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Rude Wonders - your Wellness & Wellbeing questions answered

Stomach stress

Q. I work in a job with frequent deadlines and I find they really affect my stomach. I have tried all sorts of stress related remedies which don’t really help. I am concerned about taking too many over the counter medicines for stopping diarrhoea. Can you help?

Dr Nicholas Kelly replies: Stress comes in three main forms: emotional, physical and nutritional. They all have the same effect which is to send blood to the hands and feet so you can run away from whatever is stressing you! There is only a limited supply of blood in the body so if the majority gets sent off to the hands and feet it leaves very little to go to the gut to transport nutrients for the cells. This lack of blood in the gut leads to the gut wall opening a bit wider than normal to let more nutrients over the wall to deliver to the cells on the depleted plasma. When the gut wall opens up a bit more than it should it allows particles of food to cross over into the blood stream and this causes an immune reaction, thus causing inflammation. The type of inflammation varies in everybody but in your case it seems to give you diarrhoea. You can combat this by taking products to improve the integrity of the gut wall, a powerful dose of friendly bacteria like 50bn-100bn a day and a combination of holy basil, lemon balm, English lavender, eleuthero and rhodiola to deal with the stress.

Cycling knees

Q. I ride a bicycle to work which is great because it keeps me fit, but on some mornings I find my knees are a bit sore and I am concerned about my joints. Is there anything you can recommend for this?

Dr Daniel Jones answers: Cycling to work is a great way to stay active and fit. Yet, as with all activity and exercise, our body and joint require the tools and resources to recover. Every day we use our joints, we cause microscopic damage which requires repair and recovery to become stronger and more durable. Joint pain often develops as cartilage within joints breaks down as a consequence of ageing, or even overuse, leading to inflammation of the joint tissue, friction and finally the symptoms of joint pain. Eventually the rate at which cartilage is destroyed surpasses the rate at which the cells responsible for producing new cartilage can repair the damage. Nutritional support, however, can be found.

Addressing joint inflammation is the first step in relieving achy joints. MSM is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory effective at alleviating joint tissue inflammation. It is an important source of sulphur with antioxidant properties and can be found within garlic, cruciferous vegetables and egg yolk.

The next step is keeping our joints lubricated to help reduce bone rubbing and friction. Hyaluronic acid acts as a lubricant and shock absorber within joints. It can be found in soy and dairy products. In addition, glucosamine acts in synergy with collagen to protect and promote joint cartilage repair. It is found in shellfish.

To really get to the core issue of achy joints, you will need to address the root of the problem which is the deteriorated cartilage, either from ageing or overuse. Hydrolysed marine collagen peptides are the building blocks for cartilage tissue. Collagen can be found in sources of protein including fish.

Sore back

Q. Ever since my second child was born I have a sensitive lower back. I have seen experts but nothing really helps. I also don’t want to live on painkillers for the rest of my life. Is there anything ‘natural’ that might help?

Penny Hatzis answers: Incorporating chlorophyll-rich foods into your diet can help reduce inflammation levels in the body which could otherwise lead to pain and a number of chronic diseases. Start adding greens such as parsley, cilantro and chlorella into your diet. Chlorella is a fresh water algae that’s packed with nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and protein. It is unique in that it contains the highest chlorophyll content of any known plant. Chlorophyll has been observed to have a healing effect on inflammatory conditions and some evidenc e suggests that microalga such as chlorella could be a good alternative for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Certain medications such as antibiotics and NSAIDs can disrupt the balance of good bacteria in the gut and impact immune health. Through its high fibre content and nucleic acids, chlorella is also excellent for supporting the growth of good bacteria and healing the lining of the gut. This can have a knock-on effect and improve immune system response to help reduce inflammation throughout the body. You can add chlorella to your green smoothie or take it as a tablet.

High cholesterol

Q. I am 55 and quite active but after a health check at work was told my cholesterol is on the high side. Can you recommend anything that might bring it down?

Olive Curran answers: There are a couple of effective measures you can take to help lower your cholesterol naturally. The Irish Heart Foundation recommends that healthy adults should have a total cholesterol level below 5 mmol/L. A simple blood test will measure your blood cholesterol level. If it is high, implementing heart-healthy dietary and lifestyle changes as well as taking plant sterols is a good start.

You should follow the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, which encourages lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains such as brown rice and oats. Include more good fats such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies), seeds such as flaxseed and seed oils, olive oil, avocados and small portion nuts such as walnuts. It is important to limit saturated fats to a minimum by reducing red meat, dairy, vegetable oils, pastries, cakes, biscuits and fried foods and reduce your salt intake by using herbs and spices to flavour foods. Omega-3 fatty acids from cold water fatty fish have many benefits for heart health. Aim to consume 2-3 portions of oily fish each week or supplement with a daily dose of high quality omega-3 fish oil such as Eskimo-3.

Taking plant sterols should be a first step in trying to lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols are naturally-occurring substances found in plants. They work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine, which contributes to a significant decrease in the blood LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol level. New research confirms that 1.6 g (2 tablets) Zerochol® plant sterols can lower cholesterol by 17% in three months, without any side effects.

Check out Zerochol’s new cholesterol lowering online support programme, which provides lots of information about cholesterol, heart health, the Mediterranean diet, healthy eating tips, good fats versus bad fats, grocery list, recipes and healthy food swap ideas. More information: www.zerochol.ie

Rising cholesterol

Q. The last time my cholesterol was tested the nurse said it had gone up a bit. Should I be worried? What can I do to make sure it doesn’t get any worse?

Olive Curran answers: It is very important to get your cholesterol checked annually. There are usually no symptoms for high cholesterol; that’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol checked regularly. Cholesterol only becomes a risk factor for heart disease when the level becomes too high. The Irish Heart Foundation recommends that healthy adults should have a total cholesterol level below 5 mmol/L.

Taking plant sterols daily can help reduce cholesterol. They work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine, which contributes to a significant decrease in the blood LDL “bad” cholesterol level. New research confirms that 1.6 g (2 tablets) Zerochol® plant sterols can lower cholesterol by 17% in 3 months, without any side effects.

Dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your cholesterol include:

  • Swap foods high in saturated fats (meat, dairy, processed foods, baked goods etc) for healthier fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, oily fish and olive oil)
  • Choose high fibre – wholegrain breads, pastas, quinoa, beans, lentils and oats
  • Eat foods high in omega-3 such as sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, walnuts and seeds. Omega-3s have been found to improve numerous heart disease risk factors. They help to reduce blood pressure, reduce triglycerides and improve blood circulation. Omega-3 has also been shown to increase HDL ‘good’ cholesterol which removes bad cholesterol from the body. Taking a daily fish oil supplement such as Eskimo-3 can support your heart, brain, joints and skin
  • Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables: they provide a multitude of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which have been shown to maintain a healthy heart
  • Exercise regularly and try to maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption
  • Changing habits is never easy, so you should consider signing up for Zerochol’s new online support program at www.zerochol.ie/register

Immunity advice

Q. Every winter I come down with a really bad bout of something – usually a cold but sometimes ‘flu – and I would like to see if I can prevent this because I often end up in bed for days and have to miss work. Can you recommend anything to boost my immunity?

Nadia Brydon answers: Our immune system is a system rather than an organ and to help maintain strong immunity within this system we need to make healthy lifestyle choices. Reducing stress alongside regular exercise and eating a healthy diet are fundamental for a strong immune system. A healthy diet should be high in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in sugar, saturated fats and processed foods. Healthy food choices are important as there is some evidence that certain micronutrient deficiencies, for example in zinc, iron, folic acid, vitamins A, B6, C, E and D have an impact on lowered immune function. Vitamin D is one of the main vitamins for supporting a healthy and strong immune system. Taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement can help to plug this micronutrient deficiency gap. My number one and go-to multivitamin and mineral supplement providing a completely natural range of these immune boosting micronutrients and particularly high in vitamin D is a fresh water green algae called chlorella. It is completely natural and a tasty all-round solution to boosting our immune system. Chlorella can also help protect against other environmental assaults on the immune system such as pesticides, toxins and radiation from mobile phones and computers. A strong and healthy immune system can defend itself against invading pathogens and chlorella goes a long way to helping achieve this.

Probiotic help

Q. My stomach has not been right for some time, but my doctor says there is nothing really wrong with me and can’t prescribe anything to help. He said live bacteria or probiotics could help, but I don’t know how to choose the most suitable one for me. There seem to be a lot on the market and I don’t know which would be best. Can you help?

Kerry Beeson replies: Doctors may struggle to manage symptoms in patients who have ongoing digestive issues with no identifiable cause, generally known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). As mounting evidence suggests that an imbalance of bacteria in the intestines could be a factor in IBS, some doctors are suggesting probiotics as a natural addition to conventional medications.

To achieve the best results from probiotics, it’s important to choose a well-researched supplement containing one or more strains of bacteria that have been studied for the symptoms of IBS and shown to offer some measurable benefits. Whilst all probiotic bacteria may offer some general benefits, different strains may have different effects in the body, so it’s best to choose the strain that best suits your needs. For example, most people have heard the term ‘acidophilus’, but this is actually the name of a Lactobacillus bacterial species, and not all strains of bacteria within this species will offer the same benefits.

But Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® is the most extensively-researched strain of L. acidophilus in the world, and has been used in clinical trials focusing on bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and constipation. This means it’s a very popular choice for those who suffer from IBS. You can find this strain of L. acidophilus in two OptiBac products, ‘For every day EXTRA Strength’ and ‘For every day MAX’.

Christmas tone up

Q. I would like to lose a few pounds in preparation for Christmas, but I don’t know where to start. I am reluctant to go on a crash diet as I eat pretty healthily as it is. Can you recommend something natural I could take?

Susie Perry Debice answers: Crash diets are never the answer when it comes to weight loss as all you end up doing is slowing your metabolism down, setting the scene for rebound weight gain once you come off your diet. The sensible approach to weight loss and one that produces results that last is to follow a few healthy eating guidelines. Firstly, reduce your portion sizes and resist second helpings. Next, do a sugar and starchy food check as it’s these foods which trigger spikes in blood sugar releasing high levels of insulin that encourages all that sugar and starch to be converted into fat and tucked onto your thighs, hips and waist. So cutting back on white bread, white rice, pasta, puddings, cakes, biscuits and confectionary helps to melt your muffin top! Focus on the good stuff, make sure you have plenty of fibre in your diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, oats and wholegrains and pulses as these foods keep you feeling fuller for longer. Don’t shy away from fats - just reduce saturated fats found in red meat and dairy products and increase the good fats found in nuts, seeds and fish as these omega fats actually help boost your metabolism. While we are talking about metabolism, it’s a good idea to supplement your new healthy diet with Altrient Acetyl L-Carnitine as this natural nutrient helps to switch on metabolism and turn up the rate at which your cells burn fat.

Heart health

Q. I am in my 50s and I worry because there is a history of heart problems in my family. My father died quite young from a heart condition and I have been advised to be really careful. Other than not smoking, taking regular exercise and a healthy diet is there anything I could be doing to help my health?

Dr Daniel Jones answers: A healthy diet and regular exercise is the foundation to a healthy body and healthy heart. However, a healthy diet does not necessarily ensure we are getting the nutrition we need to keep our hearts healthy – due to many factors changing in the way we produce, transport and store food. Therefore, those predisposed to heart conditions genetically should focus a bit more on healthy heart nutrition to keep our bodies optimal. Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 is a powerful nutrient contributing to heart health. CoQ10 was actually discovered in the heart and is a nutrient required by the body to make energy for the heart, as well as acting as a powerful antioxidant to protect our bodies from the damaging effects of free radicals. A great combination with CoQ10 for heart nutrition is arginine and citrulline. These two nutrients significantly improve cardiovascular health by helping blood vessels to open and stay elastic. Focusing on the nutrition of the heart, through natural nutrients like CoQ10 for heart energy and arginine and citrulline for improved circulation and blood flow, we can utilise natural powerful nutrition to protect one of our most vital organs.

Joint support

Q. I’ve been taking cod liver oil for years for my joints, but wonder if there’s anything else I should consider as well? I’m sure our damp climate doesn’t help as I’ve noticed I tend to get more niggling aches and pains in my fingers and knees especially in the winter months.

Esther Mills-Roberts answers: Good old cod liver oil – rich in vitamin D, which forms part of the bone matrix, and essential fatty acids which help to maintain healthy joint mobility. This popular supplement is a joint-health mainstay, often taken alongside glucosamine.

Research is also showing that collagen could be a helpful addition to your supplementary regime. Whilst people before us might have tried gelatine to ‘keep things strong’, modern manufacturing technology has refined and purposed collagen into an effective supplement to support the joints and surrounding tissues.

However, it’s important that you choose a good quality collagen that’s absorbed in the intestines and incorporates well into the cartilage tissue. This is especially useful as people get older, where cartilage degeneration can result from wear and tear on the joints and the weakening of the tendons and ligaments supporting the joints. Research shows that providing collagen peptides in the diet might help to maintain healthy cartilage structure and formation.

What’s more... this isn’t just for people in older years. Trials on collagen intakes in sports people have found that supplementation can also be useful, helping to maintain joints that are supple, flexible, and supported, making it a useful addition to many people’s diets.

Pregnancy support

Q. I’m really looking forward to my first baby and want to do everything right. I have been feeling really tired, and am wondering are there any supplements or superfoods I could take that will help my body cope. I am already taking folic acid.

Nadia Brydon answers: Eating a well-balanced diet and a variety of different foods is never more important than during pregnancy. Particularly important is eating lots of dark green leafy vegetables which contain high amounts of folic acid (folate), iron, beta carotene, amino acids and a wide range of vitamins and minerals vital for mother and baby during pregnancy. Chlorella, which is a completely natural air-dried fresh water green algae in tablet or granule form, contains a wide range of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals including folic acid (folate) as well as B12 which both support the nervous system.

Research has shown Chlorella to reduce the risk of anaemia during pregnancy, helping to keep your iron levels and energy up, and also your general health. It also contains 27mcg of vitamin D per serving and is in my view the best and safest vitamin D supplementation available.

There has been some excellent research using chlorella in pregnancy and during breastfeeding. It has been shown to be completely safe and beneficial at all stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding, and evidence shows it reduces the amount of environmental contaminant toxins going from mother to baby both via the placenta in pregnancy as well as during breastfeeding.

Mind help

Q. I have started to get confused about names and other facts. Often finding the right word can be difficult. I used to find it funny when older people got things mixed up, but now it is happening to me it upsets me. Would some sort of supplement help me?

Karen Alexander answers: There are many ways of supporting cognitive function with supplements and diet. Essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain so it is important to ensure you are getting plenty from foods such as oily fish, walnuts, avocados, leafy greens, flax and hemp. High strength omega 3 is helpful to ensure a healthy ratio of omega 3:6 which can reduce your risk of chronic low-grade inflammation.

Turmeric is a wonderful spice, which can be supplemented and added to your food. It has been shown to have a mediating effect on inflammation and therefore has the potential to be protective against neurological disease.

Recent research has found a link between blood sugar levels and dementia, so balancing your blood sugar with a healthy diet rich in protein, healthy fats and a rainbow of colourful vegetables is very beneficial, while limiting high sugar foods. Protein is also very important for the production of neurotransmitters.

Wild Nutrition’s Food-Grown® Cognitive Connect contains a spectrum of nutrients to support the processes that are important for brain health. Among these are chromium for blood sugar control, N-acetyl cysteine to enhance glutathione production, the body’s master antioxidant, vitamin C to support iron absorption needed for cognitive function and vitamin B12 which is vital for our myelin sheath, a fatty substance that wraps around our nerve cells and is essential for nerve function.

Windy conditions

Q. I’m not sure what has started this because I never used to have a problem, but in recent years I suffer from wind in the form of flatulence, and it doesn’t seem to matter what I do or don’t eat. I would really welcome some advice on what I can do about it. I am not keen on conventional medicines, so would prefer a natural option.

Julie Lamble answers: Wind can be uncomfortable as well as an embarrassing condition and there are several factors that can cause it. Swallowing air (from eating too quickly, or chewing gum), certain foods (such as cabbage, broccoli, beans and lentils) and some types of medication can give rise to flatulence. Also several digestive issues such as IBS and food intolerances can greatly increase wind production.

Firstly, I would suggest that you eat smaller meal portions (ie four small meals, as opposed to three), chew your food thoroughly and slowly and avoid drinking during mealtimes to help your digestive processes. Next, try taking a proven supplement for reducing wind, such as activated charcoal. This unique substance is heated to produce millions of tiny pores on its surface that become binding sites for toxins and other unwanted materials which cause wind in the bowel – they are then naturally eliminated from the body. Taking activated charcoal at mealtimes can greatly help to reduce the amount of gas produced and also has a de-odourising effect. For best results take a steam-activated charcoal supplement derived from coconuts, which is in a vegetarian capsule.

Problem sleep

Q. I am 49 and suspect I may be heading into menopause because my sleep has become terrible. I never sleep through the night, and end up spending the early hours tossing and turning. Sometimes I feel hot during the night too. My other problem is exhaustion - I am fit to collapse in the early evening. Do you have any suggestions that could help?

Susie Perry Debice answers: Sounds to me like you are sneaking up to the perimenopause as these are typical symptoms which tend to emerge as the female hormone cycle starts to wind down. I have to also wonder if stress is exacerbating your symptoms as being stressed can certainly influence a restless night’s sleep and can impact quite dramatically on energy and vitality. Tired and frazzled adrenal glands (glands which product stress hormones) can become easily burnt out, tipping you more towards the menopause, but nutrients such as vitamins C and B act as powerful rejuvenation agents. It’s important to hunt these out as liposomal supplements, such as Altrient C and B-Complex, as these are particularly fast-acting. Magnesium is soothing and relaxing to the nervous system and if taken before bed can help to settle your body into sleep mode. Phytoestrogens found in soya sauce, soya yoghurt, edamame beans, chickpeas, alfalfa sprouts, fennel and flax seeds which help with oestrogen balance reducing chances of hot flushes and fatigue.

Holiday support

Q. Last year on holiday I got thrush and it was awful because I was abroad and didn’t know a doctor who could prescribe anything. Anyway, this year I would like to be more prepared - so can you recommend anything that I can take in my suitcase that will help to prevent it next time?

Lorraine Young answers: People are beginning to recognise that holidays can upset their gut bacteria and digestive health, but you’re highlighting here that holidays (swimming, new environment, more relaxed diet) can also upset the vaginal pH and friendly bacteria levels in women. Just like the gut, the vagina has a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria, and upsetting this balance leads to conditions like cystitis, bacterial vaginosis, and of course thrush. What likely happened on your holiday was that the vaginal pH was disturbed.

For women’s intimate health, as for many conditions, friendly bacteria can work wonders. The trick is to find the right probiotic for you. I always recommend women use a supplement that is well researched and proven to support intimate health. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 (found in OptiBac Probiotics ‘For women’) have been extensively clinically studied in those with thrush, cystitis and bacterial vaginosis. These probiotics can be taken every day, and are worth considering for at least a month before your next holiday. It’s also important to consider other factors, like levels of sugar in your diet, as sugar feeds pathogens like Candida.

Memory help

Q. I have always had a great memory and never really had to worry about it, but I find in my mid-60s that it is becoming harder to remember everything when I need to. I write lists, which helps, but still forget names and other facts when I am talking to people. Can you recommend anything that might help?

Dr Daniel Jones answers: The brain has an important job - to absorb, process, store and recall information for later use. Research has shown the brain’s ability to accomplish this is dependent on the capability to rewire itself, generating what are known as synapses or connections within the brain. Unfortunately, as we age this process becomes less efficient leading to deteriorating memory.

Research has demonstrated that the brain’s ability to absorb, process, store and recall information is driven by the generation of synaptic connections and that this process is fuelled by nutrition. The three most important nutritional factors for this, according to Professor Wurtman of MIT Cambridge, are omega-3 fatty acid DHA, uridine and choline. Professor Wurtman’s research showed that when the brain had adequate levels of these natural nutritional components, it was able to generate connections within the brain more efficiently, therefore promoting a greater ability to successfully store and recall information. Formulated in conjunction with Northumbria University Brain Nutrition Research Centre, Revive Active has created Mastermind – the most comprehensive nutritional supplement for the brain, nervous system, cognitive function and mental performance

Exam stress

Q. I am concerned about my daughter. She is sitting the Leaving Cert this summer and is already getting stressed and worried about it. Is there anything I can give her that is natural and will help her to cope?

Olive Curran answers: Good nutrition is essential at any time of year, but especially during an exam year when your brain and body are under great stress. I’d recommend the following to keep your child on track and in focus.

Keep hydrated: Sip water through the day. Lack of water to the brain can cause numerous symptoms including brain fatigue and brain fog.

Get your Omega-3 DHA: DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid is brain food. It helps to improve learning, mood, memory and concentration. The findings of one independent test showed that concentration was improved just two hours after eating the type of Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Increasing your level of omega-3, either through diet or supplementation can lead to improved concentration, a sharper memory, less anxiety, overall making it easier to study. You need 250mg DHA daily to support brain health. Eating oily fish twice a week provides a healthy dose of omega-3 EPA/DHA. Not a fish fan, you can choose a high quality fish oil supplement.

Load up on B Vitamins: The B vitamins are well known for aiding energy, focus and alertness. Try a complex which contains B vitamins plus ginseng and rhodiola to help calm your body so you can concentrate on the exams.

Protein to prevent energy slumps: Replace high sugar foods with nuts, a handful of seeds, eating more peanut butter or almond butter. Eating protein with each meal helps to keep your energy up and your concentration good throughout the day.

Difficult moods

Q. I suffer from PMS and it makes me really moody and snappy with my husband and children. Is there anything you can suggest that may calm down my moods?

Karen Alexander answers: There are a number of steps you can take to support your hormone metabolism throughout your cycle which in turn will help reduce your PMS symptoms. Balancing your blood sugar should be the first priority by eating protein and healthy fats at every meal and snack. This will also help to maintain energy levels and support your nervous system. Foods such as eggs, fish, hemp, flax and chia seed, avocado, chicken, turkey, beef, pork, beans and pulses. If you prefer a smoothie maybe add some protein powder and maca as this will help to balance hormones. Focus on low sugar fruits such as berries and use fresh nut or seed milk where possible.

Foods high in protein often contain tyrosine, tryptophan and phenylalanine enabling your body to produce certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin which enhance your feelings of happiness and wellbeing and aid in restful sleep. Eat healthy fats such as avocado, ghee, coconut oil, wild caught fish particularly oily fish - such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring, grass-fed meat, cold pressed hemp and olive oil, olives, small amounts of nuts and seeds. Avoid margarine and fried food that will put extra pressure on your liver to process and can be pro-inflammatory.

Increase liver-supporting foods and beverages as your liver is important in regulating your hormones. Foods such as cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, watercress, garlic, onions, turmeric and fennel. Many of the foods listed above also contain magnesium which will support the reduction of PMS. To ensure you are getting enough magnesium soak for 20 minutes in an epsom salt bath twice a week and take a supplement.

Achy knees

Q. I like to run and cycle, but have noticed that my knees are starting to ache. This has improved since I realised that I should spend more time on a warm-up, but it is still there. Can you recommend anything that would help?

Dr Daniel Jones answers: Many people experience achy joints, but through nutrition it is possible to support the function of the joint and alleviate many of these symptoms. Joint pain often develops as cartilage within joints breaks down as a consequence of ageing or overuse leading to inflammation of the joint tissue, friction and finally the symptoms of joint pain.

Addressing joint inflammation is one of the first steps in relieving achy joints. MSM is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory effective at alleviating joint tissue inflammation. MSM is also an important source of sulphur with antioxidant properties. It can be found in garlic, cruciferous vegetables and egg yolk.

The next step is to keep joints lubricated to help reduce bone rubbing and friction, a major driver in joint inflammation. Hyaluronic acid acts as a lubricant and shock absorber within joints. It can be found within soy and dairy products. In addition, glucosamine acts in synergy with collagen to protect and promote joint cartilage repair. It is found in shellfish. Finally, hydrolysed marine collagen peptides are the building blocks for cartilage tissue. When found in adequate amounts in an individual’s diet, they help to restore and repair deteriorated cartilage. Collagen can be found in sources of protein including fish.

Fillers and binders

Q. Can you please explain to me what fillers, binders and other additives do and whether they are necessary in vitamin and minerals supplements. I read an article about this recently and I am concerned because all of us in our family, including children, take supplements. If they are not necessary, can I choose supplements that don’t have them?

Stephen Terrass answers: Fillers, binders, flowing agents, lubricants, disintegrants and coatings are the most common types of manufacturing additives in supplements. Some are used by manufacturers primarily to make the production process much run faster, more efficiently and more profitably. Others are needed in order to produce certain types of products - such as binders, which are needed to make tablets that hold together properly. On the other hand, supplements in two-piece capsules or in powder form can be made without additives, so additives are technically not necessary to make a supplement, as long as it’s not a tablet, lozenge or wafer. In spite of this, nearly all supplements contain additives, even those in capsules. And children’s chewable supplements will contain sweeteners and flavourings in addition to tablet-making additives.

People who are sensitive to certain additives or those who just want their family to use purer products can find this situation extremely frustrating. And most people don’t realise that certain additives may inadvertently interfere with active ingredients. Interestingly, the most widely used additive in supplements (magnesium stearate) is proven to delay dissolution and create inconsistencies in the bioavailability of various pharmaceutical compounds, even in quantities less than 1%. Fortunately, there are two major supplement brands that are 100% additive-free and a couple of small specialist companies as well. Ask your local independent health food store about the additive-free brands that they stock.

Too much sugar

Q. I am prone to colds and always feel my energy levels are pretty low, especially after Christmas. I really enjoyed the break, but I have a sweet tooth and find it hard to say no to cakes and desserts. I’ve probably over-indulged on sweet things and feel even more tired now. Can you recommend anything natural I can take to give me a boost?

Theresa Cutts answers: The Mediterranean diet is often cited for its health effects. Olive leaf extract is a supplement inspired by the health properties of olives, and research is now showing that it has a number of health benefits. Many users report positive ongoing effects, including increased energy levels. Look for a product that declares the amount of oleuropein included, a naturally-occurring polyphenol that is responsible for many of the benefits of olive leaf extract. A fresh extract will provide a wider range of other active principles. A quality extract will have standardised levels of oleuropein, to give consistency. Zinc and copper are minerals that contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system - you might like to take a supplement containing those too. The University of Reading and Auckland University carried out clinical studies that demonstrated the ability of olive leaf extract to help maintain normal cholesterol levels and contribute to the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels. Olive leaf extract could be the ideal supplement to help maintain your wellbeing in the New Year.

Menopause help

Q. I am 49 and menopause is not so far away. I am a little concerned about how I will cope and want to think about it now rather than wait and see. I want to avoid too much medical intervention and am interested in natural options – what can you recommend?

Jenny Hall answers: Early preparation for menopause can be valuable, as there is evidence that peri-menopause may occur up to 10 years prior. Being prepared and accounting for menopause with lifestyle and nutritional practices may reduce the intensity of symptoms.

Menopause is the cessation of sex hormone production, however this is thought to be sporadic and subsequently may explain the intensity of the symptoms. Nutrients that may offer support:

Omega-3 esssential fatty acids have been found to offer anti-inflammatory benefits. Including these healthy fats in the diet may encourage normal hormone production and counter inflammation involved with the shutdown of the sex organs. When considering fish oils, look for organic river fish-derived oils, these offer a clean, toxin-free nutritious oil. Vegans may wish to consider organic flaxseed oil.

Magnesium and vitamin B6 may provide relief from symptoms by supporting normal hormone production.

Maca has demonstrated excellent results on its effect in reducing menopausal symptoms.

Shatavari root, agnus castus, red clover and sage are rich in phytoestrogens – these herbs are thought to support the menopause and buffer the steep decline in oestrogen production characteristic of this time.

Exam support

Q. My son is 15 and sitting the junior cert this year. I have noticed that his concentration is not great and he struggles sometimes with homework. This seems to have got worse as we are heading into winter. Can you recommend anything that might help him?

Olive Curran answers: Good nutrition is essential at any time of year, but especially during an exam year when your brain and body are under great stress. As a child, my mum used to say – “Eat up your fish – it will make you smarter”… and boy was she right! Oily fish is abundant in omega-3, a healthy fat that is essential to our brain and heart function, and overall wellbeing. Our bodies can’t produce omega-3, so we need to get it through our diet.

People who don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet can become demotivated, disinterested, forgetful and may experience low mood, while serious deficiency can lead to an increased risk of developing conditions such as ADD, dyslexia and depression.

DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid is brain food. Just as calcium is essential for building strong bones, DHA is essential for good brain health. DHA helps to improve learning, mood, memory and concentration. The findings of one independent test showed that concentration was improved just two hours after eating the type of Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.

Studies show that we need 250mg DHA daily to support brain health. Eating oily fish twice a week, such as salmon or sardines, provides a healthy dose of omega-3 EPA/DHA. Not a fish fan, your son can choose a high quality fish oil supplement such as Eskimo Brain 3.6.9. I’d recommend that you check his preferred supplement to see that he is getting adequate DHA.

Morning-after stomach

Q. I suffer from stomach irritability although I am not a coeliac, I am also a vegan. Christmas parties and dinners pose a problem for me as I usually end up feeling awful the next day. Is there anything that I can take to ease discomfort or even prevent this feeling?

Julie Lamble answers: Overindulgence from rich food and alcohol at this time of year can play havoc with our digestive system. Tummy troubles can include bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and fatigue which can continue into the following day. Firstly, when at dinner parties try and eat smaller meal portions, chewing small mouthfuls of food slowly and choosing meals which are lower in fat to assist your digestion. Try taking a supplement providing plant digestive enzymes (such as lipase, amylase and papain) with each meal to help with the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates and proteins and reduce the risk of stomach irritability the next day. If you get bloating or flatulence, try activated charcoal to help absorb the gases and toxins from eating which cause unpleasant gastrointestinal effects. For best results take steam activated coconut derived charcoal in capsule form half an hour before eating and then further capsules just after your meal. If you still feel discomfort the next day, you can take further capsules with water on an empty stomach. Finally for a long-term solution you may find that probiotics can help to maintain a healthy gut flora and prevent diarrhoea. Look out for formulas which provide 30 billion friendly bacteria daily. Look out for products in store which are registered with the Vegan Society.

Cholesterol concerns

Q. I am nearly 50 and recently had a health check at work. My blood pressure is really good but my cholesterol had gone up a bit in the previous two years. Please can you give me some advice for what to do to bring my cholesterol back down again - I don’t want to end up taking statins.

Julie Lamble answers: LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol is the bad cholesterol carrier which at high levels puts you at higher risk of a heart attack, stroke and other vascular diseases.

Many factors contribute to high LDL-cholesterol including, an unhealthy diet, (particularly rich in saturated fat), smoking, Diabetes and a family history of stroke and heart disease.

Firstly, scientific studies have shown that plant sterols (also called phytosterols) can help to maintain healthy LDL-cholesterol levels when 800mg are taken daily. When ingested, plant sterols are able to compete with cholesterol and block its absorption thereby controlling our LDL-cholesterol levels.

The natural product red yeast rice, which is a traditional fermented Chinese food, has also been shown in studies to lower LDL-cholesterol. The active ingredient monacolin K, at an intake of 10mg is able to inhibit the enzyme which is required for the production of cholesterol in the body, thereby reducing LDL-cholesterol levels.

Finally try bergamot, a citrus ingredient, which contains powerful antioxidants and other components that also inhibit the enzyme involved in cholesterol synthesis.

Heart health

Q. As I get older I worry about my health more because there is a history of heart disease in my family. I am a man in my 50s, and even though I am healthy so far I’d love to know what I can do to help prevent any heart issues as I get older?

Olive Curran answers: The key to preventing cardiovascular disease, is managing your risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high total cholesterol, triglycerides or high blood glucose. The best way to find out is through screening tests during regular GP visits. Although you lack the power to change some risk factors — such as family history, sex or age — there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take to reduce your risk.

I’d recommend the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains such as brown rice and oats. The Mediterranean diet discourages the consumption of saturated fats and trans fats. Include more good fats such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies), seeds such as flaxseed and seed oils, olive oil, avocados, nuts and nut butters. It is important to limit saturated fats to a minimum by reducing red meat, dairy, vegetable oils, pastries, cakes, biscuits and fried foods and reduce your salt intake by using herbs and spices to flavour foods. Omega-3 fatty acids from cold water fatty fish have many benefits for heart health. Aim to consume 2-3 portions of oily fish each week or supplement with a daily dose of high quality omega-3 fish oil such as Eskimo-3.

Smoking or using tobacco of any kind is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Check out Quit.ie for support. Other important lifestyle factors include doing regular exercise, losing weight if overweight and reducing stress. Exercising for as little as 30 minutes, 5 days a week can greatly improve your heart health.

If your cholesterol is high, try Zerochol plant sterols, a natural food supplement which has been shown to lower cholesterol by 17% in three months, without any side-effects. Check out www.zerochol.ie/register for more information.

Immune support

Q. Every autumn I come down with bugs and spend October and November sniffling and feeling unwell - and it’s not even winter! Is there anything I can do to help boost my immunity before this happens?

Susie Perry Debice answers: The cooler weather means our immune systems start being ‘on alert’ to counteract the increased exposure to bacteria and viruses all capable of ramping up sore throats, notching up nasal congestion and inducing chesty coughs. Nature provides us with winter protection in the form of early autumn berries. Blackberries and elderberries are rich in vitamin C which has a long-standing reputation for boosting the activity of immune cells and being naturally anti-viral and anti-bacterial. But if you already know your immune system can struggle then it’s worth investing in a vitamin C supplement.

There are lots of types of vitamin C to choose from and some are more effective than others. My advice is to choose a liposomal vitamin C, such as Altrient C, as this form has the highest absorption rate. Liposomal simply means the vitamin C travels quickly though the blood steam delivering a direct hit of vitamin to any struggling immune cells. This targeted approach of supplementation is becoming a popular way to achieve a fast blast of supercharged nutrients for the ultimate body boost.

Energy on the move

Q. I look forward to summer with my friends and family but find that on days out it can be really difficult finding healthier snacks, and most places only sell unhealthy food. Can you suggest something healthier that would be easy to transport on long walks and other trips?

Kendra Jones answers: We have the perfect solution for you – a super seed 9BAR. These are delicious bars made up of only natural ingredients including nutritious sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. They are a source of protein and high in fibre to keep you feeling fuller for longer and they really hit the spot with taste.

You can buy these seed bars in different sizes – 40g or 50g – and in a variety of flavours including delicious raspberry in the Cocoa Kick range to crunchy peanut for a sweet and salty experience. There are no added nasties like preservatives or additives and every bar is gluten-free and wheat-free, so they are suitable for everyone.

Popping some of these super seed bars in your bag for a day out is a perfect and simple healthier snacking solution for both the younger and older members of your family. So put on your walking boots or get your bicycle out and enjoy the summer.

High cholesterol

Q. I have been told that I have high cholesterol and my doctor suggested I make lifestyle changes first to see if it helps. Is there something natural that I could take to help lower my cholesterol? I don’t fancy being on chemical medication indefinitely.

Olive Curran answers: Yes, most definitely. There are many steps you can take to help lower your cholesterol naturally. Firstly, I’d recommend taking plant sterols daily as the European Food Safety Authority has found plant sterols to be a safe and effective way to lower LDL cholesterol. Plant sterols block the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine, thereby lowering the amount absorbed into the bloodstream. It has been shown that consuming plant sterols in a dosage five times higher than the average dietary level, contributes to a significant decrease in the blood LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol level. Studies have shown that taking 1.5-2.4g of plant sterols every day can lower cholesterol in just six weeks.

Zerochol is a plant sterol product available in health food stores, and it has recently released very positive research. Taking two tablets of Zerochol with your main meal was shown to lower cholesterol by 17% in three months, without any side effects.

I would advise you to follow Zerochol’s new six-week cholesterol-lowering program. While Zerochol is very effective at lowering cholesterol on its own, following a heart healthy diet and lifestyle may further enhance the effect. During the six week program, you will receive regular e-mails with information about cholesterol, heart health, the Mediterranean diet, healthy eating tips, fats, recipes, healthy food swap ideas and more!

www.zerochol.ie/register

Too hot in menopause?

Q. I am 53 and going through the menopause. I am generally very fit and healthy, but suffering a lot with hot flashes and finding it hard to sleep because I feel too hot all the time. I have avoided taking HRT and want to continue with this, so can you recommend something more natural I can use?

Stuart FitzSimons answers: One of the best kept secrets in natural medicine is the herb Peony. Peony has been used for centuries, and is particularly important in the Chinese system of medicine where it has been used as a treatment for many female ailments, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), period cramps and even the mood swings associated with hormonal conditions. However, Peony is classified by the Chinese as a herb that ‘cools the blood’ and ‘clears heat’. Therefore, conditions in which there is heat, perspiration or inflammation in relation to gynaecological or menstrual problems as well as menopausal hot flushes can benefit from its use. The main benefit of Peony when treating menopausal symptoms is that it has no oestrogenic/hormonal activity making it safe for women taking menopausal medication that acts on female hormone levels. Peony tincture is officially registered with the MHRA (medicines control agency UK) meaning it is produced to the standards and quality of pharmaceutical medicines.

Exam help

Q. I am sitting my Leaving Certificate this June and I am starting to get a bit stressed and anxious about it. Is there anything I can do to help myself relax, sleep better and do more effective study?

Dr Daniel Jones answers: The brain is the most complicated structure we have yet to encounter in all of nature. Essentially, it is a living biological computer. Its job, every single day, is to absorb, process, store and recall on request, countless information. Therefore, it is understandable that as a result of the pressures of the modern world demanding increasingly more of our minds in increasingly less time, the job is more difficult now than ever. This holds particularly true for students whose brains require more information to be absorbed than ever before.

The brain relies on nutritional components to perform its daily job to its optimum potential. Recent research from The Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that the fuel for building memories and connections in our brain requires three important ingredients – omega 3 fatty acid DHA, uridine and choline.

Uridine signals that it’s time to start building neuron connections within the brain. DHA is the physical material which composes the connections making up 40% of the fatty acids in the brain and 50% of fatty acids in neurons. Choline is partly used in making the connection similar to DHA and partly used in the actual signals within the brain which carry the information. All three must work together as the system is only as strong as it weakest link.

Research shows when DHA, uridine and choline are taken together in the proper amounts, the brain becomes increasingly more efficient at building connections and memories within the brain. Absorbing, processing, storing and recalling information on request becomes more efficient and the brain is able to function to its optimum with the required ingredients available.

Cholesterol control

Q. I am a 55-year-old man and at my regular work health check I was told that my cholesterol is creeping up, and that I should take steps to bring it down. Can you give me some advice for what natural options might help me? I want to explore this option before visiting my MP.

Olive Curran answers: You can reduce your cholesterol naturally by taking plant sterols with your meals and implementing heart healthy dietary and lifestyle changes. Plant sterols block the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine. New research confirms that 1.6 g (2 tablets) Zerochol® plant sterols can lower cholesterol by 17% in 3 months, without any side-effects.

I’d recommend the heart healthy Mediterranean diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, olives, olive oil, legumes and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats and wholemeal pasta. People who follow the Mediterranean diet enjoy fish regularly, and there is low consumption of meat. The Mediterranean diet discourages the consumption of saturated fats and hydrogenated oils (trans fats).

Include more good fats such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies, tuna), seeds such as flaxseed and seed oils, olive oil, avocados, nuts (walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds) and also nut butters. It is important to limit saturated fats to a minimum by reducing red meat, dairy, vegetable oils, pastries, cakes, biscuits and fried foods.

Omega-3 fatty acids from cold water fatty fish have many benefits for heart health. Aim to consume 2-3 portions of oily fish each week or supplement with a daily dose of high quality omega-3 fish oil such as Eskimo-3.

Check out a new cholesterol-lowering online support programme at www.zerochol.ie/register with information about cholesterol, heart health, the Mediterranean diet, healthy eating tips, good fats versus bad fats, grocery list, recipes and healthy food swap ideas.

Mind support

Q. I live a busy life - I am in my late 40s with three teenage children and a full-time job. I find it hard to remember everything and keep on top of all the demands put on me. I also sleep really badly and feel tired a lot of the time. I think I might need a pick-me-up.

Dr Daniel Jones answers: First, let’s consider what could be driving this problem to get to the core of the issue. The brain is essentially a biological computer which is constantly storing, processing and recalling information. However, in this modern day, often people find themselves in a position of putting increased pressure and stress on the brain to the point of compromising its function and effectiveness. This can result in a domino effect of decreased brain function, diminished memory, mental restlessness and therefore impaired sleep and energy. Although situations like this are becoming more prevalent in this modern world, there are steps we can take to improve brain function and memory. Let’s consider a few things which could help improve your situation:

1 Choline and vitamin D3 - Help to improve mental focus, clarity and help to reduce brain fog by promoting the healthy production of brain signals and activity.

2 DHA and uridine - Support memory and mental performance by promoting the building of essential connections within the brain.

3 Vitamins B5, B6 and B9 - Contribute to mental energy and cognitive function by helping to supply energy, oxygen and important nutrients to the brain.

Together these nutrients have an even more pronounced effect through their synergistic actions, than they would individually. All of these nutrients and more are contained within the new smart formula Mastermind by Revive Active.

Wind problem

Q. I have a problem with flatulence that I have never talked to anyone about. I feel it is even more embarrassing for a woman and I don’t know what to do about it. Please can you give me some advice.

Julie Lamble answers: Flatulence can be an extremely embarrassing problem, which can be hard to relieve since it is caused by many factors. One problem is some foods such as milk, dairy, starchy foods, pasta, wheat and oat bran, artificial sweeteners, dried fruit, brassica vegetables and beans and lentils can cause gas in the system. The best thing to do is to try and eliminate each food group for a month and see if your symptoms improve.

Alongside doing this, you could also try activated charcoal, a natural product which is derived from coconuts that can be taken at mealtimes to quickly relieve gas in the system and ease bloating. Look for a charcoal which has been naturally activated by steam. This contains many tiny pores which bind to chemicals and toxins in the intestine, which would otherwise cause flatulence. It also binds to gases such as hydrogen sulphide, which produces the bad odour of rotten eggs. Activated charcoal is not absorbed in the intestines and eliminated by the body, so is very safe to take. It is best taken in capsule form as they easily disperse into the system and do not cause discolouration of the teeth. For best results take up to 1g of activated charcoal capsules with each main meal and your wind should subside within 30 minutes.

Insomnia

Q. I used to be a great sleeper with no problems at all, but lately I wake up several times a night with an active mind and find it hard to get back to sleep. Can you recommend a natural remedy or something that might help me?

Jenny Hall answers: Difficulty sleeping is very common. The last thing you might think about while you lay awake at night with insomnia is the mineral magnesium, but you should. Improving your intake of magnesium may prove beneficial in regaining restorative sleep. Studies have suggested that magnesium has a regulatory effect on serotonin and dopamine and that a low magnesium status contributes to insomnia and sleep problems. Try taking 200 to 300mg of magnesium once daily for 2-3 months.

The super food for sleep is the humble cherry. Cherries are a rich source of proanthocyanidins, jam-packed with phytonutrients and a natural source of melatonin; the hormone that plays a crucial role in the regulation and induction of sleep. Numerous clinical studies have concluded that cherries may improve sleep and increase melatonin levels in as little as two weeks. Take a ‘nutritional nightcap’ with a cherry drink an hour before bed for improved sleep. We suggest mixing it with glycine powder, another natural sleep remedy that can work wonders.

Disturbed sleep

Q. I am in my 60s and now working part-time, so my routine has changed and I am finding I fall asleep in the afternoons. The only problem is that this affects my night-time sleep, and I feel tired all the time. Can you suggest anything to get me back into a normal waking and sleeping routine?

Dr Daniel Jones answers: The human body possesses a biological clock which is very important to the healthy function of an individual and is orchestrated by the production of internal ‘circadian clock’ proteins. These proteins breakdown throughout the day, and in response to different stimuli within the body signalling when it’s the appropriate time to rest and recover from our daily activities. Significantly altering one’s routine can lead to a disrupted sleep schedule.

There are a number of steps we can take to help the body adjust to a new routine. Start by gradually waking up earlier as this is really the start of the internal clock’s schedule. Nutrition can also significantly assist with this transition as well. Nutrients which promote natural sustained energy through the day without a mid-day crash such as coenzyme Q10 and vitamin B12 when taken in the morning can help keep us going until it is time to rest.

Furthermore, proper activity throughout the day during the active phase of our internal clock helps to bring about a better and more fulfilled rest phase, or night’s sleep, as the body and mind is prepared to relax and recover.

Natural energiser

Q. Every winter I get something of an energy slump and I would prefer to feel more ‘normal’ in the darker months. I know I am getting older, I am now in my 60s, but my energy levels are down and I put on weight around my middle. Can you help?

Jacqueline Newson answers: B vitamins are essential for our bodies to help boost energy levels and leave us feeling revitalised. They help our bodies make the chemical reactions required to convert the food we eat into cellular energy. Vitamin B2 or riboflavin in particular is responsible for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and protein which create energy.

Many individuals struggle to get healthy levels of vitamin B, with B12 deficiencies being particularly common, resulting in low mood and fatigue. Vitamin B12 helps our bodies create DNA for new cells such as red blood cells which supply oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs throughout the body.

Finding a supplement that provides highly bioavailable B vitamins is crucial for the body to maintain its energy levels. One product that tops my list for this reason is Altrient B, a unique Liposomal Vitamin B complex including B1, B2, B6 and B12 which is capable of delivering a much higher absorption rate than other products on the market using liposomal technology which helps to safeguard the vitamin through the digestive system for up to 98% absorption.

Need a pick-me-up

Q. I am a man in my mid 40s and at this time of year I feel tired a lot of the time. I play football and swim three times a week and eat pretty healthily, but don’t always sleep well. Is there some type of ‘tonic’ I can take to give me a pick-me-up and get me through the winter?

Jenny Hall answers: Juggling work, family and play time can take its toll. Firstly, ensuring your diet is chock-full with nutrients from a variety of colourful vegetables, a few pieces of fruit, healthy fats and lean proteins each day can help provide the substrates required for energy production. In addition, making the hour before sleep a relaxation ceremony can set you up for a restorative night.

Viridian Nutrition produces clean, excipient-free products that are mainly vegan, hypo-allergenic and up to 40% of the range is organic. High Five Multivitamin and Mineral Complex provides a good all-round multi-nutrient support rich in B vitamins which contribute to normal energy production. Qi Ribose is a powdered drink blend containing d-ribose, acetyl-l-carnitine, malic acid and magnesium which can contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism. In addition, organic maca root or rhodiola root may offer support as natural botanical tonics. It cannot be ignored that vitamin D production reduces during winter due to the reduction in viable sun rays, so supplementation of vitamin D may be beneficial in contributing to essential body processes.

Tired teen

Q. My teenage son seems to be tired all the time and I am concerned because he will be taking his Junior Cert next summer. Is there any way in which I can help him to be healthier? He eats pretty well at home but I am not sure how healthy he is when he is with friends or at school.

Emily Whitehead answers: Increasingly teenagers are becoming more susceptible to health conditions due to a poor diet, stress, lack of exercise and other unhealthy lifestyle choices. There are a number of ways to help your son become healthier and to combat tiredness. Firstly, I would suggest that he takes a good quality multivitamin supplement covering a spectrum of nutrients such as BetterYou’s TotalNutrition Superfood and MultiVit spray. Multivitamin formulas may help to prevent any deficiencies from occurring and raise levels where needed. Opt for organic food where possible and if budget allows.

Magnesium may boost your teenage son’s energy levels as it’s required for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body and helps in the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which are the body’s energy molecules. Magnesium is depleted through long periods of stress - if not replenished it can cause tiredness and a lack of concentration. Try including foods rich in magnesium such as whole grain bread, dark green vegetables, nuts and seeds which may not appear in many young people’s diets nowadays. Therefore, I suggest BetterYou’s Magnesium Oil Spray which is a quick and easy way to make sure you boost and maintain your levels. Additionally, I would also make your son aware of the health benefits of eating a healthy and balanced diet so that he doesn’t always make wrong food choices at school and with friends.

High cholesterol

Q. I have been told that I have high cholesterol and my doctor suggested I make lifestyle changes first to see if it helps. Is there something natural that I could take to help lower my cholesterol? I don’t fancy being on chemical medication indefinitely.

Olive Curran answers: Yes, most definitely. There are many steps you can take to help lower your cholesterol naturally. Firstly, I’d recommend taking plant sterols daily as the European Food Safety Authority has found plant sterols to be a safe and effective way to lower LDL cholesterol. Plant sterols block the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine, thereby lowering the amount absorbed into the bloodstream. It has been shown that consuming plant sterols in a dosage five times higher than the average dietary level, contributes to a significant decrease in the blood LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol level. Studies have shown that taking 1.5-2.4g of plant sterols every day can lower cholesterol in just six weeks.

Zerochol is a plant sterol product available in health food stores, and it has recently released very positive research. Taking two tablets of Zerochol with your main meal was shown to lower cholesterol by 17% in three months, without any side effects.

I would advise you to follow Zerochol’s new six-week cholesterol-lowering program. While Zerochol is very effective at lowering cholesterol on its own, following a heart healthy diet and lifestyle may further enhance the effect. During the six week program, you will receive regular e-mails with information about cholesterol, heart health, the Mediterranean diet, healthy eating tips, fats, recipes, healthy food swap ideas and more!
www.zerochol.ie/register

Holiday sickness

Q. I always seem to come down with sickness or a bug when travelling. I have a holiday planned for later in the summer and I am concerned. How can I help stay healthy while on the go?

Eric McCann answers: A healthy functioning immune system is the best defence in keeping colds, flu, hay fever and travel illnesses in check. Immune system health can be impacted by diet, lifestyle habits, stress and health issues. Nutrient deficiency is the most common cause. This is easily remedied through a good diet and immune supplements. A weak immune system makes it easy to pick up bugs whilst travelling.

To keep your immune system working effectively eat more immune-supporting foods such as berries, broccoli, eggs, live yogurt and pumpkin seeds and make sure you get enough quality protein in your diet. In addition, you should reduce your intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates and caffeine. Consider taking immune support supplements such as bee propolis for its natural antibiotic and antiviral properties, olive leaf for antimicrobial properties, beta glucans which aid the body in building antibodies against bacterial infections, and black elderberry which has been shown to reduce the length of colds and flu. Elderberry is also is rich in quercetin, which is a natural antihistamine.

A high quality, antioxidant-rich supplement, which contains all of these nutrients and more and is Bee Prepared immune support.

Sore Head

Q. I am a man in my 40s and I spend a lot of time working at a computer. I have started to get headaches which are hard to get rid of and my neck and shoulders are very stiff at night. Any advice you could give me would be useful.

Ellen Cox answers: Regular use of essential oils may certainly help to relieve the symptoms you are suffering from. First, though, I would ask you to consider whether you have a suitable office chair and desk height, your computer screen is at eye level, you are hydrated, you maintain correct posture, have a suitable orthopaedic pillow and have seen your optician to check eye health. If you have addressed these issues and seen your health care practitioner to rule out any medical issues aromatherapy oils may help. Peppermint is my go-to oil for headaches. The menthol has a cooling and anti-inflammatory action which can nip a headache in the bud. The most convenient application is to dilute 30 drops of organic peppermint oil into 20ml/2tbsp aloe vera gel and mix thoroughly. Dab a small amount on both temples and along the bony part of your skull at the top of the neck. Keep your peppermint gel at your desk. Lavender oil is associated with reducing headaches. It is also noted for its sedative properties so more suitable in the evening, dilute in gel (as above).

For neck and shoulder pain combine warming essential oils such as lavender, rosemary, juniperberry, black pepper and sweet marjoram diluted in sweet almond oil or gel and apply morning and evening. This herbal blend will enhance circulation and relax tired, tight muscles. Consider booking an aromatherapy massage with a registered practitioner.

Feeling Stressed

Q. I am taking my leaving certificate this summer, and I am already feeling stressed about it. I am not sleeping well and feel tearful quite a lot. Is there something natural I could take that would help?

Emily Whitehead answers: During periods of excessive stress, the body loses certain vitamins and minerals. B vitamins play an important role in creating neurotransmitters which affect our moods. In fact, crying is often an indication of a deficiency in B vitamins, as these vitamins are water soluble and they need replenishing daily. MultiVit oral spray contains a full spectrum of B vitamins, while Boost B12 oral spray contains high levels of B12, which plays an important role in regulating moods and boosting energy production. The vitamins in oral sprays are absorbed through the mucosal membranes in the mouth and have been found to be one of the best methods of supplementation for guaranteed absorption.

I would also advise you to consider magnesium supplementation. Recent studies suggest that magnesium can have a calming effect on the nervous system and help people achieve a good quality of sleep. Transdermal magnesium therapy has been found to be the type best absorbed and retained by the body. Try Magnesium Oil Goodnight spray to help you relax and promote natural, healthy sleep.

Acid Reflux

Q. I suffer from IBS and acid reflux which can be very uncomfortable after meals. A friend said that the antacids I am taking are not the best for me, but I am not sure what I should be doing or taking instead. Can you help?

Linda Booth answers: If you have the type of IBS where you get lots of bloating your intestines may be expanding to double or even treble in size. This can put pressure on your stomach, pushing the contents, including acid out and up your food pipe. Stress can cause acid reflux. Don’t eat when feeling anxious, angry, frustrated or overly emotional. Your digestive system simply won’t work, causing an increased risk of bloating, wind, tummy aches, indigestion and acid reflux.

Do make sure you are seated and relaxed before eating, chew your food thoroughly before swallowing, try a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water before meals, consider taking a multi-strain probiotic capsule that contains bifido breve before breakfast to reduce bloating. Take a plant-based digestive enzyme tablet before every meal to prevent indigestion and reflux. If reflux is waking you up in the night, you need to slightly elevate your upper body to prevent acid flowing out of your stomach.

Don’t eat large portions; don’t drink water with your meals as this can weaken the enzymes; don’t drink coffee, unless it is caffeine-free; smoke or eat when feeling stressed. Do not stop taking your antacid medication from your GP, you may get acid rebound and this can be very uncomfortable. Discuss changes in medication with your GP.

Hot Flushes

Q. I am 50 and experiencing signs of the menopause with hot flushes, disturbed sleep and larger gaps between periods. My doctor has recommended HRT, but I am not keen on it. Are there any natural things I can do or take that will help?

Dr Aimee Gould Shunney answers: As a woman’s ovaries gradually shut down during menopause, the production of oestrogen is reduced by two-thirds. It is at this time of rapid hormonal change that the body’s eicosanoid levels become unbalanced, resulting in hot flushes and other uncomfortable menopausal symptoms.

Eicosanoids are hormones produced by every cell in the body and they affect everything from your immune system to your brain and heart. There are two types, pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. It is essential for our health to maintain the correct balance between both.

Research strongly indicates that hot flushes stem from the rapid increase in the production of the pro-inflammatory eicosanoids PGE2, which is caused by the plunge in oestrogen levels.

Fish oil with a high content of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA), promotes the production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, while also reducing the production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. I would recommend Complete Omega 369D from Nordic Naturals. It is a high-dose fish oil that also contains GLA from Borage oil and vitamin D3. It is tailor-made for a woman’s needs.

Diabetic and thirsty

Q. I went to my doctor because I found I was thirsty all the time and she has told me that I am showing signs of being diabetic and need to be really careful about what sugars I eat. I am quite upset about this because I like to go to the gym and now I don’t know what I can drink afterwards. Can you recommend anything?

Dr Audra Foster answers: Yes, many ‘sports drinks’ or ‘vitamin drinks’ do contain a lot of sugar, up to 30 grams or 7.5 teaspoons. They often contain several other questionable ingredients, including caffeine and artificial additives too. Sugar is certainly an unhealthy additive that we should all try to avoid. That’s one of the reasons that I recommend Oxylent as a healthier alternative. Oxylent contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners — just pure and natural stevia, which is safe for people with diabetes also. Apart from being sugar-free though, I also recommend it because it’s a 5-in-1 multivitamin that delivers vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and electrolytes — perfect support for the gym or just a busy lifestyle. The unique formula includes 1,000 mg vitamin C, 100% recommended daily allowance (RDA) or more of several B vitamins, 1000 IU vitamin D3, 20 IU of the powerful antioxidant SOD (superoxide dismutase) and a full range of superior quality Albion® minerals and electrolytes. All without sugar, calories, caffeine, carbs, gluten, dairy, soy, GMOs or anything artificial. Oxylent tastes great and is available in three all-natural fruit flavours — Sparkling Berries, Sparkling Mandarin and Sparkling Blackberry Pomegranate.

Energy boost

Q. I find that I don't have enough energy to exercise at the gym after a day at work and I'm trying a new calorie-controlled diet that doesn't help the matter. Can you recommend something for energy, that doesn't contain loads of sugar or caffeine?

Dr Audra Foster answers: Review your diet to ensure you have enough calories and nutrients for your lifestyle. It's very important to stay hydrated throughout the day also, by consuming a full range of adequate electrolytes and plenty of water.

Lacking in either will result in dehydration and fatigue, making the trip to the gym unappealing. Adequate vitamins, especially the B vitamins, are also essential for healthy energy levels. An antioxidant is great for detox along with electrolytes, for clearing the toxins out of our cells. Oxylent is a 5-in-1 multivitamin drink that contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids and electrolytes. It also contains zero calories, sugar, caffeine, carbohydrates, dairy, gluten, soy, artificial sweeteners, artificial colours or anything artificial.

New Year detox

Q. I love Christmas but always find I feel sluggish afterwards and that it's hard to get up and go in the early weeks of January. I was thinking of trying a detox this year and wondering whether it's possible to find some natural help with this?

Natalie Lamb answers: After the busy Christmas period January is always a popular time to cleanse the body. The theory behind cleansing is to release any toxic build-up in our blood, body cells and adipose fat. It is therefore imperative that all our elimination systems are working well or these toxins will get stuck in the body, potentially causing symptoms such as jittery nerves, nausea, tiredness or acne. The body's main elimination organs are the kidneys, lungs, skin, lymph and bowels.

Maintaining regular healthy bowel movements is essential to remove waste substances and toxins from the body. The consumption of high fibre foods such as vegetables absorb the waste products, providing bulk to stools, while adequate water intake helps the stool mass to stay soft and easy to pass. Vegetable juicing and drinking hot water with lemon is believed to support liver function. Toxins produced from gut pathogens can put extra pressure on the liver, so helping to rebalance the gut flora with a good multi-strain probiotic is advisable. The consumption of good quality organic wholefoods is recommended to reduce further environmental toxin exposure. Adequate protein intake is believed necessary to support the liver's natural detoxification process.

For those who don't consume enough fibre in their diet or are undertaking a fast, psyllium husk is a gentle fibre supplement known to absorb much more water than other fibres and improve gut transit. Having a balanced gut flora is also important to ensure healthy regular bowel movements. Probiotic intake has been shown to increase bowel movements by up to 50%. Prebiotics selectively feed beneficial bacteria in the gut to help their growth. Lepicol is a 3 in 1 combination of gentle psyllium husk fibre which helps to normalise bowel transit, five probiotic strains to help rebalance gut flora and inulin acting as a prebiotic.

Tired

Q: I am a man in my 40s and I spend a lot of time on the road and travelling around the country as part of my job. After I came back from my summer holiday I found it really hard to get back  into a routine and now the days are getting shorter I am constantly yawning and feel exhausted. Can you recommend something as a pick-me-up?

Emily Whitehead answers: As the dark evenings are now upon us, it’s difficult to get motivated and stay energised throughout the long winter months. However, a great way to keep help your energy topped up is to make sure that your diet is rich in B vitamins, which are essential for helping the body release energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Vitamin B12 is especially important as it plays a crucial role in ensuring a healthy red blood cell formation and nervous system. It has also been proven to reduce tiredness and fatigue. Foods rich in B12 include liver, egg, turkey, trout, sardines and chicken.

It’s often overlooked that vitamin D is important for our energy levels. During the winter months, the skin doesn’t absorb enough vitamin D needed for our bodies and we can often feel tired and fatigued. Vitamin D can be found in oily fish, fortified cereals and egg yolks. Finally, magnesium is a mineral required for over 300  biochemical reactions in the body. It assists in energy production and a deficiency can result in low energy and fatigue.

Vitamin D, B12 and magnesium are all difficult to gain through diet alone, which means that often supplements are required. Bioavailable supplements, such as oral vitamin sprays and transdermal mineral sprays are an easy way to absorb and retain vital vitamins as they are absorbed straight into the bloodstream, rather than relying on the digestive system.

Emily Whitehead is a nutritional therapist who holds an MSc in Exercise & Nutrition Sciences, a BSc in Sports, Health, Exercise & Nutrition. She works as consultant to vitamin brand BetterYou.

No energy

Q: I am a busy mum of three with a part-time job. I spend my days racing about and trying to beat the clock and as a result I am constantly exhausted and find it hard to enjoy the evening after the kids have gone to bed. Can you recommend something natural that would help me to feel more energetic and enjoy life more?

Benjamin Brown answers: Feeling burnt out is common, and while it may be a sign that you need to rest, when it starts to affect your life significantly you may need to do something about it. The most important things for restoring your energy are the basics: healthy eating, exercise and a good night’s sleep, but these are often the first to go out the window when life gets hectic. Making small changes can have a massive impact on your energy; take time to nourish yourself with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid sugary foods including carbs like white bread and pasta. Building some regular exercise into your day, even just a 15-minute walk, and getting to bed at a regular time sound simple but can be life changing.

There are natural supplements that can help and it’s best to try things that increase your energy naturally. Magnesium, acetyl-l-carnitine, and ribose are great ways to help your body make energy more effectively at a cellular level. And people who are stressed need more magnesium. Try a powder containing a combination of these once daily. You could also try a combination of herbs such as Withania somnifera, Rhodiola rosea, Licorice and Sibergian ginseng. They have been used to combat stress-related fatigue of centuries. Give it a few weeks and you should start to feel better.

Benjamin Brown is a leading expert on nutritional, herbal and lifestyle medicine and Technical Director at Viridian Nutrition.

Sleep deprived

Q: I started college in October and am really enjoying the experience - there is a heavy workload and I also work part-time as a childminder so I am flat out all the time. Lately I have found that my sleep is becoming more and more disturbed and I find it hard to wind down. Can you recommend anything that would help me to relax and get a good eight hours?

Dr Roderick Fahey answers: One in 10 Irish people suffer from insomnia. Sleeping five hours or less per night increases our mortality rate from diseases and accidents by 15%. The quality of your sleep is closely related to how you think, act and feel. Eliminating or reducing sleep problems will improve both your health and wellbeing.

There are many different types of sleep aids for insomnia, including non-prescription and prescription medications. I try to take an holistic and natural approach to reaching a solution due to side-effects of sleeping tablets.

I look to the common factors that play a role in most sleep disturbances. Understanding these factors can help you overcome a sleep problem. These include a Wellsense Insomnia Assessment that seeks to first understand what could be causing our sleep difficulties. Broadly speaking I include the following areas: medical, lifestyle, diet, sleep environment, anxiety and depression in my assessment.

I encourage my patients to keep a Daily Sleep Diary and introduce my 10 rules for improved sleep hygiene. Following my assessment I am in a position to personalise a treatment plan. I normally recommend music as a first stage, such as The Alphamusic of John Levine (www.silenceofmusic.com). I receive excellent feedback with positive results after treatment with this particular music and play it throughout our surgery.

Dr Roderick Fahey, MB, BcH, MRCGP, DCH family physician is an advocate of mindfulness and wellness which are complementary to his general medical practice.wellsense.ie

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