Marie Guerlain – A – Z of Toxicity in our home – Coal Tar Dyes

  • These are complex chemicals created during the incomplete combustion of coal.
  • They contain known carcinogens, such as toluene, benzene, naphthalene, anthracna and xylene that affect everybody from the elderly to babies.
  • It is also a known skin irritant. Coal tar dyes are used in products to make darker shades.
  • Found in: Dark hair dyes, shampoos and scalp treatments, soaps, lotions, eyeliner, mascara.
  • Read the label for: “Coal tar solution, tar, coal, carbo-cort, coal tar solution, coal tar solution USP, crude coal tar, estar, impervotar, KC 261, lavatar, picis carbonis, naphtha, high solvent naphtha, naphtha distillate, benzin B70, petroleum benzin [3,4]”

Marie Guerlain – A – Z of Toxicity in our home – BHAs

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (not to be confused with the anti-ageing BHAs and AHAs) is used as a preservative and anti-oxidant in personal care products.
  • BHT’s are a toluene-based product also used as preservatives. Banned for use in cosmetics in the EU as a known endocrine disrupter, it can be reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen and a known reproductive and developmental toxin.
  • It is known to be most toxic to pregnant women and infants.
  • Found in: Lip products, hair products, makeup, sunscreen, antiperspirant/deodorant, fragrance, creams
  • Read the label for: BHA and BHT
  • Problems associated with it: Organ-system toxicity, irritation, allergies and immunotoxicity

Marie Guerlain – A – Z of Toxicity in our home – Ammonia & Ammonium compounds

Ammonia & Ammonium compounds

  • Used in a wide range of household cleaning products like window cleaners, drain cleaners, toilet cleaners, bathroom cleaners, multi-surface cleaners, glass cleaners, and stainless-steel cleaners, it is an inexpensive and effective cleaning chemical.
  • It gives a sparkling, streak-free finish, removes soap scum and fungus and can disinfect household appliances while removing dirt and stains.
  • However, mild exposure to ammonia and its compounds may irritate and corrode the lungs, nose, mouth and eyes.
  • Repeated or prolonged exposure to vapours may cause bronchitis and pneumonia.

Marie Guerlain – A – Z of Toxicity in our home – 2-Butoxyethanol


Also known as 2-butoxy-1-ethanol or Ethelene glycol monobutylether, it is used in a wide range of household cleaning products, and is readily absorbed through skin.

It is neurotoxic, damages blood – and the body’s ability to make blood, the central nervous system, kidneys and liver.

Gardening Is Good For Your Health

We certainly feel like we’ve put in a good day’s work, after gardening for hours on end. But is gardening really considered good exercise? For the most part, yes. According to the University of Virginia, gardening rates up there with other moderate to strenuous forms of exercise, like walking and bicycling. It all depends on what gardening task you are doing and for how long. Like any other form of exercise, you have to be active for at least 30 minutes for there to be a benefit.

What Makes Gardening Good Exercise?

While enjoying yourself in the garden, you are also working all the major muscle groups: legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back and abdomen. Gardening tasks that use these muscles build strength and burn calories.

Besides the exertion involved, gardening has other pluses that make it a good form of exercise and calorie burning. There can be a great deal of stretching involved with gardening, like reaching for weeds or tall branches, bending to plant and extending a rake. Lifting bags of mulch, pushing wheelbarrows and shoveling all provide resistance training similar to weight lifting, which leads to healthier bones and joints. Yet while doing all this, there is minimal jarring and stress on the body, unlike aerobics or jogging.

Losing Weight by Gardening

Losing weight requires you to burn more calories than you consume and so the amount of weight you’ll lose gardening depends on several factors including your size and the task you are performing.

Some general examples from Iowa State University, below, show how some of the more strenuous gardening tasks can really burn calories.

  • Digging Holes – Men: 197 calories, Women: 150 calories
  • Planting – Men: 177 calories, Women: 135 calories
  • Weeding – Men: 157 calories, Women: 156 calories

The National Institute of Health lists gardening for 30 – 45 minutes in its recommended activities for moderate levels of exercise to combat obesity, along with biking 5 miles in 30 minutes and walking 2 miles in the same time.

More Health Benefits of Gardening

Research is showing that gardening for just 30 minutes daily will help:

  • Increase flexibility
  • Strengthen joints
  • Decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Lower your risk for diabetes
  • Slow osteoporosis

Getting the Most Exercise out of Gardening

It takes at least 30 minutes of exercise several days a week, to really receive any health benefits from gardening. However researchers are now saying that you can break that 30 minutes up into shorter active periods throughout the day. As long as each activity lasts at least 8 minutes and is of moderate intensity, when you total them up to 30 minutes per day, you’ll reap the same rewards as if you had been gardening for a half hour straight. So you can do a little weeding in the cool of the morning and go back out to the garden in the evening to prune and trim.

Start slowly, if you’re not used to the exertion. Lift properly, by using your legs. Vary your tasks and your movements and make use of the major muscle groups, to get the most benefit. Aches and pains aren’t necessarily a sign of a good workout. Your muscles may feel tired, but they shouldn’t hurt unless you’re using muscles you haven’t worked in a while or you’re using them wrong.

Gardening isn’t usually enough exercise to forsake your daily walk or swim, but it’s nice to know those tired muscles you feel after turning the compost are actually something good you did for your body and your health. As with any other form of exercise, check with your doctor first, if you’re not used to strenuous exercise. Make sure you incorporate a little stretching before and after gardening and take things slowly in extreme heat. We do garden for the pleasure, after all. Getting in shape and losing weight are just the icing on the cake.


Have Wheels Will Travel

“Have wheels – will travel”.   Cycling is the third most popular recreational activity in the UK with an estimated 3.1 million people riding a bicycle each month.  In the 1980’s the Mountain Bike with its sturdy frame and wide tyres for added stability and durability was introduced, and cycling surged in popularity.   That was when, as an adult I became the proud owner of a bike, and I still love cycling today!  Over the years I have “acquired” other friends cast off bikes, and now my garage houses enough bikes to fit my large or smaller grandchildren and visitors.  We have great fun cycling and exploring the riverside area where I live.

The success of team UK cyclists in the 2012 Olympic Games had a good effect on cycling and highlighted the completive nature of the sport.  The organisers of UK Cycling Events have reported a huge uptake in mass participation events and charity rides since the Olympics.  However the majority of those who re-enter the world of cycling are more likely to do gentler family and social rides than long distance sporting events.  A major retailer reports that vintage style ladies’ bikes designed by Victoria Pendleton, not sporty bikes, are among its best sellers indicating that people are getting on bikes for non-competitive reasons.

As a form of exercise, cycling has broad appeal and most of us from toddlers to pensioners, the able-bodied or people with disabilities can all enjoy cycling.  Cycling is an opportunity to discover places unseen from a car such as woodland paths, unmade tracks, riverside tow paths, and just sometimes – a mountain!  The health benefits are enormous, and all from just pushing pedals around!

Cycling is suitable for people of all ages and abilities, including those with back problems or weight problems, since the body weight is supported during exercise.   It builds stronger leg muscles, (quadriceps and calf), back, arm, neck muscles, it also strengthens our hearts, expands our lungs and improves our circulation.   Unless you are being competitive, cycling is a low-impact type of exercise, so it’s easier on your joints than running or other high-impact aerobic activities.

But it still helps you get into shape!   For example, an hour’s ride will burn up 400 – 650 calories, will tone your legs and bottom and keep you looking and feeling good. If  you ride up hills or off-road, you’ll also work your upper body, and cycling hard and fast is superb aerobic exercise  resulting in a fitter heart and more efficient lungs. The best way to build your cardiovascular fitness on your bike is to ride for at least 150 minutes every week.  To achieve this you could cycle to work a few days during the week or do a couple of shorter rides, with a longer ride at the weekend.  You’ll soon feel the benefits.

Nowadays thousands, young and old don “go faster stripes” to race off on their bikes at high speed in search of fitness and fun.  However we need to keep safe and wearing a cycling helmet is essential, to prevent head injuries if we fall off.  Don’t be tempted to buy a second-hand helmet, it may be damaged and not protect you properly. You should replace your helmet every five years.  When buying check that the helmet is:

  • Marked with the British Standard (BS EN 1078:1997)
  • Fits snugly, positioned squarely on your head
  • Sits just above your eyebrows (not tilted back or tipped forwards)
  • Fastens securely by straps (not twisted) with just enough room for two fingers between chin and strap.

If you intend to cycle at night it’s compulsory to have a white front light, a red rear light and a red rear reflector.   For your further safety you should have amber/yellow pedal reflectors front and back on each pedal.

With these safety precautions in place it’s time to go! If possible miss out cycling on busy roads with dirty vehicles belching out fumes, or if you have to take that particular route, wear a mask.  Whatever your speed a spin outdoors has the added advantage of fresh air, so no matter what the weather is like, get up and go out!  If it’s wet and windy, dress in suitable clothing, don your helmet and be off, the fresh air will clear your head and immediately life begins to look brighter.

Cycling can lift our spirits and will help us put our problems into perspective.  The freedom we feel with the wind blowing on our cheeks, gives us time to identify solutions and put our lives back on track. Cycling is one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your daily routine because it’s also a form of transport.  It saves you money and is good for the environment.  So don’t delay “on yer bike” and get those wheels turning!


Enjoy the Festive Season!

Most of us love the Festive Season but many of us are tempted to enjoy it that little bit too much, and all too often come the New Year regret our over indulgence, and despair of our excess weight and that feeling of sluggishness. I’ve learnt the hard way that this can be avoided by planning ahead in order to prepare my body for those delicious festive meals, full of calories that pile on the pounds.

One trick is by consciously watching what I eat in the run up to Christmas by cutting down BEFORE the festivities begin. By doing this I am able to enjoy the festive food and drinks on the day – guilt free. During the two weeks prior to the big day I eat sparingly, less bread, sugary foods and drinks, and I concentrate more on just protein and fibre to fill me up. Come party time I’m more able to enjoy the sweet and festive treats without putting on excess weight.

Another trick is to keep myself physically active. This I find is easy to do, what with all the pre Christmas preparations, the buying of gifts, cooking food and general running around visiting family and friends. Luckily all this frantic activity helps me to burn up excess calories. With festive work parties and friendly gatherings occurring at this time of the year another trick concerns party food. Select the snack foods on offer by picking foods that are bright in colour, and small in portion. Better to sample bite size food offerings, which often include sticks of vegetables and fruits, than to eat a large slice of pie loaded with calories.

During the holiday season many of us will be on the move, aboard trains, planes or in the car driving long distances visiting friends and families. For the journeys I make up and down the country I find it best to pack a healthy snack, rather than be tempted to eat rubbish fast food in the buffet car or motorway cafes. Another important tip is to take time when you eat, this allows your brain to keep up with your fork and can prevent you from overeating! Take at least twenty minutes to complete your meal because this is how long it takes for your brain to recognise that your stomach is full!

Alcohol can increase your appetite and your calorie consumption, consequently you’re less likely to do something active the day after partying if you’ve a hangover. So discipline yourself and don’t drink to excess. Instead use your time in the Christmas break to do something physically active and healthy every day for your health’s sake. It’s a holiday period, so make it special by going for an invigorating a walk or take younger members of the family or friends for a swim or a bike ride. If you do have a gym membership then make the most of it now, because it’s more likely to be nice and quiet with many members away elsewhere.

We all like socialising in the festive season and I’m certainly not one to dissuade you! I’m by no means a “party pooper”. I love a drink or two of white wine but am aware of the implications of partying too much! Another of my tips is to make a conscious effort to drink plenty of water throughout the day and in-between alcoholic drinks. By staying hydrated you will help your body counter the dehydrating affects of both travel and alcohol. Water can also help satiate your appetite because thirst is often mistaken for hunger. And remember alcohol is also fattening. So if you plan to booze, don’t plan to lose… especially your figure! All alcoholic beverages are loaded with calories so try to limit your intake if you want to maintain your jean size! And on a more serious note, alcohol inhibits the breakdown of fat and reduces the absorption of nutrients from your food. Disorders of the eyes, skin, joints, heart, digestion and some cancers are a few health problems linked to alcohol abuse.

In order to avoid hangovers “line” your stomach before a drinking session by eating foods such as milk, bread, potato, and pasta which all take a time to digest. Most of us enjoy a party, whether it’s with workmates or the family, but my advice is…don’t mix drinks, do pace yourself, and prevent dehydration by drinking that water alongside your alcohol. Discover the cleansing effect the water has on your body by drinking a glass or two before going to bed and make sure you consume more liquid than the urine you pass out. OK, you will need to pop out to the loo during the night but you will avoid that morning hangover! After the excesses of the Festive Season I like to give myself and my liver a break, in fact I try to avoid it altogether and give up alcohol for a month. By doing this I hope my liver will benefit, and I know from experience that it makes the whole of me perk up, physically and psychologically.

And one final tip…do the best you can… but do remember to enjoy yourself!
I wish you all a Happy Festive Season and a Healthy New Year!

New Year Resolutions

With the Festive Season and its excesses well behind us it’s time to focus on New Year 2015 by looking at simple ways to help us look good and feel great. So what are your New Year Resolutions? Well, the 20th century poet and pacifist Edith Lovejoy Pierce famously said of the year ahead…. “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

I love that thought and my New Year resolution is to take the opportunity to continue keeping both mentally and physically fit. I recognize all too well that this is the best opportunity I have to help myself stay independent in my older age! But as the years slip by I also realize that it’s not always easy with my busy lifestyle to stick to my New Year resolution of routines and regimes. I am for ever on the road travelling with my work, or visiting my family who are “up North” and “down South”, and I’m often working on cruise ships or abroad.

So I have to integrate my physical activities and watch what I eat, wherever I am. Consequently I need to be disciplined to take the opportunity of helping myself keep fit anytime, anywhere, and it can prove difficult. There are always temptations that send us off track or crack our good intentions, and in my case my willpower can be cracked and I can be sent off track when I am faced with the temptations of dark chocolate or a glass of Champagne!

So to help me keep well and to I ensure I have the necessary RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamins and minerals, whenever possible I take the opportunity to eat a varied and well-balanced diet. This includes more of the 3 F’s….fresh food, fish plus fruit and vegetables, and less of the 3 S’s.…salt, sugar and saturated fats. Should I not be able to eat my varied diet to boost my wellbeing, because of constantly being on the road, I’ll include a daily supplement such as a multivitamin tablet to help keep my skin, hair, teeth and nails in good condition.

Every day I take 2 Calcium plus vitamin D tablets, to help maintain my strong bones and prevent the fragile bone disease osteoporosis. The fact is that 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will break a bone as a result of poor bone health. Many people of my age also take glucosamine to help their joints keep moving!
This year my simple New Year resolutions include

• Health
Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to help ward off colds and flu. “Juicing” the fruits and vegetables makes a pleasant and palatable alternative, ensuring a high intake of protective vitamins. Give your immune system an extra boost, by taking Echinacea in tincture form diluted in water, or a daily capsule.

• Body
Winter skin exposed to wind, cold, UV radiation and the effects of central heating results in skin dehydration and loss of softness and flexibility. So it’s time to replenish and pamper! I massage my body daily with a generous helping of moisturising skin cream, and exfoliate once a week with a body salt scrub.

• Hands and Feet
Skin on our hands and feet become especially dry and vulnerable in winter, leading to irritation, sores and redness. I keep my skin supple and healthy by preventing water and lipids escaping (which causes chapping) by using lots of nourishing hand cream rich in Vitamin A.

• Lips
Our lips are particularly prone to dryness, and more so as we age. Delicate thin, chapped skin is no barrier to bacteria and viruses. Rough, flaky, dry lips look old, and are difficult to make up. So I apply a nourishing lip protection, either on its own or under my lipstick.

• Shape
It’s essential to keep active, and even though it is cold outside we should all aim to take a brisk half-hour walk, 3 times a week. I like to swim, cycle, jog, or garden whenever possible, and find that being active makes my body and complexion glow.

• Social
My final New Year resolution is to contact that old friend, neighbour or family member I’ve been meaning to catch up with for the past year! Maybe you too could take the opportunity to visit someone less fortunate than yourself, or in poor health? If you do, make sure to give them a big smile, it’ll cost you nothing. But your smile could make New Year 2015 feel a whole lot richer for them!

Be Happy, Retirement – Dream or Nightmare

Whoever you are, whatever your age the fact is that we are all getting a little bit older every day and one day may think about “retiring”. Rules of retirement changed in October 2011 when the UK’s default retirement age of 65 was finally abolished stopping employers from compulsorily retiring workers once they reached the age 65. Great news for many 65 year olds, who as a result can now continue in most forms of employment should they so chose.

Traditionally the younger generation assumed older people would retire between 55 and 65 and would then need to be looked after because ageing is an illness! The assumption was that we older folk were incapable of changing our lifestyle, our opinions, our outlook, our religion, or our politics because of our age! Ageism had presumed we’d come to the end of our productive life and therefore we’d be a burden (and a growing burden) on society and the health service.

Potentially this is a big problem for future generations, but those of us not born yesterday realise that forcing people to retire was wasting knowledge, experience and more importantly was leading to early decline for older people who felt they were being thrown onto the rubbish heap. So by shattering the retirement myth of rocking chair and slippers it now means we have the choice of continuing to work on – whether for financial reasons, or because we feel we can, or we want to. Alternatively we can still choose to take retirement and to use that time pursuing our hobbies or fulfilling lifelong dreams.

However, recent figures from AgeUK worryingly show that 3 million people in the UK are aged 80 or over, and amazingly for the first time in history there are 11 million people over the age of 65. This means that nearly 14.7 million people in the UK are 60 or over and even more astonishing there are now more pensioners than there are children under the age of 16.

As an older person I can assure the younger generation that many of us, whether we have chosen to retire or continue working have much to offer, not least of which is experience. Like many of my contemporaries I still work, travelling the world as a fitness guru or nearer to home as a broadcaster and journalist, communicating and encouraging others of “retirement” age on how to continue being a useful, fit and happy member of society.

And it’s fitness that can turn our later years of either work or retirement into a dream. Being healthy can alleviate the increasing strain on the health services which our younger people will have to work hard to fund in the future. Recent research undertaken by Stannah, the stair lift people, revealed that 55+ year olds are amongst the worst in Great Britain for taking their health and fitness seriously. The number of people who do exercise on a regular basis equate to almost half that of their 25-34 year old counterparts. A lack of fitness could turn those later years into a nightmare for this older age group.

The online survey indicated that 98% of those over the age of 55 do understand the purpose of a healthy lifestyle, and that nearly one in five of them have already been medically advised to take regular exercise! The excuses for not doing so range from lack of time, to preferring to exercise at home or outside of the gym, since the fitness industry appears to be designed for a younger audience with minimal options available for those who prefer to exercise at their own pace.

Some of this group wrongly consider they are too old or think that it’s too late to worry about a healthy lifestyle. Others believe that hobbies such as walking or golf are ample exercise, which at least that’s a positive start! But I believe that keeping fit should be available to everyone, no matter what age or fitness ability, and for that reason I created a DVD with home exercises specifically for the over 55’s giving them the convenience and confidence to exercise whenever they like.

Maturing is perceived to be an advantage for many things, wine and cheese come to mind, so let’s apply the same logic to ourselves! Let’s learn to nurture and take care of ourselves, and ideally from an early age. Because trust me you’re never too old or too young to start! Staying active over the years is the first step to helping maintain mobility and independence for all of us. Your wellbeing and fitness will improve your quality of life and could make your later life and eventually your retirement less of a myth and more of a dream!

Please note “EASIFIT” DVD available from Amazon

Be Happy, Legs for Life

Do you have to stand for hours a day in your job (like these ladies in “Are you being served”)?   Have you noticed that when your legs and feet feel tired, your whole body tends to feel tired, achy and you slow down?   It’s as though your total well being is dependent on the fitness of your limbs and if your legs ache and ankles swell you may well have a tendency to varicose veins.  About half the population suffers from some kind of leg problems such as tired, aching legs and about a quarter seek treatment for such conditions as varicose veins or in extreme cases a venous leg ulcer.

Good circulation is important in preventing leg problems.   The blood that flows into the lower leg is helped back to the heart by the pumping action of the calf muscle when we exercise, and by the “one way” valves in the veins themselves.   However if the veins become damaged or the valves stop working properly blood can gather in the lower limb, causing swollen ankles and tired, aching legs.

Today more and more people are on the move for their work or vacation, however the huge increase in world travel, particularly long distance air travel, carries with it the potential health risk of a deep vein thrombosis (commonly known as DVT).   DVT was not previously recognised as a serious travel risk, but has now been proven to affect thousands of air travellers each year.  It can often occur in conjunction with an established illness or condition, where the natural tendency of the blood to clot is increased. A thrombosis is a blood clot, which forms when the platelets of the blood stick together, also sticking to the sidewall of veins, most commonly the veins of the calf.  Other factors increase this tendency including being over 40 years of age, smoking, obesity, pregnancy, taking the contraceptive pill, or having recently undergone major surgery.

Long periods of immobility, particularly on long haul flights can cause circulatory problems, with enforced inactivity and sitting in cramped conditions for long periods of time creating blood flow problems.  An inefficient, sluggish blood flow increases the risk of a thrombosis and is particularly serious when the blood clot gradually increases in size causing an eventual blockage in the vein.   Occasionally bits of the clot will break free, and with a trail of debris behind it can travel up the body to the right side of the heart, where it is pumped on into the lungs, causing serious breathing problems or a pulmonary embolism.

Many air passengers suffer minor symptoms, such as fluid collecting in the lower limbs causing swollen legs and ankles, but others experience more serious symptoms including a rapid heartbeat, palpitations, and breathlessness or coughing.   If a problem does occur, during or after a flight it is essential to seek medical advice as quickly as possible, in order to avoid complications or possible death from cardiac or respiratory failure.

To prevent a DVT, commonly known as “economy class syndrome” (because of the tight cramped seating arrangements in many planes) it is essential to walk up and down the aisles of the aircraft whenever possible during a long flight.  Other easy ways to help avoid DVT are to wear loose comfortable clothing and to avoid crossing your legs especially when sleeping and to do simple leg and feet exercises throughout the duration of the flight.   Long haul flights carry the most risk, but exercise and walking around whenever possible will improve circulation, the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg will pump and encourage the return of blood from the legs and feet back to the heart.

This simple exercise which I call “Rock and Roll” can help to increase your circulation ( you can either sit or stand holding onto the chair back for support).

  • With both feet flat on the floor simply pull up your toes and forefoot whilst keeping your heels on the floor.
  • Now lower your toes down to the floor and with a continuous rolling action lift your heels up.
  • Repeat pulling up and lowering down toes and forefoot in a rock and roll action, 20 times fast and vigorously!  Feel the calf muscles in the back of your lower legs working!

This movement helps pump the blood back up the

leg towards the heart. On a long plane journey the air inside the cabin can become very dry, so it’s advisable to drink plenty of fluids during the flight in order to prevent the body becoming dehydrated. And avoid excess alcohol because dehydration can cause the blood to thicken.  Taking an aspirin before a long flight is a simple precaution which can help thin the blood and discourage blood from clotting.   However aspirin is not advisable for anyone who has an established medical condition such as a stomach ulcer.   If you are concerned about the risks involved with flying long distances, it is a good idea to talk to your GP, particularly if you have had phlebitis or a previous thrombosis.

I hope these simple tips which are suitable for most people will help keep your legs fit for life!