miso soup

For some reason, when I hear the word fermented, I think of it as being synonymous with festering. It’s not. That’s such a putrid, incorrect association that was so unfortunately formed in one of my synapses. But there we go. No, fermentation is actually the chemical breakdown of a substance by one or more microorganisms that convert sugars to acids, gases or alcohol. And when it comes to foods, fermentation makes things better (not like festering, which means something gets worse…). I’ve just finished a course of antibiotics and I believe that stuffing my face full of fermented foods has made all the difference. The usual side-effects that I get were not to be seen, so they clearly did something! And I’ll definitely be carrying on with having them in my diet for numerous other reasons.

Fermented foods include the likes of sauerkraut, kimchee, miso, kombucha, probiotic yoghurt, natto, tempeh, and so many others that you may not have heard of. They’re pungent, acquired-taste-required foods that I feel are losing the battle to the more bland and processed foods on the market. Sure, they’ve got a noticeable taste, but adjust your palette and you’ll be loving them in no time. Especially when you think about all the good that they can do for your body.

When you hear about fermented foods being described as those that are full of bacteria, I realise how that might make you wince. But make no mistake – these are good bacteria. Not the kind that will make you ill. They are species that aid our bodily functions. These include aiding digestion, boosting the immune system, keeping our, ahem, downstairs regions free of nasties like thrush and UTIs, boosting healthier skin, and increasing energy levels. You see, pumping your system full of good bacteria forces out the bad bacteria and yeast that can otherwise take over. The good outcompetes the bad. And these common species fall within two genera: Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp,.

Bifidobacterium spp. are natural inhabitants of our gut, vagina and mouth. Treatments where Bifidobacterium was given to those suffering from colitis was found to reduce inflammation in patients and improve rates of remission. That’s pretty astounding when you think about it. But it doesn’t have to be limited to those suffering from a terrible bowl condition. It reduces inflammation caused by any irritating foods and will combat nasty bloating. There’s also evidence for it helping IBS sufferers, so if you’re one of the many, definitely start consuming.

Then there’s Lactobacillus spp. Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most popular for its ability to prevent thrush caused by candida, as well as helping with the gut. It creates by-products that include lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide when it metabolises the foods in our body. These kill off candida yeast. Candida are found naturally in our body and in low numbers do no harm. In fact, they even aid functions like digestion. But when we consume too many sugary carbohydrates, they proliferate. When this happens, it’s bad news. They make us feel tired, cause various autoimmune diseases, cause vaginal infections, make us irritable and make us crave yet more sugary food.

Probiotics are a healthy addition to the diet of anyone at any time, but they really come into their own for those on antibiotics or those having eaten irritating, processed foods. I’ve just been dealing with the former, unfortunately. And I can say from first-hand experience that they have done me the world of good. I’ve had to take antibiotics a good few times in my twenty-six years and every time I do I am met with nausea and thrush. Every. Single. Time. And it sucks. But it’s normal. If you’ve suffered from the same thing, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone! Nausea is listed as a common side effect, but I read about thrush being this ‘very rare’ potential side effect and I’m like, ‘but everyone I know who takes antibiotics gets thrush?’ *bewildered shrug*.

Antibiotics kill off all the bacteria in your body. The aim is to kill what’s made you sick, but a negative side effect is killing everything else off in the process. This includes the healthy, wonderful helpers that keep our bodily functioning nice and efficiently. Combating these side effects can be done by consuming probiotics, whether that’s in food form or in a pill. I put sauerkraut on everything I could this past week, ate a bowl of miso soup every day and took an L. acidophilus capsule daily with a meal. The trick, however, is to try to consume these as far apart from your antibiotics doses as possible, to minimise how many are killed by the antibiotic. I took my first antibiotic when I woke up, but didn’t take my second until 3-4pm, so lunch around midday was a great time to get the probiotics in my system. The same thing occurred for dinner. My last dose of antibiotics was around 10pm, so dinner around 6 or 7pm gave me another opportunity to get my fill. The result? I suffered no negative side effects. Pretty incredible, considering what I’ve experienced in the past.

While I love the strong flavours of kimchi and sauerkraut, they’re obviously not the kinds of foods I’ll be eating every day for the rest of my life now that I’m off the meds. However, I now think of them as delicious medicines, in a weird way. If I’m going to have a veggie dog in a white bread roll, a sauerkraut topping will definitely help the digestion along. Or if I ever have a heavy lunch of pizza and dough balls, an afternoon miso soup will do wonders.

No one likes the bloat, or feeling like their body is heavy and holding on to all that processed, difficult-to-digest material. Do yourself a favour and introduce probiotics as a way of helping yourself along. I know I certainly will be. Now to go make myself some kimchi, because ohmygodit’sthebest. Recipe might follow soon on that one, hmm…

Probiotics! What are your thoughts?!

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Essential Oils

I think back to the time before I used essential oils and I am truly horrified. OK, perhaps that’s a smidge farfetched, but what I mean is that they are such an integral part of my wellness routine these days that I can’t imagine not having them in my life now. They are natural, versatile and enjoyable gifts from nature. Plus, there are so many to experiment with. Effects range from uplifting to soothing to relaxing to, ahem, sensual and if you study your oils, you’ll soon get to know the best combination for whatever ailment or requirement you have. Failing that, let your nose guide you. It seems to know what’s needed, somehow. Call it intuition or simply nasal mystery. Yes, I’m making that a thing.

Essential oils are derived from aromatic plants found across the globe. They may be harvested from the flowers, leaves, roots, woods, seeds or fruits. Extraction occurs through steam distillation, pressing or by solvent extraction. While there are many ways to use essential oils, it is worth knowing that they are not water-soluble, but can be readily carried in a base oil. Base oils are the thicker oils used for massage and typically include coconut, avocado, almond, jojoba and the like.

So how do they work? When inhaled, essential oil aromas trigger the nerves in our noses and give direct feedback to the brain. This is why they are able to make us feel certain things, such as relaxed, soothed, uplifted etc. But their benefits stretch further than this. Essential oils have good skin penetration and can heal damaged cells, increase cell turnover and make our skin more elastic. They can cleanse and detoxify us and aid in the healing of conditions such as eczema, acne, dehydration and psoriasis. But in addition to all this, they are excellent for their antimicrobial capabilities, making them an integral part of any skincare formulation.

Essential Oil Beauty

The Oils

So, let’s break it down. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but here are some oils and what they can do for you:

Anise – Used in massage, can help indigestion & colic

Basil – Vapourised or used in a chest rub recipe, helps with sinus congestion and asthma. Emotionally, it clears the head, strengthens memory and increases alertness (use if you’re studying for an exam!)

Bay – Massage onto the scalp to clear dandruff

Benzoin – Vapourised or used in a chest rub, helps to expel mucus and calm chesty coughs

Bergamot – Emotionally uplifting and calming. Used in lotion recipes, great at healing acne breakouts. It can also be applied neat to treat cold sores.

Black Pepper – Massage for increasing circulation and soothing achey muscles (post-workout essential)

Cajeput – Inhale to relieve congestion, or vapourise to keep insects at bay.

Cardamom – Massage for helping with indigestion, bloating and heartburn

Chamomile Roman – Use in a DIY cream for soothing irritated, sensitive and dry skin. It’s great for soothing wounds and sores too. A relaxing aroma, it’s can also relieve depression and tension.

Carrot Seed – Use in creams to restore elasticity to aging skin (hello DIY gift for mama!)

Cedarwood – Another scalp-massage soother for clearing dandruff and relieving itching

Celery – Massage for helping with high blood pressure and relieving arthritis

Cinnamon – Vapourise for healing cold and flu symptons, and massage for cramps

Citronella – Excellent antifungal and deoderant for topical skin conditions. It’s also well-known for keeping insects as bay during the warmer months. Dilute in a water spray and use as required.

Clary Sage – Massage for deep relaxation and vapourise for relieving anxiety and tension.

Cypress – Use in DIY deoderants or body sprays to help with excess perspiration. Emotionally, it is soothing in times of change or grief.

Eucalyptus – Vapourise for a decongestant aid, as well as chest and throat infections

Fennel – Massage for body detoxification

Frankincense – Vapourise for asthma relief, or massage into the skin for anti-aging properties

Geranium – Use in a massage formula or cream to treat menopausal inconveniences like hot flushes. It is also a great emotional aid for depression and anxiety.

Ginger – Ideal for travel and morning sickness when inhaled, it can also be used as a massage aid for increasing blood flow.

Grapefruit – Vapourise or add to a bath for uplifting and mood-boosting benefits. Or, massage to relieve water retention.

Hyssop – Vapourise prior to meditation to clear the mind, or inhale to relieve cough and bronchitis

Jasmine – Heady and exotic and slightly sedative, it can aid sleep when vapourised or massaged and also promotes skin elasticity.

Juniper – Massage to treat UTIs and kidney inflammation

Lavender – Massage or vapourise to calm the nervous system and aid a good night’s sleep. It can also be applied neat for any kind of skin inflammation, burns, scars or insect bites

Lemon – Use in DIY beauty to brighten the complexion and mood

Lemongrass – Use in DIY deoderants and vapourise in your home to clear out unpleasant cooking odours

Lime – Vapourise or use in the bath to uplift the mood and kick depression in the booty

Mandarin – Use in DIY body products to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. Also known for soothing and calming, so great massaged or used in the bath.

Marjoram – Massage into tired or stiff muscles

Melissa – Vapourise to settle panic attacks and hyperanxiety

Myrrh – Use in a DIY cream to speed up the healing process or wounds and reduce inflammation

Neroli – Use in DIY beauty to stimulate the production of new cells and improve skin elasticity. It’s also great vapourised to calm the mind and relieve insomnia

Nutmeg – Massage to help with rheumatic pain, or vapourise to boost the immune system during the winter months

Orange – Bright and cheery to help combat depression, or massage to relieve constipation

Palmarosa – Massage into stiff muscles, or use in DIY beauty to promote sebum production in dry skin

Palo Santo – This holy wood essence is the perfect meditation aid, while also serving to relieve stomach aches and stress

Patchouli – Vapourise for calming the nervous system

Peppermint – Vapourise for helping with indigestion, bloating, nausea and stomach aches. Use in a DIY cream for skin irritation, itching and rashes.

Petitgrain – Use in DIY beauty for breakouts, or in the bath to calm nerves

Pine – Inhale to help with colds, catarrh and sore throats

Rose Absolute – Use in DIY beauty for skin rejuvenating and regenerating properties. Vapourise to aid sleep.

Rosemary – Use in DIY hair products to promote hair growth and tackle greasy hair and scalp. Massage to soothe over-worked muscles.

Rosewood – Vapourise for headaches and nausea, or use in the bath to calm without causing drowsiness (good to use prior to a big event)

Sage Dalmatian – Inhale to help with coughs and colds, or massage to help over-worked muscles.

Sandalwood – Massage or use in the bath to calm and comfort, or use in DIY beauty to help dry and dehydrated skin.

Tea Trea – Can be used neat on skin to antibacterialise wounds. It’s also great on veruccas and cold sores. Use in DIY cleaning products for antimicrobial properties

Vetivert – Use in DIY beauty to strengthen mature skin and promote new cell growth. Also vapourise to relax and settle the nervous system.

Ylang Ylang – Use in DIY beauty on oily skin, or massage for tranquility

Essential Oil Burner

How to Use Them

So, you’ve had a read of the list and you want to give some of these a go? Here’s how to use them in various ways:

  1. Bathing – Run a hot bath and add about 7-10 drops of the oil of choice. This could be 7-10 drops of one oil, or halve the quantity of 2 oils etc.
  2. Vapourisation – Add 10-12 drops of your oil(s) to an essential oil burner, ensuring water levels are always topped up. This is a great way to alter the ambient mood, serve as an air freshener or keep insects at bay.
  3. Inhalation – Add 4-5 drops of oil to almost boiling water, lean over the bowl and cover head with a towel. Keep eyes closed and breathe deeply for about 5-10 mins.
  4. Massage – Blend oil(s) into a carrier base at a concentration of about 2%
  5. DIY beauty – Blend oil(s) into a carrier base at a concentration of about 1%

Essential oils can be found in most health stores. Some great brands include Miaroma (Holland & Barrett), Tisserand, Fushi, Natural By Nature and Neal’s Yard.

Which essential oils are you using at the moment?

Photos via Sphynx & Unsplash

 

 

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skin

When it comes to skincare and any kind of routine, we tend to stick with what we know. That usually means, how we were raised and what we picked up from friends or magazines growing up. But it consistently amazes me how many friends I have now as an adult in my twenties that have a less than ideal routine and then wonder why their skin isn’t looking its perkiest.

Diet, hydration and adequate sleep are of course your power trio when it comes to good skin. As is minimising stress levels. Your skin is a mirror of what’s going on inside. Dehydrated? Fine lines will become more visible. Eating too much sugar? This is a collagen killer; you know, that important protein that gives skin its bounce? Then there’s sleep. Lack of sleep causes the undereye blood vessels to dilate. This will give you those tired-looking dark circles that hardly scream, “Look at me, I’m a youthful, healthy human!”

No life is perfect and from time-to-time we don’t drink enough, eat too much junk food, get sick and party too hard. That’s a given and quite honestly, life would be boring without that variety. However, one thing you can do is have a consistent, thorough skincare routine. If you feel like you’re generally pretty healthy, but still finding your skin isn’t looking the greatest, try incorporating these into your day.

Skincare Routine

  1. Double-cleanse. If you wear make-up or sunscreen, or live in a very polluted city, you need to be double-cleansing. If you think about it, any layer(s) of product(s) that you apply to your face will be the first thing that a cleanser comes into contact with when you lather up at the end of the day. Massage it all in and break down the sunscreen/make-up/smog, wash it off and then think about what you’re left with. The answer is, skin that hasn’t been cleaned. Your fancy cleanser may have done a great job at breaking down your layers, but what are you doing to clean your skin itself? Your skin secretes oils and sweats and it’s important that you remove those at the end of the day to keep skin healthy. I personally use an oil cleanser as my first cleanse, massage in and emulsify with water. I then use either a cream or gentle foaming cleanser for my second cleanse. It’s worth mentioning that when it comes to budgeting for your skincare, try to spend less money on your first cleanser and more on your second as the second one is the one that’s actually going to be giving you the skincare benefits. You want the first to do its job of course, but if you’re going to invest in a pricier option for one of your cleansers, make it the one that will be cleaning and nourishing your skin directly.
  2. Wear sunscreen. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but prevention is key. The sun – that beautiful, glowing star – does wonders for our energy and gives us vitamin D, but it also causes cell damage and therefore aging. Wear an SPF that you like on your face every day and the future you will be glad that you did. I personally love the This Works In Transit Skin Defence SPF 30. I apply this right before my make-up. It absorbs quickly and is non-oily. Plus, although the packaging is a big chunk of plastic, you can see when you take it apart when its empty that it is cleverly designed. An inner,thin bag stores the product and pumps every last drop out for you so you don’t waste anything. Big thumbs up from me.
  3. Exfoliate. This makes a huge difference, whether you’re complaint is dullness, acne, scarring, hyperpigmentation or aging. Check out this post where I cover everything you’ll ever need to know about chemical exfoliants and why you should make acids your best friend. They sound scary, but forget whatever horrid connection you have in your mind with acid on skin and read up. They are great for cleansing the pores, dissolving dead skin cells and revealing more youthful skin underneath. You can also opt for physical exfoliants if you like a good scrub, but I pick chemical every time because they are less likely to irritate and more likely to give a noticeable improvement.
  4. Take time to remove eye make-up. We all know to remove our make-up before we go to bed, but most of us don’t pay particular attention to removing all the little bits of eyeliner and mascara that stubbornly cling to our eyelashes. Consistantly leaving a layer of make-up in this delicate eye area can lead to blepharitis. This is a common inflammatory condition caused by oil glands at the base of our eyelashes becomming clogged. It can cause redness and sensitivity. Eyes are the windows to the soul, so red and squinty simply won’t do! I have also found that sleeping with crusty eyelashes makes me more likely to mindlessly pick at them in the morning. This increases the chances of pulling them out – not a good look!
  5. Introduce a face oil. Everyone can benefit from using a face oil either daily or occasionally. Yes, even the oily skin types. I think there’s this huge misconception that if your skin is very oily throughout the day that adding oil into your routine will only make things worse. WRONG. Our skin often produces too much oil when it is dehydrated. Giving it oil intentionally hydrates it so that it doesn’t have to go into overdrive producing sebum. For a really great overview of facial oils, I recommend giving this a read. Sunday Riley do a comprehensive range, otherwise for a really affordable, vegan and cruelty-free option I recommend Viridian’s.

You don’t need a million products to have great skin. It starts with a healthy lifestyle and can be supported by care and consistency with high quality products that you do choose to use. Less is more. Quality over quantity.

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Say no to stress

There are two common questions that comes up in the interview rooms of the corporate world:

  1. “Can you please tell us how you deal with high pressure situations?”
  2. “How do you deal with stress?”

The employer is essentially wanting to know that you won’t freak out at the busiest of times. They’ll often want your answer supported by an example so you can prove to them that you’ve got this down. They want to know that you’re reliable. They want to know that you’ll put them first. Job comes before wellbeing in this establishment.

Now, it depends entirely on the job you’re going for and how much wiggle room there is between selling your soul and being able to be honest with them. But essentially, being able to handle lots of stress is not only a lie – no human is capable of it for extended periods of time – but it’s about time that we start changing the opinion that being able to work in stressful conditions is a good thing. The creative community understands this. The corporate world does not. In the corporate world, workers are akin to robots. They are expected to dress in a stiff, uncomfortable manner, behave themselves, suppress too heightened an emotion of any persuasion and scrap the work/life balance thing.

But because the world is run by corporations, this ideology seeps through society. Look around and you’ll find that we’re all just so damn busy, aren’t we? Can you honestly tell me you haven’t had at least one encounter with somebody in the past week where they haven’t spewed, “I’ve been so busy!” at least once? I sure can’t. It comes up on the daily. Busy is good, if you’re working passionately and with enthusiasm. But that’s never how it comes across, is it? It’s more of a cover-up for, “I’m exhauted!” The two aren’t synonymous. Productive is good. Overworked is bad. For the latter, stress results.

Stress does revolting things to us. From physical symptoms like hair loss and acne to mental effects like insomnia and depression, stress is the result of having too much to do in too little time, or from the emotional strain of having to endure things that you simply don’t want to do. Stress comes from feeling like you have to parent your two children yourself because your partner cannot be bothered to help. Stress comes from working a job with a boss who is incapable of understanding your needs.  Stress comes when you place yourself in situations that you do not want to be in.

But there’s something else to add into the mix here. We’re all too busy and we’re all too stressed, but there’s still this element of pride that comes up in those describing their lives in this way. I know! Harvard released findings from a study that showed ‘Humblebragging’ is the new thing. Yes, humblebragging. Go figure. So what that means is that when you talk about how busy you are, you are secretly wanting others to know how sought-after you are. Something in demand is considered desirable. Just like diamonds. So, apparently the trend now shows us that humblebragging is considered the thing that ‘successful’ people are doing! I just don’t even know what to do with this one.

stress

If you’ve felt stressed yourself (which I feel like 99% of people reading this will admit to), or if you’ve witnessed a loved one or colleague enduring stress, you know that simply no good can come from it. Zilch. The goal must not be to simply get on with it when we’re feeling stressed. No, the goal must be to tailor our lives in a way that is stress-reducing. SAY NO! Say no to being given too much work. Say no to social events that drain you. Say no to cleaning up after your housemates because they just can’t be bothered to do it themselves.

There are two ways to reduce stress:

  1. Plan ahead. It’s no secret that upping your organisation will help immensely in more ways than one. It comes up all the time in my personal journey of trying to live a low-waste lifestyle. If I plan ahead and take things with me, I don’t put myself in situations where I get stressed by being left with no options. Schedule, pack, plan. Explore those areas of your life where you can make things easier for the future you.
  2. Say no. Don’t feel obligated to do things that you don’t want to do. Life is way too short for that. Do what makes you happy and you’ll have no reason to feel stressed.

So, the next time you have an interview and are asked one of the aforementioned questions, tell them that you don’t believe stress is good for you and you choose not to get yourself in those situations in the first place. See their surprise. And then actually go and do that.

Got any stress-busters you’d like to share? Do please let me know!

Photo via Sphynx and Unsplash

 

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Productive

Whether it’s your full-time job, your side-hustle or a hobby you’re looking to expand into something more, only good things can come from getting yourself organised and becoming more efficient. The biggest frustration is feeling as though there aren’t enough hours in the day. We can feel like we’re paddling upstream; forever struggling and never ending up where we want to be. But in my experience, there are two concepts that will absolutely make you more productive. The first is conditioning yourself and the second is prioritising your actions so they are in alignment with your values.

Conditioning or training yourself means that you put your tendency to be lazy or procrastinate to one side and simply do more. This is the result of learned habits which of course take time but are completely worth it. It’s actually kind of incredible what humans are capable of. We can endure extraordinary things. And this isn’t to sound like you’re to work yourself into the ground (believe me, I am not the type of person to encourage that), but I bring this up as inspiration. You can achieve all those things that you want to do. You can be more productive. You just need to learnt to be a little more efficient.

Prioritising is an easier solution to get your head around than conditioning. So perhaps start with this one. Write down a list of all the things you do each day and approximately how much time is spend doing each of them. Then write a list of what your values are. Or, if you find that too vague, a list of what your dream life would look like if you broke it down into daily actions or acitivities. Compare. You might feel crummy after this exercise. It might become apparent that your two lists are totally in conflict. But that’s OK. You did the important thing by becoming aware of that. Now, you can begin to make changes.

So, if your lists are in conflict and you want to be doing more of what you love, or you’re sick of bumming around and what to train yourself to be more efficient, here are some things you can do.

  1. Wake up early and get straight out of bed. Did you know that early-risers have been found to be overall more productive and proactive than night owls? They tend to anticipate problems and tackle them sooner, thus reducing stress levels. A large survey revealed that ‘morning people’ also admitted to feeling happier overall. Now, a 5am alarm may not be for everyone. You might not be able to get to bed until 11pm and need at least 7 hours sleep. But, look at your schedule and set a realistic wake-up time that you can stick to each day. This extra time in the morning can be used to make a routine that includes wellness activites like exercise or meditation. Or, it can be used to work on a side business you’d like to grow. And when the alarm goes off, don’t allow yourself a second to think about it. Get straight up and don’t look back.
  2. Make time for what’s important each day. Thinking back to prioritising things that matter, make time for them every day. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: you only live once. Life is far too short and precious to waste our time on things that don’t inspire us or make us happy. Even if you have to work a job that does nothing else for your satisfaction than pay the bills, spend the rest of the time that you’re not in that workplace wisely. You might want to use your early morning to do these activities, or perhaps you’ve got small children and the evening is the only possible free time. Whenever it is, plan accordingly.
  3. Reduce Sugar & Caffeine intake. I recently wrote this article about what a revelation it was doing life without caffeine. I tried it out of curiosity but found it immensely beneficial; so much so that I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Living without minimal caffeine has completely rid my days of low energy slumps. I didn’t find the caffeine buzz to make me any more efficient than usual, because I’m generally a very focussed person. But, what I did suffer from were the lows as the effects would wear off. Nowadays, no caffeine = consistent energy levels. I’m also mindful about sugar because it’s terrible for us. I have found that when I’m consuming too much sugar, my mood slips and I don’t feel as enthusiastic or productive. Keeping it in check will work wonders in helping you feel more balanced.
  4. Schedule in the fun stuff. This might sound like a bore, but if you schedule in dedicated time for those things simply done for enjoyment, you’ll actually get so much more out of them. There’s nothing worse than trying to have a good time, but feeling like you should probably be working or doing x, y or z to be more productive instead. I said at the start than it’s remarkable how much we can endure, but I’m not an advocate for being a tyrant. You need to allow yourself time to laugh and play. Scheduling this in will allow your body to fully relax and your mind to remain present in the moment.

These are just a small handful and I’d love to hear what’s made a difference for you! Have you changed something in your routine to make you work smarter?

Photo via Unsplash

 

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