Inspiring lifestyles

Water: The essence of life

nature water drops of water liquid
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

By Anita Ramsden, kinesiologist.

When people come for kinesiology sessions, a first, very important check is to understand just how hydrated they are – or not as the case may be.

Kinesiology is a useful tool here as it can be used to work out if they require more liquid and if so, what the optimum amount is for them. For most, it is between seven and eight glasses, or around two litres. But do bear in mind that tea, coffee and alcohol do not count towards this quota.

When muscle testing, you can ask the body, “do you need one glass, two glasses?” etc and keep going until you get a lock on the muscle. This means that any discoveries are always tailored to the individual.

Why drink more water?

On returning for another session, people always tell me how much better they feel as a result of being hydrated properly. They feel more awake, experience fewer headaches, can think more clearly and may even start eating less as some apparent hunger pangs are, in fact, thirst signals. Many individuals also sleep better, suffer fewer aches and pains and see their complexion improve as remaining hydrated helps the body to flush out toxins.

Initially though, people often feel a little resistance to such a simple idea as drinking water. They say they do not care for the taste or they do not feel thirsty. But what I say is: “Why not try it – if only just to prove me wrong!”

For those who are unused to consuming a lot of water, it is important to increase your intake gradually, adding an extra glass each day. In this way, the cells in your body can get used to it and begin to absorb it properly.

As you start to increase the amount of liquid you consume, your thirst mechanism will become more efficient and your body might begin asking you to drink more. It is a surprising fact that, once you start to drink more water, you often start to feel more thirsty. This is because your body understands it is no longer in a drought situation and so feels able to ask for more.

After all, the human body is 75% water and 25% solid mass. Even on an average day without undertaking a lot of exercise, 2500ml of water leaves the body as urine, as air expelled from our lungs and as sweat through our skin.

If you read Patrick Holford’s brilliant book, Optimum Nutrition, he explains that our lungs are 90% water, our blood 82%, our brain 76% our muscles 75% and our bones, 25%.

As a result, if we are not taking in adequate amounts of liquid, our internal processes start to suffer – although the body does have its own drought management system to prevent dehydration and enable survival.

Woman Standing By Waterfall With Her Hands Raised
Waterfall

How to increase your water intake

I always advise clients to take a glass of water to bed with them at night and to drink it when they wake up. If you do so regularly, it will become a habit. You are at your most dehydrated first thing in the morning after sweating during the night and your body will love you for replenishing it so quickly.

Dr Batmanghelidj, who wrote a well-known book entitled ‘Your Body’s Many Cries for Water’, recommends that should you have trouble sleeping, take a glass of water and put a tiny pinch of salt (sea salt or Himalayan, if you have it) on your tongue. Do not allow it to touch the roof of your mouth, but let it dissolve in a bit of the water and swallow.

Be sure to ignore this advice if you have kidney problems or have been advised to avoid or cut down on salt though.

Once you have spent a few days getting used to the amount of water your body needs, fill a two-litre bottle up and ensure you drink this amount during the day. Stainless steel bottles are a great investment here as not only do they keep your drink nice and cold, but plastic bottles degrade over time and leach harmful plastic into the water.

If you are not keen on the taste of your local tap water though, simply fill a jug and let it stand for a while as the chlorine it contains will evaporate, leaving you with a sweeter, more palatable liquid. Restaurants always fill their well-iced water jugs ahead of time for this very reason. Alternatively, you can buy a water filter jug to remove any impurities.

During the winter months, adding lemon, mint, thyme or ginger to hot water also makes it more pleasant to consume and can easily be used as a replacement for tea and coffee. Lemon is particularly beneficial as it adds vitamin C, which is good for eliminating toxins. But cucumber is also a fantastic addition too as it is a good source of potassium, which can help lower your blood pressure.

alcohol background beverage citrus
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Does water have any side effects?

The first thing that people discover is that the more water that goes into their system, the more needs to come out. The process is similar to that seen with a dried-up pot plant.

When you first start to water it, the soil is so dry, it just runs straight through. But after a little while, it takes up some of the water and rehydrates. This means that when you water it again, it is able to soak a lot more of the water up and retain it, so the plant can benefit.

It is for this reason that it is important to increase your intake over the course of a few days. But the great thing is that, as the water leaves your body, it also takes with it waste materials and toxins that the body has no need of, thereby purifying your system.

As a rule of thumb, according to Dr Batmanghelidj, healthy urine “should, ideally, be almost colourless to light yellow. If it begins to become dark yellow or even orange in colour, you are becoming dehydrated. This means the kidneys are working extra hard to get rid of toxins in the body in very concentrated urine”.

In fact, in his book, he demonstrates his belief that all too often, “you are not sick, you are thirsty”, using thousands of real-life case histories to prove his point. He provides the science behind the intricate workings of the body and shows how we need water, among other things, to keep our joints lubricated, which reduces arthritic pain, to prevent asthma by keeping our lungs hydrated, to reduce excess body weight and eradicate dyspeptic pain. In fact, he describes water as “a revolutionary, natural way to prevent illness and restore good health”.

One of the key factors here is that drinking water is an excellent way of keeping the digestive system working effectively. If the body is well hydrated, the large intestine is not looking to prevent any excess water from leaving the body. Therefore, taking in sufficient liquid can help to reduce constipation.

So as you can see, it truly is amazing just how many benefits can be gained from such a cheap, and easy-to-obtain, commodity – who would have thought it?

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Anita Ramsden is a kinesiologist. She is emphatic about affecting positive change and her work encourages wellbeing for mind, body and soul. She is a member of the Kinesiology Federation.

 

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Inspiring lifestyles

How to benefit from the natural remedies on your doorstep

Juliette picking calendula
Juliette picking calendula (Giles Bryant)

By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant.

The other day, I received a distressed call from a friend in need of help. Her daughter had cut her lip open really badly on an obstacle course. Due to the location of the wound, the doctors were unable to do much except tell her to keep the child quiet and still so the injury could heal.

As a result, she called me for advice and I knew just the thing. For years, since my first child was small in fact, I have made healing balm, which I carry around with me at all times in case of emergencies. I cannot count the times this little pot of ointment has come to the rescue, helping to stop deep cuts from bleeding, healing minor grazes, easing dry lips, relieving insect bites, soothing headaches and treating sunburn to name but a few uses.

It is worth remembering in this context that we all have a veritable cornucopia of natural plant remedies on our doorsteps. Indeed, some common plants like calendula, the star of this article, have been used for thousands of years.

But a big breakthrough in understanding medicinal plants in this country came with the development of monastic herb gardens. Monks would grow a wide variety of medicinal plants, with some using up to 500 species for both food and medicine. In fact, in monastic or castle gardens, everything not recorded as a fruit tree was considered an herb as plants were believed to facilitate both good health and good taste.

Today, however, most of us have forgotten this ancient wisdom and limit our use of herbs to a sparse few. So why did this knowledge of herbal lore almost disappear?

A major cause was the persecution of anyone using herbs and branding them as a witch. What was done to the wise women of the seventeenth century by fanatical zealots, especially in East Anglia, is a shocking story.

Herbalists and healers

Because East Anglia was the playground of the notorious ‘Witchfinder General’ and was synonymous with witch hunts. At a time when Puritanism was at its peak and the 1603 Witchcraft Act was still in force, local parishes paid Matthew Hopkins to find and try witches, who were all too often single, older women working as healers, herbalists and midwives – or who simply ended up as scapegoats.

Although we live in more enlightened times now, knowledge of how to use plants medicinally is still restricted and censored to this day. But the word is starting to get out now helped by advocates such as James Wong with his wonderful book and TV show, ‘How To Grow Your Own Drugs’.

Herbs such as mint, coriander, tansy and marjoram are native to the UK. But their bounty was supplemented by the Romans who, on invading these shores, brought with them spices such as ginger, pepper and cinnamon, and herbs like borage, chervil, dill, fennel, lovage, sage and thyme, all of which are still part of the average British kitchen.

Calendula or pot marigold is also a very versatile plant and has a long history of use. Linked to the Virgin Mary, it was included in many 14th century recipes to help fight the plague. The ancient Egyptians likewise honoured it for its rejuvenating properties, while Hindus still use it to adorn their altars.

The plant, which has also traditionally been used for culinary purposes, was colloquially known as ‘poor man’s saffron’ and employed both to adorn salads and dye clothes. Its flowers were engaged for everything from reducing inflammation and calming nappy rash and angry skin such as eczema to soothing cuts and grazes and relieving bed sores, ulcers and varicose veins.

So if you would like to make a simple calendula-based healing balm of your own to act as an invaluable first aid tool, here is a great recipe:

Calendula Healing Balm
Calendula healing balm (Giles Bryant)

Healing balm

300ml of olive oil or coconut oil (or a combination of both)

1 cup of calendula flowers

2 sprigs of lemon balm

½ cup of lavender flowers

1 head of rose petals

½ cup camomile flowers

3 tbsp of bees or candelilia wax (the vegan option)

10 drops of lavender oil

Place the oil and flowers into a saucepan and put on a very low heat to simmer slowly for 20 minutes, never allowing the mixture to boil. Alternatively, you can place the flowers and the oil into a glass jar and leave to steep for six weeks.

When done, strain the oil from the flowers and discard them. Put the oil back into the pan with your wax and allow it to melt gently on a low heat. When all of the wax is melted, add 10 drops of lavender oil and pour the mixture into glass jars to set. It will last up to a year.

Juliette Bryant

Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.

 

 

 

Inspiring lifestyles

Three reasons why parental wellbeing is vital to children

family of three lying on bed showing feet while covered with yellow blanket
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

By Sarah Stollery, kundalini yoga and meditation teacher.

Although you may not realise it, your health and wellbeing as a parent are really important to the health and wellbeing of your children. Here’s why:

1. We regularly undergo sensory overload

Parenting today is more challenging than it has ever been. We are constantly exposed to a tidal wave of conflicting advice and are under pressure to be perfect homemakers, while often working full- or part-time into the bargain.

But we are also constantly processing sensory information from the world around us, sifting through it at a rapid pace, discarding what is insignificant and attending to our top priorities. It is about engaging with our surroundings, whether virtual or physical, and we do it during most of our waking life. As a result, we tend to place little value on those unstructured periods of internal focus such as day-dreaming.

The problem with this situation is that an overemphasis on the external can lead to sensory overload and a chronic neglect of our own wellbeing as well as that of our children. We zip along feeling fine, but because we spend little, or no, time listening to our own internal voice, we fail to notice that we are filling up with frustration, intolerance, anger and sadness – until it all gets too much and we end up feeling depressed or anxious.

So now more than ever it is crucial to find opportunities for solitude and give ourselves time to reflect, daydream and just simply to be quiet so we can hear the voice within that is so often drowned out.

So make a point of scheduling moments to enjoy a bit of silence. Here are some tips for making quiet time part of your daily routine at home:

  • Choose a time of day that works for everyone in your family (if possible) i.e. if you have school-age children, a good time may be just after they have had a snack but before they start their homework. For younger children, between bath time and bed time may work better;
  • Decide on a short chunk of time, say five minutes, and work up to more if it suits you, but do ensure it is achievable for your family;
  • Involve your children when planning how to spend your quiet time. Would they like to try a meditation (see the Relax Kids website for lots of guided meditations for kids and adults)? Would they rather listen to music? Could you even make a corner of your home into a Relaxation Zone?
  • Invite your children to chat about anything that arose for them during their quiet time. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to connect and find out what’s going on for them;
  • Some children may like to keep a diary during, or just after, their quiet time in order to help them process their feelings and experience.

 

light sunset people water
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

2. Children learn by watching what we do not what we say

As the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words. So the most effective way to teach our children how to make wellbeing a lifelong habit is to model this behaviour for them now.

But this is far easier said than done as it means taking a hard, honest look at our own wellbeing habits and assessing where we can make changes in order to provide the example we would like our kids to follow. Here are some examples of where we, as parents, often overlook our own wellbeing by:

  • Being socially isolated and failing to ensure we have adequate emotional and practical support around us;
  • Ignoring our own needs for developing a creative outlet;
  • Consistently making ourselves the lowest priority, overlooking the importance of self-care and failing to meet our own health and wellbeing requirements;
  • Feeling unable to express ourselves authentically and without judging ourselves;
  • Denying our parental intuition due to external pressures;
  • Overstimulation from input such as social media, the news etc.

The idea is that if you explicitly attend to your own wellbeing, your children will follow suit and grow up doing the same.

3. Awareness is Key

When we begin to proactively manage our own wellbeing, tune the world out and tune in to ourselves, we naturally become more self-aware. I am not talking here about critical self-judgement, which is about analysing our own behaviour and giving ourselves a hard time about it.

Instead I am talking about taking a step back and assuming the role of observer in order to look at what you are doing in an objective way. The aim here is to find ways to effect the positive changes necessary to improve you and your children’s wellbeing.

So, for example, if you missed the deadline for signing up for that Zumba class again, rather than downplaying it as an oversight or memory lapse, it might make sense to dig a little deeper. Perhaps the real reason you did not sign up for it is because you do not actually like dancing and, deep down, would prefer to sign up for a painting class to get in touch with your creative side.

Despite being a trivial example, it does serve to illustrate how it is all too easy to undervalue wellbeing and thus unconsciously communicate this attitude to your children.

But awareness can also offer a different perspective when facing challenges with our children that may have a direct impact on their wellbeing. For example, realising that I felt the need to control what my son ate had a huge impact on my behaviour at mealtimes, which in turn affected his eating habits – for the better.

Sometimes coming to such awareness can take effort and be uncomfortable and challenging. But with such awareness comes objectivity and, with objectivity, we can start to parent in a way that truly puts the wellbeing of our children front and centre.

In other words, cultivating awareness is at the very heart of wellbeing. It is what allows us to be conscious that we would love to try painting, for example. And the great thing is that, as we cultivate our own wellbeing, our awareness develops in tandem. This means that our wellbeing improves still further, and accordingly, that of our children, in a truly virtuous circle.

sarah stollery headshot

Sarah Stollery is a kundalini yoga and meditation teacher and co-founder of The Cabin, a self-directed learning community for home-educated children. She is passionate about empowering people of all ages and stages of life with the tools to thrive in these challenging times by creating space to learn, explore and integrate a wide range of wellbeing practices.

Inspiring lifestyles

Discovering the delights of wild food

Mushroom growing in a forest
Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant and healer.

Many of the plants we think of as weeds have been used for thousands of years as both food and medicine. It is not necessary to go too far back in history to a time before online shopping, supermarkets or even the village store when knowing what could be eaten from the local environment was simply a matter of survival.

Farming is estimated to have first emerged in Britain around 6,000 years ago. Long before that, people hunted and gathered their food. Although all too often the few people in the world who still maintain this kind of lifestyle are considered primitive, the question is, are they really? Not only are they generally members of sophisticated cultures, but they often only need to work as little as three hours a day to satisfy their physical needs.

On Mother’s Day this year, I was given a wonderful book by Ray Mears called ‘Wild Food’. Through his television programmes and courses, Ray has done much to demonstrate the value of natural resources, honour the indigenous groups that keep them alive and generally help reconnect people to the earth.

After asking the question ‘what plants did our hunter gathering ancestors eat?” he brought in leading archeo-botanist, Professor Gordon Hillman, to answer. They spent time with the aboriginal people of Australia in order to learn the old ways that are still practiced today. What they discovered was a highly-developed awareness of the local environment – something that we in the West have lost largely.

While it may seen very convenient to have other people provide for all our food needs, in doing so we miss out on valuable medicinal food sources that can be found in our locale. There is even an argument that local food is best for us, not just due to food miles and freshness issues, but because the plants that grow near us may be most suited to our constitution and heal us in the most effective way.

The mystical series of books ‘Anastasia’, which is set in Siberia, considers the inherent power of wild foods – they have developed naturally over millions of years and are so tough they can survive almost anything humans throw at them, always returning to colonise the land no matter what.

juliette foraging for wild garlic
Juliette Bryant foraging for wild garlic (Giles Bryant)

Food for free

But it was the publication of Richard Mabey’s iconic book ‘Food For Free’  in 1972 that initially started a resurgence in eating wild foods. Now there are foraging courses all across the UK, including some good local ones in East Anglia. Such knowledge is not only beneficial for our health. It is also good for our pocket too as we can use foraged food to supplement the paid-for goods in our larder.

Unsurprisingly lots of businesses are likewise getting in on the act by selling foraged seaweed such as samphire as well as local mushrooms. The small Suffolk town of Sudbury even has a pop-up restaurant called Shillingford’s, which is located at The Quay performing arts theatre and specialises in wild food.

While there is something primal about collecting your own food, there are also massive potential health benefits from a medicinal point of view in eating a wider range of foods. Archeologists believe that pre-agricultural humans may have eaten between 200–1,000 different plants species over the course of a year. But today, a huge 90% of cultivated foods come from just 20 plants.

Having a more diverse diet though means we consume a wider range of tiny phyto-nutritients, the healing qualities of which are being discovered more and more each day.

While out foraging, however, it is important to bear a few things in mind:

  • It is against the law to uproot a wild plant, however common, without the landowner’s permission;
  • Only pick specimens that are abundant and never strip a plant completely of its leaves, fruit or berries, or take more than you need;
  • Beware of eating anything that may have been contaminated;
  • Never eat something if you are not completely sure of what it is, or how to cook it if it cannot be eaten raw, as some wild plants can be deadly.

Here is a quick and easy recipe that can be made from some of the wild foods growing all around us:

Wild garlic & chickweed hummus

1 tin chickpeas

2 tbs tahini

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbs olive oil

1 tsp good salt

small handful of chickweed

small handful of wild garlic leaves

3 tbs water

½ tsp paprika

Blend together well in a food processor, adding a dash more water if required. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika. This is delicious served with baked potatoes and salad.

JulietteBryant

Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.