Diabetes Updates

With over 2.3 million diabetics in the UK, and a further 750000 people who have the condition but don’t know it, I like to keep you updated and there are two new developments to report this week – both involving everyday food items.

First let’s do the positive and give you yet another reason to eat more fish. A UK study has found that in a study of 517 diabetics those who had fish less than once a week were four times more likely to have albumin in their system, a protein whose presence indicates kidney damage. This is a serious complication of diabetes and the study suggests that eating fish at least twice a week could help protect diabetics from this potential problem. The researchers didn’t single out any particular variety of fish, so help your diabetes, and your heart, by having oily fish like salmon and salt water fish like haddock at least twice a week to get the maximum benefit.

Fish is also of benefit for eye health, so keep reading.

AND A WARNING If you go to work, or play, on an egg then you want to rethink your breakfast options. Over twenty years of research funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute seems to indicate that people who eat eggs every day may substantially increase their risk of type 2 diabetes.

Men who ate seven or more eggs a week were 58% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who did not eat any eggs. However, the problem is potentially greater for women as they are 77% more likely to become diabetic if they ate an egg a day. The research was reported online in the magazine Diabetes Care.

A single egg contains about 200 mg of cholesterol and adds about 1.5 g of saturated fat to the diet, both of which increase diabetes risk, and the exact risk figures are:

9% for less than one egg a week
9% for one egg a week
18% for two to four eggs a week
46% for five to six eggs a week
58% for seven or more eggs a week

% for less than one egg a week
3% for one egg a week
19% for two to four eggs a week
18% for five to six eggs a week
77% for seven or more a week

This does not mean giving up eggs entirely, they are a beneficial food, but it might be wise to limit your intake if you have any other risk factors for diabetes. These include being overweight, not taking any exercise, and long term use of drugs such as diuretics and steroids as they can impair insulin secretion from the pancreas.

The power of potted plants

The idea that plants can help your health is not a new one. I can remember everyone in my office in the 1970′s bringing in spider plants as there was a theory that they would help to have near a computer. It’s not just a theory, as many users have claimed they are effective in removing potentially harmful chemicals-including those in paints, varnishes, dry cleaning fluids, car exhaust fumes and tobacco smoke-from the air in your home.

The top 9 Air Purifying Plants are:

Dragon tree
Spider plants
Peace lilies

Till now this has been anecdotal evidence – the kind I most like as it means that real people have found real results with it – but now, Japanese scientists are developing genetically engineered plants that can absorb formaldehyde. This is a pungent chemical compound used as adhesive in building materials and furnishing and is seen as a major factor in what is known as sick-house syndrome. This is now more common as people experience headaches, dizziness and other health problems triggered by the chemicals now found in most homes.

Researchers expect the plants to absorb formaldehyde, along with carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, and they found that the level of toxic gas fell to around one-tenth of the original level. They are now trying to apply the technology to common foliage plants, but in the meantime I am going out to buy some more spider plants and a large bunch of chrysanthemums.

Laughter yoga

November 25, 2008 by  
Filed under At Home, At Work, Natural Medicine

With so much doom and gloom around we need all the help we can get, and this wonderful therapy is based on something we all knew when we were children. When you laugh, you feel better but sadly although children laugh about 400 times a day that has been whittled down to a mere 15 times when we are all grown up.

Developed by Madan Kataria, a family physician from India, laughter yoga is not really about humour (or yoga), but rather exploits the natural human tendency to laugh when others laugh, so you initiate it and see who joins in. Try smiling generously when you greet someone and you will see it returned, expand a smile into a laugh and people will join in. You can feel inhibited, embarrassed or a complete loon – or you could just decide today is your day to have some fun because research shows that when a group of people forces laughter, it quickly transitions to real, spontaneous laughing.

It is also a great stress reliever and particularly works well for companies to create a positive work environment. Laughter Solutions devise Laughter Workshops, Training and Team Building sessions, and they point out the health benefits of some good hearty laughter. It will naturally increase oxygen levels in the body and releases endorphins from the brain cells, to promote a sense of well- being and raise existing energy levels.

If you are lucky enough to live in Ireland, then you have easy access to their services and they can of course travel to the UK to bring the gift of laughter to your company. Founded and run by Anne McDonald, a creative artist, coach and Laughter expert, I can’t recommend them highly enough. She certainly made me laugh – do wear waterproof mascara if you attend one of her workshops, or none at all if you don’t want to look like a panda from the tears running down your face. As two satisfied customers said, “It’s the most fun I have ever had in a business suit.” “I laughed till I cried and felt a million dollars afterward.”

You will find Anne McDonald at www.mcdonaldcoaching.com/laughter.htm

Germs – Don’t spread them about!

November 12, 2008 by  
Filed under At Home, At Work, Health

I know you are amazingly conscientious about washing your hands, especially when you have a cold. BUT … scientists in the Virology Department of the University of Virginia, have found that cold sufferers can leave active germs around the house on surfaces they have touched – like door or fridge handles, and even the TV remote – and they can live for two days or longer. This confirms previous research they carried out two years ago, when they showed that germs survived in hotel rooms a day after guests left, waiting to be picked up by the next person checking in. You may avoid shaking the hand of a person with a cold, or kissing them on the cheek, but you never think about the everyday places in the home where these germs can lurk. Antibacterial wipes are one answer, or just wait on the invalid hand and foot and never let them near the remote.

Mobile phones, skin rashes and tumours

I know I have flagged up plenty of potential problems with the over use of mobile phones, but there are two new developments here. First, the minor one, and according to the British Association of Dermatologists, mobile phones are causing an outbreak of facial rashes, particularly to the cheek and ear where you normally hold the phone. It’s due to the nickel coating on the casing and buttons and is the result of an allergy to the nickel.

You may have already been aware of this effect, particularly if you go in for cheaper and more ‘fun’ jewellery, because nickel is the most common contact allergy in Britain, affecting 30% of the population.

Now it won’t damage your health, but a skin rash can be very irritating and upsetting so if you have noticed this yourself then just hang up your mobile for a few days and see if the rash goes away. A natural remedy is to try bathing the irritation in a mixture of one part vinegar to 15 parts water, and dab it on the affected area. It’s something my mother used on me as a child for sunburn, and it seems to help clear up many skin irritations.

Now for the more serious problem and it comes from a report in the latest issue of the American Journal of Epidemilogy. An Israeli study of more than 500 people has revealed that you could be 50% more likely to develop a tumour in your salivary gland if you constantly use your mobile phone. They studied people who had developed this condition and then compared their mobile phone habits with those of a group of 1,300 healthy people.

The Doctor in charge of the study said that it was ‘preliminary’, but he also said that until more evidence became available, a “precautionary” approach was best, particularly when it comes to children’s use of mobile phones. I couldn’t agree more, and as so many people now spend their working day constantly on their mobile, without using a land line at all, it’s worth considering having at least one ‘mobile-free’ day a week. Sunday might be good, after all it wasn’t called a ‘day of rest’ for nothing.

Can thinking make you fat?

As someone who spends at least 80% of her waking hours with the brain on full alert, I found this news item a bit worrying. Apparently a research team has demonstrated that intellectual work can lead to a substantial increase in appetite and, therefore, calorie intake. After a hard day of mental work, you can be just as physically exhausted as if you had spent the day doing physical work – just ask my cats if you don’t believe me.

A small study of 14 students were given three tasks: relaxing in a sitting position, reading and summarizing a text, and completing a series of memory, attention, and vigilance tests on the computer. Although the intellectual work required only three calories more than the rest period, the students consumed 203 more calories after summarizing a text and 253 more calories after the computer tests than they did after relaxing.

Blood samples taken before, during, and after each session revealed that intellectual work caused bigger fluctuations in glucose and insulin levels, effectively destabilising the levels of insulin and glucose. This in turn stimulates the appetite, apparently in response to a need to restore the body’s energy balance, though why it always has to be with chocolate biscuits (or is that just me?) science has yet to explain.

Now, if you do a lot of mentally challenging tasks it’s a good idea to eat plenty of the foods that are known to nourish your brain. From what we know about brain-boosting foods, the ideal post-thinking snack would seem to be a chicken and spinach omelette with a cup of green tea – but I don’t see many students opting for that!

Are you allergic to wireless internet?

Today wi-fi is everywhere with many cafes and pubs offering a free connection service so it has never been easier to access the internet while on the move. However, it may not be without its health hazards. Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS) is a condition in which people are highly sensitive to electromagnetic fields and in an area such as a wireless hotspot, they experience pain or other symptoms.

Symptoms can include headache, fatigue, nausea, burning and itchy skin, and muscle aches and because there is such a variety of symptoms – and how widely their effects vary from one person to another – experts are divided about the validity of such claims.

There have been more than 30 studies to determine what link the condition has to exposure to electromagnetic fields from sources such as radar dishes, mobile phone signals and Wi-Fi hotspots but claims that there is such a thing as EHS is still viewed with scepticism by most scientists and medical professionals.

Sweden is among those countries that do take it seriously, and they even have an official association for the electronically sensitive that produces and distributes educational literature to raise awareness about the phenomenon around the world. In the UK, Mast Action is doing similar work and there are signs that acceptance is spreading, especially in Europe. Just last week, the French magazine Connexion reported that four libraries in Paris have turned off the WiFi connections they installed at the end of 2007 after staff claimed they were causing health problems.

Why is WiFi Potentially Worse than Other Radiation?

Electomagnetic fields are all around us from power lines, televisions, household electrical wiring, appliances and microwaves. Then you have the information -carrying radio waves of cell phones, cell phone towers and wireless internet connections. WiFi is a kind of radio wave that operates at either 2.4 or 5 gigahertz – slightly higher than your cell phone. Since they’re designed to allow for transmission of very large amounts of data, WiFi radio waves also emit greater amounts electromagnetic radiation.

Who is most at risk?

If you are highly sensitive to chemicals, have chronic fatigue syndrome, and have experienced mercury toxicity from dental amalgams then you are more at risk. Logically, this makes sense as your nervous system is a primary site impacted by both chemicals and electromagnetic fields. And if your nervous system has been damaged from toxic exposures you may also be more susceptible to EHS as well.

Common symptoms of EHS include:

1. skin itch/rash/flushing/burning, and/or tingling 2. confusion/poor concentration, and/or memory loss 3. fatigue and weakness 4. headache 5. chest pain and heart problems 6. Less commonly reported symptoms include: nausea panic attacks insomnia seizures ear pain/ringing in the ears feeling a vibration paralysis dizziness

Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt is convinced that there is a real problem here as he believes that it’s possible that some 50 percent of chronic infections are caused, and/or aggravated, by electromagnetic field exposure, leading to syndromes like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes.

Why Your Laptop May be More Harmful than Your PC

If you have ever worked on a laptop for some time, you will know that one of their drawbacks is that they get pretty hot, apparently due to the size of the casing and fans that are built into them – the new Apple Air notebook is so thin you can’t imagine how there is room in there for the hard drive, let along fan – but that’s another story. Apparently, as your laptop heats up, the circuitry board out-gasses metals such as beryllium, and as the plastic warms it out-gasses flame retardants like PBDE, all of which adds to your toxic load.

The suggestion is that you only use your laptop short-term, such as when travelling, which is no help to me as that is what I do more of than anything else. However, one practical idea is that you position a desk fan near your laptop and adjust it so that is blowing air away from where you sit. The exact opposite in fact to what we normally do. Let’s hope the summer doesn’t get too hot!

What can you do?

Well apart from investing in a fan if you have a laptop, it’s important to have as uncontaminated a diet as possible to reduce your toxic load. Try having a day a week when you allow your system to detox by drinking only water and eating only fruit, if that’s not possible then aim for once a month or as often as you can manage. Two other factors that play a vital role here are: sleeping well and getting plenty of sensible sun exposure.

Why? Because sleep and sunlight have a direct impact on your melatonin levels, and melatonin is actually one of the most potent detox agents that eliminate metals from your brain naturally.

Increasing your melatonin production can be done in three ways:

1.Sleeping in absolute darkness

2.Getting at least an hour of safe exposure to bright daylight each day

3. Reducing the electro-pollution in your bedroom by removing as many electrical devices as you can. This would include your television, electric alarm clock, cordless and wireless phones.

Don’t believe me? Well a 1997 Australian Senate Discussion Paper found that even low level (12 milliGauss) exposure to 50-60 hertz electromagnetic fields can significantly reduce your melatonin production.

Painful Hands?

If your hands are painful, do you know for sure whether what causes it? You could have arthritis or might it actually be Carpal tunnel syndrome, one of the most common forms of Repetitive Strain Injury? About three in 100 of people in the UK suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and it is characterised by pain, tingling or numbness in the hand.

About half of all carpal tunnel cases are work-related, and it a ccounts for the highest number of days missed at work compared to all other work-related injuries or illnesses. The condition develops when the median nerve in the wrist becomes compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel, the narrow passageway of bones and ligaments on the underside of the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. Symptoms include:

· difficulty holding objects
· difficulty performing repetitive movements without pain
· numbness, burning pain, tingling in hand or wrist that increases at night

Some professions are more vulnerable to this condition than others. Particularly at risk are musicians, particularly pianists and violinists, hairdressers, reflexologists and masseuse, manual labourers, computer operators, and even surgeons. If you already have arthritis or any rheumatic conditions then this again can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome as can conditions such as obesity, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.

What can you do about it?

Well painkillers, cortisone injections, splints and surgery (usually the final option) are the conventional route to go. However, my personal experience of a small sample of people I know that have had it done is that it needs to be carefully considered before you go under the knife. It can be painful and success is certainly not guaranteed, even orthopaedic surgeons admit that although surgery can cure night symptoms and transient tingling, if the nerve has been damaged as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome it probably won’t fully recover and complications from surgery can include complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS),which will permanently affect hand function.

On the alternative front, there are several options available:

1 Acupuncture can relieve the pain as it releases natural pain-relieving chemicals into the body, promotes circulation and balances the nervous system. If you can’t abide needles, then Acupressure will do the same job but usually takes a little longer to be effective in my experience.

2 Vitamin B6 deficiency has been associated with carpal tunnel syndrome in several research studies. If your diet is low in food sources such as sweet potatoes, avocados, brown rice, sunflower seeds, chick peas, salmon, pork, chicken, turkey, potatoes, bananas, and mangoes then supplementing with 50 mg 2 to 3 times a day is the suggested dose. At particular risk of B6 deficiency, in addition to poor diet, are those using oral contraceptives or HRT. The maximum intake of B6 from all sources should be less than 200 mg a day, unless otherwise recommended by your doctor or nutritionist.

3 Vitamin B12 – a study looked at the effectiveness of vitamin B12 for people with carpal tunnel syndrome due to overuse of the nonparalyzed arm after a stroke. For two years, 67 people in the study received 1500 mcg of vitamin B12 a day, and the remaining 68 did not. After two years, there was significant improvement in the group taking vitamin B12 compared to the untreated group. B12 is normally found in organ meats, and vegetarians may find they need supplemental amounts via injection which is often available on the NHS.

4 Enzyme supplements such as bromelain, found naturally in the juice and stems of pineapples, which are believed to help with the digestion of protein and may help to reduce tissue swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. It can take several weeks to notice results.

5 One of my favourite homoeopathic remedies is Arnica, and in a double blind random study by the Department of Plastic Surgery of Queen Victoria Hospital in West Sussex, they found that arnica can speed up the recovery of hand surgery compared to a placebo. They used a combination of tablets and arnica ointment and saw a significant reduction in pain after two weeks.

Computer vision – A new disease?

March 25, 2008 by  
Filed under At Home, At Work, Health, Lifestyle, Wellness

We are all spending more and more time in front of a computer; shopping online, checking emails, reading our horoscope (or is t hat just me?). It is easy to forget the time, but your eyes will remind you because hours spent staring at a computer screen means you risk suffering tired, dry eyes, blurred vision, eye strain, headache, and sensitivity to light. This has led to a new ‘disease’ being recognised, collectively those symptoms are becoming known as “computer vision syndrome.”

The American Optometric Association certainly has recognised it as a growing problem with an estimated 10 million people visiting their optometrist annually for computer eye-related difficulties. Apparently, according to the Optometric Association, a computer is a challenging environment for the eyes because the imagery is not as clear as it seems to be, and because of that it’s harder for the eye to focus than it would be on ordinary print on a page.

First step is to get your eyes checked and if you spend more than a couple of hours a day in front of the computer you should mention it to your optician so they can see whether you need separate glasses for that, or a screen filter to help reduce glare and eye discomfort. If you wear bifocals, or varifocals, you can also suffer from neck and shoulder problems because these glasses are often not set for the computer so you end up having to move your head closer to the computer while at the same time tipping your head back to see the screen. That’s an awkward position and if you have been suffering from a stiff neck it could be the reason why.

One simple tip that helps is to blink more often because that lubricates your eyes. When we concentrate, our blink rate goes down, leading to dry eyes. Try adopting the 20/20 rule – every 20 minutes look away from your computer for about 20 seconds; this will minimize the development of eye-focusing problems and eye irritation caused by not blinking enough.

Check the lighting, you don’t want too much bright overhead light or any kind of glare or reflection off your computer screen. Finally, is your monitor at the right height? Experts advise that for maximum ergonomic comfort, the screen should be right in front of you so you don’t have to twist to see it and the monitor should be at eye level, or a little below it.

Blinking for eye health

January 2, 2008 by  
Filed under At Home, At Work, Health, Lifestyle

You know the saying ‘blink and you’ve missed it’; well if you don’t blink what you could be missing is your best chance to take care of your eyes and depriving them of nourishment and cleansing. If you want to take up a new habit this year, then practice frequent and gentle blinking because it is essential to the health of your eyes and vision because it allows your eyelids to regularly coat your eyes with three beneficial layers of tears and this will help prevent eye strain.

1. The first layer of tears lies right up against the whites of your eyes, and provides an even coat of protein-rich moisture for the second layer to adhere to.

2. The middle watery layer helps to wash away foreign debris. It also nourishes the cornea of your eyes with minerals, a variety of proteins, and moisture.

3. The third outer layer of tears is a little oily so it helps prevent the middle watery layer from evaporating quickly. This gives you much-needed lubrication between your eyes and your eyelids.

If your eyes are not regularly coated with the three layers of tears described above, they will be deprived of ‘essential maintenance’ in the form of nourishment and cleansing. The side effect of this is that by not blinking enough you are potentially subjecting your eyes to eye strain. What can you do? Well for the best results, you need to blink softly every two to four seconds. It will seem odd and unnatural, but if you consciously make an effort to do this then, over time, your body will turn your conscious efforts into a subconscious habit.

Don’t stare fixedly at the television, computer screen or when reading. I am a speed-reader so my blink rate is very low and I have been working to increase it by ‘fluttering’ my eyelashes at the screen – happily only my cats are around to see it and I am feeling the benefit. One other suggestion is to close your eyes whenever you are thinking about something; it will also have the benefit of improving your concentration. Try it when you are stuck when in the middle of composing an e-mail message, close your eyes while you think of your next sentence, or any other time you can rest your vision.

By the way, if you wear contact lenses then it is very important you either lubricate your eyes or make sure you blink frequently. Contact lenses can discourage frequent blinking because the back surface of your eyelids is not designed to rub over an artificial surface and can result in dry eyes.

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