Charcoal for skin

It may sound counteractive, but using charcoal to cleanse your skin is one of the oldest beauty tips in the world. The use of charcoal dates back centuries, when people in India and Egypt treated wounds with it. Later, it featured as a cleansing ingredient in places like Japan, as charcoal acts as a magnet to draw out and trap as much as 100 to 200 times its weight in impurities in your skin.

Most commonly found in beauty products, activated charcoal was created solely for medicinal purposes. Doctors initially used it to treat poison, gastrointestinal tract infections, bug bites and nausea. It also proved helpful during World War I, when activated charcoal was placed in gas masks to prevent soldiers from being poisoned by chemical exposure.

To create this, regular charcoal is heated with gas to make it expand, thus making it porous and more absorbent. Activated charcoal chemically binds other substances to its surface and compared to regular charcoal, can absorb thousands of times its own weight, so things like bacteria and dirt will be lifted, helping you achieve a smooth complexion.

In saying that, since activated charcoal does remove toxins, it is a great ingredient to take control of acne and improve skin health in general. It’s found in many products which help fight against acne, effectively healing pimples and preventing further breakouts.

Activated charcoal is also an anti-ageing ingredient, reducing inflammation and subsequently preventing premature ageing. It tightens pores and smooths the skin, calms irritation and leaves you with a toned complexion.

If you want to make your own face mask, mix one half or one whole activated charcoal capsule powder into a small spoonful of aloe vera gel. Add some water, a few drops of tea tree oil and a pinch of sea salt, until it becomes an even consistency. Apply to your skin and let dry, then wash off with water.

Runny eggs OK during pregnancy

Here’s some good news for pregnant women out there, the runny egg is back on the menu. For around 30 years expectant ladies in Britain have been warned against cracking into undercooked eggs and advised to avoid hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise and mousse.

However, anyone yearning for a runny boiled egg to dip your toast soldiers into will be happy to know a year-long review conducted by government approved scientists has determined that the risk of contracting salmonella from a British egg is “very low”.

Salmonella is caused by bacteria living in hens and can be very serious in pregnancy, increasing the risk of miscarriage or premature labor. In some cases it can also be fatal for toddlers or older people.

The advice now being issued is that pregnant women, toddlers and elderly people can enjoy soft yolks from eggs bearing the British Lion kitemark on the shell. It is reassuring to know that 90 per cent of the eggs produced in the UK do carry this stamp of approval.

“The Working Group is in agreement that there has been a major reduction in the microbiological risk from Salmonella in UK shell eggs from hens since the 2001 report,” states the report by the British Government’s Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food.

“The very low risk level means that eggs produced under the Lion Code, or produced under demonstrably equivalent comprehensive schemes, can be served raw or lightly cooked to all groups in society, including those that are more vulnerable to infection, in both domestic and commercial settings, including care homes and hospitals.

“The group’s view is that this is especially the case for those eggs produced under the Lion Code Scheme, which comprises a suite of measures including: vaccination, a cool chain from farm to retail outlets, enhanced testing for Salmonella, improved farm hygiene, better rodent control, independent auditing, date stamping on the eggs and traceability.”

However, those individuals previously deemed to be at risk have been warned that eating runny eggs from cafes or restaurants should be avoided as they can’t guarantee the eggs will have the kitemark.

The British government first issued warnings about eating eggs following a salmonella scare in 1988, when everyone was told to only eat thoroughly cooked eggs. A decade later the advice was relaxed and aimed at groups deemed a greater risk, such as pregnant women, toddlers, those with long-term illnesses and elderly people.

Nutritionists have welcomed the news, explaining eggs offer a vital source of high quality protein and Vitamin D which are beneficial during pregnancy.

Work stress upping biscuit intake

Reaching for a bit of cake when you feel blue or tucking into some ice cream when you’re getting over heartbreak is nothing new, but a new survey suggests stress is causing people to turn to food in unprecedented numbers.

According to a team at market research company Mintel, as many as one in three workers feel so stressed about their job they use calorific food like doughnuts and biscuits to cope. Things are particularly bad in the 35 to 44 age bracket, with one in four feeling so worried about deadlines they dip into fatty and sugary snacks.

The study also found people tend to see food as an instant way to help with stress, so use it more regularly than exercise or instead of talking over their problems. On top of this, four in 10 fathers put their career above their family, with one in four mothers doing the same. It’s thought this is in part because of money worries and the desire to provide for children.

“Eating comfort food is the number one thing working Brits have done to tackle work stress in the past 12 months with 33 per cent of workers saying they’ve done this, followed by 30per cent who have turned to alcohol and one in seven – 15 per cent – who have smoked or vaped,” the Mintel team explained.

It seems stress is a very real problem, with 70 per cent of those spoken to admitting they’ve suffered from it.

There is hope on the horizon though, with 29 per cent of people stating exercise has helped them overcome stress. Others confided in friends and family, while seven per cent turned to a professional for help with coping.

It’s thought part of the problem are the hours people are working, which have been extended more and more over the years. Almost of half of people check or answer work email when they are out of the office too, which means they don’t have time to switch off and are also working more hours than required.

One in ten people don’t bother taking a lunch break either, with two in five doing so a couple of times a week.

“Rising work pressures are having a detrimental impact on people’s wellbeing,” senior consumer lifestyle analyst at Mintel, Ina Mitskavets, warned.

“But this presents forward-thinking companies with opportunities to come up with creative ways of encouraging employees to embrace a healthier balance, which could result in greater staff retention and loyalty.”

Some of the suggestions are that workers should be banned from checking email after hours or that companies should partner with gyms to offer low-cost membership.

Chocolate can be beneficial during pregnancy

Pregnant women often worry about gaining too much weight when they are expecting, but a new study has shown that eating chocolate could provide essential health benefits. Anyone who has been through pregnancy will have experienced cravings at any time of the day or night – with chocolate being top of many women’s list. Now you no longer need to stress about tucking into your favorite sweet treat, as scientists have found high–flavanol chocolate can boost fetal growth and help the placenta perform more efficiently.

The study conducted by experts at Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada, also determined the sweet stuff can decrease the risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially serious condition which can occur in the latter stages of pregnancy.

“This study indicates that chocolate could have a positive impact on placenta and fetal growth and development and that chocolate’s effects are not solely and directly due to flavanol content,” explained study co-author Dr Emmanuel Bujold.

Previous studies have produced conflicting findings when it comes to the impact of eating chocolate during pregnancy, so this latest trial focused on the effect of high-flavanol chocolate, such as dark chocolate, which is high in cocoa solids.

For the study, 129 women were chosen, all between 11 and 14 weeks pregnant with one baby. They were given 30 grams of either high-flavanol or low-flavanol chocolate to eat every day for 12 weeks, and their progress was followed until they gave birth. Each participant’s uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index (PI) was measured, which shows blood velocity in placental, fetal and uterine circulations. The PI showed noticeable improvement for both groups.

Gestational hypertension, placenta weight, pre-eclampsia and birth weight was also noted for each woman – and no differences were found between the two groups.

What to know about the Zika virus

The Zika virus is spreading like wildfire through the media, causing mass panic around the globe. But how much do we actually know about the condition? Before you find yourself in a frenzy, here’s some pointers on what to be familiar with.

1. Humans catch it through mosquitoes

It’s well known that these bugs carry diseases, and the Zika virus is one of them. But it’s only the Aedes species of mosquito which transmits it, the same species that can give people the dengue fever that can cause illness and death in tropical locations. While many mosquitoes come out at night, these ones are more active during the day and have a more aggressive bite.

2. It can be transmitted through blood or sexual contact

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention haven’t given a warning about this as the evidence is quite limited, there have been a few cases documented. They showed Zika had been transmitted through a blood transfusion, and it was also found in semen even after leaving the infected person’s blood stream. Add an extra barrier by wearing a condom if you feel wary.

3. Pregnant women be careful

Zika has been linked to major birth defects as the virus can be transmitted from mother to fetus, or even to newborns, although this is more rare.

“The major concern with Zika virus and pregnancy is possibly a link to a condition known as microcephaly,” Niket Sonpal, M.D., associate clinical professor at Touro College of Medicine in New York City, states, according to “With this condition, the baby’s head is much smaller than expected, which can lead to many neurological problems.”

4. It’s spreading rapidly

There were only a few cases of the Vika virus in humans up until 2007, but nine years later the illness appears to be spreading eastwards. It’s hitting the Caribbean, South America and Central America, and is now deemed as a pandemic. It’s even causing travel bans.

5. But it might not be serious

The severe symptoms of Zika are extremely rare for women who are not pregnant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out. More common effects are joint pain, rash, fever and conjunctivitis which last between a couple of days to a week. Only one in five people who contract the illness will really suffer, with Niket sharing recovery tips.

“For people who do get sick, the illness is usually mild and self-limited. Rest, getting enough fluids, and time will take care of it,” Niket said. “If you don’t get better after a few days, see your doctor right away.”