Vitamin D

There is evidence to suggest that 90% of the UK population is deficient in vitamin D (less than 30nmol/ml) and that 5-20% are severely deficient (less than 10nmol/ml). Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies require direct sunlight on the skin to manufacture it. This is our main source of the vitamin. Only about 20% is obtained from the diet. A combination of poor British summers and use of sunscreens, i.e. lack of exposure to the sun, is the main factor in this epidemic of deficiency.  Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is the form made by the body, and which is present in some foods, such as oily fish. Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) is the most common form present in foods. Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is believed by most to be the most effective form, particularly when correcting deficiency and this can be bought as a supplement and is available as vegetarian source. Vitamin D is fat soluble, so is best taken with fatty or oily food for maximum absorption, hence the tradition of taking cod liver oil, which contains both.

The recommended daily requirement is a minimum of 600iu per day for those aged between 1 and 70 and 800iu for the over 70s.  The daily requirement from birth to age 1 is 400iu. To correct deficiency a daily intake of at least 1000iu for ages 1-18 then 1500-2000iu for all ages above that would be required. Those with severe deficiency may require much higher doses, but this should be done with the guidance of their GP.  Vitamin D can be toxic in high doses, although recently it has emerged that much greater doses can be taken than previously thought.

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Managing Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that debilitates many people. It’s primary symptom is pain, but symptoms can be many and varied, as it is a disorder of the central nervous system. I think a better name for it would be “central nervous system hypersensitivity”, as this describes current understanding of the condition. I am in the (long!) process of writing a book on natural treatments for fibromyalgia, so for now, here is just a basic outline of two of the most important remedies.

Magnesium

As I have mentioned in a previous post, magnesium is required for muscle relaxation. It is also involved in nerve transmission and energy production, so it is pretty much a standard remedy for fibromyalgia sufferers, many of whom find it helps with muscle pain and sleep in particular.  Magnesium is found in wholegrain foods, such as brown rice and wholemeal bread, and in legumes such as lentils. Magnesium levels in the soil have become depleted in recent times so a supplement would ensure sufficient levels to help with symptoms. The best forms of magnesium for efficient absorption are magnesium malate, magnesium citrate and chelated magnesium. It is also available as “magnesium oil” to use externally and is well absorbed through the skin. Epsom salts are magnesium sulphate, traditionally used for a relaxing bath soak.

St John’s Wort

St John’s wort increases serotonin levels, which are low in fibromyalgia. As well as being involved in mood regulation, serotonin normally regulates levels of substance P,  a pain “messenger” in the body. Medical herbalists also see St John’s Wort as a nervous trophorestorative, which means it restores the health of the nervous system tissue. It relieves pain and symptoms such as numbness or tingling, caused by nerve damage, infections in the nerves such as shingles, or the overactive nerves in fibromyalgia. St John’s Wort interacts with a number of medications, which can be potentially dangerous, and with the contraceptive pill, which may lead to pregnancy, so do not take in these circumstances without medical advice. It  is otherwise a safe remedy and can be taken with other herbs, vitamins and minerals.

A Simple Guide to Remedies for the Menopause

The menopause is a time when the ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and reduced their production of oestrogen, and periods have stopped completely. During the peri-menopause the periods gradually stop and there is a time of adjustment to the new hormone levels. People often refer to this time as the menopause, so although technically speaking it is the perimenopause, I will refer to it as the menopause here. Women may experience hot flushes, night sweats, irregular and sometimes very heavy periods (flooding). Some women also experience fatigue and low mood as oestrogen affects the production of serotonin, a “feel good” chemical in the brain.

Sage

Sage is used specifically for treating hot flushes and night sweats as it acts upon the temperature regulating mechanism in the brain. It is not a hormonal remedy so it can be safely taken alongside hormonal treatment or by those who are advised not to use hormonal treatment due to a family history of breast cancer.  In my experience it is an effective remedy with no side effects. Gradually, over a number of weeks the frequency of hot flushes and sweats should reduce significantly and, once this has built up, the effect lasts for a while if the treatment is stopped.

Magnesium

Magnesium supports hormone balance and can be used safely by women who are avoiding hormonal remedies due to a family history of breast cancer. It is also involved in energy production so can be helpful to reduce symptoms of fatigue. Magnesium is needed for muscle relaxation, so low levels can cause muscle cramps and restless legs.

Hormonal Herbs

There are a number of herbal remedies that contain plant oestrogens, known as phyto-oestrogens. The most popularly known include soya, red clover and black cohosh. Phyto-oestrogens are weaker than HRT or the body’s own oestrogens, so they do not have the side effects of HRT. In a woman with low oestrogen levels the phyto-oestrogen molecules are recognised by the body’s oestrogen receptors as oestrogen.  Soya in tablet form is usually sold as “soya isoflavones”. Phyto-oestrogens are not as strongly acting as HRT but they reduce any symptoms and help to ease the transition to the new hormone levels.

Agnus castus

Agnus castus is a herbal remedy that is thought to have an action similar to progesterone. It is useful for reducing symptoms of heavy periods and flooding that can occur before the periods stop.

Siberian Ginseng

Siberian ginseng is also known as eleutherococcus. It is an adaptogen, which means it helps the body adapt to stress. I’ve found it helpful for treating low energy levels, taken in the mornings.

St John’s Wort

St John’s wort is quite well known as a herbal “antidepressant”. It is used for treating low mood and anxiety as it increases levels of serotonin, which can be lowered in the menopause. It should not be taken with antidepressant drugs and it can interact with some other medications so seek medical advice if you are on any medication, including the contraceptive pill. If you are severely depressed also seek professional advice.

Rhodiola

Rhodiola increases serotonin levels. It is useful for low mood and low energy. It also can have an aphrodisiac effect in some people. It should not be taken with antidepressant drugs.

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my natural health blog. Here I will be sharing my knowledge of health, natural remedies and nutrition. Please note that this does not constitute a diagnosis or medical advice, so please seek professional advice if required. Thank you for joining me and I hope you enjoy the journey!