It’s not something that is discussed much in circles of friends and colleagues – for obvious reasons – but constipation is common. In the UK, approx.12% of the general population suffer from chronic constipation. Twice as many women than men struggle with it, and the over 65s are most affected: 25% of free living older people experience constipation, but a shocking 80% of the elderly living in nursing homes.
Because bowel habits are not a popular topic of conversation, it is hard to know what is normal and what isn’t. If you can answer ‘yes’ to two or more of the following, you are probably constipated:
Do you ‘go’ less than three times per week?
Do you often strain (at least 25% of the time)?
Are your stools often hard or lumpy (at least 25% of the time)?
Do you often feel that you haven’t been able to excrete everything (at least 25% of the time)
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the body’s stress response, or “fight-or-flight” response. The article described what happens inside the body in a situation of immediate danger – the alarm phase. The changes I described are mainly due to the stress hormone adrenaline. It triggers a cascade of mechanisms designed to save our life. The effects of adrenaline are very short lived.
Nuts have had a hard time: being high in fat and therefore calories, they were shunned by many. However, they’ve been enjoying a comeback since fat has been exonerated and we now know that “a calorie is not a calorie”. Recent research has shown that – contrary to popular belief – almonds actually help you slim down rather than make you fat, and protect the heart at the same time. A possible reason for the slimming effect of almonds may be that they make you feel satisfied and you are less likely to reach for sugary snacks. Another possibility is that they stimulate the metabolism. Nuts (and seeds) offer excellent nutrition and are a very handy, portable snack.
Do you love your coffee? And if you do, do you feel guilty about it? After all, coffee seems to be bad for you and many health experts discourage its consumption. But as with most things concerning health and nutrition: It’s not black and white.
We all know people who can guzzle a “venti” (20 fl oz = 600 ml) and still have a nap afterwards, when others only so much as sniff an espresso and are wired all day long. That’s because how you respond to caffeine – coffee’s most predominant active compound – is governed by your genes, some of which affect the way your liver processes caffeine, others influence how the brain reacts.
We’re all stressed, aren’t we? We’ve got deadlines to meet, appointments to keep, houses to clean, emails to answer, kids to get dressed and out of the house in time for school, cars taken to the garage for servicing, essays to hand in … it’s relentless, and there’s always something! In fact, we can even get stressed over things we are not doing, when we know we should, or things that might go wrong in the future: worries. Yes, we can even think ourselves into a stressed state.
When we’re stressed, we often don’t feel all that good. It’s exhausting, for one thing. Sometimes we break out in a sweat or get clammy hands or feet. We feel breathless, our heart is beating faster, we’re forever starving – and grazing – or forget to eat altogether.
But have you ever wondered why that might be? What goes on in our body when we’re stressed? Everything the body does happens for a reason, so what benefit do you get from sweaty palms when you have a lot to do?