Something wrong down there? What your vagina is trying to tell you

Let’s be straight. When you get the the feeling that there is something wrong down there, there usually is. If you get the feeling that your vagina is unhappy, there are a number of reasons why this might be, and one of them is Bacterial Vaginosis.

What your vagina it trying to tell you…

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a confusing topic of conversation and 1 in 3 women will get it in their lifetime. Often mistaken for thrush, yet more women in the UK actually suffer from Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) than thrush[1]. They also suffer more often, typically 3-4 times per year and up to 72% of women will get recurrence of BV within 7 months. Yet very few people have heard of BV and typically treat symptoms as thrush.

In a nutshell, BV is misunderstood and mistreated. Let’s try and clear up some of the confusion and take a look at what it really is, how you can keep your vagina healthy and why heading straight out for antibiotics isn’t always the best solution.

What is BV?

So, what is BV? Bacterial Vaginosis is caused by a change in vaginal pH. Bacteria called lactobacilli keep the vagina acidic to prevent other harmful bacteria from growing there. With BV, the temporary shortage of lactobacilli allows bad bacteria to thrive, disrupting pH levels and causing unusual vaginal discharge. BV is a naturally occurring and common condition, it isn’t a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but it can be triggered by sexual intercourse.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Thin, watery, greyish-white discharge that has a fishy odour which gets stronger after sex or abnormally large amount of discharge
  • Occasional discomfort
  • Possible redness and irritation of skin around the vulva

Bear in mind that the symptoms can be very similar to thrush so it’s important to make the correct diagnosis. Experienced Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr. Shazia Malik on behalf of Balance Activ™, a leading women’s intimate healthcare brand, explains, “Unfortunately, the symptoms are very similar to thrush but the treatments should, yet often aren’t, very different. BV comes with the classic itchiness of a yeast infection, so it’s easy for customers to mistake it for thrush. There are some subtle, yet important differences. For example, the discharge associated with thrush tends to be white, thick and curd-like, whereas it is thin, watery and grey if you have BV. Another key difference is that the discharge from thrush is odourless, whereas with BV it has a strong, fishy odour, especially after sex.”

Remember the following about BV:

  • It isn’t caused by poor hygiene
  • It’s not an STI
  • It can still occur even in women who have never had sexual intercourse
  • Can only be treated with the right diagnosis

Something wrong down there? How to keep your vagina healthy and happy…

With so much confusion around what’s making your vagina unhappy, how do you keep it healthy and happy?

Here are five ways you can help:

  1. Avoid tight pants, thongs and underwear made from Lycra or nylon and instead opt for cotton pants that allow the area to breathe.
  2. Wash the intimate area with warm water or fragrance-free and pH neutral products. Remember the vagina is self-cleaning so douching isn’t good for it.
  3. During your period, change pads and tampons regularly to keep pH levels in check.
  4. If you’ve been to the gym, for a run or done any physical exercise, change out of your sports gear afterwards because sweat is the perfect breeding ground for bad bacteria.
  5. Finally, remember to use protection during sex and with new sexual partner as semen affects the vaginas pH.

Why antibiotics aren’t always the answer if there is something wrong down there…

Dr. Shazia Malik warns that although antibiotics are a therapy option for BV, Public Health England relaunched a national campaign in 2018 to support the government’s efforts to tackle antibiotic resistance[2]. She says, “Evidence also suggests that there’s a strong link between antibiotic use and these later causing thrush, as antibiotics may destroy the good bacteria.[3] Some women suffer from chronic (recurring) bacterial vaginosis; medicine can clear up the infection, but it returns again after a few weeks.[4]

“Treating BV with antibiotic tablets, gels or creams can have side effects and disrupt
the natural bacteria in the vagina but now women,  particularly those with recurring conditions, are increasingly favouring alternative and natural remedies, which are easily available over the counter.“

The unnecessary use of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance, a global concern predicted to cause 10 million deaths by 2050[5], so there has never been a better time to look for a natural alternative.

A natural alternative…

Balance Activ™ is a natural alternative to harsh antibiotics in the successful treatment of BV. Balance Activ™ gel and pessaries are safe and effective at restoring and maintaining the pH of the vagina and should start to work after just one dose.

Use Balance Activ™’s free symptom checker to understand more about your symptoms.

Balance Activ™ products are available nationwide from ASDA, Boots, Morrisons, Tesco, Superdrug and amazon.co.uk.

Do you ever get the feeling that something is wrong down there? Have you ever had VB? We hope this quick guide has helped you understand why that might be, what VB is and your options for treating it.


[1]Joesef MR, Schmid G. Bacterial Vaginosis. Clinical Evidence. 2005; 13: 1968-1978

[2] Public Health England. Keep antibiotics working. Accessed June 2019. https://antibioticguardian.com/ keep-antibiotics-working/

[3] Kim, J. and Park, Y. (2017). Probiotics in the Prevention and Treatment of Postmenopausal Vaginal Infections: Review Article. Journal of Menopausal Medicine, 23(3), p.139.

[4] https://familydoctor.org/condition/bacterial-vaginosis/

[5] O’Neill J. Review on Antimicrobial Resistance Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations. London: Review on Antimicrobial Resistance; 2014. Available from: https://amr-review.org/sites/default/files/AMR%20Review%20Paper%20-%20Tackling%20a%20crisis%20for%20the%20health%20and%20wealth%20of%20nations_1.pdf [Google Scholar]

[6] Source  Andersch et al, 1986. Treatment of bacterial vaginosis with an acid cream: a comparison between the effect of lactate-gel and metronidazole. Gynecol Obstet Invest, 21:19-25

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

What happens when you have a mammogram

I won’t lie. The first time I had a mammogram, I really didn’t know what to expect. But being at high risk of developing breast cancer in my lifetime due to the fact I have BRCA1 gene mutation, then well let’s just say I am going to become very familiar with mammograms! But apart from the fact I expected it was some kind of scan, I had little idea about what happens when you have a mammogram.

Mammograms save lives

The bottom line is that mammograms save lives with breast screening saving around 1,300 lives each year in the UK. Finding cancer early can make it more likely that treatment will be successful.

Having said that, it doesn’t distract from the fact that having a mammogram is not exactly the most pleasant of experiences in my personal opinion just because it does tend to be pretty uncomfortable as your breast tissues gets pulled and manipulated into certain “flatter” positions before it gets positioned into place ready for the scan.

That said I would rather take a mammogram every day of my life rather than having a malignancy undetected in my breasts. The alternative – not knowing the status of your breast tissue and any potential changes and what they may mean, is unthinkable to me.

Do not put your mammogram off

Whatever the pain and discomfort you feel, I want to lay down now how important it is NOT to let this deter you from having your routine mammogram and attending breast cancer screening. All women are invited for a routine mammogram in the UK from age 50 up. If you have an increased risk of breast cancer due to hereditary factors then you should be having a routine mammogram annually from the age of 30 of 40.

Worries about the procedure, along with COVID disruption saw a 44 per cent fall in the number of women screened for the disease nationally in 2020-21 according to NHS England, but mammograms and early diagnosis of cancer can rapidly improve the long-term prognosis and chances of recovery. 

If you are worried about having a mammogram, not sure what a mammogram is, or yet to have your first mammogram, here Kate Whittaker, Superintendent Mammographer, at King Edward VII’s Hospital explains all.

when you have a mammogram

I’ve been invited to attend a mammogram. Should I go and what should I expect?

When women turn 50, they will be contacted by the NHS Breast Screening Programme  Unit, inviting them for a mammogram. All patients registered as female will be contacted every three years, until they turn 71.

Mammograms are a straightforward, non-invasive short procedure, but increasingly women are missing appointments, or declining to attend their screening. Worries about the procedure, along with COVID disruption, saw a 44 per cent fall in the number of women screened for nationally in 2020-21 according to NHS England. But mammograms and early diagnosis of cancer can greatly improve a patient’s long-term prognosis and chances of recovery – so why should women attend them, and how can they prepare?

Before the appointment

As mentioned above, breast screening can save lives. Identifying and intervening early can dramatically improve the outcomes for breast cancer, but attending a mammogram is obviously a personal choice.

If you do decide to attend and feel nervous about the procedure, try to book an appointment at a time when you’re not going to be rushing around. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask a friend or loved one to take you to the appointment for moral support, and have something nice planned for afterwards that you can look forward to and distract from any worries.

When you have a mammogram, you’ll be asked to undress from the waist up, so try to wear something comfortable that’s easy to take on and off. You’ll always be imaged by a female mammographer, but if you have any queries or concerns, including mobility issues or special requirements, it’s best to contact the screening unit before your appointment. That will allow them to make any necessary changes to your appointment, such as duration or location, as some sites are remote and may not be accessible to disabled service users.

During the mammogram

When you’re ready, you’ll be invited into an x-ray room by the mammographer, who will explain the procedure and answer any questions. Your breast is imaged by gently placing it onto the x-ray machine and applying some compression. This only lasts a few seconds and releases the moment the x-ray has been taken. You’ll have four images taken in total, two on each breast. All you’ll need to do is take a few small steps in front of the machine and raise your arms when asked, to help with the breast positioning in the side images. The whole process is over very quickly, in around five minutes, but keeping still is really important to get an accurate x-ray.

Breast screening can be uncomfortable, or occasionally a little painful for some people, so talking through any concerns with the mammographer can be very useful, you can also tell them to stop at any point if you’re feeling discomfort.

Getting your results

Results will be sent to you by post and they generally take between two and four weeks. A copy will also be sent to your GP for your medical records.

Your results will either say ‘No sign of breast cancer’ or ‘Need further tests’. If you have no sign of breast cancer, you can wait for your next mammogram in three years time, unless you notice any breast changes, including any lumps in your chest or armpit, discharge from your nipple, or an unusual texture on the skin of your breast. Do a check once or twice a month, and contact your GP if you notice any changes or have any concerns about your breasts.

when you have a mammogram

If you need further imaging, don’t panic. Most people who need further tests will not be diagnosed with breast cancer. But if you are worried, you can discuss the appointment with a breast care nurse, who will be able to explain to you the result, and what next steps will be taken.

You’ll be offered an appointment in a screening assessment clinic where you’ll be offered an examination of your breast and sometimes more mammograms, an ultrasound, or sometimes a needle test. Results from these tests normally take around a week. All of this will help the Breast Unit team and your GP to best support you and offer any further investigations and treatment you may require, which, in some cases, can limit the need for invasive treatment, or surgery. So when you receive your next invitation, I’d urge you to come forward and attend your  mammogram, or if you notice any breast changes or symptoms in the meantime, speak to your GP to access support as early as possible, which may save.

We hope the above helps you overcome any fears you may have about attending a mammogram screening. Focus on the end game in that when you attend a mammogram, you are doing something amazing for your body and yourself, and empowering yourself with the knowledge you need about any risk factors, warning signs and potential treatment down the line. To find out more about assessing your breast cancer risk see this useful guide over at our friends Breast Cancer Now or speak to your GP.

Photos by cottonbro and Tara Winstead via pexels and National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Let’s talk about… thrush… baby

This article includes PR samples

 I’ve suffered with thrush for as long as I can remember. Since having the kids its only got worse. I’m now on a maintenance plan through my GP. I manage my diet because I know that, for me, sugar is a massive trigger. I talked to Bupa’s expert, Dr Samantha Wild for some advice. Here’s what she had to say.

What is vaginal thrush?

Vaginal thrush is a yeast infection that can make you feel sore and itchy around your vulva and vagina.

It’s common – about three-quarters of women will have it at some point in their lives. Up to one in 20 women have repeated (recurrent) thrush infections. You can get thrush at any age, but it’s most common in women who are in their 20s and 30s. Men can also get thrush, including on the penis.

What are the most common symptoms of vaginal thrush?

You might not have any symptoms of thrush, and not realise you have it or need treatment. If you do get vaginal thrush symptoms, they may include feeling itchy and sore outside your vagina and a thick, white vaginal discharge. You may also experience soreness and discomfort when you have sex and when you go to the toilet.

What are the causes of vaginal thrush?

Vaginal thrush is caused by a type of yeast. Normally, this lives harmlessly in, or around your vagina, alongside healthy bacteria. But if it grows more than usual, this causes thrush.

There are several things that can cause you to develop thrush, including taking antibiotics, being pregnant, and having a weakened immune system. More research is needed, however there is a small amount of evidence that suggests some types of contraception, such as the combined contraceptive pill, may increase your risk of getting thrush.

Self-help advice:

Speak to a medical professional

thrush

Getting medical advice as soon as you notice a problem can help to get rid of your infection quickly and prevent complications. There’s no need to feel embarrassed about speaking to your doctor or pharmacist about any ‘unusual’ symptoms you’re experiencing – we’re here to help.

Often, you can get treatments for thrush over the counter, and you can get these from your local pharmacist. If your vaginal thrush symptoms get worse or you’re experiencing it regularly (more than four times each year), speak to your doctor. 

Avoid using perfumed products

If you have thrush, you might find it helps to stop using soap or perfumed shower and bath products around your genital area. Instead, it’s best to use water or non-perfumed moisturising cream – if you’re unsure what type to use, ask a pharmacist for advice. 

Other perfumed products such as feminine deodorants, biological washing powder and fabric conditioner may increase irritation and are best avoided.

Practice good hygiene

To prevent triggering a recurrent thrush infection, make sure you maintain a healthy lifestyle, keep your immune system strong, and practice good hygiene. You can do this by taking regular showers (and drying yourself properly), avoid wearing tight-fitted clothes, avoid douching (washing out your vagina with water or special douching fluid), and washing your hands frequently.

If you have thrush, it’s also best to avoid sexual activity until the infection has completely cleared up. Thrush isn’t a sexually transmitted infection but does share some similar symptoms with other infections; so, it’s a good idea to rule these out. Thrush symptoms can also be triggered after sex. 

Confide in your loved ones

It can be tough to deal with a recurrent health problem, particularly if you feel embarrassed. It can be a huge relief to speak to your close friends or family (whoever you’re most comfortable with) about how you’re feeling. If it’s causing you to experience a low mood, remember that your doctor is available and will support you, too.Alternatively, you can find support through reputable sources online, for example the NHS, Patient, and Bupa.

I hope this article has been helpful to you. I’ve found that taking a probiotic specifically designed to target the intimate areas has benefited me hugely and over the last couple of years I’ve had less infections which I believe is attributed to this. I use Optibac. Their product ‘For Women’ contains friendly bacteria strains especially found in the vaginal & urinary tracts, scientifically proven to reach the intimate area, and to complement the vaginal flora. It’s suitable for women of all ages and is backed by over 30 years of research.

Keep the conversation going by commenting below, or follow us on Instagram.

What are the benefits of bone broth in your 40s?

This article includes PR samples

At this point in my life, I’m grabbing at straws for anything that might benefit my health and wellbeing. I recently purchased a gua sha in a sad attempt to iron out the life lines on my face and reduce the puffiness in my eyes. I vow to use it everyday and make it a part of my skin care regime but ask me again in three months time and I have a feeling it will be very much discarded like many fads. Today I very much enjoyed my little ritual and the extra couple of minutes of self care it offered.

The other ‘trends’ I’ve been looking into are collagen supplements and I’ve started experimenting.

The importance of collagen

 benefits of bone broth

Natural Beauty, Wellness Expert & Co-Founder Of New Generation Beauty Brand, Raw Beauty Lab, Sonia Bainbridge explains;

‘Collagen is the structural protein responsible for keeping your skin looking plump, glowing and wrinkle free. However, you lose collagen at the rate of 1% each year after your mid-twenties which causes fine lines and wrinkles to become more prominent.

Most women don’t notice any changes until they approach their 40’s and this is primarily because the rate of collagen degradation increases as you approach menopause.’

So how can you increase collagen production? One simple answer, for some, is bone broth!

What is bone broth?

Belinda Blake, a nutritional therapist and clinic tutor for the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION) says;

‘The broth made from bones can be an excellent food for women in their 40s. The long, slow cooking of bones in a liquid which includes a little acidity (either wine or vinegar) helps to draw out minerals locked into the bone matrix, including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.

These are in a very bioavailable form and may help support strong bone health at a time when the breakdown of our own bone tissues may start to exceed that of new bone formation. 

You can tell when a bone broth is rich in collagen as it will set to a jelly when chilled, forming gelatine. The gelatine, plus mucopolysaccharides like chondroitin, glucosamine and hyaluronic acid which are also found in bone broth, have all been shown to help support joint health and protect against the effects of ageing and degenerative disease throughout the body.’

Made from scratch

 benefits of bone broth

Meera Bhogal knows too well the ill effects of food intolerances having spent years experimenting before she found her remedy. She passionately shares her secrets on her website, Meera’s Made from Scratch.

I was keen to understand more about the hype around bone broth so went to Meera to find out more. She explained that bone broth is an ancient remedy known for easily absorbed nutrients, gelatine, and collagen; which are both thought to support and help repair the lining of the digestive tract. This broth can be drunk warm or added to dishes as a stock substitute. She says;

‘Women going through menopause benefit greatly because the loss of estrogen and hormonal changes will have an even more significant impact on our collagen levels.’ Meera’s broth is handmade with organic chicken carcass (the source of collagen) with other gut-friendly ingredients such as turmeric and apple cider vinegar. I was lucky enough to try some and it really was truly delicious.

My collagen journey

The last three months have been somewhat of an experiment for myself. I did actually purchase a supplement and interestingly, although I can’t really tell yet, my hairdresser commented on how much thicker my hair was. I’ve also had a couple of comments about my glowing skin. So there you go. Maybe there is something in it?

Do you feel like we are in a race against time to preserve ourselves? What do you do to help slow the inevitable ageing process? Comment below to keep the conversation going and hang out with us over on Instagram.

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How to ease into perimenopause: Tips and advice for a happier adjustment

Perimenopause is a time of change. Each woman’s journey will differ, but it can be an uncomfortable and confusing time for most women. Luckily, there are many ways to feel better during perimenopause. You can try hormone replacement therapy or natural supplements to relieve your symptoms.

You could also try meditation, yoga, or acupuncture to make yourself feel more balanced. Here we will discuss how you can ease into perimenopause to reduce the effects.

Stop smoking

One thing you can do to help ease into perimenopause is to stop smoking. Smoking causes several health-related problems, but it also contributes to menopause symptoms. Quitting is easier said than done, but you might be able to make it happen with patience. You can try nicotine patches to help you stop, visit a Vape store for nicotine-free vape liquids to substitute for smoking or chew on gum to ease your cravings during the early weeks of quitting

Reduce or eliminate alcohol intake

Perimenopause

Many women find themselves drinking more during perimenopause. This can lead to many problems. When you drink alcohol while going through perimenopause, the effects are even stronger and more pronounced.

Avoid drinking alcohol as much as possible during this time in your life. If you do drink, try to keep it limited to only one or two drinks a night and for every drink of alcohol, have at least one glass of water to stay hydrated!

Maintain a healthy weight

A common symptom of perimenopause is weight gain. Hormones fluctuate during this time, making it tougher to control your appetite and maintain weight.

The first step to easing into perimenopause is maintaining a healthy weight. Eating a balanced diet and incorporating physical activity can help with this. You might also try eating more fibre or drinking more water to curb your appetite.

Additionally, you should get plenty of sleep so that your body has time to recover and regenerate hormones. Sleep deprivation can lead to decreased energy levels and increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Finally, if you suffer from night sweats, wear loose-fitting clothing, so you aren’t uncomfortable while sleeping.

Add calcium to your diet

Perimenopause can make you feel tired and irritable. You might notice mood swings or other symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness. One way to ease into perimenopause is by taking calcium supplements. Calcium supplements are often recommended during perimenopause because they can help reduce the severity of symptoms. They are also helpful for protecting bones in the long term, which may be an issue during this time since perimenopausal women are at risk for osteoporosis. Plus, calcium supplements have reduced PMS symptoms like cramping, bloating, and mood swings.

Try natural remedies

There are several ways to ease into perimenopause. One way is to try natural remedies. These remedies are usually herbal and can be purchased in-store or online. Some common natural remedies include soy, vitamins, minerals, herbs, and essential oils. All of these items have different benefits for perimenopausal symptoms. For example, soy may reduce hot flashes or vaginal dryness, whereas minerals could help with mood swings or headaches.

Are you going through the perimenopause? Share your experience with us by commenting below or join our community on Instagram.

Self isolation restrictions lifted and why I’m happy about it

It’s freedom day. From today, Thursday 24th February 2022, In England, with self isolation restrictions lifted, you will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if you test positive for COVID-19. The advice is to stay at home if you can and avoid contact with other people. I just had the displeasure of experiencing the Rona first hand and was keen to talk about why I believe this is the right decision at this time.

The day I caught the virus

Well it was inevitable really wasn’t it. I’ve got two kids in primary school. My eldest got it first. We were only testing daily as there were so many cases in his school. When the double lines showed up, we were all a bit shocked really because he seemed totally fine and if it wasn’t for the school requirement, I wouldn’t have tested him. Despite someone in my household now positive, legally my youngest was still allowed to go to school and although it felt strange taking him, we knew how important it was for him to get out while he still could and learn in the best educational setting for him, which, for him, is at school.

My eldest developed a high temperature that day and complained of feeling very sick which was worrying but after a dose of calpol and a couple of hours sleep, he improved quickly and didn’t suffer any other symptoms at all for the rest of the time.

It felt like we’d been dreading and preparing for this for so long. Now it was here. In my home.

I infected myself

self isolation restrictions lifted

I may or may not have licked his positive swab. Let’s face it. It’s chicken pox party time. I’ve got shit to do. I can’t be tiptoeing around my own home in a hazmet suit avoiding the obvious. I decided to put my trust in science. I’ve had both jabs and a booster. I exercise daily. I’m within my BMI. I eat mindfully and as far as I know, I don’t have underlying health conditions. So my thought was to just get it over and done with already.

Am I stupid? Of course I am!

I’d felt rough two days previously. A scratchy throat and a tiredness akin to jetlag. There was also the mysterious case of my Mimosa tasting like washing up liquid but at the time I blamed my husband’s dishwashing abilities!

As a mum of two very bouncy boys, feeling jet lagged is not unusual for me. When I took the test I, honestly, felt relief. Two years ago I was really scared of this virus. Really scared. Today I know there are treatments. I know I’ve done all I can up to this point, successfully, not to get it. Until now. My son caught it from his class at school. Throughout the pandemic I’ve followed the guidelines and have always been mindful of the risk I put myself and my family in. School was out of my control but I knew how important and necessary it was for my boys to go. We took that calculated risk.

Once I confirmed my infection, I felt like I’d been arrested. I’d be fined if I leave my home. It was a really strange feeling. Even during lockdown we were allowed out for one hour. I couldn’t comprehend not walking out my front door for 11 days. I’m a walker. I need to be in the fresh air.

I couldn’t figure out if I felt really poorly or not. I managed to continue with my workouts but as the week went on I was too lethargic and knew my body was telling me to rest. It DID feel like a cold. A somewhat unnatural cold with a few symptoms I’d never experienced before. My skin was really itchy at times and I did lose my sense of taste and smell for a couple of weeks. Ultimately, I did wonder how much of it was in my head.

‘Drop the bags and run for your life’

self isolation restrictions lifted

The Ocado delivery driver laughed when I told him to drop the bags and run for his life. I felt ‘infected.’So many people I knew had it which was strangely comforting although I couldn’t help but feel I should be tucked up in bed with get well cards and a fruit basket (I totally got a get well card and a fruit basket, by the way, from my amazing in-laws.)

Not being allowed out was incredibly frustating and, in my opinion, was detrimental to my recovery. Gentle exercise and fresh air is the best medicine you can get and not being able to go out for a walk was bad. So that’s why I’m pleased we are moving into the next phase of living with this virus. Because that is what we have to do now.

I fully appreciate that not everyone will be quite so comfortable with it and I understand why. I realise this virus behaves in a way that affects everybody totally differently. It doesn’t matter if you’re 95 or if you’re fit and healthy. If it’s going to get you bad, it will. I was lucky not to suffer too badly. I DID suffer. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not something I want again.

I’m the kind of person that checks if the people around me are allergic to nuts before I eat something containing nuts! So I know that I will behave mindfully when it comes to having an infection of any kind and being in public.

What the doctor said

self isolation restrictions lifted

I wanted a doctor’s opinion on the recent rule changes. So who better to call on than Cambridge-based medical doctor Simon Poole MBBS DRCOG FBMA MIANE.

‘For many, Omicron is very mild, for some it is a fairly nasty illness you’d certainly prefer not to have, and for a minority it remains a potentially fatal illness.

As always there needs to be a balance between the cost in terms of serious illness, the toll of isolation on mental health and the economic harm that restrictions can create.

We are moving to a phase of personal responsibility. 

With this comes the need, in my opinion, to be thoughtful and caring of others. Being kind and compassionate needs to be the foundation of the new era where we need to be respectful of good “Covid Etiquette”:

Covid Etiquette

I shall behave in a way which follows the principles that I do not wish to inadvertently give you or your vulnerable loved ones a potentially fatal illness.

I shall remain socially distant unless invited closer by mutual consent.

I shall wear a mask if either you or I feel safer.

I shall do a lateral flow if I visit you and respect any requests to do so from others.(I think it’s a big mistake to limit availability of tests to those who choose to afford it)

This new Covid Etiquette depends on personal responsibility but it also depends on kindness and thoughtfulness towards others, loved ones and strangers alike).

I keep up to date with vaccination not only for my protection but also for the protection of my grandmother and the stranger who I might sit next to in a train..

Are we as a society capable of that?’

Dr Poole’s comments are mirrored by Abbas Kanani, a pharmacist at Chemist Click who said;

‘This is probably the right thing to do at this point in time. This January, the cases were three times more as last January, but due to most people being vaccinated, the deaths were nowhere near as many. We have to return to normality at some point. I still would advise those that are vulnerable to continue to socially distance and wear face masks.’

How do you feel about the self isolation restrictions lifted and the move to the next phase to ‘normality?’ Comment below and connect with us over on Instagram.

Are there benefits to a plant-based diet in your 40s?

This article includes PR samples

By now we can all safely admit that we have tried SOME form of restrictive dieting in our time. I remember an old boss going through the cabbage soup diet trend and just feeling so sorry for her. She must have been starving and farty! I had the benefit of working on Celebrity Fit Club where I worked closely with the team supporting the celebrities and I learned so much about nutrition. However, I was in my early 20s and had a metabolism faster than a speeding train. It’s only now, in my 40s, I’ve discovered that this train needs a frikking service!

These days, I look to maintain a healthy balance with food. I eat mindfully and I enjoy what I eat. That said, I know that at this stage of my life, I will benefit hugely from fuelling my body in the right way. I do enjoy meat but for various reasons I do want to cut back so I was super interested to learn more about the benefits to a plant-based diet.

What is a plant-based diet?

We asked Dr Kirstie Lawton, a registered nutritional therapist at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and an AfN registered nutritionist to explain a little more. She offered us the following information.

According to the British Dietetic Association, a plant-based diet consists mostly or entirely of plant-based foods. While the term is synonymously used with veganism, a plant-based diet isn’t necessarily vegan and may include those who eat some meat, fish, egg, or dairy. The diet is predominantly made up of fruit and vegetables, grains, pulses and legumes, nuts and seeds. 

What are the benefits to a plant-based diet?

benefits to a plant-based diet

An entirely plant-based diet, if correctly balanced, is rich in a wide range of protein building blocks, phytonutrients (plant-derived nutrients) and a diverse array of fibre, that can support the microbiota and improve gut health. Pulses and legumes are protein-rich and contain a variety of nutrients including B vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and fibre to support the microbiota.

Nuts and seeds are highly nutritious food sources containing a wide variety of protein building blocks, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, potassium, selenium, magnesium, zinc and copper, and fibre. Fruit and vegetables are rich in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre also. 

There is research supporting the use of a well-considered plant-based diet for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood lipid profiles, management of diabetes type 2, weight reduction and prevention of some cancers. However, what is key here is that the diet is from whole food sources that are prepared from scratch, rather than over-reliance on processed plant foods that are high in salt and additives. 

What considerations are there for eating a plant-based diet?

Plant-based eating can be healthy and nutritious, however, there are some key considerations: 

While a number of vegan food sources contain protein, the amount is generally quite low, so it is essential to ensure that you are eating a good source of protein at each meal. A number of these sources also have what we call limiting amino acids, e.g. a protein building block that is essential from the diet is missing. By combining plant-based foods e.g. beans and rice, the meal becomes a source of all essential amino acids. The richest and most complete source of protein is soy, however, this can be highly processed and isn’t suitable for everyone. 

Research indicates that those eating an entirely plant-based diet may be deficient in a number of nutrients including riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, zinc, calcium, potassium, and selenium. Sources of all of these nutrients are available through a plant-based diet and some fortification (calcium, vitamin B12). However, someone who is plant-based and concerned that their diet isn’t diverse enough may wish to consider supplementation, which should be done in consultation with a registered nutritional therapist.

Consider supplementation

benefits to a plant-based diet

Further potential deficiencies include the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are derived from fish, and are essential for a number of functions in the body. While these can also be converted from the fatty acids found in seeds, conversation rates are low. Algae is a plant-based source of DHA and EPA and should be considered in supplement form. Finally, choline is essential for a wide range of functions, and is especially important for the growing foetus, so choline supplementation may also be a consideration in those who are eating a plant-based diet and of childbearing age. 

There are more and more plant-based products on the market that are highly processed, and full of inflammatory ingredients which may not be optimal for health. These should be eaten as an occasional food choice, and replaced with homemade recipes from raw or minimally processed ingredients where possible. 

Finally, those with GI issues, such as an imbalance or overgrowth of bacteria, issues with nightshades, a soy allergy, or intolerance to histamine-rich or oxalate-rich foods may struggle with a plant-based diet, and should seek support from a registered nutritional therapist to correct these health concerns.

Plant-based recipe ideas

benefits to a plant-based diet

I was thrilled with Good4U asked me to try their range of plant-based snacks and toppers.

Packed with plant-based protein, the range is ideal for those looking for a natural protein boost, whether it’s to increase energy after a workout or to incorporate as part of a family meal, the delicious topper combinations are here to elevate and nutritionally optimise those bland dishes.

To add nutritional benefit to those more indulgent meals, these tasty toppers can be added to a wide range of dishes including your favourite pizza, curry, or burrito. In fact, the handy pouches can be easily resealed and used whenever a sprinkle of goodness is needed in your dish.

Good4U Super Seeds offer a crunchy and savoury mix of tamari roasted sunflower seeds, pumpkin, and British-grown green peas. At only 144 calories per 25g serving, the seeds contain zinc, known to help the immune system to reduce unwanted bacteria and viruses, ideal for fighting off those colds and flus during the winter months.

If you want to add a bit of spice to your evening meal, why not turn up the heat with Good4U’s Garlic and Chilli Salad Toppers. This spicy mix is only 123 calories per 25g serving, made with sweet red peppers, chilli roasted seeds, smoky chipotle, and a sprinkle of kale, which can be poured on your curry for a nourishing boost or added to your salad to give an extra punchy kick.

To find out more about the range and for recipe inspiration, visit the Good4U website.

benefits to a plant-based diet

I’ve been really enjoying building Buddha bowls for a satisfying lunch. Follow the steps below, picking one suggestion from each. Season to taste and enjoy! Send us your pictures on Instagram!

Grain Base

Grains are naturally high in fibre, helping you feel full and satisfied. Choose from one of the following:

Brown rice

Spelt

Buckwheat

Millet

Quinoa

Bulgar Wheat

Barley

Corn

Giant Cous Cous

Wild Rice

Protein

We need protein in our diet to help our body repair cells and make new ones. Choose from one of the following:

Chickpeas

Lentils

Kidney Beans

Peas

Edamame Beans

Black Beans

Mung Beans

Soy Beans

Navy Beans

Tofu

Colour

benefits to a plant-based diet

There’s nothing more beautiful than eating the rainbow. So add one of the following to invite your eyes to the party:

Broccoli

Kale

Spinich

Carrots

Sweet Potato

Butternut Squash

Red Cabbage

Mangetout

Radish

Beetroot

Dressing

Fats in dressings can actually help you absorb key nutrients. But don’t go crazy! Choose from one of the following:

Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar

Red or white wine vinegar

Lemon Juice

Lime Juice

Honey

Pumpkin Seed Oil

Soy Sauce

Natural Yoghurt

Texture

Who doesn’t love that added crunch. Salads don’t need to be boring. What will you add from the following?

Sunflower Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

Poppy Seeds

Hemp Seeds

Almonds

Cashews

Hazelnuts

Walnuts

Brazil Buts

Peanuts

I love seeing all the gorgeous colours in the bowl knowing I’m eating mindfully and healthily. The best part is, it tastes amazing. We have introduced meat-free Mondays at home. It’s a start!

Are you plant-based? Are you considering cutting back on meat? Let us know by commenting below.

The 5 biggest cancer myths debunked

Myths surrounding cancer can cause unnecessary worry about your health and wellbeing. New research from Bupa UK has found a sharp rise in people turning to ‘Dr Google’ about the incorrect causes of cancer between December 2020 and 2021*:

With a surge of people searching for the biggest causes of cancer in 2021, it’s important to sort fact from fiction. 

Dr Tim Woodman, a Medical Director at Bupa UK Insurance, says:’Myths, such as whether cancer is contagious, spread misinformation and can prevent people from speaking to healthcare professionals. Common misconceptions can also contribute to stigmas and taboos surrounding cancer. 

It’s crucial to only use reputable sources for cancer support – for example, NHS, Cancer Research and Bupa’s free-to-access Health Hub, which has lots of advice on cancer and symptoms to look out for.

I would encourage anyone who is worried about their health or experiences a change that is unexplained or persistent to seek medical advice as soon as possible. For example, if you notice breast lumps and changes to your breasts, you’re having problems passing urine or you notice changes to an existing mole, speak to a healthcare professional.’

Here are the 5 biggest cancer myths, according to Bupa’s Dr Tim Woodman:

Myth 1: Cancer is contagious

  • 300% increase in searches on Google for ‘is cancer transmittable’
  • 250% more searches for ‘can cancer spread from one person to another’ 

You cannot catch cancer from someone else. If you know someone who has cancer, there’s no need to avoid them. It’s OK for you to look after them through their diagnosis. Often, a loved one who has cancer needs your support more than ever.

Myth 2: Burnt foods cause cancer

World Cancer Day
  • 24% more searches for ‘does burnt food cause cancer’
  • 22% increase in searches for ‘foods that cause cancer’

A quick search on Google shows a variety of articles linking burnt food to cancer. When you cook foods at a high temperature, acrylamide (a chemical that’s found in starchy foods like bread and potatoes) forms naturally.  

However, there’s not enough evidence to link burnt food to an increased risk of cancer. Some things you eat, including processed food and red meats, can increase your risk, but this doesn’t mean that you will get cancer. 

Myth 3: Hair dye can lead to cancer

  • 40% more searches for ‘does hair dye cause cancer’

Based on the available research, personal use of hair dyes to change your hair colour won’t cause cancer. Hair dye is unlikely to be a significant risk factor, if it is one at all. 

More research is needed, however there is a small amount of evidence that daily contact with hair dye may increase your risk of developing bladder cancer. However, family history, diet, smoking, and exercise have far more to do with your cancer risk. Additionally, smoking remains the biggest risk of developing bladder cancer. In fact, you’re three times more likely to develop bladder cancer if you smoke.

Myth 4: Deodorant can cause cancer

World Cancer Day
  • 120% more searches for ‘does antiperspirant cause cancer’
  • 250% more searches for ‘can cancer spread from one person to another’
  • 120% more searches for ‘does antiperspirant cause cancer’ and 40% increase for ‘does hair dye cause cancer’
  • Bupa’s Medical Director Dr Tim Woodman warns us all about the dangers of believing these misconceptions, and why more people are turning to Google for their cancer queries

You may worry that certain chemicals found in personal care products, like deodorant, cause cancer. The myth that deodorant causes breast cancer has been circulated for many years.

There are strict safety regulations and laws that control which ingredients can be used in makeup and toiletries, so rest-assured that antiperspirants, body sprays and deodorants do not cause cancer.

Your chances of developing breast cancer increases with age, so make sure you’re regularly checking your breasts and take note of any changes. Being overweight, drinking more than the recommended weekly amount, and having a family history of breast cancer increases your risk too.

Myth 5: Injuries can lead to cancer

  • 40% more searches on Google for ‘can injury cause cancer’ in September, October, and November 2021

Another common myth is that an injury can cause cancer. Stories about potential causes – like this one – are often in the media and it isn’t always clear which ideas are supported by evidence. 

Injuries may sometimes lead to someone finding a cancer near to the injured area that was already there before the injury, but the injury won’t be the leading cause. There’s no evidence that an injury can cause cancer. Sometimes an injury can cause a lump, but again, this won’t lead to a cancer diagnosis.

Four simple ways to lower your risk of cancer, according to Bupa’s Medical Director:

world cancer day

1. Lead a healthy lifestyle

Studies have shown that if you do 30 minutes of moderate activity that raises your heart rate, every day, you can significantly reduce the risk of several major cancers (including breast, bowel, and womb cancer). 

Exercise is also helpful if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer both during and after treatment. A balanced diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, and healthy sources of protein (white meats, fishes, and pulses) will help you maintain a healthy weight, and ultimately lower your risk of cancer.

2. Drink sensibly

Over the long term, drinking alcohol can increase your risk of serious illnesses, such as mouth, throat, and breast cancer. Drinking guidelines can be hard to follow but try to drink in moderation and have some alcohol-free days a week.

Why not try the latest trend of ‘mindful drinking’? Being aware of why you’re drinking and how much alcohol you’re having can often lead to a healthier relationship with alcohol and less consumption.

3. Stop smoking

Tobacco smoke contains lots of chemicals and toxic gases, known to harm to your health, and increase your risk of lung cancer. 

Stopping smoking can be more effective if you choose your quit method and then establish a social support network to help you. If you need help quitting, options like nicotine replacement or support groups to help with the psychological addiction, could be for you.

4. Attend your screenings

Health checks and cancer screenings and across all ages are there to detect any early signs of abnormalities and cancer. It’s important to attend these and know how to identify changes in your own body. 

Attending all appointments, even if you’re feeling well, is vital. An abnormality could be found before you start showing any symptoms. Early detection is key to effectively treating cancers.

*All data taken between December 2020 and December 2021. Source: Based on internal analysis from Bupa of Google search data.

We know cancer is scary but we hope this post has helped to de-bunk some of the myths surrounding the causes of cancer and wanted to use this world cancer day to spread the word. Carry on the conversation by commenting below or connecting with us on Instagram.

4 self loving ways to change your appearance

Making changes to your appearance is probably something that you do many times throughout your life. Some people are happy to make huge changes all at once, but not everyone is happy doing something completely different. You might want to change your appearance but do it in a way that’s a bit more discreet and perhaps that other people can’t even identify. Maybe you want people to notice that something is different and that you look good without really being able to say what it is. If you want to change your appearance in a more subtle way, here are some options.

Straighten your teeth

Change Your Appearance

Straightening your teeth is a great way to get a new look and improve your smile. It’s something that you might have wanted to do before but couldn’t afford when you were younger. However, as an adult, the idea of wearing braces probably doesn’t appeal to you. Fortunately, you now have the option of Invisalign, which is transparent and discreet. Instead of having visible braces like a teenager, you’ll have see-through aligners that are custom-fit for you. People probably won’t even be able to tell that you have them in, so you can happily wear them without feeling self-conscious.

Try Contacts

If you’ve worn glasses for a long time, you’re probably used to wearing them every day. But contact lenses provide an alternative that can allow you to change your look. As you get older, you could find that your vision changes and you might end up needing to wear glasses or contacts even if you never have before. Contact lenses allow you to correct your vision without having to wear glasses all the time, and it’s not difficult to learn to use them. Of course, if you don’t feel confident about it, you could consider switching up the style of your glasses.

Wear different underwear

Change Your Appearance

The foundational garments that you wear can actually make a big difference to how you look in your clothes. In particular, wearing the right bra can really help your clothes to look better. You can also wear underwear to give you a smoother silhouette and help you get the right shape, especially if you’re wearing clothes with a closer fit. Try experimenting with some different styles to find underwear that you feel good wearing and that helps to provide your outfits with the right foundation.

Learn some new makeup techniques

Doing your makeup in a different way is something that other people might not pick up on straight away. You can make subtle changes that help you to feel more confident and give you a new look that you love, but you don’t have to do anything too drastic. You could change the way you do your eyeliner, choose a new lip colour, or try some subtle contouring if you want to do something a little different from your usual makeup.

If you want to make changes to your appearance, they don’t have to be huge changes. Try something a little more subtle that will still make a difference.

How to be healthier without really trying

Trying to stay fit and healthy is a challenge for most people at the best of times. Lifestyle choices, work patterns and other factors will undoubtedly influence how a person can stay in shape and eat healthily.

The temptation to forego regular exercising and avoid take-out food is often too great to resist in today’s modern world. Do you find it hard to stay fit and healthy while leading a busy lifestyle? If so, don’t worry because you aren’t alone.

The following tips and suggestions will inspire you to stay healthier without needing to do much or make any significant changes in your life:

Eat lighter versions of your favourite foods

How to be healthier without really trying

You’ve likely seen all kinds of diets advertised, and you’ve probably even tried some of them. The truth is, trying a diet and sticking with it can be highly challenging, both mentally and physically. Plus, if you keep “yo-yo” dieting, you could even harm your body in the long term.

A better idea to get fit and healthy is to eat the things you enjoy but swap out some of them for “lighter” versions. For example, you could swap your butter and cheese for versions with low fat and cholesterol in them.

Swap Smoking For Vaping

Are you a smoker? If so, consider giving up your cigarettes and switching to vaping instead. Vaping is something you can do to get your nicotine fix, and you could even try other “juices” like CBD e liquid to help you improve your wellness further.

What’s more, vaping means your clothing and your body doesn’t smell like you’ve been standing near a bonfire for too long! Also, you can choose from all kinds of flavours and varying levels of nicotine to help ween yourself off smoking for good.

Park Further Away From Your Destinations

How to be healthier without really trying

Do you drive? If you spend a lot of time going to various destinations in your car, avoid parking close to where you have to go. Instead, purposely find parking spaces that require you to do some more walking than usual.

For example, park by the car park exit rather than close to your workplace’s entrance if you drive to work. Not only will you get in some extra physical exercise each day, but you can avoid queuing to get out of the car park when you finish work each day.

Avoid Eating Large Meals

Last but not least, you should avoid eating large meals each day. Instead, it’s a better idea to have several small meals spread out throughout the day and evening.

Why is that a good idea, you might ask yourself? The answer is simple: you diminish the chances of needing to snack on unhealthy food like chocolates and crisps to satisfy any hunger pangs between your meals.

Final Thoughts

The above isn’t an extensive list of what you can do. However, it gives you some ideas for getting started on your health kick without tiring or wearing yourself out in the process. Good luck!