The following articles were authored by Satu

Sleep – are you getting enough?

If you fall asleep in less than 5 minutes of going to bed, you are very likely sleep deprived. Seems that 10-15 minutes of relaxing before falling asleep is ideal. See 40 sleep facts from the largest Australian national sleep survey ever done.
woman sleeping
Women need more sleep than men, the evidence is mounting up that this is a fact rather than fiction. It not just the grumpiness that our closest and dearest have to put up with, the latest study by Duke University (video summary) shows how women suffer more than men, both mentally and physically from lack of sleep. As well as a higher risk of heart disease, depression and psychological problems, sleep-deprived women have extra clotting factors in their blood, which can lead to a stroke. They also have higher inflammation markers, which indicate developing health problems. As inflammation markers are also linked to pain, sleep expert Dr Michael Breus explained that women can literally be in more pain when they wake up.

While women seem to be particularly susceptible to the effects of lack of sleep, not getting enough sleep can be detrimental in many ways for us all:
- fatigue leads to accidents, hurts the learning process, causes forgetfulness and impairs judgement
- sleep deprivation can lead to multiple health issues including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure
- lack of sleep can lead to depression and poor sex drive
- lack of sleep can cause weight gain and damage skin
- lack of sleep or poor sleep quality reduces our aerobic and anaerobic performance and strength therefore directly impacting our sports performance

We all need quality shut eye to recover from the days stresses and let the body rest and heal during the sleep. This is particularly important for athletes who also need adequate sleep to recover and adapt from exercise.

If you don’t manage to get enough sleep at night, try taking strategic naps. However, Dr Breus warns that those naps should be either 25 minutes or 90 minutes long. Any other length will make the snoozer feel worse when they wake, he says.

More on this subject later as it is one of the most important things to get right. After all, we spend nearly third of our life under the covers!

See also my later post on More on benefits of sleep

Lemons

The recipe is really simple — a cup of warm (not hot) water and the juice from half a lemon and you too can enjoy a multitude of health benefits:Lemons

1. Boosts your immune system
Lemons are high in Vitamin C and potassium. Vitamin C is great for fighting colds and potassium stimulates brain and nerve function and helps control blood pressure.
2. Balances pH
Lemons are an incredibly alkaline food, believe it or not. Yes, they are acidic on their own, but inside our bodies they’re alkaline (the citric acid does not create acidity in the body once metabolized). As you wellness warriors know, an alkaline body is really the key to good health.
3. Helps with weight loss
Lemons are high in pectin fiber, which helps fight hunger cravings. It also has been shown that people who maintain a more alkaline diet lose weight faster.
4. Aids digestion
The warm water serves to stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis—the waves of muscle contractions within the intestinal walls that keep things moving. Lemons and limes are also high in minerals and vitamins and help loosen ama, or toxins, in the digestive tract.
5. Acts as a gentle, natural diuretic
Lemon juice helps flush out unwanted materials because lemons increase the rate of urination in the body. Toxins are, therefore, released at a faster rate which helps keep your urinary tract healthy.
6. Clears skin
The vitamin C helps decrease wrinkles and blemishes. Lemon water purges toxins from the blood which helps keep skin clear as well.
7. Hydrates the lymph system
This cup of goodness helps start the day on a hydrated note, which helps prevent dehydration. When your body is dehydrated, it can’t perform all of it’s proper functions, which leads to toxic buildup, stress, constipation, and the list goes on. Your adrenals happen to be two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys, and along with your thyroid, create energy. They also secrete important hormones, including aldosterone. Aldosterone is a hormone secreted by your adrenals that regulates water levels and the concentration of minerals, like sodium, in your body, helping you stay hydrated.Your adrenals are also responsible for regulating your stress response. So, the bottom line is that you really don’t want to mess with a deep state of dehydration!

Don’t be surprised if you begin to view mornings in a new light.

(source: beforeitsnews.com)

Resistance to antibiotics

Little side step from nutrition but well worth a read… Sir Alexander Fleming mentioned already in his Noble Prize speech in 1945 that it is possible that human ignorance and overdosing with penicillin can lead to penicillin resistance. We are now there! Check BBC’s Antibiotics Apocalypse for more information

It is as important as ever, maybe even more so, for us as individuals to take action through our diet and lifestyle choices to maintain and boost our health and immune system.

Sugar Cravings

We have all done it, we have succumbed to the calling of sweet stuff when we are tired, stressed or just generally fed-up.  Cravings, this uncontrollable desire to have something sweet immediately, are seen as an innocent need for a quick ‘pick me up’, but is there something more going on in the background?Chocolate bar

Regular consumption of sugar has been shown to create patterns for bingeing, craving and withdrawal, behaviours that are connected to the same neurochemical changes in the brain that are also activated by addictive drugs1. Increased sugar intake has also been linked to obesity, inflammation, cardiovascular disease and chronic disease2, 3.

Our brains require a constant supply of energy in the form of glucose, such as sugar. If the energy supply to our brain is disrupted, our inherent survival mechanism creates a sugar craving, and then rewards us with a dose of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter4.

We can balance these fluctuating energy supplies by eating enough protein and fats with carbohydrates to slow down the feed of sugar from healthy carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, dairy) to our bloodstream. Stress can also contribute to the imbalance of blood sugar levels. Both stress and high-sugar foods create blood sugar ‘highs’ that signal a start of insulin production. Normal insulin function delivers sugar into our cells for energy, but in excess it prioritises fat storage over fat burning.

You can take steps to break the vicious cycle of sugar cravings by making the right food choices and by reducing your stress levels.

Control sugar cravings by reducing
- cakes, biscuits, ice cream, sweets, chocolate, sodas, alcohol, refined sugar
- stimulants, including caffeine, nicotine
- wheat and dairy as they may stimulate cravings in some people
- stress
… and increasing
- protein intake at each meal  – eggs, nuts, cheese, tofu, beans, fish, free-range meat
- good fats within meals and snacks – nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocado, coconut milk, Greek yoghurt, olive oil in salads
- meditation, yoga, or walking/deep breathing in fresh air to relieve stress

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  1. Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent excessive sugar intake.  Neurosci Biobehav Rev; 32:20-39.
  2. Thornley S, Tayler R, Sikaris K (2012). Sugar restriction: the evidence for a drug-free intervention to reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Intern Med J; 42 Suppl 5:46-58
  3. Carrera-Bastos P, Fontes Villalba M, O’Keefe JH, Lindeberg S, Cordain L (2011). The western diet and lifestyle and disease of civilization. Res Rep Clin Cardiol; 2:215-235.
  4. Rada P, Avena NM, Hoebel BG (2005). Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell. Neuroscience; 134;737-744.

Alarming insight to modern ‘healthcare’

U.S. manages disease, not health – below feature by CNN gives us insight to how a modern super power has lost sight of the basics when caring for its ever increasing population. While our UK system is not as reliant on people having to have private insurance to have access to quality healthcare, our mainstream medical care is similarly relying on drugs to suppress symptoms rather than using nutrition, exercise, and stress management to promote long-term health and therefore help the nation to live longer disease free. No doubt this type of preventative approach would significantly help the management of the healthcare costs both on the national and individual level.

Article: U.S. manages disease, not health by CNN

Heart Health and Mediterranean Diet

New gold standard study shows the benefits of Mediterranean diet i.e. diet high in vegetables, beans and other legumes, fruits, and fish, and a good helping of olive oil. This diet restricts the intake of biscuits and other bakery treats, spreads like butter, and processed and red meats, but, it allows moderate amounts of wine in true Mediterranean style, red being the better option out of the two.

The study shows how the patients who ate a “Mediterranean” diet rich in nuts or extra virgin olive oil as well as vegetables and wine had 30% fewer heart attacks, strokes, or deaths from cardiovascular disease than those that ate a diet that simply lowered their intake of dietary fat. This is very encouraging study giving us hope that with right dietary changes we may be able to reduce the ever increasing population relying on statins.

Read a more detailed summary of the study on Forbes pages.

Waste Not

Estimated 30% of vegetables are not harvested in the UK due to their physical appearance. 30-50% of food produced around the world goes to waste every year, – mostly in Europe and the USA.

This is a huge waste of resources at all levels and highlights the poor marketing practices and consumer behaviour of our times. Think through the deals on offer, if you don’t have time to eat it or freeze it, don’t buy it and a kinky cucumber is as tasty as its straight cousin, and much more fun with the kids. See one of the many articles here!

Burning calories by running

By popular demand, below are few examples of the calories in the most typical drinks and approximately how long you need to run to burn off those calories. If you wish to walk off the calories, you need to double the running time and keep it brisk. Same applies to burgers and chocolate biscuits, so, best to think twice before you take an other bite if you are aiming to control your weight.

1 pint of beer (5%) = 2.8 units = 261 calories
This is about the same as an average burger.
Running time: 26 min

Large glass of red wine (12%) = 3 units = 200 calories
Large glass of white wine (13.5%) = 3.4 units = 200 calories
This is about the same as two chocolate digestive biscuits.
Running time: 20 min

Gin & Tonic, large single measure = 1.3 units = 128 calories
This is about the same as 1.5 chocolate digestive biscuits.
Running time: 13 min

You can visit Drinkaware for more information on drink related calories and tools.

Alcohol adds empty calories to your diet

Have you gained some extra pounds over the holidays? It is worth noting that it is not just the seasonal food excesses that cause this increase, calories from alcohol are a major contributor to increased weight. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20874204

wine glasses

For example, a large glass of wine contains over 170 calories, which is the same as eating two chocolate digestive biscuits. Calories from alcohol are what is called ‘empty’ calories since they have no or very limited nutritional value. With this lack of nutrition, weight gain and additional health impacts, it is wise to limit the alcohol intake to minimum and know the units of various drinks and your own limits.

Keep hydrated – keep well!

water in glass
Water…. 2/3 of our bodies consist of it, this makes water our most important nutrient. Among many uses of water, it is needed to provide shape and structure to our cells, to regulate our body temperature, and aid the digestion and absorption of nutrients. In a moderate climate, we should consume 1.5 – 2 litres of water every day. It can be achieved by drinking eight glasses of water. Fruit, vegetables, diluted juices, and fruit teas also count toward our water intake, for example, four portions of vegetables can provide up to half a litre of water.