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  • Seasonal Supplements - Autumn

    Although autumn is a beautiful season with it golden colours and crisp mornings, it is not uncommon for many of us to start to feel a little under the weather as the temperatures drop and the dark nights draw in - bringing with them seasonal illnesses and side effects. Not only is it the start of cold & flu season, but other seasonal side effects are also common around this time of year – from dry skin to mental health issues.

    The colder weather and the increased use of central heating at home result many people experiencing dryer skin in the autumn months.  Some also find they experience a reduction in energy and motivation, and the darker nights may see increased levels of anxiety and depression for others.

    To help give your body the seasonal boost it may need at this time of year, here are just some key supplements that may help keep you fit and healthy at this time of year and help you prepare for the winter months.

    Vitamin A

    While nature helps us get increased vitamin A with seasonal produce rich in Vitamin A such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots, not everyone can get the vitamins they need from their diet alone.  Vitamin A can help our skin maintain moisture and elasticity. Because it has a very important antioxidant function, it can prevent the appearance of the free radicals responsible for skin aging. It evens out the skin, improving tone and texture. It also encourages the natural production of collagen.

    Vitamin D

    As we see less of the sun in the autumn months, it makes sense that we may need more of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ to help keep us healthy in the darker months when we may be leaving the house and returning home in the dark. Low levels of Vitamin D could leave you feeling tired and unwell.

    Vitamin C

    Vitamin C helps to build up the immune system and boost immunity in the colder months, as well as helping reduce the symptoms of cold & flu. This popular vitamin is also needed for strengthening the blood vessels, bones, gums and teeth. It also has a protective role as an antioxidant. Vitamin C also helps to maintain normal blood fat and cholesterol levels and is involved in fat metabolism.

    Ginger

    Ginger offers many health benefits and has been used for its medicinal purposes for many years, having first been cultivated in China as an all-purpose remedy thousands of years ago. Ginger can be used to help alleviate nausea and settle an upset stomach, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties that can work to ease the symptoms of a common cold or winter flu, as well as relieving headaches and other aches and pains that become more prominent in colder weather.

    Omega-3

    Omega-3 is used to make cell membranes and is therefore vital in helping to keep the cells in your body nice and healthy. An Omega-3 deficiency can lead to dry skin, fatigue, and depression - all of which can be worse during the autumn months. This general all round good vitamin can also help lower your risk of disease and reduce inflammation.

  • Feeling under the weather? There could be a very good reason

    We all feel ‘under the weather’ at times, but what does this actually mean? Evidence does show that weather can affect in our health in different ways. Climatotherapy is the idea of recommending different weather conditions for different illnesses. Patients with tuberculosis were traditionally sent to the mountains for the lower levels of water vapour and higher ozone levels. Conversely, seaside resorts are considered to be excellent ‘respite centres’ because of the sodium and iodine rich sea air and can help those with respiratory conditions or rheumatism.

    Storms
    Depending on the severity of the storm this type of weather can have a relative affect on our health. This is especially true for asthma and arthritis sufferers. Asthma UK recommends that people with the condition stay indoors with the windows closed during thunderstorms. This is because pollen grains and fungal spores get carried, broken up and concentrated down a narrow column of air. This can cause an attack for asthma sufferers or hay-fever sufferers. Even those without these conditions may feel a heavier feeling in their breathing. Even less dramatic storms can have an effect too, arthritis sufferers can find that rains storms make their aches and pains worse. This is not so much to do with the rain itself but the weather system that creates it; the warm fronts, the cold fronts and the changes in electromagnetic frequencies.

    Cloud cover
    Most people notice that prolonged periods of gloomy weather can affect their mood. However for some the effect is so noticeable that it interferes with their lives. The reduced levels of light can bring about fatigue, depression or feeling low, changes in appetite, apathy and disturbed sleep patterns. Conversely however, it seems that our memories may benefit from cloud cover, studies suggest that people performed better in memory tests when the weather was gloomy.

    Drop the Pressure
    Changes in atmosphere pressure can have an impact on sufferers of headaches and migraines. As the pressure becomes lower this can cause changes to oxygen levels. It is thought that the blood vessels in the head expand or contract to compensate for this.
    Further studies have shown that if you are heavily pregnant there is a chance that your waters may break as your uterus expands in response to the change in atmosphere.

    Feeling the cold
    During the winter months the Met Office works closely with the Department of Health to make sure that they can provide timely information to healthcare professionals and the general public in order to keep people well. In the UK alone there are, on average, 25,000 extra deaths in the winter compared to other months of the year. Blood can thicken in the cold because of the increase in blood clotting factor fibrinogen. The cold can thicken blood, increase blood pressure and tighten the airways, making those who have respiratory or cardiovascular conditions more vulnerable to risk of stroke. Experts suggest that the optimum temperature for the general living area of a house is 21 degree Celsius and 18 degrees Celsius for a bedroom.

    How true is it that the cold gives you a cold? Well according to a study from the Common Cold Centre, when colds are circulating many people are carrying the infection but showing no symptoms. When exposed to the cold weather, the once warm blood, that was supplying the white cells that fight infection, becomes chilled and the infection starts to take hold. So if going out, wrap up warm.

    If you cant stand the heat…
    Sunshine is good for us in small quantities and is needed by the body for the production of Vitamin D which is important for healthy growth. However, in extreme heat our heart rate rises, blood vessels expand to let more blood reach the skins surface and we sweat more often causing dehydration. The combination of dehydration and loss of blood from the central nervous system can lead to fainting. This is a particular risk to young children and the elderly. Check the temperature in your bedroom, hot temperatures over night can make it difficult for the body to cool – experts suggest 18 degrees Celsius to be the optimum temperature to sleep in, and 21 degrees Celsius for the living area.

    The lighter side of health.
    Other, more cheery effects of a sunny day is the impact it can have on our mood. There is a photoreceptive system within the eye that is separate from the visual system. This photoreceptive system is light sensitive and directly attached to the arousal system in the brain. When light passes through this photoreceptive system, the neurotransmitter serotonin is released. This is the chemical that helps us to feel good and uplifted. When there is reduced daylight less serotonin is released and instead the opposing chemical, melatonin, becomes dominant. Melatonin induces the sleep process and can leave us feeling ‘half asleep’. Usually this system works well, as night time falls our body responds naturally by producing melatonin but when it is grey and dark during the day the combination of reduced serotonin and raised melatonin can cause a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is now a widely recognised clinical condition and there are medically proven light therapy products available to support sufferers re-dress the balance.

    Sometimes the effect is physiological or sometimes psychological, either way we cannot deny the inextricable link between our wellbeing and natures environment. So much so, the MetOffice have a dedicated service, Healthy Outlook. This service was designed specifically to help people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, stay well throughout the year.

    If you have any concerns the effect the weather has on health refer to the met office website http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/health/public.

     

  • SAD but not depressing

    Animals react to the changing seasons with changes in mood, metabolism and behaviour people and human beings are just the same. Many people find they eat and sleep slightly more in winter and dislike the dark mornings and short days and this is commonly referred to as 'winter blues' or 'winter depression'. Others have symptoms that are more severe, often making it difficult to cope with work and putting strain on relationships. This is a recognised problem known as Seasonal Affective Disorder that's usually shortened to SAD (sometimes also called SAD syndrome or SAD disorder).

    What are the symptoms of SAD and winter blues?

    If you suffer from either SAD or winter blues symptoms you will probably start to notice the difference around September and may not feel like your normal self until April. The main symptoms are listed below; you may not experience all of them, particularly with milder winter blues:

    • Sleep problems - oversleeping but not refreshed, cannot get out of bed, needing a nap in the afternoon
    • Overeating - carbohydrate craving leading to weight gain
    • Depression, despair, misery, guilt, anxiety - normal tasks become frustratingly difficult
    • Family / social problems - avoiding company, irritability, loss of libido, feeling emotionally 'numb'
    • Lethargy - too tired to cope, everything an effort
    • Physical symptoms - often joint pain or stomach problems, lowered resistance to infection
    • Behavioural problems - especially in young people

    Who does it affect?

    The standard figure says that around 2% of people in Northern Europe suffer badly, with many more (10%) putting up with milder symptoms (sub-syndromal SAD or winter blues). Across the world the incidence increases with distance from the equator, except where there is snow on the ground, when it becomes less common. More women than men are diagnosed as having SAD. Children and adolescents are also vulnerable.

    What causes SAD?

    The problem stems from the lack of bright light in winter. Researchers have proved that bright light makes a difference to the brain chemistry but why some people suffer and others don't is not clear.

    Nerve centres in our brain controlling our daily rhythms and moods are stimulated by the amount of light entering the eyes. As night falls, the pineal gland starts to produce a substance called melatonin that tells our body clock it's night time; bright light at daybreak is the signal for the gland to stop producing this melatonin. But on dull winter days, especially indoors, not enough light is received to trigger this waking up process. Light is also linked to serotonin (also known as or 5HT), a neurotransmitter in the brain. This makes sense because low serotonin levels can cause depression and if you're depressed it can be difficult to concentrate and complete what would normally be simple tasks. Evidence has shown that serotonin levels increase with exposure to bright light - SSRI drugs such as Prozac have the same effect, but without getting into prescription drugs, a simple course of Vitamin D can be an effective counter balance.

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