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

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Seven tips to combat hayfever naturally

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Hayfever is a common seasonal allergy that causes discomfort and disruption to one in four people. As peak season is about to start as we move into May, I’ve delved into my previous features research on allergies to put together some handy tips to help you naturally combat your body against hayfever.

1. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine found in a number of food sources such as apples, green and black tea, plus red onion and garlic. The latter two must be eaten raw for maximum effect. 

2. Allicin – garlic has the added boost of its active ingredient allicin and is very effective in easing hayfever, asthma and related allergies.

3. Bromelain is an enzyme found naturally in yummy fresh pineapple that acts quickly to interrupt inflammatory responses and alleviate symptoms quickly.

4. Avoid trigger foods – nutritional expert Jenny Logan advises reducing histamine-rich foods in your diet such as cheese, coffee, red wine, chocolate and beer as they can all aggravate the histamine response and worsen hayfever symptoms.

5. Nettle – drink nettle tea or eat nettle soup to help with clearing catarrh and phlegm.

6. Flower aid – chamomile and elderflower both share a number of anti-allergic properties to help with irritation. Elderflower is anti-catarrhal and helps to dry mucus from inflamed nasal passages, while helping to ease congestion in the head and lungs. Chamomile helps to reduce allergies, anxiety and aids sleep. It can also help to boost the immune system with regular consumption.

Quick relief for itchy eyes: place chilled chamomile teabags onto the eyes to reduce soreness and itching.

7. Acupuncture can also be useful in helping to reduce hayfever symptoms as regular acupuncture sessions can help to stimulate the body’s own healing response.

And from personal try and buy experience, I have found HayMax, the all-natural drug-free pollen barrier balm very effective. Feel free to share any additional natural tips that work for you…

Sleep – how do I get more?

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Image courtesy of The Sleep Council

New research from the Mental Health Foundation has revealed the huge impact poor sleep can have on our health and happiness. As a sleep addict who becomes unbearable after just a couple of nights of disrupted sleep, my heart goes out to those who regularly face bouts of insomnia.

For those with repeated difficulties sleeping, this deficit can lead to weight gain, erratic moodswings, energy deficiency, and as the MHF’s report reveals, it can also cause relationship difficulties. If problems persist long-term, sleep deprivation can lead to health problems including diabetes, clinical depression, anxiety, immune deficiency and heart disease.

I’d like to share a feature I wrote last year with comment from sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan on the secrets of natural sleep which includes many tips on improving your sleep quota. At the time I spoke with Nerina, I was sleeping poorly for several weeks due to a horrid chest infection (such is the life of an asthmatic) and by following just a couple of Nerina’s suggestions I was sleeping better in no time.

Main things to consider are: always eat breakfast, watch your caffeine intake after 2pm, look at your nightly routine and incorporate more movement and exercise in your life to improve sleep.

For anyone struggling with sleep, I’d love to hear how you get on using some of the tips.