Health and Beauty Articles
I remember once, as a little girl, I was staying over at my grandparent’s house - a regular sleepover destination for me and my brother. In the morning we would have the normal routine of waking up, racing each other to the living room to snatch the chair closest to the TV, watch Nickelodeon (a major treat as we just had 4 channels at the time at home!) and then saunter through to the kitchen when the waft of my Gran’s infamous porridge reached our noses.
On one occasion I observed my Gran laying out about 10 capsules as well as pouring all sorts of oils and sticky liquids in cups for drinking - I marvelled at how sick they both must be! Years later I saw the error of my thoughts when it dawned on me that the tablets were herbal and vitamin supplements taken to prevent illness and improve their overall health – my point being is that they are still two of the healthiest people that I know and the fact that they get all of their vitamins and nutrients can’t be overlooked!
I am often baffled when my Holland and Barrett catalogue comes through. When I read all of the descriptions I can find something relevant to my current health and think, “Ahh, I need them all!” But if you are getting the sufficient nutrient, mineral or vitamin in your current diet you need not take a supplement. Knowing what your body is lacking in is half the battle and the answer to this is in your diet. I’ve compiled a list of the most effective and popular supplements and will advise you on if you should be including any in your daily routine!
It’s come to that time of year again – gloomy mornings, cold days and dark nights *sigh!* This is the time for you to really pay close attention to your general health, particularly your immune system, as if you aren’t taking proper care of yourself then you will be more susceptible to colds, bugs and the dreaded flu.
Echinacea is a traditional herbal medicinal product which is used to prevent and relieve the symptoms of the common cold and influenza type infections. Studies show that taking Echinacea daily can more than halve the risk of catching a cold and can cut the duration of a cold by a day-and-a-half. As Echinacea is herbal it is recommended to include this in your daily diet as you won’t be receiving this from a normal food group. This supplement is available in a capsule or liquid form and can be sourced from the majority of chemists. Prices average at £10 for 60 tablets.
Aloe Vera is one of the most widely used plant extracts and has earned the nickname ‘The First Aid plant’, given that it helps to treat and heal the body inside and out. It is one of the oldest and most popular medicinal plants and is grown all over the world, originally deriving from North Africa. The benefits of Aloe Vera are vast – some include reducing inflammation internally and externally; hydrating skin by energizing cells; healing internal digestive problems i.e. IBS, constipation; boosting cardiovascular performance and physical endurance; stabilising blood pressure as well as treating and reducing risks of cancers and strokes. Drinking from the Aloe Vera plant isn’t exactly practical, but the next best thing is in the form of a product, my most recommended is the ‘Aloe Vera Gel’ by Forever Living. It is available in original, peaches and berry nectar flavour – be warned that it is not the best tasting product in the world due to its purity so a flavoured option is advised! A bottle costs £20.80 and lasts ages.
Cod liver oil and fish oil are two sources of omega 3, an essential fatty acid which cannot be made by the body thus is must be obtained through food, or a supplement! This can be found in our weekly diet in foods such as salmon, tuna, halibut and mackerel as well as some plant and nut oils. It is recommended to consume 2 portions of oily fish per week, but incredibly 2 out of 3 people in the UK don’t eat oily fish at all. This is important in the diet as it not only reduces inflammation and improves brain function, but it also reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Symptoms of omega 3 deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings, depression and poor circulation. If you aren’t including omega 3 in your diet then it is highly advised to take a supplement – in pregnancy you should avoid cod liver oil as it has too much Vitamin A, instead opting for fish oil. Prices vary greatly, from £4 cod liver oil capsules to the more pricey fish oils that can cost up to £30.
Acai Berry is becoming increasingly popular due it may health benefits. The Acai Berry, a fruit that can only be found in the rainforest, is known for being exceptionally rich in protein and Omega 3, 6 and 9, as well as vitamins A, C, B1, B2 and B3, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc – it’s safe to say that no other food offers all of these components! As well as boosting health and reducing risk of chronic illness, the Acai Berry also slows down the ageing process and has powerful slimming properties. If you are considering taking this supplement as an aid to weight loss then it is most effective when combined with other ingredients, a popular and safe product to use it Slimette (£34.50 for 60 capsules). Acai Berry tablets are less harrowing on the purse strings and come in at £12.95 for 120.
Evening Primrose oil and its relative Starflower Oil are extremely popular supplements and are used for a variety of health benefits including skin conditions such as eczema, joint conditions, brain function and hormonal balance, particularly in regard to pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), hence why this is a popular supplement with women! These oils are very rich source of a type of omega 3 fatty acid, gamma linolenic acid, and nutritionists believe that optimum levels of this can only be achieved through supplementation. The difference between the two oils is simply that Starflower Oil contains twice as much GLA as evening primrose oil so is more concentrated and effective. These oils should however be avoided if you are taking blood thinning products such as aspirin, if you have lobe epilepsy or if you are pregnant (due to the effects on hormones). £180 capsules of Starflower Oil is £9.95 and £7.45 for 120 evening primrose oil.
Taking a probiotic a day can significantly help stomach digestion - this is a must for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Probiotics have also been found to help urinary infections and people with allergies. Look out for friendly bacteria’s such as Acidophilus, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Probiotics can be taken in a capsule or in a yoghurt drink such as Yakult or Actimel. My recommended product is Probiotic Acidophilus with pectin, and is reasonably priced at £10.89 for 100 capsules.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in many foods and is also available as a supplement. The best food source of Zinc can be found in oysters, but if you’re anything like myself and don’t revel in the expense or taste of slimy salt water (sorry Dad, they’re disgusting!) then you can be safe in the knowledge that Zinc is also in poultry, red meat, beans, nuts and dairy products. Although zinc deficiency is uncommon, it can be more apparent in vegetarians and people with digestive disorders. It has many functions in the body and contributes to the normal function of the immune system (can help the common cold). 100 capsules of zinc start at £8.
Grape Seed extract is known for fighting the ageing process and can even help prevent skin cancer due to its powerful effect on repairing and maintaining cell renewal. It derives from the ground seeds of red wine grapes and is rich in proanthocyanidins, a class of antioxidants that are 50 times more potent than vitamin E (one of the vitamins most associated with the skin). Not only does Grape Seed help skin, it also helps conditions including high cholesterol, poor circulation, and constipation. It has also been said to help protect against cancer. Unless you eat a lot of red grapes then it’s unlikely you are obtaining this from your diet! This can be sourced in a capsule form and prices average at £10.85 for 60.
Although we all like to think we live a healthy life with a well balanced diet, sometimes it’s not always realistic to consume all of the recommended nutrients, vitamins and minerals that we require (i.e. if you’re like my husband and you hate fish!) Supplements help such a range of ailments and help boost our overall health, so next time you’re in the chemist, walk past the perfume and make up and make a beeline for them!