Alison Cullen is a Nutritional Therapist with a special interest in Phytotherapy.
Ali will endeavour to give the best advice based on the information provided. However, it is always advisable to have a face-to-face consultation with a doctor or health care practitioner to obtain a diagnosis of any health matter which is concerning you.
Q I find it hard to exercise and eat well in the winter – I get depressed by the darkness and find it too cold to get out much. The result is that I am feeling podgy and unfit. What can you suggest?
A Ironically, staying indoors vegetating will make you more miserable, as daylight and exercise stimulate the release of chemicals that help you feel happy. My advice is to start small: wrap up warmly and go for a brisk ten minute walk every day, walking for five minutes away from your house before turning back. The exercise will warm you up and get your circulatory system working, as well as liberating the happy chemicals.
Ask an active friend to go with you for a walk or to a class – there’s strength in numbers and you are less likely to chicken out if someone else is urging you on. The more you do, the less chilly and miserable you will feel. Drink Ginger tea and take Ginkgo for your circulatory system (as long as you are not taking anticoagulant medication), and keep your bowel moving to make sure you don’t bloat up.
Q I am starting to feel the pinch of the cold weather. My joints are aching and often very stiff when I wake up or if I sit still for a while. They do ease up on the stiffness front if I keep moving, but the aching is annoying and I don’t want to take drugs for it.
A Keeping active is vital, so do gentle exercise such as walking, T’ai Chi, yoga or swimming every day if you can manage it. Take Devil’s Claw to reduce inflammatory pain and apply Arnica to particularly troublesome spots. Use Salus Haus Liquid Magnesium to reduce stiffness (it tastes good too!) and, if you are prone to arthritis in your family, take a calcium supplement to stop calcium getting deposited in your joints instead of in your bones where you want it!
Q I have just been diagnosed with a hiatus hernia, which has apparently been behind my digestive problems for the last five years or so. I don’t want to take the antacid medication, as the side effects look quite alarming. Are there any natural alternatives?
A Take Centaurium tincture about ten minutes before each meal, and make sure that you sit down to eat, chew your food very thoroughly and maintain a good posture with no slumping over your meal. The stomach must not be cramped up, so shoulders back. Give yourself five to ten minutes after a meal to start digesting before you leap to your feet to clear up and dash off to an appointment. This will help prevent reflux. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, refined sugar and dairy products, and keep your wheat intake to a minimum. This combination, if carefully carried out, will reduce the digestive disturbance and free you from the need for medication. If you find it difficult to sort out your diet on your own, find a Nutritional Therapist near to you to help.
Q Does Agnus castus have a detrimental effect on the contraceptive pill? Is it safe to take both?
A You must not take Agnus castus whilst on the contraceptive pill or any hormonal contraceptive. Agnus castus rebalances your hormones. If you are using hormonal contraceptives then you are deliberately imbalancing your hormones in order to avoid pregnancy, and rebalancing them will reverse this effect. If you wish to take Agnus castus because you are having a bad menstrual cycle, bear in mind that, if you are on the Pill, the symptoms you are wishing to avoid are probably created by the Pill, so only stopping the Pill will remove these effects. Remember, Agnus castus may reverse the symptoms but it will also reverse the precise effects of the Pill that you are trying to achieve, i.e. avoiding pregnancy.
We regret that it is not possible for us to print answers to all the letters Ali receives. Remember that back issues of Healthy Way articles and Ask Ali are available on this website.