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Health & Wellness
If you have seasonal allergies, you know what it’s like to suffer from sneezing, itchy eyes, congestion, and sinus pressure. None of these symptoms are pleasant and interfere with enjoying your day. I am sure everyone has tried every over-the-counter solution to make these seasonal symptoms go away. Did you know there are completely natural solutions that can ease your symptoms too?
You probably associate probiotics with digestion and your gut health, but they also play a role in keeping your immune system well balanced. Keeping the gut healthy, makes the immune system stronger which should not allow so many allergens to affect you each season.
Your allergies are an immune response to an otherwise harmless substance. This substance — whether it’s pollen or dust — comes into contact with cells in the mucus membranes of your nose, mouth, throat, lungs, stomach, and intestines. (another reason to keep the gut healthy with probiotics). This triggers the release of histamine. Histamine is a protein that causes all of the symptoms you associate with allergies, like sneezing and cold-like symptoms that drive us crazy. Antihistamines block histamine activity, stopping the allergic reaction.
Allergy medications you buy at the store work as antihistamines. But there are also certain foods and plant extracts that can have similar effects on histamine production. For example quercetin, bromelain, and vitamin C, can all work as natural antihistamines. Talk to your doctor about these alternatives before using.
Eating local honey (produced near where you live) really works. The bees eat the pollen that’s in your region of the country, then they produce the honey and you consume that, so it’s kind of like a mini allergy shot. This is a remedy we use year around. Honey in general just has so many health benefits, you can use it in place of refined processed sugar any time you can!
Air Purifier with a HEPA Filter
The best way to remove spores and pollen from the air is to use a HEPA filter. I find that using a HEPA filter at night helps me wake up with clear sinuses. But if your home air system can accommodate a HEPA filter for the whole house, 24-hrs a day, this is a great way to get relief.
Saline Nasal Rinse
I have never personally tried this remedy, but have many friends who swear by it! Basically all you’re doing is flushing out your sinuses with a saltwater solution, in a Neti Pot, which can help wash away the things you inhale that irritate your sinuses…you allergens. To mix a solution yourself, combine 1 quart of distilled or boiled (then cooled) water with 2 tsp non-iodized salt (kosher, pickling, canning or sea salt) and 1 tsp baking soda. Pour about 8 oz of the solution into the Neti Pot and tilt your head forward over the sink while you pour the solution in one nostril. The solution and irritants will drain out the other side of the nose into the sink.
Just in time for spring cleaning, the Environmental Working Group updated their healthy cleaning options.
The cleaning products in your home may be harboring hazardous ingredients. Many brands make it difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to learn what ingredients are in them. These products commonly contain chemicals that can cause reproductive problems, exacerbate asthma, burn or irritate your skin and harm the environment. Some have even been linked to cancer.
EWG’s assessment found:
Almost half of the products in this update were rated “poor” on ingredient disclosure.
Only about one in seven products earned a grade of A or B, for low human and environmental toxicity and robust disclosure of ingredients. A little more than one-sixth earned a passing grade of C. The remainder – more than two-thirds – fell short, receiving a D or F.
Almost three-fourths contain ingredients which may have worrisome respiratory health effects. Of particular concern, such chemicals were routinely found in all-purpose spray cleaners.
More than one-fourth of products scored moderate to high concern because they contain ingredients linked to cancer or may contain impurities linked to cancer.
One-fifth of products scored moderate to high concern because they contain ingredients associated with developmental, endocrine or reproductive harm.
More than 10 percent of the products are corrosive, capable of permanently damaging eyes or skin.
Ten percent of products were rated moderate to high concern for skin irritation and damage and skin allergies because they contain ingredients of concern.
Almost 60 percent of products scored moderate to high concern because one or more ingredients pose a risk to the environment. These chemicals are only partly removed by wastewater treatment plants, don’t readily break down, are persistent in the environment and toxic to aquatic life.
Almost half of the products EWG assessed for this update rated “poor” on ingredient disclosure. Other disclosure details:
Fewer than 40 percent rated “good,” providing relatively complete and specific ingredient information, rather than hiding behind vague descriptions like “preservatives” or “surfactants.” Five percent of cleaners, including some from Colgate-Palmolive Company and Sun Products Corporation, provided no information at all on the label.
Almost seven in 10 of the products use the terms “perfume” or “fragrance,” catch-all terms that can hide the presence of chemicals such as bioaccumulative synthetic musks, linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive and developmental harm. Seven percent listed the equally vague term “essential oil.”
Little more than a quarter of products fully disclose ingredients in any single location, whether on the label or online. Only 14 percent got full credit for disclosing ingredients on the label, and another 14 percent for disclosure on product websites.
For half of products with available worker safety data sheets, the documents revealed at least one additional chemical not disclosed on the label or website. Most disturbing, were the listing of benzene on the currently available (as of March 2016) safety data sheet of Palmolive’s eco+ dishwasher gel and of formaldehyde on the currently available safety data sheets of eight other dish and laundry products.† Long-term exposure to benzene is linked to leukemia, anemia and bone marrow damage, and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, respiratory irritant and allergen.
Twelve percent of products use the terms “dyes,” “colorants”, or “colors” instead of listing the specific chemical dyes. Two dyes that were sometimes listed are known as FD&C Yellow 5 and FD&C Red 40, which may cause allergic reactions or be contaminated with impurities known to cause cancer.
Other frequently appearing but vague terms include “fabric brighteners” or “optical brighteners,” chemicals that make clothes appear whiter. Some of the specified brightening agents that are listed are known to build up in the environment.
Other Chemicals of Concern
Almost 40 percent of products reviewed contained isothiazolinone preservatives, which can either trigger or exacerbate allergies. Researchers and physicians from over a dozen clinics have reported cases of serious skin allergy, and an increase approaching epidemic proportions in allergies to a specific type of isothiazolinone known as methylisothiazolinone, or MI. The European Union recently lowered its safety standard for these chemicals in rinse-off cosmetic products, but the U.S. has no restrictions, even though hands and forearms are repeatedly exposed to these substances for long periods while washing dishes. A small number of products contain one of three preservative compounds that when mixed with water release formaldehyde.
Fourteen percent of products contain sodium borate, also known as borax, or its boric acid relatives. Sodium borate is an acute respiratory irritant that has been linked to nose bleeds, coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest tightness. It is also associated with reduced sperm count and libido in exposed male workers and decreased ovulation and fertility in lab animals. Sodium borate and boric acid can also cross the placenta and harm the developing fetus.
Harmful germ-killing ingredients known as quats, or quaternary ammonium compounds, were found in more than 40 percent of antibacterial products under review. Evidence is building that quats may impair human reproduction. Another active ingredient used in disinfectants is bleach, found in just over 10 percent of the disinfectant products and in over half of the dishwasher detergent liquids we reviewed. Bleach, or sodium hypochlorite, can cause severe burns and eye damage. Both sodium hypochlorite and quats can cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy people after frequent exposure to low concentrations. Lactic acid, a safer bet for killing germs, was found in just over one-fourth of disinfectant products we reviewed.
To search all 406 products included in the EWG’s update and to find expanded details on these and other key findings, stay tuned to EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
† Products with formaldehyde listed on available safety data sheets:
Ajax Dish Liquid, Lemon
Ajax Triple Action Dish Liquid Hand Soap, Orange
Fab Ultra Liquid Laundry Detergent, Spring Magic
Finish All in 1 3X Concentrated Gelpacs, Orange Grease Cutting
Finish All in 1 8X Power Gelpacs, Orange Grease Cutting
Palmolive Ultra Dish Liquid, Original
Palmolive Ultra Concentrated Dish Liquid, Lotus Blossom & Lavender
Woolite Everyday Laundry Detergent, Sparkling Falls.
Learning more and more about the benefits of yoga, and the many types of yoga. According to mindbodygreen.com, there are several types of yoga to fit everyone’s needs to desired benefit.
There are many different types of yoga to practice, so it’s important to find out which type of yoga is right for you. Here’s a quick introduction to some of the most common and popular types of yoga:
Bikram Yoga – Get ready to practice yoga in 105 degree heat and in 40% humidity — hot! Though Bikram only has 26 poses and there’s lots of alignment work so it might be a good fit for beginners.
Hatha Yoga-Class is also likely to be focused on slow and gentle movements so it’s a great type of yoga to wind down with at night
Vinyasa Yoga-Commonly called “Vinyasa flow” or just “flow”, you’ll definitely be moving, flowing from one pose to the next. Other than starting with a sun salutation, no two classes will be alike. It’s the most popular style of yoga in America.
Kundalini Yoga-“Kundalini” refers to the energy of the Root Chakra, which surrounds the area around your lower spine. Expect lots of work in your “core” area and classes are known to be pretty intense.
Ashtanga Yoga-Commonly called Power yoga, Ashtanga is definitely physically demanding. It’s probably best suited for an ex-athlete or someone looking to really push their body.
Iyengar Yoga-Expect lots of props with this type of yoga such as blocks, harnesses, straps, and even cushions. There’s also a lot of focus on alignment so Iyengar can be great for physical therapy.
Anusara Yoga-Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara is epitomized by “the celebration of the heart. Expect many “heart-opening” poses like backbends and more talking by the instructor in class.
Restorative Yoga-Looking to wind down after a long day of work? Or perhaps you want to quiet your mind? Restorative yoga might be the answer as it’s focused on relaxation.
Jivamukti Yoga-Jivamukti is mostly practiced in NYC as it was founded there in 1984 by Sharon Gannon and David Life. It’s a mix of vinyasa flow sequencing infused with chanting and a vegetarian twist.
Prenatal Yoga-If you’re an expectant mother then Prenatal yoga is probably for you. Prenatal yoga is thought to be one of the best types of exercise for moms-to-be as there’s a lot of core work and a focus on breathing. Sorry guys, this one is not for you.
Here is a list of natural acne remedies that I came across this week. Always good to find healthy ways to cure your ailments!
Baking Soda– This is my absolute favorite natural remedy for acne! Surprisingly, I only discovered baking soda masks a couple of years ago, and oh boy, is this stuff powerful at clearing skin! Baking soda not only helps eliminate breakouts and reduces inflammation, it is also an exfoliator and helps remove dead skin cells! Because of this, it also works great to reduce any old scars or acne marks. To use it, just take a few teaspoons of baking soda and mix it with warm water until it forms a paste. Apply the paste to your skin. You may want to leave it on for only 10 to 15 minutes the first few times as it may feel powerful. You can gradually increase the time up to an hour or even leave it on overnight (which is what I do). After one use you can see a great difference in your skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar– This natural remedy for acne is another powerful one, it has both antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. To start out, you may want to dilute a few teaspoons with half cup water or 1/4 cup water as it can be quite powerful when applied directly to your skin. Make sure to use apple cider vinegar that’s raw, unfiltered and labeled as “with the mother”, which has the most nutrients.
Coconut Oil– Coconut oil is antibacterial and antifungal. Coconut oil is also extremely moisturizing and gentle. It helps fight the bacteria and reduce redness. Apply the coconut oil to your skin and massage it in. You can reapply a couple times per day. With coconut oil, there is no need to ever use a moisturizer again, it works so well and doesn’t clog your pores. For optimal benefit, use organic coconut oil that is unrefined.
Tea Tree Oil– Tea tree oil is an essential oil and can be a very powerful all natural remedy for acne, as it is antibacterial. To apply it, mix a small amount (5 to 10 drops) of tea tree oil with a 1/4 cup water. Dip a cotton ball into the mixture and apply it to your skin. You can reapply throughout the day or leave it on under your makeup.
Egg Whites– For this, I’m not talking about eating them, they make a great natural remedy for acne when used as a facial mask! Egg whites reduce the oil and minimize your pores in addition to drawing out impurities. To use it, separate the egg white from the yolk, use a cotton ball or you can use your fingers to apply the egg white to your skin. After a few minutes you’ll start to feel it tighten, you can leave it on anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Afterwards, your skin will have an amazing glow!
Lemon Juice– For this one, you can either use lemon juice or a fresh squeezed lemon. Lemons have natural antibacterial and astringent properties to help clear your skin. Apply the lemon juice to your skin and leave on for 15 minutes to an hour.
Garlic– Not only is garlic a great natural antibacterial when ingested, it also works great topically. To use it, take a clove of garlic and thinly slice it. Rub the slices on your skin, particularly any problem areas, making sure the juice of the garlic is applied. Leave on for 15 minutes to 30 minutes.
Ice Cubes– Rub an ice cube on problem areas to help reduce inflammation. Not only, does the cold close your pores it also forces the bacteria out. You can also splash your face with cold water to achieve similar affects.
Cornstarch– Cornstarch is very soothing and gentle. This is a great natural remedy for acne when you have a lot of redness or irritation. You can apply the cornstarch to your individual breakouts or to your whole face. Sometimes you can leave it on overnight and find a huge difference in the morning!
Aloe– Aloe is very soothing and reduces inflammation and redness. To use it, apply the gel to your skin with your fingers, you can apply it several times a day. If you have an aloe plant, it would be even better as you get the aloe fresh, without any added ingredients. Or you could also just get an organic aloe gel.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by inadequate production of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by pancreas and has a key role in controlling blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is also frequently associated with excess weight and high blood levels of fats. Wheat grass, which is scientifically known as Triticum aestivum, is a herb from the wheat family. Wheat grass is a natural source of vitamins A, C, E, K and B complex and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, amino acids and chlorophyll. The juice from wheat grass leaves usually are consumed in the raw form, and done so by many, as a medicinal practice.
Because wheatgrass is rich in healthy nutrients, this herb has been proposed for improving a variety of health conditions, from boosting immune system and antibacterial activity to colon detoxification, diabetes and cancer. However clinical studies are needed to confirm these health benefits.
In December 2009, a study was published in the Journal of Herbal Medicine and Toxicology , stating that wheatgrass has a definite role in improving glucose and lipids levels and can effectively be used in the management of diabetes. The study was conducted on 30 volunteers, where wheatgrass was added to one meal. Glycemic index (GI) is a number that measures the impact that a food has on blood glucose levels. It is recommended that diabetics should consume low GI foods. The researchers found that adding 15 g of wheat grass to certain foods significantly lowered the GI of those foods and thus improving blood glucose levels. The blood levels of some fats called triglycerides were also improved in the participants who consumed wheatgrass. Hopefully more larger scale studies can be completed to back up these findings.
Wheatgrass has a good safety profile and aside from the sweet flavor, is well tolerated by most. Rare side effects include mild nausea and headaches. Findings from USDA research notes, “Gluten is found only in the seed kernel (endosperm) and not in the stem and grass leaves.” However many are still a bit skeptical. Of course, there is an exception, if the company has gotten gluten-free certification through the Celiac Sprue Association, the Gluten Intolerance Group, or the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, where products are tested to contain less than 5ppm or 10 ppm of gluten, respectively.
The safety of wheatgrass is not fully assessed during pregnancy or lactation, so it is recommended that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume wheatgrass.
Always consult with a qualified health-care provider before starting any new health regimen, and to find out optimal dosage of daily wheatgrass that may help improve your condition. Wheatgrass does not replace and should not be used to replace any medication you are currently taking.
After writing the post from Tuesday, I found myself pondering over another question; tolerance vs empathy. Is there a difference? Are they the same thing? Do they work together? To some, tolerance vs empathy can be confusing or challenging. I have tried to answer my question, but I do not feel like a definite answer can be found. Let me explain.
The definition of tolerance at Merriam-Webster Online states:
2 a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own b: the act of allowing something : toleration
3: the allowable deviation from a standard; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece
4 a (1): the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult especially with repeated use or exposure tolerance to painkillers>; also : the immunological state marked by unresponsiveness to a specific antigen (2): relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor b: the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that may lawfully remain on or in food
The definition of empathy on Merriam-Webster Online states:
1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this
I think there is a moral obligation, to allow mutual respect and consideration between people; tolerance. Tolerance has to exist in order for conflicting beliefs, values and ideas to coexist, of course as long as they fit within acceptable moral values. This is where I see empathy and tolerance working together. In order to have tolerance for someone else, I think you have to put yourself in his or her shoes. How would you feel if you were being judged for the color of your skin for example? Another example; due to empathy, we as a society are intolerant of child abuse.
Carl Jung once said “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
I think that empathy reduces conflict. When we spend our time trying to understand how someone is feeling, we are less in our head or thinking. It provides an opportunity to get in touch with our emotions and come from the heart. Anytime we can come from the heart in our relationships we reduce conflict and deepen connections, even when we have to tolerate another’s beliefs, values or ideas. Empathetic tolerance is what I see it as. Not sure that is a clinical term, or if many will think of it as conflicting, but I think that they have to work together to make relationships stronger.
As a parent, one of the most important traits that should be instilled in children is empathy. So what is empathy? According to psychologytoday.com, “Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors. While American culture might be socializing people into becoming more individualistic rather than empathic, research has uncovered the existence of “mirror neurons,” which react to emotions expressed by others and then reproduce them.” Now lets explore more deeply into empathy.
There are three types of empathy. The first is a form of empathy that allows one to take the perspective of another. This is being able to see things from another’s point of view. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It is important to better understand where someone is coming from, but it’s not what we typically think of as empathy. My favorite way to explain this to the kids is to treat others the way you want to be treated, The Golden Rule. This principle is widely accepted or practiced in many cultures or faiths across the world. It can be used to manage conflicts quite well.
A second type of empathy, is one that is represented by personal distress, literally. Personal distress is literally feeling another’s emotions. When you are watching a scary movie, and you start to feel afraid with a character, that is personal distress in action. You are actually feeling the other person’s emotion through a process called “emotional contagion.” The actor, or another person, is actually “infecting” you with their emotion. We all experience personal distress, but too much of it may not be a good thing. Some people are so prone to feeling other’s emotional states, that they are ‘distressed’ by it.
The third type of empathy is known as empathic concern. This type is what we most often think about when we hear the term “empathy.” It is the ability to recognize another’s emotional state, feel in tune with that emotional state, and if it is a negative/distressful emotion, feel and show appropriate concern. I see it as validating and recognizing how someone is feeling. For instance, when my son doesn’t want to go to bed, and starts to throw a tantrum, I can empathize with him. I can respond by telling him that I know ‘it’s really hard to stop playing, and put your toys away, and you wish you had more time, but getting a good nights sleep is important.’ He responds to that much better than being demanded to go to bed. I recognize that he is tired, but that he is trying to use every ounce of energy left to play as long as possible, and wants to control his bed or play time!
Whenever I succeed at showing empathy something else happens. It not only shows my children that I love them, it also teaches me something about loving them. It allows me a chance to step into their shoes and realize that a lost toy is a huge deal in their world and mind. Without empathy, we communicate to our children that their feelings and emotions don’t matter. That is the last lesson I want to be teaching any one.
I love inspirational quotes! I am sure it is obvious by some of my posts. Today, I came across one that gave me some weekend inspiration! After two week of illness in the house, I’m feeling better, and ready to tackle things I have fallen behind on. The quote also sparked thoughts inside about the future and where I want to go, and where I want to be. There is a list of things in life that I am ready to achieve. Getting my goals set, making a strategy to reach them, and giving myself reminders, I feel I can achieve those goals. I guess that is why I love these quotes so much. The wisdom others share, can spark a fire in another. That is powerful! Seeing someone else achieve the things in life they want, or even if they don’t, but continue trying, is inspirational to me. The attitude you carry through all your trials, good or bad, define you as a person. You can either choose to let things get you down, or you can see the lesson and move forward. That’s not to say that you cannot feel defeated every once in a while, but it’s whether or not that defeat keeps you down, or lifts you up to put that drive inside you into full gear! Let’s choose the later! I hope that this Nora Roberts quote will give you some inspiration of your own. You control your destiny.
IF YOU DON’T GO AFTER
WHAT YOU WANT, YOU’LL
NEVER HAVE IT. IF YOU
DON’T ASK, THE ANSWER
IS ALWAYS NO. IF YOU
DON’T STEP FORWARD
YOU’RE ALWAYS IN THE
The recent article I did on the Environmental Working Group’s list of The Dirty Dozen, Plus, has kept my mind focused on organics and what to buy at the store. I came across some supplemental info that I thought could be helpful for those of us that want to make sure we are eating safe and organic. I received a handy pocket reference guide from the Environmental Working Group, and I thought I would share it. Its good to have a reminder of how to keep our food safe. It has come in handy as a conversation starter with the kids while shopping and even strangers who see us referring to it while shopping. Makes me feel proud, when I see my kids reach for organic foods. I’m simply teaching them about how to care more for themselves…it feels good. The things they learn now, can only make their futures, and lives better.