Blog Default

Managing Festive Stress

Managing festive stress.

 

Well it is that time of year again, endless rounds of present buying, social gatherings to prepare for, work parties to attend and if you make it through that lot still alive the big day itself.

Already some of my clients, friends and family are starting to feel the strain, so much to do and buy so little time and money-aaaarrrggghhhh!

So, how can we successfully navigate this time of year without having a breakdown, and pray tell Nicola what on earth does this have to do with our health and fitness I hear you ask?

Well evolutionarily the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked and stress-related tension builds.

Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress — a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.

Stress also becomes harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try and relieve their stress. Unfortunately, instead of relieving the stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems. Consider the following:

Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.

Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.

The total number of cases of stress in 2011/12 was 428 000 (40%) out of a total of 1 073 000 for all work-related illnesses.

Now for the science bit. The stress response has evolved over millions of years dating back to our ancestors to protect you from danger. Also known as the flight-or-fight response, it gets the body ready for action. So if you’re in danger say for example being chased by a bear, the brain’s hypothalamus sends triggers—both chemical and along the nerves—to the adrenals, which are glands that sit on top of each kidney like a hat perched on a head.

The adrenals then churn out hormones, such as cortisol, which raise blood pressure and blood sugar (among other things). This is dandy if you need to outrun said bear, less so if the perceived threat is whether you have remembered to buy presents for everyone.  Continually raised cortisol levels can be harmful to health if sustained over long periods of time.

As adrenals become fatigued, the production of cortisol and other hormone levels will fall. High levels of cortisol will suppress immune system cells making us more susceptible to coughs, colds and viruses that float around at this time of year. Cue total meltdown as you’re trying to get presents bought, food sorted for friends and family gatherings as well as going to the school nativity. Xmas fair and you then have to do all of that with a rotten cold as well! I previously wrote about ways to up your immune system so make extra efforts to incorporate some of those tips and at the very least try to eat lots of fruit and veg and get plenty of sleep.

Studies have linked cortisol, to cravings for sugar and fat. Part of that link is due to poor eating during stress, but the stress hormone cortisol may also increase the amount of fat tissue your body hangs onto and enlarge the size of fat cells. Scientists believe cortisol may also bind to receptors in the brain that control food intake. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more deep-abdominal fat—yes, your paunch. And if you are already an emotional eater you will be even more susceptible.  Combine this with the over indulgence that goes hand in hand with Christmas and it’s like sending a lion into the butchers-he ain’t gonna leave without having polished off a few steaks. However in your case probably more likely to be a tin of celebrations, which are not as rich in iron as steak!

Heartburn, stomach cramping, and diarrhoea can all be caused by or worsened by stress. In particular, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, which is characterized by pain and bouts of constipation and diarrhoea is thought to be fuelled in part by stress. Add to this all the rich food and alcohol you may be consuming and you are clearly asking for trouble! Obviously trying to find ways of managing your stress will be a big help here, but also being aware of the stress you will be putting on your digestive system could at least stop you having to spend Boxing Day on the loo! Peppermint tea can help with indigestion, Milk Thistle can help detoxify your level (read ward off and help fix a hangover) and of course not trying to cram as much food into you as possible-but you already knew that and will probably ignore it anyway……

Stress can cause hyper-arousal, a biological state in which people just don’t feel sleepy. While major stressful events can cause insomnia that passes once the stress is over, long-term exposure to chronic stress can also disrupt sleep and contribute to sleep disorders. What to do? Focus on making your surroundings conducive to a good night’s rest, turn off all TV’s, radios etc., write down anything that is on your mind as this can help the mind to switch it off and perhaps try yoga or another stress-busting activity during the day like boxing or going for a walk or run. If you can try to get plenty of sleep when you are not attending social events your body will be better able to deal with a few late nights without you being wiped out for days. So lights out at 10pm people!

Stress can set off an acute attack of back pain as well as contribute to ongoing chronic pain, probably for the simple reason that the “fight or flight” response involves tensing your muscles so that you’re ready to spring into action. One recent study in Europe found that people who are prone to anxiety and negative thinking are more likely to develop back pain, while a U.S. study tied anger and mental distress to ongoing back pain.

Fight or flight” chemicals like adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol can cause vascular changes that leave you with a tension headache or migraine, either during the stress or in the “let-down” period afterwards.  Also as mentioned above stress also makes your muscles tense, which can make the pain of a migraine worse.

Now for some more serious stuff.

Stress is known to raise blood sugar, and if you already have type 2 diabetes you may find that your blood sugar is higher when you are under stress.  Add to that the excess food and drink and you could be in for holiday season hypoglycaemia-sorry couldn’t help it!

The exact relationship between stress and heart attack is still unclear, but evidence is mounting that there is one.  An American study has also found a significant increase in heart attacks around Christmas and New Year, and although studies are ongoing as to exactly why this is, it has been suggested that the increased stress around this period may be a factor. So, if it all feels too much at least try taking 10 minutes out of your day to relax, read a book, have a bath or go for a walk so we can avoid having a Christmas Coronary. I know I did it again!

A stressful situation can raise your blood pressure temporarily by constricting your blood vessels and speeding up your heart rate, which means if you already have high blood pressure you will be heading for danger. It’s not yet clear whether chronic stress can cause more permanent changes in your blood pressure, but techniques like meditation may help, In addition to a healthy diet and exercise.

A study of 20,000 people who had never had a stroke or heart disease found that stress was linked to an increased risk of stroke. In another recent study, healthy adults who had experienced a stressful life event within the past year were four times as likely to suffer a stroke than their less-stressed counterparts. One theory is that the increased risk is due to stress-related high blood pressure and/or narrowing of the arteries (known as atherosclerosis). Its snow joke, ok I’ll stop now.

So let’s at least try at get plenty of Vegetables, plenty of rest sleep or just Chillin, and some preferably daily exercise and we can all come out the other side into 2014 ready to tackle it head on!

 

Look out over the next couple of weeks I will begin my 12 days of fitness, a short workout challenge everyday leading up to Christmas Eve to help you fit in some exercise as well as some tips on having a healthy Christmas Dinner-without even noticing!

 

Nicola x

Exercising for Health

If you ask most people why they exercise the answer will be the same……to lose weight! Now although exercise will help you to lose weight this is not the only reason you should do it. There are in fact many reasons why it is important to include at least 30 mins of exercise into your routine 4-5 times per week.

Being fit and active means you have more energy throughout your day to day life. You become more productive and alert, suffer less tiredness and are able to concentrate for longer periods of time. Just think about what a difference that would make to your day? Including even 20minutes of exercise can boost your energy levels meaning you’d smash through that to do list and still be firing on all cylinders without even noticing a dent in your free time.

Being Stronger and more flexible means you are less susceptible to aches and pains, and particularly less likely to suffer with back pain. Back pain is one of the most common causes of workplace absence and the old advice to sit and do nothing with a bad pain has now been overtaken with new thinking that advises a controlled exercise regime to help alleviate back pain. Although you should seek advice from your doctor and an exercise professional before embarking on a new exercise regime if you have existing back pain. Also, maintaining strength and flexibility into old age maintains your joint range of motion and helps to keep you mobile well into your pensionable years. Clearly something my local cycle group knew early on, I’m always being overtaken by those pesky pensioners on their top of the range road bikes!

Numerous studies have shown that exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer. Eating a healthy diet free of processed foods can also help massively with this, but that’s for another day!

Exercise increases your bone density which in turn can prevent the onset of Osteoporosis, particularly in women. Once women hit the grand old age of 30 (not old at all i know!) bone density begins to decrease, however regular exercise particularly the humble brisk walk has been shown to aid bone density thus preventing the likelihood of Osteoporosis in later life.

Exercise increases serotonin, the happy hormone! This means it is a great aid in helping to deal with depression and anxiety. They don’t call it runner’s high for nothing! Again even just a short workout can boost your mood, if you don’t feel like doing it just promise yourself you will just do 10mins and I bet 9 times out of 10 you will carry on for 20-30mins and feel great afterwards.

So whether you want to lose weight or not, there are so many other reasons why it is important to stay fit and active you have no excuse! Try just a brisk walk, a short jog, a bike ride with the kids it all helps and you can be safe in the knowledge you are doing your best to maintain your health.

Boost Your Immune System

Boost your Immune System.

It is now officially cold!

With Winter now in full swing your body is put under extra stress coping with the temperature change meaning your immune system may be struggling to cope. Add that with being surrounded by people sneezing and sniffling their way through coughs and colds means we need to work extra hard to ensure we don’t get struck down with the dreaded winter flu and associated bugs ourselves.

Here are my top tips for a healthy immune system.

Coconut Oil. Coconut Oil is a healthy saturated fat which contains monolaurin made from lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride which has been widely researched for its anti microbial and anti fungal properties. Anyone who knows me knows I pipe on about this stuff all the time stating that it is just magic! From my own experience when I worked in an office I used to come down with every cough and cold going until I started putting a spoon of this in my porridge. I became superhuman (well almost) and managed whole winters without a sniffle. It is also very rare for me these days to be struck down by flu considering the amount of training, time outdoors getting drenched, muddy and being surrounded by ill people I do. You can get it in health food shops but I find it easier to order online.  http://www.theproteinworks.com/products/food-snacks/foods/organic-virgin-coconut-oil.html.

Eat plenty of leafy greens. Dark Green vegatables i.e. kale, spinach and broccoli are rich in iron which helps our body to absorb vitamin C, which most of us know is vital for a strong immune system. So we need to stock up on iron to ensure our body can absorb the nutrients it requires. Also scientists have found that eating leafy greens stimulates the production of an immune cell called innate lymphoid cell. This cell helps in protecting the body from invading pathogens and help with the balance of good and bad bacteria in the intestine.

Oats. Oats are rich in selenium and beta glucans which are nutrients that support your immune system. Oats also help to control healthy bacteria in the intestine which again supports your immune system. And I don’t think there is a better way to start a cold, wintery day than with a bowl of hot porridge and some berries-yum! And I will let you in to a secret……..Ready Brek is totally fine-ssshhh!

Mushrooms.  Mushrooms, particularly shiitake, maitake and reishi contain immune boosting polysaccharides including previously mentioned beta glucans which support the immune system, they also have anti vital (again good for immunity) and anti cancer properties. Add them to soups, casseroles etc.

Green Tea.  Research has found that drinking green tea has an active polyphenol (EGCG) that has the ability to increase the number of regularatory immune support T Cells, these improve immune function and reduce inflammation in the body.

Yoghurt and Kefir. Your digestive tract contains around 60 percent of your immune systems cells. This makes it extra important to maintain a healthy gut. Including fermented foods in your diet like natural yoghurt (the plain stuff that doesn’t need an ingredients list!) and kefir can help to maintain a healthy bacteria which helps to decrease the number of harmful bacteria and stimulate immune cell production.  Try having some natural yoghurt and fruit for breakfast or as a dessert.

Orange fruit and vegetables. Butternut Squash, Sweet potato, Carrots, Oranges etc. Orange flesh fruit and vegetables are jam packed with carotenoids, vitamin A and C all essential for immune function. Vitamin A also has anti viral properties and is vital in supporting the cells of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and lungs – your main barriers against invaders. Try making a sweet potato soup-maybe I will send you my recipe!

Salmon and other Oily Fish. Oily fish contain essential fatty acids which among other things maintain the cells in your gut.  Also, research from the Michigan state university found that omega 3 docosahexaenoic (say that after a drink!) acid increases activity of immune cells specifically white blood cells (the important ones for immunity).  Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D which is again essential in maintaining optimum immunity.

 

Whey Protein. Quality whey protein provides your body with all the key amino acids it needs to support  immune boosting anti oxidants that provide fuel for your systems cells. It also contains immune enhancing constituents such as immunoglobulins and lactoferrin needed for tissue repair and a healthy gut. I get mine from these guys as compared to many on the market they have very few additives. http://www.theproteinworks.com/products/protein-shakes/whey-protein.

Citrus Fruits. Citrus Fruits are packed with vitamin C, which makes immune cells stronger and helps the immune system identify and attack invaders. It also helps make interfon (please say this in a superhero style voice!) which is part of your bodys natural defence system enabling you to fight off infection. You should try to up your intake of these through winter as high levels can seriously help to prevent flu. Other good sources include berries, kiwi and red peppers.

Nuts and Seeds. These have many benefits but particularly relevant is the Vitamin E Content.  This anti oxidant protects our fatty tissues and cell membranes from damage whilst fighting infections. Add a handful of sunflower seeds to your porridge or snack on a handful of almonds mid afternoon.

Honey and Bee propolis. Honey and Lemon is tea is a common sore throat remedy. This is because the honey helps to coat the irritated membranes and soothe the cough whilst also having antimicrobial properties. (The lemon helps draw out toxins).  Bee propolis is also known for its anti microbial and immune enhancing properties. Bee propolis can be taken in a capsule form I recommend  http://www.michelleunsworth.flppro.biz/ .

Raw Cacao. Yes, that is chocolate but it’s not your standard dairy milk. Raw cacao is rich in anti oxidants that help to combat free radicals-pesky menaces that suppress your immune function. It is also packed with zinc which has anti viral properties. Research has also shown that taking Zinc within 24 hours of the onset of a cold can lessen the severity. Other good sources include nuts, seeds, oysters and meat.  But I’ve said chocolate so here’s my permission to eat it. http://www.therawchocolatecompany.com/

Garlic. Garlic is anti bacterial, anti viral, anti fungal …..and anti social! For optimum immune boosting power garlic should be fresh and crushed  which helps to convert the active chemical allicin to its active form. Add it to soups, stir fries or anything else you fancy (garlic bread does not count-unless you make the entire thing including bread from scratch, in which case I guess we can let it slide)

 

And if you do get struck down, take 1000mg of vitamin C 4-5+ times per day and your symptoms will clear up much faster-trust me I’ve tried this and my cold ran screaming within a day!

 

 

Fitness Blog 3

Aenean sollicitudin, lorem quis bibendum auctor, nisi elit consequat ipsum, nec sagittis sem nibh id elit. Duis sed odio sit amet nibh vulputate cursus a sit amet mauris. Morbi accumsan ipsum velit. Nam nec tellus a odio tincidunt auctor a ornare odio. Sed non mauris vitae erat consequat auctor eu in elit. Clatss aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Mauris in erat justo. Nullam ac urna eu felis

dapibus condimentum sit amet a augue. Sed non neque elit. Sed ut imperdiet nisi. Proin condimentum fermentum Aenean sollicitudin, lorem quis bibendum auctor, nisi elit consequat ipsum, nec sagittis sem nibh id elit. Duis sed odio sit amet nibh vulputate cursus a

sit amet mauris. Morbi accumsan ipsum velit. Nam nec tellus a odio tincidunt auctor a ornare odio. Sed non mauris vitae erat consequat auctor eu in elit. Clatss aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Mauris in erat justo. Nullam ac urna eu felis

dapibus condimentum sit amet a augue. Sed non neque elit. Sed ut imperdiet nisi. Proin condimentum fermentum Aenean sollicitudin, lorem quis bibendum auctor, nisi elit consequat ipsum, nec sagittis sem nibh id elit. Duis sed odio sit amet nibh vulputate cursus a sit amet mauris. Morbi accumsan ipsum velit. Nam nec tellus a odio tincidunt auctor a ornare odio. Sed non mauris vitae erat consequat auctor eu in elit. Clatss aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Mauris in erat justo. Nullam ac urna eu felis

Fitness Blog 4

Aenean sollicitudin, lorem quis bibendum auctor, nisi elit consequat ipsum, nec sagittis sem nibh id elit. Duis sed odio sit amet nibh vulputate cursus a sit amet mauris. Morbi accumsan ipsum velit. Nam nec tellus a odio tincidunt auctor a ornare odio. Sed non mauris vitae erat consequat auctor eu in elit. Clatss aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Mauris in erat justo. Nullam ac urna eu felis

dapibus condimentum sit amet a augue. Sed non neque elit. Sed ut imperdiet nisi. Proin condimentum fermentum Aenean sollicitudin, lorem quis bibendum auctor, nisi elit consequat ipsum, nec sagittis sem nibh id elit. Duis sed odio sit amet nibh vulputate cursus a

sit amet mauris. Morbi accumsan ipsum velit. Nam nec tellus a odio tincidunt auctor a ornare odio. Sed non mauris vitae erat consequat auctor eu in elit. Clatss aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Mauris in erat justo. Nullam ac urna eu felis

dapibus condimentum sit amet a augue. Sed non neque elit. Sed ut imperdiet nisi. Proin condimentum fermentum Aenean sollicitudin, lorem quis bibendum auctor, nisi elit consequat ipsum, nec sagittis sem nibh id elit. Duis sed odio sit amet nibh vulputate cursus a sit amet mauris. Morbi accumsan ipsum velit. Nam nec tellus a odio tincidunt auctor a ornare odio. Sed non mauris vitae erat consequat auctor eu in elit. Clatss aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Mauris in erat justo. Nullam ac urna eu felis

Fitness Blog 5

Aenean sollicitudin, lorem quis bibendum auctor, nisi elit consequat ipsum, nec sagittis sem nibh id elit. Duis sed odio sit amet nibh vulputate cursus a sit amet mauris. Morbi accumsan ipsum velit. Nam nec tellus a odio tincidunt auctor a ornare odio. Sed non mauris vitae erat consequat auctor eu in elit. Clatss aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Mauris in erat justo. Nullam ac urna eu felis

dapibus condimentum sit amet a augue. Sed non neque elit. Sed ut imperdiet nisi. Proin condimentum fermentum Aenean sollicitudin, lorem quis bibendum auctor, nisi elit consequat ipsum, nec sagittis sem nibh id elit. Duis sed odio sit amet nibh vulputate cursus a

sit amet mauris. Morbi accumsan ipsum velit. Nam nec tellus a odio tincidunt auctor a ornare odio. Sed non mauris vitae erat consequat auctor eu in elit. Clatss aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Mauris in erat justo. Nullam ac urna eu felis