Beat Chronic Stress and Live Longer

Stress is a killer. There is no question about that. But stress is like a cigarette. The damage it does is slow and cumulative. You probably don’t realise the harm it’s doing until there is a health crisis and you find yourself asking “Why me?”

Don’t live with regret about the things you could have changed.

Stress, and the body’s response to it, is a natural and helpful process. It is a survival strategy. The problem is that it only evolved to deal with short-term stress, like escaping from a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, our bodies respond to our imaginary worlds as if they were real and so you can create a stress response just by thinking about something that scares you.

Most of us are incredibly skilled at imagining the worst outcomes for things that haven’t happened yet. We are also incredibly good at creating a whole host of troubling scenarios as we try to control a future problem. We have this crazy idea that if we worry about something enough then that will enable us to cope. It’s not true. We cope better when our reaction is spontaneous.

Because the body was never designed to deal with long-term stress, and because the body’s stress response was only ever for dealing with real, rather than imagined, threats, the body has no way of dealing with chronic stress.

Chronic stress creates negative health consequences. It has a negative impact on your immune system, it can indirectly affect your cardiovascular health, and there is now direct evidence that stress can shorten your life by around 8 years.

Stress & Immune System Responses

Stress wears away at your immune system. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, and Ronald Glaser, PhD, noticed that the immunity of medical students was lowered during their three day exam period each year. They had fewer natural killer cells, and produced less gamma-interferon – which boosts immunity. So if you suffer from frequent minor illnesses – like colds – then that’s a good sign that you are not dealing effectively with the stresses in your life.

Another study by Richard Davidson (University of Wisconsin) clearly linked negative thoughts to lowered antibody levels and positive thoughts to increased immune system activity. This is clear evidence that your mind, and what you think, has a direct impact on your health.

Stress & Heart Health

There is no direct link between stress and hypertension, or stress and heart health generally, but there is an indirect link. When we are stressed, we tend to overeat; we fail to exercise sufficiently – simply because there’s so much to do and so little time to do it; and we can find ourselves drinking more alcohol than we know is sensible. All of these things do push blood pressure up and they also have a negative impact on heart health.

If heart disease is already present, then sudden severe stress can trigger a heart attack. The associated sudden rise in blood pressure can also cause a stroke.

Stress & DNA

Another study by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser et al looked at the impact of stress on the ends of DNA strands. Chromosome ends are protected by telomeres. As we get older these protective covers wear and get shorter. The length of an individual’s telomeres are linked to how long they live. In this study it was discovered that chronic stress causes wear and tear on the telomeres – thus shortening life. Those who participated in the study were caregivers for parents with Alzheimer’s. An earlier study reported a similar life-shortening impact on mothers of chronically ill children.

It seems that chronic stress will knock 4-8 years off your life.

How to live longer

Stress is really about your mind and what you do with it. It might seem, at times, that it’s all about the pressures of earning a living and paying bills; or about the pressure that other people – like managers and family members – place on you. It might even seem to be about you never being quite good enough and spending your life trying to prove that you are. So you push yourself constantly to do better, all the while repeating that mantra It’s not good enough – a mantra that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The solution is simple, just not easy. But then nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Without at least a little challenge we tend to undervalue the results. When we put a little effort in to learn a new skill we feel good about ourselves and value our accomplishment.

What you have to do is learn how to take control of your mind and learn to let go of those things that do not serve you.

If you are willing to put the effort in to learn that new, life-enhancing, skill, then first of all download my free book Freedom by filling in your details on the right – just underneath the book cover. If you like my style, then invest in a copy of Change Your Life with Self Hypnosis. This is available in Kindle or paperback from Amazon, or from iBooks if you like to read on your iDevice.

Change Your Life with Self Hypnosis is filled with tips, strategies and techniques to deal with the stresses in your life. It takes you, step by step, through the process of retraining your thought patterns and how to use your mind to ease the stresses in your life that are caused by anything from a relationship that isn’t working to dealing with challenges in the work place.

If you prefer to listen than to read then check out the guided visualisations on my download page. The chakra meditation is highly recommended.


If you have any questions about dealing with stress then leave a comment below.


Is There Anything Left To Eat?

I was watching a programme on BBCtv last night. It was an Horizon programme presented by Michael Mosley. Last night he was exploring the health issues surround the meat we eat.

You have probably heard that red meat (beef, pork, lamb) is bad for you and that white meat (poultry) is good for you. Well Michael Mosley decided to find out if there was any truth to this. One of the things he did, apart from talking to a lot of scientists, was to roughly double his red meat intake to around 130gm (about 4oz) per day. Though I have to admit that some of the meals he was filmed eating looked more like 8oz burgers so I suspect the 4oz limit was not strictly adhered to.

There was a fair bit of sciency talk about why they think red meat might be bad. Some experts thought it was bad, some thought it was good, but what they were universally agreed on was that processed red meat is really bad for you and is highly implicated as a cause of colon/rectal cancer. Processed red meat is sausages, bacon, and ham. Which, unfortunately, are my three favourite red meats. So that was really bad news.

Just a few weeks ago I went up to Scotland with my daughter and her fiancé to stay with them for a holiday. We set off around five in the morning and the first stop was a motorway service station where we enjoyed a delicious bacon roll along, with a cup of coffee, outside in the fresh air at around 7 in the morning, watching the world go by. And although I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday, that bit of the journey sticks in my mind as particularly pleasurable. The trouble with bacon is that it’s delicious. The trouble with ham is that it makes sandwich making truly easy.

Back in the normal everyday world, according to the statistician they brought in to make sense of the numbers, it seems that eating two rashers of bacon a day will knock two years off your life. But those numbers didn’t actually make sense to me because all the real scientists were saying that regular consumption of processed meat shortens your life by 20%. Now when I was at school 20% of 80 years (rough life expectancy) was a lot more than 2 years. It’s a lot closer to 15 years so I’m not quite sure what that means other than you die sooner than you would have if you eat bacon, sausages, and ham on a regular basis.

It seems that unprocessed red meat, and that seems to include mince, has no ill-effect if you eat less than 60gms (2oz) per day. 2oz doesn’t seem like very much to me, so maybe you could be a vegetarian for half the week and eat 4oz of meat on alternate days.  Or maybe eat poultry on your non-red meat days.

Anyway, after the end of the 30 day experiment of eating lots more meat than he normally does what happened to Michael Mosley’s health. I wasn’t taking notes so these figures are from memory. Well, his cholesterol had gone up by 0.2 which apparently is a lot. His weight went up around 8lbs, and he’s a slim guy. But the most worrying was that his blood pressure shot up from a wonderfully healthy 118 to over 140. I can’t remember the diastolic figures but there was a small but significant increase there too.

So what’s the message here?

Very occasional, if any, consumption of processed meats seems to be necessary for good health. Daily consumption of less than 2oz of red meat seems to be ok as long as you also consume a good variety of fresh vegetables as well. What surprised me most was the blood pressure and weight increase. It certainly seems as if cutting out on processed meats and reducing consumption of red meats not only improves your general health and well being, it also helps you lose weight and live longer.

Alternative health self-help

If the Mind Creates Illness, How Can We Use It To Create Wellness?

Let us assume, just for now, that the Body is the expression of the Mind. What I mean by this is that you need to pretend that your body reflects back to you what is going on in your mind. So, if there is an ache in your body then we must assume there is an ache in your mind. If there is a pain in your body then there is a pain in your mind. If there is irritation on your skin then there is irritation in your mind.

You get the idea.

Of course, you will be way ahead of me by now, looking within your own BodyMInd for those connections past and present to discover if what I say is true – but remember I said to pretend, just for now.

Naturally in your thoughts about this it will be obvious that serious disease processes in the body cannot escape from this allusion. So you would also have to pretend that problems like cancer, diabetes, asthma… all fall into this category. And then we step into that minefield of babies who are born sick, or develop life-threatening or debilitating diseases while they are very young. Then what about genetic problems like cystic fibrosis?

It gets very complicated very quickly.

Then there is another aspect too.

If your body’s ill-health is a reflection of your state of mind, then surely that means that all disease is self-inflicted?

Well that would be a yes too.

But there is a world of difference between deliberately causing something to be, with full awareness of the consequences, and innocently causing something to happen because you had no awareness of  the negative consequences 20 years later. No one in the process of dying from lung cancer would ever have lit up a cigarette 40 years earlier had they been fully aware of the anguish and agony they and their loved ones would eventually have to endure.

So yes, there are problems with this assumption, but let’s just keep it simple for now and pretend the assumption is true for minor illnesses and that it isn’t true for children at all.

Give yourself a quick body scan.

Is there any discomfort, irritation, ache, pain, anywhere in your body? If there isn’t then do this when there is.

Get a good sense of that area of your body. Feel into the discomfort fully. Move your mind, as best you can, into the space the discomfort occupies. Feel its boundaries and limitations. Then allow your mind to wander and feel your way to what these sensations remind you of. Say, for example, you have an itch – a skin irritation – who or what in your world causes you to prickle inside? Who do you want to scratch when you interact with them? Who makes you see red.

If you have a painful knee, then think about what it prevents you from doing that you don’t like.

Look for the connections between your discomfort and your world. See the similarities.

Remember we are pretending. This is just a game of the imagination to see if you can see connections and similarities. Don’t forget also to let your mind drift back into the past. Sometimes these things take a while to germinate. Have fun with this and don’t take it too seriously.

See what you come up with, maybe keep a notebook on you. One of the interesting things that happens with this game is that you may not be aware of a connection while you are deliberately looking for one, but that connection can pop into your mind at any time. A notebook is a handy way to make sure you don’t forget those fleeting connections.

Just collect the connections – no matter how crazy they may seem. Once you have a dozen or so, ponder on your records and see if you think this was just an interesting game or a new reality you have just entered.

If you would like to get a little deeper into this exploration and learn some techniques to actually change your body’s responses then check out my book Change Your Life with Self Hypnosis. In these pages I go into much more detail on this subject. In fact a large section of this book is dedicated to exploring the possibilities for using the Mind to Heal the Body.


Fever Is Good For You

Well, up to a point, fever is good for you.

I remember, when I was a young parent, that babies seemed to get feverish several times a year. The wisdom, from our GP, was to use Calpol (liquid paracetamol) to bring the fever down. The subliminal message was that fever was bad and should be exterminated as quickly as possible.

As I grew older, and wiser, I began to wonder about this advice, advice that seemed to be universal.

Part of the problem with babies is that we don’t want them to suffer. We want to do anything and everything we can to be good parents and get them to feel well, healthy, and happy as fast as possible. But we also don’t want to be seen as bad parents. I mean, what Mum would want to stand at the school gates, amidst a horde of Calpol addicts, and speak the heresy of letting her child just suffer and get better on its own? They would be ostracised, seen as a bit weird, and generally avoided.

If not, this strange idea that the body’s immune system can look after the body – without any outside help – just might contaminate their comfortably medicated worldview.

But these are helpless babies we are talking about here. And that is entirely the problem. We see those babies as helpless when in fact what they have is a young, undeveloped immune system that needs some training. It needs training to identify pathogens and develop appropriate antibodies so that as an adult it remains healthy and already has an immune system fully equipped to deal with infections quickly and easily.

So what exactly is going on with this fever thing?

Broadly speaking one of two things.

  1. Either the white blood cells, on encountering an invading organism, create a substance called pyrogen. This is detected by the hypothalamus (where temperature regulation takes place) and it resets the body’s thermostat. The hypothalamus allows the body temperature to rise. This in turn makes the environmental conditions uncomfortable for the invading organism and so it dies out. When we use drugs to reduce this natural healing process we allow the pathogen to remain and reproduce for longer – and so we suffer for longer. We also infect more other people because we are spreading live pathogens for a longer period of time.
  2. There is a complication. Some pathogens produce a pyrogen-like substance to fool the hypothalamus into heating things up. Body organs start to become damaged when the internal temperature hits 105F.


So the trick, I believe, is to monitor temperature and only take action when it reaches dangerously high levels. Otherwise let things be and let nature take its course. But for things like colds and flu, fever is just the body’s way of defending itself. Certainly on those occasions over the last 20 years when I’ve had a cold or flu, with accompanying fever, I just let my body deal with it. The help I give my body is to rest and take fluids – not fill it with potentially toxic medication that may introduce substances that further stress it and prolong the discomfort.

New research from McMaster University supports this view. It has found that drugs like ibuprofen and paracetamol increase the rate of flu by 5% AND consequently cause an additional 1,000 deaths each year in North America alone. This is because with the fever reduced, people go to work and spread viruses amongst their colleagues, thinking because they feel better they are getting better. But the truth is that they have just created an environment for the virus to proliferate for much longer than it would otherwise have done.

Finally, don’t forget that any ‘wisdom’ than involves regular purchases of over-the-counter medication is putting money into the coffers of pharmaceutical companies so there is also a vested interest in resisting any attempt at changing the status quo – which, for them, is very comfortable.

From the Calpol website – after some helpful suggestions for making your child physically comfortable:

“If your baby is still uncomfortable, you can treat the symptoms of a fever at home with infant paracetamol or ibuprofen – something we’ve been helping mums and dads do for over 45 years.”

Notice that ‘helping’ and ’45 years’. The subliminal message is that if we’ve been doing it for 45 years it must be good. Also notice that if making the child comfortable produces no change then your only option is Calpol. No suggestion of wait and see. No suggestion of monitoring temperature and using Calpol as a last resort.

They have 8 attractively packaged products with pictures of happy/sleeping babies on the front. Who could resist that? Help in a bottle. Instant infant ease.

Paracetamol (acetaminophen) sales in 2008 amounted to $2.6 billion in the US. This stuff is big business.

There is no suggestion here that you should ignore symptoms, or not treat symptoms if your baby is clearly distressed, but do it from a place of wisdom and understanding that fever is the body’s way of killing off invading organisms. Humans, in the space of about 100,000 years, have managed to create about 7 billion of us. Easy access to pharmaceuticals has only been around for much less than 100 of those.

Consider letting the body use its own wisdom to fight disease.



Inspired by:


Chakra Balancing for Health and Well Being

I finally finished proof reading, tweaking, and building web pages last night (for the free accompanying downloads) and submitted my suitably formatted manuscript to Kindle for approval and publishing. It was a nice feeling this morning when I checked on Amazon and there it was: Chakra Balancing – 7 Easy Steps to Improved Health & Well Being listed under Kindle books.

I think if you’d tried to talk to me thirty years ago about invisible energy systems and magic whirlpools that can impact your physical and emotional health then I would most likely have smiled politely while privately thinking you were a total nutcase. That’s not likely to be the case with you because you are reading this having already seen the title. But if it was, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that Chakras, nadis, and all the other weird stuff is a bit strange and you’ll leave your health for your Doctor to look after.

That is certainly what I used to think.

But life took me down a path where I had to start to take notice of the odd things that were happening and the even odder things that I found myself being able to do. I tell the story of that in this book. I tell it by way of introduction to the whole Chakra business. I show you how I found out about Chakras and how changing their state can have an immediate, one might say miraculous, effect on physical symptoms.

After that I take you through the seven major Chakras and let you see how you can easily identify those which need attention. I give you a seven step guide to the process of starting from no knowledge to becoming accomplishing at diagnosing and bringing your chakras back into balance. After this of course you are the one who benefits by feeling better.

I don’t want to say much more about the contents because I don’t want to spoil the adventure for you. It’s not a big book and it won’t take long to read through – but if you follow my guidance it could have a huge beneficial impact on your life.

What I would like to say for those of you who have your own story to tell, and are interested in publishing with Kindle, is that Kindle publishing this time was much easier than the last time I did it around 6 months ago. It is still not a simple straightforward process, but it is less tedious now than it was – or possibly tedious in more understandable ways.

But it really is quite an enjoyable adventure if, like me, you are doing the whole thing on your own. You get to discover about cover design, play around in Photoshop, and stretch your mind in interesting ways as you think about how to communicate something complex in a way that your readers will not only enjoy, but also benefit from.

I enjoyed writing it, I hope you enjoy reading and using it.



Blood Pressure – The Hidden Disease.

There is a good chance that your blood pressure is high enough to negatively impact your health. I can say that with certainty because 1 in every 3 people has blood pressure that is too high. So if you think of two people who are close to you – then one of you probably has high blood pressure.

The reason I’ve called this the Hidden Disease is that moderately high blood pressure, like smoking, produces no noticeable symptoms. However, just like smoking, after a few years of ignoring it, you start to suffer serious health problems. The worst of these, heart attacks and strokes, can be lethal or severely disabling.

High blood pressure causes:

  • Artery damage and narrowing
  • Aneurism
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Enlarged heart
  • Heart failure
  • Transient ischaemic attack
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Severe kidney damage and failure
  • Eye and sight damage
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of sexual desire, lack of arousal and orgasm (women)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sleep problems

Yes, hypertension is serious, and since it is endemic you need to do two things. Find out if you have it and, if you have, take steps to reduce it.

The only way to discover that you have high blood pressure is to measure it. There are two ways you can do this.

  1. Get your doctor to measure it.
  2. Do it yourself.

Now you may think that your doctor’s is the best place to have your blood pressure measured, but it isn’t, the best way is to do it yourself. You see anxiety is one of the things that pushes blood pressure up and a lot of people suffer from what is known as White Coat Hypertension. This is high blood pressure caused by being in a medical environment.

Also blood pressure (Bp) varies, quite naturally, throughout the day. Your blood pressure is lower when resting and relaxed, than it is when you are active. When you measure it yourself you can, if you wish, measure it several times a day, or just once a day when you are relaxed. When you do this regularly and keep a record this gives your doctor a much more accurate picture and helps them to help you with much more relevant treatment, because many of the pharmaceutical treatments for hypertension are quite harmful in other ways.

Now, in the days when blood pressure was measured with a column of mercury and a stethoscope you had little choice but to get it measured by your doctor, but nowadays there is a huge range of accurate, electronic Bp monitors that are so simple and easy to use that anyone can take accurate blood pressure readings.

Omron make a great range of accurate blood pressure monitors. The Omron M6 Comfort  Blood Pressure Monitor has automatic inflation, lets you know if the arm cuff isn’t positioned correctly, and warns you if the reading is too high. All you have to do is sit down, slip a cuff up your arm and position it just above your elbow, rest your arm on a table, then press a button. The machine pumps up the cuff, takes the measurements and displays the results clearly.

These machines give you three numbers, systolic pressure, diastolic pressure, and pulse rate. Systolic is the higher of the two numbers.  Your blood pressure is in the healthy range if systolic is 120 or below, and diastolic is 80 or below (120/80). Now it’s unlikely that your blood pressure will be in that range because most adults have blood pressure above that but below 140 over 90 (140/90). This is what is now known as pre-hypertension. If you are in this range then you need to be taking steps to reduce your blood pressure. Above 140/90 and you definitely need to have a word with your physician.

If your Bp is in this pre-hypertensive range then there are a range of things you can do yourself, without need for medication, in order to bring your blood pressure down. But I’ll give you time to absorb this, and find out whether or not it applies to you, before I show you some things you can do to improve your health and well being. But it will require that you make some small easy changes to your routine, so prepare yourself for that and you will find that helping yourself to a longer, healthier life is much easier than you think.



Is Fasting an Easier Way to Lose Weight than Dieting?

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend at a meditation group and he was telling me all about this programme he’d seen a couple of nights earlier. The programme was about the benefits of fasting. He was buzzing and already on his fast. I didn’t really take a great deal of notice because the minute he mentioned fasting I thought that sounds like effort, real hunger, and going without things I like.

Anyway, I listened with a level of interest that was curious about how it had inspired my friend, but without any intention of doing anything with that information. My friend, by the way is young, fit, healthy, and a keen mountain biker to whom a 40 mile cycle ride is taking it easy.

The following morning I was going for a day out with my daughter and she started to tell me about this same programme and how she was going to start a 48 hour fast at the weekend. At this point I started to take notice. The Universe was trying to tell me something here.

So I got out my iPad that evening and watched the programme on the BBC’s iPlayer.

It’s on again in the early hours of tomorrow (Wednesday 5th Sept) morning if you want to catch/record/make a note to watch on iPlayer.

By the time it was finished, I was hooked too.

This was science, as opposed to New Age weird stuff, and Michael Mosley, the presenter, was talking to some of the world’s leading experts on body fat. Each of these experts had come up with different fasting techniques, but each also agreed that much more research is needed. Among the benefits discovered are the reduction of visceral fat, increased cardio-vascular health, longer life, and weight loss.

Michael Mosley went on a four day fast and managed to survive. In the programme he talked about alternate day fasting whereby you eat what you want one day, then the next day you restrict yourself to 600 Calories (men) or 500 Calories (women) and repeat this forever. Apparently with this regime you can eat what you want on the eat anything day. This produces weight loss and increased health benefits.

There was so much more in the programme that I encourage you to watch it. I don’t want to make this just a review of something you can watch for yourself.

What I wanted to tell you about was why it is having such a powerful impact on the people who watch it.

If you are a regular reader of my words, or if you’ve read my book How to Lose Weight Easily, you will know that I am not a fan of diets or dieting – for reasons that I explore at length in my book. Fasting, however, fits in very well with my approach to weight loss and gives it a boost.

I’ll tell you why.

Other than the fasting period itself, there is no control over what you eat the rest of the time.

I wanted to experiment with this in a way that would be beneficial not only to myself but to others as well. So I had a think about this.

What could I cope with? Four days without eating would be difficult for me. Two days I could manage, but I probably wouldn’t want to repeat it too often.  One day, yes I could do that. I don’t think I’ve gone a whole day without food in my life, but I figured I could manage that.

Now, there was nothing in this programme to suggest that one day of fasting would achieve anything at all, but I wanted to experiment and understand the thoughts and sensations that go along with not eating.  I also decided to not eat anything rather than the 600 calories that was suggested. I thought it would be easier to have nothing rather than be worrying about how filling I could make my allowance.

So I picked a Sunday when I had no plans, got home late after being out with some friends to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower and had a big slice of apple pie around 1:00 am. Then I ate nothing until breakfast on Monday morning around 8:00 am, so it was a little over 24 hours.

The most interesting thing was that I didn’t really feel anything I could call hunger until about 9:00 in the evening, at which point it was so close to bedtime that it was almost over. All I consumed that day was green tea without milk or sugar. This is my normal beverage not something I chose especially for the experiment. I wanted to drink something calorie-free that was a little tastier than water. Interestingly I wasn’t especially hungry when I woke up on Monday morning and could easily have gone another day without food.

When I weighed myself Monday morning I was 3lbs lighter, but a week later I was back to my normal weight.

Two weeks later I did the same again only this time my last food was around 6:00pm on Saturday.

A week later I repeated the experiment once more.

There has been no change in my weight,  other than the 3lbs I lose the day I don’t eat, but I have noticed several things.

My days are focused around meal times. When I take food out of the equation there is a bit of a sense of the loss of a milestone, or an anchor in the day with which to measure progress. I was finding that I had to find more interesting things to do than I normally do. But I stuck to having just a pot of tea instead of food at mealtimes.

While I was on the fast day I never really experienced anything other than transient feelings of hunger until late in the evening. I did think about food, but only when my mind wasn’t occupied with something interesting. The decision to eat nothing for a day made it easy not to eat and to ignore food thoughts.

The week following the day of fasting leaves me feeling hungrier than I normally am, and fuller than I normally feel when I eat. I’m finding that I’m still eating my normal quantities of food but feeling much fuller afterwards. It seems that the fast has put me back in touch with those feelings of hunger and fullness that we seem to lose contact with when we regularly eat more than we need.

Unfortunately I’m still stuck in the old habit and cooking what I used to cook, But I’m starting to reduce what I eat, getting back to throwing more away and being more sensitive to full feelings until I establish the new habit. What I’m realising is how little food I need to eat to stay fit and healthy.

But the strangest thing of all, and this has nothing to do with weight, is that I feel more alive, more alert and have more energy – more bounce.

This for me is the biggest benefit.

I don’t think a one off fast will achieve anything lasting at all. But I think if it is built into your routine, like me, maybe one day a week, or the day on, day off, with a restricted calorie intake on alternate days – then I see the potential for huge benefits and really easy weight loss.



Stressed Out? Then Just Eat Yourself Calm

I’m a great fan of using the mind, but when you are stressed out what you want is quick and easy stress-reduction, or maybe just something that gives you a boost. Brain chemistry is involved here, because stressed brains have different levels of neurotransmitters than peaceful brains. My position is that thoughts, beliefs and ideas are the cause of those changes in brain chemistry. But if changing your thinking is too much effort right now – and when you are stressed most things are too much effort. There are things you can eat that can help the brain chemistry along the right path and reduce the impact of stress on the body. This will help you stay younger and live longer.

Vitamin C helps with the reduction of stress, blood pressure and cortisol levels. So eat oranges. They taste much nicer that Vitamin C tablets, and are nicely messy so eating an orange is going to distract you from your worries for the time it takes to eat and wash up afterwards. But if stress is a more or less permanent state of affairs you might want to consider taking a high dose vitamin C supplement once or twice a day. It won’t taste as nice as the orange, but might keep your Vitamin C levels up so the stress symptoms stay under control.

Magnesium is an essential mineral. It’s good for your heart, your blood pressure, and is a muscle relaxant. Apricots are an easy source. Eat them fresh, or buy a packet of the dried sort to keep in your desk. Spinach is another good source of magnesium. You can also find a regular source of magnesium if you switch to eating bread made from whole grain wheat flour. Insufficient magnesium in the diet may be responsible for feelings of fatigue. Fatigue is a cause of stress.

Omega 3 in your diet lowers adrenaline and cortisol, so fish like mackerel, sardines and salmon are good – though probably not ideal for a snack, so make sure you pop some in your basket next time you visit the supermarket and look forward to a delicious meal at the end of a stressful day. If you are a vegetarian a good source of Omega 3 is flax seeds or walnuts. But if you don’t fancy that, as usual you can buy it in a tablet you can pick up alongside the vitamins and minerals. Though research suggests much better absorption into the blood when your Omega 3 comes in food rather than as a supplement.

Potassium is another essential for keeping blood pressure healthy. Bananas are frequently suggested as a plentiful source of potassium with around 450 mg. This is more than the recommended daily allowance, but just in case you don’t like bananas there’s plenty more potassium in beans, potatoes, avocados, and halibut. You can also get in canteloupes, meat, tomatoes, and citrus juice, so oranges give you double your money’s worth.

Vitamins are essential to our health and well-being. They are also good at looking after our bodies when they are subjected to stress. So watch out for vegetables with dark green leaves – full of vitamins and minerals – when you are out shopping. And yes, I know that means you have to cook them, but that helps too because you won’t be eating all of that unhealthy take-away, or pre-packed ready meal junk.

Buy yourself a variety of shelled nuts, and a stack of different kinds of dried fruits. They keep for ages. Then make up a mixture, pop it in a sandwich bag and stick it in your pocket or bag. When you are feeling stressed just tip a little of the mixture into the palm of your hand and munch away on a delicious, healthy snack filled with vitamins, minerals, and sugars to give you an energy boost, without spiking your blood sugar.

Eating your way to peace and tranquillity won’t solve all the challenges in your life, but it might give you a little breathing space and in that space, who knows, you might start to see solutions rather than problems.


More Bad News For Soft Drink Drinkers

If you knew that something caused weight gain, heart disease, liver failure, high blood pressure and diabetes – would you consume it?

Bit of a daft question really. Of course you would. Smokers know all about the dreadful health problems that smoking causes and they still smoke.

We all know that sugar makes us fat and rots our teeth but apart from that, it’s ok isn’t it?

More and more research is highlighting the fact that our bodies just cannot cope with very much of a sugar load. A new piece of research, conducted by Bangor University, has found significant metabolic changes in individuals who consume as little as two cans of sugar sweetened soft drinks a week. One can every day definitely causes problems, and it does it very quickly indeed.

This trial demonstrated that regularly drinking just one can of soft drink a day (one can contains the equivalent of about 10 teaspoons of sugar) caused an increase in fat deposition by inhibiting fat metabolism as well as increasing blood glucose. What happens in the body when you consume too much sugar is that you train your body to burn sugar, rather than fat, for fuel. But this training doesn’t reverse itself very quickly when you stop consuming sugar. So the longer you continue to take in excess sugar the more screwed up your metabolism gets. Then it becomes more difficult for your body to burn fat and harder and harder to lose weight. During the trial the metabolic change took place in just four weeks with fit, healthy and lean volunteers.

Another problem is that excessive intake of sugary soft drinks alters the perception of sweetness. I’m not a soda drinker and my hot beverages, with the exception of an occasional hot chocolate, are sugar free. I don’t eat chocolate bars or other sweets any more, and I’ve noticed that my tolerance of sweetness is much lower than most other people I know. I was at a party a few weeks back with some friends. I had a small slice of a gateau which I couldn’t eat because it was far too sweet. My friends had no problem eating and enjoying it. A few years ago I was eating some Walker’s potato crisps – prawn cocktail flavour – and I thought they tasted sweet. I checked the ingredients and sugar was on the list. So I can certainly endorse the idea that sweetness becomes much less attractive once you cut down on sugar intake. When that happens you lose the desire to consume excessively sweet foods and enjoy foods with a much lower sugar content so there is no long-term hardship or sense of having to do without.

Sugar is causing a lot of harm and the sugar in beverages is hidden. If you want to stay healthy and lose a bit of weight, cutting down on sugar is the probably the biggest favour you can do for yourself. And just in case you are thinking of switching to diet beverages instead, check out my article Is Soda Pop at the Heart of the American Obesity Epidemic?



Weight Loss Horoscopes – Whatever Next?

I don’t know what you think about horoscopes. I’m a little on the fence with most of me on the side of I’ll take a lot of convincing. That said, and the tone set, I know a lot of people take horoscopes really seriously. I also know that the 20 words in your favourite daily newspaper couldn’t possibly apply to the one-twelfth of the world’s population born in the same 30 day period and regardless of their age. However, I’m also aware that a properly crafted horoscope that takes into account not only your date of birth, but also time and location – is something that is not quite so easy to dismiss. I’m still not convinced, but I’m willing to look at the evidence.

A lot of people think that the stars are so far away that they couldn’t possible influence anything or anyone on planet earth, but astrology isn’t about stars, it’s about planetary alignments. The stars are just the graph paper the planets are plotted against. So consider the moon for a moment. The moon is certainly a planetary body that is known to exert an influence. There is evidence that in some people it affects mood (and I’m not talking about werewolves here); it has certainly been a powerful influence on the evolution of the female menstrual cycle, and it, along with the sun’s powerful gravitational influence creates the tides and, therefore, might be expected to have some small effect on all of the water present in the human body. That effect, though very subtle, may well have an influence. If you are a believer in the power of homeopathy then you will have no trouble accepting that tiny influences can have powerful effects.

So I find it interesting that Sharon Ward identifies the Moon Sign as significant in guiding people to lose their excess weight. This is because the Moon is ‘connected’ to the stomach and digestive systems.

“Astrology works on the premise that when you are emotionally balanced and happy then you are physically well and healthy and vice versa.  Medical astrology holds the key to re-balancing our bodily systems and bringing to us a greater sense of health and well being. We each have a Moon sign, just as we have a Sun sign. The Moon governs the inner self and the emotions and as we often use food as a response to life’s stresses and strains, it makes sense to find out where our weaknesses lie and what types of food are best for us according to our Moon Sign.”

Sharon Ward

So I checked my Moon Sign with Sharon’s handy calculator and found out that my Moon Sign is Capricorn (My Sun sign is Libra).

Then checked what it said about me based on my Capricornian Moon Sign.

My Inner Personality  I’d score about 70% accurate.

My Eating Habits (which after all is what this is supposed to be sorting out) I’d give about 5% accurate.

What You Need to Change and Why made me laugh.

“As you can be some what inflexible emotionally, preferring life to be structured and rational, it follows that your body can have problems with its structure – namely the bones and joints. It is important that you take care of yourself with an adequate intake of calcium rich foods such as dairy products, especially cheese, as well as sardines and green vegetables.”

…because I have a dairy intolerance.

Though apart from the dairy thing this whole section seemed to have some good advice, but it did seem to be good general advice like Vitamin C can help if you suffer from frequent colds and viruses.

Finally we get to the section A New Way Forward and I find I could have written the first paragraph. It’s good advice. It’s the sort of thing I say to my patients, but I don’t think they all have a Capricorn Moon Sign (though since I don’t check I couldn’t be sure).

So Sharon has some good health and nutrition advice, and I would certainly encourage having a look at what she suggests for you. If you find it resonates with you and you feel some connection to what she says then follow the advice.

For me, the Jury is still out.


Don’t forget to post your thoughts below.


My thanks to:

Lauren Torrisi for the inspiration for this article.

And Sharon Ward. You can also discover your moon sign at the side of Sharon’s page. You need to do this before you check your weight/diet/nutrition advice.