Unleashing My Inner Geek!

I think lockdown has forced us to have a good think about our lives. What is important to us, what we all take for granted, what we are and realising our strengths and weaknesses.

 For me - my kids, partner and friends are most important to me; I took my job for granted and I'm good with people and teaching. However, I'm blooming awful at being at home 24/7 and home schooling.

 Something I also realised from being at home, and with a lot of time on my hands, is how much I love true crime (honestly my obsession with serial killers is something to behold and Jamie Dornan in The Fall, I blame you) and how much I love medical and health information and the facts behind it. I am convinced in a past life I was a pathologist however, in this lifetime I am likely to be the first to hit the floor at the mere sniff someone else’s red stuff or the crack of a bone. So, I'm going to stick with geeking it out on non-gory health and medical information and sharing it with anyone that’ll listen. In this case, it’s you dear reader!

 So here are five of my favourite medical and health and facts that I’ve learnt through my lockdown literary travels. I hope you enjoy them…..

  1. 75% of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant. 

This means two thirds of us do not produce the enzyme lactase, which is required to breakdown lactose, the main carbohydrate in milk. After infancy we are genetically programmed to no longer need cow’s milk, hence why so many people stop lactase production. Continuing to consume dairy products into adulthood can cause bloating, flatulence, cramps, nausea and diarrhoea. This got me thinking about how much this is costing the NHS in tests for people who worry that they have a serious illness, but are in fact healthy individuals, they’re actually just consuming foods they are intolerant to. They may also be less inclined to exercise, socialise and end up taking sick days off work. What impact does that have on obesity rates, mental health and the business economy? Definitely food for thought, if you pardon the expression?!

 2) Our saliva has a natural pain killer that is stronger than morphine. 

 Opiorphin, which was only discovered in 2006, works to help soothe the effects of food and drink on our extremely sensitive mouths. In fact, our mouth has more nerve endings than nearly anywhere else in the body and explains why even the smallest seed stuck somewhere can drive us loopy. This also explains why a tiny mouth sore, which we wouldn't notice on our leg, hurts like mad for days and it would feel a lot worse if it wasn’t for our drug laden saliva. When we chew food, we produce more saliva and thus more Opiophin. This explains why a sore throat often feels better after a meal and worse in the morning when we we’ve produced less saliva throughout the night. There are even a handful of new studies suggesting that Opiophin has antidepressant properties. Should we then blame our saliva for how happy we feel from comfort eating? And should we be reaching for a packet of chewing gum instead of Prozac for a boost in our Serotonin levels?

 3) Lifting weights as a woman will not make you bulk up.

 In general, women have 15-20% less testosterone than men and without that extra testosterone, us girls are genetically unable to build the sort of big bulky muscles that men can. So, we need to stop worrying and start enjoying the many benefits of lifting weights, whether it be using or own bodyweight or kettlebells and dumbells. It can also increase bone density which is important as we age to prevent osteoporosis and osteopenia, it can reduce body fat by building lean muscle, reduce the risk of injury, back pain and arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.

4) Constipation and weight loss

Are you peri-menopausal, constipated and struggling to lose weight? Read on……

 As we go through peri-menopause the first hormone to decrease is usually progesterone - something that many may not realise, thinking instead that its always oestrogen. If we do become oestrogen dominant before the levels decline to little or nothing, then storing weight around our middle is a common symptom.

 To help reduce weight gain around our abdomen, we need to exercise, sleep and maintain a healthy, balanced diet. But it’s also important to ensure that we aren’t constipated. As well as excreting waste products, we also get rid of excess hormones when we go to the toilet. If we are oestrogen dominant and we don't poo out the excess, then it gets reabsorbed into the body, attaches to oestrogen receptors in our stomachs and encourages fat storage around that area.

 Weight gain around the middle can also increase the risk of hormone related cancers such as breast, endometrium and ovarian.

 If you suffer from constipation try increasing your water intake, eat more vegetables and exercise more.

 5) Lockdown and the need to supplement our vitamin D levels.

 Despite its name , vitamin D is not a vitamin, it’s a hormone that helps the absorption of calcium into the body. The challenge is that aside from a few foods like oily fish, vitamin D is hard to find in the average diet. However, we can produce our own vitamin D by exposing our skin to sunlight.

 The problem in the UK is the lack of sunlight and the amount of time we spend outdoors when the sun does actually shine. At the beginning of 2020, it was estimated that as much as 20% of the UK population was vitamin D deficient.

 This year with us spending more time inside due to lockdown and with a lack of summer holidays abroad, that number is believed to be much higher.

 Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, bone pain and loss of bone density, muscle weakness and depression.

 To try and raise vitamin D levels, the Association of UK Dieticians advised at the beginning of the pandemic in March:

 “If you are having to self isolate or if you are unable to go outside, you should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms to ensure a healthy vitamin D status (for adults and children over the age of one).”

With another form of lockdown looming and with the amount of daily sunlight decreasing as winter draws in, it will be interesting to see whether that advice is expanded.

 I hope you found these facts of interest....I’d love to get your feedback and, if you did like them, then I’d be more than happy to research some more for next month!

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