The Happiness Prescription

a few white tablets with happiness written on it on a dull grey foreground and a dull pink background.

GPs are recognising that at least half their patients need far more than a pill for every ill. For one woman, singing in a choir proved life-changing. Sarah Stacey reports.

Listening to the lightness and warmth in her voice, it’s hard to believe Arabella Tresilian, 44, has experienced such serious mental health problems that she once feared she was not well enough to look after her two young children. Treatment with medication and talking therapies was at best a BandAid. What finally transformed Arabella’s life was singing in a choir, a panacea enabled by the social prescribing initiative at her GP practice in Bath. GP Dr Michael Dixon describes social prescribing as ‘a radical rethink of medicine, planting health and healing in the heart of the community’..

Social prescribing aims to improve patients’ health holistically by referrals to link workers who spend time with them exploring different non-medical interventions, often provided by voluntary or charity organisations based in the local community. Activities might include music, art, sports, dancing, knitting, walking, group learning, yoga, fishing and cookery among many others. Link workers may also help patients address housing, legal and financial problems.

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Top Tips For Healthy Winter Feet

Feet with red nail polish bursting through blue paper

With the sparkling joy of festive markets, New Year celebrations and Glühwein now over, it’s time to dress up in your winter coat, your fabulous scarf, pull on those wellies and embrace winter! 

Kick through fallen leaves in the park, splash through puddles and walk through the icy snow. But what does this really mean for your feet and footwear? What is lurking?

Winter months see an increase in hygiene related foot conditions, which is primarily due to us keeping our feet enclosed in socks, tights, shoes and boots giving rise to warm sweaty feet!  Feet can become soaked through from rain, slush and snow.  The skin becomes soggy and these moist conditions can give rise to fungal and bacterial infections of both the skin and nails.

Footwear can also take forever to dry out and re-wearing of damp footwear can have a knock on effect on the skin as well as ruining the shoes…

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Odd Bal Creature Humanoid on Planet Greyscale

I love treatments.  Not all treatments, but a selected few. Rarely do they have anything to do with VH or the work that I do, but on a recent research (promise I was working) trip to Hong Kong (before Coronavirus), I was a virtual resident in the fabulous spa at The Four Seasons.  Shabir is convinced that I spent most of my life-savings on those treatments, but the thing is that I rarely have time for treatments when I’m here, so I become a demented treatment spa-being when travelling.

It is well-known amongst my friends that I’d far rather have an early evening treatment and retire to my room with room service.  I’m done with restaurant hopping.  I don’t need to be ‘seen’, in fact I’d rather not be seen.  I spend most of my life hiding behind the newsletter and sunglasses.  I like it that way.

Anyway, back to treatments and I have been seduced so many times by words describing treatments, which just don’t live up to promise.  I’ve done most things, non-invasive I need to add.  I’ve rested my body on amethyst crystals, I’ve been gonged out of my brain and have rolled in mud.  I have walked over hot coals, steamed to oblivion and on.  I am super-critical and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve jumped off a treatment bed in the midst of a full-blown panic attack because the ‘energies’ are all wrong.

Of course there is a balance and for each disappointing, over-egged treatment, there are the fabulous ones.  A session with Anastasia Achilleos has such a deep far-reaching effect, I deliberately don’t drive when I see her because I’m too far ‘gone’ when I emerge.  When the amazing Ross Barr sticks a needle in my head and tells me it’s the ‘Heaven and Earth’ acupuncture point, I float and then send a series of emails begging for more.  Lest he should elevate me to the top of his impossible wait list. (This acknowledgement may further that cause – hello Ross – waving – blowing kisses – doing somersaults!).

It would be remiss of me not to write about Light Therapy because, as each of you know, I am such a strong believer.  It goes way past being just another beauty treatment; it is so much more, encompassing skin, health and wellbeing, which would explain the devotion I/we have to the Boost At-Home Treatment Mask, and now the stupendous Bib, the all-singing-all-dancing-at-home treatment that targets our necks and décolletage.

And then serendipity. I went to my hairdresser, Daniel at Hershesons. I couldn’t see out of my fringe.  Albeit that he has cut my hair since I was a teenager, I dance a dance of extraordinary happiness when I go to Berners Street, mostly because of all the treatments you can have there now.  This is where I had my first Light Salon treatment and the rest is history.

At this point, if I may, a call-out to Claire who does my colour, basically because she is amazing and madness descends upon us when we are together, but I diversify because I was talking about serendipity and as I walked into Hershesons, there they were.  Hannah Measures and Laura Ferguson, aka The Light Salon girls.  Serendipity indeed as it transpired.

I believe that everything in life is about journeys and relationships. If we take that back to the core, the whole ethos of The Light Salon is about the journey and in a sense we are only at the beginning.  The vision is such that having established themselves with their Facial Bar treatments, they are now establishing The Light Salon Skin, Health and Wellbeing rooms.  Such things sing to me.  As does Pressotherapy.

It went like this. Having discovered that Hannah and Laura both cite Pressotherapy as their favourite body treatment at the moment, the next thing I knew was that I had been scheduled for Pressotherapy that very afternoon, at which point I turned my phone off and went on the missing list.  Always a good thing.

So exactly what is Pressotherapy.  It is described as a treatment for the body and mind, allowing you to pause, repair and reset the body.  Keeping your clothes on, you are helped into the Pressotherapy trousers, which are yanked up over your stomach.  Creating waves of gentle (and not so gentle) compression, it helps ramp up the circulatory system, boosting blood circulation and helping to reduce fluid retention and puffiness.  That’s me.  Water retention and puffiness.

The Lymphatic System doesn’t have a pump, so it depends on muscle contraction and manual manipulation to move fluid, which is fine with me because my kind of exercise is letting somebody else do it for me.  That aside it also helps take down cortisol levels (the stress hormone).  Knowing that, I started to dream of the impossible – daily sessions.

Anyway, anyway, having wriggled into the Pressotherapy trousers, the switch was flicked on and pockets of compressed air tightly gripped my legs from the ankle and moved up and down my body.  The pressure is carefully measured and apparently it peaks at 80.  Does anybody get to 80, I asked.  Well yes, I was told by Sofia the therapist, one of my colleagues, but she’s the only one.  At this stage I was on 70.  Dial it up please (as my competitive gene kicked in), so she did, I managed three minutes at 73 and when I started hallucinating about morphing into the Michelin Man, we took it back down to 70.  The machine had defeated me and my gene.

So look, the thing is that the efficacy of the treatment doesn’t depend on higher pressure and there are apparently many settings for many different things.  ‘Fit In A Dress’ (aka fit in your jeans) is one of them.  Of course this isn’t going to happen after one treatment, but two treatments a week for three weeks should do it apparently.  And then there’s water retention, once a week would be good.

The bottom line here is that I really did feel different after the treatment.  I felt lighter and my puffy computer eyes had been banished somewhere in the process.  This treatment is clinically proven, but it gets even better because Pressotherapy is accompanied by a double dose of LED, body and face ending with a head, neck and shoulder massage.  Super brilliant when you’ve just had your hair done, but I didn’t care.  This is what I call wellbeing and I want more.

Weirdly, or otherwise, I told Shabir a few days before this happening that I wanted to write more and that I would write random articles outside of the newsletter and the addicts bulletin.  And now this, with love and gratitude to Hannah and Laura for allowing me to play with their treatments and, unknowingly, giving me fodder for the random.

In full transparency, the girls didn’t ask me to write this, I decided I wanted to write about it and so I have.  It follows my strong ethos of sharing fabulous things just because I can and there are no pound (or dollar) signs attached.  London-centric, yes for the moment, but there are plans for a UK nationwide roll-out in time.

The VH platform is for dancing on.  And so we dance.
With sunglasses on.

Tummy Troubles

yellow sponge impacting water side on shot

IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is pretty common, affecting about one third of us in the UK, and that’s the only pretty thing about it. Lets be frank, this chronic condition is a beast to live with.

I know this having suffered for decades; it began with an episode of bacterial dysentery from working in India in the mid-1990s; from then on my gut reacted to a wide range of triggers from stress to sugary foods of any kind and, particularly, fizzy sugary drinks with food. It’s been pretty well under control for several years now, thank goodness, due to a combination of gut-calming supplements and practices.

IBS makes your tummy hurt, bloat and, for many people, means you spend your life wondering if the next gurgling feeling in your belly will necessitate a dash to the nearest loo – and just where is that when you’re not at home?  For others, the main symptom is constipation and all the discomfort that stems with that.

There is no single cause for IBS. Although it may start, as mine seemed to do, with one episode, the symptoms result from a number of factors acting in combination. These include abnormal muscular gut activity where the intestine pushes and squeezes its contents on its journey in an over-vigorous fashion, which can be quite painful. People with IBS also seem to be more than usually sensitive to the way this is happening and feel the pain more easily.

Another key factor is an imbalance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ gut bacteria, now much talked about. (See my piece on Gut Bugs here.) Food intolerances or sensitivities often play a part and, not least, your state of mind – stress is a big influence for many of us.

Here are some treatments that may help:

Gut-focused Hypnotherapy

There is a strong link between the brain and the gut. Think, for instance, of butterflies in the tummy when we get nervous. This connection can also be used in a positive way to help people regain control over their gut and make it work more normally, according to Professor Peter Whorwell, author of  ‘Take Control of your IBS: The Complete Guide to Managing Your Symptoms’.

He explains that hypnosis is a technique for producing a state of deep relaxation enabling people to develop the ability to control bodily functions that we are not usually able to control such as blood pressure and pain and, in this case, the function of their gastrointestinal system.

‘Over the years, we and others have shown that with the use of hypnosis people can learn to control the amount of acid made by the stomach, the muscular contractions of the bowel, the sensitivity of the gut and even the way the brain processes pain signals from the body.  In addition, hypnosis has the advantage that it can also reduce stress and anxiety, which, although not the cause of IBS, can certainly make it worse.’

Professor Whorwell says that ‘gut focused hypnotherapy can improve the symptoms of IBS in approximately 70 per cent of IBS patients who have not responded to any other previous treatment.  In addition, it helps all the different symptoms from which many severe IBS patients suffer, such as back pain, constant tiredness and nausea.  Fortunately, the benefits of hypnotherapy are long lasting and therefore patients don’t have to keep coming back for more treatment.  Furthermore, hypnotherapy has absolutely no side effects.’

If you want to explore this option, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor and consult a qualified and experienced professional. More details here.

I would add that self-calming techniques such as deep slow breathing, mindfulness, meditation and yoga (see below) can also help.

Intestinal adsorbents aka ‘gut sponges’

For those who suffer from chronic diarrhoea, an oral product such as Enterosgel can help. Anti-diarrhoea products slow down the frequency of bowel movements but leave the harmful substances to create more havoc in your digestive tract. Enterosgel is a drug-free product which has decades of research showing that the recommended 20-day course can mop up and binds bacterial toxins, immune proteins, fat molecules and bile acids, which may contribute to IBS. These are then eliminated when you go to the loo. That can help reduce the symptoms and prevent more flare-ups.

Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends Enterosgel, pointing out that, due to its formulation, Enterosgel doesn’t remove water, vitamins and other beneficial substances from the gut. NB Enterosgel should only be given to babies and children under the advice of a doctor. £18.43 for ten sachets.

Gentle exercise

Both walking and Iyengar yoga have been shown to help some people control their symptoms. According to nutritionist Kym Lang, ‘a 2015 pilot study looked at the effects on people with IBS enrolled in twice-weekly Iyengar yoga classes versus regular walking. Those doing yoga reported significant decreases in symptom severity, gut sensitivity and anxiety. The walking group showed significant decreases in overall gut symptoms and anxiety. Interestingly, more people kept up a walking practice after six months, and subsequently benefited from ongoing symptom relief.’

Dietary shifts

Foodfests like Christmas and Easter, weddings and parties, even Valentines Day with boxes of choccies and romantic dinners, can mean misery for IBS sufferers – either you avoid all the goodies (being a ‘misery guts’…) or, well, you suffer…

Here are a few thoughts from women’s health expert and nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, who has written a book on Natural Solutions to IBS, available here. Actually, of course, they work all the time – not just on high days and holidays.

Chew, chew, chew. The first part of digestion happens in your mouth and how well the rest of the journey goes depends on that.  Take time to eat small mouthfuls, concentrating on your food.  Avoid talking with your mouth full (it causes belching) and drinking much with food as that dilutes important enzymes in your saliva.

Drink peppermint, fennel and chamomile teas.  Sip peppermint after a meal.  Research shows it can eliminate or reduce spasms, bloating, trapped wind, constipation and diarrhoea.  Fennel helps prevent and reduce flatulence and bloating.  Chamomile is calming before bedtime to relax both body and mind: it can reduce spasms and control ‘nervous’ reactions in the gut, making it less sensitive to food and other triggers.  Try Pukka Herbs teabags.

Evidence strongly suggests probiotics help IBS so consume natural, organic, probiotic yogurt, which is an excellent gut soother. Full fat is fine, but both yogurt – or probiotic drinks – must be sugar- and sweetener-free.

Add one tablespoon of organic ground flaxseeds to oat porridge in the morning, or take the same amount in water.  If you have diarrhoea predominantly, try one teaspoon initially to see how your gut reacts.

Avoid fizzy drinks, both alcoholic and non-.  They are often triggers for digestive problems.

Investigate gut bugs and the effect of carbohydrates

If lifestyle and dietary changes aren’t improving symptoms you may want to have some simple tests to provide further information. IBS symptoms can be caused by the way the bacteria in your bowel interact with what you eat, according to Dr Anthony Hobson, Clinical Director of The Functional Gut Clinic in London.

Hydrogen and methane breath testing can assess how well you digest common sugars such as milk sugar (lactose) and fruit sugar (fructose). ‘We can also assess if your gut bacteria has moved into the small bowel. This small intestinal bacteria overgrowth, or SIBO, can play havoc with your own normal digestive processes, cause IBS symptoms and stop normal dietary interventions from working properly.’

Dr Hobson says ‘this can often be treated successfully with a short course of non-absorbable antibiotics. Most people can then go back to eating a normal diet.’

Nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville helped a very unhappy little girl I know by recommending a comprehensive stool analysis, which identified issues with her gut bacteria. Here’s the story.

Is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate The Best Vitamin C Serum?


Pure Vitamin C serums for the face containing L-Ascorbic Acid are beneficial for the skin helping to protect against damaging free radicals that encourage wrinkles by destroying the collagen matrix. They also help to brighten and freshen the appearance of dull looking skin, together with inhibiting the formation of pigment in skin prone to hyperpigmentation. However, Vitamin C serums containing pure L-ascorbic acid do have some limiting factors which can influence their effectiveness.  We explore:

Limiting Factors of Vitamin C Serums

Most vitamin C serums are water-soluble because L-Ascorbic Acid, known as vitamin C or L-AA for short, disperses evenly in a water-based serum, but therein lies a problem. The dermis of the skin has a rich lipid (oil) barrier and it is here that many of the nutrients, including vitamin C, are required to manufacture collagen, a protein that gives skin its youthful firmness and the ability to resist wrinkles. Using water soluble vitamin C serums containing L-AA can be an issue since this nutrient cannot make it through the oil barrier and therefore cannot provide maximum benefits as far as collagen manufacture is concerned.

To overcome this, some formulators use very high strengths of L-ascorbic acid (including us) so that at least some of this vitamin will be delivered to the dermis, however this can still be a problem and we are aware of this. If you have sensitive or reactive skin, such high strength vitamin C serums can cause tingling, irritation, redness and may be uncomfortable to use.

Vitamin C is highly pH dependant. It only works at a low pH since it is an acid and anything added in the serum that is alkaline will neutralise it, rendering it ineffective. Formulating this form of vitamin C into a serum is not easy because you have to use preservatives and other ingredients that have a low pH and this can be problematic especially to those with sensitive skin.

Another problem can arise using high strength vitamin C serums containing L-ascorbic acid. L-Ascorbic Acid is highly unstable when exposed to light and/or air. It oxidises to Dehydro Ascorbic Acid (DHAA)which then further degrades to different irritating acids. In effect, the best case is that you may have a product that is not so effective and the worse case is that the oxidation creates free radicals that are actually damaging to the skin. To mitigate this during the day, a sunscreen is absolutely imperative, but it is unlikely that this will provide protection all day unless applied reasonably frequently.

These are just some of the limiting factors of using the pure acidic form of vitamin C, L-Ascorbic Acid. This has led to a host of synthetic vitamin C derivatives such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate and numerous other vitamin C esters.

Vitamin C derivatives

When a compound is added to vitamin C, such as a palmitate or phosphate, this then changes the compound making vitamin C less likely to degrade. So aside from being less likely to degrade, the other advantages of vitamin C derivatives is that they are less irritating and to a large extent not dependant upon pH.

The disadvantage of these derivatives is that they tend to be less effective than L-ascorbic acid. Many of these derivatives tend to be water soluble meaning that tend to work only on the surface layers and some of the oil soluble derivatives such as ascorbyl palmitate tend not to be converted into ascorbic acid when they reach the dermis meaning they are not that beneficial.  Knowing these limitations, we have been in research and development and the result is C-Deep Vitamin C Serum.

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a form of vitamin C which has been modified to be soluble in oil or lipids. Studies indicate that it not only penetrates the epidermis, the uppermost layer of skin, but also the dermis, which is the deepest layer of skin. In fact, it penetrates the skin faster and deeper than any other form of vitamin C.

So if it penetrates both layers of the skin, does this make it more effective? Vitamin C derivatives need to be converted into L-ascorbic acid; it is the L-ascorbic acid element that fades away your age spots, enhances collagen production and fights free radicals. Studies indicate that Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate does convert into L-ascorbic acid and behaves in exactly the same way as L-ascorbic acid, but without the limitations.  This is important.

Its benefits are:

Provides potent antioxidant protection by destroying free radicals that cause premature ageing of skin.

It provides skin brightening benefits by reducing the amount of skin pigment by almost 80%.

Helps boost collagen production and, in fact, more so than L-ascorbic acid. This is because one of the limiting factors with L-ascorbic acid is its inability to penetrate deeper into the dermis.

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate also stimulates the production of glycosaminoglycans such as hyaluronic acid that are naturally present in skin and so help to hydrate skin as well as plump skin cells. Levels of these glycosaminoglycans decline with age and this may account for some of the changes that occur with our skin as we age.

Tetrahexydecyl ascorbate is stable, safe, effective and suitable for all skin types including sensitive skin.

Garden of Wisdom’s C-Deep Vitamin C Serum is, in my opinion, one the best vitamin C serums currently available on the market. This vitamin C serum contains a therapeutic strength of Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate which is suspended in Squalane, a light oil that is easily absorbed into skin.

Included in this vitamin C serum is Thiotane®, a powerful antioxidant amino acid that occurs naturally in the body. It is found in high concentrations around cells prone to free radical damage helping to protect the genetic material and the mitochondria, which are the energy factories within our cells. These energy factories are absolutely vital for cell regeneration and repair.

Garden of Wisdom C-Deep Vitamin C Serum provides a potent blast of vitamin C to your skin without any irritation. Like all Garden of Wisdom serums, this vitamin C serum is clean, non-toxic, free from alcohol and silicones.

Vitamins to take in your 50s

Rows of pink capsules with transparent half showing pink balls inside

It is important that you take the correct vitamins and supplements in your 50s to boost your health and vitality. The choice of supplements is overwhelming and the advice given can be confusing. Looking after your health is important at any age and never more so than in your 50s. In our 50s, we do not digest foods the way we did when we were younger and supplements can play an important role in filling any nutritional gaps.

Which vitamins should I take?

  • I believe that there are some fundamental supplements that are worth taking and these include:
  • A quality vitamin and mineral supplement
  • Probiotics because the digestive system gets sluggish with age
  • Omega 3 essential fatty acids since most of us do not get sufficient amounts
  • A calcium supplement to prevent brittle bone disease
  • A sublingual form of Vitamin B-12

Which vitamin and mineral supplement should I take? Read More…