Following every wellness fad that came along, might leave you penniless, confused and not necessarily healthier. But there are some which may make a difference to your health and happiness.
When it comes to wellbeing, health, fitness and diet, it is difficult to figure out which health trends are worth embracing and which are best ignoring. We have rounded up the biggest health trends of the year that are worth following:
What are the benefits of CBD oil?
Why? Cannabinoid (CBD) is a natural extract of the hemp plant. Prof Mike Barnes, a consultant neurologist, says there are four conditions where there’s evidence of its benefits. ‘Chronic pain, as a result of cancer, an accident or arthritis, for example,’ he says. ‘It can help with spasticity after stroke or injury; with anxiety; and with nausea or vomiting, for example as a side effect of chemo.’
How? Pure CBD is available as oil and supplements and is legal to buy in the UK – find it in health food shops and online. The hemp plant, from which it’s extracted, has very small traces of THC – the ingredient in cannabis which has ‘psychoactive’ effects so it doesn’t produce a high but is believed to have a relaxing effect. If you think it may help you, discuss it fully with your GP before going ahead.
Improve your gut health
Why? The importance of your gut microbiome to your overall health is only really now starting to be understood. The 50 trillion microbes in your gut include over 1,000 different species, and may affect health way beyond digestion, including immunity and mood regulation.
‘The brain and gut are highly interconnected,’ says Dr Anthony Hobson from the Functional Gut Clinic. ‘Signals from the gut go up into the brain, and vice versa.’
How? Eat high-fibre foods (fresh fruit, veg, wholegrains and pulses) which help gut bugs grow. Antibiotics and processed foods kill them so avoid or rebuild with fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and probiotic supplements.
Try a flexitarian diet
And, while a balanced vegetarian/vegan diet can have many health benefits, it can be trickier to follow while getting key nutrients vitamin B12, iron and zinc. Get the best of both worlds by turning veggie on selected days only and trying a flexitarian diet.
Learn how to use meditation and sophrology
Why? The benefits of meditation, mindfulness and yoga are all well documented, and they blend together in sophrology, a new moving meditation technique from Switzerland.
‘It’s designed to bring you into the “alpha brain wave” state,‘ says sophrologist, Dominique Antiglio.
‘In this state, the body achieves complete relaxation, yet the mind is clear and fully alert. Over time, particularly during times of stress, the mind and body will naturally trigger this response to bring you back to a calmer, more balanced state.’ It takes just 10 minutes of practice each day.
How? Books, CDs and online courses are available. Dominique’s book The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology is published by Yellow Kite (£9.96) and she launched an online course – this summer.
Turn to music therapy
Why? Music calms, stimulates and speeds recovery. It can help lower heart rate and blood pressure and alter brain chemistry. The NHS even employs music therapists.
How? Listen to music or join a choir – it raises levels of the ‘bonding’ hormone oxytocin – or use sound to help meditation.
‘Gong bathing (using sounds and vibrations) can help with sleep, relaxation, stress and digestion problems,’ says sound meditation therapist Leo Cosendai. His CD, 7 Days of Sound Meditation is out now.
Why? Research by booking.com shows demand for wellness holidays has doubled from one in 10 in 2017, to one in five last year, while the numbers climbing UK peaks has rocketed so fast, there are fears of erosion. And the garden designed by the Duchess of Cambridge at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show also captured the ‘green’ vibe.
GP Dr Melanie Wynne-Jones says outdoor exercise is important. ‘You reap the physical and mental benefits of activity while getting the “green” effect – a calming of the senses which comes from being in nature.’ Natural daylight helps regulate your sleep cycle and sunlight on unprotected skin makes essential vitamin D – just make sure you don’t burn.
How? Try Parkrun, Saturday morning, free, timed 5km runs in parks throughout the UK. They’re now prescribed by local GPs to help with mild depression and anxiety issues. Walk them if you’re not a runner. Do some gardening, cycle or walk.