Your feet – storytellers just like your hands

When asked, what do you look at when you observe people, many would say their feet or the shoes they wear.  Our feet are, together with our legs, the pillars on which the rest of the body sits.  They work non-stop and often than not, get a bit neglected when it comes to exercising and stretching the muscles in the feet.

Feet are vital parts of the body – vital for our mobility, quality of life and even survival!  Did you know, that there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles and 107 ligaments, in each foot??  That is simply amazing!!  No wonder the feet have been referred to as a perfect marriage of form and function.

The feet’s skin, like that of the hands, might look quite ordinary.  However, in reality it is a complex marvel of fat pads, pores and blood vessels, all working together to ensure that every step taken, is balanced and evenly pressured.  The tightly-stretched sole of the foot contains the thickest skin of the human body.  It is criss-crossed by a set of creases that react to pressure from walking, running and standing.  The sole includes as many as 200 000 (!) extremely sensitive nerve endings, which explains why it can hurt if you step on a pebble, why something can make it itch, and why our feet are often quite ticklish! It is also the reason why a foot massage, or a shiatsu-, acupressure- or reflexology-session, can make you feel relaxed and/or sleepy afterwards.

Feet can vary in size, shape and form.  Research has indicated that the human foot has changed over thousands of years.  Many years ago, Edward Rutherford wrote books about these changes by researching families throughout the ages.  He concluded that people with long prehensile toes, were water people, who needed length for gripping branches and rocks.  Short, stubby toed people (on the other hand), were from agrarian cultures, who lived and worked on the land.

Toenails, like finger nails, are nature’s great protectors.  It consists of multiple layers of protein-rich tissue, a growth-promoting matrix, as well as several delicate membranes designed to protect the toes (and body) against bacterial invasion, as well as prevent infection.  Toenails also protect the ends of our toes from injuries via the delicate sensation exerted on our toes when we walk, run or stand.  They grow quite slowly – approximately 1mm per month.

I don’t know about you, but as I got older, my shoe-size changed.  There was also a time when I didn’t think twice about wearing high heeled-shoes.  Today?  Yes, I still wear them, but the heal is not higher than 10 cm.  Speaking about high heels.  Did you know that, the more you wear high heels, the bigger chance of your Achilles tendon shortening?  This will cause your body weight to be pushed forward; causing your spine to become out of alignment as you push your gluteus out and your weight onto the toes, in order to stay upright and walk in the shoes?

Wearing high heels is not a bad thing; however, it is important, ladies, that you don’t wear them all day, every day.  If you wear high heels for work or when you are going out, take them off once you are home and either walk bare feet, or wear flats.

Certain times of the year our feet can become more prone to dryness and/or corns or calluses.  Depending on where you live, dry, hot air can cause the feet to dry out because we are either walking bare feet, or wearing sandals.  The heels, especially, can dry out quite quickly and can even become hard.  It is not just the dry air and/or sun that can cause dryness, but also the type of shoes we wear.

Therefore, it is always a good idea to either go for a pedicure, or have your own pedicure at home.  If a shoe is too tight it will cause the feet to not only become achy and tired, but with regular wear it’ll cause bunions, calluses, and so on.  If you are wearing high heels all day, every day, put a gel- or other material cushion inside your shoes.  Some brands sell these separate; one for under the toes and the other for under the heels; or you can use an inner sole that’ll act as a shock-absorber, so to speak.

The nails, just like your skin, needs oxygen.  Taking a break in-between nail polish will help to maintain the nails health and colour.  Wearing nail polish for too long, or never going without it, can cause discoloration of the nails over time.

There are many products on the market today that promises to get rid of dry heels, calluses, and so forth.  I cannot tell you which product is best or not, but what I can mention is to put cotton socks on, after you have put your foot cream on, to help absorb the cream.  If you suffer from ingrown toenails, maybe have part of the nail permanently removed.  If corns and/or calluses are troubling you, go see a medical professional.  Do not play around if your toe / toenail is red and/or swollen.  It can be the start of either an ingrown toenail, but more often than not, it is the beginning of an infection.  Tea tree oil is a good, natural product to use.  However, I would recommend to see a medical professional if the symptoms persist or get worse, as you might need anti-bacterial, anti-fungal or antiseptic ointment.

All in all – take the time and make the time, to take better care of your feet.  Stretch them just as you would the rest of your body; make sure you wash them and dry them properly to keep infections at bay; and if they are tired, then lift your feet up (preferably higher than your hips). Give your feet the attention and rest they deserve; after all, you need them as much as you need that coffee-break!

Our hands: a perpetual miracle

Have you ever really looked at your hands?  If so, then you must have marvelled at the intricate mechanism of bone, muscle and sinew!  Not to mention the blood vessels and metatarsals working non-stop. Many, many years ago, one of our funny-looking ancestors crept onto the shore and survived, by learning to use his fins for crawling, creeping and gripping.

Time passed, evolution continued, and this creature learnt to survive on land; his fins became his hands and his tail, his legs.  Yes, I can hear many of you saying this is debatable, but hear me out.  A human embryo in his mother’s womb, goes through these same evolution-steps.  Around the 4th week millions of cells are hastening their growth in the little tadpole-like creature.  From the neck part, a pair of little bosses sprout, rapidly elongating into three segments. 

The outer parts become paddle-shaped and 5 lobes appear on the edges.  Muscles, tendons and nerve fibres begin to develop. About the 3rd month, the little flapper’s miniature fingers begin to move and flex, and there is the human hand!  When the whole little mannikin leaves his “private retreat” his small, almost miniature fingers, clutch and grab with amazing strength.  From now onwards, these human hands that is directed by the brain, will prove how we differ from many other inhabitants on earth.

Looking a bit deeper, have you ever thought of what a handshake means, except from being used as a form of greeting?  It doesn’t last long, but can express “please to meet you,” “hallo,” “good bye,” and so on.  A flabby handclasp / handshake can tell you that a person is ineffectual and nervous; a firm, warm clasp tells you that a person is friendly, sympathetic and has a good self-image.  Our hands can be used to hold a baby or small animal tenderly, or it can be used to express anger and rage in a closed fist.  In prayer our hands express gratitude and blessings, in begging the hands express greed and want.

There is a saying “we talk with our hands.”  Some people like to use their hands whilst talking.  As an extension of our arms, our hands talk when we embrace a loved one, when we wave goodbye and when we are playing sports, making music, creating something (art or cooking), with ease and precision!

Note to self: when you are upset with your child, spouse, or whoever, just remember: you might be pointing a finger at them while you “blow off steam,” but the other 4 fingers are all pointing back at you! Energy goes out, but also comes back!

When you want to grasp or touch something, for example, an array of muscles, joints and tendons, all the way from the shoulder to the fingertips, are brought into use.  To eat a spoonful of pudding involves about 30 joints and 50 muscles; if your 7th cervical vertebrae is out of alignment, then your 4th and 5th fingers are numb and “useless.”

Think of your thumb – have you ever tried writing, eating or working without using it? The thumb is an important part of our hands and operated in a completely different way than the other four fingers.  It can work together with any of the other fingers, yet the 4 fingers are lost, as it were, without the thumb.  For some people, the thumb symbolizes willpower and logic; for others it is a sign of extravagance, especially if the thumb curves back at the waist.  The thumb is a very strong limb.  Years ago, a child of about a year old, crawled underneath a car and was found, unharmed, miles further just by clutching on!

It can take a long time for someone who has lost his / her thumb, to get used to using only the other four fingers.  Our thumbs help us to grab onto something when we are about to fall, it helps us carry heavy things, it keeps us from spilling our water or coffee when we carry a full mug or jug, and so many other, everyday tasks.

The flexibility of the hand’s skin is another extraordinary thing.  Whether you are squeezing a ball, playing the piano, knitting a scarf or working in the garden, one would think that this tightening of the skin and friction of the bones as the hands move, would wear away the joints.  Yet it doesn’t, because the fat and muscle underneath the skin, protects these vital tendons.

Fingertips also reveal a lot – it tells you when something is too hot or cold, and it identifies the criminal on the basis of fingerprints.  Nobody in the whole world has the exact same fingerprints.  Another interesting fact is that our fingers are made up of bloodless joints, therefore our fingers feel the winter cold more than our face (where the muscles are filled with blood to keep it glowing and warm).

We often forget to take care of our hands; we forget that we need to stretch the hands and wrists in the same way we would the other parts of our body; yet we use our hands almost all day.  We also forget that our hands tell a story, that the way we use them when we communicate can say much more than the spoken word, and that it is our connection, as it were, to our brain and our thoughts.

In the Eastern cultures the people greet each other with palms joined.  It signifies the conjunction between positive and negative currents within everyone, as well as saluting / acknowledging the Divinity / Creator within everyone.  “I am you and you are me,” the Individual Spirit joining the Universal Spirit, the Oneness in many, Omnipresence, Universality; past and future are present.

In Indian dances hands and fingers are used extensively to express meanings.  In Yoga, when doing the Asanas, the hands are also used in different positions.  During breathing-exercises and meditation, different hand and finger-positions are used.

There is one thing to remember:  letting go of what is / what was!  Nothing can be achieved until we learn to let go completely.  When you grasp something and you hold on too tightly, you kill it, so to speak.  But when you open your hands slightly and you relax your grip, it can grow.  When you tell someone to “let go” it is not just a physical action, but also underlines the importance of letting go emotionally and psychologically as well.

Therefore, be grateful that you have arms, hands and fingers, that are healthy and usable.  They are not just used to physically do things, but also to grasp ideas, to reach out in love, to grasp reality, and to help us to move forward and let go of what was.

Chronobiology (Natural cycles)

Chronobiology is the study of physiological rhythm of the body’s internal “clock.” It is the natural rhythm that used to be in sync with the natural rhythms of time and seasons, in nature. Unfortunately it is consistently underrated and/or ignored by western medicine, when treating patients for stress and feeling tired all the time. 

In an article by Dr. Frank Lipman (in the Complete Yoga Journal-magazine), he explained that he went on a search, as it were, to find out why more and more patients / people in today’s world, is complaining about exhaustion, lack of sleep, having little / no sex drive, feeling as if they are “running on empty” and feeling and/or looking older than what they are.

In his quest for answers, Dr. Lipman realized that the only time he never saw patients that suffered from this, was when he was working in a rural area in South Africa.  People didn’t have electricity to stay warm during winter, so they went to bed when the sun went down, and got up when the sun came up.  Because there were no supermarkets, they had to eat what was in season.

Modern day stress syndrome has become epidemic; however, western medicine still does not recognize its existence, let alone have any answers for it!  Yet it has been proven that the human body has more than 100 Circadian rhythms that are roughly based on the 24-hour cycles in nature.  These natural cycles influence the body’s functions, for example the sleep- and wake cycles, the body’s temperature, the hormone levels, brain wave activity, heart rate, blood pressure an even pain threshold.  Although more people are admitting that these rhythms exist, many still ignore it or don’t appreciate it when it comes to our health and well-being.

Chinese medicine recognized that the human body (humans) do not exist in isolation; but that we are part of the natural world and governed by universal forces of nature.  Humans have internal “body clocks” that are set precisely to these rhythms and cycles.  The “master clock” is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a group of cells that are located in the hypothalamus.  The latter uses signals like light and darkness to stimulate the release of certain hormones and neurotransmitters, which tell us when to wake up or go to sleep.  When the SCN is destructed or disturbed, it results in a complete absence of a regular sleep/wake rhythm.  Natural light is the “drummer” in the human body’s physiological band that keeps the beat and it is this that our body clocks use to “get in tune” with the natural cycles.

Dr. Lipman delved deeper and looked into the field of genomics (the studying of genes).  This triggered an “aha-“moment for him.  He explained that, not only did we evolve over millennia as people who lived in harmony with day and night and seasons, but these cycles and rhythms became imprinted in our genes.  This is almost identical to that of our ancestors and it is still there, but modern society has pushed us into living at a foreign, unnatural pace.

The only time many of us become aware of our body’s natural rhythms (and its importance), is when we have jet lag.  Anybody who has flown over different time zones will tell you that they felt sluggish, tired, struggled sleeping, and so on.  This changes after a few days when your body’s internal clock adjusts again.

Modern society has isolated mankind from being in sync with these natural, cyclical rhythms, by creating artificial environments that insulate us from seasons, daylight and darkness.  Artificial light is used to extend our activities well into the night and/or day and we don’t get enough natural light.  This causes havoc; not only on our physical bodies, but also our emotional bodies.

Our bodies are made up of between 70% – 80% fluids (water) – is it any wonder then that the moon cycles, for example, can affect us just like it affects the oceans’ tides?  In the days when there were no artificial lights, and so on, people lived much closer to and in harmony with nature and its cycles. 

The above example is the bad news.  The good news is that the body, when given a chance, will heal itself an reset its genetic clock.  When your body’s natural rhythms are in sync, you have more energy, everyday tasks are easier to do, you don’t feel stressed or tired, and life is just easier and happier.  Athletes call this “being in the zone” or “having their game on.”

In his book Spent:  End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again (Hay House Books), Dr. Lipman gives these tips that will help you to reset your body’s clock and rediscover your natural rhythm:

  • Get some natural light during the day by going for a walk; preferably in nature;
  • Keep a consistent, daily schedule.  Regardless of what time you went to bed, get up every morning at the same time;
  • Have an “electronic sundown.”  At around 10 pm, turn off all your electronics – your cell phone, television, computer, and so on;
  • Darken your room completely.  Your bedroom should be completely dark.  Therefore, if there are any lights glimmering (like the cell phone charger, alarm clock, and so on), it can stop your melatonin levels from rising.  These levels are necessary to induce sleep and reach the level of deep, restorative sleep.  If you cannot darken the room (on airplanes, for example), wear an eye mask;
  • Eat in accordance with your body’s natural rhythms.  Because your metabolism peaks at noon, try to eat a bigger breakfast and lunch, and a smaller dinner.  If you and your family eat your main course in the evening, try to eat it before 19:00 and not later than 21:00.  There are people who struggle to eat a big breakfast.  Listen to your body but remember, your body cannot start its day “running on empty,” so eat something small or drink a smoothie.  Otherwise you will not only struggle with energy-dips and tiredness during the day, but when you skip breakfast, you will also struggle with and/or not be able to lose weight (if you are trying to). 
  • Good fats (Omega 3’s and 6’s) and protein are the energy-sources that your body needs for fuel during the day.  Having an egg and/or cheese with a slice of brown, rye or whole wheat toast, or a smoothie for breakfast, are good examples.  Cooked oats with cinnamon and honey / little bit of sugar, or rolled oats / muesli with added nuts and seeds, are also good to have for breakfast.  Sugary foods, like bagels, muffins, sugary cereals (like corn flakes) and other processed foods, are the worst choices when it comes to sustaining energy and fuel; let alone staying healthy – avoid it at all costs!   

In order to find “your groove,” remember; it is not just psychological but also physiological as well.  Small lifestyle changes can make you feel much more energetic, make you sleep better and reclaim your vitality! Listen to your body!!

Winter-time in the North

In today’s blog post I am going to share some tips on taking care of you and your loved ones as winter is creeping closer and closer, with some parts in the Northern Hemisphere even getting there first bouts of snow! Now is the time to start taking extra care of everybody’s health.

Start by taking extra vitamin B and vitamin C; especially a vitamin C that targets colds and flu (for example Viral Choice’s Vitamin C with Echinacea).  If you, or anyone in your family, suffer from a sensitive stomach, use buffered vitamin C (it comes in a powder and tablet form). Because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin (your body does not store it), it is necessary to take it on a daily basis.  

Do not take antibiotics (unless it becomes worse)!  Why?  Because colds and flu are caused by viruses and taking antibiotics will only target the bacteria that created the viruses in the first place.

Rather up your fluid intake, make a chicken soup / broth – you know; like the one your gran / mom always made?  And get plenty of rest!  Have a sore throat?  Gargle with salt stirred into warm water.  Salt is a natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory!  Blocked nose? Mix some salt with a little bit of bicarbonate of soda in warm water and sniff!?  It will help to clear your stuffy nose!

Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet, for example citrus fruits, kiwi, papaya, broccoli and spinach.  Eat foods that contain probiotics, for example yoghurt (a good immune-booster), add honey and/or garlic to your food and drinks (both have natural anti-inflammatory properties in) and oily fish for those omega 3 and 6-oils (another important immune system building block).

The last thing you want to do when it is freezing outside is to get up…and if the weather is dull…it makes it even harder! But; there is a way to get rid of those winter blues and that is…laughter!  Laughing gives your immune system a boost by raising the levels of antibodies in your white blood cells; helping them to fight off viruses and other infections.  Laughter, therefore, is the best medicine!

A very important habit for everyone (not just in winter) is to wash your hands when you come home from work, the shops, the gym or the school.  Don’t touch your eyes, mouth or nose if you haven’t washed your hands yet and guard against using utensils of someone that is ill.  Teach the children to cover their mouths when they cough or their noses when they sneeze. 

Elderly people should take extra care during winter as they are more susceptible to illnesses.  Studies have shown that extra zinc (or a zinc supplement) not only boosts the immune system, but it can also shorten the duration of the cold (if taken within 24 hours after the cold started). 

Open the windows at home and let the crisp, fresh air blow through.  Staying in heating all the time and then going into the cold is not always such a good idea.  However, if you are indoors with the heater on, do remember to keep the air humidified.

An old tip from my late granddad:  when you go outside into the cold, cover your mouth!  Why?  Because breathing cold air in (especially if you are feeling a bit under the weather), can bring about a cold, flu and/or sore throat! 

All in all, winter does not have to be a time to dread!  In fact, there are many things to look forward to:  from dressing warm, walking in nature (keep active!) and enjoying the “different look” of the plants, to drinking hot chocolate (cacao) and snuggling under the duvet to watch a movie and laughing your blues away!

Me-time

I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe that we are already in the middle of October! Where has this year gone? It is as if life is getting busier as we are heading slowly (or faster) to the end of another year….

Already Christmas decorations are popping up all over! Many people say now is a good time to start thinking and buying all those presents, before prices go up and before stores get flooded with customers.

Not a bad idea, what do you think? As we move closer to the end of the year, not only are students buckling down, but adults can also feel stressed. It is quite natural to go through a dip, as it were, when your bio-rhythms are off. Thus it is important to take time-out, to relax and unwind, and not to neglect yourself.

The well-known doctor Phil McGraw a.k.a. Dr. Phil, once said “if you don’t take care of yourself first, then who will?” Something to always keep in mind; especially if you are head of a company, have a family to look after, or are single but living a busy life.

You might be thinking, by now, this is all good and easier said than done. No, it is not that difficult and here are a few tips to help you to have more me-time, feel less tired and have more energy for everything and everyone around you.

  1. Keep a journal – even if you write short sentences / words down; a journal is like that best friend that you can spill your heart to without being judged.
  2. Schedule “me time” every week – whether it’s going for a walk, to the gym, reading a book or just snuggling up on the couch with a cuppa and listening to your favourite music; take time off to just be with yourself.
  3. Eat healthy, regular meals and drink enough fluids (especially water). 
  4. If you find that you don’t have time to sit down for a meal, make sure that whatever you eat “on the go,” is healthy: whether it is a smoothie, a health bar, fruit and nuts. Eating processed and junk food, and drinking soft drinks, will only deplete your body from vitamins and minerals and will not provide you with the energy you need. You might feel you have more energy for a short while, but then your blood sugar drops lower than normal, and you are more tired and stressed than before.
  5. Diarize time to socialize with friends and family – a good supporting system can go a long way and, let’s face it, humans like to socialize!
  6. Remember that you are unique – value yourself the same way you would value friends, family, clients, colleagues.
  7. Even if you were “superwoman” or “superman” you cannot do everything for everybody!  Do your best in everything you do and that will be enough.
  8. Make time for meditation (quiet time) – switch off the phone, the laptop, take the phone off the hook, close the door and just breathe.  Slowly in, slowly out.  Focus your attention only on your breathing and block out any thoughts / sounds.  Doing this just 10 minutes a day will make a world’s difference.
  9. Get enough sleep! To keep up with today’s pace you need to make sure that your energy levels are up, your immune system is strong and that you give the body all the help it needs to stay healthy and fit.
  10. Deadline looming?  Instead of buckling down and working until you want to fall asleep, take a break from your desk, get up and get some fresh air.  Not only will it clear your mind, but it’ll give you energy to finish the task(s) at hand.
  11. Treat yourself once in a while.  Have a facial or massage, go on a short break or to your favourite restaurant with your favourite person(s). It will help you not only to relax, but to recharge your batteries too! Remember; you are worth it and deserve deserve it!
  12. Laugh more! In today’s world things are not only hectic, but also quite morbid – especially if you think of the news that we are bombarded with. Instead of listening to only the bad news, switch channels, watch a comedy, go out with friends, and laugh. Laughter is the best medicine…not only true but the cheapest way to lift your spirits, put you in a better mood and help you to get a more positive outlook on life in general.
  13. Struggling to “switch off?” Listen to relaxing music or listen to nature. Depending where you live, birdsong can be just as relaxing as instrumental or classical music.
  14. Make sure you take your multi-vitamin, vitamin C and extra vitamin B6 & B12, especially if you are stressed. When your immune system is run-down, then your chances of catching a cold / flu doubles.
  15. Lastly, if you feel great on the inside, it’ll show on the outside.  If you want to be successful, you have to dress the part (as the saying goes).  Thus, if you want to be your best at work, at home, at social events, then start by taking care of you…and the rest will follow!

Taking care of you – starts with you. Even when your financial situation is not in a good state, you can still laugh, you can still treat yourself to something you can afford, you can still be in nature and you can still get together with family and friends! We all know the saying: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade! An attitude of gratitude (one of Dr. John Demartini’s favourite quotes, and books), helps you to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Deep breathes in, deep breathes out. Just breathing in for 8 – 10 counts and exhaling for 8 – 10 counts, automatically slows down your heartrate (especially when stressed) and, as more oxygen enters the body, the mind starts to unwind, the muscles start to relax, and you can carry on!

Chin up; all things shall pass!! Remember, it has to rain in order for a rainbow to appear; never give up on yourself; you are the only you there is…

Coping with stress

It is that time of the year again when pupils, especially matrics, have to crunch down and study!  It is, sadly, also a time when many pupils (and students), cannot find ways to cope with their stress and commit suicide.

So, what can we, as parents, teachers, family and friends do to help each other cope with stress?

First, we have to distinguish between “good” and “bad” stress.  “Good” stress is when you are nervous about something, but you can handle the situation without going into a complete state of panic and a loss of words.  “Bad” stress is when you have so much stress and worries that you do not know how to cope with it.  It can also be linked to sadness and mourning (grieving).  This stress often builds up through time until one day it all just comes crashing down.

Adults (parents and teachers alike) play a big role in stress management, as children learn by example.  The way the adult(s) cope with stress will teach the child(ren) how to deal with their stress.  It is good to talk about what is bothering you, but it is not helping anyone if you either bottle your feelings up, going into a fit of rage / panic, or grabbing for an external coping mechanism (whether it be a drink, a cigarette or food).  Many people suffer from emotional eating disorders.  Others stop eating when they are stressed.  These are all signs to look out for – especially in young children who cannot always put their feelings into words.

How can one help each other then?

First, it is vital to have a support group, a best friend / confidante, that you can talk to without being judged;

For children it is important to know that mom and/or dad will always listen, without judgement or criticism. 

Often children get teased by other children and/or older siblings – watch for any signs in your child’s behaviour that changes all of a sudden, for example, the child doesn’t share their feelings / thoughts anymore.

Long-term stress can cause havoc on the system (both physically, emotionally and mentally).  Chronic inflammation can set in, causing anything from acne, allergies, premature ageing and strokes, to cancer, obesity, weight gain and intestinal issues.  It is thus vital to make sure that you get extra nutrients in in times of stress so that it can help the body to cope. These include:

Sweet potatoes:  low in starch but rich in antioxidants, vitamin E and beta carotene. 

Fatty / Oily fish:  Salmon, mackerel, tuna, yellowtail, sole and sardines are all high in Omega-3 fatty acids.  Pilchards are another good source of fatty acids.  Eating oily fish at least twice per week was found to reduce the risk of heart disease-development, which is often related to stress.  If you / someone in the family doesn’t like oily fish, make sure to buy a good omega-3 supplement. 

Nuts and seeds (e.g. sesame and sunflower seeds):  full of healthy fats, protein, essential vitamins, minerals, fibres and antioxidants.  Do remember to eat nuts in moderation, as they are high in kilojoules.

Berries:  high in antioxidants and low in fat and kilojoules.  Blueberries, for example, can help to reduce oxidative stress and protect the body against ulcerative colitis and intestinal-inflammation.  Red raspberry extract, according to studies done, helps to prevent arthritis-development in animals.  Research has also shown that women who eat more strawberries, have lower levels of C-reactive protein CRP in the blood (it is a substance produced by the liver that increases when there is stress in the body).  Fresh or frozen, add berries to your shopping list and add them to your muesli, yoghurt, dessert or smoothies.

Whole grains:  oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, barley and wheat, are all whole grains.  Whole grains contain more fibre and keeps your blood sugar levels even (unlike refined starches that can play havoc on your blood sugar levels and make you drowsy when you need to be alert for studying).

Cold-pressed Olive oil:  good source of Omega 3’s, it contains natural anti-inflammatory properties and is good “food” for both your brain and your heart.  Another good source is flaxseed oil. 

If anybody is allergic to shellfish, make sure that the Omega-3 supplement is not using shellfish.  At DisChem you can buy Omega 3:6:9-supplement in liquid form made from seeds. 

You can also add eggs, chicken and lots of raw fruits and vegetables to your meals.  Eliminate, as far as possible, refined sugars and carbohydrates, caffeine, nicotine and artificial colouring (especially found in processed meals).

Vitamins and minerals: they are vital during this time.  Taking extra supplements will help the brain to function more optimally and will help keep your immune system-levels high.  Vitamin C is important to maintain a strong immune system.  Vitamin B plays a key role here, because when you stress the body uses vitamins B6 & B12 first. Zinc and vitamin D are also very important for cognitive function and stability of the brain and nervous system.  A good supplement of calcium and magnesium (with added zinc and vitamin D), vitamin C and a multi-vitamin B supplement are advised.  An excellent, natural remedy to help you and/or your child or partner cope with stress, is Rescue Remedy. In South Africa you get the drops and the tablets. It calms you down without making you drowsy, weepy or over-emotional.

Exercise:  just as eating a healthy, balanced meal is important, so too is exercise.  Whether you go for a walk or a run, skip rope or ride a bicycle, get out into the fresh air (or the gym if you prefer) and get away from the books and the stress.  Exercise in any form will help the body to excrete serotonin – the “happy” hormone, that helps the body to not only cope with stress, but also get rid of it.  A clear head and a state of calmness, will give you more clarity about a situation and will help you to study better. 

Sleep:  it is very important that you get a good night’s rest on a regular basis.  Not only is it a time when the body regenerates itself, but it is also a time when the brain can relax and rewire.  Do make sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet.  If you struggle to meditate and/or sleep; remember:  always switch your cell phone, laptop and/or television off at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.  It you look at either of the screens just before you put your light out the brain “stays awake” as it were and you will struggle to fall asleep.  Still struggling and counting sheep?  Have some warm milk with cinnamon in; or shower with / bath in lavender.  You can also place some lavender under your pillow.  Both will help to calm you down and stop you from counting sheep the whole night!

Taking enough breaks:  the minute you start to feel tired or your brain feels fuzzy, get up, go for a walk and get some fresh air.  Even taking catnaps in-between your studying can do wonders for the body, the brain and your eyes!  Just looking out the window (without concentrating hard), can help to relax your eyes and brain.

Meditate:  it is vital that you take breaks and relax, breathe deeply and just forget for a moment about the stress / upcoming exam.  You can focus on your breathing, listen to calm music, the birds outside, take a shower or bath, and just become still.

Laugh:  laughter is the best medicine – something that has been said time and time again.  Watch a comedy, read a funny book, make a note to laugh when you are out with your friends, smile and tell funny jokes!   Not only will you look and feel younger, but laughing produces serotonin (the “happy hormone”), which reduces anxiety and stress, and also helps us to cope better during stressful periods.

Study-area:  make sure that your study-nook is clean and tidy.  Get rid of clutter and things that is not important when you are busy studying.  Make sure the room is well ventilated and there is enough natural light coming in. 

Water:  make sure that you drink enough water during this time.  Staying hydrated not only keeps your energy levels up, but also keeps your brain-cells active.

Some tips from Doctor Gillian Mooney (dean of academic development and support at The Independent Institute of Education) to gear young adults alike for the future:

  1. Be well organized – get into the habit of doing daily administrative and organizational tasks;
  2. Boost your computer skills – taking notes faster will help to improve productivity;
  3. Be a multitasker – instead of playing computer games or listening to music when you take a break, download an app / audiobook / game about the subject that you are studying;
  4. Changing times – teach children from a young age that learning and studying is a life-long process.  “Life is a journey, not a destination.” 
  5. The saying goes “one is never too old to learn.”  This is important to remember, because to be able to learn new skills in the workplace, for example, and to be able to multitask, are two of the important factors that employees look for today.

All in all, studying can be fun, it can be something that you enjoy, as long as you find a method that works for you and you use your time wisely.  Many schoolchildren and students who obtain many distinctions all say one thing:  the more you listen in class (and/or take notes), then less you have to study at home!  Going over the work done in the class the same day will help you to remember it better. 

Good luck to all the children, students and their family, for the upcoming exam-period!  Do your best and the rest will follow!

Tidying your space

Every year we spring-clean our home and go through all our clothes, kitchenware and bathroom goodies, to not only clean the house from top to bottom, but also to get rid of things that are no longer used, has rarely ever been used, or that has passed its date.

However, there are still things in my cupboards that has not been used recently (or even in the last few years I must admit), but it is still there.  As my brother sometimes says – you don’t clean the cupboards, you just reshuffle everything in it!

Decluttering your home and office space once a year is something that shouldn’t bring you down, although some people find it hard to throw away / give away things and instead hoard.

According to psychological research clutter affects the brain’s ability to concentrate and process information, and it has a powerful effect on your mood and self-esteem.  Ever felt overwhelmed?  It is the same with hoarding…. you know you have to start somewhere but you don’t know where, so in the end you leave it.  Psychologists also believe that hoarding is linked to deep seated emotional issues; which can be anything from scared of letting go, to a low self-image.

Cory Cook, a time-management expert, believes that people must start to change their attitude and believes towards things:  we hold the power over things, not things over us!

Here are six ways that she gives to declutter and tidy your space:

  1. Limit the load:  instead of keeping each and every picture that your child made, save one or two and bin the others.  Your subconscious brain only stores the most important pictures / things; the person should be the important one, not the item.
  2. Clear your bedroom:  put away the washing and the cell phones.  Linda Blair, clinical psychologist, states that “if the clutter reminds you that you have a job to do, then it’s the equivalent of having electronic devices in your room pinging away, demanding your attention.”  Add to that that you will deprive yourself of a good night’s rest if you look at the screen (of a cell phone and/or television) just before you put off the light (as it has been proven that the flickering of the screen, although not visible with your eyes, is registered by your brain, thus it keeps your brain active instead of settling down to sleep)!  Your bedroom, after all, should be like your bathroom – a sanctuary where you can relax and sleep; not a place where you work.  It is fashion to have a television in your bedroom, but many experts believe that romance will fly out the door when you bring a television into the room!  Instead, enjoy your own and/or each other’s company or read a book before you put the lights off.
  3. Do good: donate your stuff that has been sitting in your cupboards forever without being used to either a charity, or give something to someone that will use it.  According to Linda decluttering and giving things away releases a feel-good hormone called oxytocin.  Knowing unused things are used and appreciated by someone else can be a very satisfying feeling.
  4. Clear the kitchen:  having too many things in the kitchen can easily deter someone from cooking a healthy meal and, instead opt for a quick, unhealthy fast food meal.  Clear the countertops in the kitchen; have a designated area where you put your keys, for example, and pack away things that are not supposed to be in the kitchen.  In an article I read recently, the lady said that she steered clear of the kitchen most of the time because it wasn’t functional.  In her case, they saved money and redid the kitchen.  Now she loves cooking for her family and trying out new recipes.  Whether your kitchen needs a lick of paint or just some decluttering; a small / big change can make all the difference!
  5. Getting energised:  according to Feng Shui your home’s entrance can immediately influence your energy levels when you walk through the front door.  If this is where the schoolbags go, or the raincoats (for example), keep it neat (either in a cupboard, in a row or on a hook).  If you have a table at your entrance, keep it clean and the décor minimalistic.  A tidy home makes you feel content and safe; knowing that unscheduled visits are welcome!
  6. Feel more focused:  piles of paperwork can be a problem.  Many people say it is good to keep important account receipts for 5 years, then shred it.  When it comes to magazines and newspapers, Cory suggests finish reading them before you buy a new one.  If there is information in that you want to keep, make a folder and tear out only the page(s) you want to read again. Clearing out will give you an instant lift and “clear your head.”

Marie Kondo, author of Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying, suggests that you must ask yourself if something sparks joy.  Hold an item with both hands, have a good look at it and pay attention to how your body reacts to it.  If it doesn’t bring you joy, your body will feel heavier. 

Another tip is to keep similar items together (glassware in one cupboard, plates in another).  Marie also suggests that you should have a filing system for your home-paperwork (as you would in the office).  Place the important ones like bills in a pending box / folder and the rest in another box / folder.  First sort out the ones in the pending box then start with the rest. 

If you don’t know where to start, start in one room and finish that one completely.  Place things in different piles: staying, not sure and giving away (throwing out).  Once everything has been sorted out and packed away, move on to the next room.  Families can do this together; thereby teaching children to be organized, neat and (as stated above), teaching them that you have power over things, not things over you!

There is no time like the present to start spring-cleaning…so better to start and get it done!  Good luck everyone!

Lunchbox-ideas for the whole family

The internationally acclaimed chef, writer and restauranteur, Jamie Oliver, set out on a mission a few years back to transform the food served at schools all over the UK.  In 2005, the School Food Trust was born, with its motto, “Eat better. Do better.”  It paid off!

In South Africa, as in the UK and the USA, obesity amongst young children is getting worse.  The increase of children and young adults developing Type 2 diabetes, is both alarming and shocking.  Parents and teachers alike, must set an example and teach the children that healthy food is not only better, but it has a huge impact on our mood, behaviour, health, growth, and ability to concentrate.  The last thing a growing child needs is to be eating junk food and processed meals almost every day; not to mention adding soft drinks to it!  Did you know that, if a child starts to drink soda at an early age while they are still growing, it not only affects their weight, mood or behaviour, but it also affects their teeth (especially if they are under the age of 12). 

Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN and best-selling author of Joy Bauer’s Food Cures: Treat Common Health Concerns, Look Younger and Live Longer, agrees with Jamie.  “Without a doubt, balanced nutrition is key for kids to maintain concentration academically. Every school lunch should offer both complex carbohydrates and lean proteins – a turkey-breast sandwich on whole wheat bread is a simple and perfect example of this. It will boost your brain– and staying power, level your moods and keep your blood sugars on an even keel. In other words, a plain bagel or slices of white bread, with nothing else (but butter and jam, for example), can produce volatile spikes in blood sugars and can set up kids for a crash.”

A healthy sandwich with low-fat mayo is just a start, says Bauer. “Fibre in produce is also extremely important because it slows the absorption of carbohydrates into the system, which also keeps blood sugars level. There should be at least one fruit or vegetable in every school lunch or lunchbox, and preferably both.”

Here are some ideas for packing lunchboxes for the whole family:

Monday:  Canned salmon or tuna, mixed with low-fat mayo, with whole-grain bread or crackers; 

Tuesday:  Cold whole-grain / durum wheat semolina pasta salad with roasted or grilled veggies and/or cold chicken / turkey;

Wednesday:  Sandwich with cheese, lettuce, cucumber and tomato.  Add some nuts on the side, for added protein and fibre;

Thursday:  Grilled or roasted chicken breast tenders, sliced red peppers, and low-fat cheese on whole-grain pita (try spinach pita as a kid-friendly alternative);

Friday:  Cold boiled eggs (if someone doesn’t like eggs, replace them with cheese or cold meat, e.g. mini sosaties or mini frikadelles), salad and crackers.

Add some fruit / berries and yoghurt daily to the above ideas.  Also remember to make sure there is a bottle of water to drink as well. 

Unless someone is allergic or intolerant to one of the above-mentioned foods, the key is balance.  Make sure there is carbs, protein, fruit and/or vegetables, in the lunch.  During our summer months it can get very hot and/or humid. 

I would suggest staying clear of chicken and fish when it is so hot and rather opt for other cold meats like cervelat, salami or smoked beef, or plain cheese (gouda or cheddar instead of spreads).  Dried fruit like raisins, are high in iron, and is also a nice snack (with or without nuts).  Just be careful about nuts when it is very hot; and if you are allergic or intolerant, stay clear of peanuts an

Ready, set go! Spring is in the air – are you gearing up?

It is that time of year when the Southern Hemisphere is gearing up for warmer days and more sunshine.  Spring has begun and everyone and everything in nature, has a “spring” in their step (or chirp)!  Many of us have started to spring-clean our homes, closets, cars and offices…are we spring-cleaning our health- and exercise routine?

Here are a few tips to get us “in the mood again;” off the couch and back into routine!

As the days get warmer and the sleeves get shorter, more skin is being exposed.  Time to exfoliate!  There are a number of products in the shops or you can make your own scrub (for example: 1/2 cup ground coffee beans, 1/2 cup fine ground Himalayan Salt, 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted), 2 drops peppermint essential oil.  This scrub will boost circulation and detoxify your body).  Rub in small, circular moves taking care of the sensitive skin and working a bit longer on areas like your elbows, knees and ankles.  It is always best to start on your right side, moving up towards your head and then down the left side.  Why?  Because your lymphatic system flows in that direction towards and passed the heart!  (more on this in a later article).

Keep your skin moisturized.  During winter we just wanted to get out of the hot shower or bath and into our warm beds.  Now when you are finished with your shower or bath, put a good moisturizer on your whole body. Ladies, just be careful if you have shaved your legs.  Often you can get a rash if you put body lotion on straight-away.

Want to put on a pair of shorts or a new dress, but are worried about your very white legs after the winter?  Why not opt for tinting or a fake tan?  Some body lotions have a tinted moisturizer in, otherwise stop at your local spa or DisChem and get a fake spray-tan!  Sunbeds are also popular, but be careful not to overdo it.  It has been proven by many that it can cause skin cancer.

Tired of your look but don’t want to break the bank to buy a new wardrobe – yet?  Go for a haircut – whether you change your style, colour or just opt for trimming the dead-ends, your hair needs a bit of tlc after the cold.  If your hair is dry buy a shampoo and conditioner with added ingredients that feed the hair and scalp (ask your hairdresser to recommend a good brand).  A hair mask is another good product to use.  It nourishes your hair the same way as a facial mask.  Another good change is to air dry your hair instead of using the hairdryer all the time.  Sitting in the sun is also a great way to add a natural tint to your hair.

Getting back into an exercise-routine can be daunting for some.  So, what to do?  Start by using the stairs at work and at the mall instead of the escalator.  Go for an early morning or afternoon walk or jog.  Join a Pilates, Yoga, Splash- or other group exercise-class at gym.  Many people are more motivated when exercising in a group instead of on their own (unless you book a personal training session!).  Not keen on going to or joining a gym?  Then look out for a private studio in your area; they teach anything from Pilates, Yoga, Dancing and other conditioning classes.  There are also numerous walking and/or running-clubs that one can join over the weekend to “get going again.”  Regardless what you do, start with 30 minutes a day and once you’ve gotten into your routine again, you can aim for an hour 3 – 5 times per week.

Start to look at your diet – as the days get warmer it is a good time to add more salads, fruits and raw food to the menu.  If you find that you did pick up a little bit of weight during the winter months, don’t beat yourself up!  Instead start to cut back on the rich food, the ready-made meals, the refined sugars and starches, and replace these with the above-mentioned produce.  Remember to drink plenty of water to help the body to flush out toxins and stay hydrated.

Lastly, remember to spring-clean your mind as well.  Stay positive and stay focused on your goal.  Whether it is to lose weight, get back into exercising, eating more healthily or just being happier in general, know that, as the season of change is here, anything you set your mind to can be done – one step at a time! 

Spring, in many ways, are ringing in a “new” beginning.  New flowers and leaves are starting to bloom, the birds are starting to court each other, some are starting to build new nests…all in all, it is time to throw of the heavy clothes and blankets, open the windows and breathe the fresh air in!  Enjoy the season everyone!

To my readers in the North, have no worries. As you are gearing up for autumn, you can still continue and maintain a positive outlook, keep working at your goals and enjoy the beautiful autumn colours in nature!

Using tissue salts

In my previous blog posts I explained what tissue salts are and why it is a good, natural remedy to use, either as an extra boost, or to help relieve allergies and/or illnesses.

In this clip, courtesy of Natura (the South African-brand of tissue salts) and Natural-magazine, it indicates what the different tissue salts are used for.

Tissue salts are the natural salts inside the body; it is not harmful and can be used often. However, when in doubt – best to ask your health practitioner!