Offering a unique reference point on alternative medicine and complementary therapies.

Mind

Homeopathic Remedies for Panic Attacks

This week is the start of  Face Your Fears Week. For one week in October the charity, Changing Faces is asking everybody in the UK to face their fears and raise money at the same time. Fears trigger a whole cascade of events in the mind and body and often lead to panic attacks, which can range from mild to severe. With it affecting so many people, homeopathic rememdes for panic attacks are becoming more and more popular. Panic attacks can have a major impact on general the lifestyle of a sufferer. They can be triggered by physical or emotional events. Situations such as a fear of spiders or being in a crowded train can trigger a panic attack in some individuals. Homeopathy can help to both treat the short term signs of a panic attack and help to treat the underlying cause of this condition. Other examples of situations that can lead to panic attacks are a fear of flying, being in a confined space (such as a lift) or in a large open space. Signs of Panic Attacks Hyperventilation (over breathing) Palpitations Sweating Chest pain Shortness of breath Dizziness Shaking Panic attacks are usually treated with antidepressant medications and drugs such as diazepam. These drugs all come with the added burden of side effects and can cause dependency. This is not the ideal solution to this problem. Other common treatments are cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and relaxation techniques. Homeopathic remedies can offer a quick short term solution to these episodes, but it is more important to get to the root of the problem. The ideal treatment plan should include short term relief,alongside a long term and permanent solution. Homeopathy can provide you with this two pronged treatment plan. Long term treatment will require a full consultation with a qualified homeopath. The following homeopathic remedies can be taken every 10 minutes for up to 5 doses. These remedies should be taken in the 200c potency, and can be taken in the form of pills, tablets or drops. Pills and tablets should be sucked, and not swallowed. Drops can be taken directly on the tongue or in water. Aconite is a major homeopathic remedy for intense fear. This remedy can...

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How to help with Christmas stress

The run up to Christmas unfortunately brings about stress and panic in many people. This can be related to family pressures, financial problems or work pressures. To make matters worse, this is usually the time of the year when most of us are generally slightly run down due to the shorter days and lack of vitamin D. Whilst, natural remedies cannot remove or treat the cause of the Christmas stress, they can help you cope in the short term. These natural remedies and supplements can help your body to remain in a state of harmony and in turn help you to get through the stressful Christmas period. The following natural remedies are available at most pharmacies and health food stores. Vitamin B Complex is a supplement that has multiple benefits. B vitamins help to nourish and maintain a healthy nervous system. This group of vitamins also help to support the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are responsible for releasing the stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, DHEA, ephinephrine). Ginseng is a Chinese herb that has adaptogenic properties. Adaptogenic herbs help to support the body through times of stress (physical or mental). Ginseng is available as a capsule, tablet or liquid. This herb is sometimes combined with multivitamins in a single preparation. Please consult your pharmacist if you are taking prescription medications. Other adaptogenic herbs are astragalus, rhodiola and ashwagandha, which is often referref to as “Indian Ginseng”. All of these adaptogenic herbs can help to maintain good immune function and help the body through times of stress. Please consult with your pharmacist if you take regular prescription medication before taking these herbs. Valerian and Passiflora are herbal remedies that are available as tinctures or combined tablets, such as Kalms Stress, Quiet Life or Stressless. Bach Flower remedies such as Nelson’s Rescue Remedy or Ainsworths Emergency Spray and Recovery Remedy provide can help you get through stressful periods. Magnesium supplements can help to relieve insomnia that may be caused to excessive stress and fatigue. This supplement works be relaxing muscle tension and aiding good quality sleep. Theanine is an amino acid that is naturally found green tea leaves. This amino acid has gained in popularity over recent years as a supplement to...

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Natural Supplements for Insomnia

Insomnia is a very common condition that can contribute to other health conditions and affect work and personal life. People usually turn to natural medicine for the treatment of insomnia after trying conventional medicine. The main problem with conventional medicine is the side effects, which can range from dry mouth, headaches and daytime drowsiness. These medicines are also very addictive and it can be very difficult to come off these drugs.  Long-term insomnia is associated with a number of heath concerns such as weight gain, depression and can speed up the ageing process. There are many natural supplements for insomnia that are easily available. The natural approach to treating insomnia is therefore a better option, and there are many therapies and alternative medicines to choose from. If you are taking prescription medication, please consult your G.P or pharmacist as these medicines could be causing your sleep problems or they may interact with the alternative medicines. Insomnia can also be a symptom of an underlying illness, such as depression, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, anxiety, stress or diabetes. A lack of regular exercise and a diet high in sugar and salt can also contribute to sleep problems. Natural Alternative Sleep Remedies There are many natural sleep remedies that have been shown to be beneficial.  One therapy may be more beneficial than another for the individual person, so please do not give up if you find that the first therapy that you try doesn’t help you.  Please consult your pharmacist if you are taking any regular medication before taking these natural supplements, as there is a possibility that they may interact with your medications. VALERIAN This is a traditional herbal medicine that has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for anxiety and sleep problems. Research has shown that Valerian can increase levels of the neurotransmitter, GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid). This is associated with a decrease in CNS (central nervous system) activity, which results in better quality sleep. This herb is not believed to be addictive or cause drowsiness in the morning (unlike many conventional sleeping pills). Valerian has also been shown to treat mild anxiety, which could be responsible for the insomnia. Valerian comes in the form of liquid, teas, capsules or...

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The Ritalin Effect (ADHD)

The Ritalin Effect (ADHD)

This week is ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) awareness week. Ritalin (methylphenidate) has become a regular treatment for hyperactivity across America and the U.K.  Ritalin’s popularity amongst doctors has increased to such an extent that one in seven American children under the age of 18 is regularly taking a medication like Ritalin to treat their ADHD. But what do we know about the effects of Ritalin for ADHD? In the UK, sales of Ritalin are on the increase year on year. Recent figures show that prescriptions for Ritalin have increased from 158,000 in 1999, to 661,463 in 2010. Children as young as 3 years are taking this powerful stimulant. These statistics are worrying, considering that many long side effects have yet to be discovered. General and common side effects that are associated with this type of medicines are sleep disturbances, nervousness, night terrors, skin problems, anxiety, irritability and dependence. These medicines can also cause growth retardation in children. Lethal side effects such as suicidal thoughts and psychosis become more common when children take prolonged and high doses of these medications. Tragically, there have been a number of deaths related to children, especially boys, taking Ritalin. The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) has seen a worrying trend as its members are noting Ritalin dosages continue to increase. A statement from the AEP said, “The benefits of psycho-stimulant medication are not sustainable over the long term, necessitating stronger and stronger dosages,’ it said, adding that it was becoming, “common practice for children to be prescribed stronger dosages than recommended in the morning as a “kick-start” so medication lasts the school day”. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that Ritalin should not be prescribed to pre-school children. However, health experts are seeing this ruling being widely ignored across the country. The British Psychological Society (BPS), through Peter Kinderman issued a statement saying that children are being prescribed medication as a quick fix rather than being given a full assessment. “These assessments and psychological therapies may take longer and cost more but ultimately are better in the long run”, said Peter Kinderman. There have been many studies that question the effectiveness of Ritalin and similar drugs. Studies show that placebo treatments...

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Sleep Boosts Brain Function

Sleep Boosts Brain Function

Did you know that sleep can boost brain function? New research has found that sleep increases the reproduction of cells that form myelin, which is essential for optimal brain function. These findings could lead to new developments about the link between sleep and brain repair. This connection could also lead to future developments regarding the understanding of multiple sclerosis, which is caused by damage to myelin. The study, which was published in the The Journal of Neuroscience could one day lead to more information about the connection between sleep and brain growth and repair. It has been known for years that genes are turned on and off during periods of sleep and wakefulness. What was not known was how sleep affects specific cells such as oligodendrocytes. These cells make myelin in a healthy brain in response to injury.   What is Myelin? Myelin is an insulating layer that wraps around nerves, including those in the brain and spinal cord. It is made up of protein and fatty substances. Myelin is essential in allowing nerve signals to be transmitted quickly and efficiently. Damage to the myelin can cause diseases such as multiple sclerosis.   This study which was led by Chiara Cirelli, MD, PhD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, measured gene activity in oligodendrocytes from mice that slept and those who were forced to stay awake. The results found the genes promoting myelin were turned on during sleep, and the genes causing cell were turned on when the mice stayed awake. “For a long time, sleep researchers focused on how the activity of nerve cells differs when animals are awake versus when they are asleep,” Cirelli said. “Now it is clear that the way other supporting cells in the nervous system operate also changes significantly depending on whether the animal is asleep or awake.” Further analysis showed that the production of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) (cells that become oligodendrocytes) doubles during sleep, especially during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The researchers suggest that extreme or persistent sleep loss could potentially aggravate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Cirelli did however say that future experiments may confirm whether or not a link exists between sleep patterns and multiple sclerosis...

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Understanding Depression

Understanding Depression

As can be seen the effects of depression can be varied not only in terms of severity but also in the myriad ways that these effects can manifest themselves.  Fortunately there are an ever increasing number of ways that one can help themselves cope with depression.  There are a plethora of organisations dedicated with dealing with depression, these include Mind and the Depression Alliance. As well as the use of drug therapy there also a number of alternative and complementary ways that can help with understanding depression.  These include: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based on the premise of how you think about yourself and your environment (your surroundings and other people ) and also on how your behaviours (actions) affect your thoughts and feelings.  It is a talking based therapy whereby the therapist will help you break down each problem and help you become aware of how helpful and realistic your thoughts and behaviours are and will then help you change the ones that are unhelpful and harmful.  According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, this treatment is as effective as antidepressants for many types of depression. CBT was found to benefit nearly half of the 234 patients who received it combined with normal care from their GP and up to two thirds of people with depression do not respond to anti-depressants according to a study in the Lancet.   St John’s Wort St John’s Wort is a wild yellow flower that has been used for treating mental problems for hundreds of years and is a herbal remedy that has been labelled ‘nature’s Prozac’.  It has been found to be effective in mild to moderate depression but it is important that you check with your GP before taking it as it can have side effects and can interfere with existing medication.   Exercise Exercise has been proven to really help with the effects of depression.  It has been proven to boost serotonin, endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in the brain.  The best news is you don’t have to train for a marathon but it can be as little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day.  This can include walking, aerobic exercise or even...

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Theanine Supplements for Anxiety

Theanine is an amino acid that is naturally found green tea leaves. This amino acid has gained in popularity over recent years as a supplement to aide relaxation and calmness, without the negative side effect of drowsiness or impairing reflexes or concentration. Theanine has been found to increase levels of GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) in the brain. GABA is an amino acid that is found in the central nervous system, mostly in the brain, where its main action is to calm down an excited nervous system.  Theanine has also been reported to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which act to enhance mood and improve cardiac function. This amino acid has been found to increase alpha brain wave activity which results in increased relaxation and reduced anxiety. This is a similar model to how meditation works. Studies have found that theamine improved learning, memory and attentional performance and reaction times in students with anxiety. Another randomised control trial found that theanine reduced irrirabilty, anger and mood swings during PMS. This supplement could be used as a safe alternative to sleeping tablets or addictive anti-anxiety medication. This claim would require clinical trials before being recommended, but mild cases of anxiety or nervousness may be helped by this amino acid. Other potential benefits include supporting the immune system and preventing colds, coughs and influenza. The recommended dose is 200mg once or twice a day. It is best taken on an empty...

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Not Getting Enough Sleep? Your Memory is at Risk!

Not Getting Enough Sleep? Your Memory is at Risk!

Young people who can cope with minimal sleep may be risking their future health. According to research which will be published at the American Academy of Neurology 64th annual meeting, a lack of sleep can affect your memory in later life. The study was conducted by Yo-El Ju, MD,from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. The researchers tested the sleep patterns of 100 people aged between 45 and 80. Half of the volunteers had a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep was measured by a device which was placed on each volunteer, who also had to fill in questionnaires and sleep diaries. “Disrupted sleep appears to be associated with the build-up of amyloid plaques, a hallmark marker of Alzheimer’s disease, in the brains of people without memory problems,”said Yo-El Ju, MD. The results of the study found that 25 percent of the participants had evidence of amyloid plaques, which are an early indication of Alzheimer’s disease.  The average sleep time was 6.5 hours out of 8 hours that was spent in bed. The amyloid plaques were more likely to affect people who woke up more than 5 times per hour, than people who had a better quality sleep. The amount of time that people spend sleeping in bed has a major impact of the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. People that spent less than 85 per cent of their in bed sleeping were more likely to have markers of this disease, than those who spent more than 85per cent of their time actually sleeping. “The association between disrupted sleep and amyloid plaques is intriguing, but the information from this studycan’t determine a cause-effect relationship or the direction of this relationship. We need longer-term studies, following individuals’ sleep over years, to determine whether disrupted sleep leads to amyloid plaques, orwhether brain changes in early Alzheimer’s disease lead to changes insleep,” Ju...

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Healthy eating can improve sleep

Healthy eating can improve sleep

Researchers from the Centre for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania have found more evidence that eating the right foods can improve the quality of sleep. The study found that people who get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night have more balanced diets than those who sleep too much or too little. They found that a lack of vitamin C, eating too much fatty food and dehydration can have a negative effect with our sleep patterns. High caffeine intake, from tea, coffee and chocolate, and alcohol are also known causes for sleep disturbances. The researchers also found that people who consumed the most calories throughout the day had the worst sleep. Those who had a balanced and varied diet slept better. “Overall, people who sleep seven to eight hours each night differ in terms of their diet, compared to people who sleep less or more,” said the study’s lead researcher Michael Grandner. The participants who consumed less lycopene (found in tomatoes, grapefruit and oranges), selenium (found in nut and seeds) and vitamin C (found green vegetables, peppers and oranges) were found to have disturbed sleep patterns. “A good sleeper’s diet is most likely one that has a variety of different types of foods, with more complete nutritional coverage, and not too much high-calorie food,” concluded Michael...

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Top Tips for a Better Nights Sleep

As March is National Bed Month, the following tips can help to improve the quality of sleep that we get. A healthy sleep has many health benefits, ranging from a better level of general health, improved concentration as well as the cosmetic benefits of looking younger and healthier. Follow our tips and you can benefit from a better nights sleep: You should ideally leave a gap of around four hours between having your last caffeinated drink of the day and bedtime. Leave a gap of at least two to three hours after eating a heavy meal before bedtime. The process of digestion can affect sleep patterns and lead to insomnia or broken sleep. Foods such as cheese, chocolate, bacon, sausages, wine and tomatoes contain the amino acid Tyramine. Tyramine causes a release of the norepinephrine, which is a brain stimulant that can keep you awake. Regular exercise is an excellent way to relax and results in a more relaxed sleep. This has the added benefit of feeling energised the following day. You should try and make exercise a part of your daily routine. This can range from walking, running, strength training, playing sports or exercises such as yoga or pilates....

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Stress at work – A health hazard

Stress at work – A health hazard

Stress at work is now at its highest levels, which is causing people to indulge in drinks and drugs, leading to illnesses such as depression. This is the worrying prognosis of mental health experts. According to a recent survey conducted by the mental health charity, MIND, more than a third of adults say their job is the most stressful part of their life. This is not very surprising as job security is a big issue for many people. More people are also working longer hours with huge workloads. The survey found that 57 per cent of the people surveyed regularly drank after work. 14 per cent even drank during the day. MIND also found that 7 per cent also had suicidal thoughts. This increased to 10 percent in people aged 18 to 24. This has also resulted in workers calling in sick and also resigning due to ill health. Paul Farmer, chief executive of MIND said, “Work-related mental health problems are an issue too important for businesses to ignore.” He continued, “We know that right now, one in six workers is experiencing depression, stress or anxiety and yet our survey tells us that most managers don’t feel they have had enough training or guidance to support them.” Companies should be looking at ways of reducing or managing stress. This will have a direct impact of the output of employees and can create an improved working environment. This survey also highlights the need for employers to support their staff, and for managers to be more accessible and approachable to their staff. Workers can also help to reduce stress levels. Regular exercise decreases stress hormones such as cortisol and increases endorphins. Endorphins are natural mood boosting chemicals. This can have the added benefit of improving output at work. Natural supplements can also help to reduce stress levels. Vitamin B5 (Panthothenic Acid) is a B Vitamin that helps to support the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are depleted at times of stress (both physical and emotional). These glands are responsible for producing hormones that are essential for certain body functions. Stress can cause an imbalance of these hormones, which leads to a feeling of being run down or even “burnt out”. Other...

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Is it safe to take antidepressants during pregnancy?

Is it safe to take antidepressants during pregnancy?

People are always asking “Is it safe to take antidepressants during pregnancy” and there is a lot of confusing information, but recent research has given some clear results. Researchers have found that women who take antidepressant medications such as Prozac and Seroxat during pregnancy are at a higher risk of giving birth to children with life threatening cardiac problems. This risk has been found to double in women who take SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) antidepressants. These are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants in the UK. The study which was conducted at Centre for Pharmacoepidemiology at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm Sweden the babies are at a higher risk of persistent pulmonary hypertention. This condition causes a rise in blood pressure in the lungs which can lead to heart failure. Researchers reviewed 1.6 million births between 1996 and 2007 in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland.  The results found that out of the 11,014 mothers who used antidepressants in late pregnancy, 33 babies were born with persistent pulmonary hypertention.  17,053 mothers took antidepressants in early pregnancy, out of which 32 babies were diagnosed with the cardiac condition. Dr Helle Kieler, of the Karolinska Institutet, who was the lead author of the study, said that even though the risk of developing pulmonary persistent hypertension is low, doctors should weigh the risks of not prescribing antidepressants.  She said ‘As the risk of association with treatment in late pregnancy seems to be more than doubled, we recommend caution when treating pregnant women with SSRIs.’ Researchers from the Motherisk Program Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the School of Pharmacy at the University of Oslo have echoed the results of this study. Researchers from Denmark and the US have found that the risk of heart defects increases to 60% in infants born to women taking SSRI medications. Doctors in the UK are generally cautious about prescribing any medications during pregnancy, although some women may not be aware of being pregnant while taking prescription medications. There is a suggestion that antidepressants are over prescribed in the UK. Latest figures show that approximately 39 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in 2011, compared to 20 million in 1999. There are other non-medical therapies...

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