Snoring Treatment and Prevention

Breathing Dynamics for Treatment and Prevention of Snoring

Snoring is the resultant sound caused by vibration of respiratory structures (usually the uvula and soft palate) due to obstructed air movement during breathing whilst sleeping. The blockage in the airways can be due to a number of reasons:

  • Obesity – fat gathering in and around the throat.
  • Dental Reasons – mispositioned jaw, caused by tension in the muscles.
  • Alcohol or drugs relaxing throat muscles.
  • Throat weakness – causing it to close during sleep.
  • Nasal passage and sinus obstruction.
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea – indeed snoring can be one of the first symptoms or signs of sleep apnoea in a person, and is almost always present in sleep apnoea.
  • Sleeping on the back – leading to the tongue dropping to the back of the mouth.
  • The tissues at the top of the airways touching each other.

Whilst incidence of snoring can vary, it is estimated that at least 30% of adults snore and the impact of snoring occurs both for the snorer and those who sleep with or near them. Research on snoring has confirmed an association or correlation of snoring with a number of diseases, including heart attack and stroke.

Breathing Retraining to Prevent and Treat Snoring

Note: it is recommended you read the comprehensive Breathing Dynamics or Respiratory Therapy information on this website prior to reading this section, as the following is a simplified summary based on a knowledge of this theory. The Breathing Dynamics approach to snoring addresses an aspect that is prevalent in most snorers. That is mouth breathing at night.

To book in for a consultation to see Tim regarding the use of Breathing Dynamics to prevent or treat asthma, email Tim or call 0425 739 918. Alternatively, the Breathing Dynamics for snoring and subsequent breathing retraining techniques and rhythm development can be purchased via the shop section of this website.

Another published article…

7 Ways To Prevent Fatigue

Another ‘Tim Altman’ article has been published, this time in Shesaid online magazine, which has a distribution of 80,000+.

7 Ways To Prevent Fatigue by Tim Altman

Admit it, you’re tired, right? You’re not the only one – between work, a social life and family responsibilities, life can wear you down. Leading naturopath Tim Altman shows us how to deal with fatigue and get more energy every day.

  1. Eliminate or dramatically reduce dietary intake of the following:
    Sugars – including sugar, sweets, chocolates, added sugars, refined carbohydrates (white flour/rice in bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, cereals, muesli bars etc.) and alcohol. Processed foods – foods containing chemicals or that have been refined in any way. Stimulants – coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs.
  2. Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks daily and include protein in each meal and snack (especially breakfast).
  3. Exercise regularly.
  4. Breathe through the nose at all times, using the diaphragm (even during exercise) rather than using the mouth, chest and shoulders.
  5. Cleanse your gut and liver via detoxification processes.
  6. Learn to relax and balance your nervous system via meditation and yoga.
  7. Use a herbal adaptogen such a Siberian Red to assist in undoing the damage caused by over stimulation of the nervous system and the resulting adrenal fatigue.

Asthma Prevention and Treatment

BREATHING DYNAMICS FOR PREVENTION & TREATMENT OF ASTHMA

by Tim Altman B.Sc. B.H.Sc. (Naturopathy)

Asthma is defined by the Global Initiative for Asthma as “a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways in which many cells and cellular elements play a role. The chronic inflammation is associated with airway hyper-responsiveness that leads to recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing particularly at night or in the early morning. These episodes are usually associated with widespread, but variable airflow obstruction within the lung that is often reversible either spontaneously or with treatment”.

Asthma is clinically classified according to the frequency of symptoms, forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), and peak expiratory flow rate. Asthma may also be classified as atopic (extrinsic) or non-atopic (intrinsic), based on whether symptoms are precipitated by allergens (atopic) or not (non-atopic).
Asthma is caused by environmental and genetic factors. These factors influence how severe asthma is and how well it responds to medication. The interaction is complex and not fully understood.

Studying the prevalence of asthma and related diseases such as eczema and hay fever have yielded important clues about some key risk factors. The strongest risk factor for developing asthma is a history of atopic disease (hypersensitivity or allergic diseases – eczema or atopic dermatitis, hay fever or allergic rhinitis; atopic conjunctivitis). This increases one’s risk of hay fever by up to 5× and the risk of asthma by 3-4×. In children between the ages of 3-14, a positive skin test for allergies and an increase in immunoglobulin E increases the chance of having asthma. In adults, the more allergens one reacts positively to in a skin test, the higher the odds of having asthma.

Research is also beginning to show a strong correlation between the development of asthma and obesity.

Asthma is probably one of the world’s most over-diagnosed and over-medicated ailments.

According to Associate Professor Colin Robertson, Respiratory Physician at the Royal Children’s Hospital, 80 percent of children diagnosed with asthma may have symptoms induced by exercise; therefore the community at large perceives asthma in a certain way. This can be positive in the sense that the problem can be easily recognised, however sometimes other respiratory conditions can mimic asthma.

Professor Robertson suggests, “Doctors, relatives and enthusiastic physical education teachers can mistake a child who exercises and gets out of breath as having asthma when they are actually just unfit”.

“This gets interpreted as Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA) but it doesn’t respond to anti-asthma therapy. What they need is breathing exercises to learn how to control it. It is a simple effective intervention and it is important for people to know that it exists”

Medications for Asthma

Medications used to treat asthma are divided into two general classes: relievers or quick-relief medications used to treat acute symptoms; and preventers or long-term control medications used to prevent further exacerbation.

Relievers which include Ventolin, Bricanyl and Spiriva are recommend to be used only for relief or tightness or breathlessness. They are adrenaline based so they increase heart rate and over use can be dangerous, or even fatal. Those who use relievers more than 3 times per week are considered being at risk and are recommended to cut back dosage.

As a result of these dangers, long acting steroid preventers were produced to suppress the immune reaction or inflammation and hypersensitivity in the body, and therefore reduce reliever usage. These medications are usually inhaled gluco-corticoid steroids and include Flixotide, Pulmicort and Alvesco.

A third group of asthma medications have now been developed that combine the reliever and preventer medications. These include Seretide (the most widely prescribed asthma drug in the world) and Symbicort. These combination drugs were produced as a result of dangers caused by the development of high-potency, long acting reliever medication which, as people were getting longer lasting relief, they often discontinued use of their preventer. After several hundred deaths (due to over-exposure to adrenalin), a solution was devised to combine preventer medication with reliever to prevent patients.

The problem with the combination drugs is that each puff of Seretide or Symbicort contains around 4-6 puffs of Ventolin. Given steroid preventers were developed in the first place to prevent patients using more than 3 puffs of reliever weekly (remember that more than 3 puffs per week were considered risky), these combination drugs actually increase the dosage of Ventolin to up to 24 puffs per day!!!

The irony of the medical approach to asthma and breathing difficulties is that, whilst these medications relieve symptoms in the short term, they can exacerbate or cause asthma and breathing difficulties in the long term.

For example, adrenaline based reliever medication opens the airways and relaxes smooth muscle which eases symptoms in the short term. But, adrenaline causes the breathing rate to rise which, over time leads to over-breathing.

And, steroid based preventer medication reduces inflammation in the lungs, reduces breathing rate on a short term basis and suppresses the immune system response, which results in less asthma symptoms in the short term. But, the suppressed immune system response leads to more colds and flus, and chest and lung infections – which, ultimately, result in over-breathing.

As we will see now, over-breathing plays a major role in creation of asthma and breathing difficulty symptoms, and correction of over-breathing is fundamental to reduction in symptoms and reliance of pharmaceutical drugs.

The Breathing Dynamics Approach

Note it is recommended you read the comprehensive ‘Breathing Dynamics’ or ‘Respiratory Therapy’ information on this website prior to reading this section, as the following is a simplified summary based on a knowledge of this theory.
The Breathing Dynamics approach to dealing with asthma is to look for the ‘root cause’ of asthma. It is not a disease as such – more a condition that can be managed.

Based on “The Bohr Effect” we know that low arterial blood levels of CO2 will lead to haemoglobin having a higher affinity for oxygen, and therefore O2 is not released into tissues for energy production. As a result of lower CO2 levels, the body will cause restriction in smooth muscle to prevent CO2 loss (and as a result reduced release of O2 into cells).

In asthma, this constriction of smooth muscle occurs in the airways and alveoli in the lungs resulting in inflammation and spasm in the respiratory system, and ultimately, breathing difficulties such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

We know also that over-breathing results in reduced arterial blood levels of CO2. So, it can be deduced, that over-breathing plays a significant role in the pathology seen in asthma.

Also, generally those who over-breathe tend to be sympathetic nervous system dominant (see general breathing notes), which produces the ‘fight or flight’ reaction in the body. This reaction causes a surge of adrenaline in the system and leads to a cascade of other reactions in the body including elevated heart rate, breathing rate and, amongst other things, elevated histamine levels.

Elevated histamine levels will promote or increase immune system hypersensitivity associated with asthma.

Therefore, in dealing with asthma via breathing retraining, we aim to correct over-breathing in order to:

  1. Elevate arterial CO2 levels, reducing smooth muscle constriction and spasm in the airways and alveoli.
  2. Balance the autonomic nervous system (between sympathetic and parasympathetic enervation) to reduce adrenaline and histamine levels.

This is achieved by a number of techniques aimed at:

  1. Breathing through the nose at all times – including at night and during low level exercise (and even higher levels over time with training).
  2. Increasing brain tolerance to elevated plasma CO2 levels (via breath hold and breathing rhythm techniques) to allow the body to be comfortable with lowered breathing rates and volumes.
  3. Developing breathing rhythms using CapnoTrainer biofeedback technology aimed at maintaining elevated plasma CO2 levels and keeping the airways nice and open – therefore preventing the likelihood of constriction and inflammation in the airways and reducing elevated histamine and adrenaline.

Once developed, all of these techniques can be replicated long term, turned into one’s habitual breathing pattern, and offer not only prevention of breathing difficulties and asthma, but also allow optimal respiratory function. And once trained, the practice is free!!

There is now an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting the use of breathing retraining in the management of respiratory disorders such as asthma.

One study published in 2006 in ‘Thorax’ a highly respected International Journal of Respiratory Medicine, found that in a 30 month, double blind randomized trial of two different breathing techniques in the management of asthma, confirmed that both groups achieved an 86% reduction in bronchodilator reliever medication and a 50% reduction in the dosage of inhaled cortisone medication.

To book in for a consultation to see Tim regarding the use of Breathing Dynamics to prevent or treat asthma, email Tim or call 0425 739 918.

Alternatively, the Breathing Dynamics for asthma and subsequent breathing retraining techniques and rhythm development can be purchased via the shop section of this website.

Weight Management

Sateity – The Secret Weapon in Hunger and Weight Management  Control

By Tim Altman B.Sc. B.H.Sc. (Naturopathy)

An edited version of this article was published in the Herald Sun (page 29) in the ‘Your Time’ section on Monday 9 April 2012.

Satiety has become a new concept in the battle to help people lose weight. Aimed at keeping calorie intake lower by managing hunger and maintaining blood sugar control, eating for satiety targets foods that keep you fuller for longer.

Research has indicated that there are ‘satiety’ hormones produced in response to meals that regulate hunger. Protein has been found to be the most satisfying macronutrient, along with fibre.

Recently, Dr Susan Holt, along with colleagues from the University of Sydney, developed a ‘Satiety Index‘ which ranks different foods on their ability to satisfy hunger. Using 240 calorie portions, 38 different foods were ranked for their satiety over a 2 hour period. Foods were compared on a scale in terms of their satiety using white bread as the baseline of 100. The higher a food scores on the satiety index, the more satisfying it is, and the less calories you are likely to eat.

Interestingly, it was found that the more protein, fibre or water a food contained, the longer it will satisfy you. Also, the more space a food or meal occupies in your gut, the higher the satiety score. Alternatively high fat content in foods led to low satiety index scores.

Scientists then produced a list of the best healthy foods for keeping you full. These lists have been verified many times.

A list of the top ten most satisfying foods based on the ‘satiety index’ include:

1.       Boiled potatoes – despite getting a bad rap due to their energy density, fibre packed potatoes scored the highest of all foods on the ‘satiety index’ and are likely to keep you satisfied for three times longer than white bread.
Note however that this does not apply for fatty and fried potatoes like hot chips or potato crisps which scored very lowly on the satiety index.

2.       Eggs – no surprise given protein is the most satisfying macronutrient in all foods. And eggs are often considered the perfect protein of all protein containing foods. Better to have your eggs boiled or poached than fried. Research has indicated that eggs for breakfast led to less calorie consumption (when compared to bread or cereal) for lunch and up to 36 hours later, and led to more weight loss and waist diameter reduction over time

3.       Porridge – oats contain great quantities of fibre and plenty of protein when compared to other grains. And they are one of the few 100% whole grain breakfast options – and whole grains have been found to keep you fuller for longer and slow down the entry of sugar into the bloodstream. Similarly, a gluten free alternative to oats is quinoa flakes. Quinoa has higher protein levels again that oats and feedback from many clients has suggested that quinoa porridge is even more satisfying than oat porridge.

4.       Beans – their high fibre content leads them to slow down entry of sugar into the bloodstream and it takes them longer to be digested, so you feel fuller for longer.

5.       Fish and beef – whilst these were the only two meat or ‘fleshy’ food sources used in the satiety index, their high protein content leads to their satiety. Other meat sources such as chicken, lamb or pork are likely to have rated very highly on the ‘satiety index’.

6.       Soup – when water is mixed with chunky vegetables and protein, soup not only satisfies thirst, but hunger as well. The water content and fibre help fill the stomach and if protein is added, satiety hormones will be stimulated to signal that you are full. There is plenty of research to suggest that eating soup regularly helps improve satiety, reduce calorie intake and lose weight. Chunky vegetable and protein broth based soups are better than creamy soups for weight loss.

7.       Whole (100%) grains and whole grain pasta – whole grains contain far more fibre than refined or white grains – for example, whole wheat pasta contains three times more fibre than white pasta. Some gluten free whole grain pastas, such as buckwheat, also contain good protein levels to further satiety.
Note that many commercially available whole meal and multigrain breads contains mostly refined white flour (up to 95% white flour!!!), so read labels or ask questions. White flour is no more than sugar in disguise.

8.       Nuts and seeds – extremely high in fibre, and a great protein source for a plant food source. Longitudinal research has indicated that those who eat nuts and seeds daily live longer than those who do not. However, intake should be kept to moderate levels (1-2 handfuls daily) as, whilst the fats in them are mostly good fats, they are energy dense.

9.       Oranges and apples – these are almost twice as filling as bananas for the same amount of calories. They are both high in water and in fibre and low in glycaemic ingex (GI), so you get more food for less calories. The whole fruit is a far lower GI and more filling option than the juice.

10.   Salad – Once again, salad is low GI and high in fibre and water, so you it keeps you more full for less calories. Research from the US has found that those who eat salad  at the start of a meal eat less calories for the day than those who skip the salad.
However don’t overdo it with oily or sugary dressing or mayonnaise. Simple dressings such as apple cider vinegar or olive oil and balsamic vinegar are perfect and healthy options.

Published Articles by Tim Altman

Recently Published Articles by Tim Altman

More of my articles have recently been picked up and published by various magazines and newspapers.

The first one was in the ‘Body and Soul’ online section of the Herald Sun pre Easter.

The second was published in two parts by Minx online magazine some time ago.

And a very edited version of the third, ‘Fighting Fatigue’ was published by the Herald Sun online recently.

Tim Altman Articles

Tim Altman – Published Articles

I’m proud to say I’ve had another 2 articles published – one that has been used previously by another publication and one which is a new article.

Both have been published by Shesaid online magazine which has circulation of 80,000+.

The first article has been put on my blog before following it’s use by Minx online magazine, but has now been taken up by Shesaid.

Have a read and see what talking to a Geelong naturopath could do for your health and wellbeing.

flat tummy tips

what causes a non-flat tummy?

By Tim Altman – Published on , March 16 2012
View article on minx

What causes a non-flat stomach is when input outweighs output. Expanding somewhat, this is generally caused by over consumption, especially of sugars and fats.

When carbohydrate intake (and therefore blood sugar levels) are generally elevated beyond what our baseline levels should be (according to diagnostic norms, which includes most of the western population, the ideal ratio of carbohydrates:protein:fat is 40%:30%:30% by calorific value, yet the average Westerner eats more like 60%:20%:20% and they eat too much volume in this ratio), then insulin levels are boosted and the basal metabolic rate will be reduced.

This makes us extremely susceptible to fluctuating blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) and impaired energy production by cells (insulin resistance).

As a result, our body ends up in storage mode rather than burn mode. Not good for the tummy as this is one of the main storage areas. It is ironic that over consumption produces a similar response that famine did in ancient times – that is, storage mode.

And also, in this storage mode, your access to fat stores for fuel is blocked. So, you can’t reduce your tummy in this mode, no matter how much you eat.

The key then, is to drop and even out blood sugar levels. This will then drop insulin levels, increase nasal metabolic rate, switch you into burn mode and make your fat stores available for fuel.

Eat like you are still wandering the bush – our genes are ancient, so from a genetic perspective, our body still thinks we are! How wrong this is in reality.

So how to do this?

Eat 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day.

Lean protein in each meal and snack.

Carbohydrates should come from low GI, fibre rich, nutrient rich sources; i.e., in order of priority – 1. vegetables, 2. fruit (low GI fruit), 3. legumes 4. nuts and seeds 5. a small amount of 100% whole grain.

Eliminate or limit intake of sugar – this includes its many disguises – sugar, honey, added sugars (in soft drinks, juices, cordials, yoghurt, processed foods etc.), refined carbohydrates (especially white anything – white flour, white rice etc), alcohol (my little rule is 1 beer/wine = 1 doughnut).

Reduce intake of saturated fats – fried and processed foods, dairy etc.

Increase intake of good fats – fatty fish, avocado, nuts and seeds, soy/tofu, chia seeds etc.

Exercise – we were made to move regularly.

Drink water – plenty of it. If you want to flavour it, do this with food; i.e. lemons, lime etc.

Enjoy and remember, “nothing tastes as good as feeling good feels”.

Easter Nutrition

Easter Nutrition Tips by Tim Altman B.Sc. B.H.Sc. (Naturopathy)

1. Easter is a time for indulgence and Easter eggs are one of the favourite choices. There can be a few ways to minimise the impact or damage this yummy indulgence can have:

  • Make sure you eat Easter eggs after having eaten a protein based or high fibre meal – this will slow down the entry of the sugar in the egg into your bloodstream and prevent you from becoming hypoglycaemic (which ultimately has you craving more sugar, experiencing troughs or ‘flat spots’ in energy levels, and has you store more carbohydrate as fat).
  • Therefore, eating high sugar Easter eggs on an empty stomach is a definite no no, as it will spike blood sugar levels and put you on a hunger and energy level roller coaster.
  • Look for good quality dark chocolate Easter eggs with up to 70% cacao as these are less processed and lower GI.

2. Another favourite indulgence are hot cross buns. They are so tasty but, generally so full of processed, refined grains and sugar – so they can be a little sugar bomb in disguise.The best way to enjoy this indulgence, yet avoid this hazard, is to buy 100% whole grain hot cross buns. These are available in health food stores (they even have gluten free options) or in good bakeries. The whole grain will increase the fibre content dramatically and slow down the entry of carbohydrate into the blood stream. The whole grains also contain far more micronutrients – vitamins and minerals.

  • If you’re not sure if there are 100% whole grain hot cross buns at your bakery, ask!!
  • Another advantage of them being whole grain is that they are far more filling, so you need less.

3. As Easter is a holiday time, it is a time for family, friends and for festivity. So we are more likely to over indulge – in the above as well as alcohol, etc. As a result our calorie intake is likely to increase significantly.
A key to staying healthy and trim is to understand the trade offs. As it is a holiday it is also a time where you have more spare time. Therefore a time where you can exercise more. The more fuel you burn off via exercise, the more it will counterbalance the extra input of fuel due to Easter.

  • Apart from the ususal suspects for exercise such as running, cycling, swimming, gym, surfing etc, some great tips include going for long walks or rides with the whole family or friends.
  • That way you will get the most out of this social holiday period whilst, at the same time, earn the right to enjoy your favourite Easter indulgences without the worries or guilt.

Cheers,
Tim

Fighting Fatigue

Fighting Fatigue

By Tim Altman – Published on minx, February 21, 2012
View article on minx

Fatigue is something we commonly hear talked about in various situations. “I’m so tired” or “I’m so rundown, I feel exhausted!” are common statements. There are ailments such as CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and Adrenal Fatigue and these are becoming more widely discussed and diagnosed.

But what exactly is fatigue and what causes it? Tim Altman, naturopath and health specialist gives us a snapshot view into why and what causes us to feel zonked…

Fatigue most often appears as a result of a number of ailments or aspects of living that debilitate our system. These include:

  1. Post viral illness; i.e. glandular fever, chronic sinusitis etc.
  2. Post extreme and/or chronic stress – be it emotional (divorce, death in the family, bankruptcy, VCE etc) or physical (i.e. as is often seen in athletes who over train).
  3. As a result of long term elevated and/or fluctuating blood sugar levels – leading to hypoglycemia or insulin resistance.
  4. Over stimulation of the nervous system via stress (as above), and excessive amounts of stimulants (coffee, energy drinks, sugar, alcohol, smoking, drugs etc.).
  5. Gastro-intestinal problems – IBS, dysbiosis etc.
  6. Obesity.
  7. Chronic inactivity or lack of exercise.
  8. Vitamin/mineral deficiencies; i.e. anaemia.

In general, it could be argued that all of the above occur as a result of living in a fashion that is out of alignment with how our bodies have been built or genetically programmed (via evolutionary environmental influences) to function optimally or thrive.  These aspects of living include how we eat and drink, how we move (or not!), how we breathe, how we think and how we rest and rejuvenate.

Why do people feel tired?

People feel tired for the very same reasons usually, as they feel fatigued. However at a cellular level it is because their cells no longer produce energy efficiently due to:

  • Nervous system and adrenal exhaustion – via over stimulation.
  • Poor fuel and vitamin/mineral supply.
  • Excessive free radical damage to cell membranes due to an excess of toxins and insufficient antioxidants.
  • Immune dysfunction and poor absorption of nutrients due to disturbance in gastro-intestinal flora and mucous membrane linings – known as dysbiosis.
  • Inefficient metabolism and elimination of wastes and toxins via liver and kidneys.
  • Poor supply of oxygen to the cells due to inefficient breathing – too rapid and too much volume of air due to mouth breathing as opposed to breathing through the nose and being driven by the diaphragm.

What are some things that you can do to prevent fatigue?

1. Eliminate or dramatically reduce dietary intake of the following:
a)  Sugars – including sugar, sweets, chocolates, added sugars, refined carbohydrates (white flour/rice in bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, cereals, muesli bars etc.), alcohol.
b) Processed foods – foods containing chemicals or that have been refined in any way.
c) Stimulants – coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs.

2. Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks daily and include protein in each meal and snack (especially breakfast).

3. Exercise regularly.

4. Breathe through the nose at all times, using the diaphragm (even during exercise) rather than using the mouth, chest and shoulders.

5. Cleanse your gut and liver via detoxification processes.

6. Learn to relax and balance your nervous system via meditation and yoga.

7. Use a herbal adaptogen to assist in undoing the damage caused by over stimulation of the nervous system and the resulting adrenal fatigue.

Tim Altman is a qualified naturopath, with practices in Melbourne’s South Yarra, Port Melbourne and bayside in Torquay. 

Taking a holistic approach to the overall health and wellness of the client rather than simply focusing on symptoms, Tim designs specific programs for his clients based around nutrition, exercise and herbal medicines to help improve overall health.

Benefits of Sex

Health benefits of sex

By Tim Altman – Published on , February 21, 2012
View article on minx

If you already love a healthy, regular sex life then here are some other reasons why it is good for you to maintain it, other than it being fun.

If you’re struggling for motivation or inspiration to have sex regularly, perhaps this will help you change tack in your search for inspiration by providing several not so well known reasons for engaging in sex regularly.

Either way, it’s meant to be enjoyable, so the knowledge that it’s also extremely healthy doesn’t hurt.

Here are some of the many health benefits of sex:

Stress relief – Surveys have found that those who have sex more regularly also reported that they felt more at ease, happier and were better able to handle stress. Many people also suggest that their sleep is much better and feel more vitality during the day.

There is an intense sensation of euphoria, calm and relaxation that follows orgasm along with the release of the hormones oxytocin (the love hormone which helps us bond and creates the urge to nurture) and prolactin (which plays a role in lactation, but also an important role in regulation of the immune system).

One study from Scotland, published in the journal Biological Psychology, which had men and women record their sexual activity and then subjected them to stressful situations, found that those who had intercourse had better responses to stress than those who abstained or engaged in other sexual behaviours.

Boosting immunity – As mentioned above, prolactin released post orgasm plays an important role in regulating the immune system. In addition, a study from Wilkes University in the USA, found that students who had sex frequently (once or twice a week) had higher levels of IgA (an antibody or immunoglobulin which can protect the body from getting colds and other infections) than those who either abstained, had sex less than once a week or had sex very often (3 or more times per week – a disappointing discovery!).

Orgasm also leads to an increase of DHEA levels, which can boost your immune system, repair tissue, improve cognition, keep skin healthy and can even act as an antidepressant.

Burning calories – regular sex can keep you reasonably fit and can increase awareness of body image. Reports suggest varying levels of calories burned during sex (from 85 to 150 calories per half an hour). The average Australian couple has sex approximately twice per week (1.84 times) so, if this lasted half an hour, then they could burn a few hundred calories per week. And if it lasts for more than half an hour, it serves as a great workout.

A further study suggests that having sex three times per week burns the same amount of calories as running thirty miles a week!

Improved heart condition – Several studies have found (including the Scottish study above) that sex helps increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure, and regular sex is associated with lower diastolic pressure. Other research has also found that having sex twice a week or more reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by more than half for men, when compared to those who had sex infrequently (less than once a month).

Having sex regularly has also been found to drop cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes.  And the old belief that sex can cause strokes has been dispelled by a study from England, which found that regular sex is not associated with increased risk of stroke.

Improved self-esteem – self-esteem is related to feeling loved, connected or wanted and sex is very often strongly associated with these feelings. Sex can give you an appreciation of your body and the pleasure it brings yourself and your partner.

A study from the University of Texas, published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, found that self-esteem was one of the many reasons people have sex.

Improved intimacy – the release of oxytocin during sex and especially after orgasm, increases intimacy as oxytocin, or the ‘love and cuddle hormone’, helps us bond and creates the urge to nurture. In a preliminary study published in the journal Psychiatry, the hormone oxytocin was shown to be associated with the ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and healthy psychological boundaries with other people.

Reduced pain – sex is also a pain reliever, ten times more effective than typical painkillers: immediately before orgasm, as the levels of oxytocin rise by up to five times, a huge release of endorphins occurs. These chemicals calm pain, from a minor headache to arthritis or migraines, and with no secondary effects. Migraines also disappear because the pressure in the brain’s blood vessels is lowered while we have sex. So now we see that actually, a woman’s headache is rather a good reason for having sex, not against it.

Reduced risk of prostate cancer – Various studies have shown that a high ejaculation frequency and sexual activity are linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer later in life, especially in 20-something men.  A study found out that men who ejaculated 13 to 20 times monthly presented a 14% lower risk of prostate cancer than men who ejaculated on average, between 4 and 7 times monthly for most of their adult life. Those ejaculating over 21 times a month presented a 33% decreased risk of developing prostate cancer than the baseline group.

Strengthened pelvic floor muscles – doing pelvic floor exercises, known as Kegels, during sex will offer benefits for both women and men. These exercises are done by tightening the muscles of the pelvic floor (especially the perineum), as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine.

By doing these exercises, women will enjoy more pleasure during sex, and the increased strength of the pelvic floor muscles will offer more pleasure to men also. Women will also reduce the risk of incontinence later in life due to the greater strength of these muscles.  Men who strengthen these muscles will also experience this benefit. In addition, the increased ability to contract these muscles will help men delay ejaculation for extended periods of time (and in return potentially offering women greater pleasure) – a practice that has been carried out for many thousands of years by practitioners of ‘tantric sex’.

Improved sleep – While sex is an arousing and stimulating activity, it seems to cause a drop in body temperature, which makes it easier to fall asleep. Sex also appears to induce a deep sleep. Research has also found that increased oxytocin levels during sex and orgasm also help to promote sleep

Increased lifespan – a ten year study carried out at Queens University in Belfast, on 1,000 middle-aged men, found that regular sex increases lifespan. For the same age and health, those who had frequent orgasms had half the death rate of those who did not. The suggested cause of this was the significant reduction in stress hormones experienced post orgasm.

Increased hormone levels – both testosterone and oestrogen levels are boosted via regular sexual activity. And this increase offers numerous health benefits.

In addition to boosting sex drive, testosterone helps to fortify bones and muscles, and keeps the heart in good working order. In women, the increased testosterone will boost their sexual desire. In women, healthy levels of oestrogen help prevent against heart disease and play a huge role in women’s menstrual cycles, emotions and their scent. In men, increased oestrogen (especially in later years as testosterone drops) makes them calmer.