Eye Strain: What Causes It & What You Can Do About It

eye strainEye Strain is no longer an ailment that is reserved for bookworms and university professors.

Due to the rise in our use of technology, the frequency with which we are glued to screens of some sort or another, and the lack of real breaks in between periods of use, more and more people are experiencing varying levels of eye strain.

Now, we all know that when computers first became something that everyone had access to we were told that after 20 minutes we should have a 5 minute break from our screens and then come back to it.

However, with a majority of people’s work being on computers these days, having a 5-minute break every 20 minutes is simply inefficient, and thus, nobody really sticks to it.

In offices, many people are staring at their screens for hours before looking up and taking a break, and even then, on their break from work, they may be on their phones checking their Facebook feeds or updating their Twitter.

I don’t know if it’s the demand for an acknowledgement as soon as you post something, or email someone, the feeling that you’re going to miss something, or the addictive nature of being plugged in, but it’s making our eyes work twice as hard leading to eye strain.

Technology is therefore having the same effect as reading small text in low light for a prolonged amount of time.

So, what can we do about it?

Maybe taking a break from your computer every 20 minutes is inefficient and not really doable when you’ve got lots and lots to do, however, looking up isn’t.

Taking a break from your computer screen doesn’t have to mean getting up and walking away from your work. Simply closing your eyes for 10 seconds, or looking in another direction for a minute or two works wonders.

Make sure that you are going outside on your breaks.

Too much artificial light and not enough natural light isn’t great for our eyes (or for your general wellbeing), so make sure that you take a step outside and embrace the sun every now and then.

Are you getting enough sleep? Sleep is really important for lots of our bodies functions, not least our eyes.

When we lose out on sleep our eyes become overly sensitive to light and can therefore become more painful and strained than normal if we aren’t taking breaks or looking after them!

Do you have any tips to share?

Do You Want Healthy Hair and Nails?

hair and nails

Your hair and your nails are probably the two parts of your body that you change the most, with haircuts, colours, nail polish and more.

Therefore, it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine that your hair and your nails are the two parts of your body that you pay the most attention to, and that you want to be glossy and shiny, long and strong.

Of course, we believe in natural solutions to natural problems, which is why we have shortlisted our favourite 3 foods that you can use to boost your hair and nails (and that you can use as treatments as well as treats!)

Blueberries

Blueberries get raved about all of the time, and for good reason!

They are absolutely full of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K (important for blood clotting and bone health), manganese (great for your skin and hair growth), and vitamin C (which is great for hair and nail growth).

What is more, like purple shampoos are meant to take away the brassy tones from dyed blonde hair, blueberries, when applied as a hair mask (usually alongside Greek yoghurt and almond oil) can help preserve colour!

Coconuts and Coconut Oil

Delicious, and great for your hair and nails, coconuts and coconut oil are a fantastic natural option to shop brought remedies.

Packed full of vitamin E which when ingested promotes the flow of blood around the body, which in turn helps hair and nails to grow more quickly!

It’s also a great cheap and easy remedy for tired looking hair.

All you have to do is pop it on in the evening, leave it in over night and wash off when you wake up to leave your hair feeling silky smooth. What is more, the coconut oil can be used to remove dandruff!

Avocados

Avocado’s are a fantastic fruit, and work from the inside out to promote beautiful skin and nails!

Containing lots and lots of biotin, the avocado helps to make both hair and nails stronger and longer, and the omega 3 of which the avocado contains high-levels also helps your locks to stay shiny. What more could you want?

What natural remedies to you swear by to keep you looking and feeling good?

Spring Flowers To Make Your Skin Glow

flowersWe know that spring and flowers often go hand in hand with hay fever for a lot of people, however, they do have some amazing benefits, for both your health and your skin.

Regardless of if you want to add more moisture, need to calm down your skins rosiness in time for those summer snaps, or want to liven up your complexion, flowers can help, and are often used in facial creams and treatments.

We have therefore compiled a very special list of our top three spring flowers that are guaranteed to make your skin glow, and all of their fantastic benefits!

Lavender

Lavender is a beautiful flower, and is often used in soaps and bath creams, and for a very good reason too! Lavender has antiseptic properties.

This means that not only is it great for putting on any cuts and scrapes to prevent infection, but it also fights bacteria.

Lavender’s ability to fight bacteria means that it’s often recommended to people who have acne or spots as a natural topical treatment.

Of course, if the acne is hormone related, it may not work as well, but environmentally charged acne can be helped through using washes and creams with 100% natural lavender in.

Rose

The flower most associated with love and romance, the rose has an abundance of skin benefits, not least of all the fact that it moisturising without being harsh on your skin!

It is also one of the best oils to use if you have redness in your face or on your body as it balances out your skin tone.

Furthermore, like the lavender, rose also has the advantage of having antibacterial and antioxidant properties.

That’s a lot of benefits for one flower, I’m sure you’ll agree!

Hibiscus

Most commonly found in tea, the hibiscus flower is a fantastic source of antioxidants (which thanks to the fact that you can consume it is great for both your health and your skin!) and perhaps best of all, has been proven to repair cell damage.

This in addition to its moisture boosting properties means that skin elasticity can be improved, as can the appearance of wrinkles.

Which natural treats to you use on your skin to get that beautiful summer glow?

How Your Immune System Works

your_immune_systemWhen somebody says “immunity” or “Oh! Your immune system must be down” we can assume that they mean our body’s defences are low, and therefore we are more susceptible to illnesses and disease.

But how this system works often goes under the radar, with not many people really understanding how they can boost it up, or why boosting their immune system is important.

However, understanding the way that it works can lead you to make better choices regarding your diet and lifestyle, and make you feel a lot better too!

The immune system is a great defender of our health.

By this, I mean that it is the bodies’ mechanism for keeping diseases and illnesses at bay.

Of course, if everyone’s immune systems worked at their optimal level, we would never get sick.

Unfortunately, diet and lifestyle choices mean that a lot of the time, the mechanism that protects us is unable to work at its optimal level, and because of this it lets pathogens (the nasty bacteria, virus or organisms that make you sick) slip past it’s defences causing you to become ill.

When pathogens slip past it’s defences, the immune system is also the system responsible for making you feel well after being ill.

Again, if your immune system is weak, this process will take a lot longer, even for simple illnesses like colds.

But how does it work?

Well, when a pathogen enters your body, its main aim is to reproduce itself.

At this point the pathogen is a teeny tiny cell, and it needs to take over your body and make you sick to survive.

Fortunately for us however, there are cells that make up part of our immune systems’ called macrophages.

These macrophages pretty much patrol our bodies’ looking for anything out of the ordinary, or an “intruder”.

A majority of the time these “intruders” are pathogens, however, sometimes things such as pollen or anything that is an allergen can be identified as such.

When they find these pathogen cells, they immediately aim to destroy them.

If they are unable to destroy them, then the immune system goes into its secondary phase of producing extra T and B cells.

At this point you will probably feel the illness taking a hold, but they do work to fight it as soon as they can, and collect data so that the same bacteria will not be able to harm you again.

Pretty fantastic right?

What Makes Superfoods Super?

superfoodsWe always hear the phrase “superfood”. It’s thrown around everywhere, to such an extent that we don’t really think much past the word.

By saying that a product is rich in superfoods it means that we end up buying into foods that we wouldn’t otherwise, foods that might even have high sugar or calorie counts, yet we don’t notice because we intrinsically see it as healthy.

Although we use it here at Nature & Life weekly for our Superfood of the week feature we always promote natural produce (food that has been grown or harvested from nature), as we know that as a phrase it has a lot of impact.

As such, we want you, our readers, to understand exactly what a super food is and why they are important.

Superfoods at their very basic level are food’s that without any additional ingredients contain a high level of the nutrients that our bodies need to function at their optimal level.

Notably this includes foods that contain a lot of different nutrients as well as foods that contain one nutrient that has a specific benefit to the body.

For example, our Beta Glucan is extracted from mushroom because of the mushroom has high immunity boosting properties and has been clinically proven to do so at a high level if the extract is pure without side effects.

Thus, under this definition, the mushroom is a superfood because of its immunity boosting properties.

Whilst it is important to know that these foods have different benefits in them, it’s also necessary to realise that you can’t get all of your nutrients from one particular food.

The best diets are those that are varied with lots of different fruit, vegetables and seeds.

The phrase superfood is not a term used by scientists, although it has become synonymous with healthy.

As such, I would argue that it has caused lots of people to think about what they are eating more.

Although many people stop at the word without looking into the issues regarding pesticides or processes which go into that food before we buy it, it does provide some much needed guidelines, particularly in the fast paced grab and go culture we are living in.

Growing Fruit and Veg in Your Teeny Tiny Garden

gardenLast week we went into how you can grow fruit and vegetables in your teeny tiny flat, and how even with no light you can manage to grow mushrooms.

Today however, we are going in to how you can grow different types of fruit and veg when you’ve got a little bit more space, namely in the shape of a small garden.

Gardens are perfect for growing fruit and vegetables that need to root down in the ground or space to breathe, are not necessarily the ones that need the most light.

Here are the top 3 fruits and vegetables that you can grow in your garden, regardless of how big or small it is.

Potatoes: Potatoes are great root vegetables and the type of potato that you are able to grow is usually decided by the time of year it is.

The most important thing that you should take into consideration when growing potatoes is the area that you grow them in.

They should be planted in a spot that gets the most sunlight and has little or no shade.

The soil should be deep, well drained and moist.

Lot’s of people grow potatoes in dustbins to provide the perfect conditions for them to thrive, but you can grow them in the ground too!

Blackcurrants: Blackcurrants are pretty adaptable when it comes to the actual process of growing them, which makes them perfect for even the smallest of gardens.

As a fruit they do prefer sunny spots, but will still grow with partial shade.

They are also pretty good at growing in any soil type too, although arguably the best soil for them to grow in is very fertile, moist and well drained.

Mostly, people decide to plant blackcurrant bushes in the ground, but they can be grown in large containers too.

Dwarf Runner Beans: Dwarf runner beans are the better option for smaller gardens out of the two main types, dwarf and climbing.

This is simply because in most small gardens there often isn’t the space to make a sturdy frame for them to climb.

Although they are sensitive to extremely cold and windy environments, they do thrive in cool temperatures just as long as they get some sun.

Perhaps they are the perfect vegetable to think about growing this spring?

 What will you be growing?

Grow Fruit and Veg [In Your Tiny Flat]

fruit_and_vegI know, I know. You live in the city, not on a farm, and the only spare room in your flat (if you’re lucky) is the kitchen windowsill.

But don’t roll your eyes just yet!

It’s the type of fruit and vegetables that you can grow that you have to think about as much as it is the space that you need for them to grow healthily.

If you don’t believe us, here are our top 3 fruits and veggies that you can grow at home (regardless of how small your flat is!)

Mushrooms – Mushrooms are fantastic for growing indoors, not only because they don’t need much space, but, because they don’t need any light either!

This means that regardless of the weather outside, or if you don’t have enough space on your windowsill for a window box, you will be able to grow your own mushrooms.

All you need is compost, mushroom spawn and a dark, draft free place to put your grow bag and you’re all set!

Tomatoes – Tomatoes generally need a window box, plant pot, or hanging basket to grow in, as well as lots of sunlight.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t grow them even with minimal space.

All you have to do is make sure that wherever you grow your tomato seeds they are getting enough light, be that in your bedroom, kitchen or living room.

If there isn’t enough sunlight, the tomatoes, unfortunately, may not grow.

Also a top tip for growing tomatoes in plant pots!

Choose cherry or pear tomatoes to grow rather than bigger varieties’ as they are smaller and easier to maintain.

Chillies – Dwarf ornamental chilli peppers are fantastic for growing indoors as they are a lot smaller than other chillies and therefore need less space to root down and develop.

They are also great as you can grow them in flower pots, just make sure that the flower pots that you are using have holes in the bottom, as you’ll need to water them frequently, and you don’t want the excess water drowning our the roots!

So there you have it!

Regardless of how small your flat may be, you can still grow some fresh fruit and veg!

Are You Drinking Enough Water?

Water.jpgWater is one of the most important components of the human body, and is integral to maintaining optimum levels of health and fitness.

It is one of the most important components of our bodies system as a massive two thirds of our bodies are made up of water.

Moreover, water is responsible for assisting lots of the bodies every day process.

Without water, we humans would simply not be able to survive, but on a lesser scale, without enough water, we humans can make ourselves sleepy, unenergetic, achy and incredibly ill. But how can you tell if you are getting enough water or not.

Most health professionals recommend that you drink between 6-8 glasses of water a day depending on your level of activity.

This is because if you live a more active lifestyle and often sweat during and after periods of exercise then you will need to drink more water so as to replace the water that you have lost.

In contrast, if you rarely partake in strenuous activity, you lose less water and therefore have less to replace.

By drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day you are making sure that your cells processes are working properly.

When your bodies cells processes malfunction, or stop working at their optimum level, they send warning triggers to your brain which set off a series of physical responses.

These responses are mainly present to prevent high levels of dehydration and can be seen in the following ways:

Headaches

Fatigue

Reduced sweating

The production of less urine than usual (often darker in colour)

A dry mouth

Reduced skin elasticity

If you feel as if you experience any of these symptoms either frequently or infrequently, then maybe it’s time to grab a glass of water, or, mentally make a note to introduce more water into your day as you go about your normal routine.

Not only will this reduce any of the aforementioned symptoms that you may be experiencing, but your skin will also benefit.

By forgetting to drink water, you are forgetting to introduce moisture from the inside.

This makes your skin dull and dry looking, often making you reach for expensive moisturisers.

However, by drinking enough water you can boost your health and your skin. What’s not to love?

Pesticides and Food

pesticides_and_foodWe all know the saying “you are what you eat”, but what if when we are eating we are getting a lot more than we bargained for, despite what we have in front of us being deemed as ‘natural’ or straight from the ground?

The use of pesticides to help with food growth is nothing new (it’s been around since the 19th Century), and many would argue that it is needed.

With the population of the world set to triple in the next ten years, inevitably our food growth needs to keep up with that so as to prevent huge parts of the world from living in what is classified as extreme poverty.

Already 700 million people do not have enough food to eat, and yet one third of all crops are being lost to pests (even with the use of pesticides).

When you triple those numbers the situation becomes unimaginable.

Unfortunately, with agriculture and food production technology as it is, without pesticides the amount of people that wouldn’t have enough food would rise immeasurably.

However, pesticides do carry with them risks.

The whole point of pesticides is to kill the living organisms that enjoy eating the food that we grow as much as we do.

Yet, because these chemicals are used to kill these ‘pests’ who are living organisms – like we are – they can be dangerous to us too.

Lots of the food that we buy at the supermarkets has traces of these chemicals on them, despite them being available for human consumption, which is why it is super important that you wash everything before you eat it, and make sure that you cook everything properly.

Of course, there is no guarantee that this will remove 100% of the chemicals, but the less you ingest, the better it is for your health and wellbeing.

Researchers have shown that high levels of pesticides can lead to genetic damage in cells, reproductive problems and have even been linked to cancer.

Obviously, the issue of pesticides is a complicated one, but it is definitely important to be aware of what pesticides actually do and the effect that they have on your body and health as well as the long-term issue of sustainable of food growth for the planet.