Summer Travel Tips: How to Help Your Digestion

summer travel tips digestion

Any situation that is a break from the norm can throw out your digestion and vacations are no exception! Travelling can upset the delicate balance in your gut before you even get to your destination. And while you’re there, eating different foods and over indulging can put extra stress on your digestive system. Here are some tips for helping your digestive system while you’re away.

Eat Mindfully

Digestion starts from the moment you put food in your mouth and this means that how and why you eat can be really important. Eating mindfully slows down your eating and gives your body more of an opportunity to digest your food. Even if you tend to eat mindfully at home, this can be pushed aside when you’re travelling.

Drink Plenty of Water

Staying well hydrated helps to keep your bowels moving. Bottled water is often the best choice as local tap water isn’t always safe to drink. Go for still water over sparkling if you’re prone to bloating and gas.

Herbal teas can also promote good digestion, especially ginger and peppermint. Bonus points if you can get hold of fresh ingredients and make your own teas.

Get Plenty of Fibre

A change of environment can often affect your bowel habits – and not always for the better! If your digestive system is out of balance, you may find that constipation is a bigger problem than normal, especially if you’re eating different foods while you’re away. Eating plenty of fiber will help to keep you regular and make constipation less likely. Good sources include fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, whole grains, seeds and legumes.

Eat Fermented Foods

Kefir and sauerkraut are just two examples of fermented foods that can improve your gut health. They promote the “good” bacteria and help it to thrive so your gut environment is balanced. Probiotics are another smart move if your gut could do with some healing, whether it’s through “live” yoghurt or supplements.

Preventing Diarrhoea

Some of the common culprits for getting diarrhoea and other digestive troubles while you’re on holiday include:

– Staying away from unpasteurised foods and drinks

– Not eating raw fruits or vegetables unless their skin can be peeled

– Using bottled water to drink and clean your teeth

– Not having ice in your drinks if you can’t be sure that it was made from bottled water (rather than tap water)

– Not eating too many foods that are greasy or fatty or going overboard with lots of fibre (which can lead to diarrhoea and gas if you)

– Eat fairly small meals and avoid eating too close to bedtime, especially if you’re prone to heartburn

 

 

What is the Link Between Anxiety and Gut Health?

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When it comes to your mental wellbeing, your gut may play a much bigger role than you think. Research is now suggesting that there can be a very strong link between your gut and your brain, to the extent that your chances of developing anxiety or depression may  be heavily influenced by the health of your gut. Here’s what to know about the connection between your mental health and what’s going on in your gut.

Stress and Your Gut

The gut is heavily linked to your emotions and no doubt you have personal experience of this. We’ve all felt sensations such as nervous butterflies in the stomach or feeling sick when we’re anxious, which is physical evidence of the connection between your mind and your gut.

Stress can physically affect the gut in other ways too, including how it works. It can encourage the walls of the gut to contract, which can be a factor in bowel movements – especially diarrhoea. Stress can cause food to move through the digestive system more quickly than it would otherwise do and this can result in loose stools and frequent bowel movements.

Studies have also suggested that people with GI disorders are sometimes able to improve their symptoms if they receive psychological therapies to help them to manage stress and anxiety, and often see a better response compared to people who are only receiving “conventional” treatment.

What Science Says

Studies on mice carried out by University College Cork showed a strong connection between gut microbes and mental health. In particular, low levels of microbes in the gut were linked to depression and anxiety. The mice who were bred to be “microbe free” were a lot more anxious than the mice who had higher levels of microbes in their gut.

The theory is that microbes in the gut have an impact on key areas of the brain, notably the pre-frontal cortex and amygdala. Both of these areas are linked to anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.

Probiotics have also been the focus of some studies, with research suggesting that probiotics could even work as well as Diazepam and Citalopram in improving mental health and reducing anxiety.

How to Improve Your Gut Health

So, what can you do to get a healthier gut environment and help to improve your mental health?

Probiotics are a great place to start. According to some studies, they can reduce anxiety so it’s definitely worth increasing your intake or starting to take them for the first time if you suffer from anxiety. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and yogurt are examples of how you can add probiotics to your diet or you can try probiotic drinks if you prefer.

Prebiotics are another smart move. They aren’t quite the same as probiotics but they’re just as important – perhaps more so given that they help probiotics to work more effectively.

There is still a lot for us to know about the gut-brain connection but the evidence so far strongly suggests that your gut health can have an effect on how likely you are to experience anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Improving your gut health can potentially do more than just improve your digestive health and can also have a knock on effect for your mental health too!

 

What to Eat for Anxiety (And What to Avoid)

anxiety foods

What you eat can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing, and mental health is no exception to this. Some foods have been shown to have a positive effect on anxiety symptoms while others are known to make anxiety worse. Here are some of the key foods and drinks that can help to reduce anxiety, plus some of the ones to avoid.

What to Eat for Reducing Anxiety

Fruits

Antioxidants protect against oxidative stress, which can alter key neurotransmitters in the brain. In one study, anxiety has been linked to low consumption of antioxidants so it’s definitely worth upping your intake of fruit if you’re struggling with anxiety. Aim for as many different colours as you can to get a range of nutrients as well as antioxidants.

Salmon

Salmon is linked to a healthy brain, not least because it’s a good source of vitamin D and fatty acids EPA and DHA. All of these nutrients are thought to help to regulate the dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters, which are linked to calmness.

Adding more salmon to your diet can be an easy way to improve your wellbeing and it’s backed up by research too. In one study, men who ate Atlantic salmon three times per week also experienced less anxiety.

Turkey

Turkey is a good source of L-tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to produce serotonin. It’s been shown to improve symptoms of depression and social anxiety.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut promote a healthy gut, which has a lot more to do with your brain than you might think. Studies suggest that eating probiotics and fermented foods regularly can be good for anxiety – even to the point of potentially preventing anxiety and depression. One study in particular looked at the role that fermented foods can play in treating social anxiety.

Turmeric

If you’re not adding this spice to your diet on a regular basis, you’re missing out on another chance to decrease anxiety symptoms.

It’s thought that turmeric may help the body to produce more of the omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, which is linked to key neurotransmitters in the brain.

Another factor is turmeric’s anti inflammatory qualities. This can reduce inflammation in the body and decrease inflammatory markers such as cytokines, which are also connected to anxiety and depression.

Water

Wondering about what to drink to tackle anxiety? Water is a great choice. Even being just a little bit dehydrated can affect your mood and how your brain functions, which in turn can promote anxious thoughts and feelings. One theory is that it is linked to a primal survival strategy to find water and stay hydrated but whatever the real reason, water is definitely one drink to reach for when you’re anxious.

Green Tea

Green tea contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that has shown potential for encouraging relaxation and relieving some of the physical symptoms of stress, including a fast heart rate.

Drinks containing L-Theanine can also reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Sipping green tea several times per day can potentially bring cortisol levels down so it’s a great choice when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

Other studies on mice have suggested that green tea can reduce anxiety to much the same extent as some anxiety medications.

Camomile Tea

According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, drinking chamomile tea for 8 weeks helped to reduce anxiety symptoms and promote relaxation.

In another study, taking chamomile extract for 8 weeks was shown to reduce anxiety symptoms and demonstrate antidepressant effects.

Unfortunately it seems that drinking chamomile tea doesn’t have quite the same effects for reducing anxiety compared to the extracts (which are stronger), although there is a lot more research to be done in this area before any definite conclusions can be made. One plus point in favour of chamomile tea is the ability to help to make you feel calmer. And that’s always welcome when anxiety is starting to take hold!

Foods and Drinks to Avoid for Anxiety

So now you know about the foods and drinks that can help to reduce anxiety, what about the main culprits in promoting it?

Caffeine

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and one study even found that it can make you more likely to have a panic attack, especially if you’re already prone to anxiety.

Processed Foods

Processed and sugary foods are a double whammy for anxiety. They spike your blood sugar to begin with and then encourage it to crash. According to a study from Colombia University, it also increases your riskincreases your risk of depression and mood changes – especially for women.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can make anxiety worse for more than a few reasons. It can affect blood sugar, is dehydrating and can even change neurotransmitters in the brain if you drink regularly and in excess.

The more you drink, the worse it can be. One study found a strong link between social anxiety and alcohol dependency.

Why Do My Nails Break? 6 Factors That Could Be to Blame

Why Do My Nails Break_

If your nails are prone to breaking and splitting, there can be a few factors that are contributing to the problem.

Some of these can be health related but your lifestyle can also make nails dry, flaky and more likely to break.

Here are 6 common scenarios that could be contributing:

You’re Not Getting Enough Iron

If you notice your nails have depressions in them, it could point to a deficiency in iron. Flat, spoon shaped nails can also be linked to iron deficiency anaemia.

If you aren’t getting enough iron in your diet, your body doesn’t produce as much haemoglobin. This is needed for transporting red blood cells around the body – including to the nail matrix (the tissue under cuticle that helps to keep nails healthy as they grow).

A lack of iron can affect the quality and strength of the new nail that grows from the nail matrix and it can make nails more likely to split and break.

If you’re deficient in iron, you may also find that your nails are pale due to the lack of haemoglobin and this can also extend to your skin. Other signs can include feeling tired a lot, frequent headaches and being short of breath.

You’re Not Getting Enough Biotin

Another dietary factor can involve biotin. This is one of the B vitamins and it is strongly linked to healthy nails, hair and skin. If you’re lacking in biotin, it can show itself in the condition of your nails, especially if they are weak and break a lot.

Upping your biotin intake can potentially make a lot of difference to your nails if there’s a chance that you’re not getting enough in your diet at the moment.

A study published in The Journal of Cosmeti Dermatology looked at the effects of taking 2500 mcg of biotin each day and the results were encouraging. This level of biotin helped to make nails stronger and less brittle but it wasn’t an overnight success. The study was a fairly long term one and these improvements took place over a period of 6 to 9 months.

If you’re patient enough to play the long term, keeping an eye on your biotin intake can be a great way to help your nails to be healthier.

You Spend a Lot of Time Texting or Typing

If your nails are not particularly short and trim, doing a lot of texting or typing can really take its tolls on them.

Nails of a certain length can repeatedly make contact with your phone screen or keyboard whenever you text or type and this can damage them, resulting in splits and even fractures of the nail.

The easiest way around this is to keep your nails fairly short so that there isn’t so much potential for damage.

You Don’t Use Hand Cream Regularly (Or At All)

If you don’t use hand cream on a regular basis, there is a good chance that your nails are on the dry side and this can encourage them to weaken.

When the cuticle area is visibly dry, the same will also be true of the nail matrix. This can also affect the new nail that grows from the nail matrix, resulting in brittle nails that are more prone to breaking.

You can help to reduce potential for splitting and breakage by keeping your nails well moisturised – especially around the cuticles – and reapplying hand cream whenever your hands have been in water.

Your Hands Spend a Lot of Time in Water

Dry nails are likely to be an even bigger problem if your hands are in water a lot. This dries your nails out and can make them weaker. This can happen if you do the washing up by hand or wash your hands a lot, for example.

If posssible, wear gloves when you wash up so that your nails aren’t in such prolonged contact with water.

Your Nails Are Always Polished

Nail polish might make your nails look stylish and pretty but it doesn’t do a lot for the health of your nails.

Nail polish can really dry out your nails, especially while it dries. Most nail polishes also contain ingredients that draw moisture out from the nail plate, which can make your nails weaker. Base coats and top coats can exaggerate this problem too.

Using acetone-free nail polish and nail polish remover can help to stop the nail beds drying out as much, especially if your nails aren’t polished every single day.

The more you wear polish, the more this is the case so it’s not a great idea to have polish on your nails every day without giving your nails a break from it. To help your nails, give them a reprieve from polish for a few days every so often.

So as you can see, a lot of the things we do on a daily basis can affect the strength and health of our nails but there’s also a few things you can to rectify this and help your nails to be less prone to breaking and splitting.

 

 

 

 

How to Make Sure Your Vegan Diet Is As Healthy As You Think

A vegan diet can be great for your health and wellbeing if it’s done in the right way.

Unfortunately, it can be easy to fall into certain traps that make it a lot less healthy than you might think.

Here are some tips to make sure that following a vegan diet really does make you healthier!

The Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Some of the many health benefits that a vegan diet can encourage include:

  • Having more energy

  • Healthier skin, hair and nails

  • Better cardiovascular health including lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

  • Eating less saturated fat (due to the lack of meat and dairy)

  • Lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

  • Eating more fiber, which is great for better digestive health

  • Eating good sources of nutrients that are often lacking in non vegan diets including iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and plenty of antioxidants

  • Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes

  • Lower risk of some cancers, including breast,prostate and colon cancers

  • Lower risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration as you get older

  • Lower risk of developing osteoporosis

Potential Pitfalls of a Vegan Diet

There are a few things that can go wrong with a vegan diet so it’s important not to make these kind of mistakes when you go vegan:

Too much fat: Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet won’t lower your fat intake (and bring cardiovascular benefits) if you replace them with lots of high fat alternatives such as nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil and nut milks. These are all great in moderation but they add up to a lot of fat if they’re making up a large part of your diet. Some people find that they actually eat more fat on this type of vegan diet than when they were eating meat and dairy so it’s definitely something to keep a check on.

Not getting a balanced diet: If you’re not eating milk and dairy, it’s really important to make sure that you’re getting vital nutrients such as iron and calcium from plant based sources instead. This can protect against deficiencies and makes sure that your vegan diet is really having the benefits you think. Vitamin B12 is another area to focus on as it’s mostly found in animal sources and can be very lacking in a vegan diet. You may want to look at foods that are fortified with B12 (such as breakfast cereals) to make sure that you get enough of it.

Assuming that all ‘vegan’ foods are healthy: There are lots of vegan options on the market now and unfortunately not all of them are all that healthy. Sticking to unprocessed, wholesome food will help you to get balanced nutrition and will bring a lot more of the health benefits associated with a truly vegan diet.

Making Sure Your Vegan Diet is Really Healthy

How can you avoid making some of these common mistakes? These tips should help you to get the biggest benefits from a vegan diet!

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

You can’t go too far wrong if fruit and vegetables makes up a big percentage of your vegan diet!

Aim for up to 75% and pad this out with things like legumes (such as beans and pulses), potato, whole grains and some healthy fats.

Ideally, healthy fats should be up to 10% of your vegan diet, which works out at around a handful of nuts or a third of an avocado.

Vegan Iron Sources

Non vegans can get iron from their meat intake but for vegans, it’s really important to eat the right foods to avoid iron deficiency anemia – especially for women.

Some good vegan sources of iron include:

  • Dried apricots

  • Raisins

  • Prunes

  • Blackstrap molasses

  • Dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, swiss chard and cooked green beets

  • Spirulina

  • Tofu

  • Quinoa

  • Kidney beans

  • Cashew nuts

  • Almonds

  • Sesame seeds

Vegan Calcium Sources

Calcium can come from some surprising sources in a vegan diet so it’s not too difficult to get enough of this nutrient. For example, dark leafy greens are a good source of calcium, especially kale and broccoli.

Other options include:

  • Dried apricots

  • Blackberries

  • Dates

  • Figs

  • Prunes

  • Oranges

  • Orange juice

  • Sesame seeds

  • Pulses

Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12

Vegans can easily become deficient in vitamin B12 as it’s largely found in animal sources and isn’t readily available in a plant based diet.

Vitamin B12 is added to quite a few fortified foods these days, including cereals, vegan spreads and some non dairy milks such as soy milk.

Vegan Sources of Vitamin D

A vegan diet can be deficient in vitamin D, especially if you aren’t getting much of this nutrient from exposure to sunlight.

This is another area where fortified vegan products are a good idea as vitamin D often comes from animal sources such as dairy.

Vegan sources of vitamin D can include fortified vegan spreads, fortified cereals and even soy drinks.

Vegan Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids can help to keep your heart healthy and is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

The jury is still out on whether omega-3 fatty acids from plant based sources offer the same cardiovascular benefits as those from fatty fish but as part of a healthy diet, they can still play a key role when it comes to heart health.

Vegan sources include:

  • Walnuts

  • Soya based foods such as tofu

  • Flaxseed and rapeseed oil (in small quantities)

A vegan diet can be incredibly healthy and protect against a number of diseases and conditions but it does require a bit of planning to make sure that you don’t become deficient in key nutrients. Once you get it right, there are so many benefits to a vegan diet!

 

5 Reasons to Love Chia Seeds

5 Reasons to Love Chia Seeds.png

Chia seeds may be tiny but they really make a punch when it comes to their health benefits!

Chia seeds were highly valued by the Aztecs and the Mayans, mostly because of the energy boost they provided. Even their name bears testament to this as “chia” means “strength” in ancient Mayan.

This is just one of the reasons why they’re now considered a health superfood, and here are 5 more great health benefits of chia seeds:

They’re Full of Nutrients

Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse, despite their tiny size. A 28g serving gives you over 10g of fibre, 4g of protein, 18% of your RDA of calcium, 30% of your RDA of manganese and a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.

All of this in what basically amounts to a couple of tablespoons!

They’re Packed With Antioxidants

Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants, which help to protect cells against the damage caused by free radicals.

Free radicals are linked to a whole range of diseases and conditions, including cancer.

They’re Great for Bone Health

Chia seeds are highly nutritious and this means that they contain a lot of key minerals – including calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.

These are all vital for keeping your bones healthy.

Just a couple of teaspoons of chia seeds gives you almost 20% of your recommended calcium intake, and this is higher than dairy products.

If you don’t eat dairy, chia seeds can be an easy way to make sure that you’re getting calcium in your diet.

They’re Great for Heart Health

Studies have shown that chia seeds have great potential for reducing blood pressure, keeping cholesterol in check and fighting inflammation.

All of this makes these little seeds a great choice for improving your heart health.

As an added bonus, eating chia seeds can also reduce oxidative stress. This makes you less likely to develop atherosclerosis, a condition in which the blood vessels stiffen and over time, the artery walls harden. It affects how well blood can flow around the body and can be a big factor in heart attacks, strokes and even organ failure that happens out of the blue.

They Can Fight Some Cancers

Chia seeds are full of omega-3 fatty acids, especially a type called Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA).

One study in particular has suggested that ALA has the ability to fight breast cancer and cervical cancer and stop these cells from growing further. This was highlighted by a 2013 study published in the Journal of Molecular Biochemistry.

The really significant thing here is that ALA seems to kill cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

How to Use Chia Seeds

how to use chia seeds

Chia seeds are incredibly versatile and can be added to smoothies, soups and porridge, sprinkled over salads or used in baking.

They don’t have a strong taste and are actually quite bland in this respect. This makes them perfect for adding to lots of different things!

5 Foods to Make You Feel Happier

5 Foods To Make You Feel Happier

If you’re struggling with low mood and feeling unhappy, it might be time to look at your diet.

What you eat can have a big impact on your mood, in much the same way that it affects your physical health.

Some foods can have a negative effect on your mood and wellbeing in general but on the plus side, there are also lots of foods that are known to boost mood and help you to feel that little bit better about life.

Here are 5 foods that can give you a natural mood boost:

Dark Leafy Greens

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Dark leafy greens in general are a great way to boost your folate levels. One study in particular has shown a strong link between depression and low folate levels so this is a really important nutrient when it comes to mental wellbeing.

Some of the dark leafy greens you can add into your diet include kale, broccoli, swiss chard and cabbage (the dark green kind).

Lentils

lentils can boost your mood and protect against depression

Lentils are another good source of folate and one cup can give you up to 90% of your recommended daily allowance of folic acid in particular.

Lentils have another important role to play for boosting your mood as they contain L-tyrosine, an amino acid that is used by the brain to make neurotransmitters (including dopamine). Studies have shown some promising results in using L-tyrosine to reduce depression.

Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds contain zinc and are a natural mood booster

Zinc is one of the nutrients that can be lacking in many people’s diets and a deficiency can make you more likely to experience low moods and even major depression.

Pumpkin seeds have another secret weapon for mood though. They also contain L-trytophan, which is a natural mood booster and can help with serotonin synthesis.

Get snacking on handfuls of pumpkin seeds to combat low mood!

Eggs

eggs help the body to produce serotonin and boost mood

Eggs are a great source of nutrition in general but they’re the perfect choice for boosting your mood too.

Amongst other things, they contain essential fatty acids that help your body to produce more serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is closely linked to mood.

If you have low serotonin levels, you’re more likely to suffer from anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate with cocoa can make you feel calmer

If you always want to reach for some chocolate when you’re feeling down, here’s some good news! One study showed that dark chocolate can help you to feel calmer and more contented.

There is a catch though – to get these benefits you need to be eating dark chocolate that contains a good amount of cocoa.

The flavanoids in cacao are the key factor and these aren’t present in chocolate that doesn’t have much (or any) cocoa.

Unfortunately this means that milk and white chocolate won’t boost your mood in the same way!

If you’re not already eating these kind of foods on a regular basis, try adding them into your diet and see if they can help you to feel a bit happier!

 

4 Reasons to Love Parsley

4 Reasons to Love Parsley

Parsley is often used as a garnish but there is so much herb than this. Adding a sprig to dishes has some impressive health benefits and a lot more nutrients than you might think!

Here are 4 of the great benefits of parsley for better health:

#1 It’s Full of Antioxidants

There are lots of flavonoids in parsley and these act as antioxidants that help to protect against damage to cells.

One of these is vitamin C, which can neutralise free radicals and stop them wreaking so much havoc in the body. Free radicals are linked to lots of different diseases so you may be able to protect against some of them if you have plenty of antioxidants in your diet. And parsley is definitely one way to get the ball rolling on this!

#2 It’s Heart Healthy

When you think of heart healthy nutrients, folic acid probably isn’t the first one that springs to mind. Its ability to reduce homocysteine in in the blood protects the blood vessels.

If you have a lot of homocysteine molecules in your body, there is a big risk that your blood vessels will become damaged and if you go on to develop atherosclerosis (a condition that affects the blood vessels), this can make you a lot more likely to have a heart attack or stroke,

Foods that are rich in folic acid can reduce this risk and parsley ticks this box too.

#3 It Can Protect Against Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis may be an autoimmune condition but some studies have suggested that you could be less likely to develop it if your diet includes the right nutrients.

Vitamin C could help with this and one study found that people who didn’t get a lot of vitamin C in their diet were more likely to develop arthritis compared to those that had diets rich in vitamin C . The study focused on polyarthritis, which affects two or more joints at the same time.

You don’t need to go overboard with how much vitamin C you get though as some studies have suggested that too much can be bad for the joints.

#4 It Could Fight Cancer

Parsley contains a number of volatile oils, some of which have been shown in studies on animals to have the potential to fight cancerous tumours.

 

 

What to Know About …. Flaxseed

What's the Deal With Flaxseed_You’ve probably noticed that flaxseed has become a really trendy health food lately. These seeds are now often added to things like bread, crackers and cakes but how does they benefit your health? Here’s what you need to know about flaxseed for good health!

A Great Source of Vitamins and Minerals

Flaxseed contains a number of nutrients that are important for health, including vitamin B1, copper, magnesium and phosphorous.

An Alternative to Gluten

If you’re coeliac or can’t tolerate gluten, flaxseed is an ideal substitute as it’s gluten free.

Heart Healthy

Flaxseed is a great source of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha linolenic acid (ALA). In fact, it’s second only to chia seeds for this.

Our bodies don’t create this essential fatty acid so we need to get it from our food instead.

Flaxseed oil is the best source of ALA but you can get a good amount from ground flax too.

Flax also contains plant compounds known as lignans. These are linked to cardiovascular health and can lower your blood pressure and improve the condition of your arteries.

Flax is high in fibre too, which may go a long way in explaining its positive effects on cholesterol.

Good for Digestive Health

The fibre content in flaxseed also helps to improve digestive health. You’re unlikely to be constipated if you’re eat flax on a regular basis!

Healthy Skin and Hair

Essential fatty acids are also good for helping your skin and hair to stay in tip-top condition.

If your skin and hair is currently dry and dull, upping your intake of fatty acids can be a game changer. Flax is a great source of these and the B vitamins.

Fighting Cancer

Studies on animals have shown that flaxseed could have a big role to play in the fight against cancer.

A 2010 study found that hens who were fed a diet containing flaxseed had big decreases in the size of late stage ovarian tumours.

The results were so impressive that the study’s researchers believe flaxseed could be used as a treatment for ovarian cancer in the future. There’s still a long way to go before that could become a reality but it shows the potential power that flax can have on our health.

As you can see, these seeds may be small in size but they pack a real punch from both a nutrition and a health perspective!

How a Plant Based Diet Can Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

plant-based-diet-arthritis

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis rely on medications to ease stiff and painful joints but these can often have unwanted side effects. What if there was a way to get some relief from arthritis symptoms by changing what you eat?

Arthritis is much less common outside of the Western world, and this is now thought to be due to the differences in diet.

Some of the foods we eat a lot of in the West increase inflammation in the body. In relatively small doses, inflammation isn’t a bad thing as it‘s part of the body’s immune response. Problems start when inflammation becomes chronic and this can contribute to a number of different health issues, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Studies have suggested that a plant based eating plan can reduce inflammation and make rheumatoid arthritis less painful and debilitating.

It’s not going to miraculously make your arthritis symptoms disappear but there seems to be some definite potential for making life easier.

Here’s what you need to know about plant based diets and their connection to rheumatoid arthritis.

The Science Behind It

Plant based diets started to gain ground back in 1999, when a key study found that participants who had followed a vegan diet for several months, followed by an “egg free lacto vegetarian” diet for 9 further months saw a big improvement in their arthritis symptoms compared to the control group – who made no changes at all to their diet during the study.

Following a plant based diet enabled study participants to have less pain and stiffness (including in the morning, when joint stiffness is often at its worst), less swelling and tenderness, and better grip control.

There was physical evidence of change too as their blood showed lower levels of C-reactive proteins (CRPs), which is closely linked to inflammation.

How was this able to happen? Experts believe that diet has a strong link to levels of inflammation in the diet, and that a plant based diet packed with fruits and vegetables can have an anti inflammatory effect. This can be beneficial for a range of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, and is also thought to be able to reduce the risk factor for developing cancer and cardiovascular disease.

What to Eat for Arthritis

A healthy, balanced diet is always a good bet but some foods are believed to have benefits for reducing inflammation and helping to improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

These include:

Fish: Eating oily fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring and trout several times per week gives you a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids. This can reduce inflammation, and help to ease arthritis symptoms such as swollen joints and stiffness, especially in the morning. To get the most out of fatty fish, it’s best to eat it boiled or baked.

Fruit and vegetables: The fibre from fruit and vegetables can reduce levels of inflammation. Dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach contain vitamin E and this has been shown in studies to have a role in protecting against inflammatory cytokine molecules. Colourful fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants.

Soy: Studies have indicated that the isoflavones in soy can help to lower C-reactive proteins in the blood. 2007 research on mice found that these also had an impact on bone inflammation.

Extra virgin olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil includes a compound called oleocanthal, which reduces inflammation in a similar way to Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). However, you’re very unlikely toeat enough to have quite the same effects so unfortunately you won’t be able to ditch your treatments off the back of eating this.

Whole grains: Whole grains have a good amount of fibre, which reduce levels of C-reactive proteins in the blood. If you’re intolerant to wheat or gluten, eating whole grains can trigger an inflammatory reaction and potentially make your symptoms worse.

What Not to Eat for Arthritis

Now you know that there is obvious potential for easing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms with a plant based diet, you’re probably wondering which foods are your best bets and which are believed to increase inflammation levels.

Some of the foods that are likely to trigger inflammation in the body include:

Fatty foods: Foods that contain a lot of fat can trigger inflammation. Fried or grilled meats that are cooked at high temperatures can increase the level of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) in the blood. Experts don’t know if there is a direct connection to arthritis but people with inflammation often have high AGEs so it’s not advisable for people with arthritis to eat many foods that promote them.

Sugar and salt: Foods that are high in sugar and salt encourage the immune system to go into overdrive and this can cause problems such as joint pain and tiredness.

Corn, safflower and soybean oils: These oils contain omega-6 fatty acids, which can trigger inflammation, especially if your diet contains more of these compared to omega-3 fatty acids.

Adding lots of anti-inflammatory foods to your diet and making sure you avoid the big triggers for inflammation has great potential for reducing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and there’s promising evidence that following a plant-based diet can relieve joint stiffness, improve mobility and decrease inflammation markers in the blood.