FITNESS: BREAKING THE TABOO WITH GENEVEVE

If you follow me on social you'll know that recently I underwent the Geneveve treatment with consultant uro-gynaecologist Dr Patrick Campbell. (www.drpatrickcampbell.com ) I made a video of the treatment which you can see here... (and below the video is the text from a Belfast Telegraph interview I did about the treatment and my reasons for doing it.)

A Belfast-based businesswoman tells how talking to some of her closest female friends about the health issues they faced after giving birth persuaded her to go public about having a non-surgical vaginal rejuvenation treatment, writes Stephanie Bell.

A leading figure in fashion and PR in Northern Ireland has attempted to shatter the taboo on the damage which can be caused to women’s bodies by childbirth.

Cathy Martin (45), who has a six-year-old daughter Valentina, has posted a series of videos on social media explaining a revolutionary new procedure called Geneveve which she herself underwent in a private clinic last week.

The non-surgical vaginal rejuvenation treatment carried out at Cosmetech Maypole Clinic in Holywood aims to treat vaginal laxity, help with stress and urinary incontinence and increase sensation and sexual satisfaction.

The treatment, which costs £2,295, has been transforming the quality of life for hundreds of women who have struggled for years with a variety of issues caused by giving birth.

Cathy, who enjoys a high profile on social media and through her company CMPR, was invited to be part of an online campaign to inform women of the treatment and how it works after posting a very successful video of herself having a mammogram two years ago.

Over 55,000 people on social media viewed the video of Cathy getting a mammogram and encouraging women to check and look after their breasts. The response was so overwhelming that Action Cancer’s phone system crashed over the course of a weekend.

Initially approached by Cosmetech Maypole Clinic’s consultant gynaecologist and subspecialist urogynaecologist Dr Patrick Campbell to undergo the procedure, Cathy was naturally hesitant about going public on an issue that is so personal.

But then the Belfast Fashionweek director, who lives in Holywood, spent some months discussing it with her circle of girlfriends — and was shocked to discover just how many of them were suffering from symptoms.

She says: “I didn’t really think it was for me and I wasn’t sure if I could go public about something that is so private.

“The consultant Patrick had seen my mammogram video and he asked if I could help him to educate people about issues on incontinence and laxity down below.

“I was hesitant and decided to do some research of my own.

“I spent a few months talking to lots of friends over dinner and coffee and I was surprised and horrified by how many of them said they had been affected by childbirth.

“I don’t wee when I laugh or when I go to the gym, but was surprised how many of my friends do.

“What I found was that for most mums, thankfully, birth means a baby — but we need an honest conversation about what birth can do to some mothers because it can also mean wounds and tears, and for some it can mean uncomfortable sex, incontinence or prolapse symptoms that last for years afterwards.

“I learnt that lots of women were struggling in their daily lives despite pain and degrading symptoms. And they felt they couldn’t talk about it — even to their husbands.

“I think there is almost an acceptability that it is okay to be damaged because you had a baby — and this is wrong. For example, I had one friend tell me that she suffered post-natal depression and total disconnect from her baby for a year, which she now believes was because of physical damage incurred in childbirth. Others’ marriages and relationships suffered because they didn’t want to have sex anymore as it was too painful or just not pleasurable.

“I realised it was a big issue affecting women in their 30s and 40s and with the vaginal mesh scandal, and all those horror stories that came out around that, I thought it would be good to get word out that there is a pain free and very quick one-off treatment available.”

Cathy posted her first video a few days ago on Instagram where within 24 hours it was viewed over 5,000 times. She also posted it on Facebook.

She followed it up with a second video of herself at the clinic before and after she underwent the procedure.

Vaginal tissues, just like the skin, change over time. Childbirth and ageing are two of the most common reasons why collagen support fibres lose their strength, leading to vaginal laxity (looseness), often associated with stress urinary incontinence.

Millions of women suffer silently with these problems, often resulting in loss of sexual sensation and satisfaction, loss of confidence and embarrassment.

Called Geneveve, the procedure is painless and takes about 45 minutes. It uses radio-frequency deep-heating energy to stimulate the body’s natural collagen formation process.

Cathy says that while she feels fortunate not to have any incontinence issues after the birth of her daughter, there are other benefits promised by the treatment which she feels aren’t talked about enough.

She says: “I do have a strong enough pelvic floor but I would have bladder issues getting up to go to the toilet during the night.

“There is also the benefit of the tightening of the vagina which means that you benefit sexually too — and that’s no bad thing!

“It is taboo to talk about sexual pleasure, but it’s a fact that if you are experiencing sexual pleasure in a loving and fulfilling relationship, you will be happier and more content in your life. It is good for your overall physical and emotional wellbeing.

“And yes, I am not afraid to say there are benefits to looking after yourself sexually.”

Cathy, who is in a long term relationship, found the procedure painless and said there was no discomfort.

A small treatment tip, about the size of your thumb, is inserted just inside the vaginal opening. The tip is rotated as it alternately cools the surface and heats the soft tissue beneath.

Treatment takes about 30-45 minutes and it is a few months before you feel the full benefits as it takes time for the body to respond by generating new collagen and elastin in the vaginal opening. Women feel the full effect of the procedure after 90 days.

Dr Patrick Campbell says: “Research has shown that 90% of women treated with Geneveve report statistically significant vaginal tightening and sexual satisfaction. This research was carried out in four different countries and included women who were given a placebo (dummy) treatment. This study has provided firm evidence that Geneveve is an effective treatment for vaginal laxity.”

Mr Campbell adds that Geneveve is also proven to be an effective treatment for urinary incontinence too, with recent research from Canada reporting over 90% improvement in symptoms of stress incontinence, with a further study about to get under way in the US.

He adds: “Many women are now hesitant about undergoing invasive surgery for stress incontinence so I am delighted to be able to offer this safe and effective treatment option to women who attend my clinic. The treatment is painless and delivered in a single session which takes between 30-45 minutes. There is no down-time so women can get back to their normal activities straight away.”

Not everyone might be suited to the treatment. Your consultant will determine if Geneveve is right for you given your medical history.

However, you should not consider Geneveve if you have an implantable pacemaker or an automatic implantable cardioverter/defibrillator (AICD) or any other implantable metal device.

Cathy is now waiting for the treatment to take effect and will be posting a video on the results that she experiences.

She says: “I’m not sure it is going to be as popular as the mammogram video but I hope lots of women do watch it.

“These crucial women’s health issues are all too common but remain taboo with many women suffering in silence and afraid or embarrassed to seek medical help. But if I can help to start an open and honest conversation to show women that they are not alone, and that it is good to share their experiences and seek help with healthcare professionals, then great.”

Geneveve costs £2,295 and payment options are available. To find out more details visit www.drpatrickcampbell.com or to book a complimentary assessment call the Cosmetech Maypole Clinic on 028 9042 3200

FITNESS | HOW TO REDUCE ANXIETY & STRESS IN 7 STEPS

In this week's blog Kim from Seventh Heaven shares her top tips for reducing anxiety and stress...

Small methods, life changing results, implemented to a daily routine

In this blog I am going to focus on Anxiety & Stress, a global epidemic actively touching so many humans on our planet! Both Anxiety & Stress are the origins of illness and dis-ease in the body, when not living in harmony. Our bodies are super smart and have a way of speaking through illness in order to make us pay attention and become aware of what is going on from within.

Many of those reading this are, I imagine, living on the green isle of Ireland, either North or South. Our island contains major levels of stress from the ground up. It's an island of inactive volcanic rock mixed with a history of famine, invasion and war, all of which is trauma. My belief is that all of this has a detrimental and genetic effect to our energetic frequencies, not to mention the pressures of today's society, technology and this increasing illusion that we need to "keep up” and “perform".  

Firstly, we need to understand how to identify anxiety & stress and does it apply to each of us? 

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE 

Up until last year, I spent most of my life living with anxiety, never truly identifying patterns of behaviour as anxiety & stress because it was all I'd ever known from the age of four years old, my conditioning was to "get up and get on with it". 

Growing up, fear and trauma locked in at a very young age. Experiencing a somewhat turbulent childhood meant constantly living in "fight or flight" mode with my adrenal and cortisol levels on constant high alert in order to deal and cope with signs and moments of danger. 

My teens were spent in living with an invisible illness that no doctor believed was real until getting diagnosed at the age of 22 with Endometriosis. Endometriosis literally took over my twenties more than my teens; 11 operations, several false menopauses and copious levels of HRT to shut down my reproductive system and give it rest. So, you guessed it - more anxiety, more stress, and an increasing resilience to keep going and battle through it. In 2008, the Endometriosis cleared completely simply because I started changing my attitude towards it all. I switched from medication to no meditation, did some energy healing then started yoga plus refused any further surgery. Life got significantly brighter & better, my thirties have been a total breath of fresh air. 

All of the above meant that I was super sensitive; in the past I was afraid of flying, deep water, dogs, driving, being in large crowds, too much noise, and mostly just being afraid to be myself, as anxiety has a big impact on self-esteem. PTSD was rife and the anxiety created a heightened sensitivity to everything around me. Total adrenal overload. 

Last year the "Get Up and Get on With It" came back to bite me, yet this time things came to a head. Life challenges were coming at 100 mph via all directions, so anxiety and stress raised their ugly heads again - this time it literally "floored me". A scary stage in my life, yet with many positive, transformative outcomes and the most enlightening life lessons, I decided to take six months out from teaching and work on myself full time for a change.

Today I can gladly say that I no longer experience anxiety or stress on a daily basis - or in fact, I barely experience it at all.  A massive statement for me to acknowledge, let alone share out to the masses.

Now, I'm not saying my life did a miraculous u turn in one year where anxiety cured itself over that period. It has taken years of self work and self healing.  Last year was the penultimate phase of my life – when I realised that this "Get Up and Get on With It" was utter BS. My body said ‘enough!’ as she couldn't keep going anymore, so this was my time to heal once and for all.

Over the years my journey towards healing was probably done arse about face; firstly, I underwent relaxation techniques, meditation, healing and yoga and only latterly worked on the origins of anxiety. With hindsight, it would have been easier the other way around, yet my belief is that everything is meant to be and I wouldn't change a single thing. 

I’m sharing my experience with you to "keep it real", to not be afraid of opening up and deliver an authentic voice when talking about a topic that I have first hand knowledge of. We need to be comfortable in saying out loud "It’s OK to NOT be OK" and “It's NOT OK to NOT be OK".

Like many of my wellbeing industry colleagues, I am happy to admit that I am far from perfect and by no means super-human. Even with years spent gaining qualifications & skills for teaching myself and helping others to relax, breathe etc, my biggest learning came from the recognition of anxiety in itself and the social patterns behind it, not the tools to I had built up to help cope and ease it. 

I feel the epidemic of anxiety & stress has spiralled beyond control, and I’m increasingly seeing it among my students and clients, hence speaking out. We need to talk more, be upfront and raise awareness, not only for ourselves but for our colleagues, loved ones, friends - and most importantly, the children of future generations. First, we must connect to ourselves for healing (if applicable), then reach out to others. 

This is my experience, and I am grateful for everything that's occurred in my life to shape the person I am today. Each of us are unique and different, we each react or tolerate to anxiety & stress in different ways.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS

There are several layers to Anxiety & Stress and the two often occur simultaneously. Below I list some of the emotional, mental and physical identifiers. Some of these symptoms are so subtle as we can become accustomed to living with them for decades. Stress can be silent and quite hard to detect. 

Emotional & Mental

  • Poor concentration & decision making
  • Feeling overwhelmed 
  • Feeling out of control, or losing control
  • Difficulty or inability to "quieten the mind" with racing thoughts
  • Constant worry of what others will think
  • Constant worry about everything (what if attitude) 
  • Low self-esteem which factors self-critique, worthlessness, hopelessness
  • Isolation and avoiding others

Physcial 

  • Low energy & increasing fatigue
  • Nervousness and shaking
  • Chest pain & tightness and rapid heartbeat 
  • Insomnia 
  • Tunnel vision
  • Headaches (tension)
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
  • Stiff joints, pains, and tense muscles
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Low immune system 
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Continuous ringing in ears (tinnitus)
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Dry mouth
  • Clenched jaw, grinding teeth

OK, SO WHAT'S NEXT? 

The first step in dealing with anxiety & atress must start with you, recognising the signs and taking action. 

None of us are handed a rule book on life (that would be too easy), instead we learn from situations and surroundings so that our little brains during childhood can perceive and react to the world around us. Life is all about patterns which leads into frequency and vibration. Anxiety & Stress are vibrations and it’s up to us to change those frequencies to create a harmonious symphony to life. 

Although, imagine if we did have rule book on life? What might it tell us? Here’s what I think it might say:

·         Life doesn't have to be hard, keep it simple

  • Don't resist change, its inevitable 
  • Find contentment in what you have right now
  • Be the best version of you, for you, not for others
  • Congratulate your achievements
  • Know that it's ok to fail (look at positively as a life lesson, not failure)
  • Surround yourself with those who inspire you, not pull you down - this includes family members!
  • Daily self love and compassion
  • Know it's ok to say NO
  • Sit with your fears and work through the illusions 
  • Do what makes you truly happy
  • Embrace the moment
  • Know that things will pass, whatever the situation
  • Talk to your inner child, it's always there
  • Live in the NOW
  • Most importantly....have fun with everything you do!

7 METHODS TO REDUCE ANXIETY & STRESS

BREATHE
Easy to say, right? But when we’re stressed, just breathing is not so easy. Physically our diaphragm tightens, we hunch over and make this muscle and the psoas muscle tighter resulting in the lungs being unable to breathe at full capacity. Our chest and abdomen muscles also tighten, and these play a major role in allowing us deep long slow breaths to calm the body and mind, when relaxed.

We suggest. Take a few moments every day with regular periods to sit with deep breaths, fully aware of the slow and paced inhale and exhale. Ensure your exhales are longer than your inhales. When stressed, we tend to breathe only from the upper chest. A deep relaxing breath should come from the abdomen:  belly-ribs then up to chest. 

Whether you do this exercise in the shower, or in your car driving to work, maybe even sitting at your desk, (and most importantly with exercise), remember that your breath is there wherever you go too! 

NATURE
What can we say! Mother Nature is the biggest healer we have and how blessed we are as she's all around us. Nature gives us everything we need and more. 

We suggest. Trees are literally part of our life exilir, they convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen using the energy from sunlight. We cannot live and breathe without them. They are our main source of energy and life force. Pretty awesome to hang off, sit under and even hug, yes hug! A lot of healing properties and qualities come from trees. 

Equally getting our feet onto the grass, natural water or sand. They all have a healing and grounding effect on us, along with taking active walks or climbs in nature can help too. 

The Ocean - Sea water is full of ions (healthy negative ones) which our bodies absorb to deliver more oxygen. When by the sea our body’s natural energy gets infused and lifts, making us feel more energised and relaxed. Often, people with sleep disorders and even eczema are recommended to get into the sea or walk along the beach by doctors.


MEDITATION & YOGA
Meditation, the powerful tool to heal from within. This is where all the answers lie. Nothing outside can gives us anymore answers than what we already 'know" from the self.

Neurotransmitters fire signals to our parasympathetic nervous system allowing our body to produce more serotonin and oxycontin - the happy hormone chemicals tell the body it's OK and safe to relax. Long term Meditation reduces anxiety and stress which overall improves our health and wellness.

Yoga is a meditation in itself but with many benefits, we are moving stagnant energy within our bodies, meditating with movement whilst using our breath to increase the flow of blood and oxygen through the body and releasing energy that is of a negative tone. 

The practice also increases flexibility, helping bones and joints to release any stiffness, eliminating anxiety and stress; yoga is also an overall mood booster and sleep enhancer, so what’s not to love?!

We suggest. When we take time 10-20 minutes to close our eyes, move inwards to a space of quietness, stillness for some self-realisation - this strengthens and eliminates any doubts or worry. Equally 20 minutes daily of yoga will have a great impact on anxiety and stress too. 


UNPLUG
As you read this, you are very likely using a phone, tablet or desktop. With our phones usually glued to our hand or in our pockets, taking time to completely unplug for a certain period of time away from technology can be significantly de-stressing. 

We suggest. If desk bound, take 5 minutes to get up and walk around the office periodically, away from computer screens to move the body, clear the mind and just spend some time in active breathing. 

Take the phone out of the bedroom at night and give yourself a wind down period before going to bed away from the phone. 

Change the "blue screen" to night mode on all devices, blue light gives devices their brightness on our and when reduced will aid against keeping brain to stay alert which can lead to long term insomnia and depression. 

SLEEP
Ensure you get enough! Simples.

We suggest. Give yourself a time to wind down at night, no coffee or caffeine, eat lightly before bed (some say at least 4 hours before bed) and ensure your space is a technology free zone - and that includes a TV.

Technology pollutes the air with electronic smog which leaks into our body’s energy system and plays havoc with our frequencies and vibrations, upsetting the body’s natural harmony. 

JOURNAL
Journaling is a very cathartic method for releasing and transferring thoughts from the mind. View journaling as moving storage files from one place to another, a mind dump. When we take time to create To Do lists, express thoughts, feelings, dreams onto paper, it instantly stops the cycle of self-perpetuating thoughts. It's also a great way to set goals, once you transfer thought to paper, it becomes an action, before you know it with universal law of attraction, the action becomes your reality!

BE STILL, DO NOTHING
How many of us can read this and say, I do this? Be Honest. Being still is probably one of the most difficult tasks for humans. Some time spent doing absolutely nothing but relaxing - with no phone, chores, TV and kids – can be difficult. Being still is quite the task, but if we could manage this for a for a least one hour in our day, it's actually refreshingly appetising. It’s a fantastic method for letting the mind rest as well as the body.  

We suggest. Some restorative yoga is a great. Viparita Karani/Legs up the Wall pose is a super one to try. Prop some pillows under the buttocks, add some wheat bags onto the belly, place a blanket across the upper body and an eye mask over the face then give yourself 30 minutes with your legs up the wall. This simple pose has amazing benefits to help depression, calm the mind and ease anxiety and fatigue. 

FITNESS | NUTRAMILK

The growing global shift from dairy to plant-based milks is showing no sign of abating, and until recently there were two options, neither offering a perfect solution. 

The first, shop-bought nut milk, is usually packaged in non-recyclable containers and has additives that some purists find less than ideal. Plus, the actual nut content can be quite low.

The second solution, i.e. DIY nut milk, has been a "thing" for years. But producing beautiful quality plant-based milks is a labour of love, involving soaking, blending and straining, all of which is time-consuming and a tad messy.

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Well, take a bow Nutramilk, a fab nut milk maker which is causing quite a stir. This fab new counter-top machine produces up to 2 litres of pure, fresh nut milk in just 12 minutes. Also produces beautiful creamy butters and dips (as well as perfect fillings for my daily does of protein balls too!)

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The Nutramilk was developed in collaboration with the Industrial Design department of Metropolitan State University of Denver over three years. The result is a truly game-changing machine that alt-milk and nut butter devotees are welcoming with open arms.

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I have literally just ordered mine and cant wait to get started! Will it be as big as the nutribullet? Who knows? But I want to be among the first to find out.

https://nutramilk.co.uk/

 

FITNESS | HORRIBLE HANGOVERS | HELP!

10 HANGOVER CURES TO GET YOU THROUGH THE MORNING

If you woke up this New Year’s Day (or indeed any Saturday or Sunday morning) thinking ‘NEVER AGAIN!’ or “Why did I have that last drink!?” as you struggled to cope with the first stage of your red wine/gin/Jeigermeister (or other alcoholic drink) hangover, then I am with you!

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I rarely drink alcohol these days - but last night was New Year’s Eve, and, you know, friends, celebrations and good music all just, happened! You know you shouldn’t, but sometimes a gal just can’t help herself. And then some of us find ourselves in a full *fear-filled, ‘ground-swallow-me-up’ mode the morning after partying a little too heartily the night before. *Thankfully I have never experienced what my chums call ‘The Fear’; for me, a hangover is just about eating and drinking and sleeping my way back to normality – but with the added loss of a day’s productivity.

Anyway, I digress. It’s New Year’s Day, so whether you plan to spend it doing very little or entertaining family and friends, don’t let your hangover ruin your day. Trusted hangover cures are an essential coping mechanism on days like this - we all have our own go-to treatments that we swear by, but which remedies are the best when you have, um, accidently, had one too many and suddenly you find the room is spinning around you? In today’s blog, I have gathered together some of my fave hangover cures from friends, family and fables that will have you up and rearing to go in no time (well, we live in hope!).

DRINK WATER - AND LOTS OF IT!

Rule number one. Any regular readers will know I am a H20 fanatic normally, but when the drink goes in, the wit goes out and so many of us forget to drink up when we need it (water, that is…). A hangover is first and foremost a combination of symptoms of dehydration – as well as your body dealing with toxins – so rehydrating is key.

Personally, I always try and have a glass of water before going out or when I arrive at the restaurant or bar, because I rarely remember the trusted advice to drink a glass between each alcoholic drink. It’s easily said, but can be hard to remember as the night goes on. And it’s just so BORING compared to a jam jar cocktail or a shot at the bar, isn’t it?

But back to the remedies – they say you should have a large glass of water before going to bed as well as keeping water by your bedside for dehydration during the night (does anyone else wake at 3 or 4am with palpitations when they drink red wine? Ok, just me).

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A final tip on the subject of water is to drink water that contains extra electrolyte minerals such as potassium, sodium and magnesium. Try coconut water or the River Rock Revive + Relax range is great for hangovers as it contains lots of these electrolytes.

GO BANANAS

There is a reason bananas are favoured by athletes and that is because they contain potassium, which also makes them a great hangover cure! When you’re at that pesky hungover stage it means your body has already lost a lot of potassium and it is important that it is replenished. If you can, try to eat a banana when you first wake up to provide some much needed relief, if you are feeling too queasy and simply can’t manage any solid foods yet then try a banana smoothie, or even better, if you can eat one as you stumble towards bed it will help kick start the recovery process even quicker. 

EXTRA VITAMIN C

Our bodies use Vitamin C to produce energy, help our immune system function properly and also as an antioxidant to neutralise free radicals. When hungover try and eat lots of Vitamin C-rich fruits such as citrus fruits, strawberries, papayas, peppers and kiwis or alternatively, drink some orange juice made from fresh oranges to get rid of your hangover quicker.


You could also add some Vitamin C powder to your water before going out to start the healing process immediately; and if you are feeling a little on the rough side the next day - take a Vitamin C tablet every two to three hours to help your body replenish quicker.  One good friend swears by a glass of water with Dioralyte and a Berocca dissolved into it before bed. I’ve tried that and it does seem to work well it has to be said. 

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EAT PROTEIN AND FAT BEFORE YOU DRINK

Before you head out for a night on the tiles (or a night in, as the case may be) try and eat a meal that is rich in protein and healthy fats, as these are broken down more slowly than carbohydrates or sugars and stay in the stomach for longer. 
Protein rich foods that are great foods to eat are meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils whilst olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats. One doctor I know suggested that if you know there will be lots of alcohol in the evening ahead, you should try to take some omega-3 oil before heading out as it helps coat the stomach and replenish levels of fatty acids that may be depleted later through too much alcohol consumption.
 

OH HONEY!

Honey – it is one of those tried and tested miracle foods that seems to have so many applications and, luckily for us, hangover help is one of them! The fructose in honey helps our bodies to metabolise the alcohol. If you’re in a bad way take two teaspoons every 20 minutes or until you feel better. Try to use organic honey, local if possible – and Manuka honey if you’re buying off the shelf in a supermarket.

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EXERCISE


The whole ‘sweat it out’ theory to cure a hangover is actually a myth, but what exercise does do is release endorphins which can boost your mood and burning off a few calories may ease your guilt about how much you drank! So if your mood is as bad as the hangover, why not put on those trainers and run your way to happiness? Just make sure to keep you water bottle handy so you don’t become even more dehydrated!

EAT LIVER-SUPPORTING FOODS


You drank too much, way too much and now your poor liver has the job of breaking down 95% of the alcohol you consumed so, go on, give it a hand and stock up on the foods that help promote liver function, before and the day after a heavy night of drinking.
Protein breaks down the amino acids that are used by the liver for detoxification so eating plenty of protein-rich foods such as eggs, broccoli, kale and cabbage will give your liver a well-welcomed hand!

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Other liver-supporting foods include, artichoke, which can increase bile flow (to support elimination of toxins through the liver) and is thought to help protect the liver cells from damage, and also turmeric, lemon juice and salad greens such as watercress and rocket.  And lastly – add a few drops of Milk Thistle to your water before bed, or to the water you drink throughout the day of the ‘morning after’. 

AVOID COFFEE


It’s early, the kids are calling your name, over and over and over. You’re tired, your head is sore and the room is spinning. What do you do? You reach for the coffee, but believe me when we say “avoid at all costs!” This is because coffee is a diuretic which causes your body to lose water quickly - not what you need when you’re trying to rehydrate! Instead try to stick to the water or fruit juice - trust me, you’ll feel better in the long run, I promise. 
 

SLEEPING BEAUTY


Getting a good night’s sleep while your body recovers means you can sleep through the worst of the hangover, so if you can, try and sleep for a little longer than usual and your hangover may just be a little more bearable!

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SHOWER


Once you have gotten as much sleep as possible, take a cold shower. This will freshen you up. awaken your senses and leave you feeling some-what normal again. Boom! You’re back in the game.

Happy New Year everyone – and if you’re doing Dry January, enjoy the feeling of freshness you’ll have every single day!

FITNESS | HYDRATION STATION

Winter is officially here. The temperature has dropped, the sun rises later and sets earlier, the leaves are crisp and cosy knits are everywhere (yay!), as is the sound of… coughing and sniffing.


The common cold is accepted as being ubiquitous with Winter, but it doesn’t have to be; and good old H2O can help with that. Did you know that drinking hot water and lemon (plus honey/ginger/turmeric, if you’re me) during the colder months can actually help with your body’s natural immune-boosting properties, keeping you healthy when Winter colds and flus are around?

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I recently mentioned drinking water as being key to keeping healthy in an Irish News interview and it spurred scores of messages from readers. Water is our body’s first fuel; it helps with toxic elimination, regulates our temperature and blood flow and it maintains our metabolism, among myriad other things, so as a massive water advocate, I thought I would pen some super valid reasons for gulping your daily H2O.

Here are just 12 reasons to drink more water today – and EVERY day:

1.     IT GIVES GREAT SKIN!  I’ve been writing beauty articles and reviews for almost 10 years now and always champion water before (or alongside) beauty products for the best skin.  Water makes up a massive 60% of our bodies, so when our skin (which is of course the body’s largest organ) is hydrated, it looks plumper and lustrous as opposed to dull, flaky or sallow skin which is dehydrated. Drinking more water helps productivity of our cells which in turn gives us healthier looking skin – it’s a win-win situation!

2.     IT BOOSTS BRAIN POWER. Drinking water can give you a productivity boost. Research found that water has the ability to increase grey matter in the brain and therefore drinking enough water can make you 14% more productive. So fill up that water bottle and drink up – you’ll be thrilled when you can finally submit that work ahead of deadline…

3.     IT’S ANTI INFLAMATORY Certain toxins in the body can cause the skin to inflame which results in clogged pores. Water flushes out these toxins and can reduce the risk of pimples, leaving your skin crystal clear.

4.     IT HELPS WITH TIREDNESS Feeling tired? Although we all tend to reach for endless cups of coffee and sugar when we feel that 3pm slump, water can actually fight those tired eyes too! One of the most common signs of dehydration is tiredness, so push that coffee away and down a glass or two of water for an instant wake up call.

5.     IT DECREASES ‘HUNGER’ You know that feeling when it’s not long after a meal but you feel hungry? Chances are you’re just thirsty, so by drinking more water you will stop mistaking thirst for hunger. Also, drinking water boosts your metabolism so you can drop kilos faster if you’re watching your weight.

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6.     IT TAKES TOXINS TO TASK Our kidneys process 200 litres of blood daily, sifting out waste and transporting urine to the bladder where toxins and waste are expelled in our pee; but these hardworking kidneys need enough fluids to clear away what we don’t need in the body. And speaking of peeing, a simple way to check out your hydration levels is to look into the loo when you’re done. Remembering that there is already water in the toilet bowl (and so the colour is diluted when you look at it), your urine should be lightly coloured to be healthy. Anything denser in colour than a pastel yellow, gold or even green (if you’re me and eat loads of greens) means you are not drinking enough water – so let’s drink to that!

7.     IT AIDS DIGESTION Stomach not feeling right? Drinking water helps improve digestion. Regardless of how many leafy greens you eat or probiotics you take, if you aren’t hydrating, your digestive system just won’t function properly. You should always drink water during and after a meal to help the body break down your food. When you drink more water, uou’ll notice your stools are softer too (sorry if that is TMI!) And double apologies to those sensitive to oversharing, but the state of your stools can be a key indicator of hydration levels. Healthy, hydrated poops should most definitely be soft and not difficult to pass, so before reaching for the dates if you’re constipated, try drinking a litre of water first. A good fitness friend Kim Constable (@thesculptedvegan on Instagram) says your number twos should be the length of your forearm. Yip, from wrist to elbow people. I think I’ll stop there though.

8.     HYDRATION IMPROVES SLEEP Struggling to sleep? Drinking water throughout the day helps balance minerals, vitamins and nutrients, balancing your hormones in the process. Keep water on your bedside table and drink up before bed and again if you wake up in the middle of the night, you’ll be thankful when you wake up rested, refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Make sure to empty your bladder before sleeping also (and sit an extra minute on the loo to make sure you properly relax and expel everything before you go to bed).

9.     IT RELEIVES CRAMPS AND ACHES Crampy, achy or sore? Hydrate! Research suggests that there is a correlation between joint pain and dehydration as water lubricates the joints. If you find yourself achy and sore no matter how much you stretch you may just not be drinking enough water, so make sure you hydrate before, during and after your workout. Also when we work out we sweat and when muscles don’t have enough water they get tired, so drink plenty of water to give you more energy to push out that final set of squats! And if you feel a headache coming on, the first thing you should do is hydrate as a headache is often a sign of dehydration. Personally, I get crazy foot cramps if I am not hydrated enough – and they last for up to 15mins at a time. The ONLY thing that relieves them is drinking as much water as possible, often 750ml if I can down it through the pain!

10.  IT MAKES YOU GET UP FROM YOUR SEAT. Move it! Sitting is the new smoking, or so say the experts, and our sedentary lifestyle is killing us. Literally. Our bodies need to keep moving, so if you tend to sit at a desk for the most part of the day drinking water can make you get up as you will need to nip to the toilet more often. Taking short walks throughout the day is also great for your mental health, so why not grab your trainers and head out for a walk on your lunch hour? The gentle exercise and fresh air will give you a refreshing boost and help tackle the afternoon ahead.

11.  ITS IN THE TASTIEST OF FOODS: Eat up! I have actually heard people saying they don’t like the ‘taste’ of water. What?! For those people, a quick retraining of the taste buds through increased consumption of water will actually encourage better taste all round.  But meanwhile, we can consume water easily by eating a combination of water-packed foods such as watermelon and cucumbers. This way you are getting the nutrients and fibre as well as hydration to help your body hold onto water more efficiently.

12.  HANGOVERS GO QUICKER WITH WATER.  Hangover 101…  Don’t reach for coffee or fizzy drinks to help a hangover – they only dehydrate you more! Help a hangover out by drinking water to hydrate the body and get rid of that pounding headache… Plus, water will decrease the desire to eat all those salty, fatty foods we crave when we’re hungover – (see point number 5 above!). My tip? Think how many alcoholic drinks you had and drink at least that in water for the first few hours that you’re up.

A side note.

Advocates of Chinese Medicine, such as my friend Maria Rafferty (@thehormonehealthcoach on Instagram) are big believers in keeping the body and its fuel warm, and therefore promote drinking warm or room temperature water as opposed to cold. I love this theory and am super glad that I never, ever take ice in my water (or even in my G&T when I am having one).  I try to drink warm water with lemon and honey (which also has great anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties) in the morning and again before bed – it is a wonderful habit to get into and I can safely say I rarely get sick these days, probably - at least in part - due to this habit.

The bottom line?

Two litres of water per day is the recommended daily amount, and there are plenty of apps around to help measure where you’re at with your targets, if you don’t want to keep track. (A cool 2L glass bottle on your desk also works wonders – just make sure you empty it every day. I love the very cool Memobottle, which costs £29.99 for a 750ml bottle and is available to buy here: https://www.thefowndry.com/products/memobottle

The key is to spread the consumption of water throughout the day and not down it all in one go. (I am guilty of realising that I am behind on my daily intake in the evening, then drink a litre at 9 or 10pm and am up in the night to pee!).

If you can make one positive change for your skin and your internal bodily health, then upping your water intake is it.

Bottoms Up!

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FITNESS | MY HEALTH WITH THE IRISH NEWS

Last month I was interviewed by the Irish News about my health & got so many messages about my answers, so I thought I’d share the fuller version of the interview here... 

1. Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

I wake at 7 and quickly check my email inbox from bed. Not much comes in very first thing as I don’t sleep (and often don’t stop working) until about 1am, but I check the day ahead, delete any spam and then check notifications from other apps for a max of 10 minutes before getting up and preparing Valentina’s lunchbox and breakfast, and making myself a smoothie. I don’t like to leave the house untidy so generally I will make beds and do the breakfast dishes before I leave for the school run and gym. I prep my clothes and bag for the day (I constantly feel like I cart my life around in the car) and I generally shower at the gym so keep ablutions to a minimum at home in the morning! I’m sure I look like a great unwashed mess at the school gate but I do improve as the morning progresses! 

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast?

My breakfast depends on my hunger levels and how I am feeling when I wake up. Some days I eat very little in the morning - maybe a banana and some peanut or almond butter, some days an omelette with spinach, some days scrambled eggs and a slice of smoked salmon. Most days though, I try to make a smoothie from spinach or kale with avocado as the base and then I add kiwi, grapes or apples for some sweetness. I’ll usually throw in a spoon of raw apple cider vinegar, a spoon of manuka honey and a spoon of almond/cashew or peanut butter and some water. It’s an amazing way to start the day and I carry it into work and sip til lunchtime, but even then I’ll rinse out the nutribullet container with cold water and drink the green water too to get my H20 levels up from the get-go. Water is so important and I don’t always make my 2L every day, unless I think about it properly.

Lunch? 
I usually eat a salad or a soup for lunch. My office is next door to The Yard in Holywood which does the freshest, tastiest soups and salads - and I am a big fan. Otherwise I love the M&S salad ranges and sometimes buy in bulk at the weekend to see me through the week.  I spent a good part of the summer in London and I got really used to Pret-a-Manger salads and ITSU sashimi and salads. I would absolutely LOVE ITSU to come to Belfast. It’s not convenient for me but I do love the food in Raw Food Rebellion and Slim’s on the Lisburn Road as well as Goodness Rocks on the Saintfield Road. I wish we had even one of those three in Holywood!

I’m very regular with my choc-o-clock fix of a bar of chocolate pretty much every day at 3pm. It is incredible how much I rely on it/look forward to it. I eat Green & Black’s butterscotch or Lindt - and I kid myself that if it’s ‘good’ chocolate, it’s better for me. (Shame about the size of the bars I eat though!) 

Evening meal?

At home we usually eat a fresh seabass (pan fried in butter) with greens (butter steamed and usually laced with flaked almonds, pine nuts, chopped hazelnuts or something else nutty from the pan), although I’ve been known to skip the fish and just eat a wok full of kale or spinach with some roasted flaked almonds on top. My daughter loves fresh pasta with freshly made tomato sauce (she is at that lovely age where she is amazed that tomatoes make tomato sauce and likes to help make her own in the blender after we’ve softened them in the pan and added some mascarpone, mozzarella or parmesan). Just this summer we started introducing basil from the plant on the windowsill too. And if she is in an anti-vegetable mood, I slip some spinach, broccoli or carrots into the blender with the tomatoes to build up her vegetable intake.

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3. Is nutrition important to you?

Yes it really is, although I am a gourmand as much as I am healthy, but it is nice to have the balance. So at home and in work I will eat healthily most of the week - my soups, salads and fish/veg combo with very few carbs if I can help it, but if I go out for dinner I will have a starter and the Chateaubriand and a pudding or a cheese board - or both! (I am a huge fan of a cheese board and a wee glass of port). Life is for living and enjoying and it would be such a shame to constantly deny yourself life’s pleasures! Mind you after about 3 years of removing most  bread/pasta from my diet, I can honestly say I feel (and look) much better for it. That’s not to say I wont eat a baguette or pain au chocolat on a trip to France, or wolf down spaghetti alle vongole in Italy - but on the whole, I would say I am 80% carb free and 80% vegetarian which it works for me. I have also come to learn that hormones play a massive part in cravings and our emotional relationship with food, as well as how our bodies process what we intake. Through the amazing teachings of The Hormone Health Coach (Belfast based Maria Rafferty), I’m trying to harness basic things like my monthly cycle to get the best from my food and my body.

4. Best meal ever?

My partner Paul and I ate in Restaurant Alain Ducasse in Paris last year and it was pretty awesome, but I have had some really cracking meals in friends’ homes too. As long as the food is fresh and wholesome - and tasty - and the company, convivial and jovial, then I am happy. I am a massive advocate of dinner parties and sharing meals with friends because I think food made with passion and served with love among friends or family is the best kind of food.  

5.Guilty pleasure (food-wise, that is)

Tayto cheese & onion crisps! They’re the business! And cheese boards. And that pesky bar of Green & Black’s organic butterscotch chocolate, which I eat pretty much every day at around 3pm.

6. Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

Not really, but like I said I changed my diet and lifestyle overall about 4 years ago to cut out most white carbs and I rarely eat any processed food at home - although I learnt that a long time ago from my mother, who ate pretty much organically all her life. It has been great for my skin, hair and overall health, although I am not saying everyone should give up wheat, it just doesn’t process well with me. 

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7. Do you take health supplements?

Yes, I take a few every day. Digestive enzymes for my gut, Milk Thistle for my liver, and Chromium for blood sugar levels (it really helps curb the 3pm chocolate craving when I take it). I know I should also be taking Magnesium and Zinc at my age, but I just haven’t got around to it!

8. How do you relax?

There’s nothing nicer than lying in the shade on a warm, sunny day reading a book and losing yourself in your own imagination and someone else’s words. In the absence of that, I like to travel and visit new places, experience new cultures and see nature first hand.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

Looking back, I drank a lot in my twenties and thirties, as did most of my generation, but have pared back over the last six-seven years and I went pretty much teetotal for a few of  those.  I actually enjoyed being teetotal,  but now I drink the odd glass of really good wine with dinner if we’re eating out and maybe a nice Shortcross and Fever Tree tonic or two on a night out. I do love a nice Port with my cheeseboards too; in fact when great wines are paired course by course with food, it is a wonderful combination, you cannot fail to appreciate the quality in some products.  

10. Stairs or lift?

Stairs, unless I have Valentina or heavy bags with me. And if I’m in heels, I’ll always take the easy option. 

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I do Body Pump 3-4 times per week at my gym, Virgin Active in Holywood. It’s a licensed one hour class to music in which you lift weights (something I had never in my life done before this year) and in doing so, you work every single part of your body. I feel very ‘pumped’ after each class and on the whole I feel a lot stronger. My body shape has changed too (hello waistline and toned arms!)   To balance this out I also do yoga when I can and do Kim Constable’s monthly yoga detox classes - highly recommended! 

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12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Move! They say sitting is the new smoking - and I am guilty of sitting a lot, I’m at my computer about 10 hours a day at least.

13. On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

I think I’m about a 7 and I would love to be at 9 - able to run marathons again or do city-to-city cycle challenges. I previously ran both the Rio and New York marathons, among other challenges.

14. Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

I love alternative and complementary therapy. I remember having a mosaic verruca for 2 years and no amount of burning off at the doctor’s would work and then I visited a homeopath who gave me a course of Thuja which cleared it up in 2 weeks. Another time I went to see Maria Rafferty about eczema who used acupuncture on me and it worked a treat. I do yoga with Kim Constable and have had Reiki, hypnotherapy, reflexology, aromatherapy and many other therapies. I think we all need to be open to ancient and alternative or complementary medicines as well as our mostly science-based Western medicine.

15. Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

Happy times, I don’t remember getting any first places, but I did love the whole atmosphere of sports day and being outdoors. I think I may have had my first kiss on the grassy banks of the Mary Peter’s track while watching school sports day!

16. Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

I had a stillbirth in 2011 and the infection which led to my baby dying had entered my bloodstream and was potentially fatal to me, I was told at the time. I had no idea and just felt a bit fluish. Bodies are amazing things, but I have both consciously and sub-consciously taken much better care of mine and appreciated it a whole lot more since then.

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17. Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

Drinking plenty of water is the best advice I would pass on. I write a beauty column and blog and so many women ask me how best to moisturise their skin and I always reply by first asking how much water  they drink in a day - it really is the best moisturiser ever, as well as being a lubricant for our digestive systems and pretty much everything else inside. The other advice I like is the old one ‘abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym’ - and it’s so true that what we put into our mouths is more important than how often we work out, although working out is amazing and I would advocate doing that every day too. But you can’t work out and then eat unhealthily and expect results. Lastly, for mental health, I believe it’s really important to ‘feel the feelings’ and work through issues - personal ones and those with others.

18. Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

I love Kim Constable and Tiffany Brien, both local girls who are about being strong, real and healthy at the same time. And I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, but I am quite content in my own skin too and I think I have just about got the balance right where I want it to be in terms of fitness, health, positivity and living a full, happy life.

19. What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

I’m not a massive sleeper, five or six hours is about all I ever get, and I know that is not enough. I am wondering how (or if) it will eventually catch up with me, as I am sure the sleep deficit will manifest itself elsewhere in my health at some point. I use Glenn Harrold’s ‘Deep Sleep’ which is on his App on my iPhone and it really does give me a fantastic quality sleep even if I only have 5 hours.

20. Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

I have so much faith in human beings (sometimes I trust too much!) and it’s harsh, but I no longer give time to negative or toxic people and people who are full of drama because, while I can, I want my life experience to be wholesome and as positive as can be. 

I have lost both parents - my dad 16 years ago and my mother just last year - as well as a child (through stillbirth 6 years ago), so death and the physical pain of grief is always a bit raw if the right triggers are pushed. It can be so debilitating, but I chose to harness the grief and live my life to the full while I am lucky enough to enjoy the gift of being alive on this wonderful planet.

 

 This article first appeared here: https://www.irishnews.com/lifestyle/2017/10/25/news/belfast-fashion-week-s-cathy-martin-many-of-us-drank-too-much-in-our-20s-and-30s-1169164/

FITNESS | Too sweet to be true? The low down on sugar myths

When it comes to sugar, what you don’t know can really hurt you. Kill you in fact. And in my opinion - we are consuming it at unknowingly harmful and alarming rates similar to the way in which our parents’ and grandparents’ generations consumed tobacco products. There is an obesity epidemic across the Western World, and here in Europe (especially in the UK & Ireland) we are only slightly better offthan in the world sugar capital country of the USA, where 2 out of every 3 people are overweight or obese. That is bonkers, really bonkers! But sugar isn’t just killing overweight people, a recent crunching of government health statistics found that 1 in 5 American adults of normal weight were pre-diabetic, that is, had elevated blood sugar. That’s the classic “skinny fat” syndrome.

With the food lobbies working together to hide much of the information on sugar levels in our food, it is easy to ‘stick it to the man’ and blame the food companies for proffering all those sweet and fatty foods that we eat. And we are right to do that - why on earth should we allow companies to strip original food ingredients of all nutrients and process it beyond belief in the name of shelf life (AKA profit)? But people, don’t exclusively blame others - please exert some self-control - and arm yourselves with information! Knowledge = power. And greater knowledge helps willpower!

Here are some myths often associated with sugar - and some views from Dr Frank Lipman (with the odd one of my own thrown in for good measure) on the realities. I am passionate about sugar and try as much as possible to eliminate it from my daily food intake - but with my chocolate addiction I know my 3pm daily bar is way more than I need. And I am quite a healthy person - when I see what my friends, colleagues and family eat in terms of sugar, it makes me realise even more that I need to work to sustain a manageable level for my body’s health, and that of my daughter.

No doubt this will not be my last blog on sugar - there is so much to say!

MYTH #1: To avoid sugar, just read the label.

THE REALITY: Labels benefit the manufacturer, not you.

By law, most foods (with the exception of fruits, veggies, and prepared foods) come with a label that lists their ingredients and nutritional stats. In theory, the labels should make sugar pretty easy to find, but in reality, much of the sweet stuff is “hidden” sugar, buried in the ingredients list and hidden in a pile of technical terms no layman could easily identify. One way of identifying some sugars (but not all) is to look for words ending in -ose. They are usually sugars.

Confused by the ingredients list, your next stop may be the nutrition “facts” list. There you’ll find a very rough estimate of how much sugar is contained in a portion. Where it gets tricky, though, is with portion size: By listing abnormally small portion sizes, the manufacturers can make the sugar counts appear less fearsome, fooling you into thinking you’re eating less sugar. So, that quarter-cup of tomato sauce (who has ever eaten a quarter-cup of tomato sauce?) with 8g of sugar will more likely wind up being closer to 20g by meal’s end. Look out for the per 100g measurement and use that all the time (checking the size of the food pack and/or how much you’re actually using to give you the full multiplier effect). It gets even worse when the sauce is poured over pasta, which is a simple starch that quickly breaks down to glucose in the blood—in short, even more sugar.

BOTTOM LINE: Take every label with a huge grain of salt, (metaphorically of course!) and know what your average portion size looks like on the plate—chances are, yours will be considerably larger than the manufacturer’s. But the absolute best way to avoid hidden sugar? Stick to a whole-foods-based diet and kick processed foods—aka, anything with a nutrition label—to the curb.

MYTH #2: Artificial sweeteners in moderation are fine.

THE REALITY: Artificial sweeteners make cravings worse!

When patients are overly attached to their artificial sweeteners, it’s often a challenge getting them to part with those sweet little packets. They think it cruel and unusual punishment, and in the early stages of a sweet stuff breakup, it can be challenging. Trouble is, sweet begets sweets. Artificial sweeteners can make you feel hungry and actually eat more—and they dull our taste for naturally sweet foods. It’s the definition of the vicious circle. Add to that, the fact that they don’t help with weight loss and don’t taste good either. So dumping the stuff once and for all seems like the sanest route, difficult as it may be in the short term. Cold turkey, people! 

THE BOTTOM LINE: The less sweetness the better. If you eliminate all types of artificial sweeteners from your life, you’ll help liberate your body from the tyranny of sugar in its many forms. In their place, swap in naturally sweet-tasting spices like cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, cardamom, caraway, and nutmeg to support health with tasty, medicinal effects. Get used to drinking your coffee and tea without added sweeteners. If you’re going to indulge, try whole leaf, raw stevia — a small amount packs a big punch.

MYTH #3: Managing diabetes is all about going on a low-fat diet.

THE REALITY: It’s really about sugar and carbs – particularly the processed ones.

The US government is still peddling the low-fat diet as the best defence against high blood sugar and diabetes. Boy, are they out to lunch! The real culprits are carbs, in particular the ones that come in the concentrated form of added sugar or in grain-based processed foods, like bread and pasta, that readily break down to sugar in the system. While losing weight is an excellent way to fight back against high blood sugar, being normal weight doesn’t mean you have a blank check to consume as much sugar and as many carb-rich foods as you like. Even though these adults aren’t eating too many calories, their systems can’t handle the amount of sugar and carbs hiding in plain sight on their plates. They are candidates for the ‘skinny fat’ phenomenon.

BOTTOM LINE: To keep blood sugar in check, cut carbs to the bone (especially the fast-digesting ones), and lose the added sugar. Get moving, keep moving, and drop the excess weight to keep metabolism humming and protect against Type 2 diabetes. And if you’ve crossed the diabetes line, know that you can cross back to the healthy side by following the same low carb diet.