How to think yourself well

There's a lot to be said for thinking yourself well. By this I don't mean telling yourself you're fine, doing too much and ending up in a more serious condition. What I mean is that if you tell yourself that you are feeling better you probably will be. If you tell yourself you're feeling worse that will probably be true too.  

Whatever we focus on tends to grow so it makes sense to use your thoughts to your advantage.

Here's a little story to demonstrate what I mean. A few years ago when my son was nine he slipped and fell on the ice. The weather had turned very cold unexpectedly during the night and as he left for school in the morning, he ran down the path, his feet went from under him and he did a comedy (although clearly he wasn't laughing), feet-over-his-head fall. I picked him up, checked for breakages, of which there were none, kissed him better and sent him off to school.

When he returned at the end of the day I could tell that all was not well. He was tearful and just not himself. As the evening wore on he developed a high temperature but had no other symptoms; no headache, no sore throat, nothing, just a temperature and the need for lots of cuddles and a nest on the sofa. I used cold compresses on his forehead, gave him plenty of water and some children's Paracetemol but it had no effect. As the evening wore on he was still the same. His temperature was over 100.

What to do? Before I bundled him off to A and E I thought I would try one thing. My son has a very vivid imagination so I asked him to imagine that he was on a journey. I took him (in his mind) out in to the cold, frosty night. I described the crackling ice, the glistening treetops, the smell of the cold night air and how it felt as he breathed it in to his body; how wonderfully cooling it was. I took him flying over the rooftops, all the time suggesting his body was feeling more and more comfortable.

I described the twinkling stars and invited him to pick one that was just for him. One that would help him to feel well. I then brought him back to the comfort of the sofa. The whole 'journey' lasted no more than 15 minutes. When I checked his temperature it was normal. And it remained so.

His temperature was a result of the shock he'd had when he slipped on the ice so there was no infection present, but even if there had been the visualisation could still have helped reduce his temperature. Our minds don't make a distinction between what's real and what's imagination, so when he was imagining that he was outside in the cool air his body responded as if he was.

This story demonstrates how physical symptoms can respond to thoughts. And it's not just that we can reduce them. We can produce them as well. Have you ever listened to someone talking about head lice and started to itch? Or heard someone coughing and you've started to cough too?  It make you think doesn't it? Just to what extent can we prolong or reduce our symptoms just by the way that we think about them?

So the next time you feel a cold coming on instead of reaching for the drugs why not try a more thoughtful approach? 

After you've suffered the undoubted discomfort of snorting salty water and drinking the contents of the spice rack (see my natural cold remedies) you could give your nose and throat a virtual treat.

Use your imagination in any way that seems appropriate to you. You could imagine that you've shrunk in size and have traveled right in to your throat; see the roughness and the inflammation and imagine that you are soothing it with warm, liquid honey or cooling blocks of ice. As you breathe, imagine the air around you is a beautiful colour that heals everything it touches. You could even kiss yourself better. It doesn't matter. It's whatever seems right to you.

And as you go through the day try to think and talk positively. Put aside any 'woe is me' thoughts and replace them with the understanding that your body has the wisdom to heal itself and the message to yourself that you are returning to good health. Avoid phrases such as 'sore throat', 'blocked nose', 'feeling rubbish'. And instead tell yourself that your throat is healing, your nose is feeling clearer and you are feeling better all the time.

How to get rid of spots

Want to know how to get rid of spots, acne, blemishes, zits, plukes, breakouts or whatever else you may call them? Read on!

Spots and acne, as I'm going to refer to them here, are a problem that can cause misery and frustration. Spots generally strike during puberty but can continue well in to adulthood. I know this from experience. Despite the fact that my mum told me my skin would clear up by the time I was eighteen, I had spots, every day, well in to my forties. Some people are lucky enough to go through their teenage years with clear skin or only the occasional spot but develop full-blown acne in later life.

If you're suffering with bad skin wouldn't it be great to know what might be causing the spots and how to get rid of them?

Here are some simple strategies to help you get rid of spots together with some insights in to why the common ways to treat spots and acne are often counter-productive.

If you want to know how to get rid of spots it's helpful to understand what causes spots in the first place. There can be many causes from diet, to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, to stress, to hygiene, to hormone imbalance. For some people it will be just one factor that causes the acne. For others it'll be a combination.

So what I would suggest is that you read through this article to get an overall picture of what causes spots and acne, think about which factors might relate to you and then .... experiment!

Try things out. Make some changes. And watch what happens! 

And please send me your comments. It's always good to hear from people who have been reading my articles.

Most doctors will tell you that spots and acne are not affected by diet. They'll claim that it doesn't matter what you eat and that the way to treat breakouts is with topical lotions or antibiotics. I beg to differ! Big time! I had spots on my forehead and chin every day from puberty until .... well, until I changed my diet. Now? Maybe one spot every six months. And I always know why it's appeared. And how to get rid of it.

Many sufferers, if their problem with spots has been severe and persistent, will have been prescribed acne medication in the form of antibiotics. Treatment can go on for months and although this is usually effective in the short term, the acne often returns as soon as the medication ends. This is because the medication treats the symptoms, it doesn't get to the root cause.

It's a bit like a warning light flashing on the dashboard of your car. You take the fuse out. The light goes of. Problem solved? Of course not. There's still something wrong with the engine. Acne is a warning light; a sign that something is wrong internally. It's your body's best effort to deal with the problem. Getting rid of the acne without looking deeper isn't the solution. The problem that caused the acne in the first place will still be there.

It's far better to look at what might be out of balance, treat that and then view the improvement in the skin as a sign that you are moving towards better health.

There is something else to be aware of when it comes to treating acne with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria. This is clearly a good thing if you are wanting to get rid of a life-threatening bacterial infection and many of us may not be around today without them. However, the problem is that antibiotics don't discriminate between the 'bad' bacteria that causes infections and the 'good' bacteria that we need to support our digestion.

So, in short, if you treat acne with antibiotics you may get rid of the spots but end up with a digestive problem instead. This becomes even more important when you consider that acne is linked to poor digestion. I'll explain later in more detail exactly how acne can be linked to poor digestion but for now I'd just like you to hold that thought in your mind and ask yourself this - if your acne is linked to poor digestion surely it's a bad idea to treat your acne with something that makes your digestion poorer?

When clients come to see me for help with skin conditions I'm not so much concerned with what's going on on the surface as with what's happening at a deeper level within the body. I take the view that the acne problem is just an indication that something somewhere is out of balance; it's the warning light. Most often the problem is to do with the elimination of toxins. There is a process whereby toxins are moved through the body to be eliminated via the bowel and the bladder.

The skin is also an organ of elimination and so if the body is having difficulty eliminating through the bowel and bladder it may use the skin as a way to ease the strain.

When elimination is working well we tend to feel fine and our skin is clear. However if your lymphatic system is over-whelmed, your bowel isn't functioning particularly well or your liver and kidneys are struggling your body will find another way to get rid of the toxins. You skin is an obvious route out. Although for some people it's the upper respiratory system that's used and they'll get a lot of mucus.

Some people get both. Spots and snot! Now there's a winning combination! Other people may have difficulty eliminating through any channel and experience a whole range of symptoms related to that. But that's a whole other story.

So how do you make sure that your body is able to eliminate toxins?

 (What I am referring to as toxins is just anything that your body needs to get rid of to keep things in balance) The first thing to look at is your bowel function. Problems in your bowels may be showing up on your face as acne, spots, clogged pores, dryness or excessive oiliness. Problems in your bowels can be down to a number of factors such as a deficiency in the bacteria required for good digestion but the first thing to look at is hydration.

Hydration, or rather the lack of it, can have a very detrimental effect on the skin. There are two specific reasons for this. Here's the first one. What you eat and drink passes through your digestive tract. When it enters the colon (also known as the large intestine) it is in liquid form. As is passes through the colon, water is absorbed through the colon wall. This causes the liquid to become drier and thicker and so the stools are formed.

The stools should be the right consistency to pass through the colon and leave the body comfortably. It's largely through the colon that the body receives its hydration. This is why people become dehydrated very quickly if they have a gastric bug with persistent diarrhoea, when nothing is staying in the colon long enough for water to be absorbed.

So what happens if you're under-hydrated?

Well, if you're under-hydrated more water will be drawn through the wall of the colon and the stools will become dry and hard and difficult to pass. The stools get stuck and stay in the colon for longer than they should and as the bowel is just a big long tube it's a bit like blocking a pipe. Whatever comes in to it next will get stuck too. And the toxins that should be leaving the body are absorbed through the wall of the colon.

From there they make their way in to the blood stream and back through the liver and the kidneys. In a sense creating a grid-lock which will cause your body to try and find another way to clear the toxins out. And this is where your skin comes in. There are lots of symptoms that indicate that the blood isn't being cleansed sufficiently. Problem skin is one such symptom.

In short, your body is always trying to do the best it can with what you give it to work with. If you don't give it enough water to cleanse and there's grid-lock in your bowel your body will find another way to eliminate toxins. The skin is an organ of elimination. So if you want clear skin? Get a clear bowel.

Drink plenty of water to keep your stools soft and moving easily. And try to avoid foods that can clog the bowel, such as wheat-based products like bread and pasta, and foods that are high in sugar. Aim for a diet rich in the water holding fibre found in fruits and vegetables. Foods that are high in fibre but lacking in water can have a drying effect so soak seeds, nuts, dried fruits and muesli well before eating them. Avoid diuretic drinks such as tea and coffee as they have such a drying effect and obviously keep alcohol to a minimum

Drinking water is one of the most important things you can do to help get rid of spots and keep your skin clear.

Water keeps things moving. It allows your body to cleanse and it keeps your skin hydrated. It's an odd fact that skin can be dry and oily at the same time and this is the second reason why a lack of hydration can cause problem skin. If you don't keep your body well hydrated your skin can become dry and start over-producing oil in an effort to keep the skin supple.

Often our tendency is to try to get rid of the oil using harsh cleansers but this only makes the situation worse as the skin goes in to over-drive producing more and more oil. The oil sits in the surface, blocks the pores and creates a breeding ground for spots and infections.

So the first thing to do to get rid of spots is to be consistent with the amount of water that you drink. And it does need to be just water. Water that comes in the form of tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and fruit juice doesn't count! (I know you'll find reports that claim that tea is as hydrating as water but I'd bet one of my kidneys that the research behind it was funded by a tea company)

Be sure you keep yourself well hydrated throughout each day, from morning to night. A good couple of litres should do it. If you're working in an air-conditioned environment or are doing a lot of exercise you may need more. Don't go overboard though and drink an excessive amount. Too much water isn't a great idea either as it can be difficult for your kidneys to handle and cause your body to flush out necessary minerals.

So the first thing to look at if you want to get rid of acne is your hydration. Closely followed by your digestion. As I mentioned earlier the antibiotics that are given to clear acne can, in a roundabout way, contribute to it. Or, in fact, any antibiotics that you may have had for any reason. You may have been given antibiotics in childhood that are having an impact on your digestion in adulthood.

We need to have the right balance of good and 'bad' bacteria in our bowel. Antibiotics kill off some of the good bacteria and this allows the 'bad' bacteria, or yeast, to grow. Once that happens, unless addressed, the imbalance can last indefinitely. Low levels of good bacteria can lead to poor digestion. If what's passing through your digestive system isn't being digested properly it can clog the bowel. And, as you know, a clogged bowel can lead to clogged skin.

It might be helpful at this point to point you in the direction of my article on bloating which explains the benefits of chewing as inhaling food is not great for digestion either and not the best way to a clear complexion.

Before I say any more about the causes of spots and acne I'd like just to say a bit about the importance of keeping skin clean. Although acne is generally caused by some sort of internal imbalance it can be made a whole lot worse if your skin is trying to support another life force in the form of bacteria that we can easily pick up just going about our normal lives.

One of the first things to be aware of is that every time you touch your face you are at risk of spreading infection. When I was a student and suffering from acne the spots were always on the right hand side of my chin. I realised that I would sit in lectures with my right hand supporting my head. Any grubbiness on my hand was being transferred to my face so I made a conscious decision to keep my hands away from my face and to cleanse my face when I came home each evening rather than waiting till bedtime.

 If you live in a city, as I do, there's just a general griminess in the air that you end up wearing on your skin. And if they're not clean, hair, hats, scarves, phones and hands can all contribute to spots and acne.

Over the years of working with clients who were suffering from acne I began to notice a pattern emerging. Men and women would tell me that their skin had got worse (or the acne had first appeared around their mouth and chin) when they started a relationship. At first I thought it must be down to a change of diet that can often happen when people get together.

Or if the women had gone on the pill that could have caused a change in hormones or a mineral imbalance that could cause acne. (More on that later) But then it occurred to me that kissing and sex could be responsible for an increase in bacteria on the skin ... a type of bacteria that wouldn't normally be there.

When you think about it, it makes sense. If you have spots around your chin passionate kissing and oral sex may be responsible. So, I know it's not very romantic but before drifting off into a post-coital sleep, if you get up to have a pee, give your face a quick cleanse at the same time.

Okay! Moving on! :)

So many of us, teenagers especially, spend a lot of time with our faces not too far from a screen. Most of the teenagers that I know watch TV on their computers whilst doing homework, chatting on Facebook and listening to music. I don't know the statistics but a great many people stare at a computer for a large part of their working day. You may be one of them.

Have you ever noticed how much dust a computer attracts? This is due to the electromagnetic charge. When you are sitting close to a computer you are affected by the electromagnetic charge and can, yourself, attract dust! Problems with blackheads and clogged pores can be the result. Also keyboards are generally pretty grubby places to be, so making sure that you wash your hands after using one can help. That, and keeping your hands away from your face will help keep your skin free from the bacteria that could cause spots.

This is Part 1 of this article.  Part 2 to follow soon.

In Part 2 I'll recommend specific changes to diet that can help get rid of spots for good, supplements that will support the skin and a range of products that can help too.

How to get rid of rounded shoulders quickly and easily

  • Are your shoulders rounded?
  • Are you developing a dowager's hump?
  • Would you like to feel stronger?
  • Would you like to appear younger?

If you've answered YES to any of the above then I can highly recommend this simple but very effective posture exercise. Surfing YouTube one day, I came across an excellent video by posture expert Dr Natalie Cordova. I tried it out and almost immediately I noticed a difference.

I've never had good posture. I'm quite tall and I find that if I don't exercise to build core strength my back seems unable to support itself. I often slouch and when I do my shoulders come forward and my back becomes rounded. This collapsed, rounded posture is still there when I stand up.

Like most people I can sit and stand straight when I put my mind to it but as soon as my wind wanders on to something else my muscles relax and before I realise what's happening I'm slouching over my desk or stooping like someone twice my age.

I know how to build core strength in my abdomen and lower back but I hadn't realised how easy it is to work the muscles that keep the shoulders back and the chest open; prerequisites for good posture.

Have a look at Natalie's video and see just how easy it is.

Obviously Natalie is wearing her sports kit to demonstrate the posture exercise but I do it no matter what I'm wearing: pyjamas, work clothes, jeans. It really doesn't matter. I do this brilliant posture exercise whenever I feel like it. Like all exercises it only works if you do it regularly so I make sure I do it every day.

It only takes a minute or two and I have found that it works well even without the added weights. I don't have dumb-bells but if they're to hand I'll grab a couple of cans of chickpeas. (A couple of cans of Special Brew would work too!)  And you can do this posture exercise anywhere. I do it when waiting for the kettle to boil, when I go up and down stairs, when I'm dancing round the kitchen to my favourite music ... I do it every day for just a few minutes because I know that it really works!

When I started doing this posture exercise I noticed a difference after just two days. I sat more upright,  I was aware that my back was straighter when I walked and when I looked in the mirror I could see that my shoulders were noticeably less rounded. I felt stronger and my body looked younger. And all with very little effort, no time out of my day and without even breaking a sweat. What's not to like about that?!

There isn't really much else to say except ... Try It ... It Works!

So now you know how to get rid of rounded shoulders. Let me tell you how to get rid of a bloated tum.

How to achieve what you put your mind to

Have you ever decided to take up a hobby, pursuit, exercise regime, diet, behaviour or whatever and after an initial period of enthusiasm lost interest, got bored or repeatedly managed to find excuses not to do it, to the point that you just gave up?

If the answer is YES then read on and discover:
  • why you may be self-sabotaging
  • how to use language to motivate yourself
  • a simple and effective way to get the behaviour you desire 
Listen to your 
internal dialogue
    If you've ever started something only to find that after the initial flurry of enthusiasm, you were running an internal dialogue with yourself as to why it would be better to do something less challenging instead, then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. There can be no end to the excuses we come up with to avoid the discomfort of doing something that we know, in the long run, will do us a whole lot of good.
      It's a very common situation. How many exercise bikes sit unused in the spare room? How many novels lie unfinished? How many 'to do' lists are left undone? (There's often at least one item that moves from one list to the next - repeatedly avoided?) How many diets never make it beyond the first week? Gym memberships unused? Meditation practices begun with great enthusiasm only to peter out after a few weeks?

      Years ago I gave up an evening yoga class that I really enjoyed. Each week as the class came around I had a whole list of reasons why I wasn't going to go: my friend's not going / it's dark outside / it's cold outside / I'm too tired / I can't be bothered (yes at that point I couldn't even be bothered to come up with a good excuse!) / I can easily miss one week (yes I could and I did and I missed 'one' week for so long that I forgot that I had even gone to a yoga class in the first place). Very quickly 'I go to yoga' changed to 'I used to go to yoga' which is now 'I went to yoga years ago but I didn't keep it up'. Do I wish I had kept it up. Hell yes! Of course I do! But I didn't. The part of me that didn't like being told what to do and couldn't cope with the discomfort that came from making the effort to go, won the battle that was going on in my head.

      There's a part of us that self-sabotages

      Often when we want to do something to improve ourselves or our situation there can be a part of us that sabotages that desire for change; the lazy, procrastinating part that prefers to stick with the easy option of keeping things just as they are. The 'can't be bothered', 'I'll do it tomorrow' part that can always think of a reason not to do whatever it is that you planned to do in the name of self-development.

      Think of that part as a belligerent child who doesn't like being told what to do. If you tell someone to do something they don't want to do they are quite likely to exercise their desire for autonomy, dig their heals in and refuse, often with all the grim determination of a three year old or, worse still, a teenager! Children tend to live in the moment and so they are often unable to see the point of doing something just to reap the benefits in the future. That part of you that doesn't like being told what to do is behaving like a child, sabotaging your efforts because he/she doesn't like being told what to do and resisting simply because he/she can!

      The inflexible demands we make of ourselves can provoke a response that is equally inflexible. Recently, before an exam, I realised that I would do anything other than the studying that I SHOULD be doing. My house has never been so tidy! I could have earned an honorary degree in pottering such was the amount of time that I wasted. I kept telling myself that 'I HAD to study', 'I MUST study', 'I NEED to study' and of course the stubborn part of me that doesn't like being told what to do became quite determined that that was the last thing she was going to do. So each day 'must study' would go on my 'to do' list and each day 'must study' would be left undone.

      The truth is there is no law that says that I must study. The demand I was making was simply untrue. I didn't HAVE to study. I didn't NEED to study. True, if I didn't study I would undoubtedly fail my exam and I would be disappointed but the world wouldn't end because of that. So each time I told myself that I 'HAD' to study there was another part saying 'Really? I don't think so!' And before I knew it I would be off dusting the light bulbs again!

      Try changing your self-talk

      I realised that if I wanted to pass my exam I would need to take a new approach. There's a famous quote by W. L. Bateman that puts this very succinctly.

      'If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always got.'
      And so I became curious. What would happen if I changed my attitude? Changed my self-talk? Changed the demand to a preference? So I did just that and something shifted. The whole quality of the inner dialogue changed. 

      When I began to tell myself that 'I would like to study', I want to study', 'I would prefer to study', 'I choose to study' a very strange thing happened. I studied. Studying became something that I wanted to do and in time I even began to enjoy it. It felt satisfying to be doing something productive. I no longer felt guilty, the way I had each time I had put off studying and it all felt very good.

      I began to think about how this applied to other times in my life. When I began the yoga class it was because I WANTED to go to yoga and so in the beginning it was no effort to go. It was my choice. I wasn't telling myself that I had to go so there was nothing for my belligerent part to argue about. But after a while I began telling myself that I HAD to go to yoga, I MUST go to yoga and so that part of me began to put up resistance and the internal battle began. I would come up with all sorts of reasons not go to yoga and then feel guilty and lazy and confused as to why I was sabotaging myself.

      Often when we want to make a change we create a demand. this can be most obvious when it comes to diet and exercise. If you ever tell yourself anything along the lines of: 'I MUST lose weight', 'I NEED to stop eating chocolate', 'I HAVE to work out to lose my pot-belly'. You are making a strong demand on yourself and so you're kind of scuppered before you even begin. Try changing those demands to preferences and see how much easier they are to accept: 'I choose to lose weight', 'I prefer not to eat chocolate', 'I would like to work out to lose my pot belly'.

      Change your focus

      Those statements are definitely more acceptable but you can even go a stage further. Rather than focusing on what you don't want try focusing on what you do want. This will give your unconscious mind a goal to move towards. We tend to get what we think about so it's better to think about what you DO want rather than what you don't. And using a phrase that applies in both the present and the future helps too.

      'I choose to be slim and healthy', 'I prefer to eat healthy and nutritious food', 'I like to work out so that I have a flat stomach'.

      Don't take my word for it though. Try it yourself and see what happens. Pick something that you have been struggling with and see if changing your self-talk helps you achieve what you want to achieve.

      Let me know how you get on - I would love to hear your comments. 

      How to bake wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free cake

      For a moist and tasty vegan-friendly, wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free (cake free!) cake try this recipe courtesy of Doves Farm.

      125g/5oz sugar
      6tbs sunflower oil
      1tbs vanilla extract
      Half a ripe banana
      150g/6oz Gluten Free Self-Raising Flour from Doves Farm
      4tbs water
      1tsp oil for greasing
      2tbs jam or fruit spread
      1tsp icing sugar

      Oven 190c/Fan 170c/Gas 5

      1. Lightly oil an 18cm/7" round cake tin or line with greaseproof paper.

      2. Beat together the sugar, sunflower oil and vanilla extract.

      3. Mash the banana and add to mixture.

      4. Add the flour and water and mix well.

      5. Dollop mixture in to prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with a wet knife.

      6. Bake in a preheated oven for 35 minutes.

      7. Remove from tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

      8. Slice horizontally through the centre with a bread knife.

      9. Spread one half with jam or fruit spread (if you want to keep the sugar content down - St.
      Dalfour ones are delicious) and place the other half on top.

      10. Sieve a light dusting of icing sugar over the top.

      11. Enjoy!

      My lovely friend Jan very kindly made this for me (my diet's wheat and dairy free) and I think even she was surprised at how good it tasted. It's a fairly solid cake but it doesn't have the dry, crumbly texture of a lot of gluten free baking. It was very moist and very moreish!

      I would post a photo but the cake wasn't around long enough for me to get my camera out. Or maybe I was just too busy enjoying it to think of much else.

      Do you have a favourite 'free from' recipe - or a good tip for anyone with a restricted diet? All contributions gratefully received! 

      How to get rid of a cold with store cupboard remedies

      Want to know how to treat the common cold with natural remedies made from store cupboard ingredients?

      Here's how to -
      • make a remedy for sore throats that really works
      • clear a blocked nose quickly and easily
      • reduce cold symptoms with store cupboard staples
      I don't know about you but for me one of the first signs of a cold is a sore throat. That faint but distinctive sensation as I swallow lets me know that all is not well and it's time to take action. I know that if I react quickly enough with my tried and tested sore throat cure it'll be gone within a day; if not sooner.

      One of the best sore throat remedies I know of couldn't be simpler.

      It only uses two ingredients that are always available -  
      salt and water

      My belief, when it comes to acute conditions such as sore throats and colds, is that it's better to help the body fight the symptoms with something natural than suppressing them with medication so I tend to raid the kitchen store cupboard for a natural remedy whenever I can.

      As soon as you feel a sore throat coming on dissolve about half a teaspoonful of salt in, perhaps, a third of a cup of water; I usually boil the kettle. (Sorry I'm a bit vague about quantities because it doesn't seem to make much difference). Wait till the solution has cooled to body temperature. You can check it by dipping a finger in. If it feels too hot it probably is so wait a bit longer.

      Then all you do is gargle. Best to do this over the bathroom sink rather than the kitchen sink - for obvious reasons! Just hold the solution in the back of your throat, gargle and spit. This is one of the most effective gargles for sore throats that you can get. You can make it any time and use as often as you think you need to. Just be sure that you don't swallow any of the solution.

      Gargling with salt water should not only cure a sore throat but stop a cold developing any further. Whenever I've used this technique it has worked, pretty much straight away, but it is important to do it as soon as you feel the symptom coming on. The quicker you act, the better.

      Clear a blocked nose

      Well, the same salt solution can be used to relieve nasal congestion. This is slightly trickier. You need to lean over the sink and, whilst holding one nostril closed with a finger (although if your really bunged up that may not be necessary) tip your head slightly to one side and inhale the solution.

      I admit it's really not pleasant but then neither are the symptoms of a cold. But this is so effective at unblocking noses that I can even get my, less than biddable, children to do it because they know just how much better they'll feel afterward.

      The solution should ease the congestion or reduce the dripping if it's a runny nose that's the problem. Just make sure that you spit out whatever runs in to your mouth.

      Boost your immune system 

      After using the salt solution to treat your sore throat or blocked nose be sure and drink plenty of water. And I recommend a high does of Vitamin C. You may not have this in your kitchen cupboard but it is great to have on stand-by. You should find Vitamin C in doses of up to 1000 mg. This is a therapeutic dose that will help boost your immune system and so help your body to fight the cold symptoms. Zinc is good too and often comes combined with Vitamin C.

       Brew up a natural remedy to fight infection

      Well, this natural cold remedy is even less pleasant than snorting salt water but - it works! So why not try it and see for yourself? It's easiest to use a caffetiere but you could just strain it afterward.

      Use whatever you have to hand of the following: garlic, ginger, lemon, chili, honey (Manuka if you have it). Once again there aren't any measurements but I would go easy on the chili, especially if you suffer from any digestive problems, in which case you may want to leave it out. I definitely wouldn't use it if you have an ulcer. Also please note that I wouldn't recommend this natural cold remedy for anyone that's of a delicate disposition or who has problems with blood pressure.

      Just chop up the ingredients, pour on boiling water and leave to stand whilst you summon up the courage to drink it. You don't need to take big gulps just sips will do. Garlic is antibiotic and antibacterial and it's excellent at loosening mucous (better out than in!), lemon is high in antioxidants such as Vitamin C which boost immunity and ginger and chili are included because they are so warming for the body and an increase in body temperature can be all that's needed to kill off the bacteria that's present.

      Children develop a fever for this reason. It's the body's way of fighting off infection. We tend to lose that ability in adulthood but having a hot bath or drinking this very warming concoction can promote a safe increase in body temperature and have the same effect.

      Do you have any tried and tested natural remedies to reduce cold symptoms? 
      I'd love to hear them. Feel free to post a comment!