Scientists explore the Western allergy epidemic

August 28th, 2014

Scientists explore the Western allergy epidemic In the modern world one in three of us is allergic, but scientists believe they have uncovered the reason behind this growing problem.

Allergies – from pollen, to latex, peanuts and pets – are responsible for 20,000 hospital visits in England every year, but previous generations did not suffer the same problems.

Many theories have tried to explain this epidemic, but today’s scientists think they have discovered the true reason.

On BBC Two’s Horizon it is revealed that bacteria living on our skin is key to fighting allergies, but that changes to our modern lifestyle have significantly decreased the number of these essential microorganisms.

Two allergic families – who between them suffer from asthma, hay fever, eczema, and nut, peanut and dust mite allergies to name a few – were put to the test.

Scientists collected bacterial swabs of their skin, faeces, and their homes in order to test for the number of bacteria they come into contact with on a daily basis.

The results showed that the families had a significantly lower number of bacteria when compared with people in traditional tribes in parts of the developing world.

One study that looked at these tribal communities revealed a higher diversity of bacteria among family members, and only one in 1,500 suffered from an allergy.

This is a stark difference compared to one in three people in the UK.

Scientists believe the biggest difference in Western societies that affects levels of bacteria on our skin is the way in which our children are born and raised.

Most significantly, today in the UK a quarter of babies are born via Caesarean section, and one particular study showed that Caesarean babies are 52% more likely to suffer from asthma than those born naturally.

It is believed that the bacteria babies come into contact with in the birth canal help to protect them from allergies.

Throughout childhood there are yet more occasions where bacteria is eliminated.

Breastmilk has been found to contain up to 900 different types of bacteria, and as a result babies who are bottle-fed tend to have more allergies.

Antibiotics can also affect levels of allergy-protecting bacteria. Although they help to tackle unhealthy viruses and germs, antibiotic medicines can also reduce harmless types of bacteria.

Professor Graham Rook, of University College London, calls these bacteria our “old friends”, and stresses their importance for our health and well-being:

“In a way, this realisation that humans are in fact ecosystems and that we depend so much on these microorganisms is probably the most important advance in medicine in the last hundred years.”

Complementary therapies are often used to help alleviate allergy symptoms and make life easier for sufferers. To find out more, check out our blog posts on allergy remedies. 

View and comment on the original BBC article. 

Which massage type is right for you?

August 27th, 2014

Which massage type is right for you?Keep reading for a quick guide to some common massage therapies and to see which would be best for you.

With a plethora of massage types available, it can be somewhat intimidating when you go to book your first session. The first thing to consider before you book your massage is what you want out of it – do you want relief from sore muscles? Could you benefit from a detoxing massage? Or do you simply want a relaxing, pampering experience?

Take a look at this short guide to see which massage type would be best for your needs:

Deep tissue massage

Focussing on the lower levels of muscles, deep tissue massage is designed to reach individual muscle fibres. Deep muscle contraction and friction along the grain of the muscle aims to unstick muscle fibres and release toxins.

Ideal for: anyone who takes part in a lot of sport or those with a bad back or muscle aches.

Neuromuscular massage

Also known as trigger point massage, this type is designed to help with strained muscles and bad backs. The massage therapist will put pressure on the point of pain for around 30 seconds at a time – this may feel uncomfortable at first, but the pressure should alleviate muscle spasms.

Ideal for: those with back pain, regular headaches or sport-related pains.

Swedish massage

One of the most common forms of massage, this type promotes relaxation through gentle movements. Swedish massage is a great place to start for massage newbies as it will introduce you to various movements and the whole massage process.

Ideal for: stressed out souls in need of a bit of pampering.

Aromatherapy massage

Using aromatherapy essential oils within the massage, aromatherapy massage combines two therapies in one. The natural oils will be inhaled during the massage to stimulate the brain in a certain way and promote healing. If you are pregnant or suffer from medical issues such as high blood pressure, be sure to check with your doctor before trying an aromatherapy massage.

Ideal for: those wanting a soothing experience that heals as well as relaxes.

To find a massage therapist in your area, please use our search tool.

View and comment on the original Natural Health magazine.

Herbs to heal your mind and body

August 21st, 2014

 Herbs to heal your mind and body Discover the natural healing properties of herbs that have been used for thousands of years.

When you think of healthcare, prescription medicines typically come to mind.

While these are essential for helping to address a number of health problems and for alleviating troublesome symptoms, for every prescription treatment there is also a plant, herb or other natural substance offering similar benefits.

Below we explore some of the most useful healing herbs that have been used for thousands of years to revitalise and replenish the mind and body:

Please note, whenever considering alternative and complementary therapies for healthcare, it is important to seek professional advice first. 

Ginger for nausea

Ginger has been shown to help ease nausea – particularly motion sickness. Specialists recommend chewing ginger gum before nausea sets in (i.e. before boarding a plane), and drinking ginger-infused herbal teas that contain the root on a regular basis.

Chamomile for restful sleep 

Some studies show that chamomile can help to encourage sleep, and it can be found in a number of herbal teas that market themselves as sleep-inducing. It is thought the relaxing qualities of chamomile help to soothe anxiety which is a common culprit of disturbed sleep.

Ginseng for energy

Ginseng root has shown effectiveness in fighting fatigue and is also thought to help reduce stress, improve vitality and boost the immune system. Although it can be found in various energy drinks, ginseng can also be taken in capsule form.

Liquorice for a sore throat 

Not to everyones taste, liquorice is a common ingredient in herbal teas that is considered highly effective for soothing a sore throat. Its anti-inflammatory properties are also thought to help alleviate stomach ulcers and allergies. Due to the naturally sweet taste of liquorice, some people prefer to gargle with a liquorice root solution rather than drink it in a tea.  

Lavender for stress and tension

Scientific evidence shows that lavender is beneficial for relieving stress and tension, and there are a number of aromatherapy products, including oils, lotions and herb pouches that allow you to incorporate the scent into your daily routine.

Cinnamon to control blood sugar

People with type 2 diabetes are thought to benefit a great deal from adding cinnamon to their diets, as it has been shown to help manage blood sugar levels. Cinnamon can be added to a variety of foods and beverages, and can also be purchased in capsule form.

If you are interested in herbal remedies, take a look at our herbalism page for more information. 

View and comment on the original LifeHack article. 

Chinese herbs for psoriasis sufferers

August 20th, 2014

Chinese herbs for psoriasis sufferersIf you suffer from psoriasis, you may want to consider Chinese herbalism as a complementary therapy.

Psoriasis is a condition that causes skin cells to build up too quickly and create thick ‘plaques’. These can be scaly and itchy, flaring up during times of stress. While there is no cure for this autoimmune condition, there are various treatment options.

Seeking advice from a specialist is essential, as they will have the right knowledge to treat you. If you want to try something to complement your ongoing treatment, here are some reasons why Chinese herbalism may be the way to go:

Herbs are used both internally and topically

Psoriasis is a condition that happens because of a problem within the body that manifests itself on the skin. Because of this, a treatment that tackles both the cause and effect is key. Herbs can be taken internally to help heal the body from within, while topical herbal treatments can soothe irritated skin.

The treatment is tailored to you

A Chinese herbalist will not only take the severity of your condition into account, they will also look at your whole health picture. They will look at the lesions to see what they look like, where they appear as well as how your digestion is, whether you are fatigued or not and any other lifestyle factors. This enables herbalists to determine patterns of imbalance, which can then be targeted.

There are little to no side effects

Chinese herbs are natural and tend not to have any side effects. Of course everyone is different and you may find you react in a small way to some of the herbs – but if you do, simply tell your herbalist and they will change the course of treatment. It is also important to see someone who is trained and has experience dealing with psoriasis to ensure you are given the right herbs.

A specialist will see areas of imbalance

The way your skin looks can tell the herbalist a lot about what is going on inside your body. The different appearances of the lesions for example will tell the herbalist what imbalances you have in your body. Seeing these imbalances will determine the herbs that will be used to treat your psoriasis.

Note – you are advised to see your doctor before trying any new therapy.

To find a Chinese herbalist near you, please use our advanced search tool.

View and comment on the original Mind Body Green article.

New squid supplement for joint pain and heart health

August 15th, 2014

New squid supplement for joint pain and heart healthContaining five times more omega-3 than cod liver capsules, the new squid pill has been dubbed a ‘miracle’.

This week Holland & Barrett are set to launch a brand new squid pill, which could be the answer to a variety of ailments, including memory problems, pain in the joints, bad skin and fatigue.

With five times more omega-3 DHA than cod liver oil capsules, the supplement called Bioglan Calamari Gold is now considered the most effective way of boosting your recommended daily intake of the essential fatty acid.

Made from the liver of squid, it is the first of its kind in the UK and will soon be on sale with prices starting from £19.99.

Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of omega-3 – particularly its positive effects on brain function, heart health and blood pressure.

It is also linked to improved joint health as it contains natural anti-inflammatory properties which help to reduce the likelihood of arthritis.

Other health benefits provided by the essential fatty acid include:

  • Lowered risk of heart disease.
  • Reduced risk of developing postnatal depression.
  • Helps to soothe eczema and prevents skin-ageing.
  • Promotes a healthy pregnancy.
  • Protects the skin.

Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer said: “Omega-3 acids are a group of essential fatty acids which can’t be created by the body. DHA is the predominant omega-3 in many of our vital organs and is fundamental for our health.”

For other natural ways to relieve joint pain and promote well-being, take a look at our therapy topics page which lists a range of complementary and alternative treatments.

View and comment on the original Express article.  

Physiotherapy for knee pain

August 13th, 2014

Physiotherapy for knee painHow to improve the functioning of your knee joint.

Whether you suffer from a condition like arthritis, have a sports injury or simply want to keep your knees in good health – retaining good function of the joint is key. Knee pain typically stems from poor functioning, to restore this try the following physiotherapy tips.

Note: It is important to seek medical advice for any joint pain to find out the cause and to embark on any necessary treatment.

Heat and massage

While heat and massage will not treat the problem directly, they act as a support for the exercises that follow. Use a heat pad or hot water bottle and massage using lotion for several minutes.

Strengthen your quadriceps

The quadriceps (commonly known as your quads) are the muscles most commonly affected in knee conditions. This is because the knee joint depends on this large muscle group to stabilise and support it. Ask your physiotherapist or doctor about strengthening exercises you can try.

Stretching exercises

To restore knee flexibility, your hamstrings will need a little work too. Again, ask your physiotherapist for safe stretching exercises to promote flexibility.

Improve your proprioception

Any decrease in your knee’s ability to sense movement and position can put it at risk of damage and injury. An example of this would be if you didn’t realise there was another step at the end of a set of stairs and the force causes a jolt up your leg. A simple way to improve this is by standing on one leg for 30 seconds at a time without holding on to anything.

Increase your endurance

To boost the endurance of the muscles around your knees ensure you are exercising them regularly – try walking, cycling or swimming for up to 30 minutes, two or three times a week.

If you think you could benefit from physiotherapy, book a consultation with a physiotherapist near you.

View and comment on the original Express article.

Yoga poses to release inner emotions

August 7th, 2014

Yoga poses to release inner emotions Find out how yoga can help you connect with hidden feelings and discover your true self. 

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish exactly why you’re feeling down, restless or upset.

You know there is something wrong and desperately want to make yourself feel better, but you cannot put a finger on what it is.

Often in these situations what you need is some time to yourself to connect with your inner emotions and deal with any conflict that may have built up over time.

Yoga happens to be one of the most effective practices for helping people to become more self-aware, and there are two specific poses you can try to release inner emotions and discover a greater sense of clarity.

Pigeon pose

  • Begin by positioning yourself on all fours in a squared table pose.
  • Slide forward your right knee so that it moves towards your right hand.
  • Angle your feet at two o’clock.
  • Slide your left leg backwards – as far as you can go.
  • Your hips should stay square to the floor so you can open them to the fullest.
  • You should start to feel a deep stretch in your right bottom cheek. If not, gently start to slide your right foot forward toward your left hand.
  • With practice, you should eventually be able to bring your foot parallel with the front edge of your mat.
  • Depending on how it feels, you will be upright on your hands while gently sinking your hips forward and down.
  • To get full release in your hips, breathe and release your belly and stay in this position for up to five minutes. Here you can focus on your thoughts and feel the effects of deep breathing.

 Child pose

  • Begin on your hands and knees.
  • Widen your knees out so they are shoulder width apart, making sure your big toes are touching each other.
  • Slowly start to drop your hips back so they rest on your heels.
  • Rest your forehead on the floor and you can opt to extend your arms straight out in front or drape them one the floor alongside your body.
  • You will now be in the position where you can focus on your breath and rest your body with full attention.
  • Continue breathing deeply and feel your spine lengthen.

For more information on the benefits of yoga for mind and body health, please see our yoga therapy page. 

View and comment on the original Active article. 

Five ways to beat fatigue

August 6th, 2014

Five ways to beat fatigueFeeling tired all the time? Take a look at these natural ways to feel better and more energetic.

When you feel tired, you feel irritable, lazy and all round unhappy. According to recent statistics, the number of sleep-deprived Brits has risen by 50% in the last year, with nearly six in 10 people getting less than seven hours sleep.

If you are struggling to get enough sleep and are feeling fatigued a lot of the time, you may find the following tips useful:

1. De-stress

Stress can make us feel fatigued during the day and when we do get into bed, it often keeps us awake. To overcome this, make de-stressing a priority. Experiment to see what helps you unwind, you may find yoga and meditation helps – or perhaps a cup of warm milk and an aromatherapy bath soothes you. Once you’ve found your stress buster, utilise it every evening to help you switch off and get to sleep.

2. Get some vitamin D

Just 15 minutes in the sunshine will increase your vitamin D levels, which can help to combat fatigue. If it’s winter or sunshine is lacking, you may want to try a supplement or fortified foods.

3. Avoid caffeine

While it may perk you up in the short-term, caffeine can dehydrate you and cause headaches. Instead, try a herbal tea and eat energy boosting foods like almonds, salmon, oranges or blueberries.

4. Un-plug

Experts agree that blue light emitted from our electronic devices can affect our sleep. Help yourself by switching off electronic devices after 8pm and try reading, meditating or writing in a journal in the run-up to bedtime.

5. Eat healthier

Your diet can have a big influence over your ability to sleep. If you are struggling, try to eat more of the following:

  • Peanuts are a rich source of niacin and help to release serotonin, which makes us sleepy.
  • Cherries contain melatonin, which helps to control our body clock, and one study showed drinking cherry juice improves sleep quality and duration.
  • Dark chocolate helps you relax. Just remember to keep it dark – milk chocolate contains tyrosine, which converts into dopamine and acts as a stimulant.

If you want to find out more about natural therapies, please browse our therapy topics.

View and comment on the original Life Hack article.

Natural remedies for pain and inflammation

August 1st, 2014

Natural remedies for pain and inflammationSupport yourself naturally when dealing with chronic pain.

Being in pain can seriously impact your quality of life. Whether you suffer from regular headaches or a chronic condition like fibromyalgia – it can be hard to stay positive when you are hurting.

While of course seeking medical advice is integral to the treatment of your pain and you are advised to follow your doctor’s guidance, there are ways you can naturally support yourself to reduce inflammation and tackle pain. Take a look at the following herbal remedies.

Note – always check with your doctor before trying a new course of treatment.

Bromelain

Bromelain is a powerful enzyme that can be found in pineapple. Normally, enzymes get broken down during the digestion process, but bromelain gets absorbed whole – resulting in system-wide effects. Studies have shown that once absorbed into the bloodstream, this enzyme can reduce pain and inflammation. Get your fix by eating pineapple or taking the enzyme in supplement form.

Turmeric

Looking very similar to ginger, turmeric is a root that can be purchased as a whole fresh fruit or, more commonly, as a ground spice. Turmeric has been used for thousands of years to treat inflammatory conditions and one study found it to be as effective as ibuprofen for pain in patients with arthritis. You can use tumeric in recipes or brew it as a tea.

Devil’s claw

This slightly scary sounding root gets its name from its appearance. And while it may not be pretty to look at, studies have shown it can help reduce pain in patients with osteoarthritis. The root can be taken in tea and is often sold in capsules and ointments.

White willow bark

Bark from the white willow tree has been used for centuries to reduce fever and inflammation. Part of the reason behind this is that the bark contains salicin, a compound very similar to aspirin. Try it in tea, capsules or as a tincture.

If you want to find out more about natural remedies like these, please read our herbalism page.

View and comment on the original Mind Body Green article.

Keep your body feeling great all day

July 29th, 2014

Keep your body feeling great all dayFeeling lethargic? Try these simple steps to keep your body energised and feeling great all day.  

Waking up from a good night’s sleep is a great feeling – your mind will be fresh and your body will be ready for the day ahead, but how long will it be before the energy slump hits and your body starts feeling the pressure?

While getting plenty of rest is a great start, the real challenge is making sure your daily routine prolongs your early morning energy levels.

Below is a simple guide to organising your day so that your body feels great right up to bedtime.

Stretch

After waking in the morning, dedicate a few minutes to stretching in order to prepare your muscles for the day ahead. Stretching improves circulation and promotes relaxation, and if you have a desk job can be particularly beneficial for relieving any discomfort.

Eat a healthy breakfast

Extensive research highlights that eating a healthy breakfast can be highly advantageous – not only for managing your weight but also for your energy, stamina and concentration levels. Choose low fat options such as porridge, wholemeal bread or toast, egg, low fat yoghurt and fresh fruit to get the most benefits.

Take a break outside

Taking regular breaks to get some fresh air throughout the day will provide an instant energy and positivity boost. Walking around will help to loosen your muscles, while enjoying a touch of sunshine will lift your spirits because the sun’s rays stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain.

Sit up straight

It can be very easy to slouch at your desk, but poor posture – particularly while sitting down – can lead to back pain. Taking yoga or pilates classes can help to relieve the effects of sitting down in an uncomfortable position all day, while massage therapy is beneficial for relieving muscle tension and soothing pain.

Breathe

We breathe around 20,000 times a day but very rarely do we really focus on how we breathe. Taking time out to practise breathing techniques will help to relax your body and improve your concentration and productivity. It can also help to take your mind off any aches or pains that may be affecting your energy levels.

View and comment on the original Life Hack article.