Raynaud’s Awareness

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Throughout February the Raynaud’s and Scleroderma Association are running their awareness event. To get involved or make donations please visit their webpage.

Chances are many of us won’t have heard of Raynaud’s disease (also known as Raynaud’s Phenomenon) yet it is relatively common. Somewhere between 3 to 5 in 100 people have it, a higher percentage of sufferers are women and it will commonly start to develop in teenage years.

Raynaud’s is not a fatal condition and for many it represents little more than occasional discomfort and annoyance. With no known cure however the drive to raise awareness, as with other uncurable conditions such as eczema, serves to provide practical tips for minimising attacks and highlights the possible treatments available.

Simply put Raynaud’s describes an extreme reduction of blood flow leading to numbness, pain and tingling in the extremities. The fingers and toes are most commonly affected but Raynaud’s has also been known to develop in the nose and ears. Sufferers will commonly experience discolouration changing from white, a sign of lack of blood flow, to blue, as blood vessels dilate, sometimes changing to red as blood flow returns. Raynaud’s, like eczema can ‘flare’ up’ and disappear again most commonly triggered by exposure to cold, though emotional stress has also been cited as a possible cause.

In more severe cases sores and ulcers may develop and symptoms can be more painful, yet the condition can be easily managed and controlled.

The onset of Raynaud’s can either come as a result of an underlying condition or by itself, with the common adage that it shows an ‘allergy to the cold’. There has been conjecture as to hereditary predisposition to Raynaud’s yet specific genes have not yet been isolated.

Known causes for Raynaud’s include:

  • Diseases of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
  • Drugs that cause narrowing of the arteries (amphetamines,  some beta-blockers, some cancer drugs, some migraine medications).
  • Autoimmune conditions (SLE-lupus, scleroderma, sjogrens, RA).
  • Smoking.
  • Caffeine.
  • Repeated injury or usage (i.e., typing, piano, heavy use of hand tools).

The workforce at large hammering away at PCs all day can take some reassurance that there are prescription treatments including:

  • Calcium Channel Blockers. (i.e., Nifedipine  and Diltiazem) These help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks by enlarging blood vessels to increase blood circulation.
  • Vasodilators, such as nitroglycerin. These are topical treatments which can both relax the blood vessel walls and help heal ulcers. Ingested medicines for other conditions can also be prescribed. These include high blood pressure treatments such as Cozaar, antidepressants like Sarafem and Prozac and even Viagra.
  • Alpha Blockers (i.e., Minipress  and Cardura). These combat the effects of the hormone norepinephrine which can constrict the blood vessels.

Nerve surgery has also been used to treat Raynaud’s where cutting the sympathetic nerves in your hands and feet is intended to reduce extreme reactions to cold, although such treatment is not always hugely successful. Similarly chemical injections have been used to block sympathetic nerve activity. For the most severe of cases where blood flow is completely blocked, gangrene can occur resulting in amputation.

For those keen to avoid pharmaceutical treatments there are natural alternatives. Gingko is known for improving circulation and Fish OIl can potentially improve reaction to cold and slow down the effect Raynaud’s has on the blood vessels.

As with any alternative treatment it’s best to consult your Doctor before use.

Should you have Raynaud’s there are a number of steps you can take that will greatly reduce the frequency of attacks

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Exercise more often
  • Keep the body warm, especially in cold weather, wear gloves outdoors
  • Wear roomy shoes with woollen socks.

If you suffer an attack of Raynaud’s moving to a warmer area will help as can wiggling your fingers and toes. You can increase circulation by making circular movements with your arms and massaging the effected area can also help.

Whilst distressing, the effects of Raynaud’s can be reduced by following the advice above and needn’t have a negative impact on your life. If you suspect you suffer with Raynaud’s it’s always best to seek diagnosis from your Doctor.

Above all, keep those hands and feet warm.

Steve

Express Chemist

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Rehab Men’s Grooming Kit review

For the ecologically-minded and ingredient-concious men of the world comes Rehab London’s comprehensive range of male grooming lines. Following the trend kicked off by Body Shop in the 70s, Rehab’s products are not tested on animals, come stamped with assurances that they’re made with 95% naturally derived ingredients, are delivered in recycled packaging and are free from a raft of nasty sounding chemicals; parabens, diethanolamines, silicones and the big bad sodium lauryl sulphate.

Presented in snazzy black packaging with suitably snappy sales spiel, Rehab give a flavour of rock and roll cool, a measurable aspirational shift from the days when bewildered Alan Sugar-a-like Victor Kiam appeared on the box to tell us he’d bought a company.

It seems that with the advent of the metrosexual ideal that the stony macho crag-face has been smoothed and moisturised, signalling to men everywhere that not only is it acceptable to use product on your skin, but that it’s also fine to be discerning about that product’s provenance, brand ethos and label identity.

Never wishing to appear the slightest bit uncool I naturally took to the challenge when Express asked me to review Rehab’s Men’s Complete Grooming Pack. Here’s what you get;

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A set of three complimentary grooming products to let you shave and look like a boss, bundled together with a prestige flannel.

Personally I’m a reluctant shaver, mainly because my skin flares up bad at the ministrations of the razor blade, leaving me pink-faced and stinging. Whilst I haven’t stuck my neck out and bought a man-moisturiser I do currently use a post shave balm to ease the burn. Look in my bathroom cabinet and you’ll find that my current shaving products are chemical based, these being most affordable to me. In a more affluent world I would gladly ride the ‘right-on toiletries’ train but currently let the higher price to lower volume ratio of naturally sourced brands dissuade me to try.

So will Rehab have me digging deeper in future? Here’s what I thought.

‘Four easy steps to the perfect shave’ reads the tagline on the box of our grooming kit, Seeing only three products in the pack I assume stage four is the use of the prestige flannel, perhaps accompanied by aloof, cavalier posturing.

Step one is uncharted territory for me. Men’s Scrub Up Daily Detox, an exfoliating daily facial scrub. In the context of shaving perfection this is intended to remove dead skin and ingrowing hairs readying the field for battle. This said, you get double value as the detox scrub also serves to ward off unsightly blemishes as part of your daily grooming routine.

Not having exfoliated before I can’t make a point of comparison here. In the using however the scrub smelt clean, wasn’t too oily on the skin and had some chunky man-sized grit. Rehab have gone far to source this for us, bamboo medulla granules and exotic volcanic sand from Tahiti, adapting to the larger pores of men.

With the scrub washed off and my face ready for the real work I opened up the Cold Turkey Shaving Gel, ‘For a Shave Worth Having’. Ingredient savvy groomers take note, Rehab use Argan oil in this little number, derived from a North African tree saved from endangerment as cosmetics companies discovered it’s powerful antioxidizing and skin nourishing qualities.

It does a good job too. A fairly small amount was needed and the gel goes on the skin clear allowing you to see what you’re shaving. On first application you’re roused with a menthol zing, working well as a pick-me-up. At first the gel warms the skin, a bit like a less stringent Deep Heat, the sensation isn’t uncomfortable and soon dies down. Setting to work with the razor I found that the gel held it’s viscosity well, keeping the blades lubricated as they travelled about my face.

On completion my face was showing some redness (as is to be expected) but I didn’t feel too much sting, a thorough rinse and I could already feel the muted burning dying down.

Impressed I moved straight onto the Men’s Calm Balm, travelling now to Hawaii where the water algae is said to aid cell renewal.  Coming in an Earth-friendly pump applicator it takes a few vigorous pumps to get at your Calm Balm, with a small amount in my palm I noticed a fresh, mineral-like fragrance reminding me of so many generic men’s mainstream scents.

Rubbed into the skin the Calm Balm works quickly with all redness and sensation gone within 5 minutes or so. The finishing flourish to the perfect shave leaving me with skin that felt soft, smooth and moisturised without having to undergo an additional rinse to get rid of oily residue, something I’ll often need with my previous post shave balm.

For men used to shaving through a white mask of lather, using the Rehab alternative will be a new, and one hopes, pleasant experience. I found the results at least equal to the foam method. I found the Cold Turkey Gel and the Calm Balm worked particularly well together and given that relatively small amounts were needed for both it may well be that they’ll last out longer, time will tell.

I’d definitely shave again with the Rehab kit, I’m convinced that it works for me and I can trade off the additional expense of future purchases against the notion that I’m voting for better ethics with my cash.

All in all I give the Rehab kit 4/5, the perfect shave may well be the stuff of fantasy but this certainly comes close.

Steve
Express Chemist.

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Eat Water ‘Slim Noodles’ Review

Psst, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I am a total carb junkie. Most of my favourite meals tend to include a hunk of bread, a plate of fresh pasta, potatoes or a steaming bowl of noodles. In the summer, I attempt to curb this by eating lots of salads for lunch, using grains instead of rice and sweet potatoes in place of regular potatoes. I made the switch to wholegrain pasta and brown rice many years ago, in order to make the carbs I eat healthier, but like many of people in the UK, I simply eat too much of them. It’s all well and good to load up on carbohydrate-rich foods when you’re burning off the energy, but in winter, when we are naturally more sedentary, this carb craving becomes more of an issue.

During the week, I always try to prepare my lunch in advance so that I am not at the mercy of the local corner shop when my stomach starts growling at 1pm, but there is at least one day of the week where I end up desperately grabbing something quick from the cupboard. This is where I tend to hoard cans of soups, tinned fish and packets of noodles. The problem with the instant noodles is that they are not the most diet-friendly lunch and they don’t have much nutritional benefit. So, when we received the box containing Eat Water’s ‘Slim Noodles’, I was intrigued. I had heard of ‘glass noodles’ before, but I’d only ever experienced them very recently, on the inside of a vegetable spring roll. I remembered the texture was a bit chewy, but as the packet boasts only 15 calories for the entire pouch worth of noodles, they had to be worth a go!

These noodles are made from water and Moyu, a vegetable fibre that has been eaten in Asia for centuries. Therefore, they are gluten free, dairy free and fat free, which is excellent for allergy sufferers, vegans and those on low-fat diets. It does also mean that they effectively have no taste whatsoever, so you’ll need to be a bit more creative when preparing dishes with these. They are incredibly quick to prepare – simply open the packet, empty out the water and then rinse the noodles several times to get rid of any excess starch. I noticed that the starch gives off a slight odour when you open the packet, but once you have rinsed the noodles they do not smell of anything. Pop them in the microwave for one minute (or fry for 2-3 minutes) and voila!

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I used the microwave method, as I was preparing them in our Express Chemist kitchen. I then popped a splash of soy sauce on them, and topped them with the mackerel fillets I had salvaged from my cupboard that morning. I’ll be honest; it wasn’t the most appetising lunch I’ve ever made. It would have been nicer with a little teriyaki chicken or some grilled vegetables, but I’m trying to eat more oily fish, so mackerel was all I had.

The first thing that struck me was the texture of these little white noodles. They are quite chewy, which can take you by surprise a bit. They feel more solid, somewhat denser, than regular noodles. Ramen (e.g. regular instant noodles) slips down easily, but I had to take my time with these. I think the chewy texture actually benefits the weight-loss ideal, as those who eat slower usually register when they are full more accurately, and so tend not to over-eat as much as those who eat quickly.

The second thing was the taste, or should I say lack thereof. I did put soy sauce on them, but that combined with the fairly mundane taste of the mackerel and the wateriness of the noodles, was not the most appetising combination. In hindsight, they would have been better stir fried with some garlic and ginger, and some vegetables. I think that is where these really come into their own, as much like tofu, they will readily absorb any flavours you combine them with. They are also extremely filling, making it easy to resist the urge for some afternoon snacking.

The packet serves 1-2 people, 1 as a main meal and 2 as side, I would think. Their portable nature and quick preparation time make them an ideal food to stockpile in your cupboards at home, as combined with a protein-rich topping such as fish, meat or tofu, these make a fast, filling and healthy dinner or lunch.

Have you tried them? If so, what did you think of them? If not, would you give them a go?

Eat Water‘s range of Slim Noodles, Pastas and Rice are now available to buy from Express Chemist!

Claire
Express Chemist

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Dry January and Love Your Liver

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Happy New year!

With the new year upon us we find ourselves once again at the perennial time of resolutions and resurrected health regimes. Smokers that missed or failed the Stoptober Challenge will no doubt be attempting to quit cigarettes. Those looking to loose their additional Christmas flab will be out booking the gym membership they were too busy to sort out in 2013. If you held to the tradition of making a resolution for the new year then it’s at least still fresh in the memory, even if it hasn’t yet been acted upon.

Tapping into this emergent mindset we find Cancer Research UK promoting their Dryathlon a challenge running throughout January to abstain from alcohol to fund-raise for their worthy cause. Whilst some cynics find this yet another selfie driven social media bandwagon the pertinent fact that last year some 35,000 participants raised over £4 million during Dry January (Dryathlon) highlight it’s success.

Whatever your opinion on social media driven awareness months and charity drives they are certainly gaining popularity. Men’s health charity month Movember for instance has seen continuous growth in it’s participating membership, rising to a total of 4 million in 2013.

A definite drawback of the social media events calendar is that we are limited to only 12 months with a much larger number of worthy bodies all vying for your attention. During January the British Liver Trust is also running it’s Love Your Liver campaign which although lacking the image crafting, selfie pizzazz of the Dryathlon has important health issues to raise.

Not unlike the challenge put forward by the Dryathlon, the Love Your Liver campaign promotes three simple steps to a healthier liver which resonate well in post-festive surroundings:

  • Keep off alcohol for 2-3 days in a row
  • Take more exercise and stay fit
  • Cut down on sugar and fat

For many this may already be their exhaustive new years resolution list and it’s certainly one with more achievable goals than a Dryathlon, which runs the risk of creating a resurgent February booze binge.

This said both events raise much needed money for good causes in the UK whilst also giving the general public an encouraging push to starting off the new year on the right foot.

Steve

Express Chemist

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Self Care at Christmas: Colds

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Colds are the blight of many a Christmas holiday season as with so many people in busy shopping centres and everyone coming together to celebrate, they are very easily spread at this time of year. Although colds are a mild illness, they can leave you feeling pretty rotten and dampen your Christmas spirit. If you or a loved one end up coming down with a cold over the holidays, the following information may prove useful to you.

Symptoms of a cold are usually:

  • A blocked/runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • A mild temperature
  • General feeling of tiredness/malaise

Sometimes you may experience:

  • Loss of appetite (common in children)
  • Earache
  • Muscular pain
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Mild irritation of your eyes
  • A feeling of pressure in your ears and face

Duration: 

Colds generally last for 5-7 days and are at their worst in the first 2-3 days of infection. Coughs can last for up to 3 weeks. In children under 5, colds usually last from 10-14 days.

Treatment: 

There is no cure for the common cold. Because the cold is a virus, antibiotics will not help so do not take them. If you get a cold, your best hope is to help your body fight the virus by doing the following:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids
  2. Rest
  3. Eat well – a healthy diet rich in fibre and low in fat is recommended, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

However, there are plenty of over-the-counter treatments available to help ease the symptoms of a cold, such as:

  • Lozenges and throat sprays can help to soothe a sore throat.
  • Painkillers such as ibuprofen, paracetomol and aspirin can help to reduce fever and aches and pains. (Note: Aspirin should not be taken by children under 16 years old or women who are breastfeeding).
  • Decongestants can help to reduce the pain and discomfort of nasal congestion. (Note: Decongestants should not be taken for more that 7 days at a time as this can make the condition worse. They should not be taken by children under 6 years of age).
  • Vapour rubs can be rubbed onto the chest or back to help ease congestion, coughs and sore throats.
  • Echinacea, when taken at the first sign of a cold, can help to reduce the severity of the symptoms and the duration of illness.
  • Cough syrups can help to loosen up phlegm and clear the airways when you have a cough. They normally also contain a decongestant and help to prevent mucus running down the back of the throat.

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When to seek medical attention:

You should go to your GP if your symptoms last longer than 3 weeks, or if you experience any of the following:

  • A high temperature of 39°C or above (this can be a sign of a more serious infection)
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Coughing up blood/blood-stained mucus
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe swelling of the glands/lymph nodes in your neck and/or armpits

How to prevent it:

Colds can be spread through direct contact, by inhaling tiny virus-infected droplets from a cough or sneeze, or indirectly through touching a contaminated surface (such as a door handle) and then touching your nose or mouth. Good hygiene is the easiest way to prevent colds spreading, including:

  • Washing your hands regularly with hot, soapy water, particularly after touching your nose or mouth and before handling any food.
  • Sneeze/cough into tissues to prevent the further spread of your germs through the air. Throw away any used tissues immediately and always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Clean all surfaces regularly to lessen the risk of contamination.
  • Do not share cups, plates, cutlery or other kitchen utensils with others.

Should you stay home?

The general advice is to listen to your body – if you feel well enough to go to work or school with a cold, then do. If you are feeling very rough and have a high fever, you should probably stay home and rest until you feel a bit better. Although colds are generally not severe, they are highly contagious, particularly so during the first few days of infection. If you do feel well enough to attend work or school, you should practice good hygiene to prevent spreading your cold to others.

Wishing you a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year!

Claire

Express Chemist

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Anger Awareness Week and Christmas Stress

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The British Association of Anger Management BAAM exists all year round to offer free advice on managing stress and anger. You can request a download of their free ‘Keep your Cool’ kit here. With Christmas as bold as tinsel looming large on the horizon, rising stress levels surrounding our festive break can often lead to fractious family fall-outs as people struggle to fulfil their Yuletide obligations, compounding the levels of stress and anxiety that are ever-present for many of us throughout the year.

With this in mind the timing of BAAM’s Anger Awareness Week which runs from 1st – 7th December seems all the more pertinent. In addition to their year round self help guides you can also download a Christmas specific 12 Steps to a stress free Xmas PDF. Statistics published on the BAAM site soberingly indicate that a high proportion of us suffer with festive stress with almost one in two adults reporting that an argument over Christmas has made them want to end it with their partner and a further one in four feeling that their relationship is most under pressure during the festive period.

Christmas aside the aim of BAAM’s national awareness week in their own words,

“is all about learning to take control of your behaviour. Everyone feels angry at some time; what matters is how you express that anger”

BAAM give clear and straightforward advice for managing and coping with anger. Calm and cooperation can be achieved by learning to step outside of situations and by being able to recognise triggers for anger. Coping strategies can then be learned to help us to focus the aggression of the anger of both yourself and others in an effective way. Part of BAAM’s all year round service is to provide consultations with their own army of trained advisers which can be organised around your life; just having that empathetic ear to bend can often be of benefit.

For our customers worried about stress and anger this Christmas and lacking the funds or time to organise counselling themselves there are a number of preventative supplements we offer that can be taken without prescription. For the most part containing natural ingredients, our range of supplements will help to balance mood and provide a positive outlook. Whilst many are safe to take with medications please be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are currently taking other prescriptions.

Despite the bleak financial world out there and all the pressures that surround us everyday, Christmas does remain as a holiday for people to spend some time with those closest to them, we hope that your Christmas will be enjoyable and, most importantly stress free.

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Self Care For Life

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In figures available to view on the NHS Confederation website  our great health institution, in an international comparison with 6 other countries, whilst coming out well in terms of it’s effectiveness and efficiency came in a lowly 6th place in the category for ‘long  healthy and productive lives’. It seems no coincidence then that since the publication of this survey (conducted by the Commonwealth fund in 2010)  that the department for health and a number of UK health bodies have joined forces to promote self care. This joint venture known as the Self Care Forum clearly outlines in it’s mission statement to promote, educate and support people to take care of themselves. The focus of their activities culminates in Self Care Awareness Week, which this year runs from 18th-22nd November.

With population on the increase and obesity and smoking alone estimated to cost the NHS £8 billion per year there is a convincing case to raise awareness within the public conscience that living healthily and taking care of yourself will not only benefit the individual but is a public responsibility, especially so in our current climate of cuts and austerity measures. How many of you have been kept waiting past your allotted time slot at the GPs for instance? Furthermore how many of you have been made to feel by a GP that you’re being a hypochondriac and that you’re wasting their time? From visiting my own GP and hospital I often get the sense that the good people in the NHS are stretched to the limit whilst battling to make the best of things.

This said there’s an unarguable point that living healthily and looking after yourself is just good common sense.  The self care forum enourages us to:

  • lose weight
  • get fit
  • stop smoking
  • cut down on alcohol
  • eat more healthily
  • manage common ailments yourself

We can all exert a bit of willpower to ensure we meet with the first five points on this list. On the issue of managing our own common complaints, living as we are now in a world bursting with online information we’ve never been in a better position to find out about, treat and cure common conditions. For those that prefer the human touch your nearest pharmacist is on hand to give practical advice and treatments.  Even if you live in the remotest reaches a telephone will put you in touch with a pharmacist. As a responsible online pharmacy we offer this service on a freephone number, just call 0800 542 1203, we’re happy to assist.

As part of the self care awareness drive the NHS offer a free Life Check service which can tailor it’s advice to your age, gender and lifestyle. Sufferers of long term conditions are catered for too with a comprehensive list of conditions and practical advice on how to manage them available here

Following a similar model we’re constantly working to add valuable information and useful products to our site. We have a dedicated keeping healthy section and practical information and suggested treatments for common conditions.

It may come as no surprise also that over the last few years we’ve seen a considerable rise in sales of dietary supplements. It seems the public at large (perhaps put off by the idea of waiting an age to see a doctor these days), in line with self care awareness are making the effort to maintain a healthier life. Living in time-starved times with prices rising for fresh produce the need to supplement our diet with missing nutrients has never been so evident. You can view our extensive range here where we have also taken the time to give detailed information on the wide spectrum of benefits to be had.

The well known proverb that prevention is better than cure certainly has it’s place within the Self Care Forum’s message and by making the effort to maintain a healthy life we’re not just making less work for our health care professionals but we’re also, more importantly, giving ourselves a better chance in life.

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