Welcome to the Spectrum Natural Family Healthcare blog. Read the latest blog below or click on the right hand side for other blog articles.
By Dr. Annika
One of the fabulous things about going to conferences is that you pick up little nuggets of clinical wisdom here and there. Research catches up with common sense and traditional wisdom eventually. So here’s a little bit of research we learnt about at the Brisbane conference in March.
So what is the natural and free pain relief everyone has access to? Sleep!
There was a study conducted where volunteers were sleep deprived. They were then tested to see how sensitive to pain they were – about 10% more sensitive than they were before the sleep deprivation.
They then were allowed to sleep and re-tested – and they were 15% less pain sensitive than before they were sleep deprived. In fact, the effect of recovery sleep on pain was greater than level 1 analgesics (such as paracetamol)!
The implications are obvious, but I have been known to state the obvious in the past, so here goes:
Most of us need 8 – 9 hours of sleep per day.
Let me say that again: Most of us need 8 – 9 hours of sleep per day.
If you don’t get that much, you will be more sensitive to pain (as well as grumpy and unfocused). And often pain disrupts sleep, so you can potentially end up in a vicious cycle of pain and sleep deprivation.
The wonderful, amazing hormone and antioxidant melatonin goes to work at night. As an antioxidant it repairs our brain tissue. This is kind of important!! As a hormone it regulates our day and night cycles.
It is released from the pineal gland, which is this tiny little gland right in the middle of our brains behind our eyes that reacts to light. So if there is light around, melatonin secretion is suppressed; if it’s dark, melatonin starts secreting and makes you sleepy.
This is a crucial point: it needs to be dark for melatonin to do its best work. REALLY dark.
That means that you should not be able to make out the fixtures in the room you sleep in at night. If you do, get block-out curtains, and remove any bright shining dots attached to devices from your bedroom.
Have you ever noticed you felt sleepy much earlier when you didn’t watch TV before bed? If you are using screens at night, or if you have LED lights illuminating your house, you are exposed to the blue part of the light spectrum, which is stimulating – and possibly the reason why people don’t think they need 8 hours of sleep at night. So switch off any screens at least 30 minutes before bed (try reading or doing craft or playing a board game or – oh my, this is revolutionary! – just talking to the people you spend your evenings with), and if possible use candles or a fire to light up the room you are in at night, as fire has lots of red light in it which has as soothing effect on the brain.
Sleep truly is the master healer and will allow you to be at your best. Enjoy it!
By Kelly Horne, naturopath
What is better than a hot shower on a cold winter morning? It’s a great feeling but those few minutes can lead to dry skin for the rest of the day. You can also end up more dehydrated. I talk to people so regularly who experience dry skin during winter. One man even told me he went to the doctors with a rash on his back. The doctor had one look at his back and said “that’s not a rash, you just stand under the hot water in your shower for too long!” Sure enough, he reduced the temperature of his shower and the ‘rash’ went away.
Here is a way to shower which helps to avoid dry winter skin
- Turn on your shower as hot as you like until the shower cubicle, floor, the tiles and the air is lovely and warm – this is the secret! It doesn’t take long if you have it high enough.
- Step into the shower and rinse in the hot water for a few seconds if you wish – this is optional. I will occasionally do this on a particularly cold morning after my walk.
- Turn the shower down to the coolest temperature you can that is still comfortable. I have a mixer tap so mine I have just slightly warmer/left from half way.
- Shower as usual but use a soap free/low foaming product. I am currently using EnviroCare sensitive liquid hair and body cleanser which has been wonderful and great for the whole family. Try not to linger in the shower for too long for the benefit of your skin, your water bill and for the environment.
- Here comes the hardest part – Turn the water down to it is quite cold and have a quick rinse under it. I know this sounds awful in the middle of winter but it really isn’t terrible if you are already nice and warm. I rinse off for around 30 seconds but less is fine too. This helps to close up the pores of the skin that have opened with the heat and steam. Added bonus – less frizz if you rinse your hair too!
- Dry off gently with a towel. If you feel the need to use a body moisturiser then go for it. By using this method I no longer feel the need for a body moisturiser. If I do use one I like Vegesorb. It is like the old classic sorbolene and glycerine but it is made from plant-based oils rather than petrochemicals.
- Bonus step – Eat healthy fats – Fat helps to moisturise the skin from the inside out because the cells of our body are made from fat. Fat is important for the strength, hydration and integrity of our skin. Some great sources of dietary fat are gently cooked fish, nuts, seeds, coconut, olive oil and avocado.
Did you know that cold showers offer health benefits beyond just caring for your skin? It can activate the ‘disease fighting’ white immune cells. It can also stimulate the lymphatic system to cleanse the body of waste, bacteria, and microbes by causing the vessels of the lymphatic system to pump the lymph fluid around the body. It also stimulates blood flow, forcing blood to vital organs and oxygenating your whole body. Amazingly it increases what is known as “brown fat”. This type of fat is metabolically active which uses energy rather than storing it! Brown fat, unlike white fat, has been linked to an increased metabolism and lower risk of obesity.
Including cold water in your shower to some degree is also great for its stimulating benefits and will help to increase the feel-good hormones. I have been having mostly cold showers for years and I love the benefit it provides. If you think about it, we were never meant to have hot showers. Our prehistorical cave men ancestors would never have had access to large amounts of hot water so I think it’s a good idea to keep it to a minimum.
By Kelly Horne, our naturopath
So we are more than half way through winter but the nights are still cool and the morning still has that cold bite to it. The sun during the day is beautiful so I hope you are getting out for some warmth and vitamin D when you can.
This mix of cold weather with a little taste of warmth puts us in the perfect position to become dehydrated, if we aren’t already of course! I don’t know about you but I have been struggling to drink enough water this winter. Did you realise that your body has the exact same water requirements regardless of the weather, even if your thirst reflex is reduced? Yes we need to replace more from sweating in summer but during winter our body still has all the same functions happening. Water is required for every function of the body and even a slight reduction in hydration can slow all of these functions.
Not only do we drink less water in winter but we are also in drier conditions. We spend time in air conditioning, car heaters, near fire places, hotter showers, more blankets and warm layered clothing. Sweat also evaporates quicker in the dry weather so you don’t feel it on your skin like you do in summer. I believe the cause of dry winter skin is mostly due to our hotter and longer showers. The two most common winter related complaints I see are dry skin and colds/flu. Hydration is vital to prevent them both. You need moist mucus membranes to form a barrier against bacteria and viruses to prevent their access to your body.
Luckily our body sends us signals when we are dehydrated but most of us aren’t in tune with them. The most obvious one is the colour of our urine. Look at your urine every time you go to the toilet – it should be clear and pale yellow. The more yellow or brown it is, the more dehydrated you are.
Steps to prevent dehydration in winter
Start your morning hydrated – Drink two large glasses of water first thing in the morning. You can add a squeeze of lemon juice to help fire up your digestion if you like. It also helps to flush out the toxins your body has processed during the night. Starting off on the right hydrated foot will help you to continue during the day.
Set a water goal – To determine your required water intake multiply your body weight by 0.033 – for example 80kg multiplied by 0.033 = 2.64L. This means a person who weighs 80kg would need to drink at least 2.6L a day to be well hydrated. Once you know what your water needs are, fill a glass or stainless steel water bottle or two in the morning with your water for the day. Your bottle doesn’t need to be fancy – an empty glass juice bottle will do the job. Make sure you keep your water close by and take a sip regularly.
Apps – Like everything else in the world ‘there is an app for that’. Yep there is apps that you can install onto your phone which will remind you to drink water. My favourite is called Plant Nanny and it is so cute! The app allows you “grow” plants and the water you drink is also watering the plants. Seeing your plants wilting is a great motivator!
Limit alcohol, tea and coffee – these have a diuretic effect on the body which means that the water gets removed through the urinary system at a faster rate. Don’t be fooled into thinking that any form of liquid will count towards your fluid intake. If you drink alcohol, tea or coffee it is vital that you compensate it with extra water.
Herbal tea – Many herbal teas can act in the body as a diuretic even if they are caffeine free. Use them when your need some warmth but make sure you don’t count on them for a large portion of your fluid intake. A nice option is licorice tea. It is a tea that many people enjoy but it also helps to keep the fluid balance of the body in check.
Eat fruit and vegetables – the high water content and the nutrients contained in them help fight off colds and fluids. They also contain electrolytes which are important for the fluid balance in your body. You can also infuse your water with fruit and vegetables to make it taste nice. Chopped cucumber and mint is a yummy and hydrating combination.
Eat/drink soups and bone broth – The broth and vegetables contained in the soups offer electrolytes and fluids. The unrefined salt you add will help your body absorbed and make use of the water as well. Many people complain that when they drink lots of water they just end up peeing it out more. The natural electrolytes will help to prevent this.
These are just a few tips that can help you keep up your hydration during winter. Being hydrated is such a simple and important thing for our health. Many conditions we experience have a root cause of dehydration so please make it a priority. Keep an eye out for another article on how to keep your skin from becoming dry in the winter.