Spotlight on Stress: What’s Stressing Us Out

What is stress

So my last post talked about stress and why it can mess with your healthy, happy, glow.

This post I thought I’d talk a little about what stress actually is, what causes it and how can you tell if you are stressed.

What is stress?

The physiologist Hans Selye coined the term “stress” in the 1950’s as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it.”  Dr Chris Kresser says that at the simplest level “stress is a disturbance of homeostasis” i.e. it’s the body’s inability to regulate its inner environment.  It’s the body’s instinctive response (e.g. ‘fight, flight or freeze’) to external environmental cues (such as perceived danger), as well as to one’s inner thoughts and feelings.

The Adrenal Glands

The adrenals glands are chiefly responsible for regulating our stress response by secreting hormones – such as cortisol and adrenaline.  When these hormones flood your system they raise your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, making your blood more likely to clot, damaging your brain’s memory centre, increasing belly fat storage, and generally increasing inflammation, reducing your immunity and doing damage to your body.  Because of this, the adrenals are what determine our tolerance to stress and are also the system of our body most affected by stress.

Stress is important and in fact some stress is actually good for us.  The body is supposed to react to stress but it is also supposed to go back into a non-stressed state.  Unfortunately in today’s world stress has become more consistent and in some cases chronic meaning that people don’t get a chance to reset which can lead to the adrenals becoming fatigued which has the knock-on effect of a myriad of problems.

What are potential stressors?

Most people are aware of the obvious forms of stress: loss of a loved one, exams, driving in rush hour traffic, financial problems, arguments and losing a job. But other factors not commonly considered when people think of “stress” place just as much of a burden on your body that you don’t even realise.

Types of Stress

Here are just some of the stresses we may encounter in daily modern life:

Physical Stress

  • Over exercising or over training
  • Sitting for long periods of time – sitting is the new smoking!
  • Lack of sleep – insomnia, burning the candle at both ends
  • Travel and jet lag

Emotional Stress

  • Grief and sadness
  • Fear
  • Anger and resentment
  • Loneliness and depression
  • Comparison – not feeling good enough

Mental Stress

  • Worry and anxiety
  • Working long hours leading to mental exhaustion
  • Perfectionism
  • The inner Mean Girl or Bitch Brain – negative self-talk
  • Always ‘being on’ thanks to the internet, email and social media

Nutritional Stress

  • Food intolerances and allergies
  • Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals
  • Eating processed, nutritionally void and inflammatory foods
  • Blood sugar swings
  • Gut dysbiosis

Chemical Stress

  • Caffeine, nicotine, sugar, drugs and alcohol
  • Chemical ingredients in cosmetics and toiletries that we put on our skin and ingest
  • Household cleaning products
  • Pesticides and other environmental toxins

Trauma

  • Illness due to infections and viruses
  • Surgery
  • Broken bones
  • Chronic diseases

Psycho-Spiritual Stress

  • Troubled relationships – whether it be romantic relationships, family, friends, co-workers etc
  • Financial or career pressures – making ends meet, providing for a family, work deadlines or targets, increasing workloads
  • Challenges with life goals – maybe you aren’t where you thought you’d be, not having a purpose, not knowing what you want from life
  • Keeping up with impossibly busy schedules and feeling FOMO (the fear of missing out)
  • General state of happiness

 

What are some signs of stress or that your adrenals could be fatigued?

Pretty much anything that has you feeling out of whack.  Here are just some of the signs, a lot of which people just don’t give much notice to:

  • Excessive sweating from little activity
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood sugar
  • Muscle twitches
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Heart palpitations and/or shortness of breath
  • Easily irritated and/or tearfulness
  • Salt cravings
  • Chronic infections (bacterial, fungal, yeast)
  • Low blood pressure or high blood pressure
  • Excessive mood response after eating carbs
  • Tired and wired or just plain old fatigued
  • Poor sleep, waking up with racing thoughts or an inability to get back to sleep
  • Sweet, sugar, and carb cravings
  • Skin issues: Premature aging, dry skin, break-outs
  • Low libido
  • Headaches, poor memory, brain fog
  • Neck/back pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems (constipation, diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain, heartburn, reflux)
  • Menstrual irregularities

So while stress in this day and age is unavoidable, there are loads of things that you can do to help manage stress which I’ll cover in the next blog in this stress series.

Spotlight on Stress: How Stress Can Mess With Your Healthy, Happy, Glow

How Stress Can Mess With Your Healthy Happy Glow

The American Medical Association has recognised stress as the basic cause of more than 60% of illnesses and diseases and it’s thought that 75% – 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related complaints.  I don’t know about you, but to me that seems a lot!!  And whether or not you live in the US I would hazard a guess and say that these stats would probably reflect what’s going on the world over.

When most people think about stress they think of the big stressors like the loss of a loved one, moving house, doing exams or a looming deadline.  But in fact we face more stress daily and people just don’t realise it.  The everyday pressures and little stressors our body experiences have become the norm as we’re ‘always on’, ‘tuned in’ and ‘busy’.  While on a physical level our bodies may be feeling the stress, it’s not always being registered by our consciousness and the reality is that our bodies don’t care if it’s a big or a small stress, it basically reacts in the same way. 

So these little stressors accumulate until a breaking point whether it be physical (e.g. an illness, a skin breakout), emotional (e.g. outburst) or mental (e.g. bad decision).  I know I’ve experienced all three many times!   The problem with a physical illness resulting from stress is often times the symptoms are treated or managed rather than the underlying root cause (stress!).

It doesn’t matter if you eat healthy foods all day everyday stress can totally mess with your healthy, happy, glow.  Here’s just some of the ways:

Healthy:

  • Weakened immune system and increased inflammation
  • Digestive disorders including IBS. Stress can disturb the delicate balance of micro-organisms in the gut leading to multiple digestive problems such as constipation, the overgrowth of bad bacteria and gut permeability.  This permeability creates a leaky gut which leads to inflammation, food sensitivities and even autoimmune disease.
  • Increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and stroke
  • Insomnia, teeth grinding or TMJ
  • Weight gain and obesity. Elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels can increase blood sugar levels leading to an increased risk of diabetes.  Increased levels of cortisol can result in cravings for high sugar, high fat foods and can also make your body store excess fat around the belly area.  If you are having trouble shifting weight around your middle, check your stress levels.

Happy:

  • It’s said that 95% of your serotonin (sometimes called the happy hormone) is in your gut. As previously stated stress can disturb the gut leading to not only digestive problems but also problems to do with anxiety, mood, behaviour etc.
  • Impaired brain function and memory

Glow:

  • Skin is more sensitive and reactive
  • Premature aging (wrinkles!!!!!)
  • Acne / psoriasis
  • Hair thinning / hair loss

As someone with an autoimmune disease I have become aware of the mind body connection and the effects of stress on my body and realise it’s something I have to work on managing every day.

In an upcoming blog I’ll talk about some of the known and maybe not-so-known stressors that life throws our way and some of the useful ways of managing them.  We can’t get rid of stress totally (nor should we want to – some stress is good) but we can reduce it.

Have a great weekend!

Get Some Nutrient Bang for Your Buck with Glorious Greens

I’m Irish, it’s March, it’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day so I thought I’d talk about greens.

As a kid my mum was always telling me to ‘eat your greens’ and I have to say sometimes I saw it as some sort of punishment –cabbage, sprouts or broccoli boiled within an inch of their life weren’t the best tasting or most appetising looking things in the world.  But she was on to something….

It’s interesting to look at all the conflicting and confusing information out there about diets but the one thing that most agree on is that vegetables are good especially green veggies.  While this may be the case, green vegetables are usually the most commonly missing food in modern diets but they are so important.

Nutritionally, greens are jam packed with the good stuff.  They are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. They are loaded with fibre, folic acid, chlorophyll, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals.  You get a lot of nutrient bang for your buck with these veggies!!!

Benefits include:

  • They help detoxify and alkalize our bodies
  • They help boost energy levels
  • They strengthen the blood and respiratory system
  • They strengthen the immune system
  • They can improve circulation
  • They can improve liver, gall bladder and kidney functions
  • They can help clear the skin
  • They can help people lose weight (their fibre can keep people fuller for longer)

There is a growing array of leafy greens available to us now so it’s easier to experiment with new greens that you haven’t tried before.  Greens that should be easily available include:  pak choi (bok choy), cabbage, kale, broccoli, rocket, watercress, spinach, romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, fennel, brussel sprouts and collard greens as well as green herbs like coriander (cilantro), basil and parsley.

Note: Spinach and Swiss chard are best eaten in moderation because they are high in oxalic acid, which inhibits the absorption of the calcium in these foods.

So how can you get more greens into your diet?  Try and eat some with every meal!    

A Healthy Happy GlowPhotos:  Instagram (@ahealthyhappyglow)

Ideally greens should take centre stage at every meal but if you can get them in as much as you can your body will thank you for it.  I’ve gotten so used to having greens every day now that when I don’t have them I actually crave them!  Here are some ideas on getting greens in to each meal:

Breakfast: you could add some greens to your eggs (spinach and kale are good for this), have a delicious green smoothie, try a rocket, melon and parma ham salad or have a side of sautéed greens and mushrooms with your bacon.

Lunch: you could have a super green salad or add some greens to your soups.  The leafy herbs are great additions here.

Dinner: you could get creative and prepare your greens in different ways – steaming, boiling, sautéing in oil, water sautéing, waterless cooking, lightly pickling (as in a pressed salad) or eat them raw.  I love adding greens to my stir-fries or sautéing them with either bacon or with garlic and olive oil when I want to make something quick and tasty.

Snacks: you could have a green juice or try kale or brussel sprout crisps.

At certain times of the year you may crave more raw veggies and salads (like in the summer) while cooked greens may be preferred in the winter when you crave more warming foods.  Also it might be good to note that if you have a compromised digestive system (like if you have IBS or IBD for example), you might need to cook the majority of your greens or have them in juices or smoothies.  The key is to listen to your body and see what’s right for you.

I would love to hear your suggestions on how to get more greens in to your diet.

Gift Ideas for Mother’s Day 2015

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

 

When I was younger, Mother’s Day usually consisted of me making my Mum breakfast in bed.  French toast, orange juice and a cup of tea was the menu of choice and the card was pretty much always home-made.  I lost my Mum to cancer when I was 17 so I haven’t celebrated Mother’s Day in a long time.  And while I’m not a mother myself yet, I do have a sister and friends who are great mums so I think it’s a lovely tradition to stop and appreciate the mothers and mother-figures out there doing a fantastic job.

With Mother’s Day here in Ireland next week (15th March), here’s my guide to gift ideas for Mum’s that want to get a healthy happy glow!

Healthy

Healthy

  1. Making green smoothies at home or while you travel has never been easier with the Nutribullet, which is no doubt the must-have healthy device of the year so far!
  2. But if you want to be ahead of the pack and get the next must-have healthy gadget then the spiralizer is a great choice. It’s fantastic for making noodles and spaghetti out of courgettes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, the list goes on….
  3. However, if you don’t have the counter top space for that one, there’s a smaller one to be had
  4. What about getting an organic veggie box delivered to the door every week to make the smoothies and spiralled veg? The Organic Supermarket is just one place offering such a service.
  5. And for recipe inspiration, The Art of Eating Well by Hemsley and Hemsley is full of beautiful food options written by the achingly stylish and beautiful sisters.

 

SHOP

Happy

Happiness is a relaxing morning, lazing over a brunch…

  1. I love this t-shirt Namast’ay in Bed’ from Etsy for lounging of a Sunday morning
  2. This Pai Age Confidence Oil has been getting great reviews and would be a wonderful gift to give. It delivers a supercharged dose of vitamins, omegas and essential nutrients and is 98% organic.
  3. A Mother’s Day breakfast in bed or brunch would be totally brightened up with a vase of fresh spring flowers
  4. No breakfast or brunch would be complete without tea and this teapot and cup from the Carolyn Donnelly collection in Dunnes Stores is perfect for the job.
  5. And for what to make for breakfast? These fresh mango coconut chia seed parfait and baked eggs look devine and are both gluten free and dairy free.  Who said eating healthy had to be boring?

Workout

 

Glow

A good work-out is a great way to get your sweat on and skin glowing

  1. How gorgeous is this yoga mat from Anthropologie? Like a magic carpet!
  2. I love this Sweaty Betty work out top. ‘Get Your Om Back’ is perfect for a yoga session
  3. These Sweaty Betty leggings are a great alternative to the standard black leggings without going too mad (plus they go with the yoga mat – I’m a sucker for matchy matchy!)
  4. These Nike ‘Internationalist’ trainers are definitely on my own ‘wish list’.
  5. It seems every gym bunny has the fitbit these days where it tracks physical activity and sleep. Could be perfect gadget to help motivate daily activity!

So there you have it.  If I was a mother, all these would totally be on my ‘wish list’.  Have you got any other ideas to add?  I’d love to hear.

Get Your Green On! 5 Reasons to Drink Green Smoothies and A Great Tasting Recipe

You’ve heard that green smoothies are healthy and they’re getting more popular by the day but maybe you still need convincing.

green smoothie

Here are my top 5 reasons to give them a try and my go-to recipe for somebody starting out:

  1. Green smoothies are very nutritious. They’re a cheeky way of upping your fruit and veg intake without even trying!!
  2. When blended really well green smoothies are easy on the digestive system making the valuable nutrients easy for the body to assimilate so they get to work nearly straight away.
  3. As opposed to juices, green smoothies still have fibre. Fibre fills you up so a smoothie is going to be more filling than a juice.  And because the ingredients are generally low GI green smoothies won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar.  An added bonus of the fibre is that it keeps things ticking along in the elimination (aka poop) department.
  4. Due to the high levels of leafy greens included in green smoothies they are usually high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. And they are loaded with folic acid, chlorophyll, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. Leafy greens strengthen the immune, blood and respiratory systems.  They are high-alkaline foods so they neutralize acidic conditions and filter out pollutants thereby detoxifying the body.
  5. Green smoothies are easy to make and quick to clean up after. They can be made ahead of time, in bulk and either frozen or kept in the fridge for a few days making them a great option for a quick on-the-go breakfast or snack at work or while travelling.

When starting to make green smoothies, you don’t want to go too heavy handed with certain leafy greens that have a stronger taste as you may end up thinking you are drinking a forest.  Usually you have to work your way up to that!!

Here’s a great tasting (I swear!) smoothie recipe that’s a good way to start you on your green smoothie journey.  It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, paleo and raw:

green smoothie

Ingredients:

1 medium sized ripe banana (fresh or frozen)
1 medjool date (make sure stone is removed)
½ courgette chopped up
½ ripe avocado
2-3 big handfuls of spinach
½ tsp of ground cinnamon
1 cup of coconut milk (chilled) (or your favourite non-dairy milk).

Put all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth.

Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Notes:

You can add a few ice cubes if you want to make the smoothie colder.

Experiment with the amount of coconut milk you add.  Sometimes you may want the smoothie thicker or thinner.

If you don’t have a high speed blender, blend the spinach and courgette first with a little of the milk and then add the other ingredients.

5 Natural Cold & Flu Remedies

A Healthy Happy Glow Cold and Flu Remedies

Seems like everybody has a cold or flu this week.  I can’t move without someone coughing, sneezing or wheezing over me.  It really is cold/flu season!   So if you are trying to get over a cold or flu here are five of my favourite natural remedies.

A Healthy Happy Glow Cold and Flu Remedies

 

1. Kick the sugar habit

At the best of times it’s important to avoid processed junk food and sugar but especially if you are sick, as sugar lowers our immunity by depressing our white blood cells’ ability to battle the bacterial and viral nasties.   Support your body and immune system by ditching the crap and eating a diet of whole, unprocessed and nutrient dense foods.


2. Drink Up 

There are so many reasons why you need to stay hydrated when you have a cold.  If you have a sore throat or cough, water can moisten oxygen for easier breathing.  Drinking regularly removes wastes and flushes the body of toxins and staying hydrated also helps regulate body temperature so can help if you’ve got a fever or a higher temperature than normal.

I prefer drinking hot drinks when I’m sick as I find them more soothing.  I mix it up by drinking different herbal teas (my collection is pretty impressive) and I also like to make hot water with lemon, fresh ginger and manuka honey.  Lemon gives a great boost of Vitamin C while ginger and manuka honey have high anti-inflammatory properties.  Manuka honey also has the added bonus of anti-bacterial properties so can fight the bacteria that cause colds while soothing and healing sore throats.  I call this drink my triple threat to colds!!


3. Up Your Nutrients

Most people know that Vitamin C is great for our immune system.  Good sources of Vitamin C are citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruits and colourful vegetables such as bell peppers, sweet potatoes and broccoli to name a few.

Scientific studies verify that zinc is really effective at preventing and reducing the severity of colds and other infections. The best and most absorbable sources of zinc are from shell fish such as oysters, egg yolks and my favourite liver, as well as spinach, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds.

Vitamin A works alongside zinc and is also known to play a role in immune function. Vitamin A decreases during illness so increasing foods rich in it is really important when you are sick.  Great sources of Vitamin A are cayenne pepper, liver, egg yolks, leafy green vegetables and fish liver oil (such as cod liver oil).

Vitamin D has been shown to protect against colds and reverse them once you caught one.  You can read my previous article on the best ways to up your Vitamin D levels especially in winter.

60-80% of your immune system is in your gut so any imbalance of gut flora can contribute to immune related illness.  Probiotic supplements and probiotic foods can give your system a boost of the good guys.  My favourite probiotic foods are raw sauerkraut, coconut yogurt and coconut kefir while other great sources are normal kefir, kimchi and kombucha.


4. Oils and Moisture

Bacteria and viruses love to hang out in dry environments which is why they get more prevalent in the winter months with all the central heating and heaters drying out the air.  When I’m all stuffed up with a cold I love doing a steam bowl that can soothe breathing and congestion.  Two oils that I find great for clearing the sinuses are peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil.  I’ll fill a basin with hot water and put in a few drops of one of the oils.  I’ll put my head over the basin and cover my head and basin with a towel and I’ll take deep breaths for a few minutes through my nose.  Usually clears my stuffy nose in no time.

If you don’t fancy doing a steam bowl, getting a humidifier in your home to get some moisture in the air or placing a bowl of water near radiators can be of huge help.


5. Take a Break and Get Good Sleep

Many try to carry on with their lives ‘business as usual’ when they have a cold/flu but it may not be the best thing for your health and may prolong your suffering.  The stress of everyday life and not getting enough sleep and rest will diminish your immunity even further.  Try to get to bed a little earlier than normal, make a conscious effort to rest during the day and skip the heavy workouts for gentler exercise for a few days.  Be kind to your body!

Hopefully these tips help you stay healthy during this cold/flu season.

What are your favourite natural cold/flu remedies??

The Language of Love

“All of us blossom when we feel loved”  Gary Champman

The Language of Love
Given that it’s Valentine’s Day later this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about love and relationships.  We all know that having friends or being in a romantic relationship makes us feel good emotionally but did you know that good relationships can keep you healthy too?

Research shows that love, relationships, happiness and health are all intertwined and that humans are hardwired for connection.  Cultivating good relationships can have immense rewards on health and happiness such as:

  • Fewer doctor’s visits, faster healing and recovery, lower blood pressure and a longer life expectancy. It’s said that positive emotions like love, joy and happiness help boost the immune system which helps people stay healthy.
  • Less anxiety and depression and better management of stress. Loneliness and social isolation has been linked to higher rates of depression while people who have supportive relationships are less likely to have mental health problems and can manage stress better.

With all these benefits it makes sense to take the time to invest in building healthy, supportive relationships.

One way of doing this in a romantic relationship would be finding out each other’s love language.  In Gary Chapman’s cult classic The Five Love Languages, he says that many couples stay together for years but are totally unsatisfied.  Why?  Because they are not keeping each other’s ‘love tanks’ full.  They don’t know what their partner’s ‘primary love language’ is.

He identifies five love languages (aka ways you communicate love):  Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts or Words of Affirmation.

So for example, if your primary language is Acts of Service you may show love to your partner by doing small things for him/her such as making cups of tea, doing their laundry, tidying up after dinner etc.  If your primary language is Physical Touch then maybe kisses, hugs and hand holding is how you tend to feel loved and show love.  Where problems may arise is if your primary languages differ like, for example, yours is Physical Touch and your partners primary language is Words of Affirmation – while you are showing your love with hugs, they need to hear the words from you and while they may be talking the talk, you could feel starved of physical contact.

Finding out each other’s love language and being mindful of them can be hugely beneficial in deepening connections and therefore increasing the likelihood of a better relationship and therefore better health and happiness.

Find your primary love language here:  http://www.5lovelanguages.com/.

What’s your primary love language?  What do you think of the idea?

 

Staying healthy when travelling

healthy travel

I’m heading off to France this weekend for a few days.  Staying healthy when travelling can be tricky when you can’t rely on your ‘go-to’ shops and restaurants for food, your usual workout routine and your bed-time routine.  It gets even trickier when, like me you suffer from an autoimmune disease and follow a restricted diet.

 

A lot of people find airports and air travel particularly stressful.  From travelling to the airport (have I given myself enough time?), to checking in (will my luggage be the right weight / size?), to going through security (will I miss my flight due to the queue? am I carrying something I’m not supposed to? have I taken off everything I’m supposed to? have I collected all my belongings?), to finding healthy food and drinks in the airport have before the flight or bring on the flight.

 

Then there’s the actual flight itself which can be a stress on the body between the cramped conditions, dehydration and air pressure.

 

Here are the things I do when I travel to help keep me as healthy as possible.

 

Planning

  • I like to be prepared with places I can eat. By the wonder that is Google, I usually look up supermarkets, health food shops, juice bars and healthy restaurants.  Some places are obviously better than others for what’s available.  When booking a place to stay, I like to stay somewhere that has at least a kettle and a fridge so I can make a tea and I can store snacks and food that I’ve bought in the supermarket.
  • If I’m going somewhere where the language isn’t English I write down key phrases such as “I can’t eat gluten / dairy”, “No dressing / sauce etc” so I have them to hand when eating out. Much easier than trying to mime what I mean!
  • I pack food into my suitcase and my carry-on so that I’m prepared for an emergency. Good things to pack are some tinned fish (sardines and mackerel in olive oil are my current favourites), herbal tea bags, vacuum packed olives, nuts, dried fruit and even sachets of green powder that can be mixed with water to make a green drink.  I usually pack a light meal in my carry-on to bring on board and some fruit and healthy snacks.  Then at the airport when I’m through security, I’ll buy a big bottle of water to bring on board with me.
  • When it comes to planning my airport visit I’ll book and pay that extra money to go through security quicker. I think this is money well spent as it relieves so much stress on the day.

 

 

On the flight

  • I make sure to stay hydrated throughout the flight. I avoid caffeine and fizzy water and drink water and warm herbal teas instead.
  • I eat as light as possible throughout the flight to try to avoid bloating
  • I get up and walk around to stretch the legs to avoid cramping up.
  • I bring a little bag with toiletries so I can hydrate my skin with body lotion, moisturizer and water spritz and refresh myself before landing.
  • I bring essential oils that I can use to help with travel and/or jet lag.
  • If I’m feeling congested, eucalyptus oil is a great oil for clearing the sinuses.
  • If I’m on a long haul flight I’ll try to sleep, I’ll meditate and try to relax as much as possible.

 

When I get to my destination

  • I try to get on local time as quickly as possible (this may mean going straight to bed or it may mean staying up for a few more hours). If it’s the day time I’ll walk around to get the daylight and get the blood pumping.  This is really helpful for getting over jetlag quicker.
  • Again I continue to drink water to top up my hydration.
  • If there’s a supermarket close by my hotel I usually go and buy some supplies.
  • When it comes to eating, I just do my best. If my planning has gone well I should have a number of places that I can go to.  I have my non negotiables (gluten, dairy, junk food) and then I have other foods that I can probably work around.
  • When it comes to bed-time, if my hotel room has a bath, I try to have a bath before bed to help me relax.
  • I usually pack ear plugs and a sleep mask so I can blog out noise and light when I am trying to sleep. Again essential oils are helpful here.
  • I also pack some Magnesium Citrate tablets which I take before going to sleep. These tablets help get things ticking along as air travel and time differences can mess this up.  Magnesium is also great for aiding sleep.

 

I’d love to hear your tips for travel.

 

Let the Sunshine In! Why you need some Vitamin D!

Sunshine Vitamin D

Sunshine Vitamin D

Vitamin D is frequently called the “sunshine vitamin.” Every tissue in the body has Vitamin D receptors, including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system.  It assists with the absorption of calcium helping to build strong bones, teeth and muscles.  It also activates genes that regulate the immune system and release neurotransmitters (e.g., dopamine, serotonin) that affect brain function and development.  Researchers are also uncovering links between Vitamin D levels and mood and depression.

Recent reports show that populations around the world are suffering from vitamin D deficiency and Ireland is no different.   Not only has it emerged that there is widespread low levels of Vitamin D in the general population, there have been over 20 cases of rickets in infants and toddlers reported in the last four or five of years.

So what contributes to Vitamin D deficiency? 

The best source of Vitamin D is from the sun which is absorbed through our skin.  However, because of our northerly latitude, the quality and quantity of sunlight in our winter months is not sufficient enough for the production of the vitamin by the body.  Not only are there less hours of daylight in winter, even in the summer months we get cloudy days and people are usually working indoors for most of the day, are driving cars and are using sunscreen when outside.  So the chances of getting vitamin D from sunlight exposure has decreased.

You can get vitamin D from dietary sources such as oily fish, egg yolks, offal meat (such as kidney and liver) and from fortified foods such as milk.  However a lot of people don’t eat these foods and even if they do they are not eaten in sufficient quantities to counter the lack of sun exposure.

So what can you do?

In the winter months, I’d recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement.  It’s important to make sure the brand you choose is high quality and that the supplement includes D3 which is the form normally found in humans.  I take mine in the liquid form and take it with some fat (coconut oil) as it is a fat soluble vitamin so the fat helps with its absorption.

You can increase your intake of the dietary sources of Vitamin D.  Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel are also great sources of omega 3’s and offal meat is some of the most nutrient dense foods out there.  However as offal meat is quite high in Vitamin A, they aren’t advised for pregnant women or infants.

Then in the summer months, try to get out in the sunshine for at least 20 minutes between the hours of 12noon and 2pm when the sun is at its highest.  The best days are those days when there is little or no cloud and there is direct sunlight.

Resist the sun protection for these 20 minutes (shock horror!) and let the sunshine be absorbed by the skin.  If you can resist showering and using shower gel for a good few hours after this then all the better as it takes time for the skin to absorb the vitamin D.  A good tip is to get the sun on your legs as even if you do shower later in the day you are less likely to use shower gel on that part of your body as opposed to your upper body.    Once your 20 minutes is up feel free to put on your sun protection as normal!

6 Tips to Have Your Skin Glowing This Winter

Get Glowing Skin This Winter

Get Glowing Skin This Winter

Baby it’s cold outside!!!  Let’s face it, winter can play havoc with our skin.  Going from indoor central heating to harsh weather conditions outside can leave our skin tired, dry and dull.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  If you incorporate some of my tips below you can have soft, smooth, gorgeous skin that will give you a happy, healthy glow all winter long.

And while your face and hands may the only bits of skin on show for the winter months there’s no need to ignore the rest of your body!!!

 

Hydrate with plenty of water

Your skin still needs plenty of hydration during the winter months so it’s important to drink water throughout the day.  I start every morning with a big mug of warm water and freshly squeezed lemon.  Not only does it hydrate me right away, it kick starts my digestive system.  In winter though I do find it harder to drink cold water which is why I love warming herbal teas which go towards your total intake of water for the day.  My favourites are peppermint tea and ginger and lemon.  It’s also good to be aware of your activity level as if you are more active you’ll probably need more water.

 

Eat hydrating food and don’t forget fat!

During the winter months we naturally gravitate toward cooked, warming foods like soups and stews. While this is natural and you can still get some great nutrition from these foods, your body can use up some of its water reserves to help digest them.  So it’s a good idea to include some raw high water content fruit and veggies such as apples, pears, leafy greens etc into your meals every day as they don’t rely on your body’s water stores to be digested.  Having salads, smoothies or even snacking on these hydrating foods will help you hydrate from the inside out.

It’s also important to include good sources of fat during harsher winter months which help insulate your body and will do wonders for your skin and other bodily functions.  Coconut oil, olive oil, real butter from grass-fed cows and ghee are all great sources.  Maybe try bullet proof coffee or use these oils when cooking or like me have a spoon of coconut oil in the morning!

 

Minimize your time in a hot bath or shower or just have a warm one!

This one is hard for me as I love nothing more than a hot hot shower!  But unfortunately hot water dries out our skin as it can remove our natural protective oils.  If you have to have a hot one, minimize the time you spend in it and make sure to follow up with a good quality body cream or oil.  Or if you still want a long soak or shower, turn down the heat… your skin will thank you for it!

 

Exfoliate!

Exfoliation is great for removing the dull, dry and dead skin cells and leaves the skin feeling fresh, clean and smoother.  You could try dry brushing every day or use exfoliating products a couple of times a week.  Make sure to use a gentler product on your face and lips.

 

Moisturize

It’s important to replenish your skin with moisture every day.  I like using more luxurious body butters and rich body moisturizers during the winter.  I pay particular attention to my hands and feet which are particularly susceptible to drying out, using a thick deep conditioning moisturiser at night.  Just before going to bed I’ll put the moisturiser on and pop on a pair of socks and voila, in the morning I’ve got much softer feet.  I also help my facial routine on with a hydrating mask or oil once or twice a week.

 

Invest in a humidifier

It can be useful to have a humidifier in your home to keep the moisture level of the air high which can often be lost from central heating.  It’s especially useful to have one in the bedroom which will help your skin hold on to moisture during the night.

Don’t want to buy a humidifier?  No problem.  You can alternatively recreate similar effects by filling a bowl with lukewarm water or placing a damp towel on top of the radiator when it’s on.

What are your tips for glowing skin in the winter??