Summer tips and tricks

I am sure my readers in the Northern Hemisphere cannot wait for summer to arrive! Long holidays, warm sun and eating ice-cream are sure on top of the “to do-list!” One of the only thing most of us think about is:  sleeping in, going on holiday, enjoying treats like burgers and milkshakes, and ultimately just relaxing!

There are a big variety of healthier options to choose from when you would like to keep your weight in check and your diet going, even during the holidays and festivities.  Salads, yes, is a simple and easy light lunch (for example) to make.  We are blessed with lots of fresh ingredients that are readily available to us.  The plus side of it is that you can also make your own.  For example, if the usual lettuce, cucumber, tomato and feta cheese, is in need of a new look, why not add some grated carrots, grated beetroot, baby corn, baby spinach, and/or any other greens (avocado or peas).

For some fibre and extra protein, opt for chickpeas and/or beans.  High in fibre and low in calories!

Being on holiday doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself now and again.  The big rule of thumb is: it is not what you eat, it is the amount (and size), that matters!  Have an ice-cream or milkshake, or a latté, or whatever you want.  Just don’t have it every single day!  And not more than 1 either!

If you do have a cheat meal, for example, remember not to beat yourself up about it!  Instead of restricting yourself, relax and enjoy!  A great tip from another health expert is:  have a treat; just go back to your healthier eating patterns the next morning.  Most importantly is to relax, enjoy the break and, if you do pick up a kilo or two, go back to your exercise and diet-routines in the New Year!  The latter is not always easy…but New Year’s resolutions is another topic that we can look at later.  Even if you do eat and drink things you usually don’t or more than usual, just work it off!  How?  Go for a walk or a jog early morning or late afternoon after the heat of the day; have a swim in the ocean or swimming pool; instead of driving everywhere, why not walk (if you stay in a walking distance from where you want to be of course); hire bicycles and go for a ride!  Many options to choose from – even playing sport on the beach, for example, works up a sweat and is fun as well.

Other healthier options to choose from is a light salad dressing instead of salad cream; snacking on nuts, raisins, dried fruit and vegetable chips, instead of chips; adding extra fruit and vegetables (raw if possible), to your breakfasts and lunches, and opting for low-fat instead of full cream.  Not only are fruit and vegetables high in fibre and natural fructose, but it will also make you feel fuller for longer. 

Craving a hamburger?  Then go on – have one!  But instead of eating chips with it, ask for a side salad.  Or, like Lisa Raleigh (fitness trainer) would suggest, have the burger and chips, then eat a salad tomorrow!

Want a glass of wine with dinner?  Then have one…maximum 2.

Water, as we all know, is extremely important when we’re out and about in the sun.  Drink enough so that you stay hydrated.  Did you know that, when you are thirsty, your body has already started to dehydrate?  If you don’t like the taste of plain water, instead of spending lots of cash on bottled water, put some fresh mint, slices of lemon, strawberries or other berries, in the water.  Another good idea is to boil the tap water and let it cool down, then drink it as is or flavour it with one of the examples mentioned earlier.  It is not just a quick and easy way to drink water, but also healthier and less plastic polluting our environment!  Stay out of direct sunlight from 11:00 – 14:00.  Take extra care when you’re on the beach, because the sand and water reflect the sunlight (even when you’re sitting under an umbrella!  Put on sunscreen (especially when you have been swimming) and make sure your face and neck is well covered when you want to tan.  Also take care and put extra sunscreen on behind your ears, behind your knees, on your feet (top and bottom), and on your face (including your eyelids) and neck/chest-area.  Wear a hat!  There are many styles to choose from; just make sure that it covers your face and/or the back of your neck.  If you want some colour but don’t like lying in the sun, opt for a fake tan.  There are many products on the market and places to go to for a spray tan.

Do wear sunglasses when your outside for longer periods.  Your eyes are very sensitive to light and it is extremely important to keep direct sunlight out!  The bigger the frame, the better the eyes are protected.  Make sure your children also wear theirs when they are out and about. 

Wherever you are this summer, make sure your drink plenty of water, enjoy the variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, take care of your eyes, hair and skin and enjoy the sunny days! 

Hearty dessert for cold days

Don’t let winter and cold days dampen your spirits to eat healthy and still enjoy warm puddings and other treats!  Just because it is cold outside and you want to watch your weight, does not mean you have to skip the desserts.

Here is a delicious treat by one of my favourite chefs, Jamie Oliver.

Ginger, pear and almond cake

This is a flourless, upside-down cake.  The base is made of ginger-poached pears and almonds instead of flour.  This makes it suitable for gluten-intolerant family members and friends.

Ingredients

200 g butter

200 g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs

220 g ground almonds

CARAMELISED GINGER PEARS

300 g ginger

1 vanilla pod

550 g caster sugar

4 pears

20 g butter

Method

For the pears, peel and finely grate the ginger. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds, then place it all into a pan.

Add 400g of the sugar and 700ml of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for a few minutes for the flavours to develop.

Using a spoon, carefully lower the pears into the hot liquid and simmer for 10 minutes, until tender.

Remove the pears from the liquid and set aside to cool.

Line the base of a 25cm springform cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Combine the remaining 150g sugar and 100ml of water in a pan and place over a high heat, simmering for about 15 minutes until it turns a dark golden brown.

Stir in the butter until you get a caramel, then pour it into the cake tin.

Cut the cooled pears into slices and carefully arrange them in the warm caramel.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas 4.

For the cake, beat the butter and sugar with a whisk until smooth (an electric one will be best for this).

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add the almonds and mix to combine.

Pour the cake mixture over the pears and bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and carefully flip upside down to serve.

Interesting facts: 

Ginger is an excellent source of pain relief, relieves colds and flu, nausea and inflammation.  It is good for cardiovascular health and it also helps to relieve muscle pain (experienced after strenuous exercise), as well as menstrual pain.

Almonds reduce the risks of a heart attack, they protect the artery walls, they fight “bad” cholesterol, helps build strong bones and teeth, contains healthy fats – good for brain health, good for the nervous system, help to lower insulin-rise in the body after meals and has an alkalizing effect on the body. 3

Health tips for men of 40+ years

Men in their 40’s

During your 40s “bad habits” of earlier years can come back to haunt you.  Not taking care of your diet, lack of exercise, being exposed to the sun too much, and other habits, can become visible.  However, it is never too late to make the necessary changes.  Here are a few tips: 

First stop is to go for regular check-ups (health screens);

Taking care of your teeth (going for check-ups every 6 months – a year; as recommended by your dentist);

Taking care of your eyes and going for check-ups every 1 – 2 years (or as recommended by your eye specialist);

Having your blood pressure and BMI checked, as well as cholesterol- and diabetes screening, will keep your mind at ease;

Having a baseline EKG and skin exam done;

Other tests, if recommended by your health practitioner, is colorectal cancer, testicular exam, and so forth.

Emotional- and mental fitness are just as important as physical fitness.  Also make sure that you eat well, get enough sleep and take “time out” to just be in the moment!  Many men in their 40s are settled in their careers and/or in a relationship.  But it is still important to make time for yourself.  To do something on your own that you enjoy.  Whether it is going for a jog or reading a book, take some “me time” and recharge your batteries.  Dr. Phil McGraw, many years ago, said that he always goes to the gym to play squash after work before he goes home.  That way he not only gets rid of the stress of work, but it clears his head and, when he gets home, he can give his attention to his family.

Men in their 50s and older

By now you, hopefully, think of your life as a “vintage wine; tapped from fine old kegs.”  You have been looking after yourself, you go for regular check-ups and am happy with your life in general.  Now it is important to “dig deeper” and make sure that your “ticker” and cholesterol-levels are in a good state.  Cardiovascular disease (also known as atherosclerosis), refers to the hardening of the arteries due to the build-up of cholesterol.  This plague builds up in the arteries of the heart and brain and, when it becomes unstable, forms a blood clot, which causes a heart attack or stroke.  It is interesting to note that cholesterol is not the problem.  It is chronic, low-grade inflammation!

High levels of inflammation in the body form small tears on the lining of the arteries.  Plaque (in the form of cholesterol) is sent, by the body, to “patch up” the tears.  However, if the inflammation continues, so does the small tears and the build-up of cholesterol.  The best thing to do for this condition is mild to moderate exercises and watching what you eat and how much.  As mentioned in my previous article, processed foods can cause havoc when eaten too much and too often.  Not only is there many hidden sugars and salt in, but often omega-6.  Omega-6 is not bad, but in excess it is pro-inflammatory; whilst omega-3 is anti-inflammatory! 

Erectile dysfunction is another issue and can happen to men 40 years and older.  Speak to your health practitioner about this, because it often happens due to the hardening of the arteries and/or stress.

Another thing that can stick its head out is joint pain / discomfort.  Overuse due to sports or injuries can play a key role.  If it becomes a problem have it looked at.  Make sure that the exercises you do are not making it worse.  Jogging is something that many people love, but it is also one of the sports that can cause knee- and/or hip pain due to the impact on the joints.  If you jog, for example, and there is a feeling of numbness or pain in your knee, hip, leg or back, have it looked at.  Walking fast, cycling and swimming are good alternatives to jogging.  So too is Rebounding (as mentioned in a previous article).  Again, whatever you do to keep fit, always remember to warm up and cool down / stretch properly afterwards.  5 – 10 minutes of warm-up and 10 minutes (at least) for stretching, is important.

Osteoporosis is something that usually occurs as we age, but it can also develop at a younger age.  This usually occurs due to a lack of vitamin D and hormonal changes; when the bones (usually in the hip, wrist and spine) become brittle and fragile due to the loss of tissue.  In the beginning it starts off as Osteopenia – the protein and mineral content of the bone reduces.  Bone tissue is constantly being broken down and replaced.  However, when the rate of replacement does not keep up with the rate of being broken down, osteoporosis occurs.  Doctor Sanua believes that osteoporosis is on the increase due to poor-quality diet, lack of exercise and high insulin-levels.  A high intake of processed carbohydrates and sugars (junk food and ready-made meals), as well as the overuse of antacids and the side-effects of certain medications like thyroid medication, can all play a huge role in the development of osteoporosis.

Question:  what to do to minimize your chances and/or not develop it at all?

Firstly:  look at your diet.  Instead of going on a strict diet, eat a balanced meal, making sure you eat the right amounts of all the food groups. 

Secondly:  get up and move! It is vital to keep your body flexible and strong.  After the age of 30 both men and women start to lose bone-density.  When you exercise, use light – medium hand weights, a Pilates ball or do any other weight-bearing exercises to help you build and maintain strong bone-density.

Thirdly:  make sure that you get enough calcium, magnesium and potassium in.  If you are taking a supplement, make sure that it has calcium and magnesium in one tablet.  Calcium cannot be absorbed by the body unless it is taken in conjunction with magnesium.  Taking this at night is also better as the body absorbs it much easier.

Fourthly:  do not drink more than 2 alcoholic-beverages per day, as alcohol can deplete your body of the necessary minerals, etc, it needs, it dehydrates you and it can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis.

Whether you are in your 20s, 50s, 60s or older, remember that “movement is life” and that “you are what you eat.”  So, to all the men out there, keep up the good work of taking care of yourself in a holistic way.  And if you’ve been slacking a little bit, it is ok!  We do!

One is never too old to start, never too old to change, and never too old to learn!

Men’s health in the spotlight

In general, men don’t go to a doctor very often.  However, it is important for men of all ages to realize that being healthy encompasses being emotionally, physically and mentally fit and that seeing a health practitioner is not such a bad thing!  It is great to see young men exercising, but taking care of your mental- and emotional health is just as important as brushing your teeth and washing your face.

In this article and the next one, we are going to look at the different age groups and what they need to consider when it comes to staying healthy and strong, regardless of your age.

Men in their 20s

Young men in their 20’s is, in general, the healthiest of their peers.  With the correct diet, not smoking and drinking heavily, the correct exercise-regime, and cognitive practices, they can stay “on top of their game” (as it were). However, stress can develop due to peer pressure, pressure at home, due to studies and/or work, and so forth.  At first stress develops as a chronic, low-grade inflammation that is not easily detectable, but it is the root of most illnesses and can start to develop at any given period.  Therefore, it is important to tackle your lifestyle and make changes early on to prevent the inflammation to develop into a more serious condition.  Also important for this age group is to have their blood pressure checked, as well as their cholesterol (especially if there is anybody in their family with blood pressure and/or cholesterol problems).

When it comes to diet and exercise, the biggest problem is diet.  Men in their 20s are inclined to eat more take-outs, processed foods and plenty of meat, but skimp on fruit and vegetables.  This result in high-sugar, high-processed fat and high-processed-carbohydrates eating pattern.  It is a highly acidic diet and the foundation for inflammation in the body.  In the short-term these eating habits will cause a lack of energy, weight gain, increased stress levels and a lowered immune system.  In the long-term, however, it will lower your quality of life and can develop into life-threatening diseases.  Did you know that a bad diet has the ability to lower male sperm count?  Numerous studies were conducted and concluded that a bad diet, as well as GMO’s, preservatives, and so forth, decrease male sperm and can make men infertile!

Exercise, as we know, is not only important but also vital when it comes to circulation of the blood and oxygen through the body, as well as helping the lymphatic system to get rid of toxins inside the body.  Exercises should be consistent; it doesn’t have to be done in one go.  Recent studies indicate that exercising in small segments throughout the day is just as effective.  All in all, the aim is to exercise for 30 minutes per day.  An example:

20 push-ups when you get out of bed – staying in plank for the last minute;

Taking the stairs wherever possible;

Parking further away from entrances and walking that extra bit;

If you have a dog, walk for an extra 15+ minutes;

Before you get ready to relax on the couch after work / study, go for a walk / run.  Not only is it good to get the circulation going again (especially if you’ve been sitting most of the day), but it is a great way to clear your head and get rid of stress;

Buy yourself a mini trampoline – only 20 minutes a day is what is needed.  You can walk on it, bounce on it, lie on it do to sit-ups, do push-ups, and many other things (for more info on this read my previous article on Rebounding aka Lymphasizing).

Lastly, if you are sexually active, please use a condom.  Don’t think STD’s “can’t happen to me,” because research has shown that individuals in their 20s are at the highest risk for contracting it!

When it comes to your body and health, ignorance, in this case, is not bliss.

Men in their 30s

Men in their 30s can have more stress due to work, family life, and so forth.  Doctor Bux (a specialist in men’s health), believes that finding balance is key to a healthy body, mind and spirit. 
“When balance is off [Dr. Bux said], illness and disease is present in all.”  It is not easy to stay clear of stress, but it is important to keep it at bay, as long-term stress can increase your risk for lifestyle disease e.g. heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and poor mental health.

Another factor that can reduce your quality of health and wellbeing is the lack of quality sleep.  Not only does it play a key role in your general mood, but also in your overall thinking, productivity and the way you handle situations.  Another downside of not sleeping enough, is gaining weight, the lowering of testosterone and lowering of libido levels.  It is important to sleep between 6 – 8 hours per night.  While sleeping your body repairs itself and at midnight, the growth hormone that repairs your muscle cells, surges.  But do make sure that, even if you do only sleep 6 / 7 hours, that you’re in bed before midnight!

Once in your 30s your flexibility starts to diminish.  Why?  Firstly because of sitting for longer hours; secondly, the activities you do doesn’t call for a full range of motion, resulting in shortening of the muscles and connective tissue.

Many men (especially in their 20s and 30s), do not stretch enough.  But I, together with the doctors and other specialists, cannot stress enough how important warm up and stretching is.  It is more important than the exercises themselves!  Why?  If you don’t warm up properly, you double your chance of injury.  When you don’t cool down before you head for the door, your muscles cannot go back to “normal” and stays contracted. 

Remember:  it only takes 20 seconds for your body to turn ATP into ADP (protein acid that makes your muscles contract) and if you don’t stretch after a workout, the protein acid remains in the muscles and connective tissues.  This will, in turn, not only speed up your chance for injuries, but it shortens the muscles to such a degree that you can end up struggling to touch the back of your head when you are older!  The build-up of protein acid can also create inflammation and this chronic inflammation (from not stretching) develops into arthritis (there is a number of younger people getting arthritis these days; not just older people).

So, what classes can you do for stretching?  Pilates and Yoga.  Both uses the full range of your body, builds core strength, builds stamina, flexibility and stretches your whole body.  An added bonus is that it teaches you to breathe correctly and more deeply, helping to relax body and mind, and get rid of stress.

To regain your strength, do interval training:  10 minutes jogging, 45 seconds sprinting and 90 seconds walking; repeat 8 – 12 times.  If you don’t like jogging, brisk walking or cycling can also be done.  Swimming is another great way to regain overall strength and stamina.

There is an analogy that states: “if your body were a car, it would require less fuel as it got older.”  Doctor Sanua (medical doctor and functional medicine practitioner) says that your body consumes 12 fewer calories per day for each year after the age of 30.  Reducing your portion sizes can help, but nutrient quality is vital.  Doctor Sanua says a Mediterranean diet is a good example of eating well-balanced meals.  As always, remember to drink plenty of water, eat lots of fruit and vegetables, and add fibre to your diet (so that your digestive system stays on tract).

In my next article we will look at tips for men 40 years and older.  Regardless of your age; it is important that you look after your body; physically, mentally and emotionally.  It is never too early to start and it is never too late to make changes! ��c

Health-risks that affect men

In this article I want to look at some of the most common cancers that affect men; not to scare anybody, but to bring awareness.

  • Breast cancer

In men, breast cancer cells’ form and grow within the breast tissue.  Although it is uncommon, 1% of men can develop this type of cancer (according to Doctor Ramiah, a specialist oncologist).

The risk factors include:  hormone treatments (e.g. taking anabolic steroids), alcohol consumption, being overweight, lack of exercise, liver disease, family history of breast cancer (not definitely but can play a role), being exposed to environmental hormones (e.g. pesticides, hormones in meat), previous radiation (especially to the chest as a child), and genes (the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene).

Symptoms to look out for:  a lump in the breast, nipple discharge, nipple pain, an inverted nipple, and/or a swollen gland under the arm (in or next to the armpit).  According to Doctor Ramiah, swelling on both sides is usually due to gynaecomastia (male breast enlargement caused by a disease or medication).  Best if you speak to your health practitioner about it.

  • Lung cancer

This is caused by abnormal growths (cells) within one or both lungs.  These cells can damage the lungs, block the airways that are needed to bring air into the lungs, and can spread to other parts of the body.

The biggest risk factor by far is tobacco smoke, vaping and e-cigarettes, as well as second hand smoke.

Symptoms to look out for:  a persistent cough, chest pain, coughing up sputum (especially discoloured or with blood in), recurring chest infections, shortness of breath (even when walking a short distance), wheezing, struggling to inhale deeply, changes in your voice, and unexplained weight loss. 

  • Prostate cancer

This is the most common cancer in men worldwide and starts in the prostate (which is the organ lying just below the urinary bladder).

Risk factors include:  ageing, ethnicity (interestingly black men have a slightly higher chance, according to research, than white men), family history of prostate cancer, and certain genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2).

Symptoms to look out for:  frequent urination, a blockage / obstruction of the urine stream / a weak stream, difficulty initiating urination, straining to empty the bladder, pain or burning when urinating, blood in the seminal fluid, and back or bone pain, unexplained weight loss and swelling of the legs (the latter symptoms are usually an indication that the prostate cancer has spread).

  • Colorectal cancer

This type of cancer can either start in the colon or rectum.  Luckily if this is caught in the early stages, it can be cured (according to Doctor Ramiah).

Risk factors include:  family history of polyps or colon cancer, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, Lynch syndrome or FAP (familial adenomatous polyposis, a high-fat, low-fibre diet, and smoking.

Symptoms to look out for:  a change in bowel habits, blood in the stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, and fatigue, weakness, nausea, vomiting and unexplained weight loss.

  • Gastric cancer

This cancer develops in the lining cells of the stomach.

Risk factors:  Helicobacter pylori infection, smoking, Pernicious anaemia, inherited cancer syndromes (e.g. FAP), Type A-blood group, and family history.

Symptoms to look out for:  decreased appetite, unexplained weight loss, abdominal discomfort and/or pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting (with / without blood), and anaemia.

  • Liver cancer

This starts in the liver (unlike other types of cancer that starts somewhere else in the body and then spreads to the liver).

Risk factors include:  chronic infection due to the hepatitis B- or hepatitis C-virus, cirrhosis of the liver, Type-2 diabetes, Aflatoxins, high levels of alcohol-consumption (including binge drinking), and the use of anabolic steroids.

Symptoms to look out for:  pain in the top right of the abdomen, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and/or weakness, and possible jaundice.

  • Testicular cancer

These tumours start in the testes; usually in the germ cells (cells which produce immature sperm) and become cancerous.  It is not known why it becomes cancerous, but it is highly treatable.

Risk factors include:  family history, ethnicity (slightly more common in white men), and an undescended testicle.

Symptoms to look out for:  a painless lump / swelling of the testicle, pain in the testicle (with / without a lump), change in the feel of the testicle, lower abdominal pain, and the build-up of fluid in the scrotum.

  • Skin cancer

This is quite a common cancer, especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun or on a sunbed.  It is important to check your moles regularly and, if there is any change in colour or size, to seek medical help straightaway.  The same applies for skin pigmentation.  Best advice is to stay out of the sun between 11 am and 2 pm.  If you do need to be in the sun during that time, wear a hat and use sunblock.

There are different treatments for the different cancers mentioned above.  Men and boys alike should not feel or be treated differently; especially when it comes to their health.  Whenever you discover / realize that there is a change that you are not comfortable with, speak to your health practitioner or doctor as soon as possible.  It is always best to catch the cancer in its early stage and it is even more crucial to look after your body and your health from an early age.  The sooner you start, the better chance you have of not developing cancer (even if it does run in your family).

As a Nutritionist, my advice is simple:  look after your health from a young age.  When there is peer pressure that tries to get you to start smoking, to drink excessively and/or to use anabolic steroids, be different, stay strong and say no.  I know it is easier said than done – but why be like everybody else?  Numerous studies have shown that cigarette smoke, for example, kills certain cells in the lungs and the brain for good! 

Another thing to start early is exercising and eating healthy, balanced meals.  As you have read, eating more of the one food group than others and/or leaving one group out completely, might bring short-term results, but in the long-term, it is not balanced and sustainable.  Just like our bodies and organs work together as a unit, so too do we need to consume food from all the different food groups (just remember to minimize and/or eliminate processed, junk foods and refined sugars and starches), and as always, drink your water, keep your immune system strong and keep moving!!

Prebiotics or probiotics…

I am sure you all have heard, read and/or used probiotics at some point during your life.  Basically, probiotics refer to the good bacteria that resides inside your GI-tract (your gut).  Did you know that there are over 100 trillion good bacteria, 1000+ species and between 7000 – 9000 strains of these species, inside of you?  Indeed, that is something to think about!

Where does the word probiotics come from?  In Latin “Pro” means “for” and “biotic” means “life” or “bios.”  Probiotics are live microscopic organisms that reside in the GI-tract (gut) and are “pro-life.”

These good bacteria are essential as it helps the body to not only absorb the necessary nutrients from the food we eat, but it also aids in improving the immune function and supports the integrity of the intestines’ wall.  

Prebiotics refer to the non-digestible carbohydrates that trigger the growth of the good bacteria in the gut.  An example is soluble fibre inulin (found in wheat, bananas, garlic, onion, asparagus and artichokes).

Let us quickly talk about the gut.  It consists of the small and large intestine.  This is the part where energy is extracted from food, where nutrients (like vitamins and minerals) and water are absorbed, and where waste is removed (through the colon and ultimately the rectum). 

So now the big question is:  do you take probiotics or not?!  According to Doctor Mikhail (Mike) Varshavski, the average, healthy person does not need to take a supplement.  However, there are times when it is needed:

  • If you are taking / has taken antibiotics;
  • Have traveller’s diarrhoea;
  • Have antibiotic-associated diarrhoea;
  • Have ulcerative colitis or leaky gut-syndrome;
  • If a child has NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis);
  • If you are on the Pill;
  • If you are taking pain-medication;
  • If you are taking anti-inflammatory medication;
  • If you are suffering from food poisoning;
  • If you are suffering from yeast infections and/or problem skin;
  • If you are depressed or moody;
  • If you have food cravings.

From the above we can see that most of the time, when the equilibrium (balance inside the gut) has been changed, destroyed or disturbed, our body reacts in a negative way (because its natural state of balance has been disrupted). For example, if you suffer from depression or moodiness, there is a very good chance that there is trouble in the gut.  Why?  Because probiotics can increase serotonin production (the “happy” hormone that is a neurotransmitter) and 90% of it is actually made in our digestive system!    No wonder the gut is called the “second brain” by so many!  Studies have found that there is a definite connection between the gut and the mind, which influences your appetite, your emotions and your mood!  Communication between these parts of our body takes place via the brain-gut-axis and signals flow in both directions.  There is a network of neurons distributed in the gut’s wall, known as the enteric nervous system and these nerves are more than that in your spinal column!  No wonder your stomach “ties into a knot” when you are nervous or stressed and many people stop eating as well!

So, how do you keep the balance between the good and the bad bacteria in your gut?

By choosing foods rich in probiotics and making healthy choices.  For example, yoghurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk, kefir, aged cheeses, miso, tempeh, lassi, fermented foods like sauerkraut, and pickled foods, are all rich in probiotics.

Minimize and/or stay clear of refined carbohydrates (white pasta, white bread, etc), sugars (even artificial sweeteners), overuse and/or inappropriate use of antibiotics, get a good night’s sleep and get rid of stress, especially chronic or prolonged stress.  Learn to meditate, do exercises (yoga, walking, swimming, anything that will take your mind off your worries) and breathe!

Lastly; speak to your health practitioner before you start taking a supplement.  There are so many different varieties and brands to choose from that it can be overwhelming.  Look at the dates, how to store it and the CFU’s (5 billion or more is a good number), and try to use enteric-coated probiotics.

I want to end of with a quick story that I heard many years ago.  The body’s organs were arguing over who is the most important.  The lungs said “we were” for breathing; the brain said it was, because it tells the organs how and when to work, and so forth.  When the stomach said it was, all the other organs laughed…. until it started shutting down and the body started to get headaches, got thirsty, moody, depressed, constipated, bloated, and so on!

Our bodies function as a unit and no organ is more or less important than the other.  As with the prebiotics and probiotics, there must be an internal mutualism and balance in our whole body in order to survive and function optimally.

Rebounding (aka Lymphasizing)

Ever wondered why babies, instinctively, bounce? Or why do children like bouncing on a trampoline…or, heaven forbid, their beds? It is because the body wants to move and when you bounce, not only does it help to get rid of excess energy, but it is also excellent for overall muscle strength, balance (core stability), as well as aiding digestion and excretion of waste / toxins.

Let us look at it in more detail:

Rebounding is bouncing on a trampoline.  It started in the US and was developed by NASA to help the astronauts “adapt” again on earth once their mission was complete.  In outer space, unlike on earth, there is no gravity.  What they found was that astronauts struggled when they were back on Mother Earth’s soil due to the effect of gravity.

Thus, rebounding started as a way to help them, and from there it branched out to everyone in the public, as a form of exercise and rehabilitation-method.

Even sitting on a Pilates ball and bouncing does the trick (by the way…think back to your childhood when you jumped on your bed!).

Rebounding is also called lymphasizing due to the role it plays in helping the lymphatic system to function optimally (unlike the heart it doesn’t pump and needs movement to work property), as well as clearing the body of toxins.  The lymphatic system is the “waste basket” of the body and plays an important role in the elimination of toxic waste along the collecting vessels.  The rebounder multiplies the G-force (gravitational force) system by up to 300% by putting the lymphatic channels under hydraulic pressure to move fluids containing waste produce of metabolism around and out of the body through the subclavian vein.  In a nutshell; toxicity and excess mucus is cleared and the lymphatic system is able to act as the important immunity system that it is meant to be, helping the body to fight off allergies, illnesses, infections, ageing, degeneration and preventing diseases.  Without an immune system functioning at its optimum level, you will be prone to illness, allergies, aches and pains in the joints, and so forth.

The benefits of rebounding are plenty.  Here are a few:

  • It aids in weight-loss;
  • Circulates more oxygen through the body to all the cells, organs and muscles (where there is oxygen there cannot be disease);
  • Unlike many other exercise-routines, rebounding works quickly.  A recent study by NASA proved that only 20 minutes a day is necessary and gives you the same benefits as running for an hour on a treadmill.  The only (and big) difference is that bouncing has no impact on your ankles, knees and lower back.  Just keep your knees bent at all times!
  • Rebounding can be done by anybody, at any age, and by anyone who had an injury, a knee replacement, and so on.  In my Pilates-classes and as part of my rehabilitation-work, I let my members and clients bounce either on a ball or on a trampoline (regardless of their age and level of fitness); 
  • Unlike some exercises causing stiff muscles and/or pain, rebounding doesn’t because you are not working out on a hard surface that has direct impact on your joints;
  • It has been proven that just walking, marching or bouncing on the trampoline, can alleviate pain caused by arthritis and osteoporosis, as it prevents calcium loss from the spine and other major bones;
  • ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), an immune-deficiency disorder, can also be alleviated (when your energy levels are up and lymphatic circulation works at its’ optimum level, toxins are eliminated all the time);
  • Sufferers from multiple sclerosis will also benefit, as rebounding will help them with co-ordination (as it strengthens the core muscles);
  • It calms hyperactive children (it improves concentration, focus, solving problems, relaxation and sleep);
  • Rebounding will alleviate allergies, blocked noses and sinusitis (thus respiration-capacity increases);
  • Rebounding will alleviate menstrual discomfort, fatigue, and is also safe to do when you are pregnant.  Post-natal women will benefit as well as it will strengthen the skill cells and help to get rid of skin folds;
  • As a form of aerobic exercise, it not only removes waste and cholesterol from the blood vessels (which in turn reduces blood pressure), but it also increases the elasticity of the arteries and strengthens the heart;
  • After rebounding your resting metabolic rates improves and more calories are burnt;
  • Rebounding lowers the circulating cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as blood pressure and pulse rate;
  • Low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) in the blood decreases and high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) increases, thus cardiovascular diseases and coronary artery diseases are lessened;
  • Lastly; it boosts red blood cells, promotes tissue repair, enhances nutrient absorption, digestion and elimination processes, expands fuel storage (mitochondria count increases) in order to burn more calories hours afterwards, adds to the alkaline reserve of the body (balanced pH-levels are important; especially in the gut), tends to slow down atrophy during ageing and stabilizes the nervous system.

Dr. Gideon, member of the Olympics’ Committee, stated that regular bouncing is an ideal aerobic exercise-routine for all ages.  He added that it not only promotes and maintains a healthy mind and body, but is a safe and effective way to build strong muscles, keep the bones strong and the heart healthy. 

Rebounding has many pros. If you don’t want to bounce, you can walk / march on the spot.  When bouncing it is extremely important to keep your knees slightly bent (especially when your feet leaves the rebounder / trampoline).  You can even do sit-ups, push-ups and other types of exercises on it – it is versatile, easy to use and fun!

Do remember to always stretch afterwards and make sure to drink water.  Water helps the lymphatic system to flush out the toxins.

One last thing that I have been asked many times and that is – can the elderly and someone who cannot stand do it?  My answer is yes!  There are 2 different rebounders (mini trampolines) on the market.  One without a handle / railing to hold on to (here you can make use of a sturdy chair) and another with an added handle / railing to hold on to.

I have worked with many patients in frail- and semi-frail care, that sat in a chair / wheelchair with only their feet on the rebounder, while I gently bounced on the trampoline.

So – why not get in touch again with your inner child; get yourself a trampoline and bounce!!  It is easy, quick and very effective!  The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks and, honestly, I cannot think of one drawback in the years that I have been doing it and teaching it! 

Eye-health

More and more people suffer from red eyes and headaches related to eye strain due to computers, cellular phones and television.  In today’s modern society, it is estimated that up to 100 million workers are at risk of developing computer vision syndrome.  According to a report published in “Medical Practice and Reviews,” professionals mostly at risk of developing this syndrome are accountants, architects, bankers, engineers, flight controllers, graphic designers, journalists, academics, secretaries and students. 

What exactly is computer vision syndrome? In a nutshell; it refers to your eyes becoming blurry, tired, red, dry, itching and/or experiencing double-vision, due to spending too many hours on your computer.  This, however, is not the only symptoms.  Chronic headaches (tension headaches), lower back and neck pain and psychosocial stress, can also develop.  Don’t be fooled by the list of professionals being affected the most; as the study did not include young children and adolescents, students and millions of other people, spending hours playing computer games, socializing, and so forth.

What are the causes of computer vision syndrome?  Unlike printed words of books and newspapers, the electronic characters are made up of pixels that have blurred edges, which makes it difficult for the eyes to maintain focus.  Unconsciously, the eyes try to rest by shifting their focus to an area behind the screen, but this constant switch between the computer screen and relaxation point, creates eyestrain and fatigue. Dry, irritated eyes also occur, because you blink your eyes about 12 – 15 times, instead of the normal 17 or more times per minute.  Glare and inadequate lighting can also create problems.  To minimize this, reposition your desk if there is too much natural light coming in; if need be dim the lights of your room or move your desk light; if your laptop doesn’t have a built-in antiglare screen, get one; and lastly, wearing glare-reducing or tinted lenses can help to minimize the glare. Using good eyedrops that mimics our natural tears, will help to ease dryness; ask your optometrist which brand is good. However, don’t stop resting and taking breaks in-between; as the drops are only a temporary relief.

Extremely important is to have your eyes tested every year; children especially as their eyes change as they age.  Many, if not all, ophthalmologists suggest to adhere to the 20-20-20 rule:  every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break by looking at something that is 20 feet (6 meters) away.  Better yet; get up from your desk, go outside (if possible), make yourself something to drink and stretch your legs.  Looking at something outside without concentrating very hard can also help to relax your eyes.  Another very important thing is to make sure you wear a good pair of sunglasses with UV-protection when you are outside. 

Wearing contact lenses?  Remember to take them out (even if you wear those that you can sleep with), because oxygen cannot penetrate the eyes if you wear contact lenses for long hours at a time.  It is vital to give your eyes a rest and a break and let them “breathe;” so don’t wear your contact lenses for longer than necessary.

An interesting study suggests that, in the 80’s, 35% of Africans were near-sighted.  Three decades later it rose to 56%.  This has also been happening more and more worldwide.  Genes do play a role, but a bigger role is sunlight!  Spending longer hours indoors under artificial lights than outside in natural sunlight, does impact on your eyes’ health and, in children, in the development of their eyes.  Researchers indicate that the outdoor sunlight help the child’s developing eyes to maintain the correct distance between the lens and the retina (important in keeping your vision in focus).  When you add the “modern” world and you allow your children to spend hours on an iPad, cell phone and the like, their eyesight will deteriorate even faster!  

Another factor to consider regarding children is the sports they play when they are young; especially contact sports.  Eye injuries can be quite serious so best if they wear protecting gear around their eyes.  Most importantly; teach children from a young age to “stay away from the head” when they play or fight.  A blow against the head, on the side of the eyes, no matter how light, is very bad and dangerous.

So, how can you protect your eyes and help them to stay healthy?  Diet and exercise; just like the rest of your body!

Beta-carotene is vital and found in yellow fruits and vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale and butternut).  Vitamins C and E, together with zinc, also plays an important role.

Bioflavonoids can help to protect the eyes against cataracts and macular degeneration.  Sources include tea, red wine, citrus fruits, bilberries, blueberries, cherries, legumes and soya produce.

Lutein and zeaxanthin, found in spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens and squash, can also help to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.

Omega-3 is extremely important in preventing macular degeneration and dry eyes.  Sources include oily fish like salmon, mackerel and herring, as well as grounded flaxseeds and walnuts.

Vitamin A, found in beef and chicken liver, eggs, butter and milk, are important to protect the eyes against dryness and night blindness.

Vitamin C, found in sweet peppers (especially the red peppers), kale, strawberries, broccoli, guavas, oranges, mangoes and cantaloupe, can help to fight against cataracts and macular degeneration.

Vitamin D, found in salmon, sardines, mackerel, milk and fortifies cereals and juices, can reduce the risk of macular degeneration.  Sunlight, however, is still the best source of vitamin D.  Spending 10 – 20 minutes in the sun, without sunscreen and not when the sun is at its hottest, will ensure that your body produces vitamin D.

Vitamin E, found in almonds, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts, may further reduce the risk of advanced AMD (especially when it is combined with carotenoids and vitamin C).

Zinc, found in oysters, beef, crab and turkey, aids vitamin A in the reduction of night blindness-risk and can play a role in reducing the risk of advanced macular degeneration.

A good supplement for eye health, that I use, is VisionVite (see photo).  Our diets sometimes lack the necessary nutrients, minerals and vitamins needed, so this was recommended to me by my eye specialist. 

Exercises for the eyes?!  Yes!!  The eye muscle needs to be exercised and stretched, just like you do the rest of your body.  Here are a few:

Place your index finger on the tip of your nose and look at it.  Slowly move it away from your nose until you only see 1 finger, then slowly bring it back to the nose.  Repeat.

Draw circles by only using your eyes.  First to the right, then to the left.  Repeat.

Look up, down, to the left, to the right, only moving your eyes.

Look at something far away, then at something close by.  Then blink and relax.

Another easy exercise to help relax the eyes is to squeeze your them together (think of it as giving them a hug!).  Squeeze until you see colours or dots appear, then relax, keeping them closed, until it is black again.

Lastly; to relax your eyes, you can either place cucumber slices on them or a warm towel.

If not possible, then rub your hands together until there is heat in-between the palms of your hands.  Now place your warm hands over the eyes, breathe deeply and just relax!  The heat that was generated will penetrate the eyes and relax the eye muscle.  Don’t believe me?  Think of it this way – if you are very stiff, you go for a massage.  Your eye muscle cannot be massaged, so the only way to help it to relax is to do this!!

In today’s modern society computers and the like are everywhere and used by everyone.  Best we can do for our eyes is to give it all the nutrients it needs to function optimally, to go for yearly check-ups, to exercise our eyes just like we exercise our body, and to take breaks and rest without looking at a screen as often as possible!  Remember you only have one set of eyes – so don’t skimp on taking care of them!  Eyesight is a blessing!

Hotpod Yoga, Pilates in a hot studio, Aerial Yoga – what is it and is it worth doing?

For the last couple of years a new Yoga- and Pilates-trend popped-up all over the world…Hotpod Yoga.  Founded in 2013 by Nick Higgins and Max Henderson, it was brought to South Africa in 2015 by Daniela de Bruyn.  Her goal, she says, was to make Yoga more accessible to people who are not perfection-seeking yogis.  So, how does this differ from the traditional Yoga-classes that you do in a studio or at the gym?

Firstly; it is done in a pod – an inflatable, cocoon-like space, that is heated to 37°C, instead of a studio. 

Secondly; the idea of the heated area (pod) is to increase the body’s flexibility, raises your heartbeat and makes you sweat more (cardio-workout with a twist).

The advantages are that you are more supple, due to the heat your heartrate goes up, thus you’re having a cardio-workout as well, and you sweat.

The drawbacks, however, are that you can over-stretch (as the heat makes your muscles more flexible and you try poses that you would otherwise not be able to do), you can become nauseous and/or dizzy of all the heat, even though you sweat you do not loose weight but water, and lastly, if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure or suffer from claustrophobia, the heated space can worsen it.

What about Hot Pilates? 

This is Pilates done in a warm studio, using the same moves and principles of Pilates, it also raises your heartrate, body temperature and you build up a sweat.

As with Hotpod Yoga, one should be aware that you can overstretch and or get dizzy / nauseous, if not careful. 

In 2013 a study from the American Council on Exercise, monitored a group of people’s heart rate, rate of perceived exertion and their core temperature, whilst doing a yoga class at 21 degrees Celsius.  A day later they monitored the same class doing yoga at 33 degrees Celsius.

The results?  All participants’ heart rates and core temperatures were about the same during both these classes.  Researchers also found that only if temperature were 35 degrees Celsius or more, results can differ.  All in all, the researchers found that hot yoga (hotpod yoga) were as safe as regular yoga and that the participants’ heart rates were similar during both these classes.

Another “new” kid on the block, is Aerial (Suspension) Yoga.  It combines Yoga-stretches, Aerial exercises, Strength training, Pilates movements and stretching.  Instead of exercising on the floor all the time, a sling / hammock (made from soft fabric), is used.  This is suspended from the ceiling to hip height in order to distribute the person’s body weight between the floor and the sling.  This, according to those doing these classes, help with core strength-building, balance and flexibility.  Because the yoga poses are done in the sling, the latter helps the person to use gravity to deepen the stretch and focus more on alignment.  When you “hang” upside down in the sling your spinal cord is decompressed, thus a person can feel taller.                           

As a Rehabilitation specialist and a master trainer in Pilates and Yoga, I would only make a couple of suggestions if you have never tried any of these three exercise-methods.

Firstly; do it in a normal studio (not in a hotpod or in a sling), so that you can learn what your body can and cannot do.

Secondly; it is important to build core strength, balance and control (of both body and mind), in Yoga and Pilates, to really reap the benefits.

Thirdly; if you have high blood pressure, is pregnant, suffer from claustrophobia, have low blood pressure (which can make you dizzy when in overheated spaces), or any injury (especially back, neck, knees and hips), it is best not to start in a hot studio or doing Aerial yoga. Double-jointed people should be extra cautious as you can easily injure yourself.  For someone who is not normally very flexibly, the hot yoga- and Pilates can make it easier to do the exercises / poses, as well as Aerial yoga.  However, even flexible people can overstretch if working out in a very hot studio / environment or in a sling.

Best to always consult your doctor before trying one of the above routines; especially if you have never done it before and/or have any medical history. Always listen to your body!  Start at the beginner’s level (especially if you are a new member) and work your way up to advanced level.  Do not jump intermediate level as you can end up injuring yourself. ��

“Let thy food be thy medicine”

With the changes of the seasons, people can become susceptible to catching a cold or flu. It is important to take extra vitamin C and vitamin B-complex, to maintain a strong immune system. In the Southern Hemisphere we are slowly but surely getting ready for cold nights, while our “neighbours” in the Northern Hemisphere is getting ready for sunny days.

Wherever you find yourself, here are a few home-made recipes
(by Jason Vale, the UK’s “juice master” and Daniel Jardim, South African nutritionist and cook) for banishing a sore throat, flu- / cold symptoms and body aches; for good!

J’M Sip

Ingredients

1 Golden delicious apple

3 cm chunk fresh ginger root

Method

Juice the apple, ginger and ½ medium lemon (unwaxed).

Pour ½ of it into a mug and top with hot (but not boiling) water.

Add 1 tsp of Manuka honey, stir well and enjoy!

Hot toddy

Ingredients for the basic brew

750ml water

½ cup ginger, washed and sliced

4 to 5 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 garlic cloves, whole

For each cup

2 tbsp lemon juice

1tsp raw honey

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Method

Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Place the lemon, honey and cayenne pepper in a cup for each serving, then strain the tea into the cup and stir until the honey has dissolved.

Enjoy!

Cough syrup

Ingredients

1 turnip, thinly sliced

¼ cup raw honey or brown sugar

Method

Layer a few slices of turnip in a bowl, then sprinkle with sugar or drizzle with honey.

Repeat the layers and allow it to stand for at least 4 hours (the honey or sugar will draw out the expectorant juices).

Take 2 teaspoons of syrup every 1 – 2 hours until the symptoms

Mustard bath

Ingredients

¼ cup English mustard powder

½ cup coarse sea salt

½ cup bicarbonate of soda

Method

Combine all the ingredients and place it in an airtight container.

Use ¼ cup of the mixture in a bath – soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

Please note that if symptoms persist and get worse, see a practitioner!