Ulcerative Colitis: A pain in the Bum

First of all, sorry for the ridiculous title, but one of the only ways to deal with problems like this is to laugh about them, so I make quite a lot of poo jokes on a day to day basis to keep spirits high. And the point of this post is to not only to make people aware of the disease, but to help people who suffer from it to talk and just let it all out. Of course it can be quite an embarrassing condition but the more you talk about it with people the easier it gets.... 

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

UC is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that only affects the large intestine, unlike Crohns which affects the small intestine. It can be located in different parts of the large intestine or all of it which is when your symptoms are usually worse. It is an autoimmune disease like arthritis or asthma and the immune system goes into overload and basically attacks the body's own cells thinking that they are a foreign body, however, there is no clear suggestion as to what causes it. After reading several books on the gut and the microbiome, there are suggestions that the diversity of the gut may be a factor that links to UC but there is not yet enough evidence to say whether a lack of diversity or certain microbes are the cause of the problem. 

There are a variety of symptoms that come with UC and they can be moderate to pretty awful but some of the common ones are: 
-Stomach cramps 
-Blood in stools 
-Change in bowel movement 
-Bowel urgence

How I deal with it 

Unfortunately it is chronic so there is no way to magically cure the disease and in order to keep the problems under control it requires a lot of tablets. If you are taking tablets and they don't work, doctors usually keep making you try different types of steroids etc until they find some that do. The usual tablet for UC is Mesalazine on top of the extras to help keep things in check. However as I haven't found a drug that works for me yet I do my own things to try and keep my symptoms in remission....

Exercise - And lots of it. I have noticed that if I am feeling bloated or suffering from fatigue, heading to the gym or doing any type of exercise usually sorts things out pretty quickly. Exercise makes me feel good and it's a good way to distract me from the things that aren't making me feel so nice. 

Yoga & Pilates - In a similar way to exercise, Yoga & Pilates take my mind off the pain and sometimes certain moves help aid the digestive flow if you are suffering from bloating and constipation. Try looking for specific types of Yoga for UC on Youtube. 

Rest & Alone Time - Sometime I will admit that it does all get too much and I really do struggle to cope. It's days like this when I know I just need to rest and be by myself. If my stomach isn't feeling too good I always get a hot water bottle and then sometimes I just need to chill and watch a film. Your body is constantly doing overtime as your immune system is attacking it and causing inflammation and it may just be a bit of rest that you need. If you're looking for food to fight inflammation check out my previous post on anti inflammatory foods here.


The Importance of Variety

Of course you need variety in all aspects of your life, but i'm going to just be focusing on why you need variety in your workout routine. Whether you're a fitness enthusiast or just like to do a bit here and there, mixing up your routine not only keeps you interested in staying active, but it will also greatly contribute to your performance and all round wellbeing.

Different types of fitness... 

Power Strength

This is the physical strength that allows you to pick things up, push and pull and requires power from the muscles. Your short, powerful strength comes from fast twitch fibers which are known as your type two muscle fibers. These are the ones that deliver shorts burst of energy that fatigues easily and are very prominent in sprint athletes and weightlifters. But you don't need to be a weightlifter for strength to come in handy, think about the times you have to lift furniture, carry food shopping or push a heavy trolley, wouldn't it be easier if you had some strength? 

Muscles Endurance 

As we have fast twitch muscle fibers, we also have slow twitch that are used for long distance muscle use. These are your type one fibers and they use aerobic metabolism (oxygen) to give you energy which is why they are great for exercise such as long distance running where you are able to get lots of oxygen to the muscles. 


Cardio is either your best friend or your worst enemy, but whether you like it or not it is essential to your health. Having good cardiovascular health keeps your blood pumping and your heart beating well and without it you are at risk of diseases such as heart disease, heart attack and obesity. The different types of cardio are endless, from running, cycling and swimming to HIIT, Zumba and anything else that gets your heart pumping hard. 


We can see the importance of flexibility when we see elderly people that look frail and are unable to move properly after having operations on their hips, knees etc. Being flexible doesn't mean you can wrap your legs round your head, it just means that your muscles can make the full range of movement that they are supposed to without seizing up or getting cramp. If you do a lot of sport and don't stretch you're asking for trouble. At the same time, if you spend all day sitting at your desk then drive home and sit in front of the TV, you know that's not going to be good for your posture and flexibility. Yoga and Pilates are good ways to stretch, or even just doing some simple static stretches before and after a workout will help. 

As you can see there are a variety of ways you can be fit and in order to maintain optimum health, it is good to try and have a balance of all of these types of fitness. If you're an athlete, keeping this in mind can help to enhance your performance by creating different workouts that mix things up from your usual one. But, even if you're not a pro athlete, having variety in your exercise routine will allow you to stay healthy and keep things fun. 

Hot Yoga

Hot yoga has become popular in Western society over recent years and styles such as Bikram are popping up everywhere. A lot of people think that hot yoga is great because you feel so good afterwards, but there have not been many studies on the risks associated with the practice and there may be some things to be aware of...

Hot yoga is usually practiced in a room at around 40 degrees celsius and trust me... it's hot. Most people wouldn't even sunbathe in temperatures like that so imagine exercising in such heat. As you can imagine, some people are sceptical about the practice and whether it can cause more harm than good. One of the main risks associated with it is that people may go beyond their limits. In an article written in Science Daily, Diana Zotos, Yoga Instructor and Physical Therapist in the Rehab Department at the Hospital for Special Surgery, Manhattan says that "The heat makes people feel as if they can stretch deeper into poses and can give them a false sense of flexibility". As a result "this can lead to muscle strains or damage to the joint". It makes sense, your body pushes itself that little bit further because it thinks it's more flexible than it really is and you are causing more damage. 

Another issue with hot yoga is dehydration. It is essential that you drink plenty before, during and after the session because you are losing a lot of fluid with sweat. If you don't drink lots of water this can lead to many problems linked to dehydration such as fainting. Furthermore, "The heat factor also puts more strain on the heart and challenges endurance" so if you do have any health problems it may be best to consult your doctor first and make sure you're physically fit enough before taking part. 

However, there are also potential benefits to hot yoga. In a study performed on adults participating in hot yoga for 8 weeks, they found that there were reduced symptoms of depression, a better quality of life and optimism. I will admit, once you've done the class, you leave feeling refreshed and like you've just had a fantastic stretch as well as a good workout, so it's not surprising that these results have come through. However, the study was only tested on 29 adults, therefore larger studies need to be done before these results can be set in stone. 

The conclusion of this post is that we don't really know if there are any real risks to hot yoga but if you do have any health issues, make sure to speak to your doctor before taking a class. Like any workout, hot yoga is a good way to get exercise into your daily routine and may have benefits on your mental health as well.

Sources: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120116095929.htm



Hilton MCR - A Quintessential Afternoon Tea

Last week my mother and I were treated like royalty at the Hilton Manchester for a quintessentially British afternoon tea and it definitely lived up to standards. I suppose I probably don't need to write much for this post because the photos tell you everything, but here's a little insight into how the day went...

As soon as we entered Cloud 23 we were greeted with the spectacular view of Manchester in all its glory. If you haven't had the opportunity to see the city like that I suggest that you go up there for a drink just to see the view because it's worth it. So we stepped into the room and Said our fantastic host for the day showed us round the VIP suite and we were able to get a 360 view of the city, along with many facts about the surrounding buildings. The day itself was a bit like a Geography/History lesson, with us discovering which buildings were where and the waiters telling us the history of the city. 

Now onto the actual tea. With the quintessential afternoon tea you get an unlimited amount of hot drinks, but beware, if you're like me and don't normally have a lot of caffeine, you'll be whizzing afterwards. I tried the 2nd flush Assam tea (the strong stuff) and my mum tried the Earl Grey Blue which was really refreshing and fragrant. This was accompanied by: 

Cheese and pickle wrap
Ham, mustard and rocket wrap
 Smoked salmon and crème fraiche on brown bread
Egg and cress on white bread
Cheese and onion croque monsieur

and then... 

Classic Sacher torte
 Lemon curd tart
Fruit scone with jam and clotted cream 

Plus more tea, a delightful hot chocolate and a strawberry cocktail to finish us off.

The food was great but I was just as impressed by the service we received. All of the staff, and especially Said took the greatest care to make sure that we were okay and enjoyed our afternoon, which of course we did. 

Life is about balance and although I try to stay healthy most of the time, this was a great treat which everyone needs sometimes. I got to spend the day with my mum chatting and eating cake and admiring the city I grew up in, all in all a pretty good day. 

Foods to Fight Inflammation

Food is one of the most powerful healing tools for the body, different foods can help to prevent diseases and keep your mind and body healthy in line because of a variety of vitamins and minerals. Recently, there has been a rise in auto-immune diseases which occur when the immune systems thinks your healthy cells are foreign and dangerous and attacks them, as a result this leads to inflammation and issues such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Although foods may not be able to cure people completely of these diseases, there are some foods that have anti-inflammatory properties...

1. Turmeric 

Turmeric has been used as a healing food for a very long time, especially in the Ayurvedic diet and is well known for it's anti-inflammatory properties. The component Curcuma is what is thought to help, and although we may not consume enough through food, supplements are also available in a lot of health stores. 

2. Fatty Fish 

Even without it's anti-inflammatory benefits, fatty fishes such as Salmon and Tuna are really good for you so you should try and get a couple of portions in. Fatty fishes are high in omega 3 which helps to reduce inflammation and is also one of the 'good fats' which is good for your heart. 

3. Ginger 

Ginger is another old, traditional food that has been known to heal the gut. There have been studies that suggest it may be good for the gut in supplement form and has had anti-inflammatory effects on rodents. 

4. Olive Oil 

It has been hailed as a great food of the Mediterranean diet and there are reasons for it. Studies have shown that a chemical called oleocanthal has similar effects as ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs. It is best served cold over foods to ensure it doesn't lose any of its goodness whilst cooking. 

5. Dark Leafy Greens

In any healthy eating post there are always going to be vegetables because they are the source of so many vitamins and minerals. Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli contain vitamin E which may protect against cytohines which are inflammatory molecules in the body. 

So, if you are going to change your diet it is always best to consult a medical professional, but eating a varied diet rich in healthy fats, vegetables and other natural foods can help keep you healthy. 

Sources: www.sciencedaily.com


Yoga for Cyclists

Since moving to Annecy, I've been cycling near enough everyday and my body can definitely feel the difference. I didn't notice my legs getting stronger until I went to the gym and could leg press a lot more than I used too, which was great news because I was afraid of losing strength as my exercise routine has been geared more towards cardio and less strength training since being here. However there has been a downside, my flexibility has suffered as a result and yoga has become an essential part of my daily routine so that I don't end up with stiff legs all of the time. Here are 5 yoga positions that I find are best for stretching muscles that tense up after a cycle.

1. Low Lunge

Sitting down on a bike for long periods (or anywhere for that matter) can cause your hip flexors to weaken which can lead to all sorts of problems such as lower lack pain. If you're leaning forwards often then you are usually shortening them, a low lunge stretches the hip flexors and boy will you feel it! Make sure your hips are both facing forwards and you push your pelvis forward to get a full range of movement.

2. Camel Pose

It is difficult to keep good posture when you're cycling and can lead to your shoulders rolling forwards and hunching over. The camel pose stretches your chest muscles by opening the pectorals which can tighten from being in a hunched over position, this can help with postural correction also.

3. Bow Pose

Now if you've got tight quadriceps which a lot of cyclists will have this can be bloody difficult and a bit painful. I often find that I don't get a good stretch with most quadricep stretches but I can really feel this one. If you find it too difficult, try one leg at a time and it is just as effective. Stretching the legs is important to stop injury and prevent muscle imbalance.

4. Cobra

Stick to a full cobra or just a little baby cobra if you find it too difficult. The cobra pose stretches your abdominal muscles which are normally all hunched and squeezed together when you are in a cycling position. It also helps strengthen your erector spinae (lower back) which many people have problems with. 

5. Standing Forward Bend

This is a nice easy position to help stretch the hamstrings and the spine, if you need, give your legs as much bend as possible. The main point of the exercise is that you want to relax your spine and give it length, it doesn't matter if you can't touch your toes.