Keen to up your fitness levels? (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto) Put on a few pounds during lockdown? You’re not alone .
Half of Brits have admitted to overeating, exercising less and becoming more anxious during the pandemic, according to research by WW, Weight Watchers Reimagined.
It’s been a long winter, but as we start to emerge from our homes, it’s tempting to turn to quick-fix health fads to give your wellbeing a boost.
Here, Lafina Diamandis, a GP specialising in lifestyle medicine ( @drldiamandis ), shares her thoughts on which ones should be avoided and which you can safely embrace. Colonic Irrigation
What is it? ‘Known as hydrotherapy of the colon, this involves a nozzle being inserted into the rectum with a tube attached and water being sent into the colon to flush out faecal matter. Herbal infusions are sometimes added to the water.’
Claim: ‘It’s meant to detoxify or cleanse the body of unspecified ‘toxins’ and waste material by removing faeces from the colon. Other claims include boosting your immune system and energy levels and aiding weight loss.’
Reality: ‘One of the functions of the colon is to expel waste products from the body, therefore there is no need for colonic “cleansing”. It can actually disrupt the gut microbiome (essential for gut and immune health) and can cause pain, nausea, bloating, dehydration, serious infection and even bowel perforation.’
Should I try it? ‘No. There is no evidence that it offers any health benefits.’ IV Vitamin Drip
What is it? ‘An Intravenous Drip (IV drip) is administered by putting a cannula into a vein in your arm. Fluid and nutrients – vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C or magnesium – are then pumped into your bloodstream.’
Claim: ‘This allegedly allows the nutrients to bypass the digestive system for a quicker shot of vitality. Different treatments promise to boost your immune system, energy levels and mood, and are meant to defy ageing and cure hangovers.’
Reality: ‘There is no evidence to support the claims. The body extracts all it needs from the foods we eat and excretes the rest. Vitamins and minerals can also be toxic in high doses. The procedure carries risks such as bubbles entering the vein through the syringe, phlebitis [inflammation of the vein], allergic reactions, infections, and it can potentially put the liver and kidneys under stress.’
Should I try it? ‘No. IV nutrition should only be given to people who are too sick to eat or have a severe deficiency. Eat a well-balanced diet instead.’ Meditation is definitely worth a try (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto) Mindfulness meditation
What is it? ‘The practise of sitting silently and breathing, while paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations to manage physical and mental health problems.’
Claim: ‘It reduces stress, anxiety , depression and can help in the management of chronic health conditions as well as a variety of other benefits to brain health.’
Reality: ‘The highest levels of scientific evidence confirm that mindfulness is an effective treatment for a variety of psychological problems and is particularly helpful in reducing stress, anxiety, depression and even chronic pain. It can also improve concentration. Pre-covid, it was estimated that one in four people will suffer a mental health problem in their lifetime but mental health specialists are expecting that rate to be much higher due to the pandemic.’
Should I try it? ‘Yes. Start with just five minutes a day and build from there. The key is doing it consistently. Try apps such as Calm or Headspace.’ Clean Eating
What is it? ‘A diet trend generally used to refer to eating foods as natural or raw as possible, free from any processing or packaging. Confusingly, food bloggers and influencers also use the term to refer to organic produce and alkaline diets.’
Claim: ‘Eating “clean” fills your body with more vitamins, minerals, healthy protein and fats which in turn boosts the immune system, energy levels and leads to a stronger, healthier brain and body.’
Reality: ‘The only way to get “clean” foods is to wash them. While the term may have originated with good intentions, the terminology implies that anyone not “eating clean” is eating “dirty” and this creates a culture of food-shaming, elitism and restrictive rules around food choices which can trigger or mask eating disorders.’
Should I try it? ‘No. Follow a healthy and balanced diet that is low in refined sugars and processed foods and don’t label food with moral values – it changes our perception and enjoyment of food and sets another standard of perfection.’ Don’t stress about eating ‘clean’ (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for insomnia
What is it? ‘CBT is a structured form of therapy used for a variety of health problems but in the context of insomnia it trains you to manage the psychological factors (stress, anxiety) associated with it. CBT can be delivered face to face, online and through apps.’
Claim: ‘It can improve your sleep and help you manage negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours associated with insomnia.’
Reality: ‘As many as two thirds of people have experienced problems since lockdown [found a King’s College London and Ipsos Mori study] and randomised control trials have shown CBT for insomnia works in around 70 per cent of people – it’s more effective than taking medications such as melatonin.’
Should I try it? ‘Yes. CBT techniques will arm you with a toolkit for addressing sleep problems without the risk of side effects from medication. Try apps such as Sleepio and Sleepstation which can be funded by the NHS.’ What about food fads?
There’s always some food claiming to be the next big thing in terms of health benefits, so we’ve called on Dr Carrie Ruxton, dietitian from the Tea Advisory Panel , to share her thoughts on some of the latest fads. Polyphenols
What is it? ‘A family of natural compounds found in fruits, vegetables and plants. Rich sources are tea, berries, spices, soya, red wine and cocoa.’ Claim: ‘Polyphenols are supposed to be good for […]