Schools are breaking up and our thoughts are turning to long summer days (we hope! Coming from the UK that’s not always guaranteed!). Many of us will be departing for a much-needed break. I live for my precious holidays but I must admit I worry that when I finally stop and relax my body will take it as a sign to release the past few months’ pent-up stress and I’ll fall sick with a cold or feel a bit below par. Does this ever happen to you?
If so, check out these tips to ensure you’re at your best all summer long!
1. Boost your immunity before you go.
A few weeks before I board a plane, I give my immunity a powerful boost. The last thing you need is to pick up nasty germs before you even get to your destination. Check out my recommendations in our August 2017 newsletter especially if you are travelling by air.
2. Pack Melatonin.
Melatonin - a natural sleep aid - helps protect against jetlag. Take between 0.5 - 3mg half an hour before you want to sleep, or if you have difficulties getting to or staying asleep. I find that even if I am awake at 2 am I am much more relaxed about it and can fall back to sleep quickly if I’ve taken melatonin.
3. Keep hydrated.
Keeping yourself hydrated is important not only during air travel but also while you’re on holiday. The sun, in all its glory, will dehydrate your skin, and you’ll lose water sweating. Don’t assume a dunk in the pool is all you need to keep cool. Your insides need some water-loving too. Carry a water bottle with you, preferably a glass one that you can refill. We’re not fans of plastic!
If you do fancy a glass of bubbly or two in the sun, alternate alcoholic drinks with water. That way, you’ll avoid the risks of dehydration including headaches, dizziness and heatstroke AND you’ll reduce the number of empty calories you consume. Win-win!
4. Protect your skin.
Whilst we do want our dose of Vitamin D - critical for so many of the processes in our body, our immunity, and our mood - prolonged exposure to the sun can cause sunburn and longer-term damage. Opt for an SPF of 50 that doesn’t contain parabens and harmful chemicals and apply regularly. I like the Badger range though it can be hard to apply. The Mambino SPF30 for kids and babies is also a firm favourite, which I use on myself. It spreads easily and evenly and I just make sure I apply it more frequently. It’s available at IMI, 13th floor Kailey Tower, Stanley Street or you can buy from their online shop. https://www.imi.com.hk/
Avoid the sun in the heat of the day between 11 am and 3 pm and ensure kids - and adults too - wear sunvests when swimming. Good skin protection such as long cool cotton sleeves will also help against prickly heat rash, a condition I’ve been unfortunate to have in the past. If you do fall victim, aloe vera gel or a couple of drops of lavender and peppermint essential oil in coconut oil can help ease the discomfort.
5. Eat mindfully and take a good probiotic.
No one wants a dodgy stomach on holiday. Take a probiotic before and during your holiday to protect against offending foods. The Optibacs range – also available at IMI – is super convenient as it doesn’t need to be kept cool. Also, as much as possible, eat fresh local produce as it will likely be higher in nutrients than food shipped in and less likely to cause food poisoning through bad refrigeration.
Try spacing out meals to give your body time to digest the last one. The first bite of everything tastes wonderful so check in to see that each bite lives up to the first taste – if it doesn’t, leave it. Share a dessert with a friend and savour every mouthful – such mindful eating will help weight management so you don’t come back with excess pounds to lose. It is said that on average people come back 4 lbs heavier on holidays, according to one survey!
6. Really unplug.
Just Be. How wonderful does that sound? I don’t know about you but it takes me a couple of days to relax and unwind. The last 3 holidays I’ve had I’ve been on conference calls within an hour of me getting to my destination. This summer I won’t be doing that. Prioritise and rework deadlines to give yourself some space, ensure you prepare and brief others before you go away, and then set your ‘out of office’ on email. (Here’s one for you: I’m lying on the beach with my toes wiggling in the cool sand right now. I’ll be back ready to go fully refreshed on x date. If you need assistance whilst I’m away please contact x).
If you must check your emails, limit it to a couple of times a day - am and pm - and stick to that. Let people know if something’s super important they can call you. Put your laptop away (and your beloved phone, if you can) somewhere, anywhere, where you won’t be tempted to check it time and again.
7. Lose Must and Should from your vocab.
Holidays are about going with the flow, so get rid of “must do this, should do that” and go easy on yourself. In all likelihood – especially if you’re spending time with family - you’ll have enough demands on your time, so ditch the self-imposed ones.
8. Return a day early.
You may want to draw out your holiday till the very last minute but, to really feel the benefits of your time away, head back the day before you need to do anything or be anywhere. How many times have you felt you’ve needed another holiday after the first day back in the office? A day at home will give you the chance to get over travel-fatigue, to unpack, shop, fill the cupboards for the upcoming week and get yourself in the right mental space before you re-enter the rat race. If you do plan to return last minute, ensure you have everything ready before you head off – your office bag packed, school uniforms ironed – to avoid post-holiday panic and pressure.
Kidsfest June 2018
Health Nation was proud to take part in our very first Kidsfest event. This is an amazing event run by Michelle Harris of Pure Potential Worldwide for kids aged 8 to 12 years. The children spent the day completing various activities including yoga, meditation and mindfulness, and making their own essential oils. Joe and I were lucky enough to guide the 18 children through making their very own pasta dish and acai bowl (see the recipe below, which was a major hit!). We finished up with a healthy quiz and a talk on Food and Mood – how the food you eat affects how you feel and behave. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and hope the kids did too. Special thanks to Michelle and the amazing practitioners who all came together to empower kids! Watch out for the next event coming up in August. For more information, check out www.purepotentialworldwide.com.
Acai Bowl Recipe
Have this for breakfast, as dessert or a healthy snack! Whatever time you serve it – it’ll go down a treat!
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend to the consistency of a thick smoothie. Chill and top with your favourite toppings:
* if allergic to bananas then avocado can be used as the base, allow half an avocado per person. You can’t really taste the bananas or avocado – they both provide a wonderfully creamy texture.
So, now you’re all set, there is nothing to do but relax and enjoy the break. Have a very happy and healthy holiday. We’ll be back with more tips and tricks to live well in September!
Alison and the team at Health Nation.
May has been a challenging month for me. My dad, who lives in the UK, was admitted to hospital with suspected heart issues, and my husband was taken to hospital unexpectedly at the same time here in Hong Kong. They are both ok now but the stress and uncertainty brought back memories of the first decade of my marriage – a trying time when my husband, who was seriously ill with a debilitating condition, endured endless rounds of operations. And now, I feel additional stress and a sense of helplessness that comes with living thousands of miles apart from my aging parents.
I know many of us have elderly parents, family or friends who have been or are seriously unwell. I wanted to share with you some things that you can do to help you through such difficult times.
Here are the top 5 techniques that helped me.
Typically, women are better at seeking health-related advice compared to men who are less likely to take care of themselves or open up to others. Seeing as though June is Men’s Health Awareness month and Father’s Day why not treat your dad or the man in your life to a health consultation. We are lucky to have Joe, our very own male Health Coach here, who can advise on all areas of personal wellbeing from food and weight to exercise, gut and heart health.
Recipe of The Month
Quick and Easy Tomato and Courgette Stir Fry with Quinoa
A delicious, healthy and nourishing lunch or dinner meal that all the family will love. The quinoa is a great source of protein containing all 9 essential amino acids our bodies need. It also contains double the fibre of other grains, which means it keeps constipation (a common concern for many during stressful times). Meanwhile, tomatoes and courgettes both have an abundance of vitamin C, a natural antioxidant that prevents cancer-causing free radicals from damaging and ageing the body.
Alison and the Health Nation HK team!
How many of you have seen Angst? If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it, especially given the startling number of people affected by anxiety. It’s an eye-opening documentary featuring interviews with loads of youngsters who grapple with these troubling emotions on a daily basis. You learn more about the symptoms, the impacts on lives and what can be done to manage anxiety on a daily basis.
Last month, fellow health coach Joe Mclean and I were honoured to be invited to Union Church to support them in their campaign to destigmatize and raise awareness of anxiety. We watched the 55-minute documentary together with around 70 12-18 year-olds – all of whom were gripped by what they saw, some of them crying as they resonated with the experiences of others.
Afterwards, Joe and I took some Q&As and we stayed back with the more senior youth to further debate the causes, challenges, and techniques to deal with anxiety. It was encouraging to hear students question how they could support their friends during difficult times and at the same time, we were concerned by the levels of anxiety they and their friends are experiencing.
We all feel anxious at times – nervous, worried, unsettled. That’s entirely normal. Severe anxiety, however, can take over your life, significantly impairing a person’s daily existence. Unlike stress, where you know what’s worrying you, ‘you become less aware of what you’re anxious about [in the moment] and the reaction becomes the problem. You start to feel anxious about being anxious,’ according to Dr. David Spiegel, Stanford University’s associate chair of psychiatry and behavioural science.
Does this sound like you or a loved one? We’re sharing some ideas to help you deal with debilitating symptoms.
It’s World Laughter Day on 6th May. Laughter is well-documented as the best medicine and an antidote for anxiety. Here’s an idea: this May, surround yourself with good friends guaranteed to make you laugh. We know it’s not the definitive cure to anxiety, but it’s a welcomed respite from the troubles of daily life! So, invite your friends over, curl up on the sofa, watch a comedy together or crack your own jokes. And while you’re at it, serve up our delicious anxiety-busting muffins for good measure.
Recipe of the Month
Anxiety Busting Brownies
A dreamy concoction of dark chocolate, cacao and avocados, these are delicious for adults and kids alike! Dark chocolate and cacao stimulate endorphin production and serotonin, which can lift mood and combat depression; magnesium helps to relax the body; avocadoes are full of healthy omega 3s and are rich in mood-boosting B Vitamins. What’s not to love?
At Health Nation, we’re committed to your physical, mental and emotional well-being. If you’d like to know more about how we can help with anxiety be it through diet, lifestyle changes or hypnotherapy, please do not hesitate to get in touch. You are not alone, and you most certainly don’t need to suffer alone.
On 7th April, we celebrate World Health Day. Let’s face it: life in Hong Kong can be overwhelmingly hectic. Often, we prioritise work, family, and other commitments and forget to take care of our personal health and wellbeing. We owe it to ourselves and to those who depend on us to be on top form.
It doesn’t take much to be healthy. Try focussing on just one of these steps this week and you’ll soon see a difference. Try all five and you’re well on your way to optimal health!
1. Eat real food.
In today’s frantic world, it is far more convenient to grab the first thing that comes to hand. How easy is it to reach for a pre-packaged meal - not the healthiest of food choices – when you’re rushing around. To feel, look and be great, you need to consume real food as often as possible.
Have you ever seen a list of ingredients on a stick of broccoli? No, but we’ll tell you what’s in it. It’s packed full of goodness and void of nasties.
Try to get into the habit of checking food labels and avoiding products with a long list of ingredients that you can’t pronounce. These foods tend to be chemicals, additives and highly processed. Work on the premise that if you don’t recognise the ingredients, your body won’t know how to process them. This leads to gut issues, weight gain, inflammation and, ultimately, disease.
Food for our body is like fuel for a car. If you fill your car up with dirty petrol, expect spluttering, stalling and a breakdown in the fast lane. Expect the same if you fill your body with junk food choices.
2. A healthy eating strategy.
To ensure you eat real food, put in place a healthy eating strategy:
3. Move more.
Physical inactivity has been linked to a host of health conditions. You don’t need lots of time or money to be active. Take the stairs rather than the escalator. Go for a walk or a swim. Dance to music at home or enjoy gentle stretching exercises. Do something every day, and it’ll become a healthy habit you won’t want to do without.
4. Drink more water.
Our bodies are made up of up to 70% water. In Hong Kong’s heat and humidity, it is important we keep ourselves hydrated. Fill a jug of water at the beginning of the day and sip it throughout. A good way to tell if you are drinking enough is to check your pee – it should be pale or slightly yellow. If it is dark, up your intake. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol too as these can be dehydrating.
5. Get a good night’s sleep.
How much better do we feel when we’re well-rested? Sleep is key to having energy to thrive during the day. It helps with our mood and can even help with maintaining weight.
Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. If we sleep less than 6 hours a night on a regular basis, our likelihood of falling sick increases.
Ensure your bedroom is clutter free to allow you to relax. Turn off electronic devices especially those with blue light at least an hour before turning in. The sleep you get before 12 is most beneficial, so try to get to bed between 10 and 11pm latest and rise between 6 and 7 am. If possible, stick to the same routine at the weekend.
With just a few simple steps that don’t cost loads of money, you can make a great difference to your physical and mental wellbeing!
World Autism Month
April is also World Autism Month. We firmly believe that diet and lifestyle CAN make a difference to individuals on the autism spectrum.
Autism is a mental health disorder characterized by impaired social & communication skills, repetitive and distinct behaviours. With no pharmacological treatments for the core symptoms of autism, we feel that nutrition is a potential therapeutic treatment.
Joe Mclean, one of our resident health coaches, takes us through some exciting new research below:
Recent research suggests sulforaphane - a phytonutrient found within the cruciferous vegetable family (broccoli sprouts, for example) could improve the symptoms.
Sulforaphane can activate the release of heat shock proteins (HSP). HSP have multiple roles and functions within the central nervous system including synaptic transmission, which is commonly decreased in autistic subjects. (N. Gan et al, 2010).
It can also reduce oxidative stress through increasing the activity of the bodies environmental response within the brain, detoxifying free radicals and facilitating protein & DNA repair. Finally, patients on the autism spectrum commonly have excessive neuro-inflammation through a protein called NF-kappa beta. A study by D. Moon et al, (2009) demonstrates sulforaphane’s ability to inhibit this protein.
In a study by Singh et al (2014), patients aged 13-27 years old with moderate to severe degrees of autism were given a dose of sulforaphane derived from broccoli sprouts, with doses ranging from 50umol – 150umol depending on body weight or a placebo.
Following the 18-week trial, the sulforaphane treatment group observed showed signs of significantly improved aberrant behaviour and social responsiveness, which are 2 measurements for the core symptoms associated with autism.
Interestingly however, when the study finished the improvements in symptoms slowly disappeared, indicating that when sulforaphane stopped being administrated the symptoms slowly increased. Studies will need to continue to explore this with large-scale human trials to confirm these results and to improve our understanding.
Nonetheless, the research is promising. There are no known side effects through sulforaphane consumption and it has been consumed for many years. It seems the optimum sources of sulforaphane is from cruciferous vegetables and sprouts. Most noticeably, broccoli sprouts. Try out our delicious broccoli soup recipe below!
Other lifestyle interventions can make a difference too:
Our health coaches are here and ready to help guide you through the process. We will hold your hand every step of the way.
Recipe of the Month