Bloating is when your stomach feels bigger or fuller than normal. It can sometimes be accompanied by discomfort, flatulence, or rumbling. something that every one of us has experienced at some point.
It is very common to experience bloating, and usually nothing to be concerned about. However, a largely bloated abdomen should not be recurrent after every meal, and we advise seeking the care of a healthcare professional if you experience frequent, uncomfortable bloating, or if it is impacting your quality of life.
Diarrhoea is passing stools that are loose and watery, or more frequently than is normal for you. Usually, diarrhoea can be brought on with a sense of urgency, where we feel we need to find a toilet immediately, and can also be accompanied by cramping or pain in our stomach.
To explore the causes of diarrhoea and how you can manage it, read on.
Your Thyroid and Your Mood
The association of thyroid dysfunction with alterations in mood and cognition has been recognised since some of the earliest descriptions of thyroid disease. Over the years, researchers have aimed to further define these effects throughout the spectrum of thyroid disorders, to better understand the underlying condition and refine indications for treatment.
More recently, attention has turned towards examining the impact of differences in thyroid hormones within the normal reference range, particularly in older adults, providing new insights into the association of thyroid hormone with cognitive decline.
This review, by like Richie and Yeap (2015), summarises the evidence assessing the influence of thyroid hormone on mood and cognition in overt and subclinical hypothyroidism, within the reference range, and in subclinical and overt hyperthyroidism.
Treatment of overt thyroid dysfunction largely resolves associated disturbances in mood and cognitive dysfunction, however in the setting of overt hypothyroidism subtle detrimental effects on cognition may not be fully reversed. Subclinical hyperthyroidism and higher free thyroxine (FT4) within the normal range have been associated with poorer cognitive outcomes.
Ritchie and Yeap recommended that more research is undertaken on the cause and effect of this. They also noted that more research would help to guide practitioners in assessing the benefits vs the risks of medication in the increasing population of older adults with subclinical thyroid disease. This highlights that many older people are not treated. It is assumed that thyroid function will decline with age and that often, as patients are already on medications for heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, treating the patient for hypothyroidism is a lower priority.
However, at Napiers we still believe that hypothyroidism in elderly patient should not be overlooked. There is a proven link between cardiac problems, diabetes and other diseases associated with aging. Elderly people should be encouraged to include seaweed in their diet to ensure that they meet at least the minimum iodine RDA in order to prolong thyroid health for as long as possible.
Ritchie M, Yeap BB. Thyroid hormone: Influences on mood and cognition in adults. Maturitas. 2015 Jun;81(2):266-75. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.03.016.
Winter Coughs, Colds and Flu
by Dee Atkinson MNIMH
Records show that Edinburgh citizens in the early part of the 20th century suffered from the same winter health problems that we suffer from today. Almost half of the people seeking medical care during the winter months, then and now, suffer from inflammatory conditions of the respiratory tract and flu like symptoms. The most common presenting symptom of respiratory disease is the cough.
Coughs often develop after a viral infection, sometimes as a secondary bacterial infection of the lungs and bronchi and sometimes from irritation when mucus aggravates the back of the throat. Coughing is a reflex action designed to dislodge mucus or other foreign bodies from the trachea and bronchial tree. Although it can be very irritating, coughing helps your body protect itself from these foreign bodies
In the winter, the cold and flu season, the best way to protect yourself from viruses and secondary infections is to actively support your immune system. If you ever wonder why you succumb to viruses while others don’t, you need to look at your immune system and everything that can affect it.
The immune system is the buffer between our body and the outside environment and will protect you from infections, bacteria, viruses, parasites and even from cancers.
Many things can affect the body’s immune function. Age, nutritional status, diet, medication that you might be taking, stress levels, your emotional state, your environment and your family history (genetics).
In a herbal consultation, I will spend time working with you on ways to improve your immune system. I consider this to be one of the main building blocks on which your whole health rests. We will start with a look at your diet, examining not only what you eat, but also the nutritional quality of that food as pesticides in vegetables, antibiotic and steroid residues in some meats and dairy products can all impact on the immune system
Herbs for the immune system and upper respiratory tract:
Immunomodulators: These are herbs that enhance the body’s own natural defence system and support different aspects of the immune system. For example, reducing inflammation, reducing mucus production and supporting the immune system in its healing actions.
Herbs with theses actions include: Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), Marigold (Calendula officinalis), Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), Garlic (Allium), Goldenseal (Hydrsatis Canadensis)
Anticatarrhals: These herbs decrease the production of mucus and are often combined with immunemodulators to reduce inflammation in tissues while at the same time reducing catarrh production
Herbs with theses actions include: Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Sage (Salvia officinalis), Elderflower (Sambucus nigra), Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Expectorants: Thin, free flowing mucus from the respiratory tract helps to flush away irritants and is easy to expectorate. Thick mucus forms when there is less free flowing mucus due to dehydration, or when there is more production of effective matter that is thicker. An expectorant will help to thin the mucus, increase respiratory tract mucus flow and help to expel the secretions. Productive expectorants will help to trigger this action. These herbs are specific to thick ropy mucus that is hard to cough up
Examples of theses herbs are Elecampane (Inula helenium), Horehound (marrubium vulgare), Poplar buds (populus spp), Propolis, Osha (Ligusticum porteri).
Soothing and relaxing expectorant: Use when there is thick mucus and a dry irritated cough, or spasmodic cough
Examples of theses herbs are: Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Marshmallow (Althea officinalis), Hyssop (hyssopus officinalis), Slippery elm (Ulmus spp), Lobelia (Lobelias inflata), Asclepias tuberosa (Pleurisy root)
Antibacterial: Theses herbs suppress and in many cases destroy bacterial growth. They are especially useful when there has been a viral infection that has moved down into the lungs and become a secondary bacterial infection.
Examples of these herbs include: Garlic (Allium sativa), Clove (Syzygium aromaticum), Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis), Wild indigo (Babtisia tinctoria) Myrrh (Commiphora mol)
Antiviral: Generally supporting the immune system by destroying or suppressing the growth of viruses
Examples of theses herbs include: Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), Cedar (thuja spp), Oregan grape (Mahonia spp), Astragalis (Astragalis membranaceus).
There are a number of different types of cough and often a cough can last for days or even weeks after the initial viral infection. On average, a cough will last for 3 weeks. Coughs can be either acute or chronic, productive or non productive. Some Long term dry coughs are not caused by infection, but due to irritants and other types of lung problems. A smoker’s cough is most likely to be a looser, more productive cough that does not respond well to cough medicines.
Never simply treat the symptoms of a cough. Look behind this to any viral infections and at the persons ‘foundation’ health. A herbal prescription needs to be built around the patient and alongside this, diet, nutrition and lifestyle advice and support is needed
Lanes Cut A Cough is a traditional herbal medicine used for the relief of coughs, such as chesty coughs and coughs with catarrh. It is a warming relaxing expectorant that will help to relieve the symptoms of colds, shift mucous and catarrh and make coughing easier. It is particularly helpful where there is phlegm that is difficult to break up - this often feels like a heavy sensation in the chest or breathlessness and the feeling of being unable to breathe. It also helps to remove stubborn, lingering coughs. First manufactured by Plymouth herbalist, Henry Lane (1855-1911), Cut A Cough contains the active ingredient, Squill Urginea maritima as a Squill Oxymel
Squill has a long history of use as an expectorant that goes back to Ancient Egypt. Its use was mentioned the Ebers papyrus around 1500 B.C. and in Sir John Floyer’s ‘A Treatise of Asthma’ in 1698. Squill is a plant that is native to Europe and most commonly found in the Mediterranean. It is often called Sea Squill or Sea Onion as it has a large bulb and grows best in coastal habitats.
Try Napiers Herbal Cough and Chest Syrupfor dry irritable coughs with a sore throat and chest. In congested bronchial conditions, the irritation and inflammation of the bronchial tract produces extra mucus. These deeper seated coughs are best treated with expectorants that soothe the membranes and help to move the mucous and phlegm out of the lungs. Containing Horehound, Squill, Lobelia, and Pleurisy root and Senega. I use this cough syrup for persistent bronchial type infections, where the cough can be initially non productive. The active ingredients have a long history of use for colds, coughs, chest infections, bronchitis and even asthma.
Cough suppressants such as Wild Cherry Bark can be used only on very dry coughs. This herb can relieve irritation in the membranes and help to soothe the cough reflex, encouraging a good night’s sleep. Wild Cherry Bark can also be used for nervous coughs and, being a gentle herb, can be safely used by children. Combinations of Liquorice and Thyme in a syrup base make a helpful and soothing cough remedy for children.
Immune system support
Echinacea and Elderflower Compound: Practitioner Blend.
Originally made in 1992 for acute viral infection in a group of teenage school children who had Glandular fever, this is one of my most used viral formulas. Available on prescription in my Dispensary it contains Elderflower, Echinacea, Thyme, Garlic, Sage, Astragalus and Garlic. I use this at the first sign of infection, the anti viral effects of the herbs combining with the antibacterial actions of Thyme, Garlic and Sage.
Echinacea Super Plus: Practitioner Blend
This is a formula I have developed for my patients. It uses Osha (Ligusticum porteri), an American herb, historically known as American Indian Penicillin, as well as fluid extract of Echinacea, Clivers, Lemon balm, Thyme, Liquorice and Golden seal. This blend is a powerful immune support especially where there has been repeated infections and a feeling of low immunity.
Water is also a good weapon in the fight against coughs and colds. It’s important to take lots of fluids and steaming the airways helps to break up mucous. A bowl of hot water in a bedroom overnight, or a humidifier if you have one, can help soothe the respiratory system. Humidity is your friend when it comes to banishing coughs.
There is always a lot of talk about antibiotics at this time of year and whether or not they are effective. Often patients are thinking about antibiotics for persistent coughs. The latest research from the USA confirms that commonly prescribed antibiotics don't help cure most coughs in adults. Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City has said, unequivocally, that "viruses such as the common cold do not respond to antibiotics." Antibiotics are only effective when there is a bacterial infection such as pneumonia so, if you’re worried, then a GP can test your mucous for bacterial infection. It is important for us all to bear in mind that there is the risk that if antibiotics are overused in a population it may lead to the emergence of multi-resistant bacteria
If you have managed to avoid infections so far this winter then there are things you can do to help to keep the rest of the season clear of coughs. Seventy years ago, the preventative remedy of choice was Sure Cure. This ancient remedy is made with a warming mixture of Cinnamon, Cayenne, Cloves, bay berry, Pimento and Pine. This mixture of herbs improves the circulation, helps to sweat out a cold as well as supporting the digestive and elimination system. Freshly and finely chopped garlic in a teaspoon of honey or simply swallowed with water, fresh citrus and extra doses of Vitamin C tablets will also help to ward off late winter colds.
D. Atkinson, Herbalist at 18 Bristo Place, Edinburgh is a stockist of the cough treatments mentioned above.
© Dee Atkinson 2013
ADDITIONAL SOURCES: Philipp Schuetz, M.D., M.P.H., Kantonsspital Aarau, Tellstrasse, Aarau, Switzerland; Len Horovitz, M.D., pulmonologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Dec. 19, 2012, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, online
1. Paul IM, et al. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 2007;161:1140.
2. Chang AB. Cough. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2009;56:19.
3. Bukutu C, et al. Complementary, holistic, and integrative medicine: The common cold. Pediatrics in Review. 2008;29:e66
4. Botulism: Epidemiological overview for clinicians. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/Botulism/clinicians/
5. Shadkam MN, et al. A comparison of the effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and diphenhydramine on nightly cough and sleep quality in children and their parents. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16:787.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common functional disorder of the digestive system. The wide range of symptoms can be difficult and embarrassing to deal with, but can be controlled to an extent with particular lifestyle habits and a considered diet. IBS often appears for the first time between the ages of 20 and 30 and 1 in 5 in the UK are thought to experience it at some point in their lives. It is more common amongst women than men.
Bowel Changes: Constipation, Diarrhoea, or a fluctuation between the two. Either way this kind of toilet behaviour is unhealthy. A healthy stool (figure 4 on the Bristol Stool Chart) should be an expected occurrence.
Desperate need for the toilet or feeling like not everything has been passed after you’ve been to the toilet.
Stools containing mucus
Urgent need to urinate. Difficulty emptying bladder.
Dyspareunia (pain during sex)
Follow On Symptoms:
Depression and anxiety are often linked to IBS because of the stress and embarrassment it can put on those who suffer from it.
Due to its complicated nature, the cause of IBS is mainly unknown. For some reason, the digestive system is not processing food correctly. It is thought that this could be due to an increase in sensitivity or simply issues to do with digestion. Psychological reasons could have a role to play as well as intense stress or anxiety can cause havoc on your digestive system.
The most successful treatment of IBS is a holistic approach based on good diet, herbs and nutrition.
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The Pain of Heartburn (GERD)
GERD is short for gastroesophageal reflux disease commonly called heartburn, acid indigestion or reflux disease.
Between the bottom of your throat (the esophagus) and your stomach you have a valve that separates the two called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
Normally the LES opens to let food go into the stomach and closes to prevent the contents of your stomach flow back.
In GERD what happens is that the LES valve is weak, or relaxes at the wrong times, allowing your stomach contents (partially digested food mixed with stomach acid and bile) to flow back into the bottom of your throat. This is what is called reflux disease.
You experience this as heartburn - a burning pain that begins behind your breastbone and moves up to your neck and throat.
Sometimes you might feel as if food is coming back up, leaving a bitter, acid taste. It can last around 2 hours after eating and is worse if you lie down or bend over. It can be exceedingly painful and interfere with your life making you feel miserable.
Other symptoms can include chest pain or pressure, abdominal pain and sometimes, a cough.
What causes GERD?
GERD is nearly always caused by poor diet and lifestyle. You can make it better by addressing the cause even if the change to a healthier diet and lifestyle seem hard initially, it is best for you in the long run.
Left untreated, the backwash of stomach contents into your esophagus can damage its lining. There is potentially a link between this damage and esophagal cancer. But aside from that, heartburn is painful and needs to be sorted out!
Taking drugs only alleviates the symptoms temporarily and does not solve the underlying cause. In fact, taking drugs often makes it worse because when you stop taking them your body experiences 'rebound' - a period when the original symptoms come back, seeming worse than before, as your body tries to readjust again. So many people experience rebound and go back on the drugs, for years, but these drugs weren't meant to be taken for a long time and this can lead to diarrhoea, poor calcium metabolism - in some cases leading to broken bones - and a build up of magnesium in the body which is harmful for your kidneys.
Diet is the best reflux treatment
"Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food"
Hippocrates 460-370 BC
Step 1: When you eat
Eat smaller amounts and more often. Try five smaller meals during the day rather than 3 large ones. Watch your portion size with everything. For example, coffee can trigger heartburn and a 'tall' is equivalent to 3 cups! So order small sizes on everything when you're out. Also don't eat last thing at night. Allow at least 3 hours between eating and sleeping. A rule like not eating after 6 pm often makes a big difference.
Step 2: How you eat
As well as eating smaller amounts, eat more slowly. Take smaller amounts and chew your food well. Also don't wash it down with water or a flavoured drink.
Step 3: What you eat
Initially when you read the lists of food triggers and do's and dont's in a diet for reflux, it feels as if you can no longer have anything that you like! The secret to not having to give up all food and drink is keeping a food diary. Write down everything you eat for a few weeks and score your heartburn symptoms from 1 to 5 (where 1 is a bad as they can be and 5 is as good as they can be). Soon you will start to see patterns and the cause and effect of different foods. You'll soon identify the culprits that are setting you off.
Here are some pointers for the most common heartburn trigger foods:
Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and orange juice are all acidic and often caused heartburn especially if taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
Tomatoes sadly are also highly acidic and will trigger heartburn if you are sensitive to it. Some people also find onions and garlic problematic.
Pepper, chillies and spicy foods such as Mexican, Indian or Schezuan Chinese can trigger heartburn.
Foods that are high in fat take longer for the body to process. This involves the body needing more acid around in your stomach longer to try and digest them. You may need to avoid steak, cheese, cream, nuts, avocado and other high fat foods especially late and night. If you love cheese, try moving it to morning snack time instead of having it after a meal. Fried foods also come into this category and they are fried in fat and oils.
Alcohol (beer, wine and cocktails), fizzy and caffeinated drinks don't help either as they weaken the LES valve.
Chocolate and mints are definitely triggers. High amounts of peppermint oil in after dinner sweets definitely aggravate heartburn even though sipping peppermint tea after a meal traditionally helps a lot of people with indigestion. However, if you have had a confirmed GERD diagnosis, avoid peppermint - take chamomile tea instead.
Foods that help GERD symptoms
Food that tend to be safe tend to be plainer but if you cook with herbs and ginger (not hot spices), that doesn't have to mean less interesting.
- Chicken breast, skinless
- Egg whites and egg substitute
- Fish, no added fat
- If red meat, minced beef extra-lean
Try broiled, baked or roasted chicken (without the fatty skin).
Fish and seafood are excellent - again, like chicken, baked, grilled or sautéed but never fried! Oily fish, such as salmon, herring and sardines two omega-3 fats; EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which help relieve inflammation linked to tummy troubles.
- Baked potato
- Green beans and Peas
Accompany these with baked potato, sweet potato and vegetables or a salad. Most root and green vegetables, including cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus and green beans.
Fennel is a great vegetable for acid reflux diets as it has a positive beneficial effect on stomach function. Try it thinly sliced in a salad with spinach or rocket, or baked with chicken. Celery and parsley are both tasty additions to any meal as well.
Salads are good but don't add tomato, onions, nuts or cheese.
FATS / OILS
- Salad dressing, low-fat
- Apple cider vinegar
Salads are excellent but use a dressing made with a light oil and Apple Cider Vinegar - it is not acidic in the same way that other vinegars are. Try a bean salad for a change.
- Bread, multi-grain or brown
- Cereal, bran or oatmeal
- Corn bread, sourdough bread
- Pretzels or rice cakes for snacks
- Rice, brown, red or wild
- Bulgur wheat or couscous
Oatmeal is excellent in porridge to start the day, in cereal bar snacks and, lightly toasted, as a base with raspberries and honey for a dessert.
All complex carbohydrate are good carbohydrates! So also include couscous (semolina wheat), bulgur wheat and rice (wild, red or brown rice).
Other snack ideas could include wholegrain toast with cottage cheese.
- Cheese, feta or goat
- Cream cheese, fat-free
- Sour cream, fat-free
- Soy cheese, low-fat
- Cottage cheese
- Skimmed, low fat milk
- Apple, fresh, dried and juice
Bananas and melons (including honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon) are good for all but 1% to 2% of acid reflux sufferers.
- Mineral water
- Organic Chamomile Tea
Try and control your heartburn through diet and herbs.
Herbs that help
The herbs of choice for GERD are Chamomile flowers, Calendula flowers and Marshmallow root. These can be taken together as a tea or used in tincture form.
2 parts Marshmallow root Althaea officinalis
1 part German Chamomile Matricaria recutita
1 part Calendula Calendula officinalis
Take up 5ml in a little water up to three times a day. In addition, make up Organic Chamomile Teaand sip slowly throughout the day. You can also make an infusion of Marshmallow root if you want a change.
Add small amounts of fresh ginger to your cooking. It helps with many gastrointestinal symptoms and is anti-inflammatory.
If you are overweight, try and lose some weight. Excess body fat pressing on your stomach exacerbates the symptoms of GERD.
Raise the head of your bed by putting a 6 inch block of wood under the legs at the pillow end. This helps gravity to keep your stomach contents down. Don't just add another pillow as that doesn't help.
It may sound obvious, but don't wear tight clothes even if skinny jeans are all the rage. And loosen your belt an extra notch.
Give up smoking as it weakens the LES valve.
Aloe vera gel is considered an excellent soothing food supplement.
There is a lot of debate as to whether taking digestive enzymes can help but we find that patients report good experiences with them. The body produces around 22 digestive enzymes. Each has a specific actions.
- Proteases break down protein
- Amylases break down carbohydrates
- Lipases break down fats
- Cellulases from plants break down fibre (cellulose)
Some people lack enough enzymes because of poor diets that lack nutrient and are high in refined foods, environmental toxins, over use of antibiotics and general poor health. Symptoms of indigestion, bloating, gas and heartburn are thought to be the outcome.
Patients have found taking additional plant-based digestive enzymes such as bromelain (from pineapples), papain (from papayas), and enzymes grown on the fungus aspergillus, to be helpful in managing the symptoms of GERD.
They are also often used by older people who have lower amounts of stomach acid and take longer to digest food, which can then pass into the intestines without being fully broken down, causing indigestion.
Are drugs the answer?
Your doctor can prescribe drugs which inhibit the amount of acid your stomach produces but these are not meant to be a long-term solution. When you stop taking them you often have a 'rebound' period when the symptoms come back and seem even worse than before - this is your body trying to adjust again. Reflux treatment is best approached naturally first, as this can lead to permanent change.
Drugs can also have unpleasant side effects. Many of our patients on omeprazole complain of low libido. Here is an example of the known side effects for rabeprazole (Aciphex):
Side effects of Rabeprazole
Headaches - up to 9.9 percent of people
Diarrhea - up to 4.5 percent
Nausea - up to 4.5 percent
Vomiting - up to 3.6 percent
Abdominal pain (stomach pain) - up to 3.6 percent
Pain (the type of pain was not specified) - up to 3 percent
Sore throat - up to 3 percent
Flatulence - up to 3 percent
Infection - up to 2 percent
Constipation - up to 2 percent.
The above side effects were discovered during the clinical trials before this drug was approved and so stated on the Patient Information Leaflet. Probable and possible side effects reported after a drug has been approved are called the post marketing experience. For Aciphex these include:
Osteopenia (as calcium absorption is impaired)
Broken bones (some studies suggest this or other similar medications may increase the risk of bone fractures)
Low blood magnesium (hypomagnesemia)
Yellow skin (jaundice)
Increased TSH (found using a blood test), indicating possible hypothyroidism
Low white blood cells
Low blood platelets
Serious skin rashes
Allergic reactions, including life-threatening reactions
If you ever experience a side effect from any medication please report this to The Yellow Card Reporting Scheme
HERBS THAT HELP
Marshmallow root is demulcent. This means that it soothes and coats and protects the lining of the esophagus and stomach. In herbal medicine we use it in treatments for acid reflux, GERD and stomach ulcers.
Chamomile is anti-inflammatory, carminative and soothes digestion, especially where there is also an element of stress.
Calendula is astringent and also anti-inflammatory. It is a very healing herb and helps cells to regenerate quickly.
Ginger is anti-inflammatory and has been used as a treatment for gastrointestinal conditions for centuries.
Aloe vera gel juice is extremely soothing for reflux.
Foods to avoid include:
Fatty foods like milk, cream and cheese will trigger heartburn especially taken late in the evening. Switch to low-fat milk and have cheese as a morning snack and not after a big meal.
Many nuts also have a high fat content and are hard to digest.
Alcohol, like acidic wines, beer, as well as fizzy or caffeinated drinks, orange juice should be avoided to keep GERD at bay.
Foods to choose instead
Oats are helpful. They are a slow burning carbohydrate providing a lot of energy from a small amount. Make with low fat milk, add grated apple and sprinkle with cinnamon for the perfect breakfast.
Choose apples, pears and non-acidic fruits instead of oranges and citrus fruits.
Cook chicken without the fatty skin for a tasty, easily digested meat instead of red meat.
Fish is also an excellent source of protein and will not cause heartburn. Eat with lightly steamed vegetables.
Salads and green vegetables are a really important part of a healthy pain-free diet.
Fennel really is food as medicine. Whether used as the herb and the vegetable.
Celery helps to liven up dishes and salads too.
If you need help balancing your diet, or self help methods are not helping, you can see a medical herbalist for a consultation.
What are Prebiotics?
A prebiotic is a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines. Fibre is a good example of a prebiotic.
Inulin is a prebiotic fibre extracted from the roots of the herb chicory that helps to increase beneficial gut flora. This type of water-soluble fibre breaks down into short chain fatty acids that nourish your body, promote calcium absorption, reduce cholesterol, help to keep your gut healthy and promote the right environment for beneficial bacteria to thrive. They especially support the right bacterial environment in your bowel. We include a small amount and suggest you start with one capsule, leading to three over time. This is because, if your gut microbiome has been out of balance for some time, your body may develop wind from the fermenting inulin until it is used to more fibre. Inulin from chicory is the most easily tolerated form of inulin. Studies show that inulin probably helps to assist weight loss, prevent diabetes, colon and bowel cancer, and may improve symptoms of IBS and constipation.
Fructooligosaccharides (known as FOS) are oligosaccharides that occur naturally in plants such as onion, chicory, garlic, asparagus, banana, artichoke, among many others. They are prebiotics that stimulate the growth of nonpathogenic gut microflora (lowering the incidence of gut infections), and increase the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Consuming FOS also improves the bulk, quality and regularity of bowel movements, decreasing the likelihood of constipation.
Vitamins and Minerals for Women's Health problems
Vitamin B6 and Magnesium requirements are increased during the pre-menstrual phase of a woman’s cycle. These essential nutrients help to maintain emotional stability as well as having a potent diuretic effect.
Vitamins and Minerals for Summer Health
Some vitamins are particularly important in the summer, especially when your exposure to the sun is increased or if you tend to get hay fever. Make sure you have good levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin C in particular in your diet. If this is not the case then taking them as a supplement is recommended.
Vitamin A (otherwise known as Retinol) is powerful in guarding against infection during the summer months. It is a fat-soluble vitamin- this means that the body stores the leftovers for future use. Because of this, it is possible to ingest too much. Pregnant women in particular should be careful of their Vitamin A consumption, as overdosing can have a detrimental effect on their baby. Oily fish, cheese and eggs are a great source.
Another way to take it would be to supplement with Beta-Carotene, a precursor, it changes into Vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant vitamin. It improves the integrity of the mucous membrane, contributes to a healthy immune system and reduces inflammation. (All properties useful in lessening hay fever symptoms.) In food sources, it can be recognised by its bright colour. Carrots, apricots, sweet potato and mango are all excellent sources.
Vitamin C is a natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory that can be found in lemons, oranges and grapefruit. These citrus fruits also contain bioflavonoids, which work together with Vitamin C to produce a more potent result, thanks to their antioxidant properties. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. It is not stored in the body and so must be replenished daily to be effective. It is essential in the production of collagen, which is needed for healthy, youthful skin and speeding up the healing process in wounds. Vitamin C can also help protect against UV rays and is important in regulating blood sugar levels.
Vitamin E, like all antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E), is vital in protecting the cells from damage caused by free radicals. This is especially important in the summer months when the sun is at its strongest. It contributes to healthy skin, eyes and immune system. Nuts, seeds, wheatgerm and olive oil are great sources.
Vitamin B taken as a complex, is useful to lessen the effects of hay fever as the condition can be linked to stress. Stress wreaks havoc on the body in many ways including weaken the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. For hay fever sufferers, it can result in the using up of antioxidants that would help to reduce histamine within the body. Vitamin B is best taken as a complex because the eight individual vitamins work best together. They are a strong component in the breakdown of food into fuel, therefore a supplement is also advised for fatigue.
Vitamins and Minerals for Joint and Muscle problems
Vitamin C is involved in the formation of collagen, which is important for the growth and repair of body tissues including bone and so may help to maintain healthy bones and joint tissues.
Vitamin E is also important for joint health and should be included in the multivitamin that you take.
Beta-carotene, a carotenoid, is the compound in plants like carrots that give them the yellow-orange colour. It is used by the body to create vitamin A and is an antioxidant like vitamins C and E. Antioxidants are a main protection against joint degeneration.
Minerals are important for bone and joint and muscle health, especially calcium and magnesium.
Calcium is necessary for strong healthy bones. Often digestive problems, such as coeliac disease, prevent the body from absorbing calcium. Calcium carbonate is a common supplement but is basically chalk in a form that is poorly utilised by the body and in fact has been linked with a greater risk of heart attack. It is best taken in an organic form that you would get from your diet, and with magnesium citrate, an organic form of magnesium, to improve absorption. As most people have plenty of calcium in their diet and quite low levels of magnesium, a supplement with a ratio of 2-1 in favour of magnesium is best for the body.
Boron is a mineral that helps the body to utilise vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. Some research suggests it has a role to play in helping joints stay healthy but should only be taken in small amounts as large amounts can be toxic. It is found in green leafy vegetables. As a supplement it is best as a small amount in combination with other nutrients.
Vitamins and Minerals for Digestion
The digestive system relies on a wide range of vitamins and minerals in order to function optimally. Unfortunately, our modern diets often lack these essential nutrients. This leads to numerous issues, as the digestive system is central to the entire functioning of the body. So health really does begin with good digestion.
Digestive problems occur as a result of bad digestion, poor absorption and insufficient elimination.
B vitamins are highly important in the breakdown and utilisation of nutrients including carbohydrates, protein and fat. They provide the body with incredible amounts of energy. Due to this, a deficiency in B vitamins is linked to fatigue. They are often sold separately to treat different conditions specifically, but for general digestion and health it is best to take them as a complex as B vitamins work together. They are water-soluble which means that the body does not store them, they get excreted daily. For this reason, you will need to be getting a regular dose. B vitamins also help regulate appetite and eliminate waste. They become difficult to absorb as we get older, so a supplement is particularly useful for older people.
Adequate vitamin C provides the body with healthy teeth and gums. These are essential as chewing plays a vital, though often over-looked role in the breakdown of food. Vitamin C is also needed for collagen production and it aids in the absorption of iron-which is important for energy. Collagen can be found throughout the tissues in the digestive tract and it is needed to hold them all together. The body also uses collagen to repair tissue damage. Therefore it is necessary for a healthy system.
Calcium is seen as the mineral that makes teeth and bones strong. But we shouldn’t forget about vitamin D, as it assists calcium absorption. It also contributes to proper colon function. Furthermore, the nerves in the digestive tract rely on calcium (and therefore vitamin D) to communicate with each other to regulate digestion. Calcium may also help to ease diarrhoea type symptoms in IBS-D sufferers.
Vitamin A nourishes the mucosal tissue lining the digestive tract, ensuring normal digestion.
The digestive process begins before we even start to eat. As we take in the sight and smell of food, our bodies start preparing themselves for digestion. Salivating is an obvious way to see this process in action. Zinc enhances smell and therefore improves this first digestive step. It increases the absorption of vitamin A as well and a deficiency can be linked to fatigue.
Magnesium has an association with constipation. A research paper ( Murakami et al, 2007) demonstrates a link between low magnesium intake and constipation in Japanese women. So if you suffer from constipation or IBS-C it may be advisable to take a magnesium supplement.
Manganese contributes towards the breakdown of proteins and fats, contributes to a healthy immune system and is involved in balancing blood sugar levels.
Potassium helps towards the elimination of waste.
Chromium enhances insulin that stores glucose for future energy use.
Copper is required for protein metabolism.
Selenium is important in the proper functioning of the pancreas. The pancreas is a vital part of the process as it produces digestive juices.
While kelp is technically a supplement it is also worth mentioning here as it contains both calcium and magnesium, along with many other beneficial vitamins and minerals in a form easily absorbed by the body. For a sensitive digestion, easily digested vitamins and minerals are preferred. Some customers who take our one a day Hebridean Kelp Capsules report that it helps to keep them regular and that when they don't take it, their digestive system appears to "slow down". This is because seaweeds contain the vital mineral iodine which is needed by the thyroid, a gland that regulates the speed of all the body's processes.
- Vitamin A - nourishes the lining of the GI tract
- Vitamin B complex - aids nutrient breakdown for energy
- Vitamin C - is needed for collagen production. The tissues in the digestive tract are full of collagen. Therefore Vitamin C is needed to maintain a healthy system.
- Vitamin D + Calcium - Vitamin D aids the absorption of Calcium. Calcium provides strong teeth that are needed for chewing.
- Chromium - enhances insulin
- Copper - is needed for protein metabolism
- Iodine - needed for the speed of body processes
- Magnesium - helps prevent constipation
- Manganese - is involved in the breakdown of protein and fat
- Potassium - eliminates waste
- Selenium - is needed by the pancreas
- Zinc - enhances smell, improving digestion.
Murakami K, Sasaki S, H Okubo H, Y Takahashi Y, Y Hosoi Y, M Itabashi M et al. (2007) Association between dietary fiber, water and magnesium intake and functional constipation among young Japanese women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007) 61, 616–622. Nature Publishing Group.
Vitamins & Minerals for Men's Health
Zinc deficiency has been positively linked to prostate enlargement in a few studies, although no large scale clinical trials have been conducted. The RDA is 15 mg but in the studies doses of 150 mg of zinc sulphate were taken daily for two month, followed by maintenance doses of 50 mg daily. 14 out of the 19 men in the trial experienced shrinkage of the prostate. As zinc can be toxic in high doses (leading to anaemia and low immunity) high doses should be taken under medical supervision. A standard zinc supplement, nevertheless, is beneficial for most men.
Magnesium(RDA 400mg) and Vitamin B6 (RDA 2 mg) have also been combined with zinc in maintaining prostate health.
A multivitamin containing beta-carotene (which converts to Vitamin A in the body), Vitamin C, selenium and Vitamin E is also helpful in men's vitamin supplementation.