Five essential well-being tips for a happy and healthy holiday

You’ve planned for that long-awaited holiday and now it’s time to pack those cases. However, if you want to have the happiest and healthiest of holidays, then there are a few extra things you can do to make sure this happens.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top tips for a healthy holiday.

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BEFORE YOU GO:

PREPARE YOUR TUMMY

Wherever you’re travelling to in the world, even if it’s not too far away, you’ll still be out of your normal eating routine, plus you may be visiting countries where people are generally more prone to tummy troubles.

Close up on woman's stomach with hands making a heart shape to show a healthy tummy

The best advice is to take a course of probiotics at least a couple of weeks before you leave. Readily available in health food stores, probiotics are the friendly bacteria that keep your digestive system running smoothly, but also protect it from unwanted infections and tummy bugs. Look for a probiotic supplement that contains the strains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.

It’s also good to eat plenty of natural yoghurt before you go on holiday, as well as during your stay. And don’t forget to pack the probiotics too, so even if you don’t have time to start a course before you go away, you can take them throughout your holiday.

PREPARE YOUR SKIN

We all want to have glowing skin, particularly whilst on holiday but certainly when we come back. For a couple of weeks before you go, use coconut oil as a moisturiser; it’s one of the best. Skin can become very dry on holiday and using coconut oil means your skin will be super-soft and really well moisturised. Keep up the regime when you return and hopefully you’ll not suffer from any post-holiday flakiness.

Prepare your skin from the inside too by eating foods rich in beta-carotene before you go. That means lots of orange and red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and red and orange peppers. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant which will help protect your skin against sun damage. You’ll still need to wear sun cream, but it can help prevent any unwanted burning. And of course include them as much as you can in your diet whilst you are away.

PACK SOME ALOE VERA

Aloe vera was said to be the ‘Elixir of life’ by Cleopatra. As with so many of these ancient remedies, they deliver a wealth of health benefits, and aloe vera is no exception. Its benefits for the digestive system are well-documented, and it’s also great for the skin.

You can readily buy aloe vera in gel form; it’s a holiday essential as it will soothe any sunburn or irritated skin and also calm other skin complaints that may flare up whilst you’re away. And don’t just save it for your holiday; keep it in your medicine cabinet all-year round! It can also help soothe tired and aching joints and muscles.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE:

USE YOUR TIME WISELY

When on holiday, hopefully you’ll have some free time to just be in your own head space. You can really use this time to great effect by either learning something new (TED talks are great for easy listening and learning) or maybe even practice meditation.

As with anything, meditation does take some time to properly learn and many people give up along the way because they struggle to clear the mind or can’t feel the benefits. However, it’s worth persevering because meditation can really help to relieve stress and anxiety, and many practisers report feelings of inner calm and peace. You need a place of peace and quiet to meditate so try to plan this for a short time every day during your holiday.

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

It may sound an obvious one but of all the things you should do before and during your holiday making sure you’re properly hydrated is key. It’s easy to forget how dehydrating the combination of alcohol and sun can be.

A couple of weeks before you leave for your hols, really increase your liquid intake. Always start the day with some warm water with lemon and ginger which helps cleanse the liver and alkalise the body. You can carry on drinking this throughout the day or if you prefer iced water then add some refreshing and inner-cleansing cucumber. Try to drink eight glasses of water each day. The body needs to be hydrated at a cellular level to function well, so preparation is key.

Close up of woman on beach with a glass of water to represent hydration

Whilst you’re away, it’s important to drink as much water as you can but obviously be mindful of drinking tap water. It’s always best to drink bottled or boiled water wherever you are in the world; parasites can be present in the water in many European countries as well as far-flung ones.

So with these five key tips, you should have a wonderfully healthy holiday – enjoy!

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Five immune-boosting nutrients to get you ready for the cold season

With the winter months fast approaching, the season for bugs looms large. Thankfully nature has provided us with a wealth of nutrients to help fend off colds and flu. Whilst vitamin C and the mineral zinc are well-known as great immune-boosters there are 5 other key nutrients which are essential to keep you fighting fit this winter.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares these five top immune-boosting nutrients!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

VITAMIN D

Vitamin D tends to be associated with healthy bones and teeth, but it is also a key player in the health of the immune system.  Vitamin D is fondly known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin because it’s primarily made on the skin in the presence of sunlight. So during the winter months, people living in the Northern Hemisphere, including the UK, are likely to be deficient.  This is the very reason that Public Health England recommend supplementation of Vitamin D for everyone, particularly during the winter.

So how does it work?  It would seem that vitamin D activates a key part of the immune system – the killer T-cells – that detect unwanted viruses and bacteria.  T-cells rely on vitamin D in order to activate, otherwise they would remain dormant.

As well as taking a supplement of vitamin D this winter, eat plenty of oily fish, particularly those containing small bones such as sardines, pilchards and mackerel.  However whilst they provide some vitamin D, they may not be sufficient to keep your immune system in tip-top shape all winter-long so supplementation is recommended.

FRIENDLY BACTERIA

You may be surprised to know that your gut is home to 70% of your immune system.  It’s actually the body’s largest protective barrier between you and the outside world, and these defences come in the form of beneficial, friendly bacteria or probiotics.

One of the most prevalent strains of friendly bacteria is lactobacillus acidophilus, which is often found in yoghurt with active cultures. Probiotics need feeding to be as efficient as possible. Foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, lentils, oats and bananas will all feed these good guys and boost your immune system at the same time. You can also try a good quality probiotic supplement.

VITAMIN B6

Women in particular may associate vitamin B6 with supporting good hormone balance, but it also plays an important role in the immune system.  Vitamin B6 helps to increase antibody reactions which fight infections, and also stimulates the production of T-cells.

 

The good news is that vitamin B6 is rarely deficient in the diet.  However, increasing intake is going to have a positive effect on the immune system.  Avocados (great on toast for breakfast), bananas (an excellent afternoon snack), salmon (also packed with health-giving omega-3 fats), and foods containing wholegrain flour (such as whole wheat bread) provide excellent amounts of vitamin B6.

BETA-CAROTENE (Vitamin A)

Beta-carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body when needed, which is essential for the health of the immune system as well as vision and cell integrity.

Vitamin A itself is mainly available in animal produce such as meat, liver, eggs, butter and cheese, so vegetarian and vegans may be lacking. However, beta-carotene is widely available in lots of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables including carrots, butternut squash, broccoli, kale and cantaloupe melon.

Beta carotene is converted into vitamin A when needed but it does require sufficient protein, zinc and vitamin C to do so.  A diet rich in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, plus adequate protein either from animal or vegetable sources, together with some nuts and seeds will ensure beta-carotene can carry out its work most effectively.

VITAMIN E

As with a number of other nutrients, vitamin E improves B-cell and T-cell function (both key parts of the immune system). It also protects white blood cells from damage.  However, just like many other nutrients, vitamin E doesn’t work in isolation; it works hand-in-hand with selenium.

Luckily wheat germ and whole wheat flour both contain good amounts of these two nutrients so try to include these in your diet. Avocados, sunflower seeds and oils are all great sources of vitamin E.

As we know, when it comes to nutrients, nothing works in isolation in nature. Therefore eating a colourful ‘rainbow’ coloured diet every day is going to go a long way to keeping the bugs at bay this winter.

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Supercharge your health with fermented foods

Fermented foods are certainly in vogue right now. Unlike many other food fads, fermented foods are actually the real deal.  And now they’re becoming part of many people’s diets and featuring on trendy restaurant menus.  However, many people are unsure just what they are, how to eat them and what health benefits they provide.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer provides her ‘go-to’ guide to fermented foods.

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WHAT IS FERMENTATION? THE BASICS

The process of fermenting food has been around for many thousands of years. Fermented food is the mainstay of Japanese cuisine and is thought to be one of the reasons for their well-balanced hormone health.

To better understand the benefits of fermented food we need to look at how our gastrointestinal systems work. The digestive system is packed with billions of bacteria (mainly good) that are incredibly beneficial to health.  They help to keep the digestive system running in smooth working order, boost the immune system, detoxify the body, help manage the body’s natural inflammatory response, balance hormones and protect the body from serious degenerative diseases.

The process of fermentation encourages the production of these beneficial bacteria; it allows the natural sugars and salts within the foods, (together with the added salts that are part of most fermentation processes), to create the good bacteria. Put simply, the more fermented foods we consume, the more beneficial bacteria we have!   Live natural yoghurt is one great example of a fermented food. Fermentation also helps to preserve foods over a longer period of time.

TOP THREE FERMENTED FOODS

There are many fermented food options available but to get you started, here are three of my favourites.

KEFIR

Bang on trend right now is kefir.  It’s a fermented milk product made from either sheep’s, cow’s or goat’s milk.  It provides wonderful benefits for the digestive system, particularly helping to ease bloating and symptoms of IBS.  It’s also great for the immune system because it contains a high percentage of probiotics or beneficial bacteria.  Plus, kefir is high in some of the B vitamins to provide great energy as well as vitamin K2 which supports the bones and heart.

It’s naturally quite sour so is best combined with fruits or yoghurt, or can be used in any recipe as an alternative to buttermilk.

You can even make your own fermented coconut kefir!  Use kefir grains mixed with some coconut milk in a jar.  Store in a warm place, covered with a cloth for 24 hours and the mixture will naturally ferment to produce a more palatable and healthy milk.  It can then be used on cereal or in pancakes for a delicious, healthy start to the day!

SAUERKRAUT

Probably one of the most popular fermented foods, sauerkraut has been eaten for hundreds of years throughout Central Europe.  It’s very simply made from chopped cabbage that’s fermented in salt.  However, as with fermented dairy products such as yoghurt and kefir, fermenting cabbage takes its nutritional benefits to another level!

Probiotic foods, including sauerkraut, deliver huge benefits to the digestive system. Additionally, more B vitamins are naturally produced as well as beneficial enzymes, which are used for many essential body processes.

It’s actually very easy to make at home; simply chop one head of white or red cabbage into small shreds. Add some salt and pack tightly into a jar with a tightly fitting lid.  This needs to be left for about a week in a warm place and you’ve then created your very own superfood!

MISO

Another very fashionable ingredient right now, miso is a traditional Japanese ingredient that is produced by fermenting soy, usually with salt, which makes a brown paste.

Miso is often used by women struggling with menopausal symptoms and people suffering from other hormonal complaints. Soy naturally contains phytoestrogens – plant foods that have an oestrogen-like activity and a hormone-balancing effect on the body. Phytoestrogens became of interest to scientists when they realised that women in certain traditional cultures in Japan that were eating a diet high in soy and other phytoestrogenic foods, had fewer menopausal symptoms than Western women.  It seems that these foods can really help combat the effects of the peri-menopause and the menopause.

One of the most common ways of eating miso is in a soup and there are a number available in supermarkets or health food stores.  Alternatively, to make your own, you simply need to mix some tofu, nori (a type of seaweed) and onions with water and miso.  That’s it! The main point to remember is to simmer miso as boiling it can reduce its health benefits.

So try adding some fermented foods to your diet this season and give your health an extra boost!

 

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Smooth summer digestion: top tips for a healthy tummy

The combination of longer summer days and holiday plans means barbecues, outdoor eating and socialising with family and friends. But occasional over-indulgence, travelling to different countries and the potential for poorly cooked barbecue food can cause digestive upsets

 Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer provides some top tips to keep your digestion running smoothly all summer long.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

GOOD FLORAL BALANCE

The gastrointestinal tract is home to vast numbers of bacteria, commonly referred to as friendly flora; there are over 500 different types weighing anything up to two kilos in the gut.  Some are good and some not-so-good but there needs to be more good than bad.

The gut flora fulfill many functions but primarily protect the gut from menacing invaders, particularly those that cause food poisoning.  It is therefore a really good idea to take a course of probiotic supplements for a month or two each year, or for longer if you have recently taken antibiotics.

Additionally try adding foods to your diet that help replenish the good bacteria. Asparagus, (great on the barbecue), Jerusalem artichokes, onions, bananas, green tea and fermented foods such as tofu and miso are great, as well as sheep’s or goat’s milk yoghurts.

COMBAT OVER-INDULGENCE

Summer parties and barbecues are ideal opportunities to over-indulge!  However, with a little forward planning, you can wake up feeling as fresh as a daisy the next day. Your liver is the main organ of detoxification and has to work hard if too much fatty food or alcohol is consumed.

However, the herb Milk Thistle is particularly protective of the liver and helps to combat that ‘morning after the night before’ feeling.  Take one or two before you go out either at lunchtime or in the evening.

BEAT THE BLOAT

Many of us will suffer with uncomfortable bloating at times, which is often accompanied by flatulence.  There can be many reasons for bloating; too much sugary or fatty food, poor gut flora, food intolerance or low stomach acid and digestive enzyme production, to name just a few.

Globe artichoke, which can be taken in supplement form, is very effective at relieving painful bloating.  Additionally, sipping ginger tea also helps to expel trapped wind which can often be the cause of discomfort.  Equally, it’s worth writing a food diary to see if there’s a pattern forming after you have eaten certain foods.

SAY ‘NO’ TO DELHI BELLY

You don’t need to go all the way to India to get sickness and diarrhoea on holiday.  There are many countries in the world where poor water and hygiene are commonplace.  Avoid drinking tap water, and only add ice to your drinks if it’s made from bottled water. In some countries it is advisable to also clean your teeth with bottled water. You may also want to avoid eating salad that has been washed in tap water.

However, the body is more susceptible to infection if the gut flora is not up-to scratch – another good reason to take a course of probiotics, particularly in the two weeks leading up to foreign travel.  Whilst not completely infallible it will certainly provide greater protection and hopefully you’ll enjoy a relaxing, illness-free holiday.

So, embrace the barbeques and foreign food and with these top tips hopefully you can enjoy the summer without any unpleasant side effects!

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit Herbfacts