A Tastier Green Tea Option?

You know how fond I am of green tea for all its many health benefits – and if you are trying to lose weight then it is helpful in that area as well as taking care of your heart – but I know many of you don’t find it entirely palatable. Happily, there are ways around it from adding lemon and honey to finding a tea which has a taste you enjoy and I might have just the thing for you that comes from Vietnam.

If you have ever visited that country then you may have been given Vietnamese lotus tea – a type of green tea flavoured with the scent of the Lotus Flower. It is a specialty product of the Vietnamese tea industry and drunk as part of celebratory events or festivals as it seen as something rather special. The unique floral taste adds a whole new dimension to green tea and if you are fond of jasmine tea after a Chinese meal then it could hit just the right spot for you.

The traditional way to produce Lotus Tea involves using only the stamen of the Lotus flower and infusing it with green tea leaves and although there are several modern versions of the tea on the market now they are using flavourings or perfumes. For the authentic taste of Vietnamese lotus tea you need the actual ingredient, not a flavour, and that has become available in the UK for the first time from Natural Boutique.

They have a wide range of health giving teas, including an Artichoke tea which helps digestion and a rare and exotic Green and Java tea for aiding weight loss. If you can’t find Natural Boutique’s Vietnamese Lotus Tea in your local health store then visit the website at www.drinkherbaltea.co.uk.

Smoking Does Not Keep You Slim – But There Is a Male/Female Difference

July 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Health, Medical Research & Studies

There are many health myths that we hold as truth: the last biscuit on the plate contains no calories, my grandfather drank a bottle of whisky every day of his life and died at 101 so alcohol won’t harm me and perhaps the most common is that smoking helps keep you slim so giving up means becoming hugely overweight.

In one of my previous jobs I was Press Officer to Northern Ballet and bizarrely as it seemed to me most of the dancers smoked. You would think needing the best stamina and lung capacity would militate against it but, particularly for the girls, it was seen as an easy way to suppress appetite and control weight.

Now new research from the Nordic School of Public Health (NHV) in Sweden shows that smoking doesn’t help you get thinner, despite what we may believe. While cigarette smoking has decreased in western countries, obesity has increased and recent studies have suggested that today’s smokers may have less weight problems than non-smokers. Lisa Webb, Master of Public Health at NHV, set up a study in which over 6,000 people have participated in a study on the relationship between smoking and obesity.

They used two measure of body fat: BMI (body mass index) and WHR (waist hip ratio) and what surprised them was the definite difference between the results for men and women. Compared with non-smoker, both male and female smokers had a higher WHR but women had a lower BMI.

So if you are looking to use not giving up smoking because you don’t want to put on weight, then that is no longer viable. One other interesting finding was that the difference between the WHR among female smokers and women who had never smoked actually increased during the study. So if you want to improve your waist hip ratio then giving up smoking will definitely improve your chances of that.

Calcium Supplements Risk for Heart Problems

If you have been taking these to help your bones, there is a hidden danger that has been exposed by new research in the British Medical Journal which adds to mounting evidence that calcium supplements increase the risk of cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks, in older women.

Nutritionists have been saying for some time that calcium supplements alone are not a good idea, but these new findings suggest that their use in managing osteoporosis should be re-assessed. They are often prescribed to older (postmenopausal) women to maintain bone health and sometimes they are combined with vitamin D, but there are a whole range of heart supplements that are needed, not just calcium alone.

A team of researchers, led by Professor Ian Reid at the University of Auckland, re-analysed a seven-year trial of over 36,000 women to provide the best current estimate of the effects of calcium supplements, with or without vitamin D, on the risk of cardiovascular events.

What they found was that the women who were not taking personal calcium supplements at the start of the trial but then were given a combined calcium and vitamin D supplement were at an increased risk of cardiovascular events, especially heart attack. By contrast, in women who were taking personal calcium supplements at the start of the trial, combined calcium and vitamin D supplements did not alter their cardiovascular risk.

The authors suspect that the abrupt change in blood calcium levels after taking a supplement causes the adverse effect, rather than it being related to the total amount of calcium consumed. High blood calcium levels are linked to calcification (hardening) of the arteries, which may also help to explain these results. The authors concluded that these data justify a reassessment of the use of calcium supplements in older people.

If you do want to keep your bones strong, and not impact your heart, then gentle regular weight bearing exercise is a start, and add plenty of black pepper to your diet as it contains four anti-osteoporosis compounds and boron, which is also good for bone health, is found in abundance in cabbage. Also healthy for bones are garlic, onions and eggs plus cod liver oil A which is a natural source of vitamins A and D3. If you do want to take a supplement look for one with a good mix of bone building nutrients including vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, silica and boron. Higher Nature make a good one called Osteo Food and the best natural way to build bone is to have good levels of progesterone as that is the first bone-building substance the body needs.

What Can Double or Triple the Risk of DVT’s for Women?

July 19, 2011 by  
Filed under At Home, At Work, featured, Health, Natural Medicine, Travel

The risk of blood clots and DVT’s are well publicized in relation to air travel, but what you may not be aware of is that just prolonged sitting around at home or the office can also be potentially life threatening – particularly for women.

New research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) shows that although the greatest risk factor for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is surgery, most people associate it with long-haul flights and the Pill but they could be tragically mistaken. The amount of time spent sitting every day – wherever you are – means you could be putting yourself at risk of developing potentially life-threatening blood clots.

This study was done in the USA, and found that women who sat for a long time every day had double or even triple the risk of a dangerous blood clot in the lungs.
While the women most at risk had sat for more than 41 hours a week (on top of their work hours), the research is the first to prove a sedentary lifestyle increases the dangers.

DVT is caused when the wall of a blood vessel is damaged through injury, such as a broken bone or surgery, or if the blood clots more easily than normal as a result of medication or genetics. They fact here though is that it can also be triggered by the blood flow slowing down considerably — such as when you’re immobile for a long time through lying or sitting down.

What Can Help?
First of all realistically monitor how much time you do spend sitting down and reduce it in simple ways. First of all bin the TV remote and get up to change channels, if you work at a desk or on a computer get up every hour and just move around for five minutes. If you have the choice of stairs or a lift, use the stairs for at least part of the way.

When travelling try to drive no more than two hours without a break, even if you just pull into a car park and walk round it for a few minutes. By air, it is not now frowned on to get up and walk round the plane, though your way may not always be clear it is worth the effort to avoid the duty free carts or if stuck in your seat try tensing and releasing the muscles in your buttocks, legs and feet. By curling or pressing the toes down, which causes the muscles to contract and squeeze on the leg veins, helps to pump the blood along. Another way to help move blood to the heart is to wear compression stockings, which put gentle pressure on the leg muscles as studies in healthy people have shown that wearing compression stockings minimizes the risk of developing DVT after long flights. Avoid socks, or knee highs for women that have very tight elastic bands at the top and do not sit with your legs crossed for long periods of time, which constricts the veins.

Keep the fluid flowing:
Sorry, not alcohol but you need to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration as this causes blood vessels to narrow and blood to thicken, increasing the risk for DVT. Reducing alcohol and coffee consumption, which both contribute to dehydration, is also recommended.

If water is not your thing there is also a new fruit juice which has been proven to benefit blood circulation. Sirco™contains a tasteless tomato extract, Fruitflow®, that has been scientifically proven to have heart and circulation health benefits because in several clinical trials it has been shown to help maintain a healthy blood circulation by preventing the “clumping” of blood platelets which can lead to blood clots. The blood platelet smoothing action of Sirco™ takes effect within 1 ½ to 3 hours from drinking it and lasts up to 18 hours and is suggested as a natural alternative to a daily aspirin that many people take for this action. It fits well into the healthy Mediterranean diet eithos and comes in two 100% pure fruit juices mixes; Pomegranate/Orange and Blueberry/Apple.

You should find it in your supermarket or local health store or go to www.sircoheart.com

Got Diabetes? – Eat More Strawberries

Wimbledon may be over, but we are still in the wonderful English strawberry season and now there is a powerful health reason to eat more of them. A recent study from scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies suggests that a strawberry a day could lessen the complications of diabetes. Or more accurately, the fisetin they contain as this naturally-occurring flavonoid is found most abundantly in strawberries.

Fisetin is a naturally-occurring flavonoid found most abundantly in strawberries, and to a lesser extent in other fruits and vegetables, and has been found to be able to target multiple organs. This research describes for the first time a drug that prevents both kidney and brain complications in a type 1 diabetes model and strongly suggests that a single drug could be used to mitigate numerous medical complications.

Fisetin was originally identified as a neuroprotective flavonoid ten years ago and in plants it act as sunscreen and protects leaves and fruit from insects. The types of fruit and vegetables containing fisetin are found in the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ and contribute to the protective effect of that regime.

The researchers evaluated effects of fisetin supplementation with reference to the serious complications of diabetes such as diabetic nephropathy or kidney disease, retinopathy, and neuropathies in which patients lose touch or heat sensations. Improvements were seen, but remember that to achieve a similar effect you would need to eat 37 strawberries a day so let’s hope they manage to turn the fisetin into a supplement form fairly soon.

Interestingly, the fisetin was also effective in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease so there is certainly more research to be done.

In the meantime what about a strawberry and blueberry smoothie to get the maximum fisetin into your system in a palatable way?

An Alternative to Antibiotics

Antibiotics are among the greatest achievements of medical science, but we have learned to treat them with caution. This once-perceived all-purpose weapon has failed in the battle against infectious diseases and bacteria are increasingly developing resistance to antibiotics. The good news is that researchers have now found a therapeutic equivalent which could replace penicillin and related drugs.

The World Health Organization is warning about resistance to drugs which were once so potent as more pathogens are becoming immune to antibiotics and some bacteria can no longer be combated WHO figures show that in 2010 nearly half-a-million people were infected with a strain of tuberculosis which is resistant to many antibiotics and that one third of those infected died.

The growing spread of resistant pathogens is directly attributable to the indiscriminate use of penicillin and other antibiotics so congratulations to the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Leipzig who have found an alternative to the established antibiotics. In the future, antimicrobial peptides will take up the battle against pathogens.

They have already identified 20 of these short chains of amino acids which kill numerous microbes, including enterococci, yeasts and molds, as well as human pathogenic bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans, which is found in the human oral cavity and causes tooth decay. Even the multi-resistant hospital bug Staphylococcus aureus is not immune, and in their tests its growth was considerably inhibited. Antibiotic peptides unlock their microbicidal effect within a few minutes and work at a far lower concentration compared with conventional antibiotics. Another key factor is that the peptides identified in the tests do not harm healthy body cells.

Not just us, but also our food could benefit from the antimicrobial peptides given that the bacterial contamination of food products costs the industry billions every year. Fresh lettuce, for example, are badly contaminated by yeasts and molds and this breakthrough means that the shelf-life could be improved by adding antimicrobial peptides during the production process.

We are still not there yet, so in the meantime if you want to fight infection and bacteria there are some natural aids you can use instead. Garlic, aloe vera and Echinacea have been in use for years and a relative newcomer is grapefruit seed extract which is a very powerful natural antibiotic.

How Dehydration Can Affect Allergies – 6 Simple Ways to Avoid It

If what summer means to you is stocking up on giant boxes of tissues and avoiding going out of doors, then there is a hidden factor that you may not be aware of. It seems that many allergy sufferers are also dehydrated, so that no matter how much water they drink they suffer from dry skin and a parched mouth.

Generally we are dehydrated as a nation, despite all those water bottles so ostentatiously displayed on desks and in gym bags. Studies estimate that 75% of us are prone to the ill health effects associated with chronic dehydration,. But what has that to do with your allergies? Well, allergies are caused by a histamine reaction in the bodyand histamine is an important neurotransmitter that primarily regulates thirst mechanism for increased water intake. It also establishes a system of water rationing for the available water in the drought-stricken body.”

When the body is dehydrated, histamine production increases significantly as its primary job is to make sure that the available water in the body is preserved for the most vital functions. It is the ‘drought mechanism’ if you like, and it creates a chain of events that affects numerous functions in the body, including the suppression of antibody production. This means that the body will simply not be as well equipped to deal with unhealthy invaders, such as pollen and other antigens.

That’s why during summer, when pollen season is in full swing, our eyes are invaded with the pollen agents, and the dehydrated body lacks the antibodies to adequately neutralize the pollen. So in response, the tear-producing glands of the eyes work overtime to wash the pollen away from the delicate membranes.

The histamine reaction and suppression of antibodies are just two of the many ways the body adapts to dehydration and although dehydration is not the only cause of allergies, it can be the primary cause. And the good news is that you can easily remedy it.

It can take time to fully rehydrate your body, but keep going as in the beginning a parched body – like dry ground – does not absorb all the water but it just runs out and away. It may seem like you are forever running to the loo in the early stages, but be persistent with your water intake and this will regulate as your starts to absorb and utilize the water better at the cellular level.

Top Water Retention Tips
1. Drink water – obvious but true – and plain, not carbonated. Not soft drinks or teas and coffees, but plain water.

2. Check the amount you drink, and the recommendation to rehydrate a dehydrated body, which is at least 1.5-2litres a day and during exercise or hot weather, you should increase your water intake significantly.

3. Don’t guess, but measure and record your water intake and that may be easier by setting out a number of bottles a day, or using a litre measuring jug and keeping track of how often you fill it. .

4. Filter your drinking water at source, at the tap, or in a filter jug or use reputable bottled water from a guaranteed source.

5. Little and often is best so make sure you drink regularly throughout the day as your body can only absorb about 12 to 16 ounces of water a time. The most important time to drink water is first thing in the morning so drink a large glass then, and add some fresh lemon juice to a detox start to the day. After breakfast have another large glass and try not to drink with meals, but in between so that you do not to dilute your digestive juices.

6. Unless you have high blood pressure, it can also help to add sea salt to drinking water because your more frequent urination means you are losing sodium. Not processed salt, and about a quarter teaspoon per litre will be plenty.. Salt itself is a natural antihistamine and if you add in a multimineral supplement then you will ensure proper electrolyte balance.

Don’t let your baby’s umbilical cord go to waste

June 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Health, Medical Research & Studies

A tricky subject this: in some parts of the world, particularly China, the placenta and umbilical cord area as valuable health resources but in the West we are rather more squeamish and the subject of stem cell research and implementation is still open to debate. However that cord could save a life, so in my usual fashion I am giving you information, and what you do with it of course is entirely up to you.

Future Health Biobank, the UK’s leading private family cord blood and cord tissue bank, is sending out a message to alert parents to the potential of their baby’s umbilical cord and don’t automatically let it go to waste. The umbilical cord blood is the richest source of the body’s stem cells, the important building blocks of life. Their job is to multiply and transform into the cells that make up our blood, bones, tissues, tendons, organs – in fact everything that makes us physically what we are. They can build from scratch but they can also restore and repair as we grow and age. These vital cells are already being used to treat thousands of people for an ever increasing list of medical conditions – currently some 85 different blood and immune system disorders. In fact the use of stem cell transplants is now standard medical practice in many countries.

Up until now, the most common source of stem cells has been bone marrow, but umbilical cord blood and tissue are much richer sources as well asbeing a much simpler and less invasive way to obtain them. After birth and the delivery of the placenta the cord is simply clamped and the blood is collected along with approximately 15cm of cord tissue if both samples are required. The whole procedure takes less than ten minutes and is completely painless.

One of the disadvantages in the use of bone marrow is the difficulty in finding the perfect match but with umbilical cord stem cells there is a 100 per cent match for the baby and a high probability of a match with siblings, parents and perhaps even grandparents. For families with a history of cancers or many other diseases the availability of stem cells can be a life saving resource and scientists are now investigating ways to use the specialised stem cells in cord tissue which can differentiate into bone, cartilage, tendon or muscle and even nerve tissue. These stem cells also appear to have immunosuppressive properties and thus may be able to combat chronic inflammation.

If you think this is something you might want to do, then if the birth is going to take place at an NHS hospital which is linked to either the UK’s public cord blood bank or the Anthony Nolan Trust, then you can ask for the umbilical cord blood to be donated. However this is not nationally available so for the majority of parents-to-be the only realistic option is to consider a private collection , particularly if they wish to save the cord tissue as well as cord blood as this is not currently collected for the public bank.

Information packs and articles available at www.futurehealthbiobank.com

A Natural Alternative to Antacids

June 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Health, Natural Medicine

If you find that you are swallowing antacids after a meal, or even before one as a preventive, then it is probably a good idea to look at what natural alternatives are available to you – particularly if your diet is not always as healthy as it could be.Two ingredients long associated with helping both digestion and stomach upsets are peppermint and ginger and they are both found in Viridian’s High Potency Digestive Aid.

Prevention is always preferable to undergoing a cure, and a course of these vegan (and Kosher) capsules could well be the answer. They provide a combination of enzymes, betaine hydrochloride, peppermint and ginger to help promote a healthy and well-balanced environment for digestion to take place with optimum efficiency.

Stomach Acid
If you are suffering with stomach and intestinal problems such as heartburn, indigestion, gas, and reflux then it is a common misconception that these symptoms are caused by overproduction of stomach acid. Doctors reinforce this belief when they routinely prescribe stomach acid blocking medications but usually without first monitoring the stomach’s acid producing function or suggesting simple dietary changes.

In fact the above symptoms can equally be caused by under as well as over production of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, HCL) and the aim of a digestive aid is to restore balance to the system in either case.

Hydrochloric acid serves three important functions:

1. to break down proteins, preparing them for assimilation.
2. to act as a protective barrier, killing many potentially harmful micro-organisms in our food.
3. to act as a venting mechanism when we eat acid forming foods and start the process of neutralizing them in the body.

When buying supplements of every kind I always suggest you look at the ingredients and in particular at whether they have a high level of active ingredients and a minimum – preferably zero – fillers or chemical additives. Viridian is the leading brand of ethical vitamins, which in this case means that they have a commitment to pure ingredients, environmental awareness and charity donations. In fact they give 50% of available profit to charity and on the 2nd of June had reached £120,000, mainly going to children’s and environmental charities.

On the purity front it is why their products are in capsule and powder form as these require no extras to be added during encapsulation or bottling where tablets do need various additives to bind them into tablet form. Environmentally, too they practice what they preach so their products are in glass bottles, not plastic, all of which can be recycled.

If you want to reduce the acidity in your body, then in addition to a supplement such as digestive aid then it makes sense to tackle the problem at source and eliminate, or seriously reduce, these items in your diet:

1. Sugar
2. Salt
3. Dairy Products
4. Wheat
5. Night Shade vegetables such as tomato, aubergine, peppers, potatoes
6. Cranberries/any unripened fruit
7. Meat
8. Diet foods as they are also full of both sugar, salt and chemical enhancers and sweeteners.

Digestive Aid from Viridian is available in health stores, or bymailorder from Viridian Nutrition


93% of Unborn babies found to have GMO toxins

If you thought that the fuss over GM crops was over the top then maybe this new study from Canada will make you change your mind. The biotechnology industry has always claimed that a certain genetic pesticide used in the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops does not end up in the human body upon consumption. Not true.

Researchers from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, in Canada have proved that Bt toxin, which is used in GM corn and other crops, definitively makes its way into the blood supply and was found in the bloodstreams of 93 percent of the pregnant women they tested.

If you are feeling complacent because you don’t eat GM modified foods then their study – which was just published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology – reveals that Bt toxin enters the body not only through direct consumption of GMOs, but also from consumption of meat, milk and eggs from animals whose feed contains GMOs. And that is virtually impossible for you to monitor on an individual basis. Among all women tested, 80 percent of the pregnant group tested positive for Bt toxin in their babies’ umbilical cords, but also a staggering 69 percent of non-pregnant women also tested positive for Bt toxin.

GM crops have been given approval in many countries because it was believed (and heavily promoted) that they were the same as conventional crops. The biotechnology industry has claimed for years that the alterations and chemicals used in GM crop cultivation pose no risk whatsoever to human health, and that any GM substances that remain in food are broken down in the digestive system. Now that it has been revealed that such claims are untrue many pressure groups are urging governments to pull GMOs from their food supplies.

“This research is a major surprise as it shows that the Bt proteins have survived the human digestive system and passed into the blood supply — something that regulators said could not happen,” said Pete Riley from GM Freeze, an alliance of organizations united against GMOs. “Regulators need to urgently reassess their opinions, and the EU should use the safeguard clauses in the regulations to prevent any further GM Bt crops being cultivated or imported for animal feed or food until the potential health implications have been fully evaluated.”

I am always wary of research that is funded by the interested parties, and most of the studies that have been used to validate the safety of GMOs have been conducted by the companies that created them in the first place. This does not, to me, make them a credible source for reliable safety data. Although Governments in North and South America, as well as throughout Europe, have essentially welcomed GMOs into the food supply this was based on evidence and reassurances from the companies themselves, and with this new independent study it certainly seems to be time to reassess the situation.

The easier and immediate solution is wherever possible to eat local organic, certified foods where you know their source or point of origin and ensure a reasonably high level of vitamin C intake (500-100mg a day) to help flush toxins from your system.

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