How to feel healthier

Feeling tired, batteries running low, or just want to feel healthier.  Follow our top tips for balanced health

A recent survey by herbal medicine company, A.Vogel revealed that Brits have at least 5 energy-draining habits.  Ranging from drinking too many fizzy drinks and eating late at night, to making excuses not to work out or exercise, drinking more than the advised weekly alcohol units, and eating zero fruit or vegetables in a day.

A further one in five regularly brush off any health concerns because they have no ‘will power’ to change their ways, and a third say they are simply going through life on autopilot so their bad habits never change.  Alison Cullen, Nutritional Therapist knows how tough it can be for some people to stick to healthy living but “making small, achievable changes really can have a big impact on the way you feel,” she says.

Here are Alison’s ten easy ways to feel better faster by ditching some of the daily drains that take a toll on the body.  As a result, you should feel more energised and less tired all the time.

10 Ways to Balance your Health

Drink up!

You’ll be familiar with the call to hydrate, but maybe not convinced that something as simple as water can be worth the interruption to your beloved coffee or tea schedule.  Turn that around and imagine if something so cheap and easy could make you feel more energetic, more focused, more alert and less anxious – wouldn’t it be worth a go?  If you still don’t think water is the answer, here’s some research to encourage you.

A study in the British Journal of Nutrition (2011) showed that dehydration in healthy males caused fatigue along with increased feelings of tension and anxiety.  And there’s nothing to indicate things would be different for women.

Research reported in the Journal of Nutrition (2012) revealed that mild dehydration of only 1.36% was shown to cause decreased mood, lower ability to concentrate, increased perception of task difficulty, and increased experience of headaches in women.

Still need convincing?  2016 research published in Psychophychology (2016) showed that a person's hydration status may be an important factor in their perception of acute pain.

Need we say more but, Drink Up!

Dehydration is under-estimated, especially because people consider tea, coffee, juices, herbal teas and fizzy drinks, including fizzy water, to count as ‘hydration’, when they don’t actually help with energising the body.  Plain, still water is what is needed.

Sparkle sporadically!

Dr Michael Moseley has found that drinking fizzy sugary drinks makes people hungrier than drinking flat sugary drinks.  He thinks this is because the carbon dioxide causes receptor cells in the stomach to release ghrelin (the hunger hormone), and/or the extra gas stretches the stomach walls, and this causes ghrelin to be released.  He advises drinking plain water – good advice for hydration, although there’s nothing wrong with drinking sparkling water once you’ve had your daily 1.5 litres of plain, still water.

Wine and dine wisely…

Evening drinking may disrupt your circadian rhythm, making it harder to feel energised in the mornings and peaceful in the evenings.  If you are one of the many who blithely sip your way socially through a few glasses of vino most evenings, drying up for a while might get you back into rhythm.  A human study has found an association between deregulation of circadian clock genes and chronic drinking.  The way messages are passed along pathways in the brain is disrupted by alcohol, and this influences the activity of circadian clock genes and thus disturbs circadian rhythm.  Circadian clock genes are much less active in chronic drinkers.  It takes a long time for sleep patterns to normalise after regular drinking stops, so hang in there for best effects.

Bed down regularly

You will sleep far better if you are in a regular pattern of going to bed at the same time; just like children!  Cast off the years and revert to a regular wind-down routine starting about an hour before bed and including nothing stressful (ok, we may already be in dream territory here, but work at it!).  Even a half hour of bath, book and bed (with no electronics involved) will pay dividends in terms of sleep quality and quantity.

Get deep into sleep

Most repair work is initiated in the body half to three quarters of an hour after falling asleep.  This work may be skipped if we go to sleep too late – the body can recognise the lack of time available and fast forward past the repair stage. Try to hit a target of being asleep by 11pm at the latest, as 11pm – 3 am is the key time for sleep stages 3 and 4, which are where the repair work is carried out.  Poor or insufficient sleep is linked to higher levels of inflammation, so not only are you improving your ability to mend wear and tear on your muscles, joints and other tissues, but you are also reducing damaging inflammatory processes.  If you have trouble getting to sleep or wake in the night and find it difficult to return to sleep, try taking the herb Valerian officianalis in tincture form in A. Vogel Dormeasan 50ml £9.75.  Research has shown how this herb not only helps you drift off to sleep but it can lengthen the periods of deeper, restorative sleep that you need.

Straighten up!

Don’t be part of the vulture culture developing around our desk-bound, phone-obsessed lives, spent hunching over iPad’s, phones, computers and other gadgets, if not slumped on the sofa in front of Netflix.  This posture impacts digestion, heart function and lung function, making heartburn and reflux, anxiety and palpitations more likely.  It also plays havoc with our necks, which in turn impacts the lower back – hello back pain, headaches, shoulder tension and pulled muscles.  Ouch.

Count the caffeine

We’re getting better at monitoring our coffee intake, but what about energy drinks?  After the gym?  Before a run?  Propping you up after the 3pm slump? Many energy drinks contain a heap of caffeine and sugar that you weren’t necessarily aware of.  Caffeine initially raises an energy storm by triggering adrenalin production, but then leaves you stranded on the shores of exhaustion as the adrenal response slumps.  Caffeine uses up the glorious mineral magnesium, and counters the absorption of iron and potassium, deficiencies of which contribute to fatigue.  It can also contribute to heart palpitations through adrenalin stimulation and potassium imbalance. Energy drinks are a key culprit.

Water is best but when a warming drink is required, go herbal.  A.Vogel Golden Rod Herbal Tea 25 x 2g bags £4.59 makes a refreshing drink and contains golden rod, birch leaves, knotgrass, horsetail and wild pansy.  It is packed with natural flavours and will help cleanse and refresh your system from the inside, helping to remove impurities from the body.

In a study of nursing students and their consumption of energy drinks, the side effect most reported was that of palpitations (27.8%).

Diary the drains

Keep a food diary for a week to see where you are most vulnerable.  Is it when you get home hungry in the evening?  Mid-morning when you’ve been on the go?  When you’re bored?  In your car?  Note what you eat and when, and check for refined sugar, caffeine, highly processed foods and a predominance of ‘beige’!  Aim for (natural) colour on your plate through the week.

Dial down the salt

Having too much sodium (from salt) and/or not enough potassium (from fruits and veggies, seeds and nuts) can affect your circadian rhythm – harder to feel energised during the day and get a good sleep at night.  Having salty food at night (or too much during the day in general) will make you more likely to retain fluid.  It may also affect your anxiety levels at night.  Low salt alternatives are worth seeking out here like the Herbamare range of Original, Spicy and Low Salt; all made from natural, organic sea salt combined with organic herbs, spices and vegetables. 125g £2.95 from health food stores.

Lighten up!

Light stimulates the pineal gland and is fabulous for your endocrine system. Lower light levels historically meant winter was coming and we needed to down-regulate the thyroid to help us survive the cold months.  You may not want to hibernate!

Bright light suppresses melatonin, which helps us wind down for sleep.  Light therefore triggers our get up and go.  As we age, our eyes absorb less light, especially the blue end of the spectrum, so we have less get up and go stimulus.  Get daylight!  Get outside, get a light clock, sit by windows, have a bright light in your bathroom for morning tooth cleaning, and a dim one for evening to soothe you into sleep when it’s appropriate.