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Health Store Help

Independent health store advice on brain health and dementia prevention

Looking for advice on natural wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Liz O’Byrne, a nutritional therapist who works with the Aloe Tree in Ennistymon and holds clinics in Ennistymon and Lahinch, Co Clare

Dementia is an umbrella term given to different diseases that affect the various parts of the brain which are normally used for learning, memory and language. A healthy lifestyle reduces risk – diet, exercise and stress management play huge roles here. Researchers predict that Alzheimers will affect 106 million people by 2050. The societal impacts and how people’s lives are affected is of huge concern.

Alzheimer’s is one disease that comes under the umbrella term dementia. Research has shown that to reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s we should focus on controlling insulin and blood sugar levels. Genetic predisposition can also be a risk factor as can elevated homocysteine levels.

To keep blood sugars balanced, we need to eat according to a set of guidelines:

Follow a low GL diet, eating foods that have a low glycaemic load – a measure of how much it raises blood sugar levels.

Eat regularly to maintain balanced blood sugar. Eat within one hour of waking and every three to four hours (three main meals and only snack if necessary).

Combine a good quality source of protein with each meal/snack as protein can lessen the effect of sugar/carbohydrate on blood sugars. Fibre has a similar effect. Eating a wholefood carbohydrate along with some protein is ideal. Think a piece of whole fruit (carbohydrate with fibre), a small handful of nuts (protein) or an oatcake (wholegrain carbohydrate) and some hummus (protein).

Avoid sugar, juices and dried fruits. Instead eat the whole fruit as fibre lessens the effects of the naturally-occurring sugar in the fruit.

Consider incorporating intermittent fasting into your life as this allows blood sugars to come right down and gives the pancreas a rest, so that it doesn’t need to pump out insulin. For example, having your last meal at 6pm and breakfast the following day at 8am is a 14-hour fast.

Eating plenty of healthy fat is also essential. Think oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds and ghee. If you don’t eat two portions of oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring) per week, consider supplementing with a good quality fish oil. The other supplement that is essential for brain health is vitamin D. Recommended daily dose is 400ui for an adult.

The relationship between the gut and brain is well documented. Taking probiotics after illnesses or after taking a course of antibiotics is vital. If you have digestive issues, take steps to resolve them. Get help from an appropriate practitioner if necessary.

Plenty of studies have shown that regular exercise can help prevent and even slow down the progression of brain diseases like dementia.

Ongoing/chronic stress can be detrimental to health, especially brain health. Stress management techniques need to be incorporated into the daily lives of adults and children to help prevent diseases of the brain and many other chronic conditions.

If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of dementia seek help from your GP. Symptoms include memory loss, changes in behaviour or mood, language problems and disorientation.

The HSE has a dedicated website

Low GL FoodsMedium GL FoodsHigh GL Foods
Porridge, muesliWholewheat, rye and pitta breadWhite bread or bagels
Pasta, barley, bulgar wheatQuick oatsCorn flakes, bran flakes
Sweet potato, butter beans, peas, lentilsBrown, wild or basmati rice, couscousShortgrain white rice, rice pasta
Fruit, non-starchy vegetables and carrotsRice cakes, popcorn, crackers

Who’s who and what’s what at The Aloe Tree

The Aloe Tree on Ennistymon’s main street opened its doors in August 2014 and is run by owner-manager Tessa O’Connor. “In August 2017 we moved to a bigger premises nearer to the square in Ennistymon, so we have a better location now. Our new building has tall arched windows and stone walls inside, so there is plenty of character. We had fun renovating it working with the character and using lots of found materials. My three-year old son and I found rusty buckets in the ditch by our house and turned them into lampshades! It used to be a restaurant, so there is a full working kitchen which is great and we’re excited to expand into using soon.

“We offer a zero-waste policy option and our other pride is on supporting local businesses. We like to stock interesting ingredients that you can’t find elsewhere such as middle eastern spices. We sell lots of foods loose including coffee beans and dried goods like lentils and oats, as well as a whole range of shampoos, conditioners and laundry detergents. It’s satisfying to see customers bring in their own containers such as bags, jars or bottles and leave using no packaging at all – which is great. Our scoop and weigh is really popular.

“We would be more of a foodie than a supplementy store – we choose the specific suppplements in the top ranges that customers have requested or we have recommended rather than just stocking a complete range. Everything is based on customer feedback. If a customers asks for something we will stock it. Our customers come from all walks of life and we try hard to cater for everyone.

“In the Ennistymon area there are lots of local producers and we would stock local skincare ranges, soaps, seaweed bath, chocolate, teas and honey. We have organic vegetables delivered twice a week, raw milk once a week and sourdough bread twice a week. Freshly made raw and vegan desserts are available every day, which people like with their coffee.

“Our fridge holds vegan options such as cheeses and spreads, our chilled section has salads and greens and the freezer has ready meals. One thing we’re proud of is our kombucha on tap – we nitro infuse it so it comes out with a head and looks like you are drinking a pint of beer! Cold brew nitro coffee is also in the pipeline. My partner Hein built a seating area from found materials which is really popular and customers can sit at one big communal table. A customer favourite is the immune-boosting ‘hot ginger latte’ – fresh juiced ginger with steamed oat milk. A dirty ginger latte has a shot of coffee added.

“We held a few pop-up restaurant nights last year and plan to do some more. Local musicians like to play in the corner beside the big windows and twice a year we like to throw a tasting party where we bring in all of our local suppliers – it can be great fun. What is it they say? love where you work and you never work a day in your life.”

Visit: The Aloe Tree, Main Street, Ennistymon, Co Clare

Speak to: Owner-manager Tessa O’Connor and staff Poppy Wilson, nutritional therapist; Jenny Keane, nutritional therapist; Jenny Quinlan, studying flower essences; Nadine Healy, studying herbalism.

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