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Oct 11
Sciatica - "I just don't know what to do with myself..."

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Having focussed on winter bugs for the last few weeks, you'll be pleased to hear that we're moving on to something completely different.  And without a single mention of mucus, catarrh or snot (!) either.  Sorry we just couldn't resist it…

If you've been unlucky enough to suffer from it, you'll know first hand just how painful and debilitating this problem is.  One client summed it up perfectly by saying that she couldn't sit, couldn't stand, could just about lay down – but couldn't then get up – and really didn't know what to do with herself. 

And, from personal experience, we'd say she'd got it right.  Although, having said that, we'd add that it's virtually impossible to get out of the car after a drive of more than a few minutes without resorting to a crowbar…

So what are we talking about this week? 

Sciatica, the inflammation of the Sciatic Nerve. 

To the uninitiated this doesn't sound like much of a problem.  But what if we told you it was the largest and longest spinal nerve in the body?  That it runs from the base of the Back on each side, down through the Buttocks and into the back of each Thigh; then all the way down each Leg to the Feet. 

Not only does it carry nerve signals to and from the muscles – and skin – of the Legs and Feet; but sensations too.  It controls the movement of the Legs and also plays an important part in our sense of balance, as well as how "strong" our Legs feel.  In other words do they feel strong and supportive; or weak, as though you're about to fall over?

What causes Sciatica?

Quite simply a Lower Back problem, which then presses on the Sciatic Nerve causing irritation and inflammation.  And, if you've ever suffered from Sciatica, you'll know that irritation sums things up very well (!). 

There are many different things which can trigger Sciatica.  The two most common are a Lower Back injury or one of the discs between the Vertebrae bulging, so that the Vertebrae presses on the nerve.  The latter is often referred to as a slipped disc, but this is not strictly true as the disc tends to bulge out – or herniate – rather than slipping out at the sides.

Other less common causes include degeneration of the lumbar discs, Arthritis and Spinal Stenosis.  Since these are all structural issues they often to lead to Sciatica on an ongoing basis.

And what about those irritating symptoms?

Symptoms vary hugely from person to person and tend to be on one side only.  They include:

Constant acute pain, making it very uncomfortable to sit down.

Numbness and tingling sensations down the Leg, which is often felt to be worse in one particular location, such as the side of the Thigh, calf muscle or Foot.  This location acts as a signpost to where the Sciatic Nerve is actually being irritated and so what the most likely cause may be.

A feeling of weakness in the Leg making it difficult to walk or stand.

There may also be Lower Back pain, which goes down into the Buttocks as well.

Sitting makes things worse, as does sneezing or coughing.  Interestingly, cooler damp weather often plays a part, hence us tending to see it more during the change from Summer to Autumn and Spring to Summer.

What can you do about it?

The conventional approach focuses on painkillers, anti inflammatories and physiotherapy.  While this can help in the short term, it's equally important that steps are taken to address the underlying cause and so prevent a reoccurrence in the future.

Not surprisingly, some hands on treatment to deal with the underlying cause is usually recommended, with Acupuncture and gentle manipulation both being very useful.  Homeopathic remedies can also help to provide some additional support alongside. 

As always, there are lots of things you can do at home to help.

While you may not feel like it, keeping active will make a huge difference.  Gentle walking and stretching really do help.  Avoid sitting but, if you have to, keep it for as short a time as possible.  If you want a rest then lay down on the floor or a firm bed, not forgetting to put a hot water bottle or heat pad under your lower Back.  And don't forget to keep your Knees bent – or put a cushion under them – to take the pressure off your lower Back.

There's also a gentle stretch that really helps.  Lay on your back with your Knees bent and gently hug one Knee to your Chest for a few seconds and then the other.  Make sure you gently lower each Foot to the floor and don't let it drop down, which jars your Back. 

If this feels ok, you can then hug both Knees to the Chest while rocking gently from side to side.  These simple stretches help stretch and release the muscles in the lower Back, so reducing the pressure on the Sciatic Nerve.  Doing this several times a day will make a real difference.

A soak in a warm – not too hot – bath with Epsom Salts can also help.  Not only is it soothing, but the warmth boosts the circulation, while the magnesium in the salts helps reduce muscle spasms and soreness. 

A hot water bottle – or heat pad – on the lower Back can also help release the area and so reduce pain and soreness.

Devil's Claw, a herbal tincture, is a natural anti inflammatory and also helps with pain relief.  It can be safely taken in both the short and long term.

Our old friend, ginger tea, can also help as it's both warming and soothing to muscles.  Don't forget to make it with fresh ginger to get the full benefits.

And, while we're on the subject of fluids (!), dehydration will only make things worse; particularly cramps and pain.  You may not feel like drinking water – or herb teas – but it's really important that you keep well hydrated.

Longer term, it's important that long periods of times aren't spent sitting – whether in the office, at home or in the car.  Sitting shortens muscles in the Back, so making a repeat of the Sciatica – and lower Back problems generally – more likely.  In addition, sitting – and sedentary lifestyles in general – are now being linked to many longer term health conditions.

Finally, it's also a good idea to make sure that your bed really does support your back and isn't too soft.  Similarly, that the chairs you use at home and at work have lumbar support to help your Back.

As always, it's the simple things you do each day that can really make a difference, not only now but in the future.

The choice is yours.


Oct 04
What do you want REALLY, REALLY want?

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(And “no”, we’re not closet Spice Girls fans!!!)

With the last few blog posts having been much longer than usual, we thought we’d keep it short and sweet this week.

For some reason – and we have several theories as to why this is – most people seem to be experts at focussing on all the things they don’t want.  Or fear happening.  Or both.  And can tell you all about them in gruesome detail. 

But ask them what they actually do want and the response you’re most likely to get is a stunned silence.  As though you’ve asked them the last question on earth they’d ever expect and have no hope in answering.

The ironic thing is that once you know what you don’t want, then it’s really easy to say what you do want.  Just go for the exact opposite.  Bingo!  You’ve done it.

If you don’t want to be unhappy; then what you do want is to be happy.

If you don’t want to be poor / alone / ill; then what you do want is to be abundant / surrounded by friends / healthy.

Do you now see how easy it really is? 

And how unnecessarily complicated we’ve made it?

So, today, here’s a little challenge for you. 

Every time you hear yourself saying – or thinking –  about something you don’t want, turn things around 180 degrees to what you do want.  And then only talk – and think – about that. 

Not only will you feel much better by focusing on something positive, but it gets your creative juices flowing.  Or, put another way, it’s like letting the genie out of the bottle to do his magic. 

So now it’s over to you.

“I want / desire ………………………………..…" (fill in the blank). 

And then only talk – or think – about that.  It really is that easy.

As always, the choice is yours.

Sep 27
Just when you thought we'd finished talking about winter bugs...

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Having focussed on Colds recently – not only what to do if the worst happens, but how to avoid them in the first place (!) – we weren't expecting to continue on a similar theme this week.  However, with a number of clients having come in with Sinusitis over the last couple of weeks, it seemed like one more blog post was needed on this topic before we move on to other things. 

As an aside, we should say that it's very unusual to see clients with Sinusitis following a Cold so early in the season.  In our experience we don't expect to see it until the weather becomes much colder and damper.  Although, having said that, the very changeable weather this summer may well be the reason for this.

Anyway, before we digress any further, let's start with the basics.

What exactly are the sinuses and where are they located?

The sinuses – or Paranasal Sinuses, if you want to be technical (!) – are tiny air filled passages found in the front of the face.  In the forehead, around the eyes, in the cheeks and behind the nose.  Together with the Nose, nasal passages, Pharynx (Throat) and Larynx (Voicebox) they form the Upper Respiratory Tract. 

Like all the rest of the Respiratory System, the sinuses are lined with a very thin mucous membrane, which produces a mucous to protect and moisturise the inside of these passages.

What do they do?

Well, much more than you'd expect.  To start with they help make the Skull much lighter and so easier to support on the neck.  They also affect the resonance of the voice.  More importantly, they help to warm and moisturise the air we breathe in through the Nose on its way down to the Lungs.  At the same time it also helps trap any dust, dirt and micro organisms suspended in the air, so preventing them from reaching the Lungs.

What causes Sinusitis?

Again, there are more causes of Sinusitis than just a Cold; although this is what we're focusing on today.  These include air borne pollution, allergies – such as Asthma and Hayfever - and nasal polyps. 

Regardless of the cause, the end result is the same.  The mucous membranes become inflamed, while at the same time also producing more mucus, so blocking the sinuses.  With the sinuses being so small it's not surprising that this causes the classic symptoms of:

Pain and tenderness around the Eyes, Nose and across the Forehead.  Sometimes this can spread to the Teeth as well.

A sinus headache across the Forehead and round the Eyes.

A blocked Nose with thick catarrh – snot (!) – which is often yellow or green.  Not surprisingly, people then breathe through their mouth leading to a dry Mouth and sore Throat.

And perhaps a temperature too.

Acute Sinusitis usually clears in a few days but can last several weeks.  If it lasts longer than three months it's then classified as Chronic Sinusitis.

What can be done to help?

The conventional approach to Sinusitis includes paracetamol / ibuprofen for pain relief and nasal decongestants; with antibiotics and steroids for longer term cases.

However, there are lots of things you can do at home to help. 

We've already mentioned Vitamin C – at least 1,000mg a day – in our previous posts, but it really does provide excellent support for the Immune System, as does Echinacea.  Both are easy to take and can also be taken on an ongoing basis as a preventative measure.

Our favourite piece of advice also applies.  In other words make sure you're drinking plenty of hot– or at least room temperature – water to help get things moving (!).  Our favourite soothing drink has to be pineapple juice diluted 50 / 50 with newly boiled water.  Even better, it also contains high levels of Vitamin C plus an enzyme called bromelain to help break down the mucous and catarrh. 

And while we're talking about water, keep your diet light.  Yes, we know it's easy to reach for all those naughty comfort foods, but they'll only make things worse.  Avoiding fatty and sugary foods will make a real difference and there are plenty of other soothing foods you can have instead.  What about good old fashioned homemade soup for a start?

Steaming is another easy way to help open up the sinuses and get things moving.  Again, we've covered this is the other blog posts and it does work.  Adding rosemary, eucalyptus or lavender essential oils to the water will also help to soothe the inflamed mucous membranes.  Just remember not to then go straight outside and get cold, as this will undo all the good work.  Using a warm compress across your face will have a similar effect and is very soothing too.

A humidifier in the bedroom at night can also help to keep things moving.  Or a bowl of water on the side will do much the same job.  Similarly, having one in the room you spend most of your time in during the day will help too.  And don't forget to keep the window open a little too.  The worst thing you can do is shut yourself away in a room without any windows open and the heating on nuclear setting (!).

And finally don't forget that Homeopathy, Craniosacral Therapy and Acupuncture can all help speed things along as well.

As always, the choice is yours.

 

P.S.  Fingers crossed, this is the last blog post on any Colds related topic for the time being.  Having said that, our clients may have other ideas!


Sep 20
How to instantly make your life easier - or much harder (!)

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Over the last couple of years we've put various words we all use on a daily basis under the spotlight.  And shown that they don't quite have the meaning – or effect – many people think they do.  Want.  Need.  Hope. 

Not forgetting those two seemingly innocuous little words, "I am (fill in the blank)".  And how what comes after them is so important, as it has the power to literally shape our own little world.  In a positive way or, all too often, a less helpful way.

"I am happy."

"I am fortunate."

Or

"I am fed up."

"I am so unlucky."

Well, recently, we've come across another little word that can have equally disastrous – and unintended – effects.  It's only four letters long but has the power to transform whatever comes after it into an uphill battle.

Can you guess what it is?  Go on have a go…

Give up?

It's the word "hard".  As in "It's hard to do (fill in the blank)".

"It's hard to be happy."

"It's hard to change old habits."

"It's hard to find a new job / house / partner / (fill in the blank).

Before we go any further, just read through those sentences again.  Slowly.  Even better, say them out loud.

Can you see how contradictory they are?  The mixed messages they send out.  Both to yourself and those around you.  On one hand saying you want to do something; on the other that it's going to be hard to do.  Talk about setting yourself up for failure before you start.

Now you've seen this anomaly, the obvious question to ask is whether this approach is helping you do whatever it is you want to do or not?

And the answer has to be a resounding "no". 

So can you now see why all those good intentions and new year's resolutions were doomed to fail?

But it's not all doom and gloom.  There is a very simple way to make your life much easier.  And that's to ban this word from your vocabulary.  Yes, we know it sounds radical, but it really is that simple.

Then, instead of saying something is hard to do, saying the opposite.  That it's easy to do.

"It's easy to be happy."

"It's easy to change old habits."

"It's easy to find a new job / house / partner / (fill in the blank).

Now we know what the little monster in your head will be busy shouting as you read this.  "What rubbish" he says "how can simply saying – or thinking – something is easy make it easy?" 

Well, he's quite right.  Simply saying it's easy, without having any confidence that it will be, doesn't work.

The good news is that there is a "work in progress" solution.  Saying that it's getting – or becoming – easier to do.  In one easy step you've pacified the little monster in your head, while at the same time moving your focus to it being easier to do. 

"It's getting easier to be happy" OR "It's becoming easier to be happy."

"It's getting easier to change old habits" OR "It's becoming easier to change old habits."

"It's getting easier to find a new job" OR "It's becoming easier to find a new job."

Instantly your focus has changed from all the ways in which something is hard to do; to all the ways it's easier to achieve.  And, as we all know, as soon as we come up with one reason to do something then lots more will quickly follow.  You're on your way.

Then, one day, you'll suddenly notice that whatever it is has become easy to do.  You've practiced doing it so often that it's become automatic.  A part of your default programming that you don't have to think about.  It just happens.  Life really can be that simple.

Words are incredibly powerful, particularly the ones we use every day without ever thinking about them.  And, yet, they can become deadly traps ready to catch us unawares.  Scuppering our dreams and desires.

So isn't it time to notice the words you use every day?  To pause for a moment and see whether they're actually helping – or hindering – you?

As always, the choice is yours.

Sep 13
Sending winter bugs on their way

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A couple of weeks ago we looked at all the simple things you could do to help make this a bug free winter.  Getting the basics right. 

But what if, despite all your best efforts, the worst happens? Well, all is not lost.  There are lots of things you can do at home to help speed bugs on their way.

Let's start with the most obvious one that most people seem to overlook.  That's to listen to your body.  If you're struggling to get out of bed, take the hint and stay there. And, for those of you who ring up and tell us that you've got Flu but you're at work, then you haven't!  As one client so beautifully responded to this observation, then it must be Man Flu instead… 

Anyway, before we digress too far, if it really is Flu, you won't be going anywhere.  Even turning over in bed will be a real effort.  We kid you not.  As the old saying goes, if you had to climb over a gate to pick up a £50 note, then you wouldn't be able to do it! 

Conversely, if you're up and about but feeling lethargic, take things slowly.  Rushing on regardless only guarantees one thing.  That it'll take you much longer to recover from whatever it is, as precious energy is diverted away from your Immune System to keep you on your feet.

Similarly, if you're not feeling hungry, don't force yourself to eat large hearty meals.  Instead graze, eating easily digestible foods little and often.

Do keep your fluids up.  Even if you're not running a "proper" temperature, your body temperature will rise slightly, as this is one of the many ways your body kills pathogens.  And a raised temperature means more water is burnt up in the process.  Not forgetting the important part water plays in helping to detox the body afterwards.

Fresh pineapple – or pineapple juice – is a great choice.  Not only is fresh pineapple juice – made 50 / 50 with warm water – a soothing drink, but it also contains high levels of Vitamin C to help support the Immune System as well as bromelain to clear mucus and catarrh.

Ginger tea is another good drink as it's anti viral and warming; as well as being very soothing for a sore throat.  Simply take a piece of fresh ginger, pour over boiling water and then cover it with a saucer to "brew" before drinking.  Honey can be added to taste.

Talking of honey, it's antibacterial, a powerful antioxidant and contains many trace elements and minerals to help see winter lurgies on their way.  It can be taken by the spoonful or added it to drinks, to help soothe sore throats and coughs.  And don't forget the old standby of honey and fresh lemon!

A traditional naturopathic use of honey is to add either fresh chopped thyme and / or freshly pressed garlic to a jar of honey.  Then take by the spoonful as needed.  These both help support the Immune System as well as clearing mucus and catarrh.  If you include garlic, there's also the added benefit that everyone will give you a wide berth, so helping prevent the bug from being passed on (!).

Last, but not least, don't forget the tried and tested remedy of chicken soup which your Mum – or Granny – used to give you when you were ill.  Chicken soup provides fluids, is easy to digest and has also been found to reduce inflammation and fevers.

Keep yourself warm, but make sure that you do get some fresh air too.  Even if it's only from a slightly opened window.  And if the air feels very dry, a bowl of water above a radiator – or a humidifier – can help.

If you're very blocked up and snuffly, the traditional approach of steaming can help get things moving.  Simply fill a large bowl – a mixing bowl is best – with freshly boiled water and breathe in the steam.  Put a towel over your head to keep the steam in and so increase its effects.  Adding a few drops of Olbas Oil or essential oils such as lavender, rosemary or geranium can increase its effects. 

However, do remember that a little commonsense is needed.  Only steam for a few minutes at a time.  If you're feeling at all woosy or faint, then don't do it, for all the obvious reasons.  And, finally, don't go outside immediately after doing it.  Having opened up all the airways you don't then want to let in cold air.  Traditionally steaming was done first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Here are a few other things that can help:

If you're not already taking Vitamin C, start taking at least 1,000mg a day.  And if you already are, double it up to 1,000mg each morning and evening.

Similarly, start taking Vitamin D3 – at least 400mg a day – and, if you already are, double it up to at least 400mg each morning and evening.

Colloidal silver, the forerunner to antibiotics, helps fight infections and remove fungi, viruses and bacteria from the body.  It also helps to detox the body afterwards while being harmless and non toxic.  It can be taken as a liquid or as a nasal spray.

Tinctures such as Echinacea, Astragalus, Sambuccus and Hydrastis can also be very helpful to help support the Immune System.  Simply take them twice a day for as long as needed.

Zinc lozenges can be used to help soothe sore throats, with research finding that this can reduce the duration of Colds and flu by 1 to 2 days.

And once you're starting to feel better don't forget to take it slowly for a few days.  Running a full Immune System response burns up a huge amount of energy and a little time is needed to recharge the batteries.  Not to mention all the extra housekeeping and detoxing to clear up after these unwelcome guests (!).

As always, the choice is yours.

Sep 06
A little appreciation goes a long way

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A couple of weeks ago we posed a very simple question – "What's the most important thing you should do every morning?" – and seem to have inadvertently ruffled a few feathers in the process. 

All the comments we received went along much the same lines. 

Didn't we understand how much people had going on in their lives?

That they didn't have the time to be grateful for the simple fact that they're alive. 

And what with Brexit / the economy / winter approaching / their work / family / fill in the blank what did they have to be grateful for anyway? 

You get the picture.

The sad thing is that most people completely missed the point we were making. 

How precious life is because it's finite.  And we never know how finite until it's too late…

And, yet, it's the one thing we seem to place no value on and take for granted without a second thought. 

When we mention taking time to appreciate what you have to clients, we've noticed that they tend to focus only on the big material things.  Houses.  Cars.  Careers.  The latest "must have" gizmo.  The "big" holiday.  And then on relationships, whether family or friends. 

With nothing ever being "quite right" in their eyes – in other words, perfect – no wonder they find it so difficult to find things to truly appreciate.

This is why we ask them to focus on the SMALL THINGS THEY HAVE TO APPRECIATE –and be grateful for – TODAY.  Which is normally greeted with a completely blank stare. 

What do you mean things I can appreciate today? 

Well, here are a few of the examples we give to get them going:

That you woke up this morning (!).

Perhaps being brought a drink in bed before you got up.

The hot shower.

Your dog – or cat – welcoming you as you came downstairs.

A good breakfast.

For a song you love – and hadn't heard for ages – on the radio.

Sunshine (!).

The kind person letting you into the queue in front of them on the way to work.

The joke from a friend.

The lovely photo of a family member.

Now it's over to you…

We find that the best way to play this game is with a friend or family member.  That way you can bat things back and forwards, often making each other laugh in the process.  Particularly with those people determined to focus on all the things currently "wrong" with their lives. 

One word of warning though, no negatives are allowed, as these are still focussing on the things you don't want.

So:

"It's not raining today" would be "It's dry today".

"My boss wasn't grumpy" would be "My boss was fine today."

You get the picture.

By starting small you'll quickly find lots of other things to appreciate.  To be grateful for.  And this applies whether your life is currently "sunshine and rainbows" or more "dark clouds." 

Either way you'll instantly feel happier, regardless of what else is going on in your life.  Even better, you'll suddenly find it much easier to find bigger things to appreciate. 

Perhaps you don't have the house of your dreams – yet (!) – but your current home keeps you dry and warm.  You love the garden.  Your neighbours are great.  There's plenty of parking.  It's convenient for the shops / work / school.  Your focus has changed from all the things you don't like about it, to all the things you do.  And can appreciate now.

Life really doesn't need to be complicated.  To be a series of dramas, one after the other.  It's here to be enjoyed – and regardless of what else is going on right now – there are always things to appreciate.  You just have to start looking for them.

As always, the choice is yours.


Aug 30
A change of season beckons

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With the end of the summer holidays approaching – for grown ups as well as children (!) – this week we're looking ahead to the autumn.  Not only to glorious September days – where it's too nice to be indoors (!) – but also to the less welcome start of the Colds and Flu season. 

And, yes, we can hear a collective groan at the mere mention of another winter.  Let alone the start of another school – or work (!) – year.  But, please, bear with us there's a very good reason for us mentioning it now.  Forewarned is forearmed after all. 

There are so many simple things you can do now that will pay dividends later.  Not only in avoiding the lurgies doing the rounds but also to improve your overall health.  As so often is the case, if you get the simple things right everything else starts to fall into place.  Then, in a couple of weeks' time, we'll look at what you can do if the worst happens.

Let's start with a very obvious one that's easy to overlook.  Putting the right fuel in your tank.  In other words, getting your diet right.  You'll be relieved to hear that we're not going to repeat the usual advice which, all going well, you should know off by heart now (!).  Instead, we're going to give you a few different ideas of ways to easily improve your diet.

Eat local.  Not only does this minimise the food miles – so you'll feel good about it – but you'll know it's fresh and in season.  And, as an aside, there's a good reason why root vegetables and more robust greens take centre stage over the winter months.  Quite simply their fibrous nature provides more fibre and carbohydrates to keep you going in the colder weather.  And, conversely, fruit and vegetables tend to be more watery in warmer months to provide the fluids and water soluble minerals / vitamins lost in sweat.

While we're on the subject of veg, why not steam them rather than boiling them to death?!?  Not only is it a gentler form of cooking, but more of the nutrients survive the cooking process.  Even better, there are some great electric steamers out there which are simple to use, easy to clean and come with a built in timer to remind you when they're done.

If you have a juicer, how about doing some vegetable based juices instead?  Carrot, celery, beetroot and the like are packed with nutrients and taste great too.

And, finally, can we dispel one very common myth about ready to drink fruit juice?  That it's packed full of Vitamin C to help boost your immune system.  While it's true that fresh fruit does contain high levels of Vitamin C these start to be lost as soon as they're picked.

Even worse, once it's been cut or processed then the rate of loss increases greatly.  Sadly, by the time it reaches the supermarket shelves there is very little Vitamin C left in it at all.  Added to this, fruit juice is high in fructose, which is both acidic and hits the bloodstream quickly, leading to a rapid rise – and then fall – in blood sugar.  If you want to enjoy fruit juice, get a juicer and do it at home.  Even then, make it more of an occasional treat and include vegetables in it to reduce the fructose levels and the speed with which it hits your bloodstream.

During the colder weather it's all too tempting to fall back on all those "naughty" comfort foods.  Cakes.  Heavy puddings.  Other sugar laden goodies.  While it may feel as though they're helping to keep the cold out, unfortunately, they do the exact opposite.  Not only do they waste valuable resources in being hard to digest, but sugar makes the body more acidic which reduces the efficiency of the immune system.  Processed foods and red meat have a similar effect.

Experiment with fruit and herb teas to find one – or more (!) – you really do like.  They're an easy way to drink more fluids, as well as being warming.  While you may not get so thirsty during the winter, central heating is very drying and it's easy to become dehydrated without realising it.

Make sure you spend some time outside every day, whatever the weather.  And it's not just about taking some gentle exercise, breathing in the fresh air and taking a break from all the madness of the modern world. 

Natural daylight, regardless of how sunny it is – or not (!) – plays an important part in resetting our body clock and other internal rhythms.  Just as important it helps manufacture that an important vitamin.  Vitamin D.  More about this in a minute.

Taking regular exercise is also important, with the emphasis being on a form of exercise you enjoy (!).  Not only does it improve the way in which your body functions, but it also stimulates the movement of lymph.  If you think of lymph as one of your waste disposal systems, you'll quickly see how important regular exercise can be!

And don't forget to get a good night's sleep.  The key is to have a regular bedtime all week, not to rely on sleeping in at the weekend.  While you're asleep your body is hard at working doing all those important housekeeping and detoxing tasks, that can't be done during the day.  Multiple studies have confirmed that a lack of sleep – whether for the odd night or more regularly – suppresses the Immune System and increases the chance of catching a Cold or Flu.

Once you're got the basics right, here are a few other of the best pre emptive measures you can take:

Vitamin C has been repeatedly shown to support a healthy Immune System; as well as helping to detox the body and reduce the inflammation associated with acute illnesses.  The usual advice is to take 1,000mg each morning during the winter and increase it at the first sign of any lurgy.  And, for those of you worried about taking too high a dose, it's very easy to tell when you have.  Just think of what happens if you eat too much fruit! 

Vitamin D, particular Vitamin D3, is rapidly joining Vitamin C as one of the most researched vitamins.  Not only does it play an important part in the overall immune response, but it also a direct effect on levels of white blood cells found in the blood. 

While some Vitamin D does come from the food we eat, it's also manufactured in the skin, in response to natural daylight.  This is one of the many reasons why it's important to get outside into natural daylight every day, whatever the weather.  Research has found that reduced exposure to natural light during the winter is closely associated to lower levels of Vitamin D and an increased risk of Colds and Flu.  At the moment, there doesn't seem to be a consensus on the amount of Vitamin D3 to take each day, with figures ranging from 400mg to 1000mg.

Two other vitamins worth bearing in mind are Vitamins A and E.  Like Vitamin D, Vitamin A helps to increase the levels of white blood cells found in the blood.  While Vitamin E is an antioxidant like Vitamin C and plays an important part in helping to prevent getting a Cold or Flu in the first place.

Useful minerals include Zinc and Selenium, which both play an important part in immune function.  In particular, Zinc is particularly well known for helping to protect against viruses. 

One other supplement you may not have thought about are Probiotics.  Not only is the digestive system an important first line of defence for the Immune System, it's also vital to ensure that the body receives the best nutrition from the food eaten.

Which takes us on to Herbal tinctures, which are another useful way to support the Immune System.  While Echinacea is probably the best known – and most researched – tincture, many others are available.  These include Astragalus, Sambuccus (Elderberry) and Hydrastis (Goldenseal). 

Tinctures can be taken once a day as a preventative measure and then increased to 2 or 3 times a day, if need be.  We hold a wide range of tinctures, so if you want to find out more please do call or e mail us.

By getting the basics right not only will you feel better in yourself, but also have you reduced your susceptibility to the bugs doing the rounds.

So what if, despite all your best efforts, the worst does happen?  Well, that's what we'll be focussing on in a couple of weeks' time, with all the things you can do at home to help speed any unwelcome lurgy on its way.

As always, the choice is yours.


Aug 23
What's the most important thing you should do every morning?

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We heard this question recently and, like the person posing it, expected an answer along the usual lines.  Do a stretch or two.  Have a shower.  Don’t forget breakfast.  Clean your teeth.

Instead, a completely unexpected one came back. 

Be grateful – and happy – that you’re alive. 

It’s such a simple answer – and so obvious – and yet when did we last do it?  Wake up being truly grateful and happy that we’re alive.  Greeted the new day with a big smile.

If you’re a child enjoying the school holidays – and hopefully without a care in the world – then this should apply to you. 

But, if you’re an adult, can you honestly remember the last time you woke up full of the joys of spring?  Happy to be alive.  Probably not, as the cares and troubles of our lives have a way of blotting out everything else from the moment we open our eyes in the morning.

And yet, how often do we stop to consider the alternative?  That, if we don’t wake up, then nothing else matters.  For us.  Or those left behind.

As someone so beautifully put it – and we’re paraphrasing it, as the exact words have eluded us – “If I wake up, stretch my arms out and there aren’t any sides, it’s a great day!”

Before you think this is all rather morbid, it isn’t meant to be.  Instead it’s intended as a gentle wake up call.  Not only to how wonderful life is.  How fortunate we were to wake up this morning. 

But to remind us how precious a gift life is BECAUSE it’s finite.  And, here’s the twist in the tail, we never know exactly how finite until it’s too late…

When we forget that we’re mortal, it’s all too easy to waste our most precious – and limited – resource.  Doing stupid things or ones that don’t make us happy.  Living by someone else’s rules – or priorities – rather than our own.  Whether it be jobs, relationships or friends.  And we’ve all done it, perhaps are still doing it.

Chasing after all those shiny material goodies, instead of concentrating on what makes us truly happy.  Forgetting that true happiness comes from inside, not from the things we surround ourselves with.

And, if this all sounds as bit too “airy fairy”, just spend some time with one of your older relatives or friends.  Not only will they enjoy seeing you – and you may learn some interesting things along the way (!) – but they’ll remind you of the important things in life.  Or, may be, listen to those who’ve been seriously ill or had a near death experience.

Either way, the message will be the same.  Follow your heart and learn to be happy whatever else is going on in your life.  And we guarantee they won’t be suggesting spending more time at work or being focussed on the latest gizmo. 

At the end of the day all we truly have are our experiences and memories, we can’t take any “stuff” with us.

Let’s finish with a quote that we can remember (!):

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift.  That’s why it’s called the present.”

As always, the choice is yours.

Aug 16
Why do we yawn?

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It’s been a while since we’ve tackled one of those questions without a simple answer that children love to ask.  And, as it’s the summer holidays, there’s still time for plenty more!  So we thought it was time for a little research on something we all do every day without ever thinking about.

The easy – and obvious – answer is that we yawn when we’re tired.  Or bored.  Or both. 

The traditional explanation for yawning is that we breathe less deeply when we’re tired or bored.  This means that the body takes in less oxygen, leading to an increase of carbon dioxide levels in the blood.  Which, in turn, causes us to yawn and so breathe more deeply, taking in more oxygen and releasing more carbon dioxide.  As a result we feel more alert.  Less tired and bored.

However, recent research has suggested that reduced oxygen levels may not be the trigger but simply a sign of something else.  Of a rise in body temperature, particularly within the brain.

Our bodies are designed to function within a very narrow set of parameters, including body temperature.  As our core body temperature increases, brain activity slows down, making us feel sleepy and less alert. 

Yawning, quite simply, allows larger quantities of cool air to be taken in to the body so helping reduce body temperature.  At the same time, more oxygen is also taken in.  And both of these help to increase brain function and so makes us feel more alert.

While the new explanation may sound a bit like “two sides of the same coin”, it provides a more comprehensive answer for why we yawn.  It also explains why people tend to yawn more when they’re in a warm room, regardless of whether they’re bored or tired.  And why going outside into the fresher air usually helps stop it.

Yawning is also a way to release pressure within the inner ear, for example, due to a change in altitude or being bunged up with a cold.  It stretches the eardrum which, in turn, opens the Eustachian Tube, so allowing pressure to equalise; with its tell tale “popping”.  Chewing gum or having a voluntary yawn does the same thing.

As an aside, yawning has also been found to increase levels of dopamine – the so called “feel good” hormone – within the brain.  And, there’s no doubt about it, we all feel better for a good yawn.  Not to mention a good stretch.

While yawning is a natural part of life, excessive yawning has been linked to certain health problems, particularly of the Brain / Central Nervous System.  However it should be stressed that these are rare and include Epilepsy, MS and tumours.  Yawning can also be a side effect of some medication.

Yawning shares many characteristics with laughter.  Both can occur voluntarily or involuntarily.  And we all know how difficult they can both be to disguise!  They’re contagious, with one person yawning triggering those around them. 

As an aside, simply reading about yawning can be enough to trigger it.  So the question is whether you’ve had a yawn – or two (!) – while reading this post?!?  Finally, both laughter and yarning have been described as non verbal forms of communication, understood by all those around them. 

So let’s finish with a few bizarre facts about yawning before we go, to amaze – and confuse (!) – your friends.  Did you know that babies in the womb yawn?  That it’s not just humans who yawn, but many other animals too?  In some animals, like guinea pigs, pronounced yawns showing the front teeth are used as a sign or anger or aggression.  And, finally, that yawning is more contagious between family and close friends – and can be used to indicate how empathetic (or not) a person is.

And, finally, we couldn’t resist a second picture which definitely qualifies as a proper yawn.

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Which reminds us of what Little Red Riding Hood said:

“What big teeth you have Grandma.”

And, all together, with the reply:

“All the better to eat you with my dear.”

Aug 09
Why are so many people looking for a magic solution?

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Over the years we’ve noticed that many people come to us seeking a magic bullet to cure their problem(s).  Instantly.  And, this is the crucial bit, without them needing to do anything themselves.  Or, heaven forbid, making any changes to the way they choose to live their lives. 

Not only do they want a magic solution, but they tend to be extremely selective in considering where the problem may actually have come from in the first place.  And it doesn’t matter whether it’s to do with their health, relationships, finances, work or something else entirely.  They always seem to look for an external reason for whatever the problem may be.

For some reason they seem unable – or reluctant – to look to themselves for the answer.  To take responsibility for themselves and the part their choices played in creating the problem in the first place.  And choosing to ignore an issue – to turn a blind eye and do nothing – is just as much of a choice as consciously taking action.

Instead they expect someone else – whoever that may be – to come and sort it out for them NOW.  Often the finger of blame is pointed in the direction of those perceived to be in authority.  Perhaps at the government or big business; or more specifically at doctors, teachers, social workers or their parents.  The latter being a favourite scape goat for people of all ages (!).  It’s almost as though they’ve remained a child albeit in adult form.

Added to this, the seeds of the problem are often obscured by the mists of time; making it difficult to link cause and effect.  Perhaps it was one poor choice years – or decades – ago that started the ball rolling and have had such devastating effects now. 

Or, more likely, a series of small yet bad choices. 

May be it’s down to an innocuous habit – or piece of advice in the public arena – they simply followed and never thought to question.  But – and it’s a big but – just because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for you to do.  

Or, the response we hear all too often, they’ve done it for years – whatever “it” is – and can’t understand why it’s suddenly causing problems now.  The signs were there, they just didn’t see them.

It may be a hard pill to swallow but the only person who’s responsible for you and your life; is you.  However much we would like it to be different, our lives are the result of all the choices we’ve made over the years.  Whether consciously or by default. 

While this may sound daunting to start with – “What on earth am I going to do about this?” – it puts you in an incredibly powerful position.  It lets you decide what’s truly best for you, rather than letting others assume that they know what’s best for you.  After all, despite what anyone else would like to tell you, you’re the one who knows yourself best. 

But what if where you are now isn’t the best place to start? 

Or, as that old joke so beautifully puts it:

A tourist stops to ask a local for directions.  “Well, sir” says the local “If I were you I wouldn’t start from here.”

Well, here is where you have to start from, however much you’d like it to be otherwise.  By simply deciding that you don’t wish to remain where you are – and having a general idea of where you’d like to be instead – you’ve already taken the first important step to getting there.  You’re looking forward to where you want to go, rather than remaining stuck where you currently are.

Equally important is to take a look back and see how you got here.  It’s time for a little introspection, however scary that may seem.  This isn’t so you can beat yourself up – or go into “poor me” victim mode – but so you can learn from it.  Remember you can’t change the past but you can learn from it.  And mistakes are only a bad thing if we don’t learn from them. 

This is the reason why visits to the past can be so useful, provided they’re kept short and sweet.  Whether it’s that you DEFINITELY won’t do x again (!) or you’ll do it differently next time, that’s fine.  Learn what you need to from it and move on. 

And there’s one little word that will  help you with this no end – and one you can easily resurrect from your childhood – the little word “why”.  Regaining the habit of questioning everything – whether it’s something you’ve always done and accept as being true; or some new information coming your way – is one of the most powerful habits you can foster. 

So now you know where you’d like to go, and have learnt all you can from where you don’t want to be, you’re well on your way.  Not only have you got into your car and turned on the engine, but turned it round to point in the direction you want to go.

Or, put another way, you’ve put solid foundations in place for the new life you’d like to build. 

And then, if you feel you’d like some help from others – whether it be a person or an organisation – then you can do it on your terms, in a way that suits you best.  You’ll still remain in control of your life and of what’s best for you.

Ironically, by taking back responsibility for your life, you’ll often find that magic solutions seem to appear to help you on your way. But, here’s the secret, they only appeared because you’ve taken responsibility for your life.  Not to take it away from you.

As always, the choice is yours.


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