I have often wondered about why we are here? And by here, I mean why humans have been given Earth as their place in this vast universe to live, breathe, survive and thrive! There is much debate about this and has been going on since the beginning of time. I’m certain we will find the answers one day, until then it’s everyone's theories and opinions that will continue to make headlines. Why do I bring this up? Well what I do believe is that humans were not put on Earth by accident. If you look at what is available on this planet, the resources, earth, fire, air, water, plants, sea life, etc, it is no surprise this planet was made for us.
Whilst researching into ancient civilisations, how they survived and thrived, there is one food that has been there since literally the beginning of time! Yes, i’m referring to Chlorella. Chlorella is a natural plant including more than 20 species, and each species is different in its production method. Well-known common species of Chlorella include C. vulgaris, C. ellipsoidea, C. saccharophila, C. pyrenoidosa, and C. regularis. These species are used for food .
Chlorella has existed since the birth of the Earth and has been reproducing itself for three billion years. However, since the plant is as tiny as 3 to 8 μm in size, it was not until the microscope was invented after the 19th century that Chlorella was first discovered. It was discovered by the Dutch microbiologist, Dr. Beijerinck, in 1890, and named Chlorella. During World War I, Chlorella was cultivated in large amounts in Germany to use as a protein source. In the 1920s, Japan succeeded in cultivating a pure culture of Chlorella, and after World War II, the United States, Germany, and Japan conducted cooperative studies. The medicinal effects of Chlorella were already confirmed after World War II, and the presence of a growth promoting factor that accelerates animal growth through the ingestion of Chlorella was revealed. NASA studied Chlorella as space food because it supplies nutrients even in small amounts .
So what makes Chlorella so good for us humans? This superfood is rich with phytonutrients, including amino acids, chlorophyll, beta-carotene, potassium, phosphorus, biotin, magnesium and the B-complex vitamins. Studies have shown that Chlorella benefits the entire body by supporting healthy hormonal function, promoting cardiovascular health, helping to negate the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and aiding in the detoxification of our bodies .
Chlorella’s rich green colour comes from a high concentration of chlorophyll. We are all told to eat more leafy green vegetables for good health, but sometimes it can be difficult to get the 5-7 servings of vegetables a day recommended by nutritionists and doctors of functional medicine. While juicing is another option, it’s simply too time-consuming for most people. And frankly, most green leafy vegetables pale in comparison to the health benefits that Chlorella can provide.
By consuming organic, low-temperature-extracted chlorella supplements, you can receive all of the chlorella benefits in a simple powder or tablet form .
As you’re about to see, Chlorella is one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods in the world.
A 1-ounce (3 tbsp) serving of Chlorella contains:
In addition, Chlorella contains a good amount of vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and phosphorus.
When you look at its nutrient density score, it’s easy to see why chlorella is ranked one of the top 10 health foods in the world. In fact, it is way more nutrient dense per gram than other greens, including kale, spinach and broccoli !
Now that we know the main nutrient profile of Chlorella, let us see what it is beneficial for in detail:
So what makes Chlorella so so good? Chlorella is labeled as a superfood, because it can provide essential nutrients that you may not get from your diet alone, these include :
That is a very impressive and i’d wager you would struggle to find many foods that have that many nutrients in it! It’s no surprise that it has been used for many civilizations since the beginning of time.
Taking Chlorella is simple. It comes in powder form and in small tablets. When buying tablets, ensure they are not freeze dried. Ensure the Chlorella is ‘spray dried’. Spray drying cracks the cell wall allowing access to the nutrients. Without this process most the the nutrients would be inaccessible to us. Freeze drying destroys the beneficial enzymes.
Regarding dosing of Chlorella, 3 grams per day is a good maintenance dosage of Chlorella for a person to take. With this amount, you will not notice significant changes, however, your body will get many of the nutrients it must have to function properly such amino acids (protein), vital minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and enzymes .
However, a person taking 5-7 grams per day is quite common and at this level you will notice significant changes in digestion, energy and overall health. One teaspoon of powder is equal to 5,000 mg. If you are taking tablets or capsules you would have to divide the mg of that pill into 5,000 mg to find out your dose. For example if you had 500 mg tablets you would divide 5,000 by 500 and determine you would need ten tablets for 5,000 mg of chlorella .
Chlorella can be taken at any time of the day. It can be taken all at once but preferably it should be taken in small doses throughout the day. Morning is also a good time to take chlorella, but never just before or after drinking coffee or soft drinks since caffeine is extremely detrimental to the digestive process. Chlorella causes the bacteria in our stomachs, the Lactobacilli, to multiply at 4 times the rate of normal. This is why it is best to take with meals as chlorella helps provide very good digestion and more importantly, better assimilation of nutrients .
Chlorella provides a wide array of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, as well as being the highest-known source of chlorophyll. While these are all beneficial, the greatest value of chlorella lies in a fascinating ingredient called Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF). CGF is a nucleotide-peptide complex derived from a hot water extract of chlorella. It is made mostly of nucleic acid derivatives. Researchers have discovered that CGF is produced during the intense photosynthesis that enables chlorella to grow so fast. Each cell multiplies into four new cells about every 20 hours, and CGF promotes this rapid rate of reproduction. Experiments with microorganisms, animals and children have shown that CGF promotes faster than normal growth without adverse side effects, and in adults, it appears to enhance RNA/DNA functions responsible for production of proteins, enzymes and energy at the cellular level, stimulating tissue repair and protecting cells against some toxic substances .
Because of the fiber content in Chlorella's cell wall and other nutritional factors, when some people begin to take chlorella for the first time they may go through cleansing reactions, sometimes referred to as a "healing crisis". This cleansing reaction comes in the form of intestinal activity such as gas, cramping, constipation or diarrhea. This same type of cleansing reaction frequently occurs when people switch from a low-fiber, "junk-food" diet to a high fiber, natural food diet. For this reason, some individuals may wish to start out with less than the suggested amount and gradually increase up to the recommended dose in 1-2 weeks. Very sensitive individuals may want to start with as little as 1/16 of a teaspoon per day (300 mg).
If you have not been eating many fresh raw vegetables in your diet, it is probably a good idea to start out with one 1/16 of a teaspoon with each meal and increase by 1/16 of a teaspoon every 2-3 days .
As long as you are not showing an allergic reaction (such as hives) or throwing up, you can safely continue the chlorella. In a couple of weeks to months, the reaction should decrease. And as it decreases, you can increase the dose .
My personal experience of taking Chlorella is the following:
I hope this has been an informative blog on the benefits of Chlorella. As with most superfoods and supplements, please take advice from a Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Doctor on what the correct dose for you should be and if you should take the supplement in question to begin with. A number of things such as lifestyle, diet, water intake, medical conditions and current medication intake play a role in safe supplementation and the length of supplementation.
If you feel you could benefit from taking Chlorella or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
With the clocks going back an hour in the Western part of the world, the days are getting shorter and the nights longer. The weather is getting cooler and winter is just round the corner. With all of this the general mood for most of us changes. Feeling down, having a lack of drive, a lack of energy and a general low mood are common symptoms for most. It's a rather dramatic shift from the summer where the mood is one of general happiness, fun and energy is abundant. These are classic signs that you maybe suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter. The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter. They're typically most severe during December, January and February. SAD often improves and disappears in the spring and summer, although it may return each autumn and winter in a repetitive pattern .
Symptoms of SAD can include :
For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.
The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include :
It's clear that the change in light patterns plays an important role in SAD. With less daylight and for those who work in offices, hospitals, labs and generally where the light is artificial all day and no light when work is finished, the effects of SAD can be more present. Let us discuss the science behind this to understand why it can affect us.
Vitamin D is essential for humans for survival. It is made when sunlight hits the skin. I won’t go into the science behind this, just take my word for it (and read my Vitamin D blog). With a lack of sunlight, vitamin D synthesis is limited. Numerous studies have suggested the condition may be triggered by lack of sunlight. SAD is more common among people who live at high latitudes or areas with lots of cloud .
One hypothesis behind SAD is that reduced sunlight exposure interferes with the body's biological clock that regulates mood, sleep and hormones. Another theory is that lack of sunlight causes an imbalance of neurotransmitters - such as dopamine and serotonin - which regulate mood .
A research team led by Alan Stewart of the College of Education at the University of Georgia - published their findings in the journal Medical Hypotheses:
"We hypothesize that rather than functioning primarily as a proximal or direct sub-mechanism in the etiology of SAD, vitamin D likely functions in a more foundational and regulative role in potentiating the sub-mechanisms associated with the depressive and seasonality factors," say the researchers.
Firstly, the researchers note that vitamin D levels in the body fluctuate with the changing seasons in response to available sunlight. "For example," says Stewart, "studies show there is a lag of about 8 weeks between the peak in intensity of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the onset of SAD, and this correlates with the time it takes for UV radiation to be processed by the body into vitamin D."
Co-author Michael Kimlin, of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, says that vitamin D also plays a part in the synthesis of both dopamine and serotonin, noting that past research has associated low levels of these neurotransmitters with depression.
"Therefore," he adds, "it is logical that there may be a relationship between low levels of vitamin D and depressive symptoms. Studies have also found depressed patients commonly had lower levels of vitamin D."
The researchers also believe there is a link between skin pigmentation and vitamin D levels, which may affect an individual's risk for SAD. They explain that studies have shown that people with darker skin pigmentation are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, and if such individuals relocate to high-latitude regions, they may have a higher chance of developing SAD .
So why are serotonin and dopamine so important for us?
Serotonin is one of the most important neurotransmitters (chemicals used by brain cells to communicate with each other). Serotonin exhibits a wide range of functions in both the brain and the body, especially of the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract .
The first known function of serotonin was controlling blood vessel constriction. But it is much better known as the “happy molecule” for the important role it plays in positive mood. Most brain cells are affected directly or indirectly by serotonin where it regulates mood, social behaviour, libido, sleep, memory, and learning. The advent of prescription antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft turned serotonin into a household word .
These drugs are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which are believed to work by increasing serotonin levels. While serotonin is almost always associated with brain function, mood, and mental well-being, surprisingly 95% of our serotonin is manufactured in the intestines, not the brain .
In fact, this “second brain” in our gut contains 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. Researchers are still unclear as to why there is so much serotonin activity in the intestines. It seems that serotonin facilitates communication between the gut and the brain, but serotonin used by the brain must be produced there since serotonin created in the gut is unable to pass through the brain’s protective filter. Because so much serotonin resides outside of the brain, some experts consider serotonin a hormone as well as a neurotransmitter .
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by the brain that plays a number of roles in humans and other animals. Some of its notable functions are in :
Dopamine is the chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain. It is released during pleasurable situations and stimulates one to seek out the pleasurable activity or occupation. This means food, sex, and several drugs of abuse are also stimulants of dopamine release in the brain, particularly in areas such as the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex .
Deficient levels of dopamine activity in the brain can cause depression. this dopamine deficient depression (DDD) is characterised by a low energy, demotivated state, as opposed to the intensely painful character of serotonin deficient depression (SDD). A severely dopamine deficient depressed person may wish they were dead, but wouldn’t have the motivation or energy to do anything about it. The tortured, antsy serotonin deficient depressed person is a much higher risk of suicide. Suddenly increasing energy and motivation in a person with DDD by boosting dopamine can temporarily increase suicide risk. This is also a known and common side effect with antidepressant drugs .
Dopamine gives the brain energy, motivation, a switched on feeling and excitement about new ideas. A surge in dopamine can give a high and pleasurable feeling. The increased energy and talkativeness a coffee can cause is mainly due to the effect of increased dopamine levels. If you’ve ever felt sluggish first thing in the morning or afternoon for example and found a coffee gave you mental energy, sharpness and renewed enthusiasm that was a dopamine boost. (1-2 coffees a day gives you multiple health benefits by the way).
Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter involved in the feeling of pleasure, feeling high and euphoric. Dopamine is involved in the pursuit of pleasure. It is often said that anything you do that feels really good has just given your dopamine levels a boost.
To little dopamine can also cause: depression coupled with significant fatigue, real apathy, maybe slowed thinking, drowsiness, the inability to feel enthusiastic about anything, no motivation and excessive sleep. It can also be involved in ADD/ADHD .
Both dopamine and serotonin elevate one's psychological mood producing an antidepressant effect. Serotonin primarily influences feelings of happiness, optimism, contentedness, seeing the cup half-full so to speak. Dopamine on the other hand influences feelings of, excitement, pleasure, euphoria, which can be addictive, dopamine gives one the feeling of reward that creates motivation and drive .
In a single word serotonin gives us happiness, dopamine gives us pleasure.
It is very clear to see that a lack of vitamin D can do so much to our bodies physically, mentally and emotionally. A lack of vitamin D will affect our serotonin and dopamine levels. Due to this it is clear that we feel more low during the winter months.
Now that we know what can causes seasonal affective disorder, what can be done to tackle this disorder? Below is a few quick and easy wins that can be done :
Investing in a vitamin D lamp could also be wise. Whilst these is no scientific proof, or rather studies to prove this works, there’s no evidence to say that it doesn’t work! So it could be worth purchasing one and keeping it on when working in low light conditions. Note when you have this lamp on, try and keep your head and arms (at a minimum) naked to absorb the light.
During the winter months, take a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D content in foods is limited, therefore taking a vitamin D supplement during the winter months is vital for your health and wellbeing. In addition to vitamin D helping your hormones, it is vital for your immune system, which is helpful during the winter months where colds and flus are abundant.
You have read above about serotonin and how it is the ‘second brain’. There is so much serotonin activity in our intestines, it is vital we feed our body the right foods that will help our intestines keep a healthy level of serotonin creation for the brain. Here are some foods that will help with that :
Lastly, if by changing your lifestyle and diet you still feel that you are suffering from SAD, it could be that you need professional help from a psychiatrist or other therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. You're shown how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel. Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis .
The important thing is to seek help and do something if you feel you have symptoms of SAD or a generally feeling low and underwhelmed all year round, regardless of the seasons.
If you feel you require support with a change of mood and lifestyle in the winter or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at email@example.com or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
Over the years there has been much debate on sleep and how important it is for us all. Why is it that some people can have 4 hours sleep and function normally, whereas I myself need a good 8 hours to function at my best. The answer is simple, we are all unique and our bodies need different amounts of everything. What works for one person, won’t work for everyone else. So next time someone is bragging that they can get by on 4 hours sleep, don’t feel like they are superior to you. You may have other things your body is superior at, such as better skin, more focus, more muscles or a faster metabolism to name a few things.
Why is sleep so important for us? Well, let us discuss what sleep is, what it does for us and why we need it.
Sleep (or at least a physiological period of quiescence) is a highly conserved behavior that occurs in animals ranging from fruit flies to humans. This prevalence notwithstanding, why we sleep is not well understood. Since animals are particularly vulnerable while sleeping, there must be advantages that outweigh this considerable disadvantage. Shakespeare characterized sleep as “nature's soft nurse,” noting the restorative nature of sleep. From a perspective of energy conservation, one function of sleep is to replenish brain glycogen levels, which fall during the waking hours. In keeping with this idea, humans and many other animals sleep at night. Since it is generally colder at night, more energy would have to be expended to keep warm, were we nocturnally active. Furthermore, body temperature has a 24-hour cycle, reaching a minimum at night and thus reducing heat loss. As might be expected, human metabolism measured by oxygen consumption decreases during sleep .
Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you're sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It's forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Studies show that a good night's sleep improves learning. Whether you're learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested .
Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes. Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility. Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances .
Before I go through the specific advantages of sleep, I want to outline how the sleep cycle works, as it's important to know this.
While you sleep, you go through cycles of sleep states. The first state in a sleep cycle is light sleep (NREM), followed by deep sleep and a dream state referred to as REM-sleep. NREM stands for Non Rapid Eye Movement and REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. A full sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and is normally repeated several times each night. Let's go through these cycles in detail :
Stage 1 NREM: This stage occurs after you have decided to sleep and your eyes are closed. During this stage—which typically lasts between 1 and 10 minutes—you are lightly asleep, and you can quickly return to being fully awake.
Stage 2 NREM: When NREM Stage 2 sleep kicks in, things get serious!
Stage 3 NREM: This sleep stage refers to the combined stages of what was previously separated into Stage 3 & 4 sleep.
Stage 4 REM: This is the final stage of a standard sleep cycle. The first Rapid Eye Movement sleep stage lasts around 10 minutes and usually happens after having been asleep at least 90 minutes.
REM sleep is also known as “paradoxical sleep.” This is because the brain waves emitted during this stage seem contradictory to sleep: Although you are sleeping, your brain waves look at lot like what can be recorded when you are fully awake. Another aspect of this paradox is the fact that even though your brain shows heightened activity, most of your muscles are paralyzed.
Now that we have seen what sleep actually is and the processes your body goes through on an average sleep cycle, let us see the many benefits of a good night's sleep :
It is clear that sleep is very important for us all. I for one love sleeping! With the weather getting cooler and the nights getting longer, there is nothing better than getting into a comfortable bed and getting some shut eye. Especially for those of us who exercise during the week (which should be all of us :-)), sleep is important for muscle recovery and growth.
A lack of sleep is more damaging to one's health then is accepted or acknowledged. Sleep seems to be missed off most diagnostics and is something which is commonly accepted as ok if one does not get enough sleep. By having a good nights sleep, we can tackle the day with a burst fullness of energy and determination.
Here are the long term effects of not getting enough sleep :
Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life. A review of 16 studies found that sleeping for less than 6 to 8 hours a night increases the risk of early death by about 12 percent. The obvious signs of sleep deprivation are:
Stimulants like caffeine aren’t enough to override your body’s profound need for sleep. Behind the scenes, chronic sleep deprivation can interfere with your body’s internal systems and cause more than just the initial signs and symptoms listed above.
Everyone’s experienced the fatigue, short temper and lack of focus that often follow a poor night’s sleep. An occasional night without sleep makes you feel tired and irritable the next day, but it won’t harm your health. After several sleepless nights, the mental effects become more serious. Your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You’ll start to feel down, and may fall asleep during the day. If it continues, lack of sleep can affect your overall health and make you prone to serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes .
So what can be done to have what I call good ‘sleep hygiene’ for a good night's sleep? There are a few quick wins that can be easily done to help ensure you get a restful night’s sleep. Here is my quick win guide:
Frequent sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness are the most telling signs of poor sleep hygiene. In addition, if you're taking too long to fall asleep, you should consider evaluating your sleep routine and revising your bedtime habits. Just a few simple changes can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and night spent tossing and turning .
As can be seen, by having a good sleep routine, with sensible diet choices and exercise will help you have a good night sleep. When we have a good nights sleep, we make sensible eating choices the next day, have more energy and generally feel better.
If you feel you require support with your sleep issues or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
There has always been a common misconception about nails and what they actually do. Why do human beings need nails on their hands and feet? I’d wager that most people have no idea why and before you say it, it's not just for painting them!
Firstly, let us go through what nails are. A fingernail is produced by living skin cells in the finger. A fingernail consists of several parts including the nail plate (the visible part of the nail), the nail bed (the skin beneath the nail plate), the cuticle (the tissue that overlaps the plate and rims the base of the nail), the nail folds (the skin folds that frame and support the nail on three sides), the lunula (the whitish half-moon at the base of the nail) and the matrix (the hidden part of the nail unit under the cuticle) .
Fingernails grow from the matrix. The nails are composed largely of keratin, a hardened protein (that is also in skin and hair). As new cells grow in the matrix, the older cells are pushed out, compacted and take on the familiar flattened, hardened form of the fingernail .
So now that we know what they are and how they are composed, why do we have them? "We have fingernails because we're primates," said John Hawks, a biological anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Fingernails are one of the features that distinguish primates, including humans, from other mammals. They are essentially flattened forms of claws .
Scientists suspect primates sort of lost their claws and fashioned broad fingertips topped with nails to aid in locomotion. While claws would have provided excellent grip as our mammalian ancestors clambered up large tree trunks, they would have been a nuisance for larger-bodied primates trying to grasp smaller branches while scrambling across tree canopies for fruits. Rather, primates developed broader fingertips made for grasping .
About 2.5 million years ago, fossil evidence suggests early humans first picked up stone tools, which is about the same time our ancestors also developed even broader fingertips than earlier primates. To this day, humans sport broader fingertips than other primates . Whether fingernails are an adaptation that helps to support broad fingertips or a side effect from the loss of claws is unclear, Hawks said .
The chief function of a fingernail is likely protection. Nails have no nerve endings, which is helpful, considering they're constantly in contact with our environment. It's argued that they evolved to be so tough in order to protect us from trauma both minor and major. Horse hooves, similarly, have no nerve endings, allowing us to "shoe" them the way we do. We don't put our nails through that kind of punishment, but think how many more broken thumbs there would be in the world if the "shield" of a thumbnail wasn't there to absorb the blow of a hammer ?
What we do know is that they are certainly a part of evolution and that whilst they serve little purpose now, they can be used to let us know about certain aspects of our health. It is well practiced that examining the tongue, eyes and nails can give good indications of one's health and clues as to what maybe wrong with them. Let us for the remainder of this blog focus on nail health and what it can tell us.
“The nail matrix, the site of nail growth that hides a few millimeters underneath the cuticle, is affected by each individual's general state of health,” says Jessica Weiser, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group. “Illness, fever, surgery, trauma, life stressors, and nutritional deficiencies all have different effects on the nails and their growth. ”
Here are some common nail symptoms and what they can mean for your health :
Biting your nails is also another way to get infection into your nails and fingers. If you bite off too big a piece, you can expose the delicate skin beneath your nail, leaving it exposed to any bacteria or pathogens in your mouth—and there are plenty of them. One of the most common forms of infection is called paronychia, and it can cause swelling, redness, pain, and pus-filled lumps. That infection can stick around for weeks at a time, shows a study in the journal American Family Physician. Biting your cuticles—the narrow crescents of skin that rim the bottom of your nail, is the most common cause of paronychia .
Of course, the easiest way to have healthy nails is to live a clean, balanced lifestyle. By doing this, having a positive outlook on life and staying active, you can ensure that your nails will remain in good condition. Where the issue presents for some people (particularly ladies) is when there are no health issues but their nails need to be a little more firmer or stronger. In this scenario there are certain supplements and foods that can help with your nail health.
Consuming protein rich foods such as nuts, beans and fish can help with your nail health. The building blocks of protein are amino acids. When protein is eaten, your digestive processes break it down into amino acids, which pass into the blood and are carried throughout the body. Your cells can then select the amino acids they need for the construction of new body tissue, antibodies, hormones, enzymes, and blood cells .
There are 22 different amino acids, each of which has its own characteristics, and are like the letters of the alphabet. The eight essential amino acids are like the vowels. Just as you cannot make words without vowels, so you cannot build proteins without these essential amino acids. Protein is not one substance, but literally tens of thousands of different substances. The essential amino acids must be consumed in the diet because the body does not make them .
By consuming a diet rich in protein, you will not only remain fuller for longer, but the building blocks inside of the proteins will help with your nail health as well as other processes in your body such as boosting the immune system, muscle growth and as mentioned above, satiety.
Supplements such as biotin, vitamin E and fish oils are also great for nail (and hair) health. Biotin is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin. B-complex vitamins help the body convert food into fuel to produce energy, and are needed for the nervous system to function properly. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, B-complex vitamins are also needed for healthy hair, skin, eyes, and liver. Biotin is needed by the body to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids, the building blocks for protein. Hair Loss Evolution has great tips for biotin and hair loss .
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the biotin requirement is likely to increase during pregnancy. "Research suggests a substantial number of women develop marginal or subclinical biotin deficiency during normal pregnancy." Biotin appears to be broken down more rapidly douring pregnancy, and subclinical biotin deficiency has been linked to birth defects such as teratogenesis (abnormal development of the embryo or fetus). Most prenatal supplements will have an increased amount of supplemental biotin for this reason. The appearance of longer, stronger nails during pregnancy and the increased amounts of biotin in prenatal vitamins may be another reason biotin is thought of as a supplement that improves nails .
Cooked liver is a rich source of biotin, with a 3 oz serving providing 27-35 mcg of biotin, approximately 100% RDV for adults. Another one of the best sources of biotin is found in egg yolks. One egg yolk can provide anywhere from 13-25 mcg of biotin, or roughly one third of an adult's daily requirement. Eating three egg yolks would provide 100% RDV of biotin. Remember to cook your eggs, as uncooked egg whites can actually interfere with biotin absorption .
Vitamin E, in a topical liquid form, can help correct certain nail-growth disorders and problems, including yellow nail. In this condition, nail growth takes on a yellowish, thickened appearance. In addition to topical treatment, oral vitamin E supplements have also been effective at treating this condition. Yellowed, thickened nails can also be a symptom of a fungal infection. As an antioxidant, vitamin E destroys free radicals that damage hair and nails. Ultimately, this damage contributes to an aged appearance. By protecting the hair and nails from damage, both topically and through oral supplementation, vitamin E protects healthy growth .
Fish oil contains an essential fatty acid called Omega-3, which most Americans are extremely deficient in. Omega-3 fatty acids nourish your hair follicles for stronger, shinier hair that grows faster, and your nails will also become stronger and less brittle. Take at least 3000 mg of high-quality fish oil per day .
Note that you should only be supplementing for a short period of time (3 months) and should be making sensible diet and lifestyle choices that will help with the overall health of your nails and your whole body. Long-term supplementation is not the answer to nail health, as supplements are wonderful, but long term they can cause more harm than good.
If you feel you require support with your nail health or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at email@example.com or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
“All disease begins in the gut.” - Hippocrates
For many many years, bacteria has been getting very negative views in the press and media. When we all think of bacteria, we usually think of bad bugs that cause us harm and the answer for most of us is to flock to anti-biotics to help fight off these nasty bugs. Well believe it or not, the majority of the bacteria in your body are there as living organisms designed to help you survive and thrive. During this blog we shall discuss bacteria, what’s good for you, what isn’t and how to keep your body full and thriving with the good bacteria.
Our bodies have trillions of bacteria in them. They all have functions that they perform to thrive and survive. A person which has a good balance of bacteria, is thriving and disease free, we can label as ‘healthy’. Living inside of your gut are 300 to 500 different kinds of bacteria containing nearly 2 million genes. Paired with other tiny organisms like viruses and fungi, they make what’s known as the microbiota, or the microbiome. Like a fingerprint, each person's microbiota is unique. The mix of bacteria in your body is different from everyone else's mix. It’s determined partly by your mother’s microbiota, the environment that you’re exposed to at birth and partly from your diet and lifestyle .
The relationship between humans and some gut flora is a mutual one. It is well known that intestinal bacteria synthesise vitamin B and Vitamin K. The composition of human gut microbiota changes over time, when the diet changes, and as overall health changes . It seems to play a role in many other health-related functions, including metabolism, cardiac health and mood. We are still learning what a healthy gut microbiome looks like. Evidence suggests that a balanced and diverse microbiome might contribute to better health overall, and a less diverse or less balanced microbiome can have a negative impact on health. Having less diverse gut bacteria has been linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and the increase in autoimmune diseases in developed countries .
Fairly recent scientific discoveries have linked having a well balanced gut (intestinal tract) is key to a healthy immune system. Approximately between 70-80% of your immune system is located within your digestive system. The digestive system comprises of cells, proteins, tissues and organs which work together in a complex way to defend the body against harmful bacteria, infectious diseases and toxins.
In fact the gut mucosa connects with the largest population of immune cells in the body. These are also known as gastrointestinal immune cells; which come from the lymphoid branch of the immune system. Their aim is to secrete lymphocyte cells which attack harmful invaders. These lymphatic cells also form bundles known as ‘Peyer’s Patches’ which work together to protect the mucous membranes of the small intestines from infection. They do this by releasing specific white blood cells known as T-cells and B-cells to defend the inside of the digestive tract from infection, as well as the damage that they cause to the intestinal walls. .
Digestion, mood, health, and even the way people think is being linked to their “second brain,” i.e. their gut, more and more every day. The Enteric Nervous System, or ENS, is what scientists are calling the 100 million or so nerve cells that line the entirety of people’s gastrointestinal tracts. The main role of the ENS is to control digestion, but in doing so, it communicates back and forth with the brain as to the overall health of the body’s gut, and in turn, its immune system .
The connection between gut health and mood has been known for some time, as individuals suffering from bowel-disorders such as Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or leaky gut are more likely than others to also suffer from autoimmune diseases and mental issues such as depression and anxiety. Symptoms related to poor gut health can be as obvious as abdominal pain, bloating after meals, reflux, or flatulence, but also less obvious like headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and immune system weakness .
So now that we have seen why it is so important to have a healthy digestive system with much of the beneficial bacteria to help us keep our immune system in top shape, let us see the other benefits of the good bacteria. There has been a study which links the type of bacteria in your gut to whether you are lean or obese. The study found that those that were lean had a much wider variety of gut bacteria present than those that were obese .
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the gut bacterium A. muciniphila — the foremost bacteria in the gut’s nutrient-dense mucus layer — may be the key to developing new treatments against obesity and related metabolic disorders. Researchers found that A. muciniphila were at lower than normal levels in both obese mice and mice with type 2 diabetes, suggesting that the bacteria itself plays a critical role in these two common conditions. When researchers gave prebiotics to the at-risk mice, their levels of A. muciniphila increased, improving the functioning of the gut lining and resulting in a reversal of fat mass, inflammation and insulin resistance .
Other benefits of having good gut bacteria are :
The golden rule in nutrition as with most things in life, is to diversify. This is especially true when it comes to foods that feed your gut. As with most things in the body, there are certain foods which can help restore the good bacteria that we need in the gut. Here are some of them [9,10]:
What also helps the gut bacteria is the use of probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that are either the same as or very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body. Your lower digestive tract alone teems with a complex and diverse community of these bacteria. In fact, there are a greater number of bacteria in your intestines than there are cells in your body .
A probiotic dietary supplement can aid your health in a variety of ways. Lactobacillus species, Bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii and Bacillus coagulans are the most common beneficial bacteria used in probiotic dietary supplement products. But each type and each strain of each type can work in different ways. Bottom line: Not all probiotics are the same, nor do they all have the same effect in the body .
Probiotics are fantastic to take when you lose your ‘good’ gut bacteria. This can be very useful after taking a course of antibiotics, as antibiotic work by wiping out all bacteria, not just the bad bacteria. The idea behind antibiotics is simple, wipe enough bacteria, and the bad bacteria will eventually get killed off. What you’re left with is a compromised or ‘low’ immune system. Taking probiotics as well as high gut bacteria boosting foods can really help boost the immune system. Everyone should be taking probiotics in my opinion atleast 2-3 times a year. Some of my favourite brands are Just Thrive, MegaSpore and Bio-Kult.
Lastly, i’d like to cover digestion and the microbes. Bacteria (microbes) feed of the food that we eat. What we eat will either feed the good bacteria or the bad bacteria. There have been some cases where someone on a good healthy balanced diet has still had symptoms of a compromised gut, or what is more popularly known as these days, a leaky gut. The main issue here is that foods are not being digested properly in the stomach (due to low stomach acid) and therefore not enough of the nutrients are extracted to feed the good microbes. This in turn lowers the immune system and causes may gut and over time chronic disease issues. The solution to this is to take bitter foods that can aid digestion and cause the stomach acid to balance out. A tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar 10 minutes before every meal can help with this. Also taking Digestive Enzymes or Digestive Bitters can also help.
When we eat, the microbes are fed first. There is a common myth that bacteria are fed last after the body has absorbed the nutrients. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The microbes are fed first, and depending on what is fed to them, either they react in a good or bad way. That is what makes us feel good or bad after a meal and either makes us fight to survive or thrive.
If you think you require support with your gut and immune health or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
It is what we all feel racing when we have moments of joy and pain. It’s what usually wins over logic and reason all of the time. It's the one single thing that everyone should take seriously, yes i’m talking about how healthy is your heart?
The heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime, pushing millions of gallons of blood to every part of the body. This steady flow carries with it oxygen, fuel, hormones, other compounds, and a host of essential cells. It also whisks away the waste products of metabolism. When the heart stops, essential functions fail, some almost instantly .
Taking all of this into account, let's look at what literally makes us tick and how we can help maintain a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
The heart works like a pump and beats 100,000 times a day. It has two sides, separated by an inner wall called the septum. The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen. The left side of the heart receives the oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it to the body .
Your heart is made up of three tissue layers:
The movement of blood around the body, pumped by the heart, is called circulation. Your heart, blood and blood vessels together make up your cardiovascular system (or heart and circulatory system). Your body contains about five litres (eight pints) of blood, which your heart is continuously circulating .
As your heart muscle contracts, it pushes blood through your heart. With each contraction, or heartbeat :
It is clear that the heart is one of the most important organs in the human body and it should be taken care of literally because your life depends on it! Before we get onto what is essential to keep a strong healthy heart, let us take a look at common things that can go wrong with the heart and cardiovascular system.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading killers, with over 17 million people dying globally from a heart related condition every year according to the World Health Organisation . There are a number of heart conditions that one could experience or be unlucky enough to be diagnosed with. The most common ones are :
So now that i’ve scared you enough with what can go wrong with the heart, let's see what can be done to keep the heart fit and healthy? Firstly, exercise! Get that heart pumping and get some oxygen around your body! The American Heart Association recommend the following :
For Overall Cardiovascular Health:
- At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes.
- At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
- Moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.
For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol:
- An average 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week.
Remember something is always better than nothing! And everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you've been sedentary for years, today is the day you can begin to make healthy changes in your life. If you don't think you'll make it for 30 or 40 minutes, set a reachable goal for today. You can work up toward your overall goal by increasing your time as you get stronger. Don't let all-or-nothing thinking rob you of doing what you can every day.
Nutrients are also essential for your heart. Here are some of the ones that the heart needs to function well :
One crucial topic I have not covered in detail is the role of cholesterol in cardiovascular health. As this is a vast and complex topic, I shall cover it in a blog of its own to do it justice. What I will say is that cholesterol does play a role in cardiovascular health, but not as much as you may think or are led to believe!
It can be seen by exercising, eating a varied and diet rich in vitamins and minerals and having sensible portions of food sizes combined with the occasional supplement can go a long way to helping our heart and cardiovascular system function at its optimum condition. Like the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
To educate yourself further, head over to Janco Voster's website, my afib heart, and read more on his great guide to heart health. It covers a lot of detail in 10 steps that are easy to follow.
If you think you require support with your cardiovascular health or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at email@example.com or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
With the shift in weather this time of year for those of us in Europe and North America, common colds, flus and viruses seem to flare up and do the rounds. From using crowded public transport facilities to working in air conditioned offices where the air is ‘recycled’, yes in most cities this time of year it’s a germ fest! So what can be done to ensure that your immune system is at its peak to fight off these nasty bugs and ensure you can have a healthy couple of months going into Christmas and the New Year.
Lets first discuss what is the immune system? The immune system is a collection of structures and processes within the body. It is designed to protect against disease or other potentially damaging foreign bodies. When functioning properly, the immune system identifies a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, and distinguishes them from the body's own healthy tissue .
The immune system is made up of antibodies, white blood cells, and other chemicals and proteins that attack and destroy substances such as bacteria and viruses that they recognise as foreign and different. The immune system also includes :
Without an immune system, a human being would be just as exposed to the harmful influences of pathogens or other substances from the outside environment as to changes harmful to health happening inside of the body. As long as our body’s system of defense is running smoothly, we do not notice the immune system. And yet, different groups of cells work together and form alliances against just about any pathogen (germ). But illness can occur if the performance of the immune system is compromised, if the pathogen is especially aggressive, or sometimes also if the body is confronted with a pathogen it has not come into contact before (this is how most of us get a common cold or the flu) .
So now that we know what the immune system is and how it works, what can we do to keep it healthy and running in peak condition? Here’s a few quick wins that we should all be doing :
What is almost always overlooked is the importance of exercise and the role it plays in keeping the immune system healthy. There have been many studies done that both say exercise is both good for your immune system and could also be harmful for you if you’re over exercising. Some theories of getting regular exercise to help the immune system are the following :
Exercise is good for you, but, you should not overdo it. People who already exercise should not exercise more just to increase their immunity. Heavy, long-term exercise (such as marathon running and intense gym training) could actually cause harm. Exercise makes you feel healthier and more energetic. It can help you feel better about yourself. So go ahead, take that aerobics class or go for that walk. You will feel better and healthier for it.
Let's also look at foods that can help boost your immune system and keep it in top shape:
Garlic (my favourite) - contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria. One ounce of garlic contains 23% of your Manganese RDA, 17% of your Vitamin B6 RDA, 15% of your Vitamin C RDA, 6% of your Selenium RDA and also decent amounts of fibre, calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B1 .
Green Tea - People who drank 5 cups a day of black tea for 2 weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than others who drank a placebo hot drink, in a Harvard study. The amino acid that's responsible for this immune boost, L-theanine, is abundant in both black and green tea, decaf versions have it too. Optimal dose is several cups daily. Where green tea really excels is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, another powerful antioxidant. EGCG has been shown to enhance immune function. The fermentation process black tea goes through destroys a lot of the EGCG. Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so the EGCG is preserved. To get up to five times more antioxidants from your tea bags, bob them up and down while you brew .
Sweet Potatoes - To stay strong and healthy, your skin needs vitamin A. "Vitamin A plays a major role in the production of connective tissue, a key component of skin," explains David Katz, M.D., director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Centre in Derby, Connecticut. One of the best ways to get vitamin A into your diet is from foods containing beta-carotene (like sweet potatoes), which your body turns into vitamin A .
Green Leafy Vegetables - Vegetables come loaded with fibre and nutrients and are some of the healthiest foods on the planet. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and cabbages are loaded with essential vitamins and antioxidants that boost immune system functioning .
Berries - Blueberries are famous for their high antioxidant content, but almost all berries are very healthy. They contain flavonoids and phytochemicals, which are powerful antioxidants. Berries are versatile and can be used to make a range of healthy smoothies, desserts and more for yourself and your kids .
Nuts - Nuts like almonds, peanuts, and walnuts are great sources of fats. They also contain vitamin E and zinc along with a good amount of antioxidants. They are also versatile and easy to mix with different foods. To optimise digestibility of nuts and seeds, soak and dehydrate them first and all nuts and seeds can be easily made into delicious homemade nut or seed butter .
Ginger - Ginger is another ingredient many turn to after getting sick. Ginger may help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses. Ginger may also help decrease nausea. While it's used in many sweet desserts, ginger packs some heat in the form of gingerol, a relative of capsaicin. Ginger may help decrease chronic pain and may possess cholesterol-lowering properties, according to recent animal research .
Poultry - When you’re sick, chicken soup is more than just a feel-good food with a placebo effect. It helps improve symptoms of a cold and also helps protect you from getting sick in the first place. Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B-6. About 3 ounces of light turkey or chicken meat contains 40 to 50 percent of your daily recommended amount of B-6. Vitamin B-6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. It’s also vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. Stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity .
In addition to consuming healthy foods, it's also critical to stay hydrated in order to help keep your throat and airways clear, says Maxine Yeung, MS, RD, CDN, NASM-CPT and founder of The Wellness Whisk. But not all beverages help fight illness. "Hot tea is a great way to stay hydrated, provide warmth and comfort to an irritated and inflamed throat and help relieve congestion," says Yeung. "Try to avoid sweetened beverages, like sports drinks and juice, as too much sugar in your body can cause inflammation... which further weakens your immune system ."
When you're trying to fight off an illness, focus on consuming foods that are packed with nutrients. "It's not what to avoid, but what to include in your diet that is important for immunity," says Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com. And of course, the old adage that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" always applies. "The best way to stave off the cold and flu is try to stay as healthy as possible by maintaining a healthy diet, being physically active and practicing good hygiene," says Yeung. "There is no magical food that can help prevent a cold, but lacking in certain nutrients can contribute to a compromised immune system." So for the best cold prevention, focus on eating balanced healthy meals all year-round .
Lastly, supplements can also be used to help boost and maintain the immune system. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D-3, Freeze Dried Garlic, Ginger Root, Zinc, Magnesium and Olive Leaf Extract are some of my favourite ones to use to boost the immune system. Whilst i’m not affiliated with any supplement companies, if you require guidance on which brands to use, contact me! If you’re using supplements, make sure they are ethically sourced with organic and food based ingredients and are not filled with fillers and preservatives. You should always take supplements on a short term basis.
In conclusion, I would suggest that staying hydrated, avoiding sugary foods, having foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and different colours as well as having the foods I mentioned above and exercising will help you maintain good, healthy and thriving immune system. Processed foods should be avoided as much as possible. The plate you eat should be rich in colours, such as greens, reds, oranges and whites. If you think you require support with your immune system or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
For those of us in the Western part of the world, Autumn and the fall season has started to creep up on us. The days are getting shorter, the weather a lot cooler, leaves have started falling and in the UK especially the rain has started, nothing new there then! For those amongst us that are getting on in their age, it's also the time of year where those bones start aching more and joints start to feel a lot stiffer than they are over the summer months.
Bone health is one of the most common issues for the elderly. With conditions such as arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis being the most common ones. Of course there are many others, but the ones mentioned above are the most common ones that are diagnosed. So why are so many of the elderly generation suffering from bone issues? We shall explore these (mainly osteoporosis) later in this blog, but first let me go into what is a bone and why it is so important for our long term health to have strong functioning bones.
Bones in our body are living tissue. They have their own blood vessels and are made of living cells, which help them to grow and to repair themselves. Proteins, minerals and vitamins also make up the bone. We are born with about 300 soft bones. During childhood and adolescence, cartilage grows and is slowly replaced by hard bone. Some of these bones later fuse together, so that the adult skeleton has 206 bones .
The major functions of bones are to:
Think of bone as a bank account where you “deposit” and “withdraw” bone tissue. During childhood and the teenage years, new bone is added to the skeleton faster than old bone is removed. As a result, bones become larger, heavier, and denser. For most people, bone formation continues at a faster pace than removal until bone mass peaks during the third decade of life. After age 30, bone “withdrawals” can begin to exceed “deposits.” For many people, this bone loss can be prevented by continuing to get calcium, vitamin D, exercise and by avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol use .
There are different types of bones in the human body. These are mainly defined by the shape they are. They can be described as long, short, flat, sesamoid and irregular . They all serve a purpose. Some bones are designed for movement, others for protection. As mentioned earlier in this blog, bones are also essential for creating marrow. This is important for creating blood cells. Red blood cells start as immature cells in the bone marrow and after approximately seven days of maturation are released into the bloodstream. The functional lifetime of a red blood cell is about 100–120 days, during which time the red blood cells are continually moved by the blood flow push (in arteries), pull (in veins) and a combination of the two as they squeeze through microvessels such as capillaries. They are recycled in the bone marrow .
Your bones are continuously changing, new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you're young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30. After that, bone remodeling continues, but you lose slightly more bone mass than you gain. How likely you are to develop osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle — depends on how much bone mass you attain by the time you reach age 30 and how rapidly you lose it after that. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have "in the bank" and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age .
There are a number of factors that can also affect bone health. The amount of calcium in your diet, the amount of exercise you do, the amount of tobacco and alcohol you consume, your age, hormone levels, eating disorders and use of medications can all have an affect on your bone health . It's clear to see that having bad eating habits with a lack of exercise can be a major contributing factor to the long-term effect of your bones. Note that as your bones get weaker, the amount of blood cells being produced get limited. This then leads to a number of other issues such as a weaker immune system, lack of muscle growth and lack of energy to name a few. What happens then is that the body goes more into a survival mode of protecting its vital organs and blood flow is reduced to the distal parts of the body. You can see how this can have a dramatic affect on the elderly as they clearly complain about joint issues, lack of mobility, lack of energy and concentration.
The ever growing Osteoporosis problem
If you have osteoporosis it means that you have lost some bone material. Your bones become less dense. This makes them more prone to break (fracture). 'Thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis) mainly affects older people but it can affect someone of any age. Some people have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. In England and Wales, more than two million women are thought to have 'thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis). Women lose bone material more rapidly than men, especially after the menopause when their levels of oestrogen fall. Oestrogen is a hormone and helps to protect against bone loss. At the age of 50, about 2 in 100 women have osteoporosis. This rises to 1 in 4 women at the age of 80. But, osteoporosis can also affect men. Over a third of women and one in five men in the UK have one or more bone fractures because of osteoporosis in their lifetime. There are estimated to be 180,000 fractures every year in England and Wales caused by osteoporosis .
Whist there are many treatment options for osteoporosis, by far in my opinion using nutrition and supplements is the best way of preventing osteoporosis. Although most of the bone strength (including bone mass and quality) is genetically determined, many other factors (nutritional, environmental and lifestyle) also influence bone. Nutrition is important modifiable factor in the development and maintenance of bone mass and the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Approximately 80–90% of bone mineral content is comprised of calcium and phosphorus. Other dietary components, such as protein, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, fluoride, vitamins D, A, C, and K are required for normal bone metabolism, while other ingested compounds not usually categorized as nutrients (e.g. caffeine, alcohol, phytoestrogens) may also impact bone health .
When it comes to osteoporosis, prevention is the best cure. Lifestyle and diet also contribute. Whilst there are a lot of conventional drugs available, the following Naturopathic approaches as written by Kamhi, E  can also help patients to prevent and help improve osteoporosis:
• Effective dietary interventions
- Making consistent healthy food choices to ensure the body is getting sufficient nutrients to build and maintain strong bones.
- Limit alcohol consumption to a minimum amount.
- Avoid or stop smoking.
- Calcium is the most abundant material in the human body. It is well recognized for its importance in the development of bones and teeth in additional to many other functions.
- The best food sources of calcium, other than dairy, include whole grains, beans, almonds and other nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables like kale.
- Magnesium is the second most common mineral in the body, after calcium. It is important for many metabolic processes including building bones, forming adenosine triphosphate and absorbing calcium.
- Dietary sources of magnesium include nuts, whole grains, dark green vegetables, fish, meat and legumes.
- Magnesium deficiency may impair the production of parathyroid hormone and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, which negatively affects bone mineralization.
• Vitamin D
- Vitamin D is essential for the formation and maintenance of bone tissue.
- Vitamin D is synthesized when sunlight hits the skin and transforms 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
- Food sources of Vitamin D include fish and fish oil.
- Vitamin D is also available as a supplement in several forms. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and alfacalcidol are 3 common forms.
- Boron is ubiquitous throughout the human body, with the highest concentrations found in the bones and dental enamel.
- Fruits, vegetables, soybeans, and nuts can be rich sources of boron, but the level depends on the soil in which it is grown.
- A safe daily intake is estimated to be between 1 and 10mg.
- Strontium is a naturally occurring mineral present in water and food.
- It is believed to be able to decrease bone re-absorption and increase bone formation which increases bone mass, microarchitecture and strength.
- In the United States, strontium is available as a dietary supplement in the form of strontium citrate.
• Vitamin K
- Vitamin K can help maintain healthy bone mass as it is important in the formation of osteocalcin by osteoblasts.
- Green vegetables, chili powder, prunes, sun-dried tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries and figs are all good sources of vitamin K.
Yoga is another valuable tool for everyone's bone health. Not only is yoga weight-bearing, it's the far greater pressure created by one group of muscles opposing another that makes the difference.
So as can be seen, by having a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds as well as some good quality supplements and staying hydrated can have a very positive long term impact on your bones and your overall health.
If you think you can benefit from a diet tailored to good bone health or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at email@example.com or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
The summer is over for most of us in Western hemisphere part of the world. Those memories of relaxing at the beach or hiking up a mountain are just that for most of us now, memories. Schools have reopened and the majority of us are back to work. It’s the middle of September (2017) and the next build up of holidays is already on some people’s mind. Yes you guessed right, as of today it’s 100 days till Christmas 2017!!!
Statistically speaking, for most people the build up to Christmas and the Christmas holiday season is the most stressful time of the year. With the pressure from work to deliver results or meet targets before the end of the year, the pressure to get all of the presents and Christmas plans all arranged and ensure travel plans, holidays and other schedules are all booked can all be overwhelming. Financially this can also be very stressful as most people's credit card takes a hammering at this time of year too. Over the Christmas holiday period the number of internet searches for divorces also increases, with those filings coming into fruition around March the following year sadly. So what can be done to cope with the stress of this busy period of the year, the stress of family, partners, distant relatives as well as coping with work demands too?
Before getting into that, let's take a step back and actually see what stress is, what it does to the body and how you can get stress to work for you rather than against you.
Firstly, let’s debunk one myth: stress is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing. Without this brilliant ability to feel stress, humankind wouldn’t have survived. Our cavemen ancestors, for example, used the onset of stress to alert them to a potential danger, such as a sabre-toothed tiger .
Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion and urine secretion .
When it comes to stress there are two parts of the autonomic nervous system that are very important. The Parasympathetic and Sympathetic systems. Let’s explore these in a little detail as they are important in figuring out why they play an important part in stress, survival and other essential functions necessary for the human body.
The Parasympathetic system is the body’s relaxed system. It is also known as the ‘rest and digest’ system as that is its primary aim. Its main functions are to control the body at its resting rate, the neurons have longer pathways and slow down, heart rate slows down and a sense of calm is over the body. Also the Bronchial tubes in the lung constrict, stomach movements, especially digestion and urine secretions increase. The Parasympathetic system is essential for the body to be able to digest food at its optimum and ensure that the body can unwind and relax. If it wasn’t present, we would be constantly wired and on the go 24/7 (some of us are) !
This brings us nicely onto the Sympathetic system. It’s general action is to mobilise the body's fight-or-flight response. It’s main function is to control the body's response during a perceived threat. In this system the neurons are shorter and fire rapidly. The body tenses up, speeds up and becomes more alert. Functions not critical to survival slow down. The body’s heart rate increases, the Bronchial tubes in the lungs dilate, pupils dilate, stomach movements decrease. Adrenaline is released and glycogen to glucose for muscle energy is increased. All of this happens so that your body is ready for a perceived threat, such as coming face-to-face with a sabre-toothed tiger or to get out of the way of a moving car as quickly as possible .
As mentioned before in this blog, feeling stressed can be a good thing sometimes and perfectly normal. You might notice that sometimes being stressed-out motivates you to focus on your work or perform at a higher level. Professional athletes such as Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Lewis Hamilton and Cristiano Ronaldo all feel stressed when performing! They have thousands of fans watching them, with millions of others around the world watching them via TV, so when it comes to crunch time and they have to score a point, get a goal or cross over the finishing line first, they all use that stress in a positive way to help boost their performance. They turn the stress to their advantage and know that it helps them boost their performance.
Stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals. In fact, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost memory. In addition, there are various health benefits with a little bit of stress. Researchers believe that some stress can help to fortify the immune system. For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection. In one study, individuals who experienced moderate levels of stress before surgery were able to recover faster than individuals who had low or high levels .
So what is the bad side of stress? We have seen what the side effects of being stressed, or medically speaking, being in a sympathetic state can do to the body. Stress is key for survival, but too much stress can be detrimental. Emotional stress that stays around for weeks or months can cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart disease. In particular, too much epinephrine can be harmful to your heart. It can change the arteries and how their cells are able to regenerate .
There is no doubt that under stress the immune system is suppressed, making you more vulnerable to infections. Allergies and autoimmune diseases (including arthritis and multiple sclerosis) may be exacerbated by stress. This effect can be partly offset by social support from friends and family. Being stressed also slows the rate at which you recover from any illnesses you already have. Stress is known to aggravate skin problems such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. It also has been linked to unexplained itchy skin rashes. These skin problems are themselves intensely stressful . For more info about skin health, read my skin blog.
Continued stimulation of muscles through prolonged stress can lead to muscular pain such as backaches. Together with our sedentary lifestyles and bad posture, this makes back, shoulder and neck ache extremely widespread. Stress also is thought to aggravate underlying painful conditions such as herniated discs, fibromyalgia and repetitive strain injury (RSI). Furthermore, most migraine sufferers say that stress contributes to their headaches, which can last for days. Stress does not normally cause infertility, but the two have been linked many times. People who are trying for a baby are more likely to conceive when on holiday or when facing little stress, and fertility treatment is more successful at these times too .
When you're stressed, you may eat much more or much less than you usually do. If you eat more or different foods, or increase your use of alcohol or tobacco, you can experience heartburn or acid reflux. Stress or exhaustion can also increase the severity of heartburn pain. Your brain also becomes more alert to sensations in your stomach. Your stomach can react with "butterflies" or even nausea or pain. You may vomit if the stress is severe enough. And, if the stress becomes chronic, you may develop ulcers or severe stomach pain even without ulcers. Stress can affect digestion, and what nutrients your intestines absorb. It can also affect how fast food moves through your body. You may find that you have either diarrhea or constipation .
Essentially, long term stress is for most people a cycle. They are stressed, so their body is constantly secreting adrenaline, keeping them wired and worried. This then leads to bad food choices or as we have known the phenomenon to be called, ‘comfort eating’. It's easy to grab a donut, potato chips, pizza, fries, candy, sugary drinks, coffee and alcohol to make ourselves feel better. What is happening is that we are starving our body of essential nutrients from nutrient dense plant based foods, coupled with a compromised digestion system, we cannot digest food properly. This leads to a nutrient deficiency that keeps the body unwell and not in balance. This in turns makes the body more stressed as its not getting better and the cycle continues.
Before I give my opinions on stress management, lastly i’d like to cover something that is more common with stress than is given credit, and that is depression. Whilst I will cover depression in detail in a future blog post, I do believe it is important to cover briefly now.
A recent study published by Dr. Shervin Assari of the School of Public Health Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health, and the U-M Department of Psychiatry has claimed that stress long-term can lead to depression and that long-term effects of stress affects men more than women. This could partly be because men are less open to talking about their health issues.
"In our society, as men, we learn to see this as a weakness, as suggested by gender role identity theorists," Assari said. "Hegemonic masculinity is a barrier to seek care and talk about emotions. This at least in part explains why men less frequently seek help, either professional or inside of their social networks. Our research suggests this may come with a price for men."
In addition to how men and women cope with stress, other distinctions may be due to gender differences in resilience, risk perception and general exposure, he said. "Differential exposure to stress may help women better mobilize their psychological resources, which protect them when needed," he said. It's also possible that men may under report their stresses, and that those who do acknowledge them are the ones who are most affected by depression later, Assari said.
"Men should improve the way they cope and the way they mobilize their resources when they face stressful events," he said. "They should learn from women on how to talk about emotions and use resources. Men exposed to a lot of stress should take it seriously. They should know being a man is not all about power. It also comes with vulnerabilities." .
So what can be done to combat stress and keep the body balanced? Well there are a few quick wins that can be addressed to get things in order.
Avoid, or at least reduce, your consumption of nicotine and any drinks containing caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and so will increase your level of stress rather than reduce it. Alcohol is a depressant when taken in large quantities, but acts as a stimulant in smaller quantities. Therefore using alcohol as a way to alleviate stress is not ultimately helpful. Swap caffeinated and alcoholic drinks for water, herbal teas, or diluted natural fruit juices and aim to keep yourself hydrated as this will enable your body to cope better with stress. You should also aim to avoid or reduce your intake of refined sugars - they are contained in many manufactured foods (even in savoury foods such as salad dressings and bread) and can cause energy crashes which may lead you to feel tired and irritable. In general, try to eat a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet .
Indulge in physical activity. Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body. These are the “fight or flight” hormones that evolution has hardwired into our brains and which are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat. However, stress in the modern age is rarely remedied by a fight or flight response, and so physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state. When you feel stressed and tense, go for a brisk walk in fresh air. Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep .
A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately though, stress also interrupts our sleep as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep. Rather than relying on medication, your aim should be to maximise your relaxation before going to sleep. Make sure that your bedroom is a tranquil oasis with no reminders of the things that cause you stress. Avoid caffeine during the evening, as well as excessive alcohol if you know that this leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down. Try taking a warm epsom salt bath or reading a calming, undemanding book for a few minutes to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you. You should also aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine .
Relaxation techniques, meditation and yoga are all great at combating stress. There is a wonderful app called ‘Headspace’ which is great for meditating. It's just 15 minutes of your day, where you shut off from the world, sit somewhere comfortable, plug your headphones in and listen to the app. Other things such as adult colouring, staring at a fish tank, stretching, walking at a comfortable pace and anything else you find relaxing and therapeutic can help with combating stress. For some this could be house cleaning, cooking or shopping. Whatever works for you.
Talking to someone about stress is very important. It doesn’t matter what type of stress it is. For work stress, speak to your HR department if you feel overwhelmed at work. If you don’t say anything, the work won’t get any less or easier. If you are stressed with your family or your partner, speak to them. Get whatever is making you stressed off your chest. You’ll find that most family members and partners are supportive. Plus if you’re a man you’ll get brownie points for opening up to your partner. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your family or even friends, there are lots of other services you can go to. Speak to your GP, or Google to see if there is a local support group nearby where you can speak to anyone. Or why not contact me, i’m a great listener :-)
Other things you can do are to learn to take control of your mind and actions. We often make a bigger deal of things than they are. Then we push back on them until the very last minute and the anxiety of dealing with them makes us stressed. I have a great technique that I personally use, feel free to use it:
As you can see, there are a lot of tasks that can get completed in 5 minutes or less from my example list. I get them done really quick, and then have more time and motivation to focus on the bigger things I have planned. Having completed some tasks quickly, releases serotonin. This is known as the happy hormone in the body. When you are happy, you want that feeling again and again. So completing another task releases more serotonin which keeps me happy. And if i’m happy, i’m less stressed and more relaxed. Lastly, rewarding yourself for your achievements can be a great way to combat stress too. If I complete all of my tasks for the week, I’ll go to my local Indian restaurant and have a curry. I may also have a slice of cake or go for a meal or watch a movie with friends. Rewarding yourself can do great things for your self confidence and relieving stress. If I don’t get all of the tasks on my list done that week, I don’t beat myself up over it or get worked up. I add them to next week's list and ensure I work even harder to get them completed. With this blog done, i’m off for a slice of cheesecake! Thanks for reading and good health to all.
If you feel you need help managing your stressful life or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
There has been a lot of negative news in the media over the last 30 years about fat and how fat is bad for you. Let me explain this in detail and put some of the common misconceptions to bed in this week's blog.
To start with, consuming the right fats does not make you fat, consuming high amounts of carbohydrates and the wrong fats makes you fat. Carbs can cause weight gain as they cause your blood sugar to cycle up and down. Please note that carbs alone cannot make you gain weight, unless you consume more calories from carbs than you can burn off in a day .
After carbohydrates are digested into glucose, sugar goes to the cells that need it for energy. If the blood levels of sugar are too high, sugar goes to the liver where it’s converted into a storage form of glucose called glycogen. Glycogen is stored in the liver and skeletal muscles, so they will have an immediate source of energy when your activity level increases. The body can only store a limited amount of glycogen, although endurance training enhances the amount of storage. Depending on your body’s capacity and the intensity of activity, glycogen can be depleted in about 20 to 90 minutes .
Glycogen molecules hold a significant amount of water. Each gram of glycogen that’s stored in your body is attached to 2.7 grams of water, reports the American Council on Exercise. This isn’t the same as water retention. When you retain water, the water is held between cells and makes you feel bloated. The water in glycogen is part of its molecular structure. But water still adds weight, so as you load up on carbs and refill your glycogen stores, it can increase your weight by as much as 3 to 5 pounds .
So what could be the alternative if consuming too many of the wrong carbohydrates can contribute to weight gain? Well let’s look at the other other two main food groups, protein and fats.
Protein, in all its essence is the building block for our body. It's not only used for muscle growth. Protein is used to make organs, tissues, hormones as well as muscles in the human body. The protein found in foods is used by every part of the body to develop, grow and function properly. It can be argued that nothing is more important than consuming protein foods, and because proteins are involved in just about every body function, it’s important that you consume foods high in protein every day, during every meal to prevent protein deficiency, which can wreak havoc on the body .
Studies show that eating a high-protein diet has a number of health benefits. Not only does it help you maintain and lose weight, but it also works to stabilize your blood sugar levels, improve your ability to learn and concentrate, reduce brain fog, boost your energy levels, support your muscles and bones and support the absorption of important nutrients .
This brings us nicely onto the main topic of this blog, fats! There are ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats. You still have to watch how much of these fats you consume, as an excessive intake of any food group will contribute to weight gain if you cannot burn off more calories than you consume.
‘Good’ fats are unrefined animal fats, fat from fish, some fats from plants such as avocado, nuts, olive and some tropical oils. These fats tend to include a higher proportion of saturated and monounsaturated fats or be higher in omega-3’s. ‘Bad’ fats are vegetable fats, such as soy, peanut, corn, sunflower and canola oils that have been refined. They tend to be high in omega-6 fats and are highly susceptible to oxidation during processing, which makes them reactive and damaging to the body .
You’ll generally get greater benefits from eating good fats when you limit your carbohydrate intake. A good and way to do this is to adapt a ketogenic diet. Also referred to as a keto diet, it has become very popular of the last few years, but has actually been around for almost 100 years! It was originally introduced as a potential treatment for epilepsy in the 1920’s .
The way a ketogenic diet works is to ensure that the body goes into ‘fat’ burning mode and using fat for energy rather than carbohydrates. Ketones are produced if you eat very few carbs (that are quickly broken down into blood sugar) and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can also be converted to blood sugar). Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat. They are then used as fuel throughout the body, including the brain. The brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose or ketones .
On a ketogenic diet your entire body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. Insulin levels become very low and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is obviously great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, like for example less hunger and a steady supply of energy. When the body produces ketones it’s said to be in ketosis. The fastest way to get there is by fasting, not eating anything, but obviously it’s not possible to fast forever. A ketogenic diet, on the other hand, can be eaten indefinitely and also results in ketosis. It has many of the benefits of fasting, including weight loss without having to fast .
Other benefits of the ketogenic diet are reduced dependence on medication, improvement on blood glucose control, improvements in insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure and usually improvements in cholesterol levels . It's common to experience improvements in your skin when you switch to a ketogenic diet. One study that showed drops in lesions and skin inflammation when switching to a low-carb diet. Another study that shows a probable connection between high-carb eating and increased acne, so it’s likely that keto can help. For acne, it may be beneficial to reduce dairy intake and follow a strict skin cleaning regimen .
So what can be eaten on the ketogenic diet? Here is a list of foods that can be eaten:
What foods need to be avoided:
For liquids, water and herbal teas can be consumed freely. Coffee and dry wines should be consumed moderately and spirits, beers and other alcohols should be consumed rarely .
Whilst the medium to long term benefits of the ketogenic diet for most people will have very good implications for their health and lifestyle, the short term side effects of the ketogenic diet can be off putting and annoying whilst they last.
Within the first couple of weeks, the loss of salts whilst the body adjusts can take its toll. This happens as the body uses up its stored sugar (glycogen) which releases water into the blood that gets passed out of the body through urine. As fluid is passed out of the body, salts in the body can get depleted too. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated through the day. Water is the best drink for hydration but herbal teas are also fine. Ensure you have enough salt as this can prevent side effects such as headaches and dizziness. You are free to add sea salt to your food and can take salts by drinking vegetable or bone broths and bouillons too. Potassium and magnesium are other important salts. As long as you are eating healthy, natural foods (such as nuts, meat, fish and a range of vegetables), you shouldn’t have a problem getting enough magnesium and potassium . Electrolytes can also be added to your water to ensure you stay hydrated.
‘Keto-flu’ can also be an issue. The first few weeks of transitioning to a ketogenic diet can be challenging for some people. Whereas others adapt to it more easily. Your body may be used to relying mainly on glucose for energy and so it will need to switch to using ketones for fuel. This adaptation process is known as keto-adaption.
Keto-adaption may result in some initial ‘brain fog’, but this will disappear once the body has fully adapted and some people feel sharper at this point. It is estimated that keto-adaption takes around four weeks on average but the side effects themselves often disappear sooner. During that time, and especially at the end of the first week, it is likely that you may feel some symptoms that are similar to the flu, such as:
Brain fog / slow thinkingDizziness
Racing heart rate when lying down
You may find that allowing your body to ease into ketosis helps to lessen the effect of side effects. This can be done by gradually lowering carbohydrate intake over a few weeks .
Other short term side effects of adapting a ketosis diet can be frequent urination, dizziness, drowsiness, cravings for sugar, constipation, muscle cramps and smelly breath . However by ensuring you have enough sea salt, fluids and the correct ‘keto’ balance of protein, fats and vegetables these side effects can be limited to a few weeks, days for some people. I would not let these short term side effects deter you from the long term benefits of the keto diet.
I have personally done the ketosis diet for weight loss and it did amazing things for me. Over 12 months I lost over 4 stone, gained about 4kg of muscle and had so much energy. I had clarity of thought and had the most amazing sleep! After a hard 3 weeks of side effects I started to see the benefits and for my lifestyle at the time was the perfect diet for me. I would encourage anyone that is serious about losing weight and keeping it off long term to try the ketosis diet.
Of course exercise is important for weight loss. By combining cardio and resistance exercise with a keto diet and ensuring you get 7-9 of sleep a night and stay properly hydrated will dow wonders for weight loss. Lastly for all you sweet tooth lovers out there, having dark chocolate that is 80% or above dark chocolate will be high in fat naturally and can be used as a snack when on a ketosis diet!
If you think you can benefit from a ketosis diet for weight loss or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at email@example.com or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com