New Sleep Research

Sleeping is a battle for many people, but it is so important. This has been known for a very long time but this research report is new.

We know that the body detoxifies itself overnight – this is probably the reason we end up with “morning mouth” and needing the loo soon after waking. What about the brain file0001104767429though? Dreaming is how the brain sorts out and stores our thoughts, experiences and feelings but on a cellular level, little has been known until now. The brain is largely made up of fats and water and it is known that fats can store toxins. Fortunately, the water component helps with the detoxification process. The study shows that brain cells shrink during sleep allowing fluids (including cerebro-spinal fluid) to wash the cells and flush out these stored toxins. Certain proteins lodge in the brain of dementia sufferers and these (I would say in some cases) too can be washed away into the “glymphatic” system and returned to the blood stream to be excreted in the usual ways.

It is very important to address your sleep if you are struggling with it. Poor sleep is associated with numerous health conditions – causing them or making existing conditions worse. This is a pretty good list of dos and don’ts at bed time.

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Winter Bugs

The cold weather is here! It can be miserable at this time of the year – no sun, it’s cold, windy and wet, Christmas is looming. We do not want to be ill! Here are a few precautions and some things you can do to head the bugs off at the pass!

Prevention: this is the most important aspect of your health and there is no substitute. To maximise the efficiency of your immune system, you should increase intake of fish and shell fish, meat and its fat, eggs, offal and green leafy vegetables. Make bone broth as a basis for soup and consider taking a supplement of krill or cod liver oil (preferably fermented). Remember that a diet high in carbohydrate foods, adds sugar to your body as all carbs are broken down to glucose – the simplest form of sugar. Having a constantly raised glucose level, slows down the action of our white cells, which combat infection.

Hand washing is imperative as a control of infections. In our daily lives we shake hands with people, open doors, use toilets, press lift buttons, use telephones, push shopping trolleys and more. These are all potential sources of infection. There is no need to be paranoid but we should all be careful. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly and frequently during the day, but always before eating or preparing food, after using the loo and when returning home from work, shopping etc. Perhaps wear gloves when out and about.

Have a couple of baths a week using essential oils to boost your immune system. Add a total of four drops from any of these; marjoram, thyme, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, and cinnamon. A mixture is best. Epsom salts in the bath will boost your magnesium levels – needed for immune health, and this can also induce sound sleep – another boost.

A few teaspoons of coconut oil and fresh sauerkraut each day will help balance your gut microbes – the foundation of the immune system.

So what do you do if you get a bug? Go to bed. Sleep as much as your body requires. Drink plenty of water/herb teas/broth and only eat if you are hungry. A teaspoon of raw honey -manuka, lavender, rosemary (but all raw honey can help) and a pinch of (Himalayan crystal or Celtic grey) salt dissolved in a litre of warm water is helpful if you have a stomach bug. Sip over 6-8 hours. If you are able, take baths as before. Try to stay away from others especially children, the elderly and those who have compromised immunity – eg. those who have been ill recently or are on medication.
If you feel you need something to help with symptoms, paracetamol may help but try to keep it to night time so that you get a good sleep.

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The body is quite able to repair itself and fight infection without help but if you are worried or the illness does not seem to be improving, get advice from your doctor by phone. You will not be welcome at the surgery!

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The Flu

The flu vaccination programme is well underway now.  It is not my intention to sway your opinion regarding this either way, but I would urge that you base your views on fact rather than hype. Do some research – there is plenty about. Here is just one article.

A good immune system is the most precious attribute you can have and nothing can replace it. There are also lots of remedies for colds and flu – some based in science, some just money-makers. Here are some of the best things you can do to boost immunity – and these are free or cost little. They may avert infection all together, but even if you do contract a virus, you may suffer less and recover more quickly. Life is not without health problems but a healthy body is natures way of ensuring that the species is not wiped out.

  • Reduce carbohydrates and sugar. Your blood glucose rises as a result of their metabolism and can coat the white cells, rendering them less able to do their job of clearing up infective organisms.
  • Enjoy traditional warming foods such as soups made from bone stock, stews and casseroles made from meat with bone (eg, scrag end of neck of lamb for lamb stew).  Try thinly sliced organic liver and onions cooked in lots of butter too.
  • Have a cheese omelette for breakfast instead of cold cereal. Or maybe porridge (not instant) served with cream and a little sweetener if desired. Adding animal fat to meals or eating meat with its fat ensures a good supply of the fat-soluble vitamins needed for good immunity. (Vitamin A used to be called the “anti-infectious vitamin” but we now know that these vitamins work together. It is therefore best to consume the packages that nature cleverly supplies for us – butter, cream, organic (preferably raw) full cream milk (not homogenised), liver, eggs, shellfish and oily cold-water fish.
  • Don’t use seed oils either for cooking or as margarine nor those that say “olive oil margarine”. These compromise our immunity both by being very prone to rancidity and their ability to upset the Omega 3 and 6 balance. There are so many other oils and fats to use instead – olive oil, coconut oil, duck and goose fat, lard, dripping, butter and they all taste much better too.
  • Get your vitamin C from leafy green vegetables, tomato juice, tangerines, grapefruits, parsley etc. Drinking fruit juice will increase you intake of sugars too much.
  • Include some natural full-fat yogurt or fresh sauerkraut in your diet for probiotic bacteria.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Get some exercise. Walking is fine.
  • If you succumb to an infection – rest! Have a warm bath and use 4 drops of essential oils – choose from tea-tree, marjoram, lavender, chamomile – preferably a mixture of two or three. Drink plenty of water or herb teas.

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It is never too late to start eating properly. It is a true investment into your health and will pay great dividends.

Fight or Flight

Part One

StressWhat does the word stress mean to you? Sitting in a traffic jam when you have a meeting to go to? Having more work than you can reasonably cope with? Family arguments? Illness? Stress comes in many guises. Some stress is needed – call it motivation if you like – or we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning! When we feel the effects, it is usually due to repeated or continual stress. We become tetchy – even volatile; our concentration diminishes; our judgement becomes impaired; sleep is difficult or unrefreshing; skin problems emerge or our digestion suffers. I could fill this blog with the effects of stress. We don’t normally suffer from all the effects but many of them will come and go as stress increases.

We need to understand why this happens to us before we can control its effects. All animals experience this, because it serve a purpose. It is all due to the need to survive. You will have heard of the “fight or flight” reaction. For example, if you have a close encounter with a snake, given the right circumstances the snake will “leg it”, but if it is cornered it will strike.  Having too much work to do doesn’t, superficially, appear the same thing but as far as the body is concerned, the same chemical reactions are started up. The effects of this are inconsequential when it is an occasional occurrence. It’s normal and our bodies cope well. We run into problems when the effects are repeated or constant.

Our stress hormones set up numerous responses to help us with the fight or flight decision; we breathe more rapidly; our blood sugar rises; blood pressure increases; the nerves to bowel/bladder/stomach become less sensitive (we do not need to be rushing to the loo before we run!); hearts beat faster; tiredness disappears – again I could fill the blog with these effects. Over time these change to more serious problems – blood pressure and pulse rate rarely return to normal, we have constipation or diarrhoea or suffer indigestion and sleep is elusive. This is an over-simplification of what happens but hopefully, you get the point. The fact is, it’s a whole body experience and can have lasting effects on health. The solution is easier said than done. RELAX! I know this is not very helpful and therefore my next blog will be about how you can avoid stress, or at least control it.

Part Two

Chronic stress can be felt as being out of control.  The condition which gets us up in the morning we call motivation – hunger, needing the loo, getting the kids up, going to work etc. These are all fine most of the time but sometimes the pressure of all this “motivation” starts to affect our ability to function normally (see previous blog).

There are many coping strategies and you already know most of them. Why then do we find them so difficult to implement? It’s mostly to do with our fears: We don’t want to appear weak/incapable/untrustworthy/slacking/uncompromising and neither do we want to be unpopular. We have to learn to say “NO”  as well as time management/prioritising and delegation – both at work and at home.

For example: I don’t “do ironing”. A very good friend of mine (in her 60s) told me that she doesn’t “do ironing” and I didn’t believe her – she always looks so lovely. She puts everything in the tumble drier for ten minutes then gets it out, shakes it and it continues drying on the line or radiators. So now I do this – if it is not good enough for those in the house – they know where the iron is (but I don’t!). This is a great time saver and there are many others, too many to list here. A brainstorming session at home or at work will undoubtedly come up with lots of ideas; just don’t be afraid to do things differently. If the outcome is the same, does it matter how it gets done?

Prioritising work is also important. Once you have made a list, stick to it. If you have prioritised at work, bash out some short emails to those at the bottom saying that you have the work in hand and you will get the work done by ****(over-estimate). Then, make a note and get it done a week before that time. They will be delighted and you will be less stressed and get brownie points too! At home, get the teenagers cooking the dinner – they get to choose the menu. (You can have pizza once in a while!) When someone offers (or even ask them) to help with collecting kids from school etc. SAY THANK YOU – you can reciprocate when you have less on.

Sleep can be the first thing to suffer when you’re stressed. You fall into bed, completely shattered, and are still awake two hours later working out how to cope with tomorrow. Or, you go straight to sleep and wake up at 2am! Get a routine. We get our children focussed on the bedtime routine because we know they need it. But so do WE! Having a little relaxation time during the day can pay dividends at bed time. Some people find that yoga or uplifting music can be helpful.

Even if it is just a half hour routine, it can make all the difference. A warm bath (with essential oils if you like), a warm milky drink, a chapter of a trashy novel and into bed – with ear plugs if necessary. Make sure you are warm enough – a hot water bottle can be a real comfort. I think it is good practice in a partnership to sleep in separate rooms if one partner is having trouble sleeping. Actually, I believe it can be a relationship saver for some.

Take control now before it gets out of hand!

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