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Things Everyone Should Know About Antibiotic Resistance

Health MonitoringNatalie GoodchildComment
Antibiotic-Resistance-Health-Blogger

There are few public health issues of greater importance than antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in terms of impact on our society. This is a global crisis. And no, I’m not being dramatic.

This may seem like a dull topic - but please read on.

While this is an issue far bigger than any one of us, we do have some control over it, if we each take responsibility and act now. By educating ourselves, and sharing information with our friends and family (and anyone else that will listen!), we are playing an important role that shouldn’t be underestimated.

The 14th-20th November is World Antibiotic Awareness week, so what better time to do your bit?! At the bottom of this article is a link to the Antibiotic Guardian website where you can take a minute to ‘pledge’ your support to protect our valuable antibiotics. Please also take a minute to share this article with someone that you think will learn something from it.

So, for those of you who are unsure, here's a little introduction to antimicrobial resistance, and also a really personal story that I hope will highlight to you how severe the problem is.

What is Antimicrobial and Antibiotic Resistance?

There are several types of microbe that can cause infection, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. These can be treated by antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal drugs, respectively. More broadly, these types of drugs are referred to as ‘antimicrobials’.

The term ‘antimicrobial’ is often used interchangeably with ‘antibiotics’, but it’s worth knowing that while all antibiotics are antimicrobials, not all antimicrobials are antibiotics.

We are so familiar with these wonder drugs that we take them for granted. We abuse them; patients and doctors alike.

The result? Microbes are becoming resistant to these drugs.

If bugs are not successfully eradicated by antibiotics, the bugs mutate, meaning that they will continue to survive against that antibiotic. They can then pass this genetic information to other bacteria (think of it like one bacteria educating another on how to resist antibiotics), and will also pass their resistant traits onto their offspring, creating a fully-resistant generation of superbug. This superbug can spread from person to person.

The Danger of Antimicrobial Resistance

Without effective antibiotics, many routine and commonplace treatments will become impossible or dangerous.

In a few decades, we may start dying from the most commonplace operations and ailments that have previously been treated easily.

A growing list of infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, UTIs, blood poisoning and STIs are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective.

But it’s not just obvious illnesses and infections that require antimicrobials; many medical procedures like setting broken bones, organ transplantation, c-sections, hip replacements, and even chemotherapy rely on access to antibiotics that work.

This quote that perfectly summarises the problem:

The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant. Here is a hypothetical illustration. Mr. X. has a sore throat. He buys some penicillin and gives himself, not enough to kill the streptococci but enough to educate them to resist penicillin. He then infects his wife. Mrs. X gets pneumonia and is treated with penicillin. As the streptococci are now resistant to penicillin the treatment fails. Mrs. X dies. Who is primarily responsible for Mrs. X’s death?

Amazingly, this quote was by Sir Alexander Fleming during his 1945 Nobel Lecture.

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What caused this problem?

  • Unnecessary prescription of antibiotics for viral infections, against which they have no effect
  • Too frequent prescription of broad-spectrum antibiotics, in place of a better targeted antibiotic, as doctors rarely pursue more precise diagnosis
  • Inadequate use of antibiotics by us, not respecting either dosage or duration of the treatment, which means that some of the bacteria may survive and become resistant
  • The use of antibiotics in livestock. Globally, the vast majority of antimicrobial drugs are given to farmed animals. In the UK alone in 2010, a total of 447 tonnes were sold for animal use, of which 87% were used in food-producing animals. Often, they are used because they fatten animals up (likely by affecting gut bacteria that regulate various biological functions, something that, according to some books on my must-read list, can happen in us humans too)

And to make matters worse, no new class of antibacterial has been discovered for nearly 30 years.

Misunderstanding

In a large part, the issue of antimicrobial resistance is down to a misunderstanding of antimicrobials by our society.

People demand them for colds and flu, people look to them as first port of call or even a standalone treatment against things like acne, and people don't complete courses of antibiotics exactly as prescribed.

Just this week, I have heard several flippant comments such as 'maybe your body is immune to that type of antibiotic' (it's not your body, it's the bacteria themselves) and 'it's a low dose of antibiotics so it'll give the bacteria chance to become sensitive again' (quite the opposite...).

Also this week, my boyfriend was prescribed broad-spectrum antibiotics during a sub-one-minute phone call with a doctor. No questions, no observations, no tests; no wonder we have this problem. Actions like this by doctors only perpetuate misunderstanding and carelessness by patients.

All of these things represent society’s inability to see the bigger picture.

But I get it; understanding the bigger picture is hard. It's hard to comprehend all of the billions of pounds spent on healthcare and all the extra lives lost, it seems like a very vague problems that only people of the future will have to deal with.

So here's my very personal story that I hope will bring it home...

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How Antimicrobial Resistance Affects Me - A Personal Story

I have Cystic Fibrosis (if you don’t know what that is, read here) and have experienced first-hand the honestly hideous ordeal of trying to treat an antibiotic resistant infection.

Lung infections resistant to antibiotics often are deadly for people with cystic fibrosis. About 80 percent of cystic fibrosis patients have at least one antibiotic-resistant infection in their lungs by age 18 [1].

When I was 20, doctors found a highly multi-drug resistant bacteria in my lungs during a routine check. I wasn’t unwell at the time and even the doctors were shocked to have discovered it. Yet, to prevent lung damage, it was advised that I undergo intense antibiotic therapy to try and eradicate this bacteria before it started to cause severe problems.

I spent three weeks in hospital on intravenous (IV) antibiotics. The worse thing about it was that I was healthy and fit when I went into hospital, but by the time I came out, I felt sick from the drugs, had terrible sleep quality, hadn’t exercised and hadn’t eaten many nutritious meals. This was followed by 18 months of tiring at-home treatments. The doctors couldn’t even be sure that this treatment was successful.

Worse still, if I were to need treatment for this bacteria again now, six years on, I would need stronger, more aggressive drugs, and a longer cycle of IV antibiotics. Ideally, 2-3 months, but ultimately it would be ‘as long as it could be tolerated’, which gives you some indication of the strength of the drugs and their horrible side effects. Doctors say it would feel as bad as having chemotherapy. Still, they say there's only about a 30% likelihood that the bacteria would be eradicated.

In fact, new research has come to light in just the last few days that shows that shows just how aggressive this superbug is. Click here to read a short article about it on The Huffington Post.

I hope it will never come to the point where I need that treatment. That’s why I do what I can to stay healthy, although it always feels like I could be doing better - training more, pushing myself harder, eating better, doing more physiotherapy sessions… but that’s a topic for a different day.

This goes to illustrate the horrible reality of antibiotic resistance. The cost of health care is greater due to a longer duration of illness, longer duration of treatment, more expensive drugs, and additional medical tests. And you know what? It’s scary.

How you can make a difference

  • For infections that your body can fight off on its own, like coughs, colds, sore throats and flu, try treating the symptoms for five days under guidance of a pharmacist rather than going to the GP
  • Always complete a full course of antibiotics when prescribed by your GP
  • If you do happen to have any unused antibiotics, always take them to your pharmacy for safe disposal to prevent them getting into the environment
  • Wash your hands properly - for at least 30 seconds
  • Get a flu jab. (I had mine at my local Boots store)
  • Stop demanding antibiotics. Many people seem to feel that they haven’t been adequately treated if they don’t come away from a GP appointment with antibiotics, but accept that antibiotics are not necessary in many cases
  • Request more specific tests from your doctor if possible, to ensure you get a target antibiotic where one is needed

These things are simple to implement, costing nothing but perhaps a few extra seconds at a sink, but rely on compliance from everyone in our society.

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Where can you learn more?

Watch This

Short on time? Watch and share this short video for a recap on antibiotic resistance + what you can do about it:

A couple of months ago, BBC aired a show called The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs, in which Dr Chris van Tulleken (in the video above) takes over part of a GP surgery and stops patients' prescription pills as a kind of social experiment. I was so pleased to see this issue get a spot on TV. If you didn’t catch, it’s worth buying the download or finding it online.

Read this

Get your hands on The Drugs Don't Work: A Global Threat, a book by Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer. At a mere £3.99, and a quick and easy to read 80 pages, this is a great way to learn more about the different types of antimicrobials and how they work, as well as a little history around antibiotics, and how things are set to progress in the future.

I also found a couple of handy fact sheets from the WHO (World Health Organisation) on antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic resistance.

Take this quiz

This speedy 5 question quiz from the Public Health England is a great way to test yourself, your friends and family on the topic of antibiotic resistance, while helping PHE assess awareness on antibiotic resistance across the UK.

Become an Antibiotic Guardian

Through the Antibiotic Guardian website, run by Public Health England, you can choose one simple pledge about how you’ll make better use of antibiotics and help save these vital medicines from becoming obsolete.

Did you already understand the huge problems that we face with antimicrobial resistance, or have you been affected by it? Leave me a comment below, or tweet me @theblondeethos to let me know.

Please share and spread this message of huge importance!

Can Magnesium Spray Enhance Your Recovery?

Nutrition + Supplements, TrainingNatalie Goodchild3 Comments
Recovery-Spray-Magnesium-Zinc-Awesome-Supplements-Health-Blogger

I’ve tried out a lot of products in the past that are said to aid muscle recovery and reduce soreness, from bath soaks to arnica creams. None of them were noticeably effective at all, and in any instances where I detected a negligible difference in my recovery, I could never say with any kind of certainty that my recovery was down to a single product; it could just as likely have been due to eating better or getting more sleep.

Except for one.

There is one muscle recovery product that stands out above all others, for consistently delivering significant and unquestionable results. That product is Recovery Spray by Awesome Supplements.

I hardly ever write an article that features only one product. But this is entirely warranted (and unsponsored, by the way).

Before I continue raving about this particular spray, here’s what you need to know about transdermal supplementation...

Transdermal Absorption: The Science

As suggested by the name, a recovery spray is a topical product, applied (sprayed) onto the skin.

‘Transdermal’ refers to applying an active ingredient to your skin, so that it can be absorbed into your body; ‘trans’ meaning ‘through’, and ‘dermal’ referring to skin.

Ingredients applied transdermally can fall into two broad categories: those that are applied for localised action, such as cosmetic skincare or anti-inflammatory gels; and those that are applied for systemic effects, such as nicotine patches and even some types of hormonal contraceptives.

Traditional methods of taking medicines and supplements, such as in tablet or capsule form, require the ingredients to pass through your stomach. However, the action of stomach acids and digestive enzymes can reduce bioavailability and uptake significantly, so that only very small amounts of the active ingredient may actually reach your bloodstream.

By bypassing your stomach and liver using transdermal methods, a much greater percentage of the active ingredient goes straight into your bloodstream where it’s needed.

Note: it’s worth considering that chemicals that come into contact with your skin through cheap cosmetics and harsh cleaners can also find their way into your body far more easily, in comparison to toxins that are ingested and filtered through organs like the liver, before they reach the body’s tissues. So if you’re looking to improve your health, you may benefit from carefully considering the products that you come into contact with as part of your lifestyle.

So, introducing my favourite transdermal product...

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Recovery Spray by Awesome Supplements Review

Awesome Supplements is founded by Ben Coomber - a nutritionist and general educator on how to live a better life. It was through listening to Ben’s podcast years ago (which I highly recommend if you want to educate yourself about health, nutrition, fitness, and performance enhancement) that I first became aware of the benefits of using a topical recovery formula.

The first time I tried Recovery Spray, it had a slightly different formulation and was sold under the brand ‘Transdermal Technology’. It has now been integrated into the Awesome Supplements range.

I really respect Awesome Supplements as a brand as it’s built upon some important values that I am hugely passionate about upholding, but can so often be lost in this industry: integrity, honesty, knowledge and genuine value.

What’s in Recovery Spray?

Recovery Spray is essentially a magnesium and zinc supplement. If you’ve read my Guide to ZMA, you may already be aware of some of the benefits of supplementing with these minerals.

Otherwise, here’s a recap from Awesome Supplements:

During intensive training and at times of stress we deplete our magnesium and zinc levels beyond that of normal day-to-day life, and we need to replace these essential nutrients to keep on top of performance, enhance recovery and support our wellbeing. Stress depletes magnesium, and magnesium insufficiency can increase stress markers – you can see where that leads.

Both minerals are used during the process of muscle contractions, and are therefore vital for maintaining force production and power output during exercise. Aside from this, depletion of these minerals (amongst others) is one cause of post exercise cramp.

Finally, zinc and/or magnesium deficiency can easily lead to poor sleep quality, meaning that your recovery is taking a hit.

People have used ZMA supplements for over 40 years in the fitness world to enhance recovery by ensuring they do not become deficient in these two minerals, but there are valid arguments to suggest that transdermal supplementation has fewer flaws...

For example, inconsistencies in bioavailability between different forms of magnesium is a concern, and something that I hope to write more about in the near future, but bypassing your digestive system through the topical use of magnesium circumvents this, as well as other drawbacks associated with oral supplementation.

The Ingredients in Recovery Spray

The full ingredients list states:

Zechstein sourced magnesium, polysorbate 20, zinc sulphate, trace elements and minerals combined with essential oils lemon eucalyptus, black pepper, marjoram and rosemary.

The Science behind Recovery Spray

The science behind transdermal application makes sense, and there’s plenty of science to back up the use of magnesium and zinc, but there’s very little research into the use of transdermal magnesium and zinc.

Awesome Supplements only focuses on products that have 100% research backing from studies conducted on humans (not rats or in petri-dishes). However, this is the one product that they sell that doesn’t, and they’re very open and honest about that...

“We believe that everything you do should be done with a basis of evidence, and we also believe that Recovery Spray has that. What it doesn’t have, is a vast body of evidence to support it in peer reviewed journals. Magnesium oil has a lot of anecdotal evidence, white paper research and historical evidence behind it, supported by testimonials from our own customers; and to us, that’s too much to ignore.

”We are looking to have research done on it, but until that becomes available we will always be upfront and admit that all we have to go on is theory from all the available anecdotal evidence on this product, which you can see from all the testimonials we have on Recovery Spray is a lot. We love and value this product, and that’s why we sell it, and one day we hope the data, with our investment, will catch up with what we are all thinking and experiencing.”

There’s not much that is more awesome that a brand being totally honest and transparent, right? Just one more reason that I fully endorse this product.

I totally agree with this way of thinking. Sometimes it takes evidence in peer reviewed journals a long, long time to come to fruition, and that is time in which people could already be benefitting from better supplements, nutritional programmes, or useful therapies. Sometimes you just have to accept that anecdotal evidence can be pretty powerful. (Something reiterated in Dr Perlmutter’s books in my list of Must-Read Books for Better Health.)

Usability

The product is incredibly easy to use. Simply spray the oil onto your skin and massage in. Or, for harder to reach areas, I sometimes spray into my hands first before rubbing in.

Generally, I use this product after showering at the gym. If, for example, I’ve trained lower body, I’ll apply around 2 sprays per glute, 2-3 sprays per hamstring, and 4-5 sprays per quad. I then rub in, wash the excess oil off my hands, and leave to absorb while I do my hair/makeup before getting dressed.

I recommend, as does Awesome Supplements, that you apply this to the muscles affected by the training session immediately after you finish training for optimal results.

Where to buy

Recovery Spray is £12 from Awesome Supplements. And it will last you months.

My Verdict

I live in regret for days if I do not use this product immediately after a tough workout.

After leg day, it is the difference between 5 day DOMS and barely an ache. After sprint training, is the difference between stairs being totally intolerable, and no calf pain at all.

It is honestly one of my essential purchases, to keep me feeling healthy when I’m training hard.

4 Must-Read Books for Better Health + Nutrition

Health Monitoring, Nutrition + Supplements, ReviewsNatalie Goodchild3 Comments
Must-Read-Health-Nutrition-Books-Fitness-Blogger

The main point I want to make with this article is that the vast majority of the information in these books should be common knowledge.

I can’t stress that enough.

It horrifies me to think that this incredibly valuable information is out there, pretty much for free, and yet some people are never exposed to it.

There are so many people that I speak to on a day-to-day basis who have health concerns, feel mentally or emotionally unsettled, or are doing ridiculous diets in an attempt to lose weight or correct medical issues. I know that they could find themselves on a better path if they could just redirect their efforts into educating themselves. I wish I could afford to gift all of these people with copies of these books!

We learn such complex things across a wide variety of topics as we go through the education system, yet we are never fed the basic information that we require to make fundamental choices about how to live.

What’s worse, the information that we are fed, even by authorities, can be outdated and incorrect. Even when the correct information emerges, it can take so long to be accepted and distributed (through regulatory systems, health care professionals, and even change-resistant members of the public), that it often doesn’t reach us until it’s too late (great examples of this are highlighted in Dr Perlmutter’s books, below). So, I urge you to question things that you are told, do your own research, and listen to your own body.

You may think you know the basics of how to eat and what to do to be ‘healthy’ but chances are, you have been mislead at some point or have simply not been exposed to some crucial nuggets of perspective-shifting information.

So, spend a few pounds and set aside a few hours to read the books below, because you will gain amazing knowledge that might just improve and extend your life.

Side note: my endorsement of these books has not been paid for. I chose to read them out of genuine interest, and have found some of the information in them to play such a pivotal role in my own wellbeing that I feel it’s my duty as a decent human being to advise you to read them too!

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Gut: by Giulia Enders

The inside story of our body's most underrated organ

What’s it about?

In a really simple way, this book explains why your gut is as important as your brain or heart, and it tells you everything that you need to know about how this system of your body works, answering all the questions you might have ever been too embarrassed to ask.

It talks you through the structure of the gut and the role of each of the organs in it, addresses the food you eat, and tackles the issue of allergies and intolerances.

It looks at the nervous system of the gut, outlining why you may suffer from nausea, reflux or 'toilet problems' and even mental and emotional issues - all because of your gut. Finally, the book explores the world of microbes, highlighting the gut's role in your immune system, the roles of bacteria (including how they might make you fat or ill), and giving the lowdown on antibiotics, probiotics and prebiotics.

Who wrote it

The author, Giulia Enders, is a German Scientist whose aim with this book was to “communicate the information that scientists bury in their academic publications or discuss behind closed doors at scientific meetings, while ordinary people are out there searching for answers” because “we can use this new knowledge to improve our daily lives”.

Spot on.

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Why I like it so much + recommend it so highly

I’ve raved about this book before. If you’re on my mailing list, you will already know how highly I recommend it (if you’re not on my mailing list, sign up in the sidebar!), and I even included it in a massive round-up of the products that changed my health and fitness journey.

Essentially, I love it because it’s It’s a really comprehensive and easy-to-digest (pun intended) guide to your body and your health, complete with quirky little illustrations. Whether you want to just arm yourself with basic knowledge, or pave the way for further reading on the topics, this book should 100% be on your bookshelf.

One of the many awesome things that you’ll learn from reading this book

Many studies that have taken place on germ-free mice (mice born into germ-free conditions so as to control their microbiota) help to demonstrate the power of your gut’s microbiome.

“Feeding them with cocktails of bacteria taken from other mice produces astonishing results. If they are given bacteria from mice with type 2 diabetes, they soon begin to develop problems metabolising sugar. If bacteria from obese humans are fed to germ-free mice, they are more likely to gain weight than if they receive bacteria from people in the normal weight range.”

This, in essence, is because your microbiota does more than you may think. Bacteria help to produce hormones, vitamins, and digest your food. If they’re out of balance, the consequences can be severe...

Where can you get your hands on it ASAP?

Gut is available on Amazon. The RRP is £9.99, but at time of writing, it was available for just £6.99. A miniscule investment for a whole lot of knowledge!

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Grain Brain by Dr David Perlmutter

The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar - Your Brain's Silent Killers

What’s it about?

As the title of the book hints, gluten and carbs are destroying your brain. And not just unhealthy carbs, but even healthy ones like whole grains can cause dementia, ADHD, anxiety, chronic headaches, depression, and much more.

But this book isn’t limited to talking about grain. It also explains in depth why your brain thrives on fat and cholesterol, why turning on your body’s antioxidant pathways is more effective than consuming antioxidants, and tackles the issue of sugar consumption.

Ultimately, this book is designed to challenge our way of thinking about health and nutrition.

If you think you might have a sensitivity to any grain, this book might help you. And if you are one of the people misunderstanding and hating on the current gluten-free movement, open your mind and read this book.

“Gluten sensitivity - with or without the presence of celiac - increases the production of inflammatory cytokines, and these inflammatory cytokines are pivotal players in neurodegenerative conditions.”

And in terms of your brain, the book encourages you to think differently too…

“We are designed to be smart people our entire lives. The brain is supposed to work well until our last breath. But most of us assume, wrongly, that with ages comes cognitive decline. We think it’s an inevitable part of aging, much like hearing loss or wrinkles. This impression is a pernicious fallacy. The truth is we’re living a life that’s not suited to what we’re genetically supposed to do.”

Following a really inspiring introduction and a useful self-assessment, the book is split into three parts, beginning with addressing various aspects of nutrition and health conditions, and ultimately providing lifestyle recommendations, meal plans and recipes to help you take control of your wellbeing.

Who wrote it?

Dr Perlmutter is a is a Board-Certified Neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, the only practitioner in the US with both credentials.

As he explains in the book, his cross-discipline credentials are really important because it enables his unique perspective on the relationship between how you eat and how your brain functions.

He explains, “neurologists are trained to focus on what goes on in the nervous system, and specifically the brain, in a myopic [short-sighted] way… This perspective is grossly out of touch with the current science.’

What’s also really amazing is how simply Dr Perlmutter’s ideas are conveyed. This is in part due to help from Kristin Loberg, who specializes in transforming experts' knowledge and ideas into reader-friendly works for general audiences.

Ultimately, while this book can at points be scientifically complex, everything is explained really well and Dr Perlmutter really sympathises with the frustration that you are likely experiencing with the confused messages about nutrition that are out there.

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Why I like it so much + recommend it so highly

Firstly, I love that Dr Perlmutter speaks many truths about our society’s problems. Here’s just one:

“Most of us believe that we can live our lives how we choose, and then when medical problems arise, we can turn to our doctors for a quick fix in the form of the latest and greatest pill. This convenient scenario fosters and illness-centered approach on the part of the physicians as they play their role as the purveyors of pills. But this approach is tragically flawed on two counts. First, it is focused on illness, not wellness. Second, the treatments themselves are often fraught with dangerous consequences.”

Secondly, I love that this book begins with a self-assessment, helping you to engage with the content and gauge your risk for some of the ailments that are discussed in the book. Dr Perlmutter also makes recommendations of what health tests you could take to get your risk factors identified by lab work. You know I love this kind of geekery...

Thirdly, I love that, as a practicing doctor, David Perlmutter is able to incorporate a lot of inspiring patient case studies in the book. They bring the concepts discussed to life in a really moving and convincing way.

One of the many awesome things that you’ll learn from reading this book

Low cholesterol foods could be damaging. In fact, cholesterol has a protective effect on the brain and plays other vital roles in your health.

Dr Perlmutter includes a statement from a researcher with the famous Framingham Heart Study:
“The diet heart hypothesis suggests that a high intake of fat or cholesterol cause heart disease has been repeatedly shown to be wrong, and yet, for complicated reasons of pride, profit, and prejudice, the hypothesis continues to be exploited by scientists, fund-raising enterprises, food companies and even governmental agencies. The public is being deceived by the biggest health scam of the century.”

Where can you get your hands on it ASAP?

Grain Brain is available on Amazon. The RRP is £14.99.

Being such a lover of this book, I also got my hands on the Grain Brain Cookbook, which contains a useful intro to the Grain Brain concept as well as around 150 recipes that adhere to Dr Perlmutter’s nutrition recommendations.

I’m excited to see that The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan is due for release later this year too!

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Brain Maker by Dr David Perlmutter

The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain - for Life

What’s it about?

Debilitating brain disorders are on the rise - from children diagnosed with autism and ADHD to adults developing dementia at younger ages than ever before, and hundreds of millions of pounds are being spent on them in medical costs and research, yet we are seeing little progress.

However, “new, leading-edge science coming from the most well-respected institutions around the world is discovering that to an extraordinary degree, brain health and, on the flip side, brain diseases, are dictated by what goes on in the gut.”

This book explains the connection between intestinal microbes and the brain, describing how the microbiome develops from birth and evolves based on the environment, how it can become 'sick', and how nurturing gut health through a few easy strategies can alter your brain's destiny for the better.

Who wrote it?

This is another brilliant read by Dr David Perlmutter, who wrote Grain Brain (above).

It's worth checking out some of Dr Perlmutter's podcast appearances too, such as this epidsode on the Bulletproof podcast.

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Why I like it so much + recommend it so highly

Dr Perlmutter highlights many commonplace conditions as being epidemics. The word epidemic is something I associate with apocalyptic movies about quick, widespread infections. But this book brings light to the fact that conditions like autism have surged so dramatically that they genuinely are considered a ‘modern-day epidemic’. In this way, the book is really perspective-changing.

More importantly though, this book doesn’t just present the problems, it aims to be the solution. And the best bit is that the solution is really logical and simple.

Like Grain Brain, the book also starts with a totally hooking introduction to the importance of the information it contains, and a ‘gut check’: a few simple questions to help you “understand which experiences in your life - from your birth to today - may have impacted the health of your gut”.

One of the many awesome things that you’ll learn from reading this book

Short-chain fatty acids are created by gut bacteria when they process the dietary fibre that we eat. There are three main types: acetic, propionic and butyric.

Butyric is a primary energy source for colonic cells and has anti-inflammatory as well as anti-carcinogenic properties. However, propionic acid, produced by different type of bacteria (which are more prevalent in people with brain conditions like autism) can pass into the bloodstream, where it is toxic to the brain.

This definitely highlights the importance of keeping your gut microbes in check!

Where can you get your hands on it ASAP?

I got my hands on Brain Maker on Amazon. The RRP is £13.99 but at the time of writing this, it’s a bargain at under £10!

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Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser

How Killing Bacteria Creates Modern Plagues

What’s it about?

Like the books I’ve already mentioned, Missing Microbes is about your body’s microbes. However, unlike those by Dr Perlmutter which focus a lot on the foods we consume, this book talks about other significant ways that your microbiome is being irrevocably destroyed. Mainly it addresses how wonder drugs - antibiotics - are the culprits. They’ve been linked with epidemics of asthma, eczema, obesity, certain cancers and many other diseases.

The World Health Organisation’s first global report on antibiotic resistance reveals that "this serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future, it is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country". We are on the cusp of a ‘post-antibiotic era’. The UK’s Chief Medical Officer has even stated antibiotic resistance ‘as big a risk as terrorism’.

But beyond antibiotics, the book also gives insight into things like the risks of C-sections and other drugs on long-term health.

Missing Microbes perfectly communicates this message that we can no longer afford to ignore.

Who wrote it?

Dr Martin Blaser has studied the role of bacteria in human disease for over 30 years.

A lot of his work has focused on a bacterium called Helicobacter Pylori and its relationship with disease, so it is often mentioned within various discussions in Missing Microbes.

Missing-Microbes-Book-Contents-Health-Nutrition-Blogger

Why I like it so much + recommend it so highly

I confess, it was probably around a year ago that I last read this book in full, but it was the first book I read on the topic of the microbiome and it is probably what drew me into the fascinating world of gut health.

I’m particularly passionate about this book and people knowing that antibiotic resistance is a scary problem, because I have Cystic Fibrosis and I battle for my health every single day against heavily antibiotic-resistant bugs in my lungs. I understand the problem first-hand, but I don’t think that our society realises this is a serious issue.

For example, I recently struggled with a bit of a skin breakout. When talking to some friends about it, the number of suggestions that I ‘just get antibiotics or something for it’ was honestly alarming. Read this book if you don’t understand why this is a damaging mentality towards antibiotics.

In the meantime, read the Anibiotic Resistance fact sheet from the World Health Organisation

One of the many awesome things that you’ll learn from reading this book

Cesarean delivery is a largely unrecognised threat; it deprives babies of important contact with their mother’s protective microbes.

Research shows that babies born by C-section are colonised by different bacterial species than those born naturally; bacteria not selected by hundred of thousands of years of human evolution or even longer. This can lead to an increased risk of becoming obese, and developing coeliac disease, asthma, allergies...

I know both midwives and parents whose children were born by C-section who are totally in the dark about this, and this needs to be rectified. Dr Blaser even suggests the informed consent form women sign before this procedure should state the above risks to the child.

Where can you get your hands on it ASAP?

As with all the other books on this list, you can grab Missing Microbes from Amazon where it’s priced at £8.99.

Essential-Health-Nutrition-Wellbeing-Books

Summary

To be honest, this is one of the most difficult articles I’ve ever written. Doing these books justice while trying to distill down the incredible wealth of information that they contain to a series of short blurbs seemed impossible. Some sections of these books were so interesting and valuable that I wish I could have scanned entire pages of text and pasted them into this piece. I’m so desperate to know that this information is being shared and that other people will experience the fascination that I did while learning. But, unfortunately you’ll have to get your hands on the book yourself. It’ll be so worth it. I promise.

A recurring theme through all of these books is that of gut health and our microbiomes; a reflection of the vast amount of research emerging on the topic. If there’s one thing you need to know, it’s that almost all health issues can be improved by giving your gut a little love. A few forward-thinker in their fields have suspected this for a while, and thankfully now this information is reaching the masses and setting in motion a revolution in healthcare and wellbeing.

Signing off with one of my favourite quotes from Dr Perlmutter…
“After lectures, People frequently approach me to say thanks for thinking outside the box. With all due respect, that’s not the point. It does the world no good for me to be seen as someone whose ideas are “outside the box”. My mission is to make the box bigger so that these ideas are part of our culture and way of living. Only then will we be able to make serious, meaningful headway with our modern afflictions.”

Start making your box bigger.

Have you read any of these? Are there any other healthy must-reads that you think I should check out?

Comment below, tweet me, or drop me a note on Facebook to let me know!

The Need-To-Know on Your Pelvic Floor + How Elvie Helps You To Do Your Kegels

Training, Health Monitoring, ReviewsNatalie GoodchildComment
Elvie-Pelvic-Floor-Trainer-Wearable-Tech-Fitness-Blogger

Ladies, do you do pelvic floor exercises?

Honestly?

I’m sure, like me, you’re aware of how important they are. Yet, also like me, when it comes to training these muscles, you’ll probably remember that they exist every fortnight or so, and exercise them by squeezing ‘down there’ how ever many times you deem useful (10, 15, 20 times?) before getting distracted by something else.

Needless to say, there are lots of things wrong with training your pelvic floor muscles in this way:

  • You don’t really know if you are squeezing the muscles correctly
  • You aren’t sure if you are squeezing for long enough, hard enough, or a many times as you should
  • You don’t have any way to measure your progress
  • It’s boring as hell, making it very easy to become distracted

Thankfully, some very clever ladies out there have designed a sleek little gadget and app called Elvie to overcome all of these problems.

And I mean it. They have thought of pretty much everything and have really made pelvic floor training as convenient, simple, and engaging as possible.

To say I’m impressed is an understatement… But we’ll come to that shortly.

First, you need to understand exactly why this kind of training is as important as all of the other kind of training that you put your body through in the name of wellbeing.

What are your Pelvic Floor muscles?

Both men and women have pelvic floor muscles, but this article will focus almost entirely on women's anatomy.

Your pelvic floor is a funnel-shaped sling of numerous muscles and fascia that sit between your tailbone and pubic bone.

I personally find this really difficult to visualise, and therefore find their role difficult to understand. And I’m sure I’m not alone. So to help you understand the complexity of your pelvic floor, here’s a little bit of info on their anatomy…

In a side view of the pelvic region, your pelvic floor muscles would appear like a hammock, spanning the underneath of your pelvis. Above it is your pelvic cavity; the area within the bones of your pelvis that contain your reproductive organs, bladder and colon.

Another view of your pelvic floor - from below, for example - would show the numerous muscles that it comprises of and the various directions that they work in.

To give you an idea of the complexity of the pelvic diaphragm, here’s a list of some of the many muscles that sit within it:

  • Levator ani (pubococcygeus aka pubovisceral, pubovaginalis, puboanalis, puborectalis, iliococcygeus)
  • Coccygeus
  • Piriformis
  • Obturator internus

Still doesn’t make much sense? Here’s a collection of diagrams that helped me to understand the shape, location and complex nature of the pelvic floor:

Pelvic Floor Muscles Diagrams

The Function of your Pelvic Floor Muscles

The pelvic floor provides support for your crucial pelvic organs including your bladder, intestines, rectum, vagina and uterus. So, when your pelvic floor muscles are weak, these areas cannot function as well as they should.

Most obviously, perhaps, your pelvic diaphragm helps to maintain continence by controlling the urinary and anal sphincters. In other words, it’s pretty damn important for bladder and bowel control.

If you’re into fitness, you might notice weak pelvic floor muscles if you’re running, skipping or bouncing as part of your workout. You might also notice weakness when laughing or coughing. And it’s not uncommon! According to information from Elvie, 1 in 3 women have pelvic floor problems.

In fact, high impact exercise can negatively affect the pelvic floor. If you're frequently participating in high impact sports, from gymnastics to running, you are likely applying a regular downward pressure to the pelvic floor. Over time, this can cause the pelvic floor to prolapse.

Your pelvic floor plays a crucial role in giving birth and contributes to sexual sensation.

Finally, your pelvic floor muscles also help to support your other core muscles for everyday strength and stability.

Factors such as pregnancy, childbirth, aging, being overweight, and abdominal surgery such a having a cesarean section, can lead to the weakening of your pelvic floor muscles

Pelvic Floor Training

The above points make it pretty clear why an optimally functioning pelvic floor is so crucial.

To improve your pelvic floor, you can do what are known as Kegel exercises, or Kegels, so named after the gynecologist Arnold Kegel who first described them.

Kegels can develop and maintain strong muscles, prepare your body for pregnancy and help you to recover more quickly from childbirth, regain or improve bladder control, enhance sexual sensation and pleasure, and improve your overall confidence and wellbeing.

According to Mayo Clinic (a globally well-known nonprofit medical practice and medical research group, and a resource that I often refer to), here’s how you should be doing Kegel exercises:

Find the right muscles

To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. If you succeed, you've got the right muscles. Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles you can do the exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first.

Note: Don't make a habit of using Kegel exercises to start and stop your urine stream. Doing Kegel exercises while emptying your bladder can actually lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder — which increases the risk of a urinary tract infection

Perfect your technique

Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.

Maintain your focus

For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.

Repeat three times a day. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.

This is fairly standard instruction on how to do Kegels. Probably what you expected.

However, you can’t be sure that you’re performing these exercises correctly, and you can’t be sure that you’re making progress.

It can be pretty difficult and demotivating to exercise muscles that you will never see. It’s like trying to improve your body composition without ever using a tape measure or mirror, or losing vast amounts of body fat without reference to a set of scales.

Here’s where Elvie comes in. At last!

Elvie-Personal-Pelvic-Floor-Trainer-Health-Blogger

Elvie: Your Most Personal Trainer - Review

I remember hearing about Elvie when it first launched and being really intrigued. It was the first device of it’s kind and one that is genuinely useful to every single woman out there.

Of course, pelvic floor trainers aren’t revolutionary. They’re been around for many years. However, they’re generally pretty unappealing: bulky, indiscreet and uncomfortable objects that look as though they should reside strictly in a medical practice. I once read about a similar technology to Elvie called KGoal, but I’m not sure that it’s even available in the UK.

So back to Elvie...

After finding out that I was desperate to try this product, the lovely Elvie team (part of women’s wearable tech startup Chiaro) really kindly sent me one to trial. So, I’ve put my trust in the amazing women behind the brand and have given just 5 minutes a few days a week to exercising with my ‘most personal trainer’.

Look + Feel

Colour
Firstly Elvie is a beautifully designed product. Perhaps subconsciously that’s what initially drew me to it.

The product itself, as well as the packaging, is all tranquil turquoise and white (some of my favourite colours).

It looks clean, fresh and unintimidating.

Shape
Sperm shaped, basically.

Elvie consists of a pebble-like main section, which you insert. And a tail that stays on the outside for discreet and easy removal, as well as to transmit uninterrupted data to the app.

All Elvie devices also come with an extra cover so that you can adjust the size of Elvie to best suit your body.

Comfort
Super easy to insert and comfortable to remove. Elvie is made of medical grade silicone (latex and rubber free) which makes it feel soft and smooth (as well as 100% waterproof for quick and easy cleaning).

Storage
Elvie comes into a small, white, cylindrical pod, which doubles as Elvie’s wireless charging station. You just pop a USB cable (supplied in the box) into the end of the pod and leave it to power up!

Elvie-Pelvic-Floor-Trainer-App-Fitness-Blogger

Functionality

Elvie is essentially like one large, ultra-sensitive button, that connects with the Elvie app. It’s covered in force sensors to measure the strength of your squeeze.

This squeeze is represented on the Elvie app as a gem icon that moves vertically on your phone’s screen. The harder you squeeze, the higher the gem goes.

This instant biofeedback from the Elvie device means that you can see your muscle activity in real-time; as you squeeze, the gem lifts. It guides you through the workout, keeping you focused and making it more enjoyable.

As well as force sensors, Elvie detects if you are exercising incorrectly by using motion sensors. These help to ensure that you are engaging the right muscles, in the right direction. Pushing down, for example, can be damaging to pelvic floor muscles and will be discouraged by Elvie.

Just as pelvic floor muscles that are too weak (hypotonic) can be a problem, over-squeezing and causing abnormally tense (hypertonic) pelvic floor muscles can also be an issue for some women, so I like that Elvie also reminds you to ‘relax’ during workouts.

The brand has created a measure called LVs in an attempt to quantify your pelvic floor strength. I like that there is a numeric value assigned so that you can see your own progress, although there is no spectrum on which the numbers sit, so there’s no indication of whether your muscle strength and control is poor, average or outstanding.

In addition, I’d love to see the LVs become a measure of comparison. Not so that women compete, but so that you understand how you compare to other women who share your age and lifestyle (including whether they’ve gone through childbirth, or not). I’d like to see information like this to give a little more context to the measurement, as well as for personal motivation.

Your LV score can vary a lot from session to session, so don’t be put-off if you don’t see the numbers go straight and steady in an upward direction! In fact, the app calibrates before you start each workout (you squeeze to set what is likely to be your maximum LV for that session), so that the targets on each game/exercise are realistic for you at that specific time.

Elvie-Pelvic-Floor-Trainer-App-Exercises-Health-Tech

Elvie Exercises

The exercises are like basic games, in which you control the movement of a gem with Elvie and your pelvic floor muscles, rather than touching the screen with your fingers as you are likely used to. You can perform them either when lying down or standing.

The games are designed to incorporate a number of different elements including:

  • Strength - squeezing as hard as you can to send the gem as high as possible
  • Lift - lifting the gem to cross a target line
  • Pulse - pulsing your pelvic floor in rapid succession to hit targets (this reminded me of jumping to collect rings when playing Sonic on Sega Dreamcast as a child!)
  • Hold - lifting and holding the gem above a target line for a number of seconds
  • Speed - pulsing your pelvic floor muscles as quickly as possible to hit and clear a stack of targets
  • Step - contracting and holding your pelvic floor muscles, before further contracting and holding, as if making the gem climb steps

There are four different levels within the app: training, beginner, intermediate and advanced. It takes around ten workouts to move up a level and unlock new games (the above elements are introduced as you increase level).

The best bit is that each workout only lasts around 5 minutes.

Elvie-Pelvic-Floor-Training-Wearable-Tech-Female-Health

Price

Elvie is £149 from the Elvie website or from Amazon. A bit of a pricey investment but one that will serve you well for years.

The Verdict

Ultimately, it’s worth doing pelvic floor exercises. And it’s worth using Elvie to ensure you are always motivated to do them, and to ensure that you do them correctly.

The product is beautifully designed, the exercises are simple to follow and the overall design of the app makes the training really motivating. Hopefully in the near future, Elvie will also be able to offer more context to the LV scoring system.

Do you do Kegel exercises? Do you, or would you, invest in any technology to help you? Comment below, tweet me, or drop me a note on Facebook to let me know!

Healthy Things To Do In Rio De Janeiro

Nutrition + SupplementsNatalie Goodchild1 Comment
Fitness-Blogger-Rio-Olympics-Brazil-Bikini

As you may have seen on social media, I was lucky enough to spend a week in Rio de Janeiro with Swisse - the official vitamin choice of Team GB - soaking up Brazilian culture and the excitement of the 2016 Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games represent health, fitness and dedication like nothing else and it was incredible to feel a part of them when in Rio.

Of course, the Olympics only last a couple of weeks in August, and the Paralympics a couple of weeks in September 2016, so not everyone will have the opportunity to experience them when visiting Rio de Janiero. Thankfully, there are lots of other things you can do if you want to experience a fit, healthy and inspiring trip to Rio...

Corcovado-Mountain-Rio-Hike-Fitness-Blogger

Fitness

Take a hike

We arrived in Rio at 5am after a restless overnight flight, but the first thing we did was head to the base of the Corcovado mountain in the stunning Parque Lage to hike up to Christ the Redeemer - one of the new seven wonders of the world.

There are options are to take a train, van or taxi up, but we wanted a workout, a challenge, and to experience the beauty of the jungle. Those two very sweaty hours were so worth it.

There aren’t many panoramic viewpoints on the hike, but as you’re in the middle of a dense, luscious jungle, you’re constantly surrounded by overwhelmingly beautiful sights (and adorable little monkeys!). For me, experiencing the jungle like this was even more amazing than seeing Christ the Redeemer itself.

The path is simple to follow as it is well worn. The hike is fairly easy to start with but it increases considerably in steepness. The last third of the trail in particular is tough with deep steps that require some lower body strength to get yourself up (my glutes were burning!) and sections that require you to climb up rock, or metal rungs where the rock is too steep to navigate otherwise.

The latter especially tested my confidence in my own strength and fitness, but that meant that completing the trail was so rewarding. I’m sure this wouldn’t be rated as an incredibly difficult trail overall - especially for experienced hikers - but it requires at least a basic level of fitness.

After paying our entrance fee and taking obligatory tourist photos at the top of the mountain with the statue, we took the train down. While we saw some people take the trail back down, we thought better of it after watching them struggle - descending the steep inclines appeared even more difficult and dangerous than ascending them. The train ride back through the trees was the perfect way to end the experience though, allowing us to gaze down into the incredible depths of the jungle with a different perspective.

I’d highly recommend the trail to anyone with a relatively good level of fitness. The park rangers suggest that the hike takes 2.5 hours, but we did it in almost exactly two.

If you’re thinking of tackling it, drink plenty of water (we each took a 1.5 litre bottle with us), fuel up on energy-sustaining healthy fats and proteins before you set off (we started the day with a massive stuffed omelette and snacks of cashew nuts) and consider taking a towel!

Rio-Parque-Lage-Corcovado-Hike-Fitness-Blogger-Monkey

Other hikes that I’ve heard are worth trying (but didn’t get chance to experience myself) include:

  • The hiking trail that leads to Tijuca Peak in Tijuca National Park, where there’s the picturesque Cascatinha Taunay waterfall.
  • Morro da Urca, which is the smaller peak located next to the famous Sugarloaf Mountain. We took a cable car up to each peak as we were with a group, but I’d have loved to have hiked the first peak before continuing by cable car to the second.
  • Two Brothers - the iconic hills at the western end of the Ipanema/Leblon beaches. We had considered hiking Two Brothers, but as the trailhead is at the top of Vidigal, a favela neighbourhood, taking a guide is recommended.

I've definitely been inspired to get outside and walk more at home too. Let me know if you can recommend any good walks/hikes near London or across the UK.

Rio-de-Janiero-Lagoon-Fitness-Blogger

Workout outside

Besides hiking, there are lots of other ways to get active around Rio. As with most city breaks, you can clock up a lot of steps simply by exploring, but Rio is a playground designed for more than just a stroll.

The Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon (where the Olympic Rowing is held) is definitely worth a visit. It’s lined with a two-directional pathway to guide the many locals who walk, run or cycle the 8km circumference. There are also a number of fitness stations - frames designed for exercises such as pulls up and dips. Some of these areas have also been kitted out with weighted bars - concrete set on each end of a metal bar and weighing around 60kg, giving you the chance to sneak a few deadlifts in!

Like the lake, the beaches in Copacabana and Ipanema have path lanes running alongside them specifically used by cyclists and joggers as well as multiple workout stations for a picturesque training session.

Rio-de-Janiero-Fresh-Coconut-Water-Fitness-Blogger

Nutrition

Drink coconut water

The lake in particular is lined with drinks vendors selling a variety of refreshments but there’s nothing that I’d recommend more than sipping from a fresh coconut.

The young, raw coconuts have a deliciously delicate and refreshing taste, completely different than you might have experienced from a carton off a supermarket shelf.

I’m not a fan of heat-treated, tetra-packed coconut waters, and neither should you be! There’s a reason why so many people that have been put off coconut water entirely by them.

The kinds of coconut water that you find in stores outside of a refrigerator have been heat pasteurised to extend the shelf life. However, in the process, the taste is changed and key nutrients are destroyed. They also tend to use the water from older coconuts, which is cheaper, less nutritious and tastes very different. Some drinks even use a concentrate rather than fresh water.

If you’re looking for a good quality coconut water in the UK that tastes as similar to a fresh coconut as possible, opt for brands like Unoco and Mighty Bee who source their water from young, green coconuts, which undergo minimal processing. You’ll be able to see and taste the difference!

Fresh-Bananas-Rio-Brazil-Fitness-Blogger-Nutrition

Eat fresh bananas

Like coconuts, you can see bananas growing locally in the beautiful trees that line roads and hiking trails around Rio. If you get up early enough you’ll also see locals climbing the trees to pick the fresh fruits.

While I’m generally not the biggest lover of bananas in the UK, I bought one for an energy boost pre-hike from a street vendor’s crate where it sat looking… not that appealing... Yet, it was the most delicious, fresh-tasting banana that I’ve ever had.

Bananas are sold in so many different forms in both supermarkets and restaurants and it’s worth giving them a try. I loved the grilled banana I had at dinner one evening.

If you’re not already aware, bananas are packed with nutrients like dietary fibre, vitamin C, manganese and potassium. Just be conscious of their high sugar content!

Acai-Bowl-Rio-Brazil-Fitness-Blogger-Nutrition

Try acai

You might have seen acai (pronounced AH-SIGH-EE) products online and littering aisles of stores such as Holland and Barrett in the UK, their popularity driven by absurd weight loss claims. Erase those from your mind.

Simply, the acai berry is a dark purple fruit that looks similar to a grape. They grow on palm trees which are native to South America, mainly Brazil.

Acai bowls (Açaí na tigela - "açaí in the bowl") are made from frozen, blended acai berry (or probably acai powder in most cases outside of Brazil), typically topped with granola or banana, and is often blended with another fruit. I had a delicious acai bowl with passionfruit.

Acai bowls can be found increasingly in health food cafes outside of Brazil (for example in Whole Foods or Mojo in London), but in Rio, acai bowls can be bought at chain juice stores such as Polis Suco, from street vendors and in large tubs in supermarket frozen aisles - all pretty cheaply. Acai powders also take pride of place in their health food stores, such as Mundo Verde.

Like many other fruits (especially those rich in colour), the acai berry contains many nutrients and are pretty delicious. Definitely worth trying an acai bowl, but for multiple reasons, give any kind of acai supplement a miss.

Eat your protein

Rodízio restaurants are popular in Brazil, and have been replicated across the globe. They are the all-you-can-eat style of restaurant in which you will typically have servers come to you at the table with various types of meat on a huge skewer, which they will carve onto your plate.

Without a doubt, the best meal that I had during my trip to Rio was at Fogo de Chao in Botafogo. There were numerous types of meat served - still sizzling - directly to you at your table as well as an incredible buffet of sides and salads.

Swisse-Vitamins-Multi-Fitness-Blogger-Nutrition-Rio-Olympics

Take control of your nutrition - what to take with you

Despite the delicious foods that I’ve described above, and the abundance of amazing exotic fruits on offer, I really struggled to eat well while in Rio (especially at Olympic venues, where the food offerings were quite honestly appalling).

The majority of the food was based around wheat and loaded up with cheese or sugar. Finding a convenient source of lean protein was near impossible and I was lucky if I managed one portion of vegetables a day.

For some people, having an excuse to spend a week devouring pizzas and burgers might be great, but I felt incredibly sluggish and was craving something fresh. I found a couple of healthier food places, such as a salad bar chain called Go Fresh in a shopping mall, but they were few and far between.

So, to keep you feeling happy and healthy during your trip, there are a few supplements that I’d recommend taking with you, to keep your digestion, immune system and overall wellbeing on point:

Probiotics

I knew that my diet wouldn’t be different than it is at home, and that I could be susceptible to bugs when travelling, so I took a probiotic with me that was high strength and contained a good variety of beneficial bacteria. I hope that this helped to keep my gut bacteria balanced and doing their job of keeping me healthy!

Fibre

In addition to probiotics, I wish I’d have taken some kind of fibre supplement with me to Rio. Fibre helps to keep your digestive system healthy, including the healthy bacteria in your gut, and can help to control blood sugar levels.

Immune support

During and after my trip, I wanted to ensure that I took plenty of immune boosting supplements (in addition to probiotics). The huge perk to travelling with a supplements brand was that this was easily taken care of - I got my hands on the Immune + Elderberry formulation by Swisse. I was pretty sniffly after enduring a long trip home and so took 4 of these a day for the next week. Thankfully the sniffles didn't turn in to anything worse!

Multivitamin

I think everyone should be taking a multivitamin daily. It’s an easy way to ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional requirements - a simple insurance policy. Swisse have a pretty impressive range of multi-nutrient products containing a decent dose of vitamins, minerals and botanical extracts. They’re also easily available (and affordable!) at Boots stores in the UK - so you’ve no excuses not to hit your RDAs!

Side note: Swisse haven’t asked me to promote any of their specific products, but I’ve taken these myself and am genuinely happy to recommend them to anyone.

Palm-Tree-Beach-Hike-Fitness-Blogger-Brazil

Wellbeing

Digital detox

While in Rio we unluckily had some of our bags stolen, which meant that I was without my phone, as well as many other personal items, for the duration of the trip.

Weirdly, I didn’t freak out that much. Of course it caused inconvenience, but it turns out that not having a phone or a bag full of random stuff to carry around is incredibly liberating.

I spent 5 days in Rio carrying little more than a few bank notes and a travel card in my sports bra. I lived in the moment, enjoyed the company of who I was with, and felt calmer than I have in months (despite the nightmare of having to make police reports and cancel bank cards…).

At the time of writing this, I’ve been back in London for over a week and still don’t have a replacement personal phone. In some ways, it’s a total pain in the ass. In other ways, it’s kind of nice. I’m wasting a lot less time and looking up a whole lot more.

We should all spend less time living through handheld devices.

Side note: if you visit Rio, be incredibly mindful of your belongings and never carry more than the essentials with you. We were very aware of the risk of theft but in just a few seconds of letting your guard down to admire breathtaking views, shit happens.

Blonde-Fitness-Blogger-Beach-Rio-Bikini

Thank you Swisse!

Thanks to Swisse, I had an unforgettable experience visiting Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games.

On the trip, I was really lucky to speak with the team behind the brand about their products. One partiuclar highlight was joining the Australian Swisse team in the suite that they were occupying during the Olympics for ingredients chatter and general supplement geekery over a healthy brunch - genuinely my idea of a good time. Swisse is ‘Australia's number one multivitamin brand’ and they were also the vitamin choice of the Australian Olympic Team.

If you’d also like to get to know the brand, head to the Swisse website for a browse. I'd love to know if there are any products that you have your eye on, so be sure to leave me a comment below.