Can Plants Improve the Air Pollution in Your Home?

There is an increase of indoor pollution in our homes, which can lead to allergies and lung problems. Are the air-tight, insulated, clean homes we live in harmful to our health? Could the humble houseplant be our saviour? As certain common plants have been shown to remove toxic agents naturally from the air.

Indoor air pollution is linked to the risk of pneumonia, COPD and lung cancer. Pollution in your home can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. If you have asthma, your symptoms might get worse if you have an allergic reaction to a pollutant in the air. The quality of the air we breathe indoors is affected by many things: how a building is ventilated, room temperature, damp, condensation, dust mites, cleaning products, heating, cooking, building materials used in construction, modern furnishings, pets, scented candles and cigarette smoke.

We use a wide range of household chemicals every day to clean and decorate our homes which are then released into the air inside our homes. Some of these can contain chemicals called VOCs, (volatile organic compounds) which are found in furniture polish, air fresheners, oven cleaners, glues and detergents. Although more research is needed before we can be fully certain about the effects of breathing in these chemicals in our homes, existing studies do suggest that being exposed to these can increase your risk of developing an allergy. ( As an asthmatic all of these have in the past caused me breathing problems and increased coughing) So, look for products that are labelled allergy friendly, as they have lower levels of volatile chemicals. Natural cleaners like hydrogen peroxide and vinegar are easy to use and cheaper than most commercial chemical cleaners. Use solid or liquid cleaning products rather than sprays that go into the air. Using toxic, chemical cleaning products can makes your home unhealthy.

In the UK, we use a lot of air fresheners, plug-ins, wipes and cleaning products. The characteristic lemon-fresh or pine so familiar in bleaches and washing up liquids comes from fragranced chemicals like limonene and alpha pinene chemicals, not harmful, but it’s what they turn into once released into the air that’s the concern. One of the known secondary products of all fragrance chemicals once they react in the air is formaledehyde ( VOC) with has carcinogenic and breathing-irritant properties. Everyday exposure to indoor chemicals such as formaldehyde may contribute to increasing cancers and other illnesses. The levels of formaldehyde in the air and water are strictly regulated by law in the UK. In small concentrations, they are a normal part of our environment. However, exposure to high levels of VOCs indoors is a source of concern among health professionals, particularly their effect on the delicate airways of children.

In NASA experiment published in 1989, it found that indoor plants can scrub the air of cancer-causing VOCS like formaldehyde and benzene. However, in 2018, Michael Waring, an associate professor of architectural and environmental engineering stated that Houseplants, though charming, do little to purify the air in a room, scientists who study the air we breathe appear to be divided in their oppinons. As one study found that within just two days, the plant removed up to 90% of the toxins found in indoor air. Through photosynthesis, they convert the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen and can also remove toxins from the air.

Dr Tijana Blanusa, principal horticultural scientist at the Royal Horticultural Society, explained that research into the impact of houseplants on indoor air quality has intensified over the past few years, particularly the ability of plants to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) and other volatile organic compounds, such as those emitted from paints and furnishings. When CO2 builds up, it results in drowsiness, dizziness and headaches and creates a stuffy, unhealthy home. All leafy green plants will remove some CO2 during the daytime, which they use for photosynthesis. The RHS stresses that plants remove VOCs at a slower pace and not quickly enough to have much effect on the air quality of your home. But that houseplants can enhance our lives in a number of ways like improving moods and reducing stress. Adding plants into the areas you are working in, (if home-working) is said to increase productivity, improve attention span and creativity. Which is another great reason for having a few plants, scattered about.

So, no clear-cut answers for now, but it’s an area of ongoing and exciting research, which I will keep following closely. I think that adding plants to your home can look lovely in a room, making you feel energised by the space around you. Some plants are better at improving the quality of air such as Palms, Ferns, Ivy, Chrysanthemums and Spider Plants.

Spider plants, known as air plants, grow quickly and look great in hanging baskets.

Golden pothos, known as devil’s ivy, flourishes in a variety of conditions and can grow up to 8 feet One of the most effective indoor air purifiers for removing common toxins.

Chrysanthemums are ranked the highest for air purification. They’re shown to eliminate common toxins as well as ammonia.

English ivy (Hedera helix) is an evergreen climbing plant well adapted to indoor conditions. Different varieties prefer different light situations from indirect light to low-light spaces.

Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) Remove common household toxins like ammonia.

Bamboo palms add a healthy dose of moisture into the air, making it a welcome addition in dry winter months.

Rubber plants are evergreen trees and these plants love bright, light and a little attention occasionally.

If you have pets such as cats and dogs, you may want to reconsider air-purifying plants as many of these plants can be toxic to them. Ask the staff at your local garden centre about pet-safe options.

Also, an increase in plants can also affect humidity and promote mould growth, to prevent this, let the water drain into a pan or a tray and remove the excess water regularly.

One final point about home air pollution, open your windows every day to let the fresh air enter your home. Even for a few precious minutes a day even when it’s a bit cold outside and especially if you’re cooking or using the shower. Your home will feel better for it and you feel good too.

A (Naturally) Fragrant Home

All five of the senses work together to give a full picture of our surroundings. The sense of smell works more acutely on our brain than we realize, having the power to trigger memories and feelings. It has been proven through a number of studies that fragrance can affect a person’s mood, so choosing a scent that puts you in a happy and relaxed state of mind is really important during a time of 24/7 home-confinement. Finding the perfect home-scent can contribute to your well-being by triggering positive emotions that allow you to fully unwind and recharge.

We encounter a lot of smells in a day, our nose’s are often subjected to some very unpleasant ones; in the street, at work, pollution, stale tobacco, the list is endless. I’m a big fan of perfume in any form and if I walk into a room and smell a lovely fragrance, its instantly uplifing. When someone visits your home it’s often the first thing they notice. A quick spray of Febreze doesn’t work anymore. However wonderfully furnished and accessorised, for rooms to be fully complete, the way they smell is the missing link. The mystery ingredient if you like. How your home smells can leave a lasting impression and is just as important as its visual appearance. Fragrance is often underestimated and seen as an afterthought rather than an integral part of a home. But have you ever wondered why you get a great feeling when you smell fresh flowers or ground coffee?

At-Aroma a Tokyo- based fragrance design company, they design a fragrance for a space which is described as scent architecture. In Japan, the importance of scent to the overall design of a space relates to the tradition of kodo. In more recent years more western companies have begun to recognize the power of scent. Restaurants, hotels and spas often use fragrance to create a specific atmosphere that they want to portray to match their image. Like the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York who collaborated with French perfumers Le Labo to develop their signature scent.

Scented candles have been raised to objects of celebrity status and desire in social media.( Blame the millennials) The choice is huge, you can get tealights, pillar candles, taper candles, votive candles, container candles, scented, unscented, beeswax, vegan candles, soy wax melts and even charcoal sticks. We have gone a little crazy for home fragrance. A home can’t be Instagram ready without a (branded) candle.

To fragrance a home, there are scented candles, incense, essential oils, room sprays and diffusers. The most popular been candles and reed diffusers. Reed diffusers infuse the room with a constant background scent and candles provide a mood-setting glow and fragrance. Home-scents are not used purely for necessity but for creating a warm and intimate space that encourages comfort and happiness.

It is best to avoid a strong scent that can dominate an entire room or one that is too subtle to smell. Floral scents are relaxing, I love Rose and Jasmine, (perfect for a bedroom or bathroom) woody scents like Frankincense can make you feel grounded (think of churches) and the freshness of citrus invigorates. For kitchen spaces, the distinct aromas of lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and herbs; lemongrass, ginger, basil and rosemary can cover up cooking odours. In the bedroom to create ambiance, warm, floral scents are lovely. A candle or diffuser with lavender and jasmine is an aroma-therapeutic, sleep-inducing treat. Light, aromatic, nature-inspired; green tea, fig, leaves, grasses and bamboo are perfect for the main living area and give a connection with the outdoors. Do take into account whether it’s a small or large space. Children and pets are more sensitive to smell so factor this into your choices. If you want to match your home-scent to the seasons, try lighter, fruits and florals in summer and warmer, spices and woods in winter. After a while you can go nose-blind, so it’s a good idea to change the room fragrance regularly.

It’s crucial to source your home fragrances from companies producing natural products to keep your air clean of harsh chemicals. These products can be more expensive but do also last much longer as well as better for the environment.

Diffusers- Oil diffusers don’t create smoke and thus won’t spread toxins in the same way as candles. Larger diffusers can scent an entire room, in smaller spaces, reduce the reeds used or opt for a gentler scent. The reeds in a diffuser should be inverted (turned) every two weeks to maximise the fragrance and maintain a consistent level of scent within the room. With diffusers you can leave them unattended and are fairly low-maintenance. Aesthetically, many of the bottles can act as a stylish centrepiece or you can pour the liquid into a pretty glass or ceramic container of your own. A narrower top will ensure the fragrance doesn’t fade as quickly, but if it does turn the reeds, to instantly refresh the room.

Candles– are great for an intimate event, like dinner or a bath, as they give off light and scent. Luxury candles can be made primarily with synthetic scent and boosters to help a smaller amount of fragrance go further. I prefer candles that aren’t made with synthetic ingredients. Natural candles use natural wax and essential oils. Scented candles with artificial fragrances can release synthetic compounds into the air, which can cause skin, eye and nose irritations. Paraffin wax is the predominant wax used in the candle industry. It’s the final by-product in the petroleum refining chain. (Described as the bottom of the barrel). Although there is no conclusive evidence that burning paraffin candle wax is damaging to your health, natural waxes like soy, vegetable and beeswax offer a non-toxic alternative. (Having a very low environmental impact and footprint) These burn cleaner and slower, with less soot than cheaply manufactured waxes so the candle lasts much longer. Ventilate your room after extinguishing a candle to get rid of any toxins released particularly if using paraffin candles. Breathing too much of any type of smoke can potentially damage your health, so don’t burn candles for longer than four hours and cool for at least two hours before relighting. When first lighting a candle burn for three hours to ensure that the wax melts evenly and to the edge and bottom of the candle to prevent tunnelling, which is a hole or ‘tunnel’ in the centre of the candle caused by uneven burning. Trim the wick to around three millimetres, so the wick burns at the same speed as the candle. For some really lovely natural scented candles go to Neom and the Bathhouse.

I believe that the right scent creates a unique character to a room or home. Your personal choice of fragrance can make a house feel like a home. It’s an everyday affordable luxury. So, why not treat yourself to a candle or diffuser, natural of course and see if it makes you feel you good!

Scenting our Homes in Lockdown

One of the few positives from the various states of lockdown has been the increased focus on self-care and also thinking more about our home environment. The home fragrance market: candles, diffusers and vapour diffusers has enjoyed a real surge in demand as we seek ways to relax, to concentrate or even just to make our rooms (we’re spending more time in) simply smell better. Candles have been used in sacred ceremonies for centuries, to bring a peaceful ambiance into a space. But whilst their minimal light and aromas create a serene sanctuary, there are actually other reasons why you should burn candles in your home. They can actually help your mental state and well-being, essential in our third lockdown. (And hopefully final one)

The UK is one of the world’s biggest candle markets. In 2020, the estimated market was 1.9 billon. And, while the beauty industry has faced a steep decline, there has been a large increase in home fragrance. This may be vital to the survival of many beauty retailers during the pandemic, as shoppers bought more home scents such as candles and diffusers. Small independent candle makers were one of the lockdown business success stories.  

There has also been a new focus on our sense of smell since the start of the COVID pandemic, as a sense that many of us took for granted and is often ranked as the least important sense.  Half of patients with covid-19 may lose sense of smell and guidance rules states that a new change or loss in sense of smell should prompt a period of self-isolation. Losing the sense of smell (anosmia) has been traumatic for many people struck with COVID. The effect of it meant not just missing, the smell of fresh bread or perfume but it left many patients feeling depressed and further isolated. Dr. Sandeep Robert Datta, a neurobiologist, states that while many think of scent as an aesthetic bonus sense, it is an important link between people and the environment around them. Nine in ten patients can expect substantial improvement in their sense of smell within four weeks and using olfactory training been shown to help people improve and regain their sense of smell.

Olfactory training is a self-management strategy that involves a regular programme of using strong odours or essential oils to trigger recovery of the olfactory system. Smell training involves twice- daily sniffing of four essential oils to help the damaged olfactory nerve repair itself.

We don’t just miss the sights and sounds of our favourite places; we also miss the smells. Indeed, some brands have capitalised on this lockdown absence in creating exotic scents that are evocative of distant shores. A good-quality scented candle can remind us of places we have visited and loved. Perhaps we need this more than ever when we’re locked down in our homes and unable to travel. The soothing effect that candles have is based on how the brain processes smells. The smell of scented candles stimulates our limbic system, the part of the brain that is home to our memory and emotions.

If you need a further reason to place a handful of candles around your desk for decorative purposes, you now have the perfect excuse, as surrounding yourself with scented candles while you work can actually increase your focus and help you become more productive. Aromas like mint, lemon, orange and rosemary can invigorate your senses and help give you that extra boost you need whilst working from home.

Lighting a candle can remind you of a happier time and can make you feel better if you are feeling a little down. A Japanese study conducted on 12 participants who were depressed, showed that the smell of lemons helped, boosted their immune function and regulated hormone levels. So much so that their dosage of antidepressants was lowered. There are several essential oils that can help alleviate feelings of uneasiness, uplift your flagging spirits and promote a better, stronger, more positive state of mind. Using essential oils is a natural and proven way to help reduce the symptoms of nervousness and restore positivity, I use Bergamot essential oil (reduces hormone responses to stress) in a burner and find this both uplifting and relaxing. So, the next time you want to instantly lift your mood, try to use a candle or diffuser with citrus or rosemary scents. If you’re choosing candles for your home, then they should be natural where possible. I will write a blog about natural home scents.

The blue light that is admitted from computer screens decreases your magnesium levels, which can make you feel less tired and more anxious. (Contributing to insomnia) To combat this, shutting your light off earlier and lighting a candle can actually help you feel calmer earlier in the evening and reset to your natural sleep rhythms. When you’re not being disrupted by technology, it’s easier to listen to your body and know when to shut down for the night without being distracted. When life starts to feel overwhelming, light a candle, an oil burner or steam diffuser with several drops of essential oil. To help instil a feeling of calmness, lift anxiety and aid sleep, the following used on their own or in combination with each other can be a great help; camomile, lavender, (sedative) frankincense, neroli, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli and ylang ylang. (lifts depression)

Once you smell a candle scented by essential oils, you’ll instantly notice the difference compared to a synthetic scented candle.  Also, there are concerns with the use of paraffins and other synthetic ingredients. Candles with artificial fragrances and boosters are releasing synthetic compounds into the air. This can sometimes cause skin, eye, and nose irritations for some. (Especially for those with potential allergies) Natural wax candles include: beeswax, rapeseed and soy, all have a very low environmental impacts and footprint, and I would recommend these rather than paraffin wax candles. Breathing too much of any type of smoke can potentially damage your health so ventilate your room by opening a window after extinguishing a candle.

Traditionally, oil burners have been used to diffuse oils, but now there are numerous options like nebulizing diffusers or vapour diffusers. They don’t require any form of internal heat to disperse scented oils around a room. As there’s no flame or hot wax, these can be left on for longer periods, even overnight, some have an automatic cut off after several hours. I add eucalyptus oil at night when I have a cold, to help breathing. These are ideal as a safer replacement for candles.

Vapour diffusers pump out a fragrant water vapor, (steam) these occasionally need to be filled with a small amount of water and a few drops of essential oil. They give off a fragrance at a slower pace. The result is a lighter scent but one that lingers. Vapour diffusers are one of the best and easier ways to use aromatherapy daily. If you are familiar with oils or only just starting to use them you will find that the electric vapour diffusers are really versatile and you are less likely to become over-sensitised to the oils because of a slower inhalation. I use one myself!

Nebulizing diffusers work by forcing a stream of air at high pressure through small tubes or filters that contain essential oil which then sprays fine particles of the essential oil into the air. This fine mist distributes the oil around the room. Nebulizers don’t require water but do use more oil. However, they disperse essential oils much faster and at a higher concentration.

If you have pets some essential oils are toxic to dogs and cats. If you have nebulizer, make sure the oil you’re using is safe for your pet and air out the room before you let enter the room. Avoid using an essential oil diffuser if you have birds as their respiratory tracts are very sensitive. Passive diffusers (bottles with reeds) are generally safer for homes with animals as these are more diluted so safer, it is always best to check with your vet. See the APCC’s toxic and nontoxic plant list for further details.

Both are readily available online at every price point and they make great presents. You do have to use pure essential oils not fragrance oils which can contain mineral oil. (This is actually paraffin oil and best to avoid)

I hope this has given you some insights into the benefits of home scents both for health and wellbeing.

Healing Your Home

I have talked before about your home been a haven, Home is where the heart is after all.  But what about a home that doesn’t feel quite right? Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong. Take notice, you do need to listen to your heart, intuition and gut feeling.

 I love walking into a house or flat that has good energy. Comfortable furniture and interesting accessories play their part in making a home feel great, but a home that has good energy is just not as tangible as the décor. An open mind is required as I shall aim to explain.

There are many ways to heal the energy in your home. Having a healthy home is important to your health. The energy in a healthy home promotes healing and rejuvenation. It has a wonderful feeling of lightness and clarity, where you can feel relaxed, inspired and energised all at the same time. The atmosphere or feel of a home is so important.

Everything is made up of energy. Some energy we can see, some we cannot. Energy can be positive or negative. Positive energy makes us feel good whilst negative energy is draining. If you are living with negative energy this can manifests itself in many ways; harming relationships, creating a bad atmosphere, causing tiredness and poor health. If you’ve just moved into a new space, you should cleanse your home of any negative energies that might still be there from the previous owners. Have you ever felt an uneasy feeling when you entered a room or building? I know I have!

Homes become sick for many reasons, they can become cluttered and dirty and in energy terms, anything that is untidy, unfinished or unloved, holds onto stagnant energy and disrupts the flow of good energy. Ever more complex than that is the energies generated by us humans. (Arguments, divorce, stress from work and life, physical and mental illness, bullying, hatred and other negative circumstances) We all leave an energetic trace or pattern wherever we go. These can prove to be harmful to others who are vibrating on a different level to us.

It is, however, possible to clear poor energy from within your home through various spiritual clearing practises. The adverse emotional energy has to go somewhere and the bricks and mortar will soak it up like a sponge as does furniture and other items. I have tried some techniques myself, like crystals and using a bell and others I been told about.

Smudging-You have probably seen images of people waving bundles of sage, sometimes mixed with herbs or essential oils like lavender, lemon, juniper berry and cedarwood, mugwort or lighting a piece of Palo Santo. (Wood from the Bursar graveolens tree native to South America and used for healing and cleansing) Smudging is an ancient ceremonial practice used by Native Americans. It’s a process of burning herbs to cleanse and protect a space and when they start to smoke, it blows away any negative energy. It’s easy to perform yourself; first, you need to open all of the doors and windows in your home, then hold the sage and light the end until it starts to smoke. Then you can start the smudging practice, make your way from room to room, waving the smoke into all of the opened and closed spaces and corners. After you’ve smudged each room, you can now cleanse your house with salt. Pour salt into each corner and let it sit for 48 hours (the salt can absorb negative energy). Ring a bell three times in each corner to break up any stagnant energy. Many people choose to use salt lamps to continue clearing bad energy, I have one of these myself.

Crystals- scientists tend to scoff at the idea of crystals having any mystical properties, but crystals have been used all over the world for thousands of years, for adornment, healing and protection. The beauty of using crystals, is that they work with what you already have and are affordable to buy. Pink quartz crystals built up love and positive vibrations. Black tourmaline is powerful for soaking up bad vibes and works well when placed in each corner of a room. Put clear quartz, selenite and calcite next to the Wi-Fi router. Amethyst is known as a master healer. If there is a lot of emotion, try an amethyst cave (a bit like a big rock) it draws in energy, transmutes it and sends it out again. I will write an additional post about crystal power.

Music- is a vibration and those waves or frequencies, reverberate throughout your home. If you listen to music that has positive vibrations, it will broadcast those positive vibrations throughout your home. Think of the vibrations that emanate from bells ringing. The sound is both pleasing to your ears and has a positive effect on your home. There are even some studies that indicate the ringing of bells, like church bells, is an effective treatment for depression and other mental disorders. Tibetan bowls, cymbals, bells, and chimes are also special tools for sound healing, and you can use them to move the sound into the corners of each room to clear the energy. Investing in some wind chimes to hang inside, or outside your home, can give you the same healing benefits as ringing a bell.

Dowsing- is a type of divination employed in attempts to malign earth vibrations. Spiritual dowsing wasn’t used much before the latter part of the twentieth century. Prior to that time, dowsing was more focused on subjects like water and mineral locations. Its growing in popularly for clearing negative energy and geopsychic stresses. The level of stress is measured through dowsing before and after clearing to ensure the stress has been cleared. Geopsychic Stress is the generic term used to cover all the seen and unseen energy patterns, including negative imprints, negative thought forms, trapped souls and entitles, magnetic waves and geological fault streams. This is an area; I don’t know that much about and there are healers working in this field who can help to heal your home and give a more detailed explanation. It would be remiss of me not to mention this as this, although I think it best to take advice from a home healer rather than doing it yourself.

The Greek prefix Geo signifies earth and Pathos means disease or suffering. Geopathic Stress is a form of stress that is underground and can be from underground streams, geological fault streams, tunnels and mines and crossing points of energy and ley lines. These can cause energy stresses above ground where we live. All electrical items produce magnetic waves and these will be measured as Electromagnetic Stress. Electrical items include TV’s, Wi-Fi, microwaves, electric wires, fuse boxes and electric clocks. Some people are sensitive to these waves. Part of the clearing process is to neutralise negative waves emitting from electrical items and put in protection around the property against outside emissions.  I met a fascinating couple in Ibiza, who always turned their wi-fi route off at ten pm and didn’t switch it on again until the morning so as not to harm their sleep patterns.

To conclude then, trying some space clearing like smudging, playing some music or placing crystals in your rooms can help to change the vibrations and raise the energy. By giving your home some love and extra attention, it can make your home feel happier and more of a sanctuary to you.

How Do You Take Your Water

When it comes to bottled water, there are numerous types on the market: mineral, spring, artesian, purified, flavoured and alkaline water, to name a few. Stroll through any supermarket and you’ll be taken aback by the sheer diversity of choice. It’s a struggle to know which water is the best because there are just too many options. Each brand claiming to have wildly impressive additional health benefits. Some swear by glacial meltwater or whatever designer water is currently trending. It’s difficult not to make sweeping judgements about bottled water, there has to be more that just hype. But which is better for your health and do they all just do the same thing, keep you hydrated.

Is water well, just water?

Tap water in the UK is among the safest in the world, according to Dr Jim Marshall, the senior policy adviser at Water UK. It passes more than 99.9 per cent of quality tests. There are more standards regulating tap water than those applied to the bottled water industry. But despite this, whether it stems from concern about tap water, clever marketing or a fondness for a crisper, cleaner flavour, bottled water is hugely popular and is going from strength to strength.

So, what exactly are these different waters? Some of the larger water companies have admitted that their bottled water is nothing more than filtered tap water, so what you are actually paying for are large advertising campaigns and wonderfully designed packaging.

The UK bottled water market is worth £2.4 billion and has grown year-on-year since 2012. The total bottled water production stood at over 2,700 million litres last year. It’s no different in America, where consumers shell out $16 billion annually. Clearly the advertising men are doing a great job of selling something that we all need to stay alive.

Spring water comes from an underground source and must be collected at the spring or through a borehole tapping the spring’s source, according to the International Bottled Water Association.

Mineral water is natural water that has a constant level and relative proportions of mineral and trace elements, containing no less than 250 parts per million totals of dissolved solids, according to the water association. No extra minerals can be added to it.

Purified water the Bottled Water association defines as water that has been highly treated through distillation, deionization or other suitable processes in order to meet certain standards before being sold. Most bottled waters use this method.

Artesian water is derived from a well that taps a specific layer of rock or sand.

Filtered water is the home- made version of purified water, by using a water filter jug like Brita or water filter taps also referred to as 3-way kitchen tap, which filters the water automatically.

 Alkaline water has a higher pH level than tap water. Natural alkaline water can occur when water picks up minerals from areas such as springs, when it passes over rocks in the environment or can be produced by water filter systems called ionizers.

Ionized water has antioxidant properties. Therefore, what you get is an abundance of hydrated minerals. It is said to taste better than regular water, Its filtered and purified by machine.

Flavoured and enhanced water Some varieties boast beneficial antioxidants from plant extracts, tea and fruit juices. It’s best to look for brands that are free of calories, sweeteners and artificial ingredients.

Sparkling waters are acidic. Carbonation introduces carbon dioxide, which lowers the pH level and increases the acidity. These can replace fizzy drinks like lemonade and soda water.

Coconut water forms naturally in the fruit and contains 94% water. It’s a good source of fibre, vitamin C and several other minerals. Evidence shows that coconut water may be no more effective than drinking plain water.  But the potassium it contains can be a benefit to you, particularly after sports.

Artesian water is from underground wells, whilst spring water comes from surface water and mineral water (which accounts for the lion’s share 45% of the UK market) comes from natural springs rich in minerals like salt and sulphur compounds. Some of these like Buxton and Harrogate Spa have been famous for their healthy water for hundreds of years. I did drink water from a natural spring during a stay in Spain and the taste was more pleasant that tap water, which isn’t drunk very often my the locals.

A cheap way of purifying tap water for some time has been the Brita water filter system, I have used these myself in the past. There have been some recent health concerns raised. One of the downsides of filters is keeping them maintained, and if you don’t, they can become a hazard in themselves because of the potential hygiene risk. The filter can grow mould and break down and impart material in to the water and old filter’s are less effective. So, you’re could be drinking tap water with contaminants and whatever else has grown in the old filter. (As water attracts bacteria) Experts stress that there are no specific health benefits to water filters and its a matter of personal preference, but that filters should always be changed regularly.

You might have seen alkaline water in recent years, become popular due to a belief that it may benefit health. There’s not really a lot of evidence either supporting the health claims that are made about alkaline water or refuting the claims. A pH level is a measure of how acidic or alkaline something is. Tap water has a PH level of 7 containing one acidic hydrogen ion (H+) and one basic hydroxide ion (OH-), balancing each other out to make water neutral. Most alkaline waters lie in the PH range of 8 or 9, due to addition of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It been thought to provide better hydration, especially for athletes.

Water filter systems called ionizers are home appliance’s that claims to raise the pH level of drinking water by using electrolysis to separate the incoming water stream into acidic and alkaline components. These are often combined with Reverse Osmosis systems. To give the water a healthier mineral content it often has to be put through an ioniser as purified water (RO) tends to be acidic.

Reverse Osmosis uses a semi-permeable membrane system to remove ions, impurities, minerals and molecules to create pure water. Some systems have a remineralization filter which adds calcium and magnesium and other healthy mineral’s back into the water. During the purification process quite a lot of water is wasted and the costs involved can be high.

Plain drinking water can be a bit uninspiring and adding a wedge of lime or lemon to the water can help to improve the taste. Many prefer flavoured waters instead and it’s easy and healthier to make flavoured water at home. Simply add your favourite sliced fruits to cold water and the longer you let it sit, the stronger the flavour. To add a little bit of excitement you can try mixing fruits and herbs: grapefruit, strawberries, berries, lemon, lime, cucumber, ginger, celery, basil, mint and lavender.  Pinterest has a lot of wonderful ideas. Invest in a carafe or Kilner jar, so it not only tastes great it looks lovely too. I have a reusable water bottle which has a lift-out section for adding extras in the centre. Re-usable water bottles are the best to use and a huge range of bottles and designs are on sale, for every taste. Some even show how much you have drunk during the day.

Who knew that water could vary so much? But as long as you are drinking it in some form or other, that’s fine!

Water is for Life

We all know we need to drink water to remain at our optimum health and fitness. But what actually happens to the human body if you don’t drink water? The answer is that every human body is comprised of about 60% water, which is needed for a number of human bodily processes including blood circulation, regulation of body temperature, waste removal and detoxification. During everyday functioning, water is lost by the body, and this needs to be replaced. We notice that we lose water through activities such as sweating and urination, but water is lost even when breathing. It is essential to maintain a balanced water level, by drinking enough throughout the day. How much water you need to drink a day, depends on factors such as your age, body fat and gender and where you live. Men roughly need between 2-3 litres of water a day, while women need a bit less around 2 to 2.5 litres. If you don’t drink enough water, the outcome is usually very bad.

When you stop drinking water, you experience the signs of dehydration: feelings of thirst, hunger and irritability. As you continue to not drink, you stop urinating, have trouble swallowing, suffer from muscle spasms and experience nausea. Your blood stops flowing to the skin and your core body temperature increases. The lack of blood flow in your skin may cause you to turn a greyish- blue colour. After three to five days of not drinking water, your organs begin to shut down, especially the brain, which could have lethal consequences including fainting, strokes and in extreme cases, even death.

Scary stuff indeed, and this really does stress the sheer importance of the simple act of drinking water. Something which many off us struggle to do. According to the NHS website, drinking water, whether from the tap or a bottle, is the best source of fluid for the body. Fluid can be gained from other beverages and obtained through foods with a high- water content, such as soups, tomatoes and oranges but water is the best choice as it’s calorie-free. So much is talked about water and there are so many contractionary facts and very little science behind many of the specific rules. So just where do we start?

Universally agreed, on is that to function properly, all the cells and organs of the body need water, it lubricates the joints, it delivers oxygen throughout the body and forms saliva and mucus. (Helping us to digest our food and keeps the mouth, nose, and eyes moist) Water is needed in the processes of sweating and removal of urine and faeces. it makes minerals and nutrients accessible, as these dissolve in water, which makes it possible for them to reach different parts of the body.  It boosts skin health and beauty, with dehydration, the skin can become more vulnerable to skin disorders and premature wrinkling. Some evidence also suggests that increasing water intake can promote weight loss by slightly increasing your metabolism, which can increase the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.

Staying hydrated is vital. Studies show that even mild dehydration, such as the loss of 2% of body weight, can impair many aspects of brain function. Drinking a glass of water when you feel tired will help to power up your brain.  Since your brain consists of 75% water, drinking a glass or two when you’re feeling sleepy will help to replenish your brain’s fluid levels, and increase cognitive functioning.  If you don’t your physical performance can also suffer particularly during intense exercise or high heat. it isn’t uncommon for athletes to lose as much as 10% of their water weight via sweat. This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, and increased fatigue. It can also make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally.

In a study, researchers found that fluid loss of 1.4% after exercise impaired both mood and concentration and increased the frequency of headaches. A headache is one of the most common symptoms of dehydration. Some studies have shown too that drinking water can help relieve headaches in those who experience frequent headaches.

Asthma and allergies are worse, when dehydrated, as airways are restricted by the body in an effort to minimize water loss. So, drinking water can help alleviate symptoms.

The science claims that drinking water at the correct times of day can help to prevent common problems such as stomach pain, IBS, bloating, fatigue, overeating, high blood pressure, constipation, and even heart attacks and strokes. But when are the correct times?

Ayurveda suggests that is a healthy habit to drink water first thing in the morning, which is known as Ushapan. It helps get rid of many diseases in the body. Drinking water in the morning helps in flushing all the toxins in the body and cleanses your intestines. A glass or two first thing, can also help to jumpstart your brain and body out of sleep mode.

The correct way to drink water is to sit down with a glass of water and sip slowly and steadily. Unnecessary gulping of huge amounts of water may lead to lack of oxygen in the wind and food pipe, which could potentially give rise to heart problems. Drinking room temperature water is preferred over very cold water. By drinking one glass of water 30 minutes before and after a meal it aids digestion and allows the body to absorb the nutrients. Not only does the water prepare your intestines, it also prevents you from over-eating, since the water lines your stomach and makes you feel fuller faster. If you’re hungry between meals, pour yourself a glass of water to see if you’re actually dehydrated. Sometimes people think they’re hungry when they’re really just thirsty. Remember not to drink too soon after a meal as the water can dilute the digestive juices and we absorb water best when our stomachs are not full of food. Also drinking too much water during a heavy meal can lead to discomfort and feeling even more bloated. Drinking water before taking a bath can help lower blood pressure. An hour before bedtime drinking one glass of water replenishes any fluid loss that can occur during the night.

Avoid drinking water while standing as it can have an adverse effect on your kidneys, and can even lead to arthritis. Sitting while drinking allows your body to better filter the nutrients and direct the water to specific areas that need nourishing.

When drinking Alcohol (which is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in can leading to dehydration) increasing water intake is often recommended. Drink a glass of water between drinks and have at least one glass of water before going to bed can prevent unpleasant symptoms experienced after drinking alcohol like hangovers.

Keep yourself hydrated while exercising is important, but avoid drinking too much. it’s incredibly rare, but it’s possible to drink so much water you put your health at risk. Excess water consumption during your workout will dilute your body’s natural balance of salt and you can become too low in sodium, a condition known as hyponatremia which leads to cell swelling that can cause nausea, vomiting, seizures and death.

Many people struggle to know which type of water is the best for them, because the market is so full, each brand claiming to have additional health benefits. Concerns about tap water and uncertainty about the health benefits to water filters just add to the confusion. It’s too vast a subject to talk about in a few lines, so I will post an additional blog post.

However, I would say that the health specialists, I have listened to, generally felt that for most people in developed countries tap water is just fine. If you prefer bottled spring water for its crisper flavour, that’s perfectly acceptable. Flavoured shop- bought waters can contain additives, so are best avoided. It may turn out that a lot comes down to personal preference.

Health Food Trends in 2021

In a year when our lives are once more turned upside down, our health and well-being are at the forefront of our thoughts for the foreseeable future. Our eating and drinking habits have changed accordingly with foodie trends that enhance immunity and keep us healthy of much importance!

So, what will the year ahead deliver more of then? Many of us, including myself, did not follow as healthy a diet, as we could have last year, takeaways and comfort eating was too much of a temptation. So in a New Year we get the chance to try a bit harder to eat a healthier diet! There are a few new-ish trends that can give you a dietary kickstart.

Postbiotics-The latest player in the gut- health game is postbiotics, how are these different to probiotics? Well, postbiotics are the metabolites (or end products) of the fermentation that goes on in the gut by probiotics. They have being studied for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and may also help bolster the immune system. These are found in some of the same foods that contain probiotics, such as kefir, sauerkraut, sourdough bread and kimchi. The main difference is they’re not alive, so can be used in more ways than live probiotics and even added to our food products.

Home Coffee’s-Not always seen as good for you, coffee is having a healthier make-over. As many of us are still working from home and are making our own drinks instead of buying at the local coffee shop, a cup of instant Nescafe just won’t cut it anymore. Recent surveys have found that 45% of respondents were using a new coffee brewing method at home compared to 2019 with a similar amount of people indicating an interest in improving their home- brewing skills.  Which Magazine reviewed electrical and hand-held Frothers recently. Consumers have been using more indulgent creamers and syrups. Sales of plant-based creamers rose buy 30% percent in 2019 and oat, rice and soya milk has been produced specially for the coffee market. Younger consumers like to experiment with flavours to replicate healthier custom-takeaway drinks. For a healthier hit try turmeric latte or matcha latte, which are easily made at home. You can also mix and match your favourite spices like cinnamon and ginger and use honey to sweeten your drink.

AI Created Food-Artificial intelligence is helping food companies create things we could have only dreamed of a couple of years ago. In particular in dairy- free and Vegan products that taste just like the real thing. Like a non-dairy milk that behaves like dairy milk (it froths, foams and blends like dairy) but is made from pea protein, cabbage juice, pineapple juice and other plant ingredients.

Micro Greens-These are not exactly new, but consumer appetite for them is at an all-time high and they are mainstreaming. These tiny shoots are the baby counterparts of plants like carrots and broccoli. You may have enjoyed microgreens at a high-end restaurant in the past, but now you can find them at the supermarket. They are not only colourful but loaded with nutrients and can be easily added to salads and smoothies. These can be grown at home, in a garden or on a windowsill. Home- Growing is also trending in 2021.

Kelp– Seaweed has been traditionally used in Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisine for thousands of years. Nutritionally kelp is a sustainable superfood, offering several minerals, including calcium, and B vitamins in each serving and environmentally it cleans the water by removing the nutrients that cause algae blooms. Added to smoothies and broths, it gives an extra health boost.

Foods That Fight Climate Change– Food production is a significant contributor to climate change, accounting for a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. So, our food choices can help to counteract the effects of climate change. Simply swapping meat for plant-based food like beans one day a week can make a huge difference on your personal environmental impact. Locally, organically grown crops like vegetables have a lower carbon footprint. Consuming produce when it’s readily available saves energy from production and transportation costs because it didn’t have to be shipped from a faraway country. So seasonal cooking is the way to go. Better still grow your own!

Home- Made Condiments– As the pandemic stretches on, consumers are missing their favourite restaurant foods and are trying to replicate these flavours at home. This has led to an increased demand for authentic sauces, chutneys, and seasoning blends that home cooks can use to make restaurant- worthy dishes. With so many people stuck at home, they are rediscovering the joys of cooking.  Small companies producing: spices and condiments have been a huge pandemic hit and making chutneys at home is also becoming popular as these can be free from additives and artificial colours so are healthier as well as tastier than the usual shop bought.

All of these trending foods can be added to your diet with relative ease and I noticed the move away from strange and wacky, designer foodie trends in favour of simple foods that can actually benefit your health and also that of the planet. What next I wonder?