Vegetarian and vegan nutrition

Being a vegetarian

Vegetarianism is quite widespread today and is growing in popularity all the time, for a wide range of reasons – ethical, environmental and nutritional, to name just a few.

As a result, chances are that (if you are not a vegetarian yourself), you have at least a basic understanding of what vegetarianism is and stands for.

In a nutshell, vegetarianism is the practice of following a plant-based diet (including fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains etc.), with the exclusion of meat. For some vegetarians, but not all, this will involve the complete exclusion of red meat, poultry and seafood from the diet. Most vegetarians, however, choose to continue to eat dairy products and eggs.

Vegetarians who forego animal products entirely (including dairy, eggs and honey), as well as the by-products of animal slaughter (like animal-derived rennet and gelatin), are known as vegans (see further below).

As mentioned above, a vegetarian lifestyle might be adopted for a number of reasons. For the most part, vegetarians tend to place special emphasis on respect for sentient life. This is often linked to religious beliefs and/or the concept of animal rights. Other common motivations include political, cultural, aesthetic and economic.

The Vegetarian Society, which describes itself as “an educational charity working to support, represent and increase the number of vegetarians in the UK”, was founded in 1847 and is the oldest vegetarian organisation in the world.

Being a vegan

A fast-growing movement, veganism is essentially a more extreme version of vegetarianism. As mentioned above, it involves complete abstention from the use of all animal products.

The term “vegan” was coined by the co-founder of the British Vegan Society in England (Donald Watson) in 1944 and, at that point, was said to mean “non-dairy vegetarian”. Later, in 1951, the Society further clarified the meaning as “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”. It was only in 1960 that the American Vegan Society was opened by H. Jay Dinshah, who made the specific link between veganism and the Jain concept of ahimsa, the avoidance of violence against living things.

As with vegetarians, there are a number of varieties of vegans. For instance, ethical vegans usually attribute their lifestyle to the rejection of the commodity status of animals on ethical grounds and refuse to use animal products for any purpose. By contrast, dietary vegans or strict vegetarians remove them from their diet only. Another reason often given for the adoption of a vegan lifestyle is the belief that the industrial practices associated with animal products is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
How to be a healthy vegetarian or vegan

Although maintaining a balanced diet is clearly important for everybody, vegetarians, vegans, raw foodists and those following the Living Foods Programme may find it somewhat more of a challenge than is usually the case.

However, often, this is just in the early or transitional stages. There is no reason why these lifestyle choices should present an obstacle to optimal nutrition on a daily basis, provided there is careful meal planning and adequate thought is given to vitamin, mineral and nutrient intake.

Easy-to-follow suggestions for maintaining ideal nutrient intake…

  1. Make sure your food choices are well-rounded, varied, seasonal and organic wherever possible. This will help to ensure that you are getting a variety of nutrients and help you to avoid deficiencies.
  2. Make sure that you have a dietary source of vitamin B12 and calcium. Diets that are low in animal products are also often low in this vitamin, and it is not found in many vegetables. A B12 deficiency can cause some serious health issues, so be safe and identify your dietary source (whether through foods or supplementation or both).
  3. Ensure appropriate protein intake.

Plant-based protein

If you are on a plant-based diet, it is important to find ways to incorporate high-protein foods into your daily eating plan.

Protein is an important ‘building block’ for muscle development and growth, and it is very easy for vegetarians and vegans to lose muscle mass when they reduce or remove the meat and animal products from their diet.

There is ongoing debate around the precise protein intake requirements for humans, but it is safe to say that protein is an essential nutrient (a macronutrient) that is required for the healthy functioning of the body and its many biological processes – without it, we could not survive. So, whether or not you are vegetarian or a meat eater, protein is a very important part of your diet.

However, each person’s precise protein needs will be different and will, to some extent, depend on their overall energy intake and expenditure, the body’s need for nitrogen and essential amino acids, body weight and composition, rate of growth, carbohydrate intake, as well as the presence of illness or injury.

For example, a high-protein diet is often required where an individual regularly engages in intense physical activity and/or seeks a muscular mass increase. Naturally, the need for protein is also heightened during childhood (for growth and development), during pregnancy or when breast-feeding (in order to nourish the baby) and when the body has suffered from malnutrition, trauma or is recovering after an operation.

Happily, there are a number of complete, natural and balanced plant-based proteins, which can meet any person’s daily protein requirements. Hemp, wheatgrass and quinoa are three prime examples. Vegetarian proteins can also be combined to great effect, to create a complete amino acid profile in any meal.

However, if you are struggling to identify appropriate high quality, protein-rich foods, products that are vegetarian or vegan-friendly or simply can’t access the fresh produce you need on a daily basis, plant-source protein shakes and vegan-friendly, nutrients-fortified meal shakes can offer a convenient and effective solution. Plus, such supplements also tend to offer the added advantage that they tend to be high in dietary fibre and other essential nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and phyto-chemicals).

A final thought for meat eaters

While vegetarianism and veganism is not for everyone, it is worth noting that most people consume far too much animal protein, especially red meat and dairy, both of which are very hard for the body to digest.

Why not try being a vegetarian for just one or two days a week? Even if you are not ready to make the leap to complete vegetarianism, you can enjoy some of the benefits of a vegetarian diet (and reduce the strain on your digestive system – and the planet!) by taking a break from meat every now and again and seeking out some nutrient-dense, plant-based protein alternatives.

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Healthy diet for a healthy mind and body

Some of the many potential benefits of eating a well-balanced, wholesome and nutritious diet include greater longevity and better overall health and fitness. By taking the few easy steps in this blog post, you can be in great shape in no time!

Green leafy vegetables are particularly beneficial, as they are high in some of the nutrients your body needs most. Broccoli and brussels sprouts, for example, belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables, and are known to be helpful in promoting health and vitality. Broccoli is also high in vitamin C, a vitamin which is most notable for supporting the immune system.

Fruit also has an abundant supply of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Most fruits are also high in antioxidants. Nutritionists recommend you consume at least four or five servings of fruit each day, and the raw, ripe kind is the best – particularly in terms of alkalising the body. Apples are a great fruit to eat. They provide vitamins A, C, E and folate, along with a good amount of fibre.

Eat the rainbow – seek out brightly coloured fruits and vegetables to ensure a regular intake of beneficial antioxidants, phyto-nutrients and digestive enzymes.

When you are looking for whole wheat products, also look for products which specify that they are whole grain. If you see 100% whole wheat on the label, that can mean that whole wheat flour is used and you are not necessarily getting the benefit of the whole grain. Whole grains are nutrient-dense with more fibre, complex carbohydrates and vitamins, and are therefore of greater benefit to the body. Similarly, a product claim that something is “high in fibre” does not necessarily speak to the quality of the fibre. Some fibre (such as extracted bran) is actually irritating to the gut. Whole grain fibre, in contrast, is not.

Refined sugar, saturated fat and man-made chemicals are to be eliminated from the diet as far as possible. While ocassional treats are fine, processed foods and drinks are nutrient-poor (and can even be anti-nutrients, i.e. actively drain your body of nutrients) and should therefore be avoided if you are looking to improve your overall health, vitality and mental focus. The result of eating and drinking these kinds of food-stuffs is poor nutrition, higher toxic load plus weight gain.

Hydration is another very important, and often forgotten, aspect of health and nutrition. Water keeps your digestive system working properly and flushes out toxins from your body. The rule of thumb is to drink 8 glasses of water each day, but drinking more than that is a good idea if you are exercising or perspiring heavily.

Natural yoghurt and other probiotic foods make for great snacks. If efficient digestion is the cornerstone of good health, maintaining (and even building) levels of friendly bowel bacteria in the gut can only be a good thing.

Unfortunately, the foods that make up the average daily diet in the modern world do not supply the range of nutrients they once did. This is due, for example, to poor farming methods (including the use of pesticides etc), long-distance transportation of fresh produce, extended shelf-lives and synthetic ingredients. The only ways to offset this is to opt for organic produce wherever possible and supplement your balanced diet with high quality, food form nutrients.

It is essential that you get all the nutrients your body needs to perform at its full potential on a daily basis. Use the information in this article to make sure your mind and body are the best they can be.

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Protein benefits

What is protein?

Protein is a word that is frequently used on television, in advertising and on packaging and so most people are familiar with it. However, you might be surprised at just how few people actually know what protein is, how it is used by the body and how to identify quality protein foods.

If you are thinking, “why do I need to know more about protein”, the answer in a nut-shell is because it is an essential macro-nutrient – one of three primary nutritional compounds consumed by humans in the largest quantities and which provide bulk energy.

The two other macro-nutrients are fat and carbohydrates.

Protein is required by our bodies for a wide range of critical functions. In other words, we cannot live without it.

What are proteins – the technical bit

Proteins are a component of each and every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies and they are constantly being broken down and replaced.

The protein that we take in through the food that we eat is basically the same as the protein in our bodies, except that it is structured differently. Once eaten, food protein is broken down into amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and later used to replenish our bodies’ own protein stores.

There are 22 different amino acids required by the body in order to function properly and there are over 10,000 different kinds of protein in the body.

Functions of protein

Protein is used to:

  • build and repair muscles and ligaments (whether as part of normal growth or following exercise or injury)
  • provide the body with energy
  • maintain organs
  • balance blood sugar levels
  • grow skin, hair, nails and bones
  • produce haemoglobin in blood
  • digest food
  • make antibodies and support the immune system
  • transfer messages between neurotransmitters in the brain
  • make hormones, such as insulin and metabolism-regulators
  • and more.

As you can see, protein has an incredibly wide application in the body and can be used for anything from providing a physical structure to assisting in a biological process. This is why it is essential to incorporate adequate levels of high quality, lean, protein-rich foods into your daily diet.   

A high-protein diet

There are lots of differing opinions about the benefits or otherwise of high-protein diets.

Going a step further, opinions will again diverge according to whether you are talking about plant-based protein or animal protein because (for example) plant proteins are lower in fat, calories and cholesterol, yet usually higher in fibre, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.

However, the fact remains that protein is an essential component of every person’s diet for the various reasons set out above. The key is to ensure that you are receiving enough protein on a daily basis and that it is natural, lean, balanced and complete (i.e. contains all of the essential amino acids that cannot be manufactured by your body).  

High-protein foods

While most people associate protein with meat and other animal products, these are not the only high-protein foods.

You might be surprised to learn that there is a significant amount of protein in fresh leafy greens and even in fruit – this is often referred to as plant-based protein – you just have to choose your fruit, vegetables and other whole foods carefully.

Wheatgrass, hemp and quinoa, for example, are all examples of so-called “first class” proteins from plant sources, which contain all the essential amino acids. People following the Living Foods programme also use fermented seed and nut sauces and pates, seed and nut milks (all sprouted), sprouted millet, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, avocados and green drinks as good protein sources.

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Why do I have bad digestion?

Digestive system disorders

Nutritionists and other natural health practitioners place a lot of emphasis on the health of the digestive tract in terms of maintaining overall health and well-being.

This is logical, given that our digestive system is central to the absorption of the nutrients that we need to keep us functioning efficiently. In addition, it also has a critical role to play in the excretion of waste and toxins, which could be harmful to our bodies if allowed to remain.

It therefore stands to reason that if there is something wrong with our digestive system, it can affect many aspects of health and even be debilitating. For example, an inability to properly expel waste (e.g. constipation) can lead to large amounts of toxins being reabsorbed back into the bloodstream – this is called auto-intoxication or self-poisoning.

Unfortunately, digestive disorders are now commonplace. The term “digestive disorder” is used to describe a wide-range of conditions, including everything from mild symptoms to full blown functional disorders and diseases. In fact, there are more than 25 different conditions all relating to the digestive system. 7 basic symptoms generally alert you to the fact of a digestive disorder or problem:

  1. nausea
  2. heartburn
  3. vomiting
  4. bloating
  5. abdominal pain
  6. constipation
  7. and diarrhoea.

Of course, there can be numerous other symptoms too, which will depend on the person and the precise disorder. For example, bad breath can manifest as a result of a digestive problem.

It is estimated that an incredible 95 million people are affected by digestive problems every day. Digestive disorders are one of the primary reasons for GP visits and some of the more common diagnoses include Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Leaky Gut Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and Candida albicans.

Digestive health has long been considered the key to good overall health and well-being, so love your gut and check out get some digestive system support.

Digestive health support

Numerous factors can contribute to the onset of a digestive disorder, such as stress, allergy or food intolerance, bacterial infection or parasites. However, the modern diet is widely accepted to play a critical role in digestive health.

Foods to support digestion…

Given that the digestive tract is the body’s receptacle for food, it is logical that diet can be an important factor both in terms of the digestive disorder itself and in alleviating symptoms. Certain foods (such as processed “junk” foods) place a much greater strain on the digestive system than others.

Incorporating raw foods (fruit and vegetables) into your diet is a great idea, because they are high in beneficial enzymes that assist digestion. The naturally-occurring enzymes in food are destroyed by heat (i.e. during the cooking process) – if most of the food you eat is cooked, your body has to work a lot harder to produce the necessary enzymes. Juicing raw fruit and vegetables is another way to take the strain off your digestive system, because the nutrients are much easier for the body to digest and assimilate in liquid form.  

Therefore, most digestive disorders are the result of a few basic controllable factors.

For example, a lack of enzymes produced by the stomach from eating a diet of acid forming foods (alkaline and acid foods), eating too many cooked foods which are rendered enzyme-less, eating food you are allergic or intolerant to, an imbalance of the intestinal flora, stress and long-term / overuse of medications (such as antibiotics).

How to improve digestion naturally at home…

Many people believe that you can offer your digestive system some support by incorporating certain health supplements into your daily diet. For example:

  • digestive enzymes
  • probiotics (friendly bacteria)
  • colon cleansers
  • dietary fibre.

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Antibiotics and digestive problems

Effects of antibiotic use on the digestive system

Antibiotic resistance is perhaps the most well-known side effect of long-term use of antibiotics – a type of drug resistance, where a micro-organism can eventually withstand exposure to the antibiotic as a result of over-prescription and reliance.

However, there are actually many other side effects that can result from the long-term application and unnecessary use of antibiotics. Even short-term use (while often essential), can lead to issues.

One of the most significant effects is their impact on the digestive system, and the balance of microflora in the gut (a community of beneficial bacteria).

Can antibiotics cause digestive issues?

The simple answer is, yes they can.

Antibiotics work by either wiping out bacteria (bacteriocidal antibiotics) or by stopping bacteria from growing (bacteriostatic antibiotics).

Undoubtedly, they can be effective in overcoming bacterial infections. However, as mentioned above, the cost associated with such treatment is the risk of unwanted side effects and complications.

One of the main difficulties with antibiotic use is that, while they’re intended to destroy bacterial cells, they cannot be programmed to kill only harmful bacteria (i.e. the pathogen causing the condition). They also destroy friendly bacteria, which is vital to the proper workings of the digestive system.

As a result, antibiotics commonly lead to an imbalance of good and bad bowel flora (dysbiosis), which can in turn lead to symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), bad breath, nausea and upset tummy.

Perhaps, more worryingly, antibiotics can also have a direct and negative impact on the immune system. Good bacteria exist in their millions throughout the body – on the skin, in openings like the oral cavity, nose area and genitals and, arguably most importantly, in the intestines of the digestive system. They undertake essential functions in all of these areas, however their most important role is to protect our bodies against prospective pathogens. The antibiotics are therefore damaging our bodies’ natural ability to defend itself.

Imbalance of intestinal flora and immune function

Healthy intestinal flora is important for numerous functions in the body, including forming stools, sustaining a healthy digestive system and generating important vitamins (such as B vitamins). Yet, they’re most crucial to the ideal functioning of our immune systems.

You may be surprised to learn that the most important part of our immune system is located in the gut. 70% of all antibody-producing cells within the body are situated in what is termed “Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue” or GALT. This represents the biggest group of immune cells in the body.

Imbalances of gut flora can have a number of unpleasant side effects and manifest itself in many ways. For example, fungi (like Candida albicans) and bacteria like pathogenic strains of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and C difficile tend to make the most of the opportunity presented by the body’s reduced resistance, which means that they are then better able to grow more easily. This is a primary reason why antibiotic courses normally lead to thrush (a yeast infection caused by Candida overgrowth).

Similarly, C difficile infections have become prevalent in hospital wards and rest homes over the years. This is because, after antibiotic treatments, C difficile organisms can grow rapidly in the absence of the body’s natural defences. The bacteria produce toxic compounds that inflame and kill the cells that line the large intestine, which can in turn cause intense diarrhoea and internal bleeding. Several other digestive ailments and complaints are also quite typical, such as dysbiosis, toxic bowels and IBS to name just a few.

How to balance your gut bacteria

Research indicates that the damage caused by antibiotics to the gut can last for a far longer period than was previously believed.

In 2013*, Stanford University experts in the USA examined the friendly gut bacteria in 3 healthy adult women both before and after each of 2 cycles on an antibiotic. After the first round, they discovered that the medication affected the level of the women’s friendly bacteria in the gut drastically, perhaps even permanently. After the second cycle half a year later, they discovered that the impact was even greater.

As a result, it is advisable to take antibiotics only when absolutely necessary, i.e. when an infection is bad enough to cause discomfort and distress, or is life threatening or a risk to others. They should never be used as a repeated “quick fix” for small afflictions and lengthy programmes ought to be avoided wherever reasonably practicable.

If antibiotic intake is unavoidable, many individuals find it helpful to supplement their diets with additional friendly bacteria (probiotic supplements), before, during and after the programme of antibiotics is finished. It is believed that this will help to re-populate the digestive tract with the healthy bacteria that the antibiotics have decimated.


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Quinoa nutrition

About quinoa

Quinoa is a fantastic example of plant-based protein, which not only offers a viable alternative for meat and other animal products, but also supplies a broad spectrum of other nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals and phyto-chemicals) at the same time.

An annual plant that originated in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, quinoa was used by the Incas as a staple food. They also believed the crop to be sacred, not least because they recognised its value in supporting the stamina of their warriors.

Although often categorised along with other grains, quinoa is actually only a grain-like crop that is grown primarily for its edible seeds. As a chenopod – a sub-family of the flowering plant family Amaranthaceae – it is closely related to species such as Swiss chard, beets and spinach.

Nutrients in quinoa

Quinoa is highly nutritious, which means that it is now generally thought of as a “superfood” – a natural food with a high nutrient-per-calorie ratio. It is naturally low in fat and calories and contains:

  • an incredibly high level of protein (18%) – more than grains
  • Essential Fatty Acids – “good” fats that are required for a healthy body and mind
  • iron
  • calcium
  • phosphorus
  • magnesium – a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including those involved in the body’s use of glucose and insulin ecretion
  • manganese – a mineral that serves as a co-factor for the superoxide dismutase enzyme (an antioxidant that helps to protect the body against the damage caused by free radicals)
  • tryptophan
  • folate
  • copper
  • riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • beneficial dietary fibre (both soluble and insoluble)
  • and a balanced set of essential amino acids, such as lysine (essential for tissue growth and repair) – making it a complete protein source for humans. By contrast, wheat and rice are low in lysine.  


As mentioned above, quinoa is a pseudo-cereal; it is not a grain, as it isn’t a member of the grass family.

It is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Quinoa is not a commonly allergenic food and is not known to contain measurable amounts of purines.

Integrating quinoa into your daily diet

If you love carbohydrates, but are trying to stick to a lean and healthy high-protein diet, quinoa is a fantastic alternative! It has the nutty taste of brown rice crossed with oatmeal and has a pleasant fluffy, creamy and crunchy texture.

Although a seed, quinoa can be prepared like whole grains such as rice or barley – except it takes less time to cook than other whole grains – just 10 to 15 minutes. It is extremely versatile and can be prepared in a variety of ways.

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Super acai berries

A bit about acai

Acai berries, previously considered an exotic fruit, have now become a virtual staple in almost every supermarket’s collection of health foods and supplements.

No longer the sole preserve of health stores and delis, these nutrient-dense berries have become increasingly popular in the form of dietary supplements, food powders, shakes and juice boosters. But why?

This growth in use and popularity is in no small part due to the significant media attention they have received, since being more widely recognised in the West as a “superfruit”. In other words, a fruit with an exceptionally high nutrient-to-calorie ratio compared to other fruits of a similar kind. For example, in terms of antioxidant, essential fatty acid, vitamin or mineral content.

Although having only just relatively recently entered the wider public consciousness, South Americans native to the Amazon have been enjoying the health benefits of these tasty berries for many years. In fact, they are considered to be an essential food source for three traditional Caboclo populations in the Brazilian Amazon, because they make up a major component of their diet – up to 42% of their total food intake by weight! A fact which reflects their incredibly high nutrient content.

Found only in swampy areas of the Amazon rainforest (Central and South America), acai berries are pretty rare – which explains why they hadn’t popped up on supermarket shelves before. They are small and round (approximately 25mm in size) and grow on large palm trees called açaí palms, which can reach over 80 feet in height. The berries grow in bunches (similar to bananas) and an average açaí palm tree can yield between 3 to 8 bunches of berries.

Once ripe, acai berries bear a strong resemblance to grapes and blueberries, except that they are not quite as pulpy. They contain a large, inedible seed, which constitutes as much as 90% of the entire fruit – yet another reason they weren’t more widely cultivated as a culinary fruit.

Acai nutrition

As mentioned above, although hard to find in their natural whole food form, everyone can now fortunately access the nutritional benefits of these berries on a daily basis through the convenience of health supplements. Food-based powders and food form supplement capsules now often incorporate both acai berry powder and concentrated extract. But why might you want to incorporate acai berry nutrients into your daily diet?

Immune system support:
A big clue to their high nutrient content is given away by the deep blue / purple colour of acai berries. Like most other brightly coloured foods found in nature, they contain natural pigments, which support immunity, health and vitality. For example, flavonoids and potent antioxidants (such as anthocyanins). They are also a rich source of Omega 6 and Omega 9 fatty acids (healthy fats).

Heart health support:
As well as containing high levels of anthocyanins, research has also shown that acai berries are rich in phytosterols, which may provide cardio-protective support for our cells.

Energy support:
Relatively speaking, acai berries contain high levels of plant protein. Combined with their high levels of antioxidants and other nutrients, they can offer ideal support for high energy levels, stamina and general vitality.

Weight management support:
When trying to shape up, you are obviously looking to decrease your intake of high-calorie unhealthy foods, in favour of nutrient-packed foods that are naturally low in calories. Not only will this promote a healthy weight, it will also help to ensure that your general health remains strong during any periods of slimming and reduced food choice. In this way, acai berries can provide ideal weight management support as part of an overall balanced diet.

So now you know a little bit about why acai berries have been causing a stir in the natural health world. And these are just some of their nutritional benefits. Plus, if you favour an organic lifestyle or are trying to detox, it is worth bearing in mind that acai berries are wild harvested, as opposed to farmed. This means that they aren’t exposed to the harmful pesticides and fertilisers so often found in other fruit and vegetables.

They offer great all-round healthy living support, so why not try them for yourself!

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Do I have IBS?

Do I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal problem, which leads to unusual sensitivity and muscle activity.

It is very common, afflicts mainly women and tends to develop ebfore the age of 35.

It is also often referred to as spastic colon, spastic colitis, mucous colitis or nervous stomach. However, IBS should not be mistaken for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBS is a functional problem, whereby the operation of the bowels may be abnormal, but no structural problems are present.

How the bowel works

It can be helpful to understand the role of the intestine (bowel), in better understanding IBS.

The intestine stretches from an opening in the stomach to the anus (rear end). It plays a major role in digestion, a process in which food is broken down and absorbed (together with water) into the bloodstream. The small intestine absorbs nutrients, whilst the large intestine assimilates moisture from the matter that is leftover and excretes the waste from the anus.

So, partly digested foodstuff normally leaves the stomach and passes into the small intestine and then into the large intestine. The large intestine helps food to flow through with light squeezing motions. However, with IBS, it is believed that the intestines squeeze too hard or not hard enough and cause food to move too quickly or too sluggishly through the gastrointestinal tract.

Types of IBS

As such, there are broadly two types of IBS:

1. In some instances, material inside the bowel doesn’t progress rapidly enough and an excess of fluid is absorbed, leading to constipation – this is called IBS-C.

2. In other cases, the material moves too quickly and the colon doesn’t take up enough liquid, which leads to diarrhoea – this is called IBS-D.  

Those that have problems with IBS seldom openly discuss it. However, studies suggest its likely prevalence in the United Kingdom to be around 17% of the population.

Unfortunately, doctors do not tend to understand why or how IBS comes about. Furthermore, quite a few doctors feel that the complaint doesn’t really exist and is psychosomatic in origin. Having said that, this opinion is now generally rejected by the natural health fraternity. Moreover, it is the most common condition diagnosed by gastroenterologists and one of the most common disorders seen by primary care physicians.

The specific cause, or causes, of IBS are uncertain, but the following factors are likely to contribute to the onset of this condition:

  • stress
  • depression
  • insufficient intake of dietary fibre
  • hypersensitivity to specific hormones
  • food allergies and sensitivities (e.g. to gluten)
  • problems with the way signals are sent between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract
  • poor diet (including diets high in sugar and/or fat)
  • micro-organisms in the gut (including bacteria and parasites)
  • yeasts
  • coeliac disease
  • and medications.

What is a syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not classified as a disease. The term “syndrome” may sound alarming, but it’s actually just a broad term used by doctors to describe a group of symptoms.

Although IBS certainly isn’t fatal, its symptoms can drastically impact on quality of life and may even be debilitating.

Certainly, symptoms and severity vary from one person to another (and might change over time). For some, IBS is a chronic (continuous) disorder that characterises daily living. For others, it is a periodic unwelcome visitor. Everybody suffers from an occasional bowel disturbance, but for anyone with IBS, the symptoms are more acute or arise more often.

Whether constant or intermittent, IBS is most often known to cause a mixture of any of the following symptoms: abdominal pain, acid reflux, wind, bloating, fullness, cramping pains, fatigue, severe headaches, passage of mucous, urgency or a a sense of unfinished bowel movements and a change in bowel habits (i.e. constipation and/or diarrhoea).

Clearly, a number of these symptoms are common in other conditions and are rather ambiguous. This explains the frequent difficulty in obtaining a certain diagnosis. More uncommon symptoms include a feeling of sickness and throwing up.

Living with IBS

Unfortunately, there isn’t any known cure for IBS, but it appears that its symptoms can be managed in many different ways. For instance, dietary and lifestyle changes and supporting health supplements. Many people find that high-strength, multi-strain probiotics help with symptoms, along with plant-derived digestive enzymes and high quality dietary fibre.

In contrast, having fatty, processed foods can lead to a tummy upset in virtually anybody. Nonetheless, particular foods and drinks (like greasy burgers, sugar, chocolate, milk products, caffeine and alcohol) are believed to especially aggravate the symptoms of IBS, by (amongst other things) increasing the body’s output of digestive gases and creating an acidic environment.
Tension is also believed to increase the motility (the rhythmic contractions) of the intestine that propels food through the gastrointestinal tract and causes abdominal pain and irregular bowel functions.

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Healthy weight management

What does weight management mean?

For many people, weight loss, slimming, dieting, shaping up (whatever you choose to call it) is a life-long struggle and involves a lot of disappointment, negative body image and, often, worry, feelings of hopelessness and damage to self-confidence.

Yet, being in control of your weight and managing it in a controlled, healthy and long-term way (weight management) is central to ensuring long-term health, fitness and even happiness and confidence. Contrast this with “yoyo dieting”, crash diets and seasonal dieting, which are bad for the body and much harder to both achieve and maintain.

Overweight people are at increased risk of numerous ailments, which range from heart disease and high blood pressure, to type-2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing difficulties and many more. Luckily, it is not actually as difficult or confusing as perhaps you might think to get your weight under control in a healthy way – so hang in there!

Recent trends

Weight has been one of the leading health concerns of the Western world in recent years (not least because of COVID-19). Obesity in Britain, for example, is swiftly approaching the chart-topping statistics of the United States. And it is not just adults that have been getting larger – children’s weight is a broadening concern.

How to reduce body-weight in a healthy way

Healthy weight loss is certainly not about extreme dieting or weight loss fads.

Effective weight management is about much more than just focussing on the numbers, like your weight and calories. It is about shifting the way you think about food, starting with a healthy routine which involves permanent changes in daily eating and beneficial exercise habits.

Essentially, healthy weight management is a combination of:

  • optimum nutrition (a well-balanced diet) and
  • a realistic exercise routine.

This doesn’t mean having to live on greens, without treats. Nor does it mean having to go to the gym 7 days a week.

It could possibly mean eating and/or drinking certain things in moderation, while increasing the volume of health foods. And, in terms of physical acitivity, it could mean doing as little as 15 minutes of exercise (such as walking or jogging) every other day – whatever meets your needs, taking into account your own particular health issues and circumstances.

Why so many people give up

One of the hardest things about introducing any lifestyle change is the ability to make that change last for the long term. We have all had the experience – every year, we make promises to eat more healthily, to drink less alcohol, to do more exercise etc. We start off well and, even with the best of intentions, in the majority of cases we slowly revert back to our old easy and ingrained habits.

One of the key causes of this is that the change was either put in place too fast and in a drastic way, and/or it was an unrealistic aim for the long-term.

A very common example is that, nearly all people attempt to completely do away with all treats from their diet. It’s naive to think that you are not going to have, for instance, a chocolate bar or packet of crisps ever again – and the reality is, that is not even necessary for healthy weight management. This approach usually end in binging.

Similarly, very few people are going to be able to sustain going to the gym seven days a week. Again, this is not necessary and, in fact, is not even constructive. Your body needs rest in between exercise.

So, people set themselves up to fail and lose morale when they do.

How to lose weight successfully

To introduce long-term lifestyle change (which is the key to successful weight loss), it’s important to think of a range of physical exercises that you really enjoy and can pick from to keep your routine interesting.

Furthermore, one of the many common fallacies about losing weight is that the meals / foods you can eat are very restricted. That is simply not true. While you will certainly need to cap your consumption of certain foods (especially those high in saturated fats and sugar), you are not automatically barred from enjoying the treats you like every now and then.

A nutritionist or personal trainer can help you to better understand precisely what varieties of food you should eat on a regular basis for a healthy, well-balanced diet and healthy metabolism, and which you should view as treats, to have on the odd occasion. Meal plans can be helpful in the early stages, while you get used to the new regime and break old eating habits.

The key is to understand that no two people are identical and so their is no “one size fits all” diet that will magically make you lose weight. Instead of a diet, you need a meal plan and exercise programme that are specifically tailored to you and your body.

Variety and moderation are the keys to your success!

A little extra support – health supplements…

If you find that you want a little additional help, you may want to think about including weight management supplements in your programme.

Not only can these help you to top-up on additional vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that will support your body through the weight management process (including support for energy levels, metabolism and immunity etc), they can also assist with resolving any underlying health issues that may be hampering your weight loss efforts. Common examples include digestive problems and hormonal imbalances. 

Plant-based protein powders and tasty light meal shakes can also provide a quick, easy and healthy snack substitute, that keep you feeling full and away from unhealthy treats in-between meals.

For more information, visit our main website

Do I have a weak immune system?

In this new world that we find ourselves, it goes without saying that it is more important than ever to support our immune systems in any way we can, and to take active steps to stay healthy.

While we must all, of course, take the very necessary precautions of wearing our masks, washing our hands and practising social distancing, it is equally important to bolster our bodies’ natural defences, should those “invaders” still find a way in.

If you have noticed that you are prone to feeling tired without an obvious cause, or perhaps you regularly feel under the weather, it may mean that your immune system is under strain or has been weakened.

What are the signs of a weak immune system?

Everybody is different and, if you have concerns about your health you should always consult a qualified doctor. However, here are just a few of the main warning signs that your immune system may be compromised, as well as top tips on what you can do to give it a boost.

1. You regularly suffer from “colds” and infections

If it feels like you always have a cold, it is a good sign that your immune system is struggling. While it is completely normal for adults to have the sniffles from time to time throughout the year, the average is two or three infections. If you are experiencing cold symptoms more often than that, or it takes you longer than around a week to bounce back, your immune system could be described as weakened.

During an active cold, it usually takes a fully-functioning immune system approximately 3 to 4 days to develop the required antibodies to fight off the illness. However, if you are constantly catching colds (or have chronic colds that just won’t budge), that is a very clear sign that your immune system is struggling.

Similarly, if you seem to be beleaguered with other types of infections on a regular basis, such as Candida albicans, your immune system might be sending you signals that it needs help. A compromised immune system in the gut, specifically, can have consquences for our ability to fend off opporunitistic pathogens of this type, that are just waiting for a dip in gut flora to spread and take hold.

Other common infections that might flag a weakened immune system when experienced on a regular basis include:

  • ear infections
  • pneumonia
  • and chronic sinusitis.

2. You have digestive issues

The gut comprises a major part of the body’s immune system (as much as 70%). If you find that you regularly experience digestive complaints (such as stomach pain, constipation, diarrhoea, wind or bloating), it could be a sign that your immune system is compromised.

This is because levels of friendly bacteria and microorganisms that naturally occur in the gut, which help to defend your body from viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, can be lowered during times of illness, use of medication, times of stress etc. If your microbiome is compromised, so too will be your immune system. And you experience the symptoms mentioned above, because lower numbers of good bacteria can directly impact other aspects such as digestion, inflammation and vulnerability to attack – thereby creating a viscious circle.

3. Your wounds are slow to heal

If your immune system is weakened, it can affect a number of other processes and systems around the body, as vital energy and nutrients are diverted to work harder to protect you. For example, your skin goes into damage control mode after you have a cut or scrape. Your body works to protect the wound by sending nutrient-rich blood to the injury to help regenerate new skin. This healing essential healing process depends on healthy immune cells, but if your immune system is weakened, your skin can’t regenerate as it should. Instead, it takes longer and (once again) leaves you more vulnerable to infection.

4. Your stress levels are high

You will no doubt be aware, and will have experienced first hand, that high levels of stress can run you down. Continuous stress then has the unfortunate effect of compromising your immune system further, creating a cycle of compromised immunity. You feel stressed, you get run down, which then leads to heightened stress as you find it harder to cope with your day, and so on.

Put simply, long-term stress weakens the natural responses of your immune system by lowering lymphocyte levels (the white blood cells that help fight off infection). The lower your lymphocyte levels, the more you are at risk of infection.

5. You feel tired all the time

If you feel chronically fatigued, without obvious cause, your body is definitely trying to tell you something. A compromised immune system can directly impact energy levels, as your body attempts to conserve energy to ensure it can fuel your defence against invaders.

So you’ve worked out that you have a weak immune system. Now what can you do about it?

How can I boost my immune system?

There are a number of simple steps that you can take to boost your immune system naturally and effectively:

  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet – eating a diet that is rich in a wide variety of natural, seasonal (preferably organic) whole foods, is a key way to protect and strengthen your immune system. This is because it will give your body all the nutrients that are essential for a optimally functioning immune system, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, essential fatty acids, antioxidants etc. Where necessary, perhaps supplement your diet with additional vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that you may be concerned are lacking in your diet.
  • Get enough sleep – allowing your body to rest and repair is a very obvious, yet easy and effective, way to support a weakened immune system.
  • Exercise regularly – the other side of the coin is getting regular exercise. Not only does the strengthen the body, it also offers a highly effective means of body detoxification, through the movement of lymph around the body (the fluid that flows through the lymphatic system, that contains white blood cells).
  • Maintain a healthy weight – it seems very likely that obesity is a key factor in adverse response to COVID-19 infections. But aside from COVID, maintaining a healthy weight is a key aspect in maintaining a healthy body generally, with a strong immune system that is fit and able to fight off infections of all kinds.
  • Don’t smoke or over-indulge – try to make good choices on a daily basis and don’t make it harder for your body to function at it’s best. Indulging in smoking, drinking in excess, unhealthy foods etc is only going to compromise your immune system if done on a regular basis.
  • Try to minimise stress – perhaps easier said than done, try to avoid stressful situations wherever possible and increase activities that make you feel good. Exercise will help to release endorphins, and activities like yoga and Tai Chi have been shown to actively increase T-cell counts.

A strong immune system is the key to good health and longevity, so the more you can do to protect it, the better.

For more information, visit our main website

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