Give us a hug!

Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist, once said:

“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

There are moments in time when no present in the world could boost the sense of belonging, of being accepted and appreciated for what you are. Hugs are designed for that, as they are simple and pure manifestations of empathy.

So what’s the science behind it?

Hugs improve levels of oxytocin, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, allowing you to restore your emotional balance.  Oxytocin also helps by lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels (cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure, and heart disease).

A hug is one of the easiest ways to show appreciation and acknowledgment of another person.  

Think about it, how many times have you just felt better from a good hug?! 

Affection also helps in the reduction of stress which prevents many diseases. The University of Miami School of Medicine has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant positive effects, including faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes, and improved immune systems in people with cancer.

Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the solar plexus chakra which stimulates the thymus gland, regulating the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.

With almost 70% of communication being nonverbal, the interpretation of body language can be based on a single gesture and hugging is an excellent method of expressing yourself nonverbally to another human being or animal.

Hugs stimulate the brain to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Low dopamine levels play a role in the neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s as well as mood disorders such as depression. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it’s also responsible for self-motivation!

Hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels. When released, these improve feelings of pleasure and negate pain and sadness.  They also decrease the chances of getting heart problems, help fight excess weight and prolong life.

Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress levels. Anyone with a pet will know this already! 

Hugging for an extended time lifts our serotonin levels, lifting our mood and creating feelings of happiness.

But as we became more and more confined in our in our own lives, with stress for jobs, worries and social norms, we also got uneasy to ask or to offer hugs, despite their health enhancing effects.

So don’t hold back, give a someone a hug today, it’s good for their health and yours

Sophie x

I just want a good night’s sleep!

Sleep issues are one of the many reasons people come and see me for help and support.  Alongside remedies and herbs, there are a number of self-help options available to you…….

Spend time in natural light

Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm which tells your body when it is day time and when it is night time, this “clock” is triggered mostly by light. 

One of the first things I look at with people is their own rhythm of sleep, what time they go to bed and what time they wake up, to ascertain how their own sleep cycle operates.

Sunlight and natural daylight help to keep this rhythm healthy.  Stress and anxiety of any kind, keeping the body in a state of ‘fight or flight’ has the opposite effect!  Using remedies and herbs to help address the stress and support the adrenal glands, people are more able to maintain a regular sleep pattern

Avoid blue light at night

Exposure to natural light during the day is beneficial, but night time light exposure, particularly to that from computer and phone screens has the opposite effect!

Again, due to the impact on your circadian rhythm … when we are exposed to blue light at night it triggers our brain into thinking it is still day time, and completely disturbs your sleep hormones. Avoiding screen use and not having your phone in the bedroom at night will greatly reduce the amount of blue light your body is exposed to.

Reduce your caffeine intake

An obvious one. When consumed late in the day, coffee stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night.

A recent study found that consuming caffeine even up to six hours before bed significantly worsened sleep quality! Even decaf drinks still contain some caffeine, so consider stopping drinking them after midday.  Many people’s energy levels drop mid-afternoon, which is when they reach for a pick me up.  I often suggest people try coca complex for a natural caffeine free, mood enhancing alternative. I also suggest the Neal’s Yard supplement Beauty Sleep, a combination of vitamins and herbs to support the skin and nervous system to aid sleep and improve your skin!

Develop a Routine

The body loves routine! By setting your alarm for the same time each day, and going to sleep around the same time each evening, your body will be more likely to find its own routine for the sleep/wake cycle.

Bedroom Temperature

One study found that bedroom temperature affected sleep quality more than external noise!  Having a warm bath before bed helps many people, but make sure you don’t use the buddle bath labelled ‘invigorating’ instead consider a relaxing buddle bath or some beauty sleep butter and a relaxing aromatherapy roller ball to place on your wrists.  A pillow spray with lavender works well for some too. My daughter swears by the Goodnight Pillow Spray from Neal’s Yard!

Avoid eating late at night

Eating late at night can disrupt your body’s ability to have a restful sleep and eating a high carb meal 4 hours before bed helps aid a great night sleep … now carbs may not be the answer for everyone, but consider cutting out heavy foods more than 4 hours before bed, to allow your digestive system to have a break.

These are just a few suggestions, do get in touch if you’d like some more support or advice on any remedies or products which may help

Sophie x

‘I’m just so tired all the time’

Even if you don’t say this often, there are definitely periods of our lives when we all feel exhausted.  I’ve certainly had stretches of time where I feel as if I’m running on the hamster wheel, not getting anywhere with what I have to do, but feeling exhausted as a result.  In fact it’s thought that 80% of us will undergo adrenal fatigue multiple times in our lives.

Feeling tired and exhausted seems to be a natural state of everyday life for many of us nowadays, and as a result we reach for stimulants such as caffeine and sugar to keep us going.  But these quick fix pick me ups actually make the matter much worse. 

The primary gland in the body to cause fatigue are the adrenal glands and the biggest thing to impact them is stress.  We’ve all heard of the term ‘fight or flight’ and stress of any kind can put our body’s into this state for long periods of time, leading to what we refer to as adrenal burnout.

Stress comes in many forms, both physical and emotional and many of us are used to having a low level of stress in our lives and may feel we thrive on it.  In addition to this, different stages of our lives, such as pregnancy and child birth and the menopause, put additional strain on our adrenals as they are required to work harder during these times.  This may mean our usual levels of stress become overwhelming and we need additional support.

Let’s look at some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:

  • You crash in the early part of the day, or throughout the day.
  • You feel tired all day, but more alert at home in the evening.  This happens when your adrenal glands hold on to energy reserves in case an emergency arises.
  • You’re exhausted but can’t sleep.  The body needs adrenal hormones to help with sleep, so a lack of these will cause sleep issues.
  • You feel tired even after a night’s sleep.    Again this is because of the adrenal hormones needed to aid sleep.
  • You are continually sweaty.  This is a result of the entire endocrine system being under stress and having to work harder to compensate for the adrenal glands.
  • You feel thirsty all the time and cave salt.  Cortisol affects the electrolytes in your blood and results in nervous system problems. 
  • Blurry vision or difficulty focusing.  Again this is down to a flood of cortisol, which dehydrates the body.  You may also find dark circles around the eyes, which is an adrenal sign.
  • Craving stimulants. This is usually a sign of needing a quick energy boost for the lack of adrenal hormones.  Alas the crash afterwards forces the adrenals to over perform and then become exhausted, which over time makes the issue worse.

Many of us can recognise a number of these symptoms as present in our lives. So how do we go about avoiding this and boost our adrenals, so that they perform at their optimum for us?

How to avoid fatigue:

  • The most obvious but possibly hardest is to avoid long term stress and extreme stress as this sets up the over production of adrenaline.
  • Avoid artificial stimulants such as caffeine, energy drinks and drugs that give you an artificial boost.
  • Strong negative emotions are another strain on the adrenals.  Fear, anxiety, anger, grief. Anything that makes you feel bad emotionally.  Positive emotions will give you a boost!
  • Eat regularly.  Eating 3 times a day will cause your blood sugar to drop and this forces the body to use hormones such as cortisol to keep it ticking over.  This puts strain on the adrenals and little time to recover. Snacking every couple of hours on foods such as apples, dates, avocados will help keep blood sugar levels stable.
  • Avoid eating too much meat.  The fat in meat will put a strain on your pancreas and liver, eventually creating insulin resistance.  This is turn makes it difficult for your body to maintain stable glucose levels, which your adrenal glands then need to regulate by creating additional hormones to compensate.

Supplements and herbal support:

You could take an all-round adrenal support supplement, which contains a range of vitamins and herbs to optimise the glands function.  Or if you prefer, you can take individual supplements as noted below:

  • Ginseng:  More suited to men, but women may take it.  Will balance the adrenals, increase stamina, energy and libido.   Helps to protect the adrenal glands from overreacting to stress.
  • Borage: Anti-inflammatory properties, supports adrenal cortex.  Helps revive and renew adrenal glands particularly after steroid treatment.
  • Discorea: Excellent for restoring the endocrine system.  Anti-inflammatory and blood purifier.
  • Passiflora: quietens the nervous system, aids sleep in those who are stressed and overwrought.
  • Skullcap: a wonderful herb for anxiety and nervous tension.
  • Liquorice: can support underactive adrenal glands and boosts the entire endocrine system.  Seen as a natural steroid.  Will balance the levels of cortisol and cortisone.  Can be taken as a tea.
  • Vitamin C: Lowers inflammation in the body and soothes the adrenal glands.
  • Magnesium: Lowers anxiety and calms overactive nervous system, reducing adrenal stress.
  • Chromium:  Helps balance insulin levels and improves the strength of the adrenal glands, thyroid gland and the pancreas.
  • Selenium helps to normalise the immune system, thyroid function and protects the body against stress.
  • Ashwagandha:  helps balance the production of testosterone and cortisol. A great supplement for use during the menopause.
  • Astragalus: strengthens the immune and endocrine systems
  • Lemon Balm: replenishes the nervous system and helps regulate the production of insulin
  • Rhodiola:  optimizes adrenal function.

My two essences Calm and Energise contain a combination of many of the above herbs and are worth considering as an easily accessible support.  Have a browse through my shop page for more information on them.

Of course, there are many homeopathic remedies which can be considered too! 

Do get in touch if you’d like my help and support

With Gratitude, Sophie x





Menopause, a time for transition

Menopause is a natural process, which occurs with age as a woman’s body adapts to the changes that result from ovarian decline.  The Pituitary gland, found in the brain, attempts to stimulate the ovaries back into function, which in turn results in the symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flushes.  At this time, the adrenal glands are expected to take over the role of the declining ovaries, so if they are exhausted or compromised in any way the process becomes harder work for the hormonal system to process and adapt to.  Likewise, if the liver is overburdened with toxicity from diet and lifestyle choices, it is unable to assist in the detoxing of the body and processing of hormones.

The onset of menopause usually occurs between the ages of 50 and 55 and is a gradual cessation of menstruation.  Peri-menopause, seen as the transitional period before menopause, can occur anytime between 2 and 20 years before menopause.  During this time, women usually see irregularity of their menstrual cycle caused by fluctuations in the levels of oestrogen and progesterone.  Scientists believe that the peri-menopausal stage is occurring earlier and earlier due to the number of hormone-like chemicals in today’s environment, which disrupt a woman’s natural cycle.

When patients come to see me for support, I generally offer a combination of Homeopathic remedies, herbal and nutritional supplements, which together alleviate symptoms and support this transition stage.

Diet and lifestyle are important factors for this time of transition. The hormonal changes within the body can put additional stress on women’s body’s, so it’s the ideal time to make yourself a priority.

So how can you help your body through this time of transition?

Adding Calcium and Magnesium to your diet will help alleviate anxiety and protect bone health.

Vitamins B & E can reduce hot flushes and improve circulation, Vitamin B also helps with feelings of stress and anxiety, often felt by menopausal women. I’ve mentioned in other blogs how the adrenal glands are affected by the menopause, so I always recommend my clients consider a good quality adrenal support supplement to help combat anxiety and exhaustion.

Essential Fatty Acids also alleviate hot flushes and act as a diuretic for those who experience fluid retention.

By avoiding foods which stimulate the adrenal glands, which are already under additional demand you will help to lessen symptoms such as hot flushes. For example, caffeinated drinks and alcohol stimulate the adrenals and also over stimulate the nervous system.

Most health food shops also stock a good range of herbal tinctures, such as Hypericum, Agnus Castus and Black Cohosh, all of which help to rebalance the hormonal symptom and relieve symptoms. I’ve had great success supporting women with Homeobotanicals, which combine all of these herbs (and a few more!) to alleviate some of the symptoms experienced at this time.

If supplements are your preference, Evening Primrose Oil is a good source of Omega 6 and fatty acids. Ashwagandha is a well known Ayurverdic herb which supports the symptoms of menopause.

If sleep becomes a problem, I recommend Neals Yard Goodnight Pillow Mist to help calm and relax the body into sleep. They also offer a combination of aromatherapy oils to help bring balance to the female hormonal system.

There are so many ways for us, as women to support our bodies, with around 30 different symptoms now considered to be associated with the menopause, no two women are likely to experience the same.

There’s so much more information I could share with you, drop me a line if you’d like some advice and support.

Sophie x

Superhuman or super stressed?

 You’re a busy, efficient person, juggling a daily ‘to do’ list, racing everywhere at 100mph trying to achieve as much as you can every day.

You do so much for everyone around you, the kids, colleagues at work, your friends and partner, the neighbour, the dog the cat.  You get the picture!

You are SuperhumanSuper-efficient, never complaining, it’s GREAT to be able to do so much.

But you are EXHAUSTED and STRESSED. You’re definitely not FINE!!

Yes, you do perhaps rely too heavily on coffee and sugar to get you through the day.  So the weight gain is probably easily sorted by reducing your intake of sweets and cookies, and if you just knocked a few things off your ‘to do’ list, you would probably be less forgetful as you’d have less to remember!

Let’s just check that you’re not TOO stressed. Let’s take a look at your adrenal glands and see if you’re showing signs of adrenal fatigue.

Most of us are so used to having some form of ongoing stress in our lives, that we actually aren’t aware of it.

Our body’s adapt to keep us going and hormones such as Cortisol are produced by the body to ‘keep us going’ Cortisol is also the hormone that gives us that ‘spare tyre’ around our midriff. Its role is to balance blood sugar and regulate inflammation in our cells and muscles, so an imbalance of this not only causes us to crave stimulants, and gain weight, but can also result in muscle pain and other inflammatory processes.

The adrenals produce hormones that affect energy, blood chemistry and are involved in the ‘fight or flight’ process that kicks in when we are in danger or stressed.  For many of us, who have been in a chronic state of stress for any period of time, could find that we have been in a state of ‘fight or flight’ for months or even years.

So what happens when our adrenals respond to stress?

Our heart rate speeds up, which raises blood sugar levels and blood pressure. This would be fine if it was a short term thing because we were being chased by a tiger, it’s not a good thing if it’s minute after minute, day after day.

The ‘dangers‘ of today, meeting deadlines, juggling chores, being in the right place at the right time are all dangers that don’t go away like the tiger perhaps would.

Being in this state of constant ‘fear’ sends our adrenals into overdrive and our hormones go into melt down, often leading to adrenal fatigue or burn out.

The thing is, the adrenal glands are just one of the glands in the body, which all work together and help balance each other out.  So yes, you guessed it, when one gland is out, they are all out and the entire hormonal system becomes unbalanced.

So although you think you’re OK and can deal with the stressed state you’re in, it may be that your chronic state of stress is actually the reason why your thyroid gland isn’t functioning properly, or your menstrual cycle has gone haywire or why you are constantly suffering with colds and stomach bugs.

How many of these symptoms can you recognise in yourself?

  • Constant tiredness, even trying to get out of bed is an effort.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Low metabolism and/or low thyroid.
  • Muscle weakness/pain.
  • Low immune system and catching coughs, colds and ‘flu.
  • Irregular periods with sore/lumpy breasts.  Also lack of ovulation and difficulty falling pregnant. 
  • Allergies and/or asthma.
  • Depression. 
  • Trouble handling stress and coping with life. 

It’s important to see you Doctor if you’re worried about your health, but what can you do to help yourself?

AVOID!!

  • Adding more stress!
  • Stimulants – yes quit the caffeine…coffee, tea, chocolate, caffeinated drinks, alcohol
  • Sugar and refined carbs because they send your blood sugar, energy and moods on a rollercoaster.
  • Processed foods, anything with additives in, which puts a stress on the body to break down and process.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF

  • Try to manage your stress. Get into the habit of asking for help!
  • Get enough rest and sleep.  ‘Me time’ is important too.
  • Eat nutritionally rich foods. Plenty of fruit and veg, good fats – yes some fats are good for you! good quality protein, complex carbs. And try to drink more water!
  • Take the best quality multivitamin and mineral complex you can afford. Buying the cheapest in the shop is a false economy. I particularly like those from Cytoplan, a UK based company offering high quality vitamins at an affordable price. 
  • Magnesium levels are often low in us all nowadays, which can add to muscle soreness and fatigue, consider adding some bath salts to your bath to improve your levels.  I like Neal’s Yard bath salts with added Arnica to soothe sore muscles, you can have a browse of their lovely products via this website. 

If you’d like some more help and advice on how to tackle your stress levels, drop me a line today!