Get outside – Spring is here!

DAFFODILThe clocks have changed, Spring has officially started, buds are starting to appear on trees, and the sun is starting to shine. When you go outside the air seems noticeably fresher. When the sun is shining you can really feel that winter is over.

It is time to shake off those Winter Blues and get outside and go for a walk!

We spend up 90% of the day indoors under artificial light and it is not uncommon for us to develop headaches, loss of concentration and other problems. Some people can be severely affected whereas for others it adds to their overall accumulation of physical stress.

We don’t usually consider light as part of our health but it is as much part of our environment as air and water, as our bodies react to different qualities of light and our internal chemical rhythms are partly co-ordinated by light too.

Getting outside in the fresh air and natural sunlight increases your vitamin D levels.

It is the most natural and the best way to get vitamin D. You can also get Vitamin D from your diet from oily fish such as salmon or mackerel and from eggs. There is also the option of Vitamin supplements. Experts advise a combination of diet and natural exposure to sunshine in small doses a little and often. Enjoying the sun safely, while taking care not to burn can help can help you experience the benefits of vitamin D without raising the risk of skin cancer.

Recent studies have suggested that up to 50% of adults and children worldwide are Vitamin D deficient.

Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium and phosphorous which are important for maintaining strong bones and teeth. Without it bones become weak and brittle which can lead to osteoporosis and osteomalacia (soft bones) in adults and rickets in young children.

A study published in February 2013   has suggested that having an increasing body mass index (BMI) corresponds with decreasing vitamin D level. The authors of the study concluded that vitamin D may become trapped inside fat cells so there is less to circulate in the blood system.

Symptoms of lack of vitamin D are generally fatigue muscle and joint pain.

If you are experiencing these symptoms get outside in the sunshine if you notice your symptoms settle after being in the sun then it likely that your vitamin D levels are low and my advice would be to see your GP and have your vitamin D levels checked before you develop any serious long term conditions such as osteoporosis which are harder to manage once established.

Many of us can identify working long hours sat in an office not taking breaks because “there is no time to” is not the answer and is counterproductive. Taking a 10-20 minute break to walk outside in natural sunlight or even natural light can benefit you in more ways than you think. It can help to energise you, help to lighten your mood and help you concentrate better as well as improving your general circulation and, relieving joint stiffness thus protect your joints.

Getting out in the sunshine is more challenging in the UK especially in the winter time but exposure to natural light even on a cloudy day is beneficial to the body. So when the sun starts to come out more in spring we should take advantage rather than waiting for the summer.

If you can’t take a break every day due to a busy schedule why not put it in your diary as you would any important meeting 2-3 times per week. At weekends when the sun is shining go out for a walk, or do some activities outside such as gardening.

Paying attention to your joints and bones now will pay dividends later with some small adjustments of getting outside more, eating foods rich in vitamin D and or taking Vitamin D supplements if needed and maintaining a healthy weight, will really make a difference. When you are older and when you retire you will be fit enough to enjoy it and not crippled with joint problems.

So what are you waiting for! Get outside and get some sunshine!

Your body will thank you for it!

Have a look at my Nikken page.



Making the most of nutrition

FruitWe all know that we should eat five fruits and veg a day, but what else constitutes a diet that gives us everything we need for optimum health?

The three basic nutrients we all need are carbohydrates, fat and protein, all of which we need plenty of to provide our bodies with everything we need for maintenance, energy and growth.  We also need to consume vitamins regularly, as some of these are not stored in the body, such as the B vitamins, Vitamin C and folic acid.  These are found in meat, eggs, nuts, fruit, green vegetables and cereals.

Some vitamins are absorbed into our bodies through the fats in our diet.  These include Vitamins A, E, D and K.  Sunlight provides us with much of our Vitamin D, but it has been found that people living in the UK are often deficient in Vitamin D.  Meat, oily fish, eggs and some fortified cereals can help us get the extra Vitamin D we need.

Our bodies also need potassium, calcium, iron, fibre, zinc and other nutrients.  We also need sodium (salt) but the amount our bodies need is already in the food we eat – no need to add it!

The good news is that all these nutrients are contained in the foodstuffs mentioned above, and eating healthily is really very simple:

Protein:  Fish, eggs, meat, dairy, nuts, soya, bread.  This provides ‘building blocks’ for maintenance and repair of our bodies, and also energy.

Carbohydrates:  Rice, potatoes, bread, milk, fruit, sugar.  This is vital for energy.  Athletes need lots of carbohydrates, couch potatoes need a lot less!

Fats:   Oils, butter, oily fish, dairy, and even crisps, chocolate and cakes.   We need to consume small amounts of fats because this contains essential fatty acids and also helps our bodies absorb vitamins.  Virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil and even pure butter are healthy fats when consumed in moderation.

So as long as you have plenty of protein, enough carbohydrates to suit your lifestyle, and a small amount of fat – even the odd slice of cake – you are fuelling your body with exactly what it needs.

There may be times when you need a little help.  Nikken Nutrition has been formulated to support key bodily functions comprising everyday nutrition, as well as targeted functions for particular needs – immune system, skeletal, cardiovascular, neurological and also male and female specific requirements.  You find out more here.  

Keeping well in winter

WinterEvery winter, viruses and infections put many people out of action.  Thousands of work hours are missed due to sick leave, GPs are inundated and hospitals fill up.

So what can you do to stay healthy and well during the cold, wet months of the year?  Some of these suggestions may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many people don’t subscribe to them and are still surprised when their immune system is compromised and they become ill.

Increase your fluid intake

It’s ALWAYS good to drink plenty of pure water, but especially during the cold and flu season.  Your body is made up of between 70 and 80 per cent water, and it’s vital to keep this level up throughout each day.  Keep drinking water throughout the day; keep a glass or bottle constantly on your desk or where you work, and drink even more when you exercise.  If you really can’t face drinking cold water when the weather’s already cold, drink it warm or hot!  It must be water though – not coffee, tea or fizz.  If you drink alcohol, make sure you drink an equal amount of water with it.  A great way to start the day is a large glass of room temperature or warmish water with a little lemon juice added.  This will give your body a kick start and you will feel refreshed and ready for your day.

Work off that stress!

Stress is a part of everyday life, and is necessary for our bodies to cope with challenging situations, but an excessive amount can weaken the body’s immune system, making it less able to resist infection or viruses.  Excessive stress can also increase blood pressure and put a huge strain on the body.

A simple, easy way to counteract stress is with regular exercise.  If gyms or aerobics aren’t your ‘thing’, just get out in the crisp, cold air and go for a brisk walk every day – anything is better than nothing.  A session of brisk, heart-pumping exercise – even just 15 minutes a day – will not only lower your stress level, but will BOOST your immune system.

Get the right amount of sleep

Most of us need between six to eight hours’ sleep a night in order to function.  If you burn the candle at both ends and don’t get the optimum amount of sleep needed, you are putting yourself under strain and will be more susceptible to illness.

Think of your body like a battery – you need recharging at night in order to function optimally during the day.

Wash your hands

Washing your hands very regularly, for at least 20 seconds each time, is a good habit to maintain, and will help to keep the viruses and germs away.  Also avoid touching your nose or mouth, which is one way in which germs enter the body.

Eat good stuff!

Well, you probably know all this, but eating fruit, veg and fresh fish is good for you, but eating pizza, burgers, kebabs and cakes is bad!  Keeping the ‘bad’ foods to a minimum and factoring in lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and fresh fish will go a long way towards keeping you well throughout the winter.  You may be surprised to learn that a delicious, sweet yellow pepper contains more Vitamin C than an orange – and is much easier to incorporate into a winter meal.  And minimise your sugar intake – not only by cutting down your intake of sweet stuff, but also bread, potatoes, pasta, rice – all of which are converted by your body into sugar.  Sugar compromises the immune system and too much of it can be downright dangerous, whereas good stuff like nuts, apples, oats, provide good dietary fibre and also strengthen the immune system!  Nikken have some great supplements that can help your immune system stay strong this winter – and all year round.  Have a look here.

And finally – keep warm

One of the kindest things you can do for yourself is to stay warm.  Make sure your home is well insulated and heated (and with adequate ventilation), and wear lots of layers to trap warm air.  It’s especially important to keep warm if you are asthmatic, disabled in any way, or are over 65.  By keeping yourself and your home warm you reduce your chances of getting colds or flu.

How to refuel after exercise and why you need to do it!

It may sound mad, but almost immediately after a long run or strenuous exercise – for more than an hour –  is when you need to refuel.  That means drink a glucose drink, or better still, EAT something.  You maybe won’t feel like it – you might even feel a bit sick – but you WILL benefit from refuelling.

The reason you should do this?

Because straight after your run (or strenuous exercise) – in fact, within 30 – 45 mins – is when your body reaps the benefits of it; when muscles repair and rebuild themselves.  They need fuel to do this, otherwise you are not replacing  the energy you have expended, and this leaves you more vulnerable to injuries.

So what are the best things to eat or drink?

If you really can’t face eating at all, then a glucose drink is better than nothing, but if you can eat, then fruit is always good – and can be cool and refreshing straight from the fridge if you’re hot after your run.  A lot of fruits – such as oranges – also contain fibre so they help you feel full.  Of course, you can make sure you have a delicious, banana-based fruit smoothie ready prepared in the fridge.  Yum!

You need protein and carbs to replenish your muscles and energy, not sugar and fats. That chocolate bar may be tempting, but it won’t help in the long run.

Slow-release carbs like wholewheat pasta, brown rice, wholemeal bread are obvious choices, but also porridge.  Yes, porridge!  It doesn’t have to be boring – you can add fruit, dried fruit and honey, or even some nuts.  And the advantage is that it’s so quick and easy to prepare in the microwave.  Or you can even have a bowl of your favourite cereal. Top it with fruit and it’s even better!

Greek yoghurt can be a surprisingly great after-run snack.  Again, you can add fruit, dried fruit, nuts, honey.  A real treat!   A delicious way to eat it is in the Greek dip tzatziki, made by adding garlic, cucumber and mint.  Dip some carrot sticks, celery or wholewheat breadsticks – gorgeous.

Another nutritious and delicious dip is hummous, made from sesame oil, chickpeas, garlic and lemon.  All good, healthy nutrition.

Salmon is great – and excellent for a quick meal, as it can be quickly poached in the microwave.  Try topping it with low-fat cream cheese and lemon zest for an extra-tasty treat.   And of course chicken breast is a no-brainer.  Cook a batch and keep them in the freezer so you can warm one up when needed.

You can’t really go wrong with veggies. Okay, they might seem boring on their own, but spice them up by, say, filling a celery stick with hummous, or making a tasty smoothie or stir fry.

So have a protein drink, eat a banana, some yoghurt and fruit, have a bowl of cereal. Have anything that gives you the right amount of protein and carbs, so that you recover quickly from your run and feel good.

And yes, of course, now and then you CAN treat yourself to that cake or chocolate bar!

Why not check out how Nikken can help with post exercise refuelling and weight management?  Have a look round my Nikken page here.


Why is sleep so important?

We hear all the time that in order to maintain optimum health we should eat this, do that, exercise, drink lots of water…but there is one simple thing we can do that immediately boosts our health: get enough sleep.

Many people think that by restricting their sleep they will have more hours in the day and thus perform better. Nope. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Simply put, if you’ve not had enough sleep at night, you will be tired in the daytime. At best this leads to lack of concentration, irritability, moodiness, or even falling asleep at work. At worst it can cause accidents. Imagine a surgeon who hasn’t had enough sleep and is performing heart surgery. Or an air traffic controller.

More road traffic accidents are caused by people falling asleep at the wheel than by alcohol.

At its worst, lack of sleep can contribute to or even cause serious illness.

Sleep boosts our bodies’ immune systems, thus someone who is not getting enough sleep may not be able to fight off infection or disease. Even more worryingly, long term lack of sleep can render us more susceptible to depression, heart disease, diabetes and can even contribute to weight gain.

So what happens to us while we’re asleep? Well, without getting too technical:

  • Our blood pressure drops, our breathing slows and our muscles relax.
  • Blood supply to muscles increases; therefore repair and tissue growth takes place.
  • Energy is restored and hormones released – such as growth hormone which is essential for not only growth but muscle development, and cortisol which we need in order to be wide awake in the morning.
  • Our brains commit things to memory during sleep. Therefore if, for instance, you are studying, you need plenty of sleep in order to effectively learn.

So there you have it. Sleep – and the right amount of it – is as vital to our health and wellbeing as food, water and the air we breathe.

Are you getting a good night’s sleep?  Why not take the Nikken quiz?


Breathing Better Quality Air

We all know that being regularly exposed to pollution from cigarette smoke/traffic fumes/nearby factories/smog/chemical vapours can harm us.  But what some of us don’t realise is that there is also pollution in our homes.

We don’t think of hairspray, gas cookers, paint fumes, insecticides, cleaning sprays and all the other “normal” things we have in our homes as pollutants.  But they are and we are breathing them in.

So what’s the solution?  There really isn’t one, but it is possible to minimise our exposure to indoor pollution by, for example, good ventilation, good insulation, changing heating and cooking from gas to electric, and drying laundry outside on a washing line, rather than in an energy-gobbling tumble dryer.

As an added precaution, as long as you research and get the right one, HEPA air purifiers can be very effective in reducing indoor pollution and giving you clean, oxygen and CO2-rich air to breathe.

Why not take a look at how Nikken can help you with breathing good quality air?

Breathing well

We just breathe, don’t we? We don’t think about it! But HOW we breathe and WHAT we breathe is directly related to our physical and mental health.

Not breathing correctly can affect our heart, nervous system, muscles, mood, brain, digestion… We can feel lethargic, exhausted, depressed, all because of incorrect breathing. ALL the processes in our body need oxygen to work effectively.

A lot of us live stressful lives, and this can make us breathe rapidly, with only the top third of our lungs, thus depriving our bodies of vital oxygen and CO2 and can lead to us feeling dizzy, panicky and exhausted – and more stressed.

A good breathing technique can make us feel calmer, more relaxed, less anxious, stronger, and even happier.

How to breathe correctly

Proper breathing technique uses the diaphragm, which is the large flat muscle just below your chest cavity in the space between your bottom ribs.  When you breathe in, it is your diaphragm that should move up or down, and NOT your chest.  This ensures you are using all parts of your lungs and obtaining optimum oxygen and CO2 absorption.

Ideally, breathing should be through the nose, which is a natural filter for anything bad in the atmosphere.  Breathing through the mouth leaves the body more susceptible to germs and viruses.

Check out our next blog article where we’ll talk about how we can breathe better quality air.