Mothers’ Day

Friday, March 9th, 2018

Motherhood is still the full time occupation that it always was, but with many Irish women now in employment outside the home, more women than ever before are juggling motherhood and a career. This Sunday is Mother’s Day, when we take the time to recognise and appreciate society’s most demanding, important and incredible role.

There may be excellent childcare facilities available while a woman goes out to work, but what about the rest of the day?   Children still need food on the table and clean clothes to wear, to have help with homework, and to spend time with their parents.  Children still get sick and give their parents their fair share of sleepless nights.  For a working mother, the pressure is on to deal with all of this and still arrive at work in the morning, looking smart, and in a calm and capable frame of mind.  For mothers of young children in particular, there is often an unspoken requirement to prove that it really is possible to be a reliable member of the workforce despite the demands of motherhood.

Somewhere in between juggling these two full-time occupations, the working mother still frequently shoulders the primary responsibility for managing the home, and she often has to deal with fluctuating hormone levels as well, making life even more difficult.  Having it all may be something to celebrate, but it is also extremely important that women take some time to look after themselves.  So to celebrate Mother’s Day this year, here are a few ways for women to deal with the stresses and strains of modern life, and to focus a little care and attention on themselves.



As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat”, and maintaining a good, nutritious diet is indeed one of the most important ways of staying healthy and combating the stresses and strains of dealing with a busy lifestyle.  Professional advice about nutrition can help you to plan what type of diet would best suit your health and your lifestyle, and to discover which of the many supplements that are available would be of real benefit to you.



In addition to good nutrition, exercise is another extremely important facet to maintaining good health and well-being. Many women feel they are just too busy or too tired to exercise, but women who do stay active tend to be more focused and energetic. Choose a form of exercise that you enjoy, such as dancing or yoga. A brisk daily walk also gives an opportunity to take a break from the demands of family life and clear the mind.


Herbal medicine

Where health problems do arise, herbal medicine is a natural and effective way of restoring good health.  Many women feel they are slaves to their hormones, which can cause an astonishing variety of problems including fatigue, migraines, fluid retention, bloating, breast tenderness, abdominal cramps, constipation, and recurrent vaginal thrush. For younger women, pre-menstrual mood changes can seriously interfere with quality of life, while in the case of more mature women, dealing with hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms can be equally distressing.  In these situations, herbal medicine can help to balance fluctuating hormone levels and put you back in control.


Counselling and Art Therapy

Since women often take on the primary responsibility for caring for other members of the family, it is very important that they too feel supported cared for. Many women find it difficult to talk about difficulties they are experiencing because they are worried about burdening loved ones with their problems.  Counsellors are caring professionals who are trained to listen,  to help people to understand their problems, and to find their own solutions. People are able to express difficult emotions in a supportive environment, and in complete confidence, without being criticized or judged. This can help the individual to discover the reasons for negative feelings, and to develop better ways of coping. For women who find it difficult to find the words to express how they are feeling, creating art and reflecting on the artwork with the support of a professional Art Therapist, can help to exploring feelings and work through emotional difficulties.

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Pain Relief

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Many people regularly use anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen for the relief of headaches, joint and muscle pain, inflammation, injuries, and other types of chronic pain. However, a recent study has linked the drug to a reduction in the male hormone, testosterone, even after relativey short-term use, leading to symptoms such as reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, and infertility.


A study published last year also linked the drug to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and damage to the small intestine, and previous studies have linked ibuprofen to an increased risk of stomach ulcers and reduced fertility. Therefore, it is more important than ever to find an alternative method of pain relief.


Herbal Medicine & Nutrition

Herbal medicine is a safe and effective form of treatment for reducing inflammation and pain. Most of the pharmaceutical drugs used today are based on plant constituents, which have been extracted or synthesised in a laboratory. Medical Herbalists are trained in the same diagnostic techniques as orthodox doctors but also incorporate a more traditional approach to healthcare.  This means identifying the cause of the problem rather than just treating the symptoms. Medical herbalists prescribe a blend of herbs, which are uniquely tailored to the individual, using high quality extracts at effective dosages.  You will also receive individually tailored dietary advice, about which foods to avoid, and which foods and nutritional supplements may be helpful for reducing inflammation and pain, and advice about other helpful measures.



Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely fine, pre-sterilized, disposable needles to acupuncture points on the body surface. In the hands of a fully qualified professional practitioner, the use of acupuncture is entirely safe and free of any harmful side-effects. It can be very safely combined with other therapies and with orthodox medical treatment. Acupuncture is a highly effective for relieving many types of pain (including neck, back, hip and knee pain, arthritis, injuries and fibromyalgia).


McTimony Chiropractic

Like osteopathy and other forms of chiropractic, McTimony Chiropractic helps to relieve pain due to injuries, strenuous exercise, overuse of certain joints or muscles, poor posture, or degenerative diseases such as arthritis.  However, there is no violent manipulation involved and the treatment is very safe and suitable for people of all ages, including the elderly and young children. Unlike anti-inflammatory and pain-killing drugs, which may simply mask pain, chiropractic can help to correct misalignment of the joints, which is often the underlying cause of the pain.


Remedial Massage and Sports Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy can aid relaxation, reduce stress and tension, and relieve muscle pain, which may be due to stress and tension. Sports massage therapy uses deep tissue massage techniques to improve the condition of the muscles and other soft tissues, in order to enhance athletic performance and to prevent and treat injuries. Sports massage therapy is not just for serious or professional athletes. Anyone who practices sports or other physical activities, from the occasional athlete to those engaging in physical work can benefit from sports massage

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Aussie Flu

Monday, January 1st, 2018

It is unfortunate that the timing of Christmas in the middle of winter means that many people spend their favorite holiday in bed with the flu! This winter there is a lot of media hype about so-called “Aussie flu”, which is caused by the A(H3N2) virus, and is reported to have caused a small number of deaths. However, the reality is that flu viruses always pose a risk to elderly people and others with weakened imune systems, and are responsible for an average of about 500 deaths in Ireland every year. Although it is always important to take influenza seriously, this particular virus has actually been circulating for many years, and was one of the main strains of flu circulating in Ireland last winter.


The flu virus spread by small droplets of fluid, coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person. These droplets can travel through the air for up to a meter, and infect anyone who breathes them in.  The flu virus can also be spread if an infected person touches his or her nose or mouth, and then touches someone else. Likewise, if an infected person touches a surface such as a door handle with unwashed hands, the virus may be transmitted to another person touches the same surface.


The flu virus generally starts with chills, followed by a high fever, extreme fatigue, and aches and pains. These symptoms may be accompanied by a sore throat, cough, and nausea. Most people who get a genuine flu feel very ill indeed, and are generally unable to get out of bed for several days. The symptoms usually appear two to three days after exposure to the virus, and subside after a week or so, although the cough and feeling of tiredness may persist for much longer. In elderly people, pregnant women, and individuals with lung problems or weakened immune systems, catching the flu can be much more serious due to the increased likelihood of developing complications such as pneumonia.


Unfortunately, antibiotics are not effective in the treatment of flu, since it is caused by a virus rather than by bacteria. Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu may be prescribed for people at high risk of becoming severely ill, such as elderly people or those with weakened immune systems, but they generally need to be taken within the first 48 hours after symptoms appear. They may also cause side effects, and are of no real benefit to otherwise healthy people who are unlikely to develop complications from the flu. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are widely used to reduce fever and treat the aches and pains that accompany the flu, but they tend to reduce the immune response to the virus and may therefore prolong the illness.


As usual therefore, prevention is better than cure. Wash your hands frequently with ordinary soap and water, and keep surfaces such as door handles, telephones and computer keyboards clean to help minimize exposure to the virus. Always use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and put it in the bin straight away.


There is a vaccine available, which usually helps to reduce the risk of developing flu. However, recent research has found that the flu vaccination is not anywhere near as effective as has been claimed, and that the reduction in cases of flu is more likely to be due to prior exposure to the virus during flu epidemics.


The flu vaccine is recommended for older people and those with weakened immune systems. However, elderly people often do not produce sufficient antibodies to produce immunity after vaccination, due to a weaker immune response. In recent years the flu vaccine has also been marketed towards healthy people who are at low risk of complications. However research has shown that in lower risk groups, getting the flu jab every year may actually reduce the ability of the immune system to fight off new strains of the flu virus after 2-3 years of repeated vaccination.


Fortunately however, there are many safe and effective ways to boost your immune system, to help to minimize the risk of catching the flu, and to improve vaccine efficiency in people who still wish to get their flu jab.


One of the best herbs for enhancing immune function is Echinacea. It has an excellent reputation for helping to resist infection. Astragalus is another immune tonic, which has been shown to help prevent infection, and improve the response to vaccination in elderly people and those with weakened immune systems. Elderberries contain immune boosting vitamins A, C and bioflavonoids, and a number of scientific studies have shown that elderberries are active against various different strains of the flu virus. In controlled clinical trials that compared elderberry extract with placebo in the treatment of influenza, patients taking the elderberry extract had significant improvements in their symptoms within two-three days. On average, the flu symptoms lasted about half as long in those taking elderberry extract compared with those taking the placebo.


If you are unfortunate enough to catch the flu, make sure you keep warm, get plenty of rest, and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Your local medical herbalist can provide an individually tailored blend of herbs to improve immune function, help fight the infection, and provide relief rom symptoms.

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Monday, November 13th, 2017

It is estimated that the total number of people living with diabetes in Ireland is over 225,000. 14th November is World Diabetes day, which aims to educate the public about this condition.

There are two main types of Diabetes mellitus: Type-1 Diabetes, which most commonly occurs during childhood, is an autoimmune disease that destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.  Without insulin, sugar from the bloodstream cannot be absorbed by body cells, and the excess sugar accumulates in the bloodstream, causing serious complications. Symptoms usually develop very quickly, and unless regular insulin injections are given, diabetic ketoacidosis develops which can lead to coma and death. In individuals undergoing treatment for type-1 diabetes, taking too much insulin, not eating regularly, or over-exercising may lead to hypogycaemia (low blood sugar), which can be equally dangerous.

Type-2 Diabetes, which is much more common, is a condition in which the cells do not respond to insulin. ‘Insulin resistance’ tends to develop very slowly over a number of years before the blood sugar level becomes high enough for a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes. Unlike type-1 diabetes, it rarely causes acute ketoacidosis; however, severe long-term complications can result from untreated type-2 diabetes. The main chronic complications of diabetes are caused by damage to blood vessels by elevated blood sugar.  This can lead to serious problems such as cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, blindness, erectile dysfunction and nerve damage.

Hormonal imbalances play an important role in the development of type-2 diabetes. For example, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and increased secretion of cortisol (a stress hormone) can all trigger insulin resistance. Central obesity (fat distributed mainly around the waist) is also a predisposing factor for type-2 diabetes. Type-2 diabetes most commonly occurs in older people, but in recent times it has started to affect children and adolescents, probably due to the increased prevalence of childhood obesity. Genetic factors also contribute to an individual’s risk of developing both type-1 and type-2 diabetes.

As is so often the case, prevention and early detection are the best approach to managing this disease. The main warning signs of diabetes include: Frequent urination, excessive thirst, increased hunger, a tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet, erectile dysfunction, slow-healing wounds, and frequent infections.

Type-1 diabetes must be treated with regular insulin injections. However, managing the diet also plays an important role in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and preventing complications. Type 2 diabetes can often be managed with nutrition and herbal medicine alone, however, more advanced cases may also require treatment with drugs such as metformin, or insulin to control blood sugar levels. It is also important for diabetic patients to consult a qualified podiatrist (foot care specialist), since diabetic nerve damage may cause numbness of the feet and impaired wound healing, which may lead to gangrene in severe cases.

In many cases, the risk of type-2 diabetes can be reduced with diet and exercise. Herbal medicine can also help to prevent diabetes in susceptible individuals, and help to balance blood sugar levels and prevent complications in those who have already developed the disease. Medical herbalists provide individually tailored advice about preventing and managing diabetes with nutrition, and choose specific combinations of herbs to suit the individual. For those taking orthodox medication, the herbal prescription is specifically designed not to interact with other treatments.

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The South East’s first Training Centre for Herbal Medicine students offers free consultations for patients.

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

The Lismore Herbal Medicine Student Training Clinic, the first training clinic for students of herbal medicine to be established in the South East, is offering free herbal medicine consultations for patients by herbal medicine students, under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

The student-training clinic, which provides hands-on clinical training and experience for Herbal Medicine students during their final two years of training, was set up by Marie Reilly, a practicing Medical Herbalist at the Lismore Clinic, lecturer at the Irish College of Phytotherapy (Coláiste Luibheanna) and clinical co-ordinator for the Heartwood herbal medicine professional training programme in 2011.

Two colleges in Ireland currently provide training for medical herbalists in Ireland: the Irish College of Phytotherapy (Coláiste Luibheanna), and Heartwood Herbal Medicine Training. The training clinic also welcomes students from herbal medicine courses in the UK, such as University of Westminster, and Lincoln College. Professional training for medical herbalists includes a minimum of 500 hours of Clinical Practice at an approved training clinic.

According to Marie Reilly, “In today’s society, people demand high standards of healthcare and expect their chosen therapy to be both safe and effective. It is therefore extremely important to provide the highest standards of training for medical herbalists, and hands-on clinical practice is perhaps the most important part of this”.

Many people have attended the student training clinic with all sorts of problems including headaches and migraine, recurrent infections, digestive problems such as constipation and IBS, skin problems such as eczema and acne, thyroid problems and other hormonal imbalances.

Student training at The Lismore Clinic takes place once a month on a Saturday. The next clinic will take place this Saturday, 7th October. Consultations are free of charge and are conducted by a final year herbal medicine student and observed by up to 6 other students in their final two years of training. Patients will therefore only have to pay for their medicines. This not only provides a valuable learning experience for the students, but also offers the opportunity for individuals who may not otherwise be able to afford it, to experience the benefits of herbal medicine.

The student training clinic is fully supervised by Medical Herbalist, Marie Reilly MSc, MNIMH, MIRH, DipCoun, who also runs her full-time private practice at The Lismore Clinic. Marie has been practicing as a medical herbalist in Lismore for the past 13 years, and has taught on both the BSc Herbal Sciences course at CIT and the Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Herbal Medicine at the Irish College of Phytotherapy. She has lectured at the Cork Institute of Technology Herbal Science Symposium; at Botanica 2014 (Trinity College Dublin); and at the National Institute of Medical Herbalists Annual Conference. She has also provided numerous CPD seminars on various subjects for practitioners of herbal medicine.

For further information about the student training clinic, or to make an appointment for a consultation, please contact The Lismore Clinic on 058 53200. (Please make sure to specify whether you are interested in the student training clinic or private practice).


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Solas Cancer Support Services at the Lismore Clinic

Monday, August 14th, 2017

We are delighted to announce that we are currently working in partnership with Solas Cancer Support Centre, to provide support services to people affected by cancer and their families, through the Lismore Clinic.

The Solas Cancer Support Service was established in Waterford in 1999, to provide a wide variety of support services, including counselling and relaxation therapies, to people affected by cancer and their families. Last year, Solas set up a new service for the people of West Waterford, at the Dungarvan Alternative Health Clinic, and now also provides support services to people affected by cancer and their families, through the Lismore Clinic. This allows easier access to services for people living in areas such as Lismore, Cappoquin, Araglin, Ballyduff and Tallow.

When someone contacts the Solas cancer support service for the first time, a relaxed, informal introduction meeting is arranged with the Solas Client Services Co- ordinator. This allows the individual time to reflect on their experience in a safe and confidential space.  The individual has an opportunity to explore their feelings and needs, and to consider the resources that are available through Solas, that may be therapeutic and empowering to them.

The meeting is a foundation block in nurturing a sense of safety, trust, respect and belonging within the Solas Cancer Support service, for each individual. Following the introduction meeting, appointments for the appropriate services may be arranged by the Client Services Coordinator. The support services that are available at the Lismore Clinic include Counselling, Art therapy and Craniosacral Therapy and Massage.

Counselling is a professional, therapeutic listening process offering confidentiality, understanding and empathy in a non-judgemental, respectful space. Counselling support aims to empower the individual with personal clarity and confidence to cope with their personal challenges.

Art therapy is a model of counselling which uses imagery as a medium of self-expression. Art therapy supports individuals to explore, communicate and process challenging emotions. It is particularly effective for children and adolescents experiencing distress.

Massage is a professional therapeutic ‘touch therapy’, delivered for the purpose of symptomatic stress relief. A rhythmic, systematic application of pressure by the hands of the Therapist can relieve tension from muscles, improve circulation, reduce swelling, ease discomfort and promote an enhanced sense of well-being.

All of the practitioners at the Lismore Clinic are caring individuals who are  fully qualified in their particular therapy, and have a great deal of experience working with people affected by cancer and their families. If you or someone in your family is affected by cancer, and feel that the Solas Cancer Support service may be of help, please call 051 304 604 or email: to arrange an introductory meeting.

The Solas Cancer Support Service is a charity 100% reliant on income raised through fundraising to support our services. If you are interested in organising an event for Solas, no matter how big or small it might be, please contact Ann Marie on 051 304604 or email


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Monday, August 7th, 2017

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which causes skin cells to multiply up to 10 times faster than normal. This results in raised, red spots, or larger plaques, which are usually covered with white scales. The lesions may be itchy and can crack and bleed.  August is psoriasis awareness month, which aims to provide information to the public about psoriasis, in order to help sufferers to feel less self-conscious, and to inform the public that it is not a contagious condition.

Psoriasis most commonly starts between the ages of around 10 and 25. The tendency to develop the condition is genetic, but the onset may be triggered by an infection (such as strep throat), or by emotional stress, injury to the skin, or use of certain medications, such as beta blockers, and ibuprofen. Psoriasis is exacerbated by excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity

Psoriasis most commonly affects the elbows, knees, and scalp. However, plaques can appear on any part of the body. A form of psoriasis called ‘flexural psoriasis’ causes smooth (non-scaly) inflamed areas in the skin folds, such as the underarms, groin, between the buttocks and under the breasts.

Psoriasis may be associated with discoloration and pitting of the nails, and the nails may also begin to crumble or detach from the nail bed. Furthermore, up to 30% of people with psoriasis go on to develop psoriatic arthritis, which leads to pain and swelling in the joints. People with psoriasis are also more prone to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other autoimmune conditions.

Unfortunately psoriasis is also a major cause of depression and low self-esteem. Sufferers often feel self-conscious about their appearance and cover their skin, even though psoriasis benefits from exposure to sunlight, and may become increasingly itchy if the person gets too hot.

Psoriasis is one of the most difficult conditions to treat, and there is no permanent cure, although various treatments can help to keep symptoms under control and minimize the lesions, while some patients achieve complete remission.

Orthodox treatments include steroid creams or in severe cases, immune suppressants, which are associated with serious side effects. Other treatments that are proven to be beneficial for psoriasis include dead-sea bath salts, sunlight exposure, and emollient creams to prevent dryness and cracking. Useful supplements include Vitamins A, and D, and Fish oils. Ensure your diet is rich in oily fish, vegetables and green tea, and avoid consumption of red meat, wheat (and other gluten-containing grains), alcohol and coffee. If you are overweight try to lose weight and maintain a normal BMI.

Herbal medicines that can help with psoriasis include sarsaparilla and Oregon grape to normalize immune function and treat any chronic infection, plus Gotu kola and liquorice to reduce inflammation and stress. Creams containing Aloe vera and wintergreen can reduce inflammation topically. If you are suffering from psoriasis, a visit to your local Medical Herbalist can provide a uniquely tailored blend of herbs with advice about diet and nutritional supplements to reduce symptoms.

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World Breastfeeding Week

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

This week is National Breastfeeding Week, which aims to raise awareness of the many benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child.  It is an important initiative, particularly in light of the fact that Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe: Only about 40% of new mothers in Ireland initiate breastfeeding and many give up before the child is four months old.

Breast milk is a specific food, which has been designed and perfected by nature to provide exactly the right components needed for the growth and development of human infants. Studies have repeatedly shown that breastfed babies are afforded protection against a wide range of problems, not just during infancy, but also for years afterwards, and even into adulthood.

Breastfed babies are significantly less likely to develop allergies than babies fed with formula milk, and they are also less likely to develop illnesses such as chest and ear infections and tummy bugs.  This is because at birth, a baby has no functional immune system of his own: the mother’s body makes milk especially designed to provide protection from the specific infections which both mother and baby come into contact with.

Breastfeeding significantly reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (cot death), and older children who were breastfed are less susceptible to dental caries and are less likely to need orthodontic treatments. They also have higher verbal performance and IQ scores.  During adulthood, people who were breastfed are less likely to develop obesity and diabetes.  They are also less susceptible to infection by Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes gastritis, peptic ulcer and gastric cancer.

For the mother, breastfeeding significantly reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis and breast, ovarian and cervical cancers, not to mention getting back in shape faster. Breastfeeding burns at least an extra 600 calories per day, so if you have put on extra weight during pregnancy this will help you to shift it much more easily.

Despite these numerous benefits for both mother and baby, there seems to be a perception that breastfeeding is difficult or that it can tie you down. However, it is actually far easier, cheaper, and altogether more convenient than buying formula, sterilizing bottles, and listening to a crying baby while the milk warms.

Breastfeeding means that you don’t have to plan ahead when going out: you always have exactly the right amount of milk with you, at exactly the right temperature. Even the disturbed nights are so much less difficult when you don’t have to get up to make a bottle: Just pick up the baby and hop back into bed.

Even if you are planning on going back to work, to breastfeed your baby for the first few weeks (or even just the first few days) is the greatest gift you can give, both for your baby and for yourself.  If you want to continue breastfeeding when you return to work you can give bottles of either expressed or formula milk while you’re away, and continue to breastfeed at other times. If you want to do this it is worth introducing a daily bottle of expressed milk at around four weeks, since this is the ideal time for a baby to master feeding from both breast and bottle. Of course for those women who, for a variety of reasons, cannot breastfeed or find breastfeeding extremely difficult, it is reassuring that babies can thrive on formula milk.

If you do choose to breastfeed there are a number of herbal remedies that can help.  For example, herbal ointments containing calendula or chamomile are soothing and healing for sore and cracked nipples, and are also safe for baby; and surprising relief from engorged breasts comes in the shape of a slightly bruised cabbage leaf in each cup of your bra!

Internally, Fennel tea increases the quantity of breast milk, and some of the constituents actually pass into the breast milk, helping to calm the baby’s digestion and ease colic. Nettle tea can help to produce a plentiful supply of rich, nourishing breast milk, and sage is useful for reducing the quantity of milk during weaning. Your local Medical Herbalist can provide an individually tailored blend of herbs together with advice about nutrition, to help support you and your little one on your breastfeeding journey.

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Ditch the Diet

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

After the excesses of Christmas and a long winter of stodgy foods and inactivity, many people are putting their new year’s resolutions into action and thinking about a diet overhaul. For some people, losing weight is a long-term goal, while others may be simply trying to lose a few extra pounds gained over the Christmas season. Either way, avoiding fad diets and incorporating some healthy lifestyle changes is a much more sustainable way to reach your ideal weight, and stay there.
Always eat a good breakfast…
Studies have shown that people who eat a good breakfast are less likely to be overweight.  Good choices are porridge, or wholegrain wheat and sugar free muesli or granola, mixed with a variety of seeds, topped with chopped fruit such as apples and blueberries, and served with soya, rice milk or regular milk.  It’s a delicious breakfast which is packed full of essential nutrients and keeps hunger at bay all morning.
Eating a healthy breakfast sets your metabolism at a higher level for the rest of the day so that you burn calories more efficiently and have more energy into the bargain.  It’s also a good idea to try to have your main meal at lunchtime if possible.  Don’t eat too late at night as you will have no opportunity to burn off all those calories before bed time! 
Remember your essential fats…
Obviously losing weight means avoiding fatty foods; however, it is important to consume enough of the essential fats needed for good metabolic functioning and healthy skin, nails and hair.  Eating oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, tuna and trout at least three times a week instead of red meat will help you to lose weight and ensure adequate levels of these healthy fats.  Studies have shown that people whose diet includes fish oils loose weight more easily. Many foods which are labeled ‘low fat’ are often packed full of sugar instead, so make sure you always read the label: things are not always as they seem!
Eat regular meals and healthy snacks…
The key to a healthy diet is to try to maintain your blood sugar at a steady level throughout the day.  Sugary foods such as chocolates, cakes and biscuits, (and some other carbohydrate-rich foods such as white bread) release their energy very rapidly, causing a sharp rise in blood sugar levels.  If this energy is not used up immediately by intense physical activity it is quickly removed from the bloodstream and converted to fat.  The blood sugar levels then plummet just as quickly, resulting in tiredness, headaches and further sugar cravings.  In the long term, this swinging of blood sugar levels can lead to excessive weight gain and diabetes.
Stable blood sugar levels can be maintained by eating small regular meals, and healthy snacks (such as fresh and dried fruits, nuts and seeds, and probiotic yoghurts). Skipping meals deprives the body of essential nutrients and is never a good idea.
Beware of so-called ‘sugar-free’ or ‘diet’ drinks, which contain chemical sweeteners such as aspartame.  These place a strain on the liver and can actually slow weight loss.  Green tea or diluted fresh fruit juice (such as apple juice which is very good for cleansing the liver) are much healthier alternative. It is also important to drink plenty of water to flush the system.
Don’t starve yourself…
While eating too much of the wrong foods causes the excess energy to be stored as fat, eating too little causes the body to behave as it would during a famine: lowering the metabolism to conserve energy, and leading to tiredness, poor concentration and mood swings.  The reduced rate of metabolism also leads to rapid weight gain when the diet returns to normal. If you eat plenty of good wholesome food you are much less likely to crave the wrong foods.
Avoid foods you don’t tolerate well…
Many people are intolerant to certain foods, which clog up the digestive system and cause sluggishness and weight gain. In this country, wheat intolerance is extremely common, and many people also have difficulty with dairy produce.  The only reliable way to assess food intolerance is to cut out the usual culprits, such as wheat and dairy produce, for at least 4 weeks, then reintroduce them one by one to see if a reaction occurs.  I have seen many people with a lifetime history of sluggish digestion, bloating and weight gain, which is resistant to any treatment, completely recover after excluding certain foods. Good alternatives to wheat products are spelt or gluten free bread and crackers, oatcakes and rice cakes. Alternatives to dairy milk include soya, rice milk and oat milk.
Make exercise enjoyable
Spending hours exercising when you don’t enjoy it is like punishment and this makes it very hard to keep it up.  If you hate the gym, choose activities you enjoy and can easily incorporate into your life, such as dancing or cycling. Yoga is wonderful for managing stress as well as increasing muscle tone, strength and flexibility.  If you think you are too busy to exercise, make a point of walking or cycling everywhere instead of driving.
And finally…
If you are struggling to lose weight despite changing your diet and exercising more frequently, you may have a health problem which is affecting your metabolism.  An underactive thyroid gland, hormone imbalance, intestinal dysbiosis and food intolerances can all lead to weight gain, bloating and excessive tiredness.  If you are finding it difficult to lose weight, consult a qualified practitioner of herbal medicine who will assess your diet and determine whether there are any underlying health problems which require treatment.

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Coping with the Change

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Some would say the menopause is a positive time: a transition from the stresses of building a career and raising children, to a time of wisdom and personal fulfillment.  But for many women the road is a rough one to say the least, fraught with a host of debilitating symptoms. The usual treatment for these symptoms is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).  Many women who decide to take HRT expect to take it for a few years and then discontinue treatment when the menopause is over.  However, HRT simply delays the inevitable, and most women find that when they stop taking it, their symptoms are just as bad as they were in the beginning, if not worse.

Many women are now looking for a natural alternative to HRT, due to concerns about the safety of long-term use, such as the increased risk of breast cancer and stroke. Herbal medicine is a safe and effective alternative, which has been used around the world for centuries to ease women through the menopause.

The first line of treatment is to reduce the impact of declining natural hormones. Herbs such as black cohosh contain substances which resemble oestrogen, and are very effective for reducing symptoms such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness.  Other natural substances that can mimic oestrogen in the body are the isoflavones, which are found soya products, seeds (such as in linseeds) and wholegrains.  These foods may be incorporated into the diet to reduce menopausal symptoms. However, in order for these substances to be used by the body, they must be broken down by beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. Therefore they are generally much more effective if taken with probiotics, or eaten in a fermented form, such as soya yoghurt, miso, tempeh or sourdough rye bread.

It is sometimes assumed that oestrogen-like substances in plants are associated with the same risks as HRT, but studies have shown that many of these herbs are perfectly safe, and even beneficial for women who have oestrogen-dependent conditions such as breast cancer.

The second task of herbal treatment is to address the symptoms.  The most common of these is hot flushing, which is often accompanied by sweating.  Sage dramatically reduces sweating, while hops is useful for insomnia due to night sweats. It is important to avoid foods such as caffeine, spices, and alcohol that can trigger hot flushes.

Other common menopausal symptoms include depression, anxiety, insomnia, exhaustion, poor concentration, memory loss, joint aches and low libido.  Following an in-depth consultation with a medical herbalist, several herbs are selected on the basis of each woman’s unique symptom picture, and blended in an individual prescription. Once the right combination of herbs is found for each individual, most women experience significant or even complete relief from symptoms within a few weeks.

Good nutrition is also an essential part of maintaining your wellbeing at 50 and beyond. Lower oestrogen levels after menopause are associated with increased skin ageing, thinning hair, and more seriously, an increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease; and the best way to help prevent these problems is by ensuring you are getting the right nutrients.

The most beneficial nutrients for the over 50s are probably the essential fatty acids, found in oily fish (such as mackerel, tuna, salmon, herring and trout), together with various oils such as starflower, evening primrose and flax oils. These have a very beneficial effect on the condition of the skin, hair and nails, and have been shown to increase bone density and prevent heart disease.  It is also important to eat a healthy diet which contains plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, to take plenty of exercise.

Finally, many women are also trying to cope with children or teenagers, while juggling a career and taking care of the home during this difficult time. They may also be struggling to come to terms the loss of their youth, or with adult children leaving home. Stress and anxiety have a very negative impact on the balance of hormones, especially after menopause. This is because the adrenal glands (which take over the task of producing oestrogen when the ovaries shut down) are primarily responsible for secreting the hormones that help us to cope with stress. Other therapies that can help with these problems, such as Aromatherapy massage, counselling or art therapy, may also be very useful to ease women through the menopause, and make all the difference during this challenging time.

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