, aka “methyl movers” are B2, B6, B12, B9, TMG. Food sources of these B vitamins include dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, eggs, meat, organic tempeh and tofu, mushrooms, avocados, fish and wholegrains. Food sources of TMG include broccoli, quinoa, beets, spinach and sweet potato. In addition, there are many supplemental forms of methyl movers, usually found in methylation complexes.

Vitamin C

The role of vitamin C in heart health

Vitamin C is incredibly important in repairing the arteries and we want to be looking at levels of around 500mg a day. It is water soluble, so what your body doesn’t need it urinates out.

Vitamin C, whilst an antioxidant in its own right, is also important in the production of glutathione. Glutathione is our master-antioxidant, which can assist in clearing up free radicals within the body that may damage the lining of the arterial wall.

Sources of Vitamin C

Whilst we can get vitamin C from our fruit and vegetables, they are often picked unripe. This means they don’t contain adequate levels of vitamin C anymore. However, we can still work on increasing our levels by eating dietary sources such as avocado, watermelon, strawberries, potatoes with their skins, asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, grapefruit and oranges.

Supplemental vitamin C is most readily absorbed in its liposomal form. Those that struggle to digest fat then Ester C could also be a good choice. Buffered vitamin C is the most gentle on the stomach for those of you with any gastrointestinal issues.

Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids

Omega 3’s role in heart health

Another essential nutrient in heart health is omega 3 essential fatty acids. These “good” oils stop the platelets in our blood sticking together. But our Western diets are filled with damaged fats, that prevent those “good” oils from doing their job. They do this by attaching to the cell receptors and blocking the uptake of the fats we actually need for good cell health.

Sources of “bad” fats

Bad fats include trans-fats, margarines, heated oils (with the exception of coconut oil, ghee and organic butter) oils that come in plastic or transparent bottles that let light in and oils that are not cold-pressed, organic and extra virgin. Common sources of foods cooked in bad fats include crisps, chips, deep-fried produce and take-away meals. So it’s important we consider fats in our food choices too.

Food sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

Ground chia seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids and can be added to smoothies or sprinkled on salads. Remember that heating fats that are unstable such as omega 3 fats will turn them rancid and produce free radicals. Other great food sources of omega 3 fatty acids include wild Alaskan salmon (or other wild unfarmed oily fish), walnuts and pumpkin seeds.

Chlorella and spirulina are also good food sources, but very cleansing. They should be used in small amounts with caution, until someone is having 2 great bowel movements a day. A great bowel movement is a sausage that sinks, doesn’t leave marks on the toilet bowl and is easy to pass. Have a look at the Bristol Stool Chart for more information.

Supplementing with omega 3s

A couple of teaspoons of lecithin a day can be a great way to prepare the body for supplementation with omega 3. Many people find it difficult to break down fats, as their livers are working so hard trying to deal with the toxins we take in through our everyday lives. Signs of this include nausea or fatigue after eating fat and floating or pale coloured stools.

Supplemental sources include Krill oil, which is much more readily absorbed as it has been broken down by the fish already. An source which is suitable for vegans is cold-pressed organic flaxseed oil. However, converting vegan food sources of Omega 3s, to be able to provide our body with the fats it needs to maintain healthy cells, is less efficient than from oily fish. It can be further affected by genetics, stress levels and food choices. As such, a good solution for vegans is to supplement with microalgae as well as taking flax oil.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 helps to regulate blood pressure, whilst vitamin K2 helps prevent calcification of arteries. It does this by enabling calcium to be deposited in bone and not the arteries.

It is difficult to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D from food, sources include oily fish, meat and eggs. Vitamin D is also synthesised by the body using – guess what? – cholesterol! Cholesterol is used to make a steroid hormone which is secreted into the skin’s surface and, when the sun’s ultraviolet rays touch bare skin, conversion to vitamin D3 begins to take place. But of course living in the UK we aren’t always blessed with copious amounts of sun. Optimal vitamin D levels need to be around 125nmol, which can easily be established through a blood draw at the GPs. Ask to see your actual test results with the figures.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is produced by certain microbes in our large intestine. Which in itself can be problematic, as many of us are deficient in certain types of bowel flora. Read the blog about bowel flora to find out more about why eating yoghurt or taking probiotics don’t cut it in restoring healthy populations of bowel flora in the large intestines.

Vitamin K2 producing microbes include Bacteroides fragilis, Eubacterium, Propionibacterium and Arachnia Escheria coli. If you have ever done a stool test that looks at your bacterial populations, you should be able to see whether you have healthy amounts of these bowel flora. To find out more about stool testing, have a look at my lab testing page or contact me. Because it’s synthesised by bacteria, it can also be found in fermented foods such as Natto and Sauerkraut.

Certain supplement companies sell Vitamin D3 with K2, so this can be a good choice for those of you with sub-optimal levels of vitamin D and poor populations of vitamin K2 producing bowel flora.

Co-enzyme Q10

CoQ10 helps maintain the elasticity of blood vessels and acts as an antioxidant. This helps protect against free radical damage to the arteries by inhibiting lipid peroxidation in LDL and cell membranes and it is essential for ATP energy production.

Our energy “currency” if you like, ATP, plays a vital role in the function of our bodies. Our heart also requires a high rate of ATP to work efficiently. However, research suggests it is significantly depleted by the use of Statins. Whilst red meat, organ meat, fish and most fruit and vegetables contain it in small amounts, it is made mostly in the body from a number of vitamins and trace minerals.

It can be taken in liposomal supplement form but, as with anything, it can have contraindications especially if you are on certain medications. As always it’s best to seek advice from a nutritional therapist as opposed to reading blogs and self-medicating.

Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients are compounds found in plant-based foods that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is important in preventing platelet aggregation and studies have shown it can also lower blood pressure and prevent LDL oxidation. It can be found in food sources such as red grapes, raw cacao powder, strawberries, blueberries, jackfruit skin, bilberries, redcurrants, cranberries and mulberries. It is also available in supplement form.

Lycopene

Lycopene helps prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol and can be found in sources such as tomatoes, preferably cooked to increase their bioavailability. If someone is avoiding nightshades because of conditions such as arthritis, then other rich sources include pink grapefruit and watermelon.

Carotenoids

Carotenoids is a phytonutrient that has high antioxidant potential which, as we’ve seen, can help repair free radical damage to arteries. They also help prevent the formation of plaque in the arteries and are especially good at quenching lipid peroxyl radicals. This helps to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, a high risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The phytonutrient works synergistically with vitamins A and E, so ensure you have an adequate intake of all of these. Food sources include carrots, kale, apricots, mangos and sweet potatoes. Lightly steaming them will increase the bioavailability (absorption).

Flavonoids and Bioflavonoids

Bioflavonoids have also been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease in studies. However, it’s unclear whether that is due to the bioflavonoid activity or the fact that the foods consumed also contained carotenoids. So eating food sources rich in both would be well advised. These include broccoli, kale and celery.

Quercetin has been shown in studies to help prevent lipid peroxidation, particularly of LDL, and is also a very powerful antioxidant. Quercetin is abundant in onions, leafy vegetables, peppers, broccoli and apples. It can also be taken in supplemental form for those of you who have IBS and struggle with high FODMAP foods such as onions and garlic.

Polyphenols found in green tea also have a potent antioxidant effect. Matcha is a particularly potent form and comes in powder form or you can buy matcha teabags from reputable companies who know about herbs such as Pukka teas.

Isoflavones

Isoflavones, a subclass of bioflavonoids, have also been shown to reduce LDL oxidation and are also effective carcinogen blockers. This would be useful for smokers, who are at a high risk of cardiovascular disease. They are also thought to reduce serum cholesterol.

The best source would be organic fermented soya foods, such as miso and tempeh. There may be contraindications for women who are pregnant, however, due to their estrogenic effects. Alfalfa sprouts are another good source, also providing a rich source of Vitamin C. There is some evidence that red clover isoflavones may make arteries more flexible, but this tends to be sold as a supplement rather than a food.

Glutathione

Glutathione is a major antioxidant in the body. So whilst not specifically implicated for cardiovascular disease, again would be useful for clearing up free radical damage. A good source is avocados, which would also be useful for their essential fatty acid content for someone at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

As I mentioned earlier, which glutathione can be taken as a supplement, it is best to have an adequate intake of the methyl movers that enable it to be made from metabolising the protein we eat.

Thiols

Garlic is a thiol, an organic sulphur compound. The alliin and allicin contained within it are thought to lower cholesterols, lipids and blood pressure, vascular resistance and blood coagulation, which would decrease the risk of blood clots. It is also thought to support heart function. Garlic is best added therapeutically to food later in cooking, ensuring that a lid is kept on, as the allicin produced on chopping or crushing garlic evaporates in cooking. Allicin is produced by cooking garlic whole in this way or pickling it. It is therefore best to vary cooking methods in order to get the most therapeutic value from garlic.

The role of lifestyle factors in heart health

Exercise

Exercise is critical in order to increase circulation and exercise that heart muscle. This does not have to be strenuous, it has to be appropriate to whatever you can do and your physician can advise.

Rebounders are a great and gentle way to exercise. Just doing 5 mins rebounding 3 times a day will have a beneficial effect. Whatever you choose, whether it be a 20 minute walk in a park, yoga or cycling, choose things you love so that you can sustain it every single day.

Fresh air and daylight

20 minutes a day in full spectrum daylight, in fresh air without any glasses or contact lenses if possible, will be hugely beneficial both for oxygen production and for sleep, during which the body does its most repair work.

Emotional health and stress reduction

We can’t talk about heart health without talking about emotional health. The heart is all about love and connection with both ourselves and others, so whatever we can do to work on this can only help.

Practices such as gratitude journaling, mindfulness, chanting, meditation, apps such as Headspace switch you from a state of stress into a restful healing state in which the body can repair.

Whilst this may all sound very ethereal, there is actual science behind this. Oxytocin, that feel good chemical we produce when we get a hug or do something nice for ourselves or others, aids the production of nitric oxide, which is crucial for arterial flexibility. So working on increasing joy for both yourself and others will feed your heart!

To conclude, research indicates that the most important factors in improving your heart health are hydration, nutrition and avoiding as much toxic exposure as possible. Other important factors are getting enough exercise, daylight and improving your emotional health. I hope this blog has been useful! If you have any questions I will respond to comments left on this blog.

References:

British Heart Foundation (2018). Heart Statistics. https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics

Deichmann et al (2010). Coenzyme Q10 and Statin-Induced Mitochondrial Dysfunction.

DiNicolantonio et al (2005). The health benefits of vitamin K.

Gammone et al (2015). Carotenoids: potential allies of cardiovascular health?

Griffin et al (2010). Dietary Cholesterol and Plasma Lipoprotein Profiles: Randomized-Controlled Trials.

Gröber, U., Schmidt, J., & Kisters, K. (2015). Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients7(9), 8199-226.

Hashemian, M., Poustchi, H., Mohammadi-Nasrabadi, F., & Hekmatdoost, A. (2015). Systematic review of zinc biochemical indicators and risk of coronary heart disease. ARYA atherosclerosis11(6), 357-65.

Howell (2011). Coronary Heart Disease and Heart Attacks,1912-2010. Medical history vol. 55,3.

Jormeus, Karlsson, Dahlgren, Lindström and Nyström (2010). Doubling of Water Intake Increases Daytime Blood Pressure and Reduces Vertigo in Healthy Subjects. CLINICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL HYPERTENSION, (32).

Joseph, J., & Loscalzo, J. (2013). Methoxistasis: integrating the roles of homocysteine and folic acid in cardiovascular pathobiology. Nutrients5(8), 3235-56. doi:10.3390/nu5083235

Moser, M. A., & Chun, O. K. (2016). Vitamin C and Heart Health: A Review Based on Findings from Epidemiologic Studies. International journal of molecular sciences17(8), 1328. doi:10.3390/ijms17081328

Mozos et al (2018). Lycopene and Vascular Health.

Peterson et al, (2012). Do Flavonoids Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Incidence or Mortality in US and European Populations?

Public Health England (2018). Heart Age Test gives early warning of heart attack and stroke.

Rahman & Lowe (2006). Garlic and Cardiovascular Disease: A Critical Review.

Rimbach et al (2008). Dietary isoflavones in the prevention of cardiovascular disease – A molecular perspective.

Theodotou et al (2017). The effect of resveratrol on hypertension: A clinical trial.

How To Get A Better Sleep Naturally – Improve Your Sleep Quality

Picture of a grey cat sleeping soundly on a white duvet

Are You Getting Enough Sleep and Is It The Right Quality?

Sleep duration

Firstly, what is the right amount of sleep?  Well researchers quote between 7-9 hours sleep a night.  It is down to the individual to you to decide whether you can function well on 7, 8 or 9 hours.  Which amount of sleep leaves you ready to spring out of bed in the morning?  If the answer is “no amount of sleep leaves me springing out of bed” then read on, as I explore how sleep quality is just as important as duration.

Importance of both the Right Amount of Sleep and the Right Quality of Sleep

Researchers have found that skimping on sleep, and also have over 9 hours sleep, can both increase your chances of getting Type II Diabetes.  Lack of sleep or disrupted sleep quality can also increase inflammation, affect your heart health and blood pressure, cause you to go into fight or flight mode (which means your body cannot digest, your brain cannot process as effectively and your body can’t repair), cause weight gain due to disruption to the hormones which signal to your brain that you are full after eating and even increase your chances of colorectal cancer or all-cause mortality!

So what do we mean by quality of sleep?

Well a good night’s sleep should leave you feeling refreshed the nextwoman having a good night's sleep morning.  During the night our body uses sleep to repair and detoxify and we actually carry out the most detoxification between the hours of 10pm and 12pm, so I advise all my clients to have their head on the pillow by 10pm, something for all you night owls to consider.

For those of you with adrenal issues, you may find that you have something called “day night reversal” where you have more energy at night.  This is because your cortisol levels are dysregulated.  Cortisol is the hormone that wakes you up in the morning and should lower throughout the day so that you can sleep at night.  Often people with adrenal dysregulation get a second wind around 11pm so ideally you want to try and get to sleep before then if at all possible.  But, as always, with adrenal dysregulation you do need to look at addressing the root causes, of which there can be many.  There is a great app called Sleep Cycle which you can use to monitor how deeply you are sleeping https://www.sleepcycle.com/how-it-works/

Hints and Tips to Improve Sleep

So how do we go about improving our sleep?

Stimulants

Caffeine, which is found in tea, coffee and chocolate, can affect your sleep quality for over 6-8 hours so I always recommend steering clear of anything with caffeine in from at least 2pm in the afternoon. This is true of other stimulants as well, such as tobacco.

Alcohol

Alcohol may seem like it’s getting you off to sleep but the actual quality of sleep after alcohol is poor. Not only is it a diuretic, dehydrating and toxic to the brain, but it also switches off REM sleep, the most restorative type of sleep, so steering clear of alcohol a good few hours before bed if not altogether can help improve sleep quality.

Food

Woman watching TV eating popcorn in her pyjamasStaying away from food for up to 4 hours before sleeping can help us sleep more deeply as our body is not busy trying to digest food, which is a big stress on the body.  The caveat to this is those with blood sugar dysregulation, who would do well to have a little resistant starch before bed to stop their cortisol spiking throughout the night and waking them up.  However, as usual, looking at ways of addressing blood sugar issues is an even more effective strategy, which a naturopathic nutritionist can help you with.

Light after Sunset

You may well have heard about the effects of blue light on melatonin production, the hormone that assists us, amongst other things, to sleep deeply. Blue light emits from electrical devices such as computers, smart phones, digital displays on clocks or radios, etc.  There are a number of apps out there such as F.lux which you can download onto your computer to enable it to dim the blue light emitting from the screen and later smartphones tend to have built in blue light dimmers that you can switch on in their settings.

For those devices where you cannot dim the blue light, the answer is simple – blue light blocking glasses such as Blu Blockers that you wear after the sun goes down.  These are ideal, as it’s not just blue light but also strip lighting, lightbulbs, the light in the fridge, in fact any type of lighting that can upset the body’s melatonin production other than orange or red lighting.  So another helpful tip is to change your lightbulbs to orange or red ones wherever possible.

Electronics

Picture of laptop, smartphone and games controller on a white backgroundElectronics emit frequencies that can interfere with your sleep. Even when you put your smartphone on airplane mode, it is still emitting, so switch everything off (including switching stuff off at the plug) and position your bed away from any electrical cables or plug sockets.

Wi-fi

Wi-fi signals have been shown in research studies to significantly affect the quality of our sleep as well as our overall health. Whilst we may be surrounded by wi-fi from our neighbours, we can ensure that we reduce our exposure by turning our own wi-fi off before sleep or, even better, hard wire our devices and switch the wi-fi in your home off permanently.

Darkness in the Bedroom

How dark is your bedroom? If there is light coming into the room from devices or seeping through the window from street lights, that can all affect your sleep quality.  Practical solutions include black out blinds or eye masks.

Your Body Clock

Getting up and going to bed at the same every day sets your body clock. Lying in at weekends completely disrupts your body clock, so come Monday morning your body is expecting to lie in again, so regular waking up and sleeping times will help immensely.

Exercise

Regular moderate exercise at least 4 hours away from sleep, if not more, will also help improve sleep quality. Beware of overtraining as this can actually spike your cortisol levels and lead to adrenal dysregulation.

Daylight

Picture of an inflatable yellow sun in a field of grass with a blue sky in the background with white fluffy cloudsYou might be surprised to hear that it’s not just the lighting at night but also the light that you take directly through your retinas first thing in the morning that can help to reset our sleep / wake rhythms.  Try getting 20 minutes of either direct sunlight or full spectrum daylight directly into your retinas (without glasses or contact lenses) every morning.

Hydration

Hydration can hugely impact on the quality of your sleep. I was on sleeping pills for years and still only getting 3 hours of sleep a night, but when I started to hydrate I never had a problem with insomnia again and was able to come off the sleeping pills.  We lose water naturally even when sleeping as we lose it through our breath.  So check out my blog on hydration to read more about how to keep hydrated.

Room Temperature

According to the Sleep Council, “hot, cold and draughty rooms can seriously impact on your sleep.” They suggest that the ideal room temperature for a good night sleep should be between 16 to 18°C (60 to 65°F).

Relaxation v. Stimulation

Switching off stimulation 2 hours before bed can help our brain settle down in preparation for sleep. StimulationGinger and white tabby sleeping on a black and whit striped duvet can take the form of work, study or even stimulating TV programmes.  If you can do anything to actually slow your brain waves down, such as alternate nostril breathing or using apps such as Heartmath, that can also be a great help.

Magnesium levels can also impact how well you are able to relax. Naturopathic techniques such as Epsom salt baths and footbaths or taking magnesium citrate can all help, as can techniques that redirect blood flow away from the brain to the feet.

References

Al-Abri, M. A., Jaju, D., Al-Sinani, S., Al-Mamari, A., Albarwani, S., Al-Resadi, K., Bayoumi, R., Hassan, M. Al-Hashmi, K. (2016). Habitual Sleep Deprivation is Associated with Type 2 Diabetes: A Case-Control Study. Oman medical journal, 31(6), 399-403.
Bedrosian, T. A., & Nelson, R. J. (2017). Timing of light exposure affects mood and brain circuits. Translational psychiatry, 7(1), BMJ Open.
Brasure M, MacDonald R, Fuchs E, Olson CM, Carlyle M, Diem S et al. Management of Insomnia Disorder. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2015. (AHRQ Comparative Effectiveness Review; Volume 159).
Chaput, J.P., McNeil, J., Despres, J.P., Bouchard, C. and Tremblay, A., (2013). Seven to eight hours of sleep a night is associated with a lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome and reduced overall cardiometabolic risk in adults. PloS one, 8(9), p.e72832.
Chepesiuk, R. (2009). Missing the dark: health effects of light pollution. Environmental health perspectives, 117(1), A20-7
Dolezal, B. A., Neufeld, E. V., Boland, D. M., Martin, J. L., & Cooper, C. B. (2017). Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review. Advances in preventive medicine, 2017, 1364387.
Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 9(11), 1195-200. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170
Hatori, M., Gronfier, C., Van Gelder, R. N., Bernstein, P. S., Carreras, J., Panda, S., Marks, F., Sliney, D., Hunt, C. E., Hirota, T., Furukawa, T. Tsubota, K. (2017). Global rise of potential health hazards caused by blue light-induced circadian disruption in modern aging societies. NPJ aging and mechanisms of disease, 3, 9. doi:10.1038/s41514-017-0010-2
Hysing M, Pallesen S, Stormark KM, et a. (2015). Sleep and use of electronic devices in adolescence: results from a large population-based study
Mirghani, H.O., Mohammed, O.S., Almurtadha, Y.M. and Ahmed, M.S., (2015). Good sleep quality is associated with better academic performance among Sudanese medical students. BMC research notes, 8(1), p.706.
Obradovich, N., Migliorini, R., Mednick, S. C., & Fowler, J. H. (2017). Nighttime temperature and human sleep loss in a changing climate. Science advances, 3(5), e1601555. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1601555
Okamoto-Mizuno, K., & Mizuno, K. (2012). Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. Journal of physiological anthropology, 31(1), 14. doi:10.1186/1880-6805-31-14
Park, S. Y., Oh, M. K., Lee, B. S., Kim, H. G., Lee, W. J., Lee, J. H., Lim, J. T.,Kim, J. Y. (2015). The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep. Korean journal of family medicine, 36(6), 294-9.
Shan, Z., Ma, H., Xie, M., Yan, P., Guo, Y., Bao, W., Rong, Y., Jackson, C.L., Hu, F.B. and Liu, L., (2015). Sleep duration and risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Diabetes care, 38(3), pp.529-537.

How To Stop Getting Migraines – Preventing Migraine Headaches

Causes of Migraines

Hydration

Migraines can be caused by a number of factors, but ultimately migraines indicate a state of dehydration and toxicity at head level.

So in order to start treating migraines, you must be hydrating adequately on a daily basis.  Check out my blog on hydration for a starting point.

Diet

Food Intolerances

Food intolerances can also play a part and certain foods are highly inflammatory, such as gluten, dairy and sugar. So,Picture of grain of wheat in a black circle with black line through it eliminating common culprits for 4-6 weeks under supervision can help you identify whether foods are triggering your migraines.  Other common culprits might include grains, eggs, nightshades, etc. so it is always better to do this under supervision so that you are not cutting out valuable nutrients blindly.

Amines

Of particular note are a group of substances called “amines”.  Foods high in amines include caffeine, cheese, citrus fruits, chocolate, wine, fermented foods and even foods such as spinach, tomatoes and avocados.  Some people may have too much histamine in their system so that any additional amines cause the bucket to overflow, if you like.

Other people may not have the enzymes to break down histamine. This could be due to pathogenic bacteria or parasites. It could also be due to an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine impairing the production of enzymes or as a result of certain genetic variations.  All of this can be analysed through lab testing, but ultimately the approach is the same.  Hydrate, eliminate toxins as much as possible and open up the body’s detoxification pathways through naturopathic techniques.  Some people may benefit from taking supplementary diamine oxidase but it is quite hard to get hold of in the UK and is not a cure all for everyone, giving that histamine intolerance can have a variety of different causes.

Useful Supplements

Picture of various supplements in someone's handCertain supplements can help immensely, such as magnesium, butterbur, feverfew, Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin B2 and the vitamins involved with methylation (B12, folate and B6).  Again, this also depends on the cause.  If someone cannot detoxify effectively (has problems with methylation), then that’s where the methylation supplements come into use.

Magnesium is always implicated in migraines and I would suggest taking a well-absorbed form such as magnesium citrate.  However, a caveat with magnesium is that it can start to push waste and toxins from the cell, so if the body’s pathways of elimination (bowel, liver, blood, lymph, etc) are not working as effectively as they could be, going in with large doses of magnesium can be counter-productive, so again a holistic programme working on opening up the routes of elimination, hydrating, removing inflammatory foods, etc is recommended, as opposed to just blindly taking supplements without understanding what’s going on in your own individual body.

References

Bunner, A. E., Agarwal, U., Gonzales, J. F., Valente, F., & Barnard, N. D. (2014). Nutrition intervention for migraine: a randomized crossover trial. The journal of headache and pain, 15(1), 69.

Gaul, C., Diener, H. C., Danesch, U., Migravent® Study Group (2015). Improvement of migraine symptoms with a proprietary supplement containing riboflavin, magnesium and Q10: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial. The journal of headache and pain, 16, 516.

Hoffmann, J., & Recober, A. (2013). Migraine and triggers: post hoc ergo propter hoc?. Current pain and headache reports, 17(10), 370.

Lipton RB, Göbel H, Einhäupl KM, Wilks K, Mauskop A.(2004).Petasites hybridus root(butterbur) is an effective preventive treatment for migraine. Neurology.

Mauskop A, Varughese J. (2012). Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium.

Pareek, A., Suthar, M., Rathore, G. S., & Bansal, V. (2011). Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): A systematic review. Pharmacognosy reviews, 5(9), 103-10.

Riebl, S. K., & Davy, B. M. (2013). The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance. ACSM’s health & fitness journal, 17(6), 21-28.

 

The Causes of Hayfever and How To Stop Symptoms Naturally

Can You Alleviate Hayfever Naturally?

Picture of woman in a field of grass blowing her nose

So along with the glorious weather, up goes the pollen count.  For the approximately 20 million hayfever sufferers in the UK, that hardly feels fair does it?  But do you have to dose yourself up with steroid sprays, drops and antihistamines or is there a more natural solution that doesn’t leave you with side effects?

Pharmaceutical vs Natural Treatments for Hayfever Symptoms

“I don’t have any side effects and the antihistamines work just fine”, I hear you say.  Well all pharmaceuticals have substances in them that are not found in nature and therefore the body can respond in unpleasant ways such as getting drowsiness and headaches.

Side effects of steroid sprays and drops can include fatigue and even mood swings.  Steroid treatments for hayfever can also play havoc with the natural production of cortisol, which helps us wake up alert in the morning, deal with stressors throughout the day and lowers to help us sleep at night.

There are natural alternatives that work in the same way as pharmaceutical products, as I’ll discuss below, which can help alleviate the symptoms of allergies.  But as I will go on to explain, you still need to treat the cause when it comes to allergies, as histamine is an important and useful chemical in the body that regulates where the blood flows to, so ideally we only want to use these substances to deal with the symptoms whilst we treat the cause.

Natural Anti-Histamines

  • Notably the bioflavonoid quercetin has been found in a number of studies to have a natural anti-histamine effect. This natural substance is found in foods such as buckwheat (particularly buckwheat tea), onions, green Picture of onions and garlictea, apples and berries but is even more beneficial in supplement form.
  • Vitamin C containing bioflavonoids can have a powerful effect in treating hayfever symptoms, as the bioflavonoids increase the absorption and therefore the antioxidant and anti-histamine action of the vitamin C.
  • Methionine helps break histamine down and binds it to get it out of the body, as some people can’t break down histamine in the body effectively due to certain variations in their genes.
  • Substance such as Beta Glucans and Lactobacillus L92 help to modulate immune function.
  • Substances such as Boswellia, Luteolin and Curcumin are all natural anti-inflammatories.

Natural Alternatives to Steroid Sprays and Drops

  • Netti potting can have a similar effect as steroid sprays and eye drops without the side effects and urine therapy can increase its effectiveness even further.
  • Haymax is a natural and non-toxic preparation which can be put in the nostrils and under the eyelashes to catch any pollen and reduce aggravation to the eyes and nasal passage.

Immunotherapy

Picture of bee collecting pollenImmunotherapy is about introducing a tiny bit of the substance you are allergic to into the body with the aim of getting the immune system to become effective at dealing with it.  However, most forms of immunotherapy are through injection.

Injections go straight through the first line of defence of the immune system into the blood stream – as you’ll see below, that’s how we get allergies in the first place, by compromising that first line of defence, which is extremely stressful and dehydrating to the body, further worsening the conditions under which the allergy manifested in the first place.

Bee pollen can be a useful oral form of immunotherapy, starting with 1 grain under the tongue and increasing by a grain a day as long as no reaction is felt.

Causes of Hayfever

Leaky Membranes

So as I’ve stressed above, treating the symptoms can provide initial relief but we must also treat the cause.  So how do allergies exist in the first place.  Pollen is not a dangerous substance is it?  We have an external skin, but did you know that we also have an internal skin, our mucous membranes, where our skin turns inwards in our urinary tract, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and also the reproductive tract for us females.  This internal skin is meant to keep things that we breathe in or ingest out of the blood stream.  We cannot have an allergy unless something has somehow got through that internal skin.  So how can that happen?

The membranes of our internal skin can become “leaky” for a number of reasons.  The main reason is when we suppress an appropriate inflammatory response.  We can have inflammation as the result of an external injury, such as a cut or a bite or an injury to tissue, but also as the result of excessive toxicity within the body.

Toxicity can build up not just through what we ingest, breathe in, or think, but also through what we suppress.  So the body might have the need to release toxins through diarrhoea, vomiting, increased perspiration or even, for us ladies, heavier menstruation.  However, we often thwart the body’s attempt to release the build up of toxins by using medications and products such as anti-perspirants, which stop symptoms but lead the body to throw an inflammatory response to try and deal with the toxins.

Detoxification

In addition, if the bodies routes of elimination (bowel, liver, lymph, etc) are not working effectively then this can alsoThe word detoxification typed on a typewriter prevent the toxins from getting out.  So then what happens (which also happens in injury) is that the white blood cells will move towards and stick to the side of the blood vessels, histamine is released into the area and the blood vessel becomes more permeable, so that the white blood cells which are part of our immune system can start cleaning up that area for us.

Pain, swelling, redness and loss of function occur as a result of our body trying to rid itself of the toxicity.  It is an intelligent response.  If this is allowed to run its course, the white blood cells can get through into the tissue, clean up the situation, and then the blood vessels will cease to be permeable.  However, if this response is suppressed by medications, for example anti-inflammatories, then the process cannot take place, the toxicity goes deeper and the blood vessels remain permeable, or “leaky” as the body recognises that there is still toxicity that needs to get out and keeps that membrane permeable.

Repairing Leaky Membranes

Where the membranes in the gut, or indeed anywhere else, are leaky, allowing the allergen into the blood, there are a number of useful supplements.  These include:

  • L-glutamine
  • Colostrum (for those who are not allergic to dairy)
  • Collagen
  • Zinc
  • Vitamins A and D (which should be taken together as they compete for cell receptor sites)

Again, advice should be sought as to what to use when and for how long, depending on the particular issues presenting.  This is why I never give dosages for supplements in my blogs, as without guidance people can continue taking inappropriate supplements for inappropriate lengths of time and throw off their vitamin and mineral balance.

Lowered Immunity

Even if a substance permeates our internal skin and gets into the blood, our immune cells should still be able to deal with it, as long as our routes of elimination are working well.  But when the amount of toxicity coming into our body is greater than the immune cells can deal with or our routes of elimination aren’t operating well enough to get the toxins out effectively, of which dehydration is a huge part (read my blog about water to find out more), then the immune system’s next intelligent reaction will be to batten down the hatches to try and keep the allergen out.

So our immune system hasn’t “gone wrong” – it’s actually trying to protect us.  The symptoms of hayfever, created by the release of histamine, which is a natural substance that is part of our immune system, are there to keep things out of our blood stream by sneezing out the pollen, creating mucous or creating itching which makes our eyes and nose water.

How to Decrease Our Toxic Load to Improve Immunity

It is good to take out both inflammatory foods and foods that we react to.  But we also need to look at the amount of Picture of someone using wi-fi on their mobile phonetoxins we breathe in or absorb through our skin in our cleaning products and put on our skin in terms of our personal care products.

Is the water we are drinking clean?  Is the air that we are breathing in in our homes clean?  What about electromagnetic frequencies in our homes such as our wi-fi, bluetooth, smartphones, wireless devices?  Do we switch them off at night?  Can we hardwire our computers and switch the wi-fi off altogether?  Is our food organic or covered in pesticides (or, in the case of meat, antibiotics)?  Are we eating processed food that the body cannot recognise or are we eating whole unprocessed foods? Do we smoke, or take recreational drugs, or prescription drugs?  Toxicity can come from a whole host of places, but the aim of a good naturopathic healing programme is to look at ways to reduce exposure as much as possible.

How to Increase our Ability to Eliminate Toxins

Sleep

Sleeping between 10:00pm-12:00am actually gives us the most restorative sleep of the whole night.  Our body uses sleep to repair itself, so ensuring we turn off our electrical devices at least an hour before bed can help us get into deeper sleep when we do hit the pillow.  Studies show increased imbalances in those people who sleep less than 7 hours a night and 7-9 hours is what we should all be aiming for.

Diet

picture of some vegetables

We can use diet not only to nourish, but also to cleanse.  But we need to make sure before we start doing things like green smoothies, juicing, fasting, superfoods, etc that our routes of elimination are open and working well, as when we start releasing toxicity from our cells by using food in this way, we need to ensure the body can see it out and allow it to exit efficiently.

Improving Bowel Function

Psyllium husk, prokinetics such as Iberogast, enemas or soaked flaxseeds (the latter is contraindicated in those with diverticulitis) are all excellent ways to ensure the bowels are open.  And we cannot have our bowels working effectively unless we are hydrating with 4 pints of clean plain water a day (see my blog on water).

Improving Liver Function

We can open up liver with castor oil packing, coffee enemas (contraindicated in those with adrenal stress).  Milk thistle, glutathione, n-acetyl cysteine and alpha lipoic acid can all help the liver to detoxify more effectively.

Improving lymph flow

Exercise, massage and lymph brushing can all help to move lymph, but we want to ensure bowels and liver are working well before we start to move lymph otherwise the toxins that we release will have no exit route.

Stress

Stress can also play a part in the onset of allergies as when we are under stress we produce the stress hormone Woman holding head in handscortisol which has the effect of directing energy away from the immune system. We cannot be in a state of “fight, flight or freeze” at the same time as “rest and repair”.

Stress reduction techniques

  • Journaling
  • EFT
  • Mindfulness
  • Chanting
  • Meditation
  • Laughter
  • Gratitude journaling
  • Doing something every day that you enjoy
  • Taking a daily walk in nature for 20 minutes
  • Linseed tea – see my recipe for linseed tea
  • Adrenal packs – foundations of health blog
  • B vitamins, particularly B5, are gobbled up under stress so supplementing with a well balanced vitamin B formula, high in B5, can be useful.

Gut Issues

The other major factor that can play a part in lowered immunity is the disruption of our microbiome, the community of microbes that live in and on us, in our guts, our mouths, our skin, etc, through antibiotics, poor diet and “hygiene” – i.e. the use of antibacterial handwashes, etc.  Healing any gut issues is paramount when dealing with allergies, given that 80% of our immune system is in the gut.

Healing the Gut

How we do this depends on what is going on with the gut, which lab testing can show us.  For example, we can have pathogenic organisms living in the gut that can impair our digestion and make our gut “leaky” so that we develop food intolerances and testing will show us what is residing there.

Picture of digestive systemProbiotics

We can also increase the beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus GG.  Sacharomyces Boulardii can also be very useful in helping to maintain a healthy balance of bowel flora.

But throwing probiotics at the situation will not repopulate our bowel flora.  In order to really get the balance back we need to provide our bowel flora with the foods they need to thrive. This includes prebiotic foods and fermented foods are key.  However, depending on an individual’s particular gut issues, probiotics and prebiotics may not be something we initially jump into. This is because in some issues, such as histamine intolerance or SIBO, it can make symptoms worse.  This is why testing is so useful.

Digestive enzymes

Digestive support in the form of digestive enzymes and Betaine HCl can also be useful in helping to restore the gut. However, a caveat is that some people should not take Betaine HCl. Also, there are people that do produce too much stomach acid (although many others do not produce enough, despite having symptoms such as acid reflux). Therefore, a skilled practitioner can help decide whether Betaine HCl is appropriate for you.

Another important factor in healing the gut can be to remove inflammatory foods. This includes dairy, gluten and sugar and anything else that a person may be reacting to, which can be deduced via an elimination diet.

An inability to make our own anti-inflammatory messengers

Tissue hormones called prostaglandins modulate inflammation in the body.  If we have not got the raw ingredients to make our prostaglandins, this may affect our ability to naturally switch off an inflammatory response.

How to make our prostaglandins

To make sure we are able to make our own anti-inflammatory messengers, we need to give our body what it needs toPicture of various supplements in someone's hand make them, namely a good quality multivitamin and mineral containing zinc, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, omega-3 and omega-6, vitamin B3 and vitamin B6.  We need to make sure the liver is able to deal with omega-3s before we introduce them. Therefore, it’s a good idea to prepare the body by taking 2 teaspoons of good quality lecithin a day.  Sources of omega-3 include flaxseed oil, with which you need to take lecithin to emulsify it, and krill oil, which contains its own emulsifier.

References

Akramienė, et al. (2007). Effects of b-glucans on the immune system

Ashraf R and Shah NP (2014). Immune system stimulation by probiotic microorganisms. Crit

Aziz et al. (2018). Anti-inflammatory effects of luteolin: A review of in vitro, in vivo, and in silico studies.

Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods (Basel, Switzerland)6(10), 92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092

Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. (2016). Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response.

Siddiqui, M. (2011). Boswellia serrata, a potential antiinflammatory agent: an overview. Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences73(3), 255-61.

Younes, A. K., & Younes, N. K. (2017). Recovery of steroid induced adrenal insufficiency. Translational pediatrics6(4), 269-273.

Linseed Tea – How To Make It & Health Benefits

Picture of linseeds and linseed tea on a saucerIn last month’s “Foundations of Health” blog series, I wrote about the importance of water for hydration.  This month, I’m taking a look at linseed tea.  Linseeds (also known as flaxseeds) are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids.  They are also rich in fibre.  But, most importantly, they have an amazing mucilaginous quality that, when made into linseed tea, allows the body to hold onto water.  In fact, linseed tea is one of the most hydrating drinks you can have, coming a close second to water itself!

Importance of hydration

Your body is made up of approximately 75 trillion cells, which need the best possible internal environment to live in to maintain optimal health.  Two things crucial to cell health are oil and water.  We need them both to run our body systems, just like a car!  So linseed tea is an excellent way to re-introduce oil and water to our cells.

Once our cells know that they are getting enough good quality hydration, they can start to release toxins, as long as our routes of elimination are working properly (lovely fluid lymph drainage, fluid blood flow, good liver detoxification processes, good bile production and good elimination via our bowels twice a day).

This is incredibly important for reducing inflammation, which is implicated in pretty much every health condition, including chronic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, etc.

How to drink linseeds

picture of a string mopYou can also drink the seeds whole, which will introduce fibre to bulk out your stools so that you can eliminate more waste as the linseeds gently cleanse the intestinal wall like a mop!  They will pass through whole, so don’t be alarmed if you see them reappear in the toilet!

Because they are so good at hydrating, they really offer a soothing message to our cells, to such an extent that drinking 1 litre of linseed tea a day can actually have a profound effect on anxiety and panic attacks!  I call it liquid Valium because of its calming, soothing effects.

How to make linseed tea

So that’s the benefits, but how do you make it?  Well there are two ways, the traditional way and the cheat method.  The traditional way is even more effective at soothing and calming as it creates a more mucilaginous consistency, but the cheat method is good for those who would find the traditional method another stress – remember, stress = dehydration!

You can increase the amount of linseeds to make a thicker tea (I find the thicker tea more soothing) or reduce them to make a thinner liquid which some people find more palatable.  If making it the traditional way, you can make a batch and store it in glass bottles / jars for up to 3 days in the fridge.

Cheat spelt out with scrabble lettersCheat method

So, for the cheat method, when you wake up get yourself a litre stainless steel flask (not plastic due to its toxicity), pop 2 tbsp linseeds in, fill the flask to the top with boiling filtered water, pop the lid on and leave for 6-8 hours.  When you’ve let it “brew” for a few hours, sip throughout the day, drinking the seeds whole for their cleansing effect.

Traditional Method

The traditional method involves a large stainless steel pan, filled with about 2 or 3 litres of cold filtered water.  I use 6 tbsp linseeds for a thick tea, you might want to start off with 3 or 4 and see how you like the consistency.  Better to start low and build up as many people find the thinner it is, the more palatable.  Bring the seeds and water almost to the boil but as soon as you see it starting to boil, switch the hob off as it can overflow very quickly, leaving a gloopy mess all over your cooker!  Leave it to sit for 6-8 hours later (or overnight).  Then simmer it on a low heat for an hour.  After an hour, it’s ready to drain the seeds away and drink.  It’s easier to drain the seeds once it is still hot as it gets more mucilaginous when it cools.  Once cooled, it can be stored in glass containers in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Happy hydrating!

References

Goyal, A., Sharma, V., Upadhyay, N., Gill, S., & Sihag, M. (2014). Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. Journal of food science and technology51(9), 1633-53.

Kajla, P., Sharma, A., & Sood, D. R. (2014). Flaxseed-a potential functional food source. Journal of food science and technology52(4), 1857-71.

Su, K. P., Matsuoka, Y., & Pae, C. U. (2015). Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Prevention of Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Clinical psychopharmacology and neuroscience : the official scientific journal of the Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology13(2), 129-37.