Health

Vitamin C and Healthy Skin

vit-c-article-september

People keen on having healthy looking skin are often advised to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. The scientific basis for this advice is the supply of vitamin C which is absolutely essential for skin health. Skin is composed of two layers, the epidermis which provides a barrier function and the internal dermal layer which provides elasticity and strength and also provides nutritional support to the epidermis. But why is vitamin C essential for skin and what role does vitamin C play within skin?

How does it work within your skin?

Normally, skin contains high concentrations of vitamin C which supports important and well known functions including collagen synthesis and providing antioxidant support to shield against UV-induced photo-damage. Skin is the largest organ in the body and its appearance generally reflects the health of its underlying structures. We also know that vitamin deficiencies within the body, and hence the skin, can result in significant skin disorders. Vitamin B deficiency within skin may result in red rashes, seborrheic dermatitis and increased incidences of fungal infections of the skin and nails. A vitamin C deficiency is characterised by skin fragility, corkscrew hairs and impaired wound healing. Prolonged vitamin C deficiency results in skin haemorrhages as found in scurvy. Read More…

Dear Readers

hn-last-one

Sadly, this is my last column in YOU after more years than I care to count. For family reasons, I am stepping down to have a break. But it’s not goodbye as I will still be contributing regularly to the magazine.

Over the years, your letters, cards, photos and emails have provided the inspiration for the huge range of topics I have delved into. You have trusted me with your concerns and, with the help of leading experts worldwide, I have aimed to respond with the advice I would want for my family and friends.

I have had the privilege of talking to health heroes, including doctors and scientists carrying out pioneering research, natural health experts exploring the potential of traditional medicine, and patients with life-limiting conditions who have found their own ways to live well.

It has been a fascinating, illuminating and moving journey into all the spheres that affect our health and wellbeing – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. So I wanted to share a few of the things that I have learnt over the years, which you tell me have also proved interesting and helpful to you…

Laugh – lots! It’s one of the best boosts for your mind and body, relaxing muscles, decreasing stress hormones and improving your resistance to disease.

Fat is not the foe, sugar is. It is now clear that the low-fat imperative was based on flawed research. Good books include Fat Chance: The Hidden Truth about Sugar, Obesity and Disease by Professor Robert Lustig.

Sing. Make music. Dance. The arts generally are hugely powerful for our health and wellbeing. Discover more from Aesop, a charity and social enterprise connecting the worlds of health and the arts (ae-sop.org).

Eat fruit, don’t drink it. Crunching a whole apple gives you fibre, nutrients, making you chew and less likely to snack. A glass of juice contains around four apples, but yields virtually no fibre, gives a quick sugar hit and the acid may erode your tooth enamel.

Be good to your gut. An abundance of research now proves that keeping your gut happy helps your mind, brain and body. Also, gut problems may be behind neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. Many people thrive on a Mediterranean-type, low carbohydrate diet with lots of olive oil, fish and vegetables. Also consider a probiotic supplement.

Womb cancer has doubled in the past decade, mainly due to increasing rates of obesity, and is now the fourth most common female cancer. It’s very treatable if caught early. But nearly half of women don’t know the key symptoms, starting with unusual bleeding. See The Eve Appeal Womb Cancer Guide (eveappeal.org.uk).

Make time for small pleasures – seeing a friend, a sunny day, a bunch of flowers – and be grateful for simple things such as hot water coming out of the tap. ‘Start the day feeling happy by saying thank you,’ suggests life coach Carrie Rose.

Vitamin D is vital. At least one in five people suffers from low levels. If you are tired and lack energy, consult your GP about getting your vitamin D levels tested. Summer sunshine boosts levels but Public Health England suggests we should all consider a daily supplement in the winter.


My Desert Island Books

Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O’Donohue. This book, by an Irish priest, poet and philosopher, moved me greatly. His assertion that ‘the human spirit thrives on risk’ makes me braver in tricky moments.

Healing Without Freud or Prozac : Natural Approaches to Curing Stress, Anxiety and Depression by David Servan-Schreiber. This groundbreaking guide by a leading psychiatrist and joint founder of Médecins Sans Frontières offers scientifically proven ways to balance your mind and brain without pharmaceutical drugs.

The Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook: Little Exercises for an Intuitive Life by Gill Hasson. Suggestions for small changes that can make a big difference to you and those around you. I love the quote from Maya Angelou: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

What Are The Health Benefits Of Soursop?

Soursop

Soursop is having a resurgence at the moment, especially on social media. While it’s relatively new to the western world, it has been used in herbal remedies and tinctures for centuries in South America. The fruit is being championed as a wonder ingredient for your health as it’s thought to help boost your immune system and fight off disease. But, is there any science behind these claims?

What is Soursop?

Soursop is a fruit that grows in tropical areas, including South America, the Caribbean and parts of Africa. It’s also known as graviola and custard apple. It has a green skin and looks somewhat like a spiky mango with white flesh and brown seeds inside.  Read More…

Athlete’s Foot Treatment

Lemon slice

What is athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is a common infection of the feet by bacteria or fungi which requires treatment in order to stop this contagious infection. Athlete’s foot gets its name because fungi and bacteria thrive in warm, moist and dark environments such as swimming pools, locker rooms, gyms, showers and of course shoes. Not just limited to athletes, this concern is more common in males than females affecting roughly one out of ten people.

There are three types of Athlete’s foot infection which are:

  1. Toe Web (Interdigital) – the most common type of infection found between the toes, especially between the fourth and fifth toes.
  2. Moccasin-type – affecting the soles of the feet which become tender, dry and flaky.
  3. Acute Vesicular – the least common type, painful blisters appear suddenly due to an allergic reaction to the fungus often accompanied by a bacterial infection.

The usual symptoms of toe web infections include scaling and peeling of skin between the toes, mild pain, odour, blistering and itching of skin. If left untreated, this type of infection can become severe leading to extreme pain, bleeding, large amounts of scaling, painful blisters and can spread to other parts of the body especially if accompanied by a bacterial infection. Read More…

In Case Of Emergencies

Black and white health case

With schools breaking up shortly, prep for holiday health with the St John Ambulance Universal Plus First Aid Kit – everything you need for common accidents, plus a first aid leaflet, £16.80 from stjohnsupplies.co.uk. And here are my tried and trusted products for trips near and far:

  • Derma E Hydrating Facial Wipes, £9 for 25: one-stop cleansing and softening wipes, based on plant ingredients; they’re plastic-free and 100 percent compostable with recyclable packaging. Also: Simply Gentle Organic Cotton Buds, £2.25 for 200, with biodegradable stems.
  • Compeed Blister Mix Plasters, £4.39: a must for sore heels, toes or corns. Available nationwide.
  • Sea-Band, £8.74 for a pack of two wristbands to help nausea and vomiting: position the band’s stud on an acupressure point on your inside wrist. For adults and children. Sea-Band Mama! Ginger Lozenges with Folic Acid, £4.60, may help to alleviate morning sickness.
  • Viridian Nutrition Travel Biotic, £24.95 for 30 capsules: contains a probiotic shown to prevent traveller’s diarrhoea and stomach upsets. Take one daily for five days before travelling then during your trip.
  • Dr Scurr’s Zinopin Long Haul, £24.50 for ten capsules (for each return flight): this natural supplement formulated by a consultant surgeon helps reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis and puffy ankles on flights over two hours.
  • De Mamiel Altitude Oil, £28 for 10ml: a blend of antibacterial, antiviral and antiseptic herbs to help clear your head and protect your immune system on germ-friendly planes and public transport.
  • Fire Angel Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarm, £24.99: this portable device detects poisonous gas, which has no smell or taste. Inhaling CO can cause chronic ill health. High levels can be deadly, with deaths from faulty appliances recorded in hotels and rentals. (See nhs.uk for symptoms.)
  • Better You Magnesium Gel, £11.95: fast-acting gel for joint and muscle aches and pains or post-flight stiffness.
  • Terranova Avena Sativa & Tart Cherry, £16.80: natural remedy that may help jet lag, tension and insomnia.
  • iS Clinical Sheald Recovery Balm, £43 for 60ml: brilliant for sunburn – a father whose small son was very sunburnt was astonished at its almost instant calming and healing effect. (If you have nothing else, apply cold milk.)

Being ‘hangry’ – hungry and angry – is a real phenomenon, experts agree.
When blood sugar levels drop, you’re more likely to snap at people. Stress related hormones are released along with neuropeptide Y, a chemical that can make people more aggressive. Nutritionist Ian Marber (ianmarber.com) told me many years ago that blood sugar levels start to drop two to three hours after eating, which explained why I would feel faint, shaky and irritable if I didn’t refuel. Ever since then I always carry some nuts in my bag or – a new discovery – a Bounce Protein Energy Ball. These filling, gluten-free, vegetarian bites tide me over nicely. My favourites from the range of 12 are Cacao Mint and Almond, £2 each at Waitrose.


If footwear could win an Oscar, my colleague Rosalind and I would vote for FitFlops, the genius brand pioneered by entrepreneur Marcia Kilgore. Actress Uma Thurman loves them so much she has her own FitFlop Edit, #Forsuperwomen. Like millions of others, we are devotees of these brilliantly designed sandals, shoes and boots, which take you anywhere in style and (hallelujah!) comfort. I wore the Superchic Woven Ballerinas, £90, to a glam dinner and skipped home at the end. Rosalind’s vote goes to the ‘light and airy’ Lulu Mirror Cross Slide Sandals, £59.95. For trotting round town, we’re both wedded to our F-Sporty Uberknit Crystal Sneakers, £89.95 – lace-ups you can pull on. Your feet will thank you. fitflop.com

Iron Tablets – Who Needs Them?

iron rich vegetable leaves

There are approximately six million prescriptions for iron tablets being issued each year in England and Wales. This does not surprise me because iron is essential to life as it plays a key role in the manufacture of proteins and enzymes; is required for the formation of haemoglobin, which is the oxygen carrier within the body, and iron also regulates cell growth. Iron and life are inseparable! With the exception of lactic acid bacteria found in the gut, every living organism requires iron as an essential nutrient for growth and development.

Iron tablets

Iron tablets for the majority are the first line of defence when we are feeling tired or fatigued. Iron tablets are often prescribed for a lack of energy however iron tablets are also prescribed for a host of other reasons including anaemia. The most common types of iron tablets prescribed are ferrous sulphate, ferrous fumarate and ferrous gluconate. There are of course many iron supplements available as tablets, liquids and tonics. Read More…