Dealing with allergies

What is an allergy?

Allergies are commonplace in our modern lifestyles and the severity can range from a mild reaction all the way to a fatal outcome. At least 1 in 4 of us will have an allergy at some point in our life but that statistic is on the rise.

Allergies are historically more common in childhood and can disappear as children get older, but adults can also react to something with which they weren’t previously allergic to. A good example of that is a food allergy or hay fever.

So, what exactly is an allergy? Well, it’s an adverse (incorrect) reaction to something we have come into contact with which is ordinarily harmless. The offending item that caused an allergic reaction is called an allergen.

What are the most common allergies?

The most common form of an allergy tends to be:

  • Food – triggered by either a specific food or groups of food (as in the case of Coeliac disease)
  • Hay Fever (allergic rhinitis) – triggered by grass or pollen
  • Dust – triggered by dust mites
  • Pet hair – triggered by tiny flakes of skin in pet hair or fur
  • Insect bites
Why do people get an allergy?

Now we’ve all experienced an allergy either directly or through a friend or family member and it’s not pleasant.

The reaction is just the tip of the iceberg – it’s the visible manifestation of a more-involved process. By understanding what this process is, we can be better equipped to manage an allergy. It all starts with our immune system…

A quick overview of the immune system

We can consider our immune system as made up of two parts:

Innate immune system: This is what we’re born with (it’s based on our parents’ immunity and environmental factors at the time)

Acquired immune system: This is what we develop as we age through the creation of antibodies which are a response to threats to our normal biological operation

The two parts of our immune system work together to keep our defences strong. The two parts keep themselves in balance through proteins called ‘cytokines’ that are released by our immune cells, such as T-cells.

Our body decides which part of our immune system is best placed to deal with a threat to our health. If one side takes the lead, the other drops back in dealing with that threat.  As we can see then, the healthy functioning of our cells is critical to a healthy immune system.

Our constitution (body type) plays a major role in how strong our immune system is – some of us naturally have a stronger immune system than others.

The key to having the best possible immunity for our body type is keeping our body in its natural balance. When this isn’t the case and we move out of balance, then our immunity can drop.

Our constitution and lifestyle mean some of us have a lower defence level than others – so it takes less for us to tip out of balance which increases the chances of getting allergies.

1 in 4 of us will suffer from an allergy at some point in our life

What causes an allergy?

The biggest disruptor to normal functioning of our cells is…stress!

Whether the source of stress is mental or physical, the result is a breakdown in normal operations at a cellular level involving cytokines. This lowers immunity.

Our body will react to stress in distinct ways depending on the scale of it and our natural constitution.

If we know what to look for in terms of its response, it can help us stay well, including avoiding or minimising the impact of allergies. So, let’s look at how stress affects allergies specifically.

How does stress lead to allergies?

Stress impacts our digestive system which in turn impacts our immune system (70% of our immune cells are created in our gut). This impacts our ability to deal with allergens.

Stress causes our adrenals to work harder. They produce adrenaline to deal with the stress and the longer that goes on for, the more fatigued they become, slowing down our response to managing threats.

The process of stress pushes our body out of balance and our body is always working to rebalance itself – it will always give us the absolute best it can, even if that looks like it’s not doing you any favours at the time!

The three stages of stress on our body

There are three phases of how the body responds to stress:

  • Phase 1 – Reaction
    body produces adrenaline to power through the situation
  • Phase 2 – Adaption
    body continues to produce adrenaline to manage the ongoing situation
  • Phase 3 – Exhaustion
    adrenal fatigue sets in causing the body to be more susceptible to allergies due to the weakened adrenal response

Generally, the adrenal glands will stop allergic reactions. This is why adrenaline is given for an acute allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, and why those at risk of anaphylactic shock (from eating peanuts for example) carry an EpiPen around with them.

To a much lesser degree, the lack of adrenal support also contributes to milder allergies such as Hayfever and allergies to pet fur.

A food allergy is an example of the body adapting to stress. An intolerance to a specific food can result in an initial (mild) reaction which you may not notice or connect to a food item. Although this has stressed your body, your body will learn to adapt to that food – but this will slowly push it out of balance, increasingly depleting your energy.

Since stress is a trigger for allergies and our adrenals are responsible for managing stress, the health of our adrenals is important for managing allergies. If you’re continually stressed, you may be suffering from burnout and your adrenals could be overworked as a result.

The relationship between stress and allergies

Stress triggers adrenaline which results in more cortisol being produced (the stress hormone). This affects our cellular electrolyte balance, which in turn increases our blood sugar level (for more energy) and dehydrates us. Dehydration causes a number of health issues including allergic responses.

Mental or physical stress increases the chances of an allergy

From stress to allergy in 10 steps
  1. Stress results in our body producing more cortisol and in doing so changes our cellular status quo
  2. Potassium and magnesium levels (inside the cell) become depleted resulting in our cells holding on to more sodium and calcium (which are generally kept predominantly outside the cell)
  3. This cell mineral imbalance results in a drop in our blood sugar level
  4. Stress is a diuretic, and so water is lost from the body, together with potassium and magnesium. This leads to dehydration and increased acidity in the body
  5. Our body realises its dehydrated and, to correct the cellular imbalance, it takes water from wherever it can afford. This might be the bowel (leading to constipation), muscles (aches and pains) or digestive tract (heartburn) depending on our natural weak spots (determined by our body type). The neurotransmitter which regulates water balance in the body is histamine. Therefore, a loss of water from stress will lead to increased levels of histamine as the body tries to compensate.
  6. The falling blood sugar level resulting from the electrolyte imbalances trigger a craving for sweet foods, caffeine etc and makes the body more acidic
  7. This creates an environment for bad bacteria to breed in our gut, leading to a toxin build up which creates more work for the organs that are designed to eliminate toxins – like our liver, kidneys, lungs, colon and skin
  8. If our body is not as healthy as it should be, stress can cause ‘leaky gut’. This results in toxins getting into our bloodstream faster, requiring more effort from our body to get rid of them. This extra burden further lowers our immunity
  9. The more dehydrated we become, the more histamine our body produces
  10.  The more histamine we produce, the bigger our allergic response
What are the symptoms of an allergy?

You may have experienced some or all of the symptoms of an allergy, but you may not have connected the dots to other health conditions which can actually be a consequence of an ongoing allergy (immunity) problem.

The immediate signs of an allergy tend to fall into these camps:

  • Respiratory issues – sneezing, wheezing, breathing difficulties
  • Skin and eye complaints – itching, weeping skin, water eyes
  • Swelling – eyes, lips, tongue, face
  • Digestion problems – upset stomach, constipation
  • Shock – a severe allergic reaction can result in anaphylactic shock which can be life-threatening

The knock-on effects of an allergy to look out for are:

  • Weakness – fatigue, exhaustion
  • Aches and pains (due to dehydration)
  • Heartburn (due to dehydration)
  • Candida (due to increased acidity in the gut)
Can multiple allergies be connected?

The short answer is yes!

The greater the burden on our body (i.e., stress), and/or the poorer our digestive system, the lower our immunity and so the lower our tolerance threshold for allergens. The longer that goes on, the more things we become vulnerable to.

So, if you’ve suffered from an allergy and you haven’t manged your stress levels, or diet and lifestyle, the chances are you will develop more than one allergy.

Given that our elimination organs (liver, kidneys, lungs, colon and skin) play such a big part in allergies, if they’re not functioning properly, our ability to deal with allergens will be compromised.

A healthy liver is especially important here and is a common factor in having multiple allergies. That becomes a challenge because our modern lifestyle habits aren’t the best support for our liver!

What role does medication play in treating allergies?

Prescription or over-the-counter medication is plentiful and can help reduce allergy symptoms, but they are a temporary solution.

For example, antihistamine medication for hay fever may reduce your symptoms but they’re masking an underlying problem which can increase if left unchecked.

Allergy symptoms are actually your body telling you it’s out of balance and needs help. Relying on medications as a temporary fix ignores the underlying condition and can actually make the situation worse.

Steroids for example (whether topical or oral) push the toxins that your body is trying to eliminate back in! It’s like having rotting food in your kitchen and applying fly spray to keep the flies at bay!

Self-care tips for managing allergies

  1. Make lifestyle changes
    Stress is a major contributing factor to allergies so it’s vital to get a better work/life balance. Your immunity depends on it! And don’t forget that physical stress is still a form of stress – so if you are over-exercising and have a weak constitution, that can also be a factor

  2. Improve your digestion
    Our brain and gut is connected so our digestion can easily be a victim of stress. Keep your digestion strong with a diet suited to your body type and needs. As a rule of thumb, less processed foods and more veg (especially bitter leafy greens) is key. Remember bitter tasting foods are a great support for your liver

  3. Stay hydrated
    Dehydration sets off a chain reaction that results in impaired biological functions that pushes us out of our natural balance. The solution is simple – increase your water intake, especially when you’re stressed BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean drinking more water. Studies show that water can be better absorbed through water-rich foods like many fruits and vegetables than drinking it alone

  4. Drink less tea and coffee
    When we get stressed, we tend to reach for a cuppa, especially if we’re feeling exhausted! Both coffee and tea are stimulants, causing our adrenals to produce cortisol. Because they are diuretics (i.e. make us wee), they can actually dehydrate us and encourage more histamine production – meaning bigger allergic reactions!

  5. Identifying and removing any food triggers
    Common food triggers include wheat, potatoes, eggs, nuts, soya, shellfish and anything that contains gluten. You may have an intolerance to one or more of these items so it’s good to test each one. You can download and use the food sensitivity chart here
Important foods to minimise allergies

Being smart with a healthy diet is critical when you suffer from an allergy, even if it’s not a food related allergy. Eating to maintain your body’s natural balance is your best bet and to do this, the first step is to eat for your specific body type

If you don’t know what your body type is, you can either take the Superfied body type assessment or eat a diverse range of natural foods (of all colours and groups) as a general insurance policy.

Foods that contain all of the B vitamins but in particular, vitamins B5, B9 and B12 are especially useful for helping manage allergies. These include food like meats and fish and grains.  

Vitamin B12 and folic acid (vitamin B9) are especially useful in a biochemical process that supports a number of functions in our body including liver function, histamine metabolism and energy production, all of which help manage allergies. Vitamin B5 is particularly helpful for good adrenal function.

Eating foods which contain naturally occurring antihistamine are also beneficial. These include foods with high levels of vitamin C (such as citrus fruits, berries and peppers), quercetin (such as onions), or bromelain (such as pineapples).

As you can see, there’s more to allergies than meets the eye. If your allergy issues persist despite taking these steps or if you have long-standing allergy issues that are getting worse as you get older, you may benefit from speaking with a qualified expert to help you eleminate the root cause of the issue, professional food sensitivity testing may also be helpful as part of that.

More information:
NHS allergy information 
Allergy UK
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Mary Sharma

Find out more about the Superfied Way

What are prebiotics?

I know about Probiotics, but what are prebiotics?”

Taking a course of probiotics after an illness treated by antibiotics has been a health hack for those in-the-know for some time.

Our modern urban lifestyles, processed foods, antibiotics, antacids, excess alcohol and stress can all impact the delicate balance of our gut bacteria and so taking a probiotic supplement on occasion can be a useful way of righting wrongs!

What are Prebiotics? 

Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut. Probiotics go some way to ensuring positive commensal gut bacteria in the first place and prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria to keep them there!

Are they essential to health?

Prebiotics help gut bacteria produce nutrients for your colon cells and lead to a healthier digestive system. One of the nutrients produced as a by-product of prebiotics is n-butryrate, a short-chain fatty acid that is responsible for carbohydrate metabolism; along with acetate and propionate, which contribute towards the health of the intestines. These fatty acids can also be absorbed into the bloodstream and improve metabolic health.

Prebiotics help gut bacteria produce nutrients to keep your gut healthy

As a nutritional therapist, I frequently run a functional CDSA (Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis) stool test with clients to see the exact bacteria in their gut, any imbalances of the gut bacteria (known as dysbiosis) which may lead to bloating and/or digestive complaints, or if parasites or infectious agents are present.

Based on these stool tests, I then make bespoke nutrition suggestions to clients to optimise their digestion and gut bacteria balance.

Did you know our gut bacteria and microbiome have the capacity to change in just 3-5 days!

Four commonly used prebiotics

Here are some prebiotic foods I sometimes recommend in my clinic:

  1. Chicory Root

Chicory root is popular for its coffee-like flavour and antioxidant properties. I

t’s also a great source of prebiotics. Around 47% of chicory root fibre comes from the prebiotic fibre, inulin, which nourishes the gut bacteria, improves digestion and helps relieve constipation. It can also help increase bile production, which improves fat digestion

  1. Jerusalem Artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke, also known as the “earth apple,” has great health benefits. It provides about 2 grams of dietary fibre per 100 grams, 76% of which comes from inulin.

They are high in thiamine and potassium which help the nervous system and muscular strength as well as facilitating transporting the energy from food into each cell.

Jerusalem artichokes may help strengthen the immune system and prevent certain metabolic disorders.

  1. Garlic
    Garlic is a tasty herb, full of antioxidants and praised for its anti-microbial properties. About 11% of garlic’s fibre content comes from inulin and 6% from a sweet, naturally occurring prebiotic called fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

Garlic acts as a prebiotic by promoting the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut. It also prevents disease-promoting bacteria from growing.00:01

  1. Asparagus

Asparagus is a popular vegetable, thought by many to have aphrodisiac qualities and it is another great source of prebiotics.

The inulin content maybe around 2-3 grams per 100-gram serving. This serving also contains around 2g of protein.

Asparagus has been shown to promote friendly bacteria in the gut and to have anti-inflammatory properties.

To find a prebiotic you like from one of thirty prebiotic foods, search ‘Prebiotics’ in the Superfied search bar on the Resources page

To find the prebiotics right for your needs right now search in your Superfied Spac

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Karen Preece Smith

To find a prebiotic you like from one of thirty prebiotic foods, search ‘prebiotics’ in the Superfied search bar 

 

Tackle stress by eating better

The stress connection

I think we can safely say 2020 has raised our stress levels! But did you know that chronic stress can adversely affect many of our body’s normal functions, including:

Now more than ever it is key to take care of ourselves, our bodies and our minds.

And sure, everyone will have their own way to cope and relax, from running in nature to watching Netflix, to taking a bath, calling family and friends or cooking and much more.  You should do whatever works for you. We are all different, aren’t we? There is no right or wrong.

Though, there is one thing that we all have to do at some point during these days – eat!

So how about starting to put on our table some foods that can help us support our stress response?

Eating for stress management

If you are wondering how making healthier choices when preparing your meals could help you deal with stress, just remember that 70% of your immune system is in your gut and that your gut is connected to your brain via the vagus nerve (sort of a bi-directional highway).

The gut barrier also ensures (amongst other functions) that toxins, undigested food particles and harmful bacteria may trespass into the bloodstream.

So you can see why starting from what you put in your gut may be a pretty sensible place to start. So what should we eat?

Well, I could start talking about expensive superfoods with weird exotic names but actually there is no need for that at all. Simple, affordable foods that you can find in your supermarket are what we will focus on.

The key concept when eating to support your gut function is that we want as many diverse foods and colours as possible, as these will provide us with different vitamins, minerals and fibre; nutrients that can help us increase the type and amount of bacteria within our gut microbiome.

Different bacteria will have different functions from vitamin production to binding and excreting toxins and more…The main thing is to have a higher number of beneficial bacteria in our gut than harmful ones.

Simple, affordable foods will help you manage stress

Six tips for eating to beat stress

  1. Dial-up your fruit and veg intake
    Aim for 10 fruit and vegetables per day (8 vegetables and 2 fruits), but should you find that too overwhelming start with 5-7 fruit and vegetables per day (2 fruits and 5 veggies).

    If you find that’s also too much for you don’t worry, just start where you can. And make sure to start low and go slow, especially as we want your body to adjust to the increasing amount of fibre which otherwise may cause bloating in some individuals.

  2. The more colourful your plate the better!
    Do not always eat the same veggies and fruits, experiment!

  3. Make half of your plate non-starchy veggies
    Eat foods such as peppers, cucumbers, salad leaves, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes…

  4. Try some prebiotic foods
    These are foods that when broken down in your body, will feed beneficial bacteria. Think bananas, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, chicory. Please, once again, if you have never eaten much of these START LOW AND GO SLOW, let your body adjust slowly.

  5. Increase your fibre intake
    Fibre is not absorbed but can help motility and also provides short-chain fatty acids, compounds which provide energy fuel for your gut wall. Good sources of fibre include brown rice, lentils, chickpea, beans, oats, barley, rye, nuts, seeds, potatoes with the skin on, vegetables, fruits.

  6. Hydrate!
    Ensuring you drink a good amount of water daily can support bowel movements, softening your stools. Good motility is key, as it helps our body excrete toxins and unwanted waste. Everyone needs a different amount of water daily based on age, activity levels etc.

    Your best bet is to keep checking the colour of your urine and making sure it is always pale yellow. If you see it starts getting darker, make sure to drink up! Keep a bottle on your desk or set reminders on your phone to drink every hour. And remember that herbal teas count too!
Certain nutrients get used up quickly by your body when you’re stressed
Replenish lost nutrients

In addition to your gut, please remember that your hormone cortisol (your stress hormone) is produced by the adrenal glands and when you are under chronic stress, nutrients that support adrenal function can become depleted, so it can be a good idea to ensure the food you eat is rich in them. Which nutrients am I talking about?

Stress-supporting minerals:
  • Magnesium: swiss chard, spinach, kelp, beetroot, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, halibut, nuts and seeds.
  • Zinc: Venison, pork, beef, lamb, poultry, crab, seeds, sea vegetables, whole grains
  • Selenium: brazil nuts, meat, poultry, fish and whole grains
Adrenal supporting vitamins:
  • Vitamin C: bell peppers, broccoli, salad greens, fresh fruits especially strawberries and citrus fruits.
  • B Vitamins: beef, poultry, lamb, fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains      
Essential fatty acids:

Increase your intake of these because they are not produced by your body and need to be taken in from the diet. They are a critical part of cells membranes in your body and in these membranes sit the receptors for adrenal hormones amongst others.

Foods rich in these nutrients: SMASH

Oily fish, think of the acronym SMASH (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring) just as a rough guide. Nuts, seeds and their oils can also be used.

Keep an eye on your blood sugar level

Lastly, think about endogenous stress (stress created within your body).

Upset blood sugar levels can promote cortisol production from the adrenals so you want to make sure that your meals and snack support blood sugar balance instead of making it peak and the crash and burn.

The easiest tip is to make sure that all meals and snacks include a source of protein such as meat, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes. You see, protein is broken down slower in the body, which will help blood sugar levels last longer supporting energy, mood, cognition and stress response.

And adding cinnamon to your meals is also a great idea, as this spice can also support your blood sugar balance.

Examples of blood sugar supporting meals:
  • Morning: omelette with spinach spring onions and parsley, or porridge with cinnamon and nut butter
  • Snack: veggies sticks with hummus or babaganush
  • Lunch: salmon with steamed spring greens and roasted asparagus
  • Snack: a handful of nuts
  • Dinner: lentils, aubergine and butternut squash stew
Food for thought

Hopefully, this blog will inspire a few ideas for your next shopping trip.

And please do remember that nutrition is a key part of optimising your health and supporting your stress response but exercise, sleep and spending time talking with your loved ones are just as important. Everything works in synergy, there is no magic pill.

You just need to find the right combination that works for you.

For a deep, deep dive, an expert’s reference for cooking to beat stress (and other ailments) is The Functional Nutrition Cookbook, by Lorraine Nicolle and Christine Bailey, 2013

If you are suffering from chronic stress and want help with dealing with it through diet, contact a qualified nutritional therapist.

This self-care health hack is from Superfied nutritional therapy expert, Valentina Cartago

Search the Superfied food database for a full list of different nutrients in everyday food here

Find out more about the Superfied Way

Ways to deal with bloating and IBS

Ever get that feeling that your clothes are getting tighter from one day to the next? That bloated feeling that comes and goes and makes your life difficult. Well it’s a pretty common problem in today’s lifestyle. For those that have done the Body Type test, Blue body types are especially susceptible to this problem.

Sometimes, it may be just your belly not playing nicely but other times it can be joined by other unwanted friends like belching, excessive wind and even nausea. All these are symptoms of trouble arising from your food processing factory that we know as ‘digestion’.

Bloating is commonplace in modern lifesytles

The food you’re eating isn’t getting digested properly – the process is taking longer than it should so instead of that food being digested, nutrients assimilated and waste eliminated efficiently, food items are hanging around too long in your gut (some more than others). These then start to putrefy and ferment and so those unwanted symptoms start to appear.

if you improve your digestion, you will manage your bloat

So, if you can improve your digestion, you’ll be able to manage your bloat and everything that comes with it. And what you eat and how you eat it can make a big difference to that.

A check list for managing bloating


Symptoms

These are your body’s warning lights to tell you to take some action:
• Bloating
• Belching
• Excessive wind
• Nausea
• Tiredness
• Poor concentration
• Low appetite

Causes:
Here are 10 common causes, both physiological and psychological:
1. Poor eating habits (such hurried eating and not chewing food enough)
2. Food sensitivity
3. Low levels of stomach acid (resulting in weak digestion)
4. Incompatible food combinations
5. Imbalance in gut flora
6. Interface between gastric and other hormonal systems
7. Sedentary lifestyle (whether it’s a habit or enforced)
8. Being stressed
9. Being in a bad mood
10. Compromised function of organs (maybe resulting from trauma, injury or surgery)

Irritants:
When you’re in a state of distress, there critters will not help your cause!
• Sugary foods
• Stimulants like alcohol or coffee
• Excessively sweet fruits (such as many tropical fruits)
• Fatty, processed foods (particularly fatty fried foods like donuts or fried chicken)
• (Dairy – for some people)
• (wheat / gluten – for some people)
• Ice-cold drinks or foods

Helpers:
Your food first aid kit should consist of these guys:
• Fermented foods (like live yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and pickles)
• Garlic (if there’s not a sensitivity to sulphur)
• Ginger (for some people who generally feel cold)
• Papaya and pineapples (they contain enzymes that support digestion and are )
• Flaxseed/Linseed infusion (boil a tablespoon of seeds in two mugs of water for 3-4 mins until it becomes gluey and drink it before meals)
• High fiber foods (if you also have constipation)
• Warm water!

Gut aid

Generally speaking, while fermented foods improve our gut flora by helping redress the microbe balance in our gut (the ‘gut microbiome’) by populating it with more of the good guys, processed foods do the complete opposite. Also, remember that getting into the habit of mindful eating – being calm, collected and distraction-free – is a big helper when you’re struggling with digestion.

Sometimes life’s not as simple as that and certain foods can trigger reactions that we’re familiar with and that’s our body telling us it doesn’t need or want a specific food. In that situation, it’s good to know the culprit(s) through a process of elimination. This is something you can do yourself using a set of simple guidelines or you can ask a nutritional therapist.

Just remember that if you’re getting the bloat, it’s what you’ve eaten and/or how you’ve eaten it that got you into this mess and what/how you eat will get you out of it. If it doesn’t it could indicate a more chronic underlying condition for which it’s worth reaching out to an expert like a registered nutritional therapist

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritional therapist Beata Rachowiecka

To find out more, read our ‘Rethink your wellbeing’ guide

Dealing with insomnia

A sleepless situation…

Many people experience sleep problems at some point in their lives.

For some, insomnia might be an occasional short-term problem associated with specific events such as an exam or job interview.  The difficulty may be in getting to sleep, waking frequently during the night, or waking in the early hours and not being able to get back to sleep again.

For others, it can be a regular issue they have learned to live with, or perhaps manage with sleeping tablets or other medications. In those who are more prone to sleep problems, there may be a long-term susceptibility without an obvious cause, or there may have been a past event or circumstance that caused the original problem.

Although the event is in the past, insomnia may persist, sometimes for many years. Original causes might include emotional trauma such as relationship breakdown or bereavement, or a stressful job.

Your 7-point checklist for better sleep    

If you suffer from insomnia, it is worth looking at practical measures first, before considering medical solutions, either conventional or homeopathic. The following measures may be beneficial:

1. Light

Even small amounts of light in your bedroom can affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, by interfering with the pineal gland’s production of melatonin. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible, and turn off light-emitting technologies (TV, tablet, phone, etc) well before bedtime.

2. Temperature

A cool bedroom is also more conducive to sleep – ideally 60 – 68 degrees, as this mimics the body’s lower internal temp during sleep.

3. Electromagnetic fields

Electromagnetic fields disrupt melatonin production so move alarms and other electrical devices as far away from your head as possible.  Keep mobiles, wireless routers and phone bases out of the bedroom. 

4. Physical factors

Make sure you cut out caffeinated drinks later in the day and consider whether factors such as indigestion, physical pain and side effects of medication may be affecting your sleep.  

5. Exercise

Take some evening fresh air and exercise, especially if you are sedentary during the day.

6. Sleep routine

Decide on a time to go to bed and stick to it.  Take time to wind down – turn off the computer, listen to some music, read a book.

7. Relaxation and worries

Try meditation or relaxation techniques, and if there are things on your mind, keep a note pad by your bed.  Try writing down important thoughts that won’t go away – getting them off your mind and down on paper can really help.

You’re not alone: 1 in 3 people suffer from insomnia

Homeopathic remedies for insomnia

If practical issues don’t resolve the problem, consider homeopathic treatment as an option. 

Self-prescribing can be effective if the problem is short term and has an identifiable trigger.

If your insomnia is more chronic and long term, and with no clear cause, you will benefit from seeing a homeopath looking at the whole history and receive an individualised treatment plan.

The following are some commonly used remedies for insomnia, with the typical features of insomnia it will help. 

Choose the one that best fits your particular insomnia – homeopathy works by matching the symptoms you are experiencing to the symptoms of the remedy. 

1. Coffea

This is a homeopathic remedy made from coffee beans.  In homeopathy we recognise that ‘like cures like’ and the type of insomnia helped by homeopathic coffee is very much like the effect of drinking strong coffee if you are sensitive to it.

Best for:

  • Sleeplessness from an overactive mind
  • Nervous excitement and difficulty switching off
  • Acute senses – every little sound wakes you
  • Tendency to wake at 3am and cannot get back to sleep
2. Kali Phos

This remedy is made from the mineral compound potassium phosphate and has a strong affinity for the nervous system.  It is also one of the twelve substances used in Schuessler’s Tissue Salts (also known as cell salts).

Best for:

  • Sleeplessness from nervous exhaustion
  • Feel completely worn out but cannot sleep
  • Insomnia after a period of intense activity or mental strain, such as childbirth, or studying for important exams
3. Cocculus

This remedy is made from the plant known as Indian Cockle and is a remedy especially suitable for those who are carers or working night shifts and have become mentally and physically depleted.

Best for:

  • Sleeplessness from mental and physical exhaustion, typically brought on by night watching or caring for the sick
  • Sleeplessness with anxiety and restlessness
  • Accompanied by dizziness and twitching of muscles
  • May wake frequently during the night
How to take homeopathic remedies

Homeopathic remedies are safe and non-toxic for everyone to take, including children, with a few basic ground rules. 

As always, if you are concerned, you should seek professional help without delay. Self-prescribing homeopathic remedies is fine when your complaint is:

  • Of recent onset
  • Has a clear cause
  • There is no immediate cause for concern

If your symptoms do not improve within a few days it is advisable to seek help from a professional homeopath, who will be able to take your whole history into account and prescribe a more individualised remedy.

Choosing a remedy involves matching the symptoms you are experiencing to the symptom picture of a remedy.  Allthe listed symptoms need not be present, but what you are looking for is a match for the key features of your complaint to a remedy that shares them.

Take one tablet of the selected remedy in a 30c potency, making sure that only the person taking the remedy touches the tablet. Don’t swallow it down with liquid but allow to dissolve slowly in the mouth. 

For acute insomnia, try one tablet an hour before bed for up to a week.  If there is no improvement stop the dose and consider seeking professional help.

Please note: this is general advice and if you follow it, it’s at your own risk. There is no substitute for a face-to-face visit with an expert practitioner and if the remedies do not help then you should seek advice from a professional homeopath.

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert in homeopathy, Karen Leadbeater

Find out more about the Superfied Way

Dealing with anxiety

That worry wobble…

Anxiety is a state that most people will be familiar with to various degrees. It can be mild and occasional, to severe and persistent and take many forms.

Some people’s anxiety is focused on future events, such as an approaching exam or social occasion. Other people’s anxiety is more focused on things that have already happened; things that they may have said or done and now regret.

Are you more susceptible to anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal human emotion and is usually a signal that something doesn’t feel right, or even threatening in some way. In a healthy, balanced person the issue provoking anxiety can be identified then dealt with, thereby removing the anxious feelings and their source. However, if the anxiety-making issue has been dealt with but the anxiety remains then this shows a susceptibility towards anxiety.

People with a strong susceptibility towards anxiety (e.g. Blue body types or imbalances) will tend to experience anxiety in situations that most other people would not find anxiety-provoking.

Such people will usually have had early life experiences that have made them so susceptible to anxiety in later life; Perhaps they had an overly controlling and fearful mother who taught them that life is scary, or maybe they suffered a severe illness and narrowly escaped death.

Acute or chronic anxiety?

Essentially there are two types of anxiety; acute anxiety and chronic anxiety. Chronic anxiety is long-term, more complex and usually has its roots in early life. This type of anxiety can certainly be addressed with homeopathy but requires professional assistance.

Acute anxiety is short-term and usually triggered by a specific situation. Once that situation passes so does the anxiety. Acute anxiety can also be easily addressed by the home prescriber and doesn’t always need professional advice.

Acute anxiety is short-term and usually triggered by a specific situation

Homeopathic remedies for anxiety

There are a number of ways of dealing with anxiety. Here are a couple of homeopathic remedies that are good to have in your home first aid kit:

1. Aconite
This remedy is made from a plant called Monkshood and is useful for severe anxiety and fear following a sudden and violent traumatic incident such as an accident or even witnessing an accident.

The person requiring Aconite will have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • They look clearly anxious/fearful
  • Extreme restlessness and excitability, or frozen in shock
  • Pale face
  • Racing heart
  • Fear of death
  • Sensations of numbness/tingling especially lips and extremities

2. Argentum Nitricum (Arg-Nit)
This remedy is made from an extremely low dose of silver nitrate so it’s safe to use and is useful for anxiety about future events such as an exam or a social engagement.

The person requiring Arg-Nit will have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Hurried feeling
  • Sense of apprehension/dread about the anticipated event
  • Unable to focus
  • Impulsive thoughts and actions
  • Nervous stomach – loose stools and wind

3. Arsenicum Album (Arsen-Alb)
This remedy is made from an extremely low dose of arsenic so it’s safe to use and is useful for anxiety about health matters.

The person requiring Arsenicum will have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Obsessing over their symptoms; even minor symptoms they believe to be serious.
  • Fear of contagion – will avoid public loos, transport etc
  • Extreme fastidiousness, cleanliness
  • Restless
  • Tries to control others and everything around them
  • Chilliness
How to take homeopathic remedies for acute anxiety

These homeopathic remedies are available at most health food shops or online. They should be used in the 30th potency. This potency is the most commonly used dilution for off-the-shelf homeopathic products because they are extremely low dilutions and so are safe to use at home.

Try one of these remedies in the 30th potency 3 times a day for two days. You should see a significant improvement in your anxiety but if not, then stop taking the remedy and speak with a qualified expert. If they are helping, continue taking for a further five days if you need to.

Please note: this is general advice and if you follow it, it’s at your own risk. There is no substitute for a face-to-face visit with an expert practitioner and if the remedies do not help then you should seek advice from a professional homeopath.

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert in homeopathy, Nick Taylor

Find out more about the Superfied Way

Dealing with coughs, colds and congestion

Home remedies

“I’ve had a cough for ages.”
“Anytime I get a cold, I get a chest infection.”
“My lungs are my weak spot. Is there something I can take?”

As a medical herbalist, I hear these things a lot. There are a few common medicinal herbs you probably already have in your house (or can easily get at your local shop) to keep your chest clear and your immune system strong. Here are seven home-helpers and a few tips on what to avoid.

Eight Remedies 

1. Garlic

No one who has garlic in the house should go down with a chest infection.  Crush the cloves and consume them raw for their expectorant and anti-infective actions.  Chewing them works, but it’s a bit like a bomb going off in your head; not everyone’s cup of tea. 

When the cloves are crushed and the cell walls broken, several potent compounds are formed, including sulphur compounds and specifically allicin.  The chemical reactions that occur when the cloves are crushed are what gives raw garlic its strong smell – lingering on the breath hours later, and also what accounts for the anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal, actions.

Because these chemicals are excreted through the lungs, they sort of disinfect the respiratory tract on their way out. In this way, garlic also helps you cough up stuck phlegm from deep in your lungs and allows you to get rid of stubborn infections. 

To use it medicinally, eating raw garlic in food is the simplest way.  The raw cloves can be quite irritating to the gut, so eating it as part of a meal is recommended.  Additionally, the anti-everything compounds are damaged or destroyed by heat, so use garlic in cold foods or add it at the table.

2. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is many people’s favourite spice, and a powerhouse of a medical herb.  Cinnamon improves circulation – particularly in the chest and abdomen; it’s anti-bacterial and anti-viral; helps dry up mucus and strengthen membranes; balances blood sugar levels; is delicious!

Cinnamon is particularly helpful when you feel chilled and phlegmy at the beginning of an infection.  Use cinnamon in tea or hot drinks to strengthen your immunity and help your body deal with invaders. If you don’t have cinnamon, use mixed spice, pumpkin pie spice, or mulled wine spices instead. 

All of them make a nice tea just with hot water – or use with a plant milk to make something comforting.  Because cinnamon has such a sweet flavour, honey is usually not necessary.

3. Thyme

Thyme is rich in essential oils (which are simply the aromatic principles of plants). Essential oils are universally antiseptic, which is one of the reasons plants make them: the strong chemicals in these prodigiously fragrant substances act as pest deterrents and medicines in the plants themselves. 

Thyme is particularly rich in them, and also happens to be particularly anti-viral and anti-bacterial.  Like Garlic, its powerful essential oil is excreted via the lungs, and so it clears infection from the respiratory tract – lungs, throat, nose, and sinuses – on the way out. 

Thyme is an indispensable herb for colds, coughs and respiratory viruses, and works very well in tea.  If you have some in your kitchen, great.  If not, though, and it’s an emergency, poultry seasoning will do.  A little lemon in the hot thyme tea helps with vitamin C, and a little honey can be helpful for a sore throat. 

4. Sage

For sore throats, sage is superb. It is drying (try it, you’ll see what I mean), and another herb high in essential oil. Sage is great for infections, and I’ve found it particularly effective for for mouth and throat infections. 

At the first sign of a throat tickle, make a strong cup of sage tea (or use poultry seasoning if that is what you have) and sip it. Add some honey and lemon if you like.  I tend to keep a cup of strong sage tea by the bed when I feel a sore throat coming on, and every time I stir in the night, I take a gulp. 

Normally, that is the end of the matter.  Sage can similarly be used by gargling as a mouthwash to heal up the mouth and throat. 

thyme_antiviral_colds_remedy
Thyme is particularly anti-viral and anti-bacterial

5. Echinacea

Echinacea is a well-known cliché but for good reason – it’s very effective. Echinacea is excellent when used at the very beginning of infections, at higher doses than you would expect, to nip them in the bud, or at least decrease both severity and duration of the illness. 

You can use capsules, tea, or liquid extracts.  The root of Echinacea angustifolia is the traditionally used part, and I have found that it works much better than the much cheaper and more cheaply produced leaves of E. purpurea.  If you can, get the good stuff and use the root. 

You can simmer the dried root (should you wish to buy it) or use a ready-made preparation. Whatever you wish to do, though, echinacea is well worth having on hand for when you feel a sickness coming on.  Alternatively, consider adding it to your daily supplement regime as immune support. 

you probably already have many medicinal herbs in your house

6. Vitamin C

Most people know about this, but it bears repeating that several 1000mg tablets or capsules of vitamin C when you feel something coming on can really help. 

Unlike many other nutrients, vitamin C is very safe even at high doses; if you overdose yourself, you’ll just get the runs or some cramps and a bit of an upset stomach. Definitely have some vitamin C on hand.

7. Vitamin D

This is a relatively recent entrant into the field of panaceas, but it can make a huge difference to a person’s health and immunity. 

Low vitamin D levels are linked with ill health – including autoimmune disease, and susceptibility to viral infections. While vitamin D is produced in our bodies from sunlight on our skin, the angle at which the light hits the skin has to be fairly close to 90 degrees.  Also, darker skins need a lot more sun exposure than lighter ones, because melanin is a sun-blocker.  Block sun, block skin cancer, but also block vitamin D production.

In the northern parts of the world, we don’t get enough sun over the year to produce the required level of vitamin D. So, if you live in the northern hemisphere in a country like the UK, supplementation, especially in winter, is a good idea.  For adults, 1000-5000IU daily is a good bet. 

Sugar, Dairy & Eggs

Lastly, there are a few things to avoid: sugar, dairy (cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.), and eggs. 

Sugar increases inflammation in the body, which is less than helpful if you already have inflammation from infection.  Consuming sugar also significantly depresses immunity in the short term, allowing a brewing infection to get a foothold. 

The health problems associated with sugar are well known, but are always worth mentioning: they include systemic inflammation – which is itself associated with chronic diseases and general ill health, diabetes and complex metabolic problems, lowered immunity, mood disturbances, digestive problems, weight gain, and a host of other scary things you don’t want. 

Dairy products and eggs both increase mucus production, so if you have a runny or stuffy nose and a phlegmy cough, they will make it noticeably worse. Lay off these foods until you are over your illness. If you are prone to respiratory infections, reducing your consumption of dairy and eggs longterm might help you manage it.

To Summarise

So, particular herbs – Garlic, Cinnamon, Thyme, Sage, and Echinacea – are good for coughs and colds. Vitamin C and D are both good as well.  Dairy and eggs are not so good. And sugar in this case is bad.

In terms of which is the best route for you – well the best medicine from this list is the one you actually have to hand. Stay healthy!

DisclaimerThis blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.  If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, caring for young children or a person with a disability, taking medication, or living with a health problem, consult a herbalist or knowledgeable physician before using herbs, supplements or natural remedies.  Drugs can interact with herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, and even some foods, and some herbs are unsuitable in pregnancy or for young children. Consult a professional gif you have questions.

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert herbalist Joseph Nolan

Find out more about the Superfied Way

Dealing with grief

The many faces of grief

Grief is a part of life and it’s not just limited to someone’s passing. In a wider context, it can also manifest as a number of other issues such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Gut problems
  • Trauma
  • Bad dreams
  • Lack of sleep
  • Loss of appetite

People may not associate a health issue like eczema, a heart condition or varicose veins with grief but it’s quite often it can be the consequence of some trauma or just some emotional state that is underlying everything. That’s not to negate the physiological condition but it helps to address both the physiological symptoms, the root cause and also the emotional side of things

Herbs for Grief

Herbs can be a way to resolve these issues. They work on a number of levels. Two of nature’s remedies that are particularly useful for helping with grief are rose and vervain.

The first one is Vervain (also known as verbena), which is a relatively small, slender and erect plant with tiny lilac flowers. It’s a herb of letting go, predominantly. It’s a bitter herb and a hormone balancer and has lots of other physiological effects but at an emotional level, it’s for letting go and, for that, it’s invaluable.

Rose is also a grief herb. It’s also about letting go but its effects are very soft in comparison to vervain which is a bit more dynamic. Usually, a blend of the two makes for a good remedy.

Both of these herbs can be used for boundaries, for inner strength and self-empowerment. Grief is a hard congealed stuck, energy and these both help soften that.

The grief from a family member passing, for example, can result in a very acute trauma, and you may benefit from taking the herbs there and then. these herbs can help you find more resilience in relaxing and then processing what’s just happened, in conjunction with a good diet and healthy lifestyle. If the grief happened long ago, we may not notice it – it just becomes part of who we are. In both cases, the result of grief could be a stuck emotion that needs to be gently dissolved to let the energy flow smoothly again.

 

Which is better for you: vervain or rose?

Both herbs have their superpowers but it’s important to know your body type to help find which of the herbs Is best for you.

For example, vervain is a bitter herb and so it has a strong cooling effect on the liver while rose is sweet and is less cooling so if you are naturally cold already, rose may be more beneficial on its own or you can use vervain with other, more warming, herbs to provide a good counter-balance.

While rose is a gentler, more subtle remedy, it is full of antioxidants. There are actually more antioxidants in rose petals then the equivalent amount of rooibos tea which is quite amazing!

How do you use vervain and rose?

The easiest way to use any herbs is simply boiling them in hot water and drink them as a tea. For vervain, you can add 3-4 leaves in hot water and boil them for 8-10 minutes. For rose, you can pick a handful of petals add them to boiling water. Any rose with a scent is perfect and try to avoid one that’s been subjected to chemicals. So, just add water, boil and drink!

You can also use rose and vervain in a tincture form which will last longer and you may find it more convenient. As with any herbs, if you a pregnant or have a health issue, it is best to speak with an expert before consuming to be on the safe side.

Watch the full video post

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert herbalist Amaia Dadachanji

Find out more about the Superfied Way

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