health hack

What Is Brain Fog And How You Can Beat It

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Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why we've you went in there in the first place?

Maybe you’ve fleetingly stopped in your tracks, grasping to remember your own name for a microsecond?

There’s a name for this unsettling mental phenomenon: 'brain fog'. 

Symptoms of so-called 'brain fog' include forgetfulness, poor concentration, inability to focus and lack of mental clarity, all of which can strike without warning.

It’s worth noting that although ‘Brain fog’ can be attributed to age-related decline and a host of illnesses, it can also strike anyone at any age - even as early as your late teens.

So why do we have ‘brain fog’ and how can we beat it? 

For starters, your brain works hard 24/7, even while you're asleep. It requires a constant supply of fuel, which comes from the foods you eat. Eating high-quality foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress or the 'free radicals' produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells.

No surprises here, but eating too much sugar and refined carbs can have a negative effect. Thankfully, eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help.

Shifting from a diet high in processed foods, carbs, and sugars to whole, fresh foods like salmon and spinach could make a huge difference to your mental clarity. Foods rich in antioxidants - like blueberries, dark chocolate, and artichokes - can also help boost mental function (yes you heard right, DARK CHOCOLATE).  

Besides diet, ‘brain fog’ can also be stimulated by alcohol and caffeine. In 2015, scientists from Duke University warned that binge drinking as a teenager, before the brain is fully developed, causes long-lasting changes to the regions of the brain that control learning and memory.

Numerous studies have also suggested that even moderate adult drinkers risk significant shrinkage in key parts of the brain. In July, the University of Oxford and University College found that people who have a drink or two every night from middle age are more likely to experience a steep decline in brain power by their 70s. 

Caffeine is a stimulant known to improve mental alertness. But the problem with caffeine is that the energy it gives us is short-lived. Drinking too much can lead to insomnia, headaches and dehydration - and as a result, can impair your mental function.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists says the best way to give up caffeine is to gradually stop having all caffeine drinks (this includes coffee, tea and cola drinks) over a three-week period. Try to stay off caffeine completely for a month to see if you feel less mentally fatigued without it – your brain will thank you for it in the long run.

The final way to beat ‘brain fog’? Sleeping for at least seven to eight hours each night helps to boost your brain performance. Another reason to put good quality shut-eye front and centre in your daily routine. Zzzzzzzz.

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Hayfever Hacks: How To Treat Hayfever

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Spring has certainly sprung. With pollen levels set to soar, now is the time to nip seasonal allergies in the bud, if pollen is your own personal Kryptonite.

I recently joined the team of Channel 9's 'The Today Show' to discuss my top Hayfever Hacks. Watch the video over at The Today Show's website here

Read on to discover how you can outsmart the symptoms of spring and get your sinus #summerready!

TIP # 1-  Hang Your Laundry Inside

It’s tempting to hang your clothes outside on the trusty Hills Hoist, but the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) recommends hanging clothes and bedsheets indoors so they don’t collect pollen. Sure, clothes dry quicker in the sun, but try this easy tip and say goodbye to sleeping with a constant stream of allergies.

TIP # 2 – Skip Running Outdoors In The Morning

Peak pollen time is between 6am and midday, according to ASCIA. If you exercise regularly every morning, why not switch to a cycle or cardio class at the gym and reap the benefits of less teeny tiny allergens making their way into your routine?

TIP # 3 – Omega-3 Rich Foods Are Your Friend

Sinus pain can be soothed by eating foods rich in omega-3 like salmon and flaxseed oil. Betacarotene is also a known allergen deterrent, so reach for those carrots, spinach and capsicum when making your daily spring salads.

TIP # 4 – Switch Coffee for Green Tea

Japanese scientists have discovered that green tea contains a compound that temporarily blocks the key cell receptor in creating allergic responses. Even more reason to ditch coffee for this soothing, gentler alternative to your daily #caffeinefix.

TIP # 5 – Buh-Bye Wine

This is certainly no crowd pleaser, but all your alcoholic favourites — beer, bubbles, wine and liquor — contain histamine, which can worsen hayfever symptoms according to allergen experts. If you really can’t give up booze, try limiting your intake to one glass a week in the evening when the pollen count isn’t as high.

TIP # 6 – Wash Your Hair Every Day

Think of your hair like one giant piece of Blu Tack for allergens. Make sure you wash your hair everyday to remove allergens and remain pollen-free, especially if you’ve spent the majority of your day outdoors.

TIP # 7 – Kiss The Pollen Away

According to a Japanese study, a 30-minute smooch session can reduce your body’s production of histamine (this makes up for tip #5!).

TIP # 8 – Shake Out Your Clothes

Shake out your jacket before you step inside after a day outside. Once you’re inside, it’s a good idea to change clothes and minimise the amount of allergens you bring into your home at the end of the day.

TIP # 9 – Take Medication Before Bed

Some medical experts recommend taking a once-a-day antihistamine at night during high-pollen season, as its potency will peak 12 hours later, when pollen levels are highest. This means you will potentially be starting the day with the anti-histamine working against your symptoms.

TIP # 10 – Put Soft Toys On Ice

Disclaimer: this might sound a little nuts, but ASCIA recommends putting soft toys in the freezer overnight to kill dust mites, another cause of hayfever. I’d love to hear from all you parents out there to vouch for this extraordinary tip!  

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Home Health Tech: ADA - the 'Doctor In Your Pocket' App

There's an app on the market that is giving Siri a run for her money.

Meet ADA and learn how it can help you and your GP get to the bottom of medical hiccups.

ADA is a 'health companion' app, which was designed by a international team of 100 doctors, data scientists and engineers.

The app is like having a 'doctor in your pocket' when you feel sick, asking questions and suggesting possible causes for symptoms. It can do this as it keeps a digital record of your health history.

Although this kind of data technology is fantastic, it's worth noting that ADA should not become a substitute for a real-life consultation with your human GP. 

Rather, use ADA as a way to document your health history and share the progression of any symptoms with your GP.

ADA is free from the App Store and Google Play (www.ada.com)

Home Health Tech: Measure Your UV Exposure with My UV Patch App

Before we check for skin cancer, there's actually a new app to help stop us developing it in the first place!

La Roche-Posay My UV Patch (free with the purchase of La Roche-Posay sunscreen at most pharmacies, laroche-posay.com.au) is a thin, flexible patch which measures sun exposure when connected to the My UV Patch app (free from the App Store and Google Play).

This transparent adhesive is about the size of a fifty cent count and contains photosensitive dyes, which change colour when exposed to UV.

Use the app to scan the patch on your skin. The app will then determine your level of UV exposure. 

You can sleep, exercise, shower and swim with the patch on for up to five days - you'll forget it's even there!

Although My UV Patch is certainly handy, it doesn't automatically alert you if your UV levels are in the red zone. It's up to you to keep checking your UV levels. 

Read more about My UV Patch here.
 

5 Symptoms You Don't Want to Ignore

As we get older, we start to notice some unusual things going on with our bodies. From loss of taste to ringing ears (and hair growing in places it shouldn't be) our bodies are always changing. In a fast-paced world, it can be easy to ignore these niggling changes.

However, some of these oddities could be a warning sign of more serious medical issues. Here are 5 symptoms you should never ignore and why.

 

Symptom # 1 - Ringing In Ears

Ringing in ears could be associated with earwax build-up, head and neck tumours or problems in the jaw.

Alternatively, it could signify Tinnutus - depending on the type of ringing sound heard.

Tinnitus is the perception of hearing noises or ringing in the ear when no external sound is present. Tinnitus symptoms include hearing phantom noises in your ears and experiencing buzzing, ringing, hissing, roaring or clicking noises.

Tinnitus is actually a pretty common problem, affecting about one in five people. It isn't a condition itself, but rather a symptom of other underlying conditions that are associated with age-related hearing loss, injury in the inner ear, earwax buildup or blockage, or sometimes a symptom of allergies.

If ringing in the ears lasts longer than a week, go see your doctor.

Symptom # 2 - Losing Taste & Smell

Losing your sense of taste could be associated with Alzheimer's disease, nasal and sinus problems, nutritional deficiencies, head injury or even as a result of certain medications.

At birth, you have about 10,000 taste buds, but after age 50, you may start to lose them. Some loss of taste and even smell is common in older adults, especially after age 60.

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 200,000 people visit a doctor each year for problems with their ability to taste or smell.

Scientists believe that up to 15 percent of adults might have a taste or smell problem, but many don't seek a doctor's help.

It's best to see your doctor if you experience losing your sense of taste and/or smell.

Symptom # 3 - Blue-ish Fingernails

Ick! Blue nails are a sign you're not getting enough oxygen to your fingertips, a condition known as cyanosis.

Having blue-ish fingernails could be associated with pulmonary obstruction, emphysema or lung disease.

If your nails are persistently blue, go see your doctor and ask to have your blood and oxygenation levels checked.

If the hue of blue is darker than a tinge, go see your doctor as soon as possible.

Symptom # 4 - Small Dots In The Eye

Ever looked into the mirror and saw small dots in your eyes? 

Your eyes are similar in nature to skin. Like skin, the eyes can get marked. These mars are called choroidal nevi.

Although the name sounds complicated, a choroidal nevus is merely a freckle in the eye. Choroidal nevi are usually harmless: in most cases, they can only be seen by an eye doctor.

Your doctor will likely monitor any freckle and alert you if it changes in colour, size or shape.

If you notice that the dots change shape, this could be associated with a melanoma and should be monitored by a doctor immediately.

Symptom # 5 - Excessive Female Facial Hair

Hirsutism is a medical condition most commonly caused by an imbalance of sex hormones, specifically excess male hormones called androgens.

One of the most common causes is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition affecting women of reproductive age.

The condition results in excessive amounts of dark, coarse hair on body areas where men typically grow hair - the face, chest and back.

The amount of body hair you have is largely determined by your genetic makeup.

This morning, I spoke about these 5 symptoms on The Today Show Australia. Check out my YouTube channel for more health hacks!