Sam gives back at the Fiji Medical Camp

The Sai Medical Camp is held yearly to help the people of Fiji in remote areas get access to healthcare. The camps “love all and serve all” allows free healthcare for everyone and consist of a doctors, nurses, pharmacist, dentist, optometry and physiotherapy. This year during the start of May we spent 6 days helping people in different centers on the western side of the island. Every day was an early start to ensure we saw all the patients. The camp would see up to 600 patients daily and up to 1000 prescriptions dispensed.

Unichem Greenhithe Sai Medical Camp

All participants need to make their own arrangements to the camp and pay for their accommodation. The Sai Group then provided transportation and all meals during the camp. It was an amazing team to be part of as everyone had taken time out of work to help the people in need. 

Our pharmacy team consisted of 6 pharmacist; 4 hospital pharmacist – Rajeshni Naidu,  Preetika Vareed, Imani Palipane and Ziyen Lam; Priya Gautam - pharmacist from Baxter and myself as the only community pharmacist. The mix of pharmacist and the experience helped the team deliver exception healthcare under demanding circumstances.

Every day the pharmacy was set up in a different location. Multiple boxes were unpacked and computers set up to have a fully functioning pharmacy. This would all be packed up 10 hours later ready for the next day. Medicines are all set in different organ systems and an area to pack creams and reconstitute oral liquids. Many medicines such as enalapril, paracetamol, ibuprofen, omeprazole,  metoformin and multivitamins were prepacked during less busy periods. We often needed extra help during the afternoon from doctors and nurses in the way of counseling or prepacking medicines for the next day. Having prepacked medicines allowed a more efficient dispensing process during busy periods.

There was a lot of education which was provided to ensure patients would follow up with local doctors. From our group of pharmacist, 4  were able to converse to patients in Hindi. The cases seen closer to main centers consist of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and pain medications. In the remote areasconsisted of chronic conditions and also skin treatments were given out for fungal skin infections, head lice and scabies

Sai Medial Camp - Fiji

This was my first time serving at the medical camp in Fiji and it was an absolute pleasure to be part of an incredible team of health professionals. The level of healthcare provided from the limited resources was inspiring. The people of Fiji are warm and welcoming, they really appreciated this service been provided. Being bought up in Fiji it was special to give back and I look forward to returning again soon.



Vitamin D: Don’t let the D stand for deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is an under-diagnosed condition estimated to affect 50 percent of the world, and 56 percent of New Zealanders. Dr Frances Pitsilis looked into the research to explain the effects of vitamin D deficiency and what you can do to boost your levels. 

Vitamin D was named as a vitamin by mistake. It actually has a structural make-up similar to cholesterol. The bulk of vitamin D is produced by the skin, liver, kidneys and the body in response to sun exposure. Smaller sources can be found in oily fish such as salmon, and cod liver oil. The only other way to get vitamin D is to take it as a supplement.

People who are at higher risk of deficiency are typically female, darker skinned, elderly, diabetic or smokers who are overweight. It’s all related to whether you can get enough sun to start with, but then do you make vitamin D well enough?

Getting your vitamin D naturally

The best time to get the right sun for your body to make vitamin D is between the hours of 10am and 3pm during the summer months. You need to expose large areas for a few minutes and protect your face. Don’t allow yourself to burn. In the winter months, it’s very difficult to get enough vitamin D and we know that people in the South Island will never get enough.

Most people become deficient in vitamin D because they don’t get enough sun. However, elderly people cannot make enough vitamin D and on average have half the ability to make it compared with young people. Overweight people tend to trap their vitamin D in their fat and cannot get access to it. Nicotine also interferes with vitamin D production, as do many drugs, including statin drugs. 

Vitamin D and your health

Vitamin D has been found to influence heart disease, diabetes type 2 and diabetes type 1, as well as coeliac disease. It has a role in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It has even been found to reduce overall mortality.

Rickets, a bone disease in children that results from insufficient vitamin D, has been diagnosed in New Zealand. 

As well as bone strength there are also important effects in relation to muscles and balance. Correcting a vitamin D deficiency in an older person, for example, would prevent them falling over as easily because it reduces sway. It would also improve their muscles and bone health.

There is more autoimmune disease in our community, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers have suggested an important association between these conditions and vitamin D. There is also an important connection with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

When it comes to allergies, eczema and asthma, vitamin D has been found to balance out the immune system.

With respiratory infections, there has been much research on vitamin D showing that it reduces viral infections and influenza.

There is a specific condition in women from vitamin D deficiency which is symmetrical lower back pain associated with weakness of the upper arms or thighs, muscle pains and even throbbing bone pain in the pelvis and legs. In addition, migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and persistent non-specific muscular pain can be related to vitamin D deficiency.

The effect of vitamin D in the womb

It’s essential to get enough vitamin D during pregnancy for foetal development. 

Appropriate levels of vitamin D in pregnant women can help brain development in the womb and reduce the incidence of low birth weight babies, pre-eclampsia and Caesarean birth.

If you’re pregnant, a blood test will determine if you require a vitamin D supplement.

Taking vitamin D supplements

Dr Pitsilis says that she often finds that correcting vitamin D deficiency gives improvements such as sleeping better, having less pain and depression, having more energy and even thinking better.

The best way to know whether you need vitamin D is to have a blood test. There may be a cost involved, but it is certainly worth it.

From your results your doctor will decide what dose to give you, and then do another blood test a few months later to check on how things are going.

The dose of vitamin D needed will vary from person to person according to their unique situation. The legal dose that you can purchase is 1000 iu/day and it is known to be safe in pregnancy.

Vitamin D is available at your local Unichem – talk to the Pharmacist for more information and for the brand that’s right for you. 

Dr Frances Pitsilis, MB BS (Mon) Dip Obst, Dip Occup Med, ABAARM, AFAARM, FRNZCGP, works in chronic illness and appearance medicine and is an international conference speaker.

If you need further assistance then please speak to Sam and the Team at Greenhithe Unichem Pharmacy.

10 tips to minimise your risk of allergic reactions

Sniffing, sneezing, itchy eyes – if you suffer from allergies then the outdoors may not be your favourite place. Though it’s not just grass and tree pollen that can trigger a reaction – other common allergens include dust and dust mites, pet hair, and moulds.

While the best treatment is to avoid the allergen in the first place, that’s not always possible so here are ten simple tips to help minimise your risk:

  • Identify activities or allergens that seem to bring on your reaction and limit exposure to these activities
  • Avoid grassy areas (especially freshly cut grass) and stay indoors if possible when pollen counts are high
  • Wear sunglasses when going outside to help keep pollen out of your eyes
  • Start your allergy treatments early if you know you are prone to allergies
  • Use mite proof mattresses and pillow covers
  • If dust is a trigger, think about using pull-down shades in your home as they collect less dust than slatted blinds or drapes
  • Wash bedding, pillows and stuffed toys regularly
  • Avoid keeping a pet or keep them out of bedrooms and off upholstered furniture
  • Wash your hands and face and also wipe pets down with a damp cloth after being outside to remove pollen or grasses that may have landed on your skin or pet’s fur
  • Boost your immune system with natural health products that contain Vitamin C, garlic and horseradish

Visit Sam and the team for expert advice on the allergy relief and supplements that are right for you.

7 essential tips for maintaining weight loss

When you’ve worked hard to reach a healthy weight it can be frustrating when the numbers on your scales begin to climb again. In this piece from Living Well, nutrition director Jessica Campbell and dietician Amy Liu share their expert advice for size control. 

1. Eat fresh and healthy

A common complaint is that purchasing fresh and healthy costs more than packaged alternatives. Try bulking up your meals with legumes to reduce your meat bill. Frozen fruit and veggies are just as nutritious as fresh produce. Buy fresh fruit and veggies that are in season.

2. Break your fast

We all know that breakfast is essential to activate your brain and metabolism. “Literature has shown the benefits of breakfast includes reduced overall appetite and therefore food consumption, improved concentration and glycaemic control,” says Amy Liu, a dietitian and director of Metro Consultancy. For the best daily kick-start choose breakfast foods high in fibre but low in sugar and fat.

3. Stop portion creep

“We carry around our own measuring cups all day, every day – our hands,” says Jessica Campbell, nutrition director and health coach of Body Balance. “As a quick portion guide, meat should be the size of your palm and the thickness of your hand. A serve of grains, pasta, rice or starchy vegetables should be about the size of your clenched fist. A serve of vegetables is equivalent to two cupped hands.”

4. Work with your cravings

Have healthy food options in your pantry, lunch box, handbag and car at all times to avoid impulse buying. Amy Liu says eating breakfast and a low GI lunch, dinner and snacks will ensure you remain hydrated and help curb sugar cravings. “People may say pizza and burgers are bad but there are healthy ways to make them at home. Next time, ask yourself how many nutrients are in the whole meal and be ruled by that.”

5. Carbs can be your friend

According to Jessica Campbell, “Deprivation will only lead to bingeing, and cutting carbs in the long term is unsustainable and unhealthy. Whole grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes are excellent sources of healthy carbohydrates.”

6. Find a friend

A new study has found that women who’ve reached their weight-loss goals are more likely to maintain their new size if they feel accountable to another person and are receiving support. Join a weight management programme that has regular meetings offering support and motivation from others.

7. Limit your alcohol intake

Alcohol can contribute to weight gain in two ways: firstly, from the amount of calories it provides and secondly, by causing you to eat more when you’ve been drinking. It’s easy to forget that you can drink as many calories as you eat. Keep water at hand to quench your thirst between drinks, don’t drink on an empty stomach and sip to make it last longer.

Greenhithe Unichem offers weight management programmes, support and coaching. To find out more, come in and have a chat.

Putting Disruptive Snoring To Bed

Snoring not only affects those who have to listen to it, but also the sleep patterns of the snorer. Living Well writer, Greg Bruce, explores what can be done to treat the snorer in your house. 

A surprisingly large number of us are snorers – about 60 percent of the adult population. Snoring can come on at any time, is more common in people between 40 and 60, and is twice as common among men as women.

The causes of snoring

The causes are many and complex. Contributing factors include:

  • Fatigue
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Weight
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Allergies
  • Anatomy of the mouth
  • Narrowness of the throat
  • Shape of the nose

Snoring takes place in the back of the throat, the bit between the back of your nose and the top of the larynx. While you’re awake, the area is held open by muscle tone, but when you go to sleep, those muscles relax and the airway at the back of the throat can get smaller, giving you a smaller tube to breathe through. Because you’re sucking in the same amount of air through this smaller space, it creates the loud vibration we call snoring.

If the muscles relax further, the tube narrows to the point that the airway partially or completely sucks shut. After a few seconds of the airway being blocked, oxygen levels drop, the body panics, floods with adrenaline and brings you back to a light sleep, putting tone back into the airway and allowing you to breathe again.

If this happens hundreds of times a night it’s known as obstructive sleep apnoea, which affects about 25 percent of males and nine percent of females. Dr Alex Bartle of the Sleep Well Clinic explains, “Instead of your normal 90-minute sleep cycles – and you need five of those to feel good in the morning – you are knocking yourself constantly into a very much lighter sleep.”

Apart from daytime tiredness, severe sleep apnoea can lead to an increased chance of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. Regular snorers, whose airways don’t become completely obstructed, can still suffer many of the same issues as sleep apnoea sufferers, albeit without the same heart and diabetes risk.

Ways to treat snoring

There is no cure for snoring but there are treatment options. Changing your lifestyle is usually the first step. Alcohol and excessive weight make snoring worse. There’s surgery, but that’s generally only for children, whose sleep apnoea is almost always caused by oversized tonsils.

Medical devices

Speak to Sam about tongue stabilising devices, nose strips and sprays – all available in pharmacy.

Dr Bartle mentions mandibular advancement which works by a device that pulls the lower jaw forward and brings the tongue forward. There are also CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines that use air pressure to keep your airway open while you sleep. But you need to wear a mask or nasal prongs while you sleep and as soon as you stop using them, you go back to snoring as usual.


The natural approach would be to determine the cause, says naturopathic sleep specialist Kirsten Taylor. “The most common reasons for snoring are recognised as inflammation, low-grade allergies such as from food or the environment and changes in the muscles while a person is sleeping. Magnesium helps the body manage inflammation, and a supplementation of 400mg at night has been shown to help with snoring,” she says.

“Following a hypo-allergenic diet by avoiding wheat and dairy and processed foods can be useful as can supplementing with probiotics and Vitamin C. Vitamin C and probiotics have been shown to decrease histamine response and are considered anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy agents.”

To find out which snoring treatments and supplements might be right for you, talk with Sam and the team.

Sweet Sleep

From time to time we all have trouble sleeping – but before you reach for the sleeping pills, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions. Sleep difficulties can have numerous causes, and many of them have simple solutions.

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as tossing and turning in bed, unable to fall asleep and growing increasingly concerned. While it can be tempting to turn to medication to help you get enough rest, it’s important to check out if there may be an underlying emotional or medical cause. Ask yourself:

  • Are you worried about anything?
  • Could you be suffering from depression?
  • Could you have sleep apnoea, do you sleep walk or talk, have restless legs or grind your teeth?
  • Is there a health problem that affects your ability to sleep, such as pain, breathing difficulty, acid reflux or a night cough?
  • Do you drink too much alcohol?

If you answered yes to any of these you’re best to see your doctor.

If your answers were ‘no’ and you still have trouble sleeping (at least three nights a week over a period of at least a month), then it’s possible you have primary insomnia. Primary insomnia is defined as sleeplessness (or the perception of poor-quality sleep) that cannot be attributed to a medical, mental health or environmental cause.

We find it useful in these cases to talk to people about bedtime routines and habits. For example:

  • Not everybody needs eight hours of sleep. Maybe you could turn in a little later? If you usually get up at 6am, try going to bed at 11pm instead of 10pm, for example, and see how you feel over the next few days. The key is to wait until you’re drowsy and ready to sleep before going to bed.
  • If you are not asleep within 15-20 minutes of going to bed, get up and do something quiet and relaxing. Return to bed only when you’re drowsy, because it’s important for your bed to be associated with being asleep – not with being awake and having difficulty getting to sleep.
  • Before bed try to do quiet, relaxing activities, such as taking a bath or reading. Ensure that your bedroom is suitable for sleeping. The bed should be comfortable, the temperature not too hot or cold, the room dark, and noise minimised.
  • Think about screens, clocks, and bed partners. Looking at a screen in the hours before bed may delay sleep onset (the light waves emitted reduce the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep); looking at a clock during the night can delay sleep onset and cause frustration; the light also stimulates the brain. If partners are disturbing your sleep (by excessive movements or snoring) they probably warrant their own assessment with a GP.
  • During the day, limit your caffeine to one cup in the morning. It’s a good idea to limit alcohol too – because even though it can act as a relaxant and help you fall asleep more easily, it also causes you to sleep more lightly. This reduces sleep quality.
  • Avoid napping during the day as this delays sleep onset at ‘bedtime’.
  • Regular daily exercise can help improve sleep, but it’s best to avoid exercising too late in the evening.
  • Sleep support products may help – typically in the short-term, and preferably when we know what’s causing the insomnia:
  • A magnesium-based product could be useful for you, as magnesium aids muscle relaxation and relieves tension.
  • A product containing the sedative herb valerian may support your sleep.
  • Or you could try 5HTP or a tart cherry-based product; these may aid melatonin levels in your body.

Ask Sam and the team and let them recommednd/advise you on what sleep support products may be right for you, taking into consideration your life circumstances and any other medical conditions or medicines you may be using. 

For more information and advice on getting a good night’s sleep, talk to Sam and the team. 

Love your Liver

As the name suggests, a healthy liver is essential for healthy living! During the holiday season, with plenty of parties to look forward to, it’s important to show your liver some love – so here’s some simple tips for taking care of this vital organ.

Your liver lives under your ribs on the right-hand side of your body, and weighs about 1.3kg. It’s your largest gland and biggest solid organ – a versatile multitasker with over 500 functions.

Right now, your liver is busy making stuff: bile, proteins, immune factors and cholesterol. At the same time, your liver is storing glucose and releasing it when it’s required, regulating blood clotting and processing haemoglobin. It’s also cleaning up: filtering your blood and clearing harmful substances from your body such as bilirubin, ammonia and bacteria. It’s a busy organ!

Detox diets might be all the rage – but they’re not all that useful.

Despite what you might read, your liver isn’t accumulating dangerous toxins, according to Edzard Ernst, emeritus Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University. He told The Guardianthat the liver – along with your skin, kidneys, intestines and lungs – is constantly removing toxins from your body, and if toxins were accumulating in any organ you would either be dead or extremely unwell. Rest assured, once your liver has broken down any harmful substances, it sends them to be expelled with your waste.

A break from the bottle has numerous benefits

The main culprit for the average New Zealander is alcohol consumption. If you want to give your liver a holiday, maybe take a break from drinking alcohol – New Scientist found that one ‘dry’ month caused significant improvements to liver function for moderate drinkers. The results included weight loss; better sleep quality, reduced blood glucose levels and a 15% reduction in liver fat (a precursor to liver damage).

If you’re not keen on the idea of a dry month, at least try to stick to the recommended alcohol intake – that’s one drink per day for women, and two for men. That extra drink or two each night adds up over the years, and unfortunately liver damage can start to occur as time passes. This increases your risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer and alcoholic hepatitis. (Viral hepatitis is contracted through bodily fluids; information and free testing are available at

Other ways to keep your liver working well

If you can tick off most of these, then you’re doing a great job of looking after your liver:

  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid taking unnecessary medications or mixing medications
  • Don’t smoke
  • Drink responsibly

Have a great holiday and be kind to your liver!

What should go in a first aid kit?

Building a basic first aid kit

We all know that a first aid kit is an essential piece of kit in your home, your car or when you are on holiday. But what should be in a first aid kit and what are the essentials. We take a look at some things that should be included:


  • Directions on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Adhesive tape
  • Alcohol-free cleansing wipes
  • Antibacterial cream or ointment
  • Antihistamine tablets
  • Disposable gloves (at least 2 pairs)
  • Cotton buds
  • Crepe-rolled bandages of several widths
  • Eye pads (2)
  • Gauze swabs
  • Instant cold packs
  • Non-stick dressings and wound pads
  • Pain relief tablets
  • Plasters of various sizes
  • Plastic bags for the disposal of contaminated materials
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors and tweezers
  • Skin rash cream (eg hydrocortisone 0.5% cream)
  • Sterile saline and water
  • Digital thermometer
  • Triangular bandage
  • Wound closure strips
  • Anti-diarrhoea medicine
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen

Of course these are just some of the essentials and you can obviously add more to this list, especially if you have children you may wish to include medication such as pamol or Ibuprofen but it should give you a good basis to start.

If you have any further questions then please just come down to the pharmacy and talk to Sam or one of the team.


Giving fungal infections the boot..

If you start to notice that you’ve got itchy toes or see white or brittle patches on your fingernails, you could have a fungal infection. 

Fungi, the organisms that cause fungal infections, grow on the top layer of skin They need a warm, moist place to thrive and especially like hot, sweaty skin. That’s why athlete’s foot – or tinea pedis – is so common between the toes. 

A fungal infection can be easily caught from someone else if you share clothes or shoes or touch their infected skin. You can also pick up a fungal infection by being in contact with wet surfaces like bathroom floors, showers, swimming pool changing rooms, even towels and bathmats.

Recognising the different types

Fungal infections are named according to the part of the body that’s infected. The three most common infections are: 

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)

Athlete’s foot can infect the skin in between the toes and on the soles of the feet. Look out for skin that’s red, dry and scaly, or white and soggy. You may feel itching, burning or stinging. If you notice the skin becoming very red, swollen or oozing, see your doctor – you could have a bacterial infection as well.


Fungal infections of the nails are also known as onychomycosis. They are often caused by athlete’s foot spreading to the nail. Toenails tend to be much more commonly affected than fingernails. The nail may look thick and discoloured – either white or yellowish – and may be brittle or crumbly. 

Pityriasis versicolor

Pityriasis versicolor typically occurs on the neck, shoulders or trunk. It causes blotchy skin patches that may have scales and are usually itchy. If you’re dark-skinned, the patches appear white. Fair-skinned people get red-brown patches. Pityriasis versicolor is not contagious but is more common in hot, humid climates. People who sweat heavily can be more prone to it.

Treating fungal infections

Sam and the team at Greenhithe Pharmacy can recommend a suitable antifungal treatment after having a quick consultation with you to find out the location and how long you have had it. 

It’s really important to use your treatment as often as directed (usually once or twice a day) and for at least a week after the infection has gone to prevent it from recurring. If Sam thinks you require a prescription medicine for a severe or bacterial infection, they’ll refer you to your doctor.

To help the treatment work most effectively, try to do the following:

  • Avoid scratching so you don’t spread the infection
  • Clean your shower or bath with a bleach-based product
  • Wash bathmats, towels and socks in hot water to kill the fungus (at least 60 degrees C)
  • Keep the affected area clean and dry particularly between the toes and in skin folds

How to keep infections from coming back

Unfortunately, fungal spores can survive for long periods. You can lessen your chances of getting a fungal infection by following these simple steps:

  • Wear jandals or sandals at public pools and in sports changing rooms – try not to walk barefoot where other barefoot people have been 
  • Avoid wearing the same clothing for long periods and try not to wear non-breathable clothing like wet weather gear or nylon pantyhose for too long
  • Carefully dry your skin after showering or swimming, especially between the toes
  • Don’t share towels, sheets or personal clothing
  • Wear open-toed sandals when possible

If you think you may have a fungal infection, come into see us and get those feet sorted for Summer!

Facts every women should know...

Many women will be affected by vaginal thrush at some stage in their lives. It’s caused by a change in the natural balance of the body’s bacteria which may give you an itchy or burning feeling.


Fortunately there are things you can do to help prevent vaginal thrush and treatment options are readily available from Greenhithe Unichem Pharmacy.

So what causes thrush?

Vaginal thrush is a common condition caused by an overgrowth of a yeast, called candida albicans, which normally inhabits the gastrointestinal tract, skin and vagina. There are many factors that may trigger an attack of vaginal thrush:

  • A weakened immune system
  • Antibiotic treatment
  • Before or after your period
  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Hot weather
  • Increase in blood sugar levels
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes or HIV
  • Oral contraceptive pill
  • Pregnancy or menopause
  • Skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis
  • Tight clothing that promotes excessive sweating, eg wetsuits, synthetic underwear
  • Vaginal deodorants, soaps or bath salts

Identifying the symptoms

  • Symptoms of vaginal thrush may include:
  • Genital itching
  • Irritation or burning
  • A thick, white or creamy vaginal discharge

It’s important to note that not all vaginal discharge is thrush. You can discuss your symptoms with Sam and the team in private at the Pharmacy.

Men who are infected by a partner with vaginal thrush may show symptoms such as itching or redness in the groin area or on the head of the penis – a condition known as balanitis. Symptoms may be more noticeable after sex.

How to treat vaginal thrush

Treatment is available from Greenhithe Unichem without a prescription. Treatment options include anti-fungal creams, pessaries (tablets which are inserted into the vagina), or oral capsules. All of the available treatments work by stopping the growth of candida without affecting ‘helpful’ bacteria naturally present within the vagina.

It’s important to know that some vaginal creams and pessaries may weaken the latex of rubber condoms.

While you have thrush and during treatment it’s important to:

  • Use sanitary pads instead of tampons
  • Avoid wearing tight undergarments
  • Keep up your personal hygiene – salt-water baths may help soothe any inflammation
  • Wash your hands before and after using vaginal creams and pessaries
  • Finish the entire course of treatment, even if your thrush improves

Men can use an antifungal cream to treat thrush – also available from Unichem Pharmacies.

Six tips to prevent thrush

The best way to prevent thrush is to identify what triggers the condition for you. It may be helpful to:

  • Always wipe from front (vagina) to the back (anus) after urinating
  • Avoid deodorised panty shields, bubble bath solutions or vaginal douches
  • Avoid spermicidal condoms and use only water-based lubricants
  • Avoid use of soap, deodorants or talcum powder on skin around the genitals
  • Take probiotics whenever you are prescribed antibiotics
  • Wear loose cotton underwear and avoid tight clothing

When to see your doctor

Most cases of vaginal thrush can be treated following a consultation with your Unichem Pharmacist, however, you should seek your doctor’s advice if:

  • It’s the first time you have experienced an abnormal vaginal discharge
  • This is your third time getting vaginal thrush in six months
  • You are or could be pregnant
  • You are under 16 years of age or over 60 years of age
  • You have had unprotected sex
  • You have pain, fever or feel unwell
  • Your symptoms have not improved after three or four days of treatment

5 reasons to love omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good health, yet eating enough of the right foods to get the doses you need can be tricky. Louise Bishop, a Living Well contributor, gives us the full story.

Evidence of the heart-protective effect of omega-3s is growing, with strong data showing it can significantly reduce the risk of a second cardiovascular event in people who’ve had a heart attack. Omega-3s have also been shown to lower triglycerides (a type of fat or lipid found in your blood): too many of those increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

They’re good for brain development

Essential fatty acids concentrating in the brain can have an important role in cognitive memory and performance. Some studies have shown omega-3s can benefit the developing brain and so may be beneficial for children to take.

They improve joint mobility

A Cochrane* review of studies looking at the effect of omega-3s in people with rheumatoid arthritis found it improved joint mobility, which may mean sufferers need to use fewer arthritis medications, under their doctor’s guidance.

Clinical trials have found it can help with depression, however it can take months to incorporate these good fats in the body’s stores, so it’s not a quick fix. Omega-3s are safe for most people to take but pregnant women and those on blood-thinning medications should avoid omega-3s.

Your body can’t make omega-3s so you need to get them from other sources, such as food or supplements. Plant sources include walnuts and flax seeds but omega-3s are also found in the oil from fatty fish, like salmon and kahawai, and canned mackerel and sardines.
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for cell structure and functioning, help to produce hormones to regulate blood and artery health and are important in controlling your genes.

Pharmacist Stuart McDonald from Unichem Faulkners Pharmacy, Tauranga, advises: Eating enough of the right foods to get therapeutic doses of omega-3s can be tricky. The recommended dosage would be 800-1500mg per day. Fattier fish like salmon and kawahai have about 1000mg of omega-3 per 100g serving, so you would have to be consuming quite a lot of fish on a regular basis. With supplements, it pays to research where the product has been sourced. The higher quality products use oil obtained from fish from deeper waters, meaning they’re less likely to contain toxins or impurities.

Greenhithe Pharmacy stocks a number of omega-3 supplements. Talk to Sam and the team who can discuss any other medication or supplements you’re taking and recommend the best product for you.

*Cochrane reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care.

Nature's nectar - the benefits of honey

Honey – sweet, delicious and also pretty good for you. “It’s 85 per cent sugar, so it kills off bugs and contains other minerals and nutrients too,” says Dr Shaun Holt, Adjunct Professor at Victoria University and medical director of HoneyLab, which develops medicinal honey products to support skin conditions and joint and muscle health.

“It’s great as a sports supplement, giving you a boost of both long and short-term energy – honey on toast can be the perfect meal before an endurance event – and also works well as a remedy to soothe tickly throats.”

While there’s been a buzz (pardon the pun) around Manuka honey for several years, Dr Holt points out that all natural honey will contain a good degree of anti-bacterial activity. At HoneyLab, which was launched in 2009, he works primarily with Kanuka honey.

“It has the same antibacterial activity as Manuka, but it also has calming properties,” he explains, making it a great topical support for a number of conditions.

One of HoneyLab’s first clinical trials was with 137 rosacea sufferers. This skin condition is tricky to treat and usually results in long-term use of antibiotics, which can stop working over time. “We found promising results among participants using a topical Kanuka honey formulation over an eight-week period,” says Dr Holt.

HoneyLab has also found positive results from a large acne trial.

“Acne is caused by bacteria and we know that Kanuka honey is antibacterial – honey also supports wound healing. Prescription medications can have side effects, and some non-prescription bleach-like products damage the skin to such an extent that those companies then sell additional products to try to heal that damage,” says Dr Holt.

His latest clinical trial is with 950 cold sore sufferers as he investigates the healing power of a Kanuka honey formulation.

There’s no big secret over HoneyLab’s patented formula – 90 per cent Kanuka honey with 10 per cent glycerin to keep it stable in hot and cold temperatures. “It is medical grade honey, though,” says Dr Holt. “It’s been through a double sterilisation process – I wouldn’t recommend using supermarket honey topically.”

Dr Holt has a long list of potential clinical trials he wants to run; but with results so far looking positive, the applications for Kanuka products seem to be endless.

Speak to Sam about a range of honey-based products available.

Fit Club - Exercising safely as you get older.

Whether you were a gym bunny in your 20s, or never really bothered about exercise, there’s something about finding yourself in middle age that can cause close examination of your own health and fitness. Living Well contributor, Victoria Wells, talks to a number of health and fitness experts about how to safely exercise as you get older.

The meteoric rise of the ‘wellness industry’, social media and the normalisation of gadgets such as the Fitbit have made us increasingly aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and expose us more to those advocating them, so it’s no wonder there’s a growing trend for those in their 40s and beyond to pick up their running shoes again.

The problem is how to get back into exercise safely, as (loath as we may be to admit it) our post-40 bodies are very different from those we had in our 20s, thanks to desk-bound jobs or having children (or both) and the simple physiological changes that come with age. While these can all make us more susceptible to injury and aches and pains, it doesn’t mean you can’t reclaim your fitness – it simply means starting slowly.

Slowly does it

No matter your age, understanding your body and any potential weak points is important before embarking on a new exercise regime, which should be built up slowly. Physiotherapist Ben Teusse of Habitat in Wellington says he commonly sees injuries in those who return to sport without giving their body a chance to adjust.

“With social netball we see lots of Achilles ruptures and ankle sprains, with running it’s shin issues and calf strains, or the gym is [problems with] shoulders and backs – it all comes back to the fact that people aren’t as strong as they used to be and the muscles don’t turn on and off in the way they used to when they were active.”

For women, after childbirth in particular, changes can include pelvic instability and muscle weakness. Osteopath Sarah Boughtwood says scar tissue from a C-section can cause problems. “A few women have come in with lower back pain and I’ve done work around their C-section scar. If you imagine it like a big rubber band – if that scar is pulled tight at the front with their scar tissue then that’s only going to pull on the lower back, so treating through the scar helps release any tension from that lower back.”

Robertson says the postural and strength tests she does with new clients often show weakened glutes. “That allows their knees to roll in… [then] women go out and try to start running and they’re not stable enough through the pelvis to do that. They might be fine for a few months and then suddenly the knees give and they don’t know why, or [it’s] their back – it’s related to core muscles too.”

Teusse agrees that posture is key. “If people are active their posture is better, when people have been inactive they’ve got terrible posture and then the sudden loading results in neck sprains and shoulder and back issues. If there’s been an interruption to exercise then you’re back at the start and you’ve got to take it slowly."

Robertson says getting professional advice can make all the difference. “I would strongly recommend meeting with a trainer and having a consultation to start with so that there is some accountability from both sides, and support. They may go to a group fitness class and feel a bit lost and perhaps give up eventually if they feel they’re not progressing.”

The pain barrier

Re-introducing your body to regular exercise will inevitably bring a few aches and pains – but shouldn’t be to the point of injury. “Sometimes if people go to a boot camp they can get caught up in doing things that they just can’t do and that’s where injuries come into it. It’s always making sure they discuss any issues they may have with their trainer before they get started,” explains Robertson.

The key is recognising the difference between good pain (which, if needed, can be managed with over-the-counter remedies such as magnesium and heat or ice packs or compression products) as your body adapts and builds muscle, and pain that needs medical attention.

Minor aches and pains can be expected with exercise, especially when you're new to it. Talk to Sam and the team about your plans and what is best for you.

Kick comfort eating to the Curb

Nutritionist Jessica Campbell looked into comfort eating for Living Well magazine to bring us these insights on ‘normal’ seasonal eating variation and what is perhaps comfort eating with an emotional element.

Over winter, you may find yourself reaching for much heartier meals than you would in summer. For many, bread, pasta and seasonal root vegetables become an irresistible staple – or chocolate and wine in front of the fire. There are three key drivers in winter weight gain: we tend to exercise less; eat more; and emotional eating habits can become heightened by changes in our hormones.

Seasonal variation

Changes or variations in our eating patterns (meal size and food choices) can be equated roughly with the seasons. Some researchers suggest we are most likely to overeat in autumn, in the lead-up to winter. During this time the shortening days and cooler temperatures signal a change in our hunger hormones in ways that make food less satisfying and so we eat more. This makes sense for the traditional hunter gatherer – autumn is the time to top up the fat and energy stores before the scarcity of winter – but this adaptation is not helpful for those of us who hunt and gather at the supermarket. It’s important to keep this in mind when making food choices!

Sunlight and hormones

Cravings for carbohydrates and sugars has a lot to do with serotonin, our feel-good hormone. Shortened days and lower levels of activity reduce serotonin production and this may be particularly pronounced in those who suffer seasonal-affective disorder (SAD) in winter.

Low levels of serotonin lower our mood; meanwhile, foods high in carbohydrates help to increase our levels of serotonin, so we naturally crave and eat carbohydrates and sugar. However, the mood lift is short-lived and sees us returning to the pantry a short time later. (This is one of the reasons very low carbohydrate diets are hard to stick to).

On the topic of hormones and hunger, menstrual cycles and fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone impact our hunger, increasing appetite and cravings for carbohydrates, sugars or comfort foods. This is particularly pronounced during the luteal phase, the time between ovulation and menstruation when PMS is peaking. Work with your natural hormone changes, don’t battle them. This might mean enjoying a cup of tea with a few squares of chocolate or changing your exercise from HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to stretching for a couple of days. Make changes that are right for you and your body. If you listen, it will tell you.


While winter sport enthusiasts are not put off by nasty weather, if you’re not a keen athlete you’re likely to skip your early-morning exercise for an extra hour under the duvet! But exercise not only helps to keep us fit, it is also important for our mental health, regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing. Continuing to exercise throughout winter can help to alleviate some of the low mood (and subsequent carbohydrate cravings) associated with seasonally-reduced serotonin levels. It might just mean switching up your routine, such as exercising in your lunch break or choosing an indoor activity for a few months.

Emotional eating

When we eat for reasons other than nourishment we’re less likely to be able to distinguish when we’re full or satisfied. Emotional eating is not just eating because we are sad or stressed, anxious or bored. We can also find ourselves eating to celebrate, to show love and contentment.

Food is intrinsically connected to our emotions and I encourage you to consider your relationship with food. Do you use food to push down uncomfortable feelings or thoughts? If that’s the case, food may provide comfort for a short while, but feelings of guilt, remorse or failure are likely to follow, further feeding into the cycle of emotional eating. Food cannot provide a feeling of satisfaction for emotional discomfort yet many emotional eaters will overeat in the hopes of finding it.

The sickness bug

Beware the vomiting bug is around.

Everyone hates to be ill but vomiting has to be one of the worst. There has been alot of children and adults going down over the past week with this nasty stomach bug so we thought we would just remind people about the best cause of action if this happens to you.

Unfortunately, there is no real treatment for the vomitting bug, but most people will recover within a few days. It can affect people of all ages and is highly contagious. 

What are the symptoms?
The first sign of the bug tends to be a sudden feeling of sickness, followed by forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Other symptoms include a raised temperature, headaches, stomach cramps and aching arms and legs. 

How is it spread?
Very easily – you can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces or objects. If a person who has the virus doesn’t wash their hands before handling food, they can pass it onto others.  

In public places and environments such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes it spreads quickly because the virus can survive for several days.

What should I do if I catch it?
There is no specific treatment, but you can take steps to ease your symptoms. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and take paracetamol for aches and pains if necessary . 

It is important to stay at home because the virus is highly contagious and your GP will not be able to treat it. During this time you should wash your hands frequently, avoid sharing towels and flannels and disinfect surfaces and objects that could be contaminated.  

However, you should contact your doctor if your symptoms last for more than few days or if you already have a serious illness. 

Are there complications?
Most people recover within a few days. The main risk is becoming dehydrated so it’s important to drink lots of water to replace what your body loses from vomiting and diarrhoea. The young and elderly are most at risk of becoming dehydrated. 

Severe dehydration can lead to low blood pressure and kidney failure and, in some cases, can be fatal.  It’s vital to seek medical help if you experience symptoms including dry, wrinkled skin, an inability to urinate, a rapid heartbeat or cold hands and feet.

If yo have any concerns please feel free to give us a call or contact your GP.

We hope that you and your family stay well.