My Skincare And Wellness Supplement Routine

small coloured powder piles

After last month’s article all about how I use supplements as part of my skincare routine (here), I decided it was time to share exactly what I use and why. Like skincare, I fully believe that supplemental therapy is very personal, but there are so many vitamins, minerals, herbs and plants to choose from that it can be very confusing and overwhelming. I wanted to explain my routine in the hopes that it will help anyone out there experiencing the same health issues or skin concerns that I am.

My supplement routine revolves around three key linked elements that I believe are essential for overall wellness and healthy skin. I aim to support the gut and liver, balance my hormones and reduce inflammation. Generally most women (and even men) could benefit from focusing on these three areas as modern life can really have an affect on all of them. Things like stress, an unbalanced diet, lack of sleep and not enough exercise have really been taking a toll on my health this year and the supplements I take have helped support my body from the inside out.

As I said in my previous article, one of the most important things to remember when choosing supplements is deciding which delivery method is right for you. For me, after many years of taking supplements in pill or capsule form and not liking the process one bit, I found that switching to liquids or powders has changed everything. It has made things quick, easy and painless and as a result, staying consistent is virtually effortless, which is paramount in order to get the most out of what you’re taking and to see tangible results.

For me, the gut is one of the most important organs in the body and how well it operates can affect our whole body, inside and out. Not only that, how well and how often we “eliminate” the waste from our bodies can make all the difference in our overall wellness and the health of our skin. I also think that without actively looking after your gut, taking vitamins could be a waste of time and money. An unbalanced and improperly functioning gut microbiome usually leads to poor digestion, which means the supplements won’t be absorbed making them useless.

Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes work to break down the different compounds in generally hard to digest foods like dairy, red meat and sugar helping them pass through the gut in the best way. They also help reduce inflammation and could help improve food sensitivities or intolerances. I choose a supplement that focused on my specific food issues and now I find that when I eat foods I previously didn’t digest well, I don’t experience the same negative side effects.

My supplement is a capsule (which I don’t mind in this case) and that is pretty standard for enzymes as many have to be taken around meal times. I keep some in my bag so if I happen to go out for lunch or dinner I won’t forget to take them. So far these are one of the best additions I have made to my supplement routine and I highly recommend trying these if you often experience food sensitivities, bloating, gas/belching or indigestion.

Probiotics
The main benefits of probiotics is their ability to boost the “good” bacteria that will help promote a healthy gut and improve digestion, but that is just the beginning. I have been taking them on and off for years, and now in conjunction with the enzymes I am seeing the best results. I have always had quite a sensitive stomach and probiotics have helped soothe and strengthen my gut microbiome. I have tried capsules, powder and liquid probiotics with different strains and strengths and it’s all about finding the right combination for you.

Glutamine
This is a relatively new supplement for me, but over the past few weeks alone it has made such a big difference. It supports the GI tract, boosts gut cell regeneration, improves gut barrier function and aids gut repair. This is so important for better digestion as well as proper absorption of vitamins from food or supplements. I would recommend starting with this to make sure your gut is healed and ready for everything else. Most glutamine comes in powder form and this is what I use.

Milk Thistle, Turmeric and Glutathione
For liver support my go-to supplements are milk thistle, turmeric and glutathione. These three help reduce inflammation, aid detoxification and support optimal functioning. Not only that, I saw the biggest improvement in my skin when I started supporting my liver and it’s because the body was now properly dealing with waste removal. All three supplements are good for the body and skin, but glutathione has the added benefit of reducing excess melanin production, so it is worth investing in. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of your liver. It is the largest internal organ beyond the important “cleansing” role it plays, it also impacts our hormones, which brings me nicely to my next category.

Hormonal Support
Supporting and balancing hormone function has been a big priority for me over the past few years for a number of reasons. They function as the messengers relaying information all over the body, which means it is a big deal when they are imbalanced or disrupted. I started to have hormonal issues in my mid-twenties and even now it is still literally a balancing act (no pun intended) because daily stressors like diet, lack of exercise, sleep and stress can impact how well they function.

Agnus Castus
Known as vitex or chaste berry, this medicinal herb has been key in improving my PMS symptoms and I have recommended it to so many people. I used to take capsules of this for years, but I am currently testing out tinctures to further reduce my pill intake. I cannot recommend this enough and swear by it for better menstrual cycles as well as less hormonal breakouts.

Thyroid Complex
The thyroid is one of the largest hormonal glands and is actually linked to digestion because it “regulates how fast your intestines process food”. When it is not functioning properly you could experience issues like heavy periods, disturbed sleep, fatigue and dry hair. I take a capsule supplement which also contains a mix of nutrients and minerals like iodine, selenium, zinc and olive leaf to support optimal thyroid function and improve my general health.

Vitamin D
Technically more of a hormone than a vitamin, this is important due to the links between chronic illnesses, depression, immune function and cell mutation. When I was at my sickest, test results revealed extremely low levels of vitamin D, so now I use a quick and easy to administer oral spray and I have seen a big difference in my stress management.

Vitamin B Complex
B vitamins are another supplement that provide more than one health benefit. They are involved in the production of hormones, but also release energy from food and support overall health. For example, B2, B6 and B12 work with the liver, Niacin boosts skin health and estrogen metabolism, B5 aids production of steroid hormones and B9 can be mood boosting. I take a liquid form that goes in to water or juice and is quick and easy to swallow.

Magnolia Rhodiola
This adaptogen works on stress reduction by balancing the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body. Magnolia extract and rhodiola rosea work together to lower stress and promote a more calm/relaxed feeling. Reducing stress could help the skin a lot as cortisol can affect other hormones, possibly leading to acne. Not only that, in a roundabout way this supplement is excellent for inflammation because that isone of the effects stress can have on the body. I have been taking this as a capsule for years and it has made a big difference to my skin and mental health.

Inflammation Reduction
For many years I had no idea what inflammation really meant or why it was so important to reduce the levels in my body. When I used to think of inflammation I typically imagined angry red spots or back/head pain as seen in typical pain medicine ads. I never realised that inflammation could be occurring all over my body, affecting everything from digestion, menstrual issues and general wellness. I also never really paid attention to how the foods I ate either increased or decreased inflammation. Now I know better and believe that reducing inflammation is vitally important for long lasting great health and skin.

Omega 3
I have been taking some form of Omega 3 for years and can personally attest to how well they can work for the skin and general wellness. When I used to suffer from cystic or stubborn hormonal breakouts this supplement helped so much to calm everything down quickly. I saw my blemishes heal better and over time I actually stopped breaking out with the same level of severity and frequency. I am now taking a liquid Omega 3 form and if liquid oil supplements make you gag then opt for the traditional gel capsules. This is one of my top three vitamins that I recommend to everyone, especially for healthy skin.

Turmeric
This ancient Ayurvedic medicine has been used in India for many years as a fabric dye, in food and drinks and as a natural remedy to a variety of ailments, and I take it for the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits it provides the body. I feel like this just helps me to feel well and especially when it comes to my digestive system I find there is less uncomfortableness and pain. There are many ways you can incorporate this potent supplement depending on if you like the taste or how much you want to take. I have an oral spray and that works very well for me as turmeric isn’t my favourite spice.

This year I have finally found my “groove” with supplemental therapy and now actually enjoy this previously gag-inducing step in my routine. That alone is a very meaningful change to me because I genuinely feel good about what I am doing. I know this might seem like a lot to take, but for me my health is my number one priority that I would much rather invest in over topical products.

What I use is just a tiny tip of the iceberg and there are many more great ingredients out there and it’s all about finding what’s right for you. As always, please do your research and talk to a doctor before starting on any supplements. It’s what I did and I feel so much more informed and confident in my choices. Shabir is also a wealth of knowledge and besides having already written about every supplement here, he has also written about almost every health concern under the sun.

Of course, the most ideal way to take care of your skin and health is through a well rounded diet full of colourful, fibrous and vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, while limiting inflammation causing and stomach upsetting (for some and most definitely me) foods like red meat, dairy, sugar and grains. Pretty straightforward in theory, but not always easy to stick to even with the best of intentions, which is where supplements like a good multi-vitamin (which I also take in liquid form) comes in.

I know that a full supplement routine can be expensive to maintain, but compromised health isn’t cheap either. If I was to recommend one area to start with I would say any of the digestive support supplements because the gut really does influence just about everything and a healthy gut can be the first step to overall wellness. There are lots of other things you can do too like get more sleep and exercise, work on your diet, drink plenty of water and practice self-care. Supplements are just one way to improve your health and skin.

Is The Hot Weather Giving You Rage?

Heat Rage

Last week we called it a heatwave, but with the high temperatures set to stay for at least another week it looks like we’re in the midst of the summer we’ve all been dreaming of for the past 20 years. While most of us have been thoroughly enjoying the bout of hot weather with BBQs, picnics and paddling pools, you wouldn’t be alone if you’ve found yourself struggling in the heat.

Whether someone nudges you on the tube, undertakes you on the motorway or jumps the queue in Sainsbury’s, it’s likely to irritate you more than it might usually as your your patience could be more frayed. In fact, there are plenty of studies to show that the heat really can bring out the worst in us. One such study in 2001 found that hot temperatures increase aggression by directly increasing feelings of hostility. Last year, a study revealed that retail workers are 50 percent less likely to actively engage with customers if it’s hot outside.

How can you reduce this rage? The obvious answer would be to stay away from human beings for as long as the heat lasts and relax in that paddling pool. In reality, it’s about keeping cool, calm and hydrated. Scientists believe that dehydration could play a key role in increasing irritability in the heat. In 2012, a study showed that women who lost 1.5 percent of their body’s normal water content were tenser and more anxious.

We’ve recommend Physicool Rapid Cooling Mist, £12.99, several times over the past couple of weeks for the simple fact that it’s inexpensive and cools you down almost instantly. You can mist it over your face, across your pulse points and onto your ankles and feet.

It might also be worth investing in Florassist Mood by Life Extension £26. While taking a probiotic to help keep your rage in-check might sound a little far-fetched, there are links between our nervous system and gut. Florassist Mood helps with the signalling between the two and can genuinely help balance your mood. And with no end for the hot weather in sight, it’s worth taking them now.

How To Keep Hold Of The Post-Holiday High

Post-Holiday High

Whether you’ve spent a week hiking through the Peak District or lounging by a pool in Spain, a holiday is a sure fire way to kick back, relax and reduce your stress levels. But how long does that post-holiday glow last for when you’re back in the swing of things? According to new research it takes just three days for us to lose that new lease of positivity and energy. Read More…

Addicted To Stress? That Could Be A Good Thing

Glass with die drop in water

Not everything about stress is bad – it’s basically a state of arousal which can give us the drive, focus and energy to get things done. The butterfly stomach we feel on a first date, the nervous excitement of the first day of a new job or the tight muscular tension before public speaking are all signs of stress, but these are positive life events and challenges we actively seek. Yet, according to a YouGove study* 74% of people in the UK have felt so overwhelmed with stress in the past year that they’re unable to cope. And it is a fact that many on-the-rise modern malaises from IBS and eczema to diabetes, obesity and heart disease are related to the pressure cooker of 24/7 life.

So what turns good stress into bad? First, it helps to understand a little bit about the cascade of chemicals and hormones involved in the stress response and their effects on our minds and bodies. It starts in a part of the brain called the amygdala which regulates the autonomic nervous system and controls the automatic responses in the body including breathing, heart rate, digestion and sleep. There are two sides to the autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic or ‘fight or flight’ which effectively revs us up and the para sympathetic or ‘rest and digest’ which slows us back down.

When we go into ‘fight or flight’ mode, our adrenal glands release adrenaline into the bloodstream which causes heart rate, blood pressure and pulse to quicken. Breathing gets faster, increasing oxygen in the brain for higher alertness, also, adrenaline triggers the release of blood sugar and fats to increase energy levels. Because it’s an automatic response, these physiological changes happen before we’re even aware. A second stage kicks in where cortisol, another stress hormone, is released to keep us revved up until the ‘threat’ passes and the ‘rest and digest’ phase comes in to dampen the stress response.

The trouble is, things which trigger the stress response are rarely life threatening situations – it could be the ping of an email, opening a bank statement, or the train being late. Even so, we are wired to have that bodily response and because we so often override the ‘rest and digest’ response we end up accumulating stress. We’re on the go all day, pushing through fuelled with stimulants such as sugar and caffeine, subtly self-medicating to unwind whether that’s with a glass of wine in front of the TV, or pounding out tension on the running machine or at a sweat inducing yoga class. This can seem normal until we start to realise these tactics don’t work any more; it’s increasingly difficult to slow down and relax; our minds full of thoughts making it harder to sleep, which can become a vicious circle leading to feelings of anxiety, worry and even depression. We literally become adrenaline junkies – hooked on the highs of stress.

This can manifest in so many ways that it’s not necessarily easy to identify in our own lives. For me, I hadn’t realised that this continual hyper stimulation of the nervous system was the energy I was feeding off. Now looking back at my 20s and 30s I can see that I was running on adrenaline. I was enjoying the highs of what scientists call eustress or the good ‘seize the day’ motivational stress. I loved my job and so it felt good to enjoy every moment of it – and even on holiday I would like to keep active – rarely did I stop and just do nothing. And I got away with it until my late thirties when gradually it seemed I couldn’t bounce back from late nights, I’d have niggling health issues – poor digestion, reactive skin, inflexible body. I instinctively knew I needed to slow down somehow and took up yoga. But in the beginning, I was taking the ‘push through’ mentality into my practice – I would rush from work to push myself through extreme hot yoga classes, which would relax me in the moment, but never completely.

It took years to gradually realise that I was living off the highs of stress fuelled energy because it was a subtle form of enjoyable drive which gradually threw my body and brain chemistry out of kilter over the years. What did surprise me was how, once I’d accepted I needed to slow down, it was a relief and I began to feel the benefits straight away. For me, the big catalyst was discovering meditation which allowed me to ‘not do’, although it’s not a magic bullet. Good support from friends, family, a nourishing work network, doing something creative, and to feel that we’re contributing something all matter. What’s great to know is that given the chance, our nervous system will naturally re-balance itself, and when that happens we’re no longer fire fighting through, and that impacts positively on our health all round: physically, mentally and emotionally.

Simple ways to break the stress cycle:

  • Ask yourself why you can’t allow yourself a lunch break/holiday/yoga class/massage when prioritising your own health and wellbeing will impact positively at work, and at home.
  • Think of not doing as making a choice to just be – it is an action.
  • Avoid multi-tasking as it has been proven to stimulate cortisol.
  • Know that sitting with your eyes closed is meditation and that cutting out visual stimulation will help bring about calm fast.
  • The out breath is associated with the para sympathetic nervous system, so whenever you feel anxious or stressed try to lengthen your out breath.
  • Spend quality time with like minded people – we are hard wired to release happy chemicals such as oxytocin when are face to face with those who support us.

Do You Have Highly Functioning Anxiety?

Anxiety

At one point or another all of us have experienced stress and anxiety. In fact, according to recent headlines 82 percent of us feel stressed or anxious at least once during the working week. Would you regard yourself as having highly functioning anxiety though? While it’s not medically recognised, the term is becoming increasingly common. Read More…

Boost Your Mood With Herbal Heroes

holy basil

Q: I would like to find an all-round natural supplement. A friend mentioned she takes an adaptogen: what are they, and how do I choose one for my over-busy lifestyle?

A: I’ve always liked the concept that adaptogens – natural substances that improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress, both physical and mental– go where they are needed at the time, acting on multiple parts of the body to strengthen weakness and bring balance.

According to medical herbalist Katie Pande: ‘Adaptogenic herbs are said to have a normalising effect on the body and mind, reducing the negative changes that can happen in your body in response to stress.’ Read More…