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Monday, April 18, 2011

How dangerous is the sun?

There is an alternative school of thought emerging that sunscreen use is not protecting us from skin cancer as we once thought it could.  Skin cancer rates have increased over the past 50 years, as have rates of lots of other cancers.  Use of sunscreen has also risen over this time.  Dr Briffa provides an excellent account of this here.

Some people say that sunscreen itself is involved in the rise in skin cancer due to the chemicals it contains.  Others believe that blocking out the sun’s rays can leave us depleted in Vitamin D (sunlight is needed for Vitamin D production) which is essential for many processes in the body.  Our skin also produces melanin which protects us from sunburn and damage; avoiding the sun totally means that we don’t get to develop this protective pigment.  Alongside these suggestions, I hypothesise that the same factors which have led to a rise in the other cancers could also be involved in the increase in skin cancer; smoking, nutrient depleted diet, increased alcohol intake, exposure to more toxic chemicals, and constant low-level stress. 

The sun is necessary for all life on earth, and in recent years awareness of the importance of vitamin D has come into the medical spotlight.  Suddenly many people have a vitamin D deficiency and are being prescribed supplements.  And the health news that comes my way cites Vitamin D as being responsible for preventing many diverse diseases.  So the sun is definitely important in keeping us healthy in this respect. 

But say that this way of thinking is all wrong, and we do in fact need sunscreen to keep us safe from dangerous UV light and the potential to develop skin cancer.  Does this then mean that the human race is going to be dependent on man made lotions in order to keep us safe?  Are the likes of Ambre Solaire going to be superpowers who we rely on to keep us alive?  Eventually the human race evolves only to be kept from decline by manufactured products?  It’s an interesting concept, and one that I don’t subscribe to.  It doesn’t seem right to me.

I think it’s important to radiate health from the inside.  Your skin (and the defences it provides) is formed from inside the body with substances that you’ve eaten.  I believe that overall health is an important factor in keeping skin healthy, rather than relying on pasting on chemical protection from an outside source.  Your body is an amazing machine that runs on good food, water, sunlight, fresh air, movement and happiness.  Looking after these areas generally stands you in good stead. 

Of course, sunburn is not healthy, and I am not advocating a cavalier approach to sun exposure.  The sun is very powerful and needs to be respected, but perhaps not shyed away from. 

If you have any concerns about skin cancer and skin health, please visit your GP for advice.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

10% Discount Pai Skincare Rosehip BioRegenerate

Pai Skincare make fantastic natural products, which are especially suited to skin sensitive or problem skin (but also great for anyone wanting to use products made without chemicals), and they have just launched a new product: Rosehip BioRegenerate.

With daily use Rosehip oil conditions the skin, improving skin firmness, elasticity and suppleness.  Clinical studies show Rosehip is effective at improving the appearance of scars, stretch marks, sun damage and fine lines.

To promote the launch of this new product, Pai are offering a 10% discount on any order containing Rosehip BioRegenerate.  Just enter the voucher code 'bioregenerate' when you check out.  But hurry, this offer ends on 30th April 2011!

Monday, April 04, 2011

My diet is healthy, but I still have high cholesterol. Why?

Most people associate high cholesterol levels with a diet high in fried, oily foods, but it seems that more and more people are finding out they've got high cholesterol, despite eating a relatively low fat diet.  So what is the dietary advice if you already avoid foods high in fat?

Well actually, only a small amount of cholesterol in the body comes from the diet - most of it is made by the liver regardless of how much you eat.  Cholesterol is an important substance in the body and is used for the manufacture of certain hormones and for healthy cell membranes.  It also is a component of bile which is needed to digest fats properly and to absorb fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin E.  It also has a role in syntehsising vitamin D in the skin in response to sunlight.

When bile is produced by the liver, it is released into the digestive system where it gets to work digesting fats.  It is usually then excreted with the faeces, and more bile is made from cholesterol to replace it.  Foods rich in soluble fibre soak up the cholesterol-rich bile acids like a sponge, and ensure they are transported out of the body.  This is a really important part of keeping cholesterol at a healthy level, and as a nutritional therapist, I will always want the bowel to be working efficiently when a client has high cholesterol levels.

It is important to note here that there are two kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble.  Soluble fibre is the important type for lowering cholesterol levels.  It dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance which mops up the cholesterol-rich bile acids.  On the other hand, insoluble fibre acts more like a brush, sweeping debris through the digestive system.  Foods that are good sources of insoluble fibre include oats, beans, lentils, linseeds and apples.

As well as including these foods, it can sometimes help to take a supplement to improve bowel function and to help the changes happen more quickly.  I recommend Colon Support Formula and also Psyllium Husk Powder.  Flaxseeds are a really good source of soluble fibre and contain some essential fats, and are really easy to sprinkle on your breakfast cereal.

In addition to including the right kind of fibre in your diet, it also helps to increase your intake of healthy fats (the type of fats found in fish, nuts and seeds).  So if you have high cholesterol levels, rather than avoiding fats totally, I would recommend you include oily fish as often as you can.  If you are vegetarian, flaxseed oil is the best vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids, and if you don't like fish, then a capsule of fish oil is a good idea.
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