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Organic September: What is Organic?

Organic food is food as it should be

All organic food is fully traceable from farm to fork, so you can be sure of what you’re eating. The standards for organic food are laid down in European law so any food labelled as organic must meet strict rules. Unlike non-organic food production, which makes wide use of manufactured and mined fertilisers and pesticides, organic food is produced with natural fertilisers from plants, less energy and more respect for the animals that provide it.

Organic farming and food production is not easy and takes real commitment and attention to detail, and is backed up by rigorous, independent inspection and certification.

In the face of climate change, rising diet-related ill-health and widespread declines in our wildlife, the need to produce healthy food, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and protect wildlife grows more acute by the year. There is no magic bullet to tackle the challenges that face us, but the buying decisions we make every day are a simple but powerful form of direct action.

Organic Always Means

  • Fewer Pesticides
  • No artificial colours and preservatives
  • Always free range
  • No routine use of antibiotics
  • No GM ingredients

All organic farms and manufacturing companies are inspected at least once a year and the standards for organic food are laid down in European law. Getting organic certification isn’t easy and when you buy an organic product you know what you’re buying really is what it says on the tin.

Why choose organic?

Organic means working with nature. It means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment, which means more wildlife.

Whatever you’re buying – from cotton buds to carrots – when you choose organic food, drink or beauty and textiles, you choose products that promote a better world.

Organic food comes from trusted sources. All organic farms and food companies are inspected at least once a year and the standards for organic food are laid down in European law.

Why does organic sometimes cost more?

In an ideal world, organic wouldn’t need to be more expensive. A big part of the problem is that the true cost of our food isn’t reflected in the price, both the positives and the negatives. So food that is produced in ways that may contaminate our water, or lead to antibiotic resistance in people, may seem cheap in the store, but the real cost can be very high indeed.

Where there is a price difference, you are paying for the special care organic farmers place on protecting the environment and improving animal welfare. As the costs of farming with oil-based fertilisers and chemicals increase, the price gap between organic and non-organic is closing.

While organic food is sometimes more expensive than non-organic, staples like pulses, pasta, rice and whole grains often only differ in price by a couple of pence, and when you can, buying directly from farmers like through box schemes, helps too.  Organic sales are up in the UK (and across Europe and US) and more and more shops are offering a good range of organic.

Look for the logo

Going organic is easier than you’d think. Food, health, beauty and textiles products that hold the Soil Association organic symbol have been produced to the highest possible animal welfare and environmental standards.

It’s easier than you think to choose organic 

Switching to just one extra organic item really can help contribute to changing our food and farming systems for the better. Demand for more organic food means more organic farms. More organic farms mean fewer pesticides, more wildlife and more animals raised under the very highest standards.

Going organic doesn’t have to break the bank. Many organic products are the same price or cheaper than branded non-organic and most retailers also have their own organic range.

Rachel x

 

 

 

Running tips for beginners

Running is free, you can do it anywhere, and it burns more calories than any other mainstream exercise.Image result for running

Regular running can reduce your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control.

I have put together this guide to make running a safe and enjoyable experience for beginners, and to provide you with tips on how to stay motivated.

Before you start

If you’ve not been active for a while, you may want to build your fitness levels gently with walking before you move on to running.

Running requires little equipment, but a good pair of running shoes that suit your foot type may help improve comfort.

There are many types of trainers on the market, so get advice from a specialist running retailer who will assess your foot and find the right shoe for you.

The shoe’s structure weakens over time, especially with regular use. Running experts advise replacing running shoes every 300 miles (482km).

Women should also consider using a sports bra, which is sturdier than a regular bra and provides additional support.

Plan your runs. Work out when and where (the exact route and time) you’re going to run and put it in your diary. That way, it won’t slip your mind.

If you feel out of shape, or you’re recovering from injury or worried about an existing condition, see your GP before you start running.

Starting out

To avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it’s essential to ease yourself into running slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually over several outings.

Start each run with a gentle warm-up of at least five minutes. This can include quick walking, marching on the spot, knee lifts, side stepping and climbing stairs.

Start walking for an amount of time that feels comfortable.

When you first start out, try alternating between running and walking during your session.

As time goes on, make the running intervals longer until you no longer feel the need to walk.

Give yourself a few minutes to cool down after each run by walking and a doing few stretches.

Regular running for beginners means getting out at least twice a week. Your running will improve as your body adapts to the consistent training stimulus.

It’s better to run twice a week, every week, than to run six times one week and then do no running for the next three weeks.

The NHS have a great programe called Couch to 5K which is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks.

Staying motivated

Set yourself a goal

Whatever your level, setting challenges is useful to stay motivated. Training for a race, such as a 5K, or a charity run is a good way to keep going. Join local running events or groups such as parkrun.

Run with a friend

It really helps to have someone about the same level of ability as you to run with. You’ll encourage each other when you’re not so keen to run. You’ll feel you don’t want to let your running partner down, and this will help motivate you. Find a running partner on realbuzz or JoggingBuddy.

Keep a diary

Keep a diary of your runs. Note down each run, including your route, distance, time, weather conditions and how you felt. That way, whenever your motivation is flagging, you can look back and be encouraged by how much you’ve improved. Check out realbuzz’s running blogs.

Mix it up

Keep your running interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring. Vary your distances, pace and routes. Use realbuzz’s route planner to find, record and share your favourite running routes.

Join a club

A running club is the perfect way to commit to running regularly. Most clubs have running groups for different levels, including beginners. Clubs are also a great way to find running partners to run with outside of club sessions. Find a running club near you using RunTogether.

Rachel x

 

 

*Disclaimer: Recommendations and links in this post are my own and I have not been asked our paid to make any recommendations.

What Does Your Thyroid Do And How Do You Know If It’s Functioning Properly?

So what does the thyroid actually do? Well, everything! When the gland isn’t functioning our metabolism decreases and this causes problems with temperature control, mood, low energy, weight gain, constipation, dry skin and hair, poor fertility and memory, to name a just a few.

What does your thyroid do and how do you know if it’s functioning properly?

It’s a gland that sits at the bottom of the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. It’s a butterfly shape as it has two side lobes, connected by a bridge (isthmus) in the middle.

An individual problem
Conventional medicine diagnoses an underactive thyroid based on blood tests which show raised levels of TSH (the hormone secreted by the brain to stimulate the thyroid to work) and low levels of T4 (the hormone produced by the thyroid gland). T4 has to be converted to T3 to work. Blood levels of T3 are often not checked in the routine screen for hypothyroidism as it is assumed that T4 is being adequately converted to T3, although I think we should be checking T3 as not everyone converts T4 to T3 as well as they should.

Diagnosis
Even then, diagnosis is not straightforward, because the range of thyroid tests that conventional medicine considers to be normal is very wide. In America, the range of normal TSH references has been reduced from 0.5-5 to 0.3-3. This unfortunately is not the case in the UK where a TSH of up to five is still considered normal. Then add to this that some people function best when their numbers are at the upper end of the population range anyway! This means that if you are told your results are normal but you still feel you are suffering from hypothyroidism, request the exact values and take them to a practitioner who pays close attention to your symptoms and uses a multi-factorial approach to treat them.

So let’s dig deeper and look at the top signs indicating something is wrong with your thyroid:

1. Weak bones

If you have weak bones, have your thyroid checked. Abnormal thyroid function can decrease bone mineral density. Serum calcium will typically be in the “normal” reference range with hypothyroidism, but outside of the functional, optimal range.

2. Gut problems

Low thyroid function can reduce the movement of your intestines, which is essential for healthy digestion. The ability of your body to absorb nutrients is also altered when your thyroid isn’t working well. Healthy thyroid function dampens gut inflammation, and low thyroid function is linked with gastric ulcers and leaky gut syndrome.

3. Low sex drive

Many people think their low sex drive is due to aging, when in fact it may be a symptom of a bigger hormonal problem that’s anything but normal. Thyroid function affects the metabolism of estrogen and testosterone in the body. Hypothyroidism in men is linked with erectile dysfunction and low libido in both men and women.

4. Weight gain

When your thyroid hormones are low, your body will be less able to break down fat, making you resistant to weight loss. Years of fad diets and grueling hours in the gym won’t fix the underlying problem. Weight gain isn’t the cause of your problems, but a symptom of something not being addressed. You have to get healthy to lose weight, not the other way around. When you deal with the underlying hormonal problem and heal, weight loss is the natural byproduct.

5. Low energy

In addition to slowing your ability to burn fat, hypothyroidism will also decrease your energy, causing debilitating fatigue.

6. Blood sugar problems

When your body is in a low thyroid state, it decreases your body’s ability to absorb glucose or blood sugar. You need glucose to get properly in the cell to create ATP, your cellular energy source. Despite sluggish glucose metabolism, many people struggling with low thyroid hormones can feel hypoglycemic, like they have low blood sugar. Because the cells are not getting the glucose they need, you can feel like you are hypoglycemic even with normal looking blood sugar labs. This vicious cycle of hormonal dysfunction can lead to metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.

7. High cholesterol and triglycerides

A sluggish thyroid hormone levels decreases the breakdown of cholesterol, leading to elevated total cholesterol and triglycerides. While high cholesterol alone is a poor predictor for heart attack and stroke risk, elevated triglycerides is an accurate marker for increased risk factor.

8. Adrenal fatigue

When you have hypothyroidism, it puts stress on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Because of the lack of glucose and energy getting to the cells, the brain-adrenal axis pumps more cortisol in attempts to get more energy to the cells. This further complicates your hormonal health, leading to HPA axis dysfunction or adrenal fatigue.

9. Toxin overload

Poor thyroid health will lead to your liver and gallbladder not working very well. This can significantly decrease your body’s ability to rid itself of toxins, and may also cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. I commonly see impaired detoxification pathways in patients dealing with thyroid problems.

10. Estrogen imbalances

Estrogen comes in the form of three metabolites: Estrone (E1, estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). Estrogen balance is essential for your health. When your thyroid isn’t working well it can unbalance your estrogen metabolite ratio.

11. Brain problems

Hypothyroidism is linked with poor neurotransmitter expression and an increased risk of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. This is due to the fact that a predominance of thyroid receptor sites are found in the brain. One 2014 study found that people with depression had higher rates of thyroid conversion impairments, or low T3 syndrome.

12. Hot flashes or being cold

When your thyroid hormone levels are low, it affects your body’s temperature control. This can cause you to feel cold all the time, or have night sweats and hot flashes.

13. Hair loss

Since the thyroid determines your metabolism and absorption of nutrients, when your thyroid hormones aren’t functioning optimally this can lead to hair loss. Making sure your levels are optimal is essential to regaining hair health.

What To Do Now

As you can see, thyroid health is essential for you to feel and be healthy. Many people instinctively know that they have a thyroid problem despite “normal” labs. If this is you, educate yourself on the thyroid problems that won’t show up on standard labs.

Rachel x

The Body Shop’s special-edition Banana collection

When you think of ethical beauty brands, it’s quite likely that The Body Shop is at the top of your list – they have been campaigning to end animal testing since the late 80’s.

So it will come as little surprise that the brand’s newest launch is tackling a whole new sustainability issue: food waste.

The Body Shop’s special-edition Banana collection is made using real banana puree from wonky bananas that supermarkets won’t buy. This way, the small-scale Community Trade farmers in Ecuador, don’t lose out on their less aesthetically pleasing produce, which helps them to compete with the bigger plantations and stay afloat in a notoriously exploitative industry.

The new products join the brands much loved Banana shampoo, conditioner and hair mask. New to the range are the super Nourishing Body Butter, Hyaluronic-acid infused Body Yogurt and an indulgent Shower Cream.

And if that’s not enough to tempt you, all of the new products are 100% vegan and have a creamy banana and coconut scent which is perfect for summer!

Banana Body Yogurt 200ml

The Body Shop Special-Edition Banana Body Yogurt, £8.50, The Body Shop.

Rachel x

Please note that I was not paid in any to endorse the brand or any of their products.

Infrared Sauna: Can You Really Sweat Out Toxins?

Image result for infrared sauna

 

For thousands of years, many cultures have used heat bathing, to cleanse and heal the body.  Today, saunas are still a popular way to increase health and vitality. Saunas can help you relax, and research is proving other long-term potential benefits for your health, including relief from pain due to injury or arthritis, positive effects on blood pressure, and faster wound healing. Some research even shows a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular events.

How Do Saunas Work?

Saunas use heat to cause you to sweat while also increasing your heart rate – as if you were exercising. Originally, saunas consisted of just a small fire built underneath an enclosed space. Today, traditional saunas use heaters to heat rocks, which warm the air in the room and ultimately warm your body.

Newer infrared saunas are now becoming popular as well. Most infrared saunas use far-infrared (FIR) light. The term “far” refers to where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum. Some saunas also use near infrared light (NIR) and mid infrared light (MIR). NIR light may promote skin renewal, improved cellular functioning, and wound healing.  MIR light can penetrate deeper into the body’s soft tissue where inflammation occurs, and may speed up the healing process. FIR light reaches deepest into the body, where toxins are stored. Some infrared saunas contain the full spectrum of light.

Unlike traditional saunas which heat the air, an infrared sauna uses light to heat your body in much the same way the sun does.  So, an infrared sauna can produce the same benefits as a traditional sauna, but at a lower temperature of between 120 and 140ºF compared to the temperature range of a traditional sauna, which is typically between 150 and 185º F.

Can You Really Sweat Out Toxins?

Many people believe that sweating is a great way to release toxins and other impurities from your body. One theory is that fever is the body’s way of ridding itself of toxins, and a sauna creates a self-induced fever.

The primary organs of detox in the body are your liver and kidneys. The reason your body sweats is to cool its internal temperature. When analyzed, sweat is comprised mostly of water and a tiny bit of salt. There is no exception when it comes to sweat caused by a traditional sauna — studies show sweat caused by a traditional sauna is 95-97% water and the rest is salt, with a tiny bit of protein and urea. In other words, it’s not made up of “toxins”.

The main reason you feel good after sweating — whether after exercise or a sauna — is that your body releases endorphins.  It does not necessarily mean that you are releasing toxins. But, there may be an exception when it comes to infrared saunas.

As humans, we are all bio-accumulators. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we all have dangerous toxins stored in our bodies, including pesticides and mycotoxins. We retain these toxins in our bodies’ fatty tissues, including breast milk, the liver, and blood plasma. Most of these environmental toxins are known to contribute to a whole host of diseases, including cancer, arthritis, autoimmune disease, autism, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s and more.

While most sweat is comprised of water and little salt, studies show that 15-20% of infrared sauna-induced sweat is composed of cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, heavy metals, sulfuric acid, and ammonia (as well as sodium and uric acid.) In other words, an infrared sauna may enable your body to eliminate environmental toxins through sweat.

10 Benefits of Infrared Sauna

Many doctors agree that the use of an infrared sauna is one of the most powerful healing therapies. There are many studies that document the effectiveness of sauna therapy for hypertension, congestive heart failure, and for post-myocardial infarction care. In addition, there are proven benefits of infrared sauna for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic fatigue, chronic pain, or addictions.

Here are some of the more common benefits of infrared sauna:

Provides temporary relief from pain

The dry heat from an infrared sauna can relieve soreness due to over exertion by helping to loosen tight muscles. This helps with recovery time for athletes and the rest of us after a hard workout. One reason is because, during a sauna, beta endorphins and norepinephrine are released. This temporarily raises your body’s pain threshold. However, one study reported in Clinical Rheumatology found that the dry heat of infrared saunas may reverse chronic pain and stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis whose conditions are typically aggravated by humidity. The study also showed that infrared saunas were well tolerated and had no adverse effects.

Helps with weight loss

A sauna increases your heart rate just like when you exercise. Used regularly, saunas can help increase your metabolism. Some infrared sauna manufacturers claim that users can burn anywhere from 300-600 calories in one sauna session. In addition, some studies have shown that sauna therapy can release toxins stored in fat tissues that can otherwise prevent weight loss. These toxins include heavy metals, and fat-soluble chemicals.

Improves heart rate variability

One of the key indicators of a healthy heart is heart rate variability (HRV).  The more variability you have between heart beats, the better. If you are under chronic stress or have a condition where you cannot exercise, your heart rate can become less variable. Infrared saunas not only give your heart a workout, they help to relax your body and mind, reduce autonomic nervous stimulation and improve your HRV.

Increases circulation

Heat causes your blood vessels to dilate. As blood is drawn closer to the skin’s surface, your blood vessels expand to accommodate increased blood flow. This allows your blood vessels to become more elastic over time. This can improve circulation and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Maintains healthy looking skin

Many people swear the infrared sauna is their secret to glowing skin.  This could actually be true. Studies show that infrared sauna can improve psoriasis and other skin conditions. Far infrared saunas stimulate blood circulation in your skin, which in turn may help boost your skin’s ability to produce collagen.  And, sweating may accelerate your skin’s ability to detox traces of dirt, makeup, pollution, heavy metals, and alcohol.  Finally, the heat relaxes tense facial muscles.

Supports kidney function

Releasing toxins through sweating can help support kidney function by reducing the load put on your kidneys. Some doctors recommend infrared sauna use for their patients on dialysis.

Reduces blood pressure

Abnormal blood pressure can be a coronary risk factor.  Several studies have shown that infrared sauna therapy lowers blood pressure significantly with regular use. However, these same studies show that this benefit is true only when using infrared saunas.  People who used conventional saunas showed no improvement in blood pressure.

Lowers your risk of dementia

According to a 2016 Finnish study, regular sauna bathing is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. And, the more frequently you take a sauna the better. In the study, those who took a sauna between 4-7 times per week for 15 minutes had a 66 percent lower risk of dementia (all forms) and a 65 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those taking a sauna just once a week. One of the ways saunas may help protect your brain is by stimulating the production of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) in much the same way aerobic exercise does, helping to bulk up grey matter through neurogenesis.

Improves your immunity

Some studies show that regular saunas can reduce your chance of getting a cold by 30 percent. In addition, infrared saunas have even been shown to help prevent a cold from getting worse. One of the reasons is that a sauna-induced fever may stimulate the immune system to increase production of white blood cells and antibodies.

Promotes a sense of well-being

Saunas have been traditionally used to produce a feeling of relaxation. The heat helps to relieve physical and emotional tension in your muscles, including your face and neck muscles, by triggering the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This relaxation effect is one of the biggest benefits to using a sauna. When you are relaxed, your energy levels increase, and you sleep better at night — thus, increasing your sense of well-being.

How To Use An Infrared Sauna

If you are healthy, infrared sauna can be a great way to enhance your health and well-being.

In addition, sauna use can benefit many health conditions.  However, be sure to check with your GP before using a sauna, especially if you have asthma or other breathing problems, heart disease, epilepsy, or blood pressure that is too high or too low,

Here’s what you should know before getting started:

  • Start slowly. Give your body time to adjust to the heat.  Start with short sessions of no more than 15 minutes and gradually work your way up to 30 minutes per session several times a week.
  • Remove accessories. Be sure to take off anything metallic, including jewelry, before using a sauna.  You will also want to remove glasses and contacts.
  • Listen to your body. If you begin to feel uncomfortable symptoms, such as dizziness, headache, nausea, or fatigue, get out of the sauna, cool off and hydrate. If you continue to feel ill whenever you use a sauna, discontinue use all together.
  • Take time to cool down. It’s best to towel the sweat off your body and wait for a few minutes while your body naturally cools down. Do not immediately get into a cool or cold shower.
  • Rinse off. Once you have cooled down, rinse off or shower.  Keep the temperature of the shower comfortable – the water should not be too hot or too cold.
  • Drink water. Water is the best way to hydrate. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your sauna.

Do not use a sauna if you are pregnant, take stimulants, tranquilizers or other mind-altering drugs, or if you are under the influence of alcohol.

Have you used an infrared sauna? I’d love to hear how you’ve benefited.

 

Rachel x

8 Natural Ways To Boost Your Energy

Next time fatigue starts to set in, avoid caffeine and try one of these simple tricks to give your body a little oomph!

Image result for happy

1 Small but mighty

Studies suggest that just a handful of raisins can fuel a workout, so when you’re feeling a little slow reach for these tiny bites of goodness.

2 Scentsational

Try aromatherapy to help you stay alert. Diffusing citrus essential oils such as orange, lemon or grapefruit is a great way to refresh and boost energy.

3 Food exchange

Swap white carbs for brown, these have much more fibre which means they are digested slower, preventing the highs and lows that cause our energy to crash.

4 Colour therapy

According to science, yellow is the colour most commonly linked with a healthy mood and alertness, closely followed by positive shades orange and lilac, so why not place a bold array of blooms on your desk? The gorgeous smell will help to boost your mind too!

5 Stay hydrated

Even a five percent drop in hydration can make you feel fatigued and fuzzy, when you hit the 4pm wall, swerve the coffee and simply reach for a glass of H20.

6 A head start

Give yourself an Indian head massage when you’re feeling lethargic. A vigorous scalp massage is a wonderful pick-me-up that can be done at any time to increase circulation to the head and boost energy.

7 Phone a friend

Research conducted by the department of psychology at the University of Wisconsin found that hearing a supportive or familiar voice prompts the brain to release oxytocin, a stress-fighting mood-elevating hormone. So when you need a boost, give mum a ring.

8 Spice up your life

In ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been used to raise energy levels in people suffering from lethargy or depression. The scent and taste of turmeric, when used in foods and teas, can uplift your senses and invigorate your body.

 

Rachel x

How to Do a Body Scan Meditation

One of the best ways you can become more aware of your body is by doing a body scan meditation. The whole goal of this meditation is to focus on one part of the body at a time and tune into how it feels without trying to change it.

Completing a body scan can help you identify any physical pain or sensations you may be feeling and any links between those physical feelings and your emotions. It can serve as a valuable regular practice that can help you discover ways to work through any stress, anxiety, tension or other physical pain in the body.

Step-By-Step Process

Like all forms of meditation, a body scan is meant to be simple. Here are 11 steps to help you successfully complete a full body scan meditation.

1: Lie down or sit comfortably in a place where you won’t be interrupted.

2: Start by bringing your awareness to your breathing. Take three deep breaths as you mindfully tune into your thoughts and emotions, observing them as they flow freely.

3: Choose to start your body scan either at the top of your head or the tip of your toes. You’ll work down or up from there.

4: As you place your awareness on that body part, tune into what you feel there. You may feel pain, aching, itchiness, tingling, firmness, lightness, heaviness, warmth, coldness, or possibly even nothing.

5: Once you’re aware of what you physically feel in that area, expand your awareness to see if it also triggers your emotional state (a positive feeling, a negative feeling, or a neutral feeling).

6: Now bring your awareness back your breath and feel it reach down through your entire body as you breathe in, then exhale as you let go of any tension in the body part you just focused on.

7: Remember not to try and control anything — just let those physical and emotional feelings be as they are.

8: Move up or down to the next body part. If you started from your toes, you’d move to the soles of your feet. If you started from the top of your head, you’d move to your ears or your forehead.

9: Repeat steps 4 to 7 as you move through each individual body part.

10: Take as little as five minutes or as long as 45 minutes to go through each part of your body.

11: When finished, take a minute or so to just be aware and feel your entire body as whole, relaxed, and loved — even if you still feel any discomfort in some areas.

This is the perfect meditation practice when you’re just waking up in the morning or lying down at night to go to bed. A morning body scan will help you feel more present and in tune with your body throughout the day while a night time body scan will help you relax more effectively so you can drift off to sleep.

Try it for yourself. You’ll be surprised just how healing such a simple practice can be!

Rachel x

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