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Summer saviours

Summer months can bring new health challenges – we bring you natural solutions for suncare, tummy troubles, insect bites and more

Looking after your skin

“Choosing a good sunscreen will maximise your time in the sun without compromising skin health,” says Frederika Le Cain from health store Loop de Loop, in Castletownbere, Co Cork. “As a largely fair-skinned nation, Irish skin is at high risk when exposed to UV rays. Many of you may have heard of melanin, the pigment responsible for the colour of our skin, studies have shown the higher the pigmentation in the skin the higher the natural sun protection factor is. Bad news for most of us milk maidens and pale males is we have lower levels of melanin, resulting in a tendency to sunburn. Skin is a semi permeable barrier, this means that what goes on your skin will find its way into your blood stream, so buying a cheap or chemical-laden lotion is a false economy where your health is concerned. Your local health store will stock a wide range of natural sun protection lotions with varying SPFs. Make sure to choose an SPF appropriate to your level of time in the sun and activity.”

“Protecting your skin from sun damage is vital not only in summer but all year round, even on cloudy days,” says Lucy Kerr of health store The Good Earth in Kilkenny. “Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been shown to be effective and safe forms of sunscreen. Ingredients to avoid include oxybenzone which can be absorbed through the skin and be hormone disruptive and sprays because they don't provide thick enough coating on the skin and can cause inhalation concerns. Try to avoid intense sunshine between the hours of 10am and 4pm; sunglasses, clothing and seeking shade are also important along with use of sunscreen.”

Other sun tips:

Beta carotene – can help to prepare the skin for the sun. It increases melanin, which gives the skin a tanned appearance.

Don’t forget that vitamin D comes from the sun, and it is essential for human health. So, enjoy the sun, but don’t get burnt.

Looking after your tummy

“Summertime can cause a range of tummy issues,” says Lucy Kerr. “Some good remedies to help are slippery elm for acid reflux or heartburn, digestive enzymes that help break down the food we eat, teas such as ginger, peppermint or fennel are great for an upset tummy, digestive issues and bloating, homeopathy remedy nux vomica helps with upset stomach and nausea, indigestion after spicy food or alcohol and specific strains of good bacteria have been shown to help alleviate symptoms of gastric upset. Also make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Coconut water is full of electrolytes if feeling dehydrated.”

“We think of summer foods as being healthy salads, but often we lead busier lives, socialise more, travel more and often reach for convenience foods, have an extra glass of wine or one more bottle of beer and seldom pass the 99 machine without stopping,” says Frederika Le Cain. “Breaking the healthy eating routine is often the norm during these months and your digestive system will be the first to suffer for it. Supplementing a good quality probiotic has been found to be of huge benefit. The role of ‘friendly’ or ‘good’” bacteria in the gut is hugely important. Fennel tea is a gentle and highly effective remedy for a windy gut, and if you do feel you have over indulged a natural detox may be in order.”

Your holiday first aid kit

“This summer will be another year of the staycation,” says Frederika Le Cain. “While exploring what Ireland has to offer, it serves to be kitted out with a few essentials.

Natural sun protection lotion – with appropriate SPF level

Insect repellent – stay away from anything which includes DDT, a toxic chemical

Witchhazel – a multi-tasker, helpful for taking the edge off a nettle rash, insect sting and cleansing hands in a hurry

Aloe vera gel – nature’s aftersun lotion

Biodegradable wipes – for sticky emergencies

“I always have these natural remedies to hand for summertime holidays,” says Lucy Kerr.

Activated charcoal – for food poisoning, activated charcoal binds to the pathogen and aids in removing it from the body, try and take it as soon as you notice symptoms

Aloe vera gel – for sunburn, skin irritations or bites

Arnica – for bumps, bruises or accidents

Calendula cream – for cuts or bruises, itchy skin

Chamomile tea bags – leave a bag of chamomile tea in a glass of cold water in the fridge for 30 minutes, squeeze out excess water and place it directly on the bite or sting

Citronella essential oil – dilute with water in a spray bottle and use it on your clothing to deter insects

Lavender essential oil – for insect bites, skin conditions, for aiding sleep

Quercetin and vitamin C – both natural antihistamines which help skin allergies and bites

Tea tree essential oil – for insect bites, it’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Dilute before use

Tick remover – with the increase in tick bites and awareness of Lyme disease increasing it's important to have a tick remover. Try not to leave any bare skin and wear long trousers if hiking or in long grass.

What's good for insect bites?

“There are studies that suggest vitamin B1, otherwise known as thiamine, is an excellent insect repellent when taken orally,” says Frederika Le Cain. “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. You will find a range of natural insect repellents in your local health store.”

Other insect tips include:

Garlic – changes the odour given off from the body through the sweat glands, helping to repel insects.

Neem and citronella oils – natural insect repellents, try a skin-friendly spray. Citronella can also be burnt in candles and oil burners.

Lavender essential oil – apply undiluted to bites to take away the sting and the itch.

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