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General Health

  • Q1:
    What are the antioxidants? Many people are talking about the benefits of antioxidants and I would like to have a better understanding.
    A1:
    Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive compounds that are created in the body during normal metabolic functions or introduced from the environment. Too many free radicals in the body can interfere with normal cell function and may cause health problems such as heart disease, cancer and premature ageing. Antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals and therefore, it is important for human health. Examples of antioxidants are beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and selenium. Consuming adequate antioxidants will help to improve the body’s defense system and skin health. Beta-carotene acts as an immune modulator and vitamin C strengthens white blood cells that fight against infections. Vitamin E has been shown to slow down the ageing of tissues while zinc is essential for the normal function of sebaceous glands. Clinical studies have suggested that a combination of antioxidants provides greater efficacy and protective effects against oxidative damage. You may obtain these antioxidants from foods namely fruits, vegetables and whole-grains or opt for a supplement that contains these important anti-free radical nutrients.
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  • Q2:
    My husband has severe hair loss and difficulty falling asleep. I am not sure if this is due to his stressful career. Please advise.
    A2:
    Stress is defined as a response to conditions and events, both routine and out of the ordinary. No one can completely escape the effects of stress. Stress depletes the flow of oxygen, which cells need for maintenance and health. It might be the main culprit of hair loss and insomnia in this case. Make time for leisure activities and plan a day out with family to relax the body and mind. A good laughter is an excellent way to help relieve stress. Diet also plays a vital role in stress management. Low-fat, high-fiber and carbohydrate-rich meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables may be helpful due to increased production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Avoid caffeine, tea and alcohol several hours before bedtime as these beverages are stimulants that may disrupt and affect the quality of sleep. Relax before bed – reading or simply enjoying relaxing routines can make it easier to fall asleep. Your husband may consider supplementing his diet with vitamin B complex that aids in nervous system function, reduces anxiety and immune system damage as well as improves brain function. Other nutrients of value are magnesium and zinc. Magnesium may help promote sleep quality by relaxing the muscles and soothing the nervous system. As for zinc, it strengthens the root of hair, thus beneficial in preventing hair loss. These important minerals (magnesium and zinc) are best combined with calcium, vitamin D and manganese for maintenance of healthy bones, hair and nails.
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  • Q3:
    My 48-year-old mother has been diagnosed with borderline blood pressure. Doctor said that she does not need medications but care is needed to maintain her blood pressure. Kindly advise.
    A3:
    A holistic approach that combines lifestyle and dietary changes along with nutritional supplements has been found to be effective in maintaining and reducing blood pressure. Your mother should increase intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. The types of dietary fibre that are of greatest value are the water-soluble oat bran, apple pectin and psyllium seeds. It is important to reduce the intake of red meat and dairy products as they are rich in saturated fats which are known to elevate blood pressure. Studies have revealed that diet high in sodium chloride (table salt) indirectly results in hypertension and thus, it is good to cut down on salt consumption. Include essential fatty acids such as those found in evening primrose oil (omega-6 fatty acids) and marine fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) in your diet to lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels. A supplement containing antioxidant nutrients namely beta-carotene, vitamins C, E and the mineral zinc will also be helpful in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol on arterial walls, consequently reducing the risk of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Lifestyle wise, avoid caffeine intake as it constricts blood vessels, aggravating a hypertensive condition. Exercise regularly (40 minutes a day, 3 times a week) and manage stress properly. Yoga, meditation or sports are examples of relaxation techniques to keep hypertension under control.
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  • Q4:
    What is the best way to quit smoking? I have tried to quit smoking several times due to health concerns but my attempts failed. Please give me some suggestions.
    A4:
    Cigarette smoking is addictive and a majority of us find it hard to stop smoking. Quitting smoking requires determination, commitment as well as support from your family and friends. Below are some suggestions that may be helpful: • Reduce the amount of cigarettes gradually. • Get some exercise every day. It is a great way to reduce stress and improve general well-being which will make you feel more confident. • Identify and avoid your smoking triggers. Whenever you crave for a cigarette, eat your favourite foods or snacks. It can help reduce cravings by fulfilling the oral desires that you may have. • Keep reminding yourself the reasons for quitting and think of all the benefits to your health, finances and family. Smoking causes oxidative stress due to increased cumulative exposure to harmful substances. As such, smokers need antioxidant nutrients to scavenge the free radicals formed, which in turn will help prevent damage to the elements of bloodstream and protect body tissues. Vitamins C and E as well as minerals, zinc and selenium are potent antioxidants which are essential. The herbs, milk thistle and dandelion may also help reduce toxic loads by promoting detoxification and cleansing the liver of harmful substances.
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  • Q5:
    I have a dull complexion due to dry skin. I have spent a lot on facial products but nothing seems to work for me. Can you please tell me what I can do to overcome this problem?
    A5:
    Skin becomes dry when the moisture evaporates faster than it can be replenished and this occurs when the production of sebum, which contains oils that inhibit evaporation, diminishes as skin ages. Poor diet and environmental factors such as exposure to sunlight, frequent contacts with chemicals and excessive bathing with harsh soaps may aggravate the condition. A good balance of vitamins, minerals and nutrients is essential to maintain healthy looking skin. Vitamins C and E are great assets to the skin. Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen and connective tissues to firm the skin while vitamin E has been shown to slow down the ageing of tissues. Supplementing your diet with these antioxidant nutrients and evening primrose oil may be a good start. Evening primrose oil provides gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential element of skin structure. GLA is reputed to boost moisture content and strengthen skin cells. Studies have demonstrated that 3g of evening primrose oil daily improves moisture content, elasticity as well as enhances the structure and function of normal healthy skin. Avoid extensive use of harsh soaps and detergents. Hot baths or showers and high consumption of caffeinated beverages may also lead to dry skin. You may apply lotions containing aloe vera to restore skin moisture.
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  • Q6:
    How to prevent premature agening? Several people whom I met recently said that I looked older than my age. I am only 24 years old this year.
    A6:
    Premature ageing is one of the conditions feared by many especially females who are in their mid-twenties. If one shows early appearance of the signs of ageing before old age, then it is simply known as premature ageing. It refers to the unnatural acceleration of the natural ageing process primarily due to damage from sun exposure and an unhealthy lifestyle. Freckles, deep wrinkles, age spots and rough skin indicate premature ageing caused by years of unprotected exposure to the sun. Unhealthy lifestyle such as exposure to cigarette smoke will increase wrinkling and dryness of the skin. A poor diet is also a factor of premature ageing from the inside out. A diet which mainly consists of highly processed foods and alcohol along with insufficient intake of fresh fruits and vegetables accelerates the ageing process. You can prevent signs of premature ageing by protecting your skin from the sun and adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle. Always use a good sunscreen (typical SPF 15) and apply it at least 20 minutes before going outdoors. Exercise tones muscles and helps promote blood flow which is necessary for healthy skin and body. If you are stress, take some time off and go for a spa or relaxing massage. Evening Primrose Oil may help in a healthy skin. It provides omega-6 for modulation of membrane function. Besides that, supplements of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, E, zinc and selenium may also help to improve the condition and reduce the damage done by the free radicals onto the skin.
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  • Q7:
    I have a poor immune system and thus, I fall sick easily. I would like to take vitaminC supplement for immune health. However, I am also worried about my gastric problem as I know that vitamin C is acidic by nature. Any other alternatives?
    A7:
    Many factors can cause immune system to deteriorate and some of them include poor diet, insufficient sleep, lack of exercise and stress. You are right about the link between poor immune system and the risk of illness. Undeniably, individuals with poor immunity are prone to infections and this will cause distress and affect usual routines. Vitamin C is the most popular vitamin among the common nutrients for immune system function and many people are taking it as their daily supplement. Besides promoting resistance to infection, vitamin C also protects lung function and acts as an antioxidant, preventing free radicals attack. You may opt for a vitamin C supplement in non-acidic form which is available in the pharmacies. Non-acidic vitamin C does not irritate stomach lining and thus, it is very suitable for individuals with gastric problems. A sustained-release vitamin C is beneficial to ensure a steady vitamin C supply all day long. Proper nutrition, physical activity, sufficient sleep and stress management is the key to good immune health. Build up on roughage and antioxidants. Good sources include green vegetables, citrus fruits, legumes and whole grains. Last but not least, stay physically active. Daily exercise allows one’s tension to dissipate and you can start off with brisk walking.
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  • Q8:
    I would like to know more about asthma management. My son, Shawn is 9 years old and he had two asthma attack for the past 6 months. He is sensitive to duct mites and often sneeze in the morning.
    A8:
    Asthma is a chronic condition characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. During an asthma attack, the lining of the bronchial tubes swells, causing the airways to narrow and reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs. These episodes may be triggered by both hereditary and environmental factors. Certain foods and allergens such as dust mites, animal danders and pollen may trigger asthma. Therefore, it is important to minimize contact and avoid these allergens namely dust mites in your son’s condition. For this reason, wash sheets, blankets and pillows frequently and at the same time, keep your pet out of the house and bedroom. He can still take part in normal school activities but do avoid long term strenuous physical activities that may trigger flare-ups. Your child is encouraged to take wholesome and well-balanced meals. Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and antioxidants as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids intake has been shown to improve airway responsiveness to allergens, respiratory and lung functions. On the other hand, as a traditional herb, adhatoda helps to protect against histamine-induced bronchospasm and promote the coughing up of phlegm from the respiratory tract. Albizzia has anti-allergy and anti-microbial properties. The combination of these herbs with marshmallow and ribwort aids in respiratory congestion and soothe mucous membranes.
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  • Q9:
    I suffer from frequent urination especially at night. i have urine dribbling even after getting out of the toilet. This is really embrassing and i hope you can help me.
    A9:
    You may be experiencing symptoms that may be associated with what is known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). This is the enlargement of prostate gland and happens naturally as you age. Prostate enlargement is a widespread problem that increases with age and it is often associated with hormonal changes. Normally, the prostate is about the size of a walnut that sits below the bladder but as men age, the gland becomes enlarged. When this happens, the prostate compresses the urethra, obstructing the flow of urine and causing urinary problems such as frequent urination. Many men over 40 years old suffer at least some degree of prostate enlargement and when the condition deteriorates, post-void dribbling and urinary incontinence may occur. The herbs, saw palmetto and pumpkin seed are well known for their ability to improve prostate health. Saw palmetto contains plant sterols that have been shown to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that play a role in the enlargement of prostate. In Germany, the use of saw palmetto is recognised as part of the treatment for prostate enlargement. On the other hand, the effectiveness of pumpkin seed is thought to be due to its high content of essential fatty acids, zinc and plant sterols. A formulation that contains saw palmetto and pumpkin seed is demonstrated to be effective in regulating urination. You may also want to take a zinc supplement along with the aforementioned herbs for better clinical effect. Prostate tissue contains a higher concentration of zinc compared to other tissues in the body and a deficiency in zinc is linked to prostate enlargement. Lastly, cut down on alcohol and excessive meat or animal fat intake.
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