2019 Resolutions And Solutions

Old typewriter close up with "New Year Chapter One" typed on paper

I always look forward to the start of a new year for that feeling of a clean slate it gives and the opportunity to do better and more. I have always loved making resolutions too, not unrealistic or unattainable ones that I have no intention of keeping, but personal goals and exciting plans that help me shape how I want the year to go.

Last year didn’t work out at all how I had planned and while I am still dealing with some of the health issues involved in that, I am now in a much better place and ready to take on 2019. When thinking about what I want my resolutions to be, I quickly realised that it was all about self-care and wellness, which makes sense considering how sick I have been.

One of the biggest things that went “wrong” last year was that I didn’t look after myself enough. I pushed and pushed until I couldn’t go any further and put off looking after myself because I didn’t prioritise my own wellbeing. This year I plan to do things completely differently. I have learned the hard way that health and wellness is a precious gift that needs to be nurtured and I plan to do just that.

Basically my goal is to simply get back on track — with my health, my life, my happiness and everything else that I abandoned over the past twelve months. Ultimately I just want to feel well again and repair the damage I did to myself, and these are the resolutions that I hope will help me do exactly that. I have kept them simple with no pressure inducing timelines and in a way, they are all linked. I have also included solutions so that my resolutions are more concrete and achievable, which I think will help me feel more capable of following through.

Hormone Balance

Resolution: As a woman in my thirties this is such an important component to overall good health. Having hormonal irregularities has affected so many areas of my life from the obvious menstrual cycle related issues, to the not so obvious ones like when I sleep and how long for, what I eat and how much of it and other issues I will talk more about soon.

Solution: Balancing your hormones can be tricky, so it’s extremely important to consult a doctor and get your levels checked. Once that’s done you can make a plan to get them in order and that can involve medication, supplements, food and exercise. For me, I will be keeping track of my blood sugar levels, (hopefully) sleeping more at night and introducing female health supportive supplements.

I am currently taking Endo Complex and Fertility from Wild Nutrition because both contain an excellent mix of ingredients essential for women’s health with the addition of hormone support through B6, N-Acetyl Cysteine and Cordyceps (Fertility), and oestrogen clearance (Endo Complex). I will also be eliminating or at the very least limiting my sugar and dairy intake as both affect my hormone levels.

I plan to get several checks throughout the year to track my progress so I can have a better understanding of what causes my hormonal fluctuations and then learn how to minimize and manage them going forward.

Skintelligence

Resolution: Skincare is my thing and looking after my skin is something I truly enjoy. Testing products, reading about ingredients and experimenting with new routines is not a chore to me and I love the process of it all. Last year unfortunately I used too much, tried too many things, played around too carelessly and my skin did not like that one bit. For 2019 I want to find a balance between enjoying all the new launches and putting my skin first.

Solution: Last year I started to be more thoughtful than ever when it comes to skincare. Excess was in and it just didn’t work for me. I became acutely aware of how damaging the need to have and try all the products can be for our skin and mental health and I did not want to be a part of it anymore. When I got sick I had virtually no time for new products let alone the ones I already had, but what I learned was that my skin was actually pretty okay with less — less products, less routines. It was all about finding the right ingredients for my skin and not over using them.

Thanks to the excellent Garden of Wisdom range I have been able to simplify my routine yet still see great results. In particular the PHA PlusMandelic Acid 10%Alpha Arbutin 2% and Kojic Acid 1% and 100% Prickly Pear Seed Oil have done so much for my skin, even without using them every day. That’s because instead of jumping on every new launch, I have focused on the ingredients that I know work well for my skin. Finding what works for you when it comes to skincare is definitely a journey that will take some time and experimentation, but it is worth it in the end.

Mane Attraction

Resolution: I really neglected my hair last year and this is something I want to change in 2019. At the beginning of the year I was just too busy to bother with it much and then since last summer I have been too sick to do anything beyond a perfunctory wash and air dry, which isn’t the best look for me (my hair is curly with some frizz). I have also experienced some shedding/thinning due to my illness and suddenly a lot more greys than I started the year with. I’m a Leo and the stereotype of my astrology sign loving their hair is somewhat true for me, so I want to start taking care of it again.

Solution: As many of you already know from personal experience, the launch of Ful.Vic Health was a big one and I have finally jumped on board. I just started using the shampooconditioner and mist, and I am in love. The range targets hair loss, shedding and thinning, as well as scalp support and follicle repair. This is exactly what I need and I have already started seeing a difference. With each wash I see less fall out and my hair is so much smoother and softer, even without using a hair dryer or straightener.

Hair care is definitely an inside-out job, so along with these topical products I will also start using the Elixir and making sure I’m getting enough scalp and hair supporting vitamins and minerals, which I should be thanks to the Wild Nutrition supplements. I might even treat myself to Hayo’u’s Beauty Restorer Comb as it is designed to promote healthy hair and reduce stress, and in my experience the two are linked – the more stressed I am, the more shedding I notice. I also plan to get my vitamin and mineral levels tested, so I can track the changes and any improvements myself.

Sleep Well

Resolution: Sleep is crucial for optimal health and fully functional living, and it is something I have been doing poorly the whole of last year. Continually having poor sleep has made dealing with an illness even more stressful and on top of that it sucked the joy out of things I used to love. I would find myself too tired to hang out with friends, falling asleep during movies or after reading a few paragraphs, and it just made me feel like I was dragging myself through each day like a zombie. I am the type of person who thrives on more sleep not less, so my plan is to make that a priority again.

Solution: What I have found is that getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done. Even when I find myself exhausted and barely able to stay awake at 7 pm, once I am actually in bed and ready to sleep I can’t. I will be wide awake until 5 am and then absolutely shattered when my alarm goes off a few hours later.

Sleep is so important because it is the time when the body gets to rest, repair and restore itself, so without that most people won’t be able to feel their best. Knowing how essential sleep is to good health I plan to make my evenings more structured and deliberate. I will set a time to switch off from stimulating devices and begin a wind down routine that will help signal to my body that it’s time to sleep. For me this will include things like having a bath, wearing cosy pyjamas, reading a book and meditation.

I absolutely love listening to Soul Medicine before bed to help me relax and unwind and now that winter is officially here, it’s time to start using my beloved Space Masks again, which are brilliant for getting off to sleep quicker thanks to the soothing heat. Not only that, having my eyes covered means I’m less likely to be enticed by my phone whenever it vibrates or glows. De Mamiel also have a lovely sounding sleep range that I’m going to look in to and supplements like Magnolia Rhiodola and Magnesium have helped in the past, so I am taking those again.

Good sleep is a process and something that has to be learned and maintained, so achieving it is not something that will happen overnight, but if you can commit to a schedule of sleeping and waking and keeping your bedroom free of distractions, you will find that you will start to fall in to a natural pattern and when that happens it will be bliss. No more sleepless nights and exhausted days — just deep, restorative sleep that will help you feel and live better.

As you can see, my resolutions are pretty simple, but they are all linked. Improving my sleep will help with my hormones and balancing those will in turn help my hair and skin. The goal is to basically feel like myself again and that involves feeling good on the inside and out as well as finding my way back to joy. Self-care is important for mental and physical health and for me, that’s my aim for 2019 — looking after myself properly and committing to making my needs a priority. No matter what your resolutions for 2019 are, I hope they are ones that make you feel good and look forward to the year.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Chalk board graph with icons on an ascending rightward stepped graph

I was never one of those kids who was afraid of the dark. I loved the cloak of invisibility that it gave me. And while there is nothing I love more than a bright, sunny day, I have become pretty obsessed with darkness over the years – not in an ominous way (as in ‘going over to the dark side’), but in terms of the important role it plays in my wellness.

You really ought to stay in a hotel room with me, sometime, to fully understand my obsession with darkness. I travel with a roll of black gaffer tape, the better to ensure a good night’s sleep undisturbed by the cockpit’s-worth of blinking lights that many modern hotel rooms feature. My first task, on checking in (even before switching on the kettle and attacking the free shortbread), is to eliminate as many of those lights as possible with two neatly-snipped squares of gaffer tape. Message lights on phones. TV control lights. Aircon on/off lights. Charging electrical gadgets. And of course, the light ‘leaking’ through the edges of the curtains.

What I’ve discovered is that gaffer tape can also be lightly stuck to pretty much any wallpaper (well, I mightn’t try it on a gold hand-painted mural) without damaging it. So yes, I am that weird (maybe certifiable) creature who gaffer-tapes the edges of the curtains to the hotel room walls – the most extreme example of which was in a ‘presidential suite’ a hotel once upgraded me to when they’d lost my booking. Last done up in the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency, is my guess, it featured ‘shortie’ curtains that ran along the entire 10-metre window which I then taped every inch to the wall. Exactly what kind of bondage game housekeeping thought I’d been up to when the found the tape I’d peeled off in the morning and put it in the bin, I’ve no idea – but I did enjoy a really good night’s sleep. (Why don’t I just wear a sleep mask? Because – along with earplugs – I find them a bit claustrophobic. Fine on an aeroplane when there’s no alternative, but otherwise, a no-no for me.)

By now, you may well think I’m completely tonto. But in reality, light has a profound effect on sleep. I realise I’m an extreme example in terms of how even a small level of light affects me deeply, but it’s been scientifically observed that insufficient darkness throughout the night can lead to frequent, long periods of wakefulness. Of course, we’re increasingly aware of the impact of the blue light from our phones on sleep; I’ve written before about the fact that if I look at my phone (never mind computer) after about 8.30 pm, it’s the equivalent of drinking an espresso in terms of the effect on my slumber. But experts now agree that bedrooms should be as dark as possible – which includes (as we do at home) having blackout linings to curtains, and ensuring window coverings are fitted to avoid slivers of street light or early morning light from seeping in. (Ah, so that’s why the pelmet was invented…!)

According to Cheng Chi Lee, who studies circadian rhythms at University of Texas Medical School, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests we should seek out darkness for its surprising effects on health and behaviour. There’s one particularly fascinating study in which tamoxifen was used on cancer cells in mice. One control group was kept kept in cycles of 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of complete darkness, while another the dark stage of the experiment was replaced with roughly the amount of light that might sneak under a hospital door. Even in such low levels, the cancer cells became resistant to the drug. And although this medical research was carried out on mice (and no, I’m not thrilled about that either), the scientists from Tulane University in New Orleans believe it could have implications for how cancer patients receive their treatment.

It’s well known that interfering with workers’ body clocks, meanwhile, can seriously impact on health. My hunch is that the winking lights in bedrooms and sleep environments will eventually be revealed to be more damaging than we currently understand. (But if you must have a clock with the time on? Make sure it has red digits, rather than blue or green; it’s been found to have the least impact on sleep.)

We were never built to live in such light environments as we enjoy now. For millions of years, people went to bed when it got dark and woke when it was light. Even now, when we’re lucky enough to find ourselves in nature, somewhere truly dark – and I support the Dark Skies movement, a campaign to eliminate light pollution – we feel connected to the universe in a way that feels truly primitive and (for me, at least) very, very grounding.

So while I’m eternally grateful to Thomas Edison for the invention of the light bulb – just miraculous, eh?! –it doesn’t surprise me at all to find that these unnatural, albeit low levels of night-time light may have impact on our wellbeing. If asked to make a list of our basic survival needs, food and water of course come top. Warmth, too. But I certainly know that darkness is essential for my quality of sleep, and my overall equilibrium. So if the Gaffer Tape Marketing Board is looking for a new ‘face’, I’m your woman.

Night, everyone. And lights out!

Total Wellbeing: The Term You’ll Be Hearing About A Lot In 2019

total wellbeing

There were whisperings of self-care throughout 2017, but it wasn’t until this year that the term really came into its own. Over the past few months brands, magazines and influencers have all tapped into the theme. It has its own dedicated week in November and a quick scroll of Instagram on a Sunday reveals that it even has its own hashtag, #sundayselfcare.  

But, what does self-care actually mean? Well, essentially it’s anything that encourages you to spend some quality time with yourself and leaves you feeling good, including taking a bath, putting on a face mask or reading your book, you name it. The NHS defines it clearly as ‘keeping fit and healthy, understanding when you can look after yourself, when a pharmacist can help, and when to get advice from your GP or another health professional.’

According to Mintel’s latest report, as we progress into next year self-care will evolve into ‘total wellbeing’. The report states, ‘Consumers are treating their bodies like an ecosystem and seeking solutions that complement their personal health and evolving needs.’ From the moisturisers we slather on to the sprays we use to clean our houses and the cars we choose to drive, total wellbeing spans across all aspects of our life.

“Consumers are looking externally to their surroundings and internally towards their physical and mental wellbeing, expecting holistic approaches to wellness,” says Gabrielle Lieberman, Director of Trends & Social Media Research Americas. “Developments in health monitoring, such as skin sensors or ingestible capsules, will satisfy consumers’ demand for this personalised approach, while also building on scientific research in these emerging fields.”

In terms of skincare it’s likely that you’ll be hearing a lot more about probiotics and the many benefits good bacteria can have on our complexions. Of course, pre- and probiotic skincare isn’t new. In fact, good bacteria has been used in formulations for a while, but up until now it hasn’t been highlighted. Brands such as Aurelia Probiotic Skincare have been championing ‘biotic’ ingredients and the bestselling Botanical Cream Deodorant is testimony to its efficacy.

When it comes to supplements, it’s likely that future formulations will be developed in spray form as this is the best way for the body to absorb most nutrients. And, it’s likely that our supplements will be tailored to our specific needs. Although, this won’t necessarily happen next year, you can expect to read a lot more about the importance of monitoring your vitamin and mineral levels as part of the total wellbeing approach. If you’re baffled by which supplements you should be taking, it is worth reading Shabir’s Essential 6 For Optimal Health.

Why You Should Take Micro Breaks Every 30 Minutes

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We all know that sitting for too long isn’t good for you. If you haven’t perfected your desk set-up and are hunched over your screen or slouched down in your chair it is even worse for you. However, a new study by Liverpool John Moores University revealed that we should be getting up and moving every half an hour.

The researchers discovered that sitting down for prolonged amounts of time can slow the blood flow around our body and to our brains. The study of a small group of men and women was split into three sessions to determine the best method for keeping the blood flow to the brain on an even keel. The first test was four hours of sitting and working at a computer screen, the second included a two and half minute walk on a treadmill every 30 minutes, the third session was an eight minute walk on a treadmill every two hours.

While taking an eight minute break every two hours did help increase blood flow to your brain, it wasn’t able to sustain it as well as taking a shorter break every half an hour.

The study didn’t look into the impact of low blood flow to your brain or whether it impacted productivity, but it did put more weight behind the theory that spending too much of your day sitting down isn’t good for you.

Previous studies have linked sitting too long with excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes and other serious diseases. According to the NHS, many adults in the UK spend over seven hours sitting each day and as a result, it recommends we do at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. One study recently revealed that doing an hour of exercise each day could help ward off the effects of prolonged sitting.

If that feels you with dread, making small tweaks such as requesting a standing-desk at work, choose to stand rather than sit on the train et cetera. It goes without saying that swapping watching TV for playing tennis after work will also help improve your health. Whichever tweaks to choose to make, it’s definitely worth setting a reminder to get up more at work.

How Supplements Became The Best Step In My Skincare Routine

spoon of fruit and vegetables

After my health issues a few years ago it became pretty obvious that what was happening on my skin had a lot to do with what was going on inside my body. In fact, how my skin changed was the first sign that something was wrong, although I did not realize this at the time. As my health deteriorated, my skin progressively got worse until I felt like I looked just as badly as I was feeling (which was pretty awful). The funny thing is, I remember being obsessed with fixing my skin and wasted so much time and money on products and treatments when what I needed to do was focus on my health – the root cause of my skin problems.

 

My discovery of how important supplements can be for the skin happened completely by accident. In order to avoid surgery to remove a large cyst I began researching alternative medicines and from there I learned about the different vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies that would help me naturally balance my hormones, support the digestive system and lower my stress levels. The supplements I began taking had nothing to do with the skin as far as I was concerned, but a very happy “side effect” I started to notice after a couple of months was that my skin was improving, all without having any kind of skincare routine.

 

That’s when I realized that for many of us skincare junkies out there, products can only do so much and to really care for our skin we need to look after our bodies as a whole. For me that included taking my supplements, but also eating well (things like sugar, dairy, meat and grains really upset my stomach), regular exercise, plenty of rest, less stress and more mindfulness. Basically, all the boring things we know we need to do, but often find it difficult to make time for these days. I ultimately made a complete lifestyle shift with my supplements at the centre of it all and the difference in how I felt and looked was like night and day.

 

Despite all this, once I was well enough to get back to my normal life I was quick to forget everything I had learned. Ridiculous, I know, but I think I rushed my recovery because I felt like I had wasted so much time being ill and I just wanted to move on from it all. It was a dark time for me and instead of seeing the things I had done to get well as a new way of life to stay that way, I saw them as a reminder of how sick I had been. Over the years I eventually stopped doing everything, even taking supplements. As a result, about six years later I am dealing with the same issue again, which brings me to my current round of supplement therapy.

 

I thought it was important to finally share my experiences with supplements and talk about my current journey because I know that in general most people are quite skeptical of them and I was too. Even after I had seen how well they had worked for me I still doubted if they had really had an effect. I wondered if they were just giving me “expensive pee”, but after tracking my health and skin with supplements alone, only using skincare products and just exercise and healthy eating, as well as different combinations of these things, I know that supplements make a difference for me and that they are worth trying.

 

Currently I am focusing on reducing inflammation, repairing my gut and balancing my hormones. As I have said many times, I believe inflammation is the root cause of pretty much every issue with the body and skin and in my experience it affects and is linked to my digestive and reproductive health. I am also working on improving cellular waste/toxin removal, which I hope will help my issue resolve itself without any surgical intervention. As for my skin, the biggest concerns I am trying to address are dullness, hyperpigmentation and inflammation, which the supplements I am taking have already begun to help with.

 

Even though supplements are very personal and it’s important to tailor them to your own specific needs and issues, there are a few that I think pretty much everyone could benefit from for overall health and good skin. The main supplement that I have felt and seen the most improvement from are digestive enzymes/probiotics. These are the staples in my supplement regime and sort of form the basis for general good health because without proper gut function you’ll likely not be able to absorb and reap the full benefits of any vitamins you take, as well as the food you are eating. Not only that, more and more research and studies are coming out that show just how important it is to look after our gut and many issues, especially with the skin, could be a result of conditions like leaky gut (Shabir has written about that more here) or gut bacteria related food sensitivities. 

 

Once you have taken care of your gut you can move on to tackling specific issues and even when it comes to the skin there is pretty much a supplement for everything. If inflammation (internal and/or external) or acne (especially cystic) is a chronic issue for you then try Omega 3. It has worked really well for me over the years and helped reduce the size and frequency of the cystic acne I was getting the first time I was ill. Another good supplement for the skin is zinc, which helped my blemishes heal quicker by improving wound healing and boosting my immune system.

 

If like me pigmentation or dullness is an issue then check out Glutathione, which not only works to reduce melanin production, but also supports the liver and kidneys (also great for the skin). If you find that your skin is affected by your menstrual cycle then try Agnus Castus, which has worked wonders for me and many of my female family members and friends. Stress management is also extremely important for your skin and overall health. If you find you frequently suffer from feeling anxious, low mood or mood swings then something like Rhiodola Rosea can help reduce the levels of cortisol in the body. This hormone affects how we respond to stress, but it also impacts our skin, which is why we often get blemishes during stressful times.

 

All these supplements have been written about extensively on here by the extremely knowledgeable and incredibly helpful Shabir and I encourage you to read up on any issue you are having because it’s likely you will find a way to deal with them through supplement therapy like I did. As many of you will know, I found my way to Victoria Health thanks to googling alternative ways to help with my cyst and the supplements I bought as a result of reading Shabir’s articles were why I was able to get well without conventional medicine or surgery.

 

I know that taking supplements probably seems less exciting and more of a hassle than using a face mask or getting a facial, but for me (and I am sure many of you), what is happening on my skin is just a symptom of something else going on in my body. Skincare products can help a lot, but only to a point and what I have found is that by taking a 360 approach to my health and including supplements as part of my skincare routine my skin is way more calm and balanced, even when I barely use anything on it like I have been for the past few weeks.

 

Of course, like everything (but especially all things beauty/skin related) supplements are extremely personal and there is no one magic pill that will cure everything, nor is there one perfect regime that will work for everyone. It’s all about what your body needs and the right combination and dosage to get the best results. Even so, I truly believe that if you are dealing with persistent health or skin issues then supplements could be worth investing in over an expensive serum or “miracle” cream.

 

Being that this is a health and wellness platform, I know a vast majority of VH readers are dedicated supplement users, but if you are a newbie then there are some guidelines that can help. First and foremost, there are many factors that go in to what supplements to take (age, sex, lifestyle, medication, allergies, contradictions etc), so it is very important that you do as much research as possible and consult your doctor. Shabir has written thousands of articles and those are a great place to start. The first time I discovered them I was reading until the sun came up and it was the first time I felt truly empowered in my illness.

 

Next, like skincare it’s all about finding what works for you and that also includes how the supplements will be administered. I have found that I pretty much hate the feeling of swallowing pills or capsules and have now focused on liquid/spray supplements from brands like Biocare, BetterYou and LivOn Labs in my regime. By doing this I now actually enjoy taking my supplements and again like with skincare products, great ingredients can only work if you actually use them. 

 

Not only that, in the same way that you have to stay consistent with your skincare products to see the best results, the same goes for your supplements. I usually start to feel a difference within a month (what my period is like is generally a good indicator) and see results around the 10-12 week mark. I would also recommend starting slowly (just like you wouldn’t start using too many products at once) and documenting how you feel day-to-day.. Right now I am taking all the supplements mentioned and a few more that I will explain in more detail on my blog to share my journey.

 

For some of you simple changes like switching to a non-drying cleanser, or incorporating a retinol product will be all you need to see a difference in your skin, but for others the issues are more than skin deep and need to be addressed from the inside out. Sometimes our skin can act like a mirror reflecting what’s going on internally and if you find that you have the same recurring issues or can never quite get a handle on your skin then incorporating supplements could be the best step your skincare routine has been missing out on.

 

Ayurveda: What Your Dosha Can Say About You

Ayuvedic tea

Health fads may come and go. But you can’t really argue with a mind-body health system that’s been around, so it’s said, for up to 5,000 years, when Indian monks were seeking new ways to be healthy. (For translation purposes, ‘ayur’ means life force, or vital energy, while ‘veda’ means science.)

Now, I’d always been interested in Ayurveda – in a magazine-reader-fun-questionnaire sort of way. You’ve probably done one yourself: answered a list of questions asking about body shape, energy levels, preferred foods, whether or not you tend to feel hot and cold, etc. I’d figured out that I was classified as ‘pitta’ – but never taken it much further than that. (Pitta is a ‘dosha’ – basically, doshas are your constitution. The other two are vata and kapha, more of which anon.) Read More…