Suffering From PMS

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Q. My daughter appears to be suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), is there a test she could take and would the herb agnus castus be appropriate to try?

A. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (rcog.org.uk), ‘Forty per cent of women experience PMS symptoms. Of those, five to eight per cent suffer severely. PMS encompasses psychological sympyoms such as depression, anxiety and irritability, with physical symptoms typically bloatedness and mastalgia [breast pain].’ Read More…

Cuts And Grazes

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Q. I tripped recently and tore a layer of skin off both my knees. I realised that I didn’t know the protocol for dealing with this small but painful injury. What should I do next time?

A. Most cuts and grazes are minor and can easily be treated at home, according to NHS Choices (nhs.uk). Here is a guide:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Stop any bleeding Apply pressure using a clean, dry, absorbent material (eg, a flannel, hanky or piece of bandage) for several minutes. If the cut is on your hand or arm, raise it above your head; if to a lower limb, lie down and raise the affected area above the level of your heart.
  • Clean the wound under running tap water (if you are abroad, ensure it is drinking quality). Don’t use antiseptic as it may damage the skin and slow healing. If there are any residual fragments of grit, remove them with tweezers.
  • Pat the area dry with a clean towel and apply a sterile adhesive dressing, eg, a plaster (waterproof plasters mean you can take a shower). Change the dressing daily if possible.
  • Encourage faster healing with a specific product such as Sheald Recovery Balm (£43), which can be applied to open wounds.
  • Go to your GP or minor injuries unit if you think your wound is, or could become, infected. Go to your nearest A&E if you cannot stop the bleeding or if the wound is large – particularly if it is on your face or the palm of your hand. Check with NHS 111 if you need further medical advice.

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The Vitamin D Lowdown

Sonne

The Vitamin D Lowdown

  • Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, also categorised as a hormone. It is made by our bodies from cholesterol by the action of UVB from sunlight on our skin.
  • It helps to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies, which are needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
  • In this country, most people should get enough UVB in the summer months if they get outside in the sun, but UVB dwindles to almost nothing from October to March.
  • Vitamin D3 (the type we need) is also found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines), egg yolks, red meat, fat, liver and fortified foods such as some dairy products and breakfast cereals. While it is wise to eat these, we would have to consume huge amounts to get enough – thus the need for supplements.
  • So how much vitamin D do we need? The recommended supplementary amount of vitamin D3 from the age of one to 70 is 400 IU (10mcg) and 320-400 IU for babies.
  • However, many experts believe 1,000 IU or higher is more appropriate for adults.
  • For people with diagnosed vitamin D deficiency, the recommended maintenance therapy (after testing to ensure an optimal level has been reached) is 800 to 2,000 IU daily.
  • Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends trying the Better You DLux 1,000 Spray, a sublingual spray that provides 100 doses of 1,000 IU.

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How To Settle A Sore Stomach

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When a friend had a bad bout of food poisoning with severe diarrhoea recently, I asked naturopath Ben Brown, technical director of Viridian Nutrition, for advice. He suggested she do the following:

  • Take an oral rehydration solution (available from chemists nationwide).
  • Avoid dairy food as transient lactose intolerance can develop and make diarrhoea worse.
  • Introduce a daily zinc supplement, containing around 20mg of elemental zinc. Try Solgar Zinc Picolinate (£9.91, victoriahealth.com).
  • Take 500mg of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii, which has strong antimicrobial and anti-diarrheal activity, twice daily. Viridian Nutrition Travel Biotic (£20, victoriahealth.com) contains S. boulardii in a ginger-root base.
  • Sip strong black tea (the tannins help battle the infective bacteria and reduce inflammation), plus ginger tea if you feel nauseous. Eat grated or stewed apple with the peel on.

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Stress

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However much we love the festive season, most of us feel a tad frazzled. Practising mindfulness in any form (eg, yoga) always helps. Here are my other tips for reducing festive-season stress.

  • Have a protein-filled breakfast. Eggs are perfect.
  • Consider a supplement such as Siberian ginseng, a powerful adaptogenic herb that helps combat fatigue. Try HealthAid Sibergin.
  • Eat every two to three hours to keep your blood sugar steady – three meals and two snacks a day.
  • Keep a little tin of almonds in your bag for on-the-go boosts.
  • Don’t dry out. Sip still water or herbal teas throughout the day.
  • Keep your feet happy with comfy footwear. We’re mad about the new, super-chic FitFlop Chelsea boots in snake-embossed leather, which feel as though you’re wearing sneakers.
  • Wind down in a warm bath with aromatherapy oils. Try Neom Organics Perfect Night’s Sleep Bath & Shower Drops.
  • Rest your brain with needlework. My favourite book this year is Kaffe Fassett’s Bold Blooms by Kaffe Fassett and Liza Prior Lucy with ideas for embroidery, tapestry, knitting, beading and much more.

A MUM’S PEACE OF MIND

Life is busy for mother of four Clemmie Hooper, 32. As well as daughters aged nine and six, Clemmie has ten-month-old twin girls with husband Simon. She has just finished her book on pregnancy and birth (How to Grow a Baby and Push it Out, which will be published by Vermilion in February next year); writes a blog about mothering (gasandairblog.com), and has more than 86,000 followers on Instagram (@mother_of_daughters). So when she was asked to trial Quility, a new mindfulness app, her first reaction was to say no.

‘I had tried practising mindfulness before and always found 20 more important things to do,’ says Clemmie. ‘But the idea of an app specifically targeted at mums persuaded me. I found it easy to use – much more convenient for me than a book – and very helpful.’

On the app, mindfulness expert Tessa Watt points out that the safety advice for parents on planes is to put on their own oxygen masks first. ‘As a mother, you are so programmed to look after everyone else that you sink to the bottom of the pile,’ says Clemmie. ‘I knew Tessa was right – you can’t pour from an empty cup.’

The Quility app is designed for brief gaps of time. ‘You only need to carve out five or ten minutes twice a day to give yourself breathing space,’ says Clemmie. ‘After taking the older children to school I practise mindfulness, mostly being aware of my breath and reconnecting with my body – noticing if I am so tense that my shoulders are pushed sky high, for instance.’

Clemmie’s dentist told her she was grinding her teeth at night. ‘I was anxious when I should be most relaxed,’ she says. Rather than checking emails in bed, Clemmie now turns off her phone notifications and ‘zones out’ with Quility.

‘Now, when everything is going pear-shaped – we’re out of milk, a child is drawing on the wall, everyone is kicking off – I don’t have the same knee-jerk reaction,’ she says. ‘I used to snap, shout, lose my temper – instead I pause for five seconds and breathe. The situation doesn’t change but I’m better at coping with it, so everyone is calmer.’

Leading up to Christmas, Clemmie’s resolution is to not cram in too much. ‘If Saturday is busy, we have a chilled Sunday,’ she says. ‘We are spending Christmas with my husband’s family and when his mother says, “Don’t bring anything except yourselves”, for the first time I will take her at her word.’


WHAT IS MINDFULNESS

It is the ability to be fully in the present moment, aware of where we are and what we are doing, but not overreacting or being overwhelmed by what is going on around us.

Practising mindfulness starts with focusing on your breath going in and out of your nostrils, then absorbing the sensations of your body and environment.

Research shows that people who practise mindfulness are calmer, more aware of their thoughts and feelings, able to focus and manage their emotions better.

The Danger Of Painkillers

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Q. Like most people, I take an over-the-counter painkiller for aches and pains. Now, recent headlines say that these can cause a heart attack. Can you clarify this and suggest any safe alternatives?

A. Warnings about these painkillers are not new. In 2005, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that taking common, widely available non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen (both available without prescription), increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. They may also raise blood pressure and cause heart failure.

The warning followed the revelation that Vioxx, a prescription NSAID, had caused 140,000 heart attacks in the US over five years. It was withdrawn in 2004. NSAIDs were first launched over a century ago and most of them were registered at a time when there were few requirements for safety documentation. However, since the Vioxx scandal, there has been much more research, which showed that the risk is linked to all NSAIDs. Read More…