A reader who has had eczema flare-ups around both eyes for 12 years writes that Dr Organic Manuka Honey Rescue Cream/£8.99, at hollandandbarrett.com, calmed the red inflamed rings within a day. ‘I applied it three times over nine hours. By the next day, the swelling and redness had substantially reduced, which has never happened so quickly.’ A prescription hydrocortisone cream often made the condition worse or, at best, gave only temporary relief. Dr Organic Manuka Honey Rescue Cream also contains aloe vera and other skin-soothing ingredients.
Deficiency of iodine, a nutrient needed for the production of thyroid hormones, affects nearly 70 per cent of teenage girls in the UK, according to a study by the British Thyroid Association. As well as thyroid dysfunction, iodine deficiency can affect fertility, pregnancy and normal growth in children. Your body cannot make iodine, so it has to come from your diet. One rich source is seaweed and my family like snacking on nutrient-packed, calorie-light crispy Itsu Seaweed Thins /£1 per pack or £1.89 for three at ocado.com).
ANNA’S ANXIETY-BUSTING APPROACH
In 2006, children’s TV presenter Anna Williamson found herself in the grip of a crippling anxiety disorder. As she writes in her new book Breaking Mad: The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Anxiety*: ‘I imploded big time – a concoction of stress that had built up due to a tricky relationship, a pressured job that required a smile to be plastered on my face at all times and a general inability to talk about my feelings to anyone.’
Anna describes ‘feeling like a rabbit caught in the headlights, not belonging to my own body or mind, petrified with every move and decision I had to make.’ On what she calls ‘meltdown day’, she was frazzled with insomnia, anxiety, stabbing chest pains and ‘a foggy mush of a brain’. A concerned colleague asked, ‘Anna, are you OK?’ and the dam burst, unleashing months of pent-up feelings.
That first simple enquiry led to Anna getting help – initially time off work, talking therapy and short-term medication to help her sleep. She set about a mission of self-discovery and now has counselling, life coaching and neuro-linguistic programming in her anxiety-busting toolkit. Her book, which also contains advice from clinical psychologist Dr Reetta Newell, offers ways of coping and practical solutions for times when you need a helping hand.
A frequent question is how to know when anxiety is becoming a real problem rather than a few butterflies in your tummy. As Anna says: ‘Anxiety is a protective mechanism, but when it gets triggered unnecessarily it can become a problem. When you feel anxious about things that are not dangerous or threatening and it limits or changes your actions, you need to address it.’
The most important first step, emphasises Anna, who is an ambassador for mental health charity Mind (mind.org.uk), is to talk to someone – whether that’s a family member, friend or health professional. ‘It never fails to amaze me how much lighter someone is after they have offloaded their worries, stresses and anxious thoughts.’
As the Duke of Cambridge said at a recent Guild of Health Writers event: ‘On average, it takes an anxiety sufferer ten years to admit to a problem, so what often starts as a minor issue becomes something serious and medical over time. Silence can kill, but talking can lead to help and support.’
The Duke explained that Heads Together, the campaign he founded with the Duchess and Prince Harry to reduce the stigma of mental health, is asking supporters to record films recounting what it feels like to open up to someone else. The aim, he explained, is: ‘To inspire people to tell another person if they feel they can’t cope; to show that it’s OK to do that – it’s a positive step and a sign of strength, not weakness.’
For more details of the Heads Together initiative, including guidelines for making a film, visit headstogether.org.uk/get-involved