Christmas gift ideas with a health twist

Xmas Gifts

If you’re stuck for gift ideas and growing ever panicky with each ‘it’s…days to Christmas’ notification – relax for a moment, grab a cuppa and take a look at my top three wellbeing-inspired present suggestions…

SS13 Pastel Patent1 Healthy Back Bag – if your mum, sister or friend regularly complains about having back pain, this one strap bag, which is very kind to the spine, could be just what they need. HBBs are designed to distribute weight asymmetrically and contour to the spine, thus reducing stress on the neck and shoulders. They come in stacks of different colours and designs, from sporty to snazzy, with prices starting at £29. I’ve had one for a while now and they really are as good as they sound.

img_46801 Fitbag – it can be tricky to find the get-up-and-go to keep fit in the winter, no matter what recent research suggests. It’s cold, it’s dark and those two factors alone can be a big deterrent for some of us. The Fitbag is a tone-up-at-home kit with a difference. The bag contains six items: skipping rope, dumbbells, ab roller, resistance band, resistance tube and a thigh master. It also includes a detailed workout plan and costs £37.99. Fitbag live classes are also being introduced – simply turn up with your Fitbag and get into your first class for free.

lux_fruit_basket1M&S Luxury Fruit Basket – put down the box of chocolates you’ve earmarked for a loved one and give the gift of fresh and seasonal fruit instead. On average, we consume an astonishing 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone. In addition, all our extra festive nibbles can add up to a weight gain of 5lb. You can choose from the luxury option (£39.50) or a traditional basket priced at £29.50. If your recipient has overdone it on the party food front (which most of us will), they could be very thankful for this healthy treat!

Main image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos

Why do you keep fit?

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This may sound like a ridiculous question – after all don’t we all exercise to benefit our health? Not according to the results of a recent poll, we don’t.

Nurofen polled 2,000 fitness fanatics and asked why they exercise. Four in ten admitted they keep fit to look good and feel attractive. 44% said they had only started exercising to stop them from looking overweight, while 28% believed regular exercise would help them to look younger and fight the first signs of ageing. The most depressing stats from the survey (for me) were: 18% admitted they exercise just to impress their partners and one in ten said their main motivation when going to the gym was the hope of meeting someone there and falling in love. Really?

This daft approach to exercise had also resulted in four in ten injuring themselves while working out. In addition, more than half said they don’t warm up before exercise and 60% said they don’t bother warming down either. This is crazy: warming up and warming down are essential to prevent unnecessary pains, strains and injuries.

As we all know: exercise is fantastic for our health. Regular exercise is a powerful weapon in reducing our risk of developing serious and potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease, stroke, numerous cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Whatever your reasons for keeping fit: please don’t forget the most attractive thing about regular exercise is that you’re benefitting your health enormously.

Is your dairy intolerance self-diagnosed?

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If you answered yes to the above, you could be at risk of nutritional deficiency, warns Allergy UK.

New research from Alpro has revealed 44% of people that class themselves as dairy intolerant are relying on the internet and general guess work to self-diagnose. 72% of those suffering from dairy intolerance symptoms have removed all sources of dairy from their diet, the main source of calcium in the UK. A further 25% have cut out some dairy food groups. Gut problems including stomach pain, bloating and diarrhoea were cited as the most common reasons for cutting out dairy: eczema and nasal/sinus congestion were listed fourth and fifth.

Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth; it also regulates muscle contractions including the heartbeat. Calcium is particularly vital for women as low levels can increase your risk of osteoporosis. It’s found in foods including milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt, green leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli and cabbage, dried fruits such as apricots, tofu and sesame seeds.  

Over half of the people surveyed felt there was not enough advice out there for dairy intolerance sufferers. They would like to see more information on calcium, recipes, suitable dairy swaps and ideas for eating out. A huge 75% said they would prefer to be diagnosed by a face-to-face consultation.

If you are concerned you may have symptoms that indicate dairy intolerance, Allergy UK advises: “to help identify whether a food is a cause of symptoms, a food/symptoms diary can help to identify a pattern. We would always recommend taking the diary to your GP or allergy specialist who can diagnose what may be causing the symptoms or refer you to a dietitian.”

Whether you are dairy intolerant or a dairy lover, make sure you maintain a good calcium intake in your diet…

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos

Get heart healthy (and watch the salt)

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As it’s National Heart Month and I seem to be writing an awful lot about salt at the moment, I thought it was high time I whipped up a timely blog post on the topic.

Every day, 26 million of us are eating too much salt and as 75% of the salt we eat is already added to a variety of manufactured foods: we may be eating more than we realise.

The top salty food culprits are: cheese, certain breakfast cereals, processed meat (ham, bacon), stock cubes, sauces, gravy granules, bread, bread products, salted nuts and potato-based snacks.

A diet high in salt can cause high blood pressure (hypertension), which often has no symptoms. Hypertension affects one in three adults in the UK. If you have high blood pressure, this can increase the risk of stroke and heart problems developing.

Making small changes can help to lower blood pressure. Instead of adding salt when preparing meals, add flavour to food using herbs, spices, wine, vinegar, garlic, onion, lemon and lime juice. Reducing the number of processed foods and ready meals you eat will also help.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Men’s Health: Ask Your Pharmacist

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Male readers, this year’s Ask Your Pharmacist Week (5th-12th November) is all about you.

The aim is to help you feel more at ease walking into a pharmacy and chatting about your health and making better use of the free professional help that is available. Ask about anything that is concerning you, from health worries, information on medication side effects or insight on long-term medical conditions. You can also ask for tips and advice on general health and wellbeing such as boosting immunity, cutting down on smoking or improving sexual health.

Leicestershire-based Mistry’s Pharmacy also offers an online pharmacy facility which is used by people across the UK. Typical men’s health issues they advise on include product recommendations for sports injuries, muscle strains and enquiries on sexual health matters such as erectile dysfunction, which requires GP-prescribed medication.

“No matter how trivial or embarrassing your concern, pharmacy teams are well-trained to offer confidential advice,” says Sanjay, one of the pharmacist’s at Mistry’s. “Pharmacists are very approachable and can guide you through any problem you may have, ensuring you leave with the right advice or product you need. There is no need to suffer alone – it’s imperative to get professional advice as soon as possible, don’t let a nagging problem get worse.”

Go on, just ask…

 

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Ladies: let’s talk common concerns (down there)

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For many women, going to the doctors can be an embarrassing prospect – especially if the problem you have is of a somewhat intimate nature. It’s no surprise then that a recent study found a quarter of British women have turned to the internet for advice on treatments rather than seeking medical opinion.

Whilst the internet is good for most things, when it comes to your health, the web can sometimes be more of a hindrance. By self-medicating you may join the one in ten women who end up with unpleasant side effects as a result of a misdiagnosis. Below are three of the most common concerns women tend to encounter with advice on what to do if they affect you.

Cystitis

Probably one of the most well known women’s health issues, cystitis affects approximately half of all women in the UK. Whilst there are no blanket symptoms, most women will suffer with pain when urinating, a strong smelling and dark coloured urine and an urge to urinate frequently. Cystitis can also lead to vaginal irritation which is where remedies such as Canesten will come in handy. Ensure you drink plenty of water and urinate regularly as this will also help to effectively prevent this issue.

Bladder Weakness

Due to its highly sensitive nature, thousands of women just assume bladder weakness is something that is just part of normal life and something they have to put up with – it isn’t! There are products and remedies that will make suffering with this a breeze such as Tena pads. It is also important to note that reaching for your normal sanitary products just won’t do the trick. This is because urine is thinner and comes out in larger quantities – you need something that will be able to cope with this.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

This is sometimes mistaken for thrush and so many women will simply reach for a thrush treatment though this won’t effectively combat the symptoms of BV. When a woman is suffering from BV, her discharge will be clear and fishy smelling. Though antibiotics are the best remedy for this problem, products such as Balance Activ Vaginal Gel will also help to relieve some of the discomfort and neutralise the odour of discharge.

Don’t suffer in silence, get help today with some of life’s more intimate problems!

Please note: this is a guest blog post from Mistry’s Pharmacy

 

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Talking summer SAD

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While most of us are craving more sunshine and blue skies, summertime can be one of despair for the estimated 600,000 people affected by summer or reverse SAD in the UK.

Seasonal affective disorder is more commonly known as a wintertime condition, where the shortened days and decreased sun exposure cause symptoms of depression. Summer SAD is simply the reverse of this.

Symptoms include: increased sense of heat at night, agitation, restlessness, insomnia, reduced appetite and a general feeling of being miserable, often for no reason. You may also experience a sense of not enjoying what are usually pleasurable activities.

I’ve recently written a piece on summer SAD for the current issue of the Depression Alliance’s membership magazine Single Step. As part of the piece, I spoke to Ricky and Julia, two people who fantastically illustrated just how difficult life in the summer months can be for those affected.

Some tips that can help to minimise the effects of summer SAD include: using black-out curtains, opening windows at night, avoiding bright light, having frequent cooling showers, taking an ice-cold water bottle or cooling blanket to bed and exercising regularly.

For more information on the causes, expert insight, further tips and Ricky and Julia’s stories – take a look at my piece.

If you would like to commission me to write a piece for you, do get in touch