It’s mental health awareness week and, well, it’s off to a bleak start. A study called Stress: Are we coping? looked into whether or not people in the UK were handling stress well and the answering was a resounding no.
The study, commissioned by Mental Health Foundation, looked into how stress affected over 4600 adults in the UK and found that 74% of people at one point felt that they were ‘overwhelmed or unable to cope’. On top of that, 82% also revealed they faced high levels of stress at some point in a regular week and eight percent ‘that felt stressed all the time’.
Apparently, women are generally more stressed than men (89% versus 76%) and there was also a worrying trend of African-Caribbean women in particular facing high levels of stress, which the charity claimed was ‘linked to reported incidents of racism’.
The charity’s survey also revealed that more than a third of people (32%) had experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings as a result of their stress, with 16% self-harming as a result of it.
The foundation’s study was accompanied by recommendations on managing stress levels nationwide, with a set of seven guidelines for the government and health/social care professionals. They included changing the way health and social care professionals react to stressors in patients, which included a ‘compassionate and trauma-informed response’ and introducing ‘mental health literacy’ as a compulsory part of teacher training.
Much of the stress in the report circled back to the workplace, as they reported that half a million people were suffering as a result of it. Unsurprisingly, London has previously been cited the most stressed city in the UK with rigorous overtime and horrific commutes while on the other hand Doncaster was as stress-free as a British city comes.
Accordingly, another big recommendation was that two mental health days should be introduced for public sector workers and pressure on employers to identify and address ‘psychological hazards’ in the workplace.
For those struggling with mental health issues, the Samaritans provide 24/7 support on their hotline 116 123 and can also be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organic skincare that’s good for you (and the environment)
The UK’s organic beauty sector, including organic make up, is booming, and considering that your skin is your largest organ, it’s no surprise people are thinking more about what they’re actually putting on it.
Soil Association‘s latest market report reveals the UK organic market is now worth a whopping £2.2 billion, the most its ever been. Organic now accounts for 1.5% of the total UK food and drink market.
Non-toxic ingredients and brands are on the rise, thanks to people’s awareness of the ingredients they’re consuming, and what they can do to your body and to the earth. For example, this cult organic beauty product was out of stock for the longest time and we’re sure a few are going to work their way into our Black Friday beauty deals page.
So if natural beauty is your thing, this is how to differentiate between ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ and everything in-between. Remember, if you’re after strictly organic products, make sure to keep a look out for the Soil Association logo which will tell you the exact percentage of organic ingredients in that specific product
Health and Beauty Business Development Manager Lauren Bartley from the Soil Association Certification tells us exactly what ‘organic’ means:
No toxic chemicals
No synthetic fragrances
No nano particles
No animal testing
And when you buy organic products, you’re supporting organic or natural ingredients, sustainably sourced ingredients, sustainable manufacturing processes (no harsh processes used to create products), biodegradable packaging and protection of wildlife and the environment.
Although ‘natural’ has sadly become an unregulated term in the market, it should technically mean that the product is not made of synthetic ingredients – so basically that none of the ingredients were born in a lab. But, this term isn’t as regulated as organic so it’s important to use brands you can trust actually are natural.
And, genuine natural and organic beauty (namely skincare) doesn’t need to be boring or expensive, so we’ve rounded up the best natural and organic products to add to your beauty bag from the multi-purpose balm that can be a moisturiser and a highlighter to the night mask that’s perfect to put on before a flight.
Having spent her childhood watching her father battle with alcohol, Charlotte Philby has since grappled with her own addictions. Here, she examines what makes people vulnerable and how to overcome the triggers
Anyone who has grown up in the shadow of addiction knows the power it holds. As a child, you feel it when you’re driven from pub to pub in the small hours, looking for your dad’s car. It is lodged in your chest as you wait to be picked up from school by a parent who doesn’t arrive. You see it in the eyes of the police officer who arrests your father for drink-driving at 3pm in the afternoon. I can still feel those moments from my own childhood, like a stone in my gut.
Is it any coincidence that children like me, who have grown up with the anxiety, chaos and shame of addiction, often fall into similar patterns later in life? Like many female addicts, I’ve battled everything from heavy smoking to bulimia and, considering my past, the fear of addiction has only been exacerbated by the idea that it is hereditary.
This month sees the release of Woman Of Substances, a new book by Jenny Valentish, a consultant for Australia’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. In it, the author draws on the latest in neuroscience and her own childhood experiences in suburban Slough and the London indie-rock scene, to Australia where she later ends up in treatment facilities and AA groups.
Investigating the female experience of addiction, she pays particular attention to early predictors, such as childhood trauma, temperament and teenage impulsivity, and explores specific issues relating mostly to women, including eating disorders, self-harm, and the propensity to be drawn to abusive relationships. The link between these behaviours seems to be related to shame, lack of self-worth and anxiety – traits more commonly found in women.
‘One widely held assumption is that addiction is hereditary,’ says Valentish. ‘Sure, it often is – in part – but only that you’ll have inherited poor impulse control, or some features that make you more vulnerable to stress, such as anxiety, sensitivity to rejection and low frustration tolerance,’ she continues. ‘Within our DNA there are “switches” that activate or deactivate certain genes. Sometimes this change of gene expression is triggered by physical development – say, puberty or menopause – sometimes by stress and exposure to a drug. But repeated substance use can cause neuroadaptive changes in the brain that are the basis for craving, binging, tolerance and withdrawal.’
In other words, it is possible to create the pathway for one destructive behaviour to eventually replace or intersect with another.
As a classic high-achieving only child, I always felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, that fear of letting people down. In hindsight, smoking, taking drugs and restricting my food intake were ways of simultaneously finding a release and seeking to take back control, which all started around the age of 14 in that dislocating purgatory between childhood and adulthood. By the time I admitted I had a problem and was referred to the Russell Unit eating disorders clinic after two years on a waiting list, I was 26 and pregnant with my first child.
At the time I believed it was my love for my unborn baby that was a more persuasive catalyst for change than the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) I learned in treatment as an outpatient. But still, eight years on, I find myself referring to the tactics I learned then when situations become challenging and my instinctive response is to reach for one of my many tried-and-tested crutches.
Valentish’s book dismisses that addiction is a disease, the theory preferred by the American Medical Association, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
‘In the US, it is necessary to have substance dependence classified as “chronic relapsing brain disease” in order to have treatment covered by private medical insurance. Also, a disease is, in theory, treatable by drugs, which keeps the big pharmaceutical companies happy,’ she says.
But in the UK, the NHS defines addiction as ‘not having control over doing, taking or using something that is harmful to you… [although] most commonly associated with gambling, drugs, alcohol and nicotine, it’s possible to be addicted to just about anything’.
Woman of Substances author Jenny Valentish
So why do the children of addicts often become one themselves? In his TEDxRio+20 talk, ‘The Power Of Addiction And The Addiction Of Power’, expert Dr Gabor Maté explains that when the German army moved into Budapest during WWII babies started to cry en masse, without understanding what Hitler or genocide was.
‘What these babies were picking up on is the stresses, the terrors and the depression of their mothers. And that actually shapes the child’s brain… this is how we pass it on,’ he says, and the same applies to addiction, ‘We pass on the trauma and suffering unconsciously from one generation to the next.’
Dr Paul Stanford is an addiction specialist who works regularly with opiate (heroin and crack-cocaine) addicts. He says while there are two well-established addiction models –biochemical, which focuses on what is going on in the brain, and social, which is about what leads individuals to be addicted and how their addiction interplays with their environment – much about the scientific causes of addiction is still unknown.
In terms of the hit the addict gets from their addiction of choice – be it gambling, drugs, sex – much of the reward is about gamma-aminobutyric acid, known as GABA. ‘It’s an anticipation of the reward. For an alcoholic, GABA might be released if they see a pub sign, or beer being poured from the pump. The problem occurs if the release of the GABA isn’t then rewarded with the thing they crave; the contract has to be fulfilled,’ he says.
Emma* stopped drinking at the age of 27 after she found herself secretly boozing at lunch and regularly having blackouts after nights out. ‘I worked hard to convince myself I was just having fun. Our social lives are so often based around the idea of drinking to let go, celebrate or just unwind. The worst thing when I stopped was having to always explain to friends why I wasn’t drinking. I had to remove myself from the temptation and the continuous questions by meeting friends in cafes or at home. Like many recovering addicts, I’ve had to train myself to focus on the things I want from life and the things that I don’t. It’s about constantly holding in mind the long view.’
According to Valentish’s findings, childhood personality and temperament are strong predictors of problematic substance use in adulthood. The Australian Temperament Project has been following the children of 2,443 families in Melbourne since 1983. It found those who are less flexible, more reactive and less able to self-regulate their behaviour were more prone to addiction.
How we talk and think about addiction is also important – language is key. In the US, terms such as ‘alcoholic’ and ‘substance abuse’ and ‘clean’ are used. In Australia, where drug strategy is based around harm-minimisation, the preferred language is ‘person affected by drug use’ and ‘level of dependence’. Terms, she says, that do not create an us-versus-them divide.
Valentish is wary of labels that ‘disregard… our multifaceted selves and keep us forever in a box.’ When she decided to quit drinking and drugs seven years ago, joining AA at the age of 34 after exhausting every option, it was an overwhelming relief. But the pain did not instantly stop. As with most addicts she simply swapped one addiction for another.
Her compulsions mutated, taking the form of bulimia − considered both an eating disorder and a mental-health condition. She also started smoking again after four years without cigarettes.
When it comes to overcoming addiction, getting specialist help for the underlying causes is key. Marshall* is an NHS charge nurse working in substance misuse. He says, ‘You have to differentiate between the physical and the psychological. It’s fairly easy to treat physical withdrawal, but sadly it’s the psychological issues that present the risk of relapse. Generally, people who cannot stop using substances are self-medicating a deeper issue such as anxiety, childhood trauma, poor mental health or chronic pain. Often, it’s about having control, when you do not have a sense of control or autonomy elsewhere.’
The best way to remove triggers for relapse is to avoid them, Marshall adds, but if they are internal you cannot avoid them so you need to replace them with something else, whether that’s purpose, self-esteem, mental-health care or pain control. The road to recovery has been a tumultuous process for Valentish, but she says the most successful quitters find healthy habits, sports or hobbies to fill the void.
For me, recovery has come in the form of counselling, family and a fulfilling career. It’s also come from channelling my addictive personality into more healthy pursuits, such as writing. When triggers like stress or anxiety arise, I find CBT exercises – having a bath, walking around the block, anything that temporarily removes you from temptation and allows you to see how you feel in 20 minutes – really helps. Stress is one of the most dangerous triggers for addicts; it’s also the one thing you can’t avoid. That’s why finding ways to cope with stress, rather than pressing the self-destruct button, is key.
Proof that you can get salon results in the comfort of your own home
Summer is (almost) here and for a lot of us, that means turning to hair removal methods like waxing for smooth pins and a hairless bikini line.
Waxing may not be the least painful option, but it is quick and yields longer-lasting results than your razor will.
Read on to master the art of at-home waxing, from lower leg to full-on Brazilian.
Using wax strips at home
‘Making sure you have time, tools and the correct preparation are essential,’ says Nair‘s Beauty Expert Nichola Joss.
‘Nair Japanese Cherry Blossom Wax Strips require no external heating so you can simply place the strip on your legs and achieve smooth skin effortlessly.
Nichola adds that the number one thing you should remember while waxing yourself is not to rush it. ‘Take the time, make sure you have all the tools you need and prep the skin.
‘Cleansing and exfoliating can help to ensure the skin is prepared for waxing, giving you better results. If you need to exfoliate the skin do this 24 hours before.
So, what do you need to do to ensure a fuss-free DIY waxing session at home?
‘On the day, cleanse the skin with a fragrance free non oily product and ensure your skin is dry,’ Nichola advises. ‘Take your time and do one strip at a time, ensuring you gently apply to the skin. Remember to remove as instructed.’
Waxing strips need to be pulled from the skin in a single, quick move – peeling them off will be uncomfortable and won’t remove the hair effectively.
‘After you have waxed the desired area, gently apply an oil and lightly massage into skin,’ Nichola adds. ‘Wait 24hrs before applying any self-tan.’
Leg waxing and eyebrow waxing are both pretty self explanatory, but some hair removal procedures using wax have slightly more ambiguous names.
This kind of waxing involves removing ALL the hair; bikini line, vulva, butt crack, the works.
It’s not an easy one to do DIY so, we’re calling it: you’d have to be mad to do your own Hollywood wax at home. The logistics of removing all hair from your nether regions without causing yourself injury just isn’t worth it.
Brazillian waxes are very similar to Hollywood, except usually a small, visible strip of hair is left on the vulva (the external part of your lady garden). Again, unless you’re a pro, we don’t really recommend you try this one at home.
Removing hair from your bikini line, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward.
For a successful DIY bikini wax, pull the skin taut, apply the wax strip, press firmly and use the warmth of your hands to soften the wax if necessary.
After that, it’s a case of just gritting your teeth and pulling away quickly.
The #MillionsMissing campaign wants to give a voice to the thirty million people worldwide who suffer from ME
Words by Je Banach
If on May 12th, you find yourself out and about in Amsterdam, Boston, London, Chicago, Edinburgh, or one of approximately 95 other cities around the world, it is likely that you will encounter a plaza or other outdoor area populated with pairs of shoes. At first glance you may assume that you have stumbled upon the scene of some conceptual or performance art, but the uninhabited footwear is intended to catch the eye of passersby—and the world—as part of #MillionsMissing, a global campaign including a series of in-person and virtual advocacy events meant to call attention to the millions of people around the world suffering from myalgic encephalomyelitis.
The debilitating condition, also known as ‘ME’, causes pain, nausea, extreme sensory sensitivities, post-exertional malaise, and many other severe symptoms that leave the majority of those who suffer from it unable to work or resume the activities of their previous lives, and many more bedridden. The shoes represent those individuals who are unable to attend events in person due to the severity of their condition—people of varied age, gender, and race who often go unseen both literally, due to the restrictive nature of their symptoms, and figuratively, in terms of the lack of proper recognition and care they currently receive within the global medical community.
The campaign, initiated in 2016 by the ME Action Network, is intended to raise awareness, build community, and, most importantly, move governments around the world to assign proper and much-needed funding for research. While the condition affects a stunning fifteen to thirty million people worldwide and leaves its patients with a poorer quality of life than many of the more highly-funded conditions, funding for ME research remains woefully (some might say disgracefully) low. As a result, patients are forced to become their own activists and advocates while coping with the condition’s devastating symptoms.
Jennifer Brea, co-founder of the ME Action Network, directed an award-winning documentary about her own experiences with ME from her bed and advocates on a regular basis both in person and online. Jessica Taylor Bearman, a young woman featured in Brea’s documentary who has suffered from a severe form of ME since she was fifteen, maintains a blog that captures the reality and complexities of life with ME and recently published a book inspired by her own experiences titled A Girl Behind Dark Glasses. Anil van der Zee, a former professional ballet dancer with Introdans, Grand Théâtre de Genève, and Bern Ballet, forced into early retirement by the condition, created #art2CureME, inviting those with ME to choose a song from Unrest that they can sing, dance to, or otherwise perform and share online in an effort to draw a larger audience to the film, to increase awareness and further educate the greater public.
Many doctors and researchers – such as Professor Ronald ‘Ron’ W. Davis, Director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center at Stanford University, whose son suffers from a severe manifestation of the disease – also perform regular advocacy work, which necessitates long hours and exhausting travel in addition to their regular daily work in the field. All share the goal of helping to shed light on a misunderstood and puzzling illness in order to create a public narrative that more closely approximates the real and devastating experience of life with this illness: a truer narrative that would almost certainly lead to adequate funding for research and, ultimately, a cure.
The #MillionsMissing campaign is only one example of coordinated events and action taking place during the month of May in order to bring attention to incurable chronic illnesses. The entire month has also been designated as an international awareness month for fibromyalgia (which shares an official awareness day with #MillionsMissing), Lyme disease, and other chronic immunological, neurological, and endocrine diseases. The overlap is a notable one. While advocacy and research efforts in these areas were previously compartmentalized, chronic illness patient-advocates are now, in greater numbers, helping to bring awareness not only to the condition or conditions from which they suffer, but to ‘fraternal’ and similarly misunderstood conditions—conditions that also lack sufficient funding for research.
Brea and others suggest that those suffering from ME as well as conditions including but not limited to chronic Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes, MCAD, Endo, and POTS would benefit from uniting in their advocacy efforts. On Twitter, Brea recently shared a logo of a snake split into segments labeled with the names of several illnesses along with the phrase ‘Join, or Die’—a visual that hits home the dire need for collaboration and cross-over among patients, doctors, researchers, and activists.
Open Medicine Foundation—comprised of a dedicated team of Nobel laureates, National Academy Science members, and medical dynamos led by clinical laboratory scientist and founder Linda Tannenbaum devoted to researching ME, fibromyalgia, and chronic Lyme disease—recently announced that they sense a meaningful shift taking place as public conversations about and more truthful media representations of these conditions increase. At the start of 2018, widespread public conversations around the release of Brea’s film Unrest combined with media attention and lobbying by academics and others allowed the ME epidemic to catch the eye of the philanthropist known as ‘Pine’ of The Pineapple Fund, who subsequently donated $5M to Open Medicine Foundation—proof that the correction of misleading narratives about these illnesses (such as the idea of ME as a basic “chronic fatigue syndrome” that only leaves one “tired”) and the dispelling of popular myths (like the notion that a disability must be ‘visible’ in order to be real) have a significant impact on progress, actually speeding increases in funding and improvements in care for those suffering.
Some of the #MEAction team in Birmingham last year. Credit: #MEAction
Stories of the tireless activism of patient-advocates and others in the chronic illness community – perceived as ‘inspiring’ and “motivational’ – are often spun into feel-good narratives about human will and empowerment presented for public consumption. In reality, their required activism is an immense burden that puts further strain on bodies already under attack. Advocacy work should not be left only to those who suffer and their families and caretakers.
Fundraising for research is an absolute necessity, but those unable to give can also help simply by participating in #ConversationsforCures – that is, any dialogue that helps to bring much-needed attention and awareness to these conditions and the suffering of those living with them. These conversations that will almost certainly lead to greater funding for research, a better quality of life for millions suffering around the world, and, quite possibly, cures.
With Meghan Markle‘s wedding just two weeks away, there’s no doubt the bride-to-be has amped up her fitness regime. The future Royal is already a fan of yoga, but we thought we’d ask the experts at Virgin Active to see if there were any other easy exercises to add to the workout list.
With two weeks to go until your wedding day, what is the one move brides-to-be can’t afford to miss to look and feel their best?
Ahead of their special day, brides often experience increased stress levels or nerves. Exercise is the perfect antidote to manage stress levels and ensure you feel calm and confident in the build up to your wedding day.
To look and feel your best, with a fortnight to go, focus on exercise you enjoy that makes you feel good. If you are short on time, be efficient with work outs and prioritise moves which engage the whole body to capitalise on endorphins and benefit from increased energy levels.
Full range squats with an overhead press is the best total-body move that’s physically challenging, whilst also providing a mental escape that will tone, define and sculpt.
If brides are looking to improve muscle tone in specific areas of their physique, which might be revealed by their dress, full range squats are also a great way to encourage definition in shoulders, glutes, quads, hamstrings and core. Building strength in these muscles also helps to improve structural balance and encourages strong posture – perfect for promoting confidence in wedding pictures.
Plenty of water
With a few weeks till the big day, do not give in to wedding preparation stress. Maintain a balanced diet with clean, single ingredient foods and drink lots of water which will rid the body of toxins and fuel a glowing complexion on the big day.
Finally, the night before the big day, if time allows, enjoy a yoga class to leave you feeling calm, composed and confident. Virgin Active offer a Calm by Candlelight yoga class which is the perfect antidote to combat any last-minute aisle nerves!
The killer Combo Exercise:
Barbell Front Squats into Overhead Press.
4 x sets of 12 reps using a challenging weight but with strict form throughout
Place & hold the barbell across the front of the shoulders, elbows elevated to shoulder height
Feet in parallel placed under hips. Full range squats for full muscle recruitment, driving the heels into the ground on the ascension, maintaining an upright back throughout
Once the legs are lengthened, raise the barbell directly overhead before lowering the barbell to the starting position. Brace your core throughout to protect the lower back
Tip: Add 3 sets of wide Plié Squat mid-range Pulses for 15 reps at the end of this set for that extra burn!
What are the best exercises for the groom looking to ensure he feels his best on the big day?
For the groom, aspirations to set their congregation – and soon to be wife – at ease with a confident stance on their wedding day may mean pre-nuptial training plans are strength focused. But to maximise long term benefits and feel your most confident on the big day (and on the honeymoon!) focus on training the whole body to release tension and fire up the metabolism.
To ease any nerves in the lead up to your special day, maintain variation in your training plan, ensuring consistency and adequate rest to relax both your mind and muscles. As the leading man, focus on the chest, deltoids, biceps and triceps to assist in achieving a V-Taper shape that will leave you feeling confident in your suit.
Strong quadriceps can also help to create the visual impact of a smaller mid-section so gents, get squatting too!
Incline dumbbell bench press & incline full range dumbbells flys.
4 x sets of 10 Reps
Tip: You are chasing the “Pump”. Use a challenging weight but ensure you’re still able to execute full range of movement
Biceps: Alternating Dumbbell Underhand Curls
4 x sets of 10 Reps each
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip and with your palms facing your sides. This is your starting position
Raise one dumbbell towards your shoulder while simultaneously rotating the back of your hand. Pause with your palm facing your shoulder
Triceps: Skull Crushers
These are typically performed with an EZ barbell, lying on a bench holding the bar in an overhand grip bringing the elbows in-line with eyebrows
Tip: Keep the elbows ridged, taking the forearms through the full range of movement, feeling the contractions through the triceps as you bring it parallel to the ceiling
Here’s everything to know about it, from how therapy works to its A-list following
Words by James Wong
One hour in the tank = eight hours deep sleep? You have just a week to do NYC and you’ve only just shaken off jet-lag come day six. Then it’s back to the UK and the whole tossing and turning in bed, fighting to keep your eyes open at the company meeting and dozing off at lunch routine starts its cycle.
How do international superstars hop from one time zone to the next without a triple espresso and four cans of Red Bull to kick start their morning? There are many possible answers but floatation therapy has recently risen as the stars’ secret weapon against jet lag.
Boasting a number of health benefits, floatation pods are popping up all over the world to cater to those in the know.
Edward Hawley of London’s Floatworks gives us the low down.
What is floatation therapy?
‘Floatation therapy is the practice of lying back on warm Epsom salt water inside a sensory deprivation pod, and gently drifting off into an extreme state of meditation for at least one hour’ says Ed, ‘sessions help eliminate stress and improve overall health and fitness. In terms of sleep, floatation significantly reduces anxiety which in turn leads to a calmer person that is much better at sleeping.’ Many practitioners even claim that one hour of sleep in the tank is equivalent to up to eight hours of deep sleep.
How does floatation therapy work?
Isolation pods are designed to block out all external distractions, so we can enter such a deep meditative state. You lie there in pitch black silence, while solution and air are heated to skin temperature, removing the senses of touch as it’s impossible to tell which parts of your body are in the water and which are not.
‘When we float our brain has no sensory inputs. This reduces activation levels in an area of the brain called the “salience network” which is responsible for processing inputs and diverting our attention to our sensory cortices. Floating reduces cortisol, brain activity and pressure on the joints and muscular skeletal system. So that aligns with the stress and strain of long haul travel and the lack of sleep.’ says Ed.
What else does floatation therapy do?
Floatation pods contain a super-saturated Epsom salt solution, which carries a number of healing properties. The solution acts as an exfoliate which is great for your skin, hair and nails. The salts soothe joint pain, ease stress and relax the body. Magnesium, which is commonly missing from our diets, is absorbed through the skin while sulphate eliminates toxins and helps our bodies to naturally detox. ‘In a nutshell, you’ll get out of the tank feeling silky smooth, relaxed and rejuvenated.’ Ed summarises.
The celeb following:
Supermodel fans include Elle Macpherson and Jessica Hart, and actress Naomie Harris swears by the practice when it comes to punishing overseas promotional schedules. ‘I’ve discovered that the only way to combat the effects of travelling is to immerse myself in a dark pod, filled with salt water and float for an hour,’ Harris told Balance. ‘I go straight there from the airport, but my dream is to have my own tank at home.’
‘We have a long list of musicians, actresses and athletes who come to Floatworks on a regular basis’, reveals Ed, ‘They comment that it puts them in a great headspace and promotes both focus and creativity at work, and of course, that it helps them fight the effects of international travel and late nights in the city.’
Hay fever season is well and truly here. Sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose? We spoke to the experts to find out the best hay fever cures out there…
Looking for some hay fever treatments and natural hay fever remedies? Experiencing the incurable tickle at the back of your throat; the unbridled fear when you realise you have no tissues on you; the fact you have to hate summer by default.
Well, welcome to the life of a hay fever sufferer.
One in five of us suffer from hay fever in the UK. Hay fever is at its worst from May onwards when the UK grass pollen season starts, which affects 95 per cent of hay fever sufferers and runs until July.
Hay fever symptoms
Symptoms include a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, the sensation of having mucus at the back of your throat, coughing, tiredness, headaches (yes, hay fever can give you headaches) and a general feeling of being miserable.
True hayfever is seasonal, and only occurs at specific times of the year,’ explains Amena Warner, National Nurse Advisor for Allergy UK. ‘Symptoms usually start at the beginning of April or May, when it peaks, then decreases by the end of July, beginning of August, depending on weather patterns.’
Are you sat there thinking, do I have hay fever, or am I just suffering with a cold? Well, the easiest way to tell the difference between hayfever and a common cold is through your mucus. With hayfever, the mucus is usually clear and colourless and the nose feels itchy. With a common cold, the nasal discharge can be green. You can also get a temperature with a cold.
Warner elaborates, ‘In the absence of a temperature, no green discharge and if its within hayfever season, this is usually indicative of an allergy.’
Now, whilst there’s no definitive cure for hay fever, but we’ve rounded up some of the best hay fever treatments to relieve symptoms, including top tips from leading allergy expert Dr Jean Emberlin, Director of Pollen UK.
Hay fever treatment
Available as hayfever tablets or nasal sprays, antihistamines work by blocking the action of the chemical histamine, which is released by the body in the hay fever allergic reaction. Antihistamines can either be taken as a preventative treatment on days when you know there’s going to be a high pollen count, or as needed when you first notice you’re developing symptoms.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays and drops
These steroid treatments are most effective if you start taking them a couple of weeks before symptoms start. If you have a big event coming up, such as a wedding or holiday, your GP might prescribe a short course of corticosteroids to help control the symptoms during that time.
If your hay fever is causing a blocked nose, nasal decongestants such as Care Decongestant Tablets, £2.09, can be useful as they have an anti-inflammatory effect, helping to reduce the swelling of blood vessels in the nose.
Cellulose powder nasal spray
All of the remedies above can have mild side effects, but a natural cellulose powder spray such as Care Allergy Defence, £5.99, has no side effects and is non-drowsy. When sprayed into the nose, it forms a protective gel layer, which acts as a barrier to allergens. It should be used at least three times a day, but can be used as often as needed.
To help treat red, itchy eyes, use drops such as Opticrom Single Dose Eye Drops, £7.99 (pack of 20 x 0.3ml) or Opticrom Hayfever Eye Drops, £4.70 (3ml).
Rub the base of your nose with a nasal balm to help trap pollen before it enters your body. It’s invisible and most are non greasy, so you don’t end up with a shiny rim around your nostrils
Have a spoonful of honey
It’s sounds counter-intuitive, but honey can desensitise your body to other pollens and reduce hay fever symptoms. It also happens to be the most delicious remedy out of all the choices. Try an unprocessed honey, like Manuka, to see the best benefits.
This naturally occurring pigment can be found in foods such as carrots, apricots, pumpkin, sweet potato and spinach and acts as a powerful antioxidant to help reduce inflammation and fortify your immune system.
Brew a cuppa
Chamomile tea is known to relieve inflammation in your airways. Not only is chamomile an antioxidant with an antihistamine effect, it’s also a source of flavonoids, which help strengthen your nasal membranes to prevent irritating particles, like pollen, from entering your bloodstream.
Omega fatty acids contained in fish are important for a healthy immune system. The first phase of an immune reaction is an inflammatory reaction – and fish oil is an anti-inflammatory. Not only that, it’s a great booster for your immune system.
Clear out your fridge
A lot of foods can help reduce hay fever symptoms, but a lot of them can exacerbate the situation. Ditch dairy (you can get calcium another way) because it over stimulates your glands and try to avoid tomatoes, which, although are great antioxidants are also naturally high in histamines.
Shower at night
Can hay fever make you tired and puffy? Can it ever. If you wash your hair in the morning, switch it to night-time. This will get rid of any pollen that’s found its way into your hair, so it won’t end up on your pillow and wreak havoc while you’re sleeping. Puffy morning eyes, be gone. Try this in tandem with this one workout that can actually help you sleep better and you’ll be sorted.
Put down the bubbly
We know it’s cruel, especially during summer, but drinking alcohol worsens symptoms. In fact, research from a team of Danish experts found that drinking alcohol increases the chance of an attack by three percent. If you can’t bear it, alternate with glasses of water.
Just two raw cloves a day will reduce excess catarrh (AKA a stuffy nose). It also contains antioxidants that act as super antihistamines. Apologise to the office in advance.
Beware of your washing line
Don’t hang washing outside on high pollen count days. The pollen will collect on your clothes and bedding and could trigger symptoms.
NB: Talk to your GP or pharmacist to see which treatments are best for you.
Here at Marie Claire we’ve just launched Marie Claire Sport – a supercharged new athleisure range which we want you to enjoy! Designed for your day to day lifestyle or for a hardcore work out, this range has it all. It focuses on comfort and style while also supporting an active lifestyle.
As Spring unfolds around us and the beautiful blooms unfurl from their winter sleep it’s time for our bodies to also awaken with renewed energy and purpose.
This is the perfect time to re-connect with your body through exercise, which is exactly why we have teamed up with our lovely friends at Lola’s Apothecary for an amazing self-love and self-care giveaway.
Lola’s Apothecary is all about body wellness. Selling ethically sourced body products that are 100% natural and vegan friendly! Their customers believe in self-love and being kind to themselves and their products have been on the beauty shortlist awards across the country. So why would you miss out on this competition?
One lucky winner will receive a £200 to spend with Marie Claire Sport plus over £200 worth of goodies from Lola’s Apothecary! This includes some our favourites from Lola’s Apothecary ‘Breath of Clarity Uplifting’ range, which is perfect for active bodies;
To enter all you need to do to enter is follow both @lolasapothecary and @marieclairesport on Instagram and tag two friends in a comment below each competition on each account. So what are you waiting for?
Giveaway open until the 16th April extra entries will be awarded for reposting and for entering on Facebook and Twitter as well. Entries open globally.