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12 July 2023ReadingIntroduction to Just One Thing by Michael Mosley Welcome to this post on Just One Thing: How simple changes can transform your life by Dr Michael Mosley. You may recognise the title from the popular BBC podcast of the same name. I’ve read a couple of Dr Mosley’s books before (5:2, clever guts) and enjoy the podcast, so keenly read the book too! Review of Just One Thing by Michael Mosley The principal idea behind ‘Just One Thing’ is a simple lifestyle action which will help you feel better. With the added benefit that it improves your health long term. Content The book is split into sections representing different times of day; from early morning to night. It shows how you can fit each tip into your day, but some can be done earlier or later. This is a quick read (about 200 pages) and the writing is accessible to all. Many of the tips can be done alongside existing activities e.g. standing on one leg whilst brushing teeth. Also, by hooking them to a pre-existing habit it makes it more likely the reader will stick with it. There’s a mini cast study for each tip too. A real person tries out a tip and describes the impact it had on their life after a week. This lent credibility to the fact that average people can find time to do them. It also showed that some tips take a while for the benefits to show up. Style The writing is easy to follow and also persuasive. This is because Dr Mosley briefly speaks to the scientists researching the benefits of each tip. This means you get to hear the latest science from the people doing it. I really want to do each tip (not possible due to disability). I do think the average person can cram many of them into their day.  Some tips I already do e.g. eating dark chocolate, playing alien shooter game, meditation. Many of the others would require little effort e.g. getting houseplants, visualisation. Some would take a bit more effort, so might be harder to do daily e.g. dancing, learning a new skill. I can definitely see myself – and other readers – trying these tips. Not all at once, but ‘Just One Thing’ every couple of weeks. I think adding each one in gradually, will make them stick better. They’re easy to follow and have proven benefits. This book has broad appeal for anyone wanting to tweak their health and live better for longer. It has an engaging style, is packed with ideas and is easy to follow (no prior knowledge needed) I highly recommend it! Cover Synopsis for Just One Thing by Michael Mosley If you were going to do just one thing to transform your health, what would it be? We all want quick and easy ways to improve our health, but when it comes to diet, fitness and wellbeing it can be hard to separate the facts from the fads. And harder still to find changes that fit easily into our daily lives. Based on the popular BBC podcast, Just One Thing, this book brings to life Dr Mosley’s mission to find things you can introduce into your daily routine which will have a big impact on your mental and physical health. Did you know that eating chocolate can help your heart, that singing can give you a natural ‘high’ and that having more house plants can improve your mood and boost your productivity? Dr Michael Mosley unearths a range of Just One Things whose impacts are so surprising and intriguing you will be desperate to try them out. He chats to experts, road tests all his tips and enlists some special guests to help you find that one small thing that could really make a difference to how you feel. Conclusion to Just One Thing by Michael Mosley Bookshop shelves are groaning under the weight of health and wellness books. So competition is stiff! Just One Thing is definitely worth a look, especially if you want easy tweaks with proven benefits. And don’t forget to check out the podcast too, where each episode focuses on a different tip. What are your favourite health tips? Let me know in the comments. [...]
29 May 2023BalanceIntroduction to Crystal Healing for Beginners Welcome to this feature on Crystal Healing for Beginners. Here we look at what crystal healing is, how it works, how to start and where to ethically source your crystals. Crystals are semi-precious stones which come in a variety of colours and forms making them a perfect item to incorporate into wellbeing practices. Crystals help us feel grounded and given the stress, anxiety and uncertainty the world has experienced over the last few years, it’s little surprise crystals continue to grow in popularity. Two ethical stores are feature here and the items shown are a mixture of purchased and gifted. As ever, recommendations are genuine; having had a great purchase experience I approached these brands to arrange this collaboration. What is Crystal Healing? Crystal healing centres around the idea that different crystals have different vibrations and those vibrations have specific healing properties. It’s scientifically proven that different crystals have different vibrations. Testing their vibrations (through x-ray diffraction for example) is one way to determine what minerals make up the crystal. The idea that these vibrations have healing properties is more spiritual than scientific, which is why this feature appears in the ‘balance’ section. That said, never underestimate the power of the placebo effect, or the proven fact that people who nurture a positive outlook often experience a more positive outcome. Additionally, using crystals can help to strengthen healthy habits such as meditation.   How Crystal Healing Works There are a number of ways you can incorporate crystals and their powers into your life. Many people enjoy displaying them in their homes and/or wearing them. They are popular in meditation, in manifestation or wiccan rituals, as a fidget piece, in feng shui, in baths, or to carry in a pocket. This is not an exhaustive list, many people develop their own personal rituals and uses for crystals. There are different types of semi-precious stone crystals associated with different powers. Different crystals are also associated with specific parts of the body. If you’ve heard of chakras you might know these are 7 energy centres in the body. Each chakra is associated with a different colour. You can use a stone of the corresponding colour to harness the energy of that chakra and get it flowing. Individual crystals also have unique properties and associations. For example, rose quartz is associated with love, clear quartz with healing and spiritual growth, moss agate encourages a sense of tranquillity and emotional balance. Crystals also have different forms; raw or polished into a particular shape. The shapes often also have specific meanings. When you’re getting started, you don’t need to worry too much about whether you have a tumblestone, obelisk or raw crystal. The mineral itself is more important. How to Start A few different crystals in different forms is a great place to start. Try wearing them, carrying smaller ones in your pocket, relaxing whilst looking at their patterns and forms, and incorporating them into your existing wellbeing practices. Over time you will find which practices work best for you and which crystals you intuitively need. Selenite Selenite is a great beginners crystal because it has strong cleansing powers. It is silky and fibrous in it’s unpolished form. You can use it to cleanse yourself (rub gently over your torso and limbs) and to cleanse your home or space (e.g. place it on top of the door frame). This gets rid of stagnant energy and negative vibrations. Selenite can also be used to cleanse and recharge other crystals. It’s important to periodically recharge crystals, this can be done in sunlight, moon light (full moon), or with selenite. Put your crystals on top of, or touching the selenite. Amethyst Amethyst is a strongly balancing crystal making it a popular choice for anxiety and stress relief. It can also enhance energy for creativity, dreams and intuition. It corresponds to the third eye chakra; our body’s spiritual gateway. It’s attractiveness makes it popular for jewelry and a variety of crystal forms. Rose Quartz Rose Quartz is another very popular crystal for both jewellery and to have as individual pieces. It has a pretty pink colour, hence its name and its use dates back to ancient Egypt. Rose Quartz purifies and opens the heart at all levels to promote love, self-love, friendship, deep inner healing and feelings of peace. It works with the heart chakra, restoring trust and harmony in relationships. Quartz Quartz is typically clear (it looks glassy) but can contain inclusions. It is a very powerful crystal with properties including strength, durability, chemical inertness (meaning it doesn’t react) and piezoelectricity (electric charge). These properties mean it’s used in manufacturing everything from watches, radios and computer chips, to glass and ceramics. Spiritually, quartz is great for amplifying energy, clarity and enlightenment. It corresponds to the crown chakra and supports you to open your mind to a higher understanding of yourself. It’s a great crystal to tap into your inner wisdom and gain clarity. Where to buy healing crystals It’s important to buy crystals from a reputable seller, because often there are fakes on the market. One example is turquoise v howlite. Turquoise is more expensive than howlite, so some people dye howlite (which is naturally white or grey) blue to make it look like turquoise. It can be hard to spot the difference by eye (turquoise quite a bit harder than howlite, so if it scratches easily it’s likely howlite). Also, not all semi-precious stones are ethically mined, or sourced and this is an important consideration. Stones mined by oppressed people will not be infused with good karma. As regular readers know, ethics are a major driver for where I shop. I buy my crystals from Rock and Realm, an ethical independent female-owned crystal business based in Norwich, Norfolk UK. R+R have a lovely selection of different crystals in a range of forms. They plant a tree for every product sold, and we know it’s not greenwashing because it’s done through Eden Reforestation. I particularly like that you can purchase 3 extra trees at checkout for £1. R+R also uses recyclable and biodegradable packaging and sources its products from traceable family run or community enterprises. I love crystal jewellery from Xander Kostroma, there’s a great variety of crystals both polished and raw, for men and women. Xander Kostroma Fashion Ltd is an ethical, independent business and has been a member of the Living Wage Foundation since the business started in 2018. All direct employees and contracted staff in the UK, China and Portugal are paid a living wage. Each piece is handmade and every item can be traced directly back to the source of reputable suppliers. From the factory to the photo studio, accredited suppliers follow strict AMFORI guidelines which relate to how they conduct their businesses and treat their employees. Both stores send their items beautifully wrapped. [...]
6 March 2023ReadingIntroduction to 10 Best Health and Wellbeing Books 2022 Welcome to this post where I share my top 10 books on health and wellbeing published in 2022. This is a very personal selection as there were thousands of books published in this area. I’ve included some on specific topics (allergies, women’s health) and some much broader ones (wellbeing journal, manifesting). Below – in no particular order – I describe what each book covers and why I chose it. Purchase links are affiliate. The Female Factor by Dr Hazel Wallace I’ve been following Dr Wallace on Insta for some time and love her nutritional advice and mouth watering videos. Check her out at @thefoodmedic. As you might guess from the title, The Female Factor is about women’s health. In clinical medicine the male has always been the default with the assumption that women are just smaller versions of men. This is wrong, and has caused a gender health gap. Women deserve the same health outcomes as men. The Female Factor offers methods to protect and maximise your health through positive actions. I love how broad it is, covering everything from sleep to hormones and exercise to nutrition. It’s geared towards different life stages so will be one to refer to over the years. I feel more empowered reading it as it helps me know what to ask at doctor’s appointments. The Fatigue Book by Lydia Rolley Geared towards people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), post-viral fatigue, long covid and similar, The Fatigue Book is essential reading. Packed with 100 tips with advice for dealing with all aspects of fatigue. They are grouped thematically into 11 chapters covering areas including: mindset, sleep, energy, pacing, relationships etc. The style of this book lends itself well to being read in bitesize chunks – clearly being written for a fatigued reader. As someone with ME/CFS I’ve found it an invaluable resource. There is a full review of The Fatigue Book in the reading section of the blog. The Art of Enough by Becky Hall I picked up The Art of Enough by Becky Hall because I was decluttering and wanted to stop myself from later accumulating replacements. I was decluttering my personal belongings, but realised that my scarcity mindset was pervasive in other areas of my life too. This is a great book for addressing mindset shift from either scarcity or excess to a more balanced approach. We live in such a competitive society with the need for ‘more, more, more’ being forced on us from every quarter. The book is written in three parts (Arts): being enough, doing enough and having enough. The first tackles mindset, permission and presence. The second: looks at enough boundaries and enough resource. The third explores enough growth and enough connection. I love that this book has exercises and reflections for the reader to do, so that they can tailor the concepts individually. Understanding Allergy by Dr Sophie Farooque This is a great introduction for those who are new to allergies. One in three people will experience allergies so it makes sense to have the right info. Dr Farooque is a leader in her field, therefore she has a great overview of the allergy epidemic. In Understanding Allergy she debunks many of the common myths as well as addressing key topics. She deals with hayfever, food allergies, severe allergy (anaphylaxis), drug allergies and eczema. There are also chapters explaining the immune response, allergy prevention, and what to do if you think you have an allergy. The language is very accessible and Farooque gives clear explanations. The book is a handy guide and fairly short. If you’re well versed on allergies, or have something less common such as MCAS, this isn’t the book for you. If however, you’re new to the topic, or want to brush up or update your knowledge then this is a great tool for your allergy arsenal. Dr Farooque is on twitter as London Allergy. Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? By Dr Julie Smith Dr Smith is another person whose book I bought because I love her socials content. Check out her insta because she has these brilliant short reel explainers that make you feel so normal! This was a no.1 bestseller in the non-fiction charts and it’s easy to see why! Smith explains in straightforward language how the mind works and provides the reader with a useful toolkit for when things go off-kilter. Whether you have difficulties with anxiety, self-confidence or low mood, want to boost your motivation, tackle your depression, break out of negative cycles or just learn to deal with criticism better, Smith has you covered. She uses examples which are easy to identify with and explains through analogies which are easy to follow. After the challenges of the pandemic, Why Has No One Told Me This Before should be on everyone’s bookshelf for those times in life when our resilience needs reinforcements. How to Meet Your Self by Dr Nicole LePera Dr Nicole LePera is bestselling author of How To Do The Work. Readers found the book so life-changing they begged for more and thus How To Meet Your Self was born. Dr LePera has a huge online following, you can find her on socials as The Holistic Psychologist where she shares threads of focused help and how-tos. How To Meet Your Self is interactive workbook designed to help every reader uncover their authentic self. It guides the reader in how to notice and observe the conditioned patterns and habits they have. Then to reflect and decide which of those patterns we not longer wish to carry into the future. It transforms both the reader’s inner world and their outer interactions. Manifesting for Beginners Manifesting? That’s just wishing really hard for stuff and waiting for it to come true right? That’s what I thought; a bit of airy fairy nonsense. Then I started to notice people whom I respect mention manifestation and their practices. Hmm… I decided to investigate further and picked up Manifesting for Beginners by Victoria Jackson. This is a perfect introduction for anyone completely new to the process. Over 9 chapters, it gives background on the karmic laws of the universe  and takes you through the concept of manifestation step by step, with a variety of techniques so the reader can pick what’s right for them. There is actually a lot more to it that I misconceived. It’s about tuning in to your true desires, identifying any limiting beliefs and removing them, and truly aligning yourself with your purpose through the actions you take every day. I’ve had a go at doing a mood board (surprisingly fun) and clarified my goals (not what society thinks I should achieve) and the actions to support me. Victoria Jackson has a lovely ‘voice’ which comes across in how this book is written and she has a gorgeous insta too, as well as a variety of courses and membership in her Manifestation Collective. Navigating Stress When the pandemic came, as someone who was ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ I had to shield. It was extremely difficult to cope with the anxiety and fear: how do I get food delivered when I can’t get a slot? Who can I ask to collect my medicines? Will I catch covid? If I do, will I die? Etc. I’d been through stress before, but nothing like this which left me questioning whether I had the resilience to cope long term? That was my motivation for reading Navigating Stress by Joy Langley. Over the course of 7 key chapters I learned: what stress is and how it affects the body and mind, what my stress energy is and my internal and external triggers, how I experience stress and what I can do about it, and how to cultivate a positive mindset. The advice is a good blend of common sense and new research findings which gave me a few “aha!” moments. It’s written in an accessible, easy to follow and persuasive format. I now feel better equipped to cope with both common or garden stress, and the next “unprecedented” global event. How We Heal I first came across author Alexandra Elle on the Insight Timer app. There was a new year course with a different person leading the meditation each day. Alex Elle’s was about the power of journaling and it really resonated with me. I followed her on Insta and seeing her wise words persuaded me to buy How We Heal. The book is divided into 4 parts: starting from scratch, befriending your fear, reclaiming your power, healing your heart. Each one has several sections which guide the reader and there are also journaling, meditation and breathwork exercises. Elle weaves personal wisdom in with her own experiences and mini-interviews with others. This creates a unique and original ‘voice’ to the book which I really warmed to. The advice comes from a place of freedom and expansion whilst acknowledging with compassion how challenging the process can be. And healing is a never-ending process, but with the support of this book I feel better-equipped for my journey. Breathe Wellbeing Journal This is a little gem I saw on socials and thought I’d give guided journaling a try. The Breathe Wellbeing Journal, by the Editors of Breathe Magazine is a hardback guided journal. It’s beautifully illustrated and an absolute joy to use. It’s packed with short sections around different themes such as taking life at a slower pace or making your home a better place to live (my favourite tip “tidy like a monk”  silently, with focus, and timed for 15 mins). There are questions to guide the reader to reflect on their own life and experiences in the context of each section’s theme. This process gave me insights into both how I can improve my life externally and how I can improve how I perceive things internally. It’s not dated so can be used at any time and over any frequency – although it’s so lovely you’ll want to spend time on it daily. It’s also one of a series from Ammonite Press, I’m already looking to get: resilience, happiness and thrive. Conclusion to 10 Best Health and Wellbeing Books 2022 Have you read any of these books? Do any of them pique your interest? Let me know in the comments below.   [...]
10 February 2023Aids and AdaptationsIntroduction to Defender Security Products Key Safe Review Welcome to my Defender Security Products key safe review. I received the key safe of my choice in exchange for an honest review.  Safety and security are aspects important to everyone. When you’re a vulnerable person though, these areas are critical. If you live alone and have a health condition, a key safe is a great way to ensure your security whilst also protecting your safety. A key safe means your home is secure but the emergency services, or a carer, can still gain access. A key safe is a small safe to put your door keys into, which fixes on to your property. They usually go on an external wall out of view. My photos show it near my front door to illustrate what it’s for (so blog and socials visitors quickly make the connection). A better place for it is somewhere it can’t easily be seen e.g. behind plants or bins. The safe opens using a code and you control who has access to that code. If you need help but can’t get to the door, a paramedic or carer can reach you without needing assistance in gaining entry or forcing the door. Here I review the Defender Security Combination Key Safe. I’m very impressed with this model, and I’m not the only one! It is a silver medal winner in Real Homes’ Best Key Safe Guide 2022. Defender Security Key Safe Review The unit itself is made of metal and feels very secure. It looks like it can withstand both the elements and attempts at tampering. There is a little black sliding cover to protect the combination dial. The combination dial has 4 digits which offers over 10,000 possible combinations! It’s easy to change the combination to one you can better remember, and there’s a facility to test the new combination before locking the safe. This is perfect for those with brain fog, or hand tremors who want to ensure they’ve got the combination set correctly. The safe itself is quite spacious for such a small unit, it holds 5 keys easily. I find it easy to operate the safe with one hand (I need the other hand for my walking aid).  The box has full instructions and the fixtures needed to mount the key safe. It comes with 4 strong thunderbolts and all you need to provide is a drill with a 5mm masonry bit, 8mm socket attachment, eye protection, pencil, tape and tape measure. It’s fairly easy to fit if you can operate a power drill, just make sure you choose a flat bit of wall. The key safe comes with a 1 year guarantee. Defender Security Products has a wide range of key safes, cameras, alarms, lights, and other security items. Conclusion A key safe is a great way to fortify security and safety. It can provide access to the home of a vulnerable person in a quick and efficient way for both carers and the emergency services. Key safes are a robust way to keep keys available to those who need access. They are easy to install and are strong enough to withstand tampering and extreme weather. Do you have a key safe? Would you consider getting one? Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article, you may find others in the Aids and Adaptations page useful.   [...]
6 February 2023ReadingIntroduction to The Fatigue Book by Lydia Rolley Welcome to this blog post on The Fatigue Book. The full title is The Fatigue Book – Chronic fatigue syndrome and long COVID fatigue: Practical tips for recovery by Lydia Rolley. Published in October 2022 by Hammersmith Books, my thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review. It’s available as both paperback and ebook. Fatigue in ME and long COVID The fatigue felt in ME and long COVID is different to normal tiredness, or even exhaustion. It’s a hugely debilitating condition. It can affect cognitive function, physical energy levels and the ability to cope with emotions or socialising. As someone with ME, I am no stranger to crippling fatigue. Before I was sick, I was an RAF reservist. I completed a 50-mile road march and unfortunately, I missed the training beforehand. It was tough! Afterwards, 2 of my toenails fell off and my muscles were so sore I couldn’t climb stairs for 5 days. I thought that was fatigue. I was wrong. Today I struggle to walk 20 metres. On a bad day, the pain and fatigue make the six steps from my bed to the bathroom feel like a hundred road marches. The fatigue affects my body (muscles, heart rate, digestion etc), mind (difficulty concentrating, overwhelm from sounds and lights) and emotions (not enough ‘bandwidth’ to cope with strong emotions). Clearly, I need all the help I can get for managing fatigue! The Fatigue Book Review I’ve read quite a lot about managing fatigue. One of the main skills needed is pacing. Pacing is very difficult to do well. So, I was keen to read more about fatigue management and how to achieve the difficult balance between doing too much and too little. Lydia Rolley’s book is excellent for this, and I highly recommend it! The book is designed for people with fatigue because there no long chunks of text. Most of the advice (presented as tips) covers no more than two pages, key points appear in boxes. As soon as I saw this, I knew it had been written by someone who understands what it’s like to try to learn and remember new information with brain fog. Content The book contains 100 tips on dealing with fatigue. They are grouped thematically into 11 chapters covering areas including: mindset, sleep, energy, pacing, relationships etc. The tips are indexed and there is also a general index plus reference list. The advice is thorough, insightful, and practical because it’s written based on the author’s long experience as an occupational therapist. I’ve been sick for 5 years and have a science background, so I thought I knew quite a lot about managing ME, but there was plenty of new information for me and some very beneficial advice. I particularly like that the author creates space for the reader to reflect on each tip. It isn’t just a case of ‘do this…’ or ‘don’t do this…’. Instead, there are questions and little exercises for the reader to think about how they might better tackle the area themselves. There are great resources to help, such as activity diaries, flow charts for pacing and more. Style The style of this book lends itself well to being read in bitesize chunks. Even for those with severe ME or long covid. If you’re struggling and can only read a little at a time, you can aim for reading just one tip per day, or a couple a week. Each tip has the main body of text, which has details about the tip, as well as a grey summary box. So, if you’re really struggling, go for just the grey boxes. I’ve bookmarked all the tips which I think would work well for me, or which I need to do better. This helps me to remember which ones to refer back to often and remind myself. The language is very simple and easy to follow. There’s no unnecessary detail or jargon. Each tip has a little proverb and/or prayer associated with it. I’m not religious so I was ambivalent about the prayers, but I do really like the proverbs. There are also great illustrations and diagrams throughout, which is not only visually pleasing but also helps to demonstrate some of the points. The advice is both practical and comprehensive. These are real tips which can make a difference and they don’t just cover the basics. I was particularly impressed that secondary issues are also covered (e.g. relationships, managing comorbidities etc). There is also advice for friends and family members. Some tips are easy to do (tidy your space) whilst others harder (adjust your mindset). As they cover different areas, you can tailor the advice to what you need help with. That makes this a hugely valuable book! Cover Synopsis for The Fatigue Book by Lydia Rolley The Fatigue Book is a practical guide to managing chronic fatigue, whatever its cause, in order to enable recovery at a pace that works for the individual. It outlines 100 proven fatigue management tips drawn from the author’s personal and professional experience and is suitable for people of all ages affected by long COVID, CFS/ME and other chronic conditions, and for their family and friends. Whether someone is at the start of their recovery journey or has been doing this for some time, there is clear, practical advice based on a self-management approach that applies the principles of Pacing and Activity Management (but NOT Graded Exercise), as recommended by the latest NICE guidelines. Lydia Rolley brings her unique joint training and experience in occupational therapy and psychotherapy at a specialist NHS Fatigue clinic to provide an approach that recognises physical, mental and emotional/spiritual needs suited to the individual. Each chapter includes a range of Tips from which to choose plus Food for thought, Pause, and Mind, body and soul. Essential text is highlighted so that if you struggle with brain fog you can focus purely on that in the early stages of your recovery. [...]
1 December 2022Aids and AdaptationsIntroduction to 3 Reasons every Spoonie needs a Stackers Bed Pocket Welcome to this post featuring one of my all-time spoonie essentials – a Stackers bed pocket! If you’re a spoonie, chances are you spend more time in bed than the average bear. Rest is critical, especially during a flare up or if recovering from treatment. Being able to reach all your essentials means most spoonies’ bedside cabinets resemble a shop window arranged by a toddler. Mine was the same: medicines, supplements, heat packs, reading material, snacks, drinks, headphones all in a jumbled pile. Not any longer… enter the stackers bed pocket! This is the *best looking* aid I’ve seen in forever. Whilst gorgeous to look at and easy to match with other Stackers items, it’s functionality which sets it apart. Read on for my top 3 reasons every spoonie needs a stackers bed pocket. I was kindly gifted the bed pocket of my choice by Stackers, but as always this is a genuine review. Regular readers may know I’m a brand ambassador for Stackers, because I truly love their products. Hit up the ‘Discounts’ highlight on my IG for a 10% off code valid on all products (except during sale). 1. Range of Sizes and Styles Whether you’re looking for a little extra space, or a lot more storage, Stackers has you covered! There are small (mini) and large (supersize) bed pockets in a variety of colours for the grown-ups. There is also a childrens’ range of bed pockets featuring a variety of dinosaur, animal and astronaut designs. The mini bed pockets (£25) are perfect for your everyday essentials and come with two large pockets, two small ones and two cable loops. The large bed pockets (£35) are ideal if you need a bit of extra storage space. They have two large pockets, four small pockets and two cable loops. The kids’ bed pockets (£ various) come in a medium (classic) size. There is one main pocket for books and toys. 2. Ease of Installation Stackers bed pockets are super easy to install, you just slide the top half under your mattress. This makes them ideal for every style of bed frame. The top half is made of a soft faux suede so won’t damage your bed. If like me you’re quite weak, ask someone to help you lift your mattress. Once they’re in they stay put no matter how much you toss and turn. The kids bed pockets also have two ties on either side allowing the bed pocket to be attached to the side of a bed frame e.g. bunk bed. This is a great safety feature as it means kids don’t have to lean out of bed or over the side to reach. They come in a wide variety of character designs to choose from.   3. Functionality The Stackers bed pocket is super functional, allowing you to store a variety of items in it and being ideal for those with limited bedside space. Space Saver If you have limited space and can’t squeeze in a bedside cabinet or night stand, a bed pocket is the ideal alternative. Similarly, if you do have bedside furniture but much of the space is occupied by medical equipment, the bed pocket is a handy backup for those easy-to-loose items. Smart Design I’m really impressed with the thought that went into designing the layout of these. The smaller pockets at the front are easy to reach and ideal for housing remotes, phones, lipbalm, tissues, pens, meds etc. The large pockets can comfortably fit books, magazines, ipads, jounrals and smaller laptops. There are two loops, one on either side ideal for sliding through charging cables. This not only keeps your charger handy but also ensures your device is secure whilst charging. Conclusion to 3 Reasons every Spoonie needs a Stackers Bed Pocket There are lots of adaptations for those with disability and chronic illness. Rarely though are they so stylish. Stackers bed pockets come in a range of colourways making it easy to match to your existing Stackers solutions. They’re also super easy to fit and work with any style of bed frame. The kids designs can also be attached to the side of a bunk bed. The bed pockets have excellent functionality allowing for storage of a wide variety of items. There are even elasticated loops for keeping charging leads handy. For more Stackers home storage and organisation, click here. Which bed pocket is the one for you? Let me know in the comments.  I’m a big fan of the supersize, find out why it makes the ideal gift here. [...]
6 November 2022BalanceIntroduction to the Christmas Gift Guide 2022 Welcome to the RR Christmas Gift Guide 2022! Many gift guides for people with chronic illness and disability focus on specific aids and adaptations. And those are definitely helpful! This Christmas gift guide is a little different. The gifts here are those which anyone might enjoy, but they are chosen and tested with chronically ill and disabled recipients in mind. As everyone is different, please bear in mind your own support needs or those of the intended recipient when choosing. The partner companies are selected for the quality of their products and the ethos of their brand. In particular their commitment to sustainability and social enterprise. The items featured here are gifted in exchange for an honest review. Many items have discount codes to reduce purchase costs. A few codes are affiliate, so I will receive a small percentage from sales at no additional cost to you. If you are reading this post after Christmas 2022, do check the discounts highlight on Instagram as I try to keep codes updated there for the brands with ongoing collaboration. Cosyfeet Socks Cosyfeet make extra roomy shoes and socks without compromising on style. They are suitable for those with diabetes, swollen feet, reduced mobility, or other difficulties with standard fitting footwear. They’re recommended by many UK podiatrists, chiropodists and occupational therapists. Cosyfeet have a wide range of socks in a variety of styles and colours. I chose the Supreme Comfort Socks (in oatmeal) for day time (£21.50 for 2 pairs) and the Super Soft Bed Socks (in ivory) for nights (£17.50 for 2 pairs). I cannot recommend them highly enough! The Supreme Comfort socks are really stretchy so very easy to put on (by me or carer) yet they’re not baggy or saggy. They feel soft, comfortable (smooth toe joint) and keep my feet at the perfect temperature. I was surprised they are so adaptive to temperature, this is due to the composition of cotton and merino wool fabric. Merino is moisture wicking, breathable and has in-built climate control properties. The Super Soft bed socks really are super soft, they’re also super comfy as they have a very loose fit. Poor circulation means I often have chilly feet and these are warm and cosy. If you need warm socks for day wear, check out the gripped socks. These have a very soft terrycloth lining, loose ankle fit and slip-resistant tread. Both the supreme comfort and super soft bed socks wash well in the machine. They cost a bit more than standard socks but they are so worth it. In fact, long-term I think I’ll save money as they won’t need replacing as often. The majority of Cosyfeet socks are made in the UK. Last order dates for Christmas: December 20th using standard delivery service, by 2pm December 22nd using priority delivery service. Lemonade Box Self-care is so important for supporting health. A good self-care programme includes a range of aspects and one is enjoying little everyday moments of joy. A self-care subscription box is a great way to incorporate some mindful treats into each month. Lemonade box contains 5-6 wellness products each month, guaranteed to be worth a minimum of £60. Products come from both independent and globally recognised brands and are cruelty free. There are no product repeats, ever. There’s a card telling you about the contents (including what is recyclable; pretty much everything) and another with guidance on the month’s theme. The box can be reused and packing peanuts are biodegradable. Contents of September Box I received the September (worth £77.75) box to try, which is themed around ‘boundaries’. Excellent timing for me as it’s something I’m currently working on. The box contains a Cosmic Juice scented candle in Daydreamin’ which subscribers get to try before it goes on general sale (gorgeous mysterious scent!). There’s a pore refining serum from The Elements which has 5% niacinamide and 0.5% Zinc PCA. This improves skin clarity and promotes a healthy skin barrier; I really rate it. Another exclusive is the Bloom&Blossom off to bed bath oil. This is a luxurious, relaxing bath oil with sweet almond, lavender, ylang ylang and apricot kernel, I love this too. Next is Grums aarhus facial cleansing milk, this comes in a pump dispenser (I’m a big fan of these). It’s a mild but effective cleanser which can be used with a cotton pad so I keep it on my bedside cabinet for use on bedbound days. The Umberto Giannini banana scalp + hair oil is ideal for dry, textured and frizzy hair. It contains banana (rich in Potassium and vitamins A,B and C) and coconut (antioxidants and vitamin E). This isn’t my hair type so I gifted it to a friend and she found it made her hair softer and less dry. Finally, there is a bonus gift of Well&Truly banging BBQ snack, this was gluten free so ideal for me. After doing some mindful meditation with the Cosmic Juice candle, I did some less mindful snacking with Netflix and these crunchies. Because life is all about balance, right? A one-month rolling subscription is £25, you can get up to 16% off if you pre-pay for 12 months. Lemonade Box is a small British female founded business. Hidden Prints Spoonies spend a lot of time resting. If you have an energy-limiting chronic illness you’ll be familiar with stints in bed with limited stimulation. Staring at the walls gets boring fast, so a pretty bit of eye candy goes a long way in boosting mood. Hidden Prints have a huge range of prints to fit all tastes and styles, for both adults and children. There are too many categories to list here; but briefly they encompass sport, culture (films, music etc), food and drink, nature, travel, abstract art and a range of slogan types. They’re very stylish and fit a wide range different rooms and décor types. They’re also ideal for creating a picture wall as you can get several from the same theme and they go together really well. I chose the Beautiful Reasons print with an uplifting slogan to remind me to find gratitude on tough days. It’s on my bedroom wall  and really made a difference to my mental health when I spent over a month in bed recovering from COVID. All prints are printed to order and posted in a strong cardboard tube so arrive pristine. The card stock is good quality and the print finish is top notch with great sharpness and depth of colour. Prices vary according to size (mine is A3, £26.99) and delivery is free. Get 15% off with code RGR15. Hidden Prints is a UK small business, last UK order date for Christmas is one week before Royal Mail cut-off.   Goals Diary 2023 from BusyB Diaries are indispensable, especially to keep track of medical appointments. BusyB has a wide range of gorgeous diaries, calendars and gifts, so you’re bound to find one that suits. I love the sections in the Goals Diary 2023 which make organisation and goal planning so easy. It can be very tough to cope with the limitations of disability, so setting achievable goals can be hugely helpful to mental health. The January to December 2023 goals diary has a week-to-view layout and four handy pockets to help to keep appointment letters and other bits handy. It’s got plenty of space but isn’t bulk or heavy. It measures around 13.6cm x 19cm and weighs under 350g, it’s also vegan friendly. There are sections for setting weekly, monthly and annual goals, as well as tips for goal setting and sections for tracking achievements so you can keep your motivation up! It also comes with plenty of space for notes and ideas, plus a set of gorgeous stickers. It costs £15.99 and there is the option of sticky notes (sold separately) which slot neatly into the back cover. Ethosa Body Wash Sometimes the choice to be environmentally friendly feels like a compromise on quality. Not so with Ethosa which introduces itself as the eco-swap that feels like an upgrade. This award winning body wash has all the luxury and none of the unnecessary packaging or water. A typical shower gel contains 80-90% water and if the container can’t be refilled it’s a massive waste. Ethosa is shower gel which you make up yourself with 3 sachets and tap water. You can choose how much water to add (tailoring the consistency) and how much essential oils to use (tailoring fragrance levels). The refillable dispensers are great for spoonie energy saving too. The starter kit contains everything you need; a stylish silver coloured 400ml refillable pump action bottle, 3 sachets and a konjac body sponge. The 3 sachets contain: i) body wash (the bit that cleans) ii) essentials oils (for fragrance) and iii) preservative (keeps it fresh). The formula contains 6 potent plant-based ingredients, including eucalyptus, bergamot and rosemary. The formula is pH balanced and contains no SLS, parabens, phthalates, silicones, synthetic dyes or synthetic fragrances. I found it very easy to make up and like that I could use a bit less water to make it thicker. It smells amazing and leaves my skin soft and clean; all the hallmarks of a spa product! It’s so easy to swap from my usual shower gel and such a gorgeous product that I will get the refill subscription once this one runs out. Ethosa is a female founded small business, last order dates for Christmas are 10th December. The 1 month starter kit costs £19.90, or £32.90 for a 3-month/family supply. Get 30% off either starter kit with code RRETHOSA30.  Stackers Bed Pocket Stackers have a wide range of items for home and personal organisation. The bed pocket is ideal for those who have limited space or for those who are bed-bound. The bed pocket comes in a children’s version, styled as a mermaid, astronaut, cat, unicorn, shark, elephant, t-rex, and triceratops. The adult version comes in two sizes, small (32cm x 81.5cm x 0.5cms) and large (63cms x 61cms x 0.5cms), both come in grey, oatmeal or blush colourways. They are made of vegan leather and velvet. The top flap slots underneath your mattress so they are suitable for use with all types of bed frame. I chose the large pocket in oatmeal have found it indispensable! It has two large pockets, 4 smaller pockets and two charging cable loops. I can keep everything I need in it, from my ipad, magazine and journal, to medicines, remote controls, pens, eye mask, tissues and cosmetics. It keeps my bedside cabinet free of clutter and best of all everything is in super easy reach making it ideal for low energy days. It looks stylish too and goes with other Stackers oatmeal items in my room. For a full review click here. If only all disability aids and adaptations could look so attractive…     CORREXIKO Marine Collagen Collagen has been a buzz word in wellness for a few years now. Scientific studies show that collagen can improve skin elasticity and hydration, plus reduce the visibility of aging as well as contributing to strong bones, joint repair and stronger hair and nails. Not all collagen is the same, so choose high quality and efficacy to reap it’s benefits. Correxiko powder is ethically sourced and high-quality marine collagen that has been double-hydrolysed for maximum effectiveness and better absorption. Correxiko is sourced from wild-caught, unfarmed fish (in pristine Arctic Canadian waters) and uses only the fish skin, which has the largest concentration of collagen. Fishing in the Canadian Arctic is highly regulated with strict quotas. As the collagen is derived as a by-product of the fishing industry (so might otherwise go to waste) it’s the most sustainable, eco-friendly source of collagen. I’ve found it’s made my hair and nails stronger after just a couple of weeks, I’ll be buying some more in the hope it will lessen my joint pains too. The powder is unflavoured and can be added to water, juice, smoothies etc. Correxiko recommend a loading dose of 2-3x 10g per day (10g = one level tablespoon) then reduce to 10g once or twice per day. A trial pack (14 day supply) costs £19.99 (one off) or £17.96 by subscribe and save. A 42 day supply is £39.95/£35.96, larger packets and capsules are also available. Doctor A Cosmetics Doctor A Cosmetics create plant powered skin care packed with nature’s most effective ingredients. The paraben free and cruelty free formulas use ethically sourced ingredients and are naturally vegan. The range includes day and night moisturisers and a facial oil. Each comes in a beautiful butterfly lid box so it’s ready to gift. The full range is reviewed here. The Full Range: The Natural Vitamin C Brightening Moisturiser  (£28 for 50mls) contains squalene, glycerine, plant extracts and vitamins A, C and E. These protect the skin from pollution damage, reduce pigmentation, brighten and even skin tone, and reduce signs of ageing. Suitable for all skin types including sensitive (avoid eye area). I love this cream as it adds moisture but doesn’t weigh my (combination) skin down. My skin has become brighter and more even with only 3 weeks use. The Intensely Exotic Repairing Night Moisturiser (£28 for 60mls) nourishes and soothes dehydrated skin. Packed with hyaluronic acid, squalane, mango butter, grapeseed face oil, red raspberry face oil and plant powder. This moisturiser is ideal for dry skin (avoid eye area). This cream is rich and smells beautiful, it’s not something I’d use every night but 2-3 times a week. My skin has become drier since we’ve had the heating on and this moisturiser has made a difference. The 24k Gold Royalty Facial Oil Treatment (£19.99 15mls) will leave skin looking healthier and younger with an improved complexion. It contains argan face oil, coconut face oil, castor face oil, rosehip face oil, grapeseed face oil, bergamot face oil and real 24K carat gold leaf. These ingredients provide anti-aging properties and can be used on acne scarring, pigmentation and fine lines. Suitable for all skin types (avoid the eye area) and can be used as a stretch mark oil too. Perfect as an ultra-luxe treatment step in an at-home facial. I think the gold is purely decorative, but it does make it feel extra special! Get 10% off all items with code: take10. Doctor A is a British Asian female founded small business; all products are made in the UK. Last UK order date to arrive for Christmas is December 22nd. Snooze Foundry Silk Pillowcases Snooze Foundry sell a range of silk pillowcases including a vegan one, in a variety of styles and colours. They also stock other products to aid sleep. There are lots of benefits to a silk pillowcase; they’re naturally hypoallergenic, temperature regulating and won’t dry out your skin and hair while you sleep the way cotton does. As someone who unfortunately spends more time in bed than I’d like, a silk pillow case makes the experience more bearable. I received the high thread count pillowcase in sea blue and mulberry silk one in gold. The mulberry silk pillowcase is Snooze Foundry’s best selling product and it’s easy to see why! It’s silk on one side and lyocell on the other (elegantly done with a piped edge) making it excellent value for money at just £19.50 (currently on sale). I find it soft and luxurious to sleep on and it’s well-made. It’s fab to wake up without my skin feeling dry or a map of creases on the side of my face. It washes well in the machine on a cool handwash setting with appropriate detergent (I use woolite) and similarly delicate items. The comfort of this pillowcase and ease of washing makes it a game changer for me: I will be swapping my cotton pillowcase for this permanently. The high thread count pillowcase (£38, 22 Momme silk) has both sides in a thicker silk and closes with side zip. I find it very comfortable and it also stopped my head from overheating. It feels like the last word in luxury! It can also be washed in the machine (as above), iron silk pillowcases on a cool setting, do not tumble dry. They should be air dried out of direct sunlight to prevent the colour fading. Use this link and code ROSEGOLDREPORTS to get 5% off all orders, including sale. Conclusion to the Christmas Gift Guide 2022 I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s guide. Do any of these make your list? Let me know in the comments below. If you’re in need of further inspiration, check out last year’s gift guide too! [...]
16 July 2022Aids and AdaptationsIntroduction to How to Survive a Heatwave Welcome to this post on How to Survive a Heatwave. A state of emergency has been declared in the UK as the Met Office has issued a red weather warning for extreme heat. Temperatures of up to 40oC are expected next week on Monday and Tuesday. This is the first time ever, that a red warning has been issued for temperature. The Met Office advises that there will be population-wide adverse health effects. These are not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat and can lead to serious illness or danger to life. In this post, we focus on spoonies with dysautonomia symptoms and cover: Why heatwaves are challenging for spoonies How to keep your environment cool How to keep yourself cool My no.1 tip! Planning for bedbound spoonies Signs of heatstroke Why Heatwaves are Challenging for Spoonies Heatwaves can be more of a health risk to some groups of people. Specifically, the very young, elderly people and those with underlying health conditions. According to the NHS most at risk are people with heart or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, some mental health conditions, people who are bed bound, those with drug or alcohol addictions, or with Alzheimer’s disease. How to Survive a Heatwave with Dysautonomia People with dysautonomia also find extremes of temperature challenging. Dysautonomia is a disorder of autonomic nervous system, this can include difficulties with thermoregulation. Thermoregulation is the body’s way of regulating it’s own temperature, for example sweating to cool itself down. Dysautonomia symptoms can be made worse by heat, especially if there is insufficient sweating. The opposite can also occur; poor circulation caused by low blood volume or blood pooling can cause cold intolerance. Chronic conditions which can include dysautonomia symptoms include: Diabetes Parkinson’s disease Multiple sclerosis Rheumatoid arthritis Lupus ME/CFS Sjogren’s syndrome Sarcoidosis Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis Whilst much of the advice in this post is generally applicable we focus particularly on spoonies with dysautonomia. How to Keep Your Environment Cool Making the effort to keep your environment cool will help to keep you more comfortable. Especially, once the heatwave is in it’s 2nd or 3rd day onwards. It’s best to keep windows closed and curtains/blinds drawn during 10am to 6pm. Air out your home early morning or in the evenings. Some people like to keep their windows open all night which helps the walls to cool too. Obviously consider security if you’re planning to do this. If you can, stay in the coolest environment possible, either at home (find the coolest room) or a shady spot in your garden.  In the UK the hottest part of the day is 11am to 3pm so it should be cooler indoors then. If you’re one of the lucky few with air conditioning – enjoy! Others might consider buying a portable unit or the personal (table top) units which take a filter you freeze first. Bear in mind the smaller the unit the less of an effect it will have and those with water will make the air more humid. There are a lot of factors which affect your home’s temperature (type of building materials, which direction it faces, whether it’s terraced or detached etc) so use thermometers to find the best spots at different times of day. A domestic thermometer is about £4, digital ones a bit more. There are also digital weather stations which come with an indoor and outdoor thermometer. It’s best to avoid travel and exercise altogether; instead save your energy for your body to cope with the heat. If you must travel or exercise, avoid it during the hottest times of the day. How to Keep Your Yourself Cool The best clothing is loose, light and natural such as a thin cotton. If you’re going outside don’t forget a hat and sunscreen. Make sure you keep hydrated, the best thing to drink is water. Keep caffeinated and alcoholic drinks to a minimum. Eating several smaller, lighter meals throughout the day will keep you cooler than a few larger, heavier or richer ones. Choose foods with a high water content to keep your hydration up such as fruit or salads. Many people find fans helpful, they’re good for evaporating sweat from skin to keep us cool. There’s a huge range available. E.g. personal ones you wear on your neck or hold in your hand and larger ones such as desktop or freestanding. The more sophisticated ones are designed to be faster, quieter and come with automatic timers or remote controls. Prices vary according to size and capability. My no.1 tip This is the best tip I’ve learned for instantly cooling you down if you’re too hot. Cooling down your feet will cool your whole body! Our feet play a vital role in regulating our body temperature. Like our hands, they have a large surface area and lots of blood vessels. So, keeping them cool will stop you from over heating. A clever way to give the body an instant cool down is by dipping your feet in cold water for a couple of minutes, putting them on an ice pack (or hot water bottle filled with ice cubes) or putting on socks from the freezer. If you have the energy, then a tepid bath or shower can also help. How to Survive a Heatwave: Extra Tips for Bedbound Spoonies I know from experience that being bedbound during a heatwave is truly horrendous. And when symptoms are bad we often can’t think clearly. So it pays to plan ahead! Heatwaves are typically forecast in advance so being prepared is possible. Make a plan for what you need and who will be available to help you. I’m sharing mine below but everyone is different so adapt accordingly. You may need to stock up on foods which you can tolerate, cushions to help with positioning, fans and gel packs, extra pain relief or other meds. Make sure your meds are in a cool place too; many medicines need to be stored below 25C but not all can be refrigerated (check individual labels). My plan: Large supply of water in small easy-to-lift containers, kept in a little ice bucket to keep it cold Gel pads for sliding into my pillowcase (2 on rotation so one is in the fridge whilst I’m using the other). Black out blind and curtains for the window, lamp giving soft lighting (as substitute for daylight). Thin cotton sheet instead of a blanket Gel eye mask (kept in fridge when not in use) and lots of cotton socks in the freezer A free standing fan (takes a while to find ideal distance, speed and angle) Lots of cucumber, tomato, watercress, watermelon, pineapple and strawberries for snacks Signs of Heatstroke It’s likely that a heatwave will cause an exacerbation of symptoms. It’s important to differentiate that from heat exhaustion which can turn into heatstroke. The NHS lists the main symptoms of heat exhaustion as: a headache dizziness and confusion loss of appetite and feeling sick excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin cramps in the arms, legs and stomach fast breathing or pulse a high temperature of 38C or above being very thirsty If someone experiences these symptoms, they need to be cooled down quickly. The best way to do this is to: move them to a cool place, lie them down and raise their feet slightly, get them to drink plenty of water (sports or rehydration drinks are OK) and cool their skin (spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them). You can also put cold packs around the armpits or neck. They should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes. If they aren’t better after 30 minutes, the NHS advises calling 111. You should call 999 if a person has heatstroke and has any of the following symptoms: fast breathing or shortness of breath a fit (seizure) loss of consciousness not responsive If the person looses consciousness whilst you’re waiting for an ambulance, put them in the recovery position. Conclusion to How to Survive a Heatwave Remember to take care of yourselves and of those who are vulnerable. Also, don’t forget your pets; they need hydration and shade too. Don’t take dogs for walk on hot pavements, it could seriously harm them. These are all our best tips for how to survive a heatwave. Do you have any favourite tips for keeping cool? How to you plan to cope with heatwaves? Let us know in the comments below. If you’ve found this post useful, you might like some of the others in the Aids and Adaptations part of the blog.     [...]
3 July 2022NutritionIntroduction to How to Choose a Supplement If you’re wondering how to choose a supplement, you’re not alone. The global market for dietary supplements is valued at over 151.9 billion (USD, 2021). This is obviously a huge business, however, not all supplements are created equal. Some supplements are excellent and others effectively useless. The sheer variety on offer is seemingly limitless. So, how to choose the best ones? Here, we outline our 5 key questions to ask when choosing the best supplement for you. They are: Do I need it? Is this the most bioavailable form? Is the dosage right for my needs? Are the ingredients good quality? If it’s a blend, do the ingredients complement or compete? We also briefly look at a couple of other aspects which can make the choice easier. Do I need a supplement? Most of the nutrition the body needs, we can get from a healthy, balanced diet. The exception is Vitamin D, some comes from food but the majority forms from sunlight on skin. During autumn and winter, the sun isn’t strong enough for us to make Vitamin D (in the UK) and we are unlikely to get enough from food. So, the NHS recommends a Vitamin D supplement during autumn and winter. Those who are housebound should discuss with their GP whether they need a year-round Vitamin D supplement. Pregnant women, those on restricted diets, children under 5, and those with a diagnosed deficiency may also need supplements. For further information, see this NHS page or speak to your GP. If you feel you could benefit from a supplement, or your GP instructs you to take one, read on to see what you need to consider when choosing. Is this the most bioavailable form? Many supplements come in different chemical forms. This is particularly true of minerals. Which form is right for you will depend upon why you need it. It’s important that the form is also highly bioavailable (meaning it’s absorbed well by the body) otherwise you won’t get the benefit. For example, Magnesium comes in more beneficial forms when it is chelated (joined with a carrier) such as: citrate, taurate, malate, glycinate, chloride, carbonate. And less beneficial ones: sulphate, glutamate and aspartate. Magnesium taurate is best for people with cardiovascular issues as it prevents arrhythmias and damage caused by heart attacks. Magnesium carbonate turns into magnesium chloride when it mixes with the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs, so it’s useful for those with acid reflux and indigestion. The most common form available in pharmacies is magnesium oxide, but it is non-chelated and has poor bioavailability (absorption) compared to those listed above. Do research to ensure you know which form is best for you, or ask for advice from your pharmacist. Is the dosage right for my needs? First, you need to know how much of each vitamin or mineral you need. Check with your GP if you receive advice to supplement, or look at the tables in Public Health England Dietary Recommendations. Tables 4 and 6 show the amount of vitamins and minerals needed by adult men and women. How much of each vitamin, mineral or other active ingredient a supplement contains is given on the packaging. The types of units can vary, but there are 3 main types: Milligrams (a milligram is 1 thousandth of a gram) usually appear as mg. Micrograms (a microgram is 1 millionth of a gram, 1,000 micrograms is equal to 1 milligram) usually as μg or mcg. International Units, typically given for vitamins A, D and E, usually appear as IU. (the conversion of milligrams (mg) and micrograms (μg) into IU depends on the type of vitamin). For some supplements you might need to take more than one tablet or capsule per day. If you’re needing to take a large number to meet your required dose, check if a high strength version is available. But, more isn’t necessarily better as it’s possible to experience serious adverse reactions from taking too much of a supplement. If you are supplementing because of a GP diagnosed deficiency, your GP should re-check your levels after you’ve been supplementing for a while. This ensures the supplement is working and the dose is appropriate. Are the ingredients good quality? Spotting a quality supplement can sometimes take a bit of practise. Often, regular use leads to finding favourite brands. Here are some tips on spotting the better quality supplements: Read the ingredients: are there things in there you don’t recognise? Low quality supplements often contain lots of additives (some can even block your body from absorbing the active ingredient!). Check the company website for details of their sourcing and manufacturing processes. If the brand doesn’t have a website or their website is not transparent that could be a red flag. The best brands will have nutritionists or pharmacologists advising on sources, forms and blends. Is it too cheap to be good? Price isn’t always the best indicator of quality, but it’s worth knowing what a typical price is for a similar quantity and strength of that supplement. If it’s comparatively cheap it’s likely reflected in the quality of the ingredients. On this blog I’ve reviewed some of my favourite supplements from brands I trust. This includes: Unbeelievable Health’s blends for Sleep Support and Immune Formula, Better You’s oral iron spray, and probiotics from Cytoplan and Bioglan. If it’s a blend, do the ingredients complement or compete? A daily multivitamin seems like the perfect solution. One quick, easy pill and you get all the benefits. Except, sadly, it’s not that straightforward. Some combinations of vitamins and minerals are complementary, whilst others compete with each other. Good Supplement Groupings There are some well established mineral and vitamin pairings which maximise the absorption of the mineral. For example if you need an iron supplement, taking it with Vitamin C (e.g. orange juice) will help your body to absorb the iron. Similarly, taking vitamin D alongside calcium will help your body to absorb the calcium. You might find that if you buy a calcium supplement it also contains a bit of vitamin D to ensure you get the full benefit. There are also supplements containing groups of vitamins, minerals and other actives which don’t interact or compete with each other. These are usually blends tailored to a particular problem e.g. energy, digestion, sleep, anxiety etc. These will contain a variety of ingredients targeted at solving a problem without impacting on each other’s absorption. Bad Supplement Groupings Some vitamins and minerals compete for the same receptor sites in the body. As the number of receptor sites is limited, it means only some of the minerals or vitamins get absorbed. The remainder pass uselessly through the body. Some examples of competing pairings are: B1 and B2, B5 and B7, magnesium and calcium, zinc and copper. It’s best to take these pairs separately and space the doses so each gets maximum absorption opportunity. For more information on competing groups see this post from Calton Nutrition. Other Considerations for How to Choose a Supplement These are our 5 key questions for how to choose a supplement, however, they’re not the only ones that matter. Depending on your personal circumstances there may be other factors you need to consider. For example, shape and size (if you have trouble with swallowing), how they need to be stored (some might need refrigeration), how easy it is to open the container (a consideration for you if you struggle, or if you don’t want children taking them), how much they cost etc. Have you thought about how to choose a supplement? What usually guides your choices? Let us know in  the comments below.   [...]
29 June 2022BalanceGender Health Gap Introduction Welcome to this post about the Gender Health Gap. This is an issue which is currently receiving much-needed attention. So we’re going to explore it in this post. Specifically, we look at: What is a gender health gap? Does the UK have a gender health gap? Why does this gap exist? What are some real examples? Is change happening? What is a Gender Health Gap? Put simply, the gender health gap is when one gender experiences poorer health outcomes. These outcomes can relate to a variety of factors. Some examples are: disease prevalence (i.e. how likely one gender is to develop it), healthcare access, correct diagnosis, effective treatment, long term prognosis etc. Often a gap will exist for several of these factors, so this creates a big difference between the health of males and females. It is similar to the gender pay gap, where salaries and earning potential differ based on gender. Does the UK have a Gender Health Gap? Many countries have a gender health gap, some bigger than others. In some countries men are disproportionately affected, in others it’s women. Male v Female In the UK, we have the largest female health gap in the G20 (world’s 20 biggest economies) and the 12th largest globally. This is due to a number of factors including misdiagnosis of women’s symptoms. Women in the UK make fewer visits to the GP, receive less health monitoring, and take more potentially harmful medication. Suicide is the biggest killer amongst men under 40 years old and so remains an important male mental health issue. Mental health problems have stabilised amongst men, however; their prevalence is increasing amongst women. Intersectionality Looking at intersectionality (where identities overlap) shows that the not all women have the same experience. This is because factors such as race also play a part. For example, black women have the highest rate of death in childbirth compared with Asian and white women, whereas white women have the lowest rate. Health outcomes are also poorer for LGBT and disabled people. See our post on health impacts of loneliness for disabled people. Why Does This Gap Exist? Award winning author Caroline Criado Perez argues that this gap has existed since medicine was invented in Ancient Greece. The female anatomy was then perceived as a mutilated version of the male anatomy. Hysteria (considered a female condition) resulted from lack of impregnation and women were seen as lesser beings. You can read more in her book Invisible women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. Surely this patriarchal world view has changed in modern times? Despite medicine now viewing female anatomy as different rather than mutilated, women remain marginalised. In medical school, students are taught to recognise signs and symptoms for diseases as they appear in men. As a result, many women experience misdiagnosis because they have different symptoms. For example, one study found that women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed after heart attack. Moving from diagnosis to treatment. Women are more likely to receive the wrong type of medication or an inappropriate dose. The majority of clinical studies are carried out on men, because it’s easier to account for the potential influence of monthly hormonal fluctuations where there aren’t any. This means that resulting treatment is tailored to men not women. When it comes to dosage, women are often treated as ‘smaller men’ and might be given a slightly smaller dose. Women’s physiology is different to men’s and so a different drug altogether might actually be more therapeutic. What are some real examples? Trigger warning: the examples below include independent public enquiries where women were harmed by medical professionals. A debate on the gender health gap took place in the UK House of Lords last year. Three independent reports and inquiries highlighted situations where mostly women have suffered harm because of poor healthcare. The Paterson Inquiry report investigated surgeon Ian Paterson. In 2017,  he was convicted of wounding with intent and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He subjected more than 1,000 patients (mostly women who’d found a lump in their breast) to unnecessary and damaging operations over 14 years. First Do No Harm Report (a.k.a. Cumberlege report) is investigated the safety of medicines and medical devices. It focused on three medical interventions. An epilepsy medication (sodium valproate) and a hormone pregnancy test (Primodos), both were found to cause harm to unborn children when used during pregnancy. The third, Pelvic mesh is used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. The report highlighted the unnecessary suffering of women and multiple, systemic failings in healthcare. The Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care Report details maternal mortality rates. Between 2016 and 2018, 217 women died during or up to six weeks after childbirth from causes associated with their pregnancy. There were disparities based on race: among every 100,000 women giving birth 34 Black women, 15 Asian women and 8 white women died.  The report found that women with complex and multiple problems were prevented from receiving the care they need. Is change happening? In March 2021, a Call for Evidence sought views on the first government-led Women’s Health Strategy for England. Almost 100,000 responses were received detailing women’s experiences. This resulted in a report outlining the UK government’s vision for a women’s health strategy. The Women’s Health Strategy report outlines a desire to offer equal access to effective care and support, prioritising care on the basis of clinical need and not of gender. It highlights that it will take time to undo “decades of bias”. Alongside the report’s publication, an announcement was made detailing a Bill which would cut the cost of repeat HRT (hormone replacement therapy) prescriptions. These are typically used by menopausal women. The HRT Bill was introduced to the House of Commons in June 2021 but has not yet been enacted. Conversely, there is a serious shortage of every brand of HRT in the UK. This has had a massive impact upon the physical and mental health of thousands of women. Whether the report and political will actually leads to meaningful change for the health care outcomes of British women remains to be seen. What are your views or experiences on the Gender Health Gap? Do you think health outcomes for women in Britain will change in the next decade? Let us know in the comments below.       [...]