Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Your Questions Answered - June 2009

I suffer from tremendous palpitations, is there anything herbal or dietary that you can recommend?
kindest regards

Hi there Gill, I hope you have consulted with your doctor about your palpitations to rule out any underlying heart problems that can be dealt with so effectively by modern medicine.

There are many possible causes, a common one is a poorly functioning thyroid. Anaemia, breathing difficulties and obesity may also be at the root of the condition. But very often it is stress, tension and anxiety that trigger these episodes and there is much you can do to help yourself.

Start by taking up Yoga, Meditation or Tai Chi. These ancient traditions are suitable for any age and physical ability and are especially helpful for you as they all encourage better breathing.

The other important thing is to reduce your consumption of caffeine, so cut down on tea, coffee, chocolate and all cola drinks. Decaff or herbal teas are best for you, especially lime flower or chamomile teas.

Herbal remedies are also a good help, so try VITANO, an extract of Rhodiola rosea, a traditional medicine for stress, fatigue, exhaustion and mild anxiety.

Can you give any advice on poor sleeping pattern. I work shifts with 4 nights on and 4 off.
kind regards john

Thanks John, your question could help the nine million people in Britain who work a night shift.

Shift work can play havoc with your body, leading to a constant feeling of sleep loss, fatigue and stress.

Humans are diurnal – day oriented – as opposed to nocturnal. Our physiological functions are geared towards daytime activity and night-time rest. Our temperature, heart rate, gastric activity and sleep/wake cycle all have rhythms regulated by our brain’s internal biological clock. These cycles are known as 'circadian' rhythms. Night shifts disrupt our body's natural circadian rhythm. As a result of this and associated factors like poor diet, means shift workers are more likely to suffer gastrointestinal problems.

So, how can anyone working a shift look after their health and well-being while maintaining a demanding schedule? And how can you ensure that you get a 'good day's sleep' when the rest of the world is carrying on as normal?

• Food – Normally the digestive system is relatively inactive at night. As a result, foods tolerated well during the day can cause digestive problems during the night. When on a night shift eat light nutritional meals that will digest easily. Steer clear of foods that can lead to sugar 'highs'and 'lows'

Develop a regular eating schedule for the shift you are on, including a meal before starting night duty and one in the middle of your awake period. Eat the largest meal of the day when you wake up and as little as possible towards the end of the shift, especially if you go to bed soon after finishing. Drink daily probiotics – live yoghurt and fermented milk drinks like Yakult – which contain 'friendly' bacteria, to help keep a better balance within the gut and help promote a healthy digestive system.

• Caffeine – Don't drink tea, coffee or cola, which all contain caffeine, before going to bed. Try not to drink too much coffee on night shifts as this can irritate the digestive system.

• Sleep – Adults need one hour of sleep for every two hours awake. Try to improve sleep by organising a cool, quiet darkened room. Try to persuade neighbours and family to keep noise levels low, or consider using ear plugs. Develop a pre-bedtime ritual like reading or taking a bath with relaxing oils like hop or lavender.

• Herbs can help – try the high strength valerian extract, NiteHerb and have a fragrancer with lavender oil in your bedroom. I think the simple electric ones are safer than candles if you are asleep.

• Exercise – Don't exercise before going to bed because it creates a state of wakefulness and gets the activity hormones going. But regular exercise will help your quality of sleep. Exercise is excellent just after waking up to restore your alertness for work, raising body temperature and improving your mood.

I have enjoyed your advice since listening to the Mike Mendosa late night talk show. I now have a question of my own i am a male of 40yrs old active and in good health, however of late I have been suffering from random attacks of gout. I'm taking naproxin to help ease the pain but was wondering if you could give me any advice on a more natural/herbal way.


Hello Dave

You are not alone. Gout is a serious condition and it is on the increase. More common in men (16 in every 1000) than women (3 in every 1000) – rarely before the menopause, it's the big toe that is commonly affected, but it can occur in other joints and soft tissue like ears. Acute attacks need urgent medical treatment.

Caused by deposits of uric acid in the joints, it is often familial. Uric acid is a waste product and removed from the blood as it is passing through the kidneys. Purines are part of this process and although it's unlikely that particular foods cause gout, those rich in purines aggravate the disease.

Weight should be kept down and the following purine-rich foods avoided altogether: offal; yeast, yeast extracts, meat extracts; oily fish; mussels, scallops, crab, prawns, shrimps, roe, taramasalata, spinach, chard, chocolate and even caviar! Avoid partridge and guinea fowl, other meats contain less purines, but chicken, turkey, and lots of white fish are better than roast beef or steak. Alcohol increases uric acid levels, especially fortified wines (sherry, port, Madeira, malmsey) and can trigger gout.

Caffeine is a purine and can aggravate gout, so avoid coffee, chocolate, strong tea and read labels of proprietary medicines as many contain caffeine including some pain killers, cough and cold remedies. Avoid the low carb diets which are high in protein as they should never be undertaken by gout sufferers. Drink lots of water to reduce the risk of kidney stones – four pints a day is the minimum, more in hot weather.

Eat one of the cabbage family of plants plus a selection of onions, leeks, cherries and apples – they all have anti-inflammatory action - and celery and parsley as diuretics, every day.

It's worth taking one of the natural anti-inflammatories like Devil’s Claw in the registered herbal product, FlexiHerb, together with the natural supplement Glucosamine. Flax seed oil is also an excellent anti-inflammatory as a substitute for fish oils, which should be avoided.


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10 Day Detox With Kim WildeMichael Van Straten's 10 Day Detox With Kim Wilde

"In this video, we will take you through a series of easy to follow and achievable steps. You too can safely and effectively lose weight as well as significantly increase energy levels".

Migraine Misery?


MigraHerb® Feverfew capsules.

MigraHerb® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the prevention of migraine headaches exclusively based upon long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the label.

tickLessens frequency and severity of migraine attacks

tickFor people who have a doctor's diagnosis for this condition

MigraHerb® 30 one-a-day capsules.
Normally £8.16
NOW £6.90
Save £1.26.

» For more information visit www.migraherb.co.uk

De-stress and Energise!


Vitano® Rhodiola rosea tablets.

Vitano® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, such as fatigue, exhaustion and mild anxiety, based on traditional use only. Always read the label.

tickHelps revive both mental and physical performance

tickBalances a hectic lifestyle... naturally!

Vitano® 30 tablets normally £13.27
NOW £9.90 - Save £3.37.
Multi-buy deal also available.

» For more information visit www.vitano.co.uk

Not Sleeping?


NiteHerb® Valerian tablets.

NiteHerb® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances due to symptoms of mild anxiety exclusively based on long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the label.

tickA natural solution to a good night's sleep

tickWake up revived - not groggy!

NiteHerb® 30 tablets normally £6.12
NOW £5.20 - Save £0.92.
Multi-buy deal also available.

» For more information visit www.niteherb.co.uk