Staying sane when everyone else is going mad

In a month’s time, Christmas has come and gone.  Tomorrow is “Black Friday- “sales and already people are cueing up and shops have started their sales already.  It is usually this time of year that, for some reason, people are more edgy, more frustrated and/or short-tempered.   Is it because it is almost the end of the year and people are tired?  Is it because they realize that, lo and behold, the Christmas-season is ahead and there is still shopping to do?  Who knows; the important thing is to stay sane when everyone around you is going a bit mad!

Staying sane is not always easy – trust me, where I live just driving to work on a “normal” day can make you a bit crazy!  Whether it is the idea that the festive season is just around the corner, you are getting ready for the big sale of the year, or your children are busy with exams, try to implement a few of these easy-to-follow tips that can (and will) help you to keep your cool, no matter what! 

  • When you are going to “close your eyes” and do some shopping online or in-store on Black Friday, make sure to have a list of what you want to buy.  Before you buy anything, ask yourself do you need it or just want it because it is on sale.  Remember, even on these big sale-days, shops still make a profit, so don’t be fooled to buy just anything because you think it is a bargain; especially when it is something you don’t need (or already have);
  • If you want to add to your shoe-collection, make sure that you buy a pair of shoes (for example), that you can wear with more than 5 items in your closet.  That way you are sure to get a “price per wear” of your purchase’
  • Breathe!!  When you get overwhelmed by choices and/or emotions, stop, take a few deep breathes in, exhaling slowly, and calm down.  Remember – the deeper and slower you inhale and exhale, the faster you will relax.  If you can, you can also close your eyes for a couple of seconds and just centre yourself and your thoughts again;
  • A list, as mentioned before, is a wonderful tool to use.  Not just for a shopping spree, but also if you have a full day and you don’t know where to start.  There is a great sense of relief when you can tick of the things on your “to do- “list;
  • Lastly, try to support your local shops, local producers and be mindful of the environment when you buy.  There is a trend where more people are moving away from “fast fashion” and buying things that won’t last long or are recyclable; so just another great tip to follow.

For all my readers out there, who are gearing up for tomorrow – good luck!  For all of us who are starting to get tired as the end of the year is getting closer and closer – hang in there!  Breathe, relax, do yoga, go out in nature, meditate, remember to laugh and stay in the now!

And one last thing – instead of stressing yourself out, take a step back, be in the now and just go with the flow!

Diet, exercise, either / or; neither / nor…

Hundreds and hundreds of people, from all walks of life, believe that diet plays a role in losing weight.  Coupled with exercise, you not only reach your goals, but also maintain it…or so they say!  Other people say no to dieting but yes to some form of exercise and they, too, stay fit and healthy.  So, what is the answer then?  The verdict is still out, but I am going to give you some feedback of what I read, studied and experienced, over the years.

I, for one, has never believed in any strict form of dieting.  As a Nutritionist, I can honestly say that I believe that we need to eat balanced meals that consists of all the different food groups.  The secret, I believe, is to reduce and/or cut out refined sugars and starches, processed (junk) food, alcohol-intake and soda-drinks.  Even the so-called “diet” cooldrinks contain artificial substances that is very unhealthy.  It is also a good idea to take food allergies and/or intolerances into account.  One can rather up one’s intake of fruit, vegetables and salads, eat lean meats and less starch / carbohydrates, than overindulging in, for example, carbohydrates or protein. 

Many, many years ago people were far more active than what they are today.  Balanced meals, consisting of all the different food groups, were eaten without any problem.  The secret was that they were active.  So yes, being active and doing some form of exercise plays a crucial role in losing weight and maintaining a healthy body.  However, don’t think that exercise can take the place of eating processed food / junk food, for example, 2 – 4 times a week!  To perform at its optimum level, your body needs balanced meals in order to get in all the important vitamins and minerals.  Not to mention enough water intake as well!!

Another interesting lesson from the past, so to say, that we can learn from, is that people only ate what was in season.  Nowadays, with trade, freezers, and so on, one can eat almost anything anytime of the year.  In the olden days people ate what was in season, thus their bodies kept to their natural rhythm and was more in tune with nature. 

You don’t have to be a gym-bunny in order to exercise; going for a walk or a jog in your area, is just as good as going to a Pilates-class or pushing weights.  The main thing to remember is that we, as humans, were made to move.  From a very early age we, instinctively, know that our bodies want to move around.  Weight-bearing exercises are always important from the age of 30 onwards, but again, it is not necessary to lift heavy weights.  Swimming, for example, is fantastic as you work with and against the gravity and weight of the water. 

All in all, the best advice I can give you, my readers, is to listen to your body.  Although you might not be as active as your grandparents were, you can still do some form of exercise – even when going to the shops!  Parking your car further away from the door or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, for example, are an easy-to-do habit.  I personally eat smaller meals throughout the day, instead of 3 big meals:  I have my breakfast, then come home after teaching my Pilates- and other classes and have a snack.  Then I will have lunch, have a mid-afternoon snack again and then dinner.  My snacks will vary; it can be a fruit, some nuts and yes, even a rusk with a cup of tea after classes!  I make sure to drink enough water throughout the day and if I eat processed / junk food, I limit it to 1 – 2 x per month.

Exercising, for me, has never been a schlepp – instead, I always enjoyed doing something – my favourite being ballet, swimming, Yoga and Pilates!  I also enjoy being out in nature and love going for walks. So, wherever you are, I truly believe that you can find something that you like and start moving! Instead of dreading exercising, make it a fun-outing or do it with a friend or partner. Instead of following one diet after the other (and rarely getting the long-term results), why not just change what you eat, the amount you eat and enjoy what you eat. The proof, they say, is in the pudding…so, my dear readers; put on your walking shoes, grab an apple and don’t forget to drink enough water too!

Ideas and recipes with spices

Allspice

Allspice can be used in biscuits, drinks, desserts and other dishes:

Adding a couple of allspice berries when you are making glühwein or chai tea will add warmth to your drink (perfect if you are heading into winter);

Adding allspice to sweet dishes like gingerbread, apple pie or dark chocolate desserts, will add a bit of sweetness and spice to these dishes.

*Please note that, if you have any health problem or is pregnant, speak to your medical practitioner first before using Allspice.

Ginger

Spicy tea:  ginger is not just used to ease nausea or an upset stomach.  It can also be a wonderful tonic and a refreshing drink to have anytime of the day or year.  Here is an easy recipe, if you would like to make yourself a spicy tea:

Peal and chop 3 pieces of fresh root ginger (1 inch / 2.5 cm);

Put it into a pan of 1 3?4 pt / 1L water and 4 – 5 tsp clear honey;

Bring it to the boil, the let it simmer for 15 – 20 minutes before straining it;

Serve either hot or cold.

Exotic coffee:  yes, you read it correctly – ginger can also be added to coffee:

Peel and chop 1 inch / 2.5 cm piece of fresh root ginger;

Put it into a pan of 1 ¼ pt / 750 ml of water;

Bring it to the boil, then let it simmer for 15 minutes before straining it;

Using the flavoured water, make yourself a cup of coffee, with / without sugar.

Mace and Nutmeg 

Nutmeg is often used in Egg Nog but can also be used in other drinks (and dishes) alike.  Similar to cinnamon, it has a calming effect and used for many different ailments.

Egg Nog:  you will need 1 XL egg; 1 tbsp brandy / sherry; ½ pt / 300 ml milk; freshly grated nutmeg to serve.  Whisk the egg and sugar together, then add the brandy / sherry.  Heat the milk but be careful not to let it boil.  Pour this over the egg mixture and make sure to mix it well.  Once mixed, pour the egg nog into a serving glass and sprinkle some freshly grated nutmeg over.

Double Chocolate Dream:  a comforting drink after a long, hard day!

You will need:  ½ pt / 300 ml chocolate flavoured milk; ¼ – ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg; 1 oz / 25 g white chocolate, finely chopped or grated; ½ oz / 15 g mini marshmallows; freshly grated nutmeg to serve.

Place the milk and nutmeg in a pan and heat until almost boiling.  Add the chocolate and marshmallows.  Pour the mixture into a mug and sprinkle the rest of the freshly grated nutmeg over.  Enjoy!

A little bit of spice

Spices have been with us for many, many years (if not decades) and are used in a variety of dishes to add flavour and/or colour. Spices are known for their aroma and health benefits. So, in today’s blog post, I am going to look at a few of these spices.

Allspice: an interesting name for an interesting spice. It looks like pepper but it tastes like a mixture of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Although it is called allspice, it is just a single spice and not a compound of spices. It is used in both sweet and savoury dishes, as it adds a lovely warmth to the dish. My granny used allspice in biscuits and until today, it still remains one of my favourite recipes! Allspice is not only used in baking and cooking, but also in herbal medicine and cosmetics (more on this a bit later).

Allspice is native to Central and South America, as well as the West Indies. It flourishes in Jamaica and, thanks to Columbus, the reddish-brown berries made its way to Europe. The Allspice-tree is an evergreen tree that bears fruit after 6 years or so. Its berries are picked when they are still green but mature, then dried for about 10 days in the sun, until a reddish-brown colour appears. In cooking it can be used in dried fruit cakes, fruit crumble toppings and biscuits. It can also be added to pickled vegetables, chutneys and relishes. Allspice can also be added to red meat marinades and casseroles. Overseas it is added to Scandinavian pickled herring, in Jamaica and the West Indies it is used in stews, soups and curries, and in India allspice is added to curries and pilau rice.

For health purposes, allspice is used in ointment for its anaesthetic properties; the oil from the crushed berries is used in medicines to alleviate indigestion and upset stomachs. It is also known to help with headaches and toothaches. When a plaster / paste is made from the crushed berries it is used to relieve rheumatism- and neuralgia pain. In aromatherapy allspice is used to treat many ailments, for example arthritis, chills, coughs, cramps, depression, fatigue, stiffness and stress.
In cosmetics allspice essential oil is a common ingredient in spice-based perfumes and soaps for men; and also added to potpourri, together with cinnamon, for an extra spiciness-hint.

Ginger: who doesn’t love ginger? Whether it is in a drink or in biscuits, ginger has been around for years! It originated in Southeast Asia and was introduced to Europe before the Roman times. It is easy to transport because its roots stay fresh for a considerable time, thus it could be shipped by the Spanish, Portuguese and Arabs between various tropical countries, and Europe, from the 13th to the 18th century. In medieval times it was used as a flavouring and for medicinal purposes; it was commonly used to treat the plague! In today’s modern world ginger is cultivated all over the world and used in food and as medicine.

There are a number of variations of ginger, for example ‘green’ ginger (rhizome), is best used in curries and savoury dishes. Dried ginger is used in pickling, in a powered form it is used in cakes and biscuits, and as ‘stem’ ginger, it can be preserved in syrup to add to sweet dishes. A lovely sweet (candy) is crystallized ginger; either eaten on its own or used in biscuits and sweets. There are also ginger tea, ginger oil, ginger wine and Japanese pickled ginger on the market today, catering for a wide variety of taste-buds. Lastly, if you prefer to use fresh ginger and would like it to stay fresh for longer, then simply peel any left-over pieces, put it into a jar and add dry sherry. Keep it in the fridge and there you go! Your ginger’s life is prolonged with another 2 – 3 weeks. Bonus is, the ginger-flavoured sherry is a lovely addition to stir-fries and to marinade chicken and pork.

For medicinal / health purposes, ginger has been used extensively by the Chinese to help dysentery, toothache, rheumatism, malaria, nausea and to soothe a cold. It can also be used as a laxative (so be careful not to drink too much ginger tea)! As an essential oil ginger is used in aromatherapy to treat poor circulation, muscular pains arthritis and rheumatism.

In cosmetics ginger is used in the more exotic, spicy fragrances; typically of the East and Asia.

Mace and Nutmeg: these 2 spices come from the same fruit tree, that is native to the Spice (Moluccas) Islands, in Southeast Asia. The fruit reminds one of an apricot, but when it is ripe, it splits to reveal a walnut-sized seed. The orange, lacy strips covering the seed are the mace. Inside its shell is the seed – the nutmeg.

The Arabs and Indians used it for digestive, liver and skin problems, as well as believed that it had aphrodisiac qualities as well. Nutmeg only became popular from the 16th century, when the Portuguese traded with it and started using it in the kitchen. Then the Dutch started trading with it and using it, and today it is used in many Dutch recipes.

Both spices have got the same smell, but mace is much stronger and slightly bitter than nutmeg; use it, in moderation, in savoury dishes. Nutmeg, on the other hand, is used in sweet dishes, biscuits and milky puddings (deserts). Here are a few more ideas where you can add either mace or nutmeg:
Mace – add it to a white sauce, to flavour fish, terrines and pâté; use in soups and casseroles; flavouring cheese and egg dishes; add them to your home-made pickles / chutneys to keep the liquid from clouding.
Nutmeg – add it to milk-based sauces, custard and puddings; add flavour to spinach, cauliflower, potato and white cabbage; add to cakes, tea breads, muffins and biscuits.

In next week’s blog I will share a few easy-to-follow recipes, where you can use some / all of the above spices. Until then!

Getting our skin ready for the changing of the seasons

Whether you are enjoying the sunshine, or staying indoors due to cold weather, prepping your body is a good idea.  In summer you need to stay hydrated, put on sunblock, and also keep your body moisturized.  In winter it is almost the same, expect that there are a few changes that needs to be made.  In this week’s blog post, I am going to touch on all of the beforementioned tips.

Staying hydrated

It is extremely important to make sure that you drink enough water.  Whether it is summer- or wintertime, water keeps your body, cells and organs moisturized from the inside.  Being thirsty is the first signal that your body is in need of water – so make sure not to ignore it but to grab a glass or water!  An easy-to-take test to check whether or not you are in need of water, is to pull your hand’s skin.  If it stays in an upright position for a few seconds, it means you are dehydrating.  The verdict is still out how many glasses of water you need:  many say 6 – 8 glasses of water; another study says a healthy male needs 3.7 litres and a healthy female 2.7 litres of water.  If you don’t like the taste of water, add some lemon- or strawberry slices and/or mint.   Eating water-dense foods are another easy way to up your water-intake, for example cucumber, watermelon and spinach.

Using different bath soaps or shower gels for different seasons

During the summertime using a soap or shower gel is wonderful.  There are many brands to choose from with added cucumber, aloe, lavender, and many more.  In wintertime our bodies need a bit more TLC; so opting for a soap rich in moisturizer or a shower cream, can be a blessing. 

Exfoliating all-year round

Exfoliation is a wonderful way to get rid of the dead cells and dead skin, as well as buffs and decongests the skin.  Whether you opt for an exfoliating body scrub or use a loofah, exfoliating should be done at least once a week.  Exfoliating regularly will give your skin a wonderful glow and, as an added bonus, will help in breaking down cellulite and wrinkles by pushing younger, plumper cells to the surface.  Do note that, when you exfoliate, that you are careful in the areas around the eyes and where the skin is not very thick. 

Beware not to do overdo it either, as this will strip the body of its natural oils, which protects the body’s outer layers.  Dry brushing is another way to exfoliate the skin.  By using circular movements in the direction of the heart – starting on your right side, up towards the heart – then down on the left side, is another great way to get rid of dry skin and dead cells.  According to the experts, dry brushing will aid in lessening and/or eliminating cellulite!

Moisturizing

Lotions are light-weight and easily absorbed; fantastic to use during the warm seasons.  Creams, on the other hand, is thicker, therefore lovely to use during the cold seasons.  It is always a good idea to moisturize after a bath, shower or after exfoliating (unless you did dry brushing, then you first have to jump into the bath or shower).  The experts suggest that we put our moisturizer on when our skin is still damp.  However, using hand cream after you washed your hands, or when your hands (or legs) feel dry, can be just as good.

Whether you are enjoying the warmer, sunnier days outdoors, or getting ready for cold, winter days spent mostly indoors, do remember that aircon, just like central heating, can make you thirsty and dry out your skin.  Placing a small bowel of water close to the radiator or around the room (s) where there is aircon, will help to keep the air moist. 

So, to all my readers; enjoy the weather; regardless whether it is sunny or not.  Do remember to listen to your body; make sure to drink enough water, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and take care of your skin. Seasons change all the time. Even though it might be too cold or too hot to your liking, know that every season brings with it a different, new beauty and charm!

Delaying signs of aging; the natural way

Nothing can stop time, nor can anyone stop you from getting older.  However, it is not the ageing that you should focus on, but the way in which you age.  Diet, exercise, getting enough sleep and getting rid of stress, all have an important role to play.  In this week’s blog post, I want to explore what are some of the natural ways that will help you to delay the signs.

Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, not only combats dullness, but also wrinkles.  In the Dermato-Endocrinology Journal, researchers discovered that fruits and veggies are the best, easiest way to achieve a healthy, glowing complexion.  How come?  Fruits and vegetables are high in essential nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants, which help to combat free-radical damage, often caused by the environment (for example pollution).  Smoking, exposure to chemicals and too much sun, can also play havoc on your skin and overall health.  The study also found that essential fatty acids, works wonders to reduce skin damage and inflammation due to regular sun exposure.  Essential fatty acids can be found in oily fish, flaxseeds, leafy greens, sesame seeds and avocado.  It is also found in vitamin C, vitamin E and evening primrose oil.

A smoothie, packed with different fruits, a bit of honey and yoghurt, is an easy meal and will also give you the energy boost you need to start the day.  There are many different recipes on the internet.  Some recipes add flaxseed, almond milk or other milk instead of yoghurt and/or whey (protein) powder.  Veggie-juices are another easy-to-make meal, either to have for breakfast or lunch.  Adding anything from beetroot, to celery, spinach broccoli, carrot, ginger and an apple or banana, can be whipped up.  Watermelon, red peppers, Bok Choy, strawberries, blueberries, cauliflower and zucchini, are great to add as they contain over 90% water!  And drinking enough water, as we know, is vital!

The key to stay younger looking and healthy, is to stay clear of food that causes inflammation.  Inflammation not only speeds-up the ageing process, but it also puts unnecessary stress on our vital organs.  High inflammatory foods include:  processed meat, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, take-out meals like hamburgers and chips, sugary soft drinks (even those that says it is “sugar free”), caffeinated drinks and sweets, and too much salt.  Today, unfortunately, many foods produced lack the necessary vitamins and minerals, due to farming methods, GMO’s, added pesticides, antibiotics, and so forth.  I believe in eating more natural, organic produce and try to stay clear of GMO food and food containing hormones, etc.  Another important factor is the soil.  The more nutrient-rich the soil is, the better. 

Supplements are good to use, but it should never be used to replace your food.   When it comes to living a balanced lifestyle, supplements are not there to replace food; it should be used to supplement your diet.  There are a huge variety of brands to choose from today.  It is best to always read the label.  Some brands don’t have added sugars, gluten, colouring, etc, in.  If you are sensitive to certain chemicals, make sure to read the label before you buy the supplement.  Solgar, Solal, NRF, Biogen and Vital are all well-known brands and personally I believe, can be trusted. 

When it comes to helping to keep ageing at bay, make sure to add collagen, curcumin and Coenzyme Q10 to your list.  Collagen is a natural protein that is beneficial to our skin, nails, bone and hair.  It also enhances skin elasticity and helps to regenerate skin cells = less wrinkles!

Curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, is not just an anti-inflammatory agent, but it has incredible anti-ageing benefits too!  Turmeric helps to prevent DNA damage and speed up DNA repair as well.

Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like antioxidant substance that is stored in the fat tissues of your body.  It gets depleted quickly, thus adding a supplement helps protect the skin from oxidative stress, as well as delaying visible signs of ageing on the skin.  Other vitamins and antioxidants that are beneficial for your skin are vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, polyphenols and flavonoids (found in fruit, vegetables and green tea extract).

Sleep and exercise go hand-in-hand.  Sleep also boost our immune system, it provides energy to the body and brain, sleep helps to regulate our hormones, it helps to eliminate toxins from the body, it calms the nervous system, and sleep also repair and regenerates the body’s cells. 

Exercise is important for both mental and physical health.  The human body was not made to sit / lie still all day, every day.  Without movement our internal organs stop working optimally, and the lymphatic system cannot work.  The lymph plays an extremely important role in getting rid of toxins and waste in the body.  If there is no movement, the lymphatic system cannot function.  Pilates, Yoga, Light resistance training and Rebounding are some of the best restorative exercises to do.  Not only are these different exercise forms a great way to strengthen your muscles and joints (instead of breaking it down), but it also boosts the intake of oxygen to your organs, muscles and cells. 

Not many people like the idea of getting older.  But instead of complaining about it, why not embrace it!  By looking after ourselves from an early age, by sticking to healthy eating patterns, not smoking, drinking moderately or not at all, and doing some form of exercise, will not only help us physically.  It will play a huge role in our emotional- and mental health as well.  Ageing can be something to look forward to.  When our mindset is one of positivity, of embracing things we cannot change or stop, then we can live a full, long, happy and healthy life!

A change is as good as a holiday

I am sure there was a time in your life when you couldn’t go on holiday, but still yearned for change.  With everything that has been happening this year, I think a change is what we all need – even if it is just something small that won’t break the bank!

So, what can we do to “lighten” the mood, feel better, bring some new energies into our lives and homes?  I can think of a few things:  a new haircut, a new hair colour, moving our furniture around to change the lay-out in one of our rooms, changing a picture on the wall or a cushion, and decluttering, of course. 

Changes can come in various “sizes.”  A huge change can be moving house, getting married, losing a loved one, and so forth.  These are changes that can make a lasting impact in our lives and, although it is something huge, you have to try your best to stay positive and optimistic.  For example, when you decide to move house or move overseas, the thought of “where to start” can be quite overwhelming, to say the least.  That is why it is important to make a list of the pros and cons and keep your eye on your end-goal. When it is time to decide what to take and what not to take, a list of each room and item, is another way to keep you focused and less stressed.

A small change can bring in new energies and make you feel alive again, so to speak.  When you are unable to go on holiday, for example, why not enjoy the area where you live by having a picnic outside in the garden or a park?  If it is too cold for a picnic outside, then just put a warm coat on and go for a walk.  Changing things in your home can also help to make the home feel new; the same goes for a new hairstyle and yes, a new pair of shoes!

When I listen to and/or read books about successful people, there is one theme that runs through and that is – no matter how many ups and downs, no matter how many times you fall, it is more important to get up and carry on.  Where many people see things as “obstacles” the successful people see it as opportunities for growth.  When you have an end-goal in sight and you put your mind to it, then anything is possible and achievable.  When you start to lose motivation, just stay focussed on the end results you want to achieve.  A dream, stays a dream, until we do something about it! 

As mentioned earlier; the bigger the change the more daunting the road looks.  However, a big change can also be exciting – new places, new faces, new beginnings.  A small change is easier to achieve, unless, for some reason, it is to be healthier!  For some people it is easy to make the change and start to exercise and eat better; for others it is not.  Therefore, I always say to my clients:  instead of wanting a huge change all at once, start small.  For example, instead of eating junk food / processed food every week, cut it down to once a month; instead of starting with a strict exercise routine, start small by joining a Pilates-class once a week, or go for a walk or a jog every week / weekend…. even if it is just for 10 minutes at first.

Whether it is moving your furniture, painting something in a different colour, getting a new hairstyle or biting the bullet and making a huge change, change is what is part of life.  Change helps us to grow and, as one person said, change is the most constant thing in life!  We have a choice:  either to embrace it, or resist it.  embracing change is not always easy, especially if it means starting over somewhere else, losing someone, letting go of the familiar and so forth. 

But change doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world; change comes into our lives when it is time for us to walk a different path, when it is time to grow spiritually and emotionally, and the best we can do, is to take deep breathes, calm down, take it one day at a time, and have faith that everything will work out as it should.  In the end, a change is as good as a holiday.  So, whatever you want to change / can change… go for it and enjoy the results!

Boosting your immune system

Our immune systems are the soldiers, as it were, of our bodies.  It is our own, inner doctor!  When our immune system is working at an optimum level, we will rarely, if ever, become ill.  Our bodies consist of hundreds of bacteria and viruses; all doing its job to help to maintain an internal balance in the body.  The job of the immune system is to fight of any foreign, harmful bacteria and viruses.

Another inner doctor that the body have, but many people don’t, anymore, is the tonsils and gallbladder.  The tonsils form part of the immune system’s defence against harmful viruses and bacteria.  When the tonsils are inflamed and/or swollen, it is a sign / message from the body that there is too much toxicity in the body.  Unfortunately, many parents and doctors alike, are quick to have the tonsils removed, instead of first diagnosing the real problem – and fixing it!  Don’t get me wrong; sometimes it has to be taken out, but speaking to many health practitioners, they all feel that one should first establish the why, then make some changes (often it is the diet), before taking it out.

The gallbladder works hand-in-hand with the liver.  Your liver is the organ that must digest acidic foods and drinks in the body.  Just like the gallbladder it produces bile that contains cholesterol and bile acids; needed to breakdown fat.  The gallbladder stores this bile / gall, which is needed to complete the process of digestion of fats in the body.  Gallstones form either because of chronic inflammation and/or cholesterol.  By changing one’s diet, you can, if the gallstones are not big, get rid of it.  There is also medication that can be described.  However, when the stones become too big, it can block the intestines and thus the gallbladder has to be removed.

So, you might wonder, what has all of the above got to do with your immune system?  Plenty!  Your body and internal organs, have been made to work in unison, in balance.  When one or more are “out of tune,” then the whole body suffers and your immune system becomes weak.  Believe it or not, but when one of the above-mentioned organs are not functioning the way it should, or is missing due to being removed, then an imbalance occurs, unless you change your diet.

Keeping your immune system strong by making sure to eat a balanced diet, with minimum intake of alcohol, sugar, processed / junk foods, red meat and fatty foods, will help you not only be healthier, but your organs will not be under so much strain.  If you do eat / drink “junk” food, keep it to a minimum – not more than once / twice a month; at most.

It is also good to add a good multi-vitamin supplement, as well as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and a combo of calcium and magnesium, to your diet.  Vitamin C, together with zinc, plays a huge role in building a strong immune system and should be taken daily (buffered if you have a sensitive stomach).  Vitamin D is important for everyone that doesn’t go out in the sun much, for the elderly and those living in cold climates.   The combination of calcium and magnesium is important to maintain and build bones, as well as keep muscle cramps at bay.  There are many brands on the market.  Biogen, Solal, Solgar, Vital and NRF, are all very good brands.  Just make sure to always ask your health practitioner or pharmacist if you are unsure which one is best.  

Lastly, and I am sure this is a question on your mind, what do you do if one or both of the above organs were removed?  For starters, I would still delve into the reason why the organ stopped functioning.  Was it an allergy that caused the tonsils to swell up?  Was it something I ate, not realizing I am intolerant / allergic?  Once this has been established, then it is easier to avoid the reason all together and make changes.  The same goes for the gallbladder.  More often than not, it is the fatty foods, the fried foods, the junk / processed foods and drinking alcohol, that cause the gallbladder and liver, to stop functioning at optimum levels.  It is one thing to eat pizza, for example, once a month, and quite another to eat it every other day.  The same goes for alcohol – one small glass / half a glass of wine, with a meal, is ok, but 2 huge glasses?  Another story all-together!

Just an important note here:  according to many health practitioners, people who had their gallbladders removed, should avoid fatty foods and alcohol…a bummer, I can hear you say!  But remember, now that the gallbladder has been removed, there is nothing to aid the liver in digesting the fats in your body…and this can spell trouble for your cholesterol levels, cardio-vascular system and overall health. Remember this:  it is not just what you eat and drink, that plays a role in your body’s health and maintaining a strong immune system.  It is the amount of what you eat and drink, that determines at what level your body’s “internal doctors” and immune system work. 

Getting ready for winter

Winter is coming in the Northern Hemisphere….and that means cold mornings and early sunsets.  However, it doesn’t have to be the season to dread. Winter, in its own right, has a different beauty that can brighten up a day (even when it is cold)! Here are a few tips to keep you going, even if you don’t feel like going to gym:

  1. Take the stairs wherever possible;
  2. Park your car further from the shopping mall-entrance and walk the extra steps;
  3. Carry your shopping bags to the car instead of using a trolley;
  4. Put on a warm jacket and take an early morning or afternoon walk / jog in and around your neighbourhood – you will soon be warm and not feel the cold;
  5. If you are not keen on being outside in the cold, go to a mall and walk inside. If there are ramps in the parking lot, make use of them too!  An hour’s brisk walking will burn 300 to 400 calories!
  6. Lastly; best to get everyone moving – from your dog to your kids. If not possible before work and school, then try to get out there before dark and enjoy the winter colours;
  7. Don’t want to miss your favourite television programme?  March on the spot, skip rope or bounce on a mini trampoline, while watching it.

As for keeping your skin hydrated from the inside and staying healthy throughout the winter months, it is important to take extra vitamin C, a good vitamin B-complex, Omega 3’s, drink at least 6 – 8 glasses of water (tea without sugar and milk also counts as fluid) and do open the windows to let fresh air in.  If the thought of drinking cold water is something you’d rather skip, for now, then swop it for a warm cup of tea or coffee. As long as you stay hydrated you will be just fine.

Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables and fruit; always aim to eat of all the food groups, to obtain a healthy, balanced body.  There is a saying that, it is not what you eat, but the amount you eat, that determines whether or not you stay healthy and in shape.  I am a believer in moderation when it comes to ready-made, processed foods and especially junk / fast foods.  Always aim to eat from all the different food groups and make sure the portion sizes are balanced.

Look out for face creams, body lotions, body washes and shower gels, with added olive oil, Argan oil, extra vitamin E and chamomile, will help to protect your skin from drying out.  However, as I have mentioned earlier, Omega-oils are important, as it feeds your skin from the inside and keeps it moisturized and nourished. For my readers in the Northern Hemisphere, that has central heating during winter, try the following to keep dry, flaky skin at bay:  Place a small bowl of water in the room to keep the air moist.  It will help to keep your skin and sinuses from drying out.

As the seasons change, the beauty in nature does too.  A tree without its leaves against a blue or grey sky, can be just as beautiful as one covered in leaves.  For many people winter is not their favourite; as it gets very cold and/or dark early.  Cheer yourself up by going out in nature, listening to relaxing music, enjoying a bath or a hot drink and staying in touch with family and friends.  Remember, time doesn’t stand still and neither seasons.  Seasons bring change and before you know it, spring will start again!  Stay warm and stay positive!!

Changing of the seasons

It is that time of the year when the seasons start to change again.  The Northern Hemisphere is slowly getting reading for winter; whilst the Southern Hemisphere is gearing up for summer.  When the seasons change, it is important to make sure that your immune system is topped-up.  Many people worldwide struggle with allergies this time of year, as do people often catch a cold.  This is due to the seasons changing.  Whether it is the colder weather, or the pollen and/or grass seeds, make sure to add some extra vitamin C, vitamin D, Zinc and B-vitamins to your diet.

Vitamin C, with added Zinc, plays an important role when it comes to building and maintaining a strong immune system.  If you have a sensitive gut, opt for a buffered vitamin C.  The B-vitamins, especially vitamin B6 and B12, play a crucial role in keeping your immune system strong, especially this time of year, but also when you are under stress.  The body is a wonderful model; when you need an extra boost, it uses the vitamins in your body to help.  However, when your body is depleted, your immune system drops and your chance of getting ill or suffering from allergies, can increase.

Your gut also plays a vital role in a healthy body.  When the pH-balance is not balanced, especially when it is too acidic, it can also compromise your immune system and cause illnesses, dis-eases and/or allergies.  A dis-ease is exactly what I have written:  the body is out of balance and, the only way for your body to tell you (as it were) that there is something amiss, is to become ill.

Other vitamins to add to your list of immune-boosters, are copper and selenium.  Copper, in combination with iron, helps to maintain a healthy white blood cell count (these blood cells are often destroyed by microorganisms).  Selenium stimulates the T-lymphocytes’ activity and production.  These are cells that helps the body fight bacterial and viral infections.  If you have low levels of selenium in your body, it can contribute in viral mutation, thus causing more people to get influenza.

Popping pills are not all bad, but one should never rely just on tablets to take the place of good nutrition.  Eating healthy, balanced meals and making sure to drink enough water, is important, as is staying active.  Clean, organic food is always a good choice, because more and more allergies and food sensitivities are linked to the pesticides and added hormones that are put into food; not to mention GMO.

Echinacea is very helpful in helping to fight respiratory tract-infections, as is ginger, garlic and honey.  Oily fish like salmon and sardines, are high in Omega 3-oils.  Did you know that sardines are also high in vitamin D?  This vitamin is crucial for defending your immune system and, if your vitamin D-levels are depleted / low, then your body’s T-cells remain dormant and attack and fight off bacteria or viruses.

Sweet potatoes, Elderberries, Cranberries and other fresh fruit, are also good for boosting your immune system.  The red / orange fruit and vegetables are high in vitamins and beta-carotene.  Berries are rich in anti-oxidants and many are packed with antiviral properties and vitamin C.

Red meat contains the vitamin B6 and zinc.  Eating red meat in moderation and without the fat, is better not only for your weight but also your cholesterol-levels, heart and arteries.  Vegetarians need to either take an iron-supplement or can add more chickpeas, lentils, chia seeds and soya to their diet, in order to take in the right amount of iron and zinc.

Last on the list are your spices.  Turmeric, ginger and garlic, all have anti-viral and antibacterial properties.  Turmeric and garlic have natural anti-inflammatory properties in and ginger is wonderful for a sore throat, an upset stomach, aids in fighting colds and flu and also have anti-inflammatory properties.

All in all, there is not definite yes or no when it comes to taking supplements.  Supplements are not there to take the place of a well-balanced diet.  Supplements, as the word says, is something we take to add to our diets.  Many of the food today, as mentioned earlier, is depleted (unless it is organic) and taking a supplement just adds that extra boost that you need.

This time of the year, when seasons change, people can become teary-eyed or excited.  So, there is no harm to make sure that your immune system is given an extra boost to help you with the change.  Many people don’t mind the seasonal changes and enjoy it, but there are those that struggle.  Boosting your immune system and making sure that it stays strong, is not only good for your health, but also your mood and energy-levels.