An excessive level of sugar in your diet is the leading cause of wrinkles, sagging skin and a loss of skin radiance. ‘Sugar hastens the degradation of elastin and collagen, both key skin proteins,’ according to Dr Fredric Brandt, a leading American dermatologist. Wow! I hope you’re not tucking into a sugar fix while you are reading this!
In the 1990’s scientists established the link between premature skin ageing and eating excessive amounts of sugar. Sugar molecules attach themselves to collagen and elastin in a process called glycation. This causes the protein molecules in your skin to become stiff and makes it difficult for skin cells to repair. They form advanced glycation end products called ‘AGEs’ and skin tissue then loses its plump elasticity and youthfulness. This is further aggravated by sun damage or cigarette smoking.
When the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated in 2011 that each Australian consumes 43.4kg sugar each year, compared to the world average of 21kg sugar each year it became obvious that Australian skins are probably ageing faster than the rest of the world!
Physically active people in their twenties and thirties have a better chance of ‘burning off’ the harmful effects of glycation than those of sedentary people over 40 years of age and this also links to the rise of type II diabetes as people age and become less active.
Detox diets, where sugar is eliminated usually results in better energy levels and improved skin tone as high levels of sugar create fatigue and decrease skin repair. Our dietary dilemma is compounded by the fact that all carbohydrates, whether from sugar, fruit, vegetables, cereal grains, nuts, seeds, pulses or alcohol convert to sugars in our digestive systems.
The best way to control sugars and their effect on skin ageing is to focus on avoiding refined sugar and carbohydrate products and concentrate on slowing digesting complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, wholegrains, raw nuts and seeds and fruit.
Sadly sugars are hidden in a huge variety of foods – breakfast cereals, white bread, flavoured yoghurt, tomato sauce, sports drinks and muesli bars, to name a few. Cooking at high temperatures, baking, grilling or caramelising sugars stimulates a higher production of AGEs.
Cosmetic manufacturers producing anti-ageing skin creams focus on chemicals which slow down or disrupt glycation at the skin’s surface. There are nutritional aids which can also dramatically slow skin ageing if combined with a dramatic reduction in sugar intake. Green tea, pomegranates, Vitamin C and Vitamin A rich foods, Coenzyme Q10, cold pressed oils and Evening Primrose Oil all help as antioxidants to revive and repair skin tissue.
Dr Brandt has also advocated that ‘If you ditch sugar, you will look ten years younger’, it certainly sounds like a better option than a face lift!
There appears to be a massive increase in anxiety states, stress, nervous tension and depression in recent years. How can it be that so many people require prescription medication for anxiety and depression? Are we more aware of symptoms and are prepared to seek medical help or are environmental, relationship, work or social media pressures excessively aggravating these symptoms?
In today’s world our brains are constantly being bombarded with information or entertainment. We seem to have lost the are of sitting quietly and enjoying our surroundings or letting our minds calm and drift. We’re either checking our phones/sending texts, using a computer or tablet or listening to music. Are we guilty of over-stimulating our nervous systems? Do we really need to ‘tweet’ everyone when we’re going grocery shopping or whatever?
Our creative brain thrives on quiet contemplation and our imagination is best stimulated this way. Young children need periods of time where quiet play, making up stories, building craft projects or playing and exploring outdoors; this enables them to be happy, and relaxed without being entertained. Evidence is also now surfacing that the attention span of many school age children is decreasing as a direct consequence of television and computer stimulation.
Many studies have shown the benefits of quietening anxiety states and strengthening depleted adrenal levels through meditation. Meditation reduces stress and blood pressure levels, it stimulates the immune system and cancer recovery, improves digestion and sleep quality and it helps to repair the nervous system. Only a small percentage of the population meditates regularly, and few experience a quiet environment.
Controlling anxiety, where stress hormones (mainly adrenaline) are overstimulating the sympathetic nervous system, is possible using natural methods. When panic or shortness or breath occurs, try to concentrate only on breathing deeply, find a quiet place to sit and think only of breathing.
Learn to meditate as part of a yoga course or from many available courses in Perth. Try to reduce or eliminate the anxiety triggers. Increase your magnesium intake and drink lemon balm or chamomile to calm racing thoughts, butterfly tremors and nervous stomachs.
Many herbs are also beneficial – Passionflower, Lavender, Magnolia, Ziziphus, Bacopa, St John’s Wort, Hops and Skullcap are traditionally used as tonic herbs to strengthen the nervous system and reduce anxiety symptoms. Herbalists and naturopaths combine these herbs in tonics to suit each individual case.
Always seek professional help if anxiety symptoms are severe, as anxiety can severely impact on your happiness and wellness.
Lemons are now in season and in plentiful supply so many people are enjoying warm lemon and honey drinks to ward off coughs and colds or using lemon juice in their recipes. It may surprise you to know that the outer thin yellow rind of the lemon (or zest) is far more nutritious than lemon juice itself as it contains five to ten times more nutrients. It is a powerhouse of Vitamin C and antioxidants, with immune-boosting, liver toning, fat burning and cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Whilst the intense flavour and aroma of lemon zest have made it a popular food additive by professional and home chefs, the health value of lemon zest makes it an outstanding secret ingredient that should be better utilised rather than discarded.
Lemon zest contains an important essential oil, d.limonene, along with Vitamin C, flavanoids, more than forty different flavone glycosides, citric acid and pectin. One of the flavone compounds (PMF) has shown the potential to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol as well as total cholesterol and it assists the body in breaking down body fat.
The essential oil d.limonene helps to detoxify the liver and assist it in breaking down saturated fats, preservatives and chemicals. In clinical trials, d.limonene has shown promising anti-cancer activity as it protects cell walls from being damaged.
Immune-boosting nutrients are invaluable during winter and lemon zest has the power to help our immune systems fight viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Instead of just juicing lemons and mixing with honey, try grating the zest of one lemon into the mixture or thinly peel one lemon, pour boiling water onto the lemon rind and make lemon tea, adding some honey to taste. Of course it is essential to wash the lemon first to eliminate any surface impurities.
Another way to include the benefits of lemons in season is to wash them well and freeze them. Grate the whole frozen lemon onto any foods ranging from soups and salads to casseroles, chicken or fish dishes; this way you’re certainly value-adding nutrition as well as flavour for your family and friends. In Mediterranean dishes, a combination of grated lemon zest, garlic and chopped parsley - called gremolata - is sprinkled over meat, fish or poultry and this is a great idea for boosting winter immunity.
Very fine grating tools for removing just the lemon zest are available from kitchen shops. This will help you gain maximum taste and nutritional benefits without the bitter white pith. Enjoy using this amazing ingredient and feel good about serving tasty food with a nutritional upgrade.
Shock tactics work with health issues. I believe that the new ‘Live Lighter’ health campaign being run by the W.A. Heart Foundation and the Cancer Council of W.A. is a very beneficial program helping West Australians improve their health, longevity and dramatically reduce their risk of disease. The three major fatal diseases in Australia are heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Deep ‘visceral fat’ carried around our waist is a very reliable early warning signal for disease risk, and ugly, reinforcing pictures of this may bring us to our senses.
Preventative health measures cost dramatically less than crisis management so the Western Australian Government’s ‘Live Lighter’ campaign is a very smart investment. The frightening images on cigarette packaging and the ‘Stop Smoking’ program created by Professor David Hill have been highly successful and with the same man at the helm of this campaign, it surely has a good chance of succeeding.
We live in a world where most of us are very careful about upsetting or embarrassing our friends and family – especially with overweight or obesity issues, so we mainly tiptoe around the subject. However, if our loved ones have a visible, major health problem such as heart irregularities, breathlessness, regularly fainting or any chronic body pain, we would talk about it and take action very swiftly to sort out the problem. Maybe this is our opportunity to speak up and start following the excellent recommendations of this campaign.
How easy is it to try a simple test by grabbing your waist! I hope by now everyone has at least identified whether they need to take action. The amazing thing to me after working with patients for more than thirty years is that without fail, everyone who achieves a noticeable fat loss says that their energy is so much better and they can do so much more physically and mentally that they wish they had tackled the problem earlier!
The saddest fact is that when patients have been given a shock medical diagnosis of cancer, heart disease or diabetes, they instantly totally overhaul their eating program and stick to it very diligently. Fortunately this does make a significant contribution for many in regaining their health but early intervention is a far better plan. Type 11 diabetes is one area where a change in diet and exercise can often exit a patient out of that disease state altogether if it is diagnosed sufficiently early enough.
Rather than hide a ‘grabbable gut’ under a layer of winter woollies, start making simple steps to reduce it by increasing your exercise, decreasing your meal portion sizes and enjoying plenty of healthful low-carbohydrate vegetables daily. Grab this opportunity!
Inflammation is a natural body response to injury, trauma, stress or aggravation of weakened tissues as is the case with osteo arthritis. Swelling, heat and pain are very uncomfortable responses to inflammation and it is essential to reduce these so that our body’s healing responses can be activated.
Arnica ointment is very effective in reducing pain, swelling and inflammation for injury trauma caused by sprains, bruises, accidents and injuries and it is a very handy first aid cream for athletes and active children. Remember also to apply ice packs to injuries during the first forty-eight hours and elevate injured areas where possible.
There has been a significant focus on natural remedies which have anti-inflammatory properties since many anti-inflammatory drugs have been discontinued. Fish oil has been the most popularised, however it is essential to use high doses between 8,000mg and 12,000mg to be effective. The advent of better-tasting, low reflux liquid forms requiring a dosage of two teaspoons daily to contain 12,000mg is a much preferred option to taking capsules.
Plant enzymes such as papain, protease and bromelain possess potent anti-inflammatory properties. Similarly rosemary, hops and olive leaf extracts are powerful alleviators of pain and inflammation.
Boswellia is an exceptionally useful herb and recent double-blind trials have shown that this herb, when used therapeutically, is as powerful in its action as a strong anti-inflammatory drug, with the added bonus of being very soothing and calming on the digestive tract. One of its traditional uses has been for the treatment of ulcerative digestive disorders, so it certainly suits touchy tummies.
Turmeric has a long traditional use as an anti-inflammatory herb and it has been an integral ingredient in Indian diets. This could account for the low incidence of arthritic sufferers in Indian cultures. It is such an inexpensive and readily available herb that it’s worthwhile including in casseroles and soup during winter, especially for arthritis sufferers.
Bioflavonoid herbs contain the alkaline part of Vitamin C compounds and are also beneficial anti-inflammatory agents. Rosehips, celery juice, celery seed, bearberry, ginger and cat’s claw fall into this group and are readily available to alleviate stiff, painful joints during winter.
Gentle mobilisation of injured or arthritic joints once inflammation has subsided is necessary to regain normal function so rehabilitation is necessary. Massage, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, Pilates, yoga or tai chi will encourage the return of tissue elasticity and prevent frozen or stiff joints.
Regular gentle exercise, particularly walking for thirty minutes, six times weekly still remains the gold standard for keeping joints and muscles strong so that the risk of injury, weakness and inflammation is reduced to a minimum.