Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Eat your way to a better beard

There’s not too much you can do about a receding hairline, other than curse your gene pool. But facial hair is a different story. The condition of your facial hair directly corresponds to the health of your body. The same nutrients that have a positive effect on our heart and other major organs also benefit our skin and hair.

In other words, you can literally eat yourself to a shinier, smoother, more healthy-looking beard.

Vitamin A and beta carotene

How they better your beard:
Vitamin A maintains and repairs skin tissue. And keeping your skin healthy allows for better hair growth .Beta carotene is a nutrient that your body converts to vitamin A. Since it’s found in foods that are lower in saturated fats than those that are rich in vitamin A, you’re better off eating foods that are high in beta carotene.

Where to find them: Vitamin A is present in milk, cheese, butter and egg yolks. Beta carotene is found in yellow and orange produce (e.g., carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and papayas) and leafy green veggies (e.g., spinach and kale).

Vitamins C and E

How they better your beard: Vitamins C and E promote the production of sebum, a natural oil that is produced by our bodies and lubricates and moisturizes hair, making it look thicker and more lush. Additionally, vitamin C assists in the growth of bodily tissues, including those that comprise our skin and hair follicles.

Where to find them: Citrus fruits, green peppers and broccoli are good sources of vitamin C. Wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, peanut butter, corn oil, spinach, broccoli, mangoes and spinach all contain high amounts of vitamin E.


How it betters your beard: Our skin and hair are composed primarily of keratin, a structural protein made up of amino acids. We don’t produce amino acids on our own; instead, we need to eat protein, which the body then converts to amino acids.

Where to find it: Fill up on fish, lean meats, poultry, eggs, rice, beans and milk.

Vitamins B6, B12 and BIOTIN

How they better your beard:
B vitamins help your body synthesize the protein you eat so it can be used to build new skin cells and hair. Getting enough B vitamins, also helps reduce stress and prevent hair loss.

Where to find them: Fish, poultry, leans meats, eggs, nuts, and whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal are chock-full of B vitamins. Foods that are rich in B12 include beef, milk, cheese and wheat germ.

Omega-3 fatty acids

How they better your beard: Essential fatty acids are just that: essential to normal growth, including that of facial hair. They also protect cell membranes, helping to prevent your whiskers from getting dry and brittle.

Where to find them: Make sure flax seed oil, walnuts and fatty fish (e.g., salmon) find their way into your diet.

Want to make your beard even more beautiful? Of course you do! Supplementing the above foods with a multivitamin, or with any of the individual nutrients listed above, might do the trick. Just don’t overdo it: Your body will excrete any extra water-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin C or B12), but it’ll hold on to extra fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin A). Excessive doses of vitamin A could actually lead to hair loss. Ask your doctor to recommend a proper dosage, and you’ll soon be on your way to winning whiskers.


Friday, 25 January 2013

Female Genital Mutilation:Curse of all Curses

FGM refers to all procedures which partially or completely remove the external female genitalia. FGM also includes any other injury to a woman's or girl's genitalia for reasons other than medical ones. In most parts of the world, FGM is done by non-medical practitioners who also attend childbirths and carry out male circumcisions.

The World Health Organization informs that there are four main types of female genital mutilations:

  • FGM may involve cutting out all or part of the clitoris, the labia majora and/or minora, and stitching the labia together so as to narrow the opening
  • Clitoridectomy - the clitoris is partially or completely removed. The clitoris is the most sensitive erogenous zone of the human female, and the main cause of her sexual pleasure. It is a small erectile part of the female genitalia. Upon being stimulated, the clitoris produces sexual excitement, clitoral erection, and orgasm.
  • Excision - the clitoris and labia minora are partially or completely removed. It may also include the removal of the labia majora. "Labia" refers to the lips that surround the vagina.
  • Infibulation - the vaginal opening is narrowed; a covering seal is created. The inner or outer labia are cut and repositioned. This procedure may include (or not) the removal of the clitoris


Virtually every country in the world agrees that female genital mutilation is a violation of a female's human rights. It is seen as an extreme form of discriminating against females in the community. As most procedures are carried out on young girls, it is also a violation against children's rights.

Why does female genital mutilation occur?

FGM could be due to several factors, and often a combination of them, including those of a religious, social and cultural nature.

  • Social convention - "it is what others do, and what we have always done.." Social pressure and a desire not to stand out as a rebel is a powerful force, especially in societies with low literacy rates.
  • Proper thing to do - in some societies, FGM is part of proper female upbringing. It is said to prepare her for marriage and adult life.
  • Decent sexual behavior - in some cultures, FGM is linked to virginity and being faithful during marriage. If a woman's libido is reduced (by cutting the clitoris), it is believed that her chances of taking part in "illicit" sex is much smaller. Narrowing the vaginal opening is thought to keep females from taking any sexual risks, for fear of pain or widening the opening, being found out and getting into trouble for it.
  • Femininity and modesty - some societies believe that FGM makes girls cleaner and more beautiful. Some body parts, such as the clitoris (which sticks out) are seen as male or unclean.
  • Religions - even though not written in any of the major religions, practitioners are either convinced, or have convinced their communities that the practice is a religious one and should be carried out for that reason. It must be pointed out that many religious leaders are against FGM, and are involved in the movement to eradicate its practice.
  • Power and authority - in some cases, local chiefs, religious leaders, practitioners of FGM and circumcision, and even some health care professionals all agree that it is a practice that must prevail.
  • A new practice - in some cases, some communities have adopted the practice of FGM because they picked it up from neighboring communities. In some cases, it is the revival of an old custom.
  • Immigrants - sometimes, people who come from communities that don't practice FGM, and come to live in societies that do, adopt the practice to fit in.
  • In some cultures, it is believed that a man would die if his penis touched a woman's clitoris. Some say that if a baby's head comes into contact with the clitoris, he/she could die. In some communities, women who have not undergone FGM are not allowed to handle food and water because of the perceived health risks for others.
The Reasons given by all cultures for FGM are nothing but a way of suppressing women both physically and mentally. Nothing is ever the same for FGM victims. It’s time MEN in cultures that practice FGM also join in eradicating this evil practice.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Make yourself happy at work

We all get the Monday blues from time to time, but there are ways to improve your working life and be happy at work. If you're going through a rough patch at work or are lacking job satisfaction, check out these ways to boost your mood and have a happier work day.
Organise your working life
If your work day often leaves you feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it is time to calm things down by getting more organised. Firstly, make sure you arrive a few minutes early for work to give you time to organise your tasks for the day and get mentally prepared. Secondly, organise your space by clearing away any clutter and streamlining your workspace (this includes clearing your desk and deleting old emails). Finally, make a list of everything that you need to do that day in order of priority. If you can, try taking care of the more difficult things first to help take a weight off your mind.
Brighten up your desk
Research has shown that workers who have input into the design of their workspace are up to 40% happier than those who do not. While you may not have the authority (or inclination) to decorate or rearrange your whole office or work place, try brightening up your individual area by purchasing some nice stationery, putting up a photo of a happy occasion, a funny calendar or small piece of artwork, or getting a nice plant for your desk. A happy environment makes a happy worker!
Wear a mood-boosting outfit
While many of us are required to wear a uniform or adhere to a dress code for work, if you do have more freedom to dress as you wish, try opting for clothes or accessories that boost your mood. Whether you opt for a piece of jewellery that reminds you of a special memory, a colourful bag to brighten up your day, that confidence-boosting outfit, or even your favourite underwear beneath it all, adding something special to your worn-in work attire can really brighten your day and make you feel happy within yourself.
Add some variety to your working day
They say variety is the spice of life, and this is never truer than when it comes to your working day. Following the same routine day in, day out can quickly cause boredom and dissatisfaction to set in, so try making every day a little different in any way you can. Try doing routine tasks in a different order, talking to someone new or taking a different route to work (perhaps even using a different mode of transport, such as cycling, if you can). If you really can’t shake up your work day itself, instead try organising something fun and different to do on your lunch break every so often.

Get active in your lunch break
If your working day is getting you down, try giving yourself an instant happiness boost by squeezing some exercise into your lunch break. Exercise is good for boosting self-esteem and letting off stress, and it also releases chemicals in the brain such as endorphins and anandamide which can boost your mood and leave you feeling great. If you have shower facilities at work you could go for a lunchtime run. Alternatively, a brisk walk around the shops will get your heart rate up without working up a sweat.
Snack on ‘happy foods’
Got a tough day ahead? Then make sure you pack some healthy snacks for work to keep your spirits up and boost your mood. Certain nutrients in food can affect how we feel, so try stocking up on well-known happiness-inducing foods such as walnuts (for Omega-3 fatty acids), bananas (for serotonin-producing tryptophan and relaxing magnesium) and wholegrains (for mood-boosting B vitamins). Also, stick to low-GI foods for slow-release energy, as low blood sugar levels can lead to depression and fatigue.
Be positive and friendly towards your colleagues
Regardless of how you feel, try to adopt a positive and friendly attitude when talking to colleagues – yes, even the ones who get on your nerves! Try to resolve any conflicts, avoid office gossip, and treat everyone as you would like to be treated, and you may find that you get the same in return. Furthermore, research shows that the act of smiling can actually make you feel happier, so try to paste on a smile however you really feel – it may just boost your mood and your workplace happiness.

Appreciate the fact that you have a job
If you know that your job isn't the one for you but are stuck with it for now, try to make the best of what you've got. The job may not be permanent, but going to it every day with no sense of purpose (other than to get through to the end of the day) will quickly get you down. Try to identify a sense of purpose or positives of doing the job, whether it is noting that the position is getting you nearer to your dream job, helping others in some way, or giving you an opportunity to build on certain skills. If you think positive then your mood will naturally improve.


Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Hangover foods

Overdone it on the booze? While you may be tempted to reach for the junk food to make yourself feel better, loading your overworked liver with more toxins is actually the last thing it needs. Instead, try snacking on one of these alternative foods to aid your recovery and start feeling better in no time at all.


One reason many of us feel so bad the morning after a drinking session is because alcohol depletes your system of essential nutrients, including B vitamins. A lack of B vitamins can cause anxiety and depression, so try munching on Marmite - a rich source of the vitamin B complex - to lift your mood. As an added benefit, Marmite has a high sodium content which can help replace the salts lost through drinking alcohol. Try the savoury spread on toast for an added fix of carbs.


Not only does alcohol deplete your body of nutrients, it can also lead to low blood sugar levels, which may leave you feeling weak and shaky. To counteract this, try snacking on watermelon, which is not only high in fructose but is also water-rich to boost hydration. On top of this, watermelon is high in many essential nutrients, including vitamin C, B-vitamins and magnesium.


If too much alcohol has you feeling queasy, ginger is the perfect food to help settle your stomach and relieve nausea. While you may not feel much like chewing on the food in its original form, you could try adding some grated ginger to hot water for a ginger tea, blending into a fresh fruit or vegetable juice, or snacking on ginger biscuits for a stomach-soothing treat.


Scrambled, fried or boiled, eggs are a popular hangover breakfast, and the good news is they are a great choice for beating the nastiest of hangovers. Firstly, eggs are extremely rich in protein, which helps raise mood-boosting serotonin levels as well as helping to reduce nausea. Furthermore, eggs are rich in an amino acid called cystine, which helps fight against the alcohol-induced toxins that contribute to your hangover.


Bananas are packed with potassium and magnesium, two of the minerals often depleted in our bodies when alcohol is consumed. A lack of potassium in the body can lead to nausea, weakness and tiredness, so stocking up on bananas can help reduce these classic hangover symptoms. As an added bonus, bananas are natural antacids so great for reducing stomach acid, and are good for providing a boost of energy if you have a busy day ahead.


One of the most important steps for beating a hangover is getting your body rehydrated, and this can be done through what you eat as much as what you drink. To up your fluids and sodium levels and get a shot of nutrients all at once, try some health-boosting vegetable or miso soup. As an added benefit, soup is easy on the stomach so good if you're feeling a bit queasy.


Due to the diuretic effects of alcohol, the body loses many essential minerals and vitamins during a heavy drinking session. Luckily, oats can provide you with many of these nutrients, including B vitamins (good for the liver and mood) and essential minerals magnesium, calcium and iron. On top of this, oats can help neutralise acidity levels in the body, cleanse the liver, absorb toxins and slowly raise blood sugar levels, making a bowl of porridge the perfect hangover breakfast.

Fruit juice

If you're feeling a bit queasy at the thought of food, then this is the cure for you. While it's great to line your stomach with food if you can, to replace lost vitamins, raise blood sugar levels and rehydrate your body, you can't do much better than a glass of fresh juice. Not only is juice good for immediate relief, the fructose will also help speed up the removal of alcohol from your blood.


If you're craving something savoury, sardines on toast could be the perfect morning-after breakfast. A major cause of hangovers is an imbalance of electrolytes, and sardines are rich in many of these vital minerals, including sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium. In addition to this, sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for protecting the liver as well as lifting the mood.

Coconut water

Many hangover sufferers swear by sports drinks as a way to hydrate the body and help rebalance electrolytes. However, sports drinks are often carbonated, which can irritate the stomach, and packed with refined sugars. For a natural alternative to sports drinks, try sipping on some coconut water, which contains essential electrolytes (including calcium, potassium and magnesium) to boost hydration, and is also soothing for the stomach.


Monday, 21 January 2013

Gambling Addiction: Sounds Familiar?

Compulsive gambling starts out as recreational and slowly progresses to the point where it has serious consequences for both the gambler and their family. Just as with any other addiction, compulsive gambling is threefold in nature: mental, physical and spiritual, with its main symptom being that of denial and its major characteristic loss of control.

Availability and accessibility determine the number of people that will gamble. The greater the number of facilities, the greater the number of people who participate and therefore the greater number of people who are at risk of becoming compulsive gamblers.

Forms of gambling that cause problems

The two forms of gambling that cause problems and lead to loss of control are:
  • The opportunity to place a single large bet e.g. horse racing or casino.
  • The opportunity to place frequent small bets over relatively short periods e.g. fruit machines, where the interval between bets may be less than 20 seconds.

Characteristics of compulsive gambling:

  • Preoccupation: an overriding passion that dominates all aspects of life. The preoccupation transforms the gambler into a withdrawn and moody person.
  • Loss of control: not being able to stop once he/she has started.
  • Continuing despite the negative consequences.
  • Predictors of compulsive gambling:
  • The compulsion to chase losses.
  • Repeated attempts to stop.
  • Gambling in response to negative emotions such as stress and depression.
  • Phases of compulsive gambling:
  • Winning
  • Losing
  • Desperation

About 75% of compulsive gamblers report that they had a large win early in their gambling. This winning leads to fantasies about winning more and an attitude that gambling is a quick and easy way of earning additional income.

The losing phase is when the gambler unfortunately loses more than they can afford and then attempts to recover by "chasing losses" in the hope of winning back the money.

The desperation phase is when the gambler gets into the vicious cycle of occasionally winning, chasing losses and then suffering more losses. Irrational gambling begins, as does the downward spiral. The size and frequency of bets increase and bigger debts are accumulated until rock bottom is reached.

Who is at risk?

Research shows that people on low incomes and unemployed people are vulnerable. In this income category, problems emerge at a much earlier stage.

Young men between 16-30 playing fruit and slot machines and betting on horses are more at risk than their contemporaries purchasing lottery tickets.

Bingo, scratch cards and machines have more appeal for older women.

Impulsive people, which brings us back to availability and accessibility.

Effects on problem gamblers:

In general, gambling produces social and economic costs, poverty, starvation, family disintegration and criminal behaviour. The majority of people who gamble to excess develop psychological symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many of these people turn to alcohol and drugs as a means of temporarily escaping.


The physical and emotional health of the compulsive gambler starts to deteriorate as a result of constant preoccupation with financial problems. They become moody and irritable and often start arguments in order to leave the house and gamble.


 Research shows that 75% of compulsive gamblers suffer from symptoms of major depression. The depression, coupled with an inability to find a solution, the fear of being discovered by their spouse, employer or police, exacerbated by alcohol abuse, can lead to ideas of suicide. Up to 60% of compulsive gamblers think about suicide and about 20% actually attempt it. Other feelings experienced are anxiety, anger, muscular tension, headaches, high blood pressure and fatigue.


The effects on employment are second only to the effects on the gambler’s family. Gamblers cannot function properly at their jobs, there is reduced productivity, absenteeism, lost opportunities for promotion, lack of initiative, attempts to borrow money from colleagues. Lying and deceit become a way of life.


Other behaviour includes:


  • Spending savings.
  • Cashing in holiday/sick pay allowance.
  • Drawing advances from credit card accounts.
  • Taking high interest loans.
  • Pawning jewellery and household goods.
  • Accessing other family members’ bank accounts.
  • Engaging in criminal activities.

How gambling impacts on the family:

The financial difficulties cause strain and friction. Partners often feel betrayed and angry, which in turn leads to loss of trust. There is confusion, worry, despair and fear. Arguments erupt and people cease to communicate. Lack of funds for family activities, abusive behaviour, hopelessness and helplessness often lead to separation and divorce. The partner suffers similar physical symptoms and often becomes sicker than the gambler. In this environment, children suffer neglect and fear. No wonder addiction is called a family illness.


Saturday, 19 January 2013

Poor Nutrition and Stress

Most of us experience a degree of stress in our lives – it’s part of being a human being. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, and we seek out ways to actively reduce the levels of stress we feel. While many see external factors as solutions – changing jobs, moving homes, getting rid of toxic relationships or bad habits – it could be that what you’re feeding yourself is making you feel anxious and on edge. Or what you’re not feeding yourself. If you’re always feeling stressed out, it could be that you’re not getting enough of the following:

Complex carbs: these stimulate serotonin production in the brain and stabilize your blood sugar.

Vitamin C: studies have shown that consuming Vitamin C before a stressful task can reduce the level of stress experienced. Oranges, blueberries and strawberries are all a great source of Vitamin C.

Green leafy vegetables: You may not love the taste of spinach but it contains loads of magnesium which is proven to reduce stress. The darker the leaf, the more nourishment it contains.

Fatty fish: Fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are loaded with good fatty acids, essential for healthy brain functioning and a great way to prevent a surge in stress hormones.

Potassium: Potassium is vital for our muscles to move, our nerves to fire and our kidneys to purify our blood. Symptoms of potassium deficiency include fatigue, anxiety, lethargy and even depression. Get your potassium from foods such as bananas, spinach and avocado.

Getting all the nutrients you need to make sure your body functions to its best ability can be difficult, not to mention expensive. While it’s easier now not to worry about whether you’re getting the vitamins and supplements you need, the long-term effects can include inflammation, low bone density, high cholesterol levels, and high blood sugar, which can lead to even more serious conditions and over time, chronic illness. A good way to ensure your body gets what it needs is to supplement your diet with the correct vitamins and nutrients.

Look after yourself!


Too Sick for Work?

If you wonder whether you should go to work or not, you are probably well enough to go. But sometimes you wake up and you just know you can't. It could be flu, a cold, a migraine, or the after-effects of a fish dinner.

What are the signs that you are too sick to go to work?

  • When the thought of getting up out of bed to phone your boss, takes more mental preparation than the Comrades marathon.
  • When you get to a point where you become afraid that you might not die.
  • When you have used up the month’s supply of toilet paper – on your nose.
  • When you answer the telephone by saying, “Hallo Jeannette here” and the person on the other side says, “Good morning, Sir.”
  • When you are prepared to take a second bond on the house to get the doctor to make a housecall.
  • When your husband seals off half the house and has the Health Department put up Quarantine notices.
  • When you reach the point where you don’t care that the presentation you have worked on for 6 weeks will now be delivered by the assistant secretary.
  • When it hurts to open your eyes – even to read or watch TV.
  • When you feel that your lungs are about to volunteer themselves for organ donation.
  • When your family stops saying “Bless you”, as they might become hoarse.
  • When you feel as if you have been volunteered for medical experiments without your knowledge.
  • When your dog does not recognise you.


Look after yourself! If you don’t no one else does.


Friday, 18 January 2013

Your Anus

Bottoms up
Often regarded as taboo, erotic, and many times, used as an offensive term, the primary purpose of the anus is for defecation, better known as pooing.
The anus is a 1½-inch canal located at the lower end of the rectum, between two rather rounded, muscular pieces of meat, the buttocks. It contains two sphincters, one being external and the other one internal. This prevents you from having a rather unpleasant smelling leak while in the cinema, or worse, while having dinner with your in-laws.
The internal sphincter is a muscle that has an involuntary action, whilst the external sphincter works on voluntary action.

Pass the toilet paper
Nature calls, and it is finally time to drop everything else and run for the loo – or as it is also called, dropping the kids off at the pool, losing a few grams, or seeing an old friend off to the coast. When the rectum is full, pressure is forced along the anal canal to allow the walls to part. The rectum then shortens as it fills with excrement, and peristaltic motions push the faeces out. The internal and external sphincters then allow the faeces to be passed out.
But do not push too hard. And do not sit longer than the time required. Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, are often the result of this.
Keep it clean
Since the anus is responsible for expelling unwanted matter from the body, one can imagine that it is not the cleanest place on the body, and therefore needs to be looked after. One should use soft, non-scented toilet tissue to clean the anus after sitting on the throne. Rough, scented toilet tissue will only lead to irritations and could make your day quite nasty. And maybe also quite nasty for everyone around you.
When bathing, only wash the anus with a mild soap and hot water. Do not scrub it as it could cause skin irritations and will strip the anal area of its natural lubricants that keep it soft and supple.
Your own orchestra
Besides being used for defecation, the anus can also occasionally serve as a musical instrument. Flatulence or farting, as embarrassing as it might be, is part of everyday life. Flatulence is basically a mixture of different gases that are produced by bacteria and yeasts living in the gastrointestinal tract.
Some gases are flammable. Hydrogen and methane are the two gases that can catch fire. The foul odour resulting from a whistling experience is from butyric acid, sulphur and carbon compounds. Even invisible particles of faeces can be present in a fart. Although the anus does not produce these gases, the anus serves as an exit hole for these gases to be released.
The vibration of the anal opening is the cause for the noise when a fart is made. The sound will depend on the tightness of the sphincter muscle, the speed of the travelling gas, moisture, as well as body fat.
The urge to let rip is caused by the same peristaltic motions when faeces is pushed out, and nerve endings in the rectum can distinguish between faeces and gas. However, these nerves can become confused every now and then, which could be a good explanation for the skid marks in your underwear.
Banging on the back door
Since the beginning of time, the anus has also been accepted by many cultures as an erogenous zone, explaining the act of anal stimulation. The anal walls are rich in nerve endings that can give a feeling of pleasure. Many homosexual and heterosexual people practice this form of intercourse.
However, anal sex should always be practiced with a condom and a good water-based lubricant. It is very possible for the walls of the rectum to be torn either through a very solid stool, or by rough anal sex. This puts the receiver at a much higher risk of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and other bacterial infections.
Interesting facts
  • The average human being can produce up to 1.5 litres of gas throughout the day
  • The hairs growing around the anus help keep the anus dry and prevent any harmful dust particles from entering the rectum


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Depression in Children

A close friend of mine was talking to me about how hard it is to raise teenagers. The children are always unhappy.

I pointed out to her the need to consult a doctor but I think she is worried about the stigma that people associate with therapy. I then thought I should look into children and depression. However this might feel patronizing to some but I think the weather in cold climates does not help. When I was a teenager back in Africa, I had no time for sadness. I had so much to share with friends an episode of sadness never crossed me and as far back as I can remember, there was always light  and the looking forward to the next day.

What is depression?

Depression is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, sadness and lack of self-worth. Many people feel sad occasionally, but when someone is depressed, the sadness or feeling low are so extreme or persistent that they get in the way of normal activities.

Causes of depression

The causes of depression aren't fully understood. Many factors can contribute, such as losing a loved one (or in children, a good friendship breaking up), illness, stress, family problems (for example, parents who are splitting up) and problems (such as bullying) at school. Some children are more resilient to difficulties than others, so while some cope, others become depressed.

Genetics and family tendencies may partly explain why some people are more susceptible to depression. It may also explain why the levels of certain brain chemicals become abnormal in depression.

 Who's at risk of depression?

In the early 1980s, many psychiatrists believed children were incapable of experiencing depression because they lacked the emotional maturity to feel despondent. However, most children feel down at times.

At least two per cent of children under 12 struggle with significant depression, and by teenage years this has risen to five per cent - that's at least one depressed child in every classroom.

More than half of the adults who develop depression say they can pinpoint early symptoms before the age of 20.

Symptoms of depression in children

There are many symptoms related to depression, which can make it difficult to spot. Common depression symptoms in children include:

•Simply appearing unhappy much of the time.

•Headaches, stomach aches, tiredness and other vague physical complaints that appear to have no obvious cause.

•Spending a lot of time in bed but sleeping badly and waking early in the morning.

•Doing badly at school.

•Major changes in weight.

•Being unusually irritable, sulky or becoming quiet and introverted.

•Losing interest in favourite hobbies.

•Having poor self-esteem or recurrent feelings of worthlessness.

•Contemplating suicide.

It isn't always easy to spot depression in children because they're less capable of expressing their feelings and often tend to react to their moods in a more physical way. So, while some children are clearly sad, withdrawn and tearful, others may become hyperactive, troublesome bullies.

If you're worried about your child, especially if they've had symptoms for longer than three to four weeks, you should talk to your GP. Also talk to your children's friends, to try to get a different perspective on their feelings.

If your child ever talks about suicide, you should always take them seriously and get expert advice. Children's threats are often dismissed as being empty or no more than attention-seeking. It's important to involve other family members and improve communication and support within the family.

Depression is poorly understood, but some children are more at risk, particularly those who have a physical illness, have been abused, or come from a home where there is marital disharmony or family breakdown.

However, many simpler worries can also trigger an episode of depression, such as exam fears.

Treating depression in children

Treatment consists of talking therapies, such as counselling or psychotherapy, and antidepressants. Simply talking about the problems to family and friends is often a major step towards recovery.

Although children might not find this easy at first, it's essential to help them understand why they became depressed, how they can deal with the underlying problems in their life and how they can develop a more positive view of their world. This usually involves some sort of psychotherapy.

Like adults, children with depression can't just 'snap out of it' or 'pull themselves together'. It's a long-term problem with episodes of depression lasting, on average, eight months.

While the majority of depressed children are back to normal after a year or two, at least half are likely to become depressed again within a couple of years.

Children usually respond fairly quickly to treatment. Antidepressants are rarely needed but may be useful in some cases. Most children can be treated at home or as a hospital outpatient, so rarely need to stay in hospital.

If you're worried that your child might be suicidal, talk to your doctor immediately - and try talking to your child too.

Diagnosing depression

If you are worried that your child might be depressed, talk to your doctor. Diagnosis is usually based on the medical history and symptoms, so your doctor will need to talk to the child.

Look after your own and remember avoiding the subject does and will not help your child/children.


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Booze free ways to de-stress

 Rather than turning into a pressure cooker of stress, here are a few ways to unwind, and some ways that you shouldn’t..

Work out
You’ve heard this before, but here’s a timely reminder. Exercise forces your mind off the cares of the day. If you do it properly and have a really vigorous workout (without reading your company’s annual report on the treadmill), you’ll feel better because of all the oxygen in your blood. There’ll be endorphins in your system too – call them nature’s Prozac. You need to exercise for at least 40 minutes before they kick in, but they’ll keep working for hours afterwards. The other reason that exercise is good for you is this: most blokes feel guilty when they don’t and justifiably feel good when they do.

Don’t talk shop
Having six beers with the guys from the office may be a tradition, but it’s one that’s worth breaking. Most social events of this sort involve shoptalk, which won’t help anyone relax. And the habit of drinking a lot socially has its own problems. A little of what you fancy is definitely good for you, as long as it’s a little beer, wine, chocolate or biltong, and not cocaine or tobacco. But watch your intake: if your consumption level increases, it’s worth taking a break before your drinking becomes a source of stress itself.

Cook something
Studies show that food odours (excluding cabbage, perhaps) help reduce stress. So knock up a fragrant curry or some garlicky pasta with pungent parmesan cheese. Just shopping for fresh greens can be therapeutic, as long as you don’t look too closely at the price of organic tomatoes. Back to the kitchen: if you’re really feeling careworn, slam together a meal that’s high in carbohydrates and has no protein. Think pasta or pasta salad (easy on the oily dressing), rice, a mixture of pulses and grains, or simply a baked potato. This works because carbohydrates trigger the release of serotonin, a brain chemical that calms you.

Start a garden
Some blokes find the very idea of gardening stressful, but a bonsai tree or miniature garden can be therapeutic. It’s the same reason that some blokes build model aircraft or keep fish, except that while aphids don’t eat either of those, each has its own hazards if you’re not good at them.

Hit the bottle
Not booze, which as we’ve said is a bad idea, but aromatherapy oils. Run yourself a warm – not scalding – bath, and put in a few drops of lavender, juniper, chamomile, geranium, clary sage or sandalwood. Any combination of these is fine, but put in no more than six drops. Then have a soak.

Stock up on Woody Allen videos
Laughter is good for your blood pressure, so build up a library of stuff that tickles you, whether it’s Calvin and Hobbes collections, Goon Show recordings, Fawlty Towers videos or just your high school yearbook - once you hit a certain age the hairstyles are always good for a chuckle.

Float away
Make your own flotation tank with a bath full of tepid water and a packet of epsom salts. Light a perfumed candle and have a float. Recorded whale music is optional.

Finally, here’s a series of stretches that will help rid your muscles of the knots picked up in a day behind a monitor or a steering wheel. Wear loose, cool clothing, keep your eyes closed throughout, and leave the cell phone and the Green Day CD off.

Step 1
Lie on the floor with your legs together and your arms by your sides. Inhale. Tighten your toes, feet and calves. Pull your kneecaps up; clench your buttocks and thighs. Exhale, pulling in your abdomen, clenching your fists and arm muscles. Maintain this tightness for three seconds then exhale, spreading your arms and legs as you do so, but maintaining the tension. Slowly relax the muscles in the same order that you clenched them. Roll slowly onto your left side and stand, keeping your eyes closed.

Step 2
Stand up straight with your feet together and one arm raised straight up, the other pressed against your leg. Swing slowly sideways from the waist, then back. Switch arms and repeat step 2.

Step 3
With both arms hanging loosely at your side, bend forward from the waist. Feel the blood pressure in your head and the pull in your legs. Go as low as you can, keeping your legs straight. Stay that way for at least two minutes, then straighten. You should feel a bit light-headed. Stand still until it passes.

Step 4
Stand straight. Inhale and bend backwards slowly from the middle body, stretching your head and neck. Keep your chin tucked in a bit if you have neck trouble. Breathe normally with your eyes closed for at least two minutes, or until your start to feel lightheaded or uncomfortable. Straighten slowly.

Step 5
Lower yourself to the floor and lie flat. Lift your knees to your chest, which will press your lower back to the floor. Then slide your feet out until your legs are straight. Spread your feet about a foot apart, and your arms about 16 inches from your body, palms facing upwards. Count 10 slow, even breaths, feeling your abdomen rise and fall. Breathe rhythmically, without forcing the breaths. Concentrate on how the exhalation relaxes you and the inhalation invigorates you. Open your eyes slowly and stand.

Look after yourself


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Ways to drink Less

People often decide it's time to drink less. This usually happens after you realise this is the second time in a week that you have a hangover, or family members complain about your drinking.

If your problem is serious, it may be an idea to seek professional help, but if you merely want to cut down, instead of cutting it out completely, there is a lot you can do to limit your alcoholic intake.

Drinking is often a social activity and often the pressure is on to drink with others. Unless you go completely teetotal, it often happens that you stagger from a party at the end of the evening, having had three too many, despite your resolutions - and hating yourself for it.

So what can you do to cut down on your drinking?

Don't do the rounds. Go out with your friends, by all means, possibly even pay for the first round, but don't drink round for round with them. That means that the amount you drink will depend on how much the others are drinking. Say something about an important early-morning meeting and don't let yourself be bullied.

Always have a drink handy. Get one drink and nurse it all evening. When someone offers you another, point at your half-full glass and say something like, "When I've finished this one". Point blank outright refusal and expressed intention to have only one, will possibly result in others putting pressure on you to have another one.

Stay out of the spotlight. Don't draw attention to yourself by either refusing loudly to have even one drink, or by loudly shouting in an order for an orange juice. Get a drink, preferably a large one, like a beer, and put it down on front of you and nurse it all evening. People will register that you have a drink, not that it's been the same one all evening.

If you can't join them, trick them. Drinks like lime and soda, or tonic without the gin, both look like alcoholic beverages, but aren't. Have several of these. Everyone will think you're drinking with them.

Accept invitations with a non-drinking proviso. If you're on medication, such as antihistamines or antibiotics, you should not drink at all. You don't have to turn down an invitation, because of this, but do tell people in advance that you are not allowed to drink anything for a few days. People probably won't bug you.

Drink low alcohol drinks. There are light beers on the market. You can also mix white wine with soda and have a spritzer. In this way you can have a drink in your hand all evening, without consuming more than the alcoholic equivalent of one glass of wine.

Ice is nice. Put lots of ice in your drink –essentially this waters it down and you can linger over it longer.

Pop the peanuts. Line your stomach with bar snacks, like pretzels or peanuts or chips. The emptier your stomach, the more immediate will be the effect of your alcoholic consumption. Alcohol and aspirin are the only two substances absorbed into the system directly through the stomach lining.

Water, water everywhere. Drink two glasses of water before you go, so that you don't find yourself downing two beers because you are thirsty. And anyway, as it is alcohol dehydrates you . Drinking a glass of water in between drinks is also a good idea and gives your liver a bit of a break.

Eat out rather than go to the pub. If you want to socialise with friends, it may be an idea to go out for a meal rather than going to a pub.

Singles, not doubles. Order single drinks, not doubles. A double tot of anything already puts you over the legal limit for driving. Two doubles and most people will be fairly far gone.

Limit your spending money. Take a limited amount of money with you  This will limit the amount you can drink quite effectively.


Monday, 14 January 2013

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mood disorder, characterised by extreme shifts in mood, energy and functioning. More recently this term is also used to include the more subtle variants of the disorder, called the soft bipolar spectrum disorders. Bipolar disorder Type I is much less common than Major Depressive disorder, with 1% of the general population affected over time. Males and females are affected equally. The incidence of the soft bipolar spectrum disorders have not been established yet but it might be as high as 6% of the general population. It is also still unclear what the sex ratio of this disorder is.
As a group, the bipolar disorders entail episodes of depression as well as episodes of mania/euphoria or hypomania. The switches between these two states may be fairly sudden and dramatic, but are more commonly gradual in onset. Both mood states may occur at the same time. This is called a mixed episode.
Bipolar disorder tends to be a chronic, recurring condition and is generally considered to have a poorer long-term outcome than Major Depressive Disorder.
During a manic (“high”) episode a person displays behaviour that is out of character. He/she may be “overly” happy and/or highly irritable, have boundless energy, go for days without sleeping and lose their inhibitions in social settings. People with mania may develop unrealistic beliefs in their capabilities that may impair their judgement, the result of which is engagement in foolish activities or projects which often lead them into financial or other difficulties. As a manic episode develops, there may be an increase in the use of alcohol or stimulants, which may aggravate or prolong the episode. Typically a manic person denies that there is anything wrong or unusual with him/her. The changes in mood and behaviour are observable by others who know the person well.
During a hypomanic episode similar symptoms are present but only in a more subtle form. This sometimes makes it difficult to recognize and therefore contributes to the diagnosis being missed.
During the “low” phase the person is depressed, lacks energy and struggles to enjoy activities, which were previously enjoyable. In contrast to the classic unipolar form of depression, a person tends to sleep more and have an increased appetite with possible weight gain.
Some people can experience symptoms of depression and mania at the same time. This is called “black mania” or a mixed episode.
Each of the different phases of the disorder can disrupt the person’s work, school, family and social life. As such it can be very disabling, but if treated appropriately, it responds well. Treatment can help prevent future episodes.

Signs and symptoms of mania include:

  • Abnormally “high”, euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability/agitation
  • Anger and/or aggression
  • Increased energy, activity and restlessness
  • Inflated self esteem and self confidence, feeling superior to others
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • More talkative than usual and talking rapidly and loudly
  • Racing thoughts or jumping from one idea to another, making it difficult for others to follow
  • Distractibility and difficulty concentrating
  • Increase in goal-directed activity
  • Poor judgement
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that can have painful consequences (such as spending sprees or sexual indiscretions)
  • Abuse of drugs and alcohol
  • Denial that anything is wrong

Signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Intense sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
  • Feelings of guilt, despair and worthlessness
  • Change in sleeping pattern – more commonly sleeping to much (hypersomnia)
  • Loss of energy
  • Change in appetite more commonly an increase in appetite resulting in weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Some people may have psychotic symptoms during severe episodes of mania and depression. Common symptoms are delusions (false, strongly held beliefs that are not influenced by logical reasoning) and hallucinations (hearing, seeing or otherwise sensing things that are not there). These symptoms tend to reflect the mood state at the time. For example, during a manic phase a person may believe that he is the president or has special powers. Delusions of guilt or worthlessness may appear during depression.

As mentioned, the symptoms of hypomania are similar to that of a manic episode but less severe. Psychotic symptoms are not present and hospitalization is usually not needed. There is also less overall impairment of functioning. It may even be associated with good functioning and enhanced productivity.

There are four main types of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar I
The person involved has one or more depressive episodes with at least one manic or mixed episode.

Bipolar II
The person has one or more depressive episodes with at least one hypomanic episode. When four or more episodes of illness occur within a year, the person is said to have bipolar disorder with rapid cycling.

Cyclothymic disorder
This is characterised by chronic fluctuating moods, involving periods of hypomania and depression. The depressive episode is not severe enough to meet the criteria for MDE. This is often considered a personality type.

Who suffers from bipolar disorder?

Although it is less common than Major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder is probably more common than previously thought. Approximately 1% of the population suffers from Bipolar I disorder. It is however suspected that the lifetime prevalence of the bipolar spectrum disorders (including bipolar disorder type II) can be as high as 6%.

In contrast to Major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder has an earlier onset. The onset is often before the age of 20, but may even start in early childhood, when it is often confused with ADHD. If the onset is after the age of fifty, it is usually due to another medical condition, such as multiple sclerosis or the effect of drugs, alcohol or steroids.

There is no single cause. The disorder tends to run in families, which suggests that there is a genetic link. In people predisposed to the disorder, the onset can be triggered by stressful life events, the use/abuse of drugs and/or prescription medication, including antidepressants and steroids.

An imbalance in various neurotransmitters (chemicals by which the brain cells communicate) may also be involved. There may also be disturbances in the production or release of certain hormones within the brain that contribute to causing bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. Bipolar I disorder is generally considered to have a poorer long-term outcome than Major Depressive Disorder. The reasons for this are unclear but may be a result of poor compliance with medical treatment. Bipolar II disorder and the soft bipolar spectrum disorders have a better outcome

The course varies from person to person. Bipolar disorder can start with major depression or a manic episode. Manic episodes usually begin suddenly with a rapid escalation of symptoms over a few days. They tend to be shorter and end more abruptly than depressive episodes. It is important to note that over a lifetime patients with bipolar mood disorder have a much higher likelihood of suffering from a depressive episode than from a hypomanic/manic episode. For some there may be long symptom-free periods between episodes. Episodes have been described to last for days, weeks or months. However, more recent research suggests that some individuals may experience several switches in mood state within one day. The average person with bipolar I disorder has four episodes (manic or depressed) during the first ten years of the illness. A minority of people may have several episodes of mania and depression with only brief periods of normal moods in between.

If properly controlled by medication, a person can lead a full, productive life. If left untreated, moods will continue to swing from one extreme to another and cause severe impairment in functioning. The time period between episodes usually narrows and episodes become more severe. In such cases, suicide is a real danger, especially if the person abuses substances and/or suffers from anxiety.

There is no diagnostic test. In order to make a diagnosis, an evaluation by a psychiatrist, who will take a detailed history and thoroughly assess symptoms, is essential.
It is very useful to get feedback from close family and friends, as a person with this disorder often lacks insight into his/her condition. They will often deny that anything is wrong and resist efforts to be treated. This resistance can often delay diagnosis and effective treatment.
Substance abuse or medical conditions such as thyroid problems can mimic bipolar disorder. These need to be ruled out and effectively treated.
Look after yourself


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Snakebites: What to do

Snakes are a menace in some parts of the world and if you live in the part of the world where they don’t exist, then you might find this article pointless, but those who live in places infested by venomous snakes, will appreciate this.
Staying calm and getting as quickly as possible to a medical facility will give you the best chance of surviving a venomous snakebite. Even if a hospital doesn't have antivenom, in most cases there will be enough time to order it in and provide supportive care in the interim.
It's important to remember that most snakes aren't venomous, and, when a venomous snake does bite, it will seldom be fatal. However, these bites can cause permanent injuries to the affected part, usually a limb, and occasional loss of life.
The mortality rate from snakebite is around one in every 68 bites, resulting in about fatalities a year in Southern Africa.
About 20% of bites will require major treatment. Recovery from a bite is influenced by several factors, including the amount of venom injected, the site and depth of the bite as well as the health, body size and age of the person. The time it takes to receive medical treatment also plays a role.

Symptoms depend on the type of venom injected:

  • Most adder venom (such as from puffadders) is toxic to tissue (cytotoxic), especially blood vessels. It causes extreme pain, swelling of the limb and blistering. An untreated bite may cause death due to loss of blood, dehydration and secondary infection.
  • Mamba and cobra venom are toxic to the nervous system (neurotoxic). Symptoms include “pins and needles”, dizziness, poor co-ordination, slurred speech, excessive salivation and drooping eyelids. This is followed by difficulty in breathing.
  • Boomslang and vine snake venom are toxic to blood cells and the blood loses its ability to coagulate (haemotoxic). Early symptoms include headaches, nausea, diarrhoea, lethargy, mental disorientation, bruising and bleeding at the site and all body openings.

Get to a hospital immediately if you have been bitten by a snake, unless you are absolutely certain that it is not a venomous one. Phone the hospital en route and provide information about symptoms, and describe the snake if you can, so that no time is wasted in getting the correct antivenom.
Not all medical facilities will have antivenom, and they may need to order this in. However, in most cases there will be enough time for a patient on correct supportive care: neurotoxic venom is very fast-acting (20 minutes in the case of a black mamba), but other types of venom take several hours to take effect.
First Aid for snakebite

  • Don't use antivenom except in a hospital environment. Some patients react against antivenom and may go into anaphylactic shock, a serious condition that requires emergency medical treatment. Antivenom also needs to be kept refrigerated, injected correctly (into the bloodstream, not the muscle, and not into the bite site), and given in sufficiently large quantities to be effective.
  • Don't cut and suck the wound, or use suction cup devices or electric shocks
  • Don't give the patient anything to eat or drink
  • Don't rub potassium permanganate into the wound or soak the limb in home remedies
  • Don't try to catch and kill the snake


  • Get everyone well away from the snake.
  • Try to obtain a clear description of the snake. However, this isn't essential, and you shouldn't waste time looking for it. The symptoms will give the doctor a good idea of the kind of snake (neurotoxic etc.), and the severity of the bite.
  • Stay calm, and reassure the person who has been bitten. Fear and anxiety cause an increase in heart rate, and thus a more rapid spread of venom throughout the body.
  • For neurotoxic and haemotoxic snake bites, it may help to wrap a crepe or pressure bandage firmly around the area of the bite, covering the entire limb (from fingertip to armpit; from toe to groin). Apply hand pressure at the site of the bite until a bandage or strips of fabric can be obtained.
  • Keep the person as still as possible and immobilise the affected limb by binding splints (e.g. straight branches) to either side of the limb.
  • If a snake spits into someone's eyes, rinse with large amounts of water, preferably by holding the head under a running tap. This will also require treatment at hospital: a drop of antivenom is placed in the eye.
  • Observe the person closely and record any symptoms and the time taken for them to appear.
  • If the patient stops breathing, you will need to breathe for them until they can get expert medical help.
Preventing snake bites
  • Don't try to catch or kill snakes; get in an experienced snake handler.
  • Watch where you step. Always use a torch when you walk outdoors at night.
  • Wear boots and long trousers in the bush or veld. Step on top of, not over, logs or rocks. Stick to well-cleared footpaths.
  • Don’t put your hand into holes, above your head onto ledges, or under objects when picking them up.
  • Stay away from "dead" snakes - they may be feigning death.
  • Always keep your cell phone with you when hiking, and keep it charged. If you're going to be in an area without cell reception, consider getting radio communication, and make sure someone knows where you're going and when. Have all the relevant emergency numbers on you, and know which are the nearest medical facilities.
  • Don't keep exotic snakes as pets; antivenom for their bites is not available locally.
  • Don't be blase about snakes; many bites (and some deaths) occur as a result of snake collectors and even experts with many years experience getting careless.

Be careful!