Each year, around the 20th / 21st of March, the equinox happens.  It is a time of the year when the day and night are the same length.  In the Northern Hemisphere, it is a signal that spring is around the corner and that days are going to be longer and warmer.  In the Southern Hemisphere, however, it is a signal that autumn is on its way, which leads to cold and dark days.  The equinox is also a time when nature is preparing to either come alive with little ones, or go into hibernation.

In my previous blog, I touched on the seasonal changes, how it can affect people and what to do about it.  These changes can excite some people, whilst others dread it.  Change, as you know, is the only constant thing in life, so best to embrace it and take it in your stride! Nature is a wonderful teacher, which we can learn from when it comes to accepting and embracing change.

During the old times, the March equinox was celebrated with festivities and/or rituals.  To celebrate the Spring Equinox, thanks was given to Mother Nature for the new life that she is giving everyone:  animals, birds, seedlings and the like.  The earth and waters were blessed; fishermen were blessed to have safe journeys out at sea; people got rid of old things (think spring-cleaning); new hobbies and other things, were started. 

To celebrate the Winter equinox, people gave thanks to what they had / were given (what they planted and so forth) and saved it.  Many cultures, both in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, knew that food should be bottled, preserved and stored, for the cold, dark winter days.  Harvest-time was not just a time when foodstuffs were harvested, bottled and stored.  It was also a time when the “old” were harvested. 

When the Equinox occurs, it brings a moment of balance and equilibrium.  Many believe that the veil between different dimensions grows thin, thus the energy grid of Mother Earth moves into perfect harmony.  This allows us to soak in the energies of balance and renewal.  For those interested in astrology, it is interesting to note that the equinox this year, aligns with Aries, the 1st sign of the zodiac.  Aries is considered to be the start of the astrological new year and, in ancient cultures, March 20th / 21st, was seen as the New Year.    

Depending where you live, this Equinox signals that it is a time to look at your own life and realign yourself with your higher self.  March either calls you to blossom and sprout (like the spring bulbs) or retreat and go within (like the bears).  Regardless, it is a time when the seasons are changing and, instead of fighting it, embrace it and flow with the natural rhythms of Nature.  Bringing back harmony and balance into your everyday life, is key; especially this time of year when our bodies natural rhythms instinctively know change is in the air.

The energies are high; so the best thing to do is to “ride the wave” and remember to take care of yourself.  Taking time out to meditate, recuperate and recharge your batteries, is key to enjoy the changes ahead. It doesn’t matter whether you are living in the Northern- or Southern Hemisphere.  The energies affect each and everyone living on the planet.  Embrace it, bring back balance into your life (where needed) and enjoy the ride!

Seasons are slowly changing

Slowly, but surely, seasons are starting to change.  With these changes, some people can feel “off,” because of their biorhythms being down. These biorhythms are the inner clock that everyone has and, just like nature, instinctively knows that change is in the air.  Biorhythms can fluctuate; not just because of seasonal changes, but also due to our mental- and emotional state, as well as our physical well-being.  When you feel tired, it can either be because of a lack of sleep, sleep disturbances, stress and/or your biorhythms.

Many years ago, before the modern age with all the artificial lights and modern technologies, humans would join their animal-friends and go to bed when the sun set and got up when the sun rises.  Humans and nature followed the natural cycle of life, thus their biorhythms were more in sync with the outside world.  Today, many people have to work night shifts, which can cause difficulties adapting during the day.  Artificial lights also change a lot of things.  Instead of burning candles (which is a much softer light), the bright lights keep the brain awake, as it were, for longer.  Luckily, humans are adaptable.  But if you are one of those people who struggle with seasonal changes, here are a few tips that could help you enjoy the changes more.

Venture outside, regardless of the temperatures (unless, of course, it is extremely cold and/or snowing or raining heavily).  Nothing lifts your mood like some fresh air and a walk around your neighbourhood, in a park, on the beach or wherever you can.  Fresh air is a wonderful tonic for both body and mind.  When you are outdoors, leave your phone and tune in to the nature sounds; the birds, the breeze, the raindrops on your umbrella; and really look at the plants around you.

Exercise is one of the things that sometimes lack behind on your to do-list; especially when it is cold and dark.  However, if you don’t feel like heading outdoors, then invest time into following a programme online, for example on YouTube you will find loads of exercise programmes to choose from.  Doing Yoga and/or Pilates will not only keep you moving, but will also improve your mood.

Continue to eat healthy.  Winter is the time when we all like to snack on rich, creamy foods and hot drinks.  Nothing wrong with that; however, watch the amount you eat and replacements, if you can.

Watch movies that will make you laugh; listen to upbeat music, read a good book and go out with family and friends.  Laughter is the best medicine and listening to upbeat music and/or classical music, will most certainly put you in a good mood; regardless of the weather outside.

If you live somewhere where it is dark for months, invest in a yellow light bulb.  Many years ago, a pub in London, replaced the bulbs with yellow ones.  This not only changed the mood of the setting, but also the mood of both customers and workers alike, as the yellow light resembled the sun.  Do make sure to take your vitamin D-supplement to keep moodiness at bay and your immune system strong.

When you feel moody, due to the dark days, make a conscious effort and choose to be positive.  Dress well, take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually and always remember, “this too shall pass.”

Foot exercises for everyone

Your feet work almost non-stop, every day and, together with the hips, carry most of the body’s weight.  When you have strong ankles, it not only helps to maintain the correct feet posture, but the stronger the muscles in you feet and ankles, the better for your bones (skeletal structure).  Women, often, struggle with bunions, ingrown toenails, and the like, because of the shoes they wear when they are older.  Nothing is worse than wearing shoes that is squeezing the toes and/or foot!  Shoes, however, doesn’t have to look “frumpy” or old fashioned; but it is vital to wear a shape that not only gives the foot room, but also leaves space between the edge of the shoe and the toes.

Foot exercises can be done sitting on a chair, lying in bed, or standing.  Doing these exercises are best starting young but, age should not matter, because it can help everyone, regardless of age.  When you stretch it makes you feel better, relaxes the muscles and you have a good night’s rest or wake up refreshed.  The same applies to your feet.  So, let us have a look at a few exercises and stretches, that you can do anywhere, anytime.

  • Pointing and flexing, is one of the easiest exercises to do, sitting down, lying in bed and standing.  When you point the toes, the top part is stretched whilst the bottom is contracting.  When you flex, the bottom part (including the Achilles tendon), is stretched whilst the top part contracts. 
  • Circling the ankle and foot clockwise, then anti clockwise, is another way to relax the ankle.  This can be done either before or after the above.
  • Placing the feet on the floor, curl your toes (as if you want to pick something up), then relax them again.  This is good for the Metatarsals (small muscles) in the feet.
  • With your feet still placed on the floor, fan your toes out and put them back in original position.  This is a good way to strengthen and stretch the areas in between the toes.
  • Keeping your feet on the ground, try to raise only your big toe whilst the others stay flat.
  • Whether you are sitting or standing, slowly curly your feet off the floor by raising the heels first, then the toes, then putting the toes down, then the rest of the foot.  Imagine wanting to walk on your toes, so to speak but, to do that, you must go slowly.
  • Using a towel or a TheraBand, place it around the toe area, and point and flex into it.  When you flex the toes, you can lean slightly forward (when you are doing this sitting down on the floor) and it will help to stretch your hamstring as well.
  • Standing or sitting down, gently roll your feet inward and outward.  This is strengthening and stretching the sides of the feet, as well as ankles and legs.  Be careful, however, if you do feel any discomfort in your knees when you do this.
  • Nothing beats a foot massage!  However, you can also massage your feet at home by either using a roller, a tennis ball, or a spoon!  Gently rubbing / stroking the area underneath the foot’s bridge, is a wonderful way to release tension and stiffness.  This way not only will the feet relax, but also the deep-seated muscles in both your feet and back of the legs.

Taking care of your feet is just as important as taking care of the rest of your body.  If you start at an early age, then the better.  As mentioned in my previous blog post, the sooner you can fix a problem, the better for the long term.  For example, many children walk with their feet pointed out or turned slightly inward.  This is not good, because the muscles are pulling the knees into unnatural positions, which is not good, as well as putting strain on the hips. 

Another thing that often happens when you walk with your toes pointed out or in, is that some of your leg muscles start to lose their strength, whilst others are over developed.  In some ballet dancers’ cases, the inner thigh muscles can start to “disintegrate” due to the position of the feet, whilst the outer thigh muscles over develop and pulls the knees outward! 

For my dancers and parents with dancers out there; the best thing to do is to consciously walk with your toes pointing forward, when you are not wearing your dancing shoes!  Even if you weren’t dancing but find you still walk with your toes pointing out, reteach yourself to walk with your toes pointing forward.  In cases where a child, for example, walks with his / her toes pointing in, it is best to seek professional help.  Something simple like a supporting cushion and the like, placed inside the shoe, could just be what helps the feet to turn forward.  As for my grown-up readers, just being more aware of the way you walk and making a conscious decision (and effort) to fix it, will already make a big difference. 

For my ladies, we all love a heel!  However, if the heel is too high, not only will it throw your body weight too far forward (onto your toes), but it will also cause your whole spinal column to go out of balance; plus, it is bad not only for your feet, but also your knees and back.  If you do wear heals, opt for ones that is not so high that it elevates your heels in such a way that it looks like you are ready to go on pointe (so to speak).  When you get home, or sit at a desk, take off the heels and swop it for low heels or flat shoes.  When you are at home, opt to walk barefoot or, if it is very cold, put some cosy slippers and/ or socks on.  Give your feet time to rest and relax. 

Lastly, always remember to walk, sit, and stand upright.  Your feet already carry your body weight; thus, by having a good posture, it keeps the feet from having to carry extra weight. Also, think twice before you buy and wear shoes that is too narrow, too pointed or too small for your feet and, as mentioned earlier, try to walk barefoot as much as possible; especially outside…your feet will love you for it!

Foot problems in children

Foot problems is something that many people suffer from, regardless of their age.  Some of these problems can be corrected; if it is noticed during the early stages of a child’s life.  Sometimes foot problems develop later in life, due to many reasons for example the type of shoes we wear, the way we walk, our weight, age and many other reasons.  In today’s blog post, I am going to look at foot problems affecting children and what to look out for.

Babies are born with more protective soft tissue, as well as more flexible bones and joints.  Walking barefoot is wonderful for babies, children and adults alike.  Allow them to be barefoot as often as possible.  Apart from good development, our feet need to breathe!  When you choose booties for your baby, make sure that it is not tight and provide warmth.  If it is too tight and/or too small, not only will it restrict circulation, but also development of the feet.  Blankets and the like, must also be draped in such a way that the baby can move around, otherwise development is restricted.  If your baby likes to sleep on his / her stomach, turn the baby around; also make sure that the nappy is not too bulky.  According to studies, a nappy that is too bulky could cause bowlegs.

Most importantly is not to force the child to walk.  No child is the same and each one develops at his / her own pace.  Even if there is only a couple of months difference, it makes a huge difference.  Children should never be compared to others (that includes their siblings), nor should they be forced to do something if they are not ready yet.  Parents need to remember that the so called “terrible 2’s” stage, is a difficult stage for many children, because their brain knows what to do, but the body is not always capable of doing it. 

If you are not sure whether or not your child has a problem, look out for the following:

Does he / she complain or dislike walking and/or running?

Does the walk seem peculiar?

Does he / she stumble or fall often?

Does he / she always take his / her shoes off?

Does the child’s head tilt to one side or the other?

Does one arm swing lower than the other?

Are the hips level or is the one slightly higher than the other?

Do the knees point inward (knock knees), outward (bowlegs) or are they pointing forward?

Does the child’s feet turn inward or outward?

Does the child walk more on his / her toes?

Do the arches of the feet appear very flat / high?

If you answered yes to any of these question, it is best to see a podiatrist as soon as possible.

Other things to look out for, is whether the child’s feet perspire excessively, the shape of the toes, bunions and/or other bony enlargements, if the child’s shoes are worn down more on one side, and if the child complains about pain, tiredness and/or discomfort caused by a shoe or being barefoot.  Parents, teachers, guardians and other adults, sadly, often tell the child that he / she is “dreaming” when he / she complains about something.  Other times children are scolded, for some bizarre reason! 

Children, especially the young ones, are very in tune with themselves and listen to their bodies…something adults should be doing more themselves!  Next time a child comes to you and complain about a shoe that is hurting, or a sock that is too tight, listen and help the child!  The earlier the child’s foot problem is solved, the better and in the long run, the child will have far less / no problems at all, as he / she ages.  Next week, I will delve deeper in to foot exercises for both young and old, that can be done anywhere, anytime!

Healthy, easy-to-make treats for your pets

Pets are part of the family; they are not just man’s best friend, but also loyal companions that gives love unconditionally – many lessons to be learnt from our animal friends.  So, why not treat them to some home-made snacks. Here is a healthy recipe that you can make as a treat for your dog.  Just make sure to ask your vet if unsure and remember, it is a snack (treat) so don’t feed your dog everything at once!

Snacks for your dog:

2 cups wholewheat flour

½ cut smooth peanut butter (make sure is does not contain Xylitol, as this is toxic to animals)

2 eggs

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

¼ cup water; extra if needed

Mix the flour, peanut butter, eggs and parsley in a bowl until just combined.  Add water, little-by-little until the mixture comes together.  Roll out the dough (5 cm) and cut out shapes.  Place on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes at 180*C (350*F).

This recipe makes about 36 treats and will stay fresh, in an airtight container, for a week.  The dough can easily be frozen to make the treats at a later stage.

Here is an easy-to-follow recipe for making home-made snacks for your cat:

1 tbsp Catnip (Optional)

1 10 oz can Tuna or Salmon

1 cup All-purpose flour

1 tbsp Olive oil

1 Egg

1 cup Old fashioned oats

Preheat your oven to 180*C (350*F).  Drain your canned tuna and reserve about 3 tbsp of the liquid.  Dump your old-fashioned oats into the food processor and pulse until powdery.  Add all of your ingredients in and pulse away until it forms a ball of dough. If it’s too sticky, add more flour. If it’s too dry, add a bit of water.

Once mixed, roll out the dough and cut out shapes.  Bake it for about 20 – 30 minutes until it is slightly golden and crisp on the outside.  If your cat prefers crunchier treats, you can bake it a bit longer.  Let it cool completely and store it in an airtight container.

Other, healthy snacks, include fruits and vegetables like apples, banana, carrots, sweet potato and the like.  Make sure to ask your vet before giving you pet something that he / she has not had before, as there are some foods that are dangerous to animals.  When you peel carrots, for example, add it to your pet’s food instead of throwing it away.  You can cook it, together with other vegetables, and give it to you dog, for example.  The nutrients you find in fruits and vegetables are just as important for you, as it is for your pets.  When buying your pet snacks, make sure to read the label – especially if you are health-conscious and stay clear of (as far as possible), from artificial things like colouring, sweetener and the like.

All any animal wants, is love and respect.  Pets are loyal and ask nothing more but to be loved, cared for and respected.  As humans, we sadly believe that we can “do as we please” when it comes to animals and nature in general.  However, it is time to bring the balance back and to remember that we are guardians of the planet, of Nature and her children.  To be a guardian is to protect something / someone and not to discard it when it gets old or ill.  So, a big thank you to everyone who rescues animals in need.  And those of you who have pets (birds included), take care of them the same way you would take care of yourself and your family; after all, your pet (-s) are part of the family!

The month of love

Did you ever wonder where Valentine’s Day comes from and/or why it is called Valentine?  Many, many years ago, the pagan’s had a festival called Lupercalia.  Celebrated on the 15th of February (the ides of February), the festival celebrated fertility.  It was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as the 2 Roman founders Romulus and Remus.  The latter relates to the story of the 2 children, that was raised by a she-wolf in a cave.  Initially Lupercalia survived the rise of Christianity, under the Catholic church.  However, it was outlawed at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared the 14th of February St. Valentine’s Day.  Valentine, or Valentinus, were a Catholic saint, that was executed. 

There are different stories surrounding St. Valentine; some believe it was a priest who secretly helped single men get married, when it was outlawed in the 3rd century in Rome, by Emperor Claudius II.  He believed single men made better soldiers than those that are married!  Another story suggests that Valentine (Valentinus) helped Christians escape Roman prisons.  When he, himself, was imprisoned, he fell in love with the guards’ daughter (who visited him) and, before his execution, wrote her a letter and signed it “Your Valentine.” 

During the Middle Ages, in England and France, it was believed that the 14th of February was the beginning of the birds’ mating season.  Therefore, it aided in the idea that February is the month of love and that this day should be a day for romance.  Geoffrey Chaucer, an English poet, wrote the first romantic poem in 1375, celebrating St. Valentine’s Day.  A quote from his poem reads: “For this was sent on Seynt Valenty’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”  Another poem, written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, were found in the Tower of London, where he was prisoner. 

Where does Cupid fit into all of this?  Today, he is portrayed as a naked cherub launching love-arrows at unsuspecting lovers.  However, the Roman God Cupid has his roots in Greek mythology.  The Greek God of love, Called Eros, was a handsome, immortal, who played with the emotions of both Gods and men.  He used golden arrows to incite love and sometimes leaden ones to sow aversion!  There are different accounts of his birth.  Some believe he is the son of Nyx and Erebus; others believe he is the son of Aphrodite and Ares.  Others suggest he is, in fact, the son or Iris and Zephyrus; or even Aphrodite and Zeus (who would’ve been his father and grandfather)!  It was only during the Hellenistic period, that he started to be portrayed as the mischievous, chubby child you see today. 

Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated worldwide today, only became popular during the 17th century, in the United Kingdom.  By the middle of the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers, of all social classes, to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.  By the 1900s, printed cards began to replace written letters, due to the improvements in printing technology.  Interestingly, these ready-made cards became popular as a means of expressing your emotions, because direct expression of your emotions were discouraged!

The United States began exchanging hand-made Valentine cards during the early 1700s.  in 1840, Esther A. Howland began selling the first, mass-produced Valentine cards, in America.  Known as “the mother of Valentine,” she made cards with real lace, ribbons and colourful pictures known as “scrap.”  Today, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year (could even be more)!  This makes Valentine’s Day the second largest card sending holiday of the year; Christmas is still number one! 

Keeping your immune system strong and healthy

Your immune system is your body’s defence mechanism that protects you from diseases.  In order for the immune system to function optimally, it must detect a wide variety of pathogens, for example viruses, parasitic worms and bacteria.  This must be distinguished from the body’s own healthy tissue.  When the body’s immune system is down, one not only gets ill quicker or catch a cold easier, but the body will struggle to “get over” the illness and your chances double to become ill, again, when the immune system is not functioning properly.

More and more people today suffer from chronic tiredness, anger, depression, stress and overall exhaustion.  Two things play a role:  the world we live in today is geared on consumerism; everything is “fast:” fast cars, fast food, fast trains, and so forth.  This is creating stress and strain for both adults and children alike, as they struggle to keep up with the pace.  The second thing that plays a role is our diet, general lack of nutrition and not getting rid of our stress.  Food stores and fast food-places have made life “easier” for us to grab a meal on the go.  However, these meals more often than not, lack the essential nutrients that we need.  Even the “healthier” options contain hidden ingredients like extra sugar and salt; not to mention the huge amounts of sugar that goes into your soda’s, ice teas, and energy drinks.

The debate is still on regarding fruit juices, as this also contains sugar.  However, when you dilute it with ice or water, or whether you drink it as is, moderation is the key.  I personally believe that fruit juice is a better option than soda; just make sure to read the labels first to make sure that there are not many / any synthetic things added, or extra sugars and/or preservatives. Now the question is; what can you do to keep your immune system strong?

Apart from eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, adding salads, nuts, oily fish and spices like garlic and turmeric to your diet, is a good start.  Drinking enough water, exercising, being outdoors in the fresh air, getting enough sleep, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, and getting rid of stress, also play a big role.  I have written before of the benefits of being outdoors, staying active and watching what you eat and how much; in a nutshell – what you put into your body, will show on the outside.  How you treat your body, will either keep you healthy or prone to dis-ease. Allergies and sensitivities to food and other things like pollen, for example, is not something that everyone is free of.  However, keeping your immune system strong, can aid you to minimalize and/or eradicate these in the long-term. 

Vitamins B (B-complex), C and D, as well as Omega-oils, are important.  When we are ill or under stress, our bodies’ immune system uses vitamin B to help it to cope.  It is important to add this to your shopping bag if you don’t eat meat or don’t eat a lot of red meat, as vitamins B6 and B12 are more concentrated in red meats.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so make sure to take it every morning, before breakfast.  If you have a sensitive digestive system, make sure to buy a buffered vitamin C.

Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), is important as it helps the body to make serotonin (the happy hormone).  For my readers that live in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as the elderly, adding a good vitamin D-tablet to your shopping trolley is a great way to get your dose of vitamin D in.

Omega oils not only play an important role in keeping the immune system strong and healthy, but is also important for your brain’s development and health.  If you are allergic to shellfish, look out for a brand that uses flaxseed and/or other seeds instead.

Maintaining a healthy gut is also a good idea, as is keeping the body in a more alkaline state.  Research is being done to prove that there is a link between your gut’s health and your body’s overall health and strong immune system.  An alkaline gut is better than an acidic gut, and in order to maintain the balance, you can take something like Dr. A. Vogel’s Multiforce Alkaline Powder once a week or once a month.

Spices like turmeric, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, peppermint and so forth, are also wonderful to use and add to your meals, as they all contain anti-inflammatory- and natural antibiotics-properties.

Very important for staying healthy and keeping bugs at bay, is to wash your hands regularly.  Whether you worked in the garden, come home from work, went to the bathroom, were our shopping, or want to prepare food, always make sure to wash your hands with soap and water.   Lastly; when you are out and about and you sneeze, sneeze into your bent elbow-area, not your hands; as this will lessen your chance of catching a bug.  Never rub your eyes, mouth or even your nose, when your hands are not clean. 

Life today is not always easy, but if you can take a time-out, switch off and learn to relax and destress, you are hallway there.  When it happens and you do come down with a cold or flu, having a strong immune system will not only help you to get over it easier, but your chance of it getting worse, is far less, because your body’s defences are stronger and more prepared, as it were!

Take care of your health and remember, a healthy body + a healthy mind = a happy life!

Natural painkillers and remedies

More and more people are turning to natural remedies as a means of treating pain, illness and other diseases.  Over-the-counter medicines and the like, are still used, but people are looking for long-term solutions and remedies, without the side effects.  There are a huge variety of herbs and spices, as well as flower- and essential oil-remedies, that is also available.  However, if you have never used any of these before, please consult a health practitioner and/or a natural medicine-practitioner or health shop, before using it.  Here are a few of the natural painkillers that you will find in most kitchens in the world.

Garlic is fantastic for earache and has natural anti-inflammatory properties in;

Apple Cider Vinegar helps to alleviate heartburn and is alkaline-based;

Cherries are great for joint pains;

Peppermint works for sore muscles;

Drinking water alleviates injury pain and helps to flush out toxins;

Cloves are great for toothache;

Turmeric is a natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory spice; great for chronic pain caused by inflammation;

Pineapple is good to use for bloating and boosts the immune system, due to the Bromelain;

Horseradish helps to alleviate sinus pain; and

Blueberries are good to eat if you suffer from urinary tract infections.

Other natural antibiotics are:  oil of oregano, black seed oil, vitamin D (sunlight), honey, echinacea and soursop leaf.  If you suffer from hypothyroid problems, try adding Irish sea moss, bladder wrack, radish, banana, Ashwagandha, flaxseeds, ginger and coconut, to your diet.  For those suffering from high blood pressure, black seed oil, bananas, leafy greens, soursop, citrus fruits, garlic, green tea, cinnamon and onions are good options.  For pain relief, CBD oil, turmeric, ginger, berries, black seed oil, Boswellia, cayenne, castor oil and carom seeds, can be used.

As we move towards wanting, using and eating organic foods, free range produce and the like, it is also interesting to note that more and more people are moving towards natural remedies.  Personally I am not a doctor, however, as someone who grew up on homeopathic medicines and natural remedies like tissue salts, I can attest to the success I had with it.  Deciding to use natural remedies, is a personal choice and something that has been around for many, many years.  It was used widely by many people all over the world, until Big Pharma came into the picture.

My answer to questions regarding the difference between medical medicine and natural medicine?  Medical medicine treats the illness, pain and/or disease, whilst natural medicine treats the origin of the illness, pain and/or disease.  Having used it since a very early age, I can only speak for myself when I say that it has cured many of my allergies and didn’t just supress it.  Have a look, research and try it out.  Just make sure that you are not allergic to any of the above mentioned remedies, before using it and, if you are unsure, speak to a professional.

The basics of good nutrition

Nutrition is a subject that has been written, spoken and debated about, many times.  Over the years there were different opinions as to what is good nutrition exactly.  Some Nutritionists and Dieticians, will tell you that you should eat a balanced meal, where you incorporate all the different food groups.  Others will tell you to eat less of / eliminate all together, one or more foodstuffs.  So, what do you think, dear readers?  What are the basics of good nutrition?

For me, the basics of good nutrition are eating a variety of foodstuffs, from all the different food groups, but always listening to your body.  Before the time of fridges and modern agriculture, our family and ancestors ate what was in season.  When you look at the Bushmen of the Kalahari, for example, they still eat according to the seasons.  Listening to a video, the other day on YouTube, by Eric Edmeades from Wild Fit, he said that the biggest mistake we make today, is to eat out of season and attach emotions to our eating.  Enjoying a meal is great, but when you teach your child that “she is a good girl” for finishing her plate (when in fact she told you she is full and cannot eat anymore), then that child learns that, in order to be a “good girl,” you must eat more than you can stomach.  Another example of emotional eating, is when you give a child a biscuit or sweet for “good behaviour.”

Eating only the things that are in season, connects your internal body clock, digestive system and metabolism, with the natural cycles of nature and yourself.  Living in a modern world, with fast food-places on every corner of cities and towns, have become a norm, but also an “eye sore.”  Why?  Because it has made people lazy to cook their own, nutritious meals at home and, unlike their advertising, do not contain healthy ingredients at all.  Ready-made meals are much the same.  Convenient yes, but truly healthy?  Not really, due to the hidden sugars, added salts and preservatives, to keep it fresh for longer. 

Looking back at the days gone by, when people used, produced and ate home-cooked meals, were days when there were rarely, if ever, someone suffering from obesity, diabetes, gluten intolerance and the like.  Yes, there were people who were allergic, but in those days not many knew what an allergy was, let alone how to treat it.  However, because the people cooked at home more often than not, they could control the amount of sugar, salts and other things, went into the dishes.  Another key factor, in the days gone by, is that many or most people were active.  They walked a lot, worked outside in their gardens, in the homes and kept active.  Today, many people struggle being overweight, due to the minimum or no exercise at all; plus, their eating habits.

There is a saying that “you are what you eat.”  That is completely true.  Exercising can help you tremendously, but if you don’t eat healthy and make sure that your meals are nutritious, then all your effort could go to waste.  I am not saying that you are not allowed to eat a pizza once a month, or have an ice cream when it is hot.  Not at all.  But it is not just the amount you need to be aware of, but also the portion size.

What to do?  In a nutshell, I think we should go back to basics.  First off, we should make a conscious decision to eat more healthy (if that is the goal), then plan our meals.  Adding a variety of foodstuffs on your plate and your menu, will make it exciting and appealing to eat.  Making sure your portion sizes are not bigger than your hand / fist (depending on your age), is another way to keep an eye on the size and amount you eat.  Reprogramming yourself to not eat when you are in an emotional state, for example angry, hurt, disappointed, and the like, is vital to change your habits and your size.  The basics of good nutrition is to make sure that your meals are balanced.  This includes carbohydrates, fibre, fats and oils, proteins, vitamins and minerals and water.

The basics of good nutrition boils down to listening to your body and eating more raw foods and less processed foods.  Carbohydrates and fibre, which many dietitians say is bad, is actually needed by the body to digest protein.  However, refined sugars and starches, like white breads, cakes, white flour, and so on, are the ones you need to eat less of and/or cut out altogether.  Instead, opt for grains like rye, whole wheat, spelt, as well as vegetables and fresh fruits.  These foods contain the vitamins, minerals and fibre you need.  It also slows down the release of sugar; giving you more energy for a longer period, as well as keeping your blood sugar levels more even.

Fats, oils and proteins are important for our bone health, our brain health, as well as for growth, maintenance and repair of our body, our body cells and our joints.  Hard fats, which the body struggle to absorb and digest, are best to stay clear of or eat very little of.  Also called saturated fats are often the cause of high cholesterol-levels, due to the difficulty of absorbing and digesting it.  Unsaturated fats, like the different oils, fish, lean cuts of meat and so on, are good to add to your diet.  Not only is it brain food, but it also keeps the joints lubricated.

Vitamins and minerals are naturally found in organic and free-range foodstuffs.  Unfortunately today, many foods are produced en masse, is full of antibiotics, growth hormones, synthetic additives and preservatives, and who knows what else.  Opting for organic, fresh produce and making it yourself, is a much better option.  Lastly, water is always key to staying hydrated, healthy and maintaining a glowing skin; so make sure to drink enough!

Lunchbox-ideas for everyone

It is a new year and many parents are looking for ideas to pack healthy lunchboxes; not just for themselves, but also for their children.  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, for example mini kebabs 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 and 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.

Parents must remember that healthy eating starts at home.  Children learn by example and, when a child is given a variety of things to eat, then it becomes a habit.  There are many schools that provide lunch for children; most of them are in line with the right nutritional guidance growing children need.  Starting the new year on the right, healthy foot, will be the best thing you can do for yourself, and for those you love!