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Independent health store advice on holiday essentials

Looking for advice on natural wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Frederika Le Cain from Loop de Loop, in Castletownbere, Co Cork

So we are starting to spread our wings upwards and outwards, bags are being packed, flights are being booked and the holiday season is upon us. This is a time when our routine changes drastically; we push our systems to the limit with different foods, less sleep, exposure to the elements and our immune system has to quickly acclimatise to new pathogens and allergens.

The galloping gut

Our gut really is the seat of all health, many a holiday has been ruined by a dodgy tum. On holidays we eat different foods and drink water from different sources. Losing a day or two with an upset system due to bacteria in unclean ice, etc is less joyous. Whether you suffer from food sensitivities or allergies taking a good quality probiotic when travelling is wise.

Sacha. Boulardii is a favourite probiotic among travellers prone to an overactive bowel as it is effective at treating or preventing certain types of diarrhoea.

Acidophilus helps the gut break down lactose from dairy products into a more digestible form.

Nux Vom 30c is a homeopathic aid for over-indulgence, nausea, migraine and swelling of the stomach. A real handbag hero.

Walking off the aches

Walking and hiking holidays are rewarding, low cost, high energy and memorable. Every walker needs to carry a magnesium supplement. Magnesium plays a key role in restoring, repairing and maintaining healthy muscle tissue. This unassuming mineral is involved in literally hundreds of biochemical reactions in your body - it has anti-inflammatory benefits, may boost exercise performance, improves PMS symptoms and reduce migraine severity. If you are suffering from muscle cramps and stiffness from physical exertion a magnesium supplement is a must.

Arnica montana gel is a timeless reliable aid to soothe aching limbs. It is a first aid essential for bruising and swelling. The gel should be rubbed into calves and shoulders morning and evening.

Sunkissed or sun missed

Leave the lobster look to the crustaceans, and take a natural sunscreen with you. Make sure you visit your local health store for a range of chemical-free SPFs. Look for one with SPF30 or higher. Remember the SPF factor represents the number of minutes you can spend in strong sun before reapplying. Topping up during the day is essential to prevent sunburn and keep your skin in good shape. Taking a beta carotene supplement a few weeks prior to going on holiday increases your skin's natural sun protection and also helps to lengthen the lifespan of that coveted glow. Don't forget to moisturise and protect your lips.

Bite me

There are studies that suggest vitamin B1, otherwise known as thiamine, is an excellent insect repellent when taken orally. This safe vitamin produces a skin odour that is not recognisable to human noses, but repels mosquitoes, midges and their flying cousins. B1 takes about two weeks to saturate the skin, so it is best to start supplementing in early summer. It is particularly effective for those highly sensitive or allergic to insect bites. Citronella oil is an excellent repellent, burning it in an oil burner outdoors when having a BBQ is a great trick. If bitten, a dab of apple cider vinegar on a bite will reduce the inflammation. Lavender oil also does the trick.

Immune to the gloom

Keep an eye on your immunity when travelling, while on an aeroplane the in-flight centralised air conditioning circulates in the cabin and can pose a health risk if you are sharing the flight with somebody carrying more than their luggage. Nothing is more disappointing than succumbing to a head cold or flu on holiday. Boost your immunity prior to travel with an echinacea or astragalus herbal supplement, also take a high potency vitamin C and a zinc supplement the month prior to your travel and while you are away. I always carry a bottle of tea tree oil with me and rub a few drops onto a tissue which I rub on the air vent above my head as added protection.

Make sure you always buy reputable brands when purchasing any natural products. Visit your local health food store for advice as they will listen to your concerns and tailor their advice to your exact needs. Many companies that sell their products online make fraudulent or over-inflated claims as to their efficacy, and the products may be heavily diluted, synthetic or adulterated. When you buy from a health store you know the origins are pure and natural and also that any claims made have been carefully vetted. Irish health stores work tirelessly to deliver the best products and advice to you.

What's What and Who's Who in Loop de Loop

"Loop de Loop is open 15 years this year," says Frederika Le Cain, owner and manager. "I have worked here since we opened and then bought the shop myself in 2019. Not long after that we went into lockdown in spring 2020 – that was a baptism of fire. It was good to be classified as an essential business so we didn't have to close, but adjusting was really challenging. We found that customers just didn't want to touch anything.

"We are located on the main street of Castletownbere, an old coastal town on a peninsula. We are near the post office, so you can't miss us. We would get a fair bit of tourist trade, but the heart of our business is our local customers. We are supported by all age groups, from kids bringing in their pocket money to buy healthy chocolate to supplement buyers and older customers who come in for spoonful botanicals and turmeric.

"In the shop we have flower essences and a full range of supplements with all the main brands, a big line in omega oils and a cholesterol section with health juices and other products. We stock a very good selection of nuts, pulses, grains and dried fruit, as well as sugar-free jams, spices for cooking, healthy flours and lots of local honey. We stock Fair Trade confectionery, dairy-free chocolates, gluten-free and sugar-free sweets.

"We have a large section with herbal ammonia-free hair dyes, natural hennas, eco-conscious tooth and hairbrushes and bamboo earbuds. We go for botanical rich and paraben-free products and focus on Irish and ethically sourced products. My background is in massage therapy and I would have an organic approach to skin as an organ. We sell palm-free deodorants and hand-made soaps.

"Eco-friendly cleaning products, coconut sisal brushes and microfibre free cloths are in one section. We have built up an ethical and Fair Trade gift shop with jewellery, local crafts, leatherwork, glassware, ceramics and hand-made greetings cards. There are also locally-made printed bags and T shirts and a selection of health books.

"Upstairs we have Lili Gallery, named after my mother, which showcases the work of local artists including paintings, ceramics, prints and photography. I am passionate about supporting people who have a gift and a craft.

"We hope to reintroduce talks into our eclectic shop that has a little bit of a lot."

VISIT: Loop de Loop, Bank Place, Castletownbere, Co Cork.
SPEAK TO: Owner-manager Frederika Le Cain, sales assistants Pearse Downey, Lynette Dewhurst and Anne Marie Sheehan.
CONTACT: 027 70770
OPENING HOURS: Mon-Fri 9.30am-5.30pm, Sat 10am-2pm, Sun 11am-6pm.

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