May 2020 | Eurobio

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Seasonal influenza is a respiratory infection that is caused by viruses that spread from person to person directly via coughing and/or sneezing or indirectly from respiratory secretions on hands, tissues, etc. It attacks the respiratory system, including the nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs.

People with influenza will have a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, body aches, headache, feeling unwell, sore throat and runny nose. Anyone can get the flu, but young children, elderly, pregnant women, those with chronic illnesses and people with poor immune health are especially vulnerable.

Although most people recover from fever and the other symptoms within a week without seeking medical attention, influenza can still cause severe illness. Worldwide, there’s an annual estimation of about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, which caused about 290 000 to 650 000 respiratory deaths.

Although seasonal influenza occurs mainly during the winter, influenza may occur throughout the year in tropical regions, such as Malaysia and causing outbreaks more irregularly.

Vaccination is an option for preventing influenza especially for people that are most at risk such as:

  • Pregnant women
  • People older than 65 years
  • Children younger than 5 years
  • People with chronic medical condition

Personal protective measures can also be carried out to prevent the disease:

  • Cover mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Regular hand washing with proper drying of the hands
  • Avoid crowds during the flu season
  • Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, reduce smoking and drinking, exercise regularly to boost up immunity

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Nerves carry messages back and forth between the brain and other parts of the body. All of our nerves together make up the nervous system.

Peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that affects the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves), often causes weakness, numbness and pain in the hands and feet. It can occur at any age, but is more common among older adults and diabetics.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may vary, depending on the types of nerves affected, but the common ones may include:

  • Gradual onset of numbness and tingling in the feet or hands, which may spread upwards into the legs and arms
  • Burning pain
  • Sharp, jabbing or electric-like pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch, even light touch
  • Pain during activities that shouldn’t cause pain
  • Lack of coordination
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis if nerves controlling your movements are affected

Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by a number of health conditions, which includes:

  • Diabetes. Having an uncontrolled blood sugar level will damage your nerves and also your blood vessels that supply nutrients and oxygen. Without enough oxygen and nutrients, your nerves cannot function well.
  • Autoimmune disease. Certain autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis where the immune system attacks its own cells and leads to nerve tissue damages.
  • Physical injury. Injuries such as accidents, falls or sport injuries can damage peripheral nerves.
  • Nutritional or Vitamin imbalance, particularly B Vitamins.
  • Kidney, liver or thyroid disorders.
  • Alcoholism.

The best way to prevent peripheral neuropathy is to manage medical conditions that put you at risk. Adapt healthy lifestyle habits to support your nerve health:

  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein to keep nerves healthy
  • Maintain a healthy blood sugar level
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid cramped positions that will put pressure on your nerves
  • Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals, smoking and reduce alcohol consumption

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Everybody knows that keeping our blood pressure in control is an important task to keep our body healthy, but how to do it is another challenge faced by most people.

Normal adult has a blood pressure of 120mm Hg when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and a blood pressure of 80mm Hg when the heart relaxes (diastolic pressure). Blood pressure is considered high when the systolic pressure is above 140mm Hg and the diastolic pressure is above 90mm Hg.

With an uncontrolled raised blood pressure, it can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, brain damage and other long term complications. More than 1 in 5 adults have raised blood pressure, and this condition causes around 50% of all death from stroke and heart diseases.

Having a healthy heart and blood circulation helps in blood pressure control. A few lifestyle changes can be done to maintain your blood pressure at a healthier range and reduce your risk of heart diseases:

  • Keep an eye on your weight. Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure.
  • Get regular exercise, at least 150 minutes a week.
  • Eat a healthy diet consists of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
  • Eat fatty fish, which is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week.
  • Avoid processed foods as they are high in salt content, which is bad for your blood pressure.
  • Drop the cigarette. Quit smoking can improve your overall health and reduce your risk of heart diseases.
  • Stress management and relaxation.
  • Visit your doctor regularly and get regular medical checkups.

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Cardiovascular disease is a broad term used to describe a range of diseases that affect our heart or blood vessels. The term “cardiovascular disease” is often used interchangeably with heart disease because both terms refer to diseases of the heart or arteries. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in Malaysia. It is also a major cause of disability.

There are many different forms of heart disease, which include coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) and structural heart disease. The most common cause of heart disease is the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, which are the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary artery disease and happens slowly over time. The gradual build-up of fatty deposits in coronary arteries slowly narrows the coronary arteries. The heart receives less blood, and eventually, diminished blood flow may cause chest pain (angina), shortness of breath or other symptoms. A complete blockage can cause a heart attack. Coronary artery disease is the major reason people have heart attacks.

We can help reduce the risk of heart disease by taking steps to control factors that put us at greater risk:

  • Control of blood pressure
  • Lower the cholesterol level
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke
  • Get enough exercise
  • Eat fatty fish, which is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week

Heart disease is often avoidable. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t mean we need to live a life of self-deprivation. Instead, find ways to incorporate healthy habits into our lifestyle and we will well enjoy a healthier life for years to come.

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Did you know that a simple thing such as tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet floor can change your life? Falls are a major public health problem around the world. People who fall might suffer a disability, especially older people. This will affect their quality of life, not to mention the financial burden that comes with the long-term care and hospitalization.

Anyone is at risk of falling, but older people have the highest risk of serious fractures or even death arising from a fall. Even though a fall does not necessary means breaking a bone, people who experienced it will become fearful of falling again. Most are unaware of the link between a fall or broken bone and osteoporosis.

There are a few ways that we can do to prevent falls especially at home, such as:

  • Repair or remove tripping hazards
  • Install grab bars or handrails
  • Install brighter light bulbs around the house
  • Install non-slip mats in the bathroom
  • Improve balance by practicing muscle-strengthening exercises and balance exercises daily
  • Get enough Calcium, Vitamin D and other nutrients to keep your bones strong
  • Increase physical activity especially weight bearing exercises to strengthen your bones

The goal of prevention should be not only to reduce the number of falls, but to reduce the injuries that follow as well.

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If we are suffering from osteoarthritis (OA), knee pain may be an everyday reality. The most common form of arthritis, OA occurs when cartilage in our joints wears down over time. Joint pain could be experienced as early as 25, but the estimated prevalence of OA increases to 33.6% for those 65 years and above.

About 80% of persons with OA have some degree of movement limitation and 25% cannot perform major activities of daily living. OA accounts for 55% of all arthritis related hospitalisations.

  • OA of the knee is 1 of 5 leading causes of disability among adults
  • The number of people with OA disability is expected to double by year 2020
  • The costs of OA are substantial, mainly due to indirect cost
  • Costs attributable to caregivers forms 40% of indirect cost

OA can affect any joint in our body, though it most commonly affects joints in our hands, hips, knees and spine. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain. Affected joints might hurt during or after movement.
  • Stiffness. Joint stiffness is most noticeable upon awakening or after being inactive.
  • Crackling. You might feel a grating sensation when you use the joint, and you might hear a popping or crackling sound.
  • Inflammation. This might be caused by soft tissue inflammation or swelling around the joint.
  • Loss of flexibility. You might not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion.
  • Bone spurs. These extra bits of bone, which feel like hard lumps, can form around the affected joint.

Self-care techniques include:

  • Maintain a good posture
  • Avoiding grasping actions that strain our finger joints
  • Use assistive devices and the strongest muscles
  • Favour large joints, and spread the weight of an object over several joints
  • Control and maintain a healthy weight

Supplement with Glucosamine Sulphate and Chondroitin Sulphate can help to slow down the OA progression. Glucosamine is a natural compound that is found in healthy cartilage. It can help to reduce joint inflammation and swelling, increase joint mobility and provide relief from osteoarthritic pain.

Chondroitin Sulphate is a major constituent of cartilage, providing structure, holding water and nutrients, and allowing other molecules to move through cartilage. Together they can improve the symptoms of OA.

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Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is commonly known as the enlarged prostate gland, is a common condition when men get older. As it grows, the prostate can compress the urethra (the tube that drains urine from bladder) and can cause the muscles around the urethra to contract. Either problem impedes urine flow and causes the bladder to not empty completely during urination.

Most men eventually develop some prostate enlargement as they age. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Weak urine stream
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Stopping and starting again while urinating
  • Dribbling at the end of urination
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Increased frequency of urination at night (nocturia)
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Not being able to completely empty the bladder
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Urinary tract infection

Age seems to be the primary risk factor. A family history of BPH slightly increases the chances for the condition.

Some lifestyle changes may ease BPH symptoms:

  • Reduce intake of liquids, particularly before going out in public or before periods of sleep, avoid fluids in the evening to reduce night time urination.
  • Avoid or reduce intake of caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
  • Do bladder training to hold more urine for longer periods.
  • Exercise the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Cut down on red meat and increase vegetable consumption.

People with BPH can also benefit from Saw Palmetto and Pygeum. Saw Palmetto works similarly to a medication that is used to help with BPH symptoms. Pygeum helps to improve the urinary symptoms experienced by people with BPH such as urinary hesitance, urinary frequency and night time urination.

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Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS, is a group of symptoms linked to the menstrual cycle. PMS symptoms occur in the week or two weeks before period (menstruation). The symptoms usually go away after the period starts. PMS can affect menstruating women of any age. It is also different for each woman. It is estimated that up to 80% of menstruating women suffer from symptoms of PMS on a monthly cycle. Cyclic changes in hormones seem to be an important cause. Fluctuations in one of a brain chemical signal may affect the mood and body.

PMS is a cluster of recurrent symptoms that occur prior to menstruation, which is a complex combination of:

  1. Mood disturbance eg. Irritability, mood swing, anger, anxiety and depression
  2. Physical symptoms eg. Breast swelling and tenderness, cramp, backache, headache, acne, fatigue, feeling of bloating and weight gain

We can manage or sometimes reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome by making changes in the way we eat, exercise and approach daily life:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Limit salt and salty foods to reduce bloating and fluid retention
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Get enough sleep
  • Try yoga or massage to relax
  • Quit smoking
  • Include Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) in your diet. EPO helps to relieve PMS symptoms

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In this digital age, people rely heavily on computers, laptops, tablets or even smart phones to complete their daily task, it is not too much to say that most people spend almost 6-8 hours in front of a screen. All these digital devices transmit light that may cause damages to our retina and lead to many other more visual impairments.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 2.2 billion people have vision impairment and nearly half of them could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed. Globally, the leading causes of vision impairment are uncorrected refractive errors, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Some vision problems have no warning signs and can cause permanent vision loss if left uncorrected. Warning signs of vision problems includes:

  • Dry and tired eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Impaired close-up, side or night vision
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass prescription
  • Problems with glare from lamps or the sun
  • White spot or cloudy spot in the lens of the eye

There are a few steps we could take to delay the onset and severity of the impairment:

  1. Eat a balance diet that includes Lutein and Zeaxanthin, Omega-3, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Zinc
  2. Quit smoking
  3. Take care of other health problems e.g. diabetes or other medical conditions
  4. Protect our eyes from injury by wearing eye protections during hazardous work
  5. Wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays
  6. Practice eye exercises and taking breaks during prolong use of digital devices
  7. Go for regular eye exams

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Our body is constantly in contact with bacteria, viruses, radiation and pollution. Therefore, we need a strong defense system to protect us from getting ill. Strong and healthy defense systems consist of the intact physical defense system (skin and mucous layer) and the healthy immune system.

A strong immune system is critical to keep you healthy all year long. People with poor immune health will have a higher risk of getting sick when they are exposed to cold or flu viruses, having infections that are more frequent, longer lasting or harder to treat or have an allergic reaction that affects the body.

To boost our immune system, we can adopt a healthy lifestyle and focus on nutrient-rich food in our daily lives:

  • Aim for five servings of vegetables and fruits daily to get the immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, such as Vitamin C. Vitamin C play an important role in immune function, providing antioxidant protection from free radicals and reduce the risk, severity and duration of an infection. Bioflavonoids are important synergistic phytonutrients for defense system, and for enhanced Vitamin C absorption and utilisation.
  • Find healthy and appropriate ways to cope with stress, such as meditation. Physical activities are also a good way to manage stress and help reduce some risk of chronic diseases.
  • Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each day.

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