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Sleep – One of the Four Pillars of Health

sleeping woman -blog imageMy last blog was devoted to the four crucial components for good health – diet, exercise, sleep, and mental outlook.  I’ll look at each one in a little more depth, and sleep seems a good place to start.  If you’re not getting proper sleep, life is just not going to be as good as it can be, full stop. The fact is, you cannot be completely healthy if you don’t get good sleep. There is some wiggle room as far as how much sleep an individual needs but the amount of sleep you need is what’s important. It is probably going to be between 6 – 8 hours per night.

Lack of energy, fatigue, and brain fog are bad enough, but these are not the only problems associated with lack of sleep. Poor sleep can lead to depression, pain, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even more. Lack of sleep causes our bodies to secrete too much cortisol, which is very serious in the long term. When we sleep, our bodies rejuvenate on a cellular level and our brains “flush out” and reset. Sleep is crucial to our health and it is not possible to be healthy without getting good sleep consistently….at least, much more often than not.

For chronic problems with sleep, the cure can take time and seem very elusive. This is true for any chronic health problem and generally requires some lifestyle changes. For starters, we must go to bed and get up at the same time every day. When first starting to do this, it may seem difficult because you may not be sleepy at night, or you may be very sleepy when it’s time to get up. But persevere….it will help your sleep in time.

Also important: turn off all devices (including TV) at least an hour before you turn in. The blue light emitted by these devices is stimulating to your brain and it does ot allow the body to produce enough melatonin, which is a very important hormone that signals our bodies to get sleepy.

Almost all experts agree: use your bed for only sleep and lovemaking. Do not bring work, mail, games, etc. to bed with you. If you want good sleep consistently, follow this advice.

Create a bedtime ritual, which can be anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour or so. It can involve your bedtime ablutions (teeth brushing, face washing, hair combing), or be more elaborate such as a warm soak with essential oils, lighting a candle, meditation, stretching, or writing a list with tasks for the next day so you don’t have to trouble yourself with thinking about these things.

Many people have been helped by regular meditation, massage, hypnosis, and acupuncture, and also by getting more exercise (early in the day; not right before bedtime!). If your problem with sleep is long standing, it pays to commit to taking steps to resolve it. It can be trial and error to unravel the problem because there are so many causes for insomnia…. so be patient. If these “sleep hygiene” pointers have no effect, you may want to consider supplements. This approach should be handled with a light touch, however. Though there are some tried and true natural sleep problem remedies, many supplement companies have jumped on this bonanza and are marketing questionable products. Here is an overview of some of the supplements available for sleep issues:

GABA: Study results can be read in PubMed; also in ANH-USA database. There is some debate whether GABA can cross through the digestive system and remain intact enough to offer real benefits, but the good news is there doesn’t seem to be adverse effects from taking this. Try combining with Niacin if it’s not effective on its own for you. There is good empirical evidence that it does work for some people, so it is worth a try.

Theanine: Can be supplemented but also found in green tea. This is why green tea has a relaxing effect, despite the fact it contains some caffeine. Start with a low dose; remember organic substances do not have the “knock out” effect of pharmaceuticals, so don’t over supplement with Theanine.

Kava Root Extract: This is good for chronic anxiety. (Nutrition and Healing, October 2013).

Lavender Oil: (Lavandula angustfolia or Lavandula officinatis) Lavender has shown in studies to slow the activty of the nervous system (University of Maryland Medical Center, USA). No reported negative effects, bust just a few drops is all you need. Splash out too much of this lovely substance, and it could have a stimulating effect on the nervous system!

Magnesium: This should be in a chelated from (citrate, ascorbate, orotake, glycinate). Good documentation from many sources that magnesium has a natural muscle relaxant effect, and is soothing to the nervous system. For problems with sleep caused by tension or overactive nervous system, take 400-500 mg. Only reported negative effect is some people can get diarrhoea from the citrate form.

Valarian: This has been used for anxiety for a very long time. 300-400 mg. is probably needed; take note that many commercial brands do not have enough of the active substance, so read labels. As in most herbal remedies, I think a liquid tincture is most effective.

Melatonin: I though long and hard before including melatonin, because there is some dissent whether this is a healthy supplement. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the body, based on the cycles of light and dark and your circadian rhythms. The argument is that modern life has blurred the cycles of light and dark with the use of so much artificial light, so supplementation may be necessary for some people. The other side of the argument is that the body stops producing melatonin efficiently following prolonged supplementation, particularly in doses that are high (higher than 3mg.)  Most articles I have read state a person is not at risk of dependence if the dose is not higher than 1 mg. Also, melatonin’s main benefit is when the circadian rhythms are seriously out of sync, as in jet lag. So, for short term use when travelling between time zones, a higher dose is effective and safe. This is probably about 7 days or less at the higher doses (+3mg).

Tryptophan: I almost did not include this at all, and do not recommend it. I did include it to encourage all who read this to explore further before supplementing with Tryptophan. There have been some serious side effects recorded, and some quite dangerous. I do not recommend this and would not take it until more conclusive studies are done. (Read supplements-and-health.com/tryptophan-side-effects)

 

 

 

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Living With Good Health and Vitality – Implementing The Four Pillars of Health

happy-people-in-the-poppy-field-1280x800-wide-wallpapers-netOur bodies are designed to perform optimally. Knowing this yet seeing the number of people who struggle with feeling good every day can be perplexing.  Why does it seem so elusive for many people to wake up feeling great and to have energy throughout the day?

There can be complex issues that effect our quality of health caused by modern 21st century lifestyles, but in an effort to distil information into bite-size chunks let’s keep this simple. I believe there are four essential foundations for optimum health and that often we leave one or more out of the equation while trying to care for ourselves  The Four Pillars of Health, which form the foundation for great health and vitality, are Diet, Exercise, Good Sleep, and Mental Outlook. Very often people will focus on one, two, or even three of these categories but it is a bit more rare to embrace all four consistently….so at times we get out of balance, or homoeostasis.  The body will always circle back to homoeostasis if we give it what it needs.

All four of these “Pillars” are equally important and support good health, but let’s arbitrarily start with Diet. (This is where most people start when trying to make changes to enhance health.) There are volumes of wonderful blogs and books dedicated to this subject, but in a nutshell what you must do is eliminate, or severely restrict, all processed foods from your diet. You want to eat foods that come from Nature, not from a laboratory. Your body does not know what to do with the artificial ingredients in processed food and they will cause serious problems for you in time. Begin this process by adding in good healthy things to your diet – focus on the plethora of foods you CAN eat, instead of the things you cannot. If you build your diet on what you must stay away from, your willpower WILL cave in time! Ask yourself the question, “What great foods can I add to my diet?” Stop thinking “no,no,no” when it comes to food, and instead make a list of healthy foods you like and have fun creating new meals. Give yourself the tools you need to get started by doing a little research, collecting tasty recipes, and start adding great food to your pantry and fridge. Remember to make the shift to focusing on everything you can eat and don’t browbeat yourself. Begin to crowd the bad stuff out of your diet by adding in the good.

Exercise: Most of us simply don’t get enough. Our ancestors walked around about 10 times more than we do. (Great quote from Lucas Rockwood: “Sitting is the new smoking” – I love it!) Sit less, and move more. The fact is, the more lean muscle mass you have, the more energy you’ll have. And, even better – the more you will need to eat to maintain your lean muscle (without gaining weight) and keep going.  If you don’t have much lean muscles mass, you won’t have as much energy and you will require much less food to maintain your weight.  So, look into Burst Training (sometimes called Interval Training), and move your body every day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk whenever you can, join a class, and move your body throughout your day in as many creative ways that you can think of.

Sleep:  It doesn’t matter how great your diet is, or how much exercise you get; if you are not sleeping enough consistently, are are not going to function optimally. Full stop. Rest and recovery phases are crucial for healing and maintaining vitality and good health. Sleep dysfunction is tricky because there are so many different causes for lack of sleep.  Good sleep hygiene is essential, and an upcoming blog will be devoted to this topic. But it’s really good and proactive for you to dig into your own research about this, so even googling “sleep hygiene” is a wonderful start. Take even a small step in the direction you want to go and try to let go of worrying and fretting about not getting enough sleep.  I know how hard it can be, because I have not been a very good sleeper at times….but never once was it helpful to worry about it.  Watch this space for more information about improving the quality of your sleep.

Mental Outlook: We’ve all heard how important a positive attitude is for health and happiness, and more than likely you’ve incorporated some of this sage advice into your life already. If so, good for you!  If not, don’t take my word for it – just commit to adding some positive practices, such as positive affirmations and a gratitude journal, yoga, meditation, etc. into your life every day for one month, and then see if your life improves. If it doesn’t you’ve lost nothing.  But you will never know that life can be so much better if you don’t give it a try.

We swing from “vine to vine”, looking for something else (we’re not sure exactly what) because we don’t see we are already whole and complete as we are right now. We just have to wake up and tune into this. For me, a meditation and yoga practice is important for clearing the clutter in my mind and tuning in but there are other practices that can be just as valuable, including Tai’ Chi and Qi gong (pronounced Chi Gong).  I believe a spiritual practice of some sort – whatever that is for you – is important for a sense of fulfilment and vitality. Does the word “spiritual” bother you?  Then pick another word.  But a practice where you can quiet the mind and stop the chaos, and feel a part of something greater than just yourself and your problems is crucial for good health.  This positive spiritual practice will help you plug into things that really nourish and recharge you.  You must nourish yourself! Even if your time is limited, you can set priorities and let something go so you can have a mini-break and recover. You only have 30 minutes while the baby sleeps? Spend it meditating instead of watching some silly TV program. The meditation will leave you more calm and refreshed than the TV. Remember that you can only do one thing at a time well, whatever the hype is about “multi-tasking”. If you try to open up too many windows on your computer, what happens?  It crashes! So will you. Get calm, close some windows, take a deep breath, and focus on the one thing you need to do in front of you. When that is done, you can move on to the next thing. Work on one “window” at a time.

Choose one of these four pillars that you think needs some bolstering (Diet, Exercise, Sleep, and Mental Outlook) and add one positive thing to your life every day. You will be the one to benefit from this positive attention. Please watch this space for future blogs on each indivdual Pillar of Health.

Note: Dr. Pedram Shojai is a wonderful teacher to learn from.  I discovered him while compiling notes for this blog. He is teaching and writing about the very same thing (now I know there is nothing new under the sun!…..ideas, thoughts, and words are part of our collective knowledge base and are constantly being recycled and given a new spin, a new life.) that I am writing about only he calls it The Wheel of Vitality, and Mental Outlook is referred to as Mindset. Follow him if you are interested – a beautiful man with wonderful things to say.

What’s With “Oil Pulling”?

DSCN0238I am pleased (although a bit surprised) to see “oil pulling” on so many different health blogs and websites lately. This is an ayurvedic practice that has been around for a very long time, but not  prominently in the “mainstream”.  In fact, I learned about oil pulling as a yoga practitioner and seldom ran across other non-yoga people who had even heard of it, much less practiced it.  So for any of you reading this who don’t know what it is, here is the short version:

Oil Pulling has its roots in Ayurvedic medicine, which dates back more than 5000 years. It is widely considered to be the oldest form of health care in the world.  The knowledge of Ayurveda spread out from India and influenced the ancient Chinese system, Unani medicine, and even the medicine practiced by Hippocrataes in Greece. In theory, it works on the root cause of illness and helps your body in the healing process, from pre-disease conditions all the way through to life threatening malignancies.  Oil pulling is very simple, completely harmless, and inexpensive, yet it is a powerful form of therapy. It is reputed to eliminate conditions such as migraine headaches, bronchitis, diseased teeth and gums ,chronic blood disorders such as leukemia, arthritis and related illnesses, eczema, gastro enteritis, heart disease, kidney disease, and women’s hormonal disorders. This list is impressive, and not at all exhaustive.  To be honest I have no idea if these claims are true but there is an informative website specifically on this subject, http://www.oilpulling.com. (Good information, but to be honest sometimes the translation into English is not so good.)

In oil pulling, one swishes a Tablespoon or so (start with less if you’ve never done it) of cold-pressed sesame or sunflower oil around in the mouth for 20 minutes, spits it out, then cleans the mouth and teeth.  It should be done first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything.  That, my dears, is the therapy in its entirety.

Most people not practicing oil pulling as an Ayurvedic treatment are doing so because it has a rapid and positive effect on dental health – whiter teeth, fresher breath, and quickly can get rid of cold sores and bleeding gums.  So, even if you are a little skeptical about some of the other benefits it may be worth a try.

Here are a few pointers:

  1. When you first wake up, before you eat or drink anything, take about a tablespoon of sesame or sunflower oil in your mouth, and begin swishing it around. (Many health blogs suggest Coconut oil because it has so many positive health benefits. I suppose this is fine, but keep in mind the ancient advice was for sesame or sunflower oil.)
  2. As you swish (not too vigorously….you’ll be at it for 20 minutes remember!) try to mindfully push and pull between your teeth now and then. Keep the oil away from the back of your throat so you don’t swallow some inadvertently. (not pleasant….ask me how I know!)
  3. After about 20 minutes, the oil needs to be spat out….do this in the toilet or in the trash/rubbish….it could cause a clog if you dispose of it in the sink.

For most people, doing this for 20 minutes before you eat or drink anything is not easy, especially when you consider that this should be done every day.  But like anything, you can quietly get on with it for 30 days until you build the habit. I keep a small bottle of oil with a spoon in my bathroom so I don’t even have to think about it. But if at times I cannot do it the very first thing (like when I have company), I do my oil pulling as soon as I can, usually right before I step into the shower.

There is now reams of information about this practice, so do your own research and have a go. Remember that sometimes the best research you can do is using your own body as the laboratory; so try this for awhile and see what you think. Feel free to share your experience if you’d like.

A Quick Supper – Mushroom, Blue Cheese, and Spinach Salad

Warm_salad_of_spinach_fieldI found this recipe on an old receipt that I had obviously scribbled down in a mighty hurry.  I have no memory of the origin of this recipe, having found it in a handbag I hadn’t used in a while. But I have tried it a couple of times, tinkering with the recipe each time (as I often do) and I think it is good enough to share. This serves two good appetites, so simply halve it if you are on your own. Keeping in mind that you are cooking the mushrooms in oil and there is oil in the dressing, you may want to drain the cooked mushrooms a bit – though I didn’t find this necessary.

 

Mushroom – Blue Cheese – Spinach Salad 

For the dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard
  • 4 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 6 Tablespoons good quality olive oil

Mix crushed garlic clove and salt together; put this and all other dressing ingredients in a jar or small jug and mix together.

For the salad:

  • 200 grams mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 or 2 crushed cloves garlic(or to taste)
  • 200 grams blue cheese
  • 200 grams baby spinach

Saute mushrooms and garlic in olive oil until mushrooms are nicely cooked through. Remove pan from heat, and add the blue cheese to the mushrooms so flavours intermingle. Divide the washed spinach on two plates or bowls, and drizzle the dressing lightly over the leaves. You can add a little sea salt and black pepper at this stage if desired. Put the mushrooms/blue cheese atop the leaves, and voila! Quick lovely supper.

You can add your own little touches to this – I have used a mixed greens mix instead of spinach,and I love a bit of tomato (in season) on top. For you non-vegetarians, you can sprinkle some leftover bacon or ham in the mushroom/blue cheese mixture. This is a perfect vehicle for experimentation: Try adding strawberries or pears, black olives or avocados, substituting the blue cheese for feta cheese – the possibilities are endless. Experiment and enjoy!

You Can Find The Time to Meditate – Really You Can!

office meditation 2You want to start a meditation practice, but you’re too busy.  Perhaps you work full time, or your children need to get to day-care, you need to make breakfast (and dinner!), you are always running late, and you ALREADY have too much to do in the morning.  All your excuses are valid because you have a busy life. I’ll bet you have other excuses I haven’t even mentioned yet.  But the truth is, you still have time to meditate.

The first hurdle is, of course, to make it a priority. You would be surprised to learn how many very successful (and busy) people make time to meditate every day (I read that Oprah Winfrey sits in stillness 20 minutes twice a day).  Sometimes, to hear “If they can do it, so can you” sounds almost shaming, so reframe any such thoughts to be reassuring. It really can be done, and it really does not have to feel overwhelming.

The best time for a busy person to meditate is as soon as you wake up. You may already have to wake up earlier than you want to but chances are you will not even notice getting up 5 or 10 minutes earlier and these few minutes will belong to you. Here’s all you need to do to get started, after you open your eyes:

  • Get out of bed
  • Take care of your bodily functions (pee, have a drink of water…)
  • Meditate

Don’t even think about these steps; just do it.  Get up, take care of your physical needs, sit down to meditate for 10 minutes.  Five if you are an absolute beginner.  Buy a kitchen timer, set it for the allotted time, and be with yourself for these first few minutes of the day. Once you feel good about it and it is part of your routine, you can increase the time.

You can also sneak in meditation breaks throughout your day.

Lunchtime can be a good time, either a few minutes before you eat or a few minutes after. It can be nourishing to eat your lunch slowly, quietly, and mindfully as part of a mindful exercise, and it is helpful to have something so concrete to focus on, such as chewing mindfully and being aware of the taste of your food. Try it for even a couple of minutes the next time you find yourself eating alone.  You may discover that you are really tasting your food in a way that just isn’t possible when you are trying to eat, talk, text, or otherwise multi-tasking.

Immediately after work when you first get home can be a good time, and a lovely transition between work and home life. The key is consistency, even if it is only for a few minutes.

Actually scheduling a 10 minute meditation on your calendar can be the key for some people. If you meditate in the middle of your day, there are some wonderful aps to support you with this. They can be helpful is you need a little more focus. To name just a few:

  • Omnava
  • Headspace
  • The Mindfulness App
  • Insight Timer

With your marvellous creative mind, you can probably think of other moments when you can squeeze in a few minutes of meditation. We can all relate to the feeling of not having enough time, but meditation actually helps us to become more productive so is worth the small time commitment. We all face countless distraction all day long (I don’t have to list them!) and slowly building a meditation practice will increase your ability to focus on priorities and minimise these distractions. Please don’t worry about whether you are “doing it right”. Just do it.

(Please see Meditation page of this website, and/or previous posts on Meditation for more information).

Can Salt Be Good For You?

 

salt image with brown backgroundI’ve suspected that salt has been given a bad rap for a long while, and have been happily digging  into research that convinces me this is true. I freely admit that I enjoy salt and have always been reluctant to give it up, but I am more motivated by wanting to get to the real truth about whether salt is as bad as “they” say it is.

This popular fear of salt and subsequent desire to consume less salt has led to a huge “low-sodium” segment of the food industry – as you know, the food industry is always happy to cooperate with our fears and desires. The low sodium industry is now big business, but unfortunately, the low salt foods they produce are often laced with MSG or other unhealthy additives to achieve the flavour without the salt.  The rule of thumb to remember is to avoid or minimise processed food – whether it is high in salt content or low sodium. Dietary advice is often confusing and even conflicting as you know; we have been told to avoid salt, eat whole grains, stop drinking coffee, stop eating egg yolks, eat a low fat diet and that GM foods are safe as organic foods, to name just a few untruths. By listening to all this wise advice on healthy eating, we should all have got quite healthy by now.  But we’re not necessarily healthier at all by following the mainstream advice, including the advice to limit salt.

The truth is, many of us that are very health conscious have wised up to the fallacy of a low fat diet with lots of whole grains being healthy – along with a myriad of other untruths we’ve been told along these lines – but many of these same people that have “wised up” still agree that salt is unhealthy.

And these people would be 100% correct if we are talking about the chemically produced table salt that is being sold on the grocery shelf and added to most processed foods.  The table salt sold in shops is 97.5% Sodium Chloride, is chemically produced and heated to 1200 degrees F, bleached, and devoid of all nutrients. In many cases, it contains aluminium hydroide (which has been linked to many problems in the body, including Altzeimers Disease).  It also contains about 25% chemicals, such as compounds designed to absorb moisture. This common type of salt is not naturally occurring and it is important to note that salt-water fish will die if placed in salt water made with table salt. It is indeed a very wise health decision to avoid this kind of salt.  If you have it in your house, stop eating it immediately….the stuff really is toxic.  (You don’t have to throw it out though; you can use it for natural cleaning and stain removal around the house. If you live in a cold climate, sprinkle some of it around your door steps in the winter to keep ice from forming.)  Just don’t ingest this stuff!

Real salt, in its natural and unadulterated form, is not only necessary for your body to perform normal functions, but is critically important in the right concentration for optimal health. Real salt does not contain toxic additives (such as aluminium), is not bleached or heat processed, and is rich in minerals (up to 84 different ones) that can be difficult to obtain otherwise.  Table salt and authentic sea salt are two very different foods and it is important not to confuse the two.

A major flaw in many of the studies done on salt consumption is that table salt, not natural sea salt, was used in the research. Now there is a somewhat large body of evidence showing that salt consumption is harmful when no distinction has been made between the toxic, chemically created table salt, and natural “real” salt containing trace minerals your body needs. Most of these studies do not give us helpful information because of this.

If you’ve been limiting salt in your diet for health reasons, it would be good for you to differentiate between table salt and the healthy, mineral-dense salt that is authentic and natural salt. The taste between the two is very different and without discerning between these two very different substances, you are missing out on a richer and more varied taste and nutrient level in your food.

Perhaps you would like to do some research on your own; there is a lot of interesting information out there that is easy to access. (You can start with your own broad searches, but I looked at several articles that described some fascinating studies, and found information quite easy to access. In particular, you can look at an article in the NY Times –  www.nytimes.com/1991/12/science, or perhaps a 2003 study on salt by the Inter-University of Graz, Austria).

To buy good natural salt, you can go to health food stores, or try http://www.mountainroseherbs.com (USA), or perhaps http://www.maldonsalt.co.uk or http://www.cornishsalt.co.uk (UK). There are other good sources if one looks around, and though real salt will be more expensive than the chemical-laden table salt that is so prevalent, it does not have to be excessively expensive.  You will use much less of the real thing and will notice a difference in the taste. Explore this a little, and reap the rewards.

Some Interesting Research Nuggets:

There are old studies (some more than 20 years old) that suggest sodium is not the culprit in high blood pressure, but deficiencies in calcium and magnesium are.  In 1989, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine re-evaluated the link between salt and high blood pressure.  This study involved 10,000 people in 52 cultures around the world.  It involved participants whose diet was nearly salt-free, to ones who consumed vast amounts of salt.  In this study, salt intake was not estimated.  It was measured precisely with urine samples and obesity and alcohol consumption was taken into consideration.  The remarkable findings of this study was that except in a few places with extremely low salt consumption, the amount of sodium in the diet was unrelated to the prevalence of high blood pressure. (It was the extremely low salt intake that was problematic!) Also worth noting is that although the high rate of hypertension in Western cultures has long been attributed to the people’s love for salty processed food, this study actually placed these countries (in particular, the USA) right in the middle of the world’s salt intake curve. It looks very likely that we have been blaming the wrong culprit in the high blood pressure epidemic.

 

 

Honey Is So Good For You – But Only if It Is Raw

Raw honey is the nectar from flowers that is pure, unheated, unpasteurized, and unprocessed. All the natural vitamins, enzymes, phytonutrients, and nutritional compounds are intact and uncompromised. It is an alkaline forming food that is very different from processed, mass-produced honey (www.benefitsofhoney.com). All these wonderful components in honey are the very things that are destroyed in the pasteurization process of processed honey, and renders this commercial honey to the nutritional level of refined sugar.

Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.  It promotes digestive health, helps strengthen the immune system, lessens or eliminates allergies, and is good for your skin (www.naturalnews.com). The benefits of raw honey do not stop there. It has been used to stabilize blood pressure, balance sugar levels, and has been used to relieve pain, calm nerves, and to treat ulcers.  It is also an expectorant and anti-inflammatory. People – this stuff is really good for you!  But only if you buy authentic raw honey.  It is best to buy your raw honey from a local source to be sure it is truly raw, particularly if you are using it for allergies.  With local honey, the likelihood is great that it will contain small amounts of the pollen to which a person may be allergic and will offer a homeopathic-like remedy for the allergy.

Take the time to find a source that you can trace, because like many health related businesses that are somewhat unregulated, unscrupulous salespeople can sell processed honey and label it “raw” – at least in the USA.

Remember that raw honey can crystallise – a process that causes the honey to appear lumpy, grainy, and thickened.  Certain types of honey are more prone to crystallisation than others.  Acacia and Tupelo honey tend to resist crystallisation and remain liquid better than some other types.  Manuka and Lavender honey tend to crystallise very readily.  The process of crystallisation does not affect the taste or the quality of honey at all, though it does adversely affect its appearance. So, please don’t throw your crystallised honey out; it has not “gone bad”.  If the appearance bothers you, it is easily reversible by placing your jar of crystallised honey in hot water (40-50C, or about 100F).  Remove the jar from this gentle heat as soon as the granules dissolve.

Store your raw honey in a cool, dry place and make sure the cap is tight.  Honey will absorb moisture from the environment if left uncovered, and moisture can cause fermentation and lessen the honey’s quality.  Always scoop honey with a dry spoon, as any introduction of water content into the jar should be avoided.

Raw honey is so good for you, yes – but can you eat too much?  In a word, yes!  Even the natural sugars in fruit are bad for you if eaten to excess.  How much honey is a tricky question, and depends upon your diet and lifestyle. For instance, if you eat very little sugar and lead an active lifestyle you could eat lots of honey and it would remain very good for you.  However, if you consume lots of sugary food and live a sedentary lifestyle, you would not want to consume so much.  Excessive consumption of any food (including honey) is not a wise eating choice.  But one sure way to healthier eating is to replace as much of your empty calorie table sugar with nutritious raw honey in your everyday food and beverages.  You cannot go wrong using this tactic to integrate more raw honey into your diet.

As a very general rule of thumb, not more than 10 teaspoons of honey (about 50ml) per day is recommended.  This amount is not based on any medical point of view, but is based on advice from honey producers with good ethics and knowledge (www.benefitsofhoney.com).

Honey is so good used as a sweetener in place of sugar, but there are other wonderful uses for it. Here are a few raw honey natural remedies: (as per Dr. Josh Axe)

1. Improves digestion – Use a tablespoon or two to counter indigestion. It does not ferment in the stomach.

2. Relieves nausea   – Mix honey with ginger and lemon to counter nausea.

3. Acne Treatment – take one teaspoon, warm between hands, and spread on face gently. Leave for 10 minutes then rinse with warm water and dry. (Bonus – good for dry skin too!)

4. Exfoliator – Add one cup of honey to your bath and soak for 15 minutes. Then add one cup of baking soda for a further 10 minutes.

5. Improves diabetes – Raw honey increases insulin while decreasing hyperglycaemia.  Add a little at a time to your diet and see how your blood sugar reacts to it.

6. Lowers cholesterol with normal use.

7. Improves circulation with normal use.

8. Antioxidant support – Raw honey contains antioxidants.

9. Can improve sleep. If you can tolerate dairy, have a teaspoon or two in a cup of warm milk before bed.

10. Probiotic support – Raw honey contains prebiotics whch promote the growth of good bacteria in the intestines.

11. Improves allergy symptoms – (if sourced locally).

12. Weight loss – (if you substitute raw honey for the white sugar in your diet.

13. Moisturizer – Mix a spoonful of raw honey with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon; use as a hydrating lotion.

14. Hair mask – Will help boost shine in your hair; mix a couple of teaspoons of raw honey with a couple of cups of water, rinse and style as usual.

15. Reduces inflammation in the body both internally and externally.

If you haven’t yet discovered the benefits of raw honey, then I hope this article inspires you to begin integrating this wonderful food into your diet. If you discover any further uses, please write and let me know.