In some seasons we flourish yet in others, life does seem so much harder. Winters can be long, cold, and dark. The inherent nature of winter can make it difficult for us humans to endure happily. I prefer warmer climes so the cold, grey starkness of Winter it is not the easiest time of the year for me. Like many I always look forward to the end of this season. From around October to March, as the longest season ( it actually can be half of the year) it certainly feels like an eternity!

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression, caused in the main due to the reduced daylight, which lowers the Serotonin levels. (The key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being and happiness) Its prevalent in the UK and Northern countries. Showing the importance of light on mood and health. There is nothing more uplifting than a blue sky or depressing than a grey one. When days are dark its emotionally tough on many people. The people we come in contact with might be struggling in ways that we cannot comprehend.

When we talk about the winter of your life, it’s the last (dark) section of your life, when perhaps fewer exciting things happen, the slowing down of your life, before dying. Whilst we look forward to the renewal that Spring brings, the joy of spending more time outside in Summer and Holidays, even the rich beauty of Autumn. It’s harder to look forward to Winter with the same enthusiasm. Yet of all the seasons, Wintertime can be the most insightful and the best time to put our houses in order, so to speak. As a time of reflection and a slower time to recuperate from our busy life’s. We often fly to warmer climes during the Winter months, but is this actually the best way to combat the season, to push it away rather than embracing it?

The world of nature doesn’t try to fight Winter in the same way we do. Animals adapt by withdrawing and hibernating. Now whilst we don’t have the luxury of staying in bed for several months, as great as that would sound at 7am on a cold, dark morning, we can at least try to see the pleasures of this season rather than only the negative points.

Many colder climate countries plan for the winter months. In Finland, in the regions of Lapland, generations have spent Summer and Autumn, hunting, freezing and collecting and foraging for berries and mushrooms, as the growing season is short. The entire cultivation process has to be completed two months faster than in the warmer south, before Winter sets in. Food, is preserved in advance and stored away for times when there is less abundance of fresh food. This is how our ancestors would have lived before the times of polytunnels and imported foods. Eating only seasonal foods. Some well-known chefs like Tommy Banks, are returning to this with a farm to table approach using preserved foods for the Winter menu.

Hot drinks and foods have a way of soothing our souls and warming our bodies on cold, dark nights. Keeping it healthy most of the time, with thick homemade soups and stews but allowing for occasional indulgences too like hot chocolate with warming spices like cinnamon, can be such a treat.

Hygge, became a lifestyle trend in the UK in 2016 and whilst you can be forgiven for thinking that this is just a marketing term to sell us more stuff, like blankets and candles. Hygge is as Danish as æbleskiver and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence it means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. Its very much a way of life for the Danes and we could learn from it too.

Our bodies need more sleep in winter, and allowing the body and brain to relax is looking after our health. Our ancestors survived without electric lights and modern conveniences, so had to adapt to the seasons. They slept more in the Winter and less in Summer.

 Rather than complaining about the cold weather, how about finding pleasurable activities, we would not normally have time for like craft projects, reading or staring a new hobby. For many of our ancestors, Winter was the time spent on making clothing or rugs or items that could help them earn money. What was made in the winter was taken to town in the spring for selling or traded with their neighbours.

So, snuggle up under your blanket, with a cup of something warm, light some candles and get lost in the pages of a book you’ve been meaning to read for months. Or if you’re feeling more social, cook and invite your friends over for a board game night.

Perhaps wintertime is not so bad after all, and we should give gratitude for the down time!

What Does the Label Mean on Beauty Products?

More than ever, we are hyper aware of what we are putting onto our bodies. But what do the labels actually mean? Unless you’re a chemist you probably can’t make sense of it, I find it confusing ever with some knowledge! It’s important to understand what you are putting onto your body and by reading the label of your products it tells you, legally you have to have this information, so don’t buy products that don’t list the ingredients as they could be fake. Each list is compiled by the order of concentration. Do remember that natural skin compounds are often under the chemical or Latin name.

What should be on a label: the nominal net weight, PAO (Period after Opening) or minimum durability date if applicable, any safety warnings and precautions, the name & address of the Company or Responsible Person that the product is being sold under and most importantly, an ingredients list (INCI) in decreasing order of weight. The 26 most-known allergenic substances must be shown. (There have been discussions to increase this to 90)

Some popular ingredients are listed as; Shea butter-Butyrospermum parkii, Aloe Vera – Aloe Barbadensis Leaf extract, Argan oil -Argania Spinosa, Evening Primrose oil- Oenothera Biennis and olive oil – Olea Europea. All of this are great natural ingredients. But what about the chemicals in your face and body products? There are a huge number of ones to choose from so I have listed the most common and the ones to be aware of most. For more details a great source is the Derma Review glossary which contains accurate information.

Women on average use 12 products a day based on a recent survey. The study found that 12.2 million adults expose their bodies to ingredients that are known to be probable carcinogens.

There are many toxic ingredients to avoid, although some have been banned many are still on the market and in most of the products, we all use. Top of the list are parabens, which can be listed as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, this are used as preservatives. They are thought to mimic oestrogen and can lead to cancer. SLS and SLES is sodium lauryl sulphate which is a forming agent which is used in shampoos and body washes. These strip the skin, can cause irritation, eye problems and respiratory problems. Mineral oil and petroleum jelly are environmentally unkind as they affect climate change, pollution, and greenhouse gases and can block the proper detoxification of the skin. This is what the best-selling Vaseline contains.

Phthalates are listed as dibutyl and diethylhexy and help a fragrance to adhere to the skin and these have been associated with birth defects.

Triclosan is an anti- bacterial ingredient in hand washes, soap and washing powders, the research is ongoing as to its safety but is said to disrupt hormones and create drug resistant bacteria. This chemical can also accumulate in lakes and streams. 

Triethanolamine or TEA helps to mix oil and water-based products to create a smooth, stable formulation, it doesn’t provide any benefits to the skin. When absorbed into the body over a long period of time, it can become toxic. Even short periods of exposure can cause allergic reactions, including eye problems and dry hair and skin. Typically, it’s used in amounts less than 1% in cosmetics and beauty products.

Diethanolamine or DEA Is an organic substance typically used as an emulsifier or wetting agent in skincare products. It produces foam and bubbles when added often to face washes. it can cause mild to moderate skin and eye irritation. More serious is that it over time reacts with other ingredients in formulations causing nitrosodiethanolamine  or NDEA which is a powerful carcinogen that is absorbed through the skin and linked to stomach, liver and bladder cancers. In the UK this is banned.

Dimethicone is used as a skin barrier, emulsifier, to hold ingredients together and to give an easy glide. It can be chemical or natural. According to the FDA and Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), dimethicone is a safe skincare ingredient that calms irritation, minimizes redness, and protects the skin from further damage. One problem is that it seals in oil, sweat, dirt and other things that can clog pores and lead to acne. Also, when washed down the drain, it can feed into aquatic environments and impact fish and plant life.

Phenoxyethanol is a Glycol Ether which is used as a preservative in cosmetic products, which acts as a preservative against germ contamination of bottled products. It’s often used a safer alternative to Parabens. Its side effects can cause skin irritation and can make Eczema worse.

Most antiperspirants are aluminium based. Chemicals like aluminium chlorohydrate and aluminium zirconium tettachlorohydrex, block the sweat ducts so you don’t perspire and have links to breast cancer. Until recently it was very hard to find affordable zinc and Aluminium free deodorants on the market, but these are becoming more available and well- known brands like soft and simple are introducing affordable Aluminium- free anti-perspirants.

I have barely covered this vast subject, so I may come back to it at a later point. But hopefully this has helped to understand labelling a bit more. It’s alarming stuff and something we do need to be aware of, in some cases safer options are available but at a higher cost to the manufacturer. But the consumer does have the power to choose not buy items with could have harmful effects! So learning to understand what a label means is benefiting your health.

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.

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.

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?


Veganuary 2021 has had the largest pledge since it’s beginning in 2014. More than 500,000 people signed-up for the 31-day vegan challenge, surpassing the 2020’s total of 400,000. So exactly what is this and who or what is Veganuary?

Inspiring and supporting more than one million people in over 192 countries to try a vegan diet in January. It’s a non-profit organisation encouraging and supporting Veganism. They have worked with businesses to drive up vegan food provision in shops and restaurants, and have made veganism more visible and accessible by working with national and international media. Matthew Glover is the co-founder of Veganuary. After 17 years of working in the window and door industry, his priorities and focus changed when he became vegan in 2011. With a drive to reduce animal suffering, Matthew used his business and marketing skills to launch the Veganuary campaign in 2014 with his partner Jane Land, a former English teacher turned animal campaigner. Today he continues to guide the charity along with a team of very talented and dedicated trustees.

Not just for January, but throughout the whole year, Veganuary encourages and supports people and businesses (large multinational corporations and smaller high-street retailers alike) to move to a plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering, and improving the health of millions of people. Its website providing: great recipes, interesting articles, workplace challenges and eating guides, as well as helping to fund and support projects.

The UK is now officially the world leader for vegan food launches. Mintel reports that around 16% of new food products released in the UK in 2018 were vegan, which more than doubled the previous years’ output. (Veganuary is cited as being behind this up-swing) In 2020 more than 600 brands, restaurants, and supermarkets promoted the campaign and launched more than 1200 new vegan products and menus in the UK market alone. Products like: Gregg’s Vegan Steak Bake, Pizza Hut’s Pepperoni Pizza, KFC’s Vegan Burger, and Subway’s Meatless Meatball Marinara.

Perhaps the biggest landmark is that British supermarkets have embraced and promoted Veganuary this year more than any other, even advocating the reasons to try a vegan diet. It’s truly game-changing in taking the trend mainstream. As retailers vie with one another to bring out bigger and better vegan products and menus to capitalise on the huge popularity of Veganuary. Now cynic’s could say that, they are simply using it as a marketing opportunity, but I think that would be a bit unfair. As the bastions of the food supply chain, they do know and understand that the most sustainable way forward is plant-focused. And their involvement as well as the endorsement of the medical world has encouraged more people to take up a vegan diet or to at least be more open-minded than previously. Many more people are interested in giving it a go.

Having been a vegetarian on and off since a teenager, I know how difficult it was to find affordable, tasty vegetarian food both in supermarkets and restaurants at times, vegetable lasagne and nut roast been the only uninspiring offering on the menu. Today, the variety is huge and its no longer a take it or leave it attitude to non-meat eaters. It’s quite exciting to see how so many changes have happened!

Aldi has a webpage that not only highlights its plant-based products but also sets out the main reasons to try a vegan diet: caring for animals, staying healthy, being greener and more sustainability. It also features dozens of vegan recipes, tips on vegan swaps and a link to Veganuary’s website. Asda also has a dedicated webpage that explains what a vegan diet is and highlights three of the reasons to try vegan: it’s better for the environment, it could improve your health and it’s delicious! It also features their top vegan product picks and encourages people to sign-up for Veganuary. Tesco has launched its first Veganuary TV and radio ads. It also has a dedicated webpage with recipes, product highlights and tips on making vegan swaps. M&S also releasing its first Veganuary TV and radio ads and produced a 31-day Veganuary meal plan with ideas for making plant-based eating exciting every day of the month. Morrison’s launched a £25 Veganuary Essentials box filled with much-loved vegan favourites to help give your January a kick-start. It also dedicated a Veganuary shopping page on its website featuring all its plant-based products.

As, we come to the end of January, did you try the Vegan diet? If so, I hope you enjoyed it! If not, there is still a whole year to make changes to your diet, not just a single month. So possibly a couple of small changes or baby steps, once a week? 

See  for some great ideas!

Diets- The Good and Not So Good

The New Year is often a signal that it’s time for a fresh start and that has never felt more welcome than in 2021. After nearly a year spent staying home, stressing out and comfort-eating, many of us are looking forward to getting more active, healthier, and taking off all those quarantine pounds in the next 12 months. In a year where our lives were turned upside down, our eating and drinking habits changed accordingly and not for the better. And with health at the forefront of our minds for the foreseeable future, foods that enhance immunity and keep us healthy rule the day.

If you type best diets to lose weight into Google, as I did, it will bring up masses of results. Its totally overwhelming and it doesn’t help when there are pages upon pages of conflicting information in-between lots of dodgy science. When you start researching the best ways to lose weight, your head can start spinning with all the different miracle diets. It can be impossible to know which one is the best to try or to avoid!

Many celebrities have been endorsing their personal weight losses, often very extreme diets and social media like Instagram has an army of true believers, who post about how great they feel after giving up carbs, sugar, meat or food on the latest fad diets!

I have to say at this point, that I am not a trained expert, I am like you interested in eating better and losing some unwanted extra weight. I have visited websites, that I hope offer beneficial and safe advice like the NHS website and been watching on TV where nutritionists and doctors have dieters try out the various diets under supervision.

I have tried many diets over the years, some more successful than others. A knee injury has meant I have not been able to exercise, and the lockdown, poor sleeping patterns and less activity has taken its toll. I find myself with some weight to lose! I had been attending some lectures from a nutritionist and had started to learn more about a more balanced diet, which had whetted my interest. I received several great books on healthy eating as well as too much chocolate for Christmas. I will let you know how I get on later. But in the meantime, see below!

The Good

Throughout my research, the diet that came out on top, time and time again was the Mediterranean one. This is less of a diet and more of a healthy eating plan, so the pounds will come off more gradually, however it is easier to stick too and maintain in the future. Longer- standing Diet plans like Weightwatchers are also still giving good results with a moderate eating and exercise plan.

Mediterranean-style diets– Based on the heart-healthy lifestyle of Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. These diets include healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, and fish at least twice a week, plenty of beans, fruit, leafy greens, and whole grains, and even a daily glass of red wine. You can eat cheese and red meat only in moderation. This diet’s primary appeal is in its numerous health benefits and its an enjoyable diet compared to some others. On my travels, I lost weight eating this way and was healthier too.

Weight Watchers or WW-This diet company has been around for years with good results and many dieters been able to maintain their lower weight. The updated version is my WW+, after a personal health assessment you are given a colour-coded program that assigns you a certain number of points per day. (Foods are given points based on calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein) You can eat whatever you want within that range. You can also eat an unlimited number of 0-point foods (most fruits and veggies and lean proteins such as fish, tofu, beans, eggs, and chicken breast. Coaching in groups or one-to one and advice on exercise, sleep and wellbeing is offered, online or by app. Research has found that dieters assigned to WW were more than eight times more likely to lose 10% of their body weight over 6 months than those trying to diet on their own.

DASH– is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, but it’s not only for people with high blood pressure. As it is also promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The DASH diet, is a flexible and balanced eating plan that helps create a heart-healthy eating pattern. This plan borrows elements of the Mediterranean diet, but it’s a very specific eating pattern that’s been highly researched. It recommends specific portions from various food groups, depending on one’s daily calorie needs. The rate of weight loss can be slow, as it’s a sustainable long-term diet. Your daily calorie needs are determined by your age, sex and activity level. A limit is put on sugar and salt. This diet includes: 6 servings of grains daily, 3-4 servings of vegetables, 4 servings of fruit and 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy. Also recommended are 3-4 ounces total per day of lean meat, poultry, or fish, 3-4 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes per week and 2 servings of fats and oils daily.  I haven’t tried this myself, but it has been medically endorsed and the diet books have been best-sellers.

Intermittent Fasting Plan-My nutritionist friend is a great fan of intermittent fasting and is in such great health. As a major trend. It’s claimed to cause weight loss, improve metabolic health and perhaps even extend lifespan. There are a few different ways to do the intermittent fasting plan:

The 16/8 method -Fasting every day for 14–16 hours and restricting your daily eating window to 8–10 hours. Doing this method of fasting can actually be as simple as not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast. You can drink water, coffee, and other zero-calorie beverages during the fast, which can help reduce feelings of hunger.

Eat Stop Eat involves a 24-hour fast once or twice per week. For example, if you finish dinner at 7 pm on Monday and don’t eat until dinner at 7 pm on Tuesday, you’ve completed a full 24-hour fast. You can also fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. Water, coffee, and other zero-calorie beverages are allowed during the fast, but no solid foods are permitted.

Fast 800 Diet or 5:2 diet is for those who are trying to lose weight quickly and helps to re-set their metabolism. This was created by Dr Mosley who originally wrote the Blood Sugar Diet because he was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. A Mediterranean Diet is eaten for five days and then for two days only 800 calories. In a University of South Australia trial, the 5:2 group also lost 40% more body fat than the standard dieters and most interestingly, their blood sugar control improved, so many were able to reduce medication. People find this way of eating to be easier to stick to than a traditional calorie-restricted diet as for five days per week, you eat normally and don’t have to think about restricting calories. For dieters with more weight to lose this could possibly be a good starting diet.

Replacement Meal Diet-Even the NHS website states that meal-replacement diets can be effective at helping some people lose weight and keep it off: like Slim fast and Huel. These are more convenient to dieters as there is not a lot of preparation needed as in some of the other diets. Shakes and bars are easy to take to work. My sister lost five stone using the slim fast diet but when she returned to eating normally (her poor eating habits) the weight went back on. So, it does work short-term. But there’s a risk of putting the weight back on again once you stop using the products, as meal-replacement diets do little to educate people about their eating habits and change their food behaviours.

Vegan or Plant-Based Diet-Now, I was a bit surprised at this one as I thought that a Vegan diet was motivated by ethical and moral beliefs rather than weight-loss. Going vegan won’t necessarily help you lose weight but by following a healthy eating plan eating high-quality vegan food like leafy greens and plant-based proteins, you could lose weight. These diets did feature amongst the best for losing weight. Going a step further than the traditional vegetarian diet, vegans shun all animal products, including dairy, eggs, and honey. With the new era of plant-based meats, going vegan is easier than ever. You just focus on eating whole foods derived from plants. Plant-based foods tend to be higher in fibre and lower in fat than animal products, keeping you filled up for fewer calories.

The Flexitarian Diet-Flexitarians are also known as flexible vegetarians or vegivores. Quite simply there are no rules. Some flexitarians will have a meat-free meal once a week while others will only eat meat on rare occasions. As a lapsed vegetarian, who would find a vegan diet difficult, this is quite appealing. Whereas the vegan diet goes one step beyond vegetarianism, the Flexitarian diet, gives you the flexibility to have a small amount of meat on occasion. There are no strict calorie limitations, though a 5-week plan that provides around 1,500 calories a day. By filling your plate with more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and plant proteins and sticking with the low-calorie plan, you can lose weight and improve your health, there are some great recipes to try.


I also came across a few more controversial and possibly dangerous diets. As a rule of thumb anything from a celebrity is best taken with a pinch of salt as our life’s and requirements are very different.

The Paleo Diet– is still getting a lot of attention, even though it’s nearly impossible for modern-day humans to stick with this diet over the long-term. Based on the eating patterns of our Paleolithic ancestors, this diet requires a strict adherence to foods that would have been hunted and gathered, including lean meat, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables. Any diet that has a large list of what’s not allowed is going to be very hard to maintain and cutting out numerous food groups from your diet can also eliminate many important nutrients.

Keto Diet-Celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian and Halle Berry are fans of this low-carb diet.  Similar to the Atkins diet. but as carbs are gradually increased on the Atkins diet, intake stays low on the keto diet. You can lose weight initially on this high-fat, low-carb diet, which puts your body into a state of ketosis. (With no carbs to burn off for energy, your cells start burning off stored fat) But keeping your body in what is basically a crisis state is not a viable long-term plan, the diet can lead to side effects such as headaches, muscle soreness, constipation and fatigue. This is not one for vegetarians due to its heavy reliance on meat and lack of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. I think this diet is too restrictive and lacks health benefits and balance.

The Atkins Diet-One of the biggest fad diets in the industry. The Atkins Diet has now reformed itself as a refreshing new healthy eating plan according to its website.  The pioneer of low-carb diets, Atkins promotes weight loss by restricting carbohydrates and sugar and loading up on protein. The updated diet plan does now include vegetables and berries but still lacks adequate fibre from whole grains and beans.  which can have negative consequences on gut health and moods.  Now, I have tried this one, I lost weight but had bad breath, flacked energy, and didn’t enjoy it that much.

The Five-Bite Diet-From Californian Alwin Lewis, the Five-Bite Diet requires you to skip breakfast and then only eat five bites of your meal at lunch and dinner. The very small portions of this diet will promote weight loss but eating only 10 bites of food per day is not a healthy way to lose weight, I think we can all agree on that. The hunger and lack of satisfaction and lack of nutrients provided by this diet ensures it will be unable to be sustained and this restrictive meal plan will lead to lack of energy and muscle loss. Avoid It…..

The Alkaline Diet Popularized by Tom Brady other celebrities, the idea behind the alkaline diet, is that your food can affect pH levels in the body. This fad diet has no scientific basis. And what about the alkaline diet’s side effects? Whilst, it’s good to reduce your intake of red meat and processed foods, restricting entire food groups can negatively impact your body. A strict eating plan which eliminates grains, dairy and animal foods may be deficient in protein as well as vitamins and minerals. So, there’s a huge risk of malnutrition, especially if you’re not taking supplements or getting important nutrients like protein elsewhere.

The Cabbage Soup Diet-Another fad diet that has been around forever, I tried years ago and it didn’t work and caused a lot of wind. The Cabbage Soup Diet emphasizes eating large amounts of it as every meal. You are allowed to eat one to two other low-calorie foods daily in addition to the soup, which is supposed to accelerate weight loss in seven days. Does it work? Short-term, yes for some, but it can’t be sustained in the long-term and after a very low-calorie diet when you return to regular eating will likely cause you to regain any weight lost. So, is it really worth it?

I hope this has given you some ideas, a diet is personal and what works for one person doesn’t for someone else. But I think a well-balanced diet which builds on a gradual weigh loss and changing eating habits would be more sustainable that a restrictive eating plan and much less of an ordeal!

Sleep- A Super Power

Why is sleep important? A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of great health. You simply cannot achieve optimal health without the super power of sleeping well. And like nutrition and exercise, there is no one-size-fits-all number for the hours of sleep each of us needs. The ideal number varies according to age, gender and lifestyle. But we do all feel so much better after a good night’s sleep. After nine hours of sleeping like a log, you can wake up feeling bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to take on anything the day might throw at you. Unfortunately, there’s a lot that can interfere with natural sleep patterns. As busy as we are, it isn’t a surprise that sleep is usually the first pillar of the health foundation to be overlooked.

Sleep is important for various aspects of our health. In fact, sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many health risks factors; brain function, mental health issues, immune system, the appearance of your skin, protecting against heart disease, your ability to interact socially, a loss of sleep can even increase one’s risk for obesity and weight gain.

How to sleep better is obviously upper most in our minds, with 76% of us feeling we don’t get enough sleep. People with medical conditions are more likely to suffer from poor sleep, according to The Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime Report. It’s been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality. Getting a good night’s sleep can help to keep your immune system fighting fit and keep germs at bay. Sleep gives your body the time it needs to rest and repair, which is one of the reasons you feel tired and want to sleep more when you’re unwell. Sleep supports the proteins and cells of your immune system to detect and destroy any foreign invaders your body might come into contact with, like the common cold. it’s essential to allow yourself time to rest and recover when you’re not feeling well. Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function.

A consistent loss of sleep can increase one’s risk for obesity and weight gain. That’s because lack of sleep influences the body’s hormonal responses, some of which are decreased insulin sensitivity. Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories. So poor sleeping can affect your weight. So bad news for dieters.

What are the benefits to your brain, learning and creative power? And so what happens when you sleep?  Well, sleep gives your brain a chance to sort things out. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what kinds of organizing your brain does while you sleep, but they think that this might be the time when the brain sorts and stores information and solves problems. Creativity can also be boosted overnight. How often do great ideas come to mind on waking up!

A study in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology found that people who slept seven to nine hours a night had skin that was more moisturized and that could protect and heal itself better compared to those who slept five hours or less. Your body boosts blood flow to the skin while you snooze, which means you wake to a healthy glow.  When you skimp on your sleep your complexion can look drab, ashen and lifeless. So, you not only feel better after a good night’s sleep but look better too.

What else can impact sleep? Eating heavy meals late at night, alcohol and caffeine drinks like coffee can cause problems sleeping, so are best avoided, herbal teas can be help and most supermarkets and health stores carry a large selection of teas and natural remedies. Technology can affect sleep, like using phones and computers at night, so for an hour or so before bedtime, turn these off and never use these in bed.

Stress often causes poor sleep patterns. If you’ve got a lot on your mind and are struggling with your emotions, going over things in your head can often keep you awake at night. If you are up at night worrying, you might begin to see a change in your mood and a lack of sleep can leave you feeling low. This could then cause you to feel anxious and create more negative thoughts about not sleeping. This might keep you awake even longer and can turn into a vicious cycle of worry and poor sleep. Its hard to stop this happening so try talking about worries before bedtime or even get professional help.

Try to keep a consistent bedtime and wake up time as our body clocks thrive on routine. Having a set wake up time seven days a week is important, particularly when we are having problems sleeping.

We need bedtime to be positive and relaxing, so a warm bath, hot drink or reading a book is a simple and effective wind-down after a busy day. The website offers detailed advice for all sleep-related issues.

Remember sleep is a super power we all need to survive and strive and its free.